Driving While Palestinian

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Palestinian Civilians in Nablus and Bethlehem and Wound Another


Ref: 44/2019, 21 March 2019

In two separate crimes of killing in cold blood, the Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians in Nablus and Bethlehem and seriously wounded a fourth one in the afternoon of yesterday and the day before. Those two new crimes came in light of the escalation by the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Those crimes and other murders lately committed by the Israeli forces prove the latter’s intention to inflict as many Palestinian civilian casualties as possible. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns these two crimes and holds the Israeli government responsible for the tense situation in the oPt. PCHR also calls upon the international community to assume its legal and moral obligations and intervene immediately to stop the Israeli forces’ crimes against Palestinians and provide them protection.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 23:00 on Tuesday, 19 March 2019, Israeli forces moved into Nablus to protect hundreds of settlers, who were going to perform their Talmudic prayers in “Joseph Tomb” in Balata al-Balad, east of Nablus. Fifteen minutes after the incursion, an Israeli infantry force covering behind buildings and stores at the entrance to the sub-road to ‘Amman Street opened fire at a Palestinian civilian car carrying two civilians identified as Raed Hashem Mohammad Hamdan (21) and Ziad ‘Emad Mohammad al-Noury (20), both from Nablus. Following that, an Israeli military bulldozer arrived and crushed the car, turning it over several times. They then confiscated the car, and the corpses were taken to Howrah refugee camp, south of the city. Meanwhile, A Palestinian ambulance tried to reach the causalities several times, but the Israeli soldiers prevented it and even opened fired at, directly hitting its front. At approximately 05:00 on Wednesday, 20 NMarch 2019, after withdrawing from the city, the Israeli forces handed the 2 corpses to an ambulance belonging to the Palestinian Crescent Society at Howrah Checkpoint. They were both taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where it was found that Ra’ed was wounded with several bullets to the chest and shoulder and sustained laceration in his hand while Zaid was wounded with several bullets to the back and head and sustained laceration to the back of his head.

Following that, the Israeli forces claimed that a speeding car opened fire at them on Amman Street, but no causalities were reported. However, the eyewitnesses’ accounts to PCHR’s fieldworker categorically denied that the Israeli forces were subject to fire. Moreover, in an attempt to hide their crime, the Israeli forces confiscated the DVRs of the surveillance cameras in the nearby shops in the area.

According to PCHR’s investigations into the second crime and eyewitnesses’ accounts, ‘Alaa’ Mohammed Ghayathah was driving his car with his wife and two daughters, returning from a visit to his in-laws in Artass village, south of Bethlehem, to Nhaleen village, west of the city, taking al-Nashash Station Road. When he stopped for the traffic light, a car scraped the back of his car, so he got off to check what happened. A female Israeli soldier in a watchtower near the checkpoint immediately opened fire at him, wounding him with several bullets to the abdomen. Ahmed Jamal Manassra, from Foqin Valley in western Behtlehem, whose car was behind ‘Alaa’’s car, saw the incident and immediately along with young men near the checkpoint took ‘Alaa’ to al-Yamama Hospital in al-Khader village near the place. A video captured by the surveillance cameras of al-Yamamah Hospital showed Ahmed taking ‘Alaa’ to the hospital and then cleaning the backseats of his car from ‘Alaa’’s blood to go back again to al-Nashnash checkpoint. When Ahmed reached ‘Alaa’’s car to check out Alaa’s family and evacuate them from the car, the Israeli soldiers opened fire at him. As a result, Ahmed was hit with eight live bullets; six of them hit his chest, shoulder and hand, causing his death before he was taken to Beit Jala Governmental Hospital. Eyewitnesses confirmed that Ahmed seemed worried after he arrived at al-Yamama Hospital and hospitalized ‘Alaa’ as he was making phone calls. Ahmed also asked a young man beside him about the time that an ambulance would take to arrive at the checkpoint. The young man answered that it would take ten minutes. Ahmed said, “I promised the wounded man that I will bring him his wife and daughters.” It should be noted that Ahmed was from Foqin Valley village, west of Bethlehem, and held a BA from the Palestine Ahliya University.

PCHR condemns these two crimes and is concerned over the use of lethal force by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians for mere suspicion of their intentions. Accordingly, PCHR calls upon the international community and UN bodies to stop the Israeli escalating crimes and violations and work on providing international protection for Palestinians in the oPt. PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the oPt.

March 18, 2019
Israeli Politics Decoded with David Sheen

Online from the Palestine Center
Washington, DC
12 noon – 1 pm Central Time
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“Gaza is eviscerated. Apartheid is entrenched in the West Bank. Inside official Israel, the ruling party openly promotes racial hatred towards Arabs and Africans.

How popular are these belligerent policies among Israeli Jews? And how can we make sense of Israeli politics — where dozens of parties run for parliament, and double-digits get in — with wild swings, seemingly, in who holds power?

Journalist and human rights defender David Sheen will give an unflinching interrogation and a compelling analysis of the state of Israel/Palestine under Trump and Netanyahu.”

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Israeli Extremists Are Making a Comeback—With the Help of US Tax Dollars

American nonprofits have funneled money to Meir Kahane’s followers, who now have a chance to enter the Knesset

Israeli ExtremistsBenzion Gopstein (left), leader of the far-right Israeli group Lehava, gathers with fellow activists in Jerusalem on December 25, 2014. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

Mairav Zonszein, The Nation, 2/26/19

As Israel’s April 9 election approaches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has paved the way for a Jewish-supremacist party—which some are dubbing the Jewish KKK—to enter the next Israeli Knesset. He encouraged the merger of three small far-right parties, Jewish Home, National Union, and Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit in Hebrew), since each of them separately was not expected to receive enough votes to make the minimum Knesset threshold. If Netanyahu is reelected, the new far-right party, assuming it receives enough votes to make the minimum, would then help him secure a governing coalition of at least 61 seats.

All three parties are nationalist, anti-Arab, and homophobic; however, Jewish Power stands out because its platform and leaders are inspired by the violent legacy of Meir Kahane and his Kach party, which was barred from running in the Knesset in 1988 on grounds of racism, and then outlawed in 1994 on grounds of incitement to terrorism after Baruch Goldstein, who was active in Kach, murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron exactly 25 years ago Monday. The US State Department followed suit and listed Kach and an offshoot, Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives), as a foreign terrorist group in 1997. One of Jewish Power’s leaders, Michael Ben-Ari, who served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2013, was barred from entering the United States in 2012 because of his affiliation with a “terrorist organization.”

In the 20-plus years since Kach was banned, Kahane’s disciples have found ways to continue pushing a racist, anti-Arab, and antidemocratic agenda—and to fund it. A new investigation carried out in coordination with the Democratic Bloc, an Israeli nonprofit organization founded in 2018 to research and monitor antidemocratic trends in Israel, reveals a web of interconnected groups, individuals, and websites in Israel and the United States—including several American nonprofit foundations that appear to have been founded for the purpose of funneling tax-exempt dollars to Kahanist causes, some of which are directly linked to Jewish terrorist groups. “If in the past, they relied on political mechanisms for fundraising and recruiting activists, today we are talking about a network of organizations disguised as charity groups and social causes that are raising money from the State of Israel and abroad in order to continue inciting and undermining the foundations of democracy,” said Ran Cohen, one of the founders of the Democratic Bloc.

At the center of this web is Kahane protégé and Jewish Power member Benzion Gopstein, who runs Lehava, an openly racist, anti-miscegenation gang active for at least a decade. Its mission is to “save” Jewish women from assimilation. Lehava activists are notorious for violently attacking and harassing Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem just for being Palestinian. Three activists affiliated with Lehava were convicted of setting fire to an Arab-Jewish bilingual school in Jerusalem in 2014. The next year then–Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tried—unsuccessfully—to get Israel’s internal-security service to designate Lehava as a terrorist group. Gopstein has been arrested several times, including on suspicion of murdering an Arab couple in 1990, but has never been convicted. He has openly called for the burning of churches and has incited violence against Palestinians. He said in 2014 of Yigal Amir, the Israeli who in 1995 assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, “Rabin left him no choice.”

The Nation

The Israel Religious Action Center has been documenting Lehava’s activities for the past seven years. In 2017, IRAC, along with several other civil-society groups, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court alleging that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was dragging his feet by not indicting Gopstein on various charges, including incitement to violence and terrorism. They also seek to classify Lehava as a criminal organization, which is difficult because a lot of what Gopstein says falls under free-speech protections. According to IRAC director Noa Sattath, “The thuggish activity of the Lehava militia has gone on uninterrupted in Jerusalem since 2009. The Lehava organization carries out physical violence and racial incitement against Arabs in downtown Jerusalem and around the country—with the goal of demonizing Arabs and terrorizing them. Lehava’s activity is racist, antidemocratic, immoral, and goes directly against Jewish values.”

Lehava is not a registered nonprofit in Israel, and it’s unclear how and from whom it receives its funding. A Haaretz investigation in 2011 found that Lehava activists are closely linked to a registered Israeli nonprofit, Chemla (sometimes spelled Hemla), whose mission includes helping needy families and, until 2014, supporting settler youth. Chemla, which receives significant Israeli state funds, is a key organization in this web of Kahanist cronies. Gopstein is one of the founders of Chemla, as is Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, who also serves as head of a yeshiva in Jerusalem founded by Kahane in 1987 called the Jewish Idea (HaRaayon Hayehudi in Hebrew). The Jewish Idea Yeshiva is classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State and Treasury departments, listed as one of the groups affiliated with or synonymous with Kach and Kahane Chai. The list also includes several variations on that name, “Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea,” and “Friends of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva.”

Between 2002 and 2005, Gopstein received annual grant money from the Jewish Idea Yeshiva totaling nearly $25,000, and he has lectured there on several occasions, as recently as 2013. (The group stopped reporting on grants after 2005.) Elyakim Neiman, who served as director of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2017, also served as a board member and authorized signatory of Chemla, at one point even serving as its chairman.

Between 2012 and 2015 the Jewish Idea Yeshiva received amounts ranging from $44,000 to $136,000 from an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit called American Friends of Yeshivat Haraayon (which translates to “the Idea Yeshiva”). The US nonprofit—whose sole grantee is the Jewish Idea Yeshiva—was registered in 1988; its mission, according to its IRS tax statement, is “to produce Jewish leaders capable of acting and reacting Jewishly to the problems and challenges facing the state of Israel and the Jewish people.” The American Friends’ 990 tax form lists the Hebrew phonetic spelling of its grantee, the Jewish Idea Yeshiva, as “Yeshivat Harayon Hayehudi,” (sic) and lists as well the Jewish Idea Yeshiva’s Jerusalem address. Giving material support to a US government-classified foreign terrorist group is a criminal offense in violation of three different legal prohibitions, says Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York. Kadidal says, “On its face this looks like a very straightforward case: an American nonprofit passing money along to a group that Google says has the same address and the same name in translation as a designated terrorist organization, and telling the IRS about it to boot.”

Michael Ben-Ari, who is the member of Jewish Power likely to enter the Knesset if the united list gets at least five seats, is a member of the audit committee of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva.

American Friends of Yeshivat Haraayon is also directly linked to other nonprofits that appear to operate as thinly veiled fronts for funneling money to Gopstein and the same circle of Kahanists in Israel. Continue reading

Caves in the south Hebron Hills bring villages back to life

Ahmad Al-Bazz and Anne Paq, Mondoweiss, February 11, 2019

Anne Paq presented Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost at the 2017 Madison-Rafah Rachel Corrie Commemoration. Based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil, the project profiled the annihilation of Gaza families during the Israeli bombardment in 2014.


Mahmoud Abu Arram, 72 (left) and his family stand in front of a renovated cave in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez in the South Hebron Hills. (Photo: Activestills.org)

For weeks under the cloak of night Palestinians secretly renovated four caves and built a tin-roofed house in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez where only a handful of residents live. Last week they opened the homes in a “bringing life back” ceremony.

The event was not announced in advance as to avoid any potential disruption by the Israeli army, locals said.

The caves were refurbished by Palestinians from the southern West Bank villages of Susiya, Masafer Yatta and At-Tuwani who are part of the Protection and Sumud Committee, a local group that seeks to prevent home demolitions, and with support from the Palestinian Authority.

Because of rigid Israeli planning restrictions and frequent settler harassment, most of Ar-Rakeez’s villagers moved to the nearby city of Yatta over the last 20 years. Four families said they will move into the fixed up caves, joining the three families who already live there.

Palestinian youth take shifts maintaining a presence in a cave they renovated. “We want to create life and encourage people to come back,” explains Sami, 21, one of the activists of the “Youth of Sumud” group, Sarura. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Screening of a short documentary about activism in the South Hebron Hills from inside a caves that was inaugurated last week, Ar-Rakeez. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Continue reading