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

'Israelis don't want to hear what I have to say'

What does it feel like to be a target? Jewish-Israeli dissidents and anti-occupation activists have, for the most part, been lucky enough to avoid that question over the years. While Israeli authorities have had few qualms clamping down on Palestinians who openly challenge Israel’s military dictatorship in the occupied territories, Israeli Jews have largely been spared their wrath.

That’s beginning to change. From Shin Bet interrogations at the border to coordinated attacks on prominent anti-occupation activists to the delegitimization of left-wing NGOs, authorities have been making life increasingly difficult for outspoken Jewish Israelis. For more well-known activists, the ad hominem attacks are worn like a badge of honor: proof that laying bare the cruelties of occupation is actually doing something.

Then there are activists like Guy Hirschfeld, who stand little to gain from becoming a target. Over the past few months, it has felt at times like Hirschfeld, 49, is Public Enemy No. 1 for Israeli authorities in the West Bank — and particularly the settlers. A long-time member of Ta’ayush — an Israeli-Palestinian volunteer grassroots group founded during the Second Intifada, and one of the few groups of Israelis that regularly puts their bodies on the line in solidarity with Palestinians — Hirschfeld spends most of his days accompanying Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley, where they regularly come under attack by settlers or the army.

If Hirschfeld’s ideological leanings have made him a target, his brazen, often shocking style does him no favors. His routine chastising of soldiers, in which he often resorts to personal insults,  coupled with a defiant irreverence for conventional norms (he commonly refers to the ideological settlers in outposts as “terrorists”) have landed him in the crosshairs. Since joining Ta’ayush in 2009, Hirschfeld has been arrested or detained between 60-70 times — 25 of them this year alone.

Hirschfeld is an easy target, but his case is exemplary of a larger clampdown on grassroots Israeli activists who struggle alongside Palestinians in the occupied territories. That clampdown was on display two years ago when a far-right group tried to bring down Ta’ayush veteran and Hirschfeld’s mentor, Ezra Nawi. Today, now that Nawi is significantly less active, Hirschfeld has become the primary target of the right.

Rather than deter him, the intimidation tactics have only made Hirschfeld more outspoken. His Facebook following has blossomed over the past two years to over 4,000, including some of...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'Gender violence pushed Jewish, Palestinian women into a corner — together'

Women across Israel were set to strike to protest the government’s inaction toward gender violence. Samah Salaime, a prominent feminist activist, speaks about building solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian women and why this moment feels so urgent.

Tens of thousands of women in Israel were expected to participate in a general strike and demonstrations across the country on Tuesday, protesting the government’s inaction toward gender-based violence, spurred by the recent murders of two teenage girls.

Over 50 Jewish and Arab feminist organizations, comprising the Red Flag Coalition, declared a national “state of emergency” and organized the protests. Demonstrations are set to take place in dozens of locations around the country, culminating with a large rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday evening. Hundreds of organizations, corporations, and municipalities have declared their support for the protests.

Since the beginning of the year, 24 women have been murdered by a partner, family member, or acquaintance. Many had informed the police prior to their deaths that they were concerned for their safety. According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), 200,000 women in Israel are thought to be victims of domestic abuse, with around half a million children witnessing violence in their homes.

+972 writer Samah Salaime has been one of the central organizers in the struggle against gender violence in Palestinian society inside Israel for years. She spoke to +972 about how the coalition of organizations came together, how it overcame tensions between Jewish and Palestinian feminists, and why this moment feels so urgent.

What was the impetus for the strike?

The strike is happening because of the murder of 24 women this year alone, half of them Arab women. It is happening because the majority of cases of murder of Arab women remain unsolved. It is happening because after the killing of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub in the north and 13-year-old Sylvana Tsegai in Tel Aviv we could no longer remain apathetic. It was time to act.

Crowdfund banner 600px

The strike began as an act of protest organized by a few female social activists which didn’t stand much of a chance. A coalition of Palestinian and Jewish women’s groups was formed a few months ago, in order to organize a huge protest in front of the Knesset. We had...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Top court gives Israel even broader powers to use torture

Nearly 20 years after it banned torture, Israel’s High Court is finding new ways to justify using physical force in the interrogation of security suspects.

Israel’s High Court of Justice last week ruled that Israeli authorities’ torture of a Hamas suspect was not illegal and that the Shin Bet interrogators do not need to be prosecuted. The ruling also broadened and effectively removed the strict limitations imposed by a landmark decision by the same court nearly two decades ago, which carved out a “ticking bomb” exception to the prohibition on torture.

“The ruling shows that in the eyes of the High Court, physical abuse is a legitimate and perhaps even the preferable way of carrying out an interrogation in cases of national security,” said Itamar Mann, a law lecturer at Haifa University.

Shin Bet agents have for decades used torture, including moderate and severe physical and psychological abuse, to extract information from Palestinian suspects. The methods have ranged from violent shaking, beatings, sleep deprivation, long exposure to loud music, exposure to the elements, restraining suspects in painful positions for long periods, and covering suspects’ heads in foul-smelling sacks.

Israel ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1986, but never took the next step of actually outlawing the practice in Israeli law.

In September 1999, however, the High Court unanimously banned the use of physically abusive interrogation tactics. The ruling was widely viewed as a bold prohibition on torture and has been lauded and taught around the world. But in their historic decision, the justices also created a significant loop-hole to the prohibition: in the case of a “ticking bomb,” interrogators could avoid prosecution by invoking a necessity defense.

Crowdfund banner 600px

Twenty years later, it is clear just how much the Shin Bet has stretched that loophole. “The ruling could be seen an attempt to hide what the Shin Bet is actually doing,” added Mann.

Since 2001, when the Justice Ministry appointed a special investigator of torture allegations against the Shin Bet, PCATI and other organizations submitted over 1,100 complaints of torture. Of those, only one resulted in a criminal investigation, and it was not directly related to an interrogation.

The ruling also expanded the situations and...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

How one of Israel's veteran activists came to support (some) sanctions

Galia Golan supports levying sanctions and international pressure against Israel to hasten the end of the occupation. That does not, however, mean that she supports BDS.

Golan, who was one of the founders of Peace Now, served as the chair of Hebrew University’s political science department, and advised several Israeli prime ministers, has come a long way since leaving her job at the CIA to move to Israel 52 years ago.

Much of that happened relatively early on, when she learned — before most Israelis, she notes — about Israel’s expulsion of the Palestinian population in 1948 and its refusal to allow the refugees to return. A few years later, she was politicized by the establishment of the first Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Four years ago, she left Peace Now, a process that culminated when Israel’s only real peace group refused to come out against the Gaza war — for reasons she says she understands but could not get behind. In the meantime, she has also moved on from supporting the two-state solution, joining many others who grasp just how entrenched the occupation has become.

Golan’s support for an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, like other aspects of her political views these days, goes back to 1948. “We can’t go back and undo what happened,” she explains in an interview at her home in Ra’anana. “In a confederation the refugees can come back.”

It is there, by recognizing the grave injustices that are an inseparable part of the birth of the Jewish state, where Golan departs from most of the Israeli left. That makes her part of a small minority in Israel. More unique, is her belief that fixing those historical injustices can still be reconciled with a Jewish state.

Golan grew up in a non-political, non-religious home that moved from one middle-class Jewish neighborhood to another across the East Coast of the United States. Once a self-identified “Jewish nationalist,” Golan says she believed that her people, who faced centuries of murderous persecution, needed a home to call their own.

Today, with history laid bare, and with no end to the bloodletting in sight, she finds it much harder to claim that label.

“I knew nothing about this country [when I came],” she says. “I viewed it as heroic, coming out of the ashes of Europe. As I learned more about the creation of the state and the circumstances and decisions, I began to raise the...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Two years after +972 investigation, Airbnb to pull listings in West Bank settlements

Two years after +972 exposed Airbnb’s operations in West Bank settlements, the company has announced it will be pulling all settlement listings from its site.

By Edo Konrad and Yael Marom

Airbnb announced that it would pull listings from settlements in the occupied West Bank on Monday evening. The decision comes two years after +972 and Local Call revealed that the San Francisco-based vacation rentals company included apartments, cottages, and caravans located on West Bank hilltops, while making no mention of the fact that they are in settlements on occupied land.

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law.

Among the vacation properties available for rent on the site are a number in settlement outposts considered illegal even under Israeli law, some of which are situated on stolen, privately-owned Palestinian land. The 2016 investigation also found that many property owners were discriminating by refusing to rent to prospective Arab guests, which violates company policy.

In the weeks and months following the publication of the investigation and the attention it garnered in the international media, activist groups and human rights organizations targeted the company with an international campaign, #StolenHomes. The campaign, which gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures, demanded Airbnb stop profiting off the settlements and the occupation.

A statement on Airbnb’s website said: “We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” The company has yet to announce just when the listings will be taken down. At the time of publishing, one can still find units for rent all across the West Bank.

Following the announcement, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin ordered his ministry to take steps to restrict Airbnb’s operations across the country, while Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Airbnb hosts harmed by the decision should file lawsuits against the company in accordance with Israel’s anti-boycott law.

View article: AAA
Share article

The casual racism of war-time Israel

Trauma and racism are an inescapable part of Israeli society, especially on days when the drums of war are beating.

The bike ride along the outdoor platform of Tel Aviv’s central bus station takes about a minute north to south.

The area, long neglected by the city, has become home to junkies, sex workers, the homeless, asylum seekers, and Palestinian day laborers.

It’s also a hub for Israeli soldiers on their way to or from base. Old, half-shredded posters of Eritrean pop singers and fundamentalist Jewish religious figures warning of the End Times line the drab concrete wall that does full justice to the building’s brutalist architecture.

I usually take my time and walk through, out of respect for pedestrians trying to make their way to the sherut (“service”) taxis — yellow mini-buses that travel across the country to places as far as Tiberias or Ashdod whose drivers share a single common attribute: unyielding impatience.

This morning, however, I was late for work and couldn’t afford the time to saunter. I crossed the street and turned left on the platform, peddling past a group of soldiers standing at the northern entrance to the station.

Next to them were five female Border Police officers surrounding a man in his 30s in sagging pants and a gray hoodie. They were examining his green ID card — he must have been Palestinian laborer from the West Bank. I slowed down, weary from a sight that repeats itself ad nauseam only to see that they had returned his ID and let him go. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

In between the sheruts headed for Netanya and Nazareth stood a line of regular taxi cabs, their drivers standing, chatting among themselves in a half-circle, smoking cigarettes.

“Special deal for Israelis!” one them yelled as I rode past.

“Free rides to Ashdod and Ashkelon — for Israelis only!” he shouted once again, most likely as a gesture for those who may have family in the southern cities, the latter of which came under heavy rocket fire the night before.

“What about Arabs?” another driver asked, laughing.

“No.”

I rode on until I reached the station’s southernmost entrance, where a young boy dressed in soccer gear and a sports bag draped over his shoulder stood alongside an older man — perhaps his...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Trump's veiled anti-Semitism comes home to roost in Pittsburgh

Trump is well aware of how white supremacists and others interpret his remarks. What makes it so sinister is that he keeps doing it anyway.

Six-hundred and forty-four days after President Donald Trump was sworn into office, the anti-Semitism his candidacy and presidency have unleashed has come home to roost.

Details will continue to emerge about Robert Bowers, the far-right white nationalist who on Saturday morning walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns, and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six others. The oldest victim was 97 years old.

We already know Bowers made his intentions clear: he blamed the entire Jewish community for the work of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, an organization founded in the late 1800s to assist Jewish emigres from Russia and now focuses on refugee resettlement in the U.S. and around the world. HIAS, he wrote, is “bring[ing] invaders in that kill our people.”

Bowers is not Donald Trump, neither in style nor substance. He never hid genocidal intent against the Jewish community. On social media, Bowers wrote that there is “no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation,” and referred to the “Jew problem” in his posts. As he unloaded rounds into the worshippers at Tree of Life, he was heard shouting “all Jews must die.”

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Trump, unlike Bowers, does not traffic in the kind of overt anti-Semitism we have seen surface among the extreme right in the United States in recent years. His unbridled support for Israel’s policies, his Jewish daughter, in-laws, and the appointment of Jews to senior positions in his administration give him plausible deniability. Unlike Mexicans and Muslims, who have been openly targeted by the Trump administration (HIAS has been active in supporting both Muslim refugees and immigrants fleeing violence in central and South America), American Jews have for the most part been spared as direct targets of Trump’s brand of xenophobia.

But the president need not resort to Nazi anti-Semitism to inspire the bloodlust of Bowers and his ilk. After all, Jews do not categorically bother Trump. It is a particular kind of Jew — cosmopolitan, progressive, anti-racist — that Trump has adopted as a scapegoat for America’s problems. His repeated attacks on George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who has historically funded...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

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...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

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....

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

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...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

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.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

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...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

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,...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'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...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article