+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:17:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Post-hunger strike, admin detainee Khader Adnan is re-hospitalized http://972mag.com/post-hunger-strike-admin-detainee-khader-adnan-is-re-hospitalized/108624/ http://972mag.com/post-hunger-strike-admin-detainee-khader-adnan-is-re-hospitalized/108624/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:00:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108624 Adnan, who is to be released in less than a week according to a deal reached with the state, is still being shackled to his hospital bed.

By Yael Marom

Khader Adnan working at his bakery in the West Bank Village of Qabatiya near Jenin, June 21, 2013. Adnan was released in 2012 after a hunger strike but re-arrested in 2014. (Photo by: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)

Khader Adnan working at his bakery in the West Bank Village of Qabatiya near Jenin, June 21, 2013. Adnan was released in 2012 after a hunger strike but re-arrested in 2014. (Photo by: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)

Just over a week after ending his 54-day hunger strike, administrative detainee Khader Adnan was re-hospitalized in recent days following a deterioration in his medical condition. Adnan reached a deal with Israeli officials last week to end his hunger strike in exchange for being released from custody on July 12. The state also agreed not to extend his administrative detention.

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The rehabilitation process after such a long hunger strike is complicated, slow and entails serious medical risks. “Refeeding syndrome” can have deadly complications. A return to normal nourishment must be done gradually and under close medical supervision. The dangers increase for somebody like Adnan who has gone on more than one extended hunger strike.

After Adnan ended his hunger strike he was moved from a civilian hospital back to the Israel Prison Service’s medical center. His condition deteriorated when problems developed in his digestive system and he was brought back to a hospital for emergency care.

The Adnan family attorney visited Khader in the hospital on Monday after he underwent a medical procedure. His attorney was surprised to find that he was shackled to his bed — against medical ethics guidelines — and despite the fact he is under 24-hour watch.

Adnan is scheduled to be released from custody in less than a week. The state has not presented any evidence implicating him in a crime, and has refused to indict him.

Asked why Adnan was still being shackled to his bed, an Israel Prison Service spokesperson responded: “the shackling of a prisoner in hospital is done in accordance with the law and in according to an assessment that also takes medical condition into consideration.” The hospital responded that “the matter is not related to the hospital’s medical staff but rather to the Prison Service’s regulations.”

Khader Adnan's father (left), wife (center) and daughter (right) wait outside his room at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, Israel, June 29, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Khader Adnan’s father (left), wife (center) and daughter (right) wait outside his room at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, Israel, June 29, 2015. A few hours later, Adnan struck a deal to end his hunger strike in exchange for his release from administrative detention. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Just to be clear: Kaplan Medical Center is shackling a patient in poor condition, who is a detainee of the state only for a few more days, and whose guilt has never been proven. By treating a patient while he is shackled, the hospital’s medical staff is cooperating with unreasonable instructions by the Prison Service, the only point of which is to humiliate.

In two days the Lod District Court will hear a petition to remove the shackles. Physicians for Human Rights—Israel filed the petition.

Under British Mandate-era emergency regulations kept on the books by Israel, authorities can hold Palestinians in administrative detention without charge, trial or conviction — indefinitely.

This was Adnan’s second extended hunger strike against his administrative detention. In 2012, Adnan won his release in a similar deal that ended a hunger strike.

He was re-arrested by Israeli authorities last summer in a massive arrest raid conducted in the aftermath of a deadly kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. Authorities accuse him of being an active member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but have not charged him with any related crime.

According to Palestinian prisoner support organization Addameer, Israeli authorities were holding 414 Palestinians in administrative detention as of April 1, 2015, including a number of elected members of the Palestinian parliament.

The Israeli government made a number of concessions to end a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in 2012, including promises to reduce Israel’s use of administrative detention. By admitting that its use could be reduced, Israel’s public security minister seemingly admitted that it was being used unnecessarily.

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

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WATCH: Israeli forces pepper-spray Palestinian journalists http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-forces-pepper-spray-palestinian-journalists/108595/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-forces-pepper-spray-palestinian-journalists/108595/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:42:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108595 Israeli security forces attack two Palestinian journalists covering a West Bank march commemorating the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir in the West Bank on Thursday. The incident follows numerous assaults on journalists in recent months, primarily Palestinians.

Israeli security forces attacked a demonstration commemorating Mohammed Abu Khdeir last Thursday, including pepper-spraying in the face two Palestinian journalists working for a Jordanian news station. Troops also used tear gas and stun grenades against participants in the demonstration, which took place near the settlement of Geva Benyamin in the central West Bank.

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The two journalists, who were covering the event for Jordan’s Ro’ya TV, are wearing bullet-proof vests clearly marked as “press” in a video of the incident released by the network. Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers can be seen manhandling Nebal Farsakh, the station’s bureau chief for the Palestinian territories, and Mohamed Shousheh, her cameraman. After a brief scuffle Farsakh is seen running out of the fray screaming, her face covered in orange stains — a telltale sign of pepper spray. Shousheh is also seen with the same orange stains around his eyes, and is visibly distressed.

Israeli Border Police officers are also seen shouting at and pushing other journalists in the video, even though they are also clearly marked as members of the press. Maan News Agency reported that 11 people were injured during the demonstration.

Journalists and activists have reported numerous incidents of Israeli forces pepper-spraying non-violent demonstrators in the West Bank in recent months. The IDF is currently planning to distribute pepper spray to all non-combat soldiers, starting from 2016. Although considered a “non-lethal” weapon, pepper spray is a powerful inflammatory agent that can cause serious injury and even contribute to death.

Israeli troops detain a Palestinian journalist at a protest against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank, December 10, 2014. The journalist was later released. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli troops detain a Palestinian journalist at a protest against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank, December 10, 2014. The journalist was later released. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Attacks on journalists — particularly Palestinian journalists — have been a regular feature throughout 2015. At the end of April, an IDF officer was sentenced to two weeks in prison for assaulting Palestinian and Israeli photojournalists — an attack that was caught on camera.

In May, Israeli forces fired tear gas at Palestinian journalists marching in a World Press Freedom Day event in Bethlehem. Two weeks later Nidal Ashtiyeh, a photojournalist with Chinese news agency Xinhua, was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

In mid-June, Palestinian journalists covering clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jalazon refugee camp were attacked by Israeli soldiers who threw stun grenades at them, cursed them and pointed their guns at them. This incident was also caught on video.

Israel’s position in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index fell five places in 2014. RSF cited attacks on Palestinian journalists, the killing of journalists during Operation Protective Edge and the government’s censorship during the war as reasons for the Israel’s lower ranking.

Asked to comment on the Ro’ya TV video, a Border Police spokesperson alleged that the video was mendaciously edited, that the demonstration was illegal and that officers used reasonable force in order to disperse it. The spokesperson did not acknowledge or explain the attack on the journalists.

Correction:
A previous version of this article mistakenly identified the two journalists as Jordanian. The two are in fact Palestinian journalists working for a Jordanian satellite news channel.

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Hundreds march in memorial service for murdered Palestinian teen http://972mag.com/hundreds-march-in-memorial-service-for-murdered-palestinian-teen/108563/ http://972mag.com/hundreds-march-in-memorial-service-for-murdered-palestinian-teen/108563/#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:28:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108563 ‘Our only demand is that the murderers spend the rest of their lives in jail, so that everyone knows that what they did is unconscionable.’

By Michael Salisbury-Corech

Family members mark a year since the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Shuafat, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Family members mark a year since the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Shuafat, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Palestinians marched last Thursday in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat to mark one year since the abduction and murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Participants waved Palestinian flags and held posters with Abu Khdeir’s face as they marched from the mosque where he was kidnapped, to the local girls elementary school where a memorial service was held.

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Abu Khdeir was murdered in the early morning of July 2, 2014 by three Jewish men, purportedly as a random act of “vengeance” in response to the murder of three Jewish teenagers by Palestinians in the West Bank. The perpetrators kidnapped Abu Khdeir as he was walking to a neighborhood mosque for early morning prayers, took him to a Jerusalem-area forest, where they beat and burned him alive.

Thursday’s service included speeches from several public figures, including Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, and Adnan al-Husayni, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority. The service passed without incident, despite warnings and threats by the Shin Bet and police toward the Abu Khdeir family to delay and even cancel the event altogether.

Palestinians take part in a demonstration in Shuafat, in East Jerusalem, July 2, 2015 to mark the first anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was snatched and burned alive by Jewish extremists in an act of revenge after the abduction and murder of three young Israelis. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians take part in a demonstration in Shuafat, in East Jerusalem, July 2, 2015 to mark the first anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was snatched and burned alive by Jewish extremists in an act of revenge after the abduction and murder of three young Israelis. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In an interview with +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Abu Khdeir’s cousin Said said the event was important, especially in light of the pressure to cancel it out of fear that Palestinian youth would throw stones:

“We knew that there would be no clashes, despite all the pressure that was placed on us by the security services. Shin Bet agents came two weeks ago and threatened me and several other family members that if something happens, we would be arrested that same night. The police also wanted us to sign a document promising that nothing would happen. We refused to sign and said that we are organizing the event and don’t want clashes. They pressured us to delay the event to Friday event, when the Jerusalem light rail no longer passes through the village and there isn’t much traffic in the area. We refused.

“The father of the martyr, Hussein Abu Khdeir, said that we would hold the ceremony on the exact date of the murder, and that if we do it on Friday, many people from the West Bank will come after they are done praying at Al-Aqsa, which would only raise the likelihood of clashes.

What are your thoughts on the trial of the suspects?

“We want the three of them to receive life sentences. A life sentence for the kidnapping, a life sentence for the murder, and another life sentence for the trauma this has caused the family. We do not want to see a situation in which the president grants them clemency, or the courts cut down their sentences for good behavior, which means that in a few years time they will be released and continue living their lives.

Hussein Abu Khdeir sits during a memorial ceremony in honor of his son, Muhammad, who was kidnapped and burned alive by three Jewish men a year ago, Shuafat, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hussein Abu Khdeir sits during a memorial ceremony in honor of his son, Muhammad, who was kidnapped and burned alive by three Jewish men a year ago, Shuafat, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“Palestinians who take part in terrorism have their homes destroyed, but when Jews do the same nothing happens to their homes. I understand that this is because the state is racist. After all, we are talking about Jews who have rights here.

“I must say that despite all of my anger at the killers’ parents, I do not think it is right to destroy their homes. They shouldn’t have to pay for what their children did. My only demand is that they are convicted and spend the rest of their lives in jail, so that everyone can understand that what they did is unconscionable.”

Michael Salisbury-Coresh is an anti-occupation and public housing activist based in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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PHOTOS: Palestinians climb over the wall into Jerusalem for Ramadan http://972mag.com/photos-palestinians-climb-over-the-wall-into-jerusalem-for-ramadan/108543/ http://972mag.com/photos-palestinians-climb-over-the-wall-into-jerusalem-for-ramadan/108543/#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 13:31:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108543 As Palestinians cross over into Jerusalem from the West Bank, an IDF officer shoots dead a 19-year-old Palestinian by the separation wall.

Text by Edo Konrad, photos by Yotam Ronen, Mustafa Bader / Activestills.org

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the between the West Bank city of A-Ram and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Dozens of young Palestinians climbed the separation wall in order to reach Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday of last week, the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The men took taxis in the early hours of Friday morning to the separation wall at the Palestinian village of A-Ram, just outside of Jerusalem, where they used a ladder to cross over to the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina. After some of the men made it over, Israeli police officers arrived on the other side of the wall.

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli Wall to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli Wall to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque in the town of Al-Ram, between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Meanwhile, over 10,000 Palestinians formally crossed through both the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah and Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem on their way to Jerusalem. While the army generally allows women to cross regardless of age, on Friday they restricted the crossing to women over 30 as well as men over 50, causing much confusion. During Ramadan, Israel generally eases restrictions on Palestinian access to Jerusalem.

Palestinians cross the 300 checkpoint between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross Checkpoint 300 between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the 300 checkpoint between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross Checkpoint 300 between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

As Palestinians crossed over into Jerusalem, an Israeli army officer shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian on the other side of the separation wall. According to the army, several Palestinians were throwing stones at an IDF vehicle heading toward Qalandiya checkpoint, smashing the windshield. The brigade commander exited the vehicle and opened fire at the Palestinians, killing Mohammed Sami al-Ksabeh, a resident of Qalandiya refugee camp.

Family members of 17-year-old Mohammed Sami al-Ksbeh mourns during his funeral in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Family members of 17-year-old Mohammed Sami al-Ksabeh mourns during his funeral in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Family members of Mohammed Sami al-Ksbeh, 17, mourns during his funeral in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Family members of Mohammed Sami al-Ksabeh, 17, mourns during his funeral in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people attended his funeral several hours after his death, where masked men fired shots in the air as the crowd called for revenge against Israel. According to Ma’an News Agency, Ksabeh had left his home early Friday morning to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque. Eyewitnesses say he was attempting to climb the separation wall when he was shot.

Ksabah is the second Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the last week, after forces shot dead a Palestinian man last Friday when he opened fire at soldiers at the Beqaot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian militants take part in the funeral of Palestinian youth Mohammed Sami al-Ksbeh, 17, in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian militants take part in the funeral of Palestinian youth Mohammed Sami al-Ksabeh, 17, in Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah July 3, 2015. A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed Ksbeh who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank on Friday, June 3, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Related:
PHOTOS: Palestinians cross into Jerusalem for Ramadan
Palestinians cease being ‘threats’ — for a month

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Netanyahu and Obama find a shared interest — screwing the Israeli people http://972mag.com/netanyahu-and-obama-find-a-shared-interest-screwing-the-israeli-people/108491/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-and-obama-find-a-shared-interest-screwing-the-israeli-people/108491/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:09:36 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108491 Despite the years of endless clashes of both personality and policy, this dramatic political saga really won’t surprise you one bit.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (photo: The White House / Flickr)

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (White House photo)

The rather lousy relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama has been the subject of much discussion in recent weeks as former Ambassador Michael Oren brought already ridiculous levels of behind-the-scenes speculation to new lows. Years of public clashes over settlement construction, peace talks, negotiations with Iran, and more, have provided endless fodder fueling public clashes between the two leaders.

There is one area, however, where President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have suddenly, and perhaps surprisingly to outsiders, found their interests aligned.

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American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro attempted to use his influence to determine the outcome of a fateful vote in the Israeli Knesset this week. It is a rather bizarre political story with surprising actors being asked to play even more surprising roles. It is a story of foreign intervention into questions of domestic Israeli policy in ways that upend the narrative regularly spun by right-wing Israelis. It is a story that shouldn’t surprise anybody, and yet surprised nearly everybody.

The story starts with two of the most common ingredients found in nearly all Middle Eastern dramas: fossil fuels and American economic interests. You see, about six years ago a surprising discovery was made off of Israel’s coast— the largest natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Almost immediately, people started talking about the discovery as a game-changer, both geopolitically in the region, but also for Israel’s economy. The gas was supposed to be enough to domestic supply in Israel for decades.

The Tamar natural gas platform (Photo: Noble Energy)

A natural gas platform over the Tamar natural gas field off of Israel’s coast, one of two major gas discoveries made in Israeli waters in recent years by a consortium of companies led by Texas-based Nobel Energy. (Photo: Noble Energy)

Unfortunately for most Israelis, the contracts to search for said fossil fuels were negotiated decades earlier, at a time when nobody took seriously the prospects of actually finding any gas. Thus, as economic incentive dictates, the increased economic risk for the energy companies was contractually offset by massive profit margins in the unlikely situation that gas was discovered. So what did Israel do when gas was discovered? It unilaterally “renegotiated” the contracts to give itself a significantly greater portion of future profits. The energy companies were not happy but they ultimately agreed to the new terms.

In the five years that have passed, all but a few thousand Israelis forgot about the game-changing importance of the gas discovery. People assumed that they, the citizens, were getting ripped off in the whole affair, because, well, that’s the default Israeli position — to assume you’re being ripped off somehow. Yet those concerns consistently took a back seat to more tangible and immediate issues like the price of housing and food, and, you know, wars and boycotts and the ayatollahs.

But let’s fast-forward to today. With surprising attentiveness to at least part of some of the interests of the Israeli people, the Netanyahu government renegotiated a new financial and economic framework for the gas, its distribution, sale, pricing, ownership stakes and competitive guarantees. Except, there was a problem with that last one; Israel’s anti-trust commissioner refused to sign off on the deal. Then, this month, the only man who could overrule the anti-trust commissioner, Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri, refused to do so. So Benjamin Netanyahu did what any good Middle Eastern politician — or rather, any politician at all — would do in such a bind: he declared the natural gas deal a matter of national security, allowing him to overrule the anti-trust commissioner himself and put his plan to a vote.

However, despite a massive haul of 30 mandates in recent elections, Netanyahu only managed to cobble together a razor-thin coalition of 61 out of 120 Knesset seats. Even worse for the fourth-term prime minister, three of his ministers announced that they were recusing themselves from the entire matter because of close personal relationships to stakeholders in the deal. So Netanyahu was short a majority to move his plan along.

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

This is where it gets interesting. One of the two majority stakeholders in the natural gas deal, along with Israeli firm Delek, is Texas-based Nobel Energy. Now, as we know from then-historian Michael Oren’s fascinating book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, American interests in the Middle East have always been a little bit about religious obsession and a-lot-a-bit about American economic interest. Washington’s relationship with Israel has historically fallen along the religious/ideological end of that spectrum, but that is not to say that economic interests are in any way marginal.

But let’s get back to the Knesset.

Netanyahu was short three votes and the opposition was coalescing around its energetic determination to stop the prime minister’s plan. The only votes in play, it seemed, might be the Joint List, the combined slate of Arab parties. The Joint List, however, is adamantly opposed to everything Netanyahu. Since Election Day, the latter has gone after their and their constituents’ very right to participate in the democratic system. Most recently, the prime minister said nothing when one of his deputy ministers suggested they surrender their citizenship.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh stands in front of ultra-Orthodox MKs in the Knesset. (Knesset photo)

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh stands in front of ultra-Orthodox MKs, Economy Minister Aryeh Deri (bottom-left), and freshman MK Michael Oren (top-left) in the Knesset. (Knesset website)

The thing is, the Joint List doesn’t have any love for Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog either. Herzog attempted to disqualify a Joint List candidate from even running in the elections, and just this past week, instructed his entire ‘Zionist Camp’ to abstain from voting on a law that forbids “family unification” for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

So the American ambassador attempted to tip the scales in Netanyahu’s favor by enlisting the one political group that hates him most. Stopping short of confirming the affair, a U.S. embassy statement released to Haaretz emphasized that Washington, “hope[s] that Israel will reach an arrangement that will allow the development of its natural gas resources.”

“We are proud of the contributions that American companies are making to bring cleaner and more efficient energy resources the Israel,” the statement read. “The specifics of any arrangement are, of course, a matter for the Israeli government and people to decide, but we have always been open with our Israeli friends about the economic, security, and commercial benefits…”

On the night of the vote, which was ultimately postponed once Netanyahu realized he had no majority, a spokesperson for the Joint List reassured that, “of course the Joint List will vote against Netanyahu’s policies on [natural] gas.” The slate is “independent and not swayed by pressure from tycoons like the Netanyahu government,” he added.

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A Month in Photos: Global Pride, Ramadan and refugees http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-global-pride-ramadan-and-refugees/108471/ http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-global-pride-ramadan-and-refugees/108471/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:55:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108471 LGBTQ people and allies celebrate pride while others protest ‘pinkwashing’; tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank head into Jerusalem for prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some climbing over walls to do so; African asylum seekers bring the theater to their detention center; migrants and refugees commemorate their dead in Europe; Israelis protest racism and the privatization of natural resources.

Photo by: Oren Ziv, Anne Paq, Ahmad Al-Bazz, Yotam Ronen, Faiz Abu Rmeleh
Photo editing: Anka Mirkin, Keren Manor

Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against pinkwashing, Germany, June 27, 2016. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what protesters claim is the "ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine." In their call for protest, they write: "Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights cromes against Palestinians..›e will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others". Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distrubuting Israeli flags coloured with the rainbow colours. Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against pinkwashing, Germany, June 27, 2016. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what protesters claim is the "ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine." In their call for protest, they write: "Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights cromes against Palestinians..›e will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others". Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distrubuting Israeli flags coloured with the rainbow colours. (Activestills.org)

Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against ‘pinkwashing,’ Germany, June 27, 2015. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what they describe as “ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine.” In their call for protest, they write: “Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights crimes against Palestinians… We will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others.” Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distributing Israeli flags colored with the rainbow colors. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth evacuated by his fellow protesters after suffocating from tear gas, during a protest against settlement expansion, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. The closing of the main road, over a year ago, has forced the villagers to take a longer route, adding 20 kilometres to their journey. According to residents, the road has been closed many times in recent years. (Activestills.org)

Protesters evacuate a Palestinian youth suffering from tear gas inhalation during a protest against settlement expansion, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. The closing of their main access road, over a year ago, has forced the villagers to take a longer route, adding 20 kilometers to their journey. According to residents, the road has been closed many times in recent years. (Activestills.org)

View on Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

A view of the Palestinian village of Qaryut, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

New housing units at the Israeli settlement of Shilo, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

New housing units at the Israeli settlement of Shilo, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian farmers await the opening of an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, June 14, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian farmers await the opening of an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, June 14, 2015. The farmers land, although inside the West Bank, is on the Israeli side of the separation barrier. The Israeli army allows them to access their land but only during specific hours when soldiers arrive to open special gates they must apply for permits to use. (Activestills.org)

Activists gather in a cemetery to bury an unidentified migrant from Syria who died in the sea on his way to Europe, Berlin, June 19, 2015. The funeral was held by an Imam as part of a political campaign called “The Dead are Coming,” which is organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. The reburial is one of several awareness actions organized by the group. (Activestills.org)

Activists gather in a cemetery to bury an unidentified migrant from Syria who died in the sea on his way to Europe, Berlin, June 19, 2015. The funeral was held by an Imam as part of a political campaign called “The Dead are Coming,” which is organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. The reburial is one of several awareness actions organized by the group. (Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot alongside Israelis preform during a theatre show outside the Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility perform alongside Israelis preform during a theater production outside the detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli artists wear a tape over their mouths as they take part in a protest against Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev (unseen) upon her arrival to a theatre awards ceremony in Tel Aviv,  June 19, 2015. The protest was held after Regev threatened to cut funding for a children's theatre in Jaffa, after it's director, which is also an actor in Haifa theatre, said he will refuse to preform in the West Bank settlement. (Activestills.org)

Israeli artists wear tape over their mouths to protest against Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev (unseen) upon her arrival to a theater awards ceremony in Tel Aviv, June 19, 2015. Regev threatened to cut funding for a children’s theater in Jaffa after it’s director, who is also a professional theater actor, said he would refuse to preform in West Bank settlements. (Activestills.org)

Activist Barak Cohen is seen in the Tel Aviv court, as Rakefet Russak Aminoach, President of bank Leumi, appeals to ban activist Barak Cohen from  protesting near her and her family, June 18, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Activist Atty. Barak Cohen is seen in Tel Aviv court, as Rakefet Russak Aminoach, President of Bank Leumi, appeals to ban Cohen from protesting near her and her family, June 18, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas Israel, Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people marched in protest of the government’s policies regarding natural gas reserves found in Israeli-controlled waters in the Mediterranean Sea. (Activestills.org)

Activists protest against the march of far-right Bärgida supporters, in Berlin, June 15, 2015. Bärgida is a xenophobic and Islamobic group, which has gained importance, notably in the West of Germany. The group managed only to gather around 100 persons, among them some neo-nazis, while the activists against their march were around 1000. (Activestills.org)

Activists protest against a march by supporters of far-right group Bärgida in Berlin, June 15, 2015. Bärgida is a xenophobic and Islamobic group, which has gained notoriety, notably in the West of Germany. The group managed only to gather around 100 persons, among them some neo-Nazis, while the activists against their march were around 1,000. (Activestills.org)

Sign reads: "No coexistence with cancer", as right-wingers protest following a stabbing incident in Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem's old city, June 21, 2015. Earlier today, a Palestinian youth stabbed and injured an Israeli border policeman. (Activestills.org)

Rght-wing Israeli activists protest after a stabbing incident near Damascus Gate, outside Jerusalem’s Old City, June 21, 2015. The sign reads: ‘No coexistence with cancer.’ Earlier in the day, a Palestinian youth stabbed and injured an Israeli border policeman. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Izz Al-Din Bani Gharra, 21, in Jenin refugee camp, West Bank, June 10, 2015. Bani Gharra was shot and killed overnight during an Israeli arrest raid. According to the UN, he is the twelfth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza the beginning of 2015, with over 900 injured. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians mourners at the funeral of Izz Al-Din Bani Gharra, 21, in Jenin refugee camp, West Bank, June 10, 2015. Bani Gharra was shot and killed overnight during an Israeli arrest raid. According to the UN, he was the 12th Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza the beginning of 2015, with over 900 injured. More Palestinians and Israelis have been killed since. (Activestills.org)

Childran cross an open sewage in the Shu'fat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Childran cross an flowing, open sewers in the Shu’fat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (Activestills.org)

An audience after African asylum seekers jailed in Holot alongside Israelis preformed during a theatre show outside the Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Audience members after African asylum seekers jailed in Holot performed alongside Israelis in a theater show outside the Holot detention center in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Protesters block a main road in Tel Aviv during an Israeli Ethiopian protest against police brutality and racism, June 3, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Ethiopian-Israelis block a main road in Tel Aviv during a protest against police brutality and racism, June 3, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli Ethiopians and activists protest against police violence and racism in centre Tel Aviv, June 22, 2015. Protesters blocked roads near Rabin square. Police violently arrested at least 15 activists. (Activestills.org)

Israeli Ethiopians and activists protest against police violence and racism in central Tel Aviv, June 22, 2015. Protesters blocked roads near Rabin Square. Police arrested at least 15 activists. (Activestills.org)

Activists dig mock graves in front of the Reichstag during a march and action in solidarity with migrants and refugees, Berlin, Germany, June 21, 2015. Thousands protested against European restrictive migration policies under the slogan "Refugees are welcomed here". Activists stormed the fences around the Reichstag field and dug dozens of symbolic graves to commemorate thousands of migrants who died on their way to Europe. This action was part of a campaign "die toten kommen" (the dead are coming) organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. (Activestills.org)

Activists dig mock graves in front of the Reichstag during a march and action in solidarity with migrants and refugees, Berlin, Germany, June 21, 2015. Thousands protested against what they termed Europe’s restrictive migration policies under the slogan: ‘Refugees are welcomed here.’ Activists stormed the fences around the Reichstag field and dug dozens of symbolic graves to commemorate thousands of migrants who died on their way to Europe. This action was part of a campaign “die toten kommen” (the dead are coming) organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli Wall to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli separation barrier to attend Friday prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org) Israel loosens restrictions on entry permits during Ramadan to allow Palestinians to pray at Al-Aqsa, but men under 40 are not eligible.

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshippers pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, June 19, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshippers pray inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, June 19, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Family of Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, await in an Israeli hospital following a deterioration in his condition, June 28, 2015. Khader has been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days, following which his body collapsed. He has broke a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment.  Family and supporter react as Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, is announced to have broke a release-deal with Israel, June 28, 2015. Khader has been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days, following which his body collapsed. He has broke a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment. (Activestills.org)

The family of Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, waits in an Israeli hospital after a deterioration in his condition, June 28, 2015. Khader had been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days before reaching a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment. (Activestills.org) Adnan is being held under administrative detention, a practice Israel uses to imprison Palestinians without ever charging them with a crime or giving them a chance to defend themselves.

Protester illustrating government weakens regarding energy companies during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Activestills.org)

Protesters attempt to illustrate the Israeli government’s weakness vis-a-vis energy companies during a protest against the privatization of natural gas in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people marched in protest of the government’s policies regarding the natural gas fields discovered off the Israeli coast. (Activestills.org)

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Call for action: Street campaign remembers Gaza’s ‘obliterated families’ http://972mag.com/call-for-action-street-campaign-remembers-gazas-obliterated-families/108432/ http://972mag.com/call-for-action-street-campaign-remembers-gazas-obliterated-families/108432/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:12:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108432 There were 142 so-called ‘obliterated families’ in Gaza last summer — families that lost three or more members in Israeli attacks during the military offensive. Marking one year since the war, the Activestills photography collective wants your help to launch an international street exhibition to bring their faces and names to public spaces in cities around the world.

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015.

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015.

One year on, the Activestills photography collective is launching an international street campaign to the Israeli offensive in Gaza last summer. Activestills is calling on activists — with a downloadable street exhibition kit — to bring the faces and names of Gaza families killed last summer to the streets around the world.

The exhibition, #ObliteratedFamilies, features family photos of those killed and portraits of survivors. Activestills photographer Anne Paq visited more than 50 families in Gaza when putting together the project, which aims to shed light on these families and calls upon people of conscience to demand justice for the victims.

Read also: One year since Gaza: Why there’s no such thing as a ‘precision strike’

More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in Gaza last summer by Israeli attacks, most of them civilians; more than 500 children were killed. According to the United Nations, 142 families lost three members or more. Some families were wiped out entirely. Some families lost loved ones from three generations — grandparents, parents, and grandchildren.

Siyam family, attacked by 2 missiles launched by drones, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 21.07.2014. 13 members killed. In the photo- Nabil (33), whose arm was amputated following his injuries, stands with his only child who survived, Bader, also seriously injured in the attack. Nabil lost his wife, and 4 of her 5 children. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Siyam family, attacked by two missiles launched from drones, Rafah, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. 13 members killed.
Pictured: Nabil, 33, whose arm was amputated following his injuries, stands with his only child who survived, Bader, also seriously injured in the attack. Nabil lost his wife, and 4 of her 5 children. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Al Louh Family , attacked by airstrike with bomb, Deir Al Balah, Gaza Strip, 20.08.2014. 8 members killed. In the photo- 7 of the 8 members killed. Photo taken in the room of Iman (17) ( left side on the photo) who was killed by a small block of concrete which flew through the window. Her house is located about 100 meters from the attack site. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Al Louh Family , attacked by airstrike with bomb, Deir Al Balah, Gaza Strip, August 20, 2014. Eight members killed.
Pictured: Seven of the eight family members killed. Photo taken in the room of Iman (17) ( left side on the photo) who was killed by a small block of concrete which flew through the window. Her house is located about 100 meters from the attack site. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills has been staging street exhibitions for the past 10 years as part of its attempts to raise public awareness of issues ignored or distorted by the mainstream media. By using city walls as a platform to exhibit our work, we try to reach wider audiences in independent, unfiltered, and direct ways. We believe that the streets should be reclaimed for political discussion.

Read also: Street exhibition confronts Israelis on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

The Activestills collective calls upon activists to spread these photos in their communities. A digital street exhibition kit is available online, accompanied by full instructions and ready-to-print photographs.

The collective asks participating activists to upload photos of the street exhibits to Twitter and Facebook, with their location and the hashtag #ObliteratedFamilies, or to send photos by email. Thanks for joining this global campaign to demand justice for these families, to call for end to the blockade on Gaza, and the dismantling of the military occupation and colonization of Palestine.

Al Ghoul Family, attacked by missile,  Rafah, Gaza Strip, 03.08.2014. 9 members killed, including 3 children and 3 women. Photo: Amal Mohammed Al Ghoul, 37, showing the photo of her daughter Malak. Amal lost three children and her husband, killed in the attack. She was injured and had to be treated in Turkey, and now has to take care of her three surviving children. One of them, 7-month-old Ibrahim still has shrapnel in his body and needs further medical treatment. (Anne Paq/Activestills)

Al Ghoul Family, attacked by missile, Rafah, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014.
Nine family members killed, including three children and three women.
Pictured: Amal Mohammed Al Ghoul, 37, showing a photo of her daughter Malak. Amal lost three children and her husband, who were all killed in the attack. She was injured and had to be treated in Turkey. She now has to take care of her three surviving children. One of them, seventh-month-old Ibrahim still has shrapnel in his body and needs further medical treatment. (Anne Paq/Activestills)

Abu Zeid family, killed by Israeli missiles, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 29 July 2014.  9 members killed, including 3 children. In the photo- Survivor Nidal (3) in his destroyed home. Nidal, whose mother and twin brother were killed during the attack, was only found the next day under the rubble. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Abu Zeid family, killed by Israeli missiles, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 29 July 2014.
Nine family members killed, including three children.
Pictured: Survivor Nidal, 3, in his destroyed home. Nidal, whose mother and twin brother were killed during the attack, was only found the next day under the rubble. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

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‘We don’t need a constitution—we have the Bible’ http://972mag.com/we-dont-need-a-constitution-we-have-the-bible/108411/ http://972mag.com/we-dont-need-a-constitution-we-have-the-bible/108411/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:06:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108411 Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee says every piece of legislation should be ‘compatible with Jewish law.’

Israel's Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israel’s Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

From the moment Israel’s founding fathers declared the independence of their state, Israeli politicians have been unable to agree on a formal constitution. Although the Declaration of Independence stipulated that a constitution be written by October 1, 1948, the 1948 war—as well as the inability of different groups in Israeli society to agree on the purpose and identity of the state—prevented that from happening.

Every so often the idea of a formal constitution is floated by politicians and civil society, but has never come to fruition. Now, it seems, the idea of preparing a constitution is being rendered redundant by the chairman of the Knesset committee charged with, among other things, determining the constitutionality of proposed Knesset bills.

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In an interview with the Israel Hayom daily this week, Nissan Slomiansky, the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, stated that drafting a constitution is unnecessary, since “Israel already has a constitution, the Bible.”

According to Slomiansky (Jewish Home), Knesset legislation should be “compatible with Jewish law,” adding that “there is no reason why this should not be the case.”

Like the United Kingdom, Israel doesn’t have a written constitution, but rather relies on a set of “basic laws” that were built piecemeal since its founding. These laws deal with the formation and role of state’s institutions; the relations between the different state authorities and branches; and they protect civil rights. Basic laws were given constitutional status in a 1992 landmark decision by the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court at the time, Aharon Barak. Since then, the Supreme Court has asserted its authority to invalidate provisions of Knesset laws it has found to be inconsistent with a basic law—a reality that Slomiansky’s party is working hard to change.

Slomiansky, a founder of Gush Emunim (a Jewish messianic movement that promoted the settlement of Jews in the occupied territories) and former head of the Council of Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council), is one of the key forces pushing for a major overhaul of the court, an institution that he believes is “disconnected from the will of the people.” In essence, however, his goal is to replace its more liberal justices and allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings that strike down anti-democratic legislation. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also from his Jewish Home party, has expressed support in the past for this line of thinking.

Slomiansky and his ilk are unlikely to singlehandedly overturn Israel’s judicial system overnight. But his comments are reflective of the direction Israeli society has taken over recent years. The Jewish Home party has been unapologetic about its desire to give ascendancy to the “Jewish” rather than “democratic” character of the state, and its annexationist aspirations in the West Bank, attacks on human rights NGOsinculcation of religious-Zionist values in the nation’s youth, and its outright racism are all indications that Slomiansky’s pipe dream may be closer than we would like to think.

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The oddity of finding hope while investigating war crimes http://972mag.com/the-oddity-of-finding-hope-while-investigating-war-crimes/108388/ http://972mag.com/the-oddity-of-finding-hope-while-investigating-war-crimes/108388/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:06:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108388 +972 speaks with Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène, authors of the UNHRC report on potential war crimes in Gaza. The pair discuss possible consequences of the report, and why their investigation gave them hope.

By Dahlia Scheindlin and Natasha Roth

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

The main reaction in Israel to the findings of the United Nation’s commission of inquiry into last summer’s Gaza war was rejection. That response tops a process so fraught with politics, that it seemed unlikely the commission would be able to say anything meaningful at all.

Israel views the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the body that commissioned the report, as hopelessly politicized. Indeed, the charge that it is “obsessed” with Israel carries some weight when considering that resolutions about Israel-Palestine  constitute almost half of the UNHRC’s country-specific resolutions.

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The Human Rights Council does have other commissions of inquiry investigating North KoreaSyriaEritrea and Sri Lanka. But with countries such as Congo, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sitting in judgment of Israel’s human rights record, it is plausible that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sometimes exploited to distract from egregious violations elsewhere. The latest UNHRC-commissioned post-mortem only compounded Israel’s lingering rage against the eponymous Goldstone report, anger so forceful that even its author later expressed qualifications.

Notwithstanding Israel’s knee-jerk defensiveness against any criticism, the UNHRC has in fact lost legitimacy in the eyes of many of the states whose behavior it wishes to change. That raises questions about how functional such a body can really be. In the current case, the Council faced tangible constraints: The original head of the commission of inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, William Schabas, recused himself during the process after relentless Israeli pressure and accusations of bias. He left on the technicality that he had not disclosed a past consulting job with the PLO.

What could the remaining authors, the American judge Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène of Senegal do when starting with such a zero-sum, short-fuse keg of dynamite?

The answer is, quite a lot. Speaking by phone to +972 Magazine from Geneva, the authors of the report admitted that they felt the boot of the political delegitimization of the HRC; Israel not only refused to participate in the inquiry process, it did not even permit the commission members to physically enter Israel or the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision was a matter of political principle for Israel, says Diène.

“One could feel that we are a pariah, and it doesn’t make the process any easier,” McGowan Davis recalled.

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Whether or not in response to this background, the final result was a report that is much harder for Israel to dismiss, despite its ongoing attempts to do so.

The authors began by interpreting their overall mandate to be more inclusive than the HRC resolution that initiated the investigation. That text spoke only of examining possible human rights and war crimes violations in Palestinian areas. Both McGowan Davis and Diène explained that the commission took a conscious decision to interpret this as including potential violations originating from Palestinian areas – violations by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilians, in addition to the reverse.

The report provides such exhaustive treatment of both sides that the commission has been relentlessly accused of misusing symmetry, either for false equation of strength (as Palestinians claim), or false equation of legitimacy between a state and a terror organization (as Israel has repeatedly claimed). Pro-Israel critics charge that the commission failed to give the context of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza; others say the political reality is an asymmetrical conflict between a sovereign state with an army, and a weaker, stateless people occupied for decades.

McGowan Davis rejected the accusation, explaining that the commision’s legal mandate was solely to examine conduct during the war – or jus in bello – not the question of going to war itself, which is a different legal category: ad bellum.

“That’s why we treated all sides the same,” McGowan Davis expanded. “Everyone is bound by the same rules: proportionality, precautions, and distinguishing civilians from combatants.” In other words, Hamas and Israel were investigated as, quite simply, the two sides fighting in a conflict.

Perhaps unwittingly, the report draws on numerous sources often accused of anti-Israel bias, in counterintuitive ways. Amnesty International, which supporters of Israel view as hostile, is cited for documenting Hamas weaponry used against Israeli civilians. The authors use UN figures showing the numbers of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, which they point out are even higher than official Israeli sources. Documentation of Palestinian groups firing rockets from populated areas is drawn from the international media, which Israel has taken to humiliating.

The more balanced approach, observed even by much of the Israeli media, should open minds to the significant critical findings. Many of those findings challenge Israeli talking points about the war — “hasbara” – head on.

One such criticism that runs headlong into hasbara involves proportionality. Israel repeatedly claimed that its civilian to combatant casualty ratio is better than other conflicts.

Asked whether that is a reasonable yardstick, however, McGowan Davis simply said “No.” She went on to explain, “It’s not the overall ratio, but attack by attack – a house where a bomb is dropped and 20-odd people are killed and maybe there’s a militant of some sort, but when you weigh that against 21 innocent lives, women and children, is that proportionate?”

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)

Yet she was quick to observe the complexity of assessing military targets, which makes it hard to judge proportionality. “That’s difficult. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But it’s not a matter of simply saying, we only killed 500 and someone else killed 5,000.”

Diène was unequivocal: “We concluded that the principle of proportionality was not respected.” He recalled writing to Israel asking for a justification of strikes on densely populated urban areas, in vain. “They did not respond. And as you know, our conclusion [about bombing densely-populated neighborhoods] is that it amounts to a war crime.”

Other tough findings for Israel include the determination that under international law Israel still “effectively controls” Gaza – something most Israelis fail to realize – or that the much-vaunted “warning system” to protect Palestinian civilians was insufficiently effective.

And still, they meticulously documented every possibility, even rumors, that there may have been a military target among civilian casualties. They examined claims of Hamas firing from civilian areas and infrastructure, and wrote of the execution of suspected collaborators. Those make it still harder to discredit the report.

Ignoring the report altogether may further damage Israel’s cause, Diène hinted. Both authors raised doubts that either side would genuinely investigate or change its own conduct in the future. They pointed to the International Criminal Court as a means to strengthen accountability. McGowan Davis hoped the U.S. would not hinder the ICC: “[In the U.S.] there is talk of punitive measures that might be taken towards the ICC, and that’s not what’s called supporting the process.”

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

In the course of the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination into the situation, this report will be first formal document it draws on, explains Diène. Israel’s official position will be glaringly absent.

Their doubts about local capacity for self investigation were compounded by the Israeli Military Advocate General’s decision, just days before the report’s publication, to close its investigation into four Gazan children killed on the beach in an air strike. Both authors were disappointed.

“It was an incredible decision,” Diène says. “It was an emblematic case in which I thought Israel would try to strengthen the credibility of its accountability mechanism. What happened? Where is the reasoning?”

But what truly distinguishes the Human Rights Council report is its unapologetic emotional and humanizing style.

Despite the Israeli government’s non-cooperation McGowan Davis and Diène told +972 Magazine that many private Israeli citizens reached out to tell their stories. The judge felt that these people still had faith in the UN as a forum for justice. Together with Palestinian testimonies, each seem to have experienced both sides of the war very personally. The report treats all suffering extremely seriously, despite the asymmetry of death, lifelong wounds and physical destruction.

Yet the writers were simultaneously struck by the hope for peace and empathy witnesses on both sides expressed. “We spoke to one [Palestinian] man who lost eight members of his family,” McGowan Davis recalled. “What do you say in these situations? … It was hard to experience and take it in.” But she continued, “In the end [the people we spoke to] want peace. They say, ‘I’m concerned about my neighbor on the other side.’ They want peace and they want their leaders to achieve it. It’s extraordinarily humbling as an outsider to come in and hear these things.”

Diène said: “We have heard testimonies from people who have lost relatives, yet have expressed a very deep feeling for the suffering of the other side.” He went on: “The father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir told me that many Israelis came to his house to express their solidarity [after the murder of his son]. …On the other side, the [Israeli] mother of a 4-year-old child that was killed [by a Palestinian rocket] expressed very emotionally her deep thoughts for mothers on the Palestinian side. There was a human side to this war that was not really perceived by the outside world.”

They purposely chose the emotional tone throughout the report, hoping to recall the humanity of each side and generate some hope. It’s not something anyone has come to expect from the international investigations of all-too-regular wars.

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Major U.S. church backs divestment from Israeli occupation http://972mag.com/major-u-s-church-backs-divestment-from-israeli-occupation/108378/ http://972mag.com/major-u-s-church-backs-divestment-from-israeli-occupation/108378/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:10:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108378 In a landslide vote, the United Church of Christ passes a divestment and boycott resolution targeting ‘companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.’

Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

With the Israeli settlement Gilo visible on a nearby hillside, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah joins Palestinians in a prayer service as a nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, February 8, 2013. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

With the Israeli settlement Gilo visible on a nearby hillside, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah joins Palestinians in a prayer service as a nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, February 8, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The United Church of Christ voted by an overwhelming margin Tuesday to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The resolution, which passed by a 508 to 124 vote, also calls for a boycott of settlement products, congressional accountability regarding U.S. foreign military aid to Israel, and ongoing commitment to interfaith dialogue.

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According to a UCC news report, the resolution, which had initially been limited to five companies for their involvement in occupation activities (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, G4S and Veolia), was expanded to include, “any direct or substantive indirect holdings in companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.”

“In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,” said Rev. Mitri Raheb in a press release from the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN). Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, had addressed the assembly prior to the vote. “For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.”

A separate resolution declaring that Israeli policy meets the international legal definition of apartheid won a 312-295 majority but failed to meet the two-thirds majority needed to pass the general assembly.

The UCC joins the Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, several Quaker bodies, and Mennonite Central Committee among U.S. churches and organizations that are using various forms of economic leverage to protest Israeli policy and to ensure that their investments are not profiting from harm done to Palestinians.

Reaction from major Jewish organizations was swift and predictable, echoing similar denunciations of the PCUSA vote one year ago. According to a statement by Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee, the measure is “one-sided” and “singles out Israel.” The Israel Action Network (IAN) and Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued a joint statement calling it, “deeply skewed,” “divisive,” and supported only by a “sliver of the Jewish community.”

That “sliver” was most vocally represented by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), whose Midwest Regional Organizer Ilana Rossoff urged supporters to thank the UCC: “Our opponents will say that divestment harms interfaith relationships—but we know that’s not true. Supporting each other to align our values and actions is the very heart of what interfaith relationships should be.”

JVP has grown to more than 60 chapters over the past year as the only nationwide Jewish organization supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a means of pressuring Israel.

Other organizations present supporting church-based divestment include: the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Al-Awda Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bir Zeit Cultural Society, Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA, Friends of Sabeel-North America, United Methodist Kairos Response, Kairos USA, Episcopal Peace Fellowship/Palestine Israel Network, Tree of Life Educational Fund, and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The Episcopal Church and Mennonite Church USA are also meeting this week, with similar resolutions on their respective agendas. The Episcopal resolutions face more of an uphill battle with direct resistance from outgoing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The Mennonite resolution, however, enjoys broad support from key church leaders and agencies that helped to develop it.

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