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Famed feminist British historian refuses prestigious Israeli award

Catherine Hall withdraws from $330,000 prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Famed British feminist historian Catherine Hall announced she will withdraw her acceptance of a prestigious award presented by Tel Aviv University for political reasons. Hall was awarded $330,000 by the Dan David Foundation, and was supposed to accept the award at a university ceremony held Sunday. The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement called on her and other recipients to refuse the prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Three months ago it was announced that Hall would be awarded the prize for her groundbreaking research on the history of gender, race, and slavery. Hall is a well-known feminist political activist. According to a statement published Friday by the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which supports BDS, Hall withdrew from the prize “after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine.”

BRICUP’s statement included the BDS movement’s reasons for targeting Israeli academic institutions, which include dozens of joint projects between universities and the Israeli army, cooperation by Israeli academics in developing military strategy and planning the separation wall, etc.

The Dan David Prize, a joint initiative by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University, will be given to two other social historians, three leading economists on poverty and inequality, and three nano-technology researchers. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious in Israel, and is often presented by Israel’s president.

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

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For first time in years, Israeli academics pay solidarity visit to Palestinian university

An Israeli delegation of academics visits Kadoorie University in the West Bank city of Tulkarm to show support following a string of IDF raids on the campus.

For the first time in many years, a delegation of Israeli academics made an official visit to a Palestinian university. The first, small delegation arrived a month ago, and the second, last Saturday. The visits – meant to express support for Palestine Technical University — Kadoorie following a string of incidents by the IDF that are damaging its academic freedom – come after years in which no Palestinian university agreed to meet with any Israeli academics, out of concerns it would hurt BDS efforts and due to anti-normalization with Israel and the occupation. Kadoorie University appears to be the first in the Palestinian academic world to determine that meeting with Israelis who actively oppose the occupation does not violate the boycott or anti-normalization efforts.

The Israeli delegations were initiated and led by (full disclosure) my mother, Anat Matar, along with Hilla Dayan, both within the framework of “Academia for Equality.” Beyond solidarity, the point of the meetings is to start organizing an international conference for academic freedom, which will be held at the university in Tulkarm at the end of the year.

The connection with Kadoorie University was formed as a result of Amira Hass’ article last December in Haaretz, when she reported on the military’s harassment on the university and its students. It began in 2002, with the partial expropriation of the institute’s agricultural land – established as an agricultural school by an Iraqi Jew, Ellis Kadoorie, in the 1930s – that the army turned into a shooting range for soldiers. Bullets from the range sometimes hit the library building, which is nearby.

Since the latest wave of violence that began in October, Hass reported, youth would come to throw stones toward the soldiers in the shooting range and at a nearby checkpoint, and the soldiers would shoot tear gas, putrid skunk water, rubber bullets and even live bullets into the heart of the campus, sometimes even raiding it. According to data collected by the university, which was presented at the meeting on Saturday, over the course of 85 days the campus was attacked 130 times, 138 employees and students were injured by army gunfire, hundreds suffered from tear gas inhalation, several of the greenhouses were ruined, the library building was...

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Gag orders in Israel have tripled over last 15 years

As the Military Censor has become more liberal, authorities have turned to gag orders as a convenient alternative for controling the dissemination of information.

Over the past 15 years, the number of gag orders issued in Israel has more than tripled. But that is only a rough estimate because no state body actually monitors them.

Noa Landau, the former news editor of Haaretz newspaper and currently a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, has submitted a freedom of information request to the courts’ directorate and the answer she received consisted only of the number of requests for gag orders that have been submitted over the last five years. It did not specify how many of them have been upheld, fully or partially, what kind of information was gagged (the defendant’s name, the charges, the mere fact that an investigation was ongoing?), who submitted the requests, etc.

A similar freedom of information request was submitted to the Justice Ministry, which said in response that it is unable to provide relevant information. Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces have yet to respond. Even if they do, the data will be incomplete, because private individuals are also entitled to request gag orders, as well as the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, which is not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. What’s more, the army has its own judicial system which is also authorized to issue gag orders (as it has done in the recent case of the Hebron shooter, Sgt. Elor Azaria).

Upward and onward

According to the figures revealed by Landau, 231 requests were submitted in 2015, as opposed to 186 in 2011 (more than a 20-percent increase). The proportion of the requests that have actually been upheld remains unknown, but the legal experts and journalists that she sampled were hard pressed to think of an instance where a request for a gag order has been rejected. Also, the number of gag orders that newspapers received roughly corresponds to the number of requests.

In 2004, the Seventh Eye media watchdog reported that in 2000-2001, the annual rate of gag orders stood at around 60, and climbed to 110 in 2003. These are based on data collected from the newspapers themselves, where the orders aren’t archived systematically. Be that as it may, in the space of a decade and a half, the number of...

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Palestinian journalist to spend four more months in Israeli detention

High-profile Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal has been arrested on terror charges that Israel considers classified and therefore neither he nor his lawyer can see. The army issued an order to keep him in jail for another four months – without trial. 

The Israel Defense Forces issued on Monday a four-month order for the administrative detention of Omar Nazzal, a Palestinian journalist who was arrested last week at Allenby Crossing on his way to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Sarajevo.

Initially the Shin Bet claimed that Nazzal, a freelance journalist and a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Guild, was an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel defines as a terror group. But Nazzal’s attorney has denied that his client is involved with the PFLP. The military prosecutor acknowledged on Wednesday, at a hearing held at Ofer Military Prison, that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Nazzal. Nevertheless, he claimed that there was enough classified material against him to justify administrative detention. The military court accepted this claim.

As a consequence of the administrative detention order issued against him today, Nazzal will be imprisoned with neither the right to know what he is accused of, nor the right to defend himself against charges. Administrative detention orders can be extended for up to six months at a time, with no limit on the number of renewals.

Nazzal’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, tried last week to convince the military court that his client was just a journalist, and that the state could not possibly regard him as an authentic security risk given that the army chose not to arrest him at home, but rather to wait until he arrived of his own free will at the Allenby border crossing in order to travel abroad.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response that “Nazzal was arrested for his involvement with the Popular Front that, based on top-secret intelligence submitted to the court, poses a clear and present danger to Israel’s national security. His administrative detention was declared lawfully and as a last resort after every other option to neutralize the danger had been ruled out.”


The detention of Omar Nazzal has elicited condemnations from journalists’ organizations around the world, while demonstrations in his support were held last week in various locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

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Lebanese mega-band wins battle against Jordanian conservatives

Jordan scraps a ban on Mashrou’ Leila, a progressive and incredibly popular Lebanese band, following an international uproar

Mashrou’ Leila, the immensely popular Lebanese will be allowed to perform in Jordan, the government announced after the cancellation of a concert scheduled for Friday sparked an enormous backlash.

Jordan is one of the few places where the band’s many Israeli and Palestinian fans are allowed to travel to see their concerts. But last Tuesday, they were told that the concert in Amman’s Roman Theater was cancelled because it violated the “authenticity” of the place.

It later emerged that Amman District Governor Khaled Abu Ziad, who issued the ban, succumbed to pressure from Christian and Muslim groups. The latter campaigned for banning the band, whose songs tackle homosexuality (the lead singer is openly gay), promote freedom of religion and criticize Middle Eastern politics.

Mashrou’ Leila was indirectly told that they would be permanently banned from the kingdom, even though they had given numerous concerts there.

On Thursday, following public expressions of solidarity by Jordanian, Arab and Western artists, Abu Ziad said that “the concert could go ahead,” but it was too short a notice.

The band posted a thank you note to their supporters, in which they said: “We take pride in playing music for an audience like ours… We take immense pride in being part of a conversation that has played a part in harnessing popular attention to the subject of artistic and intellectual censorship, and freedom in the arts.”

They added that they hoped that the government statement “will be the first step towards securing the possibility of us playing in Jordan again in the near future, perhaps under more just conditions, even though we have no reason to know for sure at this point that this will be possible, as the approval is for tomorrow’s impossible concert.”

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Charged with conspiracy — for renting a rope to climb over the wall

Despite admitting that the young man was only looking for work, police decide to charge him with conspiracy to commit a crime — renting a rope and ladder.

Israeli police prosecutors indicted a 26-year-old Palestinian man in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Wednesday morning for climbing over the separation wall in order to find work.

According to the indictment, last Friday Muntaner Ben-Mahmoud Barakat went to the West Bank village of a-Ram, which is separated from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina by the concrete separation wall. He paid somebody NIS 50 ($13) to use a ladder and rope to climb over the wall (which the indictment calls a “fence” for some reason), climbed over the wall, and made his way toward Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem to find work. Police arrested him before he got too far.

The two charges on the indictment are “illegally entering Israel” and “conspiracy to commit a crime,” which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. The conspiracy? Renting a rope to climb a wall to find work.

It is worth noting that the indictment was filed by a prosecution unit belonging to the police and not the State Attorney’s Office. In the past, police have been known to file overly ambitious and severe indictments in cases where the state prosecution would not, and have even been ordered by the attorney general to drop certain prosecutions, most notably in the case of Daphni Leef and other social justice protesters.

Professional and government committees have been recommending for decades that the police stop acting as a prosecutorial body. However, despite a government decision 15 years ago to absorb the police prosecution unit into the State Attorney’s Office, police continue to file the vast majority (87 percent) of indictments in Israel.

“The fact that the police prosecution is subordinate to the police makes it difficult for the prosecution to fulfill the very purpose for which it exists: to represent the public interest objectively or quasi-judicially,” the Israel Democracy Institute wrote in a 2014 position paper. “[B]ecause the police prosecution is subordinate to the Israel Police, which is a hierarchical security body, the prosecution has an overly zealous tendency to achieve convictions and, thus, to ignore the mistakes and possible biases of the investigating body, namely the police.”

Beyond the overly ambitious charge sheet against Barakat,...

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Israel arrests Palestinian journalist en route to int'l conference

Omar Nazzal, a well-known journalist in Ramallah, has been in custody since Saturday on terror charges, based on secret evidence. His lawyer says that his alleged contact with militants was an integral part of his job.

Israel arrested a Palestinian journalist on Saturday while he was trying to leave the West Bank en route to Sarajevo for a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists.

Omar Nazzal, a Ramallah-based independent journalist and a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was arrested before crossing Allenby Bridge into Jordan and has since been detained on “security charges,” Israel claimed.

He has yet to be questioned and be told what charges he is facing, even though his remand was extended on Monday.

Contacted by Local Call, Shin Bet Security Services said the suspect is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel sees as a terrorist organization

Nazzal is a former employee of the pro-Islamic Jihad radio station Falastin al-Youm (Palestine Today), whose offices were shut down by Israel last month. It should be noted that he left the job long before Israel started to crack down on the station.

For some time he has been banned from going abroad, a restriction he has been attempting to lift for more than a year.

“We have been in contact with the State Prosecution and the legal department of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria division, but they just deferred us from one functionary to the other and never gave a reason for the ban or said when it would expire,” Mahmoud Hassan, Nazzal’s lawyer, said. “When he tried to leave, he had no idea whether the ban was still in place, and in any event didn’t believe he was going to be arrested.”

His remand was extended Monday based on secret evidence presented to the military court by police. A spokesperson for Israel Police declined to comment on the charges, saying that “it is a very sensitive case.”

Speaking for the defense, Hassan told the court that the fact that he wasn’t arrested in his home but only when he arrived at the border crossing means that he doesn’t pose a clear and present danger and should be released.


He added, despite being...

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Israel's state archivist opens up about censorship, digitization

Israel’s state archivist confirms that nearly half a million pages have been sent to the IDF Censor, which has redacted historical documents that already saw the light of day, and talks about why he didn’t foresee the storm that erupted over his decision to end access to paper documents.

Israel’s state archivist did not foresee the storm that erupted this week over his decision to end public access to the Israel State Archives’ physical documents as part of a otherwise welcomed digitization process.

Historians, academics and civil liberties groups are worried by the lack of public debate surrounding the changes, in addition to the IDF Censor’s role in the digitization and online publication historical documents.

In an article published here on Tuesday, two groups of historians and academics argued that in other countries national archives undergoing digitization are maintaining access to physical paper documents, and that for various reasons, losing access to the paper originals harms the ability to conduct historical research.

Several hours after the publication of the original article, I managed to finally speak with State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick about the changes he is making and the unexpected response it stirred up. (The State Archives had not responded to our request for comment prior to the publication of the original article.) In the interview Wednesday, it also became clear that the IDF Censor’s role in the State Archives is far more comprehensive than was previously stated or understood.

“I’m astounded by people, some of whom make a living from media outlets that are only digital, or who work in the digital world, who are attacking us for moving from paper to digital,” Lozowick said at the start of the telephone interview. “We have limited resources, and we cannot do it all. We needed to decide: either paper or online, and we decided to focus on online.”

“I hear and I read people explaining why moving to digital documentation severely — or even fatally — harms historical research. I never imagined that serious and educated people would make such arguments in 2016. It seemed like such a clear choice. Furthermore, we presented the process in various forums. There are cabinet decisions from 2012 and 2014, there were discussions on the Archives’ blog, and there were other articles on the matter.”

But the cabinet decisions and the other articles only dealt with the digitization process, not the accompanying...

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The end of history at Israel's state archives?

As part of a welcome digitization process, the Israel State Archives will soon revoke access to original paper documents, and the documents it puts online will be subject to military censorship. But academics and civil liberties groups are fighting back.

(Correction appended below)

Israel’s State Archives (ISA) will no longer give researchers and the public access to its historical materials and documents once it starts putting digitized documents online. Furthermore, and documents it does release will be subject to review by the country’s military censorship apparatus.

Currently, the military censor does not review every document given to researchers.

The changes at the State Archives will lead to a serious reduction in the availability and exposure of historical documents, the burying of documents that have already seen the light of day, and conducting historical research in Israel will become far more difficult than it is today, academics and legal experts are warning.

The new restrictions, which are scheduled to be implemented in the coming days, were formulated behind closed doors and are being presented as a benign digitization project.

The changes were revealed for the first time at the end of February, when letters began appearing in the State Archives’ viewing room in Jerusalem, announcing “ending the use of paper files.” The letters, signed by State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick, said that the State Archives plans to launch its new website in April and that it will include more than 10 million scanned pages (a mere 2.5 percent of the 400 million documents in the archive).

Lozowick wrote that the public will be able to request specific documents be scanned within two weeks (it currently takes two days to request a paper document). The letter also notes that “as part of the preparations we will have to cease providing original paper documents.” (The original Hebrew document can be read here.)

Quite ironically, the notice about revoking access to paper archive documents appeared only as a printed letter and not on the State Archives’ new website, which has since been launched.

When the changes were announced, a group of researchers asked for and held a meeting with Lozowick. “We’ve known about the multi-year digitization plan for a long time, but this was the first time they said that the provision of paper documents would cease, not to mention the matter of the censorship,” said Noam Hofstadter, a researcher at the Akevot Institute for...

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IDF fires on Gaza fishermen despite expanded fishing zone

One Palestinian fisherman is reportedly wounded by Israeli navy fire, four are arrested and their boats seized. The size of the zone where Israel allows Gazans to fish changes at the whims of Israeli military commanders and politicians, who have in the past openly discussed how they use it as collective punishment.

By Haggai Matar and Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

The Israeli navy opened fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip Saturday morning. No injuries were reported.

On Friday Israeli naval forces arrested four Palestinian fishermen off the southern Gaza coast. Israel released three of the four men Saturday morning. The fourth, who was reportedly wounded by naval gunfire, was expected to be released later in the day.

According to witnesses cited by both the Ma’an and Wafa news agencies, both incidents took place within the designated fishing zone.

Earlier this week the Israeli army expanded the area in which it permits Palestinians to fish from six to nine nautical miles off the coast. Palestinians are still not allowed to venture more than six nautical miles off the coast in the northern half of the Strip.

The limitations affect the amount and types of fish that can be caught, and results in overfishing within the permitted areas.

According to the Oslo Accords which created the systems that defined the mechanisms according to which the Israeli military rules Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel agreed to allow fishermen in Gaza to operate freely in a zone extending 20 nautical miles off the coast.

The Israeli army has not abided by that commitment for the past decade. Israeli authorities first shrunk the zone to 10 nautical miles, then three nautical miles. As part of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas after the 2014 Gaza war, however, Israel agreed to expand the zone to six nautical miles.

The size of the permitted fishing zone changes at the whim of Israeli military commanders and politicians, who have in the past openly discussed how they use it as collective punishment against civilians in response to rocket fire from armed groups. Sometimes Israeli naval forces simply announce via loudspeakers that they are reducing the size of the zone on a given day.

Palestinian fishermen regularly report that Israeli naval forces harass them, shoot at them, and seize their boats well within the authorized zone. Even...

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A win for labor rights of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements

The management at a West Bank auto repair shop tried to paint Hatem Abu Ziadeh as a ‘security threat’ for organizing other workers. Palestinian workers in settlements are particularly vulnerable to labor abuses and employer retaliation.

The Israeli settlement business that arranged for a Palestinian man’s work permit to be revoked on false security charges because he was trying to unionize other workers will have to give him his old job back, Israel’s National Labor Court affirmed this week.

Hatem Abu Ziadeh, a 45-year-old Palestinian from the Nablus area, worked for an auto repair shop, located in a West Bank settlement industrial zone, for 17 years. In 2013 he led the unionization of workers at the shop alongside with the help of Ma’an Workers Advice Center (WAC). In the summer of 2014, during the last war in Gaza, Abu Ziadeh was fired for numerous reasons, the most alarming was that he was a “security threat” — the shop’s owners alleged that he sabotaged a military vehicle that was being fixed in the shop, accusing him of putting soldiers’ lives in danger. Police ultimately found that the claims were baseless, but the Zarfaty garage refused to give Abu Ziadeh his job back.

Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements are particularly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and retaliation by their employers. They are not protected by Palestinian labor unions and the largest Israeli union does not represent them either. Furthermore, they must rely on entry permits from Israeli military authorities, a permit that is dependent on employment.

A lower court ruling from two months ago, which the national labor court upheld this week, harshly condemned the shop’s management and ruled that it had falsely accused Abu Ziadeh of committing a security offense. “This issue makes one question the real basis for his dismissal,” wrote Judge Eyal Avrahami.

According to the ruling, the managers of Tzarfati “accused” Abu Ziadeh of handing out Palestinian flags and maps of Palestine to his fellow workers, although this was never proven, “and even if proven, their significance would be unclear. It seems that raising them before us was intended solely to tarnish Hatem’s image and deny him legitimacy,” wrote Avrahami, adding that his pre-dismissal hearing was done unlawfully.

Avrahami also notes the importance of returning Hatem to work, as well as compensating him for his dismissal. The judge also wrote that the shop’s management has used various means to...

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Transgender conscientious objector is sent to Israeli military prison

Aiden Katri is refusing to be conscripted into the Israeli army because of the occupation and as a feminist statement. The army sent her to a men’s prison. Before heading to prison she wrote: ’It is time for an alliance of the victims of oppression.’

Transgender conscientious objector Aiden Katri was sentenced to military prison on Tuesday, in what activists say is the first time a transgender draft refuser has been imprisoned in Israel.

Katri reported to the IDF’s Tel Hashomer induction base near Tel Aviv Tuesday morning flanked by dozens of supporters. A few hours later, at the conclusion of an army disciplinary trial, she was sentenced to a week in prison for refusing to be conscripted into the army.

Military service is mandatory in Israel for Jews.

Before being sentenced, Katri explained that her actions are driven by a sense of solidarity with Palestinian women living under Israeli military occupation, and the feminist struggle against the discriminatory treatment between men and women in the army itself.

Later that evening, Katri was transferred to the IDF’s Prison 6, a facility for male inmates. IDF officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told +972 and its Hebrew-language site Local Call that the army does not really know what to do with a transgender inmate, and that a various levels of the professional echelon (including the Chief of Staff’s Advisor on Gender Affairs) are involved in tackling the question.

For the purposes of comparison only, the Israel Prison Service, which runs civilian prisons, holds transgender prisoners in isolation — or in other words, in even harsher conditions than others. A High Court of Justice petition challenging that policy is currently pending.

Aiden Katri, 19, was born male and raised in a traditional Jewish family in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. Today she identifies as a woman; she has not undergone any physical treatments toward transitioning.

In recent years, she says, she had an awakening of sorts in which she says she understood that all people are equal, which she found to contradict the “chosen people” narrative with which she was raised.

In the pre-conscription process Katri actually presented herself as a man to the army and was supposed into be conscripted to a combat unit. As the date approached, however, she decided she could not go through with it. “The problem is that in Israel people see the military as...

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The Israeli media is branding Breaking the Silence as traitors

The campaign against the Israeli Left continues: why did Channel 2 air a segment that paints Breaking the Silence as a traitorous organization that peddles in state secrets?

Israel’s Channel 2 news broadcasted a segment Thursday evening based on material given to them by the hidden-camera-toting undercover moles of right-wing group Ad Kan. The target this time: Breaking the Silence. The findings: Nothing at all.

In effect, two central claims arise from Ofer Hadad’s segment. The first, pettier argument basically amounts to: “Why does Breaking the Silence deal with issues beyond the occupation of the West Bank?” The second, more serious claim is that Breaking the Silence collects sensitive, classified information on Israeli military operations, which is prohibited from reaching the hands of citizens.

But in addition to these claims, the segment made an assertion that is the real heart of this story: Breaking the Silence “gathers intelligence.” Former Shin Bet head Avid Dichter even called it ”suspected espionage.” Why? For what purpose? Is this is actually dangerous? Channel 2 news doesn’t tell us, instead leaving it up to us to guess, and by doing so they join the slanderous frenzy of branding leftists as traitors.

Before we examine these claims, it is worth noting the most important point regarding Breaking the Silence, which so many people forget and try to overlook: this is a professional organization comprised of former soldiers, to which over one thousand soldiers have provided testimonies. Furthermore it is an organization that prides itself on its process of meticulously scrutinizing and filtering testimonies and testifiers. It only publishes things it has confirmed are true and that have passed through the IDF Censor.

To this day, to the best of my knowledge, not one fabrication has been discovered from among the testimonies published by the organization. The fake testimonies provided by Ad Kan’s undercover agents – along with the one given by MK Oren Hazan – did not pass through the organization’s rigorous filtering process, and were simply never published. This is praiseworthy, not to mention far more diligent and professional than nearly all Israeli media outlets (case in point: Channel 2 itself has itself been baited by lies before). In short, just listen to what they are saying.

Who really violated the law?

Let’s take a quick look at the first claim. I spoke with Yuli Novak, the executive director of Breaking the Silence,...

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