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Five reasons why voting for Netanyahu was a rational choice for Jewish Israelis

Yes, Netanyahu is facing corruption probes and is practically annexing the West Bank. But for many Jewish Israelis, he has also provided relative security, a better economy, and growing international legitimacy — which makes the unknown alternative much worse.

Benjamin Netanyahu won his fifth election campaign Tuesday, making him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Most Israeli citizens, and an overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis, prefer to continue with the exact same policies that the Likud has put forward over the past decade. These voters rejected most of the far-right, fundamentalist parties that call for formal annexation, turned the Zionist left into an insignificant minority in the Knesset, and kept Netanyahu in power, despite the several political corruption charges he is facing.

Why did they do that? Why do people vote for someone who proudly stands for hatred and racism? For a leader who proliferates apartheid policies and occupation as he moves forward with partial annexation, and repeatedly attacks democratic institutions such as the courts, the free press and civil society? Why condone political corruption?

In fact, there are quite a few good reasons why. This is not an attempt to justify Netanyahu’s victory or policies, but rather to offer an analysis of the considerations Jewish Israelis are likely taking into account when they interpret their political realities and perceive the risks they face.

1. Security: The numbers tell the entire story. According to B’Tselem, between the start of the Second Intifada in late 2000 and the end of the 2009 war in Gaza, 1,072 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, while 6,303 Palestinians were killed by Israelis. Shortly after the 2009 Gaza War ended, Netanyahu took office. In the ten years since, 195 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, and 3,485 Palestinians were killed by Israelis, predominantly during Israel’s 2014 assault on in Gaza.

Over the past decade, there were no wars with Lebanon, the Syrian civil war did not filter through the Israeli border, and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria went generally unanswered. Netanyahu has been able to manage the occupation and the siege in Gaza, as well as the Syrian-Iranian front, in a way that costs far less Israeli lives than in the previous decade, which Israelis remember well. In the early 2000s, Israeli civilians were confronted with the consequences of occupation inside Israel, through suicide attacks and rocket fire. Under Netanyahu, the occupation goes...

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Likud attempts to intimidate Palestinian voters with hidden ballot cams

Poll workers from the Likud party are using hidden cameras to record Palestinian voters as they head to the polls on Election Day. The goal? To intimidate Arab citizens and make sure they stay home. 

Members of the ruling Likud party placed at least 1,200 hidden cameras on poll workers across Palestinian towns and villages in Israel on Election Day Tuesday. Likud members said the goal was to prevent electoral fraud.

Israeli police immediately detained a number of poll workers, taking them in for interrogation, while the Central Elections Committee released a statement clarifying that poll workers cannot photograph or record voters, as doing so infringes upon their privacy.

But there is something far more sinister at play. Israel’s ruling party wants to make sure that as many Palestinian citizens across Israel hear about hidden cameras at polling booths, prompting them to stay home. The leaders of the various Arab parties responded to the stunt by calling on Palestinian citizens to go out and vote.

For a population already facing persecution by the government, whose activists and artists know they can be arrested for publishing their opinions on the internet, who know what it’s like to lose their job for speaking out, whose political leadership is viewed as illegitimate by most Knesset parties — the message is clear. Big Brother is always watching.

Likud’s Election Day tampering is by no means an aberration. The party supported the raising of the election threshold, which was put in place to try and keep the Arab parties out of the Knesset. It is the same party responsible for the race-mongering of the 2015 election. The same party that tried to prevent an Israeli NGO from busing Bedouin citizens to the polling booths. The party whose election campaign was based on portraying the Palestinian candidates as supporters of terrorism who want to wipe out Israel.

There is a reason Likud ceaselessly focuses on the Palestinian public: it knows that without a Jewish-Arab alliance, there will be no way to replace the right.

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This doesn't need to happen: Another pre-election war on Gaza

We need leaders who can talk about ending the siege, about ending the occupation, about equality, freedom, and security as the only solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.

By Haggai Matar and Oren Ziv

The rocket fired from Gaza that destroyed a home and wounded seven people in central Israel Monday morning, took Israelis by surprise. On the one hand, that’s totally understandable; we aren’t used to rocket fire in the Tel Aviv area, and certainly not rockets that exact such a devastating price. An attack on civilians, on a sleeping family, is a terrifying thing.

On the other hand, the attack is surprising only if we disconnect it from all the stories that don’t get any airtime: unarmed protesters shot on the Israel-Gaza fence almost every week (only recently, a 14-year-old was shot dead by Israeli snipers), several deadly incidents West Bank in recent weeks, along with attacks and other steps being taken against Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. When we talk about Palestinian aggression, hardly anyone mentions the fact that since the beginning of the year, Israeli security forces have killed 30 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

The rocket attack is a surprise only if we allow ourselves to forget the wider context of the daily reality of occupation — from arrests of Palestinian children in their classrooms to settler attacks on Palestinian farmers — or the siege on Gaza, which has left the Gazans impoverished and hopeless.

None of this justifies attacks on Israeli civilians, of course, but it should remind us that Israel is the one attacking Palestinian civilians on a daily basis. We cannot lose sight of that context when we talk about what may come next.

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In response to the rocket attack Monday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would “respond with force.” (At the time of publication, those attacks had begun.) Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan, who visited the destroyed house in the moshav of Mishmarot, described the Israeli government’s three options: continue shooting on “empty depots” in Gaza, re-occupy the strip, or re-institute Israeli’s targeted killing program.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that Hamas must be “subdued,” while Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, whose campaign ads bragged of sending Gaza back to the Stone Age, blamed Netanyahu for the rocket attack for not...

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A spike in censorship: Israel censored on average one news piece a day in 2018

The IDF Censor prohibited the publication of more news reports last year than in almost any other year this decade. While fewer articles were submitted for review than in previous years, the percentage of stories that were partially or fully censored was significantly higher.

Israel’s military censor prohibited the publication of 363 news articles in 2018, more than six a week, while partially or fully redacting a total of 2,712 news items submitted to it for prior review. According to the data, provided in response to a freedom of information request filed by +972 Magazine, Local Call, and the Movement for Freedom of Information, the censor barred more news stories from publication in 2018 than in almost any other year this decade.

The number of stories published with censor intervention also spiked, as the percentage of censored stories in 2018 was higher than in every year since 2011. Only 2014 — the year of Israel’s last war in Gaza — saw similarly substantial censorship of the press, when the IDF Censor partially or fully redacted 3,122 news stories, and completely barred 597 of them from being published.

The spike in censorship compared to 2017 is significant: in the last year, the IDF Censor prevented the publication of 92 more articles than it did in the year prior, while it partially or fully redacted an additional 625 stories. Over the past eight years, the censor has prohibited a total of 2,661 news stories from seeing the light of day.

All media outlets in Israel are required to submit articles relating to security and foreign relations to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. The censor draws its authority from “emergency regulations,” enacted following Israel’s founding, and which remain in place until today. These regulations allow the censor to fully or partially redact an article, while barring media outlets from indicating in any way whether a story has been altered. Over recent years, however, more and more journalists in Israel have been using the term “censor approved” in their reporting.

In recent years, the censor has tried to expand the scope of its power to review information prior to publication into the online world, including by notifying independent blogs and digital publications, like +972 Magazine, that they must submit certain articles for review. (Read more about censorship and +972.)

While legal criteria defining the IDF Censor’s mandate are both strict and...

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The most critical issues Israelis won't be voting on in the next election

Israelis will head to the polls next April to elect a new government. But none of the major parties are offering any real change when it comes to the occupation or social justice issues. This is where the left has a role to play. 

Amid a number of coalition crises and the possibility of an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders of the Israeli government announced Monday that they would be dissolving the Knesset and holding elections on April 9th.

The elections will put an end to the most right-wing government in Israeli history, and if the last few years have taught us anything, election season will inevitably be rife with racist incitement against Palestinians and other minorities.

But what will the next elections be about? What’s on the agenda beyond the public’s love or disdain for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his multiple corruption scandals, or competition among cadres of elites? What isn’t on the agenda? And most importantly: what can the left offer?

The vast majority of political parties running in the upcoming elections — and which are slated to gain the majority of Knesset seats — will not offer a different vision for a reality that has become almost natural in Israel. A reality in which we lord over millions of Palestinians who lack basic civil or human rights. Netanyahu, Labor’s Avi Gabbay, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman — none of them is proposing to end the military regime in the West Bank.

None of them is proposing to end the siege on Gaza, the largest open-air prison in the world, or to bring about a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. None of them have anything to offer by way of peace and equality for all residents of this land as a basis for a political solution. In fact, none of them has any solution beyond the status quo.

The difference between the major parties will be about how much force needs to be used against the Palestinians. They will be about whether Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot an incapacitated Palestinian in the head in Hebron, needs to be convicted, not whether Israel should control Hebron in the first place. They will be about whether approving another 60 settlement outposts in the West Bank is a good idea, but not whether Ariel or Ma’aleh Adumim are morally justified. They will be about whether and just how...

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Israel's next elections will be about who is more violent to Palestinians

The resignation of Defense Minister Liberman could very well trigger elections as early as next March. Many will be going the polls with one question in mind: how much force should we use against Palestinians?

Israel appears to be going to early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday announced that he is resigning from his post, and that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, will leave the ruling coalition over what he called Netanyahu’s “surrender to terrorism.” The surprise resignation came just a day after Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, ending the most violent flare-up the Gaza border has seen since the 2014 war.

Immediately following his announcement, the right-wing Jewish Home party — Liberman’s main competition for the title of “most hawkish” in the government — released a statement that it too would leave the coalition unless party leader Naftali Bennett replaces Liberman as defense minister. It is unlikely Netanyahu will agree to such conditions, which means that his coalition will probably fall apart, ushering in early elections in the spring of 2019, instead of their original date in November 2019.

Liberman’s move makes perfect sense, if one considers that his party, which holds only five of 120 seats in the Knesset, might not make it past the election threshold, as several polls have indicated (Liberman, ironically, was behind the effort to raise the threshold in an attempt to keep Arab parties out of the parliament). Leaving office and blaming Netanyahu for being too soft on Hamas may just be his ticket for political survival.

Liberman also used his podium to attack Netanyahu for backing down on the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, allowing Qatari cash and fuel into Gaza, and the latest cease-fire. Less than a day after Likud supporters demonstrated against Netanyahu in the southern city of Sderot, demanding harsher retaliation in Gaza after over 400 rockets were launched from the Strip into Israel, Liberman is now relying on public resentment toward the prime minister’s “lenient” response – which had the support of all the heads of the security establishment.

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If this is indeed the launch of the 2019 national election campaign, it means Israelis could be going to the polls as early as March with one question before them: how much force should we use against Palestinians? Judging by the past 24 hours, the answers most political parties will offer will range from “a lot” to “a lot more.”

Liberman and Bennett weren’t alone in criticizing...

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What Netanyahu's idea of peace looks like

Although he may publicly reiterate his support for a two-state solution, Netanyahu’s vision for a future Palestinian state is one that would lack nearly all sovereignty. 

U.S. President Donald Trump said that he favors two states as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Wednesday.

In response to Trump’s comments, which signaled a change from his previous stance, according to which he would back whichever solution Israelis and Palestinians support, Netanyahu told reporters that “Everyone defines the term ‘state’ differently. I am willing for the Palestinians to have the authority to rule themselves without the capability to harm us.” Israel, said Netanyahu, will not “relinquish security control west of the Jordan.”

One cannot regard Netanyahu’s statements, ostensibly made in good faith, without considering the context in which they were said — that is, in reaction to the president’s statement, which Netanyahu did not wish to contradict. We must, however, remember that only a month ago that same Netanyahu said he sees “no urgency” in promoting any sort of peace deal, and that “peace is made with the strong” – something that clearly does not reflect the Palestinians’ political situation at present.

Yet if we are to take Netanyahu seriously, ignoring the ways in which he has made a career out of dismantling the two-state solution, and even if we remember that Trump’s understanding of the peace process includes taking issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinians refugees off the table, we still need to understand what he means when he says that Israel would maintain “security control” of the entire territory west of the Jordan River.

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It’s an important issue to discuss, not only because Netanyahu has been repeating this phrase for the past several of years, but because we have a great deal of experience to help us learn what Israel defines as “security control” over supposedly autonomous Palestinian territories. Here are just a handful of examples.

Complete control over borders. The Gaza precedent shows us just how far Israel is willing to go in using the excuse of “security needs,” while in reality collectively punishing millions of people in the Strip for the decisions and actions of the Hamas government. Control over borders — which will likely be even...

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Why Arab citizens waved Palestinian flags in central Tel Aviv

Because two peoples live here, side by side, and the Israeli government is doing its best to erase the rights and history of only one of them.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis protested and marched against the Jewish Nation-State Law Saturday night, demanding full civil equality for all residents of this land. It was a spectacular and rare showing, yet most of Israel’s top politicians (including on the Left) and media outlets were concerned with one thing only: Palestinian flags flown in Rabin Square.

Let’s start with the facts: Saturday night’s protest was organized by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, and was joined by dozens of political parties, movements, and civil society organizations. At first the demonstration was to be held without flags of any kind, and out of the 30,000 demonstrators who converged on the square, the vast majority did not bring or raise flags. A few dozen protesters decided to bring Palestinian flags, as well as a few Israeli ones. At first, the organizers asked everyone to lower them, yet they gave up rather quickly, and the flags — both kinds — were flown throughout the entire demonstration,.

Anyone who has ever been to a protest knows that this is how things go. Demonstrations are not a sterile zone; people bring a variety of signs and flags that are not necessarily agreed upon ahead of time with the organizers.

Yet the organizers did not renounce the Palestinian flags, and rightly so. Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Chairman Muhammad Barakeh opened his speech by addressing the headlines that had already appeared on various Israeli news sites, stating unequivocally that the Palestinian flag represents an oppressed minority, and that everyone has the right to raise it.

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So why did they bring Palestinian flags to Tel Aviv?

For a few reasons. First of all, because they are Palestinian. There live two large nations in this country, alongside a number of other smaller groups. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Arab, those who are often called “Israeli Arabs,” who are Palestinian — part of the same nation that lives in the occupied territories and refugee camps in the diaspora. They are members of the same families divided by borders, they share the same culture, the same language, the same customs — and the same flag. Among them are those who identify...

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Tens of thousands of Palestinians and Jews protest Nation-State Law

Palestinian citizens of Israel, joined by their Jewish Israeli supporters, demonstrated against the Jewish Nation-State Law in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. 

Over 30,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening against the Jewish Nation-State Law. The protest, organized by the umbrella organization of Palestinian citizens in Israel, was one of several actions taken against the law, including petitions to the High Court of Justice as well as smaller demonstrations across the country. Saturday’s protest came a week after tens of thousands of Druze citizens came out to Rabin Square to protest the same law.

Although the protest was set to begin at 7:30 p.m., thousands had already converged on Rabin Square hours earlier. Hundreds of Muslim protesters also took part in a mass prayer prior to the beginning of the rally. Protesters flew both Israeli and Palestinian flags, despite an earlier controversy among activists around the presence of national symbols at the demonstration. Shortly after 8 p.m., the demonstrators began marching toward Tel Aviv Museum, while chanting slogans against racism and fascism in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Twenty-six political parties, movements, and civil society organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Peace Now, Sikkuy, Mossawa, and Amnesty International, called on the public to participate in the event. Hundreds of buses headed out from 70 different locations across the country, including from Druze and Bedouin villages.

The march ended with a rally outside the museum, and included remarks by Arab High Monitoring Committee Chairman Muhammad Barakeh, prominent Israeli sociologist Professor Eva Illouz, historian Professor Kais Firro, and Haaretz publisher Amos Schoken, among others.

“Not all Arabs and Jews think the same. But all the Jews and Arabs here came out in droves to the square to wipe out the abomination and erase the stain of Netanyahu and his government’s Jewish Nation-State Law. We will also erase the stain that is his government,” Barakeh told the crowd.

“We are not going to rest after this incredible protest,” Barekeh continued. “We are marking the beginning of the way and there is no way back until the law is rescinded. Our struggle will be here, a popular parliamentary and democratic struggle for Arabs as well as Jews.”

“I came to France from Morocco when I was 10 years old,” Eva Illouz told the crowd. “Although I was Jewish and from Morocco, I went to the same...

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Israel arrests artists behind Ahed Tamimi mural on separation wall

Israeli police rejoice after arresting two Italians and a Palestinian who painted a giant mural of Ahed Tamimi on the separation wall in Bethlehem.

Two Italian citizens and one Palestinian were arrested by Israeli Border Police officers on Saturday after graffitiing a portrait of Ahed Tamimi, who was released from prison the following day, on part of the West Bank separation barrier in Bethlehem.

Tamimi served eight months behind bars for slapping an Israeli soldier.

Following the arrest, the Israel Police Spokesperson announced that the “Border Police views every attempt to harm or vandalize the wall with great severity, whether by drawing on it or causing physical damage. We will act to the extent necessary to arrest the offenders and bring them to justice.”

The statement included a photo of two of the artists arrested:

The section of the separation wall chosen by the artists, located on the edge of Bethlehem near Rachel’s Tomb, is one of the most popular with graffiti artists and tourists alike. This is the same section that Banksy chose for his first few drawings; years later he would open the Walled Off Hotel in the same area.

But when it comes to painting the face of a young Palestinian woman who offended the sensibilities of the occupation when she slapped an armed soldier in her family home shortly after her cousin was shot in the head by the IDF. As if it wasn’t enough to imprison her for eight months, now Border Police officers are being sent to chase down artists whose only crime is daring to paint her portrait on a cement wall.

Suffice it to say that the decision to arrest the three was politically motivated. After all, just a few meters from Ahed’s portrait is a giant mural of President Donald Trump, which no one was arrested for.

The police’s jubilation at capturing the dangerous graffiti artists is reminiscent of the days of the First Intifada, during which soldiers were sent to paint over graffiti of Palestinian flags, climbed up electricity polls to confiscate flags, and in many cases to force Palestinians themselves to get rid of their national flags.

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Mixed city holds Israel's first ever Jewish-Arab pride event

Thursday’s event is the first pride event ever to include a speech by an Arab MK. ‘We cannot demand respect while disparaging the other. It is impossible to fight for my equality and not for that of others,’ MK Issawi Frej told the crowd.

Over 150 members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters took part in a joint Jewish-Arab pride event in the mixed city of Lod on Thursday. The event, the first of its kind in Israel, took place outside city hall, and follows a mass protest by LGBTQ Israelis earlier this week for equality and against discrimination.

“There are those who say the city is not ready for this, but how will it be ready if we don’t hold pride events?” asked Natalie Kirstein, a resident of Lod and an activist with the left-wing Meretz party, one of the main organizers of the event. “Last year there was controversy, this time we didn’t have any, and we received help from the municipality and the police.”

Although Kirstein and the other organizers had hoped for a turnout of 800 people, she still hailed the event as “historic.” Hen Arieli, the Executive Director of the Aguda, the Israeli LGBTQ community’s umbrella organization, and Adam Zulud, an Arab rapper and resident of the city, also spoke about what they viewed as a historic evening. “If you would have told me a few years ago that Lod would host a pride event, it would have seemed illogical to me. This is an amazing thing,” said Zulud moments before he stepped onstage to perform. “Lod will bring the gospel: a Jewish-Arab event that says we are all fighting for our lives here,” Arieli told the crowd.

It was also the first time an Arab member of Knesset spoke at a pride event. “I am proud of you and our friendship,” Meretz MK Issawi Frej told the crowd. “You have the same right as anyone else to live where you want and how you want. We believe that the human being is at the center, and this means a human being regardless of sex or color — we are equal. I am here to identify with you.”

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Frej spoke about a new law to ease surrogacy regulations that left male gay couples without the ability to use a surrogate to have a child, as well as...

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IDF Censor redacted 2,358 news articles last year

While the number of articles submitted to the IDF Censor decreased in 2017, the percentage of articles that it fully or partially redacted went up.

Israel’s Military Censor outright prohibited the publication of 271 articles in 2017, more than five a week, and partially or fully redacted a total of 2,358 news items submitted to it for prior review. The latter figure amounts to roughly one redaction every four hours.

The figures, provided in response to a freedom of information request filed by +972 Magazine and the Movement for Freedom of Information, represents a rise in the percentage of articles the censor intervened in since the previous year. However, 2017 also saw a seven-year low in the number of articles that Israeli media outlets submitted to the censor for review.

Newspapers and traditional media outlets in Israel are required to submit articles and items relating to security and foreign relations to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. The censor draws its authority from so-called emergency regulations, relating to a “state of emergency” that has remained in effect since the day Israel was founded. The censor may fully or partially redact an article.

In recent years, the censor has tried to expand the scope of its power to review information prior to publication into the online world, including by notifying independent blogs and web-based publications, like +972 Magazine, that they must submit certain articles for review. (Read more about censorship and +972.)

As first reported by +972 Magazine two years ago, the censor fully or partially redacts one out of every five articles submitted to it for review.

According to the new data provided for 2017, the censor fully or partially redacted 21 percent of the articles submitted to it in 2017 — more than one out of every five articles submitted to it for review. Between 2010 and 2017, it banned the publication of 2,298 articles.

The decision of which articles and news items are submitted to the military censor is made by media outlets and their editors on a case-by-case basis. However, once an article has been censored, the journalist and publication are forbidden from revealing what information was removed, or even to indicate that information has been redacted.

Last year saw a seven-year low in the number of articles submitted by news outlets for review by the censor (11,035), but it also saw a seven-year high...

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Hundreds demand recognition, reparations for Israel's practice of family separation

Hundreds of protesters chant outside Netanyahu’s residence and block major thoroughfares in Jerusalem demanding recognition, reparations, and accountability for the abduction of Yemenite, Balkan, and Mizrahi children by state authorities between the late 1940s and the 1960s. 

Roughly 350 people demonstrated outside of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Thursday, calling on the government to officially acknowledge the state’s abduction of Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan children between the late 1940s and 1960s. The protesters demanded the government open its records to public scrutiny and recognize the injustice done to the families from whom the children were taken and their communities.

Family members of abducted children read aloud heartbreaking testimonies and protesters shutdown several major thoroughfares in Jerusalem, chanting slogans such as “where are the children, open the files” and denouncing institutions such as the Women’s International Zionist Organization and Hadassah, which operated some of the institutions from which children were taken.

Parents who lost children, brothers who lost sisters, and members of the younger generation recounted similar stories of otherwise healthy children taken at hospitals by medical staff who claimed the children had died — but who refused to provide death certificates or return the children’s bodies for burial.

“They took the boy to the children’s house in Ein Shemer, and my mother would go there to nurse him,” recalled Melli Ya’acov, who said her brother had been abducted. “One day, she went to nurse him, and they told her he died.”

“She said, ‘it can’t be, I saw him, I hugged him, I played with him,” Ya’acov continued. “She was in shock. She and my father asked for the child to bury him, but they said, ‘we’ve already buried him.’ There was nothing, no child, no body. They abducted him, and since then we’ve been looking for him.”

“One day, 18 years later, we received an [army] draft order for a boy — I hadn’t even known,” she concluded. “It is my parents’ will to continue to look for the boy.”

Thursday marked the day of awareness for what is known as the Affair of the Children from Yemen, the Balkans, and the East. This was the second year in a row that family members of abducted children and organizations working on the issue held a protest in Jerusalem. They are demanding official recognition of the injustice and reparations, which will allow the decades-old wound carried by these...

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