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Settlers attack olive harvesters, Israeli volunteers in West Bank village

Masked settlers uproot olive trees, set groves ablaze, and beat several Israeli volunteers with stones and metal rods in the West Bank village of Burin.

Masked men from the settlement of Yitzhar wielding metal rods and stones attacked volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights, a human rights organization based in Israel, while they were picking olives alongside Palestinian farmers in the West Bank village of Burin on Wednesday. According to a spokesperson for the organization, settlers set fire to the olive groves, causing a blaze that spread rapidly and burned for hours.

Israeli volunteers have for years aided Palestinians in the Nablus area with the olive harvest, largely to protect them from settler attacks, which are common. The attack that occurred on Wednesday afternoon was particularly violent: a group of masked men uprooted olive trees, set the grove ablaze, and beat several of the volunteers bloody.

Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, a member of Rabbis for Human Rights’ board, was taken to Meir Medical Center after suffering severe wounds. He recounted the incident while lying on a gurney in an ambulance, as medics bandaged his head. One of the masked youths had hit him on the head with an iron rod, while another instructed him to leave. “I told them to leave me alone, that I am 80 years old and cannot run,” he said.

Avi Dabush, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, said the incident highlighted the lawlessness in the West Bank, stressing that the volunteers would not be deterred from helping the Palestinian farmers as they harvest their olives. “For the last 17 years we have helped with the harvest, and we will continue to stand up against violent bullies,” he said, adding that this was the only way toward a peaceful joint future between Jews and Arabs living on the land.

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AFP reported that Israel sent fire extinguishing planes to extinguish the fire set by the settlers. Researchers for Israeli human rights group Yesh Din estimate that the blaze consumed hundreds of acres of farmland in Burin and Huwara, both villages in the Nablus area.

The Rabbis for Human Rights spokesperson said that a group of settlers had threatened the farmers earlier in the week, threatening to beat them and vandalize their crops. The army has failed to protect the farmers from settler attacks, he noted. Israel’s occupation policies often prevent Palestinians...

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Climate activists block Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to protest gov't inaction

Activists from Extinction Rebellion glue themselves to the doors of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to protest Israeli corporations profiting from global warming.

Dozens of Israeli climate activists blocked the entrance to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Monday morning to demand that financial institutions move toward green and sustainable investments. They called upon the Israeli government to join a host of nations that have already declared a climate emergency.

The activists are affiliated with Extinction Rebellion, an international civil disobedience group that seeks to force government action on climate breakdown.

“This is a time of introspection,” said an activist named Tamir, referring to the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins on Tuesday at sundown. “In our financial system, the rule of capital works day in and day out; it does not rest. We are here to change the system so that it promotes life.”

Dana, one of several activists who glued their hands to the door of the stock exchange, said: “These companies are destroying our planet — we must start investing in life.”

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The demonstrators blocked the entrance of the stock exchange until around noon, by which time riot police had dispersed them. They then marched down Rothschild Boulevard, where many of Israel’s most powerful financial institutions maintain their headquarters.

Activists at the protest said that the Israeli government and financial institutions have ignored the climate crisis completely. Meanwhile, in September nearly 80 countries pledged at the U.N. Climate Change Summit to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, while that same month 130 global financial firms agreed to align their business practices with efforts to address climate change. A year ago, Bill Gates and some of his fellow billionaires established a $1 billion foundation to fund radical energy startups that aspire to cut global emissions drastically.

Last month, thousands of people in Tel Aviv joined the Global Climate Strike, demanding that their government follow the example set by the U.K., France, and Canada in declaring a climate emergency. This means acting immediately to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, transition into a sustainable and green economy, take steps to limit the animal product industry, and prepare for the damage that is already being caused by climate change.

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

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Top court puts end to Palestinian poet's four-year legal saga

Dareen Tatour was arrested after the security services decided her poetry constituted ‘incitement.’ After nearly three years under house arrest, a trial, and jail time, she is finally free.

Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet arrested in 2015 over a poem she published on Facebook, is finally free. After years of house arrest, months in prison, and dogged efforts by the government to secure the maximum conviction possible, the Supreme Court last week rejected the state’s petition to restore her overturned conviction for incitement to violence. With that, Tatour’s legal ordeal came to an end, more than four years after it began.

Tatour’s poem was published at the height of Palestinian protests across Israel and the West Bank and during a wave of so-called lone-wolf stabbing and vehicular attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians, largely in Jerusalem and Hebron. Following her arrest, which saw police storming her house in the middle of the night, Tatour was imprisoned for three months, then released and put under house arrest pending trial, a wait lasting nearly three years. She was forbidden from using the internet, the phone, or any other means of communication.

In 2018, Tatour was tried, convicted of incitement to violence and support for terrorism, and sentenced. She served 42 additional days in prison, but appealed her conviction in January of this year and won a reduced sentence. In July, the state contested the decision, leading the Supreme Court to finally draw a line under the affair on Sept. 26.

Attorney Gaby Lasky, who represented Tatour, said that the state’s attempt to appeal a reduced sentence for a poet spoke to its inability to accept the basic democratic principle of freedom of expression. The efforts to taint her poetry as a criminal act were now at an end, Lasky declared.

Judge Yosef Elron wrote in his decision that the court would not hear further attempts to appeal Tatour’s reduced sentence. Elon stressed that contrary to the state’s claims, the District Court did not give Tatour any special treatment because she was a poet.

The state, in its failed appeal to the Supreme Court, claimed that even if Tatour’s poem did not constitute clear incitement to terrorism, it indirectly encouraged violent acts. “The court’s complete failure to recognize this possibility is likely to transmit the wrong message to extremists who write social media posts that are meant as incitement … under the guise of ‘poet,’ ‘writer,’ ‘journalist,’ ‘singer,’...

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Israeli citizens are driving Bedouin voters to the polls in droves

After the Central Elections Committee banned a civil society group from busing Bedouin voters to the polls, dozens of Israelis are stepping in to ensure all citizens have a chance to participate in the elections.

Between Netanyahu’s rabid anti-Arab incitement and credible rumors of Election Day violence, concerns about voter suppression in Israel are at an all-time high. Several civil society organizations are taking pre-emptive action.

Dozens of private citizens have volunteered to drive Bedouin residents of remote, so-called unrecognized Bedouin villages to the polling stations to vote during Tuesday’s election. The grassroots initiative sprang up in response to a ruling handed down on Sunday by the Central Elections Committee, which ordered Zazim, an Israeli grassroots organizing group akin to MoveOn, to halt its plan to bus Bedouin voters to polling stations. Likud party lawyers objected to the plan, arguing to the Committee that it was a partisan attempt to sway the election results.

The volunteer drivers said that they are not connected to any organization.

Approximately 50,000 eligible voters live in remote, unrecognized Bedouin villages that have no access to public transportation. Many of them live miles from the nearest polling station.

A hotline to prevent voter intimidation

Netanyahu’s anti-Arab rabble-rousing has led to concerns that his supporters will attempt to intimidate voters at polling booths in Arab communities within Israel. Accordingly, several civil society groups have planned Election Day initiatives to ensure that voting goes smoothly and with maximum transparency.

Zazim will run an Election Day hotline with Arabic-speaking volunteers on the phone to take reports of voter intimidation attempts. Attorneys with Adalah — the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel will provide legal advice to hotline callers, while additional volunteers will coordinate the reports in a situation room and issue immediate responses.

 

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A Zazim spokesperson said the organization was concerned about attempts to disrupt the election in light of voter intimidation attempts last April, with news outlets reporting on Election Day that Likud-aligned polling station staffers in Arab towns had been caught wearing hidden cameras. As a result of those reports, Arab voter turnout was the lowest in decades.

Recently, new reports emerged that polling booth staffers might try to impose a body search on veiled women, using security concerns as an excuse. This would surely result in many Arab-Muslim women choosing not to vote, rather than being forced...

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For Jerusalem police, even directing traffic is a form of terrorism

One of East Jerusalem’s most prominent political activists was arrested for supporting terrorism — while trying to solve a traffic jam in his own neighborhood.

Israeli police arrested a well-known Palestinian activist in East Jerusalem earlier this week, accusing him of encouraging drivers to run over Israeli officers while he directed traffic in his neighborhood.

Muhammad Abu Hummus, one of the most prominent activists in Issawiya who has been documenting the daily police incursions into the neighborhood over the last several months, was arrested on Sunday after uploading a video of himself guiding a Palestinian driver through a traffic jam.

Abu Hummus was brought before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where police representatives told the judge that he had encouraged the driver to run them over. In the video, Abu Hummus can be heard helping to direct traffic in the middle of Issawiya as police officers look on. When a reluctant Palestinian driver approaches, Abu Hummus can be heard telling her “id’asi,” the Arabic equivalent of “keep driving.” However, to most Jewish Israelis, it sounds similar to the Hebrew word “tidresi,” which means “to run over.” Abu Hummus was arrested four days after the video was uploaded to Facebook.

The court released Abu Hummus a day after his arrest. The police appealed the decision to the Jerusalem District Court, which extended his remand until Tuesday afternoon and ordered him to stay away from the neighborhood for 15 days. Abu Hummus has been sleeping in a gas station at the entrance to Issawiya since.

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Despite what the police claim, the video shows that the officers present were not in danger, did not respond directly to Abu Hummus as he spoke in Arabic to the driver, and did not arrest him on the spot. The minutes of his hearings reveal that the police had other motives for the arrest.

“He appears at every disturbance or whenever police officers arrive in Issawiya. He agitates and taunts the police. All the officers know him,” police representative Haitham Trody told the District Court judge on Monday. “We arrested him because he is not a force for good in Issawiya,” said another police representative.

Michal Peleg, an activist with...

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Queer Palestinian community holds 'historic' protest against LGBT violence

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Haifa on Thursday to protest against LGBT violence, following the stabbing of a transgender Arab teen. ‘The protest represents a voice calling for liberation without restraints – not of the occupiers, and not of the patriarchy.’

The queer Palestinian community organized an unprecedented protest in Haifa on Thursday, as approximately 200 demonstrators arrived at the German Colony, a central area in the city, to protest violence targeting the LGBT community.

The protest was organized in response to the stabbing of a transgender teen from Tamra, a Palestinian city in northern Israel, outside a shelter for LGBT youth in Tel Aviv last week.

The protest was planned by a group of more than 30 organizations, including alQaws, a civil society group advocating for sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society; Aswat, a feminist queer movement for sexual and gender freedom for Palestinian women; and Adalah, the legal center for the protection of Palestinian rights in Israel. “We reject and condemn the stabbing of the Tamra teen on the basis of his sexual and gender orientation,” they wrote in a statement released before the protest.

Demonstrators waved pride flags alongside flags representing the transgender community and Palestinian flags. They held signs saying: “Queers against violence and sexual harassment,” and “Silence kills. It’s time we raise our voices.”

“This is a historic moment,” said Widad Assaf, a Palestinian activist at the protest. “Violence against LGBT people occurs all the time, but it took time for people to take to the streets. We hope this won’t stop here,” she added.

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“This is the first-ever protest of the queer Palestinian movement, based on the principles of an intersectional struggle between queer-Palestinian struggles and struggles against the occupation,” said Rula Khalaileh, an organizer with the “Women Against Violence” organization. “The protest represents a voice calling for liberation without restraints – not of the occupiers, and not of the patriarchy. It’s important to show support for all LGBT Palestinians.”

“I am pleased with the turnout,” said Jawarah, an activist with the LGBT community. This is the first time that the queer Palestinian community goes out to protest in his 10 years of organizing for LGBT rights, he said....

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Jordan turns back stateless Palestinian journalist Israel tried to deport

Israel attempted to deport Mustafa al-Haruf, a stateless Palestinian photographer from East Jerusalem, to Jordan without any coordination. Al-Haruf has been living in the country for over 20 years, yet Israel refuses to grant him permanent status.

Jordanian authorities refused to accept a stateless Palestinian journalist from East Jerusalem whom Israel tried to deport to the Hashemite Kingdom earlier this week.

Mustafa Al-Haruf, a 33-year-old Palestinian photojournalist who lives in Jerusalem, does not hold any status or citizenship in Jordan.

Israel claims that because he holds a Jordanian travel document, a special passport given to many Palestinians, he can be deported there.

After Israel’s High Court rejected a request for an additional injunction against his deportation last week, the Interior Ministry tried to send Al-Haruf to Jordan on Sunday night, after which his attorney was unable to locate him.

Only on Tuesday, when his attorney finally managed to get ahold of him, did al-Harouf tell her he had been taken to the Ben Gurion Airport, and a few hours later to the border with Jordan near Eilat.

“They left him in the Jordanian crossing without any coordination [with the other side] while handing his passport to a stunned Jordanian police officer,” the attorney, Adi Lustigman said. “The Jordanians opposed the deportation and told him he was a Palestinian and cannot enter Jordan.”

She added that Al-Haruf, who had been waiting at the Jordan-Israel crossing for several hours until his return, said that he had not been given food and had been left in the sun for a long time.

After the incident was widely reported in the Jordanian media, Israel tried to deport him a second time but Jordan refused to take him again. Israeli authorities brought him back to the Givon Prison in Ramle on Tuesday evening.

Al-Haruf, who has worked as a photographer in Jerusalem over the last several years, was born in Algeria but has lived with his family in East Jerusalem since he was 12 years old. For some 20 years, he was granted work visas that were renewed periodically. Over the last few years, he has been working as a photojournalist for the Turkish Anadolu Agency. Before that he worked as an independent photographer, focusing on clashes in the Old City, specifically around Al-Aqsa Compound.

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Al-Haruf is married to a Palestinian woman with residency in Jerusalem, with...

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Israel fights to reinstate Palestinian poet's conviction

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour sat in prison for a poem she published on Facebook. After an Israeli court ruled that the poem does not constitute incitement to violence, the prosecution is now appealing the partial reversal of her conviction.

Israel’s state prosecution is trying to appeal the partial reversal of the conviction of Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet found guilty of incitement to violence over a poem she published on Facebook in 2015.

The prosecution submitted a formal request two weeks ago to appeal the decision, which was handed down by the Nazareth District Court in May, to the Supreme Court. The District Court accepted in May that the poem in question, “Resist My People, Resist Them,” published on Tatour’s personal Facebook page, did not constitute incitement despite the discomfort it might cause the public, while also recognizing her as a poet.

Meanwhile, the court let stand her conviction over two other social media posts, which included support for Islamic Jihad, a proscribed group.

Following the prosecution’s submission, Tatour launched an online petition asking the general public for support in the next stage of her legal battle. The petition asks for the public’s signatures “as a sign of popular and societal resistance against oppression and silencing. Do not let it happen that once again the State of Israel accomplishes to criminalize not only myself but Palestinian voices and narratives in general.”

The prosecution submitted its request at the beginning of the month and Tatour’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, has until July 22 to respond, after which the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the state’s appeal. The prosecution claims that although the poem may not be a “direct call” for violent actions and terrorism, it stills contains an indirect call for violence. The appeal will also challenge the District Court’s recognition of Tatour as a poet.

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According to the request, the “complete disregard of the District Court of this possibility is liable to send the wrong message to extremists, who may post incitement online… under the guise of being a ‘poet,’ ‘author,’ ‘journalist,’ ‘singer,’ and/or any other title.”

The prosecution had initially attempted to prove that Tatour is an influential poet and thus her writing could be deemed a danger, although it now claims that Tatour is not a poet at all, and thus the freedom of expression generally extended to artists should not be...

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Prominent anti-occupation activist assaulted in Tel Aviv

Left-wing Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak attacked by two assailants outside his workplace in south Tel Aviv. The attackers reportedly yelled ‘leftist asshole’ as they beat him before one of them pulled out a knife and lightly wounded him.

A prominent left-wing activist was physically assaulted by two unknown assailants as he left work in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The attackers reportedly yelled “leftist asshole” as they beat him before one of them pulled out a knife and lightly wounded him in the face and arms.

Jonathan Pollak, who has long been active in the anti-occupation movement in Israel and the West Bank, was attacked as he left the Haaretz building in south Tel Aviv where he works as a graphic designer.

Pollak said he noticed he was being followed by two people whom he thought were police officers trying to detain him for a bench warrant. “I tried to run but they caught up to me, pushed me to the ground and began punching and kicking me,” he said from his home following the attack. “When I tried to defend myself one of them pulled out a knife and slit my face.” Pollak said the two yelled “leftist asshole” as they beat him before fleeing the scene.

Pollak suffered scratches to his face and arms and was punched in his face and ribs. He said he has no idea who attacked him, but that the assailants appeared to be “between their 20s and 30s.”

In December 2018, Local Call reported that far-right group Ad Kan launched a private prosecution attempt against three Israelis, including Pollak, for participating in protests against the West Bank separation barrier. Ad Kan’s private prosecution, the first of its kind against anti-occupation activists, accused the defendants of “attacking IDF soldiers and Border Police officers.”

Ad Kan first came to prominence in the last few years for sending its employees to infiltrate human rights organizations and record their every move with hidden cameras.

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Pollak, however, refused to appear before a court, saying he did not recognize the legitimacy of a system that maintains a “military dictatorship” over “subjects that lack all basic democratic rights” in the West Bank and Gaza or are “second-class citizens” in Israel.

The court then filed a bench warrant for Pollak, allowing authorities to detain him until his next hearing, which is set for September. According to the...

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Civilians deliberately targeted in Gaza attacks, reports find

Two separate investigations by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch determine that the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups unlawfully targeted civilian populations during the most recent Gaza escalation.

Israel killed 13 Palestinian civilians who weren’t involved in hostilities or affiliated with militant groups in its latest military campaign in Gaza, according to a new report by B’Tselem released Wednesday. Two of the casualties were children and three were women, one of whom was heavily pregnant. “These deaths are the foreseeable outcome of Israel’s unlawful, immoral policy of bombing homes in Gaza,” determined B’Tselem.

Based on B’Tselem’s investigation, from May 3 to May 6, Israel launched airstrikes and fired shells at more than 350 targets in Gaza, wounding 153 people. The rights group also found that none of the strikes “were preceded by any suitable warnings that might have given the inhabitants the opportunity to seek shelter or save their belongings.”

During this time, the militant groups associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired some 700 rockets to Israel, killing three and wounding 123. A rocket fired by Islamic Jihad operatives struck a home in Gaza and killed a pregnant woman and her one-year-old niece, and an anti-tank missile fired by these groups killed another Israeli civilian. “This targeting of the civilian population in Israel is unlawful and immoral,” according to the report.

As in previous attacks, Israel again targeted residential and office buildings, the report found. According to the United Nations, a total of 33 housing units were destroyed and 19 more were severely damaged, leaving 52 families — 327 Palestinians, including 65 are children — without shelter. Hundreds more housing units sustained partial damage.

B’Tselem emphasized that firing at residential structures in densely populated areas like the Gaza Strip “inevitably involves serious risk of harm to civilians. The danger is not hypothetical: in recent years Israel has already killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, in airstrikes on their homes.” In Operation Protective Edge in 2014 alone, Israel killed at least 1,055 Palestinians — including 405 children and 229 women — who did not take part in the hostilities.

The report also highlighted how these strikes are not a result of rogue combatants transgressing military orders, but in fact “part of a policy formulated by government officials and the senior military command.” The attacks “had the support of the MAG Corps, which issued legal opinions backing the...

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New evidence backs Arab MK's claims that police shot him

An investigation by a London-based research center shows MK Ayman Odeh was shot with a sponge-tipped bullet during clashes in Umm al-Hiran in 2017. Police repeatedly claimed he was hit by a stone thrown by one of the protesters.

New evidence suggests Israeli police shot Palestinian Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet during a home demolition in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in 2017, according to a final investigation report published earlier this week by the London-based Forensic Architecture research center.

According to a digital analysis based on footage provided by the police, Israeli journalists, and left-wing activists, Odeh was hit just moments after police shot Umm al-Hiran resident Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an on January 18, 2017. According to the Forensic Architecture investigation, Abu al-Qi’an lost control of his vehicle after police shot him and subsequently careened into Israeli police officer Erez Levy, killing him.

The police immediately labeled the incident an ISIS-inspired “terror attack,” while simultaneously claiming that Odeh had been hit in the head by a stone thrown by one of the Bedouin youth at the police officers.

A video leaked to Israeli Channel 10 News over a year and a half ago allegedly included evidence showing that Odeh was in fact hit by a stone. Yet an analysis of footage filmed by Israeli police, Activestills photographer Keren Manor, and a police drone suggests that the video that was leaked to Channel 10 had been cut and did not include the moment in which the MK was shot. In the full version, one of the police officers can be heard telling another officer to “give them the sponge.”

WATCH: Forensic Architecture’s investigation

The latest report supports the version of the events as described by MK Odeh and additional activists who were also shot by sponge-tipped bullets, while suggesting that the Police Internal Investigations Department withheld crucial information from the attorneys representing the Abu al-Qi’an family. For example, in the materials handed over to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which is representing Odeh and Abu Al-Qi’an’s family, a page is missing from the transcript of one of the officers’ testimony.

Days after the incident, Local Call and +972 Magazine published a preliminary investigation by Forensic Architecture that included footage filmed during the shooting that showed Abu al-Qi’an was shot before his car hit...

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Despite int'l sanctions, Myanmar officials attend Tel Aviv weapons expo

Israel continues to supply arms and training to the regime in Myanmar, despite its genocide against the Rohingya people.

Representatives of Myanmar’s military attended Israel’s largest, government-supported security and weapons conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. The officials arrived at the Tel Aviv Expo Center for the International Defense, HLS & Cyber Expo, known as ISDEF, in full military gear. There they browsed through defense equipment and technologies produced by Israeli and international companies, alongside delegates of dozens more countries.

Top Myanmar army officials traveled to Israel in September 2015 for a “shopping spree” with Israeli weapons manufacturers. They also met with President Reuven Rivlin, the IDF chief of staff, as well as the head of the Defense Ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate.

Israel supposedly stopped selling advanced weaponry to Myanmar in 2017 following petitions filed by human rights activists and attorney Eitay Mack to Israel’s High Court of Justice. Based on court hearings and statements made by Myanmar army officers, some of the arms that Israel has supplied include rifles, gunboats, and military training. The court has kept its ruling secret, however, and Israel does not allow any official publication of its arms trade with Myanmar.

According to the report produced by the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the military has committed massive violations against the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group in the country, including gang rapes, forced disappearances, and the burning of hundreds of villages. Hundreds of thousands more displaced Rohingya civilians live in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. The report specifically names six senior commanders as most responsible for the human rights abuses, including the Tatmadaw Commander in Chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, who previously met with the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff on a visit to Israel.

According to the United Nations, the ongoing human rights atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya people amount to crimes against humanity and genocide. The European Union extended an embargo on arm sales to Myanmar in April and UN officials have urged the international community to cut off all support for the country’s military. Israel has a history of selling weapons to dictatorships, among them the juntas in Argentina and Bolivia, Rwanda in the years leading up to the genocide, among others.

Also at the expo were representatives from South Sudan, including diplomat William Ador. Since 2013 the country has been torn by a civil war that...

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Palestinian MK released from prison after two-year sentence

Ghattas served a two-year sentence for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian political prisoners. ‘The conditions that Palestinian prisoners face are a central tool the occupation uses to reinforce itself.’

Former Balad MK Basel Ghattas was released from prison Monday morning after serving two years for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian political prisoners in Israel. Although his family was told that Ghattas would be released from Megiddo Prison at 10 a.m., an Israeli Prison Service vehicle dropped him off in Afula in the early morning hours, most likely to prevent a public reception.

Family and friends greeted Ghattas on his arrival to his home village of Rameh in the north. “The conditions that Palestinian prisoners face are part of Israel’s oppressive regime, a central tool the occupation uses to reinforce itself,” said Ghattas at the reception. “Their inability to communicate with family is the real prison,” he added. “There are prisoners from the West Bank whose family can’t visit them months at a time, even years. This is no less than a crime.”

In April, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons launched a mass hunger strike to protest their deteriorating conditions. The strike ended days after it was announced, after the IPS agreed to install phones in prisoners’ cellblocks.

“The last round of negotiations has resulted in accomplishments, and the question is, why was it impossible to come to these conclusions earlier? Only out of a desire to harass prisoners. After all, they [IPS] know very well that there are hundreds of cellphones in prison,” said Ghattas.

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Ghattas’ conviction came as part of a plea bargain that led to his resignation from the Knesset, after he confessed to part of the charges against him involving the smuggling of cellphones to political prisoners in Ketziot Prison. Palestinian prisoner Walid Daka, who was documented accepting the phones from Ghattas, was also charged in the case. Ghattas was sentenced to two years time served, 18 months on probation, a NIS 120,000 fine as well as a moral turpitude charge. He was brought to Gilboa Prison in July 2017.

During his imprisonment, the IPS decided to transfer Ghattas to at least four different prisons with no prior notice. He was originally slated to serve at a prison in the north, given that his family lives in the Galilee. Unlike ordinary prisoners, visitation rights for...

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