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Revealed: Shin Bet controlled Arab schools for decades

Classified documents reveal how, for years, Israel’s internal security service meddled in Arab society’s education system, firing teachers deemed ‘threats’ and employing Shin Bet agents in the Education Ministry.

It has long been known that the Shin Bet, Israel’s shadowy internal security service, has been involved in surveillance over the country’s Arab population. Since the very first days of the state, the service monitored Arab political organizations; surveiled nationalist or communist activity viewed as subversive; and enlisted collaborators to ensure maximum control with minimum effort.

Following the 1948 War, the Israeli government granted citizenship to the Palestinians who remained in the boundaries of the nascent state; but the state also imposed martial law on the Arab population, subjecting them to the authority of a military governor. Under military rule, Palestinian citizens grew fearful of the Shin Bet, which often resorted to sabotage and torture to root out those viewed as threatening to the state. While military rule was officially abolished in 1966, the Shin Bet continued to monitor and interfere in the lives of Israel’s Arabs — most nefariously, in its state-run education system.

The Shin Bet’s meddling in the education system was an open secret for years, but it was at a top-secret April 1978 meeting between agents and senior members of the Education Ministry that institutionalized its furtive presence, more than a decade after the end of military rule. Highly classified documents from that meeting, uncovered by Yedioth Ahronoth, provide insight into how the Shin Bet maintained its grip on education of Arab children.

According to the documents, the Shin Bet sought to formalize its power to remove teachers and principles deemed “hostile”; to deny tenure to others; and to ensure the Education and Culture Ministry’s Arab Education Department (the education and culture ministries were later split into separate ministries) would employ a Shin Bet agent to coordinate the service’s activities.

Yedioth Ahronoth obtained documents revealing that the Shin Bet barred highly qualified pedagogues from obtaining employment, often ensuring they could no longer work as teachers or principals due to their political beliefs as expressed in the classroom, or because they had relatives associated with political activities. The educators were never formally told the reason for their dismissal. Awed Abdelfatah Hussein, who worked as an English teacher in an Arab village in northern Israel, was fired without notice and replaced with someone who lacked any credentials to teach English.

Hussein repeatedly attempted to return to teaching, but could not get a job...

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Between Ramle and Me: Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates in Hebrew

Three activists, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, an Ethiopian Israeli, and a veteran Mizrahi organizer discuss the applicability of Ta-Nehesi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me’ to their struggles in Israel.

The killing of black men by police in the United States has, over much of the past half-decade, thrust the issue of American racism back into the media spotlight. High-profile shootings of young, unarmed African-American men, such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, were a sign that even the election of a black man to the highest office in the land could not eliminate what many view as an epidemic.

Those killings have a global context as well. In May 2015, thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets across the country, protesting the brutal, unprovoked police beating of Demass Pikada, an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform. Five months earlier, a Palestinian citizen of Israel named Khair Hamdan was gunned down while fleeing officers in his home village. In both cases, Ethiopian and Palestinian activists adopted variations on a rallying cry whose power has become as indomitable as it is ubiquitous: “Black Lives Matter.”

The prominence of police killings in the Obama era also gave rise to a new cadre of black public intellectuals, often called upon to delineate the black condition to those who could not possibly comprehend it. Chief among them has been Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has become America’s foremost public intellectual on matters of racism and race, after publishing a number of landmark essays in The Atlantic on mass incarceration, white supremacy, the legacy of Barack Obama, and reparations for African-Americans.

Earlier this month, Coates’ widely praised book, Between the World and Me, was published in Hebrew, a mere two-and-a-half years after its initial release. The book, written as a letter to his son about the unremitting legacy of white supremacy, became a bestseller and went on to win the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Over the course of 175 pages, Between the World and Me weaves personal, biographical vignettes from Coates, who grew up in crack-ridden Baltimore of the 1980s, with the larger narratives of state violence against African-Americans — most painfully in the shooting death of a friend, Prince Jones, by a police officer in 2000. The outcome is a pessimistic rumination on the past, present, and future of both the black experience in America and its negative image: the power of whiteness. The book’s release coincided with the surge of police killings, the rise of Black Lives Matter,...

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There is no status quo, only Greater Israel

Netanyahu’s party and government are finally making explicit what has long been implied: rejecting the premise that the Palestinians will ever have a state of their own.

Over the past few years, analysts have been using the term “creeping annexation” to describe Israel’s land grabbing, segregationist policies in the West Bank. But over the past few days, the country’s leaders have been openly signaling that annexation need no longer creep. It is the new game in town.

On Sunday night, Likud’s Central Committee, the body responsible for updating the party’s constitution, unanimously passed a resolution to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements, effectively annexing them to­­ Israel.

The Likud decision received a significant boost from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who announced Wednesday that beginning next week, all new pieces of government-supported legislation would include a short directive on how they are to be applied to Israeli settlements. The move, Shaked said Wednesday morning at a Knesset committee hearing, will help implement government policy in the settlements and “normalize life in Judea and Samaria.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin joined in. “The inequality between the residents of Judea and Samaria and the rest of the country cries to the heavens,” he told the committee, referring to the difference between the legal situations for Jewish Israeli settlers and Israelis who live inside Israel proper. “Until the necessity of applying sovereignty across all parts of the Land of Israel is formalized, we must fix this absurd situation.”

Palestinians, for their part, will not likely feel the short-term consequences of these two decisions. They will continue to languish under a military regime that deprives them of their basic rights, behind walls and fences that keep them physically and psychologically out of Israeli sight.

Taken together,  Likud and Shaked’s decisions are important for both their practical and psychological implications: they are changing the paradigm. If, until now, annexation was openly championed only by those on the far-right, today it has become a fundamental tenet of Israel’s ruling party, and the Justice Ministry is continuing to lay the groundwork for its future implementation.

These are certainly not the first moves toward annexation. In February of last year, the Knesset passed the “Formalization Law,” which retroactively legalizes settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land. Months later came the “Greater Jerusalem law”, which would extend Jerusalem’s municipal umbrella over dozens of West...

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WATCH: Israeli troops beat handcuffed Palestinian in Hebron

Video shows shows soldiers dragging a young Palestinian man through the streets of Hebron, repeatedly kicking, slapping, and manhandling him.

Updated below.

A video released Sunday shows a large group of Israeli soldiers taking turns assaulting a Palestinian detainee in the West Bank city of Hebron, amid protests against Trump’s recent declaration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The video, filmed last Friday by a resident of Hebron and released by Israeli anti-occupation group B’Tselem, shows the soldiers forcibly dragging a handcuffed a young Palestinian man through Wadi al-Tufah Street. He is repeatedly kicked, slapped, and manhandled by the soldiers, before being blindfolded. A resident of Hebron said he began filming the incident after hearing the man’s screams.

The man was arrested during a Palestinian “Day of Rage,” across cities in the West Bank and Gaza, in response to Trump’s declaration, leading to the death of two Palestinians who were shot dead by Israeli security forces. Hundreds of others were wounded by live fire, rubber bullets, and tear gas across the occupied territories.

The above incident is reminiscent of one described by Breaking the Silence Spokesperson Dean Issacharoff, who was recently attacked by top Israeli leaders after they accused him of lying about beating up a Palestinian who was resisting arrest — also in Hebron — during his time as a soldier. The State Attorney’s Office, which looked into Issacharoff’s claim, eventually closed the case, determining that the incident in question never took place and that Issacharoff had lied (according to Issacharoff, the State Attorney’s Office interrogated the wrong Palestinian the whole time).

According to a B’Tselem statement, by closing the case against Issacharoff, the State Attorney “attempted to paint a false portrait of reality, according to which Israeli soldiers are rarely violent toward Palestinians, and every case always leads to an investigation.”

“This is the violent routine of occupation: dispersing protests, whether or not their participants use violence, as well as arresting and putting protest leaders on trial,” the statement continued. “These are common techniques used by Israel’s security forces, which align with the worldview of the authorities, according to which Palestinians have no right to resist the occupation, not to mention the right to free expression and protest.”

+972 reached out to the IDF Spokesperson for comment. It will be published here as soon as it is received.

Update [Dec 11, 2017]:

+972 asked the IDF Spokesperson: whether the soldiers’...

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This is what it looks like to be hit by Israel's 'Skunk'

The ‘Skunk,’ a foul-smelling liquid most often used to suppress Palestinian demonstrations, is now finding a new target: ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

For much of the past year, Israeli forces have been using a foul-smelling liquid shot from a water cannon at high velocity to try and put down a burgeoning protest movement by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. On Sunday, Activestills photographer Oren Ziv captured the weapon, known as the “Skunk,” firing at the protesters, and striking a Palestinian from East Jerusalem who was accidentally caught in the melee.

The protest was held by the followers of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the head of a radical Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox faction that has been resisting IDF attempts to recruit its members, and sometimes even jailing them for failing to show up to army recruitment centers. The “Jerusalem Faction” has held demonstrations across the city since the beginning of the year, and while Israel has been unable to quash the protests, it not for lack of trying. Security forces are sent to suppress the protests, often brutally, which have tended to block Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares.

If you have spent much time in the West Bank over the past decade, the sight and smell of the rectangular, white vehicle spraying putrid liquid at demonstrators is not an uncommon one. Developed as a non-lethal alternative to tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets, the Skunk has been regularly deployed in the Palestinian villages which, beginning in the middle of the last decade, embraced unarmed protest as a means to fight against the occupation, land theft, and the separation wall.

The liquid, reportedly made of yeast, baking powder, and a few other unknown ingredients, smells so bad that even objects such as trees or roads that have been hit often stink for weeks, if not more. A BBC reporter called it the “most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks — topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer.” Homes struck by the Skunk during protests are often unlivable for weeks. Palestinians would tell me that the only way to remove the stench is by dipping in the sea. That privilege, for the vast majority of them, remains off limits.

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Why I'm not fighting for a 'better Israel'

Can a national ethos that needs to balance out its democratic ideals with demographic domination ever provide an avenue for implementing a truly progressive agenda? A response to Maya Haber.

The commemorations of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination have a strange tendency: once a year the Israeli peace camp gathers, both physically and virtually, to reflect on how exactly we got to this particular political moment. This year, discussions have been especially tumultuous after it became clear that the rally in Rabin’s honor, organized by two centrist organizations, would be a wholly apolitical affair — one that aims to bring together the “moderate majority,” including leftists, rightists, centrists, and settlers.

The conversations led to some interesting critiques worth engaging with. Alon Mizrahi wrote a powerful piece on these pages, in which he argued that Israel cannot be a democracy as long as it holds millions under military dictatorship, and that the Left’s mission should be to end that dictatorship. At “Haokets,” Lev Grinburg revisited Rabin’s attempt to build an unstable political coalition across ethnic and national lines that granted him the legitimacy to enter talks with Arafat, and how that coalition quickly unraveled following the prime minister’s murder.

Over at Jewish Currents, Maya Haber published an informative piece titled, “Why there’s hope for a progressive agenda in Israel.” In it she details how following the Rabin assassination, when the Israeli Right was at its political and public nadir, American neoconservatives exported their ideology to Israel by building an infrastructure that would put the Right back in power.

Through a network of funds, think tanks, media outlets, and philanthropic initiatives, American right-wingers “infused Israeli politics with neoconservative ideology, trained political leadership, and provided a media platform from which to attack the left,” Haber writes. Think tanks like the Shalem Center set the tone for Israel’s neoliberal economic policies, while websites such as Mida have orchestrated smear campaigns against left-wing groups such as Breaking the Silence.

Haber’s piece is worth reading for its historical breadth. Unfortunately, it never really lays out what a progressive agenda in Israel looks like. The reader is left with a nebulous optimism that seems entirely detached from the present reality. “Much like the right in the 1990s,” Haber writes, “the Israeli progressive camp now understands that in order to make Israel a better place, it needs to gain power. They have identified the vulnerabilities of the right and...

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Reckoning with the murder of a prime minister

The White House chief of staff, who claimed the American Civil War was born out of an inability to compromise, can teach Israelis a thing or two about just how toxic political amnesia can be.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly went on national television this past week to repeat a lie. Speaking about the removal of statues of controversial historical figures such as Commander of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee, Kelly, often viewed as the “adult” tapped to bring order to an anarchic White House, told CNN on Tuesday that it was the “lack of an ability to compromise” that led to the Civil War.

Whether intentionally or not, Kelly had parroted a trope that has long accompanied the American memory of its bloodiest and deadliest war: that the inability to reconcile two different, morally equivalent ways of life — rather than the institution of slavery — laid at the heart of the conflict between the Union and the Confederacy. These arguments were most commonly put forth in the postbellum years, when Southern leaders spoke of the “Lost Cause,” downplaying the role of slavery and emphasizing states’ rights and the “southern way of life,” against which the North ostensibly inveighed.

In the years that followed, and up until the around the middle of the last century, the official narrative of the Civil War propagated by the victors also minimized the role that slavery played, often as a token of reconciliation that would allow the North to avoid facing questions about its questionable strategy of compromise with the South.

Kelly’s historical revisionism has since been widely panned, yet his remarks serve as a stark reminder of a fundamental fault line that splits Americans over how they view their own history, and consequently, the present. Kelly’s remarks also happen to echo a different process of historical revisionism currently taking place in Israel.

The past week, Tel Aviv saw a flurry of activity as it prepared for its annual rally to commemorate the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In recent years, the ceremony has been a primarily low-key affair, with decent turnouts and political figures who recycle tired slogans borrowed from the Oslo days. Controversy erupted this year, the 22nd since Rabin’s murder, after it became clear that rally organizers Darkenu (“Our Way”) and Commanders for Israel’s Security had omitted any mention of Rabin’s assassination from their advertisements:

The outcry, including by Labor stalwart Shelly Yachimovich,...

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IDF using Facebook to threaten to destroy Gaza family's home

The army says Hamas built a tunnel under a six-story apartment building that houses the Hammad family, threatening to destroy it. Most of the family has already fled.

The IDF is using Facebook to threaten to destroy the home of a Gaza family, claiming Hamas has built a tunnel directly underneath it.

On August 10, Yoav Mordechai, commander of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), announced on the unit’s Arabic Facebook page that the IDF had discovered two tunnels built by Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2006, under both an apartment building and a nearby mosque in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

In his post, Mordechai warned the residents living in and around the six-story apartment building — home to 21 members of the Hammad family, including four women and 12 children — that Hamas was using them as “human shields,” and thus their lives are now in danger due to a potential Israeli military strike on the area.

According to Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, some of the family members fled the building in response to the threats. The less fortunate ones, who had nowhere to go, stayed behind.

That same day, Israel’s Channel 10 published aerial imagery of the building along with remarks made by Israel’s Southern Command Chief Eyal Zamir, who reiterated the claim that Hamas had been digging tunnels under the home, without providing any evidence.

Several days later, Omar Hammad, the owner of the building, received a phone call from an individual who identified himself as a member of Israeli military intelligence, who proceeded to inform Hammad that he and his family’s lives were in danger.

Over the past few years, Hamas has developed a sophisticated network of tunnels, running some dozens of miles below the Gaza Strip, which are used both to smuggle goods and for military purposes, including infiltration into Israel.

Adalah and the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights have both called on the IDF to immediately halt its threats against the family and other civilians in Gaza, which they say violate international law.

According to the Geneva Conventions, acts or threats of violence that seek to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

“International law forces us to distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants,” said Adalah attorney Muna Haddad. “According to the law, even the presence of a large number of combatants,...

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What's dividing Israeli society? Just don't mention the occupation

Is it possible to discuss the sources of Israeli disunity without addressing the country’s military regime in the West Bank and siege on Gaza? Can Israelis ever accept Palestinians as part of that conversation?

The plight, let alone the very existence of millions of disenfranchised people living under Israeli military rule, was nowhere to be found at the Anti-Defamation League’s first-ever Summit on Social Cohesion in Israel Tuesday.

Actually, that’s not entirely correct.

“We are no longer the occupiers, we have become the occupied,” former Defense Minister and erstwhile Labor Party leader Amir Peretz declared ironically to the hundreds of people gathered at the ADL-organized event at a hanger in Tel Aviv’s Port.

“Our children may leave the territories but the territories will never leave them,” Peretz quipped, hinting at the human cost average Israelis pay for maintaining endless military rule in a country with mandatory conscription.

The major factor underlying Israeli disunity, according to the former defense minister, is 50 years of military dictatorship in the occupied territories. And any search for unity must go beyond the IDF and Israel’s wars, which have consistently brought together Jewish Israelis of all political stripes.

It was not surprising, then, that Peretz was the only speaker to be heckled. “This isn’t a political event! I thought we came here to talk about social cohesion!” one audience member shouted until security approached.

And in a sense she was right.

Can talking about social cohesion, or lack thereof, ever be considered apolitical in today’s Israel? Can we actually discuss the foundations of Israeli disunity without addressing the military dictatorship over the West Bank and the siege on the Gaza Strip, both of which, as Peretz sees it, bleed over the Green Line and lead to an increase of violence within Israeli society?

There was no shortage of speakers Tuesday who decried the state of extremism and tribalism in Israel. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai called racism and inter-group divisions “a bigger threat than anything else.” Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon excoriated Israel’s lack of leadership and growing socio-economic gaps, pondering why social unity cannot exist outside the Israeli army. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro warned that the Israeli government’s refusal to work toward a two-state solution, along with its often illiberal values, will have an impact on diaspora Jewry.

At a time when Jews around the world are feeling more and more estranged from Israel...

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In the crosshairs: Israel's war of attrition on political dissent

The attempt to outlaw Israeli human rights organizations means the Jewish state may soon be forced to shed its image of a liberal democratic state. Are Israelis ready for that?

The war of attrition against Israel’s human rights community took a dark turn last week. Hardly anyone noticed.

According to reports, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin is currently working on a new bill that would outlaw Israeli anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence, along with any other organization that harms IDF soldiers or promotes boycotts of the Jewish state. The bill reportedly has the full backing of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will review it for approval ahead of voting.

Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of former Israeli soldiers that collects and publishes testimonies of IDF transgressions in the occupied territories, called the bill an attempt by Netanyahu to distract the public from numerous corruption investigations that threaten to topple his rule.

The claim isn’t unfounded: Netanyahu’s cronies in the Likud Party are carrying out a parliamentary scorched earth campaign to shield the prime minister from accountability, including establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate foreign government funding of left-wing NGOs. Levin’s bill, then, does away with etiquette. No longer will the Israeli Right harp on the issue of funding alone. In its war of attrition, the goal has become the total elimination of dissent.

This war has been years in the making — it is, after all, a project of patience. The collapse of the Oslo process and the consequent foundering of the peace camp gave rise to a galvanized brand of right wing, one that sought to carefully undo the work of its predecessors in the Zionist Left. Doing so required a number of carefully crafted steps: supplanting peace negotiations with endless settlement building; creating physical and psychological distance between Israelis and the reality in the West Bank and Gaza; marking Palestinian citizens of Israel, long suspected as fifth columnists by the Israeli establishment, as enemies of the state; and silencing political dissidents through draconian legal warfare, and often the threat of real violence.

A bygone era

Breaking the Silence, from its onset, aimed straight for the heart of the Israeli consensus. Long before its members toured American campuses and spoke to the United Nations, the organization was simply a way for members to hold a frank conversation about the things they did and saw as soldiers of occupation. There was nothing especially revelatory...

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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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