GAZA CEASEFIRE: PALESTINE HOLDS STRONG IN THE FACE OF U.S.-BACKED ISRAELI TERROR CAMPAIGN November 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gasa massacre, gaza, gaza blockade, hamas, hillary clinton, israel, israel military, netanyahu, Palestine, palestinian casualties, richard becker, roger hollander
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|An Egyptian boy leads protesters in chanting slogans against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Washington feared uprisings in Egypt, Jordan and other countries in the region.|
By Richard Becker
A ceasefire agreement between the Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza and Israel was announced today, Nov. 21, in Cairo by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.
Clinton made an emergency trip to the Middle East with the aim of brokering a truce, a clear sign of the Obama administration’s fears that the continuation of the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza was endangering U.S. imperialist interests in the region.
|Read Richard Becker’s important book ‘Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire.’|
Since Israel’s latest intense bombing campaign began last week, Clinton, President Obama, and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have repeatedly expressed all-out support for the Israeli side, while pointedly ignoring far higher Palestinian casualties.
The House of Representatives “passed” a resolution expressing its “unwavering commitment” to Israel. House Resolution 813 was introduced at 12:04 p.m. on Nov. 16, and declared adopted at 12:05 p.m. the same day!
Since Nov. 14, at least 146 Palestinians have been killed, more than 1,000 wounded, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure and public facilities destroyed by a coordinated air, sea and land-based bombardment. On the Israeli side, there have been five killed and more than 100 wounded.
To hear U.S. officials talk, you would think it was the other way around. But despite their obscenely pro-Israel rhetoric, it was also clear that Washington was fearful that a new Israeli ground invasion of Gaza might provoke rebellions in Egypt, Jordan and other neighboring Arab countries, and possibly lead to a wider war.
Despite the death and destruction inflicted by Israel, and despite the fact that it has no air force, navy, armored units or anti-aircraft defenses, the Palestinian forces have not been defeated. Virtually all news reports from inside Gaza reflect a strong determination to resist among the population.
The terms of the temporary agreement reportedly call for a halt to the fighting, an end to Israeli targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and undefined steps to lift the Israeli blockade that has inflicted massive suffering on the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Lifting the blockade is a critical issue for the people of Gaza. Whether there will be any real movement toward ending the blockade remains in doubt, as does the durability of the truce as a whole.
ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE: USING FOOD AS A WEAPON
While Israel withdrew its settlers and bases from Gaza in 2005, it has kept the area surrounded and blockaded ever since. As result, half of all school children are malnourished and two-thirds of infants are anemic. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population are refugees — those driven out of other parts of Palestine by the Zionist military forces in 1948 and their descendants.
After the Hamas party won the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election, Israel imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, with the support of the United States, European Union and the client government of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. That the aim of the blockade was to make the people of Gaza suffer was highlighted by an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the following month. It reported on a meeting of top Israeli government officials where the top advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner but won’t die.” According to the Haaretz report, the assembled officials “rolled with laughter,” at Weislglass’s grotesque “joke.”
THE MYTH OF ISRAEL AS VICTIM
In the 1960s, the Black Panther Party had a saying about racist cops justifying their routine killing and brutalizing of Black people by “masquerading as the victim of an unprovoked attack.” It is a description that perfectly fits Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his predecessors going back to the creation of the Israeli state in 1948.
In the U.S. corporate media, Israel is invariably depicted as the “victim.” Its brutal and cowardly military assaults are justified as “retaliation,” inferring that Israel’s actions are “self-defense.” Over and over, since the early 1950s, successive Israeli governments have staged provocations to prompt responses that could then be used to justify massive attacks while presenting Israel as the “victim of an unprovoked attack.” The aim has generally been to gain new territory and/or crush any state or movement perceived as a threat to Israeli military domination.
This familiar pattern was repeated in November 2008. The murder of five Palestinian civilians on the day after the 2008 U.S. election broke a ceasefire and set in motion a train of events that led to an all-out assault on Gaza by the Israeli military. A vast array of weaponry, including white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions, was unleashed on a trapped population. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, while Israeli forces had 13 killed -– a ratio of more than 100 to 1.
This time, the fatal shooting of a mentally disabled young man on Nov. 5 and a 12-year-old boy on Nov. 9, both killed by the Israeli army inside Gaza, set off the new round of fighting. Then, on Nov. 14, Israel assassinated a top Hamas leader, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the very same day that he had been presented with a proposal for a long-term ceasefire by a joint Israeli-Egyptian commission.
These provocations were no doubt approved at the highest level of the Israeli government. The extreme right-wing Netanyahu-Lieberman government desired a new conflict both to further devastate the Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza and to advance their political prospects in the January 2013 Israeli election. That hundreds of Palestinians and some Israelis as well would die in order to achieve these objectives was incidental to the Israeli leaders.
Whether the present ceasefire holds and for how long can’t be known at this point. The only real long-term solution to the crisis is an to end to colonial occupation and real self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right to return to their homeland.
President Obama Procrastinates As Israel Edges Ever Closer to Igniting a Middle East Firestorm February 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gaza, hillary clinton, idf, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel iran, israel military, israel settlements, Joe Lieberman, michael payne, Middle East, netanyahu, npt, Obama, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, war
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Michael Payne, www.opednews.com, February 20, 2012
The Middle East has been a boiling cauldron for decades with Israel at the center. And now this region is heating up again as not a day goes by when we do not hear the drums of war being beaten by Israel, with a threatening counter response coming from Iran. But as this situation grows more and more volatile, the U.S. and President Obama should be taking steps to prevent an eruption that could set the Middle East on fire; nothing of the sort is happening.
Talk about procrastination, talk about vacillation; the Middle East could explode at any given time but all we see coming from this White House is more delay, indecision, together with contradictory and confusing statements. During a critical time when we should hear this president issuing warnings about the great dangers of an approaching massive confrontation between Israel and Iran, he repeats that “all options remain on the table.”
It is absolutely amazing how Israel can completely dominate the world of news reporting to such an extent and for such an extended period of time. We hear a steady stream of reports indicating that Israel is getting closer and closer to an attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities. What we don’t hear from this pathetic national media is factual information from U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), both of which have indicated that there is no concrete evidence of the development of a nuclear bomb. This media blindly and passively supported the fabricated agenda that illegally initiated the Iraq War and now it is doing the same thing all over again. This is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.
Without a doubt, the situation in Iran needs to be closely monitored by both U.S. intelligence agencies and the UN and Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear device. That is what these agencies are set up to do. The way that this is being grossly mishandled by Israel, the U.S. and Iran, with threats and counter threats and no real attempts at mutual dialogue to diffuse the situation is totally counter-productive; it does nothing but fuel the tensions and distrust.
How can such a very small nation be the most powerful nation in the Middle East? Well, simply because it also happens to possess a nuclear arsenal that is estimated to be the sixth largest in the world. Israel has repeatedly refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, it consistently refuses to acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons when the whole world knows that it does.
Even while Israel sets its sights on Iran, it also continues to follow an aggressive, militant agenda on several other fronts. There has been more and more talk that Israel is planning yet another military attack on Gaza. An article by Yaakov Katz in the January 16 edition of the Jerusalem Post reported that “IDF preparing for major Gaza action within months.” Also that “The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible large Gaza operation that could occur within the next few months.”
In addition to that report, here’s another example of the extent of Israel’s cruel agenda against their Palestinian “neighbors”: “Israel plans to demolish Palestinian solar panels and wind turbines.” There is an “Area C” in the West Bank where solar panels and wind turbines were installed in 16 Palestinian communities and are now providing about 1500 people with electricity. This was a part of a foreign aid program by European and other countries, a great humanitarian gesture.
Now Israel is preparing to demolish the solar panels and turbines, claiming that the structures were installed without proper authority from the appropriate Israeli administrative agency. Are there no limits to the venom that Israel directs against these people who must struggle to secure the necessities of life? Even when other nations try to help the Palestinians acquire electricity for their homes, Israel will have none of it.
The Israeli government apparently will not stop until the Palestinians are entirely flushed out of the country. It continues to infringe on the shrinking territories of the Palestinians by building new settlements. It suppresses their movement by penning them up in Gaza and surrounds them with walls in other areas. It is astounding how our government in Washington continues to accuse China and other nations of human rights violations but, when it comes to these continuous flagrant violations by Israel, it remains completely silent.
Though Israel continues to beat the drums of war many military analysts and Middle East experts believe that it knows that it cannot successfully attack and destroy the Iranian underground facilities without the direct involvement and support of the United States. Those close to this situation are quite certain that if Iran is attacked by Israel or a combination of Israel and the U.S., that massive retaliation from Tehran, aided by Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and other allies will wreak havoc in the Middle East, severely damaging Israel’s cities as well as U.S. military installations.
This deadly confrontation has already gone too far; Israel must be reigned in before it goes off the deep end and launches an attack on Iran; the only country that is capable of doing it is, of course, the U.S. The only logical and rational way to accomplish this is for the U.S. to tell Israel in no uncertain terms that it will not take part in such an attack and Israel will be left alone if it chooses that course. In other words, the U.S. has to assume control of this situation and deal unilaterally with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
But in doing this Mr. Obama knows that there are many members of Congress, and some in his administration, who strongly support Israel and its potential attack on Iran. Hillary Clinton, the diplomatically challenged Secretary of State, and Senator Joe Lieberman, the premier war hawk in Congress, both back Israel to the hilt; it can do no wrong in their eyes no matter how egregious its military actions have been against the people of Palestine or against peaceful humanitarian flotillas that have tried to deliver essential medical and other supplies to the beleaguered city of Gaza.
Israel, as is the case with Mrs. Clinton, has shown it is totally incapable of any form of real diplomacy or negotiations; force is the only way that it knows to deal with others in the Middle East region. So it’s now time for President Obama to step into this highly dangerous situation and tell Israel and its militant Prime Minister Netanyahu that enough is enough and that this planned attack on Iran must not be pursued.
Mr. Obama must totally reject the many warmongers in Washington and act like the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize that he is, stop fiddling around, stop saying that “all options are on the table” and arrange for the beginning of mutual negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over this contentious issue. Israel would have to be entirely excluded from these negotiations for very obvious reasons. Negotiations should be designed to create some viable way to allow Iran to develop a nuclear energy program such as many other countries have and also to include a foolproof mechanism to prevent any diversion of enriched uranium into a program to develop a nuclear bomb. This could be done with any number of other countries taking part in the process.
The world keeps watching this same movie with the same actors and a plot that never changes — featuring Israel with its itchy finger on the trigger, ready to fire. How much longer will America let Israel set the agenda, dictate the policy, call the shots, and dominate our Middle East foreign policy? In recent times more and more articles are being written about America’s decline; could there be any better example of that decline than the total subservience of this nation and its government to the nation of Israel?
This scenario becomes even more tenuous when we consider that there are powerful countries who have said that they will stand by Iran if the situation reaches a massive military confrontation; these countries that could support Iran in various ways include Russia, China, India and Pakistan; Venezuela, Brazil and other South American countries do not side with the U.S. on this issue. A recent meeting between the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran make it clear that these three nations are cementing an already close relationship and that’s not good news for the U.S.
The question that should be put to this president is this: is he willing to let this situation get entirely out of control, all because he is afraid of Israel’s great influence and control over this Congress and his fear that it will cost him reelection in 2012? Well, if that’s the case and he fails to act decisively at this most critical time, then he will be personally responsible if the Middle East is set ablaze by the reckless, irresponsible actions of Israel.
Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist who writes articles about social, economic and political matters as well as American foreign policy. He is a U.S. Army veteran. His major goal is to convince Americans that our perpetual wars must end before they bankrupt our nation. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and websites around the world.
Alternative Radio and Robert Fisk November 15, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: alternative radio, foreign affairs, foreign policy, gaza, imperialism, israel, israel military, journalism, Middle East, Palestine, reporters, reporting, robert fisk, roger hollander, settlements, war
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Roger Hollander, November 15, 2010
I thought I was up to date on alternative news and opinion sources, but today on the University of Toronto’s independent radio station, CIUT, I happened on to one of the most incisive analyses on the topic of US imperialism, the Middle East, and the status of mainstream journalism that I have ever heard.
The source was Alternative Radio (www.alternativeradio.org), and I urge you to take a look. You will find, among others, the works of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the journalist I am citing below.
What I heard was a speech given at the University of California at Sacramento recently by Robert Fisk, the Middle East and foreign affairs reporter for the British newspaper “The Independent.” The man is brilliant and courageousand I add his name to that of Amy Goodman, Symour Hersh and Glenn Greenwald as contemporary journalists worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary I. F. Stone.
If you are not already familiar with Robert Fisk, I urge you to become so.
The speech I listened to on CIUT, broadcasting a lead from Alternative Radio was entitled, “Lies, Cliches and the Middle East.” I have not been able to find the text of this address on the Internet, but it can be purchased from Alternative Radio on CD, MP3 or written transcript.
During War There Are No Civilians September 9, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: doron almog, gaza, gaza strip, idf, israel, israel military, israeli military, nora barrows-friedman, Palestinians, rachel corrie, roger hollander, war
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Sitting in on the Rachel Corrie trial alarmingly reveals an open Israeli policy of indiscrimination towards civilians.
by Nora Barrows-Friedman
“During War there are no civilians,” that’s what “Yossi,” an Israeli military (IDF) training unit leader simply stated during a round of questioning on day two of the Rachel Corrie trials, held in Haifa’s District Court earlier this week. “When you write a [protocol] manual, that manual is for war,” he added.
For the human rights activists and friends and family of Rachel Corrie sitting in the courtroom, this open admission of an Israeli policy of indiscrimination towards civilians — Palestinian or foreign — created an audible gasp. Yet, put into context, this policy comes as no surprise. The Israeli military’s track record of insouciance towards the killings of Palestinians, from the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin in Jerusalem to the 2008-2009 attacks on Gaza that killed upwards of 1400 men, women and children, has illustrated that not only is this an entrenched operational framework but rarely has it been challenged until recently.
Rachel Corrie, the young American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer, as she and other members of the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement attempted to protect a Palestinian home from imminent demolition on March 16, 2003 in Rafah, Gaza Strip. Corrie has since become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity as her family continues to fight for justice in her name.
Her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a civil lawsuit against the State of Israel for Rachel’s unlawful killing — what they allege was an intentional act — and this round of testimonies called by the State’s defense team follows the Corries’ witness testimonies last March. The Corries’ lawsuit charges the State with recklessness and a failure to take appropriate measures to protect human life, actions that violate both Israeli and international laws.
Witnesses insisted that the bulldozer driver couldn’t see Rachel Corrie from his perch. The State attorneys called three witnesses to the stand on Sunday and Monday to prove that the killing was unintentional and took place in an area designated as a “closed military zone.” Falling under the definition of an Act of War, their argument sought to absolve the soldiers of liability under Israeli law. The Rachel Corrie trials focus on one incident, one moment, one death, one family’s grief. However it’s important to include the context within which the Israeli military operated on that day in March of 2003 in order to properly understand the gravity of the trial and the reverberations seven and a half years later.
Yossi, the military training leader, described the area where Corrie was killed as an “active war zone.” The State’s defense argues the same. Yet what was happening in Rafah that was so important to Corrie that she confronted a 4-meter high armored bulldozer in the first place?
According to statistics from Human Rights Watch, Israel had been expanding its so-called “buffer zone” at the southern Gaza border after the breakout of the second Palestinian intifada in late 2000. “By late 2002,” reports HRW, “after the destruction of several hundred houses in Rafah, the IDF began building an eight meter high metal wall along the border.”
The area that Israel designates as its buffer zone has since enveloped nearly 35% of agricultural land, according to an August 2010 report published by the United Nation’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA says that this policy has affected 113,000 Palestinians inside the Gaza strip over the last ten years as their farms, homes, and villages were intentionally erased from the map.
Rachel Corrie’s nonviolent action — standing in front of the bulldozer in direct confrontation to this project — cost her her life.
The home Rachel Corrie died trying to protect was razed, along with hundreds of others. The Gaza Strip remains a sealed ghetto. And countless Palestinian families have not seen justice waged in their favor after the deaths of their loved ones.
In 2005, an arrest warrant was issued against Major General Doron Almog — a senior soldier in charge of Israel’s Southern Command — by a British court related to the destruction of 59 homes in Rafah in 2002 under his authority. He was warned before boarding a flight to the UK that he could be arrested upon arrival, and canceled his trip.
Related to the Rachel Corrie case, Maj. Almog gave a direct order to the team of internal investigators to cut the investigations short, according to Israeli army documents obtained by Israeli daily Haaretz.
This indicates that the impunity of Israeli soldiers and policy-makers can — and will — be challenged in a court of law. And when the trials continue next month, the Corries will be back in the courtroom in anticipation of a long-sought justice for their daughter.
© 2010 aljazeera.net
Israeli Commander: ‘We Rewrote the Rules of War for Gaza’ February 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: cast lead, civilian casualties, donald macintyre, gaza, gaza offensive, gaza war, goldstone, idf, International law, israel, israel military, israeli army, means and intentions, netanuahu, roger hollander, rules of engagement
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Civilians ‘put at greater risk to save military lives’ in winter attack – revelations that will pile pressure on Netanyahu to set up full inquiry
by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.
The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as “means and intentions” – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of “literally zero risk to the soldiers”.
The officers’ revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander’s acknowledgement – if accurate – was “a smoking gun”.
Until now, the testimony has been kept out of the public domain. The senior commander told a journalist compiling a lengthy report for Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel’s biggest daily newspaper, about the rules of engagement in the three-week military offensive in Gaza. But although the article was completed and ready for publication five months ago, it has still not appeared. The senior commander told Yedhiot: “Means and intentions is a definition that suits an arrest operation in the Judaea and Samaria [West Bank] area… We need to be very careful because the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was already burnt in the second Lebanon war from the wrong terminology. The concept of means and intentions is taken from different circumstances. Here [in Cast Lead] we were not talking about another regular counter-terrorist operation. There is a clear difference.”
His remarks reinforce testimonies from soldiers who served in the Gaza operation, made to the veterans’ group Breaking the Silence and reported exclusively by this newspaper last July. They also appear to cut across the military doctrine – enunciated most recently in public by one of the authors of the IDF’s own code of ethics – that it is the duty of soldiers to run risks to themselves in order to preserve civilian lives.
Explaining what he saw as the dilemma for forces operating in areas that were supposedly cleared of civilians, the senior commander said: “Whoever is left in the neighbourhood and wants to action an IED [improvised explosive device] against the soldiers doesn’t have to walk with a Kalashnikov or a weapon. A person like that can walk around like any other civilian; he sees the IDF forces, calls someone who would operate the terrible death explosive and five of our soldiers explode in the air. We could not wait until this IED is activated against us.”
Another soldier who worked in one of the brigade’s war-room headquarters told The Independent that conduct in Gaza – particularly by aerial forces and in areas where civilians had been urged to leave by leaflets – had “taken the targeted killing idea and turned it on its head”. Instead of using intelligence to identify a terrorist, he said, “here you do the opposite: first you take him down, then you look into it.”
The Yedhiot newspaper also spoke to a series of soldiers who had served in Operation Cast Lead in sensitive positions. While the soldiers rejected the main finding of the Goldstone Report – that the Israeli military had deliberately “targeted” the civilian population – most asserted that the rules were flexible enough to allow a policy under which, in the words of one soldier “any movement must entail gunfire. No one’s supposed to be there.” He added that at a meeting with his brigade commander and others it was made clear that “if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement.”
The other soldier in the war-room explained: “This doesn’t mean that you need to disrespect the lives of Palestinians but our first priority is the lives of our soldiers. That’s not something you’re going to compromise on. In all my years in the military, I never heard that.”
He added that the majority of casualties were caused in his brigade area by aerial firing, including from unmanned drones. “Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote … compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted,” he said.
Rules of engagement issued to soldiers serving in the West Bank as recently as July 2006 make it clear that shooting towards even an armed person will take place only if there is intelligence that he intends to act against Israeli forces or if he poses an immediate threat to soldiers or others.
In a recent article in New Republic, Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy professor at Hebrew and New York Universities, who was involved in drawing up the IDF’s ethical code in 2000 and who is critical of the Goldstone Report, said that efforts to spare civilian life “must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians”. While the choices for commanders were often extremely difficult and while he did not think the expectation was demanded by international law, “it is demanded in Israel’s military code and this has always been its tradition”.
The Israeli military declined to comment on the latest revelations, and directed all enquiries to already-published material, including a July 2009 foreign ministry document The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects.
That document, which repeats that Israel acted in conformity with international law despite the “acute dilemmas” posed by Hamas’s operations within civilian areas, sets out the principles of Operation Cast Lead as follows: “Only military targets shall be attacked; Any attack against civilian objectives shall be prohibited. A ‘civilian objective’ is any objective which is not a military target.” It adds: “In case of doubt, the forces are obliged to regard an object as civilian.”
Yedhiot has not commented on why its article has not been published.
Israel in Gaza: The soldier’s tale
This experienced soldier, who cannot be named, served in the war room of a brigade during Operation Cast Lead. Here, he recalls an incident he witnessed during last winter’s three-week offensive:
“Two [Palestinian] guys are walking down the street. They pass a mosque and you see a gathering of women and children.
“You saw them exiting the house and [they] are not walking together but one behind the other. So you begin to fantasise they are actually ducking close to the wall.
“One [man] began to run at some point, must have heard the chopper. The GSS [secret service] argued that the mere fact that he heard it implicated him, because a normal civilian would not have realised that he was now being hunted.
“Finally he was shot. He was not shot next to the mosque. It’s obvious that shots are not taken at a gathering.”
© 2010 The Independent
Israeli Women Soldiers Break the Silence February 1, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, Women.
Tags: gaza, human rights, ira chernus, israel, israel military, israel occupation, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, west bank, women, women soldiers
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What’s it like to be a woman serving in the Israeli occupation force in the West Bank? Is a woman’s experience as an occupier any different than a man’s? Yes indeed, say some women who have just broken their silence and offered a glimpse into the grim reality of the occupation.
“A female combat soldier needs to prove more,” one explains. “A female soldier who beats up others is a serious fighter…When I arrived there was another female [who] was there before me…Everyone spoke of how impressive she is because she humiliates Arabs without any problem. That was the indicator. You have to see her, the way she humiliates, the way she slaps them, wow, she really slapped that guy.”
This “impressive” woman is not a rare exception. “We discovered that the girls try to be even more violent and brutal than the boys, just to become one of the guys,” says Dana Golan, director of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli organization that has just released a report with testimony from some 50 Israeli women who are veterans of the occupation.
The report “indicates how violence was deeply rooted in the daily routine,” according to an article in Yediot Aharonot, one of Israel’s most widely-read newspapers, full of disturbing quotes from the women. One who served at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza explained that “there was a procedure in which before you release a Palestinian back into the Strip — you take him inside the tent and beat him. … together with the commanders.”
For Israelis who care to pay attention, another revelation of routine violence, sanctioned and sometimes even led by officers, hardly comes as news. Breaking the Silence has been offering the Israeli public such eyewitness testimony from Israeli soldiers since 2004. What is news is the first insight into the distinctive experience of women:
“The female soldiers repeatedly mention the particular difficulties they had as women, who had to prove that to were ‘fighters’ in the midst of the goading male soldiers on the one hand, and the Palestinians, who have a hard time handling women in uniform on the other hand.”
One woman recalled an incident several years ago when a Palestinian man laughed at her, because (or so she thought) she was a woman in uniform. She had to “salvage her self-respect,” she says. So she moved close to the man, “as if I was about to kiss him. I told him, ‘Come, come, what are you afraid of? Come to me!’ And I hit him in the balls. I told him, ‘Why aren’t you laughing?’ He was in shock, and then he realized … not to laugh.”
“It shouldn’t reach such a situation,” the woman says now. “The system is deeply flawed. The entire administration, the way things are run, it’s not right.”
Palestinian women have a distinctive experience, too. ”Was there abuse of women?”, an interviewer asked. “Yes,” a woman soldier replied. “Slaps, that kind of thing. Mainly slaps. … It was mainly the female combat soldiers who beat people. … But also men, they had no problem slapping a woman around. If she screamed, they’d say, ‘Shut it,’ with another slap. A routine of violence. There were also those who didn’t take part, but everyone knew it happened.”
Sometimes, as the Breaking the Silence report indicates, the level of brutality grows beyond comprehension: a five year old child beaten; a nine year old who “posed no danger” shot to death; another child with both arms and both legs intentionally broken. The Yediot Aharonoth article offers a series of such horrifying incidents. When the full report is available on the Breaking the Silence website, it will be surely include even more heart-breaking tales.
Each soldier, male or female, is responsible for their own individual actions, of course. But this report raises disturbing questions about the society that requires them to serve in the military and then sends them on such a brutalizing mission, one that dehumanizes the perpetrators as well as their victims.
Most disturbing, perhaps, is their common explanation for the violence the inflict: The soldiers’ daily routine in the Occupied Territories “is boring, so we’d create some action. We’d get on the radio, and say they threw stones at us, then someone would be arrested, they’d start investigating him… There was a policewoman, she was bored, so okay, she said they threw stones at her. They asked her who threw them. ‘I don’t know, two in grey shirts, I didn’t manage to see them.’ They catch two guys with grey shirts… beat them. Is it them? ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Okay, a whole incident, people get beaten up. Nothing happened that day.”
Another woman, describing a common ritual of humiliating and beating Palestinians at checkpoints, agreed: “It could go on for hours, depending on how bored they are. A shift is eight hours long, the times must be passed somehow.”
The boredom is not a gendered experience. I heard exactly the same thing last year from a young Israeli man, now actively working to oppose the occupation. When he manned a checkpoint, at the tender age of 18, he would start each day intent on treating Palestinians humanely, he said. But as the hours went on — as the boredom, the occasional inevitable conflicts, and often the oppressive heat, grew — he would become more irritable, more violent, more likely to abuse his power.
Boredom and its minor irritations can easily lead young people, many of them still teenagers, to commit senseless violence. We see it happening in civilian life in most every nation, far too often. But when we see it we call it anti-social and dysfunctional, a problem to be addressed by society. We assume that society at large has a different norm, a more constructive way of dealing with boredom, which should be taught to the misbehaving youth.
Perhaps antisocial violence, wherever it occurs, is always a symptom of a whole society’s dysfunction. But in this case the connection between individual and society is especially obvious and glaring. The antisocial Israeli youth are wearing their nation’s uniform, acting (sometimes under orders) in the name of “national security,” often praised for their violent behavior, and virtually never disciplined no matter how far they go.
They’ve grown up in a Jewish society that tends to treat Palestinians (not always, but far too often) as inherently dangerous, evil, inferior, and deserving whatever harm comes to them. It’s hardly surprising that many of them would so easily cross the moral line into the realm of inhumanity.
Yet they’ve also grown up in a society that teaches them basic moral standards that should apply to all people. Most of the women interviewed in the report say they knew that what they were seeing, and sometimes doing, was wrong. But very few lodged any complaints, fearing the consequences if they spoke up. “I have to make a switch in my head and keep hating the Arabs and justify the Jews,” one explained.
Now, these women, like their male colleagues, must live with the consequences of participating in a brutal occupation that many realize is a terrible moral, as well as political, mistake. Jewish Israeli society must live with the consequences of putting its young people into such an agonizing situation, where moral contradiction is an everyday fact of life. Worst of all, Palestinian society must go on paying the price for Israel’s failure to bring its reality in line with its proclaimed principles.
Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. on his blog.
Gaza invasion: ‘If you’re not sure – kill’ July 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Amnesty International, cast lead, gaza, gaza civilian casualties, gaza invasion, gaza massacre, geneva conventions, hamas, hamas rockets, human rights, Human Rights Watch, idf, israel defense force, israel military, israel soldiers, nuremberg, oakland ross, palestinian casualties, Palestinians, roger hollander, War Crimes
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Israel Stands Ready to Bomb Iran’s Nuclear Sites April 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: gaza, iran nuclear, israel attack, israel military, obama israel, roger hollander, sheera frenkel, sudan
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Published on Saturday, April 18, 2009 by The Times Online/UK
JERUSALEM – The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government.
Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.
Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.
“Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” one senior defence official told The Times.
Officials believe that Israel could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tonnes of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.
The distance from Israel to at least one of the sites is more than 870 miles, a distance that the Israeli force practised covering in a training exercise last year that involved F15 and F16 jets, helicopters and refuelling tankers.
The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. That strike, which destroyed the facility in under 100 seconds, was completed without Israeli losses and checked Iraqi ambitions for a nuclear weapons programme.
“We would not make the threat [against Iran] without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act,” said another official from Israel’s intelligence community.
He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from America, which has struck a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.
An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.
Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said it was unlikely that the Americans would approve an attack.
“The American defence establishment is unsure that the operation will be successful. And the results of the operation would only delay Iran’s programme by two to four years,” he said.
A visit by President Obama to Israel in June is expected to coincide with the national elections in Iran — timing that would allow the US Administration to re-evaluate diplomatic resolutions with Iran before hearing the Israeli position.
“Many of the leaks or statements made by Israeli leaders and military commanders are meant for deterrence. The message is that if [the international community] is unable to solve the problem they need to take into account that we will solve it our way,” Mr Kam said.
Among recent preparations by the airforce was the Israeli attack of a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip.
“Sudan was practice for the Israeli forces on a long-range attack,” Ronen Bergman, the author of The Secret War with Iran, said. “They wanted to see how they handled the transfer of information, hitting a moving target … In that sense it was a rehearsal.”
Israel has made public its intention to hold the largest-ever nationwide drill next month.
Colonel Hilik Sofer told Haaretz, a daily Israeli newspaper, that the drill would “train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning … We want the citizens to understand that war can happen tomorrow morning”.
Israel will conduct an exercise with US forces to test the ability of Arrow, its US-funded missile defence system. The exercise would test whether the system could intercept missiles launched at Israel.
“Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli Intelligence they will have the bomb within two years … Once they have a bomb it will be too late, and Israel will have no choice to strike — with or without America,” an official from the Israeli Defence Ministry said.
Israel’s death squads: A soldiers story March 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: breaking silence, civilian casualties, donald macintyre, fatah, gaza, idf, International law, intifada, israel assassination squad, israel death squads, israel defence forces, israel military, israel occupation, israel targeted killings, israeli sharpshooters, jewish settlements, occupied territories, Palestine, palestinian, roger hollander, west bank
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Sunday, 1 March 2009, www.indeendent.co.uk
A former member of an Israeli assassination squad has broken his silence for the first time. He spoke to Donald Macintyre.
The Israeli military’s policy of targeted killings has been described from the inside for the first time. In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, and in his testimony to an ex-soldiers’ organisation, Breaking the Silence, a former member of an assassination squad has told of his role in a botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants targeted.
The operation, which took place a little over eight years ago, at the start of the present intifada, or uprising, left the former sharpshooter with psychological scars. To this day he has not told his parents of his participation in what he called “the first face-to-face assassination of the intifada”.
As the uprising unfolded, targeted assassinations became a regularly used weapon in the armoury of the Israel military, especially in Gaza, where arrests would later become less easy than in the West Bank. The highest-profile were those of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2005, and of Said Siyam in the most recent offensive. But the targeting of lower-level militants, like the one killed in the operation described by the former soldier, became sufficiently common to attract little comment.
The incident described by the ex-soldier appears almost trivial by comparison with so much that has happened since in Gaza, culminating in more than 1,200 Palestinian casualties inflicted by Operation Cast Lead this January. It might have been forgotten by all except those directly affected, if it had not been for the highly unusual account of it he gave to Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony from hundreds of former troops concerned about what they saw and did – including abuses of Palestinians – during their service in the occupied territories.
That account, expanded on in an interview with the IoS, and broadly corroborated by another soldier’s testimony to Breaking the Silence, directly challenges elements of the military’s official version at the time, while casting new light on the tactic of targeted assassination by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). So do comments by the father of one of the Palestinians killed, and one who survived, also traced by the IoS.
Our source cannot be identified by name, not least because by finally deciding to talk about what happened, he could theoretically be charged abroad for his direct role in an assassination of the sort most Western countries regard as a grave breach of international law. From a good home, and now integrated into civilian life in the Tel Aviv area, the former soldier is about 30. Intelligent and articulate, and with a detailed memory of many aspects, he is scrupulous in admitting his recall of other points may be defective.
The former conscript said his special unit had trained for an assassination, but was then told it would be an arrest operation. They would fire only if the targeted man had weapons in his car. “We were pretty bombed it was going to be an arrest. We wanted to kill,” he said. The unit then went south to Gaza and took up position. It was 22 November 2000.
The squad’s main target was a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel Razeq. He was in the passenger seat of a black Hyundai being driven north towards Khan Younis by his comrade, Awni Dhuheir. Both men were wholly unaware of the trap that was waiting for him near the Morag junction. This section of the main Salahadin north-south road in Gaza went straight past a Jewish settlement. Razeq was used to seeing an armoured personnel carrier (APC) beside the road, but he had no idea that its regular crew had been replaced by men from an elite air force special unit, including at least two highly trained sharpshooters.
Since before he even left his home in Rafah that morning, Shin Bet – the Israeli intelligence service – had been monitoring Razeq’s every move with uncanny accuracy, thanks to a running commentary from the mobile phones of two Palestinian collaborators, including one of his own uncles. The man who was to kill him says he was “amazed” at the detail relayed to the unit commander from Shin Bet: “How much coffee he had in his glass, when he was leaving. They knew he had a driver [and] … they said they had weapons in the trunk, not in the car. For 20 minutes we knew it was going to be a simple arrest because they had no weapons in the car.”
But then, he says, the orders suddenly changed. “They said he had one minute to arrive, and then we got an order that it was going to be an assassination after all.” He thinks it came from a war room set up for the operation and his impression was that “all the big chiefs were there”, including a brigadier general.
The two militants would still have suspected nothing as they approached the junction, even when a big Israel Defence Forces (IDF) supply truck lumbered out of a side turning to cut them off. They would have had no way of knowing the truck was full of armed soldiers, waiting for this moment. A 4×4 was deployed by the road, only in case “something really wrong” happened.
But something did go wrong: the truck moved out too soon, and blocked not only the militants in their black Hyundai, but the white Mercedes taxi in front of them. It was carrying Sami Abu Laban, 29, a baker, and Na’el Al Leddawi, 22, a student. They were on their way from Rafah to Khan Younis to try to buy some scarce diesel to fire the bread ovens.
As the critical moment approached, the sharpshooter said he began to shake from the waist down. “What happens now is I’m waiting for the car to come and I am losing control of my legs. I have an M16 with digicom [special sharpshooter sights]. It was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I felt completely concentrated. So the seconds are counted down, then we started seeing the cars, and we see that two cars are coming, not one. There was a first car very close to the following one and when the truck came in, it came in a bit early, and both cars were stopped.Everything stopped. They gave us two seconds and they said, ‘Shoot. Fire.’” Who gave the order, and to whom? “The unit commander … to everybody. Everybody heard ‘Fire’.”
The target, Razeq, was in the passenger seat, closest to the APC. “I have no doubt I see him in the scope. I start shooting. Everyone starts shooting, and I lose control. I shoot for one or two seconds. I counted afterwards – shot 11 bullets in his head. I could have shot one shot and that’s it. It was five seconds of firing.
“I look through the scope, see half of his head. I have no reason to shoot 11 bullets. I think maybe from the fear, maybe to cope with all the things that are happening, I just continue shooting.”
As far as he can recall, the order to fire was not specific to the sharpshooters in the APC. He cannot know for certain if the troops in the truck thought wrongly that some of the fire was directed at them from the cars. But he says that after he stopped “the firing gets even worse. I think the people in the truck started to panic. They’re firing and one of the cars starts driving and the commander says, ‘Stop, stop, stop, stop!’ It takes a few seconds to completely stop and what I see afterwards is that both cars are full of holes. The first car, too, which was there by coincidence.”
Razeq and Dhuheir, the militants, were dead. So were Abu Laban and Al Leddawi. Miraculously, the driver of the taxi, Nahed Fuju, was unscathed. The sharpshooter can remember only one of the four bodies lying on the ground. “I was shocked by that body. It was like a sack. It was full of flies. And they asked who shot the first car [the Mercedes] and nobody answered. I think everybody was confused. It was clear that it had been a screw-up and nobody was admitting [it].” But the commander did not hold a formal debriefing until the unit returned to its main base.
“The commander came in and said, ‘Congratulations. We got a phone call from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Defence and the chief of staff. They all congratulated us. We succeeded perfectly in our mission. Thank you.’ And from that point on, I understood that they were very happy.” He says the only discussion was over the real risk there had been of soldiers’ casualties from friendly fire in the shoot-out, in which at least one of the IDF’s own vehicles was hit by ricocheting bullets, and at the end of which at least one soldier even got out of the 4×4 and fired at an inert body on the ground.
Saying his impression was “they wanted the press or the Palestinians to know they were raising a step in our fight”, he adds: “The feeling was of a big success and I waited for a debriefing that would ask all these questions, that would show some regret for some failure, but it didn’t happen. The only thing that I felt is that the commanders knew that it was a very big political success for them.”
The incident immediately caused something of a stir. Mohammed Dahlan, then head of the Fatah-run Preventative Security in Gaza, called it a “barbaric assassination”. The account given at the time to the press by Brigadier General Yair Naveh, in charge of IDF forces in Gaza, was that it had been intended as an arrest operation, but that sensing something amiss, Razeq had pulled out a Kalashnikov rifle and attempted to open fire at the Israeli forces, at which point the troops shot at his vehicle. While Razeq was the main target, it was claimed, the two victims in the taxi were were also Fatah activists “with ties to Razeq”.
Mr Al Leddawi said last week that his son’s presence was a tragic accident of timing and that the family had never heard of the other two men. “It was all by coincidence that they were there,” he said. “We have nothing do with the resistance in this family.” Beyond saying that he had received “not a shekel” in compensation, the taxi driver, Mr Fuju, did not want to talk to us in Rafah last week. “You want to interview me so the Israelis can bomb my house?”
The Israeli military said in response to detailed queries about the incident and the discrepancies between its account at the time and that of Palestinians, and now the ex-soldier, that it takes “human rights violations very seriously” but “regrets that Breaking the Silence does not provide it with details or testimony of the incidents it alleges in order to allow for a thorough investigation”. It added that “these soldiers and commanders did not approach senior commanders … with their complaints during their service.”
Our revelations in brief: Secret unit on a mission to kill
The Independent on Sunday has obtained an account which, for the first time, details service in one of the Israeli military’s assassination squads.
A former conscript has told the IoS and an ex-soldiers’ organisation of his part in an ambush that went wrong, accidentally killing two men as well as the two militants targeted.
The ex-soldier, a trained sharpshooter, says he fired 11 bullets into the head of the militant whose death had been ordered by his superiors. The squad was initially told it was going on an arrest mission, but was then ordered on a minute’s notice to shoot to kill.
Instead of the flaws in the operation being discussed afterwards, the squad was told it had “succeeded perfectly” and had been congratulated by the Prime Minister and chief of staff.
The former soldier, who was psychologically scarred by the incident, has never told his parents what happened.