Palestine Theater

Israel: protest vigil for detained Palestinian MK

Dozens of activists on Dec. 26 demonstrated outside the Israeli magistrate court in the central city of Rishon Lezion in support of a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Basal Ghattas, after the court extended his detention another day. Ghattas, a member of Joint List which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, was arrested on suspicions of smuggling cellphones to "Palestinian terrorists" serving time in Israeli prisons, and is being charged with "conspiring to commit...violations of Israel Prisons Service orders." Protesters raised photos of Ghattas and posters criticizing the Israeli government in both Hebrew and Arabic. Palestinian members of Knesset Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahaika attended the protest before they entered the court hall to attend the hearing.

UN resolution against Israeli settlements

The United Nations Security Council on Dec. 23 voted in favor of adopting Resolution 2334, that calls on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The vote, with 14 member states voting in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first such vote to be held on the Middle East Peace process in eight years. The resolution's text, drafted by Egypt alongside Palestine, demands that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," and emphasizes that the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." The abstention by Obama came as a major reversal in US policy, as a similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011.

Israeli high court justices face war crimes suit

Three justices on the Israeli Supreme Court have been sued for voting in favor of authorizing the construction of Israel's wall around the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice found illegal (PDF) in 2004. The lawsuit alleges war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the Nuremberg trials precedent that allows judges to be convicted for their role in cooperating with such crimes. Six Palestinian landowners from Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem, filed the suit in Santiago, Chile, because Chile ascribes to the concept of universal jurisdiction. Five of the plaintiffs live in Chile, and the sixth lives in Beit Jala.

Israeli court upholds evacuation of 'illegal' outpost

The Israeli Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the Israeli government to postpone evacuating the illegal Amona outpost, built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, ruling that the evacuation be carried out by Dec. 25 as previously ordered by the court. Justices Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, and Hanan Meltzer reprimanded the state for its eleventh hour attempt to extend the deadline of evacuation, after implementation of the court's decision has already been repeatedly delayed since Palestinian landowners successfully petitioned to remove the outpost in 2008.

UNESCO nomenclature wars in Jerusalem

UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."

Israeli army shells Gaza —again

The Israeli army shelled a site allegedly used by Palestinian militant groups in the central Gaza Strip on Oct. 6, after a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in southern Israel. Israeli military vehicles stationed along the border between Gaza and Israel reportedly shelled an area east of the Maghazi refugee camp, without causing any injuries. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an News Agency that they were looking into the reports. Earlier in the day, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in the Eshkol regional council, causing no injuries.

West Bank, Gaza divded on municipal elections

The Palestinian high court in Ramallah on Oct. 3 amended a previous ruling, holding that municipal elections can take place, but only in West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip. The court had previously held that the election, once scheduled for Oct. 8, would not proceed after Hamas disputed party lists drawn by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. In adjusting its previously holding, the court said that it would "implement the cabinet's decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip," adding that Gaza did not have the necessary "guarantees" to hold the polls. The new election date must be decided within four weeks. Hamas has been quick to criticize the decision as politically motivated. Had the court allowed elections to take place in the Gaza Strip it would have been the first election between Hamas and Fatah since 2006. Hamas won a majority of the seats in the legislative polls in 2006, sparking a tumultuous rift in Palestinian politics, culminating in Hamas seizing the Strip from Abbas-loyal forces in 2007. No Palestinian presidential election has taken place since 2005 and Abbas has retained office since, despite expiration of his term.

Trump plays Jerusalem card for Jewish vote

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at New York's Trump Tower on Sept. 25, and pledged that if he is elected, the United States will "recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel." The quote is from a statement issued by the Trump campaign, as reporters were barred from the closed-door meeting. Bibi also met separately with Hillary Clinton that day, but it is the meeting with Trump—the one closed to the media—that is getting the media attention, due to his exploitation of the Jerusalem question. (Reuters, AP, Sept. 25)

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