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Number of Palestinian children detained– 440– is double figure of a year ago

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Violence / Incursions / Detentions — West Bank, Jerusalem

Rise in Palestinian children held by Israel ‘alarming’
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 24 Apr by Jonathan Cook — A jabbing pain in his shoulder and thigh roused Obada from his sleep at 3am. In the half-light, the 15-year-old could make out eight masked men surrounding his bed, their rifles pointed at him. “I felt terrified,” he said of the experience of being arrested in February from his home in the village of al-Araqa, near Jenin in the northern West Bank.Obada is one of more than 100 Palestinian children who, in recent months, have found themselves dragged from bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, according to children’s right groups. Testimonies like Obada’s feature in a new report, No Way to Treat a Child, compiled by Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), a group monitoring Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s rights. The 440 children currently in military detention are the highest total since the Israeli army started issuing figures in 2008 – and more than double the number detained this time last year. The rights group says that, despite promises two years ago from the Israeli army to phase out night raids following international condemnation, in practice, they are used as routinely as ever. During his arrest, Obada said he was hit with a rifle butt, blindfolded and his hands tied with a plastic cord that cut into his flesh. “The soldiers dragged me out of the house without allowing me to say goodbye to my family and without telling me why and where they were taking me,” he said. Over the next fortnight, according to Obada, he was repeatedly beaten. Indignities included being locked overnight in a small toilet cubicle and assaulted with a taser when he protested. For 12 days, his only break from solitary confinement was to be taken from his cell to an interrogation room where he was tied tightly to a chair, slapped and threatened. He was repeatedly questioned about his ties to two school friends, Nihad and Fuad Waked, who had been killed a few days earlier during an attack on soldiers … The dramatic increase in arrests has coincided with a surge of attacks and protests by Palestinians in the occupied territories since last October. Most Palestinian children in detention are convicted of throwing stones. In addition to a jail sentence, each is given a suspended sentence, usually of several years, that is activated if they are rearrested. About 90 percent also receive a fine. Karakashian said that in recent months military courts had been increasing all three components of the children’s sentences. “Many families cannot afford to pay the fine, so the children have to serve a longer sentence in lieu,” he told Al Jazeera. “And the suspended sentence is like a sword hanging over their heads. Many are afraid to leave the house or go to school for fear that they will be arrested at a checkpoint and sent back to detention.” “They can end up under a self-imposed house arrest for years after their release.” The new report is likely to embarrass Israel after it only narrowly avoided inclusion last year in a United Nations “shame list” of serious violators of children’s rights….

Assaulting and beating four young Jerusalemite men in Eilat
[with photos] Silwanic 22 Apr — The occupation soldiers assaulted four young Jerusalemite men after Thursday midnight near the entrance of the city Eilat after stopping their vehicle at the checkpoint established at the entrance of the city. After checking their IDs, they were taken inside a room and severely beaten. They are: Nour Shalabi (18), Mohammad Dakkak (22), Anas Mazid (20) and Abdelkarim Natsheh (22). The young men explained that the soldiers took them to a room near the checkpoint, strip-searched Dakkak and Shalabi and body-searched the others. While inside the room, four soldiers surrounded and assaulted them and also verbally insulted them. The soldiers said: “You throw stones in Jerusalem? Why are you here? What do you want to do?” The young men then took Nour inside the room again and they were yelling. Suddenly, they threw Nour outside the room after he had lost consciousness. An ambulance was called and he was transferred to the hospital for treatment. The soldier claimed that Nour lost consciousness while being searched despite the clear marks of assault on his body. The young men added that the soldiers pointed their guns towards them and threatened Shalabi to shoot him when he was inside the room with the soldiers. The soldiers also precisely searched the vehicle and detained the young men for nearly two hours.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers pass through Beit Ummar village
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Some 300 Israeli settlers, some of them armed, crossed through the village of Beit Ummar on Sunday in the southern occupied district of Hebron on their way between two illegal Israeli settlements, local sources told Ma‘an. The settlers toured the Kfar Etzion settlement north of Beit Ummar before passing through the Palestinian village on their way to the Karmei Tsur settlement, both part of the cluster of illegal Israeli settlements known as Gush Etzion. Local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma‘an the settlers’ tour caused extreme traffic congestion on the road connecting Hebron to Jerusalem. He added that local residents fear that settlers might start using their village to cross between the settlements in the future. Similar demonstrations are carried out by Israeli settlers every year during the Jewish holiday of Passover. The incident comes amid increasing tension in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City during the holiday season, as right-wing Israelis have been evacuated and detained from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Video: Inside Tel Aviv’s ‘Death to the Arabs’ rally
EI 22 Apr by Dan Cohen & David Sheen — Thousands converged on Tel Aviv’s city hall this week to register their support for an Israeli soldier who was filmed last month executing a Palestinian youth as he lay on the ground, wounded and immobile, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. From across the country, Israelis descended upon Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s premier venue for large public protests, to express their indignation over the army’s charges of manslaughter against the soldier, 19-year-old Sergeant Elor Azarya. The rally featured speeches by Azarya’s mother, father and sister and a number of musical performances by popular Israeli artists. At another rally which we filmed in the soldier’s home town of Ramle, rally-goers voiced harsh criticism for those who do not support Azarya’s action and for those who helped expose his deed – especially the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. They also expressed hostility for his victim, 21-year-old Palestinian Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, as well as for the Palestinian people in general … Although one of us was attacked by the crowd and removed from the area by police, the other still managed to film some of the event’s most poignant and frightening moments. Notably, on the same day as the rally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged leniency for Azarya.

Analysis: What happens when you let the Shin Bet do its work / Alex Fishman
Ynet 23 Apr — The moment politicians stopped turning a blind eye, and the legal system quit buckling under pressure, Jewish terrorism finally started being handled properly — For years, the Shin Bet demanded that it be given the tools to handle Jewish terrorism in Israel. They asked that laundered language on this topic be abolished. When a Molotov cocktail is thrown into an inhabited home, that’s not called “Price Tag,” and when you burn a field it’s not a “property crime.” It’s blatant terrorism.  But we had to experience the tragedy of the Dawabsheh family being burned alive in Duma, in July 2015, in order for our political and legal ranks to sober up, shake off the pressure exerted by the settler lobby, and internalize the fact that these were not hilltop punks, but Jewish terrorists who pose a danger to the state of Israel. The result has been the fact that, since December 2015, despite long and difficult months filled with Palestinian stabbing and vehicular attacks, there have been nearly no reported incidents of violent riots and attacks by Jews on Arabs in the territories. This isn’t by happenstance. The Shin Bet was capable of this kind of enforcement before Duma as well. Those who used to say that they couldn’t handle Jewish terrorism unless their hands were untied now seem justified … No doubt, defining the Jewish terror squads as illegal organizations following the Duma affair was a watershed moment. This definition enabled the Shin Bet to interrogate the suspects as they would Palestinian suspects, and to establish well-based indictments. Despite the criticism over the issues of administrative orders and prevention of attorney consultations for ten days following the arrest, these steps have proven themselves in action.,7340,L-4795198,00.html

Israeli court sets date for hearing on return of 15 Palestinian bodies
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israel’s High Court on Sunday ruled to hold a hearing next month in order to reach a decision on Israel’s return of the bodies of 15 Palestinians who were killed while allegedly carrying out attacks on Israeli forces. A lawyer who filed appeals on behalf of the slain Palestinians’ families, Muhammad Mahmoud, told Ma‘an the court will convene on May 5 to set a date and terms for the handover of the bodies by the Israeli authorities. Sunday’s hearing came after initially being postponed by the court due to recent Jewish holidays, said Mahmoud, working on behalf of prisoners’ rights group Addameer. Addameer reported following an April 18 hearing that the return of the 15 bodies would likely be “subject to extreme security measures” by the Israeli authorities. The Israeli leadership in October approved a policy to withhold the bodies of Palestinians who were shot dead while allegedly attempting or carrying out attacks on Israelis. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed during the recent unrest — the majority during alleged attacks — and Israel held the bodies of least 80 Palestinians for various periods of time before slowly reversing the policy in December, according to UN figures. The policy had not been carried out with such frequency since the Second Intifada and sparked major backlash among Palestinian communities. According to Addameer, Israel continues to withhold 15 bodies of those killed during recent unrest, despite the fact that some of the families “agreed to the extremely harsh and arbitrary conditions” demanded by the authorities for their release….

PA slams Israel’s detention of Palestinian journalist
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Palestinian leadership on Saturday condemned Israel’s detention of a Palestinian journalist at the Allenby crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan while he was en route to a journalism convention in Bosnia. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information in a statement following the journalist’s detention said: “The Israeli authorities’ policy of targeting Palestinian journalists is a ‘desperate attempt’ to terrorize the free voice and silence them.” Spokesperson for Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate Nasser Abu Bakr said Omar Nazzal — an elected member of the syndicate — had been stopped by the Israeli authorities at Allenby crossing for several hours before being taken to Etzion detention center for interrogation.
Nazzal was reportedly en route via Jordan to a conference held by the European Union for journalists in Bosnia, which a number of Palestinian journalists expected to attend. Abu Bakr described Nazzal’s detention as“a new crime in the chain of crimes practiced by the [Israeli] occupation against Palestinian journalists.” The ministry called on UN and EU representatives to pressure Israel to release Nazzal and at least 19 other Palestinian journalists currently held in Israeli prisons.

Israel puts poet under house arrest
EI 22 Apr by Budour Youssef Hassan — Dareen Tatour has long dreamed of seeing her poems translated from Arabic into other languages — so that they reach people across the world. One of her poems has indeed been translated recently, but not in the way she had hoped. A Hebrew version of “Resist, my people, resist them” was read aloud by an Israeli police officer at a Nazareth court hearing on 13 April. Tatour has been charged with incitement to violence based on the contents of that poem, the Arabic original of which is available on YouTube. Although the poem urges resistance to Israel, it does not call for specific acts of violence. Rather, it draws attention to violent attacks on Palestinians by Israelis. The incidents include the arson attack that killed the 18-month-old baby Ali Dawabsha and his parents in Duma, a village in the occupied West Bank, last year; the killing of 18-year-old Hadil Hashlamoun by Israeli soldiers in Hebron, also last year; and the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair in Jerusalem during 2014. Tatour was arrested in October last. After spending three months in prison, she was placed under house arrest in January. She is confined to an apartment in a suburb of Tel Aviv. “It is ironic, but not surprising, that I was sent to jail for protesting the killing of my people whereas actual Israeli killers roam free,” Tatour told The Electronic Intifada….

4 Palestinians detained, 2 injured in overnight raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli forces detained at least four Palestinians and two were injured when clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces during predawn raids Sunday across the occupied Palestinian territory. In the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, Israeli forces stormed the village of Beit Fajjar and detained former prisoner Omar Anwar Thawabtah and briefly detained Yousif Louy Thawabtah before they released and summoned him to meet with Israeli intelligence, locals said. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that one Palestinian was detained near Bethlehem. Israeli forces also detained Muhammad Marwan al-Barghouthi in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya, according to the spokesperson and local sources. Clashes broke out between the Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the village of Silwad in the central West Bank district of Ramallah when forces raided the village and delivered a summons to a Palestinian man to meet with Israeli intelligence. The spokesperson for the Israeli army said one Palestinian was detained near Qalandiya in the central occupied West Bank.
In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, locals told Ma‘an two Palestinians were shot and injured by Israeli forces after the two threw an IED at forces raiding the Palestinian area. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces detained Ahmad al-Kiswani, locals said. An IED also exploded overnight Saturday when Palestinians targeted an Israeli watchtower near Bilal Bin Rabah mosque in northern Bethlehem. In Hebron, Palestinians threw another IED at Israeli forces, locals said. Since the beginning of 2016, Israeli forces have carried out a weekly average of 96 search and detention operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, according to The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israeli forces detain 4 Palestinians in Hebron during Passover
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — Israeli forces detained four Palestinians on Monday during predawn raids in Hebron, as heightened security measures and restrictions on movement were enforced in the southern occupied West Bank district for the Jewish holiday of Passover. Israeli forces detained Barakah Rajeh Taha, a former prisoner who had been released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal. The house of his brother was also raided, witnesses said. Local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma‘an that Israeli forces ransacked the house of Ibrahim Awad, who was killed during clashes with Israeli forces in October 2015 in Beit Ummar. Israeli forces also reportedly seized 1,500 grams of gold, 3,000 shekels ($795), and 150 Jordanian dinars ($212) from Ibrahim Awad’s father, Ahmad Awad. He told Ma’an that the gold belongs to his three married daughters. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces also detained an unidentified former Palestinian prisoner after storming his house in Hebron and closed Abu al-Reesh checkpoint with cement blocks.

He wanted to live the American Dream. He ended up living an Israeli nightmare.
Haaretz 21 Apr by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Iyad Shammasina walks with a limp. Sitting down, slowly and heavily, he groans with pain. His is a typical story of the regime under which he lives, which is totalitarian, tyrannical, brutal, arbitrary and violent. The regime ruined his past, his present and probably also his future. At 27, Shammasina is one of many young Palestinians like him. His story exemplifies the dimensions of the abuse to which Palestinians are subjected, and the depth of the resulting helplessness and despair.Three years ago, Iyad married a village woman, Maryam, who divided her life between her family in Chicago and her husband’s new home in Qatannah. Iyad, too, dreamed of America. Their first child, Karam, was born in 2014 in the United States. Iyad started preparations to emigrate in order to join his wife and son. He even had a job awaiting him, as a truck driver. He resigned from his job as a salesman in a Ramallah marketing firm and readied himself for the transition to his new life. He was issued an entry visa by the U.S. embassy, after providing documentation from the Israeli military’s Civil Administration in Bethlehem confirming that he had no criminal or security record. His wife rented a place for them in Chicago. And last November, after a visit to Qatannah by his wife, son and mother-in-law, the family set out, thrilled and delighted, on the way to turning over a new leaf in the United States. With no explanation, Iyad was summarily sent back from the Jordan River crossing to his home, in shame and despairUnable to leave, he had to find a good job in order to support his wife – who was pregnant with their second child. He made 1,200 shekels (about $320) a month in Ramallah, hardly enough to provide for a family in Chicago. Iyad decided to enter Israel furtively to find employmentOn March 1, at about 9:30 P.M., he set out for the barrier again. He was alone, he says. This time, the water channel’s gate was locked. Iyad tried to breach it. Suddenly he heard a noise from the other side of the barrier. Then the shooting began. Scared, Iyad started to run back toward the village. He heard four or five shots. A bullet hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground. The shooters were on the other side of the barrier, and it took some time for them to cross it and reach him. He lay on the ground, bleeding and helpless. There were four Border Policemen, who were later joined by four more – including a policewoman – who had been summoned to the site. A bullet had struck Iyad in his posterior and gone on to hit his scrotum. He was in a daze, suffering fierce pain. Suddenly, he recounts, he felt he was being beaten. He doesn’t know whether he was kicked or hit with rifle butts. A sequence of abuse began that lasted about half an hour, Iyad says, while he lay wounded without receiving medical aid. The troops beat him and threatened to damage his testicles again, he recalls … He was hospitalized for the next eight days, his hands and legs bound to his bed, tormented by pain, guarded by two policemen night and day. The Border Policemen guarding him continued to harass him verbally, he says, mainly about his wound, mocking him that he would never be able to father any more children. In the course of his interrogation, which took place in the hospital, Iyad realized that the policemen were accusing him of attacking them … Iyad was moved to the Prison Service hospital in Ramle. Over the next 12 days, wounded and bound, he was taken to court five times, on long journeys that caused him searing pain. The indictment against him includes a number of offenses … Iyad says his lawyer has filed a complaint over the abuse to which he was subjected with the Justice Ministry department that investigates police officers’ actions, and that a department investigator has already taken testimony from him. In the meantime, after being released on bail on March 21, he’s awaiting trial, which will commence next month….

Hamas offers condolences to family of teen responsible for bus bombing
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — The Hamas movement on Sunday offered condolences to the family of a 19-year-old Palestinian who died after bombing a Jerusalem bus last week. Deputy chairmen of the movement, Ismail Haniya, phoned the family of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour in Bethlehem’s ‘Aida refugee camp, praising the young man’s attack that left 20 injured last Monday, Hamas said in a statement. “The blood of martyrs is a beacon of light for those treading the path of liberation.” Haniya told the family. Hamas claimed Abu Srour was a “committed activist” for the movement hours after he died Tuesday from severe wounds sustained during the Jerusalem attack. Israeli police confirmed Thursday that Srour was responsible for the attack, while Israel’s police and security agency Shin Bet previously confirmed a Hamas member carried out the bombing. A number of suspected Hamas activists have been detained since. Amnesty International later demanded that Hamas condemn the attack, on the grounds that “deliberate attacks on civilians” could never be justified. Amnesty said that while it it was not initially clear that Hamas’ leadership or military wing had ordered the bombing, the potential involvement of the group in the attack was a “worrying development.”

Prisoners / Court actions

Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl from jail
HELHUL, occupied West Bank — Al Jazeera 24 Apr by Rania Zabaneh & Dalia Hatuqa —  At the Jbara checkpoint near Tulkarem, the al-Wawi family and human rights groups’ representatives waited patiently. The 12-year-old finally emerged, after having spent 2.5 months in a prison, making her the youngest Palestinian female detainee. As her relatives embraced her, the girl, clad in a pink shirt, fought back tears and said nothing … D is the first child in her family, which includes six girls and three boys, to see the insides of a prison cell. Her father, 54-year-old Ismael al-Wawi, had been working in Israel for more than 25 years before Israeli authorities revoked his permit on the day she was arrested … Her mother recalled an incident that left her questioning the Israeli authorities’ version of events. “One day, I overheard the girls talking about the spate of knife attacks. D and her eldest sister both said to each other, ‘If anyone tells you I’ve done something like this, please don’t believe them. I would never attack anyone,'” Sabha said … Before she was detained, D had been asking about the fate of the children of Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Qeeq, who at the time was on a months-long hunger strike, if he were to die. “She kept wondering – who will take care of his children?” Sabha recalled. “Who will take them out on excursions, who will buy them gifts on Eid, who will feed them?” Even as the family welcomed D’s release, they were still reeling from the loss of Ismael’s job, their only source of income. D’s parents also have to pay a $2,000 court-ordered fine. “I’m unemployed now and taking out loans to cultivate a plot of land that we have,” Ismael said. “It will be a while before the land yields any produce. So in the meantime, I have reached out to several institutions to help financially.”

Hugs, tears and the haunted face of a 12-year-old girl broken by jail
[Video and many photos] Daily Mail 24 Apr by Darren Boyle — The moment the youngest Palestinian to be imprisoned by Israel is freed after being locked up for two months for carrying a knife near a Jewish settlement —  Israel has released a 12-year-old Palestinian girl who had been jailed after she was arrested near an Jewish settlement armed with a knife. Dima al-Wawi spent more than two months in prison following the attempted stabbing attack. The youngster was handed over to Palestinian authorities at Tulkarem crossing point into the northern West Bank … Dima was greeted by about 80 relatives at her family’s house in Halhoul, a village near Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of violence. Relatives decorated the house with balloons and posters. Banners by the Islamic militant group Hamas along with the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas adorned the walls. Dima said: ‘I am happy to be out. Prison is bad. During my time in prison I missed my classmates and my friends and family.’….

3 Palestinians continue hunger strikes in protest of administrative detention
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Three Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli custody continued on hunger strike in protest of their administrative detention, Palestinian radio station Sawt al-Asra reported Saturday. Sami Janazreh, 43, from al-Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron continued his hunger strike for the 51st day in a row in protest of his administrative detention. The Israeli prison administration reportedly moved Janazreh from solitary confinement in Ayla prison in Beersheba to an Israeli hospital after his health deteriorated and he suffered a head wound after fainting. Meanwhile, Fuad Rabah Shukri Assi, 30, from Beit Liqya near Ramallah continued his hunger strike for the 20th day, in protest of Israel’s renewal of his administrative detention for six additional months. Assi had previously spent over five years in Israeli prisons, and his brother Muhammad was killed by Israeli forces on Oct. 22, 2013. He was detained from his home last August, and is currently held in Israel’s Ktziot prison in the Negev.  Muhammad Jamal Mafarja, also from Beit Liqya, continued his hunger strike for the 20th day in protest of his 16-month administrative detention. He was detained in December 2014, nine months after being released from prison.


Israeli police detain 2 Palestinians, evacuate 9 Israelis from tense Aqsa
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Two Palestinians were detained and nine Israelis were evacuated from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Sunday morning amid rising tensions at the holy site during the Jewish holiday season, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. Israeli police continued heightened security measures in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City early Sunday morning following tension surrounding the Jewish holiday of Passover on Friday. Witnesses told Ma‘an armed Israeli forces escorted a group of right-wing Israelis to the area, who were stopped by guards after they attempted to carry out “rituals” in the compound. Following a verbal and physical confrontation between Palestinian youths and the group of Israelis, two Palestinians were detained and five Israelis were evacuated from the compound. According to a statement from Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, a total of nine Israelis including three minors were evacuated from Al-Aqsa over the course of Sunday morning for violating regulations for Jewish visitors. Israeli forces have been heavily deployed at all entrances to the Old City and at Al-Aqsa’s gates since yesterday evening, and have been seizing the IDs of Palestinian worshipers before their entry to the compound, locals said. Over 70 Palestinians, including women and elderly people, have been banned from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound since the start of the month. Israeli police on Friday banned 29 Palestinian worshippers from the mosque. Seven right-wing Israelis were also detained, and police seized their sacrificial goats. Ahead of Passover, right-wing Jewish organizations had urged Jews to flock to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and Al-Aqsa Mosque to offer sacrifices, Israeli media reported.

Why Jews stopped sacrificing lambs and baby goats for Passover
Haaretz 24 Apr by Elon Gilad — And why some have started trying to perform it on the Temple Mount again — The arrest of several Jewish activists for trying to smuggle in a kid and conduct a sacrifice on the Temple Mount last Friday is a timely reminder that before the Passover seder was invented, the festival was all about the killing and eating of baby goats and sheep. The source of this ancient rite is the Book of Exodus, where God ostensibly gives Moses instructions on how Passover should be celebrated: “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel,” God tells Moses. “In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.” …  On the eve of Passover, God tells Moses “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk. And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it” (Ex. 12:3-8) … We don’t know exactly how this ritual was carried out during the First Temple period, but the Mishna (c. 200 C.E.) gives a detailed account of how it was practiced at the end of the Second Temple period … This ancient ritual abruptly came to an end in 70 C.E., when the Romans put down the Jews’ Great Revolt and destroyed the Temple. At this point, what remained of the Jewish population in Judea had to decide how Passover would be celebrated … Some Jews followed Gamaliel and continued to sacrifice goats and sheep in their homes on Passover; others didn’t and saw the practice as apostasy. Within about two generations, the practice ceased when the anti-sacrifice camp assumed control and threatened to excommunicate those who practiced it. So, sometime in the second century C.E., Jews stopped the practice of sacrificing baby goats and sheep on Passover. Until recently, that is. –Sign of the Apocalypse– After the establishment of the State of Israel and conquest of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount site in the 1967 Six-Day War, a fringe group of religious Jews has taken these developments as a sign of the Apocalypse. In 1967, they established the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement, which is dedicated to rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount (a site now occupied by Islamic shrines, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock). To this end, they have been training personnel and preparing the objects that are required for the Temple operation to commence. Since Passover 1968, Jewish groups – generously funded by Evangelical Christians in the United States who share their eagerness for the Apocalypse – have been trying to sacrifice goats and sheep on the Temple Mount. However, they have been repeatedly turned away by the Israeli government, which fears their actions could trigger a holy war. The Temple Mount Faithful are unperturbed, and in recent years have been holding practice Passover sacrifices elsewhere in Jerusalem, biding their time until they can successfully sacrifice goats and sheep on the Temple Mount itself.

Closures / Restrictions on movement

Palestinians face severe restrictions in Hebron’s Old City for Passover
HEBRON (Ma‘an) — Palestinian residents of Hebron’s Old City in the southern occupied West Bank are bracing for a renewed myriad of severe restrictions enforced by the Israeli military during this year’s Jewish Passover holiday, locals said Sunday. Director of the Old City’s Ibrahimi Mosque, Hifthi Abu Sneina, told Ma‘an the Israeli authorities notified the mosque administration that the holy site would be closed to Muslim worshipers Monday and Tuesday for the holiday. Hebron resident and prominent activist Issa Amro said Palestinian locals were preparing for a total lockdown by the Israeli military as thousands of Israelis plan to visit the holy site during Passover. Over the past few days, Palestinians living in the Old City were forced to register with the Israeli authorities once again in order to gain passage through the matrix of military checkpoints in the area, Amro told Ma‘an. Palestinians were already made to register in November after the Israeli military declared the majority of the Old City and surrounding areas a closed military zone, unable to either leave or access their homes without identification numbers newly issued by the Israeli authorities. While designation of the closed military zone has been extended on a monthly basis since, Amro told Ma‘an that Israeli forces have been less strict in enforcing movement restrictions on Palestinians over the past two months, and are likely to double down on alleged security measures against locals through the Passover holiday. “There will be a lot of detentions, and a lot of Palestinian families will be unable to access their homes,” Amro anticipated….

Israel reopens entrance to Hebron-area town after months of closure
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli forces on Sunday reopened a main entrance to the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim after nearly seven months of military closure, an Israeli liaison said. The entrance — serving some 30,000 locals — was sealed after large-scale clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli military broke out near the village in the beginning of October when a fresh wave of violence spread across the occupied Palestinian territory. Director of the Hebron district office for Israel’s Coordinator of Israeli Government’s Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Hariz Safadi said the entrance was reopened due to “calm that prevailed” in the town. Safadi said COGAT would “continue to introduce new developments in Hebron in light of the relatively quiet situation,” adding that the administrative body for the occupied area was “interested in taking steps to make residents’ life easier.” Israeli forces earlier this month reopened a road that connects Bani Naim to a major bypass highway and enables crucial access to the city of Hebron, just east of the village. The re-openings mark a gradual easing of severe movement restrictions placed on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli military, a potential indication that the past nearly seven months of violence is winding down.


Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinian fishermen off Gazan coast
GAZA (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli naval forces on Sunday morning detained two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip and seized their fishing boat, local sources told Ma‘an. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli naval forces opened fire on fishing boats, and detained Oranus al-Sultan and Ibrahim al-Sultan and took them to an unknown location. The sources added that Israeli forces seized fishing equipment and the boat.

Hamas boosts Gaza border force to ease rift with Egypt
AFP 23 Apr — As peace offerings go, prefabricated metal huts on a sand dune may seem unimpressive, but they are what the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has chosen. Hamas has set up dozens of new border posts and military checkpoints along the enclave’s border with Egypt in an attempt to improve relations with Cairo after three years of acrimony. The move will be seen as the latest attempt to improve relations with Cairo that have been strained since the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Cairo regularly accuses Hamas, which is allied with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, of supporting jihadist attacks inside Egypt. Morsi was a close Hamas ally, and the army chief who toppled him, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is now Egypt’s president. Cairo has largely closed off the border, and Egyptian forces have also destroyed hundreds of Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle commercial goods, cash, people and, allegedly, weapons in both directions. Now the Hamas-run National Security Force in Gaza has deployed an additional 600 soldiers along its 13-kilometre (eight-mile) southern border to bolster security. And where that frontier adjoins the border with Israel, Hamas has for the first time established three checkpoints within a few hundred metres (yards) of Israeli lookout towers. On a tour of some of the new sites, officials cited their wish to rebuild relations with Cairo and ensure security along their border as the reasons for the developments. “We have established 60 bases and military points along our borders with our brothers in Egypt to control the border and to ensure against any penetration,” Major General Hussein Abu Aazara told AFP during the tour. “At the behest of our Egyptian brothers, we have increased the number of troops to 800 from about 200,” he said. He said three bases had been established close to the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel. The Israeli army said it was “closely watching the developments in Gaza and Hamas’s recent activities, including the addition of outposts along the fence”. Addressing hundreds of troops, Hamas official Tawfiq Abu Naim told them that Egypt’s security was Hamas’s security. Egyptian soldiers watched from observation towers as Hamas installed the trailers on the dunes along the desert border….

Report: Aid workers in Gaza Strip stymied by Israel
Haaretza 24 Apr by Jack Khoury — Survey by Israeli anti-occupation NGO Gisha finds aid workers prevented from getting to West Bank or overseas to seek help for besieged population — Dozens of social service organizations in the Gaza Strip say restrictions Israel places on their freedom of movement make it difficult for them to assist people in the Strip. The legal aid center Gisha, which focuses on freedom of movement issues, published a comprehensive report on the matter a few days ago, based on meetings with the members of 32 social service organizations in Gaza. According to the report, the organizations have difficulty sending their staff for continuing education and courses and sending representatives to conferences in the West Bank or abroad. The members of the organizations said that because Israel bans them from leaving the Strip and restricts the entry of foreigners, it is difficult to raise the funds that are essential for the groups’ continued operations. Hussam al-Nunu, the head of Gaza’s community health program, said that he and many of his colleagues are turned down for unexplained reasons when they ask to leave the Gaza Strip. “In recent years I was able to leave once or twice to the West Bank or abroad, but over the past few months I have been turned down and recently I received a summons to appear for a security discussion.” Fatah Sabah, a reporter for the London-based daily Al-Hayat and chairman of the Palestine Institute for Communication and Development, has not been out of the Gaza Strip since 2013. “I am invited to many conferences and meetings both in the West Bank and abroad, but I receive only rejections,” he said, referring to permission to leave the Strip.

Palestinian Olympian finds distance to Bethlehem goes beyond athletic prowess
BETHLEHEM (SMH) 24 Apr by Marika Sosnowski and Darrian Traynor — At the beginning of this month, the predawn light over Manger Square in this ancient city fell on over 4000 athletes. Wearing the colours of Palestine, they had come to run.  But the route of the fourth Palestine Marathon told its own story. The race circuit was four laps back and forth between two points – the only way to run 42.195 kilometres in that part of the occupied West Bank under the nominal control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Last year’s marathon winner, Palestinian Olympian Nader al-Masri, was not at the starting line but instead sat in his battered but resolute house in Beit Hanoun, at the northern edge of the Gaza Strip. Masri – a sinewy man with the resigned but determined expression so common in distance runners –  heard shortly before the race that he had not been granted permission by Israeli authorities to leave Gaza  to compete. The irony is that were it not for the two checkpoints, four government agencies, reams of paperwork and layers of decision-making in between, he could probably run the 100 kilometres to Bethlehem himself. Conceived of four years ago by two Danish women in collaboration with the Palestine Olympic Committee, the marathon is designed to highlight these kinds of restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. Last year was the first time that Masri had been allowed to leave Gaza to compete in the race. “It was a beautiful feeling to win the race in the motherland,” he said. In the first two years of the race – 2013 and 2014 – Masri was also denied entry by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, the Israeli government agency that administers the West Bank. In those years they said that he failed to meet the criteria they set out for entry to Israel and so could not traverse the territory in order to enter the West Bank….

Photos: Gaza fashion show blends past and present
Al Jazeera 23 Apr by Belal Khaled — Nearly three decades ago, Aida Abu Sitta began to collect old dresses from Palestinian refugee camps, and redesigned them with a blend of contemporary and traditional elements. One of the models at Abu Sitta’s latest fashion show told Al Jazeera that the goal was to preserve the Palestinian heritage that Israel has tried to destroy. The dresses are meant to represent the identity of the person wearing them, Abu Sitta said. Demand for her dresses has been growing among both old and young women in recent years, said Abu Sitta, who recently displayed her wares at a fashion show at the Roots hotel in Gaza City.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Israeli forces raid Silwan, threaten indictments against homeowners
Jerusalem (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Israeli forces on Friday raided the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, issuing five demolition orders and threatening indictments against their Palestinian homeowners, amid a surge of demolitions in the area. Fakhri Abu Diyab, a member of a Silwan-based committee formed to fight such demolitions in Silwan, told Ma‘an that the Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders for five homes belonging to the Abu Rajab and Awwad families in the al-Bustan area, which were constructed over 30 years ago. The Jerusalem municipality’s local affairs court previously asked the homeowners to provide testimony at a hearing, but the homeowners did not attend, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The notices delivered Friday were issued as final warnings to the homeowners, threatening that if they did not appear in court, indictments would be filed against them under Article 212. Abu Diyab added that while Israeli forces raid Silwan every Friday and Saturday and deliver demolition orders, the notices issued this week threatening indictment were a new development. “It is threatening to use article 212,” Abu Diyab told Ma‘an, because the article allows the public prosecution to demolish houses without providing clear reasons, and to punish homeowners with fines or prison time. Article 212 is invariably used when the state fails to provide enough evidence to convict the building owner for construction without a license, or in cases where it is not able to order a fine or a demolition order under article 205. Daniel Sidelman from the Jerusalem Terrestrial organization said that the “aggressive” move by the Israeli authorities threatening indictments under article 212 is not unprecedented “but far from routine.” Abu Diyab highlighted that the increase of notices suggests that the municipality is planning to move forward with controversial development plans in the neighborhood, which have been frozen for years following international pressure. Sidelman agreed that targeting the al-Bustan area was a “particularly troubling and ominous indication” that the municipality is planning to go forward with plan. “The communities (in Silwan) are at risk in ways other communities are not at risk. They are constantly targeted by (Israeli) settlers and authorities, and the distinction between settlers and the Israeli authorities has been completely blurred,” Sidelman told Ma‘an…
Elsewhere in Silwan on Friday, Israeli forces raided the al-Abbasiya, Bir Ayyub, and Wadi Hilweh neighborhoods while municipality workers photographed structures. Authorities also hung a demolition order on a six-story building belonging to the al-Zir family, which is home to 30 people, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center….

Daghlas: ‘Israel approves more land theft of hundreds of dunams near Nablus’
IMEMC 24 Apr — Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official in charge of the Israeli settlements file in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, said the Israeli military and its “Civil Administration” have decided to illegally annex hundreds of dunams of privately-owned Palestinian lands near Nablus and Ramallah. Daghlas said the lands belong to villagers of Jaloud, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and the villagers of al-Mogheer and Turmus ‘Ayya, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. “The occupation forces issued the decision to steal hundreds of dunams of land from Jaloud village, south of Nablus, in addition to the villages of Turmus Ayya and al-Mogheer, north of Ramallah”, Daghlas said, adding that, “The Israeli army said the decision comes out of so-called military considerations.” A significant segment of the hundreds of dunams that Israel is illegally confiscating from Jaloud village, and from Turmus ‘Ayya, will actually be used for paving a road linking Shilo illegal colony with an outpost east of it. The road that Israel intends to pave extends approximately six kilometers, allowing future illegal annexation of more Palestinian agricultural lands, under the pretext of security considerations, thus paving the way for more colonialist activities.

Israeli settlers build cemetery on Palestinian land
SALFIT (PIC) 23 Apr — Israeli settlers of Ariel illegal settlement continue to bury their dead in a Palestinian-owned land in Salfit, Palestinian locals revealed. Local activist Khaled Maali affirmed that Israeli settlers established a Jewish cemetery at the expense of Palestinian private lands owned by the Shaheen, Shtayyeh, and Bani Nimra families. Some settlers refused to bury their dead in the cemetery for fear of any possible evacuation. Maali pointed out that Ariel settlement, university, and cemetery are all illegal facilities under international law as they were built on Palestinian occupied lands.

Activism / Solidarity / BDS / Aid

NYU grad student union votes to boycott Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — A graduate student union at New York University on Friday voted in favor of joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Two-thirds of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee cast a vote in support of the resolution, which calls on both NYU and its United Automobile Workers union affiliate to divest from all Israeli state institutions — including universities — and corporations “complicit in” Israeli violations. The resolution proposes that NYU join the movement “until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles.” … The NYU union’s support of BDS comes after US President Barack Obama in February signed into law an anti-BDS trade agreement reiterating that US Congress “opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel,” referring directly to BDS activities.

23 young Jews arrested in anti-occupation protests across US
BERKELEY, California (+972 mag) 24 Apr by Edo Konrad — Twenty-three American Jews were arrested over the past week in a series of anti-occupation demonstrations across the United States. The protests, which took place in major American cities ahead of the weekend’s Passover holiday, brought out over 500 members of the Jewish anti-occupation collective, IfNotNow. Demonstrators used civil disobedience to push major American Jewish institutions to publicly end their support for Israel’s occupation policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Protests took place in Washington DC, Boston, New York City, Chicago, and Berkeley. The demos followed a similar formula in every city: demonstrators who were willing to be arrested usually tried to enter a major Jewish institution and lead a “Liberation Seder” — a take on the traditional Passover meal, in which the Jews recount the story of their enslavement and struggle for freedom in Egypt. The Liberation Seders, however, fused the traditional ritual with Jewish freedom songs, chants against the oppression of Palestinians, and calls for the collective liberation of all those living in Israel/Palestine. The first demonstration took place on April 19th, when over 100 activists demonstrated in Washington DC outside the headquarters of Hillel International — the largest Jewish student organization in the world. Later that afternoon Jewish activists in Boston chained themselves to the entrance of the local AIPAC office. The demonstrators then decided to escalate the action, chaining themselves inside the lobby. Six protestors were arrested; they were released later that night and summoned to court the following day. Their next court date is scheduled for May 18….

New school washrooms bring better hygiene practices
QABATIA, State of Palestine (UN Children’s Fund) 21 Apr by Charmaine Seitz & Monica Awad — When children learn in schools that are poorly equipped in terms of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, the lessons they receive undermine even the best teaching. Inadequate bathroom facilities, for one, create an atmosphere of uncleanliness and tension that can lead to absenteeism and in some occasion even bullying. At the Khawla bint Al Azwar School for Girls in Qabatia, West Bank, for example, more than 700 students from grades 1-8 had to wait in line to use the school’s nine restrooms … “Before we had the new bathrooms, all the bathrooms were dirty and it was very hard for me to use them,” says 13-year-old Raghda Zakarneh. “I used to hold myself until I got home, and I got sick several times.” In 2015, this girl’s school was one of the schools that benefited from construction of water and sanitation facilities, in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE). The project was supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). For girls, especially, added privacy and space cuts back on absenteeism and those who drop out entirely … According to the recent assessments conducted for the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview, around 275 schools in the West Bank and Gaza need rehabilitating water and sanitation facilities. “I am very happy that we have restrooms allocated specifically to us older students. This way, younger students will not see our private matters,” says 13-year-old Bara’a Kmeil … At Sanour Basic School for Boys, 290 students no longer push and shove to get their turn in the school’s eight bathrooms since the facilities have been doubled in size. “This really solved one major problem,” says school principal Ahmed Arda, “since students were fighting each other to use the bathroom. This also created a serious problem for 6-year old students, many of whom were wetting themselves because they were unable to wait for their turn to go to the bathroom.”

Other news

Preparations ongoing in Paris for international peace conference
[with priceless photo of Abbas and Netanyahu] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — A meeting is expected to be held in Paris within the next week in preparation for an international peace conference in which France plans to address an initiative geared towards renewed peace negotiations. Palestinian ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi told Ma‘an that high-profile diplomats will meet to set an agenda for the conference. Attendees will include UN Security Council members, the Middle East Quartet, and Arab member states among others, al-Harfi said, adding that Palestinian and Israeli representatives will not be part of the meeting. Al-Harfi told Ma‘an that participants have already agreed on broad terms of France’s initiative for renewed peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the parameters of which will be presented at a peace conference at the end of May. Agreed terms included the establishment of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem as a capital for both states, and a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian ambassador also indicated that a resolution previously expected to be presented to the UN by President Mahmoud Abbas in New York this week would likely not be submitted. Abbas is in New York until Saturday, and a Palestinian official told Ma‘an earlier this month that he would use the occasion to submit the draft resolution — the first to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the draft resolution, saying it would serve as an obstacle to peace talks, although the Palestinian official, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the move stemmed directly from decades of failed negotiations. “If not now, when? There’s always an excuse when it comes to Palestinian issues. In 2011, people still had hopes for negotiations, but people don’t believe in negotiations anymore,” he said.

Hamas says France peace conference a ‘waste of time’
MEMO 24 Apr — Hamas said it rejects the France-sponsored international peace conference between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which is scheduled to take place on May 30 in Paris. “We consider it a waste of time and a free service for the Israeli government that continues its daily violations against the Palestinians,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Anadolu Agency on Saturday. Abu Zuhri also warned against agreeing to any deal that would harm the Palestinians and their national interests. In March, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas affirmed his support for the French proposal. Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in April 2014 over Israel’s refusal to release a group of Palestinian political prisoners despite earlier pledges to do so.

Palestinians create seed bank to save their farming heritage in the Holy Land’s hills
The Guardian 23 Apr by Peter Beaumont in Battir — In the birthplace of agriculture, traditional crops are dying out. But one woman has a plan to preserve them — In the rocky hills of the Palestinian West Bank, farmers learned long ago how to adapt to extremes of climate that make spring the shortest season. In a part of the world where agriculture was first practised, they found crops that could survive even if watered only by the occasional rain storm. But a form of farming that informed both Palestinian culture and identity – seeping into the language, songs and sayings – has increasingly come under threat from a combination of factors, including manmade climate change, the incursion onto Palestinian land by Israeli settlement, and agricultural companies’ marketing of hybrid varieties to farmers. Now, however, an initiative is being launched to save Palestine’s agricultural plant heritage, with the first seed bank dedicated to preserving traditional varieties used by farmers for generations – before they vanish for ever. The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library – to be formally launched in June – is part of an effort both to educate Palestinians about traditional forms of agriculture in the Holy Land, which are in danger of being forgotten, and about the culture associated with them. The seed library will preserve “heirloom” varieties particularly adapted to the West Bank. Supported by the Qattan Foundation, the project is the brainchild of Vivien Sansour, who studied and worked abroad before returning to the West Bank city of Beit Jala.

Banks and currency exchange offices persecuted by the PA
MEMO 22 Apr by Adnan Abu Amer — Palestinians are dependent on banks and currency exchange offices in their financial transactions, such as receiving cash transfers from employers and relatives, and perhaps even for financial transfers sent by factions based abroad to their members inside Palestine. Such transactions sometimes face harsh policies imposed by the Palestinian Authority on banks and exchange offices due to their fears that the money will reach individuals and organisations that the PA views as pro-Hamas. Informed Palestinian political sources have revealed that a number of large financial transactions — worth millions of dollars — sent to personal accounts and Palestinian organisations for the purpose of committing anti-PA activities have been blocked. According to the sources, the security agencies have now tightened their monitoring of these accounts and the work of the banks to prevent money being transferred to anti-PA groups. This news is related to the crisis in the Palestinian territories raging since May 2015 between public charities and the PA. It includes the Palestinian banks’ freezing of financial transfers sent to charities on the orders of PA security officials. Such moves are one way that political motives are being used to punish the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the charities working in the enclave. The PA’s pressure on the banks has affected 31 charities, with a further 50 having their new account applications refused; hundreds of transfers from external donor countries have been returned….

Blindfolded and beaten: Palestinians decry PA torture
NABLUS, occupied Palestine (Al Jazeera) 23 Apr by Jonathan Brown — Rights groups cite lack of accountability among PA security forces as a factor in persistent torture allegations —  Had he not been blindfolded and shackled to a chair in a Palestinian Authority (PA) prison cell, Awni Mazen al-Shakhshir might have spent the first evening of Ramadan last year breaking the day’s fast with his family in Nablus. Shakhshir said that throughout the first week of his 41-day detention, PA interrogators in Bethlehem forced him into stress positions, punched and kicked him, and deprived him of sleep. By day, Shakhshir was blindfolded and shackled to a chair, he said. At night, after the guards had eaten and slept for much of the afternoon, the violent interrogations would begin. “They saved the beating till night,” Shakhshir said, “because it was Ramadan.” At no point during his detention was Shakhshir provided a lawyer or presented with formal charges, he said. However, he says that interrogators, who questioned him about his role within a Hamas-aligned student group, repeatedly told him: “People like you should be punished.” Shakhshir is not alone in his accusations … The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) recorded 1,274 complaints of “torture and ill treatment” of Palestinian detainees by PA forces in 2014 alone … Palestinian rights group al-Haq has identified 30 cases of Palestinian torture at the hands of the PA, as defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, since this time last year. Each case was “politically motivated”, according to the victims, al-Haq legal consultant Issam Abdeen told Al Jazeera. Shakhshir said the line of questioning by interrogators left him with little doubt that his own arrest was politically motivated.
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American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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