+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:32:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 WATCH: Settlers hurl burning tires, boulders at Palestinians http://972mag.com/watch-settlers-hurl-burning-tires-boulders-at-palestinians/112277/ http://972mag.com/watch-settlers-hurl-burning-tires-boulders-at-palestinians/112277/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:08:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112277 Hundreds of settlers launch dozens of attacks against Palestinians across the West Bank, in the wake of two Palestinian attacks that left four Israelis dead. Rights groups demand the army intervene to protect Palestinians from settler violence.

Israeli soldiers accompany Israeli settlers as settlers carry out vigilante attacks against local Palestinians and their land in the West Bank village of Bur’in, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers accompany Israeli settlers as settlers carry out vigilante attacks against local Palestinians and their land in the West Bank village of Bur’in, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli settlers carried out dozens of violent attacks across the West Bank over the past two days in the wake of the murders of four Israeli civilians by Palestinians.

In the northern West Bank village of Bur’in masked settlers were filmed rolling boulders and burning tires down a hill toward Palestinians.

Groups of settlers, at times accompanied by the Israeli army, threw stones at and attacked Palestinian residents, who threw stones back at them. The settlers also set fire to a number of Palestinian-owned agricultural fields.

The soldiers did nothing to stop the settler attacks, instead choosing to shoot tear gas, rubber bullets — and reportedly live ammunition — against the Palestinians defending their property.

Acres of fields and olive orchards were damaged in the settler arson attacks.

A view of Palestinian-owned fields that were set on fire by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Bur’in, near Nablus, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A view of Palestinian-owned fields that were set on fire by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Bur’in, near Nablus, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Elsewhere in the northern West Bank, settlers gathered along major highways and threw stones at Palestinian vehicles, shattering windshields and resulting in a number of injuries, according to Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din.

Settlers also reportedly surrounded a number of Palestinian houses and pelted them with stones.


In one case, a Palestinian woman and her children traveling in an ambulance were pelted with stones near the Israeli army’s Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus.

The Israeli has a clear obligation under international law to protect the Palestinian civilian population, including from Israeli citizens. Human rights groups like Yesh Din have long protested what it calls “standing idly by,” whereby the army does nothing to stop settler attacks against Palestinians.

“Yesh Din condemns the revolting murder of Itam and Na’ama Henkin and hopes that the murderers will be caught quickly, are put on trial and sentenced to prolonged sentences,” the human rights organization said in a statement.

“However, the murders do not justify acts of revenge against an innocent population,” the statement continued. “We call on the army and police to fulfill their duties and protect the Palestinians from these aggressive acts.”

Rabbis for Human Rights and B’Tselem put out similar statements.

Near Beit El, which abuts the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah, some 300 Israeli settlers threw stones at Palestinians, “Walla! News” reported.

Hundreds of settlers blocked Palestinian traffic from passing through checkpoints leading to and from Nablus. One settler leader told Walla!, “Each [settlement] came down to the nearest checkpoint and shut down free movement to Nablus, a statement that we need to stop free movement for the murderers.” Settlers also reportedly blocked Palestinian traffic and attacked Palestinian cars at Beit Furik and the Jit checkpoint.

In Hebron, a large group of settlers marched through the streets of the segregated city chanting “Death to Arabs” and reportedly attacked Palestinian-owned homes.


In Jerusalem, right-wing activists affiliated with the “Lehava” organization reportedly attacked a Palestinian man in the upscale Mamilla shopping plaza. Police arrested four suspects in that attack.

Elsewhere in Jerusalem, a Palestinian man was reportedly attacked by a Jewish mob and struck a bystander with his car while trying to escape.

Racist right-wing activists held a rally in Jerusalem on Friday in response to West Bank shooting attack, demanding that the government exact revenge upon Palestinians. Two people were arrested for incitement at that event. Notorious ultra-nationalist right-wing activists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Benzi Gopstein prominently attended the rally, according to Walla!.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Ramallah area Saturday night were said to be blocking all access roads leading to the home of the man who killed two Israelis in the Old City Saturday. Earlier, Israeli authorities notified his family that they would demolish the family home. By blocking the roads, local youths were attempting to stop the army from carrying out the demolition.

Israel uses punitive home demolitions against Palestinian murder suspects, a practice rights groups describe as collective punishment because it harms people who were not involved in carrying out any crime. The Israeli Supreme Court, however, has repeatedly approved the practice, accepting the state’s argument that it serves as a necessary tool for deterrence.

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Searching for hope on days of unconscionable tragedy http://972mag.com/searching-for-hope-on-days-of-unconscionable-tragedy/112273/ http://972mag.com/searching-for-hope-on-days-of-unconscionable-tragedy/112273/#comments Sat, 03 Oct 2015 23:32:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112273 The only thing that can stop the killing, that can turn desperate people from violence, that can stop the creation of new orphans, is hope. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found.

File photo of Jewish Israelis mourning at a funeral for murder victims. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

File photo of Jewish Israelis mourning at a funeral for murder victims. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The most tragic part about the violence that strikes civilians in Israel and Palestine is that it is largely preventable. That is not to say that the victims are in any way to blame for their own murders — of course not. But political violence is a direct result of the political conflict, the occupation, incitement on both sides, and an utter lack of vision being offered to both Israelis and Palestinians.


There is no justifying the murder of four innocents. Non-combatants. Parents. Civilians. Human beings. It might make those of us living inside the Green Line feel safer to point out that all four people murdered in the past 48 hours were killed on occupied land, but that is not the reason they were killed. They were killed because they are Israeli Jews, regardless of who they were as individuals. Likewise, the entire Dawabshe family, burned alive in their own home as they slept, was murdered not because of who they were as human beings, but because they were Palestinian.

Being murdered because of your nationality, or your ethnicity or religion is the same thing as being killed completely at random. And random violence is terrifying. Even more terrifying is the snowball effect random nationalist violence tends to have in Israel and Palestine. Price tag. Cycle of violence. Revenge attacks. Call it what you will.

Revenge attacks are a misnomer, however, because revenge is not being sought on behalf of the victims, nor is it directed at the source of the violence. Revenge attacks in both Israel and Palestine erase the individual value and worth of each every one of us as human beings. There are no human beings when it comes to revenge, there are only Jews and Palestinians. Revenge attacks don’t seek justice. They aim to satiate a national appetite for blood, for inflicting pain.

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian boy Ali Dawabshe, who was killed along with his mother and father when Jewish terrorists set their home on fire, mourn next to his body during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma, July 31, 2015. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian boy Ali Dawabshe, who was killed along with his mother and father when Jewish terrorists set their home on fire, mourn next to his body during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma, July 31, 2015. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

So we are left with orphaned children, widowed husbands and wives, parents burying their children. Shouldn’t that pain be enough to stop everything we’ve been doing up until now and try everything left under the sun to prevent the next death? Do we really believe that forcing the “other” to suffer more than we have that we can actually suffer less ourselves? Do we really believe that vengeance can free us of our pain?

There is no magic pill to stem the spilling of innocent blood of Israelis and Palestinians. Diplomacy has failed. Popular protest movements have resulted in momentarily impressive, but ultimately inconsequential changes. It is easy to argue that, historically, violence can be effective, but in the case of Israel and Palestine, it has done nothing but perpetuate suffering, injustice, and more violence.

The only thing that can stop the killing, that can turn desperate people from violence, that can stop the creation of new orphans, is hope. Hope can only come from a vision for a better future, a leader or movement convincing enough to make people invest in that vision, and a viable pathway for securing it. None of those elements exist in either Israeli or Palestinian societies at the moment. One nation is ruled by a virtual monarch too scared to embark upon a new path. The other is ruled by a man so visionary that he is certain there is nothing better to seek for his people.

The only plausible catalyst for any positive, paradigm-shifting change at this point is external pressure. Israel, the party with the most agency to create change, should it desire to do so, has little incentive to adequately alter the way it perceives its cost-benefit analysis. In the current situation, even as random political violence seems intolerable, the risks and sacrifices necessary for embarking upon a just peace don’t appear worthwhile to the majority of the public. The comfort of power and relative stability provided by the status quo of occupation simply feels safer for most Israelis than the inherent risks of change.

What will change Israel’s calculus so that it chooses to end the occupation? One can only hope that the catalyst ultimately manifests as international diplomatic and economic pressure, and not more unspeakable violence.

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What Abbas should have told the United Nations http://972mag.com/what-abbas-should-have-told-the-united-nations/112259/ http://972mag.com/what-abbas-should-have-told-the-united-nations/112259/#comments Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:52:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112259 What if the Abbas had announced this was his last UN speech as Israel’s security contractor? A reimagined version of the speech that wasn’t. (Read or watch Abbas’s actual speech.)

By Rida Abu Rass

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas address the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, September 20, 2015. (UN Photo/Cia Pak)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas address the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, September 20, 2015. (UN Photo/Cia Pak)

H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly,
H.E. Mr Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Excellencies, heads of delegations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I come before you today from Palestine to sound the alarm about what is happening in Jerusalem, about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and about what is happening in Israel. I come before you to sound the alarm about what has been happening to Palestinians for 67 years, in our own homeland.

We are often accused of refusing. Of refusing to negotiate, of refusing to settle, of refusing to compromise. In 1948, we were a naive, agrarian, developing people. 100 years after the spring of nations — that glorified winter of failed revolutions that gave rise to nationalism in Europe — we still knew nothing of nationalism and self determination. In 1948, when the Jewish people declared the establishment of the state of Israel in Mandatory Palestine, partition was out of the question for us. In the eyes of our forefathers, there was not a single doubt that this land belonged to us, for we have been living in it and nourishing it for longer than we can remember. We had no other land.

But we no longer refuse. For over 20 years, we have done nothing but reach out our hands for peace.

Ladies and gentlemen,


I remind you that history was not kind to us. Jewish militants, determined to create a state for themselves, ethnically cleansed us from our land in 1948. Those Palestinians that remained in Israel suffer from systematic discrimination every day. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been under one occupation or another for 67 years. Our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Syria, third generation refugees, are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have had enough. We Palestinians understand the Jewish people’s unparalleled trauma. We realize the Jewish need for a safe homeland. But must their safety come at our expense?

Contrary to Netanyahu’s false accusations, we have continuously recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully in its internationally recognized borders for over 20 years — despite the fact that those borders were drawn to include many of our home towns, and our own people. We wanted nothing more than a state within the 1967 borders, and indeed, the Oslo Accords brought a true hope for permanent peace in the region. But in recent years, Netanyahu derailed any attempt to negotiate, time and time again, despite the fact that we Palestinians expressed our willingness to make enormous compromises. The absurdity of negotiating with your own occupier became unbearably obvious for us Palestinians, as Israel continues its comfortable refusal to commit to a two-state solution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I come before you today for the last time. As you know, our struggle has been focused on you, the international community in recent years. We thought you could help us, and I hope you still can. But what is clear to me and to the Palestinian people is that the Palestinian National Authority can no longer exist as Israel’s contractor in the West Bank. We refuse to continue playing the role of Israel’s riot police. Half a state is not a state at all.

Mr. President,

I thank you and the international community for giving us the status of permanent observer state. But we are not a state. We are treated as guests in our homes. Prisoners in our own land. I thank you for raising the Palestinian flag in New York. But what we urgently need is multilateral, international political action, not symbolic gestures of good will. Yet the Palestinian people are still in grave need of your assistance. I thank all of you that supported our bid for statehood, and I call upon you to accelerate your efforts in changing the status quo in Israel and Palestine.

Time and again, my hands as president of the Palestinian National Authority have proven to be tied.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellencies, Mr. Netanyahu,

I can no longer bear the enormous responsibility of speaking for a voiceless people, for you have rendered me mute. I hereby announce the dismantlement of the Palestinian National Authority, in order to reflect the reality on the ground: 6 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean are systematically discriminated against, and they are voiceless.

We are not a state. We are not an authority. We are an occupied people with occupied territories. In dismantling the PA, the onus of this total occupation reverts to the Israeli government, the occupying power. We did our best to accommodate the Israeli need for a state alongside us, but the geopolitical reality that Israel created renders this solution impossible.

On behalf of all Palestinians, I declare that our hands are still outstretched to designing a peaceful solution for the region, but this time, as equal partners in our shared homeland.

Rida Abu Rass is a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Jaffa currently completing a graduate degree at Brandeis University in Boston.


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Oslo has become a tool for Israeli expansionism — it’s time to let go http://972mag.com/oslo-has-become-a-tool-for-israeli-expansionism-its-time-to-let-go/112254/ http://972mag.com/oslo-has-become-a-tool-for-israeli-expansionism-its-time-to-let-go/112254/#comments Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:01:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112254 The Oslo Accords have been manipulated for the unspoken goal of Jewish annexation of West Bank land. So long as both governments adhere to this failed system, they will be unable to pursue a real peace agreement.

By Nathan Hersh

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (C), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) in Houghton House at the Wye River Conference Center, during the Wye River Memorandum talks, October 16, 1998. (US Gov photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (C), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) in Houghton House at the Wye River Conference Center, during the Wye River Memorandum talks, October 16, 1998. (US Gov photo)

The Oslo Accords are the banner accomplishment of the Israeli peace movement. But their impact on the West Bank is no longer to orchestrate a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces, which they intended to do. Instead, the leadership in Israel has become increasingly populated by settlers and their sympathizers, and it has used the Oslo Accords for its own ideological pursuits.

The lasting accomplishments of the Oslo Accords—the division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C; the cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces and the creation of the Palestinian Authority—have different uses under Netanyahu’s premiership. Ministers and MKs from coalition parties frequently call for the annexation of Area C instead of withdrawal from it; Palestinian police forces maintain order in the areas Israel does not want to operate in and the Palestinian Authority is implicitly cosigning all of it. The Oslo Accords have been manipulated to strengthen the occupation, not dismantle it.


I first recognized the political utility of the occupation for Israel as a soldier in the West Bank. My unit was protecting Israeli civilians, preventing Palestinian violence directed at Israeli settlers and containing Palestinian protests. As soldiers, our concerns were not meant to extend beyond those objectives, and questions about the direction our actions were leading our country were irrelevant; such thoughts were dangerous distractions from the imperative to keep our country and our people safe.

The army’s objectives are simple and its mission is clear: security above all else. But the military occupation of the West Bank does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a context of official Israeli rejection of Palestinian national self-determination and sustained, illegal settlement expansion. A military occupation in this context is not purely about security; it is meant to protect the behaviors of the state.

This blindness ignores the Israeli policies that instigate violence. The growth of settlements, the refusal to negotiate with the non-violent Palestinian Authority and the current coalition’s rejection of the two-state solution makes any serious reference to the Oslo Accords’ potential for peace profoundly out of touch. And while the Accords remain an example of each side’s past willingness to make peace, that does not translate into an increased willingness to do so since then.

That’s because the army, by upholding the occupation, subtly protects and advances the settler ideology. In the winter and spring of 2011, my unit’s daily and nightly operations were exhausting and failed to procure tangible results. We had dealt with very few serious security threats. One soldier finally publicly told our commander, “Enough! What are we doing here? Let the Arabs police themselves!” One week later, Palestinian terrorists massacred the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, and the sentiment that soldier expressed vanished.

Constant exposure to Palestinian violence combined with a systemic inability to see Israel’s role in the conflict has propelled it away from an agreement. As generations of Israelis were introduced to the conflict with the Palestinians through the lens of security, without any acknowledgement of the Israeli government’s behavior, the problem morphed from a complex and often violent conflict between national narratives, ethnicities and religions, to a singular problem of security from violent Palestinians. Israelis, the occupying force, felt they lost their agency.

This has not only produced an Israeli society that rarely acknowledges its own behavior, but it has impeded the work of Israeli peace activists and their allies abroad, too. Oslo is widely seen in Israeli society as a failure because the agreement was not able to hinder Palestinian violence. The two most prominent examples the Israeli right wing uses in rejecting the peace process are the withdraw from Gaza, which gave way to Hamas rule and thousands of rockets, and Oslo, which legitimized the Palestinian Liberation Organization, up until then considered a terrorist organization.

For the past 15 years, the Oslo Accords have been manipulated to hold the Palestinians accountable for the unspoken goal of Jewish annexation of West Bank land, and the P.L.O. has collaborated with it. That tacit alliance will severely undermine the possibility of serious peace negotiations between leaders from either side going forward.

So long as both governments adhere to this failed system, they will be unable to pursue a real peace agreement. The Palestinians — and the possibility for a two-state solution — do not have to be bound to the Israeli government’s expansionism.

Nathan Hersh served in a combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces from 2009 to 2011 and has an MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Tel Aviv University. He is the former managing director of Partners for Progressive Israel. Follow him on Twitter: @nathanhersh.

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[Vid] Wake-up Call: Ami does his best Bibi impression http://972mag.com/vid-wake-up-call-ami-does-his-best-bibi-impression/112247/ http://972mag.com/vid-wake-up-call-ami-does-his-best-bibi-impression/112247/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:27:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112247 You thought only Prime Minister Netanyahu does silence? Kaufman, Simon, and Garfunkel have a wake-up call for you.

Abbas’ peace project has hit a dead end
Is this what the end of Oslo looks like?

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Israeli settler couple killed, and the band plays on http://972mag.com/israeli-settler-couple-killed-and-the-band-plays-on/112239/ http://972mag.com/israeli-settler-couple-killed-and-the-band-plays-on/112239/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2015 12:39:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112239 Our hearts are desensitized by horror fatigue, convinced that nothing can change. But we must still try, if not for the dead then for the living.

Magen David Adom ambulance, illustrative (Photo: Mattes)

Magen David Adom ambulance, illustrative (Photo: Mattes)

A lifetime of sorrow lies before six children who became orphans last night when their parents were killed in a hailstorm of bullets on a West Bank road. Four of the children were in the car when it happened, including a four-month-old infant. The oldest was nine. They were unharmed physically, but their suffering is indescribable.

But it’s time to admit that aside from their circle of family and friends, no one else really cares. If we did, we would change our circumstances. Instead, the conditions and sentiments before and after the attack are routine — ritualized. We are caged inside a dystopian daily theater performance, in which actors respond like robots programmed to repeat their lines forever.


The Right, whose settlement expansion agenda has run roughshod through the West Bank for nearly five decades, says the attack demands further settlement expansion. On Wednesday, about 50 families made a pilgrimage to a new site they call “Shalem” – meaning whole – in the same area as the attack, dancing and celebrating the future settlement. Thursday evening, the family was killed on that road. Friday morning, right-wing websites announced a march to the site in response.  It’s a settle-die-and-settle dance.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also repeats his lines verbatim, like a mad caricature of himself: Palestinians, and first of all Mahmoud Abbas, incited the attack and didn’t condemn it. His “sounds of silence” speech in the UN just hours earlier now has a perfect bookend soundbite: “look at the PA’s deafening silence,” despite the fact that “we condemned the attack in Duma.” To Israeli ears, this translates as: Israel wants peace, Palestinians are “bloodthirsty,” as per the right-wing commenters.

The Left, too, offers the usual answers: Zuhair Bahalul from the Zionist Union (Labor Party) said that regular people are paying the price for the frozen political situation. After another recent death, my colleague Lisa Goldman argued that the only way to stop stone throwing in East Jerusalem is to give residents full rights and end the occupation. The left-wing script reads, broadly: the lack of a political resolution feeds the violence. We don’t condone such things, but what can you expect. If we end the occupation and reach a final status accord, the violence will subside.

But these stock lines are shutting down our minds. Our hearts are desensitized by horror fatigue, convinced that nothing can change, so why try. That’s because the failed interpretations and prescriptions no longer describe reality. If we call our current ills by their name, maybe better ideas about solving them will emerge.

First, Netanyahu is obsessed with the idea that there is no alternative to the deadly status quo. I wonder if the six orphans of the Henkin family want to maintain the status quo. I feel sure the Dawabshe family doesn’t, nor the family of 18-year-old Hadeel Hashlamoun, or Alexander Levlovitz. Netanyahu’s  sorrow for them is one big shameful lie unless he rejects and changes the status quo.

Next, the condemnation game – “you didn’t! I did! No you didn’t” – must be scrapped. When Abbas condemns an attack, Israel dismisses it. While valuable in principle, condemnation no longer matters when the words are so vacuous. Instead, the condemnation test must be replaced by the justice test: which murderers are apprehended? Which murderers are brought to justice? Since Israel is in control, the question is: which murders does Israel apprehend, or bring to justice?

The answer is that Israel finds Palestinian murderers within hours, days, or weeks. They are either killed on the spot (unfortunate but unavoidable, it says), or their homes are destroyed – even while they are still suspects, and sometimes when they have not yet committed an attack. Were they to be apprehended, they would be tried in military court.

The suspected Jewish murderers of the Dawabshe family have been detained but not charged. There is no collective punishment, but also no due process punishment to provide either justice or deterrence. In the burning-death of teenager Muhammed abu Khdeir, three suspects are standing trial in a civil court, a case that has dragged on and fallen off the headlines. We must stop demanding condemnations and demand justice – with civil rights, equally, swiftly.

The right-wing script that settlement is the answer is a used-up ruse — it too must be replaced. The truthful right-wing response is: the political meaning of settlement is a Jewish-controlled single state between the river and the sea, and we hope it will be so uninviting for Palestinians that they will leave. The religious meaning is fulfillment of a messianic prophesy. The meaning for individuals is that you will lose your lives – either as soldiers, as civilians, and sometimes as children. Your survivors will live in misery.

And the left-wing approach that a political resolution ending the occupation through two states, or any other just political framework, will end terror must be revisited as well. Over the last two decades, the Left lost so much credibility on this point that it has never recovered.

We must look human nature in the eye and admit: there will never be perfect security – not here, not anywhere. As the Henkin parents were murdered, 10 young people were being executed at a college in Oregon, for no reason at all.

The truthful answer is that a political resolution is mandatory not because it will end death, but because the current situation is misery for the living. The lives of Israelis are mostly fine. Israel can strum the victimhood chord, but Israeli Jews just told a right-wing newspapers, Israel Hayom, how overwhelmingly happy they are. The lives of Palestinians are unlivable. They are trapped geographically, economically, professionally, and politically.

A political resolution will never stop the crazies. But it will remove as many of the reasons as possible for normal people to join their ranks. And if only one less person dies, it will be as if we saved the whole world.

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Are European settlement labels a double standard? http://972mag.com/are-european-settlement-labels-a-double-standard/112226/ http://972mag.com/are-european-settlement-labels-a-double-standard/112226/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 19:08:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112226 Israeli government allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information.

By Lorenzo Kamel

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

In 2005 the European Union clarified that products originating in areas beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines do not benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Ten years later, on September 10, 2015, the European Parliament passed an historical resolution calling on the EU to issue labels for products from those areas — settlement products. It passed 525 to 70 (with 31 abstentions), and will likely be effective from October 1 of this year.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely reacted by saying Israel would not accept “discrimination” between goods produced in different parts of “its territory.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon argued that labeling goods “reeks of boycott.” Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nahshon claimed that, “Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn’t raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.”


Allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information. Just as the EU does not support Israeli entities in the Palestinian territories, the EU does not provide support to Turkish entities established in Northern Cyprus under Turkey’s national law. Just as it relates to Israeli nationals in the occupied Palestinian territories, the EU evaluates the most suitable implementation methods for “individual projects” in Northern Cyprus, where perhaps half of the estimated 300,000 residents were either born in Turkey or are children of settlers.

As the EU itself clearly states in its own report, it does not enter into financing agreements with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, “because they are not officially recognized by the international community, the [EU] Commission has primarily implemented the assistance by entering into contracts directly and acting as the sole contracting authority.”

These EU policies are carried out with the express purpose of “facilitate[ing] the reunification of Cyprus” and with the aim of “improving the contacts between the two communities.” They are fully consistent with international law, including with Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, according to which building infrastructure is to a certain extent part of the occupier’s obligations, as long as the infrastructure is built for the benefit of the local population.

As for the Western Sahara case, the EU signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) only with Morocco and not with any other entity that lays claim to the disputed territory. In the Palestinian context, however, the EU also signed a FTA with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). As argued by Israeli scholars Neve Gordon and Sharon Pardo, each of the two FTAs, with Israel and the PLO, has its own territorial scope and “there is no overlapping between the two.”

The four-year agreement with Morocco that the European Parliament approved in December 2013 to allow European boats to fish in territorial waters off Western Sahara is hardly free of defects. If nothing because the aspirations of the local indigenous Sahrawi population as well as the concerns expressed by several international organizations were largely ignored. Yet, the two contexts should not be conflated, both from an historical and a strictly legal point of view.

The double standard claim is thus largely misplaced and the resolution passed in September 10th by the European Parliament can hardly be conflated with a form of boycott. It is indeed a belated step that tries to hinder the ongoing status quo through the labeling of products manufactured beyond Israel’s internationally recognized sovereign territory.

To maintain what has been for years a blurred approach, allowing preferential treatment for products manufactured in settlements, would in fact function as a sort of incentive for the ongoing status quo. This is particularly meaningful considering that many of the products originating from settlements are destined for Israeli markets and that most of the natural resources exploited by Israeli companies in the Palestinian Territories are aimed to the benefit of Israeli citizens (about 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel).

Ignoring this reality would betray the principles on which the unity of the European continent was forged.

Dr. Lorenzo Kamel is a Research Fellow (2013-16) at Harvard’s CMES. Among his most recent publications: ‘Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times’ (I.B. Tauris 2015) and ‘Arab Spring: The Role of the Peripheries’ (Special issue of Mediterranean Politics, May 2015, co-edited with D.Huber) 

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WATCH: Netanyahu’s deafening silence, the extended version http://972mag.com/watch-netanyahus-deafening-silence-the-extended-version/112216/ http://972mag.com/watch-netanyahus-deafening-silence-the-extended-version/112216/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 17:55:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112216 The Israeli prime minister digs deeper into his bag of UN shtick. (Updated below with even better versions.)

Israeli Prime Minister is known for his antics and shtick at the United Nations. In the past he has flaunted cartoon drawings of bombs, waved blueprints of Auschwitz and now he used a new prop — deafening silence.

Deriding the entire world for ignoring threats to Israel by Iran, Netanyahu accused the representatives present in the UNGA chamber: “the response from every one of you here, utter silence. Deafening silence.”

And then he went silent. With the most terrifying evil stare, or perhaps an attempt at inducing shame . For 45 seconds. It was scary.

Here’s the video with an extra two minutes of terrifying silence added for dramatic effect

Netanyahu also pulled out another of his favorite tricks during this year’s speech: animal comparisons. In years past we’ve been graced with nuclear ducks, insatiable crocodiles, and now — we have “rapacious tigers.”

The rapacious tiger, played by Iran, won’t be turned into a kitten by the Iran deal and unchaining it from international sanctions, Netanyahu said.

Then there’s the side note that it took the Israeli prime minister over 30 minutes to mention the Palestinians or the peace process.

Responding to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration the night before that there is no point in peace talks just for the sake of peace talks, Netanyahu demanded a new round of peace talks for the sake of peace talks.

Somebody was more creative than me:

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Israeli forces wound two small Palestinian children: Where’s the outrage? http://972mag.com/israeli-forces-wound-two-small-palestinian-children/112190/ http://972mag.com/israeli-forces-wound-two-small-palestinian-children/112190/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:48:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112190 Israeli security forces shoot two small Palestinian children with ‘less lethal’ bullets — one in the head, one in the thigh. The Israeli media barely notices.

A five year old. An armed, uniformed Israeli pointed a gun at him. And shot. A kid not even old enough for first grade. I haven’t seen any reports on this in English and the few I saw in Hebrew were scant and focused primarily on the incendiary, racist comments posted by Israelis on the photo of Abu Ali that went around Facebook. Things like, “too bad they didn’t take him out,” and, “if the soldier had pointed his gun a little more in the center, no more sluts like him would be brought into the world.”

Abed Al Rahman Abu Ali, 5, in hospital after being shot by Israeli forces

Abed Al Rahman Abu Ali, 5, in hospital after being shot by Israeli forces

But we don’t need a photo of an injured Palestinian child on social media to know that there are Israeli racists who love to make seditious comments about Palestinians on Facebook. The little media that did cover it didn’t even ask the most basic question: Why are Israeli forces shooting at five year olds? Who is the officer and who is the commander and will they be held accountable? And where is the outrage by politicians?

According to a Hebrew report in Haaretz, it was a sponge-tipped bullet shot by Israeli police officers, in contravention to the department’s own policy, which forbids shooting sponge-tipped bullets at senior citizens, pregnant women and children. In recent years, dozens of Palestinians have been seriously injured by sponge-tipped bullets, several losing eyes, fracturing faces and arms and one child, Mahmoud Sunukrut, was even killed.


Israeli authorities claim he was throwing stones. Indeed, it is very possible that he was. Issawiya is a neighborhood right at the foot of Mt. Scopus, where Hebrew University is located. It is the scene of constant military closures, demolitions, raids and harassment, and many times young Palestinian residents throw stones at Israeli forces. As an almost default, Israel blocks off two of the three main access roads to the village with barricades, making it extremely difficult to enter and exit the neighborhood.

Likewise, little attention was paid to the Israeli army shooting a three-year-old girl in the head with a rubber-coated bullet in the West Bank village of Qaddum last week. Haaretz Hebrew was the only Israeli media outlet to report on the Israeli army shooting a toddler.

It could be that because neither child was seriously injured the media didn’t think the two shootings deserved more attention. And it is clear that many Israelis, both in government and in the public, think throwing a stone merits being shot. Regardless, this story is a horrible reminder of just how far Israelis have come in their dehumanization and desensitization of Palestinians, that a five year old and a three year old being shot is a non story.

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The Syrian child who became a symbol in Beirut — and Germany http://972mag.com/the-syrian-child-who-became-a-symbol-in-beirut-and-germany/112188/ http://972mag.com/the-syrian-child-who-became-a-symbol-in-beirut-and-germany/112188/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:09:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112188 Twelve-year-old Fares al-Khodor sold roses in West Beirut for five years until he was killed in an airstrike during a visit to his hometown in Syria. Touched by the massive outpouring from people who knew him in Lebanon, artist Yazan Halwani brought his memory all the way to Germany.

By Avi Blecherman

A street portrait of Fares al-Khador by Lebanese photographer Hussein Baydoun.

A street portrait of Fares al-Khador by Lebanese photographer Hussein Baydoun.

Yazan Halwani, a Lebanese street artist known as “the Banksy of Beirut,” went all the way to Dortmund, Germany in order to paint a portrait of Fares, a refugee Syrian child who was killed recently in the ongoing war.

Fares al-Khodor, 12, charmed business owners and passersby with a special smile and and captivating personality on Hamra Street in West Beirut, where he sold roses. He first came to Lebanon in the end of 2010 at age seven with his family and quickly became a fixture on Beirut’s streets, lugging around his makeshift vase of roses.


Fares was killed in a coalition airstrike that missed its target and hit his family home in the northern Syrian city of Hasakah in July. He and his family visited their hometown every summer.

“I did not know him as well as others,” Halwani wrote on his Facebook wall, “[but] I remember him and his distinctive smile from the few times I bought flowers from him.”

“I decided to paint him on a building in Dortmund (Germany) during the Huna/K Festival, so that he can keep on spreading his positive vibe, and charming pedestrians to buy flowers from him,” Halwani continued. “I think I also wanted to say that people who flee their houses in Syria have a good reason to do so. Fares was not an add-on to Beirut, he was an integral part of it; during his stay in Syria he was not safe. I regret not painting him during his life.”

Yazan Halwani’s mural of Fares al-Khodor in Dortmund, Germany, September 28, 2015. (Yazan Halwani)

Yazan Halwani’s mural of Fares al-Khodor in Dortmund, Germany, September 28, 2015. (Yazan Halwani)

Halwani, 22, was invited to Dortmund by the organizers of the Huna/K Festival of art and Arab culture, which began last week and will continue until October 4. He enlisted the help of the Anne Frank School in the city, whose students enthusiastically pitched in. The students were split into three groups: one that worked on the drawing on the wall with Halwani, another that dealt with the Arabic calligraphy that was also drawn on the wall, and a third that documented the entire project.

Explaining why he created the mural in Germany and not Beirut, Halwani wrote, “I wanted to do a mural worthy of the little man, and the wall that was offered to me in Germany was the size that he deserved.”

Halwani also said he hopes the mural of Fares will have a wider political and social impact amid the refugee crisis that after years of affecting Lebanon, is now reaching Europe. Politicians and regular citizens often portray refugees as “alien organisms,” Halwani wrote. “I think by painting Fares, telling his story, showing how he was part of the identity of Beirut, and highlighting the sad ending to a beautiful person, might change the perspective that people around the world have of a refugee to a more positive direction.”

The portrait of Fares holding a bucket of roses, with his delicate smile and sharp appearance and gelled-back hair, is based on a photo by Beirut photographer Hussein Baydoun.

“Fares was a wonderful child,” says Baydoun, who would run into Fares on a daily basis outside his Beirut studio. “He always smiled at people. For anybody who ran into him on Hamra Street, and certainly anybody who worked there or passed by there, he was a part of the scenery, and they fell in love with him. His dream was to be a lawyer, so that he could made sure no children ever had to live on the streets. ‘I want to protect them,’ he would always say. His family immigrated to Beirut a little before the war broke out but they maintained close ties to home. They would spend the summer months there each year, although that became more difficult and dangerous as the war got worse.”

Yazan Halwani working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani, joined by local students, working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani, joined by local students, working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Some responses to Fares’s death that I found on the Internet, and which demonstrate what a special child he was:

“Fares was not just another child flower seller. He was a shining boy who worked hard and made everyone around him smile and feel good. He knew how to become a better person out of his own pain and hardships,” one read.

Another tells how “he was the best flower seller I’ve ever met. The rest of the children wanted to be him. I noticed that everyone started using gel, to try and dress sharply like him, in order to succeed like him. He invented something. Before him it was always the opposite: in order to make money you had to look neglected and dirty. Collect a little charity. Fares would never accept money from somebody who didn’t buy a flower.”

One Beirut resident who spent a lot of time on the street where Fares sold his flowers, and who befriended him, told a Lebanese newspaper that one night Fares insisted on taking him out for dinner at a restaurant. “It should have been the other way around,” he said, “but he wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Many people called him “the mascot of Hamra Street,” and showered him with praise. Fares once told a newspaper that did a profile on him that “Hamra Street is my family.” The news of Fares’s death in the Syrian war spread through the neighborhood quickly and the mourning was widespread. That mourning descended on Hamra Street and spread through West Beirut. The local media covered the tragic story, and social media quickly filled with messages from heartbroken people whose lives had been touched by Fares, wandering Hamra Street selling roses out of a small bucket to support his family.

Many cafe and store owners and regulars on Hamra Street — Fares’s family — held a memorial service and lit candles and left roses next to a copy of The Little Prince that somebody left on the street.

Fares al-Khodor is one of tens of thousands of Syrian children who have been killed in the ongoing Syrian civil war. It is estimated that over 200,000 people have been killed thus far in Syria.

Avi Blecherman is an activist and journalist. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here. Follow him on Twitter: @yomgashum

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