As long as occupation exists, soldiers will continue to speak out


Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers in Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of the West Bank city of Hebron, Dec 31, 2017. (photo: Wisam Hashlamoun / Flash90)

We must make our voices heard sharply and clearly — speaking out is not merely an option, it is a moral duty.

By Avner Gvaryahu | +972 Blog | Jan 26, 2018

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.

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One state or two states? You’re asking the wrong question

Protest marking 12 years for the struggle against the wall, Bil

A Palestinian youth opens a gate in the Israeli wall, during a protest marking 12 years for the struggle against the wall and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil’in, Feb 17, 2017.

We desperately need to go back to basics and recognize that guaranteeing Palestinians’ rights is the foundation for any political solution.

By Haggai Matar | +972 Magazine | Jan 29, 2018

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.

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Israel is betraying its history by expelling African asylum-seekers

asylum seeker

African migrants demonstrating outside the Rwandan embassy in Herzliya, Israel on Jan 22. (Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images)

Israel intends to tell Eritrean and Sudanese refugees that they can either accept deportation or go to prison until they change their minds.

By Gershom Gorenberg | The Washington Post | Jan 29, 2018

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.

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Judge blocks Kansas law aimed at boycotts of Israel


 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.

By ACLU | Jan 30, 2018

“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.

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What I learned about UN aid to Palestinians growing up in Gaza


UNRWA schools provide a generous hand to overcome the tribulations of life in the beleaguered Gaza Strip, encouraging students to dream big despite the obstacles around them.

By Muhammad Shehada | Forward | Jan 22, 2018

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.

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Why the Palestinians are boycotting the Trump administration


Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority’s Ambassador in Washington, Dec 2017. (photo: Andrew Harnik / AP)

An interview with Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Washington.

By Robin Wright | The New Yorker | Jan 21, 2018

“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.

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Holy city of sterile streets


An Israeli soldier on a street that separates an Israeli settlement and a Palestinian neighborhood in the West Bank city of Hebron. (photo: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

To settlers, this is the first Jewish city in the biblical hills of Judea; to the Palestinian majority, this is their centuries-old home under relentless military occupation.

By Roger Cohen | The New York Times | Jan 20, 2018

“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.

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