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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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Why are they storming the fence, and what can we do about it?

End the siege, negotiate with Hamas, tolerate unarmed demonstrations. There are many other ways Israel can deal with the reality in Gaza.

Over the past few days, I have spoken to a number of Israelis on both the right and the left who have some serious, fundamental questions about what is happening in Gaza. This article is meant to try and answer some of those questions.

What do you want us to do?

First of all, end the siege. The protests and killing in Gaza did not start yesterday, and they won’t end tomorrow. People there live in the world’s largest open-air prison, in a territory that the UN has said will soon become uninhabitable. Israel prevents Gazans from exporting goods to Palestinians in the West Bank and to Israel itself, or even to work in Israel — Gaza’s main source of income for decades — when Israel still directly controlled the Strip and prevented its economic development.

Gaza’s residents live with hardly any electricity, with almost no running water, with skyrocketing unemployment rates. Meanwhile, they are unable to reunite with their relatives in the West Bank or travel abroad to study. Israel systematically destroys farmers’ crops near the border (yes, just like the burning kites protesters send over the border, only on a much larger scale), prevents fishermen from traveling out to sea, instead killing them and confiscating their boats.

Israel also severely restricts the possibility of bringing building materials into the Gaza Strip, making it difficult to rehabilitate the Strip following the 2014 war, while preventing residents there from establishing 3G cellular and Internet infrastructure.

Yes, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas also share responsibility for the situation. But Israel effectively controls the region, and it can change the situation dramatically, if only it lifted the siege.

It can be done safely. The defense establishment offers tools to remove the blockade in such a way that will not allow weapons into the Gaza Strip. European countries are willing to invest money to develop a system that checks everything coming out of Gaza, in order to make sure that no explosives are brought into Israel. The crossings are still under Israeli control, with all that entails in terms of security. Giving people the opportunity to work, export goods, and travel abroad will only do good for both the Palestinians and Israel. As long as this...

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What does the IDF have to hide about the Gaza killings?

The Israeli army is claiming that at least 12 of the 60 Palestinians it killed in Gaza on Monday were attacking soldiers when they were shot, but it refuses to answer why it killed the other 48. (Updated below.)

Israeli soldiers killed 60 Palestinian protesters on Monday in Gaza’s bloodiest day since the 2014 war. Over the course of the last month and half, the IDF killed an additional 49 Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and wounded thousands more with live fire.

In late march, just hours after Israeli snipers killed 17 protesters on the first day of the Gaza Return March, the IDF Spokesperson tweeted: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

The tweet was later deleted, perhaps because of requests form journalists that the army explain specific bullets — for example, the one that struck and killed an unarmed man running away from the border fence, or the killing of journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein — that the army could not, or would not, explain.

Fast forward to this week. Since the 60 killings on Monday, the army has issued a series of dramatic messages about having stopped “terrorists.”

The army spokesperson claimed on Monday that it had killed 12 people who allegedly fired on Israeli soldiers from Gaza or attempted to plant explosive devices along the border fence — but said nothing about why it killed the 48 other Palestinians and wounded thousands of others.

On Tuesday, the army sent the following message to journalists (my translation):

This message obscures more than it clarifies. It raises two main questions.

First, is the army claiming that those whom it killed posed an immediate threat at the time they were shot, or that they were simply card-carrying members of a terrorist organization, which the IDF could not have known at the time soldiers opened fire, and which alone would not justify killing them?

Second, if the army knows that 25 of the Palestinians it killed were terrorists, what about the other 35 people it killed? How does it justify their deaths?

I sent these two questions to the IDF Spokesperson’s unit. They responded simply that they have no intention of answering these questions. The Seventh Eye, an investigative journalism site, similarly asked the IDF Spokesperson about the killing and wounding of journalists...

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Israel's Eurovision win will bring a showdown with BDS

Netta Barzilai is an incredible talent and deserved to win Europe’s most important song competition. But her victory, even if inadvertently, is a victory for the occupation.

I’m a huge fan of Netta Barzilai. I think she’s a rare musical genius. I was rooting for her as she was competing to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Late at night on Saturday, as votes from across Europe were coming in, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, yelling at each country that didn’t vote for her, eventually bursting out in joyous laughter as she won the popular vote and the entire contest.

Politically speaking, however, Barzilai’s win is bad news. Our Eurovision victory proves that the Israeli right is correct. We can bomb Iranians in Syria as much as we want, push for the cancellation of an international nuclear agreement we are not even party to (and that most countries view as essential for world peace), open fire at journalists and nonviolent demonstrators, hold millions of people under a racist military regime for over half a century – and nothing bad will happen.

On the contrary. Embassies are moving to Jerusalem, exports (especially of Israeli weapons) are up, and next year’s Eurovision competition will be held in the unified (read: occupied) Jerusalem. Once in a while we might hear the distant, choking sound of Palestinians, living under the boot of Israeli occupation, but it’s a noise one gets accustomed to.

One can argue, of course, that the massive popular vote for Barzilai throughout Europe was neither a political statement in support of the occupation nor a message regarding the growing popularity of the authoritarian right across the continent. Rather, it was a genuine enthusiasm from her performance – and one that I share. While the Eurovision’s referee votes are highly politicized, ordinary fans of the competition likely voted for someone they recognized as a great singer – someone who sings about woman empowerment, and who pushes a progressive and liberal platform.

But in the real world of politics, intentions are not enough. Israel’s hasbara (state-sponsored propaganda) has made an art of turning liberals into a living proof of our being “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Both the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Foreign Affairs regularly boast of Tel Aviv’s progressive politics and its and vibrant nightlife – with a stated goal of re-branding Israel and hiding away Jerusalem, with its...

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Second Palestinian journalist dies of wounds from IDF sniper fire

Ahmed Abu Hussein was shot by Israeli snipers during a protest near the Gaza-Israel border two weeks ago. He was standing at a distance from the fence and was wearing a PRESS jacket.

Ahmed Abu Hussein, a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza who was shot by Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, died of his wounds on Wednesday at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel. Abu Hussein is the second Gazan journalist to be killed by IDF snipers over the past month, and one of 40 Palestinians killed during the Great Return March protests.

On Friday April 13, Abu Hussein, a 24-year-old from Jabaliya refugee camp, went to take photographs of the protest next to the Gaza-Israel border fence. His mother told +972 that he had been working with a small photo agency named Bisan, and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Abu Hussein had worked for a radio station linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (it is yet unclear whether he worked for both places at the same or separately).

Abu Hussein was wearing a PRESS jacket — and was standing with a group of photographers near a press tent at the Great Return March encampment — when an Israeli sniper’s bullet pierced his abdomen, disrupting the blood flow to his brain, eventually leading to cerebral palsy. His mother says he was struck by a hollow-point bullet, which expands as it hits its target in order to cause maximum damage. This is the same kind of bullet that has been used against dozens of those who have been killed and maimed during demonstrations in Gaza over the past month.

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It took two days before Israel allowed Abu Hussein to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah, since the hospitals in the Gaza Strip were unable to help him. After four days in Ramallah, where his condition continued to worsen, he was transferred last Thursday to Tel Hashomer — one of the few wounded Palestinians who was allowed to enter Israel for medical treatment — despite explicit orders from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the IDF Southern Command, and the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which forbid allowing in Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations. The doctors at Tel Hashomer told Abu Hussein’s mother that he was not expected to survive past the weekend.

It is possible...

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IDF to Palestinian women: Don't go to protests, your place is at home

The same army that boasts of its progressive attitude toward women changes its tone completely when addressing an Arabic-speaking crowd.

“A woman’s femininity lays in her grace, her weapon is her wit. Where are these in the personality of this terrorist?”

The above text was written in Arabic by Maj. Avichay Adraee, the IDF spokesperson for the Arabic media, attached to an image published on Facebook Thursday of a Palestinian woman holding up a slingshot during a demonstration. The post, most likely part of the army’s attempts to limit participation in the mass protests as part of the “Gaza Return March,” continued as follows:

“The good woman is the honorable woman, who takes care of her home and her children, and serves as a good example to them. However, the deprived woman who lacks honor does not take care of these things, acts wildly against her feminine nature, and cares not for how she is seen in society.”

It is astounding that the IDF Spokesperson adopts such conservative attitudes toward women. The same army that boasts of its progressive attitude toward women — and the equality it offers them in combat units — completely changes its tone when addressing an Arabic-speaking crowd. It’s a classic combination of paternalism toward Palestinians, whom Maj. Adraee must think are either primitive or stupid, and male chauvinism that actively tries to oppress women. All in the name of putting down a popular protest movement in the Gaza Strip.

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