World Bank warns of ‘high risk’ of renewed Palestine-Israel conflict

Ma’an reports: The World Bank has warned of the “high risk” of renewed Palestine-Israel conflict following the third straight year of increasing poverty in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In a report released Tuesday, the World Bank pointed to war, reduced donor aid, the suspension of revenue payments, and ongoing restrictions by Israel as having had “a severe impact on the Palestinian economy.”

“The persistence of this situation could potentially lead to political and social unrest,” the report said.

“In short, the status quo is not sustainable and downside risks of further conflict and social unrest are high,” said the World Bank.

The percentage of the population living under the poverty line has reached 39 percent in Gaza and 16 percent in the West Bank. [Continue reading…]


Israeli cabinet approves lethal force against non-lethal threats

The New York Times reports: Israel’s security cabinet approved a series of measures on Thursday as part of a crackdown on rock throwing and firebombing by Palestinians in Jerusalem, including minimum sentences and greater leeway for the police to open fire — steps that opponents say contravene basic legal principles and may only escalate the violence.

Police officers will now be authorized to use Ruger rifles that fire .22-caliber bullets, which have less impact than other types of live ammunition but can still be lethal or cause serious injury.

Under the new regulations, police have permission to open fire not only when their own lives are threatened, as was the case previously, but also when there is “an immediate and concrete danger” to civilians, according to a government statement.

In addition, the government is preparing legislation to impose minimum prison terms of four years — the maximum is 20 years — for adults who throw rocks, homemade firebombs or shoot fireworks directly at people during confrontations. Increased fines will be imposed on convicted minors, ages 14 to 18, and their parents, and child support benefits will be revoked for jailed minors, the statement added. [Continue reading…]


Israel has a moral duty to accept Palestinian refugees from Syria

Matthew Ayton writes: Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has recently called for Israel to facilitate the absorption into the West Bank of Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria. Mr Abbas has asked the PA ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, to cooperate with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to “take appropriate and necessary measures to absorb displaced Palestinian refugees into the Palestinian territories” – to bring them home.

According to the PA’s official news website, Wafa, the PA is looking for international help to “stop the Palestinians’ plight of displacement, death and dispersal in world countries due to the current difficulties in the region”.

Acknowledging this, Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Israeli centre-left opposition, the Zionist Union, declared that the Israeli government should strive “toward receiving refugees from the war in Syria” and tied his assertion to the historical narrative of dislocation Jewish people have faced in past conflicts. However, he did not explicitly mention Palestinians and their right of return as enshrined in UN resolution 194.

In keeping with his usual catch-all rhetoric, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he will “not allow Israel to be submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists”.

Mr Netanyahu’s words may sound like a chorus taken from the same demagogic hymn sheet of some far-right European leaders towards the Syrian refugees. However, it is because of Israel’s unique historical responsibility to the Palestinian people – the people it has systematically dispersed since the 1948 mass displacement of up to 800,000 Palestinians from their homes – that it should play a constructive role in facilitating entry to Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria into the West Bank. [Continue reading…]


Haaretz names Jewish terrorists being held without trial in Israel

Haaretz reports: Israel’s defense establishment knows who is responsible for the arson attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family two months ago, but has chosen to prevent legal recourse in order to protect the identity of their sources, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a closed meeting of some 20 young Likud activists in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Three Jewish suspects were put under administrative detention following the attack.
Three Jewish suspects are currently being held without trial for terrorist activities: Meir Ettinger, who according to the Shin Bet headed an extreme rightist organization intent on toppling the Israeli government though violent means, and encouraged others to carry out terrorist acts; Mordechai Meyer, the alleged arsonist behind a fire at Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem; and Eviatar Slonim, accused of setting fire to a home in the Palestinian town of Khirbet Abu Falah.

None of these names has been explicitly tied publicly to the attack on the Dawabshe family home in Duma. [Continue reading…]


Israel plans to demolish 17,000 Arab buildings in West Bank, UN says

The Guardian reports: Israel plans to demolish up to 17,000 structures, most of them on privately owned Palestinian land in the part of the illegally occupied West Bank under full Israeli military and civil rule, a UN report has found.

Between 1988 and 2014, Israel’s Civil Administration, the governing body that operates in the West Bank, issued 14,000 demolition orders, of which more than 11,000 are still outstanding and could result in the demolition of up to 17,000 structures owned by Palestinians in Area C, including houses, sheds and animal shelters, according to the report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In Area C, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel retains control of security and land management and “views the area as there to serve its own needs”.

Nearly 4,500 of the demolition orders affected Palestinian Bedouins, who human rights groups argue are at the centre of Israeli plans to force them off their land to allow for expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law. [Continue reading…]


Israeli terrorists, born in the U.S.A.

Sara Yael Hirschhorn writes: On July 31, in the West Bank village of Duma, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive in a fire. All available evidence suggests that the blaze was a deliberate act of settler terrorism. More disturbingly, several of the alleged instigators, currently being detained indefinitely, are not native-born Israelis — they have American roots.

But there has been little outcry in their communities. Settler rabbis and the leaders of American immigrant communities in the West Bank have either played down their crime or offered muted criticism.

It’s worth recalling the response of the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to another heinous attack two decades ago, when an American-born doctor, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down dozens of Palestinians while they prayed in Hebron.

“He grew in a swamp whose murderous sources are found here, and across the sea; they are foreign to Judaism, they are not ours,” thundered Mr. Rabin before the Knesset in February 1994. “You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”

The shocking 1994 massacre was, at the time, the bloodiest outbreak of settler terrorism Israelis and Palestinians had ever seen. Less than two years later, Mr. Rabin himself would be dead, felled by an ultranationalist assassin’s bullet.

Suddenly, a group of American Jewish immigrants that had existed on the fringes of society became a national pariah. A former president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, labeled the United States “a breeding ground” for Jewish terror; the daily newspaper Maariv castigated American Jews who “send their lunatic children to Israel.” One Israeli journalist even demanded “operative steps against the Goldsteins of tomorrow” by banning the immigration of militant American Jews.

But tomorrow has arrived. [Continue reading…]


UN: Gaza could be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020 if trends continue

The Associated Press reports: A new United Nations report says Gaza could be “uninhabitable” in less than five years if current economic trends continue.

The report released Tuesday by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development points to the eight years of economic blockade of Gaza as well as the three wars between Israel and the Palestinians there over the past six years.

Last year’s war displaced half a million people and left parts of Gaza destroyed.

The war “has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid,” the new report says. [Continue reading…]


Israel’s non-democratic destiny

Michael N. Barnett writes: Believing in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is a little like looking for unicorns on the moon — it doesn’t matter how much you search, you still won’t find any. As recognition of this fact has become increasingly widespread, grappling with its implications has been hampered by the lack of normatively attractive or politically viable alternatives. In his review of Padraig O’Malley’s “The Two State Delusion,” Peter Beinart calls the book and its research impressive but nevertheless faults the author for not telling us how the story ends.

Although Beinart and others committed to a two-state solution make it sound like the alternatives are a great mystery, the search for unicorns has been distracting them from increasingly plausible outcomes. As the two-state solution fades into history, its alternatives become increasingly likely: civil war, ethnic cleansing or a non-democratic state. Although all three are possible, the third is rising on the horizon. Whether it goes by the name of an apartheid state, an illiberal democracy, a less than free society or a competitive authoritarianism, the dominant theme will be a Jewish minority ruling over a non-Jewish majority. Although such an outcome would be an emotional blow to those who favor the two-state solution as a way to maintain Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, it looks quite familiar in a world where liberal democracy not only remains the exception but has actually lost ground over the last decade. [Continue reading…]


Gaza, Gulag on the Mediterranean

Mohammed Omer writes: At this time last year, as the missiles and bombs rained down in Israel’s lopsided seven-week war against Gaza, I wrote about our struggle to survive during the holy month of Ramadan. This year, another Ramadan has passed, Eid al-Fitr is over and the reality on the ground has changed very little.

The same dreadful conditions are creating desperation among Gaza’s inhabitants, whose lives are terrorized by war and stunted by the long blockade of this spit of land, 25 miles long and six miles wide. The only difference now is the absence of the smell of gunfire and explosives, and of the smoke trails from missiles fired by Israeli F-16s crashing down among civilian homes.

I recently visited some of the most heavily damaged areas of Gaza, starting with eastern Rafah, where massive destruction is still visible and bullet holes spatter the walls of houses. Up the road, in the half-ruined village of Khuzaa, the legacy of physical and emotional trauma has yet to be addressed. [Continue reading…]


Israel’s president tells West Bank settlers: ‘Our right to land’ is beyond debate

The Times of Israel reports: President Reuven Rivlin told a gathering of settler leaders Monday that Israel’s right to the land is beyond political debate, and that this is a basic fact of Zionism that no one should ever doubt.

At a meeting in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem with chairmen of West Bank regional councils, Rivlin praised the resilience of settlers in the face of recent Palestinian attacks against settlers and soldiers.

“Our right to the land is not a matter of political debate,” he declared. “It is a fundamental fact of modern Zionism. We must not let anyone have the feeling that we doubt our right to the land.

“In the last few months, and especially in the last few days, the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria has been dealing with grave terror attacks,” Rivlin said, using the biblical term for the West Bank regions. “Thus, in these days our meeting is especially important. As always, the pioneers walking ahead of the camp meet the toughest resistance, and pay, together with IDF soldiers, a heavy price.

“We have to cope,” he continued. “We have the ability to cope with the current wave of terror, to fight against it, and not to give anyone the power to disrupt daily life. We must be an iron wall, a strong shield against those who wish to rise against us.” [Continue reading…]


The new face of Jewish terror

Shira Rubin writes: “Jewish terror” is not new to Israel. In one of the most infamous incidents, the Irgun, a militant Zionist group, set off a bomb in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946, killing 91 people. But, says Shlomo Fischer, a sociology professor and expert on Jewish extremism, the modern incarnation is younger and more religious, uniting an eclectic group of fringe outcasts around an identity of “romantic religious nationalism.”

The movement dates back to 1967, when Israel captured and occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a six-day war that many saw as imbued with messianic promise. Today, the loosely organized movement appeals to many marginalized youth and yeshiva dropouts by offering an “authentic” countercultural experience, says Fischer, who compares the recruitment strategy and sense of identity to extremist Islamist groups like the Islamic State. “You feel like you are able to connect with some sort of purpose, some sort of ideology that you’d never heard of,” an anonymous former hilltop youth activist told Israel’s Channel 2. He said that hilltop activists recruit at information booths throughout Israeli cities and are usually able to attract teenagers as young as 14, some 80 or 90 percent of whom come from broken homes. [Continue reading…]


Fearful of Jewish settlers, Palestinians deploy night watchmen

The Washington Post reports: The men of this hilltop town who gather at night with clubs and flashlights stress they are not afraid. But they say something changed after the recent arson attack that left a toddler dead in a village just a few miles away.

“You don’t sleep so well,” said Ibrahim Wadi, 54, a chemical engineer who was out on the town’s southern perimeter at midnight this week, carrying a rusty steel bar and scanning the horizon.

Wadi and 30 to 40 other men, farmers and shopkeepers and construction workers, were fanned out across a rocky ridge, their flashlights winking on and off in the open fields. Some of the men carried shepherd’s clubs, others pickaxes, hoes and canes. [Continue reading…]


Jewish terrorism targeting Palestinians is nothing new

The Daily Beast reports: Raphael Morris, a 20-year-old religious settler from the outpost of Ahiya, has for years engaged in a “holy war,” he tells The Daily Beast. He’s battling to rid Israel of its non-Jewish elements and expand the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria—the biblical term for the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River that once belonged to the ancient kingdom of Israel.

Six years ago, Morris arrived at a nearby outpost with 10 other teenagers and learned to work the vineyard, build houses, and “in a number of instances” created a line of defense against the surrounding Palestinian villages. “The Arabs knew not to mess with us,” he says.

This area of the West Bank is home to dozens of outposts initiated in defiance of the Israeli government by mainly Orthodox teenagers and young families known as “hilltop youth.” But these communities are also breeding a zealous culture of Jewish militancy that has led to intensifying attacks on Palestinian towns.

Ahiya is only a short distance from the village of Duma, where on July 31 Jewish extremists firebombed two Arab homes in the dead of night.

One of the houses was empty, but in the other four members of the same family were sleeping in one bedroom. Eighteen-month-old Ali Saad Dawabshah was immediately burned to death, and his father, Saad Dawabshah, succumbed two weeks later to the third-degree burns that covered more than 80 percent of his body. The mother, Reham, and her four-year-old son, Ahmad, remain in critical condition in an Israeli hospital and few family members expect them to survive.

On the walls of the house the arsonists left graffiti reading “Revenge!” and “Long Live the Messiah” next to a Star of David.

The brutal attacks have shocked Israel, prompting nation-wide “soul searching” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians condemn the act as “Jewish terror.” But such incidents are neither so new nor so isolated as these denunciations would make them seem. [Continue reading…]


Israelis lean right toward one-state solution

Daoud Kuttab writes: Of all the Israelis who spoke out against the burning of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus, the voice of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin seemed the most sincere.

Speaking at a rally in Jerusalem on Aug. 1, the Israeli president rejected the idea that this was an isolated case with no context to it. “Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: What is it in the public atmosphere that allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight?” he asked. American writer Peter Beinart later wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Aug. 5 that Rivlin accepted moral responsibility while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “denied and lied about incitement including his own.” This was the clearest accusation against Netanyahu of responsibility for what happened.

But beyond Rivlin’s humanistic exterior is a senior Israeli official who is an ardent supporter of the total annexation of the West Bank to Israel. Rivlin’s actions don’t hide the fact that he, like many in his and Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has a much more radical plan for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. [Continue reading…]


Israel continues crackdown on Jewish extremist network in West Bank

The New York Times reports: The Israeli authorities on Sunday continued their crackdown against the young Jewish zealots believed to be associated with the Revolt, a shadowy network described by its members as an anarchistic vision of redemption.

The extremists’ working plan calls for fomenting unrest to bring about the collapse of the State of Israel, with its democratic system of government and courts, and establishing a Jewish kingdom based on the laws of the Torah. Non-Jews are to be expelled, the Third Temple is to be built and religious observance is to be enforced, initially in public spaces.

“The starting point of the Revolt is that the State of Israel has no right to exist, and therefore we are not bound by the rules of the game,” write the anonymous authors of the manifesto of sedition that lays out these ideas, which the Shin Bet internal security agency recently discovered.

Six-month administrative detention orders were issued Sunday against two high-profile activists from the radical right, Meir Ettinger and Eviatar Slonim, both in their early 20s. [Continue reading…]


The Gaza Strip’s last safety net is in danger

Sara Roy writes: Not long ago, I had a conversation with an official I know from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The official told me about a conversation he had with a senior Israel Defense Forces officer. In that conversation, my UN colleague asked the IDF official to describe Israel’s policy toward Gaza. The answer was just seven words long: “No development, no prosperity, no humanitarian crisis,” by now a common refrain within Israel’s military and political establishment.

As shocking as this statement is, it offers a remarkably accurate reflection of Israel’s near 50-aear policy in Gaza. While Israel did allow a limited degree of prosperity during the first years of the occupation, it has, nonetheless, aimed to prohibit any form of economic development in the territory—and, hence, the emergence of a Palestinian state. This approach has been especially ruinous for Gaza over the last decade, during which Israel imposed a strangling blockade that eliminated virtually all exports, shrank the manufacturing sector by as much as 60 percent, and reduced Gaza’s GDP by 50 percent, according to the World Bank. Israel has further launched three major military assaults on Gaza since the end of 2008—the latest and largest of them last summer (Operation Protective Edge)—leveling neighborhoods, destroying infrastructure, and inflicting immeasurable damage on the tiny strip and its nearly 2 million inhabitants. [Continue reading…]


Israel wrecked my home. Now it wants my land

Nureddin Amro writes: The world is watching Susiya to see if Israel will demolish the community of 340 Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills. The Supreme Court here has refused to delay the forced removal of structures where 55 families have lived since they were displaced by state-sponsored archaeological digs that helped expand a nearby settlement. Living under the threat of demolition is a horrible experience. The Palestinians of Susiya probably feel disoriented, unstable and scared that their way of life could be dismantled at any minute. I know, because I’m in a similar situation. In my neighborhood, the destruction has already started.

Just before dawn on March 31, dozens of Israeli soldiers and police officers blocked off the streets and surrounded the one-story house where my older brother Sharif, his family of six, our 79-year-old mother, my wife, my three children and I live. We had gone to bed looking forward to a picnic the next morning, but we were awoken by the frightening sounds of jeeps and heavy machinery. Israeli security forces banged on the doors, shouting in Hebrew that we had to get out at once. They had come to demolish our home.

I was born in Jerusalem. My parents were born in Jerusalem. Their parents were born in Jerusalem. Their parents were born in Jerusalem. Our modest house is approximately 70 years old — older than the state of Israel. I have lived here in al-Sawana, a neighborhood between the Old City and the Mount of Olives, not far from the Gethsemane Valley (where the Romans caught Jesus), for more than 40 years. It is near a commercial area, hospitals, Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and precious religious sites for the three big monotheistic faiths. In other words, I live on strategic land. [Continue reading…]


Thousands protest against racist, homophobic attacks; place blame on Israeli gov’t

+972 reports: Thousands of people gathered in cities across the country on Saturday night to protest against the racist and homophobic attacks of the past few days. The demonstrations come in response to Thursday’s mass stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, as well as the arson attack in the West Bank village Duma, where 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death.

In Tel Aviv over 3,000 people attended a rally organized by Peace Now, calling for “an iron fist against Jewish terrorism.” Among the speakers were opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who earlier on Saturday called on the government to expand its use of administrative detention against Jews involved in terrorism.

Nasser Dawabshe, the uncle of the slain infant, also spoke, saying that Netanyahu’s condolences were not enough, and that it is the prime minister’s duty to ensure the security of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. “We demand that this be the end of our people’s suffering,” he told the crowed. “Before Ali came Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and we do not know who is next in line. We want these arson attacks to end.” [Continue reading…]