Court orders West Bank fence re-routed at Bili’in

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By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent, and news agencies

The High Court of Justice Tuesday ordered the state to redraw, partially dismantle and rebuild the route of a 1.7 kilometer section of the West Bank separation fence, which was built on land belonging to Bili’in, a Palestinian village which has become a focus of opposition to the barrier.

For nearly three years, the fence has been at the focus of weekly demonstrations at Bili’in, punctuated by violent confrontations between protesters and soldiers and police deployed at the site.

The existing fence route is built around a part of the Matitiyahu East neighborhood of Modi’in Illit settlement. The government had argued that the route was necessar y to protect residents of Modi’in Illit, and completed the section of fence that cut through Bilin despite the protests.
The three-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, unanimously accepted an appeal petition by the head of the Bili’in local council against the route of the fence and its presence on land belonging to the village. They ordered defense planners to change the barrier’s route so it causes less harm
to the village’s residents

The fence occupies 260 dunams of village land. It also blocks access to another 1,700 dunams between the barrier and the pre-1967 Green Line border.

Residents of the village went to court arguing that the current route, built on village land, kept them from their fields and orchards, which remained on the other side of the barrier.

Rejecting the government’s argument, Beinish wrote in her decision that “We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bili’in’s lands.”

The judges specified that this will require destroying the existing fence in certain places and building a new one, and ordered the government to come up with a new route in a reasonable period of time.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, one of the leaders of the weekly protest at Bili’in, called the court decision “wonderful.”

“We want the decision to be implemented immediately,” he said.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that it would study the ruling and respect it.

Israel began building the 680-kilometer (425-mile) barrier along the West Bank in 2002, crediting the fence with contribuiting to a decline in suicide bombings. But the barrier juts into West Bank territory, provoking Palestinian claims that Israel is using security arguments to mask a land grab.

Action Alert : Transportation of school children from Susia to Tweni

On the Hebron Mountain in the most southern part of the West Bank there are a number of small Palestinian villages, where a unique way of life is led in permanent cave homes. Because they are small and remote, these villages are under constant pressure from the occupying government and the new Israeli settlements in the area. The aim of this pressure is to destroy the special way of life of the cave dwellers, and to force them to move to close by Palestinian towns, in order to annex the territory to the Israeli State. The fate of the cave inhabitants of Susia is an extreme example of the fate of the cave villages in the whole area.

Twenty years ago the cave dwellers of Susia were evacuated from their original village on the pretext of archeological digs in the area. Some of the evacuees went to live on their lands close to the Israeli settlement, which was founded a short time before. Five years ago the Israeli army destroyed the caves of these families, and since then they continued to live there in impermanent and improvised housing. During this time, because of constant harassment by the nearby Israeli settlers, the cooperation between volunteers from Israel and abroad, and between the Palestinians, has strengthened.

One of the important results of this cooperation is arranging transport for the children of Susia to the nearby school in the village of Tweni. Up until last year, the occupying authorities did not permit the transport of children from Susia to the school in Tweni, ten minutes’ drive, and the parents were forced to send their children to school in Yata (the main town of the region). Because of the barriers and the long road, which is in a bad condition, the children had to stay in Yata all week, and return to their parents for only one day at the weekend.

As a result of efforts made by Israeli organizations, during the last year the occupying authorities allowed the inhabitants of Susia to send their children to school in Tweni. This enabled the children to return home every day, and caused a significant improvement in their self confidence, and a clear rise in their learning achievements.

The inhabitants of Susia are very poor. Their existence as shepherds and farmers was greatly cut down after a large part of their land was taken over by Israeli settlers, and they don’t have the means to finance the transport of their children to Tweni.

The Palestinian authorities who are now on the verge of financial bankruptcy abstain from giving help to this cause. The only way left to allow the children to get to school in the coming school year, is by raising donations from Israel and abroad.

The minimum amount needed in order to finance the transportation for the whole of the next school year is $5,000. About third of this sum is needed to pay for fuel and the upkeep of the vehicle for transporting the children. The remainder is to cover the salary of the driver.

The situation is serious. If the sum of money is not raised, it means that the families of the children may decide to move to Yata and the area where they now live will be annexed by the occupying Israeli government, which is doing everything to make this happen.

We are asking for your generous help in our name and in the name of the
Palestinian inhabitants of Susia.

Israeli land for Jews only. Isn’t that racism?

Yesterday, the Israeli Parliament approved, in preliminary reading, a bill that calls for all lands under the control of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to be allocated to Jews only. In this way Israel strikes another blow against democracy, fueling discrimination and Apartheid. The proposal of the bill, initiated by the Israeli right wing, Kadima and Likud, prevents non-Jews from participating in bids to purchase land owned by the JNF (Jewish National Fund), 13 percent of all state land.

The bill passed by a massive majority of 64 MKs to 16, despite a pre-vote debate in the Knesset Presidency, in which many raised their voices against the bill, calling for it to be cancelled. These requests were rejected by the legal advisor to the Knesset on the grounds that “racism is not explicit in the proposal”.

So what shall we call the exclusion of Arab citizens of Israel from participation in bids to purchase lands? What can we call it except racist; this bill defined by some Knesset Deputies an “abominable legislation” that serves only to institutionalize discrimination towards non-Jews and to legitimate a democracy on an ethnic basis? This law is just one more expression of racism and discrimination in Israel, where demolition houses owned by its Arab citizens, illegal expropriation of their lands, uprooting of their trees is ongoing. The only opposition to the proposal came by Meretz-Yachad Representatives, left wing party, committed in social justice.

“The bill approved yesterday by the Knesset shows the real face of the government -they declared- and risks representing Israel as an apartheid state”. The Arab parties, Balad and Raam-Taal, and Hadash, the Jewish and Arab left, also denounced the risk of legalizing the “great robbery of lands” that has continued since1948 to our own days towards Israeli Arabs”.

The Knesset’s real face cannot be the face of Uri Ariel, the radical of the settlers first supporter of this bill, otherwise the increase in the level of racism, and the consequent decrease in the level of democracy, will cause a serious shift in the direction of institutionalized apartheid and of the cancellation of all rights.

High Court: Targeted killing permissible

Petitioners claim State of Israel has no right to take human life, asks judges to prohibit IDF’s ‘assassination policy.’ Court rejects petition, rules ‘it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law’
Aviram Zino

High Court Judges, headed by retiring Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, on Thursday morning rejected the petition to prohibit the Israel Defense Forces’ targeted killing policy.

The ruling established that restrictions and limitations must be put on the policy, such that each instance will be thoroughly examined.

In its justification of the ruling, the court wrote that “it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law.”

Justice Barak wrote in the ruling that “at times democracy fights with one hand tied behind her back. Despite that, democracy has the upper hand, since preserving the rule of law and recognition of individual liberties constitute an important component of her security stance. At the end of the day, they strengthen her and her spirit, and allow her to overcome her difficulties. ”

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish added, “I also believe that it cannot be said in an all-embracing way that using targeted killing is forbidden.”

Beinish put a condition on her opinion, and established that “in light of the extreme nature of target killing, it must not be used in accordance with the limitations and restrictions delineated in the ruling.”

About a month ago, hundreds of intellectuals, Nobel Prize laureates, former generals, left-wing and human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that it rule as soon as possible on a petition dealing with the targeted killings and not allow any “additional fudging,” according to them.

The last and final hearing on the petition was held in February.

“We cannot wait anymore. Any additional delay causes the deaths of more innocent people,” the left-wing organizations claimed following last month’s Beit Hanoun incident.

In Memoriam: Tanya Reinhart

On Saturday, 17 March 2007, Israeli linguist and activist Tanya Reinhart

Tanya Reinhart

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passed away in New York at the age of 63. Tanya’s was a vital and rare
Israeli voice that never wavered when it came to criticizing Israel’s systematic
violations of Palestinians’ rights, including making a professional sacrifice by
contributing to the discourse over the academic boycott of Israel. The
following article, penned by Tanya and published by EI on 25 May 2005,
reminds us what a void she leaves behind.
Why us? On the academic boycott

A boycott decision — like that passed by Britain’s Association of University Teachers to boycott two Israeli universities — naturally raises a hue and cry among Israelis. Why us? And why now just when negotiations with the Palestinians might be renewed?

It may be worthwhile, however, to consider how the world perceives us. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must immediately dismantle those parts of the wall that were built on Palestinian lands. We disregarded the ruling. We are turning the West Bank into a prison for Palestinians, as we have already done in Gaza in the course of 38 years of occupation, every one of which is a violation of UN resolutions. Since 1993 we have been engaged in negotiations with the Palestinians, and in the meantime, we have continued expanding settlements. In its judgement, the Court recommended to the UN that sanctions be imposed on Israel if its ruling is not obeyed. The Israeli reply: no need to worry! As long as the United States is behind us, the UN will do nothing.

In the eyes of the world, the question is what can be done when the relevant institutions do not succeed in enforcing international law? The boycott model is drawn from the past: South Africa also disregarded UN resolutions. At that time as well, the UN (under pressure from the United States), was reluctant to impose immediate sanctions. The South African boycott began as a grass roots movement initiated by individuals and independent organizations. It grew slowly but steadily until it finally became an absolute boycott of products, sport, culture, academia and tourism. South Africa was gradually forced to abrogate apartheid.

The international community is beginning to apply the same model to Israel in all domains, from the Caterpillar bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes, to sports and culture. In the eyes of the international community, the relevant question is whether the Israeli Academy is entitled, on the basis of its actions, to be exempt from this general boycott. Many in the Israeli Academy oppose the occupation as individuals. But in practice, no Israeli university senate has ever passed a resolution condemning, for example, the closure of Palestinian universities. Even now, when the wall cuts off students and lecturers from their universities, the protest of the Academy is not heard. The British boycott is selective — two universities were selected to signal to the Israeli Academy that it is being watched. But the Israeli Academy still has the option of removing itself from the cycle of passive support of the occupation.

One puzzle still remains: why only us? Why is Israel being singled out? What about Russia in Chechnya? What about the United States? What the United States did in Fallujah, no Israeli General has yet dared to try. Indeed, the logic behind a boycott of Israel dictates that a boycott of the great powers is fully justified. It is only because at the moment there is a greater likelihood of success in stopping a small state that Israel became the focus. Still, if an effort is made to save first the Palestinians and at least stop the wall, can we condemn that effort as unethical? Is it more ethical to refrain from trying to save anyone until it is possible to save everyone?

As usual, we believe that the solution lies in the realm of force. When the Valencia basketball team tried to boycott Israel in March 2004, and announced that it would not participate in the League Championship if it took place in Israel, the steamroller was set in motion. There were threats and there were mutterings about contracts, until Valencia was forced to relent and play here. Similarly, in the case of the academic boycott, the global Israeli lobby has tracked down, one by one, those who have declared support of the boycott, and have tried to make their lives miserable. The attempt by Haifa University to dismiss Dr Ilan Pappe in 2002 was not instigated because of the Teddy Katz affair, but because Dr Pappe openly supported the boycott and signed the original British petition calling for it.

It is possible that the bulldozer, which has come to symbolize Israel, will succeed in reversing the decision of the Association of University Teachers in England. But will this prevent researchers from boycotting us quietly, without involving the media? Perhaps it would be more worthwhile for the Israeli Academy to direct its anger at the government and demand that it finally put a stop to this wall.

W. Bank village mayor: Halt Jewish pilgrimage over defiled cemetery

The mayor of a Palestinian village on Monday called for the end of pilgrimages by Jewish groups to a holy site in his village after the desecration of Muslim graves last week.

Ahmed Bouzia, mayor of Kifl Hares in the northern West Bank, said villagers discovered the desecration Friday morning after 1,300 Jewish pilgrims came there to pray with Israeli army protection the night before. Nine tombstones were damaged, he said – some broken and others bearing graffiti like Death to Arabs and Revenge

Israel Edri, spokesman for the pilgrims group, criticized the desecration, adding that members of his group saw some suspicious people in the cemetery but were unable to catch them. They could have been settlers who sneaked in with the group or even Palestinians, Edri said.

There have been three large pilgrimages to this site, which settlers believe to be the graves of biblical figures Joshua and Caleb, since February, Bouzia said, but smaller groups of armed settlers come more frequently.

Village feelings were further ruffled when Israeli soldiers returned early Sunday morning with pilgrimage organizers to fix the damaged graves and paint over graffiti.

“This was desecration on top of desecration,” Bouzia said, “adding that Muslim graves can be repaired only by Muslims.” The village leaders are planning to consult with Islamic authorities on how to restore the graves.

The village filed a complaint Sunday with Israeli police in Ariel, the Jewish settlement next to Kifl Hares. Bouzia warned that his villagers would confront future pilgrimages, and that this could cause serious friction between the residents and the settlers.

Irish tramline forced to cancel contract with Israeli occupation authorities in Jerusalem

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The tramline is meant to serve illegal settlements such as Pisgat Ze’ev (pictured) and further entrench Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem (Maureen Clare Murphy)

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) is delighted to announce a small but significant victory in the international struggle against Connex and the illegal Israeli tramline being built by them on occupied Palestinian territory. Connex had been planning to allow the Israeli staff of an illegal tramline project in occupied Easy Jerusalem to train on Dublin’s Luas light railway.

Connex (who in Ireland now operate under the name Veolia) also runs the Luas system. The Luas has only been running for a few years and it is likely that the tramline currently being built by Connex in occupied East Jerusalem is a near identical system. For this reason, representatives from Israel had been in negotiations with Veolia Ireland to have Israeli engineers and drivers trained on the Dublin Luas, with a view to then operating the illegal tramline in Jerusalem. The training was due to begin next month, and a contract was being finalised.

But in recent days, Veolia has been forced to cancel the proposed deal with its Israeli counterpart following pressure from Irish trade union representatives, in turn responding to overtures from the IPSC.

An IPSC spokesperson stated: “This is a small but significant victory for the Palestinian right to self-determination. This tramline, like the Apartheid Wall, is an integral component of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. You would expect a tramline to be fairly innocuous, but the lesson is no: when you do business with Israel, you invariably do business with the Occupation. Veolia clearly understand that there is a growing awareness of this within Irish society. People are realising that diplomacy has utterly failed to curb Israeli crimes. We must cut ties with Israel in order to force it to end its Occupation,”

The spokesperson further stated, “Veolia’s position, however, is extraordinary. In cancelling this contract, Veolia acknowledge that the Israeli line is illegal and unsupportable. Yet it is they who are building it! The hypocrisy is inexcusable, and their attempts to deny that they bowed to pressure are laughable. Since the Minister for Transport and the Railway Procurement Agency have ultimate control over who runs the Luas, the IPSC now calls on Martin Cullen and the RPA to cancel Veolia’s contract unless they cease building this illegal tramline on occupied Palestinian territory.”

The tramline being built by Connex/Veolia will run between Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements, which have been built on annexed Palestinian land, are illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention, and are recognised as such by the Irish government. If completed, the Israeli tramline will permanently link Jewish-only settlements such as Pisgat Ze’ev, French Hill, Neve Ya’akov and Gilo, to Israeli West Jerusalem, thereby cementing Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, and ensuring that there can never be a Palestinian state.

The IPSC had initially learned that a delegation from Israel was in Dublin last month to inspect the Luas. Subsequently, it has emeged that Veolia have hosted three Israeli visits to Dublin in the last eighteen months. The IPSC will ensure that there will be no further cooperation between the Dublin Luas and the Jerusalem tram, and indeed we will step up our campaign for the Irish government to cancel Veolia’s contract. However, the IPSC would also stress that we were completely unaware of the previous two visits from Israel. We thus urge solidarity campaigns, in countries where Connex operates, to contact the relevant unions and determine whether any support or assistance is being given to the Israeli tramline. Clearly, the Israeli drivers and engineers must get training from somewhere, and soon, if they are to operate this line in occupied East Jerusalem. This campaign thus has great potential. If human rights groups and Palestinian solidarity campaigns can ensure that no country will train Israeli engineers and drivers, then perhaps we can help to “derail” this criminal project entirely.

The European Parliament calls for the lift of the blockade in Gaza

In a resolution voted today in the Parliament, MEPs, called on Israeli Government for the lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip and to fulfill its international obligations under the Geneva Conventions to guarantee the flow of humanitarian aid, humanitarian assistance and essential services, such as electricity and fuel. Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, who was in the Parliamentary delegation in Gaza Strip, on her speech stressed the need to lift the embargo on people and goods and the end of the military occupation.

“I was recently in Gaza- Luisa Morgantini declared- and I saw how the Strip is suffocating in a serious humanitarian crisis due to the raids and the closure imposed by the Israeli Army: massive devastation of public facilities and private homes, the disruption of hospitals, clinics and schools, the denial of access to proper drinking water, food and electricity, and the destruction of agricultural land wanted by Israel create a true catastrophe for civilians. Furthermore, the blockade on the movement paralyses the economy and contributes to an extremely high rate of unemployment, while the health system is under severe pressure, a significant proportion of the population is suffering from a lack of urgently needed treatment and medicines and many NGOs and humanitarian organisations are obstructed by the lack of freedom of movement and of resources.

You can play online casino games as you listen to proceedings at parliament. If it’s your lucky day, you could walk away with cash.

European Union has to demand with force to the Israeli Government that human rights and International law must be fully respected in the whole area, ending the continued emergency of Gaza Strip but also the military occupation in West Bank, where the robbery of Palestinian lands continues without any condemnation and, in spite of the meeting between Olmert and Abbas, the Israelis change the situation on the ground which casts serious doubts if they want peace or just gaining time to grab more land: it is an example the recent decision by the IDF to expropriate 272 acres of land from four Arab villages in order to build, as declared by Israeli Authorities, a new Palestinian road that would connect East Jerusalem with Jericho. But this decision would free up the existing E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adunim, allowing the construction of a new Jewish settlement consisting of 3,500 apartments and an industrial park, blocked by an international protest since 2004, that showed the risk of the cutting of the West Bank in two, separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. This unilateral and illegal policy by Israeli Authorities must immediately end.

EU must to face up to its full responsibility on the respect of the legality, first through implementation of the existent EU-Israel Agreements on Movement and Access, but also imposing Israel to respect the International law concerning human rights, to end the military occupation in West Bank and the closure of the Gaza Strip and of the WB: even if there is an humanitarian tragedy, its solution is political.

This is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace and to give more credibility to the International Peace Conference in November, reinforcing the negotiations based on the UN resolutions and on the right of Palestinians and Israelis to live in two States, in peace and security”.

NYT: Israeli Visa Policy Traps Thousands of

azzawiya - old man trampled by horseRAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 16 — Sam Bahour, an American citizen of Palestinian descent, would seem to be the kind of neighbor Israel would
welcome.

Mr. Bahour, 41, has a master’s degree in business from Tel Aviv University and runs a successful consulting firm. He developed a gleaming $10 million shopping center in Ramallah, where he has lived for 13 years with his Palestinian wife, Abeer, and their two daughters.

Yet in all that time, Israel has never approved Mr. Bahour’s application for a Palestinian identity document, which would allow him to live
permanently in the West Bank with his family. He has had to rely instead on repeated renewals of a three-month tourist visa since he moved from Ohio to Ramallah in 1993. And now Israel says he cannot renew it anymore.

“I’m facing a tough choice,” Mr. Bahour said. “If I leave, I may not be able to come back here, which is where my life is. If I stay, I will be here illegally.”

Mr. Bahour is one of thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of people ensnared by an Israeli policy that has effectively frozen immigration to the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the current Palestinian uprising began in 2000. This spring, after the radical Islamic group Hamas came to power, Israel severed most contacts with the Palestinian Authority and moved to close the last loophole in its immigration policy —the renewable tourist visa.

Over the past six years, more than 70,000 people, a vast majority of them of Palestinian descent, have applied without success to immigrate to the West Bank or Gaza to join relatives, according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group that tracks the issue. Many who followed Mr. Bahour’s route and worked around the ban with tourist visas now have no legal way to remain.

“These people are not really tourists — they are living and working without legal permits,” said Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for the Israeli government agency that handles Palestinian affairs.

“I know these people have a difficult life living this way, and I feel sorry for them,” he said. “I think we can solve this when we renew relations
with the Palestinian Authority, but right now, we are not talking to them.”
Mr. Bahour acknowledges that he has options that others in the same situation may lack. His daughters, ages 12 and 6, are also American citizens, and his wife has a green card that would allow her to live and work in the United States. He and his wife own a second home in Youngstown, Ohio, where Mr. Bahour was born and raised, and his profession as a business consultant is portable.

But the family is committed to building a future here, he said.

“People ask why I don’t just leave,” Mr. Bahour said. “I tell them it’s because I want to make a contribution here.”

More common are families in which one spouse has only a Palestinian identity document while the other has a foreign passport, making it difficult or impractical for them to live elsewhere.

Many Palestinians say Israel is pursuing a systematic policy of limiting the population in the Palestinian areas, even if it means separating family members.

“Most every Palestinian knows someone with this kind of problem,” said Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem.

In her view, the Israeli policy has several purposes: to apply political pressure on the Palestinians, to create a bargaining chip that could be used in future negotiations and to be a tool in a battle of demographics.

The largest single category of people affected by the Israeli policy is Jordanian women of Palestinian descent who have married Palestinian men and want to move to the West Bank to live with their husbands, Ms. Michaeli said.

Many of those women come to the West Bank on tourist visas and stay on after their visas expire. Complications arise when the women eventually want to travel or visit relatives in Jordan. If they leave the West Bank or Gaza, they face the risk that Israeli authorities will not allow them to return.

Palestinians also say the Israel policy will keep out well-educated, middle-class and politically moderate members of the Palestinian diaspora who could play an important role in developing Palestinian society.

Ali Aggad, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, has been working in the West Bank since 1999. He is now the general manager at the Unipal General Trading Company, which distributes consumer products for international companies like Procter & Gamble.

For seven years, Israel has routinely granted him a tourist visa that has allowed him to spend weekdays working in the West Bank and weekends in Amman, Jordan, with his wife and two sons. Without warning, Israeli authorities denied him entry to the West Bank twice recently, he said.

Procter & Gamble’s office in Tel Aviv is trying to resolve his case with the Israeli authorities, Mr. Aggad said, adding, “All I can do now is wait and hope it works out.”

In the past few months, about 50 United States citizens have notified American diplomatic offices that Israel has prevented them from entering the West Bank, said Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, a spokeswoman at the United States Consulate in Jerusalem.

“This is an issue we’ve been monitoring for several months, and it has been raised with the Israeli authorities,” she said.

Many people of Palestinian origin sought to return to the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza after Israel and the Palestinians signed an interim peace agreement in 1993.

Under a 1995 accord, Israel initially agreed to allow 3,000 immigrants to the Palestinian areas each year, as part of a family reunification process, said Mr. Dror, the Israeli official.

Demand proved to be so great, he said, that Israel later increased the number to as many as 20,000 a year. Even so, there was a backlog of some 50,000 applications when Israel froze the process in 2000. Israel resumed allowing immigration last year, but soon froze it again when Hamas won power.

One of the applications stuck in the pile is Mr. Bahour’s. He said he applied for permanent residency in 1994 and had not received a reply.

Meanwhile, his current tourist visa expires Oct. 1, and Israeli authorities have written “last permit” in his United States passport.

“I still don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. But he will not leave if he can help it. “If I walked away now,” he said, “I feel I would be letting my community down.”

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