Monday, July 23, 2018 Last Update: 6:58 PM GMT

New Israeli Law Bans Groups Critical of State, Military from Schools (VIDEO)

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv in June, 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills.org, file)

Israel’s parliament passed a law on Tuesday that could see groups critical of government policies toward the Palestinians banned from entering Israeli schools and speaking with pupils.

Critics of the law, which passed with 43 votes in favor and 24 against in the 120-seat Knesset, said it was a blow to core democratic values like free speech and part of the Israeli government’s effort to delegitimize rights groups and NGOs.

The amendment to the education act grants new powers to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, to order schools to bar certain groups from giving lectures to students.

The legislation has been dubbed the “Breaking the Silence” law, a reference to the Israeli group of that name which collects and publishes testimony from Israeli veterans about the military’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and during conflicts with militants in Gaza.

Bennett has been critical of the organization along with other right-wing politicians who accuse the group of damaging Israel’s image abroad and putting soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution for alleged war crimes.

Bennett said in a statement:

“Anyone who wanders around the world attacking Israeli soldiers, will not enter a school.”

Breaking the Silence said the law is meant to weaken it and other rights groups.

The group director, Avner Gvaryahu, commented:

“It’s really about trying to silence and cover up what’s been going on in the occupied territories for 51 years.”

Israel has maintained a brutal military occupation on the West Bank since 1967 which saw a major illegal settler activity in the region that has compromised the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis. Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade since 2006.

Ram Cohen, a headmaster at Tel Aviv’s Tichonet high school, said he hosted Breaking the Silence at the school last year and planned to invite the group again, even if it meant breaching the law.

Cohen said:

“As a principal, as an educator, it is my duty to stand up and say – no more. These laws are meant to harm democracy. I shall not be a part of it. I do not agree with it and I shall object to it.”

Amir Fuchs, who heads the Israel Democracy Institute’s Defending Democratic Values Program, said:

Fuchs said:

“Education is about thinking critically. It’s about hearing people you don’t agree with. And this is what we want to teach our children. In order for us to educate our young people to be democratic, to be liberal, they have to hear the other side.”

Fuchs also said that the law was part of a wider phenomenon in Israel of trying to discredit left-wing groups.

(TeleSur, PC, Social Media)

Palestinian Dies after Being Shot by Israeli Forces in Gaza (VIDEOS)

Sari al-Shobaki (23), has died of his wounds after being shot by an Israeli sniper in Gaza. (Photo: via Twitter)

A Palestinian has died days after being shot by Israeli forces along the Gaza border, the enclave’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

Sari al-Shobaki had been transferred to Jerusalem for treatment after being shot several days ago, the Palestinian ministry in the besieged Gaza Strip said.

A ministry spokesman said the 23-year-old died at the St Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem.

Nearly 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests began along the border on March 30.

No Israelis have been killed.

(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, PC, Social Media)

EU Slams Israeli Government Attempts to Conflate Terrorism and BDS

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: via Twitter)

European Union (EU) foreign minister Federica Mogherini sent a strongly-worded rebuke to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, slamming his ministry’s “vague and unsubstantiated” claims that Brussels is financing “terrorism” and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The letter, sent to Erdan on July 5 and obtained by Haaretz, also criticizes the Israeli government for seeking to conflate “terrorism with the boycott issue”, efforts Mogherini described as “inopportune and misleading”, and liable to create “unacceptable confusion in the public eye regarding these two distinct phenomena”.

Mogherini was responding to a report published in May by the Strategic Affairs Ministry titled “The millions given by EU institutions to NGOs with ties to terror and boycotts against Israel”.

The report alleged that “in 2016 the EU funded fourteen European and Palestinian NGOs which openly and clearly promote BDS”, adding that “several of the BDS-promoting NGOs that receive direct and indirect EU funding are linked to EU-designated terrorist organizations”.

Strongly refuting what she described as unsubstantiated accusations, Mogherini reaffirmed that while the EU “does not support calls for boycott”, the EU also “stands firm in protecting the freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights”.

Mogherini said:

“Simply because an organization or individual is related to the BDS movement does not mean that this entity is involved in incitement to commit illegal acts, nor that it renders itself ineligible for EU funding”.

She added:

“Freedom of expression is also applicable to information or ideas, ‘that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’ Any action that has the effect of closing the space in which civil society organizations operate by unduly restricting freedom of association should be avoided”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Minister: Israeli Jets should Drop Bombs over the Heads of Gaza Children

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Photo: via MEMO)

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has insisted that Israeli warplanes should drop bombs over the heads of Palestinian children flying kites into Israel, Ynet Net News reported.

During the meeting of the Israeli Security Cabinet on Sunday, which convened to discuss the latest Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip, Bennet said:

“Why not shoot anyone who launches aerial weapons at our communities, and at the cells? […] There is no legal impediment. Why shoot next to them and not directly at them? These are terrorists for all intents and purposes.”

The Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot responded, saying:

“I don’t think shooting teens and children – who are sometimes the ones launching the balloons and kites – is right.”

Bennett stressed that the Israeli army should do this, pushing the army chief to say:

“I disagree with you. It’s against my operational and moral positions.”

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Blocks Fuel Shipment to Gaza

Karam Abu Salem border crossing. (Photo: File)

Israel has further tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip, preventing gas and fuel deliveries through its only commercial crossing with the Palestinian besieged enclave a week after they announced the closure of the crossing.

The defense ministry announced late on Monday that fuel and gas deliveries will be suspended. The fishing zone enforced by Israel off the Gaza Strip will also be further reduced from six nautical miles to three.

The goods crossing, known as Karam Abu Salem, will remain open only for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.

Hamas has denounced Israel’s latest punitive measure.

Israel’s latest measure comes following Israel’s initial closing of the Karam Abu Salem Crossing on July 9, when they announced only items deemed “humanitarian” by Israeli authorities will be allowed to enter Gaza including food, hygiene and medical supplies, fuel, animal feed and livestock.

Since then, 55 percent of goods can no longer enter Gaza under the new restrictions, exacerbating already dire humanitarian conditions.

Hamas called the initial closing last week a “crime against humanity”.

The UN and Gisha, the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, called Israel’s latest measure an act of “collective punishment”.

A spokesperson from Gisha said:

“There is no other way of describing this measure other than collective punishment. Pretending to know what Gaza needs and trying to ‘manage the situation’ harkens back to earlier iterations of the closure, is morally depraved and constitutes a willful act of hubris in a volatile situation.”

Egypt has also maintained the blockade with Israel over the strip, in an attempt to weaken Hamas.

The tightening of the blockade comes after Saturday’s air strikes. Israel hit dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing two Palestinian teenagers.

The weekend’s violence came after months of near-weekly border demonstrations aimed in part to protest the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Nearly 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

Maradona: ‘I Am Palestinian’ (VIDEO)

Former Argentina footballer Diego Maradona (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: via MEMO)

Argentine former soccer star and host of “De La Mano Del Diez,” teleSUR’s Russia 2018 World Cup show, Diego Armando Maradona met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.

In the short meeting, Maradona expressed to Abbas his sympathy with the Palestinian people’s cause, as both embraced each other.

On his Instagram account, Maradona wrote:

“President Abbas has a country and has a right. I am Palestinian.”

Abbas complimented Maradona and presented him with a gift, a painting of a dove carrying an olive branch.

(TeleSur, PC, Social Media)

Netanyahu Warns Israel of ‘Prolonged Struggle’ with Besieged Gaza

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.(Photo: MEMO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israeli community leaders of southern Israeli towns that their country is engaged in a “prolonged struggle” with the besieged Gaza Strip.

This comes after the Israeli military deployed extra Iron Dome anti-missile batteries across the southern and central regions of Israel – including capital city Tel Aviv – on Sunday evening. Reservists from the air force unit were called up to provide additional support.

A statement from the Israeli army said that the army is

“determined to continue to defend Israeli citizens and is ready for a variety of scenarios that could continue and intensify according to the assessment of the situation and the operational need”.

Netanyahu continues to threaten Gaza despite an unofficial ceasefire taking place on Sunday evening, which it is hoped will suspend Israel’s brutal assault on the besieged enclave.

Palestinians mourned on Saturday when Palestinian children were killed – and at least fourteen others injured – from Israeli rocket strikes on Gaza.

The two children have been identified as Amir al-Namra, 15, and Loay Kaheel, 16. The childhood friends were playing in a park when an Israeli rocket killed them both.

The assault began in the early hours of Saturday and continued on Saturday afternoon.

(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, PC, Social Media)

Livni: Israel Must ‘Recruit the World to Pressure Hamas’

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Tzipi Livni (Photo: Yotam Ronen, Activestills.org)

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) criticized the Israeli government for its approach to the occupied Gaza Strip on Sunday, urging intensified efforts to fight Hamas, reported Arutz Sheva.

Livni, who had to cancel a trip to the UK in 2009 to avoid being arrested on war crimes charges related to ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in Gaza, told Kol Barama radio:

“We have to begin to combine military blows when necessary with diplomatic activity against Hamas, not agreements with Hamas, but mobilization of the world against it”.

She continued:

“This government is short-sighted and has no strategy for Gaza. We have become dependent on Hamas. When it wants to, it increases the flames and when it wants to, it lowers them. Israel does not know what it wants to do there”.

Livni also commented:

“I’m not looking for a partner on the Hamas side and I’m opposed to any negotiations with it. We have to recruit the world to pressure Hamas just as we pressure Iran”.

Livni’s remarks came after an escalation in Gaza over the weekend, with Israel dropping an estimated 100 bombs on dozens of targets across the fenced-in enclave.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Army to Hold ‘Wide-Scale Drill’ Simulating Invasion of Gaza City (VIDEOS)

Destroyed buildings in Gaza as a result of a previous Israeli war on the impoverished and besieged Strip. (Photo: AJE, Wikimedia Commons, file)

The Israeli army is to hold “a wide-scale drill ‎simulating a ground operation” in the besieged Gaza Strip, reported Israel Hayom.

The military confirmed that a scheduled “wide-scale ‎exercise simulating a ‎ground incursion of Gaza City” by the Southern Command’s 162nd ‎Division will indeed go ahead this week.

Gaza City is the largest city in the besieged territory.

According to the news site,

“Armored, Infantry, ‎Engineering and Artillery Corps’ troops will drill ‎various urban warfare scenarios using areas in ‎Beersheba and several Negev Bedouin towns”.

Israel Hayom added that the exercise “is the first of its kind in years”, and that Southern Command officials believe the drill to be “of great ‎importance to the troops’ combat readiness”.

The report continued:

“GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi met last ‎‎week with Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and ‎‎briefed him of the exercise’s objectives. Danilovich ‎‎‎said the municipality would lend the IDF any ‎‎assistance necessary.”

A senior ‎Southern Command officer commented:

“In an event of ‎further security escalation between Israel and ‎Hamas, the 162nd Division would be scrambled to the ‎border”.

Last month, Israeli media reported that the military had prepared plans for a full-scale invasion of the occupied Gaza Strip, in the event of a serious escalation in the south.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

UN Envoy Meets Top Hamas Leader in Gaza (VIDEO)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolai Mladenov. (Photo: Mohammed Asad, via MEMO)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov met the head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza yesterday, Shehab.ps reported.

The UN envoy discussed “in depth” the different issues related to the situation in the Gaza Strip, mainly the disastrous humanitarian issue and how to solve it in light of international efforts.

Mladenov and Haniyeh discussed Israeli aggression on Gaza and the killing of two Palestinian boys whilst they played in Al-Katiba Park in the west of Gaza City.

Mladenov arrived in Gaza early on Sunday, held a press conference and stated that the situation in Gaza “has rapidly deteriorated” in the last few months.

He said this had happened for three reasons:

“First is the humanitarian factor. People’s lives have become more difficult as people have limited money, the economy has collapsed, electricity and water are scarce.

“Second, we have also seen the deterioration of the political situation with the end of the reconciliation process.

“Thirdly, in addition to political and humanitarian deterioration, we have also seen a very rapid deterioration in the security situation.”

Commenting on this, he said:

“We cannot stand idle when we see 2 million Palestinians in Gaza living in such terrible conditions as they do now.”

Haniyeh reiterated to Mladenov that the Great March of Return will continue until its goals are achieved.

He also discussed mechanisms to end internal division.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)