Gaza’s wasted generation has nowhere else to go

The Washington Post reports: They are the Hamas generation, raised under the firm hand of an Islamist militant movement. They are the survivors of three wars with Israel and a siege who find themselves as young adults going absolutely nowhere.

In many circles in Gaza, it is hard to find anyone in their 20s with real employment, with a monthly salary.

They call themselves a wasted generation.

Ten years after Hamas seized control of Gaza, the economy in the seaside strip of 2 million has been strangled by incompetence, war and blockade.

Gaza today lives off its wits and the recycled scraps donated by foreign governments. Seven in 10 people rely on humanitarian aid.

Young people say they are bored out of their minds.

They worry that too many of their friends are gobbling drugs, not drugs to experience ecstasy but pills used to tranquilize animals, smuggled across Sinai. They dose on Tramadol and smoke hashish. They numb.

Hamas has recently stepped up executions of drug traffickers.

Freedoms to express oneself are circumscribed. But the young people speak, a little bit. They say their leaders have failed them — and that the Israelis and Egyptians are crushing them.

Why not revolt? They laugh. It is very hard to vote the current government out — there are no elections.

“To be honest with you, we do nothing,” said Bilal Abusalah, 24, who trained to be a nurse but sometimes sells women’s clothing.

He has cool jeans, a Facebook page, a mobile phone and no money. [Continue reading…]

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Palestinians met with tear gas upon return to al-Aqsa

Al Jazeera reports: More than 100 Palestinians have been injured as Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs at worshippers who returned to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the first time in nearly two weeks.

As the call to prayer sounded from al-Aqsa Mosque again, thousands of men, women and children made their way to the compound on Thursday, after Israel removed surveillance equipment and other obstacles from the gates leading to the holy site.

On Thursday night, dozens of Palestinians who have taken shelter inside the al-Qibli Mosque were surrounded by Israeli forces who cut off electricity in an attempt to force them outside of the compound.

Earlier in the day, the scenes of eupohria and celebrations inside the compound were cut short by Israeli forces who stormed in at the heels of the crowds that had entered the al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

Raed Saleh, a resident of occupied East Jerusalem, said that re-entering the compound on their own conditions was a victory for Palestinians.

“We never saw this kind of win for our people,” he told Al Jazeera. “People are coming from everywhere just to support us in this occasion.

“The Israeli government will now understand that Palestinians from Jerusalem will not accept everything they [Israelis] will tell them. We control ourselves. No one is controlling us.” [Continue reading…]

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This piece of pro-Israel legislation is a serious threat to free speech

David Cole and Faiz Shakir write: The right to boycott has a long history in the United States, from the American Revolution to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery bus boycott to the campaign for divestment from businesses serving apartheid South Africa. Nowadays we celebrate those efforts. But precisely because boycotts are such a powerful form of expression, governments have long sought to interfere with them — from King George III to the police in Alabama, and now to the U.S. Congress.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation introduced in the Senate by Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and in the House by Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.), would make it a crime to support or even furnish information about a boycott directed at Israel or its businesses called by the United Nations, the European Union or any other “international governmental organization.” Violations would be punishable by civil and criminal penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison. The American Civil Liberties Union, where we both work, takes no position for or against campaigns to boycott Israel or any other foreign country. But since our organization’s founding in 1920, the ACLU has defended the right to collective action. This bill threatens that right.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is designed to stifle efforts to protest Israel’s settlement policies by boycotting businesses in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The bill’s particular target is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. [Continue reading…]

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ACLU urges senators to oppose bill targeting Israel boycotts

JTA reports: The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

In a letter Monday, the ACLU urged senators not to co-sponsor the measure and to oppose its passage.

“We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter,” wrote Faiz Shakir, ACLU’s national political director. “However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

Shakir added that “the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” [Continue reading…]

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‘Last secret’ of 1967 war: Israel’s plan to use nuclear weapons

The New York Times reports: On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.

The secret contingency plan, called a “doomsday operation” by Itzhak Yaakov, the retired brigadier general who described it in the interview, would have been invoked if Israel feared it was going to lose the 1967 conflict. The demonstration blast, Israeli officials believed, would intimidate Egypt and surrounding Arab states — Syria, Iraq and Jordan — into backing off.

Israel won the war so quickly that the atomic device was never moved to Sinai. But Mr. Yaakov’s account, which sheds new light on a clash that shaped the contours of the modern Middle East conflict, reveals Israel’s early consideration of how it might use its nuclear arsenal to preserve itself.

“It’s the last secret of the 1967 war,” said Avner Cohen, a leading scholar of Israel’s nuclear history who conducted many interviews with the retired general.

Mr. Yaakov, who oversaw weapons development for the Israeli military, detailed the plan to Dr. Cohen in 1999 and 2000, years before he died in 2013 at age 87.

“Look, it was so natural,” said Mr. Yaakov, according to a transcription of a taped interview. “You’ve got an enemy, and he says he’s going to throw you to the sea. You believe him.”

“How can you stop him?” he asked. “You scare him. If you’ve got something you can scare him with, you scare him.”

Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear arsenal, in an effort to preserve “nuclear ambiguity” and forestall periodic calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. In 2001, Mr. Yaakov was arrested, at age 75, on charges that he had imperiled the country’s security by talking about the nuclear program to an Israeli reporter, Ronen Bergman, whose work was censored. At various moments, American officials, including former President Jimmy Carter long after he left office, have acknowledged the existence of the Israeli program, though they have never given details. [Continue reading…]

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The past 50 years of Israeli occupation. And the next

Nathan Thrall writes: Three months after the 1967 war, Israel’s ruling Mapai Party held a discussion on the future of the newly conquered territories. Golda Meir, who would become Israel’s leader a year and a half later, asked Prime Minister Levi Eshkol what he planned to do with the more than one million Arabs now living under Israeli rule.

“I get it,” Mr. Eshkol jokingly replied. “You want the dowry, but you don’t like the bride!” Mrs. Meir responded, “My soul yearns for the dowry, and to let someone else take the bride.”

On this 50th anniversary of the war, it is clear that over the half-century that followed, Israel managed to fulfill Mrs. Meir’s wish, keeping control of the land indefinitely without wedding itself to the inhabitants. This resilient and eminently sustainable arrangement, so often mischaracterized as a state of limbo assumed to be temporary, has stood on three main pillars: American backing, Palestinian weakness and Israeli indifference. Together, the three ensure that for the Israeli government, continuing its occupation is far less costly than the concessions required to end it. [Continue reading…]

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Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years

BBC News reports: Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades.

The security cabinet voted unanimously late on Thursday to begin construction on a hilltop known as “Geulat Zion”, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

It will be used to house some 40 families whose homes were cleared from an unauthorised settlement outpost.

Palestinian officials have condemned the move and called on the international community to intervene.

It comes despite US President Donald Trump asking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month to “hold back” on settlement construction. [Continue reading…]

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New Hamas charter would name ‘occupiers,’ not ‘Jews,’ as the enemy

The New York Times reports: Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that has governed the Gaza Strip for a decade, is drafting a new platform to present a more pragmatic and cooperative face to the world, Hamas officials confirmed on Thursday.

The document would represent a departure from the group’s contentious 1988 charter, in which it promised to “obliterate” Israel and characterized its struggle as specifically against Jews. The new document defines Hamas’s enemies as “occupiers.”

“It means that we don’t fight Jews because they are Jews,” said Taher el-Nounou, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. “Our struggle is only against those who occupied our lands.”

The new document would accept borders of the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war as the basis for a Palestinian state. It would not recognize Israel, however, nor would it give up future claims to all of what Hamas considers Palestinian lands.

Mr. Nounou said the document, the result of four years of work, is not yet final and has not yet been approved by Hamas’s governing bodies. Nor are its contents wholly new, even though they seem now to carry both practical and symbolic weight, particularly in Hamas’s relations with Egypt. [Continue reading…]

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‘Worst view in the world’: Banksy opens hotel overlooking Bethlehem wall

The Guardian reports: The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.

But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination.

The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy. [Continue reading…]

 

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Trump warns Israel: stop announcing new settlements

The Jerusalem Post reports: The White House warned Israel on Thursday – in a surprising statement – to cease settlement announcements that are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.

For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties.

The official told the Post that the White House was not consulted on Israel’s unprecedented announcement of 5,500 new settlement housing units over the course of his first two weeks in office. [Continue reading…]

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For hardline West Bank settlers, Jared Kushner’s their man

Reuters reports: For many in the Israeli settlement of Bet El, deep in the occupied West Bank, Donald Trump’s choice of Jared Kushner as his senior adviser on the Middle East is a sign of politics shifting in their favor.

They regard Kushner, whose family’s charitable foundation has donated tens of thousands of dollars to their settlement, as part of a diplomatic rebalancing after what they view as eight years of anti-Israel bias under the U.S. administration of Barack Obama.

“He will stand up for our interests. I suppose he will lean in our favor,” said Avi Lavi, 46, who has lived in Bet El for more than 40 years. “He’ll be fair, as opposed to Obama, whose policy leaned always towards the Arabs.”

New U.S. President Trump says his son-in-law Kushner, 36, is capable of brokering the “ultimate deal” to deliver peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Roi Margalit, manager of the Bet El Yeshiva, a seminary complex with around 400 students, said Kushner, an Orthodox Jewish father of three, understood the position of Israeli settlers better than previous envoys.

“At least now we have someone who knows us,” the 43-year-old added. “He will now have to study the other side (the Palestinians) and see if there is any common ground.”

Trump’s pick for Israeli ambassador has sparked particular enthusiasm in the community: David Friedman, who chairs the American Friends of Bet El Institutions fundraising group. [Continue reading…]

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Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration

BBC News reports: srael has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem, after the staunch pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman told AFP: “Now we can finally build.”

Israel’s PM reportedly delayed approval given the opposition of Barack Obama, who infuriated Israel by allowing a UN resolution against settlements to pass.

Settlements in East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Mr Trump had invited him to a meeting in Washington in February, on a date yet to be decided. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu calls for pardon of convicted soldier Azaria

Al Jazeera reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a pardon of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier found guilty of manslaughter after he shot and killed a wounded Palestinian last year.

“This is a difficult and painful day – first and foremost for Elor, his family, Israel’s soldiers, many citizens and parents of soldiers, among them me … I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria,” Netanyahu said Wednesday on his Facebook page.

The country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, who has the authority to issue pardons, said he will wait for the legal process to run its course before making a decision.

“In the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the president in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities,” he said in presidential statement.

The remarks were made just hours after Azaria was convicted on Wednesday in the high-profile case that raised questions over rules of engagement towards perceived threats by Palestinians.

A judge read out the court’s decision for more than two hours before announcing the verdict. The 20-year-old soldier could now face a maximum 20 years in prison. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: David Enoch, a professor in the faculty of law and philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that the trial and public debate surrounding it marked a “horrible deterioration in Israeli society.”

“It’s not as if racism or violence against Palestinians is new, but at least in the past there were attempts to be civilized. There was at least some sanity,” Enoch said. “Now, many of those asking for Azaria to be pardoned have not mistaken the facts of the case. They just see an Israeli Jewish soldier shooting a Palestinian terrorist, and they don’t care about anything else.”

Even before the verdict was read, some Israeli leaders, including senior government ministers, called for the soldier to be pardoned.

“He should not sit one day in jail. We expect the defense minister to stick to his promises and initiate an immediate amnesty for Azaria,” read a statement from the far-right Jewish Home party, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: An Israeli advocacy group on Tuesday criticized what it called an “exceptionally low” prosecution rate by the Israeli military in cases of violence committed by soldiers against Palestinians.

The report by Yesh Din, a human rights group that is often critical of the Israeli military, came a day before a military court’s verdict is to be delivered in a high-profile manslaughter case against a soldier.

In its annual report, Yesh Din said the army opened 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, but just four of those investigations yielded indictments. The group said the 2015 figures, based on official army data, were the most recent available.

In the fall of 2015, a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted, characterized by Palestinian stabbing and car-ramming attacks on Israelis. The report said that of 76 Palestinians killed in clashes with soldiers in the West Bank in 2015, only 21 deaths resulted in investigations.

“The fact that in 55 incidents no criminal investigation was considered necessary raises doubts about the implementation of Israel’s declared policy on investigating civilian fatalities,” the report said. It said the data signaled an “inability and unwillingness” to address unlawful conduct. [Continue reading…]

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Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s

The Washington Post reports: Through eight years of escalating criticism from the world’s most powerful leader, Israeli construction in these sacred, militarily occupied hills never stopped.

Thousands of homes were built. Miles of roadway. Restaurants. Shopping malls. A university.

Here in Shiloh, a tourist center went up, with a welcome video in which the biblical figure Joshua commands the Jewish people to settle the land promised to them by God.

Israeli settlements may be illegal in the eyes of the U.N. Security Council and a major obstacle to Middle East peace in the view of the Obama administration.

But every day they become a more entrenched reality on land that Palestinians say should rightfully belong to them. As the parched beige hilltops fill with red-tiled homes, decades of international efforts to achieve a two-state solution are unraveling.

And global condemnations notwithstanding, the trend is poised to accelerate.

Already, Israel has a right-wing government that boasts it is more supportive of settlement construction than any in the country’s short history. Within weeks, it will also have as an ally a U.S. president, Donald Trump, who has signaled he could make an extraordinary break with decades of U.S. policy and end American objections to the settlements. [Continue reading…]

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The world has finally called Israel’s bluff on its non-existent Palestinian peace process

Tony Karon writes: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long based his settlement strategy on the assumption that the international community will ignore the plight of the Palestinians. But the United Nations proved him wrong on Dec. 23, passing Security Council resolution 2334, which reaffirms the longstanding UN ruling that all Israeli settlements built outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders violate international law.

Israel has reacted with predictable fury to the UN resolution, with Netanyahu engaging in theatrical attempts to humiliate the resolution’s supporters. Netanyahu has also jousted verbally with US secretary of state John Kerry over the Obama administration’s reasons for withholding its veto, presumably hoping to impress his domestic political audience with an almost comical display of assumed international authority.

But even though Israel has made it clear that the non-binding resolution won’t restrain its continued settlement construction on the ground, the tone of its response reflects a well-grounded anxiety over the potential consequences of renewed international engagement on the conflict.

Despite Netanyahu’s confidence that the incoming Trump administration will back Israel on its settlement enterprise, the fact that not a single Israeli ally voted against the resolution deals a staggering blow to the prime minister’s core belief that Israel can normalize its international standing while denying the rights of millions of Palestinians. Netanyahu frequently boasts of Israel’s diplomatic gains, claiming it has made common cause with Sunni Arab states against Iran. But these statements are based on the unspoken assumption that amid more dramatic developments elsewhere, the world will simply forget about the Palestinians’ plight. [Continue reading…]

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Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy on Israeli settlements, Kerry, military aid & end of two-state solution

 

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Under every scenario, Israel continues expanding settlements

In an editorial, the New York Times says: Many of Mr. Netanyahu’s accusations and those of his supporters misrepresent the history of Israeli-American relations, malign Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, and confuse what should be a serious debate over the future of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which seems further away every day. With less than three weeks before Mr. Obama leaves office, Mr. Kerry on Wednesday finally gave the speech he wanted to give two years ago — a passionate, blunt and detailed warning about why the two-state solution is in jeopardy and how it might yet be salvaged before incalculable damage is done to Israel and the region.

Inconveniently for Mr. Netanyahu’s claim that the Security Council resolution was the result of perfidy by Mr. Obama, the measure was adopted 14 to 0, with support from Russia, China and Egypt, among others. It declared that the settlements, in territory that Israel captured from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, have no legal validity; affirming longstanding United Nations and American policy, it cited the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits any occupying power from transferring its own people to conquered territory.

The most politically volatile feature of the new resolution was that it explicitly condemned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu has emphasized that the language did not distinguish between Jerusalem and the West Bank and hence treated the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, as occupied territory.

Under any negotiated solution to the conflict, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But Palestinians also expect to have areas of Jerusalem as their capital, and to have access to Muslim holy sites there. That is why this resolution did not represent a change in the position of the United Nations, which has referred to Jerusalem in many such statements backed by past American administrations. Under Mr. Obama, the United States continues to subscribe to the position enshrined in the 1993 Oslo accords that the future of Jerusalem, like that of the West Bank, should be decided through negotiation — not by diktat by either side.

Anyone who doesn’t think so hasn’t looked at the map or studied the history of the settlement movement. Right-wing Israeli settlers have been quite open for decades about their patient approach to claiming Jerusalem and the West Bank by strategically placing settlements to prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Since 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has grown to around 400,000, a gain of more than 100,000, and the number of settlers in East Jerusalem has grown to roughly 208,000, from 193,000, according to Americans for Peace Now. During the same period, construction has begun on over 12,700 settlement units on the West Bank.

Supporters of Mr. Netanyahu argue that Mr. Obama has now only inflamed the Israeli right and encouraged more settlement-building, as if this Israeli government would otherwise show restraint. This is the cynical logic of the settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements. Under any scenario, settlements will grow, and the possibility of a two-state solution will recede. [Continue reading…]

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