+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:28:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 ‘Blacklisted’ human rights groups sing a defiant tune http://972mag.com/blacklisted-human-rights-groups-sing-a-defiant-tune/116705/ http://972mag.com/blacklisted-human-rights-groups-sing-a-defiant-tune/116705/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:16:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116705 Amid an unprecedented wave of delegitimization and attacks on human rights groups in Israel, dozens of organizations throw a mini-festival in Tel Aviv, sending a message that they will not be deterred.

Journalist and musician Dror Feuer performs at the ‘Blacklisted’ event at the Tel Aviv port, February 5, 2016.

Journalist and musician Dror Feuer performs at the ‘Blacklisted’ event at the Tel Aviv port, February 5, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

Hundreds of people joined dozens of human rights organizations in Tel Aviv’s port Friday afternoon in order to send a message that silencing, shaming and blacklisting Israelis who oppose — and speak out against — the occupation of the Palestinian territories will not work.

The event, titled “Blacklist,” was as a direct response to a right-wing campaign claiming to “expose” Israeli artists and cultural figures who are involved with or support human rights and anti-occupation organizations. Just a few weeks earlier, another high profile right-wing campaign portrayed human rights activists as “moles,” or agents, of foreign powers.

“Blacklisted” was billed as a combination of a show of resilience and solidarity among the organizations threatened by the right-wing campaigns, as well as a celebration of what they do. Among the performers were Mira Awad, Dror Feuer, Leora Rivlin, Rebecca Michaeli, Za’aluk, and dozens of others.

A performer at the ‘Blacklist’ show of human rights and anti-occupation groups, Tel Aviv Port, February 5, 2016.

A performer at the ‘Blacklist’ show of human rights and anti-occupation groups, Tel Aviv Port, February 5, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

But before the fun started, the heads of five leading human rights groups in Israel-Palestine spoke about efforts to silence and delegitimize them and their organizations, and the Israeli government’s increasing reliance on legal measures to undermine human rights groups and activists.

The steps being taken against anti-occupation groups “[are] the result of the Israeli government’s inability to offer a political solution to the security situation, the economic recession, and the growing international criticism of the occupation,” explained Yuli Novak, director of anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from soldiers who have served in the occupied territories.

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The right-wing campaign calling human rights groups “moles” was timed to coincide with government-sponsored legislation targeting the funding of human rights groups under the guise of transparency.

“The concept of transparency is being misused in order to undermine our work,” said Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an organization that promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, primarily in Gaza.

Ironically, Hary noted, senior Israeli security officials are in agreement with human rights groups that improving human rights conditions for Palestinians is a matter of Israeli security. “So the fact that we’re being labeled somehow as ‘foreign agents’ is very misleading.”

Jafar Farah, executive director of Mossawa — The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, noted that Israeli authorities have taken even harsher steps against Palestinian civil society organizations for decades, but particularly in recent months when they outlawed the Islamic Movement.

“What was done to the Islamic Movement is the future of our organizations,” he said. Building coalitions with Jewish partners, he added, “[is] important for the liberation of the Jewish population from the occupation and for the liberation of Palestinians from the occupation.”

Meanwhile, outside, a single counter-protester greeted attendees filtering into the event, holding a placard with the words “moles” and “traitors” above a list of the human rights and anti-occupation organizations hosting the event.

The winking irony of the event’s title, “Blacklist,” seemed to have been lost on her.

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Women of the Wall victory can teach us a few things http://972mag.com/women-of-the-wall-victory-can-teach-us-a-few-things/116697/ http://972mag.com/women-of-the-wall-victory-can-teach-us-a-few-things/116697/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:05:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116697 If we succeeded at pushing the government to find a solution on a matter as sensitive as the Western Wall, then we can also push Israel’s leadership — from a perspective of self interest — to make other, equally positive decisions.

By Batya Kallus

Women of the Wall pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. March 12, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Women of the Wall pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. March 12, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Last Sunday, following a 27-year struggle by Women of the Wall, the Israeli government approved a plan to create a new pluralistic, egalitarian and feminist plaza alongside the ultra-Orthodox prayer plaza at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This is first and foremost a victory for Jewish feminists. But imagine — a group of Jewish religious women engaged in grassroots feminist activism, who really only wanted to pray together on Rosh Hodesh according to their custom and never imagined themselves as heroines, have upset the balance of power in the battle of religion and state, and catalyzed transformative social and political change.

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Together with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, I was one of two women who, for two-and-a-half years, negotiated this agreement to achieve equality and justice for Women of the Wall (WOW). My participation in the negotiations gave me insights that were more far-reaching than simply where and in what way Women of the Wall would pray at the Western Wall.

As I sat at the negotiating table, I thought about the significance and meaning of recognition. The government recognized the legitimacy of Women of the Wall. It recognized the Reform and Conservative movements, and by doing so, it recognized the majority of Jews who don’t fit the standard Israeli belief that orthodoxy is the exclusive legitimate form of Jewish religious expression.

I learned that the government had a very strong self-interest in achieving an agreement, and this was a powerful motivating force. The government hated that there was an ongoing conflict between ultra-Orthodox prayer goers and women attending WOW services at the Wall. The arrests of more than 50 women, including two American rabbis, provoked a deep crisis with Diaspora Jewry, who were appalled by the thought of women being arrested for wearing tallitot and singing out loud.

A member of 'Women of the Wall' is arrested for wearing a Talit at the Western Wall. April 11, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A member of ‘Women of the Wall’ is arrested for wearing a ‘talit’ prayer shawl at the Western Wall, April 11, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

If it were only a matter of a few annoying women, perhaps the government would not have stepped up to the plate. However, our refusal to be silenced, and the international outrage over these arrests between 2012-2013, compelled the government to invite us to the table to find a solution — together. From this I learned that external pressure on the Israeli government can be very effective, even when the religious and right-wing establishment pushes back. It was that pressure which created the motivation to solve the issue and reach an agreement.

The government’s representative in the negotiations, then cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, recognized our legitimacy and wanted to find a solution that would not be imposed from above, but rather, one agreed to by all sides. It was the combination of those two elements that ultimately enabled us to reach an agreement.

Numerous other (non-religious) cabinet secretaries, with whom WOW had years of bitter experiences, could not identify with our motivation to pray at the Western Wall according to our custom. It was not coincidental that it was Mandelblit who insisted, up until his last day on the job (he has since been appointed attorney general), that this deal must pass. Mandelblit, a religious Jew, would not shake the hands of the women in the room during the early days of negotiations. Yet, it was exactly because of his religious observance that he was able to legitimate our struggle.

The advantage of being an insider

Something else I learned in the negotiations was about the dynamics of being an insider or an outsider. It is monumentally more difficult for a negotiator to succeed if he or she is a total outsider. The informal dynamics of negotiations demand being able to joke around on common subjects — in this case, about the army. Language can also be a major challenge. Negotiating in a second language, as was the case for me, one will almost always struggle to keep up when the negotiations become intense. Having others in the room who shared a common language and common experiences with the other side was critical.

The conversations in the cabinet secretary’s meeting room were first and foremost among and between Jews. Despite the arguments about Jewish pluralism, there was a shared assumption about our power as Jews, and our ability to wield this power in Israeli society.

I couldn’t help thinking about how much Arab citizens negotiating with the government — on various issues like unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, or the inequalities in resource allocations for Arab municipalities — must have to constantly fight to overcome those issues. The lack of a common first language and the inability to recognize Arab citizens, both literally and figuratively, makes it very challenging to identify with the person and their struggle — especially in the context of a deeply entrenched conflict.

On the other hand, as was true in our case, the outsider can bring a fresh perspective and new thinking that the insider lacks. This allows difference to legitimately dwell in any negotiations.

What else is possible

Sitting in that negotiation room, I frequently thought that if we are able to push the government to reach a solution on a matter as sensitive as the Western Wall, when so many inside the government are opposed, then we can also push the government — from a perspective of self interest — to make other, equally positive decisions.

For example, just a few weeks ago, the government approved a game-changing plan to correct discriminatory financing mechanisms that have been one of the major impediments to equality for Israel’s Arab citizens. After many years of pressure from Arab citizens and civil society, the government finally recognized its own self interest in reducing the inequities and was able to agree upon a solution together with Arab municipal and political leaders. (For more about this see Ron Gerlitz’s article).

Activists of all stripes are working day and night to get the government to pay attention and recognize their struggles, and implement policies to create the change they are seeking. The easiest thing is to be critical. One strategy is to stand outside government buildings and demonstrate. However, it takes more than that to change the world around us.

The ability to get the government to figuratively raise its head and take notice depends on our ability to do something much more complicated: to bring together the insiders among us (those who speak the language and with whom the government can identify) and the outsiders (those who bring a different voice and life experience to the table). It is this capacity to work together that can lead to recognition and achieving just solutions.

Batya Kallus has been a member of the board of Women of the Wall for more than 25 years. She works as the senior program officer at the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation, and as a philanthropic consultant advancing equality between Arab and Jewish citizens. She lives in Jerusalem.

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Lebanons, part 5: The Wind http://972mag.com/lebanons-part-5-the-wind/116466/ http://972mag.com/lebanons-part-5-the-wind/116466/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:59:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116466 Yuval Ben-Ami’s new project is an anti-travelogue: an exploration of places unvisited. (Click here for more.)

Map of Tripoli, Lebanon. (By Élisée Reclus)

Map of Tripoli, Lebanon. (By Élisée Reclus)

Blue and white stripes appeared faintly in the fog above me, one atop the other, higher and higher up the rock face. the ladder of trail markers paralleled the chute of water and was very near it. I was about to get drenched.

It could have been worse. I could have not found that discarded hiking stick. As it were, it supplemented a third foot that could rest even on the slenderest hints of stepping room. A gentle drizzle mixed with the fall’s spray. I sang an Irish folk song to keep my morale high, while taking great care not to slip.

There were two sisters in County Clare
Oh the wind and rain!
One was dark and the other was fair
Oh the dreadful wind and rain!

I also thought of Lebanon. My plan was to contemplate Lebanon, and here was a perfect occasion. It was either that or gaze down obsessively and pray there is an afterlife.

What was Lebanon? it was an occasional cultural relic, mysteriously delivered across the lines, a bottle of Arak Touma, for example, that my friend Daniella somehow obtained. It was an entire liter’s worth and she cooked nice fish to go with it. That was one truly proper feast on her Jerusalem rooftop that day.

What was Lebanon? Styrofoam snowballs falling into an umbrella at Haifa’s Wadi Nisnass neighborhood, to the sound of Fairouz’s Christmas album. Jingle bells in Arabic always make me smile. Of course I am far more up to date and know and love Mashrou’ Leila and Yasmine Hamdan as well. I caused a small stone to tumble into the ravine. I should find a decent bench of rock to sit on and rest.

And the both had a love of the miller’s son
But he was fond of the fairer one
So she pushed her into the river to drown,
And watched her as she floated down.

This waterfall was danger, real danger. Out of the rock stuck a peg of steel for me to grab. I held on. It was wet, but rough and well-planted. Dependable. I pulled myself safely one meter further. What was Lebanon? Images online: the pigeons’ rocks, a dock at Byblos, mountains, snowy mountains with a ski lift. Am I headed for ice?

I must be.

What was Lebanon? It was a land that recurred in my dreams, all of them sequels to the one I had before the visit to Ghajar, in which we crossed the street and found a circus tent.

By now I have been across that street. I have traversed the seemingly impenetrable border fence and continued north a half a mile. My dreams took me further. They stopped cabs for me to take into the small country’s heart and do things I did not get to do in Ghajar, like use Lebanese currency (what is it called, anyway?), or to step into a grocery store and check out the shelves (so much yogurt!). Sometimes, though not frequently, I would reach the outskirts of Beirut, never its heart. I would get a room at a seaside hotel and lay there, plotting a way to get back home.

"Palestine" (1889) by Conder, C. R. (Claude Reignier)

“Palestine” (1889) by Conder, C. R. (Claude Reignier)

I knew from my walking life the trouble of getting home from forbidden realms. When my friends and I first dared break the law and enter “Area A,” we found ourselves in a Ramallah bedroom, plotting our escape. We knew that no one would check us on entry, and no one did, but that we should pick well the checkpoint to pass through on our way out, or Israeli authorities would apprehend and question us. The bedroom wall was pierced and cracked. A bullet once hit it. Our host, a Palestinian friend of a Canadian friend, calmed us, explaining that this was no Israeli bullet. His mischievous neighbor once shot it from the street.

The following morning we were in a city of balloons. The feast of sacrifice was at hand and vendors, some dressed as teddy bears, crowded the sidewalks, holding bouquets of SpongeBobs and pink hearts. This was not the Ramallah we learned to fear, and it is fear that kept us away from there so far, so much more so than the forbidding law. Ramallah, the city where we would surely be slaughtered, greeted us with a fuzzy hug.

Still, a wall separated us from Jerusalem, 10 miles due south. We snuck out by taxi, using a roundabout road that led to a checkpoint reserved for settlers. I repeated that experience many times since, learning little by little to ignore not only the red signs that designated visiting Area A as “life threatening” to Israeli nationals, but also the legal restriction. I was caught there once, by Palestinian police outside Hebron. They followed the rules and handed me over to the IDF. Even that did not amount to much: fingerprinting, a short questioning, a criminal record filed by authorities I no longer respected anyway.

The next peg distanced me from the waterfall, but the portion of cliff above it was so purely vertical that a metal wire was fixed in it for me to pull myself up. Everyone thought I was mad for frequenting Ramallah, now it was Switzerland that would kill me. That should teach them the value of vacant fear-mongering.

But truly, this was scary.

Lebanon as envisaged by French General Beaufort d’Hautpoul in 1862.

There was this cool Gazan girl who lived in Ramallah. I met her there on one of my excursions, then, a few weeks later, got a phone call.

“I’m in Tel Aviv.”

“What? You got a permit?”

“No permit. Ssshhh. What are you up to?”

“Putting everything on hold and coming to see you.”

By the time I made it to her whereabouts, she had been caught. They held her in custody briefly, then sent her back over the line. About a month later, another call came. My friend had outsmarted the barrier once more.

I suggested we go to the museum. Ramallah sports no major one, and this could prove a nice adventure. The guest seemed estranged from all the exhibits but one: a painting by young Russian-Israeli genius Zoya Cherkassky. It showed a group of soldiers on a visit to a similar museum, awkwardly contemplating the sculpture of a man defecating into his own mouth. My Gazan friend could not take her eyes off of this crooked mirror reflection of her own experience. “This is really something,” she kept saying.

Then along the road came a fiddler fair
Oh the wind and rain!
And he found her bones just laying there
Oh the dreadful wind and rain!

We went out for some coffee. With her short hair and tank top, she looked perfectly Tel Avivian, Clearly a Mizrahi Jew.

I kept looking around. What if they were after her? She was blacklisted to begin with. What would they do to her if they found her here again?

And he made a fiddle of her breast bone
Crying oh the dreadful wind and rain!

The Gazan didn’t seem worried, but I figured a maelstrom of adrenaline was gushing within her chest. We strolled up Ibn Gabirol street. It was sunny.

Was she free right then? Was she even there at all? Could one ever leave the West Bank? Were we both trapped, and we will always be.

Then there was the other friend. The one my girlfriend and I had smuggled through the checkpoint ourselves. She was sitting in the back seat, trying to be invisible. The soldier profiled us by accent, hair and body language, deducted we were Israelis and sent us through. We reached Tel Aviv and went directly to the beach.

“The Mediterranean,” she said, and knelt down to touch it.

This friend was no Gazan. She was Palestinian American and grew up in Boston, but two months with the sea within view and not within reach filled her with cabin fever. I knew Precisely what she meant when she said “The Mediterranean.”

(Click here for more.)

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Economic equality is an unconditional right http://972mag.com/economic-equality-is-an-unconditional-right/116664/ http://972mag.com/economic-equality-is-an-unconditional-right/116664/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:54:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116664 Right-wing ministers in Israel’s government are putting their own political interests over the economic and social needs of the country’s Arab citizens.

By Rawnak Natour and Abed Kanaaneh

A damaged section of the wall separating Lod’s Palestinian neighborhood of Pardes Shanir and the Jewish town of Nir Tzvi, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A damaged section of the wall separating Lod’s Palestinian neighborhood of Pardes Shanir and the Jewish town of Nir Tzvi, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Arab citizens of the State of Israel have suffered from discrimination by the establishment since the day the country declared independence in 1948, discrimination that is reflected in almost every aspect of their lives: land confiscation, discrimination in housing and employment, extreme disparities in health and educational services, and an absence of infrastructure and proper sources of funding for local government councils. This has given rise to serious problems such as poverty, violence and environmental harm. In recent years this historical discrimination has been joined by a series of racist and anti-democratic laws passed by the far-right government.

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Under these complex conditions, the present government, which we see as the most racist ever towards Arab citizens, recently approved an economic plan to support the Arab sectors of Israeli society. The plan has been described as historic and unprecedented, but has also aroused surprise and suspicion. As expected, reactions in Arab society were mixed, ranging from sweeping support to profound skepticism regarding the plan’s implementation and its real intentions.

Still, not a single official or member of the Arab establishment in Israel has opposed the plan unequivocally. Despite the many difficulties involved in approving it in a series of cabinet meetings, all in all it was welcomed.

The Israeli Right, on the other hand, had reservations about the plan and even opposed it. The objections were primarily rooted in the realization that the big difference between this and previous plans lies in the principle of introducing a change in the budgetary mechanisms on which it is based – as opposed to topical remedies like one-time grants, as was done in the past.

This important principle, that the entire system itself needs to be changed, along with the structures that created the institutionalized discrimination and disparities in the first place, is the main and most important message of the new plan, and that is why it also frightens opponents of equality and partnership. For years The Arab leadership, as well as Sikkuy and many other civil society organizations, have demanded the advancement of full equality in all areas of life by means of this principle.

Genuine equality cannot be achieved with one-time grants. Only a profound change in the very system that created the disparities, and even the use of affirmative action in certain areas, can create genuine equality over the long term. We are therefore pleased that this time around senior Finance Ministry officials and the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab Sector understood that, and insisted on it – even if in effect the plan is still partial and doesn’t deal with all the necessary areas.

Still, we will see the significant results of this plan only in the medium and long term. We believe that a change in the 15 budgeting mechanisms spelled out in the plan – including public transportation, informal education, day-care centers, industrial areas and infrastructure – will allocate about NIS 10 billion in the next five years, in addition to the NIS 2.1 billion designated to be transferred directly to the local councils. But that will take time and requires patience.

Applying public pressure

Yet we must not ignore the shortcomings and weaknesses of this plan, and should try to change them as soon as possible. Our next step in the struggle for equality is applying public, professional and legal pressure to expand the plan to the many areas that are still not included in it. Additionally, we will be watching closely to ensure the plan is fully will be implemented and that the local authorities receive what was promised to them.

Despite the declarations of various ministers about imposing conditions and stipulations on the plan’s implementation, we insist that it be implemented without stipulations – as it was planned and approved by the government. The professionals who created the plan did so out of concern for the future of Israel’s economy, and never imagined that elements of it would be made conditional on the conduct of Arab local authorities. Those professionals understand the urgent need to close gaps and the extent of the discrimination and underdevelopment in the local councils.

Statements by various right-wing ministers about conditioning the plan’s implementation, which arose only after the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv, are not related to the economic and social needs of Arab citizens or to the Israeli economy, but mainly to the political needs of the ministers themselves, who see the plan as a threat to their parliamentary future.

We will stand in the breach, and together with the professionals in the government ministries and in civil society, we will ensure that the plan is implemented – unconditionally and without reservations. It won’t solve all the problems of Arab society, and it will certainly take time, but the long road to equality of rights and resources to which the Arab public is entitled as a basic civil right, begins with these steps by this government, in spite of its infuriating and inciting attitude.

Rawnak Natour is Co-Executive Director of Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality and Abed Kanaaneh is the co-director of Sikkuy’s Equality Policy Department.

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The best response to Israel’s new stop-and-frisk law: Stop showering http://972mag.com/the-best-response-to-israels-new-stop-and-frisk-law-stop-showering/116657/ http://972mag.com/the-best-response-to-israels-new-stop-and-frisk-law-stop-showering/116657/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:14:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116657 A new law in Israel gives police broad powers to search anyone in an area they say there’s a fear of ‘hostile terrorist activities.’ Or in other words: anywhere with a critical mass of Arabs. Here’s how to fight back.

By Fady Khoury

Israeli policemen search a Palestinian man at Damascus gate, in Jerusalem's old city, October 18, 2015. Israel set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem and mobilised hundreds of soldiers as a collective punishment after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police search a Palestinian man at Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem’s Old City, October 18, 2015. Police set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

What does Israel’s new stop-and-frisk law mean? What should you do about it?

Prior to the new law, which was passed in the Knesset on Tuesday, police were authorized to search anyone without a warrant if they had reasonable suspicion (probable cause) that the person was carrying a weapon illegally (on their person or in their car), or was planning to commit a crime with a weapon.

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One can question what constitutes reasonable suspicion within that framework, but in short, at least there existed an objective element the officer needed to seek: a weapon. The suspicion that someone is carrying a weapon can’t just be made up, although we know there has always been an element of arbitrariness — after all, we are talking about the Israeli Police.

The “Stop and Frisk Law,” or its official name, the Authorities for Preserving Public Safety Law (Amendment No. 5 and Temporary Provision), 2016, adds to the existing law, and grants police officers the authority to search anyone without a warrant in order to determine whether they are in possession of a weapon, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is going to commit a violent crime against somebody else.

I can live with that. But a clause attached to the new amendment adds: “For the purposes of this amendment reasonable suspicion shall be, among others, if the person is acting aggressively in a public place, or employs verbal violence or threats, or acts alarmingly or otherwise frighteningly.” In other words: any behavior that might piss off a cop.

And yet that still doesn’t really raise a red flag for me, especially due to the fact that existing laws already grant broad powers to police. What does set off the alarm bells? Clause 6.B, titled “Police powers to conduct a body search of a person in a location thought to be a target for hostile terrorist activities.” The clause authorizes a police district commander to declare any area as one in which there is a real fear that “hostile terrorist activities” will take place, and then police can search people without having to satisfy a requirement of reasonable suspicion. What the law does is it replaces the necessity of reasonable suspicion about an individual with a suspicion about a group in a geographic area. That is tantamount to the authority to declare martial law geographically and temporally, which allows authorities to conduct arbitrary searches for weapons.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of familiarity with Israeli history to reach the conclusion that the powers granted by this new law won’t be limited to matters related to terrorism; it is likely that in any situation where enough Arabs gather to protest a war, policy, or anything else, we will see a police commander exercising the authorities granted by this law. Or, let’s imagine for a moment that a stabbing takes place in East Jerusalem, and suddenly entire neighborhoods are declared areas in which police can conduct arbitrary searches in accordance with the new law. (It should be self evident why that is problematic. I’m not going to even discuss the legitimacy – or lack thereof – of collective punishment.)

The solution

So what should one do? Unless, and until the law is successfully challenged in the Supreme Court, the only course of action is individualistic and should take the form of what I’ll call a “dignity redeeming protest.”

If you live in an area that has been declared, or which you expect might be declared as “an area thought to be a target for “hostile terrorist activities” because some event occurred there, any form of resistance to police officers exercising their new search powers will be futile and likely end with you spending the night in a prison cell.

The most non-violent way (or the least-violent way) I can think of is stink up whoever dares touching you. Be filthy. Really filthy. As filthy and stinky as you can get. That way, anybody who decides to touch you and your personal belongings will be forced to suffer your noxious wrath — a stink tax if you will. Do so until this, too, is outlawed by a law that defines it as obstructing a police officer carrying out his duties.

After all, if there’s one thing that could possibly mitigate the humiliation of being searched in the middle of the street for no legitimate reason, it’s having the knowledge that the person carrying out that search is dying for it to be over even more than you are.

Fady Khoury is a human rights lawyer and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School.

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‘Ethics c’tee mulls forcing treatment on hunger striking journalist’ http://972mag.com/ethics-committee-mulls-forced-treatment-for-hunger-striking-journalist/116643/ http://972mag.com/ethics-committee-mulls-forced-treatment-for-hunger-striking-journalist/116643/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 13:00:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116643 Palestinian reporter Muhammad al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for some 70 days in protest of his administrative detention — a tool Israeli authorities use to imprison people without charge or trial. Ethics committee considers treating him against his will.

By Yael Marom and Noam Rotem

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq (Facebook)

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq (Facebook)

The medical ethics committee at Emek Medical Center reportedly met on Thursday to discuss forcefully administering medical treatment to hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq. Israel passed a law last summer allowing the force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners under some conditions, something that directly contradicts established medical ethics and international conventions. It has never been used.

Doctors at the Emek Medical Center reportedly sent two medical updates within the span of a few hours to the Supreme Court on Tuesday about the deterioration of Palestinian al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for some 70 days in protest of his administrative detention. In its ruling denying al-Qiq’s release last week, the Supeme Court said it would follow his health on a daily basis. The panel of three justices said that if his condition worsened, the State would need to revisit its position.

The journalist’s attorneys argued against him being held in administrative detention at all, but also that due to his medical state he could no longer be considered dangerous.

Israel uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinians, and sometimes Jews, without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are generally for six months but can be renewed indefinitely. The only way administrative detainees can challenge their detention, aside from court challenges that almost always fail, is to go on hunger strike.

A number of Palestinians have won their release from Israeli administrative detention in recent years after lengthy hunger strike. Many have nearly died.

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is on hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention, Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is on hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention, Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

One of al-Qiq’s attorneys, Jawad Boulus, head of the legal department at the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said that according to the second medical report submitted to the court on Tuesday, the hunger striking journalist is in tremendous pain and it will soon be too late to give him any meaningful medical treatment. His attorney, who visited al-Qiq on Thursday, said he looks like a “skeleton.”

Against the recommendation of his doctors, al-Qiq is reportedly refusing all medical treatment and tests and is not taking any dietary supplements. Earlier this week, al-Qiq’s attorneys reported that he had lost his ability to hear and 60 percent of his sight.

Al-Qiq, 33, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, worked as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers arrested him at his home. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

Al-Qiq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter reportedly understood that his interrogation was politically motivated. Sources close to Al-Qiq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and when he refused to cooperate, he was put in administrative detention for a period of six months.

The Shin Bet claims he is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed several times due to his activities in the organization. His current detention, according to the Shin Bet, came following “founded suspicions of involvement in terror activities with Hamas.”

He has not been charge with committing a crime. His attorneys are not allowed to see the evidence being used to justify his continued administrative detention.

Israel is currently imprisoning without charge or trial hundreds of Palestinians and at least one Jewish Israeli. The authority to issue administrative detention orders is drawn from pre-state colonial laws that are only valid as long as Israel is officially in a state of emergency, which it has been continuously since its establishment in 1948.

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The Month in Photos: Israel/Palestine, January 2016 http://972mag.com/the-month-in-photos-israelpalestine-january-2016/116563/ http://972mag.com/the-month-in-photos-israelpalestine-january-2016/116563/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 21:40:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116563 Photo editing: Anka Mirkin

Israelis take part in a free techno rave to celebrate the new year, in a military training area in a forest near the town of Soham, in the early hours of January 1, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Israelis take part in a free techno rave to celebrate the new year in a military training area in a forest near the town of Soham, in the early hours of January 1, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Israeli security forces search the streets near a local pub following a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian man with Israeli citizenship who escaped the scene, Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. The attack resulted in the killing of three Israelis with seven others wounded. (Activestills.org)

Israeli police forensic teams following a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian man with Israeli citizenship, Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. Three Israelis were killed and seven others wounded. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israelis attend a candlelight vigil at the scene of a shooting spree that left three people dead in Tel Aviv a day earlier, January 2, 2016. The shooter, a Palestinian citizens of Israel, was eventually killed in a shootout with police. (Activestills.org)

Israelis attend a candlelight vigil at the scene of a shooting spree that left three people dead in Tel Aviv a day earlier, January 2, 2016. The shooter, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was eventually killed in a shootout with police. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Tair Kaminer, a 19-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv, walks into the Tel Ha'Shomer military base where she announced her refusal to draft to Israeli army service, January 10, 2016. Tair says she refuses to take part in the occupation after she spent a year volunteering with youth in the south of Israel, near the border with Gaza. (Activestills.org)

Tair Kaminer, a 19-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv, walks into the Tel Ha’Shomer military induction base where she announced her refusal to serve in the Israeli army, January 10, 2016. Tair says she refuses to take part in the occupation after she spent a year volunteering with youth in the south of Israel, near the border with Gaza. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the detained journalist Muhammad Al-Qeeq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 67 days in Israeli prisons to protest against his administrative detention,Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. Under the administrative detention law, Israel can detain Palestinians without charge or trial indefinitely. Israel claims that Al-Qeeq is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed due to his activities in the organization. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 67 days in Israeli prisons to protest his administrative detention, Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. Using administrative detention, Israel can detain Palestinians without charge or trial indefinitely. Israel claims that Al-Qiq is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed due to his activities in the organization. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Palestinians enjoy the beach on the first sunny day after the rain storm,  Gaza City, Gaza Strip, January 28, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians enjoy the beach on the first sunny day after a rain storm, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, January 28, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Activists hold mock sections of the Separation Wall during a protest against the occupation on the West Banks main Jerusalem-Hebron highway in full view of Israeli settlers, Beit Jala, West Bank, January 15, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Activists hold mock sections of the Separation Wall during a protest against the occupation on the West Bank’s main Jerusalem-Hebron highway in full view of Israeli settlers, Beit Jala, West Bank, January 15, 2016. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israeli and Palestinians protest against the occupation on the West Bank's main Jerusalem-Hebron highway in full view of Israeli settlers, Beit Jala, West Bank, January 15, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Israeli and Palestinians protest against the occupation on the West Bank’s main Jerusalem-Hebron highway in full view of Israeli settlers, Beit Jala, West Bank, January 15, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian students protest inside Hebrew University, Jerusalem, after Israeli police arrested the day before the a student, the wife of Palestinian activist Samer Abu Eisheh, January 13, 2016.   Samer Abu Eisheh and Hijazi Abu Sbeih, two Palestinians from Jerusalem, were arrested by Israeli police after setting up tents in the courtyard of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem to defy a ban order by the Israeli military from entering their hometown for several months. Samer's wife was arrested inside the university and taken for interrogation by Israeli police. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian students protest inside Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A day earlier, Israeli police arrested a student, the wife of Palestinian activist Samer Abu Eisheh, January 13, 2016. Samer Abu Eisheh and Hijazi Abu Sbeih, two Palestinians from Jerusalem were arrested by after setting up tents in the courtyard of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem to defy a military order banning them from entering their hometown for several months. Samer’s wife was arrested inside the university and taken for interrogation by Israeli police. (Activestills.org)

Israeli security forces at the Hermesh checkpoint in the northern West Bank, where a Palestinian man tried to stab a soldier before being seriously wounded by gunfire, January 11, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Israeli security forces at the Hermesh checkpoint in the northern West Bank, where a Palestinian man tried to stab a soldier before being seriously wounded by gunfire, January 11, 2016. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activist Ezra Nawi is taken by prison guards after a hearing in the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court, January 20, 2016. Ezra Nawi was arrested on January 11, 2016 after a Channel 2 TV report, made by a right-wing NGO, in which Nawi said he informed Palestinian security services of Palestinians selling plots of land in the occupied West Bank to Israelis. His arrest was part of a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activist Ezra Nawi is taken by prison guards after a hearing in the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, January 20, 2016.
Ezra Nawi was arrested on January 11, 2016 after a TV hidden camera ‘sting’ showed him talking about turning in to Palestinian security services Palestinians who sell land in the West Bank to Israelis. Ezra’s arrest came amid a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israeli activist Guy Butavia is taken by prison guards to his hearing in the Jerusalem District Court on January 21, 2016. Butavia was arrested following the arrest of activist Ezra Nawi on January 11, 2016 after a Channel 2 TV report, made by a right-wing NGO, in which Nawi said he informed Palestinian security services about Palestinians selling plots of land in the occupied West Bank to Israelis. His arrest was part of a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activist Guy Butavia is taken by prison guards to his hearing in Jerusalem District Court on January 21, 2016. Butavia was arrested following the arrest of activist Ezra Nawi on January 11, 2016 following a TV hidden camera ‘sting’ showed Ezra talking about turning in to Palestinian security services Palestinians who sell land in the West Bank to Israelis. The arrests came amid a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Palestinian activist Nasser Nawaja from Susya is taken by prison guards to his hearing in the Jerusalem District Court on January 21, 2016. Nawaja was arrested following the arrest of Ezra Nawi on January 11, 2016 after a Channel 2 TV report, made by a right-wing NGO, in which Nawi said he informed Palestinian security services of Palestinians selling plots of land in the occupied West Bank to Israelis. His arrest was part of a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian activist Nasser Nawaja from Susya is taken by prison guards to his hearing in the Jerusalem District Court on January 21, 2016. Nawaja was arrested following the arrest of activist Ezra Nawi on January 11, 2016 following a TV hidden camera ‘sting’ showed Ezra talking about turning in to Palestinian security services Palestinians who sell land in the West Bank to Israelis. The arrests came amid a wave of attacks against left-wing activists and human rights groups in Israel. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Israeli left-wing activists protest outside the  Russian compound police station in West Jerusalem, calling to release the three anti-occupation activists that had been recently: Ezra Nawi, Guy Butavia and Nasser Nawaja, on January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli left-wing activists protest outside the Russian compound police station in West Jerusalem, calling to release the three jailed anti-occupation activists: Ezra Nawi, Guy Butavia and Nasser Nawaja, on January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

An Israeli man tires to attack Members of "Women in black" as they take part in the weekly vigil against the occupation in centre Tel Aviv, January 22, 2016. (Activestills.org)

An Israeli man tries to attack Members of “Women in Black” as they take part in their weekly vigil against the occupation in central Tel Aviv, January 22, 2016. (Activestills.org) Read more on Women in Black here.

Palestinians celebrate the 14th birthday of Ahmad Manasra, a Palestinian youth who carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem, in the Dheisheh refugee camp, West Bank, on January 22, 2016.  Manasra and his cousin Hassan, 15, stabbed two Israelis in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Pisgat Zeev in mid-October. Police fatally shot Hassan and a passing car ran over Manasra. The Israeli victims, aged 20 and 13, survived their wounds. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians celebrate the 14th birthday of Ahmad Manasra, a Palestinian youth who carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem, Dheisheh refugee Camp, West Bank, on January 22, 2016. Manasra and his cousin Hassan, 15, stabbed two Israelis in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev in mid-October. Police fatally shot Hassan and a passing car ran over Manasra. The Israeli victims, aged 20 and 13, survived their wounds. (Activestills.org) Read more on youth participating in violence in East Jerusalem here.

Israeli left-wing activists take part in a protest in solidarity with refuser Tair Kaminer, outside military prison 400, in the city of Rishon LeZion, January 23, 2016. Tair refused to draft to Israeli army service, and was jailed in a military prison. (Activestills.org)

Israeli left-wing activists take part in a protest in solidarity with refuser Tair Kaminer, outside military prison 400, in the city of Rishon LeZion, January 23, 2016. Tair refused to be drafted into the Israeli army two weeks earlier and was sentenced to 20 days in military prison. (Activestills.org) Read more here.

Palestinians examine the damage to their agricultural structure after Israeli forces demolished four greenhouses, agricultural structures and a water well in the Anoun area of the Jordan Valley, West Bank, January 14, 2016. The EU-funded structures were demolished under the pretext of "building without permits in Area C," according to the spokesperson of the Israeli Coordination of Government Activity in the Territories. More than 85 percent of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, where Palestinian residents are rarely given permits to build or repair their homes, while illegal Israeli settlements have expanded greatly in recent years. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians examine the damage to their agricultural structure after Israeli forces demolished four greenhouses, agricultural structures and a water well in the Anoun area of the Jordan Valley, West Bank, January 14, 2016. The EU-funded structures were demolished under the pretext of “building without permits in Area C,” according to the spokesperson of the Israeli Coordination of Government Activity in the Territories. More than 85 percent of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control. Palestinian residents are rarely given permits to build or repair their homes, while illegal Israeli settlements have expanded greatly in recent years. (Activestills.org) Read more on home demolitions in the West Bank here.

An Israeli youth burns an induction order during a vigil in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Tania Golan, as they arrive at the Tel Ha'Shomer military base where they will announce their refusal to draft to Israeli army service, January 31, 2016. (Activestills.org)

An Israeli teen burns an induction order during a vigil in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Tania Golan, as they arrive to the Tel Ha’Shomer military base where they were expected to announce their refusal to be drafted into the Israeli army, January 31, 2016. (Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist films as protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2016. Around 2,000 people marched in protest at the government's policies regarding the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea. (Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist films as protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2016. Around 2,000 people marched in protest at the government’s policies regarding the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea. (Activestills.org)

 

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IDF destroys 20 Palestinian structures in West Bank ‘firing zone’ http://972mag.com/idf-destroys-20-palestinian-structures-in-west-bank-firing-zone/116609/ http://972mag.com/idf-destroys-20-palestinian-structures-in-west-bank-firing-zone/116609/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:58:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116609 The army exploits a break-down in a court-ordered mediation to demolish buildings in ‘Firing Zone 918.’ Israel has been trying to evict impoverished Palestinian communities from their lands for over 15 years — in order to save a few bucks on military trainings.

Israeli soldiers guard a bulldozer demolishing Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Israeli soldiers guard a bulldozer demolishing Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Israeli military forces demolished over 20 structures in the Palestinian villages of Khirbet Jenbah and Hawala Tuesday morning. In the early afternoon, Israel’s Supreme Court issued an interim injunction until a hearing can be held next week.

Some 1,000 Palestinians in eight villages live in what the Israeli army has declared ‘Firing Zone 918′ in the South Hebron Hills. Some 400 people, a large number of whom are children, live in the two villages targeted on Tuesday.

For over 15 years, the state has sought to evict the traditionally cave-dwelling Palestinian families from their homes and grazing lands inside the designated area. Jewish settlements within Firing Zone 918, however, have not been served with eviction orders.

Palestinian children play in the rubble left after the Israeli military demolished 24 Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Palestinian children play in the rubble left after the Israeli military demolished 24 Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

More than two years ago the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to enter into mediation with the Palestinian residents of Firing Zone 918. The mediation recently broke down.

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The army, it appears, was attempting to take advantage of the period between the breakdown and the matter returning to court, in order to demolish the homes.

The mediation was not the first attempt to resolve the issue of Firing Zone 918 out of court. In 2002, villagers and the state entered a previous round of mediation, in which the army sought to relocate the Palestinian residents to a smaller, nearby area. Residents refused, however, and in 2005 the process ended without any result.

In the 2013 High Court hearing, the state argued that Firing Zone 918 is of military necessity because it reduces logistical costs of training exercises due to its proximity to a nearby army base. Or in other words, to save a few bucks.

Lawyers representing the villagers, however, argued that international law clearly prohibits the expulsion of residents from an occupied territory, as well as the permanent seizure of land for military use.

A year later, however, a senior IDF officer admitted in a Knesset hearing that live-fire training areas are often used in order to displace Palestinian residents.

June 26, 2013 - The mosque in the village of Mufaqara, south of Hebron, an area within the military-designated Firing Zone 918, was demolished by the IDF in 2011. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

June 26, 2013 – The mosque in the village of Mufaqara, south of Hebron, an area within the military-designated Firing Zone 918, was demolished by the IDF in 2011. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

Firing Zone 918 has gained significant international attention in recent years, with Israeli and international writers urging Israel “to halt its displacement of the Palestinian villages located in Firing Zone 918.”

The international authors included: John le Carre, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Ian McEwan, Nobel laureate Herta Müller and Philip Roth. (Read the full list here.)

“In a reality of ongoing occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering, do something to bend back the occupation’s giant, cruel hand,” the Israeli authors wrote.

Similar campaigns have recently halted Israeli army efforts to displace impoverished Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills.

The U.S. State Department, most European Union foreign ministers, the United Nations and hundreds of activists all joined a wide public campaign to save the Palestinian village of Susya last year.

Following the public campaign, the Israeli army leaked documents indicating that the Palestinian villagers in Susya do indeed own the land on which their village sits, and the demolition threats quietly disappeared.

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Israel’s housing policy for Arabs is designed to fail http://972mag.com/israels-housing-policy-for-arabs-is-designed-to-fail/116599/ http://972mag.com/israels-housing-policy-for-arabs-is-designed-to-fail/116599/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:04:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116599 Israel’s housing system is not ‘failing’ its Palestinian citizens. It is working exactly as it was intended: to minimize Arab lands in order to maximize Jewish communities.

The rubble of three houses of the Assaf family hours after they were demolished by the Israeli authorities, on April 15, 2015. Dahmash is the only unrecognised village in the center of Israel of Palestinians and Bedouins, located between Lod and Ramle. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

The rubble of three houses of the Assaf family hours after they were demolished by the Israeli authorities, on April 15, 2015. Dahmash, located between Lod and Ramle, is the only unrecognized village in central Israel. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Half an hour north of Tel Aviv stand several hills offering a natural panoramic view of the bustling Arab towns of Taibeh and Tira, their congested neighborhoods, and their narrow roads and alleys. Surrounding the towns are the smaller and orderly Jewish villages and farming communities of Sha’ar Efraim, Sde Warburg, Ramat Hakovesh, and others. The hilltops used to be empty; now they are home to high-rise apartments of the new Jewish town of Tzur Yitzhak, along with Tzur Natan, Kokhav Yair and Tzur Yigal.

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The view from those hills encapsulates Israel’s land policy toward the Palestinian communities in the state that survived after 1948. Although Taibeh and Tira are among the largest localities in the area (about 40,000 and 24,000 residents respectively), they are physically constrained by the sparse Jewish communities around them, whose populations are at most in the few hundreds or thousands. Many of the surrounding lands once belonged to Palestinians but were transferred to Jewish owners during the state’s formative years. The roads and highways around Taibeh and Tira further serve as barriers that prevent the towns from expanding.

This man-made landscape is not only the result of decades-old policies – it is an active process that continues to this day. Just last week, Israeli authorities demolished a home near Taibeh that belonged to a family of 11, which was built without a construction permit on land that was zoned for agricultural use. The Israeli tractors were accompanied by masked police forces that used stun grenades and “skunk” water to disperse and arrest protesting residents.

The following day, Haaretz reported that the attorney general approved recommendations to “increase enforcement of planning and construction laws,” which includes carrying out demolitions against illegal buildings and issuing fines against their inhabitants. Members of the Palestinian leadership in Israel connected these developments to Netanyahu’s call to enhance law enforcement in the Palestinian sector, a message he championed after last month’s shooting in Tel Aviv. The new plan amounts to harassment of the Palestinian community, the Palestinian leadership maintains.

Israeli police officers stand guard as the home of Hana al-Nakib and her four children is being demolished, in the city of Lod, February 10, 2015. The house was built with the help of family members and neighbours who donated money to help the single mother. The house was built on a family-owned land, but without permission from the Israeli authorities. Palestinian citizens of Israel can hardly attain building permits due to Israel's discriminative criterions. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Israeli police stand guard as the home of Hana al-Nakib and her four children is demolished in the city of Lod, February 10, 2015. Palestinian citizens of Israel can rarely obtain building permits due to discriminatory criterion. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli authorities claim the demolitions are about applying the rule of law, saying that thousands of Palestinian citizens are refusing to follow planning procedures and abide by their local and regional master plans. What they do not mention is that those procedures and plans systemically ignore Palestinian citizens’ needs.

Out of over 40,000 construction tenders for new housing units published by the Israel Land Authority in 2014, only 1,844 units (4.6 percent) were in Palestinian towns. Out of 139 Palestinian localities included in Israel’s new national master plan, only 41 of them (29.4 percent) have been given updated plans. Palestinian couples still find that it can take years to acquire a building permit, making it difficult to secure a home by the time they start their new lives.

The state is well aware of the difficult circumstances faced by Palestinian citizens – because it deliberately created them. Combining land confiscations, bureaucratic intransigence, racist laws, and home demolitions, the state has fulfilled its goal of minimizing Arab lands for the purpose of maximizing Jewish lands.

Palestinian citizens make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, but their localities constitute only 3 to 3.5 percent of the state’s territory. No new Arab town has been built since Israel’s establishment, with the exception of seven impoverished townships that were created to concentrate half of the Naqab’s Bedouin citizens and dispossess them of their historic lands. In contrast, hundreds of urban and rural Jewish towns have rapidly proliferated and immediately received basic services – including settlements in the occupied territories.

The discrimination runs even deeper. Over 430 small Jewish towns in the North and South use admissions committees to bar Palestinian citizens from living among them, claiming they are “socially and culturally unsuitable” for the communities. Government funding for the Arab sector remains extremely unequal despite repeated plans to close economic gaps, which exacerbates Arab towns’ poor infrastructure. More alarmingly, dozens of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab like Umm al-Hiran, which the state has refused to grant legal status for decades, are slated to be destroyed in order to build new towns and farms exclusively for Jewish citizens.

Settlement construction in Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Settlement construction in Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Caught in legal limbo, it is unsurprising that thousands of Palestinian families choose to build their homes illegally and outside their towns’ designated spaces. For the state, the catch-22 plays entirely in its favor. It forces and intimidates the majority of Palestinian citizens to remain within the confines of their own communities, while creating an excuse to punish those who dare to bypass its discriminatory institutions. Targeted demolitions like last week’s near Taibeh – just like home demolitions in the Naqab, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank – are then used to set examples to the Palestinian community, ordering them to stay behind their demarcated spaces.

The problem, therefore, is not that Israel’s housing system is “failing” its Palestinian citizens. The system is working exactly as it was intended. Tzur Yitzhak, one of the Jewish communities on the hilltops between Taibeh and Tira, was only established in 2007 and already has nearly 3,500 residents in its towering apartments. The houses of Taibeh and Tira, meanwhile, remain exactly where they were a decade ago, kept at bay by the roads and gated communities. That same view can be found in countless spots across the country, revealing the scale to which Israel has worked to keep its Arabs separate from its Jews.

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Why the Israeli debate on the occupation misses the point http://972mag.com/why-the-israeli-debate-on-the-occupation-misses-the-point/116550/ http://972mag.com/why-the-israeli-debate-on-the-occupation-misses-the-point/116550/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 20:28:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116550 In the eyes of most Israelis, democracy consists of two Jews arguing over the fate of the Palestinian.

Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency head (Jewish Agency for Israel/CC BY ND 2.0)

Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency head (Jewish Agency for Israel/CC BY ND 2.0)

Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, used his experiences as a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union in a recent op-ed in order to attack the activists of Israeli anti-occupation organization, Breaking the Silence, who do not shy from criticizing Israel’s policies in the occupied territories outside the country. Let me be clear: there are no similarities between what Jewish political activists in Israel go through and the persecution of dissidents in the USSR, and Sharansky’s contributions to human rights must never be forgotten, regardless of his current views.

But his article, which was published last week in Haaretz, includes one sentence that captures everything that is wrong with the Israeli public discussion on the occupation:

It is of course legitimate to believe that Israel’s military presence in the West Bank should be ended immediately.  But it is equally legitimate to believe that such a withdrawal would be dangerous and even catastrophic for the state. This is a political question that should be decided by Israel’s citizens through their elected representatives, not by a small group of self-appointed prophets and their chorus of foreign supporters. (emphasis mine, N.S.)

Who is missing from the picture? The Palestinians, of course. The entire idea of democracy is that everyone gets to participate in the discussion. But in Sharansky’s eyes, as in the eyes of most Israelis, democracy consists of two Jews arguing over the fate of the Palestinian. If the Jews don’t want Palestinians to have rights, they won’t have them.

Israelis do not have the right to endlessly deny Palestinians their freedom, and it doesn’t matter if that decision is made “democratically” or not. Sharansky is wrong — Breaking the Silence is right: there is nothing wrong with turning to the international community to put pressure on Israel to change its policies, since those policies are illegitimate to begin with.

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

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