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July 24 2013

Sudanese Refugee Detained for Owning a Bicycle in Israel

In September 2012, the Israeli Ministry of Interior implemented a new regulation that allows the State of arrest and detained indefinitely, without trial, asylum-seekers suspected of crimes, even if those suspicions are unsubstantiated and would have not led to a conviction in court. In July 2013, the regulation, The Procedure for Handling Infiltrators [the term used by the State of Israel to vilify asylum-seekers] Involved in Criminal Proceedings, was expanded to include refugees suspected of even misdemeanors. Over 500 asylum seekers have been detained under the Criminal Procedure and sent to the internment camps for refugees in the Negev desert until their deportation from Israel is possible.

On July 18, a Darfuri asylum-seeker and actor, Babaker (Babi) Ibrahim was arrested by Israeli police for not having a receipt for his bicycle, which was thus presumed to be stolen. Babi, a well-known figure in the Sudanese community in Israel, is a member of a refugee troupe that recently staged a satirical play about the mistreatment of refugees in Israel, One Strong Black. Babi's arrest and indefinite detention without trial sparked outrage and an online and offline campaign to release him and other refugees in his situation. On July 20, dozens protested in front of the residence of Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, who approved the regulation:

The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an NGO advocating for the rights of refugees, migrants and human trafficking victims in Israel, provided an update about Babi's current legal situation [heb]:

לאחר שעתירת הביאס קורפוס שלנו נדחתה על ידי בג”ץ, אתמול הגשנו עתירה בשם באבי… עתירתנו דורשת את שחרורו של באבי וגם תוקפת את הנוהל שמכוחו הוא עצור בטענה שאינו חוקתי…
אנו נמשיך להאבק למען שחרורו של באבי ושל כל הפליטים הכלואים בישראל ללא משפט. לא ייתכן שיתקיימו בישראל שתי מערכות משפט נפרדות: אחת לפליטים ואחרת לכל היתר. לא ייתכן שפליטים ייזרקו למעצר עולם ללא ראיות, ללא משפט הוגן, ללא יכולת להתגונן ומבלי שהמשטרה תצטרך להוכיח שהם אשמים בדבר. לא ייתכן שבמדינה דמוקרטית יתקיים נוהל שמשמעותו הנחה מראש שכל רכוש שנמצא בידיהם של בני אדם בעלי צבע עור מסוים הוא גנוב.

After our habeas corpus petition was rejected by the High Court of Justice, yesterday we filed another petition on behalf of Babi… Our petition demands Babi's release and the abrogation of the regulations under which he has been arrested, claiming that the regulation is unconstitutional… We will keep fighting for Babi's release and the freedom of all refugees detained in Israel without trial. The existence of two separate legal systems in Israel: one for refugees and one for everyone else cannot stand. It is outrageous that refugees are sent to life in prison without evidence, without a fair trial, without the opportunity to defend themselves and without the police having to prove that they are guilty of anything. A regulation that it predicated on the assumption that all property possessed by people of a certain skin color is in fact stolen cannot exist in a democratic country.

Advocates Yonatan Berman and Oded Feller wrote on their blog Laissez Passer about the absurdity of detaining people for owning property:

הבלוג פותח בפני קוראיו את פינת הרולטה – נחשו מה יהיה הצעד הבא. ההימור שלנו – מבקשי מקלט שלא יוכלו להציג קבלות המוכיחות כי רכשו את הבגדים שלגופם ייעצרו. כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט יסתובבו בעירום. או שאולי, בעצם, כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו לבושים ייעצרו בגין עבירת גניבה, וכל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו בעירום ייעצרו בגין התערטלות במקום ציבורי.

The blog opens the roulette section before its readers – guess what will be the next move [by the government]. Our guess – asylum seekers who won't be able to present receipts proving that they've purchased the clothes on their back will be detainees. Thus we will ensure that all asylum-seekers will walk around naked. Or maybe, actually, this way we will ensure that all clothed refugees will be detained for stealing, while all the asylum-seekers who walk around naked will be detained for indecent exposure.

Prominent leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz wrote on his blog Friends of George:

כמעט 160 שנים אחרי דרד סקוט, כמעט 150 שנים אחרי שהתיקון ה-13 שם קץ לעבדות, מאשר וינשטיין בחתימתו שיש קבוצה שלמה של בני אדם – לגמרי במקרה, כמובן, צבע עורם שחור – שהם, אם לא סחורות ממש, פחותים מבני אדם. די בעלילה עליהם (למשל, מצד נוכל בן העם הנבחר שלא רוצה לשלם להם את משכורותיהם) כדי להשליך אותם לבור משפטי שממנו אין כמעט דרך לצאת. לאברהים יש מזל נדיר: הוא דמות מוכרת. יש לו לא מעט חברים. כמאה מהם יצאו במוצ”ש הביל של יולי להפגין למענו מול ביתו של וינשטיין. לרוב הפליטים אין מזל כזה. אין מי שיכיר אותם, אין מי שיגיש בשמם עתירות הביאס קורפוס. הם נאלמים, ונעלמים אל הבור שחפר עבורם וינשטיין. בציבוריות הישראלית, המקבילה של החלטת דרד סקוט של וינשטיין עברה ללא כל רעש; יש בה יותר מדי תואמי יאנסי, ומעטים עדיין מעיזים לומר ש”אתם טועים בנו, לא נעשה זאת.”

Almost 160 years after Dred Scott v. Sandford, almost 150 years after the 13th Amendment ended slavery [in the U.S.], Weinstein approved with his signature that there is an entire group of people – incidentally, of course – their skin color is black – that they are, if not property per se, are less than human. Libelous claims (for example, from a swindler of The Chosen People who does not want to pay them their salaries [refugees have been threatened with this by employers - E.T.] are enough to dump them into a legal hole from which it is almost impossible go get out. Ibrahim is very lucky: he is a known figure. He has quite a few friends. About one hundred of them went out on a hot July Saturday night to protest for him in front of Weinstein's home. Most refugees are not that lucky. There is no one who knows them, there is no one of file a habeas corpus for them. They are silenced and disappeared into the hole Weinstein dug for them. The Israeli public did not react to Weinstein's decision that parallels the Dred Scott ruling; there are too many twins of William Yancey [southern Democratic congressman, leading proponent of slavery] and few still dare to say “you mistake us. We will not do it!” [response by a northern Democrat to Yancey's demand that the Democratic Party's platform for the 1860 election include pro-slavery statements]

The Facebook page freeBabi was launched, quickly gaining hundreds of “likes”. The page asked users to submit photos and videos of themselves asking for Babi's release. Many sent in their photos, including famous Israeli actors and musicians.

Famous Israeli singer-songwriter Alma Zohar posted a photo of herself with a sign reading: “Free Babi! Keeping innocents in jail costs you and me a lot of money!”

The producers and directors of the play One Strong Black visited Babi in Giv'on Prison on July 23 and informed him about the ongoing campaign to release him. Babi is set to be transferred to the Sahaornim internment camp on July 24.


The campaign received attention in Turkey, Tunisia and Greece as well. Simge and Vulkan from Izmir, Turkey, took this photo of themselves.

John Brown created this meme using the image of Attorney General Weinstein:

"I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life But when I do, they're always black"

“I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life
But when I do, they're always black”

July 22 2013

Visit to Israel Gets Filmmaker “Cleansed” from Iran's Cinema Museum

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at JFF, photo courtesy of JFF official website

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at Jerusalem Film Festival, photo courtesy of JFF official website

An internationally renowned Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, outraged many Iranians by accepting an invitation to the Jerusalem Film Festival in Israel this month.

Makhmalbaf, who is also a Green Movement activist and a former revolutionary, has divided Iranians over whether his attendance is a step towards healing “rifts and distances” between the nations, as he stated, or is an absolute disregard for Palestinian human rights, as his critics say.

Makhmalbaf participated in the Jerusalem Film Festival with his new movie, The Gardner:

The conversation is still hot and fresh among Iranians in social media and has prompted petitions signed by activists, academicians and journalists within the diaspora. The virtual world became a battleground for discussions about Makhmalbaf's trip.

First, an open letter signed by a group of “Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists” was published [fa] lamenting the director's neglect of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel:

We cannot in good conscience stand by Mr. Makhmalbaf and his decision which will inevitably validate the Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We ask not only that Mr. Makhmalbaf stand with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, but that he be a messenger of liberation for everyone, including both Palestinians and Iranians.

Then, another group of activists and academics penned a letter [fa] in support of the director's visit to Israel lauding his “brave action” as a peaceful gesture towards “conveying the message of friendship”:

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported. Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

The polarisation was not limited to academia. In social media the subject of the director's visit to Israel was hot among the netizens too.

Samareh, looks at the criticism with a pinch of salt and a bit of cynicism, commenting on Balatarin, an Iranian link sharing website:

Makhmalbaf took a great measure going to Israel and speaking of peace. He showed that the Iranian nation is different from the Iranian regime which is a big blow to the clerical government. One reason [for such harsh criticisms] is a by-law from the ministry of intelligence to all its footmen: “Tarnish Makhmalbaf's name immediately, only make sure that this is done from the position of the Islamic Republic's enemies to divide the opposition. If, in the meantime, you had to swear to the Islamic Republic there is absolutely no problem with that.

Iranian blogger, Adel, expresses his disdain, seeing a big distinction between what artists do from the realm of politics and, thus, dismissing what Mohsen Makhmalbaf did as futile from the very beginning:

If we are a bit realistic, we will see that the political discourse of artists oftentimes does not have any effect on politicians; Especially Israeli politicians who do not even listen to their American counterparts! Now which cause is Mr. Makhmalbaf is trying to serve? If he wishes to bring the two nations closer to peace, its actual outcome will not be anything other than bringing out a racist government from isolation.

Following this trip, the Islamic Republic's deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Javad Shamaghdari, ordered all Makhmalbaf's memorabilia to be “cleansed” from the Iranian national museum of cinema and a cleric has renounced him as an apostate.

One thing is for sure in this heated conversation: that just like any other debate in the Iranian context, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has brought out the colourful sphere of Iranian society that is unlike what many may wish to think.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

July 17 2013

A propos de la décision de l'Union européenne de rendre inéligible « les entités israéliennes et…

A propos de la décision de l’Union européenne de rendre inéligible « les entités israéliennes et leurs activités dans les territoires occupés par Israël depuis Juin 1967 pour des bourses, prix et instruments financiers fondés par l’UE, à partir de 2014 »

une précision de Dominique Vidal sur Facebook (mais qui devrait poster sur seenthis plutôt mais bon :) )

- Le 30 juin dernier, la Commission européenne a adopté une note sur « l’éligibilité des entités israéliennes et leurs activités dans les territoires occupés par Israël depuis Juin 1967 pour des bourses, prix et instruments financiers fondés par l’UE, à partir de 2014 », selon un communiqué de la délégation de l’UE en Israël.

– Il ne s’agit pas d’une nouvelle directive, applicable dans les Etats membres, mais de « codes de conduite », qui réaffirment, clarifient la loi européenne existante. Ils ont bien une portée obligatoire et concernent les institutions de l’UE jusqu’en 2020. Les Etats membres devraient certainement endosser ces codes de conduite dans le futur. Pour l’UE, le « but de ces codes de conduite est de faire la distinction entre l’Etat d’Israel et les territoires occupés, lorsqu’il s’agit du soutien européen ».

– Le code de conduite, qui prend effet le 1er janvier 2014, implique concrètement que tout accord ou contrat signé entre l’UE et Israël inclue une clause selon laquelle les colonies ne font pas partie de l’Etat d’Israël et ne font donc pas partie de l’accord. Seules les entités légales sont visées et non les personnes.
– La décision européenne a été vécue comme un « tremblement de terre » par le gouvernement israélien. Pour le vice-ministre des Affaires étrangères israélien, Zeev Elkin, Israël ne signerait aucun accord contenant une telle clause. « Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, il existait un accord implicite que l’Union ne travaillait pas au-delà de la Ligne verte, c’est maintenant devenu un politique officielle et obligatoire », selon un haut fonctionnaire israélien. Benyamin Nétanyahou a réagi au texte en assurant que son gouvernement n’accepterait pas de "diktats de l’extérieur sur nos frontières". Le gouvernement israélien a semble t-il été surpris par la publication de ces codes de conduite et ne s’attendait pas à ce qu’elles soient aussi détaillés et pratiques.

– Dans un article du Haaretz, un haut fonctionnaire des Etats-Unis affirme que l’UE pourrait aller plus loin sur l’administration américaine échouait à faire évoluer le dossier.

#israel #palestine #occupation #colonisation #union_européenne #ue

July 11 2013

Israel to African nations : take our Asylum_seekers and we will give you arms

#Israel to African nations: take our #Asylum_seekers and we will give you arms

In the last few days more details have come to light about Israel’s operation to deport African asylum seekers back to the continent, to whichever country wants to take them in exchange for “benefit packages.”  On Tuesday  Israeli newspaper #Yedioth_Ahronoth published an article in Hebrew, followed by a slightly different English version on its website revealing that the [...]

#Benjamin_Netanyahu #Eritrea #Hagai_Hadas #Sudan

July 09 2013

Lebanon : The Oil & Gas Week, July 08, 2013 | Middle East Strategic Perspectives

Lebanon : The Oil & Gas Week, July 08, 2013 | Middle East Strategic Perspectives
Intéressante analyse des enjeux de l’appel d’offres pour le forage du gaz au large du Liban

Beyond Israeli threats, the main message of the conference was the more familiar argument of proceeding with offshore oil and gas exploration without delays and respecting Lebanon’s commitments and deadlines, made particularly hard after the resignation of the Mikati cabinet in March 2013, before the adoption of two important decrees related to the definition of offshore blocks and their coordinates and the adoption of a model exploration and production contract. A caretaker cabinet cannot, in principle, adopt decrees, the Constitution restricting the exercise of its powers to the management of day-to-day affairs. But in certain circumstances, a caretaker cabinet may be authorized to adopt new decrees. Bassil, and the FPM, have been lobbying – unsuccessfully so far – the President, Parliament Speaker and caretaker PM to authorize a cabinet meeting in order to approve the two decrees. The reference to Israeli threats, a unifying factor in Lebanon, may convince them of the need to hold a cabinet meeting and adopt the decrees. It remains to be seen if this latest attempt to push for a cabinet meeting will be more successful. Bassil seems to have caught the attention of caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, a member of Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement, who asserted that appropriate measures will be taken to counter Israeli threats.


June 09 2013

Israeli Social Justice Protesters Met with Violence by Jerusalem Police

A protest organized by three groups affiliated with the Israeli social justice movement (#j14) was held in Jerusalem on Saturday night (June 8). The protesters demanded a reversal of the decision to export most of Israel's natural gas reserves with only 12.5% of the value of the gas going to the State in taxes. The protesters also voiced objections against the budget of the new government, which is expected to significantly raise taxes on Israel's lower and middle-class, while at the same time cutting government services on which those classes rely. The protest, despite being peaceful and rather small (a few hundreds of protesters) was met with an unusually high level of random police brutality.

Leftist activist Ben Marmara tweeted a series of updates throughout the protest:

שוטרים מכים נשים בירושלים, יש לכלוא את השוטרים
שוטרים היכו מפגינה וכעת עצרו אותה. #J14
שוטרים ממשיכים לעצור בני אדם ולהעמיס אותם על טנדרים. #J14 יש כבר כמה וכמה עצורות ועצורים בירושלים.
כמו בהפגנה ברמת גן גם היום המשטרה עברה על החוק ומנעה בכוח קיום של הפגנה. אח”כ עצרו מפגינים ומפגינות

Policemen are beating up women, they should be jailed.
There are a number of female and male detainees in Jerusalem. #j14 Police keep arresting people and piling them into police vans.
Just like the protest in Ramat Gan [against the export of natural gas], once again, the police broke the law and forcefully prevented a protest. Then they arrested protesters.

Jerusalem-based #j14 activist, Yishai Oltchik, posted this update on Facebook:

אז היום אני יכול לציין את הפעם הראשונה שבה שוטר דפק לי בעיטה. תקף אותי, זאת אומרת.

למה? פשוט כי עמדתי עם שלט הפגנה שקורא לקיום דיון בכנסת בנושא ייצוא הגז. לא דיברתי עם השוטר, לא עמדתי קרוב אל השוטר, אפילו לא הראתי סימנים שאני לא מתכוון לשתף פעולה אם הוא יבקש ממני לזוז. אפילו לא הסתכלתי אליו באופן ישיר. אפילו לא צילמתי, שזה דבר שמותר לעשות אבל בדרך כלל מסתיים בתקיפה.
פשוט עמדתי במקום, ואז הוא הגיע, דחף בעוצמה את הבחורה שהחזיקה איתי את השלט (והעיף אותה על גבה), ועל הדרך בעט בי.

איך הגבתי? קראתי אליו בהפתעה “למה?” ואחרי שניה הרמתי ידיים באוויר (שלא יגיד שאני תוקף אותו) וצעקתי שהשוטר תוקף אותי. הוא כנראה החליט שזה מספיק ועזב אותי לנפשי.
הלכתי לקצין המשטרה הקרוב ואמרתי לו ששוטר בעט בי ללא סיבה; הוא חייך והמשיך ללכת.

ומכל מה שהיה שם, הכאב של הבעיטה, הזעם והעלבון על כך שהותקפתי ללא סיבה (ומי שמכיר אותי יודע שאני לא אדם אלים), מה שהכי מכעיס אותי זו הידיעה שזה לא משהו מיוחד. זה לא יוצא דופן.
פשוט הגיע תורי הפעם, ועוד יש לי מזל שהשוטר הסתפק רק בבעיטה אחת — כי בדרך כלל זה לא נפסק אחרי מכה אחת בודדת.
ראיתי עוד לפחות עוד עשרה אנשים נדחפים בעוצמה ו/או חוטפים מכות ‘בקטנה’ משוטרים, ועוד מעצר אלים אחד או שניים שיצא לי לראות.


So today I can mark the first time when a cop kicked me. Attacked me, I mean. Why? Simply because I stood with a sign calling the Knesset [Israeli Parliament] to hold hearings regarding the export of natural gas…. I did not talk to the cop… did not look at him directly. I did not even film him, which is legal but usually ends in assault [by the cops]. I just stood there and then he arrived, forcefully pushed the girl who held the sign with me (throwing her on her back), and on the way, kicked me…. I went to a nearby police officer and told him that the cop kicked me for no reason; he just smiled and kept walking.

The thing that makes me so angry is knowing that this is not something out of the ordinary. It was just my turn this time, and I was lucky that the policemen thought that one kick was enough — because usually it doesn't end after one blow. I saw at least 10 other people being pushed and kicked by policemen, and one or two violent arrests.

Tel Aviv-based #j14 activist Orly Bar-Lev posted this image on Facebook and wrote:

Right to left: "Bibi [nickname for Netanyahu] - stop the economic terrorism!  Orly with a sign in the center: "Export of gas = suicide for the state" and "No to the cut in child stipends" [one of the proposed austerity measures that will greatly harm the lower class]

Right to left: “Bibi [nickname for Netanyahu] – stop the economic terrorism!
Orly in the center: “Export of gas = suicide for the state” and “No to the cut in child stipends” [one of the proposed austerity measures that will greatly harm the lower class]

מאות אזרחים נורמטיביים, שוחרי שלום, לא אלימים ומודאגים שבאו למחות על הגזירות הכלכליות, המצב הכלכלי וכנגד ייצוא הגז, נתקלו היום בירושלים בהתנהלות משטרית אלימה וקשה, חסרת כל פרופורציה.
פרשים??? להכות נשים??? מפגין שנדרס על ידי שוטר על אופנוע???
מה נסגר אתכם?
מי נתן את ההוראה לעצור את ההפגנה באלימות ולדכא את זכות המחאה? מי נתן את ההוראה למנוע מצעדת מחאה דמוקרטית להגיע לביתו של ראש הממשלה?
מי אחראי לטירוף הזה?

Hundreds of law-abiding and peaceful concerned citizens who came to protest against the austerity measures, the economic situation and the export of gas were met with violent and completely disproportional police treatment. Policemen on horses??? Beating up women??? A protester who was run over by a cop on a motorcycle??? What is wrong with you?
Who gave the order to stop this protest violently and repress the right to protest? Who gave the order to stop a democratic rally from reaching the home of the Prime Minister? Who is responsible for this madness?

Andrea Radu re-posted Orly's update and added:

בדמוקרטיה היחידה במזרח התיכון מכים דורסים ועוצרים מפגינים שלוים כי ניסו לממש את זכותם הדמוקרטית להפגין #J14 #1984

In the only democracy in the Middle east, peaceful protesters get run over, beaten and arrested because they attempted to exercise their democratic right to protest.

Policemen riding horses surround #j14 protesters near the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem Photo: #j14 activist Gali Fialkow

Policemen riding horses surround #j14 protesters near the Prime Minister's residency in Jerusalem
Photo: #j14 activist Gali Fialkow

The protest and police brutality did not receive a great deal of coverage and Israeli media and activists complained about biased reporting. Naminag who was at the protest tweeted:

בטמקא אומרים שאתמול השוטרים השתמשו ‘בכוח סביר'. וואללה, כי אני ראיתי מפגינה שהוטחה על גרם מדרגות והתגלגלה בהן למטה, שוטר שדרס מפגין עם האופנוע שלו ושוטר שנגח במפגין עם קסדה. וכל זה עוד לפני שצעדנו 100 מ'. #j14

Ynet [major Israeli news site, owned by Yedhioth Aharonot, close to Finance Minister, Yair Lapid] says that policemen used “reasonable force”. Really? Because I saw a protester being pushed down a flight of stairs and rolling down, a policemen who ran over a protester with his motorcycle and a policemen wearing a helmet who headbutted a protester. And all of this before we even marched 100 meters.

On Facebook, often dubbed the “#j14 lawyer”, Barak Cohen, shares this video showing police dragging away a protester:

He shares another video on YouTube showing police arresting him for merely standing on the sidewalk:

March 27 2013

The Pros and Cons of Drafting Israel's Ultra-Orthodox

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Israel

Israel Defense Forces share a photo on flickr of Ultra-Orthodox soldiers finishing a course in 2010 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Israeli public largely objects to the current policy of allowing ultra-orthodox Jewish youth to avoid army service, but the rule has long been upheld thanks to political power play. Now, for the first time in 18 years, an Israeli prime minister has formed a government without the ultra-orthodox parties and loyal coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the policy is up for consideration.

The reason for the surprising exclusion of the ultra-orthodox parties is the meteoric rise of the secular Yesh Atid party, headed by former TV personality and columnist, Yair Lapid.

One of the main focuses of Lapid’s campaign was the demand for an “equal share of the burden” of military service. Meaning, an end to the policy of allowing ultra-orthodox men to avoid army service if they continue their religious studies past the age of 18 with a government stipend, while other Jewish youths are forced to serve in the army at a monthly wage that amounts to pocket money.

Lapid’s success in the polls and his tactical alliance with the Jewish Home party – a party associated with the religious Zionist sector (whose members do serve in the army) – forced Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu party to form a government that will promote the drafting of ultra-orthodox Jews into the army. The ultra-orthodox parties have reacted with horror and even threatened to leave the country en masse if they are drafted.

The anonymous blogger behind Israeli Politics 101 reflects a widespread view in Israel, namely, that integrating ultra-orthodox into national service will also pave their way to integration into the labor force. He writes:

It is important to remember – 29% of children under the age of 6 are Arabs. 30% of the children under the age of 6 in Israel today are ultra-orthodox. Anyone who looks ahead into Israel’s future understands that there is no realistic possibility to continue building the system based solely on the secular Jewish sector and on the religious Zionist sector. In 12 years, they will be a minority whose share in the population will probably continue to decrease. The only way for Israel’s future is re-planning the systems to allow real integration of the Arab and ultra-orthodox sectors.

Leading leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz, on the other hand, thinks that the neo-liberal parties are raising the issue of “equal sharing of the burden” to distract the public that took to the streets in large numbers to demand social justice in 2011:

Instead of talking about economic equality, we will now talk about “equal sharing of the burden”. The scarecrow of drafting the ultra-orthodox into the IDF will replace, in this new government, the Iranian scarecrow… The drafting of ultra-orthodox will harm everybody. It will cost a great deal of money, it will draft into the army people that the army has no need for – it is suffering from too much manpower even now – and will reverse the standing of women [ultra-orthodox men will only serve in units where genders are segregated – E.T.].. In the end, the IDF will be less combat ready, the military budget will increase by billions [to cover the salaries of the ultra-orthodox and other expenses– E.T.], society will be more militaristic – and it will have much less equality. Under this façade, most of society will continue to become poorer, and the class warfare that Netanyahu is waging will continue to transfer the national wealth from the lower classes to the top 1%.

Ultra-Orthodox social justice activist, Yaacov Lebi [he], thinks staying in the opposition, for once, may benefit the ultra-orthodox community:

As opposed to the handful of politicians and those who have a vested interest in this, the larger ultra-orthodox public will benefit from sitting in the opposition… The ultra-orthodox public will undergo a process of internal and necessary correction and reflection about internal ultra-orthodox problems and the relations between the ultra-orthodox and the State and the rest of its citizens.

Previous attempts by centrist-secular parties, including the party Shinui, headed by Yair Lapid’s father, were unsuccessful and Prime Minister Netanyahu has no interest in changing the status quo and alienating his trusted allies. However, he may be pressured to do just that.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

March 04 2013

Israel Introduces Separate Bus Lines for Jews and Arabs

Israel has introduced separate bus lines for Jews and Arabs, traveling from the West Bank to Israel, starting today [March 4, 2013]. Netizens react to the news, describing Israel as practicing segregation and apartheid.

According to +972, a blog-based web magazine:

A new Israeli bus line will serve only Palestinians. Officials claim it’s not segregation, but the ongoing experience of discrimination faced by Palestinian workers speaks for itself.

The post explains:

Early this morning, Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to work inside the state of Israel crammed onto bus lines specially created for “Palestinians only” — instead of using the same public buses used by Israelis. The Israeli Transportation Ministry launched the new bus lines today, for travel from the Eyal checkpoint to Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba and back to the checkpoint, after settlers complained about Palestinians using the same buses as Israelis on their way to and from work inside Israel.

On Twitter, Turkish blogger Esra Doğramacı comments:

@EsraD: All I can say is, you've got to be joking.

South African Bilal Randeree responds:

Hmm, why does this sound familiar? Hmm… Let me ask my parents, maybe they can help figure out…

Yemeni Noon Arabia chimes in:

@NoonArabia: Despicable!

Jordanian entrepreneur Fadi Ghandour calls the move:

@fadig: Apartheid

And Israeli journalist Joseph Dana finds the new move unbelievable:

@ibnezra: Hard to believe that we are reading this headline in 2013: Israel introduces ‘Palestinian only’ bus lines

February 26 2013

A Futile Gagging Order for the ‘Prisoner X’ Scandal

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Graffiti of newspaper reader in Tel Aviv, Israel

Graffiti of newspaper reader in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Helga Tawil Souri on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After Australia’s ABC aired an exposé on ‘Prisoner X’ on February 12, Israeli media was quick to follow up on the shocking claims that Ben Zygier, an Australian-born Israeli citizen who worked for Mossad, was secretly detained in a maximum-security prison for months before allegedly committing suicide in 2010. However, reports on the scandal were pulled soon after they emerged. The Prime Minister’s Office called an urgent meeting of the editors of all major Israeli news outlets to ask for their cooperation in silencing the story. For a whole day, Israeli media were forbidden from reporting on the story, even as it was making headlines worldwide and Israelis disseminated the news in social media and blogs. Only after three leftist members of the Knesset used their parliamentary immunity to speak on the issue did opaque headlines appear, and an Israeli court lifted the gag order.

The Israeli government used the possible threat to national security to justify its decision to censor the ‘Prisoner X’ scandal. However, many Israeli bloggers remain far from convinced that national security was the main reason behind the pulling of the story.

Noam Shiezaf argued on +972 Magazine:

It was pretty clear by the early morning yesterday that the Prime Minister’s Office (which is in charge of the Mossad) and the Defense Department (under which the military censor operates) are fighting a losing battle. Once a report was out there in the international media, it was impossible to stop it from circulating without taking Chinese-style Internet censorship measures. Plus, the whole rationale was flawed: there is nothing “secret” about something that the entire world knows, so why should Israelis be the only ones who are forbidden access to the information? If anything, such behavior reveals the deeper motive behind most acts of censorship: it is less about protecting state security and more about the protection of individuals and institutions from public scrutiny.

Gal Mor, the editor of Holes in the Net, also disputed the claim that censorship was used to protect national security:

Like in previous scandals (Motke Kedar, who was also dubbed ‘Prisoner X’; Marcus Klinberg; the Lavon Affair; Bus 300) we were told that exposing the affair endangers national security, to the point of endangering its existence…When each of these secret affairs were exposed, the world did not end, and we found out that in the worst case this is a diplomatic incident, and an embarrassment to an intelligence agency, and exposing it contributed greatly to Israel’s democracy and to internal inspections of the agencies. And even if there was a justification for this silencing, we live in a global alley, in which Facebook, Twitter and blogs are only a click away.

The attempts to prevent the dissemination of the ‘Prisoner X’ story after the airing of the exposé shows that Israeli authorities have not yet adjusted to the new media era. In a country where almost half of the population has a Facebook account, slapping a gag order on a report readily available online, only creates greater interest in the story.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

February 14 2013

Secret Life and Death of Australian-Israeli Mossad Spy ‘Prisoner X’

Revelations by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) progamme Foreign Correspondent on 12 February, 2013 have fired up Australian onliners. The mysterious Prisoner X who allegedly committed suicide in an Israeli gaol in 2010 was not only a dual citizen of Australia and Israel, but also a Mossad agent.

J-Wire, Jewish online news from Australia and New Zealand, responded the next day:

The ABC program was careful to point out that certain issues which could be interpreted as facts are in fact mere speculation.
They say they “understood Zygier had been recruited by Mossad”. The ABC correcty points out that countries such as Australia and New Zealand are quiet and “innocent”.

There is no doubt that Ben Zygier “disappeared” in 2010 and human rights activists have criticized the Israeli government for the secret imprisonment of Prisoner X.

Israeli media has been silenced by powerful laws which impact on the nation’s security.

In Australia, messages left for the Zygier family remain unanswered.

Was Ben Zygier “Prisoner X”… perhaps only time will tell, and perhaps a substantial amount of time.

They underestimated the power of the media. The Israeli government tried to continue its censorship but has now come clean apparently:

Israel has confirmed the reported suicide of an Australian prisoner who had worked for the Israeli spy agency Mossad, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel broke its silence on Wednesday after Australia's ABC news network first revealed the identity of Prisoner X, a 34-year-old man who had used three different names, including Ben Zygier, Ben Allen, and Ben Alon.

Prisoner X

Ben Zygier, Prisoner X – Image by Mahmoud illean copyright Demotix 13 Feb 2013

The Australian government also admitted knowledge of his mysterious life and death, after initial denials. What and when they knew will be an ongoing debate no doubt.

Asher Wolf wants answers now:

‏@Asher_Wolf: Prisoner X never stood trial, was jailed for crimes unknown & died alone. The diplomats & politicians who abandoned him must face an inquiry

It’s not the first time that Mossad's use of Australian passports has caused tension between the two normally friendly nations. Fake passports were used in the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in 2010.

Amelia Freelander is following connections between the events:

‏@MiaRubySydney: The plot thickens RT @JamalDajani Prisoner X arrest is related to the Mossad's assassination in Dubai using stolen Australian passports

Prominent Australian author and blogger Antony Loewenstein tweeted a link to Richard Silverstein’s blog Tikun Olam:

‏@antloewenstein: Will #Australian media ask necessary questions about #Zionist community after exposure of another likely spy?

According to Silverstein:

Back in 2010, I reported that Israel had arrested an unidentified individual, and imprisoned him in total secrecy in an Israeli jail. The cell he occupied had once housed Yigal Amir Even his jailers didn’t know who he was.

Wmmbb of Duckpond asks the big questions in the post PRISONER X, MURDERED?:

Speculation around the death of Ben Zyglier will now be rife. What could he have done?

The Happy Antipodean is concerned that speculation soon becomes fact in the media:

In early stories doubt was cast over the way Zygier died but today suicide is being stated as a fact…

Surprising amid all of this media scrutiny is the silence of Zygier's Melbourne family, which is prominent in the Jewish community. No media organisation has so far been able to extract new information from any of its members.

Abalinx, a supporter of the opposition Liberal Party in Australian, is concerned about support of citizens overseas:

It is bad enough when an Australian dies alone in his own country. It is worse when he or she dies alone in a foreign country, forgotten even by his own government. Even though Prisoner X (now identified as Ben Zygier) took on a dual Israeli citizenship does not absolve the Australian Foreign Affairs Department for failing to pass on the information up higher for further discussion.

Dr Ben Saul of the Sydney Centre for International Law canvasses many of international law questions at the Drum:

The Israelis are masters of all the dark arts: assassination (from Munich), abduction (from Eichmann onward), torture (of Palestinian prisoners), pre-emptive military strikes (from Iraq to Syria), violent interception of civilians at sea (the Gaza flotilla), and colonising foreign territory (the juiciest parts of Palestine).

He finishes by reflecting on local Jewish sentiment about the case:

Australia's Jewish communities are also aghast at this episode and deserve better. After giving so much to support to Israel, one would hope that Israel would treat Australian Jews serving their other homeland with greater dignity, whatever they have done.

You know you’re on a winner with an exclusive scoop like this one. Mark Scott, Managing Director of ABC, tweeted:

‏@abcmarkscott: Huge twitter reaction to tonight's Foreign Correspondent on Prisoner X. Up now on iview. @ForeignOfficial

The #prisonerx hashtag has plenty more…

December 27 2012

Africa's Tainted Global Media Coverage

The #Kony2012 campaign led by the Invisible Children NGO certainly contained a few over-simplifications about Africa. This prompted a counter-campaign #WhatILoveAboutAfrica aimed at rectifying these 'stray shots'.

poster for Kony 2012.

The Kony 2012 campaign poster. Public domain

Inaccurate media approximations about Africa is not a rare phenomenon - even if the comedy of errors has steadily declined over the last few years. The misrepresentation of the continent in the media is not a trivial subject, as Professor Charles Moumouni explains [fr]:

La mauvaise représentation de l’Afrique dans les médias occidentaux n’est ni un
phénomène nouveau, ni un phénomène exceptionnel. Elle fait l’objet de préoccupations depuis les années 1970, notamment dans le cadre des discussions sur le Nouvel ordre mondial de l’information et de la communication (NOMIC). Mais l’image que propagent les médias occidentaux de l'Afrique est d’autant plus préoccupante qu’elle influe négativement sur les efforts de développement de l'Afrique

Poor representation of Africa in Western media is neither a new nor an exceptional phenomenon. It was already a subject of concern during the 1970s, notably in the context of discussions about New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). But the image of Africa currently being propagated by Western media is all the more concerning as it adversely effects African development efforts.

African media itself, however, is certainly not immune from criticism of this sort. Several initiatives have emerged, in recent years, to help improve the accuracy of African media. The African Media Initiative and Media Monitoring Africa are just two examples.

Here is a summary of the gems, errors and other inaccuracies in global media coverage of Africa and in the African media itself:

Global media coverage of Africa

Canada - RDC:  ”Stephen Harper enters Africa's heart of darkness”

This was the title given to a CBC news article concerning the Canadian prime minister's visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during a summit of the International Organization of the Francophonie. Although the title refers to Joseph Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness, it also evokes an outdated, condescending vision of black Africa as a savage, dangerous land. The article adds:

It's the most wretched country on the face of the earth.


The article makes it seem as though prime minister Harper ought to be given a medal for his courage in visiting the DRC.

Israel - “Sub-Saharan Africans are not rapists”

Slate Afrique explains the context of this original (to say the least) headline [fr]:

Les noirs ne sont pas des violeurs. Tel est le message que veulent faire passer des demandeurs d'asile Africains subsahariens en Israël. Ces derniers sont pointés du doigt par l'opinion publique israélienne à la suite d'un cas de viol très médiatisé, ayant impliqué quatre demandeurs d'asile érythréens en Israël. Pour contrer une stigmatisation des noirs, un centre d'aide aux travailleurs étrangers a aidé des Africains à rédiger des «lettres ouvertes au peuple israélien», rapporte le quotidien israélien Haaretz le 20 mai.

Blacks are not rapists. This is the message that asylum-seeks from sub-Saharan Africa want to make heard in Israel. Israeli public opinion had been pointing the finger at sub-Saharan asylum-seekers after a highly publicized rape trial implicated four Eritreans. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on 20 May that to counter the stigmatization of black people, a support center for foreign workers has been assisting Africans in preparing “open letters to the Israeli people”.

France - Confusion between Guadeloupe and Madagascar for I-télé 

The clashes in Guadeloupe between the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon [note: leading body for trade unions and social movements] and security forces coincided with the most intense political crisis in Madagascar. The two events were so close to each other in time, in fact, that I-télé (a cable-TV news channel in France) compiled the following little montage in which the commentary confuses the events in Guadeloupe with those in Madagascar  [fr]:

USA - DRC: “Orphaned, raped and ignored”

This is the title of an article by journalist Nicholas Kristof about a 9 year-old child that was the victim of gang rape in the DRC. As Laura Seay explains in a translation on Slate Afrique, this article raises several ethical issues [fr]:

Après de violentes polémiques, Kristof posta une réponse sur son blog dans laquelle il promettait de ne pas le refaire, tout en réfutant les critiques affirmant qu’il mettait l’enfant en danger en l’identifiant. Il reconnut cependant qu’imprimer son nom violait la politique du Times, même s’il avait reçu l’autorisation d’une femme qui jouait le rôle de tutrice de l’enfant. Difficile d’imaginer un rédacteur en chef, quel qu’il soit, laisser une telle «bavure» se produire dans un article concernant une victime occidentale de pédophilie.

After several forceful debates, Kristof posted a reply on his blog in which he promised not to do it again - all the while refuting criticism that he had endangered the child by identifying. He recognized, however, that the publication of the child's name violated the policy of The Times, even if he received permission from a woman playing the role of the child's guardian. It is difficult to imagine an editor in-chief that would have allowed for such a ‘blunder' to occur in an article concerning a Western child-abuse victim.

African media 

South Africa - Rape-victim indirectly identified in an October 2012 report  

Musa Rikhotso reports that:

A story sourced from Sapa entitled, “Sentence Slashed over rape of Stepdaughter” (The Star, 10/10/2012, p.7). The article names a Limpopo man, whose sentence was reduced from life imprisonment to 1- years for raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter; in so doing, failing to protect the identity of the rape victim.


Senegal - “Senegalese repatriated from the Ivory Coast”

During the height of the crisis in the Ivory Coast, the Walfadjiri-l'Aurore ran the headline “Senegalese repatriated from the Ivory Coast take it out on [President] Wade“:

wade sénégal côte d'ivoire

Page 2 of a Senegalese daily containing an article about the crisis in the Ivory Coast- public domain


Le Post explains that this was an error [fr] because:

justement ces hommes et femmes reprochent au gouvernement de n'avoir pas été “rapatriés” mais bel et bien d'avoir du rentrer par leurs propres moyens.

these men and women criticized the government precisely because they had not been “repatriated” but had been simply required to return by their own means.

December 19 2012

Israel Media Ratings War Spills into Conflict Coverage

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Elderly man checks the headlines in tel aviv, israel.

Elderly man checks the headlines in Tel Aviv, Israel - 2005. Photo by Shachar Abiry שחר אבירי on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Israeli media has undergone significant changes over the past few years. Growing economic strains have increased competition between media outlets fighting for a share of advertising revenue. However, because the market that media outlets operate in is relatively small many are experiencing serious financial problems. This includes the daily newspaper Maariv, which was recently sold to a right-wing publisher. As a result, many of the newspaper’s workers are expected to lose their job. A similar fate may fall upon employees at Channel 10 and the only left-leaning Israeli daily, Haaretz, which are also incurring heavy losses.

Financial troubles have the potential, therefore, to decrease the independence of reporters, who may be less willing to challenge the wishes of their editors or managers who are, in turn, accountable to the owners of media outlets. In a recent blog post on The 7th Eye, Prof. Gabriel Weimann challenged the view that Israeli media is becoming increasingly biased and polarized due to ideological reasons. He writes:

מה שמניע מגמה זו בישראל אינו הזדהות אידיאולוגית, אימוץ גלוי ואמיץ של אג'נדה חברתית או מחויבות ארוכת טווח לקו פוליטי. מי שמעצבים תהליך זה בישראל הם שיקולים תחרותיים, עסקיים ויוקרתיים.

הזדהות עם או יציאה נגד מנהיג פוליטי או מפלגתו אינן בחירות מערכתיות המבוססות על בחינת עמדות והערכות בדבר נכונות הדרך. אלו בחירות המונעת לעתים על-ידי שיקולי תחרות (”אם המתחרה שלי הוא בעד, אז אני נגד”), ולעתים על-ידי רשת סבוכה של קשרים עסקיים, שותפויות בבעלות צולבת של תקשורת ועסקים.

What causes this trend in Israel is not ideological identification, an unabashed and brave adoption of a social agenda or a long-term commitment to a political worldview. What shapes this process are competitiveness, financial considerations and prestige.
Support or opposition to a political leader or his party are not choices made based on a worldview or assessments regarding whether the leader is right. These are choices that are often motivated by competitive considerations (“if my competitor is for him, I am against”) and sometimes by an intricate web of commercial connections, and cross ownerships of media outlets and businesses.

The desire to maintain a large number of viewers, listeners or readers has increased the importance of ratings and the desire of media outlets not to report matters that might decrease their audience. Israeli media outlets attempt to reflect to their audience what Israeli society likes to think of their country: as a moral, powerful country that only acts in self-defense. This is one reason why the coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict is generally very sympathetic of the Israeli government’s narrative.

One recent example of this bias is the coverage of the killing near the Gaza-Israel border of Anwar Abdul Hadi Qudaih, a 20-year-old Palestinian. IDF soldiers shot at Anwar after the cease fire that was brokered between Hamas and Israel following Operation Pillar of Defense came into effect. Israeli media adopted the IDF’s line that Anwar and 300 other protesters attempted to breach the border fence and enter Israel. A video of the event showed that the number of protesters was in fact closer to 30 and they were not close to the border fence when the IDF shot Anwar.

The blogger Ishton, who wrote a detailed post about this discrepancy between Israeli coverage and reality, argued:

זה לא רק צה”ל שמפעיל כוח בלתי סביר בעליל, אלא גם התקשורת. ומה נותר לנו? לחפש באתרי חדשות מהעולם את האמת? לכתוב פוסט שיקרא על ידי אלפים בודדים ויותיר מיליונים חשופים לאש החיה של התסלופת הישראלית? כמו עם הפלסטינים, כמו עם אנואר, זה פשוט לא כוחות. כנגד סרטוני יוטיוב ופוסטים בשולי השוליים, עומדת התקשורת ומפגיזה את הקורא – אם בידיעות מעוותות ואם בחוסר ידיעות על האמת… אתם, העיתונאים והעורכים, החתומים על הכתבות הללו, מרגישים בנוח בגלימה השחורה, שאיש לא התיר לכם ללבוש. אתם חורצים את דינם של אנשים, שלא נותר להם בית משפט אחר מלבד התקשורת (כי בתי המשפט שלנו לא יקשיבו להם). ובמחיקתם וסילופם, בכך שאתם “רק עושים את תפקידכם” כשופרי דובר צה”ל, אתם אינכם מדווחים את המצב, אלא מייצרים ומנציחים אותו.

It is not just the IDF that uses excessive force, but also the media. What are we left to do? Search international news sites for the truth? Write a post that will be read by a few thousands but will leave millions exposed to Israeli propaganda? Just like [Israel’s conflict] with the Palestinians, the forces are not evenly matched. Against YouTube videos and marginal posts, stands the media, which either bombards the reader with false reports or just does not report about the truth… You, journalists and editors, who are responsible for these reports, feel comfortable in your black [judges’] gown, which no one allowed you to wear. You seal the fate of people who have no trial left to stand except the media (since our courts won’t hear them). When you distort the truth or erase them, when you are “just doing your job” as the mouthpieces of the IDF spokesperson, you are not reporting on the situation, but creating and perpetuating it.

Increasingly, citizen journalists and bloggers fill in the void of Israeli mainstream media coverage. Bloggers such as Ishton, Idan Landau, Yossi Gurvitz, Haggai Mattar, Noam Rotem, and Yair Kaldor cover and offer commentary of issues that are often neglected by Israeli mainstream media.

This post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

December 14 2012

Football Players Protest Against the European Under-21 Championship Being Held in Israel published a letter [fr] from players addressed to the president of FIFA, Joseph S. Blatter :

Some sixty professional footballers, for the most part African, wrote a letter to UEFA in protest at the decision to entrust Israel with the organisation of the European Under-21 Football Championship (June 5-18, 2013). In doing so, they argue, European football is turning a blind eye to the recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

November 26 2012

Israelis React to Barak's Retirement from Politics

Israel's Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, who previously served as Israel's Prime Minister (1999-2001) and IDF Chief of Staff (1991-1995), made a surprise announcement in a press conference today, saying he will be retiring from politics to spend more time with his family. Barak will continue to serve as Israel's Minister of Defense until the next government is formed following the January 2013 elections. This is Barak's second announcement of retirement from politics, the first one coming in 2001 after his defeat in the 2001 general elections.

Barak's popularity has significantly diminished in recent years, after he split from the Labor Party, which he headed, to form a new party, HaAtzmaut. The split insured that Barak could stay in Netanyahu's government after most of the Labor's Member of Knesset (the legislature of Israel) wanted to quit the government. Prior to Barak's announcement, his party, which has five MKs who all split from the Labor Party, was hovering around the 2 per cent election threshold.

Dudi Rosenthal joked on Twitter about Barak's dwindling popularity and options:

המוזיקה נפסקה, כולם מיהרו לתפוס כיסאות ורק אהוד ברק ממשיך לרוץ מסביב כמו מפגר

@DudiRosenthal: The music stopped and everyone rushed to grab a seat, and only Ehud Barak is still running around like an idiot.

Israeli law dictates that at least a third of a party's MKs need to split from their party to be able to form a new party. Barak managed to convince four Labor MKs to split with him (the Labor had 13 seats), but today's announcement ensures that his new HaAtzmaut party now has little to no chance of getting elected.

Israeli journalist Dimi Reider commented:

@dimireider: What a wonderful “F**k You, you're on your own” to the invertebrates who joined him in the Atzmaut farce

Since Barak split the Labor party, which currently has only eight MKs left, the party has been gaining popularity in the polls. Gil Gangnam Klein quipped:

באתי, הרסתי כל מפלגה שיכלתי, פרשתי. #אהוד.ברק.אוטוביוגרפיה

@Garkler: I came, I destroyed every party I could, I retired. #EhudBarakAutobiography

Leftist meme-creator, John Brown, doctored the image of US President Nixon after he resigned in disgrace:

During the Press conference, Barak cited the lack of passion for politics as one reason he's retiring. Noa Mashiah tweeted about this:

כשברק אומר שהפוליטיקה לא היתה אצלו מושא תשוקה, זיינת אותנו בלי חשק?

@mashiahno: When Barak says that politics has never been his desire, [does that mean] you f**ked us without passion?

Jonathan joked on Twitter:

אתם סתם קטנוניים ומתעלמים מכל הדברים הטובים שברק עשה. הייתי מפרט, אבל כבר כתבתי את זה בשירות המיקרו-בלוגינג המתחרה שמגביל סטטוסים לאפס תווים

@CatRobotIL: You're just being petty and ignore all the good things Barak has done. I would elaborate, but I already wrote about it in a competing micro-blogging service that limits updates to zero characters.

Some netizens wrote about Barak's role in commanding over the recent Pillar of Defense Operation in Gaza.

Blogger Ido Kenan wrote:

אז עמוד ענן היה מתנת פרידה? איזה חמודוש, לא היית צריך!

So Pillar of Defense was a going away present? What a cutie, you really shouldn't have

Leftist activist Shachat B. Cotani wrote:

להתראות ותודה על המתים

So long and thanks for the dead

Leading migrant rights lawyer, Yadin Elam, posted Barak's recent campaign poster, which states that “we need a responsible adult here”, and ridiculed it by quoting the lyrics of a famous Zohar Argov song:

אז כבר לא צריך כאן מבוגר אחראי? נישאר יתומים?
בדד? בלי עתיד, בלי תקווה, בלי חלום?

So we no longer need a responsible adult here? We will be orphaned? Alone? Without a future, without hope, without a dream?

Assaf Appelboim tweeted:

מכירים את זה שאחרי הרבה זמן פורשים בשיא? אז ברק, רק ההיפך.

@Appelboy7: You know when after a long time people quit while they're ahead? Well Barak [did] just the opposite.

Dkapuchino mocked Barak's lavish lifestyle in tweeting:

זה השלב שהוא פורש לנהל חיים צנועים בבקתה הצנועה שלו במגדל גינדי?

@dkapuchino: Is this the part when he retires to lead a modest life in his modest hut in the Gindi Towers? [Barak's pricey place of residence]

November 24 2012

Pakistan Stands With Palestine

The latest conflict between Israel and Palestine after resulting in scores of casualties, has halted after a cease fire initiated by Egypt. As life slowly returns to normalcy, questions as to whether the truce will hold have already started surfacing.

The short war has already caused tremendous loss of life, including countless deaths of little children. Graphic images from the region being posted over various social media websites, show people uncovering lifeless bodies from the rubble after air strikes in Gaza, heavily bandaged children and civilians mourning over the bodies of loved ones.

After going viral, these images have shocked the world, begetting a series of protests and rallies demanding that Israel stop its air raids. Pakistan has a long standing Pro-Palestine stance and therefore a number of rallies and protests by political and religious parties were held to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

In Lahore, religious party Jamaat Islami led a strong march towards the US consulate chanting anti- American and anti- Israeli slogans. After expressing anger over the lack of concern by international human rights organization, the party leaders also blamed the Pakistani Government for not taking a strong stand against Israel.

Activists from Sunni Tehreek burn an Israeli flag during protest against ongoing attacks on Gaza outside Hyderabad press club. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copyright Demotix (20/11/2012)

The youth of Lahore also united for a peaceful demonstration of solidarity with Gaza. According to their event page on social networking site Facebook, the rally took place on November 21st and carried the following message:

“When you go to sleep at night 1.6 million people in Palestine stay awake to stay alive. Join our peaceful demonstration in Lahore, Pakistan to voice your protest against the brutal killings and a violation of humanity.”

In a private emergency session with United Nations on Wednesday Pakistan strongly condemned the attack on Gaza.

After an online attack on dozens of Israeli state website by acclaimed hacking group ‘Anonymous’, Pakistani hackers followed suit, defacing over 30 Israeli websites of leading brands. According to the website hackers from Pakistan, after taking control of the pages, posted warnings to Israel against the attack on Palestine. A list of the hacked websites is also available.

As attacks on Gaza continued, a number of Pakistani lawmakers walked out of a parliamentary session as a sign of protest. The politicians belonged to different political parties including Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League – N (PMLN).

Political Party Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) has also announced its decision to observe a ‘Solidarity day with Gaza’ on Friday the 23rd of November. According to the party’s official website, the peaceful demonstration will speak out against the ‘atrocities being committed against the helpless people of Gaza’ and to show that Palestinians are not alone.

The Palestinian Foundation of Pakistan (PLF), launched in May 2008, has also declared Friday as ‘Gaza Solidarity Day. The foundation hopes to ‘highlight and create awareness among people about just Palestine cause that .The patrons for the foundation include members of various religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat’s Pirzada Aijaz Suhrawardy, Sahibzada Afzaal Noorani of Fidaiyan-e-Khatm-e-Nubuwat, Afsar Raza Khan of Imamia Organisation, Nasir Ali of ISO. The leaders made a joint press conference in Lahore, urging people to unite with Palestinians.

Aafia Movement's supporters chant slogans in Karachi in favor of innocent victims of Gaza. Image by Ayub Mohammad. Copyright Demotix (18/11/2012)

A video on their Facebook page also covers the protest led by the member of PLF outside Karachi Press Club on November 20th.

While the people of Pakistan show their full support for Palestine, a report condemning the media for not covering the issue enough has also been making rounds. The report claims that mainstream Pakistani media has been very selective over the information being broadcasted even though social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have been actively involved in creating awareness.
Using social media, people have raised concerns over the grave situation, displayed support and also condemned the government for being more involved in Gaza than in solving the serious terrorism back home.

On Twitter:

‏@abdullasyed (Abdullah Syed): Trick question of the day? @etribune: (Poll) Has local media given sufficient coverage to the ongoing #Gaza conflict? #ETPoll

@fursid: @shishibean: Pictures are worth more than 1,000 words. Gazans cleaning up after homes damaged. #GazaUnderAttackpic

@beenasarwar (beena sarwar): MT @MuslimIQ: White phosphorus burns thru skin & muscle, into bone, continues till no more O2. #Israel Army is using this on #Gazacivilians

‏@BasmaSiddiqui: u watch CNN for 5 mins n u hate the US and Israel all over again :@#Gaza

@GibranAshraf: Dear #Gaza - please forgive us for our ignorance - but we are a little busy with bomblasts of our own!!

@alisalmanalvi: #Gaza is to Palestinians as #Pakistan is to Shias. The only difference is that Palestinians do get some respite. #ShiaGenocide #Pakistan

@Ali_Abbas_Zaidi: Only if “praying” for peace were enough. #Pakistan #Gaza

@xoyii_ (Zoya Altaf): SalmanMir07 and if we can raise our voice for #Gaza then why not our own people…they should come first! @anumb3

November 23 2012

Candles Lit for Gaza in Bulgaria's Capital

About 100 people gathered in Sofia's central square to show their support for the victims of Israel's recent Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip. Facebook page “Together for Palestine” [bg] has this photo of commemorative candles lit in Bulgaria's capital; another page, “Bulgaria supports Palestinian independence in the UN” [bg], has more updates and photos. A few pro- and anti-Assad Syrians were seen arguing with each other during this solidarity gathering:

Photo by Ruslan Trad.

November 22 2012

Israeli Media Criticized for Coverage of Gaza Conflict

The latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants was covered around the clock in Israel. Media outlets largely adopted the government's narrative and justifications for the offensive. Leftist Israeli bloggers and netizens, while criticizing the government throughout the operation, also attacked what they saw as a biased coverage of the events.

Israeli leftist tweep Uri Horesh chastised a Jerusalem Post reporter who was assigned to write a story about the suffering of pets in southern Israel. Here's the exchange between them:

‏@sharonudasin: Does anyone have pets who are freaking out because of the rocket sirens? If so, please contact me today for a story. Thanks! #jpost

@urihoresh: @sharonudasin Are you writing for The Onion?

‏@sharonudasin: @urihoresh no, this is a real concern for southern dog and cat owners in Israel!

@urihoresh: .@sharonudasin Children are being murdered in #Gaza, and the Jerusalem Post is running a story about puppies in Ashdod afraid of sirens. OK.

Channel 2 Military Correspondent, Roni Daniel, was widely criticized by leftists for what they consider to be war-mongering. Journalist Alexandra Belopolsky wrote in her Saloona blog [heb]:

“הגיע הזמן להפסיק עם הפינצטה”, קבע דניאל בקולו הרדיופוני שאין עליו עוררין, תוך שהוא מנסה “לחנך” את צה”ל לפעולה הנכונה לדידו. “הגיע הזמן להוציא את הפטיש הכבד. בשלב מסוים צריך לעבור למשהו יותר קשה ואלים”.

קל לפספס בתוך זרם הברברת המגויסת לדגל, נטולת הביקורת, הממלאת את המסכים בימים האחרונים, את עוצמת הזעזוע שאמור לייצר משפט כזה. ודווקא משום כך, אסור בשום אופן להקל בו ראש. מצב שבו עיתונאי בכיר, שאמור להעניק לצופים מידע ופרספקטיבה, קורא באופן בלתי מוסווה לאלימות צבאית באוכלוסיה בלתי-לוחמת הוא מצב שאסור בשום אופן לעבור עליו לסדר היום.

“It's time to stop with the precision attacks,” stated Daniel in his radio-phonic and authoritative voice as he tried to “educate” the IDF on how they should act. “It's time to bring out the heavy hammer. At some point, we need to something more harsh and violent.” In the stream of the patriotic, unquestioning babble that has been filling our screens in recent days, it is understandable why this sentence did not shock many. And exactly because of this, it should not be taken lightly. We should not accept a situation in which a prominent journalist, who is supposed to provide viewers with information and perspective, clearly calls for military aggression against a civilian population.

Leading leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz tweeted:

התקשורת הישראלית, באופן שבו היא מדווחת על האירועים ברצועה, חזרה שני דורות אחורה, לימי פעולות התגמול. שוב היא שופר של מערכת הבטחון.

In the way it is reporting about the events in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli media has moved backwards to two decades, to the era of the Reprisal Operations when it served as the mouthpiece of the military establishment.

Analyzing the symbiosis between the IDF Spokesperson Unit and Israel media, Daniel Argo and Shiri Eiram wrote on the blog of the media watchdog Keshev [heb]:

במלחמות הקודמות צה”ל היה “מזרים” מידע לכתבים הצבאיים, ומזין מערכות תקשורת בחומר וידאו ובהדלפות מהשטח. את החומרים שנאספו היו מערכות התקשורת “מעבדות” בצורה זו או אחרת, ומשדרות את מה שהתאים, או לא התאים, למהדורה. בקיצור – צה”ל היה זקוק לעיתונאים כשם שהם נזקקו למידע של צה”ל. אבל במבצע הנוכחי משהו השתנה…. התהליך בו הופך צה”ל לכלי התקשורת המרכזי, ולבעליו של המידע הבלעדי החשוב ביותר, הוא תהליך שבסופו המידע שמגיע לאזרח – מגיע משובש. חלק גדול מהאחריות במקרה זה נופל גם על כלי התקשורת בישראל – אלו שבוחרים לשדר את ידיעות דובר צה”ל מבלי לבדוק ומבלי לשאול שאלות. בסופו של דבר הם אלו המחויבים לאתיקה ולכללי עבודה עיתונאיים. דובר צה”ל, למרות שקל לשכוח זאת, מחויב לא לאמת אלא למטרות המבצעיות של צה”ל.

In previous wars, the IDF would ‘feed' military correspondents with information, and provided media outlets with video material and leaks from the field of combat. The media would process this material in one way or another, and air what fit their broadcasts. In short - the IDF needed the journalists just like the journalists needed the IDF's information. But in the current operation something changed… The process in which IDF becomes a media outlet of itself, and the owner of the exclusive and most important information is a process in which the information that is transmitted to the citizen is inaccurate. Part of the responsibility for this falls on Israeli media outlets that choose to air the statements of the IDF Spokesperson without fact-checking and without asking questions. At the end of the day, it is the journalists who are obligated to follow the rules of proper and ethical journalistic work. On the other hand, the obligation of the IDF Spokesperson, although it is easy to forget this, is not to the truth, but to the IDF's military objectives.

November 21 2012

Bus Explodes in Central Tel Aviv Hours Before Ceasefire

Hours before a truce was declared between Israel and Hamas, a bus exploded in central Tel Aviv around noon today, injuring some 17 people. Hamas took responsibility for the blast, which many said would put a dent on talks of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, who have been clashing for a week.

The blast is different from those Israelis were so used to in the late 90's. There was no suicide bomber who got on a bus, but rather a medium sized explosive was placed next to the bus by someone, most likely in a passing car.

On Twitter, Gidi Kleiman says:

@Gidikleiman: #TelAvivBlast, reports of witnesses who saw a man leave bomb on the bus. According to emergency services all wounded taken to hospital.

Ahuvah Berger Burcat shares a photograph of the bombed bus, and notes:

@ahoova: a picture of the exploded bus … no graphic images RT @yoelisaak

  A photograph of the bombed bus shared on Twitter by <a href="" target="_blank">@yoelisaak</a>

A photograph of the bombed bus shared on Twitter by @yoelisaak

Debbie Randle tweets from the scene of the bus bomb, where there's evidence that a man climbed onto the bus and threw a bomb on board:

@DebsR: At scene of bus bomb in #TelAviv #israel Witnesses say man climbed on bus and threw bomb on board

Joseph Dana reinforces what Israeli TV and Police are saying:

: Let me state this again: The target of this Tel Aviv bus bombing was Israeli civilians. There is no doubt.

Paul Danahar, BBC Middle East Bureau Chief is in Gaza, and describes the response in Gaza:

@pdanahar: celebratory gunfire going off in Gaza after bus reports of bus attack in Tel Aviv

He continues:

@pdanahar: Mosque loud speakers in #Gaza described Tel Aviv bus bomb as a ‘victory from God' #Israel

While Howard Kirsh jumps to conclusions about the difference between Gazans and Israelis:

@HKirsh1: Israel avoids the death of Gaza civilians; Gazans celebrate the death of Israeli civilians. And that is the difference in cultures.

Others try to add perspective. Ayelet writes:

האנשים שצועקים כל שניה “לשטח את עזה” הם גם אלו שהכי מתפלאים וכועסים כשהחמאס מחלק סוכריות אחרי פיגועים. הסתכלתם לאחרונה במראה?

@a_Daydreamer: The people (in Israel) who shout “flatten Gaza” every second are those that are the most angry when Hamas distributes candy after (successful) terror attacks. Have you looked in the mirror lately?

As more terrorists are suspected to be in Tel Aviv, Shira Abel tweets recommendations:

@shiraabel: Terrorist in TLV: look out for ppl in esp warm clothes on warm day. Look at ppls eyes. Avoid buses: 10, 25, 5, 66. Stay away from windows

Celebratory Gunfire marks Israel and Gaza Ceasefire

A truce has been reached between Israel and Hamas, ending a week of fighting which cost the lives of at least 155 Palestinians and five Israelis.

The violence between Israel and Gaza flared after Israeli drones targeted and killed a Hamas military chief on November 14, marking the start of cross-border exchange of fire. Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel, which bombarded Gaza from land, air and sea.

According to the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, Israel will stop all hostilities against Gaza, which will end “rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.” If this truce holds for the next 24 hours, Israel would have to start procedures to end the Gaza blockade by opening border crossings and allowing the movement of people and goods.

Online, anticipation has been building up for the declaration of a ceasefire.

Andy Carvin notes:

@acarvin: Apart from new year's, I don't think I've ever seen so many people tweet what time it is. #gaza #ceasefire

While Iyad El_Baghdadi remarks:

: 9:08 local time, explosions still being heard in #Gaza, sirens still being sounded in #Israel.

Boys race through Gaza City celebrating the ceasefire

Boys race through Gaza City celebrating the ceasefire. Photograph shared by @ChrisMcGreal on Twitter

Soon, the sound of celebratory gunfire filled the air in Gaza.

On Audioboo, BBC Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar, who is in Gaza, shares a sound track:

Nayef describes the scene:

Gaza streets are full of celebrations. Satisfaction, pride & glory are drawn all over Gazans faces

While Majed Abusalama notes:

@MajedAbusalama: We do not trust #Israel but we can enjoy this moment of #Peace. in #Gaza people are so strong, I really #love them. #resistance

Who won?

Egyptian Mostafa Hussein jokes:

@moftasa: Congratulations Bibi. You made Khamas stronger.

[Bibi is Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and Khamas is the way many Israelis pronounce Hamas]

Shadi Hamid tweets:

@shadihamid: So Hamas got: greater regional legitimacy, spike in popularity, end of assassinations, easing flow of goods into Gaza & a weaker PA to boot.

He continues:

@shadihamid: In asymmetric battles such as this one, it's very hard for a group like Hamas to ever actually “lose,” as long as it survives.

Israeli Elizabeth Tsurkov says:

@elizabeth: Bibi kept talking about weakening Hamas and removing them from power for years, and this agreement solidifies their rule

Lauren E. Bohn, who is in Jerusalem, adds:

Talking to handful of #Israel analysts who all say #Hamas came out of this a winner: more international recognition + credibility #Gaza

And journalist Gregg Carlstrom tweets:

@glcarlstrom: My Twitter feed variously informs me that the real winners today are Israel, Hamas, Egypt, the US and Iran. (but everyone agrees Abbas lost)

Praise for Egypt

On Twitter, Palestinians heaped praise on Egypt, for its role in mediating a ceasefire.

Yaser Alzaatreh writes [ar]:

مصر رئيسا وحكومة وشعبا كانت معنا. وقفت دون تردد. صرخ الصهاينة ألما من وقفتها. عادت مصر إلينا وعدنا إليها، فهي قائدة العرب وعنوان عزتهم.

: Egypt, its President and people, were with us. They did not hesitate in supporting us. Their stance hurt the Zionists. Egypt has returned to us and we have returned to it. Egypt is the leader of Arabs and the sign of their pride.

And, from Gaza, Ola Anan adds:

من كل قلبي .. شكرا مصر :)

@olanan: From the bottom of my heart, thank you Egypt!!

What next?

For many, the ceasefire is a welcome relief.

Karen Knox, from Tel Aviv, tweets:

@KarenAbroad: So thankful for #ceasefire tonight as I tuck my little girl into bed here in #TelAviv.

But many are left wondering how long the peace between Gaza and Israel will last for.

Palestinian Hasan Karajah says:

البعض سيذهبون لشرب نخب الانتصار بعد تعبهم في كتابة التغريدات و رجال المقاومة يكونوا في اجتماع الان لوضع خطة الضرب القادمة #المقاومة_مستمرة

@hasankarajah: Some will go to drink to victory after they got exhausted from writing tweets but the men of the resistance movement will be meeting now to draw up a plan for the next strike. The resistance continues.

And, from Israel, Tsurkov adds:

@Elizrael: In 20min the post on Bibi's official fb page on the cease-fire got 1,344 responses. Overwhelming majority is negative

November 20 2012

In Case of Disconnection: Preparing Gaza for an Internet Shutdown

For days, rumors have abounded that Israel—which controls the telecommunications infrastructure of Palestine—plans to shut down the Internet in Gaza.  While thus far the rumors have proven false, various organizations and actors are working to ensure that Gazans are prepared.

Telecomix, a group notable for its assistance to Egyptians during the January 2011 Internet shutdown, has put forward a guide entitled “Telecomix #Gaza Emergency Room,” offering up tips for staying connected in the wake of an Internet shutdown.  The guide includes tips on using an Egyptian SIM card, tweeting from one's mobile device, and accessing dialup connections.

Anonymous has also put together a comprehensive guide to keeping the lines of communication open in the event of a shutdown.  Their package of tips includes the following:

FIND THE PRIVATELY RUN ISPs: In densely populated areas, especially in central business districts and city suburbs there are multiple home WiFi networks overlapping each other, some secure, some not. If there is no internet, open up your WiFi by removing password protection: If enough people do this it’s feasible to create a totally private WiFi service outside government control covering the CBD, and you can use applications that run Bonjour (iChat on Mac for example) to communicate with others on the open network and send and receive documents. **needs more clarification If you are a private ISP, it’s your time to shine. Consider allowing open access to your Wi-Fi routers to facilitate communication of people around you until the grid is back online.

Another package circulating was created by “the dod” and contains advice on using Tor, Tails, and PGP and is open for additional suggestions.

On the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deeplinks blog, Eva Galperin provides analysis on the ongoing social media “battle” and offers the following reminder:

It is important to remember that dial-up connections are not secure. Your communications can be intercepted or spied upon. EFF recommends that you encrypt your browser traffic using HTTPS Everywhere.

There are also numerous guides available in Arabic.  A blog entitled Resistance Tools for Gaza offers links to both a first aid guide and a guide to tech tools.

Nadim Kobeissi, the creator of CryptoCat, has been tweeting suggestions and offers of assistance.  In one tweet, he cites a guide from, suggesting it be translated into Arabic:

PRIORITY to get this into #Gaza, needs to be translated to Arabic: …

The guide, written by Susannah Vila, offers tips like:

Take all your contacts out of the cloud. It's a good idea to make sure you have a list of your contacts' emails printed out and readily available. For example, the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page prepared for a possible Facebook cut-off in Egypt by asking supporters to share their email addresses and other contact information on a Google spreadsheet.

Kobeissi also created a tutorial for using OTR (off-the-record chatting) with Pidgin, a commonly-used chat client for PCs:

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