Israel’s large Palestinian minority held its first-ever conference on BDS in defiance of anti-boycott legislation introduced five years ago that exposes activists to harsh financial penalties. One participant called it a sign that the Palestinian minority was slowly emerging from the law’s “reign of terror”. The question of how feasible it is for Israel’s 1.6 million Palestinian citizens to promote BDS was high on the conference agenda.
Palestinian leaders in Israel have warned that they suspect the Israeli government is behind recent efforts to trick the families of refugees from the 1948 war into signing away the rights to their lands. Experts say Israel has been working to pressure families into selling their lands for decades as a way to undermine a Palestinian right of return, one of the key demands in any peace agreement.
Benjamin Netanyahu is effectively legislating the expulsion of the Balad party and throwing down a gauntlet to the courts. It won’t end there. If Balad is unseated, the participation of the other Joint List factions will be untenable. In effect, the Israeli right is seeking to ethnically cleanse the parliament.
Israel is to put financial pressure on Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem in an effort to make them switch over to an Israeli-controlled curriculum. Palestinian officials have slammed the move, warning that it is part of intensified efforts by Israel to disconnect East Jerusalem from the neighbouring West Bank and entrench its control over the 300,000 Palestinians in the city.
In an atmosphere of inculcated ignorance and prejudice, it is easy for Netanyahu to persuade public opinion that the recent wave of Palestinian protests and attacks is solely the result of “incitement” from Palestinian officials and media. The Israeli right suggests that Palestinians who stab or drive cars at their oppressors are easily inflamed into action by words that appeal to ancient prejudice. As the Israeli public discourse grows ever more detached from reality, Israel’s military commanders sound like an oasis of sanity – at least, by comparison.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has described his security forces’ cooperation with the Israeli military as “sacred”. But an armed attack on an Israeli checkpoint this week by a Palestinian security official, which left three Israeli soldiers injured, suggests that Abbas’ view may not be widely shared among Palestinians.
Israeli government funds have been secretly transferred to far-right organisations leading a smear campaign against groups opposed to the occupation, a series of investigations show. The rightwing groups have received tens of millions of dollars in state funding. In three known cases, the publicly funded far-right organisations launched spying operations on human rights groups, while other money has gone towards ad campaigns claiming to expose peace activists as “moles”.
New legislation is designed to intimidate and silence Israeli human rights organisations – the international community’s eyes and ears in the occupied territories. These groups are to be defined as “moles”, or agents of foreign governments. The problem is that the governments funding the human rights activity are not Israel’s enemies, but some of its staunchest supporters – European states.
One in 10 Israeli Jews cannot marry legally in their own country, Israeli legislators heard last week, as Israel’s religious authorities face a growing backlash against their wide-ranging powers. The figures include 364,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose Jewishness is not officially recognised. Critics says Israel’s marriage policies compare with those of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
An Israeli government plan to build hundreds of homes for the country’s Druze population faces stiff opposition after it was revealed that the new community would be located on the lands of Palestinian refugees. The town, due to be built west of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, would be the first new community for members of Israel’s Palestinian minority since the state’s founding 68 years ago.
A rarely told story of the 1948 war that founded Israel concerns Nazareth’s survival. It is the only Palestinian city in what is today Israel that was not ethnically cleansed during the year-long fighting. Nazareth was not only an anomaly; it was a mistake. The reason Nazareth survived is because of the actions of one individual: Ben Dunkelman, a Canadian Jew.
Moments before an Aegean Airlines flight was due to take off, three Israeli passengers took security into their own hands and demanded that two fellow passengers, from Israel’s Palestinian minority, be removed from the plane. Dozens more Israeli Jews joined the protest, refusing to take their seats. Like a parable illustrating Europe’s bottomless indulgence of Israel, Aegean staff caved in to the pressure.
Last November, just days after lethal attacks in Paris by ISIS, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu outlawed the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He compared the group, which is tied to the Muslim Brothers, to ISIS in an attempt to frame the ban as part of the global war on terror. But in reality, the Israeli government's action was long in the making and driven by considerations of local power politics.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of exploiting a shooting attack in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day to intensify a campaign of incitement against the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens. Palestinian leaders in Israel have also harshly criticised the police for making sweeping arrests of Nashat Melhem’s relatives in what they believe is an attempt to pressure him into turning himself in.
Nazareth has the largest concentration of Christians in the Holy Land but also a two-thirds Muslim majority after the city became a place of sanctuary for many refugees in 1948. That has made it especially vulnerable to Israel's divide-and-rule strategies. Benjamin Netanyahu sought to foment discord here in the late 1990s, during his first term as prime minister, by backing a plan to build a huge mosque overshadowing the city's main holy site. Now back in power, he is up to the same kind of mischief.
In his Jerusalem office, Rabbi Chaim Richman has steeped himself in an unlikely mix of 2,000-year-old Judaic tradition and the latest in American cattle-breeding technology. His aim is to genetically engineer a perfect red heifer. If he succeeds, he believes it will open the way to destroying one of the holiest sites in Islam, the al-Aqsa mosque, and building a Jewish temple in its place.
Israeli officials met executives at Google last month to persuade them that, for the sake of peace, they must censor the growing number of Palestinian videos posted on YouTube. But these videos are simply a record of Palestinians' bitter experiences of occupation. It is these experiences, not the videos, that drive Palestinians to breaking point.
Tens of thousands of visitors have come to Sheikh Raed Salah's protest tent in the past three weeks, since Netanyahu declared his Islamic Movement an “illegal organisation”. In an interview, Salah calls the move “a declaration of war not just against our movement but against Islam and against the whole Palestinian community [in Israel]. Everyone feels targeted.”
With dismaying predictability, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost no time in exploiting the massacre in Paris by outlawing the Islamic Movement, a popular party among Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Netanyahu justified the decision by conflating the movement with Hamas and ISIL, even though the Islamic Movement rejects violence and operates entirely within Israeli law.
The decision by the Israeli government to outlaw the country’s main Islamic Movement marks a dangerous turning point in Israel’s relations with its large Palestinian minority. The move effectively drives underground a religious, political and social movement representing the views of a sizeable portion of Israel’s 1.6 million Palestinian citizens.