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Hundreds protest to recognize the disappearance of Yemenite children

Hundreds block central Tel Aviv street while calling on the government to recognize one of the most harrowing chapters in Israeli history.

Over 500 people demonstrated Monday evening in central Tel Aviv, calling on the state to recognize its responsibility for the Yemenite children’s affair, which took place in the years after the country was founded. Protesters blocked Kaplan Street, bringing traffic on one of Tel Aviv’s central thoroughfares for over an hour.

The demonstrators carried signs with photos of disappeared children and their family members, commemorating the affair that has haunted Israel since its early years. Between the years 1948 and 1952, thousands of babies, children of mostly Yemenite immigrants to the newly-founded State of Israel, were taken away from their parents. Many were reportedly given up for adoption to Ashkenazi families. The state has never taken responsibility for the disappearances.

The protesters emphasized that they are not looking for monetary compensation, and called on the government to fully open the state archives and formally recognize its role in the affair.

The demonstration, held in a square on the edge of the Sarona shopping complex, began calmly. Family members of the disappeared spoke before dozens seated on plastic chairs. As it grew bigger, the protest began spilling into the street where they were pushed back by the police. More demonstrators joined in until they were able to block Kaplan Street. After an hour, the officers were able to push the protesters back onto the sidewalk adjacent to the square. One demonstrator was arrested.

The demonstration was organized by Amram, an Israeli NGO dedicated to researching the disappearances of the Yemenite children, as well as by representatives of the kidnapped children. It was the second major protest organized in the past few months, following a major demo in downtown Jerusalem in June.

Activists from all sides of the political specturem were in attendance, as were Zionist Union leader and opposition head Isaac Herzog and Joint List MK Dov Khenin, among others. Shlomi Hatuka, one of the central organizers of the demonstration, told the crowd that the “crimes against the families continue even now. Every member of Knesset who remains silent today is an accomplice.”

This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis march to support village encircled by wall

Israel’s separation wall will surround the village on nearly all sides, which will separate its villagers from some 250 acres of agricultural land.

Over 500 Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators marched Saturday to protest the construction of the separation wall and house demolitions in the West Bank village of Walaje, south of Jerusalem. The march started at the entrance to the nearby city of Beit Jala and proceeded along the road to Har Gilo settlement, with activists chanting against the occupation and in favor of a two-state solution. As the march got underway, Jews and Palestinians stood together forming a bridge with their hands for others to pass through, calling for “build bridges, not walls.”

The march was coordinated by activists from “Bereaved Families Forum”, “Combatants for Peace” and “Standing Together.” “We will not be silent as the siege, settlements and wall smother Walaje,” said Suf Patishi, one of the organizers. “We, Israeli and Palestinians allies, build bridges instead of walls – to make this a better place for all of us.”

Some residents of the village, however, refused to allow the joint demonstration into Walaje, bringing an end to the demonstration ended. “Out of respect to their request we did not enter the village. We believe in a shared, non-violence path, as displayed by hundreds of people from both nationalities today. This will overcome resistance on both sides,” said Combatants for Peace’s Tuli Flint.

Saturdays march was set to commemorate the International Peace Day, well as the upcoming completion of the separation wall surrounding Walaje. The wall will almost entirely encircle the village, and will separate the villagers from some 250 acres of agricultural land, as well as a spring. According to Aviv Tatarsky of the Jerusalem-based NGO, Ir Amim, there are only 500 meters left to build until the wall is complete.

In Walaje, as in most cases in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area, the wall is not build on the Green Line, Israel’s internationally recognized border, but rather inside the West Bank. Meanwhile, the land and spring are slated to become part of a “national park” for the benefit of the Israeli residents of Jerusalem.

Residents of Walaje have previously held demonstrations against the route of the wall, and in few cases were successful in stopping the bulldozers from carrying out their work. However, these direct actions did not last long, and an appeal to the Supreme Court did nothing to advance a solution. Internal considerations...

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Netanyahu's son just published an anti-Semitic cartoon on Facebook

Yair Netanyahu, who reportedly is behind much of his father’s social media stunts, publishes a cartoon portraying George Soros as the All-Powerful Jew who controls the world. 

Yair Netanyahu, son of the prime minister, outdid even his father on Saturday when he published an anti-Semitic cartoon on his personal Facebook page.

The cartoon shows Manny Naftali, the former superintendent of the Prime Minister’s Residence, who is at the forefront of the struggle to put pressure on the police to indict Netanyahu for corruption, being baited by Israeli politico Eldad Yaniv, who is seen baited by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak is seen tempted by the money of the Illuminati, who according to the cartoon are being tempted by a Reptilian — a common anti-Semitic codeword for Jews. The Reptilian, for his part, is portrayed as controlling the world in the service of the Grand Jew: George Soros.

Yair published the cartoon after his mother, Sara, was officially told she would face fraud charges for misusing public funds in her management of the prime minister’s official residence. The Netanyahu family has repeatedly sought to place the blame for those misused funds squarely on Naftali. While the prime minister has used graphs and tables to try to prove Naftali’s culpability — which likely did little to assuage Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Police Chief Roni Alsheikh — his son took a far more disturbing route.

The cartoon is signed by Matzenksh (shorthand for an anti-leftist meme page) but is entirely based on a caricature used to depict the ways in which Jews control the United States and lead the American people astray. A quick visit to the various websites that have published the original or its variations are stomach-churning for their unbridled anti-Semitism. This is the cartoon the prime minister’s son chose to publish.

Just under a month ago, following the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, Yair published a Facebook status in which he said that Nazism is a problem of the past, and that the real issue is the “Antifa bullies” and “Black Lives Matters.” A few months ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry to refrain from criticizing the Hungarian government for its anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros.

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Israel revoking Al Jazeera reporter's credentials — for being a patriot

The Government Press Office is trying to rescind Elias Karram’s press credentials after he expressed support for the Palestinian cause. It hasn’t done the same for uniformed Israeli-soldier reporters.

Israel’s Government Press Office announced Wednesday that it was revoking press credentials from a senior Al Jazeera reporter in the country.

The GPO cited a statement he allegedly made over a year ago as its reason for revoking the credentials of Elias Karram, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Nazareth. “As a Palestinian journalist in an occupied area or in a conflict zone, media work is an integral part of the resistance and its educational political activity,” Karram said in an Arabic-language May 2016 interview. “The journalist fulfills his role in the opposition with the pen, voice or camera because he is part of this people and he carries out resistance in his unique way.”

The final decision on Karram’s case depends on the outcome of a formal hearing.

In a statement announcing the revocation of Karram’s credentials, GPO Director Nitzan Chen asserted that journalists with a GPO card are required to follow the “rules of ethics and universal fairness regarding news reporting,” and that “whoever takes an active part in a political struggle” must do so without a GPO card.

A review of the GPO’s own rules for the provision of press cards, however, makes no mention of ethics or fairness.

Who is a legitimate journalist?

Carrying a GPO card gives journalists access to official events, the scenes of newsworthy incidents, is often a condition for cooperation from official spokespeople, and offers protection from arrest while covering protests. In other words, government accreditation makes reporting much safer and more effective. (Foreign journalists must have the GPO’s endorsement in order to even receive a visa to work in Israel.)

But by giving itself the power to decide who is a legitimate journalist, the GPO (which operates as part of the Prime Minister’s Office) also inherently gets to decide who is not a legitimate journalist. And as with any decision made by government bureaucrats subordinate to politicians, such decisions can at times be driven by political considerations.

But the GPO is not only an office charged with accrediting and liaising with journalists. It is also a political propaganda organ of the Israeli government. According to a December 2014 Knesset report on official hasbara (propaganda) efforts, “The GPO tries to promote the State of Israel’s hasbara in its...

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Six things that must be said about the violence in Jerusalem and West Bank

There can be no justification for murder, the violence in Jerusalem isn’t about metal detectors, and there is a way out of this.

Tensions in Jerusalem exploded last week in a bloody day that left four Palestinians and three Israelis dead. Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians during demonstrations outside Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, while a third Palestinian was shot and killed by a settler in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ma’ale Zeitim. On Saturday night, a fourth Palestinian was killed during protests. Meanwhile on Friday, a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Kobar broke into the adjacent Israeli settlement of Halamish and stabbed three Israelis to death, before being shot and wounded by a neighbor. Here are six things we need to keep in mind when talking about the quickly spiraling violence we are currently witnessing.

1. There is no, and can be no justification for the murder of families sitting in their homes. Not in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, not in the settlement of Itamar, and not in the Gaza Strip. It cannot be justified by the occupation or because one happens to live next door to a Hamas police commander targeted by an Israeli missile. There can be no justification.

2. The protests and civil disobedience by Palestinians in East Jerusalem over the past week, which led to a predictable and preventable outbreak of violence over the weekend, are not taking place simply because they don’t like passing through metal detectors, as Noa Levy wrote. The core issue is the gradual changes Israel is making to the status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, and the establishment of Israeli checkpoints at the entrance to it, where there had previously been no checkpoint. Israeli restrictions on who can enter al-Aqsa Mosque compound are what led to the mass protests over the past week.

3. No, it is not accurate to say that “the Palestinians violated the status quo.” An act of violence perpetrated by three people — an act that was condemned by the Palestinian Authority, the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, the entire Joint List slate of Arab political parties in Israel — cannot be reasonably blamed on an entire nation. Furthermore, let’s not forget that the three attackers were Israeli citizens living in Israel, who traveled to the site of the attack in Jerusalem from their homes in Israel, all of which is under...

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This summer's wave of protests gives us reason to be optimistic

From asylum seekers demanding their wages to protests against the Gaza blackout to raising awareness over disappeared Yemenite babies, this summer’s protests give us every reason to stay optimistic about this place.

It’s hot outside. The Israeli summer often brings with it a new wave of social and political protests, and yet it looks like summer 2017 will be a special one.

Since the social justice protest of 2011 — and its successors in the following years — there has been a sense that Israeli citizens have lost faith in their ability to influence, change, protest, and get results. Meanwhile, the strengthening of the Right, the delegitimization of the Left and Israel’s leaders attempt to smear any protest as an act of subversion have had an immeasurable impact. The terrible war in summer 2014, which left thousands dead, resulted to the smallest number of anti-war demonstrators than in any previous war. Those who did come out to protest were met with the brutal violence of the thuggish right wing.

We also saw the rise of large protest movements: housing struggles, demonstrations against Netanyahu’s gas deal, the protest by Ethiopian-Israelis against police violence, and more. But for the most part, every movement stood by itself, for itself. Not so this summer.

The struggles that have erupted over the last three weeks are impressive and extraordinary. Yes, the fact that people have reasons to march in the streets is infuriating in its own right, and sheds a light on the worrying behavior of this government. But things that would have previously passed by the wayside are now energizing and enraging people, pushing them to protest, and even connect between struggles.

What follows is a rundown of only a small portion of the important protests from the past month:

Yemenite children affair: The mainstream media mostly ignored the powerful demonstration that took place in Jerusalem this week, where over 2,000 people came to break a silence of almost 60 years. Those outlets that did cover the protest did the bare minimum. But look at the photos, read Orly Noy’s report, and understand what kind of incredible thing took place here last week, which included solidarity from both the Left and the Right.

Gender violence: The continuing terror against women brought out hundreds into the streets. Whether they were Bedouin women protesting in the south, women in Ramle and Lod, or the demonstrations that took place across Israel last week, it is clear that the police and government’s failure to provide...

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PHOTOS: Thousands protest in J'lm over disappeared Yemenite children

Thousands of Israelis took to Jerusalem’s streets on Wednesday evening to demand answers over the disappearance of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies in the early years of the state. 

By Yael Marom, Eli Bitan and Haggai Matar

Thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening in order to protest the kidnapping of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies in the early years of the state. The demonstration was organized by Amram, an NGO dedicated to researching and exposing the affair, and called for recognition of the state’s crimes as well as justice for the affected families.

Hundreds of members of families who lost their children were among the protesters, who held signs that read, “We won’t forget or forgive,” “Justice for the families of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies,” and others with photographs of the kidnapped babies, and members of the families concerned who had passed away.

There were no formal political speeches at the protest, but stages were set up on every street corner, from which tearful family members told their stories after years of silence and incredulity. 

Amram’s Tom Mehager called it “a historic demonstration. Thousands came from across the country and echoed the cry over where the children are. The country is corrupt. The State of Israel must provide answers to the families of the kidnapped children, which the families emphatically demanded today.”

Ze’ev, who had traveled south to Jerusalem from near Hadera, said: “Two of my uncle’s children were kidnapped, and to this day we don’t know what happened to them. One disappeared two weeks after they got to Israel; a few months later, his daughter wasn’t feeling well and then disappeared.

“The Yemenite community is too quiet, too nice, too gentle. Our parents’ innocence was exploited… The families [must be] reunited. Forget money, we just want to know what happened to the children and to see them again,” Ze’ev added. “What do you say to a mother whose child was taken 70 years ago?”

One of the speakers was Tsvia Adani, the daughter of Saadia and Yehuda Levi, whose sister was taken at the age of nine months. She recounted how her parents’ child had been taken by force, despite their battling to prevent it.

Adani also spoke of how many Knesset members and government ministers are now calling for...

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Israel's national wound that cannot heal

A group of dedicated activists have been working tirelessly over the past several years to force the state to come clean about the disappearance of hundreds of Yemenite children in the early days of the state. They might just succeed.

Yemenite children's affair.

One of the aspects that is easiest to forget about the Yemenite children affair is that it is not a historical one. The disappearance of hundreds of Yemenite babies is not an old story, but rather a continuing injustice — even today. For the families who lost their children, who still do not know their fate, it has been a festering wound for nearly 60 years.

This means living an entire life of pain and doubt, of knowing that you wake up in the morning and drive to work, go to the supermarket, pay taxes, while your country remains silent over the disappearance of your child or your sister. That the doctors who treat you were educated by those who took part in disappearing children. That politicians deliberately prevent the state from formally recognizing the injustice, from apologizing, from compensating the family, and from supporting the attempt to find the children. That one of your close family members, whom you have never met, could pass you by on the street without knowing they have another family.

It is an unbearable burden to have to carry for 60 years. To understand the pain, all one needs to do is listen to just a few of the hundreds of testimonies published by Amram, an Israeli NGO dedicated to researching and exposing the disappearance of the Yemenite children. Through the tears of the parents, sisters, and brothers, one can understand how every day without answers is another day that the children are kidnapped — all over again.

Over the past few years, a small group of dedicated activists from Amram and other organizations have been able to break through the silence. They do not organize in a vacuum — it was the decades-long struggle by the families that led them to the journey toward recognition. Exposés published in newspapers such as HaOlam HaZeh in the 1960s and Haaretz in the 90s also broke that silence. The heroic struggle of Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, who led a...

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PHOTOS: Hundreds block Tel Aviv traffic to protest gender violence

Thousands of women demonstrate across Israel against gender violence and the police’s unwillingness to fight it.

Over 1,000 women and men demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Saturday night following the murder of four women by their family members over the past week.

The protesters, who directed much of their anger at Israeli police’s inability or unwillingness to bring the perpetrators to justice, chanted slogans such as “twenty women a year — where is the state?” “Bibi, Bibi, wake up — the blood of women is not cheap,” and called for a “women’s intifada.” Fourteen women have been murdered by spouses or family members in Israel since the beginning of the year.

The rally in Tel Aviv, which was organized by the “Tizkor” movement, included speeches by victims of gender violence, including Michal Greenwald, whose father murdered her mother. +972 Magazine and Local Call blogger Samah Salaime also spoke to the crowd about the connection between women’s struggles against violence, the police turning a blind eye to murders in Arab society, the illegal weapons that make their way from security forces to the streets, and called on protesters to burn tires rather than light remembrance candles.

A representative from the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) also spoke, but quickly left the stage after being heckled by a group of Mizrahi feminist activists. WIZO was said to be heavily involved in the disappearance of hundreds of Yemenite babies in the first years of the state.

At the end of the rally, dozens of activists blocked traffic on Rothschild Boulevard. The police informed the protesters that they were partaking in an illegal demonstration, but were outnumbered by hundreds of other demonstrators who joined and spontaneously began marching through the streets of central Tel Aviv. The police eventually gave up on trying to disperse the protest and allowed the march to continue for over an hour.

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'Sodastream workers allege being threatened over unionizing attempts'

According to a lawsuit filed by Israel’s largest labor union, Sodastream workers who tried to organize reported being harassed by the company’s management. Sodastream denies the allegations.

Israel’s major worker’s federation filed a NIS 15 million lawsuit against Sodastream this past month, claiming that the company attempted to disrupt workers’ attempts to organize. The story hit the Israeli press on Friday after news website Davar Rishon publishing a string of testimonies from the case.

According to the 15 million-shekel suit, filed by the Histadrut — Israel’s organization of trade unions — Sodastream workers who tried to unionize were harassed, and the testimonies brought forth by Davar Rishon, a Histadrut publication, accuse the company’s management representatives of racism and exploiting the occupation.

One example came from a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem and a Sodastream employee, whose wife is a West Bank resident and whose children have severe medical problems. According to the man’s court testimony, an Israeli security guard at the company promised him that he could arrange for his wife to receive entry permits, or to enter Israel without papers with the help of a contact in the Border Police — so long as the Palestinian man helped to break up the attempts at unionization:

He claimed he was a security guard, but he was not wearing the security company’s uniform, he had no weapon, and no two-way radio. He heard the conversation between me and my wife and asked ‘What happened to you?’ So I told him about my son’s medical problem and about the situation with my wife. He said ‘I can help you. I have a friend in the Border Police who can move you to the hospital without a permit.

…then he told me ‘I will help you with the children, but I want you to help me work against the union. I want you to report everything you see in the factory to me. If someone signs another person up to the union — tell me who it is. If someone signed up for the Histadrut and you see him sleeping during his shift — photograph him.”

The employee initially agreed to help act against the workers, but discovered that the security guard couldn’t keep his promises, and now supports the trade union’s organizing.

The reliance of these employees on bureaucracy and permits from a military regime is a weakness that can be...

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New beginnings at +972 Magazine

Dear readers,

It is with great excitement that I write to inform you that the board of “972 — Advancement of Citizen Journalism,” +972 Magazine’s publisher, recently appointed me executive director of our organization.

I’ve been a blogger at +972 Magazine for over five years now, and in that time I’ve seen the site grow to become one of the most important and influential sources of news and analysis on Israel-Palestine. Serving as a primary source of information for journalists, diplomats and political activists the world over, +972 Magazine’s impact goes far beyond the more-than 1.2 million readers who visit us annually. The same is true of Local Call, the Hebrew news site our NGO publishes in partnership with Just Vision.

My experience, both as a journalist in the mainstream media and as a political activist against the occupation, has taught me just how great the need is for independent, on-the-ground journalism in our region. We need to uncover the silenced stories. We need to offer a platform for marginalized, diverse voices in our society. And we need to do so while fearlessly declaring our commitment to peace, equality, and freedom of information. +972 Magazine puts that agenda into action on a daily basis, and for that I am extremely proud to be a part of this important organization.

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Our collective success is shared by many: the bloggers who volunteer their writing skills, the committed team of editors, the programmers, translators, designers and legal advisors, our partners in the Activestills photography collective, and of course, you — our readers, for whom we do this work.

As I enter this new position, I look forward to the challenges ahead: protecting everything we’ve done so far, but also strengthening and growing our work moving forward. In order to explore new topics and bring new voices, and mainly to protect the independence of both sites, one of my first priorities as executive director is to fortify the grassroots foundation of reader donations that keep us going. More than a quarter of our annual budget comes from donations from you, our readers. I would love to see...

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PHOTOS: Thousands protest law punishing African asylum seekers

African asylum seekers march through central Tel Aviv to protest a law that deducts 20 percent of their wages.

Photos by Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org

Over 3,000 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night against a new law that docks 20 percent of their salaries, which will be repaid only when they leave the country. Marching alongside Israeli activists, business owners who employ asylum seekers, and residents of south Tel Aviv, the protesters chanted “We are refugees — not slaves!” as they walked through Rothschild Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare.

The members of Knesset behind the new law, which went into effect on May 1, did not hide their intention of withholding asylum seekers’ salaries as an incentive to push them to leave (despite the fact that the state has admitted that it cannot deport them, and that they have a right to live and work here). According to the law, employers of asylum seekers will have to deposit another 16 percent of the salaries into the fund, in addition to another fee they must pay for hiring asylum seekers and foreign workers.

Following the march on Rothschild Boulevard, the protesters gathered in Habima Square for a demonstration. Merav Barzilay, the owners of Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tsedek neighborhood, spoke to the crowd about her close relationship to her Eritrean workers: “This last month we were shocked to discover that we need to reach into our employees’ pockets and take 20 percent of their salaries. The state cannot expel them, but it expects us, the restaurant owners to do the dirty work and harm them. I am supposed to walk up to a worker who earns 5,000 shekels, take her money and give her only 3,500? We ask the High Court of Justice to reject this illegal law.”

“I am a mother of three children, I pay for rent, food, transportation, and more. I simply have no idea what to do,” said Eden Tesfamariam from the Eritrean Women’s Center. “It’s just not enough money, and I have no idea where to go. But I won’t leave Israel.”

Zehava Vaknin of “Power to the Community,” a group comprised of asylum seekers and long-time residents of south Tel Aviv, told the crowd that cutting asylum seekers’ wages will only lead to a deterioration in the conditions of all those who live in the...

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The Israeli Left must show up to protest 50 years of occupation

After 50 years of a racist military regime, it’s time for the Israeli Left to go out and protest en masse — and, in the face of such an urgent task, to overlook our differences.

Things can sometimes be very simple. Read, for example, the following invitation to the anti-occupation protest taking place in Tel Aviv this Saturday night:

We are about to mark 50 years of occupation. Fifty years of a racist military regime, which operates two separate legal systems in the West Bank — one for Jews and one for Palestinians. Fifty years in which Jerusalem has remained divided, although along national lines rather than recognized borders — separating citizens who get to build, receive services and take part in democracy, and those who suffer from systematic discrimination and home demolitions. Fifty years of Gaza seeing military rule replaced by a brutal siege and wars. Fifty years of destruction, killing and needless deaths.

Fifty years too many, as +972 Magazine’s project to mark half a century of occupation has been called. Fifty years that could have been prevented, and which we are obligated to bring to an end.

We are also witnessing the nonviolent uprising of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for 40 days in a demand for the basic rights that Jewish prisoners (including security prisoners) already receive: protection from extended administrative detention with no trial; the right to telephone access (under supervision); the right to study in jail in order to lay a foundation for the future once they’ve been released; the right to visits. There has been a growing protest movement in support of the prisoners both in the occupied territories and among Palestinians in Israel; meanwhile, dozens of the hunger strikers are already under medical supervision and are entering a hazardous phase of their strike.

Where is the Israeli Left today, in the face of 50 years of occupation, 40 days of hunger strike and popular Palestinian protests? Where is its own protest against the occupation? Where is the mobilization against the Israeli consensus, which chooses the status quo of settlements, perpetual military rule, siege and racism? Where is the opposition to the anti-democratic processes being driven by this extreme right-wing government, which censors art, shuts down Palestinian movements, parties and media outlets...

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