The newspaper had plenty to say about Israeli Jewish life, however: two lengthy stories about prayer space at the Western Wall and one discussing Zionism. Each of these stories ran over a thousand words.
Two shorter news articles reported that the murderers of a Palestinian teen had been sentenced to prison and that a knife attack left one Israeli police officer dead, but nothing in either of these provided the context crucial to understanding events in the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, as the Times obsesses over Israeli identity and attitudes, the occupation grinds on, producing news that appears elsewhere. At the top of the list were two major stories: A Palestinian prisoner was near death after passing his 75th day on hunger strike, and Israeli forces carried out a massive demolition of over 20 homes, rendering more than 100 Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter.
The ordeal of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a journalist held without trial since Nov. 21 of last year, drew the attention of Israeli and international media outlets, which recounted his legal appeals, protests on his behalf and an Israeli Supreme Court decision which “froze” his detention but confined him to a hospital. (Al-Qeeq refused the offer and continued his fast.)
Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike was deemed unfit to print in the Times, perhaps because it would touch on Israel’s use of administrative detention, which holds prisoners without trial. Readers are not to know that as of last December 660 Palestinians were held in this limbo, nor were they to be informed that a number of human rights groups have protested Israel’s unsavory use of the practice.
And then there is the matter of two impoverished villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet Al-Halawah, which were made even more destitute after Israeli army crews arrived last Tuesday and demolished 22 structures, displacing 110 people, including dozens of minors. The army also confiscated solar panels, which, like many of the homes, had been donated by aid organizations.
The military claimed that it destroyed Jenbah and Al-Halawah because they were located in a declared firing zone. The Israeli publication 972 Magazine, however, noted that “Jewish settlements within [the zone] have not been served with eviction orders.”
This was the largest mass demolition in a decade, and the plan to destroy villages within the firing zone has drawn international attention and a petition from world-renowned authors to spare the communities. None of this, however, was enough to draw the interest of the Times.
Instead, the Times considered it more urgent to examine the effects of a new prayer space at the Western Wall—not once, but twice—and to take a look at Zionism today. Villagers thrown out in the cold of winter and a prisoner on the brink of death took a back seat to these concerns.
The Times claims that it gives readers “the complete, unvarnished truth as best as we can learn it,” and it insists that the newspaper’s overriding goal is to “cover the news as impartially as possible.” Readers who never stray to other sources of information may actually believe this.
Has anyone seen Gaza lately? A Palestinian I met the other day told he was from Gaza, he told me about his eighty year old mother living in horrid conditions there, so I decided to look through the newspapers, surf the news online and run through TV channels, local, international and I even looked at news from the Middle East, but all was in vain. I can’t find Gaza, not a single word, not a bit of news anywhere. I know it was there at one time, so I desperately decided to look through old notes, vintage news clips old videos and clearly there are signs that it was there at one time, but now I can find no sign of its existence. Once again, in a magic trick of epic proportions Israel made Gaza disappear.
As I write these words, I sit in front of my computer screen scratching my head. How did it disappear? Where did Gaza go? Almost two million people vanished into thin air. Now I suppose there is no need to worry about the tens of thousands of people injured in Israeli attacks and then forsaken with no care. We can all conveniently forget about the countless children traumatized by the constant humming of drones and the terror of missiles destroying homes and killing family members. We can stop worrying whether or not there are sufficient supplies of medicine reaching the besieged people or if there is any electricity to keep people warm and maintain hospitals. We can rest assured that there are no more babies born prematurely who are likely to die due to lack of proper postnatal care.
When Gaza was there it was really quite terrible. There were people there with no access to clean water, there was food insecurity and thousands were homeless because Israel destroyed their homes. What made it even worse is that five minutes from where Gaza used to be, Israelis were living perfectly secure, with plenty of food and water, no shortage of electricity, warmth in the winter and cooling in the hot summers. Hospitals were functioning and medicine was available for anyone who required help. But the people in Gaza had no access to any of this because Israel did not allow them out of what used to be a huge concentration camp. With few exceptions, Israel also didn’t permit people who wanted to go to Gaza to help, to do so, Israel didn’t allow food, water or medicine in and when the people in Gaza dug tunnels in order to smuggle food and other necessities, these tunnels were destroyed by Israel’s great ally, President/Generalisimo Abdel Fatah Sisi of Egypt.
Before Gaza disappeared there would be occasional rocket fire from Gaza and attempts by Palestinians to fight off the Israeli military. The rockets were called “Qassam” rockets and the fighters were called terrorists. Even though there were cases in other parts of the world where people who fought for their freedom were called heroes, this never happened in Gaza. Young fighters in Gaza who sacrificed everything and died attempting to fight the Israeli war machine were never called heroes, because, and one can only guess because Gaza is no longer there to verify, but one assumes it is because in this world in which we live, Palestinians are not permitted to be heroes. No, Palestinians are only accepted as victims or as terrorists. Heroism is not permitted for the people who used to exist in what used to be Gaza.
The gentleman I met the other day who said he was from Gaza described a story that was heart wrenching, but since it cannot be verified I have to doubt its validity. It cannot be possible that such horror, such suffering exists only minutes from Israeli towns and cities, and barely an hour drive from Tel-Aviv and no one would report it, not a single news outlet would pick it up. It is inconceivable that almost two million people would be caged in like animals, living in conditions that can only be described as inhumane – and the world would be completely silent. After all the enlightened Western civilization, the developed world, the major countries of the world wouldn’t just sit there and say nothing, do nothing and allow this to continue. After all, we are not talking about some remote hilltop in Afghanistan or some unheard of village in Kurdistan or Iran we are talking about Israel. Yes, Israel, an ally of the US, a country hailed by the UK, France, Germany as the only democracy in the Middle East.
Had Gaza and the nearly two million people who used to live in it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared, someone would have demanded that Israel, the recipient of billions of dollars in foreign aid would use that money to provide relief to the people in Gaza. That it would use these billions of dollars to build homes for the homeless, provide food for the hungry, medicine and medical care for the sick and injured and provide comfort for the hundreds of thousands of traumatized children who have been emotionally scarred because of the brutality of Israeli terrorism. The world would demand that those within Israel who were responsible for the terrible crimes committed by the Israeli army in Gaza be brought to justice, pay for their crimes agains innocents.
Israel had used magic tricks to fool the world before, but this time it really outdid itself. Does anyone remember the Iran smoke screen? The nuclear threat that never was? The existential threat that never existed? Yes, these were all quite amazing and very effective. They fooled millions of people the world over. But to make Gaza disappear is an even grater achievement. Its more complex than the “self-defense” trick where Israel bombed Gaza and murdered thousands of people who never hurt a soul, and then convinced the world that murdering people in Gaza was an act of self-defense.
I think of this gentleman from Gaza, Mohammad is his name, I’m amazed. He is a highly educated, successful man, he has seven children and he works hard to provide them with an education. One of his daughters is a heart surgeon. He came up to me after a recent lecture in Huntsville, Alabama and I was moved by his story. He even bought a copy of my book, and as he leafed through it and saw the photo of the Palestinian hero Abu Ali Shahin he told me that Abu Ali was his uncle from his mother’s side. His mother’s family came from the village of Besshit, the same village, now destroyed by Israel, from where Abu Ali Shahin told me that he came. So I am puzzled. Mohammad told me a story that was real, painful. He told me he can’t visit his mother, nor can he send her the medicine she needs but cannot find in Gaza. So is it possible that Gaza didn’t disappear? Could it be that it is still there and no one talks about it?
Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on Sunday that he will be discussing possible legal action against Arab members of the Knesset with the attorney general after they visited the families of Palestinians killed by Israel to discuss the release of their bodies for burial. The Israeli prime minister described the MKs as “terrorism advocates” whom he wishes to have removed from parliament.
“Members of the Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset,” Netanyahu said on Thursday. “I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them.” On Sunday, he submitted a formal complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee against Arab Joint List MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoubi and Basil Ghattas, all members of the Balad bloc.
Also on Thursday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, “It is inconceivable that at a time when innocent citizens are being slaughtered on the streets of Israel, these MKs go to console the families of the murderers and with unbelievable insolence dare to bring the families’ demands to the government.” He pointed out that his call for Israelis to lodge complaints against the MKs was met with a broad response; 200 have been received.
The MKs in question responded forcefully to the criticism: “As soon as Netanyahu understood that there was no legal or criminal offence involved in our meeting, he tried to turn the empty hype into a political gain for himself by submitting a draft bill to remove the Arab minority’s political representatives.” The prime minister, they added, knows very well that the meeting was intended to discuss the release of the bodies.
A cleaning service in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv faces criticism for its pricing scheme that varies based on the ethnicity of the housekeepers.
In what has been described as “blatant racism,” the flyers circulating in an affluent neighborhood offers a “solution” to hiring “illegal foreign workers,” for those who don’t want to hire an “Arab cleaner for security reasons”.
“Are you tired of hiring illegal foreign workers and getting fined? Are you tired of employing according to the law and being sued by temporary workers? There is a solution,” the ad reads.
The flyers offer “legal only” cleaners and lists the different prices.
Africans are the cheapest at $12.60 per hour, followed by eastern Europeans and eastern Europeans with Israeli citizenship, who cost $17.70 per hour.
Arab cleaners are not on the menu – and neither are Israelis.
The cleaners are referred to in the feminine form throughout, so no male cleaners are thought to be on offer either.
News organization Mako spoke to someone from the company who confirmed that the ads were not a joke and said “eastern Europeans work better.”
A flyer was shared on Facebook by journalist and blogger Tal Schneider.
“Blatant racism permeates Israeli society,” she said.
Israel’s new chief military censor has demanded that popular bloggers writing on security-related issues submit their posts to her before publication. Failure to do so will be considered a crime. Critics say the move is Orwellian.
The expansion of the IDF’s censorship scope was first revealed by one of the bloggers targeted, Yossi Gurvitz. He runs a Facebook page called “George’s Friends” – a title alluding to writer George Orwell – which has over 10,000 subscribers.
This week he tweeted that the IDF’s former spokesperson, who was appointed chief censor less than a year ago, has ordered that he submit his posts for prepublication review.
The message was sent from her private Facebook account, which has no status updates of its own, and Gutvitz initially thought it was a prank, he told the Calcalist business daily. He said he had no intention to obey the order and is reviewing his legal options.
Some 30 Israeli bloggers received similar notifications from the IDF, according to the Times of Israel. Many people online and some Israeli politicians have criticized the expansion of censorship.
“Under the cover of darkness, there is no limit to the expansion of Big Brother,” Ilan Gilon, a member of the Israeli parliament from the left-wing Meretz party, told Calcalist. “It recalls [the dystopian novel] ‘1984.’ I’ve asked for a debate to understand what the boundaries of censorship are and how far they can go. Am I also subject to censorship when I talk to you? This is totally unacceptable.”
The military censor is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence. It has the authority to prevent any information being published by the media and can even shut down outlets without any explanation – and has a record of doing so. This power can only be used during a state of emergency, but the Jewish state has been living under one since its establishment in 1948.
Previously censorship was applied only to established media outlets, book publishers and organizations such as emergency services and front-line community councils. Some blogger posts were subjected to military censorship in the past, but only after publication.
The move may be blowback from the greater recognition of blogging in Israel as a form of media. Since 2012, Israel’s Government Press Office has been issuing bloggers with press cards that give them the same kind of status as journalists employed by recognized media outlets.
“Now, after they managed to make one government office recognize them as journalists, they can only blame themselves when other officials accept them as such too. Journalists don’t only have rights, but also duties, and in Israel one of these duties is working with the censors,” a lawyer who specializes in media regulations told the Haaretz newspaper.
Many Israeli activists, however, see it as a sign of creeping assaults on civil liberties under the conservative cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last month, a censorship scandal shook the country after the Education Ministry banned high schools from teaching an award-winning novel about a love affair between a Jewish woman and a Palestinian man.
The ministry explained that depiction of “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threaten the separate identity of each sector.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett defended the move, saying that exposing high school students to a book that “depicts IDF soldiers as sadistic war criminals” was not a national priority.
A video showing mixed Jewish-Arab couples kissing, which was posted online in a protest against the ban, mysteriously disappeared from Facebook after going viral.
South Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine – Yesterday, on Saturday February 6th, we visited the house of 49 year old, Salah Abukaf, who lives in the neighborhood of Sur Baher in occupied South Jerusalem, and two days ago received a house demolition order.
Salah Abukaf’s home
Last year, on September 13th, a 68 year old illegal Israeli settler died in a car accident near Abukaf’s home. The Israeli police first said that this was a regular car accident, but then decided to accuse his 18 year old son, Mohammed Abukaf, together with 4 other friends, all between 17 and 19 years of age, Walid al Atrash, Abed Dweyad, Jihad Tawil, and Ali Sabra, of throwing stones to the car and creating the accident.
At approximately 3 in the morning on September 24 and again on September 25, the Israeli police violently raided the homes of these five young men and arrested them. The police also confiscated their Jerusalem ID’s, which poses a serious problem because when Palestinian’s lose their Jerusalem ID they lose their right to live there and all other residents’ rights. These arrests were carried out despite the fact that the Israeli police have not yet presented evidence of them throwing stones at the car.
According to Salah Abukaf, the five young men were sitting in a place 500 meters away from the car at the moment of the accident, and denies the claims that his son threw stones. “They are accusing my son of things he didn’t do.”
Salah Abukaf talks in an interview for Ma’an news.
Salah’s wife is suffering with this situation and couldn’t help crying in her interview.
On Friday, February 5th, the Israeli police gave home demolition orders to three of the young men’s homes, for Mohammed Abukaf, Walid al Atrash and Abed Dweyad. According to these orders, the families have up to the 10th of February to make an appeal to the court. Nonetheless, the families say that according to the way Israeli authorities normally behave, they are afraid that when waiting for the court’s answer to their appeals, the Israeli forces will come to demolish their houses anyway, making their efforts futile.
Israeli forces came into Abukaf’s house and drilled holes into the walls. The family suspects they were measuring how thick the walls are in order to dynamite the house.
Another hole in the main room’s wall.
In the meantime, the family of Salah Abukaf is paying 50.000 shekels, Walid al Atrash 60.000 shekels and Abed Dweyad 75.000 shekels to cover their lawyers’ expenses to fight their cases in the court. These families already suffer from bad financial situations and paying these amounts of money is a big burden for them.
Abukaf explains; “If I knew my son had done something wrong, then I would be willing to accept this, but what the Israeli authorities are doing is simply collective punishment. It is illegal under International Law that they destroy my family’s home where my children live. Where are we going to go now?”
8 year old Hala, on the right side, and 9 year old Hadeel on the left, are the two youngest living in this home.
Mohammed’s sister, 17 year old Ala’.
In Walid al Atrash’s house, a total of 8 people, including his two parents and five siblings, will be left homeless if their home is demolished.
Abed Dweyad’s home includes a total of seven people, with his two parents and four siblings, will be left homeless as well if their house is demolished.
It is important to note that this event is happening following Israel’s master plan to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Jerusalem. The objective of this plan is to reduce today’s 37% Palestinian population to 20% by the year 2020, and allow for 80% of its total population to be Israeli Jewish.
Israeli Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Egypt’s new policy of flooding the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula with seawater had come at Israel’s request.
“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is flooding the tunnels on his country’s border with the Gaza Strip with water based on a request by Israel,” Steinitz said at a seminar held Saturday in the southern city of Beer Sheva, according to Israel Radio.
“Security coordination between the two countries [Israel and Egypt] is better than ever,” the minister said at the seminar, at which participants discussed the relationship between the two neighbors.
In recent months, the Egyptian army has begun flooding the network of cross-border tunnels linking Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip with seawater.
Subject to a years-long blockade by Israel and Egypt, the Hamas-run Gaza Strip had come to depend on the tunnel network to import desperately-needed commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.
Steinitz is particularly close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is a member of the latter’s influential security cabinet.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Since the 1st of November 2015 the Tel Rumeida area and Shuhada Street in occupied Al-Khalil (Hebron) has been declared a ‘closed military zone’. The first declaration of the closure was for one month, but since then the order has been extended several times.
The newest order from the 1st of February declares the area as closed till the 1st of March with the chance of extension.
Shuhada Checkpoint (Checkpoint 56)
The closure effects the residents of the area every single day. Every family living in the area has been given a number and was forced to register with the Israeli forces. When entering the area, through checkpoints, the residents have to show ID, give their number and often also answer questions and get bag and body searched. Friends and family of the residents are unable to visit them inside the area; even doctors or craftsmen are completely barred from entering the area.
Furthermore, the closed military zone has led to the eviction of two human rights organisations based in Tel Rumeida. These are now banned from living in their houses and working from their offices and since they are banned from the whole area are not able to observe and document the rampant Israeli human rights violations. The ‘closed military zone’ clearly intends to evict Palestinian residents in order to allow for an expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, and by evicting human rights defenders to silence the truth on the Israeli forces harassment, attacks and human rights violations.
New Israeli movement Save Jewish Jerusalem has called for the building of a wall encircling 28 Palestinian villages in East Jerusalem in order to preserve the city’s Jewish identity, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Friday.
According to Quds Press, which reported on the news published in Maariv, Save Jewish Jerusalem was set up by the former Cabinet minister Haim Ramon, alongside a number of former political, security and military officials.
Maariv noted that the movement does not belong to a certain political faction.
The manifesto’s authors explain that by removing some 200,000 Palestinians from the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, the city’s Jews will constitute more than 80% of its residents, and the percentage of Palestinians will drop to less than 20%, from the nearly 40% today.
After the villages’ separation from Jerusalem, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and other security agencies would operate in them the way they currently do in the rest of the West Bank, according to the manifesto.
Ongoing colonization in Hebron: Israeli forces prepare the illegal invasion of Palestinian houses by Israeli settlers
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On February 3rd 2016, Israeli occupation forces violently opened the door of houses in the vicinity of the Ibrahimi mosque by cutting the door locks with a disk grinder, and then entered these houses.
The houses are located in al-Sahla Street near the Ibrahimi mosque, settlers illegally invaded and occupied them two weeks ago, but were then evicted by the police and army the next morning.
After the Israeli army removed the door-locks of the two houses, Israeli construction workers took the external an internal dimensions of both Palestinian properties as if they are already owned by Israeli settlers. The settlers were protected during their illegal activities by large groups of soldiers.
Palestinian residents who walked trough the checkpoint in front of these houses were body-checked and harassed by the soldiers. The video below illustrates how inhumande and degrading these body-searches and ID-checks are, with soldiers ordering Palestinians to take off clothing regardless of weather and treating them without even a slight bit of dignity.
There are now 18 Palestinian journalists in Israeli prisons
GAZA – The media and press teams that try to cover the Israeli violence in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip are facing escalating violations at the hands of the Israeli army and Palestinian security forces.
The Palestinian Radio and Television Stations Union documented in its report for January, 2016, more than 45 violations against journalists and media correspondents.
This includes arrests, extension of detention, direct assaults in the field, and prevention from media coverage, in continuous attempts to distort the truth about the Israeli terror against Palestinians.
According to the Union, the arrests, detentions, extension of detentions, summoning to investigations, and breaking into houses during January reached 10 cases.
The Israeli forces arrested the journalist Mujahid al-Sa’adi, correspondent of Palestine Today TV channel, and extended his detention three times so far in January.
In addition, Israeli soldiers arrested the sports journalist at al-Khalil radio channel, Mahmoud al-Qawasmi.
These violations also reached the journalists Mohammed Matar, Musab Shawer, and Abd al-Karim al-Ouiui. In January, the Israeli forces brutality against journalists in the field increased, as the media crews attempted to cover the Palestinian weekly protests.
Nine Israeli assaults, that resulted in injuring two Palestinian journalists, were documented. Seven other press photographers choked on teargas.
Moreover, three cases of harassment and prevention from coverage were documented. Israeli forces also thwarted a press conference in Jerusalem, and a cultural meeting.
The house of Muhanned Halami was also blown up without media coverage. In respect to the incitement campaigns, 11 violations were documented.
The Israeli Shin Bet accused the Palestinian Authority’s media of inciting and encouraging the Palestinian individual operations against Israelis.
A European institute also accused ten journalists and bloggers of being agitators for supporting the Palestinian resistance in their writings.
Regarding the prosecution of journalists on cyberspace, two cases were documented.
Two Facebook pages were closed and a number of pro-Palestinian cartoons were deleted. The Palestinian journalist prisoner, Mohammed al-Qeiq, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 70 days, has suffered ten violations.
These include torture, forced-feeding, handcuffing to hospital bed, and intense presence of security in the hospital where he is staying to prevent his lawyers from talking to him, and continuing his administrative detention in the Israeli jails.
The report stated that there are now 18 Palestinian journalists in the Israeli prisons.
According to the same report, a journalist, Ayman Al-Aloul, and an activist, Ramzy Herzallah, were summoned for interrogation by Gaza security forces who later released them after a brief detention.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority forces arrested Momen Abu Duheir and Nablus TV director Salim Swidsan.
PA forces also summoned for interrogation Abdullah Oda, threatened Riham Al-Omary, and assaulted Sami Saa’y.
The tunnels are a lifeline for those who live in the beseiged Gaza Strip as they are used to smuggle vital supplies
Director of Political-Military Affairs at Israel’s Defence Ministry Amos Gilad revealed today that the United States has contributed over $100 million to an Israeli-US technology research project aimed at identifying and locating tunnels on the Gaza Strip border.
In an interview with Army Radio this morning, Gilad stated that intelligence information suggests that there are no such tunnels leading into Israeli territory at the moment.
Defence Ministry official Shalom Gantzer dispelled the fears of Israelis living around the Gaza Strip who have claimed to hear digging noises under their houses, saying that these noises are coming from an electric generator.
Israel’s Channel 10 showed interviews on Saturday with those living near the Gaza border area who had recorded the noises with their mobile phones. They claimed that these noises were the sounds of tunnels being dug from Gaza.