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Civil society groups join forces to protect freedom of speech

Dozens of civil society, feminist, and anti-occupation groups form the ‘Council for the Protection of Freedoms’ to fight back against the government’s and public’s attacks against freedom of expression.

Representatives from over 30 civil society organizations gathered on Friday in Nazareth for the founding conference of the “Council for the Protection of Freedoms.” The council was established to fight back against the feeling among various organizations that their activities and freedom of expression are at risk. The goal will be to protect these freedoms from both the government as well as various tendencies among both Jewish and Arab society.

The conference organizers pointed to various examples in which these freedoms are being limited, including the nation-state bill, the cancellation of three events organized by left-wing NGO, Zochrot, the government’s new initiative to prevent left-wing NGOs from filing petitions to the High Court, the attacks on B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, etc. On Saturday, following pressure from a right-wing student group, Hebrew University cancelled an academic conference focusing on academic research on Palestinian prisoners.

The initiative is being organized by I’lam Media Center, which works to protect and promote the rights of Arab journalists and media institutions, and the Van Leer Institute. The initiative includes independent journalists, former judges, and dozens of human rights, feminist, and anti-occupation organizations. According to Shai Lavi, the head of the Van Leer Institute, the initiative will strive to bring in additional organizations of different kinds, including cultural, religious, and academic groups. The council will be headed by Kholod Massalha, a Palestinian journalist and projects coordinator for I’lam.

“Over the past few years there have been growing doubts over the most basic freedoms. The assumption is that we are in a new reality, which requires a new mode of action,” said Professor Amal Jamal, the head of I’lam and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, during the conference’s opening remarks. “There is a process of normalizing attacks on human rights organizations. This was not part of our reality in the past, and the fact that organizations and activists are being criminalized is unusual and dangerous. Although we haven’t reached a point in which we cannot speak out at all, we must still act before we get there. This means we must go beyond the differences between us — and there are differences — for the sake of maintaining a pluralistic lifestyle.”

According to...

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How Israeli police solved a case of suspected 'terrorism' in record time

An initial police report on an attempted stabbing in the West Bank uses the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the suspect. Only when it transpires that the would-be attacker is Jewish does the word ‘terrorist’ vanish.

It’s amazing to watch terminology change in realtime.

At 4.19 p.m. on Tuesday, the Israel Police released a statement saying that a “suspected terrorist,” who they claimed had tried to stab a soldier at the Hizma checkpoint in the West Bank, had been “neutralized” and was in serious condition.

Eight minutes later, the following update came out: “After an initial assessment, the suspect appears to be a youth (Jewish), and not Palestinian!”

Take note that the word “Jewish” is in brackets, perhaps because as soon as we refer to someone who was shot at a checkpoint as a “youth,” it’s clear that he’s not a “terrorist.” In a further statement, the police spokesperson variously referred to a “person” or a “young man” who charged at security forces with a knife. The last report from the police (for the time being) described him as “the young male suspect who had been neutralized.”

Just to compare, pretty much every police spokesperson report on a Palestinian suspected of attempting an attack on soldiers is immediately referred to as a “terrorist.”

The Israeli media also quickly retracted the term “terrorist.” John Brown, an Israeli blogger, showed just how quickly Channel 10’s tweets switched from referring to an “attempted terror attack” and a “terrorist” to an “incident” and “a person who was shot,” who had potentially “tried to commit suicide.”

Ma’ariv, meanwhile, tweeted: “The neutralized ‘terrorist’ is Jewish.” Other media outlets started reporting the possibility that the man who drew a knife was mentally unstable or was trying to commit suicide — something which is very rarely, if at all, checked as quickly when the person who’s been shot is Palestinian (despite the fact that numerous Palestinians who have drawn a knife have turned out to have been trying to take their own lives).

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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Israeli government bars Palestinians from joint memorial ceremony

The Israeli Defense Ministry canceled all permits for Palestinian peace activists from the West Bank to attend a joint ceremony on the eve of Memorial Day.

For the first time in the 12 years since its founding, Sunday’s joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony will take place in Tel Aviv without Palestinian peace activists.

In previous years the Israeli Ministry of Defense has allowed tens and even hundreds of Palestinians into Israel so they can attend the event; on this occasion, however, every single permit was canceled. The Defense Ministry claims its decision was in response to the stabbing attack that took place in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, carried out by a Palestinian who had used a permit to cross from the West Bank into Israel.

Various legal petitions to get the decision overturned failed, and the organizers decided to hold a parallel event for Palestinian activists in Beit Jala, next to Bethlehem. Hundreds were expected to participate, including dozens of Israeli activists.

The ceremony is a joint initiative of the Parents Circle Families Forum and Combatants for Peace. In a press statement responding to the Defense Ministry’s decision, Combatants for Peace said: “Separation, intimidation and the heated and violent public discourse push away the hand that is outstretched in peace to the other side.”

The Parents Circle Families Forum added that the decision is “another assault on bereaved families and parents, who have paid the most painful price of all for the conflict. The defense minister’s decision…demonstrates the state’s unwillingness to listen to or even recognize the suffering of the other side.

“Our Palestinian partners are trying to instill a message of hope into a society consumed by despair,” the statement added.

This year’s ceremony was also threatened by activists on the extreme Right, who bombarded the organizers with thousands of hateful messages and death threats. On Sunday morning, the organizers submitted a complaint to the police, and the ceremony is being held under the protection of police and private security guards.

The ceremony will feature speeches from bereaved family members — both Israeli and Palestinian — including Roni Hirshenson, who lost one son in a suicide bombing and another to suicide; Meital Ofer, whose father was killed in a terror attack; Siam Nuwara Abu Nadim, whose son was shot dead by a Border Police officer; and Marian Saada, whose 12-year-old sister was killed after...

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A May Day surprise for Palestinian workers at an Israeli checkpoint

Members of Knesset and labor activists from Hadash hand out flowers and workers’ rights pamphlets to Palestinian laborers as they exit an Israeli military checkpoint.

Palestinian workers coming into Israel through the IDF’s Eyal checkpoint Thursday morning probably didn’t expect to be handed flowers by members of Knesset.

But that’s exactly what happened at 5 a.m. in one of the busiest checkpoints for Palestinian laborers who cross into Israel each morning for work. At the crack of dawn, three Hadash MKs from the Joint List, along with members of the Hadash caucus in the Histadrut labor federation, stood outside the checkpoint and handed out red flowers and pamphlets explaining workers’ rights in Israel.

The May Day event was held a few days early because Memorial Day in Israel falls on May 1 this year, with the latter marked according to the Jewish calendar.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians pass through IDF checkpoints every day to reach their workplaces in Israel, and many others find circuitous ways of entering the country to make a living. In order to get to work on time, many are forced to leave their homes at 2 or 3 a.m. to wait in long lines at the checkpoints, and once they are through, board buses that take them into the Israeli cities where they work, often in construction.

At the Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint, not far from Eyal, Palestinians launched two workers’ strikes in recent years in protest of their treatment by the private company to which the Israeli army outsourced the checkpoint’s operations. Both strikes were successful: by refusing to pass through the checkpoint, and thus not showing up for work in Israel, the Palestinian workers compelled the authorities to improve conditions at the checkpoint. (See the video below.)

Palestinian laborers notched another victory this past year, successfully reaching a collective bargaining agreement with a large mechanic shop in the Mishur Adumim settlement. The workers, organized by the Ma’an union, faced serious obstruction and union busting by management, who went so far as to get one organizer’s entry permit revoked by the army in order to stop him from speaking with other workers.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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The Palestinian leadership's wish for two states cannot be ignored

With Hamas’ new charter about to confirm the organization’s commitment to a two-state solution, the unifying demand from the Palestinian leadership for a resolution to the conflict can no longer be denied.

The debate over one state, two states, three states or something in between for Israel-Palestine has once again risen to the fore. At times, the one-state solution has been presented as the best, most likely and most realistic option, by figures as diverse as President Trump, Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett and eminent Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua, along with the radical Left (Palestinian and Jewish alike).

But as I recently wrote, the overriding principle in the struggle against the occupation and for peace is recognizing that everyone who lives in this land must be part of the solution. No decision can be taken without Palestinian involvement. And on Thursday, it became clear that the Palestinian leadership has coalesced around a single option: the two-state solution.

Hamas’ new political platform, revealed in Haaretz, will ratify the organization’s official recognition of the two-state solution (a change which, by the way, Hamas embarked on 11 years ago). This is also the position of Fatah, of course, and that of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as of the vast majority of the political parties that represent Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset.

Representatives of the majority of the Palestinians who live under occupation have stated time and again their commitment to the two-state solution (alongside the same commitment from every Arab and Muslim country as part of the Arab Peace Initiative, and the support of almost every other country in the world for that plan).

We can, of course, talk about versatile solutions to particularly sensitive issues, whether it’s simple land swaps or complex confederated arrangements, as proposed by the “Two States, One Homeland” movement. But any discussion on a resolution — especially in Hebrew — that fails to address the sweeping Palestinian demand that two states form the basis of a solution, simply continues to trample on the rights of the occupied, and dictate their destiny to them.

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

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Exit through the checkpoint: Inside Banksy's new Bethlehem hotel

Every room overlooks the West Bank separation wall, the lobby features a Greek statue choking on teargas, and faux-security cameras dot the corridors. Welcome to “The Walled Off Hotel,” the new Bethlehem-based project from British street artist and enfant terrible Banksy.

BETHLEHEM — It takes an unusual hotel proprietor to advertise their establishment as “the hotel with the worst view in the world.” But then Bansky, the British street artist renowned for his satirical and political graffiti, isn’t your average hotelier. With his name already well-established in Israel-Palestine thanks to his famous creations on the West Bank separation wall and in Gaza, Banksy has now opened “The Walled Off Hotel” (a pun on “Waldorf”) in Bethlehem, right next to the wall.

The hotel, which will only start receiving guests in two months’ time, was open on Friday to a select list of news outlets: CNN, the BBC, The Guardian, a few international news agencies — and Local Call and +972 Magazine. Banksy’s strap-line for his new venture is not inaccurate: from the dining room, as well as from each of the 10 guest rooms, there is a one view alone: the grey concrete slabs of the separation fence.

“It’s kind of a mix between the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland, and the house from ‘The Addams Family,’” muses Maayan Dak, a leftwing activist and my companion on the tour. And indeed, Banksy’s hotel — a business, art show and protest project rolled into one — does have the feel of a haunted house, at once terrible and magical.

Visitors to the hotel are welcomed at the entrance by a monkey-porter, one of whose suitcases has fallen open, its contents spilling onto the street opposite the separation wall. The lobby is decorated with works of art, all distortions of classic pieces: Turner-style paintings of the sea with lifebelts from refugees in the Mediterranean thrown in; a Greek-style statue choking on tear gas; a small portrait of Jesus with a the red dot of a sniper rifle sight on his forehead; a Vermeer-style farmhouse being bulldozed by a D-9 Caterpillar, and more.

Alongside all this, and throughout the hotel, typical Banksy motifs are on display: the rat, a protester throwing a bunch of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail, slingshots, security cameras.

The hotel manager and a large team of staff, all Bethlehem residents, received visitors in the lobby. The...

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Hundreds march in Hebron: 'Open segregated Shuhada Street'

Israeli soldiers fire volleys of tear gas to break up the protest, prevent the march from reaching the street Israel has forbidden Palestinians but not Jews from walking or driving down.

Around 400 people marched through the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday to mark 23 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) Massacre, and demanded the city’s Shuhada Street be re-opened to Palestinian residents, and to end the occupation. Shuhada Street has been segregated — closed to Palestinians but not Jews — for 16 years: Palestinian residents cannot walk out their front doors, and shops owned by Palestinians have long been forced shuttered.

The protest departed from H1, the Oslo-era designation separating the part of Hebron under Palestinian administration and the part run by the Israeli army, where the city’s Israeli settlements are located. The goal was to reach Shuhada Street. The protesters chanted against Israeli settlements, and expressed solidarity with those being displaced from Umm al-Hiran.

Read also: +972’s special coverage marking 20 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre

Waiting along the route of the march, on the side of the city allegedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, were Israeli soldiers. The moment the marchers came into sight, the soldiers began firing intense volleys of tear gas. Very quickly, the vast majority of the protesters dispersed into alleys and side streets that filled up with gas, while a number of local youths stayed behind to respond to the soldiers by throwing stones.

Many people suffered from tear gas inhalation; an Israeli photographer was beaten by soldiers. It was unclear at the time of writing if or how many injuries or arrests there were.

The protest march was organized by a coalition of Palestinian left-wing political parties, Youth Against Settlements, “Human Rights Defenders” (HRD), various women’s organizations and others, and Tarabut-Hithabrut. Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti also took part, along with representatives of the popular committees of Nabi Saleh and Bil’in.

Activists said that Israeli forces raided two organizers’ homes Thursday night and threatened them, saying the march should not take place as planned. The activists were Badee Dwaik from HRD and Anan Da’ana from the Committee to Protect Hebron.

Friday’s march marked the end of two weeks of protest actions in Hebron, all of which called to re-open Shuhada Street. Thousands of Palestinian residents suffer negative consequences from the...

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Israel releases Palestinian journalist after 10 months with no trial

After 10 months of administrative detention, it appears the army no longer views Omar Nazzal as a dangerous threat — just like countless other administrative detainees who sit in prison for months, if not years.

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal was released from Israeli prison on Monday after 10 months in administrative detention. Upon his release, Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was welcomed by family members and supporters outside Ofer military prison, near Ramallah.

Nazzal, 55, was first detained in April at Allenby Bridge while trying to leave the West Bank en route to an international conference in Europe. He was interrogated for a week, after which he was put in administrative detention for a period of four months. The administrative order was twice renewed, once in August and in November.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. Detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial — without any way to defend themselves.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet Security Service claim Nazzal is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel views as a terrorist organization. Nazzal repeatedly denied the charge and demanded to either sentenced or released. According to his lawyer, Nazzal was jailed by Israel for his repeated criticism of the Palestinian Authority.

Journalists’ associations worldwide condemned Nazzal’s detention and called for his imminent release. In response to the army’s decision, Phillipe Leruth, the president of the International Federation of Journalists, said that “Israel’s policy of administrative detention is a violation of human rights, of the right to a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence. We are very disturbed by the fact that Israeli authorities continue with this policy and extends it without limits.”

After 10 months of administrative detention, it appears that the army no longer views Omar Nazzal as a dangerous threat — just like countless other administrative detainees who sit in prison for months, if not years.

Israel continues to hold four other Palestinian journalists in administrative detention: Muhammad al-Qeeq (this is his second time under administrative detention; he was previously released following a hunger strike, but was arrested again), Osama Shaheen (who ran a Palestinian radio station shut down by the army) Hassan Safadi, and Nidal Abu-Akar.

Due to the relatively high number of Palestinian journalists in administrative detention, the Union of Israeli Journalists...

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12 years strong: Hundreds march against Israel's wall in Bil'in

Perhaps finally learning the value of nonviolence from the villagers, the Israeli army did not disperse the weekly protest on Friday. Youth manage to pry open gate in the wall.

Some 300 people — Palestinians, Israelis and internationals — took part in a protest march Friday from the West Bank village of Bil’in to Israel’s separation barrier, built on the village’s land, to mark 12 years of continuous popular struggle against the wall, Israel’s settlements, and its military occupation of Palestine.

Unlike nearly every other Friday over the past 12 years, no soldiers came to break up the protest, an anomaly that allowed the demonstrators to march unimpeded through blooming almond trees and olive groves, all the way to the wall.

Several of the protesters climbed the wall and tore off pieces of the fencing from the top, while others pried open a heavy steel gate in the wall. On the other side of the wall is a neighborhood of the Modi’in Ilit settlement, which is built on Bil’in’s land.

Among the participants were Higher Arab Monitoring Committee chairman, former MK Mohammed Barakeh, and Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti. Also present was a group of U.S. military veterans who came to stand in solidarity with the village and its struggle.

The Israeli army’s decision to simply not show up at the protest deserves special note. Soldiers have been sent to the weekly protest to forcefully suppress the residents’ struggle, both when it has been entirely nonviolent and when stones have been thrown. Even after the separation wall was built and after it was moved further from the village, the soldiers continued to show up each week and attack the protest, to cross the wall and chase the protesters all the way back into the village.

The presence of the soldiers and their violence toward the legitimate protests would lead to stone throwing, which in turn escalated into harsher violence on the part of the soldiers. Israeli soldiers have killed two — completely nonviolent — Bil’in residents over the years, seriously wounded others, and arrested hundreds.

In recent months, it seems, the army finally learned the strategic advantages of nonviolence from the residents and activists of Bil’in, and stopped coming to suppress the protests. Instead, the soldiers mostly watch the protest from afar, and sometimes — like today — just don’t show up, and allow the protest...

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Trump's radical message to Israel

The American president shocked many with his willingness to abandon the two-state paradigm. But that wasn’t the radical part of his message to Netanyahu and Israelis.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.” Ever since President Donald Trump uttered that surprising sentence at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, commentators and politicians alike have been trying to analyze and understand what exactly he meant and what it might mean.

In Israel, Thursday morning’s headlines focused on the first part of the sentence. It was the first time in many years that an American president raised the idea of an alternative to the two-state solution — and not as a warning but rather as a possibility. The two-state solution, after all, is the only solution that has been accepted by the international community, and at least formally, by most Israelis and Palestinians.

From and Israeli perspective, however, the radical part of Trump’s message was in the second sentence.

The current Israeli political discourse, after all, tends to have one common denominator. In one corner you have the retired generals who advocate a unilateral “separation” from the Palestinians. Then you have the far-right and the likes of Naftali Bennett promoting various iterations of unilateral annexation. Netanyahu simply wants to maintain a lopsided status quo. All of those share a common point of departure: maintaining Jewish supremacy in Israel-Palestine, but more importantly, preserving Israel’s exclusive right to decide and define the resolution of the Palestinian conflict.

In Trump’s view, at least according to what he said Wednesday night (which, as we know, does not necessarily have any relation to his views Thursday morning), the desired outcome to the conflict is one that is acceptable to both sides. That doesn’t mean withdrawing to the borders Israelis want on Israeli terms. It doesn’t mean unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank. It means an agreement.

I don’t have any illusions about Donald Trump. I am not counting on a misogynistic, racist real estate mogul to save us from ourselves. We cannot pin our hopes on anyone coming to save us. But the fact that even the United States president, on whom the Israeli Right has pinned its hopes, stated that any agreement must...

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Israel's land theft law is just the tip of the settlement iceberg

Anyone who condemns Israel’s new law authorizing the theft of private Palestinian land, while forgetting the mass theft engendered by the settlement enterprise as a whole, is doing an injustice to the fight for equality in this land.

The Knesset on Monday night passed the “formalization law” (also translated as the “normalization law”), which retroactively legalizes dozens of settlement outposts in the West Bank — almost 4,000 housing units. The law essentially formalizes settler theft of private Palestinian land, allowing the state to force compensation on Palestinians for land they own that has been taken over by settlers.

The law is shocking. Israel’s attorney general, a Netanyahu appointee, has already said it is unconstitutional and that he would not be able to defend it in the High Court of Justice. Several human rights NGOs have already signaled their intent to petition the High Court to strike down the law.

The law is also remarkable because the occupied Palestinian territories have never been annexed to Israel, which means that the laws within them are (supposed to be) determined by officers in the military regime, not by Israel’s parliament which has no jurisdiction.

But putting aside the shock that such terrible legislation was passed, we need to remember that the law is a drop in the ocean of the settlement enterprise, Israel’s biggest project in the occupied territories.

Every Israeli government over the last 50 years has contributed to bringing more than 750,000 of its citizens into the territories Israel occupied in 1967. Establishing settlements in occupied territory is against international law, as the UN Security Council recently reminded us. No country in the world has ever recognized the legality of the settlements, even if the Israeli High Court of Justice has declined to do so.

There is a simple logic to forbidding an occupying power from transferring its own citizens into the territory it’s occupying: firstly, to allow for a solution to the conflict by preventing a state from developing long-term interests through military rule; secondly, to guard against the theft of resources from the group under occupation; and thirdly, to prevent a situation in which two separate groups live on the same land under separate legal systems.

The reality in the occupied territories proves these points: thanks to the settlements, the West Bank is home to Israeli citizens who live under the Israeli democracy...

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Thousands of Palestinians and Jews protest gov't racism in Tel Aviv

Over 5,000 people marched in Tel Aviv in one of the largest Arab-Jewish demonstrations the city has seen in years.

Over 5,000 Arab and Jewish demonstrators from across the country marched together on Saturday night in Tel Aviv against home demolitions and in support of equality for all. The demonstrators called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to step down, after months of incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The demonstration was organized by a large coalition of organizations and political parties, including “Standing Together,” Hadash, Meretz, “Yad B’Yad,” “Sikuy,” and others, was the largest Arab-Jewish protest Tel Aviv had seen in years. The protesters marched along King George St. while chanting slogans such “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” until they reached Dizengoff St., where they held a large rally. Among the speakers were Joint List head Ayman Odeh and Meretz MK Michal Rozin. Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon and representatives of the Zionist Union, who were supposed to attend, were absent.

Dr. Amal Abu Sa’ad, the widow of Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was shot and killed by police in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran last month. Abu Sa’ad spoke about her husband’s death at the hands of the police, about the struggle to force the state to release his body and clear his name of all wrongdoing, as well as the tragic death of Erez Levy, the police officer who was also killed in the clashes in Umm el-Hiran. “It is important for me to send a message to the prime minister and his cabinet: despite your incitement, racism, and discrimination in legislation, enforcement, infrastructure, and government services — you will not be able to divide the citizens of this country.” Abu Sa’ad also called to establish a government commission to investigate the events at Umm el-Hiran. “Let us make this place worth living in, out of respect for Yacoub and Erez.”

Odeh, who spoke next, reiterated his call from a year ago to build an Arab-Jewish democratic camp that would oppose both the Right and the Zionist Left, that would call for full equality and democracy. Dr. Meir Buzaglo, a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew University, invoked the shared history of Jews and Muslims in Morocco to promote coexistence in Israel, while Bar Itamari and Fatima Yahiye, two students from the bilingual Arab-Jewish school, Hand-in-Hand — Bridge...

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Two months on, still no evidence of a 'fire intifada' in Israel

The Israeli media and politicians’ narrative of a Palestinian ‘arson intifada’ remains in place, despite there not being even a shred of evidence to support their story. 

Over the last couple of days several people have sent me an article by Kalman Liebskind from last Friday’s Ma’ariv newspaper, which cited statistics from Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services on the wave of fires that swept Israel at the end of November. The piece claimed that almost all the fires investigated by the authorities were due to arson. Given how I wrote at the time that there were no known facts to suggest that the fires were entirely — or even mostly — due to a “fire intifada” or “arson terror,” as they were being dubbed by Israeli politicians and the media, people wanted to know my thoughts on the latest figures. So I thought it would be worthwhile setting a few things straight.

First of all, I didn’t say at the time, nor am I claiming now, that there are not and have never been cases of nationalistic arson. It’s absolutely possible that there have been, and in certain instances (almost all of them over the Green Line, in the occupied Palestinian territories that are under a military regime) it’s very likely that nationalistic arson has occurred.

But as of now, there is not even a single person who has been arrested and charged with nationalistic arson, there is no clear evidence of such activity, and no one who was arrested and indicted on arson charges (all of them Arabs, by the way), is suspected of acting out of nationalistic motives. The new statistics published in the Ma’ariv article don’t change any of this.

Let’s look at the figures themselves — which, it must be noted, are still not sufficiently clear. The article talks about 71 incidents of arson that were investigated, out of 80. But what proportion of the fires did these 80 cases of arson represent? Wikipedia says that there were over 1,700 fires in Israel during that period, so 80 is a rather small minority. A figure of 39 large fires was mentioned in Ha’aretz last week, but how many lesser fires were there? (By the way, Ha’aretz revealed last week that in response to a freedom of information request to the Fire and Rescue Services, they were told there...

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