NABLUS – Israeli forces shot and injured four Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets, after residents in a Palestinian village south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank gathered to defend their homes from a mob of Israeli settlers that stormed the community. Hours later, two Palestinians were hospitalized when a group of settlers attacked Palestinians in a nearby village.
Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settler activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that some 100 “extremist settlers” from the illegal Yitzhar settlement entered the village of Urif from its east side and proceeded to smash windows of houses, included one belonging to resident Munir al-Nouri.
He added that the settlers were about to break into the house before Palestinian villagers gathered and forced them away.
According to a Facebook group for Urif, loudspeakers from the village’s mosque were used to inform residents of the incident and to urge them to help defend the homes from the “herds of settlers” attacking the village.
Minutes later, Daghlas said, a number of Israeli military vehicles stormed the village to protect the Israelis.
Clashes erupted between Palestinians youth and Israeli forces who “haphazardly” fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians, according to Daghlas.
Daghlas said that four Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, one of whom was hit in the head. Medical sources said that Adel al-Safadi, Jihad Saad, Mustafa Fawzi, and Sharif Abd al-Hafith were taken to Rafidiya hospital to be treated for the gunshot injuries.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that a “violent dispute erupted between Israelis and Palestinians” who she said were “mutually throwing rocks at each other in an area around the village.” When Israeli forces arrived to “disperse the dispute, several Palestinians shot flares at (Israeli) forces.”
In response, Israeli forces used “riot dispersal means,” she said. No Israeli were reported injured
Later Saturday afternoon, Daghlas said that another group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes in the town of Huwwara, just a few kilometers away from Urif, on the southeastern edge of Yitzhar.
Daghlas said that dozens of settlers attacked Palestinians and their homes with stones and “sharp objects.” A 72-year-old woman, Badiah Muhammad Hamdan, and a young man identified as Ahmad Yousif Udah were hospitalized. Daghlas said Hamdan sustained head injuries.
A video shared on social media showed the woman, bloodied and incapacitated, being evacuated in an ambulance.
Separately, a young Palestinian man was run over by an Israeli settler later Saturday afternoon in al-Masoudiyya west of Nablus city, Daghlas said.
Daghlas told Ma’an that 19-year-old Asim Salim from Nablus city was evacuated to Rafidiya hospital, where doctors said he sustained moderate wounds. Daghlas added that Salim was trying to cross the road in al-Masoudiyya when a settler’s vehicle hit him and fled the scene.
An Israeli border police spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the reported hit and run.
According to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), since the state of Israel confiscated land from Urif and other Palestinian villages to establish the illegal Yithzar settlement in the 1980s, “attacks and violence perpetrated by settlers has had a profoundly negative impact on Palestinian residents and their property,” stressing that Yitzhar “poses a daily threat to residents of the neighboring Palestinian villages.”
Settlers have also been known to steal crops, damage and burn trees and other plants, and attack places of worship in the area, in an attempt to intimidate Palestinian villagers and farmers from using their land.
On Friday, a video was released showing 15 masked Israeli settlers attacking Israeli activists in the central West Bank, throwing rocks and hitting the activists with clubs.
Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have meanwhile accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.
In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years.
Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 221 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2015, and 107 in 2016.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian security forces briefly detained two undercover Israeli army soldiers who were conducting a military raid in the Rafidiya area of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday evening, according to official Palestinian and Israeli sources.
The two were taken to a Palestinian police station in Nablus. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the incident to Ma’an, saying that during an Israeli army “activity,” the officers were “briefly questioned by Palestinian security forces,” adding that in coordination with the Israeli Civil Administration, the soldiers were returned to Israeli custody.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the two soldiers — members of an Arabic-speaking unit of the Israeli army known as the “Mustarabeen” in Arabic, who are responsible for infiltrating and carrying out detentions in Palestinian communities — “scuffled” with Palestinian police officers for some time before they were returned to Israeli forces.
Their gear and weapons, as well as the car they were driving in, was also also reportedly returned.
The incident represented a rare standoff between Palestinian and Israeli forces, as the Palestinian Authority (PA) regularly allows Israeli forces to enter PA-controlled areas in the West Bank to conduct daily detention raids and other military operations, in contravention of the Oslo Accords.
24 Palestinian journalists imprisoned; freed journalist Omar Nazzal barred from Jerusalem, travel and banking
Palestinian journalist and former prisoner Omar Nazzal recently reported on his Facebook page about a series of restrictions that have been issued by Israeli occupation forces against him through military orders. Nazzal was released from administrative detention on 20 February after 10 months of imprisonment without charge or trial; since that time, he has been slapped with a two-year travel ban preventing him from leaving occupied Palestine; banned from Jerusalem and Palestine ’48 for 99 years; and forbidden from opening bank accounts until further notice.
Nazzal was seized by Israeli occupation forces in April 2016 as he attempted to enter Jordan through the Karameh/Allenby crossing en route to the European Federation of Journalists conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a member of the Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and president of the Assembly of Democratic Journalists. His detention was internationally condemned by the EFJ, the International Federation of Journalists and other international associations.
There are currently 24 Palestinian journalists imprisoned in Israeli jails, the Palestinian Media Assembly reported on 2 April on March violations of the rights of journalists by the Israeli occupation. They include the five journalists of Sanabel Radio, who have been imprisoned since August 2016, when occupation forces invaded the radio station, abducting all of the staff present. Nine journalists were arrested in March, including Samah Dweik, Hassan Sawan, Mohammed Abed Rabbo, Khaleda Ghosheh, Raed Abu Remaileh (since released) and Mohammed Batrakh, Ayoub Sawan, Asim Mustafa and Musab al-Said (all still detained.)
Palestine TV correspondent Ahmed Shawar was injured by rubber-coated metal bullets as he covered a demonstration against settlements and the apartheid wall in Kufr Qaddoum. In addition, multiple photographers were injured in Nabi Saleh by Israeli occupation forces, including Rasha Herzallah, Hamza Shalash, Essam Rimawi, Mohammed Turkman, Majdi Shtayyeh, Abbas Momani and Saleh Hamad. In Kafr Malek, Nasser Shyoukhi and Abdel-Kader Bilbeisi were injured after inhaling tear gas. In addition, Israeli occupation forces attacked and confiscated several print shops, including Nahda in Tulkarem, Ibn Khaldoun in Tulkarem and Dozan in Bethlehem.
Israeli occupation forces stormed the home of Palestinian cartoonist Osama Nazzal on 27 March, smashing his paintings on the wall and drawing tools as well as confiscating other artwork.
HEBRON – Two Palestinians from the Hebron-area village of Beit Ummar were lightly injured Friday after an Israeli settler attempted to run them over on a main road connecting the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron to Jerusalem.
Local activist Muhammad Awad told Ma’an that an Israeli settler was driving on the road, located near Beit Ummar, when the settler attempted to to run over Palestinians Muhammad Basem Khader al-Alami, 25, and Saed Samir Hassan al-Salibi, 20.
“The Israeli settler drove very fast with his car towards the two, who noticed the settler’s car rushing towards them at the last moment, causing them to fall on the side of the street, while the Israeli settler escaped,” Awad said, describing the scene to Ma’an.
An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.
The incident came a day after Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank closed a Nablus-area road in protest, calling for “revenge” on Palestinians after an alleged car-ramming attack was carried out earlier in the day near the illegal Israeli Ofra settlement in Ramallah, which killed an Israeli soldier and wounded another moderately.
Incidents involving Israeli settlers hitting Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory are a relatively regular occurrence, and are usually treated by Israeli security forces as accidents, even in cases when witnesses claim the car rammings were deliberate.
Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.
Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with announcements of settlement expansion earlier this year sparking condemnation from the international community.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.
BETHLEHEM – A new poll was released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Tuesday, revealing that the majority of Israelis oppose any Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, while 79 percent of Israelis believe its important to maintain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, in contradiction to longstanding international peace negotiations and international law.
The poll, which was conducted among 521 Jewish Israelis over the age of 18, is said to represent the adult Jewish Israeli opinion on the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to the poll’s findings, Israeli support for a military withdrawal from the West Bank, now in its 50th year under Israeli occupation, has gradually decreased in the last 12 years, with the percentage of those supporting a withdrawal as part of a peace agreement declining from 60 percent in 2005 to just 36 percent in 2017.
When it came to completely withdrawing from the entirety of the occupied West Bank, 77 percent of Israelis opposed such a move. Meanwhile, regarding the withdrawal from the territory — but excluding large Israeli settlements blocs constructed in Palestinian territory in violation of international law — the majority of Israelis (57 percent) still opposed it.
However, opposition to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory slightly subsided (44 percent) if the illegal settlement blocs were annexed into Israeli territory and a future Palestinian state remained demilitarized.
Concerning the Jordan Valley, a crucial area of the Palestinian territory and any future Palestinian state, an overwhelming 81 percent of Israelis said that it was important for the Israeli government to exercise continued sovereignty over the area.
The poll also revealed that Israelis have a committed and long-term expectation of maintaining full security control over the occupied West Bank, with 76 percent of those polled expressing their approval of Israeli authorities continuing to control the West Bank owing to various security concerns.
Meanwhile, 79 percent of Israelis believe its important to maintain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, with 52 percent opposing any division of Jerusalem into “Jewish and Arab sectors.” When the status of occupied East Jerusalem and its potential incorporation into an independent Palestinian state as the capital was added to the questioning, the opposition to dividing Jerusalem increased to 59 percent.
The vast majority of Israelis (83 percent) opposed transferring Al-Aqsa Mosque — known as the Temple Mount among Jews — to Palestinians.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass home demolitions.
With a backdrop of routine Israeli military violence and the escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian territory, Palestinians have become disillusioned by attempts at solving the decades-long conflict, with many expressing their lack of hope in any political solution.
The Israeli government has also streamlined bills that many critics have said is specifically aimed at a gradual annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Last month, the Knesset passed the outpost Regularization law, which states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.
Meanwhile, right-wing Israeli Knesset members have also spearheaded a bill to annex the massive Maale Adumim settlement. Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank’s Jerusalem district. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.
While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements, Israeli leaders have instead called for an escalation of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and with some having advocated for its complete annexation.
A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
JORDAN VALLEY – The Israeli Civil Administration delegation visited the Jordan Valley Regional Council, compromising of 21 illegal settlements, on Friday to discuss ways to establish new development projects in the Jordan Valley settlements, Israeli media sources said.
The delegation included David El Hayani, mayor of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and Aravot HaYarden, chairman of the council.
The delegation discussed ways to develop agriculture, tourism, and other economic sectors in the settlements.
Nearly one million tourists arrived last year in the Jordan Valley, half of whom came to visit the religious sites in the area, which were recently developed by the Civil Administration, Hayarden said.
For his part, El Hayani revealed plans to establish new tourism projects in the area including restaurants and parking.
The new projects came as part of the Israeli settlement expansion policy which has been notably escalated over the few months.
Earlier on Thursday, Haaretz (Hebrew) newspaper revealed that US President Donald Trump gave a green light for Israeli settlement construction in occupied Jerusalem.
TULKAREM – Israeli forces raided and sacked two Palestinian print shops in the northern occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem at dawn on Thursday and confiscated equipment.
Ali Abu Saleh, the owner of the two print shops, told Ma’an that large numbers of Israeli troops raided his home in the Shweika neighborhood and demanded that he let them access his stores.
Abu Saleh said that Israeli soldiers searched his shop in the Shweika area, where they confiscated equipment, printed materials, and destroyed security camera footage.
Israeli forces also raided Abu Saleh’s other print shop in central Tulkarem, breaking the front door and also confiscating equipment and materials.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces had raided the shops because they printed “inciting material.”
However, Abu Saleh rejected the army’s claims, calling them baseless, adding that 20 people were out of work following the raids.
Israeli forces had also aided another Tulkarem print shop earlier this month.
Israeli forces have previously targeted printing shops where posters commemorating Palestinians killed by Israeli forces were manufactured.
Since the beginning of the year, one Palestinian from Tulkarem was killed and another from the city succumbed to fatal injuries, after being shot by Israeli forces for allegedly attempting to commit attacks.
In the past year, Israel has targeted Palestinian media institutions and civilians, including activists and journalists, alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015 was encouraged largely by “incitement.”..
TUBAS – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning detained a young Palestinian man in the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank and confiscated a tractor and a private vehicle in the area.
Muataz Bisharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by several Israeli Civil Administration jeeps, detained Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub, 23, and confiscated a tractor belonging to his father and a vehicle belonging to Hayil Turkman.
The confiscated vehicles were taken to the Nahal military site in the al-Maleh area of the Jordan valley, Bisharat said.
A spokesperson from Israel’s civil administration declined to comment on the incident.
Bisharat highlighted that Israeli forces had confiscated at least three tractors from the surrounding areas, which are located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control — during the past two months.
Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations and interruption due to Israeli military exercises on or near their land. The Jordan Valley district of Tubas is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, while at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
According to the Palestinian nonprofit the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), using data from the Palestine Ministry of Wall and Colonization Affairs, the group reported that more than 400,000 dunams (98,842 acres) of the 720,000 dunams (177,916 acres) that make up the total area of the Jordan Valley has been transformed into closed military and firing zones, with at least 27,000 dunams (6,672 acres) confiscated for illegal Israeli settlement building.
Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court
The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.
Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook. Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC.
Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas.
The 11 detained PLC members include: Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zboun, both from the Bethlehem area, members of the Change and Reform bloc, seized on Monday, 6 March. Zboun spent over six years in Israeli prison, including several months in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, a former deportee to Marj al-Zohour, was also previously held in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, Zboun, Halaiqa and al-Tal were all arrested in the month of March.
Other detained PLC members include Hassan Yousef and Ahmad Mubarak of Ramallah and Azzam Salhab and Mohammed Jamal Natsheh of al-Khalil. All members of the Change and Reform bloc, they are held in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison, while Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi is serving several life sentences. Jerusalemite PLC member of the Change and Reform bloc, Mohammed Abu Teir, was subject to expulsion from his home city of Jerusalem and is now serving a 17-month sentence in Israeli prison.
“This picture belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years,” according to Ramzy Baroud. (Photo: Walled Off Hotel)
BETHLEHEM – Israel’s infamous separation wall in the occupied West Bank, while cutting off Palestinians from their lands and religious sites, isolating communities, and eroding the livelihood of scores of Palestinians along its route, has become an unlikely breeding ground for tourism.
Adjacent to the graffiti-stained separation wall in the city of Bethlehem, which is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, and next door to the Aida refugee camp, elusive UK artist Banksy now welcomes guests to his latest project: the Walled Off Hotel.
The wall’s destruction of livelihoods
In a message written in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, a plaque posted at the entrance to the hotel-cum-art museum tells its guests not to “choose sides” in the conflict. In describing the separation barrier, deemed illegal by International Court of Justice, the statement says: “The wall is a lie. It sells the idea that there is a simple divide between the people here, but there isn’t.”
But according to Palestinian-American journalist and author Ramzy Baroud, Bethlehem’s isolation from Jerusalem through Israel’s separation wall and two massive illegal settlements — with a third on its way — is far from “a lie,” has taken a tangible toll on the city’s economy, which once boasted a thriving tourism industry thanks to its many historical and religious sites.
“This tragic reality left Bethlehem, one of the most endeared Palestinian cities, struggling for survival, and reduced it in many instances to utilize its very subjugation as a method of generating income,” Baroud told Ma’an.
Banksy’s hotel is not the first project that has attempted to develop an alternative tourism industry seeking to raise awareness about Palestinian dispossession and routine Israeli military violence.
Following the wall’s construction in the area, the livelihoods of numerous Palestinians were destroyed, forcing some to develop alternative livelihoods dependent on funds generated around foreign tourists coming to the area to view Israel’s separation wall.
Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), emphasized to Ma’an that local Palestinians’ dependency on tourism centered around the wall was not just about financial profit.
“For some Palestinians, foreigners coming to see the wall is essential for their ability to stay alive. If they don’t get people to recognize what is going on in Palestine, then their deaths become just numbers,” she said.
“The idea of showing others the wall is a way of ensuring that their oppression and resistance is not experienced in silence.”
The separation wall in Bethlehem with a mural of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Leila Khalid (MaanImages/Jaclynn Ashly)
These days, the few shops open in the area near the wall in Bethlehem cater to international tourists visiting the site to take pictures of graffiti and the impressive murals decorating the concrete. Banksy’s artwork in the area has become a centerpiece for such tourism.
Yamin al-Abed, a local tour guide and owner of the Banksy souvenir shop right beside the new hotel, told Ma’an that he expected Banksy’s hotel to triple the amount of visitors to Bethlehem. “This area is going to be crowded soon,” he said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
Banky’s artwork has “brought life back into a dead area,” al-Abed said, by developing a business around the now-iconic stencil work Banksy painted on the wall more than 10 years ago.
However, the hotel’s elusiveness on its planned financial model — as its website only states that it would “put any profits back into local projects” while remaining vague which specific projects would be concerned — has led observers to question whether or not the new business will positively benefit to the community.
A local worker at a nearby hotel, who preferred to remain unnamed, expressed his confusion over the hotel’s opening to Ma’an. “It is strange that this hotel was constructed in an area where commercial shops and hotels have been killed by the wall’s construction,” he said, adding that his own hotel had faced serious financial setbacks since the wall was built.
‘It’s not meant for Palestinians’
“What Bethlehem truly needed was breaking this sad paradigm, not cementing it,” Baroud said, echoing local concerns that the livelihoods generated around the wall has served to further entrench the Israeli occupation in the West Bank by basing a local economy on its most visual and destructive feature.
Buttu said that the most worrying aspect of what she referred to as “oppression tourism” was the parts of the wall which had not been decorated with graffiti and murals.
“The vast majority of Israel’s wall is completely ignored by tourists. And these parts of the wall are actively scooping out large areas of Palestinian land.”
Tourists are typically attracted to the “visual elements” of the cement wall, she said, and often disregard parts of the wall with barbed wire and electric fences, underscoring that these areas tend to be the most devastated as locals are dependent on farming and have no other alternative livelihood.
According to Buttu, “Many people really wanted visitors to see the wall for its ugly reality, and not use art and graffiti to mask or erase the reality Palestinians were living.”
While she wanted to give Banksy “the benefit of the doubt,” she said that the hotel risked feeding into the same process that Palestinians have been attempting to challenge. “Palestinians want foreigners to actually do something for their struggle, not just come and take pictures.”
Baroud, meanwhile, commented that certain aspects of the hotel were deeply offensive to Palestinians. Referring to one painting hung in a $265-per-night suite that lightheartedly depicts an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian protester, Baroud said that it was “deeply insulting” and “belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years.”
For local resident Muna Hassan, the hotel reflects larger issues in occupied Palestine.
“Palestinians feel hopeless. All we have now are foreigners coming here and advocating social and political projects that don’t help us at all. Meanwhile, our economy is dependent on international aid which arrives with conditions and tells us how we should behave,” she said.
According to Hassan, this kind of tourism exists because “there’s nothing left for us to do.”
“We have a government that doesn’t represent us. Israel has destroyed all our political movements and has stolen our land. They took everything from us. We have nothing left.”
Hassan told Ma’an that Palestinians had become tired of social and political projects originating from the international community. “We need better hospitals and schools. We need businesses that help us define and change our own society. We should create spaces where young Palestinians can develop their own conceptions of art, instead of just catering to foreigners who want to draw on the wall and snap pictures of Banksy paintings.”
She noted that, for her, the hotel was “not meant for Palestinians. It’s just more entertainment for tourists.”
One of the most controversial elements of Banksy’s new hotel is the stated aim of welcoming Israelis to the West Bank, with the hotel itself being constructed in an Israeli-controlled area of Bethlehem.
The trilingual statement posted at the hotel’s entrance claims that most Israelis are “opposed to the cruelties inflicted by the wall,” while the ones who support it “are deeply fearful for their security.”
According to the hotel’s owner Wissam Salsa, one focus of the project is to “educate Israelis on Palestinian suffering” caused by the separation wall and the Israeli occupation. “We also want to show our guests what it’s like to live on this side of the wall.”
Al-Abed said that he believed it was important for Israelis to visit the West Bank, saying that “I am sure that once they come and see our miserable lives, they will return to Israel and attempt to change their government.”
However, Buttu told Ma’an that Israel’s policies have actually received widespread support from an Israeli public that has “benefited immensely” from these policies, while feeding into Israeli desires of a “Jewish state.” According to a poll released earlier this year, 62 percent of Israelis support continuing Israel’s illegal settlement construction in Palestinian territory.
“You will not find Israelis who support going back to life pre-1993, when you didn’t have separation and Palestinians had freedom of movement into Israel. Most Israelis are happy with this separation system in place,” she said.
One visitor to the hotel, a local Palestinian student who preferred not to be named, rapidly shifted from excitement to frustration after being informed that the project was aimed at creating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We can have dialogue once Palestinians have equal rights,” he said. “If Israelis really want to understand Palestinian suffering, they should fight for the wall’s destruction and not stay in a hotel right next to it.”
Buttu noted the futility of the initiative, saying that “we can’t just pretend that it’s easy for Palestinians and Israelis to come together, hold hands, and sing songs.”
“This is a state system of apartheid and settler-colonialism. Unless Israelis recognize this, then there is no point in having these fake gatherings and dialogues.”
RAMALLAH – Israeli forces detained 420 Palestinians during the month of February, including 70 minors and 22 women and girls, according to a statement released on Saturday by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies.
The center said in its monthly report that 12 of the detentions were carried out in the besieged Gaza Strip, including five fishermen whose boats were destroyed by Israeli forces before their detention, two who were detained at the Beit Hanoun crossing, and five who were detained after Israel alleged they attempted to cross the border fence between the besieged enclave and Israel.
A journalist was also among the detainees, identified by the center as Humam Muhammad Hantash from the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. He was sentenced to Israel’s widely condemned policy of administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence.
The center added that 88 administrative detention orders were issued by Israeli courts in the same period, 23 of which were issued for the first time, while 65 were renewed orders. Meanwhile, 32 administrative detention orders were issued against Palestinians from Hebron.
While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.
Rights groups say that Israel’s administrative detention policy has also been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.
According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
New hotel in Bethlehem by British artist Banksy offers ‘worst view in the world’ overlooking Israeli Wall
The British artist Banksy, who has painted a number of famous murals on the Israeli Annexation Wall in Bethlehem, has taken his art activism to a new level by opening a boutique hotel just next to the Wall in Bethlehem.
The building used for the “Walled Off” Hotel sits just across the street from the Israeli Annexation Wall in an area known to Palestinians and Israelis alike as ‘Rachel’s Tomb’, in the northern part of the city of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is known to Christians worldwide as the birthplace of Jesus, but the city has suffered tremendously over the past fifteen years as the Israeli occupation authorities have imposed a stranglehold on their local economy.
Through the construction of the Annexation Wall, which began in 2003, the economy of Bethlehem, largely dependent on tourists and religious pilgrims, has plummeted.
Banksy’s new hotel is an attempt, according to the artist and hotel staff, to both support the local economy of Bethlehem while bringing international attention to the plight of the Palestinians in the city, who live walled off from the world in what they have termed a ‘ghetto’ due to the Israeli Annexation Wall.
The hotel features art that symbolizes the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, including paintings that are imprisoned behind steel bars, a portrait of Jesus with drones overhead and a laser sight on his forehead, and a display of surveillance cameras overlooking patrons to the hotel bar.
In an interview with hotel manager Wisam Salsaa, a reporter from the British Channel 4 News asked Salsaa how Banksy managed to secretly put together such a large undertaking. Salsaa replied simply, “Well, he’s Banksy!”