Tag Archives: Israeli Defense Forces

Operation Cast Lead Nine Years Later

Today, December 27, 2017, is the ninth anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza. Operation Cast Lead was the first of three wars that Israel has initiated by choice. The two million Palestinian civilians in Gaza have no choice. Now Israeli officials are talking about a fourth “operation”.  Maybe the clinical terms help mask the inhumanity of this country and this illegal occupation, but the international community has awoken to Israel’s war crimes.  All eyes are on Gaza.

Some of my earlier blog posts about Operation Cast Lead.

The first moments of Operation Cast Lead (video).

Timing of Operation Cast Lead.

December 27, 2008 — A date to remember.

Getting the word out.

Killing the al-Samouni family – January 4, 2009.

White phosphorus rains on Gaza.

Israeli soldiers speak out (video).

America’s role in Operation Cast Lead.

This time we went too far.

9/11 and 12/27 – We will never forget.

Writing is resistance.






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

Day #44 – Aug. 19, 2014 – End of the Ceasefire

Graph death toll gaza

On August 19, 2014, Israel walked away from talks in Cairo which were held to discuss terms for a permanent ceasefire, and the fighting resumed. Initially, Hamas had demanded an end to Israel’s suffocating 8-year siege on the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians I heard from in Gaza were demanding the same. “We’d rather die a fast death in battle, than a slow death under this siege.”

Israel was demanding that Hamas disarm — a nonstarter from the Palestinian side.

Shujaya 10

During negotiations, it appeared the Palestinian side made concessions in Cairo and agreed to a two-stage solution. First, open the crossings and allow reconstruction to begin immediately. Second, after further talks a month later, the demands for opening the seaport and airport in Gaza and other demands would be negotiated.

But the talks in Cairo ended.

More than 25 airstrikes hit Gaza in response to rocket fire, killing a woman and a two-year-old girl, and wounding at least 15 others in Gaza City. Two children were injured in Rafah, hospital officials said, and there were reports of hundreds of civilians fleeing their homes for UN shelters.

CNN reported the breakdown of talks in a short video here.  And Haaretz reported on this day a year ago with a minute-by-minute breakdown of actions taken by both sides, here.

Who knows what went on behind the scenes in Cairo? A year later, we know that none (or very few) of the demands made by the Palestinians have been realized. No seaport today. No plans for rebuilding the airport in Gaza. Israel has not lifted the siege or eased travel restrictions against the Palestinians.  Many families left homeless as a result of the fighting, remain homeless today.


What we do know ……. the underlying factors that gave rise to Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer have not been addressed. Israel’s Occupation and its siege of Gaza continue to this day, representing a serious security threat to Israelis, and the inhumane and insufferable living conditions for 1.8 million Palestinians.

Shujaya 11

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces

Day #39 – August 14, 2014 – Bombing IUG “a merry sport”?

"Nation Building for Palestine - A Way Forward"  Keynote Address at the 7th Technological Engineering Days Conference "Inspired Engineering for a Sustainable Environment." Islamic University of Gaza -- March 10, 2013 — ‎at ‎غزة

“Nation Building for Palestine – A Way Forward”
Keynote Address at the 7th Technological Engineering Days Conference “Inspired Engineering for a Sustainable Environment.”
Islamic University of Gaza — March 10, 2013 — ‎at ‎غزة

Some of my fondest memories of Gaza are at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG). The pride and joy among the students and faculty was palpable. Walking across campus, whether on the men’s side or the women’s side, I observed their intensity to excel and achieve their goals.  A university degree might be their ticket . . . to a good job, to graduate studies abroad . . . to having some measure of control over their future.

A student at IUG successfully defends his thesis about the impacts of climate change on the aquifer and is awarded his Masters Degree. — ‎at ‎غزة‎.‎

A student at IUG successfully defends his thesis about the impacts of climate change on the aquifer and is awarded his Masters Degree. — ‎at ‎غزة‎.‎

Why did Israel target IUG and other schools in the Gaza Strip?

Brookings reported in early August 2014 about “Israeli forces bombing the Jabalia Elementary Girls School in northern Gaza while it served as an U.N.-designated shelter. At least 15 people—including four children—were killed, and many more wounded. An Israeli strike in the immediate vicinity of an U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Rafah killed at least nine and injured over 25 people, while on July 23rd, a similar attack on another UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun left 15—including six children—dead and over 100 injured.” Israel destroyed 141 schools during its 51-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Soccer players at IUG

Soccer players at IUG

Refaat Alareer teaches world literature and creative writing in the English Department at IUG. He’s also Co-Editor of Gaza Unsilenced, along with Laila El-Haddad, and describes the level of destruction at IUG during Israel’s bombardment last summer, including the administration building, and the personnel department and English department offices.

Why would Israel bomb a university? Some say Israel attacked IUG just to punish its 20,000 students or to push Palestinians to despair. That is true, but to me IUG’s only danger to the Israeli occupation and its apartheid regime is that it is the most important place in Gaza to develop students’ minds as indestructible weapons. Knowledge is Israel’s worst enemy. Awareness is Israel’s most hated and feared foe. That’s why Israel bombs a university; it wants to kill openness and determination to refuse living under injustice and racism. But again, why does Israel bomb a school? Or a hospital? Or a mosque? Or a 20-story building? It could be, as [Shakespeare’s] Shylock put it, “a merry sport”?

Islamic University of Gaza Summer 2014

Islamic University of Gaza – Summer 2014

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Filed under Football - Soccer, Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, People

Day #33 – August 8, 2014 – No national dialogue in Israel yet

A year after Israel’s murderous campaign against the Palestinians in Gaza, has anything really changed?

Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times writes (Aug. 6, 2015) that many Israelis are now engaged in a national soul searching” exercise — not about the killing of 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza last summer (most of them civilians including 551 children).

Israelis are gathering to “dialogue” about the deaths of the Palestinian toddler, Ali Saad Dawabsheh, burned to death by an Israeli settler extremist in his West Bank home and the 16-year old Jewish girl, Shira Banki, fatally stabbed at a gay rights parade in Jerusalem.

Ali Saad Dawabsha was killed when assailants firebombed his home at night (www.bbc.com)

Ali Saad Dawabsha was killed when assailants firebombed his home at night (www.bbc.com)

Jews everywhere, and particularly Israelis, are fooling themselves or perhaps attempting to fool the rest of us, into believing that “things will improve” and “we’re learning from this recent violence” and “these atrocities will not be repeated.”

Shira Banki killed in a Gay Rights Parade in Jerusalem

Shira Banki killed in a Gay Rights Parade in Jerusalem

The mourners can pat themselves on the back and wave their “soul-searching dialogue” as a sign of their humanity in the face of evil.  It changes nothing. Worse yet, it’s delusional and merely propaganda to soften the harsh, cruel realities that exist inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Real soul searching requires courage, and that’s exactly what 34 Israeli reserve soldiers displayed last summer when they sent this letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, refusing to “take part in the State’s actions against Palestinians”. They wrote:

Millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for over 47 years. This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement. This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security. The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier. (Read letter here.)

Listen to these three Israeli intelligence veterans speak here about why they decided they could no longer serve. This is soul searching!  And they paid a price. In January, the IDF dismissed them.

Real soul searching requires —

  • courage and insight, not platitudes
  • the ability to remove the blinders and see evil where before you saw valor
  • empathy for others, not only for your own tribe
  • truth-telling and the refusal to sugar-coat the atrocities

The CNN interviewed Avner Gvaryahu, a spokesman for Breaking the Silence, last summer following Operation Protective Edge.  Listen to this 8 minute video. This is true soul searching and the type of national dialogue Israelis need to have! It’s not happening yet.

In publishing soldiers’ testimonies from Operation Protective Edge we set out to expose the public to the reality that took place in Gaza this last summer. According to CNN we succeeded in starting a conversation – and that’s definitely the first step.

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, People, Video

Mavi Marmara – 4 years and counting

Imagine this.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declares Manhattan off limits to everyone.  No one can enter, no one can leave without his approval. Every shipment of food, clothes, medicines, textbooks, building supplies —- all of it —- must be approved by Cuomo before it’s allowed into Manhattan. By land, sea or air — the blockade is complete — nothing gets in or out.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

OK – I know this sounds far-fetched, but humor me.

You may agree with his decision to isolate the 1.6 million (2012) New Yorkers living in Manhattan, or not.  It doesn’t really matter. The reality is that Cuomo has maintained a suffocating siege on Manhattan for seven years and there is no end in sight, despite the pleas from the United Nations, many in the UK Parliament,  Australia and elsewhere.

A panel of five independent U.N. human rights experts says the siege violates international law, and is collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

Gaza superimposed on Manhattan, NY

Gaza superimposed on Manhattan

In May 2010, a flotilla of 6 boats from Baltimore tried to break the siege on Manhattan. The organizers announced their plans, there were no secrets or attempts to deceive anyone. They knew they ran the risk of irritating Cuomo and possibly encountering a violent response. When Cuomo heard of their plans, he warned them not to try to break the siege.

These activists knew in their hearts that they were on the right side, that the blockade was illegal under international law, and they felt a tremendous sense of solidarity with everyone living in Manhattan – “the largest open air prison in the world.”

Mavi Marmara

Mavi Marmara

Activists from 50 different countries in 6 boats decided to break Cuomo’s siege. They carried 10,000 tonnes of aid to Manhattan.  As the flotilla approached Manhattan, Cuomo’s commandos descended from a helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara.

There is a dispute about what happened next.  Cuomo claimed the activists attacked his commandos, and the activists claim that the commandos shot and killed 9 activists execution style.  (A 10th recently died of his wounds.) The Guardian reported:

What is certainly true is that shortly after the assault, all communications with the flotilla were blocked. Mobile phones, satellite phones and internet access all went down, making it all but impossible to glean any account from the passengers about what had happened, beyond the few minutes that were captured on film. Cuomo’s version of events became the only one available in any detail.

In the past 4 years, there have been fact-finding missions to piece together what really happened on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.

Baltimore’s Mayor and Cuomo have attempted to reconcile and there have been discussions of Cuomo paying compensation to the families of the victims, but no agreement has been reached yet. Two years ago, a Baltimore court charged four of Cuomo’s men, and prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for their crimes. Earlier this week, the court issued arrest warrants for the four men.

Cuomo’s response?  He laughed it off and thinks the whole judicial process against his men is merely politics.

No respect for the rule of law —- in 2010 or today.

Check out video footage of the attack on the Mavi Marmara taken by one of the passengers.



Filed under Gaza, Israel Defense Forces, People, Politics, Video

‘Five Broken Cameras’ elicits passionate response

I first saw the Palestinian film “Five Broken Cameras” in 2012 and wrote about it last year when it was up for an Oscar. My earlier post is here.

Israeli soldier shot directly at the camera

Israeli soldier shot directly at the camera

Tonight there was a free screening of the film at the Friends meetinghouse in Albuquerque. I wasn’t going to attend. I’ve seen it once. What more could I get out of it the second time around? But I wanted to encourage my friends to see it and decided to go to support the organizers. I was curious to see who would show up.

A good size crowd (35-40) but nearly everyone had gray hair. Not sure how many in the audience were Quakers and how many were visitors, but I always worry when I see an audience where the average age is 65.

If you haven’t seen Five Broken Cameras, I encourage you to find a screening nearby, purchase it on Amazon or check out Netflix.

This second time around, my focus was drawn to the Israeli soldiers and how they were responding to the peaceful protesters.  Week after week after week. Every Friday for five years and counting. Why? What type of training are these soldiers receiving and what orders are they hearing when they respond to unarmed men, women and children with tear gas and rubber bullets?  And why is the U.S. taxpayer supporting this, to the tune of $3 billion each year?


Do leaders in Israel and the U.S. really believe bullets and armor tanks are any match against protesters who are peaceful, nonviolent, and who are determined not to be bullied off of their land? It’s no match. 


The Israeli soldiers may know how to uproot centuries-old olive trees but they haven’t a clue how to uproot these Palestinians in the village of Bi’lin.

The film was difficult to watch in spots. Following the screening, an audience member stood up and showed us some of the spent tear gas grenades and other projectiles that he had picked up off the ground during a visit to Bi’lin. He shared some of his observations of the Israeli military in a factual and dispassionate manner, but he elicited a vociferous response from a woman who took offense at his “one-sided” presentation. He said he was only sharing the side that the U.S. media fails to share and most Americans don’t know.

I listened carefully as the moderator redirected her outburst and tried to hear her “side” but she didn’t share another side. Although she appeared angry and disturbed, she was actually agreeing with the points made by the gentleman. I suspect that her anger was genuine but misdirected. Maybe upon some quiet reflection, she will realize that her anger can be channeled towards some positive actions, such as the  growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Five broken cameras

Five broken cameras

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Filed under Israel Defense Forces, Peaceful, Video

Paying terrorists a salary

I caught my breath when I read this piece in The Times of Israel — How American taxpayers are funding Palestinian terrorism, by Edwin Black, November 10, 2013.  The takeaway message is that the Palestinian Authority, the author asserts, is using donations from the US and other countries to pay monthly salaries to Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails for “acts of terrorism”.

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher is the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years will be paid about $560 monthly — a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of 10 to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. More severe acts of terrorism, those punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month. These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning “salary,” is the official term for this compensation. The law ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.

My first response was disgust and outrage! Killing, maiming, and butchery should never be rewarded regardless of who the perpetrator and victim might be.  In a very impoverished community, won’t poor young men and women be enticed to commit acts of violence just to provide a monthly salary for their families?  I think it’s very likely.

I’ve heard the average salary for attorneys in Gaza is about $500 USD per month.  If this journalist is correct, it appears to be much more lucrative to commit “an act of terrorism” and draw a salary of $2000 USD per month. Think of it —- the prisoner could be making 4 times what his lawyer brings home.

Then I paused and thought about this horrific transaction.


Palestinians consider these people “freedom fighters” or “resistance fighters”.  If these fighters are killed, they are “martyrs”. Large posters are plastered all over the Gaza Strip with pictures of martyrs who are highly respected by everyone. One young Palestinian in his late 20s – early 30s has memorized the name, date and circumstances of martyrdom for each and every martyr. This is quite a feat since there have been thousands.

2012-09-30 20.52.56

Freedom fighters = soldiers. Resistance fighters = military (albeit with less hardware and munitions at their disposal).

Stripping away the uniforms, weapons, and the power structure from the soldiers in the Israeli army, what remains? Young men and women fighting for a cause they believe in, willing to kill, maim and butcher the enemy as directed by their superiors.  And each is drawing a salary. I doubt that American taxpayers are directly contributing to the Israeli soldiers’ salaries, but there’s no doubt that we’re subsidizing Israel’s military to the tune of $3 Billion/year, in equipment and armaments. My U.S. Senator, Martin Heinrich, is very proud of his support for these expenditures of US tax dollars. He’s bought the AIPAC mantra hook, line and sinker — “Israel has a right to defend herself.”

If we feel disgust at paying salaries to Palestinian freedom fighters, than we must be intellectually honest and feel disgust at subsidizing Israel’s military. Americans are fueling this savagery (perhaps on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide) and only our military industrial complex is the winner because much of the $3 Billion/year actually stays in the United States in the form of contracts for purchase of weapons.

I consider our transactions on both sides of this conflict disgusting. Americans should be helping to create a new world, not paying for the killing occurring on both sides of the Green Line.

Billboard Albuquerque


Filed under Israel Defense Forces, People, US Policy