Tag Archives: Amnesty International

The Goal versus the War

Trump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back. I’m just as appalled but I think we have an opportunity here to really wake up and smell the coffee, and I’m afraid most of us don’t see it.

Flouting the law, and lying about it, has been this Administration’s modus operandi since January 2017. Disdain for human rights, disregard for environmental protections, and disgust for the social safety net have all been blazingly transparent.

The actions at the US-Mexico border are not unexpected, and certainly not in isolation. When a protester’s sign in El Paso caught my attention – “All People in All Countries have Value” – I realized here’s a chance to connect the dots.

Palestinian children have value, Syrian children have value, Yemeni children have value, just as the children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have value. American children sleeping on the streets hungry have value. We may not be able to improve the lives of every child, but we can certainly refrain from doing harm to these children around the world, including at our southern border.

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Here’s our opportunity to expand our wellspring of empathy and activism consistent with our country’s highest values and ideals.

For years, Israeli forces have used U.S. made weapons and munitions in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law: Hellfire missiles, tear gas, Apache helicopters, White phosphorous — even militarized Caterpillar bulldozers. Our tax dollars are killing Palestinian children “of tender age” just as directly as we’re caging young immigrant children like animals.

Most recently, Amnesty International identified US-made Remington M24 rifles being used by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians during protests along the fence with Gaza. Over 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands critically injured, including paramedics, reporters, and children.

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Changing this Administration’s policies at the border might be a short-term goal, but educating and motivating Americans to advocate, vote and demand that our government reflect our deepest held values for all children is the war that needs to be fought and won.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

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

Day #26 – August 1, 2014 – Black Friday in Rafah

There were many atrocities committed in the Gaza Strip during last summer’s military operation, but if one stands out above all others, it must be Black Friday, August 1, 2014. The U.N. Independent Commission charged with investigating Operation Protective Edge spoke with 22 witnesses about these events, among them victims, medical personnel and journalists. It also studied submissions, video and satellite imagery and public reports from relevant stakeholders. The following description of the events of Black Friday are from the Commission’s Findings.

Rafah

Rafah

350.        In response to the killing of two IDF soldiers and the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin, the Reconnaissance Unit of the Givati Brigade launched a major military operation on the town of Rafah in the morning of 1 August, or “Black Friday” as it was dubbed in Gaza. When the operation started, Israeli forces acted on the basis of the assumption that Lt. Goldin might still be alive. He was proclaimed dead several hours later, following the discovery of his blood-stained effects. There are conflicting reports about whether the capture of the Lt. Goldin occurred before or after a ceasefire that was due to come into effect. According to official Israeli sources, hostilities resumed “following a ceasefire violation by Hamas and the attempted kidnapping of an IDF officer.”

352.        During the operation, the IDF closed off areas of Rafah to block movement in and out, presumably to prevent the captors from leaving the area with the captive soldier. Residents returning home that morning – following the announcement of a ceasefire – found themselves trapped with no access to safer sanctuaries, as Rafah was basically turned into a closed military zone. According to media accounts, the IDF fired over 1000 shells against Rafah within three hours and dropped at least 40 bombs. Tanks and bulldozers demolished dozens of homes.  Inhabitants came under intense attacks in their homes and in the streets. Witnesses reported to the commission that dozens of homes were destroyed by IDF bulldozers. Ambulances and private vehicles trying to evacuate civilians from the fighting were also hit. As a result of the operation, virtually every person or building in Rafah became a potential military target. Families gave accounts of dividing their children into separate groups before fleeing their homes, in the hope that only one group might be fired on and the others would survive.

353.        “Before I left, I called my neighbour and agreed with her to  divide into two groups, so that, if one group were targeted, the others would survive. I left with my two younger daughters, whereas my neighbour left with her daughter and my eldest daughter Asil. We reached a place called Mashrough Amer in Salahaddin Street and found a lot of vehicles that had been recently destroyed as they were still emitting fumes. [… ]We later learned from the news that Shawka, our neighbourhood, had been targeted by 600 missiles in the span of one hour. The area had been totally destroyed and, as far as I can remember, the missiles I witnessed appeared to have been fired from the ground, probably a tank. I understand that Rafah city was targeted mainly from the air. Al Shawka, however, is on the margins of Rafah and very close to the border. There, all the attacks were launched by tanks. When I returned home, I found my house partially destroyed by three missiles. The house was empty and nobody had been hurt.” Saleh Hussein Abu Mohsen from Rafah

354.        A father described an incident in which three persons were killed and six injured, including himself, while trying to flee to safety. Beginning on from 17 July, the family had moved from one refuge to another to avoid the shelling. When they arrived at Mashrou’ Amer on 1 August around 11 a.m., tanks in front of the Sa’ad Sayel barracks fired at them. When they ran away in two groups, the eldest daughter was killed. The commission understands that the fiercest attacks occurred during the first four hours following the rumored capture of Lt. Goldin. The bombardment was reported to have been most intense in the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah, such as Mashru’ Amer, Tannur, Hay al Jneina, Uruba Street, Al Shawka, Zallata, the Airport neighbourhood and Salahaddin street, with up to 95 per cent of the victims coming from these neighbourhoods. Satellite imagery shared with the commission corroborates that the destruction was concentrated in these areas.

355.        Doctors working at the Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah told the commission that, in the last days of July, many civilians had rushed to the hospital not to seek medical care but “because they felt that the hospital was the safest place for their families and children. On 1 August, as the security deteriorated, patients from Al Najjar hospital were transferred to the Kuwaiti hospital. According to eyewitnesses, two missiles struck the Al Najjar hospital, which caused destruction to some of the infrastructure such as the windows, doors and the air conditioning system. Ambulances were also hit. For instance, at around 3 p.m., an ambulance transporting injured civilians in the Msabbeh neighbourhood was hit. The vehicle caught fire and three crew members and 5 other people were killed. The commission spoke with two ambulance workers from Al Najjar hospital who witnessed part of the incident. They said that, earlier on that day, the Al Bir Taka Mosque in northern Rafah had been hit and they were called to rescue the wounded. Three ambulances were dispatched, one of them driven by their colleague Atef Salah Ibrahim Al Zamali, who took a short-cut in order to save time. When the other two ambulances arrived at the scene a little while later, they found Atef’s ambulance enveloped in flames, about 250 meters away from the mosque. They could not approach the vehicle due to the heat. While they were there, another strike on the burning ambulance caused a second explosion. The eyewitnesses thought that this second explosion was not caused by an airstrike, but by a mortar, as fragments of shrapnel exploded around the ambulance area. The intense bombardment continued. After extinguishing the fire, the Civil Defence managed to extract the burned bodies from the vehicle and found inside, in addition to the three ambulance crew members, the bodies of a man, a woman and three children. They discovered that the man was an elderly patient. The woman was his daughter who had asked to accompany him in order for her children to be evacuated to a safer place.

356.        Dozens of shells struck the premises of the hospital, wounding a number of civilians and causing marginal damage to its infrastructure. The hospital was eventually evacuated and no other casualties were reported. The doctors also said the hospital received more than a thousand casualties on the first day of the operation alone. According to the UN Protection Cluster, 100 fatalities were recorded in Rafah on 1 August 2014, including 75 civilians (24 children and 18 women). Leaked audio recordings of IDF radio communications suggest that the fire was indiscriminate, with one Lt. Colonel telling his troops “to stop firing like morons” and another ordering a hesitant soldier, “Go, go, go![…] Give him another shell”. According to a media report, the Givati Brigade Commander invoked the Hannibal Directive in response to the capture of the IDF soldier:

“[A]t 09:36, after speaking to the commander there I uttered a word no one wants to utter – Hannibal, i.e. abduction. I started planning an assault towards Rafah. I ordered all of our forces to move there, in order to prevent the abductors from moving”.

358.        The “Hannibal Directive” was devised in 1986 and is widely understood to be “a code word for an IDF order that states that in the case of abduction of a soldier, everything must be done to prevent the escape of the abductors or captors, using gunfire, even if it endangers the life of the soldier.” According to official Israeli sources, the “IDF General Staff Directive for Contending with Kidnapping Attempts [also known as the “Hannibal Directive”] provides methods and procedures for preventing and frustrating attempted kidnappings of Israeli nationals (both civilians and IDF soldiers). This Directive has been in force for decades and has been amended several times. […] As an operational order, however, the Directive’s specific content is classified. As with other classified directives, revealing all of this Directive’s contents would provide adversaries with the ability to frustrate its very purpose.”  It appears that the procedure is premised on a very strong political commitment by Israel to do its utmost to ensure that no soldiers are captured by armed groups to avoid substantial leverage to armed groups in subsequent negotiations with Israel. A press report quoting the commander of the IDF’s Orev Unit provides a possible explanation for how the IDF viewed the goals of the 1 August operation in Rafah:

In such an event you do all to prevent the country from experiencing another turmoil as it underwent in the Gilad Shalit affair

While the Hannibal procedure was modified several times, apparently to clarify that it did not call for the killing of captured soldiers, it appears still to be unusually expansive in terms of defining what targets are legitimate military objectives.

IDF’s and Palestinian armed group’s version of events

361.        The commander of the reconnaissance battalion of the Givati Brigade, Lieu Col Eli Gino, was reported as stating that, “The fire was proportionate, and when they kidnap a soldier, all means are kosher, even if it exacts a price”. The press further quoted Col. Winter as saying that, “those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade”. The events of 1 August in Rafah are presently being considered by Israel’s Military Attorney General for a possible criminal investigation.

362.        Israeli media reported on 15 April 2015 that an internal investigation by the IDF had concluded that no war crimes had been committed. Instead, the findings shed light on operational flaws vis-à-vis the IDF’s reaction to the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin.[1] The media cite Givati Brigade commander Col. Winter as having stated that “[t]he brigade’s plan of operation took into account the cease-fire going into effect and was based on a situation in which, by 8 a.m., the forces would cease attacks and only after securing the territory, would initiate searches for tunnels. However, this was not the situation, and when the cease-fire went into effect, forces from the patrol unit entered to search an area that had not been conquered and in an unsecured sector”. The IDF apparently concluded that “from an analysis of the unit’s actions, it can be determined that in contrast to standard warfare and the simple instructions given during Operation Protective Edge, here, as a brigade, we managed to confuse the fighters and to put them in an unreasonable situation

   363.        With respect to Hamas’s version of events, according to press reports, Hamas stated that “Israel pretends that one of its soldiers had been kidnapped to cover its crimes against the civilians in Gaza strip, and to divert the attention of international public opinion towards an Israeli prisoner with the Palestinian resistance.” He added: “We have no information about an Israeli prisoner.” Also according to press reports, in a press release of 2 August, Al Qassam Brigades announced that it was not “aware of a missing soldier, nor his whereabouts or the conditions of his disappearance.”

Summary Legal analysis

Several factual elements of the shelling and bombing in the Rafah area on 1 August 2014 lead to important concern as to the conformity of this attack with international law.

365.        Information received by the commission concerning attacks on all vehicles in the area, including ambulances, as well as incidents in which groups of civilians appear to have been targeted by tank fire, raises serious concerns as to the respect by the IDF of the principle of distinction. The alleged invocation by IDF troops of the Hannibal Directive may indicate that the objective of targeting vehicles was to prevent the flight of those who had captured an IDF soldier. While targeting a vehicle whose passengers are fighters and who are escaping with a captured soldier may be legitimate, the information reviewed by the commission reveals a different course of events.  In Rafah, all vehicles appear to have been targeted, irrespective of their civilian or military use. Civilian vehicles, including ambulances, are civilian objects and cannot be targeted unless they are used in a way that makes an effective contribution to the military action. International humanitarian law provides that in case of doubt whether an object that is normally used for civilian purposes is being used to make an effective military contribution, it shall be presumed not to be so used. However, based on information collected by the commission, the opposite appears to have been the case on 1 August in Rafah, where all vehicles in a certain area were targeted. This amounts to a deliberate attack against civilians and civilian objects and may amount to a war crime.

366.        Statements made on IDF audio recordings, as well as the amount and types of ordnance fired at some Rafah neighbourhoods, also raise concern with regards to the respect by IDF forces of the principle of distinction. The alleged use of over 250 mortar shells, a statistical weapon with a wide impact area, in a densely populated area, as well as the firing of over 800 artillery and tank shells with wide area effects in a densely populated and built up area over the period of a few hours, indicate the use by the IDF of methods and means of combat which in the circumstances were of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction. This is demonstrated by the high number of shells that hit the Al Najjar hospital premises, and the number of civilians who were struck by shells in the street while attempting to flee. The attack of 1 August 2014, therefore, appears to have violated the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks.

367.        In relation to the “Hannibal Directive”, the IDF has stressed that: “allegations that IDF directives, and particularly, the IDF General Staff Directive for Contending with Kidnapping Attempts (also known as the “Hannibal Directive”), permit IDF forces to exercise force in a manner that does not accord with the principle of proportionality, are incorrect. […] The Directive does not grant permission to violate the Law of Armed Conflict, including the rules relating to distinction and proportionality. To the contrary, and as with all IDF directives concerning combat situations, IDF forces are required to adhere to the Law of Armed Conflict at all times when implementing the directives’ provisions. The use of unrestrained force is never permitted, even in the direst of circumstances.

368.        Nevertheless, the attack in Rafah on “Black Friday” raises concerns with regard to the IDF’s respect of the principle of proportionality. The invocation of the ‘Hannibal Directive’ and reported statements by IDF officers present during the attack provide a clear indication of the objective of the attack – namely preventing or putting an end to the capture by an armed group of an IDF soldier. Given the amount and type of ordnance used, as well as the likely presence of civilians in the area due to the announced ceasefire, a reasonable military commander should have known that such an attack could result in a high number of civilian casualties as well as in damage to civilian objects. In order for an attack to be considered proportionate, international law requires that the expected incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

369.        The latter point must be examined in depth. Preventing the capture or freeing a soldier from captivity may be conceived as a concrete and direct military advantage, albeit of a limited nature, since the loss of one soldier in a large army such as the IDF does not reduce its military capability. When doing so in a manner that is highly likely to result in the soldier’s death, it further reduces the concrete and direct military advantage. On the other hand, some have argued that in such a case the proportionality test must take into account the strategic consideration of denying the armed groups the leverage they could obtain over Israel in negotiations for the release of the captured soldier.

370.        The commission considers this an erroneous interpretation of international humanitarian law. The leverage that armed groups may obtain in negotiations does not depend solely on the capture of a soldier, but on how the Government of Israel decides to react to the capture in the aftermath. The strategic military or political advantage sought is therefore not a concrete and direct military advantage as required by international humanitarian law. An assessment of the strategic and political advantage depends on a large number of post facto elements which are merely speculative for the commander on the ground at the moment he decides to launch the attack. Indeed, the proposed interpretation of the anticipated military advantage, which would allow for abstract political and long-term strategic considerations in carrying out the proportionality analysis, would have the consequence of emptying the proportionality principle of any protective element. The commission finds therefore that the IDF attack of 1 August 2014 in Rafah could have been expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects which would be grossly excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage, and may therefore amount to a war crime.

371.        What is more, the commission believes that the military culture resulting from such policy priorities may have been a contributing factor for the unleashing of massive firepower on Rafah, in total disregard for its impact on the civilian population. Applying the ‘Hannibal Directive’ in the context of a densely populated urban environment using heavy weaponry inevitably leads to violations of the principles of distinction and proportionality.

372.        The nature of the attack, as well as statements reportedly made by an officer present in Rafah after the events, indicate that the IDF did not comply with its obligation to take constant care to spare civilians. Based on the information gathered by the commission, it does not appear that the IDF took all feasible precautions to adequately verify whether the targets of the attacks were indeed lawful military objectives and to choose the weapons used in the attack with a view to avoiding or at the very least to minimizing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.

373.         Finally, as the IDF had aerial assets over Rafah on “Black Friday”, it is very likely that commanders on the ground quickly gained knowledge of the calamitous impact of the attacks on civilians and civilian objects. This knowledge of the likelihood that the intense bombardment would lead to significant casualties is illustrated by the warning given to the doctors in Al Najjar hospital to evacuate the hospital. Yet, even though the attack lasted several hours, it was not suspended. This may constitute a violation of the obligation to do everything feasible to suspend or cancel an attack when it becomes apparent it is not respecting the principles of distinction or proportionality.

374.        The strikes against the Al Najjar hospital and against ambulances in Rafah also raise concerns as to the respect by Israel of the obligation to protect medical units and transports in all circumstances.

This week, Amnesty International released its report about Black Friday, see here.

There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more. This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August. In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.

In response, the Israeli spokesperson said: “In contrast to Amnesty’s claims, the IDF – as the military of a democratic state committed to the rule of law – conducts all its operations in accordance with international law”.

Mondoweiss and Ynet published an 11-minute video earlier this year containing heavily edited recordings set to dramatic music and “published with permission from the IDF censor.” Chief of Staff Benny Gantz denounced their release — “The army is not a reality TV show…not that I’m hiding anything” — and has reportedly ordered the military police to find those responsible.  Watch the video here.

A journalist/commentator with The Independent, Ahron Bregman, provided some insight into the man responsible for the IDF’s actions on Black Friday.

“The colonel who orchestrated the assault on Rafah was Ofer Winter, the commander of the Givati Brigade. A religious settler, on the eve of the Gaza war he dispatched a letter to his troops, laden with biblical references, which perhaps explains the ferocity with which they attacked Rafah.

What Colonel Winter called on his troops to do was, effectively, to conduct a religious war on Gaza. Here are some quotes from his letter:

“History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy from Gaza which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles … We will… wipe out the enemy… Using all means at our disposal and with all required force… I turn my eyes to the sky and call with you ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.’ God, the Lord of Israel, make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who defames your name.”

Colonel Winter managed to wipe out many Palestinians — but alas, they were non-combatant civilians. Therefore his actions, as well as those working with him, must be thoroughly investigated by the UN to establish whether it amounted to war crimes. We cannot allow The Hannibal Protocol to be used in such a way again.”

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Day #25 – July 31, 2014 – Forensic architecture in Rafah

The 1st August 2014 saw the darkest day in the Gaza Conflict of 2014 – Black Friday. This is the story of what happened that day – which saw the highest number of Palestinian civilians lose their lives under a massive bombardment by the Israeli military – told in most extraordinary detail in a joint investigation by Amnesty International and the Forensic Architecture department of Goldsmiths, University of London. Using a 3D model of Rafah and hundreds of stills, video footage, testimonies this collaboration shows that there is strong evidence that the Israelis committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity: something they have always denied. It is the story of the kidnapping of a soldier, a secret military order and the extraordinary price paid by Palestinian civilians for a single Israeli life.

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, Uncategorized, Video

Capitol Hill Briefing 8/1

The Israeli bombardment in Gaza has intensified over the past couple of days, and the deaths are mounting. Friends in the United States are asking “What can we do?”

Just asking the question is important. My friends are paying attention and care. We can each make a difference!

Here’s one tangible action every American should take now:

CALL YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS and urge him/her to attend the Congressional Hill Briefing on this question: Is Israel complying with U.S. and International laws?

Friday, August 1st, 2014

2:00 – 3:30 pm ET

2103 Rayburn House Office Building

Panelists will address the question through personal experience and professional expertise.

Tariq Abu Khdeir – Palestinian-American teenager from Tampa, FL who was brutally beaten by Israeli security forces while restrained and unconscious.

Suha Aby Khdeir – Palestinian-American, mother of Tariq.

Hassan Shibly, Esq. – Council of American-Islamic Relations – Florida

Sunjeev Bery – Amnesty International

Brad ParkerDefence for Children International – Palestine

Laila El-Haddad – Author of Gaza Mom and former journalist with Al Jazeera.

Laila El-Haddad

Laila El-Haddad

Moderator: Josh RuebnerUS Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

There’s even a sample conversation here to help you make the call. PLEASE! It’s important that Congress hear from these voices. If our Representatives and Senators can’t make it, ask their foreign affairs staff to attend.

Briefing sponsors:

American Muslims for Palestine

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Defence for Children International – Palestine

Jewish Voice for Peace

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

P.S.   I’d like to hear what response you receive from your member of Congress.

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Filed under Gaza, People, Politics, US Policy

White phosphorus rains on Gaza

A representative of Amnesty International was on the ground in Gaza and recorded what she saw on the last days of Operation Cast Lead.  

Since the mainstream media was kept out of Gaza, these two short videos offer shocking evidence of Israel’s disproportionate and deadly use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, illegal under international law. Israel vehemently denied it used white phosphorus in Gaza.

The London Times reported on January 5, 2009 that despite Israel’s denials, “the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance.” On January 8, The Times reported again that photographic proof of Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions had emerged, “despite official denials” by the IDF. The Times had identified munitions bearing the designation M825A1, made in the USA. Confronted with the evidence, an IDF spokeswoman lied, “This is what we call a quiet shell—it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it”.

AMERICANS’ TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!

By January 10, Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to “stop using white phosphorus in military operations in densely populated areas of Gaza”, including Gaza City. “White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. Noting that when white phosphorus munitions burst in the air, they spread “116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter”, HRW added that “the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.” The IDF continued to deny that it was using white phosphorus, HRW also pointed out, despite the fact that the distinctive air-bursting munitions had been photographed being used over populated areas of Gaza.

The proof is in the pictures and the interviews.

In the second video, the United Nations relief agency is targeted with white phosphorus. In April 2013, Israel announced it would stop using white phosphorus. (Tell me: How can Israel stop using something it denies it uses? I guess the same way it doesn’t have a nuclear arsenal. R-r-i-i-g-g-h-h-t-t!)

Amnesty International called for the end of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, an independent fact-finding commission to investigate possible war crimes, and for responsible parties to be held accountable. Five years later, Israel has not paid reparations to the victims, and there has been no accountability.

No accountability = no justice.  I wonder if Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu have even discussed Operation Cast Lead during their recent “peace” negotiations.

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Free Anas Barghouthi!

A Palestinian lawyer who spends his days advocating for Palestinian prisoners now finds himself behind bars.

Palestinian Lawyer Anas Barghouthi

Palestinian Lawyer Anas Barghouthi

Anas Barghouthi was picked up by Israeli forces on September 15, 2013 at a checkpoint in the West Bank. He’s been charged with “membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine” and “leadership of a committee to organize demonstrations.” Barghouthi denies both charges.

He has been sharply critical of the Palestinian Authority’s practice of security cooperation with the Israeli occupation, as well as politically motivated detentions and arrests of Palestinian political figures. He continues to volunteer with Addameer to work on the cases of political detainees held by the PA. Barghouti himself was summoned on March 6 of this year to the PA’s Preventive Security headquarters for questioning.

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This reminds me of the 50 Turkish lawyers arrested in Istanbul this past June.  They were protesting at Çağlayan Justice Palace (the main justice court in Istanbul) to denounce the repression of the “Occupy Gezi” protesters and were rounded up by members of Turkey’s special forces and hauled off to jail.

In countries that respect the Rule of Law, no one questions the critical role of lawyers in the justice system. Their advocacy for the rights of “you and me and all of us” is what makes the system work. Without lawyers, there simply is no justice system. When the government intimidates lawyers and judges, like throwing them into jail, the government is demonstrating its contempt for an independent and fair judiciary and the Rule of Law.

Amnesty International considers Barghouthi a prisoner of conscience and has issued an appeal for people to write Prime Minister Netanyahu and Military Judge Advocate General Efroni to demand Barghouthi’s immediate release. I wrote my letters today. I ended each letter with:

Israel prides itself as a nation upholding democratic values, however the detention of Anas Barghouthi is a flagrant violation of the cherished principles of freedom of political expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Barghouthi is a prisoner of conscience and the eyes of the world are closely watching Israel’s actions in his case. I urge you to unconditionally release Barghouthi immediately and put an immediate end to harassment of human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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