+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 01 Sep 2014 01:25:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 How freedom of speech was crushed during Protective Edge http://972mag.com/how-freedom-of-speech-was-crushed-during-protective-edge/96179/ http://972mag.com/how-freedom-of-speech-was-crushed-during-protective-edge/96179/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:19:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96179 One of the side effects of Operation Protective Edge has been a dramatic narrowing of the political conversation in Israel. The author aggregates all the major incidents during the Gaza War in which freedom of speech in Israel was curtailed, often violently.

By Orli Santo

An entire spectrum of formerly acceptable left-leaning opinions and sentiments – from defending Palestinians’ human rights to merely empathizing with their suffering – has become taboo. In the past two months people who publicly expressed such opinions were beaten on the streets, derogated in the media, threatened, boycotted, and fired from their jobs. Lawmakers who sided with the Palestinian cause were removed from the podium or suspended from the plenum, while the laws defending their democratic right to do so are now being redrawn to prevent and punish such actions in the future.

Below is a list of the significant violations ­– committed by populist movements, by employees, by government entities and by the Israeli parliament itself – against left-leaning individuals’ and organizations’ freedom of speech. Grouping theses incidents shows the alarming scope of this phenomenon. While it is impossible to gauge the lasting effects it will have on Israel’s integrity as a democracy, it’s safe to presume that it will be felt in the future.

Anti-war protesters

Violence in Tel Aviv

On July 12, four days into Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, Israeli anti-war demonstrators in Tel Aviv were beaten by violent nationalist counter-demonstrators.

+972 reported that a large peace rally in Tel Aviv was countered by a smaller pro-war protest, shouting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to Leftists.” Police forces initially separated the two groups, but a missile siren caused most policemen to desert the scene, leaving the pacifists to fend for themselves.

“One man had a chair broken over his head and was evacuated to the hospital, along with a man who was punched in the head and another punched in the eye. One had his video camera taken. Dozens were beaten, shoved to the ground or pelted with eggs. Some testified that they were sprayed with tear gas,” wrote +972’s Haggai Matar, who narrowly escaped the attack himself.

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Violence in Haifa

On July 17, anti-war protestors in the ethnically mixed city of Haifa were beaten by nationalist counter-demonstrators who burned a Palestinian flag and shouted “Death to Arabs.”

Among the dozens of leftists injured that day were the Arab deputy mayor of Haifa, Dr. Suhail Assad, and his son, who was reportedly attacked for looking like an Arab. While trying to shield his son, the deputy mayor was struck on his head, and fell to the ground. They were saved by the intervention of two Israeli women, and taken to the hospital for medical attention. “Luckily he [the son] didn’t fall down; otherwise they would have finished him off,” Assad told Haaretz.

The following day in Haifa violent clashes erupted between hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the police; thirty protestors were arrested. MK Haneen Zoabi of the Balad party was briefly handcuffed. According to the police, she attacked an officer.

At the same time, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem clashed with the police, causing further violent escalation.

In the wake of these events, Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich told Army Radio that he intended to seek legal measures to prohibit any further protests against the war. “There is no left and right here – we need to unite as a country and support the IDF soldiers who are fighting,” he declared.

Violence in Tel Aviv, again

A particularly large Israeli anti-war protest took place in Tel Aviv on the evening of July 26, where 4,000-5,000 left-leaning demonstrators gathered in Kikar Rabin and were met by several hundred right-wing demonstrators. Police forces kept the two groups apart for the duration of the event. Afterwards, though, while leaving the square, several demonstrators were chased down and attacked. Right-wingers used metal batons, rods and pepper spray to attack anti-war demonstrators. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by the police.

“I don’t blame the police alone,” one of injured protestors, who was hit on the head with a metal rod, told Sicha Mekomit. “The political system here takes it in stride that there are thousands of people in the streets, shouting ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘Death to the Leftists’… Things that were not legitimate in the past have now become legitimate.”

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left-wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads calling for an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left-wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads calling for an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Public figures

Threatened for showing empathy

On July 9, day 2 of Operation Protective Edge, Gila Almagor, one of Israel’s most widely revered movie and theater actresses, received a death threat.

Almagor was profiled earlier that week in a Yedioth Ahronoth article disastrously titled ”I am Ashamed to be an Israeli.”

“I never said that I was ashamed to be an Israeli,” she later told Israeli Channel 2 news, explaining that the paper misquoted her comment regarding the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “But once the article was published, an ambush started on my phone,” she explained. The following day Habima theater received a message warning that if Almagor performed that night, she would be murdered as she came off stage. She stayed at home.

That same week, in an interview with Israeli Channel 10, comedian-actress Orna Banai said she felt bad about the already-high death toll of the war. “Bibi should hold it,” she said. “We all are suffering from this situation. Us and the Palestinians. On their side women and children were killed today, and it makes me feel terrible.”

The interview ended with her talking about her dog: “I’m this trippy lefty, who likes dogs and Arabs,” she joked. Her comments evoked such public outrage that Banai was fired from her position as the spokesperson for cruise ship operator Mano Maritime. To deal with the threats and insults pouring in, she had to close down her social media accounts.

Threatened for being a Leftist

Yonit Levi, an anchor for Channel 2 news, received numerous death threats on social media for her perceived leftist stance. She did not speak against the operation.

Amnon Abramovitch, a Channel 2 news commentator, had to be rescued after at least 100 right-wing rioters wrapped in Israeli flags surrounded the Channel 2 studio and shouted at him “Traitor,” “Terrorist,” and “It’s a shame you didn’t die in the war.”

Abramovitch, a decorated war hero who was severely maimed in the Yom Kippur War while operating a burning tank, had to be escorted from the studios by a police force. Ironically, Abramovitch had spoken in support of the operation.

Threatened for no reason

Beram Kayal, a Palestinian-Israeli soccer player on Israel’s national team, posted a picture of himself on Instagram. It was a picture from Israel’s game against Scotland, and behind Kayal, in the blurred background, one could make out members of the crowd waiving Palestinian flags. The fact that the flags had nothing to do with him did little to assuage public outrage. “Many [fans] expressed outrage over his connection to Israel’s team, and called to disqualify him from representing the state,” an Israeli sports channel reported [Hebrew].

A few days later singer Rona Kenan canceled her scheduled performance in Haifa after receiving a series of death threats. Her antagonists alleged that back in 2012 she had asked for a moment of silence in the memory of Palestinian terrorists. Kenan says no such thing happened. “I find myself exposed to harsh verbal attacks and threats on my life, just because of false accusations,” she told Haaretz.

Threatened for speaking their minds

Public figures who actually did speak out against the war fared much worse. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy published an op-ed criticizing Israeli combat pilots for killing innocents, and praising soldiers who refused such orders. In the following days, the mainstream media denounced him as a traitor, legal organizations called to sue him for incitement, and he received so many death threats that Haaretz had to hire a bodyguard for him.

Gideon Levy (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Gideon Levy (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

MK Yariv Levin, chairman of the governing coalition, called to try Levy for treason. “When someone who lives among you turns himself into an enemy mouthpiece, while spreading lies, out of the hope that this will undermine your ability to wage war – this is called, in simple Hebrew, ‘treason,’” the chairman explained on Channel 2 news.

“The reason I no longer write in the papers is that I’m afraid that someone will grab me on the street and beat me,” Natan Zach, one of Israel’s best-known poets, told the Hebrew website Walla in an interview.

Social media

Punishing employees for Facebook posts

Operation Protective Edge reportedly heralded a new phenomenon on social media: Facebook groups that track down outspoken leftists and “out” them to their employers. Members of these groups then flood an employer with angry calls and emails, demanding the culprit’s dismissal.

From the start of the operation dozens of Palestinian citizens of Israel were fired or suspended from their jobs over statements they made on Facebook.

An Arab municipal worker in the city of Lod was fired for writing on her Facebook wall “13 [IDF soldiers] dead, may they be more, Amen.” An Arab employee of the Safed municipality was suspended for posting that “Zionism is the enemy of humanity… We are all Palestine.” A doctor and a nurse, from two different hospitals, were suspended for denouncing the IDF as “murderers of children.” An Arab physiotherapist of the Bnei Yehuda soccer team was fired for relatively mild denunciations, such as “some people in this country are becoming worse than monsters.”

The list goes on. A franchisee of the Tiv Ta’am food company and an employee of the metalworking company Iscar were fired for expressing joy over the death of IDF soldiers. A Bank Hapoalim employee was fired for wishing for another holocaust. Two employees of the supermarket chain Supersal are facing pre-termination disciplinary hearings for making anti-Israel statements. For condemning Israel’s actions on Facebook, a Hadassah College student in Jerusalem was removed from the valedictorian list, and her scholarship was revoked.

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

“A saying by an employee, even if it’s extreme and defiant, can’t in itself become an automatic reason for his firing,” Steve Adler, former judge of Israel’s national labor court, told the The Marker. “If the employee was speaking only in his own name, with no relation to the company that employs him – say on his Facebook page – the conclusion is clear: Even if he said words of enmity that are hard to hear, he is allowed to say them… There is no legal basis to fire him.”

An Arab nurse suspended from the state-owned Sheba Medical Center for a Facebook post calling IDF soldiers war criminals, appealed to the Tel Aviv labor court. One day before the court hearing the hospital reinstated him, on condition that he remove the offensive post and apologize to the hospital’s administration.

An Arab accountant at Ernst & Young was also threatened with dismissal for calling Israeli broadcasters who interrupted an Arab interviewee “stupid Nazis.” She, too, was allowed to return to work once she removed the post and publicly apologized for it.

Unlike private companies, state bodies do have the right to fire employees for their public statement if they incite racial or nationalistic violence. While state bodies used this right liberally on Arab employees lashing out at Israel, no similar application was made for nationalistic, anti-Palestinian statements.

Mynet reported that a postal employee wrote on her Facebook page, “All lefties to the gas chambers now.” A complaint against her was answered with: “Israel is a democratic country, where every citizen is allowed to express his opinion.”

Complaints against a Carmiel municipal employee who wrote “Only a thousand… we should have killed them all, death to all Arabs,” were also shrugged off. “We have no control over what people say in the arena of Facebook, and we don’t follow employees’ private Facebook pages… [but] we will talk to him,” the municipality promised.

An Israeli professor at Bar-Ilan University sent his students an email rescheduling a test, and took the opportunity to express sympathy and concern for all victims of the fighting. He made no reference to the victims’ nationality, implicitly reminding the students that the majority of the victims were Gazans.

After receiving vociferous complaints about the professor’s message, the university issued an apology for the email and the professor was reprimanded.

Israeli parliament

Seeking new legal limitations

Last month right-leaning parliamentarians proposed an amendment to the Knesset rules that would narrow elected representatives’ freedom of speech. The new law would allow impeaching those MK’s whose expressions are deemed out of line.

The current law allows the Knesset’s Central Election Committee to prevent certain parties from participating in elections if it is able to prove that a party supported the armed struggle against Israel. The new amendment to this law proposes to also enforce it on representatives already elected, so that acting members of parliament who “published words of support of the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against Israel” may be voted out of the Knesset. The law implicitly targets Arab MKs, since those who determine exactly what constitutes “support of the armed struggle” would be no other than the rival MKs themselves.

Calling for boycotts

On July 21, Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called on his supporters to boycott Arab businesses that went on strike in solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip. He also demanded that the Al Jazeera in Israel be shut down. “Al Jazeera has become an integral part of the terrorist organizations’ information campaign,” he said in a press conference.

Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan joined his call, asking the committee of cable and satellite broadcasts to stop broadcasting “the network’s incitement against Israel.”

Since the minister brought no examples of actual false or inaccurate reports by Al Jazeera, the cable committee dismissed the request. “The facts presented to the committee supply no reason to remove the channel,” was the response given.

Crushing dissent

MK Haneen Zoabi, an outspoken and controversial member of the Arab Balad party, was suspended from the Knesset for six months over comments that were deemed “incitement against the state.”

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Over the past weeks, Zoabi has drawn public outrage for her controversial actions and expressions in defense of Palestinian. Before it was known that the three kidnapped Israeli teens had been murdered, Zoabi defended their kidnappers on Radio Tel Aviv. “They are not terrorists,” she explained, “they are people who see no way to change their reality, and are forced to use these means until Israel sobers up a little… sobers up and feels the suffering of the other.” She added that she did not approve of their actions.

For this and other remarks made by Zoabi, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein filed a complaint with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee, accusing Zoabi of “comments that border incitement, encourage violence and support terror organizations.”

At the beginning of August the Ethics Committee voted to suspend Zoabi, removing her for six months from the plenum and the committees on which she serves, though still allowing her to vote (silently). The committee reasoned that Zoabi’s remarks were inconsistent with the good of the country.

“The Israeli public, like in any other state, expects that members of parliament, who have sworn allegiance to the state, would not encourage those who rise against it, and those who seek to kill its citizens and its soldiers,” the decision read.

“The committee, instead of protecting my freedom of speech… is vigorously acting to punish me for my positions, and punish the entire public that I represent,” Zoabi said in reply. She added that she would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet and a former Labor MK, berated the Ethics Committee’s decision. “In the sea of inappropriate expressions [in the Knesset], some of which are racist and some of which are outright criminal, there’s a grave injustice in the persecution of Haneen Zoabi,” he wrote in a recent op-ed. “The committee’s decision damages freedom of speech, which is the heart and soul of democracy.”

Later on it was decided to also strip Zoabi of parliamentary immunity and open a criminal investigation against her, on the suspicion that she incited violence and insulted a police officer. The police recommended putting her on trial for incitement.

Even right-leaning MK’s expressed dismay over this. “The police investigation against MK Zoabi is a grave issue, one that all MK’s should be revolting against,” Moshe Feiglin, a veteran MK of the Likud party, wrote on his Facebook page. “Zoabi is representing her voters… Today she is being investigated over activities and comments that are part of her political duties and agenda. Today the police are investing her, tomorrow it will be Miri Regev [Likud].”

Orli Santo is a correspondent for the New York-based weeklies Yediot America and the Jewish Week. Her writing has also been published by the Times of Israel, Ynet, the JTA and other publications. 

Related:
What was different about this war?
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
Why Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer safe

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How Israeli media obscures Palestinian humanity http://972mag.com/how-israeli-media-obscures-palestinian-humanity/96173/ http://972mag.com/how-israeli-media-obscures-palestinian-humanity/96173/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 10:58:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96173 Israeli media insists on portraying the West Bank as the Wild West and its Palestinian inhabitants as savage stone-throwers, all the while masking the reality of armed settlers and a trigger-happy military.

By Talal Jabari

If I were to describe a movie equivalent of the West Bank in words, it would be part way between a scene from John Carpenter’s Escape from LA, mixed with a little of your favorite Spaghetti Western, with strong hints of Heart of Darkness – the book, not the movie.

Well at least that’s the impression I get from some of the Israeli press, which then filters down into the psyche of the people, who get an image of a savage territory with pockets of light built by the settlers.

I won’t mention that most of these settlers have formal military training as part of their conscription, nor that they are often heavily armed. No, that wouldn’t be right. I won’t bring up the fact that there are a number of settlements around the West Bank from which the residents often go on rampages against the nearby Palestinian villages, destroying trees and other crops. I won’t even point out that over the years “civilian” settlers have killed dozens of Palestinians. I’m not going to mention any of those points because that would distort the image.

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases the flock and threatens the shepherds of Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army, as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlements' borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases a flock of sheep and threatens their Palestinian shepherds from Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army, as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlement’s borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

No, the image presented by Israeli politicians and, by extension, the press is one of settlers attempting to coexist with bloodthirsty Palestinian savages. As Israeli politician and settler David Rotem once told me, and I paraphrase here: “We even let the Palestinians harvest their grapes from their land that is now in the settlement security fence.”

See, they’re trying!

Where am I going with all this?

Well, on August 25 there was an incident reported in the Israeli media about a settler couple with an infant being stoned on their way home. The result of the stoning was that a rock hit the husband, who was driving, which led their car to overturn.

But there was a surprise element: According to the wife, the family was immediately aided by Palestinian bystanders (she could tell they weren’t terrorists. Her words not mine) and a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance. And one got the feeling from reading the various articles that this humanitarian gesture was somehow odd.

On a side note, Arutz Sheva, the Israeli settler press, had a headline in their coverage of the incident saying, “Rocks Are as Dangerous as Rockets.” I’m fairly certain that if Israel had shelled Gaza with rocks rather than rockets for the past two months the outcome would have been a completely different story.

But I digress.

Israeli media always likes to look at one certain convenient event and quickly point the finger, and say, “They started it.” It isn’t constructive, and it doesn’t get down to the root cause of things: Why do Palestinians throw rocks?

Of course many Israelis are indoctrinated with the concept that Palestinians throw rocks to kill Israelis, and this is simply not true. Can rocks thrown at cars kill? Yes, and in the past they have. But most youth and children throw rocks because they are frustrated, they are at a rebellious age or, quite simply, because they are bored, and living under occupation limits the options for channeling that energy more constructively.

A Palestinian youth throws stones at an Israeli army bulldozer in Kufr Qaddum, December 28, 2012 (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth throws stones at an Israeli army bulldozer in Kufr Qaddum, December 28, 2012 (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

When they throw stones they aren’t thinking of killing or even maiming. Many of them probably just enjoy the sound of glass breaking (and for the record many, Arab cars have been stoned by mistake). But they are frustrated, and the root cause of their frustration is the occupation, and a symbol of that occupation just happens to be driving by at the time.

As for the surprise in the Israeli media about the Palestinians coming to the aid of this family, I have a first-hand example of my own. One afternoon not very long ago, while driving home from Hebron, we saw a settler car overturn in front of us (no rock throwing, just bad driving). Myself, along with almost two dozen other Palestinians who happened to be on the road at that time, stopped to rescue the lady and her daughter. They were settlers, but they were human beings first. We administered first aid. We called an ambulance. We gave them water. They were obviously in shock so we paused our journey to stay with them.

That is to say until another settler called in the army, which arrived with fingers on the triggers and ordered us out of the area like we were all a bunch of thugs about to lynch the mother and her daughter with bandages and rubbing alcohol.

The bottom line? Israeli settlers have been an instrumental element in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians living in the West Bank. Their presence in settlements on Palestinian land is illegal. Their attacks, including “Price Tag” attacks, against Palestinian citizens is indiscriminate, but under what part of that equation should our humanity ever be called into question?

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

Related:
WATCH: Israeli journalist discusses her article defending Palestinian stone-throwing
Beitunia killings and the media’s incredibly high bar for Palestinian stories
The ‘New York Times’ investigates a Palestinian hobby

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What if Hamas fired rockets at Britain? http://972mag.com/what-if-hamas-fired-rockets-at-britain/96169/ http://972mag.com/what-if-hamas-fired-rockets-at-britain/96169/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 16:48:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96169 When Israeli spokesmen defend the IDF’s actions in Gaza by asking what you would do if rockets rained down on your home, the example of Northern Ireland can serve as one response. 

By John Jackson

Over the last weeks Israeli government spokesmen have provided cover across international TV and radio airspace for their military onslaught in Gaza. They’ve tried their best to respond proportionately, even when a small minority of irritating journalists insists on asking questions about the massacre of children.

However, there have been times when these spokesmen had no other choice but to wheel out the big gun, set piece question against the threatening fire of journalistic inquiry: “What would you do if rockets were being fired at you?” The question hits the target almost every time.

It’s a killer blow question when no journalist is armed with an answer. So, in the interest of promoting even greater proportionality in this ongoing war of words, I would like to offer the few brave anchormen and women out there a possible response.

Israelis check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip has directly hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Israelis check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip had a direct hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

During the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, civilian deaths were caused by the British Army, the Loyalists and Republican paramilitaries. But for the purpose of answering the Israeli question it is useful to look at the major bombing campaigns by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that took place across England. These campaigns were far more destructive than anything coming out of Gaza. There were approximately 10,000 bomb attacks during the conflict – about 16,000 if you include failed attempts. A significant proportion of them were on English soil.

A time bomb was detonated at Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were staying for the Conservative Party conference. Thatcher narrowly escaped death, five people were killed (including an MP) and 31 injured. The Queen’s cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, his grandson and three others were blown up while fishing off the coast of Ireland. In Manchester city center a 3,300-pound bomb caused £1.1 billion (today’s value) in damage and injured 212 people. The Bishopsgate bombing in the city of London cost £350 million to repair and injured 44 people. And, as those of us who lived through those times will remember, there were numerous bombs in pubs and shops, on high streets and shopping centers, in train stations and on the London underground. The thousands of rockets fired by Hamas over the last month have killed six civilians in Israel, along with 64 soldiers, while the IDF has killed 2,104 Palestinians, including at least 500 children.

Despite the effectiveness of the IRA campaign, it would have been politically inconceivable and morally unjustifiable for the Royal Air Force to bomb the streets and homes of the republican communities in North or West Belfast – the communities from which the IRA came and amongst which it lived. It would have been unacceptable in Britain and, indeed, to the U.S. government at the time. The British army and intelligence services did terrible things in Northern Ireland, but such a wholesale massacre of civilians would have been unconscionable. The answer to the question of what would you do? In Britain’s case at least, faced with a destructive bombing campaign, it did not respond by sending in warplanes to bomb schools, hospitals or terraced houses.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jame' family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame' family.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame’ family.

Why is it that Israel, the U.S. and the UK government don’t find the massacre of defenseless civilians, concentrated in a densely populated strip of land, by a hi-tech air force simply unacceptable? It could be that Catholics in Northern Ireland, despite a history of oppression, were not dehumanized in the late 20th century in the way Palestinians are today. They were integrated into the fabric of British society with significant communities in major cities and with a large proportion of British people claiming some Irish heritage. And U.S. governments, making domestic electoral calculations about the Irish-American vote, would have responded fiercely if such a slaughter took place. Similar calculations made by the Obama administration about the pro-Israeli vote and lobby result in a deafening silence on Gaza.

So, is the military onslaught really about the rockets from Gaza? The Palestinian West Bank suggests that it is not. Not a single rocket has been fired from that territory; yet, it is still subject to daily punishment from the Israeli military and settler communities. This includes encroachments on Palestinian land, mass detention without trial, the killing of children, the destruction of homes, the inability to move freely, the building of a wall that separates families, and the daily humiliation of an entire people. The message is clear to Palestinians when it comes to rockets: you’re damned if you do (use them) and you’re damned if you don’t. This, in effect, means that the choice offered to the people of Gaza is to remain docile in a suffocating ghetto or be destroyed.

When Israeli spokesmen like Mark Regev fly onto our TV and radio airspace and ask in Australian or American accents, “What would you do?” It is time to start answering them.

John Jackson is an author and commentator who has led major public campaigns on a range of international issues. He has a particular interest in strategic non-violent struggle, and co-authored Small Acts of Resistance, which explores the creative ways people have developed to challenge injustice. 

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
The world is letting Israel get away with it again
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper
Not even a ‘bump on the wing’ these days when killing Palestinians
COMIC: What if Mahmoud was named Jonah

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Israel needs a new strategy in Gaza http://972mag.com/israel-needs-a-new-strategy-in-gaza/96158/ http://972mag.com/israel-needs-a-new-strategy-in-gaza/96158/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:56:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96158 Ariel Sharon’s strategy in Gaza of “Divide and Rule” failed, and we are yet to see a successful military solution for the Strip. Is there anyone in the Israeli leadership with the courage and power to lead a political solution?

By Lev Grinberg

The Israeli government has drawn the IDF and the entire country into a deeply complex situation, one that the country has not experienced since the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. It is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding: The model of control in Gaza built by Ariel Sharon in 2004 has collapsed. That framework was based on land and sea blockades, and the closure of border crossings into the Strip, resulting in a network of smuggling tunnels. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi changed the rules of the game by shutting access to the tunnels as a part of his domestic struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood, pushing the Palestinians to politically realign in a national unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The question is how Israeli diplomacy will adapt to these new circumstances?

A soldier stands next to a Hamas-built tunnel outside Gaza. (photo: IDF Spokesperson/ CC BY-NC 2.0)

A soldier stands next to a Hamas-built tunnel outside Gaza. (photo: IDF Spokesperson/ CC BY-NC 2.0)

The model Sharon built led to relative stability between 2005-14, despite the heavy cost of rounds of violence every few years. The model was built on the colonial principle of “Divide and Rule.” It was a division between Gaza and the West Bank, and between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Sharon understood that the IDF would neither be able to stop the mortars and rockets, nor discover the smuggling tunnels. Moreover, the IDF was suffering unnecessary physical losses as a result of daily clashes with Gazan militants, as well as losses in international public opinion as it took violent action against a civilian population. From this point of view, the unilateral withdrawal of 2005 was thus a successful tactic aimed at cutting down the number of Israeli losses, and granting legitimacy to the use of force against Palestinian citizens, claiming that violence was used in self-defense.

However, the withdrawal from Gaza actually had a long-term diplomatic goal: Prevent international pressure to establish a Palestinian state, as promised by former U.S. President Bush’s road map. Sharon’s adviser, Dov Weisglass, explained the logic behind the withdrawal to Haaretz back in 2004: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process…and when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state…this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda…all this with authority and permission…with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

In order to prevent a political process resulting in a Palestinian state it was necessary to withdraw unilaterally; otherwise there would have been a need to negotiate with the PA over basic issues such as security arrangements, opening of border crossings and bi-lateral economic agreements. The outcome of those negotiations would have been a reconnection between Gaza and the West Bank on all levels – economically, politically and socially, i.e. the opposite of the original intention to “divide and rule.”

The army was not pleased with the unilateral exit from Gaza, which it considered damaging to its power to deter Palestinian violence. In March 2004, objection to the unilateral withdrawal was publicly announced by then Chief of Staff Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon and Head of the Shin Bet Avi Dichter. They claimed that a unilateral withdrawal would strengthen terrorist infrastructure and consolidate Hamas against the PA. They were right, of course; yet Sharon didn’t hesitate in dismissing them and replacing them with Dan Halutz and Yuval Diskin, respectively.

Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon (photo: Moshe Milner / Government Press Office)

Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon (photo: Moshe Milner / Government Press Office)

Armies dislike unilateral withdrawals, unless they are tied to an agreement that can bring permanent stability. Since the 2005  Gaza withdrawal, the IDF has been in an undesirable position, to say the least. It has the legitimacy to use increasing power and enjoy international support, but it cannot defeat the enemy despite its power. It has repeatedly suffered damage to its image abroad due to the vast number of innocent Palestinian civilians killed, and it has lost standing among Israelis because of its inability to claim victory. Since Sharon fell ill no one has ever examined the motives and political logic of his strategy; there are only demands to investigate the military strategies after each round of fighting. However, the problem is, in fact, political, and stems from the collapse of the model of control that led things to snowball both diplomatically and militarily.

The collapse of Sharon’s model generated significant change. As a result of Sisi’s tunnel destruction, Hamas was forced to build a coalition with the PA, and by doing so it challenged Israel’s “Divide and Rule” strategy. In response, Netanyahu launched a battle to reinstate a broken model that had already collapsed. However, the connection between Hamas and the PA has only strengthened during Operation Protective Edge – socially among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, politically among their leaders, and physically in the demand for lifting of the blockade and opening the border crossings. The collapse of Sharon’s strategy generated change because without the tunnels residents of Gaza need a new connection to the outside world. The political challenge in Israel now is how to build a new model of control in light of the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement.

The IDF elite won’t dare say today what was said by Chief of Staff Dan Shomron in 1987, when the 1967 model of control collapsed (at the start of the First Intifada). It won’t dare say publicly that there is no military solution to Palestinian resistance. The problem is that in the current deterioration of Israeli politics it is unclear who will have the power, authority and courage to lead the political process. As long as a new model of relations with the Palestinians isn’t designed, the current situation will continue to deteriorate, and Israeli society will increasingly lose faith in the ability of its military and political elite to shift the status quo and deal with reality. Israelis and Palestinians will need international help to compromise and step forward.

Lev Grinberg is  professor of political sociology at Ben Gurion University, author of Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy vs. Military Rule (Routledge, 2010)

This article was originally published in Hebrew on Ynet.

Related:
What was different about this war?
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)
The victors of the Gaza war were also the losers

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The victors of the Gaza war were also the losers http://972mag.com/the-victors-of-the-gaza-war-were-also-the-losers/96152/ http://972mag.com/the-victors-of-the-gaza-war-were-also-the-losers/96152/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:55:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96152 Who came out of the Gaza war the victors, and who were the losers – or, rather, who lost more and who lost less?

By Talal Jabari

Another ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza ­– this time costing more in terms of life and property than the last time. It will probably cost less than the next time; 2016 if the trend stays constant.

At the end of any battle, it makes sense to step back and look at the bigger picture. You want to assess who won and who lost – or at least who lost more and who lost less.

I can’t help but think of the families of the more than 2,000 Palestinians who were killed, the thousands upon thousands injured, the hundreds of thousands without homes in Gaza. Children who will grow up without parents. Parents who did what no parent should have to do, and buried their children. And all the families that need to rebuild their lives. For them this was a very costly war and there is no doubt in my mind that the civilian population of Gaza suffered the greatest loss as a result of this battle.

The al-Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, had ninety apartments before they were destroyed in Israeli attacks. (Anne Paq / Activetills)

The al-Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, had ninety apartments before they were destroyed in Israeli attacks. (Anne Paq / Activetills)

On a political level, Fatah in the West Bank has lost. The negative sentiment towards the Fatah leadership continues to swell and become more vocal. However, in the absence of elections and a heavy-handed security apparatus, that doesn’t mean much.

Let’s move on to the winners. At the top of the list is Hamas. Palestinians are celebrating the “victory” that Hamas delivered to its people. It’s stock on the Palestinian street is at a euphoric high, despite the tragedy on which it was built. And even more importantly, Qatar, Hamas’ main ally in the Arab world, and the host of the head of its politburo, Khaled Mashal, is now smiling down on the Islamic Resistance Movement – and that means money in the bank any day of the week.

The prolonged battle with Hamas has also strengthened right-wing extremism in Israel, which continues to manifest with impunity in acts of violence against Palestinian citizens. Politicians spout hatred and incitement that in any democracy in Europe would have them arrested; university professors and rabbis call for rape and murder, and yet maintain their positions; and thugs interpreting those words carry out attacks against more Palestinian civilians.

And of course, let’s not forget about Prime Minister Netanyahu; clearly another major victor in this battle. There are those who might argue that he should be in the loser category rather than in the winner’s circle, as he was forced to make concessions. Sure, but for how long does he really have to do so? Well, let’s look at some of those concessions.

Hamas has placed the issue of building a Gaza seaport and an airport squarely on the negotiating table. Are our memories that short? Gaza once had a functioning airport; the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat used it while based in Gaza. And the European Union was in the midst of building a seaport. Both of these were reduced to rubble in previous spouts of violence. What’s to stop the Israeli military from doing so again? Not to mention that Israel’s blockade of the Strip includes air and sea restrictions, so I can’t imagine many people at the duty free shops of Gaza International Airport.

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo: Activestills)

And fishermen will get a few extra sea kilometers in which to fish, though this is still not deep enough for significant catches. Oh, and Israel will permit access to humanitarian aid. Wasn’t it already doing that? I’ve been to the Kerem Shalom Crossing, I’ve seen trucks entering and exiting. Insufficient, you say? Well, what’s to make it different this time? A few added calories here and there?

No, Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly a victor, because Gaza remains on lockdown. He’s a victor because Hamas remains a significant force in Gaza, so the hasbara department has a continuous source of good material. Which other Palestinian group could they compare to the Islamic State?

And on a positive note, whatever concessions Netanyahu has made can be taken away with the Confucian hammer-and-fly pinpoint payloads of two F-16s. Netanyahu won, because a joint Fatah-Hamas government would have meant a decrease in tensions, and that is simply not good for business.

So it comes as no surprise that the two victors of this entire bloody scenario are the two sides that prolonged the fighting all along. But at least we have a ceasefire. Journalists will write sad stories with a glimmer of hope about how people are getting on with rebuilding their lives.

Money will pour in to Israel to restock its depleted missile stock and to reinforce the Iron Dome. Money will pour into Gaza to rebuild homes and businesses. Most of us will get on with our lives, and this episode will disappear from our social media feeds.

Gazans, on the other hand, are already wondering what price they’ll have to pay for the next ceasefire.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

Related:
What was different about this war?
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)
Did Gaza win the war?

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What was different about this war? http://972mag.com/what-was-different-about-this-war/96147/ http://972mag.com/what-was-different-about-this-war/96147/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:59:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96147 Beyond an unprecedented degree of destruction in Gaza, Israel’s latest offensive on the Strip brought with it unrivaled levels of racism and incitement back home.

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

The war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza would appear as the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas; however, this war was different from previous rounds of fighting on both sides. The level of destruction in Gaza was unprecedented, while in Israel anti-democratic and racist forces gained much more prominence and influence compared to previous wars.

As in all other nations during times of war, the Israeli public rallies around the flag. Differences that once mattered – class, proximity to Gaza, and even opinions on the economy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – disappear almost entirely.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas followed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank. The teens were kidnapped, apparently by a Hamas cell from Hebron, and executed shortly after. The IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper, supposedly to track down the missing boys. Although the Israeli military and leadership knew fairly early on that the teens had probably been murdered, the Israeli public was not informed. The search for the teens turned into an operation to dismantle what was left of the civilian outreach infrastructure of Hamas in the West Bank.

Right-wing demonstrators protest in front of a demonstration against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014. Right-wing activists protested nearby and attacked left-wing activists during and after the protest. One left-wing activists was hospitalized with a head injury. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Right-wing demonstrators protest in front of a demonstration against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014. Right-wing activists protested nearby and attacked left-wing activists during and after the protest. One left-wing activists was hospitalized with a head injury. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Declaring war on all Palestinians

Following the murder of the teens, Israeli politicians, including the prime minister himself, called for “revenge.” Members of the religious nationalistic Jewish Home party, which had gained about 60% in approval ratings during the operation, called for “recouping the blood of the teens, an eye for an eye” and all-out war on the Palestinians. A far-right member of Netanyahu’s party, MK Moshe Feiglin, called to reoccupy Gaza and ethnically cleanse it of Palestinians by placing them in tent camps and then expelling them to other countries.

Israel has been under the rule of right-wing governments headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu since 2009. During this time, such incitement became much more common, while the peace process ground to a halt and settlement expansion shot through the roof. Incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel also spiked, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman basing entire election campaigns on painting them as disloyal.

At the same time, groups of mostly young settlers began operating in the West Bank, targeting Palestinian homes, fields, private property and mosques. The groups at first limited their “price tag” attacks to the West Bank, but then spread to Israel as well – private homes, churches and mosques were vandalized and desecrated. Israeli security forces have arrested only a few of the perpetrators, further emboldening them.

The military’s mouthpiece

For its part, Israeli media had a role to play in the violent atmosphere. As with previous IDF operations, all mainstream media outlets in Israel, except the liberal daily Haaretz, unquestionably accepted as fact claims made the IDF, and expressed full support for the war. Israeli media covered what happened in Gaza through the lens of the Israeli soldier – what was bombed and how many terrorists were killed. The narrative presented by the Israeli media was that we Israelis are the victims, while Hamas is the aggressor. The voices of the population suffering the most due to the war – the civilians in Gaza – were not heard in Israeli media, except in Haaretz, which is read by only 5% of Israelis.

Police arrest a Palestinian-Israeli protester during a demonstration against Operation Protective Edge, July 18, 2014, Haifa, Israel (photo: Activestills)

Police arrest a Palestinian-Israeli protester during a demonstration against Operation Protective Edge, July 18, 2014, Haifa, Israel (photo: Activestills)

By and large, Israeli mainstream media does not discuss Israel’s responsibility for the deaths and suffering of innocents in Gaza. Information that contradicts IDF claims about civilian casualties is hidden or not mentioned at all. Mass deaths of civilians such as the bombings of entire families inside their homes or bombardment of UNRWA schools where thousands of Gazans had taken shelter are framed as harmful to Israel’s international image.

Israeli journalists see their role as maintaining the nation’s morale in times of war. To that end, Israeli journalists practice self-censorship and don’t report on anything that may lead Israelis to think that their army is ill-prepared for war or that it is not the most moral army in the world. Reports about logistical and operational problems and errors began emerging only once the war was practically over. Israelis are not interested in receiving information that contradicts their worldview. Ironically, Israelis who want Gaza to be “flattened” and “hit hard” are not exposed to images of the IDF doing just that. This perpetuates a cycle of violence, since Israelis continue to feel that we haven’t hit the Palestinians hard enough. Both times that Netanyahu called for a ceasefire he faced opposition by most Jewish Israelis, according to polls [Hebrew].

Unprecedented incitement

Thanks to the years of government incitement against Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied territories, the media’s full support for all IDF actions and the almost-unhindered rampages of “price tag” gangs, the public atmosphere during this war was different. The unique aspect was the direct – and at times literal – assault on free speech and dissent. The threats to free speech came from politicians, academic institutions, police and vigilante mobs.

The main victims of the contraction of space for dissent in Israel during the war were, of course, Palestinian citizens of Israel. Members of Knesset who represent the Arab minority (about 20% of the Israeli population) were thrown out of parliament hearings for daring to oppose the war. MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad party) was even barred from plenum discussions for the next six months – the harshest punishment ever placed on an MK by the Knesset Ethics Committee.

MK Haneen Zoabi of Balad (photo: ActiveStills)

MK Haneen Zoabi of Balad (photo: ActiveStills)

The number of hate crimes against Palestinians skyrocketed, as did the ferocity of the attacks. Shortly after the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found, Jewish Israelis kidnapped Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir from his home in East Jerusalem, beat him, forced him to drink gasoline and set him on fire while he was still alive. Another Jewish mob nearly killed two Palestinians in East Jerusalem three weeks ago.

Jewish leftists were subjected to attacks as well. The violence against anti-war protesters was organized and systematic, as never before in Israel. Almost all anti-war protests in Tel Aviv and Haifa ended in violence, mostly by right-wing gangs largely made up of teens who attacked the protesters. At other times, the violence came from the police, which dispersed protesters without any legal basis.

Vitriol on social media

The counter protests to the anti-war rallies were organized on social media and WhatsApp. Numerous Facebook pages calling for “revenge” and vigilante attacks against Arabs popped up during the war. These pages gave racist Israelis the sense that they were part of a mass movement, increasing their confidence and willingness to resort to violence against Jewish Israelis too. The far-right protesters felt comfortable adding the “Death to leftists” chant to the regular repertoire of “Death to Arabs” and songs against the Prophet Muhammad.

Facebook was also used to hunt down “traitors” – Arab citizens of Israel and leftists who opposed the war. The posts and private information of the “traitors” was posted on those pages, and followers were urged to call the “traitors’” employers to get them fired. Dozens of Arab Israelis and leftists lost their jobs as a result. Not one Israeli who called for genocide of Arabs on social media was fired.

In the realm of academia, the bastion of progressive thought in Israel, suppression of dissent was also strongly evident. Both Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion universities sent out letters to their students warning them against posting inflammatory comments on social media. Bar Ilan University publicly backed Dr. Mordechai Kedar, who teaches at the institution and called for the rape of sisters and wives of Palestinian suicide bombers to deter Palestinians from such attacks. Weeks later the university ordered a lecturer who expressed sympathy to people harmed by the war in Israel and Gaza to apologize.

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

A facade of ‘unity’

The Jewish Israeli public and media rarely oppose IDF operations, and this war was no exception. However, the long-term trends of government incitement, coupled with the sense of impunity of “Price Tag” gangs and the ability to organize into mobs using social media, resulted in an unprecedented climate of fear inside Israel. This war was clearly a turning point for free speech and Arab-Israeli coexistence in Israel. Hate speech and even hate crimes are not addressed seriously, and that’s not surprising given that the incitement comes from the top, too.

Instead of praising the unity and solidarity of the ‘people of Israel’ in times of war, Israeli government officials would do better to stop inciting against those who are excluded from or choose not to take part in the wave of militarism and violent nationalism that has gripped Israel over the past weeks.

Elizabeth Tsurkov works at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli human rights NGO, and can be followed on Twitter.

Related:
Propaganda war: Searching for a narrative in Operation Protective Edge
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
Why Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer safe

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A Palestinian ultimatum to end occupation? http://972mag.com/a-palestinian-ultimatum-to-end-occupation/96141/ http://972mag.com/a-palestinian-ultimatum-to-end-occupation/96141/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:43:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96141 In a diplomatic surprise, the Palestinians have threatened to turn to the International Criminal Court if no date is set for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders – a move that +972 writers predicted more than a year ago.

The PLO will demand that the UN Security Council announce a deadline for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, to the 1967 ceasefire lines, reported Haaretz today. Ma’an News Agency writes that Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah figure and veteran negotiator, has said the bid will be submitted on September 15, 2014. If it is not accepted, he told Ma’an that the PLO will continue with long-rumored plans to pursue accession to the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), so that it can bring claims against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

With every other attempt to shake off Israel’s military rule proving futile, the idea of a simple ultimatum for withdrawal – with or without an agreement – ought not to come as a surprise. In fact, Noam Sheizaf and I not only predicted it, we advocated it over a year ago.

Netanyahu and Abbas in Washington, September 15, 2010 (State Dept. Photo)

Netanyahu and Abbas in Washington, September 15, 2010 (State Dept. Photo)

The move marks the third time in four years that the Palestinians have undertaken a major diplomatic effort for statehood in the 1967 territory. In 2011 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for UN membership, and submitted a bid to the General Assembly, but a vote was never held due to the certainty of a Security Council veto. In late 2012 a vote was finally held in the General Assembly. It passed, granting Palestine the status of non-member observer state in the UN, but made little difference on the ground.

Two further diplomatic attempts to achieve statehood and recognition happened before and after those: In 1988 the PLO first declared its independence along the 1967 ceasefire lines. That marked a major shift away from Fatah rhetoric, which up to then called for a single state from the river to the sea. Most recently, as the Kerry-led negotiations were falling apart, Abbas advanced applications and acceded to a number of international treaties and organizations to make statehood more meaningful on the international level.

The current move is, therefore, an extension of decades of Palestinian diplomatic action to end Israeli military rule. It may be partly designed to remind the world that the Palestinians have employed, and continue to draw on, numerous non-violent, as opposed to military strategies – including diplomacy, but also grassroots demonstrations and boycotts.

It is also a sign to the Palestinian people that Fatah still distinguishes itself from Hamas as the party of political rather than military means. Fatah may be hoping to capitalize on any Palestinian anger at Hamas for the destruction caused by the Gaza war, though it’s not clear how much there is.

Such action also speaks directly to Israel. It implies that joining the ICC and seeking indictments for top Israeli officials is not inevitable. Rather, Fatah is using the idea in an agenda-setting way: accept a deadline, and we will take away the stick of international court proceedings. It is a clever strategy: Either option advances the Palestinian cause; either one will be a painful blow – even if they remain headlines more than reality – to Israel.

Fatah is also taking a risk. The 2011 UN bid was underwhelming for the Palestinian people; even back then some thought the UN route was Fatah’s “last chance” for credibility at home. The second in 2012 was a happy moment but failed to make a dent in the occupation. Another such bust could lose what little residual faith Palestinians still have in Fatah.

However, Hamas is reportedly already considering backing the Fatah-led attempt to join the ICC. Should Hamas back the demand for a UN-decreed deadline, it could put Fatah back in a significant leadership role – at home, and abroad.

Related:
Giving the occupation an expiration date
What Palestinian statehood means for ICC jurisdiction over Israeli crimes

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War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways) http://972mag.com/war-is-the-new-system-of-governance-and-five-other-gaza-takeaways/96135/ http://972mag.com/war-is-the-new-system-of-governance-and-five-other-gaza-takeaways/96135/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:33:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96135 The status quo of the occupation has reached a new level of violence and destruction, but there is no political power in sight that can impose a change on the ground.

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,870 Palestinians, and injured 9,470 since the beginning of the Israeli offensive (photo: Activestills)

A mosque minaret rises among the ruins of Al-Nada towers after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. The towers had 90 flats. (photo: Activestills)

1. Israel paid more than it expected for a bit less than it wanted. Israel’s strategic goal in this war was to maintain the status quo on the Palestinian issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined this notion from the first days of the war, when he presented his ceasefire formula: if Hamas stops shooting, we stop shooting. Israel got most of what it wanted, but at a greater price than expected, in terms of Israeli casualties, the disruption to everyday life in Israel, and further erosion of Israel’s position in the world due to the destruction inflicted on Gaza.

Maintaining control over the Palestinians, or keeping the Palestinians under control (i.e. the status quo) is the common denominator of the Israeli system. The political debate is about the best way to achieve this goal. Some would grant the Palestinians a semi-state, or an enhanced proxy regime; most Israelis would like to keep things as they are, and a minority wants to annex the occupied territories – these are the same voices that called for the IDF to retake Gaza.

But no major political power is willing to either give the Palestinians full civilian, political and human rights as individuals under Israeli sovereignty, or completely retreat and disconnect from the Palestinian territories and grant them full independence, regardless of the consequences.

Israelis may have given Netanyahu a B-minus on this war, but they never questioned the war itself; mainly because the belief in the status quo doesn’t come from the leadership but from the public. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the war was a ground-shifting event that will change Israeli thinking in the way that the First Intifada led to Oslo, and the Second Intifada led to the disengagement. The needle may have moved, but not enough.

2. A new act in the Israeli political drama begins. There will be a lot of excitement now about the political fallout of this war, and especially around the fate of the third Netanyahu government. This government is the weakest Netanyahu had led, and it is even weaker after the war, mainly for reasons that have to do with the economy. Israel continues its slow slide toward recession, and the war will make it impossible for Finance Minister Yair Lapid to make good on his promises to the Middle Class and not raise taxes. Lapid might be tempted to leave the government, and Netanyahu might be tempted to get Naftali Bennett out and try to resume talks with the Palestinians. It’s also unclear where Lieberman is heading. Early elections are not in anybody’s interest but Bennett’s, but we might end up with them anyway.

But all this political drama – which is kind of common with Israeli politics – shouldn’t be confused for a battle of ideas. As I said, there is no path for a coalition that would offer the minimum a credible Palestinian leadership could accept. The two-state solution seems even more remote after this war, and the one-state solution is not getting any closer. The only difference is that more people are now aware of the ugliness of “the status-quo solution.”

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed by an Israeli attack on a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed by an Israeli attack on a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

3. Hamas’ second war of independence: In order to maintain the status quo, Israel concluded early on that it needed Hamas weakened but not destroyed. The reason is twofold: (a) Ironically, Hamas is seen as the only entity that can prevent chaos in Gaza and secure peace for Israel; and (b) Hamas is a political power that balances Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel needs Fatah and Hamas to cancel each other out.

Here, too, I think that Israel pretty much got what it needed, but at a greater cost than it expected. Egypt and the Saudis might try to get more rewards for Abbas as a payment for their support for Israel during the war – Abbas’ alleged meeting with Netanyahu could be seen as a step in this direction.

Still, Hamas also came out with something from this war, especially with regards to recognition as a stakeholder in the new Middle East. This was Hamas’ second War of Independence. The first one was the aftermath of Oslo and the Second Intifada, which demonstrated its power in internal Palestinian politics and ended with a general election victory. Protective Edge won Hamas international recognition; some Palestinians I’ve spoken to are convinced that if the PLO held general elections tomorrow, Khaled Mashal could end up as chairman (which pretty much guarantees that general elections will not be held). After this war, any sensible person knows that Hamas will need to be part of whatever political arrangement is formed; it’s less clear what Gaza and its people got. Time will tell.

4. War as a system of governance: More than a year ago, we at +972 Magazine ran an interview with the director of a film dealing with Israel’s military exports. The headline of the piece was ‘Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel’s system of governance,’ and when you read it now, after Gaza’s third war in six years, it’s even more chilling.

The Palestinians in the occupied territories have been held under an oppressive military regime – a dictatorship that is run by a democracy – for almost half a century. The levels of violence this regime needs to exert in order to support itself have become frightening. Israel might claim that it didn’t want this war (or the previous one, or the one before it), but this much is true for every oppressive regime out there: Every one of them would rather maintain their power and control without resorting to the use of force, and every one of them ends up using more and more power as the resistance to that control grows.

This is a one-way street, so the next “escalation” is likely to be even more brutal than the one which produced, for example, the following images, showing an entire neighborhood wiped out in an hour:

There is a favorite line by Liberal Zionists about how Israel needs to solve the Palestinians issue, or else it risks various forms of corruption. Gaza showed how deep we have already delved into the “or else” era, and it seems that the first to get corrupted were the Liberal Zionists themselves, most of whom chose to support and even glorify this war.

5. The challenge for the Palestinians is unity. Abbas’ diplomatic channel is hollow without popular support, while Hamas demonstrated its shortcomings in translating (limited) military achievements into political ones – which is why, after all, one goes to war. The war itself could have happened because of Palestinian division and because Hamas and Fatah made separate political calculations. A united, accountable political system is a necessary step for effectively challenging the system of occupation, or for the reconciliation with Jewish-Israelis that could follow.

6. Did Israel really replace U.S. support with an Egyptian-Saudi alliance? This is a line you hear in Israel pretty often these days, but I am not so sure. The U.S. supplied the IDF with artillery shells when it ran out, and handed it the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that helped most of the country maintain normal life throughout the war. Most important, the U.S. still provides the diplomatic cover for Israeli policies, despite all the reservations it might have regarding it. An American hand at the Security Council is what separates Israel and its occupation from the kind of consequences other oppressive regimes get at their most violent moments; Washington might be less ambitious in its Middle Eastern diplomacy lately, but in Israel/Palestine it is still the enabler of the status quo.

Related:
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution
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A week in photos: Beyond ceasefire http://972mag.com/a-week-in-photos-beyond-ceasefire/96111/ http://972mag.com/a-week-in-photos-beyond-ceasefire/96111/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:12:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96111 Palestinians in Gaza celebrate after Israel and Hamas declare a long-term ceasefire to end 51 days of fighting that left at least 2,104 Palestinians and 68 Israelis dead, as well as one Thai national working in Israel. While both Hamas and Israel have declared victory, those most affected by the war are left homeless and mourning.

Israeli activists protest in centre Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, calling to end the violence, August 23, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activists protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, calling to end the violence, August 23, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds  Gazans gather in he streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City.A Palestinian youth holds a sign calling to boycott Israeli goods during the weekly protest against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014.(Activestills.org)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds Gazans gather in he streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City.Israeli activists from the group 'rhythms of resistance' play music in centre Tel Aviv as the protest against the Israeli government's policy to cut off of welfare services during the attack on Gaza, August 26, 2014.Residents of Kfar Shalom neighborhood in South Tel Aviv protest against the plan to evict houses in the neighborhood and calling for betterment of welfare services in Israel, next to the  'Iron Dome' battery, a missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming rockets, in South Tel Aviv, August 24, 2014.Palestinians inspect wreckage of a car after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, on August 24, 2014. A Palestinian named Muhammed El-Gul was killed and 4 others wounded by an Israeli airstrike that targeted the car in Gaza City.Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds  Gazans gather in he streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City.A Palestinian youth holds a sign calling to boycott Israeli goods during the weekly protest against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014.(Activestills.org)

Palestinians flash victory signs as hundreds of Gazans gather in the streets to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014 in Gaza City. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect wreckage of a car after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, on August 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect thewreckage of a car after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, on August 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Family members and relatives of Daniel Tregerman, a 4-years old, mourn during his funeral on August 24, 2014 in Hevel Shalom, Israel. (Activestills.org)

Family members and relatives of Daniel Tregerman, a 4-year-old Israeli, mourn during his funeral on August 24, 2014 in Hevel Shalom, Israel. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a sign calling to boycott Israeli goods during the weekly protest against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014.(Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a sign calling to boycott Israeli goods, during the weekly protest against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, August 22, 2014.(Activestills.org)

Israeli activists from the group 'rhythms of resistance' play music in centre Tel Aviv as the protest against the Israeli government's policy to cut off of welfare services during the attack on Gaza, August 26, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activists from the group Rhythms of Resistance’ play music in central Tel Aviv at a protest against the Israeli government’s policy to cut off of welfare services, during the attack on Gaza, August 26, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Israeli activists protest in centre Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, calling to end the violence, August 23, 2014.(Activestills.org)

Israeli activists protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, calling to end the violence, August 23, 2014.(Activestills.org)

Residents of Kfar Shalom neighborhood in South Tel Aviv protest against the plan to evict houses in the neighborhood and calling for betterment of welfare services in Israel, next to the  'Iron Dome' battery, a missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming rockets, in South Tel Aviv, August 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Residents of Kfar Shalom neighborhood in South Tel Aviv protest against a plan to evict residents in the neighborhood, calling for improved of welfare services in Israel, next to the Iron Dome battery, a missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming rockets, in South Tel Aviv, August 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and longtime advocate for Palestinian political prisoners, showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah at 1:30 am on August 20, 2014, ordering her leave Ramallah to Jericho within 24 hours. (Activestills.org)

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and longtime advocate for Palestinian political prisoners, showing an internal expulsion order issued to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah at 1:30 a.m. on August 20, 2014, ordering her to leave Ramallah and move to Jericho within 24 hours. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian and international activists build a kitchen and bathroom for a Palestinian house in area 'C' in Jiftlik village, Jordan Valley, West Bank, August 22, 2014. Hamda Bdairat, the Palestinian woman who owns the house that contain 1 room. Her husband live in Jordan due to the Israeli prevention form entering the West Bank for many years. She suffers from water and electricity shortage. According to Oslo Accords, building in area 'C' is not allowed without an Israeli permission. In the recent weeks, Palestinians use Israel's focused attention on Gaza to build without receiving demolition orders. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian and international activists build a kitchen and bathroom for a Palestinian house in Area C of the West bank, in Jiftlik village, Jordan Valley, August 22, 2014. Hamda Bdairat, a Palestinian woman, owns the one-bedroom house. Her husband lives in Jordan as Israel has prevented him from entering the West Bank for many years. She suffers from water and electricity shortages. According to the Oslo Accords, construction in Area C is not allowed without Israeli permission. (Activestills.org)

Related:
Did Gaza win the war?
PHOTOS: Losing your home twice in one war

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When the state dictates reactions to the killing of Palestinian children http://972mag.com/when-the-state-dictates-reactions-to-the-killing-of-palestinian-children/96098/ http://972mag.com/when-the-state-dictates-reactions-to-the-killing-of-palestinian-children/96098/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:24:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96098 The Israeli Broadcast Authority and the Israeli Supreme Court knew in advance what the reaction would be to a radio advert reading out the names of children killed in Gaza, and that’s why they banned it. By doing so they’ve taken a bit of our freedom.

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Hadas Leonov)

Palestinians prepare the body of a baby in Kamal Edwan Hospital's morgue after an attack on Beit Hanoun elementary school killed at least 17 people, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people at the time (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

Palestinians prepare the body of a baby in Kamal Edwan Hospital’s morgue after an attack on Beit Hanoun elementary school killed at least 17 people, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people at the time (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

Muhammad Malakeh, two years old; Siraj ‘Abd al-’Al, eight years old; Sarah al-’Eid, nine years old; Saher Abu Namus, four years old; Ahmad Mahdi, 15 years old.

Some facts should not be permitted to be broadcast in public. Merely hearing them is dangerous: It could cause people to have thoughts, doubts or compassion. If this danger comes to pass, what would become of us?

Safaa Malakeh, six years old; Muhammad ‘Arif, 10 years old; Nidal Nawasrah, four years old; Muhammad Nawasrah, two years old; Miriam al-’Arja, 10 years old.

What sort of thoughts would enter the minds of those who hear even a few names from that forbidden list? It’s difficult to estimate. As a matter of fact, it is a complete mystery as to how humans would respond upon hearing the names of foreign children, Palestinian children – more than 500 under the age of 15 – who were killed in Gaza in the past few weeks. This mystery is part of what makes us free. When that mystery is solved in advance by the government, a part of what allows the public to be free is taken away. It is no longer a mystery, it is propaganda.

Abdallah Abu Ghazal, five years old; Yasmin al-Mutawaq, four years old; Abd a-Rahman Khatab, five years old; Anas ‘Alaa al-Batsh, 10 years old; Amal al-Batsh, two years old.

Without being able to hear for ourselves, we have no choice but to rely on the thoughts of those who appointed themselves the deciders of what we can and cannot hear: the lawyers of the Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), the attorney general of Israel and a few Supreme Court judges, who disqualified the broadcast of a B’Tselem radio advert [Hebrew]:

Here is the rumination of the appeals committee of the IBA: “The emphasis of the ‘Palestinian children’ issue alone may strengthen the Palestinian claim that Israel is responsible for their deaths, while Israel’s stance is that Hamas is responsible for the death of civilians.”

In other words, stating the facts creates guilt. Psychologists would perhaps call this the “return of the repressed.”

When the attorney general listened to the names, thoughts entered his mind: “The advert in question voices a message and a stand, and not just mere facts – in light of its content, how it is delivered and read quietly and slowly…” That is to say, perhaps a cheerful reading of the dead children’s names, in a manner that would not provoke forbidden thoughts, is, in fact, the appropriate solution?

A Palestinian child who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza harbour is carried away by paramedics, Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children were reportedly killed during the attack. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

A Palestinian child who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza harbour is carried away by paramedics, Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children were killed during the attack as they played on the beach. (photo: Activestills)

In conclusion, Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein says: “This is the place to clarify in a lucid voice first that, as human beings, we frown upon the death of innocents in Gaza, let alone children.”

Later on the court decision follows: “Israel is aware, and must be aware, of the distress of innocents on the other side – children included… as an attorney general myself, I have dealt with that quite often.”

It is interesting to listen to the “lucid” voice of a supreme court judge, the coherent and deciding voice that rules whether other tones – sober, complex, relaxing or agitating – will be heard, or not; the voice that itself admits that for years and years it has held a position devoid of repression or guilt, since it is never our fault and there must never ever be any doubt, contemplation or empathy on the matter.

Hussein Kaware’, 13 years old; Basem Kaware’, 10 years old; Muhammad Kaware’, 13 years old; Abdallah Kaware’, 12 years old; Qasem Kaware’, 12 years old.

That’s the reality we live in nowadays, and here is the bottom line: There is no one in Israel who will enable the reading of the names of Siraj, Nidal, Sarah or Amal. More than anything, this is an appalling and heartbreaking statement on the current state of affairs.

“And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?” (Genesis, 37:29)

And we, whither shall we go?

Hagai El-Ad is the CEO of B’Tselem.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call

Related:
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli paper
How will Gaza’s children carry their scars into adulthood?
WATCH: Children long for kites, not bombs, in Gaza skies

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