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The Palestinian activists protecting Hebron from settler violence

After Israel boots the only internationally mandated human rights observer group in Hebron, Palestinian volunteers step up to monitor settler attacks amid a sense of heightened hostility.

By Steven Davidson

About a dozen Palestinian volunteers in blue vests identifying themselves as “human rights observers” made their way toward the Israeli army’s Checkpoint 56 on Shuhada Street in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron early last week. They were escorting children on their way to the Qurtuba school 100 meters away, enduring harassment and kicking by settlers as they let the schoolchildren pass.

Up until late last month, this was a task for international observers, but on January 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he will not renew the mandate for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), accusing the mission of “acting against Israel” in a tweet.

“When they kicked TIPH out, it was like they kicked us in the face,” said Palestinian activist Izzat Karaki.

The Oslo II Accord of 1995 called for an international presence in Hebron following the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, in which a Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in the city. TIPH mission was tasked with monitoring the human rights situation in the city, which Oslo divided into two areas: H1, home to most of the city’s Palestinian residents, is governed by the Palestinian Authority; and H2, where hundreds of Israeli settlers live among tens of thousands of Palestinians, and which is under the control of the Israeli army.

TIPH was the only observer group in Hebron with an official international mandate renewed every few months by Israel and the PA. Its staff included observers from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy. The organization, which was also the best-funded and well-staffed in the city, produced over 40,000 monitoring reports in 22 years, among other humanitarian duties. Right-wing pressure against TIPH increased in Israel after two incidents by observers in which one slashed a settler’s tires and another slapped a child’s face. Both were removed by TIPH.

With TIPH’s exit, other volunteer international observation groups are now concerned about their safety in Hebron. According to Peter Prove, director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs at the World Council of Churches (WCC), “the same day as the announcement, there was a noticeable spike in harassment and threats from members of the settler community” against observers from the WCC Ecumenical...

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Palestinian family evicted from Jerusalem home to make room for settlers

The Abu Assab family home, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is expected to be occupied by right-wing Jewish Israeli settlers. Nearly 200 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem are under threat of eviction by settler organizations.

By Aviv Tatarsky

Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning. The home is expected to be occupied by right-wing Jewish Israeli settlers in the near future.

The Abu Assab family had lived in the home for nearly 70 years. Seven members of the family, including a four-year-old child, were evicted on Sunday, with police arresting two other family members. They will now be forced to find a new place to live.

The Abu Assab family originally lived in the Baka neighborhood West Jerusalem, from which they were expelled by Israeli forces during the 1948 war. In the 1950s, the government of Jordan, which controlled the West Bank and East Jerusalem at the time, settled the family in a home in the Old City, which had been owned by Jews before the war.

After the 1967 war, when Israel occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, the family continued to live in the home as protected tenants. Five years ago, a settler organization initiated eviction proceedings against the family, and an Israeli court ultimately ordered their eviction.

Under a 1970 Israeli law, Israeli Jews are allowed to sue to reclaim properties they owned in East Jerusalem that they were forced to abandon in 1948. Palestinians who owned properties in West Jerusalem and Israel who fled in 1948, however, have no legal avenue for reclaiming those properties — even if they live in Israeli-controlled territory today.

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Thus, while the original Jewish owners, or in this case their settler proxies, were allowed seek the Abu Assab family’s eviction from their home, the Abu Assab family was unable to ask the same court to allow it to return to its original home in West Jerusalem.

Police have evicted a number of other Palestinian families from the exact same street, Aqbat al-Khaldia, using the same legal mechanisms. Other families are still battling eviction attempts in Israeli courts.

In the coming weeks around 40 members of the Sabag family are expected to be evicted from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, while...

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Israel wants to deport 300 refugees to one of the world's most dangerous countries

Israel’s 300 Congolese asylum seekers have been living in the country for well over a decade. Now the Israeli government is trying to deport them back to their home country, considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

By Ben Toren

It was nine years ago that Julie Wabiwa Juliette narrowly fled her home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for Israel, where she has since built a life. Juliette, 33, married another Congolese refugee, Christian Mutunwa, and together they raise two children. Both Juliette and Mutunwa work, as do all of the approximately 300 Congolese asylum seekers who live in Israel.

The Congolese are legal residents of Israel, with some in the community having lived in the country for 20 years. The majority arrived between 1999 and 2009, during and following the Second Congo war, considered the world’s deadliest crisis since World War II. Until now, the Congolese were protected under a policy referred to by the Interior Ministry as “general temporary protection.” They have B1 visas, which entitles them to live and work in Israel as any other foreign nationals do. Moreover, each of them also has a pending asylum request.

This is in contrast with the much larger population of Sudanese and Eritreans, who are regarded by the government as “illegal infiltrators” and have no legal status.

Now, Israel seeks to deport the Congolese. In October 2018, the Interior Ministry announced that Congolese group protection would terminate on January 5, at which point they would be forced to leave. The decision was made by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri based on an assessment by the Foreign Ministry that there is “no impediment to the expatriation” of Israel’s Congolese population.

Not a single Congolese asylum seeker abided by the state’s deadline. It passed without much fanfare, after which the Interior Ministry issued 10 deportation notices, while rejecting a number of visa renewal applications. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli NGO that protects the rights of asylum seekers, migrant workers, and victims of human trafficking, successfully appealed to the Jerusalem District Court, which suspended the deportations and forced the state to continue renewing the visas. The Interior Ministry has until February 20 to appeal the court’s decision.

“The court was on our side and made the state continue to renew visas,” says Shira Abbo, spokesperson for the Hotline. “For now, the Congolese are safe.”

Their...

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More than 100 files from the 1800s are still classified in Israel’s archives

Israel recently published its catalogue of some 300,000 classified files, including thousands of documents from before the state was even founded. The very existence of the files had been kept a secret until recently.

By Asaf Shalev

Israel’s State Archives unceremoniously published the contents of its catalog of classified archive documents this past summer, posting them online in 363 separate spreadsheets. Buried in the catalog of classified archives were more than 100 files dating back to the 1800s, and more than 2,000 files that predate the founding of the State of Israel but which the archive has yet to declassify.

The very existence of the 300,000 classified files—their names, dates, and origin within the state bureaucracy—had been kept a secret, until now. One-fifth of the files, deemed too sensitive still by the government, were excluded from the disclosure.

“There were many people who were concerned about the opening of this catalog,” State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick wrote in a statement accompanying the release.

The classified catalog, currently housed on the website of the State Archives, is hard to find, difficult to access, and almost impossible to search through or analyze. In order to understand what lies in the cryptic files, +972 Magazine enlisted various data-research tools and analyzed the hundreds of thousands of entries.

One of the things that stood out immediately was the age of some of files. The oldest item, a Foreign Ministry document titled “Parker Report,” dates back to 1821. That’s all we know about it. In total, the catalog of classified archival documents contains 125 items from the 19th century, and about 2,000 documents from before 1948, when Israel was founded. Because we cannot access the files themselves, it is impossible to say why documents that predate the state are still classified over 70, and in some cases, nearly 200 years later.

In contrast, in the United States the FBI and CIA routinely release old records, even ones that cast those agencies in a negative light. It is also telling that, unlike the U.S. government archives, which are run as an independent agency, Israel’s State Archives is a branch of the Prime Minister’s Office, whose current occupant has proven to be no champion of transparency.

Documents from virtually every Israeli ministry appear in the catalog: each of the 363 original spreadsheets represent a different agency, sub-department, state-run company, and in a few cases, former senior officials...

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Forget about dialogue groups, it's time to switch to co-resistance

The ‘coexistence model’ is outdated and misleading. Instead, a Palestinian and an Israeli activist talk about eliminating systems of oppression from the bottom up — together.

By Renad Uri and Omri Evron

As the dispossession of Palestine enters its eighth decade and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people its sixth, it is time to finally change the conversation.

Many summer camps and youth leagues promote a dialogue of coexistence on Israel-Palestine. This model is also adhered to in U.S. diplomacy regarding the conflict post-Oslo. The assumption that coexistence can solve deep-rooted issues is misleading, though. It creates a false sense of equality between Palestinians and Israelis, and minimizes the systemic power imbalance between an occupying state and an occupied people.

In recognizing this, it is important to set an alternative approach that can genuinely allow for Palestinians and Israelis to band together; one that rejects imperialism and discrimination in any of its forms for the interests of both people. We believe that our story, of a deep solidarity between an Israeli and a Palestinian who equally reject Israel’s military state and ethnic segregation, can serve as an example for a new approach – one of co-resistance.

Omri: I was raised in a progressive Jewish family in Jaffa. I had the privilege of growing up in a neighborhood shared by Muslims, Christians, and Jews, which is unfortunately a rare experience; despite Israel’s claim to be a multicultural country, ethnic segregation dominates our society.

As a teenager growing up during the Second Intifada, I became politically active in reaction to the apathy I saw among my own classmates, who were indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians being oppressed by the IDF every day, but also to the many Israelis who were being driven into poverty by neoliberal policies. I knew I had to take a stand against a system that treated Palestinians, as well as many disenfranchised Jews, with such callousness.

In 2005, I was one of the organizers of a letter signed by 250 high-school students declaring our refusal to serve in the Israeli army. Despite being imprisoned for this decision, I continued fighting for peace and justice in my community and country.

I could not do this alone, though – standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Palestinians struggling for liberation is what gave me the courage to speak out. These are the people who have most influenced my activism, worldview, and identity. I found...

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Palestinian battling cancer is denied exit from Gaza for treatment

The medical care Ahlam Abu Musa needs isn’t available through Gaza’s debilitated health system, but the Israeli army has denied all four of her exit requests.

By Amjad Yaghi

Ahlam Abu Musa was diagnosed with bone cancer last May. The 20-year-old from Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, has since tried to obtain an exit permit to receive treatment at Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, but the Israeli army has denied her multiple requests.

Ahlam sought care in hospital after hospital, but Gaza’s health system is dealing with severe shortages in supplies, and the lines of patients awaiting treatment at government-funded hospitals is especially long.

By the time a doctor could finally examine Ahlam, he misdiagnosed her condition. She was first told the pain she felt was a result of a broken foot. When the pain grew worse, Ahlam went to see another doctor, who discovered a cancerous tumor in her left foot.

According to Dr. Jamal Abu Hilal, the orthopedist treating Ahlam, the cancer is spreading rapidly, and it needs to be monitored carefully. Dr. Abu Hilal is refusing to operate on Ahlam, however, because the medical equipment required to conduct the surgery is not available in Gaza, he said.

Ahlam and her mother then began making arrangements to have her receive treatment outside Gaza. The mother and daughter first submitted a permit request to leave the strip through the Erez Crossing in late July, both were denied. They tried again in October through the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, but their request was denied again based on security concerns. Their third attempt, in December, was also denied.

Shortly after, Ahlam’s family managed to secure donations to cover the costs of the surgery at a hospital in Jordan, and the procedure was scheduled for late January. When they applied for an exit permit the fourth time, their request was denied yet again.

Ahlam’s mother, Wahida, is the family’s sole provider. Her father has been unemployed for years, and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. “We’re not affiliated with any political party to be denied a permit based on security reasons,” said Wahida. “I don’t know what we did to be punished this way.”

Ahlam says the pain has gotten so intense, she can’t sleep at night. “I can’t build a future for myself in this condition. I’ve been stuck at home since May,” she said. “All I...

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I survived the Gaza violence that Benny Gantz brags about

‘As a Palestinian expelled from Jaffa to Gaza, as someone whose family and friends have repeatedly been on the receiving end of Israel’s brute force, like all Palestinians, I know that the more violence Israel uses, the more it destroys the very legitimacy it seeks.’

By Hanine Hassan

Freedom is hard-won, but it should never be the fruit of elimination and devastation. One would assume that these words carry logic – but not for the State of Israel.

The freedom that European Jewish settlers sought in Palestine through the Zionist movement came at the direct expense of Palestinian lives. As they claimed ownership of the newly-conquered land, Palestinians continued to be targets of their oppression, and like all settlers, they feared from the onset that everything they forcibly appropriated would haunt them.

As American anthropologist Ann Stoler has pointed out in much of her work, the resulting chronic anxiety is at the core of any colonial order. This is why settlers preemptively and continually attack and destroy the natives: to appease their paranoia, and to provide a sense of security from those that haunt them. The state masks its anxiety by projecting resilience, writes Stoler, formalizing policies and producing narratives which it uses to govern and coerce.

Benny Gantz, a former army chief vying for prime minister in Israel’s upcoming elections, embodies the legacy of his settler-colonial forbearers. He spent his entire adult life as a soldier in Israel’s occupying army and contributed to the killing of the native populations in Palestine and in Lebanon. Gantz commanded many of those killings in senior positions.

The International Criminal Court is examining potential war crimes committed under Gantz’s command in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s attacks in 2014. One of the worst was approved by Gantz: he activated the Hannibal Protocol to prevent the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, and ordered the indiscriminate wiping of entire neighborhoods in Rafah on August 1, 2014. Israeli fighter jets, drones, helicopters, and, later, ground forces fired artillery rounds and missiles — including several one-ton bombs — into the area. The number of Palestinian civilian casualties surpassed 135 in this incident alone. Under his command, the Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital was also bombed, forcing scores of patients to flee in their hospital gowns.

Additionally, Dutch-Palestinian citizen Ismail Ziada is suing Gantz in a civil court in The Hague for the murder of his 70-year-old mother Muftia Ziada, his three...

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10 years since 'Cast Lead': How Israel first declared total war on Gaza

The firepower, scale of destruction, and numbers of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead were unprecedented in the brutal history of the conflict. Since then, the tactics used have become part of the IDF’s arsenal in its wars on Gaza. 

By Avihai Stollar

Ten years have passed since the Israeli army changed the way it wages war, the amount of risk it is willing to expose its soldiers to, and the scope of firepower and destruction it is willing to utilize in Palestinian population centers and at Palestinian civilians.

“Cast Lead was an unprecedented operation,” Senat, an extra-parliamentary research and policy group, determined in 2009. “All records were broken with regard to firepower directed against the Gaza Strip, the scope of military forces that partook, the number of armed combatants and civilians killed, the number of houses demolished, and any other imaginable record.”

The profound change in combat doctrine was a result of lessons learned from the Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War, which, many believed ended undetermined, if not with an Israeli defeat. In its preparations for the 2009 operation in Gaza, the Israeli army set out not only to guarantee victory and eradicate the disgrace of its previous war, but also to avoid heavy military and civilian casualties on the Israeli side — a price it believed the public would not be willing to pay again.

At the same time, a new military ethics doctrine was formulated, determining that the army must conduct itself in a manner that prevents risking IDF soldiers’ lives, even when that makes the loss of enemy civilian lives inevitable. The document was never officially approved but the IDF adopted its spirit, as indicated by former IDF Spokesperson, Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu, who said at the time: “Our first priority is our citizens, second come our soldiers, third come their civilians, and fourth — their terrorists. ”

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The combination of the scars of the Second Lebanon War and the new ethical doctrine meant that the IDF’s guiding principle in Cast Lead were that preserving the lives of Israeli troops took precedence over civilians in Gaza Strip at almost any cost. Accordingly, the Israeli army declared the entire Gaza Strip a war zone, in which it used military practices intended for military-to-military combat, despite the fact that the operation took place in...

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A new framework for viewing Israel's regime in the West Bank

The existing frameworks we have for addressing Israel’s rule over the Palestinians are flawed and becoming less relevant. Comparing it to other regimes that share one of its prominent characteristics, institutionalized discrimination, can create space for new ideas.

By Yariv Mohar

In the 51 years since Israel seized control of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community have come up with various frameworks for understanding and trying to resolve the situation. While the international community still prefers to think about Israel’s military control as a form of temporary occupation, more and more people have begun framing Israel, and particularly its rule over the West Bank, as a form of apartheid.

And yet, neither framework captures precisely the kind of regime that Israel has built over the past five decades. Rather than belligerent military occupation or apartheid, I propose viewing Israel’s rule in the West Bank as a “regime of discrimination.” A comparative study I conducted for Rabbis for Human Rights, which sought to rank discriminatory regimes globally, concluded that Israel’s rule over the West Bank is the third-most discriminatory regime in the world today.

The study (Hebrew) analyzes cases of institutional discrimination and aims at opening up a relatively new and potentially more effective understanding of the issue at hand. By comparing the situations in various regimes around the world, the study analyzes and compares the treatment of minorities in terms of: legal status, political opportunities, and suffrage (i.e. the right to vote and be elected or, in non-democratic regimes, the option of gaining senior positions in the political establishment), the right to freedom of movement and the freedom to live anywhere in the country, and the allocation of resources.

According to the criteria laid out in the study, Israel’s rule in the West Bank came in behind Lebanon’s treatment of Palestinian refugees and Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya minority. Along the same criteria, Israel’s regime in the West Bank was ranked as more discriminatory than Morocco’s treatment of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara, Russia’s treatment of the Chechnyans and Crimean Tatars, Pakistan’s treatment of Pashtuns, China’s treatment of Tibetans, Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds, and India’s treatment of the Kashmiris.

It is important to note that the study did not deal with levels of oppression (which, in cases like Myanmar, is far more severe than in the West...

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Conscientious objector released from military prison after 104 days

Adam Rafaelov refused to serve in the IDF due to his opposition to Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. ‘My struggle for exemption is over, but the struggle for freedom and equality for all people between the river and the sea continues.’

By +972 Magazine Staff

The Israeli army discharged conscientious objector Adam Rafaelov on Tuesday after imprisoning him for 104 days for refusing to be drafted due to his opposition to the occupation.

Rafaelov, 18, from Kiryat Motzkin in northern Israel, was sent to prison a total of eight times since July of last year, when he was first sentenced.

Military conscription is mandatory for most Jewish Israelis. Rafaelov was discharged by the army’s conscientious objectors committee for “poor and severe behavior.”

Rafaelov was not a political activist prior to his imprisonment. In military prison, he met conscientious objector Hillel Garmi — who was released from jail last December after 107 days behind bars — and who exposed Rafaelov to Mesarvot, a political Israeli network that provides supports for conscientious objectors.

Upon his release on Tuesday, Rafaelov said he was glad he followed his conscience and refused to take part in the occupation. “Although freedom has been denied me in the past six months, Palestinians have been deprived of human rights for more than 50 years. My struggle for exemption from army service is over, but the struggle for freedom and equality for all people between the river and the sea continues.”

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Ahmad Tibi has a plan to unseat Netanyahu, but it means leaving his Palestinian partners

Ahmad Tibi’s recent announcement that he would split from the Joint List has rattled Palestinian citizens. In an interview, he speaks about the successes and failures of the list, why his party would be better off alone, and why he may join forces with Israel’s centrist leaders.

By Meron Rapoport

Four years after it was established, the Joint List, which succeeded in uniting Israel’s Palestinian parties, is on its way toward dissolution. Dr. Ahmad Tibi, who heads the Arab Movement for Renewal faction, also known as Ta’al, made a surprising announcement last week, declaring he would run independently in the upcoming elections, set for April 9. The reason stems from Tibi’s position in the Joint List, which also determines how many seats his faction is allocated. It is possible, however, that the decision reflects a deeper rift in Palestinian society in Israel.

Tibi, a gynecologist born and raised in the city of Taybeh, appeared on the political scene following the Oslo Accords in 1993, when he was appointed to be Yasser Arafat’s advisor on Israeli affairs. He appeared in the Israeli media and came to symbolize — especially in the eyes of the Jewish Israeli public — the relationship between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the PLO. In 1995 he established Ta’al, although he has never run alone in elections, always pairing up with the other Palestinian parties, including Hadash, Balad, and the Islamic Movement.

Even today he remains the Palestinian politician with the most face time in the Israeli media, possibly the reason he has gained so much favor among Palestinians in Israel. Polls published since he announced his departure from the Joint List show him clocking in at six seats Knesset seats — the same number that all three remaining factions comprising the Joint List would receive should they run collectively.

Tibi sounded unwavering in his decision to run independently when I sat down with him in his home in East Jerusalem, convinced that he could easily pass the 3.25 percent election threshold. On the other hand, he does not reject the idea of the Joint List outright, and sees the advantages of united political representation for the Palestinian public. He only demands that that public have a say on the makeup of the list — and who leads it.

Tibi also sees advantages in going solo. Not only because he believes that competition between the various parties will increase voter turnout, thus bolstering the power of the Palestinian community in the Knesset, but also because he has set a goal...

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Hundreds protest new Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

Israeli and international activists march in solidarity with the East Jerusalem neighborhood as families brace for a new wave of evictions.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Hundreds of Israeli and international activists marched from central West Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, on Friday, in solidarity with the families there who Israeli authorities want to evict.

In late November, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the Sabag and Hamad families’ appeals against their evictions. Residents of Sheikh Jarrah fear that decision could lead to a new wave of evictions affecting as many as 11 families and 500 people.

“We were shocked,” Muhammad Sabag, 74, said in an interview in December. “We waited for a decision for a long time, but we were not ready for such a blow.”

Residents of the neighborhood and activists with Free Jerusalem, a group organizing against Israel’s military occupation, initiated Friday’s action in order to bring attention to the families’ cases and to try and stop their evictions. Other organizations, including Peace Now and Combatants for Peace, also participated in the protest, said Sahar Vardi, an organizer with Free Jerusalem.

As protestors were gathering at their meeting point, a man grabbed one of the activists’ glasses off his face and crushed them in his hands, said activist Daniel Roth, who participated in Friday’s demonstration. People who were opposed to the action also yelled hateful, racist statements as the protesters marched into Sheikh Jarrah, added Roth.

When demonstrators reached the neighborhood, Palestinian residents and organizers joined the action. Toward the end of the protest, while activists were standing outside one of the homes of the families facing eviction, Israeli police attacked a man holding a Palestinian flag, said Roth. Activists then stood between the man and police forces, and began chanting “end the occupation” until police backed off.

“At the core of this whole thing is the idea that all people have a right to a home, and what’s going on here is that the powers that be are taking homes from some people because of their national identity, period,” said Roth in a phone interview after activists dispersed. “What we’re looking at is racist policy and action around people’s very homes, and that should wake people up to stand up with these folks.”

In the 19th century, a small Jewish community lived Sheikh Jarrah. By 1948, most of its Jewish residents abandoned the area as...

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Applying the law by ethnicity: Israel's dual legal systems explained

In the occupied West Bank, everyone is subject to Israeli military law. Unless, of course, you’re an Israeli settler. The dual legal systems — separate laws and court systems for different people in the same territory — are one of the reasons some refer to Israel’s occupation as apartheid.

Video by Tal Frieden. Story editing by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

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