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Will Israel be in a 'state of emergency' forever?

The anti-terror law passed through Israel’s Knesset last week without one of its scariest pieces, the normalization of administrative detention, which remains dependent on the country’s 67-year-old self-declared state of emergency. That could have a bizarre consequence.

A new anti-terrorism bill passed by Israel’s Knesset last week may have actually perpetuated the single, looming problem its writers set out to solve — ending Israel’s 67-year state of emergency.

The bill is one of many pushed through the Knesset in recent years as part of an effort to eventually revoke the country’s declared state of emergency, initially declared by the British Mandate government in the 1940s and renewed every year since by Israel’s legislative body.

The emergency regulations have been abused by Israeli state bodies to draw authorities outside the framework of the law for years, from the regulation of taxi meters to health care procedures to administrative detention, the practice of imprisoning somebody — indefinitely — without charge or trial.

In order to eventually end the permanent “state of emergency,” legislators intended to codify the regulations and authorities that were vested in temporary “emergency laws,” and those British Mandate Laws, like administrative detention, which are only valid as long as Israel is in a state of emergency.

To that end, earlier versions of the anti-terror bill that passed last week included a change that would have removed the “only valid in a state of emergency” clause from the law that authorizes administrative detention. The line that would have allowed administrative detention in peacetime, however, was removed in committee, and the final law does not include any normalization of the practice.

Why did legislators remove the administrative detention clause of the anti-terrorism law? Somebody smart (a Knesset committee legal advisor) probably warned them that permanently revoking habeas corpus (authorizing indefinite detention without charge or trial) for reasons not related to war-time and/or a state of emergency would make the country look very bad.

It was probably also feared that Israel’s own High Court of Justice might not uphold the law if it were removed from the framework of a temporary, emergency situation.

Domestic Israeli legal norms, like those in international law, hold that these types of draconian measures are supposed to be used in extraordinary cases in extraordinary times. They are supposed to be an exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

So if the Knesset were to have added the practice of...

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Senior Israeli minister: Make BDS activists in Israel 'pay a price'

Public Security Minister Erdan says ‘the message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist,’ reveals his plans to create government-sponsored legislation to that end.

Israeli Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan says that BDS advocates inside Israel must be made to pay a price and that he is working to create legislation that would do just that.

“The message has to be that it’s not worth being a BDS activist,” the minister said at a panel on BDS at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday. “Anybody who works to delegitimize Israel, to bring an end to the Zionist enterprise, they should know that there will be a price.”

Pointing to legislation that targets and punishes boycott and divestment actions and activists overseas, particularly in Europe and the United States, Erdan lamented “there’s no real price for somebody here, [an individual] or an organization who is working against his country in order to isolate it in the world.”

Erdan also revealed that he has put together a legal team that is working with the Israeli Justice Ministry to ensure that there is a price for boycott and presumably anti-occupation activism.

“If we want to convince the world that de-legitimization is unacceptable for which a price must be paid, then it needs to start here in Israel,” the senior minister said.

Israel already has a law that allows civil suits to be brought against boycott activists under certain circumstances, but it has never been used. Erdan described the existing boycott law as ineffective.

In March of this year, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz advocated engaging in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, using language that deliberately evoked the Hebrew term for “targeted assassinations.”

Erdan made sure to distance himself from Katz’s comments, which drew the ire of Amnesty International at the time, reassuring the yearly policy conference that he was not referring to any sort of physical threats.

Israeli authorities recently announced that they have put a de facto travel ban on BDS leader Omar Barghouti and are considering revoking his permanent residency status in the country.

Erdan outlined steps he believes the government should take as it moves from defense to offense against the boycott movement and those who advocate for it.

Israeli authorities must target such activists’ and organizations’ bank accounts, expose their sources of funding,...

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Israel's chief rabbi urges building Jewish temple on Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif

The turnaround by Israel’s rabbinical leadership, which in the past has acted as a sane counterweight to messianic Third Temple activists, is a worrying sign. Netanyahu has regularly dismissed suggestions that Israel wants to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount as ‘incitement.’

One of the biggest drivers of violence in Jerusalem in recent years has been Palestinian and Muslim fears that Israel is altering, or at least that it intends to, the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif — the holy esplanade which once housed the Jewish temple and today is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years has taken to describing the articulation of such fears as incitement. Indeed, rumors and fears surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque have been behind numerous outbreaks of violence, including the 1929 Hebron Massacre, but that doesn’t mean those fears are baseless. At the very least, they are constantly stroked by Israeli officials and organizations with close ties to the government expressing messianic views.

(I published an extensive list of such provocations here late last year. They range from the acting foreign minister advocating raising an Israeli flag on the Temple Mount to government ministers publicly advocating for the construction of a Third Temple.)

This week saw yet another provocative statement from an unexpected source: Israel’s chief rabbi.

Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau told the Knesset Channel (Israel’s equivalent to CSPAN) earlier this week that he would like to see a Third Temple built, and expressed his belief that the Muslim holy sites located on Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount need not be demolished in order to make room for it.

Asked directly by journalist Nehama Douek whether he would want to see the Jewish Temple rebuilt in the same spot where it was previously located, Rabbi Lau answered, “yes.”

“In that place, by the way, in the same place where it was, there’s room for Jews, there’s room for Christians, there’s room for Muslims, there’s room for everybody,” Rabbi Lau continued. “It won’t take up the entire Temple Mount — take a look at its measurements.”

Rabbi Lau’s argument that there’s room for all three monotheistic religions on the Temple Mount will hardly assuage the fear that messianic Jews plan to destroy one of Islam’s holiest sites. For those who fear such...

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Violence is the strongest imperative to keep fighting for peace

With no peace process on the horizon, the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv this week is a reminder that we don’t have the luxury of giving up on a future in which Palestinians and Israelis alike can feel secure in their own homes, streets and cafes.

Almost six years ago, Hillary Clinton was getting ready to oversee the first face-to-face between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas in the Obama administration’s initial foray into Middle East peacemaking. Secretary of State Clinton’s road to just getting the two sides to sit down together had been long and hard, including extracting a nine-month settlement freeze from Netanyahu.

Three days before the sides were supposed to meet for the first time, however, Hamas carried out a terrorist attack that left four Israeli civilians dead. A day later, the militant Islamist group launched another attack, this time wounding two more civilians. Hamas made very clear, the point was to derail the peace talks.

After the first attack on August 31, 2010, I wrote that Hamas was becoming what conflict resolution practitioners call a spoiler group, in this case a stakeholder that has been excluded from a peace process and therefore tries to use violence to sabotage it. Despite the danger posed by Hamas, extremist Israeli settlers and other spoiler groups, I argued at the time that the prospects of peace were worth the danger posed by violent opposition to the process.

That was then. Fast-forward six years and there is no peace process in sight. There hasn’t been one for a long time, and despite the semblance of renewed movement expressed through the Paris summit and Netanyahu’s thus-far failed attempts to re-write the Arab Peace Initiative (API), there is nothing to indicate that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership will be sitting down to start mapping a negotiated settlement anytime soon. (Ben Caspit explains pretty succinctly why nobody should take Netanyahu’s API gesture seriously.)

Intellectually it is almost impossible to find hope in the current political stalemate. Given the choice between bringing the left-leaning, two-state supporting Labor Party into his government, Netanyahu instead chose to strengthen his existing coalition with hardliner Avigdor Liberman and annexationist Naftali Bennett, who has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent Palestinian statehood. Mahmoud Abbas, who the Israeli Left and much of the international community long ago ordained as the last...

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Israeli politician says Israel is 'Fourth World' — for the stupidest reason imaginable

Erel Margalit, a loud-mouthed Israeli member of Knesset from the Labor Party, drew the ire of the internet on Thursday with a Facebook post in which he described Israel as a Fourth World country.

Margalit wasn’t referring to the fact that Israel has the highest child poverty rate among all OECD countries. He wasn’t referring to the fact that millions of people living under Israeli rule have no democratic rights. He wasn’t referring to the fact that Israeli police disproportionately arrest the country’s own Arab citizens.

Margalit wasn’t referring to his country’s refusal to process asylum claims of refugees fleeing genocide in Darfur. He certainly wasn’t referring to his government’s practice of imprisoning Palestinian members of parliament and others without charge or trial, based on secret evidence.

No, Margalit was mad that he had to change planes on his way to Geneva. He was mad that his country’s national airline identified a problem with its plane before takeoff and had the foresight to put passengers on a new plane in order to ensure that it didn’t, you know, mysteriously crash into the Mediterranean.

In the selfie taken in what appears to be a business class seat, Margalit wrote:

“On my way to a meeting with representatives of Arab countries in Geneva. The plane is stuck. [We’re] changing planes. This entire diplomatic presentation we’ve worked on could be canceled. Sometimes we’re not Third World, but rather Fourth World.”

The internet had some fun (the caption reads “Fourth World problems”):

Now, to be fair, the only time I’ve flown on El Al in the past five years or so resulted in an emergency landing in a country I had no interest in visiting, followed by a second flight on a plane that literally had holes in the interior wall.

Here’s a short video I shot of Greek firefighters meeting us on the tarmac in Athens before spraying down the plane to make sure, you know, that it didn’t explode. How Fourth World of them.

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Leading Israeli rights group to stop cooperating with the IDF

The Israeli military justice system acts only to ‘cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,’ B’Tselem says, citing 25 years of experience working with the military. Palestinian rights expert welcomes the move.

Israel’s best known human rights organization, B’Tselem, has lost all faith in the Israeli military justice system and will stop cooperating with it on behalf of Palestinian victims, the organization announced Wednesday.

A quarter century of experience working with the army “has brought us to the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,” the organization wrote in an 80-page report that accompanied the announcement.

The report details the exact failings of the military investigative system — read it here.

B’Tselem’s decision is particularly significant because Palestinian victims of violence by Israelis security forces largely rely on Israeli human rights groups to file complaints on their behalf. On a most basic, logistical level, the IDF’s Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU, sometimes referred to as MPCID) does not have any bases in the West Bank where Palestinians can physically go to file complaints, and the army does not issue them entry permits for the purposes of filing complaints against its own soldiers.

But it is the army’s utter ineffectiveness at investigating its own that is most striking. Out of 739 cases in which B’Tselem demanded that the IDF investigate soldiers killing, injuring, beating or using Palestinians as human shields since the year 2000, only 25 (3 percent) resulted in indictments. At least 70 percent of those cases ended without military investigators taking any action whatsoever, the organization reported, describing the process as riddled by “systemic failures which are neither random, nor case specific.”

Data compiled by Yesh Din, another Israeli human rights group that represents Palestinian victims of crimes by security forces, is even more troubling. According to Yesh Din, in 2014 military prosecutors filed indictments as a result of only 3.5 percent of criminal investigations into offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinians. The indictment rate presented by B’Tselem is relative to all complaints filed, while Yesh Din’s refers only to criminal investigations initiated by the army. (Full disclosure: my wife serves as a legal advisor to Yesh Din, and is...

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Israel puts 'travel ban' on BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti

Officials have indicated for months they are considering bureaucratic measures to punish the BDS movement co-founder. The de facto travel ban is part of a possible revocation of his residency status; Barghouti has lived in Israel for 22 years.

Israeli authorities have put a de facto travel ban on Palestinian boycott campaigner and BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti and are considering revoking his residency status in the country.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is a Palestinian-led call to pressure Israel into ending the occupation, ensure full equality within its borders, and recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees. Israel views the campaign, which is often compared to the international pressure levied against apartheid South Africa, as a strategic threat.

Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian who is married to a Palestinian citizen of Israel and resides in the northern city of Acre, has permanent residency status in the country and travels regularly to promote the BDS campaign, of which he is the most prominent spokesperson.

Revoking Barghouti’s residency status would effectively mean deporting him and separating him from his family, who hold Israeli citizenship. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency status of more than 14,000 Palestinians living within what it considers its sovereign borders, primarily in occupied East Jerusalem.

An Israeli Interior Ministry spokesperson told AFP on Tuesday that Interior Ministry Aryeh Deri is considering revoking Barghouti’s residency status. Until a decision is made regarding the residency revocation, the spokesperson explained, the ministry will not issue him the documents required to exit and enter the country.

The Interior Ministry cited claims that Barghouti lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah as the basis for revoking his residency. Barghouti denied the allegation.

“I reside with my family in our home in Acre [inside the Green Line],” Barghouti told AFP. “I’ve had Israeli permanent residency for almost 23 years, in accordance with the law and without any violations.”

The Interior Ministry spokesperson, however, added that Barghouti’s “BDS activities” played a role in the decision.

Two months ago, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz advocated for the “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, intentionally choosing language that evokes the Hebrew term for “targeted assassinations.” Around the same time, Interior Minister Deri said he had been asked to revoke Barghouti’s residency status. Information and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Barghouti should be made...

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The incremental annexation of Palestine

Israel’s justice minister announces a plan to apply Israeli law to parts of the West Bank, or in other words, annexation. By taking an incremental approach, she stands a pretty good chance of succeeding. Success, however, will expose the true nature of Israel’s discriminatory regime.

Each time a right-wing Israeli politician introduces a law that would advance the slow-moving process of annexing the West Bank, the usual suspects one expects to be outraged — journalists, foreign diplomats, the Israeli opposition, Palestinian politicians and diplomats — care just a little bit less.

Part of the reason is that the most outrageous laws proposed by right-wing Israeli politicians rarely get very far. The other reason is that for the Palestinian stakeholders, those provocative laws rarely threaten to seriously alter the current situation in ways that most people understand or care about. Or in other words, things are already bad enough that making them worse is pretty challenging.

For instance, a (twice) proposed law aiming to legalize Israeli settlement outposts illegally built on privately owned Palestinian land that all but eliminated the possibility for Palestinians to get their land back, would not have actually changed anything (Hebrew). The law would have been bad, but is the current situation any better? The illegal settlements are still standing, and the Palestinian land owners are still dispossessed of their land.

This week saw yet another such legislative anti-drama, an initiative promoted by Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to apply Israeli law to the West Bank, or more specifically, to Israeli settlements and the settlers who live there.

Yes, adding to and further entrenching the laws that Israel has already applied (via military order) to the West Bank and the settlements and settlers there represents movement toward annexation. (Applying one’s civilian law to occupied territory, like Israel did in the Golan Heights, is largely considered to be de facto annexation.) But then again that’s been going on for decades. (More on that later.)

Shaked and other high profile members of her political party make no secret of their intentions to annex the West Bank to Israel — slowly. They recognize that neither mainstream Israel nor the international community is ready to accept sweeping annexation; incremental annexation is a far more effective, and achievable goal.

‘A gradual path — the Zionist way’

The leader of Shaked’s party, Naftali Bennett, whose plan to annex 60 percent of the...

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UN: 75,000 Palestinians in Gaza still displaced from 2014 war

Only 16 percent of destroyed or severely damaged households have been made habitable, a new UN survey finds.

Some 75,000 Palestinians, including an estimated 44,000 children, remain internally displaced in the Gaza Strip almost two years after the devastating war with Israel that killed over 2,000 people, according to a United Nations survey of the situation published Tuesday.

An estimated 18,000 housing units (16,965 households) in Gaza were either destroyed or severely damaged during the war. Only 3,000 of those housing units, or 16 percent, have since been rebuilt or otherwise rendered habitable, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Of the internally displaced households that owned their original residences, 62 percent are living in rented accommodations today. Do to the severe housing shortage, however, what people report as rented accommodations often include “store rooms, unfinished units, substandard apartments in relatives’ or neighbors’ buildings, or with extended families,” the UN report states.

Another nearly quarter (23 percent) of those whom the OCHA survey considered internally displaced are living “in the rubble of their damaged homes.” Sixty-three percent of internally displaced households have not yet started repairing their damaged homes, and of those that did start, 61 percent were doing so with humanitarian grants and assistance.

Internally displaced Gazans are forced to deal with economic, food and housing insecurity, according to the survey, which found that 70 percent rely on humanitarian assistance for survival, and 87 percent had purchased food on credit in the past year. Fifty percent of internally displaced households said they fear being forced to leave their current places of residence.

The OCHA report and other UN officials made sure to note, however, that just rebuilding the destroyed homes is not enough.

“We must secure peace and focus on building Gaza for the future,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council earlier this year. “This means providing clean water and sufficient energy, creating jobs and a sustainable economy, restoring free movement for people and goods and, above all, ensuring integration between the West Bank and Gaza under a single democratic and legitimate Palestinian Authority.”

The OCHA report provided three prescriptions for moving forward: 1) Removing restrictions on importing building materials toward a full lifting of the blockade; 2) Reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas in order to enable effective governance in Gaza;...

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IDF admits discriminating against Palestinians in home demolitions

Senior army officer testifies to Knesset committee that building enforcement is ‘far more severe against Palestinians’ than Jews. There are over 11,000 Israeli demolition orders pending against Palestinian-owned structures.

The Israeli army demolishes Palestinian homes in the West Bank at disproportionately higher rates than it demolishes Jewish settler homes, a senior Israeli army officer told a Knesset sub-committee on Wednesday. The admission demonstrates yet another way in which Jews and Palestinians are held to different legal standards, and often different legal systems in West Bank.

“Our enforcement against Palestinians is hundreds of percentage points higher [than against Jews],” Maj.-Gen. Yoav ‘Poli’ Mordechai told the Knesset Sub-Committee for Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Affairs.

Mordechai, who serves as the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a position that is effectively the military governor of the West Bank, was addressing a perception by settlers that Israeli authorities single them out when it comes to enforcement against illegal building.

In January of this year U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that, “at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the time called Shapiro’s remarks “unacceptable and incorrect.”

And yet back at the Knesset sub-committee on Wednesday, Mordechai reiterated that, “enforcement is not only equal, it is far more severe against Palestinians in recent years,” carefully placing responsibility for the discriminatory policies on the Israeli political echelon.

“The officers in the IDF’s West Bank legal advisor’s unit act according to the directives of the generals, who act according to the directives of the Chief of General Staff, who acts according to the directives of the defense minister,” Mordechai said.

The COGAT head went on to explain why he would not give exact figures about how many Jewish versus Palestinian homes the army demolishes.

“Because it affects foreign policy we decided, and I think it is the right decision, to only present those numbers in a closed forum,” he said at the sub-committee meeting.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is currently conducting a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. Settlements and home demolitions are known to be a part of the prosecutor’s examination, which might help explain why the Israeli army is disinclined to release exact figures about the discriminatory nature of home demolitions in the occupied...

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The fiction of autonomy in Ramallah is making the occupation stronger

A nearly averted shootout outside Abbas’s house in Ramallah has led to renewed talks about restoring Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank. But outside the framework of a peace process, such steps only help the occupation endure.

Israeli and Palestinian security forces came dangerously close to a direct, armed confrontation in late December 2015. An Israeli army unit was on a routine nighttime incursion into Ramallah, deep into Palestinian-controlled territory, when it found itself face to face with armed members of the American-trained Palestinian Presidential Guard.

Either the Israeli military’s mapping software didn’t include the security cordon around Mahmoud Abbas’s official residence, or the officer responsible for planning the mission that night thought the Presidential Guard would simply stand aside and let them drive right up to the Palestinian president’s home, or right by it — it doesn’t really matter.

The Presidential Guard troops did not stand down. They refused to let the Israeli army arrest squad enter the sterile space surrounding Abbas’s house, and after 15 very tense minutes, the Israeli troops turned eventually around. What could have been a serious crisis was closely averted, but the message, intentional or not, was clear.

“They ordered Abu Mazen’s guards to disappear,” PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said at the time to Defense News, which broke the story. “They were practically in his garden, approaching his house just to tell him ‘We’re here.’ As if he needs to be reminded. Personally, I don’t know why Abu Mazen is taking all of this. I honestly don’t know.”

Palestinian President Abbas confirmed that the incident happened in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television last week.

The idea of Israeli troops closing in on the home of the PLO chairman and Palestinian president surely evoked memories of when Israel sent tanks to put Yasser Arafat under siege at his presidential compound, the Muqata’a, at the height of the Second Intifada. That incursion, which came amid the most violent period in years, signaled an end to whatever dreams of Palestinian autonomy the Oslo Accords had promised.

Twenty-one years ago, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization signed the Oslo II agreement, which divided the West Bank into three areas: A, B and C. Israel was to retain full administrative and security control in Area C, over 60 percent of the West Bank where most Israeli settlements are located. In Area B Israel...

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'Israeli maternity wards segregate Jewish, Arab mothers'

An investigative report finds that numerous Israeli hospitals are openly implementing segregation. But journalists have exposed the phenomenon for at least a decade and nobody seems willing to do anything about it.

Despite years of denials and regulators vowing to tackle the problem, a number of major Israeli hospitals continue to segregate Jewish and Arab mothers in maternity wards across the country, according to an investigation published Tuesday by public radio broadcaster Israel Radio.

In some hospitals the segregation is unofficial policy; in others it is implemented at the behest of patients.

The segment on Israel Radio included recorded conversations with three separate hospitals in which a Jewish reporter posed as an expectant mother shopping around for a maternity ward.

The reporter asked a maternity nurse in each hospital whether after giving birth she could avoid being placed in the same room as a non-Jewish (read: Palestinian) woman.

“That’s not a problem, we always do that,” answered a maternity nurse at the Mt. Scopus campus of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital.

Is that an official policy of the hospital? The reporter followed up.

“Of course,” the nurse responded. “Especially in the maternity ward… we always try to arrange separate rooms.”

Another hospital, Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, told the reporter that it couldn’t guarantee a segregated room but that the maternity staff always tries to keep Jews and Arabs separate. “We try not to mix,” even when patients don’t request it, a representative was recorded as saying.

Two hospitals, Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva and Rambam in Haifa, were found to not practice segregation in maternity wards.

Nothing new

The phenomenon of segregating Jewish and Palestinian women in Israeli hospitals is far from new, and it has been reported by major media outlets for at least the past decade.

A 2006 article in Haaretz highlighted the practice in two hospitals in northern Israel. One of the hospitals defended the policy at the time citing “differences in mentality” among Jewish and Palestinian patients.

Six years later, in 2012, the Ma’ariv daily newspaper did an undercover investigation in which it found identical results at some of the exact same hospitals that Israel Radio exposed as implementing segregation. “We try to not put Arabs in the same rooms [as Jewish women],” a Ma’ariv reporter was told in the maternity ward of Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center at the time.

All...

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The only way to ensure Palestinian lives matter

The IDF’s decision not to charge Abed Fatah al-Sharif’s killer with murder should not surprise anybody — it is entirely consistent with the impunity Israeli security personnel have enjoyed for decades when it comes to killing Palestinians.

The Israeli army’s Military Advocate General on Thursday announced that it will not seek murder charges against a soldier who was videotaped executing Abed Fatah al-Sharif, an incapacitated, wounded Palestinian man suspected of stabbing a soldier in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron last week. (The soldier’s identity is widely known but cannot be published here due to a court-imposed gag order.)

The decision surprised some, although it is not quite clear why. To the best of my knowledge no Israeli soldier has ever been charged with murder for killing a Palestinian.

According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, in the period between 2003 and 2013 (excluding 2010, for which the IDF refused to provide data, possibly because that data would cover the Mavi Marmara incident), military police opened criminal investigations into the killing of 179 Palestinians. Of those investigations, only 16 led to indictments. None of the indictments carried murder charges.

When Israeli soldiers are charged with illegally killing a Palestinian or a foreign national, the charges range from nominal lesser crimes like illegal, reckless or negligent use of a weapon, to more slightly-more-serious ones like negligent manslaughter or manslaughter.

Even the most egregious and seemingly clear-cut cases of intentional, unjustified killings of Palestinians — both by Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers — have resulted in minimal charges or none at all.

One case from 2010, which is breathtakingly similar to the execution of Abed Fatah al-Sharif, resulted in no charges at all. Border Police officer Maxim Vinogradov fatally shot Ziad Jilani, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, directly in the head at close range while the latter lay wounded in the middle of the street. No charges at all.

Just a day before the army announced that Abed Fatah al-Sharif’s killer will face manslaughter rather than murder charges, the IDF prosecutor announced it was closing its investigation into another high-profile, video-taped shooting death: the killing of Mohammed Abu Taher, an unarmed Palestinian teenager who was shot by a sharpshooter at a protest in 2014. The army concluded that Abu Taher was not hit by IDF fire.

A Border Police officer was charged with...

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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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