Occupation vacation: Palestine, settlements, and Airbnb

Diala Shamas and Ziad Alwan, The Activist Files, Episode 16

Did you know that in Palestine, Israeli settlers and companies profit off of stolen land? That’s what our Advocacy Director Nadia Ben-Youssef discusses with Staff Attorney Diala Shamas and client Ziad Alwan in the 16th episode of “The Activist Files,” where we speak about  our intervention into a case filed by Israeli settlers against Airbnb.

Diala discusses the responsibility of corporations like Airbnb to respect human rights principles and international law, as well as the status of the case now that Airbnb has decided not to de-list properties in settlements. Ziad recounts his family’s history on and personal connection to the land and explains why he decided to intervene on behalf of other Palestinian landowners in the West Bank.

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Touring the Israeli Occupation: Young U.S. Jews Get an Unflinching View


At Har Gilo, a Jewish settlement overlooking the southern West Bank, American college students get a history lesson. (Ilia Yefimovich for The New York Times)

David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, July 10, 2019

PSAGOT, West Bank — The fun was over before the tour bus rolled into Har Gilo.

For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.

Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.

The organizers said they embraced Birthright’s goal of helping young American Jews connect with Israel and with their Jewishness, but that they also needed to be exposed to the realities of the occupation.

On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go.

In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.

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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.

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March 18, 2019
Israeli Politics Decoded with David Sheen

Online from the Palestine Center
Washington, DC
12 noon – 1 pm Central Time
Listen live

“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.”

More info

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
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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.

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South Hebron Hills Update

Expulsion by a thousand cuts

Dear Friends,

The last weeks have been busy and challenging in the South Hebron Hills. Young Palestinians, with international and Israeli peace activists, have planted hundreds of trees. But this is also a difficult time. Soldiers and settlers have repeatedly forced shepherds off of Palestinian grazing land located near settlements and outposts, settlers have harassed schoolchildren and shepherds, and just last night Settlers uprooted more than 20 young olive trees.


christadelphia.org

The creativity, resilience and commitment to nonviolent resistance is more amazing here each year.

Here are a few recent events and photos.

On the night of February 4 Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on uprooted 23 olive trees on Palestinian land near Tuwani in Humra Valley. The trees have were recently planted during a nonviolent demonstration of Palestinians and Israeli and International activists.

On January 23 Israeli army and civil authorities used a bulldozer to destroy an agricultural field in the Palestinian village of Khalaya Al-Moghrabi. The farmer was already unable to work his land because Israeli authorities had confiscated his tractor.

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As West Bank Violence Surges, Israel Is Silent on Attacks by Jews

Israel’s right-wing government has remained silent, wary of alienating settlers in an election year


The funeral last Sunday for Hamdy Naasan, who was killed in a melee involving Jewish settlers. The Israeli government has been reluctant to address a rise in attacks by settlers. (Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2019

AL MUGHAYIR, West Bank — A gang of a dozen or so armed Jewish settlers descended from a hilltop outpost to the Palestinian village below and opened fire, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers arrived, and instead of stopping the settlers, the witnesses said, they either stood by or clashed with the villagers.

In the melee, Hamdy Naasan, 38, a Palestinian father of four, was shot and killed.

The killing last Saturday was the latest in a wave of settler violence. Attacks by settlers on Palestinians, their property and Israeli security forces increased by 50 percent last year and have threatened to ignite the West Bank, Israeli security officials say.

Days earlier, the Israeli authorities charged a 16-year-old yeshiva student from another Jewish settlement with manslaughter and terrorism, accusing him of hurling a four-pound rock that killed Aisha al-Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight, one night in October as she rode in her family car along a nearby highway.

While Palestinian and United Nations officials have condemned the violence — Nickolay E. Mladenov, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, described the shooting in Al Mughayir as “shocking and unacceptable” — Israel’s right-wing government has remained conspicuously silent, wary of alienating settlers and other potential supporters in an election year.

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DESTINATION: OCCUPATION
by Amnesty International

DIGITAL TOURISM AND ISRAEL’S ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Allowing some properties and attractions to be listed as being in “Israel”, as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor do, not only deceives users, but also helps conceal information that can help reveal the illegal nature of the settlements.

In this report Amnesty International exposes how four leading online tourism companies and global brands — TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb — are listing places to stay or things to do in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They are promoting these listings, and profiting from them, despite knowing that these Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are at the root of a wide range of human rights violations suffered by Palestinian communities.

Amnesty International is calling on these companies to stop providing these listings, and on governments around the world to take regulatory action to prevent companies such as these from doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements.

Amnesty Intl MDE1594902019ENGLISH