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Sorry Ben Gurion, Israeli court says 'Hebrew Labor' is illegal

A jobs website for Jews only is fined for violating Israel’s anti-discrimination laws. The founding generation of Israeli leaders very much espoused the idea of ‘Hebrew Labor’ and not hiring Arabs.

In a judgement that would have upended one of the earliest tenets of Zionism and surely upset Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion, a Jerusalem court on Monday ruled that a job listings website that publishes ads exclusively for Jews is illegal.

The judgement concluded a lawsuit filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and Mossawa Center against the owner of the site, Avodah Ivrit (“Hebrew Labor”), claiming that it violates Israel’s anti-discrimination laws. The website publishes wanted ads by businesses and employers that only hire Jewish staff, as well as job seeking ads by Jews only, while prohibiting Arab citizens of Israel from doing the same. Avodah Ivrit was forced to pay NIS 40,000 ($11,300) in damages.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the site alleged that hiring non-Jews poses a both a “security threat” as well as a “threat to the Jewish people” due to potential miscegenation, according to the ruling. The site also includes a user feedback page, where users described the “good feeling of employing Jews,” and the “satisfaction of employing my Jewish brothers, rather than giving money to those who are deemed my enemies.”

Erez Liberman, who co-founded Avodah Ivrit and is named as the primary defendant, rejected the claim that Avodah Ivrit discriminates against non-Jews, and that its work focuses on “doing good for the Jewish people.” He further claimed that Israel’s anti-discrimination laws were not intended to prevent groups of people who share special bonds, from helping one another. Moreover, IRAC and Mossawa’s lawsuit, Liberman said in court filings, rests entirely on the fact that Israel is a democratic state, while his claim is based on Israel’s Jewish character.

Judge Einat Abman-Muller rejected Liberman’s claim that his website and its customers’ preference for Jews should not be considered a form of discrimination, instead ruling that the law prohibits discrimination in the provision of public service on the basis of religion, race, or nationality. Furthermore, Amban-Muller noted that Israel’s values as a Jewish state prohibit discrimination and mandate equality: “The vision of Israel’s prophets became the pillar of fire leading the struggle in support of the weak and the different toward equality.”

The idea of Jewish-only labor played a formative role in Zionist history, however. For years during the...

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Israeli forces shoot 11-year-old Palestinian in head with rubber bullet

Not a single Israeli outlet covered the incident.

The Israeli army shot an 11-year-old Palestinian boy in the head with a rubber bullet Monday night during a raid on Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that the child was evacuated in a moderate condition to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem after Israeli forces shot him in the forehead with a rubber-coated steel bullet.

According to Ma’an News Agency, the boy was one of three Palestinians wounded by rubber bullets after Israeli forces entered the camp, leading to clashes with local youth. The boy was evacuated to Hadassah Medical Center. Two other Palestinians, including a 60-year-old man, were also wounded by rubber bullets. Ma’an reported that an Israeli police spokesperson said he was “not familiar” with the incident.

This is certainly not the first time Israeli forces have shot and severely wounded Palestinian children with riot dispersal weapons. In December 2014, Israeli troops shot five-year-old Muhammad Jamal Ubeid with a sponge-tipped bullet as he was stepping off a school bus near his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. In May 2015, Jerusalem Police shot a 10-year-old boy in the eye during clashes in Shuafat refugee camp. In November 2016, 15-year-old Fares Bayed was shot in the head by a rubber bullet outside Jalazun refugee camp in the West Bank. He remained in a vegetative state for several months until he died in a Ramallah hospital. There are countless other examples.

Israelis rarely hear about such stories because the media tends not to give them much prominence. In the case of Monday night’s shooting, not a single Israeli outlet covered the incident. Can anyone imagine the same kind of radio silence had the roles been reversed and it were a Palestinian who shot an 11-year-old Israeli child in the head with a rubber bullet?

h/t Idan Landau

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The police brutality haunting Tel Aviv's 'backyard'

For nearly an entire week in early August, it felt as if Jaffa was teetering on the edge. Enraged over the shooting death of 22-year-old Mahdi Sa’adi at the hands of an Israeli police officer, hundreds of Arab youth hit the streets for several days of spontaneous demonstrations on one of the ancient port city’s main thoroughfares.

Mainstream media ran a story most Israelis have become desensitized to, portraying the youth as Arab rioters burning trashcans, smashing car and storefront windows, blocking roads, and throwing stones at security forces.

The killing catalyzed the city’s youth — most of them from its poorest neighborhoods — to protest years of firsthand police brutality and a growing sense of disillusionment over any potential for change. The headlines missed the real story: the Arab residents of Jaffa saw Mahdi’s death not as a random killing resulting in a confrontation gone wrong — they saw it as murder.

Mahdi Sa’adi was killed in the early hours of July 30 when police were called to respond to a shooting an incident on Yefet Street, in the heart of Jaffa’s mostly-Palestinian Ajami neighborhood. Sa’adi and a friend, Suleiman, were reportedly driving on a motorcycle in the area. Suspecting that the two were somehow involved in the shooting, police attempted to apprehend them. A chase ensued. Mahdi was reportedly shot between four and six times in his upper body on one of Jaffa’s backstreets, not far from Army Radio station. A single bullet hit Suleiman, severely wounding him.

At around noon the following day, a few dozen Arab youth gathered around Haj Kahil Square and began burning tires and throwing stones at police, sounding the opening salvo of a week-long standoff between a small group of protesters and large numbers of riot police stationed along Yefet Street, which was immediately sealed off.

“What happened that day was extraordinary,” recalls Abed Abu Shehada, a local activist and a member of Jaffa’s Islamic Council. “We haven’t seen young people take to the streets spontaneously since the first days of the Second Intifada in 2000. To do so requires a certain political culture that I didn’t even know existed.”

Minor clashes continued throughout the day and into the night. News outlets sent out spurts of push notifications, effectually tying the confrontations to clashes at the Temple Mount that had broken out a week prior. For the average Israeli, the headlines only reaffirmed...

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What happens when teaching diaspora Jews about occupation gets 'too political'

An item on Israel’s top news program falsely accused a volunteer program that allows young diaspora Jews to directly engage with the occupation, of sending its members to clash with IDF soldiers, causing it to lose its main source of funding. Now one of ‘Achvat Amim’s organizers is speaking out: ‘I hadn’t experienced being lied about and mischaracterized in public in such an extreme way before.’

Karen Isaacs was on her way to her sister’s wedding in Toronto when Israel’s most-watched news program ran a primetime item accusing her and her partner Daniel of sending diaspora Jews into violent confrontations with IDF soldiers in the West Bank. Channel 2 openly based the segment almost entirely on information provided to it by radical right-wing group Ad Kan, which had put Isaacs’ organization, Achvat Amim, in its crosshairs.

According to the report, Achvat Amim participants took part in “violent clashes” with Israeli soldiers at Sumud Freedom Camp in the South Hebron Hills. Sumud was a nonviolent direct action by diaspora Jews, Palestinians and Israelis meant to allow the Palestinian residents of Sarura to to return to their homes, decades after being displaced. Ad Kan, which has a history of “infiltrating” left-wing organizations and recording their every move with hidden cameras, this time relied on videos and materials that were openly published by the activists themselves.

Channel 2 ran their report without any comment from Isaacs or Roth, perhaps because they were out of the country at the time. Meanwhile, the item focused squarely on Achvat Amim’s funding, which largely comes from Masa Israel Journey, a Jewish Agency-funded organization which offers young Jews study, internship, and volunteer opportunities in Israel. Weeks after it aired, Masa decided to pull its funding from the organization. Since then, Achvat Amim has launched a crowdfunding campaign to ensure its program can continue running.

Achvat Amim (“Solidarity of Nations”) is a five-month volunteer program in Jerusalem that allows young diaspora Jews to directly engage with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through human rights work and critical education. Based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples, the program brings young adults from North America to work alongside organizations that seek to end the occupation. It began as the brainchild of Isaacs and her partner, Daniel Roth, two Canadian-Israelis who moved to Israel in November 2011, both of whom grew up in Hashomer Hatzair, a global left-wing Zionist youth movement that places a strong emphasis on social justice. The first Achvat Amim cohort arrived in the spring of 2014.

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Settlers illegally expand West Bank race track in IDF firing zone

Since +972 Magazine visited the site earlier this year, the track has been paved — despite an Israeli army order to stop construction. The Israeli military often uses firing zones to displace Palestinians.

Israeli authorities have continued illegally building a state-of-the-art race track in the West Bank, despite IDF stop-work orders issued earlier this year.

In February, +972 Magazine reported that the track was being constructed just north of the Petza’el settlement in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, on a large tract of land near Wadi al-Ahmar and Route 505. The only catch: the track is partially inside an IDF live firing zone in the occupied West Bank — a designation Israeli military authorities often use to displace local Palestinian populations.

When +972 Magazine visited the site earlier this year, the area was fenced off, with large mounds of dirt and stacks of metal located on site, including what appeared to be metal bars that will form the overhead to mark the starting point. Since then the track, which is being funded by the Jordan Valley Regional Council, has been fully paved, seemingly in contravention of military orders.

Although Israel rules the West Bank under military law due to its status as occupied territory, Israeli settlers have nevertheless established limited civilian local government institutions, nearly identical to those inside Israel proper, although they are ultimately subordinate to the military government.

According to Micky Yohai, a veteran Israeli racer who is behind the project, the 1.2 kilometer long track was supposed to be ready by May 2016. Ultimately, the track is slated to include a motocross track, a drag strip, and a 3.2 kilometer paved track. In an interview with Ynet last year [Hebrew], Yohai said the project would begin with a dirt track — the first sign of success of a two-year process with the Jordan Valley Regional Council, headed by David Alhayani, who “is strongly pushing the issue.”

Alhayani declined to answer +972 Magazine’s questions on the matter in February. He previously told Ynet that the track would provide athletes with the ideal place to race, making no mention of the fact that it would run through an IDF training zone.

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, which serves as the military government in the West Bank, told +972 Magazine back in February that it had issued a stop-work order against the track, and acknowledged that the facility was being built...

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Israel is razing a Bedouin village to build a Jewish-only town on its ruins

Israeli authorities have promised the courts that the displaced Bedouin residents would have an opportunity to live in the new community. New documents show that is far from the case.

Despite assurances made to Israel’s High Court of Justice, a new town being built on the ruins of a Bedouin village in southern Israel is intended for Jews only, according to the bylaws of the future town’s cooperative association.

Israel first notified the residents of Umm al-Hiran, Bedouin citizens of Israel, that it plans to demolish their entire village and build another community in its place 15 years ago. A legal battle has been taking place ever since, although Israel’s top court ultimately approved the plan — partially based on assurances that the current Bedouin residents would have the option of living in the new community.

According to the bylaws of Hiran, the future Jewish town, which were uncovered by “Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,” acceptance into the community will be open only to “Jewish Israeli citizens or permanent residents who observe the Torah and the commandments according to the values of Orthodox Judaism.”

The National Planning and Building Council, which first approved the plan to build the town atop Umm al-Hiran, had promised it would be open to all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or nationality. The High Court took the state at its word when it claimed Bedouin would be allowed to live in a future Hiran.

Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany sent a letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday, demanding he prevent the allocation of plots in Hiran to the “core” group of the town’s cooperative association, and ensure that Umm al-Hiran’s current residents are included in the new town’s planning.

Israeli law offers two seemingly contradictory stances on ethnic or religious housing segregation. On the one hand, the state cannot discriminate in the allocation of land to its citizens. On the other hand, communities are allowed to exclude would-be residents if they would alter the character of the community — meaning they can discriminate on any number of grounds.

Prior to Israel’s founding in 1948, Umm al-Hiran’s residents lived northwest of where the village currently stands. Like many Bedouin, they were expelled during and after the 1948 war, and like most Arab citizens of the nascent Jewish state, they were placed under strict martial law until 1966.

In 1956, the local military governor forcibly...

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Forget Al Jazeera — Bibi should halt his own government's incitement

Netanyahu is calling to shut down Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau, accusing the station of incitement to violence amid tensions over the Temple Mount. Has he heard what his own ministers have been saying recently?

Palestinian incitement has long been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scapegoat for the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For him, Palestinian calls to violence — not the settlement enterprise or 50 years of military dictatorship — is what prevents peace. Netanyahu regularly uses this rhetorical tactic to undermine an already impotent Palestinian Authority whenever it is politically convenient. In recent years, the prime minister has also used claims of incitement to take severe punitive measures against Palestinian organizations and individuals.

On Thursday, however, Netanyahu pulled a page right out of the playbook of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he vowed to shut down the Jerusalem office of Al Jazeera — one of the most popular news outlets in the Arab world and a steady critic of Israeli policies — accusing it of incitement to violence amid tensions over the Temple Mount.

In a Facebook post published Wednesday, Netanyahu said he had appealed multiple times to law enforcement agencies demanding the offices of the Qatar-based news network be closed. “If this does not happen due to legal interpretation, I will work to enact the required legislation to expel Al Jazeera from Israel,” Netanyahu wrote.

Over the past few years, Netanyahu’s government has taken active steps in outlawing several Palestinian political movements in Israel (a tactic that has its roots in the early years of the state). In September 2015, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed off on the banning of two Muslim organizations, the Murabitun and Murabitat, for alleged incitement to violence on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Two months later, he outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement for similar reasons.

In the occupied territories, the Israeli army regularly shuts down Palestinian radio stations under the pretense that their broadcasts incite the masses to violence. Meanwhile, Netanyahu lambastes the Palestinian Authority for naming public squares after terrorists who killed innocent Israeli civilians, and for fanning the flames of incitement when tempers flare around the Temple Mount.

Furthermore, Israeli law enforcement, as well as the Shin Bet, frequently round up and charge Palestinians — both in Israel and the West Bank — for alleged “incitement.” Just last week, Read More

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How the world missed a week of Palestinian civil disobedience

The violence of the past week, and the media’s coverage of the bloodletting, erased a central aspect of the story: Palestinian mass civil disobedience.

For many Israelis, the violence over the past few weeks around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is little more than a result of Muslim intransigence in the face of legitimate Israeli security concerns. This, after all, has been the major talking point among both the Israeli leadership as well as the media. For Palestinians, on the other hand, the metal detectors erected last week by Israeli authorities at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound sparked outrage and protests.

That outrage stemmed from the government’s decision to install the metal detectors — in defiance of both the IDF and the Shin Bet’s recommendation — that eventually led to the deaths of four Palestinian protesters at the hands of Israeli security forces, and the brutal murder of three Israeli settlers by a Palestinian attacker that same night. But the violence, and the media’s coverage of the bloodletting, erased a central aspect of the story: Palestinian civil disobedience.

“We need to understand that there has been a major, continuous nonviolent protest taking place in East Jerusalem for over a week,” says Aviv Tatarsky, a field researcher for Ir Amim, a Jerusalem-based NGO that works to build a more equitable city for all its residents. “The decision to boycott the metal detectors and refrain from going up to Al-Aqsa, the continuous stream of people to the gates of the compound, the mass prayers, all of these are a form of civil disobedience. And as such, it is a legitimate form of protest — whether or not we agree with it.”

“For Israelis, framing the protests in East Jerusalem as ‘nonviolent’ is at best strange and at worst scandalous, since the metal detectors were installed following the killing of Border Police officers at the site two weeks ago, and because three Israelis were murdered just a few days ago,” Tatarsky continues. “But in order to understand the nonviolence of the protests, the Israeli public will have to differentiate between the actions of individuals — who aren’t even from East Jerusalem — and the mass protest movement that includes most parts of Palestinian civil society in Jerusalem.”

+972 Magazine spoke to Tatarsky about the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, the possibility of bringing an end to the violence, and the media’s unwillingness to cover Palestinian nonviolence.

What do the events of the past...

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'Gaza will be unlivable next year, not 2020 as the UN says'

+972 Magazine talks to Khalil Shaheen, a Gaza resident and expert on the impact of Israeli, Palestinian Authority, and Hamas policies in the besieged coastal strip, to get a picture of what life is like in Gaza, and why it’s probably going to get unfathomably worse.

Things have gotten acutely worse in the Gaza Strip over the past month, since Israel and the Palestinian Authority cut the besieged strip’s already inadequate supply of power. But an entire generation of Gazans have grown up without ever experiencing electricity that is available around the clock. Crisis is nothing new.

In addition to sewage that flows into the sea untreated, and hospital ICUs that must rely on gasoline-powered generators, the power shortage also has dire consequences on everyday life in regular households. Without electricity, the pumps that deliver tap water to apartments in high-rise residential buildings stop working. “Water used to reach these houses between two-to-three hours every few days,” Khalil Shaheen says. “And this is in the summer. Yesterday, my building only had one hour of water.”

Israel pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip a little over a decade ago, but its military retains effective control over many aspects of life in the coastal enclave. The Israeli army still controls the Strip’s land and maritime borders, decides who and what may enter and exit, blocks basic technologies like 3G cellular broadband from being installed, and has launched three military operations that left thousands of Gazans dead. Israel also sells Gaza the majority of its inadequate supply of electricity.

Shaheen, who is the director of the Economic and Social Rights Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), one of Palestine’s most prominent rights groups, monitors the impact of Israeli, Palestinian Authority, and Hamas policies on life in the Gaza Strip. “I’m afraid that with the ongoing situation, Gaza will be unlivable by the end of 2018,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Can you talk about what is happening on the ground in Gaza right now?

I can’t even describe Gaza as a prison, because even prisoners have fundamental rights. Gaza is an isolated area under occupation, where people aren’t allowed in and out. There is an electricity crisis that leaves millions without power for hours every day, 97 percent of Gaza’s water is undrinkable, there is not enough electricity to provide basic...

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Soros, Bannon, and the anti-Semitism of Israel's prime minister

Instead of defending George Soros from Hungary’s anti-Semitism, he has taken a page out of the alt-right playbook. His bottom line? Some Jews just aren’t worth protecting.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the self-appointed protector of world Jewry. And as such, he views his role not only as prime minister of Israel, but as the spokesperson for Jews across the world. On Saturday, Netanyahu played that role when the Israeli government called on the Hungarian government to halt an ad campaign against Hungarian-born Jewish-American financier George Soros, claiming it was fueling anti-Semitism across the country.

Just a day later, however, Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry to retract the statement, resorting instead to attacking Soros, a known critic of Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The clarification, issued by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon, deploys similar tropes to the ones used against Soros by the Hungarian government:

The reaction in Israel was immediate. Meretz leader Zehava Galon sharply criticized Netanyahu, accusing him of “supporting global anti-Semitism,” and backed calls by Hungarian Jews for Netanyahu to cancel his visit to Hungary next week. Some of the reactions by the Israeli Right simply doubled down on Netanyahu’s decision. Take right-wing commentator Shimon Riklin, who on Sunday tweeted: “Want to understand part of the anti-Semitism of the 30s in Europe? Look at George Soros who is trying to educate the goyim over and over again, telling them what to think.”

The astounding thing about Netanyahu’s implicit support for Hungary’s anti-Semitism is not that it comes from the most powerful Jewish figure in the world. After all, the far-right in Israel has a sordid history of support for anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist movements.

What’s remarkable this time around is the extent to which Bibi’s move falls in line with the worldview of people such as White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the American alt-right. Bannon is a bonafide anti-Semite who mostly traffics in quasi-coded contempt for Jews of a certain variety. But despite how he is often portrayed, Bannon is not a racial purist who refuses to surround himself with Jews, nor does he advise Donald Trump to do the same.

His ire is instead saved for a very specific type of Jew — the kind who holds the pursestrings of neoliberal capitalism (what he terms “globalism”) while simultaneously acting as a vessel for “nefarious” ideologies such as liberalism or anti-racism, which challenge the very fundaments of America’s power structure. After all, White nationalism — be it of the...

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Dismantling the occupation — brick by brick, book by book

Like the children of countless American Jewish families, throughout her childhood Ayelet Waldman was told that trees were being planted in her name across Israel, something very few people questioned back then.

“This is the first time I have ever planted a tree for Palestinians,” she says as she looks out at the West Bank village of Susya on a balmy day in the middle of June. “My grandmother would donate money to the Jewish National Fund, which would then plant trees in my name. She had no idea that the money she was giving would go toward the settlement enterprise.”

Planting trees in Susya, Waldman, an Israeli-American author and essayist, along with her husband — author and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon — and their two youngest children, set out to actively resist Israel’s West Bank settlements, and the Israeli military regime that props them up. Susya, a hamlet in the South Hebron Hills, has become a flagship of nonviolent resistance over the past decade or so, withstanding numerous demolition attempts, all the while facing violence and harassment from nearby settlements.

Chabon and Waldman were in Susya that day with a group of Israeli authors planting trees in the village school, one stop on a whirlwind tour across Israel-Palestine to launch their new book, Kingdom of Olives and Ash. The book is a collection of essays by international, Palestinian, and Israeli writers, which they published in order to mark five decades since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Partnering with Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, Waldman and Chabon enlisted literary giants such as Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Mario Vargas Llosa and Colm Toibin to spend time in the West Bank and Gaza, to bear witness to the occupation, and write about the things they saw.

Every Jew needs to bear witness

Waldman, 52, was born in Israel to left-wing Zionist parents who had immigrated from Montreal. Her father served in the Palmach, a paramilitary group that fought in the 1948 War, and helped found a kibbutz near the border with Gaza. Waldman’s formative years were spent in Israel, including during the Six-Day War in 1967, during which she remembers trying to avoid mortars and bombs while driving to her grandmother’s house on the other side of Jerusalem.

She eventually moved to Canada and then to the United States, where she developed what she terms a “somewhat atypical...

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The lie at the heart of the Jewish American consensus

By choosing to engage on specific issues of Israeli policy while ignoring the fate of Palestinians, the Jewish American establishment has effectively sided with perpetuating the occupation.

For years, the Jewish American establishment has been able to convince the world, and itself, that it does not directly meddle in internal Israeli affairs — a declaration most commonly used to justify not commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But if anyone still has any faith in that notion, the volatile events of the past week should put it to bed.

The outcry from across the Jewish American political spectrum was nearly universal. Prime Minister Netanyahu surrendered to the ultra-Orthodox parties in his government, reneging on a compromise with Reform and Conservative Jewish groups to create a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall, and as if to pour salt on the wound, his government pledged to support a highly controversial conversion bill the same day. The Reform movement, the Conservative movement, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency, and even AIPAC — some of the largest Jewish political institutions in the United States — immediately went into crisis mode.

The Reform movement scrapped a previously planned meeting with the prime minister, the Conservative movement vowed to show up at Netanyahu’s home in protest, the Jewish Agency held an emergency session to excoriate the government for the move, and leaders of AIPAC — known for their unconditional support for Israeli policies — announced an impromptu meeting with Netanyahu to discuss the fallout.

The crisis over an egalitarian praying space at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, is not new. For years it has been simmering among the American Jewish community, bursting forth whenever liberal groups such as Women of the Wall are attacked by ultra-Orthodox Jews for attempting to pray there same way millions of Jews do every day across the United States. The government’s decision to support a bill that would recognize the Israeli rabbinate as the sole arbiter of certain conversions in Israel — thus delegitimizing Conservative and Reform religious courts and conversions in the country — was too much to bear.

Moreover, it exposed yet again the underlying schisms between American Jews — the majority of whom are social and political liberals — and the ultra-Orthodox populations in Israel, many of whom view Reform and Conservative Jews basically as heretics. The swift and unequivocal...

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Humanitarian crisis looms as Israel cuts Gaza's electricity

The decision comes less than a week after Israel acceded to Mahmoud Abbas’ demand to cut Gaza’s power supply.

The Israeli government announced Monday morning that it had begun cutting the electricity to the Gaza Strip, fulfilling a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority informed Israel in April that it would cease paying for electricity supplies to the Strip. Israel supplies the coastal enclave with about 30 percent of its electricity at a cost of around 40 million shekels per month, which it deducts from the taxes of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas hopes that the cuts would place enough pressure on Hamas, his ideological rivals who rule the Strip, to relinquish control.

The move by the PA, which also cut government salaries in Gaza and approved a massive reduction in medical aid supplied there, coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hamas’ takeover of the Strip.

The cuts would leave Gaza with around three hours of electricity a day. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for Hamas, which rules Gaza said in a statement that Israel would “bear responsibility for the consequences of the reduction.”

According to Gisha, an Israeli NGO that uses legal assistance and public advocacy to protect freedom of movement for Palestinians, Israel has for years been selling 120 megawatts to Gaza — supplied through ten power lines — with each line carrying 12 megawatts. On Monday morning, Israel cut supply on two lines from 12 to eight megawatts. Meanwhile, Israel continues to severely limit entrance of generators and spare parts needed for their repair to Gaza, as well as entrance of transformers and equipment.

Gaza’s sole power plant stopped operating in late April, and ever since the Strip has relied almost entirely on electricity imported from Israel. Without electricity, Palestinians have resorted to flashlights and candles as sources of light in the evening. Others have purchased costly subscriptions to communal generators.

Last Wednesday, a coalition of 16 civil society organizations sent an urgent letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, emphasizing the unlawfulness of the cabinet’s decision under both Israeli and international law. The attorney general has yet to respond, and it is unknown whether there will be further reductions to the electricity supply.

According to Gisha, the consequences of a reduction are likely to be devastating:

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