+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:17:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Unafraid: The new generation of Palestinian activists in Israel http://972mag.com/unafraid-the-new-generation-of-palestinian-activists-in-israel/89978/ http://972mag.com/unafraid-the-new-generation-of-palestinian-activists-in-israel/89978/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:48:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89978 For decades, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived in fear of the internal security services. But the new generation of political activists are simply not that impressed by Shin Bet intimidation anymore. 

By Ala Hlehel / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell
(Translated from Hebrew by Dimi Reider)

When I was in my second year of university and my father found out I became politically active, he was terrified. “The Shin Bet will snatch you in the middle of the night and throw you out to Lebanon!” he told me. The generation of my parents, who came of age in the shadow of the military regime imposed by Israel over all Arab-majority areas within its  territory, grew up on Shin Bet fairy tales; tales of its tyranny and, most importantly, of its perceived omnipotence. “They can know your dreams before you even dream them,” warned one uncle, who worked as a subcontracted maintenance man with the police and therefore considered himself immune.

The difference between Majd Kayyal and the generation of the military regime is immense; the threat to chuck us out to Lebanon is not that terrifying anymore. In fact it is not threatening at all, and my own feeling, from my own acquaintance with Kayyal’s generation, is that his generation does not really give a damn that much about the Shin Bet. It is a generation bereft of anxiety and devoid of inferiority complexes, a generation that already a while ago changed its strategy. Instead of constantly producing reactions to the activities of the establishment, this generation is taking it own initiatives, breaking new ground in both political thought and political action. The budding campaign against the Prawer Plan marked a new peak in Arab political activity in Israel proper, in a vivid display of the sheer determination of the new activists vis-a-vis the Israeli establishment. Moreover, it amply demonstrated the new ways of thinking practiced by this new generation, which stand in sharp contrast to the tactics of the old, traditional Arab party establishment.

Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against the Prawer-Begin Plan, BeerSheva, May 12, 2013 (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Young Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against the Prawer-Begin Plan, BeerSheva, May 12, 2013 (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Majd Kayyal is not alone. Thousands of young Arab-Palestinian citizens are no longer afraid to confront the Israeli establishment and its agencies. They are intelligent, passionate and brave, sometimes too brave; but who can really find fault with a 22-year-old woman or a 24-year-old man who look at what is going on in the state itself and in the territories it occupies, and wonder if they will have “a place under the sun” in the world of  Netanyahu and his ilk. Most of these activists make no distinction between the political-national struggle and the internal, social one. They believe you can’t cherry-pick your freedoms, and this is where the secret to their power lies: when Kayyal writes about struggles against the Israeli establishment and the Sisyphean attempt of the Palestinian to survive, he also writes against everything that ails Arab and Palestinian societies from within. He, and dozens like him, do so from every possible stage, and especially in the great arena of our time, the social networks.

On Thursday night, hours after he was released to house arrest from detention, I was sitting with Kayyal and another friend on the porch of his house in the Halisa neighborhood of Haifa. We wanted to hear about what happened in the five days of interrogation, but all he could talk about was Beirut. The spell cast on him by that city from the moment he set foot in had yet to fade. “You spend three weeks there and already you feel you have memories to tell your grandchildren,” he told us. He said, simply, that he walked the streets of Beirut and felt he was walking through the alleys of songs and poems we grew up on, brimming with the names of the streets and the quarters of that bleeding city.

Read +972′s interview with Majd Kayyal

No Jewish Israeli can ever fully grasp that metaphor, or this unbreakable bond – unbreakable even by sweeping, anachronistic laws. While to most Israelis Beirut is a memory of conquest and carnage, to us Beirut is a princess, murdered in cold blood while the Arab regimes watched, impassively, from the sidelines. How can you explain to the average Israeli the immensity of love and sorrow that compose the word “Beirut?” There is a an abyss between us and the Jewish majority in Israel in all walks of life, and our desire to be an integral part of the rich Arab culture around us is one of the things of which this abyss is made. When former IDF spokesman and Channel 2 evening news host Oded Ben Ami attacks Kayyal live on air, he does so in the name of the Jewish-Zionist consensus that cannot (but really, cannot) begin to comprehend this incongruity: How is it that an Arab plus Lebanon plus “nationalist newspaper” plus a violation of security laws does not necessarily equal treason, punishable by hanging at Cyber Square?

This incomprehension stems largely from the fact that to most Israeli citizens history, as a whole, begins with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It is a blind eraser that does not allow an observation of history in any colors beyond black and white. The entire history of this whole country can, to them, be summed up in the eucalyptus trees planted to dry up Hula Lake and military Palmach songs.

The Shin Bet has been after young political activists for years. They are invited for “clarification” chats, and the duty interrogator tries to keep spinning the same yarn that put the fear in all our parents: we know everything about you. And this, frankly, is a bit ridiculous. It’s enough to visit someone’s Facebook page these days to know everything about them. These young people are warned they are putting their futures at risk; that their path is a risky one and that their kind security service cousins are keeping an eye on them. But these young people simply don’t give a damn. This is why the Mukhabarat-style detention of Kayyal is, first and foremost, an attempt to school everyone at Kayyal’s expense. But how do you school someone who’s already an expert on the innermost complexities of politics and life?

This entire pathetic affair peels away yet another layer off the aura the Shin Bet cultivates around itself. It seems it is not omnipotent after all, and that intelligence is not necessarily its second nature. In fact, the one word that keeps bouncing around my head as I write is, rather, stupidity. Can they truly be so stupid, the Shin Bet? Is Captain Abu-Whatever really unable to extract information on espionage from a 23-year-old guy? Or has framing people become too difficult with this savvy generation? Majd Kayyal cruised easily through a Shin Bet lie-detector test; can the Shin Bet itself pass one?

Be that as it may, the anger at this violent, bullying organization is mixed today with a fair bit of gloating and the feeling of a small victory. Some of the little luxuries we can afford ourselves, from time to time, in Securistan.

Ala Hlehel is an author and journalist. A previous attempt to stop him from traveling to Beirut was shot down by Israel’s High CourtThis post first appeared in Hebrew on ‘The Hottest Place in Hell.’

Related:
Majd Kayyal to +972: ‘The Shin Bet was very nice, and therein lies their racism’
How one Palestinian citizen challenged Israel’s ‘enemy state’ policy
Selective prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal
Israel’s double standard on cross-border loyalties

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‘The Shin Bet was very nice, and therein lies their racism’ http://972mag.com/the-shin-bet-was-very-nice-and-therein-lies-their-racism/89988/ http://972mag.com/the-shin-bet-was-very-nice-and-therein-lies-their-racism/89988/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:48:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89988 Majd Kayyal, the Palestinian journalist from Haifa who Israel detained incommunicado when he returned from Lebanon, speaks to +972 about what it’s like visiting Beirut as a Palestinian, his Shin Bet interrogation and why Israel wants to deter Palestinian citizens of Israel from visiting the Arab world.

Text by Rami Younis
Photos by Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org

 

He just sat there. I’d look at him occasionally, taking little sips from his cold beer, looking very peaceful, almost aloof from all the phones and commotion of activists around him. He’d give a piece of advice or share a joke with whoever was beside him, but that’s it. As we were trying to get the rest of the world’s help in freeing all the detainees, Majd Kayyal included, Mbada Kayyal, the father, maintained a cool temperament and nonchalant appearance that I would only learn to understand and appreciate much later.

That was almost three years ago, during the Nakba events of 2011 when Palestinian activists in Syria and Lebanon decided to peacefully march to their southern borders; local activists, Majd among them, were supposed to be waiting on this side of the border. The only democracy in the Middle East decided to preempt this creative, non-violent act of resistance and started arresting people on their way north.

The Kayyal family’s cool temper is not unique to the father and eldest son. Two years ago, in the midst of a demonstration in support of hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners, police brutally beat and arrested 17 activists; Ward, Majd’s younger brother, and yours truly were among them. He was only 16 back then, a minor. While still in custody, police refused to allow his mother, Souhair, to be present with him (as required by law). The latter fought that decision like a lioness outside. Her pressure worked, but Ward, who had been beaten along with the rest of us, refused to leave us behind. Only after his lawyers interfered did he reluctantly leave. The next day, when we were all released following a court remand hearing, Souhair insisted on waiting outside for the very last detainee to walk out. I called her up last Friday and explained that I was interested in interviewing her son, Majd, a Palestinian reporter for the Lebanese newspaper As-Saffir, who was under house arrest, fresh from a five-day secret detention that awaited him back in Israel after he flew to Lebanon via Amman in order to take part in the newspaper’s anniversary convention.

Ahla wsahla,” she said happily. “But I won’t be there to welcome you. I was am about to cross to Jordan.”

“For a light visit, I hope,” I tell her.

“You could say that, I guess. I’m on my way to a special activity I have with Syrain refugee children,” she explained.

In recent days, many have tried to understand who exactly is this person capable of such an inspiring act – to travel to Beirut as if it were a short trip to Cyprus. Souhair’s last sentence encapsulated the mindset and worldview of the Kayyal family. Her detained son was just returned to her after five nerve-wracking days with the Shin Bet (Israel’s secret security service), on house arrest, still pending trial, and she was going on as usual.

Saturday Morning

We arrive at the Kayyal residence in the Halisa neighborhood of Haifa. Majd comes down to greet us. “Hamdella Alsalameh, man!” and a hug. We go up and sit on the terrace facing the sea. Mbada, Majd’s father, pours us coffee. To my dismay, it wasn’t Lebanese coffee.

Majd Kayyal (left) sits on the terrace of his Haifa home, discussing what he describes as his unforgettable trip to Beirut, and his detention upon returning to Israel, with Rami Younis (Photo by Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Journalist Majd Kayyal (left) sits on the terrace of his family home in Haifa, discussing what he describes as an unforgettable trip to Beirut, and his detention upon returning to Israel, with journalist Rami Younis (Photo by Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Let me live (vicariously) through you. Tell me about Beirut.

“It’s crazy, man,” he says while shooting back his coffee like a shot. “There is political mess everywhere there. We all know how Lebanon is divided – Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, Amal Aarty, Hezbollah, communists, Druze, Palestinians – and you can add to that existing salad, or at least it’s more noticeable lately, the arguments for or against Assad.”

How did they welcome you? Other than at your newspaper’s conference, I assume you took the liberty of presenting yourself as a Palestinian in other places as well.

You know, with all the factions in Lebanon, you get lost in the beginning. You can’t know in front of whom you can safely identify yourself as a Palestinian. Of course it’s easy when you meet communists; their local history is rich with support for Palestinians — in some cases, more than the PLO itself.

Anyway, In Beirut, you get into a store to buy gum or water. You have to know to whom the store belongs – Sunni, Shiite, Amal etc. By knowing who you’re dealing with you can know how far you’re allowed to go in a small talk. Lebanese people always prefer to deal with people like them in daily routine.

Get this story: I’m riding this taxi, I look at the taxi driver’s left hand and see that all of his fingers are cut off. He starts talking to me and it turns out he fought with the Samir Geagea Brigades (A notorious militant leader who commanded several brigades that slaughtered, among many others, Palestinians. R.Y.). He checks me out and notices an unusual accent. I was terrified for the whole ride while he wouldn’t stop questioning me. The moment I got out of the taxi was one of the happiest of my life.

So how would you define most of your experiences?

Definitely positive. Nothing can prepare you for a random encounter with a Palestinian from Haifa, for example. It’s an experience you can never forget.

Where did you meet Palestinians? Were you in Sabra & Shatila, for example?

I was, I visited an UNRWA school there. As I was walking down the school halls and I noticed one of the locals following, and then escorting me. At first, he probably just took me for another outsider, since we all look pretty much alike. We started talking and he asks where I’m from. Turns out he was originally from Haifa, too, from the Saloum family. His joy from meeting a real Palestinian residing in Haifa nowadays was very hard to put to words. I felt like a rock star.

Weren’t you afraid he was a Shin Bet agent or something? Someone they sent to try and incriminate you?

The thought would cross my mind every time someone I didn’t know would come up and talk to me. But then he took me to the local café, to a place called “Saloum Café.” I thought to myself the Shin Bet could easily send me someone, but they wouldn’t build me a coffee shop. I sat down, and word of my presence started spreading. People gathered around, taking photos, asking questions. Funny, but they all looked very similar to the remaining Saloum family members in Haifa today. During the conversation I discovered that the guy’s cousin, the one who brought me in, had died from a direct missile hit in Haifa during the Second Lebanese war in 2006. I decided to be sensitive and not raise the issue until the guy called his cousin from Haifa, the sister of the deceased. So I found myself talking on the phone, from a refugee camp in Lebanon, with someone who lives close to me in Palestine, with whom I have never spoken before. Only a Palestinian could experience such a thing. It was very surreal.

The political complexity of Lebanon is among the world’s most complicated. How did you notice its effects on the public discourse?

Oh, arguments are very different there. Most Lebanese are very politically aware, and I’m not just talking about the educated. I didn’t encounter anyone who claimed the Arabs of ’48 (those who remained in Israel following the 1948 war) are traitors or something, which unfortunately happens in other Arab countries. Debates are on a whole different level there – they’re more deep and profound, and they argue, debate and disagree about pretty much everything.

I enjoyed arguing with Assad supporters. When you live in such a political complexity on a daily basis, you’re forced to never stop thinking. The Israelis go to the army; they know things. The problem is that in Israel, the culture of censorship – due to the military/security culture – is the mainstream; that prevents Israelis from having important and profound thought processes. Add to that the fact we as Palestinians living here are not aware of many things for various reasons, and you get a lower level of debate than the one they have in Lebanon. I say if we’re doomed to have a war, at least have people capable of writing about it properly.

Back to… detention in Israel

Majd shares his experiences from Beirut and Lebanon, and I’m fascinated. His eyes sparkle and it is evident that this was a life-changing experience. He claims he learned a lot and approached even the least-positive experiences with love. But as expected, the end of this story is accompanied by a truly bad part.

Majd Kayyal at his home in Haifa days after he was released from Shin Bet custody. (Photo by Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Majd Kayyal at his family home in Haifa days after he was released from Shin Bet custody. (Photo by Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Your 20 days in an ‘enemy state,’ as defined by the Israeli authorities, were unforgettable, I presume.

They really were. And I assume responsibility for passing what I’ve learned on to the rest of my people, who are prohibited from visiting Lebanon. When I got arrested on my way back to Israel, I had expected it, so there wasn’t really any fear. But you know what really scared me?

What?

That they would fabricate some accusation, as they did, and manage to dump me in an Israeli jail for an undefined period of time. How do you preserve experiences? Through sharing. You return from abroad and share what you’ve been through with people. I had feared they would take my notes, photos … that I would be put somewhere without the ability to share my mental pictures and stories as I’ve been doing ever since I got out.

(Majd’s fears partly came true. I ask him to show me some pictures he took during his visit. He tells me the Shin Bet took his disk-on-key, where he had stored all of his pictures.)

Do you really think that was one of the Shin Bet’s goals? Secretly detaining a Palestinian journalist who has just returned from Lebanon? Baseless accusation of ‘contact with a foreign agent,’ as they put it?

No. It was simply incidental to the detention. As far as the Israeli establishment is concerned, all contact between ‘48 Palestinians and the Arab world is criminal and a danger to national security. Their goal is to intimidate and try to cut us off from the Arab sphere in which we live; they really do not want us to be in contact with our brothers abroad.

Why? They fear it will hurt their efforts to integrate us in their mainstream of Israeli security-patriotism? It will hurt our ‘loyalty’?

No doubt. They are afraid of setting a precedent. They do not want more journalists or activists to travel. We were educated as a Palestinian minority that the Shin Bet wants to scare us through persecution, as if they “decide” when and how to haunt us. But what we do not understand is that the Shin Bet has no will, they cannot see us as anything a security threat. It’s a clearly inflexible mechanism; you cannot change its character, thinking and modus operandi. There isn’t a government decision to prevent Arabs from traveling to Lebanon; that’s not the Israeli government’s policy so we do not have a problem of policy. Other problems, occupation and settlements, are not resultant from a flexible, changeable policy. The problem is of a racist regime, so it does not really matter if Netanyahu or someone else is running the show, it’s all the same.

So how was detention? How you were treated?

I’ll surprise you. They were very nice, and therein lies their racism.

Nice and racism don’t not sound like two things that go together.

On the surface, but every behavior has a reason, and here, the reason is conceptual: how they see me. In front of them sits a “white boy” with green eyes from an educated family, and in their understanding, I am closer to them on the human scale, the same Zionist scale that categorizes people in Israel. Though I’m not a whole person like them, I’m more of a person than a detainee or a prisoner who arrived from Gaza or the Occupied Territories, for example. Think of the “not-so-nice” attitude the rest of our people get from them and there you have racism at its best.

How were the five days in a closed room without a window and a tiny mattress for you? How were the interrogations?

“I had coffee! All the time!” Majd says out loud and then bursts into laughter.

The conditions were tough evidently, but not unbearable, especially since I was expecting it. So I was mentally prepared. The interrogations were a bit silly. They kept mentioning the name of a girl and asking if I met her. I did not have the slightest clue who they were talking about. I answered that I did not know her and had never met her, then another investigator would come to ask the same question. At some point I realized that they had nothing to ask and the whole thing became a bit pathetic. They realized that they had no material to work with. You wouldn’t believe what they started to ask me!

Don’t tell me they asked about past arrests.

Exactly! I was shocked. They asked me about the flotilla I was involved in (after the Marmara, Majd was on a flotilla from Turkey to Gaza that the Israeli navy stopped on the way and apprehended its activists), and previous demonstrations I attended, in Israel! I found myself reminding them over and over again that I’m suspected of contact with a foreign agent. I’m the detainee, reminding my investigators what to ask.

So you did get the feeling they knew exactly whom you met and where you’d been?

It’s hard to answer. They probably won’t tell you. If I had to rely on my instincts, I’d say it’s 50-50. They might have known, and it’s also reasonable to say that they did not know. Not that it matters though – I’d happily share [it with them].

Where you surprised by the support of Israeli journalists, such as Itai Anghel, who claimed your arrest was racially motivated?

Not really, for several reasons. The first reason is that it is clear the arrest stemmed from discrimination and racism and you have to be blind or stupid not to see it – and many Israeli journalists are aware of how the establishment works. Another reason is the camaraderie that exists between journalists. It bothers me, too, to hear about the arrest of a journalist, no matter who he is and where it happens.

(During the interview I occasionally sneak glances at Shiraz, our photographer. The interview was conducted in Arabic, and Shiraz, an Israeli, made out half sentences. However, I see that she was mesmerized and inhaled every word that came out of Majd. The passion in which Majd has spoken must have pinched her heart. I wonder whether she would like to travel, too. R.Y.)

Majd, I have to ask you. What do you have to say about the claims directed at you? Journalists aside, that Israeli Jews can’t travel to Lebanon either.

I’ll answer that in the Zionist method of answering questions, with my own question: What about our right of return? We do not ask for any millennia-old, irrational historical right; the last 60 years is enough. Where is our right?

Given another chance, would you do it again and go?

Majd Kayyal leans back in his chair. His little grin becomes the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on him.

“Hell yeah. If I could, I would go tomorrow.”

Related:
Unafraid: The new generation of Palestinian activists in Israel
How one Palestinian citizen challenged Israel’s ‘enemy state’ policy
Selective prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal
Israel’s double standard on cross-border loyalties

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Getting the facts straight on law enforcement in the West Bank http://972mag.com/getting-the-facts-straight-on-law-enforcement-in-the-west-bank/89964/ http://972mag.com/getting-the-facts-straight-on-law-enforcement-in-the-west-bank/89964/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:19:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89964 Law enforcement in the West Bank is a complex topic. Those who attempt to analyze it better get the background right.

In his recent piece for the new, explanatory journalism website Vox, Zack Beauchamp attempts to analyze some figures on law enforcement in the West Bank, obtained by The Associated Press. He divides the number of arrests of Israeli citizens and Palestinians in the occupied territory by the size of each population, and reaches a surprising outcome: it is Israelis that are more frequently arrested than Palestinians, not vice versa. To his credit, he does point out that “[i]t’s unlikely that Israel police are discriminating against Israelis and in favor of Palestinians.” Instead, he offers some tentative alternative explanations.

However, there is no need for speculation, because there is no mystery to be solved; the calculation is flawed, as it ignores some basic facts about law enforcement in the West Bank.

The most important fact overlooked in the article is that the Israel Police, which provided the figures, does not investigate crimes committed by Palestinians against other Palestinians. These investigations are carried out by the Palestinian Authority. On the other hand, the Israel Police investigates all crimes committed by Israelis in the West Bank, regardless of the nationality of the victim. It is only natural then, that Israelis will be massively overrepresented in its arrest statistics. This overrepresentation is exacerbated by the fact that many crimes committed by Palestinians against Israelis are also investigated by the Palestinian Authority, depending on the nature of the crime and the residence of the perpetrator.

A Palestinian woman in front of policemen in Sheikh Jarrah, April 23 2010 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman in front of policemen in Sheikh Jarrah, April 23 2010 (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Second, Beauchamp seems to have missed the fact that the figures provided to AP are solely about minors. Admittedly, AP does not do a good job of highlighting this distinction, but it does mention it twice in the same short piece. Why does it matter? Because until October 2010, Israel defined the age of minority differently for Israelis and Palestinians. For the former, it was up to the age of 18, for the latter it ended at 16. The figures provided by the Israel Police are for 2008-2013, and it is unclear which definition the police used. Knowing their record-keeping practices, I would venture to guess it is based on a chaotic mix of both definitions.

The distinction between adults and minors is critical for another reason. Adult Palestinians come face-to-face with Israeli authorities in two main locations – in the areas which are under Israeli control (Areas B and C), and in the checkpoints (some may also be arrested during Israeli raids on areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority). Palestinian minors are much less likely to travel through checkpoints, and less than a fifth of Palestinians live in areas under Israeli control. So it is no wonder that they are much less likely to be arrested, in comparison to the overall size of their population.

As it stands, right now, the only usable figures in the AP piece are those for indictment and conviction rates. These, unsurprisingly, demonstrate once again the gulf between the ways Israelis and Palestinians are treated by Israeli authorities. The Vox piece rightly highlights this finding, but its own original analysis and framing are based on erroneous premises. This is a pity, because there are a lot of fascinating insights about discriminatory law enforcement in the West Bank that the piece fails to explore.

I do not mean to pick on Beauchamp and Vox. Their intent – to provide context to figures AP seems to have provided with little analysis – is admirable. But as this incident demonstrates, those who lack extensive knowledge in this area (and this often includes “experts”) wade into the realm of analysis at their own risk.

Update:
Beauchamp has updated his Vox article to address the issues raised in this piece.

Read more:
Visualizing Occupation: Children under Israel’s legal regime
WATCH: Border Police detain, humiliate Palestinian at checkpoint

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An updated list of Israeli demands from Mahmoud Abbas http://972mag.com/an-updated-list-of-israeli-demands-from-mahmoud-abbas/89954/ http://972mag.com/an-updated-list-of-israeli-demands-from-mahmoud-abbas/89954/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:12:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89954 By Nir Baram

The following is an updated list of Israeli demands from Mahmoud Abbas:

Don’t resign. Fight terrorism. Speak about the Holocaust in a sad tone. Don’t speak about the Nakba. Don’t speak about 1948. Don’t support one state and “the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State.” Recognize Israel. Recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Seek the two-state solution. Join negotiations that lead nowhere. Support the two-state solution. Don’t promote a Palestinian state. Don’t start an intifada. Don’t turn to the international community on behalf of the two-state solution. Fight terror. Denounce terror. Don’t get offended when we then call you a supporter of terror. Don’t mention the right of return. Don’t go to the UN. Don’t join international treaties. Don’t declare a state. Don’t leave your office. Don’t oppose settlement blocs. Don’t dismantle the Palestinian Authority. Don’t threaten us. And stop being so uptight. See? People meet, talk, exchange opinions. What’s your problem, exactly?

_________

Nir Baram is an Israeli novelist. His latest book in Hebrew, World Shadow, was published last year by Am Oved.

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PHOTOS: On Easter, Palestinians resurrect their destroyed village http://972mag.com/photos-on-easter-palestinians-resurrect-their-destroyed-village/89933/ http://972mag.com/photos-on-easter-palestinians-resurrect-their-destroyed-village/89933/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 12:59:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89933 The Palestinian village of Irqit was depopulated in the 1948 war and then almost entirely razed. Now new generations of its original residents are trying to resurrect the town and realize a decades-old High Court ruling recognizing their right to return.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

A youth sits near a cross overlooking the surrounding countryside in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

A youth sits near a cross overlooking the surrounding countryside in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit’s original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. (photo: Activestills.org)

It would seem that Israeli authorities conspired to intertwine the story of Iqrit with the Christian narrative.

As the season of Advent approached in November 1948, the Israeli military forced residents of Iqrit and the neighboring village of Kufr Bir’im—all citizens of the newly created state of Israel—to leave their homes near the northern border with Lebanon because of military operations in the area. Advent is the Christian season of waiting before the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Iqrit’s residents were promised they could return to their homes in two weeks. They are still waiting.

In July 1951, the Israeli High Court ruled that the people of Iqrit and Kufr Bir’im had the right to return to their homes. The military refused to comply, and on Christmas Eve of that year blew up all houses in both villages.  Only the churches and cemeteries were left intact. Shortly thereafter, all village lands were confiscated by the state. As the family of the newborn Jesus fled to Egypt, so too were these villagers were forced into exile.

Since then, decades of demonstrations and legal appeals for the villagers’ right to return have seen a string of favorable decisions by courts and commissions that have resulted only in more broken promises and unenforced rulings.

In 1972, Prime Minister Golda Meir stated plainly why even Palestinian citizens of Israel displaced within their own state could not return to their home villages:

It is not only consideration of security [that prevents] an official decision regarding Bi’rim and Iqrit, but the desire to avoid a precedent. We cannot allow ourselves to become more and more entangled and to reach a point from which we are unable to extricate ourselves.

In the 1970s, the government had granted use of the cemetery—allowing only the dead to return to Iqrit after they lived and died in Kufr Yasif, Rameh, Haifa or other places of exile. As one villager remarks, “The cemetery is the only living part of the village, according to the law.” But the Christian gospel that Iqrit’s residents follow maintains that the grave does not have the final word.

“The community is living as a community despite the geographical separation,” says Shadia Sbait, coordinator of the Iqrit Community Association. Families gather for mass in the village church on the first Saturday of every month and hold summer camps for the children every year.

After the 2012 summer camp, youth from the third generation of Iqrit’s survivors took the initiative to begin resurrecting the village despite the village’s legal limbo. Since then, a core group of 20 or so activists make sure that the village is constantly inhabited, sleeping in tents, under the stars or in rooms attached to the church.

“They are practicing full return in Iqrit and we are really proud of them,” says Sbait. “They brought life back to the place.”

Israeli authorities frequently destroy anything new that they build or plant in the village. But over time, they’ve been able to add a few amenities, including solar panels on the church roof to power lights, satellite television and computers used for social media campaigns.

This spirit of steadfastness energized Easter Monday festivities in Iqrit this year as generations of villagers filled the  church and square with a celebration of prayer, poetry, music, art and feasting. They had to celebrate Easter on Monday because their priest is borrowed from a nearby town where he had to celebrate mass on Sunday. Iqrit’s faithful are used to waiting.

After the mass, youth told the village’s story through theater and dance. Photos on display showed the village before its destruction and its various campaigns and demonstrations over the years. The spirit of the day was both festive and defiant—a pre-emptive declaration of victory echoing the Christian belief not only in Jesus’s resurrection at Easter, but also his promise to return one day to establish a lasting reign of justice and peace.

“We do not want to return to our villages only in coffins but when we are alive,” declare the people of Iqrit and Kufr Bir’im in an Easter plea to Pope Francis, which concludes:

We implore you to intensify your sacred efforts to exert pressure on the government of Israel to end the injustices it has inflicted upon our community. We hope that your upcoming visit to Palestine and Israel will serve toward that purpose…. [O]ur prayers are focused in order to achieve our own resurrection, on earth, with justice, equality and peace.

A handmade sign points the way to the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return.

A handmade sign points the way to the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A youth walks among the rubble of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

A youth walks among the overgrown rubble of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, whose original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, youth perform an interpretive dance of the town's history. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, youth perform an interpretive dance of the town’s history. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday, a photograph of the Palestinian village of Iqrit before its destruction hangs in the church, the only building to remain. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

A photograph of the Palestinian village of Iqrit before its destruction hangs in the church, the only building to remain. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Hanna Nasser stands near his family graves in the cemetery of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

Hanna Nasser stands near his family graves in the cemetery of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit. Only the village’s church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Children watch as an artist paints a picture of the church in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

Children watch as an artist paints a picture of the church in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, young and old dance around the town's church. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, young and old dance around the town’s church. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Solar panels and a satellite dish are installed on the roof of the church of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents.

Solar panels and a satellite dish have been installed on the roof of the church of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit in northern Israel. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday, a historic photograph shows the displacement of the Palestinian village of Iqrit by the Israeli military. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

A historic photograph shows the displacement of the Palestinian village of Iqrit by the Israeli military in 1948. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, a cross displayed in the town's church bears the messages: "Christ is risen", "Where is your justice Israel" and "Ikrit". Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, a cross displayed in the town’s church bears the messages: “Christ is risen,” “Where is your justice Israel,” and “Ikrit.” (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday, generations of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit celebrate mass in the town's church, the only building to remain standing. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday 2014, generations of the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit celebrate mass in the town’s church, the only building to remain standing. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, youth dance and make music in front of the town's church. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, youth dance and make music in front of the town’s church. (photo: Activestills.org)

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Peace process: Only four options left http://972mag.com/peace-process-only-four-options-left/89923/ http://972mag.com/peace-process-only-four-options-left/89923/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:18:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89923 Resolutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be reached either by agreement or evolution.

As the peace talks stumble toward their formal end point, there are essentially four scenarios for political developments between the river and the sea, excluding resurgent violence: two states by agreement, two states by evolution, one state by agreement, or one sovereign entity by evolution.

Policymakers should acknowledge these scenarios openly to assess what each one will mean for the future of the region.

I recently proposed using basic values as a guideline to assess the desirability of such scenarios: reducing violence, realizing human and civil rights, providing for collective rights, and doing so in a sustainable way. It’s also worth considering the feasibility and consequences of each possibility.

Two states by agreement. This scenario looks increasingly unlikely, largely for political reasons. Likud essentially doesn’t want it; its other half, Israel-Beitenu, claims to want it but only under unacceptable conditions, including unilateral disenfranchisement of Israeli citizenship. Jewish Home, is steadfastly opposed. Palestinians have become so disillusioned about statehood as Israel defines it that PA President Mahmoud Abbas lacks the legitimacy to make major concessions on their behalf.

Another reason is physical: land, population and infrastructure developments over the last two decades mean that a Palestinian state will be chopped up by settlements too entrenched to be vacated. Therefore, “statehood” won’t offer much greater mobility or economic freedom for Palestinians; sovereign borders might even replace military checkpoints posing much greater bureaucratic obstacles.

However, this solution could theoretically reduce violence by establishing representative political frameworks for each society, to guarantee discrete collective and civil rights. Whether that means more human rights for Palestinians than today depends on how the Fatah and Hamas authorities rule; their current record does not bode well. An agreement over two states with borders and finalized political status is probably relatively sustainable. But the lack of feasibility makes most of this assessment moot.

Two states by evolution. The lack of a negotiated agreement could make this more attractive to Palestinians. If they are to suffer the constraints of highly circumscribed statehood, at least they will not also be forced into concessions they resent as the price.

States can be defined as entities with a people, territory, government and the ability to enter into foreign relations. The Palestinians are making strong progress on that last one. Compared to other disputed states, Palestine enjoys far more recognition from sovereign countries. Even Kosovo, now generally accepted in the family of nations, has 106 recognitions and no standing at the UN, compared to the 138 UN-member countries who voted to accept Palestine as a “non-member observer state” in that body. Most of that number had extended formal recognition to Palestine long before. Abbas recently expanded efforts at international integration by applying to 15 international treaties; recognition in various forms seems likely to increase.

But the evolving two-state scenario erodes other statehood aspects. The Palestinian government remains divided. Israel will see no need to relinquish its military and settlement grip on the territory, and will justify expansion on the grounds that there is no agreement. Even the people may be increasingly divided, politically, economically and culturally between Gaza and the West Bank, as I’ve argued here.

If the Palestinians as nation pull together and embrace a total commitment to unified statehood, they could undertake massive efforts to unify their government, democratize their political life (including improving human rights) and leverage their improving foreign relations to advance their economic life. That’s what some other aspiring states – Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus –  have done to prove their worth and their unresolved status has been surprisingly sustainable. A genuine sense of purpose and progress can help contain violence.

But in the local reality, that ‘sense’ will be flimsy, and peaceful streaks are easily broken. Cycles of violence will justify Israeli intervention, which is likely to deteriorate into more, not less, Israeli control – and perpetuate the current reality.

One state by evolution. This is not a scenario but the current reality. Israel is the one sovereign between the river and the sea. The Palestinians are subject to Israel’s military sovereignty, but have no political representation in the state.

There is no indication that this scenario will provide civil or collective rights for Palestinians. Since Israel does not acknowledge its political rule, it also absolves itself of responsibility for human rights except for the oxymoronic goal of being an ‘enlightened occupier.’

Israeli military authority can continue to contain violence in this scenario, especially if it entices the Palestinians to maintain security cooperation. But the security status quo favors Israelis, not Palestinians.

And one state by evolution is only sustainable according to warped terms: two people under one sovereign, with different laws and different rights by virtue of identity.

One state by agreement. As long as “one state” is based on the foolish notion that people would scrap boundaries and identity, this was either a fantasy or a nightmare, depending on one’s perspective.

The idea that two peoples in two overlapping but roughly defined territories may choose to be jointly managed in a federal or confederated system, is a little more mouthy but much less fantastic.

If there is an agreement, leaders on both sides may be motivated to avoid violence, to prove they are capable of implementing a policy they led. Of course Oslo quickly deteriorated, but the security cooperation at present could continue. The public appetite for violence has changed: both sides are embittered by its effects. An agreement would hammer out the thorny issue of collective rights, while civil rights would be a given.

Human rights for Palestinians would improve with removal of military law and establishment of shared courts and common laws at least in some aspects. It would be easier for human rights advocates on both sides to form alliances and lobbies against oppressive institutions such as Hamas, rather than fighting occupation.

Is it sustainable? Bosnia, Belgium, Lebanon and Canada show that these systems are flawed, threatened and shaky but possible. Do they need to be reformed and revised over time? Probably. Will violence periodically threaten to derail such an arrangement? Definitely. But that is the case now anyway.

***

The bottom line is that the most realistic development right now appears to be the non-agreement-based scenarios. But they are also the least sustainable and the most unfair. If a classic two-state agreement is not possible, there’s no point in denying that a modified, mouthy form of joint authority over two separate people is.

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PHOTOS: Christians face barriers to Easter worship in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/photos-christians-face-barriers-to-easter-worship-in-jerusalem/89921/ http://972mag.com/photos-christians-face-barriers-to-easter-worship-in-jerusalem/89921/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 21:35:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89921 Year after year, Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims face checkpoints and harsh treatment by Israeli police officers as they attempt to celebrate the Easter season in Jerusalem.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

An Israeli police checkpoint blocks access to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. The day before Easter, thousands of Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims attempt to enter Jerusalem's Old CIty to participate in the "Saturday of Light" or "Holy Fire" celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli police checkpoint blocks access to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. The day before Easter, thousands of Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims attempt to enter Jerusalem’s Old CIty to participate in the “Saturday of Light” or “Holy Fire” celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims faced Israeli barriers and harsh treatment by officers as they attempted to celebrate the Easter season in Jerusalem this year. In scenes similar to previous years, thousands of worshipers were denied entry to the Old City of Jerusalem by police barricades as a heavy presence of security forces controlled access to the city.

Despite VIP status, even Robert H. Serry, the United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, faced similar treatment. The Washington Post reports:

But despite earlier assurances of unhindered access to the church, Serry said in a statement, the Israeli police refused to allow his group entry, saying they had orders to that effect…. The special coordinator expressed dismay at the incident and called on “all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshipers of all faiths and refraining from provocations not least during religious holidays.” …

This month, the Israeli High Court of Justice agreed that Palestinians’ rights were being violated by police checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship.

While Palestinian Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza have to apply for permits to enter Jerusalem for their religious celebrations, Israeli Jews (and effectively, any Jew regardless of their nationality) participate in their religious celebrations in occupied East Jerusalem without any restriction. Even Jerusalem ID holders and Palestinian citizens of Israel needed special police-issued wristbands to pass checkpoints into the Old City on Saturday, while in at least some cases Jewish worshipers were allowed to pass freely by police while crowds of other pilgrims were forced to wait.

Palestinians and others who face these checkpoints and barricades often report harsh treatment by police. Last year, a Coptic priest was choked and beaten by police in an incident caught on video. While authorities claimed the case was a rare exception, and that the massive police presence is needed to maintain order, Palestinian Christians maintain that such abuses are commonplace.

Israeli police block the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, April 19, 2014. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled this month that Palestinians’ rights are being violated by checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli police block the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, April 19, 2014. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled this month that Palestinians’ rights are being violated by checkpoints and other restrictions that annually create obstacles to worship. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Israeli police restrict the movement of Christians in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem while letting a Jewish man pass through, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli police restrict the movement of Christians in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem while letting a Jewish man pass through, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Orthodox Christian nuns stand trapped behind an Israeli police barrier in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Orthodox Christian nuns stand trapped behind an Israeli police barrier in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Israeli police push worshipers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. Many Palestinians report harsh treatment by Israeli police while attempting to access holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israeli police push worshipers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. Many Palestinians report harsh treatment by Israeli police while attempting to access holy sites in Jerusalem. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

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Settlers fear prisoner release deal, extension of talks http://972mag.com/settlers-fear-prisoner-release-deal-extension-of-talks/89901/ http://972mag.com/settlers-fear-prisoner-release-deal-extension-of-talks/89901/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:22:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89901 Netanyahu has probably spent his Passover vacation trying to reach a deal that would enable the settlers to save face and stay in the government while peace talks continue. The Right is launching campaigns to convince right-wing politicians to vote ‘no.’

With a little more than a week left until the formal deadline for the Israeli-American-Palestinian talks, efforts to extend the negotiations still haven’t produced a breakthrough. Nevertheless, a last-minute deal shouldn’t be ruled out either; often times, the most productive political maneuvering takes place when no news is reported.

On the Israeli side, the best indicators – as always – come from the far right of the political map. A Page 1 ad in Haaretz’s weekend edition, sponsored by The Joint Headquarters (an umbrella organization for some far-right groups), targeted Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been said to be behind “a secret deal.” Liberman has previously announced his opposition to a prisoner release that would allow an extension of the talks. The ad, however, claimed that some ministers in his party will vote yes, so the deal will get the necessary votes despite Liberman’s personal nay.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

The ad was printed again today in Haaretz, this time on page three. There was also a new front-page ad by the Joint Headquarters, this time targeting Likud ministers Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat. Livnat was considered a hardliner in the past, but in today’s Likud she is a pragmatist, and therefore a target of the Right. Shalom would like to win his party’s support in his upcoming presidential bid, so calling him out makes a lot of sense for the settlers. This is all part of internal Likud tensions between radical settler groups and the old guard, which still backs Netanyahu.

Ad in Haaretz against Palestinian prisoners release, 20.4.2014

Ad in Haaretz against Palestinian prisoners release, 20.4.2014

Another battle front for the hardliners is taking place within the Jewish Home party, where party leader Naftali Bennett is doubling down with inflammatory threats against the prisoner release deal, while others – most notably, proactive Housing Minister Uri Ariel – would like to keep their place in the government even if the negotiations continue. Ariel is willing to bet that nothing will come out of the talks, and meanwhile he would like to create more facts on the ground in the West Bank. Following increasingly frequent rumors of a deal between him and Netanyahu that would keep Jewish Home in the coalition, one of his aids had to post a clarification on Facebook, stating that “the minister completely backs party chairman Naftali Bennett and his clear demands against terrorists’ release.”

According to recent reports, a deal to extend the talks would include the release of the final 26 prisoners Israel has committed to – probably including 14 citizens of Israel – and during the next leg of talks, a few hundred more, mostly “light offenders” who are scheduled for release soon anyway. The United States will release Jonathan Pollard, the American citizen convicted of spying for Israel. There are no confirmed reports on the substantive parts of the deal, if there are any at all – meaning that even if negotiations continue, they might be as futile as the previous round. We are still discussing talks about talks for the sake of talking.

I believe that Netanyahu’s goal is to continue the process without reshuffling his coalition. Bibi simply doesn’t trust Labor and the center to support him in case he loses his base on the right; so much of the political battle comes down to the confrontation between the radical settlers, who wish to prevent the prisoner release, and the more pragmatic settlers, who think that this government serves them so well that it would be complete madness to bring it down over a process that won’t lead to the creation of a Palestinian state anyway.

Netanyahu is probably trying to reach an arrangement that would enable all the settlers to save face and stay in the government, the way he allowed a spike in settlement construction when the talks kicked off. So we might see once again that peace talks go hand in hand with more settlements. This obviously says a lot about this process; the bottom line is that as long as the settlers are in the government – any and all Israeli governments – the process is pretty meaningless.

Netanyahu has an alternative: Labor would support the government, and if the talks get serious, he could invite the ultra-Orthodox to join the coalition as well. Yair Lapid is no peacenik, but he won’t be able to bring down a coalition that reaches a breakthrough on the Palestinian issue, and even more importantly, he simply doesn’t want elections. In other words, the problem is not with the Knesset, but with Bibi himself.

Related:
The diplomatic process is not real until this government falls
The peace process needs a whole new outlook
Bennett’s response to Palestinian UN bid: Annexation

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WATCH: Ilan Pappe on the ‘ongoing Nakba’ http://972mag.com/watch-ilan-pappe-on-the-ongoing-nakba/89896/ http://972mag.com/watch-ilan-pappe-on-the-ongoing-nakba/89896/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:56:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89896 On Land Day in Jaffa, a demonstration was held in the city’s clock square, but the highlight was a lecture by Professor Ilan Pappe on what he and others term the ongoing Nakba and a ‘single democratic state’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pappe’s full lecture can be watched here in Hebrew.

Related:
‘When I look at the Prawer Plan, I see another Nakba’
For Palestinians, the Nakba is not history
Israel gives Palestinians new reasons to mark Land Day

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How one Palestinian citizen challenged Israel’s ‘enemy state’ policy http://972mag.com/how-one-palestinian-citizen-challenged-israels-enemy-state-policy/89887/ http://972mag.com/how-one-palestinian-citizen-challenged-israels-enemy-state-policy/89887/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:39:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89887 Majd Kayyal’s right to travel and participate in a conference in Beirut is far more important than his right to fulfill his role as a journalist. That right belongs to him as a human being, an Arab and a Palestinian who has absorbed the cultural richness of Lebanon’s capital.

By Salah Mohsen

The release of Majd Kayyal, journalist and web editor at Adalah, after five days of detention and complete isolation from the outside world – without the right to meet with an attorney or have his case heard due to a sweeping gag order – proves that his detention by Israeli security authorities was a retaliatory act meant to deter other Palestinian citizens of Israel from travelling to Lebanon. It had nothing to do with investigative purposes. Even the attempt to falsely charge Majd with contacting a foreign agent was designed to intimidate and divert any discussion on the right of Palestinians to have relations and professional ties with Lebanon.

The main problem is not that Majd Kayyal went to Lebanon. The problem is the law that prevents and criminalizes him for it. Israel’s definition of Lebanon as an “enemy state” does not make it so for Palestinian citizens. We refuse to see As-Safir or other Lebanese newspapers as hostile. We also do not see the need to find out if every journalist we speak to belongs to a particular political organization before we agree to exchange a word with them.

Majd is one of 100 young journalists from across the Arab world that write for As-Safir al-Arabi, the magazine section of the newspaper that aims to foster a new generation of Arab journalists. They publish articles and in-depth analyses on the political and social issues facing the countries and societies in which they live. It is a great privilege to be among those writers, and it is an especially great opportunity for Majd – one that a Palestinian citizen of Israel cannot obtain in places other than in so-called “enemy states.”

The comparison between Majd and other Israeli journalists who traveled to “enemy states” and were not detained upon their return is an important one to highlight. It proves the real intention behind his arrest, which has no connection to issues of security. But we should also qualify this comparison. Even if Israeli journalists did not travel to these countries, and even if they were detained and interrogated upon their return, it should not detract from the right of Palestinian Arabs to visit Lebanon. We are not reinventing the wheel by stating this: international law clearly enshrines the right of national minorities to communicate with and nurture their relationship with members of their nation, even those outside the borders of their state.

For me, Majd’s right to travel and participate in a conference in Beirut is far more important than his right to freedom of occupation and the fulfillment of his role as a journalist. That right is much more fundamental. It should be guaranteed to him regardless of him being a daring and bright journalist. That right belongs to him as a human being, an Arab and a Palestinian who absorbed the cultural richness that Beirut generously provided and continues to provide us.

Beirut is part of the cultural, political and intellectual complexity that exists within Majd and every Palestinian and Arab in the world. Beirut’s part in developing our cultural and political identity is far greater and deeper than that of Tel Aviv. Even if it seems obvious, it is important to state that, in my eyes, Fairuz is more important than Shlomo Artzi, and Constantin Zureiq is more important than Gershom Scholem or Martin Buber. The ethnic divisions in Lebanon influence the social fabric of Nazareth more than the struggles between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim in Israel. Whoever ignores this fact will never be able to understand the formation and development of our cultural and national identities, nor the complex reality in which they exist.

It seems that Majd has begun an important struggle that we must continue in order to remove the arbitrary and absurd laws that prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from visiting and maintaining their ties to the Arab world.

And for that I say: Thank you Majd, thank you Beirut.

Salah Mohsen is the Media Director at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. This article first appeared in Hebrew on Haokets.

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