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From heat waves to 'eco-apartheid': Climate change in Israel-Palestine

July 2019 was, according to European climate researchers, the hottest month ever recorded. Coming just one year after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its landmark report warning of an impending climate catastrophe, temperatures soared to unprecedented levels in places like Alaska and Sweden, forests incinerated in Siberia, glaciers melted in Greenland, and entire cities in India went without water.

Faced with rising temperatures, addressing climate breakdown and its effects on humanity has become a key issue for governments, politicians, and movements for social justice around the world. Israel-Palestine, located in one of the hottest regions of the globe, is expected to warm at an even faster pace.

Polling among Israelis shows a great deal of indifference to the coming crisis, which means the Israeli government is facing little popular pressure on the issue. No equivalent research has been done in the occupied Palestinian territories but the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and siege on Gaza at once compound the risk of climate catastrophe for Palestinians, and make it virtually impossible for their government to do anything about it.

Late last year, a group of Israeli researchers published the first detailed forecast of what climate change could mean for Israel-Palestine. The results were frightening: relative to the benchmark period of 1981–2010, the 30-year period beginning in 2041 is expected to see average temperatures rise up to 2.5 degrees Celsius, and a drop in precipitation of up to 40 percent in non-arid parts of the country.

According to one of the researchers, professor Hadas Saaroni of Tel Aviv University, the heat and humidity Israelis and Palestinians living along the coast experience during the summer months will only grow more extreme. We already have almost 24 hours of heat stress in the summertime, she says, but it tends to lessen in the evening and nighttime hours. “That will get worse: the heat stress will be heavy in the daytime and won’t let up at night.” And like nearly everything related to climate change, the heat won’t be equally distributed. Recent research by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality predicts that temperatures in the poorer south of the city will be up to seven degrees Celsius higher than in its affluent north.

While Saaroni is surprisingly sanguine about the effects of climate change on sea level rise (“the sea will rise by about one meter, but only by the end of the...

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How I learned to stop worrying and acknowledge the Nakba

For more than seven decades, Israelis haven’t been able to come to terms with the consequences of the Nakba. To do so, they’ll have to confront the hard truths about 1948, and shed their moral superiority.

By Michal Talya

The first time I ever heard a testimony about the Nakba was nearly two decades ago from a Bedouin man named Khalil who lived in the Negev/Naqab. I remember how difficult it was for me to believe that he was speaking the truth. In fact, I was convinced that as he told stories of cruelty meted out by both Israeli soldiers and policymakers, he was blowing things out of proportion — that he was under the influence of his “Oriental imagination,” trying to benefit from his status as a victim.

In the room were a handful of Israelis and a few dozen people from other countries, and it was unbearable to hear someone tarnishing me and the collective with which I identify — to watch someone debunking the foundatoins of the moral image I had of Israel. I had always fallen on the left side of the political spectrum, yet it was difficult for me to believe that Israeli soldiers could behave this way. And he was only telling his and his family’s personal story.

Khalil’s testimony made me aware that there was an entire story that had been hidden from me. All of us, graduates of the Israeli education system, Jews and Arabs, learned history and civics from textbooks that distorted and hid the difficult truths that led to Israel’s establishment.

Since then, I have listened to many more personal Palestinian testimonies, continuing to read and learn about the Nakba from various historical sources. In 2003 I began holding an annual meeting, which have taken place ever since, between Israeli Jews and Arab citizens on Memorial Day and Independence Day, where people could hear each other’s stories and share their pain and their hope.

Reading a recent investigative report — by Hagar Shezaf in Haaretz — on Israel’s attempt to conceal archival documents on the Nakba was a kick to the stomach. Within the pain of that kick lie a number of insights, including the understanding of just how brittle the moral basis of Israel’s founding was, and the extent to which the country’s leaders tried and continue to try to hide that fact.

The Zionist narrative always...

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Distorting the definition of antisemitism to shield Israel from all criticism

The IHRA initially sought to combat racism against Jews and Holocaust denialism, but its definition of antisemitism serves as a tool to silence all criticism of Israel, making it harder to identify actual forms of anti-Jewish hatred.

By Amos Goldberg and Raz Segal

There is a growing tendency among both Jews and non-Jews to label those with whom they have profound political differences, especially on the subject of Israel-Palestine, as antisemitic. The accusation is a severe one: in most countries in the West, antisemitism is considered a taboo, and the identification of a person or organization with antisemitism often renders them illegitimate in the public arena.

Two major techniques facilitate such allegations. The first relates one’s claim very illusively to some antisemitic imagery. The fact that 2,000 years of hostility and hatred toward Jews have created a storehouse of anti-Jewish imagery so rich – and at times contradictory – means that nearly any claim can be linked to at least one of those images.

Through manipulation of these images, along with a little imagination, one could identify any form of criticism as antisemitic. This kind of logic is deployed by supporters of Israel’s occupation and nationalistic government in order to delegitimize anyone who dares criticize Israeli policies.

The second technique draws on the definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Founded in 1998 (under a different name), the IHRA is a political body with considerable political power, uniting government representatives and Holocaust scholars from 33 countries, nearly all of them in the West. The IHRA aims to spread and institutionalize teaching and research on the Holocaust, commemorate the Holocaust, and struggle against antisemitism.

The IHRA agreed on a definition of antisemitism in 2016, along with a list of examples, based on previous definitions. It has since become a kind of “soft law” that is binding in many institutions and even states across the world. The problem is that the IHRA definition deals obsessively — more than with any other topic — with the degree of antisemitism in criticism of Israel, making it far more difficult to identify real instances of antisemitism, while casting a cloud of suspicion over nearly all criticism of Israel. Meanwhile, the burden of proof lies with critics of Israel, who are constantly asked to prove that they are not anti-Semites.

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In East Jerusalem, nightly raids leave Palestinian neighborhood reeling

For the past six weeks, Israel has been sending paramilitary police forces to raid the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya every evening. The raids, a severe form of collective punishment, have left one young Palestinian dead and hundreds wounded.

By Aviv Tatarsky

It’s 5:30 p.m. and some 10 large police vans rumble into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. The next few hours will follow a strict script: the vans stop in a central place in the neighborhood — a mosque, a commercial area, or a main junction. Dozens of paramilitary police officers roll out and stake out positions around the block.

The word “police” is misleading here. Some of them are soldiers belonging to a Border Police unit, while other belong to the special police squad which is designed to put down riots and stop terrorism. They refer to themselves with the same term used to describe combat soldiers rather than law enforcement officers.

What are dozens of hyper-militarized officers doing inside a neighborhood of East Jerusalem? Which Bin Laden did they come to catch today? Sometimes what’s more important than any analysis is the understanding that this is the occupation — that looking for any other explanation misses this banal yet crucial point.

They stand there, rifles drawn. Women, children, and impatient teenagers have to brush against them on their way to the store or a friend’s home. Cars are randomly stopped while the officers inspect their documents, causing long traffic jams.

The police vehicles simply block the junction so that for long periods of time drivers — coming back home from work or on their way to a wedding — are completely stuck and cannot go anywhere. Day after day, Issawiya’s 20,000 residents clench their teeth and try to ignore the armed raids that have been occurring for the past six weeks. Most of the time, they show incredible restraint. Most of the time, however, it seems the riot police themselves are trying to start a riot.

WATCH: Israeli riot police raid the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya

The police officers stand in the street for hours, half afraid, half bored. Nothing really happens, and they know too well from previous evenings that nothing will happen.

When “softer” forms of harassment don’t help, the commanders begin to initiate the riot. They will stop a young man at random while aggressively shouting at him or...

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PODCAST: How BDS became such a big deal in American politics

Republicans are trying to criminalize boycotts of Israel, part of a broad push to delegitimize any criticism or pressure on Israel. By not unconditionally defending the right to boycott anything or anyone, Democrats are falling into a dangerous trap, Lara Friedman says on The +972 Podcast.

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

The United States’ approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dramatically transformed since Trump took office, but a lot of those changes — from legislation to defund the Palestinian Authority to an attempt to criminalize boycotting Israel — actually came from Congress.

“This isn’t just a matter of the Trump administration, this is trends that have been coming since before the president was elected and have coalesced under him,” says Lara Friedman, an expert on everything Israel-Palestine on the Hill, and president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

When it comes to the Trump administration, “we’ve had an extraordinarily coherent and focused and effective policy on Israel-Palestine from Day One. If people are surprised where we are today, it’s because they had either the naiveté or the almost lack of respect for this president to not take him seriously and not take the people around him seriously, because they’ve done exactly what they said they would do,” she adds.

According to Friedman, the Trump administration has de-recognized the Palestinians as a people with a legitimate national narrative, instead engaging with then as individuals with aspirations. “By moving the embassy, by closing the consulate, and by effectively cutting off relations with the Palestinians, by throwing them out of Washington, we now treat the Palestinians as a people represented by the equivalent of maybe a mayor who is spoken to, if he is spoken to at all, by our ambassador to Israel. That’s how far we’ve moved things back.”

So where does that leave us? Where is the fight today? Because it seems like there is a fight going on, and it feels like Israel is at the center of it, and at times it also feels like it’s not about Israel.

Friedman describes how, by rallying around a two-state solution, politicians have established a safe space where they can say they oppose the occupation while ignoring the facts. “It’s been a formula for not doing anything,” she says.

“We’re in a political moment where using Israel to inoculate an illiberal agenda in the U.S. is very handy,” she later...

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Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to 20 days in military prison

Conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum will serve another 20 days behind bars for her refusal to serve in the Israeli army due to its policies of occupation.

By +972 Magazine Staff

An IDF disciplinary body sentenced 18-year-old Israeli conscientious objector Maya Brand-Feigenbaum to 20 days in military prison on Tuesday over her refusal to serve in the military.

This is the second time Brand-Feigenbaum, from the northern town of Tivon, has been sentenced for refusing to serve since she her conscription date on July 14. Upon completing her sentence, will have spent a total of 27 days behind bars. Military conscription is mandatory for most Jewish Israelis.

“I refuse to serve in the army because I believe that this is the best and most meaningful way for me to promote my anti-war principles and help put an end to the occupation,” Brand-Feigenbaum wrote in a statement published prior to her first stint in military prison.

“The decades-long control over a nation compromises the security of the State of Israel,” continues the statement. “As a woman who loves this country, whose landscapes and people are a part of me, I cannot take part in maintaining this situation. I am aware that in our reality we need an army to protect us against real threats, but at the same time, there is a need for people who fight for a reality free of war. Anti-war activities will benefit both the country and the world to bring long-term security. Taking action to resolve the conflict and end the occupation will benefit of all residents of the land, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”

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Prior to her first appearance before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, Brand-Feigenbaum received a visit by Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh at her home in Tivon, who called Brand-Feigenbaum and her fellow conscientious objectors a “ray of humanity that lights the way toward ending the occupation and promoting peace.”

Meanwhile, the army has yet to release 20-year-old conscientious objector Roman Levin from military prison, despite a recommendation by the conscientious objector’s committee to do so. Levin has spent over 70 days in military prison. Both Levin and Brand-Feigenbaum are supported by Mesarvot — Refusing to Serve the Occupation, a grassroots network that brings together individuals and groups who refuse to enlist in the IDF in protest at the occupation.

Levin, from the city of Bat Yam just south of Tel Aviv, immigrated to Israel with a few members of...

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Palestinians are holding weddings, baptisms, burials in villages destroyed by Israel

Third-generation survivors of the Nakba are returning to the churches in the villages Israel destroyed in 1948 to hold religious ceremonies.

By Suha Arraf

Just over two weeks ago, Khaled Bisharat, son of famed journalist and author Odeh Bisharat, was married in a church in the village of Ma’alul. It was a wedding like any other, apart from one fact: Ma’alul, which lies just four miles southwest of Nazereth, was destroyed by Israel in the 1948 war, and most of its displaced residents fled to the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye.

The wedding is part of a trend: third-generation survivors of the Nakba are returning to their destroyed villages to hold religious ceremonies, including baptisms, weddings, and burials.

“I think that there will be a trend of holding weddings there,” said Odeh Bisharat. “My son is the second person to get married in Ma’alul. A week earlier, someone from the Salem family was married in the church, and there will be several more weddings in the village.”

Bisharat said that the decision was entirely Khaled’s.

Returning to Iqrit

Haitham Sbeit, 30, was born to a family that was expelled from the village of Iqrit and now lives in Haifa. Two months ago, he held his wedding at the church in Iqrit. “It’s not even a question for me, it’s very obvious,” said Sbiet. “I am a son of Iqrit. Iqrit is everything for me. Ever since I remember myself, I have been there every year for summer camp, Christmas and Easter ceremonies, and burials of family members and others. All my life I have been hoping to return there.”

Sbeit’s family history revolves around Iqrit. “My parents are refugees. They were born in Iqrit, moved to Rameh, and then to Haifa. I was born in Haifa, they then moved to Nazareth, and a year ago they moved to Tarshiha – as close as possible to our home in Iqrit,” he said. “We are refugees, moving time and time again.”

Sbeit took his partner Lina, a social worker originally from the village of Eilaboun, on a third date to Iqrit. “If the person I am going to spend my life with does not understand what Iqrit means to me and can’t feel what I feel, she is not right for me,” said Sbeit. “It’s a kind of test, and I was happy that Lina fell in love with the place and became an activist there.”

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How 'cultural racism' helps Israelis rationalize inequality, discrimination

‘Cultural racism’ blames minorities for their inequality by suggesting that their low social position is due to a lack of effort or failure to adjust to a Western way of life. But active and institutional racism is the real culprit.

By Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg

It has been 35 years since Ethiopians immigrated to Israel, after leaving their strong, close-knit diaspora communities where they kept Jewish tradition alive all those years. And yet, almost four decades later, this community is still fighting for equality in a country where many have failed to look beyond their skin color and traditional clothing.

The lion’s share of the Ethiopia’s Jewish community used to live in traditional farming villages before immigrating to Israel and until 1980, only about 250 Jews had left Ethiopia for Israel. Most Ethiopian Jews made it to the country in the 1980s, after a long, dangerous journey on foot to Sudan, during which they suffered many losses. After being placed in refugee camps while waiting for permission to enter Israel, they were covertly airlifted to the country by the Israeli Air Force and the Mossad.

Yet despite a deeply ingrained policy of encouraging the immigration of Jews from across the world, Israel’s treatment of the new Ethiopian immigrants left many feeling disillusioned.

In my research, I analyzed that absorption process. Prior to the arrival of the Ethiopian Jewish community, Israeli officials drew up carefully considered plans to integrate them into the Israeli society. Their intention was to avoid past mistakes that took place with the arrival of Mizrahi Jews decades earlier. Sadly, once again, despite the good intentions, racism plagued both the process and the consequences.

In her book “Bureaucracy and Ethiopian Immigrants,” Professor Esther Hertzog described how since their arrival to Israel, Israeli institutions have perceived the Ethiopian Jewish community as one that requires special assistance in the process of absorption. These institutions deemed Ethiopian Jews to be particularly problematic, requiring special treatment before they could take their first steps in Israel. Furthermore, the authorities found the new immigrants to lack basics skills, such as parenting, which meant that most of their children were sent to boarding schools, without their parents allowed a say on the matter.

Those practices were justified based on what scholars call “cultural racism,” which posits that culture, as opposed to biology, underpins “rational” explanations of inequality. This brand of racism blames minorities for their...

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WATCH: A dark night in Wadi al-Hummus

Israeli police and soldiers demolished dozens of Palestinian families’ apartments in an area that is supposed to be under full Palestinian control this week. Filmmakers Yuval Abraham and Rachel Shor stayed with one of those families through the demolitions to tell their story.

The families in Wadi al-Hummus built their homes with all the necessary permits from Palestinian authorities. Israel decided to demolish them anyway, claiming that despite being entirely in a Palestinian-controlled area of the West Bank, that the location of the homes poses a security threat.

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PHOTOS: Israel begins crackdown on foreign workers and their children

Israeli immigration authorities begin summer-long deportations of at least 50 foreign workers and their Israeli-born children.

Text by +972 Magazine Staff, photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Israeli immigration authorities have begun immigration raids targeting foreign workers from the Philippines and their children, in a crackdown that is expected to snare at least 50 adults and their Israeli-born children. In recent days, authorities have taken two women and their Israeli-born children into custody ahead of their expected deportation.

The agents raided the home of Geraldine Esta in Ramat Gan, a city in central Israel, and arrested her and her two children, both of whom were born in Israel. Another Filipina woman who was staying at their house with her baby was also arrested in the process. Both women have expired work visas.

The five were moved to a detention facility in Beit Dagan. Esta and her children were then transferred to the detention facility at Ben Gurion Airport.

The arrests come just two days after immigration agents arrested another foreign worker, Ofresina Koanka, and her 12-year-old son, Michael James, in their home in the city of Yehud. James was supposed to start seventh grade in a special education program this September. Like Esta’s children, he was also born in Israel.

On Tuesday morning, a Tel Aviv court issued a temporary stay on Koanka and James’ deportation, since an appeal to allow them to stay in the country is still pending. The two are also being held at Ben Gurion Airport as they await a decision on their case.

Israel has a quota on the visas it grants to foreign workers every year. Many applicants are women from the Philippines who work as caregivers for the elderly.

There are approximately 30,000 Filipino foreign workers in Israel. While Israeli law states that a migrant worker is entitled to remain in the country with their child until their visa expires, the child is not granted citizenship, even if they were born in Israel.

Between 2006 and 2009, Israel’s Interior Ministry threatened to deport hundreds of Israeli-born children of foreign workers who had overstayed their work visas. Following a successful protest movement, the government granted permanent resident status to approximately 800 children who were either born in Israel or brought to the country at an early age. Another 400 who did not meet the criteria laid out in the decision were forced to leave Israeli by 2012. Since then, many of those who were...

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'Our whole lives are here. Where can we go?'

Spending the night with Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, hoping to stop the bulldozers coming to demolish their homes.

By A. Daniel Roth

I am awakened by the “thud thud thud” of someone pounding and then the sound stops. It feels like I am waking up after only five minutes of sleep. Each of my eyes feels like it weighs 10 pounds. I can’t remember where I am, but the sound is unmistakably a fist hitting a door. I hear rustling somewhere near me and realize I’m in a dark room, on a mattress on the floor surrounded by other people.

I am in a room with 20 or 30 other activists. We have been sleeping for a few short hours in an office in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sur Baher, which straddles the Green Line between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We are here because the local community is facing a number of home demolitions.

I jump to my feet. The knocks were from a Palestinian resident sent to wake us up when the army arrives. The activists sleeping over in Sur Baher had come from Palestine, Israel and around the world. Many of us are Jews from diaspora communities and members of All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective.

We are all there because in prior years, activists, organizers, and community members have worked to build partnerships across national and ideological divides. We are there because when the Israeli High Court ruled in June that a number of homes could be destroyed in the Wadi Hummus area of Sur Baher, those relationships sprung to life. Invited and led by the residents of Sur Baher, folks began to organize.

It’s 3 a.m. and my heart sinks. All I can think about is what I am about to walk into. I follow others down the stairs, out the door, and into the cold summer morning, wondering how I would cope if my home was permanently under threat of demolition.

Israeli demolitions in East Jerusalem are fairly common, but these homes happen to be located in Area A of the occupied West Bank, under full Palestinian civil and security control according to the Oslo Accords. Israeli authorities say the demolitions are being carried out for “security reasons,” claiming the buildings were built too close to the separation barrier. It’s a well-worn excuse.

The beeping of trucks and the revving of engines...

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When Zionism imagined Jewish nationalism without supremacy

In his recent book, Dr. Dmitry Shumsky shows that, contrary to popular belief, the forefathers of Zionism did not envision a state based on Jewish supremacy. And yet Zionism, he says, inevitably involves the oppression of Palestinians.

By Meron Rapoport

No one was surprised when the authors of the Jewish Nation-State Law decided to write, in its opening clauses, that “The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people,” and “the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” After all, this is precisely what every young Israeli is taught in school, whether they are Jewish or Arab. Israel, so it goes, is the “nation-state” of the Jewish people, and establishing a Jewish state was the goal of the Zionist movement since its inception.

Even those opposed to the Jewish Nation-State Law did not disagree with this line of thinking. There were those who argued that the law needs to include the principle of equality, as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, as that would be “the real Zionist” thing to do. There were others who claimed that the law only proves that Zionism was and remains a racist movement. But neither group questioned the idea that a Jewish nation-state lies at the core of Zionism. Those who suggested Israel become a state of all its citizens, or, God forbid, a bi-national state, were perceived as traitors undermining Israel and the Zionist project.

In his book, Beyond the Nation-State, published last year by Yale University Press, Dr. Dmitry Shumsky, a historian of the Zionist movement at the Hebrew University, attempts to prove that this perception is historically incorrect.

With extensive quotes by Zionism’s forefathers — Leon Pinsker, Ahad Ha’am, Theodore Herzl, Ze’ev Jabotinsy and David Ben-Gurion — he shows that over the course of Zionism’s first five decades, from the late 19th century until the early 20th century, the movement didn’t aim for establishing a “nation-state” the way it is commonly understood today, and as is reflected in the Jewish Nation-State Law. According to Shumsky, the Zionist leaders envisioned the Jewish state as a multi-national one, or even as an entity within a larger framework, similar to the federalist structure in the United States.

“The future of Palestine must be founded, legally speaking, as a ‘bi-national state,’” Shumsky quotes from a 1926 article by Jabotinsky, the ideological leader of Revisionist Zionism. “And not just Palestine. Every land that has an ethnic minority, of even the smallest kind, would need, after all, according to our deeply held...

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As it fights for its land, one Palestinian village struggles to preserve its cultural heritage

Wedged between settlement expansion and plagued by water shortages, land confiscation, and settler violence, Wadi Fuqin’s agricultural heritage is increasingly coming under threat.

By Arianna Skibell

Maher Manasra stood on the edge of a concrete basin and looked down at the empty agricultural pool. Green moss covered the muddy floor where small pockets of water remained.

“It’s not good,” he said, shaking his head.

A smattering of clouds tempered the brutal midday sun, but it was still hot, so Manasra returned to his chair beneath the shade of a large tree. The 49-year-old farmer wore a brown hat and work boots. Dirt lined the underside of his fingernails and filled the creases of his palms. He had been awake since dawn to tend to his crops. It was Ramadan and he was fasting.

“I wasn’t born here in Wadi Fuqin,” he told me. “I was born in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, but returned here in 1972.”

Wadi Fuqin, which means the valley of thorns, is a small agricultural village in the occupied West Bank, known for its organic farming tradition and production of grapes, fruits, almonds and olive oil. This village in a valley is wedged between the towering and expanding settlement of Beitar Illit to the east and to the west, the Israeli town of Tzur Hadassah inside the Green Line.

The expansion of Beitar Illit and Tzur Hadassah coupled with water shortages, Israeli confiscation of land, and settler violence, is threatening to destroy the agricultural practices that have long been Wadi Fuqin’s main source of income.

Just two weeks ago, soldiers came and slashed the side of Manasra’s greenhouse to enter, as opposed to opening the door, he said.

When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, residents of Wadi Fuqin were forced to flee to Dheisheh, where they initially lived in tents.

Still, Manasra said, every day the men would walk two hours back to Wadi Fuqin to work the land and tend to their crops, sometimes sleeping in nearby caves if they couldn’t make the trek back to the refugee camp.

“They never left the land,” Manasra said. “And in 1972 all the people [came] back.”

In 1972, the villagers of Wadi Fuqin somehow managed to strike a deal with the Israeli military. If they could build a certain number of houses in a certain number of days, they could return. The number of houses and days vary...

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