+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:32:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 In first, Israel grants refugee status to Sudanese asylum seeker http://972mag.com/in-first-israel-grants-refugee-status-to-sudanese-asylum-seeker/120209/ http://972mag.com/in-first-israel-grants-refugee-status-to-sudanese-asylum-seeker/120209/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 10:41:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120209 Six years after he fled Darfur for Israel, Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the asylum seekers’ struggle in Israel, has been granted refugee status. Ali: ‘Now I can live a normal life with dignity.’ 

By Yael Marom

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali is driven to Holot detention center. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali is driven to Holot detention center. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Mutasim Ali was in the middle of his law school class when he learned that he would become the first Sudanese asylum seeker to be granted refugee status in Israel. According to the announcement, which was sent by fax to Attorney Asaf Weitzen, who represents Ali on behalf of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had decided to grant Ali refugee status.

Israel has yet to respond to nearly 1,000 asylum requests lodged by Darfuris who fled their country to Israel. These join a long list of over 10,000 of requests by asylum seekers — the vast majority of whom are Eritrean and Sudanese, which are still waiting for a response from the state. Many of these asylum have been in Israel since 2005.

“This is huge, I’m still in shock. I didn’t believe this would happen,” Ali told +972′s Hebrew sister-site, Local Call. “I thank the State of Israel for letting me stay here for all these years, and that it made a decision to grant me refugee status. I hope this is the first step in a positive direction, and that direction should be to grant refugee status to all those who are eligible, regardless of where they come from. Even if our stories are different, they are also very similar, and I am sure that many of us are eligible — all the state needs to do is check.”

“This will be a fundamental change in my life,” says Ali, “Now I can begin to think like a normal person. I won’t worry about what may happen tomorrow. I can live a normal life, with dignity — it’s an incredible thing.”

“The status will give me the space to do bigger things, and specifically to work toward change in my home country — because in the end I will go back there. Meanwhile I believe that I will be able to contribute more to Israeli society.”

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali speaks at his support event in Levinsky Park. (photo: Oren ZIv/Activestills.org)

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali speaks at his support event in Levinsky Park. (photo: Oren ZIv/Activestills.org)

Now that he has been granted status, Ali will need to make an appointment with the Interior Ministry, where he will receive a certificate acknowledging his new status. From there he will go to the National Insurance Institute, and will need to count six months until he is eligible for national health insurance.

The path of a refugee

Ali left his village in Darfur in 2003 to study at Omdurman Islamic University, where he became a political activist. In 2005, while he was still in university, pro-government militias burned his village to the ground, forcing his parents to flee to a refugee camp in northern Darfur, where they live today.

During his studies Ali became an activist to raise awareness about what was happening in Darfur. He organized and took part in nonviolent protests, and called on the international community to intervene in the conflict. He was arrested multiple times, was put in solitary confinement, and tortured. He was never put on trial. After his last arrest, he was forced to flee the country.

Ali came to Israel in May 2009 and was jailed for several months. After his release he attempted to file an asylum request, yet the Interior Ministry prevented him from doing so multiple times. In 2012 Ali submitted a request according to the ministry’s procedures — he was never summoned for an interview.

Over the past few years Ali has become one of the most prominent leaders and spokespeople of the asylum seeker community in Israel. In May 2014 he was sent along with thousands of other asylum seekers to Holot detention center in the Negev Desert. Shortly thereafter the asylum seekers launched a massive protest movement across the country, which Ali helped lead. He was released after 14 months in Holot, but only after the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants filed three administrative appeals and three appeals to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Interior Ministry’s decision, Attorney Asaf Weitzen told Local Call: “I commend the decision and the fact that further legal proceedings are unnecessary for Mutasim Ali to be recognized as a refugee. It is very moving that after all the difficulties and such a long period of uncertainty, imprisonment, and endless legal proceedings, Mutasim finally received the status he is eligible for. I hope that this is a sign of things to come.”

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

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Why won’t Israel’s military gov’t translate its policies into Arabic? http://972mag.com/why-wont-israels-military-govt-translate-its-policies-into-arabic/120197/ http://972mag.com/why-wont-israels-military-govt-translate-its-policies-into-arabic/120197/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:32:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120197 The inaccessibility of Israel’s military procedures means Palestinians are often forced to navigate the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the occupation in the dark.

A Palestinian man crosses Qalandiya checkpoint, a main crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, as they head to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque for the first Friday prayer of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, June 10, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man crosses Qalandiya checkpoint, a main crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, as they head to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque for the first Friday prayer of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, June 10, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Civil Administration, the arm of Israel’s military government that rules over 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank, has once again broken its own commitment to publish all its policies and procedures in Arabic.

After being slapped with a near-unprecedented rebuke by a Jerusalem District Court judge in May over its continuing failure to make these procedures available, the Civil Administration was ordered to finish translating and publish all of its regulations within six weeks of the court’s ruling, which was issued on May 3.

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With the deadline having passed, Israeli human rights NGO Gisha — which has been petitioning the Civil Administration since December 2014 to publish all of its policies and procedures in Arabic, as per its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act — requested on June 21 that the state be held in contempt of court. The judge has given the government until July 10 to respond.

The documents in question dictate fundamental, day-to-day processes for Palestinians in the West Bank, such as obtaining travel and work visas, getting entry permits into Israel and dealing with medical requests. Palestinians’ ability to go abroad, attend weddings, visit sick relatives and live in one place or another are all subject to these procedures.

Access to this information in Arabic is therefore critical for Palestinians subject to Israel’s military regime, in order for them to know what their rights are and how they can claim them. The inaccessibility of this information means that in many cases, Palestinians are forced to try and navigate the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the occupation in the dark.

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

Moreover, says Gisha’s Legal Director Dr. Nomi Heger, the Civil Administration didn’t even honor its own commitments to the court. “The legal proceedings ended with an unequivocal, explicit verdict, after the Civil Administration committed yet again to publish all the remaining procedures but it failed to do so in Hebrew or Arabic,” Heger told +972.

Having now broken its own commitments six times in the past 18 months, the Civil Administration’s “contempt for the court and contempt for the public’s right to know are glaring,” she added.

In addition, many of the Arabic procedures have, according to Gisha, been poorly translated, making them difficult to understand. A number of them date back to 2012, meaning they have potentially been superseded by new regulations that are unavailable.

Meanwhile, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories — the body that oversees the Civil Administration, as well as Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip — continues to trundle towards its self-appointed deadline of launching a fully-functioning website by August 2016, to replace the one that went down in June 2015. This website is the subject of a separate legal petition by Gisha, currently moving through the Tel Aviv District Court.

Throughout the entire period that their website has been down, however, COGAT has continued to maintain a Facebook page with limited and decontextualized statistics intended to demonstrate how Palestinians are benefitting from the occupation.

One might very well question why, when the tasks at hand are seemingly so straightforward, the Civil Administration and COGAT have apparently chosen the path of drawn-out, costly and at times embarrassing court procedures. There is probably no one definitive answer, but like all bureaucracies, Israel’s military government — the bureaucratic arm of the occupation — has its own internal logic.

As a government entity that is steeped in the arts of dispossession and control, the Civil Administration has a very clear purpose: to dictate the lives of Palestinians, whether by withholding land, freedom of movement or information. The Civil Administration follows the workings of all bureaucracies, which is to be self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating. And perhaps that’s the scariest thing about the occupation — it is engineered to sustain itself.

COGAT’s response: “The Civil Administration has published all the procedures in Hebrew as it obligated in accordance with the ruled date by the court. In the next days, all the procedures in Arabic will be publicized as well.”

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Asylum seekers call on Europe to try Eritrean leader for crimes against humanity http://972mag.com/asylum-seekers-call-on-europe-to-try-eritrean-president-for-war-crimes/120191/ http://972mag.com/asylum-seekers-call-on-europe-to-try-eritrean-president-for-war-crimes/120191/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:32:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120191 Thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers demonstrate in front of the European Union Embassy in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry to examine human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship.

By Inbal Ben Yehuda

Eritreans rally outside the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Iasso Buletch)

Eritreans rally outside the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Taj Haroun)

Over 2,000 Eritrean asylum seekers demonstrated in front of the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan on Tuesday in support a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Commission of Inquiry examining human rights violations in their home country.

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The protesters marched from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv toward the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in Ramat Gan, where the EU building is located. The organizers brought 22 buses full of asylum seekers from Holot detention center, where thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers are currently detained by Israel. Sudanese asylum seekers and Israeli activists also attended the demonstration to show their solidarity.

The protests were organized following the publishing of the second half of the UNHRC’s report on June 8, which was presented on Tuesday to the council in Geneva.

The demonstrators chanted slogans in both English and Tigrinya against the Eritrean regime, specifically against President Isaias Afwerki, such as: “Isaias must go” and “Isaias to the ICC.”

Bluts Iyassu, who has been living in Israel for six years and was sent to Holot 10 months ago, and who came to the demonstration to show support explained: “The UN committee established that the Eritrean authorities are committing crimes against humanity. The asylum seekers from Holot are joining the rest of the Eritrean community with the goal of demanding justice for our country.”

Iyassu expects the UN to act to bring Afwerki to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and that they take seriously the situation of Eritrean asylum seekers across the world. He expressed a similar expectation from both the Israeli government and society: “We ask the State of Israel to do everything it can to help us turn our country into a place worth living in, based on justice and respect for human rights. We hope they examine our asylum claims instead of calling us “infiltrators” and “migrant workers.”

“There is no pride in being refugees,” he added, “we are all longing to return to our home.”

The two-part UN report accuses the Eritrean government, President Afwerki, and other high-level officials in the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) of violation of human rights and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, and murder of a civilian population.

Both sides of the aisle

Over the past several weeks Eritreans from across Europe have been traveling to Geneva, where a fierce ideological battle is taking place between the political camps in the Eritrean diaspora, including in Israel. On the one hand are opponents of Afwerki’s dictatorial regime who are set to demonstrate in support of the Commission of Inquiry on Thursday. On the other hand are regime supporters who will march in Geneva on Thursday against what they see as a “sickening report” that does not reflect the reality in the country and was written by people who have never stepped foot in Eritrea.

Eritreans demonstrate in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry examining human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship, Geneva, July 23, 2016. (photo: Selam Kidane)

Eritreans demonstrate in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry examining human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship, Geneva, July 23, 2016. (photo: Selam Kidane)

Iyassu believes that despite what propaganda websites hope to show to regime loyalists around the world, the rally in support of Afwerki will not be a large one. Aside from several members of the ruling party, the demo will likely be attended by older refugees and immigrants who have been living in Europe for 40 years, and who have no idea what has been taking place in Eritrea over the past few decades since the country gained its independence in 1991.

“We also love our country,” says Iyassu, “but the dictatorship that runs it is killing people.”

Inbal Ben Yehuda is a graduate student of African Studies. She blogs for African, Local Call, and the Forum for Regional Thinking. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Israelis who live along Gaza border: Stop the next war http://972mag.com/israelis-who-live-along-gaza-border-stop-the-next-war/120181/ http://972mag.com/israelis-who-live-along-gaza-border-stop-the-next-war/120181/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:04:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120181 Israelis who live along Gaza border suffer more than anybody in Israel whenever war breaks out. A group of local residents recently marched on the Erez military crossing into the Strip, demanding that leaders from Israel, Hamas, and the world, find a solution to the violence and hope for a normal life.

Read more:
Palestinian groups present ‘war crimes’ evidence to the ICC
The casualties of the next Gaza war

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Settlers crowd-fund construction of illegal outpost on Palestinian land http://972mag.com/settlers-crowd-fund-construction-of-illegal-outpost-on-palestinian-land/120173/ http://972mag.com/settlers-crowd-fund-construction-of-illegal-outpost-on-palestinian-land/120173/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:35:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120173 After Israeli security forces demolished two structures in an illegal settlement outpost near Hebron, settlers are raising money to rebuild on an Israeli crowd-funding website.

By Noam Rotem and John Brown*

Illustrative photo of Israeli settlers rebuilding an illegal structure demolished by Israeli security forces. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli settlers rebuilding an illegal structure demolished by Israeli security forces. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Israeli military demolished several structures in a settlement outpost called “Givat Gal,” built illegally on private Palestinian land near Hebron earlier this month. During the demolition, settlers attacked soldiers and police officers with stones, for which two of them have since been indicted.

A few days after the demolition, settlers from Givat Gal launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to illegally re-building the demolished homes. The campaign, which was hosted on Israeli website “Headstart,” had raised nearly NIS 20,000 ($5,000) of its NIS 60,000 ($15,500) goal at the time of this report.

The 'Headstart' crowd-funding page to illegally build in an Israeli settlement. (Screenshot)

The ‘Headstart’ crowd-funding page to illegally build in an Israeli settlement. (Screenshot)

The illegal outpost of Givat Gal was established 12 years ago as an extension of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, on land the Israeli army’s Civil Administration admits is privately owned by Palestinians. The structures demolished last week were a residential structure and a wooden pergola erected in the name of an Israeli civilian murdered while hiking in the area and an army commander killed during the 2014 Gaza war. It was the first demolition of Israeli settler homes carried out under Israel’s new defense minister, Avigdor Liberman.

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According to the indictment filed in a Jerusalem court Monday, a number of settlers attacked IDF and police forces during the course of the demolition, some of whom were injured, and caused damage to state property. One Israeli settler was indicted for throwing a stone at an IDF Civil Administration bulldozer. According to the indictment, a policeman approached the accused and asked him to stop, but despite the officer’s protestations, the man threw another stone, broke the bulldozer’s windshield, and wounded the driver on his head.

Another settler, the indictment continued, goaded and incited the crowd of rioters to attack the police officers, and then proceeded to run toward a human chain of officers, attacked them, and wounded one officer.

Asked about its decision to host the crowd-funding campaign to build an illegal settlement on private Palestinian land, a spokesperson for Headstart told +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call: “We don’t take a political/religious/ideological stand when it comes to approving projects on the site. The matter was sent to the project’s initiator and we are waiting to receive from him materials clarifying the legality of the fundraising.”

The spokesperson declined to respond whether the company would host a crowd-funding campaign to trespass on privately owned land in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.

Update [June 22]:
Following the publication of this article, Headstart has removed the campaign from its website.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and blogger at Local Call, where a longer version of this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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Palestinian man serves full prison sentence — Israel refuses to release him http://972mag.com/palestinian-man-serves-full-prison-sentence-israel-refuses-to-release-him/120146/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-man-serves-full-prison-sentence-israel-refuses-to-release-him/120146/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 17:45:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120146 Bilal Kayed was supposed to leave Israeli prison on June 13, after serving nearly 15 years behind bars. But on the day of his release, Israel decided to put him in administrative detention.

By Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

The mother of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The mother of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed should have been out of prison by now. But on the day of his release and despite serving close to 15 years behind bars, Israel’s military authorities decided to put him in administrative detention for a period of six months.

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On Saturday dozens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity march with Kayed in the West Bank town of Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus. Kayed was supposed to be released from Israeli prison on June 13th.

Administrative detention is a procedure that Israel uses to imprison detainees based on secret evidence, without charging them or allowing them to defend themselves at trial. Administrative detention orders may be renewed indefinitely.

The demonstrators gathered at the center of town and marched to Kayed’s family’s home while holding up his photo, as well as Palestinian and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags (PFLP).

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016.

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016.

Outside the family home, PFLP activists read a press release written by party leaders, calling for massive protests across the country in support of Kayed.

“June 21 and 22 will be days of hunger strike in all Israeli prisons” said the statement, which described the step as an “initial one that could be followed with an open hunger strike among all PFLP prisoners if they bring about no Israeli response.” The statement also condemned Israel’s punishment of PFLP prisoners by preventing family visits.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Hosni Burini of Hamas, who took part in the demonstration, denounced Kayed’s detention. “It is not only us who do not respect Israeli courts and rulings, Israel doesn’t respect them either. What do they want from a prisoner who served more than 14 years sentence in their prisons?”

According to Burini the decision aims to punish the prisoner and his family, since it was issued at the last moment while his family was awaiting his release.

Kayed, 34, has been imprisoned by since December 2001 on charges of membership in the PFLP, as well as participation in activities against the State of Israel. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Kayed is now among 750 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

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PHOTOS: Tens of thousands of Palestinians cross Israeli checkpoints for Ramadan prayers http://972mag.com/photos-palestinians-cross-israeli-checkpoints-for-ramadan-prayers/120126/ http://972mag.com/photos-palestinians-cross-israeli-checkpoints-for-ramadan-prayers/120126/#comments Sat, 18 Jun 2016 19:30:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120126 Nearly 70,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 300 from Gaza take advantage of a temporary relaxation of Israeli restrictions on movement in order to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Photos and text by Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 201-. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Thousands of Palestinians left their homes in cities and towns across the West Bank early Friday morning in order to make their way through a number of Israeli checkpoints leading to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City.

The Palestinian worshipers hoping to attend prayers at Al-Aqsa for the second Friday of Ramadan were subject to strict criteria set by the Israeli military. Only men over the age of 45 years and women of all ages were allowed to enter without special permits.

Earlier in the month, in what has been described as collective punishment for a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, the army suspended 83,000 special holiday entry permits it had issued to Palestinians for Ramadan.

Buses organized to bring worshipers to Israeli checkpoints faced severe difficulty in traffic jams on many major roads in the West Bank.

Hundreds of young Palestinians hoping to cross into Jerusalem gathered at the Qalandiya and Bethlehem checkpoints, at the northern and southern ends of Jerusalem, respectively. Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers refused to let them through without permits.

Palestinian residents of the West Bank are only allowed into Jerusalem and Israel with special military issued entry permits most of the year. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the army eases restrictions on Fridays. Therefore, Palestinians who meet the criteria of traveling without a permit Ramadan take advantage of the exceptional situation on the four Fridays, often doing shopping and heading to the beach, which they cannot access the rest of the year.

A small number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip also generally receive permits to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan. Last week, Israeli officials rescinded those permits in the wake of the Tel Aviv shooting attack. This week, 300 Palestinians from Gaza were allowed into Jerusalem for prayers.

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 201-. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Checkpoint 300 separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 201-. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Checkpoint 300 separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police direct Palestinian worshipers through the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police direct Palestinian worshipers through the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Checkpoint 300 separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem as they make their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshipers enter the Israeli military’s Checkpoint 300 separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem as they make their way to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan, June 17, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

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French pro-Israel group threatens to ‘scalp’ thousands of BDS activists http://972mag.com/french-pro-israel-group-threatens-to-scalp-thousands-of-bds-activists/120109/ http://972mag.com/french-pro-israel-group-threatens-to-scalp-thousands-of-bds-activists/120109/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 16:02:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120109 The ‘Brigade Juive’ claims to have sent the threatening email to 8,000 activists worldwide, lamenting that since French law doesn’t do enough against boycott supporters it must take matters into its own hands.

By Yael Marom

Stock photo boycott activists in France. (Photo by Olga Besnard/Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of BDS activists in Paris, France. (Photo by Olga Besnard/Shutterstock.com)

A right-wing group calling itself the “Brigade Juive” (Jewish Brigade) says it sent thousands of threatening emails and messages to boycott Israel activists around the world overnight Thursday, promising to “put an end to BDS.” The messages were apparently sent primarily to activists in France, Australia and Israel.

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The senders, who addressed recipients as “dear boycotters” (in French), warned (in English): “We have are a very particular set of skills, skills We have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make us a nightmare for people like you.” It concluded in French: “boycotters should understand, we will be scalping you one by one, group by group, organization by organization.” A message on its Facebook page clarified that it referred to scalping figuratively — and had “nothing to do with the Indian custom, of course.”

The email, sent to 8,000 email addresses according to the group’s Facebook page, included a link to a longer Facebook post in which the group claimed that BDS activists are fans of Hitler, Holocaust deniers and inciters of hate. It went on to explain that French law doesn’t do enough to stop boycott-supporting activists and organization operating in the country, so it must to take matters into its own hands.

One Israeli activist who received the threatening email told +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, that “the threat is menacing, but the large number of recipients testifies to its weakness. You can’t silence so many human rights activists. Acts of intimidation that the Brigade already carried out in France have not deterred French anti-occupation and Israeli apartheid activists.”

In its report on the threatening email, the Electronic Intifada warned activists not to click on links in any threatening emails noting that they might contain malware.

The French underground

Local activists told +972 that the “Brigade Juive” is believed to be tied to the French branch of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant organization started by Meir Kahane in the United States in the 1960s, and which has been outlawed for terrorist activity in the United States and Israel. In recent years, the French branch of the organization has directed much of its activities against Palestinian and French groups that oppose Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and people, usually claiming that they are anti-Semitic. It recently began targeting the BDS movement.

In March 2014, Israeli investigative journalism program “Uvda” ran a story (Hebrew) about the “Jewish underground operating in France” and its leader, a young man named Yossi Ayache, who has been based out of Netanya in Israel for the past few years. The television report portrays a quasi-military organization composed of hundreds of young French Jews who utilize violence in the name of “fighting rising anti-Semitism in France.” The report detailed how they learn how to utilize physical violence, train to withstand tear gas, learn to break bones, go undercover as Arabs in Palestinian French groups, burst into events and offices, and of course, beat people.

Anti-occupation activists in France have long faced violence, harassment and violence from radical right-wing Jewish groups. Take for example well-known JDL activist, hacker and self-described “militant Zionist” Gregory Chelli, who as of August 2014 was reportedly living in Ashdod, Israel (Hebrew). Chelli, who reportedly goes by the online name “Ulcan,” is primarily known for reported electronic break-ins of news organizations who he believes unfairly cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for allegedly harassing journalists and political activists he views as enemies, and their families. Chelli was given an 18-month suspended sentence for his part in setting fire to the motorcycle of a French political activist. He has also been interrogated by Israel police.

Ulcan’s tactics in the past have reportedly included publishing journalists’ and activists’ personal information, making fake police reports that resulted in large-scale raids on his targets’ homes, and falsely notifying targets’ families of their deaths or injury.

A new puppet master in town?

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated that Israel needs to send a clear message, with legislation or other means, that “it’s not worth being a BDS activist,” and that such activists need to be made to pay a price. It appears somebody is already heeding his call.

Erdan also went into detail about the Israeli government’s role in fighting anti-Israel activism around the world, saying that while the State of Israel isn’t suited to tackle each individual threat as a state body, it is well positioned to coordinate the various private organizations and bodies which are active on the country’s behalf. One can only hope this isn’t an example of such coordination.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article first appeared in Hebrew.

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Senior Israeli minister: Make BDS activists in Israel ‘pay a price’ http://972mag.com/senior-israeli-minister-says-working-to-make-bds-activists-in-israel-pay-a-price/120084/ http://972mag.com/senior-israeli-minister-says-working-to-make-bds-activists-in-israel-pay-a-price/120084/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 12:57:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120084 Public Security Minister Erdan says ‘the message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist,’ reveals his plans to create government-sponsored legislation to that end.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (photo: Adi Cohen-Zeked/Herzliya Conference)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (photo: Adi Cohen-Zeked/Herzliya Conference)

Israeli Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan says that BDS advocates inside Israel must be made to pay a price and that he is working to create legislation that would do just that.

“The message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist,” the minister said at a panel on BDS at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday. “Anybody who works to delegitimize Israel, to bring an end to the Zionist enterprise, they should know that there will be a price.”

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Pointing to legislation that targets and punishes boycott and divestment actions and activists overseas, particularly in Europe and the United States, Erdan lamented “there’s no real price for somebody here, [an individual] or an organization who is working against his country in order to isolate it in the world.”

Erdan also revealed that he has put together a legal team that is working with the Israeli Justice Ministry to ensure that there is a price for boycott and presumably anti-occupation activism.

“If we want to convince the world that de-legitimization is unacceptable for which a price must be paid, then it needs to start here in Israel,” the senior minister said.

Israel already has a law that allows civil suits to be brought against boycott activists under certain circumstances, but it has never been used. Erdan described the existing boycott law as ineffective.

In March of this year, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz advocated engaging in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, using language that deliberately evoked the Hebrew term for “targeted assassinations.”

Erdan made sure to distance himself from Katz’s comments, which drew the ire of Amnesty International at the time, reassuring the yearly policy conference that he was not referring to any sort of physical threats.

Illustrative photo of BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti in Brussels, April 30, 2015. (Photo by intal.be / CC 2.0)

Illustrative photo of BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti in Brussels, April 30, 2015. (Photo by intal.be / CC 2.0)

Israeli authorities recently announced that they have put a de facto travel ban on BDS leader Omar Barghouti and are considering revoking his permanent residency status in the country.

Erdan outlined steps he believes the government should take as it moves from defense to offense against the boycott movement and those who advocate for it.

Israeli authorities must target such activists’ and organizations’ bank accounts, expose their sources of funding, specifically to look at whether they can be tied to declared terrorist organizations, and look for irregularities in their funding in order to find any illegal activity, he explained.

The government is currently advancing legislation that targets the funding of human rights organizations and other groups associated with the anti-occupation left in Israel.

The legislation, which is described by its sponsors as a transparency bill, would cast human rights and left-wing political activists as foreign agents, directly implying that they are working against Israel on behalf of foreign, hostile governments.

BDS is a Palestinian-led non-violent movement that seeks to end the occupation, achieve a just resolution for Palestinian refugees, and full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

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Israeli peaceniks release racist video to ‘save Jerusalem’ http://972mag.com/israeli-peaceniks-release-racist-video-to-save-jerusalem/120049/ http://972mag.com/israeli-peaceniks-release-racist-video-to-save-jerusalem/120049/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 14:41:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120049 A new video portrays a ‘nightmare scenario’ in which Jerusalem residents elect a Palestinian mayor.

Screenshot from Save Jewish Jerusalem's new anti-Palestinian video.

Screenshot from Save Jewish Jerusalem’s new anti-Palestinian video.

One would think a group that calls itself “Save Jewish Jerusalem” would hail from the right side of the political spectrum. But when it comes to maintaining Israel’s demographic dominance, it seems there isn’t much of a difference between the Right and Left.

The initiative, which seeks to maintain control over Jerusalem through further disenfranchising its Palestinian residents, released a racist video on Wednesday, portraying a scenario set in 2020 in which an Arab is elected mayor of the city, after its Palestinian residents (nearly 40 percent of the population) decide to vote in municipal elections. Despite having the right to vote, Palestinians have largely boycotted Jerusalem’s municipal elections for the last 50 years in protest of Israel’s occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem.

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In the video, which its creators fashioned as a horror-thriller, revolves around a Palestinian political leader trying to convince a group of militants that the only way to get Jerusalem back is to do exactly what Netanyahu warned about on election day last March: go to the polling stations “in droves.”

After years of trying to kill Israeli Jews in a variety of ways, the leader tells the militants that it is time to “beat them using their own weapon: democracy,” and convinces them that every Palestinian resident in the city should take advantage of their right to vote in municipal elections, since they are the majority. (The video assumes that by 2020, Palestinians will constitute over 50 percent of Jerusalem’s population).

The video then shows a Palestinian man armed with explosives and guns walking to a polling station. When he arrives he puts down all of his weapons down and instead wields his new weapon — a blue ID card. The video then flashes to two months later, when the leader of the group has become Jerusalem’s new mayor. The leader is congratulated over the phone with an “Allahu Akbar” and “the Temple Mount is in our hands,” a direct reference to a similar quote by Lt. Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur, whose IDF division captured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 War. A large picture of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is seen behind the new mayor’s desk, straddled by photographs of Netanyahu and Rabin.

The video is offensive and blatantly racist, portraying all Palestinians from East Jerusalem as violent and solely interested in wiping out Jewish Israelis. It is as if the systematic discrimination against Palestinians in access to water, housing, classrooms, infrastructure does not exist.

“Save Jewish Jerusalem” advocates that Israel “disengage” from the 28 Arab villages it annexed in 1967 (which today comprise East Jerusalem), relinquishing the residency rights of around 200,000 Palestinians in order to “repair the damage of the 1967 historic mistake” and ensure Jerusalem can maintain a large Jewish demographic majority. From the website:

Most of the Palestinian Arab villages annexed to Jerusalem in 1967 will be excluded from the sovereign territory of Jerusalem. IDF and other security forces will enter and operate in the villages that have been separated from Jerusalem – just the way they are currently operating in villages and areas of the West Bank.

Thus the group proposes that East Jerusalem — which is already occupied as far as the world is concerned — be put under direct military occupation. The only difference is that it wants Israel to strip all the Palestinians who live there of their remaining rights, thereby making East Jerusalem just like the West Bank, expanding and entrenching occupation further. It even boasts that such a “disengagement’ would lift the “heavy economic burden on Jerusalem and Israel” by “saving taxpayers an estimated NIS 2 to 3 billion (about $525 to $788 million) per year.

And what about all the Jewish settlements built over the Green Line that have been annexed to the city? They get to stay: “Full sovereignty and municipal unity and uniformity will be in force on all Jewish Jerusalem, including Jewish neighborhoods built after the Six Day War. Jerusalem will also include the Old City, the “Holy Basin” and the original Jerusalem neighborhoods surrounding them.”

The group, Save Jewish Jerusalem, is mostly made up of former generals and other ex-military careerists and politicians (mostly male, mostly of Ashkenazi origin) who identify as part of the Israeli peace camp. It includes Shaul Arieli, one of the lead negotiators of the Geneva Initiative, and Ami Ayalon, the former Shin Bet head and Labor Party MK who launched a two-state peace initiative with Sari Nusseibeh in 2003. Last month the group launched a billboard campaign posted around Jerusalem with the messages, “Shuafat is not our Jerusalem,” “Jabal Mukaber is not our Jeruaslem,” in reference to two East Jerusalem neighborhoods. It is noteworthy that out of 33 founders, there is only one woman.

Other than its explicit racism, the video — and the initiative as a whole — is a total affront to the notions of civil and democratic rights, treating the right of individuals to have a say in who represents them as a privilege to be given or taken away. It completely disregards the reality on the ground for Jerusalem’s disenfranchised Palestinians, and assumes that further separation between Palestinians from Israelis will somehow make the city a safer place for all to live.

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