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The Gaza Siege and the flotilla, Goldstone and Corrie follow-ups, Israeli-Palestinian “negotiations” and the “Situation,” and the Carmel Fire The Gaza Siege
Gaza closure: not another year! International Committee of the Red Cross Independent journalists dismantling Israel's hold on the media narrative by Abraham Greenhouse, Nora Barrows-Friedman Eyewitness to the Israeli Assault on the Mavi Marmara by Dave LIndorff Give them an inquiry by Zvi Bar'el Calling Gaza a prison camp is an understatement by Laila ElHaddad Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on followup to the report of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [link to pdf file at UN site] IDF document: “Policy principle: separating Gaza from West Bank” by Noam Sheizaf Journal of a voyage by Yonatan Shapira Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance [link to UN pdf file] Government releases documents detailing Gaza import guidelines by Amira Hass Want to weaken Hamas? Open Gaza's gates by Amira Hass School's out: why Gazans can't reach class in the West Bank by Fatma Al-Sharif Gaza businesses boxed in by Israeli export ban by Jon Donnison
Goldstone and Corrie follow-ups
IDF Report Confirming Goldstone’s Key Findings Is Suppressed Inside Israel by Max Blumenthal What led to IDF bombing house full of civilians during Gaza war? by Amira Hass
“There Are No Civilians In Wartime.” Rachel Corrie’s Family Confronts The Israeli Military In Court by Max Blumenthal Israel’s Military on the Spot Over Activist’s Death by Karl Vick Bulldozer driver testimony underscores lack of transparency in Corrie trial
Israeli-Palestinian “Negotiations” (and the “Situation”)
Halper: American Jews (and the Congress) don’t want an Israel at peace by Philip Weiss Palestine 2011 by Jeff Halper Report of the Committee of independent experts in international humanitarian and human rights laws to monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian side, in the light of General Assembly resolution 64/254, including the independence, effectiveness, genuineness of these investigations and their conformity with international standards Israel's Palestinian partner is ready and waiting by Libby Lenkinski Friedlander Night raid in Bil’in by Hamde Abu Rahme Stanley and Me by David Lipkin UN will be judged on whether it upholds Palestinian rights by Richard Falk Palestinian territories: “Prolonged occupation, a new type of crime against humanity” – UN human rights expert by Richard Falk Israel blocking Palestinian officials from using main Jordan crossing by Avi Issacharoff The Nobleman and the Horse by Uri Avnery Survey: 66% of Palestinians support peace negotiations by Michael Omer-Man U.S. taxpayers are paying for Israel's West Bank occupation by Akiva Eldar The endgame for the peace process by Robert Grenier Referendum bill uses public as peace deal rubber stamp By Akiva Eldar Israel can't put occupation up for immoral referendum By Gideon Levy
U.S.-Israel relations: Netanyahu’s self-made problem by Yossi Gurvitz Defense analyst on the looming US-Israel ’security catastrophe’ by Didi Remez UN: ‘The family has requested a tent as they have nowhere else to live’ (US: ‘What, me worry?’) by Philip Weiss The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict by Menachem Klein (Videos Part 1-10 on YouTube of Menachem Klein’s recent launch presentation at http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=aQTVITBHN3s -- then seek Part 2-10 at site as “Part ‘x’ Menachem Klein launches his new book THE SHIFT”) Israel’s post-traumatic isolation by [psychologist] Carlo Strenger Why NGO Monitor is attacking The Electronic Intifada Carmel fire: the price of the treasury’s policy by Yossi Gurvitz Israel’s deadliest fire: Eli Yishai must go by Noam Sheizaf
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Gaza closure: not another year!
International Committee of the Red Cross, 14 June 2010 Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) - The hardship faced by Gaza's 1.5 million people cannot be addressed by providing humanitarian aid. The only sustainable solution is to lift the closure. The serious incidents that took place on 31 May between Israeli forces and activists on a flotilla heading for Gaza once again put the spotlight on the acute hardship faced by the population in the Gaza Strip. As the ICRC has stressed repeatedly, the dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low. The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.
"The closure is having a devastating impact on the 1.5 million people living in Gaza", said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East. "That is why we are urging Israel to put an end to this closure and call upon all those who have an influence on the situation, including Hamas, to do their utmost to help Gaza's civilian population. Israel's right to deal with its legitimate security concerns must be balanced against the Palestinians' right to live normal, dignified lives." The international community has to do its part to ensure that repeated appeals by States and international organizations to lift the closure are finally heeded. Under international humanitarian law, Israel must ensure that the basic needs of Gazans, including adequate health care, are met. The Palestinian authorities, for their part, must do everything within their power to provide proper health care, supply electricity and maintain infrastructure for Gaza's people. Furthermore, all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is about to enter his fifth year in captivity. Hamas has continued to rebuff the ICRC's requests to let it visit Gilad Shalit. In violation of international humanitarian law, it has also refused to allow him to get in touch with his family. The ICRC again urges those detaining Gilad Shalit to grant him the regular contact with his family to which he is entitled. It also reiterates that those detaining him have an obligation to ensure that he is well treated and that his living conditions are humane and dignified. Ruined livelihoods Although about 80 types of goods are now allowed into Gaza – twice as many as a year ago –over 4,000 items could be brought in prior to the closure. Generally, the price of goods has increased while their quality has dropped – this is one consequence of the largely unregulated trade conducted through the tunnels that have been dug under the GazaEgypt border to circumvent the closure. Fertile farmland located close to the border fence has been turned into a wasteland by ongoing hostilities, affecting people's livelihoods in many rural communities. The buffer zone imposed by Israel extends in practice over one kilometre into the Gaza Strip, covering a total area of about 50 square kilometres that is host to nearly a third of Gaza's farmland and a large share of its livestock. Agricultural activities in the area are hampered by security conditions. Israel's enforcement of the buffer zone and frequent hostilities have resulted not only in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property but also in the impoverishment and displacement of numerous families. Gaza's fishermen have been greatly affected by successive reductions imposed by Israel on the size of the fishing grounds they are allowed to
exploit. The latest restriction to three nautical miles has cut down both the quantity and quality of the catch. As a result, nearly 90% of Gaza's 4000 fishermen are now considered either poor (with a monthly income of between 100 and 190 US dollars) or very poor (earning less than 100 dollars a month), up from 50% in 2008. In their struggle to survive, the fishermen have little choice but to sail into no-go zones, at the risk of being shot by the Israeli navy. "I have already been arrested and my boat has been confiscated several times," said Nezar Ayyash, who heads Gaza's fishermen's union. "But this is our life here. We know that fishing can cost us our lives, but we have no other choice but to go out with our boats: we need to feed our families." No cure in sight for ailing health-care system Gaza is suffering from an acute electricity crisis. The power supply in Gaza is interrupted for seven hours a day on average. The consequences for public services, especially the primary health-care system, are devastating. Hospitals rely on generators to cope with the daily blackouts. The power cuts pose a serious risk to the treatment of patients – and to their very lives. It takes two to three minutes for a generator to begin operating, and during that time electronic devices do not function. As a result, artificial respirators must be reactivated manually, dialysis treatment is disrupted and surgery is suspended as operating theatres are plunged into darkness. To make matters worse, fuel reserves for hospital generators keep drying up. Three times this year, fuel shortages have forced hospitals to cancel all elective surgery and accept emergency cases only. Gaza's paediatric hospital had to transfer all its patients to another facility because it could no longer function. Laundry services have repeatedly shut down. With the prospect of increased electricity consumption during the hot summer months when air conditioning is required, the situation is likely to deteriorate further if hospitals do not receive ample fuel. Fluctuations in the power supply can also damage essential medical equipment. Repairs are difficult owing to the closure, under which the transfer into Gaza of spare parts for medical equipment is subject to excessive delays of up to several months. The transfer of disposable electrodes, which are used to monitor the heart rhythm of cardiac patients, has been delayed since August 2009. Without this equipment, patient lives are at risk, as heart problems may not be detected in time. Because of the restrictions in place, most heart monitors in Gaza will be unusable by the end of this month. The run-down state of equipment is one of the reasons for the high numbers of patients seeking treatment outside the Strip. Stocks of essential medical supplies have reached an all-time low because of a standstill in cooperation between Palestinian authorities
in Ramallah and Gaza. At the end of May 2010, 110 of 470 medicines considered essential, such as chemotherapy and haemophilia drugs, were unavailable in Gaza. When chemotherapy is interrupted, the chances of success drop dramatically, even if another painful round of treatment is initiated. Haemophilia patients face life-threatening haemorrhages when compounds such as Factor VIII and IX are not available. More than 110 of the 700 disposable items that should be available are also out of stock. The only way to cope is to re-use such items as ventilator tubes or colostomy bags, even though doing so can lead to infections that endanger patients' lives. "The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse," said Eileen Daly, the ICRC's health coordinator in the territory. "Health is being politicized: that is the main reason the system is failing. Unless something changes, things are only going to get even worse. Thousands of patients could go without treatment and the long-term outlook will be increasingly worrisome." The health-care system is further weakened by severe restrictions imposed on the movement of people into and out of Gaza. The restrictions prevent medical staff from leaving the Strip to get the training they need to update their skills, and technicians from entering to repair medical equipment. Lack of sanitation hazardous for health and the environment The lack of proper sanitation and certain agricultural practices are polluting Gaza's aquifer. Only about 60% of the territory's 1.4 million inhabitants are connected to a sewage collection system. Raw sewage discharged into the river Wadi Gaza, which snakes through urban areas, jeopardizes the health of the communities living on its banks. Because the aquifer is over-exploited, drinking water in most of Gaza contains high levels of nitrate, chloride and salt. The water is unfit for consumption, and the risk of contracting an infectious disease is high. Assembling enough suitable materials to carry out sanitation projects is a slow and haphazard process. Materials obtained through the tunnel trade can be of questionable quality, while some items, such as certain electro-mechanical pumps, cannot be found at all, which hobbles construction efforts. "The current situation is critical and may lead to an irreversible trend in the degradation of underground fresh water," said Javier Cordoba, who oversees the ICRC's water and sanitation activities in Gaza. "Largescale projects, such as the construction of a desalination plant, must be undertaken to meet water-supply needs without further exposing the aquifer. The closure must be lifted so that the 4.5 billion US dollars pledged by donor countries over a year ago can be put to use." Back to Top
Independent journalists dismantling Israel's hold on media narrative
By Abraham Greenhouse, Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 15 June 2010 "The systematic attempt and very deliberate first priority for the Israeli soldiers as they came on the ships was to shut down the story, to confiscate all cameras, to shut down satellites, to smash the CCTV cameras that were on the Mavi Marmara, to make sure that nothing was going out. They were hellbent on controlling the story," commented Australian journalist Paul McGeough, one of the hundreds of activists and reporters who witnessed the deadly morning attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May ("Framing the Narrative: Israeli Commandos Seize Videotape and Equipment from Journalists After Deadly Raid," Democracy Now, 9 June 2010). McGeough was one of at least 60 journalists aboard the flotilla who were detained and their footage confiscated. Within hours of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla being intercepted and besieged in international waters by Israeli commandos, who killed at least nine -- some at point-blank range -- aboard the Mavi Marmara, news of the bloody attack had spread across the globe. Rage, condemnation and calls for an international investigation followed. Meanwhile, Israel's campaign to spin the attack, distort the facts and quell an outraged public was already in full swing. Concurrently, activists and skeptical journalists began deconstructing the official story and assembling evidence to uncover the truth behind the violent deaths of activists on a humanitarian mission to the besieged Gaza Strip. From the time the Israeli military apparently jammed the flotilla's communications, and for the next 48 hours as survivors were held incommunicado, their cameras and potentially incriminating footage seized, Israel's account of the raid dominated international headlines. Central to Israel's media strategy was the rapid release of selected video and audio clips which, the government said, validated its claim that passengers had violently attempted to kill troops without provocation -- thereby forcing the soldiers to use live fire in selfdefense. However, the initially and most widely-distributed clips bore signs of heavy editing, including the obscuring or removal of time stamps. Although the clips apparently depicted passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara hitting Israeli troops with poles and other objects, the context of the images was completely unclear. It was impossible to determine at what point during the assault the clips had been filmed, raising questions about exactly which party had been acting in self-defense. Al-Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, among others, corroborated accounts by other flotilla passengers, including Israeli Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, that the Israeli commandos had allegedly started firing before commandos began rappelling to the deck of the ship ("MK Zoabi: Israel
wanted highest number of fatalities," YNet, 1 June 2010; "Kidnapped by Israel, forsaken by Britain," Al-Jazeera, 6 June 2010). These clips were quickly supplemented by footage put on YouTube, also heavily edited, which Israel said had been taken from the ship's security cameras and from the journalists whose equipment had been seized ("Flotilla Rioters Prepare Rods, Slingshots, Broken Bottles and Metal Objects to Attack IDF Soldiers," 2 June 2010). The Israeli military spokesperson's office also distributed numerous still images allegedly documenting fighting on the deck. After the commandeered flotilla ships were brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod and were unloaded, on 1 June the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) began distributing via the Flickr website photographs of objects it said were found aboard. Materials the MFA classified as "weapons"-- thus supposedly supporting its claim that activists had planned to conduct a "lynching" of Israeli troops -- were identifiable to the public as standard nautical equipment and kitchen utensils ("Weapons found on Mavi Marmara"). In addition, the ships were inspected multiple times prior to setting sail for Gaza, both by Turkish customs authorities and by an independent security firm, and had been found at both points to contain no weapons, according to a Free Gaza Movement press release ("Did Israel deliberately murder civilians aboard Freedom Flotilla?," 3 June 2010). Participants also say that all passengers were subject to thorough security checks before boarding, regardless of where they embarked. These photographs of "weapons" became the first flashpoint in the effort to analyze and expose inconsistencies in Israel's claims. Shortly after the release of the images which appeared on the MFA's official Flickr page on 1 June, commentators began calling attention to the fact that several of the images included digitally-encoded information indicating that they had been shot several years prior. The MFA responded to this by modifying the dates, and issuing a statement that one of its cameras had been incorrectly calibrated. While this claim can be neither confirmed nor disproved, the gaffe exposed the fact that Israel's rush to promote its version of events in the media was leading to significant mistakes and oversights. As surviving flotilla passengers began to be released and expelled following detention in Israel, the accounts they gave of events aboard the ships -- and on the Mavi Marmara in particular -- clearly diverged from the official Israeli narrative. Journalists aboard the ship, some of whom had been able to broadcast via satellite for a limited time during the assault, told interviewers that they had been singled out for attack by Israeli troops. "We had cameras round our necks and our press cards in our hands, but the soldiers kept aiming the lasers of their guns at our eyes in order to intimidate us," Turkish journalist Yuecel Velioglu of the AA news
agency told Reporters Without Borders ("As Turkish photographer is buried, other journalists aboard flotilla speak out," 9 June 2010). In addition, much of the footage released by Israel (after heavy editing) was taken from journalists aboard the ship after their equipment had been confiscated. The move was strongly denounced by Israel's Foreign Press Association (FPA), which stated on 4 June: "the use of this material without permission from the relevant media organizations is a clear violation of journalistic ethics and unacceptable." Determined not to allow the Israeli government to continue dominating public discourse on the flotilla attack with its questionable version of events, independent journalists around the world analyzed and identified inconsistencies with the Israeli narrative. This work played a pivotal role in making a more complete and accurate picture of the events available to an English-speaking audience: the vast majority of English-language corporate media outlets, with the notable exception of Al-Jazeera English, simply restated Israeli claims and conducted little or no investigative work to ascertain their validity. Images and the elimination of context Another photograph released by the Israeli military spokesperson's office aroused additional controversy when it began appearing in news articles about the incident. The image, which featured an anonymous, bearded man holding a curved knife, was generally presented with a caption, also sourced from the Israeli military, claiming that the knifewielder was an activist aboard the Mavi Marmara photographed after Israeli troops boarded the ship. Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, immediately noticed clear inconsistencies with the context of the photo, casting its veracity into doubt. Abunimah pointed out on his blog that behind the man, natural light could be seen streaming in through a window -despite the fact that the raid was conducted during pre-dawn hours. Additionally, the man was surrounded by photographers who seemed unusually calm for onlookers in the midst of a firefight ("Israeli propaganda photo in Haaretz of man with knife make no sense #FreedomFlotilla," 31 May 2010). Finally, a few days after the image first appeared, the image was re-used in a video montage, published on YouTube under the newly-registered handle "gazaflotillatruth", but this time with less cropping. In the new version of the image, the bearded man can be seen to be sitting down, not standing -- again, an unusual physical position to display during a melee ("Gaza Flotilla - The Love Boat," 2 June 2010). Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal reports that the Israeli militarysourced caption -- repeatedly used by media outlets such as the Israeli daily Haaretz -- indicated that the bearded man was holding the knife after the commandos boarded the ship ("Nailed Again: IDF Description of Suspicious Photo It Distributed Is Retracted," 8 June 2010). Following his query to the Israeli military spokesman's office, Haaretz "scrubbed its caption of the suspicious photo." Blumenthal adds that
Haaretz "did not mention the retraction, probably assuming no one would notice. The retraction raises disturbing questions about the level of coordination between the IDF [Israeli army] and the Israeli media." Nor did they mention that the bearded man was Yemeni Minister of Parliament Mohammad al-Hazmi, who was displaying his ceremonial dagger -- an essential part of traditional Yemeni dress -- to "curious journalists and foreigners on the ship," as Blumenthal points out, obviously well before the attack. New accusations instantly dismantled As the accounts of surviving passengers began receiving increased attention in the mainstream Western press, Israel retaliated with a series of increasingly dire accusations to discredit them. The serious nature these accusations makes it difficult to understand why the Israeli government would have waited so long to issue them. As journalists began evaluating the new claims, they found Israel's supporting evidence to be flimsy and periodically even nonexistent. One such accusation, published in a 2 June MFA press release, was that 40 Mavi Marmara passengers had been identified as mercenaries in the employ of al-Qaeda ("Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries," 2 June 2010). Later that day, US State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said that his office could not validate Israel's story, and independent journalists on the ground in Tel Aviv promptly set out to investigate for themselves. Blumenthal and his colleague Lia Tarachansky were told bluntly by the Israeli army's press office that the military didn't "have any evidence" to support the MFA's contention. By the morning of 3 June, all references to al-Qaeda had been removed from the online version of the press release ("Under Scrutiny IDF Retracts Claims About Flotillas Al Qaeda Links"). More significantly, on 4 June, Israel released a YouTube clip which it claimed was an excerpt from radio communications between the Israeli navy and the Mavi Marmara. The clip included a voice telling the Israelis to "go back to Auschwitz," and another voice stating "We're helping Arabs go against the US," in response to Israeli statements that the vessel was "approaching an area which is under a naval blockade" ("Flotilla Ship to Israeli Navy: "We're Helping Arabs Go Against the US, Don't Forget 9/11 Guys," 4 June 2010). The latter statement was made in an accent resembling that of the American south, despite the fact that no one from that region was present aboard any of the ships. Numerous bloggers commented that the accents sounded as though they had been faked, and ridiculed the quality of the apparent forgery. One of the flotilla organizers, US citizen Huwaida Arraf, was astonished to find that the clip included her own voice as well -- even though she had not been aboard the Mavi Marmara, but was on a different vessel. Tel Aviv-based journalist and blogger Mya Guarnieri noted that Arraf told the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency that the clip of her voice, saying "we have permission from the Gaza Port Authority to enter,"
seemed to have been excerpted from communications during a previous flotilla trip (there have been nine trips since 2008) ("Israel under fire for doctoring flotilla recordings," 5 June 2010). "When they radioed us [on this trip], we were still 100 miles away," Arraf remarked. Blumenthal called attention to the mysterious presence of Arraf and other discrepancies in the clip in an article he posted on 4 June. The following day, the MFA issued a statement admitting that the clip had been substantially edited ("Clarification/Correction Regarding Audio Transmission Between Israeli Navy and Flotilla on 31 May 2010," 5 June 2010). However, the clip including the "Auschwitz" statement remains on the MFA website in a new "unedited" version of the alleged transmission. High-tech sleuthing uncovers a web of deceit Perhaps most damaging to the credibility of Israeli accounts was a map published by Ali Abunimah on his blog and which was produced by using archived transmissions of Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to plot the position of the Mavi Marmara as it sailed on the morning of the raid ("Did Israel press on with bloody attack on Mavi Marmara even as ship fled at full-speed?," 7 June 2010). Using the map, Abunimah was able to determine the location and heading of the ship as it broadcast updates on its status. The map also plotted the position of the Mavi Marmara at the exact points when surveillance camera footage from the ship -- which Israel had released without obscured time stamps -- was apparently recorded. According to AIS data, the Mavi Marmara had been heading south -parallel to the Israeli coast and more than 80 miles from the shore -until approximately 4:35am local time. At this point, the ship abruptly turned west, heading away from the Gaza coast. The attack, which surviving passengers say began shortly after 4:00am, was reported to Greek activists in direct communication with the ship at some point before 4:51am. However, the time stamp seen in the released security camera footage and described in a caption as being the point at which "rioters initiate confrontation with Israeli soldiers," indicates that the clip was filmed at 5:03am. This is reinforced by the fact that the sea is apparently lit by natural light, which would not have been possible an hour earlier. This evidence directly contradicts Israeli claims regarding the sequence and timing of events, and throws its overarching narrative into doubt. While the vast majority of footage of the raid has been seized by Israel, along the flotilla's Voyage Data Recorders (VDRs, the nautical equivalent of aircraft's "black boxes"), activists have been diligently archiving all available evidence to prevent Israel from altering or destroying it. As more time stamped data becomes available, it will be aggregated by activists and plotted on mapping applications not only to help reveal what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara, but guarantee a greater level of accountability when Israel responds to future flotillas.
A significant amount of data is already emerging. Several of the survivors managed to conceal memory cards from their Israeli captors, the contents of which they proceeded to make available to journalists upon their return home. Some photos, published in the Turkish newspaper HaberTurk, depict passengers administering medical care to wounded Israeli soldiers and even protecting them from being photographed -- which seemed to contradict Israel's claims that passengers were intent on a premeditated "lynching" of the Israeli commandoes ("İsrail'den kaçırılan fotoğraflar," 4 June 2010). Recently-released video clips from flotilla survivors show Israeli soldiers kicking, beating and shooting passengers, including footage which Turkey's Cihan News Agency says depicts the close-range killing of Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old US citizen, with automatic weaponry ("Israeli Soldiers Murdering Man Identified as Furkan Dogan," 10 June 2010). An autopsy determined that Dogan was shot five times, including once in the back and twice in the head from almost pointblank range. Other footage shows helicopters hovering above the flotilla, with apparent muzzle flashes and sounds of gunfire, supporting the survivors' contention that commandos were already firing before boarding the vessels, thus prompting the limited resistance demonstrated by terrified passengers. International vs. internal investigations The Israeli government continues to reject the idea of an international investigation in favor of pursuing its own. On 5 June, the United Nation's Secretary General proposed an international panel to examine the killing of nine flotilla passengers, but Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, announced on FOX News the next day that Israel would refuse "to be investigated by any international board" ("Transcript: Amb. Michael Oren on 'FNS'," 7 June 2010). Those who demand an international probe have good reason to doubt Israel's ability to investigate itself. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which cited statistics from the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, between 2000 and 2008, "Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories killed more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians not involved in combat. Of 1,246 criminal investigations initiated during the same period into suspected offenses of all kinds by soldiers against Palestinian civilians, only 6 percent (78 cases) resulted in indictments. Only 13 of those indictments charged soldiers with killing civilians. As of September 2008, five soldiers had been convicted for the deaths of four civilians" ("Why No Justice in Gaza? Israel Is Different, and so ...," 1 October 2009). HRW found a similar pattern in cases stemming from Israel's infamous three-week attack on Gaza beginning on 27 December 2008. The invasion, which caused the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians, resulted in only one criminal conviction -- for the theft of a credit card belonging to a Palestinian family after soldiers looted their home.
Regarding the flotilla attack, some sources in the Israeli government have indicated that they would consider permitting one or more international "observers" to be included in their internal investigation. Governments around the world have insisted that this is not an acceptable alternative to a genuine international investigation. However, even a completely impartial group charged with investigating the raid would be analyzing "evidence" (such as seized footage and VDRs) that had been under the full control of the Israeli military since the time of the assault. Accountability and independent journalism With little hope for a formal investigation with any degree of credibility, independent journalists around the world have recognized the need to mount their own. The work of independent journalists is achieving a growing level of influence in the mainstream. And the story of the Mavi Marmara killings, despite the unwillingness of many professional reporters to publicly challenge Israel's version of events, is no exception. "This is an issue where, in the flotilla incident, the legal and moral circumstances of Israeli abuse were so flagrant and visible that independent media have a greater opportunity of being heard," said Richard Falk, international law expert and United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Should the UN or another impartial body mount an international probe, it would "benefit greatly from [independent media's] active undertaking to reinforce whatever investigation took place," Falk commented for this story. Independent journalists have already succeeded in cracking the wall of Israel's narrative in the corporate media. For nearly an hour on the morning of 5 June, most mainstream reports about the status of the delayed fourth ship in the flotilla that had included the Mavi Marmara relied almost exclusively on information gleaned from messages shared between activists and independent journalists via Twitter. The work of Abunimah and Blumenthal in debunking much of the Israeli narrative was cited extensively in a post by The New York Times blogger Robert Mackey ("Photographs of Battered Israeli Commandos Show New Side of Raid," 7 June 2010). On 10 June, a United Nations press conference was devoted to presenting uncensored footage of the assault captured by filmmaker Iara Lee, which promises to make global headlines with countless images contradicting the Israeli version of events. Paul Larudee, a San Francisco Bay Area-based activist who participated in the flotilla and endured a severe beating which required him to him to be hospitalized, believes that the success of independent journalists in unraveling Israel's disjointed narrative has had a transformative effect on the popular consciousness. "Something's happening here. Perceptions begin to move," Larudee said. "People are getting it -- they understand that a humanitarian aid
convoy was attacked, and the passengers were defending themselves, despite the spin that Israel is creating in the media. Israel is not going to be able to keep this up much longer. It's all starting to crumble." Back to Top
Eyewitness to the Israeli Assault on the Mavi Marmara
By Dave LIndorff, 15 June 2010 Kevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa. “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’” A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he'd found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando. Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched and took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him. “I saw them carrying this one IDF guy down,” he recalls. “He looked terrified, like he thought he was going to be killed. But when a big Turkish guy, who had seen seriously injured passengers who had been shot by the IDF, charged over and tried to hit the commando, the Turkish aid workers pushed him off and pinned him to the wall. They protected this Israeli soldier.” That was when he found the backpack which the soldier had dropped. “I figured I’d look inside and see what he was carrying,” Neish says. “And inside was this kind of flip-book. It was full of photos and names in English and Hebrew of who was on all the ships. The booklet also had a detailed diagram of the decks of the Mavi Marmara.” Meanwhile, he says, more and more people were being carried down the stairs from the mayhem above—people who'd been shot, and people who were dying or people already dead. “I took detailed photos of the dead and wounded with my camera,” he says, adding, “There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head--clearly they were executed.”
Neish smuggled his photos out of Israel to Turkey despite his arrest on the ship and imprisonment in Israel for several days. “I pulled out the memory card, tossed my camera and anything I had on me that had anything to do with electronics, and then kept moving the chip around so it wouldn’t be found,” he says. “The Israelis took all the cameras and computers. They were smashing some and keeping others. I put the chip in my mouth under my tongue, between my butt cheeks, in my sock, everywhere, to keep them from finding it,” he says. He finally handed it to a Turk who was leaving for a flight home on a Turkish airline. He says the card ended up in the hands of an organization called Free Gaza, and he has seen some of his pictures published, so he knows they made it out successfully. Neish says that claims that the Israeli commandos were just armed with paint guns and 9 mm pistols are “Bullshit--at one point when I was in the stairwell, a commando opened a hatch above, stuck in a machine gun, and started firing. Bullets were bouncing all over the place. If the guy had gotten to look in and see where he was shooting, I’d have been dead, but two Turkish guys in the stairwell, who had short lengths of chain with them that they had taken from the access points to the lifeboats, stood to the side of the hatch and whipped them up at the barrell. I don’t know if they were trying to hit the commando or to use them to snatch away the gun, but the Israeli backed off, and they slammed and locked the hatch.” “I never saw a single paint gun, or a sign of a fired paint ball!” he says. He also didn't see any guns in the hands of people who were on the ship. “In the whole time I was there on the ship, I never saw a single weapon in the hands of the crew or the aid workers,” he says. Indeed, Neish, who originally had been on a smaller 70-foot yacht called the Challenger II, had transferred to the Mavi Marmara after a stop in Cyprus, because his boat had been sabatoged by Israeli agents (a claim verified by the Israeli government), making it impossible to steer. “When we came aboard the big boat, I was frisked and my bag was inspected for weapons,” he says. “Being an engineer, I of course had a pocket knife, but they took that and tossed it into the ocean. Nobody was allowed to have any weapons on this voyage. They were very careful about that.” What he did see during the IDF assault was severe bullet wounds. “In addition to several people I saw who were killed, I saw several dozen wounded people. There was one older guy who was just propped up against the wall with a huge hole in his chest. He died as I was taking his picture.” Neish says he saw many of the 9 who were known to have been killed, and of the 40 who were wounded, and adds, “There were many more who were wounded, too, but less seriously. In the Israeli prison, I saw people with knife wounds and broken bones. Some were hiding their injuries so they wouldn’t be taken away from the others.” He also says, “Initially there were reports that 16 on the boat had been killed. The medical station said 16. There was a suspicion that some bodies may
have been thrown overboard. But what people think now is that the the other seven who are missing, since we’re not hearing from families, may have been Israeli spies.” Once the Israeli commandos had secured control of the Mavi Marmara, Neish says the ship’s passengers and crew were rounded up, with the men put in one area on deck, and the women put below in another area. The men were told to squat, and had their hands bound with plastic cuffs, which Neish says were pulled so tight that his wrists were cut and his hands swelled up and turned purple (he is still suffering nerve damage from the experience, which his doctor in Canada says he hopes will gradually repair on its own). “They told us to be quiet,” he says. “But at one point this Turkish imam stood up and started singing a call to prayer. Everybody was dead quiet--even the Israelis. But after about ten seconds, this Israeli officer stomped over through the squatting people, pulled out his pistol and pointed at the guy’s head, yelling ‘Shut up!’ in English. The imam looked at him directly and just kept singing! I thought, Jesus Christ, he’s gonna kill him! Then I thought, well, this is what I’m here for, I guess, so I stood up. The officer wheeled around and pointed his gun at my head. The imam finished his song and sat down, and then I sat down.” While the commandeered vessels were sailed to the Israeli port of Ashdot, the captives were left without food or water. “All we were given were some chocolate bars that the Israelis pilfered from the ship’s stores,” says Neish. “You had to grovel to get to go to the bathroom, and many people had to just go in their pants.” Things didn’t get much better once the passengers were transferred to an Israeli prison. He and the other prisoners with him, who hadn’t eaten for more than half a day, were tossed a frozen block of bread and some cucumbers. On the second day, someone from the Canadian embassy came around, calling out his name. “It turned out he’d been going to every cell looking for me,” says Neish. “My daughter had been frantically telling the Canadian government I was in the flotilla. Even though the Israelis had my name and knew where I was, they weren’t telling the Canadian embassy people. In fact the Canadians--and my daughter-thought I was dead, because people had said I’d been near the initial assault. The good thing is that as they went around calling out for me, they discovered two Arab-born Canadians that they hadn’t known were there.” “Eventually they got to my cell and I answered them. The embassy official said, ‘You’re Kevin? You’re supposed to be dead.’” After being held for a few days, there was a rush to move everyone to the Ben Gurion airport for a flight to Turkey. “It turned out that Israeli lawyers had brought our case to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of our capture on international waters. There was a chance that the court would order the IDF to put us back on our ships and let
us go, so the government wanted to get us out of Israel and moot the case. But two guys were hauled off, probably by Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency). So we all said, ‘No. We don’t go unless you bring them back.’” The two men were returned and were allowed to leave with the rest of the group. “I honestly never thought the Israelis would board the ship,” says Neish. “I thought we’d get into Gaza. I mean, I went as part of the Free Gaza Movement, and they had made prior attempts, with some getting in, and some getting boarded or rammed, but this time it was a big flotilla. I figured we’d be stopped, and maybe searched. My boat, the Challenger II, only had dignitaries on board including three German MPs, and then Lt. Col. Ann Wright and myself. At one point in the Israeli prison, all the violence finally got to this man who had witnessed more death and mayhem than many active duty US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I broke down and started crying,” he admits. “This big Turkish guy came over and asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Sixteen people died.’” “He said to me, ‘No, they died for a wonderful cause. They’re happy. You just go out and tell your story.’” Back to Top
Give them an inquiry
Rather than investigating Israel's deadly raid of the Gazabound aid flotilla, an international inquiry should look into how Israel managed to sell its destructive Gaza policies to the countries of the world. By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, 20 June 2010 They want an international commission of inquiry to investigate the events of the raid on the Gaza flotilla? No problem - on condition that it is truly international: the kind that has UN secretaries-general over the years give testimony, as well as U.S. presidents, European leaders, Turkish presidents past and present, and all those who turned their backs when they knew what was going on in the Gaza Strip and agreed to the siege policy until the flotilla. All those who allowed the IsraeliPalestinian conflict to go on undisturbed and who felt that Gaza was a humanitarian, not a political problem. It is fascinating to read UN resolutions on the Gaza Strip. They are perfectly laid out and usually begin with words like "we call on the sides," "we regard with gravity," "we support the Arab initiative," "we endorse previous UN resolutions," which were never implemented, of course. Empty words that were wasted on the sentences in which they were used. There was no banging on the table, not a single resolution on dispatching an international force, as if Gaza were not a combat zone but an unavoidable natural disaster; something the aid
organizations should handle, not the politicians; a solution with aid convoys, not sanctions. True, Israel is the one that imposed the siege and jailed 1.5 million civilians in a prison into which it threw food and medicine, following a very orderly list and in line with the number of calories each person needs to survive. Everyone watched, heard and remained silent - the Turkish prime minister and president, who until Operation Cast Lead did not really raise their voices, two American presidents, two UN secretaries-general, and European heads of state. In other words, they spoke endlessly, initiated resolutions, tried to mediate, but in the end raised their hands in surrender. After all, it is an internal IsraeliPalestinian matter that does not really pose a threat to world peace. A million and a half jailed Palestinians? It's Hamas' fault, not Israel's. Until suddenly it turns out that the Gaza Strip, an empty area without petroleum or diamond wealth, strategically insignificant for the powers, could stir an international crisis. Relations between Israel and Turkey hit a reef, relations between the United States and Turkey are being reevaluated, the Jewish lobby is working overtime in Congress to push the administration to censure Turkey, Germany and the United States are trying to mediate between Israel and Turkey, and Turkish assistance to the international force in Afghanistan is being weighed. Meanwhile, Turkey enjoys great popularity in the Arab and Muslim world, but also threatens the Egyptian and Muslim monopoly for resolving the conflicts in the region. And Israel once more appears to be an irrational burden on U.S. policy in the region. It also suddenly turns out that when the Gaza Strip manages to stir an international crisis, it is possible to ease the conditions of the siege. The list of items that can be imported is stretched like a rubber band. And people are beginning to talk about conditions for operating the Rafah crossing, the European Union is once more proposing to come back and supervise it, and mostly, Washington has awoken and is flexing a muscle. Not because the people of Gaza have been transformed into something the world is genuinely interested in; they have become a strategic threat. Where were all these critics, all the countries that have signed the UN's human rights conventions, when the siege was put in place and the blockade became asphyxiating? An international inquiry into the foolishness of Israel's policy is unnecessary. There is no need to busy the world with something that is obvious and needs no proof. An international inquiry into the reasons and ways Turkish citizens were killed should also not be created. This is a subject for a joint Turkish-Israeli inquiry that should be set up quickly. An international inquiry should have a different mandate: to look into how Israel managed to sell its destructive policy to the countries of the world, how they agreed to the jailing of 1.5 million people without a UN resolution. They should look into the international significance of the fact that a member of the UN decides to take such a step, and the international organization that now wants to investigate can't prevent
that step, or forcefully act to cancel it. This is not a commission of inquiry against Israel but against UN headquarters in Manhattan. This is also the reason that such a committee will not be formed. It is much simpler to reach a plea bargain with Israel. Back to Top
Calling Gaza a prison camp is an understatement
There may be some semblance of civil life and stability in Gaza, but it is our freedoms that are under siege By Laila El-Haddad, Guardian, 5 August 2010 It's three years since I've been back to Gaza. Much has happened since my last visit. Fatah waged a failed coup and now rules only the West Bank, while Hamas is in charge of Gaza. Israel launched its deadly Cast Lead assault. Fuel shortages. Electricity crises. And so on. I needed to regain perspective. So I walked and I talked and I listened. I went to the beach where women – skinny jeans and all – were smoking water pipes, swimming and generally having a good time, irrespective of the purported Hamas ban on women smoking sheesha. During the eight hours of electricity we get each day, I logged on to the internet and browsed the English-language papers. It seemed like suddenly everyone was an expert on Gaza, claiming they knew what it's really like. Naysayers and their ilk have been providing us with the same "evidence" that Gaza is burgeoning: the markets are full of produce, fancy restaurants abound, there are pools and parks and malls … all is well in the most isolated place on earth – Gaza, the "prison camp" that is not. If you take things at face value, and set aside for a moment the bizarre idea that the availability of such amenities precludes the existence of hardship, you'll be inclined to believe what you read. So, is there a humanitarian crisis or not? That seems to be the question of the hour. But it is the wrong one to be asking. The message I've been hearing over and over again since I returned to Gaza is this: the siege is not a siege on foods; it is a siege on freedoms – freedom to move in and out of Gaza, freedom to fish more than three miles out at to sea, freedom to learn, to work, to farm, to build, to live, to prosper. Gaza was never a place with a quantitative food shortage; it is a place where many people lack the means to buy food and other goods because of a closure policy whose tenets are "no development, no prosperity, and no humanitarian crisis", Gisha, the Legal Centre for the Freedom of Movement, explained in a press release. The move from a "white list" of allowable imports to a "black list" might sound in good in theory (ie everything is banned except xyz, to only
the following things are banned) but in practice only 40% of Gaza's supply needs are being met, according to Gisha. The Palestinian Federation of Industries estimates that only a few hundred of Gaza's 3,900 factories and workshops will be able to start up again under present conditions Sure, there are a handful of fancy restaurants in Gaza. And yes, there is a new mall (infinitely smaller and less glamorous than it has been portrayed). As for food, it is in good supply, having found its way here either through Israeli crossings or the vast network of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Of course, this leaves aside the question of who in Gaza's largely impoverished population (the overwhelming majority of whose income is less than $2 a day, 61% of whom are food insecure) can really afford mangoes at $4 a kilo or grapes at $8 a kilo. A recent trip to the grocery store revealed that meat has risen to $13 a kilo. Fish, once a cheap source of protein, goes for $15 to $35 a kilo. And so on. Prices are on par with those of a developed country, except we are not in a developed country. We are a de-developed occupied territory. All of the above adds up to the erasure of the market economy and its replacement with a system where everyone is turned into some kind of welfare recipient. But people don't want handouts and uncertainty and despair; they want their dignity and their freedom, employment and prosperity and possibility. Perhaps most significantly, they want to be able to move freely – something they still cannot do. Let's take the case of Fadi. His father recently had heart surgery. He wanted to seek followup care abroad, at his own expense, but he doesn't fall into the specified categories allowed out of Gaza for travel, whether through Egypt or Israel. "He's not considered a level-one priority," Fadi explained. "Can you please tell me why I can't decide when I want to travel and what hospital I can take him to?" Even the cream of Gazan high-school students must lobby the Israeli authorities long and hard to be allowed out to complete their studies. They literally have to start a campaign in conjunction with human rights groups to raise enough awareness about their plight, and then look for local individuals to blog about their progress, explained Ibrahim, who was approached by one organisation to "sponsor a student". I have no doubt that if Stephanie Gutmann and Melanie Phillips lived in Gaza their principle worry would not be about "what parts of their bodies they can display", it would be the fact that they would not be allowed out again. It would be because everything from the kind of food they would have on their plate to when they can turn on the lights to what they can clothe those bodies with and whether or not they can obtain a degree is determined by an occupying power.
Using the phrase "prison camp" to describe Gaza, as Britain's prime minister did, is not vile rhetoric. It is an understatement and even a misnomer. Prisoners are guilty of a crime, yet they are guaranteed access to certain things – electricity and water, even education – where Gazans are not. What crime did Gazans commit, except, to quote my late grandmother, "being born Palestinian"? Ketchup and cookies may be flowing to Gaza in slightly greater quantities than before. But so bloody what? Goods for export are not flowing out. Nor, for that matter, are people. So while there may be some semblance of civil life and stability in Gaza, there is absolutely no political horizon or true markers of freedom to speak of. And as long as freedom of movement is stifled, whether by Israel or Egypt, and export-quality goods, which account for a large portion of Gaza's manufacturing output, are forbidden from leaving Gaza, all the malls and mangoes in the world won't make a bit of difference. Back to Top
IDF document: “Policy principle: separating Gaza from West Bank”
By Noam Sheizaf, 5 September 2010 An IDF Powerpoint slideshow, presented before the Turkel committee for the investigation of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, reveals the official goals of the Israeli policy regarding the Gaza strip. The slideshow, prepared by The Administration for the Coordination of Government Policy in the Territories – the IDF body in charge of carrying out Israeli government policies regarding the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza – deals with the humanitarian conditions in the strip; with food, water, fuel and electricity supply and with the condition of medical facilities in Gaza. download the IDF slideshow [Hebrew] here The first set of slides details the background for the current activities of The Administration for the Coordination of Government Policy in the Territories. Slide number 15 details the principles of Israeli policy (my italic): - Responding to the humanitarian needs of the population. - Upholding civilian and economic limitations on the [Gaza] strip. - Separating [or differentiating, ]בידולJudea and Samaria [i.e. West Bank] from Gaza – a security and diplomatic objective. - Preserving the Quartet’s conditions on Hamas (Hamas as a terrorist entity). Slide 20 deals with freedom of movement from and to the Gaza strip. Policy objectives are: - Limiting people from entering or exiting the strip, in accordance with the government’s decision.
Separating [differentiating] Judea and Samaria from Gaza. Dealing with humanitarian needs. Preserving the activity of humanitarian organizations in the strip. Keeping a coordinating mechanism with the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli policy regarding Gaza could be seen as violation of official and unofficial principles of previous agreements and negotiations with the Palestinians and other parties. Gaza and the West Bank were regarded as “one entity” – though not officially declared as such – already in the 1978 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Oslo Declaration of Principles, signed in September 1993 and still an abiding document, specifically states that: The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period. This declaration was ratified in following agreements from 1994 and 1995. The recent IDF slideshow is the first time an Israeli official document publicly declares that the current policy objective is to create two separate political entities in the Palestinian territories. Nirit Ben-Ari, spokeswoman for Gisha, an Israeli NGO dealing with the freedom of movement, export and import to and from the Palestinian territories, said that “while in Washington a Palestinian state is being negotiated and people are already discussing ‘a train line between Gaza and Ramallah‘, in reality Israel is working to separate Gaza from the West bank even further than the separation already caused by the split in the Palestinian leadership. “This policy is aimed against civilian population and against people who have nothing to do with Israel’s security concerns. It hurts family ties, and harms any future possibility to develop commerce, education and economical life in the Palestinian society. Those policies should raise concerns regarding the intentions of the Israeli government in Gaza.” ————————Other slides in the IDF slideshow deals with the ways the IDF gather information on the humanitarian situation in the strip (mainly through NGO’s and media reports), how food and fuel supply is evaluated, and how the needs of the local population are calculated. According to the IDF assumptions, there are 1,600,000 people living in Gaza. The army does not occupy itself with the distribution of supply, so there is no way of knowing if the population’s needs are actually met – only that according to the IDF, enough food and water is entering Gaza. The slideshow doesn’t deal with the export of goods from the strip, nor does it explains the mechanism that is used to determine which civilian goods could be brought in.
Slide 50 details the goods found on the Gaza-bound flotilla: medical supply, toys, school gear, construction materials and powered wheelchairs. Back to Top
Journal of a voyage
By Yonatan Shapira 26 September 2010 The course is 120. Another 200 miles to the port in Cyprus and the automatic pilot in the boat, which is supposed to maintain the course, refuses to work and leaves me with the unending task of maintaining the course on a turbulent sea with no sign of land from horizon to horizon. In another half hour, Itamar, my brother, who is also a “refusnik,” will relieve me at the wheel, after him Bruce and then Glyn will take their shifts. If everything goes according to plan, we will reach Famagusta at midday on Saturday, and there we will pick up the rest of the passengers, who together with us, as strange as it may seem, will try to break the blockade of Gaza. For some weeks already we have been making our way east, from the Greek island on which the yacht was bought, from north of the Peloponnese through the Corinthian Canal, the Cycladic islands. Already we have experienced just about every kind of mishap in the book: the engines overheated on us and died, the wheel suddenly became detached, the anchor got stuck, the sail tore, a storm, and more. What we have not yet experienced is the uniqueness, the wondrousness and the strong arm of the IDF - the most moral army in the world, for those who forgot. Warships have not yet intercepted us, they have not lowered commandos on us from helicopters and snipers have not yet shot at us. Those challenges are still before us and we will experience them together with the passengers, among them Holocaust survivors, a bereaved father  and others. The southwest wind is getting a little stronger and the compass is vacillating between 120 and 130. I glance at the GPS and see that I am veering slightly to the left. Well, if the automatic pilot were working I could simply sit, watch the waves and write undisturbed. Seven years ago on the eve of Rosh Hashana we published what the media called “the pilots’ letter.” In that declaration we announced to the whole nation (yes, we wore flight-suits and were interviewed in the press and on television) that we would refuse to take part in the crimes of the Occupation. Ten days after that, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we were invited for a talk with the Commander of the Air Force. After he outlined to me his racial theory (in the form of a scale of value of blood, from the Israelis on the top down to the Palestinians at the bottom) he informed me that I was dismissed and that I was no longer a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Many things have happened since then. Many boats have crossed the
Corinthian Canal, many demonstrations and arrests, but mainly, many children have been murdered in Gaza. I remember Arik, a close childhood friend and a combat pilot, who hesitated over whether to sign and to refuse but in the end sincerely informed me that he did not want to give up his wonderful toy, the F-16. At first he still had a little shame about the comfortable choice he had made. Secretly he supported me and admitted that he did not have courage. Seven years passed and today he is still an operational pilot in the reserves, a leader of attack formations in his combat wing and on his hands or wings is the boiling blood of tens of innocent Palestinians and Lebanese, maybe more. The traces of morality that he had are gone now and today Arik will bomb any place at any time, wherever they tell him. That is the beauty of routine. In the end everything looks normal to you: an ordinary man, kind and polite and a good father to his daughters, turns into a mass murderer. I was not a bomber pilot. I flew Blackhawks that are used mainly for rescue missions and to transport personnel. One argument we heard from those who disagreed with us, and especially people from my wing, three members of which signed the letter, was that none of us was asked personally to shoot or to bomb or to assassinate. We replied to that argument by saying that it was not necessary to commit murder in order to say that it is forbidden to commit murder, and that it is easy to say “I just held the stick while the other pilot launched the missile.” Years passed and the events of the flotilla and the murderous attack on the Mavi Marmara came and proved that the connection between my wing and the murder of civilians is in fact a lot more direct. It was the unit in which I served and the helicopters that I flew that carried out the pirate operation and lowered the commandos onto the deck. It is quite likely that the very people who flew on that night had been pupils of mine or pilots who flew with me in the past. What does a Blackhawk pilot think and feel when he is hovering over a civilian ship far from the Israel’s territorial waters? What is he thinking when he instructs the soldiers to descend in the middle of the night onto a ship that is transporting supplies of humanitarian aid, bags of cement and dozens of journalists? Mainly he is thinking about how to maintain a stable hover and not to lose visual contact with the other helicopters and the ship below him. He listens and gives orders on the helicopter’s internal communication system and maybe he also feels a little fear; after all, hovering over a vessel on the open sea, and at night, is no simple task of aviation. And maybe he thinks about a few other things. Maybe he has a certain political outlook and maybe not, but what is certain is what he is not thinking about … a pilot who is hovering over a civilian aid ship on the open sea is not thinking that somebody among the people below him is intending to shoot him or that they are in possession of firearms – otherwise he would not have approached the spot! If he is not conducting a necessary rescue operation, it is absolutely counter to army regulations; that means that they knew beyond any doubt that
nobody on the Mavi Marmara was armed. He knows that they are civilians who were set on expressing protest and identification with the million and a half civilians of besieged Gaza; but he apparently does not think about the fact that when masked armed pirates pounce on you in the middle of the night it is legitimate for you to resist the hijacking (even if it is tactically and strategically pointless). To all who have doubts about the issue, I warmly recommend that you try to imagine that you are in the middle of the sea on a dark night and suddenly giant black helicopters are hovering low over you with a deafening noise and from them, like masked burglars wearing black, descend armed hoodlums, and warships are approaching you from every direction, and they are all shooting stun grenades at you and other things that you cannot identify, due to the noise and the darkness. The sun has just set on the horizon. It is 18:52 hours. I am trying to think about what will happen to us in a few more days near the coast of Gaza, within or outside the territorial waters. It apparently makes no difference when you are above the law and can shoot, hijack, rob, occupy and humiliate without anyone imposing any limits. We are in the small boat of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. We do not intend to fight the IDF, even though we have every right to do so. We chose non-violence as a tactic and as a strategy but we do not intend to give up easily until the moment they arrest and handcuff a Holocaust survivor and the bereaved father, right down to the last passenger on the boat. The colours of the sunset are getting more and more dark and deep. Gold, pink and orange with light-blue stripes between the burning clouds. Now Bruce, on the wheel, is continuing to maintain a course of 120 with the two engines along with the mainsail and the foresail which add another half-knot to the speed. Itamar is practicing his guitar and Glyn is preparing supper. It seems like the clouds of fried onion are not only filling the yacht (and making it a little hard to breathe) but the whole Mediterranean Sea. Looks like I’ll skip supper. Chief of Staff Ashkenazi told the Israeli commission of inquiry that investigated the flotilla events, that his conclusion from the events is – “more snipers” … yes – yes, that’s his conclusion from the murder on the Mavi Marmara, more snipers! My conclusion was a bit different from that of a person who in the foreseeable future will be put on trial at the international court for war crimes. My conclusion was I had to join the next boat that set out for Gaza, and what could be more fitting than a Jewish organization from Europe that is struggling for human rights and peace. I contacted the organizers and offered my services as skipper. Apparently seamanship was the most fitting of all the trades I learned in high school, and now I have the opportunity to implement what I
learned, not only for pleasure but for an important and symbolic action with an organization that decided to invest a great deal of money, hours of deliberation, planning and endless preparations for one objective, to break the blockade of Gaza. Yesterday evening on the island of Kastelorizo, during last-minute preparation of the boat, we opened the foresail on a large space near the pier and wrote on it in black in Arabic and Hebrew: “Yahud min ajl al-‘adala lil-filastiniyin” – the name of the organization – Jews for Justice for Palestinians. The Arabic course I took in the summer helped me not get confused in writing the curved letters and Itamar, who stood above me and by the light by the public pier guided me up, down, left and right, so that the writing will look good and clear when we raise the sail upon our departure from Cyprus and as we approach the shores of Gaza. Another long night-watch on the wheel followed. The sea was relatively calm, but a moderate tailwind insisted on bringing the exhaust from the engines directly to the cockpit, which strengthened my determination to skip supper and to contend with the feeling of light nausea by watching the horizon, maintaining a course of 125 and mainly by singing, again and again, the songs that sound most beautiful when one is on a boat in the middle of the sea: “if the darkness has fallen and I have no star … light a rose of fire on the mast of my boat, mother …”  At 6:12 in the morning, as we approach Cyprus, with the first rays of light, Itamar at the wheel, Bruce and Glyn are sleeping and I am on the prow trying to breathe air clean of the smoke of the engines and trying to snooze, suddenly a medium-sized boat passes us. It passed quite close to us and looked strange. It circled us from the north and moved off to the west and looked like a small warship. Maybe we are already a little paranoid and maybe not and maybe it was just a vessel of the Turkish coast guard; in any case, we began to think and to imagine to ourselves what our encounter with the Israeli navy will be like when we approach the coast of Gaza, what each of us will do, how we will take care of the passengers and how we will react if the navy’s Dabur patrol boat (as in previous incidents) attacks us and rams our little boat. We decided to write in Hebrew and English a declaration that we will read on the radio on the nautical emergency channel when elements of the navy or the air force approach us. This is what we wrote: We are a boat of the European Jewish organization Jews for Justice for Palestinians We are on our way to Gaza We are not armed and we believe in non-violence And we are determined to proceed to the port of Gaza You are imposing an illegal blockade on occupied Gaza These are international waters and we do not recognize your authority here
There are activists of all ages on this boat Among us are Holocaust survivors, bereaved parents and Israelis who refuse to reconcile themselves to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories We are unarmed peace activists who believe in non-violence and we are determined to proceed on our way to the port of Gaza We appeal to you, officers and soldiers of the IDF, to refuse and not to obey your commanders’ illegal orders For your information, the blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law and therefore you are running the risk of being put on trial at the international court for war crimes The blockade and the occupation are inhumane and counter to universal morality and the values of Judaism Use your consciences! Do not say “I was only following orders”! Remember the painful history of our people! Refuse to enforce the blockade! Refuse the Occupation!
1. In this context, “bereaved” is understood to refer to an Israeli who has lost a loved one as a result of war or terrorism in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict – trans. 2. From the Israeli song “Zemer ahava la-yam” – “Love song for the sea.” Lyrics: Raphael Eliaz, music: Sasha Argov – trans.
Translated from Hebrew by George Malent Back to Top
Government releases documents detailing Gaza import guidelines
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, officials have employed mthematical formulas to monitor goods from aid groups entering the Strip to ensure amount was in line with what Israel permitted. By Amira Hass, Haaretz, 26 October 2010 In the three years since Hamas took control of Gaza, Israeli officials have employed mathematical formulas to monitor foodstuffs and other basic goods entering the Strip to ensure that the amount of supplies entering was neither less nor more than the amount Israel permitted, according to documents released last week. The documents - released Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Act petition by the non-profit group Gisha - were drafted
while Amos Gilad served as interim coordinator of government activities in the territories, heading the body that checked the goods. The formulas used coefficients and a formulation for "breathing space," a term used by COGAT authorities to refer to the number of days remaining until a certain supply runs out in Gaza, to determine allowed quantities. In September 2007, the Israeli government ordered a tightening of the blockade on Gaza, a closure first put in place in 1991. COGAT, in conjunction with other authorities, drafted "Rules for permitting the entry of goods" and "Regulation, supervision and evaluation of supply inventories in Gaza." Both documents were classified as drafts, but in effect served as instructions for Israeli authorities and were considered valid until a government-implemented policy change following the May raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine people dead. Officials from COGAT, a Defense Ministry unit that coordinates activity between the government, military, international groups and the Palestinian Authority, told Haaretz that it had actually been responsible for releasing the documents, given that in the wake of the government decision the directives for keeping the files classified were no longer in force. A high-ranking COGAT officer told Haaretz that "Regulation, supervision and evaluation of supply of inventories in Gaza" is a method of quickly identifying a shortage of any basic item in Gaza, and that despite the mathematical equations contained in the document, he had never intentionally limited the amount of goods allowed to enter, but on the contrary, verified whether inventories of certain basic supplies in Gaza were full. The COGAT spokesman said that the regulations were formulated "based on well-known basic foodstuffs, in consultation with the Israeli Health Ministry and in consideration of family consumption habits in Gaza, as published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2006." The document contained "warning lines," which were defined as "the days of [remaining] inventory beyond which the relevant official must pay attention to the deviation from reasonable norms and examine the correctness of the model." There were two types of warning lines. The "upper warning line," which identified surpluses, was defined as an inventory exceeding 21 days for products with short shelf lives or 80 days for those with long shelf lives. The "lower warning line," which identified shortages, was defined as an inventory of less than four days for products with short shelf lives and of less than 20 days for those with long shelf lives. The senior COGAT official said the upper warning line was never actually used and the lower line was an important tool for identifying and averting impending shortages.
The "rules for permitting the import of goods" was drafted pursuant to a cabinet decision to restrict "the quantity and type of merchandise" entering Gaza. Its stated purpose was to define the "procedure, rules and method under which permission will be granted" for goods to enter Gaza. These rules, the draft continued, were meant to allow in goods that would "supply the basic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population." It then listed seven considerations to weigh when determining which goods should be permitted. Security was one. The others were as follows: * "The necessity of the product for meeting humanitarian needs (including its implications for public health in both the Strip and Israel )." * "The product's image (whether it is considered a luxury )." * "Legal obligations." * "The impact of the product's use (whether it is used for preservation, reconstruction or development ), with an emphasis on the impact of its entry on the Hamas government's status." * "The sensitivities of the international community." * "The existence of alternatives." These rules explain why, for example, imports of cloth and thread, which were considered "development" products, were barred, thereby destroying Gaza's textile industry. The document states that many outside parties affected Israel's decisions: The Strip's needs will be determined not only by the relevant government agencies, it read, but by the Palestinian Authority, international agencies, the media and petitions to the courts by nongovernmental organizations, among others. The third document that COGAT gave Gisha was the official list of products allowed into Gaza prior to May's botched raid on a Gazabound flotilla. Following that raid, the list was significantly expanded. But the senior COGAT official said that even before then, the list of products actually allowed into Gaza was always longer than the written list. Back to Top
Want to weaken Hamas? Open Gaza's gates
Israel's policy, meant to overthrow Hamas by prohibiting production and manufacturing, has failed miserably. By Amira Hass, Haaretz, 27 October 2010 Do you really want to weaken Hamas? Surprise it. Go back and open Gaza's gates - to ordinary human movement, not just to cherries,
shavers and a handful of pious Muslims who manage to wend their way past the Egyptian bureaucracy. Open the Erez checkpoint. Then you'll see how Gazans yearn for life. Let young people study outside the Gaza Strip. Despite the exasperating presence of Israel's foreign rule, in the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank those young people will encounter a form of diversity that is becoming extinct in Gaza. They will discover that such diversity is better than the monolithic reality imposed by Israel's siege and messianic politics. Allow female pupils and female teachers to tour their land and see that the world is more complicated than brainwashing television programs and competitions to obtain relief packages. Consider this: Diplomats report that most Hamas summer camps in Gaza have been closed; most children preferred camps operated by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Stop suffocating manufacturers who have become impoverished over the past five years. Challenge those who call for a boycott, and allow the forcibly unemployed to find work in Israel. Let's see if Hamas can stop them from doing that. The Kav La'oved worker's hotline will campaign devotedly against their exploitation, while Palestinian organizations will try to dissuade them, softly or not, from working in Israel. Yet their self-esteem, buoyed by the fact that they are again providing for their families, will find its place among such internal contradictions. Let cement and iron enter Gaza so engineers, builders and painters can get back to work. They will rebuild the rubble, along with their attitudes on life. When residents from Hebron, Nazareth and foreign countries travel to the Khan Yunis coast, or visit a cultural center north of the Al-Shatti refugee camp, their illusions about the wonders of the religioustotalitarian regime will evaporate. The earlier the quarantine in which Gazans were put some 20 years ago is broken, the harder it will be for Hamas to tighten the bridle. The apocryphal legend says that the closure - the regime of movement restrictions - was imposed on the Palestinians because of the strengthening Islamic movement and the terror strikes against Israeli citizens. But the sequence of events should be read the opposite way: The policy of mass confinement took root in January 1991, before the suicide attacks in Israel. This is a society that was progressively allowed less access to the outside world and experienced ever-more sophisticated variants of Israeli oppression and a lack of concrete solutions from the PLO leadership. Under such circumstances, is it any wonder Allah's earthly emissaries managed to find their way to people's hearts? If the Israeli government's policy indeed meant to overthrow Hamas by prohibiting production and manufacturing, and by using mathematical formulas to make sure that the animals' - excuse me, the human
beings' - nourishment does not slip beyond a red line, then it has failed miserably. This failure was evident before Israel was compelled by international pressure to annul the restrictions on the entry of consumer goods. Gaza residents' famously high threshold of pain and endurance levels let them get by the past three dark years. Unjustly, this resilience is attributed to Hamas. Appearing increasingly self-confident and self-satisfied, Hamas is consolidating its rule. True, it relies on stifling dissent, intimidation and oppression (like its rival, the Palestinian Authority ). But thanks to its strong talent for improvisation, Hamas is learning to serve the population and supply vital needs under extremely hostile circumstances. Are those policy makers who devised the draconian restrictions that foolish to think that bans on chocolate and toys and the destruction of the manufacturing sector would stir an uprising against Hamas or convince it to deliver the keys of power to Mahmoud Abbas? It would be wrong to dismiss the wisdom of our leaders. Perhaps they've gotten exactly what they wanted - to strengthen Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both for perpetuating the intentional division between Gaza and the West Bank and to encourage perpetual low-intensity warfare (which sometimes escalates ). Only under such circumstances do our leaders know how to function, while securing their people's support. Back to Top
School's out: why Gazans can't reach class in the West Bank
By Fatma Al-Sharif, 1 November 2010 Gaza -- When Israel announced in June, following its deadly interception of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, that it would ease its siege on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, I almost let my hopes rise. I am a Palestinian human rights lawyer living in Gaza. Earlier this year, I was accepted into the Master's degree program in Human Rights and Democracy Studies at Birzeit University, located in the West Bank. Before the "easing" of the blockade, I tried repeatedly to persuade the Israeli authorities to allow me to leave Gaza and attend my classes, but was blocked at every turn. Would Israel's new announcement mean that I'd finally be able to go to school this year? This summer, backed by the Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations Gisha and Al Mezan, I petitioned Israel's Supreme Court to allow me to travel to my university. But the court accepted the Israeli military's statement that the "easing" did nothing to change the policy in place since 2007 that only "exceptional humanitarian cases" would be granted permission to leave Gaza. Terminally ill patients,
under certain circumstances -- yes. Students looking for a good education -- no. Egypt initially cooperated with this policy at the Rafah border crossing it operates on Gaza's southern border, but since June, it has allowed an increasing number of Palestinians -- including students with foreign visas -- to leave Gaza for travel abroad. But for students like me, who are enrolled in courses in the West Bank, this is of no help. Israel controls all access to the West Bank. Even if we were to travel via Egypt and Jordan, without crossing through Israel, Israel would still not allow us to enter the West Bank. My program at Birzeit University is unique: no universities in Gaza, or indeed in any neighboring Arab country, offer a Master's in human rights. Yet my inability to attend classes is far from an exception. Since 2000, Israel has imposed a blanket ban on all students from Gaza studying in the West Bank -- a ban affecting those like me that even Israel acknowledges pose no security risk. In so doing, it denies thousands of students the ability to leave Gaza for programs in the West Bank that Gaza's universities do not offer, such as dentistry, veterinary medicine, occupational therapy, medical engineering, and advanced environmental studies. The higher education system in the West Bank and Gaza was planned as one, unified system, and the West Bank and Gaza are considered a single territorial unit by a series of international agreements, including the 1995 U.S-sponsored Oslo Interim Agreement (Oslo II) and the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, which the UN Security Council welcomed. Yet despite what would be a one-hour drive between Gaza and Ramallah, without checkpoints, I and other students from Gaza are denied our freedom of movement and our right to education -- and all within our own land. Israel, in a 2007 cabinet decision, said its travel restrictions were the result of Hamas' taking power over the Gaza Strip, which turned Gaza into a "hostile entity." But how do veterinary students, medical students, and human rights lawyers constitute legitimate military targets? Do Israeli government lawyers need to be reminded that collective punishment of a civilian population is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions? And do Israel's political leaders need to be told the implications of prohibiting students from leaving a "hostile entity" to study, which will limit our access to information and to students and professors from other backgrounds? The denial of our right to education can only perpetuate Gaza's isolation, making it ever-more difficult for Palestinians to develop the kind of stable, progressive society in Gaza that Israel and its allies claim to want. Traveling to attend my studies in human rights will not threaten Israel's security. And robbing Palestinians of our rights to education and development will not bring peace. Palestinians like me want to build an educated, human rights-conscious, civil society in the Gaza Strip.
Ultimately, we want to counter the ongoing escalation in human rights violations not only by Israel, but also from within. If only Israel would let us. Fatma al-Sharif is a human rights lawyer working in Gaza. Back to Top
Gaza businesses boxed in by Israeli export ban
Israel may have eased its blockade of the Gaza Strip earlier this year, but a continuing ban on exports from the territory is causing misery for many Palestinians, the BBC's Jon Donnison reports from Gaza. 2 November 2010 Manal Hassan is a little short of breath as she walks me though the gloomy deserted production lines at the Al Awda biscuit factory in central Gaza. She has a lot on her plate at the moment. She is eight and half months pregnant, and the business she manages looks on the verge of going under. "It's very sad," Ms Hassan says, looking close to tears. "You can't imagine how it is when the factory is working. It's completely alive and full of people. Now it is like death."
The biscuit factory run by Manal Hassan could go out of business
Al Awda used to be one of the biggest, busiest factories in Gaza, employing more than 300 people. They make biscuits, ice cream and crisps. Or they used to. Since Israel eased its blockade of the Gaza Strip in June they have had to shut down virtually all production. The factory now operates only a few days a month, as and when there is demand.
"Now the market is flooded with cheap imported biscuits from Israel. But we are still not allowed to export. So we lose on both counts." So ironically, the easing of the blockade has actually made things worse for Manal Hassan. They can now get access to the imported raw materials they need to make their biscuits, but there is no market for them. The store rooms at Al Awda are stacked full of a surplus of biscuits. Devastating impact Before Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza in 2007, Al Awda used to export about 60% of its products, mostly to the West Bank. But for the past three and a half years virtually all exports from Gaza have been banned. Only flowers and strawberries are sometimes exported during the season. Last season, 17 million carnations were exported via Israel, through a deal negotiated with the Dutch government. That compared with about 40 million flowers in the years before the blockade was imposed. The export ban has had a devastating impact on Gaza's economy. Unemployment is running at about 40%, and the United Nations estimates 80% of people are reliant on food aid. "Gaza used to export around $300m (£186m) worth of goods a year," says economist Omar Shabban, from Palthink - a think tank based in the strip. "We used to export textiles. Not only to Israel, but also to Marks and Spencer in Britain. We used to export furniture. We used to export hundreds of things." Mr Shabban says if the ban on exports is not lifted, poverty will only get worse - which he says encourages extremism and radicalisation. Illegal exports A few entrepreneurs in Gaza have even started exporting goods illegally through smuggling tunnels from Egypt. The tunnelling industry based around the border town of Rafah has been badly hit since Israel opened up the borders to the legal importation of most food and consumer goods.
Tunnels that were used to smuggle goods into Gaza are now used to export them illegally
Many of the thousands of people who used to be employed in the tunnel business are now out of work.
Sitting by the road just a few hundred yards from the border is one such man. Abu Mohammed used to be a tunnel digger. Now he does not get much work, but has turned to occasionally exporting goods to Egypt. "We take out scrap metal that people have collected here. Copper and aluminium. But only in small quantities." Israeli concerns The illegal trade could in theory increase if Israel maintains its ban on most exports. For now, Israel says it is not ready to lift the ban because of security risks. "People need to ask why the blockade is in place. Why are there restrictions on imports and exports? It's because Gaza is controlled by a terror movement," says Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman. Israel tightened its economic blockade of Gaza in 2007 after the Islamist movement Hamas took power. It said it was necessary to stop weapons being smuggled to militants in Gaza and to put pressure on Hamas. Mr Palmor says Israel is looking at increasing exports in the near future, but says there are still concerns about security risks. He cannot give a timescale or specify which products will be allowed out and in what quantity. The Dutch government says it is hoping to get approval this year to export vegetables including cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers from Gaza, as well as flowers and strawberries. But as of yet, that has not been confirmed by Israel. Bleak future Back in Gaza at the Al Awda biscuit factory, Manal Hassan laughs at the idea of a "Chocolate Crispy" biscuit posing a security risk. "Israel has all the technology it needs to check our biscuits before they leave," she says. Ms Hassan says she and her employees face a bleak future if the export ban is not lifted. Walking between the boxes of biscuits slowly going stale, it feels - at least here - as if things are getting worse, not better. Israel eased its economic blockade almost five months ago. But most people in Gaza will say that so far, few things have got any easier. Back to Top
IDF Report Confirming Goldstone’s Key Findings Is Suppressed Inside Israel
By Max Blumenthal, 25 July 2010 An IDF report quietly submitted to the UN two weeks ago acknowledges the IDF's shelling of a UN compound with white phosphorous shells. Previous Israeli reports denied such instances occurred. A report quietly submitted by IDF Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit to the United Nations two weeks ago regarding Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead confirms the key findings of the Goldstone Report. The report (full version here), which documents 150 ongoing investigations, has outraged the Israeli Army. “It looks as though they were frightened by Goldstone,” remarked an IDF officer. Another military official expressed anger that after a previous IDF report asserting the legality of shelling civilian areas with white phosphorous, a chemical weapon, the Mandelblit report has issued recommendations limiting the munition’s use. “It looks like tying your own hands behind your back. Why should a weapon with which there is no problem be limited?” the official asked. Mandelblit’s confirmation of the IDF’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza against a UN compound is one of his report’s most remarkable admissions. He has directly contradicted a lie told over and over again to the Israeli public in the immediate aftermath of Cast Lead, and repeated in an April 2009 IDF report, that “no phosphorous munitions were used on built-up areas.” Discussion of white phosphorous use is buried in the body of the report, on page 21 in a section on the UNRWA Field Office Compound: One of the most widely reported incidents during the Gaza Operation involved the UNRWA field office compound, where three individuals were injured and significant property damage resulted from the use of smoke-screen munitions containing white phosphorous. Additional damage occurred due to the use of high explosive shells in the vicinity of the compound. Besides the deployment of white phosphorous munitions, the Mandelblit Report acknowledges that the IDF Military Advocate General has launched a criminal investigation into the killing of 26 members of the Al-Samouni family (p. 6); that the army may have used human shields (pp. 9-11); knowingly shelled a UNRWA school filled with children in order to neutralize a single enemy mortar launcher, causing large-scale civilian deaths in the process; knowingly attacked a mosque with “powerful” missiles in order to kill two unknown terrorist “operatives” (p. 17); bombed a police graduation ceremony (p. 19), killing four civilians in the process (according to Goldstone the IDF killed 9 civilians and 99 cops); killed a civilian raising a white flag (p. 22); fired on a horse-drawn carriage carrying wounded civilians, killing a number of people in the process (p. 24); fired flechette-filled tank shells in the immediate vicinity of a “condolence tent,” killing civilians
in the process (p. 25); bulldozed the Sawafeary Chicken Coops (pp. 2728) in order to obtain “a clear line of sight” for soldiers in the area; destroyed a cement packaging plant in a vain search for tunnels (p. 29); destroyed a series of factories, claiming it “did not know the structures were used to produce food products” (p. 30); and implicitly acknowledged that it destroyed private property (p. 33). Although Mandelblit lays the blame for many killings at the feet of IDF commanders, he invokes the army’s firing policy to justify the killings. So long as soldiers claimed in their testimonies that they may have seen enemy operatives in the area (Mandelblit acknowledges extreme difficulty gathering testimony from Palestinian victims), he was able to claim that the soldiers followed the “Law of Armed Conflict.” What is the Law of Armed Conflict? It is a set of combat guidelines specially refined for IDF army operations by Israeli military philosopher Asa Kasher. In defining his version of the law, Kasher wrote, “the responsibility for distinguishing between terrorists and noncombatants is not placed upon [Israel’s] shoulders.” He added, “Sending a soldier [to Gaza] to fight terrorists is justified, but why should I force him to endanger himself much more than that so that the terrorist’s neighbor isn’t killed? From the standpoint of the state of Israel, the neighbor is much less important. I owe the soldier more. If it’s between the soldier and the terrorist’s neighbor, the priority is the soldier. Any country would do the same.” In other words, the killing of civilians is justified according to Israeli military regulations if a soldier is able to establish having felt a sense of danger. It is unclear whether Mandelblit’s report will lead to a roll-back of Kasher’s rules of engagement. The report’s recommendations have already been met with fierce resentment from the IDF’s officer corps, so it might be unrealistic to expect that they will ever be put into practice, especially since Israel seems to be gearing up for a potentially bloody campaign in urban areas in Southern Lebanon. The report’s real value, then, is as a confirmation of Goldstone’s key findings. Even as the most conservative investigation of IDF conduct during Cast Lead, Mandelblit exposed a consistent pattern of destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure and disregard for civilian life. Unfortunately, the devastating findings contained in the report have not reached the Israeli mainstream. Articles about the report are buried deep in Israeli newspapers while according to Yedioth Aharonoth, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has refused to make it available on its Hebrew website (it’s only on the English site). Maariv columnist Ofer Shelakh was one of the few Israeli public figures to address the official silence following Mandeblit’s release. He wrote in a July 23 column about both the IDF’s Mandelblit report and Eiland report on the Gaza flotilla (no link; from a Hebrew only translation from p. 23 of the Maariv weekend supplement):
What is the truth and why suddenly do we reply to the UN in terms different from those offered to Israel’s citizens? The same applies to the legal procedures taken against IDF officers, the trial of the Commander of the Gaza brigade, the investigation of former Giv’ati brigade commander Ylan Malka, of which we hear only from Israeli replies to foreign authorities. It seems that according to the decision-makers in Israel’s Defense system we don’t want to know, we don’t have to know or we agree that all this is merely for foreign consumption, to repel anti-Israel criticism. Israelis prefer to think that the IDF operates brilliantly, that its commanders make no mistakes, and that its firing policy is considerate and moral, and that the problem in “Cast Lead” was the firing policy rather than the decisions of the local commanders. Maybe this cynical approach to the Israeli public is justified. It is a fact that no public outcry arose after the black picture emerging from [the Eiland Report], but in the IDF, certainly among its medium ranks, many understand the damage this causes to the standards of telling the truth, and of telling the whole truth. Back to Top
What led to IDF bombing house full of civilians during Gaza war?
The order to bomb the house has been explained as the brigade commander's legitimate interpretation of drone photos shown in the war room. By Amira Hass, Haaretz, 24 October 2010 A Military Police investigation into an air strike that killed 21 Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead, according to a recent Haaretz report, indicates senior air force officers had approved the attack. The report, published on Friday by Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer ("IDF probes top officers on Gaza war strike that killed 21 family members" ), alleges senior officers authorized the bombing despite being warned by more junior officers that civilians were likely located at or nearby the target site. One officer involved in approving the attack is then-Givati Brigade commander Col. Ilan Malka. To date it has not yet been determined whether he will stand trial as an officer involved in the affair. The incident took place on January 5, 2009, in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. During Givati Brigade activity in Zeitun, a house there home to the Al-Samouni family - was identified as harboring armed Palestinians. The Israel Air Force hit the house twice with missiles, killing 21 civilians, including women and children, and wounding 19 others.
While some Givati soldiers agreed to testify to Breaking the Silence (an organization of veteran combatants who served during the second intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to everyday life in the occupied territories ) about their part in Operation Cast Lead, notably absent are the soldiers who manned the position nearest the house that was bombed on Malka's orders. On the morning of January 4, the commanders of this force ordered the dozens of members of the extended Samouni family to leave the threestory house (the home of Talal Samouni ), which they then turned into their outpost. The soldiers told them to gather in the one-story home of Wail Samouni, on the other side of the road and about 30 meters southeast. The Samounis took the fact that the soldiers themselves concentrated the family in one building, and saw that there were infants, children, women, elderly people and unarmed men, as insurance that they would not be harmed. Despite the intense firing heard all around them that entire evening, the family's fears were mitigated by the proximity of the soldiers who had assembled them into the one home. Several of the Samouni men even left the house on Monday morning (January 5 ) to collect wood for a fire, hoping to bake pita and heat up tea. They also called out to a relative who had remained in his home, a few meters east of them, and suggested he join them because their house was safe. Shortly before that, one of the women of the house ventured outside with a child to draw water from a nearby well, as the water tanks on the roof had been riddled by the soldiers' bullets a day earlier. The woman and the child were within view of the soldiers, a fact which the Samounis reported to Haaretz, in Gaza, over a year and a half ago. Their testimony received extensive coverage in Haaretz, in world media outlets, and in reports filed by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations. Straight from the war room A small wooden structure stood next to the house, and several of the men apparently began climbing onto it to take apart the boards. This activity was seen in drone photographs shown on the screen in the war room headquarters, which according to testimony obtained by Breaking the Silence is of poorer quality than the screen before the person operating the aircraft. In the war room the poles the men were holding were taken to be RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades ) and the people carrying them were marked as a squad of terrorists who should be shot immediately. First the group of men outside the house was shelled. They ran into the home, which was then shelled twice. The structure was not destroyed, but because it was so crowded inside, dozens were killed and wounded. One soldier who had testified to Breaking the Silence told Haaretz about two months ago that soldiers at another outpost, east of the
Samouni compound, received information from the war room on the two-way radio that an RPG squad was walking around in the area. On the morning of Monday, January 5, a group of stunned Palestinian civilians, including a woman and her baby daughter whose fingers had been lopped off, arrived at that soldier's outpost. The soldiers managed to understand that the woman's husband had just been killed. The woman's husband, the soldier confidently told Haaretz, had been killed by a Palestinian RPG that was aimed at the other soldiers' outpost but by mistake had hit the adjacent Samouni home. Most of the Givati soldiers who gave testimony to Breaking the Silence didn't even know 21 civilians had been killed in a shelling carried out under war-room orders, based on drone photographs. They didn't know in real time, nor did they know a year and a half later, when they spoke to Haaretz. They hadn't heard of the "Samouni" family, despite the extensive media coverage as well as the space devoted to this family's history in the Goldstone report. Unknown details On January 4, 2009, the Sunday after the ground incursion had begun, a Givati force set up outposts and bases in at least six houses in the Samouni compound at the southeast end of Zeitun - as revealed upon matching the testimony of local Palestinians with that of the soldiers. Immediately after the ground incursion, IDF soldiers had already killed five Palestinian civilians, most of them from the Samouni family, in separate incidents that took place late at night and in the morning. One child who was seriously wounded when forces broke into his home, bled there to death until the next day - 24 hours after his father was killed at short range. These details were also unknown to the soldiers that Haaretz found with the help of Breaking the Silence. They agreed to the organization's request to testify because they were horrified by two other incidents they witnessed, when their comrades killed civilians at close range. The soldiers were upset by the destructive actions of the IDF, the trigger-happy atmosphere and the virtual reality, as they described it, created by IDF spokesmen inside Israel, to the effect that there was serious fighting in the Gaza Strip. The soldiers soon understood that they were not actually confronting the dangerous Hamas resistance for which they had been prepared on the eve of the attack. Until now the order to bomb a house full of civilians has been explained and understood as an ostensibly legitimate interpretation on the part of the brigade commander of drone photographs displayed on the screen in the war room. According to the findings of human rights organizations and Haaretz investigations, during the course of Cast Lead many other civilians were killed and wounded by aerial strikes, in a similar process: based on how drone photos on war-room screens were interpreted.
The many incidents described in the human rights organizations' reports indicate that the drone photographs are not as precise or clear as they are said to be, or that the technology considered "objective" also depends on commanders' interpretation: Children playing on the roof are liable to be regarded as "scouts," people trying to speak to their relatives over the phone are liable to be "signal operators for a terrorist brigade," and families that went to the garden to feed the goats, squads of Qassam launchers. In the case of the Samounis, the possibility of cross-referencing sophisticated technological information with human information from the field was available 24 hours before the "RPG squad" ostensibly appeared on the war room screens. No ambulances The Givati Brigade commander, fearing Hamas attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers, insisted that not a single ambulance enter the sector under his control. That was also learned from soldiers who spoke to Breaking the Silence. Testimony from the Zeitun area, which was reported by Haaretz in real time based on conversations with neighborhood residents, told of at least two children and two adults who bled to death after being shot by Givati soldiers, because the Red Cross and the Red Crescent were unable to coordinate with the IDF the approach of ambulances to the area. According to the testimony of the family of Hussein Ayedi, who lived in eastern Zeitun, only a week after he was injured and after daily coordination efforts by Physicians for Human Rights, were they allowed to leave on foot, under various conditions, and to meet up with ambulances at a distance of over three kilometers. According to one soldier who spoke with Breaking the Silence, brigade commander Malka insisted that if there were wounded, they should be taken on foot. But according to many reports from the field, sometimes even convoys of civilians were not allowed to progress on foot and the soldiers fired at them. Back to Top
“There Are No Civilians In Wartime.” Rachel Corrie’s Family Confronts The Israeli Military In Court
By Max Blumenthal, 9 September 2010 In a small courtroom on the sixth floor of Haifa’s District Court, a colonel in the Israeli engineering corps who wrote a manual for the bulldozer units that razed the Rafah Refugee Camp in 2003 offered his opinion on the killing of the American activist Rachel Corrie. “There are no civilians during wartime,” Yossi declared under oath. Yossi made his remarkable statement under withering cross examination by Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer for the family of Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah on
March 17, 2003. In the back of the courtroom were Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy, and her sister, Sarah, back in Israel for the second round of hearings in their civil suit against the state of Israel. They were joined by supporters, friends and a handful of reporters, including me (see Nora Barrows-Friedman’s report for more). No one from the Israeli media was present — the case has been virtually ignored inside Israel. In the immediate wake of Corrie’s killing, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, instructed Corrie’s parents to demand a “thorough, fair and transparent investigation” from the Israeli government. Since then, the Israelis have stonewalled them, refusing to provide key details of their investigation, which was corrupted from the start by the investigators’ apparent attempts to find evidence that a bulldozer did not in fact kill Rachel. A 2003 bill introduced in the House International Relations Committee calling for a thorough Israeli investigation in Corrie’s killing and for American efforts to prevent such killings from happening again garnered 78 signatures in support (Rahm Emanuel was the only Jewish signer). However, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the Israel lobby’s closest allies in Congress, prevented the bill from getting out of the committee. President George W. Bush could have pressed for a full floor vote on the bill but he did nothing. The bill died as a result. Having been obstructed by the Israelis’ opaque investigation and betrayed by their own government (with notable exceptions like former Rep. Brian Baird), the Corries have been forced to take matters into their own hands. And so they have filed suit against the Israeli government for criminal negligence. Whether or not they will be able to secure the ruling they seek, Rachel Corrie’s family has already elicited a number of damning revelations about the Israeli army’s abuses in Gaza in 2003 and the machinations it has relied on to obscure evidence of its criminal conduct. “I think we are in a situation similar to South Africa. What we are trying to make clear is that the truth has to be pursued diligently or we won’t make it to the point of reconciliation,” Craig Corrie told me, referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that enabled South Africa to peacefully transition from an apartheid system to representative democracy. “We need to understand and acknowledge the truth first.” So far, the truth has not been easy to come by. The Corries are saddled with a judge who is said to have never ruled in favor of any plaintiff in a civil rights-related suit. And the defense has claimed unspecified state security concerns in its successful bid to avoid revealing the full contents of the investigation into Rachel Corrie’s killing — the family’s lawyers have only been allowed to view a summary. But the Corries’ legal efforts have not been in vain.
On the first day of hearings, the Corries’ lawyers were able to confirm through testimony from “Oded,” one of the investigators of Rachel Corrie’s killing, that Major General Doron Almog, then the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, had attempted to stop the military investigators from questioning the bulldozer operators who killed Rachel. When asked why he did not challenge Almog’s apparently illegal intervention, Oded stated that he was only 20-years-old at the time, with no college education and only a few months of training as an investigator. He was intimidated by the high-ranking officer who stormed into the room and menaced him and the other investigators. (Almog once canceled a trip to Britain after being warned that he would be arrested on arrival for ordering the destruction of 59 homes in the Rafah refugee camp in 2002). Among the most disturbing aspects of Corrie’s case is the abuse of her body by Israeli authorities after she was killed. Craig Corrie recalled to me a panicked phone conversation he had with Will Hewitt, a friend and former classmate of Rachel Corrie who had just witnessed her killing. “It’s getting dark over here and there are no refrigeration units for her body in Gaza,” Hewitt told Craig Corrie. “Just leave it until tomorrow,” Craig replied. “We don’t want you or anyone else to get killed.” “But her body is starting to smell,” Hewitt pleaded. Somehow Hewitt and his fellow activists from the International Solidarity Movement were able to get Rachel Corrie’s body out of Gaza. But first Hewitt was ordered by Israeli troops to remove the body from the casket and carry it across a border checkpoint. Only Hewitt was allowed to escort Corrie’s body in the ambulance; the rest of the activists who witnessed her death were forced to hitchhike home in the desert. Finally, Corrie’s body was transported to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv where the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss autopsied her. Who is Dr. Hiss? The chief pathologist of Israel for a decade and a half, Hiss was implicated by a 2001 investigation by the Israeli Health Ministry of stealing body parts ranging from legs to testicles to ovaries from bodies without permission from family members then selling them to research institutes. Bodies plundered by Hiss included those of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was finally removed from his post in 2004 when the body of a teenage boy killed in a traffic accident was discovered to have been thoroughly gnawed on by a rat in Hiss’s laboratory. In an interview with researcher Nancy Schepper-Hughes, Hiss admitted that he harvested organs if he was confident relatives would not discover that they were missing. He added that he often used glue to close eyelids to hide missing corneas. When Craig and Cindy Corrie learned that Hiss would perform an autopsy on their daughter, they stipulated that they would only allow the doctor to go forward if an official from the American consulate was present throughout the entire procedure. An Israeli military police
report stated that an American official did indeed witness the autopsy. However, when the Corries asked American diplomatic officials including former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzner if the report was true, they were informed that no American was present at all. The Israelis had lied to them, and apparently fixed their own report to deceive the American government. On March 14, during the first round of hearings in the Corries’ civil suit, Hiss admitted under oath that he had lied about the presence of an American official during the autopsy of Rachel Corrie. He also conceded to taking “samples” from Corrie’s body for “histological testing” without informing her family. Just which parts of Corrie’s body Hiss took remains unclear; despite Hiss’s claim that he “buried” the samples, her family has not confirmed the whereabouts of her missing body parts. “It’s so hard to know that Rachel’s body wasn’t respected,” Rachel’s sister, Sarah, told me. “Doctor Hiss and the Israeli government knew what our family’s wishes were. The fact that our wishes were disregarded and a judge hasn’t done anything is absolutely horrifying.” The treatment of Rachel Corrie’s body is peripheral to her family’s lawsuit. But it demonstrates the degree to which she and those whose homes she died defending have been dehumanized — “there are no civilians during wartime,” as Colonel Yossi declared. Rachel Corrie’s family is seeking only one dollar in symbolic punitive damages from the Israeli government. Their real goal is to force a country in a perpetual state of warfare to treat its innocent victims as human beings, and to be held accountable if it does not. “It is incredibly expensive for us to carry this case on both emotionally and financially,” Craig Corrie remarked. “It is a whole lot to ask of a private citizen. But as a family we still have the ability to do a lot, so we are going to carry this cause on for everyone who cannot.” Back to Top
Israel’s Military on the Spot Over Activist’s Death
By Karl Vick, Time, 9 September 2010 The day after the American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by the armored Israeli bulldozer she was trying to stop from destroying a Palestinian home, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised U.S. President George W. Bush “a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.” It was the least that could be expected after the death of a U.S. citizen at the hands of its closest ally. Seven years, two Prime Ministers and one President later, Corrie’s parents sat in the front row of Haifa District Court on Sunday, a whitehaired couple struggling to get to the bottom of their daughter’s death. Corrie v. the State of Israel, a civil suit, is also putting a withering spotlight on Israel’s conduct since March 16, 2003. (See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)
“She was hurt by a grenade; this is the information that was given to us,” said Oded (his last name was withheld for security reasons), one of the three military police investigators who conducted the official inquiry into the death — an effort the testimony painted as slipshod at best. “I don’t remember who said it.” “How many grenades were there?” asked Hussein Abu Hussein, an attorney for the Corrie family. Oded: “I don’t remember.” Hussein: “You didn’t record it?” Oded: “I don’t know.” Hussein: “Who threw the grenade?” Oded: “I believe hostile forces, but I don’t know.” As the attorney bore down, Oded shot a look at the table where two lawyers for the state of Israel sat. The look said, Can you believe this? But with a wave of his hand, the judge spared the witness from digging through the case file for answers. “No,” said Judge Oded Gershon from the bench, “we know that it is untrue that a grenade was thrown.” What, then, do we know is true? Neither thorough nor credible, and every bit as transparent as a sandstorm, Israel’s investigation of Corrie’s death sheds little light on what happened — the grenade story apparently came out of thin air — but is providing a great deal of fodder for her family’s case against the state. Heard intermittently in the manner of Israel’s court system, the case may not conclude until November. But it has already validated anew Richard Nixon’s timeless observation that it is the cover-up that does you in. “What, did you kill him?” a soldier asked after Corrie disappeared beneath the blade of a D9R Caterpillar, wreathed in armor for use by the Israel Defense Forces. “May God have mercy on him,” came the reply. The striking exchange, between Israeli soldiers speaking in Arabic, was not included in the report’s transcript of radio transmissions, the former investigator acknowledged on the stand. He said he didn’t think it was important. Oded testified that the interview of the bulldozer driver was halted on the order of a senior commander. He also testified that investigators waited a week to retrieve from another unit the only known videotape of the incident; failed to interview non-military eyewitnesses; ignored the ambulance workers, doctors and other Palestinians who treated her; and did not even visit the scene of her death. That was a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip where a handful of foreign-born protesters with the International Solidarity Movement tried to do what Palestinians could not do themselves if they expected to survive: turn themselves into human shields between Israeli bulldozers and the Palestinian homes the bulldozers were trying to tear down on the grounds that they provided cover for gunmen and tunnels.
The army maintains that Corrie’s death was an accident: because of the armored plating around the cab, the driver, who is scheduled to testify next month, could not see her, even in a fluorescent orange vest. But on Monday the expert witness whose study of sightlines backed up that claim confirmed on the stand that he in fact set out to support the army’s narrative. Afterward, Craig Corrie despaired at how easily the contradictions were coming. “It was really depressing, because my impression was the people were making statements that indicated they never expected to be questioned,” Rachel’s father told TIME. “The lies were like the lies of a 7-year-old.” Composed and genial, the Corries cut an impressive figure in the sundrenched Haifa courthouse. After quitting his job as an insurance actuary, Craig and his wife Cindy made full-time work of ascertaining the truth about their daughter’s death. That meant immersing themselves, as she had done, in the situation of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Although the imminent invasion of Iraq had kept her story, and the plight of the Gazans, largely out of the headlines at the time, the recent Israeli raid that killed nine Turkish activists aboard a boat intent on breaking Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled coastal strip has put it back in the spotlight. Weeks later another boat filled with Irish activists approached; its name: the MV Rachel Corrie. “Like a lot of Americans, we were really removed from what was going on there,” said Cindy of life before her daughter’s death. The education that had begun with Rachel’s e-mails deepened profoundly when they met residents of Gaza in person, making new friends and worrying for their lives, too, during Israel’s massive military offensive against Gaza in January 2009 in response to Hamas rocket fire. “We’d call a Palestinian friend to see how he was doing,” Craig said. “And he’d say, ‘Listen to this,’ and hold the phone out. It was just what Rachel used to do: ‘Listen to this.’ And you’d hear the explosions.” Back to Top
Bulldozer driver testimony underscores lack of transparency in Corrie trial
Voice behind screen says soldiers don't stop work. The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, 23 October 2010 Haifa, Israel - The bulldozer driver who struck and killed Rachel Corrie in March 2003, in Rafah, Gaza, testified for the first time Thursday in the civil lawsuit filed by the Corrie family against the state of Israel, but did so under extraordinary protective measures that continue to underscore the lack of transparency in the investigation as well as the trial process.
The driver, Y.P., whose name was not released, is a 38-year-old Russian immigrant who came to Israel in 1995. He was the sole witness for the day and gave his testimony over four hours behind a makeshift partition, a measure the state claimed was necessary to protect his security. Attorneys for the Corries requested that the family be allowed to see the driver even if the public could not, but their appeals were denied. "We were disappointed not to see the whole human being," said Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother. "It is a personal affront that the state's attorneys and Israeli government, on the basis of security, chose to keep our family from seeing the witness." Scores of journalists, human rights observers and members of the public were shut out of the proceedings Thursday. The courtroom has only two long rows of seats, nearly half of which were held for the first time by observers apparently from the State Attorney's office and Ministry of Defense. In over four hours of often confused testimony, Y.P. seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit signed in April. He could not remember basic facts, such as the date of Rachel's killing or time of day it happened. He repeatedly contradicted his own statements on the stand and testimony given to military police investigators in 2003. Highlights of testimony include the following: Y.P stated that after he drove over Rachel and backed up, she was located between his bulldozer and the mound of earth that he had pushed, corroborating photographic evidence and testimony from international eyewitnesses given to the court in March. His testimony calls into question that of the commander inside this same bulldozer, whose written affidavit states that Rachel's body was located in a different location, on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. In court, Y.P. was asked if based on this contradiction he wanted to change his testimony. He firmly stated no. In testimony to military police investigators only three days after the incident, Y.P. said the blind spot in front of the bulldozer was 3 meters. In contradicting court testimony, he claimed the blind spot was 30 meters--ten times the distance first stated. Y.P. knew about regulations that the bulldozer was not to work within 10 meters of people. He was aware civilians were present, but said he was given orders to continue working. He said I' m just a soldier. It was not my decision. He claimed he did not see Rachel before the event. Nor did he recall seeing her specifically at all that day, despite the fact that she had protested the bulldozer's activity for several hours and was the only female activist wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket. Following the driver's testimony, Cindy Corrie stated, "It was very difficult not to hear or detect anything in this witness's words or voice
that suggested remorse. Sadly, what I heard from the other side of the screen was indifference." The proceedings on Thursday were attended by representatives of the US Embassy, Advocates sans Frontiers, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), National Lawyers Guild, Adalah, and the Arab Association for Human Rights, many of whom have closely followed the hearings throughout the trial. The next scheduled hearings are November 4 and 15 between the hours of 9:00-16:00 before Judge Oded Gershon at the Haifa, District Court, 12 Palyam St., Haifa, Israel. Additional court dates are expected to be announced soon. Please visit http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/trial for trial updates, changes to the court schedule and related information. Back to Top
Halper: American Jews (and the Congress) don’t want an Israel at peace
By Philip Weiss, MondoWeiss, 4 October 2010 For anyone who tries to imagine a life of meaning amid inhumane circumstances, Jeff Halper is a hero. The Minnesota-born founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Halper has for decades now dedicated himself to Palestinian human rights, resisting the occupation by helping Palestinians try to defy Israeli power. Above, he drinks tea in a Palestinian friend's house that has been destroyed by settlers five times-- and that he has five times helped rebuild. In West Jerusalem last week, Halper bought salami and rolls at a corner store and then walked me back to his house, whose crowded bookshelves and humble furnishings are a reminder that he has been both a rabbinical student and an academic and author. Over lunch, I asked him about the politics of the conflict. What is the answer? "I go with the flow, except there is no flow today." Halper said that he personally favors the one-state solution but he is respectful of the fact that world consensus has long supported two states. “It’s not hard to do actually. But you’d have to put massive pressure on Israel to do it. And that’s where I think we’re stuck. The United States cannot bring pressure because of the Congress, and that is the absolute necessary condition, pressure. “But I will tell you my formula for peace. You say to Israel three things. Obama and the international community have to say it. "One, We love you. Israelis love to hear that. That’s where Sadat succeeded. He hugged Golda [Meir] and the Israelis melted. They just melted.” That is why Israel yielded the Sinai so easily in the end after a lot of bluster. “Obama would come and speak at the Knesset, Abu Mazen would go to Yad Vashem.
“Two, we will guarantee your security. Israelis are not committed to the occupation for ideological reasons, most Israelis aren’t, but because they don’t trust Arabs. If you can allay their fears that withdrawal won’t lead to Sderot, then they will do it... There are security arrangements that could be found to satisfy the Israeli public. “Three, you say the occupation’s over. Period. You’re out of every square inch… Maybe parts of Gush Etzion would be swapped, but we’re back to the 1967 borders. And the Jewish Quarter in a shared Jerusalem, not a divided Jerusalem. The only resource Jerusalem has is its religious symbolism, and you want to give all the stakeholders a feeling of ownership. “If that scenario were followed, you’d have dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv. This is what Israelis want. They want security. They don’t want to see Palestinians. This is what Ehud Barak ran on in 1999, for Labor. ‘Us here, them there.’ That’s what Israelis want, and that’s what the two state solution would do." And the likelihood of this coming to pass? “Maybe 1-1/2 percent of Israelis are ideological settlers. But in the Knesset, the settlers have two or three parties. So this 1-1/2 percent controls the government. If you had a referendum on the two state solution the vast majority of Jews would agree. But this is so unlikely, that you go back to the one state solution. Which is equally unlikely.” Of course Halper would be happy living in a democracy with Palestinians. I asked him why so many Israelis don't feel that way. “There is a principle inculcated in Israelis and Jews from before 1948, by all politicians, newscasters, teachers, journalists, any official, and that is that the Arabs are our permanent enemies. And that’s it! And if you take that as an unchanging premise, then it doesn’t matter what is being done to Palestinians.They brought it on themselves. “You can’t trust the Arabs. That makes everything else a non-issue… Yitzhak Shamir said, ‘The Jews are still the Jews, the Arabs are still the Arabs, and the sea is still the sea.’ Which means, it’s just the way it is, it’s nature. Arabs are what they are, and we are what we are, and nothing’s going to change that...." But are Israelis even aware of the tapestry of suffering that is the occupation, and what this does to Palestinian lives? “Israelis don’t care. Because they’re living the good life. Polls show that peace is the 8th issue in priority for Israelis. It’s like that cover of Time magazine, Israel doesn't want peace. I’ve been saying that for years…. And the Israeli government thinks it’s sustainable, they think they can keep this going for another 40 years. They have no idea that we’re living on borrowed time. “And Israel is not going to cooperate and is not going to negotiate in good faith. Because of the Congress. The only way to go to some kind of peace is by exerting pressure on Israel, which the U.S. could do easily, but the president can’t do. And Israel feels completely
protected. The U.S. can’t do anything to Israel, and it won’t let anyone else do anything to Israel. We start building settlements, and it’s, ‘So what?’” I said that the status quo will bring on violence. Halper said he doubts it. "It's too sewn up. Israel is too much in control. Israeli soldiers are every ten feet in the West Bank... Israel is knocking off Palestinian leaders all the time." And the natural source of Palestinian leadership is all in Israeli jails, 12,000 Palestinians-- "I use the term warehousing"-- and Palestinian society is rife with collaborators, from the Palestinian Authority on down. Where's the hope? "I don't use the word hope, I use the word struggle. There's a struggle going on..." The good news is that now it's globalized: the United States is becoming more and more isolated on this issue. “I don’t think Americans appreciate how isolated they are internationally. This is now a global conflict, and so you have the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The irresistible force is-- the EU can make things hard on Israel economically, and the whole Muslim world can be up in arms, and you have BDS, Turkey, isolating Israel, and the international community saying that this is too costly to accept forever. But then the immovable object is the U.S. Congress.” What about the Arab dictatorships, aren’t they implicated in the arrangement? “Mubarak and Asad have no support from their people on this, but they’re kept going because of the conflict. Syria once had a vibrant constitutional process. It got all messed up because of the occupation and the refugees. Nationalism, the right to return…. “This conflict is the bone in the throat of the world. It’s not the biggest thing, but it’s the most immediate thing, and it could kill you. You can’t deal with the cancer and the other diseases till you deal with the bone in your throat. “And rather than [complain about] the repressiveness of the Arab countries, we should get rid of this occupation and I think you will see a whole new dynamic in the Middle East…. My allies, my brothers and sisters, are civil society groups in the Arab world. In Syria, they’re fighting the good fight. In Libya, in Tunisia, it’s not that easy in autocracies, but in all these societies, you have democratic liberal progressive people… It’s not us against them. The clash of civilizations is an essentialist argument, and it’s not true… Within a week of [an end to the conflict] that would all dissipate and there would be plans to develop this whole area.” Finally I asked Halper about Zionism, the growing battle in the U.S. between non-Zionist and Zionist Jews. He laughed.
"Arguing about Zionism is like the battle in the United States 200 years ago between having a Hamiltonian democracy and a Jeffersonian democracy. Who cares any more? This is a a real country called Israel." Then he told American Jews to bug out. He goes back to the States a lot, and talks to American Jews. "They don't care about Israel. If you actually tell them what is happening here [in rightwing Israeli politics], their eyes glaze over. It's not a real place to these people, it's there to meet their needs. They need this idealized Leon Uris Israel to maintain their identity. If they came here, they wouldn't like it. "Well this is a real country. It's not some projection of what you want it to be, and it has a right to evolve and change.... [American Jews] can't have an Israel at peace because that doesn't do it for them. They need an Israel at war, so they can galvanize their sense of Jewishness around it..." Lunch was over. Halper walked me down the hill and pointed me to the walkways leading to the Israel Museum. Back to Top
By Jeff Halper, 25 November 2010 Struggling as I have for the past decades to grasp the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and find ways to get out of this interminable and absolutely superfluous conflict, I have been two-thirds successful. After many years of activism and analysis, I think I have put my finger on the first third of the equation: What is the problem? My answer, which has withstood the test of time and today is so evident that it elicits the response…“duh”…is that all Israeli governments are unwaveringly determined to maintain complete control of Palestine/Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, frustrating any just and workable solution based on Palestinian claims to selfdetermination. There will be no negotiated settlement, period. The second part of the equation – how can the conflict be resolved? – is also easily answerable. I don’t mean entering into the one state/two state conundrum and deciding which option best. Under certain circumstances both could work, and I can think of at least 3-4 other viable options as well, including my favorite, a Middle Eastern economic confederation. The Palestinian think tank Passia published a collection of twelve proposed solutions a few years ago. What I mean is, it is not difficult to identity the essential elements of any solution. They are, in brief, · A just, workable and lasting peace must be inclusive of the two peoples living in Palestine/Israel; · Any solution must provide for a national expression of each people, not merely a democratic formula based on one person-one vote; · It must provide economic viability to all the parties;
· No solution will work that is not based on human rights, international law and UN resolutions. · The refugee issue, based on the right of return, must be addressed squarely. · A workable peace must be regional in scope; it cannot be confined merely to Israel/Palestine; and · A just peace must address the security concerns of all the parties and countries in the region. These seven elements, I would submit, must configure any just solution. If they are all included, a settlement of the conflict could take many different forms. If, however, even one is missing, no solution will work, no matter how good it looks on paper. That leaves the third and most intractable part of the equation: how to we get there? Employing the linear analysis we have used over the years, you can’t. In those terms we are at a dead-end of a dead “process.” Israel will never end its Occupation voluntarily; the best it may agree to is apartheid, but the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians is more what it has in mind. Given the massive “facts on the ground” Israel has imposed on the Occupied Territories, the international community will not exert enough pressure on Israel to realize even a two-state solution (which leaves Israel on 78% of historic Palestine, with no right of refugee return); given the veto power over any political process enjoyed by the American Congress, locked into an unshakable bi-partisan “pro-Israel” position, the international community cannot exert that required pressure. And the Palestinians, fragmented and with weak leadership, have no clout. Indeed, they’re not even in the game. In terms of any sort of rational, linear, government-led “peace process,” we have arrived at the end of the road. And yet I’m optimistic that 2011 will witness a game-changing “break” that will create a new set of circumstances in which a just peace is possible. That jolt which smashes the present dead-end paradigm must come from outside the present “process.” It can take one of two forms. The first possible game-changer is already being discussed: a unilateral declaration by the Palestinian Authority of a state based on the 1949 armistice lines (the 1967 “Green Line”), which then applies for membership in the UN. This, I believe, would force the hand of the international community. Most of the countries of the world would recognize a Palestinian state – including not a few in Europe – placing the US, Britain, Germany and other reluctant powers in a difficult if not impossible situation, including isolation and even irrelevancy. Indeed, a Palestinians declaration of independence within those boundaries would not be a unilateral act but rather one done in agreement with the member states of the UN, who have accepted the 1949/1967 borders as the basis of a solution. It conforms as well to the Road Map initiative led by the US itself. Such a scenario, while still possible given the deadlock in negotiations, is unlikely, if only because the leadership of the Palestinian Authority
lacks the courage to undertake such a bold initiative. A second one seems more likely: in 2011, the Palestinian Authority will either resign or collapse, throwing the Occupation back on the lap of Israel. Given the deadlock in negotiations, I can’t see the PA lasting even until August, when (sort-of) Prime Minister Salem Fayyad expects the international community to give the Palestinians a state. Even if the 90-day settlement freeze eventually comes into effect, Netanyahu will not negotiate borders during that period, the only issue worth discussing. Either fed up to the point of resigning – Abbas may be weak and pliable, but he is not a collaborator – or having lost so much credibility with its own people that it simply collapses, the fall of the PA would end definitively the present “process.” The end or fall of the PA would create an intolerable and unsustainable situation. Israel would be forced to retake by force all the Occupied Territories, and unwilling to allow Hamas to step into the vacuum, would have to do so violently, perhaps even invading Gaza again and assuming permanent control. Having to support four million impoverished Palestinians with no economic infrastructure whatsoever would be an impossible burden (and hopefully the “donor community” would not enable the re-occupation by stepping in to prevent a “humanitarian crisis,” as it does today). Such a move on the part of Israel would also inflame the Muslim world and generate massive protests worldwide, again forcing the hand of the international community. Looked at in this way, the Palestinians have one source of enormous clout: they are the gatekeepers. Until they – the Palestinian people as a whole, not the PA – say the conflict is over, it’s not over. Israel and its erstwhile allies have the ability to make life almost unbearable for the Palestinians, but they cannot impose apartheid or warehousing. We, the millions supporting the Palestinian struggle the world over, will not let it go until the Palestinians signal that they have arrived at a settlement that they can live with. Until then, the conflict will remain open and globally disruptive. If any of these scenarios comes about and new possibilities of peace arise out of the violence and chaos that will ensue, the real question is: where will we be, the people who support a just, inclusive, workable and sustainable peace? Here in Israel/Palestine, unfortunately, there is no discussion over what may happen in the next year. Not only do we of the Palestinian and Israeli peace movements fail to give adequate direction and leadership to our civil society allies abroad, we tend to pursue “politics as normal” disconnected from the political processes around us, more reactive than pro-active. Despite its crucial importance to the Palestinian struggle, for instance, the BDS campaign moves along and accumulates strength, but is not accompanied by focused, timely campaigns intended to seize a political moment. When the Gaza flotilla was attacked and Israel was reeling from international condemnation, Palestinian and Israeli activists from all over the world – including Palestine/Israel – should have kicked into action. Sympathetic parliamentarians (and members of Congress) the world over should have been induced to introduce bills saying that if the Occupation does
not end in a year their governments will end all military aid to Israel and preferential treatment. They might not have carried the day, but imagine the public debate they would have generated at that point of time. Instead the political moment fizzled. We are at the cusp of another such moment today, and we still have time – though not much time – to organize. Activist and civil society groups abroad should ask their Palestinian and Israeli counterparts for their evaluation of the political moment and suggestions on what to do should the Palestinian Authority collapse together with the “peace process.” Thought should be given over how to transform the BDS campaign and the infrastructure of resistance it is creating from a blunt instrument into one capable of more focused resistance – of mobilizing churches, trade unions and universities, for example, and by priming sympathetic politicians to act when the moment arrives? In the absence of an ANC-type organization to direct us, we have a much more difficult job of communicating and of coordinating our actions. But we are in touch with one another. The political moment looming just weeks or months ahead demands our attention. Life in the Occupied Territories is about to get even more difficult, I believe, but perhaps we are finally approaching the breaking point. If that is the case, we must be there for the Palestinians on all the fronts: to protect them, to play our role in pushing the Occupation into unsustainability, to resist re-occupation, to act as watchdogs over political “processes” that threaten to impose apartheid in the guise of a two-state solution and, ultimately, to ensure that a just and lasting peace emerges. As weak and failed attempts by governments head for collapse, we must pick up the slack. 2011 is upon us. Back to Top
Israel's Palestinian partner is ready and waiting
Abdallah Abu Rahma, a Palestinian peace activist in the West Bank, and his story exemplifies the complexity of the current situation. By Libby Lenkinski Friedlander, Haaretz, 24 September 2010 For most Israelis, who have had little or no interaction with Palestinians for at least the past decade, the "Palestinian partner" remains an abstract concept. As a result, we spend a lot of time seeking a clear definition of what that ideal partner for ending the occupation would be: Who would be acceptable? What is the ideal profile? As a civil society worker, I have a face for the Palestinian partner that I want to see, in the abstract and in flesh and blood. I have met him. But my Palestinian partner is now in jail as a "security prisoner" - convicted of illegal acts and facing a harsh sentence to be determined by a military judge in the coming weeks. I met Abdallah Abu Rahma in 2009 when I was handling media for Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Among other activities, PHR
provided first-aid training to Palestinian, Israeli and international activists after the death of Bassem Abu Rahma, who was killed in Bil'in that April after being shot in the chest with a tear-gas canister at one of the weekly protests that have been held in the village since February 2005. Abdallah, a 39-year-old high-school teacher and father of three, and a distant relative of Bassem's, was Bil'in's media coordinator, and thus my direct counterpart and partner in the project. We were in touch daily and met several times. Abdallah was always in his trademark suit and tie, an outfit that is a source of affectionate attention among the Israeli activist crowd. One of the first things that struck me when I attended a pre-sentencing hearing at Ofer prison for him last week was that he was no longer in his suit. A brown prison outfit and ankle chains replaced the usual tie, starched shirt and handkerchief. Abdallah, a dignified, formal man, was now being tried and sentenced by a military court system that lumps legitimate and illegitimate protest together - that is, violent and nonviolent, legal and illegal. This system does not see the partner that I worked with - it sees only a threat. Palestinian activism - violent or not - is always perceived as threatening to Israeli security. Israelis say they have been wondering for years when Palestinian leaders who preach nonviolence will emerge. But when Palestinians began a civil protest against the separation barrier that sliced through their lives, Israel resurrected Military Order 101. That deems any gathering of more than 10 people illegal unless they obtain a permit from the military commander of the West Bank. Abdallah and organizers like him - who have chosen, both in principle and through their actions, the route of nonviolence and civil disobedience - are the kind of partners we said we wanted. And now they are being arrested for doing just the thing we said we hoped they'd do. And why did Israel start using 101? "Stone-throwing." "Stone-throwing" is a term that categorizes all Palestinian civil disobedience as violent, makes protests impossible long before the first stone is thrown, and has given Israeli military officials carte blanche for implementing a range of policies that seem to be aimed at quashing any political organizing in the West Bank. Like so many policies of the occupation - segregated roads, curfews, etc. - Israel has thus chosen a sweeping policy that limits the basic rights and liberties of all because of the perceived risk posed by a few in this case, the stone-throwers. The sweeping nature of 101 a priori categorizes all demonstrations under the occupation as illegal. And while the military has the authority to arrest stone-throwers, it prefers to make legitimate, nonviolent protest impossible. Abdallah organized protests because the separation barrier, which is built on his village's lands, and whose route the High Court ordered to be changed in its decision of September 2007, still stands where it was originally erected. He says that his political struggle has not ended and that, as a committed activist and human rights defender, he will not be
deterred by arrests and jail time from carrying out the organizing work that still needs to be done. The prosecution has said it wants to make an example of him, and wants him to be sentenced to more than the usual two years that come with these charges. I want him and other Palestinian grass-roots nonviolent organizers to be free to carry on their political struggle together with Israeli partners and supporters. For the past nine months, while he has been on trial for organizing illegal protests and incitement to violence, Abdallah Abu Rahma has been in detention, torn away from his wife, three children and the young students he could be teaching, because Israel has apparently decided that civic activism, nonviolent protest or any kind of dissidence in Palestine is illegal. On my way into the pre-sentencing hearing last week, I braced myself, expecting to see a shell of the Abdallah that was imprisoned nine months ago. But the same upright person walked in. He was greeted by a room full of Israelis, foreign diplomats and family members - and insisted on speaking at the end of the hearing. He stood and said: "I was raised to believe in peace, coexistence and nonviolence. This is what I have passed on to my children and my students." This is our Palestinian partner. Back to Top
Night raid in Bil’in
By Hamde Abu Rahme, MondoWeiss, 9 November 2010
(Photos: Hamde Abu Rahme)
Today, November 9 at about 3:00 in the morning, the Israeli army entered the village of Bil'in. About 50 soldiers entered the village by jeep and foot. When they arrived at the two targeted
houses, they ran and took positions outside while a number of soldiers entered the house. At first the soldiers were hammering on the door of one house, demanding to see 30-year old Ashraf al-Khatib. It turned out they went to the wrong house. They then went to another house – forcing one of Ashraf's brothers to show them where Ashraf lives. Soldiers then entered that house, and his brother's family's house, and again they woke up the family, asking for Ashraf al-Khatib. His brother, Haytham al-Khatib, is a journalist from the human right's group B'tselem and was of the ones woken up by the army. Even though they entered a house where their target didn't live, they stayed there for about one and a half hours, searching all the rooms. Haytham al-Khatib told me about his 6-year-old son's reaction to waking up to see dozens of soldiers in his house, "he asked me to close the door, because he didn't want to see them." Haytham himself was prevented when he wanted to record the raid in his family's houses – the soldiers simply locked him in a room for more than an hour, away from his children and wife. The children in the houses are ages 1,5 and 8 years old, and this is not the first time they have seen their homes raided at night. However, after 1.5 hours of searching for the target in three houses, two of which he doesn't reside in, Ashraf al-Khatib was not found. Five weeks ago Ashraf was shot in his leg with live ammunition by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration in Bil'in. The bullet went through his leg, breaking the bone. Even though he was heavily injured and in major pain, the soldiers tried to arrest him. Luckily he was brought to safety, and then taken to a hospital for surgery by fellow protesters. Tonight the army decided to come and take him in front of his wife and 1.5 year old daughter instead. The soldiers finally retreated from the targeted houses by foot, walking toward the military road that follows the illegal segregation fence in Bil'in, at about 4.30 AM. The village of Bil'in has suffered from frequent night raids over the last few years, and a number of villagers have been taken for interrogation and imprisoned for their non-violent resistance to the occupation and segregation wall on Bil'in's land.
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Governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority: Stanley and Me
By David Lipkin, Ma’ariv, “Asakim” economic supplement, 8 October 2010 Washington -- [October 8] The leading world economic figures and governors of central banks who attended the annual conference of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) certainly did not hesitate before settling into their ample rooms in one of the luxury hotels in the US capital. Therefore, the choice of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to stay at the Palomar boutique hotel was not surprising. But one of the participants who was invited to the conference, and became a sought-after partner for discussions with all the world economic leaders, chose none other than a 3-star hotel, the Renaissance. Dr. Jihad al-Wazir is known to Israeli readers less for his post—which is the equivalent of the governor of the Palestinian central bank—and more for his father’s name, the arch-murderer Abu Jihad. For more than two years, al-Wazir, in his post as governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, has been laying the infrastructure for the economic institutions of the state in the making. Since the trauma of the derailment of the peace talks at the start of the decade, the idea of the Palestinian state has been revived, and al-Wazir is preparing the economic groundwork for its day of birth against the backdrop of the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, along with the establishment of an independent central bank, replacing the shekel with a Palestinian currency and linking it to one of the large international currencies, al-Wazir is preparing to
prevent upheavals in the Palestinian banking system, in case the talks should fail. In a special interview to Ma’ariv, which was held this week in Washington, al-Wazir reveals that he is preparing for another scenario, one which he describes as possible, in which the security situation will deteriorate into another Intifada. “If the opportunity to reach an agreement is missed this time, we will return to another crisis and an escalation in the relations, with everything this entails. It is a shame to miss the opportunity,” he says. In preparation for Palestinian independence, al-Wazir is working to implement a monetary reform that will assure the Palestinian state economic independence and will reduce its dependence on Israel. “Teams from the Monetary Authority and the Palestinian Finance Ministry are now examining several economic models for the future of the relations with Israel, which is the large neighbor of the independent state that will be established, and models for the relationship with Europe on one hand and with the Arab states on the other.” He says, “the work is underway, and it will determine, among other things, whether the Palestinian pound will be linked to the dollar or the euro, after we decide on issuing a Palestinian pound—an essential step for the independence of the future state.” Not the Wild West Al-Wazir has served as governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority for over two years. He is among the associates of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and was his deputy when the latter served as finance minister. When the Hamas government was formed, al-Wazir left his post and was appointed as deputy governor of the Monetary Authority, and at the beginning of 2008 was appointed as governor of the authority. Al-Wazir, 47, graduated electronic engineering studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and holds a doctorate in business administration from Loughborough University in Britain. He is the son of arch-murderer Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad)—the deputy of Yasser Arafat, who was responsible for some of the most murderous terror attacks in the 1970s, and was assassinated in his home in Tunisia in the late 1980s, according to foreign reports by Israel. More than 30 years later, the governor of the Monetary Authority maintains close relations with his Israeli counterparts. He says, “I have close working relations with Stanley Fischer. I have known him since his days at the IMF, and I have only good words for the help that he gives us in solving problems, along with [Supervisor of Banks] Rony Hizkiyahu.” In addition to his ties with Fischer, al-Wazir intends to meet during his stay in Washington with several top officials of Israeli banks, in order to arrange the relationship between them concerning the absorption of surplus shekels from the West Bank. The extent of Palestinian trade with Israel is NIS 20 billion per year, in addition to a large amount of funds that flow into the West Bank as a result of the labor of Palestinian workers in Israeli territory. As a result, surplus shekels accumulated in the Palestinian banks, and for a certain
period the Israeli banks refused to receive these surpluses. This required the intervention of the Bank of Israel, which is currently formulating a solution to the problem. Another issue that requires cooperation between al-Wazir and the Israeli authorities is the issue of paying National Insurance allowances to people in Gaza who worked in Israel, paid National Insurance fees and were injured in work accidents. Al-Wazir notes that “the PA created a mechanism for transferring National Insurance funds to Gaza, where most of the people are poverty-stricken and are waiting for these funds. This will be done by depositing the money in bank accounts that were opened for them. But the National Insurance Institute has not yet transferred these funds.” These are not the only difficulties faced by al-Wazir. The dreams he envisions for the Palestinian economy are grand—but managing an economy that has not yet gained independence is a difficult and complex task. The governor of the Monetary Authority cannot set the interest rate in the Palestinian economy, and does not have all the economic tools necessary to ensure price stability—the main task of the Bank of Israel, for example. Despite the fact that his powers are limited, al-Wazir’s hands are filled with work. Similarly to his counterpart Fischer, one of the achievements of the governor of the Monetary Authority is a significant reduction of the number of fees that the banks collect: from 194 fees to only 64. […] Another of al-Wazir’s plans is to increase the capital of the banks, and he plans to raise the required minimal capital from USD 50 million to USD 100 million—a measure that will require a merger of some of the banks operating in the PA. There are currently 18 banks operating in the West Bank and Gaza, which serve as representatives of Jordanian and Egyptian banks, along with the global HSBC bank and small Palestinian banks. In total, 200 bank branches operate there, and alWazir’s goal is to reach a number of 12 banks and to enlarge the number of branches. Al-Wazir is displeased by the image of the Palestinian banks in Israel, according to which they act as if they were in the Wild West, without proper supervision. The governor of the Monetary Authority firmly rejects this image, stating that the Palestinian banking system is part of the international banking system, and the PA has all the modern tools to supervise the banks. Thanks to the credit rating system, he adds, we were able to permit the banks to extend credit to residents of the villages and the poor population. The Palestinian banks were not harmed by the global financial crisis, although al-Wazir explains that they missed the opportunity to receive funds from the Persian Gulf states. Regardless of the international crisis, al-Wazir notes that a significant increase was recently recorded in the number of mortgages given by the banks, thanks to improvements made in this field. Among other things, a credit rating
system for private consumers was instituted, including rural areas. The result was that an increase of over USD 1 billion was recorded in the mortgages issued by Palestinian banks in the past year. The Monetary Authority governor emphasizes that he also has at his disposal an effective system working against money laundering, which has proven itself in the past years. He says, “this supervision system also operates in Gaza. There is a ‘Great Wall of China’ that separates between the Hamas government and the banks. The banks know that they have to act according to the laws preventing money laundering, and therefore they have to be cautious in accepting large deposits.” Q: How do you explain the fact that in the first half of 2010, the Gaza economy grew by 16% and the West Bank economy grew by 9%? “Until this year, Gaza was considered an economy with 0% growth and a lack of economic activity. But the steps taken to ease the economic blockade on Gaza made it possible to import goods and increase consumption. Despite this, the situation there continues to be poor. Things have to be put into perspective: After a war, there is a considerable increase in growth, but still, a growth forecast of 16% is too optimistic, in my opinion. “As for the growth in the West Bank, this represents different components, including the entry of funds from donor countries, an improvement in the economic situation and a greater expression of confidence in the economic system, an increase in granting mortgages and removing some of the IDF roadblocks on West Bank roads. Despite everything, it should be remembered that the GDP in the West Bank dropped in the years 1994-2010 due to the Israeli occupation. You have to understand that there is no economic development when one is under occupation.” Back to Top
UN will be judged on whether it upholds Palestinian rights
By Richard Falk, The Electronic Intifada, 5 November 2010 The following is an oral presentation made by Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, to the United Nations General Assembly on 20 October 2010: As this is my last report to the General Assembly in my term as Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 it seems appropriate to describe some of the special difficulties that have faced the mandate-holder in discharging the functions of the position. The most salient of these difficulties involves the non-cooperation of the Government of Israel. Israel has refused to fulfill its obligations as a member of the United Nations by its repeated failures to allow the special rapporteur to enter
Israel so as to visit periodically the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza ever since his expulsion on 14 December 2008 from Ben Gurion Airport when attempting to enter the country. This level of non-cooperation greatly exceeds that associated with the efforts of my predecessor, the distinguished South African international lawyer John Dugard who was allowed to enter Israel for purposes of the mandate, but denied access to Israeli political and military officials charged with administering the occupation. It should be pointed out that this record of non-cooperation was extended to such related important UN undertakings, including the "Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict," widely known as the Goldstone report, and more recently in relation to the fact-finding panel appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the allegations surrounding the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010. In each of these instances Israel reinforced this posture of non-cooperation by engaging in a politics of deflection, defaming the messenger and the auspices rather than contesting and responding to the findings and recommendations of the reports. The United Nations may also be faulted by its failure to respond more strongly to complaints arising from this Israeli pattern of noncooperation. It sets a most unfortunate precedent that has been coupled by the unwillingness to implement the recommendation made by my prior reports, as well as in relation to the Goldstone report. Widely-held impressions of Israeli impunity are thereby encouraged, as well as the lack of political will within the United Nations itself to take the obligations of international law seriously, and even those associated with its own Charter. This mandate has also been hampered to some extent, as well, by the Human Rights Council and by the Palestinian Authority. In my initial report to the Human Rights Council I proposed that the mandate be reformulated to allow for the consideration of Palestinian violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law, but this proposal was widely criticized and ignored. There were understandable concerns about creating the misleading impression that both parties, the occupier and the occupied, were equally responsible in a situation where one side was in control and the other being victimized. The realities of fact and law preclude an indulgence of such a false symmetry, and would only have had the public relations advantage of balancing the apparent scope of inquiry. Such an adjustment would have taken some account of criticisms suggesting that an impression of bias and unfairness was embedded in the mandate, but it was not to be due to strong opposition among the majority of governments represented in the Human Rights Council to making any modifications in the existing language of the mandate. Although in recent months I have enjoyed helpful cooperation from the Palestinian Authority by way of feedback and the supply of helpful information pertaining to the occupation, earlier in my tenure I felt considerable pressure from the Palestinian Authority on my independence as a special rapporteur, particularly
with respect to reporting accurately on the situation within Gaza. I was also disappointed by the failure of the Human Rights Council to do more to support my independence, despite my forwarding of a formal complaint to the Coordinating Committee. As with the issue of noncooperation, there is an unfortunate precedent set if the Human Rights Council is not vigilant in its protection of the independence of its mandate holders. My latest report itself focuses on several important developments pertaining to the occupation. It points out that due to the very acute issues associated with the persisting blockade of Gaza, there has been a tendency to overlook Israeli encroachments on the rights of the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It concludes that the cumulative effects of the settlements, the security wall and the extensive settler only road network has been to establish a new political reality -- converting the conditions of de jure occupation into a set of circumstances properly understood as de facto or creeping annexation. In a different manner, but with comparable results, the extension of Jewish presence in East Jerusalem by way of unlawful settlements, house demolitions, revocations of Palestinian residence rights, makes it increasingly difficult to envisage a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, another widely-assumed premise of the Quartet Roadmap and expectations associated with past and present intergovernmental negotiations. Such an assessment is important as it has been assumed that the occupation was temporary and reversible in conformity to Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied during the 1967 War and forming the political and ethical foundation for the widely-held assumption that Palestinian rights of self-determination would be satisfied by the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on presently occupied territories. International negotiations, including those presently paused, have proceeded on that assumption. However, if the conditions on the West Bank and East Jerusalem are substantially irreversible for political and practical reasons, it becomes misleading and diversionary to continue adherence to the two-state consensus. To the extent that this annexationist perception is accurate it lends credibility to the assertion that the Israeli occupation has many features of settler colonialism, and if so, runs directly contrary to the rights of all peoples to live free of alien rule, a position affirmed in common Article 1 of both UN human rights covenants and an elemental feature of international customary law. This view is furthered by the apartheid features of the occupation based on dual and discriminatory legal structure for the occupied Palestinians and the unlawfully present settler population, the restrictions on Palestinian mobility, permit and residence manipulations, and roads on which Palestinians are disallowed. To indicate these apartheid features is not intended to set up a comparison with apartheid South Africa, but to call attention to the anti-apartheid norm embodied in the Convention Against the Crime of Apartheid, and then incorporated into the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) that in Article 7 made apartheid a distinct crime against humanity. Because so much attention has been devoted to Gaza during the course of the last several years it is often assumed that material conditions in the West Bank are acceptable. Such an impression is strengthened by reports that economic growth in the West Bank reached 8.5 percent in 2009, mainly as a result of capital investment clustered around Ramallah. What is not sufficiently noticed is the actual living realities of the people. For instance, in a 2009 study by Save the Children, UK (STCUK) entitled "Life on the Edge" it was reported that in Area C, which is totally under Israeli military administration and comprises 60 percent of West Bank territory, the conditions of the more than 40,000 Palestinians are worse than in Gaza. According to STCUK 79 percent of the communities in Area C are unable to provide sufficient nutritious food to the Palestinian inhabitants as compared to 61 percent of communities in Gaza. STCUK concluded that the overall situation in Area C for all human necessities including health clinics, food, water and shelter had reached "a crisis point." Another important set of issues surrounds a surge of settler violence directed against the person and property of Palestinian living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including documented attacks on mosques and the burning, and even poisoning, of many olive trees on Palestinian land. Here, too, the response of the international community to this unlawful violence has been disappointing, as has been consistent failures of the Israeli occupying forces to fulfill their obligations to protect Palestinian and their property and to apprehend Israeli perpetrators. The situation is Gaza remains disturbing from the perspective of human rights and international law despite the welcome partial easing of the comprehensive blockade in the aftermath of the 31 May attack on the six-ship flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance. As the British Prime Minister observed on 27 July 2010 during a visit to Turkey, "Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp." According to the latest available information the entry of basic necessities to Gaza remains at one-third the level that existed prior to when the blockade was established in June 2007. Furthermore, the economy of Gaza had depended on the ability to export, and this has continued to be prohibited by Israeli policy, with the resulting destruction of more than 90 percent of Gazan entrepreneurial activity. The blockade is a form of collective punishment, prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and was declared unlawful by the Human Rights Council panel tasked with investigating the flotilla incident on the further reasoning that the suffering inflicted on the civilian population of Gaza was disproportionate to any Israeli security justification. The panel report also found, in conformity with the overwhelming consensus among informed opinion, that the attacks on the flotilla in international waters were contrary to international law and reliant on excessive force. It should be pointed out that the isolation of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza for several years, including the disallowance
of study in West Bank universities and normal social contact with family members, exerts enormous psychological pressure that is contrary to the obligations of the occupying power to ensure as much normalcy as possible for the occupied civilian population, subject only to legitimate security concerns. Finally, Mr. Chairman, it seems relevant to call attention to two of the recommendations in the report that arise from the legal analysis of the occupation. In particular, it is time, after 43 years, to acknowledge the intolerable burdens of prolonged occupation on a civilian population. The report urges a formal study of the human rights aspects of prolonged occupation under either the auspices of the Human Rights Council or of a respected nongovernmental organization such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Human Rights Watch. Such a study should pay particular attention to the plight of persons confined to refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighboring countries, as well as to overall human rights, which is an aggravated consequence of occupation. The other recommendation that seems responsive to recent developments is to encourage UN support for both efforts to send humanitarian assistance direct to the people of Gaza in defiance of the persistence of the unlawful blockade and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to respond to the failure of Israel to uphold its obligations under international law with respect to the Palestinian people. The BDS campaign represents a recognition that neither governments nor the United Nations are prepared or able to uphold Palestinian rights. In this respect, it should be recalled that the anti-apartheid campaign of the late 1980s was strongly endorsed by the United Nations. It is important, distinguished delegates, that urgent and tangible attention be devoted by this body to the ongoing ordeal of the Palestinian people whose fundamental rights are being daily violated in numerous and ways. This intolerable, immoral and unlawful occupation must be brought to an end, and there is no present prospect that traditional diplomacy will achieve this goal. The United Nations will be judged now and in the future by whether it contributes, at long last, to the long-deferred realization of the Palestinian right of selfdetermination, and thereby brings a just peace to both peoples. Back to Top
Palestinian territories: “Prolonged occupation, a new type of crime against humanity” – UN human rights expert
Statement of Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories on the International day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people: Geneva, 29 November 2010
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 wishes to express sympathy for the Palestinian people who continue after more than 43 years to live under Israeli occupation that daily violates many of their fundamental and inalienable human rights. Above all, the failure to resolve the underlying conflict between Palestine and Israel in such a manner as to realize after decades of delay the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is of urgent concern. It should be observed, also, that negotiation between the parties to the conflict needs to be guided by the implementation of several principles of international law if a settlement of the conflict is to achieve Palestinian self-determination. These principles, as set forth in the General Assembly Resolution 48/158, 20 December 1993, include the following: (1) withdrawal from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem; (2) resolving the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 181 and subsequent resolutions; (3) dismantling settlements established during the occupation; (4) fixing of secure and internationally recognized borders; (5) guaranteeing free access to sacred sites and religious buildings throughout historic Palestine. A peace process that does not heed these guidelines, with appropriate degrees of flexible implementation, cannot realize either self-determination for the Palestinian people or peace with security and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. The ongoing realities of the occupation have cumulatively altered the character of the Palestinian territories, especially due to the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements which are unlawful under the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits transfer of population from the occupying power to the occupied territory, that disallows the construction of a separation wall on occupied Palestinian territory held unlawful by a 14-1 vote of the judges comprising the International Court of Justice in 2004, that is an unlawful result of an Israeli-only road network in the West Bank, and of a proposed rail connection, linking large settlements to pre-1967 Israel, and that is a consequence of concerted and accelerated Israeli annexationist efforts in East Jerusalem by expanding existing settlements and interfering in a variety of coercive and cruel ways with the residence rights of Palestinians. Finally, on this day of solidarity it is important to ponder the special consequences of prolonged occupation and refugee status, which inflicts serious physical and mental harm on Palestinians living under occupation. International humanitarian law was developed under the assumption that occupation would be temporary and short-lived. The Palestinian experience suggests the need for a new protocol of international humanitarian law that addresses the distinctive situation of prolonged occupation and refugee status, imposing some outer time limit after which further occupation becomes a distinct violation of international law, and if not promptly corrected, constitutes a new type of crime against humanity. The United Nations and the international
community as a whole will be judged in the future by whether effective action is now taken to end the humanitarian catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people. In this respect, the United Nations, the governments and the peoples of the world will all be judged complicit to the extent that this persistent violation of fundamental human rights is endured without taking the necessary steps in a spirit of urgency and commitment to bring this abusive occupation to an end and achieve Palestinian self-determination in accordance with international law and the dictates of global justice. Back to Top
Israel blocking Palestinian officials from using main Jordan crossing
Only Palestinian President Abbas and Palestinian PM Fayyad will be allowed to use the Allenby Bridge; nevertheless, former PM Qureia attempts to cross. By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, 4 November 2010 Israeli authorities have decided to block any Palestinian official aside from the president and prime minister from crossing over the Allenby Bridge from the West Bank into Jordan. Coordinator of Government Activities in the West Bank Eitan Dangot announced the decision late Wednesday. The move seems geared specifically at two senior members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement – Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Dahlan – who have made aggressive remarks about Israel of late. Despite the warning, Qureia arrived at the crossing late Wednesday with plans of crossing into Jordan. Qureia is a former Palestinian prime minister and negotiator. Dangot's office described the move as an attempt to apply unified conditions to Palestinian officials, other than Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Back to Top
The Nobleman and the Horse
By Uri Avnery, 7 November 2010 "Half and half," Prime Minister Levi Eshkol is said to have answered, when asked whether he wanted tea or coffee.
This joke was intended to parody his hesitation on the eve of the SixDay War. (Though secret documents published this week show Eshkol in a very different light.) The American public now resembles the man in the joke. They sent to Washington a large group of Tea Party types, but the coffee drinkers in the White house are still in control. The Israeli leadership did not know how to treat the results of this election. Are they good for the Jews or bad for the Jews? The big winner of the American election is none other than Benjamin Netanyahu. His policy is similar to that of his political mentor, Yitzhak Shamir. It is based on the Jew who had to teach the Polish nobleman’s horse to read and to write within a year — otherwise the whole shtetel would be massacred. “A year is a long time,” he tried to soothe his weeping wife, “Within a year the horse or the nobleman will be dead.” Shamir’s game was to postpone everything, miss every opportunity to bring peace closer, gain time. When the pressure on Israel gets stronger, one has to evade, obstruct, cheat. Sooner or later the nobleman or the horse will die — and with some luck, both of them. The situation will change, the pressure will lessen, those who exert the pressure will disappear. This is Netanyahu’s strategy, too. To prevent any advance toward peace, since peace means the evacuation of settlements and the setting up of a Palestinian state. For two years now he has succeeded in thwarting every effort by Barack Obama to compel him to start a real peace process. He has defeated him at every turn, time after time. Now Obama has suffered a stinging setback at home, and a new chapter has begun. But the nobleman has not died, and neither has the horse. How will Obama treat Netanyahu now? In Jerusalem, there are two contradictory answers to this question. The first assessment is that there is nothing to fear anymore from Obama. He is in danger of becoming a one-term president. From now on, he will be compelled to devote all his time and energy to his effort to get re-elected. In such a situation, he cannot run the risk of losing the votes — and the money — of the Jews. In short: There is nothing to fear anymore. Obama can make gestures toward the Palestinians and even flex his muscles, but in any real test with Netanyahu and AIPAC he will be the first to blink. The contrary assessment is much less rosy for Netanyahu. No doubt, Obama is full of fury against Netanyahu, and this fury may by now have turned into real loathing. But he is a man who does not show negative emotions. He will continue to smile at Netanyahu. But an enemy in the White house is a dangerous enemy, and a wounded enemy is even more dangerous. Wounded or not, an American president is still the most powerful person in the world. True, the coming presidential election is already casting a long shadow over Washington. But the beginning of the serious election campaign is
still a year off, and this year may be an opportunity for a determined American peace initiative. The president may want to show his voters an impressive achievement in the international arena, and a historic peace agreement between Israel and Palestine would certainly constitute such an achievement. And even if this does not come about, a more serious danger for Netanyahu may be lurking after November 2012. Obama may be reelected. In that case, he may become a very dangerous adversary indeed. Since he will not be allowed to stand again, he will be immune to the pressure of the Israel lobby. He will be thinking about his place in history. And undoubtedly, making peace between Israel and Palestine would be a historic achievement. Moreover, the Tea Party may disappear as quickly as it appeared. This happens in the US every few decades: A wave of madness sweeps over the country like a tsunami and disappears as if it had never been. As to the Congress: As far as Israel is concerned, there is no change. The senators and congressmen dance to the tune of the Israel lobby, and in this respect there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans. It “crosses party lines”, as one of the leaders of the lobby recently boasted. In short, according to this assessment the clash between Obama and Netanyahu is inevitable. It will come to a head within two or three years, maximum. The nobleman will not die, nor will the horse. The question is whether the Jew will survive. This personal clash hides a far deeper, far more fundamental one. There is a lot of blabber about the partnership of the two countries. About the joint myths of pioneers, fight against the natives, conquest of a new homeland, a nation of immigrants. About “joint values”. It all reminds me of Shimon Peres’ blabbering in the 1950s about the “joint values” that bound France to Israel. The joint values evaporated the moment France made peace with the Algerian rebels. The French stance changed overnight. As Charles de Gaulle said: “France has no friends, France has only interests.” The United States of America, too, has interests, and their friendships, too, are temporary. Both in the State Department and in the Pentagon, the experts know that the present Israeli policy is contrary to the American national interest. This knowledge finds expression in a growing number of books by former senior officials and academics, as well as in the speeches of high-ranking military officers. Lately, it also underlay an extremely unusual editorial in the New York Times, after the editors visited this country. And this in a paper anti-Semites call the Jew York Times! The US is involved in two expensive wars in Muslim countries — Iraq and Afghanistan — and in a severe crisis with a third Muslim country — Iran. All over the “extended Middle East”, its allies are declining, while its opponents are in the ascendancy.
The opponents are a mixed lot. There is not much all these have in common, except their opposition to the status quo in the region. Almost all the experts believe that the unlimited American support for Israel is the main cause for the Islamic anti-American wave. Most of them do not speak about this openly, because fear of the Israeli lobby pervades the entire American political establishment. But even the most terrifying lobby cannot withstand, in the long run, the inexorable logic of national interests. There is something crazy in this situation: Our government is rushing light-heartedly toward a clash with the only remaining ally we have in the world. No realistic alternative can be detected on the horizon. This is, by itself, an ominous fact, because the American Empire is in a slow but continuing decline in all areas — economic, political, military and cultural. This is a protracted process that will take many years, but Israel should be positioning itself to accommodate the rise of new centers of power. The Netanyahu government is doing the exact opposite: It is challenging the entire world and acting consistently to isolate Israel. Unlike the story about the Jew, the nobleman and the horse — this is not a joke. Back to Top
Survey: 66% of Palestinians support peace negotiations
By Michael Omer-Man, The Jerusalem Post, 12 November 2010 85% replied that they would be unsupportive of a peace deal in which compromises were made on key Palestinian issues such as the right of return, J'lem. A survey of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip showed that a 66% majority of Palestinians support peace negotiations, with an even larger majority favoring direct talks, according to a report released by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) this week. The survey, conducted between October 20-22, covered Palestinian attitudes towards the peace process and prospects for peace, but also revealed rarely-seen numbers regarding popular support for Hamas in Gaza, confidence in the Palestinian Authority and perceptions of corruption under PA and Hamas rule. RELATED: Majority of Palestinians oppose return to direct talks Palestinians oppose settlement labor ban Survey: Palestinians unsure Obama can secure peace While the data from the survey showed that 66% of Palestinians would support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in
negotiations on final status issues, a whopping 85% replied that they would be unsupportive of a peace deal in which compromises were made on key Palestinian issues such as the right of return, Jerusalem, borders and settlements. However, a majority of respondents said that they considered a two-state solution to be the most realistic/achievable scenario. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed rated their attitudes toward a two-state solution to the conflict, ranging from "essential" to "tolerable." One of the questions posed was directly related to the current obstacles facing the peace process: If any, what conditions must exist for Abbas to engage in direct negotiations with Israel? the result was that only 24% of respondents indicated a renewed settlement freeze was necessary for talks to take place. Responding to the poll's results that 45% of respondents declared a one-state solution is "unacceptable," Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein said the results make it clear that "the vast majority of Palestinians do not accept Israel's existence under any circumstances," in a press release on Friday." He continued, "Even the so-called 'one state solution' is not at all supported if it requires equal rights and equal power for Jews." Klein stated that the poll showed, "that the bulk of Palestinians want an Arab-dominated Palestinian state on all the territory of Israel, not a peaceful polity of their own alongside Israel." However, the AWRAD researchers who conducted the poll wrote in their report that a twostate peace settlement "was identified as the most desirable and most realistic solution." The report also claimed that their results confirm a Palestinian, "in-principle commitment" to peace, saying that hesitance to support the process stems from disappointment in its ability to deliver results. Of all of the results, the differences in responses from residents of the West Bank and those from the Gaza Strip were especially telling. Gazans consistently gave their local governing bodies negative ratings. Surprisingly, when asked who they would vote for if Palestinian elections were held today, 47% of respondents from Gaza said they would vote for Fatah with only 12% supporting Hamas. The results showed stronger support for Fatah in the Strip than in the West Bank; only 38% of those surveyed in the latter region expressed support for the party. The same trend showed even stronger support for Mahmoud Abbas in hypothetical presidential elections. When asked which faction they trust most, the respondents overwhelmingly stated "Fatah," with only 13% placing their trust in Hamas. Another of the differences between Gazans and West Bank residents were their attitudes towards direct negotiations. Eighty-one percent of Gazans said they support direct negotiations whereas only 68% of West Bank residents responded positively. However, Gazans were more likely to support violence as a form of resistance.
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U.S. taxpayers are paying for Israel's West Bank occupation
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz 16 November 2010 According to a June 2010 fact sheet on the USAID Internet site, last year American taxpayers funded the paving of 63 kilometers of asphalt roads in the West Bank. Travelers along the "original" West Bank roads, the ones enabling drivers to bypass Palestinian villages, can see signs declaring "USAID from the American People." The roads are one of the initiatives of the United States Agency for International Development for building infrastructure in underdeveloped countries. Israel has already proudly left the club of developing countries and is not among the clients of USAID. Nevertheless, it appears the Smith family of Illinois is making the occupation a little less expensive for the Cohen family of Petah Tikva. According to a June 2010 fact sheet on the USAID Internet site, last year American taxpayers funded the paving of 63 kilometers of asphalt roads in the West Bank. It also says completion of a road in the southern part of the West Bank dramatically increased the amount of trade between Dahriya and Beer Sheva. What the site doesn't say is that a significant segment of the road goes through Area C - the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli civilian and military control and responsibility under the interim agreement of 1995 (the second Oslo agreement ). The agreement states: "Territorial jurisdiction includes land (and ) subsoil." This is not the only occupation-perpetuating road funded by American money. Dror Etkes, an expert on the settlements, noticed a few days ago USAID workers energetically laying asphalt on two roads in the Samaria region (northern West Bank ) that crosses Area C. Israelis haven't been traveling these roads for years now because the taxpayer (in this case, the Israeli taxpayer ) has already paved separate, wide, modern roads for them. Etkes wondered how it is possible that the Obama administration, which is vociferously opposed to the continuation of the status quo in the West Bank, continues to subsidize the road for Israel. "If the state of Israel is insisting on continuing to hold on and de facto annex the West Bank," he says, "it should also be allocating the money needed to take care of the infrastructure." I asked an American official why the administration isn't demanding of Israel that it fulfill its obligations and pay the price of the occupation out of its own pocket.
"Who told you we aren't demanding that?" replied the official. "We are also demanding a construction freeze in the settlements and you know at least as well as anyone else what is happening on the ground." It is worth mentioning that the when the Palestinians sought permission to pave a short road in Area C to enable access to the planned town of Rawabi, Israel pulled out the Oslo accord and kicked them down the stairs. The USAID tractors don't have access to the area either. However, when it suits his interest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a stickler for Oslo. A few days ago he announced that unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state would be considered a violation of the agreement. Tomorrow, incidentally, will mark the eighth anniversary of Foreign Minister Netanyahu's statement on Israel radio that "all the Oslo agreements are null and void." A USAID spokeswoman responded that the program's infrastructure projects "respond to the needs of the Palestinian people and are implemented in response to requests from the Palestinian Authority. Many of the USAID funded projects cross from one area to another in accordance with the needs of the Palestinian communities and the specific project. There are roads and water pipelines that cross through Area C or are adjacent to Area C as designs require and agreements with Civil Authorities allow." No way home The Oslo agreement, which is so close to Netanyahu's heart, also states that both sides see "the West Bank and Gaza Strip territory as a single territorial unit." Nevertheless, since the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel has cut off almost entirely the connection between these two areas. Security authorities make a point of expelling Gazans from the West Bank and they do not allow residents of Gaza to reunite with their families in the West Bank. A year ago, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, the State Prosecutor's Office said the policy does not apply to individuals who took up residence in the West Bank before the year 2000 and "about whom there exists no negative security material." Be that as it may, during this past year a number of Palestinians have been expelled from the West Bank even though they arrived their prior to the cut-off date, and had no "negative security material" against them. Several have applied to Hamoked for help. One of them, M.N., 29, went to Gaza in 2004 to participate in the mourning for his father. Since then he has been stuck and is in hiding from Hamas, which has issued an arrest warrant for him. The coordinator of permits at the Coordination and Liaison Office in the Israel Defense Forces has recommended that M.N.'s request to return
to the West Bank be granted. In the opinion appended to the recommendation, the aforementioned response by the prosecutor to the High Court of Justice is cited. But the High Court of Justice is one thing and the reality is another. The Liaison Office's legal adviser rejected the recommendation and wrote that it is necessary "to be strict about consistency, paying attention to the fact that approving the request might be a precedent for approving similar requests." In another case handled by Hamoked, the adviser wrote that G.J. entered the West Bank in 2000 and should not be expelled under the guidelines. So why has G.J. been sent to Gaza and not allowed back in the West Bank? "The aforementioned is a bachelor and he has no family connection in Judea and Samaria," was the response. Truly an excellent reason. The time has come for him to find a bride in Ramallah and marry. Back to Top
The endgame for the peace process
Future historians will argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died. Robert Grenier, Al Jazeera 21 November 2010 Future historians will no doubt argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died, when the last glimmer of hope for a two-state solution was irrevocably extinguished. When all is said and done, and the forensics have been completed, I am sure they will conclude that the last realistic prospect for an agreement expired quite some time before now, even if all the players do not quite realise it yet: anger and denial are always the first stages in the grieving process; acceptance of reality only comes later. There are growing signs, however, that the realisation is beginning to dawn in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and, most strikingly, Washington, that the peace process, as currently conceived, may finally be dead. Washington: hoping for a miracle? We should begin in Washington, in the aftermath of the seven-hour marathon meeting between Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in New York last week. To view the apparent results of that meeting in context, one would have to recount the gargantuan structure of US military, intelligence, economic and diplomatic support to Israel, painstakingly constructed over many decades, for which there would not be space to describe it all here - if indeed one had the knowledge to do so. The edifice is so extensive, including direct military aid, weapons transfers, access to US emergency weapons stocks, pre-positioning of
US military materiel in Israel, US investments in Israeli technology development, US support for Israel's foreign weapons sales, weapons co-production agreements, all sorts of loan guarantees, assistance for settlement of immigrants in Israel - the list goes on - that literally no single entity in Washington is aware of it all. In September, the US Congressional Research Service made a noteworthy attempt to capture it, but was probably only partly successful, having no access, for example, to classified US assistance. The annual value of all this is literally incalculable, and well in excess of the $3bn per year usually cited, to say nothing of critical US diplomatic support in the UN and elsewhere. Given all this, confronted with Israel's refusal to extend its partial moratorium on new settlement construction in the Occupied Territories, and with anything more than verbal pressure on Israel literally unthinkable, the US was hard-pressed to come up with additional inducements which might extend the peace process even a little further. Into the breach, as he has done so many times before, stepped the redoubtable Dennis Ross. Ross, in discussions with an Israeli counterpart, compiled an extensive list of motivators whose length we do not yet know, but which was verbally agreed between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York, and which will be presented in writing for possible approval by the Israeli cabinet. We are told it includes a US commitment to block any Palestinian-led effort to win unilateral UN recognition of a Palestinian state; US obstruction of efforts either to revive the Goldstone Report at the UN, or to seek formal UN condemnation of Israel for the deadly Mavi Marmara incident; an ongoing US commitment to defeat any UN resolutions aimed at raising Israel's unacknowledged nuclear weapons programme before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); vigorous US diplomatic efforts to counter all attempts to "delegitimise" Israel in various world fora; and, most importantly, increasing efforts to further ratchet international sanctions on both Iran and Syria concerning their respective nuclear and proliferation efforts. To this the US is adding a commitment to supply Israel with some 20 ultra-modern F-35 aircraft worth $3bn - so new they have not yet entered the US inventory - as well as a mysterious "comprehensive security agreement," whose details have not been revealed, but which may include unilateral US endorsement of Israeli troop deployments in the Jordan Valley, in the event of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. And what is Israel being asked in return? Consider this carefully: in return for the above written guarantees, Israel will consider agreement to a brief, one-time-only 90-day extension of the partial settlement moratorium, which excludes not only East Jerusalem, but also the cordon sanitaire of settlements which Israel has carefully constructed to ring the city and deny Palestinian access to it, after which the US
agrees, in writing, never again to request an Israeli settlement moratorium. After witnessing US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians for over 30 years, I had thought I was beyond shock. This development, however, is breathtaking. In effect, along with a whole string of additional commitments, including some potentially far-reaching security guarantees which it is apparently afraid to reveal publicly, the Obama administration is willing to permanently cast aside a policy of some 40 years' duration, under which the US has at least nominally labelled Israeli settlements on occupied territory as "obstacles to peace,". All this in return for a highly conditional settlement pause which will permit Netanyahu to pocket what the US has given him, simply wait three months without making any good-faith effort at compromise, and know in the end that Israel will never again have to suffer the US' annoying complaints about illegal settlements. Leave aside the fact that as of this writing, the Israeli cabinet may yet reject this agreement - which seems even more breathtaking, until one stops to consider that virtually everything the Americans have offered the Israelis they could easily obtain in due course without the moratorium. No, what is telling here is that the American attempt to win this agreement, lopsided as it is, is an act of sheer desperation. What gives rise to the desperation, whether it is fear of political embarrassment at a high-profile diplomatic failure or genuine concern for US security interests in the region, I cannot say. It seems crystal clear, however, that the administration sees the next three months as a last chance. Their stated hope is that if they can get the parties to the table for this brief additional period, during which they focus solely on reaching agreement on borders, success in this endeavour will obviate concerns about settlements and give both sides sufficient stake in an outcome that they will not abandon the effort. No one familiar with the substance of the process believes agreement on borders can be reached in 90 days on the merits; consider additionally that negotiators will be attempting to reach such a pact without reference to Jerusalem, and seeking compromise on territory without recourse to off-setting concessions on other issues, and success becomes virtually impossible to contemplate. The Obama administration is coming under heavy criticism for having no plan which extends beyond the 90 days, if they can get them. There is no plan for a 91st day because there is unlikely to be one. The Obama policy, absurd as it seems, is to somehow extend the peace process marginally, and hope for a miracle. The demise of that hope carries with it the clear and present danger that residual aspirations for a two-state solution will shortly be extinguished with it. Tel Aviv: buyer's remorse? Meanwhile, in Israel, we are seeing something akin to buyer's remorse. On the cusp of finally achieving the goal for which Likud has aimed since its founding in 1973 - that is, an end to the threat of territorial
compromise which would truncate the Zionist project in Palestine - the Israeli military and intelligence communities, which will have to deal with the consequences of a permanently failed peace process and the dissolution of responsible Palestinian governance in the West Bank which could well follow, are actively voicing their concerns. Even as ardent a Likudnik as Dan Meridor has recently said to Haaretz: "I've reached the painful conclusion that keeping all the territory means a binational state that will endanger the Zionist enterprise. If we have to give up the Jewish and democratic character (of the state) - I prefer to give up some of the territory." The time for such second thoughts has passed, however. Having succeeded in creating irrevocable facts on the ground, settlements which no conceivable Israeli government could remove even if it wanted to, the territory which Meridor and company would conceivably part with now will not be enough to avoid the fate which they fear in future: the progressive delegitimation of the current state, and the eventual rise of a binational state in its place. Ramallah: terminally gloomy? The terminal gloom among the tired leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is palpable. They will not allow themselves to be openly complicit in a negotiated capitulation to Israel, and yet they cannot bring themselves to irrevocably abandon the process either. The recent, relative success of Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, in bringing some measure of security and good governance to the West Bank notwithstanding, they know their legitimacy is tied to the hope of their people for a just peace - a peace they also know, in their hearts, they cannot deliver. They look to the Americans in hope of salvation, while the Americans can only hope, impotently, for the same. Both Israelis and Palestinians know that the relative calm prevailing in the West Bank and Gaza cannot last indefinitely absent some prospect for an end to Israeli occupation of the former. No one can see the way to a near-term solution, and yet neither does anyone yet have the courage to suggest an alternative future. That will be the task of a new and probably distant generation of Israelis and Palestinians. Back to Top
Referendum bill uses public as peace deal rubber stamp
Knesset approves bill mandating referendum before decision to withdraw from Israeli territory, but does not enable appeal against decision to reject a peace agreement. By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 25 November 2010
The bill mandating a referendum before any decision to withdraw from sovereign Israeli territory enables the public to approve an accepted peace agreement, but does not enable the public to appeal the Knesset's decision to reject an agreement which includes withdrawing from territories. According to the bill, which was approved by the Knesset on Sunday with a majority of 65 MKs, a regular majority, (for example of seven in favor and six against), is enough to terminate a peace agreement that was approved by the government, if the agreement entails a territorial withdrawal from East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or any other land within the Green Line. Clause 7a (1) of the bill states that "the question posed before the voter in a referendum will be: Are you for or against the agreement between Israel and (the name of the country) that the knesset approved on (the date of the Knesset approval)?" The emphasis is on the words "that the Knesset approved." Clause 7b (2) reiterates the wording of the question that will be presented in the referendum, that includes the words "that the Knesset approved," from which stems that the referendum will not be carried out if the Knesset rejects the agreement. It states that "if the government brings the decision before the Knesset, as stated in clause 1a (b), the voter in the referendum will be presented with a question: "are you for or against the government's decision number (the number of the decision) that the Knesset approved on (the date of the Knesset approval)?" The wording of the question contradicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that the referendum "enables to pass with strong public support an agreement that answers the national interests of Israel." In fact, the referendum turns the public into an appeals court for its constituent's decisions, even in the case that there are a majority of 79 votes – to approve a future peace agreement with Palestinians and the Syrians. The law does not enable the public to grant its support for an agreement which the majority believes answers Israel's national interest, and was previously blocked by some sort of majority in the Knesset. Back to Top
Israel can't put occupation up for immoral referendum
Israeli democracy at its best: The entire people will decide on the next peace arrangement, but not on the question of settlements and annexation, and not on the question of wars By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 28 November 2010
Israeli democracy at its best: The entire people will decide on the next peace arrangement, but not on the question of settlements and annexation, and not on the question of wars. Israeli trickery at its best: Legislators pass laws relating to the day an arrangement is forged whose point is to defer that day's arrival for as long as possible. And Israeli morality at its best: A manifestly immoral question is formulated for a referendum, and insult is added to injury because only we Israelis, members of the chosen people, will decide on the fate of another people which has for generations lived under occupation, and we dare to call all this tomfoolery democracy. In fact, this is Israeli chutzpah at its worst. The question to be addressed in a referendum is immoral. The continuation of the occupation is now subject to a ballot measure - as though such a question can conceivably be asked. Voters will be asked who is in favor of continued occupation, and who is against it. Exactly as an agreement over stolen property forged in the criminal underworld would never be acceptable in a courtroom, so too is such a question about continuing an occupation entirely untenable. Similarly, the thought that only we will decide whether Syrian residents of the Golan Heights and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will receive the right of self determination and basic liberties is utterly preposterous, and it bears witness to the extent to which values of morality and justice have become warped and distorted in this country. The basic fact has long been forgotten, as though it never existed: At issue here is an illegitimate conquest that is not recognized by any state in the world. Under such circumstances, Israelis do not have the right to discuss the future of this occupation. This elementary fact is perceived here as delusion because everything pertaining to international law is dismissed as delusion or anti-Semitism. If a referendum is to be carried out, it should relate to the sole relevant question: one state or two? These two legitimate possibilities should be on the referendum agenda: The granting of full civil liberties to the conquered population, or the end of the occupation. Do you really want a referendum? If so, it can pertain solely to this issue. Do you want democracy? If so, everyone needs to be asked, including Palestinians. The problem is that these thoughts are light years away from Israeli thinking; they are considered out of bounds, and we have built our own imaginary world in which we are the only actors. The referendum supported by Benjamin Netanyahu and his government has been concocted for the sole purpose of throwing up more obstacles to block a peace arrangement, and to relieve a cowardly leadership of its duties. The present government and its like-minded predecessors never staged referenda about settlement construction, which is a step no less
fateful than territorial withdrawal; nor did they hold referenda about the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem or the cessation of wars. None of these moves warranted referenda; but for current decisions the people's consent is suddenly needed, apparently out of the hope that the people will block any concessions. Meanwhile there is neither a peace arrangement nor a referendum, and the damage is mounting. On the other hand, the world is watching how Israel piles up ever increasing obstacles and difficulties, in order to preempt any peace agreement. And why shouldn't there be a referendum under any circumstance even a scenario by which the Knesset rejects a proposed arrangement? The answer is that such a "referendum in any event" arrangement would encourage and promote the forging of an agreement. Here's the real question: What the hell do you all want, and where are we headed? Settlements will keep being built, the occupation will deepen and consolidate - so what? How many Israelis could even give an answer to the question: What do you want to be here in another decade? In two decades? What do you think will hold here; will the status quo continue? Does the prime minister have an answer to such questions? Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat recently described the situation this way: "I've met Israeli prime ministers who worried about Israeli security in another 300 years, and somehow I understood that, but a prime minister whose only worry is what is to be broadcast on the next news program is something I've never imagined." Even before the next news broadcast, the time should come for questions and referenda. Such a moment actually came long ago. But let's at long last summon the courage and ask ourselves the serious, genuine questions. Back to Top
U.S.-Israel relations: Netanyahu’s self-made problem
Netanyahu’s habit of being economical with the truth was never more evident than in the building-freeze “deal”. By Yossi Gurvitz, 27 November 2010 Binyamin Netanyahu has a, shall we say, complex relationship with reality. For starters, he is given to bouts of often embarrassing fantasy, trying to attach himself to famous events. In the past, speaking to supporters of the assassinated racist Rehav’am Zeevi, he said Zeevi was one of the most important ministers of his cabinet, who used to give him private advice; problem was, Zeevi never served in Netanyahu’s cabinet. In a bizarre outburst in 2005, he claimed that Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, asked him to become Finance Minister, but
that he rejected the offer out of patriotic feelings. The likelihood of such an offer actually being made is vanishingly small. In one of his weirdest fantasies, Netanyahu placed himself in Ariel Sharon’s command APC during the Yom Kippur War. Everyone involved agrees (Hebrew) no such thing has ever happened, and the timing of the fantasy – Sharon’s coma – seems to indicate Netanyahu was trying to simply bask in Sharon’s reflected glory. A few weeks back, during the miners’ crisis in Chile, Netanyahu’s bureau published an official communiqué, saying that Netanyahu predicted the disaster in his 1987 book on terrorism. Needless to say, he did nothing of the sort. He merely wrote that a mining disaster “may capture the attention of a whole nation for a long while”. Which, even in 1987, did not require occult powers of prophecy. Aside from flights of fancy, the man is given to quick and facile lies. Veteran parliamentarian Yossi Sarid once remarked how, when arguing about the pronunciation of an Hebrew word, Netanyahu convinced him he was right because, Netanyahu said, he happened to look the word up in the dictionary the day before. Returning home, Sarid took out his dictionary. Needless to say, Netanyahu was lying. So, when are looking at the strange events of the past two weeks, it would be helpful to keep in mind this side of Netanyahu. As everyone would recall, Netanyahu came home in triumph, saying that after a meeting of seven hours with Secretary of State Clinton, he managed to get the following deal. He would arrange for a settlement freeze for three months, in return for which he will receive the following: A. The US would use its veto to prevent anti-Israeli resolutions in the UN. B. Israel would receive 20 F-35 fighters as a present from the US. C. The Americans will not insist on freezing building in Jerusalem, and will not ask for any more freezing. Most Israeli commentators said at the time that this deal is too good to be true. And they were right. That was possibly the biggest whopper Netanyahu sold the Israeli public, which is saying something. I mean, we’re talking about a man who persuaded a large segment of the population whom he drove into penury that he was an excellent finance minister. Soon after Netanyahu landed, the package started to unravel. That epic 7-hours meeting with Clinton, reminiscent of those endless diplomatic meetings with Assad senior? Didn’t happen. They took a long break, long enough for Netanyahu to take his son to an Italian restaurant. Suspiciously enough, Netanyahu demanded there would be no protocol of the meeting. Those F-35s fighters? Israel will get them, but it’ll have to pay for ‘em. That veto? Israel always had it. And anyway, there’s no veto in the General Assembly, only in the Security Council. As for the status of Jerusalem, a “senior American official” said bluntly that when
Netanyahu says the US agreed that East Jerusalem would be exempt from building freeze, he “was not telling the truth” (Hebrew). So, to sum up, what Netanyahu managed to do during his meeting with Clinton was take things which Israel used to take for granted – fighter planes, the American veto and make them conditional on a settlement freeze. We now learn his expert maneuvers managed to place a long term strategic agreement with the US at risk. He then dressed up this diplomatic fiasco as a great victory, knowing the Israeli media will, as usual, drink unquestioningly from his lap. For the past two weeks, Netanyahu has been trying to get the Administration to provide him with those assurances in writings. If what he said was true, this should have taken minutes. Since he lied, it isn’t. His new outburst against the Palestinians, in the Western Wall affair, should be seen in this light: an attempt to find an excuse to extricate himself from a blind alley into which he drove himself. But, even assuming he does, the Obama administration will be well within its right to say that Netanyahu has forfeited US military aid and the veto. Advantage: Obama. Back to Top
Defense analyst on the looming US-Israel ’security catastrophe’
By Didi Remez, 26 November 2010 Read this one in full. Alex Fishman is Yediot’s veteran defense analyst. Besides providing a detailed post-mortem of the latest fiasco in US-Israeli diplomacy, he makes a very blunt allegation: Netanyahu is selling out the IDF’s selfdefined strategic interests and the good will of the US administration in order to buy political time. In the economic jargon that Netanyahu loves to use, this would be called paying for recurrent expenditures with the proceeds from the sale of national assets. Fishman concludes with a warning: And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe. No (more) free gifts Column, Alex Fishman, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, November 26 2010 People in the Ministry of Defense are worried. The National Security Council, headed by Uzi Arad, department officials were informed, is
quietly preparing a position paper on a uniquely sensitive subject: an Israeli proposal for a strategic defense alliance with the United States. It turns out that the IDF is really not interested in the deal, which would mean among other things significant limitations on Israel’s independent ability to act against threats near and far. But this is not the only reason that department officials are suspicious of Arad’s secret document. For many months, together with the Americans, they have been crafting a basket of security guarantees for the coming 20 years, to the tune of USD 20 billion. All of a sudden unnecessary, discordant plans are being shoved at them — coming from the direction of the prime minister —that talk about a defense alliance that does not link up with any clear and consistent policy which also has some sort of goal at the end. The strange story about the alliance that is being cooked up in the Prime Minister’s Bureau is reminiscent of another strange story: the strange connection between the deal for F-35 aircraft that is scheduled to come to fruition in 2017 (!) and Israel’s agreement to freeze building in the territories for another three months. What possible connection is there between the defense deal, which is part of America’s traditional commitment to retaining Israel’s military superiority, and the building freeze? That’s it, there is no connection. Both of these strange stories have one common denominator. The person behind them knows full well that creating a defense alliance would require a very problematic and complicated political process in the United States, including approval by both houses of Congress, and the chances of such a proposal ever being actualized are not terribly high. Just like he knows that President Obama’s commitment to give Israel a present of 20 planes, at a cost of more than USD 2 billion on top of Israel’s annual aid package, is essentially impossible in today’s economic climate. The president will have to explain to his constituents exactly why he is distributing presents abroad at a time when factories are closing in Detroit. It’s almost an invitation for political suicide. And the fellow who prepared this trap for him — the prime minister of Israel — knew exactly what he was doing. Netanyahu is doing everything he can to buy time, to postpone the end and to get out of making a decision about the future of the process with the Palestinians. Price of scorn So Netanyahu promised the public that if there are no gifts — there will be no negotiations; the Americans don’t know what gifts he’s talking about, and now Israelis are racking their brains trying to figure out how to word a statement that will get the prime minister out of the trap he got himself into. So they are talking about the possibility that the Americans will give a grant that will cover part of the cost of 20 aircraft, with the rest to come out of Israel’s foreign aid package. In any event we are only talking about 2017. In the meantime, IsraelPalestinian talks are frozen.
How did Israel get itself into this dangerous jam, which links the basic American commitment to Israel’s security to negotiations with the Palestinians? It turns out that eight months ago, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright, met with Director of the IDF Planning Branch Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. Around the same time, senior IDF officials visited the Pentagon. The goal of the intensive meetings was to map out Israel’s security needs and to create a joint package that would answer the threats Israel is likely to face in the coming 20 years. The deal is essentially done for the long term, and it will eventually replace another program of foreign aid to Israel, to the tune of USD 30 billion, that is due to expire in 2017. In short: one plan to replace another and American commitments to Israel are secure at least until 2030. Efforts to create the current package began at the end of the Bush Administration, when President Bush instructed his National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, to begin negotiations with Israeli army officials about Israel’s security needs. The goal was two-fold: one, to make good on America’s basic commitments to Israel’s security. Two, to give expression to a world view that said then, as it does now, that a secure Israel is a generous Israel: by ensuring Israeli security, Israel will cooperate with American political efforts in the Middle East. Here, of course, we were a little bit dismissive of Jones. They sent a colonel to meet with him, a four-star general. They were sure Jones was coming to show just how overstated our threat assessment was, what cry babies we are and how we demand equipment and money far in excess of what we really need. In short: Jones came to screw us. Eventually Jones became Obama’s national security advisor and here, after the hazing he underwent, they still cannot figure out why he isn’t making an effort to be nice. It took several months until we understood that he was serious and started to cooperate with him. And eventually, as Obama was poised to take office, he produced a terrific paper in which he set out the fundamental security problems facing Israel and the possible solutions. The Jones document spoke of three circles of threat: the circle of terrorism, the circle of nearby enemy nations and the third, outer circle of strategic threats, including the question of Iran and the nuclear bomb. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu adopted the paper with all his heart, and every time he traveled to the United States he quoted from it. The three circles of threat became Israel’s basic security assessment to the administration. These efforts between the Pentagon and the Defense Ministry to implement this approach continued unabated even during the darkest hours between the prime minister and the White House. The results of
these efforts can be seen today: information sharing with the Americans about the Iranian threat, for example, is broader and deeper than it has ever been. The Americans have also expanded the amount of military equipment they store in Israel from $800 million to $1.2 billion, the F-35 deal is on the way and Israel got weapons the US previously resisted giving. It’s not that there are no disagreements between Israel and the United States about the levels of threat, but the dialogue continued as long as and is moving towards actualization that would ring the basket of American commitments to Israel’s security for the coming 20 years. Last July Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to patch things up with President Obama and mentioned the three circles. But in the same breath Netanyahu surprised Obama, saying if you give me 20 years of security guarantees for these three circles, you’ll be surprised at the risks I’ll take. I’ll surprise all the skeptics and move towards negotiations. Obama shook his hand: We’ve got a deal. I’ll sew up the security issues, and you sew up the political and diplomatic ones. The president wouldn’t give details. When you ask his aides today why he didn’t ask Netanyahu at the time some basic questions—what sort of arrangement do you see with the Palestinians, what’s your stance on Jerusalem, what about Palestinian refugees—they answer: Obama made a deal. From his perspective if it doesn’t come to fruition, Netanyahu will pay in spades. Freeze equals reward After the visit, the president instructed aides to speed up work on the basket of guarantees. The head and deputy head of America’s National Security Council instructed the various bodies involved with the matter to push forward the matter of Israeli security. Slowly, an approach started to emerge defining Israel’s security threats and the requisite answers. Israeli and American teams had difficulty reaching agreement on certain issues. Israel’s political echelon couldn’t give answers about fundamental questions like Israel’s exact borders, from which it would be possible to carve out an answer to the security threat. The IDF and ministry of defense were fully prepared to write up a long shopping list of military equipment to buy with the USD 20 billion, starting with a variety of multi-level anti-ballistic interception systems, warning and intelligence systems, and ending with precise ammunition that Israel’s never had before and deep intelligence agreements. In short: In 20 years the IDF would improve its equipment on all fronts. The list also included one point that dealt with the addition of more F35 planes, with a goal of eventually reaching three stealth planes. In September Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to Washington to begin actualizing the deal Netanyahu signed with Obama: How to revive the political process after the 10-month freeze during which nothing happened and the Palestinians wouldn’t negotiate. Just before
leaving, in a conversation with the prime minister, Netanyahu floated the idea past Barak to demand another 20 planes in exchange for Israel’s agreement to return to the negotiating table. Something attractive that would make it possible to convince the cabinet ministers and the Israeli public. During that visit Barak and Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis Ross traded drafts of an agreement, and the issue of additional planes was also brought up. The Americans weren’t shocked, but nothing was written into the agreement because the president could not have agreed to such a gift on the eve of Congressional elections. At the end of the day they made a deal: Israel would extend the settlement construction freeze for three additional months and the American government would commit itself to continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for many years to come. The Americans also promised this would be the final building freeze, that it would not include Jerusalem, and an American promise to veto any Palestinian attempt to gain recognition for statehood at the UN Security Council. But then came the “but.” The last section of the agreement, that 20year security deal, suddenly became conditional: it would come to fruition only after Israel reaches a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Rather, the connection between political negotiations and Israel’s upgraded military ability, it is hard to forget, Netanyahu himself created at that fateful meeting in July, at which he promised Obama he would surprise him on the diplomatic font. Barak returned to Israel with a final draft, agreed upon by the Americans. Now the prime minister and the Security Cabinet had to agree. But Netanyahu wouldn’t sign. The Americans understand the name of the game: Netanyahu wouldn’t give Obama an agreement on the eve of elections. The US National Security Council was furious. The Barak-Ross agreement was leaked by the White House so that Jewish organizations in the US would pressure the prime minister. Netanyahu, a strong man, was unmoved. After the mid-term elections, with Congress “in our hands,” the prime minister goes back to the US for an additional meeting at which he intends to open the path t renewed negotiations. In his pocket he’s got Barak’s plan, plus some improvements to the security aid. After seven hours with Hillary Clinton he comes back to Israel waving terrific agreement. Even before he got home the Prime Minister’s Bureau had leaked information that Israel would get a phenomenal security package, worth billions. Even more, as soon as the negotiations start, there will be another bonus: 20 more F-35s. And all this for just another 90 days building freeze, during which Israel would enter into serious negotiations about all “heart of the matter” issues with the Palestinians. A diplomatic catastrophe This is where another problematic element comes up, of how Israel works vis-à-vis the US. Officials in Jerusalem complain that the prime
minister’s envoy to the talks with the Americans, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, usually sits with his American counterparts alone and in private. Netanyahu and Barak do the same. There is no official Israeli documentation of these meetings. There are impressions, there is understanding, there is what people remember. It comes down to how the listener understood what he heard. And this is how Israel was able to say that the Americans promised a gift of another 20 planes, because that was the prime minister’s impression in the course of his conversation with Mrs. Clinton. He, it seems, presented her with a request to receive the planes in wake of the huge American arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and she let him to understand that there was a green light. It was not worked out how this deal would be carried out and who exactly would pay for it. After all, good will is not enough, Congress has to approve such a gift. But Netanyahu ran to tell the guys. While Obama, who was pleased about the understandings with Clinton, was embarrassed. Suddenly he was being forced to hand over a gift that he had never intended to give. As if that were not enough, now Netanyahu is doing them another trick and is sticking another stick in the negotiation wagon’s wheels: he wants all these understandings in writing, as a public commitment. Netanyahu cannot be blamed of lacking understanding of how things work with Washington. No administration will sign a document that gives IDF soldiers the possibility of remaining in the Jordan Valley for decades more. This could be a term in the framework of an “ understanding” that the US would support in an Israeli demand of the Palestinians. Furthermore, demanding of the Americans that they sign a document that states that they agree that there will be no freeze in Jerusalem means breaking all the game rules. The US administration can look the other way when there is solid construction in greater Jerusalem, but to sign on this in a public document? After all, this is contrary to this US administration’s and previous administrations’ avowed policy. In fact, both the Americans and the settlers, who are wasting their energy in demonstrations, should have understood that Netanyahu did not actually intend to do anything, as soon as he arrived back in Israel. Instead of capitalizing on the momentum, by convening the security cabinet and making decisions, he convened the forum of seven, which is merely an advisory board. Since then and until now, he has continued to play for time. So now both sides, the Israeli and the American, are doing all sorts of phraseology acrobatics that will make it possible to come up with a paper that summarizes the understandings. The Americans are now beginning to say that after an agreement in some sort of paper is reached, Netanyahu will come up with another excuse in order not to make progress.
And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe. Back to Top
U.N.: ‘The family has requested a tent as they have nowhere else to live’ (US: ‘What, me worry?’)
By Philip Weiss , MondoWeiss, November 28, 2010 A friend just sent me a summary of a comprehensive report being circulated inside the U.N. that details the latest house demolitions by Israel. They are not just in the Jordan Valley, as earlier reports suggested, but all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Below is the roundup in my friend's paraphrase. Note the disputed claims in illegally-occupied territory that are always resolved in Jewish settlers' favor, even on the Mount of Olives. This little list from 4 or 5 days of demolitions and evictions gives a real feel for the enormity of what is taking place daily. If you were Palestinian, you would feel humiliated, despairing, angry-and as afraid as my ancestors felt when pogroms were happening in Russia 120 years ago. Where is the United States, which claims to be supporting a two-state solution on lands east of the Green Line? From the U.N.: November 22 Israeli forces demolished Palestinian structures in the Al Isawiya area between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maele Adummin. Initial information: at least 2 barracks used for work purposes and some stone walls. Some fence material was also confiscated. This is the second time that barracks here were demolished. Last time was 27 October. November 23 As you know, Israeli police and settlers this morning forcibly evicted 3 Palestinian families from their home in Al Farouq neighbourhood of Jabal al Mukabber in East Jerusalem. A large force of Israeli police and border police were reported to have forcibly evicted the families between 9.00 and 10.00. Immediately following the eviction the building was handed over to a group of settlers that reportedly are affiliated with the settler organization El Ad. The settler group is currently undertaking some work on the premises -- 3 separate apartments located on 3 floors. It was inhabited by the Qara'in family, which includes 3 families of 14 people, among them 5 children ranging from 3 to 10 years of age. The families are currently sheltering with neighbors, they have no place to live. Supposedly the settler group claims to have purchased the
building from a deceased relative of the family a few years ago. The family and their lawyer tried to challenge these claims before Israeli courts. November 24 Israeli forces destroyed a large number of Palestinian-owned structures in several locations in the West Bank, forcibly displacing 23 people, including 16 children , and destroying the livelihood of dozens of others. Also on this day, Israeli settlers took over an uninhabited apartment in East Jerusalem. The reports: --In the At Tur neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem , the Jerusalem Municipality demolished the home of a Palestinian family, forcibly displacing 7 people, including 4 children . The family, which has lived in the building for 8 years, had attempted to obtain an Israeli building permit for the home. The family has requested a tent and other basic humanitarian assistance as they have nowhere else to live. --In the area around Hizma checkpoint , the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 7 work-related Palestinian structures, 6 of them plant nurseries/shops and 1 a furniture business. The demolitions reportedly devastated the livelihoods of 13 Palestinian families and resulted in extensive loss of materials and equipment. --On the Mount of Olives, Israeli settlers took over an apartment on the 3rd floor of a building near an existing Israeli settlement (the one overlooking the Old City). The apartment, which is one of 4 apartments in the building, was uninhabited at the time; it was vacated and sealed last year by a Palestinian family which had purchased it in 2005. Since that time the settlers have disputed the family's ownership. The apartment was sealed last year following an order from the District Court. --On Nov. 23, the Jerusalem Municipality returned to Al Isawiye and completed the demolition of 2 Palestinian work-related structures that were partly demolished on 11 November. This included a stable for horses and a cement structure where some members of the family lived when tending the farm. --In the Abu Al Ajaj area of Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley , the IDF demolished 3 large structures , including 2 buildings (containing 2 units each) that were used for residential and work-related purposes. 2 Palestinian families of 16 people, including 12 children , have lost their home and been forcibly displaced. In addition, a number of young sheep were killed as the structures were demolished on top of them. A considerable amount of fodder was destroyed. The structures in question received demolition orders from Israeli authorities in 2008, but the families were challenging the orders before the Israeli High Court. This is the same area that in recent weeks has been targeted by Israeli settlers from Masu'a settlement, who have made repeated and aggressive attempts to expand the settlement by taking over village land, using illegal fencing that cuts the Palestinian herders residing in
the area from their livelihood. For information about these attempts, please see the Humanitarian Monitor for October. * In the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan in the West Bank, to the north of the Ariel settlement "finger", the IDF reportedly demolished at least 1 work-related Palestinian structure. Levelling of land was reported in nearby Wadi Qana. November 25 Israeli forces have demolished a number of Palestinian structures in at least 2 different locations in the West Bank, displacing at least 31 Palestinians, more than half of them children. --In Khirbet Yasra in the Jordan Valley, Israeli forces demolished at least 7 Palestinian structures. According to the village council, this included 2 houses and 4 work-related structures, as well as a mosque. As a result at least 2 Palestinian families of 11 have been forcibly displaced. --In Ar Rifa'iyya village near Hebron, Israeli forces demolished a building containing 2 apartments, forcibly displacing 2 families of 20 people, including 16 children. Back to Top The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict Menachem Klein December, 2010 Cloth, 144 pages, ISBN: 978-0-231-70196-9, $30.00 Since 2000, the Israeli army has increased the size and strength of its operations in occupied territories. These activities, matched with an unprecedented rise in the construction of Jewish settlements, have irrevocably changed the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. As Menachem Klein sees it, what was once a border conflict has now become an ethnic struggle, with Jewish Israel establishing an ethno-security regime that stretches from Jordan to the Mediterranean, facilitated and accelerated by the recent results of elections in Israel, the United States, and the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority. In a bold challenge to those who claim Israel has done nothing more than pursue a framework of "occupation," Klein identifies a radical shift that has put ethnicity at the center of its security initiatives. Even Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are at risk of becoming targets. Klein closely reads the legal and political apparatus now cocooning
Israel's shrinking Jewish majority. Within this system, Palestinians have been divided into several categories with different privileges: Israel's Palestinian citizens; the residents of Jerusalem; the two groups that occupy the West Bank, separated by the Separation Barrier; and those who live under siege in the Gaza Strip. Grounding his work in primary sources and hard-to-find statistics, Klein completes a groundbreaking, unflinchingly study that portrays the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He ultimately argues that a single, non-ethnic state is not the best solution, instead supporting a two-state compromise, as difficult as it may be, as the only viable way to peace. About the Author Menachem Klein is a senior lecturer in political science at Bar-Ilan University, and was a team member of the Geneva Initiative negotiations of 2003. He has advised both the Israeli government and the Israeli delegation for peace talks with the PLO (2000), and was a fellow at Oxford University and the European University Institute, as well as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Klein is also the author of A Possible Peace Between Israel and Palestine: An Insider's Account of the Geneva Initiative. Back to Top
Israel’s post-traumatic isolation
Israel suffered truly existential threats until 1973, and then severe blows when it gave peace a chance; now many Israelis are deeply angry at anybody who tries to talk them into doing it again. By Carlo Strenger, 24th November 2010 There is a growing sense around the world, including in Europe, that Israel is ever less a partner for dialogue with the international community, and that it needs to be managed through pressure. The voices that Israel must be forced into accepting a Palestinian state through a UN and through sanctions if Israel doesn’t comply, are gaining ground dangerously. This unfortunate and dangerous dynamics is reinforced almost daily through Israel’s action and legislation. Expropriation of Palestinian land continues, and the Knesset has now passed a bill that requires a referendum about any agreement that would return land that Israel has annexed after 1967.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2009. Photo by: Archive/Tess Scheflan
As today’s Haaretz editorial has pointed out, this law is a further indication that Israel’s lawmakers simply do not see international law as binding, because the international community has never accepted Israel’s annexation of either East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The relationship between Israel and the world can be elucidated by a psychiatric analogy: there are patients who can be addressed by dialogue in the hope that they can change through insight. And there are patients who no longer seem amenable to rational dialogue, and must be restrained in order to prevent violence. This is what happens under certain conditions of post-traumatic stress disorder: many American soldiers who returned from Iraq are highly susceptible to violence. They are simply not capable of understanding that they are no longer under threat, and behave as if they are still in the war. And of course, they feel isolated and misunderstood by all except those who have been there. Israel’s situation is similar: it has suffered truly existential threats until 1973, and since then it has suffered severe blows when it gave peace a chance. The second intifada and the shelling of southern Israel are the analogue to a re-traumatization: Israel tried normalization, but was injured considerably. As a result many Israelis are now deeply angry at anybody who tries to talk them into taking risks for peace again: "How can you ask us to rely on Palestinians for our security? We have tried, and the result was horrifying: our children blew up on buses; the south was shelled by rockets. We would have to be crazy to try again." Here, then, is the problem: as in many post-traumatic conditions, Israel’s behavior tends to recreate the trauma, and thus reinforces its deepest fears. The more violently Israel reacts to further attacks, as it did in Operation Cast Lead, the more it is delegitimized. The more it is delegitimized, the it more it rejects the political norms of the Free World and adopts a tone of aggressive nationalism in its legislation and rhetoric, which leads to further isolation. Israel, quite unfortunately, is now being perceived as belonging to the category of states that need to be coerced rather than those that can be engaged in dialogue. It is gradually seen as a non-rational actor that needs to be restrained by force and pressured into submission, because it listens neither to reason nor to morals. Hence the calls for
sanctions against Israel, and the notion that the UN needs to recognize the Palestinian state along the 1967 borders are growing. Is there a way out of this vicious circle? Is Israel doomed to becoming a pariah state? Is there no way around the scenario in which Israel will become the outcast of the international order, and slide into even more isolation? My experience in talking to European interlocutors is that it is possible to evoke empathy for Israel’s justified fears, if this is disconnected from the aggressive self-righteousness of Israel’s right, and if it is not used to justify construction in the settlements and expropriation of Palestinian properties, as it is practiced in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. But Israel’s right is doing the exact opposite: by conflating real security concerns like Iran and Hezbollah with settlement construction and land expropriation, it indeed makes Israel look like a dysfunctional state that must be beaten into submission either by sanctions or by the UN simply recognizing the Palestinian state. The right is utterly convinced of its own confusion between Israel’s security needs and the need to move towards an ethnocracy. It has also succeeded in convincing much of the Israeli electorate of its paranoid worldview. It is profoundly unsettling to talk to mainstream Israelis who, are in favor of the two-state solution in principle, but keep repeating the right’s mantras that there is no partner, and that we just have to hold on to the status quo, i.e. the occupation, for the foreseeable future. Israel is not devoid of voices of sanity; its civil society is functioning and dissent from the right’s disastrous policies is expressed. Pundits, writers and the occasional politician raise the option of engaging with the peace initiative of the Arab League and cooperating with Salaam Fayyad; they keep warning of the dire consequences of Israel’s path into international isolation; they keep pointing out that the ridiculous stalling of any substantial peace process will lead to a new spiral of violence. But these voices no longer seem to be able to penetrate the political mainstream’s wall of fear, distrust and virulent nationalism. Back to Top
Why NGO Monitor is attacking The Electronic Intifada
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 30 November 2010 NGO Monitor has launched a campaign targeting a Dutch foundation's financial support to The Electronic Intifada, accusing the publication among other things of "anti-Semitism." NGO Monitor is an extreme right-wing group with close ties to the Israeli government, military, West Bank settlers, a man convicted of misleading the US Congress, and to notoriously Islamophobic individuals and organizations in the United States.
NGO Monitor's campaign of public defamation against The Electronic Intifada has focused on a grant the publication receives from the Dutch foundation ICCO. NGO Monitor has pressured the Dutch government, which subsidizes ICCO, to end its support for The Electronic Intifada. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has apparently already lent public credence to NGO Monitor's campaign against The Electronic Intifada, an independent publication established in February 2001 and read by thousands daily. NGO Monitor's attack on The Electronic Intifada is part of a wellfinanced, Israeli-government endorsed effort to silence reporting about and criticism of Israel by attacking so-called "delegitimizers" -- those who speak about well-documented human rights abuses, support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), or promote full equality for Palestinians. Last February, The Electronic Intifada reported that a leading Israeli think-tank had recommended a campaign of "sabotage" against Israel's critics as a matter of state policy ("Israel's new strategy: "sabotage" and "attack" the global justice movement," 16 February 2010). NGO Monitor has already been at the forefront of a campaign to crush internal dissent by Jewish groups in Israel that want to see Israel's human rights record improved. The Jerusalem-based organization poses as a project concerned with accountability for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but as Israeli human rights activist and journalist Didi Remez has stated, "NGO Monitor is not an objective watchdog: It is a partisan operation that suppresses its perceived ideological adversaries through the sophisticated use of McCarthyite techniques -- blacklisting, guilt by association and selective filtering of facts" ("Bring on the transparency," Haaretz, 26 November 2009). In a 6 November article in The Jerusalem Post, NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg revealed that his group was part of a new "Israel Action Network" established by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA) ("Turning the tables on BDS," The Jerusalem Post, 6 November 2010). The JFNA is funding the Israel Action Network to the tune of $6 million over the next three years to target "delegitimization," which according to JFNA president Jerry Silverman, "Israeli leaders identify ... as the second most dangerous threat to Israel, after Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons ("Federations, JCPA teaming to fight delegitimization of Israel," JTA, 24 October 2010). NGO Monitor's and the Israel Action Network's goals appear to be nothing less than to shut down independent media such as The Electronic Intifada, as well as human rights advocacy groups in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and around the world. In his 6 November article, Steinberg specifically named The Electronic Intifada and its co-founder and executive director Ali Abunimah, as well as Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian ecumenical justice and peace
movement, and its founder Reverend Naim Ateek, as targets of the campaign. Steinberg explained, "To emerge victorious in this political war, the [Israel Action] network must be armed with detailed information about the opposition, and implement an effective counterstrategy on this basis. This involves distributing information to college students and active community members, so they can name and shame the groups that lead and fund demonization." Steinberg goes on to boast, "NGO Monitor has demonstrated that this approach can be very effective. Based on detailed research, the government of Canada cut funding ostensibly provided for human rights and development, but which was actually used for hatred and incitement. Similar discussions are under way in European governments regarding funding for some of the more poisonous NGOs involved in BDS." In becoming the latest target of NGO Monitor's defamation and sabotage efforts, The Electronic Intifada joins previously targeted organizations including Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Adalah, Al-Haq, Mada al-Carmel as well as Israeli groups such as B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, HaMoked and New Israel Fund, among dozens of others. NGO Monitor -- as a glance at its publications reveals -- characterizes any documentation of, or call for an end to Israel's systematic human rights abuses, violent colonization of the occupied West Bank including Jerusalem, or its siege and amply documented war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza as "hate," "incitement" and/or "antiSemitism." Attacking funding to undermine free speech and thought In 2007, NGO Monitor began targeting the Canadian international development and human rights organization Alternatives which did development work in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. After a determined campaign by pro-Israel advocates, Canada's Conservative government cut funding to Alternatives and several other groups that worked on Palestinian rights ("Canada's neoconservative turn," The Electronic Intifada, 26 February 2010). Earlier this year, Canada's government-supported International Development Research Centre canceled research grants to Mada alCarmel -- an independent research center in Haifa, the only one of its kind in Israel, which focuses on the rights, needs and future of Palestinian citizens. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the grants which were for research on "Arab political participation in Israel and the future of Israeli democracy," and "Palestinian women in Israel and the political economy" may have been canceled under pressure applied by the Israeli foreign ministry on the Canadian government ("Did Foreign Ministry lobby to stop Canadian funding of Israeli Arab group?," Haaretz, 19 August 2010).
Turning the fire on The Electronic Intifada On 26 November, The Jerusalem Post published an article by Benjamin Weinthal headlined "Dutch will look into NGO funding of anti-Semitic website." According to Weinthal, "The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation [ICCO], a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime." However, The Post does not cite any specific examples from almost 12,000 articles published by The Electronic Intifada since 2001 to substantiate these lurid accusations. With its reporting and independent commentary, The Electronic Intifada has built a global reputation since its founding, and states on its website that "our views on the conflict are based firmly on universal principles of international law and human rights conventions, and our reporting is built on a solid foundation of documented evidence and careful fact-checking." The Post quotes Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal stating, "I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the governmentsubsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me." If the quotation from Foreign Minister Rosenthal is accurate (which cannot be taken for granted given the errors and false statements throughout Weinthal's article), it should be noted that The Electronic Intifada was never contacted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands before the minister apparently went on the record lending support to the allegations made by NGO Monitor. The Jerusalem Post also charges that "EI executive director Ali Abunimah is a leader in delegitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel. In his travels and speaking engagements, facilitated by Electronic Intifada's budget, he calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and routinely uses false apartheid rhetoric." The Jerusalem Post never attempted to contact The Electronic Intifada or Abunimah to verify any of these claims. Had it done so, it would have been informed that none of Abunimah's speaking engagements or travel has ever been funded by The Electronic Intifada's budget, but all such engagements are paid for by the groups hosting the events which are organized and handled entirely separately from the publication. Since 2006, about one-third of The Electronic Intifada's funding has come from ICCO. The majority of the publication's funding has come from direct donations from readers, and another small part from other private foundations. The Electronic Intifada has never received funds from any government. The Electronic Intifada's total expenses amounted to $149,208 in 2008 and $183,760 in 2009, as reported on
the publicly available Form 990 filed annually with the US Internal Revenue Service by the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society, Inc., the nonprofit organization of which The Electronic Intifada is a program service. NGO Monitor, Israel's government, military and the far-right NGO Monitor is closely tied to Israel's far-right, its government and military as well as leading anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim activists in the United States. NGO Monitor states on its website that it is "a joint venture of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation, and B'nai B'rith International." As The Electronic Intifada reported in 2005, the Institute of Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs is a think-tank providing a home for Israel's military and political elite. Among the panoply of Israeli officers who speak and write for the Institute is Doron Almog, who notoriously chose to remain on board an El Al aircraft at London's Heathrow airport and flee back to Israel rather than face a pending arrest warrant for alleged war crimes while he was a division commander in the occupied Gaza Strip ("NGO Monitor should not be taken seriously," 18 October 2005). Among NGO Monitor's International Advisory Board are some unusual choices for an organization focused on accountability. In addition to Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel (who has gone on record saying he can never criticize Israel), there is former CIA chief and pro-Iraq-war activist James Woolsey, and Elliott Abrams. Abrams was convicted in 1991 of withholding information from the United States Congress in the Iran-Contra affair in which he was deeply involved as an official in the Reagan administration. As deputy national security advisor during the administration of George W. Bush, Abrams was the architect of covert US policies intended to overturn the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections by arming Palestinian militias opposed to Hamas, which had won the vote. Abrams' policies led to a Palestinian civil war that cost hundreds of lives (David Rose, "The Gaza Bombshell," Vanity Fair, April 2008). NGO Monitor's "Legal Advisory Board" includes former Israeli ambassador Alan Baker, who as an Israeli government official spent years publicly defending Israel's violations of international law, including its settlements in occupied territory, which are nominally opposed by all EU governments, including the Netherlands. Cementing the link even more closely, NGO Monitor recently published a joint report with its partner the Institute for Zionist Strategies entitled "Trojan Horse: The Impact of European Government Funding for Israeli NGOs." The Institute for Zionist Strategies, as Didi Remez has pointed out, is led by Israel Harel, a founder of the fanatical Gush Emunim settler movement. Calling for "accountability" but only for others
While NGO Monitor is increasingly frank that its goal is to shut down open discussion of Israel's human rights abuses, it claims that it exists to promote "accountability" and transparency. But this transparency does not extend to itself or its political allies. Some information is available about NGO Monitor's funding, but the organization does not release the names of all its donors nor the amounts they gave -- even as it insists that others should do so. In addition to the Wechsler Foundation, NGO Monitor lists among its "major donors," Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum Education Project. Pipes has been widely criticized for purveying anti-Muslim and antiArab propaganda, including by United States Senator Tom Harkin (DIowa) who opposed Pipes' 2003 appointment by President George W. Bush to the board of the United States Institute for Peace ("Daniel Pipes nomination stalled in committee," The Baltimore Chronicle, 23 July 2003). NGO Monitor also lists a US tax-exempt organization called American Friends of NGO Monitor (AFNGOM) among its "major donors." While AFNGOM received its recognition as a tax-exempt non-profit in early 2009, there was -- as of late 2010 -- still no legally-required, public Form 990 for 2009 available for the group on the Guidestar.org website, the information clearinghouse for US non-profits (According to Guidestar, a 990 should appear on its website approximately two months after being filed). Among AFNGOM's board members is Rita Emerson. Emerson and her husband Steven Emerson are prominent in the US pro-Israel, antiMuslim community and often make donations to pro-Israel causes. They jointly fund the "Emerson Fellowships" for the anti-Palestinian advocacy group Stand With Us (which works closely with the Israeli military to organize speaking tours for Israeli soldiers on North American college campuses) and are both substantial donors to the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. "Their most passionate concerns include cancer research, the defense of Israel on campus and in the media, and the struggle against the global Jihad," is how the couple was described in the program of a 2007 dinner for the American Freedom Alliance. The Emersons have done very well financially from incitement against Muslims. A recent investigative report by The Tennessean newspaper found that in 2008 Steven Emerson paid his own for-profit company $3.4 million in fees from a non-profit charity he founded, which, according to the newspaper "solicits money by telling donors they're in imminent danger from Muslims." According to The Tennessean, Emerson's non-profit effectively acts as a front for a lucrative for-profit venture ("Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear," The Tennessean, 24 October 2010). Unusually, the non-profit's 990 forms do not list any staff, board members or salaries except for Steven Emerson who is the organization's sole officer.
Yet a search of NGO Monitor's website found no page dedicated to exposing the lack of transparency of the Emersons' multimillion dollar "non-profit" business. NGO Monitor evinces a similar lack of concern for transparency when it comes to extremist Israeli groups. As Didi Remez points out, "Hundreds of millions of dollars in Israeli taxpayer money and US tax exemptions, mostly hidden from public view, are the driving force of the settlement enterprise," including organizations such as Elad which are behind the current efforts of Israeli settlers to expel Palestinians from certain neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem ("Bring on the transparency"). Remez notes that while most of the Israeli dissenting and human rights groups NGO Monitor targets already meet high standards of fiscal transparency, the settler groups do not. Settler groups, Remez observes, "depend on financial opacity for continued operations." NGO Monitor has never said a word about it. With international movements in solidarity with Palestine -- including BDS -- gaining steam, Israel's leaders and apologists are becoming more desperate and unscrupulous than ever. Nothing illustrates this better than NGO Monitor attacking funding sources for media and human rights organizations like The Electronic Intifada and so many other groups doing urgently needed work. Back to Top
Carmel fire: the price of the treasury’s policy
Saturday, December 4 2010, Yossi Gurvitz
The firefighters’ lack of readiness not accidental, but a result of long-term economical policy.
Last morning, making my Friday shopping at the local grocery, I heard a woman hissing that we should catch those Arabs who lit the fire on Thursday and burn them alive, like the 40 prison guards cadets. I butted in. “And what if these were yeshiva boys?”. “What?” “I said, what if the fire was caused by yeshiva boys, like last time (Hebrew). Would you like to burn them, too?”. She muttered something, paid, and was gone. And that, more or less, is what protecting PM Netanyahu and his horde of pygmy ministers from popular rage: the knowledge that any failure or disaster would be immediately translated into fear of an external or internal enemy, according to need. The knowledge that Israelis, like the Russians, have been treating their government for a long time as a natural disaster: there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s simply there. The direct guilt for the shame of our firefighters being left with not enough fire-fighting chemicals belongs to the Minister of the Interior, Eli Yishai, who officially holds responsibility for the firefighters. But Eli
Yishai, despite being one of the most despicable Israeli politicians, is not really a minister of the interior, one of the strongest positions in Israel. He is merely Shas’ representative in the Ministry of the Interior. All he’s interested in is how to use the immense power of the ministry to harass non-Jews and promote his friends and family members. He is not a public servant; he is but the servant of Rabbi Ovadyah Yossef. Now he says that for years, he said the firefighters were not getting enough funds, but anyone who followed Shas politics over the years knows this can’t have interested him, not really. If it did, Yishai would have threatened a coalition crisis – as he did numerous times in the past. Such a crisis would have also bought him some badly needed public support. Yishai was not interested in the firefighters because he’s not interested in his office. You can’t blame him for acting according to his nature. The real criminals are Binyamin Netanyahu and the “treasury boys” – as the young, highly-ideological Treasury officials are often termed. Netanyahu, you may recall, served as Sharon’s Finance Minister, and is now closely controlling the Treasury through his factotum, Yuval Steinitz. As a minister, he gave a famous speech: he spoke of the “slim man”, the private sector, who carries on his shoulders the “fat man”, the public sector. Netanyahu was the great Israeli speaker for “trickle down ecomomics”: the claim that if we lower taxes on the rich, they will make more money and somehow all these riches will trickle downwards. Netanyahu was making those moves during the times of the first Bush administration. Following Bush, who received a treasury with a surplus and left office with a huge deficit, many Americans understood this is voodoo economics; most Israelis, particularly Israeli journalists, haven’t yet. Under Netanyahu’s watchful eye, taxes paid by companies were lowered and the tax burden of the rich was lightened: the more you made, the greater the bonus the government gave you (Hebrew). If you made 4,000 NIS a month, you’d get a bonus of zero; make 5,000, and you get a bonus of 13 shekels – less than the price of two soft drink bottles. Make 20,000, and you get a monthly bonus of 237 NIS, and if you manage to get more than 50,000 a month, the government will reward you with 554 NIS. Even the OECD protested this scheme (Hebrew), noting that Israel’s disparity of wealth is already way too high. All those gifts to the rich, of course, cost the government heavily in revenue. And when revenues go down, what the treasury does is cut public services – which they euphemistically term “cutting the budget”. Those cuts, of which there many over the last decades, have repeatedly hit public services – with the exception of that holiest of cows, the defense ministry. Its budgets kept on rising, its workers kept their benefits and retired with pensions at an early age. So the treasury – which fights with the defense ministry over who will run the government – cut everything else to the bone. Education, welfare, superstructure. Israel is drying for at least a decade – but the
treasury still holds back the building of desalination facilities, which of course have been privatized, and does not allow the country to build its own. The power company desperately needs a new power station, but the treasury won’t finance it. Because, you know, this is a public service, something it is improper for the government to fund. Accordingly, the treasury avoided giving the firefighters the funds they needed to properly function. There are about a thousand firefighters in Israel; the American standard is one firefighter per thousand residents, so Israel needs some 6,000 more firefighters, but they’re not here because, well, firefighters cost money and the priority, according to Netanyahu and his henchmen, is making certain that a CEO will pay less tax. The government even privatized aerial firefighting (Hebrew), but the treasury is constantly shirking its duty and does not transfer the funds necessary for purchasing firefighting chemicals. The budget of the firefighters was not updated in many years, even though the population grows at the rate of 1.8% every year, and the country is drying. As can be seen from this video, MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) accused the treasury a year ago (Hebrew) of de-funding the firefighters so that the force will be seen by the public as inefficient, which will allow the treasury to forcibly retire its costly veterans and hire cheaper, younger, inexperienced firefighters. Israeli blogger Tzvika Bassor reminded us yesterday (Hebrew) that Netanyahu is an ideologue – until his own position is questioned. In order to keep his coalition, Netanyahu didn’t flinch at bloating the government with nine pointless minister and eight useless deputy ministers. This costs 126 millions NIS a year. The cost of the missing firefighting chemicals, depends on who you ask, ranges from two millions to 25 millions. Netanyahu’s “reforms” – an Orwellian use of the term if ever there was one – did not reduce poverty, as he claimed. On the contrary: they increased it (Hebrew), even among families with two bread-earners. The only sector who benefited from Netanyahu-style economics is that of the managers and the financiers. Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu strongly opposes, at the same time, both an increase in the minimum wage – which would increase consumption and therefore growth – and a ceiling on CEOs and directors’ pay. After all, he and the treasury boys are dutifully serving their kin, those who rank in the upper 1 percentage of earners. In the meantime, they are destroying the Israeli public service, and all too slowly we understand these are life and death decisions. When there are less doctors in public medical care, when medicine costs more, some of the public cuts down on its health services consumption. When food prices rise, those who can’t afford it consume less, and this influences their health. The government used to subsidize bread; it no longer does. When tycoons like the Ofer brothers disregard ecological and pollution regulations, people sicken more and die more. Sometimes it’s their own workers dying, sometimes other people. When the government’s number of work regulation enforcers is
a joke, when the treasury refuses to hire more – and even those enforcers mostly serve Eli Yishai’s religious obsessions – than a huge percentage of employers (92%, according to a 2006 estimate (Hebrew)) will deny their employees their basic legal rights. When there is a shortage of policemen, and those who are employed are paid inadequate salaries, then crime becomes a national danger. When the justice system keeps functioning with the number of judges agreed on decades ago, then there’s no justice, either. From time to time, a disaster occurs, reminding us we’re living in a South-American style third world country, who has a small number of rich people, a large segment of the population who don’t earn enough to pay income tax, and a rapidly crumbling middle class. And this week’s disaster, terrible as it may be, will pale before the next expected calamity: a massive earthquake. One of these happens around here – Israel is precariously placed on the Syrian-African Fault – every 80 years or so. The last one took place in 1927. In 2001, an interdepartmental committee estimated (Hebrew) that such an earthquake will cost Israel between 5,000 and 10,000 dead; in 2010, the same committee estimated (Hebrew) that Israel will “in all certainty” experience such an earthquake, and another expert estimated that 96,000 (!) residence buildings will collapse during it, and that most Israeli buildings are not strong enough to withstand it. Israel being a necrophiliac country, some MKs immediately called for the creation of… corpse identification teams, since Jewish law forbids burying people in mass graves. The fact that people will drop like flies was, apparently, of less concern. The journalist/blogger Shachar Ilan covers the upcoming earthquake for years, to little avail. But as long as the government keeps busy at inciting the Jewish public against non-Jews, be they Palestinians or foreign workers, it can safely assume no one will ask it difficult questions. Ironically, Israeli propaganda used to describe the actions of Arab countries towards Israel in precisely the same way: outward war mongering in order to prevent calls for reforms at home. How beautifully we mesh in the region’s culture. Back to Top
Israel’s deadliest fire: Eli Yishai must go
If Israel’s PM doesn’t show his racist and incompetent Interior Minister the way out immediately – he should face consequences, too. by Noam Sheizaf, Friday, December 3 2010
The flames of the Carmel fire seen on the background of the town of Nesher (photo: grebulon/flickr)
Israelis and international forces are still fighting the fire that started yesterday morning on the Carmel Mountain near Haifa. 41 people, most of them from Israel’s prison service, died when their bus was trapped on a forest road. Haifa’s chief of police is in hospital, fighting for her life. This is the biggest and most lethal fire in the country’s history. The direct responsibility lies with the Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of Israel’s fire services. The fire department has suffered from lack of funding and budget cuts for years. The results were evident yesterday, when the firefighters failed to stop the flames in the first critical hours. In recent years, there were numerous reports in the press on Israel’s deteriorating fire services. Just a week ago notable environmental journalist Aviv Lavie (Maariv) told the story of fire department officials that are trying to sound the alarm, claiming that they lack the means to battle major bush or city fires. “One day our luck will end, and they [fire department officials] will end up testifying before a national inquiry committee,” Lavie concluded. By yesterday evening the supply of chemicals used in fighting flames ran out, and the firefighters had to settle for water. Israel issued an urgent request for help to other European countries, but for the casualties and their families it was too late. It seems the inquiry committee will come much sooner than even Lavie expected.
Eli Yishai is the Interior Minister. Yesterday, when PM Netanyahu did the right thing and showed up at the emergency command center in Haifa, Yishai was nowhere to be found. Earlier, he tried to spin the story, blaming the finance ministry for the budget cuts. I don’t remember Yishai mentioning this issue before. The Ministry of Interior’s main political project last year was a failed effort to have 1,200 foreign workers’ children deported out of Israel, as part of a larger demographic battle against all non-Jews in Israel. He was also very vocal in his insistence on continuing construction in East Jerusalem. Apart from his attempts to sabotage the peace process and his xenophobic initiatives, Yishay didn’t do much. But Yishay is the easy case. This huge government – the biggest in Israel’s history – has failed miserably on every front. Aside from picking up fights with the international community, introducing embarrassing pieces of legislation and deepening Israel’s hold in the West Bank, this coalition of hawks and racists doesn’t have anything to show for. All they offered the Israeli public was empty Zionist rhetoric – the oldest trick in the incompetent politician’s handbook. Yesterday they met their Katrina. Yet it’s hard to believe even this disaster will make this government – let alone the man leading it – change its ways. Read more about the Carmel Forest Fire on +972 Magazine: www.972mag.com Back to Top