+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 28 May 2015 18:29:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 WATCH: Police brutality in East Jerusalem mini-market http://972mag.com/watch-police-brutality-in-east-jerusalem-mini-market/107164/ http://972mag.com/watch-police-brutality-in-east-jerusalem-mini-market/107164/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 18:19:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107164 All the Salman family wanted to do was sit in their grocery store and have a nice lunch. That all changed when police stormed the place, tasered one and arrested three.

By Michael Salisbury-Coresh

On Tuesday May 26, Israeli Police arrested a group of Palestinians without entry permits in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa. Two brothers from the Salman family, who own a mini-market in the middle of the neighborhood, saw the arrests on the other side of the road and continued arranging the store unimpeded.

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When the Salman family sat down to have lunch in their store at around 11:00 a.m., a man dressed in civilian clothing and armed with a taser ran inside.

“It looked like he was about to use the taser and I asked him if something happened,” said Talal Salman, who works in the store with his brother. “He told me that he is from the police and that he is conducting a search. So I told him to show me his police ID as well as a search warrant. If he didn’t have those I would ask him to leave. He refused to identify himself and demanded my ID. I told him that I have no problem giving him my identification card, and then he was joined by another police officer, this time in uniform, who asked what happened. The first officer said that I had attacked him and was refusing to identify.”

When Talal called his wife to ask that she bring his identification card, the officer in civilian clothing demanded he be arrested for assaulting an officer.”I have a disability, and I was very afraid of being arrested. I also didn’t understand how it turned from a situation in which a person enters my store with a taser in his hand to one in which I am arrested for assaulting a police officer. I refused to be arrested, and told the officers that they have no reason to do so.”

But the detectives and the officer involved were not willing to listen and, according to Talal, began violently attacking him and his brother Bilal. “They punched and kicked us, and then tasered me several times.” Other family members ran to the store and joined the chaos, including Bilal and Talal’s brother, Abed.

According to the brothers, the violence didn’t end even after reaching the Moriah Police Station. “The detectives in the station continued to curse at me. They told me ‘God will take you, we won’t leave you, will will continue to chase you.’” Bilal said that a number of detectives demanded he get down on his knees as punishment for attacking soldiers. When he refused they began beating him once again. “They told me that if I don’t kneel down they will add another charge that I pulled a gun on them. This was a form of punishment. They also made the handcuffs extremely tight on my hands and legs. I was in great pain after sitting on my knees like that for an hour.”

Read: The real roots of violence in Jerusalem

Both brothers were interrogated for suspicion of attacking a police officer and obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. They were left in the Russian Compound prison overnight and were released the following morning on conditions.

That same day the two brothers went to submit a complaint with the Israeli Police internal affairs division, despite being skeptical about how much good it would do. Bilal claims that he doubts that the police will stand trial for violence. “The internal affairs division simply helps frame suspects. They back each other up.” Talal, on the other hand, believes that the complaint will have an effect: “I think the state understands that if the situation in which the police attack civilians persists, what happened in Egypt will also happen here. Why did the revolution in Egypt start? Because of police brutality. The fact that I’m Arab makes no difference — the police attack everybody. Only a few months ago I saw a video of police attacking a Jewish man in Beit Shemesh and putting his face under the engine of a car. He was also charged with attacking a police officer.”

Jerusalem Police responded to the allegations:

Our investigation revealed that the suspects fled to the store, where they resisted arrest and those present attempted to prevent the police officers from conducting the arrests. The officers were resigned to use proportional force and arrested three suspects. Jerusalem Police will continue to act professionally and decisiveness toward lawbreakers, and will not allow harm to come to police officers during their service for the sake of the public. However, the suspects can turn to the internal affairs division, which will evaluate their claims, should there be any.

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

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Israel’s president calls BDS a ‘strategic threat’ http://972mag.com/israels-president-says-bds-is-a-strategic-threat/107156/ http://972mag.com/israels-president-says-bds-is-a-strategic-threat/107156/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 14:46:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107156 The resources and attention Israel’s government is investing in fighting BDS indicates that the Palestinian-led boycott movement is making serious inroads.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin holds an ‘emergency discussion’ about academic boycott with the heads of Israeli universities and colleges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 28, 2015. (Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin holds an ‘emergency discussion’ about academic boycott with the heads of Israeli universities and colleges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 28, 2015. (Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin held an “emergency” meeting Thursday with the heads of Israel’s universities and colleges to discuss the academic boycott, which he described as a “strategic threat.”

Israeli institutions and officials have begun addressing the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement more seriously and investing more resources into fighting it in recent months and years.

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New Israeli minister of strategic affairs and public diplomacy, Gilad Erdan, reportedly conditioned his entry into the government on the allocation of adequate funds for fighting BDS.

In the meeting with President Rivlin on Thursday, Technion University President and head of a council of university presidents, Peretz Lavie, warned that “it’s still possible to stop the [BDS] snowball but we are in the eleventh hour.”

Rivlin told the university presidents that he has been taken by surprise by the momentum the academic boycott movement is achieving.

“I didn’t think that there would be a real danger to Israeli academia but the atmosphere in the world is changing,” Rivlin said. In the new reality, the president continued, Israel must treat BDS “as a strategic threat of the highest degree.”

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

BDS has successfully entered the mainstream in recent years. Whereas Israelis’ contact with the BDS was once relegated to the occasional foreign musicians refusing to perform in Tel Aviv, is now being felt in academic forums across the world, as international corporations pull out of Israeli public works projects, and major investment and religious institutions begin divesting from companies that do business with Israel.

The non-violent grassroots movement modeled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns is viewed by a threat by many in Israel. Of the movement’s three demands — an end to the occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948 — Israelis specifically cite the refugee issue as a veiled attempt to undermine Israel’s Jewish identity.

On the other hand, Palestinians and supporters of the boycott movement argue that BDS simply demands that Israel end the occupation and fully respect Palestinian rights, without prejudging any political outcome.

Up until recently consensus wisdom in Israel was that despite increasing gains and small isolated victories, the boycott is a marginal movement. By allocating significant resources to fighting it and describing BDS as a strategic threat, however, the Israeli government is now telling us that boycott might actually be more effective than previously thought.

President Rivlin said on Thursday that he sees himself “as a soldier” in the war against the boycott of Israel, but he did not define what Israel is fighting for in that war: continued occupation? Inequality? Segregation?

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When an entire IDF platoon takes over your roof — for a photo http://972mag.com/when-an-entire-idf-platoon-takes-over-your-roof-for-a-photo/107098/ http://972mag.com/when-an-entire-idf-platoon-takes-over-your-roof-for-a-photo/107098/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 12:45:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107098 A two-minute video manages to perfectly capture the day-to-day banality of living under a military regime. 

I was able to count 37 soldiers. At least 37. One after another, each with his own weapon and combat vest, they climb up to roof the Abu Haya family’s home — located in the section of Hebron under direct Israeli military control.

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Why? It’s unclear. They don’t speak with the members of the family. Or rather, they don’t explain. They simply utter things such as “close the door,” and “turn off the camera,” all while some of the soldiers are clearly enjoying themselves as they film the family from the staircase.

They ignore Muhammad Abu Haya’s (the owner of the house and the person behind the camera) questions, when he tries to understand what dozens of soldiers are doing heading to the roof of his house.

They reach the top, gather together and get ready for a group photo with a lovely view of Hebron in the background. “Put it on Instagram” says one of the soldiers at the end of the clip. It took the soldiers an hour to leave, according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which uploaded the video to its YouTube channel.

Of course, far more terrible things happen around the world. Even in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, one can talk about the thousands killed in wars over the past few years; or about the kidnapping and subsequent murder of four teenagers; or the violence in the streets of Jerusalem; or Hamas’ execution of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel during last summer’s war; or even the story of the very same Abu Haya family, when soldiers threatened to arrest a 14-year-old member of the family despite having admitted that he did nothing wrong, all while saying that they would arrest him in the future, regardless of whether or not he commits a crime.

And yet, there is something in the banality, the casual day-to-day aspect of this video that captures an essential component of the story of the occupation, of a military regime that runs the lives of millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Something in the lordship, the total blindness of the soldiers who, for no good reason (and without a military order) — without so much as explaining what they are even doing — simply head the roof of the family’s home, armed from head to toe, and pose for a group photo.

WATCH: IDF soldiers threaten Palestinian child with false arrest

I looked at their faces as they climbed the stairs and as they were being photographed together. It doesn’t seem like any of them feels uncomfortable by the situation. It doesn’t seem like any of them are thinking that, just maybe, the roof of a family’s house should remain closed off to them if there is no good reason or special approval to be there.

They most likely don’t think about what it means to be a father, a mother, a 14-year-old boy or three-year-old girl watching nearly 40 soldiers doing as they please and climbing the stairs of your home. Soldiers from a foreign country, from a different nation, armed, threatening, who are there in order to enforce a regime that forbids you from walking on entire streets because the chosen people want them for themselves; that allow the chosen ones to throw stones at you and do nothing to stop it; that with their bodies, weapons and foreign language create a reality in which there are two separate legal systems for people from the same place.

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

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West Bank village wakes up to no water http://972mag.com/west-bank-village-wakes-up-to-no-water/107069/ http://972mag.com/west-bank-village-wakes-up-to-no-water/107069/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 08:47:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107069 The municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan was not warned that their water supply was going to be nearly shut off for days, and attempts to get answers from Israel, through the Palestinian Authority, did not bear any fruit.

Text and photos by: Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian child carries water gallon in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, West Bank, May 23, 2015. According to the municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan the portion of a each villager has decreased to two litters per day as the village receive only 97 Cubic meter per hour. The municipal council said the Israeli authorities did not provide the village with answers regarding the situation. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

A Palestinian child carries a water container in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, West Bank, May 23, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Last Wednesday, without any prior warning, the majority of houses in the West Bank village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, near Salfit, woke up to find that they had no running water. Municipal workers checked the village’s main water valve, located on Road 505, a few meters from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Ma’ale Israel.

“We discovered that the main water valve was almost shut off, [and locked in place] with a lock and chain in order to limit our portion of water and prevent anyone from increasing it,” said Hosam Asem, the manager of Qarawat Bani Hassan municipal council.

“We contacted the Israeli side through the Palestinian authority but we didn’t get any answers or explanations for such a step,” He added. “It’s odd that the Israelis didn’t inform us beforehand.”

Palestinian checks the main water valve, now almost closed by Israeli authorities, in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, near Salfit, West Bank, May 23, 2015. According to the municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan the portion of a each villager has decreased to two litters per day as the village receive only 97 Cubic meter per hour. The municipal council said the Israeli authorities did not provide the village with answers regarding the situation. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

A Palestinian man checks the main water valve, now almost closed by Israeli authorities, in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, near Salfit, West Bank, May 23, 2015. According to the municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan the portion of a each villager has decreased to two liters per day as the village receive only 97 cubic meters per hour. The municipal council said the Israeli authorities did not provide the village with answers regarding the situation. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

The main water valve of Qarawat Bani Hassan village, near Salfit, is seen almost blocked by Israeli authorities limiting the water supply to the village and nearby villages, West Bank, May 23, 2015. According to the municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan the portion of a each villager has decreased to two litters per day as the village receive only 97 Cubic meter per hour. The municipal council said the Israeli authorities did not provide the village with answers regarding the situation. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

The main water valve of Qarawat Bani Hassan village, near Salfit, is seen largely shut by Israeli authorities limiting the water supply to the village and nearby villages, West Bank, May 23, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

According to the municipal council, the supply of water for each villager has now been reduced to about two liters per day, as all of the neighboring Palestinian villages now receive a total of 97 cubic meters per hour. The four surrounding Israeli settlements, Barkan, Revava, Kiryat Netafim and Ma’ale Israel were reportedly not affected by the crisis.

Those villagers who own small water wells beside their homes decided to put them to use, while others were forced to buy water in tanks from other villages. After four days, 90 percent of the homes were back to being supplied with the normal amount of water. The remainder were still waiting a solution for their problem.

According to Ewash, Palestinians currently utilize no more than 10 per cent of the West Bank’s shared water resources, while Israel exploits the remainder. The coalition of 27 organizations working in water and sanitation in the occupied territories argues that under international law, the water resources should be shared equitably and reasonably by Israel and Palestine. The average domestic consumption rate for Palestinians living in the West Bank is 70 liters per day. The “absolute minimum” recommended by the WHO is 100 liters per day. In Israel, the average is 300 liters per day.

Palestinians check tap water volume in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, West Bank, May 23, 2015. According to the municipal council of Qarawat Bani Hassan the portion of a each villager has decreased to two litters per day as the village receive only 97 Cubic meter per hour. The municipal council said the Israeli authorities did not provide the village with answers regarding the situation. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinians check the water pressure in Qarawat Bani Hassan village, West Bank, May 23, 2015. Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

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WATCH: IDF soldiers threaten Palestinian child with false arrest http://972mag.com/watch-idf-soldiers-threaten-palestinian-child-with-false-arrest/107067/ http://972mag.com/watch-idf-soldiers-threaten-palestinian-child-with-false-arrest/107067/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 21:19:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107067 Israeli soldiers have been filmed harassing the boy’s family in recent weeks, using their home as a photo set, raiding it for no apparent reason.

Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian city of Hebron threatened to arrest a 14-year-old Palestinian boy simply for being in the vicinity of people throwing stones last month.

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In a video released by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem in recent days, Israeli soldiers can be seen detaining the child, Maher Abu Haya, near his family home on April 6, 2015.

In the video, the soldiers argue with the child’s father. At first the soldiers claim that Maher was running away from them with other Palestinian youths who were throwing stones. Quickly, the soldiers change their story and admit that Maher wasn’t running away at all.

“Next time, he’ll pay for it,” one of the soldiers says in Hebrew. “He’ll have a big mess.”

Whenever stones are thrown, a soldier claims, Maher is nearby. The soldier doesn’t seem to comprehend that there might be other reasons than throwing stones for a 14 year old to be standing outside his own home.

“Every time somebody’s throwing rocks we see this kid,” an English-speaking soldier says. “If I see his face again — I don’t care if I see him throw rocks or not, he’s gonna go with us.”

“He’s going to go with me and he’s going to be tied up all night,” the soldier continues threatening Maher’s father. “And he’s gonna get punished and you’re going to need to pay to take him back.”

To sum up, the soldier says that even though the 14-year-old boy has not committed a crime, and even if he does not commit a crime in the future, he will illegally arrest him, keep him shackled all night long, and force his family to pay some sort of bail to release him.

According to B’Tselem, the family has been the target of Israeli military harassment in recent months. The human rights organization released video of soldiers entering the Abu Haya family home for no apparent reason.

Another video shows dozens of soldiers climbing onto the family’s roof, without their permission or even telling them what was happening — to take a group photo.

While Israeli soldiers go to extraordinary lengths to locate and arrest Palestinians who throw stones, the same cannot be said when Israeli settlers do the same thing. The Abu Haya family, whose members are volunteers with B’Tselem, has documented settlers throwing stones — at them and others — right in front of soldiers, who did nothing to stop them, let alone arrest them.

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What Israelis don’t get about attempts to boot Israel from FIFA http://972mag.com/what-israelis-dont-get-about-attempts-to-boot-israel-from-fifa/107062/ http://972mag.com/what-israelis-dont-get-about-attempts-to-boot-israel-from-fifa/107062/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 14:06:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107062 It is incomprehensible that one of the premier clubs in Israel doesn’t allow Arab players — because they are Arab.

By Asaf Marziano

Beitar Jerusalem soocer club fans celebrate in Jerusalem after the team wins the Israeli championships. Jerusalem, May 14, 2007. Photo: Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.Org

Beitar Jerusalem soccer club fans celebrate in Jerusalem after the team won the Israeli championship, May 14, 2007. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

The head of Palestinian Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub, is attempting to have Israel expelled from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. The topic has been making headlines in Israel and internationally in recent weeks, coinciding with a visit to the region by FIFA President Sepp Blatter last week.

Despite attempts by Israel, and Blatter, it seems that Rajoub’s initiative might bear fruit. The topic will come up for a vote in FIFA on Friday.

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Rajoub’s stated reasons for wanting to expel Israel from the soccer association are based, among other things, on the fact that Israel often prevents athletes from Gaza — including soccer players — from taking part in sporting events in the West Bank. A prime example of this was when the Israeli government forbade Gazan runners from participating in the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem in recent years.

Rajoub’s campaign evoked a chorus of reactions in the Israeli media. But don’t let the diversity of nay-sayers fool you: the central argument was monotone and one-dimensional. The topic was presented as a struggle between political forces — a new venue for confrontation among technocrats, bereft of any substantive arguments that get to the root of the issue. This goes for Hebrew-language Israeli media outlets like Ynet, Sport 5, One and NRG.

Even Haaretz dedicated a column to the issue earlier this month, in which Uzi Dann provided a similar point of view. He pondered why the Israeli government doesn’t exert its power at the highest political levels in order to solve this issue before it becomes a tidal wave.

At a certain point, Dann notes that the only country to ever be kicked out of FIFA was South Africa, during apartheid. For a moment it seemed like it was finally OK to make the comparison, but Dan immediately added: “True, it’s not the same thing, but it shows how difficult Israel’s situation is.” This is, not morally but pragmatically.

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was held in administrative detention for three years. Nablus, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad al-Baz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was held in administrative detention for three years. Nablus, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad al-Baz/Activestills.org)

Sports commentator Ouriel Daskal suggested a different approach in a column published in the blog Soccerissue. Daskal makes clear that he is a leftist on every other day of the year, but that everything has red lines. He asks, how dare Rajoub exploit the sport in such a cynical fashion — after all, what do sports have to do with politics? He also condemns FIFA’s treatment of Israel based on the logic of, “why are they allowed and we aren’t?”

After all, athletes and civilians are harmed in other places, so why is the focus only on Israel? From here, the road to “everyone is anti-Semitic” isn’t very long. The transition from discriminators to discriminated is complete.

Israeli sports commentators’s blind spot, it seems, lies exactly at the point where we go from oppressed to oppressors: the moment when the media is asked to critique our own actions in the exact same way it critiques actions taken against us. This transition is often missed by the media.

The issues that are out in the open and visible to anybody — (Palestinian) athletes forbidden from taking part in athletic competitions — are never even brought up.

The case of Beitar Jerusalem

In this context, one cannot avoid talking about the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, and the way the Israeli sports media talks about it.

Beitar Jerusalem is a premier soccer club in Israel that has a real chance of playing in one of the European tournaments next year, and which does not allow Arab soccer players on the team — because they are Arab. This fact alone is nearly incomprehensible.

The Israeli Football Association should be commended for penalizing the team recently after repeated expressions of racism by its fans, but one must wonder about the timing of the move, considering Blatter’s visit and the upcoming FIFA vote.

Beitar Jerusalem fans (Courtesy of beitarfc.co.il)

Beitar Jerusalem fans (Courtesy of beitarfc.co.il)

Meanwhile, the media continues to provide a shallow, trivial and regressive point of view.

For example, during a match between Beitar Jerusalem and Ironi Kiryat Shmona a little over a month ago, Beitar’s fans hurled racist epithets at Kiryat Shmona’s Ahmad Abad. After he scored a dramatic winning goal, he made a finger gesture at the Beitar fans, which only led to more racist slurs yelled at him.

The next day, the sports media talked about how a player who was humiliated for the duration of an entire game pointed his middle finger at the crowd. Abad quickly released an apology to the press.

The media portrayed Abad’s act as leading to the uproar, which could have been easily avoided had he refrained from acting in such a way.

Moreover, it seems that the media’s discussion of racism has somehow been merged with a wider struggle against violence in sports. Despite the fact that violence is an essential component of both, there is still a crucial difference between the two. This merger, which exists in Israel’s sports media, turns racism into just another form of trivial violence — to the degree that violence can be trivial — and one that makes invisible the significant characteristics of racism. This, in turn, hampers a broader and nuanced approach that gets at the root of the problem.

Asaf Marziano is a Master’s student at Bar-Ilan University focusing on the relationship between sports, the media, culture and society. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Military court orders feminist Palestinian lawmaker released on bail http://972mag.com/military-court-orders-feminist-palestinian-lawmaker-released-on-bail/107042/ http://972mag.com/military-court-orders-feminist-palestinian-lawmaker-released-on-bail/107042/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 13:12:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107042 The military prosecution is planning to appeal the decision, and may even try to send Jarrar back into administrative detention.

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, poses for a photo showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah in the early hours of August 20, Ramallah, West Bank, August 27, 2014. Jarrar was ordered to go to Jericho within 24 hours, but she refused to sign the paper. She is determined to stay in a protest tent in front of the Palestinian Council in Ramallah until the decision is revoked.

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, poses for a photo showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah in the early hours of August 20, Ramallah, West Bank, August 27, 2014. 

An Israeli military court rejected the military prosecutor’s request Thursday to detain Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar until the end of legal proceedings. Jarrar was arrest in April by Israeli soldiers. She was first held in administrative detention, although she was later released and sentenced.

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The court found that there is no reason to hold Jarrar in detention until the end of proceedings, and ruled that she would be freed on NIS 20,000 bail. The military prosecutor, however, has three days to appeal the ruling. According to Addameer, a Palestinian NGO that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons, representatives from the military prosecution have made clear that they either intend to appeal and/or ask to put her back in administrative detention, which would see her indefinitely detained with no indictment, while her present case is resolved in court.

Jarrar, a feminist activist who works on issues of prisoner rights and belongs to the Palestinian parliament on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was accused by the military prosecution of belonging to a “terrorist organization.” Most of the accusations leveled against her touch on her political activism, which includes participation in demonstrations, visits to solidarity tents with Palestinian prisoners and more.

In a hearing last week Jarrar’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, pointed out that some of the incidents mentioned in the indictment took place years ago, and claimed that the army has refrained from arresting her until now, despite having a number of opportunities. This, he claimed, shows that the army does not view her actions as dangerous. The military court adopted Hassan’s line of argument in its ruling Thursday.

Palestinian political activists believe that Jarrar’s arrest stems from the fact that she is one of the more vocal opponents of the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel, as well as her membership in the PA team that is formulating claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

Alongside Jarrar are 16 other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are currently being held in Israeli prisons. Nine of them, including Hamas member Aziz Dweik, are in administrative detention, which means they are being held indefinitely have neither stood trial nor been sentenced. Elected officials around the world, including members of the Joint List, have called for Jarrar’s release.

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

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Jerusalem megaplex caught demanding ‘Jewish only’ drivers http://972mag.com/jerusalem-megaplex-caught-demanding-jewish-only-drivers/107007/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-megaplex-caught-demanding-jewish-only-drivers/107007/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 16:46:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107007 For months on end Cinema City Jerusalem demanded that a contracted taxi company send only Jewish drivers for some of its workers. When the company refused, the megaplex cut its ties. An investigative by our Hebrew site, Local Call, in cooperation with ‘Ulpan Shishi,’ Channel 2′s flagship news broadcast.

By Yael Marom

Thair Reg'i, who exposed Cinema City's discriminatory policies toward Arab cab drivers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Thair Raga, who exposed Cinema City’s discriminatory policies toward Arab cab drivers. (photo: Activestills.org)

“If she wants a Jewish driver, she’ll get a Jewish driver, I don’t understand what difference it makes.”

“The two of them just asked for a Jewish driver.”

“A woman needs to make it to Mevaseret Zion, I would like a Jewish driver to come pick her up.”

“One must ask gently and diplomatically for a Jewish driver for the girls.”

These were the words the manager and shift manager at Jerusalem’s Cinema City used when talking to the ride coordinator of the taxi company that drove movie theater workers home at night (the company employs both Jewish and Arab workers). The discriminatory demands were made in recorded phone conversations, as well as by special vouchers that had the words “Jewish driver” written on them, for which Cinema City paid a high price. Local Call was able to get a hold of both the recordings and the vouchers, which are now being exposed for the first time in a special investigative report that conducted in cooperation with “Ulpan Shihi,” the flagship weekend news program on Israel’s Channel 2.

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After a long period of time in which the ride organizer at the cab company tried to object to Cinema City’s discriminatory and racist demand, which directly affected the livelihoods of Arab taxi drivers, a senior manager at the movie theater threatened that Cinema City would cut its ties with the company — a threat that eventually became reality.

According to Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation as well as Israel’s Equal Opportunities Law, discriminating against workers due to their origin, nationality or religion is strictly forbidden.

A Jewish driver is part of the service

At the end of February 2014, Jerusalem’s glitzy Cinema City, which includes 19 movie theaters and a small shopping mall, opened to the public. The “A. Mor Hasaot” transportation company won the tender to provide taxis for approximately 20 workers. The company provided nine permanent drivers for the job — three of them Jewish and six of them Arabs from East Jerusalem.

Thair Raga, a 36-year-old cab driver from East Jerusalem, was appointed to be in charge of coordinating the night rides according to the demands made by the Cinema City shift managers. “We got used to the workers, the drivers were nice, there was no problem, everything worked well,” he says.

But three months after the complex opened, three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank, followed by the kidnapping and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir from Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood, there was a military operation in the West Bank and a war in Gaza. War, fear and hate flooded the streets of Jerusalem.

And then everything changed. The workers at Cinema City began saying they were afraid of Arab drivers and demanded that only Jewish drivers take them home. “Everything was fine until the war began in the summer,” says Raga. “The female workers began to get scared, and then it turned into a phenomenon whereby the workers were demanding a Jewish driver, and Cinema City requires us to meet those demands, since it is part of the service. At first I told myself that we would make it work for the time being, since the situation was very difficult in Jerusalem and there are Jewish drivers in the company, and then it would pass. But it didn’t pass.”

According to Raga, when the workers began to feel that their demands for “Jewish drivers” were not being honored, they told the Cinema City management that they would go on strike, and some of them even threatened to quit.

Cinema City Jerusalem. (photo: פארוק/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Cinema City Jerusalem. (photo: פארוק/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Raga began receiving more and more requests for a “Jewish driver.” “The shift managers would call and demand a Jewish driver, but would do it out of shame,” he said. “At first they would say a specific name of a Jewish driver that they want, so that they wouldn’t hurt my feelings or have to say outright that they want a Jewish driver.”

What about the rest of the Arab drivers? How did they react to this demand?

“I found myself between a rock and hard place, between Arab drivers to whom I owe an explanation, and the Cinema City management. In the end, I had to explain to them, and they were obviously upset. Sometimes I had to tell the other drivers: ‘Guys, it’s going to be a shift full of racists today, there is no work left for us’.”

10 percent extra per Jewish driver

The summer ended, the war came to an end, Jerusalem calmed down, but for some of the workers at Cinema City, it became acceptable to refuse to ride with an Arab driver. They continued to demand Jewish taxi drivers — a celebration of racism that directly harmed the Arab drivers’ livelihood, and led to higher costs for the company, which was forced to contract Jewish drivers, who do not regularly work with the company, in order to provide the service to the workers.

As 2014 came to a close, Raga decided that he was no longer willing to remain silent. “The situation in Jerusalem calmed down, and I began opposing the policy. I told them that the next diver in line would take the workers, and that it doesn’t matter if its Chaim or Ahmad.”

Raga tried to talk to the managers and workers at Cinema City about the issue. On February 19 of this year, Merav Basher, one of the top managers and a representative of the owners of Cinema City Jerusalem, sent an email to the workers in which she gave guidelines for conduct vis-a-vis the cab company. In it she wrote:

“It is important to be sensitive to the issue of Arab/Jewish drivers. After the HaPisga cab company was fined for a request for a Jewish driver by a client, the Transportation Ministry is checking all the cab companies. One must ask in a gentle and diplomatic fashion for a Jewish driver for the girls.” She also named Raga as someone who is “causing trouble.”

Thair Reg'i, who exposed Cinema City's discriminatory policies toward Arab cab drivers, is seen inside his taxi. (photo: Activestills.org)

Thair Raga inside inside his taxi. (photo: Activestills.org)

The only thing that really occurred in the wake of Raga’s attempts was that the workers understood that Jewish drivers would cost more. And so, toward the end of February, Basher and the manager of A. Mor Hasaot held a meeting, during which it was agreed that Cinema City would pay 10 percent more (on top of the pre-established cost) for a Jewish driver.

In order to keep track, the vouchers for ordering a driver would be marked to show that they were for Jewish drivers. “I told them that I want to differentiate from a Jewish driver from a regular one on the bill. They asked me whether to require two signatures or write ‘Jewish driver,’ and I asked that they write down that the driver was Jewish. They agreed,” Raga tells me as he smiles victoriously. It is obvious to him that the only reason anyone will believe him is because he recorded the conversations. From that moment on, he began demanding that the shift managers call him on the phone in order to make the order, and recorded them, one after another, as they clearly request a ‘Jewish driver.’”

On March 9, Raga decided to confront Basher once again and recorded their conversation. Throughout the conversation he explains to Basher that even workers who do not ride alone with the driver are demanding to be driven only by a Jew. Basher didn’t seem too fazed: “Thair, it is possible that sometimes you order a cab for someone, and then it is decided to add more people to ride along with her. If she wants a Jewish driver, there will be a Jewish driver, what difference does it make? I don’t understand.”

Raga insisted that the cost of a Jewish driver would be much higher, especially if the driver will be making a number of stops. Basher responded: “But this is the situation. If it doesn’t work for you, we can go our separate ways. What difference does the number of stops make?” and added, “I don’t see a problem with any of this. It doesn’t matter to me whether the driver is Jewish, Circassian, Christian or Spanish. It doesn’t matter to me. As long as the driver makes as many stops as he is asked to.”

Raga told Basher about an incident in which one of the workers refused to ride in his cab, since they want “one of ours,” and explained how it made him feel. “It was as if I was trash. And you’re supporting them. That’s how you are treating me, Merav, and it hurts me personally,” reminding her that he has been working with her since Cinema City’s opening day. Basher promised to take care of the issue. Instead, she continued to support the demands of the workers, justified their fear and emphasized the need to provide them with a sense of security.

Two days later, on March 11, Raga called Yaniv Turgeman, the CEO of Cinema City Jerusalem and demanded he get involved and put an end to the discrimination. This conversation was also recorded. Turgeman, who only “barely heard” about “this nonsense,” said that he “told Merav and you should tell everyone that this is unacceptable,” while on the other hand said that in the case that there is a Jewish driver, and this is what the workers want, this is what they must receive.

On March 23, after midnight, Basher called Raga. “Listen, I have a problem. I have a woman who needs to get to Mevaseret Zion. I want a Jewish driver to come pick her up,” she demanded. Raga explained that he had no Jewish drivers available, and that a Jewish driver from another station will want cash for his services.

Basher responded: “There is nothing I can do, nothing. I need this. I cannot send this woman to ride in fear. If not, I will let her take a cab and pay her back tomorrow. This is part of the service that you are supposed to give me.” Basher became angry over the fact that there was a lack of Jewish drivers that night, threatening Raga: “I am putting an end to this tomorrow. I don’t have the energy. I’m moving to a different company. Egged [an Israeli transportation company] will provide me with three people a night.”

When shame is too much to bear

On Sunday, May 3, Merav announced that Cinema City would be immediately cutting ties with A. Mor Hasaot.

I have been listening to Raga’s recordings for weeks. One recording followed by another. Friendly conversations that always reach that inevitable moment in which the shift manager must openly use the words “Jewish driver.” The shame in their voices is too much to bear. From the conversations with them, it is clear that they understand that the policy is racist and hurtful, but none of them did anything about it.

During one of my meetings with Raga I asked him why he, too, didn’t remain silent, especially after coming to terms with the personal price he would be forced to pay. Many others would have just put aside their pride and moved on.

“First of all, it’s me. I don’t know how to shut up,” he says. “I pay my taxes. I do everything this country demands of me. I don’t turn my back. So why is it that when I deserve to be treated like a human being I need to take a step back?”

‘Unsatisfactory service’

This investigative report is a result of a joint effort by our Hebrew site, Local Call, and “Ulpan Shishi,” the flagship weekend news program on Israel’s Channel 2. Channel 2 asked Cinema City to respond to the entire affair. The following is their full response:

“The company’s work was terminated over professional differences alone, without any relation to the [ethnic] origin of the company drivers. Cinema City, both in Jerusalem and across the country, employs Arabs in a range of different positions, including management. Thus, the claims of racism and discrimination do not reflect the reality and certainly not the values of Cinema City.

“Due to continual professional dissatisfaction that stemmed, among other things, from dropping off workers at the wrong addresses, as well as significant tardiness of drivers in picking up workers and unsatisfactory service on their part, it was decided to switch to a different company. It must be stated that there is an additional reason for switching companies, although we are unable to reveal the reason for privacy reasons.

“We must emphasize that today, Egged provides rides to the workers in Jerusalem, and the service is provided by both Jewish and Arab drivers. Unfortunately, A. Mor chose to seek revenge on Cinema City after the latter ended the contract through false and biased claims.”

The response was formulated by the office of PR king Rani Rahav. The response only confirms the fact that Cinema City did exactly what Basher threatened to do in her conversation with Raga, and began working with a different company. The “satisfactory” service was, in effect, providing Jewish drivers on demand. Raga refused to provide this service.

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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WATCH: ‘Jaffa flotilla’ marks destruction of Palestine’s cultural capital http://972mag.com/watch-jaffa-flotilla-marks-destruction-of-palestines-cultural-capital/106997/ http://972mag.com/watch-jaffa-flotilla-marks-destruction-of-palestines-cultural-capital/106997/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:15:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106997 Dozens of Palestinians and Israeli Jews sailed along the coast last week to mark the destruction of Jaffa — the former political, cultural and economic capital of Palestine — during the 1948 War. Organized by the Israeli NGO Zochrot, which works to raise awareness of the Nakba and promote the right of return among Israeli Jews, the participants, which included Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi, listened to first-hand stories of the fear, expulsions and mass exodus of Palestinians from the city by the pre-state Zionist militias.  

Related:
The road out of the occupation runs through the Nakba
S. African Jews in Lubya: We’re here to acknowledge the Nakba

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Playing with fire: IDF to use new weapon on West Bank protests http://972mag.com/playing-with-fire-idf-to-use-new-weapon-on-west-bank-protests/106981/ http://972mag.com/playing-with-fire-idf-to-use-new-weapon-on-west-bank-protests/106981/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 09:50:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106981 A new type of sponge-tipped bullet introduced in East Jerusalem last summer has broken arms, fractured faces, destroyed eyesight and killed a teenager. Now a similar projectile is slated for use against Palestinians in the West Bank.

An Israeli policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

An Israeli policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

Following the introduction last summer of a new type of sponge-tipped bullet into the Israel Police’s arsenal, the Israeli army is now set to begin using a similar projectile in order to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank, according to Ynet [Heb]. The new bullets will be phased in during the coming weeks as a pilot, following which they will be distributed among routine army units.

The debut of the new black sponge-tipped bullets in Jerusalem brought with it facial fractures, broken arms, eye loss (predominantly among children) and at least one death. The bullets are a harder version of the blue sponge-tipped bullets previously used by police; made out of heavier material (synthetic rubber), they are far more likely to cause serious injury.

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The army officer interviewed in Ynet’s report claimed that the new bullets for the IDF have been purchased from a different manufacturer to those used by the Israel Police, and have undergone more rigorous testing. The officer further asserted that their new sponge-tipped bullets are less dangerous than those deployed in East Jerusalem.

However, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has thrown this claim into doubt. ACRI attorney Anne Suciu stated that the army’s new sponge-tipped bullets will be “at least as hard as those used by the police.” Although they will be blue — the same color as the old, softer bullets — they are weapons of a different grade, as the original blue sponge-tipped bullets have been deemed “ineffective” in dispersing protests.

Suciu further confirmed that the sponge-tipped bullets will eventually replace rubber bullets in the West Bank, a transition that had originally been planned for the end of 2013. Regarding the army officer’s claim to Ynet that they are a “more humane” means of breaking up demonstrations, Suciu explained that although this is technically correct, the irregular use of such projectiles — e.g. firing them at the upper body, as has consistently occurred in East Jerusalem — renders them far more dangerous than they are supposed to be.

Read: Losing sight of the consequences of ‘less-lethal’ weapons

In that vein, ACRI on Thursday issued its second appeal [Heb] in as many months for the police to immediately suspend the use of the black sponge-tipped bullets until their safety had been fully investigated (both letters were written by Suciu). Responding to a request from the Legal Advisor to the Israel Police for all information they hold relating to injuries caused by the black sponge-tipped bullets, ACRI also passed on statistics provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA reports that between June 1st and December 31st 2014, 1,003 Palestinians in East Jerusalem required medical treatment for injuries caused by sponge-tipped bullets. While OCHA refers to “rubber bullets” in its statistics, ACRI clarifies in the letter that they do not know of any use of such projectiles in East Jerusalem, and therefore conclude that the report relates to sponge-tipped bullets (OCHA’s statistics correspond to the date of the introduction of these weapons into the Israel Police’s arsenal).

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Of the 1,003 cases cited, 144 of the injured were evacuated to hospital; at least 47 of those had been shot in the upper part of their body, in contravention of the regulations governing the police’s use of these bullets.

ACRI discovered in March that the black sponge-tipped bullets had been in use for six months before guidelines on their use were issued and training was conducted. However, these measures seem to have done little to reduce the number of serious injuries caused: on Thursday afternoon, the day of ACRI’s letter, yet another Palestinian child was shot in the eye near Shuafat Refugee Camp. The condition of the 10-year-old’s eye is currently unknown.

The introduction of a new weapon into the West Bank is always cause for serious concern, but is even more alarming when its use has already produced such devastating consequences. Although the army officer interviewed by Ynet insisted that the sponge-tipped bullets represent a less-damaging method of crowd control, the wider context of the current situation of army and police violence at West Bank protests cannot be ignored.

From increasing the use of live ammunition to firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters and attacking photojournalists, Israeli security forces have been stepping up their means of suppressing demonstrations. In such an environment, declarations of concern for civilian life (especially when juxtapositioned competitively against that of the police, as the army officer in Ynet’s article has bizarrely done) are questionable.

Furthermore, any IDF claim as to the “less-lethal” nature of their weapons is contingent upon their use in accordance with army regulations, rules that are consistently flouted. As B’Tselem has reported, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and 0.22-caliber live ammo — all supposedly “non-lethal” means of dispersing demonstrations — have killed numerous Palestinians over the years, primarily due to irregular use.

Despite how the army is framing the introduction of their new weapon, we are likely to see a spike in the type of injuries that have so blighted East Jerusalem over the last year.

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