For a few years, a young radical group of Israeli settlers in the West Bank have committed random acts of violence and vandalization against Palestinians and their property to make them pay the price for affronting their way of life. They call themselves “Pricetaggers,” and they’ve largely avoided prosecution by Israeli authorities.
VICE News gets rare access to the young members of the Price Tag movement—at the homecoming of Moriah Goldberg, 20, who just finished a three-month sentence for throwing stones at Palestinians. She and her family remain proud of the act, even as the current conflict in Gaza was sparked after an all-too-familiar round of retributive violence.
Israel Is Forcing Palestinians in East Jerusalem to Demolish Their Own Homes
In the Shu’Fat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Palestinian Iyad Al-Shaer stood inside the gutted interior of a modest breeze block structure. The building, an addition to Iyad’s own home, was set to be a new residence for his brother Baser and his fiancé. But the fully furnished home, complete with a heart-covered bedroom that Baser had designed for his future child, now had three gaping holes punctured in its roof.
Just days after completing construction, the Israeli-controlled municipality issued Iyad a demolition order for his “illegally” constructed home, built without one of the expensive permits issued by the same set of authorities. Unable to afford the protracted and costly legal battle, he chose to destroy the structure himself.
Self-demolitions like this began a few years ago and have continued—albeit somewhat under the mainstream media’s radar—ever since, with Palestinians compelled to destroy their own homes in order to avoid the steadily increasing fines leveled by the municipality.
The demolished roof of Iyad’s brother’s home
While the Palestinian population in the city has quadrupled to over 300,000 since 1967, municipal authorities have only zoned nine percent of East Jerusalem land for Palestinian construction. Even with this space being set aside, permits are rarely granted, and the result is widespread “illegal” Palestinian construction—which, of course, Israeli authorities can then order to be demolished.
Tens of thousands of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents now live under the constant threat of having their homes demolished by Israeli authorities, part of a policy of displacement that has been taking place in Jerusalem with a startling degree of public support for more than four decades.
“We know that there are some 20,000 ‘illegal’ Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem,” Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) told us. “[That’s] about a third of the Palestinian housing stock.”
“They don’t consider us citizens, so they push. It’s not a personal thing—I am one of many,” says Iyad. “They push us to go outside of Jerusalem. I call it a soft transfer.”
Israel’s African Refugees Are Protesting Against Indefinite Detention
Last October, African asylum seekers living in south Tel Aviv held a demonstration demanding “security.” By that, they meant refugee status and the rights that accompany it: for example, the basic police protection most of us take for granted, including the right not to be attacked by a racist mob, like the kind occasionally seen in South Tel Aviv’s streets.
Three months later, Tel Aviv’s African asylum seekers are back out in protest against their treatment by the Israeli government. Last week I went to a demonstration in Jerusalem and found thousands of people gathered in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament building, chanting “We are refugees! We need protection!” Along with the already huge number of people who’d arrived over the previous few days, supporters were still streaming in by the busload, with estimates putting the total number of demonstrators at more than 20,000.
"Today we’re here to find our rights," said Sumia Nadiy, an asylum seeker from Sudan. "We came to speak with the government members in the Knesset, to see and talk to them to find a solution about the situation for refugees or asylum seekers here."
I Was Abducted by Hezbollah at Beirut’s Bombed Iranian Embassy
Yesterday, at around 9.30 AM, two suicide bombers attacked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The building is in Bir Hassan, a Hezbollah-controlled suburb in the south of Lebanon’s capital. Targeting the Iranian embassy sent a clear message. Iran is a major supporter of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as the Shi’a political and paramilitary organization Hezbollah. At least 25 people were killed in the blast—including the Iranian cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari. About 145 more were injured.
Within hours of the bombing, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades—a Lebanon-based jihadist group with links to al Qaeda—claimed responsibility for the attacks over Twitter. Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group’s religious guide, described the twin bombings as a “double martyrdom operation carried out by two heroes from the heroic Sunnis of Lebanon.” The attack marked the third time this year that areas in Beirut’s Bir Hassan suburb have been targeted, with previous attacks on July 9 and August 15 killing a total of 27 people.
Lebanese politicians were quick to present a united front in condemnation of the attack. Caretaker Prime Minster Najib Miqati described the twin blasts as a “cowardly terrorist” attack, suggesting that foreign agents were using Lebanon as a “mailbox” for their own agendas, while opposition leader Saad Hariri stated that “the blasts should become a new impetus to steer Lebanon clear of the fires in the region”. Iran, as it does with everything from political instability to natural disasters, pointed the finger at Israel.
Driving with the Female Street Racers of Palestine
I’m driving around the streets of Ramallah, Palestine with Noor Dawood, the celebrated Palestinian street racer and the only female drifter in the Middle East. Noor is one of four members of the “Speed Sisters,” the first and only female racing team in the Middle East, who have brought international attention to the burgeoning Palestine street racing scene, pissing of Muslim clerics and dismantling the caricature of Palestinian womanhood as they go.
From the driver seat of her GTI, Noor speaks about the challenges the women faced at the beginning. “At first, [the other drivers] were skeptical,” the Texas-born 23-year-old tells me as we drift around a turn. “They weren’t used to seeing a woman driving crazy behind the wheel—racing against and beating men. But then they were like, ‘These women can drive.’”
They defintiely can, and I quickly reconsider my choice of venue for the interview. Noor’s aggressive driving on the tight, steep, and manic streets of occupied Palestine is whittling away at my composure, every terrifying curve sends my scripted questions into pre-pubescent squeaks.
A bird’s eye view of the course. In the background, you can see a monument erected in memory of the Palestinian lives lost during the Second Intifada. Behind that, the Israeli settlement of Beit El is visible.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Ramallah has a geography that breeds racers, who evolve out of the lawless and severe landscape of the occupied territories. “Yeah, learning to drive here was definitely part of it,” Noor tells me. “These streets are how I got my start, where I first learned how to race, and how to drift. All is equal out here.”
Uganda Is Taking Israel’s Unwanted Asylum Seekers to Get Cheaper Weapons
Earlier this month, it was reported that Israel was trying to swap Africans for arms. Or, more specifically, broker a deal with a number of unspecified African countries that would see thousands of African refugees included in lucrative deals for Israeli weapons and military training. If you take back these annoying, resources-sapping asylum seekers, the Israelis seemed to be saying, you can buy our guns for cheap.
The Israeli government is currently detaining thousands of African asylum seekers in desert prisons on the Egyptian border. Many of them now face being shipped off, against their will, to whichever African country will take them. Seemingly no thought has been paid to sending asylum seekers back to oppressive regimes they may have been fleeing in the first place.
The Israeli government already have strong relations with their Ugandan counterparts, with Israel currently “working to introduce sophisticated agro-technology" to the country. But it is newer support to Uganda’s military—weapons, training, fighter jets, and possibly drones—that many suspect to be behind the country’s decision to import asylum seekers from Israel.
"We’re hoping to operate in the coming weeks and months in a way that will make another exit for infiltrators in the country,” Sa’ar explained, “while trying to reach agreements with more countries.”
This Palestinian Taxidermist’s Stuffed Animal Zoo Is Heartbreaking
OK sure, so somebody stuffed Napoleon’s horse, but in general, no one pays too much attention to the animal victims of war. No one except Dr. Sami Khader, that is.
Dr. Khader lives in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya. It’s a place that’s seen its fair share of hate. Since 2003, the 40,000 or so people who live there have been encircled by the walls of theinfamous Israeli West Bank Barrier. It’s also home to Palestine’s only zoo, where Dr. Khader is the resident veterinarian and director.
Scattered around his room are plastic soda bottles of various sizes that serve as mobile terrariums for the doctors’ creatures. On the table two snakes are curled up at the base of their bottles, on the floor a scorpion paces back and forth in its container and a soda bottle pokes out of the doctor’s leather bag, though I can’t see what creature is living in that. Maybe it’s just a Coke. All the animals were either found by the doctor or dropped in by the Qalqilya townspeople, and scattered among the living are skeletons, pinned insects and a stuffed bobcat.
Dr Sami Khader, director, resident veterinarian, and self-taught taxidermist at Qalqilya’s zoo.
“Do you want to hold it?” Dr. Khader asks, gesturing to a snake on the desk. He casually describes being bitten by another snake recently, by a species that could, apparently, have killed him in an hour had it not been for a delayed shot of antivenom.
“It was a very stupid day,” recalls Dr. Khader. “I was giving a lecture at a school and I brought some snakes to show the kids. It was dark and I reached into the wrong container. Usually I pick the snake up by its head, but this day I chose the wrong snake and I was bitten. I acted like nothing happened. I finished the presentation then went to the hospital.”
I’m not here to gawk at snakes in bottles, though, I’m here to see an exhibition of stuffed animals that Dr. Khader has created from the beasts that were killed in the Second Intifada, the four-year period of fighting that claimed the lives of 4,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis.
It is probably worth mentioning at this point that Dr. Khader appears to be an entirely self-taught taxidermist.