TIME France

France Considers Backing Palestinian Statehood

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a debate on the recognition of the Palestinian at the French Parliament in Paris on Nov. 28, 2014.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a debate on the recognition of the Palestinian at the French Parliament in Paris on Nov. 28, 2014. Michel Euler—AP

France would join Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain

France may recognize Palestinian statehood if international attempts to broker a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians fall through.

If France’s parliament passes the non-binding motion on Tuesday, the nation would join Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain in pushing for a two-state solution to the long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict by recognizing a Palestinian state, Reuters reported Friday.

“If this final effort to reach a negotiated solution fails, then France will have to do what it takes by recognizing without delay the Palestinian state,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius before parliament. “We are ready.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the move as a “grave mistake.”

[Reuters]

TIME Israel

Jewish Nation-State Bill Passed by Israeli Cabinet

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during in his Cabinet meeting in his office in Jerusalem on Nov. 23, 2014 Jim Hollander—AP

The proposed legislation, sometimes referred to as the "nationality law," has set off a debate about Israel's future

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a bill to call Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people, a measure that critics say could further strain the state’s frayed relationship with its Palestinian population.

The draft legislation, titled “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has promised that it will guarantee equality for all Israeli citizens, the New York Times reports.

Yet Palestinian lawmakers deem the bill a threat to the rights of the state’s Arab minority and its democratic principles.

The proposed law’s final wording has not yet been settled. At least one version of the draft law would demote the Arabic language to “special status” in Israel, making Hebrew the state’s sole official language.

The bill passed the Cabinet by 14 votes to six and is now headed to Parliament.

TIME Middle East

Jerusalem’s Fragile Peace Splintered by Bloody Attacks

Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem, Nov. 18, 2014.
Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Ronen Zvulun—Reuters

The killings of 5 people by 2 Palestinians in Jerusalem has driven a wedge between Arabs and Jews in the uneasily divided city

David Ehrlich, an Israeli writer, has been running a popular literary café and restaurant in downtown Jerusalem for the last 20 years. Popular, that is, except for times like these, when the city is so on edge that people tend to rush home from work and huddle with their families around the television.

“There are hardly any tourists, people from the Tel Aviv area will not come to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalemites just don’t feel like it,” says Ehrlich, whose latest short story collection is entitled Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel. He has employed Palestinians in the café almost since he founded it, making his eatery, Tmol Shilshom, one of countless examples in the holy city of Jews and Arabs working side by side.

“We’ve had Jews and Arabs work together for many years, and I’ve always been proud of it. I feel it’s the right thing in Jerusalem, because we are a mixed city. I don’t believe in segregation anywhere, and definitely not in my city,” Erlich tells TIME. “It doesn’t make sense to me that we’ll live so close by and pretend that the other doesn’t exist.”

But this de facto, often friendly coexistence can mask how very differently Israelis and Palestinians perceive reality. On Monday, the day before five people were killed in a bloody attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, two of Ehrlich’s employees showed him some cell phone images of the body of Yousef al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver whose death is a subject of controversy. To Ehrlich, the mark across the man’s neck made it seem believable that he had hung himself, as Israeli forensic officials ruled. But in the eyes of Ehrlich’s workers, it clearly looked like a murder.

“When horrible things happen, they feel empathy for me and I feel it for them,” Ehrlich explains. “On the other hand, they listen to their news and I listen to mine, and their understanding and reading of events is very, very different.”

The synagogue massacre—the latest in a series of attacks linked to the feud over the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary — has already been dubbed by some in the Israeli and Palestinian media the “Jerusalem Intifada” and by others, the “Jerusalem War.” Some added that it seemed to be taking inspiration from the Islamic State, given the use of knives and an ax in Tuesday’s attack. Many though not all of the Palestinian attacks on Israelis over the last month have been in Jerusalem, and the perpetrators have all come from Jerusalem.

That stands in stark contrast to the Second Intifada, or uprising, from 2000 to 2004, which largely involved suicide bombers from the West Bank. Now, Israelis are finding that they are facing violence that comes from within Jerusalem’s self-declared municipal boundaries – not from beyond the wall or separation barrier built to stop the aforementioned suicide bombers from entering Israel.

This is having a chilling effect on this ordinarily open city. Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian expert in national security at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, says that tens of thousands of Palestinians who work, shop and get various services in West Jerusalem are finding that the city is developing invisible boundaries that are becoming dangerous to cross.

“There is more of a gap now between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem,” he says. “The Arabs who work in West Jerusalem will come under a lot of suspicion, and I can foresee how the response to their presence there will be more negative than ever. There’s no confidence in each other, no trust, and it’s leading us to a more serious conflict.”

The groundswell of terror has been exacerbated by the absence of Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem, Al Qaq says. Although the 1993 Oslo Accords stipulated that East Jerusalemites could vote in elections for the Palestinian Authority, Israel later deemed PA offices or those connected to its ruling political party, the Fatah faction of the PLO, as an infringement on Israeli sovereignty in the city. Orient House, an East Jerusalem building that served as a PLO headquarters through the 1980s and 90s, was shuttered by Israel’s then-premier Ariel Sharon in 2001 following a suicide bombing which killed 15 people.

“We don’t have leaders we can call on in East Jerusalem to try to calm the situation down, and the leaders in Ramallah have no influence on the Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Al Qaq says. “What we’re seeing is young people doing it themselves, and not taking orders from anyone.”

Officials in Jerusalem have cautioned Israelis to treat their Palestinian neighbors with suspicion. Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Dan Ronen, the former head of Israeli Police Operations Division during the Second Intifada, suggested Tuesday that the best way to foil potential attacks was to be cautious of “Arab employees and other people who come from East Jerusalem,” adding, “You never know when and how they can do something.” He also suggested that Israel would train those citizens who are armed to be better equipped to use their weapons in an attack. Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said Tuesday he was encouraging Jerusalemites to join a civilian guard, reviving volunteer patrol units that were important in the state’s early days.

Given this situation, its perhaps not surprising that Taha, a cab driver from East Jerusalem, has been avoiding West Jerusalem in the last few days. “We are afraid to send our kids to school tomorrow, because we hear that settlers want to do marches and revenge attacks. I’m 53 years old, it’s the first time I’m really worried,” said Taha, who asked that his name be withheld due to security concerns. “In the last week, four people got to my taxi and got out as soon as they saw my name is an Arab name. They say things like, oh, I think I made a mistake, this is not the taxi I ordered, and they jump out. When it happens I cannot talk, because I feel very sad.”

Sara Kalker, a mother of two young children, is also unsure of whether to take her kids to school on Wednesday. Their pre-schools are on the edge of the Armon Hanetsiv neighborhood, which is over the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) and abuts the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukabar, where the two young Palestinian cousins responsible for Tuesday’s synagogue attack were from.

“Everyone is concerned that something could happen anywhere, but we really feel it here. There are border police all over our neighborhood now. It’s hard to concentrate at work,” says Kalker. She moved here from New York State, where she grew up, weeks before the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. “I got through that, but it’s definitely different being a mother and having to worry now about someone’s security other than my own.” She pauses. “I just want to feel safe. But I don’t really have faith in the ability of the country to solve these problems.”

TIME Middle East

Fears of Religious Conflict After Synagogue Killings

Israel Palestine Jerusalem Attack
Ultra-orthodox Jewish men look on at the scene of an attack on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

The dead include three American citizens, one British citizen and one Israeli police officer

Two Palestinians from East Jerusalem burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday morning, killing five Israelis and wounding seven others with knives and axes in an attack that is being viewed by both sides as a potential turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That conflict, simmering since the end of a seven-week long war this summer between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza, has reached boiling point in recent weeks. There have been a string of Palestinian stabbing attacks targeting Israelis so far this month, resulting in the deaths of four Israelis. Palestinians accuse Israel of ratcheting up tensions around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and say the building of Israeli homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has provoked Palestinian ire.

But Tuesday’s attack in a crowded synagogue where worshippers has just begun their morning prayers is the most serious attack in recent weeks. Both Israelis and Palestinians noted the choice of target and the skyrocketing tensions over Jerusalem’s holy sites – the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has the Western Wall at its base. Many expressed concerns that this may be morphing into a religious war more than a struggle over land.

“We don’t want to see ourselves as Jews as being in a war with Islam – a religious war would be a disaster from every perspective,” said Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, in comments to reporters, broadcast live as the news was unfolding. “We have a long-standing dispute between Jews and Arabs, between Israelis and Palestinians, but we must not allow this to be twisted into a war between religions.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack but also demanded “an end to the ongoing incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers.” Rivlin applauded Abbas’ condemnation but said he was not doing enough, adding, “We’re hearing imams who are using every opportunity to incite against Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had harsher criticism for the Palestinian leader, saying that the attack was a direct result of incitement by Hamas as well as by Abbas. Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took it a step further and accused Abbas of deliberately trying to turn the conflict into a religious war between Muslims and Jews. Abbas recently characterized Jews as having desecrated the Temple Mount, which Lieberman said legitimizes attacks like the one on Tuesday.

Zakaria al-Qaq, a lecturer in national security at Al-Quds University which has campuses in Jerusalem and in the West Bank, said he was concerned that the atmosphere in the region – including the rise of the Islamic State in various enclaves in Iraq and Syria – was pushing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to take on a more religious hue.

“I’m afraid that today’s events will be a sort of turning point in terms of dragging the conflict towards having a different label on it, and it will look more like a religious conflict,” says Al-Qaq. Even though reports surfaced Tuesday that the attack may have been carried out by the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular nationalist group, al-Qaq said people were already drawing their conclusions about what this new stage of the conflict would look like. It would not necessarily be a third Intifada, or uprising, as some have predicted, but an unprecedented religious war.

“Regardless of whether the perpetrators are secular or religious, they have decided to use a place of prayer to inflame the religious identity of the conflict, moving it from Palestinian-Israeli to Muslim-Jewish,” Al-Qaq says. “If there will be any retaliation from any side, even just a radical group of Israelis who decide to attack a mosque that will inflame the situation very seriously. If you put it in the regional context, looking at Sunni vs. Shia tensions and the rise of ISIS, and just days ago in northern Israel, a riot pitting Muslims against Druze, we see that this is how the ball is rolling now – everything being dictated by religion.”

Receiving the first reports of the attack around 7 a.m., police rushed to the scene and shot dead the two Palestinians, who were from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Chaim Weingarten, a volunteer for ZAKA, an Israeli organization that arranges for religious burial following terrorist attacks, said he felt it as if “ISIS has arrived in Jerusalem.” He explained what he saw in comments provided to the media by ZAKA: “This was an extremely difficult scene. The terrorists used live fire and a butcher’s knife. The terrorists cut off the arm of a worshiper wearing tefillin (phylacteries). Horrific images that leave me with very difficult emotions.”

Israeli police said that three of the dead were originally from the U.S. and one was from Britain. An Israeli police officer died from his injuries hours after the attack, bringing the death toll to five, a spokeswoman at Hadassah hospital told CNN. Among the victims of the attack is an Israeli-American rabbi, Moshe Twersky, 59. He was the head an English-speaking seminary, or yeshiva, and is the son of a renowned rabbi and Harvard professor, Rabbi Yitzhak (Isadore) Twersky of Boston, and well as the grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the founders of Jewish Modern Orthodoxy.

Tuesday’s attack came after a Palestinian bus driver, Yusuf Hasan al-Ramuni, was found hanging in his bus on Sunday. Israeli forensic officials ruled it was a suicide and said there was no evidence of foul play, but Palestinians believe it was a murder staged to look like a suicide, and held protests on Monday in response.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said in a BBC interview that attacks like Tuesday’s should be anticipated.

“Everyone expected that this would happen,” Hamad said. “Every day Jerusalem is boiling, every day there is a new crime against a Palestinian citizen. We didn’t see any effort of the Israeli government to stop the settlers from attacking the al-Aqsa mosque. They should open their eyes and see there is a revolution in Jerusalem, there is an uprising.”

In the aftermath of the killings, Israeli media reported clashes between Palestinian and police near the East Jerusalem homes of the two alleged attackers.

TIME Israel

Palestinians Stab Two Israelis to Death

Israeli soldiers stand near a knife at the scene of a stabbing attack near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut
Israeli soldiers stand near a knife at the scene of a stabbing attack near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut in the West Bank on Nov. 10, 2014 Ronen Zvulun—Reuters

The attacks come amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians

Palestinians in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank stabbed to death an Israeli soldier and a woman in separate attacks on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the stabbings acts of terrorism and pledged to stamp out “terror being directed at all parts of the country,” Reuters reports.

Tensions have been running high in the past few weeks, with Palestinians in some Arab communities taking to the streets in stone-throwing protests after Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian who attacked them with a knife.

The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed as a member the Palestinian man who stabbed three people outside a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, including the woman who died.

The Palestinian man who stabbed to death an Israel solider at a Tel Aviv train station on the same day was identified by police as a resident of the West Bank with no criminal record.

[Reuters]

TIME portfolio

From Belfast to Baghdad, See the World’s Dividing Walls

When Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger made history by opening the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint of the Berlin Wall at 11.30 pm on November 9, 1989, without any orders, an eager young photography student named Kai Wiedenhöfer was nearly 300 miles away in the city of Essen.

At that time, the lensman was unaware that Jäger had effectively ended the separation of East and West Berlin that had existed since 1961; one that had restricted the free movement of citizens between the Soviet administered east of the city and the Allied administered west.

But that evening, one of Wiedenhöfer’s professors called with simple instructions: get to Berlin as fast as you can. The wall is coming down. This is huge: “We jumped into a car and raced all the way to Berlin,” Wiedenhöfer tells TIME. “[We] got to Potsdamer Platz at about four or five in the morning.”

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany, 1989. Kai Wiedenhšfer

Over the following days, Wiedenhöfer captured the activity as the wall was gradually dismantled. He was there when East German security guards watched crowds of East Berliners stream through to the west on foot and in their Trabants, and when West Berliners welcomed them on the other side.

But now, 25 years after the wall came down, it seems more and more separation walls are going up. The Guardian estimates that at least 6,000 miles of barriers have been built worldwide in the last decade alone. Wiedenhöfer says he sees this fact as flying in the face of globalization’s promise to remove all barriers.

So in 2003, encouraged by a colleague at a Swiss newspaper, he started photographing the walls separating Palestinian territories from Israel. Later, he visited the towering peace lines of Belfast, the monolithic edifice of the Baghdad Wall and the 22-foot high Melilla border fence (which separates the Spanish exclave from surrounding Morocco), among many others.

West Berlin, Germany, 1989. Kai Wiedenhšfer

It was a project that took seven years, and one that was sometimes fraught with difficulty. In a few locations, safety was a concern. In others, access could pose problems. Wiedenhöfer also received criticism for portraying, as some saw it, only one side of a story (by photographing, say, one side of a wall). “I have no personal involvement in these conflicts,” he explains. “For me it’s mostly to get the best angle of the barrier or the best light situations.”

It is the visual similarity of Wiedenhöfer’s work that is perhaps most striking, though. When placed beside one another, his images seem to blend into a tableau of partition and separation, in which Belfast becomes almost indistinguishable from Baghdad.

It might not be so surprising, he says, because what he found in each place was often the same: “When you build a border, or fence, the life [of the area] mostly dies down and people move away.”

“This is a phenomenon you see in every place.”


Kai Wiedenhöfer is an award-winning photographer based in Berlin. His book Confrontier is available now.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Middle East

Israel Closes Jerusalem Holy Site After Shooting

A masked Palestinian youth throws a rock during clashes with Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem on Oct. 30, 2014.
A masked Palestinian youth throws a rock during clashes with Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem on Oct. 30, 2014. Ahmad Gharabli—AFP/Getty Images

The Palestinians said temporary closure of the Al Aqsa mosque was a "declaration of war"

Israel closed all access to Jerusalem’s most sensitive religious site on Thursday, a rare move that ratcheted up already heightened tensions following the attempted assassination of a prominent Jewish religious activist and the killing of his suspected Palestinian assailant by police.

The Palestinians accused Israel of a “declaration of war,” deepening a crisis fueled by failed peace efforts, continued Israeli settlement construction and months of simmering violence in the holy city. While Israel said it would reopen the site on Friday, the increasingly religious nature of the unrest risked igniting further violence.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders blamed each other for the tensions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called for banning Jews from the hilltop holy site, of inciting the violence.

“The international community must stop its hypocrisy and act against the inciters,” Netanyahu said.

Abbas, meanwhile, said Jerusalem is a “red line that must not be touched.” The decision to close access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound was “a declaration of war” that “will lead to further escalation and instability,” his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said. Abbas made no mention of the attempted killing of the Jewish activist.

East Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians, has experienced unrest since the summer, with Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at motorists and clashing frequently with Israeli police. The violence gained steam last week, when a Palestinian motorist rammed his car into a crowded train station, killing a 3-month-old Israeli-American baby girl.

Much of the unrest has centered on the holy site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The violence reached a new high late Wednesday when a gunman on a motorcycle shot and seriously wounded Yehuda Glick, a U.S.-born activist who often leads groups of Jews on visits to the site.

Glick is a leading voice in efforts to allow Jews to pray on the mosque compound — something that Israeli authorities ban because they fear it would prompt violence. Muslim worshippers view Jewish prayer there as a provocation, fearing that Jewish extremists are plotting to take over the area.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Glick warned of the growing violence in Jerusalem and said Jews were increasingly being attacked by Muslims.

“The more extreme Islamist organizations are taking over and if we don’t stop them early enough, they will take over the entire Jerusalem,” he said. “We’re calling upon the Israeli government: Stop the violence.”

He remained hospitalized Thursday in serious condition.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the shooting and said the U.S. was “extremely concerned by escalating tensions” in Jerusalem. “It is critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the status quo,” she said, adding the U.S. had been in touch with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to calm the situation. Under a longstanding arrangement, Jordan holds custodial authority over the mosque compound.

Early Thursday, police forces surrounded the suspected gunman at his home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man, identified as Moataz Hijazi, opened fire and was killed by the Israeli forces.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Hijazi had served 12 years in Israeli prison for a number of crimes before he was released in 2012. It described him as a sympathizer of the Islamic Jihad militant group, but said he appeared to have acted alone in Wednesday night’s attack.

Shortly after Hijazi was shot dead, clashes broke out in Abu Tor, with Palestinians hurling stones at riot police, who responded with rubber bullets to suppress the demonstration. A funeral was planned late Thursday.

The decision to close access to the holy site for the first time in more than 14 years underscored the incendiary nature of the current tensions.

The Palestinian uprising against Israel began after then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Jerusalem site in what many saw as a provocative gesture. That visit — in September 2000 — resulted in a temporary closure of the site.

Late Thursday, police said the site would be reopened on Friday to male Muslim worshippers over the age of 50 and female worshippers of all ages. Younger men would be barred, they said, because of the risk of renewed violence.

The Jerusalem tensions come at a sensitive time. U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed last April, and Israel battled Hamas militants in Gaza during a 50-day war over the summer.

More recently, Israel has announced plans to press forward with housing construction in east Jerusalem, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and other key allies.

This week, anonymous senior U.S. officials were quoted as criticizing Netanyahu as cowardly and indecisive in an interview with The Atlantic, and on Thursday, Sweden formally recognized a state of Palestine, a symbolic show of displeasure with Israeli policies.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the derisive language used to describe Netanyahu in The Atlantic interview, and said he was still hopeful to forge peace.

“We still believe it is doable, but it takes courage, it takes strength,” he said.

TIME sweden

Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State

The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports.

“Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.”

Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post.

A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U.

TIME food and drink

SodaStream to Move Controversial West Bank Facility

Scarlett Johansson SodaStream Partnership
SodaStream unveils Scarlett Johansson as its first-ever Global Brand Ambassador at the Gramercy Park Hotel on January 10, 2014 in New York City. Mike Coppola—2014 Getty Images

The company says the move does not come in response to a Palestinian activist-led boycott

SodaStream announced Wednesday that it will move a controversial facility located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The company said that their reason for moving was “purely commercial,” and not due to pressure from Palestinian activists.

The Israeli company will relocate its operations from Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank to Lehavim, northern Israel by 2015. “We are offering all employees the opportunity to join us in Lehavim, and specifically, we are working with the Israeli government to secure work permits for our Palestinian employees,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said, according to the Associated Press.

Palestinian activists launched a boycott of the company because of its location in the West Bank, land that Israel has controversially laid claim to since 1967. Up until now, the company has maintained that shutting down its facility—which employed 500 Palestinians, 450 Israeli Arabs and 350 Israeli Jews—would not benefit the cause for Palestinian statehood or the Israeli-Palestine peace process.

Scarlett Johansson was swept up in the controversy earlier this year when the actress stepped down from her position as an Oxfam International ambassador over her role as a spokesperson for SodaStream. The Avengers actress said she had a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the international charity, which opposes all trade from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Johansson later defended the ad: “I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation,” she said. “Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Meanwhile, SodaStream has been having a hard time convincing U.S. consumers to buy at-home soda machines. Its third-quarter earnings dropped 14% from last year.

[AP]

TIME Malala

Malala Donates $50,000 Toward Reconstruction of Gaza Schools

SWEDEN-CHILDREN-RIGHT-PRIZE
Pakistani activist for female education Malala Yousafzai attends a press conference ahead of the award ceremony for the 2014 World's Children Prize for the Rights of the Child at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden on Oct. 29, 2014. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

Donation will aid U.N. agency

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen activist who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, received another honor Wednesday and said she is donating the $50,000 in prize money to a United Nations agency that is rebuilding schools in Gaza following the summer conflict with Israel.

“The needs are overwhelming — more than half of Gaza’s population is under 18 years of age,” Malala said while being honored with the World Children’s Prize in Stockholm, according to a statement released by the U.N. Reliefs and Works Agency. “They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future.”

Malala, who at age 15 survived being shot by the Taliban, has amassed a global following for work in the fight for girls’ right to education. The 17-year-old is the first person to receive the Children’s Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year.

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