+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 01 Feb 2015 19:20:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 What do you call a politician who promises more war? http://972mag.com/what-do-you-call-a-politician-who-promises-more-war/102166/ http://972mag.com/what-do-you-call-a-politician-who-promises-more-war/102166/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 17:25:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102166 Election season is a time when most people expect to be presented with a hopeful vision for the future. In Israel, every single leading political figure is promising more of the same.

Israel’s election season officially went into full swing over the weekend as lists of candidates were finalized and the deadline for parties to merge came and went without any last-minute surprises.

While very few of the major parties have published official platforms for the upcoming elections, their leaders and senior officials are beginning to shape what voters can expect from them.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Israel Beitenu party, which is currently embroiled in a massive corruption scandal, is a subscriber of a two-state future of sorts. His vision centers on forced population transfer and the encouraged migration of Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. ‘A third Lebanon war is inevitable.’ (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Liberman on Sunday pivoted his campaign on something else: fear. Instead of offering Israelis hope for a better future, the strongman politician promised more war.

“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” Liberman told Ynet. He added that his party will never sit in a left-wing government, essentially shifting his two-state support into something far-off and unimportant.

His political foes aren’t offering anything more hopeful.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, running together on a joint list they are calling the “Zionist Camp,” all but made the same promise — offering an identical path vis-à-vis Hamas in Gaza that the current government embarked upon, while deriding Netanyahu for compromising and reaching a cease fire.

Speaking near the Gaza border a day after announcing their joint ticket, Livni said: “Hamas is a terrorist organization and there is no hope for peace with it… the only way to act against it is with force – we must use military force against terror… this is instead of Netanyahu’s policy to come to an agreement with Hamas.”

Regarding the more mainstream idea of making peace with more “moderate” Palestinians in the West Bank, Livni and Herzog have used the word hope. But that hope lies entirely in the same framework for peace that has failed for over two decades. Good intentions, maybe; hope, not so much.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising to never evacuate West Bank settlements and has in the past said he would not relinquish Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, all but guaranteeing that there can be no viable two-state solution.

Regarding more tangible security issues, and the wars in which they often result, Netanyahu’s main campaign mantra is that his opponents cannot stand up to Israel’s enemies as strongly (read: violently) as he can. His track record is one of covert and overt warfare, in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon — not to mention messianic threats of a second Holocaust emanating from Tehran.

After a +972 poll in December found that fewer than 9 percent of Israelis support the perpetuation of the status quo of the Palestinian conflict, I wrote that change cannot come until Israeli politicians offer a vision for change Israelis can believe in:

Today there is no vision. And so the country will do what it knows how to — hunker down and hope for the best, improvising here and there along the way in order to survive.

That might mean ousting the Netanyahu government, which has no vision. It might mean electing a centrist party that has a vision they no longer believe to be viable or realistic. It very well might mean moving further to the right toward a vision of annexation and constitutionalized inequality, but which at least hasn’t failed time and again for 20 years.

Two months later, in the middle of an election season, when a reasonable person might most expect to be presented with a hopeful vision for the future, such hope is nowhere to be found.

Instead, we have politicians who promise more war.

Related:
War on Gaza: A promise Israeli politicians can keep
The Israeli government’s election gift to West Bank settlers

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PHOTOS: Hundreds mourn Palestinian teen shot by Israeli army http://972mag.com/photos-hundreds-mourn-palestinian-teen-shot-by-israeli-army/102148/ http://972mag.com/photos-hundreds-mourn-palestinian-teen-shot-by-israeli-army/102148/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 16:21:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102148 Photos and text: Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Hundreds of Palestinians participated today in the funeral of 19-year-old Ahmed Najjar, who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday outside village of Burin, near Nablus. The army claimed that Najjar was about to throw a molotov cocktail at passing vehicles near the village. Medical sources said Najjar was hit by a live bullet in the throat and died at the scene, while another Palestinian was lightly wounded. According to the army, the incident is currently under investigation.

The army also arrested two Palestinian youths from the village following the incident, Abdulrahman Najjar, 17, and Mohammed Asouss.

Relatives mourn as the body of Ahmed Najjar, 20, killed by the Israeli army, is seen entering Rafedia Hospital, Nablus, West Bank, January 31, 2015. Israeli army shot and killed Najjar injuring another Palestinian in the West Bank village of Burin. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Relatives mourn as the body of Ahmed Najjar, 20, who was killed by the Israeli army, is brought into Rafedia Hospital, Nablus, West Bank, January 31, 2015. The Israeli army shot and killed Najjar, and injured another Palestinian in the West Bank village of Burin. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

 

Hundreds of Palestinians participate in the funeral of Ahmed Najjar (19 years-old), who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday, nearby his village Burin, Nablus, West Bank, February 1st, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians participate in the funeral of Ahmed Najjar, who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday, nearby his village Burin, West Bank, February 1, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

 

Palestinians children participate in the funeral of Ahmed Najjar (19 years-old), who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday, nearby his village Burin, Nablus, West Bank, February 1st, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians children participate in the funeral of 19-year-old Ahmed Najjar, who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday, Burin, West Bank, February 1, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

 

The body of Ahmed Najjar (19 years-old), who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday nearby his village Burin,  is carried by mourners during his funeral, Nablus, West Bank, February 1st, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The body of Ahmed Najjar is carried by mourners during his funeral, Burin, West Bank, February 1, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

 

Israeli helicopters seen over the village of Burin during the funeral of Ahmed Najjar, West Bank, February 1st, 2015. (photo by: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli helicopters are seen flying over the village of Burin during the funeral of Ahmed Najjar, West Bank, February 1, 2015. (photo by: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

 

Hundreds of Palestinians participate in the funeral of Ahmed Najjar (19 years-old), who was shot to death by the Israeli army on Saturday, nearby his village Burin, Nablus, West Bank, February 1st, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians participate in the funeral of Ahmed Najjar, Burin, West Bank, February 1, 2015. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Related:
PHOTOS: Thousands take part in Palestinian minister’s funeral in Ramallah
Palestinian non-violent activists: Army violence won’t stop our resistance

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The fraud of Gush Etzion, Israel’s mythological settlement bloc http://972mag.com/the-fraud-of-gush-etzion-israels-mythological-settlement-bloc/102133/ http://972mag.com/the-fraud-of-gush-etzion-israels-mythological-settlement-bloc/102133/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 13:34:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102133 Destroyed by Arab armies during the 1948 War, Gush Etzion was repopulated after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Since then, successive Israeli governments have done everything they can to magnify the mythology of the bloc, while settling Israelis on its privately-owned Palestinian land. 

By Hillel Bardin and Dror Etkes

Bulldozers in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. (flickr / ☪yrl CC BY-NC 2.0)

Bulldozers in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. (flickr / ☪yrl CC BY-NC 2.0)

All American children learn the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” at some point in their schooling. The story of the Alamo starts in 1836, when white colonists began settling in northern Mexico. They finally drove the Mexican army out, but the army eventually returned and slaughtered all the whites in the Alamo Mission, refusing to even take prisoners. The white army, infuriated by the slaughter of the heroes of the Alamo, returned with a taste for blood. They beat back the Mexicans and subsequently annexed all of northern Mexico, which then became the state of Texas – the largest in the contiguous United States.

Israeli children do not learn about the Alamo, but they do have their own heroes to remember. In the 1940’s, four kibbutzim (Kfar Etzion, Masuot Yitzhak, Revadim and Ein Tzurim) were established southwest of Bethlehem in an area later designated for a Palestinian state by the 1947 UN Partition Plan. It turned out that their location was excellent for intercepting Arab military traffic between Hebron and Jerusalem, so the Haganah and Palmach (pre-state Zionist militias) sent troops and supplies to do just that in the last days of the British Mandate. The battle of Gush Etzion was one of three battles lost by the Jews lost during the war, and its heroes are part of the Israeli pantheon. Even Prime Minister Ben-Gurion said that he could “think of no battle in the annals of the Israel Defense Forces that was more magnificent, more tragic or more heroic than the struggle for Gush Etzion.”

The first incarnation of Kfar Etzion. (photo: Zoltan Kluger/Israeli National Photo Archive)

The first incarnation of Kfar Etzion, before it was destroyed during the 1948 war. (photo: Zoltan Kluger/Israeli National Photo Archive)

While there was debate in 1967 over whether to settle in the West Bank, the resettlement of Gush Etzion was viewed by many Jews as a special case, which derived from the sentimental value over its fate in the 1948 War. On September 27, 1967, Kfar Etzion became the first Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and was re-established on its 1948 ruins. At this point it became apparent that using the name “Gush Etzion” allowed the public to overcome its general resistance to settling Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

This, however, led to the fraud of attaching the name Gush Etzion to areas that had no connection to the original group of settlements – a fraud that was officially endorsed by the Israeli government in 1980, when the military commander of the West Bank officially declared the inauguration of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. From then on, nearly every new settlement between Jerusalem and Hebron was considered to be part of the bloc.

The fraud was then blown up on a national scale. Legal arrangements were made in order to allow Israel to declare privately-owned Palestinian land “state land,” which was then turned over to Jewish settlers for development. Although the decision was denounced by the international community as illegal usage of occupied territory, the state’s legal guile was accepted by Israel’s High Court of Justice, giving the green light for building settlements atop private Palestinian land. In this new and artificially-inflated Gush Etzion, thousands of acres at once belonged to the state, and were subsequently used to establish dozens of new settlements around Bethlehem.

Israeli setters hitchhike at the Gush Etzion junction, next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, June 16, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli setters hitchhike at the Gush Etzion junction, next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, June 16, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This crawling land grab continues today. In late 2014, 1,200 acres to both the south and west of Bethlehem were declared “state land” in order to create an Israeli axis that would connect the eastern settlements of Gush Etzion to the Green Line. The expropriation of such a large area is expected to significantly increase the number of Israeli settlers in the area.

Elections in Israel are a time when politicians of all stripes, from Labor to Likud, declare their loyalty to the settlement blocs, and specifically to Gush Etzion. It is time to stop cooperating with Israeli propaganda, which tries to bestow upon the bloc the aura of its long-lost original, as though it were more legitimate than all other illegal settlements.

Hillel Bardin is a retired computer programmer from Hebrew University, living in West Jerusalem. He is an activist in the Combatants for Peace’s Jerusalem-Bethlehem group, specializing in the issue of E-2 (Nahla).

Dror Etkes follows Israel’s land and settlement policy in the West Bank.

Related:
The lie of ‘state lands’: Whitewashing the confiscation of Palestinian land
Demonstrators block Gush Etzion junction in protest against occupation
The one-state plan according to Israel’s top settlement council

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The Israel-Palestine Lorde diaries, Chapter 6: Crossing over http://972mag.com/the-israel-palestine-lorde-diaries-chapter-6-crossing-over/100649/ http://972mag.com/the-israel-palestine-lorde-diaries-chapter-6-crossing-over/100649/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 06:30:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100649 It’s time for the local Lorde tribute to go over the Line, in more than one way.  

Read the previous chapters of The Israel-Palestine Lorde Diaries here.

IMG_3432

On Boxing Day we traveled down to Bethlehem. We were five: my girlfriend Ruthie, three members of her research team (she is a doctoral student of social psychology) and yours truly. We have all been to Bethlehem before, where Israelis seldom venture, since like other Palestinian cities, it is designated “Area A.” It is illegal for us to be there, and most are scared off by cautionary tales that dehumanize the Palestinians living in these cities, describing them as vicious savages that will tear us to bits.

Ruthie and I choose to ignore both the law and the fears. It is our little act of civil disobedience, and we know which checkpoints are safe for us to use – the ones where being profiled as a Hebrew speaker is enough to get you through. Two of the research partners, Eric and Nevin, are foreign nationals, to whom neither law nor fears apply.

The fifth traveler is Siwar, a cool, sharp-minded Galilee Palestinian. Siwar’s brother, Hassan, was shot by Israeli police in October of 2000 in an outburst of unchecked police violence that left 13 Arab citizens dead in the north of Israel, and was the predecessor to the horrors of the Second Intifada. The story of her loss came up before we even passed Ben-Gurion Airport. This was going to be an interesting day.

Traveling to the West Bank is interesting regardless of the company. We would be caught at the main checkpoint, so we crossed the Green Line on a road paved for settlers and their guests. It boasts an imposing bridge and two tunnels, much like a Swiss highway. Rather than cut through mountain ranges, the tunnels here run below Palestinian neighborhoods and villages, allowing the settlers to avoid them. Outside the tunnels, enormous concrete walls shield the road from stone-throwing. The actual separation barrier is only vaguely visible from this road and the checkpoint is extremely relaxed. The system ensures that settlers should never feel they have left Israel.

We turned into a side road and entered the tiny besieged enclave that is Bethlehem.

I thought that we were traveling into Siwar’s territory, but she turned out to be very much a stranger herself. The occupation ended up separating Palestinians into four groups based on legal status: Israeli citizens, West Bank residents, Jerusalem residents and Gazans. The divide produces a feeling of estrangement. Siwar said that Bethlehemites know her to be a citizen of Israel by her accent and attire. To them, she is privileged and potentially a traitor. Her loss is invisible.

Through the hours of sightseeing, feasting and souvenir shopping, I was looking forward to the end of the day when we were to have coffee with my Bethlehemite friend, Husam. I hoped that he would help me recruit a West Bank Palestinian for the project. Hanin, like Siwar, is a citizen, as are Mira Awad and Luna Abu Nassar.  Young Arab citizens of Israel identify nearly always as Palestinians; I learned to think of them as such, defying all the divide-and-conquer propaganda that still defines them “Israeli Arabs.” Still, we are more likely to meet them, and they are so much more likely to sing with us then are their brethren, who live under military occupation in the occupied territories. There was an edge here, a challenge.

Husam is a full man, a beautiful man. Wearing stylish, rectangular glasses, his neatly-cropped French beard circled by carefree gray whiskers. He is my guiding partner on the dual narrative tours, one of which was to begin the following day. He and I were going to regroup within 24 hours and stay together for ten full days, guiding a group for National Geographic Expeditions. But I couldn’t wait. Every day counts on the great Lorde chase. I asked him if he knew someone with a musical spirit who could translate songs from English, and maybe also sing them.

“Why don’t you call Tamer?” he asked.

“Who? Tamer the guide?”

“Yes.”

IMG_3429

Dang. Tamer is a fabulous guy, but a citizen. I hoped Husam would think of one of his fellow Bethlehemites, but could not say so out loud. How can you tell someone: Look, your disenfranchised political status is the sexy je ne sais quoi that I need for my album? That would be profoundly obscene.

Never mind, I decided. Even if everyone on the album is a citizen, it still counts. Enough with this bloody orientalism.

Bravado

The following night, already settled in a Jerusalem hotel ahead of the 10-day tour, I gathered the guts and texted Shira’s Arab contact, Luna Abu Nassar. She texted back and asked that I email her the details. That’s a good start. I spread a slice of bread with a thick layer of New Zealand Marmite on the hotel desk, and wrote her, gingerly selecting my terminology.

Abu Nassar sings beautifully both in her native Arabic and my native Hebrew. Would she be offended if I asked for her help with Arabic songs? Would she consider it tokenism? Was it tokenism? Would it be too political of me to use the word Palestinian? If Abu Nassar projects anything, it is Tel Avivian hispterdom. Should I call the project “Arabic-Hebrew” rather than “Israeli-Palestinian?” But what if she then concludes that I do not recognize Palestinians. So many Jewish Israelis never use the word “Palestinians,” denying their existence as a group and a nation. Would she think me one of them? Would that bother her?

God damn it. God damn this whole identity thing! I can’t write! I can’t speak! God damn!

Eventually, I found my own bravado, put my worries aside, used both “Arab” and “Palestinian” and clarified to Luna that Hebrew and Arabic are both open for her to choose from. I pressed send.

The reply arrived within an hour: she said no, writing that she is too busy. It must have been my phrasing. I must have come on too radical or ignorant. I forwarded my mail to Yaron. He said it looked just fine. I tried to calm down, it wasn’t easy. We got our first rejection letter.

Somehow I fell asleep despite all the second-guessing and woke up early to lead the group up to the Temple Mount. While there, directly at the foot of the splendorous Dome of the Rock, my phone lit up. It was Yaron. He texted that Mira Awad wrote him. She seemed interested. She said she thought Lorde’s songs were “cool.”

Woo!

That night I spoke to Shira. She chose a song. It was “Team.” She wanted to do it with her brass ensemble.

Woo hoo!

Two days later, while the group explored Yad Vashem on their own, I sat down at the museum’s cafeteria, begged forgiveness of Husam for not being social, and wrote Mira Awad a long synopsis of the project. Again, I hesitated. So much could be misunderstood, but a song played in my head, making all the difference and helping me click “send” again. It was the very first song of Lorde’s discography. In it she foresees her fame with striking accuracy, the difficulties it would bring and how worthwhile it would be to put up with them:

It’s a switch flipped
It’s a pill tipped back, it’s a moon eclipsed, whoa
And I can tell you that when the lights come on I’ll be ready for this

It’s in your bloodstream
A collision of atoms that happens before your eyes
It’s a marathon run or a mountain you scale without thinking of size

I was frightened of
every little thing that I thought was out to get me down
To trip me up and laugh at me

But I learnt not to want
The quiet of the room with no one around to find me out
I want the applause, the approval, the things that make me go

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh

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High Court: State can continue restricting Mordechai Vanunu’s freedoms http://972mag.com/high-court-state-can-continue-restricting-mordechai-vanunus-freedoms/102122/ http://972mag.com/high-court-state-can-continue-restricting-mordechai-vanunus-freedoms/102122/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 16:10:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102122 Nearly 11 years after he was released from an 18-year prison sentence for leaking information on Israel’s top-secret nuclear program, Mordechai Vanunu is still prevented from doing just about anything an average citizen can. 

Three High Court justices ruled earlier this week that Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu will able allowed extremely limited contact with foreign nationals, despite allowing the Israeli government to continue and limit almost all of his freedoms.

Nearly a decade after his release from prison, where he sat for 18 years for leaking secrets about Israel’s nuclear weapons program, Vanunu is still unable to leave the country; enter the West Bank; approach border crossings, ports or airports; and is heavily restricted from communicating with foreign nationals. Vanunu is also required to obtain special permission from the Shin Bet in order to meet with a foreigner, which according to several sources is his partner.

Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, Jerusalem 2009 (Eileen Fleming CC BY-3.0)

Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, Jerusalem 2009. (Eileen Fleming CC BY-3.0)

Vanunu was employed as a radiation technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, which according to foreign sources is a facility used to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons. Vanunu was fired in 1985 due to his left-wing political activism. In 1986 he provided extensive details regarding the Negev facility to British Sunday Times reporter Peter Hounam, along with pictures he took without authorization. The Mossad later lured Vanunu to Rome where Israeli agents kidnapped and renditioned him back to Israel. He was convicted of treason and espionage, and sentenced to 18 years in prison – 11 of which were spent in solitary confinement.

Before submitting his previous appeal, Vanunu was completely forbidden from communicating with any foreign nationals. In the appeal, Attorney Michael Sfard claimed that these decade-long restrictions are akin to Vanunu’s social exclusion, since he claims that the vast majority of Israeli citizens do not want to communicate with him. Furthermore, Sfard stated that East Jerusalem (where Vanunu resides) is full of foreign nationals, and Vanunu cannot ascertain whether every person he meets is a citizen or not.

Sfard further claimed that 30 years after the end of Vanunu’s tenure at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, and since the time he passed on classified information to Hounam, his client poses no security threat.

However, in the wake of an appeal hearing in September, the state decided to slightly lessen the restrictions on Vanunu’s communication with foreign nationals:

The appellant is allowed, without prior permission, to have casual, face-to-face conversations with foreign nationals or foreign residents, on the condition that it is a one-time, unplanned conversation that takes place face-to-face in a public space open to the general population, and will be limited to 30 minutes… It must be emphasized that any conversation with foreigners will not be in print or through any means of communication, including the internet.

Vanunu and Sfard claimed that this is a harsh measure that will be difficult to uphold, since it forces Vanunu to measure the length of his conversations with every person he speaks to, and if he has spoken to someone at least once, he must ignore him/her completely after their conversation. Vanunu even announced that he is conceding this “benefit.”

Plutonium separation plant control room at the Dimona Reactor, as photographed and exposed by Mordechai Vanunu (photo: Mordechai Vanunu, http://www.vanunu.com/)

Plutonium separation plant control room at the Dimona Reactor, as photographed and exposed by Mordechai Vanunu (photo: Mordechai Vanunu, http://www.vanunu.com/)

However, the High Court justices decided to adopt the state’s decision to “ease” the restrictions, while approving all other restrictions on Vanunu. The justices established that they give weight to the fact that much time has passed since Vanunu’s crime, and that perhaps in the future the court will further lesson the restrictions placed on him. However, the justices also found that there is room for the state’s “caution,” without going into too much details beyond “the appellant’s history” and his “path,” since his prior convictions justify the steps taken by the state.

The decision comes less than half a year after a petition by Vanunu to the High Court submitted by Attorney Avigdor Feldman. In it Vanunu demanded to leave the country in order to attend a conference in Britain. The petition was rejected outright, despite the fact that 54 members of Parliament signed letter inviting him to the conference. At the time, Feldman told +972′s Noam Sheizaf: “I don’t know of another example or precedent like this.”

Nearly 11 years after his release from prison, the state continues with its vindictive abuse against Vanunu. And if it remains in the hands of the High Court, it looks like the state will continue doing so for years to come.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Israel renews restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu
A way out from under the Middle East’s nuclear shadow

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To fight police violence, address their racism http://972mag.com/to-fight-police-violence-address-their-racism/102113/ http://972mag.com/to-fight-police-violence-address-their-racism/102113/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:12:36 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102113 The killing of a young Bedouin man from Rahat and the death of another during the funeral have deepened the city’s lack of faith in the authorities. Only anti-racism education for police and young people alike can stop the landslide.

By Kher Albaz

Hundreds hold a funeral for Sami Ja'ar in the streets of Rahat. Ja'ar was shot by police officers last week during an operation in the city. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hundreds hold a funeral for Sami Ja’ar in the streets of Rahat. Ja’ar was shot to death by police officers two weeks ago during an operation in the city. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Or Commission, which investigated the shooting deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators in October 2000, found serious flaws in the Israeli police’s actions against Arab citizens. The atmosphere within the Israeli police, then and apparently now, can be summed up by one sentence from the committee’s recommendations: “The police must implemented an approach that views Israeli Arabs as Israeli citizens with equal rights.”

The violent events that took place in Rahat two weeks ago, which led to the police killing two residents and wounding of dozens of others, demonstrated that the Or Committee’s recommendations have clearly not been adopted by the police. This should be a red warning light for all of us; the degree of force and violence used against the residents, along with a trigger-happy policy generates a sense of discrimination against the Arab public. And, as if we have not learned anything from the past, we once again find ourselves calling upon law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation into events with such dire consequences.

The protesters have repeatedly voiced complaints about the police’s conduct, and specifically their “trigger fingers,” which has resulted in their loss of faith in law enforcement. If the violent behavior that led to the death of Sami Al-J’aar wasn’t enough, the attempt by the police to besmirch Sami’s name under the false pretext of drug dealing made it clear to the residents of the city that the police have no real intention of seriously investigating the events. The appearance of a police car at the funeral – which violated an agreement signed with the mayor of the city according to which there would be no police presence at the procession – generated a dangerous and needless provocation that led to the death of Sami Alziadna.

Bedouin mourners pray near the body of Sami Ziadna, 43, during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, January 19, 2015. Sami died a day earlier following clashes with Israeli police during the funeral of another Bedouin man who was killed a week earlier by Israeli policemen in the city. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Bedouin mourners pray near the body of Sami Ziadna, 43, during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, January 19, 2015. Sami died a day earlier following clashes with Israeli police during the funeral of Sami Ja’ar, who was killed a week earlier by Israeli policemen in the city. (Photo by Activestills.org)

The feeling in the streets of Rahat is that when it comes to Arabs, the police allow themselves to act in ways they would never against Jewish demonstrators. In addition, following the events there was a complete disregard of context on the part of leading Israeli politicians, as well as one-sided and limited media coverage that made no attempt to pay attention the protesters’ grievances. One way or another, residents have the impression that the actions of the police were guided by ulterior motives. Thus, it would behoove the Minister of Internal Security to announce the establishment of an external investigative committee that would objectively examine the events, reach conclusions and punish those responsible.

The police must take seriously such events and begin a thorough educational process to change ingrained attitudes that view all Arabs as a threat to seeing Arabs as equal citizens of the country. This is a process that requires direct acquaintance with Arab society and without the intervention of so-called “experts on Arab affairs.” This process should not be limited solely to the police but to children and young people in the educational system as well.

Violence and prejudice against Arab citizens is not a recent development, nor is it a result of the last war in Gaza, which led to an all-time low in the relations between Jews and Arabs in the Negev. These are the result of a continuing decline in the educational system’s curriculum that is geared toward shared values, and which has almost completely ceased since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000. Even former Minister of Education Shay Piron, who adopted the motto “the other is me” as the educational system’s yearly theme, will find that most schools prefer to select an other who has a physical handicap rather than an Arab pupil from a school in a neighboring community.

Bedouin men dodge live bullets and tear gas during clashes that erupted in the wake of a funeral, Rahat, southern Israel, January 18, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Bedouin men dodge live bullets and tear gas during clashes that erupted in the wake of Sami Ja’ar’s funeral, Rahat, January 18, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Without education we will march on a one-way street that will only lead to the deterioration of the already-charged relations between the Arab society in the Negev and the police and the Jewish population in the country. Along with the obligation of the police to investigate the tragic results of this episode, I call upon the leaders of the Arab community to calm the population. I call upon all of us to support people from both sides of the conflict who reject racist and violent values. We must demand that the existing local educational programs, like those that bring Jewish and Arab youth together, be adopted as part of a general educational policy on a national level. This is the only way our children will become messengers of a fair, democratic and more equal society. This is the only way we can make sure that events such as those that took place in Rahat in the past week will not happen again in the future.

Kher Albaz is the Co-Executive Director of AJEEC-NISPED – The Arab Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Related:
PHOTOS: Police kill Bedouin man, wound dozens at funeral
Why Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer safe
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

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A Month in Photos: Police violence, elections and the holy selfie http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-terror-police-violence-and-the-holy-selfie/102065/ http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-terror-police-violence-and-the-holy-selfie/102065/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:17:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102065 Editors’ picks of the top photos from Palestine, Israel and beyond for the month of January. This month, terror attacks in France and Tel Aviv, Bedouin citizens of Israel protest against police violence, Israel’s election campaign gets into full swing, Hezbollah attacks the Israeli army on the Lebanese border and snow falls on the West Bank.

Photos: Oren Ziv, Keren Manor, Yotam Ronen, Ahmad al-Bazz, Faiz Abu-Rmeleh, Tess Schaflan / Activestills.org

Edit: Anka Mirkin, Shiraz Grinbaum / Activestills.org

Palestinian women use their cell phone to photograph themselves outside Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's old city, January 9, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women use their cell phone to take a selfie outside Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, January 9, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Relatives and members of the Jewish Ethiopian community protest during a march held in memory of Yosef Salamsa, January 4, 2015. Salamsa took his own life after alleged police harassment. This was the first day of a 2-day march from Binyamina town in the north of Israel to Jerusalem.

Relatives and members of the Jewish Ethiopian community protest during a march held in memory of Yosef Salamsa, January 4, 2015. Salamsa took his own life after alleged police harassment. This was the first day of a two-day march from the town of Binyamina, in Israel’s north, to Jerusalem.

A Palestinian worker, holding Israeli work permit, around a fire after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, Between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. Activestills.org

A Palestinian worker, holding Israeli work permit, around a fire after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, Between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. Activestills.org

Palestinian youth stand around a burning tire during the weekly protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum, January 9, 2015. Activestills.org

Palestinian youth stand around a burning tire during the weekly protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum, January 9, 2015. Activestills.org

Israeli activists protest against the harsh conditions in Holot Prison, after wardens at the facility prohibited the detainees from bringing in heaters in the dead of winter Tel Aviv January 10, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli activists in Tel Aviv protest against harsh conditions in Holot Prison for African asylum seekers, after wardens at the facility prohibited the detainees from bringing in heaters in the dead of winter, January 10, 2015. After an emergency court petition, prison authorities promised to install heating in the detainees’ living quarters. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Youth march in downtown Boston, MA, on January 12, 2015. The march was organized as part of a series of actions responding to recent events in Ferguson, MO and around the USA of racial profiling and other mistreatment by police of people of colour. (photo: Activestills.org)

Youth march in downtown Boston, MA, on January 12, 2015. The march was organized as part of a series of actions responding to recent events in Ferguson, MO and around the U.S. of racial profiling and other mistreatment by police of people of color. (photo: Activestills.org)

Mourners carry placards bearing portraits of the dead as they gather at a cemetery in Jerusalem during the funeral of four Jews killed in an Islamist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last week, January 13, 2015. Crowds of mourners attended the funeral of Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, Francois-Michel Saada and Yoav Hattab after their bodies were flown to Israel from France. (photo: Activestills.org)

Mourners carry placards bearing portraits of the dead as they gather at a cemetery in Jerusalem during the funeral of four Jews killed in an Islamist terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last week, January 13, 2015. Crowds of mourners attended the funeral of Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, Francois-Michel Saada and Yoav Hattab after their bodies were flown to Israel from France. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Ronen Shoval, a candidate of the Habeit Hayehudi Party, pleads with an LGTBQ activist to leave the room where he is trying to conduct an election conference, Tel Aviv University, Januay 12, 2015. The activists, alongside public housing activists, disrupted the conference in protest of the racist and discriminatory rhetoric expressed by members of the party. (photo: Activestills.org)

Ronen Shoval, founder of right-wing nationalist group Im Tirzu, and a candidate of the right-wing Jewish Home party, pleads with an LGTBQ activist to leave the room where he is trying to conduct an election conference, Tel Aviv University, January 12, 2015. The activists, together with public housing activists, disrupted the conference in protest of the racist and discriminatory rhetoric expressed by members of the party. (photo: Activestills.org)

Michael Ben Ari, leader of Otzma Yehudit nationalist party is accompanied by Benzi Gopstein, head of the nationalist group Lehava, to walk in Jerusalem's Mahane Yeuda market during an election campaign, January 16, 2015.(photo: Activestills.org)

Michael Ben-Ari, leader of Otzma Yehudit right-wing nationalist party is accompanied by Benzi Gopstein, head of the racist nationalist group Lehava whose members have been connected to violent attacks, walking through Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market during an election campaign event, January 16, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

A demolished house in a Bedouin Jahalin community, E1 area, West Bank, January 14, 2015. Israeli authorities demolished houses and structures in the E1 as part of plan to displace the Bedouin community in the area by force. (photo: Activestills.org)

A demolished house in a Bedouin Jahalin community, E1 area, West Bank, January 14, 2015. Israeli authorities demolished houses and structures in the E1 as part of plan to forcefully displace the Bedouin community in the area. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Ayman Odeh is seen minutes after he was elected to lead Hadash Party in the up-coming March 2015 elections, Nezereth, January 17, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Ayman Odeh is seen minutes after he was elected to lead Hadash Party in the up-coming March 2015 elections, Nazareth, January 17, 2015. Days later, four Arab parties, including Hadash, agreed to run on a joint slate, which Odeh will head. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Tear gas clouds cover the cemetery of Rahat as Israeli police that burst onto the premises during the funeral of Sami al-Jaar dispersed the participants, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. During the clashes that followed his funeral, Sami Ziadna, 42, suffocated to death from tear gas inhalation and twenty-two participants were injured. Southern district police commander admitted there was an agreement that no policemen were allowed to enter the cemetery during the funeral. (photo: Activestills.org)

Tear gas clouds cover the cemetery of Rahat as Israeli police attempt to break up protests following the funeral of Sami al-Ja’ar, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Ja’ar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. During the clashes that followed his funeral, Sami Ziadna, 42, died from tear gas inhalation and 22 participants were injured. Southern district police commander admitted there was an agreement that no policemen were allowed to enter the cemetery during the funeral. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

An injured man, who was shot in the face, sits on the ground in the cemetery of Rahat after Israeli police dispersed those attending the funeral of Sami al-Jaar, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. During the clashes that followed his funeral, Sami Ziadna, 42, suffocated to death from tear gas inhalation and twenty-two participants were injured. Southern district police commander admitted there was an agreement that no policemen were allowed to enter the cemetery during the funeral. (photo: Activestills.org)

An injured man who was struck  in the face with a projectile, sits on the ground in the cemetery of Rahat after Israeli police dispersed those attending the funeral of Sami al-Jaar, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. During the clashes that followed his funeral, Sami Ziadna, 42, died of tear gas inhalation and 22 participants were injured. Southern district police commander admitted there was an agreement that no policemen were allowed to enter the cemetery during the funeral. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Khaled, the father of Sami al-Jaar, sits in a mourning tent before his son's funeral, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. Thousands participated in his funeral, chanting slogans protesting the police's use of force against Arab citizens of Israel. (photo: Activestills.org)

Khaled, the father of Sami al-Ja’ar, sits in a mourning tent before his son’s funeral, Negev Desert, January 18, 2015. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat last week. Thousands participated in his funeral, chanting slogans protesting the police’s use of force against Arab citizens of Israel. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Talal Al-Krenawi, the mayor of the Bedouin town of Rahat, displays the ammunition used by the Israeli police during clashes yesterday, on January 19, 2015.  Sami Zayadna, 42, was killed during clashes that irrupted when a police car bursted into a closed area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held the following day.  Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. Activestills.org

Talal Al-Krenawi, the mayor of the Bedouin town of Rahat, displays the ammunition used by the Israeli police during clashes yesterday, on January 19, 2015. Sami Zayadna, 42, was killed during clashes that irrupted when a police car bursted into a closed area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held the following day. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. Activestills.org

Bedouins pray near the body of Sami Ziadna, 42, during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, on January 19, 2015. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. (photo: Activestills.org)

Bedouin men pray near the body of Sami Ziadna, 42, during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, on January 19, 2015. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Relatives of of Sami Ziadna, 42, mourn during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat on January 19, 2015. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. (photo: Activestills.org)

Relatives of of Sami Ziadna, 42, mourn during his funeral in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat on January 19, 2015. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Bedouins take part in a march at the southern Bedouin city of Rahat, condemning the death of two residents of the town at the hands of the police, Negev Desert, January 20, 2015. The protesters marched from the house of al-Jaar family to Zayadna's house. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. Leaders of Arab citizens in Israel (1.7 million), declared a general strike in protest of recent events. (photo: Activestills.org)

Bedouin take part in a march at the southern city of Rahat, condemning the death of two residents of the town at the hands of the police, Negev Desert, January 20, 2015. The protesters marched from the house of al-Jaar family to Zayadna’s house. Sami Zayadna was killed during clashes that erupted when a police car burst into the area where the funeral of Sami al-Jaar was held. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was gunned down during a police drug raid in Rahat the day before. Leaders of Arab citizens in Israel (1.7 million people), declared a general strike in protest of recent events. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israeli medics treat a Palestinian man on a gurney after he stabbed and wounded at least 10 passengers in an attack on a bus in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2015. The attacker struck in the morning rush hour in the center of Israel’s commercial capital before being shot by a passing prison service officer. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israeli medics treat a victim of a stabbing attack on a bus in Tel Aviv that left at least 10 people wounded, January 21, 2015. The attacker, a Palestinian from the West Bank, struck in the morning rush hour in the center of Israel’s commercial capital before being shot by a passing prison service officer. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Right-wing activists taking part in the election campaign of Otzma Yehudit political party are countered by left-wing activists that came to protest the party's fascist and racist agenda, Tel-Aviv's Ha'Carmel market, January 23, 2015. Police pushed away the anti-fascist activists, separating between the two groups, allowing the right-wing activists to continue on their march. (photo: Activestills.org)

Right-wing activists taking part in the election campaign of Otzma Yehudit political party are countered by left-wing activists that came to protest what they termed the party’s fascist and racist agenda, Tel-Aviv’s Ha’Carmel market, January 23, 2015. Police pushed away the anti-fascist activists, separating the two groups, allowing the right-wing activists to continue on their march. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians protest in solidarity with Malak Khatib, a 14-year-old Palestinians girl, who is imprisoned in Israel, Nablus, West Bank, January 27, 2015. Al-Khatib, from Beiteen village near Ramallah, was taken prisoner on December 31, 2014, and was subjected to interrogation and harsh treatment without legal representation. On January 22, she was sentenced to two months in prison and her family was fined 6,000 shekels ($1,523). At the end of 2014, there were 197 children imprisoned by Israel. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians protest in solidarity with Malak Khatib, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, who is imprisoned in Israel, Nablus, West Bank, January 27, 2015. Al-Khatib, from the Beiteen village near Ramallah, was arrested on December 31, 2014, and was subjected to interrogation and harsh treatment without legal representation. On January 22, she was sentenced to two months in prison and her family was fined NIS 6,000 ($1,523). At the end of 2014, there were 197 children imprisoned by Israel. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more on children under occupation here.

Israeli workers from Vaporjet factory in the southern city of Ofakim strike and protest outside the factory, Negev Desert, January 25, 2015. The workers are holding a strike for over a week now, calling on the management to improve their working conditions and salaries. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli workers from the Vaporjet factory in the southern city of Ofakim strike and protest outside the factory, Negev Desert, January 25, 2015. The workers have been striking for over a week now, calling on management to improve their working conditions and salaries. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli animal rights activists protest outside Hod Hefer Slaughterhouse, near the town of Hadera, demanding the closing of the facility, January 26, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli animal rights activists protest outside Hod Hefer Slaughterhouse, near the town of Hadera, demanding the closure of the facility, January 26, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand next to a burned-out vehicle loaded onto the back of a truck in the outskirts of the divided village of Ghajar after it was removed from the seen of a Hezbollah missile attack along the Israel-Lebanon border, January 28, 2015. A Hezbollah missile attack killed two Israeli soldiers. Israel responded with air and ground strikes on southern Lebanon, killing a UN peacekeeper. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand next to a burned-out vehicle that has been loaded onto the back of a truck on the outskirts of the village of Ghajar, which is half in Israel and half in Lebanon. The vehicle is one of two that were hit by anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon by Hezbollah, January 28, 2015. Israel responded with air and ground strikes on southern Lebanon, killing a UN peacekeeper. The attack came in retaliation for Israel’s assassination of a Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general in Syria a week earlier. (photo: Activestills.org) Read more here.

Palestinian scouts play music during a ceremony commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed, a holiday known in Arabic as Mawlid al-Nabawi, next to the Dome of the Rock in Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's old city, January 3, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian scouts march and play music during a ceremony commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed, a holiday known in Arabic as Mawlid al-Nabawi, next to the Dome of the Rock in Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, January 3, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Public housing activists protest in front of former Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, for his part in the erosion of welfare infrastructure, January 28, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

Public housing activists in front of former Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s home, protesting his part in the erosion of welfare and social infrastructure in Israel, January 28, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org) For +972′s election coverage, click here.

A Palestinian girl plays during a snow storm, West Bank, on January 10, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

A Palestinian girl plays during a snow storm, West Bank, on January 10, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

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The Israeli government’s election gift to West Bank settlers http://972mag.com/the-israeli-governments-election-gift-to-west-bank-settlers/102057/ http://972mag.com/the-israeli-governments-election-gift-to-west-bank-settlers/102057/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:26:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102057 Netanyahu tells supporters at a settlement campaign event that Israel will continue to build in the West Bank, as his Likud party competes with more hawkish parties for settler votes. Erekat calls for boycott, divestment in response.

Construction of illegal settlement units at 'Elkana,' on the lands of the West Bank village of Masha, near Salfit, July 06, 2013. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Construction of illegal settlement units at ‘Elkana,’ on the lands of the West Bank village of Masha, near Salfit, July 06, 2013. The latest construction tender calls for 156 new housing units in the settlement. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Less than a month and a half before general elections, the Israeli government published tenders for 430 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank on Friday.

The move could be interpreted as a gift of sorts to the right-wing electorate as the ruling Likud party fights for votes with the further-right Jewish Home party headed by Naftali Bennett. While Netanyahu has ruled out a withdrawal from the West Bank, which would necessarily preclude Palestinian statehood. Other prominent members of the Likud and the entire Jewish Home party outright oppose a two-state solution.

The settlement construction tenders are issued via the Housing and Construction Ministry, headed by Minister Uri Ariel of Jewish Home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue settlement construction this week, speaking to young Likud supporters in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

“We will not hesitate to stand up and say: we are here, we are staying here, we will build here and cultivate here,” Netanyahu said. “Ariel is a part of the State of Israel, that’s the way it was and that’s how it will be.”

The prime minister also ruled out handing over the central West Bank hill country to the Palestinians, warning of a “second Hamasastan.” Netanyahu put his refusal to withdraw from the West Bank in even clearer terms in July. “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” he said.

The plans include new construction in the settlements of Adam, Elkana, Alfei Menace and Kiryat Arba, according to AFP.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to attend a dedication ceremony Monday for a new community center in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, which abuts the Palestinian city of Hebron and the Jewish settlement inside the city. Rivlin is a Likud veteran but has put great effort to stay above party politics since assuming the presidency.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the latest settlement announcement “unsurprising when viewed in the context of the culture of impunity granted to Israel by the international community.”

Erekat called on the international community to hold Israel accountable, saying the world should “ban all settlement products and divest from companies and institutions linked directly or indirectly with the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies.”

Related:
Israeli government votes to support annexing West Bank settlements
The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies
Palestinian minister dies after reportedly struck by Israeli troops

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Why Israel picks fights with Hezbollah http://972mag.com/why-israel-picks-fights-with-hezbollah/102044/ http://972mag.com/why-israel-picks-fights-with-hezbollah/102044/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:38:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102044 And why it will probably pick another one before too long.

IAF fighter jet during an exercise (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

IAF fighter jet during an exercise (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

After Hezbollah’s fatal attack on Israeli soldiers Wednesday, the two enemy sides are in a rare configuration: they’re even. Israel killed six Hezbollah guerrillas and an Iranian general on January 18, so Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven more, and now they’re quits, for the time being. They each told UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon that they didn’t want to escalate things anymore, they wanted calm, and that clearly seems to be the case today.

What an opportunity. From this point forward, Israel and Hezbollah could start fresh, they could each decide not to attack the other, and, in theory, this unofficial cease-fire could last indefinitely.

I believe Hezbollah would go for that, for one simple reason – they know Israel is the incomparably stronger side (which is why they absorbed so many Israeli attacks in the last couple of years with very little response, until Wednesday). They know that starting up with Israel would get them bashed up badly. I think Hezbollah’s ally Iran would go for an indefinite, unofficial cease-fire too – for the same reason – and so would their ally Syria.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Israel would accept that arrangement. The strong in this world get away with things the weak wouldn’t dream of trying, and Israel flies spy jets and drones over Lebanon regularly, it blows up sophisticated weapons on their way from Syria to Hezbollah, and it assassinates Hezbollah and Syrian military officers as well as Iranian nuclear scientists and generals.

Would Israel be willing to give up all those prerogatives in return for Hezbollah unofficially putting down its weapons? I don’t think so, because Israel is filled with too much fear and aggression to trust its deterrent power; instead, it trusts the use of force.

And lately Israel has been zooming in on a whole new Hezbollah “threat” it must “defend against”: the organization’s recent military build-up on the Syrian Golan Heights, across the border from Israel.

After the Hezbollah attack, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “For a while, Iran has been trying, through the Hezbollah, to form an additional terror front against us from the Golan Heights. We are acting with resolve and responsibility against this effort.”

This is Israeli paranoia at work. Hezbollah isn’t gunning for Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, it’s defending the territory – and its own survival as well as that of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime – from ISIS and the Nusra Front, the latter an Al-Qaeda offshoot.

Even superhawk columnist Guy Bechor made this point in his Yedioth Ahronoth column on Thursday:

This is the last territory still in the hands of the Syrian regime, and this is where Hezbollah has set up a command post and concentrated its forces. What are they doing there? They’ve decided to defend the area at all costs, because if Nusra Front gets across it, they’ll be able to continue north to the Shi’ite and Hezbollah strongholds in the Lebanese valley, turn west toward the Shi’ite areas in south Lebanon, or turn east toward Damascus. …

The sectarian war is more important to these terrorist groups than Israel, and from the standpoint of both the Sunnis [ISIS and Nusra Front] and the Shi’ites [Hezbollah], we are the less threatening enemy.

Yedioth’s center-left star columnist Nahum Barnea made a similar point about Israel’s knee-jerk alarm over Hezbollah’s new deployment. He wrote that Netanyahu’s message that Hezbollah was spreading out across the Syrian side of the border with Israel, and that Israel would carry out all military actions necessary to prevent this, was “adopted immediately by every politician and analyst,” Barnea wrote. He continued:

Let’s assume Hezbollah intends to do this. Is it so terrible? Is it preferable for Israel to sit on the Golan Heights across from the forces of ISIS and Nusra Front? After all, we’re sitting across from them today, from Quneitra [on the Israeli-Syrian border] south, and I haven’t heard that Israel has launched a war against them. Why are we able to go on living across from Hezbollah in Hanita, Metulla, Misgav-Am, Dovev, Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi [near the Lebanese border], but we can’t live across from Hezbollah  in Merom Hagolan [near the Syrian border]?

It’s always about us, we’re always the target, goes the Israeli view, which is why we can’t leave Hezbollah alone even when it’s preoccupied with fighting global jihadists. And out of this same paranoia grows another misperception that causes us to pick fights: the view that the enemy’s weapons are always offensive, meant for attacking us, and never defensive, meant for deterrence or counterattack.

Ari Shavit, star center-left columnist of Haaretz, inadvertently provided a window into this way of thinking in his piece on Thursday.

It’s meant to be a pretty dovish column. He writes, “We must not provoke, we must not act recklessly in a way that could lead to an uncontrollable deterioration. We must not take war-generating steps that could force a dangerous war on Israel.” But at the same time, he sees Hezbollah as being ideologically and perpetually bent on war with Israel:

While many Israelis may harbor understandable guilt over the national Palestinian movement, this is not the case when it comes to the sub-state Shi’ite army in Lebanon. There’s no room for comparison between our peace-seeking democracy and their terrorist totalitarianism. There’s no similarity between our desire to live in peace and their desire to enforce their religious faith by the sword. If we’re forced to go to war against Hezbollah, it will be a war of the sons of light against the sons of darkness, a free society against a fanatical order that threatens freedom.

And because of what he sees as Hezbollah’s scorpion-like nature, Shavit’s conclusion is that “sooner or later a third Lebanon war will break out.” At the same time, though, he says it is “our duty to make every effort to put off the war’s outbreak.”

But the fatal contradiction here is this: If you believe that Hezbollah’s practical goal is to destroy or enslave Israel – an unlikely one considering the imbalance in power between the two sides, which Israel continually demonstrates – then will you forgo the opportunity to bomb the convoys bringing them advanced weapons? Will you pass up a chance to assassinate their key people? Will you stop invading Lebanese airspace to spy on them?

No, you won’t. It wouldn’t make sense. If you believe Hezbollah is working toward conquering or destroying you – that this is not merely their wish, but their concrete goal – it would be suicidal to let them go about their business. So you attack. And by attacking, you violate your principle that “we must not provoke … we must not take war-generating steps that could force a dangerous war on Israel.”

Whatever Israel may say about not wanting to provoke another war with Hezbollah, its superior military strength combined with its bottomless fear will likely lead it, sooner or later, to do just that.

Related:
Israeli soldiers killed in Hezbollah retaliation attack
Israeli air strike in Syria: Lies, aggression — at what cost?

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Don’t call her the ‘Russian candidate’: Meet Ksenia Svetlova http://972mag.com/dont-call-her-the-russian-candidate-meet-ksenia-svetlova/102033/ http://972mag.com/dont-call-her-the-russian-candidate-meet-ksenia-svetlova/102033/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:20:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102033 An interview with the latest addition to Tzipi Livni’s ‘Zionist Camp,’ on the heavy price Israel will pay if it can’t solve the Palestinian conflict, how much Russian and Mizrahi immigrants have in common, and whether the Labor/Livni list will consider forming a new government with Netanyahu.

Ksneia Svetlova with Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni (Photo by Louisa Green)

Ksenia Svetlova with Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni (Photo by Louisa Green)

In the Israeli electoral system, party heads often times reserve spots on their parliamentary slates for candidates of their choosing — usually representing geographic regions, people of certain ethnic origins or for women.

It would be a big mistake to reduce Ksenia Svetlova to the “Russian candidate” of the Zionist Camp, the joint list comprised of the Labor party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua. Svetlova is a veteran field reporter, very eloquent, a senior Arab world analyst for Israel’s Russian-language Channel 9 and regularly writes for a long list of distinguished international publications.

Svetlova is more knowledgable about Palestinian society and politics than most of the people with whom she is heading into the Knesset, is a doctoral candidate in Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University, speaks four languages, and is the latest in a string of journalists who are making the jump to politics.

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Svetlova explains why she believes Tzipi Livni still has the best chance to make peace, what to do with settlement blocs and the price Israel will pay if it doesn’t make peace.

The — likely — future Knesset member discusses how the experience of Russian immigrants to Israel is similar to Jews from Arab countries, reveals her favorite Arab singer and the phenomenon of journalists moving into politics.

Is it strange for you to be on the other side?

It is definitely strange, like starting anything new. I held the microphone on the other side of the camera for so long, so yes, it’s very strange. But I didn’t flinch, it’s a new era in my life. Anyway, journalism will always be there, I hope. It won’t disappear.

What do you think about the trend of journalists going into politics?

It’s something that’s always happened; we know that from French and British politics. After you cover things for so long and criticize what others are doing, it’s very tempting to make the jump and do it yourself.

It’s an expression of despair about the current situation. It would have been very easy for me to continue doing what I was doing up until now. I’m well-known enough, I write for various international media outlets; I’m not dependent on my job for financial reasons or anything else — the opposite. But this is such a critical situation, a situation in which most of my friends who think of themselves as Zionists and served here — both Israeli-born and immigrants — are thinking of emigrating. That’s a huge problem that I never thought we would have to deal with. But I never really wanted to be a politician; I dreamed of being a journalist since I was eight years old.

Is the ‘Zionist Camp’ really the place where your politics and values are?

Yes. However, I have no delusions. It’s a large party and like in any large political party there are drawbacks, things that aren’t done properly, especially in relation to immigrants. As an immigrant, there are things that make my heart skip a beat. In the early 1990s, when we were arriving, there was a campaign going on against the immigration [of Soviet Jewry]: they said they’re all drug addicts, whores, etc., and [former Labor Minister] Ora Namir who sent my parents’ generation to go work picking oranges. But things are changing.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

What will be your main priority as a Knesset member?

First we’ll have to see what our position is in the next Knesset. I hope that we form the next government, in which case we’ll have more opportunities. But there is also no shortage of important things to do from the opposition.

One of the most important things related to my field of interest is advancing the peace process. We are stuck, and it’s not fair to our people or to the other nation that lives here. If we don’t resolve this conflict we will continue to pay very heavy political, security and economic price.

Tzipi Livni led negotiations with the Palestinians, and failed. What reason is there to assume that this time it will be different?

She ran the negotiations in a government that had a problem with her from the very beginning. It is a process that the entire political echelon must stand behind. It’s not a job for one woman, no matter how successful she is. I hear from the Palestinians that they very much appreciated her, but it’s not a one-man game. Just like soccer, you need an entire team, and now that team exists.

Do you think the Palestinians would be willing to give Tzipi Livni another chance?

I’m sure of it. It’s a fact that they said they will wait until after Israel’s elections to put forth the Arab-Palestinian UN resolution. They wouldn’t be waiting if they didn’t think there would be somebody to talk to on the Israeli side after the elections. It’s true that there is a lot of despondency and skepticism on both sides, but the status quo is beginning to break and we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg. It can get a whole lot worse.

There is worrisome radicalization taking place on both sides. A little over a week ago I was in Ramallah and I saw that they recently dedicated Yahya Ayyash Square; a new city square that Abu Mazen named after a Hamas figure. Also in Egypt there is a culture of hatred. We are extolling [Egyptian President] al-Sisi because he is shutting down Hamas’ tunnels — acting on his own interests, by the way, not ours — but at every book fair there are entire shelves of hate-filled books about Israel and Judaism. Does that threaten our peace treaty with Egypt? No. There was never normalization with Egypt, but we have a peace deal that is still standing.

Ksneia Svetlova (Photo by Yasmin Yaira)

Ksenia Svetlova (Photo by Yasmin Yaira)

What are the parameters for ending the conflict, in your view?

Borders are first. A state must have clear and accepted borders that it can defend, both militarily and diplomatically.

Settlement blocs?

I believe that the large settlement blocs will remain under our control.

Including East Jerusalem?

No. There is a lot of “East Jerusalem,” but there are also a lot of layers. Jerusalem was never a city that stretched all the way from Ramallah in the north to Ma’ale Adumim in the south. That’s not East Jerusalem. The Shuafat Refugee Camp is east of Jerusalem, it’s not East Jerusalem.

Do you think it’s wise to be building in the settlement blocs when there aren’t negotiations taking place?

There are people whom the state sent to live there, and therefore, we have a responsibility to them. I know a lot of people, especially new immigrants, who didn’t even know they were beyond the Green Line when they arrived. So we shouldn’t build schools for them? We shouldn’t build them kindergartens? I think the Palestinians also understand the difference between establishing new geographically strategic settlements and building inside settlement blocs that will in any case remain inside the State of Israel.

You are one of very few women who knows the Palestinians better than most of the other candidates in the party, and yet, the slot for a “security expert” is being filled by a man. Is that not frustrating?

On that topic, as opposed to many other issues which I need to learn, like social issues, I absolutely know what I am talking about and I have clear views. On that issue I will certainly make my voice heard; I will have access to the decision makers and I will make sure that I am heard.

How do you think your political views will be received by immigrants from the former Soviet Union?

It’s fair to assume that they will be met with mixed feelings, just like when I expressed them in my coverage and research on the Arab world. But I think that there are more and more people, especially in the younger generations, who are more receptive.

When I went to the south Hebron Hills and filmed Palestinians living without running water in caves because they live in a military firing zone, and then how the children in [the settlement of] Susya have swimming pools, they accused me of putting out left-wing propaganda. But that’s the reality. One of the problems is that there is simply a lack of information. And there are other reasons, of course, like the rejection of socialism, despite the fact that the Labor party has not been socialist for a long time. None of that, however, stopped the Russian population from voting for Yitzhak Rabin in 1992.

The Russian immigrants arrived at a sensitive moment, when everything appeared to begin, and when it all ended. The first checkpoints in the West Bank were erected in 1992, and already in 1994, the first bus bombings began. These are people who came from a relatively stable place and suddenly found themselves in a world where buses explode every day. And they didn’t know what it was like here before that, they didn’t experience the shaky coexistence that preceded that period. They were told that there was nothing here before 1948. That creates fear.

Maybe they didn’t meet Palestinians but they did meet Mizrahi Jews. The mass immigration of Russians was viewed as a threat by many Mizrahi Jews in Israel’s peripheral communities.

In every society, immigration brings out deep-rooted fears because it threatens your place in society. It’s a shame that it didn’t happen earlier, but I see a lot of initiatives and cooperation taking place. I meet with Prof. Shmuel Moreh every two weeks — we are working together to get UNESCO to preserve Jewish sites in Arab countries.

Russian immigrants and Mizrahis have a lot in common despite attempts to turn them against each other: the difficulty of immigration, high levels of poverty, and being stripped of dignity rooted in the cultures we left behind. Where is is all that in Israeli school books? It’s not. Why should we only learn about the Second Aliya (of European Jews).

It’s easier today to be more insistent about preserving your traditions. I, for instance, speak to my children in Russian. It’s important to me that they speak the language. It drives me crazy when I hear about [Jewish Mizrahi immigrants] who were forbidden from speaking Arabic. Why? We live in the Middle East, it’s the language! Or people who were laughed at when they played Farid al-Atrash. It’s beautiful! I prefer Abdel Halim Hafez, but that’s a matter of taste. The attempts to catalogue it as an inferior culture is the same thing they tried to do with the Russians. In Russia, my mother wasn’t able to find work because her passport said she was Jewish. And when we got here we were labeled as Russians, with all of the negative connotations.

And now you find yourself on an election list with the Labor party, the descendants of the Mapai party, which nursed the idea of an Israeli melting pot that was largely responsible for cultural erasure. Do you feel comfortable with them?

Firstly, it’s not the party of Ashkenazi purity. It’s much more diverse. Labor is not the same Labor, just like Likud isn’t the same Likud of Menachem Begin.

What is the first proposed law you would want to work on?

We spoke mostly about issues of security, but I am very interested in dealing with middle-aged immigrants to Israel, regardless of their country of origin, who haven’t been able to retire. These are people who worked every day here, who worked their whole lives in their countries of origin, and they cannot survive on the minuscule pension payments they receive. People are being forced to choose between buying medication and paying their electric bill. I would want to start there, and I believe that we’ll find partners in other parties.

Speaking of partners: Forming a coalition with Netanyahu, yes or no?

I don’t believe that the leaders of the Zionist Camp believe in that, and I hope we won’t need to.

They haven’t ruled out the possibility.

They didn’t rule it out, but the feeling is that we won’t need to. I personally don’t believe that we can move forward together.

A version of this article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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