Israel's 1,000-front War on Palestinians

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A Palestinian woman and child walk as an Israeli soldier looks on in Hebron, last month.
A Palestinian woman and child walk as an Israeli soldier looks on in Hebron, last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Under orders from Minister of Public Security Omer Bar-Lev, police on Sunday banned a meeting of Palestinian business people at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem. The minister claimed the meeting was initiated, sponsored and financed by the Palestinian Authority. The business folks had been invited to a meeting and dinner by Al-Quds Bank.

Israel fights the Palestinians on 1,000 fronts, most of them unheard of because of a lack of interest by the Jewish public.

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On the face of it, there is no connection between all these fronts. What link is there between a hotel and a student apartment? Overnight between Sunday and Monday, the IDF arrested Tawfiq al-Arqoub, a student at Birzeit University. The Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested him in the past and according to his testimony, he was tortured by them. Later he was arrested by the IDF and sentenced to 14 months imprisonment for his activities in the Islamic student bloc.

This is the front of the security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The PA arrests someone without trial for a certain activity or political position, he is released, and then comes the turn of the Shin Bet and the IDF to lay their hands on him. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

There were other arrests on Sunday, including of nine children in three villages. Was it for throwing stones? The Arabic news reports don’t say. This front will become bloodier soon. The IDF has changed its rules of engagement and will allow soldiers to shoot at anyone who, in their opinion, based on their on-the-spot decision, had thrown stones or firebombs some minutes earlier, including children.

On the nation’s land front, the High Court justices are due to rule on Sunday whether to allow the state to demolish 38 homes in the village of Walaja. If they rule affirmatively in their serpentine technical justifications, the Finance Ministry’s land enforcement authority is expected to make 300 people homeless immediately. The homes were built without permits on land Israel annexed to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality, as is well known, does not develop adequate building plans for Palestinians. So where will they live? Twelve homes have not been included in the petition and they are expected to be demolished. Thirty other homes have already been demolished in Walaja since 2016. Meanwhile, in case you were wondering, the Har Gilo settlement, which was established on land stolen from Walaja and Beit Jalla, is prospering and is about to expand.

On Sunday, the High Court justices took a decision not to suspend the administrative detention of Hisham Abu-Hawash, who has been on hunger strike for 128 days. They also rejected the request of his attorney, Jawad Boulos, to force the authorities to transfer him to a civilian hospital. The High Court justices, just as the military appeals judges before them, accepted the Shin Bet’s position that Abu-Hawash, slowly dying, is dangerous to the security of Israel. But there is an expiry date on the danger he represents: February 26, 2022, when the current detention order ends.

Abu-Hawash has been transferred to a civilian hospital three times in the past two weeks, and each time, immediately afterward, he was returned to an Israel Prison Service clinic. Prison Service doctors and the judges agree that his life is in danger. But they are not trying to prevent his death by hospitalizing him in an appropriate medical institution. The message on this front to the other 500 administrative detainees is clear: Unlike in the past, we don’t care if you die, if you dare to protest with your body and your health against your detention without trial, without witnesses, evidence or the right to a legal defense, and without time limit.

The demographic front, too, stands firm. Israel continues to refuse thousands of requests for Palestinian residency. (Not Israeli residency!) Most of those requests come from women, mainly Palestinians who have been living for many years with their families in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Practically imprisoned, they have been separated from the rest of the world and their parents abroad.

On a thousand fronts and more, Israel is fighting against the Palestinians. Armed soldiers and policemen, bureaucrats and inspectors, architects, right-wing non-governmental organizations – all are soldiers of the state, and they are too many to count. The vanguard and rearguard in every battle: the State Prosecutor’s Office, the legal advisers and the judges.

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