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Prison or deportation: The impossible choice for asylum seekers in Israel

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 12:43:19 +0000

Just two months from now, the Israeli government says it will begin indefinitely imprisoning asylum seekers who refuse deportation. IRIN Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod explores what this means for the tens of thousands of people now facing an uncertain future.   After escaping torture in Sudan, after walking 11 hours through the Egyptian desert, and after handing almost all his money to men with guns who blocked his way, Adam slipped through an opening in a border fence and laid down on the sand.   The respite didn’t last long.   The 24-year-old told every Israeli official he met – first soldiers, then officials at a detention centre – that he was seeking safe haven.   It didn’t go down well, as Adam recounts calmly from his Tel Aviv kitchen table.   “I told them, ‘I’m a refugee’. They said, ‘we don’t have a place for refugees here’.”   “I asked for the UN… They said, ‘here in Israel we don’t have the UN’.”   “I said, ‘so let me go back’. They said, ‘no’.”   Little did he know it would go so badly that four years later he would be labelled an infiltrator and that, as an unmarried, childless male with no official refugee status, he would be high on the list for deportation.   Adam, who told IRIN he was tortured in prison in Sudan for refusing to fight in the military, has fallen foul of a new Israeli government plan to rid the country of the 38,000 African asylum seekers inside its borders.   A new policy The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Tel Aviv has been overrun by “illegal infiltrators” who, it maintains, are largely responsible for driving up poverty and crime in working class southern parts of the city.   Starting the first of April, the government says it will give the asylum seekers – more than 90 percent are from Sudan and Eritrea – the choice between prison and “voluntary” deportation. Those who agree to leave will be given $3,500 (this sum will decrease after 1 April) and reportedly then be sent to Rwanda or Uganda, although both governments have denied entering into agreements with Israel.   Asylum seekers began making the trek to Israel in the mid-2000s. Between then and 2014, when the country fortified its border with Egypt, Israel’s policy towards new arrivals has changed often. It gave them visas – renewable every few months – that read, “this permit is not a work permit”, but opted not to fine employers who hire them. It sent men to indefinite detention in a series of centres, until the high court limited this to a year in 2015. It has also paid asylum seekers to leave the country – reportedly via secret deals with Rwanda and Uganda (believed to be the destinations in this latest push). Forced deportations haven’t been officially announced, but at least one of Netanyahu’s ministers has said they’re on the table. When he announced the new policy at a January cabinet meeting, Netanyahu spoke of the “plight of the long-time residents” and said his new deportation plan was aimed at, “restoring quiet – the sense of personal security and law and order – to the residents of south Tel Aviv, and also those of many other neighbourhoods”. Welcome to the medina South Tel Aviv has become a hive of controversy – and a useful rhetorical tool for politicians – because the government and some locals (but not all) blame poverty and deteriorating conditions on the influx of African asylum seekers, even though one official report suggests state neglect was largely to blame. Most did not choose this city anyway. With a dark sense of humour, and a bit of profanity, Adam explains what his one-way ticket to the Central Bus Station in the south of Tel Aviv was like. Mya Guarnieri/IRIN African asylum seekers sleep in a Tel Aviv park in 2012 After being apprehended at the border – an incident that involved running from a searchlight, losing his shoes, and an act of kindness when a soldier gave him his own boots – Adam [...]



What you need to know now about cuts to the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 16:47:33 +0000

The UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees says it is facing “the gravest financial crisis” in its history after the United States announced it was holding back planned funding. But the agency is also promising that services for more than five million people in the Middle East aren’t on the chopping block just yet. “We are determined to do everything in our power to keep services running,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told IRIN on Wednesday. “Schools and clinics will remain open,” he said, as the agency geared up to launch a massive fundraising campaign to fill in the gaps left by its largest donor. Here’s a quick guide to what UNRWA is, where its money comes from, and where things might go from here? Who does UNRWA help and where? UNRWA’s full name – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – is a mouthful. Its name (and all press releases, website, and the like) officially refers to “Palestine refugees,” not “Palestinian refugees”. That’s because UNRWA’s definition of a refugee (meant to help those who left or fled their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict) is tied to place – Palestine refugees are: “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The organisation began work in 1950, and its mandate was later expanded to help those displaced by the 1967 war that resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (plus the Golan Heights and Sinai, later given back in a peace deal with Egypt.) Those who meet this definition (and their children) and are registered with UNRWA and live in the areas where the agency works – that’s Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – are eligible for services from the agency, including education, medical care, camp housing in some places, and more. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="297" id="datawrapper-chart-DGVhe" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/DGVhe/1/" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen">  “Unthinkable” Rohingya returns   Bangladesh and Myanmar say they have struck a deal that could send hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. But what happens if those refugees refuse to return? There are few details on how the two countries would go about repatriating almost one million Rohingya stuck in Bangladesh, including more than 623,000 pushed out of Myanmar’s Rakhine State over the last three months. For years, Rohingya have lived amid strict segregation and repressive policies that amount to “apartheid”, Amnesty International said this week, and animosity toward the Rohingya continues to simmer back in Rakhine. Rights groups fear the blueprint for repatriation will be found in the Rohingya crises of decades past. In the late 1970s, Bangladeshi authorities cut food rations to some 200,000 Rohingya refugees, effectively starving people back to Myanmar. More than 10,000 Rohingya starved to death in the process. The cycle continued 20 years later for a new round of refugees: the two countries agreed to a bilateral repatriation deal and tens of thousands were sent back “involuntarily”, according to Human Rights Watch, which also criticised the role of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, in the repatriation process. The intense international focus on this year’s exodus will mean even greater scrutiny on aid groups, who have been accused of unintentionally entrenching segregation and rights abuses in Rakhine. But aid groups were sidelined this week as Bangladesh and Myanmar put together their roadmap for returns. This doesn’t bode well for the prospects of truly voluntary returns, according to Amnesty[...]



Occupied labour: The treadmill of Palestinian work in Israel

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 06:27:02 +0000

Driving near the concrete barrier that separates Israel from the southern West Bank, a car passes a Bedouin settlement, leaves the main road for a dirt one, and veers into a field. It stops next to a gap in the wall. Three men get out, rush through the opening, and are picked up on the other side – inside Israel. Further west, the ground becomes rocky and hilly. Four-wheel drives bring groups of men to another spot where the wall breaks. As the passengers step out, a car motors towards them, kicking up a massive dust cloud. The Palestinian men get in and the car speeds away towards an Israeli town. All of this repeats itself every few minutes each evening near Yatta, the West Bank’s third largest city, although it doesn’t look it: With a population of 65,000 on the dusty hills south of Hebron, its Old Town rarely sees an outside visitor, while piles of abandoned cars line its many winding streets. If Yatta seems forgotten, that’s because only 2,400 of its residents have jobs locally. Like much of the rest of the West Bank, the vast majority depend on the Israeli labour market for employment, in one way or another. This sort of dependency, fostered by 50 years of occupation, makes for a mean cycle. Salaries are higher in Israel, so young Palestinians look for work across the border. There is also less investment at home, and the local economy doesn’t create good jobs. For most West Bank Palestinians, crossing the border for work requires a job and a permit from the Israeli government. These can be hard to come by, so many take the illegal route, crossing through weak points in the barrier and finding lower paid informal employment. If caught, they face imprisonment. But for many, the risk is worth it. The Abu Bakr family* has a story like so many others in this small city: The oldest son can no longer enter Israel after repeated prison terms for crossing the wall illegally, the second oldest works on Israeli construction sites with a permit, the third does so without. The youngest, only 16, is looking to smuggle himself across the barrier for the second time during the summer holidays. Once there, he plans to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, at a car wash. He’ll live on the margins of society, constantly fearing capture. It’s an unquestionably difficult life, but locals have little choice but to tie their fates to business on the other side of the concrete, barbed wire, and checkpoints. “Without work in Israel, no family can survive here,” explained Yatta Mayor Ibrahim Abu Zahra. The bottom line The UN says Israel’s occupation is the “main trigger” of humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza. A strangled economy is part of that occupation. While Gaza continues to suffer under a blockade, the combination of a demand for cheap labour inside Israel and the West Bank’s struggling economy – brought on in part by restrictions on movement and trade – mean many Palestinians seek work in Israel and “aspire to that as a primary solution” to their economic problems, according to the International Labor Organization. By the ILO’s count, at no point over the last 15 years have so many Palestinians worked in Israeli jobs: currently around 120,000, who earn a quarter of the West Bank’s total salaries. Andreas Hackl/IRIN Yatta has the third largest population in the West Bank, but it often feels empty The cash flow from work in Israel may be considered essential by many individuals and families, but it comes at a hefty price: the sustainable economic development of the Palestinian towns themselves. The combination of political instability and Israeli economic restrictions mean no one wants to invest in Yatta and workers look first to work across the wall, said its municipal manager, Nasser Raba’i. “Our economy is completely entangled with the Israeli economy,” he told IRIN. Saleh, a geography teacher from Yatta, said it’s rare for school leavers to even c[...]



Unwelcome stranger: An African asylum seeker in Israel

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 06:48:00 +0000

This short documentary tells the story of Anwar, a Sudanese anti-government activist who fled his home in Darfur in 2003. As many as 300,000 people have fallen victim there to government-led ethnic cleansing and violence by rebel groups. Anwar survived and eventually sought haven in Israel, but it's not been an easy journey. His experiences, especially of detention and injustice, are telling and this film offers a rare window into the difficult and uncertain lives many African asylum seekers face today in Israel. Unwelcome Stranger: An African asylum seeker in Israel width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OY9PomBUBBg?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="">   African asylum seekers began crossing Israel's border with the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula more than a decade ago, many having survived human smugglers and harsh desert conditions. At first, some of the arrivals – who now number around 40,000 and are mostly from Sudan and Eritrea – were granted temporary residency. But even though Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention (and once took in several hundred Vietnamese “boat people” in the late 1970s), it has only ever granted refugee status to nine Africans. As the numbers of asylum seekers have grown, so tensions have heated up in South Tel Aviv, where many Africans live side-by-side with Israelis. In 2013, the Israeli government passed a law that deemed the Africans “infiltrators” and allowed them to be imprisoned in a desert detention facility, where they were first kept indefinitely, then for a 20-month maximum, and now for up to a year at a time. It has also attempted to send asylum seekers to African countries that are not their homes, including Rwanda and Uganda. Some who were shipped back have reportedly been pressured to leave those countries, and fled to Europe. A few were killed by so-called Islamic State or drowned in the Mediterranean. The asylum seekers have their supporters inside Israel. It’s not lost on some Israelis that many of the country's first citizens were survivors of genocide in World War II. Of course, the creation of Israel also kicked off the Palestinians' own refugee crisis – and politicians often refer to the "demographic threat" the Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and those in the occupied territories, pose to the country that defines itself as a Jewish state. Like the Palestinians, many of the African asylum seekers are Muslim. Recently, Israel said it would grant 200 people from Darfur a status that would allow them to work and give them other rights. But it’s not clear how these people were selected out of the approximately 8,000 people who fled Sudan for Israel. The years of limbo have taken their toll on Anwar. The political activist has had short-term visas, spent time in detention, and pleaded his case in court. He's made friends in Israel, even speaks the language, but still hasn't found stability or the protections the word refugee is supposed to afford. rg-as/ag Unwelcome stranger: An African asylum seeker in Israel anwar.jpg Roopa Gogineni Video Migration IRIN Africa Eritrea South Sudan Middle East and North Africa Israel [...]



World Vision "humanitarian hero" accused of funnelling millions to Hamas

Thu, 04 Aug 2016 18:27:06 +0000

Alleged fraud mastermind was nominated as a "humanitarian hero" in 2014 Germany, Australia, Gates Foundation among donors Scale of alleged fraud unclear World Vision and Hamas deny allegations The local head of Christian charity World Vision, who was featured as a “humanitarian hero” for the UN’s World Humanitarian Day in 2014, has diverted millions of dollars worth of cash and supplies to the military activities of the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, according to Israel’s internal intelligence service. World Vision said in a Thursday statement it was “shocked” at the allegations against Mohammed El Halabi, who was arrested mid-June and held for 50 days (reportedly without access to a lawyer), and that it had “no reason to believe that the allegations are true”. It added that its programmes in Gaza were “subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls”. A 2015 evaluation of World Vision’s operations in Gaza found that “financial management, supporting accounting and procurement systems and financial reporting were very detailed and rigorous.” It further praised project managers for getting value for money in procurement. Israel says the alleged fraud illustrates “Hamas’ cynical exploitation of international humanitarian aid.” A Hamas spokesman told the Reuters news agency it had “no connection” to Halabi. Does it add up? The value of the goods and cash allegedly involved is unclear – Israel’s statements give a figure of $7.2 million and also say 60 percent of the charity’s annual budget was diverted since 2010, but it’s not clear how the figures were arrived at. According to some reports, the allegations are that over $7 million was diverted each year since 2010. Only fragments of public data are available to gauge the plausibility of fraud and deception on that scale, in part thanks to the opaque nature of charity finance and also because World Vision receives substantial funds – some 82 percent of its US revenue – from private individual donations that do not require detailed financial reporting, including church-related fundraising and child sponsorship. The International Aid Transparency Initiative, which encourages donors and aid agencies to share data on a voluntary basis, only has one record (a German government donation of $668,922) specific to World Vision’s work in Gaza over the last five years. IRIN has pieced together the few further available financial details (and will update here as and when more becomes available). The Israeli statements mention funding from the “United States, England and Australia” but do not specify whether government funds or donations from the public. A spokesperson for the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (an NGO fundraising consortium) told IRIN the group had provided £794,200 ($1 million at 2016 exchange rates) to World Vision in Gaza from its £19 million Gaza appeal haul in 2014. The spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate the diversion of aid funds for any purpose and particularly not for the support of armed groups. We are aware of the very serious allegations regarding the diversion of funds from the World Vision Gaza programme. World Vision is now urgently investigating these allegations but has said it has no reason to believe the allegations are true.” Some other sources of income for World Vision earmarked for Gaza: The largest donor visible in public data is Germany. It gave $3.6 million from 2014-2016, according to the UN Financial Tracking System. (Sources: FTS and IATI). Australia donated $933,707 also in 2014 for programmes dealing with the aftermath of the conflict. (Source: FTS) The Gates Foundation donated $500,000 for “reconstruction” in 2014. (Source: FTS) The data aggregator NGO Aid Map shows that World Vision lists only one project in Rafah, Gaza, funded by its income from individual donations. No financial info[...]



18 months on, Gaza donors still falling way short

Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:18:37 +0000

Only 40 percent of the $3.5 billion donors pledged in October 2014 for Gaza's reconstruction has been delivered, new World Bank figures reveal. That's an increase of only $159 million since the last time the World Bank issued data on the donations in August 2015, and major pledgers continue to fall short: Qatar has given only 15 percent of its $1 billion pledge; Saudi Arabia 10 percent of its $500 million promise; and the UAE just 15 percent of the $200 million it pledged. Kuwait has dispursed none of its $200 million pledge. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/BZbkB/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"> The World Bank estimates that if donor funding continues to come in at this sluggish pace, pledges will be fulfilled in mid-2019, almost two years behind schedule. The 2014 war between Israel, Hamas and other Islamist militants killed 2,000 Palestinians - mostly civilians - 66 Israeli soldiers, and six civilians in Israel. Some 11,000 homes were completely destroyed and another 6,800 severely damaged. Last week, the UN's emergency aid coordination body OCHA announced that as of its last survey in February, 90,000 Gazans are still displaced as a result of the fighting. Experts say that reconstruction has been slow due to limited donor money, Israeli restrictions on imports, and poor governance in Gaza. OCHA estimates that as of February 2016 only 16 percent of homes destroyed in the war have been rebuilt. as/ag 18 months on, Gaza donors still falling way short 201407170902070543.jpg Annie Slemrod Maps and Graphics Aid and Policy Conflict JERUSALEM IRIN Middle East and North Africa Palestine Israel العربية [...]



Israel ramps up home demolitions

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 09:49:39 +0000

As Palestinians mark the 40th anniversary of Land Day, home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem appear to be on the rise.

As of 21 March, Israel had already destroyed 370 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank and 36 in East Jerusalem in 2016, displacing 534 people.

In comparison, a total of 447 structures in the West Bank and 74 in East Jerusalem were knocked down in all of 2015.

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/BZ2tn/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%">

Land Day commemorates a 1976 mass protest by Palestinian citizens of Israel over the government’s confiscation of land. Six Arab-Israelis were killed in clashes, and since then the day has been an annual demonstration against Israeli policies in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Home demolitions are done for both administrative and punitive reasons, and they don’t just take place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: Israel also takes down structures inside Israel, mostly in Bedouin villages that aren’t recognised by the state.

For more on the different types of demolitions and the displacement they cause, see our 2015 report: Four facts you might not know about housing demolitions by Israel.

Israel ramps up home demolitions (image) Bedouin home demolition protest.jpg Annie Slemrod Maps and Graphics Migration Conflict JERUSALEM IRIN Middle East and North Africa Palestine Israel



Old problems in Jerusalem's Old City

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Faten Ghosheh, a 33-year-old Palestinian mother of five, stands on the roof of her partially demolished home in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex visible behind her. She recalls the moment five years ago when Israeli forces arrived at 5am to tear down the two rooms and bathroom that her husband had built with their life savings of 700,000 shekels ($180,000). To avoid the fine that the Jerusalem municipality would charge for the demolition, the Ghoshehs called on the men in their family to come and tear down the walls. “The children were all crying,” she says. “The older children brought hammers and started demolishing with their father.” Now the family of nine, which includes Ghosheh’s sister-in-law and mother-in-law, makes do with only one bedroom. “In order to protect this, the mosque,” she explains, gesturing towards the glistening dome on the horizon, “we will continue to live here. We consider ourselves … defenders of Al-Aqsa.” Her comment explains at least some of the sentiment behind the wave of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories that began last month and has claimed the lives of 16 Israelis, an American, an Eritrean and at least 90 Palestinians, including attackers. For many Palestinians, Al-Aqsa, which stands on land Israel occupied in 1967, is as much of a political symbol as it is a religious one. Alleged Israeli provocation at Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount – holy to both Jews and Muslims – were a match to the powder keg of home demolitions, taxation without services, classroom shortages, and grinding poverty. As much of the violence has shifted to the West Bank (although there was a stabbing Monday in West Jerusalem) East Jerusalem remains a focal point for protests, and the issues Palestinians face there are on full display inside the walls of the Old City, where the flare-up began. Building permit woes The Ghoshehs applied for but were denied a building permit for the rooms that were eventually torn down. Human rights organisations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), argue that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to get permits. Only 14 percent of Palestinian East Jerusalem is zoned for residential use; less than eight percent of Jerusalem’s total landmass for a third of its population. In 2014, Israeli forces destroyed 98 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem because they were built without permits. Two were in the Old City, displacing seven people, including five children. The Jerusalem municipality insists Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can obtain building permits. The city points to 2014’s numbers: 108 permits were requested for East Jerusalem; 85 were granted. Asked if these permits were granted to Palestinian residents or the Jewish Israeli settlers who live in East Jerusalem, Ben Avrahami, a spokesman for the municipality, said he did not have that information on hand. The reality is that many Palestinians feel ahead of time that they will not be granted permits. By ACRI’s count, an estimated 39 percent of the houses in East Jerusalem have been built without permission. “It’s not because we want to make their lives more difficult,” Avrahimi told IRIN. “It’s a problem with tabo [land registration]. It’s very complicated to prove ownership.” To that end, he adds, the city has started a special committee to examine those who claim ownership but lack all of the documentation, though not in all of East Jerusalem. Lack of services After the demolition, with the roof of the top floor torn away and most of the walls gone, the Ghoshehs added tin in an attempt to keep out the wind and rain. But it isn’t enough. During heavy winter storms, water leaks into the home. The city has fined them for the erecting the tin. The family also pays arnona, property tax, to the municipality. Paying it is[...]



Editor's take: The limits of coexistence

Tue, 20 Oct 2015 23:00:00 +0000

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is in town, huddling with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to prevent the situation from (his words) “spinning out of control.” Violence erupted last month as disputes over the Temple Mount set off a series of attacks by Palestinians claiming the lives of eight Israelis. At least 40 Palestinians have now been killed (including assailants), many during clashes with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is good Ban is here; however, from where I sit in Jerusalem – where last week I heard an attacker dispatched with a quick succession of gunshots – the situation felt “out of control” long before this round of bloodshed. Jewish settlements in the West Bank are growing. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in 2009, the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by at least 23 percent, to more than 350,000. This year alone, 396 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in the Occupied West Bank and 60 in East Jerusalem, displacing 544 people. That’s not to mention the abject poverty in Gaza, where rebuilding from last summer’s war has barely begun and unemployment has only inched downwards from 47 to 42 percent. If it appeared that some sense of normalcy had returned since the Gaza conflict, that impression was false. Nothing here is normal. We’re just in the spotlight again. In Palestinian East Jerusalem, new checkpoints remind residents that if one among them has wronged, they are all considered suspects. Israelis are scared – the talk in West Jerusalem is where to buy tear gas, how to stay alert, perhaps get a gun. Ban’s surprise visit comes after a particularly grim example of what anger and fear has wrought here. Haftom Zarhum, a 29-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea, was shot and beaten to death earlier this week because he was twice unlucky. First, he had the misfortune of being in a southern Israeli bus station when an attacker opened fire, killing one. Second, he had dark skin – causing bystanders to presume ties to the Bedouin assailant. Life in Israel for asylum seekers is already dire, but this may be rock bottom.  So what’s the answer? Making the rounds on social media is a hummus restaurant in northern Israel that’s offering half off to Israeli Jews and Arabs who sit together. It’s a pleasant thought, as even though 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are Arabs, social interaction is limited. But most Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza will never be allowed into Israel, as permission is hard to come by. In fact, the only sustained interaction many Palestinians have with Israelis is with soldiers at checkpoints, or in war. For most Israelis, it’s the same. They know Palestinians through a security lens. For those who do have access to a shared hummus table, each side could be forgiven for not wanting to take up that discount offer at this present moment in time. Then there are the groups of Israelis handing out cake to passersby with signs that say “peace of cake” in English, Arabic and Hebrew. They began by handing their tasty morsels to Palestinian construction workers, who do most of the building inside Israel and the settlements. These initiatives have been met with smiles. Any attempts at nonviolent engagement, at bridging the divide, are valiant. Other joint Israeli-Palestinian groups, like Combatants for Peace and The Parents Circle Families Forum, work together year round. There’s a smattering of bilingual schools. Internationally, outside these fraught borders, Israelis and Palestinians have long found they can get along and advocate for peace. But at a West Jerusalem protest for coexistence over the weekend, both Israelis and Palestinians spoke in Hebrew. Most Palestinians who wanted to attend couldn’t. They were stuck in long lines waiting for clear[...]