Sunday, June 29, 2008
"Hypocrisy" over Israel boycott
'Hypocrisy' over Israel boycott
Sir: When I was President of the Association of University Teachers, a predecessor of the University and College Union, we passed resolutions critical of China but not of Israel; now it's the other way round. Contrary to Dr Hutchison (letter, 17 June), there neither was nor is anything illogical or hypocritical here: the boot is on the other foot.
If we decide not to oppose any evils because we cannot oppose them all, we entirely trivialise the concept of evil. The list of morally similar things is always indefinitely long and always disputable at every point, because similar things are always a bit different. The demand that we check off the entire list before we speak out against, say, Israel or China is a demand that would cause all moral language to die in our mouths.
Something bad does not cease to be bad because something else is bad too. We constantly face rhetoric that changes the subject from bad acts in the world to the state of mind or alleged hypocrisy of those who condemn those acts, rhetoric which is really a sign of guilty conscience.
Sir: P J Stewart and Sara Cohen (letters: 11, 12 June) both make pertinent and helpful points. Despite the superficial divergence of their perspectives, they identify two important truths central to the tragedy of Palestine.
One: the Arab struggle was and is against Zionism, not Jews. Two: without the West's acquiescence to Zionist terror, Jews and Arabs would still be co-inhabiting a region they had shared for centuries.
From Annie's Letters
Zionism's Dead End : Separation or ethnic cleansing? Israel's encaging of Gaza aims to achieve both by Jonathan Cook
June 28, 2008
Zionism's Dead End
Separation or ethnic cleansing? Israel's encaging of Gaza aims to achieve both
by Jonathan Cook
The following is taken from a talk delivered at the Conference for the Right of Return and the Secular Democratic State, held in Haifa on June 21.
In 1895 Theodor Herzl, Zionism's chief prophet, confided in his diary that he did not favor sharing Palestine with the natives. Better, he wrote, to "try to spirit the penniless [Palestinian] population across the border by denying it any employment in our own country … Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."
He was proposing a program of Palestinian emigration enforced through a policy of strict separation between Jewish immigrants and the indigenous population. In simple terms, he hoped that, once Zionist organizations had bought up large areas of Palestine and owned the main sectors of the economy, Palestinians could be made to leave by denying them rights to work the land or labor in the Jewish-run economy. His vision was one of transfer, or ethnic cleansing, through ethnic separation.
Herzl was suggesting that two possible Zionist solutions to the problem of a Palestinian majority living in Palestine – separation and transfer – were not necessarily alternatives but rather could be mutually reinforcing. Not only that: he believed, if they were used together, the process of ethnic cleansing could be made to appear voluntary, the choice of the victims. It may be that this was both his most enduring legacy and his major innovation to settler colonialism.
In recent years, with the Palestinian population under Israeli rule about to reach parity with the Jewish population, the threat of a Palestinian majority has loomed large again for the Zionists. Not surprisingly, debates about which of these two Zionist solutions to pursue, separation or transfer, have resurfaced.
Today these solutions are ostensibly promoted by two ideological camps loosely associated with Israel's center-left (Labor and Kadima) and right (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). The modern political arguments between them turn on differing visions of the nature of a Jewish state originally put forward by Labor and Revisionist Zionists.
To make sense of the current political debates, and the events taking place inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, let us first examine the history of these two principles in Zionist thinking.
During the early waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, the dominant Labor Zionist movement and its leader David Ben Gurion advanced policies much in line with Herzl's goal. In particular, they promoted the twin principles of "Redemption of the Land" and "Hebrew Labor", which took as their premise the idea that Jews needed to separate themselves from the native population in working the land and employing only other Jews. By being entirely self-reliant in Palestine, Jews could both "cure" themselves of their tainted Diaspora natures and deprive the Palestinians of the opportunity to subsist in their own homeland.
At the forefront of this drive was the Zionist trade union federation, the Histadrut, which denied membership to Palestinians – and, for many years after the establishment of the Jewish state, even to the remnants of the Palestinian population who became Israeli citizens.
But if separation was the official policy of Labor Zionism, behind the scenes Ben Gurion and his officials increasingly appreciated that it would not be enough in itself to achieve their goal of a pure ethnic state. Land sales remained low, at about 6 per cent of the territory, and the Jewish-owned parts of the economy relied on cheap Palestinian labor
Instead, the Labor Zionists secretly began working on a program of ethnic cleansing. After 1937 and Britain's Peel Report proposing partition of Palestine, Ben Gurion was more open about transfer, recognizing that a Jewish state would be impossible unless most of the indigenous population was cleared from within its borders.
Israel's new historians have acknowledged Ben Gurion's commitment to transfer. As Benny Morris notes, for example, Ben Gurion "understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst." The Israeli leadership therefore developed a plan for ethnic cleansing under cover of war, compiling detailed dossiers on the communities that needed to be driven out and then passing on the order, in Plan Dalet, to commanders in the field. During the 1948 war the new state of Israel was emptied of at least 80 per cent of its indigenous population.
In physically expelling the Palestinian population, Ben Gurion responded to the political opportunities of the day and recalibrated the Labor Zionism of Herzl. In particular he achieved the goal of displacement desired by Herzl while also largely persuading the world through a campaign of propaganda that the exodus of the refugees was mostly voluntary. In one of the most enduring Zionist myths, convincingly rebutted by modern historians, we are still told that the refugees left because they were told to do so by the Arab leadership.
The other camp, the Revisionists, had a far more ambivalent attitude to the native Palestinian population. Paradoxically, given their uncompromising claim to a Greater Israel embracing both banks of the Jordan River (thereby including not only Palestine but also the modern state of Jordan), they were more prepared than the Labor Zionists to allow the natives to remain where they were.
Vladimir Jabotinsky, the leader of Revisionism, observed in 1938 – possibly in a rebuff to Ben Gurion's espousal of transfer – that "it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as the removal of non-Jewish citizens". The Revisionists, it seems, were resigned to the fact that the enlarged territory they desired would inevitably include a majority of Arabs. They were therefore less concerned with removing the natives than finding a way to make them accept Jewish rule.
In 1923, Jabotinsky formulated his answer, one that implicitly included the notion of separation but not necessarily transfer: an "iron wall" of unremitting force to cow the natives into submission. In his words, the agreement of the Palestinians to their subjugation could be reached only "through the iron wall, that is to say, the establishment in Palestine of a force that will in no way be influenced by Arab pressure".
An enthusiast of British imperial rule, Jabotinsky envisioned the future Jewish state in simple colonial terms, as a European elite ruling over the native population.
Inside Revisionism, however, there was a shift from the idea of separation to transfer that mirrored developments inside Labor Zionism. This change was perhaps more opportunistic than ideological, and was particularly apparent as the Revisionists sensed Ben Gurion's success in forging a Jewish state through transfer.
One of Jabotinsky disciples, Menachem Begin, who would later become a Likud prime minister, was leader in 1948 of the Irgun militia that committed one of the worst atrocities of the war. He led his fighters into the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin where they massacred over 100 inhabitants, including women and children.
Savage enough though these events were, Begin and his followers consciously inflated the death toll to more than 250 through the pages of the New York Times. Their goal was to spread terror among the wider Palestinian population and encourage them to flee. He later happily noted: "Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of 'Irgun butchery', were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede."
Subsequently, other prominent figures on the right openly espoused ethnic cleansing, including the late General Rehavam Ze'evi, whose Moledet party campaigned in elections under the symbol of the Hebrew character "tet", for transfer. His successor, Benny Elon, a settler leader and rabbi, adopted a similar platform: "Only population transfer can bring peace".
The intensity of the separation vs transfer debate subsided after 1948 and the ethnic cleansing campaign that removed most of the native Palestinian population from the Jewish state. The Palestinian minority left behind – a fifth of the population but a group, it was widely assumed, that would soon be swamped by Jewish immigration – was seen as an irritation but not yet as a threat. It was placed under a military government for nearly two decades, a system designed to enforce separation between Palestinians and Jews inside Israel. Such separation – in education, employment and residence – exists to this day, even if in a less extreme form.
The separation-transfer debate was chiefly revived by Israel's conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. With Israel's erasure of the Green Line, and the effective erosion of the distinction between Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories, the problem of a Palestinian majority again loomed large for the Zionists.
Cabinet debates from 1967 show the quandary faced by the government. Almost alone, Moshe Dayan favored annexation of both the newly captured territories and the Palestinian population there. Others believed that such a move would be seen as transparently colonialist and rapidly degenerate into an apartheid system of Jewish citizens and Palestinian non-citizens. In their minds, Jabotinsky's solution of an iron wall was no longer viable.
But equally, in a more media-saturated era, which at least paid lip-service to human rights, the government could see no way to expel the Palestinian population on a large scale and annex the land, as Ben Gurion had done earlier. Also possibly, they could see no way of persuading the world that such expulsions should be characterized as voluntary.
Israel therefore declined to move decisively in either direction, neither fully carrying out a transfer program nor enforcing strict separation. Instead it opted for an apartheid model that accommodated Dayan's suggestion of a "creeping annexation" of the occupied territories that he rightly believed would go largely unnoticed by the West.
The separation embodied in South African apartheid differed from Herzl's notion of separation in one important respect: in apartheid, the "other" population was a necessary, even if much abused, component of the political arrangement. As the exiled Palestinian thinker Azmi Bishara has noted, in South Africa "racial segregation was not absolute. It took place within a framework of political unity. The racist regime saw blacks as part of the system, an ingredient of the whole. The whites created a racist hierarchy within the unity."
In other words, the self-reliance, or unilateralism, implicit in Herzl's concept of separation was ignored for many years of Israel's occupation. The Palestinian labor force was exploited by Israel just as black workers were by South Africa. This view of the Palestinians was formalized in the Oslo accords, which were predicated on the kind of separation needed to create a captive labor force.
However, Yitzhak Rabin's version of apartheid embodied by the Oslo process, and Binyamin Netanyahu's opposition in upholding Jabotinsky's vision of Greater Israel, both deviated from Herzl's model of transfer through separation. This is largely why each political current has been subsumed within the recent but more powerful trend towards "unilateral separation".
Not surprisingly, the policy of "unilateral separation" emerged from among the Labor Zionists, advocated primarily by Ehud Barak. However, it was soon adopted by many members of Likud too. Ultimately its success derived from the conversion to its cause of Greater Israel's arch-exponent, Ariel Sharon. He realized the chief manifestations of unilateral separation, the West Bank wall and the Gaza disengagement, as well breaking up Israel's right-wing to create a new consensus party, Kadima.
In the new consensus, the transfer of Palestinians could be achieved through imposed and absolute separation – just as Herzl had once hoped. After the Gaza disengagement, the next stage was promoted by Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert. His plan for convergence, limited withdrawals from the West Bank in which most settlers would remain in place, has been dropped, but its infrastructure – the separation wall – continues to be built.
How will modern Zionists convert unilateral separation into transfer? How will Herzl's original vision of ethnic cleansing enforced through strict ethnic separation be realized in today's world?
The current siege of Gaza offers the template. After disengagement, Israel has been able to cut off at will Gazans' access to aid, food, fuel and humanitarian services. Normality has been further eroded by sonic booms, random Israeli air attacks, and repeated small-scale invasions that have inflicted a large toll of casualties, particularly among civilians.
Gaza's imprisonment has stopped being a metaphor and become a daily reality. In fact, Gaza's condition is far worse than imprisonment: prisoners, even of war, expect to have their humanity respected, and be properly sheltered, cared for, fed and clothed. Gazans can no longer rely on these staples of life.
The ultimate goal of this extreme form of separation is patently clear: transfer. By depriving Palestinians of the basic conditions of a normal life, it is assumed that they will eventually choose to leave – in what can once again be sold to the world as a voluntary exodus. And if Palestinians choose to abandon their homeland, then in Zionist thinking they have forfeited their right to it – just as earlier generations of Zionists believed the Palestinian refugees had done by supposedly fleeing during the 1948 and 1967 wars.
Is this process of transfer inevitable? I think not. The success of a modern policy of "transfer through separation" faces severe limitations.
First, it depends on continuing US global hegemony and blind support for Israel. Such support is likely to be undermined by the current American misadventures in the Middle East, and a gradual shift in the balance of power to China, Russia and India.
Second, it requires a Zionist worldview that departs starkly not only from international law but also from the values upheld by most societies and ideologies. The nature of Zionist ambitions is likely to be ever harder to conceal, as is evident from the tide of opinion polls showing that Western publics, if not their governments, believe Israel to be one of the biggest threats to world order.
And third, it assumes that the Palestinians will remain passive during their slow eradication. The historical evidence most certainly shows that they will not.
Moammed Omer Assaulted and Abused by Israeli Security
GAZA CITY, Jun 28 (IPS) - Mohammed Omer, the Gaza correspondent of IPS, and
joint winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, was
strip-searched at gunpoint, assaulted and abused by Israeli security officials
at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank on Thursday as
he tried to return home to Gaza.
Omer, a resident of Rafah in the south of Gaza, and previous recipient of the
New America Media's Best Youth Voice award several years ago, was returning
from London where he had just collected his Gellhorn Prize, and from several
European capitals where he had speaking engagements, including a meeting with
Omer's trip was sponsored by The Washington Report, and the Dutch embassy in
Tel Aviv was responsible for coordinating Omer's travel plans and his security
permit to leave Gaza with Israeli officials.
Israel controls the borders of Gaza and severely restricts the entrance and
exit of Gazans allegedly on grounds of security. Human rights organisations
accuse the Israelis of using security as a pretext to apply collective
While waiting in Amman on his way back, Omer eventually received the requisite
coordination and security clearance from the Israelis to return to Gaza after
this had initially been delayed by several days, he told IPS.
Accompanied by Dutch diplomats, Omer passed through the Jordanian side of the
border without incident. However, after arrival on the Israeli side, trouble
began. He informed a female soldier that he was returning home to Gaza. He was
repeatedly asked where Gaza was, and told that he had neither a permit nor any
coordination to cross.
Omer explained that he did indeed have permission and coordination but was
nevertheless taken to a room by Israel's domestic intelligence agency the Shin
Bet, where he was isolated for an hour and a half without explanation.
"Eventually I was asked whether I had a knife or gun on me even though I had
already passed through the x-ray machine, had my luggage searched, and was in
the company of Dutch diplomats," Omer said.
His luggage was again searched, and security then proceeded to go through every
document and paper he had on him, taking down the names and numbers of the
European parliamentary officials he had met.
The Shin Bet officials then started to make fun of the European
parliamentarians, and mocked Omer for being "the prize-winning journalist".
The Gazan journalist was repeatedly asked why he was returning to "the hell of
Gaza after we allowed you to leave." To this he responded that he wanted to be
a voice for the voiceless. He was told he was a "trouble-maker".
The security men also demanded he show all the money he had on him, and
particular attention was paid to the British pounds he was carrying. His
Gellhorn prize money had been awarded in British pounds but he was not carrying
the entire sum on him bodily, something the investigators refused to believe.
After being unable to produce the prize money, he was ordered to strip naked.
"At first I refused but then I had an M16 (gun) pointed in my face and my
clothes were forcibly removed, even my underwear," Omer said.
At this point Omer broke down and pleaded for an end to such treatment. He said
he was told, "you haven't seen anything yet." Every cavity of his body was
searched as one of the investigators pinned him down on the floor, placing his
boot on Omer's neck. Omer began vomiting, and fainted.
When he came round his eyelids were being forcibly opened and his eardrums
probed by an Israeli military doctor, who was also armed. He was then dragged
along the floor by his feet by the Shin Bet officials, with his head repeatedly
banging on the floor, to a Palestinian ambulance which had been called.
"I eventually woke up in a Palestinian hospital with the doctors trying to
reassure me," Omer told IPS.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS that Foreign Minister Maxime
Zerhagen spoke to the Israeli ambassador to The Netherlands and demanded an
The Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv has also raised the issue with the Israeli
Foreign Ministry, which in turn has promised to investigate the incident and
get back to the Dutch officials.
Ahmed Dadou, spokesman from the Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS,
"We are taking this whole incident very seriously as we don't believe the
behaviour of the Israeli officials is in accordance with a modern democracy.
"We are further concerned about the mistreatment of an internationally renowned
journalist trying to go about his daily business," added Dadou.
A spokeswoman at the Israeli Foreign Press Association said she was unaware of
Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the body responsible for
controlling Israel's borders, told IPS that the IAA was neither aware of Omer's
journalist credentials nor of his coordination.
"We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to
pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing
through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not
"I'm not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not
responsible for the behaviour of the Shin Bet."
In the meantime, Omer is still traumatised and in pain. "I'm struggling to
breathe and have pain in my head and stomach and will be going back to hospital
for further medical examinations," he said. (END/2008)
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tactics that ended apartheid in S. Africa can end it in Israel
By Bill Fletcher Jr.
Article Launched: 06/24/2008 01:31:45 AM PDT
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict often inspires a sense of powerlessness. What can average Americans do to bring an end to this decades-old conflict when our leaders have failed so miserably?
And what good is speaking out about Israel's occupation of Palestinian land as the primary obstacle to peace when even former President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu are condemned for their criticism of Israeli policies?
This month in San Jose, average Americans will have the opportunity to take a stand for peace and justice in the Middle East. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.'s General Assembly began Saturday and runs through Sunday at the San Jose Convention Center. At the meeting, which takes place once every two years, delegates will make policy decisions for the 2.3 million-member denomination.
They will consider corporate engagement, up to divestment, with companies that profit from the obstacles to a just peace in Israel and Palestine. The church is considering approaches to Caterpillar, ITT Industries, Motorola and United Technologies.
The TransAfrica Forum, an organization which I was honored to head, played a leading role in the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. Corporate engagement was one of the most powerful tools in our non-violent arsenal. It was the right moral decision then and it is the right moral decision now. Just as it worked in South Africa, it can work in Palestine and Israel.
Yet Presbyterian delegates are being pressured to vote against similar measures. Some say the tactic unfairly singles out Israel for condemnation. But it is not the country we condemn; it's a system of segregation and inequality.
The Israeli government has established in the Occupied Palestinian Territories a regime of systematic discrimination. It maintains two systems of laws, and a person's rights are based on national origin. Palestinian land is confiscated to build Israeli-only settlements and roads. Palestinians wait hours in line at more than 500 Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, while Jewish settlers speed by on modern, well-lit highways.
As Carter, and many Israelis have said, as long as this dual system exists, any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will be impossible. Palestinians compare Israeli policies to those of apartheid in South Africa. Former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair wrote in 2002, "In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That regime exists to this day."
South Africans who led the fight against apartheid, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former United Nations envoy John Dugard, make similar comparisons.
To the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians, we provide financial and diplomatic support to maintain these separate and unequal policies. Israel is the No. 1 recipient of U.S. foreign aid: roughly $2.5 billion last year alone. Our government has cast more than 40 vetoes in the United Nations Security Council to shield Israel from international condemnation.
Divestment from companies that benefit from the occupation is an opportunity for American citizens to do what our government leaders have refused to do: say that our money will not fund human rights abuses any longer.
With humbleness, with love, with compassion for Palestinians and Israelis, I believe in the possibility that both can live as neighbors with security, dignity and respect. As it did in South Africa, corporate engagement, including divestment, can help make that possibility a reality.
BILL FLETCHER JR. is executive editor of www.blackcommentator.com and former president of the TransAfrica Forum, which led the U.S. movement to overthrow apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Occupation by bureaucracy
Occupation by bureaucracy
By Saree Makdisi
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
A cease-fire went into effect in Gaza last week, offering some respite from the violence that has killed hundreds of Palestinians and five Israelis in recent months. It will do nothing, however, to address the underlying cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Intermittent spectacular violence may draw the world's attention to the occupied Palestinian territories, but our obsession with violence actually distracts us from the real nature of Israel's occupation, which is its smothering bureaucratic control of everyday Palestinian life.
This is an occupation ultimately enforced by tanks and bombs, and through the omnipresent threat, if not application, of violence. But its primary instruments are application forms, residency permits, population registries and title deeds. On its own, no cease-fire will relieve the beleaguered Palestinians.
Gaza is virtually cut off from the outside world by Israeli power. Elsewhere, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the ongoing Israeli occupation comprehensively infuses all the normally banal activities of Palestinians' everyday lives: applying for permission to access one's own land; applying for what Israel regards as the privilege - rather than the right - of living with one's spouse and children; applying for permission to drive one's car; to dig a well; to visit relatives in the next town; to visit Jerusalem; to go to work; to school; to university; to hospital. There is hardly any dimension of everyday life in Palestine that is not minutely managed by Israeli military or bureaucratic personnel.
Partly, this occupation of everyday life enables the Israelis to maintain their vigilant control over the Palestinian population. But it also serves the purpose of slowly, gradually removing Palestinians from their land, forcing them to make way for Jewish settlers.
Just in 2006, for example, Israel stripped 1,363 Jerusalem Palestinians of the right to live in the city in which many of them were born. It did this not by dramatically forcing dozens of people at a time onto trucks and dumping them at the city limits, but rather by quietly stripping them, one by one, of their Jerusalem residency papers.
This in turn was enabled by a series of bureaucratic procedures. While Israel continues to violate international law by building exclusively Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, it rarely grants building permits to Palestinian residents of the same city. Since 1967, the third of Jerusalem's population that is Palestinian has been granted just 9 percent of the city's official housing permits. The result is a growing abundance of housing for Jews and a severe shortage of housing for non-Jews - i.e., Palestinians.
In fact, 90 percent of the Palestinian territory Israel claimed to have annexed to Jerusalem after 1967 is today off-limits to Palestinian development because the land is either already built on by exclusively Jewish settlements or being reserved for their future expansion.
Denied permits, many Palestinians in Jerusalem build without them, but at considerable risk: Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes built without a permit. This includes over 300 homes in East Jerusalem demolished between 2004 and 2007 and 18,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territories demolished since 1967.
One alternative has been to move to the West Bank suburbs and commute to Jerusalem. The wall cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and thereby separating tens of thousands of Jerusalem Palestinians from the city of their birth has made that much more difficult.
And it too has its risks: Palestinians who cannot prove to Israel's satisfaction that Jerusalem has continuously been their "center of life" have been stripped of their Jerusalem residency papers. Without those papers, they will be expelled from Jerusalem, and confined to one of the walled-in reservoirs - of which Gaza is merely the largest example - that Israel has allocated as holding pens for the non-Jewish population of the holy land.
The expulsion of half of Palestine's Muslim and Christian population in what Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 was undertaken by Israel's founders in order to clear space in which to create a Jewish state.
The nakba did not end 60 years ago, however: It continues to this very day, albeit on a smaller scale. Yet even ones and twos eventually add up. Virtually every day, another Palestinian joins the ranks of the millions removed from their native land and denied the right of return.
Their long wait will end - and this conflict will come to a lasting resolution - only when the futile attempt to maintain an exclusively Jewish state in what had previously been a vibrantly multi-religious land is abandoned.
Separation will always require threats or actual violence; a genuine peace will come not with more separation, but with the right to return to a land in which all can live as equals. Only a single democratic, secular and multicultural state offers that hope to Israelis and Palestinians, to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
Saree Makdisi is professor of English literature at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of "Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation."
A Pattern of Ethnic Cleansing
Israel continues its ethnic cleansing. A small example: Yesterday Israel uprooted two hundred olive trees from a five hundred year old grove in Beit Hanina. Israel has already taken over two-thirds of the town's land and is now "trying to take over the remainder."
Israel's settlement policy in Jerusalem "is destroying history," according to Dr. Hassan Khater. "He said that there is no end to the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and the confiscation of land. "
Just new twists on ongoing Zionist plans to destroy Palestine's society and culture: A Palestine Center briefing summarizes Dr. Salman Abu Sitta's comments on David Ben Gurion's efforts in this regard:
One of the most historically destructive actions that David Ben Gurion, the head of the Zionist struggle for statehood and Prime Minister of Israel from 1948-54, did to establish Jewish dominance over the Arab population and land from a historical point of view was to create a committee of scholars, geographers, and theologians in the same week of February 1949 in which Israel signed its armistice agreement with Syria, whose goal was to "erase" all the names used in historic Palestine for the past five thousand years and to create new Hebrew names. "They wanted to make these names a symbol of the old link with Palestine, but unfortunately they could not find genuine Hebrew names for more than five percent of the names previously used," said Abu Sitta. These new maps and new names erased the vocabulary of the life of the people, he added, because of the way the names had recorded historic events like weddings and battles.
Please Don't Demonize Nine Million People
Some instances of the fine treatment Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans receive courtesy of the "light unto the nations" in Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign and attempts to keep Palestinians away from the land of their origin:
"New Jersey stand-up comedian Maysoon Zayid describes being strip-searched at Ben Gurion Airport when she was 'seven, eight, nine years old' on family trips to visit her parents original home in Palestine. On her most recent trip in July 2006, Maysoon, an American citizen, had her sanitary pad taken by officials in Ben Gurion Airport. When the search was completed, she says, the Israeli official in charge, Inbal Sharon, then refused to return her pad or allow her to get another.
"Zayid, who has cerebral palsy and was sitting in a wheelchair, was then forced to bleed publicly for hours while she waited for her flight."
Even Holocaust survivors and the elderly aren't immune:
"St. Louis resident Hedy Epstein, whose parents and extended family perished in Nazi camps, and whose story is featured in the Academy Award winning documentary 'Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,' reports being strip searched three years ago following her participation in nonviolent protests in the West Bank. Epstein, who was 79 at the time, describes being forced to bend over for an Israeli official to search her internally."
Please don't demonise nine million people whose crime is that they happened to be born or have origins in Palestine: not Syria, not Jordan, not Lebanon, but Palestine, the land of their origin. Third generation Palestinian refugees continue the struggle for implementation of their inalienable right to return to their homes.
Young People Relate Stories of Ongoing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing
I used excerpts from both stories to comment on the Guardian's CIF in response to the Zionist commentators that there was no ethnic cleansing in Palestine in 1947-48:
"The Nakba did not stop in 1947-48. It is a continuing process. When I was a college student in the late seventies, I visited my aunt and uncle in Ramallah. Even though I was travelling on an American passport, I was interrogated, strip-searched, and detained for six hours in Ben Gurion Airport. These measures were taken to convince me to think twice before returning to the land of my father's origin.
"Watch "The Easiest Targets" to learn about Israel's abuse of women and children at the airport and border crossings.
"In my inbox yesterday, a story from a Palestinian-American college student:
"'What's a nice, Reed College sophomore doing in detention at Israels Ben Gurion airport? I ask myself this during the hours I am held. What do I have in common with these dozen or so suspected security threats: the gray-haired women who whisper about their treatment, the 8-year-old girl, tears dried on her face and fear in her eyes, the 18-year-old traveling to see family? We have little in common except that virtually all of us are Americans.
"'But unlike Jewish Americans who breeze through customs in seconds, we are Palestinian-Americans. In treatment reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, we stand in a separate line, are harassed and intimidated. In Israel, the principles we cherish as Americans disappear; we are suspect because we are not the right religion or ethnicity. '
"And an excerpt from an e-mail that I received yesterday from a Jerusalem native, who had been studying in the states. Her request for a travel document was denied by Israel, and she relates her encounter with the Israeli government official in the US:
"'You want to go see your family and someone is telling you that you can't! What would you do? Forget that you're Israeli and that Im Palestinian and think about this for a minute! Sorry she said,I know but I cant do anything, the decision came from Israel. I tried to explain to her over and over again that I could not travel without my Travel Document and that they could not do that – knowing that they could, and they had!
"'This has been happening to many Palestinians who have a Jerusalem ID card. The Israeli government has been practicing and perfecting the art of ethnic cleansing since 1948 right under the nose of the world and no one has the power or the guts to do anything about it. Where else in the world does one have to beg to go to ones own home? Where else in the world does one have to give up their identity for the sole reason of living somewhere else for a period of time? Imagine if an American living in Spain for a few years wanted to go home only to be told by the American government that their American Passport was revoked and that they wouldnt be able to come back!'"
We need to listen to these young people. As Celia concludes her op-ed:
"When will America demand of Israel what we fought so hard to achieve at home — equal rights for all? Maybe we should start by demanding equal treatment for all Americans at Israeli airports."
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The Video Quilt Project
Thank you SFGate for publishing Dr. George Bisharat. Dr. Bisharat's eloquent voice expresses sentiments that represent the views of Palestinians everywhere. He strongly advocates for the right of return, a basic human right as stated in Article 13, Section 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Honoring the human rights of Palestine's indigenous people would go a long way towards securing peace in the region and the world. I'm a native of California who works abroad. I take for granted that when I choose I may return to California and enjoy the beaches and National Parks I loved as a child. It is a glaring injustice that any Jew from anywhere in the world may immigrate to historic Palestine while many among my friends and relatives who were born there may not even visit their homes. Nancy Harb Almendras
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
On his first day as the presumptive Democratic candidate for president earlier this month, Barack Obama committed a serious foreign policy blunder. Reciting a litany of pro-Israeli positions at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he avowed: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
In promising U.S. support of Israel's claims to all of Jerusalem, Obama couldn't have picked a better way to offend the world's 325 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims. Israel's 41-year stewardship of the Holy City has alarmed Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia. Upon seizing East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel razed the ancient Muslim Maghribi quarter to make room for Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. Since 1991, Israel has steadily ratcheted down Palestinians' access to Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Most West Bank Palestinians can no longer worship there.
Obama's unnecessary promise deviates from nearly six decades of U.S. foreign policy that held Jerusalem to be occupied territory under international law. This long tradition was first broken in 2004 when President Bush acknowledged Israel's demands to keep its illegal West Bank settlements in a final peace agreement, including those around Jerusalem. Thus Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, would both scorn the international legal system's foundational principle - the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war - and echo President Bush, whose failed Middle East policies he has rightly deplored.
If Sen. Obama's Philadelphia speech on race was a model of courage and nuance, his AIPAC talk was brimming with the pro-Israel orthodoxy that typifies this year's presidential campaign. Like presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, Obama also backed Israel's so-called right to exist as a Jewish state.
How has it become an article of faith for U.S. politicians to support a state's privileging of one ethno-religious group over others? For what Israel seeks in recognition as a Jewish state is permission to permanently discriminate against Palestinians. Israel is, by law, a Jewish state. Its declaration of independence and basic law declare it to be so. But its population, excluding the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is not exclusively Jewish: 20 percent of Israel's citizens are native Palestinians, and another 4 percent are mostly immigrant non-Jews. Moreover, Jewish demographic predominance was achieved through the expulsion by force or fear of about 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Israel denies Palestinians refugees - with their offspring, about 5.5 million persons - their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and homeland in order to maintain a strong Jewish majority.
According to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, 20 Israeli laws explicitly favor Jews. Israel's law of return, for example, grants rights of automatic citizenship to Jews no matter where they are from, while Palestinian exiles still holding keys to their family homes in Israel are denied this right. Religious parties play pivotal roles in Israeli politics, and
Orthodox Jewish rabbinical courts govern matters of family law there.
Why should any American presidential aspirant promote ethno-religious supremacy in Israel? Don't we see a "Christian state" or a "Muslim state" as inherently discriminatory? Why don't we recognize the same in Israel's quest to be ordained a "Jewish state?"
Like Israel, we are a nation that combines a sincere commitment to democracy and a history that includes injustices. While we have never fully atoned for our dispossession of Native Americans, in facing the legacy of slavery, we have made an unyielding pledge to equal rights. A truly visionary American president might respectfully press a similar commitment on Israel, not endorse its urges for ethno-religious privilege. The terrible suffering inflicted on European Jews in the Nazi holocaust does not entitle Israel to subjugate Palestinians.
Barack Obama whiffed in his first major foreign policy speech as the Democratic candidate. He may believe it necessary to pander to Israel's U.S. supporters in order to gain office. But he narrowed future policy options to those that would undermine international law, offend core American values and diminish our standing in the vital Middle East.
George Bisharat is a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.
This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Obama Shortchanges Change!
By Sami Bishara Mashney
For The Independent Monitor
June 10, 2008
Immediately after becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and shamelessly wearing the Israeli flag on his lapel, Barak Obama heartlessly crushed the hopes of millions of unsuspecting Americans who supported and voted for him, when he nakedly pandered to the Zionist Lobby at its annual conference held recently.
Among other things, Obama lavished praise at the Apartheid Jewish state; promised to give the Jewish state—which overtly discriminates against Christians and Muslims—thirty billion dollars of our hard-earned, predominantly-Christian secular tax dollars; behaved like a three-brass-monkey occupation-denier on the multigenerational Israeli occupation of Palestine and its enslavement of long-suffering Palestinian People; advocated the bankrupt so-called two-state solution which recreates Apartheid South Africa and its Bantustans in Occupied Palestine, etc.
The first African American presidential nominee of a major party promised to perpetuate the Jewish Apartheid regime in Occupied Palestine! Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. trembled in his grave and Nelson Mandela screamed murder!
And while Obama is not the first politician to appease the Israel-first Zionist Lobby, many naively hoped that his message of "change" meant that he will also change our government's shameful and self-injurious policy of unconditionally supporting Israeli occupation of Palestine, and its enslavement of the Christian and Muslim Palestinians under a segregationist political system which legislatively guarantees supremacy to Jews over gentiles.
The millions of people who falsely believed that Obama is a breath of fresh air in American politics, the one who would valiantly rescue America from the paralyzing claws of special interest, political corruption, economic downfall and international disrespect, are now anti-climatically dumfounded and wondering whether they should vote for McCain; Ralph Nader or Bob Barr!
Progressive Democrats; Independents and Republicans, who viewed Obama as the long-awaited agent-of-change-political-Messiah, and propelled him to the top front are now very dis-euphorically despaired and wondering if true change will ever come to American politics as long as the one-issue American Israel Public Affairs Committee ("AIPAC) conclusively determines the foreign and domestic policy of our government before our president is elected!
Using a variety of diabolical tactics, AIPAC, aka the Israeli Lobby or the Amen Corner, has an iron grip over our American Politics. AIPAC has public opinion manipulating scribes implanted in our media who will maliciously smear and politically-crucify as "anti-Semitic" anyone who does not bend over to Israel. It also controls tens or hundreds of political action committee ("PACs") and directs them to funnel their money to the candidates who unconditionally support Israel. Furthermore, the majority of politically-active Jews are extremist fundamentalist Zionists who will blindly follow AIPAC's political gospel and vote as a block for those whom AIPAC labels as "friends" of Israel.
Many politicians made 180 degrees turn in their political positions towards Israel after being threatened by AIPAC. Examples are Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa who left a private meeting with AIPAC crying and soon changed his stance towards Israel. Congressman Carl Lewis and many shameless others went through similar politically-traumatizing experiences and became loyal and obedient servants to the Israeli Lobby.
It is a well-known fact that most politicians complain privately that their voting record on Israel is the opposite of their true feelings towards it and that they find themselves forced to give our tax money to Israel and deny its occupation of Palestine because they fear AIPAC and also fear being labeled as "anti-Semitic."
Many hoped that Obama will break this vicious cycle of political corruption where our national interest is being damaged and subordinated to the parochial interest of the fifth column Israeli Lobby in its blind and sectarian support to Israeli occupation of Palestine and its denial of the Palestinian People the most basic of human rights.
Obama is still only a presumptive nominee today and he appears to have a good chance of becoming the next president of the United States. If he is to be judged today, he cannot claim to be the "change" agent because he scandalously shortchanged change when he publicly and unabashedly surrendered to the Israeli Lobby like McCain, Clinton, Bush and other political prostitutes did before him. There is no change here whatsoever!
If and when Obama becomes president, if he, like his predecessors, continues to be an occupation-denier and funder; and Jewish Apartheid-supporter, he will have the dishonored place in history of being yet another gutless emasculated politician who never had the courage and intestinal fortitude to stand up to the Israeli Lobby and serve his country and his American—as opposed to Israeli—People.
If, however, once Barak Obama becomes president, he manages to facilitate the political, legislative and bloodless demise of the Apartheid Jewish system in Occupied Palestine and help usher the much-and-long-awaited secular democratic state in Occupied Palestine, Barak Obama can then potentially claim his unique place in history as the true agent of change in the same manner Nelson Mandela can rightly and indisputably claim such an historical honor.
Today, the global litmus test of political honesty is how a politician behaves towards the Israeli Lobby. There is no shortage of corrupt politicians. There is, however, a chronic shortage—almost to the point of absence—of honest ones.
Where will Obama's place in history be? In the crowded Uncle Tom trash bin of corruption or on a pedestal in the company of Christ, Ghandi and Mandela?
Only Obama knows and only time will tell!
The writer is an Anaheim, CA attorney of Palestinian descent and is the publisher of The Independent Monitor, the national newspaper of Arab Americans.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Wilful Killing of Baby by Israeli Army in Gaza House Raid
In Defence for Children International, Palestine Section
Name of victim: Amira A. Date of incident: 4 March 2008 Age of victim: 20 days Location: Abu al-Ageen, southern Gaza
On 4 March 2008, Israeli tanks under aerial helicopter coverage besieged the home of Youssef S., a wanted Palestinian combatant, near Khan Younis in southern Gaza1. For several hours, Israeli soldiers directed gunfire towards the house and its occupants, including 15 children, and subjected them to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. During the raid, Israeli soldiers fired upon unarmed civilians, including children, as they followed orders to exit the house. This unlawful act claimed the life of 20-day-old Amira, who was shot in the head while in her mother’s arms. DCI/PS strongly condemns the wilful killing of civilians, which constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law.
Description of incident
In the early evening hours of 4 March 2008, Khaled A. and his wife Nadia arrived at the home of their friend, Youssef S., in Abu al-Ageen near Khan Younis in southern Gaza. They had come to visit Youssef’s mother, Alia’, who was suffering from renal failure and had recently been hospitalised. With them, were their two daughters Nadine (2), and Amira, just 20 days old.
Several members of Youssef’s family were also in his house that evening: his mother Alia’ (76), his wife Aziza (43), and their children, Mu’ath (17), Alia’ (16), Omar (15), Iman (13), Shayma’ (12), Mohammed (11), Neveen (7), and twins Hassan and Hussein (5). Youssef’s brother, Mahmoud, was also there with his children Bilal (15), Faten (14), Tariq (13), and Iyad (11). Altogether, there were 15 children inside the house that evening.
When Khaled and his family first arrived at Youssef’s house, the men, women and children sat together in the living room for approximately half an hour. It was past 6:00 pm when Khaled, Youssef, Mahmoud, and their sons moved to the diwan, a sitting area for men, for dinner. The diwan was located outdoors, approximately eight metres away from the house.
The sun had set shortly before 6:00 pm and it was dark outside. When the siege began, the men and boys were eating dinner in the diwan while the women and girls were in the living room inside the house. As they ate dinner inside, the women heard the sound of gunfire and an approaching helicopter. The sound was coming towards the western side of the house where the women and children were seated. The women immediately gathered the children and ran into the kitchen on the north side of the house for cover. Nadia was carrying baby Amira in her arms. Youssef’s mother remained alone in the living room because she could not walk or easily move due to her failing health.
At about the same time, the men heard a strange sound and Youssef asked his 11-year-old nephew Iyad to see what was happening. Iyad looked out the door of the diwan and yelled out that he saw tanks. Khaled ran to the door where he too saw tanks approaching the western side of the house. He quickly exited the diwan and with Iyad ran towards the house. Youssef fled in the opposite direction, away from the house. Khaled reports he had run a distance of about eight metres when heavy gunfire began. He dropped to the ground to avoid being hit by live fire and crawled the remaining distance to the house. When he entered the house, Khaled saw a tank through one of the windows; it was stopped at the western side of the house. Afraid that the soldiers might see him, he ran into the kitchen on the north side of the house where he found the women and children crouching on the floor in fear. When Khaled reached the kitchen, he noticed Iyad had been shot in the arm and was bleeding heavily. Khaled gripped Iyad’s arm to stop the bleeding and with his other hand held his daughter Nadine on his left.
Sustained and heavy gunfire from Israeli forces continued from all directions and bullets were flying both outside and inside the house. According to eyewitness statements gathered by DCI/PS, the soldiers neither ordered the occupants to exit the house and surrender nor gave prior warning before the gunfire began. Eyewitnesses provided further testimony asserting that occupants inside the house were unarmed and did not exchange fire with Israeli forces. They were unaware of any clashes taking place in the area at that time. To the best of DCI/PS’ knowledge based on the evidence gathered, there was no exchange of fire between Palestinian combatants and Israeli forces prior to or during the raid.
After several more minutes of heavy gunfire, a voice called through a megaphone in broken Arabic, “Everyone leave the house, young and old, leave the house.” The soldier repeated his order three times. From inside the kitchen, Nadia could see the front door of the house, which was open, and the soldiers standing outside. Youssef’s wife, Aziza, told Nadia, “You are carrying a baby so leave first as they may take sympathy on us.” Nadia stepped out of the kitchen first with baby Amira in her arms. Amira was wrapped in a white sheet, her head clearly visible. Directly behind Nadia was Aziza, who was carrying her daughter Neveen, and then Youssef’s 14-year-old niece Faten. Khaled and the rest of the children stood just behind them inside the kitchen. Before stepping out of the kitchen, the women called out together, “We are coming out. We are coming out” and the soldier answered through the megaphone, “Leave one by one.”
As Nadia stepped out of the kitchen and into the living room she saw the soldiers just beyond the entrance of the house. Some were lying on the ground on their stomachs while others were kneeling on one knee, all with their weapons directed at her. They were wearing helmets equipped with night vision binoculars. One of the soldiers pointed the red laser emanating from his weapon at baby Amira and slowly moved it along her body. The soldier with the megaphone asked, “What are you holding in your hands?” Faten, Youssef’s niece answered, “katen” meaning baby in Hebrew, repeating the word several times. Another soldier directed a bright spotlight at Nadia and her baby, switching it on and off several times. At the same time, Nadia cautiously proceeded to exit the kitchen into the living room. She was just one metre beyond the kitchen door when the soldiers, who were approximately eight metres away, opened fire without warning or provocation.
In the barrage of gunfire, Nadia was struck in her right upper arm. She immediately secured Amira in her left arm and scrambled back into the kitchen following the others. Khaled took Amira from his wife’s arms.
He reports seeing at that moment that Amira’s head was covered in blood and that she appeared to be dead. He passed baby Amira to Faten so he could tie his wife’s arm to stem the bleeding from her wound. Fearful for her baby, Nadia asked about Amira but Faten told her not to worry, her daughter was fine. The scene in the kitchen was one of chaos and commotion. Women and children screaming in panic, crying in fear while gunfire continued to ring out both inside and outside of the house. Several minutes later, the gunfire ceased and the soldier once again commanded through the megaphone in broken Arabic, “Leave the house or we will bomb it.” Left with no other choice, the group made their way out of the kitchen with Nadia out in front once again. Faten followed directly behind her with Amira still in her arms. After they exited the house, the soldiers ordered the women and children to sit on the ground. They handcuffed Khaled, Mu’ath (17), Bilal (15), and Omar (15), and sat them down on the ground with their backs facing the women and children.
The soldiers then started to beat them, hitting them with their guns and kicking them, as the women and children looked on. Testimonies from two eyewitnesses indicate the soldiers beat the two younger boys, Bilal and Omar, more than the others. Khaled tried to reason with the soldiers in Hebrew, telling them that his wife had been injured and needed medical attention. They replied by insulting him and his wife. One soldier, who was kneeling on the ground next to Nadia, laughed and verbally insulted her honour as she cried in pain and fear. Nadia reported that every few minutes a soldier would walk by and shoot the ground around where the women and children were sitting then laugh and walk away.
While Khaled and the three boys were beaten, one soldier ordered them to remove their clothing. They removed their shirts and trousers as they continued to be beaten. Another soldier then ordered them to remove their undergarments but Khaled refused because they were in the presence of women. The soldier once again ordered them to remove their undergarments, threatening to kill them if they did not comply. When they refused again, the soldier proceeded to fire gunshots on the ground all around their legs to further threaten and intimidate them. Khaled and the boys endured more beatings for at least another half hour and Khaled recalled hearing one of the soldiers say to another in Hebrew, “Let’s kill them all and be done with it.”
At the same time, other soldiers continued to shoot in and around Youssef’s home. Nadia and Youssef’s wife, Aziza, called out to them repeatedly, telling them there was an elderly woman who cannot walk still inside the house. One soldier answered, “Tell her to come out”. Nadia repeated, “She cannot walk.” The gunfire ceased for a moment and Nadia and Aziza called out to Alia’, telling her to come out of the house. After several minutes, Alia’ appeared at the door, dragging herself along the ground. The soldiers sat her on the ground with the women and children. Nadia reported that Alia’ was panicked and terrified.
Mu’ath’s statement reveals that the soldiers subjected him to particularly harsh treatment when they learned he was Youssef’s son after he was asked to identify himself. The soldiers blindfolded Mu’ath, still stripped of his shirt and trousers, and forced him to go back inside the house as they searched its interior. One soldier grabbed him by the hair and pushed him forward into the house. Once inside, Mu’ath could hear the sound of several soldiers searching through the house. A soldier asked him, “Where are the weapons?” and pressed the barrel of his rifle against his neck. When Mu’ath replied that there were no weapons in the house, the soldiers beat him, kicking him in the abdomen. After their search, the soldiers brought him back outside to where Omar, Bilal, and Khaled were being held.
The siege lasted for at least another half hour before Israeli military jeeps arrived at the scene. The soldiers ordered Khaled and Mu’ath to put their clothes back on, blindfolded them, and put them each in a separate jeep. The jeeps left first, taking Mu’ath and Khaled, then the helicopter, tanks and remaining soldiers began to withdraw. While inside the military jeep, Mu’ath recounts that the soldiers held him at gunpoint and tormented him. One soldier said to him while laughing, “Your father is dead. We killed him. He is over there (pointing) on the ground.”
After waiting several more minutes to make sure the soldiers did not return, Nadia gathered the children then began walking to find help. Youssef’s wife remained behind with his mother Alia’. Faten walked beside Nadia, with Amira still in her arms. In her statement to DCI/PS, Faten says she realised Amira was dead as she held her during the siege. She reported that Amira’s body was lifeless and she could feel the blood from the baby’s gunshot wound seeping onto her shirt. Faten however chose not to tell Nadia that her daughter had died.
Nadia and the children walked for approximately 15 minutes before they arrived at a house where they could summon medical help. An ambulance arrived shortly after and immediately transferred the injured to Shuhuda al-Aqsa Hospital where Amira was pronounced dead on arrival. This is when Nadia learned her baby had been killed. That same night, Nadia underwent surgery on her right arm and was released from the hospital after several days.
According to the medical report obtained by DCI/PS, Nadia was still undergoing medical treatment several weeks following the incident. At the time eyewitness statements were first taken just days after the attack, 11-year-old Iyad, still recovering in the hospital from the gunshot wound to his arm, was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was unable to recall events or even speak about them. His 14-year-old sister Faten was also showing clear symptoms of PTSD after carrying Amira’s lifeless body for most of the siege. The DCI/PS fieldworker who investigated this case was only able to collect statements from Iyad and Faten on his third visit to the area in early June. DCI/PS also learned that Youssef’s 76-year-old mother, Alia’, died several days after the siege. The emotional and physical stress of the ordeal undoubtedly impacted her already failing health. Following the raid, the surviving members of Youssef’s family moved into the nearby home of a relative since their house suffered damage from the heavy gunfire. DCI/PS later learned that several days after the raid, Israeli forces demolished the nearby home of another one of Youssef’s relatives. Youssef’s family has since returned to their home although exterior damage remains.
According to a statement published by the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Youssef was the victim of an extra-judicial execution after he fled his house that evening. Al-Mezan reports that neighbours discovered Youssef’s body in an open area, about 150 metres from his house at approximately 10:00 am on the morning after the siege (5 March). He had sustained a bullet wound to the chest and his skull was crushed. An initial post-mortem examination indicated that he was killed when his skull was crushed as a vehicle ran over him after he had already been injured by a live bullet and was lying on the ground. Al-Mezan condemns the assassination of Youssef and draws a parallel with a 2001 case in which two Palestinian naval force staff who were injured and posed no immediate threat were deliberately struck and killed by Israeli military vehicles.
DCI/PS strongly condemns the excessive use of force against unarmed Palestinian civilians posing no threat to Israeli soldiers. In a non-combat situation, the soldiers should have employed law enforcement means to bring a wanted suspect to justice. If Israeli forces raided Youssef’s home on 4 March because he was in fact wanted by Israel at the time, the military operation should have entailed his arrest and prosecution; not the shooting of unarmed civilians and arbitrary brutalisation of at least 20 people among his family and friends, including 15 children.
Wilful killing of civilians
The soldiers acted recklessly in the way they dealt with Youssef’s family and friends, using lethal force unjustified by military necessity according to the circumstances. They showed no intention of taking precautions to avoid or minimise harm to civilians, especially children. Eyewitness testimonies obtained by DCI/PS fieldworkers reveal that the Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians, including children, even as they obeyed orders to exit the house without resistance. DCI/PS field investigations also indicate that despite her being wrapped in a sheet, Amira’s head was clearly visible for the soldiers to see. The soldiers were standing approximately eight metres away from Nadia and her child, and equipped with night vision binoculars and spotlights to enhance their vision capabilities. When Nadia was asked what she was carrying in her arms, one of the children explicitly and repeatedly responded “baby” (katen) in Hebrew. Despite this, the soldiers opened fire on the woman and child.
As a High Contracting Party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has a legal duty to protect civilians who are not actively taking part in hostilities, particularly if they are wounded or infirm. Of the family members and guests in Youssef’s home on the evening of the raid, 15 were children, who are granted special protection under international law. As a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Israel is legally obligated to recognise every child’s “inherent right to life” and “ensure the survival and development of the child to the maximum extent possible.” However, no consideration was given by the soldiers to the status of the occupants of the house, and no precautionary measures were taken before the start of the shooting to spare civilians, and particularly children, who might be inside.
In international humanitarian law, civilian deaths that are intentional and not justified by military necessity amount to war crimes. “Wilful killings” of protected persons, or “wilfully causing serious injury to body and health” of protected persons, also constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 147), for which individuals can be held criminally responsible. All High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under a legal obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and to bring them in front of their domestic courts or to exercise universal jurisdiction and hand them over for trial to another High Contracting Party (Article 146).
Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
Once they were outside of the house, the soldiers deliberately terrorised and threatened the women and children by shooting the ground around them and laughing at their fear. Moreover, the soldiers subjected Khaled, Youssef’s 17 and 15-year-old sons, and his 15-year-old nephew to humiliating and degrading treatment, forcing them to strip their clothes and endure beatings in front of the women and children. Mu’ath was particularly exposed to cruel physical and psychological abuse for being related to a wanted combatant. When the soldiers identified Mu’ath as Youssef’s eldest son, they forced him back inside the house and threatened and physically abused him to gain information on weapons they alleged were inside. Mu’ath was later detained at gunpoint in a military jeep where soldiers further carried out acts of psychological abuse.
3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention protects persons taking no active part in hostilities from “violence to life and person and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
Further protection is afforded by Article 27 of the Convention that states, “protected persons shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof.” The UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), to which Israel is a signatory, defines torture as acts perpetrated by persons acting in an official capacity which intentionally inflict pain or suffering “for the purpose of punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind” (Article 1). As a State Party to the UNCRC, Israel also has a legal obligation to protect children from “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” House demolitions Israeli forces frequently carry out house demolitions as part of its military operations, including search and arrest operations. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention strictly prohibits the destruction of personal property except in circumstances justified by military necessity. In order to establish military necessity, several conditions must be met: the house demolition must meet the principle of proportionality, meaning the military advantage gained must outweigh the damage caused to civilians and their property; the house must be deemed essential to combat operations posing a specific threat to occupation forces; and all other less harmful options must be exhausted. House demolitions are also routinely employed as a punitive measure against Palestinians, who have carried out or are suspected of having carried out violent acts against Israelis, or their extended family. Punitive house demolitions do not meet the requirements of military necessity and amounts to collective punishment, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 33).
House demolitions have devastating impacts on Palestinian families, with children suffering disproportionately from its effects. Children often experience psychological trauma and an acute sense of insecurity after losing their homes and their belongings. As families struggle to survive without access to basic necessities and social services, the children often face gaps in their education. According to a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Counselling Centre with support from Save the Children UK and the Welfare Association, the emotional and behavioural impacts persist well beyond the first six months following a demolition and include increased aggression, depression, bedwetting, and poor academic performance 2.
On 4 March, an otherwise normal evening among family and friends in the comfort and safety of their home was shattered by the brutal violence of a military raid. The 14 children who survived this ordeal have been psychologically scarred for life, but the full impact of this incident, especially on its youngest victims, is impossible to measure.
DCI/PS strongly condemns the excessive and unnecessary use of force against unarmed Palestinian civilians who posed no threat to Israel soldiers at the time of the incident. In light of the documented facts surrounding the killing of Amira, DCI/PS calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to call on Israel to prosecute those responsible for committing these grave breaches, failing which, the High Contracting Parties should themselves identify, search for and prosecute those responsible, in accordance with their legal obligations under international humanitarian law. DCI/PS again calls on Israel to compel its army to respect its legal obligations under international humanitarian law and respect the lives of Palestinian children.
1. DCI/PS investigated this incident over a period of three months, during which the Gaza fieldworker collected five statements from victims and eyewitnesses in three separate visits and several follow up phone calls with those directly involved in and affected by the attack. The case study is built on information gathered from four of the victims.
2. Long Term Implications of Israel’s House Demolition Policy and Practice on Palestinian Children and Their Families, forthcoming.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Hey, there, lonely [Palestinian] boy
I was too late to get this comment published in response to Judah Pearl's ode to Zionism; George Bisharat's op-eds at the same link are eloquent and moving (it's really hard to express in words the revulsion his quote inspires: a mixture of audacity, indifference, willful ignorance and just plain evil wrapped up as good to which Palestinians are so subject):
Mr. Pearl states:
"I couldn't help but imagine how lonely it must be for a Palestinian boy not to be able to sing "Canaan, My Hero!" in the language of his ancestors, not to have Canaanite role models after which to name songs, towns and holidays and, more lonely yet, to be taught by teachers who had never heard of his Canaanite ancestors."
What sophistry in light of Zionists' eradication of Palestinian society and culture:
"One of the most historically destructive actions that David Ben Gurion . . . did to establish Jewish dominance over the Arab population and land from a historical point of view was to create a committee of scholars, geographers, and theologians in the same week of February 1949 in which Israel signed its armistice agreement with Syria, whose goal was to 'erase' all the names used in historic Palestine for the past five thousand years and to create new Hebrew names. 'They wanted to make these names a symbol of the old link with Palestine, but unfortunately they could not find genuine Hebrew names for more than five percent of the names previously used,' said Abu Sitta. These new maps and new names erased the vocabulary of the life of the people, he added, because of the way the names had recorded historic events like weddings and battles."
Beyond the Make Believe of Negotiations
From "Beyond the Make Believe of Negotiations"
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008; 9:12 AM
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has scrapped plans to attend a Tel Aviv film festival after a Palestinian group urged him to boycott Israel.
One of the founding members of the French New Wave in 1960s cinema, Godard cancelled a trip to the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival citing "circumstances beyond his control," festival organizers said on Monday.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel urged Godard in an open letter last week to "take a courageous stand and cancel your trip to Israel."
"Did you ever go to an Afrikaner film festival in apartheid South Africa? Why Israel, then?" said the letter, entitled "Le petit soldat dancing on Palestinian graves," a reference to his 1963 film "Le Petit Soldat" (The little soldier).
A source close to his office, which declined public comment, cited political pressure for his reason to cancel the visit.
Festival organizers said they were disappointed the celebrated filmmaker, who was due to hold master classes with students, had opted not to come but said they respected his decision.
Pro-Palestinian groups have frequently called on international academics and prominent cultural figures to boycott Israel over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Britain's biggest union for university lecturers last week pressed members to "consider" its links with Israeli academics. South African activists urged author Nadine Gordimer, a Nobel laureate who campaigned against apartheid, to cancel her visit to a writers' festival last month, but she turned down the call.
Israel rejects comparison with white-rule in South Africa, and Jewish groups have condemned cultural and academic boycotts as anti-Semitic.
(Reporting by Rebecca Harrison; Editing by Mariam Karouny)
© 2008 Reuters