Opinion |

The Websites You Must Visit to Understand Israel's Policy Toward Palestinians

For those who don’t speak Arabic, these sites will put you on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinians wait for travel permits in Khan Yunis to cross into Egypt from the southern Gaza Strip on April 28, 2018, after it was opened for three days to allow humanitarian cases to pass.
Palestinians wait for travel permits in Khan Yunis to cross into Egypt from the southern Gaza Strip on April 28, 2018, after it was opened for three days to allow humanitarian cases to pass.Credit: AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Haaretz readers are probably sure they know what’s happening in the kingdom of the occupation, because this newspaper is Israel’s only mainstream media outlet that consistently provides information from there. This of course is an illusion. All the reports, articles and editorials don’t cover a thousandth of what constitutes Palestinian daily life under Israeli control.

As a service to anyone who wants to know more and doesn’t speak Arabic, here’s a partial reading list that provides information shocking in its ordinariness.

The biweekly report on protecting civilians, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which appears in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The latest (April 23) issue notes that over the previous two weeks the forces of the Civil Administration had demolished 16 Palestinian structures in Area C ( the section of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control), citing the lack of a building permit. Some 360 people were affected by the demolitions. Over those two weeks, 19 demolition and stop-work orders were served for other Palestinian structures.

The news website Siha Mekomit, or its English equivalent, +972 Magazine. For example, last week Orly Noy visited the school in the Palestinian village Burin, a regular target of Israeli gangs who come down from the surrounding settlements and terrorize people under the protection of the Israeli army. To read her report is almost like to be there with her. The previous day, the site posted a B’Tselem video showing soldiers cheering after “identifying” their precise hit: a resident of the nearby village of Madama who was trying to remove an earthen barrier and was shot at.

The English website Mondoweiss describes itself as “an independent website devoted to informing readers about developments in Israel/Palestine and related U.S. foreign policy. We provide news and analysis unavailable through the mainstream media regarding the struggle for Palestinian human rights.” Its founders are American Jews.

One can’t help but envy the site for its network of writers and reporters from the field. Fadi Al-Naji, for example, wrote Friday from Gaza about what doesn’t appear in the standard Israeli media: The Palestinian March of Return isn’t only a protest, it’s a combination of cultural and heritage events such as children listening to adults tell stories of their lives in their villages and cities in Palestine before 1948. Or its reading groups learning about imperialism and colonialism. Sometimes, he writes, you can also encounter a wedding procession.

Don’t miss the human rights websites in Israel. B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Gisha and Adalah need no further words. In contrast, the Center for the Defense of the Individual hasn’t been good at promoting its treasures: praiseworthy legal work and the information that stems from it. A look at the site every two or three days is worth it. For example, on April 17, attorney Abir Joubran-Dakwar petitioned the High Court of Justice, based on the Freedom of Information Law, to order the army to answer questions about procedures for issuing permits to access land behind the separation barrier.

As the Center reminds us, “Ever since 2003, the Israeli military has been employing a draconian permit regime in the area of the West Bank located between the Green Line and the separation wall. Israel refers to this area, which it declared closed to Palestinians, as the ‘seam zone.’ Though it is an inseparable part of the West Bank, any Palestinian living in this area or wishing to enter it is required to obtain a military issued permit in order to do so. This permit regime applies only to Palestinians. Others, be they Israelis or tourists from anywhere in the world, do not require any permit to enter the ‘seam zone’ or remain in it.”

When the separation barrier was built deep in the West Bank, the authorities claimed that it wasn’t intended to steal Palestinian land; only security dictated its route. The years passed and the fears came true: Fewer and fewer Palestinians can reach their land on the other side of the wall. Their land became green parks and hiking sites of prestigious Israeli suburbs and settlements.

Some of the activities of the women’s group Machsom Watch also focus on maintaining contact with farmers whose right to work their land and make a living from it is thwarted by the separation wall/fence. “Every Israeli should know what is happening in the West Bank,” is the headline on its Hebrew homepage.

One group of women among them devotes long days in the military courts. Their reports on the site are chilling. By the way, in a chance conversation Friday, a founder of Machsom Watch clarified why this is a feminist movement, even though it doesn’t focus on the rights of women as such, and even though not all its members identify as feminists. It’s because “there’s no hierarchy in the group,” she said.

Information, as much information of this type, painful, and as close as possible to the real-time events, is conveyed out of respect for readers – a show of a deep, basic faith in their humanity, wisdom and sense of justice.

Readers don’t need the intervention of theoretical articles to conceptualize how abhorrent it is that a Jewish Israeli clerk prevents a woman with cancer from going for treatment, or to compare the whitening of South Africa to the destruction of the Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran. Readers can conclude for themselves that as citizens of this state they’re partners in the terrible system of oppression and dispossession. If they don’t realize it today, they’ll realize it tomorrow.

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