Busload of Palestinian families detained for two hours over photograph of mother’s imprisoned children
Samidoun 27 Oct — A bus full of Palestinian families was detained for two hours by Israeli occupation forces after a visit with their loved ones on Wednesday, 26 October in the Negev desert prison, on the grounds that one of the mothers of the prisoners had with her a photograph of her imprisoned children, reported Asra Media. The families were searched by occupation forces after leaving the visiting rooms to the buses organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The photograph was actually a picture of the woman’s children in Megiddo prison from years ago; nevertheless, the woman was interrogated about the photograph and accused of having secretly smuggled the photograph during her visit with her son. This continued until ICRC personnel confirmed that the photograph was in fact an old photo from Megiddo prison, finally securing the release of the visiting families from occupation forces. The detention of families, humiliating searches and interrogations comes within a systematic policy by Israeli occupation forces of denying and undermining family visits. This policy includes the prohibition of visits on the pretext of “security,” the confiscation of already-issued visitor permits as family members are en route to visit their loved ones, denial of family visits as a mechanism of punishing prisoners’ protests, confiscation of gifts, and humiliating searches and inspections of family members.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian officer killed after shooting Israeli soldiers
Electronic Intifada 1 Nov by Maureen Clare Murphy — A Palestinian man was killed after firing on Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, on Monday. Three Israeli soldiers were reported wounded, one moderately and two lightly. The slain Palestinian, who was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, was identified as Muhammad Turkman, 25. Turkman is the 12th youth from Qabatiya village, in the northern West Bank, to be slain in the past year. Medics with the Palestine Red Crescent Society told media that Israeli forces prevented them from accessing Turkman to provide first aid. Israeli forces also raided a gas station near the checkpoint, confiscating security camera equipment that may have captured images of the incident. Turkman was an officer with the Palestinian Authority police. Israel has relied on the PA to quell a new phase of confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces that has left approximately 250 Palestinians and 35 Israelis dead since the beginning of October 2015. Monday’s deadly incident took place near the Beit El settlement, which houses the Israeli Civil Administration, the bureaucratic arm of the military occupation, and its district office. The checkpoint where Turkman was shot dead is known by Palestinians as the VIP checkpoint, as only authorized persons are able to cross it .. Turkman’s family told media that Palestinian security forces had raided Turkman’s home hours before he carried out his attack, confiscating weapons and ammunition….
Students in Jerusalem, Hebron injured after Israeli forces fire tear gas in universities
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — Clashes broke out between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces on Tuesday afternoon near al-Quds University in the Jerusalem district town of Abu Dis. Bassam Bahar, head of a local committee in Abu Dis, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided Abu Dis and stationed themselves on the al-Quds University’s premises, causing clashes to break out in the area between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth. Witnesses added that dozens of students suffered from tear gas inhalation, as Israeli forces fired tear gas towards the university. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that its crews provided medical care to two Palestinians injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, and treated 45 people for severe tear gas inhalation.
Separately, a number of Palestinian university students in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron suffered from suffocation when Israeli forces fired tear gas towards their campus. Israeli forces fired tear gas towards the Palestine Polytechnic University in the Wadi al-Hari area of Hebron, reportedly not in response to any sort of provocations, as witnesses highlighted that there were no clashes or other problems taking place at the time. Witnesses said that an Israeli military vehicle passing near the university fired tear gas at the university compound, and that Palestinian ambulances rushed to scene afterwards and presented first aid to the students.
Israeli forces attack East Jerusalem school in search of ‘stone-throwers’
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Nov — Israeli soldiers, on Monday morning, raided a Palestinian school in annexed East Jerusalem, looking for “stone-throwers”, and summoned its headmaster for police interrogation. According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan, soldiers broke into the school, located in Ras Al-‘Amud,looking for stone throwers, and then showered the school with random barrages of rubber-coated metal bullets and sound bombs. However, no injuries were reported in the assault, according to the PNN. Secretary of the parental committee of Silwan town, Issam Abbasi, condemned the attack, saying that soldiers spread in the schools street, which contains 9 schools and kindergartens and schools over 5,000 children of all ages, and declared that the army is preventing them from enjoying a normal, safe schooling environment, Silwanic reported. He added that the soldiers often search the students and write tickets to cars, so as to cause traffic delays and stall children from reaching their classes
Silwan: A settler assaults the child Qusai Rajabi
Silwanic 30 Oct — A settler assaulted 6-year old Qusai Jadallah Rajabi while he was near his house in the neighborhood of Batn Al-Hawa in Silwan. Jadallah Rajabi, the child’s father, explained to Wadi Hilweh Information Center that one of the settlers present in Batn Al-Hawa pushed his 6-year old son Qusai towards a wall and punched him on his eye for no reason when he was playing with his cousins outside their home; he had a red eye and suffered some pains. Rajabi added that his son went home crying with clear signs of fear. It was obvious he was assaulted with clear redness around his eye; he then talked about being assaulted by a settler. Rajabi added that his son and nephews confirmed that the settler attacked Qusai for no reason. Rajabi also said he went to the place where his son was assaulted and found the assailant settler along with two other settlers. He asked him about the reason of assaulting his child while playing outside his home, but the settlers started shouting and threatening to use his weapon. Meanwhile, a foot patrol passed by and Qusai’s father told them about what had happened. They arrested the settler and took him to Salah Eddin Street police station. Rajabi explained he filed a complaint in Salah Eddin Street police station regarding the assault and also took his child to the medical center to conduct the necessary check-ups. He pointed out that he had filed a complaint against the same settler 6 months ago when he assaulted him personally.
Israeli force detain younger brother of slain Palestinian policeman
JENIN (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — Israeli forces raided the Jenin-area town of Qabatiya in the northern occupied West Bank before dawn on Tuesday, where they detained the brother of the slain Palestinian police officer who committed a shooting attack that injured three Israelis on Monday. Ali Zakarna, spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jenin, told Ma‘an that large numbers of Israeli troops stormed Qabatiya and ransacked the home of the Turkman family. After inspecting the house and questioning all family members, Israeli troops detained Muhannad Turkman, 22, whose brother Muhammad, 25, injured three Israeli soldiers after he opened fire on them at the Beit El checkpoint near the entrance of Ramallah on Monday afternoon.
Zakarna added that dozens of young Palestinian men clashed with Israeli forces during the raid, and that forces “showered the town with tear gas and stun grenades.” An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed Muhannad Turkman’s detention, saying it was part of the ongoing investigation into Monday’s shooting. Muhammad Turkman was the 237th Palestinian killed by Israelis since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory which began in October 2015….
Palestinian woman allegedly detained for knife possession in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — Israeli media reported on Tuesday that Israeli security forces “thwarted a potential stabbing attack,” after they stopped a Palestinian woman who allegedly had knives in her possession near the Ibrahimi mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron. The Jerusalem Post reported that the incident took place on Tuesday morning, and that after the woman aroused the suspicion of Israeli security forces in the area, they searched her and found two knives in her possession. Israeli forces have detained a number of Palestinians for allegedly being in possession of knives in recent months following a wave of unrest in which 34 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since October 2015.
Israeli forces detained 23 Palestinians in overnight raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 31 Oct — Israeli forces detained at least 23 Palestinians in predawn raids across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Monday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. In East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that six Palestinian youths were detained overnight, identifying them as Muhammad Samir Shweiki, 15, Muhammad Ismail al-Ghul, 21, Muhammad Hashim al-Razim, 17, Ahmad Ratib al-Razim, 24, Muhammad Osama Abu Jumaa, 17, and Mahmoud Zyad al-Qaq, 19. Meanwhile in the northern occupied West Bank, PPS reported that Musab Mahmoud Abd al-Rabah, 35, was detained in the Tulkarem district. The organization added that three Palestinians were detained in the village of Sabastiya in the Nablus district, identifying them as Hani Mahir Kayid, 22, Malik Midhat Kayid, 17, and Muhammad Omar Kiwan, 20 … In the central district of Ramallah, PPS said that five Palestinians — identified as Ribhi Hamid, Malik Ibrahim Hamid, Tayser Maher Hamid, Luay Faris Hamid and Ibrahim Nasser Hamid– were detained in the village of Silwad. In the Jalazun refugee camp, Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces detained 16 year-old Jihad Nidal Elayyan … PPS also said that Alaa Jaafar al-Khawaja and Habib Tawfiq Abu Awad were detained in the Ramallah district, without specifying where exactly the two were from. In the Jericho district, PPS reported that Haitham Awad Jarahid and Muhammad Awad Jarahid were detained in the village of al-‘Auja … In the southernmost district of Hebron, PPS reported that brothers Mutaz Nayif Masalma, 27, and Abd al-Fattah Nayif Masalma, 37, were detained in Beit ‘Awwa … Meanwhile, Palestinian security sources said Israeli forces detained an unidentified young man in the al-Baqa neighborhood of the city of Hebron. Israeli forces conduct night raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-daily basis. According to UN documentation, the Israeli army carried out 178 detention raids from Oct. 4 to 17.
Israeli forces detain 70-year-old man, 14 others during overnight raids
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — At least 15 Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces during detention raids overnight Tuesday, including a 14-year-old boy and 70-year-old man, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). PPS released a statement on Tuesday saying that five of the detainees were residents of the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. The statement identified the five as Muhammad Adnan Rajoub, al-Ghadanfar Eikhman Abu Atwan, 23, Anas Taysir al-Awawda, 21, Atiyeh Abu Warda, 14, and 70-year-old Harbi Abd al-Muti al-Jamal. PPS highlighted that 70-year-old al-Jamal is diabetic and suffers from heart problems. According to locals, Israeli forces detained Abu Atwan in the small village of al-Tabaqa, which is considered part of the larger Dura village. Locals also told Ma‘an that al-Awawda and Abu Warda were detained in the al-Fawwar refugee camp, after Israeli forces ransacked their homes. Two family members — including the younger brother — of slain Palestinian policeman Muhammad Turkman were arrested from their homes in the town of Qabatiya in the northern Jenin district. Muhammad Turkman’s brother Muhannad Abd al-Khaliq Turkman, 22, and relative Majid Turkman were detained, according to PPS. In the Tubas district of the northern occupied West Bank, Israeli forces detained Ayham Yousif Daraghmah, Imad Ibrahim Daraghmah, Fayiz Fawwaz Daraghmah and Musab Nasser Daraghmah. Three other Palestinians were detained in the Nablus-area village of Talfit. PPS identified the three as Abd al-Rahman Hajj Muhammad, Nabil Hajj Muhammad and Mahmoud Hajj Muhammad.
Committee appeals for release of 11 Palestinians’ bodies withheld by Israel
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs filed an appeal to an Israeli court on Tuesday to obtain the release of the bodies of 11 Palestinians which have been withheld by Israel. The head of the committee’s legal unit, Iyad Misk, said that appeal concerned the bodies of 11 Palestinians from the West Bank who were killed by Israeli forces while committing or allegedly committing attacks. Misk said that if the Israeli prosecution rejected the appeal, the committee would file another one directly to the Israeli Supreme Court. Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces following the emergence of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015, having repeatedly claimed that funerals of Palestinians had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state. However, following an uproar of protest among Palestinians over the policy, Israeli authorities began scaling down the practice, although a number of bodies still remain withheld. When Israeli authorities have decided to return slain bodies and allow funerals in the occupied Palestinian territory, the ceremonies have been typically restricted by a long list of conditions imposed by Israeli authorities, including limiting the number of attendees and the deployment of Israeli soldiers throughout the event. Palestinian families have also been forced to pay large financial deposits to the Israeli government as a collateral for potential “incitement” during the funerals and to ensure that families abide by Israeli-imposed conditions….
Court actions / Prisoners
Palestinian accused of negligent homicide in police shooting
JERUSALEM (AP) 31 Oct — When Ali Nimr drove drunk at night past Israeli police operating in his Jerusalem neighborhood, the officers sprayed the Palestinian’s car with gunfire, fearing he was an attacker, according to his indictment. Nimr’s brother-in-law, in the front seat next to him, was killed. Now Nimr is on trial for negligent homicide in his death. The fatal shooting of Mustafa Nimr illustrates the sometimes murky circumstances in which dozens of alleged Palestinian assailants have been shot over the course of a year of violence. In every instance, Israeli police and troops have said they opened fire only after Palestinians posed a life-threatening danger to them, usually by attempting to stab them or ram them with a car. But Palestinians say this explanation has been used to cover up numerous cases in which Israel either used excessive force to halt assailants or needlessly killed people who were not attackers. “Should a man who is making a turn, even while speeding, in his own neighborhood in the dark of night know there is a hidden squad there manning a checkpoint and shooting at people?” asked Waseem Dakwar, who is defending Ali Nimr in the trial, which began Thursday. Relatives say the Nimrs were only out to get a late-night slice of pizza in Jerusalem’s Shu‘afat refugee camp when they were shot on that September night. Even the police’s account of that evening has changed. Initially, police described it as foiled car ramming attack. They said security forces had been searching for weapons in Shuafat, a hardscrabble neighborhood plagued by criminal gangs, when they opened fired at a vehicle that ignored warnings to stop and sped at them. But several days after the incident, a video of the incident shot by a bystander surfaced, appearing to show police shooting while the car was stopped. The video suggested that officers had continued shooting after the targets no longer posed a threat. The gunfire riddled the car with holes and shattered the windshield, instantly killing Mustafa and wounding Ali Nimr.
Police have not commented on the video, but a day after it aired on Israeli TV, they appeared to change their story. Instead of describing Nimr as an attacker, they said that through his behavior, he “caused the death of the deceased who was with him in the vehicle.” They launched an investigation against him on suspicion of manslaughter, negligent homicide, driving without a license or insurance, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Police also quickly returned Mustafa Nimr’s body to his family. In the cases of alleged attackers, police often hold on to their bodies for weeks or even months to prevent their funerals from turning into “an exhibition of support for terrorism.” (continued)
Sick prisoner Jalal al-Faqih’s surgery repeatedly delayed: Medical neglect continues in Israeli jails
Samidoun 1 Nov — Palestinian prisoner Jalal al-Faqih has been repeatedly denied a necessary surgical procedure by the Israeli prison administration as a form of retaliation for his participation in the collective hunger strike and protest in support of Bilal Kayed several months ago, reported the Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners. Kayed, 34, engaged in a hunger strike for 71 days against an administrative detention order imposed upon him for imprisonment without charge or trial following the expiration of his 14.5-year sentence in Israeli jails. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners joined in strikes and protests in solidarity with Kayed, a leader in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement generally and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As a result of the hunger strike, Kayed will be released on 14 December. Faqih, also involved in the PFLP and serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in Palestinian armed resistance to Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers, was transferred to Afula hospital on 20 August following his own hunger strike when he suffered severe pain and developed a heart condition; following his release [from the hospital], his condition continued to deteriorate and he was informed that surgery was necessary. However, all attempts to schedule this surgery have been postponed since that time. Al-Faqih is one of over 300 Palestinian prisoners suffering from chronic diseases as well as over 100 Palestinian prisoners with serious medical issues requiring attention, including 30 cancer patients.
Eight Palestinian prisoners now on hunger strike for freedom
Samidoun 1 Nov — One more Palestinian prisoner has entered an open hunger strike against their administrative detention without charge or trial, bringing the total number of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails to eight. Ahmad Salatneh, a Palestinian refugee from the Jenin refugee camp held in Megiddo prison without charge or trial under administrative detention, has entered his third day of hunger strike demanding his release. He joins seven more Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, many suffering significant health impacts after up to 38 days refusing food and consuming only water. Anas Shadid, 19, of the village of Dura near al-Khalil, has been on hunger strike since 25 September against his imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Shadid has been imprisoned since 1 August and is on an open hunger strike, which he began jointly with Ahmad Abu Fara, demanding his immediate release and an end to administrative detention. On his 36th day of hunger strike, his health has deteriorated significantly; he suffers from severe abdominal and joint pain, shortness of breath and must use a wheelchair in order to move and walk. He is currently held in the Ramle prison clinic….
New film puts spotlight on Palestinians detained by Israel without charge
MEMO 1 Nov — Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer has released a new film designed to shed light on Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial. According to the NGO, ‘Life on Hold: The Policy of Administrative Detention’, “specifically focuses on the psychological effects of administrative detention on detainees and their families.” Israeli occupation authorities currently hold some 700 Palestinians as administrative detainees, meaning they are being held on the basis of secret evidence, for indefinitely renewable periods. The 11-minute film was produced as part of Addameer’s global campaign to #StopAD. The film features input from lawyers and the relatives of detainees. As the wife of one prisoner relates: “His administrative detention order is continuously renewed for six additional months every time without explanation.” The family member of another prisoner explained how his detention was renewed just 30 minutes prior to his scheduled release, the kind of cruel uncertainty that lead many to believe administrative detention, as used by Israeli authorities, constitutes a form of torture. The film also explains how the measure is used punitively, and to target Palestinian political activity.
Six Palestinian fishermen seized off Gaza coast by Israeli gunboat
Samidoun 1 Nov — Six Palestinian fishers in Gaza were fired upon and seized by the Israeli occupation navy this morning, Tuesday 1 November. Despite an announcement last week that the Palestinian fishing zone was being “expanded” by the occupation’s naval forces to nine nautical miles, the two fishing boats were attacked by Israeli gunboats in four nautical miles of the coast of Beit Lahiya, in the north of Gaza, the same day the “expanded” fishing zone was to go into effect. It should be noted that this “expanded” fishing zone is less than half of even the provisions of the 1993 Oslo agreement. Under gunfire, the six fishermen were forced to undress, jump into the water and swim to the naval gunboat; their two boats and 55 nets were captured and the six fishermen; Mohammed Khalil Abu Riyalah, 35; Shaher Muhsen Abu Riyalah, 20; Khaled Khaled Abu Riyalah, 22; Ali Hasan Khalil Abu Riyalah, 19; Bilal Hasan Khalil Abu Riyalah, 14; and Hasan Hasan Abdel-Rahman Abu Sama’an, 55, all of whom are Palestinian refugees from the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, reported the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The six seized fishers were taken to Ashdod, as was their boat. Over 120 Palestinian fishers and their boats have come under fire by Israeli naval forces off the coast of Gaza so far in 2016. The naval closure imposed on Gaza and the cordoning off of the fishing zone has created massive poverty in Gaza’s once-wealthy fishing industry, upon which 70,000 Palestinians rely. Palestinian fishermen have repeatedly been shot by gunboats, causing serious and sometimes life-altering injuries, and further contributing to economic and social devastation. Boats are rarely returned to their Palestinian owners after being confiscated by the occupation navy.
Israeli bulldozers carry out limited incursion into Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 31 Oct — Israeli bulldozers, on Monday morning, have reportedly carried out a limited incursion into the Khan Younis region of the southern Gaza Strip. Four army bulldozers launched a limited incursion into eastern Al-Khuza‘a town, to the east of Khan Younis, entering 50 meters into the Strip. Bulldozers then started leveling lands, according to the PNN. No gunfire was reported, according to Ma‘an.
Israeli forces level land in northern Gaza Strip, open fire on agricultural lands
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — Israeli forces razed lands in the northern Gaza Strip, and opened fire on agricultural lands in the southern besieged coastal enclave on Tuesday morning, according to locals. Witnesses told Ma‘an that four army bulldozers crossed the border fence east of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and razed Palestinian lands near the “buffer zone.” The witnesses added that Israeli military drones hovered over the area during the incursion, and that Israeli military vehicles “protected” the bulldozers from a military base on the other side of the border fence. Separately, Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian agricultural fields from watchtowers east of the village of Khuza‘a, in the southern Gaza Strip district of Khan Yunis. No injuries were reported.
Israel announces increase in water supply to Gaza Strip
GAZA (Ma‘an) 31 Oct — Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) to the Gaza Strip announced on Sunday that Israel would be increasing its water supplies to the besieged coastal enclave. CLA released a statement saying that, in coordination with the Palestinian liaison administration in Gaza, the construction of a new water reservoir was finished a few days ago. According to CLA, the new reservoir was constructed to increase the quantity of water supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip, by connecting it to the water line in the Nahal Oz kibbutz in southern Israel, along the border with Gaza. According to Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the reservoir will be able to retain about 5,000 cubic meters of water, which will lead to an annual increased transfer of 1.5 to 3 million cubic meters of water per year to the Gaza Strip. The estimated annual increase, according to COGAT, will serve as an addition to the approximately 5 million cubic meters of water that are being provided by Israel today. The new reservoir will provide approximately 200,000 residents in Gaza access to clean water….
Stalling of Gaza rebuilding causes outrage
RAMALLAH (Gulf News) 31 Oct by Nasouh Nazzal — Palestinian contractors and economists in the Gaza Strip have warned that they will boycott the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), which they say is a waste of time and effort. Dissatisfaction and anger about the inefficiency of the GRM — a temporary agreement between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Israel and the United Nations to rebuild the coastal strip after the 2014 Israeli war — is spreading among Gazan contractors and economists who are working to eliminate it. Under the theme “Cancelling the Reconstruction Mechanism,” the Coordinating Council of Gazan Institutions recently held a strike to express their outrage. “This mechanism is aimed at foiling the reconstruction and development projects in the Gaza Strip,” said Osama Kaheel, who heads the Gaza Contractors’ Syndicate. “Work under [the GRM] should stop effective immediately, before it can devastate what remains of the Palestinian economy in Gaza.” The World Bank says that less than half of the money pledged by donors to rebuild the Gaza Strip after the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel has been disbursed. The shortfall is among several reasons the Palestinian economy is stagnating, with unemployment at 42 per cent in Gaza and at 18 per cent in the West Bank. Around 75,000 Gazans are still displaced from their homes, as a $3.5 billion (Dh12.86 billion) effort to rebuild Gaza from the destruction of the war creeps along at a pace officials say has fallen years behind schedule. Kaheel said that the objective of the GRM has never been to enable construction and reconstruction work in Gaza.“ According to international reports, Gaza has already received 46 per cent of the pledged funds from the international community, while less than 10 per cent of the reconstruction work has been completed,” he told Gulf News. “A great portion of the money is spent on the administrative supervision and surveillance processes imposed by the GRM.”….
Sports and politics on the big screen of Gaza/Israel
TORONTO (People’s World) 1 Nov by Bill Meyer — There are many films about Palestinians, specifically Gazans, who somehow find creative cultural diversions from the death and destruction their land has been facing from the Israeli Occupation since 1948. A memorable and powerfully progressive documentary, Shake the Dust, from 2014 shows how Gazans and other poor communities in underdeveloped nations have discovered the power of dance, specifically break dancing. The Idol, by Oscar-winning director Hany Abu Assad, is a powerhouse true story of a young Gazan singer who overcomes all possible odds to win the Arab Idol singing contest. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year premiered another film about Gazan youth attempting to live a normal life in a country that is far from safe and stable. The Gaza Surf Club (see link for the trailer) is a new doc by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine, who pull off the impossible by pretty much avoiding discussion of the “elephant in the room” — the Israeli Occupation — and rather focusing on the exciting sport of surfboarding. In a land of constant war and violence, it’s hard to believe there are people who will do anything to ride a board in the ocean. With all that water out there, the Israelis still have control of the entire Gazan environment. Land, sea and sky — the Palestinians are trapped. Filming took place over several years, the cinematographers having to plan their visits around weather conditions for surfing waves. They also scheduled carefully between major conflicts….
Family of Israeli missing in Gaza appeals to Knesset for his release
i24NEWS 1 Nov — The family of Avraham “Avera” Mengistu on Monday distributed letters to the members of Israel’s Knesset, pleading for the government to take action and secure the release of their son from Hamas, the Jerusalem Post reports. The family has said that Mengistu, an Israeli Jew of Ethiopian origin, suffers from mental problems and that this likely caused him to cross into Gaza in September of 2014 … Mengistu’s brother Ilan slammed the government for allowing Palestinian families to visit loved ones in Israeli prisons while Avera’s location remains unknown, said the Jerusalem Post. “It is inconceivable that the Israeli government allows family visits to Hamas prisoners jailed in Israel while Abera has not seen the light of day for more than two years,” he said. During a landmark visit to Africa in July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his Ethiopian counterpart Hailemariam Desalegn for help securing Mengistu’s release. Avraham Mengistu is one of two Israeli civilians whose suspected detention in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip was revealed last year after a gag order was lifted.
Video: Watch the future of journalism as people join combatants on the battlefield through virtual reality
scroll.in 31 Oct — Born out of his experiences as a photojournalist in Palestine and Israel, Karim Ben Khelifa’s The Enemy, a video installation that uses augmented reality and virtual reality, attempts to create a deeper understanding and empathy of the situation on the Gaza strip. “My friends in Israel, when they know I’m heading to Gaza, cannot help themselves but to wish me luck and stay safe. They believe a lot of people in Gaza are irrational. Also when I’m spending weeks working in Gaza and returning to Israel, my Palestinian friends are telling me exactly the same: just be careful there!” says Khelifa, a Belgian-Tunisian photojournalist in the video above. The video installation is currently being showcased at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, where viewers will be placed in the centre of the action, with combatants from Israel and Palestine on either side. Because of extensive facial scanning technology, the figures come to life and talk to the viewer about violence and peace. Khelifa’s target audience is not the casual viewer but people actually involved in the conflict. It is based on his years of experience as a photojournalist and seeing young people grow up to be fighters on either side, continuing to voice the same opinions as their ancestors.
Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization / Settlements
Israeli authorities demolish graves in East Jerusalem cemetery
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 Nov — Israeli Nature and Parks Authority forces demolished several graves inside a Palestinian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, according to local sources. Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, told Ma‘an that forces from the Nature and Parks Authority raided the Bab al-Rahma cemetery — which runs along the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City — and demolished six Palestinian graves and crumbling tombstones. According to al-Kiswani, the authorities claimed the graves and gravestones were constructed on “confiscated land” belonging to the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority. Al-Kiswani countered the claim, citing official documents that state the graves that were demolished were owned by the al-Husseini and al-Ansari families … This video filmed by locals shows the aftermath of the demolitions at the cemetery: … Al-Kiswani highlighted past efforts of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority to confiscate parts of the cemetery’s land, and to prohibit Palestinians from digging grave plots in the so-called “confiscated zones,” as part of a larger aim to turn the area into a tourism park surrounding the Old City. Mahmoud al-Habbash, a Palestinian Authority (PA) adviser on religious and Islamic affairs, condemned Tuesday’s grave demolitions in a statement … Al-Habbash added that the demolitions were “a crime that Israel must be punished for, in accordance with international law.” He stressed the sanctity of the the Bab al-Rahma cemetery, as it is considered an Islamic heritage site and part of the Al-Aqsa compound….
Israelis raise flag at Church of the Holy Sepulchre
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Nov — The Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs in Palestine has condemned the raising of an Israeli flag at the eastern entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection, in occupied Jerusalem. The committee asserted, in a press release, that this constitutes a clear violation of the sanctity of the holy site, which is added to the daily violations of Israeli occupation forces against the city of occupied Jerusalem. According to Al Ray, the committee called for implementing the (Status Quo) law which guarantees the rights of all religious communities and groups in Jerusalem. The law states not to raise any flags on religious properties, and to prevent any Israeli attempts to confiscate these properties through these practices.
Lands leveled near Salfit, farming equipment seized in Tubas
IMEMC/Agencies 31 Oct — Israeli bulldozers from the Leshem settlement, on Monday, continued leveling lands west of Salfit, in the northern occupied West Bank, while Israeli forces confiscated farming equipment in Tubas. The bulldozers came, this time, to a new area near Deir Ballout town, to the west of Salfit. Activist and expert in the settlement files, Khaled Ma‘ali, said that the Leshem settlement, which was announced three years ago, was built on private Palestinian land used for agriculture and farming. Ma‘ali added that the settlement had erased archaeological sites and surrounded the Deir Sim’an [historic village from the Roman era], violating the international law. In addition, one thousand Israeli settlers broke into Kafl Hares area and carried out Talmudic rituals under heavy protection of the Israeli army. At about the same time, Israeli forces confiscated four tractors belonging to four families living near Tubas, in the northern West Bank..
Israeli forces order evacuation of Jordan Valley village for ‘military operations’
TUBAS (Ma‘an) 31 Oct — Israeli forces delivered notices to residents of the Jordan Valley-area village of Khirbet al-Ras al-Ahmar to completely evacuate the village starting from Tuesday at dawn until Wednesday, so that Israeli forces could use the village to “conduct military maneuvers.” Bashar Bani Odeh, the head of the village council, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces delivered the notices during a raid in the village on Monday. Odeh added that authorities confiscated five Palestinian agricultural tractors belonging to locals Saqer Azzat Bani Odeh, Ali Azzat Bani Odeh, Thaer Abdullah Basharat, Rashid Abdullah Bsharat, and Ali Fayad Bani Odeh … Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared “firing zones” since the 1970s, but according to the UN, nearly 80 percent of these areas are not in fact used for military training. Rights groups have accused Israel of declaring some parts of the West Bank as firing zones as an attempt to annex these areas.
As water dries up, West Bank village thirsts for a less precarious supply
AL JAB‘A, West Bank (Reuters) 1 Nov by Fabiola Ortiz — A mountainous Palestinian community in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Al Jab‘a differs in many ways from surrounding Israeli settlements but it shares one worry with its neighbours – a shortage of water. In the last few decades the West Bank has seen rainfall decrease and groundwater levels fall with drought expected to become “more frequent (and) more intense”, according to a 2012 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. Residents of Al Jab‘a, who once had to walk for hours daily to fetch water, do have limited access to Israeli water supplies in their concrete homes due to a reservoir, pipeline and a pump built in 2013 by an Italian non-governmental organisation. But the water provided is not enough, according to families in Al Jab‘a, a village of about 150 houses 12 km (7 miles) southwest of Bethlehem. They also fear their system could be demolished as it was not officially approved. “Before, we had to walk many times a day to the nearby springs to fill our bottles and buckets,” said Omar Musa, 18, who lives with his parents and five siblings near the reservoir in a house atop a hill. “I was happy when I knew I would have water at home.” He estimated that his family saves about six hours a day by not having to fetch water for their use, crops and livestock. -Water Restrictions- But numerous rural and Bedouin communities in the West Bank are not connected to a network run by Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, which is responsible for supplying water to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territory. In Al Jab‘a, only 10 percent of homes were part of the Mekorot distribution system until the pipes and reservoir completed in 2013 extended the network to the remaining households. Water piped by Mekorot is pumped up the hill to be stored in the reservoir. But this has not completely resolved the community’s water problems. Residents say the Mekorot system supplies water only intermittently and at low pressure. When supplies flow, families must hurry to store as much as they can. In addition, residents like Musa and his family fear the reservoir could be demolished by the Israeli authorities because, like many of their homes, the structure was built without an official permit….
Senior officials push annexation of large West Bank settlement
[includes map] Times of Israel 31 Oct by Raphael Ahren — In first since taking office, deputy FM calls for ‘historic decision’ on Ma’ale Adumim; Palestinians: Israel not serious about two states — Senior Israeli government officials on Monday called for the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, a large West Bank settlement east of Jerusalem, pushing for Israel to ignore the expected furious reactions from allies and foes if it were to enact such a move. Chief among the officials calling for annexation was Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, a hard-line member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, apparently marking the first time she publicly pushed for the measure since assuming the diplomatic post in May 2015. “The answer to the international struggle over Jerusalem is applying sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim, which will guarantee Jerusalem will always remain united and develop,” Hotovely said in Jerusalem at a rally organized by the pro-settlement Yesha Council … Israel has never made a move to annex land in the West Bank, but Hotovely said that 50 years after the country captured the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, it was time for the government to “make a historic decision.” Israeli settlements are “not a stepson but a firstborn and very important to the people of Israel,” she said. “Neither legal advisers nor international pressure will decide for us what is a fundamental issue.” … Boosters like Hotovely see Ma’ale Adumim as key to linking Jerusalem to the strategic Jordan Valley, but critics say its location will effectively render a contiguous Palestinians state in the West Bank impossible. The comments by Hotovely, who has in the past called for the annexation of the entire West Bank, spurred an angry response from Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Saeb Erekat….
Protesters call on Israel to annex settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, near Jerusalem
Haaretz 31 Oct by Yotam Berger — Dozens of residents of Ma’aleh Adumim demonstrated outside the Knesset on Monday, calling on parliament to declare sovereignty over the settlement without delay. The protesters, who were joined by a number of Knesset members, demanded that parliament enact a law annexing Ma’aleh Adumim, which is near Jerusalem in the West Bank, before the present Knesset session ends. Among the lawmakers joining the demonstration were Yoav Kish and Oren Hazan (Likud), Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and Eli Cohen (Kulanu) party. The three parties are a part of the governing coalition. “Ma’aleh Adumim is in the Land of Israel,” said Cohen. “The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. We are a democratic country and 90 percent of the people of Israel want sovereignty by the Israeli people. Eighty Knesset members say sovereignty should be applied to Ma’aleh Adumim. So it should be done.”….
Cabinet vote to legalize West Bank outposts postponed
Haaretz 30 Oct by Jonathan Lis and Yotam Berger — A cabinet vote on a bill to legalize West Bank outposts was cancelled on Sunday, several minutes before it was scheduled to take place. It is now slated for next Sunday. Shortly before the vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked out of the meeting for consultations with deputy attorney general Avi Licht. Licht informed the ministers, both of whom are from Habayit Hayehudi, a party whose constituents support the bill, that Attorney General Avihai Mandelblitt does not intend to defend the bill in front of the High Court of Justice. Mendelblitt has said in the past that the bill is not legal and could not be defended before the court. The bill is intended, among other things, to avert the evacuation of the Amona outpost, which the court has ruled is built on private Palestinian land. The court has ordered Amona evacuated by late-December….
Israel asks for delay in West Bank outpost demolition
JERUSALEM (AP) 31 Oct — Israel has asked the country’s Supreme Court to delay the court-ordered evacuation of an illegal West Bank outpost slated for later this year. The state asked the court for a seven-month extension on Monday. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Amona outpost was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished by Dec. 25. The impending evacuation has threatened to destabilize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition. Pro-settler lawmakers have tried to find a legal loophole to keep the outpost in its place, a move Israel’s attorney general says is unconstitutional. Amona is the largest of about 100 West Bank outposts built without permission but generally tolerated by the government. These are in addition to 120 settlements that Israel considers legal.
Netanyahu seeks to soothe settlers as storm clouds loom
AFP 31 Oct — Fearing political storms at home and a last-ditch diplomatic gambit by US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called on Jewish settlers to show restraint. Speaking at the opening of parliament’s winter session, he said that government officials earlier on Monday asked the Supreme Court to extend the December 25 deadline for the eviction of settlers from the wildcat West Bank outpost of Amona. A postponement, he said, would allow a “responsible” resolution to the issue, a hot potato for Netanyahu’s right-wing government which leans heavily on settler support. “I am sure that at the end of the day the settlers will also act responsibly,” he added. “They know that there is not, and will not be, a government more supportive of settlement than this government.” It is Netanyahu’s zeal for settlement in the occupied West Bank that rankles Washington, and Netanyahu reportedly fears that following next week’s US presidential election Obama could break with long-standing US practice and support — or at least not veto — a UN Security Council resolution laying out parameters for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….
Fatah to hold first congress since 2009 this month
AFP 1 Nov — Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday that his Fatah party, which is facing internal divisions, will hold its first congress since 2009 at the end of November. A unanimous decision was taken by Fatah’s senior most body, the central committee, to convene the congress on November 29 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, he said in a statement. The central committee chaired by Abbas is the backbone of Fatah, tasked with developing and implementing the party’s strategy. The congress is expected to elect a new 23-member central committee as well a 132-strong revolutionary council, which is considered Fatah’s parliament. Analysts have said plans to hold the long overdue congress is a bid by Abbas to stave off rivals, including Mohammad Dahlan, Fatah’s former strongman in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan was expelled from the party in 2011 and now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates. The congress is seen as an opportunity for Abbas to reshuffle key positions and sideline allies of Dahlan….
Palestinian FA wants Crimea-style solution in dispute with Israel
Reuters 1 Nov — The head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) wants FIFA to adopt what he called a Crimea-style solution to prevent Israeli league clubs from being based in settlements in the occupied West Bank, he said on Tuesday. After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, European soccer body UEFA banned Crimean clubs from moving to the Russian league and instead authorised them to set up their own competition. PFA president Jibril Rajoub, speaking after a meeting of FIFA’s Israel-Palestine Monitoring Committee, said a similar solution – whereby Israeli clubs based in settlements would be prevented from playing in the Israeli league but have their own competition – could work. “Crimea is a good model and we believe that UEFA can play a good role,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. Israel is a member of UEFA, which was an observer at the meeting, while the Palestinians play in the Asian Football Confederation. At present, five Israeli clubs based in West Bank settlements play in the lower divisions of the Israeli league. All are minor, non-professional outfits from the West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Zeev and Bikat Hayarden (Jordan Valley). Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
In sickness and in health, Israel’s racialized medical permit regime
AIC 1 Nov by Hasheemah Afaneh — Walk into Al-Makkased Hospital in East Jerusalem and you will come to learn that many of the patients there are from Gaza and some are even from the West Bank. You will also notice that some physicians are taking bus after bus to get to their hometowns and cities from the hospital, and some health professional interns from universities throughout the West Bank, such as Birzeit University in Ramallah, Al-Najah University in Nablus, and Al-Quds University in Abu Dis are doing the same. If you are not Palestinian and do not know much about their daily struggles save for the visible movement restrictions, such as checkpoints, you may wonder how they all made it to this hospital. The answer is most likely that these patients, physicians, and interns have waited months, weathering delay after delay, for a paper issued by Israel allowing them within its borders for a specific period of time. Not only is this process time-consuming, but it may also result in denial for “security reasons” or simply, no response. The permit system blocks patient treatment, physician and healthcare provider practice, as well as health professionals’ education….
Israel aiming to block Palestinians from joining Intepol
JPost 1 Nov by Eliyahu Kamisher — Diplomatic official says that there are concerns that Palestinian police will leak sensitive information to terrorist groups — Israel is hoping to stop an attempt by the PA to join Interpol – the International Criminal Police Organization – at its 85th general assembly in Indonesia next week. Israeli diplomats are extensively lobbying Interpol members to reject the Palestinian Authority’s bid, either by having it thrown out on a technicality or by swaying one-third of the 190 member states not to approve Palestinian membership. On a visit to Russia on Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan met with the Moscow chief of police and urged the Kremlin to vote against the Palestinian bid. Erdan contended that Palestinian membership would turn Interpol into a “political body” driven by external considerations. Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel will continue to seek to block all Palestinian attempts to join international bodies. “The Palestinians continue with their multilateral strategy, they seek recognition through international organizations instead of direct talks with Israeli. This is something Israel cannot accept,” he said. “We work with all relevant international organizations, including Interpol, in order to make sure it doesn’t happen.” Turkey is supporting the Palestinian bid, which requires a two-thirds vote to be approved….
Quadcopters in the service of the IDF
[with videos] Ynet 31 Oct by Yoav Zitun — While waiting for the new military-made quadcopter [drone] Tzur to be ready, forces on the ground have been using civilian-made models for a variety of tasks: from tracking suspects through training exercises and search and rescue — Over the past year, quadcopters that have so far only seen civilian use have become a popular tool in the IDF. They’re being used in almost every possible corps and for a variety of tasks. Among these tasks are locating suspects, pursuing terrorists or thwarting infiltration attempts. In addition, the little aircraft is being used in operational duty on all fronts, in training exercises and in search and rescue missions. “The main advantage of quadcopters is their availability. Nowadays, even in ongoing incidents like a shooting attack, we can have a quadcopter in the air within minutes to help locate a terrorist cell that managed to get away, or a terrorist who threw a Molotov cocktail,” said Lt. Col. Ayalon Peretz, the deputy commander of the Nitzan Battalion from the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. Quadcopters are also being used by Special Forces operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. “The quadcopters go between the alleys, clear the area for the soldiers, scan the rooftops for armed men ambushing our forces,” Peretz explained. “A moment before forces close in on a suspect’s house, the quadcopter scans the area.”….
Palestinian lawyer fights for women, one divorce at a time
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 31 Oct — In a divorce court where a man’s testimony is worth twice a woman’s, victory for lawyer Reema Shamasneh is rare and often bittersweet. On this morning, a young nurse is desperate to end her marriage to a truck driver who she says beat her, doused her with scalding tea and kept her from seeing her dying mother. But her husband will only agree if she forgoes all alimony, including the $14,000 stipulated in the marriage contract. Eager to escape and claim her young son, she says yes. The man stands before a copy of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and repeats after an Islamic judge: “You are divorced.” Shamasneh blinks back tears of relief and frustration, and then quickly composes herself. “This is not a big victory,” the 39-year-old lawyer says with an air of quiet determination. “I gave her what she wanted, but at the same time I am not happy because she gave up her rights.” Dressed in the headscarf and long robe of a devout Muslim, Shamasneh fights for Arab women in the most intimate arena of their lives: Marriage and divorce. While countries such as Tunisia and Morocco have introduced reforms, brides in others must still be represented by male guardians who sign marriage contracts. Men can divorce on a whim, while women must prove cause. And polygamy is legal only for men. Such notions enjoy strong support, even among women. In a 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, large majorities in seven Arab countries said a woman should obey her husband, from 74 percent in Lebanon to 87 percent in the Palestinian territories and 93 percent in Tunisia….
Arab police officers urge young Arabs to join
Ynet 30 Oct by Roi Yanovsky — After data from last summer found an increase in young Israeli Arabs joining the police, the organization decided to launch a new campaign about including Arab officers geared toward the Arab population, in an effort to get their police enlistment numbers even higher. Until recently, joining the police was considered a highly unconventional choice in the Arab community, and one that brought on a great deal of criticism from Arab leaders, all the while garnering a great deal of support from local Arab leaders and Arab municipality heads. The campaign features a video in which Master Sgt. Ahed Shibli, a precinct officer in the Jerusalem District, explains to young Arabs the importance of serving in the police. “You can arrive at the scene of an incident speaking in Hebrew and understand something completely different. But if you come speaking his language and understanding what he’s saying, you’ll know how to solve the problem.” … The campaign is part of a larger plan headed by Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh to improve policing within the Arab sector. So far, the initiative has seen 1,200 new Arab recruits and the establishments of ten new police stations. There has, however, been some pushback. Even after Erdan and Alsheikh appointed Jamal Hakroush to be the first Muslim major general in the Israel Police and appointed him to head the above-mentioned initiative, there were those among the Arab leadership who questioned Muslims’ motivation in joining the police, which many supposedly see as a hostile and biased body. “We’re leading an historic plan to deepen law and order within the Arab sector,” said Erdan. “But we won’t be able to close the law enforcement gaps without having the (people from the) Arab community join police ranks and take part in enforcing the law in Arab villages and municipalities, for their sake and for the sake of personal freedom in this country.”
PFLP extends revolutionary greetings to indigenous resistance at Standing Rock
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Nov — The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist Palestinian political party founded by George Habash in 1967, announced on Saturday their strongest support for and solidarity with the indigenous resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline. “In the face of settler colonial genocide and destruction, the land and water defenders at Standing Rock are defending all of us,” the statement reads. “We see [the defenders] reflected in the Palestinian mothers holding tight to their olive trees targeted for settler destruction; in the Palestinian farmers who resist in the so-called ‘buffer zones;’ [in] the fishers who brave warship fire to preserve Palestinian fishery; in the land and water defenders of the world who resist the vicious onslaughts of settler colonial capitalism.” The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 3.8 billion dollar pipeline that, if completed, would carry over 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield across nearly 1,200 miles to Illinois. The Sioux tribes oppose the project, which is owned by Texas oil company Energy Transfer Partners and enjoys approval from the State of Dakota and US Army Corps of Engineers. They stress that the environmentally disastrous pipeline passes through ancestral burial grounds and violates their sovereign rites. Members of nearly 100 other tribes from across the U.S. and Canada have joined them in their efforts to protect the water and sacred place. But, police and private security forces have responded to the water protectors’ peaceful protests and encampments near the construction site brutally.
Rights groups ask Facebook to clarify content removal policies
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 31 Oct by Dustin Volz — More than 70 rights groups asked Facebook on Monday to clarify its policies for removing content, especially at the behest of governments, alleging the company has repeatedly censored postings that document human rights violations. In a letter sent to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the organizations criticize the social media company for cases in recent months where it has deleted content involving police violence, removed iconic imagery from the Vietnam war and briefly suspended accounts belonging to two Palestinian journalists. “News is not just getting shared on Facebook: it’s getting broken there,” reads the letter, whose signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Center for Media Justice and SumOfUs. “When the most vulnerable members of society turn to your platform to document and share experiences of injustice, Facebook is morally obligated to protect that speech,” it continues. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The letter comes amid growing international scrutiny of Facebook’s content policies amid several controversial takedowns and reversals in recent months, including the company’s handling of an iconic Vietnam war photo showing a naked girl burned by napalm. Reuters reported on Friday that an elite group of at least five senior executives, including chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, regularly directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls, particularly in high-profile controversies … The groups requested that Facebook make its policies for removing content clear and accessible to the public, especially with regard to live broadcasts and journalistic material. It also asked that the company create a public appeals platform for users to protest removed content, undergo an external audit of its “content censorship and data sharing policies” and refuse to disclose customer information to third-party government agencies unless required by law.