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For Gaza youth, IDF testimonies feel more like confessions

Palestinian youth respond to a play based on testimonies by Israeli soldiers, which portrays the brutality of the occupation from the point of view of the occupiers.

By Pam Bailey

The video above is a production called “It’s What We Do: A Play About the Occupation.” Although it is a drama, the soldiers’ reflections in the play are taken verbatim from actual testimonies of soldiers from Breaking the Silence, whose vivid memories continue to haunt them.

The play’s target audience was Jewish Americans, but several Palestinians from Gaza, ‘We Are Not Numbers’ writers who have themselves been the “targets” of Israeli soldiers, watched the video of the production. They were curious to see how far the the soldiers were willing to go in their confessions. It was difficult for many of them to watch, and their reactions varied. But they all agreed the video should be required viewing for Jewish people everywhere

These young Palestinians, whose reactions are reproduced below, are “an audience I never in my wildest dreams imagined for my production,” said director and producer Pamela Nice, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. “If these young Gazans, who know first-hand how occupation feels, are willing to listen to and attempt to understand how Israeli soldiers think and feel about their roles as occupiers, shouldn’t each of us give these soldiers a hearing? And be open to other points of view? As one of them says: ‘This oppression is destructive to everyone.’”

Ahmed Alnaouq

As I watched “It’s What We Do: A Play About the Occupation,” many questions sprang to my mind: does confessing commission of crimes against Palestinians make Israeli soldiers noble people? Or does knowing that these men and women have belatedly felt some remorse make the experience less painful for Palestinians?

As a Palestinian living in Gaza, one whose brother and four best friends were killed in the last Israeli war on my home, I have to admit that watching this play didn’t make me feel better. It made me feel sick — sick that this is what it takes to prove our suffering is real to the outside world.

The play shows in a very real way what life under occupation is like for Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. The actors, and the soldiers whose testimony they share, speak bravely and honestly about...

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A bizarre end to the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour

By the time a verdict is handed down in her case, Dareen Tatour will have lost over two-and-a-half years of her life to prison and house arrest.

By Yoav Haifawi

Like a cartoon character who runs over a cliff but continues to run in the air, or Achilles who thought he could pass the tortoise easily, but each time he got close, the turtle moved a bit further away, so is the trial of Dareen Tatour, a poet who has been detained since October 2015 — defying gravity, looking like it will never end.

After the last witness testified back in April 2017, Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein decided that the parties should submit written summaries within three months. In September, Tatour’s defense attorney, Gaby Lasky, asked to present new evidence, and the issue was brought before the judge on November 15. On that occasion, the judge accepted a request by prosecutor Attorney Alina Hardak to supplement the written summaries with oral closing arguments. After several postponements, the court scheduled the hearing for Sunday, February 18.

The prosecution’s extra show

The prosecution submitted 43 pages of written summaries. The defense managed to shorten its arguments and squeeze them into 83 pages. The initial justification had been the new evidence.

And yet there was not much new evidence.

The prosecution convinced the court not to accept as evidence a screenshot from Tatour’s Facebook page showing that she initially published the profile picture with the caption “I am the next martyr” in July 2014, as a response to the murder of the teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. It was rejected on technical grounds — the absence of a witness corroborating the authenticity of the image.

The second piece of new evidence related to the publication of a video accompanied by the lyrics of Tatour’s poem, “Resist My People.” The defense brought evidence that the same video was later posted by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on her own Facebook page. That no legal steps have been taken against Regev, the defense argued, constitutes proof of discriminatory prosecution. The arguments on this matter lasted less than a minute, out of an hour and a quarter of the prosecution’s closing arguments.

On the other hand, the prosecutor took advantage of the closing arguments to repeat that which she had already detailed at length in the written summaries. She tried to present the poem, “Resist My People,” as...

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My father was jailed for believing Palestine must be free

The Israeli occupation thinks that my father, non-violent organizer Munther Amirah, is a threat to its apartheid system because he radiates hope to our community.

By Ghaida Amirah

I was born at a time when people believed the Israeli occupation would soon be over. Following the signing of the Oslo agreement, my father was confident there would be no Israeli occupation by the time I entered school. Long years went by. I am 23 years old now and just recently graduated as a lawyer. But my father, Munther Amirah, is now in an Israeli prison.

My father serves as the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Committee and was the former secretary general of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists. Israeli soldiers arrested him over a month ago in Bethlehem for demonstrating against the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Since then, an Israeli military court has been keeping my father in prison, even though they could not prove any of the baseless charges against him.

Obviously, Israel will not say the real reasons for his arrest out loud. They know my father is innocent of what he is accused, but want him and all Palestinians to accept the systematic denial of our rights. Israel continues to slam every Palestinian for resisting and fighting the occupation in any way, shape, or form: whether by using international law, promoting BDS, or simply demonstrating on the streets. In my dad’s case, the Israeli military court is sending a message of intimidation to those who challenge their apartheid regime and come out to the streets — even nonviolently — to demonstrate for freedom and justice.

The military judge was certainly irritated when my father stated that under international law Bethlehem is not part of Israel and therefore he did not need their permission to demonstrate against Trump’s decision. I’m also certain the judge was equally upset when my father said that Israel’s occupation is only encouraging more violence. After long interrogations that deprived my dad of any sleep, those who ordered his imprisonment were certainly frustrated with his high morals even when he was taken to court.

My father is doing what anyone should be doing in a situation of injustice: resisting it. But it is not always easy for us to accept the risks that...

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Asylum seekers begin hunger strike to protest deportation deadline

Hundreds in Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention facility start a hunger strike after seven asylum seekers are sent to prison for refusing to leave Israel for Rwanda.

By Yael Marom

Israeli authorities sent seven Eritrean asylum seekers to prison on Tuesday, after they refused to be sent to Rwanda as part of a “voluntary” deportation program. Israel is giving Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers an impossible choice: leave for a third country where they are not guaranteed any legal status, or be imprisoned in Israel — indefinitely.

Some 700 asylum seekers currently detained in Holot have begun a hunger strike in protest.

The seven men, the first to be imprisoned under Israel’s new deportation scheme, were not allowed to pack up their belongings from the desert detention facility (Holot) where they were being held. Two of them are survivors of torture camps in the Sinai desert, according to the Hotline for Refugees. Israeli authorities had previously stated that victims of torture would be exempt from the deportation program.

Earlier this year, asylum seekers Israeli Interior Ministry officials began handing out deportation notices promising that an unnamed country will take them in, give them some kind of legal residency status, and the ability to work.

However, as +972 Magazine reported from Rwanda recently, what asylum seekers find in that country is entirely different than what Israeli authorities promise them. Those who have already been pushed to leave Israel receive no legal status, and the overwhelming majority are pushed out of Rwanda in a matter of days. Of the thousands of asylum seekers who have left Israel for Rwanda, a minuscule number remain in that country.

Two of those asylum seekers pushed out by Israel who managed to stay in Rwanda had a message for those being offered imprisonment or deportation: “Do not agree to come here, go to jail,” said one 32-year-old Eritrean man who left Israel in 2015. He said he has been unable to find work, and only manages to survive with the help of friends.

The asylum seekers, who asked not to be named, said they once lived in south Tel Aviv. All still speak Hebrew. “We didn’t receive status, the refugee camps didn’t accept us here, there’s no work, no food. There is no reason anyone should come here. It is better to stay and struggle...

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Palestinian youth in Nablus: 'Unite and stop with the division'

Palestinian youth demonstrate in Nablus, demanding peace and calling for non-violent opposition to the occupation. 

By +972 Magazine Staff

Palestinian youth from across the West Bank demonstrated near Al Najah University in Nablus on Monday. The demonstrators held a long banner bearing slogans calling for peace, supporting non-violent struggle, and thanking the countries that opposed U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The demonstration was organised by Zimam, a Palestinian grassroots movement.

Samer Makhlouf, CEO of Zimam, said that the demonstration was intended not only to provide Palestinian youth “with a platform to express their anger and frustration in a constructive way,” but also to fight extremism and promote unity within Palestinian society.

“We believe in justice, in international law, and we are trying to encourage the community to adopt nonviolence in order to accomplish our goals,” Makhlouf told me by phone on Monday. “We need to unite behind one strategy and stop with the division.”

“We want to build a Palestinian society that is democratic, tolerant, secular,” Makhlouf added. “We see this as an important step as we approach statehood and independence.”

Founded in late 2015, Zimam has 22 chapters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a membership of 1,500, Makhlouf said.

According to the movement’s website, the movement is “creating a human infrastructure that is dedicated to building the independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state, participating in the nonviolent popular activities to resist the Israeli occupation using all legitimate means according to the international law.”  Zimam, in Arabic, means “the reins of the horse.”

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Israel is helping Rwanda rewrite the history of genocide

Israel, which has supplied numerous despotic regimes with advanced weaponry, is now helping the Rwandan government rewrite the narrative of the 1994 genocide. So much for the lessons of the Holocaust.

By Eitay Mack

Israel was the only Western state to endorse the Rwandan dictatorship’s scandalous proposal in January to change the factual and legal international consensus about the genocide that took place there in 1994. The Rwandan government seeks to create a new narrative that deletes from memory the murder of moderate Hutus who supported a compromise with the Tutsis. Following the resolution’s adoption, Noa Furman, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, delivered a passionate speech justifying Israel’s support for the proposal with the claim that Israel, after the Holocaust, understands the global responsibility to remember human history’s darkest episodes.

Israel’s support for the Rwandan government’s proposal to rewrite its history has far-reaching implications for Rwanda itself. Israel’s support grants legitimacy to Paul Kagame, the Rwandan dictator, who is intensifying his harsh internal repression. Kagame has managed to remain president for life by holding improper elections and by the constant surveillance, persecution, torture, disappearance, and murder of opposition activists. The regime also restricts freedom of press and freedom of association. Thus, for example, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who headed the opposition United Democratic Forces party, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after she asked why the museum commemorating the Rwandan genocide does not mention the Hutus who were murdered.

Foot-dragging and a war of attrition

Israel’s support for the Rwandan government’s proposal also has far-reaching implications for the ability to prevent genocide in the future. Proposals like this one restrict our understanding of the phenomenon of genocide as a product of the development of complex processes, which we can nip in the bud once we recognize their telltale signs. In Rwanda and Guatemala, for example, civil wars escalated into genocides. Had the international community acted to stop these civil wars and the flow of arms into these countries, perhaps the genocides could have been prevented. Today, we fear that the civil war in South Sudan could escalate into a genocide, but the UN Security Council is split — unable to agree on a resolution that calls for an arms embargo, significant sanctions on those responsible for the crimes and for the ongoing war, and their indictment.

Deputy Ambassador Furman lied on the podium of the UN General Assembly. I assume she knows this. For decades, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which she...

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Why Israel is so worried about Qatari outreach to American Jews

Qatar has been focusing on prominent American Jewish leaders as the isolated Gulf state seeks to repair its image. Why American Jews? It’s about Saudi Arabia.

By Mitchell Plitnick

On January 31, the Israeli embassy in the United States stated that Israel did not approve of several right wing, pro-Israel American Jewish leaders meeting with senior officials, including the emir, of Qatar. “We oppose this outreach effort in the Jewish and pro-Israel community,” said embassy spokesman Itai Bar Dov.

It was an unusual, and in some ways bizarre, statement. What was Israel so worried about?

“There is nothing wrong with analysts and intellectuals traveling to Qatar to learn about the situation there,” explains Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The problem is that during those visits, they’re not hearing the other side of the story. They are getting the government line and then they go home. They need to hear also from Qatar’s critics. There is a lot of material they should become aware of about Qatar’s ties to Hamas, Al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other problematic actors.”

Schanzer’s words are even more astounding. The list of American Jews who visited Qatar included such names as Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America; Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations; and Alan Dershowitz, the civil rights attorney and fiery defender of both Israel and Donald Trump. Prominent Christian Zionist and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also met with the Qatari emir.

Is there really some concern that these people, who have consistently defended Israel at every turn, will suddenly be taken in by a slick Qatari message? Are we to believe that Israel and a prominent neoconservative U.S. leader like Schanzer is concerned that the likes of Dershowitz, Klein, and Hoenlein—who spend a great deal of time developing their Middle East messages—have not heard anything about Qatari support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood? It’s hard to imagine that is what the Israeli government is concerned about.

It is more likely that Israel is concerned not with these specific meetings, but with Qatar’s broader “charm offensive,” and the conversation it threatens to ignite in the United States. Since the crisis in the Gulf erupted last year, Qatar has made a concerted effort to change its image in the United States. It have poured...

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The end of Israel's 'enlightened' occupation

A decision to apply Israel’s higher education law to the West Bank exposes as a ruse Israel’s claims that it administers the occupied Palestinian territories according to international law.

By Michal Luft

For years, Israel nurtured its image as an enlightened occupier in the Palestinian territories. It not only insisted on portraying itself to the world as an occupying power that rules over the territories according to the laws of belligerent occupation, it also prided itself on how it administered those territories. That job was given to the IDF’s regional commander, who was portrayed as someone whose job requires him to work in an extremely complex reality, while advancing the rights and welfare of both the Palestinians and Israeli settlers who live there.

The military commander derives his authority from the laws of occupation — not Israeli law. The latter does not fully apply to the West Bank, in accordance with international law.

Israel has used the facade of administering the occupied territories according to international law in its diplomatic relations with European countries, as well as in the High Court of Justice, which has been asked time and time again to rule on issues related to legislation in the occupied territories. The High Court, over the years, has adopted a position (whose relationship to reality was itself always somewhat tenuous) according to which the territories are in fact occupied, and that the Israeli military commander is its temporary sovereign, and thus the legislator in the region, for both Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Until recently, that position also applied to the Council for Higher Education (CHE), the state body responsible for determining Israel’s higher education policy. The state decided to establish universities and other academic institutions for settlers in the West Bank, yet it did not apply the Higher Education Law 5718-1958 — which gives the Council its statutory powers, and which apply to academic institutions inside the Green Line — to those same institution. Doing so would have contradicted its attempts to present the occupation as complying with the rules of international law.

Thus, in the 1990s the Israeli military commander established the “Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.” (Judea and Samaria is the Hebrew term Israel uses to refer to the West Bank.) The council was established by military order, which included an appendix labeled “Local Council Regulations.” On paper, neither the Israeli government nor the Knesset decided on the Council’s establishment; it was the...

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WATCH: Soldiers arrest Palestinian children for throwing stones — without proof

Israeli soldiers arrest two Palestinian boys for allegedly throwing stones — even though the only soldier who could identify them admits that he can’t identify them.

By Yael Marom

There should be nothing normal about holding Palestinian children in detention for hours on end, simply because they were seen in an area where stones were thrown. But that is precisely what Israeli soldiers did this past weekend in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The incident, captured on film by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, took place last Sunday in Hebron’s Al-Hariqa neighborhood, adjacent to the settlement of Kiryat Arba. Soldiers in the area said they saw two Palestinian children throw stones at the fence surrounding the settlement, but could not identify them. Nevertheless, they came across two brothers, aged 12 and 13, who happened to be in the area at the time. The soldiers are seen on the video detaining the two, while discussing among themselves whether or not to arrest them — admittedly without any evidence that they are indeed responsible for the stone throwing.

The video then shows the soldiers being asked by their commander whether or not the two boys were the culprits. The soldiers respond that they did not actually see the boys’ faces. Not important. An IDF officer arrives on the scene, and decides to send the boys to the local police station for interrogation anyway.

Meanwhile, an uncle of one the boys, who was in the area, is seen pleading with the soldiers — in Arabic, which none of the soldiers seem to speak — that they had detained the wrong boys. The soldiers continue to respond in Hebrew. The only phrases they seem to know in Arabic are “give me your ID” and “what is your name?”

The officer then tells the uncle that should he see anyone throwing stones in the area, he would “go to his house and turn it upside down.”

“I’ll take these two boys away…for a week. If I get another stone here, just one, I’m going straight to him,” he is seen saying.

The soldiers are well aware that they are being filmed. At a certain point, one of them asks another soldier whether he can strike with a club the female Palestinian B’Tselem volunteer. “No bro,” the other responds, “you can’t hit her.”

According to B’Tselem, as of the end of December 2017, Israel was holding Read More

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Prominent actors, musicians, and authors demand Ahed Tamimi's release

Danny Glover, Rosario Dawson, Cornel West, Angela Davis and others sign letter demanding Israel release the 17-year-old Palestinian from custody. 

By +972 Magazine Staff

Dozens of major American actors, athletes, musicians, scholars, and political figures signed a statement published Monday by American human rights group, Dream Defenders, calling for the release of Ahed Tamimi. Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was arrested in December following the publication of a video showing her pushing and slapping armed Israeli soldiers on the porch of her family’s home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Tamimi is set to appear before an Israeli military court on Tuesday, after being indicted on charges of assault and incitement, which could potentially land her in prison for several years. She has been in Israeli custody since her arrest.

Signatories of the letter, titled “Dream Defenders & Allies Stand with Ahed Tamimi and the Palestinian Freedom Struggle,” include Angela Davis, Jesse Williams, Danny Glover, Alice Walker, Rosario Dawson, Cornel West, Talib Kweli, Marc Lamont Hill, Michelle Alexander, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Michael Bennett.

Members of Dream Defenders, a Florida-based community organizing and racial justice group, traveled to Palestine last year, where they met the Tamimi family.

The statement emphasizes the parallels between the Palestinian struggle and that of African-Americans in the United States:

The statement also called on U.S. lawmakers to sign a bill introduced by Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum, titled “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.”

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Draft refusers prepare for jail: 'We are part of a movement for change'

Saar Yahalom and Matan Helman will serve time in prison for refusing to enlist in the army because of the occupation.

By Yael Marom

Dozens of supporters joined two Israeli conscientious objectors as they heaed to the IDF induction base Sunday to declare their refusal to join the Israeli army. Saar Yahalom, 18, from Be’erotayim, and Matan Helman, 20, from Kibbutz HaOgen, say that they will not enlist due to their opposition to the occupation. They are expected to be sentenced and imprisoned on Sunday.

For Yahalom, this is his first declaration of intent to refuse to serve in the army; he is expected to serve an extended sentence. Helman, on the other hand, has already served 50 days in three separate periods of detention. He is expected to be jailed again.

Yahalom sounded confident during a short phone conversation before he entered the induction base. “I feel calm and at peace with my decision. I feel like [my decision] can help in social struggles and in the struggle against the occupation,” he said. “I am very moved by the presence of friends who came to support me — Jews and Arabs and social activists.”

Yahalom emphasized that he had never faced pressure to refuse, and that doing so was a personal decision. “I am part of the movement for change in Israel. The struggle against the occupation, against the deportations, social struggles — they’re all part of the struggle for social justice and peace. I’m doing my part, which I chose to do. Even when I’m in prison, I trust my friends to continue the struggle, because the reality is what’s outside.”

“Most of my friends from school and work don’t agree with me,” Yahalom continued, “but they understand that my decision does not come from a desire not to contribute [to society] but rather from a principled struggle, and that I’m ready to pay a personal price for it.” Our conversation was cut short by his friends calling Yahalom to help sing The Internationale.

Among the demonstrators were MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (The Joint List, Hadash), who said, “The conscientious objectors made a difficult choice, yet the heavy price they will pay is far smaller than the price involved with participating in the oppression of another nation. A clear statement was heard on the northern border, in the south, and in the center of the country. We strongly oppose...

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The Middle East nearly disappeared from U.S. media coverage in 2017

Allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. elections dominated the news cycle last year. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict hardly made a dent, confirming that the American public no longer cares a great deal about the issue.

By Jim Lobe

Except for the ongoing war in Syria, coverage of the Middle East by the evening news programs of the three big U.S. networks virtually disappeared in 2017, according to the latest annual compilation by the authoritative Tyndall Report.

Russia and Russian-related events — as in the allegations of Moscow’s meddling in U.S. elections — ranked as the top story of the year, while North Korean’s nuclear program ranked number 3 in all stories, foreign and domestic, according to the Report. The Syria story ranked number 14. Remarkably, neither enhanced tensions between the U.S. and Iran nor the radical shift in U.S. policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict, including Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, made it anywhere near the top stories for the year.

I’ve long paid close attention to Andrew Tyndall’s annual reports because I think they offer key insights into how many, if not most, Americans see the world, or at least the world that network news offers them. For 30 years now, Tyndall has been carefully compiling the content of the weeknight evening news shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC, whose combined audience averages about 20 million viewers.

Although that doesn’t seem like a huge number, network news is still probably the biggest single source of national and international news consumed by the American public. It is still well more than the number of people who watch cable news, even if the latter provides more intensive and extensive coverage of national and international events. Because of the size and influence of its major sponsors (compared to cable news advertisers), network news has always been designed to appeal to the greatest number of viewers, just as daily metropolitan newspapers dropped their partisan leanings back in the late 1800s in order to appeal to mass audiences with a wide variety of backgrounds, political tendencies, and worldviews. In important ways, the network news agenda—as shallow, superficial, and sensationalistic as it is—says a lot about how Americans see and understand events and trends beyond their immediate experience.

Last year, the three networks devoted a total of 14,320 minutes of actual news coverage in their evening news shows (or a little more than 20...

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Another unnecessary war

The following is a prediction best left unfulfilled. Faced with the drums of war, one must remain resolute, even if there is no certainty that war will break out. Too much is at stake. And if war does not break out now, it will at a later time. It will materialize one way or another.

By Idan Landau

The writing is already on the wall: Israel will soon launch a military operation in Lebanon. Not a targeted attack on a weapons convoy or factory, but a simultaneous attack on Hezbollah’s missile production and launch sites. The operation will take place at the same time as, or immediately after, a series of assassinations of known Hezbollah operatives. That organization will, of course, react by launching a massive missile barrage at population centers in Israel, and Hamas may contribute its share in the south. Last week we were informed that missile interceptor systems have already been deployed throughout the country as part of a joint “drill” between the IDF and the U.S. military. Washington has already given a green light, or so we learn from Thomas Friedman’s most recent column — a faithful mouthpiece of American foreign policy.

In this well-orchestrated event, Israel’s mouthpieces play a single tune: Iran and Hezbollah have crossed a red line, and if their Russian patron does not restrain them (the crux of Israel-Russia security coordination), Israel will strike hard (and it will do so because the Russians cannot restrain them). Defense Minister Liberman promises that “all of Beirut will be hiding in bomb shelters,” while Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged that  (Hebrew) “the Lebanese will pay the price” (an explicit threat to commit war crimes). Of course this is also the finest hour of the retired generals who can now speak freely. “The IDF is going to use a lot of force. These places will be destroyed almost completely,” promises Maj.-Gen. (res.) Noam Tibon. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amiram Levin tossed another log into the fire: “Lebanon will be destroyed.”

Which “red line” was crossed this time? According to Israel, it was the establishment of an Iranian missile factory in Lebanese territory. As far as I recall, Israel has at least three factories producing precision-guided missiles (Rafael, IAI and Elbit), but this is apparently not a sufficient pretext for a Lebanese attack. Such pretexts are an Israeli...

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