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IDF Censor redacts 1 in 5 articles it reviews for publication

The Israeli military censor has redacted, in full or in part, over 17,000 articles since 2011. While fewer articles have been censored in 2015 and 2016, the new IDF Censor is attempting to redact already-published information with alarming frequency.

The Israeli Military Censor has outright banned the publication of 1,936 articles and redacted some information from 14,196 articles over the past five years. That is 1,936 articles that professional journalists and editors decided were of public interest but which never saw the light of day.

In fact, the IDF Censor redacted at least some information from one in five articles submitted to it for review since 2011, according to data provided by the Israeli army at the request of +972 Magazine, its Hebrew-language sister site Local Call, and The Movement for Freedom of Information.

Under the new chief IDF censor who entered the job last year, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of instances in which the Censor contacts publishers with demands to alter or remove items that have already been published — almost double the number of post-publication censorship attempts in years past. At the same time, the new IDF Censor is intervening slightly less in articles submitted to her office for review prior to publication.

Since the start of 2011, the years that saw the most censorship were those in which Israel was engaged in warfare in the Gaza Strip. The highest rates and frequency of censorship took place in 2014, the year of Operation Protective Edge, and the second-highest was 2012, the year of Operation Pillar of Cloud.

Furthermore, the data confirms that the IDF Censor’s office bans the publication of documents and materials from the State Archives, documents that have already approved for publication, and some of which have already been published in the public domain.

The Israeli military censor in Israel draws its authority from emergency regulations put in place during the British Mandate period, many of which have remained on Israel’s law books for upwards of 70 years.

While other countries have formal mechanisms for requesting that journalists refrain from publishing certain information relating to national security, Israel is all but alone among Western democratic states that have a legally binding state censor. Nowhere else must reported materials be submitted for prior review.

Media outlets in Israel, lately expanded to...

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Watching your son's killers walk free

This is the story of a Palestinian father whose son was shot in the back by two Israeli soldiers. In the bizarre reality of occupation, he is the one who must ask permission from the wardens while his son’s killers walk free.

What took place at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning was beyond bizarre. Every encounter between a grieving family and those who killed their child is, without a doubt, terrible — but they usually look different than what I witnessed. Most of these meetings take place in district courts. Usually the ones who killed the child are brought to court house from prison, led by guards, while the family walks free. Not today. Not in this story.

In this story Ahmed Awad, whose 16-year-old son Samir was shot in the back and killed by two soldiers after he was already wounded, was the one who had to wake up early in the village of Budrus, obtain a special entry permit ahead of time to leave the West Bank and show up in a court where the prosecutor is not the same prosecutor from the previous hearing (perhaps the case is not important enough). The prosecutor did not utter a word to Awad. No condolences, no update — nothing.

At the end of the five-minute hearing Awad was resigned to request — with the help of an Israeli friend, since the court does not provide a translator for the victim of the crime — that the court allow him to be present at the next hearing. Then he had to go to the court clerk in have the judge’s decision written out as a court order, which he will need in order to obtain an entry permit at an Israeli army base in the settlement of Beit El. That hearing certainly won’t have a translator either, the prosecutor won’t say a word to him, because what difference does it make that Ahmed’s son, Samir, died after being shot in the back by the soldiers he is prosecuting?

Then there were the two now-discharged soldiers who aren’t sitting in prison, nor do they need special jump through bureaucratic hurdles and obtain special permits just to make it to the courthouse. They are not even accused of manslaughter, only reckless and negligent use of a firearm. The soldiers’ names cannot be published, despite the fact that they have been published in the past, since that is what their attorney requested in the previous hearing. The judge slapped a gag...

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A 'wave of violence' that never actually ends

When the Israeli media talks about the latest ‘wave of violence,’ it leaves out the five unarmed Palestinians who were shot to death by soldiers and police officers in the past few months.

The newspaper headlines over the past few days leave no room for doubt regarding what has been happening here lately. “Terror returns,” read Yedioth Ahronoth‘s headline on Sunday, while Haaretz and Ma’ariv ran similar headlines on Tuesday morning.

Indeed the last few days have been full of stabbing and vehicle-ramming attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem and Hebron, the vast majority of them directed at soldiers and police officers, rather than citizens. The recent wave of violence has not claimed any Israeli lives, but it has left six of the attackers dead. Five police officers and soldiers were wounded, one of them severely.

If we put aside the recent attacks on Israelis, it is clear that this “wave” never actually ended. Only two weeks ago did Israeli police officers shoot and kill Mustafa Nimr, a Palestinian who was traveling by car in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. At first the police claimed Nimr and his cousin, who was driving, had attempted to run them over. Very quickly, however, it became clear that this was patently false, and that the officers continued to shoot at the car even after it had come to a complete stop. A little over a week later soldier shot Iyad Hamed near the West Bank village of Silwad. Here, too, soldiers alleged Hamed had shot at them, although it later became clear that he was unarmed and posed no threat, and was possibly shot in the back.

In mid-July Border Police officers shot and killed Anwar a-Salaime in the village A-Ram, as he sat in his car. The police argued that he had attempted to run them over, although video footage clearly shows that the police shot at the car from behind after he drove past them, and that a-Salaime was shot in the back.

Or go back to June 22, when soldiers riddled a taxi on Route 443 with bullets, killing 15-year-old Muhammad Badran and wounding four others. Once again the army released an initial statement that they had killed a terrorist who threw Molotov cocktails. And again it became clear that Badran and his friends had no connection to the Molotov cocktails that were indeed thrown at the...

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Israeli forces shoot Palestinian journalist in head with tear gas canister

Nidal Eshtayeh, who has been attacked by Israeli troops and officers multiple times, is still recovering from the impact of the projectile that broke through his helmet.

Israeli Border Police officers shot Palestinian photojournalist Nidal Eshtayeh in the head with an extended-range tear gas canister last week, which shattered his helmet and left him with a concussion from which he has yet to recover.

The shooting took place during the course of a weekly protest against Israeli settlements in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qaddum. Like almost every week, the protest devolved into clashes between Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers, who shot tear gas and sprayed local homes with putrid “skunk” water, and young Palestinian protesters who threw stones at the armed and armored soldiers.

Eshtayeh, a freelance photographer who works with Chinese news agency Xinhua and who is accredited by the Israeli Government Press Office, was clearly identified as a journalist, wearing protective gear marked “PRESS” and carrying large professional cameras. According to his attorney, Itay Mack, who filed a complaint about the incident to the Israeli army and police Internal Affairs, Eshtayeh was standing in a group of photographers, making it impossible to misidentify him as anything but a news photographer at the time he was shot.

“I was standing behind the protest, not next to the protesters. I fell and wasn’t able to move, so they carried me to an ambulance and took me to Rafidia Hospital [in Nablus],” Eshtayeh told +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. “More than a week later, my head is still spinning; I am in pain and I can’t work.”

“I have no doubt that if my client had not been wearing a helmet that he would have lost his life,” Mack added. “There was no justification for shooting directly at journalists.”

[Video of the clashes, from the Kafr Qaddum YouTube page. Eshtayeh and his damaged helmet are shown in an ambulance at minute marker 1:29]:

This was not the first time Nidal Eshtayeh has been injured by Israeli security forces. Just over a year ago, an Israeli soldier shot a rubber bullet at his face, shattering the protective glass on his gas mask and pushing a glass shard into his eye. His eyesight in that eye is still damaged.

In September 2013, Israeli soldiers attacked Eshtayeh, confiscating his cameras and handing them over...

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IDF shuts down Palestinian radio station — but won't explain why

The Israeli army shuts down the West Bank-based ‘A-Sanabel,’ claiming it incites against Israelis without so much as providing any evidence. Such is life under a military regime. 

The Israeli army shut down Palestinian radio station A-Sanabel in the early hours of Wednesday morning, arresting five of employees and confiscating equipment. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the station was closed “due to inciting broadcasts.” However, the IDF Spokesperson could not provide examples or statistics on such incitement.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, A-Sanabel openly supported “harming Israelis,” praised violent attacks, backed campaigns for rebuilding demolished homes of Palestinian attackers, and “promoted participation in resistance marches.” That is, the reasons provided by “army sources” — without going into detail — include a strange mix of incitement to violence and calls for completely legitimate actions.

I had never heard of A-Sanabel before. I have no idea what kind of content they broadcast. It could very well be that they call for the murder of Jews. Perhaps. But it is also possible that they broadcast news and lifestyle shows, that they employ journalists who report on local corruption cases or broadcasters who promote positive, nonviolent actions such as protesting the occupation or repairing the damage that results from the army’s collective punishment.

The point is that we cannot know, since the army neither needs nor wants to provide details beyond a general statement on “inciting broadcasts.” The army does not need to give explanations about its actions to the station, the journalists who lost their jobs, or the listeners.

Last November, when the Shin Bet and the police shut down two newspapers belonging to the Islamic Movement in Israel (the stations were never accused of partaking in incitement, just ask the head of the Government Press Office Nitzan Chen), the Union of Journalists in Israel sent a leader to Prime Minister and Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the closure. According to the union, even if the Islamic Movement’s stations did publish a certain text that includes incitement, “the way to deal with it is through criminal proceedings vis-a-vis the inciters — not through shutting down a media outlet and firing many journalists who did nothing wrong, and silencing a voice among the public discourse.”

Read: Israel’s covert war against Palestinian media

The same goes for the journalists in Dura. It is unreasonable that the army can simply shut down a radio station without explaining...

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IDF releases conscientious objector after 67 days in prison

Omri Baranes sat in military prison for 67 days for refusing to join the Israeli army.

After spending 67 days in military prison, Israeli conscientious objector Omri Baranes was officially released from IDF service on Thursday. Baranes, from the city of Rosh HaAyin in central Israel, was recognized by an IDF committee as a pacifist and was thus released on conscientious grounds. The conscientious objectors committee originally rejected her request, leading Baranes to refuse to serve in the army and sit in prison.

According to the IDF conscientious objectors who oppose all forms of violence or service in any army are eligible for exemption, as opposed to those who refuse to enlist due to their opposition to a specific army policy — such as the occupation. These kinds of conscientious objectors usually sit for a lengthy period in military prison and are usually released on grounds of unsuitability, as was recently the case with Tair Kaminer, who sat in prison for around 150 days.

“I am very happy that I finally received an exemption from the conscientious objectors committee,” Baranes told +972. “It was a long journey and perhaps I could have avoided it, but now that I am exempted it is all behind me. The first step of not joining the army is over and now I will work through different channels toward peace and equality.”

In her original declaration to the army, Baranes wrote that “bombs and weapons are not the solution to conflicts. War carries the heavy price of victims: our soldiers are killed, as are citizens and residents from both sides. I refuse to be part of an organization that sees things in black and white, which views all the residents of an enemy country as potential enemies, and thus may harm innocent people.”

Yasmin Yablonko, an organizer for conscientious objector organization “Mesarvot,” responded to Baranes’ release:

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Palestinian journalist ordered to spend three months in admin. detention

The Supreme Court upheld the army’s request to extend Omar Nazzal’s remand by three months only, instead of four. The judges did not specify why he posed a security threat, and how he would cease to in three months’ time.

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal, who was detained in April while trying to leave the West Bank en route to an international conference, will spend at least another three months in administrative detention, the Israel Defense Forces ruled on Friday.

Since his arrest at Allenby Bridge border crossing, Nazzal has been in administrative detention with no charges, a formal indictment or a scheduled court hearing.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet Security Service claim that he is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel views as a terrorist organization. Nazzal denies the charge and demands either to be sentenced or released.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. Administrative detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial — without any way to defend themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled, based on classified evidence that the defense was unable to view, that Nazzal’s remand must be extended by up to three months, instead of the four months the army had planned.

The judges did not specify why Nazzal would be a security threat for the next three months, but not for another month afterwards.

Nazzal has been huger striking for the past 19 days, protesting his administrative detention and in solidarity with another administrative detainee, Bilal Kayed.

Journalists’ associations worldwide have condemned Nazzal’s detention and called for his imminent release. The Union of Journalists in Israel (of which the author of this piece is a board member) has yet to weigh in.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Left-wing Palestinian parties join forces for upcoming elections

Five parties announced the establishment of the ‘Democratic Alliance’ that will run in the upcoming municipal elections. The goal: a third party option to Fatah and Hamas.

Five left-wing Palestinian parties in the occupied territories announced they will run on a joint list in the upcoming municipal elections. Elections are expected to take place on October 8th in over 300 municipalities, village councils, and regional councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The parties, which will run together under the name the “Democratic Alliance,” have not ruled out the possibility that this will be the first step in forming a similar alliance on a national level.

Senior officials of the five parties are trying to position the leftist bloc as an alternative to Fatah and Hamas, which will focus on both the unity of the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and, yes, on social justice. Namely, equality between men and women (the alliance is committed to ensuring that at least 30 percent of its representatives are women) and resistance to corruption.

The platform also includes support for full access to electricity, water, social services, infrastructure, lighting, and free public parks. According to some members of the party, the alliance drew inspiration from the establishment of the Joint List during the last elections to the Knesset.

Counting on undecided voters

Should they take place, these will be the first municipal elections in the occupied territories to succeed. The 2005 elections were not completed in full and elections in 2012 only took place in the West Bank, as they were boycotted by Hamas in Gaza. It will also be the first electoral event shared by the West Bank and Gaza in a decade, since Hamas’ victory in the general elections of 2006, its rise to power in Gaza, and the ensuing rift between both parties. Hamas’ participation in the upcoming elections, and its concurrent presence in both Gaza and the West Bank, is seen as a positive sign toward mending the rift.

Although they ran independently, each of the left-wing parties partook in those same elections, reaching a little less than ten percent of electoral support. The latest poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that were general elections to be held today, Fatah would win by 34 percent, Hamas by 31 percent, and left-wing parties (independently) by...

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Palestinian hunger striker to remain handcuffed to hospital bed

The Beersheba District Court also ruled that Bilal Kayed, who has been hunger striking for 58 days, will be prevented from seeing his doctor, citing ‘adequate’ treatment he receives at Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

The Beersheba District Court decided in a precedent ruling that Bilal Kayed, a hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee, would be prevented from seeing his doctor.

The court also ruled that he would remain handcuffed to his bed, and accused Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the organization that represented him, that they petitioned in bad faith.

Kayed went on a hunger strike 58 days ago to protest his extrajudicial detention, which could be extended indefinitely. On July 17, he was hospitalized at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center after his health deteriorated.

In hospital, despite his poor health, he was handcuffed to his bed and guarded 24/7. In addition, he made a request to see his own doctor, but was refused by the Israel Prisons Service (IPS). Kayed’s unsuccessful petition was against these two provisions. His lawyers said he would appeal.

Hidden agenda

The court upheld IPS’ assessment that he might escape or be smuggled out, because the window in his ground-floor room has no bars.

In coming to assess the detainee’s risk, the court relied in this case – as in all administrative detentions – on classified reports, to which the detainee and his lawyers have no access. It was to protest this injustice that Kayed started hunger striking.

As for Kayed’s request to see his doctor, the judge ruled that it would be unnecessary because he receives “adequate” medical attention. He stated that Barzilai’s medical staff are “experienced” in treating Palestinian hunger strikers, and that he receives regular visits of the Red Cross. On this basis, the judge ruled that a second opinion is not indispensable.

“It is hard not to believe that the petition wasn’t motivated by a genuine concern for the petitioner’s health, but a hidden agenda that does not belong in court,” he wrote. “I have come to the conclusion that the request to see a private doctor was not made in good faith.”

“During the hearings, the IPS claimed that PHR are driven by a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with the petitioner’s health,” says Amani Dayif, the head...

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Israeli jurists to IDF: Release conscientious objector Tair Kaminer

Kaminer has spent nearly 170 days in prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF due to her opposition to the occupation.

Dozens of Israeli jurists sent a letter last friday to the Military Advocate General, calling for the release of Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer, who has spent nearly 170 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF over its policies in the occupied territories.

The jurists argue that Kaminer’s sentence is disproportionate, and that she should be released from the army and allowed to take part in civil service. Kaminer is the longest-serving imprisoned female conscientious objector.

Kaminer, 19, appeared last Thursday before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, and has yet to receive a response regarding her exemption request. The committee has historically decided to not exempt female conscientious objectors such as Kaminer, who declare their refusal to enlist in the army due to their explicit opposition to the occupation (as opposed to pacifism, for example).

In their letter the jurist state that while they have differing opinions on the nature of Kaminer’s refusal, they are unanimous in their belief that there is no reason to imprison someone who believes that military service goes against their core moral beliefs, and that Kaminer’s refusal to enlist is an expression of “freedom of consciousness.”

“Under circumstances in which there is no real fear that a moderate response toward a person who refuses to serve will lead many others to refuse and put state security at risk,” they write, “the state is not allowed to punish a person with a lengthy prison sentence for conscientious objection. This kind of sentence is disproportionate.”

Before her imprisonment, Kaminer performed a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma following multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement published this past January.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” the statement read. “They, too,...

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What are settlers doing at the 'March for Equality?'

Israeli settlements enjoy preferential, subsidized budgets, and play an integral role in a system of segregation and dispossession. Who let them join the ‘March for Equality’ with Israel’s most underserved and disadvantaged communities? 

Israeli social activists and local government leaders began a march on Jerusalem this week, the March for Equality, demanding equality in state funding for social and educational services in their underserved communities in Israel’s economic and geographic peripheries. As the marchers progressed along their way from the Negev desert to Jerusalem, they were joined by members of Knesset, the head of the country’s largest labor union, and others.

The struggle over education and welfare budgets for Israel’s disadvantaged communities is important and just. The idea of an inclusive march, which fosters unity among residents of dispersed peripheral communities is also great. Such a struggle is worthy of all of our support.

There is only one problem: the participation of settlers. Among the initiative’s participants, which include the mayors of two of Israel’s most impoverished towns, Rahat and Netivot (a Bedouin municipality and a majority Mizrahi town, respectively), were local government leaders from the Binyamin, Gush Etzion, and the South Hebron Hills settlements in the West Bank. The settler leaders did not come to express solidarity with Israel’s weakest communities, but rather to try and find room for themselves under the banner erected by neglected, downtrodden towns in the Israeli periphery.

Their participation raises three troubling questions: firstly, what budgetary discrimination do West Bank settlements suffer? (I’m speaking about non-Orthodox settlements. Ultra-Orthodox settlements do indeed suffer from serious budget shortfalls.) Just yesterday the government approved the transfer of an extra NIS 82 million to West Bank settlements, in addition to the NIS 340 million that was promised as part of coalition agreements.

And those are supplements to the settlements’ regular budgets. The Molad think tank pointed out this week that pre-schools in the Hebron hills settlements receive thousands of shekels more per child than those in Ashkelon and Ashdod, cities inside the Green Line considered to be in the periphery. Government grants for development, nutrition, and agriculture are larger in the settlements, Molad notes, and generally speaking the government invests 28 percent more per West Bank settler than per resident of the Galilee. (And that’s excluding the added costs of security spent on settlements in the West Bank.)

Another example: the Adva Center found that in...

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IDF: Secret intel shows Hamas lawmaker is ... a member of Hamas

The army issues an administrative detention order again a Palestinian parliamentarian using secret evidence to ‘prove’ some very un-secret allegations. Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians without charge or trial.

The Israeli army this week submitted secret evidence to a military court in order support an administrative detention order it issued against Hamas legislator Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha.

According to the army, the secret evidence proves that al-Jaber Fuqaha is … a member of Hamas, information which can hardly be considered secret considering he was publicly elected on the political party/terrorist organization’s slate.

“Information was received, according to which [al-Jaber Fuqaha] is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region,” the IDF Spokesperson said. (The full statement can be found below.)

It is important to note that legally and politically speaking Israel, and the Israeli army, does not differentiate between the militant and political branches of Hamas, the latter of which democratically won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections to have been held, in 2006.

Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to imprison primarily Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are limited to six months but there is no limit on the number of times they can be renewed, making them indefinite.

Fuqaha was released from a previous round of administrative detention just a year ago, and has spent a total of seven years in Israeli prisons. In 2014 he joined a mass Palestinian hunger strike to protest against prolonged detention without charges or trial.

As previously reported here by Noam Rotem, Fuqaha is the seventh Palestinian legislator in Israeli custody, along with Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is serving a 30-year sentence; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving four consecutive life sentences; Hatem Hafisha and Hassan Yousef who are being held in administrative detention, Jerusalem resident Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and PFLP lawmaker and feminist activist Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison last December after spending eight months in prison, some of which were spent in administrative detention.

Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians in administrative detention, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. In total, more than 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held as “security prisoners,” as opposed to criminal prisoners, in Israeli...

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WATCH: Thousands of Israelis demand opposition to right-wing gov't

Left-wing Jewish and Arab parties come together to protest the rightward shift of Israel’s already far-right government. ‘We’re first and foremost against the government but there are also certain people in the opposition who forgot what their role is,’ Zandberg says.

Two thousand Jews and Arabs protesting Israel’s increasingly right-wing government marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night under the banner, “building resistance, building an opposition, building another path for Israel.”

Marching and delivering speeches together for the first time since elections last year were Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon. Both of their speeches emphasized the need for a joint Jewish-Arab response to the radical right-wing politics dominant in Israel today. Odeh went as far as saying that “there is a nationalist camp, there is a Zionist camp, and we need to create a democratic camp.”

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg explained, “we’re building an opposition, first and foremost against the government but we also oppose certain actors in the opposition who have forgotten what their role is.”

Members of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, Michal Rozin, Dov Khenin, Ilan Gil-On, and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf also participated in the rally.

The following is a live video feed I broadcasted from the protest:

The makeup of the political parties represented and the rhetoric used Saturday night sparked speculation that the protest could signal the start to broader cooperation between Meretz and Hadash, the latter of which is one of several parties that comprise the Joint List.

In one such analysis, put forward by Local Call co-editor Yael Marom, the two parties might be laying the foundations for a united front ahead of the next elections. During the previous election cycle, Hadash MK Dov Khenin spoke about building “a broad democratic camp.”

A source in Hadash, who asked not to be named, later said that in response to the growing racism and far-right politics in Israel that it was decided to strengthen Arab-Jewish cooperation between Meretz and the Joint List. The intention, the party source added, is to strengthen the collaborative work in the Knesset and to step up activities on the street, like the protest in Tel Aviv and monthly anti-occupation marches in the West Bank. However, the...

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