Apartheid in Israel is about more than just segregated buses

What in a different situation would be considered apartheid is tolerated by many because it is ostensibly temporary. But the occupation has long stopped being temporary.

South Africa used to distinguish between two types of apartheid. The first, called “petty” apartheid, included the separation of public amenities like public benches, bathrooms and public transportation. The second, called “grand” apartheid, included the division of territory and political rights, under which separate areas were allocated in which blacks were forced to live. Residents of these areas were deprived of South African citizenship, with the government claiming that these territories, known as Bantustans, were essentially independent states. While it was easy to photograph petty apartheid, which had blatant expression in signs saying “For Whites Only,” the impact of grand apartheid was no less harsh.

The attempt to make the Palestinians in the territories travel on segregated buses drew such fire that the plan was criticized by the right as well as the left. Segregated buses have great symbolic power, as they remind everyone of the fight put up by Rosa Parks, the American black woman who refused to sit at the back of the bus in 1955. It’s an aspect of apartheid that photographs clearly, even though it is merely one aspect of petty apartheid; the most conspicuous aspect of the segregation that is the basis of the Israeli regime in the territories.

This regime contains components of grand apartheid as well; a regime which determines that Jews are allowed to live here, and Arabs are allowed to live there – and not on an equal footing. It’s a regime based on separation and dispossession of land and water resources, as well as the resources of the rule of law. The law is not enforced equitably in the territories; not only are there separate legal and judicial systems for the Jewish and Arab populations, but law enforcement breaks down when it comes to attacks by Israelis on Palestinians.

Thus, by objecting to petty apartheid, right-wing politicians are persuading themselves, and some of us as well, that they are “enlightened,” while grand apartheid carries on. Israelis and Palestinians are segregated in the territories not just in terms of residential areas and housing, but also in the realms of education, health care and welfare. Israeli law applies there to Israeli citizens and Jewish foreign nationals across the board, including a number of laws meant to apply only to residents of the state. For the purpose of the National Health Insurance Law, for example, a Jew who lives in the territories is considered a state resident eligible for the rights that the law confers, but the same law does not apply to his Palestinian neighbor, who is dependent on a different, weaker health system.

On top of all this, just as blacks were deprived of political rights in South Africa by grand apartheid, a section hidden at the end of the Knesset Elections Law titled “Special Instructions” gives Israeli residents of the territories the right to vote for Knesset, an option that in principle is not available to those living outside the country’s recognized borders. This right is not given to the local Palestinians.Thus, under the cover of the supposedly temporary character of the occupation, the segregation regime gains legitimacy. What in a different situation would be considered apartheid is tolerated by many because it is ostensibly temporary. But the occupation has long stopped being temporary; it is indefinite in time, as the settlements themselves demonstrate.

Even after the apartheid bus plan was dropped, this fact hasn’t changed. That’s why we cannot let the debate over the buses hide the fact that grand apartheid, characterized by inherent inequality between Jews and Arabs in all areas of life in the territories, is no less serious in its dimensions, and in many ways more serious, than segregated buses.

By | May 26, 2015.  Haaretz.

Arrests at flashpoint Jerusalem mosque compound

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli police said they arrested six Palestinians and six Israelis on Monday after a confrontation at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, the scene of frequent religious tensions.

“The Palestinians were arrested while trying to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, using the Jewish name for the site which is sacred to both religions.

The security forces then arrested four Jews who broke the rule forbidding them to pray there, and two other Jews for causing disturbances, she said.

The esplanade is revered as the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam.

Jews are allowed to enter the compound, but are forbidden from praying there for fear of triggering tensions with Muslim worshippers.

Ultra-nationalist Jews however regularly visit the esplanade where they can be seen discreetly praying.

Israel seized east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, but the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their future state.

“Arrests at flashpoint Jerusalem mosque compound, “Agence France Presse

75% of Palestinians in East al-Quds live below poverty

An independent human rights group in Israel has released figures showing that three out of four Palestinians residing in the Israeli-occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem) live below poverty levels.

Publishing what it referred to as up-to-date facts and figures on the life of Palestinians in al-Quds, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said on Sunday that as high as 84 percent of Palestinian children in the city live in poverty, blaming the policies of the Tel Aviv regime for the dismal conditions.

According to the ACRI, the number of Palestinians living in poverty in East al-Quds has climbed from around 64 percent in 2006 to over 75 percent in the current year. It further blamed the lack of investment in education, industry and local business for the deteriorating living standards of the Palestinian population in the city.

Citing official figures, the group said 75.3% of East al-Quds residents live below the poverty line.

It also noted that 7,514 Palestinian children, representing 53 percent of kids under the auspices of municipal welfare services, are defined as children at risk.

In terms of education, ACRI said only 53 percent of Palestinian students attend official public schools due to a shortage of over 2,000 classrooms in the local school system. It added that many Palestinian students are forced to cram into residential apartments that are converted into schools.

While all Israeli children over the age of 3 are entitled to free education, only six percent of Palestinian children between the ages of 3 and 4 in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) attend public kindergartens due to a shortage of nearly 400 kindergarten classrooms.

In terms of housing, ACRI said that only 14 percent of the East Jerusalem territory is zoned for residential Palestinian construction. It further said that while the maximum level of construction in Palestinian neighborhoods stands at 25-50 percent of capacity, Jewish neighborhoods build at the rate of 75-125 percent.

Meanwhile, since the beginning of 2014, more than 17 houses and buildings belonging to Palestinians have been demolished in the city.

Since 1967, the group said, one-third of all Palestinian lands in al-Quds have been confiscated, upon which tens of thousands of houses have been built for Israelis.

According to ACRI, the construction of Israel’s separation wall has also aggravated the city’s economic downturn, since it has economically dislocated Palestinians living in al-Quds from other communities in the West Bank.

Israeli forces occupied the historic Palestinian city during the six-day war in 1967, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

“75% of Palestinians in East al-Quds live below poverty,” ReportPress TV, May 25, 2015,


Top Israeli Islamist: Arab-Jewish War Inside Israel ‘Inevitable’

A full-blown war between Israeli Arabs and the Netanyahu government is “just a matter of time,” says Kamal Al-Khatib, deputy head of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel. In an interview with Hamas media, Al-Khatib said that the policies espoused by the new government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leave Israeli Arabs “no choice” but to undertake a violent struggle.

According to Al-Khatib, the pronouncements by Netanyahu’s ministers – such as the statement last week by new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people – were simply reflective of the feelings of most Israelis. Such statements, he said “merely highlight the religious nature of the dispute,” as opposed to the proclamations by Israeli leaders that the dispute is “political,” and that in the end, Jews and Muslims would end up in a conflict over the Land.

In 2013, Al-Khatib warned of a possible internal conflict with “the Israeli occupation” and threatened a “huge eruption” if Israel intervened on the Temple Mount (“Al Aqsa“) and continued, according to him, to bother the Muslims praying there. Khatib called on Muslims to come to the aid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, calling for it to be a place of Muslims alone, and claiming that all statements of the Jews regarding the construction of the Third Temple are nothing but “tales of the imagination.”

“The protection of the Al-Aqsa mosque is not solely a task for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, residents who have been occupied since 1948 (referring to the State of Israel) and the Palestinian people themselves. It is the task of the entire Muslim and Arab world,” he said.

The Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site, has been a hotbed of clashes between Jewish and Muslim worshippers for years.

In the weekend interview, Al-Khatib said that Israelis see Arabs as enemies, not fellow citizens who are living in their homeland. Based on this, he said, “the violent struggle between Arabs and the violent occupation is a certainty.”

By Yaakov Levi | 5/24/2015

Israel On The Run: Becoming a global pariah

These are desperate times for Israel. While Prime Murder Benjamin Netanyahu forms a new government with people who have said that Palestinians are not human, and who have openly called for genocide against them, he and they continue to talk about their security concerns, how the Israeli army is the most moral in the world, etc., etc. Yet beyond the ivory towers in which they have ensconced themselves, few people are buying the tattered goods they are selling.

Let’s look at a few examples.

The International Criminal Court (ICC). When Palestine officially signed the Rome statute and joined the ICC, Israel withheld millions of dollars paid by Palestinians in taxes, which Israel collects. This money is needed to pay salaries in Palestine. But even more telling than this illegal act of collective punishment is the fact that Israel contacted several member countries of the ICC, imploring them to reduce the amount of money they pay to that organization in order to keep it going. They were rebuffed on every side. The one country they might have counted on to reduce donations was the United States; however, like Israel, the U.S. has never condescended to join the ICC, believing, like its protégé Israel, that it is above the law.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association; English: International Federation of Association Football). Palestine has petitioned FIFA to expel Israel from this organization, the largest and most prestigious soccer organization in the world, saying that Israel prevents Palestinian players from traveling to events, from purchasing necessary equipment, and in other ways preventing full Palestinian participation. In order to prevent any official action against it, Israel is frantically contacting the heads of soccer associations in other nations, desperate to gain support for its (indefensible) position. Rumors are that Israel is even making concessions to the Palestinians, to thwart what would be another slap in the face of the beleaguered Israeli international reputation.

The United Nations and Children’s Rights. In March, The Guardian reported this: “Senior U.N. officials in Jerusalem have been accused of caving in to Israeli pressure to abandon moves to include the state’s armed forces on a U.N. list of serious violators of children’s rights.” That Israel kidnaps, arrests without charge, holds for months at a time and tortures children is all well-documented. But the U.N. has yet to officially condemn Israel, despite reports from U.N. agencies clearly stating the obvious. But Israel has worked hard, not to rectify the unspeakable abuses with which IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists treat Palestinian children, since that is apparently government policy, but to prevent the United Nations from taking action.

In the past, Israel did not bother with such trivialities; it had the U.S. do its dirty work for it. As recently as December, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called at least fifty heads of state to defeat a proposal in the United Nations that would have called for an end to the occupation by 2017.The thanks he received for his efforts was the controversial speech by Mr. Netanyahu to Congress, increased settlement building, and the statement that an independent Palestine would never exist while he is Prime Murderer. Apparently, even the hapless Mr. Kerry and his incompetent boss have been insulted beyond their breaking point, and are not running around the globe, demanding deference to Israel, at least in these matters.

What a difference a few years, social media, and well-publicized genocide make! Another stark difference can be seen in two examples on U.S. university campuses. In 2007, Professor Norman Finkelstein, a noted scholar, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel, was denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago, based on his written, carefully-researched criticisms of that apartheid nation. Although this generated some minor controversy at the time, it wasn’t well-publicized.

In early August of 2014, a job offer tendered to Professor Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn shortly before the start of classes, due to some ‘tweets’ he sent, critical of Israel. By August 18, over 1,200 academics around the world had vowed to boycott the university, and that number has increased dramatically since then; countless events scheduled to take place there have been cancelled, and the American Association of University Professors is expected to formally censor the school this summer.

It does appear that Israel is on the run. Mr. Netanyahu has formed the most racist, apartheid government the world has known for generations, one that makes the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa for so long seem almost benign. Sweden became the 135th country to recognize Palestine in October of 2014, and just in the last several days the Vatican has done so. While that is certainly a tiny country, its leader is also the leader of billions of Catholics around the world, so the importance of this recognition can’t be overstated. Film and music festivals in Israel reduce their durations, because international participation is down; more and more entertainers are taking a stand against apartheid. Joint academic ventures between Israel and other nations are also on the decline, not to mention the many companies that will no longer do business with firms operating in the occupied territories.

The last major stronghold of support for Israel is the United States, and although President Barack Obama has talked about a ‘readjustment’ of relations with Israel, not much is expected to happen, as long as AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) continues to pull the Congressional strings. And lobbying is the name of the game in the U.S. In the just-beginning race for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is condemning any light criticism any candidate, announced or potential, ever made about Israel. This isn’t surprising, considering that one of his major donors is Norman Braman, a Florida businessman and a strong supporter of the illegal settlements, who is expected to spend between $10 and $25 million to help Mr. Rubio purchase a four-year lease on the White House. There is no room for principle, and certainly not for human rights, when such sums are to be had by violating them.

The U.S. is currently attempting to pass legislation neutralizing the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction,) movement, and while it is likely to pass, it is unlikely to be upheld when the inevitable court challenge to it occurs. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, hoping to cement the Jewish vote in his upcoming reelection campaign, is suggesting charging those who criticize Israel under hate-crimes laws. This is not being well-received north of the border, where human rights and civil rights seem to have more importance than they do in the U.S. And any thought that Jewish voters give complete support to Israeli crimes is belied by the number of Jewish organizations established to combat those crimes.

So it does seem as if time is running out. Israel may be able to avoid sanctions from FIFA, the ICC and the U.N. this year, but that nation is becoming the global pariah, shunned for its atrocious human rights violations in Palestine and within Israel itself, where there are separate laws for Israelis, different than those for Africans or Arabs. With U.S. backing, Israel became a world power, and it is now in decline, and so very dangerous. Palestinian suffering will increase in the short-term, but inevitably, Palestine will be free. And once again, the U.S. will be among the last at the party, preferring to remain outside with the international bully, while the other guests toast freedom.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

This article was originally publsihed by Counter punch. Copyright © CounterPunch

Wounded anti-Syria militant being treated in Israel: Report

Press TV, May 24, 2015:

A recent report has disclosed that a Takfiri terrorist wounded during fierce exchanges of fire with Syrian government forces has been transferred to an Israeli hospital and is receiving medical treatment there.

The 27-year-old militant, whose name has not been revealed, recently sustained shrapnel wounds in the course of clashes with Syrian army troopers and was taken to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in the northern Israeli settlement of Poriya, located approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the coastal Israeli city of Tiberias, SANA reported Saturday, citing an Israeli media outlet.

The report added that the Israeli medical center has accepted and treated nearly 175 anti-Syria Takfiris ever since foreign-sponsored militancy broke out in Syria in March 2011.

According to the documents from Israeli hospitals, until last September, Israel’s military had paid USD 10 million from its budget for the treatment of the terrorists injured during clashes with Syrian government forces.

The documents further revealed that a total of 398 injured militants had also been treated at Galil Hospital in Israel’s northern coastal city of Nahariya in the past couple of years. Another hospital in the city of Safed had provided treatment for hundreds of other Takfiri terrorists.

Damascus says Tel Aviv and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri militant groups operating inside Syria.

The Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 222,000 people, according to reports.

On Scott Walker’s ‘listening tour’ of Israel, Palestinians aren’t heard

How the American Jewish establishment foists its isolation from Palestinians on American politicians.

Last week, Scott Walker went to Israel on a “listening tour.” To emphasize that he was going purely to learn, the Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful gave no speeches or interviews. “It’s an educational trip,” he explained. “It’s not a photo op.”

Here are some of the people Walker learned from during his five days in the Jewish state: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz, Israel Defense Forces former Deputy Chief of Staff Uzi Dayan and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

Notice anyone missing? Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, roughly 50 percent of the people under Israeli control are Palestinian. That includes 20 percent of Israel’s citizens inside the Green Line. (Israeli and American Jews generally call these people “Israeli Arabs,” but according to a 2014 poll by the University of Haifa’s Sammy Smooha, they mostly call themselves some variation of “Palestinian.”) But during his five-day trip, it does not appear that Walker met with any Palestinians. When I emailed Saeb Erekat to ask about Walker’s itinerary, the longtime Palestinian negotiator replied, “I do not know that he met any Palestinian.” When I asked the same question to Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition executive director who accompanied Walker on his journey, Brooks did not reply at all.

This is nuts. After all, Walker didn’t travel to Israel primarily to learn how Israel deals with intra-Jewish subjects like the relationship between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews. He travelled there, in large measure, to learn how Israel deals with Palestinians. “I [now] see it even more,” he declared upon returning to the United States. “They’re not ready” for “a two-state solution.” By “they,” Walker presumably meant not only Israeli Jews but also Palestinians, none of whom he appears to have met.

It’s a bit like a foreigner visiting the United States on a “listening tour” aimed largely at better understanding race relations, listening only to white people, and then pontificating about what he has learned. It’s absurd.

But it’s also normal. When American synagogues, Jewish youth movements and Jewish day schools take trips to Israel, ignoring Palestinians is the rule. Birthright, which since 1999 has taken roughly 350,000 young Diaspora Jews – mostly Americans – to Israel, does not visit Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank.

And in recent years, the organized American Jewish community has foisted its own parochialism onto the American political class. Since 2000, according to the website LegiStorm, members of Congress and their staffs have visited Israel more than twice as often as they have visited any other foreign country. Roughly three-quarters of those trips were sponsored by AIPAC’s nonprofit arm, and other establishment American Jewish groups sponsored many of the rest.

The trips Jewish groups organize for American politicians include more Christian holy sights than the ones they organize for their own members. But what they have in common is that Palestinians are talked about, yet rarely spoken to. Which means that politicians like Scott Walker return to the United States thinking they know something about Palestinians when, in important ways, they know less than when they left. They also return gushing about Israeli democracy without having learned anything about the daily lives of West Bank Palestinians who live without citizenship, without freedom of movement and without the right to vote for the government that controls their lives.

The best way to change this is by ridicule. When Walker – or any presidential hopeful who takes a similar trip – goes to Israel, every news story should mention that the politician met no Palestinians. Every interviewer should ask the politician to justify this absence. Some intrepid reporter might even ask factual questions – do Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank live under the same legal system? Under what conditions can West Bank Palestinians visit Jerusalem? – that expose how little politicians like Walker know about the territory they want to remain under indefinite Israeli control.

Given that Walker’s Israel trip was organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization bankrolled by Sheldon Adelson, who doesn’t think Palestinians exist, perhaps it’s not surprising that Walker acted like they don’t either. It’s up to the media to remind him that they do.

UPDATE: Upon further research, it does appear that Scott Walker met at least one Palestinian, the entrepreneur Bashar Masri, during his Israel trip. While this still hardly constitutes a balanced itinerary given that Walker was in Israel for five days and met no Palestinian politicians or activists, I regret the oversight.

“On Scott Walker’s ‘listening tour’ of Israel, Palestinians aren’t heard,” Harretz, May 21, 2015.


Israel jails Palestinians for Facebook comments

Jerusalem – Iyab Shalabi has only been allowed to visit his father, Omar, in prison once since December, when he and eight other Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem were arrested by Israel for posts they wrote on Facebook and other social media outlets.

“Several months went by before they actually gave me a permit to visit my dad,” Iyab, 22, told Al Jazeera. “My mother has been completely banned from visiting him till now.”

Earlier this month, Omar, 44, was sentenced to nine months in an Israeli prison for charges related to incitement and “supporting terror” against Israelis. He is the former secretary-general of Jerusalem’s branch of Fatah, the Palestinian political party that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

“It was very clear from the beginning that my father was targeted because he is still an influential activist and has a lot of support and respect in the community,” Iyab continued.

The courted cited several of Shalabi’s Facebook postings about Muhammad Abu Khudair, a 17-year-old Palestinian kidnapped and burned alive by Israeli settlers in Jerusalem last July, as well as “statuses” he wrote supporting Palestinian attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the city.

Iyab rejects the assertion that his father’s Facebook postings posed any threat to Israel’s security. “They don’t have any real evidence that he presented any danger to anyone’s safety,” he argued. “Of course, this is oppression and discrimination. Everyone writes their opinion on Facebook.”

Explaining that conditions are difficult for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, Iyab and his family are worried about his father’s well-being.

On May 19, just a week and a half after Shalabi was sentenced, an Israeli magistrate’s court in Jerusalem ruled that Sami Deis will spend eight months in jail. The court deemed a number of his Facebook postings as “incitement”.

A Facebook page Deis created and administered – titled “Death to Israel” – included a number of postings calling for violence against Israelis, including soldiers and Jewish settlers. The page had few followers and the violent postings rarely received “likes”, according to Israeli media reports.

Deis, a 27-year-old resident of the Shuafat neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, pled guilty as part of a plea bargain. Yet, the ruling judge handed down a harsh nine-month sentence. “The defendant calls for murder and killing, and praises those who would carry out such acts,” said Judge Shmuel Herbst in his ruling. “There is no doubt as to his intentions, and among his statements are none that can be interpreted in other ways.”

Tensions have soared in recent months in Jerusalem, home to more than 815,000 Jewish Israelis and upwards of 300,000 Palestinians. From the 5,820 Palestinians in lockup, at least 460 are residents of East Jerusalem, according to the Ramallah-based prisoner rights group Addameer.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld defended the crackdown on Palestinian social media users, claiming that online anti-Israeli incitement has been on the steady rise in recent months. “We’ve seen a lot of incitement, not just on the street level but on the government level by the Palestinian Authority,” Rosenfeld told Al Jazeera.

Rosenfeld added that the Facebook postings have also coincided with an uptick in Palestinian attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem, pointing to an incident on Wednesday when a Palestinian motorist’s car struck two Israeli Border Police officers the al-Tur neighbourhood of Jerusalem. “The man who was shot and killed this week had ties to Hamas, which we were only able to find out from his Facebook account,” Rosenfeld remarked.

Mousa Rimawi, director of the Palestinian Centre for Media Freedoms and Development (MADA), says that the arrests come at a time “when Israeli authorities are watching social media closely and targeting Palestinians” for their online postings.

“We’ve noticed that in the last several months, more people are being arrested for expressing their views on social media,” Rimawi told Al Jazeera, adding that in many cases Palestinians are detained for “legitimate political expression and not incitement”.

Rimawi claimed that Israel’s implementation of laws against incitement is discriminatory “because there are many racist and violent Israeli Facebook pages that didn’t result in such sentencing or even arrests”.

In June 2014, as the Israeli army searched for three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped in the southern West Bank, a Facebook page calling for the execution of a Palestinian “terrorist” every hour until the boys were located received more than 16,000 “likes”. No arrests have been reported for that page or similar Facebook groups, Rimawi commented.

The “double standard”, he added, also extends to “protests and other events”. Last Sunday, Israelis marched through Jerusalem’s Old City, home to many Palestinians, to mark “Jerusalem Day”, a holiday celebrating Israel’s 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem.

The week before that march, the Israeli High Court ruled against two non-governmental organisations’ appeal to prevent the Israelis from marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Although the court deemed it permissible for them to march through the area, it also demanded that police have a “zero tolerance” policy for anti-Arab chants and incitement, adding that anyone who chanted “Death to Arabs!” should be arrested.

During the march, hundreds of Israeli protesters nonetheless chanted such slogans. “Death to Arabs!” many were filmed chanting without police intervention. “Muhammad is a homo,” others sang, referring to the Islamic prophet. Several Palestinians were arrested during the Jerusalem Day march during clashes with police.

Back in Jerusalem, Iyab Shalabi echoes Rimawi’s comments. “There are so many Israeli groups on Facebook calling for Arabs to be killed, but nothing ever happens,” he said. “[Israel] wants Palestinians to shut up and be quiet, to accept the occupation. Israel is trying to deliver a message that any Palestinians – whether from Hamas, Fatah or the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine] – can be arrested.”

Decrying the social media arrests as an “attempt to intimidate Palestinians”, Iyab concluded: “When my father gets out of jail, I am certain he will continue his activism and to struggle.”

“Israel jails Palestinians for Facebook comments,” Al Jazerra, May, 23, 2015

In U.S. synagogue speech, Obama says Palestinians ‘not easy partners’

“In U.S. synagogue speech, Obama says Palestinians ‘not easy partners,'” Harretz, May, 22, 2015:

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that despite his support for a Palestinian state, the Palestinians “are not the easiest of partners.”

In a speech in Adas Israel, a Conservative movement synagogue in Washington, Obama also described his ongoing differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “periodic disagreements.” He added, however, that “Israel must know America has its back and America will always have its back.”

On the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, Obama said he would not accept “a bad deal.” “I want a good deal – a deal that blocks every single path to a nuclear weapon. Every single path,” he said.

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer wasn’t in attendance at the speech, as he was out of Washington on a previously scheduled trip, an Israeli official said.

Obama’s visit to Adas Israel coincides with the “Solidarity Sabbath,” an initiative of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice that calls on world leaders to show solidarity with victims of anti-Semitism.

Twelve members of the U.S. Congress and a number of European ambassadors will also attend synagogues on Friday and participate in other activities to show their concern about anti-Semitism.

The Lantos Foundation is named for the late Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress. Lantos, a California Democrat, was noted for his focus on human rights and chaired the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007-08.

‘Criticism of settlements not anti-Jewish

Obama’s visit comes a day after he gave an extensive interview to The Atlantic, in which he talked about the new Israeli government, his relations with the American Jewish community and U.S. support for Israel.

Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg that despite the confrontations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past number of years, most of the American Jewish community still voted for him in the 2012 presidential election.

“What I also think is that there has been a very concerted effort on the part of some political forces to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government,” he said. “So if you are questioning settlement policy, that indicates you’re anti-Israeli, or that indicates you’re anti-Jewish. If you express compassion or empathy towards Palestinian youth, who are dealing with checkpoints or restrictions on their ability to travel, then you are suspect in terms of your support of Israel. If you are willing to get into public disagreements with the Israeli government, then the notion is that you are being anti-Israel, and by extension, anti-Jewish. I completely reject that.”

During the Atlantic interview, Obama expressed deep concern with the direction Israel has been heading, especially in everything regarding its democratic values. Obama remarked that “precisely because” he cares so much about Israel and the Jewish people, “I feel obliged to speak honestly and truthfully about what I think will be most likely to lead to long-term security, and will best position us to continue to combat anti-Semitism, and I make no apologies for that precisely because I am secure and confident about how deeply I care about Israel and the Jewish people.”

Obama told the Atlantic that he grew up on the Israel of kibbutzim, Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir, “and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world.”

He recalled that these values shaped him as a politician. He said he told a group of Jewish leaders he has high expectations for Israel, which he considers neither unrealistic nor stupid.

“I want Israel, in the same way that I want the United States, to embody the Judeo-Christian and, ultimately then, what I believe are human or universal values that have led to progress over a millennium,” he stressed. “The same values that led to the end of Jim Crow and slavery. The same values that led to Nelson Mandela being freed and a multiracial democracy emerging in South Africa….the same values that lead us to speak out against anti-Semitism. I want Israel to embody these values because Israel is aligned with us in that fight for what I believe to be true. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t tough choices and there aren’t compromises. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to ask ourselves very tough questions about, in the short term, do we have to protect ourselves.”

Erekat: New Israeli Government is ‘Racist’

“Erekat: New Israeli Government is ‘Racist'”, Arutz Sheva, May 22, 2105:

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is once again attacking Israel and its new government, calling it “racist” and “extremist”.

According to the Ma’annews agency, Erekat’s comments were made during a meeting Wednesday with the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who is visiting the region in an attempt to convince the sides to resume peace talks.

“It is clear through [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s actions, comments, and remarks that Israel has paved a new wave of racist and extremist policies and is not a partner for peace,” Erekat charged.

Erekat denounced an Israeli plan, which has since been shelved, to have Jews and Arabs ride separate buses in Judea and Samaria. He claimed that the plan would “sterilize” public transportation systems, segregating Palestinians and implementing Jewish-only public transport.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has already clarified that the plan was not to segregate buses, but to ensure that workers leaving the PA returned home at night.

“There is a security breach, according to a State Comptroller report issued in 2011, where there was no control on those who go to work in Israel” from the PA, he added. “In fact we started this week was a pilot test, at four crossings in Judea and Samaria, checking workers coming to work in Israel, and checking to ensure that they return. That was it.”

“All civilized states may – especially those with our sensitive security situation – check who enters and exits,” he fired. “It comes down to this and nothing else.”

In addition, Erekat also blasted an Israeli decision to build 90 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.

“The move was in direct contravention of international law and Israel’s obligations under previous agreements, as well as a slight to the international community’s commitment to facilitate peace,” Erekat said of the decision, according to Ma’an.

Erekat added that the new government pieced together by Netanyahu earlier this month sends the message that “Palestinian lives, history and culture don’t matter”, calling on the international community to demand Israel fulfill its obligations under international law.

Two weeks ago, after the Israeli government was formed, Erekat claimed that it “will be one of war which will be against peace and stability in our region.”

“This government will set its sights on killing and reinforcing settlement activities,” he said, referring to Israeli construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

He later expressed skepticism about peace prospects with the new government following comments made by Netanyahu against the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying those comments were irresponsible and would cause despair among Palestinians.

“Desperation will lead to desperate acts,” Erekat warned, adding that Netanyahu’s opposition to Palestinian statehood raised serious questions about reviving negotiations.

“What do I talk to him about?” he added.