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What an Israeli army closure on Ramallah looks like

As the Israeli army invades Ramallah, fear and anxiety deepen among many Palestinians — but so does solidarity.

By Zena Tahhan

The past few days in the occupied West Bank have been particularly difficult. Violence, killings, and military raids are common here, but Palestinian cities are now facing even deeper uncertainty and instability.

The Israeli army imposed a military closure on the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, and closed major checkpoints between cities.

The closure, raids, and restrictions on movement followed two drive-by shootings carried out by Palestinians this week near illegal settlements. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in one of the shootings, and in the other, several Israeli settlers were wounded, including a pregnant woman whose baby was delivered prematurely and later died.

As events began to unfold on Wednesday, the Israeli army raided Ramallah and stationed soldiers at Al-Irsal Street, a main street in the city. Within minutes, Israeli soldiers invaded the area, parading their presence very close to the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Compound and President Mahmoud Abbas’ residence.

Soldiers killed four Palestinians in separate operations across the West Bank, and over the past several days, dozens of Palestinians have been rounded up in widespread arrest raids. Palestinian youths have been confronting Israeli soldiers at checkpoints and near settlements. Soldiers have been responding with tear gas and bullets, killing at least one teen.

This is the ‘de facto’ capital of Palestine? some Palestinians quipped. A video of an Israeli soldier trying, but failing, to climb a short wall turned into a meme of Abbas offering the soldier a ladder.

“The scene removed the veil from the eyes of many Palestinians — particularly [those] living in the Ramallah bubble — that we are living under the false pretense that there is a state and we have independence,” said Fadi Quran, a Ramallah-based activist. “Israel reminded the Palestinians that this is an illusion, and humiliated the Palestinian Authority,” he added.

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Palestinians are used to electricity cuts, night raids, arrests, restrictions on movement and killings, but beneath the veneer of normalcy and jokes reigns an atmosphere of anxiety.

Since the closure was announced, events have...

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The many costs Palestinian women pay to fight oppression

As if defying gender norms in their own communities isn’t enough, Palestinian women are forced to fight prejudices and racism masking themselves as feminism in Israel and the West.

By Anwar Mhajne

Tens of thousands of women protested against gender violence in Israel earlier this month, demanding the allocation of more resources to combat it. The protests came a week after the murders of two girls, 16-year-old Yara Ayoub from the village of Jish, and 13-year-old Silvana Tsegai from Tel Aviv. This week, another woman, Eman Ahmad Awad, was found stabbed to death in her home in Acre. She was the 25th victim of gender violence in Israel this year.

I am a Palestinian citizen of Israel, from a Muslim family, and I have experienced first-hand the social restrictions women in our society face. But I also regularly witness how violence against women is used by Israelis to legitimize racism against the Palestinian community and to discredit our politicians, who are criticized for prioritizing Palestinian issues over domestic ones, as if the two are disconnected. In reality, we, Palestinian women, experience violence and are being silenced on all levels — locally, nationally, and internationally.

As a graduate student and now teaching fellow in the United States, I have learned that talking about gender in the Middle East with non-Arabs, or writing about it in English, is often used to affirm the prejudices that Westerners hold about Arab and Muslim men. In conversations on gender, people are suddenly comfortable revealing their misconceptions and criticizing those “backwards Arabs” and Muslims. (The two are often conflated.)

In the West, everything I do as an individual from the Middle East is considered to be a representation of my entire culture. Whether I want to or not, I have become the spokesperson of not only my community but also my wider ethnic and religious groups.

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I switched from pursuing an education in the sciences to a focus on gender studies in order to discuss and promote women’s rights in my community. Instead, I find myself constantly answering questions that assume Western superiority, particularly when it comes to women’s issues. I’ve been asked whether I have to cover...

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New videos contradict IDF claims about West Bank killing

Footage from four separate cameras appears to show Israeli soldiers were not in any danger when they shot a mentally challenged Palestinian man in the back of the head in Tulkarm last week.

By +972 Magazine Staff

CCTV footage of Israeli soldiers shooting a Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Tulkarm last week appears to contradict the army’s claims about the killing.

The footage, taken from four separate cameras, appears to show that, unlike the army’s claims, no clashes were taking place at the time of the shooting, no crowd control measures were used, and that the soldiers were not in any danger when they shot Muhammad Habali in the back of the head.

The army, despite having opened a military police investigation into the deadly shooting, has not changed its story since seeing the footage.

B’Tselem released the following statement on Tuesday:

On Tuesday, 4 December 2018, at around midnight, some 100 Israeli soldiers invaded the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank. Some of them entered four homes in different parts of the city and conducted a brief search. A few young Palestinian men came to the areas where the soldiers were and threw stones at them. The troops responded with rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas.

At some point during the night, about 30 soldiers came to the area of a-Nuzha Street, an east-west street in the western part of Tulkarm. Some of the force spread out along the street in groups of threes and fours. The others entered the alleyway opposite the al-Fadiliyah Boys’ High School and raided a home there. Further down the street, about 150 meters away from the soldiers, several residents were standing at the doorway of the a-Sabah Restaurant and on the adjacent street.

One of them was Muhammad Habali, a mentally challenged 22-year-old from Tulkarm Refugee Camp. Habali walked back and forth, crossing and re-crossing the road.

Video footage from four security cameras installed on three separate buildings along the street allows for construction of a full picture of the scene. It clearly shows that there were no clashes between residents and soldiers in the immediate vicinity of the spot where Habali was shot.

Testimonies collected by B’Tselem, coupled with the video footage, indicate that at 2:25 a.m., an officer and two soldiers advanced towards a-Sabah Restaurant and stopped about 80 meters away. According to eyewitness accounts, a few seconds...

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Netanyahu will do all he can to destroy Jewish-Arab alliances

The alliance between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Jewish left has historically been viewed as a threat to the rule of the right. That’s why Netanyahu is doing everything he can to undermine it.

By Eli Bitan

The Israeli right knows exactly how to harm the left: by making its alliance with Palestinian citizens not only impossible but illegitimate, thus drawing away its power. The Jewish left, for its part, has historically done enough to undermine this alliance. But recent events have created new possibilities — and that’s why the right is coming out with guns blazing.

This dynamic is currently playing out in Haifa, where in the recent municipal elections, newly-elected Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem appointed Raja Zaatry, a veteran activist from the Jewish-Arab Hadash party, to be her deputy. Kalisch-Rotem, who defeated incumbent Yona Yahav from the Labor Party, was elected with the support of the left and the ultra-Orthodox community. In early December, she announced her coalition, which excluded the right-wing Likud, and included the Haredi party, Hadash, and Meretz.

Then, on Dec. 4, Makor Rishon, the newspaper of Israel’s religious-nationalist community, published an article on Zaatry, which painted him as a supporter of BDS and a Hezbollah sympathizer who previously compared Israel to ISIS.

The furor came almost immediately. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri demanded Kalisch-Rotem walk back from her decision, while Prime Minister Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting by discussing Zaatry. Yair Lapid, who in the eyes of many Israelis has come to represent an opposition to the Netanyahu government, decried Zaatry’s appointment on Facebook.

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On Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu even phoned the mayor in an attempt to persuade her to change her mind. Kalisch-Rotem, however, made clear to him that her coalition agreement would remain unchanged. The controversy might appear like a tempest in a teapot, but it is evidently enough to concern both Netanyahu and Lapid. Kalisch-Rotem’s coalition, it turns out, is a threat to the right’s rule in Israel.

The new centrists

The majority of Jewish Israelis today fall somewhere on the center-left and center-right of the political spectrum, far from the historically divisive issues of war and peace. They vote according to a different set of parameters, such as professionalism, experience, issues touching on religion and state,...

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Israeli conscientious objector sent to prison for seventh time

Adam Rafaelov will have served a total of 87 days in prison for refusing to join the IDF over its ‘continual, violent, and oppressive rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.’

By +972 Magazine Staff

An IDF disciplinary body sentenced Israeli conscientious objector Adam Rafaelov to 10 days in military prison last Friday for his refusal to be conscripted. Rafaelov, 18, from Kiryat Motzkin in northern Israel, has been sent to prison seven times since July when he was first sentenced. Upon completing his current sentence, Rafaelov will have served a total of 87 days behind bars.

Military conscription is mandatory for most Jewish Israelis.

“The regime used violence to implement its economic interests or its nationalist ideology,” Rafaelov wrote in his initial refusal statement. “The Israeli regime justifies its violence toward Palestinians by claiming it is defending the Jewish homeland. But it is impossible to justify continual, violent, and oppressive rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli public has been ruling over the fate of the Palestinians, who have been deprived of their basic human rights.”

“Israel prides itself on being the ‘most moral army in the world,’ but there is nothing moral about occupation and oppression. Military rule, poor living conditions, home demolitions, siege — all these are part of Palestinian daily life under a discriminatory, fascist occupier. I refuse to take part in a system that goes against my worldview. I refuse to allow this system to continue to exist without resistance.”

Rafaelov is being supported by Mesarvot — Refusing to Serve the Occupation, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest at the occupation.

Rafaelov joins Hillel Garmi, 18, who has served over 100 days in military prison for refusing to join the army. Over the last few months, Garmi has exchanged public letters with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the organizers of the Great Return March in Gaza, in which he called for a joint struggle to reach a solution that “draw[s] its legitimacy from universal principles of justice.”

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Israeli gov't is trying to defund +972 Magazine, report says

Israel has been working to curtail critical voices in recent years, often by portraying them as foreign agents and seeking to dry up their funding.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations to stop funding +972 Magazine, according to a report in the German media Thursday. +972 was able to independently verify the report.

The total contributions from the two foundations, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, comprise only 9 percent of +972’s overall 2018 budget as of September. In the past two years, 40 percent of our budget has come from the support of our readers.

Both foundations have pledged to continue supporting +972 despite the political pressure.

Show your support for +972 Magazine: Make a donation today!

According to Die Tageszeitung, the progressive German newspaper that broke the story, Israel sent a letter to the German government requesting that it “fundamentally rethink” its support for dozens of human rights organizations in Israel.

The seven-page letter accused the non-governmental organizations of intervening in Israel’s internal affairs and promoting anti-Israel activities. It specifically mentioned +972 Magazine, claiming that the platform goes against Israel’s interests because “the authors regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung described the allegations as absurd. “Unfortunately, we have been seeing for some time that the pressure on NGOs critical of certain policies of the Israeli government is increasing,” a spokesperson for the foundation, associated with the German Green Party, told Die Tageszeitung. “[An attack on a] critical magazine like +972, which reflects Israel’s diversity of opinion, is also an attack on the well-known journalists of Israel.”

Other organizations targeted by the letter, and supported by other German foundations, include Coalition of Women for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and B’Tselem.

The German government would not confirm or deny whether the letter was drafted and sent directly by the Israeli government. Contacted by the paper for comment, though, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs denied sending the letter.

+972 Magazine is an independent publication created and owned by a group of Israeli and Palestinian writers committed to ending the occupation, and advancing democratic values and freedom of information.

The magazine is published by the nonprofit “972 — Advancement of Citizen Journalism.” The nonprofit also publishes the Hebrew-language news site Local Call together with Just Vision.

The current Israeli government has been working to...

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Why I didn't join the protests against gender violence in Israel

‘My identity as a woman is not detached from my identity as a Palestinian, so I can only rally behind a movement that calls to free women from all systems of oppression.’

By Maryam Hawari

I first encountered Alice Miller v. Minister of Defense in my first year of law school. In 1994, Miller took the Israeli army to the High Court of Justice in a sex discrimination case, challenging its policy banning women from combat roles. The court found the ban to be unconstitutional, and the case was a significant development for gender equity in the Israeli army. Jewish Israeli feminists still considers it a defining moment for the movement, but even then, I could feel that this “revolution” did not represent me.

On Tuesday, a coalition of women’s organizations declared a general strike to protest the government’s inaction toward violence against women in Israel. The strike came a week after the murders of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub from the village of Jish, and 13-year-old Silvana Tsegai from Tel Aviv. It garnered the support of hundreds of organizations and institutions, including municipalities, unions, and corporations. But still, to this day, I don’t feel that this revolution represents me.

It’s important for me to note that violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse and femicide, is a problem that crosses nations, socio-economic backgrounds and age, and must be denounced from its root. I have no doubt that the organizers of the strike had good intentions. They protested under the seemingly-inclusive banner of “Stop the murder of women in Israel” in the hopes that anyone would feel welcome to participate, regardless of their religion, race, gender, or ideology.

But this oversimplified slogan is at the heart of the problem.

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I believe that the personal is political. As a Palestinian woman who is inseparable from the rest of the Palestinian people, I can’t isolate the murders of Palestinian women in Israel from the context of the imbalance of power that Israel created and has been consolidating since 1948.

I can’t express solidarity with Israeli women as they stand in solidarity with me, I can’t subscribe to a slogan as abstract as “stop the murder of women in...

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Tens of thousands of women hold mass protests against gender violence in Israel

Women across the country take part in a general strike to protest the government’s inaction over gender violence. Twenty-four women have been murdered since the beginning of the year.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Tens of thousands of women in Israel participated in a general strike across the country on Tuesday, declaring a “state of emergency” to protest the government’s inaction toward violence against women.

The strike, which included demonstrations, direct actions, and vigils for women who have been murdered, took place in cities such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, in universities across Israel, as well as in Palestinian cities and villages. The day’s events culminated in a mass rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

The day’s actions were organized by the Red Flag Coalition, made up of 50 feminist organizations. The strike garnered the support of hundreds of organizations and institutions, including municipalities, unions, and corporations.

The strikers are demanding the transfer of the NIS 250 million budget promised a year and a half ago for an emergency plan to prevent violence against women; a public rehabilitation program for victims of domestic violence and men in the cycle of abuse; educational programs that begin in preschool; and a comprehensive shift in the police’s policy regarding the Israel Police’s mode of addressing domestic violence.

The strike comes a week after the murders of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub from the village of Jish, and 13-year-old Silvana Tsegai from south Tel Aviv. Since the beginning of 2018, a total of 24 women and girls have been murdered. Many had informed the police prior to their deaths that they were concerned for their safety. An average of 20 women are killed in Israel every year due to domestic abuse. The victims are primarily women and girls from marginalized communities in Israel.

“We are striking because decision-makers must realize that actions are required, not empty words,” the leaders of the campaign wrote in a statement leading up to Tuesday’s strike.

Based on a 2017 Knesset study relying on data from the past decade, 35 percent of victims had filed a complaint with the police prior to their murder, and in a third of the cases, the perpetrator is a relative of the victim.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sleiman, who heads the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, called Tuesday a “historic day” in which women “go out to the streets to demand the...

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Beyond Liberal Zionism: How I became a non-Zionist

Changes in Israeli society are rendering Liberal Zionism’s political program impracticable and irrelevant. Non-Zionism provides an alternative.

By Daniel J. Solomon

The past decade has not been kind to Liberal Zionists. Israel’s far-right government has undermined democratic norms at every turn, entrenched occupation via continued settlement building, and sought to snuff out the national aspirations of Palestinians. Meanwhile, the American left has taken a harder line on Israel that shades into questioning the Jewish state’s right to exist.

Being a Liberal Zionist today means inhabiting a political no man’s land. And there is something to admire in the tenacity of its proponents. Jewish nationalism is a complex historical phenomenon that should not be reduced to the closed, exclusionary ideology which both far-right and far-left would make of it.

But political labels must eventually correspond to political realities. Just as there are no more American Federalists, French Radicals, or English Whigs, changes in Israeli society are rendering the Liberal Zionist program impracticable and irrelevant. The available evidence suggests that Liberal Zionism is destined for the same fate as those bygone parties.

The left in Israel has been on the back-foot for the better part of two decades. Israel’s Labor Party has not won a national election since 1999, and seems poised to suffer dramatic losses in the upcoming Knesset contest. The country’s rising generation is more religious and right wing than its elders, polling indicates. And racist rhetoric increasingly finds an echo in the political mainstream, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s notorious warning about “Arab droves” heading to the polls to Yair Lapid’s more recent denunciation of an interfaith marriage.

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Nor has Israel spared Liberal Zionists in the crusade against its critics. Under the anti-boycott law passed in 2017, border agents now rifle through the reading materials of left-wing activists and question them on their political beliefs. The harassment has touched prominent liberals in the American Jewish community, among them Peter Beinart and Meyer Koplow.

The law has also been turned against the limited boycott of West Bank settlements that Liberal Zionists have long advocated. After the vacation rental service Airbnb announced in November it would...

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CNN caves to anti-Palestinian smear campaign

CNN fired commentator Marc Lamont Hill for calling for a free Palestine, after some claimed he meant the destruction of Israel. But his statement is no more a call for the destruction of Israel than the end of Jim Crow was the destruction of America.

By Omar Baddar

“All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.” These were the shocking words of former Senator Rick Santorum in 2012, denying the existence of Palestinians, and endorsing Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. Santorum was subsequently hired by CNN as a paid contributor.

By contrast, prominent commentator and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was just fired by CNN for delivering a speech at the UN in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and closing that speech by urging international action “that will give us what justice requires, and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Could the double-standard be any more glaring?

The backlash to Hill’s comments was instant, reaching the level of deranged hysteria in the case of Washington Examiner executive editor Seth Mandel, who absurdly claimed that Hill was calling for a “Jewish genocide.” Fox News host Ben Shapiro displayed some shameless hypocrisy in expressing outrage at what he deemed an anti-Semitic speech, despite Shapiro himself explicitly calling on Israel to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians (something Hill never even came close to). The right-wing online hysteria proved too much for CNN to bear, so they dropped Hill within hours.

Before getting into the grave consequences of CNN’s decision, it’s important to understand Hill’s comment. Since no honest person could derive anti-Semitism or genocide from a “free Palestine,” I won’t dignify those accusations with a rebuttal. I would simply note that those smears are deliberate attempts to mislead people away from the reality of the injustice Palestinians live today, because this is a debate that opponents of Palestinian rights can no longer win on merits. But because an honest person could read an “anti-Israel” position in Hill’s comment, given that modern Israel is within the “river to the sea” area he refers to, that much is worth addressing.

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This is how to fight Israel's Jewish Nation-State Law

From Palestinian refugees to High Court justices, the Jewish Nation-State law will have a significant impact on several groups affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is what we can do about it.

By Said Zeedani

The Jewish Nation-State Law, a new law with the force of a constitutional amendment, enshrined Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people, demoted the official status of the Arabic language, and gave the right of self-determination in Israel to Jews alone. Palestinian political leaders, Israeli opposition politicians, and dovish Jewish-American groups all lambasted the passage of the law earlier this year, with some saying the law amounted to apartheid and promoting Jewish supremacy.

But beyond the headlines, the Jewish Nation-State Law, sends worrying messages to five different, though interrelated, groups.

The first group is comprised of Palestinian refugees of 1948, whether they reside inside or outside the boundaries of historic Palestine. The law is telling them that their return in large numbers to the villages and towns from which they were uprooted in 1948 is out of the question, since that will disturb the demographic balance of the Jewish State.

In other words, Jews should remain the decisive majority of the citizens of the State of Israel for the long term, just as Israel should remain their exclusive nation state. In addition, and as Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted recently, even the reunification of Palestinian families divided by the Green Line will become extremely difficult due to the passage of this basic law.

The second group is comprised of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The law tells them that they have no national or collective rights within Israel. The law tells them that they only have individual and not group rights, both in the civil and political realms. The right to national self-determination in Israel is exclusive to Jews, and, hence, it does not apply to them. The law is telling Palestinian citizens of Israel not to even dare dream of separation, to transform Israel into a bi-national state, and not to entertain ideas or visions about autonomy.

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Finally, the law is telling Palestinian citizens of Israel that they have no significant role in matters affecting the...

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Besieged on all sides, Gaza's journalists are risking their lives to do their job

Not only must Gaza’s journalists worry about Israeli snipers at the fence — they are also forced to work without sufficient protective gear, access to psychological support, or free speech protections.

By Dina Saeed

GAZA CITY — The deaths of Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, who were shot by Israeli snipers while covering the Great Return March protests on the Gaza–Israel fence, uncovered Israel’s brutal crackdown on the nonviolent movement.

But their deaths also highlighted the dangerous conditions that journalists in Gaza work in, often risking their personal safety to document the lives of Palestinians in the strip.

Without sufficient protection gear, access to psychological support, stable streams of payment, and free speech protections, journalists in Gaza are struggling to build their careers.

Hosam Salem gave up his studies in computer engineering to follow his childhood dream of becoming a photographer. After self-funding an exhibition, and promoting his photos on social media, he succeeded in landing freelance gigs with news agencies.

According to Salem, lack of personal security is the most common problem that freelance journalists encounter. For example, the Israeli government prevents the entry of helmets and protection vests, under the pretext that Hamas uses them for terrorist purposes. The protective equipment that is available within the strip is often too expensive for journalists to buy independently.

Some have found it more affordable to simply sew their own press vests. Others, like Salem, can only do their jobs if and when colleagues are willing to share their gear: “Whenever I come closer to the borders, I borrow the vest and helmet from my colleagues to take good and clear pictures. I do not have another choice, taking pictures is my only income.”

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Another problem that journalists in Gaza face is timely payment. Because of the high rate of unemployment, journalists work with news agencies based outside the enclave. But it’s not easy; Salem, for example, said he is still owed $1,200 from a European news agency for his work covering the 2014 war on Gaza. After Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, the Israeli government imposed even harsher restrictions on the besieged population, which...

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Escaping Gaza is easier now — for Palestinians who can afford it

Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing from Gaza continuously open since May, diverging from a years-long policy. But leaving the Strip is only the first of many challenges.

By Pam Bailey and Fadi O. Al-Naji

GAZA CITY — Um Ibrahim tried but failed to persuade her youngest son to reverse his decision to emigrate. The Gazan mother, who asked not to use her real name, has already “lost” two of her sons: one, a physician who managed to flee to Germany, and the other, also studying to be a doctor, to Portugal and then the United States. Now, her only remaining son is waiting his turn to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, where he hopes to obtain a visa and join one of his brothers.

The young man has a relatively good job as an architect; he earns what is considered a rare, high salary of $1,000 a month. It is also tradition in Palestinian culture for at least one son to stay at home and care for his parents. Yet Um Ibrahim’s husband approves, and has even encouraged his last son’s departure.

“These last harsh years have totally convinced me that Gaza will never offer a shining future. I don’t want any of my children and their children to grow up with their dreams halted in every direction by walls,” he says.

This family is not unusual. According to a 2018 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 50 percent of adults in Gaza dream of emigrating due to political, economic and safety conditions. Gaza is struggling with surging unemployment rates — the highest in the world — and more than two-thirds of its nearly 2 million population lives in poverty.

Brain drain

There are two ways to leave Gaza: the Erez crossing into Israel, which requires a very difficult-to-obtain permit that is only available to people who fall into specific, Israeli-defined categories, including those with serious illnesses and approved businesspeople; and the Rafah gateway to Egypt. Rafah is the only option for the vast majority of Palestinians living in Gaza.

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Prior to May 2018, Rafah opened for only a few...

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