Category Archives: Israel Defense Forces

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

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

Stop talking about the “border”

We have a right to defend ourselves” just as any other sovereign nation, proclaims Israel’s leaders as they give the order to use lethal force against peaceful protesters on the other side of the fence with Gaza.

Whether Israel is correct depends on two things:

(1) Does international human rights law apply to these facts or international humanitarian law (rules of war)? The question has been presented to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the killings on Monday reflected a “blatant excessive use of force by Israel” and likened them to “an eye for an eyelash.”

Mr. Lynk said that protesters appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side. Under humanitarian law, he said, the killing of unarmed demonstrators could amount to a war crime, and he added that “impunity for these actions is not an option.”

(2) Is the fence between Gaza and Israel an international border or a fence separating two groups of people who each claim sovereignty over their territory?

You would be excused if you erroneously thought the fence was an international border because much of the mainstream media has adopted Israel’s framing of the issue.  Israel wants us to believe it has a border with Gaza; that since its withdrawal in 2005 the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied territory; and the fence represents an inviolable demarcation between Israel and “those people we prefer to call Arabs, not Palestinians.”

If Israel’s argument was correct, then the right to defend that border might have some merit, leaving aside the important issues of “Right of Return” and method of defense.

However, we succumb to Israel’s narrative at the expense of jettisoning the law of belligerent occupation, international humanitarian law and the facts that led to the establishment of Israel 70 years ago.

israel_palestine_conflict

The current borders of the State of Israel are a result of war and of diplomatic agreements. The borders with Jordan and Egypt have been confirmed by peace treaties. The border with Lebanon resulted from the 1949 Armistice Agreement.  The borders with Syria and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have never been settled. In fact, Israeli Legislators have been passing laws to unilaterally extend Israel’s sovereignty into the West Bank, and they claim they no longer occupy the Gaza Strip. The U.N. and the international community have not recognized Israel’s unilateral pronouncements.

It’s time the mainstream media got the facts straight. Words matter.

Since the State of Israel does not have an internationally recognized border with the Palestinians in Gaza, the actions of both the Israeli military and the Palestinian protesters take on a significantly different cast.

The Palestinians are not trying to cross an inviolable border but rather exercising their Right of Return enshrined in Resolution 194 adopted by the United Nations on December 11, 1948.

The Israeli military is not protecting its sovereign border but rather killing unarmed protesters that have been caged in the world’s largest open air prison.

29425644_419847478469077_7507957825339916288_n

The State of Israel may have superior military weapons, thanks in large measure to American taxpayers, but we should not capitulate to Israel’s false narrative.

There is no internationally recognized border between Israel and Gaza. It’s just a fence; actually two fences.  The New York Times is beginning to set the record straight. (May 16, 2018)

 

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

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

Building a case for the ICC

The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (Fatou Bensouda) warned Israel in early April that it might be subject to prosecution for the crimes committed against the protesters at the #GreatReturnMarch.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

I remind all parties that the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my Office. While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.

I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip are planned to continue further. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.

Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop.

Israel clearly and boldly says it will not investigate the deaths attributed to its sharpshooters who are picking off Palestinians (young, old, men and women, and journalists) inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision not to investigate is important to note because of the principle of complementarity.

‘Complementarity’ is a fundamental principle on which the functioning of the International Criminal Court is based. Under the Rome Statute, which established the Court, the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction where the State Party of which the accused is a national, is unable or unwilling to prosecute.

Israel, it appears, is inviting the ICC to assume jurisdiction in this case. Alhamdulillah!

Now, the ICC Prosecutor must do more than merely threaten, she must follow through with an independent investigation of the actions on both sides of the fence. The killings by IDF sharpshooters (40 dead, 5,511 wounded as of April 25) have been documented on video and there are numerous eyewitnesses whose testimony must be preserved.

I’ve been searching online for evidence of violence from the Palestinian side of the fence and haven’t found anything beyond burning tires and rocks. The protesters have been peaceful and have not posed any threat to the well-armed IDF sharpshooters.  The ICC Prosecutor’s investigation must be thorough and independent. I hope Israel will cooperate and turn over any evidence it might have regarding the protesters.

Palestinian youth are documenting what’s going on from the Gaza side of the fence, such as this piece from We Are Not Numbers.

While Israel and some Western media label Gaza Palestinians’ ongoing, six-week protest a “riot,” what visitors and participants see on the ground is completely different. The tire and (Israeli) flag burning that may seem “riotous” to some are actually carefully planned by a coordinating committee to obscure the vision of Israeli snipers (the former) and serve as a peaceful outlet for frustration and anger (the latter). And while those activities are occurring on the front lines of the border protest, the “Great Return March” (so-named because of the desire of the refugees in Gaza to return to the homes they were forced to evacuate in 1948), also is hosting many family-oriented cultural celebrations. On any given day, you may encounter women cooking Bedouin bread, young men dancing dabka and children flying kites.

“By including cultural activities in the Great Return March, we send a reminder message to the world that we will never forget our heritage and customs, which remind us of home,” says organizer Ahmed Abu Ertima. “At the same time, these cultural demonstrations show we are peaceful in the demand for our rights.”

Thousands of Gaza families take their children and head off to the border to participate in the Great Return March every day, raising the Palestinian flag and chanting the event’s motto, “We have the right to return to our ancestral land.” They sit on the ground, in sight of stolen lands just a few hundred meters away, while listening to their elders’ tales about their ancestral villages and towns.

Justice and the rule of law require that the ICC Prosecutor follow through with her investigation and prosecution.

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

Fact or fiction? #GreatReturnMarch

Yaser Murtaja

Yaser Murtaja – Palestinian journalist (killed April 6, 2018)

As the #GreatReturnMarch enters into its ninth day (of an expected 6 weeks of protest at the Gaza border), the Israeli propaganda (aka hasbara) is flying fast and furiously around the globe, almost as effectively as the Israeli military’s bullets are flying from the sharpshooters laying on their bellies on an earthen berm overlooking the protesters in Gaza.

A gullible American told me today that the “so-called peaceful protests” in Gaza are actually very violent — including balloons filled with acid and kites flying with razor blades — and Israelis have every right to defend their borders. (Sadly, I kid you not.)

While the New York Times isn’t this gullible, it’s still spouting the Israeli line that Hamas is effectively controlling the protests.  The organizers and civil society in Gaza have tried to set the record straight but with limited success given the entrenchment of the Israeli narrative.

The truth — there are burning tires, but no balloons filled with acid.

The truth — there are flags and kites, but no razor blades attached.

The truth — there are boys throwing rocks, but no guns or military weapons are present on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing Palestinians in the back as they run away from the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing professional journalists clearly identified as media by the vests they are wearing.

The truth — there are Palestinian families (old, young, and even a wedding party) participating in the #GreatReturnMarch on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli civilians picnicking on the hill overlooking Gaza, celebrating Passover (the celebration of freedom) and watching the Palestinians demonstrating for their freedom.

Remember Yaser Murtaja, the Palestinian murdered by Israeli sharpshooters on April 6, 2018. He was trying to bring us the truth. It cost him his life.

 

 

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Leahy Law requires vetting of Israel’s gross violations of human rights

Many human rights lawyers and NGOs (here, here and here for example) believe that Israel committed gross human rights violations on Good Friday, March 30, when IDF sharpshooters killed 17 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more during the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch.

Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of a trigger-happy policy.” Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times that while the military probably decided to use lethal force as a deterrent, “In my opinion they should have planned from the beginning to use minimal force and to prevent casualties.”

The United Nations and others have called for a credible investigation but Israel says it won’t investigate.

Even the Editorial Board of the New York Times (Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests” – April 2, 2018) has called for an independent and transparent investigation. (I say “even” because I’ve found the NY Times editors to be highly deferential to Israel’s point of view in the past.)

Americans should be calling for an investigation too, especially given the enormous military support the U.S. provides to Israel.

US military aid to Israel

Thanks to the “Leahy amendments“, both the Department of State and Department of Defense are required to discontinue military assistance to units of foreign security forces that have engaged in “a gross violation” of human rights.

“No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

“Of the amounts made available to the Department of Defense, none may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 10 USC 2249e

Amnesty International notes that the Leahy Law is a powerful, yet often overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.  But it’s not a panacea!

In 2014, the Congressional Research Service published the “Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview in 2014 available online here:

Implementation of Leahy vetting involves a complex process in the State Department and U.S. embassies overseas that determines which foreign security individuals and units are eligible to receive U.S. assistance or training.

Under the Leahy amendments, the US has reportedly cut off military assistance from security and military units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia.

The Congressional Research Office continues:

The State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide have developed a system that seeks to ensure that no applicable State Department assistance or DOD-funded training is provided to units or individuals in foreign security forces who have committed any gross violations of human rights. This procedure, designed to comply with the Leahy laws, is known as “vetting” or “Leahy vetting.” Primarily a State Department responsibility with input from other agencies, Leahy vetting is a multi-step process that involves staff at U.S. embassies abroad; the State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in Washington, DC, which is the lead State Department bureau for vetting; State Department regional bureaus; and other government agencies as required. The State Department policy provides for two separate processes, one for training and one for equipment and other non-training assistance.

Now, it’s time for Americans to raise our voices in support of human rights.

  1. Write and/or call your two senators and your member of Congress with two specific requests, and ask for follow-up on each one:

a) they should join Senator Bernie Sanders to comment publicly on recent events in Gaza;

b) they must inquire of the State Department and the Defense Department if the department’s vetting procedures have cleared or implicated Israeli military unit in the deaths and wounding of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza in the last few days.

2. Since the Leahy vetting process typically begins at the U.S. Embassy in the country where the alleged violations occurred, write the U.S. Embassy in Israel and request that they initiate a credible investigation into the shooting and killing of unarmed, peaceful Palestinian protesters on March 30, 2018 pursuant to the Leahy Law.

Ambassador David Melech Friedman

U.S. Embassy Israel

71 HaYarkon Street

Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel

Email: JerusalemACS@state.gov

3.  David M. Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary , Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, using this contact form for the U.S. State Department.  https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform

My message to Secretary Satterfield:

I’m writing as an American citizen concerned about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shooting and killing unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip on Friday, March 30.

As you know, the Leahy Law says: “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

Israel has rejected calls by the United Nations and others to conduct an independent and transparent investigation. I urge you to initiate the vetting process required by the Leahy Law, to determine if the IDF has committed gross violations of human rights.

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

 

 

 

 

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