Maps, Technology, and Decolonial Spatial Practices in Palestine

The practice of mapping in Palestine-Israel has long been an exercise in power, imperialism, and dispossession. From the British Mandate to the present day, Zionist (later Israeli) cartographers have used maps to obfuscate and eradicate physical, geographic, and social markers of Palestinians’ connections to, and possession of, the land. 

During the British Mandate, the colonial forces produced an array of detailed surveys for military, political, social, and economic planning. The geographic distribution and activity of Palestine’s indigenous Arab inhabitants were rarely depicted on the maps. However, the geographic language was almost entirely comprised of transliterated Arabic names.

In the wake of the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 and the first Aliyah, or wave of European Jewish immigration from 1881 to 1903, Zionist maps began to proliferate, many featuring topographic and religious markers designed to redraw the map in the image of a proposed Zionist state.

After the Nakba of 1948, the new state of Israel set out to transform the national map from Arabic to Hebrew as a way of Zionist nation-building. The Hebrew map continues to be an exercise in state formation, a living document of Zionist colonization where Zionist ideology is folded into the spatial practices of the Israeli state.

Today, legislation such as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA), which restricts the availability of high-resolution satellite imagery by preventing US satellite operators and retailers from selling or disseminating images of Palestine-Israel at a resolution higher than that available on the non-US market, as well as the complicity of technology firms in privileging Israeli spatial control at the expense of Palestinians – such as how Google Maps routes are designed for Israelis and illegal Israeli settlers – represent a missed opportunity to use technological advancements to democratize mapping.

However, technology can serve as a tool to tangibly imagine the right of return. Detailed historical maps and uncensored, high-resolution images, for instance, allow Palestinians to catalogue the remnants of villages and towns destroyed during the Nakba. Such images not only provide substantial proof of the ongoing colonial encroachment into Palestinian land, but allow Palestinians to actively imagine an alternative reality. 

For Palestinians living under martial law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or under siege in the Gaza Strip, despite technology creating an opening for democratizing spatial practices, mainstream mapping applications fail to account for the walled-off reality on the ground and the restrictions and repercussions it has on Palestinian movement. Yet Palestinians and allies continue to subvert and resist colonial maps through counter-maps. 

There are some other concrete steps forward: 

  1. As recommended by 7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, Palestine should be named properly on Google Maps, in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 2012. 
  2. According to Resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly, the international status of Jerusalem should be correctly displayed on Google Maps. Google must also identify and correctly label illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land, according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 55 of the Hague Regulations.
  3. Google should clearly distinguish areas A, B, and C in the West Bank and account for all movement restrictions and restricted streets.
  4. Google should locate “unrecognized” Palestinian villages within Israel as well as Palestinian villages in Area C. 
  5. The United States should dispose of the KBA, leveling the commercial playing field between US and non-US imagery providers. This would allow satellite operators to share high-resolution images of Palestine-Israel on widely-used open-access platforms. It would also enable archaeologists, researchers, and humanitarians to accurately document changes on the ground and allow for better accountability of the Israeli occupation.
  6. Palestinian civil society should encourage and promote the active use of counter-maps as an alternative to incomplete contemporary maps. Simultaneously, Palestinian civil society and allies should focus their efforts on pressuring (a) the US government to abolish the KBA and (b) Google to make the changes outlined above.

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The Growing Gap between Jordan and Israel, After 25 Years of “Peace”

Several recent incidents underscore the cooling in Jordanian-Israeli relations 25 years after the two signed the Wadi ‘Araba peace agreement. Israel’s imprisonment without charge of two Jordanian nationals of Palestinian origin during the summer led to Jordan’s withdrawal of its ambassador “for consultations” until their release last month after repeated protests. While the Jordanians languished in Israeli prison, Jordan arrested an Israeli infiltrator and, instead of turning a blind eye as had frequently happened with such incidents in the past, sent him to trial at the state security court. Nor have earlier incidents been forgotten, such as the killing of two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman in 2017 and the killing of a Jordanian judge at the crossing between Jordan and Israel in 2014.

Most significant, however, was Jordan’s decision last year not to renew the 25-year lease on Baqoura and Ghumar, two enclaves it had allowed Israel to continue to farm as part of the Wadi ‘Araba agreement. The enclaves were returned to Jordan in November despite Israel’s clear desire to extend the agreement. To get a fuller picture of the issues behind the deterioration of Jordan’s relations with Israel and their implications for Jordanian-Palestinian relations, Al-Shabaka spoke to Oraib Rantawi, the founder and director general of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies and an Al-Shabaka policy analyst.

Three Main Factors Behind Jordan’s Fears 

Jordanian policymakers believe that Israel’s rightward trajectory is leading it in the direction of destroying the two-state solution along with the Wadi ‘Araba agreement, leaving Jordan to deal with the fallout. First and foremost, Jordan is worried about the repercussions related to the Palestinian refugees:

  • It fears it will be left alone to handle the Palestinian refugee file – a massive issue for the small, resource-scarce country to address. While the number of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin is believed to be three million, it is estimated that another 1 to 1.3 million hold identity papers, travel documents, or no papers at all (see fuller discussion here). That figure is greater than the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria combined. It includes Palestinians from Gaza as well as Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem who lost their Jordanian citizenship when Jordan ceded sovereignty over those Israeli-occupied territories in the wake of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)  declaration of Palestinian independence in 1988. 
  • It is alarmed by the efforts by Israel and the United States to redefine who is a refugee. Jordan is ready to show some flexibility on the refugee question if there is a Palestinian state as well as recognition of the right of return and compensation. Otherwise it will make every effort to hold the line against US-Israeli plans to liquidate the right of return. 

Jordanian policymakers believe that Israel’s rightward trajectory is destroying the two-state solution, leaving Jordan to deal with the fallout
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  • The talk of dismantling UNRWA is also alarming. The loss of the benefits and services provided by UNRWA – including education, health care, and food subsidies – as well as the jobs lost by Palestinians would impose major costs on Jordan.
  • Another burning question is what will become of the five million Palestinians whose homes and lands are in the West Bank and East Jerusalem if Israel successfully prevents the establishment of a Palestinian state? Would there be an effort to impose a federal or confederal state on Jordan with the remnants of the West Bank? Such an outcome would be rejected equally strongly by Jordan and the PLO.  

In the second place, the Netanyahu government has repeatedly challenged the status quo cemented by the Wadi ‘Araba agreement regarding Jordan’s custodianship of the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem. There are now almost daily Israeli incursions into the compound as well as attacks on the Jordanian staff serving there as part of Israel’s effort to control and change the face of both the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.   

In the third place, Jordan believes that Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing cohorts are much more interested in developing direct relations with the Gulf states. Israel has made it clear that it no longer needs Jordan as a buffer zone or an intermediary to the Gulf states. Indeed, both Jordan and Egypt feel they have been left out in the cold, a point driven home by Jared Kushner’s discourse on the so-called deal of the century, where much of the focus is on the Gulf and very little on Jordan or Egypt.

Jordan’s coolness toward Israel is also a reflection of the government’s need to secure popular support amidst severe popular discontent with economic conditions as well as the fear that the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon could spread. 

Core Issues Remain Unchanged

Jordan is sending a clear message that the relationship with Israel is not one way – and not irreversible – and that Jordan cannot be excluded from regional relationships. And yet core economic and security links between the two countries are unchanged. There is still full-scale security coordination; the Israeli-Jordanian gas agreement – which is highly unpopular and which undercuts Jordan’s effort to achieve energy independence (see further background here)  – is soon going on stream; and the free trade zone between the two sides is still fully operational. 


Jordan’s coolness toward Israel is a reflection of the government’s need to secure domestic popular support
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Yet it is likely that we will see further degradation in relations. If, for example, Israel annexes some or all of the West Bank, that could be a near-terminal blow to the relationship. Apart from the fears expressed above, such an Israeli move would, among other things, erase the land that remains as a border between Jordan and Palestine, something that is unacceptable to both. At the same time, much as Jordan might like to have a severe a response, it has to take into consideration its heavy reliance on the US, which is its biggest donor to the tune of $1.6 billion annually, and also a source of political support. Similarly, aid from some of the key the Gulf states could (and is) being used to pressure Jordan to stay in line. 

Implications for Jordanian-Palestinian Relations

Jordan and Palestine are acutely aware that the danger threatens them both, and are both coming under similar economic and political pressures from the same set of actors. The Palestinian Authority (PA) currently sees Jordan as its closest ally in the region. Egypt is focused on Gaza and on securing “calm” between Hamas and Israel that could translate into a more permanent ceasefire. The Gulf states are facing their own set of issues, and Lebanon and Iraq are tackling severe crises. 


Jordan as well as the PLO/PA need to develop a plan B to counter Israel’s moves
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This leaves Jordanian and Palestinian officialdom more closely aligned and there is now daily coordination between the two. Recently, Jordan has for the first time included Palestinians from Jerusalem (including members of the Fatah Party) in the council governing the Al-Aqsa compound. Both sides should build on this to expand the effort to protect the holy sites. In another sign of increasing closeness, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh signed three memoranda of understanding with Jordan during his July 2019 visit, his first stop on an Arab tour as part of his effort to disengage the Palestinian economy from Israel’s. Ways need to be found to prevent Israel from blocking the implementation of these agreements, perhaps drawing on the backing of the European Union and its member states. 

Perhaps most importantly, Jordan as well as the PLO/PA need to develop a plan B to counter Israel’s moves. Jordan is still basing its position on the resolution of the conflict based on a Palestinian state and a just solution to the refugee problem.  While continuing to work for that solution it is imperative that Jordan at least reduce its dependency on Israel, particularly in the water and energy sectors. Efforts to expand relations with Turkey and Qatar are good steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to prepare to deal with all eventualities.

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Are Palestinian elections on the horizon?

There is a growing expectation among analysts that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas could soon issue a decree to set up parliamentary and presidential elections in 2020.

A vote was last held for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – the parliament of the PA in the occupied West Bank and Gaza – in 2006.

Then, Hamas won a majority of seats in a result that influential members of the international community, including the United States and the European Union, sought to undermine on the grounds of Hamas being seen as a “terrorist” organisation.

A bitter conflict between Abbas’s Fatah party, the dominant faction in the PA which administers parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, which seized control of Gaza a year after the 2006 election, has prevented elections taking place ever since.

“Elections should be a real chance for Palestinians to democratically elect their leaders and to rebuild their broken trust in the PA,” Marwa Fatafta, a policy analyst at the Al-Shabaka think-tank, told Al Jazeera, adding, “and not a rubber stamp exercise to entrench power, revive the leadership’s expired legitimacy and recycle the same names and factions.”

In the last few months, a number of developments have potentially set the Palestinians on the road to elections.

In October, Abbas commissioned the chair of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) to begin preparations, and by late November, all Palestinian factions – including Hamas – had given their approval for a vote to take place following meetings with the CEC officials.

A step to end division?

For analysts, however, there is a distinction between procedural advances and political obstacles – and the latter may well prove more critical. In a September poll, only 38 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said they actually expected elections to take place “in the near future”.

According to Alaa Tartir, a research associate at the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and a colleague of Fatafta at Al-Shabaka, “neither Fatah nor Hamas are serious in their calls for parliamentary and presidential elections”.

“Both parties, after more than a decade of the intra-Palestinian divide, mastered the art of political manoeuvring and are fully aware of the tactics and limits of each other; and therefore, they know how to reinforce each other directly and indirectly,” he told Al Jazeera.

That being said, Tartir added, “it is very likely that Abbas will issue a presidential decree soon”, but that “decree will remain impracticable until Fatah and Hamas agree on the operational aspects of the elections and the political implications”.

The fact that any movement at all has been made towards elections is likely a reflection of external – especially international donor states – and domestic pressure, analysts believe.

“An election could help reducing the pressure Fatah and Hamas receive from the people with regards to their division so they feel they have to respond to this pressure by engaging in what it seems like a step to end division and engage in legitimacy and reconciliation,” Ibrahim Fraihat, an associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera.

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Palestinian Elections: Essential or Harmful?

Palestinian general elections in the near future are looking more and more likely. But are they necessary?

In our final policy lab of 2019, Inès Abdel Razek joins host Marwa Fatafta to discuss the significance of elections within the current leadership crisis, foreseen challenges to the democratic process, and potential for new political players to emerge.

 

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With the Peace Process Dead, What Options Are Open for the Palestinians to Create a State?

A regular survey of experts on matters relating to Middle Eastern and North African politics and security.

Nadia Hijab | Board president of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network

The only option for Palestinians to create a sovereign state—or to secure equal rights and justice in a single state of Palestine-Israel—is to build up their sources of power. The two-state solution has so far failed not just because Israel is so powerful, but also because its unlawful settlement project was not effectively challenged by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which have focused on state-building before achieving liberation.

The PLO-PA has secured important legal and diplomatic wins. These include the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s separation wall, the non-member state status of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, which enabled the PLO to join international organizations such as the International Criminal Court, and passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 in 2016, which described Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. But it has never devised an integrated, consistent, and effective political and diplomatic strategy binding the international community. The PLO-PA also tended to ignore national and international civil society engaged on the issue.

There is another opportunity to act now. A European Court of Justice ruling has just made it law for products from Israeli settlements to be labeled as such in European Union member states. The PLO-PA must get behind a clear plan to ensure that this is carried through, as a first step to saving Palestine.

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EU stance in focus after US decision on Israeli settlements

The recent United States announcement that it no longer believes the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is “inconsistent with international law” provoked an immediate response internationally, including in Brussels.

Within hours of the US statement, European Union senior foreign affairs official Federica Mogherini issued a statement affirming that the EU’s position “is clear and remains unchanged: all [Israeli] settlement activity is illegal under international law and … erodes the viability of the two-state solution.”

“The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power,” the short statement added.

In a separate development, days before the US announcement, Europe‘s highest court – the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – ruled that produce from Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land must be labelled as such, so consumers can make “informed choices”.

The ruling is likely to “increase pressure for more proactive enforcement” within the EU, according to Martin Konecny, director of European Middle East Project (EuMEP), a think-tank in Brussels.

The juxtaposition of the US policy shift and the European court ruling is representative of increasingly divergent approaches to the settlements in Washington and Brussels.

Indeed, some in Israel made an explicit contrast; Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich both praised the US announcement and described it as “a worthy response” to the ECJ ruling, adding: “We are advancing international recognition of the settlement project.”

Condemnation and complicity

As the Trump administration has steadily abandoned the framework of a two-state solution, the EU has remained committed to what it sees as the ultimate end goal to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In practical terms, the EU has focused on strong, bilateral ties with Israel, in the form of economic arrangements and treaties, academic research, and “security” cooperation, which has deepened alongside EU criticism of policies such as settlement expansion and home demolitions.

“The EU’s condemnations of Israel’s policy are not enough”, said Aneta Jerska, coordinator of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), a platform of 40 European Palestine solidarity organisations.

“The EU is deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights by financing the very same Israeli entities that it criticises,” she told Al Jazeera.

Jerska cited EU funding for Israeli universities with campuses located in occupied territories or those that conduct weapons research, funding for Israeli water firm Mekorot – criticised in United Nations‘s reports for its role in international law violations – and even research programme funding for Israeli arms companies.

Meanwhile, the EU has committed considerable financial resources towards supporting and sustaining the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs some areas of the West Bank and remains dependent on external funding to function.

In a recent interview with Arab News, the EU’s special representative for the Middle East peace process, Susanna Terstal, described the EU as “one of the biggest donors to the Palestinians”, revealing over the past 15 years, the EU and its member states “have spent 10 billion euros ($11bn)”.

“We spend that money for making the two-state solution possible,” Terstal added.

However, despite the unwavering policy goal of a two-state solution, certain EU policies have boosted elements seen as obstacles to such an outcome.

“The EU continues to trade with settlements,” Konecny told Al Jazeera, noting the EU imports 15 times more from illegal settlements “than from the Palestinians in the occupied territories”.

Change at the top

There has been a recent change of personnel at the top in Brussels with Mogherini on her way out, and her successor as EU’s next foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, soon to take the reins.

In comments on November 11 reflecting on her term, Mogherini stuck to familiar talking points – that a two-state solution is still possible and “the only realistic solution that we have at hand”.

Although Borrell has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies in the past, it remains to be seen whether that translates to action when in office.

Meanwhile, political divisions within the EU are also reflected in differences over foreign policy, with the bloc struggling to find a common position on the settlements issue.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent years strengthened ties with some ultra-nationalist Eastern European governments, seemingly partly in an attempt to further split the bloc on Israeli issues.

Hungary reportedly blocked an effort to get all 28 EU member states to issue a joint statement condemning the US policy shift on settlements, while the Dutch parliament passed a non-binding motion dissenting from the ECJ ruling on settlement produce labelling, which was subsequently rejected by the Dutch government.

Such actions contrast, however, with Luxembourg‘s call for the EU to recognise a Palestinian state, or the declaration made ahead of a UN Security Council meeting last week by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law”.

Carrots but no sticks

This kind of commitment means some Palestinians see an opportunity. “The European role couldn’t be more vital given the Trump administration’s shredding of international law,” Nadia Hijab, board president of the Al-Shabaka think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

“The focus should be on those states likely to be supportive – Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Spain – as well as states that are sensitive to being seen to uphold the law, especially France, which took a stand on labelling that led to the ECJ rule, and Germany,” Hijab said.

But, she added, “the key is for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and PA [Palestinian Authority] to get their act together. If they don’t push, as Israel does, then this will be another golden opportunity wasted.”

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The Systematic Torture of Palestinians in Israeli Detention

Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) has been systematically torturing Palestinians using a variety of techniques.

The international legal regime prohibits torture through customary international law as well as a variety of international and regional treaties. Whilst Israel ratified the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 1991, it has failed to incorporate it into its domestic legislation. Moreover, despite the UN committee’s affirmation to the contrary, Israel claims that CAT does not apply to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This allows Israel to assert that there is no crime of torture in Israel, with it actually permitted in cases of “necessity,” also known as the “ticking bomb,” a security doctrine used by many governments to justify torture and violence in situations considered time sensitive.

Israel has also passed several rulings around the issue of torture that have bolstered and condoned the activities of its security services. For instance, though in 1999 the Israeli Court of Justice issued a ruling to the effect that ISA interrogators were no longer allowed to use physical means in interrogations, the court added a clause that provided a loophole for interrogators, namely that those who use physical pressure will not face criminal responsibility if they are found to have done so in a ticking bomb situation or out of necessity for the state’s defense.

Though Palestinian human rights organizations regularly submit complaints to the Israeli authorities they rarely receive a reply, and when they do it is often to inform them that the case file has been closed due to a lack of evidence.

Israeli law also permits the military to hold a prisoner for up to six months without a charge under a procedure known as administrative detention. It is during the period of initial detention, whether administrative or otherwise, when prisoners are often deprived of contact with lawyers or family members that they are subjected to the most severe forms of interrogations and torture.

Children are not spared the ordeal of imprisonment and torture within the Israeli military system, and are nearly always denied the presence of parental guardianship during interrogations.

Whilst physical torture can leave serious bodily damage, including broken bones and chronic muscle and joint pain, especially as a result of stress positions or being confined to a small space, the psychological damage can be even worse, with such conditions as deep and lasting depression, hallucinations, anxiety, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. 

Many mechanisms of torture require the complicity of actors within the Israeli military court system, including medical personnel. This occurs despite the fact that the code of medical ethics as defined by the Declaration of Tokyo and Istanbul Protocol includes the stipulation that doctors must not cooperate with interrogators conducting torture, must not share medical information with torturers, and must actively oppose torture. Doctors in Israel are, for example, complicit in force feeding – another, albeit less common, mechanism of torture used by the Israeli regime.

For Palestinians, torture is just one facet of the structural violence they face at the hands of the Israeli regime, which entraps them in an open-air prison and deprives them of their fundamental rights. It is also one that receives little attention from the international community, usually because the Israeli authorities use arguments of state security bolstered by the “war on terror” narrative.

On May 13, 2016, the UN Committee against Torture recommended more than 50 measures to Israel following a review of its compliance with the Convention against Torture. These are, of course, important recommendations, and Israel should be made to comply with them. Yet in a time when third state actors are generally unwilling to hold Israel to account for violating international law and Palestinian rights, they are not enough. 

Policy Recommendations 

  • Organizations and groups should build cases of individual criminal liability outside of Israel and Palestine for those involved in the torture of Palestinians. Accountability can be extended not only to those who commit the torture but also those that aid, abet, and omit information about it.
  • The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, with all the information and detailed reports that have been presented to it, should launch a formal investigation into violations within the Israeli prison system. 
  • State signatories to the Geneva Conventions and international human rights organizations need to pressure the International Committee of the Red Cross to uphold its mandate to protect Palestinian detainees and open an investigation into all accusations of torture.
  • Palestinian civil society and institutions should continue to support those working to aid victims of torture.

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Social media solidarity for wounded Palestinian journalist

Thousands of social media users have taken part in a campaign to support Palestinian freelance journalist Muath Amarneh, who lost his eye after being wounded while covering a protest in the occupied West Bank last week.

Journalists from across the Arab world launched the campaign of solidarity after Amarneh was hit in the eye, apparently with a rubber bullet fired by Israeli forces who had arrived to quell the demonstrations last Friday in Surif.

As a result of the incident Amarneh lost one eye, posing a significant challenge to his career.

Israel’s border police said it did not target Amarneh at the protest near the city of Hebron and said it had used “nonlethal” means to disperse the crowd.

In a show of support, activists took photos of themselves covering an eye with one hand and posted them on social media, using the hashtags #MuathEye, or #EyeOfTruth.

Social media users from a variety of backgrounds – including teachers, students and youth organisations from dozens of countries across the world, ranging from the US to Malaysia, have joined the online movement.

‘Not an Anomaly’

According to Yara Hawari, a senior policy fellow at the Al-Shabaka think tank, Amarneh’s story is among dozens of similar cases.

“The heavy price that Amarneh paid for being both a Palestinian and a journalist is not an anomaly. Indeed at least 60 Palestinian journalists have been targeted and injured from Israeli bullets this year,” she told Al Jazeera.

“Not to mention the mass targeted maiming of protestors at the Great March of Return in Gaza … Such brutality and violence will continue so long as the international community fails to hold Israel accountable for its violations.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists responded to the incident in an official statement, calling on Israeli officials to start an investigation to “hold the soldiers responsible to account”.

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Distract, deflect, disinform: Israeli politics in spin cycle

On this episode of The Listening Post: Caught in a political tangle, Israeli politicians are demonising Palestinians and using Gaza to score points. Plus, Algeria’s viral stars.

Israel: War as a political weapon

In Israel, war, usually waged on Gaza, can be a means of distraction; a political weapon. And that context is often missing in the news coverage.

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched air raids on the Gaza Strip, what his government called “a targeted killing” of an Islamic Jihad commander.

However, in political terms, those missiles weren’t even aimed at Islamic Jihad.

The real target was Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s political rival.

Netanyahu is fighting for more than his job. He’s just become the first sitting Israeli prime minister charged with a crime: indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

So Netanyahu could use the distraction and he knows that conflict with Palestinians – military and political – can pay off.

He can also count on those in the media, who tend to shorthand the political context – and go long on the dominant narrative – that Palestinians somehow pose an “existential threat” to Israel.

Lead contributors:
Yara Hawari – Palestine policy fellow, Al Shabaka
Anat Balint – Media scholar
Tareq Baconi – Analyst, International Crisis Group
Edo Konrad – Editor-in-chief, +972 Magazine

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Palestinian anger at US decision over West Bank settlements

Palestinians have condemned a decision by the US to abandon its position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it threatened to replace international law with the “law of the jungle,” but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US move, saying it “rights a historical wrong”.

Al-Shabaka Board President Nadia Hijab speaks with BBC World and says that the Trump administration’s policy shift on Israeli settlements puts European countries on the spot to come out with a more forceful position on the occupied Palestinian territories.

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