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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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You can't fix Israel's economy without ending the occupation

Israel’s massive income inequality can’t be solved without addressing one of the country’s biggest expenses: decades of military rule over millions of Palestinians.

By Dr. Shlomo Swirski

If election campaigns were about policy, there would be two main issues at the center of the present Israeli election campaign. The first is the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The second is the unbalanced development of Israel’s economy, accompanied by persistently high poverty and inequality. The second is largely absent from the debate. The Palestinian issue is not – but it is present as the elephant in the room.

Prime Minister Netanyahu does not offer Israelis a way out of the present Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Instead, he cradles his image as “Mr. Security,” the only leader who knows how to deal with the Palestinians, the one who keeps the West Bank pacified while preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The elephant in the room is manifested in the newly formed largest opposition party, Blue and White, led by not one, not two, but three former chiefs of staff of the Israeli army. All three are careful not to indicate how they might break the impasse. They do not have to: they themselves, or rather their televised images, personify Israel’s long-standing Palestinian policy. Moreover, the prime minister is painting them as left-wingers, and Netanyahu excels at equating the left with a danger to Israel.

Thus, the three generals present themselves as “center” and toe the same line as the right: no Palestinian state, no partition of Jerusalem. Not only that, they insist that if they win and are tasked with forming a governing coalition, they would exclude parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel — amounting to 13 out of 120 legislators in the last Knesset.

The other major issue absent from the election campaign is the imbalance of Israel’s economy. Here, too, that absence serves to cover a basic cross-party ideological proximity. There is the “Start-Up Nation” that developed a spaceship presently making its way to the moon, which hosts more than 300 foreign research and development centers, and has a flourishing export-oriented weapons industry. This is the same country that ranks high on OECD inequality measures and has one of the highest poverty rates in the West.

“Start-Up Nation,” however, is a misnomer. High-tech industries and services employ no more than 10 percent of the Israeli labor force, mostly highly-educated people, are concentrated in or around Tel Aviv, and pay salaries that place them in the...

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Being a woman in Gaza

Women in Gaza rise above Israel’s blockade every day, and continue to thrive despite high unemployment rates and collapsing infrastructure.

By Qamar Taha

Over the past two years, I got to know dozens of extraordinary women from the Gaza Strip; entrepreneurial, creative, socially committed women who managed to build impressive careers despite the many difficulties and obstacles that life and the Israeli siege have subjected them to.

Mariam Abu-Ata studied architecture. After years of failed attempts to find employment, she considered emigrating to another country. She eventually decided to stay in Gaza and serve her community, now managing projects and development at Aisha Association for Women and Child Protection. Hanan Khashan, a computer science graduate, worked for two years in her field before following her dream and transitioning into digital marketing. She developed a project that aims to promote women in that field, and is planning on expanding her business to other Arab countries. Fathieh Timraz is an artist. When her partner passed away three years ago, leaving her with two young children, she started a business selling items she carves from wood.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, 29.4 percent of women in Gaza participated in the labor force, while the unemployment rate among women there stood at 74.6 percent. For women between the ages of 15 to 29, the unemployment rate was even higher, at 88.1 percent. Even though there was an increase in the number of women participating in the labor force over the past year, many trades are still considered male-oriented. In medicine, for example, there were 13.3 percent women, while 59.2 percent and 47.8 percent work in pharmaceuticals and nursing, respectively. The percentage of women practicing law was 23.4. In agriculture, it was 6.5 percent. Around two-thirds of women worked in the private sector, and the rate of poverty among women reached 53.8 percent.

Several factors explain these numbers: social conditions, economic devastation, lack of stability at the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, the internal political divide in Palestinian politics, but mostly, Israel’s blockade on the strip. These factors have a direct and significant effect on women’s lives and their access to the labor force. Due to the shortage of jobs, many women are forced to work outside their fields of specialization, and employment outside the Gaza Strip is rare.

There was an increase in the percentage of female-led households in Gaza, from 7...

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What the tensions on the Temple Mount are really about

While Israel has tried to remove extremist Muslim groups from the Temple Mount, the power of Jewish extremists has only grown. Now the latter are doing all they can to try and change the delicate status quo in their favor.

By Yonathan Mizrachi 

In recent weeks tensions have escalated on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, leading to clashes between Palestinian worshipers and police, a large number of arrests, an Israeli court injunction, and calls for mass protests. An analysis of the latest events, and the history leading up to them, makes clear that the current conflict over Bab al-Rahma is inextricably linked to the Third Temple movements’ goal of building a synagogue on the Mount.

Last month, the Islamic Waqf, the Muslim body responsible for overseeing the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, reopened the Bab al-Rahma (Golden Gate) and designated it for Muslim prayer. In theory this should have remained an internal matter for the Waqf, but fierce objections by Jewish Third Temple movements and Israeli politicians rapidly turned the affair into a political issue.

Bab al-Rahma is arguably the most unique of all the Old City gates in Jerusalem. It is the only gate that leads directly onto the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and the only gate that remains blocked to this day. Bab al-Rahma features in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. A Muslim cemetery, also called Bab al-Rahma, is situated on its east, and to its west, the gate segues into a split-level compound with a large hall and chambers.

The date of the gate’s construction remains disputed, but we do know from the testimonies of Jewish pilgrims in the 12th century that by then the gate was already sealed. According to one telling, the Muslim cemetery of Bab al-Rahma was already established in the 8th century CE to thwart the Jewish messiah, who according to tradition would use the route to reach the Temple Mount. The gate has remained sealed ever since. Another narrative posits that the gate was closed to protect against Christian invaders.

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In Judaism, Bab al-Rahma is said to be the gate through which the messiah will enter Jerusalem. The fact that it is sealed gives credence to the tradition that it will only reopen at the time of redemption. For followers of the Third Temple movement, it has turned it into something of a pilgrimage...

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I’m Jewish, and I’m ashamed of how we’re treating Ilhan Omar

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is being accused of anti-Semitism not because criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic, but because the pro-Israel lobby has done a great job of making the American public and Congress believe that story.

By Scott Brown

The House of Representatives is set to bring a resolution to the floor on Thursday to confront Ilhan Omar’s comments on the influence of Israel and the Israel lobby in American politics, a controversy that has escalated rapidly since her Tweets about AIPAC’s influence on certain Congress members on February 10.

At the same time, most Democratic leaders have been deafeningly silent about a poster connecting Ilhan Omar to the 9/11 attacks that was posted at a Republican celebration in West Virginia last weekend.

But just as silent have been mainstream Jewish institutions. In response to Omar’s comments, organizations claiming to stand against hate and defend Jewish people, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Weisenthal Center, have written assertive public letters addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for another condemnation of Omar’s comments, and even for her to be stripped of her role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Meanwhile, their response to the Islamophobic poster? Silence. Or a singular tweet.

I am deeply angered and ashamed at the response of Jewish institutions to Ilhan Omar. As a white American Jew who has simultaneously experienced hate and enjoyed white privilege, I believe I cannot claim to stand for things like safety and justice for all without both understanding and showing up in solidarity with the struggles of others. To my fellow Jews, I say if that feels true for you too, then ask yourself: what does it say that the mainstream Jewish community is attacking people like the first black Muslim woman in Congress for criticizing Israel?

Have we taken the time to learn her story of escaping the Somali civil war and surviving refugee camps as a child? Have we looked at her impressive record as a state legislator, human rights activist, and advocate for women and children? Have we taken into consideration how all of these experiences may have actually given her a deep understanding of what oppression and injustice looks like, including for Jewish people?

Or have we reactionarily condemned black leaders as Jew-haters because we’re unable to differentiate between critique of Israel and anti-Semitism?

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Once a vibrant natural reserve, Gaza's coastal wetland is now a health hazard

Water scarcity in the Gaza Strip has transformed Wadi Gaza into an environmental disaster that affects hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israel’s blockade makes its rehabilitation even more challenging.

By Amjad Yaghi

Ahmed Hilles, an expert with the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, makes sure to pinch his nose when crossing the bridge over Wadi Gaza. Also known as Gaza Valley, the wadi lies in the middle of the Gaza Strip. Almost two decades ago, Palestinians from Gaza would come here to enjoy the view, the natural habitat, and the wildlife. Today it’s a dumping site for construction debris and sewage, letting off pungent odors and posing a public health risk to Gazans.

In June 2000, the Palestinian Ministry of Environmental Affairs declared Gaza Valley a nature reserve due to its significance as a natural ecosystem. The only coastal wetland in the Palestinian territories, the valley used to support a rich variety of plants and animals. A convergence of developments over the past few years, however, transformed the once-vibrant reserve into an environmental disaster.

The Gaza Valley springs from the South Hebron Hills and the Naqab, known in Hebrew as the Negev desert, in total over 100 km (62 miles) long. Inside the strip, its twists and turns span 9 km (5.6 miles), eventually discharging into the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaza Valley was historically one of the main water sources in southeast Palestine, says the director of research at the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, Hiam al-Bitar. Archeological excavations in the area have revealed evidence of life along the banks of the valley dating back to the Bronze Age, he explained.

When Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967, it also seized control of all the water sources in those areas, which, according to human rights group B’Tselem, it continues to control to this day, with the exception of the coastal aquifer that runs under Gaza. Water supply to the West Bank and Gaza, largely determined through negotiated agreements with Israel, is not enough to cover Palestinians’ domestic, commercial and industrial needs. Over-exploitation, sea water intrusion and sewage pollution of the coastal aquifer – the source of 95 percent of water in Gaza – have exacerbated the water scarcity there.

Extensive urban development has transformed the wetland, and the lack of adequate infrastructure is one of the primary factors destroying it. “Unfortunately, 65 percent of people...

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Feminist Palestinian lawmaker free after 20 months in prison without trial

Khalida Jarrar is released from Israeli custody following almost two years under administrative detention.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar was released Thursday morning after nearly two years in Israeli administrative detention. This is not the first time Israel has put Jarrar under administrative detention, a practice in which detainees are held without charge or trial.

Jarrar was first arrested in April 2015 and placed under administrative detention for six months, after she refused to comply with a military expulsion order. The Israeli army had ordered her at the time to leave her home in Ramallah within 24 hours and move to Jericho for a period of 1.5 years. Israeli military authorities accused her of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a party she represents in the Palestinian Legislative Council, but which is outlawed by Israel.

“I still do not know what I was arrested for, I was only told that I am dangerous,” Jarrar said during a reception in Ramallah on Thursday afternoon. “This is what we have always said when it comes to administrative detention — that it’s arbitrary. That it’s always political. Therefore we demand to put an end to this illegal practice.”

Jarrar’s detention led to a global campaign for her release. She was eventually released from administrative detention and put on trial, where she faced 12 charges, the majority of which involved her parliamentary work and activism: her association with the PFLP, participation in protests, giving speeches and interviews to the media, a visit to a solidarity tent for Palestinian prisoners, and incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers. In December 2015, Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison as part of a plea bargain.

She was released in June 2016, only to be re-arrested a year later, in July 2017. She had been in administrative detention ever since.

“I met prisoners from all over Palestine, from ’48, from Jerusalem to the West Bank and Gaza,” she told journalists during the reception. “Women prisoners and minors. Their message is one: they want freedom. The second demand is a call for Palestinian unity.”

“I feel mixed feelings. I left behind 48 women prisoners who suffer and want freedom, “Jarrar continued. “On the other hand, I’m very happy to be released because there is nothing like being free. It gives me the strength to continue fighting for imprisoned women.”

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According to Jarrar’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, her family had been told ahead of time...

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Netanyahu to be indicted on bribery charges. Here's what you need to know

The indictment would mark the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday on criminal offenses in all three corruption cases against him. The attorney general decided to charge Netanyahu with bribery in one case alone, pending a hearing, while bringing a lesser charge of breach of trust in the other two.

The decision would mark the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister faced criminal charges. Netanyahu, who has repeatedly said that he will not step down should he be indicted, has called the charges “absurd,” saying that the prosecution’s “house of cards will soon collapse.” Likud officials have blamed the decision on pressure and “bullying” by the left.

The charges revolve around three cases, known as Case 1000, Case 2000, and Case 4000. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving gifts and benefits from billionaire patrons in exchange for political favors. Case 2000 involves Netanyahu’s alleged agreement with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, to reduce the circulation of rival newspaper Israel Hayom and perhaps even stop it from putting out a weekend magazine edition — in return for more favorable coverage in Yedioth.

In Case 4000, considered the most serious of the three in which Netanyahu is expected to be charged with bribery, the prime minister is suspected of having promoted regulatory decisions that benefited Israeli businessman Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel’s largest telecommunications company, and who owns Israeli news site Walla!, in exchange for positive news coverage.

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Here are some of the articles +972 Magazine has published on the ongoing investigations into Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, what they mean for democracy, the state of the Israeli press, and Palestinians:

  • Dahlia Scheindlin wrote about why Netanyahu’s refusal to resign is only one of the deep offenses to democracy that the investigations have come to represent. “What should be an enviable display of independent law enforcement agencies holding public representatives accountable is turning into a showcase — and possibly a harbinger — of the erosion of democratic norms in Israel,” she writes.
  • Writing about the Yedioth scandal, Shuki Tausig, who heads The Seventh Eye news watchdog site, believes Netanyahu’s shady dealings with Mozes reveal the driving force behind Israel’s biggest newspapers: profit and ideology....
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How to stop Kahanists from taking over

Twenty-five years after a follower of Meir Kahane massacred Palestinian worshipers in Hebron, Netanyahu is basing his future coalition on a Kahanist party. Now Israelis will have to decide between apartheid and a future of hope and equality.

By Raluca Ganea

Reality is often too complex to draw clear lines between cause and effect. But occasionally, a single act by a single person changes the course of history. Twenty-five years ago, on February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Instead of evacuating the Hebron settlement following the massacre, Israel punished the city’s Palestinian residents by severely restricting their movement. The Israeli army imposed a two-month curfew, shut down businesses in one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and turned Hebron into the ghost town it is today. Palestinian suicide bombings commenced shortly afterwards. With Israeli public terrified, the atmosphere became increasingly extreme, leading to the wild incitement that eventually led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Since then, Hebron has become the ultimate symbol of Israel’s occupation, and a stronghold of Kahanism – a fascist ideology named for the founder of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who sought Jewish supremacy through violence. Goldstein was one of Kahane’s followers, and his spirit hovers over the current election cycle in more ways than one.

Last week, one of the rabbis who exerts influence over the far-right Jewish Home party set a precondition for the party’s union with the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, demanding Otzma member Itamar Ben-Gvir remove Baruch Goldstein’s framed photo from the walls of his office. Ben-Gvir refused, but the unification proceeded nevertheless with the active encouragement of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is not deterred from potentially forming a coalition with a Kahanist party that openly runs on a racist, ultra-nationalist platform.

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The Kahanists have been Netanyahu’s covert allies since the 1990s. All he had to do was stand on a balcony overlooking angry crowds inciting against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem’s Zion Square; the Kahanists took care of the rest. In fact, Kahanism has seeped into a far wider spectrum of Israeli politics than many care to admit, by legitimizing anyone who demands a “Jewish majority” in the Knesset, and anyone who isn’t working with determination and perseverance to end the occupation. The...

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When we celebrate Israeli democracy, we celebrate the violence of occupation

In democratic countries, elections are conventionally described as ‘a celebration.’ But in an undemocratic reality of endless military occupation, they become an overt celebration of the violence of the powerful.

By Hagai El-Ad

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered these words in his 1957 “Give Us the Ballot” speech, part of his attempt to challenge the reality in America’s Deep South, where Black people were citizens yet still denied the right to vote by various ruses. For Palestinians who have lived under Israel’s rule since 1967, the mere right to vote is not even an option.

In a few months the public will go to the polls for another round of elections in which we, Israeli citizens, will vote and make decisions not only about our own fate, but also about the fate of millions of subjects who are perpetually denied political rights. The regulations and orders we dictate will continue to advance our interests while managing their lives. All they can do is submit to the edict of others.

In democratic countries, elections are conventionally described as “a celebration of democracy.” But in an undemocratic reality, elections sadly become an overt celebration of violence.

Election campaigns in Israel thoughtlessly celebrate the privileges of those eligible to vote, while showing almost complete apathy to the exclusion of millions of subjects. Palestinians, of course, have no need to be reminded of their condition — they are well aware of the reality in which they live. But even so, a situation in which every few years Israelis spend months wondering exactly how they should continue to control the lives of others marks a nadir in the violence we have internalized.

Whether public discourse during the elections includes a debate on these issues, or whether politicians and the public do everything they can to avoid mentioning the occupation, the political choices Israelis make determine how to entrench the occupation regime. We determine how we will manage the enormous prison that is the Gaza Strip from the outside; how many homes we will demolish and how many communities we will displace in the West Bank;...

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Hundreds protest segregation in Hebron's Shuhada Street

While Palestinians continue paying the price for the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, carried out by a Jewish settler 25 years ago, those who share the attacker’s racist ideology are now being offered ministerial positions in Israel’s Knesset.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators marched in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday to protest against segregation in the city and against the expansion of Israeli settlements.

This week marks 25 years to the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, in which Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in the city. After the attack, Israeli forces closed off Shuhada Street to Palestinian residents. Some 900 Jewish Israeli settlers who live among the tens of thousands of Palestinians in the city can walk and drive along the street as they wish.

The years-long closure has had a detrimental impact on Palestinians, who haven’t been able to access houses and shops they own along that street. Some have had to climb over rooftops to reach their homes.

According to Local Call’s Oren Ziv and Haggai Matar, protestors marched toward Checkpoint 56, which separates the part of the city governed by the Palestinian Authority from the Israeli-controlled area. They carried signs calling for the return of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) – the only observer group in the city with an official international mandate. In late January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to renew the group’s mandate, effectively expelling the observers from the city after 22 years of monitoring the human rights situation there.

Ziv and Matar also reported that Israeli soldiers were stationed along the route of the protest, on the side of the city allegedly controlled by the PA, already before the protest began. When the crowd of demonstrators approached Checkpoint 56, soldiers pushed them back. At another checkpoint, close to the Tel Rumeida area, soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at a group of protestors who were hurling stones – against the organizers’ request to keep the protest peaceful. Soldiers also fired stun grenades at a group of journalists.

Baruch Goldstein, who carried out the Ibrahimi Mosque attack in 1994, was a supporter of Meir Kahane, a far-right anti-Arab rabbi who founded the Jewish Defense League, described by the FBI as a terrorist organization. While Palestinians continue paying the price for an attack they were victims of, those who share Kahane’s...

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How to build an opposition: Lessons from South African Apartheid

What can the Israeli left learn from South Africa? Instead of trying to defeat its right-wing rivals, the opposition should propose a platform of equality and humanism.

By Liel Maghen

It’s not uncommon for the history of South Africa to come up when discussing the history and present of Israel-Palestine. There are those who compare Israel’s regime in the occupied territories to South Africa’s Apartheid regime, while others recall the movement to boycott South Africa as a means of applying the same kind of pressure to Israel. Then there are those who find inspiration in the transitional justice of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, hoping one day to establish a similar committee that would bring justice to those living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

But there is an additional similarity that has largely gone undiscussed: the fate of South Africa’s main opposition party. These days as Labor, Israel’s main opposition party. continues to veer toward the center and blurs the differences between itself and the nationalist right, we can stand to learn the lessons of another opposition party that didn’t do enough to challenge the regime.

The wrong side of history

Following the Boer Wars, where independent republics established by European settlers in what would become South Africa launched a rebellion against the British Empire, four former British colonies were united in 1910 to form the Union of South Africa.

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Despite its aspirations to promote a moderate agenda, various political considerations engendered a different set of policies. During the first decade of its rule, the SAP brought the rival National Party, which supported racial separation and discrimination, into its coalition. When the National Party won the elections a few years later, the SAP did not hesitate to join its coalition. Following the 1933 elections, when it failed to make significant electoral gains, SAP gave up almost entirely on its moderate platform and merged with the National Party to form the United South African National Party. The union enabled SAP to join the government for a long period until 1948, when the union was dissolved.

Since that year, it seems the party has missed every opportunity to be on the right side of history. Although more liberal than the National Party, which was responsible for enacting the Apartheid legislation, SAP never made opposition to discrimination a...

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