Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Lia Tarachansky

When the government tries to silence a history, a light is shed on the nation’s biggest taboo. This is the story of those who fought to erase Palestine and created an Israeli landscape of denial.

Since 1999, over 300,000 young Jews from around the world have embarked on the free, 10-day tour of Israel known as Taglit-Birthright. It’s considered the most effective means of connecting the next generation of the Jewish Diaspora to the state of Israel. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently pledged $100 million to the program.

Last week, in one of the first actions of its kind, activists released the names of Israeli soldiers involved in the killing of a Palestinian protester. Mustafa Tamimi, a 28 year-old demonstrator from the village of Nabi Saleh, was killed when a soldier shot a tear gas canister at his face in December last year.

On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stepped down from his post following charges arising from a 13-year investigation against him. 972 Magazine’s Noam Sheizaf analyses Lieberman’s decision and what it will mean for Likud Beiteinu, the new joint list of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu.

A new documentary by frequent IOA contributor Israeli-Canadian journalist Lia Tarachansky aims to decipher some of the anxiety that accompanies the Israeli debate over the events of 1948.

IOA contributor Lia Tarachansky’s film project Seven Deadly Myths is competing for funding as part of the Cuban Hat Pitching Contest. Lia’s work figures prominently on the IOA website. A key reason why we find Lia Tarachansky’s work to be so important, and why it is unique, is because Lia’s coverage keeps current events and the post-1967 occupation in an historical context: in her work, as well as in her film, Lia discusses West Bank settlements in the context of the Nakba.

Seven Deadly Myths

8 October 2012

Upcoming documentary profiles Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky’s return to the settlement where she grew up, to uncover a buried history and a landscape of denial. The film tells the stories of four veterans of the 1948 war that erased from the Israeli landscape hundreds of Palestinian villages and connects their stories to the modern-day Palestinian dispossession through the occupation and settlements.

According to local press, the Israeli leadership has been “climbing down from the tree” this week with a distinct change in tone from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding attacking Iran. The change in mood is said to be linked to rising tensions with the Obama administration and new rumors that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has changed his mind and is no longer supporting a unilateral attack by Israel.

Israel’s anti-refugee policy reached a new peak this week when Ha’aretz reported that a group of 20 asylum seekers was being denied entry and was stuck in the fenced area between the Sinai Desert in Egypt and the Israeli border. The group has been sitting outside the fence since last Thursday, without food. The soldiers in the field were given an order to give the refugees “as little water as possible.” On Tuesday night, Israeli activists decided to deliver food they bought to the refugees themselves.

In recent years Israel’s control over the Palestinian people in the occupied territories has changed. While the presence of the Israeli army has been greatly reduced, the occupation has taken a more invisible form. In her new book The Bureaucracy of Occupation, attorney Yael Berda sheds light on how the Israeli secret service (the Shabak) exploits every point of contact with Palestinians, especially the imposed permit system, to recruit informants to further its control over the population. Activist Anan Quzmar of Birzeit University’s Rights to Education campaign tells how this form of “phantom control” makes political involvement and activism nearly impossible.

On June 22, 2012 Daphnie Leef, the symbolic leader of the J14 social justice movement in Israel was violently arrested while trying to set up a protest tent. The action was meant to reinvigorate the movement that began on July 14, 2011. In response to her arrest, and that of twelve others, thousands poured onto the streets in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, breaking bank windows and chanting “citizens’ mutiny” as police violently arrested 89.

On June 2nd, Wafa Tiara, a Palestinian agricultural worker organized under the Ma’an union was supposed to address Israel’s J14 social justice movement. The protest was meant to serve as an indicator of whether this movement, which began last summer, could restart after its quiet winter months.

In recent weeks, incitement by government officials, rightist settlers, and poor community members against African refugees seeking asylum in Israel escalated into violence. In may Molotov cocktails were thrown into refugee homes, businesses and one kindergarten. The incident did not lead to casualties but inspired a wave of protests leading to a race riot on May 23rd.

The rift in Israel between the political leadership’s push for an attack on Iran, and the security establishment’s opposition widened in recent weeks. Three new voices spoke out on the question of Iran in the Israeli press, throwing doubt into the motivation of those who push for an attack, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Lia Tarachansky spoke to Ha’aretz journalist Gideon Levy and Major General Shlomo Gazit, the former head of Army intelligence.

On Saturday Israelis organized the first demonstration of what was meant to be a resurrection of last summer’s protests against the high cost of living. Last July protest mass demonstrations reached half a million people in Tel Aviv. This Saturday, roughly ten thousand people came out to downtown Tel Aviv. A crew of police media staff circled the demonstrators, filming activists who held megaphones or looked like leaders. One officer instructed the police to arrest a man who called officers “fascists.”

The Israeli supreme court rejected this week the appeal of two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike for 70 days. The rejection was described as a death sentence by Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. In mid-April, the day Khader Adnan, a prisoner on s 66 day hunger strike, was freed, more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners went on a mass hunger strike. In solidarity, hundreds protested outside Ramle Jail where high-profile Political Prisoner Ahmad Sa’adat is held. Israeli police attacked the protest, arresting 17. A local court forbids them to communicate with each other for 15 days, sentencing them to five day on house arrest.

In 2011, over 9,000 patients from Gaza received emergency care in Israeli hospitals. Many of the admitted were injured in Israeli attacks on the strip. The director of Physicians for Human Rights’ occupied Palestinian territories division and Khamis al-Essi, emergency physician at one of Gaza’s largest hospitals, talk about why Gaza’s healthcare system fails to treat the thousands of injured who are forced to seek treatment outside the strip.

Over 1500 activists from 15 countries attempted to fly to Ben Gurion Airport to travel to Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian territories. They were invited by Palestinian activists to help build a school and protest Israel’s control of all access points to the occupied territories. Hundreds were prevented from even boarding their planes and instead staged protests at various airports. Dozens were deported upon arrival and dozens arrested and transferred to Israeli prison. Israeli activists attempted to hold signs welcoming them at the airport but were immediately removed.

After more than a month on hunger strike, Hanaa Shalabi is in “immediatemortal danger” and at “risk of coma” according to a Physicians for HumanRights doctor. Shalabi’s strike came at the heels of another high profile campaign by Khader Adnan who survived a 66 day hunger strike before the Israeli authorities decided to release him. Both were arrested under Administrative Detention, a military order that allows Israeli authorities to arrest anyone and hold them indefinitely, without charge or trial.

Abeer Zeibak Hadad is a Palestinian filmmaker living in the Israeli mixed city of Jaffa. This year her first feature film – Dum’a – was released in Israeli theaters. The film is the first in the Arab world to deal with sexual assault of women and girls. The film has been screening throughout the country. This week, two days before International Women’s Day Dum’a was screened to hundreds of high school girls in Qalanswa, a Palestinian city half an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv.

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