Analysis News

On Memorial Day, Israelis must reflect on Palestinians' collective punishment

This year’s Memorial Day and Independence Day come at a time of increasing incidents of terror against the Palestinian population in both Israel and the West Bank. And yet, Palestinians are the ones being put under total closure. 

The Israeli military imposed a closure on Palestinians in the West Bank as of 6 p.m. local time Sunday that will continue throughout Memorial Day and end following Independence Day Tuesday night at 23:59 p.m. This means that in addition to their routine lack of freedom of movement, Palestinians will be under curfew and only emergency humanitarian cases will be considered for passage into Israel.

General closures in the West Bank happen on almost all major holidays. The logic goes as follows: when Jews are observing a national holiday, whether mourning or celebration, the Palestinian population under occupation who are both prohibited from commemorating their own memorial day and lack an independence day of their own must be on extra lockdown. This is so that the Israeli security establishment can more easily preempt any possible disturbances to Jewish Israeli citizens’ freedom of movement; it is also the state’s way of reminding Palestinians who’s the boss of this land and to whom it really belongs.

An Israeli border policewoman turns an elderly Palestinian away as thousands of Palestinians try to make their way to Bethlehem checkpoint into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, August 10, 2012. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

An Israeli border policewoman turns an elderly Palestinian away as thousands of Palestinians try to make their way to Bethlehem checkpoint into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, August 10, 2012. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

This year, Memorial Day and Independence Day happen to come at a time of increasing incidents of Jewish acts of terror against Palestinians throughout both the 1967 and 1948 borders. In recent weeks there have been dozens of incidents of anti-Arab graffiti sprayed on cars, tired slashed and arson attacks on mosques, specifically in northern Israel. Known as “price tag” attacks, these acts were started by radical settlers in the West Bank and most prominently took the form of destroying Palestinian olive trees as a response to IDF actions against settlers, have become increasingly ubiquitous. In the last 24 hours alone, three different...

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A Palestinian has been killed every 4.2 days in 2014

Fourteen-year-old Yusef a-Shawamreh, who the IDF killed one week ago in the southern West Bank, was not vandalizing the separation barrier when he was killed, but was crossing it to pick plants on his family’s agricultural land, B’Tselem reported Wednesday following its own investigation.

According to the report, a-Shawamreh was shot when he and two friends, Zahi a-Shawamreh, 13, and al-Muntaser Beallah a-Dardun, 18, were going through a wide gap in the fence that has existed for at least two years; it is safe to say the IDF has known about the gap in the fence. The two surviving youths told B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash that they heard three or four shots as they got off the road, fired with no advance warning.

This contradicts the IDF’s version of the story, which claims that soldiers saw the youths vandalizing the fence, began procedures to arrest a suspect — which means shouting warnings and then firing in the air – and then shot a-Shawamreh after he and his friends allegedly did not heed the warnings. B’Tselem also reported that although the soldiers provided first aid to a-Shawamreh, a military ambulance took 30 minutes to reach the site of the shooting, despite the fact that there is a military base only two kilometers away. What’s worse, the soldiers were apparently on a proactive ambush mission in broad daylight and should have been aware that Palestinians regularly cross that part of the fence to pick gundelia, a thistle-like edible plant annually harvested at this time of year.

The gap in the barrier through which the three crossed. (Photo by Itamar Barak/B'Tselem)

The gap in the barrier through which the three crossed. (Photo by Itamar Barak/B’Tselem)

This section of the barrier is located well within the West Bank, some 200 meters east of the Green Line, not far from the a-Shawamreh’s home in the south Hebron Hills village of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa. The a-Shawamrehs own farmland that is now located on the other side the barrier, and that land is where the three youths were heading to gather plants.

In a statement, B’Tselem said: “By justifying the use of lethal fire in broad daylight at youths who posed no danger to any other persons, the above [IDF] statement conveys a cynical lack of concern for the life of a Palestinian teenager.” The Military...

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Scarlett Johansson isn't naive: She prefers profits to human rights

By stating that the illegality of settlements is ‘very easily debatable’ and that there is no ‘right or wrong side,’ the actress has proven she is not naive at all – but is rather choosing money over humanitarian concerns. By default, she is enabling the occupation.

In her first explicit response since the Sodastream-Oxfam controversy, actress Scarlett Johansson told The Guardian Sunday that she stands by her decision to sign as brand ambassador with the Israeli company that has a factory in a West Bank settlement, stating, “I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.”

Reiterating her original defense that the Sodastream model is a “fantastic sanctuary of coexistence,” Johansson told the British paper that “I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Responding to the journalist’s insistence that the international community deems settlements illegal, Johansson says, quite disturbingly, that the issue is “very easily debatable,” adding, “I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.” That is shirking responsibility and a copout.

Since when is a 47-year military occupation saturated with a discriminatory system, human rights violations and the continued building of settlements on expropriated land slated to become an independent Palestinian state an issue that has “no right side or wrong side?” And how is a factory built as part of this system a “model for some sort of movement forward?” Why aren’t non-violent resistance or various forms of civil disobedience seen as the model for progress? Frankly, I cannot give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t aware of such efforts.

In the interview, Johansson also takes a clear stance against the BDS movement and, once again, wrongly implicates Oxfam for being an advocate. ”There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”

As I reported in a previous piece, Oxfam is not a proponent of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as it does not oppose blanket trade with Israel. Rather, the organization specifically opposes trade with settlement entities.

Johansson has therefore proven she is neither naive nor misinformed, but rather consciously prefers her own profits to human rights. Her statements leads...

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WATCH: Hebron man faces arrest for waving Palestinian flag on his roof

A Palestinian resident of Hebron in the occupied West Bank was forced by armed Israeli soldiers to pull down a Palestinian flag from his roof on Saturday after an Israeli settler tried to climb onto his roof and  remove it himself.

Video footage released by B’Tselem (here below) was filmed by Shadi Sidr, who lives in the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron, caught a settler on tape trespassing onto his property to try and remove his Palestinian flag from the roof, but getting caught in the barbwire fence and eventually forced to retreat. Several minutes later, five armed Israeli soldiers come up to the roof and threatened to arrest him if he did not pull down the flag.

According to Israeli military rule, soldiers can order any person to remove a flag or other symbol or sign if they deem it to be a threat to the public  peace/security. The irony of course is that the settler was the one breaking into Sidr’s home and  the one provoking a confrontation. Sider was keeping to himself, bothering no one, surrounded by heckling settlers.  But of course, waving a Palestinian flag in your own home in the occupied West Bank is too much. It warrants the invasion of settlers and soldiers into your home and threats of arrest. The term “occupation” is thrown around a lot, but this incident is a blatantly simple and infuriating manifestation of just what it means to live under occupation – surrounded by hostile people who are protected by soldiers who can tell you what to do in the privacy of your own home.

In the first video, Sidr asks the settler why he is trying to get on his roof when he has a perfectly functional front door and he replies that he just wants to talk, but dozens more settlers can be seen down below watching him and egging him on to do try and get the flag down. Once it is clear he can’t make it past the barbwire, Sidr tries to help him climb back down the ladder, but several settlers are heard in the background screaming at him not to touch him. While the settler is there trapped, Sidr tells him he is welcome in his home, but not by breaking in. The settler replies that his roof and all the land belongs to him, because it is part of the Land of Israel....

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New law dividing Christian, Muslim Arabs legalizes inequality

Israel ratified a new law that legally distinguishes between Muslim and Christian citizens of the state, Haaretz reported Monday. The bill, which easily passed by a 31-6 vote in its third and final reading, recognizes the Christian Arab population as a separate, though not national minority for the first time.

The law, which expands the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in the Employment Commission by adding to it a separate Christian representative, was marketed as a way to better integrate Christians into the Israeli workforce. However, in practice, it is being carried out at the blatant expense of Muslim citizens. There are approximately 160,000 Christians living in Israel, compared with over a million Muslim  citizens.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Likud MK Yariv Levin, Christians are “our natural allies, a counterbalance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.” Levin, an outspoken opponent of the establishment of a Palestinian state (like other fellow MKs in Likud and the Jewish Home party) also emphasized that he refuses to call Christian citizens “Arabs.” “I’m being careful about not calling them Arabs because they aren’t Arabs,” he told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv a few weeks ago, despite the fact that the large majority of them are, in fact, Arabs, and many identify as part of the Palestinian nation.

Through the Knesset’s passing of the law, along with Levin’s candid comments, the Israeli government has made two things abundantly clear (if they weren’t already):

1. “Arab” is a bad word, and the Muslim Arab population specifically – the largest minority in the country –  is made up of evil citizens intent on destroying the state, and are therefore not eligible to have equal rights.

2. Israel defines and subsequently prioritizes the rights of its citizens according to religion and ethnicity, in blatant contravention of its Declaration of Independence and the most common working assumptions of any democracy. This new law adds another chunk of evidence that Israel is an ethno-religious state with systematic, structural inequalities that work mainly to privilege the Jewish population living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This new law has legally enshrined the de facto reality in which Muslim citizens of Israel are not entitled to equal rights, just by virtue of being born that way. This is the definition of a racist policy.

Jews sit at the top of the pyramid of religious privilege, followed by Christians...

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PHOTOS: Jaffa, Tel Aviv enveloped in fog

The fog came out of nowhere Thursday afternoon. It affected the entire region. At around 5 p.m, as I made my way home going south along the beach, I took some photos that I thought I’d share.

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

 

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

 

Fog over south Tel Aviv (photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Fog over south Tel Aviv (photo: Mairav Zonszein)

 

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Fog over Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

 

Fog over south Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Fog over south Tel Aviv (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Related:
PHOTOS: Snow blankets Bethlehem as winter weather hits region
PHOTO: ‘Snow makes everyone equal for a day on Hebron’s Shuhada St.’



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WATCH: Settlers assault Israeli in West Bank, tell soldiers to shoot

On Saturday morning, Israeli Ta’ayush activists accompanied Palestinian residents of the village of Shweika in the South Hebron Hills to their grazing and farm lands in a valley near the illegal Eshtamoa outpost. According to Guy, a veteran activist and documenter, settlers and Israeli soldiers have been obstructing or preventing access to the land in recent weeks, despite the fact that Israeli authorities recognize the valley as private Palestinian land and have restricted any Israelis from entering it.

Just before 11 a.m., 10-15 settlers came down from the outpost into the valley – most of them with their faces covered to avoid identification – and began throwing stones, some of them using slingshots. As can be seen in several videos below, three of the settlers violently assaulted one activist, with one of the settlers  using a club. Watch the second video to the very end: You can see a soldier slowly making his way up to the settlers who run off after the attack. He did not try and stop them, does not run after them, and in fact pats one on the shoulder in a friendly, not disciplinary manner. This kind of dynamic not only makes the double standard in treatment of Palestinians clear, but shows that it is in fact the settlers who run the show in these parts.

 

 

The activist was badly bruised on his arms, legs and back. According to Guy, soldiers in the area looked on and did nothing to prevent it, nor did they detain the settlers or demand to see their faces and identify them. Guy, along with the victim and another activist, went to the Kiryat Arba police station to file a complaint. The police said the incident will be investigated.

Two of the soldiers who were in the valley at the time of the incident also happened to be at the police station. They told Guy that an armed settler screamed at them to shoot at the Israeli Ta’ayush activists, threatening to do so himself if they refused his order. Unfortunately, based on over a decade of Ta’ayush experience with similar incidents, the chances that these settlers will be brought to justice is next to nil, despite clear evidence.

Several Israeli news sites reported on the incident in Hebrew. According to...

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Scarlett Johansson is new poster girl for 'pro-Israel' advocacy

Scarlett Johansson is apparently the new poster girl for Israel – or more accurately, for those who blindly cheer for it and have no criticism of the myriad human rights violations that come with its occupation. The over-exuberantly American “pro-Israel” advocacy group, The Israel Project, has appropriated the actress in its effort to advocate for Israel and combat any kind of boycott, BDS or not.

As everyone must know by now, Johansson is no longer the global ambassador of Oxfam, choosing instead to stick with her new contract as the face of SodaStream, an Israeli company with a factory in a West Bank settlement. As a result, she is now the darling of the “pro-Israel” movement, and as Noam Sheizaf pointed out, even those who oppose the settlements somehow found themselves aligning with the actress and with SodaStream.

And so The Israel Project, a U.S. non-profit known for its aggressive promotion of Israel, had a twitter campaign going Sunday, asking people to literally “Thank Scarlett” and linking to a page where you can sign a letter that reads: ”Dear Scarlett — Thank you for standing up for Israel, for peace, and for the truth. You told the anti-Israel bullies they were wrong. Your courage in the face of anti-Israel hate is inspiring. Thank you!”

Here are two of the tweets with well-orchestrated and invested photoshopped photos. The tattoo is really over the top. Is it even legal to put a fake tattoo on someone and campaign it around?

This is probably one of the most glaring examples of why “pro-Israel” has come to mean “pro-settlements” and “pro-occupation.”

 

 

Related:
5 things I learned from the Scarlett Johansson/SodaStream affair
Scarlett Johansson chooses SodaStream over Oxfam



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Scarlett Johansson chooses SodaStream over Oxfam, citing differences on boycott

Scarlett Johansson announced Wednesday that she is stepping down as “global ambassador” of Oxfam due to the backlash against her role as the new face of SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates a large factory in a West Bank settlement, the Associated Press has reported.

“Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,” read the statement by her publicist quoted in AP. “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.”

Oxfam, which issued a statement last week questioning and criticizing her SodaStream deal – but without making a decision regarding her position – issued a statement Thursday that it accepted the actress’ decision to step down and is grateful for her contributions. It added that her “role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador (emphasis mine),” and reiterated its opposition to any form of trade from Israeli settlements “which are illegal under international law.” According to Oxfam, businesses like SodaStream that operate in the settlements “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Johansson’s statement is a bit muddled and misleading. She cites differences regarding BDS, despite the fact that Oxfam has never come out in support of it, nor has it taken specific position on the movement as a whole as far as I am aware. Rather, Oxfam is against doing business with settlements, which is equivalent to the positions of many Israelis and American Jews. For example, American Jewish columnist Peter Beinart supports a settlement boycott but is not an advocate of an academic boycott, nor a proponent of the BDS movement as a whole.

Johansson’s statement implies that she is choosing SodaStream over Oxfam because she is not an advocate of BDS. But this is an inaccurate and problematic statement, in which she seems to be trying get  off the hook under false pretenses. And because she fails to take a clear and specific stand on Israel’s nearly half-century-long military occupation and settlement project (considered illegal by the world), the message she send is that she is pro-occupation, or in the very least, that she is not anti-occupation. That’s a copout, especially considering  she has already shown through her political...

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Scarlett Johansson's naive SodaStream defense

American actress Scarlett Johansson has become the center of controversy following the announcement that she is the new face of SodaStream, an Israeli company with a large factory in the West Bank.

Gabbot/FlickrCC

Scarlett Johansson. (photo: Gabbot/FlickrCC)

SodaStream produces domestic carbonation machines for making sodas at home, and has a large factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, located inside Ma’ale Adumim, the third largest settlement in the occupied West Bank. (This fact is conspicuously absent from its Wikipedia page). The company has both Palestinian and Israeli employees working in its West Bank factory, branding itself as an environmentally friendly, ethical alternative for soda lovers who want to do away with bottles –  and that is what Scarlett Johansson claims she loves so much about SodaStream and why she is now its first-ever “brand ambassador.”

Johansson has been under severe scrutiny and media attention from anti-occupation activists and advocates of the BDS movement. Both the The New Yorker and NY Magazine covered the controversy, the latter with the funny, if forced headline: “Guilt-Free Seltzer or Blood Bubbles?”  Robert Mackey who writes The New York Times’ Lede Blog has an excellent, detailed report, if you want to read more details.

I reckon the enormous media attention has partly to do with that fact that she is major eye candy and websites love to put her face on their home pages, no less than SodaStream does. Here is a hilarious meme I saw going around that I cannot resist but share.

Johansson did not respond to the criticism until Friday, after Oxfam- the international aid and development NGO for which she also happens to be an ambassador since 2007 – came out with a statement challenging her involvement with SodaStream (but stopped short of calling on her to step down). According to their statement:

In her response, published on the Huffington Post and titled “Clearing the Air,” Johansson does not redeem herself nor indicate any plan to reconsider her contract with SodaStream. Instead, she reiterates the political line pushed by company CEO Daniel Birnbaum that SodaStream is a “fantastic sanctuary of coexistence and an example of peace in a region that is so troubled and so needs hope.”

Johansson writes that she supports “economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.” Palestine? What Palestine is she talking about? “SodaStream is a company that...

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Asylum seekers in Israel globalize protest

After more than a month of continuous protests and actions, the African asylum seeker community in Israel declared Wednesday an ‘International day of solidarity with the African asylum seeker community in Israel.’

Marches and protests have been planned in Tel Aviv, as well as outside Israeli consulates and embassies and UN offices in major cities throughout North America and Europe. Letters will be delivered to Israeli ambassadors and UNHCR officials demanding Israel ceases its policy of imprisonment and recognize the community as refugees, and calling on the UN refugee agency to take immediate responsibility.

Read +972′s full coverage of African asylum seekers in Israel

The asylum seeker community, which numbers around 53,000 in Israel, is now in its fifth week of mass, popular protests to call attention to its plight as refugees, which began with marches from the Holot detention center and culminated in an unprecedented rally in Rabin Square. Although initially the community declared a general strike, they were forced to end it due to financial hardship. They also suspended protests for several days after former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died on January 11.

More than 30,000 thousands African asylum seekers participate in a protest calling to free all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centers and calling for the recognition of all refugees rights, Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 5, 2014. The protest was the first event in a 3-day general strike of African asylum seekers in Israel, and is the biggest African refugees protest in Israel's history. (photo: Activestills.org)

More than 30,000 thousands African asylum seekers participate in a protest calling to free all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centers and calling for the recognition of all refugees rights, Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 5, 2014. The protest was the first event in a 3-day general strike of African asylum seekers in Israel, and is the biggest African refugees protest in Israel’s history. (photo: Activestills.org)

The following video compilation shows highlights from the last months’ activities:

According to a report in Haaretz, Israel has not granted refugee status to a single Eritrean or Sudanese national, as opposed to European countries, which have granted it to over 70 percent of asylum seekers from those two countries. The report also noted that out of 1,800...

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Ya'alon's jab at Kerry proves Israel isn't in the peace-making business

The message couldn’t be any clearer. Not only is the political echelon of Israel’s military establishment squarely opposed to the U.S. peace initiative, it actually feels such efforts are wickedly detrimental to Jewish citizens.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is welcomed by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Jerusalem on May 23, 2013. (State Dept Photo)

Moshe Ya’alon, the man charged with defending the State of Israel, was quoted by a major Israeli newspaper calling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic” on Tuesday.

He followed that statement up by telling a group of high schoolers: “they say time is working against us. We should not be alarmed by all kinds of fear mongering,” the “they” apparently referring to Washington and the “fear mongering” to “the peace process” that Kerry is so damn obsessed with.

Read +972 Magazine’s full coverage of the diplomatic process

Ya’alon put the cherry on top: “The only thing that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.”

This of course created a mini diplomatic and media storm, with U.S. State Department spokesperson reprimanding Ya’alon, calling his comments, “offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the U.S. is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”

Netanyahu was obligated to do something to fix the disaster that one of his top ministers and closest party members caused. But his statement did not actually include any kind of apology, condemnation or really any remorse at all: “the US is our largest partner and the partnership is founded on shared values and interests,” Netanyahu said.

“Even when there are disagreements between us, they are always substantive and not personal. We work in full co-operation with Vice President [Joe] Biden and Secretary of State Kerry to advance peace and security in the region. We stand firm regarding our own interests, while promoting the important connection between our two countries.”

The prime minister basically chalked it up to “a disagreement” and one that is “not personal.”

The defense minister then issued an apology, except it didn’t come from him personally, but from his ministry: “The defense...

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WATCH: Settlers hurl rocks at Palestinians in the presence of IDF soldiers

IDF soldiers do not use any crowd dispersal means to stop settlers throwing stones toward Palestinians in the West Bank village of Burin; several reportedly injured.

IDF stands by masked settlers in Burin (Photo: Munir Kadus, Yesh Din)

Over 20 masked settlers armed with slingshots invaded the West Bank village of Burin on Tuesday afternoon, a field worker from human rights organization Yesh Din reported.

The settlers, some of whom appear to be minors, hurled a large amount of rocks at Palestinian residents who were working on a house on the edge of the village. This area has been attacked by settlers many times in the past.

In the photo above, Israeli  soldiers can be seen standing with the masked settlers.

Masked Israeli settlers hurl stones toward Palestinians in the West Bank village of Burin, January 14, 2014. (Photo: Munir Kadus, Yesh Din)

In the first video, the soldiers appear to chase after the settlers throwing stones but make no attempt to arrest or detain them. They do not use of tear gas or other crowd control means to disperse the settlers, which is almost always the case when dealing with Palestinian stone throwers.

It took over an hour for army and Border Police forces to take control of the situation, according to Yesh Din. The Israeli authorities ordered the Palestinians to stop working at the site, which is inside the village and under Palestinian civil control (Area B). A number of Palestinians, including the cameraman, were lightly injured in the attack.

Just last week, in the nearby village of Qusra, a large group of violent settlers were caught by Palestinians, some of whom saved them by calling the IDF to come evacuate them.

It became clear after the event, as reported here by Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din, that the IDF actually identified the group as it descended toward the village to attack it, but did nothing to stop the...

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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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