+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 29 May 2016 14:58:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 IDF: Secret intel shows Hamas lawmaker is … a member of Hamas http://972mag.com/idf-secret-intel-shows-hamas-lawmaker-is-a-hamas-member/119658/ http://972mag.com/idf-secret-intel-shows-hamas-lawmaker-is-a-hamas-member/119658/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 14:57:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119658 The army issues an administrative detention order again a Palestinian parliamentarian using secret evidence to ‘prove’ some very un-secret allegations. Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians without charge or trial.

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man, September 27, 2008. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Israeli army this week submitted secret evidence to a military court in order support an administrative detention order it issued against Hamas legislator Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha.

According to the army, the secret evidence proves that al-Jaber Fuqaha is … a member of Hamas, information which can hardly be considered secret considering he was publicly elected on the political party/terrorist organization’s slate.

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“Information was received, according to which [al-Jaber Fuqaha] is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region,” the IDF Spokesperson said. (The full statement can be found below.)

It is important to note that legally and politically speaking Israel, and the Israeli army, does not differentiate between the militant and political branches of Hamas, the latter of which democratically won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections to have been held, in 2006.

Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to imprison primarily Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are limited to six months but there is no limit on the number of times they can be renewed, making them indefinite.

Fuqaha was released from a previous round of administrative detention just a year ago, and has spent a total of seven years in Israeli prisons. In 2014 he joined a mass Palestinian hunger strike to protest against prolonged detention without charges or trial.

As previously reported here by Noam Rotem, Fuqaha is the seventh Palestinian legislator in Israeli custody, along with Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is serving a 30-year sentence; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving four consecutive life sentences; Hatem Hafisha and Hassan Yousef who are being held in administrative detention, Jerusalem resident Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and PFLP lawmaker and feminist activist Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison last December after spending eight months in prison, some of which were spent in administrative detention.

Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians in administrative detention, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. In total, more than 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held as “security prisoners,” as opposed to criminal prisoners, in Israeli detention facilities.

The full IDF statement, which it provided in response to a query, is as follows:

In the matter of Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha, information was received, according to which he is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region. In light of that information, an administrative detention order was issued against him which was approved by a military court after the secret information was presented to it, and as a last resort after no option for preventing the danger he poses was found via other tools.

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

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WATCH: Thousands of Israelis demand opposition to right-wing gov’t http://972mag.com/watch-thousands-of-israelis-demand-an-opposition-to-right-wing-govt/119647/ http://972mag.com/watch-thousands-of-israelis-demand-an-opposition-to-right-wing-govt/119647/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 09:53:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119647 Left-wing Jewish and Arab parties come together to protest the rightward shift of Israel’s already far-right government. ‘We’re first and foremost against the government but there are also certain people in the opposition who forgot what their role is,’ Zandberg says.

Some 2,000 Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Some 2,000 Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Two thousand Jews and Arabs protesting Israel’s increasingly right-wing government marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night under the banner, “building resistance, building an opposition, building another path for Israel.”

Marching and delivering speeches together for the first time since elections last year were Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon. Both of their speeches emphasized the need for a joint Jewish-Arab response to the radical right-wing politics dominant in Israel today. Odeh went as far as saying that “there is a nationalist camp, there is a Zionist camp, and we need to create a democratic camp.”

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

The march stopped in front of the ruling Likud party's headquarters on King George St. in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

The march stopped in front of the ruling Likud party’s headquarters on King George St. in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg explained, “we’re building an opposition, first and foremost against the government but we also oppose certain actors in the opposition who have forgotten what their role is.”

Members of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, Michal Rozin, Dov Khenin, Ilan Gil-On, and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf also participated in the rally.

The following is a live video feed I broadcasted from the protest:

The makeup of the political parties represented and the rhetoric used Saturday night sparked speculation that the protest could signal the start to broader cooperation between Meretz and Hadash, the latter of which is one of several parties that comprise the Joint List.

In one such analysis, put forward by Local Call co-editor Yael Marom, the two parties might be laying the foundations for a united front ahead of the next elections. During the previous election cycle, Hadash MK Dov Khenin spoke about building “a broad democratic camp.”

Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Arab and Jewish Israelis under Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center, protesting against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

A source in Hadash, who asked not to be named, later said that in response to the growing racism and far-right politics in Israel that it was decided to strengthen Arab-Jewish cooperation between Meretz and the Joint List. The intention, the party source added, is to strengthen the collaborative work in the Knesset and to step up activities on the street, like the protest in Tel Aviv and monthly anti-occupation marches in the West Bank. However, the party source denied any intention of altering the current electoral blocs.

The protest in Tel Aviv was organized by “Standing Together” and “Peace Now,” and was put together in response to the appointment of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, which pushes the current far right-wing government even further rightward.

Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Left-wing Arab and Jewish Israelis march through Tel Aviv against the country’s right-wing politics, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Also attending the protest were conscientious objectors Aiden Katri, who was released from military service recently after several short stints in prison, and Tair Kaminer, who is currently in between prison sentences, and recently broke the record for longest imprisonment for a female conscientious objector.

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

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WATCH: How one West Bank village is fighting to regain its land http://972mag.com/watch-how-one-west-bank-village-is-fighting-to-regain-its-land/119624/ http://972mag.com/watch-how-one-west-bank-village-is-fighting-to-regain-its-land/119624/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 13:51:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119624 Residents of the village of Deir Istiya, located next to the West Bank settlement Ariel, have been nonviolently protesting the blocking off access to their farmland by the Israeli army, which affects the lives of 500 families.

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Israeli tribunal upholds ban on British human rights activist http://972mag.com/israeli-tribunal-upholds-ban-on-british-human-rights-activist/119615/ http://972mag.com/israeli-tribunal-upholds-ban-on-british-human-rights-activist/119615/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 15:42:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119615 Human rights activist Gary Spedding was refused entry to the country in 2014 over suspicions that he would ‘incite a riot.’ Jerusalem tribunal shortens ban from 10 to 5 years.

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

An Israeli tribunal rejected last week an appeal filed by a British human rights activist who was banned from entering the country for 10 years. The tribunal based its decision on secret evidence handed over by the Interior Ministry.

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Gary Spedding, a 26-year-old human rights and pacifist based in Northern Ireland, was refused entry and banned from Israel in January 2014 due to his social media activity. Spedding, who is active in reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland as well as Israel/Palestine, had planned on visiting Israel for a round of meetings, including with several members of Knesset.

Despite previous visits to the country without any problems, Spedding was denied entrance at Ben Gurion Airport, where he was told that his activity on social media raises suspicions that he may incite riots in Israel and the occupied territories. He was held at the airport, where he was informed that the Interior Ministry refused his entry and banned him for 10 years. He was promptly sent back to the U.K.

Refusing entry and deportation of political activists who are critical of Israel’s occupation has become a common occurrence in the past few years. However, unlike most activists, Spedding decided to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision. Attorney Gaby Lasky appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, where she argued that the decision to refuse him entry stemmed from his political opinions, and that the ban harms not only Spedding, but the Knesset members and Israeli citizens who are interested in meeting with him.

Although the appeal was filed in October 2014, the tribunal only came to a decision last Wednesday. Judge Sarah Ben Shaul Weiss’ decision is laconic and does not truly get to the heart of the matter or respond to the arguments made in the appeal. “According to the law, the interior minister has broad-ranging powers derived from the Entry to Israel Law,” Weiss writes. “The appellant has no right… to enter Israel, even if he previously entered the country and was not accused of disturbing the peace during his previous entries.”

Weiss did recognize that some of the reasons stated for refusing Spedding entry are invalid, cutting his ban down to five years, and ordering Spedding to pay NIS 1,500 in legal expenses.

“The judge writes that she rejects the request, while at the same time shortening the ban — that is, she is able to intervene and thinks that he should be able to enter the country,” Lasky told +972. Spedding is planning on appealing the tribunal’s decision.

“One can see the tribunal’s bias by the very fact that it is making the appellant pay legal expenses in a situation where the appeal was partially accepted. In these cases there is no room for legal expenses — this is a bad legal mistake.”

“The ruling is disappointing but not unexpected,” Spedding told +972. “I had hoped for a positive decision, which would have allowed me to return to Israel and Palestine this summer, but it seems this was not to be. This is happening to many international activists as they try to enter Israel and Palestine. Since my deportation in January 2014 I’ve read of at least 20 other cases where international activists have been treated in similar ways. I’ve seen far more instances where Palestinians have suffered far worse treatment at the entry points. Such discrimination and degrading treatment must end.”

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

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Israelis’ heartwarming response to shocking police brutality http://972mag.com/israelis-heartwarming-response-to-shocking-police-brutality/119588/ http://972mag.com/israelis-heartwarming-response-to-shocking-police-brutality/119588/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 19:13:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119588 The brutal police beating of a young Bedouin man outside his Tel Aviv workplace, where he was working to save money for university tuition, leads hundreds of Israelis to pitch in and pay his tuition. (Update: the crowdfunding campaign has reached 200 percent of its original goal.)

By Michal Rotem

Mayasem Abu Alqian, a 19-year-old Bedouin citizen from the southern town of Hura, was attacked on Sunday by a group of Israeli Border Police officers near Rabin Square in the middle of Tel Aviv. Two plainclothes policemen approached Abu Alqian on the street outside his work, demanding that he produce an ID. Abu Alqian, not willing to identify himself to just anyone, demanded a uniformed police officer.

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Within a matter of seconds, more policemen arrived at the scene and, according to eyewitnesses, started brutally attacking him. Abu Alqian was arrested and taken to the police station. Only hours later he was brought to a hospital for medical treatment (he is seriously bruised on his head and neck and suffered damage to his cornea). Following an appeal to the district court, he was released to house arrest in the middle of the night.

Abu Alqian moved to Tel Aviv a couple of months ago from the southern Bedouin town of Hura in order to save some money before starting to study psychology later this year. He was working two jobs, at Burger King and in a supermarket, approximately 20 hours a day, he says. The attack by the police officers threw a wrench in that plan — he says he no longer wants to return to Tel Aviv — and that is exactly where a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign stepped in.

Tuesday morning, the Negev Coexistence Forum (where I work) launched a crowdfunding campaign for Abu Alqian. The goal was to raise NIS 40,000 (just over $10,000) to fund his psychology studies. That bar was met within less than 12 hours, as hundreds of Israelis donated to support Abu Alqian.

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

Overwhelmed by the success, the NCF decided to try and double the goal, in order to raise some funds to cover Abu Alqian’s legal defense costs. By the time of writing, over 200 percent of the original goal’s sum had already been raised.

While the struggle against police violence in Israel is only in its infancy , this tiny project served as proof for many Arabs and Jews that there is hope out there. It gave Israelis a way to directly support a victim of police brutality, in a very constructive way.

Among the comments made by supporters, people wrote “I would be happy to show Mayasem that there are different people, people who seek peace”; “Mayasem, good luck with your studies”; “Thank you for the opportunity to support Mayasem”; “I am so ashamed, hope we will be able to fix this”. More than 800 Israelis already supported the project.

While the Israeli public seems to still be shocked by Sunday’s events, according to some reports by Israeli media, the Department of Internal Police Investigations had already finished its inquiry and is about to close the case against the alleged attackers. While Mayasem was still on house arrest until Thursday and banned from Tel Aviv for another week, all the involved policemen are free.

Abu Alqian went on the radio Wednesday and thanked all his supporters, stating that it gave him a bit of relief and that he was overwhelmed by the warm embrace he received from so many people. And still, he says he has no intentions to ever come back to Tel Aviv.

Michal Rotem, based in Be’er Sheva, works for the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and is a Hebrew-language blogger on Local Call.

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Leading Israeli rights group to stop cooperating with the IDF http://972mag.com/leading-israeli-rights-group-to-stop-cooperating-with-the-idf/119570/ http://972mag.com/leading-israeli-rights-group-to-stop-cooperating-with-the-idf/119570/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 03:00:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119570 The Israeli military justice system acts only to ‘cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,’ B’Tselem says, citing 25 years of experience working with the military. Palestinian rights expert welcomes the move.

A Palestinian B'Tselem volunteer documenting a protest in the south Hebron Hills, June 14, 2008. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

A Palestinian B’Tselem volunteer documents a protest in the South Hebron Hills, June 14, 2008. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israel’s best known human rights organization, B’Tselem, has lost all faith in the Israeli military justice system and will stop cooperating with it on behalf of Palestinian victims, the organization announced Wednesday.

A quarter century of experience working with the army “has brought us to the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,” the organization wrote in an 80-page report that accompanied the announcement.

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The report details the exact failings of the military investigative system — read it here.

B’Tselem’s decision is particularly significant because Palestinian victims of violence by Israelis security forces largely rely on Israeli human rights groups to file complaints on their behalf. On a most basic, logistical level, the IDF’s Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU, sometimes referred to as MPCID) does not have any bases in the West Bank where Palestinians can physically go to file complaints, and the army does not issue them entry permits for the purposes of filing complaints against its own soldiers.

But it is the army’s utter ineffectiveness at investigating its own that is most striking. Out of 739 cases in which B’Tselem demanded that the IDF investigate soldiers killing, injuring, beating or using Palestinians as human shields since the year 2000, only 25 (3 percent) resulted in indictments. At least 70 percent of those cases ended without military investigators taking any action whatsoever, the organization reported, describing the process as riddled by “systemic failures which are neither random, nor case specific.”

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation, Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Data compiled by Yesh Din, another Israeli human rights group that represents Palestinian victims of crimes by security forces, is even more troubling. According to Yesh Din, in 2014 military prosecutors filed indictments as a result of only 3.5 percent of criminal investigations into offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinians. The indictment rate presented by B’Tselem is relative to all complaints filed, while Yesh Din’s refers only to criminal investigations initiated by the army. (Full disclosure: my wife serves as a legal advisor to Yesh Din, and is the coordinator of its “criminal accountability of Israeli security forces project.”)

None of this, however, is new. Nearly two years ago B’Tselem declared the military law enforcement system “a complete failure,” and announced that it would refuse to assist the IDF in investigating suspected crimes committed by its soldiers during the 2014 Gaza war.

“Based on past experience, we can only regretfully say that Israeli law enforcement authorities are unable and unwilling to investigate allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law committed during fighting in Gaza,” the organization wrote at the time, noting that if Israel were to establish an independent investigative body it would gladly cooperate.

Wednesday’s announcement broadens that move and applies it to all military investigations.

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that was the site of some of the war’s heaviest fighting, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that was the site of some of the 2014 war’s heaviest fighting, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The other major factor behind B’Tselem’s announcement is what the organization describes as the military law enforcement system’s role in undermining the chances of any real accountability of the upper echelons of the military and its political command structure, and creating a sense of legitimacy for and ultimately propping up the occupation itself.

“The semblance of a functioning justice system allows Israeli officials to deny claims made both in Israel and abroad that Israel does not enforce the law on soldiers who harm Palestinians,” the B’Tselem report released Wednesday argued. “These appearances also help grant legitimacy – both in Israel and abroad – to the continuation of the occupation.”

B’Tselem says its move is not meant to shift efforts for holding Israeli security forces accountable into external bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC). “We don’t think that the current international situation provides other, better avenues for [promoting accountability],” spokesperson Sarit Michaeli told +972. “We’re not going to go to other bodies, but we assume our decision will resonate internationally, and in Palestinian society.”

Which is to say that B’Tselem’s decision may very well affect processes already in place in bodies like the ICC. One of the key factors that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must determine when deciding whether to open a full-fledged investigation into war crimes in Palestine is whether Israel is willing and able to investigate and hold its own security forces accountable, and whether it does so in good faith — known as the principle of complementarity. If it does, then the court has no jurisdiction.

But if the ICC determines that Israel is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself, then it may indeed have jurisdiction over war crimes committed by Israeli citizens, ranging from individual soldiers to generals and politicians. Bensouda will certainly take notice of B’Tselem’s message that it has lost so much faith in the Israeli military’s investigative mechanisms that it no longer believes it is worth engaging with.

An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas into a crowd of Palestinian protesters in Hebron. March 31, 2013 (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas into a crowd of Palestinian protesters in Hebron. March 31, 2013 (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, congratulated B’Tselem for its decision to disengage from the military justice system, and told +972 he believes B’Tselem’s decision could help the ICC conclude, directly or indirectly, that complementarity does not pose an obstacle to the international prosecution of Israelis. “I think it will help show that there is no will, that [the military investigation system] is not effective, and that it is not an independent mechanism.”

Jabarin, whose organization long ago stopped cooperating with the Israeli military in order to seek justice for Palestinian victims, said he believes it is important for other organizations to follow in B’Tselem’s footsteps. Working with the Israeli Military Advocate General, he said, “doesn’t accomplish anything except [to allow Israeli] officials to create an illusion that there is a democratic, just system in place.”

Yesh Din, along with Adalah, another human rights legal organization based in Israel, expressed criticisms of IDF investigatory mechanisms that are nearly identical to those put forward by B’Tselem. But both organizations told +972 they will continue to file complaints with Israeli authorities, each citing their obligations to seek legal redress on behalf of Palestinian victims.

“[Although] the inherently flawed structures of Israel’s mechanisms make it nearly impossible to obtain criminal investigations, prosecutions, and punishment of perpetrators of serious violations of international law,” explained Nadeem Shehadeh, an attorney in the civil and political rights unit at Adalah, his organization will continue to file legal interventions with Israeli authorities in order to seek individual redress, exhaust all domestic remedies, and to establish and maintain formal documentation for purposes of local and international advocacy.

B’Tselem, however, is not shutting its doors anytime soon. The human rights clearinghouse, best known for distributing video cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank and publishing the video documentation of Israeli crimes and rights violations they capture, will continue carrying out those investigatory and advocacy activities. The organization’s main emphasis, however, will shift away from legal work and move toward the loftier political goal of ending the occupation itself.

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Facing down Breaking the Silence, Israel tries to play the underdog http://972mag.com/facing-down-breaking-the-silence-israel-tries-to-play-the-underdog/119547/ http://972mag.com/facing-down-breaking-the-silence-israel-tries-to-play-the-underdog/119547/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 10:17:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119547 The state prosecutor stages a refined production in which it pretends to be the weaker party facing down a massive organization. The state wants Breaking the Silence to reveal the identity of a soldier it suspects of committing crimes during the Gaza war.

By Alma Biblash

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli Magistrate’s Court this week heard a challenge by anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence against a warrant ordering it to reveal the identity of a soldier who provided it with testimony about alleged crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza war.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of former Israeli soldiers that collects, verifies, and publishes first-person testimonies about Israel’s occupation and military control over Palestinians.

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In court Sunday the state objected to a request by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to join as amicus curiae, arguing that prosecution was unfamiliar with its legal opinion and needed to prepare. In the meantime the court delayed making a decision, yet allowed Attorney Michael Sfard, who is representing Breaking the Silence, to reference ACRI’s legal brief in court.

Sfard argued that Breaking the Silence is not only a human rights organization, but also a journalistic initiative, and that removing its journalistic immunity would harm the public interest — far more than any delay in a criminal investigation into the former soldier or even closing that probe. The judge gave the state until July 18 to submit its response.

The feeble state

During the hearing, the state put on a refined production of what the prosecution has turned into an art form: two attorneys representing the prosecution, women, young lawyers without much experience, sent to face Atty. Michael Sfard — a sharp, veteran litigator backed up by a courtroom packed with around 50 Breaking the Silence supporters. Not a single person came to support the prosecution, save for a spokesperson for far-right-wing group “Im Tirtzu.”

The state attorneys asked to delay the hearing. In response to most of the judge’s questions they responded that they did not know, were not sure, or claimed to not have the authority to answer. Only a small portion of their arguments and objections were even defensive: “it is hurtful when they say the prosecution is affected by political influences and the public atmosphere,” and, “it’s insulting and not nice when they laugh.” The latter came in response to laughter among the crowd after Atty. Sfard brought up the state’s motivations in the case. (The quotes are from memory and may not be exact.)

The optical illusion that was created in the courtroom made it seem as if Breaking the Silence was a powerful, experienced, and publicly supported organization, facing down a feeble, lonely State of Israel that is just trying to survive with whatever means it has.

Reality is the exact opposite. When the state places these attorneys in impossible situations it helps sell the illusion that Breaking the Silence isn’t a small organization being persecuted by the establishment — from the lowest levels until top levels of government including the prime minister — and as if 50 supporters are representative of the Israeli public at large. It is trying to give the impressing that the state is only interested in exposing criminals and putting them on trial, and there is nothing but the heartless members of Breaking the Silence standing in its way.

It is hard for me to believe that anyone who believes this is the state’s honest attempt at getting to the bottom of the most violent episodes of the Gaza war, as opposed to yet another attempt to put an end to Breaking the Silence, which continues to effectively expose the horrifying significance of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Then comes the most moral army in the world. On the face of it, the state’s stated desire to investigate cases of alleged crimes by security forces is praiseworthy. But let’s admit the truth: those who called for dropping bombs on entire neighborhoods in Gaza, which led to the deaths of hundreds of children, are seeking to clear the IDF of any immorality by putting a lowly soldier on trial?

Alma Biblash is a feminist and human rights activist based in Jaffa and blogger on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, where a version of this article was first published.

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Hundreds of academics call to boycott genocide conference in Israel http://972mag.com/hundreds-of-academics-call-to-boycott-genocide-conference-in-israel/119522/ http://972mag.com/hundreds-of-academics-call-to-boycott-genocide-conference-in-israel/119522/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 07:52:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119522 Academics condemn decision to hold a conference on genocide in Jerusalem at a time when Israel’s actions are ‘being viewed through lenses of ethnic cleansing and genocide.’

Protesters hold signs calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) during a Washington, D.C., protest against Israel's offensive on Gaza, August 2, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Protesters hold signs calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) during a Washington, D.C., protest against Israel’s offensive on Gaza, August 2, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Nearly 270 academics from 19 countries are calling to boycott the fifth Global Conference on Genocide, set to take place on June 26-29 at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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In a letter sent to the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) on May 3, the academics pointed to the hypocrisy of having the conference in Israel at a time when Israel’s actions are “increasingly being viewed through lenses of ethnic cleansing and genocide linked to settler colonialism.”

According to the signatories, there are serious allegations that Israel “committed crimes against humanity” during the 2014 Gaza war. One of the signatories, John Docker, who has written extensively in the fields of genocide and massacre studies claims that such a conference cannot take place in Israel at a time when genocide studies is “actively seeking opportunities to be complicit in Israel’s flouting of international law.”

INoGS has yet to respond to the letter, and the conference is set to proceed as planned. The organizers did not respond to requests by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), an organization that includes Palestinian academics from Gaza who claim that they bore witness to massacres during the summer of 2014. Academics from the U.K., US, South Africa, Brazil, and other countries have previously signed various petitions calling to boycott Israeli academia, and specifically Hebrew University, for its complicity in the violations of Palestinian rights.

On Sunday it was revealed that famed British historian Catherine Hall had refused to accept a prestigious award and $330,000 from Tel Aviv University, also due to its complicity in the occupation. According to a statement published Friday by the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which supports BDS, Hall withdrew from the prize “after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine.”

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

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Border Police assault Arab supermarket employee in central Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/plainclothes-border-policemen-beat-arab-worker-in-central-tel-aviv/119492/ http://972mag.com/plainclothes-border-policemen-beat-arab-worker-in-central-tel-aviv/119492/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 16:22:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119492 Eyewitnesses say Border Police officers attacked an Arab worker in central Tel Aviv after he allegedly refused to show them his identity card. Police: The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the police officers, biting one of them.

Screen shot of Border Police allegedly beating Arab worker outside central Tel Aviv supermarket.

Screen shot of Border Police allegedly beating Arab worker outside central Tel Aviv supermarket.

An Arab employee of a supermarket located on the main thoroughfare of Ibn Gvirol Street, opposite Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, was reportedly beaten by plainclothes Border Police officers on Sunday afternoon. According to several eyewitnesses, the motive behind the beating was the employee’s ethnicity.

While it is still unclear what exactly happened, we do have several eyewitnesses who posted statuses on Facebook, one of whom spoke to +972, as well as a report published by Israeli news sites, among them Walla! . According to these sources,  an employee of Yuda Market, a mini-market, went out to dispose of some garbage, when he was approached by a plainclothes officer who, without identifying himself, demanded to see the man’s identity card. When the employee said his I.D. card was inside the store and asked the Border Police officer to identify himself, he and a friend began beating him. More officers and other citizens quickly joined in. The video published by Walla! shows there were numerous people involved in the assault.

This is an excerpt from the Facebook status of Erez Krispin, one of the eyewitnesses:

[It was] the kind of beating you never see in real life. Teeth are flying, the Arab is beaten to a pulp. An elderly woman asks them what they are doing and they yell at her to fuck off before they finish her off as well (while witnesses are standing around), the police arrive and join in on the beating. Everything, including cursing at the elderly woman, takes place while bystanders are watching. I have no idea if the Arab man is alive. They pushed whatever was left of him into the police car, not an ambulance, and disappeared. Later on it emerged that the two men were Border Police officers (who never identified themselves, of course).

“His only sin was that he’s not a Jew,” said Kobi Cohen, the owner of the supermarket, to a reporter from Walla! News. +972 has tried to contact Cohen for comment but he has not yet responded.

Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told +972:

“Due to the wave of terror, and in general as part of internal security activities, Israeli police are working tirelessly to find and expel Palestinians who don’t have work permits, for the security of the public. Based on an initial investigation, it seems that Border Police officer recognized a young man who aroused their suspicion, and they asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the police officers, even biting one of them. In order to arrest him, the policemen had to use force while the suspect continued attacking them.”

“As a result of the intensity of the violence against them, the two police officers sought medical assistance at Ichilov Hospital, after suffering bruises and bite marks. In coordination with police protocol, and as is acceptable in situations in which police must use force in order to do their job, all relevant materials will be sent to the Department of Internal Investigations. Israeli police will continue to act decisively against anyone who threatens Israeli lives.”

The police response does not confirm or deny the fact that the man is, according to his employer, an Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from a Negev town. This would counter the claim that he was a Palestinian without a work permit Given the number of people seen in the video beating this one man, it is not surprising that some of the policemen were bruised in the fracas.

According to a local Palestinian media outlet, his name is Maysam Abu-Alqi’an. He was reportedly treated at Ichilov hospital, Sunday evening.

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh responded to the incident, saying that ”Instead of serving and protecting Arab citizens, the police presents a genuine danger to their safety.”

MK Dov Khenin, also of the Joint List, said he has turned to the Minister of Public Security with an urgent request to clarify what happened. Khenin said, “from the looks of it, this appears to be a lynch in broad daylight, an assault on an innocent citizen by police, just because he is Arab.” He went on to say this is part of a broad trend: “A direct line links Prime Minister Netanyahu’s incitement on election day about the ‘Arabs moving in droves,’ and phenomena like the murdering soldier in Hebron or the ugly attack that happened today in Tel Aviv.”

This is a developing story. 

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IDF spending millions on ‘advertorial’ content in Israeli media http://972mag.com/idf-spending-millions-on-advertorial-content-in-israeli-media/119431/ http://972mag.com/idf-spending-millions-on-advertorial-content-in-israeli-media/119431/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 10:29:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119431 The IDF has spent NIS 28 million on advertising in various media outlets, despite claims to the contrary.

By Itamar Bazz

Israeli soldiers working on a computer. (IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers working on a computer. (IDF Spokesperson)

The Israel Defense Forces purchased advertorial content in media outlets, according to an investigation by The Seventh Eye. In an interview to radio station “Kol Ha’ayin” last year, IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz said the army is not involved in purchasing advertorial content and that media outlets that publish IDF content do so for their own editorial reasons and without receiving any compensation. But data obtained by The Seventh Eye and the organization “Hazlacha” indicate that in certain cases IDF messaging is planted in advertorial content in exchange for payment.

The data indicates that in the last four years, the IDF spent NIS 28 million on advertising – over NIS 7 million a year on average. In addition, the IDF Spokesperson allocates a large portion of its resources to documenting and distributing “news” items, photographs and videos passed on to Israeli media outlets for publication, without request for compensation.

For example, in the summer of 2015, the free daily Israel Hayom began publishing a regular IDF column in which commanders of various military divisions explained to readers why it is worthwhile to enlist into units under their command. Ma’ariv also publishes an IDF column, in which soldiers recommend their favorite nature hikes.

In an interview with The Seventh Eye, IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz said the army did not pay for these columns and clarified: “I don’t even have the technical capacity to pay media outlets for publishing something very positive and moving about the IDF. Certainly not.” And yet The Seventh Eye’s investigation demonstrates not only that the technical ability to pay media outlets to promote IDF messaging exists, but that it has been used.

While the instances in which the IDF paid for advertorial content did not appear in leading media outlets, they reveal a lot about the phenomenon in which the IDF is permeating the subliminal advertising world, which has in recent years been increasingly drawing its budgets from governmental bodies and businesses. Those who operate in this field give these kinds of deals the code word “cooperation.” In cases in which the paying entity is a governmental body, the appropriate term for the phenomenon is “covert propaganda.”

A few months ago, the nonprofit organization “Hazlacha” submitted a freedom of information request together with the Seventh Eye to the Government Advertising Bureau, requesting military representatives to hand over, among other things, data on IDF “cooperation” in which a monetary transaction was made with a media outlet. The data provided indicates that in 2015, over NIS 50,000 was allocated for “content cooperation” with the ultra-Orthodox radio stations Kol Chai and Kol BaRama.

The IDF also paid NIS 380,000 in 2014 for “cooperation” with the children’s television network, Nickelodeon Israel. A similar transaction took place in 2012 with the competing channel, The Kid’s Network. The IDF’s transaction with Nickelodeon financed a series of hasbara (Israeli government PR) commercials sponsored by Home Front Command that features several of the channel’s stars; a video on self-defense during emergency situations and an interactive page on the channels’ website.  According to the IDF, the funding provided to The Kid’s Network four years ago financed “quizzes on how to prepare for earthquakes” during a series called “The Real Place.”

The two ultra-Orthodox radio stations that received payment for advancing messaging by the Home Front Command also integrated quizzes into their broadcasts. The campaign for which they were paid money took place during the last Hanukkah holiday under the Talmudic slogan, “One must not depend on miracles,” and starred an animated redheaded ultra-Orthodox man called “Nissim” (miracles in Hebrew). The two radio stations that took part in the campaign didn’t explain to their listeners that an external entity had funded the messages.

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The transaction with Kol BaRama, worth NIS 28,000, included sponsor messages with Home Front Command messaging and editorial airtime on the daily show, “The Wanted,” which was broadcast during Hanukkah. The host, Amiram Ben-Lulu, brought listeners on who told stories about “miracles” they experienced, but made sure to advise that miracles cannot be relied on – and that is why we should always prepare for emergencies in accordance with the Home Front Command regulations. After each listener concluded his or her story, they were given a quiz on self-defense during wartime, including expanded information on the desired response.

Radio Kol Chai, which published two pamphlets on its website during its Home Front Command campaign, received nearly NIS 26,000 for its “cooperation.” In this case, the Home Front Command quiz was integrated into a special program hosted by Asher Greiber, which aired midday. An actor who identified as “Nissim” presented the listeners with questions on emergency situations, and in one case even called the Home Front Command headquarters and tried to speak with one of the call center representatives – but was hung up on – apparently because they thought it was a prank.

The IDF spokesperson said that except for these four deals, the IDF has not had  “cooperation” agreements of this kind with any other media outlet in the last five years.

The Seventh Eye investigation shows that in recent years, the defense establishment’s advertising budget – which includes the IDF, Home Front Command and Ministry of Defense – stood at an average of NIS 8.7 million annually. The total budget between 2012-2015 was NIS 34.6 million. The majority of this amount was spent by the IDF, and a small portion by the Ministry of Defense. Most of the IDF’s advertising budget was dedicated to distributing information on behalf of the Home Front Command.

Until 2015, the IDF’s advertising budget was managed by two bodies: the Government Advertising Bureau, which handled ongoing advertising, and McCann, which handled the Home Front Command’s advertising between 2012-2014. The IDF’s total advertising and hasbara budget remains consistent. In 2012 it stood at NIS 6.8 million. In 2013, it went up to NIS 7.3 million and in 2014, up again to NIS 7.6 million. In 2015 however, the budget went down to NIS 6.1 million.

The Ministry of Defense’s budget has in recent years been in an upward trend. According to data provided to The Seventh Eye from the Defense Minister, in 2012, the advertising and hasbara budget was NIS 1.3 million. In 2013-2014, it was NIS 1.7 million annually, and in 2015, it went up to NIS 1.8 million. The Defense Ministry spokesperson said that the advertising budgets were allocated for “announcements and broadcasts exclusively,” and not for “cooperation” with any media outlet.

The data provided by the Government Advertising Bureau demonstrate that about 60 percent of the IDF’s advertising budget between 2012-2014 (this doesn’t include Home Front Command’s hasbara budget) was invested into digital communications, i.e. online: NIS 4.2 million of the total budget of NIS 7 million. Compared to the government’s total spending on advertising, this is an exceptional number: Data the Government Advertising Bureau provided last year indicates that the budgets allotted to online advertising during those years amounted to only 24 percent of the government’ advertising pie.

The second largest segment of the IDF’s advertising budget between 2012 and 2014 was allocated to print advertising. The IDF purchased a total of NIS 1.6 million in newspapers ads over three years. This is not a large amount, but it is double the amount allocated for television ads, which stood at NIS 852,000 – including one year (2013) in which not a single shekel was allotted for television space.

When you compare this to the data on general advertising spent by governmental bodies, this is an anomaly: During that period, the television networks got the biggest slice of the pie, with 35 percent. But the IDF only allocated 12 percent of its advertising budget to TV between 2012-2014.

It’s important to note that this data doesn’t include the Home Front Command’s advertising budget. In 2015, when the Government Advertising Bureau also began administering the Home Front Command’s advertising budget, about half of the budget was allocated to television ads: NIS 3.08 million of a total annual budget of NIS 6.1 million. The Government Advertising Bureau and IDF spokesperson refused to provide data on specific deals or the distribution of the budget among the various media outlets. According to the Government Advertising Bureau, it is a “commercial secret” and if revealed could “damage its financial interests.”

An itemized list of campaigns run by the Government Advertising Bureau for the IDF shows that most of them were dedicated to promoting enlistment in the military among youth. For example, the IDF financed commercials and ads targeting high school students to enroll in military boarding schools in Haifa, Or Etzion as well as military schools run by the Air Force. Another campaign tries to convince ultra-Orthodox youth to enlist in the army into tracks that provide professional training and completion of high school education. One ad that aired in 2016 for example, was designed not only to convince ultra-Orthodox youth to enlist but also convince the ultra-Orthodox public that a youth who has served is a more eligible bachelor for an arranged marriage.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather during a protest against their military conscription outside a military prison on December 9, 2013 in Atlit, Israel. Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside the prison following the arrest of a young man who refused to serve in the Israeli the army, September 12, 2013. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather during a protest against their military conscription outside a military prison on December 9, 2013 in Atlit, Israel. Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside the prison following the arrest of a young man who refused to serve in the Israeli the army, September 12, 2013. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The segmentation of ages detailed in the Government Advertising Bureau’s responses could explain the decision for allocated a significant amount of the budgets to online advertising: Extensive use of Facebook, which enables advertisers to choose age groups. The increase in resources allocated corresponds to the stated trend by the Government Advertising Bureau, which has in recent years allotted more and more budgets to online advertising.

Attorney Elad Mann, legal counsel to Hazlacha and chairman of the Seventh Eye, points to the concerns that arise from the “cooperation” between the media and the IDF. “The fact that both the IDF and the defense establishment choose to use marketing mechanisms testifies to the penetration of this promotional tool into the heart of public service, and highlights its effectiveness in the eyes of the state’s various arms,” he said.

“The way public relations budgets are managed and the different topics these official entities choose to promote is of great public interest, as is its financial and ethical significance,” Mann adds. “It is important to continue drawing a picture of the reality in this field in order to enable supervision over the level of disclosure applied to this content and to see how these public entities prioritize the issues they manage.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on The Seventh Eye.

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