Tag Archives: Operation Protective Edge

The Anti-Normalization Shroud Descends

By now we’re all familiar with the new world of physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and the feeling that everything has come to a standstill.

Palestinians in Gaza have experienced a similar (not the same) life since June 2007 when Israel severely tightened the restrictions on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control.  Palestinians can’t exit except with approval from both Israel and Hamas, turning the Gaza Strip into the largest open air prison in the world. Palestinians can’t export their produce except under very limited strictures. Palestinians can’t import many essential products, and they remain reliant on Israel to determine what things can and can’t be brought into Gaza. Many times the Palestinian fishermen can’t safely bring home their catch without being fired upon by the Israeli gunboats. And the list of restrictions goes on and on.

Gaza is tiny. At 139 square miles, it’s about the same size as Detroit (138.8 square miles), Philadelphia (134.1), Las Vegas (135.8), or Portland, Oregon (133.4). We’re talking about more than two million people, the largest majority being youth under the age of 30, confined to a Very. Small. Place.

Any Palestinian in Gaza older than 12 years has lived through three devastating Israeli military operations: Operation Cast Lead (in 2008-2009 Israel killed 1391 Palestinians in Gaza in 23 days); Operation Pillar of Defense (in November 2012 Israel killed 167 Palestinians in Gaza in 8 days); and two years later Operation Protective Edge (Israel killed 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 11,000 between July 8 and August 26, 2014). Since March 2018, Israeli sharpshooters have killed and maimed hundreds of Palestinians participating in the Great Return March every Friday at the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

This violence and physical separation has occupied the Palestinian souls in Gaza for a very long time, a deliberate military strategy pursued by the State of Israel. There’s little doubt among human rights lawyers that it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

So this happened recently.

A Palestinian in Gaza connected on Zoom with an Israeli in Tel Aviv about 40 miles away but they could have very well been light years apart because it’s official government policy on both sides that there will be no communication “with the enemy.” The Zoom meeting included friends on both sides. It went on for over an hour. I watched part of it but the audio quality and heavy accents prevented me from understanding the entire exchange.

A young Palestinian woman later saw the video of the Zoom meeting and tagged Hamas leaders. They arrested the organizer in Gaza on grounds that his conversation with the Israelis was a form of normalization.

I’ve heard different definitions of normalization; it appears to sweep the gamut from the very denunciation of any contact between any Israeli and any Palestinian to a more tailored and nuanced criticism of people-to-people programs.

The definition I find most helpful is:

Within Palestine, normalization is generally defined as any project; initiative; or activity in Palestine, Israel, or internationally that aims to bring together Palestinians and Israelis without addressing structural and power inequalities and/or without having its goal be opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Read this article published two years ago in the Friends Journal, a Quaker publication, by Mike Merryman-Lotze for a deeper understanding of a very complex subject. He writes:

It should be understood that the push against normalization is not about closing off communication because of issues of identity. Rather it is about identifying the principles and processes through which discussion and communication occur so as to not reify power imbalances or do harm to those who are already vulnerable or abused. It is about ensuring that when people come together, the focus is co‐resistance to the structures that oppress people, and not coexistence within oppressive systems.

The woman who alerted Hamas to the Zoom meeting appears to ascribe to a very blunt definition where any communication between Palestinians and Israelis is verboten. Here’s what she later posted on her Facebook account. She’s received a lot of support from Palestinians inside Gaza and outside.

As a Palestinian born and raised in the Gaza Strip, under endless blockade, survived two aggressive wars, covering the Great March of Return I believe that the worst sin any Palestinian can commit is Normalization; which is any joint activity between Palestine and Israel.

In other words, no form of joint activity, cooperation or dialogue with Israelis is unacceptable, even engaging with Israeli “Peace Activists”.

These actions are collaboration with enemies of us, the Palestinians.

No one ever taught me that Israel is my enemy, but every airstrike I heard told me that.

No one ever told me that talking with Israeli’s is unacceptable but every single body shattered into pieces covered with blood said it all.

It is not my intention to make an argument in support of normalization. Normalization is a matter writ large for the Palestinian community to explore and decide for itself collectively and as individuals.

But if the shroud of anti-normalization can be stretched so far and wide as to smother any communication between Palestinians and Israelis, I fear for the future of everyone in the Holy Land. 

I would never have met Sami, a Palestinian from Gaza who was a high school exchange student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wrote about Sami and his meeting with an Israeli security official in that U.S. high school many years ago.

I would never have read the Palestinian doctor’s book from Gaza, I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish.

I probably would never have traveled to Gaza in 2012 and learned so much about life under occupation, and the beautiful culture of sumud and determination, because my opportunity was sparked by Sami, Izzeldin, Mohammed and many others who connected with me.  I’ve had my difference of opinion with some in Gaza over the years, but if they choose to shroud themselves in darkness by condemning any connections between Palestinians and Israelis as haram, then I must part ways with them. My voice and actions in solidarity with Palestinians will fall on deaf ears.

For the time being, I’m hoping that there are many more Palestinians inside Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora who reject this mindset. I suspect they may feel it is safer to remain silent.

I also hope there are Israelis who recognize that “it’s the occupation, stupid!”  Speaking with Palestinians may be an important first step, but it’s certainly not the last. Israelis must have the courage to take action to dismantle the occupation.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, People, Politics, Video

Israeli/Palestinian Conflict 2005 – 2017

474539_10201171912805812_677126820_o

A well-informed friend (neither Palestinian nor Israeli) recently prepared this timeline of key events during the past 12 years with a particular focus on Gaza. He wishes to remain anonymous at this time, but I am very grateful for his time and effort in pulling this timeline together.  Its value is not only the timeline’s comprehensive treatment but also its impartiality.

2005

 

Government of Israel (GOI) starts implementation of the so-called “Disengagement Plan”, which consists of the voluntary and unilateral withdrawal from all military bases and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, as well as the dismantling of the 21 Jewish settlements located within the Strip, being Gush Katif the largest of all. The “Disengagement Plan” had been designed by the Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon.

 

GOI finishes the implementation of the “Disengagement Plan” successfully. Although facing some resistance from the young and more radical Jewish settlers there was no armed violence at all (unlike when Israel dismantled the settlement of Yamit in the Sinai Peninsula in compliance with the Camp David Accords from 1978). From there on, there has been no permanent Israeli presence or jurisdiction in Gaza. However, Israel retained control of certain elements, such as airspace, sea and borders, leading to an ongoing dispute as to whether Gaza is still “occupied territory” or not.

 

US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice visits Israel for the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Itzaak Rabin and mediates the “Agreement on Movement and Access” to facilitate the reopening of the Rafah Crossing (that connects the Strip to Egypt, and from there to the rest of the world) under the management of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the supervision of European border monitors. Rafah Crossing is reopened and becomes the first border crossing ever managed by the Palestinians (before they were in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, Egypt and Israel).

 

2006

 

The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas (which is registered in the list of terrorist organizations of both the United States and the EU) unexpectedly wins a clear majority in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (Parliament), after Fatah can’t politically sell the “Disengagement” as its own achievement through negotiations due to its unilateral character. The PNA´s bilateral relations with Israel deteriorate a lot, even though its President Mahmoud Abbas, remains a member of the secular party Fatah.

 

Following a Gaza beach blast, in which seven members of the same family were killed, the armed wing of Hamas called off its 16-month-old truce. Although GOI claimed its Army was shelling 250 mts away from the family’s location; Palestinians claimed that the explosion was Israeli responsibility. An Israeli internal investigation report claimed the blast was most likely caused by an unexploded munition buried in the sand and not by shelling. This investigation was criticized by human rights organizations.

 

After crossing the border the Gaza Strip into Israel in the South, the Palestinian “popular Resistance Committees” attacked an Israeli Army post, killing 2 soldiers, injuring 4 and capturing Corporal Gilad Shalit. GOI orders the Army to launch military operation “Summer Rains”. The kidnapping of Shalit leads to several collective punishment measures against the Strip, among them the reduction of the fishing space and the regular closure of the Rafah Crossing. This is considered to be the first stage of the blockade of the Strip.

 

Second Lebanon War starts after Shiite militia Hezbollah members infiltrated Israel in a cross-border raid, captured two soldiers and killed three others. Israel attempted to rescue the captured, and five more soldiers were killed. Israeli Army responded, attacking Lebanon from earth, air and sea. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 1,191 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis. Simultaneously, the Army launched a counter-offensive to deprive cover to militants firing rockets into from Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians.

 

A UN study declared the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip “intolerable”, with 75% of the population dependent on food aid, and an estimated 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The Palestinian economy had largely relied on Western aid and revenues, which had been frozen since Hamas’s victory in the legislative elections.

 

Brokered by Egyptian mediators, Fatah reached a deal to end fighting between the Hamas and Fatah factions, both groups agreeing to refrain from acts that raise tensions and committing themselves to dialogue to resolve differences. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas brushed off comments by President Mahmoud Abbas, head of Fatah, who indicated he could dismiss the Hamas-led cabinet. Abbas unsuccessfully urged Hamas to accept international calls to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

 

2007

 

Fatah-Hamas negotiations in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) produced an agreement on a Palestinian national unity government.

 

After the increasing of intra-governmental tensions within the PNA Hamas launches an strike against Fatah loyalists in Gaza, taking control of all the Strip within a few days of intense fighting. Since then the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have remained fragmented, both geographically and politically.

 

US Administration under George W. Bush promoted the Annapolis Conference, a peace conference marked the first time a two-State solution was articulated as the mutually agreed-upon outline for addressing the conflict. The conference ended with the issuing of a joint statement from all parties.

 

2008

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Hot Winter” in response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The operation resulted in 112 Palestinians and three Israelis being killed.

 

Israeli Army raids the Gaza Strip without a clear and direct reason for it, killing six members of Hamas. Hamas cancels the truce agreement that it had respected most of time. The armed wing of Hamas responds with rocket attacks on southern Israel.

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Cast Lead”, a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip.

 

2009

 

Operation “Cast Lead” continues until January 18. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declared separate unilateral ceasefires. Casualties of the so-called “first Gaza War” are disputed. According to Hamas, they included as many as 1,417 Palestinians including as many as 926 civilians. According to Israeli Army, 1,166 Palestinians were killed, and 295 were non-combatants. “Cast Lead” is criticized by the Goldstone Report under the auspices of the UN.

 

Although Kadima wins the legislative elections its candidate for Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, doesn´t get enough support in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the candidate of the Likud party Benjamion Netanyahu is appointed as new Prime Minister.

 

2010

 

Turkish and international activists of the “Freedom Flotilla” try to break Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, but were intercepted by the Israeli Army. When the Israeli naval commandos boarded the main ship (Mavi Marmara) the activists attacked them with knives and metal rods. 9 Turkish activists are shot dead after a quite negligent crisis management by GOI.

 

U.S. launches direct negotiations between GOI and PNA in Washington D.C.

 

GOI decides not to extend the construction moratorium in the settlements of the West Bank that had been agreed by the Obama Administration as a confidence-building measure with the PNA. A second round of Middle East peace talks between GPI and PNA takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt).

 

2011

 

Two young Palestinians with no previous security offenses infiltrate the settlement of Itamar and murder five members of the same family in their beds. This incident creates a lot of mistrust on the Israeli public opinion about re-launching the Peace Process.

 

Egyptian and Palestinian militants perpetrate a cross-border attack in southern Israel and killed 8 Israelis, 2 soldiers and 6 civilians. 40 injured. 5 Egyptian soldiers are also killed. This incident becomes an example of the militarization process and chaos in the Sinai Peninsula during the “Arab spring” taking place in Egypt.

 

Palestine applies to the UN General Assembly for recognition of Palestine statehood, calling it a “Palestine Spring”.

 

Hamas liberates soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the liberation of 1.000 Palestinian prisoners (with very diverse backgrounds) by Israel.

 

Palestine wins membership in UNESCO while UN vote on statehood is put on hold. In the Security Council, Palestine gets no support from France and UK while US threatens to veto it.

 

2012

 

Gaza militants launch over 300 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel, wounding 23 civilians. Israeli Army retaliates with air strikes on Gaza targets, killing 22 militants and 4 civilians.

 

Israeli Army lunches Operation “Pillar of Defense” after perpetrating a “targeted killing” against Hamas´ armed wing head, Ahmed Jabari. Gaza officials said 133 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict of whom 79 were militants, 53 civilians and 1 policeman. Around 840 Palestinians are wounded. Hamas fires over 1,000 rockets at southern Israel, killing 6.

 

UN General Assembly upgrades Palestine to “non-member observer State” status in the United Nations, was adopted by the 67th session of the UNGA, coinciding with the celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians People. Vote: For: 138; Abs.: 41 Against: 9.

 

In response to the UN approving the Palestinian UN bid for non-member observer state status, GOI announces the approval of building of housing units in the E1 Area that connects Jerusalem and Israel settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, while effectively cutting the West Bank in two pieces.

 

2013

 

Likud party wins the legislative elections in coalition with Israel Beitenu and Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected as Prime Minister.

 

2014

 

Three Israeli youngsters are kidnapped and assassinated while hitchhiking home from their religious schools in settlements on the West Bank. GOI blames the assassination on Hamas, and claims it was ordered by one of its leaders in exile, Salah Al Arouri, who lives in Turkey.

 

Israeli Army rounds up more than 150 Palestinians, including Parliament speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik and several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (who are supposed to enjoy Parliamentary immunity).

 

Israel Air Force launches dozens of air strikes across the Gaza Strip overnight, just hours after the bodies of three abducted Israeli teenagers were found in a shallow grave near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Following the discovery of the bodies, Netanyahu issues a statement once again blaming Hamas. Hamas denies involvement.

 

In retaliation to the abduction of the 3 Israeli teenagers, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir is grabbed off the street after leaving his home in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, is beaten up and burnt alive, provoking a wave of riots in East Jerusalem.

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Protective Edge” against the Gaza Strip. More than 2,200 Gazans are killed and 10,000 injured –from them around 70% civilians according to the UN– after almost two months of shelling from earth, air and sea. 73 Israelis get killed, from them 66 soldiers and 7 civilians. This “third Gaza war” becomes the most lethal and destructive of all military operations launched by the Israeli Army against the Gaza Strip.

 

The international community, under the auspices of Egypt and Norway, celebrates a donor Conference for Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The PNA presents its National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, for which so far has not even 50% of the funding that was pledged by the donors at the Cairo Conference from 12 October 2014.

 

2015

 

Likud Party wins the early elections and Benjamin Netanyahu gets reelected as Prime Minister for his third term in a row and fourth term altogether (at the end of his current mandate he will become Israel´s longest serving head of Government). The ruling coalition becomes Israel´s most right-wing Government ever.

 

All UN agencies release a joint report under the name of “Gaza 2020” stating that if current trends remain (population growth, lack of drinking water, lack of natural resources, energy restrictions, etc.) the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.

 

The recurrent provocations by right-wing Members of the Knesset visiting the Haram Al Sharif in the old city of Jerusalem (third most important religious site for Islam, but also the most important for Judaism, as it is believed to be the site of the Temple Mount, where both Jewish Temples were erected before their destruction leads to the so-called “Knife Intifada” (sequence of attacks with knives against Israeli policemen and civilians).

 

2016

 

After several months of quiet the Jewish High Holiday season (New Year, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) leads to more visits to the Temple Mount by right-wing members of Knesset and even a couple Government ministers, provoking more riots and turmoil in Jerusalem.

 

2017

 

Yahya Sinwar replaces Ismael Haniye as head of Hamas for the Gaza Strip. Haniye replaces Khaled Meshal as head of the Political Office of Hamas in exile.

 

Three young Israeli Arabs manage to smuggle fire arms into the Haram Al Sharif and kill two Israeli Policemen at one of the entrances. GOI installs metal detectors and CCTV cameras at different entrances to the Holy Explanade, detonating a new wave of riots. After the killing of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli security guard in Amman (Jordan) GOI finds the way out of the crisis, removing the detectors and the cameras after two weeks of violence.

 

Hamas announces it will allow the PNA to retake over some ministries, executing effective control over them and cancelling the “administrative committee” it had created last April after the PNA cancelled the payments for fuel (stopping the power station in Nuseirat) and reducing the payments for electricity (that it buys from Israel). It also announces that the Ramallah Government lead by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah can call for both legislative and presidential elections (the Legislative Council doesn´t work since 2007 and President Abbas rules by decree since 2010 as his mandate expired) creating new expectations for national reconciliation.

1 Comment

Filed under Elections, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Politics, Settlers

Accountability for war crimes? ICC

When and how will Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed during its 51-day Operation Protective Edge in 2014?  The operation killed 2,251 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. The operation also caused massive destruction to 18,000 homes and other civilian property, including hospitals and vital infrastructure.

Most of the destruction and damage has not been repaired in the past three years. Neither has any serious investigation been conducted.

Two legal NGOs in Israel — Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Adalah — have been absolute bull dogs, pushing the Israeli authorities to comply with their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). For the past three years, they have submitted petitions, complaints, claims and every manner of documentation to press for justice for the victims of Operation Protective Edge. To no avail.

IHL and IHRL require Israel to investigate allegations of suspected violations committed during Operation Protective Edge, with independence, impartiality, effectiveness, promptness and transparency and to prosecute those allegedly responsible.

But as with its inquiries into past military operations, Israel has delayed, denied, deflected and dismissed every attempt by the United Nations and others to come clean with its actions in Operation Protective Edge.

That hasn’t stopped Israeli soldiers from talking about their experience in Operation Protective Edge.

On August 28, 2017, Al-Mezan and Adalah published their 9-page report documenting their attempts to hold Israel accountable — Gaza 3 Years On: Impunity over accountability Israel’s unwillingness to investigate violations of international law
in the Gaza Strip. No surprises here.

The cases concerned severe events that resulted in the killing and serious injury of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and the massive destruction of civilian objects. The evidence in these cases suggested that the attacks were carried out in violation of the principles of distinction and proportionality, which could amount to grave breaches of IHL. These cases mostly concerned incidents of:
 Direct attacks on homes causing many civilian deaths and injuries;
 Direct attacks on children (e.g. the four Bakr children playing on the beach and the Shuheibar children feeding pigeons on a house rooftop);
 Direct attacks on five UNRWA schools that were sheltering civilians;
 The bombing of mosques, hospitals and a shelter for people with severe disabilities;
 Attacks on civilian infrastructure and the municipality workers fixing them.

After Operation Protective Edge, Israel cynically created the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism (FFAM) to improve its investigative abilities but after three years, 46.4% of the complaints filed by Adalah and Al Mezan were referred to the FFAM for examination and then closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved. 43% of the complaints remain under examination by the FFAM or received no response.

The Military Advocate General’s responses to such cases:
 Secret evidence: The materials collected by the FFAM and other intelligence materials cannot be revealed because they are classified;
 Military necessity: Certain incidents in question were undertaken based on military necessity (these arguments were written vaguely and did not include any supporting evidence);
 No non-military witnesses: The FFAM did not find any need or use in taking testimonies from non-military witnesses.

This whole exercise may seem pointless because when has Israel ever been held accountable for its violations of international law?

This time things might be different.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

The Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary investigation. (pp. 25-32) But the ICC can’t assume jurisdiction in this case if the State of Israel has an effective mechanism for investigating and prosecuting these claims. In November 2016, the Prosecutor said she would “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

That’s why this report from Al-Mezan and Adalah is so very important. It clearly shows that Israel is incapable and unwilling to investigate and hold itself accountable. If the Prosecutor agrees, she can recommend that the ICC take the case.

Israel needs to be held accountable, sooner rather than later. This report provides the ammunition to open the courthouse doors. Bravo Al-Mezan and Adalah!

The case of the Abu Dahrouj family provides another illustration of Israel’s unwillingness to investigate. On the night of 22 August 2014, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a home belonging to the Abu Dahrouj family in central Gaza. The Israeli missile strike killed five members of the Abu Dahrouj family, including two children, and wounded multiple civilians and caused extensive damage to neighboring homes. Although [Israel] acknowledged that the missile attack was carried out directly on a civilian home and did not target any combatant or military object, no investigation was opened and the case was closed without any action against those involved.

 

1 Comment

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

Day #30 – August 5, 2014 – Operation Protective Edge

Three years ago, on this date, Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, Baroness Warsi, a British-Pakistani lawyer, politician and Senior Minister for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, handed in her letter of resignation over her disagreement with the government’s policy on the Gaza conflict.

I admire her. I wish there had been some politicians in the United States Congress who had spoken so directly and honestly about the atrocities in Gaza.

Leave a comment

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

Day #27 – The reality of Operation Protective Edge

Three years ago, in the middle of Israel’s murderous onslaught in Gaza, the reality was seeping through in the U.S. media.

1 Comment

Filed under Hamas, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, People, United Nations, Video

Day #25 – Hannibal Directive

Three years ago, August 1, 2014 is known as Black Friday in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.    This video provides a forensic analysis of what occurred that day.  Will it provide the evidence for war crimes?

1 Comment

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

Day #20 – The Children of Gaza in Operation Protective Edge

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA

A Palestinian medic carries the body of a child, killed in an explosion in a public playground on the beachfront of Shati refugee camp, in the morgue of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza (Photo credit: Juliana Jiménez)

Source: Day #20 – July 26, 2014 – Palestinian Lives Matter!

Three years ago, British journalist Jon Snow returned back from a reporting trip to the Gaza Strip, a war zone during Operation Protective Edge. Watch his brief report carefully. His observations should be held up to journalism students worldwide as an exemplary model for how to cover the realities of life and death in a war zone. Americans don’t see this type of reporting from Gaza, Mosul or Yemen. Why?

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaza, IDF, People, Uncategorized, Video

Forensic journalism – a new tool in the battle for truth?

fo·ren·sic
fəˈrenzik,fəˈrensik/
adjective
  1. 1.
    of, relating to, or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime.
    “forensic evidence”
noun
  1. 2.
    scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime.

We’ve all heard of forensic medicine.  Patricia Cornwell’s crime series about the forensic pathologist and Medical Examiner from Richmond, Virginia is one of my favorite chill-out books. She knows how to weave a tale applying medical knowledge to the investigation of a crime, particularly in establishing the cause of some gruesome and mysterious death.

Of course, forensic medicine is not just the stuff of fiction, but a recognized science accepted in many courtrooms as evidence to establish or disprove a crime.

I’ve learned about forensic architecture in recent years, after viewing a video of the digital re-creation of Israel’s bombardment of Rafah in 2014 — known as Black Friday because of its ferocity and lethal consequences in the very dense urban community in the southern Gaza Strip.

Now that we’ve entered a new era of killing (forget your outdated notions of the infantry in WWII) with drones, and hi-tech “smart” bombs, and the theatre of combat has shifted to neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and mosques, I suspect the need for forensic architecture is going to grow rapidly.

Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London.  It includes a team of architects, scholars, filmmakers, designers, lawyers and scientists to undertake research that gathers and presents spatial analysis in legal and political forums.

We provide evidence for international prosecution teams, political organisations, NGOs, and the United Nations in various processes worldwide.  Additionally, the agency undertakes historical and theoretical examinations of the history and present status of forensic practices in articulating notions of public truth.

Well, I have an idea.

Maybe we need forensic journalism to use scientific methods to analyze the media (in all venues – print, video, TV, radio, including social media) leading up to military operations.

Forensic journalists would catalogue how the major actors and events leading up to the military assault were portrayed in the media (or more accurately how the media was used and manipulated) to create the conditions necessary to justify the initiation of military operations. Leaders can’t go to war without convincing their people of the righteousness of their decision to put their young men and women in harms’ way. The media is their unwitting accomplices. And the digital tracks remain for all to see and analyze months and years afterwards. The evidence doesn’t disintegrate like it probably does in forensic medicine/pathology.

Think of President George W. Bush and the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

Now think of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the weeks leading up to Operation Protective Edge in 2014 when Israel slaughtered (yes, “slaughter” is the correct term when the vast majority of the victims are unarmed civilians taking shelter in hospitals, schools, homes and UN facilities) — 2,256 Palestinians in 51 days in Gaza.

Forensic journalists would probably begin their examination with the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Netanyahu immediately blamed Hamas without providing any evidence but the media didn’t mind. Then he launched an extensive search and crackdown in the West Bank, ostensibly looking for the three teens. Remember the #BringBackOurBoys campaign on social media? I think I recall that the mothers of the three teenagers even went to the United Nations looking for help in finding their sons.

bringbackourboys2

There would be alot of evidence for the forensic journalists to sift through because the local and international media covered these events daily for weeks.  Few in the West know about Israel’s gag law that prevents journalists from disclosing information that the government tells them they can’t.

Sadly, Netanyahu and his military chiefs knew from the first day that these boys were very likely dead because one teen had managed to dial for help on his cellphone when the gunshots rang out. But the media played along with Netanyahu’s pretext, whipping up public furor against Hamas and in favor of launching a military operation in Gaza.

Weeks later, the truth would come out. Even the New York Times (which rarely deviates from Israel’s party line) had to admit that the evidence didn’t support Netanyahu’s assertions. That was OK, Netanyahu must have been thinking, because by that time Operation Protective Edge was well underway and public opinion supported the government use of force.

Journalists on both sides of the Atlantic played into Netanyahu’s carefully crafted messaging, however faulty and distorted it might be.

In hindsight, can forensic journalists now map the digital path that led up to the horrors perpetrated on thousands of innocent men, women and children in Gaza that summer?

More importantly, can a pattern and practice of media manipulation be documented in order to identify future transgressions before they happen?

Shouldn’t the unsubstantiated “news” stories flying around the planet at break-neck speed this past week about the alleged Hamas use of humanitarian donations from World Vision, UNDP and others be a signal that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork to justify another military operation in Gaza? Nearly every major media outlet is accepting Netanyahu’s assertions without question. At least the Seattle Times included a voice of reason in their version of the story.

“I think the world should be very skeptical about his (el-Halabi’s) arrest and suspect of Israel claims,” said John McKay, a former U.S. attorney for Western Washington who spent two years in the West Bank while serving in a U.S.-sponsored rule-of-law program.   McKay said the Israeli government has  sometimes denied legal rights to detained Palestinians, with charges not always supported by evidence. He  also said there has long been friction between the Israeli government and international aid agencies that seek to act  independently in Gaza.

And what should we make of Netanyahu’s attempt to rebrand himself as the loving father-figure for the Palestinians?  Is this relevant information in a forensic examination?

Until we have a better grasp of how journalists are strategically manipulated by the government in a very deliberate fashion to support the use of military force, we’ll have no chance of calling their bluff when they try to do it to us again … and again … and again.

3 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Media, People, Uncategorized, Video

#GoingtoGaza – June 2015

Keeping a daily journal of my efforts to return to Gaza helps me retrace my steps. This pilgrimage certainly isn’t easy and my gut tells me the path is just as important as the destination.  For previous months, check out my blog posts: September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015, March 2015, April 2015 and May 2015.  What follows are entries for the month of June 2015.

Day #273 – Communicating about hot button issues (religion, politics, Israel-Palestine) is so challenging.  Rethinking my whole approach (especially after reading “The Righteous Mind” by Haidt). Going to write a book review today. Take away message—-we try to convince the “other” person with our rational arguments but the “other” person can’t hear or appreciate rational arguments when his/her opinions originate from intuition. Likewise, our opinions very likely originate from intuition, followed by strategic reasoning. Haidt says that conservatives understand this, but liberals typically don’t. #GoingtoGaza

Ballot-Box

Day #274 – Thinking electoral politics is for the birds!

Fact No. 1 – Palestinians haven’t had an election in 9 years and the old farts in office don’t seem eager to hold another.

Fact No. 2 – Israeli P.M. Netanyahu wins his election by warning Israelis that the “Arabs are coming to the polls in droves” thus proving Israel is a racist state.

Fact No. 3 – Millions of Palestinians living under occupation can’t vote in Israeli elections despite the fact that Israel has so much control over their lives.

Fact No. 4 – Elections in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, NM, USA run like clockwork but the elected officeholders prove like clockwork that they are corruptible or corrupted.

Fact No. 5 – My generation has screwed things up so royally that future generations will feel the full blunt force trauma of our actions, despite having no voice and no voting power.

I agree with Tracy Chapman — We’re Talking About a Revolution. #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – News from Gaza. Some militants in Gaza fired something (rockets?) into southern Israel today. No fatalities or damage reported. ISIS claimed responsibility. Hamas has been battling ISIS operatives in Gaza. Tonight Israel’s jets scrambled; lots of noise and several air strikes were reported. No fatalities. I’m thinking of the young children who survived last summer’s assault on Gaza that lasted 51 days. While Bruce Jenner commands too many soundbites and photo spreads documenting his “freedom to be himself/herself” — these Palestinian children have no freedoms and can’t just be innocent kids. What a screwed up universe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #274 – Watching “activists” on FB and Twitter, I’m struck with our ineffectual communication skills. (I include myself.)

1) Some activists refuse to have an exchange with anyone who disagrees with them. “Unfriend” option is so childish.

2) Some activists prefer to lecture or “educate” but are clueless about what others think.

3) Some activists really believe that meaningful change can occur via social media alone, and it sounds like they are stuck on their divans.

Here’s a book I hope activists will pick up. If we want to change the status quo, which I presume we all do, we have to understand the other side. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012)  #GoingtoGaza

Day #275 – On this day in 1967, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, known today as the Six Day War but to the Palestinians as the Naksah. I wonder how many of my American friends know about the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. #GoingtoGaza

Day #276 – Here is a good account of the difficulties traveling across the Rafah Border from Egypt to Gaza, written in 3 parts. Part 1  –  Part 2  –  Part 3  Very discouraging!  #GoingtoGaza

zivotfsky-2-300x225

Days #277 – 278 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Zivotofsky family and said they will not get “Israel” marked as the place of birth on their son’s passport. Kennedy’s opinion said that the President has the sole responsibility for recognizing a sovereign nation. Time for Obama to recognize the State of Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

Day #279 – “Confirmation bias” … a new phrase that a psychologist-friend recently taught me. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. I clearly see it among pro-Israeli activists, pro-Palestinian activists, and with greater scrutiny, I can now see it with myself. We want to find the “facts” to support our world view, and we disregard facts that may negate our world view.  This is very interesting stuff….   #GoingtoGaza

Day #280 – Feeling very pleased that over 600 letters have been sent to members of Congress asking them to invite former President Carter to speak about his recent visit to Israel & Palestine.  I’m planning to visit Capitol Hill with these signatures once we reach 1000+ letters.  Check out the petition here. Add your signature!  #GoingtoGaza

Carter in DC

Day #281 – Netanyahu and his cabinet are doing everyone a favor by using blunt and vulgar language concerning their real intentions towards the Palestinians. Nothing new, of course, except that they aren’t pretending to hide behind a veneer of reasonableness any longer. Obama is going to find it increasingly difficult to side with the Israelis or pretend to be a peace broker. #GoingtoGaza

Day #282 – Palestinians in Gaza may be blockaded and under Israel’s lethal siege, but they are CONNECTED to the world.  Case in point. Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the “Fast Track” bill which many Americans opposed. I waited for news about the vote. I sat in Baltimore about an hour from the Capitol listening to public radio and watching news sites for the results. Finally, my friend in Gaza half way around the world posted a message on Facebook with the good news! The Fast Track bill was defeated! Thank you Internet. Thank you social media! Thank you friends!

Day #283 – As much as I want to return to Gaza, this weekend I’m praying that my young friend in Gaza will exit the Rafah gates when they open for 3 days. He was accepted abroad to pursue graduate studies but Israel has treated him like a prisoner all of his life in Gaza. May Allah protect him in his travels! #GoingtoGaza

border-6

Day #284 – Al-hamdulillah! My young friend made it out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. He said there were many military checkpoints through the Sinai, and the place looked like a military zone with all of the tanks, etc. But his bus made it to the Cairo Airport. Now I’m saying prayers that he makes it on to a plane. I can’t imagine what his family back home must be feeling. #GoingtoGaza

Day #285 – Lots happening this week. Yesterday Israel released its 250-page report about its investigation of Operation Protective Edge last summer … as a preemptive move against the pending release of the UN Human Rights Council investigative report. This week marks the 8th anniversary of Israel’s siege on Gaza. Ramadan begins Sundown on Wednesday, I think. Denny Cormier and my young Palestinian friend both left Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #286 – What is the difference between me wearing my “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt and Rachel Dolezal changing her hair, eye color and skin pigment to look like she is African American? Answer: I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m standing in solidarity with African Americans. I’m acknowledging the injustices. But I’m not pretending to step into their shoes and understand their life experience, their reality, their oppression. Same goes for the Palestinians. I won’t pretend to stand in their shoes, but I wonder if some zealous activists have tried to cross that line. #GoingtoGaza

Day #287 – First day of Ramadan. I de-activated my Facebook page. Started listening to the audiobook The Haj by Leon Uris. #GoingtoGaza

Days #288-289 – Going cold turkey from Facebook might not be as hard as I thought.  I’m checking Twitter more often and don’t really miss the FB clutter. Today I submitted application for UN Human Rights Officer in Gaza.  I really, really, really hope I’m selected. #GoingtoGaza

Day #290 – The closer one is to realizing his Personal Legend, the more the Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: fear of failure. The Alchemist #GoingtoGaza

Day #291 – Felt very good today to talk with Basya and, later, Jeremy.  Connecting with family is the glue that keeps us all together! #GoingtoGaza

Day #292 – Spent the day reading the UN Human Rights Investigation into the war in Gaza last summer. Utterly devastating to read. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt to live through it. #GoingtoGaza

Days #293-294 – Taking a month off of Facebook is a good thing. But I may have substituted one addiction for another. Now I find myself checking Twitter every few minutes. Uh-oh! Finished reading the UN’s report on the Gaza 2014 war. Devastating words! #GoingtoGaza

Days #295 – 298 – Disconnected from Facebook is a really good thing.  But it also feels good when friends from Gaza and NM reach out to me to find out if I’m OK because they’re worried that I’m not on FB.  #GoingtoGaza

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

albert_einstein_quotes2

So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

3 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video