In a little-noticed move last week, Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman barred an official close to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas from entering Israel. Mohammed Madani is accused of “subversion” and “political terror” for meet the wrong kind of Israeli Jews – those with an Arab heritage.
Wearing a T-shirt, chanting songs at a demonstration or donating clothing could be enough for Israel’s large Palestinian minority to fall foul of a newly passed anti-terrorism law, civil rights groups have warned. The legislation, applied in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, dramatically broadens the range of offences to include sympathising with, encouraging and failing to prevent terrorism.
Israel is locking away millions of official documents to prevent the darkest episodes in its history from coming to light, civil rights activists and academics have warned as the country’s state archives move online. They claim government officials are concealing vital records needed for historical research, often in violation of Israeli law, in an effort to avoid damaging Israel’s image.
In a familiar muddying of the waters, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising Friday’s summit in France – the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon. He dusted off the tired argument that any sign of diplomatic support for Palestinians would encourage from them “extreme demands”. Netanyahu, it seems, is keen on any peace process, just so long as it’s not the current one launched in Paris.
In a surprise move, Benjamin Netanyahu forced out his long-serving defence minister, Moshe Yaalon. As he stepped down, Yaalon warned: “Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel.” He was referring partly to his expected successor: Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose trademark outbursts have included demands to bomb Egypt and behead disloyal Palestinian citizens. But Yaalon was also condemning extremism closer to home, in Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“I am sure one day I will return to Saffuriya,” Ameen Muhammad Ali says of a Palestinian village only two kilometres outside Nazareth that Israel destroyed during the Nakba in 1948. He pauses, then chuckles as he injects a note of realism: “If not me, then my son – and if not my son, then my grandson.” Unlike the majority of refugees from the 1948 war, 81-year-old Abu Arab lives near his former village, in a neighbourhood of Nazareth whose residents are all refugees from Saffuriya or their descendants.
Israel is stepping up its efforts to seize control of Palestinian heritage sites and antiquities in the occupied territories in violation of international law, Palestinian and Israeli archaeologists warned this week. The experts echoed criticisms levelled against Israel in a recent resolution passed by the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, that accused Israel of interfering with major holy sites in occupied areas.
There is no bigger taboo in Israel than comparing the state of Israel to Nazi Germany. And yet that is precisely what Yair Golan, the deputy head of the Israeli military, did during a speech to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. There is now a palpable fear among army commanders like Golan that they are losing control over their soldiers – and with it any hope of holding on to their much-cherished claim to be the “most moral army in the world”.
Israel and its supporters would prefer we forget that, before the rise of the Nazis, most Jews deeply opposed a future in which they were consigned to Palestine. What they feared was that the creation of a Jewish state in a far-flung territory in the Middle East, as the Balfour Declaration promised, dovetailed a little too neatly with the aspirations of Europe’s anti-Semites, then much in evidence, including in the British government.
In Israel’s evermore tribal politics, there is no such thing as a “good” Arab – and the worst failing in a Jew is to be unmasked as an “Arab lover”. Or so was the message last week from Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s so-called peace camp. In the current climate, Herzog and his opposition party Zionist Union have found themselves highly uncomfortable at having in their midst a single non-Jewish legislator.
A jabbing pain in his shoulder and thigh roused Obada from his sleep at 3am. In the half-light, the 15-year-old could make out eight masked men surrounding his bed, their rifles pointed at him. “I felt terrified,” he said of the experience. Obada is one of more than 100 Palestinian children who in recent months have found themselves dragged from bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, according to children’s right groups.
There is mounting evidence that Israeli ambulance crews are withholding treatment from Palestinians injured during a wave of attacks over the past six months. Physicians for Human Rights in Israel found that wounded Palestinians had been left untreated for as long as two hours. In some cases, it is believed medical teams failed to tend to the injuries of suspected attackers as revenge, in the expectation that they would die from their wounds.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Meir Dagan must have relished his retribution on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – it was delivered from beyond the grave. In damning posthumous remarks, the former Mossad chief described Netanyahu as a man trapped in self-delusion, and “the worst manager I knew”. Their falling out centred on Netanyahu’s belligerent posturing over Iran.
As Israeli authorities declare “national parks” over residential areas in East Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians living in overcrowded neighbourhoods close by the Old City are being trapped in a planning nightmare. Human-rights group accuse the officials of increasingly using such parks as a tool to grab control of Palestinian land and demolish homes, under the guise of archaeological preservation and tourism development.
Israel’s one in five citizens whose mother tongue is Arabic are increasingly fearful of using it in public as hostility has mounted towards the language from both officials and the Jewish public, human rights groups have warned. The alert comes as lawyers have threatened the municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, with a contempt of court action for failing to include Arabic on most of the city’s public signs – 14 years after the Israeli supreme court ordered it to do so.
It might have been a moment that jolted Israelis to their senses. Instead the video of an Israeli soldier shooting dead a young Palestinian man as he lay wounded and barely able to move has only intensified the tribal war dance of the Israeli public. This was not a killing in the fog of war; it was a cold-blooded execution – a war crime. And yet, for most Israelis the soldier is the victim of this story.
In a classroom on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, young Israeli children – Jewish and Palestinian – play and study together, casually chatting and joking in a mix of Hebrew and Arabic. The opening of the first bilingual classrooms in Israel’s largest city was celebrated with great excitement last September. But only months into the educational experiment the mood has soured. Hundreds of parents staged a protest this month, chanting “All children are equal”.
Details of the biggest massacre committed by Israeli soldiers during the 1948 war have finally surfaced, decades after the documentation was locked away. Israel is still trying to silence its army’s new generation of whistleblowers, even in an age of 24-hour news and social media. But Israel must face facts: the days when such systematic brutality could be kept under wraps are now over.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the appointment of a new foreign media adviser and spokesman this week, the latest in a series of moves viewed as snubs to the Obama White House. US-born David Keyes replaces Mark Regev, who became familiar to English-language audiences as the voice of the Netanyahu government during Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza.
Leaders of Israel’s large Palestinian minority have begun creating an alternative syllabus for Arab schools, in what they are terming “a revolutionary” step towards educational autonomy. It will be the first time in Israel’s history that the Palestinian minority has tried to wrest control of the curriculum taught in Arab schools from the Israeli education ministry. The move follows controversial revisions to the civics textbook.