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The world had decades to stop annexation. Just ask Palestinians

Partially annexed or temporarily occupied, Palestinians living under Israel’s thumb do not need legal expertise or international recognition to realize how cheap their lives are to their oppressor.

By Hagai El-Ad

On the eve of Israel’s recent elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu made a campaign promise to annex parts of the West Bank, which was followed by a flood of impassioned international appeals. One cannot help but wonder about the gap between all the fuss about a potential future statement on de jure annexation and decades of inaction in response to unilateral Israeli steps, which have already established a reality of de facto annexation.

Formal annexation of parts of the West Bank will not suddenly lay bare Israel’s genuine long-term intentions regarding all the area west of the Jordan River. These objectives have already been clearly spelled out in action over decades. Nor will it usher in a new era of disenfranchising Palestinians, for they have long been living without political rights, ruled by the arbitrary decisions made by Israelis.

“America must stop Binyamin Netanyahu from annexing Palestinian land,” said The Economist, for “[s]ome of his election pledges would kill the chance of a two-state solution.” Mainstream Jewish groups implored President Trump to restrain the prime minister, concerned that annexation might “galvanize efforts such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that are intended to isolate and delegitimize Israel.” Even AIPAC-affiliated Democrats warned Netanyahu not to do it, while invoking tired clichés such as “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Meanwhile, in a speech before the European Parliament, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that “in fact, the two-state solution is not only fading away. It is being dismantled piece by piece.”

Had they all failed to notice that thanks to their longstanding inaction, they were pleading for a future that has already passed?

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For decades on end, it was the international community that did not “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” to make an actual difference, offering words but no action through years of feigned concern. Now, once again, concern is being expressed over “preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution.” It is difficult to imagine framing the matter in weaker, vaguer, or more ambiguous terms.

The international community was willing to “express concern” yet was unwilling to do almost anything to actually “preserve...

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PODCAST: What just happened? A post-election debrief

Post-election Israel looks a lot like pre-election Israel, but a lot of progressives now have some painful questions to ask themselves. Lisa Goldman joins the podcast to talk about what comes next.

Listen here: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify

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A week after Netanyahu easily won another election, things don’t look all that different in Israel-Palestine. But one thing has changed: all those who told themselves Israel was seeking a two-state solution this entire time now have some difficult and painful questions to ask themselves.

Our guest this week, +972 Magazine co-founder and contributing editor Lisa Goldman, doesn’t think most people have the courage to look that reality in the eyes.

“They’re going to come up against a pretty thick wall pretty soon. How can we be a democracy if half the people living now permanently under Israeli control can’t vote. That’s going to be pretty difficult to explain to the outside world.”

Listen here: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify

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Women filmmakers shine at Palestine's first student film fest

The first Bethlehem Student Film Festival included a strong showing from Palestinian women from both sides of the Green Line, with films tackling patriarchy, gender stereotypes, and the occupation.

By Suha Arraf

The Bethlehem Student Film Festival kicked off last week, showcasing 74 student films from all over the world, including France, Algeria, Egypt, China, Syria, the UK, and, of course, Palestine. The event, the first of its kind, was organized by the film department at Dar Al Kalima University College in Bethlehem.

While globally the number of women directors stands at less than 10 percent, among Palestinians that number is equal to that of men, setting a world record. That balance was reflected at the festival as well, where about half of the Palestinian films screened were created by women.

“The number of male students at the college is equal to the number of female students, and this reflects the respect that Palestinians have for creators and intellectuals,” said Saed Andoni, the head of the Dar Al Kalima’s film department. “Society has come to understand that artists are astute people who try to tell people’s stories, their suffering, and distress.”

Women-led movies are typically characterized by their sharp criticism toward Palestinian society. Some of the young women decided to tackle feminist-social issues, while steering away from directly taking on explicitly political subjects.

Andoni explains that while some of the films made by Palestinian students were received by international film festivals, the students weren’t able to travel and participate. “Some couldn’t get a travel permit from the Israeli occupiers, other couldn’t afford the expenses involved. Some of the families wouldn’t allow the women to travel abroad on their own.” As such, he said, there was a strong need for Palestinians to hold their own student festival, “to afford our students the experience and show them what international festivals involve.”

“We live under siege and cannot escape into the world from this jail — so we brought the world to us.”

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Shayma Awawdeh’s film, “4th Floor,” was one of the short dramas that stood out. The movie tells the story of a student who attempts to move apartments in Bethlehem on her own. The apartment she’s moving into is on the fourth floor, and the entire film takes place in the elevator, as the student carries her suitcases and boxes under the watchful eyes of judgmental...

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Palestinian citizens of Israel debate an election boycott

After four years of one of the most hostile governments for Palestinians in Israel, Arab citizens are debating whether participating in or boycotting the upcoming Knesset elections is the best way to advance their struggle.

By Henriette Chacar and Edo Konrad

Frustrated with the breakdown of internal Arab party politics, and beset by an endless stream of attacks by politicians from across the political spectrum, many Palestinian citizens of Israel are expressing reservations about voting in this week’s elections. Despite a historically high voter participation rate, a small but prominent movement is urging Palestinian citizens to boycott the vote.

The fierce debate pits Palestinians calling to boycott elections against those who see participating in the political system as one of the few tools available to them for contesting Israel’s persecution of Palestinians — both the 20 percent of its population Israel calls a “demographic threat” and the millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories who live under Israeli rule but cannot vote.

The debate is as old as Israel itself. But this year the calls to boycott have grown more prominent and heated than they have been in years. Activists have plastered posters across cities in Israel encouraging Palestinian citizens to stay home on Election Day, and prominent Palestinian politicians, journalists, and even hip hop stars have weighed in.

Palestinian hip hop star Tamer Nafar’s video on the boycott:

The ambivalence is striking, considering how electrified Palestinian citizens were in the run-up to the 2015 elections. After the Israeli right raised the electoral threshold in an attempt to keep Palestinian parties out, the four major Palestinian parties united on a single ticket in order to survive. The Joint List promised to prioritize the needs of Israel’s Palestinian citizens after decades of division and political infighting. It was a watershed moment for Palestinians in Israel — the Joint List won 13 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, the most since the founding of the state.

The promise of unity, however, coincided with one of the most dangerous Israeli governments Palestinians citizens have ever seen. The last Netanyahu government sought to demolish entire villages, upheld laws to enshrine ethnic and racial segregation, and incited a new wave of racism against Arab citizens. Then, in June 2018, the Knesset passed the Jewish Nation-State Law, constitutionally enshrining Jewish supremacy in Israel. The crescendo came when the Joint List...

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PODCAST: Voting to maintain the occupation is a rational choice for Israelis

The choice Israelis face isn’t just one or two states. There’s a third option, the one they keep choosing: the status quo. And how do Palestinians, who live under Israeli rule but can’t vote, look at Israeli elections? Listen to the latest episode of The +972 Podcast.

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Israeli elections are right around the corner. But for a country that controls millions of non-citizens, the concept of democracy becomes muddled.

In this episode, +972 Magazine writer Noam Sheizaf explains why, as opposed to the one- or two-state paradigm most of the world thinks in, Israelis consistently vote for a third option: maintaining the occupation just as it is.

In the second half, former +972 writer Omar Rahman, a journalist and visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, talks about what it means for Palestinians to have no say in elections that could determine their national fate, in addition to their daily lives.

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No Bolsonaro, visiting Yad Vashem doesn't make you a 'friend of the Jews'

Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Israel this week is just the latest step in Netanyahu’s warming relations with a new cadre of authoritarian leaders. 

By Sergio Storch

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s four-day visit to Israel demonstrates just how important the South American country has become to Netanyahu over the past few years.

The trip includes a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s renowned Holocaust museum, which commemorates one of the worst tragedies in history and sets out to ensure that genocide remains a thing of the past. For many, Yad Vashem serves as an inspiring example of how crucial collective memories are for strengthening both the identities and coping mechanisms of groups who have suffered violent persecution.

And yet, the meaning of a visit to Yad Vashem takes a different tone when the guest of honor represents hatred, oppression, and the devaluation of life. Netanyahu didn’t seem to worry about this when he brings Bolsonaro to the museum. After all, it is not the first time Netanyahu has invited a far-right nationalist leader to Yad Vashem; leaders of Hungary, Poland, and the Philippines — all of them known for their extremist policies and rhetoric — have also visited the museum alongside the Israeli prime minister.

Boslsonaro’s visit comes on the heels of his infamous “anti-crime package,” which increases sentences for serious crimes such as robbery, corruption, and embezzlement, and incorporates Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to back police officers who open fire at suspected criminals deemed dangerous by security forces. Brazilian human rights NGOs have labeled the package a “fake solution” that would only increase violence — as well as incarceration rates — among Brazil’s poor.

Netanyahu is no fool. On the eve of Israeli elections, by appearing with Bolsonaro at Yad Vashem he can sell the image of the leader of a 200 million-strong country ostensibly honoring Jewish suffering. But the visit goes beyond simple political calculus: Bolsonaro is just another leader being used in Netanyahu’s attempt to rewrite history and use the Holocaust as an attempt to justify Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

In turn, these heads of state receive the prime minister’s blessing, and a defense against charges of anti-Semitism, despite their hatred for various other minority groups, whether Muslim refugees, African migrants, Mexicans, or indigenous people. Visiting Yad Vashem washes these leaders of their guilt, even as their governments continue to dabble in anti-Semitism, as is the case in Viktor...

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Hundreds of Israelis protest Gaza blockade outside IDF headquarters

The demonstration in the heart of Tel Aviv was in solidarity with Palestinians taking part in the Great March of Return.

By +972 Magazine Staff, Photos by Keren Manor/Activestills.org

Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated in solidarity with Gaza protesters Saturday evening outside Israeli military headquarters in central Tel Aviv, marking Land Day and one year since the beginning of the Great March of Return protests.

The protesters waved Palestinian flags and held signs in support of the Palestinian right of return while chanting against the 11-year blockade of the strip.

The demonstration came hours after tens of thousands of Palestinians protested at several locations along the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops used live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and tear gas to try and disperse demonstrators who approached the fence. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, Israeli snipers killed three 17-year-old boys during the protests, and more than 300 others were wounded, including five who were in critical condition.

Adham Amara, 17, was shot and killed east of Gaza City, and Bilal Mahmoud Najjar, and Tamer Aby el-Khair, both 17, were shot in east of Khan Yunis and died later at the hospital.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed and over 29,000 have been wounded by Israeli security forces since the Great Return March began on the Israel-Gaza border in March of last year.

The protests came as Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, were said to be nearing “understandings” about a cease-fire following a tense several weeks that saw rockets fired at Tel Aviv and Israeli bombing raids across Gaza. Hamas’ demands reportedly focused on easing the blockade, while one of Israel’s central demands was that Hamas rein back the weekly protests along the fence.

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Talk of Golan annexation leaves out those expelled from it

President Trump’s recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights has been widely celebrated by Israelis. But do those same Israelis know of the hundreds of thousands of people expelled from the territory during the 1967 war?

By Tom Pessah

The vast majority of Israelis are still unaware that over 130,000 residents of the Golan Heights were expelled from their villages, towns, and cities during the 1967 war. In fact, over the past decades, the territory has become a “consensus” issue among most Israelis, with many seeing no reason to return it. So while President Trump stunned the world last week by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan, in Israel almost everyone celebrated the move.

Like in the case of Palestinian refugees, for decades the official Israeli line was that the Golan’s inhabitants simply fled of their own accord. According to Syrian estimates, however, only approximately 50,000 of them escaped Israeli bombardments and left alongside the retreating Syrian army. Israeli soldiers admitted in interviews that many residents stayed behind and waited to return to their villages, while others attempted to re-cross the armistice lines.

The IDF would turn to the same methods used against Palestinians in 1948 to prevent the return of the new refugees to their homes — razing entire villages to the ground, driving out the residents, and shooting “infiltrators.” Whether through direct expulsion or prevention of return, Israel was effectively ethnically cleansing the Golan.

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Many of the refugees remain on the Syrian side of the border, in the Damascus and Dara areas, leaving them vulnearable to the deadly impact of the civil war in the country. According to Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre in the Golan Heights, the current number of refugees and their descendants is estimated at 500,000.

Only one group was permitted to remain: between 6,000-7,000 Syrian Druze, who mostly live in four villages in the northern Golan, many of whom have relatives in Syria who are not permitted to return to their villages. The Israeli authorities assumed that following the 1967 war, the Golan Druze would become loyal Israeli citizens, echoing the decision made by the Druze leadership inside Israel in 1948. In practice, the Golan Druze have been resisting Israeli control for over 50 years. Today there are 22,000 Druze in the Golan, but only 1,700 have accepted Israeli citizenship, and the residents there...

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You have the power to stop apartheid: An open letter to AIPAC

American Jews, who play such a central role in what happens in Israel, can put an end to the oppression of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. But only if they tell Israelis that enough is enough.

By Marzuq al-Halabi

Dear AIPAC leaders,

In one of his most famous poems, “Think of Others,” Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish asks the reader to keep the other in mind at all times. This, he writes, should apply whether we are preparing breakfast, paying our water bill, or declaring war. I wonder, then, whether you, as you take part in your annual conference next week think about us over here? Do you think about me or my 19-year-old daughter Shaden, who these days is head over heels in love?

Jewish people across the world have much influence over what is happening in Israel, a fact that to a large degree also affects my fate. Thus, as the third wheel in your relationship with the state in which I live, allow me to ask a few simple, banal questions. Ordinary questions, like those in Darwish’s poem.

Before you invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the conference goers, ask him about the daily, unbridled incitement against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, people yearn for a decent life, as do all the people of the world — as do you, Jewish-American citizens of the United States. Ask him and his friends about who gave them the right, the power, and the justification to pass the Jewish Nation-State Law, which creates a hierarchy between communities and nationalists, and which is a gateway to a racist state?

When they come to Washington D.C. to speak about the right of the Jewish people in its homeland, ask them about the rights of people such as myself, non-Jews, in their homeland. Do you know of Jewish values that undermine values of universalism, human rights, and democracy? Would you accept a situation in which American Jews are prevented from having the same rights as other citizens?

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My questions, of course, pertain to citizens of Israel inside the Green Line. These are residents of the State of Israel whose land was expropriated and never returned, even if it was never put to use. These are citizens, a third of whom are internal refugees, uprooted from their villages and towns in 1948 and forbidden to return, even if they live just a stones throw away....

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WATCH: Israeli soldiers break into Palestinian school, arrest 10-year-old

Fully armed soldiers enter the school in occupied Hebron, threaten teachers, and take away a child they likely exceeded their authority to arrest because of his age.

By Meron Rapoport

Fully armed Israeli soldiers forced their way into a Palestinian school in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and took away a 10-year-old boy this week. The age of criminal culpability is 12 years old under both Israeli civilian and military law.

While the soldiers likely exceeded their authority in this case, it would hardly be the first time that has happened. Israeli soldiers have been documented arresting and detaining far-younger Palestinian children over the years, particularly in Hebron.

The incident this week took place at the Haj Ziad Jaber School in of Hebron, a city in the West Bank where hundreds of Israeli soldiers are permanently stationed alongside hundreds of Jewish settlers and tens of thousands of Palestinians.

While the Jewish settlers living in the same city are subject to Israeli civilian law, Palestinians, even those living on the same street, are subject to military law and can be arrested by Israeli troops — a foreign army — at any time.

According to a report in Ma’an News, which published a video of the incident, the soldiers forced their way into the school and snatched the child from his classroom. On its Facebook page, the school wrote that the boy is a fourth grader.

In the video, an Israeli army officer can be seen grabbing the boy, who appears very young. A few Palestinian adults, including the school’s vice principal, try and stop the soldiers from taking the child.

Another Israeli soldier can be seen pushing an older Palestinian man, who Ma’an identified as the vice principal. When yet another Palestinian educator tries explaining to the soldiers that these were small children, the Israeli officer responds in Hebrew, “they threw stones, I don’t care how old they are,” adding that he would take them to an Israeli police station.

When the vice principal asks the Israeli soldiers to explain what is happening in Arabic, the army officer responds, again in Hebrew: “I don’t give a crap about your Arabic.”

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Most Palestinians do not speak Hebrew and the vast...

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Introducing 'The +972 Podcast'

In our first episode, MK Aida Touma-Sliman discusses why she thinks an election boycott is the wrong way to fight for Palestinian rights in Israel. In the second episode, Ethiopian-Israeli activist Mazal Bisawer talks about why Israelis have such hard time seeing anti-black racism in their society.

Where to subscribe: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Pocket Casts.

Listen to this week’s episode:

If you’re anything like us, you don’t always have enough time to sit down and read enough on the issues you care about. If you’re also like us, you make up for it by listening to smart podcasts while washing the dishes, driving to work, hitting the gym, or just lying on the couch.

Which is why we just launched “The +972 Podcast.” Every two weeks (and every week until the Israeli elections) we’ll be giving you the top-quality storytelling and analysis you’ve come to expect from +972 Magazine — but in a podcast.

Make sure to subscribe now, so you don’t miss an episode: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Pocket Casts.

On the show, we’ll be interviewing activists, politicians, and journalists. +972 writers and editors will take you behind the scenes of our reporting. We’ll be bringing you a diverse set of voices that you won’t find anywhere else. In short, the podcast will be everything you’ve come to expect from us: smart, interesting discussions about the issues and stories that other media outlets tend to ignore.

In our first episode, Palestinian Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman discusses the disqualification of an entire Arab party from running in the upcoming elections, and pushes back on the idea of an election boycott, asserting that “when it gets bad, you’re supposed to fight harder and not run away.” In the same episode, +972’s Noam Sheizaf discusses the political re-alignment taking place in Israel, the anyone-but-Netanyahu platform of his sole challengers, and why Kahanists in the Knesset is bad news.

In our second episode, prominent Ethiopian-Israeli activist Mazal Bisawer talks about protests following the police shooting of a young black Israeli man, whether anyone is representing the Ethiopian community in these elections, and why it’s so hard for Israelis to admit there is anti-black racism in their society. Later in...

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Why won't Jewish leaders condemn Netanyahu's racism?

The silence of our communal leaders signals that remaining silent in the face of prejudice is legitimate, as long as it isn’t happening to Jews.

By Emily Hilton

One of the first things we are taught when as children is that racism is wrong, and that when we see it, we must call it out. As Jews, especially diaspora Jews, we know the perils of racist language, laws, and deeds that go unchallenged.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which styles itself as the representative body of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, has not made a single public statement on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent declaration that “Israel is a state for Jews only.” This is the same Board of Deputies that blamed the killing of 52 Gaza protestors during the Great Return March on Hamas, praised the decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and put out a formal statement congratulating Donald Trump on his election win.

Even organizations such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee have raised concerns about Netanyahu’s recent coalition with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. Meanwhile, the Board has justified its silence by claiming that it does not “comment on Israeli elections,” a decision that comes across not only as completely arbitrary, but also highlights a true lack of moral leadership for diaspora Jews.

It is important to recognize that when Netanyahu says Israel is for Jews alone, he is merely voicing the reality of what the Jewish state has become: a two-tiered system between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the anger , which argue that Netanyahu’s comments do not reflect the equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, now rings hollow. The declaration’s commitment to equality lost any virtue of relevance or meaning decades ago, compounded by legislation so overtly racist, it raises questions as to whether anyone can really believe such ideals are on the agenda of Israel’s leading politicians.

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Like many other Jewish institutions, the Board is clearly in a bind, having spent the better part of a century scrupulously defending nearly every political decision Israel has made, all while ignoring almost 52 years of occupation. Such uncritical support of Israel is not only immoral, it shows how out of touch the Jewish establishment in Britain is with large facets the community,...

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What's so scary about a state of all its citizens?

What sounds like a basic democratic concept is not only at odds with Israel’s founding principles, it is viewed as a direct threat.

By Asaf Calderon

Benjamin Netanyahu made waves in and outside of Israel this week when, responding to a statement by actress Rotem Sela that Israel should belong to all of its citizens, Arabs and Jews alike, he wrote “Israel is not a state of all its citizens.” While the shocked reactions should be welcomed, the indignation is also indicative of how little the world is paying attention to the mainstream discourse in Israel.

In Israel today, the prime minister saying that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — alone” is analogous to an American politician stating that “our children deserve the best future,” or “our troops are heroes” — a political statement so self-evident it might as well be on the flag.

Yet what sounds like a basic democratic concept is actually at odds with Israel’s founding principles. The term “a state of all its citizens” in the Israeli context refers to a political idea that has developed in opposition to the Zionist concept of a Jewish state. It is the idea that Israel will not be defined as a Jewish state, but rather a democratic one that grants equality to all its citizens, regardless of religion or nationality.

Israel was founded as “Jewish and democratic,” or more precisely, as the nation-state of the Jewish people in which non-Jews can live and theoretically have equal civil rights. These rights are enshrined in the country’s Declaration of Independence: “[the State of Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture […]”.

Based on these principles, the Palestinian minority can enjoy equal individual but not national rights. The right of a Palestinian person to their piece of land, for example, is granted, yet the right of the Palestinian people to its land is not.

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However, civil equality was never truly granted to Palestinians inside Israel, as evidenced by discrimination and racist policies vis-a-vis issues such as land ownership, housing, infrastructure, income inequality, and police brutality, among many others. It is also important to note that these civil rights are entirely denied to the...

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