Day by day Archive

March 4, 2013

EDITOR: The democracy of hatred

Some deluded voices have told us immediately after the elections that the result is a great victory for the left, or a defeat of the right… You only need to read the prevalent opinions of the leading proponents of the new forces in Israeli politics to realise what kind of ‘victory for the left’ this was. The main characteristic of the various political strands in Israel is the question of who they hate more. The higher you are on the social scale, the more people you seem to hate…

In this kind of climate of fear and hate, it is no wonder that Apartheid is making huge strides ahead, and every day we read of new and toxic ways of limiting the freedom of the ‘enemies’ of the etatiste Zionism. Illegally expelling thousands of Sudanese and Erithreans,  removing Palestinians from buses and roads, pogroms which occur daily, mosques and churches burnt and desecrated – stoking the hatred against the other is the daily bread of Zionism.

The great cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, has identified this trait in Israel two years ago, and used the image of American pioneer of civil rights struggle, Rosa Parks,  to highlight the racist element in the growing Apartheid of the Israeli regime, and its ever new and continuously escalating measures to separate Jews from Arabs in the whole of Palestine.

Like Apartheid in South Africa, like the US racism in the southern states of the US, Israeli Apartheid and the rule of racist Zionism will come to an end. The only question is how many will suffer and die before it happens.

New routes to racism: Haaretz Editorial

Rather than express ‘concern’ for the Palestinians by excluding them from Jewish bus lines, it would behoove the prime minister to immediately put a stop to this racist segregation.
Mar.05, 2013
At the beginning of the week, separate bus lines were launched for Palestinians in the territories who travel into Israel. The Transportation Ministry claims the lines are meant to ease travel conditions for the Palestinians, but they’re actually another manifestation of a regime based on discrimination and segregation.

Although by law a Palestinian with a permit to enter Israel cannot be prevented from traveling on regular buses, the police is preparing to enforce the separation. Consequently, a Palestinian who reaches a checkpoint on a regular Israeli bus will be asked to get off and wait for the special bus.

Palestinians traveling from Tel Aviv to Samaria were apparently already being taken off buses last Thursday. According to witnesses, an entire busload of people were ordered off a bus near the Shaar Shomron interchange, and their identity cards were checked. All of the passengers turned out to be Palestinians, and they were ordered to leave the terminal and walk to the Azoun-Othma checkpoint, 2.5 kilometers away. According to the police, they were merely implementing Transportation Ministry instructions.

Around four years ago the High Court of Justice disallowed the ban on Palestinians traveling on Route 443, arguing that the military occupier cannot build roads in an occupied area that do not serve the local population. Then Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, however, got upset by the comparison the petitioners had made between separate roads and the apartheid regime in South Africa. But the decision to separate Palestinians and Jews on the buses is another component of an apartheid approach, and demonstrates that those petitioners’ arguments were not unfounded.

It’s clear that the bus segregation is part of a more principled separation between the populations that is expressed in almost every area: In the allocation of areas for residential construction, in the different legal systems, in the unequitable distribution of resources and in discriminatory travel regulations.

Occupied territory is meant to be managed by the occupying state as a temporary trust for the benefit of the local population. There are clear rules aimed at preventing the evolution of a colonial or apartheid regime. The way the State of Israel is managing the territories is a far cry from the way occupied lands are meant to be managed.

Rather than express “concern” for the Palestinians by excluding them from Jewish bus lines, it would behoove the prime minister to immediately put a stop to this racist segregation.

Alliance of minority-bashers: Haaretz

Lapid and Bennett offered voters a chance to break the old divisions between left and right. Instead of hating just one minority, like in the old politics, they showed voters one could hate both Arabs and Haredim.
By Aluf Benn

Feb.25, 2013
The political covenant between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett rests upon a joint hatred of non-Zionist minorities in Israeli society, the Haredim and the Arabs.

Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi reflect the anxiety of the Zionist mainstream that these communities are taking over the country. They fear that the changing demographics are creating a different reality here than what our parents dreamed of, and they believe they have to put the minorities back in their place before it’s too late.

Politics in Israel have always been tribal, and expressed in the incitement and hatred between ethnic groups and societal sectors, between the kippa-wearers and the pork-eaters. Likud’s rise to power in 1977 reinforced the division between left and right. The right hated Arabs and took on the Haredim as political partners, while the left hated the Haredim and took on the Arabs as partners, albeit in limited fashion.

Physical separation underlined the political separation. Jerusalem became religious, Tel Aviv secular. The settlers and the Haredi towns such as Elad and Ramat Beit Shemesh drew in national religious and Haredi Jews, while the Arab communities developed in the northern and southern periphery of the country. But this “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, as convenient as it was for Israelis in their day to day lives, failed to compensate for demographic realities.

The truth lies in the state’s annual growth forecast for the educational system. The Central Bureau of Statistics reports in its statistical annual that 46 percent of first-graders go to Haredi or Arab schools. These children will reach draft age in another decade, and they will be eligible for the labor market soon after that. If the current social order remains − draft exemptions and underemployment for Arabs and Haredim − the Israel Defense Forces will turn into an army of the minority, and economic growth will collapse.

Awareness of this trend has filtered into public consciousness in recent years and is expressed in declarations that our economy is great if one discounts the Haredim and the Arabs. It was unleashed in the social protests of the summer of 2011, when hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets. They protested the rise in prices of apartments and cottage cheese, but they meant that their country was slipping through their fingers, and they want it back.

Lapid and Bennett got the message, and they offered voters a chance to break the old divisions between left and right. Instead of hating just one minority, like in the old politics, they showed voters one could hate both Arabs and Haredim.

Instead of attacking minorities as traitors and parasites, as accepted in the previous political dialogue, Lapid and Bennett opted for moderate incitement and highlighted IDF service as a supreme value. That is how they took the election prize and established a counterweight to Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to deal with his ideological twin and his television twin.

Bennett and Lapid’s army is not an organization that defends the country, but a religion. In the equal burden debate, no one argued that drafting thousands of Haredim or sending thousands more Haredim and Arabs to enforced labor through national service would contribute to Israeli security. But that’s not the goal; the goal, rather, is pushing the non-Zionist minorities to the wall and presenting them as infidels.

Bennett demands that Haredim say the prayer for IDF soldiers, and they refuse. The army is holy to him, not them. Equality of burden can be obtained by a gradual cancellation of conscription and turning the IDF into a professional army, but that’s not the goal of Lapid and Bennett. On the contrary, they want to preserve the so-called burden as a tool for justifying extra social benefits which the minorities, who don’t serve and will soon be the majority, aren’t eligible for.

The demographic strengthening of Arabs and Haredim, and the increasing incitement against them only strengthens the leanings of isolationists and distances them from identifying with the state. Israel needs unifying leadership that will establish a new, inclusive social ethos, not divisiveness and internal conflicts.

It’s a shame there is no demand for these goods in politics, just new models of inter-tribal hatred.

Israel to launch ‘Palestinians-only’ bus service: Guardian

Service will ferry workers from the Palestinian town of Qalqiliya across the border of the West Bank towards Tel Aviv

Palestinian workers

Palestinian workers wait for transportation at an Israeli army checkpoint near Eyal. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli government will on Monday begin operating a “Palestinians-only” bus service to ferry Palestinian workers from the West Bank toIsrael, encouraging them to use it instead of travelling with Israeli settlers on a similar route.

Officially anyone can use them, but the ministry of transport said that the new lines are meant to improve services for Palestinians.

Information on the new services, which are operated by the company Afikim, have reportedly only been advertised in Arabic and distributed only in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

The buses will run from the Eyal checkpoint by the Palestinian town of Qalqiliya across the border of the West Bank towards Tel Aviv. The passengers are Palestinians who have been granted permits by the army to enter Israel during the day to work.

Palestinians used to use Palestinian minibuses and taxis to travel into Israel but Israel has increased the number of permits it gives to Palestinians which has led to more mixing on shared routes.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, the ministry said: “The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.

“The new lines will replace irregular, pirate lines that charge very high prices from Palestinian passengers. The new lines will reduce congestion and will benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The ministry also said it is against the law to prevent any passenger from boarding a bus but Israeli civil rights groups said this was not the case in practice.

The Israeli civil rights group, Checkpoint Watch, which monitors the army’s treatment of Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints has reported recent incidents of Palestinians being ejected from buses and told they were not allowed to board them.

In 2011 Palestinian activists were arrested after they boarded Israeli buses in the West Bank to protest against segregation.

EDITOR: The Palestinian hunger strikers are nearing death!

Like Bobby Sands in Ireland two decades ago, Samer Issawi is fighting for his people, and in this fight he can only use his body in jail, by refusing food. The Israeli reaction to this desperate step by committed Palestinian was to raise his illegal detention again. Issawi and more than 12,000 other Palestinians are serving time as political prisoners in the Israeli jail system, and until they are released, Israel can never hope for peace and security.

Let us hope that Issawi is luckier than Sands, who died in jail, starving to death. The change in northern Ireland came after his ultimate sacrifice.

We are fighting for all Palestinians: Guardian

In jail, my fellow hunger strikers and I are doing battle against the Israeli occupation that humiliates our people

Palestinians protest outside the International Red Cross offices

Palestinian families gather in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners at the Red Cross offices in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Mahmoud Illean/Demotix/Corbis

My story is no different from that of many other Palestinian young people who were born and have lived their whole lives under Israeli occupation. At 17, I was arrested for the first time, and jailed for two years. I was arrested again in my early 20s, at the height of the second intifada in Ramallah, during an Israeli invasion of numerous cities in the West Bank – what Israel called Operation Defensive Shield. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges relating to my resistance to the occupation.

I am not the first member of my family to be jailed on my people’s long march towards freedom. My grandfather, a founding member of the PLO, was sentenced to death by the British Mandate authorities, whose laws are used by Israel to this day to oppress my people; he escaped hours before he was due to be executed. My brother, Fadi, was killed in 1994, aged just 16, by Israeli forces during a demonstration in the West Bank following the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in Hebron. Medhat, another brother, has served 19 years in prison. My other brothers, Firas, Ra’afat and Shadi were each imprisoned for five to 11 years. My sister, Shireen, has been arrested numerous times and has served a year in prison. My brother’s home has been destroyed. My mother’s water and electricity have been cut off. My family, along with the people of my beloved city Jerusalem, are continuously harassed and attacked, but they continue to defend Palestinian rights and prisoners.

After almost 10 years in prison, I was released in the Egypt-sponsored deal between Israel and Hamas to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. However, on 7 July 2012, I was arrested again near Hizma, an area within the municipality of Jerusalem, on charges of violating the terms of my release (that I should not leave Jerusalem). Others who were released as part of that deal were also arrested, some with no declared reason. Accordingly, I began a hunger strike on 1 August to protest against my illegal imprisonment and Israel’s violation of the agreement.

My health has deteriorated greatly, but I will continue my hunger strike until victory or martyrdom. This is my last remaining stone to throw at the tyrants and jailers in the face of the racist occupation that humiliates our people.

I draw my strength from all the free people in the world who want an end to the Israeli occupation. My weak heartbeat endures thanks to this solidarity and support; my weak voice gains its strength from voices that are louder, and can penetrate the prison walls.

My battle is not just for my own freedom. My fellow hunger strikers, Ayman, Tarik and Ja’afar, and I are fighting a battle for all Palestinians against the Israeli occupation and its prisons. What I endure is little compared to the sacrifice of Palestinians in Gaza, where thousands have died or been injured as a result of brutal Israeli attacks and an unprecedented and inhuman siege.

However, more support is needed. Israel could not continue its oppression without the support of western governments. These governments, particularly the British, which has a historic responsibility for the tragedy of my people, should impose sanctions on the Israeli regime until it ends the occupation, recognises Palestinian rights, and frees all Palestinian political prisoners.

Do not worry if my heart stops. I am still alive now and even after death, because Jerusalem runs through my veins. If I die, it is a victory; if we are liberated, it is a victory, because either way I have refused to surrender to the Israeli occupation, its tyranny and arrogance.

February 27, 2013

EDITOR: Thieves in the night…

Under the cover of (media) darkness, Israel has expelled over 1000 migrants to Sudan, sending many of them to their deaths. Well, they are not Jewish, after all, so that’s OK. That is how the racist state treats human right of non-Jews. Of course, they could not possibly do this openly, as it is illegal under international law.

UN demands Israeli explanation over secret deportation of Sudanese migrants: Haaretz

Israeli human rights activists and politicians blast deportation as immoral and in violation basic obligations under international law; no response has yet been received from Netanyahu or Interior Minister Yishai.

By  | Feb.27, 2013 | 12:01 PM |  15

Sudanese migrants protesting last year against Israel’s plan to repatriate them.

Sudanese migrants protesting last year against Israel’s plan to repatriate them. Photo by Daniel Bar-On

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has demanded Israel to provide an explanation for the secret deportation of more than 1,000 Sudanesemigrants via a third country.

A Haaretz story on the practice on Tuesday drew an outcry among human rights activists and politicians, with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovichdescribing the deportations as “immoral” and MK Dov Khenin of Hadash calling for them to be halted immediately.

Khenin also asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to investigate who ordered the repatriation in the first place.

Sudan defines Israel as an enemy country and has warned that it will punish any of its citizens who set foot here. Consequently, human rights groups said, the deportation constitutes a violation of Israel’s most basic obligations under international law.

“The ease with which the State of Israel is willing to force people to return to a place where their lives are in danger, even if this danger arises only because they were in Israel, is worrying, and shows that we have become a society that sanctifies Jewish demography and gives it priority over humanistic Jewish values,” said Reut Michaeli, executive director of the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

While the state claims that all those deported left voluntarily, aid groups say the deportees were coerced by the threat that if they didn’t go, they could be jailed for years under a recent amendment to the Infiltration Law.

Sudanese migrants “who hear from government representatives that the law enables them to be held in prison forever without trial, and without their being able to apply for refugee status, despair,” said Michaeli. “They are even willing to endanger their lives to gain a slim chance at freedom.”

Shahar Shoham, who heads the migrants department of Physicians for Human Rights, agreed that the deportees could not really be said to have acted out of their own free will.

“At our open clinic, we treat many who report daily anxiety, fear of walking down the street and suicidal thoughts,” she said. “Is this free choice? And more than that, is this the treatment and protection we as a state give to victims of torture, human trafficking and persecution?”

Israel attempted to protect the deportees by deporting them via a third country to conceal the fact that they came from Israel, but the deportation took place without the knowledge or supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“In deporting [people] to Sudan, Israel has crossed a red line and is not only violating its most basic obligation under international law, but demonstrating cruelty, hardheartedness and indifference to the fate of human beings,” Assaf, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, said in a statement.

Haaretz, which first broke the story, has repeatedly tried to obtain a response from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, but his office again refused to comment Tuesday. As of press time, no response had been received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On assailed Weinstein. “The attorney general is responsible for the fact that Israel’s government is acting contrary to the rule of law,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Yacimovich said Israel should be helping asylum seekers, not sending them back. “The Jewish nation is well-versed in persecution and pogroms, so we have a special obligation to extend aid to refugees from genocide,” she said.

Israel secretly repatriated 1,000 to Sudan, without informing UN: Haaretz

Though Israel claims the people’s return was voluntary, this claim was rejected by UNHCR, which says there is no ‘free will from inside a prison.’

By  | Feb.26, 2013 | 4:31 AM |  42

Migrants detained on the Israeli-Egyptian border.

Migrants detained on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Tomer Appelbaum

Tel Aviv residents demonstrating in support of the migrant community. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.Photo by Reuters

Israel has “voluntarily” returned at least 1,000 people to Sudan, an enemy country that has vowed to punish any of its citizens who ever set foot in Israel. The repatriation was done secretly, via a third country, over the last few months, without the knowledge of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Haaretz knows the name of the third country, but is withholding it to avoid harming those who returned via this route.

Though Israel claims the people’s return was voluntary, this claim was rejected by UNHCR, which says there is no “free will from inside a prison.”

Under a recent amendment to Israel’s infiltration law, asylum seekers can be jailed for years without trial. Testimony from within prisons indicates that detainees were also denied access to UNHCR, in violation of the UN convention on the status of refugees, which Israel has signed.

All the Sudanese who left “voluntarily” already had Sudanese passports: Since their presence here was being kept secret, Israel couldn’t coordinate their departure with Sudan. An official source said Israel paid for their plane tickets.

In the past, the state has said in court that Israel doesn’t deport Sudanese nationals, because “Sudan and Israel are enemy states, such that a Sudanese national who has set foot in Israel can’t return to his country for fear of his life, or so he claims.” This is in contrast to residents of South Sudan, with which Israel does have relations, and to which it began repatriating people after the country gained its independence from Sudan in 2011.

Aside from the fact that Israel and Sudan are enemies, Sudanese law explicitly forbids its citizens to enter Israel. Its passports even state that they are valid for entry to every country except Israel.

Senior Sudanese officials have also made public threats against Sudanese nationals who fled to Israel. In July 2007, for instance, Sudan’s interior minister said that any Sudanese living in Israel would be punished. Shortly afterward, Sudan’s refugee commissioner accused Sudanese refugees in Israel of carrying out a “Zionist agenda” against Sudan, and urged the Egyptian authorities to punish Sudanese who try to enter Israel via Egypt.

In September 2007, Sudan’s foreign minister said that for a Sudanese to reside in Israel was a criminal offense.

The UN’s stance on the issue is also clear. Michael Bavli, UNHCR’s representative in Israel, warned the Population, Immigration and Border Authority that “deporting Sudanese to Sudan would be the gravest violation possible of the convention that Israel has signed – a crime never before committed.”

The UN refugee convention explicitly states that even someone who wasn’t a refugee when he first left his country can become one thereafter, if subsequent events – in this case, entering an enemy country – make it impossible for him to return to his country without risking his life.

Such people, known as “refugees sur place,” enjoy all the same protections under the convention as people who originally fled their country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

This interpretation has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court. “All governmental powers – including the power to deport under the Entry into Israel Law – must be exercised on the basis of recognition ‘of the value of the human being, and the sanctity of his life and his freedom,'” wrote former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak in one verdict, quoting the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom. “This is the great principle of non-refoulement, under which a person cannot be deported to a place where his life or liberty would be in danger. This principle is enshrined in Article 33 of the refugee convention. It is part of the domestic legislation of many countries … This is a general principle that isn’t limited solely to ‘refugees.’ It applies in Israel to every governmental authority that deals with deporting someone from Israel.”

Harel Locker, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, has also said previously that Sudanese nationals can’t be deported back to Sudan, though they could be deported to another country “that agreed to absorb them” and would “guarantee their safety.”

Aside from the fact that Sudan and Israel are enemy states, many of the Sudanese in Israel come from the province of Darfur, where they were victims of ethnic persecution and genocide by the regime. Due to these crimes, the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant on charges of genocide against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials.

Others come from other areas of Sudan, such as the Nuba Mountains or other parts of Kordofan, that have been subjected to brutal attack by the Sudanese government – including aerial bombing, the destruction of entire villages and mass arrests of hundreds of thousands of people – in an effort to suppress what the government terms rebellions. Still others fled Sudan due to religious or ethnic persecution.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority (part of the Interior Ministry ) responded that “the government’s policy of not deporting north Sudanese has not changed.”

The Foreign Ministry said: “Since overall responsibility for this issue rests with the Population Authority, we are barred from commenting independently on this issue and refer you to the responsible party – that is, the Population Authority.”

The Justice Ministry declined to comment.

EDITOR: The apartheid pogroms go on, now in Jerusalem

A groups of Jewish youngsters has attacked and beat up an elderly Arab woman in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Kiryat Moshe, in broad daylight and in view of hundreds of people, including the security officers of the train service, who stood besides and smiled, doing nothing to stop the violence or arrest the perpetrators. This is the Jewish democracy at work. Unfortunately, I have this report only in Hebrew, as Maariv does not translate the news, and Haaretz found it acceptable not to translate or report in English.

תקרית אלימה בירושלים: צעירות יהודיות הכו ערבייה בתחנת רכבת:Haaretz

האישה עמדה בתחנה בשכונת קריית משה בבירה, כשלפתע החלו מספר צעירות שעברו במקום להכות אותה נמרצות ואף הסירו ממנה את כיסוי הראש. עדת ראייה סיפרה ל-nrg: “הצעירים היו שתויים והקב”ט צפה בתקרית בחיוך ולא התערב”

יוסי אלי | 26/2/2013 14:57הוסף תגובההדפס כתבהכתוב לעורךשלח לחברShare on facebookShare on twitter

תקיפות הערבים בבירה נמשכות: לטענת עוברי אורח, קבוצת נשים יהודיות תקפה אתמול (ב’) אישה ערבייה שעמדה בתחנת הרכבת הקלה בקריית משה בירושלים. לדברי העדים, האישה ניסתה להתנגד, אולם הצעירות תקפו אותה שוב ושוב ואף הצליחו להוריד ממנה את כיסוי הראש. בעקבות הפרסום ב-nrg מעריב, המשטרה פתחה בחקירת המקרה.

האישה נהדפת אל הקיר. היום

האישה נהדפת אל הקיר. היום צילום: דורית יורדן דותן

המקרה התרחש כאמור אתמול בסביבות השעה שלוש אחר הצהריים, כאשר לדברי עדת ראייה, צעירה דתייה שחלפה בתחנת הרכבת הקלה נתנה לפתע אגרוף לאישה שהמתינה במקום. לטענת העדה, חברותיה של היהודיה מיד חשו לעזרתה והחלו להכות אותה נמרצות ואף הדפו אותה לעבר קיר התחנה.

עדת ראייה שחלפה במקום ואף צילמה את הנעשה סיפרה ל-nrg מעריב: “היו שם בערך 100 חרדים ובחורי ישיבה שיצאו מהרכבת הקלה וראו אישה ערבייה עם גבר מבוגר, התפתח שם ויכוח וצעקות, ואני לא יודעת מה היה תוכן הדברים כולם התנפלו עליה”.

לדברי עדת הראייה,  פעילת השלום דורית יורדן דותן, קצין הביטחון של עיריית ירושלים,  שעובד בתוואי הרכבת הקלה, צפה באירוע ונראה מחייך. “זה היה פשוט נורא”, תיארה.

מעיריית ירושלים נמסר בתגובה כי “המקרה המדובר לא התרחש בתוך הרכבת אלא ברחוב. מאבטח של  הרכבת הקלה ששהה בסמוך דיווח מיידית על האירוע, שהסתיים תוך שניות ספורות”. עוד הוסיפו בעירייה כי “יש לפנות למשטרה בנושא”.

דותן סיפרה עוד כי כאשר הגיעה הרכבת לתחנה והחלה לנסוע, חבורת הצעירים עזבו את המקום. “האישה הערבייה הייתה נרגשת מאוד”, ציינה. “הצעירים שתו הרבה יין בגלל פורים והצעקות נשמעו לכל עבר. האישה ניסתה להלחם בהם אך הם צעקו עליה שלא תעז לגעת ביהודים והמשיכו להכותה”.

עדת הראייה הוסיפה כי להוציא אדם מבוגר שהיה יחד עם האישה שהותקפה וניסה לעזור לה, תושבים רבים עמדו מנגד ולא חשו לעזרת המותקפת. “האדם שהיה איתה עמד חסר אונים ולא ידע כיצד להפסיק את התקיפה”, ציינה והוסיפה כי “בכל אותה העת, עמד וחייך איש הביטחון במקום ואפילו לא ניסה להפריד”.

בעקבות הפרסום ב-nrg מעריב אמר ח”כ עיסאוי פריג’ (מרצ): “אם נכון הדבר, ואנו עדים למתקפה גזענית נוספת כנגד אזרחית ערבייה, כל אזרח במדינת ישראל, יהודי או ערבי, צריך לפחד. למה הופכת מדינת ישראל? אישה מותקפת לאור יום ואיש לא מתערב ולא בא לעזרתה?”.

פריג’ הוסיף: “מקוממת במיוחד היא מדיניות השתיקה שמובילים ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ושר החינוך גדעון סער, שלא יוצאים בצורה ברורה כנגד תופעות מחרידות כאלה. שתיקה כמוה כמתן הרשאה ורוח גבית לנגע האלימות והגזענות שמתפשט בחברה הישראלית”.

גם ח”כ אחמד טיבי (רע”ם תע”ל) הגיב לפרסום הפרשה. לדבריו, “ריבוי תקיפות ערבים על רקע לאומי לאחרונה הוא סימפטום של חברה געזנית ובלתי סובלנית. לא מדובר בשתיינים אלא בחוליגנים גזעניים שהשטרה חייבת לעצור ולהעמיד לדין” . לטענתו, התנהגות קצין הבטחון היא חלק מהבעיה ולכן הוא חייב להיחקר.

צילום: דורית יורדן דותן

”זה היה פשוט נורא” צילום: דורית יורדן דותן
צילום: דורית יורדן דותן

האישה לא הצליחה להתנגד” צילום: דורית יורדן דותן

February 24, 2013

EDITOR: So what is new?

Only a month ago, immediately after the election in Israel, the pundits in Tel Aviv were hailing the result as a ‘victory for the left’… Netanyahu’s failure to raise even the number of MKs he had in the last Knesset was seen as a defeat of the right. To some, Lapid rise, so reminiscent of the similar rise of his late father’s party three decades ago, was sign of the new liberal sun shining over the Middle East.

There are no such voices now, of course. The new Lapid-Bennet pact is clearly the sign of the end of all liberal and left wing hopes for a peaceful solution in Palestine. Netanyahu did not win the votes, but he won the election nonetheless. His coalition, now taking shape, will guarantee the continuation of the occupation, and the continued oppression of Palestinians. Israel has spoken, and its confused, half-hearted and cloudy message is clear only on one point: no peace, no resolution, no justice, no rights for Palestinians. The occupation must go on. This disastrous result will bedevil the region for many years.

Palestinian chutzpah: Haaretz

Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you.

By  | Feb.24, 2013 | 4:39 AM
Gideon Levy

My Palestinian brothers (for your information, everyone’s a “brother” around here these days ), aren’t you ashamed? How dare you protest and throw stones? How dare you disturb the peace; build “illegal” outposts on your own private land; go on hunger strikes; demonstrate solidarity with prisoners; protest the closing of Shuhada Street in Hebron and the rearrest of freed prisoners; sneak into Israel to find work; oppose the eviction of people from their homes; protest that you are not allowed to reach your farmlands; protest against the fence that was built in your area; threaten a third intifada? Are you out of your minds? Where do you get such chutzpah?

Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you. Right and left, they all told you loud and clear. Even that warrior for social justice, MK Shelly Yacimovich, told you that Israelis don’t care about you, and you just don’t understand. Can’t you see that we’re busy? We have momentous questions before us – sharing the military burden; the number of ministers; Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s pistachio ice cream; Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon’s inaugural Knesset speech; and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s alleged love life.

So who can think about you? Israel is trying to put together a coalition. It is still not clear whether the eternal alliance between Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett will last, and you dare to bother us with your foolishness? Lapid doesn’t want the “Hanin Zuabis”; Bennett doesn’t want “Abu”; and you just don’t get it. You don’t see they are so worried about the people of Israel that they have no time for you, so how dare you remind them of your existence.

Occupation-shmoccupation; human and civil rights; expulsion and stealing; self-determination; two states for two peoples; the separation fence; 5,000 prisoners – you buzz around like bothersome mosquitoes. Leave us alone, you’re boring us.

How much longer are you going to keep bothering us with your little problems? How much longer are you going to keep bothering the world? Can’t you see that U.S. President Barack Obama is coming on another emotional-blackmail visit, to prostrate himself on the graves of Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl and at Yad Vashem, so why should you bother him, either? Sit tight, my brothers: in Syria, things are worse.

Sit tight: the occupation is only 46 years old. Be happy with what you have. You’re in good hands – the hands of the only democracy in the Middle East. Don’t bother it and don’t stop it from continuing to flourish. Its old politics didn’t take an interest in you and its new politics – even less. Just ask the harbingers of the new politics, Lapid and Bennett, over whom Israel is so enthusiastic right now. Neither of them probably ever met a (living ) Palestinian in their life, nor do they want to. You’ll miss Netanyahu yet, you’ll miss Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, from the old guard. They at least talked to you. So be happy with what you have.

Think ahead. It won’t be that long before you are the majority here. And even before that, the world will not stand for you to live without rights. Guilt feelings over the Holocaust will subside. The Jewish lobby – yes, it’s Jewish – might lose some of its strength. And besides, natural justice is with you, history is on your side.

Rotten tyrannies like the Israeli occupation have never lasted forever. So sit tight, my brothers, and wait for the future. If it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, perhaps it will in your grandchildren’s. True, you have suffered enough, but a human being is like a tree in a field; when you get whipped, bend your head submissively. After all, you have tried everything: negotiations and terror; recognition and compromise; the first intifada; the second intifada.

Nothing much came out of it all. The settlers have tripled, the Knesset is full of their representatives, and Israel has completely stopped dealing with you. True, if you sit tight you will be forgotten; if you protest, they will say you are terrorists. But the most important thing is: not now. Not when Israel is busy, not when Israel has had it with you, with your wailing, your sobbing and your demands.

It’s hard to be a Palestinian but, remember, it’s even harder to be a Jew. A Jew, after all, is always the victim; the only victim around.

Palestinians clash with Israel Police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: Haaretz

Following the conclusion of Friday morning prayers, Palestinian worshipers begin hurling stones at police; dozens of Palestinians wounded in heavy clashes with Israeli forces throughout the West Bank.

By  and  | Feb.22, 2013 | 6:12 PM |  58

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in West Bank - AP - Feb. 22, 2013

A masked Palestinian throws back a gas canister during a protest to support Palestinian prisoners, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Photo by AP

Dozens of Palestinians were wounded across the West Bank and Jerusalem on Friday, Palestinian sources reported, as a result of clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces.

In Jerusalem, Palestinian protesters hurled stones at Israel Police forces following the conclusion of Friday prayers. In a rare move, Israeli police entered the Temple Mount and used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Dozens were reportedly wounded after inhaling tear gas.

According to Palestinian eyewitnesses, the confrontations began at the conclusion of Friday prayers as many demonstrators marched toward roadblocks the West Bank. IDF soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets toward Palestinian protesters, who threw rocks at the soldiers.

In the area around Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians gathered near the IDF roadblock next to Ofer Prison to rally in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. At least 12 people were reportedly wounded by rubber bullets or due to tear gas inhalation during clashes with IDF forces.

Heavy clashes also reached the area of Hebron, where Palestinian demonstrators demanded the re-opening of Hebron’s Shuhada Street to Palestinian residents, who cannot use the street, and also showed their support for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

As the protesters approached Shuhada Street, IDF soldiers fired tear gas at them. One of the demonstrators said that the procession had been a quiet one and that the demonstrators had no intention of confronting IDF troops. However, the Palestinian witness stated, as the procession neared Shuhada Street they were met with what was described as a very violent response from IDF soldiers, who fired tear gas and stun grenades at them and used other crowd dispersal methods. Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa al-Barghouti was wounded along with dozens of others as a result of the tear gas. Clashes also broke out in the area of Tul Karm, Nablus, Jenin and at several Palestinian villages located near the separation barrier.

In the last few days, tension in the West Bank has escalated. Hundreds of Palestinians have participated in a slew of protests, demonstrating in support of hunger-striking Palestinians jailed in Israeli prisons.

Hundreds of young Palestinians from Beitunia demonstrated Thursday in support of hunger-striking prisoners. The youths clashed with Israel Defense Forces soldiers that arrived on the scene with heavy reinforcements, ready to contain the protests.

During the morning protests, Palestinian youths began hurling stones at soldiers and Israeli Border Police officers. Three journalists were lightly wounded by the stones, including Channel 1 correspondent Yoram Cohen, a reporter and a photographer from Channel 10. Palestinian officials reported that 20 people were injured by rubber bullets.

On Thursday, the leader of the northern wing of The Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheik Ra’ad Salah, announced that he has also begun a hunger strike, in solidarity with the prisoners. Two days ago, a tent was erected in Nazareth’s Maayan square in support of the prisoners. There, activists distribute information about the prisoners, and released prisoners are available to talk.

On Saturday, a demonstration is scheduled to be held in the city’s main street in support of the prisoners, while other protests are expected to continue throughout the West Bank.

EDITOR: The pogroms continue

As the notion of anti-Arab pogrom is becoming normalised in Israel – a toxic import from the settlements – the latest brutal attack happens in Jaffa, very near the place I grew up in. It matters not to racists that these are actually citizens of Israel – they are not fooled by silly democracy – and such attacks are spreading to other parts of the country. These attacks bear all the signs of the typical anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in Eastern Europe during the early 20th century. The perpetrators are never caught or brought to justice, surprisingly.

Jewish youths attack Arab man in Tel Aviv: Haaretz

40-year-old Jaffa resident was beaten with glass bottles early Sunday morning; victim’s wife says attacking youths claimed ‘Arabs are taking over the country.’

By  and Yaniv Kubovich | Feb.24, 2013 | 7:45 PM |  1

Hassan Ausruf

Hassan Ausruf in Tel-Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center Photo by Daniel Bar-On

A 40-year-old Jaffa resident was attacked early Sunday morning in Tel Aviv by Jewish youths and sustained serious wounds to his head. The attack, which occurred on Herbert Samuel Street around 4:00 A.M. after the victim, Hassan Ausruf, 40, had gone out to work. Ausruf operates a street-cleaning vehicle for contractor cleaning company. When Ausruf stopped his vehicle to fill its water tank, a group of youths assaulted him.

Ausruf’s wife, Nariman, told Haaretz that a group of about 15 people started to bully and attack Hassan without provocation. “He asked them why they were attacking him and they told him with utmost chutzpah ‘because you’re Arab,'” Nariman told Haaretz. “They attacked him with whatever they could get their hands on, bottles and shards of glass and they inflicted serious wounds to his head and in one of his eyes.” She added, “At some point he managed to escape with his entire face covered in blood and reached a friend where he collapsed.”

A Magen David Adom ambulance took Ausruf to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon where he was treated for deep cuts to his face and fractures to his skull and the region surround one of his eyes. “There’s no doubt that he was saved by a miracle,” said Nariman. “We have lived in this city for decades and we have never encountered this kind of violence and racism. They simply beat him because he is Arab and told him that Arabs were trying to take over the country.”

Tel Aviv Police have opened an investigation into the incident. Police stated that the group that attacked Ausruf was dark-skinned and it is believed that they were a group of Ethiopian-Israelis that left a Purim party. Police also stated that no suspects were arrested at the time of this report.

EDITOR: No torture in Israel, ever…

In the only Jewish democracy in the Middle East, prisoners die all the time, just like Prisoner X, who has managed to commit suicide in the most watched cell in the known universe… Now, a Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, has died of torture, it seems… but of course, this cannot happen in Israel, where no one is being tortured, so he just died in order to annoy the Israelis, of course.

Palestinians say autopsy shows detainee died from torture: Haaretz

PA chief pathologist, present at Arafat Jaradat’s autopsy, says body of the prisoner, who died on Saturday, has signs of torture; medical examination lists no cause of death; Israeli officials: No signs of torture.

By , and DPA | Feb.24, 2013 | 10:11 PM

Palestinian women take part in a protest against the death of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli jail

Palestinian women take part in a protest against the death of a Palestinian detainee in an Israeli jail, in Gaza City, Feb. 24, 2013. Photo by Reuters

The Palestinian prisoner who died in Megiddo Prison on Saturday did not expire from a heart attack, as Israeli officials previously claimed, but from torture, says a Palestinian doctor who was present for the autopsy performed by an Israeli doctor Sunday.

Saber Aloul, chief pathologist of the Palestinian Authority, who attended the autopsy in Israel, said marks on Arafat Jaradat’s body showed he had been tortured during his interrogation.

The autopsy, performed at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, listed no
cause of death.

The Shin Bet security service denied Aloul was tortured. A Health Ministry spokesperson said no exterior signs of injuries were discovered during the medical examination, apart from resuscitation bruises and a small abrasion on the right side of Jaradat’s chest.

The examination was conducted by the institute’s chief pathologist, Yehuda Hiss, in the presence of Aloul and the head of the Health Ministry’s medical administration, Prof. Arnon Afek.

Prior to the autopsy, Israeli officials had said Jaradat likely died of cardiac arrest, while Palestinians believed he died as a result of torture.

No sign of heart failure was found during the examination, nor was any other sign of illness, according to Aloul and Israeli officials.

Pathologists are now awaiting the results of microscopic and toxicology tests, which might take days or even weeks to receive.

Jaradat’s death sparked clashes throughout the West Bank Sunday and Palestinians called for an international investigation of Israel’s treatment of detained Palestinians.

In all, Israel holds close to 4,600 Palestinians on a range of charges, from throwing stones at Israelis to involvement in deadly shooting and bombing attacks. Of the detainees, 159 are being held without charges or trial in administrative detention.

According to the Shin Bet, Jaradat was arrested last Monday, after residents of his village said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli. Jaradat admitted to the charge, as well as to another West Bank rock-throwing incident last year, the Shin Bet said.

The Shin Bet said that during interrogation he was examined several times by a doctor who detected no health problems. On Saturday, he was in his cell and
felt unwell after lunch, the security service said in a statement. “Rescue services and a doctor were alerted and treated him. They didn’t succeed in saving his life,” the statement said.

A Shin Bet spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with protocol, said Jaradat was not beaten during his interrogation, nor was he subjected to any treatment that could have affected his health. Jaradat was not on a hunger strike, said Sivan Weizman of the Israel Prison Service. Prior to the autopsy, Weizman said Jaradat had died of an apparent heart attack.

Jaradat’s attorney, Kamil Sabbagh, said his client told an Israeli military judge during a hearing on Thursday that he was being forced to sit for long periods during interrogation. He also complained of back pain and seemed terrified to return to the Shin Bet lockup, but did not have any apparent signs of physical abuse, Sabbagh said.

After the court hearing, the judge ordered Jaradat to be examined by a prison doctor.

Jaradat, a father of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, worked as a gas station attendant. His wife, Dalal, is pregnant, relatives said. Issa Karake, a Palestinian official who handles prisoner issues, said he holds Israel responsible for Jaradat’s death, alleging ill-treatment and medical negligence. Karake called for an independent international investigation of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian detainees.

The human rights group B’Tselem also demanded an investigation, including how Jaradat was questioned.

The agency routinely holds detainees in isolation for extended periods during interrogation, keeping them in cells that are lit around the clock and denying them access to lawyers, said Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the group.

She said that physical mistreatment of detainees had dropped sharply in recent years, but has not disappeared, according to affidavits by released prisoners. She also said detainees have filed some 700 complaints about mistreatment by Shin Bet agents during the past decade, but that none has led to a criminal investigation.

Prisoner was tortured before dying in Israeli jail, says Palestinian Authority: Guardian

Death of 30-year-old man sparks violent clashes in Hebron that leave three Palestinians and one Israeli soldier injured

 in Hebron

west bank fighting

Palestinian students take cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces during clashes in the village of Saair following the death of a Palestinian prisoner held in Israel. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images

A Palestinian prisoner whose death in Israeli custody fanned violent clashes across the West Bank over the weekend was tortured before he died, the Palestinian Authority has said.

The results of an autopsy conducted in Tel Aviv were revealed at a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday evening after a day of angry protests across West Bank and Gaza in which dozens were injured.

The findings contradict claims by the Israeli prison service that Arafat Jaradat died on Saturday from a cardiac arrest. A Palestinian doctor’s investigations found that while Jaradat’s arteries were clear, his bruised and bloody body suggested he had been beaten in the days before his death.

The 30-year-old, a petrol station worker and father of two, was arrested on 18 February in relation to a stone-throwing incident in November during which an Israeli was slightly injured.

Aside from an old back injury inflicted by a teargas canister, his relatives insist he was healthy when he was arrested.

Just a few days later, he died in Megiddo prison..

Kameel Sabbagh, a lawyer who attended Jaradat’s last hearing on Thursday, has claimed that he had advised the Israeli Judge that his client had been tortured and should be examined by the prison doctor. According to Sabbagh, this did not happen.

“He had serious pains in his back and other parts of his body because he was being beaten up and hanged for many long hours while he was being investigated,” Sabbagh told Ma’an news agency. Sabbagh’s notes from the court hearing describe his client as “extremely afraid” of returning to his cell.

A rumour that he had been beaten to death during an interrogation spread quickly through Hebron on Sunday where hundreds of protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers for the second day running in the streets kilometres from Jaradat’s home.

“When the soldiers came to arrest him last week, they told him say goodbye to your wife and your babies, you won’t be seeing them again,” said Mohamed Hashlamon, 58, as he watched masked Palestinian youths hurl concrete blocks from the roof above his home in downtown Hebron to arm themselves with the rubble.

A phalanx of Israeli soldiers lining the border between the Israeli and Palestinian quarters answered rocks with rubber bullets and tear gas. Three Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were injured in the clashes.

“People here are angry. They will fight until night fall and they will protest again from 10am tomorrow just as they did yesterday,” Hashlamon said. Jaradat’s body was taken for an autopsy in Tel Aviv on Saturday and will be returned to his pregnant wife for burial in their village of Saeer after midday prayers on Monday.

His death has inflamed already heightened tensions across the occupied Palestinian territory. On Friday, hundreds clashed with Israeli soldiers in a continuation of months-long demonstrations supporting four hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held without charge in Israeli jails. On Saturday, nine Palestinians were injured, one critically, when settlers used live rounds of fire in clashes near Nablus.

The Hebrew-language media have noted with alarm that the Palestinian Authority is doing little to dissuade protests but is lending its voice to the popular outrage. Issa Qaraqea, the PA’s minister for prisoners’ affairs, expressed his suspicion of foul play in Jaradat’s death.

“Our information was that Jaradat was being interrogated and then he died. Therefore we call for an international investigation into his death that may have resulted from torture,” he told Reuters.

As night fell on Sunday, the West Bank showed no sign of calming. In Beitunia, near Ramallah, two teenagers were reportedly hit with live rounds fired by Israeli soldiers. One, the 15 year-old son of the Palestinian secret services chief, was undergoing surgery having been shot in the stomach.

“Statements from the international community calling upon Israel to ‘respect Palestinian prisoner rights’ are insufficient when Israel can arrest, incarcerate and even kill Palestinians without … consequences for its appalling actions,” a statement from the Palestinian leadership read. “Without justice, there will be no peace.”

EDITOR: While Israel is playing coalition forming, Palestinians are moving towards a general action against the occupation

The PA government has done all it can to assuage Israeli interests and to scotch Palestinian anger and frustration, but it seems they were not that successful. After months of hunger strike but growing numbers of Palestinian political prisoners, the population in the West Bank is rising again against the brutalities of the occupation. If Israel counts on the PA to do its dirty work, maybe it is a miscalculation? They may not be able to deliver the goods this time round.

The Israeli-Palestinian talks that never took place begin on the street: Haaretz

As support for Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners grows throughout the Arab world, releasing them is a small price to pay to deflect increasing pressure from Israel.

By  | Feb.24, 2013 | 12:38 PM |  3

Palestinian women take part in a protest against the death of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli jail

Palestinian women take part in a protest against the death of a Palestinian detainee in an Israeli jail, in Gaza City, Feb. 24, 2013. Photo by Reuters

AFP and Haaretz

Clashes in the West Bank, Feb. 2013.Photo by AFP and Haaretz

The death of Arafat Jaradat in the Megiddo Prison, together with the 216-day-long hunger strike of Samer el-Issawi and the hunger strike of three other prisoners, the demonstrations commemorating the anniversary of the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in 1994, the clashes in the village of Kosra in the Nablus district – all these are supposedly “local incidents” that can be easily defeated by a few smoke grenades, rubber bullets and arrests.

Nobody describes them as an intifada yet, and with good reason. The term “intifada” is reserved for an all-out war, a series of terror attacks, call-ups of the reserves and flooding the ground with troops. These things have not happened yet in the West Bank.

The Fatah leadership, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), has announced that they will not allow the outbreak of a new intifada. Certainly they will not allow it on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Israel. Nor will they allow it when Abbas’s representatives, Saeb Erekat and Muhammad Shtaya, are holding talks about the scheduling of the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. But all it takes is the death of one of the prisoners on a hunger strike or several youths being killed by IDF gunfire to make the Palestinian Authority lose its restraining power, which is not all that much in any case.

Quite a few groups are operating in the West Bank, including Abbas’s critics and rivals within Fatah, who believe that he is not strong enough to cause a change in Israel’s policy. Some of them are demanding that the Palestinian Authority be dismantled and Israel “handed back the keys.” Others fear that Abbas’s political moves against Hamas could shut Fatah out of the positions that control wealth and power. Setting the ground ablaze could serve those groups, locking Abbas into a belligerent stance he never intended to take.

This is not Abbas’s dilemma only. For now, the demonstrations and clashes have attained one important goal: the affair of the prisoners has led to demonstrations of support and statements of solidarity in Beirut, Egypt and Jordan, and “serious concern” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They have also been discussed in Washington by the Palestinian emissaries, and the Arab League intends to transfer the matter to the Security Council.

But all this international activity will not impress the activists on the ground, or the prisoners, as long as Israel gives nothing in exchange or makes no compromises. As usual, the question is whether Israel will succeed in taking an important measure before things go out of control, or wait for more pressure from the ground and from the international community. On several occasions in the past, Israel realized that there was no sense in dealing stubbornly with a hunger strike, which not only won support but also put it under international pressure that it didn’t need. The case of Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad operative whom Israel released from prison where he had been under administrative detention after a 67-day hunger strike, is just one example.

Even if the price of dealing quickly and rapidly with the jailed hunger strikers involves making concessions, it is still much lower than an escalation that could cause hunger strikes to spread to all the prisons and nourish clashes in the city streets. In a situation where there is still no government in Israel that can make decisions on the peace process, start talks with the Palestinian Authority and offer a practical peace arrangement, the least Israel can do is calm inflamed areas. The most sensitive among them is the matter of the hunger-striking prisoners.


February 17, 2013

EDITOR: The New Israel – just like the old Israel, but worse

In the bad old days, people used to disappear in Israel without trace, taken into the kind custody of the ‘security services’ and not be heard of again for years. Israel used to kidnap people in Jordan, Lebanon, and anywhere in Palestine, and hide them away without trial. Today this is not called kidnapping. Oh no! It is called rendering, and it is just fine.

So Israel ‘renders’ one of its own agents, an oddball Australian Jew of the Indiana Jones variety, who apparently took part in the killing of a Hamas official in the Gulf few years ago, and has somehow displeased the powers that be, in what way we know not – and disappears him into the Ayalon prison, in an isolated wing, some three years ago, without name or personal details. Some time later he is found dead, and a secret hearing about his death takes two years, and finds that he supposedly committed suicide. His body is delivered to his family in Australia, and he is buried in great secrecy, as the family is offered a King’s ransom to keep mum.

It is a Jewish democracy, after all.

Netanyahu on Prisoner X affair: Let Israel’s security forces do their work: Haaretz

In prime minister’s first comment on the death of alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier, Netanyahu says Israel protects the rights of the interrogated as well as freedom of expression, but adds, ‘We are not like other states.’

By  | Feb.17, 2013 | 11:54 AM

Benjamin Netanyahu and  Yochanan Locker -  Olivier Fitoussi - 23.9.2012

Benjamin Netanyahu and Military Secretary [Maj. Gen.] Yochanan Locker in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

Ben Zygier’s passport.

Ben Zygier’s passport. It’s very hard to find someone who will admit on the record to having being asked to “lend” his or her passport to the Mossad.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday commented for the first time on the Prisoner X affair, after several days of silence by the Israeli government.

“At the opening of the meeting I would like to say that I trust completely the security forces of the State of Israel. They work with endless dedication to ensure that we can live in this land. I also have absolute trust in the legal authorities in the State of Israel.”

“Israel’s security and intelligence forces act under the full supervision of the legal authorities, which are completely independent. In providing for security and enforcing the law, freedom of expression is also protected. But primarily – we are not like the other states.”

“We are an exemplary democratic state and we protect the rights of the interrogated and individual rights no less than any other country. But we are also more threatened and more challenged, and thus we must preserve the proper activities of our security services. Therefore I ask of everyone: Let the security forces continue to work undisturbed, so that we can continue to live in security and tranquility in the State of Israel.”

Australia to conduct its own probe into Prisoner X affair: Haaretz

Australian foreign minister requests that Israel pass over all information surrounding the 2010 imprisonment and death of Australian national and alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier.

By  | Feb.17, 2013 | 10:00 AM |  2

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr Photo by Reuters

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has requested that Israel hand over all information at its disposal in the Prisoner X affair, involving the imprisonment and death of Australian national Ben Zygier in Ayalon Prison in 2010.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Sunday, Carr asked the government of Israel for information to assist the foreign ministry’s launch of an independent investigation into Zygier’s death and the circumstances of the affair.

“We have asked the Israeli government for a contribution to that report. We want to give them an opportunity to submit to us an explanation of how this tragic death came about,” he said.

Carr also said that he is interested in conducting a comprehensive investigation to assess whether the consular team in Australia’s foreign ministry in Tel Aviv acted sufficiently to examine Zygier’s condition and see whether there were any failures in conduct.

“I need to know what the contact was between Australian agencies and those of Israel, and I need to see what the Israelis want to tell Australia,” he said. “The key is to get all the information.”

At the same time, Carr’s predecessor Kevin Rudd, who was foreign minister at the time of Zygier’s imprisonment and death in 2010, said it was important to investigate what happened and react decisively, as it did following the debacle in which the Mossad used Australian passorts in the Mabhouh assassinationoperation. At the time, the Mossad representative stationed in Canberra was kicked out following an investigation by Australian security forces.

According to Australian media, immediately following Zygier’s arrest in February 2010, the Shin Bet informed its Australian counterpart, the ASIO, regarding details of the investigation. ASIO representatives in Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv passed the details to the ambassador and a handful of other senior officials in the embassy.

Later this week, the State Prosecutor is expected to publish the results of the probe into Zygier’s death. The circumstances of Zygier’s death were under investigation for about two years in a judicial procedure behind closed doors before Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court.

At the conclusion of the procedure about two months ago, Blatman Kedrai determined that Zygier had committed suicide and instructed the prosecution to examine whether there had been neglect in the guarding of the prisoner that justified filing an indictment.

January 23, 2013

EDITOR: After the most anodyne and hapless election, what now?

Israelis have spent the last few months avoiding reality in the most unreal election campaign, avoiding the issues and avoiding the future. Now it seems, that the winner of the day is the greatest avoider of all, Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, which in Hebrew means “There is a Future”…. indeed. He, who spoke about a future ona different planet, may hold the keys for the next government. As he has no politics, he could sit with Netanyahu and Bennett as easily as he could with Yachimovich and Livni. On paper, the ‘left’ and ‘right’ are equal, but this is only true in cloudcukooland.  In Israel reality, no government is ever built with the Arab parties, of course. So there is hardly a way for the ‘centre left’ to build a government, while it is also difficult, but not impossible, for Netanyahu to build a wide government. Israel being what it is, that is what is likely to take place, with Lapid to give it a shade of mock respectability. Woe to us all.

When an apolitical candidate is the big winner of an apolitical election: Haaretz

Israel made a decisive statement regarding what it wants: it wants only to be left alone, a quiet, good life, peaceful and bourgeois, and to hell with all those pesky nagging issues; Lapid epitomizes this attitude.

By  | Jan.23, 2013 | 4:13 AM

Yair Lapid May 2, 2012 (Alon Ron)

Yair Lapid Photo by Alon Ron

A patently apolitical candidate has become the big winner of the most patently apolitical elections ever held in Israel. A former columnist and TV presenter, who rarely wrote or spoke of political issues, not in his political columns nor in his TV weekly magazine, made an instant switch to politics, even then not uttering much in the way of political statements. On Tuesday, Israel gave him a resounding “yes!” Yes to the young, yes to the new, yes to the apolitical. He was anointed as crown prince, second in importance only to King Bibi, who turned out to be almost naked. Had it not been for the union with Yisrael Beiteinu, it is doubtful if Likud would have been the largest party in the coming Knesset. A hollow election campaign has resulted in an equally empty result – a bit of everything and a lot of nothing.

Israeli elections yet again ended in a draw – a tie between left and right, if those are the correct terms in Israel. The elections deflated the Bennett legend, with Habayit Hayehudi turning out to be another Shas in the number of seats it won, no less and no more. Not what we thought and not what we feared. Israel on Tuesay voiced a very hesitant “yes”, which was almost a “no”, to the aspirations of Shelly Yacimovich to become a real alternative to Netanyahu. The party she heads will not even be the second largest in the Knesset, to its shame. This signals the end to her pretensions to reconstruct the Labor party, counting on drawing strength from the social protests two summers ago and from masses of young-old voters, obedient and conformist, who ended up not delivering the goods. Her dreadful sleight of hand, attempting to hide the occupation under the carpet, did not help her much.

In contrast, Israel said “yes” to a straight shooting party such as Meretz, which doubled its strength in a dignified showing. Israel also said “no” to the fragments of tiny parties that did not pass the electoral threshold. The good news: the racist Otzma Leyisrael as of this writing is out. The bad news: as of this writing, the subversive “Eretz Hadasha” (new country) didn’t make it either.

Above all, Israel made a decisive statement regarding what it wants: it wants nothing, only to be left alone. Voters want a quiet, good life, peaceful and bourgeois, and to hell with all those pesky nagging issues. Lapid epitomizes this attitude, being the role model for the all-Israeli dream. He looks good and dresses well, he’s well-spoken and well-married, lives in the right neighborhood and drives the right kind of Jeep.

With that, he doesn’t say much. He’s not extreme, heaven forbid, that’s not who we are, nor does he stick his hand in the fire, that’s not us either. He stays away from any divisive issues, just as Israelis prefer. Even when they took to the streets in that magical summer of 2011, remnants of which event were still evident yesterday, their protests turned out in retrospect to be encapsulated only in songs by popular singers Shlomo Artzi and Eyal Golan, without real substance. Lapid fits this mold perfectly, as characterized by protest singing in the city square, with no clear agenda and angry protest. “Let us Live in Peace” was the slogan of the General Zionist party in the 1951 elections. Let us live in this land was the slogan of many Israelis yesterday. Let us live without Arabs and Haredi Jews, without wars and terror attacks, without the world and its preaching. Now, as it was then, this represents pure escapism. Yesterday, Israel affirmed escapism.

On Tuesday, Lapid acquired power that he most likely did not anticipate, and that he may not know what to do with. It is difficult to know if he can put some content behind the power given to him, but perhaps there is room for hope. For someone who managed to change his conduct and mannerisms in the course of the preceding campaign, shedding some of those that characterized his columns and TV appearances, growing and maturing in the process, it is possible that he will grow into the role thrust upon him yesterday. Perhaps with the power will also come some meaningful utterances and a willingness to fight.

A new day is dawning upon us, a dawn of a day in which Israel only wants to be left alone with all its comforts. Only grant it Lapid and quiet, the terrible quiet at the brink of the abyss.

EDITOR: And while the pundits are punditting, apartheid strikes in total immunity!

PHOTOS: Jordan Valley demolitions leave Palestinian families homeless in winter: 972mag

Photos by Mareike Lauken and Keren Manor

On January 17, the Israeli army destroyed 55 homes and animal shelters in the Al Maleh area. This large scale military operation happened simultaneously in two separate locations: Hamamat al-Maleh, and further up the valley in Al-Mayta. Al-Maleh and Al-Mayta are two marginalized villages located in the north of the Jordan Valley, near the Tayasir checkpoint.

Of the 55 buildings demolished, 23 were family homes: five in Hamamat Al-Maleh (leaving 37 people homeless) and 18 in Al-Mayta (leaving 150 people homeless). In addition, 33 other buildings used to shelter the communities’ animals were destroyed, as well as some water tanks. Two days later, on January 19, the entire village had been declared a Closed Military Zone and the Israeli army confiscated the community’s possessions, including food, bedding and tents that had been provided to the families by the Red Cross after the demolitions. However, the residents stayed and slept out in the fields with no shelter.

Both Al-Maleh and Al-Mayta, like many villages in Area C, have suffered a continuous pattern of harassment by the Israeli army. They have been subject to repeated demolition orders and only two weeks ago were forced to leave their homes for one night, purportedly due to Israeli military training.




 To see the rest of the photos, use the link above


Yair Lapid: The rise of the tofu man: 972mag


Despite an astonishing surge to second place in the polls, chances of Yair Lapid making  an actual premiership bid are slim. He is risk-averse, lacks a political program, and his projected coalition is too fanciful to work. Lapid is much likelier to join Netanyahu’s next government, and the only question is: Will Lapid be Bibi’s pretty face in Washington as Foreign Minister, or will he be the Finance Minister, and therefore fall guy, for Israel’s upcoming austerity drive? 

LIKUD VICTORY RALLY, TEL AVIV – After months of predictions for a comfortable right-wing win, Israel reeled tonight at a surprising near-gridlock between the “Right” and “Left” parliamentary blocs, with the Netanyahu-Liberman union barely scrambling past 30 seats, instead of the 45 42 they held between them in the departing parliament. But Netanyahu’s ratings were in steady decline ever since the union pact in late November and not least thanks his petty and paranoid attacks on settler leader Naftali Bennett.  The true surprise of the landslide vote was ultra-centrist candidate Yair Lapid. Lapid, a TV personality who avoided taking any remotely controversial stand on almost any issue, careened past rivals right and left to end up with 17 to 19 seats, rendering him the kingmaker of these elections. Bennett himself, the other golden boy of the 2013 elections, is currently forecasted to win 12 seats, a solid achievement but a far cry from the utopian poll projections of 15-19. Kadima, the centrist party that led Israel to wars in Lebanon and Gaza during its first term in the Knesset, and imploded in a series of ill-judged political manoeuvres at the end of its second term, has not made it to a third term at all, evaporating from Israeli politics with zero seats in the exit polls.

On the Left, Shelly Yacimovich doubled Labor’s seats but fell far, far behind her promise to oust Netanyahu or even to restore Labor as a significant force in Israeli politics. To add insult to injury, after making every possible effort to depoliticise and centralise Labor’s toxic brand, she was overtaken by an ad-hoc party led by a man who lacks any of the political structures, networks and traditional strongholds of Labor, but whose neutral and consensual public image made him more apolitical than she could ever hope to be. The great winner on the left side of the map is Meretz, raised from the dead by new leader Zehava Galon to go from three to seven seats; unlike Labor, Meretz never harboured illusions about premiership, so it can be content with its significant victory. Hadash, the only Jewish-Arab party running, is left with four seats, having failed to rejuvenate its front ranks and thus also failed to capitalise on the social justice movement in which its activists played a significant part (stay tuned for separate stories on social justice and Hadash tomorrow).

Theoretically (or rather, purely arithmetically), Lapid is now in a position to make a bold bid for premiership. Although earlier attempts to herd the centre-leftist cats into a unified bloc ahead of the elections failed miserably, the tantalisingly small gap between the Left and Right in the exit polls could give Lapid enough of a momentum – to hammer together a centre-left government of small parties, to persuade Shas to switch sides (by reminding them they’d hold much more sway in such a fractured coalition than in a strong right-wing one), and to solicit the external support of Arab parties (among which Hadash is usually lumped), eventually creating something akin to Rabin’s government in 1992. But, to the tune of “you are no Jack Kennedy,” Lapid is no Rabin, and 2013 is not 1993. Lapid is risk-averse and lacks a political program or vision; while the negotiated two-state process, a novel idea in Rabin’s time, has been tested and failed in the 21 years since. What’s more, hostility towards the Arab parties is immeasurably greater than it was in the 1990s. Any party overpowering the Right with these parties’ support will be seen as an usurper. Lapid may well launch a bid for premiership – but this is likely to be a negotiation ploy designed to mark him as not just a coalition member, but a partner in a “national unity” government, a title with considerably more clout and gravitas.

Poison, sir?

The more likely outcome, then, is a strong right-wing government with Lapid’s party as its safety belt and fig leaf. In such a scenario, Lapid can look forward to appointment as foreign minister, which would reward him with prestige and the limelight he is long accustomed to, and would reward Netanyahu with a telegenic, charismatic and unoriginal moderate face in the world arena. If Netanyahu sees Lapid more as a rival than a partner, however, he might offer him the Finance Ministry instead – a poisoned chalice if there ever was one. While a highly prestigious position and well in tune with (upper class) Lapid’s self-appointed role as emissary of the middle class, the Treasury is the least enviable fiefdom Netanyahu can offer anyone. Israel is facing an NIS 40 billion deficit and is poised on the brink of an austerity drive set to affect primarily Lapid’s own electorate; getting him to deliver the blow to his own crowd will neutralise him even more effectively than leaving him out of government. The same, with slight amendments, applies to Naftali Bennett and several other candidates; the Finance Minister appointment will tell us where Netanyahu sees the greater threat – from the Centre or from within the Right – and who he considers his most dangerous rival.

If she holds by her vow never to enter Netanyahu’s government (even if he offers her, say, the Finance Ministry), Yacimovich now has the opportunity to forge a combative and determined opposition. Such a move, if played patiently and committedly, will pay off with interest over the long term, especially in the wake of the anticipated austerity drive. This move can be impeded not only by tempting offers from Netanyahu, but primarily from within Labor – the most patricidal (or matricidal) party in Israeli politics. The knives will be out for the leader whose campaign was characterised by self-promotion and by a neglect, to put it mildly, of some of the strongest potential Labor candidates who came into the party of their own accord (Stav Shaffir and Merav Michaeli being the lead examples,) in favour of loyal but utterly lacklustre apparatchiks.

Tomorrow morning Israel will wake up to the real results fairly similar to the exit polls (despite the latter’s margin of error), and while a complete tie between Right and Left or a slight advantage to the Left can generate a modest momentum for an attempted leftist government, the right-by-centre-right coalition is the likeliest outcome. The only question is how tough a negotiator Lapid will prove to be – he could condition his entry into government on, say, complete exclusion of all ultra-Orthodox parties – and how protracted negotiations will be as a result. This might be more significant than a mere inconvenience: Israel is currently without a budget (Netanyahu threw down the cards on budget negotiations in the spring as pretext for gambling on elections) and is weighed down by a 40-billion-shekel deficit. Delay in putting together the team that will cover up that black hole will make the fabled Israeli stock exchange very antsy and drive a pin into Israel’s financial stability balloon – setting the stage for a much more heated contestation over economy, far from the Right’s familiar playing field.

The success of Israel’s social protest failure: Haaretz

While Tuesday’s election was in many ways about the social protests in Israel in 2011, it did not address the most pressing social ills and only perpetuated the false dichotomy between right and left.
By Lev Grinberg     | Jan.23, 2013 | 2:12 AM

Tuesday’s election in Israel revolved around the success of the social protests of the summer of 2011 — and also their failure. If we cannot comprehend this paradox then we cannot easily comprehend the bizarre and surprising campaign we just witnessed — and what it is expected to bring.

There is nothing extraordinary about this paradox. It is the nature of protest movements to succeed only in part because they are not political parties, and the existing parties always try to gain political capital on Election Day from the protests.

The Israeli Black Panther movement, for example, erupted, like all social protests, during a period of military calm (1971-73), and it shook up the political system. The Panthers protested against anti-Mizrahi discrimination and voiced their anger at an establishment that absorbed them as immigrants and then relegated them to the social, economic, geographic and cultural periphery. “The second Israel,” they were called, or edot hamizrah (communities of the east), to underscore their inferiority.

Even though it comprised only a few thousand young and inexperienced demonstrators, the Panthers’ protest made enormous gains in changing the public discourse about Mizrahim. It also succeeded in changing economic policy and in transforming Israel from a hand-out state into a welfare state.

But the Panthers’ success helped Likud to mobilize Mizrahi anger without having to represent Mizrahi interests. The peripheral Mizrahim voted for Likud in order to bring down the Labor Alignment, which had discriminated against them. But they got stuck on the “right” and the Mizrahi voice was suppressed repeatedly, by both the right and the left. The economic situation of some Mizrahim has improved since the 1970s, thanks both to the welfare policies introduced by Labor Party precursor Mapai and Likud’s rise to power. But others remained stuck in the periphery and in difficult economic circumstances. At the same time, the legitimacy for speaking in the name of anti-Mizrahi discrimination was lost: For proof, look at Shas.

The reference to the Black Panthers was not accidental. This election revolved around the discourse that was created in that era, a discourse of left and right and the Ashkenazi hegemony that silences any voice that lays it bare. Hatred of Shas was a common denominator of this election, in parties from Habayit Hayehudi on the right to Meretz on the left — a wall-to-wall coalition.

This points up one of the most glaring failures of the recent social protest movement: its inability to combine the discourse of equality and social justice with the need for affirmative action for groups within society that the regime oppresses: Mizrahim on the periphery, the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, Ethiopians, some Russian-speakers and above all, Palestinians in the territories.

The reign of the business tycoons would not be possible without dividing and sowing strife among these various groups. A universalist discourse on behalf of justice and equality is insufficient, because justice and equality only for some immediately become injustice and inequality.

To my mind, the most serious failure has been the preservation of the left-right discourse, which silences any substantive debate on all the issues on the agenda, including those relating to the Palestinians. But above all, the “left-right” discourse silences issues of economic and social policy, because the poor can be found on both sides of this divide and they have not succeeded in uniting against the rule of the wealthy. Ever since 1977 Likud and Labor have imposed this left-right dichotomy in order to preserve their power and prevent rivals from entering the arena.

And that is what happened in the recent election season: Even though the socioeconomic agenda was in the background throughout the campaign (from the joint slate formed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman to the resignation from the cabinet of Moshe Kahlon and his appointment to a different post at the last moment), there was no new political language. We went back to talking about left-wing and right-wing blocs even as both are crumbling, divided and strife-ridden, and the public feels that every word uttered by the politicians is empty: symbols that stand for nothing. Peace, security justice, equality — everything is included, and it’s all hollow.

They talk about natural partners, about one’s political home. But politics is the opposite of nature: It’s about changing reality: about interests, positions, disagreements, building coalitions to deal with the state’s major problems, formulating policy and implementing it. All these were absent from this election. And therefore, the day after the election, when the results are already known, all the questions will still be before us, but the public won’t be involved in how they are decided. It’s a facade of democracy.

This, too, is an expression of the social protest’s failure: its inability to create a new political language that links the question of social justice to the regime that discriminates against various groups because of their identity, its inability to overcome the regime of division, of intimidate and conquer. This is the regime that Mapai built and Likud perfected, while in the process building the reign of capital and the tycoons.

The language of the left-right cartel is still with us. The Ashkenazi elites have many parties — all except those of the very poorest, who are set apart out and marked as inferior, the lazy and the exploiters who don’t fulfill their obligations: “the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs.”

When Shas co-leader Aryeh Deri pointed out the whiteness of the right he was attacked from all sides, and he retreated. But this election revolved around whiteness.

That was precisely the criticism leveled at the leadership of the Rothschild Boulevard protesters in the summer of 2011: its whiteness, its dominance, its failure to represent the periphery and its desire to preserve the power of the middle class — that is, the secular Ashkenazim.

Their supporters will indeed enter the Knesset. But all the others won’t. And I don’t believe they’ll quietly go home. My prediction is that they will yet return to the streets, and someday they will succeed in translating the protest into a political language. There will be other elections.

Israel election setback for Binyamin Netanyahu as centrists gain ground: Guardian

Results give narrowest of victories to the prime minister’s rightwing-religious block

Link to video: Israel takes to the polling booths as Palestinians look onBinyamin Netanyahu suffered a major setback in Israel‘s general election as results gave the narrowest of victories for the rightwing-religious block and a surprisingly strong showing for a new centrist party formed last year, forcing the prime minister to say he will seek a broad coalition to govern Israel.Right wing and allied Orthodox religious parties won half the seats in the Israeli parliament, presenting Netanyahu with a tough political challenge to put together a stable coalition.Netanyahu remains on course to continue as prime minister, as his rightwing electoral alliance, Likud-Beiteinu, is the biggest party after winning 31 of 120 seats in the next parliament. But it was a sharp drop from the present combined total of 42 for the two parties.Yesh Atid, a new centrist party led by the former television personality Yair Lapid, won 19 seats. It concentrated its election campaign on socio-economic issues and removing the exemption for military service for ultra-orthodox Jews.

Netanyahu called Lapid, whose unexpected success hands him a pivotal role in coalition negotiations, as the final results came in to discuss a potential government.

Likud officials quoted the Israeli prime minister as telling Lapid: “We have the opportunity to do great things together”.

But Netanyahu was also putting out feelers to ultra-Orthodox parties which could prove vital in putting together a government, saying he would open coalition talks with them on Thursday.

Final results could shift, although not dramatically, later in the week after votes from serving members of the military are counted.

Two out of three Israelis voted in Tuesday’s election, a slightly higher proportion than in the previous two elections, surprising observers who had predicted a fall in turnout.

In a speech at his election headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said: “I believe the election results are an opportunity to make changes that the citizens of Israel are hoping for and that will serve all of Israel’s citizens. I intend on leading these changes, and to this end we must form as wide a coalition as possible, and I have already begun talks to that end this evening.”

Lapid told campaign workers in Tel Aviv: “We must now … find the way to work together to find real solutions for real people. I call on the leaders of the political establishment to work with me together, to the best they can, to form as broad a government as possible that will contain in it the moderate forces from the left and right, the right and left, so that we will truly be able to bring about real change.”

Dov Lipman, who won a seat for Yesh Atid, said: “This is a very clear statement that the people of Israel want to see a different direction. We will get the country back on track.”

Labour was the third largest party, with 15 seats. Party leader Shelly Yachimovich said in a statement: “There is no doubt we are watching a political drama unfold before our eyes … There is a high chance of a dramatic change, and of the end of the Netanyahu coalition.” She said she intended to attempt to “form a coalition on an economic-social basis that will also push the peace process forward.” It seems unlikely Yachimovich could present a credible alternative to Netanyahu’s claim to the premiership.

Erel Margalit of Labour said the results indicated “a protest vote against Netanyahu” and that the huge social justice protests that swept Israel 18 months ago “were not a fringe phenomena. Perhaps some of it is moving from the streets into the political arena”.

The ultra-nationalist Jewish Home, which showed strongly in opinion polls during the campaign, was at 11 seats, the same as the ultra-orthodox party Shas. The leftist party Meretz made an unexpectedly strong showing, with six seats, more than doubling its current presence.

Speculation about the composition of the next coalition government intensified as the results came in. Israel’s electoral system of proportional representation has ensured no single party has gained an absolute majority since the creation of the state almost 65 years ago. Negotiations are expected to last several weeks.

As the leader of the biggest party, Netanyahu will be first in line to assemble a coalition. Although Netanyahu’s natural partners are the smaller rightwing and religious parties, he is likely to be keen to include Yesh Atid and possibly Hatnua, which is led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni and won seven seats. However, Livni’s insistence on a return to meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians could deter Netanyahu from inviting her join him.

Three parties mostly supported by Israeli Arabs had 12 seats between them. Although they are regarded as part of the left bloc in the Knesset, it is unlikely they would be part of any coalition government.

Yehuda Ben Meir of the Institute of National Security Studies, said: “The story of this election is a slight move to the centre, and above all the possibility of Netanyahu forming a coalition only with his ‘natural partners’ does not exist. He is definitely going to work for a wider coalition.”

According to Ari Shavit of the liberal newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu had failed to consolidate or advance his party’s position. “While in the past he was given poor cards and played them well, this time he had the best cards and played them badly. This was a lesson in how not to run a campaign.”

Kadima, which was the biggest party in the last parliament with 28 seats, saw its support plummet and only just crossed the threshold of votes needed to win two seats, according to the partial results.

In Washington, the Obama administration said it is waiting to see the make up of the new government and its policies on peace with the Palestinians. But the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said there would be no change in US policy.

“The United States remains committed, as it has been for a long time, to working with the parties to press for the goal of a two-state solution. That has not changed and it will not change,” he said.

January 20, 2013

Hate, by Khalil Bendib

How the media let Israel get away with murder: The Electronic Intifada

17 January 2013

Relatives of Samir Awad mourn after the 17-year-old died of gunshot wounds on 14 January.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Israel spends a lot of time talking about secure borders and how the need for them drives its policies regarding the Palestinians. With few exceptions, the media act as willing promoters of this perversion of reality.

Between 11 and 15 January, four young Palestinians — aged 17 to 22 — were shot dead by Israeli occupation forces. The murders took place in the Gaza Strip and at different points along Israel’s wall in the West Bank. In all instances the Israeli army justified the use of lethal force by invoking its need to protect the integrity of the wall and Israel’s borders.

On 11 January, 22-year-old Anwar Mamlouk was reportedly just outside the Jabaliyarefugee camp in Gaza when Israeli soldiers gunned him down.

The next day, Odai al-Darawish, 21, was shot to death at three o’clock in the afternoon while crossing Israel’s wall in the West Bank to get to work in Israel. Initially, Israeli sources claimed the soldiers shot al-Darawish in his legs, in accordance with the “rules of engagement” (“Israeli troops kill Palestinian trying to cross barrier,” The Chicago Tribune, 12 January 2013).

But medical sources quickly revealed that he was hit in the back, indicating that he was likely shot while trying to run to safety (“Israeli forces shoot, kill worker south of Hebron,” Ma’an News Agency, 12 January 2013).

Al-Darawish was from the village of Dura, near Hebron, where in September last year a man attempted to immolate himself in a desperate protest of the dire economic conditions Palestinians face in the occupied West Bank (“Palestinian man attempts to set himself on fire in West Bank village of Dura,” Haaretz, 17 January 2013).

Mustafa Jarad was aged 21 and a farmer from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. He was shot in the forehead by an Israeli sniper on 14 January while working his land. But despite the Israeli gunman’s skillful marksmanship, Jarad was not killed immediately.

Doctors at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City tried to remove the bullet from his severely injured brain, but Jarad died after surgery (“Mustafa Abu Jarad, murdered in Gaza, by the Israeli army,” International Solidarity Movement, 15 January 2013).

Shooting a schoolboy

On 14 January, Samir Awad, a 17-year-old from Budrus, a West Bank village located near Ramallah, was shot from behind in the head, torso and leg while running away from soldiers.

Samir had just completed his last exam before school break and had joined a group of boys to protest the wall. Samir’s family has lost five acres of land with 3,000 olive trees due to the construction of Israel’s wall; Samir had also been jailed three times for his participation in demonstrations (“Israeli forces shot youth in the back as he ran away, say Palestinians,” Guardian, 15 January 2013).

English-language reports of these murders have been scant where they exist at all. For example, the press is in disagreement over the circumstances of Anwar Mamlouk’s death. Reuters reported that Anwar’s brother, Hani, stated that Anwar had been studying outdoors when he was shot (“Israeli forces kill Palestinian along border with Gaza: Hamas,” NBCNews, 11 January 2013).

The BBC, however, relayed only the Israeli military’s version of events and reported that Anwar had entered the “forbidden area” along Gaza’s boundary with dozens of other Palestinians (“Gaza: Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli gunfire,” 11 January 2013).

Shifting the blame

The New York Times took the murder of Samir Awad, the fourth in the spate of Israeli willful killing of unarmed Palestinians, as an opportunity to remark on the “growing unrest” in the West Bank, bizarrely shifting culpability for the deaths onto Palestinians (“Israeli forces kill Palestinian at barrier,” 15 January 2013).

It must be noted that when 17-year-old Muhammad al-Salaymeh was slain by a border police officer in Hebron on his birthday in December 2012, The New York Times remained silent.

Reading the New York Times’ coverage of the murder of Palestinians by Israelis is an apt lesson for any aspiring spin-doctor on the language of equivocation.

The paper’s reporter Isabel Kershner pivots the focus of Monday’s murder in Budrus away from Israel’s trigger-happy soldiers operating in a world of endless and unquestioned impunity and onto Palestinians’ “simmering restiveness”; their increased participation in “disturbances” of the “relative stability” that Israel has tried to maintain; and their “dire financial crisis that has prevented the Palestinian Authority … from paying … government workers.”

Notably there is no explanation provided as to why the PA has not been able to pay its tens of thousands of workers, namely that Israel has stolen the Palestinians’ tax and customs duty funds.

Omitting key facts

This is how The New York Times turns the cold-blooded murder of a teenage boy into a deliberately obfuscating story that describes an opaque haze of “tensions” and “growing unrest.”

This exonerating cloud of ambiguity is kept afloat by the newspaper’s methodical omission of facts: not only the facts of the recent murders of Odai al-Darawish, Muhammad al-Salaymeh and Anwar Mamlouk, but those of the countless incursions,demolitions and violence that Israel perpetrates against Palestinians every week (“Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory,” Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 10 January 2013).

These are the kind of facts that, if properly reported by the journal of record, would allow readers to know that it is Israel who is the violator of the terms of the country’s own precious “borders.” Proper reportage would give stark and unassailable lie to the notion that it in order to protect these borders, it must shoot and kill innocent men and boys, or women and girls.

Deferring to Israel

The awful truth of what happened this week lies outside stories in which gunned-down youths are identified by their intentions to trespass, and in which the wall is described as designed to keep out “terrorists.” Yet the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters and AP all deferred to Israeli military sources to report on the deaths of four young people. The result is that their readers are told that Israeli soldiers followed the proper protocol to protect Israel’s sovereignty and borders.

With the notable exception of British newspapers the Guardian and The Independent(see “Did Israeli troops deliberately provoke boy, only to shoot him in the back?” 16 January 2013), the media dutifully joined ranks with the State of Israel, grinding out the useful fiction that implicates these dead young Palestinians as menaces to the security and stability supposedly maintained by the chimera of separation.

As for borders, it’s exceedingly likely that the grief-stricken parents of the slain youths would love to see the existence of any kind of boundary on Israel that might protect their children from the presence of a threatening, violent and usurping entity.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in occupied Palestine and San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter: @CharESilver.


Jauary 19, 2013

EDITOR: The Mock elections in the Mock Democracy are about to change nothing whatsoever

‘In order that nothing changes”, writes the great Sicilian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, ‘everything must change!’. So next Tuesday, many Israelis will go to the polls to make sure than nothing changes. They will vote mainly for ‘new’ parties, like Likud Beitenu, Hatnuah, Yesh Athid, Habatit Hayehudi – none of which existed before this election as such; together, these ‘new ‘parties’ will get the most votes, and will make sure that nothing changes in Israeli politics. So, despite the mock protest of hundreds of thousands in Summer 2011, when the tent protest joined the Arab Spring raging all around Israel, a clutch of old and tired faces, in the main, has put forwards new masks, much mascara and facelift, and nothing new. Most of the parties, including the largest, led by Netanyahu and Lieberman, and sure to win this round of mock democracy, have not seen fit to even publish a platform or manifesto before the election. That is not surprising.  Publishing such a document, would be dangerous, if it was to be truthful.

If published, it would have to say that Israel will continue to control the whole of Palestine, never allowing the setting up of the mini-state which was foreshadowed in the Oslo Agreements. It will have to say that the vision of the two-states is dead and buried, never to be revived again. It will state that the Palestinians will never have full human or civil and political rights under Israeli control, and that the Israeli state controlling them will now become a fully-fledged Apartheid society. It will also clarify that all the claims and demands of the protest movements would be disregarded, and that the poor will become much poorer. It will reveal that the Israeli deficit was miscalculated, and is more than twice of what was claimed by the government. Such a manifesto will also reveal that Israel is planning more wars, in Gaza, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, and that the cost of these wars will further improve the standing of the rich, and will further undermine the poor, who will pay for them. It will have to tell Israelis that most of them will pay for the 600,000 settlers, whose life is made especially easy and plentiful by government edicts and regulations, so that they will continue to terrorise the Palestinian population. This manifesto will also reveal that the next Knesset will continue in its attack on democracy, human rights and transparency, and make sure the government cannot be legally or publically challenged when it breaks the law, and that the courts will be emasculated to guarantee that result, especially the Supreme Court; It will have to also tell Israelis that the Palestinian citizens of Israel will loose more of their limited rights, and that the attack on them as the largest minority group in Israel will intensify.

And that is not all. The putative document will also have to reveal that the attack of the environment will continue unabated, with more damage to and, sea and air, and that developers, speculators and environmental criminals will have even an easier time in the future; It will also tell Israelis that the power of the Jewish religious minority will continue to distort Israeli society, and underwrite the unequal values of the Jewish democracy, making it a democracy for Jews only; It will reveal that Israel will continue to invest in death and destruction more than in education and health, and that new technology will be used not to improve life, but to endanger it. It will also tell the public that the dangerous and aggressive foreign policy of the last government will be further intensified by the next one.

In a word, this manifesto which was not published would tell Israelis that there is no hope, that fear and loathing will continue to rule their lives for the foreseeable future.

It is clear enough why such a manifesto cannot be printed and published, and won’t. Yet it is a mistake to think that Israelis do not know the contents of such a manifesto. That is the reason that large sections of the Israeli public plan to avoid voting. In the past, it was the malaise of the Palestinian minority – they have abstained in large numbers, on the understanding that in a democracy for Jews, Arabs can make no change.They were of course right about this. But this time, also many Jews will join them, believing that in a state of the powerful and corrupt, the poor can make no change.

This will of course guarantee that no change is possible. Because most Israeli Jews are supportive of the package of no change, though it deeply damages their interests. They support the status quo, because the idea of change – of a real democracy for all, of social justice, of just peace, of the end of the occupation and apartheid – frightens them beyond belief. Such an idea of change is always frightening to a colon. So it was in Algeria, or South Africa. So, they agree, somewhat begrudgingly, to continue the bad old ways, so the the good new ways would not threaten them.

The Democracy for Jews only is safe for now. It is in the good hands of Netanyahu and Lieberman. It is safe from change, and seemingly also safe from history. A mock election, in a mock democracy, will bring about a mock result. But the price to be paid will be real enough.

Below are some articles dealing with this odd political juncture.

MK Dov Khenin can putt from the political rough: Haaretz

The Hadash party member is an unabashed communist, a far-left radical, an outspoken anti-Zionist – and the best MK in the outgoing Knesset.

By Asher Schechter | Jan.19, 2013 | 9:35 AM

Khenin isn't so much resigned to the political fringe as he is cool with it.

Khenin isn’t so much resigned to the political fringe as he is cool with it. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

So let’s get this out of the way first: Dov Khenin is the best!

No, seriously. It’s really tough to find something bad to say about the Hadash party Knesset member, try as you might.

Just ask his detractors. Sure, they might point out that he’s a communist, which is true. They could claim he belongs to the radical left, which he does. They could snarl that he’s anti-Zionist, and he probably wouldn’t deny it.

But then they’d have to explain why he is the No.1 legislator in the 18th Knesset, proposing no less than 529 bills in the last four years, of which 27 were approved. They would also have to ignore the awards and honors he’s received, among them the Knight of Quality Government Award from the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the Parliamentary Excellence award from the Israeli institute for Democracy. They’d also have to admit that he is the most socially and environmentally conscious Member of Knesset there is.

And then they’d have to explain why they cooperated with him on so many bills. Khenin is such an enigma that even his most ardent enemies have a hard time demonizing him. So they just leave him alone.

The point is you can say what you want about Khenin, but you can’t deny he’s probably the most committed, hard-working MK in Israel in recent memory. That’s why unlike his peers, such as Balad’s Hanin Zuabi, Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On or even Labor’s Shelly Yacimovich – it’s hard for the right wing to attack him.

Yes, he is unashamedly communist. He supports nationalizing the banks, the profits from the Tamar and Leviathan deep-water gas prospects and the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea. What of it?

Khenin is so open about his communistic world view that it’s hard to accuse him of being covert. And he speaks just as much about social and environmental issues as he does about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if not more, so it is hard to stamp him with the “leftist” label that in Israel dooms you to the fringes of society.

Khenin is already in the fringiest fringe anyway. And he is destined to stay there. And he knows it. And that’s fine. He has learned to make the best of it. In July 2012, Kadima MK (and Hatnuah party candidate) Meir Sheetrit said in a televised interview: “Dov Khenin comes from a small party, but his influence is far greater than all of Kadima.”

Kadima, with 28 seats, was the biggest party within the 18th Knesset. Hadash, with three seats, was one of the smallest.

‘I think I can, I think I can’

It’s not so much that Khenin seems resigned to his marginal status, as that he seems cool with it.

A lot of politicians in Israel would despair of being stuck in third place on the list of a small far-left Arab-Jewish party that has never exceeded three seats in the Knesset and probably won’t this time either (according to recent polls). Many would give up. Many did. But like The Little Engine That Could, Khenin is always forging ahead. It is easy to imagine him telling himself in moments of self-doubt: “I think I can, I think I can.”

The tenacity with which Khenin, married with three children, has engaged the margins of the political debate, and his ability to make lemonade out of some really tart lemons, can be explained by his background. He was born into the political fringes in 1958, his father being David Khenin, a leader of Maki, the Israeli communist party. Khenin is a member of the Maki central committee himself.

His mother, also a communist activist, was a preschool teacher. Young Dov developed a keen interest in politics from an early age, earning his first stripes in Banki, Maki’s communist youth movement, and other left wing youth organizations. Being a communist in Israel, even in socialist Israel, was akin to being a social pariah. In some circles, it still is. Yet he hung on, and stuck to the family tradition. When it came time for him to enter the Israel Defense Forces, he did, but he refused to serve in the Occupied Territories, foreshadowing a lifelong support for conscientious objectors. “I have never tried to hide any detail of my past. I am at peace with everything I’ve ever done,” he told the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon in 2006.

In 1982, he completed an undergraduate law degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has described his university days as a time of intense social and political activity. One of his activities was pushing for combined Arab-Jewish political activities and agendas. In 1984, he began working as a lawyer at the firm of Amnon Zichroni, famous for being one of the first conscientious objectors in the history of Israel – declaring himself a pacifist in 1954 – and for being the lawyer of Israeli nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.

During his first years as a lawyer, an occupation he continued practicing until 2004, Khenin led some influential human rights cases, including that of five left-wing conscientious objectors, known as Mishpat Hasarvanim (“The Trial of the Refuseniks”). During this period, he also received a PhD. in political science from Tel Aviv University, completed post-doctoral work at Oxford, writing about the relationship between environmentalism and social issues, taught at Tel Aviv University, wrote two books and edited various other books and articles and continued with his political and environmental activism. In 2002 he became the chairman of Haim VeSviva (“Life and Environment”), an umbrella organization comprised of more than 100 environmental organizations and causes in Israel.

Since 1990, Khenin has been a member of Maki’s leadership. In 2003, he made his first foray into parliamentary politics, running in the fourth spot on the Hadash-Taal party list. He had originally been in third place on the Hadash list, a slot held before him by the much-admired (and strikingly similar in gaining admiration from all ends of the political spectrum) Tamar Gozansky. But Hadash, a Jewish-Arab socialist party and the de facto political arm of Maki, banded with the Arab Taal party for the elections, winning just three seats and leaving Khenin less than 1,000 votes short of qualifying. It was the first time Hadash had not sent a Jewish party member to the Knesset.

The partnership between Hadash and Taal did not last long, and in the 2006 elections for the 17th Knesset Khenin was placed third on the Hadash list, finally making it to the Knesset and becoming a MK. He was quick to become one of the most active Members of Knesset, becoming the head of the social-environmental lobby, the biggest lobby group in the Knesset, together with the Rabbi Michael Melchior of Memad.

Darling of cats and the coolth of Tel Aviv

Khenin was especially active on social and environmental issues, writing dozens of bills relating to human rights, workers’ rights and women’s rights, as well as animal, environmental and child protection laws. Together with Labor MK Eitan Cabel, he was responsible among other things for the prohibition of declawing cats, which won him the support of, well, the entire freaking Internet.

Then, in 2008, he really made his mark with the Israeli public, going from an anonymous MK from a small party hardly anyone knew to the total darling of Tel Aviv leftists and hipster wannabe-leftists. The event that upgraded his status was his decision to run against Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai in the municipal elections. Khenin, who was not perceived as particularly charismatic then, ran as the mayoral candidate of Ir Lekulanu, a non-partisan Arab-Jewish-Green municipal party established in 2008 and composed of social and environmental, as well as Hadash, activists. Khenin did not have an easy time running against the incumbent Huldai, who was popular and established and enjoyed the endorsement of the Labor party. Plus, the voting rate in the municipal elections in Israel is patently low.

Still, Ir Lekulano gave one hell of a fight, running a viral Facebook (in the relatively early days of Facebook in Israel) and Youtube campaign, directed specifically at young people living in Tel Aviv, most of them in their 20s and early 30s, leaning to the left, riding bicycles and having a hard time dealing with the rise in rental prices that was effectively forcing them out of the city. The campaign recruited many celebrities and created a political, activist climate in Tel Aviv that would contribute to emergence of the social protest movement three years later.

But still, Khenin lost. He gained 34.3 percent of the vote, compared to Huldai’s 50.6 percent. Ir Lekulani, despite losing the mayoral race, still gained the most votes in the municipal elections and won five seats in the city council. To this day, it remains a viable political force in the Tel Aviv political scene, struggling for affordable housing and better public transportation.

After the mayoral elections, Khenin went back to the Knesset, having lost the race but won the affection and admiration of Tel Aviv’s young adults. In the elections for the 18th Knesset, he was placed again in the third place in Hadash. Upon entering the Knesset, he again headed the social-environmental lobby, this time alongside Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz. During his second term as MK Khenin sustained his energetic style, remaining highly involved in issues relating to social and environmental issues, winning the title of ‘most social MK’ twice in a row by the HaMishmar HaHevrati (“The Social Guard”), a nongovernmental organization established following the social protests of 2011 to keep track of the activity in the Knesset and report it to the public.

Singlehandedly, he elevated Hadash’s image with the Israeli left, projecting an agenda that could be mistaken for social democracy if it wasn’t for his candid, outspoken style.

To read the rest of the article use the link above.

Palestinian activists set up another tent encampment near Jerusalem: Haaretz

The camp, erected in the village of Beit Iksa, was set up in protest of Israeli settlement and comes a week after a similar camp was erected in the E-1 corridor and later evacuated by Israel.

By  | Jan.18, 2013 | 10:00 PM |  22

Palestinians erecting a tent city in the E-1 corridor, January 11, 2013.

Palestinians erecting a tent city in the E-1 corridor, January 11, 2013. Photo by AFP

Palestinian activists have set up a protest camp in the West Bank to demonstrate against what they say is an Israeli land grab.

They say they set up a mosque and several tents Friday in the village of Beit Iksa near Jerusalem.

In a statement, activists said they were securing land from Israel.

The Israeli military said soldiers were monitoring the area to prevent disturbances.

On Sunday, hundreds of Israeli security forces evacuated some 100 Palestinians from a protest tent camp set up two days earlier in the E-1 corridor east of Jerusalem.

The evacuation – which involved about 500 Israel Police officers and Israel Defense Force soldiers – was carried out despite a temporary injunction issued by the High Court of Justice preventing the state from evacuating the encampment for six days, pending deliberations.

Protesters refusing to evacuated leave were carried down the hill by Israeli officials, but there were no reports of injuries. “Everyone was evacuated carefully and swiftly, without any injuries to officers or protesters,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the evacuation order on Saturday, and by late night the IDF had the area surrounded and were preventing supporters from entering. Activists said they would oppose any attempt to forcibly remove them.

Netanyahu said Sunday that he had ordered the area sealed off immediately after hearing of the tent encampment. “I immediately called for the area to be closed off so there would not be large gatherings there that could cause friction and breach the public order,” he said.

“We will not allow anyone to touch the corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim,” Netanyahu added.

Haaretz has determined that the tents were put up on private Palestinian land. In preparing the plans for area E-1 in the West Bank, the state in 2005 examined the records for the lands on which the settlement is to be built. The plan shows an area of 1,500 dunams (375 acres) out of the total 12,000 dunams (3,000 acres‏) allocated for construction that Civil Administration figures indicate is privately owned by Palestinians, although the land was not registered officially.

Continue reading Jauary 19, 2013

Decemebr 25, 2012

Xmas in Palestine

EDITOR: Christmas news…

For those who, like me, had to puke over Netanyahu’s Christmas speech, the piece below is doubly poignant. All over Israel, the only Jewish democracy in the Middle East, special forces are seeking and destroying Christmas trees, and Silvester parties have made illegal. I may be wrong, but this has still not happened in the Iranian Islamic Republic…

Forbidden to celebrate: Israel’s war on Christmas continues despite Netanyahu’s claim of tolerance: Electronic Intifada

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 12/25/2012 – 18:09

Palestinian children play outside Deir Latin church in Gaza City on Christmas Eve 2012.

(Ezz Al-Zanoon /APA images)

In his Christmas greeting video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s supposed religious tolerance.

“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.

Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”

Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”

Disappearing Christmas trees

Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.

But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’s Walla! News reported.

“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”

When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.

“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?”

“I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”

State rabbis order bans on Christmas

The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.

According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.

“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”

Hatred of Christianity inherent in Israel’s “Law of Return”

Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.

But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:

The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.

In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.

As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.

Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded in Gaza and in Iran, two Muslim-majority places Israeli propaganda likes to paint as particularly hostile to minority religious groups.

Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.

Merry Christmas!