+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 30 Apr 2016 12:10:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 For most Israelis, Palestinian lives don’t matter http://972mag.com/for-most-israelis-palestinian-lives-simply-dont-matter/118945/ http://972mag.com/for-most-israelis-palestinian-lives-simply-dont-matter/118945/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 11:31:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118945 A 24-year-old Palestinian and her teenage brother were shot and killed by Israeli troops after allegedly trying to stab Border Police officers. The police’s version of the events doesn’t add up, but nobody in Israel, including the media, feels the need to ask questions. 

Qalandia checkpoint, where X and her 16-year-old brother Y were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

Qalandia checkpoint, where Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Salah Taha were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

The facts are still unclear, in fact very unclear: the exact number of knives found, the number of bullets shot, the number of meters distance, why exactly they were there. But even if we accept Israel Police’s highly terse account of the events, we are still left with a bottom line: Two Palestinians, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, 24, and her younger brother Ibrahim Salah Taha, 16, were shot and killed on the spot by Israeli forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Wednesday, while posing no immediate threat to anyone. Even if we accept the police version that the woman attempted to stab them, there is still no justification for shooting the teenager, who the police themselves claim was not brandishing a weapon or close enough to present a threat.

We also know that Israeli mainstream media barely covered the story, didn’t send any reporters to gather eyewitness testimonies and didn’t speak to any Palestinians. A Haaretz report mentions that Palestinians claim that “Israeli forces fired numerous bullets at the two and prevented medics from treating them.” Of course, whether and when medics were able to treat the victims shouldn’t be a matter of Palestinian claims. There are plenty of cameras at what is the busiest checkpoint in the West Bank, there is video footage, probably from several angles. The footage should clarify this, and other aspects that are not a matter of opinion. But Israel Police has not yet released any footage. According to a report in Local Call, police have in the past been quick to release video footage – when it corroborates their version of the events.

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According to Israel Police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, two suspects – a woman and a youth – approached the vehicular path (instead of the pedestrian path) leading through the military checkpoint and walked towards Border Police officers stationed there, the woman with her hand in her bag and the youth with his hands behind his back. Officers ordered them to halt several times and they began to turn back before the woman threw a knife at an officer. Police and security guards then shot the two, killing them both. The police didn’t specify this but most reports cite that the siblings were 20 meters away from the forces, and they were positioned inside a cement sentry box.

These events didn’t even make it into the evening news in Israel Wednesday night. Except for Joint List MK Dov Khenin, no Israeli politician has expressed dismay or called on the police to release the footage or open an investigation. There hasn’t been any questioning of what the hell happened there. Rather, there has been deafening silence. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen.

There have been numerous similar incidents over the last half a year where Israel has justified the shooting of Palestinian assailants or alleged assailants and Palestinians have insisted it was murder in cold blood.

But this incident, whose factual information still needs to be exposed and reported, strikes me as unique due particularly to the way it was (not) covered in Israeli media and the fact that it was such a brief story that just disappeared.

It’s no surprise that most Israelis generally take the authorities’ version of events at face value, but this time the version of the events isn’t even convincing. And yet no one feels the need to ask questions. No one cares that a 16-year-old kid was shot dead without cause. In the Israeli narrative, the facts don’t seem to make a difference anymore (maybe they never did).

As the incident of IDF soldier Elor Azaria executing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron demonstrated, even when there is clear documentation of a crime – in that case an execution in broad daylight – there is still a groundswell of Israeli support for the army and state authorities that finds a way around the facts. As Orly Noy pointed out at the time

The number of people who are willing to justify the murder without batting an eyelash is stunning. Our collective moral compass has become so fundamentally twisted that even the most decent of people, those who are not considered extremists, believe that there is nothing wrong with shooting a man as he lies dying on the ground, while finding any way to excuse the act — including claiming that the Palestinian may have been armed with a suicide belt.

In that case, the facts were played around with a little to justify the soldier’s actions, but in the case in Qalandiya on Wednesday, there doesn’t even seem to be a bending of the facts. There is no need to try and justify anything. It doesn’t even matter anymore what exactly happened. In the permanent situation of occupier and occupied, oppressor and resistant, it’s just par for the course.

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Hebron shooter called to ‘kill everyone in Gaza’ http://972mag.com/hebron-shooter-called-to-kill-everyone-in-gaza/118869/ http://972mag.com/hebron-shooter-called-to-kill-everyone-in-gaza/118869/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:56:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118869 Palestinian citizens are being incarcerated left and right for Facebook statuses. But IDF soldier Elor Azaria, indicted for manslaughter, wasn’t even taken in for questioning over tweets calling for massacres of Palestinians. On the double standards in Israeli law. 

By John Brown*

A destroyed quarter in Shujaiyeh neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A destroyed quarter in Shujaiyeh neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

On the Facebook page belonging to the IDF soldier who shot and killed the wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron, one can find calls to massacre everyone living in Gaza, and support for Jewish terrorist Meir Kahane. His father also expressed support for Kahane and for the call to “kill everyone.” His mother suggested killing women and children, first among them, Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi.

Elor Azaria Tweet: Bibi, you fairy, no ceasefire, hit them hard! Charlie Azaria: Way to go, they need to be hit hard. Elor Azaria: Yes kill them all.

Elor Azaria: Bibi, you fairy, no ceasefire, hit them hard!
Charlie Azaria: Way to go, they need to be hit hard.
Elor Azaria: Yes kill them all.

 

Elor Azaria Tweet: May their memory be blessed. Kahane was right! Charlie Azaria: The righteous Kahane was right, may a new generation continue his path

Elor Azaria: May their memory be blessed. Kahane was right!
Charlie Azaria: The righteous Kahane was right, may a new generation continue his path

 

Oshra Azaria: Death to all those who hurt Jews. No more being humane. If needed, women and children should also be killed – first among them [Haneen] Zoabi.

Oshra Azaria: Death to all those who hurt Jews. No more being humane. If needed, women and children should also be killed – first among them [Haneen] Zoabi.

 

If a Palestinian wrote something similar, he or she would probably have been caught by the security services’ monitoring systems. For example, Suheib Zahda, 32, was arrested for a Facebook status expressing support for a boycott of Israel and called on Arabs not to enlist in the IDF. In October 2014, Sami Da’is uploaded to his Facebook page the logo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a party democratically elected in Palestine, and added the words, “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” He got six likes and an indictment from the State of Israel.

Photograph Amir Abed Rabbo was interrogated after calling Nir Barkat “Mayor of the occupation” on Facebook. Mohammed Asila, who identifies as a Palestinian comedian, wrote: “I opened a tourism company for cars that run people over, every day I get a driver or two who go out to commit ramming attacks and come back.” And then later on: “Stay away from Al Aqsa and leave us alone, we’ll stop ramming…into the concrete blockades you positioned as a solution: We’ll switch from cars to motorcycles.” The honorable Justice Rivka Friedman-Feldman read the translation of his words, and agreed with the State that he posed a danger so severe that he could not remain under house arrest but must be jailed until the end of proceedings.

This month poet Dareen Tatour’s trial began. She was charged with incitement to violence for her poem “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum,” “Resist my people, resist them.” The state prosecutor claims she incited to violence and terror and expressed support for a terror organization. Tatour spent over three months in jail and is now under tight house arrest.

But Israeli law is not applied equally to Arabs and Jews. The cases mentioned here are a small portion of the indictments that are piling up against Arabs for incitement on Facebook. Not only was Elor Azaria not interrogated for his incendiary status, but a month later, he was drafted into the army and stationed in the heart of a Palestinian population he is supposed to protect. His mother was not arrested for incitement to kill a Knesset member in Israel, and his father was not only not arrested, but even had the privilege of getting a phone call from the prime minister.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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The road to ending occupation is incremental http://972mag.com/the-road-to-ending-occupation-is-incremental/118901/ http://972mag.com/the-road-to-ending-occupation-is-incremental/118901/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:46:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118901 Israel leftists should not sit around and wait for the international community to save Israel from itself. There are no quick fixes. The way to bring about a better future for Israelis and Palestinians is to gradually reduce the ails of occupation.

By Yariv Mohar

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

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

It seems like more and more of my leftist friends feel that the solution to the occupation won’t come from inside Israel, which is increasingly radicalizing, but as a result of something external, some kind of international pressure — a deus ex machina, a tremendous foreign power, a UN resolution, the boycott, isolation or a combination of them all. They hope that the good and merciful world will compel the Jewish State to end its discriminatory military regime in the West Bank and the mechanisms of control over the Gaza Strip.

Encouraging international pressure to end the oppressive regime is legitimate (even if I personally oppose some of its forms, such as a sweeping boycott of Israel). The problem is that the notion of external salvation takes the appeal of international pressure as one tool in the struggle to end occupation, and turns it into the only remaining hope. According to those who subscribe to the external salvation approach, support among Israelis for the peace process is diminishing, and you can no longer even bring up the issue of Palestine.

As such, the most one can do is yell out some furious prophecies that are technically geared towards Israelis but don’t actually make any effort to engage them. Part of the argument is that Israel’s legal and administrative institutions – including the Supreme Court – only serve the occupation so hopes cannot be pinned on them. Indeed, there is a lot of truth to that.

Those who advocate external salvation often express concerns and reservations about struggles and processes whose objective is to gradually reduce the levels of Israeli oppression in the territories – the traditional role of human rights organizations. If the objective is external pressure then any gradual steps of improvement undermine the central goal. This approach makes the absolute end to the occupation regime not only the shared, desired goal for all of us, but also the only relevant call to action. It confuses the end goal with other worthy objectives along the way.

Enlightened occupation

A Palestinian woman carries balloons during a peace march along the West Bank’s major north-south artery, Highway 60. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman carries balloons during a peace march along the West Bank’s major north-south artery, Highway 60. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I believe that the incremental struggle to end oppression of Palestinians is the most effective model, and it should be expanded from a struggle against specific grievances to a struggle against Israel’s overarching policies in the West Bank – for example, discrimination in planning and development. This is the first step in shifting the dynamic between the two peoples. I contest the external salvation approach, which expects a “quick fix” to the occupation here and now, because of the importance I see in incremental steps.

I understand the concerns of those who believe only in external salvation, primarily that just improving the situation of Palestinians under Israeli military control could create the illusion of “an enlightened occupation.” But to anyone who champions democracy, the denial of basic human and civil rights is immoral, no matter how “nice” it may be.

Such a situation could also improve Israel’s negative image in the international community, minimizing the gravity of its control in the territories. It could slow or halt international pressure on Israel. Another claim is that in Israel, the temporary is permanent, so what appears to be a gradual process for improvement will just remain a Bennett-style permanent status of occupation-lite, throwing the Palestinians a few bones while maintaining systemic control. This is also a strong argument.

However, there are a few problems with this anti-incremental approach. First, relying on the hope of international pressure makes us passive. In the reality that exists outside the messaging of incendiary right-wing groups like Im Tirtzu, the Israeli left has zero influence on the most powerful institutions in the world. We tend to sit around hoping to have minimal impact; if it works, great and if not, there isn’t much we can do about it. But that’s not how a political camp conducts itself; that is more like how a religious, messianic one conducts itself.

Second, international pressure is not necessarily imminent. The international community is fickle and unclear, and the rising influence of China and India means we can’t really know if or when substantial pressure might have an impact. The threat of global jihad also works in Israel’s favor in the West, while it works against the Palestinians.

Furthermore, the approach that opposes “improving” the reality of occupation is saturated with the notion that “it must get worse so it can get better.” That is gambling with all our lives – especially Palestinian lives, as they would suffer much more.

Lowering the level of violence

Lastly, it’s true that it’s easier to oppose a military regime whose violence is visibly blatant. But this also has a flipside: the attempt to challenge Israel to at least start honoring Palestinians’ basic rights here and now could expose how much its control isn’t actually about security that stems from concerns that “Hamastan” will be established in the West Bank.

If Israel miraculously decides to end violating Palestinian rights, even within the current framework, this would actually make it harder to maintain the occupation. Improving human rights in the territories — not just with isolated economic benefits, but a fundamental change in approach that includes upholding Palestinian rights to land, property and development – could put the brakes on settler takeovers of Palestinian land. It could put a stop to the transformation of the West Bank into a breeding ground for Jewish-Israeli development at the expense of Palestinians and their rights.

Improving Palestinians’ rights might also improve relations between Israelis and Palestinians and thus lower the level of violence. The spreading of racist, right-wing views in Israel has a direct correlation with waves of Palestinian violence. Improving Palestinian rights creates an opening for lowering the level of hatred and violence, which makes room for reconciliation and the ability to imagine a different future.

International pressure is still a device we can pull out of our toolbox. If the incremental approach can foster less violent, saner relations between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government will have a harder time rationalizing the continued control over the Palestinian population. Presently, the security card is still strong and convincing in Brussels, London and Paris, who are all too familiar with terror – not just at AIPAC conferences in Washington.

When the road to a peace agreement is blocked and the option of international pressure is shrouded in fog and beyond our control, the incremental approach is an option that encourages the Israeli left to be proactive.

Yariv Mohar works as a spokesperson for human rights organizations. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here

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‘Partly free’? The real state of Israeli press freedom is much worse http://972mag.com/partly-free-the-real-state-of-israeli-press-freedom-is-much-worse/118928/ http://972mag.com/partly-free-the-real-state-of-israeli-press-freedom-is-much-worse/118928/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:25:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118928 Freedom House has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from ‘free’ to ‘partly free,’ citing closer ties to the government and a spike in paid media content. But it has one flagrant omission: Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinian journalists.

By Lisa Goldman

Israeli troops detain a Palestinian journalist at a protest against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank, December 10, 2014. The journalist was later released. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli troops detain a Palestinian journalist at a protest against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank, December 10, 2014. The journalist was later released. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Freedom House, the U.S.-based watchdog NGO that reports on the state of civil liberties around the world, has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from “free” to “partly free” in its 2016 Freedom of the Press Report. The authors of the report cite the influence of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is owned and subsidized at a huge loss by American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is an unabashed patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Hayom pursues an editorial agenda that is overtly partisan toward Netanyahu, which is why it is often referred to as the “Bibiton,” a portmanteau of the Hebrew word for “newspaper” and the Israeli leader’s nickname, Bibi. The report also cites the “unchecked expansion” of paid media content, which is not always clearly identified. It notes that this paid content is sometimes funded by the government.

This is not the first time Israel’s ranking has been downgraded. In its 2013 report Freedom House based a downgrade on several factors, most prominently on the indictment of Uri Blau, an investigative reporter for Haaretz, for possession of state secrets in the IDF whistleblower Anat Kamm case. Nor is this the first time Freedom House has noted the  influence of Israel Hayom on Israel’s press freedom: The free daily was cited in the 2013 report as well, for having “threatened the sustainability of other papers and contributed to the collapse and buyout of the daily Maariv.”
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In 2014 Israel’s media was back up to “free” status, along with the perennial note that it has the freest media in the region, where not one country’s media is ranked “free.”

The free/partly free ranking is a matter of just a few points in their methodology, pointed out Freedom House’s Sarah Repucci, who heads up the publication of the annual Freedom of the Press Report. She added, “We use detailed methodology. Israel shifted only two points this year.”

There was some outrage in right-wing circles over the downgrade, with Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin quoting a couple of DC-based neo-cons to support her claim that the report was an example of anti-Israel bias.

Leaving aside the all-but inevitable expressions of outrage from the Israel advocacy crowd over any criticism of Israeli policy or society, a more detached observer might note that there is no mention in the Freedom House report of Palestinian journalists. On the one hand this makes sense, since Palestinian residents of the occupied territories are not citizens of Israel. But on the other hand, Palestinian journalists work in territory that is controlled by Israel. And they do not have any of the legal protections afforded to their Israeli colleagues working in the same territory.

In tangible terms, this means that Palestinian journalists going about their jobs reporting in the field are regularly subjected to verbal harassment, physical assault and arrest without charge at the hands of Israeli soldiers. In these cases, they can technically file a complaint — but there has never been a case of an Israeli soldier seriously censured for assaulting a Palestinian journalist.

Nor has there been any serious diplomatic blowback for Israel having arrested and detained without charge Palestinian journalists for months on end. Mohammed al-Qiq is a particularly egregious recent example. The 33-year-old Ramallah-based journalist recently ended a 94-day hunger strike to protest his having been arrested and detained indefinitely without charge under the laws of administrative detention. Also, the Palestinian Authority recently stated that there are currently 19 Palestinian journalists in Israeli custody.

A more quotidian incident of assault and/or harassment of Palestinian journalists at the hands of the Israeli military includes an October 2015 incident, recorded on video, that shows an officer in the Border Police casually walking over to a group of cameramen recording a West Bank demonstration and spraying them directly in the face with pepper spray. A medic who tried to treat the pepper spray victims was also assaulted and so overcome that he himself had to be hospitalized.

A member of Israel's Border Police assaults journalists and medics assembled near Al Bireh, West Bank (credit: Fadi Arouri)

A member of Israel’s Border Police assaults journalists and medics assembled near Al Bireh, West Bank (credit: Fadi Arouri)

Incidents of these type occur quite regularly. In September 2015, soldiers assaulted two AFP reporters, including one Palestinian, who were covering a demonstration in a West Bank village. There are many videos on YouTube that show Israeli soldiers harassing Palestinian journalists for various media outlets, including female journalists, as they do live standups. In these cases there is absolutely nothing the victimized journalist can do. Complaining to the soldiers will almost certainly result in physical violence or arrest, with the soldiers accusing the Palestinian of instigating the assault. And if these cases do go to court they are tried in Israeli military court, where Palestinians are convicted at a rate of over 99 percent.

Israeli soldiers also frequently raid and shut down Palestinian media outlets, including the 2012 shut down of a Palestinian-Israeli initiative called Voice of Peace. And there have been many more recent incidents. In November 2015,  security forces raided and shut down a Ramallah radio station called Al Hurria. And in March 2016 another Ramallah-based radio station, Palestine Today, was raided and shut down on orders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service. Ramallah is, of course, in Area A — which is, according to the now all-but-fictional Oslo Accords, under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority.

Looking at these incidents in the aggregate, one could argue that Freedom House actually pulled its punches in its report about the Israeli media. Because while it is true that journalists who are citizens of Israel do have legal protections when they’re dealing with soldiers in the field, Palestinian journalists do not. They are without rights or legal recourse. And while they are not citizens, they are indisputably under Israeli control.

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The single worst way the EU could combat anti-Semitism http://972mag.com/the-single-worst-way-the-eu-could-combat-anti-semitism/118924/ http://972mag.com/the-single-worst-way-the-eu-could-combat-anti-semitism/118924/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:47:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118924 The newly appointed European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism spoke at a Jerusalem conference that was a thinly veiled platform for bashing pro-Palestinian activists. Above all, it sent an alarming message about how she perceives her own role. 

By Ben White

A senior European official spoke last week at an Israeli government-hosted conference in Jerusalem where human rights defenders were denigrated and smeared as anti-Semitic.

The International Conference on Online Anti-Semitism was organized by the pro-Israel group Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism (ISCA). The group’s director, Ido Daniel, is a veteran hasbara activist who believes in “exact[ing] an economic and personal cost” from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists.

The conference participants included Katharina von Schnurbein, appearing in her official capacity as European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism, a role created last December.

The second panel of the day was on the topic of “How the left was lost: Durban, online left-wing anti-Zionism, the BDS movement and the perversion of human rights.” Speakers on the panel, moderated by an official from the UK’s Community Security Trust, included Gerald Steinberg of Israel advocacy group NGO Monitor and London-based anti-BDS campaigner David Hirsh.

NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg speaking at the ISCA conference. (ISCA Facebook page)

NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg speaking at the ISCA conference. (ISCA Facebook page)

In a video of his talk, Steinberg can be seen denigrating and smearing a host of Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights defenders and NGOs. Those targeted included global anti-poverty charity Oxfam, Medical Aid for Palestinians, and Human Rights Watch, whose director Ken Roth was singled out for particular criticism.

The head of NGO Monitor also attacked Palestinian and Israeli groups such as Zochrot, Badil, and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Steinberg even lashed out at Jewish Voice for Peace, a group with more than 200,000 online members and 60 chapters across the U.S.

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NGO Monitor’s role in the intensifying intimidation of human rights activists in Palestine/Israel is well-documented, including on this website. As Noam Sheizaf wrote last year, one of the goals of the group is “to attack what they see as the last political platform for anti-occupation activity inside Israeli society.” Steinberg himself has worked as a consultant to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

When I contacted von Schnurbein about the attacks on human rights defenders made during the conference, her office refused to comment, simply saying that she “does not comment on Israelis politics” [sic].

Not only did the EU’s anti-Semitism envoy decline to condemn the conference’s branding of human rights defenders as purveyors of “hate speech,” but in a copy of speaking points provided by her office, von Schnurbein appears to legitimize Steinberg’s claims, stating: “We also recognize that anti-Semitism often hides behind anti-Zionism.”

It is disturbing that a European official would speak at, and give credence to, an Israeli government-hosted attack on NGOs and BDS campaigners, especially at a time when – as recently highlighted by Amnesty International – Israeli authorities are escalating repressive measures and threats against civil society activists.

It is also bodes ill for how exactly von Schnurbein conceives of her role, at a time when the Israeli government and its allies in North America and Europe are seeking to close down the spaces for Palestine solidarity activism in the guise of fighting a redefined anti-Semitism.

Ben White is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. His articles have been published by Middle East Monitor, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Huffington Post, The Electronic Intifada, The Guardian’s Comment is Free, and others. He tweets at @benabyad.

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IN PICTURES: Life unraveled as Israel demolishes Palestinian home http://972mag.com/in-pictures-life-unravels-as-israel-demolishes-palestinian-home/118907/ http://972mag.com/in-pictures-life-unravels-as-israel-demolishes-palestinian-home/118907/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:18:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118907 Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, 17, stabbed an Israeli woman to death and was killed in the act. Last week, in retaliation, Israel demolished his home in the Qalandia refugee camp. The ruins are a silent testament to a once thriving life.

Text and photos by Tamar Fleishman

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The ruins of the Abu Gosh family home in Qalandia

A demolished home is a testament to a once thriving life.

Last week, a large IDF contingent entered the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank and demolished the home of Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was killed in January after stabbing a settler to death.

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The demolition of their third-floor apartment, on the night of April 20, went on for three hours, during which their downstairs and next-door neighbors listened with dread to the sounds of walls being shattered and household appliances smashed.

When the sun rose, it shone on the empty, dilapidated third floor that stood out like a severed limb of an otherwise functioning body.

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Nine people lived there: two adults, four girls and three boys. It wasn’t hard to guess, according to the colors of the walls, which rooms were the boys’ and which the girls’.

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The rooms were bereft of life, of content, of a homey ambiance.

The walls were decorated not with paintings, but with ugly black inscriptions, probably written by the troops as instructions to their comrades.

Between the broken pieces, between the nothingness and the lifelessness, through the shattered walls, one’s eyes are focused on a stove that stands in the middle of what used to be the kitchen.

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Like a character in the theater of the absurd, the stove stands in the middle of the scene, unscathed.

And life around the house goes on, because that’s what life does – go on. New laundry has been put out to dry in the floor below, and across the street people pass by, look up, and nod their heads in despair.

The front door through which one is invited into the scene barely hangs on its hinges. It was locked by a member of the family who shoved the key deep into its pocket, holding on to it like the only remnant of a life that once was. The key to the house, as generations of Palestinian refugees have learned, is sometimes the only remaining witness.

On the backdoor, two posters of martyrs are billed. One is of Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, and the other of Ahmad Abu al ‘Aish, who was killed by IDF fire six months ago, while protesting against a house demolition nearby.

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The house was demolished “in keeping with the government’s decisions,” the IDF said. But why?

Can these be seen as a just punishment at all? The criminal is no longer alive, so his family is being punished for something they didn’t do. Can anyone call this justice?

There’s no deterrence in it either, and this is something that both Israeli security experts and residents of the refugee camp say.

The only justification is the need for an image of enforcement. The IDF needs to show that it can and will do “justice” to those who engage in violence.

But its interlocutor isn’t the Palestinians; they are aware of the “justice” the IDF can and does. The IDF hopes that this message will not fall of deaf Israeli ears.

Tamar Flesichman is a photographer and anti-occupation activistThis article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Israel’s most racist soccer club isn’t shouting ‘death to Arabs’ http://972mag.com/israels-most-racist-soccer-club-isnt-shouting-death-to-arabs/118893/ http://972mag.com/israels-most-racist-soccer-club-isnt-shouting-death-to-arabs/118893/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 16:18:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118893 Compared to the overt, oft-condemned and penalized racism of Beitar Jerusalem, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s racism is more mainstream. That makes it more dangerous.

Tal Ben Haim of Maccabi Tel Aviv warming up before a game, September 16, 2015. (Joshjdss CC BY 2.0)

Tal Ben Haim of Maccabi Tel Aviv warming up before a game, September 16, 2015. (Joshjdss CC BY 2.0)

An ugly brawl erupted on the soccer pitch on Tuesday at the end of a league match between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Sakhnin, which is the most successful Palestinian club in Israel. It followed a bad-tempered encounter between the two sides last week for a cup semi-final, when Maccabi player Tal Ben Haim — a decent soccer player but a dreadful sportsperson — disregarded one of the unwritten sporting codes of the game.

While Sakhnin player Ali Ottman was lying on the ground injured, Ben Haim chose to keep playing rather than kicking the ball out of play so that Ottman could be treated, as is custom around the world. Passing the ball to a team-mate instead, Ben Haim went on to score an unsportsmanlike winning goal. The result stood.

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(As an illustration, when English team Arsenal scored a controversial winning goal in strikingly similar circumstances during a 1999 FA Cup game against underdogs Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger offered for the match to be replayed. The Football Association agreed.)

But anyone who thinks that the seeds of Tuesday’s scuffle were sown during last week’s match is mistaken. The tensions started much before that, and are a result of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s policies.

Aside from Beitar Jerusalem, which has never had an Arab player and is more readily associated with racism on Israel’s soccer scene, most of the biggest soccer clubs in the country — Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Beer Sheva and Hapoel Tel Aviv — all have four leading Arab players on their roster. At which club is not a single Arab to be found? Maccabi Tel Aviv. Surprising? No.

It’s worth comparing the two biggest and most supported teams in the land, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv. At Haifa, a club whose all-time record goalscorer is Zahi Armeli (yes, an Arab), there are usually at least two Arab players in the starting line-up, with Palestinians sometimes making up half the team that runs out onto the pitch.

Maccabi Tel Aviv, however, takes care to smuggle in the Palestinian players who are prepared to play for them. Maccabi fans have consistently cursed at Arab players on their team, from star acquisitions to graduates of the club’s youth academy. They apply pressure on the club’s management, who for their part are quick to relieve themselves of the unnecessary “burden” by trading the players in question. Since the club was taken over in 2009 by Mitch Goldhar, a rich Canadian Zionist, the number of Arab players has steadily dwindled.

The racist chanting in the stands; the fact that Maccabi’s “ultras” make sure to display excessive numbers of Israeli flags when playing Sakhnin; the hounding of their Arab players in recent years; and the management’s acceptance of the fans’ racist behavior: all this has generated a culture of racism at Maccabi Tel Aviv, which in turn has created an unhealthy political tension between it and Sakhnin.

The racism at the club is further enabled by the fact that Maccabi flies under the Israeli media’s radar, which instead prefers to focus on the antics of Beitar Jerusalem fans, particularly “La Familia,” and the complete absence of Arab players in the club’s entire history. But the decision of Maccabi Tel Aviv players to wrap themselves in the Israeli flag following Tuesday’s match shouts out the subtext that Arabs have no place here. In other words, those Maccabi players are no less racist than members of “La Familia.”

This mainstream racism, as depicted by Maccabi Tel Aviv, usually hides behind the more overt and vocal racism of Beitar and its fans. But it is the real and more dangerous racism. It’s exactly the same as Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog enjoying mainstream legitimacy when he speaks about his imaginary unrequited love for Arabs, compared to when the Baruch Marzels, the Benzi Gopsteins and the rest of the wacky right utter the same pearls.

That’s exactly how it is with Maccabi Tel Aviv when compared to Beitar Jerusalem. Under the cover of Ashkenazi owners, as opposed to Beitar’s Yemenite boss, Maccabi is in fact no less racist a club than Beitar. But Maccabi enjoys its privileged status in the media, which will continue to anoint Beitar alone as the most racist football club in the country.

Maccabi’s behavior and attitude make for the consummate analogy to Zionism. It is a club that is convinced the entire world is against it, and as a result chooses to show contempt for the rules and do anything and everything in order to win — including breaking ethical codes. Matches against Sakhnin draw out the true colors of this dangerous club, which are essentially blue and white. At Tuesday’s game, Maccabi’s players showed just how much these colors suit them.

And what do we wish for Goldhar, Ben Haim and the rest of Maccabi’s players? That Tuesday’s match against Sakhnin, which finished in a draw, will end up costing them the championship, and that they will lose the cup final to a Haifa team featuring Yossi Benayoun and Taleb Tawatha. Because in football, we fight racism on the field.

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

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Charged with conspiracy — for renting a rope to climb over the wall http://972mag.com/charged-with-conspiracy-for-renting-a-rope-to-climb-over-the-wall/118868/ http://972mag.com/charged-with-conspiracy-for-renting-a-rope-to-climb-over-the-wall/118868/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:56:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118868 Despite admitting that the young man was only looking for work, police decide to charge him with conspiracy to commit a crime — renting a rope and ladder.

A Palestinian man descends into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina after climbing over the wall from the West Bank village of a-Ram, July 3, 2015. (File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man descends into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina after climbing over the wall from the West Bank village of a-Ram, July 3, 2015. (File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli police prosecutors indicted a 26-year-old Palestinian man in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Wednesday morning for climbing over the separation wall in order to find work.

According to the indictment, last Friday Muntaner Ben-Mahmoud Barakat went to the West Bank village of a-Ram, which is separated from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina by the concrete separation wall. He paid somebody NIS 50 ($13) to use a ladder and rope to climb over the wall (which the indictment calls a “fence” for some reason), climbed over the wall, and made his way toward Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem to find work. Police arrested him before he got too far.

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The two charges on the indictment are “illegally entering Israel” and “conspiracy to commit a crime,” which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. The conspiracy? Renting a rope to climb a wall to find work.

It is worth noting that the indictment was filed by a prosecution unit belonging to the police and not the State Attorney’s Office. In the past, police have been known to file overly ambitious and severe indictments in cases where the state prosecution would not, and have even been ordered by the attorney general to drop certain prosecutions, most notably in the case of Daphni Leef and other social justice protesters.

Professional and government committees have been recommending for decades that the police stop acting as a prosecutorial body. However, despite a government decision 15 years ago to absorb the police prosecution unit into the State Attorney’s Office, police continue to file the vast majority (87 percent) of indictments in Israel.

“The fact that the police prosecution is subordinate to the police makes it difficult for the prosecution to fulfill the very purpose for which it exists: to represent the public interest objectively or quasi-judicially,” the Israel Democracy Institute wrote in a 2014 position paper. “[B]ecause the police prosecution is subordinate to the Israel Police, which is a hierarchical security body, the prosecution has an overly zealous tendency to achieve convictions and, thus, to ignore the mistakes and possible biases of the investigating body, namely the police.”

Palestinians use a ladder to climb over the Israeli separation wall in A-Ram, north of Jerusalem, on their way to Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old city of Jerusalem to attend the second Friday prayer in the fasting month of Ramadan, 19 July 2013. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians use a ladder to climb over the Israeli separation wall in A-Ram, north of Jerusalem, 19 July 2013. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Beyond the overly ambitious charge sheet against Barakat, who even the state admits was just looking for work, it seems that the price of rope has skyrocketed in East Jerusalem.

Less than a year ago photographer and journalist Oren Ziv reported on Palestinian youths who climb over the wall in East Jerusalem for our Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. In July of 2015, he found, it only cost NIS 20 ($5) to rent the requisite equipment.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers illegally cross into Israel searching for work every day through holes in the fence, by climbing the wall, or simply crossing in areas where Israel has built no barrier separating its sovereign territory from the West Bank, which it rules under a military occupation.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man contributed to this report. A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The making of a hasbara superstar, Israel’s new ambassador to the UK http://972mag.com/the-making-of-a-hasbara-superstar-israels-new-ambassador-to-the-uk/118860/ http://972mag.com/the-making-of-a-hasbara-superstar-israels-new-ambassador-to-the-uk/118860/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:31:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118860 For the past decade Mark Regev has become Israel’s preeminent government mouthpiece. Now, as the world prepares to mark 50 years of occupation, Netanyahu appoints a hasbara heavyweight to represent him in the UK.

By Yoni Mendel

I’m not sure Mark Regev is a name Israelis are too familiar with. But around the world he seems to be one of the people most closely identified with this country, and certainly with its recent governments. A Google News search for “Mark Regev” produces only 180 results in Hebrew, but roughly 12,000 in English. Pretty bizarre for a man who worked so closely with Israeli governments over the last decade, yet not too surprising considering the focus of his work.

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Regev began serving as a foreign media adviser to the prime minister in 2007 under Ehud Olmert. A year later he was already appearing all over international television. It was during Operation Cast Lead, which ended with 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed, that Regev gave interview after interview to all the international media outlets, managing to rationalize the horrible death toll while emphasizing that Israel did not use excessive force.

Regev was in effect Israel’s chief “hasbarist,” its executive spokesman to the world. When it came to anything regarding hasbara, propaganda, spin, conveying messages and everything in between – it seemed there was no one else better for the job, certainly not in English. In his countless interviews to the international media, Regev always kept his cool and did – at least as far as he was concerned – a credible job.

Time after time in the last decade – during which Israel provided plenty of fodder for criticism (i.e. the siege on Gaza, the offensives against it, and excessive use of force; the Mavi Marmara incident; shooting Palestinians in the occupied territories; home demolitions, continued settlement building, encouraging Jews to pray on the Temple Mount and changing the status quo there, and on and on) – through all this, Regev has gone in front of the cameras and calmly relayed his message. I’m not sure Regev succeeded at convincing the foreign journalists who interviewed him, but he said what Israelis wanted to hear, and he consistently managed to turn criticism of Israel around on the Palestinians.

I’m not sure if Regev should be seen as the designer of Israel’s hasbara line of last decade — Israel always just “responds” to Palestinian violence, it is a victim of course, the Palestinians don’t want peace, there is no siege on Gaza and the only kind of “occupation” happening is the employment of Palestinian laborers — or just its most talented mouthpiece. Regev excelled, and he did so in English.

I wouldn’t have needed such a long intro if Regev hadn’t just begun serving in what is probably the second-most important Israeli diplomatic posting — as ambassador to the UK. He was appointed after faithfully serving Netanyahu, a politician who also knows a thing or two about propaganda in general, and in English in particular. Netanyahu was apparently the first to identify that someone who was so good at hasbara work would also excel at deceiving hundreds and thousands of journalists around the world – and no one is more fitting for the role.

 

It would seem that Regev’s appointment is a response to increasing criticism in the UK of Israel’s occupation, criticism that Netanyahu knows will only grow next year — when all the countries in the world except for Israel will mark 50 years of military occupation in the West Bank. It is because of the challenging task awaiting all Israeli representatives abroad in 2017 that Regev skipped a few classes and was promoted from media adviser to ambassador.

As far as Netanyahu is concerned it is a genius move. Mr. Hasbara is now in the most important and possibly the most difficult diplomatic posting when it comes to criticism of Israel. On the other hand, the fact that Israel is working on the story it tells itself, honing its messaging, won’t change a thing about the facts on the ground. In short, words cannot change Israeli actions.

It seems like Israel’s foreign service has become a sophisticated hasbara machine that operates according to the prime minister’s whims and phobias. Take four recent important international postings: Washington, New York, Rome and London. In New York, former settler leader Dani Dayan was appointed consul general after Brazil refused to accept him as ambassador due to its opposition to Israel’s continued control of territories it never annexed, and the occupation. Not far from Israel’s consulate in New York, Danny Danon is representing Israel in the United Nations – he previously served as a minister and was fired as deputy defense minister for criticizing Netanyahu because the latter did not strike Gaza even harder.

In the U.S. capital, Netanyahu’s good friend and former senior adviser Ron Dermer is serving as ambassador to the U.S. despite American opposition. Meanwhile, the Italians are still trying to cope with the crisis over Israel’s decision to send an ambassador to Rome who less than a decade again was a member of parliament in Berlusconi’s party.

The March of Folly did not begin here. Israel is trying to find cures for its problems by concealing its disasters — it is doing everything except actually coping with and solving the political issues at hand.

For example, when criticism grew in Norway over, among other things, discrimination against Arabs in Israel, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was quick to pull a rabbit out of his hat: he sent a Druze ambassador there. Or when the UN grew increasingly critical of the siege on Gaza, Israel responded with cartoons of bombs and recordings of sirens and even 40 seconds of scolding silence. And now, the same in London. Netanyahu was quick to pull out Mark Regev, the superstar of Israeli hasbara.

But the sleazy talk, eye rolling and deflecting blame will not help Israel; it will only further entrench the illusion the government is trying to sell us. The well-oiled hasbara machine, the tricks and shticks, only achieve one thing: they distance Israel from being able to cope with reality, and increase the gap between real life and the imagined one that public officials sell us.

Yoni Mendel is the projects manager of the Mediterranean Unit at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and co-editor of the book review section of the Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS). This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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WATCH: Ethiopian-Israeli mothers join protests against police brutality http://972mag.com/watch-ethiopian-israeli-mothers-join-protests-against-police-brutality/118856/ http://972mag.com/watch-ethiopian-israeli-mothers-join-protests-against-police-brutality/118856/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 09:27:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118856 Israelis of Ethiopian descent have taken to the streets several times over the past year to demand an end to police discrimination and brutality against their community. Now, a group of mothers is leading a new movement against the violence and discrimination police use against their sons.

Read more:
A long time coming: Why Ethiopian-Israelis are protesting
Ethiopian-Israelis’ protest against police violence is met with police violence

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