Tag Archives: anti-war

Netanyahu will do all he can to destroy Jewish-Arab alliances

The alliance between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Jewish left has historically been viewed as a threat to the rule of the right. That’s why Netanyahu is doing everything he can to undermine it.

By Eli Bitan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights the 'Hanukkia' on the First night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, December 06, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights the ‘Hanukkia’ on the First night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, December 06, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/GPO)

The Israeli right knows exactly how to harm the left: by making its alliance with Palestinian citizens not only impossible but illegitimate, thus drawing away its power. The Jewish left, for its part, has historically done enough to undermine this alliance. But recent events have created new possibilities — and that’s why the right is coming out with guns blazing.

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This dynamic is currently playing out in Haifa, where in the recent municipal elections, newly-elected Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem appointed Raja Zaatry, a veteran activist from the Jewish-Arab Hadash party, to be her deputy. Kalisch-Rotem, who defeated incumbent Yona Yahav from the Labor Party, was elected with the support of the left and the ultra-Orthodox community. In early December, she announced her coalition, which excluded the right-wing Likud, and included the Haredi party, Hadash, and Meretz.

Then, on Dec. 4, Makor Rishon, the newspaper of Israel’s religious-nationalist community, published an article on Zaatry, which painted him as a supporter of BDS and a Hezbollah sympathizer who previously compared Israel to ISIS.

The furor came almost immediately. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri demanded Kalisch-Rotem walk back from her decision, while Prime Minister Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting by discussing Zaatry. Yair Lapid, who in the eyes of many Israelis has come to represent an opposition to the Netanyahu government, decried Zaatry’s appointment on Facebook.

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On Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu even phoned the mayor in an attempt to persuade her to change her mind. Kalisch-Rotem, however, made clear to him that her coalition agreement would remain unchanged. The controversy might appear like a tempest in a teapot, but it is evidently enough to concern both Netanyahu and Lapid. Kalisch-Rotem’s coalition, it turns out, is a threat to the right’s rule in Israel.

The new centrists

The majority of Jewish Israelis today fall somewhere on the center-left and center-right of the political spectrum, far from the historically divisive issues of war and peace. They vote according to a different set of parameters, such as professionalism, experience, issues touching on religion and state, and other seemingly simpler civil and social issues.

The new crop of politicians, including Lapid, Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay, and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, have internalized this change; they understand Jewish Israeli society well enough to know that the majority of young people are somewhere between left-wing Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg and right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — not because of the occupation and the settlements, but for other reasons entirely.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives to cast her vote during the party's preliminary elections, in Jerusalem, on April 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives to cast her vote during the party’s preliminary elections, in Jerusalem, on April 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The left (justifiably) tends to see anyone who isn’t clearly on their ideological team as a right winger, while the right (unjustifiably) views anything that isn’t right wing as left. These categories were previously helpful in explaining Israeli politics, but today they only hinder our understanding. It is true that the left-right divide is still important in Israel, but it is being pushed to the sidelines. The public discussion has shifted to focus on politicians who want everyone’s support — except for those on the ideological extremes.

Today, the goal of both the right and the left is to influence the center: the settlers will try to force Likud to pass laws that benefit them, while the left will force the Zionist Union to openly oppose the expulsion of refugees or cause Netanyahu to think twice before a military operation in Gaza.

The ideological right, however, has for years had an advantage over the left, after forming an alliance with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Mapai, the historical precursor of today’s Labor party, failed to crush the Haredim’s power, allowing Likud to reap the benefits and create a bond with the ultra-Orthodox.

The Jewish left, on the other hand, has the Arab “bloc,” yet it has never truly figured out exactly what to make of it. Despite a history of animosity, the alliance has grown tighter ever since the left decided to prioritize ending the occupation. The Arab parties are varied in terms of their world views and interests, but their persecution by the right-wing establishment has forced them to become bedfellows with one another, along with the Jewish left — often to its chagrin.

Hundreds of Israelis demonstrate in central Tel Aviv against the killing of 60 unarmed Palestinians at the Gaza protest the day before, May 15, 2018. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Israelis demonstrate in central Tel Aviv against the killing of 60 unarmed Palestinians at the Gaza protest the day before, May 15, 2018. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

In fact, it is far more accurate to say that the Jewish left-Arab alliance is built on the possibility of partnership, rather than actual cooperation. The leaders of the Jewish left have made tremendous efforts to sabotage ties with Palestinian citizens. And yet, despite the difficulties, it is the only chance the left has.

Without Palestinians, the left shrivels

The only chance the Jewish left has to be relevant in Israel is through complete Jewish-Arab partnership. It must present a common vision for a dignified life for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians, out of respect for their cultures, without endless bloodshed or one group trying to subjugate the other. The right can continue to hope to break the Palestinians, while we continue to strive for a shared life with dignity.

The only way the right can stop this alliance, which has the power to turn the Israeli left into a full-fledged political power, with 40 percent of Israeli citizens, is to attack the legitimacy of Palestinian elected officials. If supporting Haneen Zoabi is portrayed as beyond the pale, the left shrinks. This is why Liberman, Netanyahu, and others are busy with overtly racist attacks on Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Netanyahu, who views himself as an enlightened, right-wing liberal, had for years stopped short of making blatantly racist and discriminatory remarks in public. His preference, like that of every prime minister before him, was to promote discriminatory policies while conveying a message of equality to the outside world. This trick originally belonged to Mapai, particularly vis-a-vis Israel’s Declaration of Independence: near-equality on the page, zero equality in reality. Over the past few years, Netanyahu removed the veneer, and time after time has directed his attacks at Palestinian citizens.

Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish supporters protest against the Jewish Nation-State Law in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish supporters protest against the Jewish Nation-State Law in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s considerations are purely political: without the Arabs, the left shrivels up, both morally and politically. In his eyes, the passing of the Jewish Nation-State Law exposes his opponents’ Achilles heel: the heads of the Jewish left were too busy arguing over whether to show up to protest with Palestinian citizens, and once they decided not to partner up with the Palestinian left, they turned themselves into an permanent minority and exposed the hypocrisy of the ideology they claim to support.

The Zaatry controversy is another classic example of the right’s cynicism. Netanyahu doesn’t care about the deputy mayor of Haifa — he wants to make headlines by showing Israelis that the Labor Party backs Hadash. He also wants to avoid setting a precedent: if he remains silent on Zaatry, he may end up with similar Jewish-Arab partnerships in other cities — including Tel Aviv. Perhaps even in the Knesset.

The left cannot remain silent. It must speak clearly and defiantly to tell Netanyahu: the future you are so afraid of is the future we want to see.

Eli Bitan is a blogger for Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here

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Israeli gov’t is trying to defund +972 Magazine, report says

Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations to stop funding +972 Magazine, according to a report in the German media Thursday. +972 was able to independently verify the report.

The total contributions from the two foundations, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, comprise only 9 percent of +972’s overall 2018 budget as of September. In the past two years, 40 percent of our budget has come from the support of our readers.

Both foundations have pledged to continue supporting +972 despite the political pressure.

Israel has been working to curtail critical voices in recent years, often by portraying them as foreign agents and seeking to dry up their funding.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Handout photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, June 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Handout photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, June 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel asked the German government to pressure two left-leaning political foundations to stop funding +972 Magazine, according to a report in the German media Thursday. +972 was able to independently verify the report.

The total contributions from the two foundations, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, comprise only 9 percent of +972’s overall 2018 budget as of September. In the past two years, 40 percent of our budget has come from the support of our readers.

Both foundations have pledged to continue supporting +972 despite the political pressure.

Show your support for +972 Magazine: Make a donation today!

According to Die Tageszeitung, the progressive German newspaper that broke the story, Israel sent a letter to the German government requesting that it “fundamentally rethink” its support for dozens of human rights organizations in Israel.

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The seven-page letter accused the non-governmental organizations of intervening in Israel’s internal affairs and promoting anti-Israel activities. It specifically mentioned +972 Magazine, claiming that the platform goes against Israel’s interests because “the authors regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung described the allegations as absurd. “Unfortunately, we have been seeing for some time that the pressure on NGOs critical of certain policies of the Israeli government is increasing,” a spokesperson for the foundation, associated with the German Green Party, told Die Tageszeitung. “[An attack on a] critical magazine like +972, which reflects Israel’s diversity of opinion, is also an attack on the well-known journalists of Israel.”

Other organizations targeted by the letter, and supported by other German foundations, include Coalition of Women for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and B’Tselem.

The German government would not confirm or deny whether the letter was drafted and sent directly by the Israeli government. Contacted by the paper for comment, though, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs denied sending the letter.

+972 Magazine is an independent publication created and owned by a group of Israeli and Palestinian writers committed to ending the occupation, and advancing democratic values and freedom of information.

The magazine is published by the nonprofit “972 — Advancement of Citizen Journalism.” The nonprofit also publishes the Hebrew-language news site Local Call together with Just Vision.

The current Israeli government has been working to curtail and eliminate critical voices within Israeli society in recent years, particularly those fighting to end the occupation and expose human rights violations against Palestinians and marginalized communities. One of the main tactics for doing so has been to portray anti-occupation and human rights groups as agents implementing the agendas of foreign, anti-Semitic, European governments. Much of those times those campaigns have been carried out such as NGO Monitor and Im Tirzu.

We at +972 Magazine have never believed that the Israeli government was a supporter of our work, and we will continue to conduct fierce, independent journalism determined to end the occupation and advance human rights and democratic values in Israel-Palestine.

Knowing once and for all that the Israeli government would rather we not exist only makes us more determined to carry out that mission.

We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to ensure our work can continue. If you believe in our mission, please make a donation today.

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‘Gender violence pushed Jewish, Palestinian women into a corner — together’

Women across Israel were set to strike to protest the government’s inaction toward gender violence. Samah Salaime, a prominent feminist activist, speaks about building solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian women and why this moment feels so urgent.

Feminist activists paint hundreds of pairs of shoes red to protest gender violence, Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Feminist activists paint hundreds of pairs of shoes red to protest gender violence, Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Tens of thousands of women in Israel were expected to participate in a general strike and demonstrations across the country on Tuesday, protesting the government’s inaction toward gender-based violence, spurred by the recent murders of two teenage girls.

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Over 50 Jewish and Arab feminist organizations, comprising the Red Flag Coalition, declared a national “state of emergency” and organized the protests. Demonstrations are set to take place in dozens of locations around the country, culminating with a large rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday evening. Hundreds of organizations, corporations, and municipalities have declared their support for the protests.

Since the beginning of the year, 24 women have been murdered by a partner, family member, or acquaintance. Many had informed the police prior to their deaths that they were concerned for their safety. According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), 200,000 women in Israel are thought to be victims of domestic abuse, with around half a million children witnessing violence in their homes.

+972 writer Samah Salaime has been one of the central organizers in the struggle against gender violence in Palestinian society inside Israel for years. She spoke to +972 about how the coalition of organizations came together, how it overcame tensions between Jewish and Palestinian feminists, and why this moment feels so urgent.

What was the impetus for the strike?

The strike is happening because of the murder of 24 women this year alone, half of them Arab women. It is happening because the majority of cases of murder of Arab women remain unsolved. It is happening because after the killing of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub in the north and 13-year-old Sylvana Tsegai in Tel Aviv we could no longer remain apathetic. It was time to act.

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The strike began as an act of protest organized by a few female social activists which didn’t stand much of a chance. A coalition of Palestinian and Jewish women’s groups was formed a few months ago, in order to organize a huge protest in front of the Knesset. We had planned to build a three-day protest camp with an art exhibit, performances, and gatherings. Then reality slapped us in the face with the murders of Yara and Sylvana. That’s when we decided to declare a state of emergency across the country.

Why is this happening now?

Israel’s extremist and chauvinistic government has gone too far in ignoring gender-related issues. It has opposed all feminist struggles that stood a chance of succeeding. It declared that it would take positive steps and then did the exact opposite. This government annulled granting of custody to single mothers with infants. It killed a law to establish a committee that would look into the government’s handling of issues related to the murder of women.

Palestinian activist and +972 writer Samah Salaime delivers a speech during the 'Biggest Arabic Lesson in the World' event in Tel Aviv's Habima Square, July 30, 2018. (Edo Konrad)

Palestinian activist and +972 writer Samah Salaime delivers a speech during the ‘Biggest Arabic Lesson in the World’ event in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square, July 30, 2018. (Edo Konrad)

This is the same government that demanded a religious authority be present on committees deciding whether to allow women to have an abortion. It is the same government that supports gender separation and the exclusion of women in the public sphere. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, no less, that the government would freeze an already approved NIS 250 million ($67 million) plan to deal with violence against women. There were Palestinian and Jewish women who were worried about merging struggles, but the harsh reality pushed us into a corner — together.

We are dealing with a government that has a gender violence problem. Not only does it oppress 5 million Palestinians in the occupied territories, it violently and systematically oppresses Jewish and Arab women [on both sides of the Green Line].

What do you hope the strike will do?

We want to raise awareness over the phenomenon of the murder of women in Israeli and Arab society. It sounds naive and banal, but we want people to understand that gender-based crimes have nothing to do with family honor, immigration, culture, or religion. Men murder women because they believe in the supremacy of men over women. Through violence men are able to maintain their power.

We cannot ignore the fact that 50 percent of women who are murdered in Israel are Arab. Israeli authorities are averse to put Arab murderers — of Arab women — on trial, letting them roam free. This goes to show that the life of an Arab woman is worth less than that of a Jewish woman — and Arab women are paying the price. It is a known fact that women in conflict zones, as well as women belonging to minority groups, pay a heavy price for militarism in society.

What does a successful strike look like?

Success means Rabin Square is full to the brim with Arab and Jewish women and men. It means the government declares it will enact a national plan to deal with violence against women. It means holding every single Knesset member who has supported anti-women legislation accountable.

The strike is the culmination of years of feminist activity. But the struggle against violence against women has been taking place for quite some time among Palestinian women inside Israel. How has your struggle influenced the larger movement in the country?

I am leading a dedicated struggle through Na’am, an organization we founded 10 years ago to support Arab women and combat gender violence. Palestinian women have been an integral part of every struggle since the 90s. In the past, Arab men took pride in the murder of women, while the legal system handed out light sentences to murderers for so-called cultural reasons.

Palestinians citizens of Israel Israel participate in a demonstration in the arab town of Ramle on November 26, 2015 against domestic violence and rising number of women getting murdered. (Activestills.org)

Arab politicians participate in a demonstration in the mixed city of Ramle against domestic and gender violence, November 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Today you will not find a single religious or political figure who dare use offensive or chauvinistic language. I think we are slowly raising the bar; Israeli society can no longer ignore Palestinian women activists. We translated our struggle into Hebrew and showed how discrimination and neglect leads to the murder of women. Jewish women want a country that enforces the law. Guess what? So do we.

What was it like for Palestinian and Jewish Israeli women to combine struggles?

I had many concerns about cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians here. I worry that I will pay a heavy price for working with Jewish women, some of whom identify as Zionists, that the movement will be used to present Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East, that our decision to work together will be painful and lead to criticism from both right and left. The pain and political differences are with us everywhere we go, but I hope that the strike will succeed in merging struggles between Israelis and Palestinians and spark a larger protest movement against the violent oppression of the Palestinian people.

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Top court gives Israel even broader powers to use torture

Nearly 20 years after it banned torture, Israel’s High Court is finding new ways to justify using physical force in the interrogation of security suspects.

Israeli activists participate in an action protesting the use of torture, 2011. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli activists participate in an action protesting the use of torture, 2011. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice last week ruled that Israeli authorities’ torture of a Hamas suspect was not illegal and that the Shin Bet interrogators do not need to be prosecuted. The ruling also broadened and effectively removed the strict limitations imposed by a landmark decision by the same court nearly two decades ago, which carved out a “ticking bomb” exception to the prohibition on torture.

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“The ruling shows that in the eyes of the High Court, physical abuse is a legitimate and perhaps even the preferable way of carrying out an interrogation in cases of national security,” said Itamar Mann, a law lecturer at Haifa University.

Shin Bet agents have for decades used torture, including moderate and severe physical and psychological abuse, to extract information from Palestinian suspects. The methods have ranged from violent shaking, beatings, sleep deprivation, long exposure to loud music, exposure to the elements, restraining suspects in painful positions for long periods, and covering suspects’ heads in foul-smelling sacks.

Israel ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1986, but never took the next step of actually outlawing the practice in Israeli law.

In September 1999, however, the High Court unanimously banned the use of physically abusive interrogation tactics. The ruling was widely viewed as a bold prohibition on torture and has been lauded and taught around the world. But in their historic decision, the justices also created a significant loop-hole to the prohibition: in the case of a “ticking bomb,” interrogators could avoid prosecution by invoking a necessity defense.

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Twenty years later, it is clear just how much the Shin Bet has stretched that loophole. “The ruling could be seen an attempt to hide what the Shin Bet is actually doing,” added Mann.

Since 2001, when the Justice Ministry appointed a special investigator of torture allegations against the Shin Bet, PCATI and other organizations submitted over 1,100 complaints of torture. Of those, only one resulted in a criminal investigation, and it was not directly related to an interrogation.

The ruling also expanded the situations and circumstances in which the Shin Bet can use torture.

“The decision allows for the forced interrogation of any person who is tied to an armed wing of a terrorist organization, who has information about an attack that could take place at any given time, and is not willing to give up that information,” Mann said. “This is different from a ticking bomb scenario, thus casting a wide net that covers nearly every person who Israel deems an enemy combatant.”

The plaintiff in last week’s case, Fares Tbeish, a Hamas member, had hoped the court would order the Justice Ministry to reverse its decision not to open a criminal investigation into his interrogators, who he says tortured him.

Tbeish, who is being represented by PCATI and was first arrested and put in administrative detention in 2011, says the tactics Shin Bet interrogators used against him included beatings, violent shaking, humiliation, tying him to a chair in painful positions, and repeatedly moving him from one interrogation facility to another. He was later tried in court and sentenced to three years in prison.

Tbeish allegedly admitted that he had received weapons from a high-ranking Hamas member, which he then transferred over to a secret cache, but it was never established whether Tbeish knew if those weapons would be used in an imminent attack.

As a result of the interrogations, Tbeish said he had suffered bruising to his leg and eye, as well as a broken tooth. Efrat Bergman-Sapir, who heads the legal department at the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and argued the case, says that the use of torture was enough to merit opening a criminal investigation against the defendant’s interrogators, and that the lack of a ticking bomb scenario meant they should not be able to invoke a necessity defense.

In addition to asking the court to prosecute the offending Shin Bet interrogator, Tbeish and PCATI also wanted the court to close the loophole that allows for the use of torture in the first place. The very existence of internal Shin Bet guidelines — regarding the proper ways to extract information from suspects as well as how and when to invoke a necessity defense — actually lay the groundwork for using torture.

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The convention on torture defines the practice as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” In their ruling last week, the justices concluded that the tactics employed against Tbeish did not meet that definition, but were “proportionate and reasonable in relation to the danger that arose from the intelligence.”

“The court’s decision may be interpreted as a significant withdrawal from the moral and legal position established in the landmark decision on torture in 1999,” Bergman-Sapir said in a written statement. “Equally troubling is the impossible threshold set by the court against the complainant to prove that he was tortured in the interrogation room and experienced severe pain and suffering.”

The High Court had the opportunity to restate that torture, or any violation of international law, is unlawful, said attorney Bana Shoughry, who headed PCATI’s legal department between 2008 and 2015 and was involved in Tbeish’s case early on. Instead, it expanded the possible exemptions for Shin Bet interrogators who break the law, not just from prosecution, but even from an investigation. “The decision puts an end to the idea that Shin Bet interrogators will be held accountable for their actions.”

The Shin Bet has primarily used torture against Palestinians suspected of involvement in armed resistance or terrorism. “These kinds of rulings make it easier for the Shin Bet to use these practices against additional groups,” Mann concluded. “They have already been used against radical settlers, and will likely continue to permeate other parts of the legal system, beyond what we can imagine.”

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Investigating The Kerch Strait Incident

On the 25th of November, Ukraine and Russia were involved in one of the most serious confrontations of the almost 5-year long conflict between the two countries. Russian Navy vessels first rammed and then later fired on and captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels, marking the first time Russian-flagged military units had officially attacked those of Ukraine.

Like many events in this conflict, both sides put out conflicting stories of what happened, as well as statements accusing the other of breaching international law. But what can we say for certain happened?

The First Confrontation

The opening act of the clash between the two navies began around 07:00 Russian time. Three Ukrainian Navy vessels – the Gyurza-M-class artillery boats ‘Berdyansk’ and ‘Nikopol’ and the tugboat ‘Yany Kapu’ – sailed towards the Kerch Strait, aiming to transit to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. At around this time, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels including the ‘Don’ and the ‘Izumrud’.

At this point, the clarity of the picture begins to break down. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims that Russian vessels attempted to hail the Ukrainian ships and ask them to turn back, as they were not allowed to transit the Kerch Strait without a Russian navigator on board. The Ukrainians, for their part, claim they were illegally intercepted and had the right to free navigation through the strait.

As to what happened next, we need to analyse several primary sources. The first of these is an alleged communications intercept released by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In it, several groups of Russian naval officers discuss the events which took place. There is no specific timeframe given, and it appears that the intercept is a collection of several recordings between different people forming seven discrete conversations.

Video 1: Intercepted Russian communications from the 25th of November released by the SBU.

From this recording, several key pieces of information can be taken away. The first is that the Russian vessel ‘Don’ rammed the ‘Yany Kapu’ twice. Once at 07:35 at the location (44°56’00″N 36°30’08″E) and a second time at 7:44 at (44°56’06″N 36°30’05″E). The second takeaway is that Russian vessel ‘Izumrud’ was damaged in a collision with another Russian ship.

Another piece of evidence is a video showing the Russian ship ‘Don’ appearing to intentionally ram the Ukrainian tug ‘Yany Kapu’. This footage can be seen below.

Video 2: Footage of Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Don’ ramming the Yani Kapu.

From this footage, several things can be seen. First, the identity of the boat which the video was shot from can be determined from the distinctive off-set 30mm autocannon seen at 0’51” in the footage, which is also present on the preexisting photos of the ‘Don’. Second, the approximate time of day that the video was shot can also be determined. In the footage, it appears to be shortly after sunrise. According to SunCalc, sunrise on the 25th of November in this area was at 7:46. As such, the video must have been shot within around an hour after sunrise the given the relatively low position of the sun in the sky. As well, in the video, a voice (presumably that of the pilot of the ‘Don’) shouts “eight twenty-one (08:21)” immediately after the collision. It is likely this is the time of the collision and appears to converge with the timeframe suggested by the solar position.

This is further backed up by an apparently unnoticed detail in the video. In it, the tug ‘Yani Kapu’ has already sustained damage from at least two individual strikes. This would confirm that it happened after the 07:35 and 07:44 strikes mentioned in the SBU intercept video. Photos of these areas of damage, when compared to a photo of the undamaged ship taken just a day before can be seen below.

Image 1: FSB photo of the undamaged tug ‘Yani Kapu’ on the 24th of November

Image 1: FSB photo of the undamaged tug ‘Yani Kapu’ on the 24th of November

 

Image 2: Damage sustained to the starboard stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 2: Damage sustained to the starboard stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 3: Damage sustained to the starboard midship of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 3: Damage sustained to the starboard midship of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Notably, following this video, the Yani Kapu was struck at least one more time. Video released by Telekanal Zvezda shot an hour or two later in the morning, when the sun was higher in the sky, shows that the tug has sustained additional damage to its port stern, which was not present either in the ramming video or the image taken of the Yani Kapu on the 24th of November.

Image 4: Damage sustained to the port stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (Zvezda video screenshot)

Image 4: Damage sustained to the port stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (Zvezda video screenshot)

Further evidence also backs up information from the SBU intercept. Images released by Kerch.FM show damage sustained by the Russian Coast Guard ship ‘Izumrud’. The location of this damage (high on the starboard midship area) is consistent with a strike from a Russian vessel larger than the smaller Ukrainian boats. As well the long scar along the side of the ship is inconsistent with weapons damage. This fits in with the SBU tape wherein a collision between ‘Izumrud’ and another Russian vessel is discussed.

Image 5: Damage to the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ sustained in a collision with another Russian ship.

Image 5: Damage to the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ sustained in a collision with another Russian ship. (Via Kerch.FM)

 

The Second Confrontation

As the day continued, Russian Coast Guard vessels continued blocking manoeuvres against the three Ukrainian ships. A large cargo vessel was used to physically block the narrow passage under the Kerch Bridge, and a separate group of three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Sea of Azovwas forced to return to their base in Berdyansk.

Little information exists for what transpired over this period, however, the SBU intercept recording suggests that one of the Russian Coast Guard vessels took on a complement of 10 special forces soldiers to assist in later actions.

Image 6: Comparison of the large red ship in Zvezda footage and an image of the bulk carrier 'Aviona'

Image 6: Comparison of the large red ship in Zvezda footage and an image of the bulk carrier ‘Aviona’

The aforementioned Telekanal Zvezda video also contains another piece of useful information. In the first few seconds of the video, a bulk freight ship identified as the ‘Aviona’ can be seen within a few hundred meters from one of the Ukrainian armoured artillery boats. Using ship-tracking website MarineTraffic, we can determine that the ‘Aviona’ was at anchor in the Kerch Strait in effectively the same location for the entirety of November 25. This gives us a new data point for the location of the Ukrainian ships later in the day, much further north than previous positions.

Image 7: Locations of the bulk carrier 'Aviona' on the 25th of November

Image 7: Locations of the bulk carrier ‘Aviona’ on the 25th of November (Source: MarineTraffic)

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which Ukraine and the Russian Federation are parties to, territorial waters extend at most 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. Notably, this additional position near the ‘Aviona’ shows a Ukrainian vessel within not just the territorial waters of Crimea, but also mainland Russia.

It is also worth noting that Ukraine, as well as most Western countries, does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and by extension its territorial sea. Moreover, Ukraine has cited a 2003 agreement with Russia that denotes the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as a shared waterway, allowing free passage.

After 18:00 local time, however, the Ukrainian ships attempted to leave the area, and return to their home port of Odessa. They were, by all accounts pursued, intercepted, fired on, and boarded. Several Ukrainian soldiers were injured and the ships were later captured by Russian Naval forces.

Both sides made attempts to assert that this clash happened either outside of Russian territorial waters (in the case of Ukraine) and inside them (in the case of Russia).

The Russian FSB released a detailed timeline of the events of the day, including a number of geographical positions in which key events occurred. These events are plotted on the map seen below.

 

mage 7: Timeline of the events and key positions according to the FSB.

Image 8: Timeline of the events and key positions according to the FSB.

The Russian FSB makes that point that the initial interception, as well as the warning shots, and finally the shots which hit the ‘Berdyansk’ all took place within the ‘territorial waters of Russia’. This does not align with the location data they themselves released.

Specifically, the most serious incident – the shooting of the ‘Berdyansk’ – took place at 44°51.3’N, 36° 23.4 E  (notated in the official release as Ш=44° 51’3 СШ, Д=36° 23’4 ВД). We know the FSB is using decimal arc-minutes in their notation, rather than arc-minutes and arc-seconds, due to the fact that an earlier location is given as (Ш=44° 53’47 СШ, Д=36° 25’76 ВД) something which would be impossible under a degrees and minutes notation style – specifically the final digits ‘76’.

Image 8: Distance between the location where the ‘Berdyansk’ came under fire according to the FSB, and the coastline of Crimea.

Image 9: Distance between the location where the ‘Berdyansk’ came under fire according to the FSB, and the coastline of Crimea.

As can be seen in the above image, the FSB data, if correct, shows that the ‘Berdyansk’ was 22.72km from the coast of Crimea, and more than 500m outside of Russian territorial waters when it came under fire.

Ukraine for its part provided less detailed information regarding key locations during this period.

Image 9: Ukrainian release showing the locations of the capture of the three ships.

Image 10: Ukrainian release showing the locations of the capture of the three ships.

Unfortunately, while Ukraine asserts that its ships were outside of the 12 nautical mile UNCLOS limit, even if their location data is taken at face value, it is inconclusive. This is due to the fact that they only provided 4-digit locations. Such locations do not pinpoint a single point but rather a rectangle approximately 1.8 km on the N-S axis and 1.3km on the E-W axis. Given this level of imprecision, the positions could be potentially within, or outside of the 12 nautical mile limit. Ukraine likely does has access to more precise location data, and could make this public if it wishes to add clarity.

Additionally, an alleged mayday call released by Ukrainian publication Liga Novosti from one of the three Ukrainian vessels includes the audio “How many wounded do you have? I need help! I need help! Mayday! Mayday!” followed by the coordinates N 44° 51’ 00’’, E 36° 23’ 04’’. This location is southwest of the position Russia claims it fired on the ‘Berdyansk’, and is also outside of the 12 nautical mile limit, and thus in international waters.

As for the details of the confrontation itself, we again fall back on statements by both Ukraine and Russia, in lieu of primary sources. Interestingly, neither country’s statements contradict the other aside from their positions relative to the territorial waters line. Both sides claim that Russian forces shot at and crippled the ‘Berdyansk’, capturing it and the tug Yani Kapu shortly after. Initially, the Ukrainian military claimed that both the ‘Berdyansk’ and the ‘Nikopol’ ships had been damaged, before clarifying at 23:20 (Russian time) that only the ‘Berdyansk’ was hit.

Image 10: Damage to the Ukrainian Navy ship ‘Berdyansk’

Image 11: Damage to the Ukrainian Navy ship ‘Berdyansk’

Photos of the Ukrainian ships in port in Kerch post-capture show many small calibre bullet holes in the ‘Berdyansk’ as well as at least one large calibre hole in its bridge. This larger hit especially confirms that Russian forces were not shooting to disable the vessel, but rather to harm the crew. The FSB release itself notes that the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ issued threats to the ‘Berdyansk’ that “weapons to kill” would be used if the vessel did not comply with its request to stop.

Image 12: Interactive map showing key positions and events from the 25th of November

Summary:

From this information, several things are made clear. Firstly, based on geolocated video footage, Ukrainian ships did enter Russian territorial waters, both that of Crimea and mainland Russia in the Kerch Strait. Ukraine nonetheless argues this was legally permissible due to the 2003 agreement between the two countries. Secondly, we can say that the Ukrainian tug ‘Yani Kapu’ was intentionally rammed at least four times over a period of at least an hour. Thirdly, based on information provided by the Russian FSB which appears to incriminate themselves, the shooting of the ‘Berdyansk’ most likely took place in international waters.

The post Investigating The Kerch Strait Incident appeared first on bellingcat.

CNN Caves to Anti-Palestinian Smear Campaign

CNN fired commentator Marc Lamont Hill for calling for a free Palestine, after some claimed he meant the destruction of Israel. But his statement is no more a call for the destruction of Israel than the end of Jim Crow was the destruction of America.

By Omar Baddar

Marc Lamont Hill participates in a CNN panel, August 29, 2014. (Screenshot/CNN)

Marc Lamont Hill participates in a CNN panel, August 29, 2014. (Screenshot/CNN)

“All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.” These were the shocking words of former Senator Rick Santorum in 2012, denying the existence of Palestinians, and endorsing Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. Santorum was subsequently hired by CNN as a paid contributor.

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By contrast, prominent commentator and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was just fired by CNN for delivering a speech at the UN in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and closing that speech by urging international action “that will give us what justice requires, and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Could the double-standard be any more glaring?

The backlash to Hill’s comments was instant, reaching the level of deranged hysteria in the case of Washington Examiner executive editor Seth Mandel, who absurdly claimed that Hill was calling for a “Jewish genocide.” Fox News host Ben Shapiro displayed some shameless hypocrisy in expressing outrage at what he deemed an anti-Semitic speech, despite Shapiro himself explicitly calling on Israel to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians (something Hill never even came close to). The right-wing online hysteria proved too much for CNN to bear, so they dropped Hill within hours.

Before getting into the grave consequences of CNN’s decision, it’s important to understand Hill’s comment. Since no honest person could derive anti-Semitism or genocide from a “free Palestine,” I won’t dignify those accusations with a rebuttal. I would simply note that those smears are deliberate attempts to mislead people away from the reality of the injustice Palestinians live today, because this is a debate that opponents of Palestinian rights can no longer win on merits. But because an honest person could read an “anti-Israel” position in Hill’s comment, given that modern Israel is within the “river to the sea” area he refers to, that much is worth addressing.

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Israel was created in 1948 on 78 percent of historic Palestine, at the expense of over 700,000 Palestinians who were driven from their homes, and hundreds of Palestinian villages that were destroyed. Later in 1967, Israel captured the remaining 22 percent of Palestine, and the UN called on Israel to end the occupation of those territories.

Having long fought to restore their entire historic homeland, the Palestinians made a major compromise in the late 1980s, recognizing Israel on 78 percent of the land, as accepted by the UN, and settling for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. The world rejoiced as the elusive two-state solution finally seemed inevitable.

Except there was one problem: instead of ending the occupation, Israel kept building illegal settlements on Palestinian lands. Today, nearly 750,000 settlers live in the occupied territories, and some of the settlements are major cities. The extent of Israel’s colonization of the Palestinian territories, in violation of international law and to the condemnation of the whole world, made a viable Palestinian state practically impossible. In other words, Israel used force to kill the two-state solution, and guarantee a one-state outcome.

As Israel’s rejection of the Palestinian compromise leaves us with a one-state reality between the river and the sea, the question we confront today is: what kind of one-state should this be? Should it be one where everyone is treated equally or not?

In the one-state reality that exists today, the Israeli government is the primary authority in charge. Jewish citizens of Israel live in a liberal democracy, while Palestinians are divided into many groups: citizens of Israel with partial rights, occupied people in the West Bank and Jerusalem with hardly any rights, and prisoners in Gaza with no rights. Put more bluntly, Palestinians live under Israeli apartheid.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes Palestinian independence or statehood, is further entrenching this one-state apartheid. What people like Marc Lamont Hill object to isn’t the one-state reality that Israel imposed on the land, but the discriminatory nature of that state.

It is true, of course, that a single state with equal rights for all would no longer be a Jewish state. But this is no more a destruction of Israel, as some claim, than the end of Jim Crow segregation in the United States was the destruction of America. We’re not talking about destruction, but simply a transformation of the kind of state we have — and that’s precisely what Hill’s comments referred to.

To oppose Hill’s vision of freedom and equality without simultaneously opposing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is effectively an endorsement of apartheid. And what is disturbing is that we live in a political moment where endorsing that apartheid is considered normal in our public discourse, while promoting full equality is considered a taboo deserving of panic, shunning and even firing.

The damage wasn’t just done to Hill’s reputation and career — it goes far beyond that. CNN’s decision to fire Hill chills freedom of thought. It contributes to an already suffocating environment in which commentators avoid speaking honestly about Israel’s abuse of Palestinians because it is so frequently punished in a variety of ways. Suppression of advocacy for Palestinian rights in the United States goes back decades, and the current iteration of this suppression campaign isn’t just about career consequences — there are efforts underway to formalize punishments for Palestine advocacy.

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While boycotts are protected political expression under the First Amendment, Congress is considering a bill to criminalize boycotts of Israel in America. There are also efforts to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel, a transparent attempt to chill campus activism on Palestine. Thankfully, civil rights groups, including the ACLU, are fighting back against both measures, but the battle to speak freely about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains potentially the biggest free speech challenge of our generation.

The United States enables Israel’s oppression of Palestinians by the endless billions of dollars it gives to Israel in military aid, and the unconditional diplomatic cover it offers at the United Nations. We in the United States have a moral responsibility to speak out against this injustice. Defenders of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians scored a point by smearing their way into getting Hill fired from CNN. But it doesn’t end here, because there is a growing movement that will defy these intimidation tactics, and will continue speaking truth to power.

Omar Baddar is the Deputy Director of the Washington-based Arab American Institute. He is a political analyst specializing in US-Middle East policy, with a particular emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The post CNN Caves to Anti-Palestinian Smear Campaign appeared first on +972 Magazine.

In the age of Trump and Netanyahu, progressive values are winning

The victories of progressive candidates in U.S. midterms and Israel’s municipal elections prove that it’s possible to overturn national far-right policies.

By Bar Gissin and Maya Haber

The Women's March on Philadelphia, January 20, 2018. (Rob Kall/CC BY 2.0)

The Women’s March on Philadelphia, January 20, 2018. (Rob Kall/CC BY 2.0)

Something remarkable happened in the last few weeks: progressive candidates won elections in Israel and the United States, despite the rise of far-right, anti-democratic politics in both countries.

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This might come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t be. Many Jewish Israelis support ending the occupation, women’s right to pray at the Wailing Wall, and LGBTQ’s right to get married and adopt children. Similarly, most Americans approve of labor unions, support same-sex marriage, want stricter gun control, and oppose illegalizing abortions.

So why do the policies of the Israeli and American governments fail to reflect voter demands?

The reason is simple: President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu use fear to channel voter anxieties. Just look at how Trump repeatedly labels refugees as criminals and belittles their claims of persecution to mobilize the Republican base. Similarly, for the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been stoking existential fears, warning of attacks by Iran and Hamas in Gaza. Countering this hate has trapped liberals and progressives in a defensive, apprehensive posture, leaving little space to push a proactive agenda forward.

However, the progressive campaigns in recent Israeli municipal elections and American midterms provide a promising off-ramp. Progressives in each country enlisted volunteers and built local grassroots campaigns that proved stronger than fear and hatred. Activists in both countries knocked on doors, spread their agenda, and dispelled red-baiting from conservative candidates.

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In Pittsburgh, Pa., for example, the Republican opponent of state senator-elect Lindsey Williams desperately turned to Cold War-style red-baiting and tried to label Williams as a socialist. Such farcical tactics fell flat, as Williams’ canvassers directly appealed to voters’ support for workers’ rights and Medicare for All. Progressives scored victories across the U.S. with similar appeals, electing democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Julia Salazar, Franklin Bynum and Rashida Tlaib to Congress.

In Israel’s recent municipal elections, progressives won even in the most unlikely communities. In October, the Left-leaning Meretz-Mekomi party became the largest party in Rosh Ha’Ayin. The Mekomi-Local Leadership movement was established two years ago to form a network of local elected officials and promote progressive values in municipalities. In Rosh Ha’Ayin, it collaborated with the left-wing Meretz party and ran as Meretz-Mekomi.

Rosh Ha’Ayin is a suburb of some 50,000 inhabitants, 15 miles east of Tel Aviv. The population is mostly conservative and religious, and tends to vote for center-right candidates. In the 2015 national election, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party overwhelmingly won the elections there. At the time, only 576 Rosh Ha’Ayin residents voted for Meretz. In 2018, however, Meretz-Mekomi received 4,872 votes — a nearly tenfold increase that led to three seats on the Rosh Ha’Ayin city council.

Meretz-Mekomi did not to make itself electorally palatable by pandering to conservative voters. Instead, they articulated a clear progressive agenda. Meretz-Mekomi utilized local focus groups to write its platform, and advanced a diverse and equal pool of candidates. They campaigned on equal allocation of resources, religious pluralism, fair and affordable education, accessible public transportation and open businesses on Shabbat, among other progressive issues.

Members of the LGBTQ community and supporters participate in a protest in Tel Aviv against a Knesset bill amendment denying surrogacy for same-sex couples, on November 1, 2018, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Members of the LGBTQ community and supporters participate in a protest in Tel Aviv against a Knesset bill amendment denying surrogacy for same-sex couples, on November 1, 2018, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meretz-Mekomi won in Rosh Ha’Ayin because it carried out a year-long grassroots campaign. This was quite unprecedented in Israel because few campaigns, even on the national level, take longer than three months. Meretz-Mekomi in Rosh Ha’Ayin bucked this norm by taking a year to identify and listen to voters, knock on doors, and organize get-to-know-the-candidate events. In addition to Rosh Ha’Ayin, Mekomi leaders did this in eight other municipalities.

Mekomi’s experience in municipal elections in Israel and recent progressive wins in the U.S. midterms prove that the future is not lost. Voters are receptive to progressive agendas, even if they don’t identify as such. If we learn from the local experience, and propose bold, authentic, progressive platforms that stand on their own, rather than as a reaction to right-wing fear-mongering, we can reproduce these victories on the national level, and change the political reality both in Israel and the United States.

Bar Gissin is the national chairperson of Young Meretz and leader of the Mekomi-Local Leadership movement. Dr. Maya Haber is the founder of Israel Forward, a nonprofit consultancy.

The post In the age of Trump and Netanyahu, progressive values are winning appeared first on +972 Magazine.

Palestinian activist sent to prison for ‎riding a bike in his village

An Israeli military court sentenced Abdullah Abu Rahma, a recognized human rights defender, to 110 days in prison for riding a bicycle during a protest against the occupation two years ago.

Abdullah Abu Rahmah being arrested by Border Police in Bil'in, May 13, 2016

Abdullah Abu Rahma being arrested by Border Police in Bil’in, May 13, 2016

An Israeli military court sentenced renowned Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma to four months in prison on Wednesday, for two charges stemming from a bicycle race to mark Nakba Day in 2016.

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Abu Rahma, one of the most well-known leaders of the popular struggle against the separation wall, was convicted several weeks ago of violating a closed military zone order and obstructing a soldier during a race in May 2016 in Bil’in, where he is from. Hundreds of Palestinian and international cyclists participated in the so-called “return ride,” which kicked off in Ramallah and ended in the West Bank village.

Israeli security forces raided the village before the race even began, however. Abu Rahma was arrested while trying to explain to the soldiers that they were on his land. He was thrown to the ground, arrested, and held in detention for 11 days.

Nearly all forms of protest are illegal for Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israeli Military Judge Maj. Haim Baliti agreed to let Abu Rahma begin serving his sentence in mid-December, so as to give the defense time to appeal both the sentence and conviction.

Baliti also applied part of a suspended sentence from another, earlier conviction for participating in another protest a year earlier. The suspended sentence was triggered by the current conviction. Abu Rahma will serve a total of 110 days in an Israeli military prison.

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“Abdullah is a human rights defender,” said Gaby Lasky, his attorney following the sentencing. “He nonviolently opposes the occupation — that’s what makes him such an important target. As long as he is in prison, he cannot be out in the field.”

“These punishments for ongoing nonviolent resistance indicates that the military court is not a court of justice; its sole purpose is to maintain the occupation and to prevent any resistance to it,” added Lasky.

Abdullah Abu Rahme seen in Ofer Military Court, November 14, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahma and his attorney, Gaby Lasky, seen in Ofer Military Court for his sentencing hearing, November 14, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abu Rahma, who in 2010 was recognized as a “human rights defender” dedicated to nonviolence, is one of the most prominent leaders in the struggle against the wall, and helped head the popular protests in Bil’in starting in 2005.

He has spent over a year in prison for his role in Bil’in’s protests, and is currently facing another set of charges for allegedly damaging the gate of the separation barrier in his home village.

In 2010, +972 Magazine named Abu Rahma its “person of the year” for his role in Bil’in’s “well-organized, non-violent grassroots opposition movement – one that brings together Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters in a joint struggle.”

“I feel angry and sad about the decision,” Abu Rahma said at the end of the hearing. “This is not a real court — it is a political court. I will pay the price, but this punishment will encourage me to continue supporting the people wherever they may be — that is my duty as a Palestinian, until the occupation is gone and gain independence.”

The post Palestinian activist sent to prison for ‎riding a bike in his village appeared first on +972 Magazine.

Debunking Maps of Alleged “Islamic No Go Zones” in London

racists care nothing about the truth and will not back down from lies.

Various right-of-centre political commenters have, at different times, alluded to the existence of so-called “Islamic no go zones” in Western Europe. Generally, these are defined broadly and variously areas where the local authorities do not have effective police presence, a majority of the local population is Muslim, and “Sharia law” is in effect. Some commenters go as far to state that white people and/or non-Muslims are physically excluded, that there are borders and barriers, or else that Sharia patrols enforce them.

A wide variety of social media accounts and alt-right websites have alleged the existence of such zones in London. The author of this post devotes considerable effort to debunking such theories, as nearly every Londoner finds the very concept absurd. Numerous maps and articles have been posted, alleged to be “proof” or “evidence” of the existence of these so-called “Islamic no go zones.” This post is meant to serve as a resource debunking of such fake “evidence.”

Example 1: Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Waltham Forest

This particular map implies that three London Boroughs are actually no go zones and has been sent to me several times. Looking at published demographic statistics from government sources, the combined population of these boroughs is approximately 932,000 people. These are, indeed, some of the most heavily Muslim areas of the country. However, the combined three boroughs are approximately 30% Muslim. 70% of the shaded area is non-Muslim. Every major religion is present in these three boroughs, with literally hundreds of churches and a number of synagogues easily found through a simple Google search. How this area can be “Muslim only” when hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims live there and hundreds of thousands more commute to work in these areas is not explained. These figures, meanwhile, are approximate, given that the last census was in 2011.

All three boroughs have numerous outlets to sell alcohol, both for on premises and off premises consumption. For example, one can apply here for a licence to sell alcohol in Waltham Forest. The borough of Newham contains one of the largest shopping malls in London, an international airport, and was the site of numerous Olympic venues. The borough of Tower Hamlets contains the Tower of London (hence its name), visited by millions, and a very large banking district (Canary Wharf) which engages in non-Islamic finance (some financial institutions in Canary Wharf have branches or divisions that provide financial products compliant with Islamic finance practices in addition to their normal lines of business).

A brief internet search indicates that the above map actually comes from a far-right blog site called “British Nationalist.” It was posted in 2011.

(All of the links to odd far right sites in this post have been done through donotlink.it so as not to improve their position on search engine results)

Example 2: Tower Hamlets City of London Notice

In early 2018, I was send this notice by three correspondents, claiming that it was an official police notice. This notice purports to notify people that, as of 29th June 2013, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is a no go zone and that people will be arrested for entering it.

First of all, the tagline “Islam is for Cretins” should be an indicator that this is not a public document. More to the point, this fake notice relies on fundamental ignorance about policing in London. Many people outside of London do not realise that London has several police forces. The City of London Police is not the same thing as the London Metropolitan Police. The City of London Police only serve as the police in the one square mile region of The City of London, which is only a small part of greater London. The rest of London, including the area covered in this map, is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police. Whoever made this flier did not even grasp this basic fact.

An interesting fact about this map is that it includes the entire Canary Wharf region, which is a very large financial district, as pictured below. (Photo courtesy R. Kaszeta)

A bit of internet research yields the interesting fact that this flier seems to have been circulated by a right-wing blog called “Gates of Vienna” (link) which in turn claims to have got it from someone’s Facebook page.

Example 3: The Acid Attack Map

This map was originally published in the UK tabloid “The Sun” in December 2017 (here). The actual article, by Hugo Gye, talked about some moped delivery drivers having areas they preferred not to deliver to. However, this map has been taken out of context by many commentators who insist on misinterpreting it as picturing “Islamic no go zones.” For example, a right-wing blog called “Creeping Sharia” spread the map and used it imply that these areas of the city are somehow no go zones.

What we see here is a combination of two interesting trends. One is the conflation of caustic liquid attacks, erroneously called “acid attacks” (many attackers use caustic substances that are not, in fact, acids), with Islam. The BBC analysed the statistics on such attacks in a useful article. The majority of perpetrators are either white Europeans or of African/Caribbean descent. South Asians, a demographic category which includes many Muslims, are three times as likely to be the victims as opposed to perpetrators of “acid attacks”.” There’s no evidence tying this form of violence to sectarianism.

The other trend we have to understand is that ANYTHING labeled a “no go zone” will be appropriated by bigots, trolls, and misguided people for their own purposes.

Like the other maps, there is a level of absurdity to the claims that these areas are no go zones. Although this map does not define the catchment areas terribly well, a total of about a million people live in them. Many more commute there for work. One can look at the entry and exit statistics of Transport for London underground stations in the alleged no go zones depicted on the map. At Angel tube station, in the alleged no go zone of Islington, there were approximately 19,200,000 entries and exits from the tube station in 2017. The Camden Town tube station, clearly listed on the map as a “no go zone” had 22,510,000 entries and exits. Quite a bit of coming and going for alleged no go zones.

For live debunking of no go zones, the tfljamcams.net has live traffic cameras in every one of the alleged no go zones. You can see, any time of day or night, what really happens in these alleged no go zones — i.e. many different people, who are all going about their business.

The actual article in the Sun only focuses on a handful of moped delivery drivers. The words Islam and Muslim are not included in the article. Upon being contacted on Twitter, the author clearly explained that the article was not meant to indicate that these were Islamic no go zones for the general public.

Example 4: The Victoria Exclusion Zone

This is an interesting example. It claims to be from a news agency called “Juno News,” which turns out to be a strange blog as opposed to a news source. In fact, this map originally illustrated a local, temporary police measure against street begging, as reported in December 2013 by the Daily Mail. Instead of some no go zone, it was an area where a police officer had the temporary authority to ask someone begging on the street to move out of the zone.

One thing to note with this particular map is that “Victoria” is misspelled, both when it comes to Victoria Street and Victoria Station. Another thing to note, for those who have never been to London, is that Victoria Station is absurdly busy and is the main entry point in London for arrivals from Gatwick Airport. According to UK government statistics for the financial year 2016-2017, there were nearly 76 million entries and exits to the train platforms in Victoria Station. This does not even account the thousands of people who go through the station for other reasons, such as to go to the bus stops or tothe adjacent underground station.

Example 5: Westminster “No Go Zones”

Finally, this map has been provided as an example of no go zones in the City of Westminster. It is actually a depiction of temporary exclusion areas immediately following the Westminster Bridge attack, where police investigations were ongoing. It is taken from a Daily Mail article in March 2017. These police advisories were lifted very quickly. None of these areas are exclusion areas. Several of these areas can be observed using live traffic camera footage, as explained above.

Overall Conclusions

When one delves beyond the realm of maps and dives into social media, there are clearly many other examples of claims of “no go zones” in London.Perhaps a future post can delve into these if there are sufficient interest. These examples cited above broadly cover the majority of the claims. Indeed, claims based on these maps are generally more detailed than many claims on Twitter, which often use vague terms like “East London” or absurd terms like “Eastern London” (nobody in London uses this term) or “Londonistan.”

Several general trends emerge upon examination. While some claims are fabricated entirely out of whole cloth, others take actual events and either draw odd conclusions or twist them out of proportion. The fact that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had a Muslim mayor for some years led to odd claims that the area was under Sharia law, deliberately muddling the religion of the mayor with the legal framework of governance. The election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of Greater London has furthered such claims.

In addition, isolated examples have been taken out of context and purported to be representative of widespread circumstances. For example, three extremists formed an unsanctioned “Sharia patrol” and harrassed people in Bethnal Green, Stepney, and Shoreditch (all areas in East London). These individuals were arrested, tried, and jailed. In another incident, the so-called “Ginger Jihadi” was jailed for similar conduct. Videos of both are routinely circulated as evidence.

The best way to debunk the “no go zone” phenomenon is to go to these areas and either observe or engage in conduct that is obviously not in accordance with strict application of Sharia laws. This author’s own efforts in this area have been well noted in the last year, as shown by this example and this one.

The post Debunking Maps of Alleged “Islamic No Go Zones” in London appeared first on bellingcat.

The rise of the global far-right could energize the anti-occupation movement

Shameful and inevitable?

The warm relations between Israel and a new crop of anti-democratic leaders are tragic, but they also expose the true nature of Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians.

By Eli Bitan

Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolansaro. (Beto Oliveira/CC BY 3.0)

Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolansaro. (Beto Oliveira/CC BY 3.0)

Only hours after Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil last Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to phone the extreme-right candidate. Netanyahu accepted Bolsonaro’s invitation to Brazil, inviting the president-elect to Jerusalem,, after the latter declared his intention to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.

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Bolsonaro is a vulgar and violent man. His aggressive remarks leave no doubt regarding the kind of policies he plans on enacting. He also wholeheartedly supports Israel and its actions, which is hardly a surprise. With Trump, Orban, Modi, Duterte and others, it has become self-evident that far-right leaders will immediately side with Israel, to which the Jewish state responds with a reciprocal warm embrace. There are few who are still embarrassed by this show, but in Israel, Netanyahu has been able to celebrate these victories as if he himself were kingmaker.

The more Israel becomes excited by these leaders, seemingly vestiges of centuries passed, who were elected with the help of Vladimir Putin, the more they feel it necessary to ignore Palestinian suffering and pledge support for continued occupation. The more right-wing commentators spout the main argument of the Right today, the more their opponents understand the extent to which the Israeli government and the occupation need both racism and regressive ideas to exist.

The congruence between the violence and the hate that these officials spread, and their complete, unquestioned support for Israel is astounding. It is doubtful whether there is anything that proves the irrelevance of all kinds of “liberal” justifications for the settlement enterprise and the occupations quite like the support of right-wing authoritarians. The world now sees who vouches for Israel — the only thing left to do is draw a line in the sand.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi get their feet wet at Olga Beach, just 60 miles north of the Gaza Strip. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seen at Olga Beach, 60 miles north of the Gaza Strip. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And yet the Foreign Ministry, the hasbara industry, the Jewish Agency, Birthright — they are all busy figuring out how to market this package. Netanyahu, of course, heads this industry, and each appearance on the world stage proves what his rivals have always claimed about him. Yet the occupation has long ago become Israel’s official policy.

This much is clear to all those who oppose this new wave of elected official, and it is good news for Palestinians and activists who for decades have tried to convince Western leaders that the occupation and the settlements are littler more than theft and dispossession. That there is no connection between the occupation and the Holocaust or Israel’s security. Now it is clear that Israel is acting only to entrench military rule in the occupied territories, that this is the only obstacle to peace and to the end of the conflict. Today dissidents of all stripes are learning this truth, ironically thanks to Israeli funding.

There are people in Israel who believe that before Trump, the United States opposed the occupation. Those who know the details are aware that this is a joke. Trump is not a much bigger supporter of the occupation than Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, and the same goes for the rest of the leaders of the West. Some of them may have supported peace negotiations, while others have not, but backing for Israel’s policies was and remains near total. Israel has always enjoyed being part of the family of nations, economically, politically, or even morally.

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Israel’s decision to peg its foreign policy to far-right authoritarians is a poor one, characterizing the paranoid and anxiety-driven era of Benjamin Netanyahu. But it is not the entire story: Trump, Orban, Modi, Duterte, and now Bolsonaro have happily jumped on the bandwagon. They are taking advantage of Israel’s liberal credit around the world in order to bolster themselves. In effect, they end up undercutting that very liberal credit.

The fact that these people are being elected is terrifying, both for their citizens as well as for the world. The same goes for the fact that they choose to support Israeli policies, and that Israel chooses to praise them and offer its support in return. But the Bolsonaros of the world have also left us with a worthy mission. On the day they are tossed into the dustbin of history, the struggle against the occupation, for the end of the conflict, and for peace, can find itself stronger and more stable, with many new partners who for years have gone along with Israel’s every whim.

Opponents of the occupation must now pick up the leftovers. There is no doubt that they must also contend with the new regimes, as awful as they may be, just as they must contend with Israel, the IDF, the Civil Administration, the courts, and the police. But the new leaders have also provided us with a huge liberal camp with which we must form alliances. We must teach it about what is happening on the other side of the Green Line, and then we must fight together.

Eli Bitan is a blogger for Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

The post The rise of the global far-right could energize the anti-occupation movement appeared first on +972 Magazine.