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Theodor Herzl, terrible screenwriter

Our impassioned protagonist pitches his plot to producers.

By Eli Valley

Eli Valley Theodor Herzl

Eli Valley’s comics collection, DIASPORA BOY: COMICS ON CRISIS IN AMERICA AND ISRAEL, will be released this Spring from OR Books. His website is and he tweets at @elivalley.This comic will also appear in the Fall issue of ‘World War 3 Illustrated.’

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Zionists for BDS? Why not?

While counterintuitive, liberal Zionists may be best able to achieve their goal of a just peace by joining forces with the BDS movement. Both groups stand to benefit enormously.

By Ahmed Rizk

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is arguably one of the most significant developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Oslo Accords were signed nearly a quarter century ago. The Palestinian-led movement calls upon the international community to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until three demands are fulfilled: an end to the almost 50-year-long occupation of Palestine, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Needless to say, everything about BDS has been controversial from its inception.

Predictably, the most sustained opposition to the BDS movement has been from the State of Israel and its supporters abroad. One swath of the pro-Israel community, however, has been largely unaccounted for: so-called liberal Zionists, who support Israel but criticize its policies toward the Palestinians. While this group is ideologically diverse, what unites it is a basic belief in the justness of Zionism and a belief that Israel’s policies are what stand in the way of a just peace. Liberal Zionists have often criticized Israel strongly, especially in the aftermath of Israel’s assaults upon Gaza in the past decade.

For all that, excepting a few outliers, most liberal Zionists strongly oppose BDS, which they view as anti-Zionist, biased against Israel, and sometimes as fomenting anti-Semitism. In an oped in +972 Magazine earlier this week, however, Abe Silberstein argued that Liberal Zionists can adopt and adapt certain tactics of BDS, namely a targeted boycott only of settlements, without targeting or punishing Israel within its pre-1967 borders. But that is a minority position within a minority position.

While counterintuitive, liberal Zionists may be best able to achieve their goal of a just peace by joining forces with the BDS movement. Both groups stand to benefit enormously from such a collaboration. That said, the obstacles to such cooperation are formidable. Though BDS is a ‘big tent’ movement, admitting a diversity of viewpoints regarding the ideal situation in Israel/Palestine, the most prominent BDS advocates tend to support a one-state solution and are implacable foes of Zionism.

Moreover, the BDS movement, largely incapable of inflicting significant economic damage upon Israel, tends to focus its efforts on academic and cultural boycotts, which are divisive...

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After 130 days in prison, IDF frees conscientious objector Tamar Alon

‘The price I paid is small compared to the price millions of Palestinians have been paying for 50 years,’ says Alon, who was imprisoned for refusing to take part in the occupation.

By Yael Marom

After 130 days in military prison, the Israeli army on Wednesday released conscientious objector Tamar Alon from mandatory service. Alon served six terms in military prison for her refusal to be conscripted, which she said would have contributed to the oppression of the Palestinian people. She had expressed her willingness to instead perform civilian national service, an alternative the army rejected.

“The price I paid is small compared to the price millions of Palestinians have been paying for 50 years, whose basic rights are violated on a daily basis and whose freedom has yet to be returned to them like mine was returned to me,” Alon said upon being released from prison and military service.

“I will continue from within civil society to struggle for a just society and ending the occupation,” she continued. “I wish my friends and sisters still in military prison, among them Atalya Ben-Abba, a happy Passover and that they are released from prison quickly.”

Member of Knesset Zehava Galon intervened to secure Tamar Alon’s freedom from military prison. During a visit with Alon in military prison last week, the first time a Meretz MK has visited an imprisoned conscientious objector, the member of Knesset asked the prison commander to move up the date of the young woman’s hearing with a special committee that decides whether conscripts are “compatible” for army service.

Alon had her hearing on Sunday. Although the committee voted not to release her from military service,  a higher ranking officer nevertheless ordered her release from on the grounds of “incompatibility and especially bad behavior” — as is customary in the military following a lengthy imprisonment. A year ago, conscientious objector Tair Kaminer was released from prison after 155 days on the same grounds.

Last month, for the first time in 13 years, the Israeli army recognized refusal to serve in the occupation as conscientious objection. In that decision, Tamar Ze’evi was released from military service after 118 days in prison. The exact same committee refused to grant Tamar Alon conscientious objector status at the time, however, claiming that her refusal was not based solely in personal considerations — but was also an act of civil...

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Why settlement boycotters shouldn't join the BDS movement

Although the Israeli government’s crackdown on the BDS movement will doubtless boost sympathy for its cause, progressive settlement boycotters should think twice before getting onboard.

By Abe Silberstein

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared settlement evacuation to ethnic cleansing last September, it became clear that the Israeli government was redoubling its efforts to improve the reputation of the settlement enterprise.

Recent moves taken against boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) supporters seem to have cemented this approach: 2017 has seen a travel ban directed at BDS advocates and settlement boycotters, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s proposal for a database of Israeli BDS supporters, and the detention of Jeff Halper — an Israeli citizen and BDS advocate — on suspicion of “incitement” for possessing boycott-related materials.

In addition, the Israeli government has also highlighted the legal steps taken against BDS by supporters of Israel outside the country. In the United States, Congress and state legislatures have considered laws to penalize and even publicly shame supporters of a boycott. Many of these bills, according to Americans for Peace Now, not only fail to make a distinction between Israel and “territories controlled by Israel,” (i.e. the settlements), but also explicitly include the settlements.

This broad and indiscriminate attack on boycotts will no doubt have the effect of increasing sympathy for BDS. Likewise, BDS advocates will surely use this law to persuade those who have until now targeted only the settlements to support their movement. While making this switch may be tempting, supporters of a settlement boycott should resist, as there are important and unbridgeable differences between BDS and a progressive boycott of the settlements.

Settlement boycotters identify the settlement enterprise as a key obstacle to a final status agreement, an unjustifiable behemoth which can only be sustained through military occupation. By separating Israel and the occupied territories, we pointedly refuse to identify Jewish national self-determination as a problem in of itself. The same applies for Palestinian national aspirations. In short, we reject the conflict as a zero-sum game.

In contrast, the BDS movement’s goals are far more expansive and would amount to complete Israeli capitulation, including a full right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. The settlements actually benefit the BDS movement, because many of its advocates prefer a one-state solution: they are able to argue that as the settlement enterprise is so extensive, a single state is...

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Palestine slides down agenda as Gulf states inch closer to Israel

Even as the BDS movement has made significant progress in recent years, security and trade cooperation between Israel and Gulf states marks a normalizing of ties that threatens to push Palestine off the agenda.

By Mohamed Mohamed

After 69 years of occupation, oppression, and exile, the overall situation for Palestinians on the ground remains bleak, if not worse than before. On the other hand, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement has made significant progress in recent years by encouraging economic, academic, and cultural boycotts of Israel. These high-profile BDS campaigns helped convince major international companies and investors to divest from the Israeli market.

But, as people from Europe all the way to New Zealand begin to disassociate themselves from Israel, Arab Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seem to be regressing in the opposite direction.

This week, the UAE participated in “Iniohos 2017,”a joint military exercise with the air forces of Greece, Italy, the United States, and Israel. This is not the first time that Emirati pilots have flown alongside Israelis. Last year, the UAE also participated in the “Red Flag” exercise in Nevada, and it is reportedly taking part this year too.

The UAE’s collaboration with Israel goes beyond these multiparty training exercises. In 2015, Israel established its first diplomatic mission in the UAE in order to represent itself at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which is based in Abu Dhabi. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that this office is strictly for IRENA related activities, and that its establishment does not represent a change in policy towards Israel, which the UAE refuses to recognize.

Considering that in 2009 Israel supported the UAE’s bid against Germany to become the headquarters of IRENA, it is quite clear that UAE policy has in fact shifted, albeit unofficially. It is extremely unlikely that Israel provided its backing without prior guarantees from the UAE.

Also, despite what the UAE claims, it is likely that this unconventional diplomatic mission will engage in activities unrelated to IRENA and will serve to narrow the gap in communication between the two countries. Given that Israel has engaged in extensive spying against its number one ally, it is safe to say that the Israeli mission in Abu Dhabi will not hesitate to provide at least some...

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Banksy's new project tells the story of Palestine

Banksy’s controversial new hotel and museum in Bethlehem is more than just an interactive art gallery: it also, in the British street artist’s inimitable style, lays out the history of Palestine.

By Dalal Erakat

“Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos.” These are the words of Saul Bellow, the late Canadian-American writer. They resonate today in Palestine, in the midst of chaos and between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, at Banksy’s new hotel and museum.

As you walk down Caritas Street, your eyes will see a dead end: the huge separation wall stands tall, and runs so far along Palestinian land that you won’t be able to see where it ends. This scene will only bring fear, pain and a feeling of deadlock. As you look to your left, you will be surprised to see a “chimpanzee” carrying a suitcase and holding a bell in his right hand. You will then spot the doorman, dressed in an appealing British style. On the walls of the old building, you will start to take in the drawings and flowers covering the façade of The Walled Off Hotel.

As the door opens and you pass through the velvet curtain, you will find yourself in a lobby with beautiful chairs. You will imagine yourself in a haunted house with a black piano playing music by itself.

As you look up, you will notice baby angels flying around wearing gas masks, protecting themselves from suffocating teargas. This image transports us back to the streets, to our attempts to flee Israeli teargas. And you will stop at the dove of peace arrested in a white cage near the door, suffering all kinds of intimidation; this is the image of Palestinian freedom behind bars.

As you approach the museum, you will blink at the joy of kids swinging on a huge carousel attached to the top of the surveillance tower installed along the illegal separation wall, smiling in their search for freedom. You will then pass millions of dollars’ worth of portraits until you arrive at the museum’s starting point, which will take you back to 1917 — where Lord Balfour himself sits behind his nice wooden desk, signing the declaration which marks its centenary this year.

Dear readers, here Banksy starts telling the story of Palestine, from Balfour’s office to a rich introduction to Israeli martial law, accompanied by...

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Explained: What’s the story with Netanyahu and the media?

The editor of Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye, Shuki Tausig, explains the current scandals involving Netanyahu and the media, and what they mean for journalism and democracy in Israel.

The Israeli media is often lauded by outsiders as fierce and independent, often in order to demonstrate the ostensible strength of the country’s democracy. But a number of public scandals and political dramas over the past few months have exposed a far less flattering picture.

Most of the story includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in one way or another. The latest political showdown saw Netanyahu trying to shut down Israel’s new public broadcaster before its legally mandated launch at the end of April 2017, and attempts to exert political influence on other public and private media outlets.

Another scandal includes secret recordings of the prime minister negotiating a quid pro quo that would give him favorable coverage by Israel’s best-selling newspaper in exchange for legislation ensuring it has favorable market conditions. All of it shows how much outside influence there is in the Israeli media.

So what’s the whole story? And what does it mean for journalism and politics in Israel? We asked Shuki Tausig, editor of Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye, to explain.

The following has been edited for length.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been waging a campaign against the new public broadcaster over the past few months. Why did he change his mind about a media outlet his own government — and his own political party — created?

No one but Netanyahu himself knows. The speculation published in the media varies, but most boil down to three theories:

The first revolves around the fact that Netanyahu is currently the subject of a number of criminal investigations, and he will do everything he can to make the public forget about them. Furthermore, Netanyahu simply doesn’t want a new media outlet to publish investigations of his dealings. I’m not sure I buy this theory.

A second explanation is that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has a great deal of influence over him and that she is responsible for the decision to suddenly oppose the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC). There is a widespread belief that Sara pushes Netanyahu to make irrational decisions, and this is just another one of those decisions.

Another theory is that Netanyahu is utilizing what is known as “chaos theory,” Read More

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Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians march in anti-occupation protest

Palestinians and Israelis took to Jerusalem’s streets in their thousands on Saturday night in order to protest the occupation. Meanwhile, diverse protests sprung up elsewhere in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv.

By Eli Bitan

A string of demonstrations saw thousands of people take to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest the occupation; the recent Netanyahu-backed government agreement to close the news division of the new Israeli public broadcasting authority; the failure to secure the release of Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli who crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has not been seen since; and the inadequate budget assigned to support the disabled in Israel.

In Jerusalem, thousands marched to mark 50 years of occupation, ending up at the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City. A number of activists and campaigners spoke, including Abu Ali, a resident of East Jerusalem at risk of eviction to make way for Jewish settlers; Avi Buskila, head of Peace Now; Muhammad Abu Hummus, head of the Popular Committee in Issawiya; and Yuli Novak, head of Breaking the Silence. MK Aida Touma-Suleiman of the Joint List and Meretz Chair and MK Zehava Galon also gave speeches.

Touma-Suleiman, who is a member of the joint Arab-Jewish Hadash faction in the Joint List, said: “All who believe in the need to deliver both peoples from the occupation must come together in its fiftieth year and apply real pressure to put an end to the right-wing government, to stop creeping annexation and the strengthening of an apartheid regime.

“Together, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, we can overcome the occupation.”

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the looming closure of the new Israeli public broadcasting agency’s news division, with many of the protesters employees of the organization whose jobs are under threat.

The fate of the new agency’s news division was sealed this week after a tortuous and questionable process which threatened to devolve into early elections over Netanyahu’s refusal to allow the new organization, which is to replace the current Israeli Broadcasting Authority, to begin airing. A compromise was only reached when it was agreed that the new broadcaster would operate without a news arm.

Chanting protesters, who blocked a main road, compared Netanyahu to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They were eventually removed by riot police.

At the same time,...

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'The occupation will collapse. And then we'll build a moral society here'

On Saturday night, thousands of Palestinians and Jews gathered in Jerusalem for an anti-occupation protest marking 50 years since the occupation began. Breaking the Silence head Yuli Novak spoke to demonstrators about the importance of solidarity and resistance to the violence and racism of the Israeli government. Below is a transcript of the speech, translated from Hebrew.

By Yuli Novak

These are dark, somber days. Our country is dominated by occupation, messianism, racism, ignorance, callousness, and violence. Blaming the right-wing government won’t help. Nor will sitting in our living rooms fantasizing about the day they’ll be replaced. And please, enough with the “Anyone but Bibi” rhetoric — Yair Lapid is no different.

The change we need to enact here requires courage, honesty, and the willingness to sacrifice something – the willingness to give up privileges and pay a price. Show me one politician – one! – who wants to be prime minister and is also willing to do this.

During dark days like these marked by daily violence, intensifying hatred, terrible racism, the occupation, there’s only one way to win: resistance. Struggle. Solidarity. That’s it. Resistance — that’s our strength and the regime’s weakness. Joining struggles is our hope, and what will bring about the collapse of the regime. Solidarity is our civil power, and the regime’s greatest fear. And there’s nothing more frightening for bad regimes than the moment when citizens stand up, resist, and fearlessly struggle.

When Palestinians do so in nonviolent demonstrations in the occupied territories — in Bil’in, in Hebron, in Sheikh Jarrah — the regime’s response will always involve violence and force. This is why we need to join forces. Because resistance and civilian struggles are the only means to challenge violent regimes. They’re the only means that cannot be suppressed with guns or clubs.

Solidarity is a state of mind. To be willing to sacrifice for the other and to understand that it’s the only act the regime can’t tolerate. Solidarity isn’t an empty slogan. It’s a tool which we’re neither sufficiently familiar with nor trained to use. This state of affairs is convenient for the regime, and has been fostered for decades by right- and left-wing governments – making sure we keep thinking solely of ourselves, keep living in existential fear, keep perceiving the occupation as necessary, and keep looking at racism as something that defines us.

Solidarity is...

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Israeli cafe orders employees to stop speaking Arabic on the job

A branch of Aroma Espresso Bar in central Israel tells its Arab workers that speaking their mother-tongue is offensive to some of the customers.

By Yael Marom

A branch of “Aroma Espresso Bar,” one of Israel’s most popular coffee chains, told its Arab workers last week that they are no longer allowed to speak Arabic at work, following customer complaints.

“I am reminding you that our goal is to make our customers feel wanted, and not uncomfortable,” wrote the franchise manager of the Kfar Saba branch, in central Israel, in a WhatsApp message sent to the workers last week.

“It is important you understand that this is not against the Arabic language. By the same token, it could have been Russian or Ethiopian or any other language that the customers cannot understand. Speaking to people in a language they understand is a matter of basic manners,” she explained, requesting that the workers speak to customers in Hebrew only.

The Arab workers were also allegedly summoned in pairs to speak to the manager about the new policy. During these conversations, it was made clear to the workers that the rule applies to conversations among them that take place during work. Some of the workers, who were insulted by the decision, called the policy racist and said they would not stand for it. One of the workers even told the manager, “I am an Arab, this is my language. It’s an embarrassment that the company even takes these kinds of complaints.”

There are approximately 10 Arab workers at Aroma’s Kfar Saba Branch — nearly half of the total staff. The branch serves many Arab customers from the neighboring towns and cities, including Tira and Taybeh, including doctors and medical staff who work at the nearby Meir Medical Center.

Attorney Shada Aamer of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) explains that this kind of policy violates the 1988 Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law, which forbids discriminating against employees over their nationality, origin, religion, etc., and applies to all languages, whether Arabic, Russian, or Amharic. However, Aamer says, the language in question is also the mother-tongue of 20 percent of Israel’s citizens. “The court ruled that discomfort and suspicion toward the other who speaks Arabic is not protected by the law. Thus, for example, the benefit of Aroma’s employees cannot be used to protect the employer when he/she violates the Employment (Equal...

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AIPAC protests showed American-Jewish activism at a crossroads

Recent American Jewish protests marked an important step in interconnected, cross-border resistance to occupation and oppression. But in order to grow, the organizers must reach out to Palestinians — and to their elders.

By Samuel Molnar

On the last Sunday of March, 1,000 Jews, led by Jewish-American anti-occupation group IfNotNow, marched to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to sing, chant, pray and blockade its doorways.

This moment represented an unmistakable opening in the battle to disassemble the machine of Israel’s occupation. It was a win. IfNotNow presented a united front of Zionists and non-Zionists which effectively drove the wedge of endless occupation into Jewish institutions, creating a vital shift in communal discourse. This win, albeit only in discourse, compels IfNotNow to grow in maturity and complexity to create material changes in how the occupation is funded, implemented, and sustained.

Looking forward, IfNotNow can only rise to meet the opening it has created if it undergoes vital growing pains. The violent rise of a fascist alt-right in the United States reared its ugly head at AIPAC in the form of brutal repression from the Jewish Defense League (JDL).

The JDL had been camped out in front of the convention center as sentinels since the previous night. As the IfNotNow marchers rounded the corner on Sunday morning, yellow and black Kahanist flags could be seen waving alongside American and Israeli flags, carried by masked counter-demonstrators wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the words “Never Again.”

What began as verbal abuse quickly escalated into violence. Members of the JDL, many of whom had traveled from Canada, began pushing their way into the IfNotNow demonstration, using flagpoles against the demonstrators and shouting epithets.

Credit is due to IfNotNow for effectively training their people in non-violence and de-escalation. Immediately, soft blockades formed around the outside of the IfNotNow contingent, while trained de-escalators confronted the most violent members of the JDL.

And yet they still failed. Code Pink and smaller Palestinian organizations lingered in the back of the street, away from IfNotNow’s demonstration. Eventually the JDL went after them as well — this time targeting a 55-year-old Palestinian man named Kamal Nayfeh. Nayfeh was beaten by five members of the JDL before the police could stop the melee and take him to an ambulance.

The emergence of this violent rightwing tendency is a...

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Stepping up the battle against home demolitions in East Jerusalem

The occupation takes many forms in Jerusalem, none more pressing and fundamental than housing inequality between Jews and Palestinians, and the continual home demolitions carried out in the east of the city.

By Uri Agnon

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced last week, just ahead of this weekend’s anti-occupation protest in the city, that he is seeking a further term in office. Barkat has made the concept of “Jerusalem, the united capital” into the centerpiece of his mayorship, and with Saturday’s demonstration marking 50 years of occupation, the coalition organizing the protest has a duty to treat Jerusalem as a symbol — just as Barkat does.

The city is, politically, an important space, in which hundreds of thousands of people live under the occupation’s violent bureaucracy; Saturday’s march is therefore an opportunity to speak not just about the occupation, but also to address its various manifestations in this city, of which there are many: the different laws for Jews and Arabs; the severe shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem; police violence; the municipality’s proud support for the settlement enterprise; the jaw-dropping inequality across every state and municipal service; and more.

Yet within this long list is one area I think it’s important to focus on, and to campaign against at Saturday’s demonstration and leading up to the upcoming local elections: housing and home demolitions in East Jerusalem.

Building and destroying at random

The planning and building situation in Jerusalem is a painful and far-reaching issue, and in East Jerusalem hinges on a serious problem: outline plans for neighborhoods in the east of the city are mostly decades old, and their purpose from the outset was to prevent building, rather than allow for it.

This fact, together with the natural tendency to move around over time, has given rise to whole neighborhoods of houses with no building permits, constructed without any kind of overarching plan. In turn, this has led to structural problems, even dangers, as well as to continual demolitions.

Almost no politician in Jerusalem will openly say that they are opposed to the planning situation in the city’s east, despite the role the municipality is supposed to play in this “unified” city. However, since Barkat’s anointment as mayor, the municipality and the state have pushed through tens of thousands of housing units for Jews in West Jerusalem and in the large settlements that ring the city, while making...

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Pushing Palestinians off their land — by pumping sewage onto it

Not content with ongoing demolitions in Umm al-Kheir and the destruction of its taboun, settlers in nearby Carmel have resorted to piping their waste onto the land belonging to the village.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

The usual problem with reporting on what happens in the West Bank is lens width, an essential physical problem: you want to focus on the details, and hence need to narrow the lens. Yet the details themselves are part of a greater picture, demanding a wider lens.

On the face of it, what happened in Umm al-Kheir in the south Hebron Hills in December 2016 is a minor event — barely worth mentioning. A sewage pipe was built in the settlement of Carmel, causing the settlement’s waste to pour directly into land belonging to the Palestinian village of Umm al-Kheir. Technically, it’s nothing more than an insignificant squabble between neighbors.

Except these aren’t your typical neighbors. Umm al-Kheir was built in the 1960s by Bedouin refugees who were expelled in 1948 from the Tel Arad region. Unfortunately for them, they were re-occupied by Israel in 1967. The village is located in Area C, which means it is under full Israeli military and civil control. One might have expected that Israel would invest in the place, since the villagers are under its authority, and since Israel, as is well known, is not an apartheid state.

Of course, that did not actually happen. Israel didn’t much care for the small Palestinian village, and in 1981 the settlement of Carmel was built nearby. Carmel is supposedly sitting where Nabal the Carmelite (see 1 Samuel 25:3) used to live.

So the Palestinians lived there first? No matter. The government – in the guise of the Civil Administration – is on the side of the invaders. Umm al-Kheir had a taboun: traditional oven built from mud and hay, which was used by the villagers to bake bread.

In order for it to function, the taboun had to operate at all times. The smell emanating from it was disliked by the residents of Carmel, and they demanded its demolition, claiming it was an illegal structure. The villagers began a legal process, and managed to get an order delaying the demolition.

The legal process was apparently too slow for the opponents of the taboun, and in November 2013 a group of Israelis came from the direction of Carmel –...

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