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Palestinian and Israeli activists plant a Palestinian flag at a tent placed by settlers on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian and Israeli activists plant a Palestinian flag at a tent placed by settlers on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian activists, accompanied by a large contingent of Israeli solidarity activists from Combatants for Peace, raised Palestinian flags over a tent placed by Israeli settlers on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Khirbet An Nahla Friday. All Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. The group then used a loudspeaker to declare their message to settlers in Givat Eytam outpost, which consists of two tents and a watchtower on an adjacent hilltop. Israeli soldiers soon arrived and ordered the activists to leave, threatening one Palestinian with arrest and detaining him for more than an hour before releasing him after sustained efforts by the accompanying solidarity activists.

An Israeli activist uses a loudspeaker to deliver a message denouncing settlement expansion to settlers in Givat Eytam outpost on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist uses a loudspeaker to deliver a message denouncing settlement expansion to settlers in Givat Eytam outpost on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier orders activists to leave the area after they planted Palestinian flags on a tent placed by Israeli settlers on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier orders activists to leave the area after they planted Palestinian flags on a tent placed by Israeli settlers on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist holds a sign reading, "Settling on Occupied State Lands is a Crime" during a direct action opposing settlement expansion on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014.  (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist holds a sign reading, “Settling on Occupied State Lands is a Crime” during a direct action opposing settlement expansion on land belonging to the West Bank village of Khirbet An Nahla, April 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

For the past three days, the gate connecting the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh to the main road leading to Ramallah has been locked by Israeli authorities. Residents of Nabi Saleh, as well as nearby villages, have been forced to use alternative routes and travel long distances in order to get to or return from the city. The army has not given a reason for the closure.

Just hours before Jews begin celebrating Passover, the residents of Nabi Saleh will lead a demonstration against the gate’s locking. According to the residents, the move is intended as collective punishment against the village due to its popular struggle in response to the confiscation of a nearby freshwater spring by the adjacent settlement of Halamish.

Meanwhile, the entire West Bank is under closure for the holiday (as is the practice for every Jewish holiday); even those with permits will not be able to cross checkpoints.

Palestinian Christians carried banners reading: “Pope Francis: Palestine Wants Justice” during the annual Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem. The pontiff is scheduled to visit the Holy Land in late May, and the Christians who have carried on the faith in this land since its beginnings more than 2000 years ago are hoping that he will take a strong stand for their rights as a people struggling under Israeli occupation. Palm Sunday is the Christian celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the “Prince of Peace” the week before his crucifixion.

Israeli soldiers watch as Palestinian Christians carry a banner reading, "Pope Francis, Palestine Wants Justice," in the annual Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 13, 2014. Palm Sunday is the Christian celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the "Prince of Peace" the week before his crucifixion. Though annexed by Israel in 1967, the international community considers East Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives and the Old City, to be occupied Palestinian territory. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers watch as Palestinian Christians carry a banner reading, “Pope Francis, Palestine Wants Justice,” in the annual Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 13, 2014. Though annexed by Israel in 1967, the international community considers East Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives and the Old City, to be occupied Palestinian territory. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Last week, leaders of Jerusalem’s Christian community released a statement denouncing denial of access to holy sites:

The mobility of worshipers inside the Old City of Jerusalem gets restricted, and checkpoints are put at the Gates and in the alleys – thus preventing the worshipers from free access to the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulture, and the vicinity of the Christian Quarter. …

The measures taken by the occupying power have been escalating in recent years, and are meant to deny Christian and Muslim presence in East Jerusalem.  Due to such measures the faithful are unable to worship freely and to be with their families and friends during such a special occasion.   The restrictions began first in 2005, and are in fact unnecessary; politically and racially motivated.

Similar protests were made during last year’s Easter season, and though Israel claims to have increased the number of permits for religious seasons, thousands of the faithful are still denied access to their holy sites.

A live photo from the Bethlehem Marathon on Friday, April 11, 2014. Israel prevented a Gaza olympian from participating in the event (read more here, and a similar story from last year here).

Participants in the Bethlehem Marathon run by Israel's separation barrier in the city, April 11, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Participants in the Bethlehem Marathon run by Israel’s separation barrier in the city, April 11, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A video published on Facebook Tuesday shows Israel Police and Border Police officers beating three Palestinian men in East Jerusalem. It appears that the officers were attempting to arrest Ali Talahmi, 28 of Beit Hanina. In the video, officers can be seen slapping, punching and slamming a car door on the first man before turning their attention to others. The second man appears to have been speaking with another officer, but not violent in any way, when the original officer turns and slams him into the police car. A third man is then beaten with a baton by the officers.

According to B’Tselem, police were called after a municipal inspector complained about a meat refrigerator that was being repaired outside the butcher shop where Talahmi works.

Update (1 p.m.):
Israel Radio reported that Talahmi was released and that the case was transferred to the Israel Police’s internal investigations division.

Anonymous vandals spray painted “Death to Arabs” on two graves in the former Palestinian village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem on Monday. The incident took place just one day before Palestinians commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre – the most infamous massacre of the 1948 War – in which two Zionist militia groups killed between 100-200 villagers. The massacre is considered by historians to be a pivotal point in the war, and led to Palestinians abandoning towns and villages for fear of meeting the same fate.

Defiled grave at Deir Yassin. (photo: Umar Al-Ghubari)

Defiled grave at Deir Yassin. (photo: Umar Al-Ghubari)

 

Defiled grave at Deir Yassin. (photo: Umar Al-Ghubari)

Defiled grave at Deir Yassin. (photo: Umar Al-Ghubari)

h/t Eitan Bronstein

Israeli security forces shot and wounded Basman Yasin, a volunteer cameraman for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, during a protest in the West Bank city Betunia on Friday. According to B’Tselem, Yasin was shot in his stomach while filming the protest, causing severe damage to his internal organs – specifically his liver and one of his kidneys – which the doctors say they may have to remove. At the time of this report he was hospitalized at a hospital in Ramallah.

The clashes erupted after dozens of Palestinians marched to the nearby Ofer Prison, protesting the Israel government’s refusal to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners, as promised during the Kerry-led peace talks. According to Ma’an News Agency, 13 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire.

WARNING – GRAPHIC VIDEO (5:30):

Palestinian activists, including a Muslim imam, marched on Bethlehem checkpoint to protest lack of access to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque as well as Israel’s refusal to meet its commitment to complete its promised prisoner release. They were met with stun grenades and tear gas by Israeli forces, who forced the activists to retreat after a few minutes of prayer in front of the closed checkpoint.

Palestinian activists perform Muslim prayers at the Israeli military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem after being repelled in their attempt to cross through, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Palestinian activists perform Muslim prayers at the Israeli military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem after being repelled in their attempt to cross through, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Palestinian activists react to stun grenades thrown by Israeli forces as an imam led Muslim prayers at the Israeli military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian activists react to stun grenades thrown by Israeli forces as an imam led Muslim prayers at the Israeli military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian activist kicks away a tear gas grenade thrown by Israeli forces at the military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian activist kicks away a tear gas grenade thrown by Israeli forces at the military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian imam uses his prayer rug to shield his face from tear gas used by Israeli forces at the military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian imam uses his prayer rug to shield his face from tear gas used by Israeli forces at the military checkpoint controlling access between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, April 4, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

Palestinian farmer Fadel Rabai searches the remains of a concrete shelter demolished by the Israeli military, Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian farmer Fadel Rabai searches the remains of a concrete shelter demolished by the Israeli military, Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Seven Palestinian structures were demolished by Israeli authorities in the village of Al Tuwani in the south Hebron Hills on Wednesday morning. These structures, used for shelter during agricultural harvests and to store equipment and animal feed, sat on a hillside opposite the Israeli settlements of Ma’on and its outpost Havat Ma’on (Hill 833).

The structures, used for shelter during agricultural harvests and to store equipment and animal feed, sat on a hillside opposite the Israeli settlements of Ma’on and its outpost Havat Ma’on (Hill 833). While all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, so-called outposts like Havat Ma’on were built in violation of Israeli law as well, but are rarely demolished. When they are, often many more settlement housing units are built elsewhere to placate settler activists.

According to B’Tselem: “Israel has created a situation in which thousands of Palestinians are unable to obtain permits to build on their land, and are compelled to build without a permit because they have no other way to provide shelter for their families.” At the same time, “[T]housands of houses were built in [Israeli] settlements without permits. Israel refrained from demolishing these houses, and instead issued retroactive building permits for thousands of houses constructed without permits. This building-permit policy blatantly discriminates between settlers and Palestinians.”

On Tuesday, a total of 32 Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank, displacing 60 Palestinians, mostly in Jordan Valley villages, according to the UN. On Thursday morning, Israeli forces entered the Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community between the Palestinian town of Al Eizariya and the large Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim and demolished two dwellings used by 19 people.

Mobile homes and fruit trees represent the expanding edges of the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, which is taking land from the South Hebron Hills village of Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014. All Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law. The cultivation of fruit trees requires intensive irrigation in a region where Palestinian villages must struggle for water access to meet their basic needs. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Mobile homes and fruit trees represent the expanding edges of the Israeli settlement of Ma’on, which is taking land from the South Hebron Hills village of Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014. All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law. The cultivation of fruit trees requires intensive irrigation in a region where Palestinian villages must struggle for water access to meet their basic needs. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian woman and child stand near concrete blocks salvaged from the remains of shelters demolished by the Israeli military, Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014.

A Palestinian woman and child stand near concrete blocks salvaged from the remains of shelters demolished by the Israeli military, Al Tuwani, West Bank, April 2, 2014.

 

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of corruption in connection to a Jerusalem real estate development deal Monday morning.

Olmert, who was acquitted of similar charges in a different case, had held out hope for a return to politics if he were acquitted in this case, too.

In the current case, Olmert was convicted of accepting bribes in exchange for expediting the permit process for the Holyland real estate development while he was mayor of the city, years before his premiership.

From our archives:
Olmert ruling: On princes and minions

Two-hundred and fifty people protested against “rape culture” and violence against women in central Tel Aviv Saturday night. The protest took place as a number of cases of sexual violence made national headlines last week, including a sexual harassment complaint against Minister — and presidential hopeful — Silvan Shalom and presidential hop by a former employee. Protesters called for greater law enforcement for sex crimes, increased support for victims of sexual violence and the abolish ion of sexual harassment as a cultural phenomenon in Israel.

Women at the protest against 'rape culture' in Tel Aviv. Written on the women's bodies, from left to right, is "for raping" and "We won't turn our backs," March 29, 2014, Tel Aviv. (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Women at the protest against ‘rape culture’ in Tel Aviv. Written on the women’s bodies, from left to right, is “For raping” (literally “to rape”) and “We won’t turn our backs,” March 29, 2014, Tel Aviv. (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

 

A masked, topless woman at a protest against 'rape culture' in Tel Aviv, March 29, 2014. The sticker on the woman's forehead reads: 'Kicking away sexism' (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A masked, topless woman at a protest against ‘rape culture’ in Tel Aviv, March 29, 2014. The sticker on the woman’s forehead reads: ‘Kicking away sexism’ (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

I spent much of my day today squabbling with a travel agency (avoid this particular one like the plague), but it seems I’m still better off than the Pope. To wit: the Vatican has released the itinerary for Francis I’s visit to the Holy Land. Here is the middle of Day One:

15:45   FAREWELL FROM THE STATE OF PALESTINE at the helicopter port of Bethlehem
16:00   Departure by helicopter from the helicopter port of Bethlehem for Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv
16:30   ARRIVAL CEREMONY at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Discourse of the Holy Father
17:15   Transfer by helicopter to Jerusalem
17:45   Arrival at the helicopter port of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus

The problem here is that Bethlehem and Jerusalem are not just close by – they are parts of the same urban sprawl. It’s a bit like someone departing from the Arlington National Cemetery, flying to JFK, NY, for a ceremony that could have been held anywhere, and then flying back to the Capitol:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 16.31.27

But why? Well, one likely possibility is that Israel wants to “own” the Papal visit and to make sure Francis officially enters through the main gate – Ben Gurion – and not through Bethlehem, which isn’t even supposed to be an international gateway, much less to the “STATE OF PALESTINE” – oh, how these caps must bruise the eyes of the fine people at the Prime Minister’s Office! Or it’s something to do with “security” arrangements, which tend to complicate the living daylights out of even the simplest logistical arrangements.

Or else, the schlep could have been arranged in the feeble hope that Francis will find time in one of his speeches for this tired old line (most recently recycled by David Cameron) about the obligatory “helicopter ride” that made the visitor realize how small Israel is, and how this is somehow meant to let Israel off the hook on something. If Francis fails to bring it up, I’ll bet you a pint Netanyahu will, in his welcome speech, pause, grin and say “Your Holiness, on your helicopter journey here you saw how beautiful the Holy Land is, and how small.”

Or it could be all three. Your guess is as good as mine.

Bonus points to the Pope for using WordPress, though.

A new screening system has been implemented at Ben Gurion International Airport, which seems to have replaced the humiliating and time-consuming public searches of passenger belongings that were standard for many Palestinian holders of Israeli IDs and foreigners with Arabic or Muslim-sounding names. Racial and ethnic profiling, as well as political profiling of foreigners suspected of having contact with Palestinians, has apparently been replaced with more advanced baggage scanning technology. Amira Hass reports in Haaretz:

Since the system went into operation on March 9, the practice of selectively and publicly searching the contents of certain suitcases in the departure hall has ceased. Instead, after the routine security interrogation, all passengers are sent straight to the check-in counter, where their baggage is examined in the automated system.

The change in procedure was prompted, in part, by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the airports end the discriminatory practice of treating all Arabs as potential security threats and subjecting them to special security checks.

Israeli Arabs, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinians with foreign passports who have gone through Ben-Gurion Airport in the last few weeks have all reported to Haaretz and ACRI that in contrast to previous trips, this time they weren’t asked invasive and aggressive personal questions; their possessions (including laptop computers) weren’t taken from them to be searched; they weren’t separated from the other passengers; and they weren’t body-searched.

Police arrest an Israeli activist participating in the 'Welcome to Palestine' fly-in protest on April 15, 2012 at the Ben Gurion Air Port near Tel Aviv, Israel. The action protested the routine discrimination against travelers attempting to visit the occupied Palestinian territories, which are only accessible through Israeli-controlled airports and border crossings. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Police arrest an Israeli activist participating in the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ fly-in protest on April 15, 2012 at the Ben Gurion Air Port near Tel Aviv, Israel. The action protested the routine discrimination against travelers attempting to visit the occupied Palestinian territories, which are only accessible through Israeli-controlled airports and border crossings. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This change is unlikely to affect the practice of denying entry to foreigners intending to visit the occupied Palestinian territories, as it only applies to the screening process upon departure. Instead of passengers being profiled according to their ethnicity or answers to questions, their bags will undergo further searches out of their sight, rather than in public. There doesn’t seem to be an explicit change in the discriminatory policy per se, and some questions remain:

But [Attorney Auni Banna of ACRI] charged that all these practical measures were meant to avoid a decision in principle on the legality of discriminatory checks, adding that the new system still doesn’t fully solve the problem. “Questions remain about other ‘search stations’ during the [security] check – the interrogation, the body search – before the flight, but also on returning to Israel, after landing,” he said.

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