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Israeli army jails two conscientious objectors for fourth time

By the time their latest sentence comes to an end, Tamar Ze’evi, 19, and Tamar Alon, 18, will have spent a total of 74 days in jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli army.

By Yael Marom

The Israeli army on Monday sent two conscientious objectors to jail for the fourth time, just five days after they had finished serving their third stint in prison. Presenting themselves at the Tel Hashomer military induction base, Tamar Ze’evi, 19, and Tamar Alon, 18, declared their refusal to join the army and take part in the occupation, for which they were sentenced to 30 days’ detention. The army also decided to separate the two women, sending them to different prisons. By the end of this latest period in jail, they will have spent a total of 74 days behind bars for refusing to serve in the army.

Standing at the entrance to the induction center, the women said: “The choice to refuse army service is one of the stepping stones to turning life in this homeland into one of peace, freedom and fellowship. In our refusal to take part in a system of oppression, we are in solidarity with everyone who is being denied the freedom of choice.”

Alon’s mother, Moria Shlomot, on Tuesday posted to Facebook: “Scared of an alliance of two brave women? Yesterday evening the two Tamars were again sentenced, receiving a 30-day jail term for their refusal to take part in the occupation.

“When they arrived at Prison Six they were told that this time round they were being separated, and that Tamar Alon, my beloved daughter, was being sent back to be arrested at the induction base before being transferred to Prison Four,” the post continued.

“At night, during the telephone conversations they were allowed to make to their parents, the two said that despite the difficulties their spirits were holding strong!”

Corinne Ze’evi, Tamar Ze’evi’s mother, said on Tuesday that “Tamar’s actions again give me the hope and desire to act, before despair.”      

Alon and Ze’evi both requested that they perform civilian national service instead of military service. In her original declaration of her refusal to serve, Ze’evi, a resident of Jerusalem, wrote: “Out of love for this land and the human beings who live in...

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Report: 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails

Journalists, scientists, human rights activists and even a clown are among the Palestinians currently sitting in Israeli jails.

By Yael Marom

The vast majority of Israelis are not interested in Palestinian prisoner statistics. After all, for them, Palestinians are not human beings but “terrorists,” and as such it’s perhaps preferable that as many as possible sit behind bars. But for the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails at any given moment, they are subject to a system of occupation and oppression that pursues, threatens and jails as a matter of daily routine. Journalists, scientists, human rights activists and even a clown are among the prisoners.

Since the occupation began in 1967, Israel’s military legal system has jailed anywhere between half a million and 800,000 Palestinians, according to estimates. This is an almost inconceivable number. The saying goes that there are practically no Palestinian homes without someone in jail. The conviction rate of Palestinians who have been arrested and tried in this system stands at around 99 percent. This means that if you are a Palestinian who has been arrested, it is worthwhile agreeing to a plea bargain, because you have almost no chance of being found innocent.

Millions of people living in the occupied territories lack human rights and are subjected to daily violence, monitoring and financial control, restrictions on movement and building, and more. Furthermore, every Palestinian knows that the threat of prison is permanently dangling over him, and that Israel can arrest and detain him without trial for an unlimited period, citing “confidential materials.” These wholesale arrests are a central part of the mechanism that allows for Israel’s continued hold over the occupied territories.

Israel arrested 6,440 Palestinians in 2016, among them 1,332 children, including girls, and 164 women, according to a recent report published by the Palestinian Prisoners Club, Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer and the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, many of whom are Israeli residents, were particularly targeted: 2,029 were arrested in 2016, 37 percent of whom were minors.

The number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons at the end of 2016 numbered around 7,000, according to the report, of whom 42 were women. Some 300 of them are children, including 11 girls, the report states.

Among the arrestees are also those in administrative detention, an Israeli...

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The real impact of UN Resolution 2334 has yet to come

The heart of the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements is territorial, picking up where 242 left off almost 50 years ago. It will also likely serve as the framework for this month’s Paris Peace Conference.

By Shemuel Meir

UN Security Council resolution 2334 caught Prime Minister Netanyahu off guard. Out of the clear blue sky. From a territorial perspective, which is the heart of 2334, the Security Council resolution represents an escalation in the way the international community relates to Israel’s borders and its settlements in the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister read the resolution carefully. Netanyahu’s fiery response — as if the United States was part of some conspiracy and abandoning Israel — is the other side of the strength and surprise of the resolution.

From its first line, the Security Council resolution ties itself to one of the most important resolutions relating to the Middle East: Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. Resolution 2334 opens by citing and reaffirming the most important pillar of 242: the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war — a rejection of unilateral annexation. From here on out, the international community’s authoritative interpretation that Israel’s legitimate borders are the pre-1967 lines will be based not only on Resolution 242, but also on 2334. The Security Council drew a line in the sand, or rather, a border: the border between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

In order to prevent any misunderstanding or a repeat of Israel’s attempts to play down this interpretation, as it did with 242, paragraph 3 of Resolution 2334 spells out that Israel’s borders should be understood within the context of the June 4, 1967 lines. The world will not recognize any unilateral changes to the ’67 lines. The resolution also makes clear that the settlements have no legal validity (paragraph 1), and that they are a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution (paragraph 4).

Resolution 2334 further adopts the European Union’s approach and builds on the “Mogherini Doctrine” of labeling settlement products and applies it to diplomacy, economics, finance, and science fields. Paragraph 5 explicitly calls on states to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.

It is true that Resolution 2334 includes East Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories, but the international community has always treated Jerusalem and...

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Prominent Iranian-Americans to Trump: Keep the nuclear deal

Thirty-seven leading Iranian Americans pen open letter to President-elect Trump, urging him to keep the Iran deal. Abandoning it, they write, will ‘once again put the United States and Iran on the path of war.’

By Jim Lobe

In a particularly eloquent and straightforward defense of the Iranian nuclear deal, 37 prominent Iranian Americans have appealed to Donald Trump to maintain U.S. compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran. The letter comes on the heels of an appeal to Trump by prominent U.S. scientists urging him to support the deal and a recent poll demonstrating that two-thirds of the U.S. public don’t want the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal.

Washington’s withdrawal from the deal, according to the signers of the open letter, would not only enhance the chances or war with Tehran. It would also strengthen hardliners in Iran who “can easily shut down democracy and human rights activism when they can unite the nation behind the threat of foreign aggression.” It would also “prove that the hardliners were correct to claim that the United States could never be trusted to up hold its end of any deal.”

Signers include, among others, historians Ervand Abrahamian and Roy Mottahadeh; actress Shohreh Aghdashloo; best-selling authors Reza Aslan and Firoozeh Dumas; Iran (and LobeLog contributor) political analyst Farideh Farhi; comedian Maz Jobrani; artists Shirin Neshat and Rahmanian; as well as a number of well-known musicians, singers, and prominent filmmakers, academics, and business leaders.

Letter to President-elect Trump

Dear President-elect Trump,

As Iranian-American artists, scientists, business leaders, human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, we all drew a sigh of relief when the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal was reached. To us, it meant ensuring that a disastrous war between the United States and Iran was avoided.

As prominent scientists and arms control experts in the United States and around the world have observed, this was a good deal because it dramatically reduced the chances of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

While the easing of sanctions that resulted from this deal has yet to have a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary people in Iran, it has without a doubt given millions hope that the country’s economy has backed away from the edge of the cliff.

This is precisely why we are worried about any effort to undo this agreement. As you have...

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The guide for leftists who want to stop preaching to the choir

For years the Israeli Left has excluded the vast majority of the country from its ranks. Here are eight steps on how to broaden the tent. 

By Noam Shuster-Eliassi

Over the past several years, various writers and NGOs have finally come to the conclusion that the Israeli peace camp is on its death bed, and that along the way it has forgotten, well, everyone.

Today many concede that over the years there formed an “alliance of the elites” between Israeli activists from Tel Aviv who leisurely met with activists from Ramallah. The members of this alliance headed delegations and took part in dialogues — without religious leaders, without Mizrahim, without members of the national-religious movement, without Ethiopian activists, without Russian speakers, without Palestinian citizens of Israel, among other groups. And this is only on our side.

Of course I am generalizing, and we can all think of the exceptions, even those who perhaps were signatories to the Geneva Initiative. But the question is a different one: were they full partners — in both representative and numbers — to formulating accords such as the Geneva Initiative? No. And therein lies the problem.

The voices of those who “do not count” — according to the representatives of the peace camp, the vast majority of whom hail from Tel Aviv — are simply not taken into consideration. Who gets to decide what a “peace activist” looks like? Who gets to wave the banner of dialogue? Who says that the solutions concocted between Ramallah and Tel Aviv all these years are the best ones for Israelis and Palestinians? The time has come to unpack these issues, and we have a lot of work to do.

Alongside the Right’s persecution of the Israeli Left, it has become trendy to say that we need to “broaden the tent.” Countless words have been written about the Left’s blindness as it continued preaching to the choir. Not only is it not enough to highlight the Left’s failures — we need to propose alternatives and ways of implementing them.

I grew up in Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam, an Arab-Jewish village established to promote peace and coexistence, but my experience was different from many of the residents there, since for most of my life I never felt part of the peace camp. Sometimes it was because I spoke fluent Arabic; most left-wing activists may want to learn Arabic, but never actually do anything about...

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Kerry's parameters force Israel to take a hard look in the mirror

John Kerry’s speech this week clearly and rationally explained why the status quo will not enable Israel to maintain its Jewish and democratic character. Are Israelis paying attention?

By Elie Podeh and Nimrod Goren

Throughout 2016, analysts were wondering what – if at all – will be President Obama’s final move regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The options discussed included a presidential speech (like the Cairo speech in 2009), updating the Clinton parameters of 2000, and the advancement of a resolution at the UN Security Council. Eventually, all answers were somewhat right: UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was not initiated by the U.S., but it was definitely encouraged by the American administration. Obama himself did not deliver a speech, but his Secretary of State, John Kerry, did, conveying the frustration and disappointment of the administration from both sides, and especially from Israel’s settlement policy.

The Kerry speech introduced parameters for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They did not differ much from the Clinton Parameters, and were more ambiguous and concise. Still, it was a much-needed move in light of the regional changes that took place since 2000, and of issues which gained traction since (such as Israel’s request that Palestinians recognize it as a ‘Jewish state’). The updated parameters provide Israelis – public and politicians alike – more clarity regarding the two-state solution and the steps needed in order to get there. They also generate new momentum by enabling the discussion on an end-game agreement to be based on a recent document, which is part of a set of international moves to advance conflict resolution, and not on a plan devised sixteen years ago.

The Trump effect

A key difference between the Kerry parameters and those of Clinton is the reference made by Kerry to the Arab Peace Initiative (which was not yet published in 2000) and to regional ramifications of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Kerry highlighted the unique opportunity that Israel is currently facing – an opportunity to establish normal ties with Arab countries, and to even launch a joint security framework. Kerry stressed that the fulfillment of this opportunity is clearly linked to progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace, contrasting recent claims by Netanyahu that normalization between Israel and Arab countries can precede Israeli-Palestinian peace. In his speech, Kerry tried to convince Israelis that peace will bring them concrete regional benefits. He focused on relations with the Arab world and on...

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Undoing the myth of Israel's flagship settlements

The settler movement likes to pretend its flagship settlement bloc, Gush Etzion, was built entirely on land purchased by Jews decades before Israel’s founding. History says otherwise.

By Dror Etkes

During the years 1943-1948, four Jewish localities were established in the area located approximately six miles southwest of the heart of Bethlehem. On the eve of the 1948 War, there were several hundred residents, including children, living in these communities (Kfar Etzion – 1943, Masuot Yitzhak –1945, Ein Tzurim – 1946, Revadim – 1947). Prior to the establishment of these four localities, there had been three attempts to establish Jewish localities in the area, none of which succeeded. These attempts are described on the Gush Etzion Regional Council’s website:

The Jewish localities present in this area until 1948 were established on lands bought by Jews beginning in the second half of the 1920s from Palestinian farmers, mainly from the villages of Beit Ummar, Nahhalin, Al Jab’a, and Surif. A map I received from the Civil Administration reveals that the size of the area purchased by Jews prior to 1948 in the area south and southwest of Bethlehem is approximately 10,500 dunams (an Ottoman unit of land; four dunams are approximately equal to one acre).[1]

Over time, with the occupation of the West Bank by the Jordanian army, these four localities were conquered and destroyed. In September 1967, a few months after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the settlement of Kfar Etzion was founded, the first settlement to be established in the West Bank.

The Gush Etzion Regional Council was established by military order in 1980, and its spokespeople invest considerable efforts in the attempt to convey to the Israeli public and to the world the impression that this settlement movement is a continuation that draws from a “unique consensual legitimacy” in that the settlements in its boundaries were established on lands purchased by Jews. Mythology is one thing — facts, another.

Suffice it to say in the present context that the official area of the Gush Etzion Regional Council is now seven times larger than the area purchased by Jews in this area prior to 1948. The regional council includes today approximately 20 settlements and a number of outposts, the overwhelming majority of which were established on lands that were never purchased by Jews. The mechanism that has enabled the establishment of these settlements is the takeover of lands that Israel uses...

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+972's Person of the Year: The women standing up to sexual harassment

By Dahlia Scheindlin

Ofek Buchris is a barrel-chested 48 year old with a heavy brow and war wounds. Until recently he was also a venerated general in the IDF. “A.” was a young female soldier under his command in the legendary Golani combat brigade. She accused him of sexual assault, rape, and sodomy between 2010 and 2012. She sent him a letter saying he had ruined her life and began psychological treatment. Meanwhile he was slated for a major promotion (other Golani commanders have gone on to become IDF chief of staff). In late February 2016, A. made a formal complaint. Buchris denied everything.

The drama that unfolded tortuously throughout 2016 became a microcosm of the reasons why this magazine chose the women who are fighting back against sexual harassment as its story of the year. Buchris represents a revered machismo and relentless appetite regardless of the human cost. A. confronted the vaunted social institution that shapes Israeli society more than any other. Her actions challenged the values of a bygone era that no longer serve society, while changing media platforms voiced scorn for the past and support for future norms. A. and all the others were the bridge.

In March, a military court suspended Buchris; he responded only that A. was a spurned soldier in love. A second accuser, “L.” submitted a related complaint. In July, the court indicted Buchris as he, once again, rejected all their claims.

His strategy didn’t work.  After 10 months of full-fledged denial, Buchris published a dry letter in December in which he “took responsibility” for his actions, paving the way to a plea bargain. Charges were reduced; he was convicted and punished with a suspended sentence and demotion of his rank.

Social media users lashed out. A sarcastic campaign quickly went viral, in which people recalled trivial offenses in the army that landed them punishments they labeled with the hashtag “More than Buchris.”

What about A? When her complaint went public she experienced the familiar barrage of public scorn; she was faced with the possibility of being grilled about the scars on her attacker’s naked body to prove her accusations, as well as exposing her psychological treatment files.

Only she can know if coming out was worth it, and probably not any time soon. But one thing is certain: A. wasn’t alone. She stood on the shoulders of earlier lady...

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Israeli doctors refusing to force feed Palestinian hunger strikers

The Knesset passed a law allowing courts to order doctors to force feed Palestinian hunger strikers. But the doctors, it appears, aren’t  so keen on violating basic principles of medical ethics.

By Bettina Birmans

A human, medical and political drama unfolded over the past few weeks at Asaf Harofeh Medical Center, just outside of Tel Aviv. At the center of the drama were two Palestinian men being held by Israel without charge or trial — Anas Shadid, 19, and Ahmad Abu Farah, 29 — and hospitalized due to their deteriorating medical condition brought on by extended hunger strikes. The pair were arrested in August of this year, and began their hunger strikes less than a month later, soon after being placed in administrative detention.

A few weeks ago, after the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected the two men’s petitions seeking to be released from administrative detention, they stepped up their hunger strike — declaring that they would also stop drinking water. They are refusing to undergo physical medical examinations, blood and other laboratory tests, imaging, and heart monitoring.

Shahid and Abu Farah managed to reinvigorate the debate surrounding whether physicians are compelled by Israel’s law allowing the forced-feeding of hunger strikers. The ‘Force Feeding Law’ was passed in July 2015 but the state has yet to use it against a hunger striker. The law allows authorities to seek a court order compelling physicians to force feed or treat hunger strikers with infusions or force-feeding tubes against their will. The state is supposed to approach the courts when medical personnel believe a hunger striker’s life is in danger and they are refusing treatment and sustenance.

The basis of all medical treatment is the relationship between doctor and patient. It is a relationship based on trust and the knowledge that the physician will act for the good of the patient’s health and recovery, all the while taking into consideration his or her autonomy, and the principle of informed consent. In practice, there are prohibitions against force feeding in the medical ethics rules because doing so violates the principle of patient autonomy, ignores the lack of informed consent, and constitutes harmful, inhumane and degrading treatment that can even be considered torture.

The discussion that took place surrounding the legislation of the force feeding law saw strong objections from the Israeli Medical Association and the Israeli Bio-Ethics Council, due, among...

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After the UN, the EU must lead the way on Israeli settlements

Resolution 2334 should be seen as a belated step towards mobilizing the international consensus. But to give it any real effect, states will need to build on the resolution with a view to making it operational. The EU is best positioned to do so.

By Hugh Lovatt

Much of the discussion about the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements over the past week has focused on the U.S. decision to abstain, thus allowing it to pass. But Resolution 2334 also opens the door for practical measures to challenge Israel’s prolonged occupation and disincentives its illegal annexation of Palestinian territory, by following the example of Europe’s differentiation policy.

Last week’s resolution was a slow train coming.

Since assuming office, President Obama has repeatedly warned of the consequences that Israel risks by continuing its settlement project – most notably in his March 2013 address in Jerusalem, in which he warned that, “given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation.”

Secretary Kerry has also been ringing the alarm bell, arguing in his December 2016 address at the Saban Forum that, “there’s a basic choice that has to be made by Israelis, … And that is: Are there going to be continued settlements? Is there going to be a continued implementation of settlement policy, or is there going to be separation and the creation of two states.”

Lest any of these signals be missed, in its report this summer, the Middle East Quartet – comprised of the EU, Russia, UN, and U.S. – flagged Israel settlement activities as major threat to the two-state solution. Alongside these comments have come frequent warnings – including from former Mossad chief Meir Dagan – of the dangers Israel faces in entrenching “a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.” Both issues were again a major theme of Secretary Kerry’s State Department speech on Wednesday.

To date, the Israeli government has shrugged off such concerns in the exact same manner it dismisses international condemnations of its settlement activities: absolute rejection, accusing the world of singling it out, and trying to deflect the source of the conflict back onto the Palestinians. But the thing that has repeatedly raised Israel’s anxiety levels has been EU measures to differentiate between Israel and its settlements.

A number of...

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Right-wing TV station ordered to include Reform, Conservative Judaism

A public television channel with a right-wing Zionist slant asks for permission to start a nightly newscast. Israel’s Communications Ministry says sure, but only if they start including ‘every stream of Judaism.’

By Raanan Shemesh Forshner

Israel’s Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting (CCSB), part of the Communications Ministry, accepted last week a request from Channel 20 to start broadcasting nightly news programs. The channel in turn accepted the Council’s demand that it join the Israel Press Council. In addition, following the Reform Movement’s opposition to the granting of a license to Channel 20, the council ruled that the license could only be given once the broadcaster commits to “represent every stream of Judaism active in the State of Israel.”

The heads of Channel 20 didn’t wait for the decision. Since the channel’s founding the chunk of programming dedicated to current affairs and political issues has gradually increased, and its political stance has sharpened: it is a right-wing media outlet representing a conservative-Orthodox outlook. Since there’s no reason to assume that this will change, one should not underestimate the importance of the CCSB’s decision: this is the first time that a public channel with a right-wing political bent has been established.

News channels with a political identity are not necessarily a bad idea. The realm of written media is saturated with newspapers and journalists aligned with a certain ideology or party — and there’s ostensibly no reason not to create a similar reality in broadcast television. The Israeli Democracy Institute hastened to declare as such:

It’s almost unnecessary to point out that the CCSB’s decision ignored Channel 20’s political stance, and that no decision was taken to establish a left-wing news channel in order to “balance” the picture. It’s hard to understand whether the Israeli Democracy Institute missed this point, or whether they simply agree with right-wing propaganda, according to which every existing media outlet is left-wing.

But even more serious is the well-wishers’ ignoring of the fact that under the original terms of the station’s license, it’s supposed to serve as “Israeli heritage channel.”

“The Heritage Channel” was actually Channel 20’s name when it launched in 2014, following a tender for the establishment of a channel dedicated to Israeli heritage. The terms of the tender outlined what the channel’s content should look like:

A channel such as this raises an interesting question for public discussion: is it right...

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+972 Magazine's Editor's Picks of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, +972 Magazine’s editors and bloggers look back at the year that was, and share the articles that most resonated with them – in no particular order.

By +972 Magazine Staff

A new brand of Jewish nonviolence in Palestine

In the summer of 2016, dozens of Jews from the U.S. and other countries came to Palestine to use nonviolence and civil disobedience alongside Palestinians opposing the Israeli occupation. Under the banner of “Occupation is not my Judaism,” the activists helped rebuild homes demolished by the Israeli army, facilitated an entire displaced Palestinian village’s return to to its former homes, and put their bodies on the line to challenge the Israeli military regime of segregation and settlement in Hebron. Lia Tarachansky and Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man joined them to see what they could accomplish by leveraging their privilege as American Jews.


I love Miri Regev

For some, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev has become synonymous with provocations, anti-Arab and anti-refugee racism, and populism. But Alon Mizrahi remembers the Miri Regevs of his childhood — Mizrahi girls who were constantly reminded that they were worth less than their Ashkenazi counterparts: “I love the Miri Regevs of this country: I know them as if they were my sisters. I do not accept their hate, because it is a cruel rigidity born, in this case, of self-made inferiority. I do not accept their blindness toward similar human stories, toward shared human experiences.” Read more here.


License to Kill (series)

A Palestinian is arrested for not carrying an ID card. A few hours later, while handcuffed inside a military base, he is shot to death. A Palestinian taxi driver is shot in the back by an Israeli soldier. Investigators say they cannot locate the shooters, even though their identity is known. Two teens are shot to death in their own village by an IDF major. The major admits to lying and committing forgery to cover up his crime. Every year, Israeli soldiers shoot and kill unarmed Palestinians in the occupied territories. Time and again, it seems like the soldiers responsible are never brought to justice. We open up the case files to examine exactly how the army gives its soldiers a license to kill. Read the cases here.


The Long Road to Bethlehem

+972 blogger and Jewish-American-Israeli journalist Mya Guarnieri never had an easy time living...

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Rewriting the history of Hanukkah and intifadas

In Hanukkah, we tell the story of a small, powerless people who, with religious zeal and courage, led a bloody guerrilla campaign against an occupying force and corrupt elite to assert control over the Temple Mount.

By Yossi Bartal

On Christmas Eve, Jews around the world began celebrating the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Family and friends will gather every evening before the hanukkiah, the nine-pronged candlestick, reciting a short prayer and lighting its candles. Each day, another candle is lit until the hanukkiah radiates in its full splendor on the last day. While the festival is very popular, it is, religiously speaking, secondary, as it does not even have an Old Testament origin. The fact that Hanukkah is so highly valued, despite lacking scriptural justification, can be comprehended as a cultural fact, beyond just the delicious seasonal menu like latkes and doughnuts: in Europe and the U.S., the Festival of Lights is, a child-friendly Christmas substitute for Jews living in secular, Christian-dominate societies. But in Israel, Hanukkah is a different sort of cultural fact. It is a piece of Zionist culture, and thus its celebration focuses on the early rebellion against the Greek occupiers and their achievement of Jewish independence.

In spite of these different receptions, there was until recently a consensus about the original story behind Hanukkah. In the second century BC, the evil Greek King Antiochus wanted to dissuade the Jews from their religion and tried to forcibly bind them to Hellenistic culture. He forbade circumcision and marking the Sabbath, and he desecrated the Temple. He was supported by corrupt Jews who betrayed their people, all for a gymnasium and a bathhouse. But pious and courageous rebels gathered around Mattathias ben Johanan and his son, Judas Maccabeus, to resist and expel the Greeks from the land and to rededicate the temple (“Hanukkah” means “dedication”). The eight days symbolize the divine miracle which was said to have followed the successful uprising. On the day the Temple was liberated, there was only one small oil jug in the whole of Jerusalem — enough to feed the holy fire of the Menorah for a single day. That the flame miraculously burned for eight days, until new oil was delivered, explains the length of the feast — and the oily Hanukkah food.

Historically, however, this story does not hold up. Thanks to new archaeological findings and comparative historical research by important scholars of...

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