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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.


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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Deal or no deal, the anti-deportation campaign can claim victory

One day after proudly announcing a UN agreement to resettle 16,000 asylum seekers, Netanyahu cancels the agreement due to criticism from the Right. And yet, the anti-deportation campaign can claim a victory.

Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble.

With his announcement of the UN agreement regarding the African asylum seekers yesterday, and his announcement several hours later that the agreement had been suspended, Netanyahu made one thing clear: the Left’s anti-deportation campaign had won.

Deporting the asylum seekers to a “third country” in Africa is off the table. The only available option to alleviate the suffering of the asylum seekers and the residents of South Tel Aviv is a humane solution that combines giving asylum seekers formal status in Israel, dispersing the asylum seeker population to cities and towns around the country, resettling them in safe countries in the West, and massive government investment in revitalizing the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv. This is not exactly what the asylum seekers themselves, human rights groups, and anti-deportation activists demanded — but it is very, very close.

Netanyahu put the kibosh on the mass deportation plan his government initiated last December. Deportation to Rwanda, where almost no asylum seekers deported from Israel received formal status, from where almost all deported asylum seekers (with the exception of less than 10) fled — is no longer on the agenda, perhaps for good. Netanyahu’s cancelation of the agreement with the UN does not change this. The victory celebrations of the asylum seekers, aid groups, and activists yesterday were not premature.


However, the UN deal, which was without a doubt the best option for both sides in a game that is very much not zero-sum, was too left-wing for Netanyahu’s political base. Within hours of the deal’s announcement, Netanyahu found himself isolated, without support from his coalition partners. He suspended the deal, attempted to deflect the criticism by resorting to the usual slogans against the High Court, the UN and the New Israel Fund. The Right celebrated the deal’s suspension and forced Netanyahu to dig himself deeper into a hole by declaring his opposition to the agreement – which he had already signed, and which, just hours before, he had proudly stated was better than the (non-existent) deal with Rwanda. In the end, Netanyahu caved. By noon on Tuesday, he canceled the agreement all together.

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[Video] 'Israeli forces impersonating news crews endangers journalists'

Undercover Israeli troops, reportedly impersonating a news crew, arrest a Palestinian student leader at a major West Bank university. Israeli journalists’ union issues strong condemnation.  [Update appended below]

According to a number of reports in the Israeli and Palestinian media, undercover Israeli security forces impersonated a news crew in order to arrest a student leader at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank on Wednesday.

The Union of Journalists in Israel issued the following in response to the reports (full disclosure, I am a member of the union’s secretariat):

Armed forces and combatants impersonating reporters puts genuine journalists, Israeli and Palestinian alike, in real danger. In a tweet published shortly after the news broke, Palestinian affairs reporter for Israel’s Channel 2 News, Ohad Hemo, noted how such operations can create antagonism and suspicion toward reporters in the field, putting them in real danger. “[I say that] as somebody who has been forced by masked stone throwers to strip in order to prove that I am not an undercover operative!”

Of the Hebrew-language news outlets that had covered the incident at the time of publication, Channel 2 News and Ynet seemed to celebrate the operation instead of condemning impersonation of journalists. “Fauda at Bir Zeit,” screamed one headline, referring to the popular television show about undercover Israeli forces who impersonate Palestinians. Neither outlet saw fit to highlight the danger such operations pose to journalists, including those in their employ.

+972 Magazine sent a series of questions to the spokesperson of the Israeli Border Police, which is responsible for Israel’s undercover units. Their response, if and when it is received, will be published here.

Two-and-a-half years ago, a Palestinian man pretending to be a journalist stabbed Israeli soldiers near the West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestinian journalists’ union put out an immediate and unequivocal condemnation of the man’s actions and his attack (Hebrew).

Update (March 13, 2018):

In the days after the arrest, Bir Zeit University and the Border Police spokesperson denied that the Israeli forces had impersonated journalists, and said that the troops had impersonated students.

This article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The IDF spreads a lie and the Israeli press plays along

Facts show that Mohammed Tamimi was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. But the facts were not enough for the Israeli army, or the journalists who toe the government line.

Let’s start with the facts. On December 15, 2017, 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi sustained a severe head wound during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Like most Fridays in Nabi Saleh, demonstrators headed toward the village’s spring, which Israeli settlers took over a number of years ago. The Israeli soldiers who came to suppress the protest that day did not make do with just protecting the spring or the nearby settlement of Halamish — instead they invaded the village and commandeered a home, from which they opened fire at young demonstrators who threw stones at them.

Mohammed Tamimi was inside his village at the time. An Israeli army rubber-coated metal bullet struck him in his head, and was hospitalized in serious condition. We know this because the hospital produced a detailed report of the medical procedure, a CT scan of his head showing the bullet lodged inside, a photo of the bullet after it was removed in surgery, and the first-hand testimonies of those who witnessed the incident, including Israeli activists Jonathan Pollak and Oded Yediya.

Pollak and Yediya spent the rest of that afternoon making phone calls attempting to secure the transfer of Mohammed, whose life was in danger, to an Israeli hospital. They failed. The surgery took place at a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah finished only at 4:30 a.m. Mohammed required several more rounds of surgery to fix the damage to his skull. Haaretz’s Amira Hass published a detailed report of the incident at the time.

We also know that an hour or so after the shooting, Mohammed’s cousin Ahed tried to expel soldiers from the courtyard of her family home — and the rest is history. We know that just hours after the video of her slapping the soldiers went viral, 17-year-old Ahed was pulled out of her bed and arrested by Israeli soldiers. She is still in prison.

In an overnight raid in Nabi Saleh on Monday Israeli soldiers arrested Mohammed and eight other Palestinian youths. He was interrogated by Israeli police — without a parent or lawyer present — and was released after a few hours.

Those are the facts. Here’s the spin.

According to Maj.-Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, the...

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A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it

According to the Israeli narrative, the timeline of violence that resulted in Syria shooting down an Israeli fighter jet began just a few hours earlier. But Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.

Make no mistake: the dramatic escalation of violence on the Israeli-Syrian border Saturday morning was initiated by Israel, and it is Israel’s responsibility to end it.

If the reports are accurate, and an Iranian drone did enter Israeli airspace Saturday morning, then this is indeed a new development, and a blatant and provocative violation of Israeli sovereignty. However, the escalation has been ongoing for several months and the Iranian drone was not the first shot fired, so to speak. Israel has been violating Lebanese sovereignty with manned and unmanned overflights and other incursions for over a decade now, and as Idan Landau wrote just a few days ago, in recent years began doing the same over Syria, conducting hundreds of airstrikes inside both countries.

In Hebrew, the IDF Spokesperson portrayed the drone intrusion as a “subversive action” against Israel. In English, the army warned that Syria and Iran are “playing with fire.” Military commentators in Israel are already echoing that narrative of escalation, which is not weakened by the fact this was the first time since 1982 that an Israeli fighter jet has been downed by enemy fire. Yet it is only possible to portray an Israeli attack on a neighboring state as a legitimate act of defense, and anti-aircraft fire on attacking warplanes as an act of aggression, by blindly and dangerously narrowing one’s view of reality, putting zero value on any perspective other than one’s own.

Israel has justified its cross-border attacks in recent months as preventing the introduction of new weapons into the hands of Hezbollah, which it claims would “breaking the power balance” in the region. But as Landau wrote, it is not up to Israel to dictate what weapons its enemies may obtain – just as no Israeli would say it is up to Iran, Syria, Lebanon or Hezbollah to determine what arms Israel may develop or buy from its allies.

At the time of writing, it appears that the current exchange of fire is over, but the imminent danger in this volatile situation has not passed. The primary threat is Israel’s policy of allowing itself a free hand to attack its neighbors. More than just calming...

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One state or two states? You're asking the wrong question

What we desperately need now is to go back to the basics and recognize that guaranteeing Palestinians’ rights is the  foundation for any political solution.

A new poll reveals that following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration there has been a drop in support for the two-state solution among both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the occupied territories – with both communities dipping below the 50 percent level. Only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live inside the Green Line show overwhelming support for this solution.

The poll also shows that in tandem with this ongoing downward shift, there is a significant rise in the hostility of each group toward the other, as well as increasing support for armed struggle or a “decisive war” as a solution to the conflict. Conducted by veteran pollsters Dr. Khalil Shikaki and Walid Ladadwa from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), along with Israeli pollster and +972 Magazine writer Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC) – this is a poll to be taken seriously. You can read more about the results of the poll here.

These new findings have significant value, as they expose Trump’s devastating impact on the chance to end the occupation in the foreseeable future, while sounding the alarm bells over the hopelessness of both sides, such that violence and bloodshed are actually gaining traction as possible solutions to our troubles.

And yet, we must not view the poll results as a harbinger of “the end of the two-state solution” or “final proof that one state is the only way to go.” One state? Two states? You’re asking the wrong question.

Why? First, because at least on the Israeli side, nobody is asking that question; it’s simply not an issue that concerns most Israelis. Our political leadership across the spectrum, from Labor to the right-wing parties, believes in the idea there is no Palestinian partner for peace, that settlements should not be uprooted, and that Israel must maintain control over Jerusalem and different parts of the West Bank. Only 18 out of 120 members of Knesset are clearly committed to ending occupation; the rest merely argue over the level of violence that should be exercised in order to manage the occupation, the degree of annexation, or how to best maintain the status quo. You cannot seriously debate the future of this land while ignoring the fact that Israelis don’t even show up at...

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Hundreds protest in Nabi Saleh to demand freedom for Tamimi women

Israeli forces try to prevent demonstrators from reaching the village, and fire barrages of tear gas at demonstrators.

Roughly 300 people — Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals — marched in the West Bank village on Nabi Saleh on Saturday to demand that Israel free the Tamimi family women, 16-year-old Ahed and her mother, Nariman, as well as other members of the popular resistance committees who have been arrested over the past several weeks.

In addition to the residents of Nabi Saleh, the demonstrators included Joint List head MK Ayman Odeh; Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti; Mohammad Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel; and Luisa Morgentini, a former member of the European Parliament. Activists from the popular resistance committees of Al-Masara, Bil’in, Ni’lin, Kadum, Hebron, and other cities and towns across the West Bank also joined the protest, as did members of Anarchists Against the Wall, Combatants for Peace, and Ta’ayush.

Israeli forces blocked the main entrance to village early in the morning, but activists managed to arrive in Nabi Saleh via other routes. The demonstrators gathered in the center of the village and began to march, at first led by a line of women to represent the strong female leadership of the popular struggle in the village.  They were joined by Naila Ayesh, a leader during the First Intifada, whose story is featured in the film “Naila and the Uprising,” recently released by Just Vision (and for which I had the honor of helping do research). Ayesh’s presence linked the previous generation of female Palestinian leadership with the new, young female leadership of the current popular struggle. As the march continued, however, a group of men eventually passed the front line of women—perhaps no less symbolic.

On a hill overlooking the village’s spring, the demonstrators gathered to hear speeches from various prominent figures in attendance. The popular struggle in Nabi Saleh began when settlers from the adjacent settlement of Halamish seized the spring and prevented the village’s residents from reaching it.

As the speeches went on, a number of Palestinian youths engaged in small skirmishes with the soldiers guarding the spring. The soldiers fired tear gas at the youths, and at the rally, which was a considerable distance away. Following the barrage of tear gas, the demonstrators retreated into the village, where they regrouped.

The demonstrators then...

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Hundreds protest in Tel Aviv against the deportation of asylum seekers

The protest is the first of many planned to resist the government’s plan to deport 40,000 asylum seekers currently living in Israel.

More than 200 people gathered at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv on Saturday night for the first of many protests against the planned deportation of asylum seekers. The government recently announced that it intends to present asylum seekers in Israel with a choice: indefinite imprisonment or deportation.

The demonstration featured a human rights fair, including the numerous organizations fighting the deportation plan, a drawing corner for children, a donations stand for asylum seeker families in financial distress, musical performances, and more.

The event centered around several speeches by university students, schoolchildren, activists from asylum seeker community and others – all of whom presented the upcoming steps in the struggle against the deportation plan.

“A refugee does not deport a refugee,” Jonny, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, said at the beginning of his speech. Jonny runs a kindergarten for asylum seekers in South Tel Aviv.

“From here, we are conducting a struggle to bring down the regime in Eritrea. The regime is weakened. It is losing support. More and more people are escaping the country. I hope that one day we will succeed, and I will invite all of you to be our guests,” he continued. “I refuse to be a slave in my homeland. My father is 65 and still forced to serve in the army. I refuse to live like that, to spend my entire life as a slave.”

Inbal Egoz is a resident of the Shapira neighborhood in South Tel Aviv, and an activist in Koach l’Kehila (Power to the Community)—a joint initiative of longtime residents of South Tel Aviv and asylum seekers. “There are many residents of South Tel Aviv who oppose the deportation and want to live together, even though the media doesn’t like to show this because it’s less sexy than residents supporting the deportation,” Egoz said.

She called on the demonstrators to join an event to protest, put up posters, and distribute flyers on Tuesday, initiated by Koach l’Kehila and Achoti, a Mizrahi-feminist organization based in South Tel Aviv’s Neve Sha’anan neighborhood.

Musicians Zeev Tene and Itamar Ziegler also performed at the event. Israelis and asylum seekers joined together for a drum circle. Attendees took pictures with protest signs.

This article was first published in Hebrew at Local Call. Read it here.

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Trump’s threats against the Palestinians should worry Israel

The Netanyahu government is celebrating Trump’s recent declaration and threats against the Palestinians as victories, but Jerusalem should wait before opening the champagne. 

The Trump Administration on Tuesday threatened to withhold millions of dollars in aid that it sends to the Palestinians each year, accusing them of not wanting to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. would stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — the UN agency responsible for providing aid to Palestinian refugees — if the Palestinian leadership refuses to return to American-led peace talks. Washington is the agency’s biggest donor; it sends around $300 million a year to the agency, roughly a third of which is designated for aid to residents of refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

It possible that the U.S. president’s threat included Washington’s aid to the Palestinian Authority, which amounts to another $300 million dollars or so a year. The Trump administration has presented these threats as a response to the Palestinian leadership’s decision to reject continued American stewardship of the peace process. That decision was itself a response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his commitment to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

While Trump’s threats may be intended to punish the Palestinians for their lack of “appreciation or respect” for U.S. leadership in the region (as the president tweeted), his threats should also worry Israel.

Until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel was responsible for managing the day-to-day lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Infrastructure, welfare, education, health, and other services were all Israel’s responsibility as the occupying power. Oslo transferred much of that responsibility to the newly created Palestinian Authority, and the two sides passed on the bill to the international community—mainly the U.S., European Union, and Arab states. The idea was that foreign aid would act as a crutch to enable Palestinian development while the occupation came to an end and an independent Palestinian state rose in its place. In parallel, UNRWA would continue to provide aid to 810,000 people in the West Bank alone, operating 19 refugee camps, 96 schools, 43 medical centers, and more.

The peace process died and was buried, and yet the Oslo Accords—designed as an interim agreement meant to end in 1999—continue to serve as the loose framework for relations...

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Dozens of Israeli teens: 'We refuse to enlist out of a commitment to peace'

‘Testimonies of former soldiers teach us that the reality of occupation does not allow one to make a difference from within. The power to change reality does not lay with the single soldier — but with the system as a whole.’

Sixty-three Israeli teenagers have published an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday, declaring their refusal to join the Israeli army due to their opposition to the occupation.

“The army carries out a racist government policy that enforces one legal system for Israelis and another for Palestinian in the same territory,” they write. “Therefore, we have decided not to take any part in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people… for as long as people live under an occupation that denies their human rights and national rights – we cannot have peace.”

The group calls itself the “2017 Seniors’ Letter,” continuing a long tradition of similar letters sent by high school seniors announcing their refusal to join the army, dating back to 1970 (the writer of this text was a signatory of the 2001 letter). Members of the group have stated they are willing to be imprisoned for their conscientious objection; one of them, Matan Helman, is already serving a prison sentence. The teens have also stated they will be traveling the country, speaking to others their age, challenging them to rethink their positions on military service and inviting them to join the movement.

The Israeli army does not recognize the right to conscientiously object to the draft based on rejection of the occupation. It does, however, allow for objection based solely on pacifism and the rejection of all forms of violence. These young refusers, therefore, are likely to be denied exemptions, and sent to repeated prison sentences of two to four weeks each, as has been the case with other conscientious objectors in recent years.

In their letter, the young refusers list the occupation, the siege on Gaza, settlements, and violence toward Palestinians as the main reasons for the decision. However, they also mention the ongoing effects of militarism on the Israeli society, enshrining violent solutions instead of peace as a central value, and the effect the occupation has on strengthening Israeli capitalism and dependence on American military aid.

“Testimonies of former soldiers and heads of the security establishment teach us that the reality of occupation does not allow one to make a difference from within,” they write. “The power to change...

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When the Israeli Right and BDS activists agree

Right-wingers like Miri Regev and BDS activists have come to the same conclusion: that after 50 years of occupation, it is impossible to separate the economy of the settlements from Israel’s economy as a whole.

The Israeli government is in the midst of an internal debate that mirrors a debate in left-wing and progressive circles worldwide: whether to boycott only the settlements or the Israeli economy as a whole.

Just last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved yet another economic agreement with the European Union, wherein the Israeli government de-facto agrees to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories (or at least to cooperate with such a European boycott), by allowing only businesses within Israel proper to apply for grants for economic partnerships with businesses in European states.

The EU has been consistent about its policy of recognizing the Green Line, the pre-1967 Israeli border, as the sole boundary of Israeli legitimacy. On one side stands a sovereign state and a welcomed partner in trade and diplomacy; on the other, an illegitimate military occupation that violates international law. In the eyes of the EU and other supporters of selectively boycotting the settlements, these two sides of the Green Line are ostensibly unrelated. This is the distinction that Netanyahu, and his government, accepted (once again) by signing the agreement.

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Or at least it was until Minister of Culture Miri Regev turned the tables. In a statement opposing the agreement, Regev wrote:

Regev’s statement has put the entire deal on hold. If Regev succeeds in preventing the agreement, the result would be the total exclusion of Israel from the European grants program.

In light of the rift between Europe and the U.S., the latter having abandoned any pretense of being an “honest broker”, it is highly unlikely that the EU would drop the article excluding settlements. The agreement, then, would go unsigned, and Israeli citizens would be denied access to tens of millions of Euros in grants. Regev, in the name of Israeli sovereignty over all the land between the river and the sea, insists on blurring the distinct between the settlements and Israel proper. By doing so, she marks...

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Tens of thousands of Israelis hit the streets, and it has nothing to do with Trump

Anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu are growing, and have already notched a win or two. And while the occupation couldn’t be further from the agenda, the movement could serve as a new rallying point for resistance to the authoritarian right.

The world’s attention may have been focused on Trump’s shift of policy on Jerusalem and the violence that broke out in its wake in recent days, but the tens of thousands of Israelis who shut down central Tel Aviv Saturday night were there to protest something entirely different.

For the second week in a row, masses of demonstrators — numbers rarely seen in the streets since the social justice protests of 2011 — marched through Tel Aviv and several other cities to protest what seems like an endless wave of corruption allegations against politicians in the country, and growing threats to democratic institutions and norms spearheaded by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cronies.

The protests have already left their mark.

In response to the previous week’s demonstration, the size of which surprised even its organizers, Netanyahu announced that legislation meant to protect him personally from the fallout of numerous corruption investigations would be altered so that he does not benefit from it personally.

The protests may have only arrived in Tel Aviv a week ago, but this is not a new movement; the outrage at corruption in Israel is far from new. For over a year now, several hundred people have been holding weekly demonstrations near the home of Israel’s attorney general in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, demanding that he indict Netanyahu for the various corruption allegations for which police are investigating him.

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There are two criminal investigations focused on Netanyahu himself, another centered on his wife, several concerning some of his closest allies and confidants. Criminal investigations are also underway against Netanyahu’s trusted stooge, coalition whip David Bitan, and against Finance Minister Aryeh Deri, who previously served nearly two years in prison for fraud and bribery.

The sense of corruption and criminality in politics extends far beyond the current government and its leader. Dozens of Israeli mayors are currently under criminal investigation for bribery...

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