Israeli killings and raids make for a dark Christmas at Bethlehem refugee camp

The National reports: This Christmas season in Bethlehem, death, depression and anger are in the air at Aida refugee camp, three kilometres from Nativity Church.

Aida, wedged between Israel’s West Bank separation barrier and an army checkpoint, has been a major flashpoint of clashes during the two-and-a-half-month-old wave of violence known in the Palestinian media as the haba shaabiya or popular rising.

At least 126 Palestinians and 19 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of October, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Five of the Palestinian dead were from the Bethlehem area and two from Aida camp, including Abdul Rahman Shadi Obeidallah, 13, who camp residents say was killed by a sniper on October 5 as he stood in the street with friends. [Continue reading…]

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American donors funding West Bank settlements

Mitchell Plitnick writes: A great deal of support for Israeli settlements comes from the United States in the form of tax-deductible contributions from private donors. The Obama administration, like all administrations before it, opposes Israeli settlement in the West Bank and considers it an obstacle to peace. Yet, at the same time, the United States government effectively incentivizes support for the settlements by allowing American charities to disburse millions of tax-deductible dollars in support for them.

This problem has not gone unnoticed, even though it continues unimpeded at this point. The Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, is publishing a series of reports and data uncovered by journalist Uri Blau detailing the extent of private American support for the settlements.

This investigation by Blau pushes forward efforts that a number of US-based groups have made in the past. Most recently, T’Ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights brought attention to this issue by filing a complaint against one such group, Honenu, in New York. Earlier in 2015, the group Avaaz petitioned the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of The Hebron Fund, which directly supports the flashpoint Israeli settlement in that Palestinian city. [Continue reading…]

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Israeli army unit storms hospital and kills Palestinian

Al Jazeera reports: An elite Israeli military force that operates undercover stormed the al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron and shot dead a 27-year-old Palestinian, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Abdullah al-Shalaldeh was killed by five rounds fired early Thursday after 21 members of the elite unit – known as Mustaarabin – barged into the hospital room of his cousin, Azzam al-Shalaldeh, a ministry statement said.

The commandos wanted to question Azzam – who required surgery after earlier being shot by Israeli security forces – and his cousin tried to prevent them from doing so when the Israelis opened fire. [Continue reading…]

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Lynch mob: Majority of Jewish Israelis want terror suspects killed on the spot even if they no longer pose a threat

972mag.org reports: Over half of Jewish Israelis (53 percent) believe that a Palestinian suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack “should be killed on the spot, even if he has been apprehended and no longer poses a threat,” a new survey shows.

The poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute at the end of October, quizzed Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel on their attitudes toward the current wave of violence sweeping the country.

Respondents were questioned on a range of topics, including their attitudes to punishing perpetrators of terrorist attacks; their level of anxiety over the current situation; and possible underlying causes for the present escalation. [Continue reading…]

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Israel’s descent into jingoistic ‘orgies of feeling’

Neve Gordon writes:  I first understood that something had changed when I received a message to one of my WhatsApp groups saying “Gordon’s girlfriend.” This was followed by the snuff video of police officers shooting Asraa Zidan Tawfik Abed, a 30-year-old Palestinian mother from Nazareth. In the video, Asraa is surrounded by Israeli soldiers who are all aiming automatic rifles at her while she sobs and cries out. She clearly poses no threat whatsoever to those around her, and yet suddenly a police officer nonchalantly walks toward her, aims, and shoots, three times. Asraa falls to the ground, while someone in the crowd shouts, “Daughter of a whore!”

The video went viral, and, like so many Jewish Israeli viewers, the person who sent it to my WhatsApp group obviously found the violence amusing. I watched the disturbing footage several times before answering, “This is what woman hunting looks like.”

Two weeks later, an Israeli state prosecutor admitted that Asraa had had no intention of stabbing anyone, but he also added that the policeman who had gunned her down would not be charged. The message to the security forces was unequivocal: Shoot, no questions asked.

The snuff video of Fadi Alon from Jerusalem was even more horrific, and not only because Fadi was murdered by a police officer as he was trying to flee an angry mob, while Asraa was only wounded, but because the mob surrounding Fadi was caught on film taunting the police officers. They are heard demanding an extrajudicial execution while accusing the security forces of being spineless. Watching the police succumb to the mob, I understood for the first time what it must have meant to be in the Roman Colosseum in the midst of the madding crowd.

And, yet, the current situation in Israel is very different. Unlike ancient Rome, in Israel events are framed by a melodramatic political script that thrives on what Elisabeth Anker, following Nietzsche, calls orgies of feeling. [Continue reading…]

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We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel

Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl write: The West Bank is increasingly treated as part of Israel, with the green line demarcating the occupied territories erased from many maps. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared recently that control over the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.”

This “basic fact” poses an ethical dilemma for American Jews: Can we continue to embrace a state that permanently denies basic rights to another people? Yet it also poses a problem from a Zionist perspective: Israel has embarked on a path that threatens its very existence.

As happened in the cases of Rhodesia and South Africa, Israel’s permanent subjugation of Palestinians will inevitably isolate it from Western democracies. Not only is European support for Israel waning, but also U.S. public opinion — once seemingly rock solid — has begun to shift as well, especially among millennials. International pariah status is hardly a recipe for Israel’s survival. [Continue reading…]

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The occupation is destroying Israel, too

Assaf Gavron writes: We seem to be in a fast and alarming downward swirl into a savage, unrepairable society. There is only one way to respond to what’s happening in Israel today: We must stop the occupation. Not for peace with the Palestinians or for their sake (though they have surely suffered at our hands for too long). Not for some vision of an idyllic Middle East — those arguments will never end, because neither side will ever budge, or ever be proved wrong by anything. No, we must stop the occupation for ourselves. So that we can look ourselves in the eyes. So that we can legitimately ask for, and receive, support from the world. So that we can return to being human.

Whatever the consequences are, they can’t be worse than what we are now grappling with. No matter how many soldiers we put in the West Bank, or how many houses of terrorists we blow up, or how many stone-throwers we arrest, we don’t have any sense of security; meanwhile, we have become diplomatically isolated, perceived around the world (sometimes correctly) as executioners, liars, racists. As long as the occupation lasts, we are the more powerful side, so we call the shots, and we cannot go on blaming others. For our own sake, for our sanity — we must stop now. [Continue reading…]

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‘Those disguised as Arabs’

AFP correspondent, Andrea Bernardi, writes: It’s fairly common to see Israeli agents infiltrate the crowds of Palestinian stone throwers during demonstrations. I’ve witnessed this plenty of times in Jerusalem. The goal of these “mustarabiin” — literally “those who disguise themselves as Arabs” — is to stop the protesters. They usually take out their weapons without using them, or, more often, point them into the sky, as if they were about to shoot into the air.

But today, I filmed these undercover agents for the first time firing live bullets into a crowd of protesters.

I showed up to cover a “Day of Rage” that Palestinian students staged at the Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. At the end of the demonstration, the protesters headed toward the DCO checkpoint near the Bet-El settlement, which has often been the scene of clashes between the two sides. [Continue reading…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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