Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Jews stand up for Muslims, as Muslims once stood up for them

Muslims once protected Jews from Nazi persecution. Today, American Jews are standing up for Muslims in the face of President Trump’s draconian ban. These are everyday stories of resistance — even if they are hardly reported. 

Over one million dollars were collected by Americans who were disgusted by the recent arson attack on a mosque in Victoria, Texas. The only synagogue in town shared its building with the Muslim congregants who had just lost their place of worship. Inspirational stories of people standing up for each other like these are common, even if rarely reported.

Last week I joined tens of thousands of people protesting President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. I was amazed to see many Jews — people who heard stories from their families about how they were protected during the Holocaust — join the protest. These are young Jews whose grandparents were allowed in America as they fled the mass murder of the Third Reich — whose personal stories caused them to stand up for others who are in need today. These stories lie at the heart of every community that stands up and defends civil liberties.

But stories can also be used to dehumanize the other. A week ago the world commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a day when we remember that the human race is capable of committing unimaginable crimes against each other. The Nazi regime was able to alter reality and use isolated, threatening stories of the Jewish “other” to create a security-based narrative that demonized Jews, portrayed them as a threat, and ultimately bred hatred against them. However, even many of the countries that opposed Nazism refused to accept Jewish refugees, leading to the death of countless Jews.

However, as we remember these dark moments in our history, we must also remember that when people rise up together, they can create a new reality. Albania, a Muslim majority country is guided by a cultural precept called “Besa,” an Albanian term that loosely translates to “keeping the promise.” It is a moral code that instructs Albanians to protect the stranger among them as much as their own. Albania was the only country in Europe that had more Jews at the end of the war than at the beginning. King Zog I and his people organized to save the Jews by opening their borders, hiding, feeding, sheltering them until the end of the war.

This is not a story about the past. Today we see many...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Will there be peace if Palestinians lay down their arms?

The world expects millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank to happily and quietly live under occupation. While laying down arms is a positive step towards peace, it is not enough to end this conflict.

Written with Dr. Marc Gopin

In the past few weeks the pro-Israel pundits have been recycling an argument that runs as follows:

This argument is based on two false assumptions about Palestinians. The first statement is based on the false assumption that the only impediment to peace is Palestinian violence, and the second is based on the assumption that the Palestinians’ main goal is to eradicate the Jews. The argument also rests on the false premise that Israelis are completely peaceful. Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish answered this argument in one of his poems.

The accusation is that I hate Jews.
It’s not comfortable that they show me as a devil
and an enemy of Israel.
I am not a lover of Israel, of course.
I have no reason to be. But I don’t hate Jews

I will continue to humanize even the enemy
The first teacher who taught me Hebrew was a Jew.
The first love affair in my life was with a Jewish girl.
The first judge who sent me to prison was a Jewish woman.
So from the beginning, I didn’t see Jews as devils or angels,
but as human beings.

Many Palestinians share Mahmoud Darwish’s opinion. They don’t hate Jews. They live, work and maintain friendships with Jews and Israelis, and have had good and bad experiences. But the argument is a cheap scare tactic. It demonizes Palestinians and equates them with Nazis. This kind of fear is counterproductive, and fuels the conflict rather than offers constructive solutions.

We – Marc and Aziz – have been working together for six years. Marc is Jewish, Aziz is Palestinian. Neither of us believes for a moment that one of us is waiting to kill the other.

On a political level, this statement is false because Palestinians in the West Bank did, in fact, lay down their weapons. Moreover, they use their weapons to protect Israel.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has recognized Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent interview with Al-Mayadeen News (Arabic) declared that the armed struggle is over and he is opposed to rockets, armed...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour

A video posted Tuesday by Al Arabiya shows the destruction of the Gaza neighborhood of Beit Hanoun in one hour. According to the Israeli army, residents are given at least three minutes to evacuate their homes before they are bombed. (In some cases, Gazans are given a 24-hour notice to evacuate the entire neighborhood.) Watching this video, I couldn’t help but wonder whether those three minutes would be enough to escape this kind of attack. I don’t think so.

This video reflects the reality of civilian life in Gaza. Israel claims that Hamas is using schools, hospitals, beaches and mosques to shoot rockets, which makes each of these sites a legitimate target. However, this also means that civilians have nowhere to go for safety. I was told by some Israelis that people should just go out into the streets until the bombing is over. However, this video proves how naive this “solution” is. The residents of Gaza don’t even have the “privilege” to flee danger as refugees.

As a friend of mine from Gaza told me when I called him two days ago: “We are waiting here to see if we are meant to live or die. Every day is another day of fear and destruction. If you don’t die, someone you know is likely to be among the dead. This is no life a human being can accept.”

Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza
Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?

Newsletter banner 6 -540

View article: AAA
Share article

Gaza becomes Syria: Middle East geopolitics 2.0

The bickering between countries over who has the right to negotiate over the Palestinians is nothing new. We’ve been here before.

By Aziz Abu Sarah and Dr. Marc Gopin

There are two main camps involved in negotiating a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. However, the players are not within the camp that most would have expected. What started as Israel vs. Hamas is quickly becoming a geopolitical issue involving many new actors. While this might seem good for some, it should be seen as terrible news for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Israel, Egypt and the PLO seem to be in one camp supporting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, and Saudi Arabia might be there as well. That camp calls for an immediate ceasefire and for all issues to be negotiated in Egypt after the ceasefire is achieved. In the other camp stands Hamas, Qatar and Turkey. They oppose the Egyptian ceasefire because it does not address the blockade on Gaza.

There is a third camp that includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and some other international figures, who are trying to figure out how to bring these two camps to agree on one formula for a ceasefire, but are managing to get everyone angry instead. Complicating things is a reported $11 billion defense deal between the United States and Qatar, which prompts some to question what’s going on in terms of everyone’s interests.

The problem with these new alignments is that Hamas vs. Israel is now becoming a geopolitical conflict that includes countries that have become bitter enemies. Qatar and Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the opposition to Sisi, the current Egyptian president, is positioning them on the rejectionist side of any proposal that Egypt would propose. Egypt, on the other hand, does not want Qatar or Turkey to have any regional influence on its borders – certainly not in Gaza. Sisi’s strategy has been to pressure Hamas to accept his proposal by limiting aid coming from other Arab countries, such as the Tunisian aid  that was not allowed into Gaza last week. However, Egypt marginalized Hamas to a point of complete mistrust when it did not speak to its leaders directly about the first ceasefire proposal.

Secretary Kerry’s efforts have not lead to any concrete agreements yet. According to Haaretz writer Barak Ravid, the Israeli government was shocked by his ceasefire proposal....

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Who will protect Palestinian journalists?

Between shootings, beatings and arrests, Palestinian journalists are subject to violence and restrictions that their Israeli counterparts generally avoid.

Last week at a protest in the West Bank city of Beitunia, a group of Palestinian protestors attacked Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff and photographer Daniel Book. According to Issacharoff, he was told to leave the protest by Palestinian journalists, and when he refused he was surrounded by a group of angry Palestinian protesters, who he says wanted to “lynch” him. Eventually, he was escorted out of the area with the help of two Palestinian officers. Such incidents are depressing, especially for journalists who are simply trying to report the news.

This incident, however, raises several issues regarding access and cooperation among Israeli and Palestinian journalists.

After years of conflict and a failed peace process, trust has been shaken between Palestinian protestors and Israeli journalists. Many Palestinian protestors worry that they cannot trust Israelis with photographs that could lead to their arrest. In addition, the knowledge that Israeli journalists could, at any time, be called up for their annual reserve service in the IDF further complicates their relationship with Palestinian society.

On a personal note: when I was filming National Geographic’s Conflict Zone, the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the issue of trust. This was true for the settlers, the IDF and the Palestinian protestors in Nabi Saleh alike. For example, it was understood from the onset that we wouldn’t film the faces of stone throwers, since our footage could potentially lead to their arrest. And while on their base, the Israeli army asked us on several occasions not to film certain things or people for security reasons.

+972 Editorial: Demanding freedom of movement and access for Palestinian journalists

Another sore spot mentioned by Issacharoff is the fact that many Palestinian journalists have no access to Israel, and therefore cannot cover anything beyond the West Bank and Gaza. The access Israeli journalists have to both sides creates an unfair advantage over Palestinians. Therefore, it is no surprise that some Palestinian journalists are calling for limits on Israeli access to the West Bank; some of them feel that the privileges held by Israeli journalists is a reflection of the occupation, and thus want Israeli journalists to face the same restrictions on freedom of movement as they do.

Furthermore, unlike Israeli journalists, many Palestinian journalists have been Read More

View article: AAA
Share article

At summer camp, Syrian child refugees recall a lost homeland

SYRIA-TURKEY BORDER – Last week, my colleagues and I started a summer camp for hundreds of Syrian child refugees on the Syrian-Turkish border. While pundits and self-proclaimed “experts” are debating what to do in Syria, or whether the US should strike or not, we decided to act rather than talk. After all, over a 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been left displaced. Whether the US bombs Assad or not is not in my control, but being active to help those in need is.

For the past few weeks we started fundraising for educational camps for Syrian children, which make up nearly almost half of all Syrian refugees. Some of those we met do not attend school, either because they don’t have books or have yet to gain refugee status, while others are extremely poor and devastated. Most of the children I talked to have lost a family member in the ongoing conflict.

These children do not talk like children anymore. They have lost one of the most valuable things children have: innocence. They talk about loss of homes, family members and dangerous situations as if it were a normal thing. Perhaps the most worrying thing is the uncertainty of what could become of this generation without serious intervention.

Two sisters I spoke to, Amneh (11) and Arwa (8), told me about their life. Amneh told me about her fear of the sound of airplanes, even while in Turkey. Her younger sister quickly interrupted and said, “I am not afraid.” Amneh told me that her younger sister would comfort her and hold her hand when during air strikes. When I asked Arwa, why wasn’t she afraid, she responded “What is the worse thing that can happen? I die? It is better than this life even without knowing whether I will go to heaven or hell.”

Amneh also told me about how she was shot at while bicycling around her home. She is traumatized and is unlikely to receive help. Most help is focused on humanitarian aid, which is still way below the actual need. Very few people focus on addressing the effects that the ongoing killing have on these children.

Finally, both girls told me that they miss Syria and they want to go back home. Amneh added that she feels guilty having fun at our summer camp, knowing that many other kids are suffering in Syria...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

WATCH: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Zone series produced by National Geographic

Just over a year ago I started filming for a web series produced by National Geographic. My goal was to highlight the conflicting narratives and the different points of view while inspiring hope. As Obama is visiting the region, I no longer believe that he or other leaders will bring an end to this conflict. It must be people who lead the leaders. However, I have found that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are indifferent and ineffective. Indifference is the greatest enemy to peace and justice. In this series, I try to understand why this conflict is still going on. I try to examine the narratives and perspectives. But most importantly I also explore the effect of interactions between the sides.

This special online 4-part video series, Conflict Zone, follows Aziz Abu Sarah, a cultural educator, a native of Jerusalem, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who works in international conflict resolution. 

Part 1: Uneasy Coexistence
This first segment shows Israelis and Palestinians trying to lead ordinary lives, but the complications of living in a conflict zone can be extraordinary.

Part 2: Israel Defense Force
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Israeli military’s point of view.

Part 3: Palestinian Protesters
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Palestinians’ point of view.

Part 4: A Space to Talk
This segment highlights the process of creating safe places for dialogue among people who are on opposing sides of a conflict.

View article: AAA
Share article

Watching elections I cannot vote in

Until few days ago, I wasn’t able to vote. According to the Israeli system, I still cannot vote. However, my friend Liel Maghen asked to vote in my place, an act that if taken en masse, has the potential to shock and challenge Israel’s policies of oppression like never before.

Many Palestinians in Jerusalem are watching the Israeli elections unfold before their eyes without being able influence their outcome. After 1967, Israel annexed Jerusalem but didn’t annex its population. Palestinians in Jerusalem became “residents” in their homeland. They were given some rights but were given no way to influence the government or its policies that regulate every small detail in their lives.

My life is a good example. I am a Palestinian, born and raised in East Jerusalem, yet I have no right to vote in Israel. In addition to not having the right to vote, I have no right to build on my land and no right to celebrate my identity. If I choose to live abroad for a while, I am not allowed to come back. When I was 16, I lived two miles outside Jerusalem and I was told my Jerusalem residency would be revoked if we didn’t move to East Jerusalem. We had to leave our house, which we owned, to move to rental home in the center of Jerusalem. On our way to Jerusalem we passed by the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which is also couple of miles outside Jerusalem. However, Israeli Jews can live there with in settlements with no objection by the government that they are living outside Jerusalem. It was yet another reminder that I am not an equal under Israeli law. Settlers can live anywhere, but I cannot. Even in my homeland, someone else decides where I am allowed to live or not live.

My residency in Jerusalem is conditional and according to Israeli law it is quite easy to lose. A few years ago, I started working for extended periods of time in the U.S. Soon after, I was told by the Israeli Interior Ministry that if I stayed abroad for too long I would lose my residency. Later I was told that if I receive American citizenship, which I am eligible for, I would lose my residency in Jerusalem. I could lose my right to ever come back to live in Jerusalem. I watch my American Jewish friends move to...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Eviction of Palestinian outpost exposes double standard on settlements

The consequences of the the Israeli government decision go beyond the action against the Palestinian community in Bab Al-Shams. By evicting the residents, Netanyahu has made a mockery of the Israeli High Court and, in turn, the rule of law.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, hundreds of Israeli soldiers stormed the newly-founded Bab Al-Shams village, evicting Palestinian and international activists. The eviction took place despite an injunction by the High Court of Justice. However, Palestinians at the site were notified ahead of time that they will be removed regardless of the decision.

The Bab Al-Shams village was created only three days ago by over 250 Palestinians and internationals as a nonviolent response to Israel’s recent decision to build settlement units in the E1 area. According to Irene Nasser, an activist who was present at the scene last night, activists at Bab Al-Shams were arrested and  later released at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. Six Palestinians were injured during the eviction and taken to hospitals in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

The Israeli government’s decision to ignore the High Court injunction and evict the Palestinians from E1 was justified by urgent security needs. However, there was no further explanation regarding said security threat. (In Israel, the term “security threat” can often be used as a license for any oppressive actions toward the Palestinian people.) It is probably that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who ordered the eviction, made the hasty decision due to considerations having to do with the upcoming elections, rather than with security. However, the consequences of the the Israeli government decision go beyond the action against the Palestinian community in Bab Al-Shams. Netanyahu has made a mockery of the Israeli High Court and, in turn, the rule of law.

According to Haaretz, the village was built  mostly on private Palestinian land, rather than “state land.” Therefore, the government’s decision lacks any legal standing, since the Palestinians were not given a chance to defend their case in court.

Palestinians have little faith in the Israeli legal system, as those living in the West Bank are subject to a military court system and do not have the same civil rights as Israelis. Despite the fact that they have some access to the High Court, most Palestinians simply don’t trust the Israeli judiciary system. However, with just a few blunt, anti-democratic measures against Palestinians, the High Court sided with...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Life in Gaza: Letter from a Palestinian woman

My friend Oded Adomi Leshem from Tel Aviv sent me an email he received from a friend of his in Gaza. She writes about what she is going through and what she does when missiles hit her neighborhood. She puts a human face on the suffering of people in Gaza. After all, it is ignorant to think this is a war affecting the IDF or Hamas. Civilians are paying the highest price in this war. Some Israelis are describing it as though it were the First World War, the  so-called “war to end all wars.” But just as the 1914-18 war led inexorably to the 1939-45 conflagration, so this military clash will only cause more resentment and suffering that will perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Here is the letter from Gaza:

Thanks for your nice message. We are alright so far, and I truly hope your family is well and safe.

The situation here is really terrible and it’s getting worse day after day, and I’m sure the same applies in Israel. Our leaders don’t care about us. They are playing with our lives and the ordinary people of both sides are the ones who always lose. This has to stop!!

This morning, the Israeli F16 military jets hit our area twice. The first time, they hit the building of the council of ministers with 5 huge missiles just a few homes away from our home. Our home was shaking like an earthquake and our windows broke and shattered everywhere, and I felt the missiles inside our home. It was very scary. Of course serious damages happened to all surrounding buildings in the area.

The first time, the Israeli F16 military jets hit Palestine stadium, which is located in the neighborhood next to my neighborhood, with 4 huge missiles, and caused some damages to my home as well. I heard the huge explosions and saw the flames and it was very terrifying. We see and feel death very close with each bombing. Israel is bombing everywhere in Gaza all the time by air, sea and land. Nowhere to hide … Nowhere is safe … We don’t have shelters … We just stay at home so all of us can die at once if a missile would strike our home.

We are still recovering from the trauma of the first war [Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 – editor]. How will...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Israeli police shut down, attempt to raid Palestinian school in East Jerusalem

Israel Police yesterday shut down a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem for a period of a week. The school has over 1,200 students between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. The police justified their actions to the students and teachers by voicing suspicion that stones were thrown at settlers by students from the school. +972 magazine learned from students and teachers that the school doesn’t allow students to throw stones from the school, but they cannot monitor students outside the school. It is unreasonable and unrealistic, a teacher said, “to be held responsible for individual students’ actions outside the parameters of the school.”

Earlier in the day, stones were thrown in the At-Tur neighborhood at settlers, and one of them was hit. The police arrived immediately to the scene and launched an attack at the school, suspecting that students were involved in the stone-throwing. Residents from the neighborhood and teachers clashed with the police and stopped them from storming the school and arresting students. According to eye witnesses, the police resorted to punishing the teachers by issuing traffic violations and parking tickets to them upon leaving the school.

+972 magazine talked with some of the parents who refused to identify themselves or their children because of fear of retaliation from the police. One of the parents described a phone call he received from his son:  “I received a horrifying call from my son whose voice was shaking, he said he can’t leave the school and it is besieged by police. My son was terrified that he would be arrested or killed. He was begging me to get him out of school.”

Collective punishment against Palestinian communities and schools is not a new policy of the Israeli police. Throughout the First Intifada in the late 1980s, similar actions were taken to shut down universities and schools. However, this strategy never succeeded in stopping protests or stone-throwing during the First Intifada. The opposite process happened, with more people becoming active in protesting the occupation.

The police action raises another question regarding their response to stone-throwing at settlers. In an incident that I wrote about last month, a Palestinian beaten by Israeli Jews was barely given any attention by the police. The Palestinian community in Jerusalem is convinced that the Israeli police have double standards when it comes to dealing with violence. When a Palestinian throws a stone, it must be...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Fresh price tag attack against Jerusalem monastery; no arrests made

Another “price tag” hate crime was carried out today against the Franciscan monastery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The monastery was spray painted with slogans against Christianity and Jesus. Names of Jewish outposts in the West Bank were also sprayed, indicating that settlement supporters carried out the attack. This is the latest hate crime in a series of attacks on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. The last took place only a month ago, when the door of the Latrun Monastery was set on fire.

In February 2012, Dr. Marc Gopin and I wrote about the attack on the Baptist church in Jerusalem. Back then, price tag attacks against churches were new. The police issued a statement that they were investigating the incident and would prosecute those responsible. However, little has been done against the perpetrators. This is not surprising, considering the number of price tag attacks against Muslim sites in the past few years, which resulted in almost no arrests. I wrote in October last year about the repeated attacks on mosques that went unnoticed. Now, it seems that we are witnessing the same story all over again.

I find it hard to believe that the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service are unable to find the perpetrators. Many consider the Shin Bet to be one of the top security agencies in the world. However it seems that its ability is limited to arresting Arab suspects, and it is unable to overcome an ethnic bias. Nationalist crimes carried by Jews against Muslims and Christians receive no more than condemnations. The offenders against Christians and Muslims know that they are not going to be held accountable. I am willing to bet money that no one will be prosecuted for this attack. Unfortunately, I also believe that attacks against Christian and Muslim holy sites will continue to take place.

Israel is in dire need for a major reform. It needs to transform from a state that exists to only protect the Jewish people, Jewish sites and Jewish identity to become a state willing to respect and protect all its citizens equally. Israel cannot continue to claim democracy when vandalism against a Jewish site ends with immediate arrests and prosecution while vandalism against Muslim and Christian sites are met with no more than condemnations and lip service.

Democracy is more than holding regular elections. It also entails the development of a...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

The Palestinian dilemma: Between ideology and reality

Palestinians in the West Bank often face an internal clash between identity, ideology, politics and reality. In truth, they live in a place where making any decision in life is a dilemma.

A few weeks ago, on a tour I was leading through the Old City of Jerusalem, I stopped next to a souvenir shop with a t-shirt display outside. I wanted to explain certain cultural and political things that were printed on these shirts. On one of the shirts was the famous cartoon figure “Handala,” created by Naji al-Ali, the most well known Palestinian cartoonist. Al-Ali was assassinated due to his controversial cartoons.

I told the group about al-Ali’s life – he was a Palestinian refugee and a fearless man who spoke his mind. Everyone was subject to his criticism. I continued by describing Handala, a cartoon which depicts a 10-year-old boy with his back turned to the reader. The cartoon has become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

After a few minutes, the owner of the shop came out and started nodding his head in approval. I asked him if it was okay for me to continue talking about the shirts. He said yes. After I was done with my remarks, the shopkeeper told me that I was excellent, saying “I am happy with your explanation, it was remarkable and well done.”

Soon thereafter, the co-leader of the tour, an Israeli named Shira Nesher, turned the attention of the group toward the other t-shirts displayed outside the shop. One was an IDF shirt, another was an Israel Police shirt. There were other funny ones, such as a t-shirt that read “Super Jew.” There were also shirts with political slogans like “America don’t worry… Israel is behind you.”

Suddenly, the shopkeeper face turned into a frown. He looked at me and said “I am not happy with what she is saying.” I asked him why he is selling such t-shirts if he is not happy with them. He stumbled and finally said “tell them that I am forced to sell these shirts – they force me to display them,” referring to the Israeli government.

However, reality is different. I know of shops in Jerusalem that do not sell these kind of shirts. Shopkeepers make a choice based on ideology, and that choice costs them financially. Many tourists in Jerusalem want to buy these Israeli shirts....

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article