Restriction of movement
Israel denies entry to Swedish peace activist who walked to Palestine
IMEMC 6 July — The Israeli Border Authority denied entry to a Swedish peace activist who started walking to Palestine eleven months ago to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people. The peace activist Benjamin Ladraa started his walk on August 8th, 2017, with the aim of informing the world about the situation in Palestine and spread awareness about the Israeli military occupation. His walk also marked the centennial of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain pledged a Jewish homeland in Palestine during the British mandate and occupation of the country. … After being denied entry into occupied Palestine, Ladraa wrote the following statement on his Facebook account: The Israelis didn’t allow me to enter Palestine. I was interrogated for about six hours before they told me I was denied entry. They only gave two reasons for denying me entry, one was that they thought I was lying during the interrogation and the other was that they thought I would go to Nabi Saleh and make a demonstration (which they just assumed). On this day it has been eleven months of walking and speaking about the human rights violations under the occupation. Now ask yourself why the Israeli state fears one Swedish man so much that they didn’t allow him to enter the country they are occupying. This is the power of activism….
Abbas grants Benjamin Ladraa Palestinian nationality, Ashrawi extends gratitude
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 7 July — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas granted Palestinian nationality to Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa, 25, and bestowed the Medal of Merit on him in appreciation of his efforts and support of the Palestinian people. Ladraa had walked 4,800 kilometers through 15 countries in a period of 11 months with a Palestinian flag on his back to raise awareness about the plight of the Palestinian people under the Israeli military occupation. The Israeli authorities banned Ladraa entry to Palestine when he arrived predawn Friday at the Allenby Bridge, the Jordanian-Palestinian borders, that is the last leg of his walk. Ladraa was also held for 6 hours of interrogations by the Israeli authorities at the border. Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said that Ladraa “represents the conscience of humanity.”….
Israel bars Jordanian singer from entering West Bank
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 4 July – Israel barred a Jordanian singer from entering the West Bank on Wednesday to participate in a festival in al-Bireh, Ramallah’s twin city, according to the artist. Mutab al-Saqqar said in a statement that he was turned back at the crossings between Jordan and Israel but did not say why. Saqqar was scheduled to perform on Wednesday
Palestinian teen succumbs to wounds sustained during ‘Great March of Return’
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 July — A 16-year-old Palestinian succumbed to wounds on Wednesday that he sustained during the “Great March of Return” protests on May 14th in the besieged Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that Mahmoud Majed al-Gharableh succumbed on Wednesday evening to wounds in the head he had sustained by Israeli forces’ live fire during protests alongside the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. The ministry added that al-Gharableh’s death brings the total number of Palestinians killed in the “Great March of Return” protests to 136 since March 30th. Additionally, around 15,000 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during the marches.
Israeli soldiers kill one Palestinian, injure 396, in Gaza
IMEMC 7 July — The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed, Friday, that Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and injured 396 others, after the army attacked the “Great Return March” processions in the eastern parts of the besieged Gaza Strip. The Ministry said the soldiers killed Mohammad Kamal Abu Halima, 22, after shooting him with a live round in the chest, east of Gaza city. It added that the soldiers injured 396 Palestinians, including 57 with live fire, and added that 277 of the wounded persons were treated in field trauma stabilization units, and 119, including 57 who were shot with live fire, were rushed to various hospitals in the coastal region. Among the wounded Palestinians who were rushed to hospitals are thirteen children and three women.
Israeli forces wound scores of women in Gaza rally
Al Jazeera 3 July — At least 134 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli gunfire as thousands of Palestinian women demonstrated along the heavily fortified fence with Israel in the besieged Gaza Strip. Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry, said in a statement on Tuesday that media representatives covering the event were among those who were injured at the scene, east of the enclave. The protest was the first mass women’s demonstration to take place in the strip since popular protests calling for Palestinians’ right of return began on March 30 in the strip … Women on Tuesday arrived in buses from across the port city, home to more than two million people, many accompanied by their children. They moved in groups to within 50 metres of the fence, AFP reported. “I came to finish the march that my daughter had started,” Rim Abu Irmana said, waving a picture of her 15-year-old daughter, Wasal, who was killed by live Israeli ammunition on May 14 – the same day more than 60 other Palestinians were also killed.
Israeli missile destroys motorcycle in Gaza without causing injuries
DEIR AL-BALAH (WAFA) 5 July – A military-activated Israeli drone fired on Thursday a missile at a motorcycle east of Deir al-Balah, the central Gaza Strip, without causing any injuries, according to WAFA correspondent. He said the missile destroyed the motorcycle but did not cause any injury among people in the area.
Egypt says it killed 3 militants, destroyed Gaza tunnels
CAIRO (AFP) 3 July — The Egyptian army said Tuesday its forces killed three militants in Sinai and destroyed tunnels at Rafah on the Gaza border as part of a vast campaign against terrorists in the area. More than 200 suspected terrorists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed since Egypt launched operation “Sinai 2018” to rid the peninsula of extremist militants in February, according to the military. Operations carried out in recent days resulted in “the elimination of three takfiris”, the army said, referring to Sunni Muslim extremists. They also led to the “destruction of a number of tunnels in the city of Rafah in northern Sinai”, it said in a statement. “A conscript was wounded in clashes with terrorists” and “two civilians died as a result an explosion from a device targeting forces conducting raids”, it added. The Rafah border crossing is the only entrance to the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel, and Egypt’s sole frontier with the Palestinian enclave has remained largely closed since 2013. Egyptian authorities believe these tunnels are used by terrorists to enter North Sinai….
Egypt demolishes tunnel in southern Gaza Strip, reports say
Haaretz 3 July by Jack Khoury — The Egyptian army destroyed a tunnel dug in the Rafah area using heavy tools, Palestinian media reported on Tuesday. According to eyewitnesses in Rafah, eight Palestinian workers are trapped in the tunnel. According to reports, contact has been made with the people trapped in the tunnel and Palestinian rescue forces are working to free them. It was not published why the tunnel was destroyed … In the past, Egypt flooded Hamas smuggling tunnels along the Gaza Strip border. In February 2016, Minister of National Infrastructures and Energy Yuval Steinitz claimed that Egypt did so at Israel’s request
Remote work offers hope to Gaza residents
Euronews 4 July — Some 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza remain ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world. That’s according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). More than half of Gaza’s residents – 53 percent, or 1.01 million people, including more than 400,000 children – live in poverty, on less than 4 euros a day. Gaza’s economy has been devastated since the 2007 blockade …
Gaza Sky Geeks is a Mercy Corps-funded tech accelerator that operates inside blockaded Gaza. The incubator encourages Gazans to work remotely. “Working remotely is a way of life for anyone with a certain skill or that can deliver it online,” says Sky Geek’s Saeed Habeeb. “We all live here, see and suffer from our surroundings. University graduates face a daily suffocating siege that has destroyed most of the opportunities, there are no new jobs at all, and opportunities are gradually diminishing.” “I am a university student in the fourth level now,” says Dalal Al-Aziz. “I know that when I graduate i won’t have any job opportunities because I see all the former graduates are still unemployed.” “I work at home,” explains Loay Qannan. “I just need a laptop, electricity, Internet and cell phone. These are basic needs, I can’t work without them, so we face many difficulties here because of lack of electricity or the Internet.” An ongoing electricity crisis leaves Gaza residents with just a few hours of power a day….
VIDEO: Farmers at Gaza’s edge try to make ends meet between economic squeeze and Israeli sniper fire
The Intercept 3 July by Matthew Cassel — In late March, Amr Samour and his friend Ahmed al-Shami left their homes at 2:30 a.m. to harvest parsley in fields not far from the city of Khan Younis, in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip. For the men, it was their fifth day in a row going to the same place to do the same work, which neither particularly enjoyed, but the 25 shekels — about $8 — they were offered at the end of a tiring 10-hour shift helped put food on their families’ tables. They had no reason to think the morning of March 30 would be any different. By about 4 a.m., they had already filled a number of boxes of freshly cut parsley when they heard a loud boom from the east, where just a kilometer away, Israeli troops are permanently positioned. Al-Shami recalled Samour asking what the sound was before the early morning’s dark blue sky exploded in a flash of red. Both men were knocked to the ground. Al-Shami, covered in shrapnel, managed to get up and check on Samour, who had suffered more severe wounds on his abdomen and head. Moments later, another shell exploded near them. Al-Shami was knocked to the ground again. Not long after, both men were taken to the hospital where al-Shami would learn that Samour had succumbed to his wounds. Israel later said that its army fired on men who it said were engaged in “suspicious activity” near its border fence with Gaza….
Farm warfare: How Israel uses chemicals to kill crops in Gaza
Haaretz 6 July by Amira Hass — Photographs of military armored vehicles uprooting and crushing trees and vegetation within the Gaza Strip are not foreign to Israelis, but what is less widely known is that since 2014 Palestinian fields are also being razed through the use of herbicides sprayed from the air — as first publicized by the website 972. Officially, the spraying is only done on the Israeli side of the fence, but as Palestinian farmers on the other side, along with the Red Cross, have testified, the resulting damage can be seen deep inside Palestinian territory … But the sprayed material does not recognize the fence or the border. It is carried by the wind westward, deep into the Strip. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza documents the spraying and investigates the damage caused to farmers. The Palestinian Agriculture Ministry estimates that since 2014, some 14,000 dunams of agricultural land in Gaza has been damaged by the spraying, and crops like spinach, okra, corn, parsley, wheat, peas and barley all were irreparably damaged. The ministry also estimated that some 8,200 dunams of pasture land have been damaged this year by the spraying. The spraying is carried out between October and January and in February and March, using three herbicides: glysophate, the main one, as well as oxyfluorfen and diuron … “According to our observations, including a chemical analysis of the herbicides in an Israeli laboratory, crops as far as 2,200 meters from the border fence were damaged by the herbicides”, the Red Cross wrote to Haaretz. “Some of the crops located between 100 and 900 meters were completely destroyed, including in some of the areas rehabilitated by the ICRC. [as part of a project to renew the earning capacity of farmers on land damaged by IDF attacks – A.H.] Irrigation pools located within one kilometer were also contaminated. The chemicals used for spraying stay in the soil for months and even years, and may have negative health consequences for people who consume contaminated crops and/or inhale the herbicide….
UNRWA employees in Gaza protest contract terminations
GAZA CITY (Anadolu Agency) 4 July — Employees of U.N. refugee agency UNRWA staged a rally in the blockaded Gaza Strip yesterday to protest the recent termination of their permanent employment contracts. Protesters decried the agency’s decision on Monday to terminate the permanent contracts of hundreds of UNRWA employees and replace them with temporary contracts. “This move will adversely affect the services provided by the UNRWA in the Gaza Strip and those provided to more than 1.3 million Palestinian refugees [across the region],” Amir al-Meshal, head of the UNRWA employees’ union, said at the protest. “These reductions are the beginning of the agency’s slow demise,” he lamented. He went on to urge the international community to financially support UNRWA, warning that recent reductions in the agency’s budget would have a negative impact on Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and throughout the region. Last month, UNRWA was forced to end its emergency food program, a move that will likely have an adverse impact on food assistance provided to 1.3 million Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza….
IDF reportedly boosts Iron Dome deployment in Gaza vicinity
Times of Israel 5 July — The IDF has boosted deployment of Iron Dome missile defense batteries around the Gaza Strip, according to a report Thursday night. The Haaretz newspaper said the decision was made following a security assessment by the army’s Southern Command. Also Thursday the Defense Ministry said Israel’s missile defense systems, including Iron Dome, had successfully completed a series of tests designed to “counter emerging threats in the region.” Following a barrage of mortar fire from Gaza last month, the IDF revealed that the Iron Dome system’s capabilities had expanded from being able to hit short-range rockets to the ability to bring down projectiles as small as medium-sized mortar shells.
Israel: We will not allow Gaza to be rebuilt
IMEMC/Agencies 6 July — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin pledged, on Wednesday, that the Gaza Strip will not be rebuilt so long as Hamas governs the besieged enclave. “Israel was and has remained the only actor in the region that conveys basic staples for the welfare of the residents of Gaza,” the Times of Israel reported Rivlin saying at a ceremony in honour of Israeli soldiers killed during Israel’s 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip. He also said, according to Days of Palestine: “As long as Hamas administers Gaza with an eye only to destroying the state of Israel and attacking its citizens, and continues to hold the bodies of our soldiers, Gaza will not be rehabilitated.” On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Hamas would pay an “unbearable price” if it did not choose to accept a truce with Israel. Hamas was freely elected in the last general Palestinian elections held in 2006. Israel has since imposed a stifling blockade on the Gaza Strip limiting the entry of medicines, construction supplies and food.
Hamas delegation heads for Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation
Haaretz 3 July by Jack Khoury — Egyptian intelligence has invited the Hamas leadership to attend talks in Cairo about the situation in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian reconciliation. Senior Hamas official Tahar al-Nunu confirmed that the invitation had been received, and told Haaretz that a senior delegation will be heading to the Egyptian capital in the coming days to discuss several issues, with improving relations between Hamas and Fatah being a top priority. Azzam al-Ahmad, who is in charge of such efforts on behalf of Fatah, is currently in Cairo and has said that the Egyptians are maintaining contacts with both parties to promote reconciliation. Last week, Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj also paid a visit to the city. Hamas is conditioning any progress in reconciliation talks on the removal of the sanctions the Palestinian Authority has slapped on the Strip … While the Palestinian Authority has shown a willingness in the past few weeks to work toward reconciliation, it has taken no operative decisions yet. According to one Palestinian official, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will not take any significant steps before July 15, when the Palestinian Central Council is due to discuss several proposals for rapprochement…
Family of Gaza massacre victim pressed to repay debt
EI 4 July by Amjad Ayman Yaghi — Soon after Fadi Abu Salah was killed during the 14 May massacre in Gaza, his wife Amnah came under a certain degree of pressure. Amnah was approached by the wife of a local businessman, who had lent Fadi around $6,000. Through his wife, the businessman sought repayment. “Some people may think what I did was wrong,” said the businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But I have become poor myself and I need to have my money back so that I can take care of my family’s needs.” … When a charity initiative was undertaken to help families of people killed recently by Israel, the businessman reduced the amount he was seeking from Amnah by $1,000. The remaining $5,000 was paid to him as a result of the charity initiative. Fadi’s total debts to various lenders came to $28,000. A decade earlier, Fadi (whose name has also been reported as Fadi Abu Salmi) had been badly injured when Israel bombed the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza. Both of his legs were amputated following that attack. Fadi, a father of five, was unemployed. His injuries and problems with his digestive system required him to take antibiotics and painkillers regularly. The monthly allowance of $250 he received from the Palestinian Authority proved insufficient to pay for his medicines and support his family. He had no real option other than to borrow. Amnah was in “great agony” at the time when the businessman sought his debt back, she said. “Thank God the debts were paid, so that Fadi can be comfortable in heaven,” she added. The charity initiative was the work of three activists: Wael Abo Omer, Said al-Taweel and Khaled el-Hamss. They sent out pleas for funds on websites such as Facebook and Twitter … The trio has also identified debts incurred by other people killed during the Great March of Return….
Japan secures food assistance for hard-hit Gaza families
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 5 July — The Government of Japan contributed on Wednesday around $4 million to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to support some of the most vulnerable Palestinians living in Gaza, according to a press release. WFP will use these funds to assist 60,000 of the poorest and most food insecure people in Gaza with electronic vouchers they can use to buy nutritious and fresh foods at local retailers. A portion of the contribution will also be used to buy canned tuna to be included in the contingency stocks WFP keeps in case of emergencies….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
UPDATE: Israeli settlers backed by military force attack Nablus-area village; youth shot, injured
NABLUS (WAFA) 6 July – Extremist Israeli settlers Friday attacked the village of Urif, to the south of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, set fire to agricultural land, and uprooted olive saplings and trees, according to local sources. WAFA correspondent said dozens of settlers, protected by a military escort, attacked the eastern part of the village, setting fire to tens of dunums of land planted with olive and almond trees and uprooting dozens of trees belonging to local residents. Forces reportedly raided a number of homes in the village amid the heavy firing of live ammunition. Clashes erupted between Israeli forces and local villagers in the aftermath of the attack. The Israeli soldiers fired live bullets and rubber-coated rounds to disperse the villagers, shooting and injuring a youth with a rubber bullet in the head, which necessitated his transfer to hospital for medical treatment. His medical status remains unknown until the moment.
Jewish settlers chop hundreds of grapevines in Bethlehem area
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 5 July – Jewish settlers chopped down on Thursday hundreds of grapevines in the town of al-Khader, south of Bethlehem, according to local activist Ahmad Salah. He told WAFA that settlers cut down 350 vines planted more than five years ago on land owned by Islam Ali Jaber and located near the illegal Jewish settlement of Daniel. He said the settlers have been targeting the area where the Palestinian farm is located in an attempt to seize it and expand their area settlements.
In Palestine, go to hospital, go to jail
The Indypendent 3 July by Jaclynn Ashly — Mohammad Abu Habsah, 18 years old, spent nearly two weeks at a hospital in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank after Israeli forces shot him with live ammunition during protests three years ago. Bullets fired by an Israeli sniper struck him in both legs as he attempted to run away after clashes broke out between Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli army. Other protesters carried Abu Habsah, then 15, away, bringing him to the Arab Rehabilitation Hospital in northern Bethlehem, where he received treatment for 12 days.
The day he was released from the hospital after undergoing surgery, Israeli forces raided his home in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp. It was 3 a.m. Abu Habsah recalls being awoken by an Israeli army commander, who squeezed his leg directly in the location of one of his bullet wounds while he was sleeping in his bed. The soldiers refused to allow Abu Habsah to take his crutches or his medicine with him, the teen said. “One of the soldiers carried me over his shoulder for a few minutes. Then he just dropped me and I fell to the ground. I kept telling them to help me, but the soldiers ignored me. I was forced to limp by myself.” The Palestinian youth was handcuffed, blindfolded and driven away in a jeep. Owing to his injuries, the soldiers brought him to an Israeli military hospital where staff gave the injured teen aspirin and wrapped a bandage around one his wounds before transferring him to an interrogation center in Gush Etzion — an Israeli settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank built in violation of international law. There, Abu Habsah was interrogated for almost two weeks. “I was in so much pain at the time,” he told The Indypendent. “They kept asking me about my injuries and where I sustained them.”
Yet before his captors even examined him, Abu Habsah says they knew the details of his injuries: “They even knew the exact locations where I had been shot.” Dawoud Yusef, the advocacy coordinator for the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, says Abu Habsah’s experiences are common among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. During protests or clashes, mostly young Palestinians pelt rocks and the occasional Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers, who shoot tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at the protesters. Palestinians are often arrested by Israeli forces after sustaining injuries during protests and Israeli authorities collect intelligence on Palestinians who seek medical treatment, often with the cooperation of members of Palestinian society who collaborate with Israeli authorities for a host of reasons. “The fact that Palestinians are injured is taken most often by the Israeli army as a de facto admission of guilt,” Yusef told The Indy. “The fact that you have been hit by a rubber bullet or live ammunition means you must have been present at the protests.”….
[This article points out things that are often not known even to activists. Well worth your while to read all of it]
In video – Israeli soldier returns to Hebron 2 years after killing wounded, motionless Palestinian
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 July — Two-and-a-half years after he killed an injured Palestinian youth shooting him in the head as he was lying on the ground in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida, Israeli soldier Elor Azarya, 20, returns to the street as Israeli soldiers and settlers applause and cheer for him. An Israeli politician and extremist settler named Baruch Marzel was among settlers welcoming Azarya into the Tel Rumeida street, the site where Azarya shot injured Palestinian, Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, who was lying on the ground bleeding, in the head after al-Sharif and another Palestinian, Ramiz Aziz al-Qasrawi, 21, allegedly carried out a stabbing attack against soldiers in the area. Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately, while al-Sharif was left severely wounded for several minutes without treatment, before Azarya stepped forward and put a bullet through his head, killing him … Shortly after the sentencing of Azaria, al-Sharif’s family noted that the soldier had received a more lenient sentence than a Palestinian child would receive for throwing stones.
PPS: ‘Army abducts 28 Palestinians, two international peace activists, in West Bank
IMEMC 5 July — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, Thursday, at least 28 Palestinians, and two international peace activists, in several parts of the occupied West Bank, including twelve in al-Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin community, near Jerusalem. The soldiers resorted to the excessive use of force against the Palestinians, Israeli and international peace activist, who were trying to prevent the military from demolishing al-Khan al-Ahmar, and abducted twelve, including two from the Bedouin community. The PPS said the soldiers also abducted two international peace activists, and 12 Palestinians …
In Jenin, in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted former government minister and political prisoner, Wasfi Kabaha, in addition to Mahdi Haifawi, Mohammad Suleiman Mahameed and Ala’ Ahmad Sa‘adi.
In Qalqilia, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Aseed Ahmad Barri, 22, Islam Amin Taweel, 25, and As‘ad Amin Taweel, 23. In addition, the soldiers abducted Nour Barakat Yamik, 24, from Nablus, in northern West Bank.
In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Samer Hussein, Nadim Mohammad Abu Rabea’, Yazan Mohammad Abu Rabea‘, Mohammad Hammad and Hussein Shabana.
In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers abducted one Palestinian, identified as Khaled al-Battat.
In occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted a young man, identified as Ali Dandan, and his father Jamal, from Abu Dis town. Jamal is a security guard at Al-Quds University in the town.
How a group of Jewish terrorists ended up in Israel’s halls of power
Haaretz Magazine 5 July by Alison Kaplan Sommer [behind paywall, unfortunately]– Jewish terrorists are troubled, rebellious youth who have somehow gone astray – distant from Israel’s core values. That’s the stereotype most Israelis have of their fellow citizens who commit violent acts against Arabs in pursuit of their far-right political agenda. A new documentary series, “The Jewish Underground” (airing on the Yes Doco channel in Israel), aims to shatter that persistent myth once and for all, telling the story of the country’s most notorious Jewish terrorists who were – and remain – anything but outsiders. The three-part series, created by veteran Israeli journalist Shai Gal, relates (and recreates) how a group of determined Jewish settlers committed acts of violence in the early 1980s, blowing up cars, shooting into crowds, planting explosives on buses, and stockpiling explosives with the aim of destroying the Dome of the Rock (part of the site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif). The story of the Jewish Underground isn’t new. But, some 30 years on, it is finally being seen in its full and chilling context.
The same men who committed those acts still retain the same ideology and agenda. But today they sit in the center of power in Israeli politics – a far more effective place from which to work toward their vision of a renewed biblical Jewish kingdom with a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. As former Jewish Underground member Yehuda Etzion – convicted and imprisoned for his participation in terror activities, and one of the series’ stars – tells Gal: “We are aiming at the same target. We are just using different means.” …
What really grabbed Gal’s attention was when he took a close look at where some of the key perpetrators are today. Two are key settler leaders: Ze’ev (“Zambish”) Hever is secretary-general of Amana, a cooperative that builds settlement homes in the West Bank; his stated goal is to settle a million Jews in the next decade. Another Underground leader, Nathan Nathanson, is a close political associate of Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is also education minister. “Once I understood that members of this Jewish Underground who had been convicted for terrorist activity, are now holding positions of power in the highest levels of the Israeli government, I knew it was a story I had to do,” said Gal….
Number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is rising fast, and so is the controversy
Haaretz 6 July by Nir Hasson — While a growing percentage of the religious Zionist community is finding numerous permits for doing so, some are opposed — As the three-week period preceding the Jewish holy day of Tisha B’av begins, statistics show that a record number of Jews ascended the Temple Mount over the past Jewish calendar year. According to statistics gathered by the Yera’eh organization, since the start of the Jewish calendar year, Jews have visited the Temple Mount for spiritual reasons, probably the highest number since 1967. The relatively calm security situation at the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem’s Old City in the past two years, and good relations with the police, are contributing to the flourishing of this activity. But this situation is also reviving the religious debate about the propriety of visiting the site. Up until 30 years ago, there were almost no rabbis and religious public figures who would support visiting the Temple Mount. The consensus according to Jewish religious authorities was absolute, from the rabbis of the Modern Orthodox Mizrahi movement to the most extreme ultra-Orthodox. The main reason was that the entire generation was considered “tamei met” – halakhically impure due to contact with a dead body. And as a long as there is no red heifer that can be burned, and whose ashes can be used to purify, it is impossible to ascend to the Temple Mount due to its sanctity. It is considered “issur karet,” the most severe halakhic prohibition …
But theological and ideological changes in the religious Zionist community in the past decades have tipped the balance, to the point of a revolution. Dozens of leading rabbis, from the entire range of religious Zionism, today permit ascent to the Temple Mount … A survey conducted four years ago for the religious Zionist weekly Makor Rishon discovered that 75 percent of the religious Zionist community believes that it is now permitted to visit the site.
–An isolated group– The opposition to ascending the Temple Mount is composed of a steadily declining group of religious Zionist rabbis who are connected to the “Yeshivot Hakav” (yeshivot that follow the line) – heirs to Rabbi Kook … The overwhelming majority of the ultra-Orthodox community – which doesn’t really discuss the issue – is still vehemently opposed to visiting the Temple Mount….
Al-Aqsa staff said Israelis wrecked what Muslims have done to renovate the holy compound
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 7 July – Staff of Al-Aqsa Mosque were able to stop late Friday and early Saturday Israeli destruction of what the Muslim Waqf, the official party in charge of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Muslim endowment, has been introducing recently to the area of the closed Bab al-Rahmeh, also known as the Golden Gate. Waqf official Firas Dibs said the staff exposed what Israeli police was doing to wreck an area between Bab al-Rahmeh and the Marawani mosque, which is adjacent to Al-Aqsa Mosque building. He said Muslim volunteers cleaned and planted that area with olive trees in order to make suitable as a prayer area during the holy month of Ramadan and beyond that. Israeli police, he said, removed what the volunteers have done and returned it to its previous shattered situation. That area is normally where Jewish fanatics walk through as they hold their provocative tour of the Muslim holy place.
Israeli police harass volunteers cleaning Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 4 July – Israeli police harassed on Wednesday volunteers who were cleaning a Muslim cemetery located just outside Jerusalem’s Old City wall, according to witnesses. They said police approached the volunteers from East Jerusalem, who have been working on removing weed and dirt from the cemetery for the past week, and took down their names as a prelude to summoning them for questioning. Palestinians fear Israel wants to take over the historic cemetery, known as Bab al-Rahmeh located at the foot of the closed gate with the same name, known as well as the Golden Gate, which is one of the gates to the Muslim Al-Haram al-Sharif or Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Israel is attempting to take over part of the cemetery and has prevented Palestinians from burying their dead there. It also wants to take over Bab al-Rahmeh area inside the mosque compound, which caused a stir among Muslim officials in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu decides lawmakers may visit Temple Mount once every three months
Haaretz 3 July by Nir Hasson & Noa Landau — Knesset members can resume visiting the Temple Mount on a regular basis, as long as they don’t do so more than once every three months and coordinate their visits with the police in advance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Israeli television reported Tuesday. For the past three years, Netanyahu has greatly restricted MKs’ access to the complex, under an agreement Israel reached with Jordan via American mediation. The deal was reached following a wave of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem in 2014 and 2015, which were spurred by claims that Israel planned to change the status quo at the site….
Court actions / Prisoners
Israeli court remands Palestinian mother of two for writing on social media
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 5 July – An Israeli military court in the north of the West Bank remanded on Thursday Laila Oweinat, 37, a mother of two, for eight days for her writing on social media, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society. It said the army detained Oweinat, from the Qalqilya area in the north of the occupied West Bank, three days ago on charges of alleged incitement on social media.
Palestinian indicted for murder of Israeli soldier, Sgt. Lubarsky, in West Bank
i24NEWS 5 July — An Israeli military court ruled on Thursday to indict a Palestinian man suspected of killing an Israeli soldier during an IDF night raid in the West bank in May. Islam Yousef Abu Hamid, 32, is suspected of killing Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, an elite soldier unit who was critically injured after being hit in the head by a “heavy object” during a West Bank arrest operation on May. After being hospitalized for days, Lubarsky succumbed to his wounds on May 25. Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky, 20, was hit by a heavy slab thrown from the third story of a rooftop at a group of soldiers conducting an operational arrest of suspected terrorist in the al-Am’ari refugee camp west of Ramallah … The indictment against Hamid said that he had retaliated for an arrest of one of his brothers in January, and that he attempted to tamper with evidence of the crime scene, by sneaking back to the rooftop to wipe off his fingerprints from one of the marble stones that he was thinking of throwing against the soldiers. According to Shin Bet, Hamid, who was arrested on June 6, had been jailed in Israeli prison from 2004 to 2009 for committing terror activities on behalf of Hamas.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
In Pictures: Israeli forces assault Palestinians, prepare to demolish village
Al Jazeera 4 July — Israeli Rights group B’Tselem says that the forcible transfer of an entire Palestinian community in the occupied territories would be ‘virtually unprecedented’ since 1967 — Israeli forces have assaulted dozens of Palestinians protesting the demolition of a Bedouin village near occupied East Jerusalem and the forcible transfer of the entire community. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least 35 Palestinians were wounded, including four who were hospitalised, during the events which took place on Wednesday at the Khan al-Ahmar village. Videos taken by witnesses and circulated online showed Israeli forces beating and attempting to arrest men, women and children. In one video, Israeli forces were seen violently dragging a Palestinian woman on the ground and pulling off her headscarf. Israeli forces arrived to the scene with heavy equipment and at least one bulldozer early on Wednesday, after a long legal battle between the community’s close to 180 residents and the Israeli Supreme Court. Khan al-Ahmar falls in Area C of the occupied West Bank – under total Israeli administrative and military control. While the Israeli court has sanctioned the demolition of the village because it was built without the necessary construction permit, Israeli authorities rarely, if ever, approve construction permits in Area C due to the expansion of illegal Jewish-only Israeli housing settlements there….
Israeli forces impound four vehicles, fine journalists in Khan al-Ahmar
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 5 July – Israeli forces impounded on Thursday four vehicles, one of which belongs to WAFA news agency, and issued traffic fines to many other vehicles and people in Khan al-Ahmar to the east of Jerusalem while they were trying to report on Israeli attempts to demolish the community, according to WAFA correspondent. He said the Israeli army and police impounded the agency’s van and three other vehicles and transferred them to a nearby police station under the pretext the vehicles were parked in a closed military zone. Police also issued traffic tickets to several vehicles owned by journalists who went to the scene to report on the developments there and a Red Crescent ambulance, which was in the area to provide medical care in case anyone needed it, as well as to reporters who attempted to reach the community on foot.
Reporters said that the Israeli police and army had sealed off Khan al-Ahmar since the early hours to prevent journalists and activists from reaching the community, slated for demolition at any time. Journalists who left their cars on the main road where the community is located and walked across the highway to reach it were fined or had their cars impounded. The army had earlier attacked activists who were on a vigil at the community to prevent its demolition and detained some of them, including three internationals. Meanwhile, a group of Israeli extremists and settlers from the illegal nearby Kfar Adumim settlement demonstrated on the road across from Khan al-Ahmar community in support of its demolition. Israel wants to demolish the community to use the land to expand the illegal settlement.
Israeli court suspends razing of Bedouin village in West Bank: lawyer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 5 July — Israel’s top court suspended on Thursday the planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern, a lawyer for the residents said. The Supreme Court injunction, issued a day after Israeli security forces sparked scuffles at Khan al-Ahmar by moving in bulldozers, gave the state until July 11 to respond to the villagers’ contention that they had been unfairly denied building permits, lawyer Alaa Mahajna told Reuters. The court spokesman could not be reached for comment … Interviewed before the Supreme Court injunction on Thursday, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan signaled that the Khan al-Ahmar demolition might not be imminent. Noting the level of international opposition to the move, Erdan told the Ynet news site: “I hope this decision will be implemented in the coming weeks.”
Ryerson student arrested in West Bank for protest
Toronto Sun 5 July — A Toronto university student protesting the demolition of a Palestinian-Bedouin village in the West Bank has been arrested by the Israeli forces, her mother said Thursday. Karen Rodman said her 21-year-old daughter, Michaela Lavis, and two other foreigners were involved in a stand-in at the village of Khan al-Ahmar when Israeli soldiers arrested all three Thursday morning. “She screamed very loudly and she wouldn’t scream unless she was being hurt, because that’s not her,” said Rodman, who witnessed her daughter’s arrest. “And then she got up and she turned and she smiled … and gave me a look that showed that she was terrified yet strong at the same time.” Rodman said she and her daughter, who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson University’s Child and Youth Care program, have been doing humanitarian work in the West Bank since late May. Lavis, she said, has been volunteering with the Defence for Children International-Palestine and working with an occupational therapist who provides support to children with special needs … A spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada said they were aware that a Canadian citizen was detained in the West Bank. “Consular services have been provided to the Canadian and the family,” Allison Lewis said in an email. The Canadian government has said it is “deeply concerned” about the planned demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and is “actively engaging Israeli officials on this issue and urge them to reconsider” their decision. Earlier this week, the United Nations’ main human rights body also called on Israel to abandon the demolition plans … In May, a Canadian doctor was shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers while tending to injured protesters in Gaza. Dr. Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician at Ontario’s London Health Sciences Centre and at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said he was shot in both legs even though his team wore high-visibility jackets that identified them as medical staff.
Israeli forces demolish pool in Jordan Valley
JORDAN VALLEY (Ma‘an) 4 July — Israeli bulldozers demolished a pool used for gathering water in the northern Jordan Valley, east of the occupied northern West Bank, on Wednesday afternoon. Activist Aaref Daraghmeh said that the pool was built by supporting institutions in the al-Farsiya area of the Jordan Valley for residents to use as drinking water and for their cattle due to the lack of water in the area after the Israeli authorities had confiscated water wells for nearby settlements’ use. Daraghmeh pointed out that the pool was built in October 2016 and given a demolition notice in November of the same year under the pretext of lacking a building license. The Jordan Valley forms a third of the occupied West Bank, with 88 percent of its land classified as Area C — under full Israeli military control.
Israeli army seizes water pipes in northern Jordan Valley village
NORTHERN JORDAN VALLEY (WAFA) 5 July – Israeli soldiers dismantled and seized on Thursday 200 meters of water pipes residents of the village of Bardalla in the northern Jordan Valley have built to provide their village with fresh water, according to Aref Daraghmeh, a local human rights activist. He said the pipes were not yet ready for use.
Israeli forces tear down tent south of Hebron, assault dwellers
HEBRON (WAFA) 5 July – Israeli forces Thursday tore down a tent used as a shelter and assaulted the dwellers in the Palestinian herding community of Susiya in the West Bank’s south Hebron hills, said a local activist. Coordinator of the Popular Committee in Yatta, Rateb al-Jabour, told WAFA that Israeli troops tore down a tent belonging to the family of Farid al-Jabour and assaulted the owners following a verbal altercation during a raid into Susiya community. He pointed out that Israeli forces carried out the demolition without any prior notice and warned owners against setting the tent up once again. The Susiya community, part of the Masafer Yatta cluster of Bedouin villages, has been threatened with demolition, especially after the Israeli high court had ruled to demolish the village in 2015.
Israeli forces deny farmers access to farmlands east of Salfit
SALFIT (WAFA) 4 July – Israeli forces Wednesday denied Palestinian farmers from Iskaka village, east of Salfit, entry into their farmlands adjacent to the illegal Ariel settlement, said a local council source. Head of Iskaka village council, Abdul-Qader Abu Hakma, said that a group of farmers from the village were denied access to their farmlands, separated by a section of Israel’s apartheid wall, although they obtained the necessary entry permits. He added that Israeli forces make it extremely difficult for farmers to access their farmlands, allowing them in for periods of time that are not sufficient for cultivation. Iskaka village has been subject to land grabs over years for the construction of settlements, outposts, checkpoints, settler-only bypass roads and Israel’s apartheid wall. According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), the villagers are mainly dependent on agriculture for livelihood with approximately 75 percent of them working in agriculture….
Israeli settlers erect tents in Hebron City
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 5 July — Israeli extremist settler and politician, Baruch Marzel, erected a tent in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, in the southern occupied city of Hebron, on Wednesday night. Local sources told Ma‘an that Marzel erected a tent next to a Palestinian home belonging to a local identified as Radi Abu Aisha, and brought two chairs to sit with his wife in the street. Meanwhile, a group of Israeli settlers also set up tents on Wednesday night in the middle of the al-Shuhada street in the center of Hebron City. Israeli police forces immediately removed the set-up tents and evacuated Israeli settlers from the area.
1,064 new settlement units in East Jerusalem proposed by Israeli committee
IMEMC/Agencies 4 July — Israel’s Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee presented, on Tuesday, six architectural plans to build more than 1,000 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem. According to Hebrew-language news outlets, the new settlement housing units are intended for the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, in the Jerusalem district. Ma‘an further reports that the current project includes the construction of 1,064 new housing units that would lead to the rapid expansion of the illegal Pisgat Zeev settlement, near the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, from its western side, and the neighborhood of Hizma, from the east. Israeli media added that the project is the largest that has been launched during the past two years, in the occupied areas of Jerusalem.
Israel committee urges speedier ‘legalisation’ of dozens of settlement outposts
MEMO 5 July — An Israeli parliamentary committee has urged the government to accelerate the so-called “legalisation” of settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, reported the Jerusalem Post. Meeting on Monday, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having “delayed work on the authorisation of 70 West Bank settler outposts for over a year”, and “demanded that he speed up the process”. The committee called on the government to both “create a list of outposts it plans to authorise as new neighbourhood of existing settlements”, as well as come up with “a diplomatic arrangement in the next few months” that would allow the authorisation of 20 “problematic” outposts. According to the paper, the Defence Ministry’s secretary of settlement affairs, Kobi Eliraz, described 20 outposts as requiring a “government decision” for action to be taken – a diplomatic decision that has to be “co-ordinated overseas”, he added. The Jerusalem Post added that “his words hinted that the best way to do so was to authorise them as new settlements and that such a step would need US approval.”
Solidarity of Israelis with Palestinians
IDF releases conscientious objector after 100 days in military prison
+972 mag 3 July by Orly Noy — The Israeli army discharged conscientious objector Ayelet Brachfeld on Tuesday after imprisoning her for 100 days. Israel has compulsory military service, and Brachfeld refused to be drafted due to her opposition to the occupation. It took four prison terms adding up to 100 days behind bars for the army’s conscientious objection committee to grant her the exemption. Most other conscientious objectors are ultimately discharged for “serious misconduct,” “unsuitability,” or are given psychological exemptions instead of being recognized as conscientious objectors. Brachfeld, who lives in Tel Aviv, first declared her refusal to serve in the army back in February. She explained her decision at the time in a statement published on Facebook: “… I refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the body that carries out the destructive policies of the Israeli government, and which uses violence, racism, and discrimination on a day-to-day basis for this purpose; I refuse to take part in the oppression of the Palestinian people; and I refuse to accept the view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a matter of fate.”….
Israeli women rally from across the border in solidarity with Gaza women’s march
Haaretz 4 July by Kyle Mackie & Jack Khoury — ‘Our leaders and their leaders don’t want to make the change so it’s up to us,’ according to one Israeli peace activist who marched in solidarity with the first planned women’s march of the ongoing Gaza protests — A group of about 50 activists gathered and marched in solidarity on Israel’s side of the Gaza border Tuesday evening during the first planned women’s march of the ongoing Gaza protests. After meeting near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, one of the Israeli communities located closest to the border, the mostly female group spoke via cellphone to one of the women organizers of the protest in the Gaza Strip. “She thanked us for our support and said it’s very important to them,” said Ghadir Hani, who translated the organizer’s words from Arabic to Hebrew. “She talked about the power of women and how the Four Mothers movement helped Israel come out of Lebanon and how women have the power to make the change,” she said, referring a group of women whose sons were serving in Lebanon and who formed a protest group that helped spur Israel’s withdrawal from the country….
Israeli activists honor Razan Al Najar in her ancestral village of Salama
Mondoweiss 6 July by Haim Schwarczenberg — In response to a call for solidarity from Gazan women, a Jewish activist group dubbed “Return” gathered to hold a memorial for Razan Al Najar, at the location of her village of origin, Salama. While thousands of women marched towards the border in the Saja‘iya area in Gaza, the activists held a ceremony honoring Razan and the protesters shot dead by Israeli snipers. The activists called for the implementation of the right of return and hung photos of the slain protesters placing flowers and candles on a structure that proceeded the Zionist state. “Razan did not see Salama, but she and all the refugees who are not present here physically are always present here with us, as a void an absence, something that is missing here until their inevitable return,” stated one of the activists.
Palestinians urge Iroquois lacrosse team to withdraw from Israel tournament
[with videos] EI 4 July by Ali Abunimah — Palestinians are urging a Native American team to pull out of the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel. This comes on the day Israel is escalating its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Abu Nuwwar to make way for colonial settlements, as the video above from Khan al-Ahmar shows. The Iroquois Nationals team represents the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of Indigenous nations whose territory extends across parts of what is now the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. They are credited with inventing the sport of lacrosse. “As Indigenous peoples, we have both seen our traditional lands colonized, our people ethnically cleansed and massacred by colonial settlers,” PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said in a letter to the Iroquois Nationals published on Wednesday….
The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Haudenosaunee, have stood up to constant challenges to their sovereignty and identity. They issue their own passports, for example, which some countries recognize, but whose validity has been challenged by the US, Canada and Britain … In 2010, the Iroquois Nationals forfeited the world championships rather than travel on US passports, after the UK refused to recognize the Haudenosaunee travel documents. In 2017, the women’s lacrosse team succeeded in entering the UK on Haudenosaunee passports. It is unclear if Israel would recognize the passports but if it did so it would be the height of cynicism given that Israel has stolen the land of millions of Palestinians who now live stateless under military occupation or in refugee camps in surrounding countries, denied the right to return to their homes solely because they are not Jewish….
AXA brushes aside concern over role in Israel’s war crimes
EI 3 July by Adri Nieuwhof — France-based insurance giant AXA is refusing to divest from Israeli firms involved in war crimes against Palestinians. This includes banks that help build settlements and a company that makes weapons used to kill civilians in Gaza. A year ago, 70 organizations, political parties and trade unions urged AXA to divest from three Israeli banks and arms maker Elbit Systems. Almost 140,000 people have signed a petition backing the call on AXA to divest. But AXA has tried to brush away its responsibility. The global firm claimed in an October 2017 email to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London that its investments in Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank are “non-controlling, minority investments” that account for “a very small fraction” of the company’s assets. AXA said its subsidiary AllianceBernstein was responsible for 99 percent of the investment in the Israeli banks….
VIDEO: Israel to deduct $300 million a year from Palestinian Authority budget
3 July — The Israeli government has been given the green light to deduct approximately $300m a year from the budget of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli politicians passed a law allowing the money to be taken from taxes and tariffs that the Israeli government collects on the Authority’s behalf. Israeli politicians say the Palestinian leadership paid $350m last year to Palestinian prisoners jailed for attacking Israeli security forces, and their families. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reports from the Occupied West Bank.
PA: Israel’s freeze of prisoner family money ‘declaration of war’
Al Jazeera 3 July — Palestinian leaders have condemned a “dangerous” new Israeli law that will withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) over welfare payments given to prisoners and their families. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement on Tuesday that the move constituted a “declaration of war” against the Palestinian people who have fought for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. He also said the move, which surpasses a “red line”, was going to be confronted with a series of Palestinian decisions. “All options are open … from the International Criminal Court to the United Nations Security Council,” he warned. Similarly, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation committee, said the move amounted to “theft”. “This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat told AFP. “Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people, and that is a result of the decisions of US President Donald Trump, who supports Israel.”
The decision – passed by the Israeli government on Monday evening with 87 of 120 legislators voting in favour and 15 opposing – will deduct money that the Palestinians allocate to the families of prisoners and others killed by Israeli forces from taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship rallied against the bill ahead of the vote. Jamal Zahalka, of the Joint List of Arab parties, said on Monday the bill was “despicable”. “You are stealing from the Palestinian people,” Zahalka said. The Israeli move deepened a budget crunch already hit hard by US cuts in aid.
EU to begin discussions with PA over prisoners’ stipends
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 July — For the first time, the European Union would reportedly investigate if Palestinian Authority (PA) uses its funds to pay stipends for families of imprisoned or killed Palestinians, Israeli news site Israel Hayom reported. According to Israel National News website the EU has reportedly said that it will begin discussions with the PA on the issue. A European statement said that “the payment system for Palestinian prisoners, former prisoners and their families is part of the EU’s political dialogue with the Palestinian Authority being carried out at the highest levels,” the sites reported. The European Union also stressed that they expect Israel to “continue to implement the Paris agreements;” these agreements specify the collection of taxes that Israel makes for the PA. The new Israeli law approved by the Knesset earlier this week would deduct these funds transferred to the PA.
Video: Kamal Boullata on painting, exile, and Jerusalem
EI 2 July — Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata was born in Jerusalem but has been living in exile for 50 years. Boullata’s early years in Jerusalem influence his abstract paintings today. He was mesmerized with “the intricate Arabesque patterns adorning the Dome of the Rock” that he observed in his hometown. Geometry, Arabic calligraphy and natural light later became central pillars in his body of work. Through his exile, he was able to “freely reflect on Palestine’s spiritual and Arab heritage,” he said, “which goes back hundreds of years, before the country’s fall under the colonial rule of Israel.” Over the years, he has lived in France, Morocco and Washington, DC, and paid close attention to natural light in each of these places. He concludes that “perhaps it was the light of Jerusalem that I have been seeking to recapture all along.” Video by Linda Paganelli