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Palestinian film festival seeks to challenge Israel's cultural erasure

For the third straight year, local Palestinian as well as Arab filmmakers from across the world will be able to showcase their work in the Haifa Independent Film Festival. 

For the next six days, film lovers will flock to the north for the third annual Haifa Independent Film Festival, which will include both Palestinian films, as well as movies from across the Arab world. 

Lina Mansour, one of the festival’s organizers, said Thursday night during a press conference in Haifa’s Khashba Theater that the goal of the festival, like in previous years, is “to develop the Palestinian film scene, and to open doors to the Arab world. This year the festival has grown and become well known — directors from the Arab world have asked us to screen their films, instead of waiting for us to ask them.”

“We are facing a colonial occupation regime that tries to strip us of our culture,” adds organizer Rana Asli. “It is important that we have the choice of what culture we consume. And it is even more important that it comes from us — the people whose culture is being erased — with no governmental, political, or party-based constraints.”

And yet, this year’s festival was not without controversy. The organizers decided not to include a film by Jerusalem Director Muayad Alayan, The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, after the BDS movement decided it had violated one of its principles when he cast two Israeli actors, Ishai Golan and Sivane Kretchner, in the movie. The film’s creators say that Golan and Kretchner have spoken out against the occupation and in support of Palestinian rights, and thus the film should not be subject to boycott.

“After a vote, we decided not to screen the film,” says Ayed Fadel, one of the organizers, in response to a number of questions by journalists on the matter. “It does not mean we automatically support the boycott movement on this issue. We respect both sides, and Muayad Alayan screened a film of his at the first festival.”

“The festival has a clear Palestinian identity, which tries to follow the principles of the boycott,” Fadel added. “We have partners in Ramallah as well as Palestinian foundations that give us their support. When it comes to maintaining the festival, while continuing to build trust with the Arab world, these are...

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Israel arrested 1,300 Palestinians in two months, rights groups say

According to a new report, Israel arrested 1,319 Palestinians in January and February. Of them, 274 are minors, 23 are women, and four are journalists.

The Israeli army arrested 1,319 Palestinians during the months of January and February, according to a new report released Wednesday by various Palestinian prisoners rights groups. Of the 1,319 arrested, 274 are minors, 23 are women, and four are journalists.

The report culls data from various organizations, including the Prisoners and Liberties Affairs Association, the Palestinian Prisoner Club, Addameer, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and includes a geographic distribution of those arrested: 381 from Jerusalem, 30 from the Gaza Strip, and the rest from the West Bank (with more than 200 of those arrested hailing from the Ramallah area).

According to the report, close to 6,500 Palestinians, including administrative detainees, are currently imprisoned in Israeli jails. Of those, 350 are children, and 63 are female, including six female minors. Since the beginning of the year, Israel has issued 169 administrative detention orders — 50 of which were new, rather than renewed terms for Palestinians already in administrative detention. The total number of prisoners in administrative detention is close to 500.

The report highlights two particularly violent arrests that constitute severe violations of basic human rights. The first is the case of Yassin Al-Saradih, a 30-year-old resident of Jericho who died in IDF hands after being severely beaten, and possibly shot, and denied medical treatment. The second is that of Ismail Abu Riale, an 18-year-old fisherman from Gaza who was shot to death by the Israeli navy and whose body was held by Israel for 12 days. According to Palestinian human rights organizations, Israel has killed 213 prisoners since 1967, including 72 prisoners who died of injuries sustained from torture.

Human rights abuses do not cease when Palestinians are arrested. Addameer’s report records testimonies of Palestinians who were subject to body-cavity searches, denied medical treatment, imprisoned in crowded cells (especially in women’s prisons), served nutritionally inadequate foods, and were physically and psychologically abused. The authors of the report demand that the United Nations investigate Israel’s systematic human rights abuses that violate the Geneva Convention.

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

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Looted from Beirut 35 years ago, now on display in Tel Aviv

‘Looted and Hidden’ digs through the archive of films taken by the Israeli army in 1982, and shines light on more property stolen by Israel: the history of Palestinian cinema.

Rare images from the archive of Palestinian films and photographs, documenting decades of Palestinian history from before 1948 and after the Nakba, are finally seeing the light of day in a new film by Rona Sela — curator, researcher of visual history and culture, and lecturer at Tel Aviv University. Nearly all of the images from the archive were confiscated when the Israeli army raided the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in Beirut in 1982, taking documents and photographed material.

The materials have now been unsealed by Israel’s Military Censor and are now accessible to the public in the Israeli army’s archives.

Sela spent hundreds of hours in the military archives to make the film, which uncovers a significant amount of documentary and cultural material: photographs and films about the lives of Palestinians before and after 1948 and in the diaspora, as well as voice recordings of Palestinian artists and producers that were censored and hidden from the public. This is an invaluable collection, which Sela’s film makes accessible in order to reveal another chapter in the story of the denial and suppression of Palestinian history.

Sela smartly chose to base her film on the rare images themselves. She builds the story of the film as a correspondence between herself and a number of Palestinians, and even an Israeli soldier who served in Beirut. The relatively short film is moving: it is hard not to wonder how these images would have influenced the development of Palestinian cinema had they not been stolen and made inaccessible to Palestinian producers.

Films by Palestinians consistently make waves and win prizes internationally, against all the odds and despite Israel’s cultural warfare against Palestinian artists. It is not a stretch to say that the potential of Palestinian cinema could have been even greater had parts of its history not been hidden from the eyes of the world.

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Similar to the destruction of Palestinian urbanization in 1948, the theft of Palestinian visual culture is another...

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Palestinian citizens of Israel won't be bullied into silence any longer

A recent campaign against Palestinian journalist Makbula Nasser, who was attacked on the front page of Israel’s most-read newspaper, was meant to strike fear in the hearts of Palestinian citizens of Israel — the fear of speaking out. That may have worked with previous generations.

Do you remember the neighborhood bully? The scary one who would hit anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Do you also remember what best characterized that bully? An ingenious lack of sophistication that you could see his next move coming from a mile away.

Earlier this week, Israel Hayom, Israel’s most-read newspaper, published a front-page political attack against Makbula Nassar, a Palestinian journalist, blogger at Local Call, and regular contributor to +972 Magazine. The attack-masquerading-as-journalism dug up old Facebook statuses in order to paint Nassar, who was recently hired to head a state-run road safety campaign for Israel’s Arab population, as a “prominent activist against the state.” Within a few hours, a senior government minister demanded she be fired.

Just like the neighborhood bully, Israel Hayom’s offensive against Nassar was embarrassingly transparent — she was merely a convenient distraction, and more fuel to feed the nationalist mechanisms of hatred toward anyone who thinks differently than “us.” In this story, however, Israel Hayom is more like an arch-bully in a neighborhood full of smaller bullies. The rest of the Israeli media isn’t much better, but this bully has a rich daddy — American casino baron Sheldon Adelson.

We, Palestinian citizens of Israel, need to understand that instead of simply lamenting our fate, and the fact that this particular bully’s patron will in all likelihood continue pouring his endless gambling fortune into his pet hate-mongering tabloid, we need to put these attacks into their proper proportions. We cannot allow this type of persecution to make us afraid.

Just like you can’t surrender to the neighborhood bully, we cannot let Adelson’s tabloid win, either. One of the primary goals of a witch hunt against whichever unfortunate Arab finds her or himself in the crosshairs is to sew fear in the hearts of the rest of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, god forbid they start to believe they are human beings equal to Jewish Israelis or something crazy like that.

My heart goes out to every Palestinian citizen of Israel who happens to be a civil servant — or to those who work...

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Even in death, Palestinians have to fight for their freedom

Perhaps through this scene, of Palestinians resorting to smuggling bodies out of a morgue to prevent indignity even after death, is it possible to show Israelis and the world what the occupation really means to Palestinians.

Even atheist Palestinians like me are livid about Israel’s unilateral decision to install metal-detectors — and with them increased sovereignty — at the most explosive place in the world. Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only the religious symbol of Palestine, it is also a national symbol. And there is nothing which makes Israel seem more ridiculous than its media persuasion campaigns claiming that Palestinians are “incited” to protest and resist. Why ask Palestinians in Jerusalem why they are enraged when you can regurgitate nonsense in some hilltop studio, nonsense that helps Israelis sleep better at night.

What should really keep Israelis up at night, possibly more than anything else, is the question of why Palestinian youths had to smuggle out of an East Jerusalem hospital the corpse of their friend who was shot dead by Israeli police hours earlier.

Police raided Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem last Friday to seize the corpses of youths who were shot during confrontations over Al-Aqsa. Over the past few years Israel has turned Palestinian corpses into morbid negotiation cards.

Since the raid was not really covered by the Israeli media, authorities didn’t even bother to invent some story about there being contraband or ISIS weapons of mass destruction in the hospital. Nobody even bothered to ask for an explanation.

The heroic officers besieged the hospital using stun grenades. Stun grenades. In a hospital. Take a moment to digest that. They wrested control from the fierce enemy, nurses and doctors, and even managed to obstruct their work, as attested to by MK Ayman Odeh, who was there. And all for one purpose: to abduct the corpses of two children.

The photos of friends and family of Muhammad Sharf (17) and Muhammad Abu Ghannam (20) passing the bleeding corpses of their loved ones over the hospital walls to bury them quickly, even if that meant preventing mothers from having one final farewell to their children, should tear into pieces the heart of anyone with a conscience. Seeing these pictures, of family and friends willing to do anything to prevent continued humiliation and indignity even after death, should touch...

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When will the Israeli Left accept the occupation started in '48, not '67?

Only when the Israeli Left accepts that the occupation began in 1948 — and remains an open wound for Palestinians — can Arabs and Jews truly refuse to be enemies.

One of the negative characteristics of the Israeli “Left” is how it terms the military rule over the West Bank and Gaza “The Occupation.” Part of the Left even accuses Palestinians who claim there is no difference between Petah Tikva and Ariel of being like the Right, because “that’s what the Israeli Right claims.” For most Palestinians, however, this exaggerated and Orwellian talk of “The Occupation” blurs Israel’s real shame, and the skeleton buried deep in the closet: The brutal and criminal occupation of 1948.

Ethnic cleansing and massive land expropriation, and then settlement of that land, are the mother of all disgraces — even if Israelis refuse to recognize it as such in public, and even if they try very hard to ignore what most Arabs are saying. Israelis’ designation of the ’67 occupation as “The Occupation” is intended, among other things, to either obscure or prevent any engagement with the Nakba. As such, most of Israel’s pseudo-Left is actually composed of Nakba deniers.

One of the most worn-out claims used to avoid referring to the crimes of ’48 as an “occupation” is that the Nakba, or the “War of Independence” to use the laundered Zionist expression, was necessary for the national project of establishing a state for the Jewish people following World War II.

Another claim, put forward mostly by the Israeli Right, is that Palestinians refused the 1947 UN Partition Plan. This claim has always seemed to me to be void of any foundation or basic logic, and is therefore not worth addressing. Let’s see those who wave this claim around agree to distribute their homes and land to people who have arrived from overseas to dispossess them, and then we can talk about it.

A national project?

The argument that it was necessary to establish a state at the expense of the native population, while justifying it because of the persecution experienced by the occupiers, is pathetic at best. Many good people have already spoken about Zionism’s cynical exploitation of the memory of victims of the Holocaust. But to the ears of Palestinians, these self-justifications along with exaggerated talk of the “The Occupation,” as if there was no other disaster and open wound, sounds more than just...

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The Palestinian guide to dealing with racist compliments from Israelis

Intentions be damned, when many Jewish Israelis meet Palestinians even their compliments come out laced with passive-aggressive racism half the time. A comprehensive guide for Palestinians.

There isn’t a single Palestinian citizen of Israel who isn’t familiar with the phenomenon. It can happen in the middle of a conversation, during a cigarette break at work, or in pretty much any interaction in a public place — with a complete stranger: Israelis who feel a little too comfortable giving racist “compliments” to Palestinians.

As a Palestinian who grew up with and has been friends with Israelis his whole life, I learned a long time ago to ignore all those with enough chutzpa and tactlessness to publicly and directly spout passive-aggressive racism. But many Palestinians, the masochists among us who haven’t yet adopted a “fuck it” approach to the day-to-day of living in the Jewish state, still try and respond to the douche-of-the-hour who is emboldened enough to express his or her ignorance or racism politely, with a smile.

So I brought together a group of Palestinian friends and we came up with some recommendations for dealing with the not-all-that-creative, often banal racism you’ll find being spewed by Jewish Israelis.

‘Wow, you don’t look like an Arab’

An all-time classic, and number one on the list of racist compliments. Nobody knows where it originated, but this one managed to embed itself in the minds of so many Jewish Israelis who seem to think that they have rays of sunshine splashing out of exactly where the sun don’t shine.

It’s particularly annoying because it is based on the appearance and/or behavior of an Arab, with unadulterated racism as its point of departure. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is or how clearly Arabic your name is. The moment someone realizes that you don’t speak or act the way The Only Democracy in the Middle East™ educated them to believe you should or would, chances are that the mother of all racist compliments will home in like a heat-seeking missile, with little tiny afterburners launching it out of the mouth of whoever suffers from any of the following three ailments: woeful and complete ignorance, an actual belief that his or her shit smells like roses, or a combination of the first two.

How to respond: The best way is to scornfully ignore it. If you feel like you need educate the...

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The cultural terrorism of Miri Regev

By threatening the livelihood of Palestinian theater workers, Regev is committing cultural terrorism: she is putting people’s livelihoods at risk — people whose only sin is holding different political principles.

In an interview Monday morning, Culture Minister Miri Regev revealed her true intentions to Army Radio host Razi Barkai: she wishes to shut down Haifa’s Al-Midan, the only Arabic theater in Israel that receives state funding, if it does not fall in line.

Here’s how we got here. The Ministry of Culture and Sport froze Al-Midan’s budget in mid-2015 after it had planned to run a performance of “A Parallel Time,” based on the life of Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner convicted of aiding the abduction and killing of Israeli soldier, Moshe Tamam. The ministry justified the freeze by arguing that the play was written by a “terrorist” who kidnapped and murdered a soldier.

The theater petitioned to Israel’s High Court of Justice, after which the attorney general pressured the ministry to leave the theater’s budget untouched. The two sides came to a compromise: Regev would not touch Al-Midan’s budgets for 2016 and 2017, meanwhile the theater would agree pull its petition.

The workers of Al-Midan are now going on strike, claiming that Regev has simply ceased transferring funds since March 2016, and that they are missing the NIS 2.2 million promised to them.

Regev chose World Theater Day to say that she “will not fund a theater that endorses terror,” all while she commits terrorism against cultural institutions and threatens to pass a “cultural loyalty” law in order to control artistic funding. Oh, the irony.

Let’s put things on the table: Daka, who was put on trial and convicted of his involvement in killing a soldier, is a political prisoner. He was not present during the killing, as was stated in the court’s ruling — the same court that sentenced him to life (President Shimon Peres later commuted his sentence to 35-37 years). Daka’s request for a second trial was rejected. Yes, the theater has the same role as all other forms of art: to publicly challenge and criticize the regime. And in this case, a Palestinian theater happens to be criticizing an occupying regime.

By not transferring the money to Al-Midan, Regev is simply withholding funds that legally belong to the Palestinian public in Israel — funds that the public has paid for with tax money.

The extremist policies put forth by Regev are no surprise. As Palestinians, it is clear...

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In Israel, even Palestinian journalists are guilty until proven innocent

The suspension of a Palestinian journalist by the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is a reminder that even the most liberal media outlets still view Arabs with suspicion.

Samah Wattad, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and journalist who works for the newly-formed Israeli Broadcast Corporation (IBC), was suspended Thursday after she retweeted an article that expressed support for Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian activist who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week.

The decision to suspend Wattad came after Prime Minister Netanyahu used the occasion to write a Facebook status that accused the IBC of supporting terrorists. Wattad was forced to backtrack and apologize, claiming that she was misunderstood.

Let’s put aside the fact that Netanyahu and Abbas’ security coordination made it possible for Israeli soldiers to enter Ramallah kill al-Araj in the first place. Basel al-Araj was not a “terrorist,” as he was described by the Israeli media. In fact, among many Palestinians he was seen as a leader and an intellectual who supported armed resistance against occupying Israeli soldiers.

Instead, let’s look at a few important lessons we can glean from Wattad’s story, which should be a warning sign for every Palestinian and Jew in this country who believes in freedom of speech and equal opportunities.

The first conclusion we can draw is that Zionist media outlets in Israel can claim that they are liberal and against silencing Palestinians. But at the end of the day, a Palestinian journalist will always be guilty until proven innocent.

Creating the obedient Palestinian

Palestinians in Israel, especially those who work with Jews, have grown accustomed to apologizing. After every armed action against Israeli soldiers or civilians, there will always be a Zionist who demands an apology from the next Palestinian he sees. The Zionist need to abuse Arabs and emphasize the master’s rule over the slave is nothing new.

But what happens when a Palestinian, and in our case a Palestinian woman, dares to retweet something on her personal account, which “proves her guilt,” guilt that clearly stems from the fact that she is an Arab in Israel? She will immediately be burned at the stake, just as “witches” once were. Because what’s better than some racism mixed with old-school misogyny?

Wattad’s retweet presents al-Araj as a romantic revolutionary. But so what? After all, this is what a large part of Palestinians believe. Think about an Israeli journalist who praises an Israeli soldier. Would...

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Israelis post anti-Arab racism online every 46 seconds, study finds

A new study shows that Israeli Jews publushed 675,000 racist posts on social media in 2016 — a dangerous increase from 2015, when only 280,000 such posts were published.

7amleh statistics

Every 46 seconds an Israeli Jew publishes a racist or inciting comment against Arabs on Facebook and other social networks, a new study finds. According to the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), which published its Index for Racism and Incitement on Social Media last week, 60,000 active Israeli social media users published at least one racist post against Arabs in 2016.

According to the study there were over 675,000 such posts in the previous year, published at a rate of one post every 46 seconds — a dangerous increase from 2015, when 280,000 racist and inciting posts were published.

7amleh’s study also focused on the correlation between remarks made by high-level government officials and the amount of inciting posts. One can see a clear increase in the number of racist posts against Arabs following every inciting remark by a member of the government.

The sharpest spikes in racist posts came following remarks by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Arab citizens, following the fires that raged across Israel and the West Bank in November 2016, which leaders blamed on nationalistically-motivated arson. Miri Regev’s comments against Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar and poet Mahmoud Darwish also led to a higher volume of incitement on the internet.

Another sharp increase was felt throughout the trial of Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who was found guilty of killing an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron early last year.

According to the study, the Israeli media serves as the main inspiration for racist posts against Arabs. Much of the hatred and incitement is directed at Palestinian politicians, who are frequently mentioned in both the media and who are incited against by Israeli politicians. MK Haneen Zoabi was the most frequent target of incitement and racism, with 60,000 posts directed at her. Ahmed Tibi was subjected to 40,000 posts, closely followed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with 30,000 and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh with 25,000.


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Shin Bet detains Arab activists — to stop them from attending funeral

Three well-known Bedouin activists were detained and interrogated on the way to the funeral of Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was killed by police last week. Attorney Gaby Lasky: ‘This has all the marks of a police state.’

Israeli police and the security authorities continue to persecute the Arab residents of the Negev. On Tuesday, the Shin Bet detained three well-known Palestinian activists from the area as they were making their way to the funeral of Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, a resident of the Bedouin village Umm el-Hiran who was shot and killed by police last week.

The three were detained midday in Be’er Sheva while they were traveling by car. “We drove at 10:30 in one car on the main road in Be’er Sheva,” Amir Abu Qweidr told +972. “We reached the traffic light in front of Ben-Gurion University, and stopped at the red. We noticed that our friend was standing near the entrance to the university and was waving at us. All of a sudden, three civilian vehicles approached and surrounded us. A group of men with police hats stepped out of the cars and announced that we were detained for questioning.”

“They took two of us and put us in one of their cars. Our third friend was left in our car, where two police officers joined him. They led us to an abandoned parking lot, there they took us out of the vehicles, searched us, checked our ID cards, and told us once again that they were taking us in for questioning.”

Fady Masamra, 39, is the owner of the vehicle. “After we were detained in the lot, they put my friends in a different car, leaving me in my car. A police officer drove my car like a maniac. It’s an old car and I was seriously afraid that it would break down. I also noticed we were getting close to a police checkpoint (one of many the police erected to make it difficult for people to get to the funeral, r.y.). I explained that I was afraid they would shoot us, since a car hurtling toward a police checkpoint is dangerous. They ignored me completely.”

The three were taken to a nearby police station; they were not allowed to contact their family members or attorneys. Abu Qweidr was the first to be questioned, after undergoing an invasive body search. “They put us in a tin...

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WATCH: The Arab youth mainstreaming Palestinian identity in Israel

Today, many young Arab citizens of Israel are no longer afraid of being proud of their Palestinian identity. Yet there is a general sense that the establishment is trying to prevent them from defining their own identity. What happens when Arabs who take pride in their people want to ‘make it’ into the mainstream? The third and final part in a series on Palestinian identity in Israel. Watch parts one and two.

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Palestinians, it's time to take our fight into the global arena

The non-stop incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel from both the government and media prove the need for a new kind of resistance.

It’s time for a change of direction. If the Israeli radical left and the Palestinian leadership were strategically smarter about opposing the occupation, they would have made into an artform the incitement, slander and vilification that Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan has been orchestrating this past week against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the residents of the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran and a Bedouin man, Yaqub Abu al-Qi’an.

As a reminder, Erdan’s mini-campaign began on Wednesday, when Israeli bulldozers, accompanied by hundreds of police officers, arrived in Umm el-Hiran to carry out demolitions so the village can be replaced with a Jewish town.

Police opened fire on the car of Abu al-Qi’an as he was driving slowly into the village, after which his car struck an Israeli police officer, killing him. Abu al-Qi’an was left to bleed to death. Shortly after, police began using pepper spray and shot sponge-tipped bullets at protesters, injuring — among others — Joint List head Ayman Odeh.

Erdan immediately declared the incident involving Abu al-Qi’an a deliberate car-ramming attack, labeling him a terrorist despite no one yet knowing exactly what had happened (video footage and an autopsy report seem to confirm that Abu al-Qi’an was shot before he accelerated). He then called on Israel’s Attorney General to investigate a number of Palestinian Knesset members, among them Odeh, on grounds of incitement to violence and murder.

The attack on Palestinian citizens, led by Netanyahu and his guard dogs, is an opportunity for Palestinians to take off the gloves and do what should have been done in October 2000: formally approach the United Nations, with the support of what remains of the real Israeli left, and request international protection for Arabs.

All the signs point to the fact that the establishment’s attacks on the Arab public in the name of Zionism (Jewish racial supremacy) will not end with the demolition of houses in Qalansuwa and the beginnings of ethnic cleansing in Umm el-Hiran. Netanyahu announced a few weeks ago that a wave of demolitions was about to commence; his warning augurs another of the Zionist establishment’s many prolonged attacks on Palestinian citizens since the...

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