+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 29 Jul 2014 22:47:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 VIDEO: Hamas militants film infiltration of IDF base http://972mag.com/video-hamas-militants-film-infiltration-of-idf-base/94629/ http://972mag.com/video-hamas-militants-film-infiltration-of-idf-base/94629/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 22:28:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94629 Al Jazeera (Arabic) broadcast a video clip Tuesday night that it says was filmed by the Al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, as it carries out a military operation yesterday (Monday) at the Nahal Oz army base on Israel’s border with Gaza.

The film shows a group of armed men, their faces hidden by black dots, emerging from a tunnel dug under the wall separating Israel from Gaza. They run over to the army base and open fire as they enter it. At one point one they surround and shoot an Israeli soldier, whose cries are audible. The militants then turn around and escape back into the tunnel. At the end, they display weapons that are clearly marked Israeli, with IDF serial numbers.

According to reports, five Israeli soldiers were killed in the Nahal Oz attack.

Warning: Graphic content

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WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour http://972mag.com/watch-civilians-have-no-safe-place-to-go-in-gaza/94518/ http://972mag.com/watch-civilians-have-no-safe-place-to-go-in-gaza/94518/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:48:14 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94518 A video posted Tuesday by Al Arabiya shows the destruction of the Gaza neighborhood of Beit Hanoun in one hour. According to the Israeli army, residents are given at least three minutes to evacuate their homes before they are bombed. (In some cases, Gazans are given a 24-hour notice to evacuate the entire neighborhood.) Watching this video, I couldn’t help but wonder whether those three minutes would be enough to escape this kind of attack. I don’t think so.

This video reflects the reality of civilian life in Gaza. Israel claims that Hamas is using schools, hospitals, beaches and mosques to shoot rockets, which makes each of these sites a legitimate target. However, this also means that civilians have nowhere to go for safety. I was told by some Israelis that people should just go out into the streets until the bombing is over. However, this video proves how naive this “solution” is. The residents of Gaza don’t even have the “privilege” to flee danger as refugees.

A huge crater is seen in place of a home which had been bombed during an Israeli attack, Bani Suheila, East of Khan Yunis, July 27, 2014. Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 in the current offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A huge crater is seen in place of a home that was bombed during an Israeli attack, Bani Suheila, East of Khan Yunis, July 27, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

As a friend of mine from Gaza told me when I called him two days ago: “We are waiting here to see if we are meant to live or die. Every day is another day of fear and destruction. If you don’t die, someone you know is likely to be among the dead. This is no life a human being can accept.”

Related:
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?

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Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza http://972mag.com/not-about-tunnels-israeli-tanks-take-aim-at-central-gaza/94582/ http://972mag.com/not-about-tunnels-israeli-tanks-take-aim-at-central-gaza/94582/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:04:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94582 Israel’s ‘no-go zone’ – created by scorched-earth shelling that has leveled entire neighborhoods – has shrunk Gaza nearly by half.

A colleague in Gaza City’s Tal el Hawa neighborhood reported before dawn this morning that Israeli tank shells were falling all around the apartment building where he and his wife were hunkered in a hallway, contemplating where they could flee come sunrise. Between them and the Mediterranean sea to their west are fewer kilometers than those separating them from Shejaeiya to the east, where days earlier, Israeli tanks had reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble.

“They’re doing to us like they did to Shejaeiya,” my colleague said. Although the sun has barely risen in Gaza and the damage not yet fully surveyed, by all accounts, last night’s bombardment was the fiercest yet in central Gaza—and this time it came from tanks, too.

Palestinians inspect damages of a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. During the ceasefire on 26 July, many Palestinians went back to Shujaiyeh to inspect the damages together with medics who attempted to rescue injured or collect bodies. Dozens of bodies were collected but many remain as Palestinians do not have all the necessary equipment to dig. Israeli attacks turned the neighborhood into a scene of utter devastation, with entire buildings flattened and thousands forced to flee.  Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 in the current offensive.

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during the July 27 ceasefire. (photo: Activestills.org)

I strain to grasp the tactic. Hadn’t Benjamin Netanyahu, just hours earlier, forecast further violence by vowing to destroy Hamas tunnels? Never mind that the tunnels had only recently figured into his rationale for what Germany’s largest-circulation daily, Sueddeutsche Seitung, called the “Gaza-krieg.” If “destroying tunnels” was Netanyahu’s casus belli, what on earth were Israeli tanks doing so close to Gaza City, in the heart of the Strip?

And are the tanks there to stay?

As Israel stepped up its shelling of northern and eastern Gaza earlier on Monday, the first day of the Muslim feast marking the end of Ramadan, Netanyahu’s military endgame began to look a lot like what Palestinians feared most – a return to the status quo. Only this time, with the shelling reaching central Gaza, the picture looks far more bleak.

A map published Thursday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs paints the picture, offering a striking visual of what may be Gaza’s new de facto “border.” The map shows an Israeli-imposed “no-go zone” extending three kilometers into the Strip from its northern to southern tips—an area representing 44 percent of Gaza’s total land mass and within which, presumably, Israeli tanks unleashed hell upon Gaza City last night.

If past is precedent, that expanded area will be a virtual shooting gallery for Israeli soldiers long after the present military maneuvers end, and only Palestinians willing to risk life and limb will dare enter. Just ask residents of the eastern and northern Gaza districts abutting Israel. Long before their homes were devastated by shelling, they understood just how lethal their enforced penury was. In the so-called “buffer zone,” which officially extended only 300 meters into Gaza, human rights organizations had documented Israeli snipers firing at Palestinian civilians up to 1.5 kilometers from the border with Israel.

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014.<span class="s1"> Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014.<span class=”s1″> Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

With Israeli troops now enforcing their “no-go” policy in an area twice as deep, Palestinian civilians beyond that zone face a similar and persistent threat, as evidenced last night. In fact, as the OCHA map shows, Palestinians living in the northern three-quarters of Gaza may all be within shooting distance of Israeli snipers. That is certainly the case in Gaza City, where thousands of displaced Palestinian families have sought shelter. UN spokesperson Chris Gunness said yesterday that more than 170,000 Palestinians—or nearly 10 percent of Gaza’s population—were seeking shelter at facilities run by the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Making matters worse, the Israeli military later in the day issued fresh evacuation orders to residents of northern Gaza, raising fears that attacks there would escalate to levels that saw entire neighborhoods leveled in Beit Hanoun and Shejaeiya. And even as more people fled toward Gaza’s center, the military dropped a new flyer on Gaza City, listing names of alleged Hamas members killed by airstrikes and asking, tauntingly, “In your opinion, whose name will be written in the coming publication?” (Palestinian journalist Lara Aburamadan displayed the flyer on Twitter).

            Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

The threat came as news broke of yet another attack on a medical facility—this time also in the heart of Gaza City. As NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported, the attack struck an outpatient clinic of Gaza’s main hospital, Al Shifa, at around the same time that 10 people, including children playing outside, were killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Shati refugee camp.

The attacks show no sign of abating. Within hours of the Shati attack, Netanyahu called for Hamas to be demilitarized and said that Israel would continue targeting tunnels along its border with Gaza. But with that “border” now nearly halving Gaza’s territory and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced to cram into central Gaza areas still under bombardment, Netanyahu is clearly targeting far more than tunnels. In fact, his actions are drawing Israel ever farther from a compromise, and it’s hard to imagine Hamas acceding to a ceasefire under these conditions.

Indeed, the group has vowed to continue fighting until Israeli troops leave Gaza and displaced residents return home. That, too, seems like a distant prospect: Even if a ceasefire deal allowed displaced Palestinians to return to northern Gaza, it’s unlikely they would be able to stay there unless the ongoing Israeli embargo is lifted—a key Hamas demand—and they are allowed to rebuild.

All of which brings us back to a lesson John Kerry has already learned: Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with the status quo, and at this point—after bearing the blows of three full-scale Israeli assaults in five years—they have little left to fear. This much is for certain: if the bombing ends tomorrow but the so-called buffer zone remains, Gaza’s resistance will continue. The only question is whether the world will pay attention when today’s massacres become tomorrow’s one-off murders again. If it doesn’t, we can be sure that the massacres will return again soon.

In the meantime, the killing continues.

Related:
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?
Five Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; Palestinian death toll hits 1,088
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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Five Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; Palestinian death toll hits 1,088 http://972mag.com/five-israeli-soldiers-killed-in-gaza-palestinian-death-toll-hits-1088/94571/ http://972mag.com/five-israeli-soldiers-killed-in-gaza-palestinian-death-toll-hits-1088/94571/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:20:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94571 As world leaders attempted to, once more, broker a humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Monday, the IDF announced that five Israeli soldiers were killed over the course of the day. Four of them were killed by mortar shell fire near the border with Gaza, while a fifth was killed in clashes with Hamas militants in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli Air Force pounded the Strip into the early hours of Tuesday morning, a day after its airstrikes killed a total of 44 Palestinians. Another 12 bodies were recovered from the rubble by medical teams earlier in the day, according to Ma’an News Agency.

A woman mourns for her young kid who was murdered during an Israeli airstrike over UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, July 24, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A woman mourns for her young child, killed by an Israeli airstrike over an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, July 24, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Ma’an also reported that 10 people were killed Monday afternoon by an Israeli air strike on a children’s playground in al-Shati refugee camp. Families had gathered to celebrate the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which ended in horror with eight children among the dead. Although Israel blamed the deaths on a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket, eyewitnesses, along with Gaza police who inspected the rubble and victims’ bodies, confirmed the strike was Israeli.

Gaza Ministry of Health Spokesman said over the last 21 days, a total of 1,088 Palestinians have been killed and 6,470 have been injured. Of the dead, 251 were children and 50 elderly, while 1,980 children and 259 elderly have been wounded.

Earlier on Monday, five Palestinian militants breached the Israeli border and opened fire at IDF soldiers near Nahal Oz on the border with Gaza. The soldiers returned fire, killing one Palestinian. According to the IDF, the other militants retreated to the tunnel shaft from which they came, and an Israeli aircraft in the area did not manage to target them.

In a press conference Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is prepared for a prolonged operation in Gaza, saying that “there is no war more just than the heroic one our sons are fighting in.”

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

“Bravery and determination are needed to fight a terror group which seeks our destruction,” Netanyahu stated, adding that the operation would not end before the tunnels from the Gaza Strip were neutralized.

Related:
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces

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‘Unprecedented’ violence stalks anti-war demos across Israel http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/ http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:24:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94530 The recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Haifa against the Gaza war have largely failed to reach the global media. And while the end of the bloodshed still seems far from sight, there is a different, violent confrontation being held inside Israel – one that targets Arab citizens and left-wing activists on the internet, and uses physical violence against anti-war demonstrators.

By Omer Raz

Tel Aviv, July 13

The second weekend of Operation Protective Edge saw the first bout of physical violence at Habima Square – the cultural heart of Tel Aviv. At around 8 p.m. a crowd of several hundred people gathered to protest against Operation Protective Edge, and called for a ceasefire. A second small group, comprised largely of teens and young adults draped in Israeli flags, began harassing the anti-war demonstrators, shouting slogans against their protest and accusing them of treason. The protest got tense as the right-wingers became physically violent.

A few minutes after 9 p.m., air raid sirens began blaring after Hamas shot multiple long-range rockets at Tel Aviv. The leftist protest scattered to find shelter, while the rightists chased them into dark alleys and cafes, where several leftists were beaten. Shortly after, +972’s Haggai Matar wrote the following: “When the sirens sounded into the night, only one thing was obvious to all of us: the fascists in front of us are more dangerous than the rockets on the way.”

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists attacking left-wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists were injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The scene was later described by the new, self-ordained nationalist leader – a long forgotten ex-rapper who goes by the name of “The Shadow” (HaTzel). He wrote the following on his Facebook profile shortly after the protest:

We started with three people against their 800, and finished with 350 of ours and zero of them. It was crazy to do it all with sirens in the background and explosions in the sky.

Haifa, July 16-17

A city with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs, Haifa is known as a bastion of Jewish-Arab coexistence. (In the past it was referred to as “Red Haifa” for its blue-collar port and industry working class politics.) Haifa has held regular Saturday night demonstrations since the beginning of the assault. The July 16 protest was organized by the Balad party and Abna’a Al-Balad – a secular Palestinian movement in Israel – and included prominent Arab political figures such as Knesset members Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zehalka, both of whom are hated by the general non-Arabic public.

The demonstrators marched and chanted slogans through the streets of the Wadi Nisnas and the German colony neighborhoods, before violence erupted between the protesters and police forces, resulting in 40 arrests. The following day, Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, held a joint demonstration against the Gaza war as well as against the arrests. In response, leading figures of the far-right, including Kahanist activist Baruch Marzel, called on supporters to attend and “take a stand” against the anti-war demonstration.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa's Baha'i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

The police did not take any chances this time; helicopters hovered above Mount Carmel, police officers on horseback guarded the main entrances to the protest, and a large vehicle equipped with a water cannon was station across the road. The anti-war demonstrators numbered no more than 300, while at least 1,000 counter-protesters stood on the other side of Moriya Avenue. Police presence was heavy and kept the two sides at bay. The rightists yelled slogans such as “Go to Gaza,” “Death to Arabs,” and “Death to leftists.” Water bottles and stones were thrown at the Arabs and Jews who stood together and yelled “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Young men in their 20s roamed the main road leading to the protest. They were hooligans; we had never seen them in Haifa before. This wasn’t only hostile ground for Arabs, it was hostile to anyone who is not committed to the war effort. When the left-wing protest dispersed and buses began to load people back to their homes, the mob got out of control. They started again chasing and beating leftists, including women and elderly people. The police then used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse the rioters; at least 30 people were injured.

Tel Aviv, July 26

It took three weeks before the anti-war camp slowly materialized. After the events in Haifa, organizers put together an event to be held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square – where 400,000 people once demonstrated against the Lebanon war in the 1982. Thousands were expected. Three hours before the event, just as people from all across the country were making their way to Tel Aviv in the heavy Saturday evening traffic, the police announced that it was canceling the protest for security reasons, because was slated to coincide with the end of the humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, the police reversed its decision one hour later. Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters came to Rabin Square, with hundreds on the nationalist side. The latter were supported by many passersby on the street, who shouted and harassed the leftists.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The demonstration was once again heavily guarded by police, and the two sides were separated by steel fences. Speeches were made by politicians, as well as by members of Combatants for Peace (former soldiers and militant Palestinians who have since come together to renounce violence). Police dispersed the protest at 10 p.m., a full hour before it was scheduled to end. But the nationalists did not stop there. As demonstrators were leaving the square, several were accosted and attacked by right wingers, some of them wielding metal batons. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by police.

WATCH: Anti-war demonstrators square off with right-wingers in Tel Aviv:

Omer Raz is an environmental engineering student and former editor of the student magazine editor at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

Related:
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal? http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/ http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:34:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94559 Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that its ally in Cairo gets the credit, rather than the Hamas-allied Turkey and Qatar? 

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

There is hardly any difference between the draft agreement presented by Kerry and the Egyptian proposal, apart from the question of who will be its sponsor: Cairo, or Turkey and Qatar?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

On Sunday morning, Haaretz’s excellent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, published a commentary on the new draft proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

At the end of his article Ravid added:

[Kerry's] conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.

A report published in Haaretz reveals the text of the draft, compares it with the draft presented by Kerry last Thursday and discusses the negative aspects that appear in the draft. We do not have access to the full text of Thursday’s draft, but we do have the full text of the Egyptian draft of the ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and which was rejected by Hamas.

A close reading of the full version of Kerry’s “Hamas-inspired” draft and that of the Egyptians reveals insignificant differences between the two. The Egyptian draft, which was put together with Israel, while excluding the Hamas from the process, was formulated before the land invasion of Gaza and therefore does not address the question of Israel’s continual destruction of the underground tunnels.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

According to Haaretz, the Thursday draft allowed Israel to continue destroying the tunnels for a period of one week following the beginning of the ceasefire, whereas the “Hamas-inspired” draft does not allow it. Effectively, the current draft states that immediately after the onset of the ceasefire ”both sides will refrain from carrying out military or security activities that could lead to confrontation between them.” It is obvious that the draft forbids targeted assassination attempts against members of Hamas and the other organizations, but it is not at all clear that the continued destruction of the tunnels is forbidden as well.

Haaretz lists other problems in Kerry’s draft, the most important being the lack of any reference to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. However, the Egyptian propsal does not deal with this issue, and it is clear to Israel that the demilitarization will not be achieved by a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Therefore demilitarization was not stipulated as the objective of its current operation in Gaza.

Another claim presented by Haaretz is that the new draft requires both sides to return to the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. This agreement was put in place in order to secure the reopening of the border crossings, as well as to enlarge the area to which Gazan fishermen have access. However, the Egyptian draft presented the agreement of 2012 as the basis of negotiations between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel. It is important to note that Hamas considers the return to this agreement an accomplishment, in light of Israel’s breaching of the agreement and the tightening of the blockade on Gaza, which took place in the time since the agreement was signed. It was also claimed by Haaretz that the draft does not mention the Palestinian Authority and thus weakens it. However, Egypt’s proposal also did not refer to the PA.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

According to Kerry’s draft, it was claimed that the negotiations for a permanent arrangement with Hamas will address the organization’s demand to open a sea harbor and an airport in Gaza. There is no reference in the text of the draft to these demands, and the chances that they will be supported by the U.S. are next to nothing. The airport in Gaza was bombed in 2001 and has not been in operation since. The site of the harbor under construction was also bombed in 2001. Since Israel did not adhere to its commitment (part of the 2005 agreement regarding border crossings), to enable the construction while Mahmoud Abbas was in control of the Gaza Strip, it will not do so under Hamas rule.

There is only one difference between the drafts: the identity of their respective sponsors. According to the Egyptian draft, Egypt will supervise the implementation of the agreement, whereas in Kerry’s draft the role of supporting the agreement and providing humanitarian assistance was given to the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, the United States, Qatar and Turkey.

A senior official in Kerry’s delegation was therefore justified in stating that the Kerry draft was based on the Egyptian proposal, which had been wholeheartedly endorsed by Israel. Thus, if Israel is opposed to the Kerry draft, it is opposed to its own plan.

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that the regime in Cairo gets the credit rather than Turkey and Qatar? Or maybe the fact that 86.5 percent of Israelis currently oppose a ceasefire is driving the spin masters who need to look for excuses to continue the fighting?

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a human rights activist and a graduate student in Middle East studies.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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Protective Edge: The disengagement undone http://972mag.com/protective-edge-the-disengagment-undone/94528/ http://972mag.com/protective-edge-the-disengagment-undone/94528/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:06:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94528 Israel’s latest operation has brought about an end to the notion that Gaza can be separated from the rest of Palestine.

The current war in Gaza demands we revisit the circumstances surrounding Israel’s “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Supporters of the war often claim that Israel left the territory and “got rockets in return.”

The first rocket was fired from Gaza in 2001, but there is a more important point to be made here: one cannot evacuate a certain part of the occupied territories and expect the problem to be solved – at least in that particular area – while more settlements are being built and there is less freedom elsewhere. The national drama surrounding the evacuation of 9,000 settlers in 2005 disguised the fact that Israel never ended the occupation; it merely rearranged its forces (and some of the civilian population). Just like it did with Oslo.

The events leading up to the siege demonstrate that pretty clearly – Hamas, after all, won the 2006 elections, but Israel denied it its victory. Just like other occupying powers, Israel insisted, and still does, on using its veto power in internal Palestinian politics. The rest is well known: having been left out of the political process, Hamas took Gaza by force and launched attacks on Israel, leading to Israel placing the Strip under siege, which didn’t end even when ceasefires were reached.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

These events could have been expected, but in a way they served what the Israeli government perceived as its own interest. The object of the disengagement was to prevent the creation of the Palestinian state – relieving the pressure on an area that Israel had trouble maintaining in order to hold on more tightly to other parts. This was no secret; even Ariel Sharon’s top aid, Dov Weisglass, said as much on record in an interview with Haaretz.

The bottom line is that Gaza and the West Bank are a single unit. This was demonstrated again and again in the last decade, including in the run-up to this war, which had much to do with the widespread operation Israel carried out against Hamas’ political leadership in the West Bank after the abduction of the three teenagers. An action taken in one place leads to a response in another. It is now clear even to Israelis that one cannot simply “get rid of Gaza”; the Strip is once again understood as part of the greater Palestinian issue. And this is Hamas’ greatest achievement in this war.

Conflicting forces of separation and integration are at work between Israel and the territories it occupied in 1967. If Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense were parts of the ongoing effort to isolate besieged Gaza, this military campaign seems to bring about an opposite outcome. Any foreseeable end to Operation Protective Edge will probably include some mechanism that would reconnect Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, and through them to Israel. There is even the option that Israel will decide to re-occupy the entire Strip, though this still seems unlikely.

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

At this point, it seems that nobody in Israel has given much thought to the goals or the exit strategy of this campaign. Naturally, Israelis would like to see the arrangement Israel has in the West Bank installed in Gaza – a proxy government whose main function is to protect Israeli citizens and prevent another uprising, financed by the international community and under Israeli supervision. The Egyptians would be happy with such a solution as well.

The problem is that the Palestinians, as well as the rest of the world, seem less thrilled – especially since Israel has made it fairly clear that the Palestinian Authority will never become sovereign in any real sense of the word.

Related:
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
Israel has alternatives to this war

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WATCH: Israeli teen refuses to serve in army, likely to face jail time http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-teen-refuses-to-serve-in-army-likely-to-face-jail-time/94538/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-teen-refuses-to-serve-in-army-likely-to-face-jail-time/94538/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:38:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94538 Dozens of supporters, including past refusers, hold demonstration outside Haifa draft board office in solidarity with 19-year-old Udi Segal.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Yuval Orr

For the past month, the news in Israel/Palestine has been filled with reports of more and more people killed, the vast majority of them Palestinians. As much of Israeli society is swept up in the fever of the most recent war on Gaza, there are those voices that refuse to accept a present, or future, filled with violence, occupation, fear and hostility. One of those voices belongs to Udi Segal, a 19-year-old Israeli from Kibbutz Tuval, who was sent to jail on Monday for refusing to enlist in the Israeli military.

Watch this short video of Udi explaining his refusal to serve:

About 75 people – Jews and Palestinians – gathered in Haifa to stand with Udi. Among the crowd were Ruty and Yael Ferera, the mother and sister of Uriel Ferera, an Orthodox Jewish refusenik who has been in and out of military prison since April for refusing; Omar Saad, a young Druze refusenik who was recently released after over six months in prison; and a number of other past refusers and current signatories on the 2014 letter of conscientious objection.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Across the street was a small gathering of flag-draped counter-protestors. There had been calls to demonstrate against Udi’s refusal circulating on Facebook, but thanks to clever organizing (the Facebook event for Udi’s protest listed the start time at 11:00, at the Navy Museum, and then, surreptitiously, told actual supporters to meet at 12:00, near the Draft Office, five kilometers away, on the other side of Haifa), only a few showed up. Their chants touched on a number of now-familiar tropes (“Go to Gaza! You’re all traitors! Gaza is a cemetery! Go get f**ked in the a**!”) but also took on an uglier, more personal element, targeting Udi by name, branding the demonstration as his “gay coming out party,” calling him a “son of a whore” as he stood by his mother.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

The demonstration in support of Udi was quiet and dignified, with signs declaring support for his refusal, critiquing the occupation and calling for an immediate end to the war on Gaza. One demonstrator held a sign that said “Over 800 people killed does not equal security.” When he saw me looking at the sign, he shrugged sadly and said: “I made this sign a few days ago. The death toll in Gaza is now estimated at over 1,058.

After a short gathering, Udi said his goodbyes and walked off to the draft station, where he approached the commanders with the words that have crossed the lips of thousands conscientious objectors before him: “I refuse.”

Reporting, photography, interview and editing by Yuval Orr and Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Moriel is an American-Israeli writer, activist and refusenik. He blogs independently at www.thelefternwall.com. Yuval is a American-Israeli filmmaker and activist whose first short film “Hebron is Beautiful” explores the banal absurdity of the Israeli occupation of Hebron through the eyes of a Palestinian teenager. They are both members of the All That’s Left Anti-Occupation Collective.  

 You can follow Yuval on Twitter at @YuvalOrr and Moriel at @TheLefternWall.

Related:
IDF denied draft refuser letters, access to his lawyer
‘God can’t hear you’: Orthodox draft refuser’s first night in prison
Druze conscientious objector hospitalized with liver infection

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Gaza becomes Syria: Middle East geopolitics 2.0 http://972mag.com/gaza-becomes-syria-middle-east-geopolitics-2-0/94511/ http://972mag.com/gaza-becomes-syria-middle-east-geopolitics-2-0/94511/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 03:13:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94511

The bickering between countries over who has the right to negotiate over the Palestinians is nothing new. We’ve been here before.

By Aziz Abu Sarah and Dr. Marc Gopin

There are two main camps involved in negotiating a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. However, the players are not within the camp that most would have expected. What started as Israel vs. Hamas is quickly becoming a geopolitical issue involving many new actors. While this might seem good for some, it should be seen as terrible news for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Israel, Egypt and the PLO seem to be in one camp supporting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, and Saudi Arabia might be there as well. That camp calls for an immediate ceasefire and for all issues to be negotiated in Egypt after the ceasefire is achieved. In the other camp stands Hamas, Qatar and Turkey. They oppose the Egyptian ceasefire because it does not address the blockade on Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo: U.S. Embassy)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo: U.S. Embassy)

There is a third camp that includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and some other international figures, who are trying to figure out how to bring these two camps to agree on one formula for a ceasefire, but are managing to get everyone angry instead. Complicating things is a reported $11 billion defense deal between the United States and Qatar, which prompts some to question what’s going on in terms of everyone’s interests.

The problem with these new alignments is that Hamas vs. Israel is now becoming a geopolitical conflict that includes countries that have become bitter enemies. Qatar and Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the opposition to Sisi, the current Egyptian president, is positioning them on the rejectionist side of any proposal that Egypt would propose. Egypt, on the other hand, does not want Qatar or Turkey to have any regional influence on its borders – certainly not in Gaza. Sisi’s strategy has been to pressure Hamas to accept his proposal by limiting aid coming from other Arab countries, such as the Tunisian aid  that was not allowed into Gaza last week. However, Egypt marginalized Hamas to a point of complete mistrust when it did not speak to its leaders directly about the first ceasefire proposal.

Secretary Kerry’s efforts have not lead to any concrete agreements yet. According to Haaretz writer Barak Ravid, the Israeli government was shocked by his ceasefire proposal. According to Ma’an News Agency, the PLO was furious that Kerry would undermine the Egyptian proposal and side with the Turkish-Qatari proposal.

The bickering between the Arab and Muslim states over who has the right to negotiate over the Palestinians is nothing new. Palestinians have paid the price for the Arab and Muslim geopolitical infighting for decades. Unfortunately, some Palestinian leaders are allowing the Palestinian case to be used in this geopolitical fight.

We have seen this movie before. Some of the same players involved in “helping” Gaza are also involved in Syria. Different proposals, never-ending talks and negotiations. The end of the matter is that regional interests trump the Syrian interest for most of these countries. Three years on Syria is divided, broken in small “states,” with over 160,000 killed and millions  displaced or made refugees. All the promises for support faded away. Syrian civilians are the ones who paid the price.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

Today this same is happening in Gaza. ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, is already reported to have a presence in Gaza and is likely to try to take power from Hamas. While all the other regional powers are arguing about which “proposal” for a ceasefire should be accepted, more than 1,040 Palestinians have been killed and 6,000 injured, with 44 Israelis killed as well. If this conflict continues with the same intensity for 12 months, there will be 24,000 Palestinian killed with 72,000 injured. Gaza today lies in ruins, and more than 170,000 have been made homeless. It will take years to rebuild what was destroyed in two weeks.

Hopefully, a ceasefire will be finalized soon and the regional powers will stop playing with Palestinian lives for their own political self-interests. But let’s remember that the ceasefire will not end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps the main problem with the ceasefire negotiations is that they ignore the underlying issues. While a ceasefire will allow Israelis to slip back into normal lives, it will keep Palestinians under occupation both in Gaza and the West Bank.

It also ignores that the next generation is comprised of children who have seen three wars in six years. Kids in Gaza only know Israelis from the destruction of their cities, and the deaths of their family members. Kids in Israel only know Palestinians from the sound of sirens. So, unless we change course, we can expect a similarly ugly confrontations very soon.

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He is also the co-founder of MEJDI Tours.

Related:
Obama calls on Netanyahu to accept unconditional humanitarian ceasefire; 15 killed in Gaza
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces

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Obama calls on Netanyahu to accept unconditional humanitarian ceasefire; 15 killed in Gaza http://972mag.com/obama-calls-on-netanyahu-to-accept-unconditional-humanitarian-ceasefire-15-killed-in-gaza/94509/ http://972mag.com/obama-calls-on-netanyahu-to-accept-unconditional-humanitarian-ceasefire-15-killed-in-gaza/94509/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 22:40:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94509 In a phone call held Sunday night, U.S. President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu that there is a “strategic imperative” to reach an immediate humanitarian ceasefire based on the one agreed to in November 2012 after the previous round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

According to Obama, the U.S. supports the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, as well as international efforts to bring about an end to hostilities, stressing that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include the disarmament of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians inspect damages in Abasan village, East of Khan Yunis, July 27, 2014. During the ceasefire on 26 July, many Palestinians went back to Abasan to inspect the damages together with medics who attempted to rescue injured or collect bodies.  Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 in the current offensive.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect the damage in Abasan, east of Khan Younis, July 27, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The call comes on the heels of a 40-hour humanitarian ceasefire that ended late Saturday night after rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli security cabinet voted to extend a humanitarian pause in fighting until midnight Sunday, as per the UN’s request, but insisted that the IDF continue to neutralize Gaza tunnels. A Hamas spokesman responded to the decision by stating that “Any ceasefire that doesn’t ensure that the IDF pulls out of Gaza and the evacuation of the injured is not acceptable to Hamas.” However, the organization later requested another humanitarian ceasefire, which the Israeli cabinet rejected.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to broker a ceasefire on Friday evening, although his proposal was immediately shot down by Israeli cabinet members who bashed Kerry for proposing a ceasefire which, in their eyes, served Hamas’ interests and betrayed Israel. According to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid, a top U.S. official called the reactions “extremely offensive. Mainly the charges that he betrayed our closest ally in the region – Israel.”

The official added that the draft proposal presented by Kerry to Israel was intended “for Israeli comments and input” as part of a coordinated effort by the U.S. and Israel to secure a ceasefire.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 15 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire on Saturday, and 53 others were wounded. According to Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian medics managed to recover 117 bodies on Saturday, since they had access to large areas that had previously been off-limits before the ceasefire. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge 1,034 were killed and 6,233 were wounded. Forty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the operation, and hundreds have been wounded.

Related:
PHOTOS: Gazans use ‘ceasefire’ to pick up the pieces
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
Israeli, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish

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