Category Archives: IDF

Pull the Curtain Back

Samra boutique

The Samra boutique, before and after the strike. Photos by Samra Fashion – Gaza.

The politically correct message for the Israeli leaders to send to the world after any military operation in Gaza is:

“we’re defending ourselves” and

“the militants in Gaza started it” and

“we hit this and that military target.”

Decipher any news reports in the western media about the latest assault on Gaza and you’ll find versions of all three in every article.

But pull the curtain back and you’ll quickly find a very different story.

The goal of self-defense is a shallow proxy for the goal of systematically destroying the Gaza Strip and making it unlivable for the 2+ million Palestinians imprisoned there. “De-development” is the term coined by economist Sara Roy in her book about the political economy of de-development in the Gaza Strip. This real goal requires destruction of hospitals, utilities, infrastructure, libraries, universities and even retail businesses.  All of which Israel has been successfully accomplishing over the past 12 years or more.

The message of self-defense naturally requires Israel to convince the world that the Palestinians in Gaza are responsible for starting the hostilities. They accomplish this stealth maneuver by simply choosing the date and event which best suits their story. Don’t look too far back at the months of Israeli snipers shooting and killing peaceful protesters at the fence separating Israel and Gaza. Don’t look at Israel’s more recent targeted assassinations in Gaza. Begin the chronology of events when the Palestinian militants shoot rockets towards Israel — perfect for the self-defense narrative.

And finally, Israel is the most moral army of the world, or so it wants the world to believe. That explains the non-stop messaging about military targets. But pull the curtain back and we see a much different picture.

Gisha, the legal center for freedom of movement, reported today about Israel’s destruction of a successful retail business in the center of Gaza. This is the true target of Israel’s military operation — the de-development of Gaza.

“Years of work disappeared in one minute”
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza that erupted earlier this week took its toll on the lives, homes and dreams of individuals in Gaza and southern Israel. Media reports tend to focus on the stories of those killed or injured. This is the story of one Palestinian resident of Gaza who was “fortunate” enough not to suffer direct physical harm, but is one of countless people paying a different kind of price. Mahmoud Said Al Nakhaleh, 29-years-old from Gaza City, lost his life’s work in the blink of an eye when Israel bombed the six-story building that housed his women’s clothing boutique in central Gaza City.

Four years ago, Al Nakhaleh opened his boutique, Samra, on the city’s main street, and it became a successful retail business. On Saturday night, just ahead of the start of Ramadan and the holiday that marks its end, Eid Al-Fitr, when people tend to shop for new clothes, Al Nakhaleh lost his property, his investment, and his livelihood in one fell swoop.

“We were working in the store, getting ready for the holiday. I never once thought Mahmoud Said Al Nakhalehanything like this could happen,” Al Nakhaleh told Gisha’s field coordinator, Mohammad Azaiza. “No one contacted us to tell us to leave the store. We ran away when we heard the warning missile hit the building. We didn’t take anything with us. Within minutes the building turned into rubble. Years of work disappeared in a minute.”

Personal documents and cash that were in the store at the time were also destroyed. Al Nakhaleh estimates that merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars, which was on the shop floor at the time of the bombing, was lost, along with $40,000 worth of brand new stock purchased for Eid Al-Fitr that was still in storage.

The boutique had been the sole source of income for both Al Nakhaleh and his two employees, all of whom are now unemployed. Other offices located in the same building were also demolished. “There are organizations that provide care for orphans, educational centers, media agencies. Why bomb them? Even the Red Cross told us no one had warned them that the building was going to be bombed,” said Al Nakhaleh.

Now Al Nakhaleh is trying to decide what to do next. “I was married recently and I live in a rental. Everything I had is gone and I can’t get it back. I don’t know what to do,” he admits. “I call on the world to take action to stop the firing on civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

There is no military solution that can usher in long-term quiet. Regional stability will only be made possible once Israel takes substantial, forthright steps to protect the human rights of Gaza’s two million residents and allow the Strip’s shattered economy to recover and develop. Ceasefire agreements, the “gestures” by Israel that come with them to “ease” the closure on Gaza, or more humanitarian aid from the international community cannot substitute the only long-term solution, which is an end to the occupation and resolution of the conflict.

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“עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”
יום ג’ 7 במאי, 2019
סבב האלימות האחרון גבה קורבנות. חייהם, רכושם ותקוותיהם של תושבים, בעזה ובדרום ישראל, נלקחו מהם באלימות בלתי נסבלת. מתפרסמים סיפוריהם של מי שחייהם קופחו, של מי שנפצעו. הסיפור הבא הוא של אדם שלמזלו לא נפגע בגופו, אך הוא נמנה עם הרבים שמשלמים מחיר אחר. פרנסתו ומפעלו המקצועי של מחמוד סעיד אל-נח’אלה, תושב העיר עזה בן 29, נלקחו ממנו אתמול ברגע כשבוטיק בגדי הנשים שבבעלותו נהרס כליל אתמול בהפצצה של ישראל על הבניין בן שש הקומות שבו נמצא העסק, במרכז עזה.

מאז פתח אל-נח’אלה את הבוטיק לפני ארבע שנים, ברחובה הראשי של העיר עזה, הפך “סמרא” לחנות מצליחה לייבוא ולממכר בגדי נשים. כעת, בשיא עונת הקניות, לקראת הרמדאן והחד שבסופו, איבד ברגע את כל רכושו והונו.

“עבדנו בחנות והתכוננו לחג, ולא עלה בדעתי לרגע שדבר כזה יקרה,” סיפר היום למוחמד עזאיזה, תחקירן “גישה”. “אף אחד לא יצר קשר לבקש שנצא מהחנות. ברחנו כששמענו את פגיעת טיל האזהרה. לא לקחנו איתנו דבר. בתוך דקות הבניין הפך לעיי חורבות. עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”.

כסף מזומן ומסמכים אישיים שנשארו בחנות, הושמדו. אל-נח’אלה מעריך כי בהפצצה נפגעו סחורות בשווי עשרת אלפים דולר שהיו בחנות, וסחורה חדשה בשווי 40 אלף דולר שנשמרה במחסן והיתה מיועדת לרמדאן ולקראת עיד אל-פיטר.

בחנות הועסקו גם שני עובדים, שהיא מקור פרנסתם היחיד, וכעת מחוסרי עבודה. בנוסף לבוטיק של מוחמד, נפגעו משרדים נוספים השוכנים בבניין שהופצץ. “יש כאן ארגונים לטיפול ביתומים, מרכזים חינוכיים, סוכנויות תקשורת. למה להפציץ? אפילו הצלב האדום מסרו לנו שאיש לא עדכן אותם בכוונה להפגיז את הבניין,” אמר אל-נח’אלה.

הוא מנסה כעת לחשב את צעדיו. “התחתנתי לאחרונה ואני גר בשכירות. כל מה שיש לי הלך ללא חזור. אני לא יודע מה לעשות,” הוא מודה. “אני קורא לעולם לפעול למען הפסקת הירי לעבר אזרחים ברצועה”.

כל עוד לא ייעשו צעדים כנים לקידום זכויות האדם של תושבי הרצועה, נדונו לחזרה מעגלית איומה של פרצי אלימות, לעוד ועוד סיפורים כשל מחמוד אל-נח’אלה. הסכמים קצרי טווח ו”מחוות” ישראליות שמבטיחות “להקל” על הסגר, כמו גם עוד סיוע הומניטרי מידי הקהילה הבינלאומית, אינם תחליף למהלכים ארוכי-טווח שיובילו לסיום הכיבוש ולפתרון לסכסוך.
העבירו לחברים | תרמו לגישה
“تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة”
‫الثلاثاء‬ 7 أيار، 2019

حصدت جولة التصعيد الحالية الكثير من الضحايا. السكان، الذين يعانون أصلاً وزر الحياة اليومية القاسية، يخسرون أرواحهم، ممتلكاتهم وأحلامهم بعنف لا يطاق. نسمع قصص الضحايا والجرحى، لكن السطور التالية مخصصة لشخص حالفه الحظ ولم يخسر حياته ولم يصب بجسده، لكنه ككثيرين آخرين، دفع ثمنًا من نوع آخر. محمود النخالة، من سكان غزة ويبلغ من العمر 29 عامًا، خسر مصدر رزقه ومشروعه التجاري، بعد ان تم هدم بوتيك الملابس النسائية التابع له جراء قصف إسرائيلي لعمارة في مركز مدينة غزة.

منذ ان افتتح النخالة هذا البوتيك قبل أربع سنوات، في شارع أحمد عبد العزيز في مدينة غزة، أصبح بوتيك سمرا، متجرًا ناجحًا ومتميزًا لاستيراد وتسويق الملابس النسائية. الآن، وفي ذروة موسم المبيعات، عشية شهر رمضان وعيد الفطر، خسر بلحظة كل ما يملك.

“عملنا في البوتيك وتحضرنا للعيد، ولم يخطر ببالي للحظة أن يحدث شيء من هذا القبيل،” قال النخالة للباحث الميداني في “ﭼيشاه – مسلك” محمد العزايزة. “لم يتصل بنا أحد ليخبرنا بأن نخرج من الدكان. هربنا عندما سمعنا انفجار صاروخ التحذير. لم نأخذ معنا أي شيء. خلال دقائق تحولت البناية لخرابة. تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة.”

الأموال والمستندات الشخصية التي ظلت في الدكان، أبيدت. ويقدر النخالة أن قيمة البضائع التي كانت في الدكان تبلغ نحو 10 آلاف دولار، بالإضافة إلى بضائع جديدة بقيمة 40 ألف دولار وصلت مؤخرًا وحفظت في المخزن لعرضها في رمضان وعيد الفطر.

كما عمل في البوتيك شخصان آخران، كان ذلك هو مصدر رزقهما الوحيد، والآن بقيا بلا عمل. بالإضافة إلى بوتيك محمد، ضمت العمارة مكاتب أخرى دمرها القصف. “يوجد هنا جمعيات لرعاية الأيتام، مراكز تربوية، مكاتب إعلامية. لماذا تم قصف المبنى؟ حتى الصليب الأحمر أخبرنا أن أحدًا لم يبلغهم عن النية بقصف المبنى” يقول النخالة.

يحاول محمد الآن دراسة خطواته. “تزوجت منذ فترة قصيرة وأسكن بشقة مستأجرة. كل ما أملكه ذهب بلا عودة. لا أعرف ما يمكنني فعله” يقول محمد ويضيف “أناشد كل العالم بالعمل من اجل وقف قصف المدنيين في غزة”.

طالما لم يتم اتخاذ اجراءات حقيقية وصادقة لتعزيز حقوق الإنسان لسكان قطاع غزة، سنبقى جميعنا نعاني من هذا الواقع المرير، الذي تحكمه جولات التصعيد المتكررة، ونشاهد المزيد من الحالات الشبيهة بحالة محمود النخالة. اتفاقيات قصيرة الأمد و”بوادر حسن نية” من قبل إسرائيل، التي بموجبها يتم “تخفيف” وطأة الإغلاق المفروض على القطاع، وحتى ضخ المزيد من المساعدات الإنسانية، جميعها ليست بديلات عن حلول جذرية تؤدي إلى إنهاء الاحتلال وحل الصراع.

ارسلوا للاصدقاء | تبرعوا لـمسلك

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Filed under Economic Development, Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, Media, People, Uncategorized, Video

Demonstrators Shot in Violation of their Right to Life

29425644_419847478469077_7507957825339916288_n

On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.”  The idea evolved into a movement of Palestinians. Within weeks, Abu Artema, civil society activists and other stakeholders drew up a charter of 12 principles, envisaging a national march by Palestinians of all ages, genders, political and social groups. (para. 22 and 23)

I’ve been following the #GreatReturnMarch since the beginning, watching its preparations, and studying it from the perspective of my international human rights law course that was occurring at the same time.

23472746_1518214138214284_7274524142973981851_nAn Israeli woman shared her thoughts about the protests. The New York Times adopted the Israeli framing of the protests.  The protests continued.  With grim predictability, the killing of unarmed protesters continued too.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

Throughout the summer and fall of 2018 I followed the protests and took heart when the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court warned Israel that it might be subject to prosecution for its crimes committed against the protestors.

The United Nations appointed an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate.  Predictably, Israel refused to cooperate in the investigation, and Egypt wouldn’t let the commission enter Gaza because of security concerns in the Sinai. However, in this small and interconnected world we live in, with Skype and other technology, the commission interviewed many participants in the protests, as well as families of the victims, the medical personnel in Gaza, as well as viewed much of the video documentation from the protests. COI_Commissioners_HP

The three member commission released its report and findings on February 28, 2019. The Israeli government immediately condemned it, saying that the commission was blinded by hatred,  but everyone else I’ve read has received it favorably.

It’s a short (22 pages) read and I recommend it to everyone.

Some excerpts that added to my understanding of the #GreatReturnMarch —

Israel was prepared. The protesters were not trying to take anyone by surprise.

Prior to the first demonstration, Israeli forces reinforced their positions at the fence with additional troops, including more than 100 sharpshooters. They dropped leaflets in Gaza and contacted Palestinian bus companies to warn against participation. At the demonstration sites, they strengthened the separation fence and its underground barrier (to prevent and detect cross-border tunnels), installed kilometres of barbed wire coils on the Gazan side as additional barriers, cleared vegetation on both sides, dug deep trenches on the Israeli side and erected a battery of earth mounds or berms onto which snipers were positioned for better visibility and shooting accuracy.

When the rules of engagement were challenged, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental human rights organizations challenged the application of lethal force by Israeli forces at the fence in the Israel Supreme Court, contending that the rules of engagement violated international law because they were too permissive or were being applied permissively. The Court disagreed and approved the rules of engagement, holding that “the use of potentially lethal force for the sake of dispersing a mass riot – from which an actual and imminent danger is posed to life or bodily integrity – is, in principle, permitted, subject to proving necessity and proportionality.” The Court declined to examine how the rules were applied on the ground, deferring to the internal investigations of Israeli security forces.

Ten pages of this report describe the deaths and injuries during three specific days of protest (Sections V and VI — p. 7-16)

Was Israel testing new weapons on the civilian population?

According to an international doctor working at a Gaza hospital, interviewed by the commission, “It was striking the number of extremely similar injuries; massive open wounds in the legs, with skin and muscles ‘blown out’, bones smashed to pieces, and damage to blood vessels leading to vascular injury, putting the entire limb at risk.”

COGAT holds the power of life and death – no surprise here!

In early April, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories denied exit permits for wounded demonstrators, primarily on the basis of the policy of the Minister of Defense to deny passage to any person injured during the demonstrations.  Although the Supreme Court of Israel subsequently rejected the above-mentioned blanket policy, those injured in the demonstrations continued to face significant challenges in obtaining medical treatment outside Gaza, as illustrated by the case below:

 Zakaria Bishbish (14)
On 30 May, Israeli security forces shot Zakaria, from the Maghazi refugee camp, in the back at the demonstration site in El Bureij, while he was at least 100 m from the separation fence. The gunshot perforated Zakaria’s stomach and colon, splintered his vertebrae and damaged his kidney. His family sought a two-week exit permit to seek life-saving treatment at Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, which had arranged a medical appointment for 4 June. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, however, denied the request, giving no reasons. His family then attempted to secure appointments for him in Egypt and the West Bank; the Coordinator did not respond to their requests. On 18 June, Zakaria died
of sepsis.

Will the State of Israel and/or any individuals involved in these killings be held accountable?

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

Accountability needed to end excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, says UN expert

The following press release copied verbatim emphasizes ACCOUNTABILITY but who will hold Israel accountable?

GENEVA (5 March 2019) – The international community must take immediate and decisive action to ensure that Israel cease its violations of international law when responding to the ongoing demonstrations at the Gaza fence, a UN human rights expert said.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the deadly 2018 Palestinian protests in Gaza.

The Commission, which was mandated to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws, presented its findings on 28 February 2019.

“It found reasonable grounds to believe that, in all but two of the 189 fatalities investigated, the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful,” Lynk said. “Accordingly, I support the Commission’s call for accountability with respect to those who used lethal fire unlawfully, and for those who drafted and approved the rules of engagement which permitted this illegal use of lethal fire.”

Among the dead were 35 children, 3 paramedics and 2 journalists. Another 6,106 demonstrators were wounded during the demonstrations.

The Special Rapporteur noted that, since the start of 2019, Israeli security forces have continued to respond to protests along the fence with tear gas, rubber coated bullets and live ammunition. As a result, a further five children have been killed in the past two months.

One such incident saw the killing with live ammunition of two boys (aged 14 and 17) on 8 February 2019, and following the protest, the death on 12 February 2019 of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy who was hit by a tear gas canister in the head. According to human rights organisations, the three boys posed no threat to Israeli forces. More recently, on 22 February 2019, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by live ammunition during a protest east of Gaza city. 

Lynk reiterated that international human rights instruments pertaining to law enforcement provide that firearms may only be used against persons if there is an imminent threat to life or risk of serious injury. He added that, in the context of an occupation, the killings at the Gaza fence resulting from the unlawful use of force might well constitute willful killings of the protected population, which constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and potentially a war crime under the Rome Statute.

“We must ensure legal accountability and end impunity for the excessive use of force against largely peaceful Palestinian demonstrators, and the resulting arbitrary deprivation of life,” said the Special Rapporteur. “This is a grave violation of their right to life and it abrogates their guaranteed freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

Lynk also endorsed the recommendations of the Commission that the de facto authorities in Gaza failed in their duties to prevent the indiscriminate use of incendiary kites and balloons, which caused economic damage and civilian fear in southern Israel. 

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the attention given by the Commission of Inquiry to the dire living conditions in Gaza, which have fueled the large demonstrations over the past year. He endorsed the Commission’s call for an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has repeatedly been described by recent UN Secretary-Generals as a prohibited form of collective punishment of the people of Gaza. In particular, he noted the dire impact of the blockade on the Gazan health system, which has significantly contributed to the deteriorating quality of health in the Strip. 

As the one-year anniversary of the “Great March of Return” on 30 March 2019 draws closer, and in view of the ever-deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over possible rising levels of violence if no firm action was taken to pursue accountability and justice. “Continuing to suffocate Gaza is a blot on the world’s conscience and a recipe for more bloodshed,” Lynk said. “Restoring Gaza and ensuring justice and accountability would give the region hope that a better Middle East is possible.”  

Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

 

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, People, Uncategorized, United Nations

Hate kills, we kill

Hate kills. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, you and I kill.

We may not put our fingers on the trigger, but we must shoulder some responsibility for these killings. Until we do, they will continue, just like clockwork.

The names and ages of the most recent victims, killed within days of each other, are circulating on social media. #WeWillNeverForget

But we will forget; most of us with no connection to the victims will not be able to remember their names this time next year.

Gregory Bush

Gregory Alan Bush

Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Vickie Lee Jones (67) were both killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on Wednesday (October 24). Gregory A. Bush (51) has been arrested and the crime is being investigated as a hate crime. The innocent victims are black, the perp is white.

Robert Bowers

                       Robert Bowers

On Saturday (October 27), while praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joyce Fienberg (75), Richard Gottfried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), Cecil Rosenthal (59), David Rosenthal (54), Sylvan Simon (86), Bernice Simon (84), Daniel Stein (71), Melvin Wax (88) and Irving Younger (69) were shot and killed. Robert Bowers (46) faces 29 federal charges involving hate crimes punishable by death. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.  (Watch CNN videos here.) The victims are innocent Jews, the perp is white.

The following day, Sunday (October 28), while playing near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, an Israeli airstrike killed three young Palestinian teenage boys. Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed (14), Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher (13), and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari (13) “were apparently involved in placing an improvised explosive device” near the fence, the Israeli military said. Their parents deny that the boys were involved with any militant activities.

Succumbing to the “he said, she said” arguments about what these boys were doing on the Gaza side of the fence on Sunday distracts from the fact that an extrajudicial killing took the lives of three young teenage boys who posed no danger to the Israeli military monitoring the fence. The victims were innocent young Palestinians, the perp was likely a white Jewish member of the Israel Defense Force perhaps acting on orders from other white Jewish members of the IDF. Since I can’t show you a picture of the perp, I’ll share a photo of the victims in Gaza. 3 boys killed

These killings on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday have much in common, although Americans might not understand the similarities after watching the mainstream media.

Let me explain.

  1. All of the perps are filled with irrational hate and fear of the “other”.
  2. All of the victims are innocents caught up in a larger hate-filled narrative.

Most thoughtful Americans will easily acknowledge that the perps who killed the two Blacks in Kentucky and eleven Jews in Pennsylvania are deranged madmen — White Nationalists consumed with hatred and fear of the “other”. Clearly, Robert Bowers is an anti-Semite. Some may not be able to draw the connection between all three massacres because (1) the US mainstream media portrays the victims in Gaza differently from the victims in the US, and (2) feeling empathy for the “others” in Palestine may be more difficult than feeling empathy for Americans.

“But that Israeli fighter pilot wasn’t acting out of rage or hatred,” you might say. “Presumably he was carrying out orders from above.” 

Hatred and fear of the “other” is not limited to the individual who pulls the trigger, it can rear its ugly head at the highest levels of government.  Call it Trickle Down Hatred (TDH).

Eleven Jewish community leaders have said that Donald Trump is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he decides to “fully denounce white nationalism”, following a shooting in a synagogue on Saturday.

The group are all affiliated with the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership, a liberal movement made up of “tens of thousands” of progressive Jewish members across the US, according to its website.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the leaders said in an open letter to Mr Trump. See here.

Americans have been watching in horror as Trump’s hate-filled nationalistic rhetoric eggs on his base. The same has been occurring at the highest levels of government in the State of Israel. For many years, Israeli leaders have openly expressed their fear and hatred of Palestinians. They regularly talk about the perceived demographic threat where Palestinians outnumber Israelis, and condone actions designed to dehumanize the Palestinians on a daily basis, and even openly call for the death of Palestinians (eg. an Israeli minister calling for the death of Palestinian mothers who give birth to little snakes).

Naftali-Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Most recently, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far right wing Minister of Diaspora Affairs, drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman and Hamas. (See here.)  Without any hesitation, Bennett casts Palestinians (ALL PALESTINIANS) as the “other,” a certain death sentence if a child is playing too near the fence.

 “Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot. They are not 12-year-old children — they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot . If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.”  (See here.)

The victims, whether Blacks and Jews in America or Palestinians in Gaza, represent the “other” that threatens the dominant narrative and must be eliminated. It makes absolutely no difference that a lone madman was the perp in two cases and the government of Israel sanctioned the perp’s airstrike in the third case. The same fear and hatred of the “other” motivated each of these killings.

“But how,” you might ask, “am I responsible for these hate-filled killings?” 

“I don’t hate Blacks or Jews, and I don’t have any feelings about those people in the Middle East.”

What is the opposite of hate?

Many will say it’s love, but I suggest that it’s really empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  And without empathy, we each run the risk of being complicit in the actions of those filled with hatred.

It takes real courage to empathize with another. I’m not Jewish, I’m not Black, I’m not a Palestinian. So at one level, I might think the hatred and violence perpetrated against them doesn’t touch me. Can I move beyond the superficial feelings of sympathy for these victims, and pull empathy from deep within my core? What does it take to fully and sincerely empathize with another?

  • Vulnerability — I must be honest with myself and recognize my prejudices, biases and blind-spots. I’m not the epitome of acceptance, love and understanding that I might wish to cloak myself in. This may be the hardest part of nurturing an empathetic soul.
  • Inquisitiveness — I must be willing to question myself and others, to learn from others, to pay attention, and to continually reassess what I think I know about the “other”.
  • Stepping into the shoes of the other — I will never be Black or Jewish or a Palestinian, but making the attempt to understand and experience the world in their shoes is important and a necessary step for building the empathetic soul. At a minimum, it requires respect for the other.

I believe the atrocities we are witnessing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Gaza and elsewhere can be directly linked to mankind’s undeveloped empathy for the “other.” We may know how to put a man on the moon, but we haven’t evolved sufficiently to put ourselves in the place of the “other.”

And if you believe that the connections I’ve drawn between the victims in the three tragedies described above, are somehow a false equivalency, then I suggest you go back to step one and make yourself vulnerable to learn about the Palestinians and the horrific events occurring there daily with our tax dollars.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands

speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“It’s complicated!”

The two magical words — “It’s complicated!”

They diminish any inquiry or argument; they absolve the need for an explanation; they give a convenient pass for the rest of us to remain ignorant; and they obfuscate rather than enlighten.

The next time you hear — “It’s complicated!” — be offended and push hard for the explanation.  

You might hear that climate change is complicated, leading to feelings of despair and disempowerment.

I most frequently hear — “It’s complicated!” — with the topic of the Middle East and Gaza.

Why is Israel confining 2 million Palestinians in the largest open air prison in the world, preventing them from traveling, and enforcing a 12 year economic siege against them that has resulted in de-development of the Gaza Strip?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Palestinians of every age and background spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Israeli sharpshooters stationed at the Gaza fence killing unarmed protesters, medics, journalists and children every Friday like clockwork?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are the parents of these young children allowing them to join the #GreatReturnMarch?  “It’s complicated!”

NONE OF IT IS COMPLICATED.  It’s actually very simple.

Israel removed its Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and created the open-air prison for the Palestinian refugees there because it’s easier to dehumanize, control and kill the “other” when they are physically separated from us.  We have experience with that methodology from the Warsaw Ghetto. “It’s simple!”

In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020.  Since then, Israel has launched two military operations against Gaza in 2012 and 2014, killing thousands, maiming tens of thousands, and destroying the infrastructure and key economic sectors in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is unlivable today (2018). That’s why Palestinians of every age and background are spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment. “It’s simple!”

Israeli sharpshooters are killing Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza fence every Friday because they have received orders to shoot to kill, in clear violation of international law. There have been no reprecussions. No one has been held accountable.  “It’s simple!”

Why are parents allowing their children to join the #GreatReturnMarch? Rather than blame the victims, the question needs to be clearly recentered — why are Israeli sharpshooters killing children? Let’s not obfuscate the facts and absolve the perpetrators of this gross inhumanity.

We need leaders with moral clarity who will speak the simple truth as Representative Betty McCollum is doing with her bill to protect the human rights of Palestinian children held in military detention by Israel.  (H.R. 4391)

We need soldiers in every battlefield telling us the simple truth.

And we need to keep our hearts and minds open to be able to hear the truth.  It’s not complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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US police violence: the Israeli connection

Anyone questioning the horrific instances of police shootings in the U.S. (most recently in Dallas when a white police officer shot and killed a black man in his own apartment), must be asking themselves “why?”  Why is law enforcement trigger happy, especially with people of color? Why is law enforcement often dressed in military garb, brandishing military-style weapons, and using excessive force with peaceful protesters?

APD police

Albuquerque Police Department officers 2011

If you don’t know what I’m talking about —- you are undoubtedly white and living in an upscale neighborhood.

Mapping police violence in the U.S. provides a startling visual, but the numbers alone are nauseating. The Washington Post’s searchable database shows that as of August 30, 2018, the police have killed 707 people. And the stats clearly demonstrate that U.S. law enforcement has a much higher number of police shootings compared to their peers in other countries.  Much higher.  Off the charts.

The reasons behind this police violence are numerous and complicated, but one factor may certainly be the training that U.S. law enforcement agencies receive in Israel.

A new report released in September 2018 (Deadly Exchange -The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel) highlights the old and well-established practice of joint law enforcement training between the US and Israel.

September 12, 2018 – From the acting Deputy Director of ICE to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, since 2002 thousands of American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. And thousands more have participated in security conferences and workshops with Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the U.S. But despite their branding as top-tier counter-terrorism experts, Israeli police and security agents regularly violate civil rights, and implement racist and deadly policies.

This is not new.

In 2016, I wrote about LEEP (Law Enforcement Exchange Program) (see earlier blog post here).  I had asked the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission whether any of the APD officers were receiving joint training with their counterparts in Israel. As expected, I didn’t get an answer, and I never followed up with the promised FOIA request.

Now I have the answer.

Deadly-Exchange-Front-Cover-Mockup

In April 2011, the city of Albuquerque sent APD officers to Israel to learn from counter-terrorism experts. (See here.)

The intensive program incorporated formal presentations and briefings with site visits around the country to areas that have borne witness to terror attacks. They learned how Israel has prevented and responded to suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and how the nation protects its airports, shopping malls, and public events.

This searchable database shows which US law enforcement agencies have trained with Israeli law enforcement. The New Mexico State Police have also trained in Israel.

The State Police of New Mexico is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. Carlos Maldonado served as Chief of New Mexico State Police between 2003 and 2006. Chief Maldonado attended a training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program in 2005.

New Mexico State Police is also one of the departments that uses Israeli private-sector technology. Private Israeli security firms have contracts with both public and private security sectors. One of the private security companies that transfer technology to US police departments is the Israel-based Cellebrite. Cellebrite is a “mobile forensics” firm that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices for law enforcement, military and intelligence, and corporate customers.

The department spent $33,389.92 to crack into phones using Israeli tech firm Cellebrite, according to public record requests by Motherboard. New Mexico State Police uses Cellebrite’s technology to bypass phone passwords and security mechanisms to retrieve call logs, text messages, and in some cases even deleted data.

So if you thought the ongoing, daily violence perpetrated by the Israeli security and military on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has no relevance to Americans who have never set foot outside of the U.S. — think again.

CASE STUDY: On a police training exchange in Israel, the Boston Police Commissioner visited Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he learned about Israel’s passenger screening process, including racial and ethnic profiling of passengers. Shortly after, Boston’s Logan airport became the first American airport to pioneer the Israeli inspired Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Years later, SPOT not only came under fire for being ineffective and wasteful, but also for facilitating discriminatory racial profiling at airports around the country.

Revealed: Deputy Director of ICE was sent for training with the Israeli military.

CASE STUDY: Developed by Israeli police and manufactured by the Israeli company Odortec, “Skunk” is a foul-smelling liquid designed to cause nausea and linger for days when sprayed at high pressure onto protesters at demonstrations. Based on its proven effectiveness against Palestinian protests – particularly in West Bank village demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall – the American company Mistral Security began selling Skunk to U.S. police departments, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Uncategorized, US Policy

Shooting fish in a barrel

Life is unbearable in Gaza. It’s been unlivable for years for the 2+ million Palestinians trapped there, but now it’s at the breaking point. Many (most?) feel there’s nothing to lose by going to the eastern border and facing down the Israeli marksmen who are shooting them like fish in a barrel. Today 55+ Palestinians have been killed (including a journalist, a medic and a Palestinian with no legs) and hundreds wounded for demanding their rights enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.

Less than 100 miles away in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and others are in a celebratory mood as the U.S. flag is raised over the new U.S. Embassy. They don’t even acknowledge the slaughter occurring in Gaza.

Gaza slaughter

I’ve called my two U.S. Senators (Udall and Heinrich) and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham, demanding that they condemn the slaughter of innocent, unarmed Palestinians. I want them to join the other members of Congress who have spoken out against the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters, including: Senators Feinstein, Warren, Leahy and Sanders; as well as the following House members:

Barbara Lee (CA 13)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47)
Lloyd Doggett (TX 35)
Hank Johnson (GA 04)
Danny Davis (IL 07)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 09)
John Yarmuth (KY 03)
Jamie Raskin (MD 08)
Keith Ellison (MN 05)
Betty McCollum (MN 04)
David Price (NC 04)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 03)
Steve Cohen (TN 09)
Gerry Connolly (VA 11)
Peter Welch (VT 1)
Mark Pocan (WI 02)
Pramila Jayapal (WA 07).

My eyes are now focused on Udall, Heinrich and Lujan-Grisham.  I’m going to hound them until they come clean with a statement condemning Israel’s slaughter of innocents.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/269659083″>Voices of the Siege</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3079357″>The Palestine Chronicles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video