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Anticipating sirens and contractions: Bringing a baby into this reality

Nothing about life here is ‘normal.’ How could it be? And neither will my birthing experience – and maybe that’s for the best, so that things have a chance to actually change.

Thursday was my “due date.” I began my 40th week of pregnancy yesterday and am due to go into labor any day now. I’ve been mentally and physically preparing myself for this exciting and unpredictable moment for months, planning to have as natural, active and positive an experience as I can without any unnecessary interventions.

Then came the huge intervention of reality this week as rockets began being fired at Jaffa-Tel Aviv. No longer simply anticipating contractions, but anticipating sirens. No longer just being attentive to my body ahead of labor, but also ahead of rockets. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I’ll be bringing my first child into this world amid the harrowing sounds of sirens followed by booms of rockets exploding in the skies above me that shake the whole house — and waking up every morning to news that the Israeli military is in-distinctively killing dozens of Palestinians, including women and children in an operation that I do not feel protects me, or serves the interests of my soon-to-be-born child’s future.

At first I couldn’t see past my upset and resentment that the holistic, wholesome and calm labor experience I had been hoping for is being taken away from me, just like that, because of the inopportune timing, and there’s little I can do about it. And I’m angry over the fact that my child’s first days of existence will be shrouded in unnerving sounds and an atmosphere of fear, violence, death and destruction.

And this, on the already grim backdrop of weeks of heightened violence in which so many young people — the three murdered Israeli teens and significantly more Palestinian teens — have been killed, beaten and detained. (Remember Nadim Nuwara and Mohammed Salameh, who were shot by Israeli forces in Beitunia on May 15 while posing no direct threat, and still no condemnation or legal action has been taken.) And all this, on top of the ongoing daily reality of the evergreen occupation and general violence of life here in Israel and Palestine.

But while it is still of course difficult and stressful for me as far as my personal experience as a pregnant woman, relatively speaking, I’m fine. My...

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'Jewish extremists' arrested in murder of Palestinian teen in Jerusalem

Details of the police investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir have been held under gag order.

Palestinians carry the body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir through the streets of Shuafat. (photo: Oren Ziv/

Palestinians carry the body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir through the streets of Shuafat. (photo: Oren Ziv/

Six suspects identified as “Jewish extremists” were arrested in connection to the heinous murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, police revealed as details began emerging about the investigation Sunday morning. All details about the investigation have been kept under gag order since the 16 year old was kidnapped and burned alive, an incident that sparked clashes and riots in Shuafat that spread to other parts of Israel in recent days.

It is important to point out that following the kidnapping/murder of the three Israeli teenagers on June 12, headlines in Israeli media and statements from the government quickly deemed it a “terror” attack perpetrated by  ”terrorists” backed by the “terrorist” organization Hamas - before any evidence was shown or any suspects arrested.  However, in the case of Abu Khdeir’s murder, the suspects are, at worst, “Jewish extremists” or from the “far-right.”

While the Abu Khdeir family claimed from the very beginning  that this was an act committed by Jewish Israelis because their son was Palestinian, rumors spread (many believe by the Israel Police itself) that this was an inter-family honor killing, possibly because the victim was gay. However, that baseless claim was completely ruled out Sunday.
Read +972′s full coverage of the kidnappings and their aftermath

According to a preliminary autopsy report released Friday, Abu Khdeir was burnt alive; soot was found in his respiratory system and he had burns over 90 percent of his body, in addition to a head injury.

Police were expected to hold a press conference Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a Jerusalem court on Sunday ordered the release of Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s cousin Tarek, an American citizen from Tampa, Florida who was  brutally beaten by Border Police officers while  in custody on Thursday. Tarek has not been charged with a crime. His bail was set at NIS 3,000 and he was placed under house arrest and barred from entering Shuafat, where he has been on vacation visiting his family. The investigation against him is ongoing. There were various...

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WATCH: Disturbing footage of police beating Palestinian in Shuafat

A disturbing video emerged Thursday night that shows what appears to be Israeli policemen brutally beating a Palestinian in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Shuafat. Clashes broke out in the neighborhood Wednesday morning following the discovery of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s body in a suspected revenge killing by Israeli Jews.

The video, first aired by Palestine Today and also appearing in a report in Electronic Intifada, shows what appear to be two undercover Israeli border policemen kicking and beating a Palestinian, whose face is also covered, while he appears handcuffed, pinned down and barely moving. After the two finish beating him they drag him over to a group of other Israeli police forces, including both undercover and uniformed riot police.

A second video appears to show parts of the same scene from a different angle.

Asked for comment by +972, Israel Police Foreign Press Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld gave a very brief comment after the video was described to him on the phone: “This may be part of the ongoing police operations in the area [Shuafat] amid heavy rioting. Six people whose faces were covered were arrested yesterday. That’s all I have to say about it.”

The clashes in Shuafat came just one day after hundreds of far-right Israeli Jews rioted in West Jerusalem, following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. The rioters searched businesses for Arabs and accosted Arab-looking people on the street. A total of 50 people were arrested.

Read more about the kidnappings and clashes:
Photos of the week: A chronology of two kidnappings
Why this isn’t a ‘new’ intifada
East Jerusalem hospitals cope with clashes

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The kidnapping and the Israeli military operation - in numbers

Since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers from a hitchhiking stop in the West Bank on June 12, 2014, the Israel Defense Forces has been operating all over the Palestinian territories, in Areas A, B and C. The following list attempts to provide some basic statistics on the toll it has been exacting. While Israeli media is portraying the operation as highly restrained, these numbers show the deep effect it has on the Palestinian population as of June 20, 2014. *Some numbers provided are estimates due to the difficulty in confirming exact numbers.

Number of kidnapped Israeli teenagers: 3

Number of days since operation began: 7

Number of Palestinians arrested: 388

Of them, number associated with Hamas: 240

Of them, the number released in 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange: 55

Number of indictments filed against them thus far: 0

Number of Palestinians killed: 2

Number of Palestinians wounded: Dozens

In critical condition: 1

Number of Israeli soldiers wounded: 1

Number of troops deployed to Hebron: At least 2,000

Number of residents of the city of Hebron under total lockdown:  200,000

Number of Israelis living in Hebron: 800

Number of houses raided throughout West Bank: Thousands

Number of locations/institutions raided: 1,150

Number of rockets fired from Gaza: 16

Number of Israelis wounded: 0

Structures damaged: 1

Number of Israeli air strikes on Gaza: At least 15

Number of Palestinians wounded: At least 7

Sources: IDF Spokesperson, Palestinian Prisoners Club, Haaretz, Walla, Ma’an News Agency, Associated Press, New York Times, International Middle East Media Center

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The kidnapping: Israelis aren't the only ones facing national tragedy

Providing context may be taboo at a time when the entire country is focused on the fate of three kidnapped Israeli teens, but it is part and parcel of the story.

Since news broke Friday of the alleged kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers who study in a West Bank yeshiva north of Hebron the night before, media outlets and social media users have been gripping at straws to publicize new information on what has quickly become a national tragedy dominating Israel’s public discourse. The kidnapping and reactions to it, however, cannot be viewed in a vacuum.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday named the operation to locate the three, “Shuvu Achim” (Return, Brothers), and the IDF Spokesperson launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys. Netanyahu asserted Sunday morning that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping – although he provided no other information. Hamas thus far has not claimed responsibility and a Gaza-based spokesperson for the group called Netanyahu’s statement “stupid.”

Israeli soldiers shut down the entrance to the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. A complete closure was put on the city after three Israeli teenagers went missing near a West Bank settlement. The three, all students at a Jewish seminary, went missing late on June 12 as they were hitchhiking between Bethlehem and Hebron and are believed to have been kidnapped. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/

Israeli soldiers shut down the entrance to the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. A complete closure was put on the city after three Israeli teenagers went missing near a West Bank settlement. The three, all students at a Jewish seminary, went missing late on June 12 as they were hitchhiking between Bethlehem and Hebron and are believed to have been kidnapped. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/

Netanyahu also repeatedly declared that he also holds the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas directly responsible, even though the incident took place in areas under total Israeli control. He quickly used the incident to justify his position that peace cannot be negotiated with a Palestinian leadership affiliated with Hamas, for which he was attacked by the Israeli opposition. Netanyahu did not mention Israel’s long-standing security coordination with Palestinian security forces, unlike several other Israeli officials, who have come out saying they are pleased with the...

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PHOTO: Soldier punches Palestinian activist in the face

Israeli soldiers have been harassing Palestinian activist Issa Amro since he released a video of a soldier cocking his weapon at two youths. ‘They know I am a moving camera,’ he says.

Palestinian non-violent activist Issa Amro is seen in the following photo, taken on May 28, being punched by an IDF soldier (the soldier’s identity is unknown and this specific moment does not capture the punch that achieved contact). Amro, who lives in Hebron, is the founder and director of Youth Against Settlements and one of the most prolific and effective documentarians of Israeli occupation in the city.

IDF soldier punching Issa Amro in Hebron (photo: Awni Abu Shamsieh)

IDF soldier punching Issa Amro in Hebron (photo: Awni Abu Shamsieh)

Amro, who has been detained and arrested more times than he can count despite not a single indictment ever being filed against him, told +972 he has been harassed by this specific soldier over the last few weeks. He suspects the reason is that last month he released a video (which went viral) of an Israeli soldier cocking his rifle at a Palestinian teenager in Hebron, and later threatening to “put a bullet in the head” of another Palestinian filming the incident.

David Adamov (a.k.a. David Nahlawi), a soldier in the Nahal Brigade who has since been dismissed (for assaulting his commander, not for this incident), became a  Facebook sensation among Israeli soldiers who lined up to defend him and proclaim, “we are all David Nahlawi.

Amro said the soldier in the photo has been following him around and detaining him while he films clashes between soldiers and Palestinians in Hebron recently. “They know I am a moving camera,” Amro told +972. He said he was detained several times last week, sometimes several times in one day.

“Last Monday, he detained me twice, once at 6 a.m. and once in the afternoon. He forced me to go in and out of the checkpoint more than 10 times,” Amro said. He said he was detained again on Tuesday, while being cursed at and verbally abused.

“I filled up with anger inside. The soldiers are using the power of occupation to humiliate me and to take revenge on me for doing something legal. I have no protection at all, no one to complain to, no one to give [me] the feeling...

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Settlements as punishment prove Palestinian lives are bargaining chip

By using settlements as a punitive response to Palestinian political actions, Israel proves they come at the direct expense of Palestinian statehood, and that it holds all the power in this conflict.

Here we go again. Palestinians do something Israel doesn’t approve of, and Israel retaliates by using its unchecked power and leverage to block the possibility of a Palestinian state ever becoming a reality.

By announcing the advancement of about 3,300 settlement units on Thursday, as a retaliatory measure that it unabashedly admits is punishment for the formation of the temporary Palestinian unity government, Israel is proving that settlements come at the direct expense of Palestinian livelihood – that they are the main obstacle to a two-state solution and a Palestinian state.

Illustrative photo: An activist puts a Palestinan flag on the Separation Wall facing the Modi'in Illit settlement (Photo: Anne Paq/

Illustrative photo: An activist puts a Palestinan flag on the Separation Wall facing the Modi’in Illit settlement (Photo: Anne Paq/

Settlements as a form of punishment also exhibit that Israel is the omnipotent power and that any form of negotiations within this reality is inherently imbalanced and ineffective. Israel controls the reality on the ground and does as it pleases, when it pleases, while laying blame on the Palestinians. Even though Israel is constantly taking unilateral actions, when Palestinians do so, it is suddenly out of bounds.

It is not the first time Israel has used settlement expansion as a direct response to Palestinian efforts to promote statehood in the international arena. It did so in 2012 after the UN recognized Palestine as a non-member state with observer status, and in 2011 when Palestine was successfully admitted to UNESCO.

In recent years, every time Palestinians take an independent political step in an effort to somehow alter their evergreen reality as a stateless, occupied nation, Israel punishes them for it – as if it were an abusive parent.

Can you imagine the Palestinians doing the same thing in response to their objection to the makeup of the Israeli government or its actions in the international community? Of course not, because the Palestinians do not hold that kind of power. They cannot affect direct and immediate changes on the ground the way Israel can, through demolishing homes, cutting off water...

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Protest marking 47 years of occupation in Tel Aviv will 'disrupt routine,' police says

This week marks 47 years since the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, the product of the Six-Day War that took place June 5-10, 1967. That is almost half a century, and nearly three-quarters of Israel’s entire existence.

Like every year, the tiny Israeli left plans to hold a protest march down the streets of central Tel Aviv. The demonstrations are never very large, at best several thousand attend (last year’s demonstration barely reached 1,000 participants). But this year, for some reason, the police decided that even that is too much.

According to MK Dov Khenin, a member of the left-wing Hadash Party, which has been the primary organizer of the protests the last few years, the police did not agree to block the main roads in central Tel Aviv leading to Habima Theater, through which the march usually runs. Instead, they offered two shorter alternative routes on side streets that would receive much less public attention. The police has also reportedly prohibited the use of a car with loudspeaker for slogans.

Read: Israelis to publicly read soldier testimonies on 47th anniversary of occupation

The reasoning, according to the police statement submitted to Hadash, is that it would “disrupt the routine fabric of life” in the city, bothering theater goers and others consuming cultural events in the area.

Dov Khenin spoke to +972 about the decision:

Indeed, the notion that citizens cannot go out and loudly voice their opposition to Israel’s largest, most violent and controversial project on the main streets of Israel’s cosmopolitan city because, for a couple of hours on one night of the year, it would bother the “routine,” is absurd and despotic.

Khenin added that despite the decision, “Jews and Arabs alike will go out and protest for an alternative, for Israeli-Palestinian peace, like we do every year. And this year, we will do it to protest the attempt to keep us silent.”

Organizers, who have appealed to the High Court on the matter and hope to get an answer by Saturday, insist they will go ahead with the march through the main streets as planned, whether or not they receive police authorization.

The march is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 7th from Meir Park on King George St.

Public reading...

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Israeli teacher who almost lost job for 'leftist' views gets fired

Adam Verete, the Israeli high school teacher who almost lost his job in January due to complaints by a student that he expressed “left-wing” views in the classroom, was fired by the school on Sunday. According to reports in Israeli media, the ORT school in Kiryat Tivon notified Verete that he was being dismissed due to budget cuts, which include cutting the subject he was teaching: Jewish thought/philosophy. Other teachers are reportedly being fired and some are having their hours scaled back due to the budget constraints.

Back in January, Sapir Sabah, a student identified with the extreme right in Israel, filed a complaint with the education minister claiming that Verete had called the Israel Defense Forces an immoral army and by doing so, was disparaging the state of Israel. Verete was called by the school administration for a hearing which, from the recordings, can only be described as modern-day Israeli McCarthy-style tribunal.

Sapir Sabah recieves a "Jewish State" award, during a ceremony orgenized by Michael Ben-Ari , Israel, February 9, 2014. (

Sapir Sabah recieves a “Jewish State” award, during a ceremony orgenized by Michael Ben-Ari , Israel, February 9, 2014. (

The school immediately treated him as guilty, and  at the time said that it cannot employ teachers who discourage students from enlisting in the IDF – since this is one of its core values – and suggested he save everyone the trouble and resign. Verete insisted that he was facilitating a critical and open discussion of the notion brought up by a students that the “IDF is the most moral army in the world.”

Verete said at the end of the hearing: “It is our bad luck in this country that a discussion of human rights is considered to be delusional leftism. If I say that certain acts contradict human rights — whether that person is a refugee from Africa or a Palestinian at a checkpoint — if that’s considered a political statement, then the situation is severe. It can’t be that basic humanistic values are a political statement. They’re not.” After two hearings and a minor media storm, ORT decided not to fire him.

At the time I wrote in The Forward that the most disturbing part of the affair is what it says about how values are categorized in Israel as left or...

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WATCH: Footage shows Israeli army's killing of two Palestinian teens

Video footage has surfaced showing the shooting and killing of two Palestinian teenagers, Nadem Syam Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16 on Nakba Day during protests in front of the Ofer Military Prison.

The footage, obtained by Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), was captured by CCTV cameras mounted on the building where the incident took place last Thursday.

Nawara sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. Odeh, 16, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the back.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said troops were breaking up a “disturbance” and did not use live fire.

However, according to John Brown at Local Call, eyewitnesses reported that the sound of the gunfire was clearly that of live fire. They further stated that the Palestinians were shot from at least 100 meters – a distance from which the prospect of death from a rubber bullet are tiny. In the case of Odeh, the bullet entered his back and exited from his chest – something that almost never occurs as a result of rubber bullets.

Dr. Samir Saliba, head of the emergency room in the Ramallah hospital, stated in his medical report that the internal damage and the exit wound in Odeh’s body could have only been caused by live fire.

The Israeli military’s own regulations dictate that live ammunition must be used only under life-threatening circumstances. The video shows this was clearly not the case.

The IDF Spokesperson was contacted for comment on the incident.

Update (1:30 p.m.): In response to my inquiry, the IDF Spokesperson stated the following:

A number of violent demonstrations took place across Judea and Samaria last Thursday. In the Beitunia area, there was a violent protest of approximately 150 Palestinians who burned tires and threw rocks. Israeli security forces arrived in the area in order to disperse the demonstration using crowd-dispersal means.

That same day it was reported that two Palestinians were killed as a result of actions taken by security forces. An initial investigation reveals that no live fire was used throughout the day. The incident is currently under investigation. The video that has been shared on the internet in the past hours is edited and does not fully reflect the violence of the rioters during the demonstration.

MK Zehava Galon, who heads the left-wing Meretz party, responded to the video on her Facebook...

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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/

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/

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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