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JERUSALEM — In the land that put Christ in Christmas, Christianity is shrinking. Less than a century ago, Christians comprised nearly 10 percent of the population of Palestine (now Israel and the Palestinian territories). In 1946, the figure was around 8 percent. Today, Christians make up about 4 percent of the West Bank’s population, although there are still a few Christian-majority villages, such as Taybeh, whose skyline is dominated by church spires and whose businessmen produce the only Palestinian beer . In Israel, though Christians make up 10 percent of its Palestinian population, they only constitute 2.5 percent of the total population.
Late last week Israel launched a targeted air strike, killing Zohair al-Qaisi, militant leader of the Popular Resistance Committee, claiming the group was planning a terrorist strike in Israel. Over the next few days, militant groups in Gaza launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel in retaliation, and Israel responded with new rounds of air strikes. Israel also deployed an anti-missile system known as Iron Dome, claiming to have shot down more than 40 rockets. Egypt stepped in to help broker a cease-fire that began yesterday, and held for about a day, but both sides have since launched limited attacks. In all, eight people in Israel have been wounded in the fighting, and at least 27 Palestinians have been killed. [ 36 photos ]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report , on 5 February 2012, that exposes the ways in which Israel controls immigration and nationality in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) through the population registry, which it established in September 1967. The first census conducted upon its establishment resulted in the exclusion of at least 270,000 individuals. In another wave, Israel excluded a further 130,000 West Bank Palestinians who stayed abroad for long periods of time, between 1967 and 1994. In 2000, Israel effectively ‘froze’ the registry’s functions altogether and prevented the Palestinian authorities from issuing identity and travel documents or updating information for residents of the OPT.
Little more than a decade ago, in a brief interlude of heady optimism about the prospects of regional peace, the Israeli Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings that, it was widely assumed, heralded the advent of a new, post-Zionist era for Israel. But with two more watershed judgments handed down over the winter of 2011-2012 the same court has decisively reversed the tide. Palestinians, both in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel, will pay the biggest and most immediate costs of the new decisions. In one, the Supreme Court has created a new concept of “prolonged occupation” to justify further Israel’s denial of basic protections to the Palestinian population living under belligerent military rule.
Valentina Azarov is a lecturer in human rights and international law and the chair of the Human Rights Program at the Al-Quds Bard College, Al-Quds University , East Jerusalem, Palestine. Formerly she worked as a legal researcher with Al-Haq , a Palestinian human rights organisation, with consultative UN ECOSOC status, and HaMoked-Centre for the Defense of the Individual , a legal aid human rights group that submits petitions before the Israeli High Court on violations of Palestinian rights in the occupied Palestinian territory. She is also an author for the International Law Observer .
Exploiting a Dynamic Law of Prolonged Occupation: The Israeli High Court of Justice and Israel's Quarries in the Occupied Palestinian TerritoryOn 26 December 2011, the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) rendered its judgment in a case challenging Israel’s quarrying activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) filed by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din. The petitioners demanded that the activities be terminated since they violate Israel’s obligation to administer the OPT for the benefit of the local population. Israel started operating quarries in the OPT in the 1970s; today there are ten, eight of which are in operation. Approximately seventy-five percent of their yielded product is used on the Israeli construction market; in some quarries, this number reaches ninety-four percent..
Eyal Press This is the second in an NYRblog series about the fate of democracy in different parts of the world. Shark de Mayo/thelawfilm.com
Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank, perched atop the Judean Hills in the very center of the territory's southern portion. The city is home to 165,000 Palestinians, as well as 500 Israeli settlers who have taken up residence in and around its old quarter since 1968. Hebron is the one West Bank city not transferred to Palestinian control under the Oslo Accords; a separate agreement signed in 1997 placed 120,000 Palestinians under full Palestinian Authority control, with the remainder staying under Israeli jurisdiction. Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where tradition says Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their respective wives are buried. Like the city itself, it is divided down the middle.
“We are being asked to perpetuate a narrative of victimhood that evades the central Jewish question of our age: the question of how to ethically wield Jewish power,” he writes. That power, for 45 years now, has been exercised over millions of Palestinians who enjoy none of the rights of citizenship and all the humiliations of an occupied people. Beinart, a prominent liberal journalist, is right to invert the treacherous victimhood trope. This is not 1938 revisited, or even 1967. Israel is strong today, a vibrant economy and the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state. Its unwavering ally, the United States, is home to a Jewish community that has never been more integrated or influential.
“To believe in a democratic Jewish state today is to be caught between the jaws of a pincer,” writes Peter Beinart in his widely circulated and hotly debated op-ed . Indeed -- but it was ever thus. Today the pincer is not, as Beinart would have it, the incongruity of the “democratic Israel” inside the Green Line and the “undemocratic Israel” outside it.
By preventing Palestinian farmers from reaching their land for most of the year, Israel is reducing many of them to poverty - claims campaign group. The farmers of the West Bank village of Beit Surik used to make their living selling oil from their olive trees. Now, says Abu Rami, the head of the village farmers' association, they cannot produce enough olive oil for their own families. The problem is the system Israel has set up for getting access to their land in the West Bank is on the other side of Israel's separation barrier.
When I started shooting for what would become Degrees of Incarceration in 2003, I had no idea that it would entail anything more than a day’s work. I showed up with a camera because a dear friend and colleague asked if I had a day to document a youth play about prisons. I ended up spending the night (leaving Bethlehem by public transportation after 4pm was impractical, my new friends told me) and then regularly returning to the youth center that organized the play. As I got to know the activists who worked on the play, I heard about the night arrest raids that stunned the camp awake on a regular basis, about the youth detentions that took children from school, friends, and family, and the unending ache of having relatives in prison for decades. It struck me that even among Americans interested in Palestine, there was little awareness of the procedures and effects of political imprisonment. I wanted to learn more, and so I embarked on this film.
Palestine, recognized last October as the 195th member state by the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently launched its first initiative as a full-fledged government in the Paris-based agency, nominating the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and a traditional pilgrimage route to be listed as an endangered site on the World Heritage List. The fate of the Palestinian bid will be decided along with 35 other sites by a commission of 21 state parties to the World Heritage Convention at a June 24-July 6 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In this report on the security sectors in the West Bank and Gaza, Yezid Sayigh shows how Western donations have impeded progress in the West Bank. What the Palestinians need to achieve security in the long term is a sense of ownership and responsibility. Furthermore, the West Bank and Gaza governments will have to agree upon a common vision in order maintain the hope not only for security, but also for Palestinian statehood. This post has already been read 15 times!