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The 'NY Times' puts apartheid on page one

Netanyahu and the Israeli right’s alternative to the two-state solution appears to be taking shape. There are only so many ways of describing that shape, and the reality to which it leads.

Out of the six times that the word apartheid has been used to describe Israel or Israeli policy on page A1 of the New York Times over the past nine years, four were in the past month alone, according to a search of the paper’s online archives conducted Tuesday.

What, if anything, has changed? It’s hard to say without being privy to the editorial considerations and political dynamics inside the Gray Lady. A front-page article published Monday, which included the word apartheid three times, does offer some insight into why — at least anecdotally — there appears to be the slightest bit more comfort in using the word.

In his article “Emboldened Israeli Right Presses Moves to Doom 2-State Solution,” New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger does an impressive job surveying the Netanyahu government’s recent sprint to effectively weld-shut the crypt in which lies the two-state solution.

From Netanyahu’s Likud party sharpening its annexation platform, to technical steps being taken by his attorney general and justice minister to speed up what has thus far been creeping annexation, to legislation that seeks to preclude East Jerusalem ever becoming the capital of a Palestinian state, Halbfinger’s review of the latest developments is stark. All that comes on top of repeated declarations by Prime Minister Netanyahu that he will never withdraw Israeli troops from the West Bank or evacuate Israeli settlements there, both of which are presumed to be necessary conditions for a two-state solution.

As all of those elements indicate, the Israeli Right’s alternative to the two-state solution, which many argued is nonexistent over the years, appears to be taking shape. There are only so many ways of describing that shape and the reality to which it leads. Annexing even parts of the West Bank without granting full and equal citizenship rights to the millions of Palestinians who live there, as Netanyahu’s Likud party voted to do this week, would make Israel’s 50-year military dictatorship in the Palestinian territories a permanent fact. And as Fady Khoury wrote here last month, once the occupation is no longer veiled in temporariness, its dual legal systems, lack of basic rights for Palestinians, and separate and unequal laws expose...

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Three takeaways: Trump's Jerusalem declaration and Palestinian reactions

Let’s not pretend that there was a peace process for Donald Trump to obstruct.

1.

To those who are worried that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will create an insurmountable roadblock to achieving the two-state solution, I remind you that on at least four separate occasions in recent years (one, two, three, four) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to never withdraw Israeli troops from the West Bank. That’s surmountable?

Let’s be real. There has been no two-state option on the table at least since the late spring of 2014, before the Gaza war broke out, and probably not since 2008, when the Olmert-Abbas talks ended abruptly because the Israeli prime minister was indicted on corruption charges.

To argue that Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem is the straw that broke the camel’s back is to ignore not just all of the actually insurmountable issues that have prevented an agreement in decades of peace talks, but also the fact that the Israeli government is explicitly not interested in allowing the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

 

2.

In his speech on Wednesday, President Trump did not even acknowledge the idea that there is an East Jerusalem distinct from West Jerusalem. Israel annexed the territory known as East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War and incorporated it into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. Around 300,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem; the vast majority do not have Israeli citizenship. Israel annexed the land but not the people. Furthermore, entire neighborhoods of East Jerusalem have been separated from the city over the past decade by the 26-foot concrete wall built by Israel.

By not acknowledging the existence of East Jerusalem, and thereby recognizing Jerusalem as the single “unified” city Israel pretends it to be, Trump effectively recognized the illegal and unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem. Furthermore, by mentioning Muslim connections to Al Aqsa but not the Palestinian national significance of and ties to the city of Jerusalem, he did away with the illusion of even-handedness in the United States’ approach to that aspect of the conflict.

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3.

Top Palestinian officials responded to Trump’s announcement Wednesday night with...

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Hundreds of Israelis urge the UN to release ‘settlement blacklist’

The petition, by a group of prominent Israelis, is a cry for help to the international community, asking it to insist on seeing the Green Line no matter how hard the Netanyahu government works to erase it.

Over 400 Israelis, including a former attorney general, retired diplomats, ex-members of Knesset, and prominent intellectuals, sent a petition to the UN urging it to release a list of companies that do business in or with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel is reportedly doing “everything [it] can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day.” The UN Human Rights Council began compiling the list of companies last year and it was due to be published in March 2017, although political pressure at the time resulted in the publication date being delayed until December.

The database, or list of companies, has been referred to as a blacklist, and was one of the primary motivators behind the anti-BDS legislation currently making its way through the U.S. Congress.

The petition, authored by the Policy Working Group, points to the UN Security Council Resolution 2332, which called on the international community “to distinguish in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

“As loyal citizens of Israel,” the petition begins, “[we] believe that the international community has a crucial and urgent role to play in order to redress the Israel/Palestine fast deteriorating conflict. We believe that to serve that end, it is essential that the international community will act against the settlement policy of the Government of Israel, which bars any resolution of this conflict.”

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“We strongly support the decision of the Human Rights Council to publish a list of companies carrying out business with the settlements,” continues the letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein, which was also sent to the UN secretary general. “We hope that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will not relent in the face of any pressure to avoid the publication of such lists.”

All settlements are illegal under international law, a position that was...

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New footage proves police assaulted Arab MK at deadly home demolition

Police initially denied using force against Ayman Odeh, who was shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets moments after a Bedouin man and a police officer were killed in a tragic incident.

Newly released footage shows Israeli police assaulting Palestinian member of Knesset Ayman Odeh at a home demolition during which one Bedouin man and a police officer were killed earlier this year. Police told +972 Magazine that Odeh had been struck by protesters’ stones at the time, only to change their story in the hours and days that followed.

The video, shot by an Al Jazeera cameraman, appears to show a group of Israeli riot police trying to block Odeh’s path as he sought to check on possible injuries after gunshots were heard. After a bit of pushing, officers use pepper spray against an unidentified man accompanying Odeh, and then spray Odeh directly in the face.

Moments later, after Odeh appears to fall to the ground in pain, officers throw stun grenades toward him and others. Police later shot Odeh in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets, although that part of the incident was not caught on camera. The Israeli internal affairs department, part of the Justice Ministry, is currently investigating the assault on Odeh and the killing of Yaqub Musa Abu Qi’an and police officer Erez Levy.

Police initially declared the killings to be a terrorist incident and even attempted to tie Abu Qi’an to ISIS, before it became clear that police unnecessarily opened fire on his vehicle, causing him to loose control and veer into a group of police officers. An investigation by +972 Magazine partners Activestills, along with Forensic Architecture, played a central role in refuting the police’s claims about the killings.

The violence took place as police came to demolish a number of homes in the Negev Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. The entire town is slated to be demolished so that a Jewish development, called Hiran, can be built almost directly on its ruins.

“The police and government’s lies and incitement continue to be exposed. Everything we claimed from the get go has turned out to be true. The responsibility for the terrible losses of the Abu Al Qi’an and Levi families is entirely on [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan and [Police Commissioner Roni] Alsheikh,” MK Ayman Odeh said about the...

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'Creeping annexation' is a distraction from the one-state reality

A proposed law to ‘annex’ dozens of settlements to Jerusalem is just one step toward normalizing a reality that has been in the making for decades.

There is not a single Israeli politician today calling for the wholesale annexation of the West Bank. The number of politicians working to advance piecemeal annexation, however, is growing by the day.

Take the proposed Greater Jerusalem law, making its way through Israel’s parliament at the moment. The bill, which would extend Jerusalem’s municipal umbrella over dozens of West Bank settlements along with well over 100,000 settlers, wouldn’t really annex the settlements to Jerusalem. In a way, it actually does the reverse: it annexes Jerusalem to the settlements.

While the new “residents” would be given a right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections in order to achieve an astounding feat of gerrymandering, their existing settlement municipalities will actually remain intact — subject to Israeli military law, as opposed to Israeli civilian law that applies to Jerusalem and the illegally annexed eastern half of the city.

In other words, the drafters of this law were careful to ensure that it doesn’t qualify as either formal or de facto annexation, irrespective of what it reality looks like on the ground.

And that’s the point.

The proponents of annexation within the Israeli establishment understand perfectly well that the world isn’t ready to accept the formal annexation of the West Bank right now.

“This is a process,” annexation proponent and senior minister in the Israeli government Naftali Bennett explained at the Brookings Institute a few years ago. “I’m not suggesting that, you know, one day in midday we just [annex]. There’s a process of changing the global view of what’s going on here and it has to start with that… And it takes time. It’s an uphill battle.”

That’s exactly what the Jerusalem bill is meant to accomplish: to normalize the idea of annexation — the idea that Israel can unilaterally redraw boundaries to include and exclude certain population groups (Jewish and Arab, respectively), and claim as its own whatever territory it pleases.

Of course, that’s what the situation looks like today.

The facts on the ground were set a long, long time ago. Israeli governments representing both sides of the political map have for decades declared that those same settlements mentioned in the Greater Jerusalem bill, so-called “consensus” settlements and blocs, are off the...

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Senior official urges Israelis to carry more guns following Fatah-Hamas accord

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has a unique response to the deal ending a decade of political, geographic and societal Palestinian divisions.

The Israeli government’s response to the deal was among the tamest it has ever directed toward anything including the word Hamas, namely that Israel won’t conduct “diplomatic relations” with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless it fulfills half a dozen conditions.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, however, took the cake with his prescription for how to cope with the reconciliation deal ending a decade of political and geographic Palestinian divisions: encouraging Israeli civilians to carry more guns.

According to a Ynet report, the comments were made at a dedication ceremony for a new firearms licensing center in Ramleh, outside of Tel Aviv. Right. Because if the strongest military in the Middle East — which has proven, time and again, that it can reign massive death destruction on the Islamic group — can’t deter Hamas, a few hundred handguns in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will surely get the job done.

 

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Netanyahu compares human rights groups to Russian election interference

The prime minister is trying to turn human rights and anti-occupation groups into a subversive boogie monster, this time by conflating them with Western democracy’s contemporary super-villain — Russian election interference. What if he’s right?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conflated European Union funding for human rights groups in Israel with Russian interference in U.S. elections, according to a report in Haaretz Sunday. The comments came in the context of a government a decision to form a parliamentary committee to investigate the funding of left-wing, mostly human rights organizations.

Asked whether there is any precedent for a parliamentary committee interfering in the affairs of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), “Netanyahu responded affirmatively, citing the example of the U.S. congressional investigation into Russian interference in America’s 2016 presidential election,” according to the report, which cited people who were in the closed meeting.

Israeli rights groups are required by law to fully disclose the sources of their funding, making their activities and backers fully transparent and above-ground; they have not been accused of breaking any laws. Alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential elections, on the other hand, was covert and would appear to have violated innumerable American laws.

A more appropriate comparison might be between the strikingly similar ways the Netanyahu and Putin governments vilify NGOs in their respective countries.

The Netanyahu government and the right-wing parties that comprise it have long put their crosshairs on human rights organizations in Israel, which for the most part focus their work on Israel’s 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and the human and civil rights violations it leads to.

Numerous right-wing public campaigns over the years — which included selectively targeted legislation — have focused on the fact that most human and civil rights organizations in Israel receive at least some funding from foreign governments (mostly European, but also the United States). These campaigns, and the politicians behind them, have sought to cast Israeli human rights organizations and their employees as foreign agents working to advance the sinister agendas of hostile states, despite the fact that most of the money comes from Israel’s closest allies.

The aim — and the result — has been to portray of human and civil rights as subversive ideas being used by foreign, presumably anti-Semitic powers to undermine the State of Israel itself. That last feat is accomplished by conflating the State of Israel with...

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EU border monitors have been waiting to go back to Gaza for 10 years

Gaza’s Rafah border may reopen soon now that Fatah and Hamas have agreed to a reconciliation deal. But that doesn’t mean that the EU mission, which has been sitting and waiting near Tel Aviv at a cost of millions of euros a year, will be going back to work anytime soon.

For the past 10 years, a group of European Union border monitors has been waiting inside Israel for the elusive, far-off moment when they can redeploy to the Gaza Strip, to supervise the border crossing separating Gaza and Egypt.

If the reconciliation deal between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed in Cairo Thursday survives and is implemented, those 10 years of waiting — and the millions of euros spent waiting — could simply vanish into thin air.

The European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah, or EUBAM as it is known, was created in 2005 — after Israel withdrew its military from the Gaza Strip — to support the implementation of a bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. EUBAM was supposed to monitor the PA-run border crossing, run up until that point by Israel, and operate a nearby liaison center where Israeli, EU and Palestinian officials monitored everything that went on at the Rafah crossing.

In theory, the arrangement with the European monitors was supposed to be the first time in history that Palestinians controlled any international border leading in and out of Palestinian territory. In reality, Israel maintained ultimate control over the border crossing. Israeli control was maintained by defining who could pass through and even vetoing individual travelers, but also going so far as to force the entire border closed by refusing to let the EU monitors travel from their home base in Ashkelon into the Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless, the Rafah border was open for all but two days during the first seven months of EUBAM’s deployment, with over 1,300 passengers crossing it each day. Then Hamas captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel re-occupied a strip of land inside Gaza along the Egyptian border, and the crossing was open less than one-quarter of the time in the year that followed. When Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007, the border officially closed and it has not regularly operated since.

Instead of returning home, however, the European monitors held steady. For the past 10 years EUBAM has maintained its force in Israel, first in Ashkelon and now headquartered...

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Israeli body that accredits journalists honored for propaganda

The official Israeli government body that accredits journalists has just been honored by the country’s PR association for enhancing Israel’s image abroad. Anyone who values an independent and free press should be alarmed.

The government bureau responsible for accrediting journalists in Israel was honored last month by Israel’s association of public relations professionals for its work promoting government propaganda, known cordially as “hasbara,” or “public diplomacy.” The Government Press Office, which is a division of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, was presented the certificate of appreciation at the Israel Public Relations Association’s annual “Roaring Lion” awards ceremony.

In an announcement published on the GPO’s website (Hebrew), the press accreditation body cites its own “innovative and creative actions to advance Israeli hasbara and presenting ‘the whole picture of Israel.’” The GPO announcement goes on to cite its “professional and courteous service” vis-à-vis the foreign press corps in Israel, along with “dealing with coverage biased against the State of Israel,” adding praise for its work “initiating articles that present a face of Israel beyond the conflict.”

Anyone who values an independent and free press should be alarmed that the official state body that accredits journalists, and without whose permission foreign journalists cannot work in Israel, is being honored for influencing journalistic coverage. Along with a Military Censor that at-least-partially redacts one in five articles that cross its desk, and out-of-control judicial gag orders that have tripled in recent years, the GPO is just one of several ways the Israeli government is able to influence what information is reported, how it is reported, and who can report it.

As I wrote last year:

Carrying a GPO card gives journalists access to official events, the scenes of newsworthy incidents, is often a condition for cooperation from official spokespeople, and offers protection from arrest while covering protests. In other words, government accreditation makes reporting much safer and more effective. (Foreign journalists must have the GPO’s endorsement in order to even receive a visa to work in Israel.)

But by giving itself the power to decide who is a legitimate journalist, the GPO (which operates as part of the Prime Minister’s Office) also inherently gets to decide who is not a legitimate journalist. And as with any decision made by government bureaucrats subordinate to politicians, such decisions can at times be driven by political considerations.

That has been true in the past and under...

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Forget Friedman. The State Dept doesn't know how much of the West Bank is occupied either

While disavowing the American ambassador’s erroneous assertion that only 2% of the West Bank is occupied by Israel, the State Department spokesperson isn’t able to answer how much of the territory is actually occupied. (Hint: All of it.)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman caused a small stir Thursday by erroneously stating that Israel only occupies 2 percent of the West Bank. The Israeli army rules over the entirety of the West Bank under military law, of course, making it 100-percent occupied.

The truth of the matter is that nobody took Friedman’s remarks all that seriously, although the whole affair made for some great headlines. Despite being the White House’s official envoy to Israel, Friedman is known for speaking for himself instead of in his official capacity. So nobody was too surprised.

What was surprising, was that when asked to clarify, the State Department itself could not — or would not — answer how much of the West Bank actually is occupied by Israel.

In an exchange with Associated Press reporter Matt Lee at the State Department’s daily press briefing Thursday, Spokesperson Heather Nauert disavowed Friedman’s comments, stating multiple times that Friedman’s version of reality does not indicate a shift in U.S. policy.

Then things got weird.

Here is a transcript of the exchange (Video, from 25:00 minutes):

Matt Lee: [A]mbassadors to every country are supposed to speak for and with the authority of the President of the United States. Do you not see that this is causing confusion?

And then as a purely factual matter, how much of – what percent of the West Bank does the United – does the administration believe is occupied?

Heather Nauert: I don’t know that we have a map of that or that we have —

Lee: You’ve got a lot of maps on that.

Nauert: Do we have a lot of maps?

Lee: Oh, yeah.

Nauert: Do we?

Lee: Yes.

Nauert: Okay. Well, see, you all pre-date me here. I’ll go pull out some —

Lee: Heather, do you —

Nauert: — the dusty shelves.

Lee: You have many, many, many, many maps.

***

There you have it. Somewhere on the dusty shelves of Foggy Bottom, there are many, many maps that might be able...

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Netanyahu vows to never remove settlements. Why won’t the world believe him?

It’s as if the entire international community administered itself a potent dose of willful suspension of disbelief, enabling its leaders to ignore Bibi’s declarations that he will never take the requisite steps for peace — that he will do everything in his power to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

For years, decades actually, the world has inexplicably given Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt that, despite endless declarations to the contrary, he is interested and willing to end the occupation and enter into a peace accord that results in the creation of a Palestinian state.

This week, at an official Israeli government ceremony celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which itself should set off alarm bells for anyone suspicious of the Netanyahu government’s intentions, the prime minister vowed to never again remove another Jewish settlement from the occupied territory.

“We have brought about magnificent settlement in Judea and Samaria that we are maintaining and strengthening – responsibly, wisely and persistently,” Netanyahu said in his speech celebrating the settlement movement. “I tell you clearly and before anything: There will be no more uprooting of communities in the Land of Israel!”

This latest declaration joins the handful of times in recent years that Netanyahu has promised never to withdraw Israeli military forces from the West Bank, and openly stated that no Palestinian state will be born on his watch. Going back even further, we have seen video of Netanyahu bragging about how he sabotaged the implementation of the Oslo Accords during his first term as prime minister.

And yet, perhaps because there has been no other game in town for nearly a decade, the world continues to engage the Israeli prime minister about peace and Palestinian statehood. It’s not just that the world entertains Netanyahu’s attempts to move the goalposts in order to ensure peace remains out of reach, by constantly adding new preconditions and demands every time he is worried some progress might be made.

It’s as if the entire international community got together and agreed to administer itself a potent dose of willful suspension of disbelief, enabling world leaders to ignore Netanyahu’s unmistakably clear declarations that he will never implement the requisite steps for peace — that he will do everything in his power to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It would be very uncomfortable for most world leaders...

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Israel's top court rules human rights aren't 'controversial.' What about the occupation?

As the pro-peace camp has shrunk into oblivion, human rights groups have become the only real anti-occupation force in Israel today. That has made them uncomfortably political.

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled that equality and human rights are not, or should not be, controversial in Israel.

“[It is difficult to accept] the idea that a commercial promoting human rights could be socially or politically controversial,” wrote Justice Anat Baron. “The recognition of and commitment to human rights are intrinsically linked to the very existence of a democratic society.”

The honorable justice must have missed Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s speech to the Israel Bar Association a couple of weeks earlier, in which she decried and called for and end to, “the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way.”

The Supreme Court justices who declared human rights uncontroversial must have also missed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy pledge earlier this summer to effectively defund nearly every human rights group operating in Israel.

The court must have been paying attention to more pressing matters over the past few years as the Israeli government, or at least most of it, embarked on a concerted and sustained campaign to paint those who support human rights as foreign agents serving nefarious and seditious agendas.

Perhaps the good judges did not review the results of a 2016 public opinion survey, by +972 Magazine’s own Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, which found that only 45 percent of Jewish Israelis had a favorable opinion of “human rights.” Asked specifically about human rights “organizations,” those favorability numbers dropped to 31 percent — a marked deterioration from a similar survey conducted five years earlier.

Tellingly, among those who identify as right wing, only 25 percent support human rights groups in general, and only 5 percent expressed support for human rights groups that serve Palestinians.

Not controversial?

The case that led the Supreme Court to rule that human rights aren’t, or shouldn’t be controversial, was about whether Israel’s oldest civil rights organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) could air an advertisement on public television promoting International Human Rights Day. The public broadcaster had taken issue with and pulled the ad, in which a number of Israeli celebrities discuss civil and human rights that are important to them.

Public broadcasting regulations in Israel prohibit advertisements...

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PA security forces arrest prominent human rights activist Issa Amro

Palestinian authorities reportedly arrested Amro, an activist with Youth Against Settlements, for criticizing the PA in a Facebook post. Amro, who is also facing charges in Israeli military court for his political activism, has been recognized by the EU and UN as a human rights defender.

Palestinian security forces arrested human rights defender and well-known Palestinian activist Issa Amro in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday. The arrest was reportedly related to a Facebook post published by Amro, in which he criticized the Palestinian Authority for arresting a journalist a day earlier.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently signed an “Electronic Crimes” decree, effectively curtailing the little free speech that existed for Palestinians under Palestinian law, and which was believed to target online dissent against the PA, particularly on social media. The new law was roundly criticized by rights groups in Palestine and around the world. Israel also regularly arrests Palestinians for posts on social media.

The Palestinian Preventative Security Service (PSS) summoned Amro, who has been declared a “human rights defender” by the EU and UN, for interrogation about his critical Facebook post on Monday and arrested him at midday.

Amnesty International put out a statement Monday calling for Amro’s immediate release,  saying it was “outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online.”

“Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty. “Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also published a statement Monday expressing concern at Amro’s arrest and urging his release.

Last month, Palestinian security forces arrested a large number of journalists in what appeared to be a campaign targeting members of the press working for outlets affiliated with political rivals of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas’s party.

Amro gave the following statement prior to his arrest to a colleague at Youth Against Settlements, the Hebron-based group he co-founded, during which he sounded a defiant tone.

“All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions,” Amro said, according to a press release Youth...

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