Analysis News

Is the West Bank ripe for an intifada?

Media and politicians have been quick to claim that Palestinian protests against Operation Protective Edge mark the beginning of a third intifada. But in Beit Sahour, the town that was the heart of the First Intifada, some are skeptical that today’s demonstrations will turn into tomorrow’s revolution. 

Some ten thousand Palestinians marched from Ramallah on Thursday night to Qalandia checkpoint, in protest of Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip and in hopes of reaching Jerusalem. One man was killed and dozens were injured in what was the largest demonstration the West Bank has seen in years.

While protesters and observers alike speculate that this marks the beginning of the Third Intifada, the mood in Beit Sahour – the small, predominately Christian town that was the heart of the First Intifada – is decidedly more pessimistic.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, “Nasser,” a Beit Sahouri and veteran of the First Intifada who was arrested nearly a dozen times for his political activities says that recent protests in West Bank are “emotional.”

Palestinian youth burn an Israeli flag during clashes following a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in the Qalandyia checkpoint near Ramallah, July 24, 2014. Palestnians marched from Al Amar refugee camp to Qalandyia checkpoint to protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/

Palestinian youth burn an Israeli flag during clashes following a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in the Qalandyia checkpoint near Ramallah, July 24, 2014.
Palestnians marched from Al Amar refugee camp to Qalandyia checkpoint to protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/

The First Intifada was “based on hope,” he explains, which allowed people to slow down, think ahead, and “restrain themselves and strategize.”

People are “moving out of emotions now and that becomes violent,” Nasser says, pointing to the Second Intifada as an example. Many Palestinians feel that the Second Intifada accomplished very little.

Today, he adds, “We lack any political movement that’s capable of moving the masses—neither Hamas, nor Fatah, nor any other group.”

Nasser’s sentiments were echoed at a small demonstration in Beit Sahour on Monday, as the West Bank observed a general strike in protest of Operation Protective Edge and what is being called a massacre in Shajaiyah. A few dozen protesters attempted to march towards an Israeli army base...

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Israel's Bedouin: Civilians in death alone

Israel denies Bedouin citizens basic services in life but claims them as civilians when they die.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its current military operation in Gaza. According to the United Nations, approximately three-quarters of Gaza’s dead are civilians; many are children.

In Israel, two civilians have been killed. One was a Bedouin, the 32-year-old Oudi Lafi al-Waj, who lived in an unrecognized village in the Negev (Naqab) desert, near Dimona. Several Bedouin children have also been injured by rocket fire since Israel began “Operation Protective Edge.”

Bedouin villages do not have air raid sirens, nor are they covered by Iron Dome. They also lack bomb shelters.

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo:

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo:

In the wake of al-Waj’s death, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a non-governmental organization, “submitted an urgent request” this morning to the Israeli High Court for an answer on the petition the organization filed last week requesting that the state provide bomb shelters for the Bedouin.

But in a Sunday hearing at Israel’s High Court, the “state expressed its position that there is no need to provide additional protective facilities to these communities, and advised the Bedouin residents to protect themselves by lying on the ground,” ACRI reports. The organization added that “officials claimed that protecting the Bedouin villages was a low priority.”

               Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

Responding to today’s hearing, ACRI Attorney Auni Banna remarked:

While the High Court declined to take immediate action on the matter, it did request that the respondents–Regional Councils and the Ministry of Justice–respond to concerns raised in the petition about the villages’ infrastructure within 30 days. 

This is not the first time that Israel’s highest court has failed to protect the most basic human rights of the country’s Bedouin citizens. In 2013, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition from the NGO Adalah requesting that the state provide water to the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al Hiran.

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Death in Gaza, fireworks in Bethlehem

Though tawjihi, matriculation, celebrations seem light on the surface, they point to a bleak political reality in the West Bank.

I heard the first gunshots at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 minutes before the “humanitarian ceasefire” went into effect.

My elderly landlady stuck her head out the window. “What’s going on?” she shouted to where I sat in the garden. She speculated that it could be clashes in Dheisheh refugee camp, which is within earshot of our house. But when we heard fireworks and horns honking, we figured it was a celebration. “Maybe,” I told her, “it’s because of the Israeli acceptance of the ceasefire. Maybe people see it as a Hamas victory?”

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed "knock on the roof". Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed “knock on the roof”. Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

And then a neighbor, another elderly woman, arrived. On my street—and I would venture to say that this is true for much of Palestine—elderly women are consummate collectors of information. My landlady once ferreted out my partner’s cell phone number, knowing only his exceedingly common first name, his not-uncommon last name, and the village his family hails from.

Over the cracks of live fire, which echoed through the valley, our neighbor told my landlady that high school seniors had just gotten their tawjihi scores. Tawjihi are matriculation exams, and their scores determine what college or university one will be able to get into, as well as what departments they will be admitted to.

The noise went on for a couple more hours and resumed in the evening. After iftar, the sky...

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What does Israeli 'acceptance' of ceasefire really mean?

The Israeli cabinet voted to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Tuesday morning. Hamas, who was not consulted, is in direct discussions with Cairo but has criticized the initial proposal. What does all this mean?

1) Israel is willing to return to the status quo, a status quo that serves Israeli interests. Sure there is occasional rocket fire from Gaza but Israel has the Iron Dome and, in the sparsely populated south of the country, the rockets usually fall in open spaces. The occasional rocket from Gaza actually helps Israeli hawks strengthen their case for continuing the “occupation” of the West Bank (an “occupation” that, in the wake of Netanyahu’s recent remarks, should be understood as a de facto annexation). The Israeli right points to the rockets from Gaza and says, “Look, we withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and all we got is rocket fire!”

Returning to the status quo also means that Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community. Returning to the status quo would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls “Operation Protective Edge.”

Hussam Shamdi sits on an missile which did not explode from the air strike which destroyed his home the day before, in Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

Hussam Shamdi sits on an unexploded missile from an Israeli air strike, which destroyed his home the day before, in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

2) Accepting the ceasefire, as Israeli officials admit, gives Israel the green light to “defend” itself with even more force than it’s using now. Just a few hours ago the Israeli cabinet voted to accept the proposed ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked at a press conference, “If Hamas continues to fire at Israel, Israel will have the international legitimacy to take action.”

But how can Hamas possibly accept a ceasefire it wasn’t consulted on and especially one that would mean a return to the status quo, including the blockade that...

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The abnormal normality of the occupation and its 'escalations'

To pretend as though the events of recent days are extraordinary is to ignore the context that led to this ‘flare-up’ and is disrespectful to the millions of Palestinians who wrestle with the occupation every day, in both the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the separation wall controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the separation wall controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

It’s Wednesday. The death toll in Gaza is in the dozens and rising as Layla*, a Christian Palestinian, gets into my car. We live in Bethelehem. She needs a ride to pick up her tasrich (permit) from the Civil Administration’s office in Gush Etzion, where Israel and the Western media claim that the current “flare-up” began.

Layla laughs at our clothes as she opens the passenger door. With her sleeveless top and above-the-knee skirt, she says, she looks like a settler. I’m in long sleeves and jeans, which Layla calls “Abu Dis style,” referring to the conservative Muslim village where I teach. Although we joke about our clothes, I wonder if they reflect the increased tension of recent days; I wonder if they reflect the anxieties neither of us want to admit to.

We leave Bethlehem and merge onto a road that’s shared by army jeeps, Palestinians, and Jewish Israeli civilians and settlers. Layla sighs, “I don’t know who to be afraid of anymore, Mya,” she says. We reason that being together keeps us safe from everyone. No matter who might stop us, we’ll be able to reason with them in their own language. Both our clothes and words will be familiar.

But, as we drive deeper into Gush Etzion, we quickly notice how “normal” things are in the West Bank. “Look at all the settlers,” Layla exclaims, tapping on the window as we pass them. Even though it’s midday, even though it’s blisteringly hot, even though three Israeli boys were murdered not far from here, even though Mohammed Abu Khdeir was brutally murdered by Jews, even though settlements are illegal, even though Israel is pummeling Gaza, there they...

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'My best friend was Jewish': A young East Jerusalemite speaks

I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the final installment in the four-part series. 

With the other pieces, I’ve let the student speak first, only adding my comments at the end. But this excerpt points toward a surprising ideological issue that arose between my student and myself, so I feel the need to preface it.

During discussion in class one day, the subject of Israel’s renaming of destroyed Palestinian villages arose. This student felt frustrated with my insistence on using only Arabic place names and she took a position that proved unpopular with her peers: that both the Jews and Palestinians have historical and emotional connections to the land and that, accordingly, both the Hebrew and Arabic names should be used and respected.

Not only was I surprised by her stance, it also challenged me. My student seemed more comfortable and more at peace with Israel than I am. Our in-class discussion, as well as the essay she wrote shortly thereafter, opened many questions, and they’re questions I don’t have answers to.

Has my student, who grew up in East Jerusalem, been brainwashed by attending (Israeli-controlled) public schools? The difficult economic situation and the housing crisis there–both results of the occupation–forced my student and her family to leave East Jerusalem in 2009, two years before Israel took the step of outright censorship of Palestinian textbooks. However, as an employee of the Israeli school system tells me, Palestinian teachers who are openly critical of Israel risk losing their jobs. Hatim Kanaaneh does a nice job of giving a firsthand account of this in his memoir A Doctor in the Galilee. He also describes how those who march in line with Israeli ideology might find themselves rewarded.

So is my student just repeating what she learned in a school system that strips her of her Palestinian identity? Or are her views the result of being a part of the normalizing, “co-existence” program she mentions below? Is she just being pragmatic or is she just navigating the reality she finds on the ground as best she can?

The process of moving from one town to another takes weeks, and they were the toughest weeks in my life…...

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The 'smaller' indignities of occupation

I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the third of four short essays. Read parts one and two.

As my siblings and I sat alone in an unfamiliar place waiting for my mother, I tried my best to keep a strong face in front of them. How I felt, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of strong.

It was the middle of July during the summer of 2006, the first time I came to visit Palestine. My mom, my siblings and I, all made the tiring journey across the Atlantic ocean so that we could visit the place we had a connection to. We landed in Tel Aviv Airport at 3 p.m. and I couldn’t have been more excited to see what this “homeland” was all about. But as we made our way to the visa booth, we were escorted into a long hall with empty white rooms. The soldier, who could barely speak English or Arabic, pointed my siblings and I to a single room and took my mom somewhere else.

When I realized what was happening, my panic took over and I rushed to the soldier to tell him to leave us with our mother, but he wasn’t having it. Across the hall was another room with another Arab family, including one older woman. When she saw what was happening she told me to sit down, and not to worry. I couldn’t see how I wasn’t going to worry when I was suddenly in charge of caring for my two-year-old sister, my five-year-old brother and my nine- and 10-year-old sisters. I was only 11 at the time.

We sat there for four hours waiting for my mom, but it felt like a lifetime. No one would tell me where she was, or what we were waiting for.

My siblings, especially the younger ones, wreaked havoc on the area we were waiting in. They screamed, cried, complained about hunger and even decided they needed to use the restroom. At first, I did what I was taught, which was to subdue my siblings into listening to me and behaving, but after an hour of doing that, they just stopped caring. The panic I had been keeping down, finally surfaced and I began...

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'Land isn't enough; the army takes olives, too'

I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the second of four short essays. Read part one here.

I went with my family to our olive groves in order to pick  olives. We went there full of happiness. When we arrived each one of us took his pail and stared to pick olives. We raced to see who could pick the most olives as quickly as possible.

When we finished in the afternoon, the Israeli soldiers came and forced us to give them what we picked. When my father objected, they threatened him.

And so my student and her family turned over the pails of olives, the fruit that they’d joyfully picked together.

No, the Nakba wasn’t enough for Israel. It’s not enough that the Palestinians have been dispossessed, that Israel continues to eat away at what little land the Palestinians have left, that many Palestinian farmers can’t even reach their property. It’s not enough that Israel restricts freedom of movement, hijacks water resources, and stunts the Palestinian economy.

No, none of that is enough. When Palestinians do have access to their land and their olive trees, and when a family has a nice day harvesting their hard fought crop, Israel can’t stand that either.

The war on the Palestinian olive harvest

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'Dad's in prison': A young Palestinian woman speaks

I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the first of four short essays.

It was a sunny day. I woke up at six o’clock to get ready for my new life because it day was a big day; it was my first day of college, so I was super excited and nervous at the same time. I wore my new clothes and asked mom for her blessing. When I arrived at the college I took some lectures and met new people. The whole day was super awkward; it is natural because it is a new thing, new experiences and finally, I went back to home. When I entered I started to yell, “hey I’m back, I am here.” But it was like nobody was there.

I thought that I would find my mother waiting for me and she would start asking about my day but that did not happen. I was like, “hello, does anyone hear me?” I went to the living room; my family was sitting there and they were sad.

I asked them what is wrong. Did something bad happen? After a while they said, your dad, Israel took him to jail after they hit him and broke his pelvis. I was totally shocked. I asked them, why? What did he do? As I know, he has a permit, right! Mom answers he had one but his permit was not extended it is not valid, so that is why. But they could give him a chance to make new one.

Oh yes, Israel does not care about these issues. If they see he has a green ID and he does not have a permit, without thinking they will take him to prison. Simple as that.

I had told him before. I told him that he should stop working there, but he always said that work in Jerusalem is much better than work in territories because there the wages are better than in the territories.

Seven months have passed without seeing my dad, without hearing his voice. My father is my hero. I cannot imagine my life without him, without his blessing. Every...

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Girls throw stones, too

Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp is located right next to the separation barrier and the massive Israeli checkpoint known as 300. As Aida is subject to frequent raids by both Israeli soldiers as well as Palestinian Authority forces, it sees regular clashes.

A young woman who lives in Aida told me that last week, when Israeli forces entered the camp, she and other girls threw stones at the soldiers. Before the soldiers had a chance to arrest or shoot at them, the girls scattered, running into any house they could.

The young woman told me that while an elderly woman let her into her home, the old lady scolded her. “Girls shouldn’t be throwing stones,” she said. “That’s the boys’ job.”

“But all the boys do is sit inside, typing on Facebook,” my acquaintance protested.

Graffiti in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, January 19, 2013. (Photo by Anne Paq/

Graffiti in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, January 19, 2013. (Photo by Anne Paq/

She added that while some people consider advocating for Palestine on social media a form of resistance, she doesn’t feel that it’s making a difference on the ground here. Or at least it doesn’t make a difference from her perspective, as a refugee who lives in the West Bank, who passes through military checkpoints every day, whose right of return seems like a distant dream even though it’s guaranteed by UN resolution 194.

The young woman threw stones because she felt there is nothing left to do. She is fed up with everyone: the Israelis, the PA, the Palestinian political parties, Palestinian leaders (or a lack thereof), the international community; the people who spend time on their computers rather than making a revolution; those in her society who think women can’t or shouldn’t fight for their rights when there is an occupation to fight; those who think that fighting the occupation is a man’s work.

The media plays a role in the latter, she says. “All you ever see is pictures of boys throwing stones,” she told me. “What about us?” By depicting the Palestinian struggle as a man’s struggle, it creates and reinforces the idea that women can’t or shouldn’t participate.


I could draw some conclusions here about how this moment shows the many obstacles that make a Palestinian intifada unlikely. Or I could be optimistic...

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When will Israelis start speaking Arabic in public?

A disturbing encounter at a Jerusalem mall reminds Mya Guarnieri that speaking a second or third language does not mean you have to give up your own.

Living in Bethlehem, working at a Palestinian university, studying Arabic; writing about the occupation and Israel’s treatment of migrants; standing by my partner, who is under intense pressure from his family to leave me because I’m Jewish. All of this could be considered “political work.” But maybe this isn’t the type of work that affects change. Maybe change happens on a smaller scale? With smaller seeds?

I was in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood running errands when, as I entered a shopping center, an Ethiopian security guard was arguing with a Palestinian employee. “You shouldn’t speak Arabic here,” the Ethiopian man yelled. “This is the Jewish state and, here, we speak Hebrew. You want to speak Arabic? Go to Ramallah!”

A year ago, I would have yelled at him that this is Palestine and that Hebrew is the occupiers’ language. But I’ve learned that coming out swinging doesn’t sway anyone’s opinions.

“Wait a second, wait a second,” I smiled. “We should all speak Arabic, we should all speak each other’s languages. We’re here together, there’s no other way forward.”

“You speak Arabic?” the Palestinian fellow asked.

“I’m learning.”

“You see?” the Palestinian fellow said to the Ethiopian security guard. “She speaks Arabic and Hebrew. We can use both here.”

It might seem ridiculously simple. But it reminds that the conflict isn’t just about land and borders. It’s also about public space and which language we hear and use in that space.

Speaking Arabic in public can be considered an act of resistance. I remember Palestinian boys from Jaffa cruising down my old street in central Tel Aviv, driving slow, playing Arabic music at top volume: a moving protest that said “We are here and we refuse to disappear. We refuse to sit quietly where you tell us.”

But having one language in public doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the other language. Speaking a second or third language— simply including it in the public space—does not mean you have to give up your own. Language can be about more than protest, and perhaps the way we use it can also forge new spaces.

Which, perhaps, is what I was trying to tell the Ethiopian security guard. I wonder if I made him think. Did...

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'Israeli troops shoot Palestinian teen in back near Ramallah'

Witnesses, Israeli army offer contradictory stories about whether clashes were taking place, but neither suggest the boy took part in any violence. The teen, Wajih Wajdi al-Ramahi, is pronounced dead at a Ramallah hospital.

Israeli forces reportedly shot and killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy as he stood outside of a school in the al-Jalazoun refugee camp Saturday afternoon.

Residents of the camp, which is located in between Ramallah and the Israeli settlement of Beit El, told Maan news agency that Wajih Wajdi al-Ramahi was standing outside of the camp’s school when he was shot in the back with live ammunition.

According to AFP, al-Ramahi was the 26th Palestinian to be killed by the Israeli army since the start of 2013.

An unnamed Israeli army source told Israeli news site Walla that “a unit from the Givati Brigade was operating in the camp in order to locate stone throwers. During the course of their operations, a violent incident developed while soldiers were attempting to arrest a suspect. They shot in the air and for an unknown reason the youth was shot.”

However, residents of al Jazaloun told Maan that there were no clashes or violence that “might have provoked the killing.”

On Twitter, Palestinian journalist and activist Linah Alsaafin remarked: “People stressing how there were no clashes/rock throwing going on, but even if there was so what? Not an excuse for murdering a child!”

While Maan and Walla both report that al Ramahi was 14, AFP and activists on Twitter put the boy’s age at 15. Others said he was 13.

Palestinians from the camp immediately began protesting.

A local journalist told +972 that al Jazaloun residents began to protest in Ramallah’s city center and asked storekeepers to close their shops. The protest was stopped when Palestinian Authority police forces arrived and ordered the refugees from al Jazaloun to go back to the camp; stores remained closed in Ramallah’s city center.

Palestinian authorities said they would conduct an autopsy Sunday morning, Ynet reported (Hebrew).

On Friday, Israeli forces shot two Palestinians in Bethlehem near the separation barrier at Aida refugee camp.

PHOTOS: Israeli forces shoot Palestinians with live fire in Bethlehem
IDF closes probe into killing of Mustafa Tamimi in Nabi Saleh 

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Decades of dispossession and discrimination: Umm al-Hiran

While the Prawer Plan has made international headlines, Israel’s Bedouin have suffered from dispossession and discrimination since the state was established. Such is the story of Umm al-Hiran, which will be destroyed so a Jewish town of Hiran can be built in its place.

The mosque at the unrecognized Bedouin village Um al-Hiran (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

In the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran, 600 people are waiting for the Israeli High Court of Justice to decide their fate.

Abed Abu Al-Qia’an is a 49-year-old resident of Umm al-Hiran, which Israel plans to empty and destroy in order to make way for a new Jewish town, Hiran. “The children are panicking. All the time, they’re asking us, ‘What will happen?’” he says, adding that kids from the village have trouble concentrating in classes because “they go to school not knowing if they’ll come home to a house or not.”

Earlier this month, the Israeli cabinet approved the state’s plans to demolish Umm al-Hiran to make way for Hiran, which is designated for Jewish religious nationalists. The current residents of Umm al-Hiran, who are citizens of Israel, will be forcibly transferred to the nearby township of Hurah.

This will not be the first time the village’s inhabitants are displaced. Prior to Israel’s founding in 1948, the residents lived northwest of where Umm al-Hiran stands today. Like many Bedouin, they were expelled from their homes in the Negev during and after the 1948 war.

Like most other Arab citizens of the state, Bedouin in the Negev lived under martial law until 1966. It was the Israeli military government that in 1956 ordered the Abu Al-Qia’an family to move to their current location. Salim Abu Al-Qia’an’s parents were among those who were transferred to the land. “The state brought us here by force,” he says.

Israel confiscated the Abu Al-Qia’an’s original land in 1948 in order to establish Kibbutz Shoval.

According to Attorney Suhad Bishara, director of the land and planning rights unit at Adalah – Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Abu Al-Qia’an family first petitioned to get their property back in the 1970s.

“Of course the state doesn’t recognize these claims,” Bishara says.

Approximately 40 years later, the Abu Al-Qia’ans’ case...

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