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Barghouti Strikes Back, Lights Out Gaza, Panic! at the Qahal


Israel: No Talks with Palestinian Inmates on Hunger Strike

Aron Heller, Associated Press, April 18th 2017

Recap:

Over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike are demanding better prison conditions from the Israeli government. Israeli officials rejected the tactic, insisting, "the incarcerated murderers are getting exactly what international law requires."

The Context:

  • The prisoners listed nearly two-dozen demands including public phones, increased family visits, reinstated university courses and the end of administrative detentions without trial [1].

  • Marwan Barghouti, the strike’s organizer, is the founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist organization. Barghouti was sentenced to five life terms plus an additional 40 years for the attacks he orchestrated [2].

  • A March poll found that Barghouti would win elections in a three-way race between Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh [3].

  • The first noteworthy Palestinian inmate hunger strike took place in 1969 and although others have occurred since, only a few have produced even marginal victories [4].

  • Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman advocated for a firm stance against the hunger strikers [5] and Israel’s prison service refused to share medical information about the prisoner’s condition or let them meet their lawyers unless they have an upcoming court date [6].

  • The United Nations (UN) noted they are "obviously aware of the situation” and proceeded to discuss “the Palestinian Question” during an open debate on Thursday.

  • This week, the New York Times featured an op-ed from Barghouti, referring to him solely as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in response, saying, “calling Barghouti a political leader is like calling [Syrian President Bashar] Assad a pediatrician,” alluding to Assad’s training as an ophthalmologist before becoming president [8]. Barghouti will reportedly face "discipline court" as punishment for smuggling the op-ed from prison through his wife [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Will a casual New York Times reader without prior knowledge of the facts assume that Barghouti is a freedom fighter imprisoned for his views rather than a terrorist imprisoned for his actions?

  • Did the New York Times intentionally try to sanitize Barghouti’s past?

  • What are the pitfalls of acquiescing to even the most basic hunger strike demands?

  • Should Barghouti be penalized for publishing the op-ed?

Gaza Electricity Crisis Deepens as Sole Power Plant Shuts Down

Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, April 16th 2017

Recap:

As a result of PA and Hamas infighting, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Sunday, leaving the enclave’s 2 million residents with only four hours of electricity per day.

The Context:

  • The Gaza electricity crisis started in 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza and routed the PA from the territory [10]. Today, Hamas depends on PA electricity but claims it cannot afford to purchase it from the Fatah led government [11]. "Those in charge in Gaza are pocketing money," said Fatah Official Abdullah Abdullah [12].

  • Reduction in electricity compromises the operation of desalinization plants that provide clean drinking water and make it difficult for hospitals to provide life-saving medical services.

  • The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company costs $1 million to operate daily although it only usually operates at 50% capacity. Half of Gaza’s typical energy usage is imported from Israel daily via 10 electrical lines. The amount of electricity entering Gaza is based largely on the amount requested by the PA.

  • In mid-September, Israel and the PA signed an agreement to resolve Fatah’s outstanding debt of almost $530 million to the Israel Electric Corporation [13].

Conversation Points:

  • Is the PA using electricity to turn the people of Gaza against Hamas?

  • Why isn’t the world outraged when Palestinians are withheld basic resources from their own governments?

  • Would Hamas have more funds to provide electricity to the Gaza Strip if they spent less money buying weapons or building tunnels?

Synagogues get Shabbat Emergency App with Rabbi’s Blessing

Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, April 19th 2017

Recap:

The Nedarim Plus app serves as a panic button for congregants when emergencies occur during Shabbat and holiday services.

The Context:

  • The Nedarim Plus app features a panic button that links directly to United Hatzalah and Magen David Adom. Once the button is pressed, pre-registered users input their ID and select an icon indicating the type of emergency at hand.

  • During the rest of the week, the Nedarim Plus tablets — which have received a rabbinical seal of approval— are used to collect membership dues or donation pledges.

  • French immigrant Eliahou Arrouas founded Nedarim Plus to make the collection of synagogue dues simpler and added the panic button “to help those who attend synagogue get emergency help faster.”

  • Nedarim Plus has 1,300 customers in Israel and processed over 320,000 transactions since its inception. Currently the app is only available in Hebrew although it will soon be available in English as well.

Conversation Points:

  • Should congregants worldwide insist that their synagogues have emergency systems, like Nedarim Plus, in place?

Notes:

  1. Behind bars, a famed Palestinian leads his people in a prison hunger strike, Joshua Mitnick, LA Times, April 18th 2017

  2. UN says watching Palestinian prisoner hunger strike closely, Times of Israel, April 18th 2017

  3. Behind bars, a famed Palestinian leads his people in a prison hunger strike, Joshua Mitnick, LA Times, April 18th 2017

  4. Palestinian Prisoners Hope to Use Rare Collective Action to Force Israeli Concessions, Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, April 19th 2017

  5. UN 'closely monitoring' terrorist hunger strike, Ben Ariel, Israel National News, April 19th 2017

  6. Palestinian Prisoners Hope to Use Rare Collective Action to Force Israeli Concessions, Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, April 19th 2017

  7. UN 'closely monitoring' terrorist hunger strike, Ben Ariel, Israel National News, April 19th 2017

  8. Israel takes multi-pronged approach to combat Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, Andrew Tobin, JTA, April 18th 2017

  9. Israel punishes hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Al Jazeera, April 18th 2017

  10. Gaza shuts main power station due to spiral of feuds, Xinhua, April 17th 2017

  11. Power crisis leaves Gaza's main hospital on the brink, Al Jazeera, April 19th 2017

  12. Ibid.

  13. Gaza’s sole power plant runs out of fuel, Times of Israel, April 16th 2017


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