+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:10:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Still no ceasefire agreement as Israel rejects Kerry proposal http://972mag.com/still-no-ceasefire-agreement-as-israel-rejects-kerry-proposal/94338/ http://972mag.com/still-no-ceasefire-agreement-as-israel-rejects-kerry-proposal/94338/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:05:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94338 Amid intensive efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli cabinet rejected the latest U.S. proposal, yet agreed to a 12-hour suspension of fighting.

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj during his funeral at the Qalandiya Palestinian refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014, after he was shot and killed the night before during clashes with the Israeli army amid a massive protest in the West Bank against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip. (photo: Activestills)

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj during his funeral at the Qalandiya Palestinian refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014, after he was shot and killed the night before during clashes with the Israeli army amid a massive protest in the West Bank against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip. (photo: Activestills)

In a press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that further efforts were needed to get all parties to agree on the terms of a ceasefire agreement after Israel rejected the proposal. He added that he was confident an agreement would be reached, though more effort was needed to work through issues of terminology in the proposal.

Kerry did, however, get Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to a 12-hour pause in its military operation in Gaza. Haaretz reported that Kerry was ”working towards a brief, seven-day humanitarian ceasefire to try to create a more durable, sustainable ceasefire.”

According to Reuters, France will host an international meeting on Saturday in order to rapidly work toward a ceasefire agreement. Representatives from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Italy, the EU, Turkey and Qatar are said to be attending the talks in Paris.

After 18 days of fighting, the bombardment of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces continued throughout Friday. The Palestinian death toll approached 850 Friday evening, with the majority of casualties being civilians.

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)

Israel announced the death of another soldier, bringing the total number of Israeli soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge to 35. 

The army determined that Sgt. Oron Shaul, who was previously considered missing, was in fact killed in the Shejaiyah assault on Sunday. Six other Golani troops were also killed in that attack. Hamas had said that Shaul was captured in action.

Despite ongoing ceasefire talks, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon reportedly told soldiers to be prepared for the possibility that the army will be ordered to expand its Gaza ground operation “very soon.”

According to Haaretz, Hamas militants attempted to kidnap an Israeli soldier by dragging him into a tunnel. The army responded by shelling the area of the tunnel, allowing the soldier to escape.

While in the West Bank tension engulfed the territory. Maan reported that seven Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in the last 24 hours amid solidarity protests with those in Gaza. An 18-year-old Palestinian reportedly killed when an Israeli settler drove by and opened fire at a protest march.

Air France announced it would lift its ban on flights to Israel late Friday after it halted flights earlier this week amid security concerns.

Related:
Israel has alternatives to this war
‘The largest West Bank protest in years’
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?

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Israel has alternatives to this war http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/ http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:19:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94325 This war can end and the next one can be avoided by lifting the siege, allowing for imports and exports in and out of Gaza, relieving the pressure on the civilian population, and then embarking on a genuine effort to reach a fair compromise with the Palestinians.

This operation feels different from previous escalations. A ceasefire may come soon, but we could also be heading for a long period of violence and instability. Another escalation will not be limited to Gaza: the West Bank saw its largest protest since the Second Intifada last night, with two killed by army fire.

This round of violence should also be understood in the context of regional turmoil. The Palestinians were the only ones not to revolt during the Arab Spring, due to their unique circumstances under Israeli occupation. But one could see Gaza – especially if events spill over to the West Bank – as “the Palestinians’ turn” in the revolution. The Israeli-Egyptian alliance also points to the fact that Israel is no longer a bystander but party to the fighting taking place in the region.

Israel was, however, never a passive observer. It is the regional superpower and has the support of the world’s superpower. At any given moment, the Israeli leadership can choose from various policy options. This was the case following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, the escalation that preceded the military campaign, and this is also the case now.

I would like to discuss a realistic alternative, along with its cost and risks.

Funeral for the 26 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 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame'  family. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Funeral for the 26 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 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’  family. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A new policy must begin with a different strategic goal. The current Israeli goal is “peace for peace,” meaning a return to the status quo in exchange for an end to the military campaign. For Gaza, this means continued siege. As I wrote here before, Israel treats Gaza and the West Bank as a couple of open air prisons that occasionally get out of control; the goal of the military operations is to restore order. This is a policy that is supported by the Israeli opposition, which is sometimes still referred to as “the peace camp” but nevertheless supports all the wars.

An alternative strategic goal should include lifting the siege in the short term and reaching a fair and stable compromise with the Palestinian people in the medium to long term. I use the word “compromise” here because there won’t be a “solution” in Israel/Palestine that will end politics and history. Jews and Palestinians will continue to compete and cooperate on this land for the foreseeable future. But as long as maintaining the status quo remains the Israeli goal, the violent military campaigns, with all their horrors and losses on both sides, are an inevitable consequence.

There is no way around this. The “peace for peace” formula doesn’t work because the occupation is not peace. So what the Palestinians are getting is “a little less war for peace.” For this reason, the current war with Hamas is not an effort to “strengthen the moderates” and to “facilitate peace,” as some claim, but rather an alternative to peace.

The nature of this compromise should also be understood in a different way. This is much more important than the one state/two states debate. If the compromise must include the current assumptions of Israeli policy – that Israel should have veto power over Palestinian politics, over candidates and winners; that Israeli citizens should enjoy 100 percent security throughout the process and beyond; that Palestinians should accept the Zionist narrative and give up their own; that Israel will be able to dictate certain assets that it would retain for itself, from religious sites to strategic territories – if all this is to continue, then there is no solution, nor will there be one. Again, it’s worth mentioning that most of the Israeli “peace camp” never relinquished those demands, therefore its support for peaceful compromise cannot be taken very seriously.

If the strategic goal is indeed a compromise or a solution, Israelis must realize that they won’t be able to control Palestinian politics or the Palestinian economy, and that one should be prepared for the possibility of some casualties along the way. On the other hand, it’s not that we don’t have casualties now. The status quo offers endless rounds of violent escalation. Some of them will be cheaper for Israel in terms of human lives, and some more expensive. A compromise, on the other hand, will not guarantee complete security, but it does present a certain opportunity for a much better future.

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of operation ‘Protective Edge,’ when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel can end the fighting now. For that, it can agree to lift the siege on Gaza. Egypt could, in theory, do that by opening the Rafah crossing, but ultimately it will not replace Israel. The siege is an Israeli policy, and Gaza is a Palestinian issue linked to historic Palestine.

Lifting the siege can take place in stages. Israel can open the ground crossings for people and goods immediately, since it supervises them anyway and could prevent the import of weapons. There should be no problem in allowing exports from the Strip and the movement of people in and out – two things Israel banned, save for unique cases. Naturally, Israel should also allow Gaza’s civil servants to be paid. Preventing the transfer of funds for their salaries is something that contributed to the current escalation.

Israel should also recognize the Palestinian unity government and encourage the strengthening of its authority all over the occupied Palestinian territories. This is in Israel’s interest too, and I never quite figured out why the government opposes it.

Once a ceasefire has been reached, the Palestinian Authority and Israel should quickly agree on a mechanism for allowing sea and air travel to and from Gaza. This is where Israel can demand international guarantees or the presence of some third-party monitors. It can also ask for international forces to be present along and around the border of Gaza. This could help deal with the tunnels issue that Israel is concerned about.

This is in the short term. Hamas already signaled that such measures would lead to a long-term ceasefire. More than anything, these terms would ease the suffering of the Gazan population, which should be on everyone’s mind. Naturally, such measures would not provide complete security guarantees for Israel; such guarantees do not exist. This is where we return to my previous point: If one is not ready for the risks involved in the potential collapse or violation of agreements, no agreement will be possible at all. The de facto meaning of such a position is support for the status quo.

At the same time, it is worth remembering that agreements are not always bound to collapse, and history is full of examples of diplomatic measures that succeeded. Some violations are inevitable, but the conflict can gradually take on a non-violent form.

For such a ceasefire agreement not to lead to another round of war, it must be accompanied by an immediate effort to reach a full-scale compromise; one that would end the occupation and touch all core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugees. As we learned in Oslo, interim agreements that are turned into permanent arrangements are a problem in and of themselves, and can, in fact, lead to further violence.

I will not go into the one state/two states/confederacy debate here. It should, however, be remembered that all these options include certain security risks and, more importantly, the Jewish public would need to give up considerable assets. In the two-state solution these are territorial assets. In the case of the one-state solution it means sharing state institutions and symbols, and the redistribution of land.

The alternative to those arrangements is not only the status quo, but perhaps a return to full Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza. Even if Hamas is defeated and the previous order of things is restored, the Palestinians will return to fighting for their independence once they recover. The Palestinian Authority will not be able to do Israel’s police work for much longer – the Palestinians will topple it or they will force it to support the uprising, and then Israel will destroy it.

This is the choice we face as Israelis. The price of a compromise is undeniable, there are certainly risks involved, but it’s not an impossible challenge. Israel is wealthy and powerful, and has the support of the West; those challenging it are divided and isolated. It remains unclear how many of these circumstances will exist in the future.

Related:
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
Why I object to this military campaign, even as missiles fall on my city

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]]> http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/feed/ 4 COMIC: Google Glass for the Gaza gaze http://972mag.com/comic-google-glass-for-the-gaza-gaze/94315/ http://972mag.com/comic-google-glass-for-the-gaza-gaze/94315/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:09:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94315 By Eli Valley

Eli.Valley.Gaza.Google.GlassEli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

More from Eli Valley:
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
A Passover lesson: ‘And then we were free’
Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution

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Israeli, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish http://972mag.com/israeli-hamas-war-crimes-becoming-increasingly-hard-to-distinguish/94299/ http://972mag.com/israeli-hamas-war-crimes-becoming-increasingly-hard-to-distinguish/94299/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 07:35:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94299 Both sides are guilty of violating international law but the source of an attack on a Gaza UN school could be a game changer.

By Lolita Brayman

An attack on a United Nations-run facility in northern Gaza sheltering displaced Palestinians left at least 15 civilians killed and many more wounded on Thursday morning, reports indicate. Israel and Hamas are pointing fingers and negating responsibility for the deadly incident, the circumstances of which remain unclear but are significant in light of the UN Human Rights Council’s recent launch of a commission of inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes.

The Israeli army is investigating the source of the hit, while UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and admitted in an official statement that the circumstances remain unclear. Israel denied intentionally targeting the school belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is located in the densely populated northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, but did say that it fired mortars in the area after the army was shot at from a source nearby.

Both the Israeli army and UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness confirmed that Hamas rockets were being fired near the UNRWA school, and that sometimes Hamas rockets fall short of their intended Israeli targets. It is also confirmed that the exact location of the UNRWA shelter was known to the Israeli army and that several rockets fell in Beit Hanoun that same day. The army spokesperson also tweeted that the Red Cross was told to evacuate civilians from the UNRWA shelter between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., as they were planning on targeting nearby Hamas rocket launchers. Gunness confirmed via his Twitter account that the precise coordinates of the school were formally given to the army.

Chris Gunness tweet_UNRWA

IDF tweet_UNRWA

The source of the attack seems to be one of the following possible scenarios: 1) A Hamas rocket was launched from Beit Hanoun aimed at Israel and fell short of its target, landing on the UNRWA school; 2) the Israeli army targeted the Hamas rocket launchers in Beit Hanoun and accidentally hit the shelter; or 3) Israeli forces responding to Hamas militant fire shelled the school accidentally by targeting the source of the fire.

In a rather ambiguous tweet, Gunness wrote: “UNRWA tried to coordinate with the Israeli army a window for civilians to leave and it was never granted.” This is vague because it is unclear whether the Israeli army or Hamas refused to grant the opportunity for civilians to evacuate – a very pivotal factor in determining which side would be liable for the violation of international law that resulted in a large number of civilian casualties.

If a Hamas rocket is found to be the cause of this latest tragedy, Hamas could be found liable for crimes against humanity under international humanitarian law and customary international law. By intentionally targeting Israeli civilians with rockets, Hamas is in violation of the strict law of war standard, whereby only military objectives are permitted as military targets. The mens rea (guilty mind) intent is not negated even though their target was not the victim – the Geneva Conventions distinguish civilians from non-combatants but not civilians from civilians.

If the Israeli army is found to be responsible for the deadly attack due to an accident while targeting a rocket launcher, it would not be in violation of targeting civilians because the mark was clearly a legitimate military objective. However, Israel’s precision would come into question and the issue of proportionality must then be addressed as a principle of international customary law. Attacks seen as excessive in relation to concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated are considered unlawful.

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)

The UN facility itself might be considered a legitimate military target since UNRWA schools have recently housed military objectives: On two separate occasions since the start of Operation Protective Edge, UN aid workers discovered a cache of weapons in UNRWA facilities and returned them to Gaza authorities. However, the Israeli army would not necessarily be absolved of responsibility for the civilians’ deaths even if it was found that proper evacuation procedures and warnings were effectively communicated. In international courts, Israel would still have to prove that the targeted buildings were making an effective contribution to Hamas’ military effort at the time it was attacked.

A similar legal analysis of proportionality would have to be assessed if the source was found to be Israeli artillery fire in response to Hamas militant fire.

It is indisputable that Hamas militants operate in urban and residential areas of the Strip, but whether they are guilty of using human shields is an extremely contested debate. It can be concluded from the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I, and the Statute of the International Criminal court that a co-location of civilians and military objectives can amount to the use of human shields. Moreover, historic examples of this war crime have been cases where persons were actually taken to military objectives in order to shield them from attacks. Since UNRWA schools previously had hidden military objectives on their premises and then sheltered civilians in these buildings, the attack resembles – from a legal perspective – the use of human shields; however, more evidence would be needed to make this argument.

The tragic UNRWA hit comes a day after the UNHRC condemned Israel for its military operation and issued a commission of inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes. The 49-member council backed the Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with the U.S. being the only state to vote against the resolution. Although the condemnation is a far cry from actual UN judicial action – the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly threatened to seek redress from the International Criminal Court (ICC) – it places a significantly harsh international spotlight on Israel and delegitimizes military action in Gaza.

A Palestinian girl cries after an Israeli attack on Beit Hanoun elementary schools mourn in Kamal Edwan Hospital, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people. The attack killed at least 17 and injured more than 200 of the displaced civilians. Israeli attacks have killed 788 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

A Palestinian girl cries after an attack on Beit Hanoun elementary school, as people mourn in Kamal Edwan Hospital, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people. The attack killed at least 17 and injured more than 200 of the displaced civilians. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

It is a little-known fact that international law is an ever-evolving field dependent on state actors, who sometimes take advantage of the law’s ambiguity in interpretation. The authenticity of seeking justice via UN courts should be questioned, because the threat alone can be manipulated into a political tool to delegitimize instead of persecute. The ICC in particular has limited authority in imposing international law convictions because many countries, including the U.S., China and Russia, are hesitant to become signatories; however, the court does influence policy making and what conflicts are worthy of media attention. In the Palestinian case, acceding to the Rome Statute – a necessary step for ICC action – would also open the Palestinian Authority to persecution for Hamas’ war crimes. This is a potentially disastrous move for the newly established and unstable Palestinian unity agreement.

International law and the media have a hard time distinguishing between legality and legitimacy. In a recent INSS report, Pnina Sharvit Baruch, a former legal advisor for the Israeli army, explained: “Issues touching on the legality of Israel’s actions are not synonymous with issues concerning the legitimacy of these actions in the international arena, and legal actions may still be deemed illegitimate.” The UNHRC commission is an example of this difference: Israel’s legitimacy was questioned, no actual judicial action was proscribed, and the very next day both sides violated international law, resulting in more casualties.

At the end of the day, international law might just be adding more fuel to the fire and feeding the media frenzy by blurring the lines between legality and legitimization, and Hamas and Israeli war crimes. The debate over fault in the UNRWA attack will hopefully draw attention to the political consequences of UN condemnations and its shortcomings in creating a facilitative environment for a ceasefire to materialize.

Lolita Brayman is a lawyer and former editor at Haaretz.com with an M.A. in conflict resolution and mediation from Tel Aviv University. Follow her on Twitter at @lolzlita

Related:
AP: UN shelter shelled; more than 140,000 displaced
Palestinian human rights leader: ‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Gaza ground invasion: Shedding the pretense of ‘precision’

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‘The largest West Bank protest in decades’ http://972mag.com/the-largest-west-bank-protest-in-decades/94280/ http://972mag.com/the-largest-west-bank-protest-in-decades/94280/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:56:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94280 Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem march in solidarity with Gaza, in the largest such protest in years. At least two were killed. 

Thousands of Palestinians marches from Ramallah to Qalandiya Checkpoint and in East Jerusalem where they clashed with Israeli forces in protest of Israel's attacks on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands of Palestinians marched from Ramallah to the Qalandia checkpoint in East Jerusalem, where they clashed with Israeli forces. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

At least two protesters were killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem late Thursday night, as thousands of Palestinians marched from Ramallah to the Qalandia checkpoint, which separates Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The protest, against Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, was the largest the West Bank has seen in years – according to some Palestinian demonstrators, the largest in decades. As of Thursday night, 805 Palestinians  had been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its offensive on July 8. 

The West Bank march quickly spread to East Jerusalem, where police were said to be clashing with protesters in the Old City, Silwan, and other neighborhoods. Protests were also reported in Nablus and Bethlehem.

 

According to Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, Palestinian ambulances, blaring their horns, were streaming in the opposite direction of the march, evacuating protesters wounded by Israeli fire at the checkpoint.

The West Bank protest came during Laylat al-Qadr, the 27th night of Ramadan and  the holiest night of the year for Muslims. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel Police Micky Rosenfeld said that hundreds of officers would be stationed around the Old City during Friday prayers, and that no Arabs under 50 would be permitted to enter Damascus Gate.

 

 

Earlier Thursday, Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshaal said Hamas was prepared to sign a ceasefire agreement with Israel, as long as Israel’s siege of Gaza is lifted. In comments made from Qatar, Meshaal underlined that he also wants Gaza’s border with Egypt to be opened.

“We want an international airport, we want a seaport, we want an opening to the outside world, and not the situation where we are controlled by a few border crossings that turn Gaza into a huge prison, where no one can leave even for medical treatment or to work […] When we get a clearly worded drafting that guarantees these things, and the international community gives its backing to this draft – than the fire can be stopped, even today,” said Meshaal.

While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a proposal for a ceasefire on Thursday, Israel indicated it could broaden its offensive. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Thursday that Israel had established a 3-kilometer-wide “no-go” zone along its border with the Gaza Strip, encompassing 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

Also Thursday, an Israel military spokesman said in a statement that the army was investigating the matter of the deadly strike on the UN-run school in Beit Hanoun, where many Gazans had sought refuge from Israeli shelling on residential areas. Israel maintained that Hamas militants fired at soldiers from the school, but Palestinians say the school was occupied by civilians fleeing the violence.

A Gaza spokesman for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, said they had received no warning before Israeli forces shelled the Beit Hanoun school that was serving as a shelter. The attack killed at least 17 and wounded more than 200 of the displaced civilians who had taken shelter there.

Related:
AP: UN shelter shelled; more than 140,000 displaced

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AP: UN shelter shelled; more than 140,000 displaced http://972mag.com/ap-un-shelter-shelled-more-than-140000-displaced/94265/ http://972mag.com/ap-un-shelter-shelled-more-than-140000-displaced/94265/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:25:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94265 The United Nations today confirmed “multiple dead and injured” at its shelter in Beit Hanoun, where Gazan families had sought refuge from non-stop Israeli shelling that has killed more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees, said via Twitter that the agency had earlier today passed the shelter’s “precise coordinates” to the Israeli military. Fearing an attack, UNRWA had “tried to coordinate with the Israeli army a window for civilians to leave,” but “it was never granted,” said Gunness.

As reported by AP, the attack comes just hours after UNRWA announced more than 140,000 Palestinians had sought shelter at its facilities from the ongoing Israeli bombardment. That number, based on headcounts at 83 UNRWA facilities, does not include Palestinians forced to seek shelter elsewhere, including on the grounds of Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. UNRWA also reports that one Palestinian child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days.

With the percentage of displaced likely approaching 10 percent of Gaza’s population – this in a territory where refugees are already the majority – humanitarian workers are calling the impact of “Operation Protective Edge” unprecedented. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, told +972 that Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” which was launched in December 2008 and caused the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians, was “a joke compared to this,” referring to the now 18-day Israeli assault by air, sea, and land.

A Palestinian girl from the Al-Tom family draws on a chalk board at UNRWA's Remal Elementary School in Gaza City which is used as a temporary shelter for Palestinians fleeing the northern Gaza Strip,  July 13, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

A Palestinian girl from the Al-Tom family draws on a chalk board at UNRWA’s Remal Elementary School in Gaza City which is used as a temporary shelter for Palestinians fleeing the northern Gaza Strip, July 13, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

As news of the Beit Hanoun attack broke, Israel showed no sign of scaling back its ground invasion or airstrikes. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said yesterday that Israeli troops are “preparing for the next stages of battle once the tunnels have been taken care of.”

As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise, calls for a ceasefire are mounting, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signaling this morning that “some progress” toward the goal had been made. Meanwhile, the U.S. yesterday was the only member of the UN’s Human Rights Council to vote against a war crimes inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza, which council head Navi Pillay said indicate a “strong possibility” that Israel has fallen afoul of international humanitarian law. Pillay cited attacks on civilian homes and hospitals, which have so far killed dozens of children.

Although the identities of the dead in Beit Hanoun have yet to be confirmed, with more than 40 percent of Gaza’s population under the age of 15, thousands of children are hunkered down in the UN shelters.

Today’s attack comes as Israel’s outgoing president, Shimon Peres, formally hands over his post to Reuven Rivlin. Peres oversaw Israel’s “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” the 1996 military campaign over Lebanon, which included the bombing of a UN civilian shelter in Qana. The Qana Massacre, as it came to be known, left 106 dead and prompted UN investigators to conclude that it was “unlikely” Israel had acted in error.

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How SodaStream treats its Palestinian workers when the media isn’t looking http://972mag.com/when-the-media-isnt-looking-how-sodastream-really-treats-its-workers/94215/ http://972mag.com/when-the-media-isnt-looking-how-sodastream-really-treats-its-workers/94215/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:24:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94215 At the end of a day of fasting, SodaStream factory workers were provided with meager and unsuitable food. When they dared to complain, they were fired immediately.

By Niv Hachlili / Ha-Makom

Wednesday, July 2, was especially tense. The funerals for the three murdered Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach had taken place the day before. Gangs of rioters were already roaming the streets of Jerusalem, and Ramadan was entering its third day. It was 8 p.m. and the night shift workers at the SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim (the industrial zone of the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim) headed to the dining room for their first meal after 16 hours of fasting.

Ahmed Nasar Al-Adin, a worker in the metal quality assurance department at the factory recounts that “on the first and second day of Ramadan the food was entirely fine,” but that on that night, when the approximately 40 shift workers arrived tired and hungry, they discovered that instead of the five trays of food that were supposed to be in the cafeteria, there were only “two trays, one with a little bit of schnitzel and the other with chicken that was both appalling and insufficient for all the workers.”

They decided to contact the supervisor of the cafeteria, who was absent that night, contrary to the previous days. “We spoke to him and he said that this is what there is. Whoever wants to, will eat; whoever doesn’t, won’t eat. This is what there is.” The workers also turned to the shift supervisor in the factory, who gave them the same answer.

SodaStream is a successful company that is working toward obtaining a significant portion of the global drink market and is trying to brand itself as an ethical and “green” company. At the beginning of the year SodaStream became embroiled in a public scandal when it hired the actress Scarlett Johansson to advertise its brand worldwide, a move that led to criticism against the actress since the company’s factory is located across the Green Line in the West Bank. In response to this criticism, the company repeatedly emphasized that its factory provides jobs for hundreds of Palestinian workers and serves as a locus of coexistence between the two peoples.

The meal meant for 40 workers to break their Ramadan fast while on shift at the SodaStream factory. (photo: SodaStream workers)

The meal meant for 40 workers to break their Ramadan fast while on shift at the SodaStream factory. (photo: SodaStream workers)

Due to Kosher restrictions, the hundreds of Palestinian workers are forbidden from bringing in food from the outside and are therefore reliant on the food the factory provides. “This was not the first time this has happened on the night shift,” says Al-Adin. “We have discussed this with the management before, but there was no improvement. There were instances of insufficient bread and vegetables, and instances of not enough to drink.”

This time, however, the situation was different, since during Ramadan the workers fast all day and the management is aware of that. A few days before the holiday the management posted a message promising that there would be appropriate food and that workers would be provided with a room to rest in should there be need for it.

The workers tried to reason with the shift supervisor for over an hour. The solution suggested to them was that the workers would eat the packaged meal they get at 3 a.m., an hour before their return to the fast, which includes a box of hummus, sour cream, tuna, and sliced cheese. “I explained to him that we have been fasting for 16 hours and it is unreasonable to expect us to only eat this packaged meal. It’s not enough food for someone who stands and works for 12 hours,” says Al-Adin. At this point it seems that the management lost patience. “The shift and transportation supervisors told us that there is nothing to do at this point and that the shift has been canceled.”

The next morning the workers on that shift received phone calls from the management that notified them of the decision to terminate their contracts because they refused to return to work that evening. “They also claimed we were violent. The factory has cameras documenting every corner. Lets see the tape. What violence are they talking about?” asks Al-Adin.

It seems as if the spirit of coexistence on which the SodaStream factory prides itself was absent among the top management of the company, which entirely ignored its workers. “No one has addressed the workers to this point. Don’t they think we should be heard too?” asks A., who was fired overnight.

A notice to the workers contains claims Al-Adin is referring to. “They hung a notice on the message board,” recounts A., another factory worker. “The night shift workers who came to eat were disappointed by the variety of food served…  and decided on their own that they are unwilling to return to work until other food was served to them,” claimed the notice. “Despite attempts to explain to them that the food is of sufficient quality… the workers decided they are unwilling to return to work and they wish to go home immediately…  it is worth noting that the atmosphere around this entire event was heated and contained hints of violence.”

The letter from SodaStream management sent to the employees who were fired overnight (photo: SodaStream workers)

The letter from SodaStream management sent to the employees who were fired overnight (photo: SodaStream workers)

“On the contrary, we told them we do not want to go home,” says Al-Adin, “that in fact we want to return to work. But they sent us home. They told us that the managers would meet tomorrow and would solve this, and that we should sign out and go.”

“We see this incident as very grave… something we cannot allow to become routine and, therefore, all the workers involved have been fired immediately without the usual severance payment,” the management wrote in its notice to the workers. Al-Adin confirms the statement: “The manager who called the fired workers said that the management decided not to have a hearing because of the severity of their act.” What is the basis for the company’s claim that the workers did not want to return to work? “It’s what the night managers said.”

One might guess that even if the actual implementation of “coexistence” is not truly at the top of the list of priorities at SodaStream, their advertising themselves as such is likely not bad for business. In May the company published its forecast for the rest of the year, predicting a 15% increase for 2014, compared with income of $562.7 million in 2013; and a forecast of a 3% increase in profit in 2014, compared with profit of $42 million in 2013.

The factory in Ma’ale Adumim employs about 1,100 people. It seems that there are good reasons why more than 800 of them, the majority of the production line in the different departments, are Palestinian. Whoever wants to work at the factory, which functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is required to work 12-hour shifts, including Friday and Saturday. The average worker labors 220-250 hours per month. An assembly line worker averages 23 shekels an hour. Al-Adin, who worked as a quality control technician in the metal department, has a degree in materials science. His wage was 27 shekels an hour.

Several of the workers were relatively new, having been employed for about 10 months. “I worked at the factory for two years and two months but there are also those who worked for 4-5 years and we were fired just like that, with a phone call. They told us not to return, and that we could pick up our termination notice on Sunday,” says Al-Adin.

SodaStream employees who were fired overnight wait outside the premises to collect their letters of dismissal and personal belongings.

SodaStream employees who were fired overnight wait outside the premises to collect their letters of dismissal and personal belongings. (photo: SodaStream workers)

But the humiliation did not stop there. “When we came to take the termination notices they blocked us from entering the factory, and whoever did get in, finally, was accompanied by guards. We, the ones who did not enter, they broke into our lockers, without any one of us around. This is our privacy here, and they brought our stuff outside.”

In a truly bizarre coincidence, on Friday, two days after these aggressive terminations, the Israeli news website NRG published a special column (Hebrew) entitled “Coexistence: This is How to Make Peace.” The author, who spent time in the company’s “special” cafeteria was impressed that “… one of the only places in Israel in which coexistence, tolerance, and hope, even in these times, is preserved, is in SodaStream’s factory in Ma’ale Adumim.” The company’s profits, its treatment of its workers, and its aggressive terminations somehow went unmentioned.

The Workers Advice Center WAC-MAAN, which represents the fired workers, stated that “If SodaStream does not comply with our demand to return the workers to the factory immediately, MAAN will act in the legal and public arenas to guarantee their rights.”

SodaStream has responded: “The entire termination process was done legally, there was a hearing, and the workers were not deprived of compensation payments. SodaStream treats all its workers with respect, and therefore a special hot meal to break the fast was provided for its Muslim workers. Nevertheless, the workers chose – without relation to the quality of the food or to the quantity of the food – to not enter the cafeteria at all, and afterwards they stopped work on the assembly lines. SodaStream cannot accept a situation in which workers who don’t think the food is appropriate stop work on the assembly lines and manifestly ignore the orders of supervisors.”

The original post was published in Hebrew on the independent news site, The Hottest Place in Hell (Ha-makom)

Related:
5 things I learned from the Scarlett Johansson/SodaStream affair
Scarlett Johansson chooses SodaStream over Oxfam
The cynical use of Palestinians in the SodaStream controversy

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Israel during wartime: Loving our soldiers to death http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/ http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:11:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94251 War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one.

I’ve always thought, and still think, that if I were in real trouble somewhere, if I were being mugged in Miami, say, and I could choose the nationality of the nearest bystander, I would choose Israeli. They are brave, and they don’t hesitate to help someone in danger, even at risk to themselves. It’s a worn-out cliché, and I’ve found it to be very true.

And the war going on now, from an Israeli Jewish vantage point, is sort of that quality played out on a national scale. First of all, of course, there are the ground troops going into Gaza. As wrong as this war is, the young combat soldiers going in to fight are risking their lives, and some of them are dying or getting very badly wounded. They are brave. And they are ready to die to save their fellow soldiers. (And I don’t blame them for this war; they were born and bred for it.) I don’t think there can be many Israeli Jews today, no matter their political opinions, who, if they think about these soldiers, can help being moved by them and caring for them.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

And Israelis’ instinctive readiness to help in a time of need is coming out abundantly across the home front, across Israeli society at large. One tiny example: This morning I went to the neighborhood grocery store and they’ve got a box for people to donate sanitary wipes, underwear and other items for the soldiers stuck for days and nights in the field. They have another box to donate nuts and cookies and stuff for the shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning period, for a soldier in Modi’in who was just killed.

This is a very emotional experience. Most Israeli Jews have family members or friends in Gaza; I do, too. But even for those who don’t, everyone is just surrounded by this story of young guys going in to risk their lives, and not a few of them dying, and seemingly the whole country truly, to one degree or another, everyone in his or her own rhythm, worrying for the living and mourning for the dead. You see 30,000 people going to each of the funerals of these two “lone soldiers” from America who had no family in this country, Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli – it is stunning. This society is glowing with tears. Hearts are bursting.

And this is sort of the problem: It’s like the agony of love – it’s the worst but it’s also the best. This is Israel at its best – brave, sacrificing, caring, loving. The tears. It’s so warm. We are a great big family. We are.

And when do we know it best? In war. And because we have so many wars, we have so many of these great national lovefests, these tragic/heroic communal sagas. We’re good at it, very good, great. And it’s not a show – the media may kitsch it up, but they don’t have to – this is real. The soldiers are real, the deaths are real, the reactions of people are real. For an Israeli Jew, it’s extremely hard to resist being part of it. And at the emotional level, why should one try?

But there are at least a couple of conditions attached to this communal experience: One, there can be no reminders of what we are doing to the people in Gaza. The media have to give it a little bit of time or space, tucked away, for appearance’s sake; they seem clearly apologetic about this. Nobody, but nobody, in the communal embrace wants to see or hear about the Palestinians in Gaza.

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of operation ‘Protective Edge,’ when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The other condition is that no one may ask whether the cause these soldiers are fighting for – this war – is right or not. Whether we, Israel, could have prevented the deaths. Whether we, especially we parents, are even just partly responsible for getting more than a few of our soldiers killed.

Nobody can ask that question, not in public; he will be shouted down angrily. He will be silenced.

And so this display of what’s best in Israel goes hand-in-hand with the demonstration of what’s worst in it: The conformism, the robotic thinking, the blind obedience, this fucking lemming-like quality. You hear people repeating it in the media like an oath – we believe in our soldiers, we believe in the mission, we believe in our leaders.

We believe in the mission. We believe in our leaders.

War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one. Wouldn’t it be nice if Israelis could devote a little of their courage to the contemplation of breaking ranks, and give a little of their compassion to the Palestinians? Maybe then they could find a better arena for their awesome bravery and generosity than one war after another after another.

Related:
‘Finish the job’
This was a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
How can you possibly oppose this war?

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Photos of the week: No end to the violence http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-no-end-to-the-violence/94216/ http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-no-end-to-the-violence/94216/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:29:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94216 As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge enters its 17th day, violence continues as a ceasefire remains elusive. Thirty-five Israelis have been killed, including 32 soldiers, with the Palestinian death toll reaching 734, mainly civilians.

Photos by: Anne Paq, Basel Yazouri, Oren Ziv, Fiaz abu-Ramele, Yotam Ronen, Tess Scheflan, Keren Manor, Mustafa Bader / Activestills.org

Funeral for the 26 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 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame'  family. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Funeral for the 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack on the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Mother (left) of Jihad Issam Shuhaibar (8), and Wasim Issam Shuhaibar (7), two of the children killed in an Israeli airstrike on in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, is comforted by a relative in al-Shifa hospital, July 17, 2014. The third victim of the airstrike that hit children while they were playing on the roof of their house, was their cousin 10-year-old Afnan Tariq Shuhaibar. The airstrikes came immediately after a temporary five-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Hamas and Israel ended. As of July 17th, 237 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Israeli military operation against the Gaza Strip, including 48 children, and more than 1,700 have been injured. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Mother (left) of Jihad Issam Shuhaibar (8), and Wasim Issam Shuhaibar (7), two of the children killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, is comforted by a relative at al-Shifa hospital, July 17, 2014. The third victim of the airstrike that hit the children while they were playing on the roof of their house, was their cousin, 10-year-old Afnan Tariq Shuhaibar. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative kisses the body of a family member from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya at Al Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative kisses the body of a family member from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya at Al Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area take refuge in al-Shifa hospital following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area take refuge in al-Shifa hospital following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 100 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and four elderly people. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Relatives and family members of the Israeli solider Bayhesain Kshaun mourn during his funeral in Netivot city, Israel, on July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Relatives and family members of Israeli solider Bayhesain Kshaun mourn during his funeral in Netivot city, Israel, July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Local residents hug near a house that was hit directly by a rocket lunched from Gaza, In the city of Yahud, July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Local residents hug near a house that was hit directly by a rocket lunched from Gaza, in the city of Yahud, July 22, 2014. (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)

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

Israeli left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in center Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014. The sign reads: "There is enough guilt for everyone". Police arrested three right wing protesters who tried to hurt left wing activists, as hundreds were protesting against the attack. Right wing activists held a counter demo, calling to kill Arabs and to use more force in Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in central Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014. The sign reads: “There is enough guilt for everyone”. Police arrested three right-wing protesters who tried to hurt left-wing activists, as hundreds were protesting against the attack. Right-wing activists held a counter demo, calling for the killing of Arabs and for more use of force in Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli right wing demonstrators (left) protest in front of left wing activists, as the take part in a protest against Israeli attack on Gaza, in center Tel Aviv, July 19, 2014. Right wing activists tried to attack left wing activists during the protest, police arrested at least five right wing protesters. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli right-wing demonstrators (left) protest in front of left-wing activists, as they take part in a protest against Israel’s attack on Gaza, in central Tel Aviv, July 19, 2014. Right-wing activists tried to attack left wing activists during the protest, police arrested at least five right-wing protesters. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in the northern city of Nazareth, July 21, 2014. Police used tear gas and a water canon to disperse the protest, arresting at least ten youth. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in the northern city of Nazareth, July 21, 2014. Police used tear gas and a water canon to disperse the protest, arresting at least 10 youths. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen push back protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen push back 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. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel participate in a demonstration in Jaffa, organized by the Islamic movement against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.o)rg

Palestinians living in Israel participate in a demonstration in Jaffa organized by the Islamic Movement, against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

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 the streets and blocked roads, calling to put an end to the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

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

Palestinian journalists and photographers protest the killing of Palestinian cameraman Khaled Hamad, outside the offices of the Red Cross in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah, July 21, 2014. A Palestinian news cameraman, Khaled Hamad, was killed in Gaza during the Israeli artillery shelling of the city's Shujaya residential district on July 20th, 2014. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Palestinian journalists and photographers protest the killing of Palestinian cameraman Khaled Hamad outside the offices of the Red Cross in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah, July 21, 2014. Hamad was killed in Gaza during the Israeli artillery shelling of the city’s Shujaya residential district on July 20th, 2014. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers following the killing of Mahmud al-Hamamra, 33, shot to death by Israeli soldiers, July 22, 2014. Mahmud was shot during a protest against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip in the West Bank village of Husan, near Bethlehem. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers following the killing of Mahmud al-Hamamra, 33, shot to death by Israeli soldiers, July 22, 2014. Mahmud was shot during a protest against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip in the West Bank village of Husan, near Bethlehem. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Residents of the unrecognized village of Al Arakib takes care of his horses, July 20, 2014. Israeli court ordered the resident on Sunday to leave the village during the following week. The village was demolished by the Israeli authorities over 70 times, and the local residents are sleeping in the open air inside the graveyard of the village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A resident of the unrecognized village of Al Arakib takes care of his horses, July 20, 2014. An Israeli court ordered the residents on Sunday to leave the village the following week. The village has been demolished by the Israeli authorities over 70 times, and the local residents are sleeping in the open air inside the graveyard of the village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Related:
‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Photos: Another day of destruction, death and displacement

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Anti-Semitism has no place in Palestine advocacy http://972mag.com/anti-semitism-has-no-place-in-palestine-advocacy/94201/ http://972mag.com/anti-semitism-has-no-place-in-palestine-advocacy/94201/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:29:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94201 Anyone who claims to speak for Palestine while condoning acts of bigotry against our Semitic brothers and sisters should not be speaking on our behalf at all, let alone for those suffering in Gaza. 

By Yasmeen Serhan

Amidst heart-wrenching death tolls and news accounts of the recent escalation in Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza, reports of violence in a Parisian protest against the Israeli military operation began to shower my newsfeed. Articles detailed how hundreds of participants in a pro-Palestinian demonstration allegedly took to the streets of Sarcelles – home to one of France’s largest Jewish communities – and wreaked havoc on the surrounding community.

Accounts described how protestors allegedly threw Molotov cocktails near a synagogue and set fire to local businesses and vehicles. Such actions came at the heels of Paris’ recent citywide ban on all pro-Palestine activity, including demonstrations. The protests, according to these accounts, were supposedly in the name of Palestinian “advocacy.”

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014.

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Though it is still unclear as to exactly what transpired in Paris and who was responsible for the acts, what remains clear is that what occurred in there did not mirror the actions of pro-Palestinian activists elsewhere. In countries like Australia, Chile, Spain, and countless others, thousands of people stood up in solidarity with the people of Gaza and against the Israeli military’s escalating operation, which has thus far claimed the lives of more than 655 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and 31 Israelis, 29 of them soldiers. In London, 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets to demand Israel end its attacks on Gaza. In Chicago, 10,000 protestors marched for 10 blocks in protest of the Israeli assault. Yet, unlike Paris, such large protests did not succumb to violence.

The reason is simple: Such acts of violence simply have no place in Palestinian advocacy.

Pro-Palestinian advocates must continue to ardently oppose the siege in Gaza, as well as the brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people. However, we, as supporters of the Palestinian people, too must actively push back against any form of bigotry or violence against Jewish communities. This type of behavior, as exemplified in the events in Paris, is antithetical to what Palestinian advocacy stands for – a movement of freedom, equality and human rights. Such actions only perpetuate the misguided paradigm that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based on religious bigotry, and only provides fodder to those who use such incidents to depict all Palestinian supporters – many of whom Jews – as anti-Semites. Ultimately, such violent actions are no better than the right-wing extremist “Death to Arabs” protests taking place throughout Israel. It is a mockery of Palestinian advocacy, and something that should never be tolerated.

Five activists were arrested during a direct action at Boeing International Headquarters in Downtown Chicago on July 16, 2014. The activists wore red stained shirts and protested Boeing's involvement in the deaths of Palestinians during the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. (Tess Shcaflan/Activestills.org)

Five activists were arrested during a direct action at Boeing International Headquarters in Downtown Chicago on July 16, 2014. The activists wore red stained shirts and protested Boeing’s involvement in the deaths of Palestinians during the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. (Tess Shcaflan/Activestills.org)

Just as some within the Jewish community condemn Israel’s violent operation in Gaza by decrying “Not in my name,” we too must speak out against the unthinkable acts of violence that threaten to take place in ours. Anyone who claims to speak for Palestine while condoning acts of bigotry against our Semitic brothers and sisters should not be speaking on our behalf at all, let alone for those suffering in Gaza. Palestinians know firsthand what it’s like to be oppressed on the basis of identity; the last thing we should allow is for our peers and allies to hypocritically do the same.

In famed Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf’s latest tribute to Gaza, he sang, “Raise your head high, it is your weapon.” In the spirit of Assaf’s words, we too must continue to raise our heads high. It is a far more powerful weapon than any Molotov cocktail will ever be.

Yasmeen Serhan is a Palestinian-American student studying international relations at the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Related:
An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir
WATCH: A voice of peace on the Gaza border
The night it became dangerous to protest in Tel Aviv

 

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