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Colonialism's latest victim

The Palestinian man killed in Kafr Qasim this week was just the latest casualty of a colonial system whose masters feel forever threatened by the natives they rule over.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

The killing of a Palestinian man in Kafr Qasim by an Israeli security guard earlier this week was more than just a regrettable incident that raised questions about police conduct. It was also a near-exact repetition of other such episodes in which the victim was Palestinian and the killer a member of the security forces.

Fifty-two young Arab citizens have been shot dead by Israeli security forces since October 2000. They are classified in legal terms as separate cases, each assessed on its own merits, but they’re not. These killings are part of an ongoing phenomenon — a creeping process that has resulted not from the conduct of native Palestinian Arabs, but from the structural relations between them and Jewish society, which adopted a colonialist approach toward the native Arab population in the region.

Official spokespersons in Israel tell us that the killings of Muhammad Taha in Kfar Qasim, of Yaqoub Abu al-Qi’an in Umm al-Hiran, and of many others besides, resulted from security forces feeling that their lives were in danger and therefore they had no choice but to kill them. This story is invariably helped along by a fawning media and other advocates. And added to it will be the Kafr Qasim security guard’s defense attorney’s claim: “If the security guard hadn’t opened fire, he probably wouldn’t be alive now!”

When the master feels threatened

These classic colonial power relations, which are developing anew around us, always assert themselves as a paradigm in which the Jewish “master” feels endlessly feels threatened by any movement, utterance, gathering, singing or shouting by the natives.

This sense of threat invariably turns lethal when the friction between the native and the ruler becomes a reality, such as during home demolitions, crowd dispersal — even for gatherings with a permit — and so on. Every member of the Israeli security forces and every police unit is equipped with the most sophisticated military technology, which is particularly conspicuous to the Arab Palestinian public.

It’s no stretch to say that this army gear is intended to oppress those very natives who are the source of this constant threat, especially if they don’t acquiesce to the aggressive and provocative...

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Ending the occupation isn’t enough

Progressive Israelis and Palestinians have a crucial task: mounting a political movement that gives us an effective voice in forging the future of our country.

By Jeff Halper

As we reach the 50th “anniversary” of Israel’s occupation, it is hard to discern on the horizon either a workable political program or a focused political movement beyond the vague slogan: End the Occupation. The “solution” espoused by the Israeli peace movement for the past 50 years and by the PLO/PA for the past 30 years — two states for two peoples — has become as ritualized and fossilized as it is defunct. It has been buried deep under Israeli “settlements,” as we continue to call massive urban blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank housing some 800,000 Israeli residents.

Consciously, systematically and with unlimited resources, Israel has virtually completed Zionism’s great project: effectively “Judaizing” the country, transforming Palestine into the Land of Israel. “East” Jerusalem, annexed in 1967, has long since ceased to exist as a coherent, functioning urban entity. The West Bank has become Judea and Samaria. More than 90 percent of the entire country’s Palestinians have been confined to just 12 percent of the land, even though they represent close to half the population. Greater Israel is a reality, an irreversible reality, undeniably a single apartheid state. Just a glance at a map showing the “matrix of control” Israel has permanently laid over the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) shows that reality.

The map shows just how every Israeli government deliberately eliminated any possibility of a viable Palestinian state over the past five decades. Areas A and B (in brown) show to what degree Palestinian territory has been fragmented into tiny enclaves divided from one another by Israeli settlement “blocs” (in pink), the Separation Barrier and a maze of Israeli highways.

Israel controls all the OPT’s vital resources, plus its airspace and communications sphere. Using walls and a permit regime, it has detached “Greater Jerusalem” from Palestinian society and economy, thus robbing the Palestinians of their political, religious and cultural center as well as their major tourist attraction, the source of 40 percent of their economy.

The map can’t show the rest: the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the impoverishment of its people (70 percent or more living under the poverty line); displacement (almost 50,000 Palestinian homes demolished in the OPT...

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Israel: State of denial

The Israeli government has fashioned the occupation into a ‘permanently temporary’ state of affairs — and made a policy of denial one of its cornerstones. 

By Gershon Shafir

Military occupation is a rare phenomenon in today’s world. A half-century-long occupation, like Israel’s control of Palestinian territories captured in 1967, is even rarer. Grappling seriously with its dynamics and consequences is made even more difficult by the fact that in the past half century, Israel has constructed not only settlements but also a three-story denial palace. Israel is now an official residence of occupation denialism. The most compelling demonstration of the grotesque nature of this denial palace is that each of its floors is located in a different imaginary time zone.

In public, Israeli governments describe the West Bank and East Jerusalem as contested rather than occupied territories. On the palace’s first floor, however, they justify the occupation’s outcomes under the branch of international humanitarian law that regulates belligerent military occupations.

A crucial requirement of this law is that occupation be temporary, and an obliging Israeli Supreme Court explicitly bases many of its decisions on this premise.

But can a 50-year-long occupation be considered temporary? Under the “Shamgar Doctrine” — which I name after the Military Advocate General during the 1967 Six-Day War and the president of the Supreme Court in the 1980s — “pending an alternative political or military solution, this system of government could, from a legal point of view, continue indefinitely.” Within the palace the occupation is permanently temporary.

The second story of the denial palace houses the Israeli fixation with land while concomitantly denying the political expression of Palestinian national identity. Occupations are riven by many smaller and bigger denials, but ultimately they are the story of a people denied. Indefinitely prolonged control over another people, without incorporating them into the polity or according them citizenship rights, was once a standard practice in colonies and protectorates. But that era has passed.

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Denying that reality requires freezing historical time at the moment before the successful post–World War II decolonization movement that led to the tidal wave of independence in Asia and Africa....

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Pinkwashing: Is it really so black and white?

We must remain critical when the Israeli government co-opts the LGBTQ struggle to divert attention from the occupation. But let’s not minimize the urgency of the situation for many queer people in Israel and across the Middle East. 

By Frederick Hertz

There’s a tendency towards extreme dualism when it comes to the LGBTQ community in Israel. Two recent essays on the subject of “pinkwashing” in +972 Magazine exemplify the tendency to show that a country that does bad things (i.e. Israel) cannot possibly do anything right, and the victims (i.e. the Palestinians) can do nothing wrong. This approach pushes the entirety of Israeli gay activism into the narrow box of hasbara (propaganda by the state in an attempt to “pinkwash” the occupation) while trivializing the mistreatment of so many LGBTQ residents of neighboring countries.

Over the past five years I have met with many LGBT activists in Israel – including some brave non-Jewish ones – and I have also worked on the global effort to rescue LGBTQ refugees from a variety of Muslim communities of the surrounding region. I live far away – in Northern California – but the personal statements (often under oath as part of a refugee application) of LGBTQ residents of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Palestine confirm that these are not happy lives.

While some (mostly older rich gay men) have been able to flourish in the upper echelons of Beirut and Amman, for the most part the fate of LGBTQ people in those countries is dire – ranging from the emotional burdens of closeted secrecy to outright torture and murder. Minimizing the seriousness of this reality weakens the credibility of otherwise valid critiques of Israel, and puts into question the motivation of LGBTQ activists who seem to have selected the truly deserving victims of the occupation as pawns in their efforts to motivate gay activists to join the anti-occupation movement.

Furthermore, in the reductive view that Israel’s LGBTQ record is mostly hypocritical or only achieved for propaganda purposes, the authors minimize the fact that within Israel, many of the leading LGBTQ activists are true human rights leaders, genuinely working to further the progress of gay rights — but also struggling to make Israel a more just society, and not just for Jewish Israelis. Some of the most effective anti-occupation organizations have been led by lesbians and gay men, and many of the LGBTQ activists also work...

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Anti-occupation LGBTQ activists block Tel Aviv pride parade

Activists hold up signs resembling the separation wall reading: ‘There’s no pride in occupation.’

By Yael Marom

Dozens of Israeli LGBTQ activists against the occupation blocked Tel Aviv’s annual pride parade on Friday, holding up signs that read “There’s no pride in occupation,” and for a few minutes preventing the march from proceeding through the city center.

The police immediately responded to the action, pushing the activists toward the sidewalk. Members of “Likud Pride,” the LGBTQ group affiliated with the ruling Likud party, joined the police and began shouting at and shoving the activists.

As opposed to the police, the LGBTQ community took an active interest in the action, which sought to spotlight the 50th year of the occupation. Some came over to speak with the activists, others expressed their support, while others lamented the fact that the activists were mixing politics with what they view as a non-political event. Over 100,000 people attended the parade, according to police estimates.

Tanya Rubinstein, a queer activist and General Coordinator at Coalition of Women for Peace explained why the activists decided to block the march:

Over this past week, over 200 members of the LGBTQ community signed a declaration put out by dozens of queer human rights and social justice activists, calling on the community not to forget that its own struggle for human rights, equality, and freedom is connected to the struggles of other minority communities:

We have chosen to be part of the long battle for human rights and freedom — not only for the sake of our own liberation, and certainly not as PR for the government. We will continue to oppose injustice everywhere, and to point out the connection between Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and its discrimination against other communities.

And as a reminder to our friends in the LGBTQ community — our safety and security cannot depend on the trampling of others’ security. We are here to stay, and we will continue to tell our community: End the occupation, end the repression and end the discrimination. We all deserve a better future.

Among the signatories were executive directors of prominent anti-occupation groups, such as Yuli Novak (Breaking the Silence), Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem), Avi Buskila (Peace Now), Yonathan Gher (Amnesty International Israel), as well as eminent activists in the queer community.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a...

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The Israeli Left can learn a thing or two from American Jews

Where was the Israeli Left when the army tore down a joint Palestinian-Jewish protest camp, or when the police broke the arm of a Jewish American activist in Jerusalem?

By Amitai Ben-Abba

Freedom Camp in Sarura, South Hebron Hills. On May 29, large army and Border Police forces raided the little that was left in Sarura after the previous raid the week before. They confiscated mattresses, a generator cable, a car belonging to Fadel Aamer (one of the landowners), two tents, food, and water bottles. They also detained three Palestinian activists, one of them Aamer’s son, confiscated their phones and destroyed their protest banners.

Fadel Aamer returned to live in Sarura on May 19, accompanied by 300 activists — the majority of them American Jews. Aamer was expelled from Sarura in 1997 at the height of a long process of dispossession, which began in the 1980s with settler violence and abuse by the state. Alongside other Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills, Aamer continues to maintain a protest tent until he is allowed to return to his land with his children and grandchildren.

While thousands got together in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to demonstrate against 50 years of occupation, I headed to Sarura for a night shift. With the notoriously violent settler outposts of Havat Maon to our north and Avigail to our south, I expected little sleep. Yet the atmosphere was calm and hopeful. The first night of Ramadan. Over a dozen teenagers from the nearby town of Yatta came to sing folk songs and dance dabke. Others belong to the Aamer family or are from the nearby villages. Then there are the diaspora Jews, from places as diverse as Morocco, Australia, and Switzerland. And myself, the only Jerusalemite, staring in wonder at a hidden world full of campfire and baklava, as if only I could see it.

The Arabic word “sumud” means steadfast perseverance. And indeed, as I looked around, I saw the same faces from the various villages in the South Hebron Hills, sitting together around the campfire and reminiscing over the large demonstration in Susya a few years ago — dear people whom I know from many years of anti-occupation activity. They joked about the attempt to tear down the protest tent. It turns out that they succeeded, through nonviolent means, to protect the large shade canopy from...

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After 50 years, military violence is the norm for Palestinian children

Children under the age of 18 currently make up almost 50 percent of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories — and have grown up with systemic discrimination, settlement expansions, and war.

By Jennifer Bing

There are two places to visit if you want to know the human impact of Israel’s 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territories: an Israeli military court and the sitting room of a Palestinian family. I have been to both.

I work for the American Friends Service Committee, which has been involved in advocacy and humanitarian work with Palestinians for more than 50 years. In that capacity I co-coordinate the “Israeli Military Detention: No Way to Treat a Child” campaign with Defense for Children International—Palestine. For decades we have documented escalating violations of the rights of Palestinian children by Israeli military forces.

Children under 18 years old currently represent 46 percent of the 4.68 million Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories (70 percent are under the age of 30). This current generation has grown up in the shadow of failed negotiations and with futures stifled by systemic discrimination, persistent settlement expansion, blockade, and repeated military offensives.

Israeli military courts in the West Bank lack fair trials and due process, and don’t recognize the rights of prisoners. At least 500-700 Palestinian children are held in Israeli military detention in the West Bank every year. These children often experience abuse, especially immediately following arrest. Over 90 percent of the children are convicted in “courtrooms” housed in Israeli military bases.

Abuses suffered in prison last a lifetime. In the past 50 years, 700,000 Palestinians have been incarcerated by Israel, representing 40 percent of the male Palestinians living under occupation.

When making Detaining Dreams, a documentary featuring the stories of Palestinian youth held in Israeli military detention, we visited Palestinian homes, where we were offered tea, sweets, and stories of arrest and imprisonment. Boys described to us how soldiers arrested them in the middle of the night, blindfolding them and tying their hands. The boys were then beaten during transit in army jeeps and interrogated without the presence of their parents or lawyers.

Family members shared with us the frustration of not being able to protect their children and how their children returned from prison traumatized from the experience. “It is difficult to watch your child collapse in front of...

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Kafr Qasim killing shows police threat to Palestinian citizens

As long as police continue to see Palestinian citizens of Israel as ‘the enemy,’ the deadly shootings — and the ever-deepening crisis in relations — will continue.

By Yael Marom, with Orly Noy

An Israeli security guard shot and killed 28-year-old Mahmoud Mahmoud Salim Taha, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, in Kafr Qasim on Monday night. Disturbances had broken out while police were arresting another resident of the town, and in the course of the clashes, a security guard at the police station opened fire on Taha.

Below are three comments on the incident.

Where else have protesters been shot and killed?

Over 30 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed in violent episodes since the start of the year, most of them shot dead. Arab and mixed towns across the country have, over the last few weeks, seen protests against police ineffectiveness against the increasing violence and murder rate in the community. Leaders and regular citizens have pleaded endlessly for the police to start properly tackling the organized crime and hoards of weapons that threaten Palestinian society.

There is also Palestinians’ complete lack of faith in the authorities, above all the police. And that lack of faith is justified: 48 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been shot and killed by police since 2000, according to Mossawa Center — The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.

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Monday night’s incident in Kafr Qasim, which came less than six months after the deadly events in Umm al-Hiran, is yet another assault by police on already frail relations.

On the one hand the police talk about creating trust; on the other, they behave, at best, like a bull in a china shop, and routinely treat Arab citizens like the enemy. When do they ever shoot other protesters, even if they throw stones and burn cars? Without minimizing the police violence against ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem over the last few weeks, not a single officer drew their weapon and opened fire, even as the police put out dramatic statements about ultra-Orthodox rioting and stone-throwing. And rightly so.

As long as the police don’t change their perception of Palestinians, no cosmetic plan to improve relations will...

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LGBTQ Israelis come out against occupation and homophobia

In response to online homophobic attacks, over 50 LGBTQ left-wing activists and NGO workers in Israel-Palestine release a statement condemning the occupation, racism and pinkwashing.

By Yael Marom

The week before last a notorious extreme right-wing Israeli rapper posted another homophobic status on his Facebook page. The post, which was not the from a right-winger to put LGBTQ members of human rights organizations in the crosshairs, was the catalyst for an initiative to bring together LGBTQ left-wing activists ahead of the Tel Aviv Pride march this week.

As part of his post, the rapper attached pictures of five of our friends in these organizations, as if it were necessary to prepare a blacklist of queer leftists. So we decided to spare him and his friends the trouble, and put together our own proud pinklist. Yes, LGBTQs are prominent in left-wing organizations, and it’s no accident.

Over the last few days, we have brought together more than 50 members of the LGBTQ community who work for human and animal rights organizations, and who are active in struggles for public housing, social justice, equal rights for the various groups in this land, and against discrimination and racism. There is a close connection between the fact that we are all part of the same queer tribe, and our duty toward justice and equality — for all.

We have been turned into a tourism initiative even as the government routinely fails to pass legislation that would further our rights. We are not prepared for the state to continue cynically using our identity in order to portray itself as an enlightened country, as all the while the occupation continues undisturbed, people are thrown out of their homes and into the street in Givat Amal and Umm al-Hiran, asylum seekers are sent to jail, and demonstrations are violently suppressed. The glitter cannot and need not conceal the checkpoints, walls and thousands of prisoners.

We are a minority that has experienced violent oppression for thousands of years, and which has succeeded through the actual blood and sweat of real people who sacrificed their lives, creating nothing less than a revolution. Even if that work is not yet finished, even if they continue to murder us, threaten us, chase us, we still have a responsibility to other minorities. We must remember that we too would not have made...

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Don't blame the education system for Israel's occupation denial

Ignoring Palestinians, whether the refugees from the 1948 War or those who remained under military rule in the occupied territories, is part and parcel of our Zionist outlook.

By Gil Gertel

We love to talk about the occupied territories. Because they are silent and they do not throw rocks at us. We have developed a large arsenal of justifications and explanations that we love to repeat to ourselves: this land was promised to us, we were expelled from them, we always yearned for them, they were empty, we bought them with money, we made them bloom, we protected them with blood — thus the occupied territories are ours, and therefore they cannot be occupied.

None of these arguments justify 50 years of military rule over millions of Palestinians bereft of human rights. But we have come up with a strategy: we skip from argument to argument, again and again, until we confuse and tire out our interlocutors. When we argue with ourselves, we are always the victors. We are always right. Until the next attack, until the next argument.

It is easy to talk about the occupied territories — it is harder to talk about occupied people. Israel’s education system did not create this mindset; in fact, it was formed with the beginning of Zionism. A story of a bare land, waiting only for us.

The forgotten people

I know it’s an imaginary story, because even back then there were few who saw it anyway. In 1905 Zionist educator Yitzhak Epstein wrote the following: “We have forgotten one thing: there is an entire nation in this land that we have coveted, one that has held on to it for hundreds of years and never thought about leaving […] thus, when we come to take hold of the country, the question immediately arises: what will the fallahim do, whose fields we will buy?”

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In the wake of the 1948 War, the list of people we forgot only got longer — refugees whom we continued not to see. This is what students read about that period from the “Artzi” textbook, published in 1950: “It is very good that we found a desolate and abandoned...

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Half a century of occupation threatens our international legal order

Israel’s policy of cherry-picking legal obligations vis-a-vis Palestinians undermines the credibility of our legal order established in the aftermath of World War II. This could have dangerous implications for the rule of law beyond the region.

By Gerard Horton

On June 7, 50 years ago, Israeli military forces occupied the West Bank and imposed martial law over the Palestinian population living in the territory. At the time, this measure was legal under the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention) which permits the use of martial law under specific circumstances and on a temporary basis. To this day, the military authorities continue to rely on the Convention as the jurisdictional basis and justification for prosecuting Palestinian civilians under military law.

Once martial law was established, Major General Haim Herzog, the military commander in the West Bank at the time, started issuing military orders regulating the lives of Palestinians living in the territory. Fifty years on there are almost 1,800 orders, many of which were initially only available in Hebrew. The military orders cover a wide range of subjects including murder, weapon possession, membership of banned organizations, throwing objects including stones, participating in a political assembly, vigil or procession of more than 10 persons, entering Israel without a permit, traffic control orders, land usage, zoning and construction.

At the same time as martial law was imposed the military authorities also established military courts to prosecute any infractions. As with the imposition of martial law, the legal basis for establishing the military courts is to be found in the Convention — a position also acknowledged by the military authorities to this day. Fifty years on, estimates suggest that between 775,000-850,000 Palestinians have been detained by the military authorities, including up to 45,000 children (12-17 years inclusive). Available evidence suggests that about half this number have been charged and prosecuted in the military courts, although it is difficult to obtain reliable data covering the full 50 years.

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Since its inception, the military detention system has been dogged by allegations of systematic abuse and denial of legal rights guaranteed under the applicable law. Concerns have been raised by UN General-Secretaries, UN agencies, the

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Even forensics can't stop Palestinian teen's killer walking free

Nadeem Nuwara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh Abu Daher were shot dead by Israeli Border Police officers during a 2014 protest. Forensic evidence didn’t stop the Israeli authorities from failing to adequately prosecute the killings.

By Brad Parker

On Sunday, May 28, I spent the morning with Siam Nawara, the father of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank in 2014. We were headed to the Israeli High Court of Justice for a hearing over a petition the Nawara family filed in late February. The family was challenging the Israeli prosecution’s proposed plea deal with Ben Deri, the Israeli Border Police officer charged in the killing, as too lenient.

Sitting next to Siam in the courtroom, just a few feet behind Deri, it was apparent how, for Palestinians entering their 51st year living under Israeli military occupation, pervasive and entrenched denial perpetuates impunity.

Siam’s son, Nadeem, and another boy, Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh Abu Daher, 16, were shot and killed by Israeli forces near Israel’s Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank town of Beitunia on May 15, 2014 during a demonstration marking Nakba Day. Nadeem sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, while Mohammad was shot in the back about an hour later in nearly the same spot.

CCTV cameras fixed on the building where the boys were shot captured the killings and showed that neither boy posed any lethal or imminent threat to Israeli forces at the time they were killed. The video footage, obtained and released by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) on May 19, depicts both boys collapsing to the ground after being shot, and their seemingly lifeless bodies being carried away off camera by other protesters.

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I met Siam at Qalandia checkpoint just before 7 a.m. During our 2.5 hour journey from Ramallah to the court in Jerusalem – a mere distance of around 11 miles – he talked about how difficult the protracted legal process had been on him. He kept saying, “We have the strongest case possible.”

Initially, the indictment and overwhelming video and forensic evidence seemed to present a direct challenge to the...

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Palestinians play a lead role in the theater of occupation

For 50 years, Israelis and Palestinians have lived separately-together under one rule. Only one group has been able to reap the fruits of democracy.

By Hagai El-Ad

When Israelis vote, Palestinians do not. But they do get to participate: they can watch. Like the residents of the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa in the occupied West Bank, who get to watch as the ballots cast by their Israeli settler neighbors from Beit Horon are shipped to election headquarters – the Knesset that Palestinians do not get to vote for (but whose decisions control their lives) on a highway they cannot use (but built on land confiscated from them).

Palestinians also get to participate in the legal proceedings of Israeli courts: They get to be convicted. Not much of a surprise, given the clear division of roles in the theater of injustice of military courts. Israelis are always cast as judges, prosecutors, and issuers of the military orders under which Palestinians get to play their humble roles as objects of detention, interrogation, prosecution, and conviction.

Even when Israelis regulate relative minutiae such as fishing, Palestinians get to participate. Israel recently revised fishing regulations in the Mediterranean, prohibiting fishing near the coastline in order to prevent harm to vulnerable marine habitats. However, along the Gaza coast, Israel imposes restrictions that are the exact opposite: Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than a few miles from the coastline. We regulate, they participate.

The population registry also entails Palestinian participation. While the registries for Israelis and Palestinians are separate, they are both administered by Israel, which registers not only its own citizens, but also Palestinians, be they in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem. For some politicians, the statistics derived from these registries may make for dreadful demographic scenarios, but nevertheless Palestinians do participate: they are born and get married — from one generation to the next.

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Palestinians participate in Israel’s planning and building bureaucracy as well. As far back as 1971, Israel cancelled the local planning committees in the West Bank, transferring all such powers to its own hands. Consequently, while Palestinians are not represented in the planning process vis-a-vis their own land, they do...

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