In Israel’s Supreme Court building in Jerusalem, there is a room divided by a wall of reinforced glass. On one side sit the families of 13 Arab citizens of Israel shot dead last October by the country’s police force; on the other, a panel of judges, court officials and witnesses, there to shed light on the events surrounding the deaths. Although both sides can see and hear each other through the wall, it might as well be made of concrete.
Dominating the front pages of Israeli newspapers for the past two months has been evidence that last October, as world attention was focused on the violence of the Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, police snipers were carrying out execution-style killings of their own citizens. All 13 victims were Arabs, suggesting to many that the motive for the killings was racist.
Israelis have been reading disturbing revelations about their police force for the past two months. Dominating the front pages of newspapers is evidence that last October, as world attention was distracted by the violence of the Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, police snipers were quietly carrying out execution-style killings of their own citizens. All 13 victims were Arabs, suggesting to many that the motive for the killings was racist.
The school playground in the village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem, has been a children’s battleground for the past six months: pupils finish classes at midday and congregate to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers stationed in the hills around their homes. The confrontation was relatively trouble-free until last month when soldiers fired tear gas into the playground. One canister landed only a few feet from 13-year-old Sliman Salah, enveloping him in a cloud of gas described by witnesses as an unfamiliar, yellow colour. Within a minute he was unconscious.
Likud leader Ariel Sharon’s victory in the election for prime minister has provoked much gnashing of teeth among Israel’s left-wing peace campaigners. As their standard-bearer, Ehud Barak, slipped ever further in the polls, his reputation sullied by months of fruitless negotiations with Yasser Arafat, the future they painted was doom-laden. If anyone is certain to sink the peace process, they wail, it is the right-wing general. And yet if Sharon succeeds in chasing the peace movement off to the margins of Israeli politics, it will be no bad thing.
Being a postman in Nazareth is trickier than in most towns. The danger of attack by dog is probably no greater than elsewhere in Israel, but finding an address requires an unusually intimate knowledge of the tangle of back streets: most have no name, and the houses no numbers. Space is at such a premium that as families grow so do their homes – through a series of extensions and additions, most of them illegal. As one resident observed: “If the council can’t find room to build pavements, how are we expected to find a plot for a new home?”
Tairif Abu Dayya has had a hectic month. In his PLO shop in Gaza City, amid dozens of inflatable Yasser Arafat dolls dangling from the ceiling, he and his family have been hurriedly sewing 3,000 flags. The order, placed by the Palestinian National Authority before the start of the Camp David summit a fortnight ago, should ensure there are enough flags to mark the declaration of Palestinian statehood, long threatened by Arafat for mid-September.