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'You are all traitors': The political persecution of Breaking the Silence

That the minister of justice can singlehandedly launch an investigation against the anti-occupation group is a symptom of the decline of the rule of law and creeping authoritarianism within the Green Line.

By Joshua Leifer

It is not often that the justice minister of a country personally demands the investigation of a political adversary to prove they did not commit a crime. But that is precisely what happened last week in the absurd case of Dean Issacharoff, the spokesperson for Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence. The state prosecutor announced last Thursday that the investigation into Issacharoff’s claim that he badly beat a Palestinian during a protest in Hebron in 2014 had concluded due to “a lack of guilt.”

In fact, the investigation could not have ended any other way. After a video surfaced of Issacharoff describing a violent arrest he carried out during his military service, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked personally called on the state’s attorney to look into Issacharoff’s claims. “In light of the great importance I see in safeguarding the reputation of the state and its soldiers,” Shaked wrote to Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit, “I thought it appropriate to turn to you to check the truth of the incident.”

The letter was little more than an order to find Issacharoff a liar; Shaked and others on the Right have repeatedly charged that Breaking the Silence, in the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, “lies and slanders our soldiers around the world.”

Shaked’s direct intervention was an unprecedented use of the legal system to single out a non-governmental organization for attack. Former Attorney General Michael Benyair issued a strong statement condemning the investigation and Minister of Justice Shaked’s role. “The political show-investigation of Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff is a disgrace to the law enforcement system,” he wrote. “The law enforcement system has lost its independence and become an instrument of the regime against its political rivals.”

“What began under the political direction of the minister of justice became a political investigation that came to a tendentious and political conclusion,” Avner Gvaryahu, Executive Director of Breaking the Silence, said in response to the investigation’s closure.

The first victim

The case against Issacharoff comes at time of intense attacks on Israeli human rights organizations, and is part of a larger trend of eroding institutional norms in Israel. Without an effective opposition in the Knesset, civil society organizations have become...

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Israel Hayom's new target: Conscientious objector's mother

‘Israel Hayom’ put a high school principal in its crosshairs after she expressed support for her daughter’s refusal to serve in the IDF. This is what a witch hunt looks like.

By Yael Marom

Israel Hayom, the newspaper funded by Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson, and the country’s most circulated daily, has found yet another target. After an unsuccessful attempt last week to bring about the firing of Palestinian-Israeli journalist Makbula Nassar a week earlier, this week  Israel Hayom put Iris Gur, the mother of conscientious objector Noa Gur Golan, in its crosshairs.

Gur, an elementary school principal, has expressed support and pride for her daughter, who served 98 days in military prison after refusing to be conscripted into the IDF. According to Israel Hayom, this makes Iris an “Israel hater” who is unfit for her job as a teacher. Or as Matan Peleg, from the far-right group Im Tirzu, put it: “It is inconceivable that schools will be led by principals that do not believe in the right of the state to protect itself.”

The article, published last Tuesday by Yair Altman, opens with the following: “Educating toward conscientious objection? Iris Gur, the principal of a state elementary school and an employee of the Ministry of Education, published a post on her Facebook page that praises and encourages her daughter and others to refuse to enlist in the IDF.” Altman writes that Iris accompanied her daughter to military prison and even participated in a protest to support her daughter. Altman adds that Gur’s personal Facebook page is full of “extreme and controversial political statements, including articles from Palestinian websites about the army arresting children, as well posts about ‘terror against children’ and posts by Women Wage Peace.”

On Thursday morning, Israel Hayom reported that the campaign had succeeded. The Education Ministry will reportedly summon Iris Gur to clarify that the contents of her Facebook page “do not constitute part of the school’s educational environment.”

Not Zionist enough?

Noa Gur Golan refused to serve in the army because of her commitment to pacifism and nonviolence, and says she believes that she must personally work to bring about peace. She requested that the IDF recognize her as a conscientious objector and permit her to perform civil service instead. Two weeks ago, the army discharged her after 98 days in prison, labeling her behavior “serious misconduct.”

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this year, Iris said:

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Some Israelis think human rights are incompatible with Judaism. They’re wrong

We must reject the false choice between giving up on our traditions and accepting narrow, tribal, and racist interpretations of Judaism.

By Yariv Mohar

Judaism and humanism are increasingly seen as diametrically opposed in Israel today. Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay’s recent remarks, in which he echoed Netanyahu’s infamous comment that “the Left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish,” thrust back into the public discourse the sad and false notion that Judaism is incompatible with the belief in equality of all human beings.

If nothing else, the current controversy presents an opportunity to discuss the matter.

Sadly, in the current Israeli political climate, humanistic values are identified solely as universalistic and left wing; in the past, these values had more of a foothold across the political spectrum. Many understood that humanistic values were closely connected to Judaism as a religion and a culture, largely due to the history of the Jewish people as a persecuted minority.

More than a few Israeli politicians have begun to insist on the false notion of the incompatibility of Judaism and humanism in recent years. They speak in Jewish terms to diminish humanistic values and promote national inwardness and xenophobia, not to mention indifference toward human rights.

The choice we face

When half of the Jewish people still live as a minority in the diaspora, it does not require a deep sense of justice or familiarity with humanism in Jewish tradition to understand it is in the Jewish people’s collective interest to aspire to a world based on principles of human rights and humanism. Of course, many of the humanistic values bequeathed to humankind were inspired by the Hebrew Bible, and many of the struggles for human rights in the West have been led by Jews (including the Orthodox); and Judaism has always been directed towards tikkun olam.

There is, undoubtedly, another side of the coin. “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me,” Moses declared on the day he received the Torah and gave instructions to kill 3,000 members of the people of Israel who refused to profess their belief. This is the basis of the tradition that Israeli leaders use to define, “who is for us, and who is against us.”

It is said that the Torah has 70 different faces—but which one will we choose? Both humanistic values and violent anti-pluralism can be found in the words of the Bible. The...

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Israel's 'Jewish values' will forever leave Palestinians on the sidelines

Labor leader Avi Gabbay called the Left too ‘liberal’ and not Jewish enough, reminding us that he has much more in common with Netanyahu than he lets on.

By Iddo Naiss

From the earliest days of Jewish nationalism, there were fundamental disagreements between its different stripes over the role their ideology would have once submerged into a state. Many disagreements, but one common denominator: the interests of the Jewish people were first priority.

This was logical during the period before the founding of Israel, when the Zionist movement worried solely about the fate of the Jewish people around the world, much like the Palestinian national movement of today cares for Palestinians spread across the diaspora. But from the moment of the establishment of the state, there should have been an internal Jewish struggle over the influence of Jewish nationalism on the state’s character. In this struggle (if one can even call it a struggle), the nationalists won. Not only did they win — they routed their opponents, to the point that a Jew who does not identify as a Jewish nationalist is disdained by nearly every part of the Jewish political spectrum.

Labor Party head Avi Gabbay, who represents the “alternative” to Prime Minister Netanyahu, responded to remarks made by the prime minister in 1997, in which the latter claimed the Israeli Left had “forgotten what it means to be Jewish.” Gabbay went even further with his criticism of the Left, saying that it “has focused on being liberal” while eschewing its Jewish identity.

The main thing that comes to mind is that this is complete nonsense — the Israeli Left is not liberal in any sense of the word, at least not in the way Gabbay and Netanyahu imagine them to be. There is not a single Jewish party today (yes, including Meretz) that has shed its ethnic-Jewish identity and replaced it with a civic identity. Instead, we are left with disagreements between the heads of Jewish parties over what is “good for the Jews.”

Where are the Palestinians?

Generally speaking, Israel has two camps: those who pretend, and those who do not. The latter have no qualms saying that the Land of Israel belongs entirely to the Jewish people. They do not bother themselves with questions of what the country’s minorities may think. Minorities, including the native population, are guests, and everything they receive is a result of our benevolence.

On the other hand,...

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Israeli army to evict 300 Palestinians from Jordan Valley

So far this year, the IDF has demolished 349 structures, displacing 542 people and 302 children. Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem warned in August that the expulsions would constitute a war crime.

By +972 Magazine Staff

The Israeli army ordered the eviction of 300 Palestinians from their homes in the northern Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank earlier this month. The residents of Ein al-Hilweh and Umm Jamal, who mostly make their living herding sheep, camels, and cows, have lived in the area for decades. The IDF and its Civil Administration, Amira Hass reported in Haaretz, is taking similar steps to evict three other Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley: Kalat Makhoul, Al-Farisiya, and Khumsa.

For years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will retain control of the Jordan Valley in any two-state solution, a condition that would undercut the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state. The Palestinians and even American negotiation teams have rejected this demand.

The latest orders are part of a larger trend of evictions and demolition orders issued to Palestinians living in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank where the Israeli military controls not only security but also civil matters. Palestinians are prohibited from building on around 70 percent of the land in Area C, most of which is designated for Israeli settlements and military use, and it is virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in the remainder of the territory.

In the village of Khan al-Amar, located east of Jerusalem, 173 people, including 92 children, live under threat of eviction. In late August, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that the army would remove the village in a matter of months. Khan al-Amar is also home to a mosque and a school, built in 2009, that serves over one hundred children from around the area. Israel refuses to connect the community to the power grid or provide basic infrastructure services and most structures in the village have been issued demolition orders. The army recently announced its plan to relocate the residents of Khan al-Amar, as well as the school to a site near the Abu Dis garbage dump.

In the South Hebron Hills, the residents of the village of Susiya also face eviction. Susiya is home to around 200 people, including 93 children. The village has been under threat of demolition for...

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Israel's threats could push it into unnecessary war with Iran

Endless threats and the inclination toward a preventative strike are likely to push Israel into an arms race and a much wider and unnecessary war of attrition with Iran.

By Shemuel Meir

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu are striving together to cancel the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran. Even Netanyahu’s new mantra, that he only wants to “fix” the deal, is actually mean to bring about its cancelation in a slightly more roundabout way. Subjecting Iran to new conditions would lead it to abandon the deal, thereby causing its collapse.

Alongside the attempts to kill the agreement, however, an old threat has reappeared on the horizon: preventative war against Iran.

Netanyahu gave the first sign in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, the theme of which was “Iran is developing nuclear weapons” yet again, despite the fact that IAEA and American intelligence are both reporting the exact opposite. For the first time in a global forum, Netanyahu made the type of threat we’re used to hearing for domestic consumption at Holocaust Day ceremonies or when welcoming the arrival of new naval submarines: a country that threatens our destruction puts itself in existential, or at least mortal, danger.

Politicians and analysts in Israel rushed to join the party. Intelligence Minister Israel Katz declared that Israel “will act militarily by itself” if the Trump administration is not able to stop Iran attaining nuclear capabilities. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke of the need for Israel, with its own capabilities, to prevent the “chokehold” Iran is attempting to build around Israel.

President of the new right-wing think tank “Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies,” Efraim Inbar, argued that there is no chance of stopping Iran’s drive toward nuclear armament and the only solution is an independent Israeli attack as soon as possible. Netanyahu’s former national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, wrote that he believes the United States is not going to do a thing to stop Iranian nuclear proliferation and that Israel must “think of what it may be required to do by itself in the future.” In other words, a preventative war.

Talk of preventative war is coming back and it is likely to get even louder in the coming days and weeks. At its zenith in the years prior to the nuclear deal we almost constantly heard how Israel was going to act independently to destroy the...

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The danger of ignoring Arab opinion: 100 years since Balfour

Following the Balfour Declaration, two academics set out to understand what the people of Palestine wanted for their own future. What comes across from their report is the recognition that local, in this case largely Arab, opinions mattered. The British and French were undeterred.

By James J. Zogby

In 1919, following the first World War, the victorious Allied Powers met in Paris to remake the world. The prime ministers of Italy, France, and Great Britain as well as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, collectively known as “The Big Four,” were the decisive diplomatic players at the meeting. Under their leadership, the lands of the defeated Central Powers were picked apart. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved into smaller central European nations. Germany lost territory and was served with an extremely punitive and expensive peace treaty. In several cases, the triumphant Big Four parceled out bits of land to themselves.

It was in this context of post-war imperial conquest that the fate of the Arab lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire was decided.

During WWI, the Allies had overcome the Ottomans with the important assistance of local Arabs who had rebelled against Turkish rule. Among these formerly Ottoman subjects was Emir Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Faisal arrived in Paris seeking assurance that the British would honor the commitment they had made to his father: post-war independence for all the Arab lands that had been liberated from Turkish control.

The conference also heard from Chaim Weizmann, a leader of the British Zionist movement. Weizmann argued for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Arab territory known as Palestine. During his presentation, Weizmann cited in its entirety the Balfour Declaration –the 1917 promise made to the Zionist movement by British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, stating that the British government favored the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.

It was exactly this conflicting maze of treaties and agreements that led to the outbreak of the World War. And it was with the very aim of preventing another such calamity that in 1919 Woodrow Wilson proposed the foundation of a League of Nations — a body designed to bring international diplomacy into the light of day and rule of law. Wilson believed that by promoting international agreement and democracy, sovereignty, liberty, and self-determination, an environment for a lasting peace would be created. Wilson, therefore, did not arrive in Paris with an agenda...

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Why I got arrested at the ADL

Jewish Voice for Peace activists are arrested protesting ADL exchange programs that bring together American law enforcement with Israeli military and police, a swapping of ‘worst practices’ that strengthens the repression of communities of color in both places.

By Talia Baurer

In my professional life, I teach workshops about healthy relationships and consent to middle and high schoolers. There is a point in each workshop when we explain that to abuse someone is a choice. This is a good thing, I tell them, because it also means we can choose to not hurt and control others. Abuse is never predestined, no matter what’s happened in our pasts. Then I tell them something I find incredibly powerful: one of the best parts of being a young adult is that we can decide what past generations have given us that we want to carry forward, and what we want to leave behind.

On November 8th, the anniversary of the election of a man who embodies abuse, I got arrested at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) offices in New York City. As a white person and as a Jew, I was arrested for asking the ADL to stop running exchange programs between U.S. police and Israeli military. Instead of simply accepting our petition signed by over 20,000 people and listening to the stories we had to share of the harms of their programs, the ADL called in 30 cops to arrest me and six of my fellow organizers.

The ADL runs exchange programs that bring together American law enforcement with Israeli military and police to exchange tactics, strategies, and ideology. In other words, a swapping of ‘worst practices’ that strengthens the repression of communities of color in both places.

Participants in the ADL’s exchange trips visit checkpoints which Israel uses to surveil, control, and humiliate Palestinians entering Israel from the West Bank. Conversely, when then-Israeli Police Chief Yochanan Danino visited New York City in 2013, he toured the NYPD’s “Ring of Steel” surveillance camera network and said, “[t]here is no reason that we can’t be like the NYPD.”

In the lobby of the ADL, right before I was arrested, I read aloud a testimony from Maysanne Murad, a 13-year-old girl from Ramallah who was harassed at a checkpoint on her way to a sleepover with her best friend. As I read her words, I pictured the teenagers that I work with....

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Without obtaining power, the Israeli Left will remain paralyzed

If we want Israel to change, if we want the occupation to end, we have to operate in the existing political sphere. We cannot simply wait for the one we want. A response to Edo Konrad.

By Maya Haber

American neoconservatives have been wildly successful at bringing the Israeli Right back to power through a network of funds, think tanks, media outlets, and philanthropic initiatives. In an article published in Jewish Currents last week, I argued that progressive Israelis could achieve similar goals if we learn from these efforts and set our minds to work.

In a response published in +972 Magazine earlier this week, Edo Konrad argued that the Israeli public is gradually turning against a two-state solution. Moreover, he wrote that I had ignored the “war of attrition being waged against left-wing, human rights, and anti-occupation groups, the current government’s unprecedented attacks on free speech, and a clamping down on Palestinians and Israelis who tow a different line.” “The Israeli Right,” he concluded, “isn’t seeking to compete with the Left — it is trying to decimate it.”

Yet in speaking to the “war of attrition” against left,” Konrad fails to see just how productive this war has been. Not only has it made him and many on the left feel like outcasts, it has shifted public opinion against traditional leftist positions. The sway of public opinion is not a natural phenomenon, like a hurricane or an earthquake. It is the result of political struggle undergirded by power and money.

In recent years journalists and historians have written extensively about how conservatives in the U.S. established think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, media organizations, and education platforms to sway public opinion. No one disputes the impact of right-wing American outlets like Breitbart and Fox News in shaping conservative political rhetoric in the U.S.

Yet a comparable analysis is absent when we speak about Israeli politics. Instead, values are employed to explain Israeli Jewish youths’ embrace of the Right and a much broader rejection of civil and human rights. In such a political analysis, Israeli Jews just don’t have the right values. They don’t see the need for a shared society. They are immoral, or simply deplorables.

It’s a convenient analysis for us leftists. It absolves us from waging a political struggle for hearts and minds and excuses us from evaluating the tactics and...

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American Jews have the power to oppose Israel's gov't. Will they use it?

Jewish American leaders are slowly beginning to understand just how vast the gap is between their values and those represented by the Israeli government.

By Joshua Leifer

Princeton University Hillel sparked controversy earlier this week after announcing it would indefinitely postpone a scheduled speech by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. The decision came after protests by students from the Alliance of Jewish Progressives and other groups, who claimed that Hillel had scheduled Hotovely’s speech without bringing it before the Israel Advisory Committee, an internal committee that vets Israel-related events and enforces Hillel’s “Israel Policy.”

As the students highlighted in their letter to the university paper, Princeton Hillel’s Israel policy had “previously served as a thinly veiled method to exclude left-wing voices,” such as Breaking the Silence. However, in light of Hotovely’s comments about Palestinians, Conservative and Reform Jews, and her support for the occupation, the student group argued that Hotovely’s speech would violate a clause of the Israel policy, which bars “groups or speakers that, as a matter of policy or practice, foster an atmosphere of incivility, intend to harm Israel, or promote racism or hatred of any kind.”

Hotovely ended up speaking at the campus Chabad house instead. But that didn’t stop her from declaring that she was the victim of “a liberal dictatorship.” Hotovely, a staunch opponent of the two-state solution, evidently missed the irony of her comments. In the occupied territories, Palestinians protests are prohibited by military law. And the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which Hotovely in part oversees, has been actively lobbying American lawmakers to pass anti-BDS legislation, including laws that the ACLU warned violate the First Amendment. Until this week, Hotovely had no problem with suppressing free speech.

That Hotovely’s views were enough to make Hillel staff think twice about bringing her to speak is significant. Within American Jewish establishment organizations, it is common practice to subject left-wingers and critics of Israel to strict scrutiny — and even to bar them from speaking — while giving a free pass to those on the right. The controversy around Hotovely suggests that if more American Jews understood the extent to which the Israeli government’s politics contravenes their own mostly liberal values, the relationship between American Jews and Israel could change, perhaps drastically.

The American Jewish public, after all, has undergone a process of politicization since Trump’s election, which marked the reemergence of public anti-Semitism and a...

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The kibbutz that sells riot control weapons to war criminals

For decades, Kibbutz Beit Alfa has sold riot control vehicles to despotic regimes such as Pinochet’s Chile and Nkunrunziza’s Burundi.

By Eitay Mack (translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

Hundreds of ultra-orthodox demonstrators blocked the entrance to Jerusalem last week to protest the arrest of yeshiva students deemed ‘deserters’ by the IDF because they refused to be drafted into the IDF. Israeli police sent in special riot control vehicles that sprayed colored water on the demonstrators. The footage of phosphorescent blue water splattered on the black-and-white-clad Haredi protesters appeared across Israeli media, mostly due to the colorful contrast. These riot control vehicles, produced by Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which belongs to the socialist-Zionist Hashomer Hatzair movement, have been sold to despotic regime for decades. They colored water helps mark protesters, making it easy to arrest them even after they leave the scene.

Hashomer Hatzair and Pinochet

Lily Traubmann, Tamara Santos Traubmann, and Daniel Silberman, survivors of the Pinochet regime in Chile, whose loved ones were abducted and disappeared, filed a freedom of information request asking the state to disclose its ties to the Pinochet regime. An affidavit by Israeli citizen Eitan Kalinsky was attached to their petition.

In 1989, Eitan and his wife were sent by the Jewish Agency to teach at a Jewish school in Santiago, Chile’s capital. It was the twilight of Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship, responsible for the murder and disappearance of 3,200 people, and for the torture — by some of the cruelest methods in the modern era — of 40,000 people.

During their time in Chile, Eitan and his wife attended 10 demonstrations against the dictatorship and in support of democracy. In his affidavit, Eitan states the following:

During one of the protests in Santiago there were vehicles with colored water cannons, and the color of the water changed every few minutes, for example a very strong green. The Hashomer Hatzair envoy told me: “Look, it says ‘Hakibbutz Haartzi Hashomer Hatzair.'” We all knew it was made in Kibbutz Beit Alfa. The colored water pushed the people back with immense force and one shop window collapsed. I was an envoy of the State of Israel and could not criticize the state, so I kept my pain to myself.

It was the left-leaning parents who turned to us and asked how Israel could support Pinochet. I did not say one bad word about Israel, but at home I shouted at the walls. The...

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When political persecution hits close to home

+972 Magazine strongly condemns the silencing of and political assault against Palestinian journalist Makbula Nassar by Israel’s most-read newspaper and a senior government minister.

By +972 Magazine

Israel Hayom, the free daily widely viewed as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, reached new heights of McCarthyism when it targeted journalist Makbula Nassar, a blogger for Local Call and frequent +972 Magazine contributor, above the fold on its front page Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Nassar, who was recently appointed the National Road Safety Authority’s head of Arabic-language public relations, was accused of being an “active member of anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organizations.”

The “investigative report,” by journalist Daniel Soryoti, included looking through old posts on Nassar’s personal Facebook page, in which she expressed criticism of the state and the way it treats the Arab public in Israel. These posts were carefully handpicked and packaged under a sensationalized headline calling Nassar a “prominent activist against the state.” It didn’t take long for Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to call for her to be fired.

The latest developments in highly publicized police interrogations of Netanyahu two closest confidants, part of several looming criminal corruption probes against the prime minister, however, only appeared on page five of the paper.

+972 Magazine condemns in the strongest possible terms the persecution of our friend and colleague, and we are proud that she is part of our community of writers. Nassar, one of the bravest and most renowned Palestinian journalists in Israel, was appointed to the job for her unrivaled professionalism. Despite the political silencing that has come to define this era, she has never once hidden her political opinions.

Anyone who views political criticism as “activities against the state” makes no distinction between the state and the government, as is typical of oppressive regimes. One of journalism’s central roles in a democratic society is to support political pluralism, especially when the opinions expressed challenge those of the majority and the government. It is saddening and shameful that Israel Hayom is once again serving as the government’s attack dog, striking at all those who stray from its political vision.

While Minister Katz’s response is anything but surprising, the fact that a minister in the Israeli government is demanding the firing of a civil servant for her political opinions crosses a dangerous line and should serve as a warning sign.

We stand proudly behind Makbula Nassar.

Written and published in the name of +972 Magazine’s and...

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A room of our own: Building a new anti-racist space in Jerusalem

As Jerusalem grows more hostile toward anything remotely left wing, Israeli and Palestinian activists are looking to create a new space for activists to meet, plan, and struggle to change the face of the city.

By Sahar Vardi

I was 14 years old when I walked into a small room packed with books in a Tel Aviv alleyway, to hear a lecture about human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution in Israel. It was a subject I knew nothing about, but my youth movement counselor told me about the event, so I went. The truth is I remember very little about the actual lecture, but the experience of entering that space for the first time is something I cannot forget. The Salon Mazal infoshop was the place for these types of lectures — a library where I could look through all the books and learn about various, connected political worlds, and especially a place to meet other activists and talk about the latest protests we attended, and the actions we were planning.

I spent the next two years between Jerusalem, where I live, and Salon Mazal. There I could meet people of all ages who want to talk about politics, who could challenge my politics and allowed me to challenge theirs. A place where I felt comfortable enough not only to join their political actions, but to build and plan them together. Two years later, we opened a volunteer-run vegan bar in Jerusalem named Hadayla. When I needed to sit and rest in city center in the middle of the day, I would head there. When Israel’s president was offered a plea bargain after being convicted of rape, we organized at Hadayla. When we needed to go take down road blocks at the entrance the the West Bank village of Beit Omar, we organized at Hadayla.

No single formula for change

Over the past 13 years, I have taken part in a number of protest movements, and have seen how activism, particularly in Jerusalem, comes in waves. Out of nowhere comes a burst of energy, causing people to organize, distribute flyers, get arrested. In quieter times, we often look back to try and understand what drove us, how we had all that energy, how we were surrounded by more people. Every single time, I see the same images in my head: all of us sitting in the same space. Whether we...

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