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A new activism, a new politics, a new generation of Palestinians in Israel

To most Jewish Israelis they don’t have names or faces — they are at worst rioters and stone-throwers waving Palestinian flags; at best they are a discriminated-against minority.

Their new activism is partly the result of generational divides and new technologies that have connected them to the rest of the Arab world that had been shut off since the birth of the State of Israel. In part it is the result of recent Israeli attacks against their relatives in the West Bank and Gaza, discriminatory police violence and a long history of political repression.

No small number of factors has helped shape this new generation of Palestinian activists in Israel. They go by different names, define different identities for themselves and have different political tactics and goals. They fight for Palestinian national liberation and Israeli civil rights, prioritizing each based on strategic and tactical considerations, and have varying approaches to mainstream politics.

Most of the young activists describe themselves as Palestinian, and when they take to the streets they wave the Palestinian flag, something that was almost unheard of in previous generations inside Israel. Their national identity and its expression, however, are greatly influenced by living in the Jewish state.

“The first time my father saw me carrying the Palestinian flag, he lost his mind,” says Abed Abu Shhadeh, 26, from Jaffa. “Before Oslo it was illegal to do that, and Palestinians would have been extremely afraid of the flag. Today, we have dozens of them.”

Technically, the flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organization is illegal to display in Israel, and the PLO is still listed as a terrorist organization. In practice, that prohibition hasn’t been enforced since Israel began dealing directly with the Yasser Arafat and the PLO in the 1990s. Much has changed.

This is the third generation of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The first generation experienced the Nakba, the displacement and expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from the borders of present-day Israel in 1948, along with the destruction of nearly all of their villages. The second generation was raised in fear: they were raised by survivors of the Nakba, lived under Israel’s military government and were constantly threatened and controlled by the State, Rawan Bisharat explains.

“The third generation, especially since the Intifada of 2000, is the generation that is rebelling. They are characterized by strength,” she continues. But often times their parents tried to reel...

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How a Galilee Palestinian beat the odds to become an Arab Idol finalist

On his way to the finale of one of the most important shows in the Arab world, Haitham Khalailah had to deal with the Shin Bet, restrictions on the movement of Palestinian citizens and the fraught connection between Palestinians in Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Will he be the second Palestinian in a row to be crowned winner?

By Yael Marom and Henriette Chacar

Haitham Khalailah, a 24-year-old Palestinian singer from Majd al-Krum, competed Friday night in the finale of Arab Idol – the most popular singing competition in the entire Arab world. Hundreds of millions of viewers will have to decide by Saturday night whether Khalailah — who was able to unite Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel and around the world — should win. The other two finalists are Hazem al-Sharif of Syria and Majd al-Madani from Saudi Arabia.

Haitham sang two songs in the semifinals, the first of which was Saber Ruba’i’s “Ahla Nisaa al-Dunia” (“The most beautiful women in the world”), followed by “‘Ala Dal’ona,” one of the most important and well-known Palestinian folk songs, which had the entire studio audience on their feet.

Khalailah performs “‘Ala Dal’ona” during the Arab Idol semifinals:

Khalailah began his Arab Idol journey alongside Manal Moussa, another contestant from the north who caused quite a bit of controversy and was subsequently voted off in the quarterfinals. Moussa took a different approach than Khalailah, and succeeded in angering just about everyone.

Moussa started off strong, and seemed like she had a very good chance of reaching the finals. But something happened along the way, likely due to her political, pro-Palestinian rhetoric – which may have been used to get more votes – and the rhetoric of her family members, which contradicted her stance.

Two months ago we wrote about the complexities of Manal and Haitham’s appearance on the show, which included dealing with the Shin Bet, restrictions on the movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the fraught connection between Palestinian in Israel and the Arab world.

Read more: Representing Palestine, not Israel: Arab Idol’s contestants from Israel

While the songs and performances are the most central element of the show, Arab Idol also serves as the political focal point of the Arab world. And Khalailah is the shining hope of the Palestinians, who have experienced unrelenting attacks in...

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What Palestinian media is saying about the Jerusalem violence

From the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir to unrelenting settlement expansion and police harassment, the sources of anger in East Jerusalem are many. But the aspirations and provocations of right-wing Israeli Jews to change the status quo in the Aqsa Mosque compound seems to the driving force. A survey of major Palestinian newspapers.

By Henriette Chacar

Many Palestinians are calling it the “Car Intifada.” In the span of just a couple of weeks, three Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem made their vehicles into weapons and ran over pedestrians, killing four Israelis and wounding dozens more. This is hardly a new terror tactic, but the proximity of the attacks on top of intensifying tensions in Jerusalem all contributed to it its name — to it even being given a name.

So what’s going on in Jerusalem? Why is this happening now? And what is the Palestinian media’s narrative of the latest events in Jerusalem?

Since Israel seized control of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel has vowed to maintain the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. That arrangement stipulates that non-Muslim visitors may visit but may not pray at the site. Over the years Israeli authorities have largely enforced those rules, although a series of recent events has made Palestinians increasingly suspicious of Israel’s intentions.

Photos of the month: The holy city nears its boiling point

Palestinian media was reporting perceived Israeli challenges toward the status quo on the Noble Sanctuary since early June, even before the war in Gaza broke about. The June 3rd headline in Palestine’s most widely read broadsheet, Al-Quds, read: “Israel bans Muslims, allows Jews to enter al-Aqsa Mosque.” Citing local sources, the news item mentioned that, “more than 60 extremist settlers stormed the mosque courtyards on Tuesday and performed Talmudic rituals under police protection. Meanwhile, Palestinian worshipers were prohibited from entering al-Aqsa Mosque to pray.”

Multiplying layers of anger

By June 13th, Al-Quds reported on tightening restrictions and worsening measures being taken towards Muslim worshippers, including “crackdowns, arrests and [issuing] orders banning entry to al-Aqsa for periods reaching several weeks, not to mention the confiscation of worshippers’ ID cards and the difficulties in regaining them.” It also criticizes the absence of Arab and Islamic pressure on Israel in the case of al-Aqsa.

The perceived al-Aqsa takeover was joined by yet another layer of anger in...

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Channeling loss to stimulate change: 71 days of dialogue in Tel Aviv

The forum of bereaved families rests on the belief that the only way to end violence between Israelis and Palestinians is by recognizing the humanity of ‘the enemy’ through open and honest dialogue. That goal, however, appears to be as far away as ever.

By Henriette Chacar

It’s hard to imagine how one might begin solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by leading by example. The hundreds of members of the Parents Circle forum of bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families aren’t naïve, but they insist on trying.

The Parents Circle Families Forum, a grassroots organization of over 600 Israeli and Palestinian families bereaved as a result of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, channel their loss to stimulate change. They pose an alternative to animosity and revenge by actively promoting reconciliation. So just before this summer’s Gaza war broke out, the Forum erected a “dialogue tent” outside one of the most  prominent symbols of Tel Aviv’s culture – yet inside its bubble. Sitting outside the Cinemateque, rotating shifts of bereaved Israelis – and a few Palestinians – have been inviting the public to listen to their stories – and hoping to help them replace the need for vengeance with a process of dialogue and understanding.

Many of the Forum’s members joined the organization after a journey, at the end of which they realized that violence only begets more violence. For Yuval Rot, joining the Forum wasn’t an obvious or intuitive decision. Yuval’s brother, Udi, was on reserve duty a month after the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993. While hitchhiking back home to Kibbutz Hatserim, Udi was killed by three Hamas activists who disguised themselves as settlers.

To Yuval, participation in the Forum was contingent upon finding answers to a few burning, and personal questions: “Is it legitimate to use my personal grief as a tool? Do I want to expose my pain and share it with the public?” But believing in the ability of the Forum’s activities to save lives outweighed his hesitations. While his experience in the Forum hasn’t changed his political views, it amplified the sense of urgency and responsibility. There was no time to spare; in order for the cycle of violence to end, something had to be done.

Yuval found the Parents Circle Families Forum to be the best framework through which he could influence reality and do something effective and efficient on the ground. It was his interaction with...

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