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If there were ever a place where the word apartheid is relevant to the Israeli case, Hebron would be it. That's where Israel's President Herzog has chosen to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah tonight. In Hebron around 800 Israeli settlers live among over 200,000 Palestinians who pay a huge price for the settlers' presence there. Much of what used to be the city center is now a "sterile" ghost town where Palestinians cannot set foot. Dozens of checkpoints, hundreds of soldiers, constant settler violence - all of these are simply part of day to day life for Palestinian residents of Hebron. After being elected earlier this year, Herzog vowed to "lower the flames" and to be "everyone's president". Why then has he chosen to embrace the most extreme, violent element of Israeli society, giving an official seal of approval to this obscene reality and the people perpetuating it? If Herzog is for some reason unaware of the reality of Hebron (he's not), let us refresh his memory: here's a short documentary called 'Mission: Hebron', published recently on the New York Times website, in which former soldiers who gave testimony to Breaking the Silence describe their service in Hebron. They talk about how "everyone's a suspect". They talk about how they treated settlers versus how they treated Palestinians, and how settlers treated Palestinians. It's well worth the watch, Mr President. Link in the comments. And here's the testimony of another soldier who served in Hebron: "You’re asking me where I saw violence in Hebron? That’s like asking where I saw Hebron in Hebron. It’s really at every corner. You just leave your post and you’re already on the street that separates people according to their ethnicity." (Ltn, 932nd Battalion, Hebron, 2014. Link in comments.) By celebrating Hanukkah with Hebron's settlers, Herzog is using his position as the top official representative of the State of Israel to legitimize all of that. We won't let this outrage go unnoticed. We'll be there tonight to protest this shameful decision and to say: the occupation must end. Crime Minister PEACE NOW Combatants for Peace מחזקים אמהות נגד אלימות
Last week the occupation made it into Israeli news in all its glory, with the story of soldiers entering a Palestinian home at night, lining up all the children and making them say "cheese" for a photo. The IDF's response was that the officer in question shouldn't have said what he said (as if the problem was the "say cheese" part and not, say, the fact that they had just invaded a house and pulled children out of their beds at night) and that "the procedures will be sharpened", which is the military way of saying that the soldiers will be reminded of the rules. Speaking on the Kan 11 news show "The Other Side", Amal Oraby took a look at a number of recent incidents in the West Bank which were publicly criticized and to which the IDF responded that "the procedures were sharpened." He asks, rightly - what does that even mean? And which procedures exactly need sharpening when the common denominator among all of them is that they took place in the context of a military regime over a civilian population? Link to the clip in the comments. מהצד השני עם גיא זהר
54 years of child detention. Today we took part in an important conference at the Knesset (Israel's parliament) on detention of Palestinian children. Together with a number of other anti-occupation organizations, we were there to say loud and clear: no child deserves to be put behind bars. The speakers, including Members of Knesset from a number of parties on the left, and members of the organizations who have been campaigning to get this issue debated, spoke of the ongoing trauma caused by detentions: the nighttime home invasions to arrest them, the blindfolds, the zip-tie handcuffs, the lack of representation, the proceedings in a foreign language. All of these leave children with long term emotional scars and can have serious implications for their mental health. And none of this would be able to happen if it weren't for the occupation. Within Israel's borders, these practices are considered immoral and illegal - but the moment we cross into the occupied territories, arresting and detaining children is simply a routine mission that we, as soldiers, are expected to do. In her speech today, our Co-Director Yael Lotan read from the testimony of one soldier who served in the Jenin area in 2015: "One day there were two kids near the Barrier and it triggered an alert. The patrol went and took the kids, put them in the patrol jeep and brought them to the base. Five-year-old kids. They didn’t explain it to them, because they (the soldiers) don’t speak Arabic. They took them and said as an excuse, kind of like: [that] the justification for taking them was that these kids could have been sent with some kind of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and then they put it there and it looks innocent, but actually they’re putting something there for you. Anyway, they took these kids to the base. It’s surreal, and I’m like: Why are we taking them? It’s kids, [they’re] scared to death, it was like they were being kidnapped. They don’t understand what’s going on. We put them in a base, now what do we do? So we were told to put them in the base’s security post, two cute five-year-olds." (See full testimony here: https://bit.ly/3CQxzea) It's time to end it.