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ICC prosecutor warns: Demolishing Khan al-Ahmar a 'war crime'

Fatou Bensouda says she won’t ‘hesitate to take appropriate action,’ should the West Bank village be demolished. British Prime Minister Theresa May says demolition will be a ‘major blow to two-state solution.’

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda issued a stern warning to Israel officials on Wednesday, saying she will not “hesitate to take any appropriate action” should they demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and forcibly transfer its residents.

Bensouda’s warning comes as Israeli authorities ramp up their attempts to destroy the village and remove its residents, who have lived in Khan al-Ahmar for over 40 years.

The ICC prosecutor also expressed concern about the continued violence at the Gaza-Israel border, several hours after a rocket fired from the Strip struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck 20 targets it said belonged to Hamas.

Bensouda’s full statement:

I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank.  Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence.

It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.

I am similarly alarmed by the continued violence, perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel.

As Prosecutor seized of the situation in Palestine, I therefore feel compelled to remind all parties that the situation remains under preliminary examination by my Office.

I continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground and will not hesitate to take any appropriate action, within the confines of the independent and impartial exercise of my mandate under the Rome Statute, with full respect for the principle of complementarity.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament on Wednesday that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar would constitute a “major blow to the two-state solution,” urging the Israeli government not to follow through with its plans of displacing the village’s residents. May’s comments came in response to a query by MP Alistair Carmichael, in which he implored the prime minister to make it clear to Benjamin Netanyahu that “this is occupied territory, that these are refugees, protected people whose forcible removal…would constitute a war crime.”

Both Bensouda and May’s remarks come as Israeli authorities make preparations to demolish Khan...

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Judge orders Palestinian-American student to remain in Israeli custody

According to the state, it is enough that Lara Alqasem clicked ‘attending’ on pro-Palestinian Facebook events to prove she is pro-BDS.

By Edo Konrad and Oren Ziv

A Tel Aviv District Court ordered Lara Alqasem, the 22-year-old Palestinian American who was denied entry into Israel due to her political views and has been held by Israeli authorities for the past nine days, to remain in detention on Thursday.

Alqasem’s case has gripped both the Israeli and international media since she landed in Ben Gurion Airport, where she was promptly taken in for interrogation by the Israeli authorities. Despite having been issued a student visa to study at Hebrew University, border authorities ordered her deported for her alleged past membership in a student organization that advocates the boycott of Israel. On Thursday, the courtroom was packed with politicians, reporters, and photographers for Alqasem’s appeals hearing.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge said he would make a final decision on the case in the coming days, yet decided to leave Alqasem in Israeli custody. She has been in detention for a total of nine days.

Representatives from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, led by Gilad Erdan, who is spearheading Israel’s efforts to counter criticism of and activism against Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians — particularly the BDS Movement — were present in the courtroom; reporters observed them communicating with Erdan on WhatsApp, while simultaneously passing handwritten notes to State Attorney Yossi Zadok, reflecting the minister’s deep involvement in Alqasem’s case.

At one point, one of representatives received a message from his boss, in which the strategic affairs minister wrote: “I hope that the judge knows our law.” Following the hearing, as Alqasem’s attorneys spoke to reporters, Chief of Staff and International Affairs Advisor to Minister of Strategic Affairs Asher Fredman was seen sending and receiving WhatsApp messages from Erdan, in which the two appeared to be coordinating their messaging to the international community.

Just days earlier, Erdan said he would consider letting Alqasem into the country on the condition that she recants her support for BDS. Last year Israel passed an amendment to its Entry Law, barring entry into the country for non-residents who publicly call for or support a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank.

Throughout the hearing, the state attorney and the defense argued over the criteria according to which foreign nationals can be barred from entering the country, and whether one’s beliefs are enough to get them kicked out....

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Hundreds of academics, Jewish leaders demand Israel release U.S. student

Lara Alqasem got permission from the Israeli consulate to study at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Upon landing, she was detained and ordered deported. She has been held for six days.

Over 100 academics and Jewish professionals signed a petition demanding that Israeli authorities release a Palestinian-American student they have been detaining for nearly a week and let her enter the country to complete a Master’s degree the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Lara Alqasem, who had already been given a student visa and was accepted by Hebrew University, was detained upon arriving at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport last Tuesday. She was ordered deported for her alleged past membership in a student organization that advocates the boycott of Israel.

“Denying entry to foreign students based on political beliefs or ethnic heritage is an attack on academic freedom,” 58 mostly American professors and academics wrote in their petition, expressing dismay at the decision to deport Alqasem and calling on Israeli authorities to reverse their decision.

The group of Jewish professionals, representing a broad range of progressive Jewish American institutions, rejected racial profiling and wrote that they “share the concern expressed by Hebrew University rector, Prof. Barak Medina, who wrote in a statement to Alqasem’s lawyer that ‘denying entry to foreign students who have been accepted to such programs, especially when it happens at the airport after they already received a student visa, severely harms the university’s relationships with other universities around the world and causes irreversible damage to international ties that the university cultivates.’”

Among those who signed the petition were J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of Tru’ah Rabbi Jill Jacobs, and dozens of other community leaders.

Earlier in the week, over 500 academics at the Hebrew University signed yet a third petition, also calling on authorities to let Alqasem into the country, and asserting that their university “is a place for exchanging ideas, as well as gaining and creating knowledge. It is not a place that shies from differences and promotes multiple voices… The decision to bar entry to a student simply because of her views certainly threatens us, and threatens everything the university represents.” On Monday, Hebrew University announced that it would join Alqasem’s appeal against the deportation.

[Update October 10th: Since publishing, an additional 150 professors and 85 Jewish professionals have signed statements calling on Israeli authorities to permit Alqasem to enter Israel.]

The Israeli Consulate in Miami issued Lara...

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Israel denies entry to Palestinian American over alleged BDS support

Israeli border authorities stopped 22-year-old Lara Alqasem from entering the country, despite the fact that she has a one-year student visa.

An American woman with a valid student visa was denied entry to Israel upon landing on Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport.

Lara Alqasem, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Palestinian refugees from Haifa and a recent graduate from the University of Florida, was issued a one-year A2 student visa by the Israeli Consulate in Miami in early August. She was traveling to Jerusalem in order to complete her Master’s degree in Human Rights and Transitional Justice at the Hebrew University.

According to the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, Alqasem was denied entry to prevent “illegal immigration” and for public security considerations. But the border agents told Alqasem that she would be deported due to boycott activity and support for the BDS movement. According to Haaretz, the Authority claimed the visa had been issued due to a “lack of coordination” with missions around the world.

The deportation order is based on Israel’s “boycott travel ban,” a 2017 amendment to Israel’s Entry Law, which authorizes the interior minister to deny entry to any non-resident who has publicly called for or pledged support for a boycott of Israel or its West Bank settlements.

Upon arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday evening, Alqasem was detained and taken aside by four border agents who questioned her for an hour and a half; they asked her about her plans in Israel, whether she had visited the country before, her father’s name, and where he was born.

Alqasem told +972 she believes the agents based at least some their questions on information obtained from Canary Mission — a far-right American watchdog group that publishes publicly accessible dossiers on college students whom they consider to be anti-Israel. The Canary Mission website includes a dossier on Alqasem, listing her as the president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) between 2016-2017, although nothing in her file actually ties Alqasem directly to any statements that support a boycott of Israel.

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Alqasem said one of the agents was “on his phone the entire time, telling the other to ask questions that were made up of information you can only find on that website.” At a certain point, Alqasem was able to see the...

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In Israel, American Jews can kiss their privilege goodbye

The recent harassment of left-wing American Jews by the Shin Bet is a sign that their privilege may no longer be enough to protect them.

American Jews have good reason to be afraid. Recent interrogations, harassment, and deportation of left-wing Jewish American activists over their political beliefs and activities have ushered in a new political moment in the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities.

No longer is Jewish identity enough to protect American activists from the reach of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. Jewish privilege is no longer enough to guarantee entry into the Jewish state should one’s ideology or political views contradict those of the Israeli government.

When Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum were detained and interrogated on their way back from a weekend in Sinai, the Shin Bet and border authority interrogators were almost exclusively interested in why the two wanted to work with Palestinians. They wanted to know about their politics.

A week earlier, when Israeli-American author Moriel Zecher-Rothman was held by the Shin Bet at the airport, an agent warned him against going down a “slippery slope” of anti-occupation activism and demanded he provide intelligence on fellow left-wing activists.

Ariel Gold, who held a student visa to study in Jerusalem, was detained and deported for her political affiliations. Meyer Koplow, a prominent Jewish philanthropist, was questioned by security officials at the airport about a Palestinian tourist pamphlet and specifically asked what he would tell his community back home about what he saw in the West Bank.

The trend these interrogations, deportations, and harassment point to cannot be divorced from the wider context of Israel’s clampdown on internal and external dissent through a fusillade of dangerously anti-democratic laws. One turning point was the BDS entry law, passed last year, which blocks foreign BDS activists from entering Israel. The law was written in a way that even boycotting settlement goods counts as support for BDS, giving the Israeli government leeway for a maximalist interpretation and near-carte blanche for deportation of anyone who is outspoken about the occupation.

In an attempt to make order of the travel ban, Israeli officials later published a blacklist of groups that were banned from entering Israel, ostensibly over their support for BDS, although the list also included distinguished groups like the American Friends Service Committee. The blacklist has had an immediate effect on Jewish Americans,...

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'Gazans need to be able to breathe and feel hope for the future'

It’s impossible to know just how much Israel will loosen its restrictions on goods and movement of people in Gaza as it negotiates with Hamas. What’s clear is that a new approach is needed. 

Israel and Hamas are in the advanced stages of negotiations over a ceasefire, according to numerous media reports, that, in exchange for an end to the flaming kites that have set alight hundreds of acres of Israeli farmland, would increase the flow of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip.

It’s difficult to know to what degree Israel will agree loosen the restrictions on goods and movement should an agreement be signed, said Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli rights group that focuses on freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. What is certain, she added, is that the new restrictions were meant solely to punish the civilians of Gaza.

“Israel is stopping these goods as a means of applying pressure in negotiations. There is not a single security argument they have made — it’s purely punitive,” Hary explained. In recent weeks, Israel has cut off the fuel supply to Gaza twice for a period of several days, leading to major electricity shortages. Withholding fuel, she added, is Israel’s way of ratcheting up the pressure.

“Our understanding is that critical institutions like Gaza’s hospitals were on the verge of running out of their reserves,” Hary continued. “So [Israel] decided to fall back and allow fuel in for a week before stopping it again. All of these institutions rely on fuel, so it is really crucial to keep the supply constant. The same applies for families and businesses — everyone in Gaza relies on fuel.”

The electricity crisis in Gaza is not a singular event, but rather a culmination of a “reality that has developed over a decade of closure,” as Gaza journalist Ghada al-Hadad wrote on these pages last year. From the very beginning of the siege in 2007, Gazans have been confronted with unpredictable power cuts at various hours.

Last year, the crisis reached a fever pitch when the power supply was reduced to a mere three or four hours a day, and in February the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories issued a statement warning that the Strip was on the “verge of disaster” due to electricity...

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'World's largest Arabic lesson': A rebuke to the Jewish Nation-State law

Thousands of Israelis attend the event, billed as the world’s largest Arabic lesson, in protest of a new nationalist law that excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel from the national identity and demotes Arabic from its status as an official language.

Thousands of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis took part in what was billed as the “biggest Arabic lesson in the world” in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square Monday evening, an event organized to protest Israel’s new Jewish Nation-State Law, which stripped Arabic of its status as an official language in the country.

The event, organized by a number of coexistence and peace organizations, included a 15-minute Arabic lesson, as well number of musical performances, speeches, and spoken word poetry. The organizations set up booths where they handed out flyers for Arabic lessons, with one booth selling t-shirts that read “I speak Arabic” in both Arabic and Hebrew.

“The idea was to combine Arabic lessons with a large Palestinian cultural event in the streets of Tel Aviv as a response to the Jewish Nation-State Law,” +972 Magazine writer Samah Salaime, one of the organizers of the event, said before the event. “Eventually we settled on a huge Arabic lesson.”

“It is obvious that Arabic won’t disappear, regardless of the law,” Salaime added. “The law is symbolic, but this struggle is about building a shared country and a shared future in this land.”

After a few introductory speeches and a short Arabic musical performance by singer Miriam Tuqan, Salaime took the stage to deliver a fiery speech against the government’s attempts to “destroy the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We are the binationalists, the bilinguists, we are the dream of the future…we have room for the Palestinian next to the Jews, for the Arab and the Israeli, and for anyone who defines himself as part of this country,” Salaime told the crowd. “We are proud and are well aware of the price we pay for joining together. We do not stand behind a destructive coalition in the Knesset that takes our money for its institutions, its settlements, and its messianism.”

Later, using a playful call and response, Maria Miguel De Pina, an Arabic teacher from Haifa, taught the overwhelmingly Jewish crowd a few useful Arabic phrases such as “I am very happy” and “I love you,” as well as body parts and animal names.

The event also featured performances by...

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When Israel planned 'fantasy' tours to Arab villages under martial law

New documents reveal how Israel’s leaders prepared to celebrate the country’s 10-year anniversary: by bringing tourists to participate in orientalist ‘fantasy’ tours to Arab villages, then under military rule.

If you’re a young Jewish person, chances are you or someone you know has gone on a Birthright trip. If you have gone on Birthright, chances are that as part of the program’s attempt to provide an “authentic” and pluralistic “Israel experience” you spent the night in a Bedouin tent and posed on a camel in the Negev Desert. In short, young Jews are sold a fantasy.

That fantasy did not begin with Birthright. A new trove of documents recently released by the Israel State Archives shows how that Birthright mentality — which exoticizes and puts on display Israel’s Arab citizens — goes as far back as the 1950s, when Israel was preparing to celebrate 10 years of independence.

In 1957, Israeli authorities established a committee to organize Independence Day celebrations for the nascent state’s “minorities” — the official term for Israel’s Arab population at the time — across the country. The documents are full of correspondences between committee members and officials in Israel’s military government, which imposed martial law on the country’s Arab citizens between 1949 and 1966.

The documents are mostly procedural correspondences between various committee members, civilian government officials, and officers in the military government. The correspondences, for the most part, reveal an attempt on the part of the authorities to use the 10-year anniversary as an opportunity to simultaneously better the conditions of the country’s Arab population and show them the benefits of being citizens of the Jewish state.

One letter, dated February 2, 1958, from the Health Ministry to Yaakov Agmon, head of the planning committee, announced the opening of five new health clinics in Arab villages, which were to be inaugurated in honor of the decennial. In a different letter, Agmon himself demands that roads be paved between isolated Arab villages in honor of the anniversary.

But it is a letter from January 6, 1958 from M. Golan of the “Rallies Department” to Agmon that best evinces the hormonal teenage years of the Israeli Orientalist fantasy. In that letter, Golan writes to Agmon about the possibility of tourists joining the festivities in areas under military rule, and how civilian and military authorities can facilitate their enjoyment:

Golan goes on to write that “in...

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Israel's Nation-State Law: 'Apartheid is a process'

With the passage of the ‘Jewish Nation-State Law,’ Israel has constitutionally enshrined discrimination against its Palestinian population. ‘We don’t have to keep looking for policies that resemble Jim Crow,’ says Attorney Fady Khoury.

The Israeli parliament passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law” in the early hours of Thursday morning, defining Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people and demoting the official status of Arabic.

Almost immediately, Palestinian politicians and rights groups began speaking of the legislation in the starkest of terms. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said the law “turns a ‘de-facto’ Apartheid regime into a ‘de-jure’ reality for all of historic Palestine.

Hassan Jabareen, head of the Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said the law “features key elements of apartheid” and that by passing it, Israel has “made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of its institutions.”

According to Adalah attorney Fady Khoury, the legislation entrenches the identity of the State of Israel as a state for the Jewish people, turning them into the sovereign while excluding the Palestinian population from the same definition of sovereignty.

“The law itself does not mention the word democracy even once,” Khoury explained. “Psychologically, it will have a huge impact on Israelis when they are called to determine what it or isn’t democratic.”

+972 Magazine spoke with Khoury to better understand the apartheid comparison, and why the law is so problematic in general.

[The following interview has been edited for length and flow.]

 People are calling this the ‘apartheid law.’ Why?

“Apartheid in South Africa was a process. It was a system that took years to develop and was built on the work of academics and theologians who had to create justifications for white supremacy. It was system of hierarchy, in which there is one group with all the power and another without any power.

“In Israel, the new law explicitly defines the Jewish people as the only group with the only right to self-determination, while negating the rights of the indigenous people. This creates a system of hierarchy and supremacy. We do not live in a time in which explicit calls for supremacy are legitimate as they were in South Africa, but we are reaching the same result through different language.

“The analogy between Israel and South Africa is not only about separate communities or roads, it...

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Irish senate passes sanctions on Israeli settlements

The law, which still needs to go through the lower house and be signed by the president, would criminalize the import and sale of goods and services that originate in settlements in occupied territories, targeting Israeli settlements but also other occupations worldwide. The vote had been shelved earlier this year after objections by Israel.

The Irish Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to prohibit trade with illegal settlements in occupied territories, including those in the West Bank. In contrast to policies and legislation that differentiate Israeli settlements and excludes them from trade agreements, the Irish bill could be construed as actual sanctions targeting settlement products.

The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories Bill 2018), which would make dealing in settlement products a criminal offense, was originally scheduled for a vote in January of this year but was delayed after Israel summoned the Irish ambassador at the time. Hours after the vote on Wednesday, it was reported that Israel again has summoned the Irish ambassador over the bill.

The legislature’s lower house will also have to pass the bill before it can go to the Irish president to be signed into law.

The bill seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods and services originating in settlements deemed illegal under international and Irish law. Ireland imports a number of settlement goods, including agricultural and cosmetic products, including those produced by Ahava.

The bill does not implement a total ban on Israeli goods — only those produced in settlements beyond the borders recognized by the Irish government and international community — the Green Line. It also includes a provision that could include territories beyond Palestine, such as Western Sahara and Crimea.

Put forth by Senator Frances Black, an independent politician, and co-signed by a slew of other Irish parliamentarians, the bill was supported by most parties in the Seanad Éireann, although the ruling Fine Gael party opposed it.

“Those trading with Israeli settlements are complicit in the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in response to the vote on Wednesday. “If some countries within the EU are willing to continue encouraging Israel’s culture of impunity, it is time for individual member-states to take legitimate actions like the one approved by the Seanad.”

In the run-up to the debate in the Seanad Éireann earlier this year, the upper house of the...

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As Israel prepares to demolish Bedouin school, activists lay out backpacks for each student

As Israeli authorities prepare to demolish Khan al-Ahmar’s school, a group of activists lay backpacks outside Israel’s Supreme Court — one for each student who may soon find himself without a place to learn. 

A group of Israeli and foreign Jewish activists laid 174 backpacks outside Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning as a protest against the impending demolition of the entire village of Khan al-Ahmar, including its school. Each backpack, say the activists, was meant to represent a student who studies at the “tire school” and will be left without a place to learn.

The action, organized by All That’s Left, a collective of anti-occupation activists living in Israel-Palestine, comes less than 24 hours after the High Court issued the second of two temporary injunctions against Israel’s plans to demolish the village and forcibly displace its residents.

The school, built in 2009 out of mud, tires, and clay with the help of an Italian NGO that specializes in ecological structures, serves the Bedouin Palestinian population in the area. Just a month after it opened, the Israeli army ordered it demolished.

Abby Kirschbaum, an activist with All That’s Left, told +972 that the group wanted to bring attention not only to the demolition itself, but the way in which it compromises children’s access to education.

“Everyone can relate to carrying their backpack to school, and we wanted to use an image that shows that these children are real people,” Kirschbaum said. “The backpack is a tool of humanization.”

The activists are planning on donating a portion of the backpacks to the children of the Khan al-Ahmar, complete with a care package.

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Members of All That’s Left are among a number of solidarity activists — Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals — who have been spending time in Khan al-Ahmar over the past few weeks, many of them sleeping in the school’s courtyard, in the run-up to the demolition.

The destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and displacement of its residents is part of Israel’s plan to expand its settlements in the E-1 area, a 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements in order to connect the two cities. Doing so would bifurcate the West Bank, leading to what many have described as the nail...

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The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is more than just a war crime

While the imminent destruction of Khan al-Ahmar is an utmost humanitarian concern and quite possibly a war crime, many are overlooking the strategic importance of this tiny hamlet for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The residents of Khan al-Ahmar have spent the past several weeks waiting for Israeli bulldozers to arrive to demolish their entire village and forcibly displace all 170 people who live there, a move that human rights organizations and some European governments say would constitute a war crime.

But while the humanitarian situation and legality of the demolition and displacement are of great concern, much of the media coverage and activism on Khan al-Ahmar has overlooked the strategic importance of this tiny hamlet.

Khan al-Ahmar is located in E1, the name of the 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements in order to connect the two cities. Doing so would bifurcate the West Bank, leading to what has been described over the years as the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.

In a statement published late last week, the local European Union’s mission blasted Israel’s plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, along with the planned settlement construction in E1, saying they “exacerbate threats to the viability of the two-state solution and further undermine prospects for a lasting peace.”

“This is red flag for key members of the European Union,” explained Daniel Seidemann, an attorney and activist who runs the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, and who has spent the last 20 years monitoring how the city’s changing landscape is making a political solution increasingly difficult. “Should it raze the village despite European engagement, Israel will likely suffer the consequences.”

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+972 spoke to Seidemann on Monday about why Netanyahu is willing to jeopardize so much for one tiny village, the geopolitical implications of E1, and how the Trump administration is likely to handle the crisis.

Khan al-Ahmar has been at the focus of the world’s attention for the past few weeks. Why is the Israeli government so intent on displacing such a small community?

“That’s the $64,000 question. Khan al-Ahmar has recently exploded on the front pages, but it has been simmering with a great deal of attention under the radar for a number of years, so...

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'For many young American Jews, the Trump-Bibi axis is the enemy'

There have always been undercurrents of dissent within American Jewry when it comes to Israel. After all, it was progressive Jewish Americans, radicalized by the New Left of the 1960s, who became the avant-garde of the American Jewish Left, demanding that the Israeli government enter into talks with the PLO decades before it became Israeli policy. It was radical American Jews who, just a decade after protesting the Vietnam War, began demonstrating outside Israeli embassies and consulates during the First Lebanon War.

Decades later, we tend to hear a great deal about the changing relationship between American Jews and Israel, whether by those who feel let down by it, deceived by the stories and mythologies promulgated by their own communities, or those who are simply turning away from the Jewish state altogether.

What we hear far less about is progressive American Jews who have chosen to make Israel their home. How do American Israelis, particularly those thought leaders who have helped inform many of the changes bubbling up among their kin back in the U.S., feel about Israel today?

For Bradley Burston, making his Jewish American voice heard has become a mission of sorts — even when no one was really listening. Burston has become one of the most prominent voices of liberal Zionism (he rejects the term, calling himself “more of a post-labeling guy”) through his Haaretz column, “A Special Place in Hell.” Long before IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, and Peter Beinart blew the lid off a simmering crisis between American Jews and Israel, his writing served as a refuge for those who felt stranded between their values and Israel.

As Israel’s military dictatorship over the Palestinians grew more entrenched, Burston’s columns became more strident, warning Israelis — and their American Jewish patrons — of its dire repercussions. So it is somewhat incredulous to hear Burston declare that his views about Israel have not changed since 1971. After all, much to his chagrin, his name has become synonymous with a strain of liberal Zionism that has struggled to remain relevant in the Netanyahu era — one that believes in a two-state solution, a Jewish state that respects and empowers its minorities, and a healthy connection to the rest of the world.

Despite the political setbacks and the fading hopes for two states, however, Burston believes that deep down, most American Jews agree...

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