Prisoners / Court actions
Israeli High Court to dismiss charges against soldiers who killed nonviolent activist Bassem Abu Rahma in 2009
IMEMC 15 Apr by Saed Bannoura — Amhad Abu Rahma, the brother of the late Bassem Abu Rahma, who killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired at his chest at close range in 2009, spoke with the IMEMC Friday about the current status of the family’s court case against the Israeli military. The lawyer spoke to the family on Friday and told them that they have reached the end of the legal appeals in the case of Bassem’s killing. The Israeli court admits that Bassem was killed, and that it was the soldier’s fault. Despite having one officer and three soldiers called for questioning, the court claims that it had done what it could. But the court has said there is nothing it can do, because they allegedly don’t know the name of the soldier who shot Bassem, or even the name of the officer. Court officials told the family’s lawyer that the file of Bassem Abu Rahma was stolen from the court, and that for that reason, they have an incomplete file on the case. The Israeli court also says that there was never a clear investigation into the case of Bassem’s death, and that now, due to the stolen file, they do not have enough evidence to continue the prosecution. The court will not accept any appeal to its decision, or any separate case against the soldiers. They have said that they will not push for any further investigation. But the family says they are not giving up in the struggle for justice for Bassem Abu Rahma. They want to expose the hypocrisy of the Israeli court system, by exposing this case through the media. There is no ambiguity in the case, according to Bassem and other family members. The soldier who shot him clearly aimed and shot, and the Israeli military has admitted to this fact … The family says that the identity of the soldier can be clearly ascertained from the video that shows Bassem being killed. But because the file was ‘stolen’ from the court, no soldier will be prosecuted….
Settler accused of throwing stones at soldiers released for lack of evidence
[includes video of stones being thrown at IDF vehicle] Haaretz 17 Apr by Yotam Berger — A West Bank settler who had been arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers has been released. Honenu, a right-wing legal aid organization, said that he had been unjustly arrested since videos and photographs taken on a family trip show he was not in the area of the incident when it occurred. The episode involved several young people throwing stones at an Israel Defense Forces vehicle close to the Baladim outpost, which is located near the settlement of Kokhav Hashachar in the central West Bank. The 18-year-old, a resident of Beit El, was arrested on Saturday after a videotape of the rock throwing was released online and spread around the internet … Police said that the suspicions had not been completely dismissed but the teen’s release indicates that their evidence is weak. No other arrests have been made so far, although the police say that they are pending.
Palestinian Prisoners Day
Thousands demonstrate for Palestinian Prisoners Day, as Israeli forces detain 4
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — Thousands of Palestinians marched to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day across the occupied Palestinian territory on Monday, with Israeli forces notably suppressing a demonstration in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, and detaining four young Palestinians at another demonstration in the central West Bank. Israeli forces detained four Palestinian minors during clashes which erupted at the end of a march launched by Palestinian students near the Ofer detention center — the only Israeli prison in the West Bank — in the Ramallah district. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets towards Palestinians, who threw rocks in the direction of soldiers. Israeli forces then raided the nearby village of Beituniya, chasing and assaulting protesters. The four detained Palestinians were identified as Ahmad Turki, 15, Hassan Ziyad, 14, Usama Arabi, 15, and Muhammad al-Sarafandi, 17…
Meanwhile, more than 1,500 Palestinians — including hundreds of women and middle- and high-school students — demonstrated in Bethlehem in support of the estimated 6,300 Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons, waving Palestinian, Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) flags. “We are out today to express our solidarity and support for the demands of Palestinian prisoners in the occupation’s prisons against its racist and inhuman procedures,” the director of Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Munqith Abu Atwan said during the demonstration.
Demonstrators expressed support for the “Freedom and Dignity” prisoner hunger strike which began earlier on Monday, bringing together as many as 1,600 prisoners from across the Palestinian political spectrum under the aegis of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. Posters held at the protest read “We do not forget you, our heroic prisoners” and “The night of the prison cell won’t last, the night of the prison cell is short lived.”
Interactive: What it means to be a Palestinian prisoner in Israel
Al Jazeera 17 Apr by Zena Tahhan, Konstantinos Antonopoulos — Sample — Interrogation: most prisoners reported being: chained from their arms; beaten; placed in solitary confinement for long periods; deprived of sleep; routinely threatened with harm to family members. A Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for 75 days, during which they can be deprived of a lawyer for 60 days. Interrogation periods can be indefinitely renewed. Since 1967, 72 prisoners have died at the hands of Israeli authorities during interrogation….
How Israeli soldiers interrogated me
Al Jazeera 17 Apr by Farah Najjar & Shatha Hammad — Since 1974, when the first Palestinian prisoner was released in an exchange deal, Palestinians have been commemorating April 17 as the Palestinian Prisoners Day to shed light on the plight of prisoners in Israeli jails. Currently, there are 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails … Upon arrest, Palestinian civilians residing in the West Bank are sent to be tried in Israeli military courts, where conviction rates are as high as 99.7 percent, according to Abu Zeyad. Being tried in a military tribunal is a violation of international law, and means that civilians’ due process rights are routinely disrespected … “To us, all of the arrests are arbitrary,” he said. “The laws are arbitrary, detainees are denied access to lawyers, and are often kept in interrogation periods that last for up to two months.” According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there have been approximately one million arrests made against Palestinians since 1948. Below, two ex-prisoners share their experiences in detention, and a mother shares her experience of being away from her incarcerated sons:
On April 29, 2016, Natalie and her friend Tasneem were walking past a military checkpoint in Beit Ur al-Tahta village, west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Caught off guard, Natalie was surprised to be surrounded suddenly by a number of Israeli occupation soldiers, just before she was beaten by the soldiers to the ground. No one listened to their cries for help as they continued to be beaten unconscious, and eventually, Natalie was shot by one of the soldiers, she recalled. “I was shot with a bullet in my shoulder and it started bleeding uncontrollably. I didn’t lose consciousness until they beat me to the ground and kicked me with their feet. I couldn’t handle the pain and, in that moment, I wished for everything to stop,” she told Al Jazeera. Natalie was transferred to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem , where she fell into a coma for three full days. Right after she underwent surgery to remove the bullet from inside her body, Natalie said she was awakened by the shouting of an Israeli interrogation officer. “The interrogator stormed into the hospital room and started shouting and slamming his hands hard on the table in front of me. I wanted to rest for a minute and I couldn’t talk much, but he wouldn’t stop interrogating me for a long time,” she said. “I couldn’t process or register what was going on around me, why they shot me and why I was arrested. How was I going to jail now and what was I going to see there? I was terrified and all I wanted was to go back home,” Natalie added….
Report: 400 Palestinians detained in under a year for social media activity
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Apr by Lily Leach — Israeli forces have detained at least 400 Palestinians in less than a year over social media activity, according to a report by Israeli daily Haaretz citing sources from the Israeli army and Israel’s internal security service the Shin Bet, with only “some” of the detainees having faced trial. Previous reports indicated a lesser rate of so-called Facebook arrests, saying 400 were detained over the last two-year period. Meanwhile, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh said in January that among these, only 200 Palestinians were involved in court cases. According to the Haaretz report published Sunday, which lauded the detention campaign as an “impressive achievement,” the Israeli army alleged they had stopped 2,200 Palestinians “at various stages of planning and preparing for attacks, mostly stabbings and car-rammings,” through detentions based intelligence gathered on the internet. In addition, Israeli forces had “warning conversations” with some suspects or in some cases with their parents, Haaretz wrote, presumably referring to interrogations, largely conducted by breaking into Palestinian homes in the occupied territory during near-daily predawn raids. Israel also reportedly passed the names of hundreds of other Palestinians to Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, who then detained the suspects and “warned them against planning attacks on Israel” — as part of the policy of security coordination between the PA and Israel, which has sparked growing discontent among Palestinians in recent months….
The Freedom and Dignity hunger strike
Barghouti urges solidarity with Palestinian prisoners ahead of hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 15 Apr — Two days before a mass hunger strike led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi is set to launch in Israeli prisons, Barghouthi, who has been serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison since 2002, urged Palestinians everywhere to organize actions in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners. “We call upon our people to join demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins, and general strikes, as we urge (Palestinian) President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), Palestinian leadership, and Palestinian factions to take steps at every level to free prisoners and support them in their battle,” Barghouthi wrote in a statement conveyed to Ma‘an by his wife Fadwa. “About one million Palestinians have been detained, tortured, psychologically and physically humiliated, and subjected to demeaning and bitter conditions in the Bastilles of barbaric Zionist colonialism,” Barghouthi said.
According to a joint statement released Saturday by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. During the same period, according to the report, 210 Palestinian prisoners have died as a result “extrajudicial exterminations” or from “deliberate negligence under torture” in Israeli custody….
Factions pledge to join Fatah-led ‘Freedom and Dignity’ prisoner hunger strike
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have pledged to join a hunger strike led by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Bargouthi set to begin on Monday. Prisoners affiliated to the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) announced they would undertake what has come to be known as the “Freedom and Dignity” strike, according to jailed PPP leader and member of the PPP Central Committee Bassem Khandaqji. “After consultations with prisoners of various factions, PPP-affiliated prisoners decided to join the battle for freedom and dignity on April 17, which coincides with Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.” Khandaqji said in a statement.
The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) also said on Sunday that prisoners affiliated to the group would join the Fatah-led strike. The PPSF statement went on to warn of a potential “serious escalation by Israeli authorities against prisoners after they launch the battle for freedom and dignity, which will mark a turning point in the life of Palestinian prisoners.” The group said it “urged the Palestinian people to organize actions to support the hunger strikers in their battle, both at popular and official levels.”
Hamas meanwhile confirmed in an official statement on Sunday that prisoners affiliated to the movement held in Hadarim prison would join the strike. The higher leading committee of Hamas-affiliated prisoners in Israeli custody said it “completely supports the Freedom and Dignity hunger strike, which an elite group of brave prisoners will start tomorrow in order to forcibly obtain our stolen rights.” “We warn the Israel Prison Service against bringing any harm to the hunger strikers. Any delay in answering their just demands will explode the situation inside all prisons. All prisoners will unite in the face of all those who might harm prisoners and their dignity,” the Hamas statement said.
It was previously reported that all prisoners in Hadarim and Nafha prison would join, regardless of their political affiliation, including those affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad. However, the left-wing PFLP later said that despite its “appreciation” for Barghouthi, it was not in fact undertaking the hunger strike, because it was organized by Fatah without coordinating with all other Palestinian political factions.
The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), meanwhile expressed its support for the strike on Sunday.
Palestinian prisoners launch mass hunger strike on Monday for Palestinian Prisoners Day
IMEMC 17 Apr by Celine Hagbard — Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian leader who has been likened to the ‘Palestinian Mandela’, is leading the call for a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners from every party and faction beginning on Monday. Every major Palestinian political party has announced their support for the strike, which marks the largest show of unity from every political party since the 2006 election of Hamas. On Sunday, the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP – formerly the Communist Party), the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) both announced their support of the hunger strike. The PPSF said the hunger strike marks “a turning point in the life of Palestinian prisoners”, and warned of a crackdown by Israeli authorities in response to the unified hunger strike. Already, one strike organizer has been thrown into solitary confinement, with prison officials claiming he was “inciting” other prisoners into joining the strike. The strike is known as “Freedom and Dignity”, and the prisoners involved have issued a number of demands: 1. Installing a public telephone for Palestinian detainees in all prisons and sections in order to communicate with their families. 2. Visits: a. Resuming the second visit that was stopped by the Red Cross. b. The regularity of visits every two weeks without being disabled by any side. c. No relative of the first and second level shall be prevented from visiting the detainee. d. Increase the duration of the visit form 45 minutes to an hour and a half. e. Allow the detainees to take pictures with their families every three months. f. Make facilities for the comfort of the visiting families. g. Allow children and grandchildren under the age of 16 to visit detainees. 3. The medical file: a. Closing the so-called Ramle prison hospital because it does not provide the necessary treatment. b. Ending medical negligence policy. c. Making periodic medical examinations. d. Performing surgeries whenever needed….
Freedom and Dignity Strike, Day 2: Israel suspends family visits for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has suspended family visitation rights to Palestinian prisoners, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Ma‘an on Tuesday, continuing its crackdown on prisoners as the large-scale “Freedom and Dignity” prisoner hunger strike entered its second day. A source from the ICRC told Ma’an the international organization had been notified that visits for Palestinian prisoners would be forbidden until further notice in response to the hunger strike, which official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday was being carried out by some 1,500 prisoners. A spokesperson for IPS confirmed the information to Ma‘an, specifying that visitations had been suspended “only for national security prisoners on hunger strike.” Amnesty International said in a statement ahead of the hunger strike last week that “Israel’s decades-long policy of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza in prisons inside Israel and depriving them of regular family visits is not only cruel but also a blatant violation of international law.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs head Issa Qaraqe told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities had prevented lawyers from visiting hunger-striking prisoners on Tuesday, and that IPS had declared a state of emergency in detention facilities holding Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) chairman Qaddura Fares told Ma‘an that the measures were a “punitive” procedure by Israeli authorities, adding that IPS had moved hunger-striking prisoners around in its detention facilities in order to separate them from Palestinian prisoners who were not participating in the hunger strike….
Israeli authorities punish sick Palestinian prisoners for joining mass hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — Seven sick Palestinian prisoners held in Israel’s Ashkelon prison decided to join a mass open-ended hunger strike that began Monday in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said Tuesday. Committee lawyer Karim Ajwah, who visited the prisoners Tuesday morning, identified the seven as Said Musallam, Othman Abu Khurj, Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, Yasser Abu Turk, Nazih Othman, Ayman Sharabati, and Abd al-Majid Mahdi. The lawyer highlighted that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) had already taken punitive measures against the sick prisoners who joined the hunger strike, including confiscating their electronic devices, clothes, and sheets. This comes in addition to a number of other punitive measures taken against the estimated 1,500 prisoners who had already undertaken the hunger strike. Central to the long list of demands put forward by Marwan Barghouthi, the leader of what has come to be known as the Freedom and Dignity strike, are a number of demands related to lack of adequate health care in Israeli prisons, as well as what rights groups have branded a deliberate policy of medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners. There are over 700 sick prisoners among a total of 6,440 Palestinians in Israeli custody, including 21 held in the Ramla prison clinic, according to prisoners rights group Addameer. In 2016, there were also a number of severely wounded Palestinian prisoners. However, contrary to the demands seeking basic medical treatment for prisoners, Israeli authorities have instead established a field hospital for Palestinian prisoners, raising alarm that hunger strikers, who will likely face deteriorating health conditions in coming days, will be force fed en masse — violating international standards of medical ethics and international law that regard the practice as inhumane or even a form of torture. Israeli doctors in civilian hospitals have so far refused to force feed hunger strikers, despite the Israeli Supreme Court’s recent decision that ruled the practice to be constitutional.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Dozens of Palestinians injured during clashes in Abu Dis, al-Eizariya
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — Israeli troops shot and injured more than 11 Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets while 23 others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation during clashes Monday night in the towns of Abu Dis and al-Eizariya in the Jerusalem district of the occupied West Bank. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted sources from the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service as saying that all of the injured were treated in the field without a need to be hospitalized. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an the incident was under the purview of the Israeli border police, a spokesperson for which could not be reached for comment. The clashes followed marches across the occupied territory, attended by thousands marking Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, with Israeli forces firing tear gas and sponge rounds at protesters in Bethlehem, assaulting demonstrators in Beituniya, and detaining four young Palestinians near Ramallah.
Clashes erupt after dozens of Israeli colonists invade village near Nablus
IMEMC 16 Apr — Clashes took place on Saturday evening after dozens of extremist Israeli colonists invaded Burin village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Media sources in Nablus said the invading colonists briefly clashed with many local youngsters from; there have been no reports of injuries on either side. The settlers claimed that several Palestinians apparently burnt some trash, in the Sabe’ Mountain area, east of Burin, and that they were annoyed with by this act. Following the clashes, the villages used loudspeakers of their mosques to warn the villagers, including in nearby villages, to remain alert for any possible invasions by the colonists into their villages.
Israeli troops shoot Palestinian activist in head with ‘less lethal’ bullet
+972 Mag 16 Apr by Mairav Zonszein — Israel Border Police officers shot Muhammed Amira in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet at close range during a weekly protest against the separation wall on Friday, activists and the man’s attorney said. Amira, also known as Abu Nasser, is a well known figure who has been leading unarmed popular protests against Israel’s separation wall in his village of Ni‘lin since 2007, when the protests began. Amira, 47, is a science teacher at the local school and is married with four children. In 2009, he helped organize an exhibition in the village about the Holocaust to increase Palestinian awareness of the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people. Amira was armed only with his usual megaphone when Israeli Border Police officers shot him in the back of the head with a sponge-tipped bullet, according to activists who were at the protest that day. As seen in the photo above, Amira was shackled to his hospital bed while being treated for internal bleeding in his head, according to Sarit Michaeli of human rights organization B’Tselem, who visited him at Sheba Medical Center outside of Tel Aviv. The policemen who arrested Amira claimed he was throwing stones, although he is known for trying to prevent youth in Ni‘lin from throwing stones during protests and maintaining an entirely non-violent resistance despite the violence Israel uses to suppress them. Israeli activist Yaron Ben-Haim, who goes to Ni‘lin regularly and videotapes the protests, told +972 Magazine, “[Amira] has never thrown a stone in his life.” Ben-Haim did not see the shooting itself, but described a situation in which the police ambushed Amira, having been overheard on the other side of the barrier saying that they needed to get people away from him, to isolate him…
Palestinian awaits mental evaluation after stabbing, killing British woman
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Israel’s Jerusalem Magistrate Court extended the remand of 57-year-old Jamil al-Tamimi until April 24 on Saturday, after he allegedly stabbed and killed a 20-year-old British woman in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday. Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud said the Israeli judge also ordered that al-Tamimi meet with a psychiatrist from Israel’s Jerusalem district for a mental evaluation. Israeli police detained al-Tamimi, a resident of the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood near the Old City, accusing him of committing the fatal stabbing of Hannah Bladon inside the Jerusalem light rail. Bladon, a University of Birmingham student, was reportedly visiting the city as part of an exchange program. Israeli police said at the time that al-Tamimi was “mentally unstable,” had a prior criminal police record for domestic violence, and had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital.
According to Israeli news site Ynet, al-Tamimi said that he “didn’t mean it,” and apologized to Bladon’s family when asked to comment. Israel’s security agency the Shin Bet also reportedly said that al-Tamimi had previously tried to commit suicide by swallowing a razorblade while hospitalized, and that in 2011, he was convicted of molesting his daughter. While authorities recognized al-Tamimi’s history of mental illness, they attributed the attack to so-called radical Islamic terrorism. “This is yet another case of a Palestinian suffering from personal, mental or moral distress choosing to commit an act of terror to escape his problems,” the Shin Bet’s statement said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also tied the attack to global terrorism, saying in a statement that “radical Islamic terrorism is striking world capitals.”….
Jewish convert to Islam arrested in connection to car-ramming attacks
Haaretz 16 Apr by Yaniv Kubovich — Police said they arrested a 54-year-old Israeli man who converted from Judaism to Islam as the suspect in two separate attempted car rammings at West Bank checkpoints in early March. The man, David Alfasi, a former Tel Aviv resident, is married to a Palestinian Muslim woman and lives in Tul Karm. He was turned over to the Israeli authorities by the Palestinian police after he was caught attempting to smuggle produce across one of the checkpoints. The police then realized that Alfasi was the suspect they had been seeking for an attempt to run over a policeman and a security guard at one of the checkpoints near Tul Karm on March 5. Alfasi had been ordered to stop but he drove on, endangering the life of a policeman at the checkpoint, the police said. Ten days later, police say, when a soldier stopped Alfasi at a checkpoint near Tul Karm to examine his documents, Alfasi sped away, knocking down a security guard in the process. A lawyer for Alfasi, Yariv Vinzer, said that his client had sold the car before the two incidents attributed to him. Vinzer said the security cameras at the checkpoints would prove that Alfasi was not driving the car when the alleged incidents occurred. Vinzer added that Alfasi did not recognize the State of Israel, and that he had converted to Islam, lives in Tul Karm and therefore cannot be prosecuted for the alleged events….
Palestinian security forces briefly detain 2 undercover Israeli soldiers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 15 Apr — Palestinian security forces briefly detained two undercover Israeli army soldiers who were conducting a military raid in the Rafidiya area of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday evening, according to official Palestinian and Israeli sources. The two were taken to a Palestinian police station in Nablus. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the incident to Ma‘an, saying that during an Israeli army “activity,” the officers were “briefly questioned by Palestinian security forces,” adding that in coordination with the Israeli Civil Administration, the soldiers were returned to Israeli custody. According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the two soldiers — members of an Arabic-speaking unit of the Israeli army known as the “Mustarabin” in Arabic, who are responsible for infiltrating and carrying out detentions in Palestinian communities — “scuffled” with Palestinian police officers for some time before they were returned to Israeli forces. Their gear and weapons, as well as the car they were driving, were also reportedly returned. The incident represented a rare standoff between Palestinian and Israeli forces, as the Palestinian Authority (PA) regularly allows Israeli forces to enter PA-controlled areas in the West Bank to conduct daily detention raids and other military operations, in contravention of the Oslo Accords.
Israeli soldiers abduct thirteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 18 Apr — Israeli soldiers have abducted, on Monday at dawn, thirteen Palestinians from various parts of the occupied West Bank, after invading their homes and violently searching them, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported. The PPS stated that the soldiers searched many homes in the Ramallah and al-Biereh governorate, in central West Bank, and abducted seven Palestinians, identified as Ahmad Turki, 21, Mohammad Sarafandi, 30, and Osama Nakhla, from Betunia town, Mohammad Abdullah Arar, 35, and Mohammad Abdul-Rahim Asnaf, 24, from Qarawat Bani Zeid, in addition to Ali Soheib Srour and Mustafa Ibrahim Srour, from Ni‘lin village. In Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted Ayman Monther Thawabta, 21, from Beit Fajjar town, and Mahmoud Khalil Nabhan, 21, from the al-‘Obeyyat town. In Tulkarem, in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted Raed Ibrahim Harsha, 20, from Qaffin town. Another Palestinian, identified as As’ad Nazzal, was abducted from Qabatia town, in the northern West Bank governorate of Jenin. In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted Aysar Bilal Fdeilat, 18, from the al-‘Arroub refugee camp. In addition, the soldiers abducted Saleh al-Fakhouri, 60, from occupied East Jerusalem.
Hamas fighter dies in Gaza tunnel collapse
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — A Palestinian affiliated with the military wing of the Hamas movement died in a tunnel collapse in the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday morning. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, identified the fighter in a statement as Anas Abu Shawish, a 20-year-old resident of the al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City. The brigades did not provide further details on the circumstances of the tunnel collapse, nor where the tunnel was located.
Scores of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below the besieged enclave, which are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north. According to Ma’an documentation, at least nine Palestinians have been killed and ten injured in tunnels so far this year — with two Palestinians killed in what Hamas said was an Israeli airstrike, a claim the Israeli army denied.
Gaza crippled by electricity crisis as power plant runs out of fuel
CNN 17 Apr by Oren Liebermann — Gaza’s only power plant has run out of fuel, leaving 2 million residents of the coastal enclave with only four hours of electricity a day in what the UN cautions could be the tipping point to making Gaza “unlivable.” The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza blame each other for the energy shortage. The power generating authority in Gaza says it cannot afford to buy more fuel for the plant — mostly because of taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority claims that the Hamas officials in Gaza are simply incapable of running the plant efficiently.
In January, as wide-scale protests erupted in Gaza sparked by the lack of electricity, Qatar and Turkey agreed to provide a 3-month supply of fuel for the power plant, enough for 6-12 hours of electricity a day. That supply was exhausted on Sunday, forcing Gazans to prepare for a life with even less electricity. Gaza will only have access to electricity imported from Israel and Egypt, which meets less than a third of demand. The Gaza Ministry of Health on Monday warned of a health crisis and the possibility of delayed or canceled surgeries if the disagreement isn’t resolved within 48 hours. “If, in two days from today, the issue will not be solved, then we will have to cancel between 200-250 surgeries a day,” Dr. Ashraf Al Qedra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said.
Lives ‘start when the electricity comes on’ “It totally changed our daily lives into focusing only on when we have electricity,” said Nivin Abu Marahil, 35, from central Gaza. “We have changed three refrigerators and four washing machines (in 10 years), as they get damaged each time the electricity goes off and on. “We stopped buying food that we should store in a fridge. We buy every day what we need to cook on that day. Our lives start when the electricity is on, no matter if it does at night or during the day.”
Israeli navy opens fire at fishermen off Gaza shore
GAZA (WAFA) 17 Apr – Israeli navy Monday opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats while they were sailing off al-Sudaniya coast in northwest of the Gaza Strip, local sources said. The fishermen had to leave the sea and return to shore in fear of getting shot. No casualties were reported, however. To be noted, Israeli navy targets Palestinian fishermen and their fishing boats on an almost daily basis. Despite the signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israel which allow fishermen to go 12 nautical miles inside the Mediterranean Sea, Israeli navy does not allow them to go further than three nautical miles, which the fishermen say is not enough to catch fish.
Photo Story: Running for Palestinian prisoners
MEMO 15 Apr — Scores of Palestinians participated in a race in the blockaded Gaza Strip on Saturday in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. A spokesman for Hamas’s student wing, Mohamed Farwana, who also organised the race addressed the participants. “We are running today in solidarity with Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.” Some 200 runners took part in the race, which kicked off in Gaza City. Farwana went on to say, “This marathon is a message to the international community that the siege on Gaza won’t prevent us from defending our prisoners.” He went on to call on all Palestinian factions “to join hands to break the siege and tackle the issue of detainees in Israeli jails”.
Family of pregnant Quebecer stuck in Gaza implores Ottawa to help with exit docst
MONTREAL (Life in Quebec) 15 Apr by Sidhartha Banerjee — A Canadian woman who is eight months pregnant and stuck in Gaza as she tries to get an exit visa says she’s just trying to stay positive. “Since I’ve known I was pregnant, I’ve wanted to go back to Canada and give birth there,” Bissan Eid, 24, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s safer for my baby and myself. “I’m trying everything possible, my dad is trying everything possible. I’m trying to think positive.” Eid, who says she’s unable to walk or stand for long periods, thought she had every reason to believe she’d be back in Canada last December in time to resume her studies at Concordia University. Instead, the woman from Montreal’s south shore finds herself still trapped in Gaza and unable to get the exit permit from Israel. “I thought since I’m Canadian that it would be easier,” Eid said, adding nobody has explained to her why she can’t obtain the visa. Eid, a Canadian citizen since 2005, said she went to visit grandparents and get married in June 2016. It was her first extended trip after a 2014 visit was cut short due to war. Supporters have launched a social media campaign at Concordia, where Eid earned an undergraduate degree and is working toward a master’s degree in civil engineering….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Apartheid
Eimear McBride in the West Bank: ‘All that is human in me recoils from this’
Irish Times 15 Apr — The award-winning author witnesses Palestinian life under occupation: ‘I cannot forget the madness of what I saw there. The sheer effort to make history die’ — I had not thought about the world for a very long time and, of all places, this place had seemed easier to ignore. I am driving down to Jericho now and, for the first time in a week, I breathe. Not because I have become accustomed to the hassle of checkpoints or seeing young men and women, still teenagers some, looking out at me from behind guns that they know how to use. Not because I have stopped noticing how grown men and women close themselves up behind a mask of quietude in order to cope with their every movement being at the whim of those same youngsters. The red signs at every turn off into the West Bank, warning that the Israeli government forbids entry and that entry is dangerous, have not ceased, in a whole variety of selfish and unselfish ways, to alarm me. Quite to the contrary, I am only beginning to see, learning how to look, and my sense of alarm is off the charts. I have not forgotten the modernist, concrete barrier bullet-proofing the road winding over into Hebron. And I will not forget, cannot forget, the madness of what I saw there … The places where life was, children played, people called to each other and thought of as home and, once perhaps contentedly, as the boundary of their whole world, stand empty. Desolate. Turned into rat traps now, and cages. Sealed behind soldered doors. Closed off for hours, then days, then years at a time. Street names mauled and replaced so the very memory of their ever having existed becomes debatable, then fabled, then gone. The sheer effort, in this place, to make history die … Inside, finally, and there was the sound. The press of people herded into too little room and open-eared I went through the streets. Only in a while thinking to look up and consider the mesh that was the sky. Covered in filth. Bags of shit. Bottles and nappies and every kind of rubbish in every place, leaking in, dripping through. Thrown down on people from the bright white settlements built above, on top of them, in buildings that were once their own; surely a far cry and gleaming domestic heaven when viewed from the squalor inflicted below. The indecency of it. The disgrace. Can even the fervent belief that such mass dispossession is a gift from God really justify this?. [Long essay from the forthcoming anthology Kingdom of Olives and Ash, to be published in June]
Analysis – Hebron 2017: Fewer Palestinians, more checkpoints / Amira Hass
Haaretz 18 Apr — The soldiers patrolling among the houses and olive trees demanded to see 20-year-old Khaled Abu Sh’kheidam’s identity papers. He took them out and the soldiers checked if the plastic covering bore a handwritten number that matched their lists. It did. Abu Sh’kheidam entered his house, a few meters away from where they had stopped him. The soldiers were following orders on the Saturday just before Passover. For the last 18 months, the Israeli army has been prohibiting the entry of Palestinians who are not among the 1,200 residents of the Palestinian Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the western part of Old Hebron. Like all his neighbors, Abu Sh’kheidam knows his papers must always be in his pocket – even when clearing out the garbage. Twenty years have passed since the signing of the Wye River Accord, according to which 80 percent of Hebron was transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Every Palestinian family that remained in the other 20 percent (labeled H2) is a testament to courage and endurance … These prohibitions come on top of countless restrictions on movement and other activities, which Israel has gradually imposed on Hebron after 1994, when Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque (known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs). The movement of Palestinian vehicles is prohibited in much of the Old City – the heart of the city, in which Jewish settlements are located. A big stretch of the Old City’s main artery, Al-Shuhada Street, is completely closed to Palestinian pedestrians. This includes all Palestinians, even the few who still live there. These residents have to leave through rooftops or back stairways. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has counted 18 checkpoints manned by soldiers; 14 checkpoints that are intermittently manned; and 70 permanent blockades, such as concrete walls, blocks and locked gates, which cut off the old center from the rest of the city.…
Israel orders demolition of 52-year-old Palestinian building in al-Bireh
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Apr — Israeli forces delivered a demolition notice for a two-story building, comprised of four apartment units, in the central occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh, a local follow up committee said in a statement on Friday. According to the committee, the demolition notice was delivered earlier in the week to owner of the building 82-year-old Fawaz Ali Hamdan. The structure is located just 200 meters away from the illegal Israeli Pesagot settlement, which was established on the Palestinian lands of al-Bireh. Israeli authorities gave Hamdan a period of three days to file an appeal against the demolitions, or the building would be destroyed by Israel’s Civil Administration “despite ongoing Jewish holidays,” the order said. However, Hamdan claimed that he has already tried to appeal the demolition multiple times, but each appeal was denied by the Civil Administration, and that he was told that the administration was on a break for the Jewish holiday Passover. The building, according to Hamdan, was built 52 years ago, “before the existence of the Israeli occupation,” while the second story of the building was built 19 years ago. Hamdan added that the original building has a Jordanian building permit….
Israeli forces shut down 2 bookstores in Hebron over ‘incitement’
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 17 Apr – Israeli forces raided Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank before dawn Monday, shutting down and sealing off two bookstores after confiscating materials. Locals told Ma‘an that the Muhammad bookstore near Hebron University and the Hussam bookstore near the Palestine Polytechnic University in the city were targeted by the Israeli military raid, with soldiers posting notices on their doors claiming the bookstores were ordered to close down for being “involved in incitement.” An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that the stores were closed for having “cooperated with local student cells of the Hamas terror organization, by providing a series of services to the cells, including printing incitement material.”
Wary Israel tried to conceal East Jerusalem’s annexation in 1967, documents reveal
Haaretz 18 Apr by Nir Hasson — Three weeks after the Six Day War Israel enacted laws to annex the conquered East Jerusalem, but tried to hide the move from the international community, according to recently revealed documents. The Foreign Ministry sent a telegram to Israel’s ambassadors around the world instructing them to describe the annexation laws as “municipal fusion,” intended to enable running services properly. The telegram, together with many other documents, was exposed recently by the Akevot Institute, which uses archive material to advance human rights. This wasn’t the only case in which Israel tried to conceal its acts in East Jerusalem for fear of the International community’s response, according to the documents. Two of the laws passed on June 27, 1967 pertained to government, legal and municipal procedures, while a third was about protecting holy sites. The Foreign Ministry was extremely concerned about how these laws would be seen by the international community. A day before the Knesset debate on the proposals, Israel’s ambassadors received a telegram guiding them on how to deal with the issue … Three months later, in September 1967, the government decided to advance the Jewish Quarter’s renovation and the finance minister announced that the state was expropriating the quarter’s lands. At the time, 3,500 Arabs, left from the Jordanian period, lived in the neighborhood, most of them refugees who fled from the villages around Jerusalem in 1948. ‘This will require hasbara …’ Here too the Foreign Ministry was concerned. “This decision could be interpreted in the world as land expropriation and evicting property owners in the former Jewish Quarter area, especially in view of the assembly debates,” said a telegram sent to Israel’s embassies in the world….
Maternity ward segregation just tip of the iceberg in Israel
The Forward 8 Apr by Naomi Darom — In Israel, segregation is a cradle-to-grave reality — On Monday morning, the health and science reporter at Israeli public radio exposed a disturbing practice, prevalent in hospitals across Israel: an unofficial policy of segregating Arab and Jewish women at maternity wards. The reporter called various maternity wards, posing as a pregnant woman, and asked a maternity nurse whether, when it was her time to give birth, she could ask not to be placed in the same room as a non-Jew. “We try to separate (Jews and Arabs) anyway”, said the nurse at one hospital. “We always do it, even without being asked”, said another. Asked whether this is hospital policy, she answered, “of course, especially at the maternity ward”. Out of 7 hospitals checked, only 2 refused to segregate patients. Such separation is forbidden according to Health Ministry regulations and is against the official policy of the hospitals. Segregation in maternity wards is not new – and neither are news reports about it. Haaretz broke a similar story in 2006 and in 2012, a Knesset committee held a special meeting about the issue, to no discernible result. What is new this time is that a member of Knesset decided to speak up – in favor of segregation. Bezalel Smotrich, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, tweeted on Tuesday “My wife is not racist, but after labor she wants to rest and not have a hafla (a celebration accompanied by music) like the Arabs do after their births.” Accused of racism, Smotrich refused to back down. “It is not just comfort”, he tweeted, “There’s a war between Jews and Arabs in this country for a 100 years, so it’s natural that my wife will not want to lay next to someone whose baby might want to kill my baby in 20 years.” The predictable media and social storm ensued … “It is not just xenophobia, we’re talking about a different mentality,” claimed Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, “(Arabs) grow up in a mentality of violence, we cannot ignore it”. Smotrich’s wife, Revital, said in a television interview that in the past she has refused to share a room with Arabs, and asked that her baby will not be delivered by an Arab doctor. “Birth is a pure, holy, Jewish moment”, she said, “I would rather have Jewish hands be the first to touch my baby.”….
Restriction of movement
Marathon in occupied West Bank highlights Israeli military checkpoints
MEMO 15 Apr — The Second Palestinian Festival for Arts and Culture launched a marathon on Friday sending athletes “From Checkpoint to Another Checkpoint” to highlight the hundreds of Israeli barriers dividing the occupied West Bank into small cantons, Quds Press has reported. The route took runners 11 kilometres between an Israeli military checkpoint in the west of Nablus to another one in the east. “This activity reiterates the Palestinian rejection of the Israeli checkpoints which divide the West Bank and degrade the life of the Palestinians, explained festival director Hakim Sabbah. He accepted that the race of 11 kilometres is much shorter than the usual marathon distance of 42 kilometres. “We do not have such a long distance free of checkpoints,” he pointed out. “The runners took the longest distance between two of them.” The Israeli army, he added, prohibits anyone from running through checkpoints unhindered. According to Sabbah, the run will be organised on an annual basis to highlight the issue of the Israeli checkpoints. “It will continue until the Israeli occupation removes all the checkpoints,” he insisted.
Swiss lawmakers roll back anti-BDS law
EI 14 Apr by Adri Nieuwhof — Swiss lawmakers are rolling back a measure targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. On 8 March, the National Council, the lower house of the Swiss parliament, passed an anti-BDS bill put forward by the right-wing People’s Party. But now the foreign affairs committee of the upper house, the Council of States, has stripped all references to BDS and the Middle East from the text. The upper house will debate the amended measure in May. The motion passed by the lower house urges the government to ban any funding to nongovernmental groups “implicated in racism, anti-semitism, incitement to hatred or BDS campaigns.” Last month, Palestinians protested against the measure outside the Swiss diplomatic mission in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. NGO Monitor, a far-right group that targets and smears supporters of Palestinian rights, welcomed the March vote and claimed credit for “providing details on the Swiss government’s funding of organizations that propagate anti-peace, anti-normalization, BDS and one-state policies. But the foreign affairs committee of the upper house ruled that the wording of the lower house bill was “unwise” and proposed striking “any geographical or political indicator explicitly referring to the conflict in the Middle East.” By a vote of 12-0, the committee adopted new wording that eliminates any reference to BDS. The amended motion calls on the government to review its funding regulations and make any changes necessary to ensure organizations involved in “racist, anti-Semitic or hate-motivated actions” are excluded. But since the entire measure appears to have been motivated by efforts to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement, rather than any real concern about racism, it seems unlikely that any changes will follow….
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Clashes in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp leave homes ‘beyond repair’
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Fierce clashes in Lebanon’s Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp have left scores of buildings riddled with bullet holes and rendered numerous homes completely uninhabitable, residents said, as photos depicting the breadth of destruction have begun to circulate on social media. Nine people were confirmed to have died, while at least 104 others were reported wounded amid armed fighting that began on April 7 and lasted for nearly a week between gunmen affiliated to an Islamist group led by Bilal Badr and a newly deployed joint Palestinian security force charged with expelling Badr and his supporters from the camp. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was forced to suspend its services in Ain al-Hilweh, as residents were displaced fleeing the violence. UNRWA administers eight schools and two clinics in the camp.
UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said last Wednesday that some 100 houses and 75 shops were damaged or destroyed, noting that the numbers awaited verification until UNRWA crews could gain access the camp. UNRWA health clinics reopened Friday, as security conditions finally began to stabilize. Resident of Ain al-Hilweh Muhammad Awwad told Ma‘an on Saturday that locals were “shocked” by the scope of the damage and destruction, particularly in certain areas such as Suhun, al-Ras al-Ahmar, and the farmers’ market. A large number of homes in the neighborhood of al-Tira — where Badr had been based and which thus saw some of the heaviest fighting — were rendered completely uninhabitable, Awwad said. Angry homeowners have urged Palestinian officials to repair and reconstruct the damaged buildings, Awwad said, highlighting that residents of the camp have already been suffering from dire economic conditions and could not afford to repair the damages on their own.
As Christians from around the world celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians are barred from attending
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Apr — Thousands of Christian followers of the Orthodox and Catholic faiths from all over the world, gathering at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, celebrated Easter Holy Saturday with the emergence of the holy fire from the location of the tomb believed to be that of Jesus Christ. However, according to WAFA, only a few privileged Palestinian Christians, mainly those living in East Jerusalem or Israel, were able to attend the celebrations. Thousands of their brethren from the locked West Bank and Gaza Strip, only a few kilometers away from Jerusalem, were not able to attend them. Israel does not allow Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to reach the walled-in East Jerusalem without special army-issued permits. As with every year, Israel issued a number of permits for West Bank and Gaza Christians to enter Jerusalem during Easter. But then it imposed a week-long closure on the occupied territories for the Jewish Passover holiday, which coincided with Easter celebrations, thus deeming all permits void for this week. At the same time, Israeli police set up blockades around the Old City of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, preventing thousands of pilgrims from reaching their holy sites.
Balfour’s legacy: The destruction of Palestine
MEMO 15 Apr — Author Salman Abu Sitta addressed the UK’s House of Lords on 28 March to discuss the Balfour Declaration and its consequences on the Palestinians. This year marks a century since the document was signed and the future of the State of Palestine was sealed. Below is the text from Abu Sitta’s speech: Ladies and Gentlemen: We are witnessing today the longest war against a people: A hundred years of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom and independence in their own country. A hundred years of death and destruction in the region. The hundred years witnessed the destruction of Palestine and the dispersion of its people. Such an act was made possible by the largest, longest, comprehensive, pre-meditated and still continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history. A hundred years of violating every article in human rights and international law, without remedy or recourse. A hundred years culminating in the only colonial project in existence today. The irony is that Palestine was not intended to be a colony at all. Britain was entrusted to build government institutions in Palestine and Iraq (both as Mandate class A). It was due set a democratic independent country serving the Palestinian people. It was in fulfillment of the “Sacred Trust of Civilisation”according to the Charter of the League of Nations. Instead, it was converted into a colonial project for the benefit of European Jewish colonists who were not inhabitants of the country. It was even worse than a colonial project. Unlike any other colonial project, it eventually ended up with the mass expulsion of the majority of the population, the confiscation of their land and property, the destruction of their landscape and the erasure of their geography and history. It was the most tragic event in Palestine’s 5,000 year history. Europe’s secret In 1916, while the Allies planes were dropping leaflets on the Arabs in WWI exhorting them to fight the Turks and gain independence and freedom, Britain’s Mark Sykes and the France’s Georges Picot sat in a closed room with a map of the Middle East, planning how to carve it between them….
In Pictures: Palestinians in Europe unify around messages of hope
ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands (Al Jazeera) 18 Apr by Rawan Damen & Mahmod Abuabdou — The Palestinians in Europe conference convened this week for their 15th annual gathering in the Netherlands‘ second largest city, Rotterdam. The event brought together thousands of Palestinians under the slogan “100 years on, a victorious nation and unbreakable determination.” Saturday’s conference coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which the British government pledged its support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, at the expense of the Palestinian indigenous population. Many key issues related to the Palestinian cause were discussed in the conference, such as prisoners, the Israeli siege of Gaza, illegal settlements in Palestinian territories and the conditions of Palestinian refugees in the camps and across the diaspora. The conference was attended by participants from all over the European continent, representatives of Palestinian associations, institutions and organisations both from within Europe and beyond. For the first time, the event hosted dual conferences in English and Arabic, as well as one dedicated to Palestinian children. The sessions highlighted the importance of the Balfour Declaration Apology campaign launched in the UK in February 2017 and discussed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). Sample caption: Whole families and generations arrived from Italy, Spain, France, Denmark, Sweden and other European countries to attend the conference. About 1,000 came from Germany alone….
Oldest Palestinian woman dies at age 109
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — The oldest Palestinian woman died at age 109 on Monday, according to official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa. Labiba Mahmoud Odeh, who was born in 1908, died of natural causes in the Nablus-area village of Qaryut in the northern occupied West Bank, her son told Wafa on Monday. Odeh — a mother of five and grandmother and great-grandmother to more than 80 — never suffered from any diseases and maintained a healthy lifestyle, according to her son. Odeh’s son noted that as his mother lived through more than a century, she was a witness to some of the most significant time periods in Palestine’s history, including the period of Ottoman rule, the British Mandate, Jordanian rule, and the current Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Labiba Odeh was 9 years old when the United Kingdom’s Balfour Declaration promised to give away Palestinian lands for the establishment of a Jewish state in 1917; 40 years old during the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948; and 59 years old during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
Bethlehem is struggling to protect the Church of the Nativity
Newsweek 16 Apr by Cate Malek — The woman who holds the key didn’t want to talk. She goes by A‘abla, and she’s a member of a Muslim family entrusted with the key to the church in Bethlehem, the West Bank city where Christians believe Jesus was born. During Ottoman rule, major churches like this one were divided into sections for Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox Christians; Muslim families were asked to keep the peace between the different sectsI had heard the story about A‘abla, but assumed it was a myth. But one afternoon, after weeks of asking around, I finally spotted her: a 70-year-old woman carrying a black wrought-iron key. She slipped through a dark wooden door at the back of the church and slowly walked down a curved staircase into the crowd of tourists below. I asked her to share some stories from her decades of living in the church. But she politely declined, then disappeared back up the staircase. She wouldn’t even tell me her last name. A‘abla isn’t the only legend surrounding the Church of the Nativity. The most enduring mystery of this place is the building — the oldest operating church in the world — and how it has survived 2,000 years of invasions, coups and natural disasters. What’s saved it is the local population, both Christian and Muslim, who view the church as part of its living legacy and protect it accordingly … Staying connected to the land where Jesus was born is important for Palestinian Christians. They are part of a 2,000-year-old indigenous tradition, the living presence of the Christian church in the Holy Land, and yet many tourists and outside observers have never even heard of, or even pondered their existence. In the last 50 years, the number of Christians has steadily fallen from 80 percent of Bethlehem’s population to just under 12 percent today. More widely, Christians in what was known as Palestine prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 made up 18 percent of the population when Israel was established by a vote at the United Nations. Now, Christians make up less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.What’s behind the dwindling Christian presence is complicated, Thaljieh and others say. Bethlehem’s Christians have lower birth rates than their Muslim counterparts and tend to be well educated, making it easier for them to emigrate. But most people here say Christians have left the city due to its crippling economic conditions, high unemployment and the mounting restrictions that come from living in occupied territory and makes like difficult here for Muslims and Christians alike…..
Photo essay: Palestinian workers make olive soap in West Bank city of Nablus
Xinhua 17 Apr by Nidal Eshtayeh — A Palestinian worker piles up soap pieces at Albader Soap Factory in the West Bank city of Nablus, on April 15, 2017. Olive soap making is one of the oldest industries in Nablus city. The components from olive oil, water and natural sodium obtained from local groves make the soap rich of its unique smell, a sign of the quality and purity of its ingredients.
Opinion: Our Nakba / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 16 Apr — This is a jubilee year: 50 years after the greatest Jewish disaster since the Holocaust, 50 years after the greatest Palestinian disaster since the Nakba. It is the jubilee of their second Nakba and our first. A moment before the start of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the “liberation” of the territories, we should remember that it was a disaster. A great disaster for the Palestinians, of course, but also a fateful disaster for the Jews here. 2017 ought to be a year of soul-searching in Israel, a year of unparalleled sadness. It is already clear that it will not be. Instead, the government plans to make it a year of celebration, celebrating the occupation. Ten million shekels ($2.74 million) have already been allocated to celebrate 50 years of suppression of another people, 50 years of rot and internal destruction. A state that celebrates 50 years of occupation is a state whose sense of direction has been lost, its ability to distinguish good from evil impaired. A military victory may be celebrated, but to celebrate decades of brutal military conquest? What exactly is there to celebrate, Israelis? Fifty years of bloodshed, abuse, disinheritance and sadism? Only societies that have no conscience celebrate such anniversaries. It is not only on account of the suffering it causes the Palestinians that Israel must refrain from celebrating the anniversary. It must cloak itself in sorrow also over what has happened to Israel since that terrible summer of 1967, the summer in which it won a war and lost nearly everything….
The Palestinian guide to dealing with racist compliments from Israelis
+972 mag 14 Apr by Rami Younis — Intentions be damned, when many Jewish Israelis meet Palestinians even their compliments come out laced with passive-aggressive racism half the time. A comprehensive guide for Palestinians — There isn’t a single Palestinian citizen of Israel who isn’t familiar with the phenomenon. It can happen in the middle of a conversation, during a cigarette break at work, or in pretty much any interaction in a public place — with a complete stranger: Israelis who feel a little too comfortable giving racist “compliments” to Palestinians. So I brought together a group of Palestinian friends and we came up with some recommendations for dealing with the not-all-that-creative, often banal racism you’ll find being spewed by Jewish Israelis. ‘Wow, you don’t look like an Arab’ An all-time classic, and number one on the list of racist compliments … How to respond: The best way is to scornfully ignore it. If you feel like you need educate the arrogant racist, you can use one of the following responses: 1. Wow, oops! I totally forgot my tail at home today! 2. Seriously? The truth is you kind of look like an Arab. (Especially recommended when dealing with a Mizrahi Israeli Jew who is trying to convince him- or herself that their grandfather only spoke Arabic because he was a hipster who thought it would be cool to learn a few phrases in an exotic language.) ‘You live in Lod? Your family lets you live away from home? Right on! How courageous!’ This is a “compliment” that, unfortunately, the fairer sex has to contend with far too often. When Jewish Israelis see a Palestinian man living alone in Tel Aviv they generally assume he’s a university student or a construction worker. But if they see a Palestinian woman living all by her lonesome in the big city, suddenly they pull out their feminist torch, ready to fight for the liberation of all women, regardless of creed, ethnicity or nationality. Considering that Israeli society is itself pretty patriarchal and oppressive of women, it’s a bit hard to understand where that patronizing arrogance comes from — as if heading down to Jaffa for hummus on Saturdays somehow imbibes them with an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of Palestinian society. Two women in our little focus group had responses. How to respond: 1. If the compliment comes from a man: “And it was really courageous of your wife to marry someone like you.” 2. If the compliment comes from a woman: “Yes, we also allow Arab women out in public. In your specific case, it’s a bit unfortunate that Jews have the same tradition.”….