New app allows settlers to measure distance from Palestinian territories

Israeli settlers walk towards the tomb of Atnaeil Ben Kinaz, a Jewish religious site in the divided West Bank town of Hebron on 22 July, 2018 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Israeli settlers walk in West Bank town of Hebron on 22 July 2018

A notorious right-wing settler group has developed an app that enables users to calculate the distance between their homes and the borders of the Palestinian state being proposed by US President Donald Trump, reported the Jerusalem Post.

The right-wing group Regavim used maps proposed in Trump’s so called “deal of the century” to highlight the additional lands being proposed to the future Palestinian state along the border with Egypt.

Despite it legitimising Israel’s crimes under international law, including colonisation and annexation, the new app is part of an intense campaign by the right-wing group to warn Israelis that the “Peace Plan” still needs adjustments before Israel can accept it as a working plan of action.

Using the app, Regavim has stated its perspective on the Trump “peace plan”: “On the one hand, the Peace to Prosperity plan offers an unprecedented opportunity: For the first time, the US government officially recognises the rights of the State of Israel to Judea and Samaria, and is prepared to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and over the Jordan Valley.”

READ: Only in apartheid Israel can an app offer option not to be picked up by Arab cab drivers

“On the other hand, the plan contains an unprecedented threat to the safety of Israelis and to the future of the State of  Israel: Recognition of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel. Join us in our call to the Knesset and the Israeli government: Sovereignty – YES! A Palestinian state – NO WAY!”

In a statement, Regavim head Meir Deutsch claims the Israeli public has not read the plan like his organisation has, and therefore, releasing an app that “illustrates to each and every Israeli what the outcomes will be – right on their personal cell phone screen” was necessary.

He added: “The Americans have announced that the plan is intended to serve as the starting point for negotiations, and it is crucial that when Israelis go to the polls on March 2nd, they will consider who is best suited to represent Israel’s interests in those negotiations. To a large extent, these elections will determine the borders.”

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israel’s Shin Bet ‘illegally interfering’ in Palestinian citizens’ education system

Palestinian students sit inside a classroom at their school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on 29 August, 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Palestinian students seen at United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) school in Gaza on 29 August 2018 

Israeli legal rights centre Adalah has sent an urgent letter to the director general of the Education Ministry, demanding details of a recent meeting with agents from the Shin Bet security agency.

Last November, Director General Shmuel Abuav met with two Shin Bet agents “to discuss issues related to the Palestinian Arab education system in Israel, including the participation of Arab school children in youth movements and the blocking of “extremist” teachers”, stated Adalah.

The revelations came to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request.

As explained by Adalah, “it is illegal for the Shin Bet to intervene or interfere in the Arab education system”, the result of a 2004 Supreme Court petition by the centre and the National Association of Arab Parents’ Education Committees.

“The state subsequently committed that the Shin Bet – which had been actively involved in the Arab education system since the establishment of the state – would cease its intervention in the selection or hiring of teachers in the Arab school system,” Adalah stated.

READ: Anti-Palestinian social media incitement in Israel continues to rise 

Despite this pledge, Adalah continued, “the Shin Bet illegally involved itself once again in Arab education when its agents met with Abuav on 24 November 2019, violating the state’s earlier commitments before the Supreme Court.”

Adalah is now seeking the transcript of that meeting, “as well as detailed reports of all meetings between Education Ministry officials and Shin Bet agents that have taken place over the past four years”. Adalah is also demanding that “the Shin Bet immediately halt all interference in the Arab education system.

In the letter to Abuav, Adalah lawyer Aiah Haj Odeh stressed that: “Shin Bet agents are not educators, and there is no connection between them and the pedagogical role.”

“This intervention indicates that the [Israeli] Education Ministry of Education perceives Arab society – including its education system – as a potential enemy and a threat.”

“[This creates] an atmosphere of fear, control, and supports a culture of silence which isolates the Arab education system and its teaching staff in particular.”

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Anti-Palestinian social media incitement in Israel continues to rise

Social Media apps [Wall Boat/Flickr]

Social Media apps 

Anti-Palestinian incitement continues to rise in Israeli society, according to a new report by 7amleh – The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media.

7amleh’s annual index revealed that in 2019, one racist social media post was published on average every 64 seconds – a total of 495,000 “violent posts against Arabs and Palestinians”.

To compile the index, 7amleh analysed social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Facebook hosted the largest proportion of violent discourse (41 per cent), with Twitter hosting 30 per cent of the anti-Arab discourse (up 14 per cent from 2018).

Overall, during 2019 one out of every 11 posts about Arabs used “inciting language”, including racist slurs – a five per cent rise “in inciting posts in comparison to 2018 statistics”.

According to 7amleh, the latest index also demonstrated that “the peak of incitement against Palestinians and Arabs in 2019 was correlated with the two rounds of Israeli election”.

The 2019 Index of Racism showed that the two rounds caused an eight per cent “rise in violent discourse against the Arab community concerning politics”.

In particular, “violent discourse” against the Joint List slate “emerged from the violent posts against bodies and individuals, as members of the Israeli Knesset Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi received the second and third most violent and racist comments”.

Israel: ‘Peace is only made with vanquished enemies’

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israel to close crossing to West Bank, Gaza during election

Palestinians protest against the closure of the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip and the Israeli blockade on the territory, on 24 January 2019 in Rafah. [SAID KHATIB / AFP / Getty]

Palestinians protest against the closure of the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip and the Israeli blockade on the territory, on 24 January 2019 in Rafah

Occupation authorities will be closing all crossings between Israel and the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip on Monday as general elections are held in the country.

“A general closure will be imposed on the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip crossings will be closed as of Monday 02.03.2020, according to the assessment of the security situation and the approval of the political authorities,” a statement said.

The closure will go into effect at midnight on Monday and end 24 hours later. They will reopen during their normal operational hours on Tuesday, the statement said.

US’ Sanders: ‘We cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people’

During the closure, only humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases will be allowed to pass through the crossings.

Israel is due to hold its third election in under a year in an effort to form a coalition government and end months of deadlock.

Analysts have said that this poll will end with a similar outcome to the previous two which were held in April and September last year, when no government could be formed by the leading parties; Likud and the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan).

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

One Palestinian group is running to restore freedom of movement

Diala Isid, the head of the Right to Movement campaign.

Diala Isid, the head of the Right to Movement campaign

By Anjuman Rahman 

Reading, research and short trips are simply not enough for visitors to Palestine to understand how difficult it is for those living under occupation with restrictions imposed on their movement as they go about their daily lives. Palestinians are caged in by a forbidding wall, and have to negotiate permanent and temporary Israeli military checkpoints almost everywhere that they need to go, whether it be to work, school, university, hospital or simply to visit relatives and friends.

“People take human rights for granted until they are no longer there,” Diala Isid told me. “In Palestine, we are deprived of basic human rights like freedom of movement. To highlight the restrictions imposed on us and our right to free movement, we decided to start a running campaign so people can join in and run with us here in Palestine.”

The Right to Movement campaign was born. Runners who participate in the campaign’s marathons, explains Diala, experience a taste of the daily reality of living in Gaza and the occupied the West Bank. Travel permits in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank are issued by the Israeli occupation authorities, and are often refused arbitrarily.

Runners can explore the infrastructure that sustains the occupation and meet the people most badly affected in refugee camps along the way. Restricting their movement is a major tool employed by Israel which has a devastating effect on Palestinian lives.

READ: An app powered by virtual reality makes borders and checkpoints in Palestine disappear

Twenty-nine-year-old Diala is the head of the Right to Movement campaign. She described her trips to visit her parents in Bethlehem: Unable to travel directly from Ramallah through Jerusalem, she has to take a much longer route. “A 30-minute drive from Ramallah to Bethlehem turns into a one-and-a-half-hour journey because of the checkpoints that I have to pass through with my Palestinian ID.” Identity cards are also used as a weapon of the occupation to fragment the local population, she pointed out.

The idea for the campaign came in 2012 when Palestinians in Bethlehem wanted to organise a marathon but found it impossible to map the full route without hitting obstacles.

We don’t even control a 42.2 kilometre stretch of road in the West Bank. Runners have to use the same circuit four times in order to finish the traditional marathon distance.

“It’s the only road that we can close to traffic because of the Israeli occupation. We have no choice but to settle for a 10 kilometre route.”

That route begins in Bethlehem’s Nativity Square, runs along the Separation Wall and passes through two refugee camps before finishing at the Church of the Nativity. It is an effective way to draw attention to the constraints faced by Palestinians in their daily lives.

“The fact that we can’t even run a full marathon properly illustrates the limitations that we face. Hence, we all have a responsibility to do all we can to raise awareness.”

READ: Israel builds new Jew-only road and steals more Palestinian land

In December 2016, to demonstrate that the journey of Biblical Mary and Joseph would be even more difficult in present-day Israel, Diala organised 22 Palestinian relay runners, 11 men and 11 women dressed as “Mary and Joseph”, to create a contemporary nativity play called “Mary can’t move”. Starting from Nazareth, they headed for Bethlehem. The first major checkpoint appeared at the border of the West Bank through the eight-metre-high Separation Wall.

Palestinians try to cross separation wall during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan in Ramallah, West Bank on 31 January 2020. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

“It took us 12 and a half hours of running, passing through six Israeli checkpoints and multiple illegal settlements all over the West Bank. And we couldn’t access Jerusalem because some of the runners weren’t granted the required permit. This project showed the world that despite living under torment, we can get our message across in a peaceful way; that’s how we want to live, in peace.”

“Mary can’t move” reminded everyone that the conflict in the Holy Land has nothing to do with religion — there are Palestinian Christians as well as Muslims — and everything to do with freedom and self-determination.

With US President Donald Trump’s “peace plan” allowing Israel to annex a huge portion of the occupied West Bank, the situation looks set to get even more restrictive for the people of Palestine. The Israeli settlement blocs are home to more than 400,000 illegal settlers, serviced by a network of roads for use by Jews only and checkpoints that restrict the movement of the Palestinians. Trump’s vision for a Palestinian state is a series of non-contiguous enclaves.

“The plan gives Israel what it wants and doesn’t serve us Palestinians. They want to legalise the Israeli settlements, annex the Jordan Valley and steal more of our land,” said Diala. “The right to freedom of movement remains a dream and the so-called peace plan will make restrictions permanent. The West Bank cities will even be more cut-off than before.”

Runners from the Right to Movement campaign have taken their message to races as far away as the San Francisco marathon. Last year, the group joined UNWRA in a relay from New York City to Washington DC, aimed at changing US policy on funding cuts.

Flying high: Palestinians reach Everest base camp

Despite its obvious objectives, the campaign has not been entirely trouble-free. It has, for example, faced objections from socially-conservative Palestinians concerned that running is not a suitable activity for women and girls. This was a hurdle that Diala sought to break one step at a time — literally — by starting training sessions indoors to avoid complaints. “Women running in the streets wasn’t culturally acceptable. When we first began, we used to be judged and had a lot of adverse comments thrown at us, so we worked a lot on creating a good running atmosphere for females.”

This entailed running off-road, where people weren’t around, as well as the indoor workouts. “It encouraged many people to join us until we were comfortable as a group to go running in the streets. In time, it became acceptable.”

Along with its political objectives, the running group has helped to bring about social change, including improved fitness for the women taking part. Running has changed their lives, and nobody is thinking about stopping.

“It wasn’t easy, and isn’t easy, but I can say now that I have three female leaders in the group. And they are all inspiring leaders encouraging more females to join and it’s so nice.”

The initiative has come to the attention of prominent figures such as Democratic representative Rashida Tlaib, British politician Jeremy Corbyn and American model Anwar Hadid.

The son of Nazareth-born Mohammad Hadid met with the founders of the Right to Movement campaign during a visit to Ramallah in December. An Instagram post shows Anwar Hadid with a campaign t-shirt and the caption that he “supports Right to Movement and believes that young people are the change makers of Palestine”.

Connecting with prominent personalities such as Tlaib and Hadid is important, believes Diala. “They show great interest in the story of Palestine because it’s coming directly from us Palestinian runners who are facing these harsh realities, not the media. Running is a universal activity, and anyone can relate to it because it’s not difficult to understand. We runners are experiencing it together, carrying the Palestinian flag.”

Running to restore freedom of movement is an objective that many people in the West may not fully appreciate. For the Palestinians, however, it is a struggle to restore a basic human right, and that should be something that everyone should value and support.

READ: Man gets Guinness World Record to raise awareness for Palestine

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israeli Settlers Vandalize Palestinian Vehicles Near Salfit

The latest in a string of attacks by illegal Israeli settlers, against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, on Wednesday overnight, Israeli settlers vandalized at least eight Palestinian vehicles in Yasuf village, located east of Salfit city, central occupied West Bank.

Local sources told WAFA, that a group of Israeli settlers managed to sneak into the village late at night and puncture the tires of eight vehicles, as well as covering the vehicles with racist, anti-Palestinian graffiti.

Some of the graffiti read “Kill Arabs”, “War Against Arabs in Judea and Samaria” and “Price Tag” in Hebrew.

The name “Judea and Samaria” is the Israeli nationalist name given to the occupied West Bank, in an attempt to reinforce its claims to the territory, to give those claims a veneer of historical and religious legitimacy.

Also, on Thursday, illegal Israeli settlers uprooted hundreds of olive trees belonging to Palestinians south of Bethlehem.

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israeli Colonists Attack Palestinian Homes Near Nablus

Dozens of extremist illegal Israeli colonists attacked, earlier Friday, the town of Huwwara, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, before attacking homes and cars, causing damage.

The WAFA Palestinian News Agency has reported that many colonists, illegally squatting on private Palestinian lands, stormed the village, and fired many rounds of live ammunition.

WAFA added that the colonists hurled stones at many homes and cars, causing damage.

The Palestinians tried to defend their homes and chase the assailants away, before Israeli soldiers, stationed nearby, fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades at them.

The soldiers and the colonists then withdrew from the town.

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israeli Soldiers Injure 70 Palestinians Near Nablus

Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, at least seventy Palestinians, including a child who was shot with a live round in his back, in Jabal al-‘Arma Mountain, south of Nablus, in northern West Bank.

The WAFA Palestinian News Agency has reported that dozens of residents went to the mountain to protest the escalating Israeli attempts to annex it from them, especially after the illegal colonists, squatting on Palestinian lands, have increased their calls for completely occupying it.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has reported that its medics provided treatment to 70 Palestinians, and rushed a child, who was shot with a live round in his back, to a nearby hospital.

The PRCS added that, among the wounded Palestinians, 32 suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, including one who was shot with a gas bomb in the head.

32 Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, including two who were shot in their heads, and one suffered fractures and bruises after falling while trying to avoid the army fire.

The Israeli army pushed more troops into the area and declared the lands a closed military zone.

Video By WAFA News

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israel Forces A Palestinian To Demolish His Home In Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers forced, Friday, a young Palestinian man to demolish his own home in Shu’fat town, in occupied Jerusalem, reportedly for being built without a permit.

The Palestinian, Mohammad Abdul-Salam al-Bashti, 26, from Shu’fat town in Jerusalem, said that an Israeli court ordered him to demolish his home for being built without a permit, despite various appeals and fines.

He added that the court told him that if the City Council uses its workers and equipment in demolishing the property, he will be facing a 70.000 Shekels fine, in addition to other costs and penalties.

The young man, who lived in the 129 square/meter two-story property with his wife, was ordered to complete the demolition before the end of the day, and started the demolition, Thursday.

It is worth mentioning that al-Bashti has been appealing with Israeli courts since March of the year 2019.

It is worth mentioning that, on Thursday, another Palestinian, identified as Maher Siyam, had to demolish his home, in Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem.

While Israel continues to build and expand its segregated illegal colonies, in direct violation of International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, and Area C (%60) of the occupied West Bank, continue to be denied construction permits, and face the demolition of their homes and property.

Israel has also been demolishing homes that received permits from the local councils in various towns in the West Bank, under the pretext of not being permitted by the so-called “Civil Administration Office,” the administrative branch of its illegal occupation.

(Source / 28.02.2020) 

Israel Re-Opens Gaza Crossings, Fishing Zones

Israeli occupation authorities, on Wednesday, reopened the two main crossings with Gaza after days of closure following the latest escalation of tensions at the beginning of this week, Arab48 reported.

In a statement, the unit of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories (COGAT) said that the activities of the two crossings would resume after positive evaluation related to “security stability”.

On Tuesday, Hamas sent a message to Israel, through international mediators, that it must reopen the crossings and expand the fishing zone, Israel’s Public Broadcaster Kan reported.

“The international mediators [UAE, Qatar and Egypt] are working to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza and regain stability in return for resuming measures previously announced by Israel to ease the siege on Gaza,” Kan added.

The latest exchange of fire between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian resistance began on Sunday when Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian, then fired live ammunition against those who attempted to remove the slain man’s body.

(Source / 28.02.2020)