Briefing Paper November 2016

Israeli soldier shoots 13-year-old Palestinian girl for failing to stop at roadblock

IMEMC 21/09/16

A Palestinian child was shot and wounded by the Israeli military Wednesday morning when she allegedly failed to heed a soldier’s order to ‘stop’ as she approached a military roadblock. Israeli troops then locked down the roadblock and transported the wounded child to the Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava. The child was shot at a roadblock near the illegal Israeli settlement of Alfei Menashe, near Qalqilia in the northern part of the West Bank. She is the niece of a 24-year old Palestinian woman who was killed in November at a military roadblock in the same area. In that incident, 24-year old Rasha Ahmad Hamed ‘Oweissi approached the roadblock from afar, holding a knife in her hand and a suicide letter in her bag. She was shot by a soldier while she was still at least 30 feet away from the roadblock. Following Wednesday’s shooting of the young girl, the Israeli military claimed that the girl “told them during interrogation” that she had “come there to die” – but Israeli military initial reports on incidents are usually discredited soon after they are made. The child had no weapon anywhere on her body or in any of her belongings

Israeli forces arrest 13-year-old Palestinian weeks after shooting him in both legs

Sheren Khalel Mondoweiss 10/10/16

In March, 12-year-old Ramzi Abu Ajamia got word that Israeli forces were looking for him. Terrified of getting arrested, Ramzi stopped sleeping at home and going to school. He succeeded in dodging Israeli forces for five months before he was spotted at clashes during an Israeli night raid on Dheisha refugee camp, where the now 13-year-old was born and raised. It all happened within seconds, Ramzi recalled to Mondoweiss. Israeli forces spotted the boy on the streets around 1 a.m., and fired. Ramzi dropped to the ground before another young man rushed to his aid. The other young man was shot in the leg, and then two more bullets whizzed through the air, hitting Ramzi yet again. Doctors were able to remove the two bullets in Ramzi’s right leg, but closed up the wound in his left leg with the bullet still lodged. Ramzi underwent six surgeries over the course of a few weeks before he was sent home to recover. Badly injured, and still with a bullet in one leg, Ramzi slept at home for the first time in months. A few days into Ramzi’s homestay, Israeli forces stormed his house, blasting off the family’s front door before raiding the home and arresting the injured 13-year-old. Forty other Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem were detained during a mass raid that same night. “That night I had a feeling they would come for me, I was sitting up in my bed waiting,” Ramzi told Mondoweiss, both legs still bandaged and unhealed. Ramzi’s father, Nassir Abu Ajamia, said the arrest was like nothing he had ever seen. “They didn’t come with a gurney or an ambulance or military jeep waiting by the house, when they came to arrest him, one of the soldiers threw Ramzi over his shoulder and walked with him like that,” his father said….

Israeli forces targeting Palestinian youth in the West Bank

Badil 23/8/16

The systematic targeting of Palestinians, particularly youth, by Israeli military forces throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has intensified since the beginning of 2016. This targeting has taken the form of injuries and arbitrary killings by the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army in the context of arrest campaigns, military raids and randomwide searches which usually trigger clashes. The preliminary investigation conducted by BADIL Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights (BADIL) shows that these actions represent an Israeli policy that constitutes a grave breach of international law and could amount to an international crime … BADIL initiated an ongoing investigation into the events and actions carried out by Israeli forces in the West Bank, particularly in the Palestinian refugee camps that have been significantly targeted throughout July and August 2016 … Dheisheh refugee camp was raided three times by Israeli forces between the end of July and mid-August. During these three incursions 18 youth aged between 14 and 27 were shot in their legs, 8 of which were shot directly in the knee and several more in both legs. Four other youth from areas around Dheisheh were also shot in their legs during these incursions. On 22 August, Israeli forces raided the city of Doha, adjacent to Dheisheh, and shot at least one young person next to the camp. Since the beginning of 2016, 30 people have been shot with live ammunition in Dheisheh camp, the majority in their legs and knees. Medical sources have reported that these injuries cause both permanent and temporary disabilities. In addition, at least 83 people have been shot with live ammunition in the Bethlehem area during this period.

In the case of Dheisheh camp, the unjustified injuries were accompanied by threats from the Israeli commander responsible for that area, known as ’Captain Nidal.’ Captain Nidal made threats to youth from Dheisheh before, during and after the raids, and during interrogations and arrests. He made statements about his intention to injure the youth of the camp, including: “I will make all the youth of the camp disabled,” “I will have all of you walking with crutches and in wheelchairs,” “I will make half of you disabled, and let the other half push the wheelchairs, ”and “I will make all of you stand in line at the ATM waiting for your disability subsidies and assistance.”1 One of the injured youth told BADIL that Captain Nidal told him to tell his friends that “Nidal will make all of you disabled.” These threats indicate that these actions are not accidental or isolated incidents, but rather result from a systematic Israeli military policy aimed at suppressing resistance, terrorizing Palestinian youth, and permanently injuring them and/or causing significant damage to their physical and mental

Israel closes case into airstrike near UNRWA school during 2014 Gaza War

Ma’an 26/8/16

The United Nations Friday responded in a statement to Israel’s announcement Wednesday that the military had exonerated itself from any wrongdoing in a missile attack near an UNRWA-run school in Rafah during the 2014 Gaza war, which killed 15 people, highlighting that the case raises “serious questions” about Israeli military conduct in relation to international law. According to the statement released by UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, on August 3, 2014 during a devastating 51-day military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched a missile at a road outside of an UNRWA school, which was at the time designated as an emergency shelter for displaced Palestinians on July 18 and was sheltering at least 2,900 Palestinians. The strike resulted in the killings of 15 civilians, while at least another 30 were injured. According to the statement, UN officials warned the Israeli military on 33 separate instances that the school was being used to shelter Palestinians who had been displaced by Israeli airstrikes, adding that UN officials had warned Israeli authorities again just one hour before the devastating attack. “This raises serious questions about the conduct of military operations in relation to obligations under international humanitarian law and respect for the inviolability and sanctity of United Nations premises under international law,” Gunness said in the statement. Gunness highlighted that the UN has continuously called for accountability of crimes committed by the Israeli military during the 2014 Israeli offensive, adding that “any indication that responsibility was being evaded would be a matter of grave concern.” “We note that no criminal responsibility seems to be accepted for any concluded cases concerning UNRWA premises,” Gunness continued in the statement. “The families affected have had no effective redress and, from their perspective, this would certainly be seen as a further denial of their rights.” According to the statement, UNRWA has yet to receive any updates from the Israeli military concerning ongoing criminal investigations into airstrikes on UNRWA emergency shelters in Beit Hanoun and Jabalia that resulted in some 29 civilian deaths.

Palestine’s latest evictions are a human rights crisis – world leader must act

Leila Farha The Guardian 29/08/16

Abu Jihad, a Susiya village elder, waits anxiously. His home in the south Hebron hills of the occupied West Bank faces demolition for the third time. Legal options are running out as Israeli authorities proceed with their plans to forcibly evict half the village. Global opinion and pressure have helped keep the bulldozers at bay this time around. So far. The Palestinian herder community of Susiya was forced out of its century-old village in 1986. Israel declared the area an archaeological site and then handed it over to Israeli settlers. The villagers moved into tents and caves on their own farmland, but were evicted from there as well by the Israeli army in 1991. No reasons were given. They now live on another part of their farmland, sandwiched between a hostile Israeli settlement and one of its outposts. For several decades now, the villagers of Susiya have lived under the constant threat of becoming homeless once again. Mass demolition of their homes and forced evictions took place in 2001 and 2011. Israel claims it has no planning permits to build on the farmland, but at the same time makes it impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits. Residents of Susiya have applied for permits over the years but each application is met with rejection. Susiya’s plight is not an exception. In addition, more than 46 Bedouin communities in the central West Bank – around 7,000 Palestinians – face Israeli pressure to leave their homes. These are among the most vulnerable people in Palestine. Most of them are Palestinian refugees, forced out of southern Israel following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war … Every week somewhere in the West Bank a family watches while their home is demolished by bulldozers. In 2016 there has been a dramatic rise in forced evictions across the West Bank … When help is offered, the donations of tents, water tanks and children’s play equipment are seized or destroyed. Access to grazing land and markets, essential for these herding communities to earn a living, is restricted, irreparably damaging their way of life. The aim and effect of this coercive environment is clear – to make life for Palestinians on the land unliveable….

Israeli soldiers routinely shoot heads of injured Palestinians

M Clare Murphy EI 30/8/16

Shooting at the heads of incapacitated alleged Palestinian attackers is a common practice by Israeli occupation forces, a settler security chief told a military court hearing on Sunday. Eliyahu Liebman testified as a witness for the defense in the trial of Elor Azarya, an Israeli soldier indicted for manslaughter after he was caught on video shooting the head of a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian lying in the street, killing him. Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif and Ramzi al-Qasrawi were fatally wounded after they allegedly attempted to stab soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in late March. Multiple videos of the scene show al-Sharif and al-Qasrawi in the street, badly injured. But video released thus far only shows the fatal shooting of al-Sharif. “In terrorist incidents I witnessed, I saw with my own eyes that in every instance in which a terrorist attacked, soldiers shot him in the center of mass until he was neutralized … and [shot] a bullet to the head to ensure that the terrorist could not set off a suicide belt or continue the attack. These soldiers never went to court,”

Is Israel pushing for a Palestinian civil war?

Ramzy Baroud MEMO 6/09/16

Division within Palestinian society has reached unprecedented levels, becoming a major hurdle on the path of any unified strategy to end Israel’s violent occupation or to rally Palestinians behind a single objective. Newly appointed Israeli ultra-nationalist Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman understands this too well. His tactic since his ascension to office last May is centred on investing more in these divisions as a way to break down Palestinian society even further. Lieberman is an “extremist”, even if compared with the low standards of the Israeli military …

Fairly recently, in 2015, he threatened to behead with an axe Palestinian citizens of Israel if they are not fully loyal to the “Jewish state”, advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and made a death ultimatum to former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Outrageous statements aside, Lieberman’s latest ploy, however, is the most outlandish yet. Israel’s defence minister is planning to colour-code Palestinian communities in the Occupied West Bank, dividing them into green and red, where green is “good” and red is “bad”; accordingly, the former shall be rewarded for their good behaviour, while the latter collectively punished, even if just one member of that community dares to resist the Israeli occupation army.

A version of this plan was attempted nearly 40 years ago, but utterly failed. The fact that such appalling thinking is occurring well into the 21st century without being accompanied by international uproar is baffling. Lieberman’s colour-codes will be accompanied by a campaign to resurrect the “Village Leagues”, another failed Israeli experiment to impose an “alternative” Palestinian leadership by “engaging” Palestinian “notables”, not democratically-elected leaders. Lieberman’s solution is to manufacture a leadership, which, like the Village Leagues of the 1970s and 80s, will, most certainly, be regarded as collaborators and traitors by the wider Palestinian society.

A mentally disabled Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops for behaving strangely

Gideon Levy & Alex Levac Ha’aretz 02/09/16

The man who was shot to death last Friday by a soldier from the Kfir Brigade’s ultra-

Orthodox Netzach Yehuda Battalion was 38 and the father of two small children, a son and a daughter, who were this week scurrying around the living room of their house, in a state of bewilderment, she in a purple skirt, he in shorts. Their father, Iyad Hamed, had a congenital mental disability: Introverted and taciturn, he was prone to stare at the ground as he walked. He enjoyed communing with nature and picking figs and almonds. Still, there was structure in his life: He had a wife and children, and worked in construction in a simple job. “He wasn’t the sharpest of people,” his brothers say. Footage from the security camera of the grocery store in Silwad, a village near Ramallah, shows his last minutes. Hamed, in a light-colored shirt, is seen buying snacks for his children and paying. A few moments later, he sets out for a mosque for the Friday prayers, never to return. Nothing in the footage hints at what is about to happen: A father buys treats for his children in the final hour of his life …

He wasn’t armed and didn’t pose a threat to anyone. The Israel Defense Forces itself admits that. The killing took place at the edge of the village, not far from Highway 60, a former venue for demonstrations and stone throwing …We are standing next to a mound of stones where Hamed collapsed, bleeding, last Friday. He’d come this far, after dropping off the snacks for the kids at home, on his way to a mosque in the neighboring village of Yabrud, where he prayed on Fridays. He preferred it to the mosques in Silwad. On the way, he stopped at the Silwad gas station to say hello to his friend Rashad, who works there. The gas station’s security camera caught him again. He then went on his way to Yabrud, which is located on the other side of Highway 60. He could have used the passage beneath the road but opted for the shorter route, which passes next to a towering, armored IDF pillbox.It was about 11:40 A.M. On the other side of the road, Abdel Hamid Yusuf, a solidly built young man of 26, was driving his sewage tanker to the site where he empties it … Hamed was behaving oddly, recalls Yusuf, . . . . He was like a caged animal; the barbed-wire fences were impassable. “It’s dangerous there, get out!” Yusuf shouted to him from across the road. Hamed didn’t respond – maybe he didn’t hear Yusuf. It’s crucial to note that Hamed was not holding anything in his hands … Suddenly a few shots rang out. Hamed started to run frantically back toward the village. It’s not clear where the shots came from, but immediately afterward Yusuf saw a few soldiers emerge from the vegetation at the foot of the tower. Hamed kept running. More shots were fired at him, apparently by the soldiers, who had been in ambush. He was hit and fell to the ground. One bullet entered his back and exited through his chest, paramedic Yahya Mubarak, who took possession of the body, would report afterward….

Over-policing? It’s Israel’s over-armying that should be halted

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 4/9/16

Haaretz 4 Sept by Amira Hass — During the last seven days of August, Israeli security forces arrested 114 Palestinians, mostly in raids but sometimes at fixed and flying checkpoints. Israeli soldiers and police used live fire 47 times during that period and/or fired rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades or tear gas. For example, on August 24 and 25 alone, raids were conducted in Tayasir, Hizmeh, Al-Amari, Silwad, Qabatiyah, Jayyus and Budrus (where troops also set up a post on the roof of a house they took over). But the list goes on: Beit Amin, Hableh, Zeita, Iraq Burin, Jama’in, Al-Zawiyeh, Bethlehem and the Al-Arroub refugee camp. (Full details appear on the website of the PLO’s negotiating department based on information from the Palestinian security services In Qabatiyah there was a night time raid on the home of Sari Abu Ghurab, a young man whom an IDF soldier had killed about 12 hours earlier. The Israeli version is that stones were thrown from a Palestinian car at Israeli troops from below the settlement of Yitzhar. The IDF forces (presumably in an armored jeep) chased the offending vehicle and collided with it in a scene out of an American movie. Rambo got out of the Palestinian car; the IDF Spokesman’s Office said he lightly stabbed a soldier, who immediately shot and killed him. A photo on Palestinian websites shows Abu Ghurab sprawled on the driver’s seat bleeding and without a shirt. If shot outside, how did he end up in the driver’s seat? He was released from prison a few months ago and was due to be married; he had even rented an apartment in Nablus, where his fiancée lives. But it was a “light” week with “only” two Palestinians killed …

Sick of reading all this? Then imagine dozens of soldiers who are either masked or their faces daubed with paint bursting into a home or neighborhood in the middle of the night, accompanied by dogs. They wake the residents up with stun grenades. In some places, family members are ordered to gather in a single room and soldiers point their rifles at them. Then they leave the house in disarray, clothing strewn around, mattresses left in piles, closet doors broken, rice spilled. It’s a routine thing with more than 100 raids a week, and every soldier is his mommy’s darling. Sick of imaging all this? So we’ll forgo the rest of the week and the long list of flying checkpoints set up without warning around the West Bank and the inconvenience that it caused drivers. We’ll forgo the humiliation, the fear caused by having a rifle aimed at you, the car searches, the delays in getting home, sometimes until almost midnight, or the late arrivals to work meetings in the middle of the day … Are you still with me or have you been overcome by boredom? “It’s natural,” you’ll say. If there are raids and arrests, it’s a sign the IDF and police are doing their job. It’s natural, the same way police chief Roni Alsheich said over-policing against Ethiopian Israelis is natural, but he immediately added that this was “problematic,” even before the big protests triggered by his remarks. But in our case, amid all this over-armying (to put it mildly), our crowd in the Colosseum cheers and shouts encouragement.

Jerusalem mayor believes collective punishment is key to coexistence

Natasha Roth +972 mag 12/09/16

Mayor Nir Barkat regularly holds forth about how his city’s various demographics can rub along in peace and quiet. In August, Barkat told a group of Likud activists that a stop for Jerusalem’s planned cable car will be placed in the Palestinian town of Silwan so as to show “who really owns this city.” As a reminder, Silwan is already at boiling point due to the encroachment of settlers and settler organizations both over– and underground. And last week, again speaking with Likud activists, Barkat waxed rhapsodical about his “philosophy of coexistence” for Jerusalem, a term he used after explaining how he has collaborated with the security forces to impose collective punishment on the city’s Palestinians. “We’ve developed some very, very interesting models. The first is cooperation between the Shin Bet, police, law enforcement and the municipality… I’ve requested closures and curfews in Jerusalem… We’ve put nearly 30 closures (in place). If you walk around the entrance and exit of the (Palestinian) villages today, you’ll see concrete blocks… This philosophy creates a very high level of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the city.”….

What Ari Shavit doesn’t understand about Palestinian children and Jews

Ziona Snir Ha’aretz 14/9/16

Dear Ari Shavit, Despite my bemusement at your demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state 68 years after it was recognized as such by the whole world, I don’t mean to get into that issue. I want to focus on one sentence in your article: “Only when every Palestinian child in Dheisheh and Balata knows that there’s a Jewish people that also has rights in this land will peace begin.” That is because today’s children are tomorrow’s adults. So, I wanted to tell you something that every Palestinian child knows about the Jewish people. The only Jew that a child in Deheisheh or Balata knows is a soldier, who at best stands across from him with weapon drawn or, less fortuitously, is already firing a gas grenade, or rubber or lead bullet, or waking him in the dead of night and humiliating his parents, all this taking place in an environment ruled by wretched poverty and absent of hope. A Palestinian child in Qusra, Jalud, Faroun, Burin, Madama or Yanoun will also recognize another sort of Jew – the settler. He’s the one who sets fire to the cars in his village, who uproots trees, tears down fences and casts smoke grenades into houses.

Other Palestinian children see the bulldozers of the State of Israel uprooting the olive or almond grove their forefathers cultivated for years, on the ruins of which the land is prepared for expanding the settlement already squatting on their family’s land. If the Palestinian child is a Bedouin born in the Jordan Valley, he sees how the bulldozer sent by the Jewish State tears down the tent in which he dwells, leaving him exposed to blazing sunlight and 48-degree heat, with no shade. Sometimes, as happened to 6-year-old Ibrahim from Fas’il some weeks ago, he may need medical care after suffering from sunstroke. And when another of the valley’s children grows up and prepares to wed, along comes the Jewish bulldozer and tears down the awning his father built to shelter the guests from the sweltering sun. That very thing happened just a few days ago. Sometimes the Bedouin child in the valley also knows that he cannot just turn on the faucet and quench his thirst, because there’s no water in the pipeline….

Israelis can’t recognize terrorism staring back at them from the mirror

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 26/09/16

The rampage of stabbing attacks is back? The terror wave is in full swing again? You’re wrong, ladies and gentlemen. The wave is an ocean, terror has never ceased and its impudence is only increasing. It’s not called by its right name – it’s labeled “security,” and its perpetrators are walking around freely, obeying the command to intimidate four million human beings. Do you need this translated? Our imposed military rule, now in place for decades, is terror as far as the Palestinians are concerned. I, too, believe it is terror because people are intimidated to the point where their lives are taken and their health, wellbeing and property are damaged, for the benefit of our masters’ rights, for the sake of achieving political, economic and territorial gains such as Sussia or Kfar Adumim, the irrigation of lucrative seasoning herbs in the Jordan Valley or exporting arms. Terrorizing is the meaning of the tens of thousands of armed men scattered across Judea and Samaria, as well as in united Jerusalem. They are frightening because they were sent there in order to preserve an evil order of dispossession. A person armed with a rifle looks into a mirror and is frightened by an image of someone pointing a gun at him. This is not an optical illusion but a cognitive one. It appears that we cannot see ourselves as the cause, as the aggressors and, yes, as terrorists in the eyes of those who since birth have lived under military decrees, with our guns, tanks, planes, helicopters and drones hurling deadly fire at them.

We cannot see it ourselves? Correction. We refuse to see ourselves as the cause … The headline “concerns over outbreak of [security] incidents” is displayed at the head of the Haaretz website’s home page. It isn’t there in order to collect reports about the incapacitating of dozens of young Palestinians by shooting IDF Ruger bullets at their knees. There is no similar headline for the rampage of travel denials from the Gaza Strip, or for yet another wave of soldiers killing Palestinians who posed no danger to their lives: in al-Fawar (Mohammed Hashash), Silwad (Iyad Hamed), Shoafat (Mustafa Nimer). You will not find there a summarizing headline for the daily bacchanalia of military raids (at least 116 between September 9 and 21)….

Shimon Peres was no peacemaker. I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana

Robert Fisk The Independent 28/09/16

Peres said the massacre came as a ‘bitter surprise’. It was a lie: the UN had repeatedly told Israel the camp was packed with refugees — When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter. I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes. Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not….

Olympic Jews?

Uri Avnery   20/8/16 [an extract]

THE SCENE at Ben-Gurion airport this week was rather astonishing. More than a thousand young male fans came to welcome the two Israeli Judo fighters – one female, one male – who had won a bronze medal each at the Olympic games in Rio. It was a very raucous welcome. The crowd went wild, shouted, pushed, raised fists. Yet judo is not a very popular sport in Israel. Israeli sports enthusiasts pack the soccer stadiums, as well as the basketball courts. But in these two sports, Israel is far from winning any medals.

So Israeli crowds suddenly became judo fans (some called it “Jewdo”). People who did not go wild with enthusiasm were considered traitors. We did not hear anything about the judo champions who got the gold or silver medals. Were there any? WE CAN only imagine what would have happened if the Israeli Olympic contingent had included Arab athletes. Arabs? In our contingent? True, Arabs constitute some 20% of the Israeli population, and some are very active in sports. But God – or Allah – saved us from this headache. None made it to Rio.

But there is another question that should have drawn attention. Israel is – by its own official definition – a “Jewish state”. It claims to belong to the Jewish people. It considers itself, in a way, the headquarters of “world Jewry”. So why does no one in Israel take the slightest interest in the medals won by Jews and Jewesses in other national delegations? Where is Jewish solidarity? Where is Jewish pride? Well, it simply does not exist where it counts. In the Olympic Games, a highly nationalistic event, nobody in Israel cares about the Diaspora Jews. To hell with them.

It seems that in sport, more than anywhere else, the distinction between Israelis and Jews is fundamental . So fundamental, indeed, that the question did not even arise. Who cares.

With the creation of the State of Israel, there seemed to be a natural solution: There was the Jewish Diaspora and there was the State of Israel. Jews in Israel became Israelis and were proud of it. When asked abroad what they are, they would naturally answer “I am an Israeli”‘, never “I am a Jew”. I strongly suspect that a young Israeli emigrant in Berlin today would still give the same answer. But there is a problem: more than 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. Are they included in the concept of the Israeli nation? Most of them, and almost all Jewish Israelis, would answer with a No. They consider themselves a Palestinian minority in Israel.

The simple solution would be to recognize “Israeli Arabs” as a national minority, with full minority rights. But the Israeli leadership is quite unable to do that, Therefore we have a rather grotesue situation: the Israeli government registration authority, which asks for the individual’s “nationality”, refuses to register “Israeli” and insists on “Jewish” or “Arab”. (In Israel, nationality does not mean citizenship.)

More Olympics

Nada Elia Mondoweiss 21/08/16

“I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion or different beliefs. But for personal reasons, you can’t ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this state, especially in front of the whole world.” These words, spoken by an individual who has just engaged in a gesture of support for the Palestinian people, are a standard response to the accusation of anti-Semitism which is routinely hurled at pro-justice activists.

The necessary distinction made between the “Jewish people” and the Israeli state is one Israel itself seeks to erase, as it strives to deflect all criticism of its policies, blaming it on anti-Jewish hatred instead. As such, these words do not in themselves establish new grounds, but a new approach to solidarity. Yet as Egyptian judoka Islam El-Shehaby uttered them last week in Brazil, they signified a new milestone: the sports boycott had arrived at the 2016 Olympic Games.

“Shaking the hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he’s not my friend,” El Shehaby explained, in the fallout from his action, which resulted in his dismissal from the games, for “poor sportsmanship.”One day before El-Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of the Israeli Olympian he had just competed with, another judoka, Saudi Joud Fahmy, had withdrawn from the competition, in order not to have to compete against an Israeli athlete, should she win and advance to the next round.

And yet two days earlier, the Lebanese team had refused to let Israeli athletes ride on the same bus that had picked them up first, on its way to the opening ceremony. The Lebanese athletes persistently blocked the door, preventing the Israelis from getting onto the bus. As a result, the International Olympic Committee had to send in a separate bus for the Israelis. Of course then, the snubbing by Lebanese, Egyptian, and Saudi athletes of members of the Israeli delegation is a political act. And of course, Israel has complained that these athletes “are bringing their respective countries’ ongoing conflict with Israel to the Rio games.”

The actions of these athletes are in keeping with the Palestinian call for global solidarity in the form of BDS, including the sports boycott of Israel. A sports boycott is an individual gesture with the greater immediate negative consequences suffered by the person engaging in it, as they will likely be disqualified from further competition. Yet the Arab athletes who refused to normalize with the Israelis have been criticized as violating “etiquette” and “the Olympic spirit.” Which drives one to wonder, is this yet another venue where Israeli exceptionalism wins, as the violent, racist state is left off the hook, not held accountable for its assault on Palestinian athletes?

Over the recent years, Israel has prevented Olympics-bound Palestinian team chiefs from leaving the country. It had restricted their freedom of movement, making it basically impossible for them to practice in adequate facilities, and it has shot at the ankles of Palestinian soccer players. Where was the criticism when these crimes were committed? Two years ago, an international campaign to ban Israel from FIFA, because of its human rights violations, had failed to pressure the international organization into censoring that country.

When no official organization is willing to hold Israel accountable, individuals can do so. The snubbing by some athletes of the Israeli delegation is a noble gesture in a political arena, and it is incumbent on us to appreciate it for what it is: a refusal to normalize with a country that bombs young boys playing on the beach, prevents young swimmers from reaching a pool, and prohibits Olympic hopefuls in Gaza from training with their compatriots in the West Bank. We then can surely appreciate the exquisite irony of the separate buses at the Olympic village for the delegation from a country that builds separate roads for its Jewish citizens, transporting them to their Jewish settlements in illegally occupied territories.

Around the world, the Palestinian flag—almost like the kuffiyeh—has taken on a dimension beyond nationalism to signify progressive politics, a collective stand against systemic violence, and anti-colonialism everywhere. And as the game began, Palestinian flags appeared everywhere in the stands. A sea of Palestinian flags greeted the Israeli team in defiance of UEFA rules, and at the risk of the Celtic FC being penalized. Yes, flying the flag was without a doubt an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people. But it was also a rejection of the system behind the oppression of the Palestinian people; a rejection of apartheid, colonialism and racism. The display of hundreds of Palestinian flags at the Celtic FC game showed an understanding of shared experiences of discrimination, disenfranchisement, dispossession, and a rejection of the Zionist narrative. Every flag that flew in that stadium ripped at Israel’s projection of normalcy and its paper-thin veneer of “democracy.” And the media carried the news around the globe, amplifying the gesture.



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