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Making People Invisible: Then They Came For the Bedouin October 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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by Abby Zimet

Last month, for the fourth time, Israel destroyed the Bedouin community of Khirbet al-Makhul in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley, razing houses and displacing 120 people under a newly-approved Prawer Plan (or the “Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev”) that will forcibly remove up to 40,000 Arab Bedouin farmers, shepherds and citizens of Israel from their ancestral homes and place them in Israeli-authorized, hardscrabble urban townships – echoes of South Africa – to make room for Jewish settlements, development and agriculture. One of many, often-multiple demolitions, the Israeli courts said the Khirbet al-Makhul homes were illegal because they lacked mandatory construction permits, which are almost impossible to obtain. When a group of European diplomats tried to deliver tents and other aid to families who remained on the land, they too were forcibly removed and the site was declared a closed military zone. A handful of Bedouin have remained on the land to tend to the animals, sleeping under the stars and surrounded by an Israeli military base, a Jewish-only Israeli settlement and a live-fire Israeli military training area. Part of an implacable continuum, the Bedouin displacement mirrors Israel’s other, decades-long hardships and displacements – the exiling of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the destruction of hundreds of their villages, the uprooting of an estimated 800,000 of their olive trees, or the equivalent of 33 NYC Central Parks. Last week, the World Bank issued a report that found, entirely unsurprisingly, that the Palestinian economy is struggling under Israeli strictures that only worsen. Thus, does Israel’s “democracy” proceed apace.

From an earlier village demolition:  “The chickens and the doves were buried under the ruins. The fields turned desolate before our very eyes, and children walked down the road sobbing.”

Gaza crisis: Grandfather in mourning after family of 11 killed in Israeli airstrike on their home November 20, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: According to the Israeli government, a nine month old baby who allows his fellow Gazans to vote for Hamas deserves to die.  And, of course, as President Obama so eloquently stated, Israel has the right to defend itself from a virtually hopeless and beseiged people who have about 1% of the military resources that Israel does.

A man carries the body of one of the Dalou children killed on Sunday when an Israeli missile struck their two-storey home in a residential area of Gaza City.
By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau
Toronto Star, November 20,2012
GAZA CITY—If the gates of hell are to swing shut now over the Gaza Strip amid talk of possible ceasefire, they will leave Jamal Dalou forever locked in their grip.

Patriarch of a family that is no longer, Dalou, 50, stared into the pancaked rubble that a day earlier was his three-storey home, his face a mask of alternating shock, sorrow and stunned defiance.

None of it had really sunk in yet, even as the Palestinian cause had hoisted him instantly from obscure market vendor to become the totem of Gaza’s newest misery. The chaotic funeral procession was over, and with it, Dalou’s last glimpse of his wife Tahani, his sister Suheila, his son Mohammed, and four grandkids, including his 9-month-old namesake, Jamal.

Eleven family members in all, with one body still believed trapped under the three-metre-high mound of broken concrete and twisted steel. And parts of the others, one neighbour whispered quietly in an aside to the Toronto Star.

All from a single Sunday afternoon missile strike the Israel Defense Forces said was meant for a local militant commander responsible for 200 to 300 rockets fired from Gaza in recent days. Faced with widening outrage a day later, the IDF said it was “still looking into” what happened but characterized the civilian casualties as an accident.

The two sides offered contradictory narratives as to whether any such commander even lives in these streets of Gaza City’s North Rimal neighbourhood.

Dalou readily acknowledged his son’s ties to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government. But he and his neighbours insisted the 28-year-old served simply as a local police officer and not a member of the militant Qassam brigades.

The question alone prompted contempt from Dalou, as he and his three surviving sons received condolences under a mourning tent.

“Does a nine-month-old baby feeding at his mother’s breast have a gun in his hand?” Dalou said. “This area is empty of rockets, we have nothing.

“Israel is the stronger party — the sky, the sea, the land, everything is in their hands. And now they have destroyed my family. All the women, all the children. Gone.”

Thousands joined in the frenzied funeral procession, thrusting fists in the air in a codified ritual of martyrdom so familiar to Gaza. A Hamas minister spoke of vengeance, telling mourners: “This blood which was provided by your family will not go in vain. The rights of these children, these flowers, is on our neck.”

What was different this time was the presence of an Egyptian delegation, which later visited the Dalou mourning tent, offering bear-hugs for the patriarch and a blistering message from the neighbouring Arab Spring, intended for global consumption.

“We come here from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the salafists, from the liberals — all the parties of the Egyptian revolution — to say we are with you,” Egyptian activist Safuat Hijazi told the mourners.

“Down, down with Israel. We say, generation after generation, destroy Tel Aviv. And we ask, where are the others — the ones living in the palaces? The Gulf kings, the emirs with money filling up American banks. We want you to stand with us.”

As the six-day death toll rose to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis, Egyptian mediators working toward a negotiated ceasefire in Cairo signalled that a breakthrough may be in sight.

A survey by Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that while 84 per cent of Israelis support an air campaign aimed at suppressing rockets from Gaza, only 30 per cent favour a ground invasion. That, coupled with the fact that the country is vectoring toward new elections in January, appeared to leave at least some space for compromise on the Israeli side.

“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If not we can escalate,” an Israeli official told the Associated Press. But Israel is demanding “international guarantees” that Hamas will not simply rearm or use the Egyptian Sinai next door to renew attacks in the coming months.

Khaled Meshal, the exiled Hamas leader, maintained a firm stance in Cairo, telling reporters that Israel must satisfy the group’s demands for an end to the blockade of Gaza if it expects the rocket barrage to end.

“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” Meshal said. “We want a ceasefire along with meeting our demands.”

With the diplomatic window still ajar, the tempo of violence eased slightly Monday. But as night fell over Gaza a series of concussion explosions resumed.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, said at least 100 rockets were fired toward Israel during the day, bringing to more than 1,000 the number fired since Wednesday.

Some 35,000 Israeli army regulars and reservists, meanwhile, remain mobilized on the edge of the narrow Gaza Strip, awaiting orders to move in or stand down. And inside Gaza itself, the broken bones of bombarded Hamas government infrastructure, from police stations to political offices and even the Gaza City football stadium, suggest Israel may be near to exhausting its list of aerial targets.

For Jamal Dalou, who still has barely begun to process his loss, the idea of ceasefire sparked only an exhausted shrug.

“We want to work to relax, to live our lives. Not to come home and see our kids buried. But I still have God. That’s all I can say.”

Gilad Sharon, Son Of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Writes Op-Ed: ‘We Need To Flatten Entire Neighborhoods In Gaza’ November 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: I’ll try not to post more than once a day on the Israeli government’s genocidal attack on Gaza.  Go to my source for this, and read the comments: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/11/18-2 .  And Americans should keep in mind that they are financing this slaughter of  civilian men, women and children.

Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Huffington Post

  by Adam Goldberg

Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.

 Destruction in Gaza. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.

The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has reportedly claimed the lives of 73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “the Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”

Sharon writes in his op-ed that “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.” After saying that Israel needs to “flatten all of Gaza,” he goes on to say, “The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

He concludes his defense of Israel’s actions with a hawkish message:

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.

A bio on the website for HarperCollins Publishers describes Sharon as follows:

Gilad Sharon is the youngest of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s sons. Gilad holds a master’s degree in economics and writes a column for the prominent Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. A major in the Israel Defense Force reserves, he currently manages his family’s farm in Israel.

Sharon isn’t alone in his militant tone. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.” Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the United States is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The violent conflict continued on Sunday as Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, and one of Israel’s missile strikes killed at least 11 civilians.

© 2012 Huffington Post

 

‘What Our Society Is Made of': Former IDF Soldiers Confess Abuse of Palestinian Children August 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Published on Monday, August 27, 2012 by Common Dreams

- Common Dreams staff

Testimony by ex-Israeli Defense Force soldiers reveals a devastating portrayal of ill-treatment and abuse of Palestinian youth by members of Israel’s occupying army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An Israeli soldier restrains a Palestinian girl crying over the arrest of her mother during a protest over land confiscation in al-Nabi Saleh. (Photo: AFP)

The testimony by more than 30 soldiers, and fashioned into a booklet by Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former IDF soldiers dedicated to speaking out against Israeli policy in the occupied territories, contains descriptions of beatings, intimidation and humiliation of Palestinian children.

“It is crucial that people in Israel are confronted about what it means for Palestinian children to live under military occupation,” says Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence.

“This is what [Israeli] society is made of, you cannot ignore it, you cannot just run away from it — this is who we are as people and I think this is something we should face.”

The group plans to hand out copies of the testimonies to Israel high school students in the coming weeks as the school year begins.

“Exposing our teens to this reality is not a trivial matter,” says Avner Gvaryahu, a former soldier who both contributed testimony for the report and works for the organization.

“The group hesitated to distribute the brochure among high school students,” he said, “but it was eventually decided to go through with it. I’m queasy about it even though I understand that it’s necessary… If you’re old enough to enlist and carry a weapon, you’re old enough to know what’s really happening in the territories.”

The Independent excerpts testimony from the booklet:

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Salfit 2009

“We took over a school and had to arrest anyone in the village who was between the ages of 17 and 50. When these detainees asked to go to the bathroom, and the soldiers took them there, they beat them to a pulp and cursed them for no reason, and there was nothing that would legitimise hitting them. An Arab was taken to the bathroom to piss, and a soldier slapped him, took him down to the ground while he was shackled and blindfolded. The guy wasn’t rude and did nothing to provoke any hatred or nerves. Just like that, because he is an Arab. He was about 15, hadn’t done a thing.

“In general people at the school were sitting for hours in the sun. They could get water once in a while, but let’s say someone asked for water five times, a soldier could come to him and slap him just like that. I saw many soldiers using their knees to hit them, just out of boredom. Because you’re standing around for 10 hours doing nothing, you’re bored, so you hit them. I know that at the bathroom, there was this ‘demons’ dance’ as it was called. Anyone who brought a Palestinian there – it was catastrophic. Not bleeding beatings – they stayed dry – but still beatings.”

First Sergeant, Combat Engineering Corps

Ramallah 2006-07

“There was this incident where a ‘straw widow’ was put up following a riot at Qalandiya on a Friday, in an abandoned house near the square. Soldiers got out with army clubs and beat people to a pulp. Finally the children who remained on the ground were arrested. The order was to run, make people fall to the ground. There was a 10- to 12-man team, four soldiers lighting up the area. People were made to fall to the ground, and then the soldiers with the clubs would go over to them and beat them. A slow runner was beaten – that was the rule.

“We were told not to use it on people’s heads. I don’t remember where we were told to hit, but as soon as a person on the ground is beaten with such a club, it’s difficult to be particular.”

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Hebron 2006-07

“We’d often provoke riots there. We’d be on patrol, walking in the village, bored, so we’d trash shops, find a detonator, beat someone to a pulp, you know how it is. Search, mess it all up. Say we’d want a riot? We’d go up to the windows of a mosque, smash the panes, throw in a stun grenade, make a big boom, then we’d get a riot.

“Every time we’d catch Arab kids.You catch him, push the gun against his body. He can’t make a move – he’s totally petrified. He only goes: ‘No, no, army.’ You can tell he’s petrified. He sees you’re mad, that you couldn’t care less about him and you’re hitting him really hard the whole time. And all those stones flying around. You grab him like this, you see? We were mean, really. Only later did I begin to think about these things, that we’d lost all sense of mercy.”

Rank and unit unidentified in report

Hebron 2007-08

“One night, things were hopping in Idna village [a small town of 20,000 people, about 13km west of Hebron], so we were told there’s this wild riot, and we should get there fast. Suddenly we were showered with stones and didn’t know what was going on. Everyone stopped suddenly; the sergeant sees the company commander get out of the vehicle and joins him. We jump out without knowing what was going on – I was last. Suddenly I see a shackled and blindfolded boy. The stoning stopped as soon as the company commander gets out of the car. He fired rubber ammo at the stone-throwers and hit this boy.

“At some point they talked about hitting his face with their knees. At that point I argued with them and said: ‘I swear to you, if a drop of his blood or a hair falls off his head, you won’t sleep for three nights. I’ll make you miserable.’

Comments

 and the West Bank are open air concentration camps, these are the new Warsaw Ghetto.
Auschwitz is still in operation it has been renamed Gaza, and the students have outdid the master.
 

  •  
    Avatar
    Veronica Hope4 hours ago

    I have seen video footage of the violence against Palestinians by the Israeli forces…this was twenty years ago. The Israeli’s have become everything that we hated about Hitler’s regime. Maybe there’s no gas chambers, but does that make it OK? As an American, I am ashamed of what our troops have done in the middle east. I am ashamed that my government continues to give money to the Israeli’s. I am ashamed that my government has continued to perpetuate this brutality. Please forgive those of us who are trying to change that. Please forgive the Jewish people around the world for what the Israeli’s are doing. Hateful, abusive people are found in every “developed” society. They are the fringe in most cases, but those who do nothing to stop these atrocities are just as bad.

     

  •  
    Avatar
    sasboy2 hours ago

    Barbaric as the treatment meted out to Palestinians, including minors is, it is comforting to know there are at least some Israelis with the character to come forward and confront the truth about the occupation.

     
  •  
  • What a powerful video. Pity that it, or anything like it, will never be seen on mainstream media in the U.S.

     

  •  
    Avatar
    Ibo Thorbas5 hours ago

    The opportunity missed by Israel after the second world war can be measured by all the budgets all the world knows today that support war. Whatever the supposed, collective religious claims of that nation may be, they like so many others, are visibly set against peace. War is the proof.

    Irrespective of our collective failures, the opportunity to end war today must now be measured by the social implications of shifting out of and away from what may be the greatest weight of failed, misguided financial foolishness humanity has ever known. You won’t stop spending what you spend on war. All human suffering today is the price humanity pays for your commitment to war. The budget is the proof.

    Rectifying this insane imbalance stands as the greatest challenge human intelligence has ever been faced with. Honesty and commitment to the obvious alternative is the straight-line solution.

    How many need to be strapped into a movie theater seat Clockwork Orange style to be compelled to come to understand the real implications of their own complicity. How do we take collective responsibility for the real Task of shifting away from our collective commitment to the priority of warring ways of competition.

    War or Peace has risen to the place of a final, fortunately single, wide-scale, potentially world-wide policy choice. It is the measure of your investments that prevents the essential honesty necessary to the only agenda that matters in our world today. Everything else we speak about by any means in public is convenient avoidance resting either in denial or resignation all of which is the childish, irresponsible, myopic immaturity of fear.

    Any adult among us who will not stand for the essential, single, polite demand for a worldwide agenda founding a final peace has reason to educate him- or herself about the real details of the financial reality currently committed to weaponry and ALL the skins it infects.

    All of every other thing any of us pay any attention to whatsoever is entirely irrelevant. One nation, any nation, ready to stand for Peace could accomplish the necessary Task, and today none will.

     

  •  
    Avatar
    dus75 hours ago

    One could substitute [any armed forces] abusing and terrorizing [any subject civilian population] during [any occupation in any part of the world during any time period].

    I appreciate this apparently truthful news piece and just want to expand it to the bigger picture of what horrid things we humans historically and currently are, unfortunately, capable of. It’s not a pretty picture but is one we have to acknowledge before we can move forward to eventually become what we could and should be.

    It may be as simple as teaching how to handle anger and frustration as well as the rewards of caring and helping others. Of course, the PTB do the opposite, guiding anger and frustration of whatever group against some other group, keeping the horrid injustice going on and on and on. If there is an ‘enemy’, it’s those who lie and encourage or condone inhumane behavior.

     

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    Avatar
    Tanz Sixfingers5 hours ago

    It always appalls me the evils people do to each other in the name of religion.

     

  •  
    Avatar
    galen0662 hours ago

    So kind of the IDF to provide documentary evidence of their crimes against humanity…

     

  •  
    Avatar
    Ira Wechsler33 minutes ago

    This violence and hatred toward Palestinians is no more an accident or “fringe behavior” than is any other racist actions we see around the globe or in our own cities. This is drummed into soldiers of the US as they are sent into the Middle East and Afghanistan. They call Iraqis and Afghani’s Haji’s and towel heads. This is what the army wants , so they can prosecute this war and commit the atrocities necessary to make way for their dominance of energy sources around the globe.for the benefiit of Exxon-Mobil and the finance bankers of Wall Street. the Israeli’s are no different in their racism and fascist control of occupied territories than other larger imperialists. They all represent the sickness of capitalism and the need for a global communist movement to lead our class to bring about revolutionary change and rule of the 99%, the working class. We nned revolutionary youth to be organized to go into the military and win the alliegiance of working class GI’s , so when we are strong enough we can turn the guns around and bring down the imperialist empires. Then and only then can we hope to establish an egalitarian world without racism, war, exploitatrion or money. Then we can produce and distribute to all based on neednot profit.

     

  •  
    Avatar
    northstatean hour ago

    History will show that when Truman gave Palestinian land to the Jews from Germany, the Arab leaders told him that there would be no peace thereafter. There has been no peace. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Diaspora happened 2,000 years ago. Under what law did Truman have the right to give land in the Middle East to German Jews? Prior to that, German Jews were migrating peacefully to Palestine and buying land to farm. They were neighbors of the local Palestinians. That worked. The Wahrburg banking family in NYC donated money to plant trees and build schools. They told Truman not to expropriate land from the Palestinians, not to create a State of Israel. We now have a permanent state of war; we now have a permanent occupation of Palestinian land. And, to add to this awfulness, Israel is encouraging Russian Jews to come to Israel for “free” land. Settlers on the West Bank are expropriating more land from Palestinian pastoral farmers. When does it stop? When does the United States Congress stop supporting this land grab?

     

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    Washington Okays Attack on Unarmed U.S. Ship June 30, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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    Published on Thursday, June 30, 2011 by Foreign Policy in Focus

    The Obama administration appears to have given a green light to an Israeli attack on an unarmed flotilla carrying peace and human rights activists — including a vessel with 50 Americans on board — bound for the besieged Gaza Strip. At a press conference on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Campaign by saying it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”

    Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against ships which are clearly no threat. Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.

    The risk of an Israeli attack on the flotilla is real. Israeli commandoes illegally assaulted a similar flotilla in international waters on May 31 of last year, killing nine people on board one of the vessels, including Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old U.S. citizen. Scores of others, including a number of Americans, were brutally beaten and more than a dozen others were shot but survived their wounds. According to a UN investigation, based on eyewitness testimony and analysis by a forensic pathologist and ballistic expert, Dogan was initially shot while filming the assault and then murdered while lying face down with a bullet shot at close range in the back of the head. The United States was the only one of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council to vote against the adoption of the report. The Obama administration never filed a complaint with the Israeli government, demonstrating its willingness to allow the armed forces of U.S. allies to murder U.S. citizens on the high seas.

    As indicated by Clinton’s statement of last week, the administration appears to be willing to let it happen again.

    Congressional Response

    Last year, 329 out of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter that referred to Israel’s attack that killed Dogan and the others as an act of “self-defense” which they “strongly support.” A Senate letter — signed by 87 out of 100 senators — went on record “fully” supporting what it called “Israel’s right to self-defense,” claiming that the effort to relieve critical shortages of food and medicine in the besieged Gaza Strip was simply part of a “clever tactical and diplomatic ploy” by “Israel’s opponents” to “challenge its international standing.”

    But not everyone in Congress believes the assaulting and killing human rights activists on the high seas is legitimate. Last week, on June 24, six members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary Clinton requesting that she “do everything in her power to work with the Israeli government to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens on board.” As of this writing, they have not received a response.

    Earlier in the week, the State Department issued a public statement to discourage Americans from taking part in the second Gaza flotilla because they might be attacked by Israeli forces. Yet thus far neither the State Department nor the White House has issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. Indeed, on Friday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland implied that the United States would blame those taking part in the flotilla rather than the rightist Israeli government should anything happen to them. Like those in the early 1960s who claimed civil rights protesters were responsible for the attacks by white racist mobs because they had “provoked them,” Nuland stated, Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.” Again, The Obama administration didn’t offer even one word encouraging caution or restraint by the Israeli government, nor did it mention that the International Red Cross and other advocates of international humanitarian law recognize that the Israeli blockade is illegal.

    Who’s On Board

    Passengers of the U.S. boat, christened The Audacity of Hope, include celebrated novelist Alice Walker, holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, veteran foreign service officer and retired lieutenant colonel Ann Wright, Israeli-American linguistics professor Hagit Borer, and prominent peace and human rights activists like Medea Benjamin, Robert Naiman, Steve Fake, and Kathy Kelly. Ten other boats are carrying hundreds of other civilians from dozens of other countries, along with nearly three thousand tons of aid. Those on board include members of national parliaments and other prominent political figures, writers, artists, clergy from various faith traditions, journalists, and athletes.

    Fifteen ships have previously sailed or attempted to sail to Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Campaign. None was found to contain any weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes. The current flotilla organizers have stated that their cargoes are “open to international inspection.” Despite this, however, the Obama State Department insists that the Israelis have the right to intercept the ships due to the “vital importance to Israel’s security of ensuring that all cargo bound for Gaza is appropriately screened for illegal arms and dual-use materials.”

    Though the flotilla organizers have made clear that the U.S. boat is only carrying letters of support for the people of Gaza, the State Department has also threatened participants with “fines and incarceration” if they attempt to provide “material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas.”

    As with many actions supporting Palestinian rights, the coalition of groups endorsing the flotilla includes  pro-Palestinian groups as well as peace, human rights, religious, pacifist and liberal organizations, including Progressive Democrats of America, Pax Christi, Peace Action, Nonviolence International, Jewish Voice for Peace, War Resisters League, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Despite this, Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, has claimed that organizers of the flotilla have “clear terrorist ties” and has called upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute U.S. citizens involved with the flotilla and ban foreign participants from ever entering the United States.

    Israel’s Position

    Largely as a result of last year’s flotilla, Israel has somewhat relaxed its draconian siege on the territory, which had resulted in a major public health crisis. The State Department has gone to some lengths to praise Israel for allowing some construction material into the Gaza Strip to make possible the rebuilding of some of the thousands of homes, businesses and public facilities destroyed in Israel’s devastating U.S.-backed 2008-2009 military offensive, which resulted in the deaths of over 800 civilians. At no point, however, has the Obama administration ever criticized Israel for destroying those civilian structures in the first place.

    As with many potentially confrontational nonviolent direct actions, there are genuine differences within the peace and human rights community regarding the timing, the nature, and other aspects of the forthcoming flotilla. However, the response to the Obama administration’s position on the flotilla has been overwhelmingly negative. Many among his progressive base, already disappointed at his failure to take a tougher line against the rightist Israeli government as well as his reluctance to embrace human rights and international law as a basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace, feel increasingly alienated from the president.

    More significantly, the Obama administration’s response may signal a return to the Reagan administration’s policies of defending the killing of U.S. human rights workers in order to discourage grassroots acts of international solidarity, as when Reagan officials sought to blame the victims and exonerate the perpetrators for the murder of four American churchwomen by the El Salvadoran junta and the murder of American engineer Ben Linder by the Nicaraguan Contras. Perhaps the Obama administration hopes that giving a green light to an Israeli attack on the U.S. ship and other vessels in the flotilla will serve as a warning. Perhaps they hope that Americans volunteering for groups like Peace Brigades International, Witness for Peace, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Christian Peacemaker Teams, International Solidarity Movement, and other groups operating in conflict zones like Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Nepal, Indonesia and elsewhere will think twice, knowing that the U.S. government will not live up to its obligations to try to protect nonviolent U.S. activists from violence perpetrated by allied governments.

    Indeed, nothing frightens a militaristic state more than the power of nonviolent action.

    <!–

    –>

    Stephen Zunes

    Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco and serves as a contributing editor of Tikkun. His most recent book, co-authored with Jacob Mundy, is Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010.)

    Alice Walker: Why I’m Joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza June 27, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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    The Guardian / By
    Alice Walker

    Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker is on board an
    international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli
    blockade.

    June 26, 2011  |

    //

    Photo Credit:
    AFP

    Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even
    though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived
    already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me
    that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s
    understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the
    young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

    Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people
    of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will
    consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked
    the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if
    they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of
    the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

    There
    is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed
    Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire.
    The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead
    lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

    Alongside
    this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying
    off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the
    side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially
    indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for
    help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection
    to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.

    They
    got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few “good ol’ boys'” of Neshoba
    County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a
    young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our
    boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney,
    Schwerner flag in my own heart.

    And
    what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president’s latest
    speech on Israel and Palestine, and
    whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing
    ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

    I
    see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it
    will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must
    never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in
    speeches that circle the globe.

    As
    adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the
    Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the
    American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child,
    etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to
    cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.

    I
    once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as
    staunch a defender of black people’s human rights as anyone I’d ever met: how
    did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force
    shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that
    time?

    I
    thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin
    Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and
    grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that
    had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.

    He
    was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended
    after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he
    was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one
    day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran
    off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.

    Two
    black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after
    the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them,
    they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it
    respectfully back on his head.

    It
    is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without
    delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It
    will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have
    been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.

    That
    is why I sail.

    The
    Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir by Alice Walker is
    published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. A longer version of this article appears
    on Alice Walker’s blog:
    alicewalkersgarden.com/blog

    Setting Sail for Gaza, Armed with Love Letters and a Missive from Dr. King June 22, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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    “Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls the Freedom Ride of our era,” the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions “irresponsible and provocative” and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.”
    Published on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

    “I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him,” said Dr. Martin Luther King as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These words will guide me and other passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine boats scheduled to set sail for Gaza on June 25 from various Mediterranean ports. While the Israelis try to label us provocateurs, terrorists and Hamas supporters, we are simply nonviolent advocates following the teachings of Dr. King. We refuse to sit at the docks of history and watch the people of Gaza suffer.

    The U.S. boat, which will carry 50 Americans, is called The Audacity of Hope. It is named after Obama’s bestselling political autobiography in which he lauds our collective audacity of striving to become a better nation. But I prefer to think of our boat as part of Dr. King’s legacy. He, too, talked about audacity, about his audacious faith in the future. “I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him,” Dr. King said.

    Our intrepid group has its moral compass aimed at the way things ought to be. Our cargo is not humanitarian aid, as some of the other ships are carrying, but thousands of letters from the U.S. people, letters of compassion, solidarity and hope written to people living in the Gaza Strip. We travel with what Dr. King called “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

    We focus on Gaza because since 2007 the Israeli government has enforced a crippling blockade on its 1.5 million residents. Inflicting collective punishment on civilians is morally wrong and is a gross violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the world’s democracies do nothing to stop Israel’s extraordinarily cruel behavior, and in fact did nothing for 22 days in 2009 while the Israel military unleashed a tidal wave of carnage that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. They continue to sit by while the people of Gaza remain isolated and unable to secure access to building materials and basic living supplies, and while Israeli soldiers shoot at Gaza’s farmers trying to till their land along the border and attack fisherman trying to make a living in waters off their shore. And in the case of the United States, our government is not simply sitting by, but supporting the Israeli military with $3 billion in military aid a year.

    Bonus Photo - Gaza Demo

    The Palestinians’ plea for help has been ignored by world governments, but it has pricked the conscience of civil society. Caravans have crisscrossed Europe and Africa, carrying tons of aid. Boats have braved Israeli war ships and tried to dock in Gaza’s ports. Over 1,000 people joined the Gaza Freedom March, an attempt to break the siege that was brutally stopped by Egyptian police during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

    In May, 2010, seven ships and nearly 700 passengers carrying humanitarian aid tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade. The Israeli military violently intercepted the ships, killing nine passengers aboard the Turkish boat, including a 19-year-old American citizen. The rest of passengers were roughed up, arrested, thrown in Israeli prisons, and deported.

    For a brief moment, this tragedy in international waters focused the world spotlight on Gaza. Israel said it would ease the draconian siege, allowing more goods to enter the beleaguered strip. But just this month, the health authorities in Gaza proclaimed a state of emergency due to an acute shortage of vital medicines and also this month, a report from the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, found unemployment in Gaza at a staggering 45.2 percent, among the highest in the world. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the number of abject poor living on just over one dollar a day has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed in 2007. “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution,” Gunness said.

    Hopes inside Gaza were buoyed by the Egyptian revolution. A groundswell of grassroots solidarity by Egyptians pushed the new government to announce that it would open its border with Gaza. But that promise remains elusive, asthousands are still blocked from crossing, and all imports and exports must still pass through the Israeli side. Israel remains the warden for the world’s largest open-air prison. It continues to decide what goods can enter, what exports can come out, and which people can get exit visas. It continues to control Gaza’s electricity, water supply, airspace and access to the Mediterranean.

    Although the Israelis know that our boats will not carry arms and we, the passengers, are committed to nonviolence, they have nonetheless vowed to stop us with a dizzying array of force—water cannons, commandos, border police, snipers, and attack dogs from the military’s canine unit.

    Equally astonishing is the U.S. government’s reaction. Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls the Freedom Ride of our era,” the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions “irresponsible and provocative” and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.

    This pressure is having an impact. At the urging of the Turkish government, our flagship, the Mavi Marmara, the same ship that was so violently attacked last year, recently announced that it will not be joining the flotilla. The Mavi Marmara was going to carry 500 people; its absence cuts our numbers in half. And there may be more ships forced to drop out.

    All this bullying, however, only strengthens our resolve. We may be fewer boats, we may have fewer passengers, we may be threatened with violence, but we will sail. And if the Israelis intercept our boats, we call on people around the world to gather at Israeli embassies and consulates to express their outrage.

    Like the inexorable rhythm of the ocean, the Palestinians will continue to lap at the shores of injustice. They will keep coming back, wave after wave, demanding the right to rebuild their tattered communities, the right to live in dignity. Shoring them up will be the international community, including activists like us who join their nonviolent resistance. The real question is: How long will the Israelis, with U.S. backing, continue to swim against the tide?

     

    Medea Benjamin

    Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

    No “Hamas Exception” for Human Rights: A Reply to the American Jewish Committee May 22, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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    ‘Not One Word of Remorse’ from Driver Who Crushed Rachel Corrie October 23, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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    (Roger’s note: the Israeli soldier who crushed and killed Rachel Corrie was only “taking orders.”  When asked why he didn’t call for a military ambulance over his radio, he said: “That’s not my level of command.”)

    Published on Thursday, October 21, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

    Israeli soldier in bulldozer ‘did not see her’

    by Harriet Sherwood in Haifa

    The Israeli soldier at the controls of the bulldozer that crushed the pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie told a court today that the first time he saw her was when fellow protesters were already tending to her dying body in the dirt.

    [Rachel Corrie's parents, Craig and Cynthia, stand next to a photograph of their daughter at the start of their civil case against the state of Israel earlier this year. (Photograph: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)]Rachel Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cynthia, stand next to a photograph of their daughter at the start of their civil case against the state of Israel earlier this year. (Photograph: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

    Giving evidence for more than four hours in the civil case brought by Corrie’s family against the state of Israel, the former soldier repeatedly insisted that had not seen the 23-year-old American standing in front of his 66-tonne Caterpillar bulldozer before she was fatally hit.”I didn’t see her before the incident,” he told the court in Haifa. “I saw people pulling the body out from under the earth.”

    The soldier, named only as YB, gave evidence from behind a screen after a ruling by the judge for “security reasons”. A gagging order was imposed on identifying details, although it was disclosed in court that YB is a 38-year-old Russian immigrant who learned Hebrew after arriving in Israel at the age of 23 and now works for a food processing company.

    The Corrie family had requested that they be given dispensation to see YB give evidence, which was refused. “I do feel that the state of Israel is saying [we] are security risks and I am affronted by that,” Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said after the hearing. “I wanted to be able to see the whole person, not just hear the words.”

    Rachel Corrie was protesting against the demolition by the Israeli military of Palestinian houses in Gaza when she was crushed to death in March 2003. An internal military investigation concluded that no charges should be brought and the case was closed.

    YB, who was in communication with his unit command and a second bulldozer on the scene, told the court that he was told through his headphones that he had hit someone. “I reversed … There was this thought that something wasn’t right … It looked like I hit someone. I didn’t understand what had happened.”

    In evidence that frequently contradicted his own earlier affidavits, YB said he reversed the bulldozer 25-30 metres. “After I reversed I saw they took out a body.” He was “absolutely certain” Corrie’s body was between the bulldozer and a mound of earth he had been ordered to flatten, contradicting earlier evidence given by two other military witnesses.

    Asked if anyone from his unit went to the aid of the fatally injured protester, YB said: “No, we weren’t allowed to leave [the vehicle].” Asked why he didn’t call a military ambulance over his radio, he said: “That’s not my level of command.”

    He recalled being warned that morning that there were civilian protesters in the area, and some might be armed. “Did you see any of them armed?” asked Hussein Abu Hussein, the family’s lawyer. “I can’t answer that, I don’t remember,” said YB.

    Later Abu Hussein asked: “Did they carry anything that made them look like terrorists?” YB said: “They carried a loudspeaker and a sign.”

    “Did you suspect they were dangerous?” YB said: “I suspect everyone.”

    YB had offered no explanations, said Abu Hussein. “You continued driving forward, you pushed the dirt and you buried her. You didn’t see anyone. You have no explanation of how [Corrie] was killed.”

    After the hearing, the lawyer told reporters: “The more we hear the more the impression is that someone tried to whitewash what happened.”

    Cindy Corrie said she was “glad to get this day behind me”. Although the driver was a key witness, she said, “my sense is that there are other people on the ground and in the rear who also have responsibility and were giving orders, and allowed these things to happen to Rachel and continue to happen”.

    She had brought the book of her daughter’s writing to court, she said. “I wanted to keep Rachel’s humility and compassion for everyone in my heart today, but it was very hard as I did not hear one word of remorse from this witness today. That saddens me.”

    © 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

    During War There Are No Civilians September 9, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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    Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 by Al Jazeera English

    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.

    [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. (Photograph: Denny Sternstein/AP)]
    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. (Photograph: Denny Sternstein/AP)

    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

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