It [is] important to remind the Israeli public why soldiers continue to break their silence. After all, the central reason for breaking the silence is the occupation. As long as there is an occupation, there will be those who choose to expose what the government is trying so hard to hide.
Like many who served alongside me, I preferred to remain silent. I preferred to forget, not to speak about the Palestinian homes I broke into in the middle of the night, forgetting the violence I carried out at checkpoints and the passivity required of me when settlers freely broke the law. When I was released from the army, I preferred to repress those three years, to put them behind me.
Only after I joined a Breaking the Silence tour to the South Hebron Hills did my eyes open. Only then, I chose to speak. That is how I learned that I wasn’t alone. I learned there are others like me — soldiers who see the situation the same way and choose to take responsibility and change the way they and their society, our society, talk about the occupation.
During a recent trip to the US . . . I found devoted activists, all of them committed to resisting occupation and supporting peace . . . who refused to speak to each other solely based on the question of how many states we should have in this piece of land. I suggest that we hold off on that question and focus on the heart of the matter.
A new poll reveals that following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration there has been a drop in support for the two-state solution among both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the occupied territories — with both communities dipping below the 50 percent level. Only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live inside the Green Line show overwhelming support for this solution.
The poll also shows that in tandem with this ongoing downward shift, there is a significant rise in the hostility of each group toward the other, as well as increasing support for armed struggle or a “decisive war” as a solution to the conflict. Conducted by veteran pollsters Dr. Khalil Shikaki and Walid Ladadwa from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), along with Israeli pollster and +972 Magazine writer Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC) — this is a poll to be taken seriously.
These new findings have significant value, as they expose Trump’s devastating impact on the chance to end the occupation in the foreseeable future, while sounding the alarm bells over the hopelessness of both sides, such that violence and bloodshed are actually gaining traction as possible solutions to our troubles.
And yet, we must not view the poll results as a harbinger of “the end of the two-state solution” or “final proof that one state is the only way to go.” One state? Two states? You’re asking the wrong question.
Netanyahu isn’t bashful. . . . For him and his allies, the world sinned against Jews, and Israel’s obligation stops at giving refuge to Jews.
“I don’t have a visa,” Emanuel Yemani told me.
He spoke in Hebrew on the phone. After his third prison term for political offenses, Yemani had fled from Eritrea, traveling north through Sudan and Egypt. He crossed the Sinai Peninsula — the same ancient route used by Hebrew slaves delivered from Egypt — and entered Israel ten years ago.
It has been enough time for him to learn the language — but not enough to gain a firm legal status. Like nearly 40,000 other refugees from Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, Yemani has lived on a short-term visa that he must renew every couple of months at the Interior Ministry. The last time he did so, he brought a document that had been requested. The ministry official refused to take it, and Yemani recounted the exchange:
“No need,” said the official. “Soon we’ll deport all of you, and you’ll sit under a tree, open your mouth and wait for a banana to fall, like a monkey.”
“But I’m a human being, not a monkey,” Yemani answered.
“Don’t you see yourselves, that you look like monkeys?” the official answered.
Esther Koontz decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories — as a result, the state of Kansas refuses to contract with her.
“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test. This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”
— Brian Hauss, ACLU attorney
The American Civil Liberties Union won an early victory today in its federal lawsuit arguing that a Kansas law requiring a public school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the case filed in October proceeds. It is the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.
The law, which took effect on July 1, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The ACLU is also currently fighting a case filed in December against a similar law in Arizona.
Each semester, UNRWA supplied free medical glasses to shortsighted students and ran periodic medical and dental examinations; they also provided vaccinations to all students. For many years, UNRWA provided students with healthy meals on a daily basis, handing out fruit, sandwiches, milk and homemade pastries that employed thousands of people in a project funded by Mercy USA. These meals helped many poor students, who had no food at home, to focus better; a few children wouldn’t eat these meals, but would hold on to them, taking them home to share with their starving families.
Last week, the US announced its decision to start defunding UNRWA, the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency. If defunded, an immediate catastrophe will surely follow.
UNRWA, which provides aid to Palestinians through a combination of food, schools, medical and other services, means life to more than two thirds of Gaza’s two million residents — as it did for me. I grew up studying in UNRWA schools.
I can still clearly remember the happiness and excitement in my late father’s eyes on my first day of school, the same UNRWA school where he studied himself as a child. He put me in his old classroom, and even sat me down in the same old wooden bench were he sat 30 years before. I remember so clearly the dream in his eyes, that I’d be as successful in life as he was.
“You didn’t take Jerusalem off the table. You took the table altogether.”
Husam Zomlot is the Palestinian front man in Washington. Born in a Gaza refugee camp, he has a doctorate in economics from the University of London and was a research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center. Now in his mid-forties, he represents a new generation of Palestinian politicians.
Last spring, he arrived in the United States on a wave of optimism that President Trump would reinvigorate peace negotiations, led by his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Zomlot had unusual diplomatic access to Kushner and others in the White House.
But relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority plummeted to their lowest point in a quarter century — since the historic Oslo Accord, in 1993 — after Trump’s decision, on December 6th, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there.
The announcement enraged the octogenarian Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who declared that Washington was no longer an honest broker of peace. Abbas is refusing to see Vice-President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
On the eve of Pence’s trip, Zomlot reflected on the state of diplomacy. The interview has been edited and condensed for length.
“You are treating families in a way you would not want your own family to be treated. It’s as simple as that.”
— Anonymous IDF soldier
The Israeli soldier stands at the entrance to Shuhada Street. The street is deserted, its stores shuttered, doors welded shut. The old center of Hebron has been a ghost town for many years. The Israel Defense Forces refer to “tzir sterili,” or sterile roads, because no Palestinian is allowed on them, whether in a car or on foot.
The occupation of the West Bank is a half-century old. That’s a long time. Jews did not go to the Holy Land to deploy for another people the biological metaphors of classic racism that accompanied their persecution over centuries. But the exercise of overwhelming power is corrupting, to the point that “sterile” streets, presumably freed of disease-ridden natives, enter the lexicon.
The soldier at the checkpoint is a young man with a ready smile. He tells me he’s visited New York. He asks where I bought my watch. I ask him what he’s done to merit the punishment of Hebron. He laughs, a little uneasily. He’s clearly uncomfortable with his mission, enforcing segregation, and wants to connect. No doubt he’d rather be on the beach in Tel Aviv enjoying a beer.
Q&A: What will US recognition of Jerusalem mean for the peace process?
The peace process has been at death’s door since the former secretary of state John Kerry’s peace mission ended in failure in 2014. But the international community — apart from the US — is united in saying recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is disastrous for any hopes of reviving meaningful talks. The status of Jerusalem is one of the pivotal issues that diplomats and peacemakers have said must be agreed between the two parties in negotiations.
Palestinians will see Trump’s announcement as the end of their hopes and demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future independent state. While few want a return to violence, many will feel diplomatic efforts have got them no closer to a state of their own.
The Israeli government will be thrilled. Ever since it captured (and later annexed) East Jerusalem in the 1967 six-day war, Israel has claimed the city as its “eternal and undivided” capital, and has longed for international recognition. Some 200,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements will also celebrate.
The US will open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of 2019, ahead of schedule, the vice-president, Mike Pence, has said. Arab-Israeli politicians were ejected from the Knesset at the start of Pence’s speech for heckling.
“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the US embassy in Jerusalem – and that United States embassy will open before the end of next year,” he said in a speech to roaring applause in the Israeli Knesset.
Speaking during a two-day visit, Pence said Donald Trump had “righted a 70-year wrong” by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“The routine decision, prior to sentencing, to imprison a person who has not been convicted until the end of legal proceedings, in fact empties the legal process of substance.”
— Amit Gilutz, B’Tselem spokesperson
While the case of Ahed Tamimi has garnered international media attention, the Israeli military prison system’s treatment of Ahed and her mother is not unique. Israel Prison Service (IPS) statistics published by Israeli anti-occupation organization B’Tselem earlier in January reveal that Israel is holding over 300 Palestinian minors in prison. Over 180 of those minors are being held in detention until the end of legal proceedings, without having been convicted, like Tamimi.
According to IPS data handed over to B’Tselem, as of the end of November 2017 there were 5,881 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, of whom 1,775 were being detained until the conclusion of legal proceedings. Over 400 were administrative detainees, including three women and two minors (aged 16 and 18). Administrative detention is a measure Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and some Jews) indefinitely without charge or trial. It is meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. In practice, however, Israel uses administrative detention as a first, not last, resort.
In total, 2,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails without having been convicted of any crime.
The 16-year-old Palestinian girl was arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier who had come to the family home after shooting a cousin. Her mother was arrested after going to the police station to check on her daughter.
“I don’t trust this court, [the Israeli military court where the Tamimis are being tried], I don’t trust this legal system, all of which is built to punish the Palestinians. My sister [was] killed inside one of these courts in 1993. My daughter and wife are in the hands of my enemy.”
— Bassam Tamimi, Ahed’s father
An Israeli military appeals court on Wednesday denied bail to Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier at the entrance to her home, and her mother Nariman, ordering them held in prison until the conclusion of their respective trials.
Tamimi is charged with five counts of assaulting security forces, as well as with incitement. Her mother is accused of incitement via social media.
Military Judge Haim Baliti rejected most of the arguments put forth by Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing both Ahed and Nariman. In a hearing on Monday, Lasky had challenged the military prosecution’s assertion that both Ahed and Nariman posed a danger to the security of the area, questioned why Ahed was subject to a different legal system than Israeli minors in the West Bank, and called the arrests politically motivated.