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Welcome to Netanyahu's fortress state

The detention and interrogation of high-profile figures such as Peter Beinart and Reza Aslan at Israeli entry points is forcing liberal American Jews to reckon with what Israel is becoming.

Over the last month, the Israeli and international media reported several incidents involving Shin Bet agents at ports of entry to Israel detaining prominent Jewish Americans for lengthy, aggressive questioning about their political views.

Meyer Koplow, chair of Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees and a prominent donor to Israeli causes, was detained before his flight out of Ben Gurion Airport and questioned because security agents found in his suitcase a brochure about Palestine.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher, an Israeli citizen who lives in the U.S., was detained and questioned at the airport and warned against his continued involvement with left-wing Israeli organizations.

Simone Zimmerman, a co-founder of IfNotNow, was detained at the Taba border crossing and questioned for four hours about her political views and her relationships with Palestinians.

And this past Sunday, Jewish American journalist Peter Beinart was questioned at Ben Gurion Airport upon arrival; as he writes in his description of the incident, he was with his wife and children, all of whom came to attend a family bat mitzvah. Beinart’s story lit up the internet, since he is a prominent writer who is a well-known voice in liberal Zionist circles.

The loud outrage in liberal Jewish circles over Zionist Jews having been questioned in a hostile manner about their politics is derived from the dawning understanding that the Netanyahu government is slowly but surely redefining Israel itself. Once it was the national home of the Jewish people, but now it is becoming — or has become — an authoritarian nationalist fortress state for Jews who share its anti-democratic views. Jews who see things differently will be tolerated as long as they refrain from expressing dissent.

Israel has, as the prominent American academic Reza Aslan writes today, become a police state. He should know: two weeks ago, while crossing into Israel from Jordan with his wife and children, he was separated from his family and taken aside for questioning. He describes the experience in a series of tweets, which he published after reading Peter Beinart’s essay about having been detained.

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'I am an Islamophobe,' boasts ex-director of Israel's press office

The man who once had sole authority to decide whether or not a journalist could work in Israel announces that he is an Islamophobe, thinks ‘Arabs lie.’

Daniel Seaman, the former director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said Thursday during a panel discussion on i24 News, the Israel-based satellite news station, that he is an Islamophobe.

Sitting on a three-person panel with Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and Ruthie Blum of the far-right think tank The Gatestone Institute, Seaman told “Spin Room” anchor and former +972 contributor Ami Kaufman, “The Arabs lie.”

In response to Kaufman’s incredulous, “All Arabs?” Seaman responds, without missing a beat: “It’s part of their culture.”

Levy points out that if anyone were to speak about Jews that way, they would be called an anti-Semite. “And those who speak about Arabs that way are called Islamophobic,” rejoins Ruthie Blum.

Shrugging his shoulders and pointing at himself, Seaman says, “I am an Islamophobe. Because we have lived here long enough to know what they are capable of doing. I am afraid of people who want to string me up because I’m Jewish and not Muslim.”

Watch Danny Seaman on i24 News:

Throughout his career, Seaman served in various branches of the Prime Minister’s Office for 30 years. That period included 2000-2010, when he was acting director of the Government Press Office, or GPO, which has the sole authority to provide accreditation for journalists working in Israel.

During the decade he presided over the GPO, Seaman distinguished himself as abrasive and was known for using foul language when speaking to or about journalists. He also implemented a policy stripping Palestinian journalists in the West Bank of their accreditation, revoking the precious GPO cards that had given them crucial access to press events. For the Palestinian journalists, this often meant they could no longer work in their chosen profession; it also meant losing the livelihood that supported entire families.

In more than one case, veteran foreign correspondents who had been reporting from Israel for years were forced to leave the country abruptly, for no apparent reason other than Danny Seaman deciding to revoke their credentials.

A partial list of incidents involving Seaman’s egregious behavior includes the following:

  • In 2006 he refused to renew the accreditation of Joerg Brenner, a veteran correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who had been in Israel for 15...


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Reducing Israel's separation barrier to an aesthetic failure

A new video series about ‘design flaws’ tackles the question of why the world is so irked by Israel’s separation barrier. Surely it’s not the fact that it cages in millions of people and annexes roughly 10 percent of the West Bank. No, it’s just a matter of aesthetics.

In a video clip published online this week by Kann, Israel’s new public broadcast corporation, a young man wearing a hip polka-dot shirt and a fashionably scruffy beard explains the real problem with Israel’s separation barrier — its aesthetics.

The 90-second video opens with the young man walking bouncily along a dusty strip of road lined by a chain link fence as he explains that “the world is not crazy about our separation barrier.”

View the full-length Hebrew here; a shortened, subtitled section is below:

“Even though 94 percent of the barrier is actually a fence, and only six percent is a wall, the world calls it a wall. An apartheid wall,” he says. But why? The problem, according to the young man, is the wall’s appearance — which, he asserts, is “the principle reason behind the opposition” to the barrier.

The solution, he says with a wink, is “to fire the designer.” (“Fire the Designer” is the name of the new online video series examining design flaws in various areas of life, of which this video is the second episode.)

The problem, he explains, is that the concrete sections of the barrier run through urban areas, like Jerusalem, and the eight-meter high wall in Jerusalem reminds people of the Berlin Wall, which was “hated by the entire western world.” The Berlin Wall, he adds, was also decorated with graffiti — “just like ours.” So no wonder the world thinks our fence is “evil” and that it should also be dismantled.

“Forget politics!” says the young man, now sipping espresso in a cafe overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City. “The fact is that the government of Israel has stated that the purpose of the fence is to keep terrorists out.” Strolling over to the cafe windows that overlook the picturesque Ottoman-built walls surrounding the Old City, the young man says, with heavy irony, “If only we could find some appropriate local inspiration in another physical barrier that was built to protect the city against dangerous invaders.”

The camera pans over the 500 year-old wall of the Old City, built of golden Jerusalem stone.

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Racism is the only factor that can sway Netanyahu's base

For the first time since he took office, Netanyahu did something that angered his loyal base to the extent that they are threatening to vote for another party. 

On Monday Benjamin Netanyahu proved two things: one, that his base of fanatically loyal voters are motivated primarily by racism; two, that Facebook’s “angry” emoticon can drive government policy that affects the lives of tens of thousands of human beings.

Netanyahu reversed his government’s policy of a decade when, at a Monday evening press conference, he announced that he had made a deal with the UNHCR: rather than giving the asylum seekers, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea, the choice between deportation to Rwanda or jail in Israel for an unspecified period, Israel would give work permits and temporary residency permits to half of them. The other half would be resettled in industrialized democracies like Sweden, Italy, Germany, and Canada.

Asylum seeker advocates were overjoyed. After years of seeing stateless people who had undergone harrowing journeys to escape horrific fates denied the most basic rights in Israel, even as they were hounded by racist politicians and their cruel policies, Netanyahu seemed to be offering a bit of hope for a more humane society.

In a video posted on Facebook, Netanyahu explained that he shared his supporters’ desire to get rid of all the asylum seekers, but that option no longer existed: Rwanda had withdrawn from the deal to accept them.

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But now, with the UNHCR deal, explained the prime minister in simple phrases that a child would understand, the money that would have been spent on jailing the “infiltrators” would instead be used to rehabilitate the deprived inner-city neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, where the asylum seekers have lived for nearly a decade in a complex, uneasy relationship alongside a population of Israelis who are predominantly (but not exclusively) poor and Mizrahi Likud voters.

Those voters are frequently exploited by populist politicians who hold them up as an example of how the Ashkenazi leftist elite has neglected them. Culture Minister Miri Regev stood on a South Tel Aviv podium in 2012 and said that the Sudanese asylum seekers were a cancer in Israel’s body, protected by leftist NGOs at the expense of the well-being of local residents. Her speech was followed by a race riot in the neighborhood.

Hundreds of Netanyahu’s supporters left outraged comments and angry emoticons in response to his Facebook video...

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Netanyahu to Facebook followers: Israeli media is all 'fake news'

The prime minister, who has attacked individual reporters and media outlets for reporting ‘fake news,’ has abandoned any pretense of respect for freedom of the press.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today described the Israeli print and broadcast media, almost in its entirety, as “fake news” and “liars.”

The prime minister posted a list of nearly all the Israeli mainstream media outlets and platforms on his Facebook page today, with the following caption:

Here is an example of daily fake news: self-important journalists and analysts like Moshe Nussbaum reporting on confrontations with state’s witnesses — something that never happened and to which there is not a grain of truth. They keep lying to you, evening after evening.

This is what their reporting is worth — just one big fake news.

Moshe Nussbaum is a veteran reporter and analyst for Israel’s Channel 2 News, covering police matters and criminal investigations. Specifically, he is the reporting face of Channel 2’s ongoing coverage of the police investigations into Netanyahu on suspicion of criminal corruption, graft, and bribery.

Police investigators questioned Netanyahu and his wife Sara today for the second time under caution, in separate locations, in connection with Case 4000, otherwise known as the Bezeq Case. The case involves allegations that Netanyahu traded favorable regulatory laws with Saul Elovitch, the CEO of the giant telecom, in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister and his wife in Walla!, the Bezeq-owned popular news and entertainment portal. According to information reported about the investigation, Netanyahu’s wife Sara is suspected of communicating directly with Saul Elovitch’s wife Iris, sending her text messages with specific instructions regarding the nature of the favorable coverage she wanted in Walla!.

Two weeks ago the prime minister’s former chief communications advisor and intimate aide, Nir Hefetz, turned state’s witness in exchange for complete immunity from prosecution. Hefetz reportedly saved communications that implicate the Netanyahus in the Bezeq case, including tangible evidence that Sara Netanyahu tried to subvert the investigation by deleting text messages. Last week one Israeli newspaper reported that Netanyahu was hoping for “a miracle” to save him from a criminal indictment.  Police investigators have hinted that they intend to have Netanyahu respond directly to evidence provided by Hefetz, with the two men seated at the same table.

This is not the first time Netanyahu has targeted Moshe Nussbaum, the Channel 2 criminal affairs reporter. Last year during a speech, the prime minister mocked Nussbaum’s mannerisms and his bushy eyebrows. He later apologized in...

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Nabi Saleh is where I lost my Zionism

By the time I began going to Nabi Saleh, I had spent about four years reporting on what I saw in the West Bank and Gaza, watching detachedly as my politics moved ever leftward. What I witnessed in that small West Bank village was the last straw.

A short video of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi slapping an Israeli soldier has dominated the Israeli media for the past week, and received prominent coverage internationally as well. Ahed, a Palestinian girl from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, makes a big impression with her eye-catching mane of blonde hair, the fierce, intelligent expression in her blue eyes — and her fearlessness.

One of the most striking aspects of the immense discussion generated by the video is the near-binary contrast between what Israelis and their advocates see, and what everyone else sees.

For Israelis, one of their soldiers was provoked, almost unbearably, but still managed to rise above the situation. For almost everyone else, the video shows an unarmed adolescent — who could easily, based on her appearance, be an Israeli teenager shopping at the mall — bravely confronting an armed soldier in her own village. Even without knowing the circumstances, a fully-grown man in combat gear and carrying a powerful weapon refraining from hitting a much smaller, unarmed adolescent girl, seems not remarkably praiseworthy but rather a response predicated on basic humanity and ethics.

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The Israeli media has, for the most part, promoted the army’s narrative about the incident — of a restrained and mature soldier who dealt admirably with a difficult and stressful situation involving enemy actors.

In the segment below, Yaron London, the host of an eponymously named primetime news magazine program on Channel 10, mirrors the perspective of the army. London’s guests are Or Heller, the station’s military affairs correspondent, and Jonathan (Yonatan) Pollak, a veteran anti-occupation activist:

The conversation between the three men is salutary because it provides real insight into the mentality of mainstream Israeli society. First we hear Or Heller, an experienced military affairs correspondent, repeating the army’s narrative. He expresses pride in the soldiers, makes the claim that the Tamimi family...

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Why I'm so proud to be a part of +972 Magazine

When we launched +972 in the summer of 2010, I did not quite realize what its impact would be — that we would soon find our articles quoted in State Department communiques and prominent media outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian; that diplomats and think tanks would invite our contributors to speak at high level events; and that we would break stories that moved the news cycle.

I still remember the first time we succeeded in moving the news cycle. On December 31, 2010, a Palestinian woman named Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, a healthy woman in her mid 30s, collapsed outside her Bil’in home after inhaling tear gas; she died later that day. The Israeli army spokesperson claimed she had had a pre-existing condition, and further insisted that the soldiers had not used any unusual crowd control tactics that day. The media published the army’s statement as fact.

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But several of us from +972 had been at that demonstration. We had seen that soldiers were using enormous quantities of tear gas, creating clouds that reduced visibility to nearly zero. We also knew that no reporter from any other Israeli media had been present at the protest, and that no-one had interviewed the Palestinian physician who attended Ms. Abu Rahmah at the hospital. We had photos of the tear gas clouds, and we obtained medical records from the hospital. We published our photos, the hospital records, and statements from the physician. Ultimately we forced the army to change its story, and the Israeli media had to acknowledge that none of its reports were based on firsthand information.

Would you make a donation to ensure we can continue to do this vital work?

Over the ensuing months and years, we continued to publish groundbreaking reports and analysis. +972 Magazine also became the only Israel-based, English-language media outlet to prominently feature Palestinians writing in their own voice about the events affecting their lives. Samer Badawi’s moving first-hand reports from Gaza during the 2014 war are a standout example of the kind of reporting that no other Israeli media outlet dares to publish.

I am extremely proud to be part of a collective where Palestinians and Jews...

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Why Trump won't move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem

The city is a tinderbox, and no one wants to set off a fatal spark.

A prominent Israeli journalist tweeted on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s government expects the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “perhaps as early as Sunday.” Dana Weiss, the chief political analyst for Channel 2 News and the anchor of her own prime time weekly television magazine program, also wrote that her sources had told her the U.S. would announce plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem. According to the information she shared, the impetus for this move came on the back of pressure from Trump’s Christian evangelist supporters.

At least one of her colleagues referred to her tweet as a “scoop.” But a few hours, a bit of a social media tempest later, and a denial from the White House, it’s pretty clear that this incident is really about political machinations and dealings between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

East Jerusalem’s walled Old City is home to the sites holiest to all three monotheistic religions. These include Al Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam; and the Kotel, or Western Wall (a retaining wall of the ancient temple), which practicing Jews view as their holiest site. Both sites hold cultural and political significance even for non-believers.

Jerusalem is a tinderbox — as demonstrated by the events of last summer. In July, Netanyahu briefly acceded to the Jerusalem police chief’s insistence that metal detectors controlled by Israeli security —  in other words a checkpoint — should be set up at the entrance to the compound, known as The Noble Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif) on which Al Aqsa sits. Palestinians, for whom the compound is the only place in Israeli-controlled territory where they can gather freely, responded with days of sustained protests, which Israeli security forces dispersed quite brutally. For Palestinians, the metal detectors were an attempt by Israel to take control of Al Aqsa, which is presided over by the Waqf — Muslim religious authorities funded by the King of Jordan,...

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WATCH: Police assault wounded Palestinian patient, staff at J'lem hospital

Newly-released video shows Israeli security forces storming an East Jerusalem hospital in late July, as they tried to prevent doctors from bringing a wounded Palestinian into surgery.

A Palestinian man died on a gurney in a Jerusalem hospital last month, as Israeli police in full riot gear tried to prevent medical staff from wheeling him into the operating room for surgery. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, released footage of the incident that was recorded by the hospital’s security cameras.

The video shows armed Israeli police wearing helmets and military-style riot gear bursting into the emergency room at al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on July 21, shoving aside medical staff in order to grab the stretcher, even as the wounded man with an IV attached to his arm was lying on it, visibly bleeding and unconscious.

Muhammad Abu Ghanam, 20, from Jerusalem’s Abu Tur neighborhood, was taken by hospital in East Jerusalem on the afternoon of July 21. Abu Ghannam had joined a group of young Palestinian men as they demonstrated after noon prayers that day, in protest of the Israeli government having upset the status quo at al-Aqsa by erecting metal detectors at the entrance to the compound. Some of the young men threw stones in the direction of police.

According to several eyewitnesses, Abu Ghanam was about to toss a lit flare in the direction of security forces who were shooting tear gas canisters and foam-tipped bullets at the demonstrators. The eyewitnesses said the police were not standing close enough to be hint. Nonetheless, one of them shot Abu Ghanam in the chest with a live bullet. It entered his spinal cord.

Again according to eyewitnesses who spoke to B’Tselem researchers, police left Abu Ghanam bleeding on the pavement for five to 10 minutes. They refused to offer him first aid and then tried to prevent an ambulance from reaching him. Once medics finally succeeded in picking up Abu Ghanam, the police reportedly threw a stun grenade at the ambulance.

Al Makassed Hospital is in East Jerusalem. It serves Palestinian patients and is not under the auspices of the Israeli national health care system. Hadassah Hospital, one of the crown jewels of the Israeli national healthcare system (which also serves Palestinian patients), is just a few minutes’ drive away. But the idea of Israeli riot police rampaging through a Jewish Israeli...

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Israeli sniper shoots dead unarmed Palestinian at West Bank demo

Israeli security forces have shot and killed 21 Palestinians with live ammunition so far in 2017; Saba Abu Ubeid, 23, is the latest victim.

An Israeli army sniper shot and killed an unarmed Palestinian man on Friday afternoon during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Saba Abu Ubeid, 23, was hit in his upper body and evacuated to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead by attending physicians. The cause of death was internal bleeding, according to a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health.

The demonstration was organized to express support for the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, now in its third week.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that security forces had opened live fire in Nabi Saleh “in response to an immediate threat” posed by “dozens” of stone-throwing protestors.

But according to several eyewitnesses, including Israeli photojournalist Miki Kratsman, Israeli security forces in the village wore protective riot gear and were shielded by a concrete wall. The protestors were standing at least 50 meters away.

“There were very few stone throwers,” Sarit Michaeli, the international advocacy officer for Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, told +972 Magazine. Michaeli, who was present at the demonstration, added that “Most of the youths were standing very far away from the soldiers,” and said it was the soldiers who approached the demonstrators, thereby escalating the confrontation, and not the other way around.

B’Tselem has been tracking the army’s use of live ammunition on unarmed Palestinian protestors for over seven years, with several reports on various incidents posted to its website. The bullets commonly used in these situations are .22 caliber, colloquially known as “two-twos.” They are less deadly than the higher caliber 5.6 bullets, said Michaeli, but they do penetrate human flesh and are considered lethal weapons.

The sniper’s ostensible goal is to aim at the legs and knees of the demonstrators, in order to incapacitate them. The bullets can break a knee or a femur, but are lethal when they hit the upper body. The two-two that killed Saba Abu Abeid hit him in the torso, making him the 21st Palestinian to be killed by live ammunition shot by Israeli security forces since the beginning of 2017.

Michaeli explained that snipers aim and shoot “in a very organized manner,” with the shooter taking a position on a rooftop while a colleague sits next to him to give...

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Israel expels Dutch journalist after he tweets +972 articles

The Israeli government office responsible for accrediting journalists takes issue with a foreign correspondent sharing +972 Magazine articles on social media, publishing critical stories, refuses to renew his visa.

Israel’s Government Press Office has refused to renew the media accreditation for Derk Walters, a Dutch journalist who has been reporting from Israel-Palestine since 2014. Walters is the correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, a leading Dutch newspaper. Without accreditation he cannot renew his work visa, which means he must leave the country by July. The GPO has been critical of Walters’ reporting, but not because it was inaccurate; instead, they seemed disturbed by the incidents he chose to report and how he framed his reporting.

In one example, Walters described the situation in Hebron as one where 600 Israeli settlers keep 175,000 Palestinians hostage. Ron Paz, the head of the GPO’s communications program wrote in an email to Walters that this characterization was anti-Semitic. Paz contacted Walters on several other occasions, each time to criticize the tone rather than the accuracy of his reporting, or to berate him for tweeting links to articles the GPO did not like. It is worth pointing out that Israeli media outlets have published reports that are far more critical of the situation in Hebron, than the one by Walters that attracted Paz’s attention.

As reported by both Haaretz and NRC, the GPO accidentally attached a revealing internal email in its correspondence with Walters. In it, Paz writes to GPO director Nitzan Chen that he will make Walters “sweat” by threatening him with repercussions for having moved from Tel Aviv, which he specified as his residence on his visa application, to East Jerusalem — which is probably the most popular choice of residence for foreign correspondents covering Israel-Palestine, because of its convenient location between the West Bank and Israel.

This is certainly not the first time the GPO has targeted or bullied a reporter. The question is: why Walters? He is not unusually critical of Israel in his reporting, and he has not been accused of breaking laws or reporting inaccurately. The answer seems to lie in his tweets. He retweeted a link to an article that was published in +972 Magazine, which refers to BDS and which uses the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel” rather than “Israeli Arabs.” Walters did not append any commentary to the retweet.

As per Haaretz, Paz contacted Walters about the tweet:

Paz also wrote...

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Netanyahu looks like a bully, but he doesn't care

Any blowback Netanyahu receives after snubbing the German foreign minister will be short-lived: his base is behind him, he has the patronage of the U.S., and the status quo will remain exactly as it is.

This week Netanyahu gave the world another lesson in how authoritarianism disguised as democracy works. Upon learning that the visiting German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, refused to accede to his demand that he cancel his meetings with two NGOs that document human rights violations in territories controlled by Israel, the Israeli prime minister went ahead and canceled their own scheduled meeting as a punitive measure. Haaretz, Israel’s lone liberal newspaper, rightly disapproves. But the rest of the Israeli media is pretty much on board with Netanyahu.

The two NGOs are Breaking the Silence, which is composed of veteran Israeli combat soldiers who document abuses carried out by the army; and B’Tselem, which documents and raises awareness of human rights violations, while lobbying the Israeli government to implement international law in the territories.

Netanyahu and his ministers have for years targeted these organizations, portraying them as traitors and describing them to their base as effete Ashkenazi elitists who would rather curry favor with their European (read: anti-Israel) sponsors than be patriotic Israeli citizens.

The prime minister and Naftali Bennett, chairman of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party and the current minister of education, have particularly focused on Breaking the Silence, repeating the claim that it slanders Israeli soldiers by labeling them war criminals. In a country with near-universal conscription for men aged 18-21, and a hard-wired national narrative rife with hero warriors, there is a well-primed and receptive audience for that message. The Israeli media repeats it frequently, along with the claim that most of the testimonies Breaking the Silence collects and curates are anonymous. This is not true, but these days hardly anyone bothers to carry out basic fact checks.

Sigmar Gabriel’s visit to Israel was scheduled so that he could participate in the ceremonies to mark Holocaust Memorial week. When Netanyahu said on Monday that he would not meet him if he also met with the NGOs, the German diplomat responded mildly that that would be “regrettable.”

Reuters reports that Gabriel expanded on German television, saying, “Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister … came to Germany and wanted to meet people critical of the government and we said that...

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Will the NYT start noting the violent pasts of Israeli contributors, too?

There was much uproar from the Israeli government and its supporters following the publication of a Marwan Barghouti op-ed in the New York Times. But where was the outcry when the paper published op-eds by Israelis with violent pasts?

On Sunday the New York Times published an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who has been in an Israeli jail since 2002. In his article, Barghouti explains that over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to launch a hunger strike to protest the Israeli authorities’ policies of mass arrest and systematic mistreatment.

The newspaper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, published a response on Tuesday titled “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and the Times Does Too.” Addressing a wave of angry statements, Spayd writes that the newspaper should have spelled out the crimes for which Barghouti was convicted.

In response to her query, the New York Times‘ Opinion editor Jim Dao wrote her that while “the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences,” it does not “state the crimes for which he was convicted.” Dao then appended the following note to Barghouti’s op-ed:

Marwan Barghouti declined to offer a defense in an Israeli courtroom because he was not a citizen of Israel, but rather a stateless resident of the Palestinian territories, which are under Israel’s military occupation. As such, he argued that the court had no legal jurisdiction over his case. And so he was convicted based solely on the prosecution’s evidence, although international experts expressed concern it was “flimsy” and obtained using “questionable methods.” Nonetheless, the judge sentenced Barghouti to five consecutive life sentences plus forty years.

Barghouti’s case was somewhat unusual, in that he was tried in a civilian court; the vast majority of Palestinians from the occupied territories are tried in military courts, where the conviction rate is 99.74 percent. In other words, to say that a Palestinian is guilty of the crimes with which he was charged because he was convicted in an Israeli military court is the same as saying that a Soviet citizen sentenced to the gulag during the Stalinist era must be guilty because he confessed during interrogation. This is one of the reasons for the prisoners’ hunger strike Barghouti describes in his op-ed for the Times.

Obviously, the Israeli government and its supporters have a political interest in denying Barghouti credibility to write for the New York Times, as evinced by some of the responses to the op-ed: Prime Minister...

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