Analysis News

It's time to talk about Gaza

For the sake of both the residents of Israel’s south and the Palestinians, we must speak about Gaza as a place with real people, rather than as a science experiment.

Over the past few years, the Israeli public discussion has reduced conditions in Gaza to one of two situations: either it’s the place where rockets are fired from, or it’s the place where rockets are momentarily not being fired from.

Responses to the rocket fire are determined accordingly: attack with vigor or hold back; refrain from entering the Strip or recreate the “achievements” of Operation Cast Lead; allow building materials or don’t; escalate or refrain. Gaza is a kind of scientific experiment where Israel tries to reach the perfect degree of “deterrence” or “restraint” in order to maintain “quiet.”

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at the northern border between Gaza and Israel, Beit Hanoun, February 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at the northern border between Gaza and Israel, Beit Hanoun, February 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Now, we are once more in a period of escalation. Once more “code red” alarms tear the residents of Sderot and the rest of the area near the border from their beds in the middle of the night and threaten them during the day. Rockets fall on homes and factories, and normal life comes to a complete halt. Once more, the Israel Air Force bombs the Strip and prevents its residents from a full night’s rest. Only a month ago did the IAF kill seven-year-old Abed Awar. But who even remembers that? It’s likely that the current round won’t end in a ground operation, and things will return to normal. Until next time.

As Jack Khoury reported today in Haaretz, Hamas is not interested in an escalation and denies responsibility for the kidnapping. Despite the army’s major raid on the party’s institutions in the West Bank, the arrest of hundreds of its members and the bombings in Gaza – Hamas has signaled to Israel that it wants to restore calm. In the current political situation, with its recent agreement to enter into the Palestinian technocratic government (and with no ability to work outside that government due to hostility from Egypt and a lack of support from the...

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West Bank kidnapping: Israel's crackdown moves beyond Hamas militants

By arresting Hamas-affiliated journalists, charity workers and parliament members, Israel is going way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens.

Someone’s gotta say it: what Israel has been doing in the West Bank over the past several days goes way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens. It is a military and political attack on Hamas intended on serving the government’s agenda, with no connection to the attempts to find the teens, and no clear connection between Hamas and the kidnapping.

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Let me clarify: I am sure that the army is making efforts to find the three, and I hope they are found and returned, safe and sound, as soon as possible. But this does not justify the cynical exploitation of the circumstances for other political goals entirely.

Over the last couple of days, the army’s operations have extended into Bethlehem and Nablus – the heart of Area A (where the Palestinian Authority is in charge of both security and civil matters). The army arrested members of Hamas’ charity organization, as well as journalists affiliated with Hamas and the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who is a member of the party. A total of 200 people. Computers and weapons were also confiscated. And all this while the search after the teenagers is focused on the Hebron area, which is under closure. There is no doubt that many of these operations are unrelated to the teens, and that no one in the army thinks that charity workers, journalists or parliamentarians know where they are.

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

While military operations grow, both Israel’s military and political leadership are undergoing a certain change. If, during the first two days, the rhetoric included talks...

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West Bank kidnapping: The Palestinian unity government's first real test

Regardless of who is responsible, the new Fatah-Hamas unity government will be watched closely for its response to the kidnappings.

Hours after a gag order prevented the Israeli media from publishing the story, we can now report that three Israeli teens, who study in the West Bank, have even missing since Thursday night. The IDF fears that their lives are in danger after being kidnapped, and that they may be held in the Hebron area. Both Palestinians and settlers have been reporting about military operations in both the south Hebron Hills and the nearby city of Yatta throughout the day. There were also reports of gunfire being exchanged between the army and armed Palestinians. Rumors abound on social media outlets, though it is too early to say what exactly happened.

What is certain is that if the three were indeed kidnapped by Palestinians, and let’s hope they are released soon, it will be the first test for the new Palestinian unity government. With the its establishment in Ramallah last week, Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Fatah-Hamas partnership, which is at the basis of the government, includes respecting prior agreements signed with Israel, such as opposition to violence. Even Israel, which announced that it was cutting ties with the Palestinian Authority, as well as a total cessation of peace negotiations (due to Hamas’ inclusion in the government), committed to continued security coordination. Even this, according to many Palestinians, is too close for comfort.

Read: Three Israeli teens feared kidnapped in the West Bank

We will have to wait and find out the identity of the kidnappers and to which organization they belong. But come what may, it is clear that the world will closely examine the new government’s response to the incident, as well as that of Hamas. To what degree do the Palestinian Authority’s security forces cooperate with the IDF? Are Hamas members involved in the kidnapping? If so, did they act with permission from the higher-ups, or against their will? How will Hamas respond to the incident? And if Hamas was not involved, which organizations stand behind it? Does this signal a new opposition to the new PLO, similar to Hamas’ position vis-a-vis the old one?

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Is Israel recognizing the Palestinian national unity government after all?

If the Israeli government insists on boycotting the new Palestinian unity government, how can it also insist on pouring money into the Palestinian Authority?

By the end of June, Israel is expected to once more sit at the same table as the Palestinian Authority – the same Palestinian Authority that it has been so adamant on boycotting following the formation of the new national unity government. The two parties will sit together with the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a coordinating body formed in 1993 to regulate donations from various states to the PA, with Israel as a monitoring party, at an annual meeting in Brussels on June 24th.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told +972 that Israel plans to take part in the meeting, although formal invitations have not yet sent out by the chairman, who is based in Norway.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Since its formation , Israel has been trying to discourage the international community from recognizing  the national unity government – and has been failing miserably. The U.S., Russia, EU, UN and many other countries have ignored Israel’s warnings that because the new government includes Hamas, it is therefore considered a terrorist-influenced government. Israel itself has announced that all negotiations will come to a halt, that it will forbid Palestinian elections from taking place in East Jerusalem and that new construction in the settlements will be launched in retaliation. In spite of all this, it appears that in two weeks, the same Israeli government will be encouraging donor states at the AHLC to send their money in order to sustain the PA. How is this possible?

The fact is, it is not only possible but also quite reasonable for Netanyahu to act this way. From the Israeli political center’s point of view – which strives to keep the status quo going for as long as it can – there is nothing worse than the idea of the PA collapsing. Even recognizing the Hamas-supported government is better than losing the authority that serves...

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'Administrative detainees must have done something wrong'

When discussing administrative detention with Israelis, there comes a point when the discussion becomes an argument like one about religion — based on blind faith in the security establishment.

By definition, administrative detainees have not committed a crime. An administrative detention order is issued against people (almost all of whom are Palestinians) against whom there is no evidentiary basis to be put on trial. None at all. Because there is no evidence, there is also no indictment, no trial, no opportunity for the detainee to dispute the charges against him, no conviction and no verdict or sentencing to determine the length of a prison term. On the one hand an administrative detainee has committed no crime, and on the other hand, there is no limit to the amount of time he or she can be jailed.

True, there is “judicial oversight” by a military judge — behind closed doors — over the detention orders that are renewed every six months. Anyone who happens to read the protocol of such hearings will figure out very quickly that they are a joke. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents present secret evidence and and interrogations of the detainee and they refuse to answer any of his lawyers’ questions about the rationale for issuing the detention order. The detainee has no way of defending himself because he does not know of what he is accused. And so people end up in prison — for many years sometimes.

I’ve met administrative detainees — before, during and after they were held in administrative detention. Some of them are political activists and protest organizers. Others, like some of those who are currently imprisoned and have been on hunger strike for more than a month now, they are Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Some of the detainees are sick or elderly. And there are others, like Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was imprisoned for three years without ever being indicted and was released only after launching a three-month hunger strike. It is not known, nor has it been published exactly how he threatened or harmed Israeli state security.

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was held in administrative detention for three years. Nablus, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad al-Baz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer...

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Hamas, Fatah say unity gov't could be finalized in days

The makeup and formation of a technocratic unity government could be announced within days, or as soon as Egypt’s elections are finalized, Palestinian officials tell +972.

Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on the formation of a unity government in accordance with the reconciliation deal reached last month, a number of Palestinian officials told +972 Magazine on Wednesday. An official announcement about the formation of the government is expected in the coming days or as soon as Thursday.

The announcement is being delayed until the results of Egypt’s presidential elections are published, along with a few final disagreements about appointments to government positions. Both sides estimated that the remaining disagreements are not insurmountable.

Read also:
Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time
True Palestinian reconciliation must include refugees

The new Palestinian government is expected to be composed of technocrats and will be headed by current caretaker Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. It will be designated as temporary government until general elections can be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The last Palestinian elections took place in 2006, when Hamas won.

According to Nasser Laham, editor-in-chief of Palestinian news agency Ma’an, no major changes are expected in day-to-day life in either the Strip or the West Bank following the announcement of a new government. The separate security forces of Hamas and Fatah are expected to continue ruling their respective territories.

In what it said was its last-ever meeting, the Hamas cabinet in Gaza said on Tuesday that it, “is ready to hand over its full responsibilities to the unity government,” the Associated Press reported.

A senior official in Hamas confirmed to +972 Magazine that the government should be announced this week. However, it will not likely take place before the results of Egypt’s elections are published.

The assumption is that Egypt’s deteriorating relations with Hamas — since the coup that ousted President Morsi — was one of the major factors that led to Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Additionally, the continued rule of Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will only increase the Gazan government’s interests in reaching a deal with Ramallah.

In addition to the formation of a unity government, the Palestinian reconciliation deal is slated to lead to Hamas’s inclusion in the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Related:
More than just the PA at stake in Palestinian reconciliation
Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work...



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Young Palestinian girls detained on suspicion of - eating cherries

Four Palestinian girls, at least one of whom is under the age of criminal culpability, are detained and brought for interrogation — without their parents being present — based on a complaint made by a local settler.

Israeli soldiers and police detained four Palestinian girls between the ages of 11 and 15 on suspicion of — eating cherries from trees belonging to the Jewish settlement of Maon in the south Hebron hills on Tuesday. The four were held at the Kiryat Arba police station.

The girls, who live in Khirbet Tuba in the south Hebron hills and go to school in a-Twane, are escorted to and from school on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers. The escorts are a response to years of harassment by settlers who attack Palestinian children on their way to and home from school.

According to B’Tselem, a settler from Maon told the soldiers who were escorting the Palestinian girls that they ate some cherries from the settlement’s trees. According to the report, the soldiers immediately called the police, who took the girls to the Kiryat Arba police station to be interrogated.

Special coverage: Children under occupation

Atty. Gaby Lasky, who is representing the minors, spoke with police on the phone and she was told that the 11 year old and another girl, who apparently has learning and speech disabilities, were released once their parents were contacted. The two others were being held for questioning.

“I have a murder and manslaughter cases that they haven’t questioned the suspects for over a year, but [these girls] need to be interrogated immediately, and without the presence of their parents,” Lasky said.

If the girls were Jewish, it would be illegal for the police to question them without the presence of their parents.

A request for comment was sent to the police and IDF spokespersons. We will update this article if and when they respond.

Update: According to B’Tselem, the two remaining girls were being released without charge or bail.

Related:
WATCH: IDF detains 5-year-old Palestinian in Hebron
Assessing developments in Israel’s juvenile military courts

Read this post in Hebrew on ‘Local Call’ here.



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Israeli soldiers kill two Palestinians during Nakba Day protest

Two Palestinians, Muhammad Abu Thahr, 22, and Nadim Nuwara, 17, were pronounced dead at a Ramallah hospital on Thursday after being shot by Israeli soldiers during a Nakba Day demonstration. According to human rights organization B’Tselem, one of the youth was not breathing upon arrival at the hospital and died on the operating table.

Palestinians throw stones at an Israeli military jeep during a Nakba Day protest in the village of Al-Walaja. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians throw stones at an Israeli military jeep during a Nakba Day protest in the village of Al-Walaja. (photo: Activestills.org)

The two were shot during a demonstration marking Nakba Day outside Ofer Military Prison in the West Bank city Beitunia. A photojournalist who was at the protest told +972 that the Israeli army used large amounts of both live ammunition and tear gas, and that one of the dead was shot in his neck.

Thousands of Palestinians across Israel/Palestine marked Nakba Day with rallies in Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem.

This is a developing story.

For more +972 coverage from Nakba Day:
Who’s afraid of the right of return?
Liberating Israeli Jews from the dark legacy of the Nakba
A rights-based discourse is the best way to fight dispossession




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Ehud Olmert is going to jail for the wrong crimes

During his premiership, Ehud Olmert was responsible for two of the most horrific military operations of the past decade. More than 1,000 Lebanese, a third of them civilians, and 165 Israelis, a quarter of them civilians, were killed in the Second Lebanon War.

In the wake of the war, the IDF developed the Dahiya doctrine, by which the army deliberately targets civilian infrastructure as a means of inflicting suffering on the civilian population in “enemy cities.” Not three yearswent by and Olmert sent the army to implement the new doctrine in Gaza. Operation Cast Lead took the lives of nearly 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of whom were civilians, and nine Israelis, of whom three were civilians (these statistics do not include Palestinians and Israelis killed by friendly fire).

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert enters the courtroom at the Tel Aviv District Court prior to the reading of his sentence in the Holyland trial, May 13 2014 (Photo: Activestills.org)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert enters the courtroom at the Tel Aviv District Court prior to the reading of his sentence in the Holyland trial, May 13 2014 (Photo: Activestills.org)

The IDF stated that each military operation is taken under serious consideration and implemented with utmost care. And yet, somehow, in the operations that followed, the army was somehow able to show more restraint and decrease the number of deaths, especially among non-combatants.

Ehud Olmert is responsible for both of these terrible events. He has blood on his hands. The blood of over 2,000 people. Today he was sent to jail for six years for accepting bribes in order to build some ugly buildings in Jerusalem. When will he be put on trial for the serious crimes he committed?

This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Former Prime Minister Olmert sentenced to six years in prison for bribery


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How I got involved in a 14-year-old girl's murder case

Settlers went to Nibin Jamjum’s home specifically in order to shoot her in the head. All my attempts to bring about the murderer’s arrest have failed. A follow-up to the research of Israeli blogger-journalist “Eishton.”

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

Israeli blogger-journalist Eishton brought me back in time to a two-year period in which I was trying to catch a murderer. In his recent well-researched article, he revisits the pogrom carried out by settlers in Hebron in July 2002. Following the murder of four Jews (including a 9-year-old boy), settlers went out on a three-day rampage, which culminated on a day on which they destroyed shops, stabbed and shot a large number of Palestinians in the Old City, assaulted policemen and soldiers and prevented the evacuation of the injured. They also murdered Nibin Jamjum, a 14-year-old girl.

Eishton provides a brilliant analysis of the police and army’s deliberate choice to refrain from protecting the Palestinians, from criticizing the settlers publicly in spite of the criticism which they voiced within their ranks, and from enforcing the law or arresting those suspected of crimes. As evidence, one notes that only a single settler was charged in relation to the entire pogrom, and only because he had assaulted an Israeli policeman.

I came across the story of Nibin Jamjum by accident, only because I was doing time with one of the participants in the Jewish pogrom in a tent in Military Prison Number 4 – in January 2003, six months after the murder. Kobi Hevroni, that was his name. A young man from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba who had gone AWOL and spent his free time perpetrating attacks on Palestinians. How do I know? Because he told us about it with pride in the tent. In my prison diary I took notes of his heroic tales, as told to the other prisoners: collecting arms, shooting at Palestinian shepherds, pogroms (which literally translates into the Hebrew word he actually used – “praot”) against the Arabs in Hebron – and all of this was carried out without any intervention by the Israeli army, to which he himself attested.

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Israeli army installs new, remote-controlled weapon atop separation wall

The new camera-equipped weapon installed on the separation wall in Bethlehem. (photo: Activestills.org)

The new camera-equipped weapon installed on the separation wall in Bethlehem. (photo: Activestills.org)

The IDF has installed a new crowd-dispersal weapon on top of the separation wall in Bethlehem.

The new weapon, which is remote-controlled and shoots “skunk” water (putrid-smelling liquid), began operating over the last month. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the weapon can also fire tear gas, among other crowd-dispersal means. [Update, 22.4: A separate response issued today by IDF to B'Tselem states that the device cannot fire tear gas but only water].

In the past month, Palestinian residents of Bethlehem began noticing the new weapon perched on top of the separation wall in an area near where most of the protests against the occupation and the barrier take place. According to participants in last week’s Palestine Marathon, the new camera-equipped weapon moved on its axis and followed them as they passed by it during their run.

One rumor that came up in conversations among Palestinians on social media outlets stated that the weapon was the same one that was installed on the walls separating Israel from Gaza. According to a photojournalist working in the occupied territories, soldiers often use live ammunition against protests near the guard tower in that specific portion of the wall. However, a source in the army told +972 that the weapon will be used exclusively for crowd-dispersal means and will be controlled by the Border Police.

Runners take part in the annual Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem under the shadow of a new weapon (top left) perched atop the separation wall. (photo: Activestills)

Runners take part in the annual Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem under the shadow of a new weapon (top left) perched atop the separation wall. (photo: Activestills)

In response to an inquiry by +972, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated that the weapon is “part of our means for riot dispersal in Judea and Samaria. The weapon is remote controlled and has the ability to fire water, tear gas grenades, etc.. It is important to state that it does not fire live ammunition. Israeli security forces act in various ways in order to maintain order in the area, while avoiding harming innocents.” The unit...

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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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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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