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What will Israeli politics after Netanyahu hold for the Palestinians?

Disrupting Israel’s insular political discourse will require fully activating the Palestinian leadership in Israel, grassroots and civil society organizations, and foreign governments and institutions.

In August 2017, three thousand Israelis greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally in Tel Aviv organized by the Likud party. A few days earlier, media outlets reported that the Israeli police were close to recommending criminal indictments against Netanyahu regarding various corruption scandals after several of his close aides agreed to plea bargains in exchange for their cooperation with the authorities.

Speaking to the crowd, Netanyahu accused the media and the political left of pursuing “an obsessive, unprecedented hunting trip against me and my family with a goal to carry out a government coup.” He claimed that corruption allegations – what he called “fake news” – were also used to target Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1992 and himself as Prime Minister in 1999, which led to Likud’s election losses and resulted in “the Oslo disaster,” “exploding buses,” and “more than 1,000 dead Israelis.” The Israeli people, he said, should not allow it to happen a third time.

The speech was a classic display of Netanyahu’s knack for rhetorical manipulation. But whatever he had hoped to achieve with his performance, it certainly did not stop the police’s preparations of their charges. In February 2018, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh handed his recommendations to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and in the following weeks, more key witnesses gave themselves up to the police.

Although no indictments have been issued yet, and despite surviving the latest coalition crisis, Israelis are speculating whether the corruption scandals finally mark the beginning of Netanyahu’s political demise. The second-longest serving prime minister after David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu has had a profound impact on Israel’s political scene since the 1990s. It is therefore troubling, especially to Palestinians, that if these corruption cases are the harbinger of Netanyahu’s downfall, it will have had nothing to do with the more egregious crimes for which he is responsible, and for which he – and future Israeli leaders – have yet to be held accountable.

Israel under “King Bibi”

Throughout his premierships, analysts predicted that Netanyahu would be brought down by any one of the allies holding up his fragile rule, from the ultra-orthodox Jewish parties to his personal rivals within Likud. “King Bibi,” however, survived them all. A skilled politician, he has been adept...

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The new Balfour Declaration

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital echoes Lord Balfour’s denial of Palestinian rights a century ago. Today, however, Palestinians are more empowered to challenge it.

During a debate in the British Cabinet regarding its policy toward Palestine in 1919, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour informed Lord George Curzon, another senior statesman, that the government was not interested in “consulting the wishes of the present [Arab] inhabitants of the country” to help formulate its decisions. The great powers were “committed to Zionism,” he said, and Zionism was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Balfour’s sentiments echoed throughout President Donald Trump’s speech on Wednesday when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. Trump made no mention of the Palestinians’ history and belonging to the city, or the fact that over a third of its residents identify as Palestinian. He said that he would only support a two-state solution — and presumably, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem — if it was “agreed to by both sides.” The U.S. decision, he insisted, “is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

The irony of Trump’s timing is not lost on Palestinians: last month marked the centenary of Lord Balfour’s infamous letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, a prominent Zionist activist, which promised British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Like Trump’s announcement, the Balfour Declaration was the outcome of several aligning interests and efforts, including the Zionist movement’s intensive lobbying, state officials’ evangelical Christian beliefs, and the imperial power’s strategic goals for the region. It not only prioritized Zionist claims over Arab rights, but elevated the Zionist movement from a nascent organization into a major political force.

In contrast, Britain actively interfered in Palestinian Arab affairs and repressed local resistance to its rule. Divisions and misjudgments within the Palestinian leadership mired its ability to mobilize effectively against the colonization of their lands. Arab rulers paid lip service to the Palestinian cause but abandoned and betrayed it for their own political ambitions. Remarkably, these realities remain as true of 2017 as they were of 1917.

It is too soon to tell whether Trump’s proclamation will have a similarly profound mark on the conflict; but in many ways, his speech has...

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‘A legal shield for the Palestine movement in the U.S.’

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of a Kansas public school teacher who, as a condition for taking her job, was required under a new state law to declare that she would not engage in boycotts of Israel. The law is just one in a growing list of measures in recent years aiming to counter the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States.

Political boycotts in the U.S. are meant to be stringently protected under the First Amendment. “The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support,” Esther Koontz, the Kansas teacher, said about her lawsuit.

That’s not necessarily the reality these days, however. “It’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right,” says Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal.

Established in 2012 in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Palestine Legal has been one of the key players holding the frontline against efforts to suppress BDS activity and speech about Palestine across the U.S., from state legislatures to university campuses. Khalidi and her staff responded to 650 such incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Just last month, Palestine Legal responded to false legal threats sent to activists and professors by a group called “Outlaw BDS New York,” which accused them of violating an anti-BDS law that never actually passed the New York State legislature. Along with its legal work, the organization also tracks anti-BDS laws in all 50 states (21 have already enacted such laws) and at the federal level.

I spoke with Khalidi last month about Palestine Legal’s work and to hear her perspective on the various threats to – and signs of hope for – Palestine activism in the U.S., including BDS. The following was edited for length.

How and why was Palestine Legal created? What compelled the need for its existence?

“The idea started with conversations among lawyers and activists who were thinking about what we could do legally on Palestine in the U.S. This was in the context of largely unsuccessful attempts – including by CCR, where I interned and co-counselled – to seek accountability for Israel’s violations of international law through domestic and international legal mechanisms.

“This was also happening in...

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Palestinians are reviving their agency in Jerusalem

After years of oppression and fragmentation, Palestinians in the occupied city are remobilizing around a common political goal.

After days of deliberations, the Israeli government finally removed metal detectors from the entrances of the Aqsa compound on Monday evening. Reports say the decision may have been linked to an agreement reached with Jordan’s King Abdullah, as part of a deal to resolve a brief diplomatic crisis that followed Sunday’s attack at the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Israeli authorities are now seeking to install “smart” cameras that can identify visitors to Al-Aqsa using facial recognition software. Palestinians argue that this technology, which can easily be abused by Israeli security services, is even worse than the metal detectors. The Islamic Waqf declared its opposition to the new plan yesterday and insisted that the status quo be restored to the situation that existed prior to a deadly shooting two weeks ago. Local worshipers continued to protest outside the Aqsa compound, and police continued to respond with stun grenades and arrests.

Despite this development, it seems that the Palestinians’ campaign of civil disobedience – largely ignored by the media’s focus on violence during the past week – is working.

The mass boycott of the metal detectors was a remarkable sight. Young headscarved women appealed (and at times shouted) to Muslim visitors not to pass through the gates. Men prayed outside or in the narrow alleys of the Old City, with some live-streaming the scenes on Facebook. Four families living inside the compound, not wanting to violate the boycott, refused to leave the premises until a special arrangement was agreed upon with the Waqf.

This united activism surprised many. Dispossessed and disenfranchised for decades, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem have been leaderless since the brutal suppression of the Second Intifada and further crippled by the wave of violence that erupted in September 2015. With Jewish settlements expanding and collective punishment increasing, the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods seemed to be verging toward social and economic collapse.

Now, after years of fragmentation, the community is remobilizing en masse around a common political goal. Thousands of Palestinians, under the glare of Israeli riot police, thronged the streets on July 21 in one of the largest protests the city has seen in some time. Hundreds of fellow worshippers, activists, and representatives traveled from Arab towns and cities across Israel to join them....

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The redundancy of Israel's 'Jewish Nation-State Law'

The Israeli government is pushing a law that would force judges to prioritize Israel’s Jewish character over democratic principles. But that has always been the case.

The “Jewish Nation-State Law,” which is currently making its way through the Knesset as a proposed Basic Law – the closest thing Israel has to a constitutional amendment – would require the High Court to prioritize Israel’s Jewish nature over democratic principles in its rulings, according to Haaretz.

The bill asserts that the justices of the highest court in the land must interpret Israeli law with the understanding that the right to self-determination in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people,” and with the aim of “protecting Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” Similar versions of the same bill have stalled in the legislative process in recent years.

The Netanyahu government seems to have a fondness for redundant laws. Contrary to popular belief, the High Court of Justice has hardly been a guarantor of democratic rights in Israel — particularly for its non-Jewish citizens and subjects. From legitimizing countless aspects of the occupation to limiting citizens’ freedoms, the court has acquiesced to most of the government’s discriminatory positions for decades, serving as a rubber stamp to preserve Jewish supremacy and state power.

When insisting on sidelining fundamental democratic values, perhaps the government forgot how the court has repeatedly upheld an order that bans Palestinian family unification. In his 2012 judgment on the inherently discriminatory law, then-court president Asher Grunis wrote: “Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.”

Or perhaps the government dozed off in court in 2015, when in his decision upholding the Anti-Boycott Law – a direct assault on the principle of free political expression – Justice Elyakim Rubinstein cited the Passover Haggadah and endorsed the Knesset’s effort to “ensure the survival of the Jewish people” by combating BDS.

Maybe the Knesset members missed the news in January 2016, when High Court President Miriam Naor refused to reconsider the planned demolition of Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the Naqab (Negev), in order to build a Jewish town over its ruins; she didn’t think the case was “exceptionally exceptional, the rarest of rare, to warrant another hearing.”

They most certainly didn’t read the court’s decision last week refusing to demolish the homes of Mohammad Abu Khdeir’s murderers, as Israel does to the family homes...

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The occupation is a symptom, not source, of Israel's racist system

It was the state’s policies within its 1948 borders that inspired the 1967 occupation, not the other way around.

During a Knesset debate in May 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastised opposition parties for criticizing his government’s lack of progress in achieving a two-state solution. Referring to Palestinian demonstrations held the day before in commemoration of the Nakba, Netanyahu pointed out that the protests “did not take place on June 5, the day the Six Day War erupted,” but on “May 15, the day the State of Israel was established.” He continued: “This is not a conflict about 1967. This is a conflict about 1948, about the State of Israel’s very existence.”

Although not in the way he conceived, Netanyahu was right. In the flurry of activity this week marking the fiftieth year of the occupation, many have forgotten that the basis of its regime existed well before 1967. The Emergency Regulations, a product of Britain’s colonial mandate, were first exercised on the 150,000 Palestinians who remained inside Israel’s borders after the 1948 war. The state honed its discriminatory policies of land grabs, checkpoints, and brutal violence against its minority citizens for two decades, before transferring them to the Palestinian territories.

The shadow of military rule has never left Palestinian life in Israel. Dozens of civil laws, most of which were written in neutral terminology or bestowed extensive powers to the state, continue to ensure Jewish privilege at the expense of Palestinian citizens’ rights. Over twenty of these laws were enacted by Netanyahu’s governments in the last eight years, with some of the most egregious ones being condoned by the Supreme Court itself. The result was a nuanced system that maintained the appearance of a democracy, but in fact cemented racial hierarchy among Israel’s citizens.

This system is what allows for the ongoing displacement of Naqab (Negev) Bedouins into impoverished townships under the guise of “modernization,” while confiscating their lands to build rural Jewish communities. It enshrines free speech as a legal right yet empowers authorities to stifle Palestinian expression in schools and theaters. It invites Jews from around the world to immigrate and naturalize in Israel, but bans Palestinian citizens from bringing their spouses into the country if the latter are from Gaza or the West Bank.

Liberal Zionists like to claim that these racist policies are the result of the occupation’s corrupting influence. But...

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How the hunger strike could bring Palestinian prisoners back to the fore

The fixation on Barghouti’s op-ed bio distracts from the strike’s impact on Palestinians, which is as much about restoring political direction as it is about attaining prisoners’ rights.

In 2015, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) created the “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.” Nicknamed after the renowned South African leader who spent 27 years behind bars, the “Nelson Mandela Rules” form an international blueprint for the basic rights of all prisoners regardless of the charges against them, including telephone calls, medical examinations and educational programs, among many others.

The demands of the 1,200 Palestinian prisoners who launched a hunger strike on Monday echo the provisions of the Mandela Rules. For decades, Palestinians in Israeli prisons have had their rights systematically denied or restricted under the guise of “security,”  with few questioning the legality or practical necessity of the state’s measures. The government has even been open many times about its purely political motives in holding prisoners’ rights hostage, as it did during the Gilad Shalit ordeal.

Ironically, Israel demonstrated its disregard for the Mandela Rules once again when Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader serving five life sentences, was thrown into solitary confinement as punishment for his New York Times op-ed this week – proving exactly the kind of punitive policies Barghouti had written about.

The insistence on focusing on the violent pasts of Palestinian leaders like Barghouti not only distracts from the prisoners’ human rights demands, but is also heavily distorted by people’s selective knowledge of history.

Despite many Israelis lamenting for a “Palestinian Mandela,” few seem to remember that Mandela himself, who was head of the armed wing of the African National Congress, did not immediately renounce violence upon his release from prison. Other anti-apartheid figures, including the Jewish communist Denis Goldberg (who was convicted alongside Mandela), were also key members of the armed struggle. Given this context, it is rather perverse for Israelis to set mythologized moral criteria of what a Palestinian leader should espouse – even if they acknowledge the violent pasts of Israeli leaders as well.

Although the hunger strike will have to prove its durability in the coming weeks, there are reasons to believe that something different is beginning to stir. For the past few years, the prisoner issue has slipped from the Palestinian public’s priorities as they...

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Assault on Palestinian man shows violent effects of police impunity

Even when brutality is documented, Palestinians must live with the knowledge that they are unlikely to receive truth, justice, or respect from the authorities that claim to serve them.

In the wake of a video released last Thursday showing an Israeli police officer assaulting a Palestinian truck driver in East Jerusalem, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh stated that it was “difficult to find any justification whatsoever” for the policeman’s behavior, and assured the public that the officer would be dismissed. “This is an irregular incident that has no place in the Israel Police,” he insisted.

Alsheikh’s attempt to portray the event as essentially a problem of “a few bad apples” is disingenuous. According to Ynet, the policeman from the video was investigated over another violent incident four years ago, but the file was closed by the Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”). His case appears to be one of the 10,492 complaints of police brutality and misconduct filed from 2011 to 2014 — 93 percent of all complaints filed during those years — which were dismissed without punishment. If the officer was indeed a “bad apple” as Alsheikh suggests, the authorities clearly had no problem with throwing him back into the barrel.

It was fortunate that the incident in Jerusalem was captured on camera, but that is not always enough to secure justice for brutality by the police or the army. In November 2014, despite a security camera showing that policemen fired unjustifiably at Kheir Hamdan in Kufr Kanna, the officers were never brought to trial.

In the case of Elor Azaria, who was recorded executing a wounded Palestinian attacker while he was lying on the ground in Hebron, the court played down his conviction as manslaughter and sentenced him to only eighteen months in prison. Despite extensive documentation of excessive force during protests, almost no police officer is ever charged. The list goes on.

This backdrop of impunity is probably one of the reasons why, despite the officer’s maniacal outburst, none of the Palestinian men in the video dared to hit him back in the same manner. Every one of them is mindful that the officer could easily arrest them, or worse, pull out and fire his gun. The officer might claim that the men ganged up on him and that he acted in self-defense —...

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How Israeli photography creates a world without Palestinians

The myth of the land of Mandate Palestine as an untapped oasis waiting for Jewish habitation is still thriving on both sides of the Green Line. Photographs are a key tool for perpetuating — and challenging — that myth.

David Rubinger, Israel’s most famous photographer, died on 1 March at the age of 92. His photograph of three Israeli paratroopers gazing at the Western Wall, taken minutes after Israeli forces seized Jerusalem’s Old City during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, was widely revered as a symbol of Zionism’s triumphant destiny. Rubinger, however, was not particularly fond of the picture: “Part of the face is cut off on the right side,” he said, “in the middle the nose protrudes, and on the left there’s only half a face … photographically speaking, this isn’t a good photo.”

The soldiers’ faces were not the only things cut out of the shot. Behind Rubinger were the buildings of the Mughrabi Quarter of the Old City, home to about 650 Palestinians. Three days after the picture was taken, the Israeli army evicted the residents and demolished their houses and mosques. An open plaza now welcomes worshipers and visitors to the Western Wall, with no trace of the area’s former life. “There are those who write the pages of history,” President Rivlin said after Rubinger’s death, “and there are those who create them with their lens.”

Israeli visual history has always required the erasure of Palestinians. The National Library recently released forty aerial photos, taken by Zoltan Kluger in 1937, of what it described as “pre-state Israel” rather than Mandate Palestine. The images, which include views of the Nahalal moshav and Tel Aviv, bolster the Zionist myth of the land as an untapped oasis waiting for Jewish labor and habitation.

The myth is still thriving eighty years later, on both sides of the Green Line. Kluger’s photo of the fertile banks of the River Jordan could easily be used today to advertise the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements and industries in the occupied Jordan Valley, which have displaced thousands of Palestinians. In the Negev, the Palestinian village of Umm al-Hiran is slated to be destroyed and a Jewish town built on its ruins. A video made by the incoming Jewish residents, who currently live in a temporary encampment in a nearby forest, shows two men searching the desert for...

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U.S. abstention is a message to Europe: End Israel’s impunity

The U.S. essentially admitted that its unyielding defense of Israel in the diplomatic arena was a disastrous strategy. With Obama bowing out, Europe will need to act on this lesson.

Shortly after the UN Security Council passed its resolution criticizing Israeli settlements on Friday, the U.S. State Department issued a press statement by John Kerry explaining Washington’s decision to abstain from the vote. Kerry said that their goal was to “preserve the possibility of the two state solution,” adding that “We cannot in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”

Had they made that decision a year ago, Kerry and Obama might have left a meaningful legacy on the conflict; but this is not the case. Palestinians and Israelis have watched previous American presidents launch dramatic peace moves in the twilight of their administrations: Clinton with Camp David in 2000, and Bush with Annapolis in 2007. The late timing of these initiatives proved to be ineffective and even detrimental: they heightened the tensions and the stakes for the parties to agree on a rushed solution, and cast heavy doubt that any major decisions would survive under the next presidency (or under a new Israeli premiership).

This is why, contrary to what my colleague Dahlia Scheindlin argues, the Left has every reason to remain critical of the U.S.’s abstention. It is a failure of policy to be eight years late to a diplomatic move that could have had a significant impact on the conflict’s developments. It is a failure of principle to wait 36 years before allowing the Security Council to re-echo the U.S.’s own position that settlements violate international law. And it is a failure of political will to do all this just a month before the curtain closes on Obama’s presidency.

That being said, the abstention may still mark an important moment for the conflict. By withholding the veto, the Obama administration essentially admitted – intentionally or not – that its unyielding defense of Israel in the diplomatic arena was a disastrous strategy. Not only did the Israeli government personally disrespect Obama on a regular basis, it openly undermined U.S. policy by continuing to expand settlements and disparaging the very idea of a two-state solution. Now, with the incoming inauguration of Donald Trump, Obama...

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The end of American exceptionalism

Trump has shown that the U.S.’s democracy is just as flawed and illusory as the many countries that it has preached to for decades. And that’s a good thing to admit.

In a Daily Show segment covering the U.S. presidential race last year, Trevor Noah told his audience that, “as an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump.” Noah compared some of Trump’s statements with those of leaders from his home continent – Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Idi Amin, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi – concluding that Trump is actually “the perfect African president.” It was a joke that pointed to a sobering reality: American politicians were not so different from the “crazy” personalities seen in other parts of the world.

In recent years the American entertainment industry has been fascinated by the fallacies of the country’s political culture. If the most popular political drama a decade ago was The West Wing – a revering insight into the daily workings of the White House – today it is House of Cards – a sinister story of the vicious lengths politicians will go to in the pursuit of power.

After Trump’s victory this week, however, the disturbing rise of Frank Underwood in House of Cards no longer seems so fictional. A megalomaniacal businessman, who himself gained fame through a television show, was just made the most powerful leader in the world. Many people’s attitudes toward voting this year felt more like personality contests over American Idol singers than serious considerations over policy issues. The U.S. political system now mirrors the eccentric plot lines and characters we watch on the screen – and we have yet to absorb the fact that they have spilled into our real lives.

For many people outside the U.S., including in the Middle East, there is a bit of schadenfreude in watching Trump tear down what’s left of the country’s image of political integrity. Even those who have long despised and criticized the American political system often believed that there was still a democratic culture that made the U.S. somewhat unique. Now, with his increasingly outlandish policies, conduct, and rhetoric becoming mainstream (and ballot-winning) political discourse, Trump has proven that America’s democracy is in fact just as flawed and illusory as the many countries that the U.S. government has preached to for decades.

The decline of America’s “exceptional” image in the eyes of the world did not start...

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Force-feeding law seeks to oppress Palestinian lives, not save them

Israeli security authorities view hunger striking Palestinian prisoners as political time-bombs that can undermine the occupation’s control. The High Court agrees.

In a unanimous decision by a three-justice panel, the Israeli High Court on Sunday approved the legality of the force-feeding law, which was enacted by the Knesset in July 2015.

The law allows Israeli authorities to forcibly feed hunger striking prisoners against their will if their health condition is deemed to be life-threatening, and if the measure is approved by the attorney general and a District Court judge. The procedure involves transmitting food into the patient’s body, either through the vein, through an open cut to the stomach, or more commonly through a rubber or plastic tube inserted up the patient’s nose or down the throat.

Aside from its physical and medical dangers, the practice of force-feeding poses legitimate legal and ethical dilemmas. On the one hand there is the need to respect the hunger striker’s right to protest, their personal dignity, and control over their body. On the other hand there is a need to protect the striker’s most fundamental right of all: his or her life.

But these questions are not what concern the Israeli security authorities, despite their arguments ostensibly favoring the right to life. In their eyes, a hunger striking Palestinian is a political time-bomb: the death of a prisoner might spark demonstrations, encourage other prisoners to strike, spur demands for investigations, and increase international pressure against Israel’s detention policies. The court acknowledged these worries when it wrote that hunger strikes have “implications that go beyond the personal matter of the hunger striker,” further concluding that a person who willingly endangers their own life through a strike cannot be regarded as an “ordinary patient.”

The court’s ruling went against the combined positions of human rights groups, UN experts, and both the Israel and World Medical Associations, all of which regard force-feeding as a serious breach of medical ethics, a violation of national and international laws, and a practice that amounts to torture and ill-treatment. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, one of the petitioners in the case, stated that the court’s ruling dismissed their arguments and “relied on a minority position of Israeli ethicists and physicians that support [the law].” The Israel Medical Association also declared that it would continue to instruct doctors to disobey the law and any orders to implement it.

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Who’s sending death threats to Palestinian advocates in The Hague?

In an interview with +972, the Hague representative of Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, talks about the slew of threats she and her organization have received for months, and why she believes the Israeli government is behind them.

In a small ceremony in The Hague on April 1, 2015, the Palestinian Authority officially signed the Rome Statute, the legal covenant enabling the prosecution of individuals at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief negotiator, called it “a historic day in the struggle for justice, freedom and peace for our people and all those seeking justice worldwide.”

A few months later, four Palestinian human rights organizations – Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Aldameer, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – submitted communiqués to the ICC detailing numerous counts of suspected war crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza War, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge” by the Israeli military. Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, stated that “Israel is unwilling and Palestine is unable to domestically hold to account Israeli perpetrators of international crimes. We need the ICC to break the cycle of impunity.”

The four organizations anticipated a backlash from Israel, which made no secret of its hostility towards the Palestinians’ attempt to pursue an international legal track to seek accountability. What they didn’t anticipate was how severe that backlash would be.

Since September 2015, several of the organizations have faced ruthless smear and intimidation campaigns seeking to discredit them and stoke insecurity among their staff. The harassment culminated in death threats made against two individuals: A senior Palestinian advocate in Al Mezan, whose identity has been kept confidential but who will be discussed in Part II of this series; and Nada Kiswanson, 31, a Palestinian-Swedish lawyer who is Al-Haq’s representative in The Hague.

Although the death threats began in February 2016, Kiswanson initially kept a low profile, concerned first and foremost for the safety of her family including her husband and two-year-old daughter, and in the hope that the Dutch authorities would find the culprits immediately. But the authorities still haven’t tracked them down, and the attacks only escalated. Kiswanson finally went public about her case last week.

The Dutch newspapers that first covered the story highlighted a few examples of the threats. In late February, Kiswanson received obscure phone calls from people calling...

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