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Study: Settler violence is structural, not a 'price tag' matter

A study conducted by the Washington-based Palestine Center documents settler violence and helps explain how it has been allowed to flourish.

A new study will be released this week on the growing occurrence of Jewish settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank. The Palestine Center, an influential think tank based in Washington DC, has conducted the report utilizing seven years of daily reports and documentation in order to help explain how, when and where settler violence occurs.

The report, entitled When Settlers Attack, documents a heavy increase in violence perpetrated by Jewish settlers over the last four years, especially from 2010 to 2011, which witnessed a 39 percent rise over a single year and a 315 percent increase from 2006. In 2011 alone there were an average of 2.6 incidents of settler violence per day against Palestinians, marking an historical high point.

A common theory by many observers is that the increase in settler violence can be attributed to the phenomenon of a settler “price tag” policy, enacted against Palestinians as “retribution” for actions by the State of Israel taken against the settlers.

The Palestine Center’s report objects to this conclusion, arguing that settler violence is structural in nature.

Along with general explanations of the methods used by settlers, the report studies patterns of violence over the past seven years on a geographical and chronological scale. One of the report’s most interesting attributes is the use of maps to display when and where the violence is coming from.

The report also notes a significant geographical change in where settler violence mainly occurs. Traditionally, Palestinian communities in the southern part of the West Bank were the most prone to violence originating from Jewish settlements. In 2009, however, that changed as the north of the West Bank witnessed the most settler violence, particularly in the area surrounding Nablus.

Another interesting discovery is that settler violence does not always occur in communities closest to those settlements where it originates, bypassing proximity considerations in order to strike at targets that fall under Israeli military jurisdiction, specified under the Oslo Accords. Thus the Palestinian Authority can offer little help or protection and the Israeli military remains either unwilling or complacent in the activities.

This testifies to the structural nature of settler violence as opposed to a response-based one aimed at reacting to either Palestinian initiated violence or Israeli state policy. ...

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Palestinian leaders reinforce Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in Qatar

Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal sign agreement in Qatar on Palestinian reconciliation.

Leaders of the two main Palestinian political parties, Fatah and Hamas, signed an agreement in Qatar on Monday, reinforcing efforts at reconciliation and reform.

Reports from Qatar say that current Palestinian Authority President and Chairman of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, will also be in charge of a new interim government as Prime Minister until upcoming elections usher in a democratically elected one.

Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas’ politburo chief Khaled Meshaal for the second day of talks in Qatar. According to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission’s (CEC) Twitter feed, leaders of Palestinian political factions headed to the CEC offices in Ramallah to discuss the initiative.

The agreement also stipulates the convening of a committee to discuss reforms to the PLO’s highest body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), set for February 18.

With the virtual collapse of the peace process and revolutionary turmoil engulfing the region, Palestinian politics has been focusing internally, and the division between factions–which has persisted since 2007–is viewed as untenable.

The first reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo in May 2011. Qatar’s position facilitating negotiations demonstrates the enhanced role the Gulf nation is playing in regional politics and the difficulties Egypt is facing one year after its revolution.

Both Khaled Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas have stated publicly that they will not stand for office again. Both men have been in office for many years and their departures will certainly leave a political vacuum.

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Eyewitnesses, video challenge army account of Nabi Saleh shooting

In Nabi Saleh on Friday a French citizen–in the village for her first time–was struck in the back of the head by a high-velocity teargas canister fired by an Israeli soldier. The woman was part of a small group of activists that were walking down the main road out of the village, which was being closed off by a group of soldiers.

Although some youth from the village had been previously throwing stones from the hilltop above, the activists were unarmed and merely chanting slogans. When the group was approximately 25 to 30 meters away, the soldiers immediately began firing teargas canisters and rubber bullets directly at the people without warning. The group of around fourteen people turned to run and the girl was hit in the back of the head/neck area and dropped to the ground. A few of the others stopped to pick her up and a number of them were hit by rubber bullets.

A video shot by Bilal Tamimi, a resident of the village who was standing next to the soldiers, shows the entire incident. The teargas canister clearly ricochets off the girls head in mid-flight.


In response to the incident, Major Peter Lerner of the Israeli military began tweeting that “IDF soldiers on site” reported that she was hit from behind by Palestinian youths throwing stones. The video and eyewitnesses, including myself, can testify that this is false. There were no Palestinian youth standing behind the girl and she was struck after she turned to run from soldiers firing their weapons directly at unarmed activists. After witnesses and video refuted Major Lerner’s baseless assertion, he altered his story and tweeted that the Israeli military will investigate a teargas canister that ricocheted “off the ground.”

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Reframing non-violent resistance: An act of moral piracy

When we allow non-violence to be distorted as illegitimate, we fail to uphold our most cherished principles.

It is not a strange phenomenon for morality to be the object of contestation. Competing groups often battle for the moral high ground when presenting their case to the outside world in a customary appeal for support. Far from being an exception to this rule, Israelis and Palestinians are its standard bearers, constantly providing their accounts for the entire world to see, hear, and sympathize. The tragedy is that this game has been played for so long, with arguments crafted in such minute detail, that reality has been reduced to the level of “competing narratives,”—each given its equal weight and legitimacy—as if that is what the conflict is all about.  Still worse is when a traditional bulwark of morality in the arena of conflict, such as non-violent resistance, is reinterpreted, reframed, and demonized.

Growing up in the United States, I can remember yearly school lessons about the African-American Civil Rights Movement that took place between the mid-1950s and 60s. From a young age we were taught the moral superiority of the tactics employed by those courageous men and women who staged sit-ins in White-only restaurants, boycotted the Montgomery, Alabama bus system and held marches and non-violent demonstrations throughout the American South, often to the response of naked racism and brutal repression. This type of resistance model was idealized as the most moral and effective way of bringing about change to an unacceptable system of inequality.

Several years later, after having graduated from university and starting a career as a journalist, I moved to Palestine. For maybe the first time in my life, I encountered meaningful non-violent resistance first hand when I went to report on Palestinian villages that were being dispossessed by the steady growth of Israeli settlements and the construction of Israel’s Wall. Every Friday, activists from Palestine, Israel, and countries abroad would flock to these locales to offer up some form of counter to the unmitigated pace of colonization and apartheid that are taking place on a daily basis. Although often futile, they were full of symbolism, as if only to declare that some people oppose what is being done with more than the hollow words and empty sentiments of politicians. Above all else, though, it was designed to raise awareness and highlight the case for moral superiority.


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The South Africa connection--rereading a great article

A link to a 2006 piece by Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal on the connection(s) between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

I wish I had been a reader of the Guardian when this two-part article on the parallels between South Africa and Israel by veteran journalist Chris McGreal came out in 2006. Sadly, I was still a US-centric consumer of media and I missed it. Lucky to have come upon this article and share it with our readers, if you have the time to read one of the great pieces on this conflict by a journalist who was stationed in both Johannesburg and Jerusalem, it is every bit worth the read.

*I read the second-part first, which is fine too.



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Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case against normalization

In a recent debate on +972, proponents and detractors of normalizing relations between Israelis and Palestinians in the current political environment make their cases.

In his recent post on “normalization,” my colleague Aziz Abu Sarah was right about one thing, the topic is reaching a fever pitch within Palestinian society. What Aziz gets wrong is the logic of anti-normalization as he attempts to paint it as some form of unjustifiable reactionism, ignoring its most cogent and compelling arguments. In truth, projects that constitute “normalization” promote a false image of parity between the conflicting sides and foster a dangerous psychology within the minds of the oppressor that stifles progress towards a just resolution of the conflict.

Although the “anti-normalization” debate has been around a long time, its resurgence in public discourse can likely be attributed to two things: the rise of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement and the beginning of a transitional period in internal Palestinian politics.

Due to the very nature of the BDS movement, everything pertaining to Israel is put under the microscope and scrutinized. Subsequently, any relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is done so in spades. BDS encourages its adherents to look critically at everything they do and everything that is happening around them. It is important to distinguish what works in the service of achieving Palestinian rights and what does not, or even works against it. This is why the BDS movement has produced strict and coherent guidelines for what can be considered worthy of boycott and what constitutes normalization.

Secondly, the era in which Palestinians and Israelis engaged in dialogue under the wider auspices and example of governmental-led negotiations is coming to an end—at least for the time being. We are now at the cusp of a transitional period in Palestinian politics where the lack of a clear strategy and path forward on the diplomatic and resistance fronts is forcing Palestinians to look internally at the state of their own society and political situation. Reconciliation and reform within their fractured political system are desperately needed in order to move cohesively in a new direction. Thus many Palestinians have started to re-examine the logic of their relationships with Israelis and criticize those Palestinians who have benefited immensely from it over the years while others around them have suffered.

When we consider the resurgence of anti-normalization, we must also remember that the...

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A slice of Palestinian politics over Christmas dinner

What’s happening and where are we going in the new year? An excerpt from Christmas dinner.

A snippet of conversation from Christmas dinner at my family home near Washington DC: someone asked me what the situation is currently like on the ground in Palestine.

I answered that (in my slightly jaded opinion) we are dealing with a situation in which all the political parties are ideologically bankrupt, having nothing new to offer the people as their own ideas (negotiations, armed resistance, leftist ideologies, respectively) have all proven ineffective. At the same time, those in power in the West Bank and Gaza are unwilling to concede an inch of space to those Palestinians entering the fray with fresh ideas. The situation in the near future, in my opinion, will be an internal struggle among Palestinians for the future direction of Palestinian resistance.

Someone else piped in that yesterday (now the day before yesterday) Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas’ politburo in Damascus, said publicly that the organization is looking into civil disobedience as the way forward. Having proved itself an effective tool in the Arab Spring, with successes in the occupied territories, it appears that unarmed resistance and civil disobedience may be the best strategy for ridding ourselves of military occupation.

And so we see that the process of reformulation is already beginning. I believe that over the next few months we will see a greater effort at reconciliation, bringing Hamas into the PLO, elections, and the slow redevelopment of the Palestinian body-politic and strategic processes in 2012. It is either that or stagnation. I hope for the former.

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On the 'invented' Palestinians—and other absurd comments

Republican candidates in the 2012 primary race have topped each other in inflammatory remarks regarding Palestinians.

Ever so often I am bombarded by so many words that almost none come at all and I pass up the opportunity to tackle a certain subject. This was the case recently with a spate of utterly ridiculous—almost comical—statements from candidates for the Republican primary race in the United States about Palestine and Palestinians, but in the end I had to say something. First there was Mike Huckabee, who came out in support of the building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Then there was Rick Santorum’s statement that there were no Palestinians in the West Bank, only Israelis, and that the entire land belonged to Israel (more on this later). Then there was Herman Cain, well, Herman Cain’s statements were so inane they are not worth describing. Finally, we have Newt Gingrich, the self-proclaimed ‘historian’ who has stated that Palestinians are a fictitious people and that they are all just ‘terrorists’ anyway.

In what has become a ritual for American politicians to outdo each other over who can be the most pro-Israel, the journey for national public office clearly runs through the Holy Land, or at least its Washington address at the AIPAC/WINEP headquarters. This is obviously nothing new; Israel has been a domestic issue in American politics—like the economy, healthcare, education, etc.—for decades.

What is shameless and worrisome are the depths that candidates are now willing to go to in their public statements, sounding more like neo-Nazi demagogues as they deny an entire people’s place in the world than politicians trying to get elected by playing up to an important domestic constituency.

Gingrich, in an interview with the Jewish Channel, stated that Palestinians were an ‘invented’ people and then went on to defend his fallacious remarks in a publicized debate. His comments, which go much further, demonstrate a fundamental ignorance of the history of the region, a blindness to the history of nationalism in general, and a callousness to anyone besides the right-wing Jewish community. Gingrich would be wise to study the history of how every nation was formed—particularly America. The Republican frontrunner went on to say that Palestinians are really just Arabs, as if he was revealing some great truth that we all failed to see. I wonder if he advocates a pan-Arab state...

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Nabi Saleh protester hit by tear gas canister dies from wounds


Mustafa Tamimi, 28, died this morning at Belinson Hospital after sustaining critical wounds yesterday in the village of Nabi Saleh when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his head from a short distance. His funeral will depart from Ramallah to Nabi Saleh tomorrow (Sunday) at 9:30 A.M. A protest against the killing will take place this evening in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

***Please be aware some of the photos are very graphic***

Mustafa Tamimi was killed on Friday during a weekly protest in the village of Nabi Saleh when he was hit with a tear gas canister in the head from close range.

Witnesses say the soldier was less than ten meters away when he fired out of the back of a military jeep, causing severe damage to the orbital region of Tamimi’s face.

“Half of his face was destroyed, pretty much. It looked really, really bad and he lost a lot of blood,” said Lazar Simeonov, a photographer that was in the village at the time.

Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh. A larger crowd than usual had gathered for this week’s demonstration, including a delegation from the United Nations.

After more than an hour of tear gas salvos from the soldiers against the main core of unarmed demonstrators, a group of Palestinian youth had set up a small road block of stones on a main road, where they began throwing rocks.

An Israeli military bulldozer came to remove the hand-made obstacle with three Israeli jeeps to guard it. Palestinian youths began throwing stones at the bulldozer when Israeli soldiers emerged from the jeeps and began firing. One of the soldiers launched a tear gas canister directly at Tamimi from the back of a military jeep, according to footage displayed by Mondoweiss. Other protesters ran over to help him before he was rushed away in a taxi.

The vehicle was stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint near the entrance of the village and Tamimi was removed from the ambulance, where he was treated on the spot before being taken to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Tamimi later succumbed to his wounds at the hospital in the morning hours.

Several people have been killed or injured by tear gas canisters discharged by Israeli soldiers in...

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Judge Goldstone presides: Apartheid vs. State of Israel

Racked by guilt for having exposed a modicum of the truth regarding Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, Judge Richard Goldstone does an about-face and becomes a spokesperson for the Israeli right wing. Is Goldstone the new Benny Morris?

By Omar Rahman and Abir Kopty

Richard Goldstone could give those guys at AIPAC a run for their money. So misleading was his recent whitewash in the New York Times on the apparent slander “Israeli Apartheid,” that hasbara peddlers everywhere were taking his picture off their dartboards and putting them on their mantles.

It was incredibly telling that the words “settlement” and “settler” did not appear once in the entire article, as if they are not worth mentioning in a discussion of apartheid. On the contrary, settlers are one of the two main protagonists in the story of apartheid in the occupied territories, where they are given privilege over Palestinians in every facet of life—but Goldstone apparently felt they were not worth his attention, or maybe just detrimental to his argument.

Instead Mr. Goldstone thought it best to highlight how equal Palestinian citizens of Israel are with their Israeli compatriots. What he once again failed to mention was the 63-year process of dispossession those Palestinians have endured by the hand of their state, which has stripped them of 90 percent of their land and allocated it for Jewish use only. Nor does he reference the vast disparities in public funding and resources between Israel’s Jewish and Palestinian communities or the discriminatory legislation like the Law of Return, the Population Registry Law, or the myriad land laws that prevent Palestinian leasing and ownership. For Goldstone, it is much more important to let the world know that Palestinians are not prohibited from using the same toilets as Jewish-Israelis.

Neither does Goldstone actually dispute that the instruments of apartheid exist in the occupied territories, but rather, he excuses this because Israel does not really “intend” to enforce racial segregation for the benefit of one people over another. Yet, the mere fact that Israel continues to settle its population in the occupied territories, and has been for 44 years, demonstrates explicit intent. A short visit to the West Bank will reveal the permanent structures on the ground: huge city-settlements, cement barriers, and permanent checkpoint “terminals.”

Jewish settlers have access to separate roads, infrastructure, neighborhoods and services, and enjoy a freedom of movement denied to Palestinians....

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Omar’s beautiful, dark, twisted—political fantasy

Last night a bizarre answer to a reasonable question popped into my head. And all glory be to the blog, I am able to compose this little articulation-of-no-consequence knowing clear well that it will be published, even if it is just by me.

It all began after an intense evening of ‘trivia-night’ at a local Ramallah restaurant—yes, we are all nerds in our own fashion—my mind feeling especially limber, I began to think to myself, why would Mahmoud Abbas decide to call for elections now, and so soon?—Abbas having recently announced his desire to hold elections in January.

Hamas, his mortal enemy, has just concluded a monumental prisoner exchange that no doubt has their street credibility at a recent high. Moreover Abbas, with no clear successor within Fatah, will likely not run for president this time around, leaving a political vacuum in the incumbent party.

What in God’s good name could possess Abbas to make this ill-advised political calculation?? Then, like a lightning bolt from the ether, or from the pint of San Miguel I had just drained, it occurred to me that in the Palestinian President’s fit of madness—having just given the bird to the United States and Israel by marching to the United Nations to demand statehood—reeling off a new-found sense of freedom and independence, having tossed off the shackles of the moribund peace process, he decided to stick it to the Israelis just a little further by clearing the path for the election of none other than Marwan Barghouti!!!

Barghouti, serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, is the most popular political leader in all of Palestine and the only man that can potentially bridge the factional schism that has divided the Palestinian body-politic for nigh six years. In the last election in 2006, Marwan Barghouti was on the presidential ballot from his prison cell and stood a damn good chance until he was convinced to remove his name so as not to divide Fatah supporters from Mahmoud Abbas.

If Abbas, who in my humble opinion has spent the last year in an extravagant effort at shoring up his political legacy, were to bring Marwan Barghouti back from the brink—something even Hamas’ prisoner exchange could not do—then his mission to salvage his image will be complete. Israel will be holding the new President of the Palestinian Authority in prison—a man that the...

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Art and Culture goes Underground in East Jerusalem

Israeli restrictions on cultural performances in East Jerusalem have pushed Palestinian artists underground.

It is no secret that East Jerusalem has suffered from some of the worst crimes of Israeli occupation and that life for its Palestinian residents is an everyday struggle. Colonization, home demolitions, discriminatory legislation, residency revocation, are just a few of the cruel and unjust practices that Israel employs to shift the demographic balance of the city by forcing its Arabs out.

Therefore, it came as little shock to me when I asked organizers of the three-day Al-Quds Underground Festival—which came to an end on Saturday—what their motivations were for starting the project.

It began in 2009, when Jerusalem was named the Arab Capital of Culture, an annual honor presented by the Arab League and UNESCO to a major city in the Arab World in celebration of their cultural heritage. This year it was given to Sirte, the Libyan city that now lies in ashes.

When Jerusalem was designated the capital two years ago, it posed special problems for a city under occupation. The Israeli government prevented Jerusalemite Palestinians from taking part by prohibiting any public display of their culture. Events were disrupted. The media center was closed. The six-day Palestinian Literature Festival held at the Palestinian National Theater was raided by police and shutdown.

Celebrating their culture and patrimony—it seemed for Palestinians—had become illegal in a city that they increasingly felt was being taken from them. It was in that moment that a Dutch composer named Merlijn Twaalfhoven, who had been working in the country for years, decided to take the initiative.

“I thought that this was unacceptable,” said Twaalfhoven, speaking about Israel’s response to the Capital of Arab Culture. “Every people have a right to express their culture. You have a right to work on your identity and celebrating culture is giving a voice to your identity.”

Twaalfhoven began organizing a series of performances by Palestinian and international artists to connect locally and collaborate on an artistic project.

“I felt it must carry on,” he says, thinking back to first days. “I said, let’s go underground. Let’s go to private spaces, hidden spots and safe places for people to express their identity.”

Venues were organized in people’s homes, anywhere they could get away from the prying hand of the authorities. Publicity for the event was circulated by word of mouth...

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The death of Gaddafi and the Year of the Popular Protest

The death of Muammar Qaddafi—a dictator who lived and died by the sword—is just one more seminal event in what has been, without a doubt, an exceptional year in the history of the world. It has been the Year of the Popular Protest, a fire that has left no corner of the globe untouched. The fever of revolution has spread from Tunisia across the Middle East, into Europe, and now even the United States, as people are demanding change from the powers that be on a global level.

Although it is still far from over, Qaddafi’s death crystalized just how momentous a year it has been. In two days, Tunisia, birthplace of the revolution, will be the first country to hold democratic elections. After that will likely be Egypt, where deposed President Hosni Mubarak—who ruled the country for 30 years—is on trial for the whole world to see.

Popular movements are still underway in Syria and Yemen—and we wish their people success—as well as cities across the world, which are occupying their financial centers to protest the exploitation of a crooked system. I think most of us will remember this year, where we were and what we did, for the rest of our lives.

In the small corner of the world where this magazine is based, we have been party to popular movements both large and small in 2011. Although some changes were made, it will likely take something far greater to bring about the type of transformation we all want to see. One thing I have learned this year, however, is to believe in the power of people and of my generation. If anyone is capable of making a difference, it is this one.

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