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Israel's double standard on cross-border loyalties

The arrest of journalist Majd Kayyal is a troubling example of Israel’s fear of ties between its own Arab population and the Palestinian Authority, while claiming the right to have similar ties with Jews around the world.

The main segment in the Shin Bet’s (Israeli Security Agency) official comment on the detention of journalist and activist Majd Kayyal for nearly five days, without the possibility of meeting his lawyers and under a strict gag order, reads as follows:

In his interrogation it became clear that [Kayyal] left for Lebanon in order to attend a convention of the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, all the while knowing that it is an enemy state that Israeli citizens are forbidden to enter. The subject has even sought the assistance of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which he contacted for [travel] documentation to Lebanon, in spite of his being an Israeli citizen. The subject entered Lebanon using the Palestinian documentation he was given.

As Dimi Reider mentioned in his post, and as Einat Fishbein claims in her interview with Israeli journalist Itay Engel [Hebrew], the mere passage of Israeli citizens, mainly journalists, into what is legally defined as “enemy states” is not an irregular action, and is most commonly overlooked by authorities. So what is different about Kayyal’s case? It isn’t just that he is Palestinian, but rather the fact that as a citizen of Israel he chose to obtain a second passport – a Palestinian one from the Palestinian Authority – and used it to enter Lebanon. (Entering Lebanon with an Israeli passport is completely impossible.) The story, then, is the wounding of Israel’s national pride, its feeling of hampered sovereignty over its “subjects,” as Kayyal is called in the Shin Bet’s comment.

This knee-jerk reaction is not uncommon in Israel. It is most commonly seen in East Jerusalem, where authorities crack down on anything that smells remotely of PA involvement, including a children’s puppet theater. Recently, we’ve seen it in the extreme political and public sensitivity regarding the unfulfilled promise to release Palestinian prisoners with Israeli citizenship as part of negotiations. Time and time again the issue of sovereignty is brought up as a reason to prevent all ties between Palestinians in Israel and the PA; it is also in part the basis for Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition of Israel as Read More

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WATCH: Hundreds commemorate nine years of popular struggle in Bil'in

Unarmed resistance against the wall and the occupation has been taking place for nine consecutive years. With its ups and downs, successes and losses, villagers and supporters gather for a special commemoration protest.

Marching through Bil'in toward the wall (Haggai Matar)

Marching through Bil’in toward the wall. (Haggai Matar)

Approximately 500 demonstrators gathered in the center of the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday to mark nine years since village residents began their popular, unarmed resistance against the separation wall. The wall, built on the villagers’ agricultural land, has allowed for continuous settlement expansion on their annexed fields and olive groves. Over the past nine years, hundreds of demonstrations have taken place, two activists have been killed by the army and hundreds have been wounded or arrested. The struggle’s greatest success was its ability to force the state to move the wall further west, allowing villagers to return to some of their land. However, because much of the village remains behind the wall, the resistance continues.

The demonstrators, who were made up of residents from the small village itself; supporters from other villages participating in the popular struggle such as al-Ma’asara and Nabi Saleh; activists from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a socialist party founded 45 years ago this week) and the Palestinian National Initiative party; and international and Israeli activists, marched to the wall behind a drum line and a car with loudspeakers that chanted anti-occupation slogans.

(Video: David Reeb)

Once they arrived at the wall, several local activists used ropes to climb the the eight-meter-high concrete barrier and planted Palestinian flags on it. Soldiers were quick to throw stun grenades at climbers, which lead the protesters to respond by throwing stones, followed by a round of tear gas at the procession. The demonstration continued for nearly an hour and a half, with the majority of activists keeping their distance from the tear gas, while several youths confronted the soldiers with stones.

The protest ended after a protester and an Israeli photographer were lightly wounded by rubber-coated bullets, and after soldiers crossed the separation wall to arrest another protester and break up the demonstration. Attempts by organizers to release the detainee by bargaining with soldiers only...

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Palestinians demand Shuhada St. reopened after 20 years

In a rare, united political front, Palestinian protesters try to reach Hebron’s segregated Shuhada Street but are confronted by Israeli army and police. Five are arrested and a B’Tselem researcher is hit in the head with a rubber-coated bullet. [This post has been updated]

Demonstrators scattering as stun and tear gas grenades are fired into the crowd (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Demonstrators scattering as stun and tear gas grenades are fired into the crowd (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

About 1,000 Palestinians from all political parties, joined by Israeli and international activists, marched through the streets of Hebron Friday afternoon demanding to reopen the city’s formerly central commercial street. Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians movement for the better part of 20 years since the Cave of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre.

The procession started at the central mosque in the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron’s old city around noon and quickly arrived at the army checkpoint stopping Palestinians from entering Shuhada Street. Within seconds the scene ignited with stun grenades and tear gas canisters thrown by soldiers and police at the protestors and stones flying in the opposite direction. The vast majority of demonstrators retreated immediately but a few stayed and tried to cross over through the army lines. Many were beaten and four five were arrested before this group also turned around. [Update: Youth Against Settlements in Hebron say three of the detainees were later released]. The demonstration went on for another hour with small pockets of protesters trying to regroup and march on to the checkpoint again, each time answered with more “crowd dispersal” weapons and police chasing them back into the city. Eventually the organized actions faded away, leaving groups of youths setting tires on fire and confronting soldiers for a few hours longer.

Small groups of protestors tried to break through army lines (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Small groups of protestors tried to break through army lines (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Several demonstrators were lightly wounded during the protest. The worst injury was received by B’Tselem’s Hebron field researcher, Musa Abu-Hashash, who was shot with a rubber coated bullet that grazed his head. He was hospitalized for several hours. According to B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, Abu-Hashash was walking in an area with no confrontations and was...

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WATCH: Army raids three West Bank villages, arrests activists

Israeli army arrests 11 Palestinians during night raids on West Bank villages participating in the popular struggle against the wall and settlements.

The Israeli army raided three West Bank villages this past week, arresting a total 11 activists in connection with organizing weekly demonstrations against the occupation, local activists said. According to the activists, the villages of Nabi Saleh and Ni’ilin were raided in the dead of night between Monday and Tuesday, while the village Kufr Qaddum was raided during during the early hours of Thursday morning. Among those arrested were a minor and a photographer. Four out of seven Qaddum detainees were released later Thursday morning; the minor from Nabi Saleh is expected to be released later today, while the rest remain in custody.

UPDATE: According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, one of the detainees from Qaddum was reportedly beaten by soldiers following his interrogation and has been hospitalized with head injuries.

Night raids are one of the tools used by occupation forces to try and suppress the popular struggle. As a video from this week’s raid on Nabi Saleh (above) shows, the soldiers enter houses fully armed, some of them masked. They wake up children, check the IDs of everyone in the house and conduct a search, which usually ends with the confiscation of empty tear gas canisters, used stun grenades and rubber coated bullets fired by the IDF – often collected by the residents and can be found in abundance in the streets of any village participating in the popular struggle.

While the practice of night raids as a tool of law enforcement is questionable to begin with, the almost immediate release of five out of the 11 arrestees strengthens doubts about the so-called “security reasoning” behind these raids, which terrorize entire villages. Earlier this week, the chief West Bank military prosecutor told the Jerusalem Post that the army is considering putting an end to the practice, and instead implementing a policy by which Palestinians will be summoned for questioning.

Popular unarmed demonstrations against the wall and settlements continue in the three aforementioned villages, in addition to Bil’in and Al-Ma’asara, on a weekly basis, yet are almost never reported on in the Israeli media. On Friday, February 28th, Bil’in will commemorate nine years of struggle against...

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Israeli media ignores a week of non-violent protests

The Israeli media gave almost no airtime or print space to two non-violent protests this week, in the Jordan Valley and south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park. For Haggai Matar, it’s been a heartbreaking sight.

Demolition at Ein Hijleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Demolition at Ein Hijleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

So they destroyed Ein Hijleh. This small protest camp in the Jordan Valley, built by hundreds of non-violent Palestinian activists and kept alive for a week of resistance against plans to annex the valley to Israel and deprive a future Palestinian state of its eastern border, was been evicted over night by army and police forces.

For Israelis – it won’t be missed. The whole “Salt of the Earth” campaign to protect the valley, with Ein Hijleh at its core, has been widely ignored by Israeli media as is almost always the case with non-violent Palestinian protests (Bab al-Shams was perhaps the one unique exception, shining in its singularity). Aside from the short online newsflash here and there, no serious coverage of the encampment was offered. No television crew was sent to tell its story and no newspaper sent a single reporter to interview activists about their choice of protest method or to write a colorful feature about life in the renewed village. No serious discussion took place — nor will there be in all likelihood — about the speed in which this “illegal” encampment was evicted in comparison to the hardship Palestinians face in trying to get illegal settlements off their lands. In addition, it seems that only Haaretz is seriously monitoring and criticizing the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the same Jordan Valley, which was sped up this passing year with 390 demolitions in Palestinian villages, more than double the number of last year. That led the Red Cross this week to stop offering evicted communities tents as humanitarian aid, because they too are destroyed or confiscated by the army, as Amira Hass reported.

Setting up Ein Hijleh, one week ago (Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

Setting up Ein Hijleh, one week ago (Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

I’ve been meaning to write about Ein Hijleh every day this past week but felt I just couldn’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s...

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Hundreds gather to support politically 'persecuted' teacher

Some 500 high school students and teachers demonstrated at the entrance to the town of Kiryat Tivon Saturday night to show their support for Adam Verete, a local teacher who is facing possible sacking over proclaiming his left-wing political views in class.

"Silencing? Not in our school". Kiryan Tivon demonstration (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

“Silencing? Not in our school.” Kiryat Tivon demonstration (Photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

The usually tranquil town of Kiryat Tivon, just outside of Haifa, was rattled this past week over the local ORT high school’s attempts to fire philosophy teacher Adam Verete following a student’s accusations that he made derogatory remarks against the IDF and the State of Israel. The story was all over the national news with Verete’s students and colleagues leading a campaign of support for him. The Knesset Education Committee debated the case but it has been completely ignored by the Education Ministry. Verete will face a second hearing at the school later this week, which will determine whether or not he keeps his job.

At the Kiryat Tivon protest Saturday night high school teachers, students and their parents were adamant in their support of Verete, chanting “free speech is great – in the classroom and the street” and “We will not let sacking silence our teachers.” They demonstrated at the entrance to town carrying signs and candles, some with tape over their mouths, for a little over two hours. A small group of a dozen or so far-right wingers staged a counter-protest, calling to banish all leftists from the country and at some point throwing a few eggs at the main protest. No one was arrested.

Although Verete is being persecuted for his left-wing views, protestors tried to focus their calls on free speech and the need for critical thinking in schools. When Prof. Gaby Solomon, winner of the Israel Prize for Education, gave a speech saying that the right-wing regime has to be stopped, many called out against him saying that was not at all the case.

Another controversy between demonstrators centered on the extent of their protest’s demands. Some said they just wanted to support Verete and help him keep his job. Others demanded that both the school’s principal and the head of the ORT school network  be fired. A third and more...

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Outside prison, protesters demand conscientious objectors be freed

Demonstrators play music and sing songs to inmates in ‘Military Prison 6′ in a show of support for Omar Sa’ad and other draft refusers. Similar vigils take place in cities across Israel, Palestine and abroad.

Demonstrators chanted in Arabic and Hebrew against the draft, occupation (Haggai Matar)

Demonstrators chanted in Arabic and Hebrew against the draft, occupation (Haggai Matar)

About 100 Palestinian and Jewish protestors gathered on the hilltop overlooking Israel’s ‘Military Prison 6′ Saturday afternoon, calling for the release of Omar Sa’ad and all other conscientious objectors. Sa’ad, a violin player from the village of Maghar who has thus far been given two 20-day prison sentences for refusing the draft, has become a symbol of Druze resistance to conscription. Three other Druze objectors are now in prison and another one is expected to be sentenced later this month.

Omar’s siblings and friends preformed several songs on string instruments at the protest, organized by the Sa’ad family, Yesh Gvul and Druze campaigners against conscription. The tunes were carried through loud speakers to Sa’ad himself, who was watching the protest above the prison walls. Other demonstrators sang songs and chanted slogans in Arabic and in Hebrew against the mandatory draft and against the occupation. Also present was Natan Blanc, who was recently released from prison after serving 10 sentences adding up to just under half a year for his refusal to enlist. Blanc told Sa’ad he hopes he will have to endure much less of prison than he himself did. Corresponding demonstrations in support of objectors took place in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and London – where Sa’ad’s younger brother attended.

Sa'ad's siblings and friends playing to lift his spirits. In the background: Prison 6 (Haggai Matar)

Sa’ad’s siblings and friends playing to lift his spirits. In the background: Prison 6 (Photo: Haggai Matar)

The Druze (men) are the only Arab group in Israel that is compelled to join the Israeli army. While many adopt a Zionist agenda and make a career for themselves in various parts of the Israeli security establishment, a growing movement of...

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Prison break: African asylum seekers claim their place on the Israeli political map

In Israel’s most vibrant demonstration ever to take place on the refugee issue, and in two bold escapes from an ‘open prison,’ African asylum seekers are starting to present themselves as a political force to be reckoned with.

Asylum seekers marching under a crown of classical music lovers at Tel Aviv's Culture Palace (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Asylum seekers marching under a crown of classical music lovers at Tel Aviv’s Culture Palace (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Saturday night was something like no one in Israel had ever seen before. It was supposed to be a small demonstration – a quiet march of several hundred Israeli activists and African asylum seekers, coming on the heels of two Marches for Freedom that took place earlier in the week (both of which were intercepted and suppressed by immigration authorities). Initially, it didn’t seem like it would be the kind of protest that would get much (if any) media attention. But from the second it began, it was clear to all those present that this time was different. More than 2,000 asylum seekers, all in danger of immediate and permanent imprisonment following the passing of the new Anti-Infiltration Act, after the previous was scrapped by the High Court (the court will soon hear the appeal against the new law), marched in the streets of south and central Tel Aviv. The asylum seekers, who had likely seen pictures or heard stories of their friends’ desert marches, were in high gear and bursting with energy. They started running through the streets, chanting only two slogans time and time again: “No more prison!” and “we want freedom!”

It went on like this for two-and-a-half hours. The several dozen Israeli activists present were stunned. Previous Tel Aviv demonstrations by asylum seekers were relatively calm, and included people holding up signs and giving long speeches – but with none of the energy felt that night. The police, too, was caught unprepared. Neither its attempts to negotiate with demonstrators, its placing of border and riot policemen in the protest’s path, its use of pepper spray, nor the arrests of several protesters were able to stop the protest. Every time the front rows...

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Immigration officers arrest asylum seekers on second 'March for Freedom'

For the second time this week, 130 asylum seekers leave the Holot ‘open’ prison facility in southern Israel, march through the desert in an attempt to move their demonstration to a major city. This time around, immigration officers stopped the march shortly after it began. The asylum seekers are protesting their detention conditions and the arrest of their comrades in the previous march.

An asylum seeker detained by immigration police during the second “March for Freedom.” (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

About 130 African asylum seekers left the Holot “open” prison facility in the Negev on Thursday and began marching through the desert to Be’er Sheva. From there, the group had planned to make their way to Tel Aviv and protest against the latest amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law and against poor prison conditions. The marchers, who did not intend to return to the facility (as mandated by the law), walked for approximately two hours before some 20 immigration officers began arresting them. According to one report, police present told immigration officers that the arrests were illegal, as detainees in Holot can only be captured 48 hours after leaving the facility. However, arrests were continuing, with the police not actively intervening, and asylum seekers scattering into the desert, according to a witness on the scene.

Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority responded to the event, stating that they are “currently checking the people who left Holot facility,” adding that the authority will continue to “return infiltrators to the holding facilities in accordance with the law.”

Immigration officers arrest an asylum seeker during the second “March for Freedom” in the Negev desert. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Holot facility was opened just last week and was almost immediately abandoned by some 200 asylum seekers who were transferred there from the Saharonim prison. After marching to Be’er Sheva the asylum seekers marched and took buses to Jerusalem where they were met by more asylum seekers and...

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Police arrest asylum seekers who left 'open prison,' marched to J'lem

More than 150 African asylum seekers who deserted from an ‘open prison’ facility reach Jerusalem and are joined by supporters in a first-of-its-kind protest. Police and immigration authorities arrest them all and put them on buses back to prison.

Asylum seekers reach the Knesset (Activestills)

Asylum seekers reach the Knesset (Activestills)

Update (4:15 p.m.): Police and immigration authorities detained all of the Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who left the ‘Holot’ open prison on Sunday and marched to Jerusalem. The detainees were put on buses and driven away.

***

After deserting from a so called ‘open prison‘ facility in large numbers, refusing meals for two days and marching almost non-stop for another two, a group of 150 Sudanese asylum seekers reached the Prime Minister’s Office and then the Knesset in snowy Jerusalem Tuesday morning.

The asylum seekers spent the night at Kibbutz Nahshon, having been taken in by kibbutz members and in the morning proceeded by buses to Jerusalem, accompanied by dozens of Israeli activists and a large number of police and immigration inspectors.

Read +972′s full coverage of refugees in Israel

Upon reaching Jerusalem they were joined by several dozen other Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who also left the facility for to Be’er Sheva earlier in the week and took buses directly to Jerusalem. An unknown number of other detainees from the new “open facility” are reportedly roaming the Negev individually, not taking part in the “March for Freedom” protest but looking for ways to survive outside prison. Haaretz reports that some have reached Tel Aviv and have been arrested by authorities.

Asylum seekers reach Jerusalem after deserting from an ‘open prison’ facility in the Negev and marching to demand their freedom, December 17, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

The demonstrators were also joined by Israeli activists from NGOs supporting refugee rights, a public housing collective in Jerusalem and residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Araqib. Together they have been calling for an end to the policy of jailing...

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Mental segregation: Mapping Jews and Palestinians into separate worlds

In a short news piece (available so far only in Hebrew), Haaretz reported this morning of the damage caused by the recent storm to both settlers and Palestinian in the West Bank. The wording of the article gives us the opportunity to examine the difference in news coverage for Jews and Arabs living under the same regime in the same stretch of land. Reports of settler suffering take up five paragraphs, while Palestinians get one. More importantly, however, is the way in which the spaces the two peoples inhabit are described. The text (as well as the headline, at least in the printed version) entirely separates the area into two: the first part of the reports deals with “settlements in Judea and Samaria” whereas the latter begins with the words “The storm also caused extensive damage in the West Bank.”

Palestinian youth stand on a rooftop in Aida Refugee Camp overlooking the Israeli separation wall and snow-covered olive groves on the other side, Bethlehem, West Bank, December 14, 2013. (photo: Activestills)

This, to me, is a remarkable example of the mental maps that many Israelis imagine when thinking about the occupation. While many know that settlements are indeed located in the West Bank, they may also imagine a deep separation, two spaces existing in a single physical location. The first is “Israeli,” inhabited by “our own” and run by our government. The other is located “somewhere behind The Wall” (the route of which I believe only very few would be able to point out on a map), inhabited by Palestinians and run by the Palestinian Authority, with checkpoints that separate the two.

Read more: The world’s only ethnic time zone

Of course, such imagined spatial separation is not without basis. First of all, there is the PA controlled Area A, which is separate from the IDF-controlled Area B and Area C. There is also deeply-entrenched legal segregation which allows Jews to live under Israeli civilian law and deems Palestinians to a life under military rule. Yet settlements and Palestinian villages, towns and cities are not quite as separate....

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What's next for Bedouin in a post-Prawer Israel?

The cancellation of the Prawer Plan is a victory for committed protestors. But how did this happen, and what does it mean for the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages who will wake up to a new reality?

The “Stop Prawer Plan” campaigners can take this evening off and celebrate their enormous success in halting the Prawer Plan. Up until two weeks ago, all bets were on a lengthy struggle: a bill that would pass in the Knesset, followed by a long and complicated appeals process to the High Court of Justice, with a simultaneous escalation in violent confrontations between new police forces (mandated by the plan) and the Bedouin residents in the Negev’s unrecognized villages.

But the tide turned two weeks ago as clashes between demonstrators and police in Hura and Haifa rattled the country. The blind eye turned by the Israeli media to Prawer and the resistance to it on the ground (as long as that resistance was peaceful) was torn asunder after stones and rubber bullets began flying. Suddenly, everybody was talking about the Bedouin and house demolitions.

Demonstrators run away from a police water canon track during a “day of rage” protest against the Prawer-Begin Plan, Haifa, Israel, November 30, 2013. Around 1,000 demonstrators participated in the demonstration. Police used horses, water canons and shock grenades to disperse the demonstrators. Around 20 protesters were arrested and several injured. (photo: Mareike Lauken/Activestills.org)

Reactions to the “day of rage” took place on several levels: on the ground, police used excessive violence, while the courts have repeatedly prolonged the detention of anti-Prawer demonstrators in ways that can only be described as a state of emergency (13 of them are still behind bars). Activism on the ground encouraged the opposition in Knesset to be more assertive, to demand answers about the proposed bill and warn of the dangers that may await the country if it was to go forward as planned. While government officials were trying to portray the protests as marginal, claiming that the vast majority of the Bedouin support the plan, one of its primary promoters—Minister Benny Begin—was forced earlier in the week to admit that he had never really shown the plan in detail to Bedouin, and thus...

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Police, courts take extreme measures against anti-Prawer Plan arrestees

Twelve activists arrested at Negev ‘day of rage’ protest are still in jail after more than a week; police are asking they be detained until the end of legal proceedings; activists fear the heavy handedness is an attempt to smother resistance to Prawer. Solidarity demonstration is held in Tel Aviv.

Haifa anti-Prawer demonstrator arrested on Day of Rage (Activestills)

Haifa anti-Prawer demonstrator arrested on the ‘day of rage,’ November 30, 2013. (Photo: Activestills)

It has been more than a week since dozens of demonstrators were arrested in clashes between police and anti-Prawer Plan activists in the Negev town of Hura and in Haifa. Protesters detained at demonstrations in Israel are usually released the same day as the arrest or in the worst case scenario, the morning after. In the case of the anti-Prawer arrestees, police are asking the courts to hold 12 of these protestors, including five minors, in custody through the end of legal proceedings (criminal trials can take months if not years to make their way through the courts). In a show of solidarity with the detainees and in an effort to maintain resistance to Prawer, some 400 people marched through and blocked streets in central Tel Aviv Saturday evening.

One of the detainees, a young man from Tel Aviv who works in education and has no previous criminal record, was charged with rioting and shoving a police officer while already in the police station. The Be’er Sheva court has extended his detention several times already, the latest of them on Sunday morning.

“Compared with everything we know about arrests in demonstrations it is simply unbelievable that he is still inside,” the activist’s attorney, Smadar Ben Natan, said. “It’s complete madness that for charges such as these police are asking for detention until the end of proceedings, which might take ages.”

“They’ve pulled out all the possible excuses, saying he might be dangerous to the public, might flee the country or destroy evidence as if he was some sort of criminal,” she continued. “In any other case he would simply walk [free] after two days, tops. The only exception to that rule is when the state wants to put down massive protests, as we last saw during Operation Cast Lead. Then the police start...

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