The Guardian view on Gaza shootings: stop killing unarmed civilians

“It is inexcusable for soldiers of a military, especially those under democratic civilian control, to shoot and kill protesters, almost all of whom were unarmed, and who pose no credible threat. Yet at the boundary between Gaza and Israel today Israeli soldiers seem to have done just that. It should make Israelis quail that demonstrators were sprayed with live ammunition with apparent impunity. There were dozens of deaths and hundreds of maimings among the Palestinians who had marched to the border to make a point about their right to return to their ancestral homes. Israel’s army evinced no shame in committing what looks like a war crime. These are serious accusations. Yet they were greeted with little more than a shrug. By blockading Gaza, Israel imprisoned 2 million people behind barbed wire and military towers. Israel treated the violence as a jailer might a prison riot: a tragic fault of the inmates.

This is a dangerous mindset for Israelis to embrace. Yet they have done so because the extreme right in Israel, and most of the present government ministers, nurture the idea that Israel can, through its vastly superior military force, end the national aspirations of the Palestinians. These politicians take succour from US president Donald Trump, who has made good on his promise to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Today Mr Trump’s ambassador, who gave money to Jewish far-right groups in Israel, opened his nation’s new embassy in Jerusalem. This is a reckless and provocative step that will harm the prospects for peace. Like the issue of refugees, settlements and borders, the status of Jerusalem is unfinished business. No state is internationally recognised as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. Its status was meant to be determined through negotiations.

In siding with Israel Mr Trump signalled the end of any pretence that his administration might be an honest broker in the conflict. Any peace talks overseen by Mr Trump’s team are likely to fail before they begin. The US president will learn what happens when the facts he has created on the ground collide with reality. What will happen to the 300,000 Palestiniansliving in east Jerusalem? Are they all to be herded into enclaves and deprived of their human rights, their land confiscated? Will this be done because of the “truth, peace and justice” that Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel believed in as he welcomed the US ambassador to Jerusalem? Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu have galvanised a people who had been steeped in despair.

In taking Jerusalem off the table, the only inviolable demand Palestinians feel they have left is the right of return. Palestinians see the flight or expulsion of refugees at the time of the creation of Israel 70 years ago this week as their catastrophe or nakba. Israelis retort that implementation of the right of return is incompatible with the survival of a democratic Jewish majority state. The issue is now on the lips of every Palestinian. The conflict in the Holy Land is not a zero-sum game, where there is just one winner. The opposite is more likely to be true. Either both will fail – and continue with one civilian population humiliating and terrorising the other. Or they find a way to live side by side in two states, one that affords each people their own independence and security. If happily such an outcome was achieved, it would make sense for west Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and east Jerusalem to be the Palestinian capital. This is obvious to everyone but Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu, who instead have capitulated to a vision of brutal domination over a benighted people.”

Source: The Guardian Australia

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The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance condemns shooting of Gaza journalist


For the last week many young men and women from the Palestinian West Bank have been protesting the anniversary of May 15, 1948, when exactly 70 years ago the United Nations allowed the formation of a Jewish State on Palestinian land. The protests will continue until May 15, 2018.

However, two days ago, a Palestinian journalist reporting the protests was shot dead by Israeli forces despite a large PRESS sign on his chest. Condemnation from around the world has been mirrored in Australia by the journalists’ union.

“The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists, strongly condemns the targeting and shooting of journalists during protests in the southern Gaza strip on Friday.

Palestinian photo-journalist with TV-production company Ain Media, Yasser Murtaja, died from his wounds after having been shot while covering the demonstration east of Khan Yunis on April 6. Murtaja was wearing a protective vest that was clearly-labelled “PRESS” when he was shot in the abdomen by suspected sniper fire. Murtaja, aged 23, was married with a two-year-old son.

Five other journalists were wounded by live fire with reports suggesting they, too, were wearing “PRESS” vests.

MEAA joins with other unions affiliated to the International Federation of Journalists to condemn the apparent targeting of working journalists.

MEAA Media section president Marcus Strom said, “This is an outrageous assault on press freedom that we condemn in the strongest terms. We call for an urgent, independent investigation of this incident and those responsible for the possible deliberate targeting and shooting the journalists to be brought to account. Before this incident last week , 11 journalists had been killed around the world so far this year in deliberately targeted or cross-fire killings. Reporters and photographers must be allowed to carry out their duties without the threat of being targeted simply because they are working members of the press. MEAA extends its sympathies to our colleagues who have been wounded and our sincere condolences to the family of Yasser Murtaja.”

Also, MEAA condemns the deliberate targeting of journalists anywhere in the world and is dismayed at new evidence presented at court this week that suggests Syria deliberately targeted and hunted to her death Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin in 2012.”

Source: Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance

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Israel to Cut Palestinian Village From Water Source in Order to Take Control of Farming Land (Haaretz)

Nir Hasson
Nov 16, 2017 11:38 AM
Haaretz – Israel News

After a checkpoint moves deeper into the Palestinian area, residents of al-Walaja will no longer be able to visit the local spring or their fields beyond it

Construction work on the Ein Hanya spring, April 8, 2016. Emil Salman

Israel has told residents of the Palestinian village of al-Walaja south of Jerusalem that they are to be cut off from their farmland and farming terraces because of the relocation of a checkpoint, shifting a large segment of land from the Palestinian side to the Israeli one.

A Jerusalem district planning panel said that the Ein Yael checkpoint on road between Jerusalem and Har Gilo would move deeper into the Palestinian area, where it will become part of the Jerusalem metropolitan park.

This land includes Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills; for the residents of al-Walaja, the site also provides recreation, bathing, and water for their livestock. Palestinian families from farther afield in the West Bank, such as Beit Jala and Bethlehem, regularly visit the spring and the two deep pools in the area for bathing and picnicking.

Image: Al-Walaja and surrounding areas.

Part of al-Walaja falls under Jerusalem’s jurisdiction, but the recent completion of the separation fence has cut the village off from Jerusalem entirely. The fence also separates the village from extensive farming areas owned by the residents.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Development Authority have already started renovation work at the spring and the surrounding area. Now they plan on surrounding the spring with a fence, building a visitors center and a restaurant and turning it into one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s metropolitan park, which abuts the capital from the south and west.
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Two days ago al-Walaja residents received letters telling them that the checkpoint will be moved closer to their village, some two and a half kilometers deeper into the Palestinian territory. It currently sits near the exit from Jerusalem, a mere one and a half kilometers from the Malha shopping mall.

A man walks past one of the pools at Ein Hanya, April 8, 2016.Emil Salman

Once the checkpoint relocated, Palestinians without Jerusalem resident papers will not be allowed to pass through it. They will not be able to visit the spring area or their fields and terraces beyond it.

The villagers were given 15 days’ notice to submit an appeal against the decision.

Ironically, the well-groomed, carefully tended terraces that al-Walaja’s residents have nurtured over the years were one of the reasons given by the Israeli authorities for setting up a park in the area. However, once the checkpoint is moved, the farmers will be denied access to them.

“The stone steps are one of the park’s outstanding features. This landscape has decorated the Judean Hills for longer than 5,000 years, since man started farming the land. The terrace agriculture was preserved in the Arab villages until the War of Independence,” the park’s information leaflet says.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim, a nonprofit that advocates for a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, said “relocating the checkpoint is another step in [Environmental Protection] Minister Zeev Elkin’s plan to move al-Walaja and the rest of the neighborhoods beyond the separation fence out of Jerusalem’s borders. In Elkin’s Jerusalem, Israelis will stroll among the beautiful terraces, tended to and fostered by al-Walaja residents, with the land owners locked behind a barbed wire fence a few dozen meters away, unable to come to the lands that were robbed from them.

“That’s the rightist government’s vision: instead of peace and justice, fences and increasingly brutal oppression,” he said.

Nir Hasson

Haaretz Correspondent, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, and analysis from Israel and the Middle East. provides extensive and in-depth coverage of Israel, the Jewish World and the Middle East, including defense, diplomacy, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the peace process, Israeli politics, Jerusalem affairs, international relations, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli business world and Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora.

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Banksy Walled Off Hotel in Palestine to sell new works by elusive artist (Guardian)

Gift shop, which will open in autumn in West Bank, will sell pieces including crucifixes fashioned into grappling hooks

The Walled Off hotel
The Walled Off hotel Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

It’s the sort of merchandise you might find in any hotel gift shop: mugs emblazoned with slogans, T-shirts, prints of local beauty spots and novelty key rings. But this is not any ordinary holiday tat.

Banksy’s Walled Off hotel in the Palestinian territories will open a gift shop and sell new works by the elusive street artist for the first time in four years.

The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks, and painted keyrings and ornaments resembling parts of the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.

The gift shop, which will open in the autumn, will be next to Banksy’s hotel, museum and protest gallery space that he opened in March overlooking the vast concrete stretch of wall, topped with barbed wire, that passes through Bethlehem.

This is the first time Banksy has put his works for sale since 2013, when he set up a small, anonymous pop-up stall in Central Park in New York where lucky passers-by could purchase original signed canvases for $60 (£38). They were a steal compared with the prices that original Banksy artworks now fetch at auction, and indeed some of the Central Park works have since sold for upwards of £120,000.

Most of the new works at the Walled Off gift shop will only be available in the West Bank shop, but a few are also going on sale in the hotel’s online store.

The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks.
The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks. Photograph: JBPR

Those keen fans and collectors hoping to get their hands on a limited edition crucifix grappling hook will have to put in an order before they travel to the West Bank.

In true Banksy fashion, none of the new works are on sale for anywhere near the six-figure sums that collectors are willing to pay for signed Banksy work. Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy in the shop for 90 shekels (£20), or 230 shekels for those who want it hand-painted.

Souvenir reproductions of parts of the separation wall are also on sale, some featuring Banksy’s popular Girl with Balloon image, and others daubed with more openly political statements such as “Free Palestine”.

Also likely to be in high demand is a Banksy art print that portrays the wall’s Israeli military watchtower as a fairground swing ride, set behind an actual chiseled piece of the wall, on sale for 575 shekels.

All of the items have been designed and created by Banksy himself and are likely to be hugely popular, since it is now rare for him to put his own works on sale, despite an enormous demand for them all over the world.

It also marks a continuation of the graffiti artist’s decade-long relationship with Bethlehem, since he came to the Palestinian city over a decade ago and graffitied the wall, making it a tourist destination in its own right. For the Israeli government the West Bank barrier, built from 2002 after the second intifada, is seen as a vital security wall to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. Palestinians, however, regard it as a symbol of their oppression and racial segregation.

The wall is now covered in political art and statements from street artists and protesters from all over the world, including a recent illustration of Donald Trump hugging the watchtower and another of the US president vowing to build the West Bank wall “a brother” – a reference to his election pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border.

The Walled Off hotel, which the artist described as having “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, exists both as a living art institution but also an informative museum space that explains the turbulent history of the region. It is also a gallery showcasing Palestinian artists, who are often restricted from travelling and exhibiting their work in Israel and abroad. Banksy’s hope for the hotel was that it would draw a new type of tourism to the area and generate much-needed jobs. Rooms start at $60 (£46) and go up to $965 for the presidential suite.

Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy for 90 shekels.
Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy for 90 shekels. Photograph: JBPR

The area where the hotel sits in Bethlehem is under Israeli control, but for Israelis to get there requires a journey through Palestinian territories which would be illegal for Israelis.

In October, as well as the opening of the gift shop, the Walled Off hotel will also be running package holidays for the first time. The “vandals’ retreat” will give people the chance to visit the Bethlehem hotel in the presence of a famous graffiti artist, such as Australian street artist Lush, and guests will be taken on excursions to paint the wall themselves.

A hotel spokesperson said: “It’s a bit like going on a cruise with a celebrity, but with a lot more swearing.” But with his own appearance still shrouded in mystery, Banksy himself is unlikely to be among the package holiday guest vandals.

This article was amended on 13 September 2017 to correct a date and clarify a detail about location access.

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