Michael Brown, 18 was killed Saturday, in St. Louis, apparently shot by a bullet from a police officer’s gun. The FBI will investigate this as a possible civil rights violation. It is front-page news across the country.
A few hours later, Khalil Al-Anati was killed in Hebron, apparently shot by a bullet from an Israeli soldier’s gun who may have been shooting into a crowd of protesters throwing stones. The Israeli military police is investigating. The story is buried in the inner pages of the newspapers that bother to cover it.
The human rights organization B’Tselem requested inquiries for over 300 killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces between 2000 and 2011. These killings have resulted in a total of 9 indictments. The vast majority of military inquiries are closed years later with no action taken and no comment on why they were closed.
In St. Louis there have been vigils and protests, and the entire country is riveted. Everyone is wondering whether Michael’s only mistake was being born black.
In the West Bank, hundreds attended the funeral, but there is no major protest. Perhaps because this is the 17th shooting of an unarmed civilian in the West Bank this month. This month has been particularly difficult. On average Israeli soldiers kill only one or two unarmed civilians in the West Bank. This pace has been steady for years except for the years where protests are thick. Some are killed because they stray too close to a fence, around a settlement or border with Israel. Some are killed because young Israeli soldiers in armored Hum-vees panic and shoot into or around a crowd of Palestinian teenagers throwing stones.
Khalil Al-Anati was 11 years old. His mistake was playing outside his house while an Israeli military convoy drove past and someone threw stones at them. Just another “human shield” meant to be smashed to smithereens.
Perhaps his real mistake was being born Palestinian.
>The High Court justice who gave the army a green light to expel an entire Palestinian village just happens to live in a nearby settlement, one of many that thrives on their dispossession.
Justice Sohlberg, who is the most prominent yet not the only settler on the bench, is the standard bearer of a pre-eminent Western judicial tradition, which hails back and openly draws on colonialism. The tenets of that tradition are to exclude “the natives” from decision-making circles as well as to dispense them of the basic democratic principle of the separation of powers. Sohlberg finds himself in the company of the American Supreme Court judges who, in 1857, ruled that African-Americans could not be considered American citizens, as well as those who, a century later, championed the “separate but equal” paradigm.
Soldier pays the price for criticizing the Israel army
IDF soldier Shachar Berrin was sentenced to a week in prison after he attended the taping of an international TV program, during which he stood up and expressed his opinion of the occupation.
The proposition debated by the panel appearing on the show was: “The occupation is destroying Israel.” The speakers consisted of the settler-activist Dani Dayan and a member of the left-wing Meretz party, Uri Zaki. Berrin, who was in uniform, stood up to address Dayan. The settlers and right-wing activists in the audience filmed him, and in less than 12 hours he was ordered to return to his base, where he was tried and convicted – even before the program was broadcast. (It aired this week.) Berrin makes his comment at minute 43 of the hour-long show.
This whole incident shows that when rapid, determined action is called for, the Israel Defense Forces knows how to act. When soldiers kill Palestinian children, the investigation is stretched out over years, gathering dust before usually going nowhere. When soldiers are filmed holding abusive slogans, or when they identify publicly with “David Hanahalawi” – the soldier from the Nahal Brigade who threatened a Palestinian youth with his rifle and roughed him up a year ago, prompting hundreds of soldiers to express solidarity with him on the social networks – no one considers putting them on trial. But if a soldier dares to attest publicly that his fellow soldiers are humiliating Palestinians, the IDF mobilizes rapidly to trample, punish and silence. That’s what happened to Shachar Berrin.
Berrin: “Sure. Definitely. Just the other week, when some Border Police soldiers were rough with Christian tourists, another soldier, a colleague, said she couldn’t believe what they were doing: ‘I mean, come on, they are people, not Palestinians.' I think that resonates throughout the occupied territories. I serve in the Jordan Valley, and we see every day how soldiers… look at these people not as human beings, not as someone who is equal, but someone who is less than them. And to think that we can just leave the racism and the xenophobia – that they will only be racist when they humiliate Palestinians – of course not… I think that once you are conditioned to think something, you bring it back with you and that it deeply affects Israeli society and causes it, as our president says, to be more racist.”
Israel knew all along that settlements, home demolitions were illegal
It was March 1968. Yaakov Herzog, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, received a memo marked "Top Secret" from the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Theodor Meron. As the government's authority on international law, Meron was responding to questions put to him about the legality of demolishing the homes of terror suspects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and of deporting residents on security grounds.
His answer: Both measures violated the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war. The government's justifications of the measures – that they were permitted under British emergency regulations still in force, or that the West Bank wasn't occupied territory – might have value for hasbara, public diplomacy, but were legally unconvincing.
The memo is not the first evidence of Meron's warnings, though. In 2006, I published another of his legal opinions, which I found in the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's declassified office files. Written in mid-September of 1967, about three months after the Six-Day War, it responds to a query from Eshkol's bureau about the legality of establishing settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
He answered, "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
Central figures in Israel’s government at the time – Eshkol, Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira – all received that legal advice. A week and a half later, the cabinet approved settlement in the West Bank for the first time.
The Gaza Strip has the world’s highest unemployment rate, and Palestinians, Israelis and donors must take action to avoid a “dangerous fiscal crisis,” the World Bank said Friday.
According to the World Bank, the virtual disappearance of Gaza’s exports can be explained by no other variable than “war and the blockade".
“The impact of the blockade imposed in 2007 was particularly devastating, with GDP losses caused by the blockade estimated at above 50 percent and large welfare losses,” the report said of the blockade imposed by neighbors Israel and Egypt.
Segregation in Israel does not begin or end on buses
As long as there is occupation there will be segregation. As long as the State of Israel interprets being a “Jewish state” as meaning some citizens should have more individual and group rights than others, then discrimination, segregation and inequality will be the norm, not the exception.
Issues like bus segregation get people angry. Activists start to plan freedom rides and massive campaigns, the international media starts to pay attention, and it seems that, for a fleeting moment, people care about the fate of Palestinians living under occupation. Until that same energy and anger and mobilization materializes around the occupation itself, against the concept of institutionalized supremacy and oppression, there will only be more symptoms over which to feign outrage.
More than one quarter of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents live behind the concrete separation barrier; Israel has revoked the residency of over 14,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites since ‘reunifying’ the city in 1967, including 107 last year alone.
At least five children from East Jerusalem, the youngest among them aged 6, were hit in the face by a sponge bullet and lost vision in one of their eyes. A 30-year-old man, who was blind in one eye since childhood, lost his healthy eye after being hit by a sponge-tipped bullet and became completely blind. In other incidents, the firing of sponge bullets caused arm fractures, jaw fractures and a spleen tear. At least three journalists covering the events, who were wearing vests identifying them as media workers, were hit by sponge bullets in the head, face and shoulder.
Testimonies indicate that in a various instances, police officers fired sponge bullets in absolute contravention of the directives prohibiting aiming at the upper body or aiming at children.
ACRI appealed to the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General, demanding an
immediate end to the use of the black sponge bullets until further review of the reasonableness of their use as a riot-control weapon, in light of the severe injuries caused to residents of East Jerusalem.
Over the summer, ACRI received testimonies of severe physical violence by the police, aimed against those participating in riots as well as against uninvolved Palestinian residents. The violence used was at times so severe that residents required medical treatment and even prolonged hospitalization. In July 2014, the media published a video showing Border Police officers severely and brutally beating the teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir while he was lying handcuffed on the ground.
Palestinian teenagers who were arrested reported physical violence used against them by police officers on the way to interrogation and during the interrogation, as well as threats and intimidation; unnecessary handcuffing and blindfolding for long hours; interrogations without parental presence, in contravention of the law; and various forms of abuse, such as denying food and water and prohibiting toilet breaks.
In addition, several incidents were reported in which the police detained minors under the age of 12, which is the age of criminal responsibility.
Another innovation that was introduced during the summer of 2014 was the frequent use of Skunk-spraying vehicles by police. The Skunk is an extremely foul-smelling chemical liquid, intended to disperse riots.
Police use of the Skunk in East Jerusalem included many incidents of excessive and unreasonable use in the heart of crowded neighborhoods. Even when the Skunk is aimed at riot participants, it sticks to houses, cars and asphalt and leaves a fetid scent from which all of the neighborhood’s residents continue to suffer for many days.
In the period of turmoil between July and December 2014, 1,184 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem, about one-third of them under the age of 18 (a total of 406 minors), for offenses related to riots and disruption of public order (stone throwing, assaulting an officer, participating in riots and so on).
So far, indictments have been served against 338 of those arrested (28.5% of all arrestees), including 122 minors (30% of all minors arrested).
Israeli Police wounded a 10-year-old Palestinian child in the eye Thursday afternoon while dispersing protesters near the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, according to Arabic media outlets in East Jerusalem. The boy, who was most likely hit by a black-tipped sponge bullet, was hospitalized in moderate condition in Hadassah University Hospital. It is unclear what will be the fate of his eye.
'Death to Israel' Facebook page lands Palestinian in jail
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court sentenced East Jerusalem resident Sami Deis to eight months in prison, for creating and managing a Facebook page entitled “Death to Israel,” which included many incitement-filled posts. The sentence follows similar punishment handed down to Fatah activist Omar Shalabi; he was given nine months imprisonment for similar crimes.
Deis, a 27-year-old resident of Shoafat, has no criminal background, and though he admitted to his crimes as part of a plea bargain, Judge Shmuel Herbst opted for what is seen as a rather severe punishment. Last week, another East Jerusalem resident, 44-year-old Omar Shalhabi was handed nine months for a number of Facebook statuses he wrote between July and October last year.
It all began on Yom Kippur in September 2009. A phone conversation between Tovi Fenster and her mother touched on the period of the family’s immigration from Romania to Israel in 1948, and the house where they lived in Jaffa until the 1960s.
During that phone call, her mother related for the first time how she and a group of other immigrants were sent by the Jewish Agency to find a home for themselves. They walked among the houses that had been abandoned in Jaffa, which borders on Tel Aviv, and from which Arabs had been forced to flee during the War of Independence. When they found one with the door open, they went in and took up residence there.
Fenster asked her mother why she had never told her this before, and her mother replied that she didn’t feel comfortable with everything that had happened – “that we had taken from them what was theirs.” She added that after all the tribulations the family had experienced until they reached Israel, all they wanted was a home of their own.
WATCH: 'Jaffa flotilla' marks destruction of Palestine's cultural capital
Dozens of Palestinians and Israeli Jews sailed along the coast last week to mark the destruction of Jaffa — the former political, cultural and economic capital of Palestine — during the 1948 War. Organized by the Israeli NGO Zochrot, which works to raise awareness of the Nakba and promote the right of return among Israeli Jews, the participants, which included Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi, listened to first-hand stories of the fear, expulsions and mass exodus of Palestinians from the city by the pre-state Zionist militias.
A lesbian wedding in Israel: Under the chuppah, legal or not
Let’s get together: The two met nine years ago when, through the twists and fate of life, they found themselves sitting in the same car, on their way from the north to a gay party in Tel Aviv. Inbal: “I got into the back seat, and then someone in the passenger’s seat turned around and said, ‘Nice to meet you, I’m Avishag.’ I said ‘hi’ and stuttered something. I think I immediately wanted what I saw – it was just 'snap,' and it was there.” However, it took four years for something to come out of that “snap.”
At first, head-over-heels Inbal did all she could to win the heart of the elusive Avishag, to no great success. For Inbal, the long courtship felt like she was being played, while Avishag saw it a bit differently: “I wasn’t out of the closet yet, and I was confused, and just out of a relationship. I didn’t know if I wanted boys, girls, or what was up with me.”
Word in the ear: Inbal on the couple’s choice to have a kind of chuppah, despite the illegality of same-sex marriage in Israel: “For the symbolism. Because we’re still Jewish, and we still love the State of Israel, and Judaism is our home.” Avishag: “But not in the way it’s being implemented.”
More stories below the fold:
- Palestinian chief negotiator: No chance of renewing talks with radical right Netanyahu government
- Netanyahu: Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people alone
- Abbas responds to Netanyahu: No Mideast peace without East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital
- Israel's new deputy foreign minister: 'This land is ours. All of it is ours'
- PHOTOS: When Israel decides to cut Palestinian farmers off from their land
- “…but still with a few hope in our hearts”
- Right-wing Jews and Israeli police 'assault Al-Aqsa guards'
- Hundreds of unarmed demonstrators confront live fire at Kafr Qaddum on Nakba Day
- South African students protest against Woolworths
- South African Jews apologize to displaced Palestinians
- Rightist NGO demands eviction of seven Palestinian families
- Arab leaders pledge all-out campaign against destruction of Bedouin village
- PA soccer chief looks to outmaneuver Israel on diplomatic field
- IDF to disband Druze battalion after more than 40 years’ service
- On Scott Walker’s 'listening tour' of Israel, Palestinians aren’t heard
- What Ayelet Shaked can learn from Sarah Palin
- In Adelson's paper, Bibi's man says Pope helping Palestinians crucify the Jews
- Settler leader Rabbi Moshe Levinger dies at 80
- Western Wall gender barriers locked to stop women reading from Torah
- Haredi website censors female ministers from government picture
- Thousands attend prayer protest against Shabbat-violating mall in Ashdod
- Concern in Jerusalem over international decision against Israeli nuclear program
- Clashes erupt between Jews, Palestinians at Jerusalem Day march
- Jerusalem Day: Palestinians met with extreme violence
- On Jerusalem Day, is there anything to celebrate?
- Lieberman apologizes after calling two-state solution supporters 'autistic'
- Report: Swiss court orders Israel to pay Iran $1.1 billion in oil pipeline dispute
- Settlers turning West Bank church compound into new outpost
- A house divided: Hamas torn between long-term truce and renewed war
Obama granted a major interview to Jeffrey Goldberg to cover Iran, Israel/Palestine and ISIS. It was published in the Atlantic on Thursday and is well worth a read. I've highlighted sections I found interesting (all emphasis is mine).
On the Iran nuclear deal and how significant Obama believes it is to his legacy:
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
Goldberg notes that Obama must have in the back of his mind the Carter/Reagan experience with Iran. By the way, if you want a little bit of insight into the Iranian regime, its relationship with the Iranian people and about the Islamic world in general, may I suggest Aatish Taseer's perceptive and personal book Stranger to History: A Son's Journey through Islamic Lands.
On Israel/Palestine, why he believes it's important and involves his own core principles:
Obama told me that when Netanyahu asserted, late in his recent reelection campaign, that “a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or [when] there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against—this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy. When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.”
“My hope is that over time [the] debate gets back on a path where there’s some semblance of hope and not simply fear, because it feels to me as if ... all we are talking about is based from fear,” he said. “Over the short term that may seem wise—cynicism always seems a little wise—but it may lead Israel down a path in which it’s very hard to protect itself [as] a Jewish-majority democracy. And I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy, because when I think about how I came to know Israel, it was based on images of … kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world. We’re repairing it. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to make sure that the lessons we’ve learned from our hardships and our persecutions are applied to how we govern and how we treat others. And it goes back to the values questions that we talked about earlier—those are the values that helped to nurture me and my political beliefs.”
I sent these comments on Wednesday to Rabbi Steinlauf to see if he disagreed with my belief that Obama, when he talks about Israel, sounds like a rabbi in the progressive Zionist tradition. Steinlauf wrote back: “President Obama shares the same yearning for a secure peace in Israel that I and so many of my rabbinic colleagues have. While he doesn't speak as a Jew, his progressive values flow directly out of the core messages of Torah, and so he is deeply in touch with the heart and spirit of the Jewish people.”
“What is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about … Palestinian kids. And when I was in Jerusalem and I spoke, the biggest applause that I got was when I spoke about those kids I had visited in Ramallah, and I said to a Israeli audience that it is profoundly Jewish, it is profoundly consistent with Israel’s traditions to care about them. And they agreed. So if that’s not translated into policy—if we’re not willing to take risks on behalf of those values—then those principles become empty words, and in fact, in my mind, it makes it more difficult for us to continue to promote those values when it comes to protecting Israel internationally.”
Coverage in the Israeli/Palestinian press is below the fold:
Israel on Tuesday launched a pilot program under directive from Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to separate Israeli and Palestinian bus travel in the West Bank.
Palestinian workers will now have to return from Israel to the West Bank via the same checkpoint they left and will not be allowed to ride Israeli bus lines.
The new regulations, implemented by the Civil Administration, could lengthen some workers' commutes by as much as two hours, according to the human rights organizations that plan to appeal against the new rules to the High Court of Justice.
If you're wondering why some Israelis believe segregation is necessary, here are some answers:
Haaretz also revealed the minutes of a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which Karnei Shomron council head Yigal Lahav said: "Arab travel on buses is a victory over the Jewish occupier" and that it gave them "the experience of traveling with Jewish women."
The Defense Ministry was concerned that the state would have difficulty convincing judges that the separation was based on security and not ethnic grounds, due to the army's stance that there is no security risk on the buses in Samaria and in light of the racist remarks that accompanied the idea of separate buses.
Though the plan to segregate buses was discussed and revealed back in October, implementation was shelved till after the election which returned Likud to power. Within hours of the implementation, the government was forced to reverse course and cancel the pilot in response to a global uproar.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon decided Wednesday to suspend a program to separate Israeli and Palestinian bus travel in the West Bank.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zionist Union leader and opposition head Isaac Herzog said "separating Palestinians and Jews on public buses is a warrantless humiliation and a stain on… the country and its citizens." In a Facebook post, Herzog added that the move will fan the flames "of hatred toward Israel around the world."
Meretz leader Zehava Galon said that Ya'alon "gave in to pressure exerted by Jewish settlers, who complained over the large number of Palestinians on the buses." Ethnic separation on buses, she said, is "unacceptable in a democratic country."
"This is what apartheid looks like," said Galon. "Separate bus lines for Palestinians and Jews prove that democracy and occupation cannot coexist."
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank, said that the plan for segregated buses was particularly “blunt,” but that other forms of segregation were still in place, pointing to the existence of roads in the West Bank that are exclusively for use by Israelis. “This revealed the fact that Israel unfortunately has transformed the situation into a system of apartheid,” he said.
Mordhay Yogev, a legislator from the Jewish Home party, was quoted in Haaretz at the time saying that the situation was “unreasonable” and that “the buses are filled with Arabs.”
“I wouldn’t want my daughter to ride them,” he said, adding that girls and women had complained of being sexually harassed by male Arab passengers.
A blogger who goes by the name "John Brown" writes at +972mag, often with righteous fury. Over the past few months, he's teamed up with Noam Rotem to research incidents where Palestinian civilians have died at the hands of IDF soldiers. They have traced the resulting IDF investigations and highlight a consistent failure to complete investigations and bring charges. That is a familiar story when it comes to cases of police brutality in the US (and the world over). I'll provide an excerpt from the +972mag article and then discuss the various levels of training that US police forces have been receiving from Israeli forces. The killings in question happened in 2010. As of today, over 5 years later, no one has been charged.
At first, the IDF Spokesperson published the claim that “a terrorist attack with a pitchfork had been foiled at a checkpoint,” and that two terrorists had tried to attack a soldier using pitchforks. The IDF was later forced concede that the report was inaccurate, and then claimed that the soldiers were attacked with a bottle and a syringe. With every new report, the volume knob was turned down a bit, until the last one, a day after the incident, according to which the two cousins were not terrorists at all, but two young men stopped by settlers after they had entered their own land — without coordinating with the army. But the IDF Spokesperson’s story had already gained prominence. Every Palestinian is a terrorist until proven otherwise.
The chain of events, leading to the moment in which an anxious soldier fired 29 bullets into the bodies of the two cousins, Saleh and Muhammad Qawarik, farmers who woke up early that morning to work their land, shows the null cost of Palestinian lives in the occupied territories. This involves the dubious initiative of a settler with a vast criminal record, one hyperactive shooter and three soldiers who do not remember anything, having managed to miss all 29 shots.
The IDF Spokesperson declined to comment for this article.
The article describes how the incident began when a settler stopped the two cousins as they were walking to their fields that morning. This act of vigilantism started the sequence of events that led to their shooting hours later.
At some stage, Avri Ran, an extremist settler who has been convicted of a series of violent offenses, and calls himself “The Sovereign,” passed by. Ran decided that the two had no right to be there, on their land. He stopped his car, and detained the two by ordering them to sit on the ground, and standing at a distance of 10-15 meters (30-50 feet) from them.
Delegations of senior US police officers have been taken on trips to Israel to learn about the counter-terrorism methods employed by Israeli police and IDF operating among a population that opposes the occupation.
Every year, American law enforcement executives travel to Israel with ADL to study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies to combat terrorism. The National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) is an intensive week long course led by senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces. More than 175 law enforcement executives have participated in 12 NCTS sessions since 2004, taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.
In particular, the AP reported on the NYPD's "Demographics Unit" (since disbanded):
Ethnic bookstores, too, were on the list. If a raker noticed a customer looking at radical literature, he might chat up the store owner and see what he could learn. The bookstore, or even the customer, might get further scrutiny. If a restaurant patron applauds a news report about the death of U.S. troops, the patron or the restaurant could be labeled a hot spot.
The goal was to "map the city's human terrain," one law enforcement official said. The program was modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank, a former police official said.
The LAPD backed off from a similar program, largely due to an uproar among residents.
In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department was criticized for even considering a similar program. The police announced plans to map Islamic neighborhoods to look for pockets of radicalization among the region's roughly 500,000 Muslims. Criticism was swift, and chief William Bratton scrapped the plan.
"A lot of these people came from countries where the police were the terrorists," Bratton said at a news conference, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. "We don't do that here. We do not want to spread fear."
The group visited private security firms and drone manufacturers, as well as the terror-prone Ashdod Port, a museum in Sderot full of old rockets shot from nearby Gaza (the same one United States President Barack Obama visited on his 2008 campaign trip to Israel), and a “safe city” underground control center in the large suburb of Rishon LeZion, which receives live streams from more than 1,000 cameras with license plate recognition installed throughout the city.
Frank said he was especially impressed by what he saw while visiting Israeli companies Nice Systems (as tweeted by Perez) and Verint, one of the companies whose services the National Security Administration (NSA) reportedly used in the infamous United States wiretapping scandal. Both companies already count the LAPD as a client. But, Frank said, “we’re looking at some of their additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.”
According to Abu Saif, drones are a fact of life in Gaza, frequently buzzing in the background. But when the buzzing of the drone (called “zanana” in colloquial Arabic) increases, daily life is disrupted; people believe this means an attack is near and they have no way of knowing if they are near the target or if they themselves are the target because of their “suspicious” behavior. Schoolchildren and students find it difficult to concentrate, especially during exam periods, many suffer post-traumatic flashbacks and family and social gatherings are quickly dispersed. “Through their usage of drones, [the Israelis] have become present in the bedrooms of the people in Gaza,” Abu Saif quotes Al-Mezan director Esam Younis as saying. Journalist Asma al-Roul is quoted in the same vein, saying, “I feel like I am naked. All what I do is seen by the drone.”
Sanchez told colleagues that he had borrowed the idea from Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. But the proposal ignored some important differences between the U.S. and Israel. Brooklyn and Queens, for instance, were not occupied territories or disputed land. There was no security wall being erected in New York City. And, where Muslims are concerned, no one would choose Israel as a model of civil liberties.
Nevertheless, Cohen liked the idea. He compared it to raking an extinguished fire pit. Most coals would be harmless and gray. Rake them carefully, and you might find an ember—a hot spot waiting to catch. This was the genesis of a secret police squad, which came to be called the Demographics Unit. Documents related to this new unit were stamped NYPD SECRET. Even the City Council, Congress, and the White House—the people paying the bills—weren’t told about it.
The backlash against such such methods of surveillance and policing continues, which is why President Obama discussed community policing initiatives in a visit to Camden, NJ yesterday:
Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies. We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message. So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.
More on the IDF shooting and another that killed two children (15 and 17) below the fold (and links to earlier articles in the series):
The location was Qusra, a village in the Shiloh Valley; the date, September 16, 2011. Fathallah Mahmoud Muhammad Abu Rhoda went out with his three sons to pick figs. A short while after reaching their land, they noticed about 10 Israeli civilians standing around their water hole. The Palestinians demanded the Israelis leave the place; the interlopers refused. The residents of Qusra — a village that has already proven it can defend itself against marauders — began heading to the area. An argument ensued, and according to Abu Rhoda’s testimony to the police, three of the settlers (who were armed) opened fire on the Palestinians. One bullet hit Abu Rhoda in the thigh.
Of the three, two were armed with rifles and the other with a handgun. From the police testimony, we see that the handgun’s owner also sicced a dog on the Palestinians. The complainants managed to photograph some of their attackers, among them the handgun owner.
E. was identified by the Palestinian victims, and they even supplied the police with photos of him at the scene, which clearly show him holding a handgun in one hand and the dog in the other. The police picked up cartridges from the scene, and a ballistic fingerprinting – which took place on September 27, 2011 – found that one of the cartridges came from a 9mm Glock pistol (the others were fired from rifles.) E. was summoned for questioning, invoked his right to remain silent, but admitted he owned a Glock. The gun was duly turned over to the police, which sent it to a ballistic fingerprinting. In February 2012 the forensic expert reached the conclusion that there is a match between the cartridges fired from E.’s handgun and the those that were examined on September 27.
Despite the evidence, the police recommended that the case against E. be closed due to — get this — lack of evidence. The recommendation was accepted by the prosecution.
Palestinian woman and her children attacked by settlers
Yesterday evening in Al Khalil (Hebron), a Palestinian woman and her two small children were attacked by settlers from the illegal settlement as they were on their way to the shops.
Marwat Abu Remele lives in Tel Rumeida, an area in Al Khalil under Israeli control. She was on her way to buy groceries, when about twenty settlers gathered around them and attacked her son. A Palestinian man, Mohammed Abu Hazerh, promptly ran to protect them from this harassment. Harassment of this kind is not unusual for the Palestinians living in this part of the city.
A settler woman managed to convince Israeli soldiers that the Palestinians were in the wrong, and Mohammed narrowly escaped arrest. When the soldiers agreed to release him, the Israeli woman became hysterical and with a crowd of children ran after him. While she was shouting and insulting everyone standing on the street, the settler children spat, harassed and kicked other Palestinians and internationals that had come to witness the scene.
The soldiers attempted to stop all filming of what was going on and were failing to prevent the settlers harassing and taunting local people. The Abu Shamsiyeh family, who live on the street where the attack took place, were unable to enter their home as settlers were blocking their entrance. One of the Palestinian women who was trying to film the scene was violently attacked by two settlers.
WATCH: Israeli soldiers speak out against rules of engagement in Gaza
Members of Breaking the Silence said Tuesday that even though many of the reactions to the report had been critical, the group felt it was succeeding in its goal of opening a public debate on what it claims was the army's reckless disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians during last summer's conflict.
"People do want to listen, even if there were angry reactions - we want to initiate a discussion on our morality and on the way we fought in Gaza," said Avner Gvaryahu, a spokesman for the group.
"We want Israeli society to take responsibility," he said at a presentation of the report held in a Tel Aviv conference hall. "We placed a mirror to the face of Israeli society, and the reflection is not a pretty one."
A small group of people protested outside the venue of Tuesday's presentation in Tel Aviv, holding up signs that read: "Breaking the Silence wounds the nation" and "Breaking the Silence – shut up."
"They are trying to paint our soldiers as murders by taking isolated events that shouldn’t have happened and orders that shouldn't have been given, and saying that this was the norm," said Amram Sherby, a 26-year-old student from Bar-Ilan University who held up pictures of soldiers who were killed during the war.
Video footage of soldiers testifying to Breaking the Silence was released this week and is embedded in the story above. The testimonies were covered in depth in three diaries I posted last week:
Fatou Bensouda said in an interview with The Associated Press that she hasn’t received any information yet from either side regarding last summer’s Gaza war and urged Israel and the Palestinians to provide information to her.
The Palestinians accepted the court’s jurisdiction in mid-January and officially joined the ICC on April 1 in hopes of prosecuting Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Gaza conflict so they are certain to provide Bensouda with information. Israel, however, has denounced the Palestinian action as “scandalous,” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that it turns the ICC “into part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
Bensouda said her office is “making attempts” to contact the Israelis and to reach out to the Palestinians.
“If I don’t have the information that I’m requesting,” she said, “I will be forced to find it from elsewhere, or I may perhaps be forced to just go with just one side of the story. That is why I think it’s in the best interest of both sides to provide my office with information.”
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem expressed “surprise” that Fatou Bensouda made the comments in the interview in which she said she has not received any information from either side regarding last summer's operation in Gaza, but that it was in the “best interest” of both sides to provide information.
It is surprising, the diplomatic sources added, that the prosecutor – obligated to act according to the rules of the courts and conduct her job “according to the highest standards of professionalism, prudence, independence, and lack of bias” – chose to related to these matters “through the pages of the newspaper.”
This type of behavior, the sources said, does “not add to the credibility of the process.”
“We hope that the Court will not allow the exploitation of its resources to address an appeal without legal basis that is driven by cynical political motives, and whose promotion will damage both the credibility of the court and chances to maintain an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue,” the sources said.
A tragically unexceptional story of life and death under occupation
Three decades ago the Israeli military government canceled my sister-in-law’s Palestinian residency because she studied abroad for ‘too long.’ Now, Israel is denying her one last visit with her dying father. But my family will not allow her case, like thousands before it, to be buried in silence.
My father-in-law, Mughira Barghouty, is dying. At age 91, his health has severely deteriorated over the last six months. He has three daughters: Sawsan, Serene and my wife, Abeer. Serene and Abeer live in Ramallah and have become full-time caregivers to their now bedridden father. Sawsan lives in Amman, Jordan. Of late, Mughira has repeated a single request: to touch his daughter Sawsan’s hand one last time. It was about to happen on the last day of April. Sawsan got all the way to the Israel border crossing, Israeli tourist visa in hand, but she was denied entry and told to go back to Amman. The family is crushed, but not surprised.
Sawsan acted without delay. As a Jordanian citizen, she applied for an Israeli tourist visa — the only way a Palestinian citizen of Jordan can reach Palestine. This is done through certified travel agent. The process goes like this: you apply, pay a 50 JD (U.S. $70) application fee, then you wait, and wait, and wait some more. Eventually you get a call from the travel agent when the answer comes back: you either have approval, meaning an Israeli Interior Ministry tourist visa, or you are denied and have to start all over again. If you are one of the lucky ones and get approval, you must pay an additional 70 JD (US $100) fee and place a 20,000-30,000 JD (about US $28,000-42,000) bond (to guarantee you will not overstay the visa period) and you must travel the following day. Throughout the entire waiting period, you must be ready to travel on 24 hours’ notice.
Eventually an Israeli official came and advised Sawsan that she was being denied entry into Israel. Her bus was told to continue on to Israel without her.
The Israeli official brought her two copies of a form written in Hebrew and English; she is fluent in neither. They state two reasons for the denial of entry: 1) “Prevention of illegal immigration considerations”; and, 2) “Public security or public safety or public order considerations.” Despite her protests that she could not read the documents, she signed. Five hours after arriving at the crossing, she was escorted to a bus and sent back to Jordan.
That a Palestinian could lose their residency status in their birthplace is routine practice of the Israeli occupation.
Wave riders: The men and women of Gaza’s Surf Club making waves in Gaza City
(Gaza Surf Club with help from the U.S. nonprofit Explore Corps that helps to provide surf programming and distribution of equipment. Prior to the formal establishment of Gaza Surf Club, organizations, such as Surfing 3 Peace and Gaza Surf Relief, were providing new boards and equipment from companies abroad through person-to-person outreach. Like a band of brothers — and sisters on occasion — they descend from their homes in farmlands or fishing villages to the beach in Gaza City, young surfers venturing out, whenever time, schedules and modes of transportation allow, to explore their own little slice of the Mediterranean. Most work as lifeguards who gather informally in the wee hours of the morning before the crowds arrive, or whenever enough fellow lifeguards are not working.
Though predominately featuring men, several young girls have taken up the sport as well, wearing a burkini swimsuit.
Most have acquired a love for surfing in part from low-budget American films shown via Arabic television. Exposure to surf culture beyond their borders was slow coming. In April, Explore Corp offered to host one Gaza Surf Club member in Hawaii for a workshop, the first trip abroad for the group.
Hit TV show 'Fauda' offers angle on conflict with Palestinians that Israelis usually prefer not to see
It has been common knowledge, at least since the mid-1990s, that in order to maintain its control over the Palestinian territories, the IDF must resort to a sort of overtly black op tactic. Volunteers who served in elite fighting units and are willing and ready to assume an Arab guise – false biography, alias, language, manners, looks – infiltrate into the fabric of life on the West Bank with the aim of providing firsthand intelligence and act with lethal efficiency if need be.
The series is the brainchild of Lior Raz (writing and acting as the main character) and Avi Issacharoff (at one time a Haaretz reporter on Palestinian matters). Both have considerable mileage in double-and-triple lives on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide – Raz as a member of one of those undercover units, and Issacharoff who has been covering this very confusing reality on a day-to-day basis. The expressed aim was to present the everyday reality that most Israelis prefer not to see up close, and instead of simplifying it in black and white, to show that it is made up of more than 50 shades of all-too-human gray that can explode at any moment into the most crimson red.
The series was created by Israelis who know what is really going on. As such it takes the Israeli side for granted and does not try to present a “balanced view” of the conflict. It assumes – rightly in my mind – that for Israeli viewers, the dice is loaded for the home (Israeli) team. As a result, it sometimes looks as though the Palestinian side of the story is presented with an extra dose of understanding and compassion. If indeed this is so, it is a belated and much needed redress: It is high time for Israelis to accept that there are human beings on the other side as well.
Below the fold:
- Hundreds of Palestinians displaced in Jordan Valley by IDF 'training exercises'
- Marianne heads for Gaza today!
- iNakba app shows two sides of Israel's war story
- Strategic talks between Israel, France deteriorate into serious dispute
- High Court okays plan to raze Arab village, build Jewish one in its place
- Life in a refugee camp – New Askar, Nablus
- Israel sells its story on a new Lebanon war, and the 'Times' bites
- Nine Palestinian fishermen kidnapped by the Egyptian army
- WATCH: Racism-filled march curbs Palestinian movement in Jerusalem
- UPDATE: Shepherds in Salem
- As Israel celebrates a unified Jerusalem, the city is losing its Jewish residents
- Israel steps up diplomatic action as fears grow over FIFA suspension
- Vatican treaty uses term 'state of Palestine' for first time
- Beyond Baltimore: The ugly truth about racism and police brutality in Israel
- As Israel celebrates a unified Jerusalem, the city is losing its Jewish residents
- A tale of two tragedies: From Beitunia to Vienna on Nakba Day
There are a lot of stories on Ayelet Shaked, the newly appointed Justice Minister of Israel and about Netanyahu's new government. I expect her appointment will have a significant impact on the status and treatment of Palestinians across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In particular, her close relationship to the Hebron settlers could make matters much worse for Palestinians in Hebron.
It was as an instructor in the army’s Golani Brigade that she grew close to the religious-Zionist settlers who form the core of her constituency today. Serving in Hebron, one of the most contested areas of the West Bank, cemented her stance on the right, she said. “I just realized there will not be a solution right now” to the Palestinian conflict.
“She said, ‘Erez, don’t talk, let’s do action,’ and we simply went out and removed all the signs of the Labor Party from the streets of Tel Aviv. From 11 until 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Mr. Eshel, who now runs youth leadership academies.
For Ms. Shaked, a former computer engineer, the main thing is “to strengthen the Jewish identity” of Israel, “to have a democratic, Jewish, strong state.”
That translates, in policy terms, into promoting Israeli annexation of most of the occupied West Bank and ousting African asylum-seekers. It means curtailing the power of the Supreme Court, giving politicians more sway over judicial appointments and prohibiting foreign funding of advocacy groups — which could put the main internal critics of Israeli actions out of business. And it entails a “nationality bill” that many see as disenfranchising Israel’s Arab minority, about 20 percent of the population.
Ms. Shaked asked to be asked about Arab citizens. She said they “should be an integrated part of the Israeli society,” denied they face discrimination and said more spots should be created for them to do national service in lieu of the military.
Her approach was shaped in part by the author Ayn Rand. ““The fact that sometimes you think differently than others,” she explained, “but you still need to insist on your views, although you are being accused.”
Here's Ayn Rand (who apparently shaped Shaked's views) on Arabs:
The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don't want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don't wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I've contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency. -- Ford Hall Forum Lecture, 1974
By the way, it is not a coincidence that Pamela Geller used that line in an ad:
Ayn Rand also had some interesting views on Native Americans:
They (Native Americans) didn't have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their 'right' to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. -- Q & A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974
For those convinced that MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) is a flaming racist and, therefore, entirely unsuitable for her new job, one particular Facebook status update from last summer is providing potent ammunition. Written on June 30, as tensions were escalating between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, it cited an article authored by the late settler leader Uri Elitzur, which included the following passage, widely interpreted as a call by Shaked to murder innocent Palestinians:
“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
In a Channel 2 interview program broadcast in January 2012, she was asked the following question: “When your husband the pilot, when he’s up in the air, do you hope he’ll be pounding the Arabs hard with bombs?” Shaked responded first with a laugh and then said, “Yes.”
While she was running My Israel, Shaked learned that Bank Leumi was promoting the sale of a real estate company in Jerusalem to a consortium that included a Palestinian investor. Here’s how she described what ensued in an interview with Haaretz in April 2011, “In order to prevent the sale of the neighborhood to Arab hands, all members of the group [My Israel] were instructed to call senior executives at the bank and protest, and those with accounts at Bank Leumi were instructed to call their branch managers and notify them of their desire to leave the bank.” The campaign ultimately paid off.
They broke with Mr. Netanyahu and started My Israel, an online movement that stopped a bank from making a deal with Palestinian investors; vilified an actor who refused to perform in a settlement; published grisly pictures of a family killed in a terrorist attack; and challenged what Ms. Shaked saw as the news media’s leftist bias.
Bit more about the government and the longer-term history of the settlement movement and its impact on Israel's policy towards Palestinian lands below:
“We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to our promise,” James Cadogan, a senior Justice Department official, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
United States authorities brought criminal charges against 400 law enforcement officials in the last six years, Mr. Cadogan said. But the deaths of Freddie Gray in Maryland, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina “challenge us to do better and work harder for progress,” he said.
His comments came as officials from eight federal agencies and the state of Illinois presented an account of developments in human rights under which the council reviews all states every four years.
“It was the same old story of the U.S. dragging its feet on taking effective action to fully implement its human rights obligations,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program said.
The United States was slammed over its rights record Monday at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with member nations criticizing the country for police violence and racial discrimination, the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility and the continued use of the death penalty.
The issue of racism and police brutality dominated the discussion on Monday during the country’s second universal periodic review (UPR). Country after country recommended that the U.S. strengthen legislation and expand training to eliminate racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement.
"I'm not surprised that the world's eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.," said Alba Morales, who investigates the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch.
"There is an international spotlight that's been shone [on the issues], in large part due to the events in Ferguson and the disproportionate police response to even peaceful protesters," she said.
Anticipating the comments to come, James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, told delegates gathered in Geneva, "The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a long-standing and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress — through both dialogue and action."
All of the names he mentioned are black men or boys who were killed by police officers or died shortly after being arrested. The events have sparked widespread anger and unrest over the past year.
Cadogan added that the Department of Justice has opened more than 20 investigations in the last six years — including an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department — as well as the release of a report of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing in March, which included more than 60 recommendations.
Chad's delegate took a moment to provide his take:
"Chad considers the United States of America to be a country of freedom, but recent events targeting black sectors of society have tarnished its image," said Awada Angui of the U.N. delegation to Chad.
“[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” — MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Aug 1, 2013. (Hebrew)
“A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.” — MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Dec 27, 2013. (Hebrew/English)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized the formation of a new government this week when he signed a coalition agreement with far-right settler party Jewish Home. As part of the agreement, Rabbi Ben-Dahan will be Israel’s next deputy defense minister, responsible for the army’s “Civil Administration.”
Israelis are right to be worried about MK Ayelet Shaked becoming the next justice minister, and Naftali Bennett the education minister. But try being a Palestinian in the West Bank, where the man in charge of administering your day-to-day life doesn’t even see you as a human being.
B'Tselem appeals to State Attorney’s Office against closing investigative files in case of Milad ‘Ayash, 17, killed by gunfire from East Jerusalem settlement.
On 13 May 2011, during protests in connection with Nakba Day there were clashes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem between demonstrators who threw stones and Molotov cocktails and Israeli security forces who employed crowd control measures and live gunfire. Milad ‘Ayash, 17, was hit by a live bullet. ‘Ayash, a 12th grader at Kuliyat Sakhnin, ‘Atarot, died of his wounds the next day. B'Tselem’s investigation showed that the fatal shot was fired from the Beit Yehonatan settlement, a one-building settlement located in Silwan, yet we were unable to ascertain the precise circumstances of the shooting. The incident was investigated both by the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP), for possible involvement of police officers in the shooting, and by the Israel Police for possible involvement of Beit Yehonatan security guards and residents. Both investigations were closed on the grounds of “perpetrator unknown.”
on behalf of B'Tselem, Attorney Gaby Lasky filed the grounds for the demand to reopen the investigations. In the appeal, Attorney Lasky noted grave investigative failings on the part of both investigative authorities. These included such matters as failure to seize key evidence; refraining from questioning witnesses and suspects; and ignoring substantive contradictions that emerged during the course of the questioning of the witnesses.
The real reason Netanyahu has the High Court in his crosshairs
Another example is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, enacted in 2003, which bans Palestinian citizens of Israel from bringing spouses and children born in the Occupied Territories to live with them in Israel. In a 2012 ruling rejecting a petition against it, then-Chief Justice Asher Grunis admitted that the law was indeed discriminatory, but wrote that “Human rights should not be a prescription for national suicide.” The ruling essentially legitimized the racist belief that Palestinians are not entitled to family unification because their non-Jewish identity, regardless of Israeli citizenship, is enough to consider them a security threat – if not a “demographic” threat.
In view of these and other examples (especially from the Occupied Territories), it is almost bizarre to see Netanyahu attacking the High Court when it has in fact been a key enabler of most of his governments’ policies. This takes us to the real source of their dispute, which is less about human rights as it is about the power to determine Israel’s “core” questions. The right-wing, which today dominates Israel’s political sphere, wants to change the historical status quo by explicitly prioritizing the state’s Jewish character in law and officially recognizing the occupation as a permanent feature of the state. The High Court, though willing to facilitate these goals in different ways, is still worried that the politicians’ overt approach will jeopardize Israel’s image as a democracy in the eyes of both its citizens and the international community. Because of this gridlock over methods, Netanyahu has decided to bring the judiciary under his government’s control, revealing the depth of the political leadership’s intolerance for dissent even against those who assist it.
Arab-Israel peace talks ‘dead’ because of Netanyahu, says Carter
Earlier this week, Breaking the Silence (an organization of Israeli veterans) released a report: "This is How We Fought in Gaza - Soldiers' testimonies and photographs from Operation Protective Edge (2014)". What follows are excerpts from these interviews.
My prior diaries on this report are here and here.
Throughout the testimonies you will hear a lack of concern over the amount of ammunition expended. Israeli artillery fired over 32,000 shells into Gaza over the course of the offensive (in addition to numerous mortar rounds and bombs dropped by US made F-15s and F-16s). The US delivers over $3 billion in military aid to Israel each year. During the offensive, the US re-supplied the IDF with key munitions as its stocks dwindled.
104. Go ahead - his wife and kid are in the car too? Not the end of the world
Unit: Air force • Rank: Not for publication
There is what’s called in the jargon a ‘firing policy.’ It’s changed according to whether it’s [a period of] routine security or wartime. During routine, there’s targeted killings once in a while – they take place during periods of so-called routine security, too. You still use firepower, but during those times the wish or the instruction that no uninvolved civilians will get harmed is top priority. And sometimes that overrides [the targeted killing of] a very, very senior figure, in cases where an opportunity [to attack him] arises.
So it’s given up?
Yes. But during times like ‘Protective Edge,’ go ahead – his wife and kid are in the car too? Not the end of the world. It’s unambiguous.
56. Anyone there who doesn't clearly look innocent, you apparently need to shoot
Upon entering houses, is there an organized protocol used?
It really depends on the case, but generally the idea is to use a lot of fire – this isn’t Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) – you want to find people in pieces inside. That’s how it’s managed, in a nutshell. Besides, usually a D9 (armored bulldozer) comes over, takes down a wall and you enter through the wall.
101. Deter them, scare them, wear them down psychologically
Unit: Not for publication • Rank: Not for publication
And another level on which things are treated is that of readiness – when you discuss the Hamas militants’ morale and confidence, sometimes after militants’ houses are struck you say, “We know that in such-and-such [Hamas] brigade they are expressing concern over the continuation of the fighting,” it’s at that level. I mean, nobody’s saying “We’ll strike that target because it’s the house of a militant and it will lower his motivation” – but one does say the morale is low due to the fact that the strikes on the militants’ houses is having an impact and decreasing the Hamas militants’ morale.
100. He just came over with an urge to take down targets
Unit: Not for publication • Rank: Not for publication
Guys there, they go in [to the Gaza Strip] wanting to bust up Hamas. There was this one intelligence officer there, a horrible guy, nobody could stand him, he just came over with an urge to take down targets, he couldn’t help it. He comes over to you and for an entire hour is going, “Check what this is, and check what that is, why aren’t you attacking.” The thing is, it’s not a yes-no black and white thing. It really depends on how you choose to deal with it. There are some people who will try to push for a certain target and it could be that that’s why it’ll be hit. They’ll talk to somebody they know, “Listen, do me a favor, prepare that target for me,” and then [the target] goes into the target list and passes through all the authorizations and it could be hit. That happens sometimes.
13. I really, really wanted to shoot her in the knees
Unit: Infantry • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: North Gaza Strip
There was this mentally handicapped girl in the neighborhood, apparently, and the fact that shots were fired near her feet only made her laugh (earlier in his testimony the soldier described a practice of shooting near people’s feet in order to get them to distance themselves from the forces). She would keep getting closer and it was clear to everyone that she was mentally handicapped, so no one shot at her. No one knew how to deal with this situation. She wandered around the areas of the advance guard company and some other company – I assume she just wanted to return home, I assume she ran away from her parents, I don’t think they would have sent her there. It is possible that she was being taken advantage of – perhaps it was a show, I don’t know. I thought to myself that it was a show, and I admit that I really, really wanted to shoot her in the knees because I was convinced it was one. I was sure she was being sent by Hamas to test our alertness, to test our limits, to figure out how we respond to civilians. Later they also let loose a lock of sheep on us, seven or ten of whom had bombs tied to their bellies from below. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but I was convinced that this girl was a test.
85. Ultimately, they were all bombed
Unit: Infantry • Rank: Lieutenant • Location: Gaza City
There was a list of targets distributed to the soldiers who were providing assistive fire, of all the things you can’t fire at unless you get authorization from the assistive fire commander. A school, a kindergarten, things like that. UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East), a hospital, gas stations, power stations, community centers, which are partly run by the UN, all kinds of health clinics – they told us they would mark them on the maps. They were marked in green, very clearly.
Some of them were eventually bombed?
Yes. Take [the neighborhood of] Shuja’iyya – almost all the locations on the forbidden list there were bombed. Each one had its own particular story, but ultimately, they were all bombed.
Those targets all required prior approval by the firing officer?
Yes, his advance authorization. And also the population officer (an officer charged with supervising combat-related humanitarian issues) explains to the officers that if you bomb a kindergarten without approval it could result in the entire operation being stopped. That’s what [the population officer] is there for, to give you answers.
Does he address the fact that civilians could die?
He does, but that’s not what the talk is focused on. We discuss the mission.
Do you recall rockets being launched toward Israel from public buildings, hospitals, things like that?
We could see the launching – there’s an alarm and you can see from where they originate. It’s a question of what you can figure out from the aerial shots, what that building is. There are buildings that look more ‘governmental,’ there are ones that look like big residential ones, there are yards. Most of the launchings were made from houses’ yards, and it’s unclear to which building they belonged – the one to the right or to the left. Is it part of the school courtyard? Or does it belong to that building? Or to the guy with the farm next to it? And then we say, “OK, we’ll bomb both of them.”
79. Everyone - from the commander all the way down - took dumps in pots, out of some kind of operational principle. Whatever
I’m thinking about that poor family whose rooftop was turned into a public bathroom by the entire company, what an awful thing.
What’s this story?
At some point you need to take a crap, and at first we weren’t given the bags one stashes in one’s helmets, which are really uncomfortable, so one of the guys found a plastic chair, a simple classroom one, and unscrewed its seat, and that chair was moved from one shaded place to another shaded place. The entire battalion had diarrhea and was throwing up. How awful, I thought, it would be to come back home and discover your bathroom is clogged and half the pots in your kitchen have shit in them. Your entire roof is covered in shit, and there’s shit in your garden.
People shat in pots?
Yes. There were lots of disputes among the commanders about this.
92. The safety regulations are just there for the out-of-touch guys in the headquarters that don't really have a clue
Unit: Not for publication • Rank: Lieutenant • Location: Gaza Strip
What happens is, you are left with very little space at which you can fire, because you need to allow for a safe range away from civilians and a safe zone from soldiers and a safe range from UNRWA buildings (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East), and so on. So during the informal part of the conversation, one of the senior oficers was this reservist and he says to us, “There’s a well-known trick, which we used [during the war] in Lebanon, too. Say you’re instructed to maintain a [safe range] away from civilians, but the target is too close to them. What you do is, on the map you mark a target that will get cleared through the higher channels – you mark a target that’s far enough [from the civilians] in the computers, so that it shows up that way. And then on the twoway you tell the [artillery] battery, “Fire on [coordinate] no. 2, and adjust by 200 meters.” It’s within your authority to decide and to discuss where to mark a target and where not to. If you know that place needs to be bombed, then you will get the target authorized by the supervising ranks – they will grant authorization, because that’s what they do – because you listed it on the map – and then it’s, “OK, the battalion granted him authorization for that.” And then in real time you’ll tell [the battery] to adjust 200 meters to the right. “Recalibrate by 200 meters.” See, that doesn’t mean much to the [supervising officers]. To them it’s “[The artillery brigade] adjusted 200 meters, they’re just recalibrating.” Those guys don’t really understand. [The soldiers in the battery will say] “We were given faulty coordinates,” or “The wind got in the way.” Standard range recalibration. You are a good war agent when you know how to strike where it’s truly needed. The safety regulations are just there for the out-of-touch guys in the headquarters that don’t really have a clue. [The reservist] told that to a bunch of guys as a sort of lesson from someone experienced, from someone who knows how things actually go down in reality, as someone who had come to explain ‘the professional secrets.’
69. An accomplishment before the ceaseire
Unit: Not for publication • Rank: Not for publication • Location: Northern Gaza Strip
Aside from those targets, there were also the houses belonging to Hamas’ battalion commanders and company commanders. Various targets were hit by fighter jets that night –the air force just hit them after the ground forces retreated.
When did [the air force] attack?
Six or 7:00 AM. Before the beginning of the ceaseire.
Why right then and not earlier, if there was intelligence?
To strike a significant blow – ‘an accomplishment’ before the ceasefire. It’s sad, but that’s the way things are done.
+972mag ran an article by Avihai Stollar, the Director of Research for Breaking The Silence who discussed their method of open ended interviews:
After the testimony is verified, it is published anonymously. The reason for that is that we want to put an emphasis on the content of the testimony, rather than the testifier’s identity. The army tends to ignore claims of systemic failures, and hold individual soldiers liable. Furthermore, it spares the soldiers the potential repercussions – disciplinary as well as social – for having dared to wash the dirty linen in public.
We call on the Israeli public to listen to these soldiers, and face up to their stories. They were sent to the frontline in our name, and to listen to them is the least we can do to acknowledge that.
After all the controversy and war crimes allegations following last summer’s Gaza war, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that “I can still look at myself in the mirror.” (story in Jerusalem Post)
More snippets and information on the report below the fold.
What follows are excerpts from interviews with Israeli soldiers who served in Gaza during Operation 'Protective Edge' last summer (I'm about half-way through the report, I will do one more diary with excerpts). My earlier diary on this report is here and the third in the series is here. Emphasis is mine.
19. If 'roof knocking' was conducted and no one came out after a few minutes, then the assumption was that there was no one there
Unit: Not for Publication • Rank: Not for publication
Is it a requirement to make sure no civilians are in a structure before it's attacked by a fighter jet?
It’s not obligatory. Say the target was [Hamas'] deputy battalion commander in Shuja'iyya, an attack would be launched if the number of civilians wasn’t too high. By too high, I mean a two digit number.
35. They were fired at - so of course, they must have been terrorists…
Unit: Infantry • Rank: Not for Publication • Location: Southern Gaza Strip
There was a force that identified two figures walking in an orchard, around 800 or 900 meters from the force’s zone perimeter. They were two young women walking in the orchard. The commander asked to confirm, “What do you see,” and whether they were incriminated or not. It was during daytime, around 11:00 AM, or noon. The lookouts couldn’t see well so the commander sent a drone up to look from above, and the drone implicated them. It saw them with phones, talking, walking. They directed fire there, on those girls, and they were killed. After they were implicated, I had a feeling it was bullshit.
On what was the incrimination based?
Scouts. “The [Palestinian girls] can surely see the tanks, and they can surely see the smoke rising from all the engineering work.” After that the commander told the tank commander to go scan that place, and three tanks went to check [the bodies]. They check the bodies, and it was two women, over age 30. The bodies of two women, and they were unarmed. He came back and we moved on, and they were listed as terrorists. They were fired at – so of course, they must have been terrorists…
37. With regard to artillery, the IDF let go of the restraints it once had
Unit: Infantry • Rank: Lieutenant
The D9s (armored bulldozers) are operating during this time?
Always. Whenever tanks pass through central routes there will always be a D9 going through and clearing out the terrain before them in every direction, so that they’ll be able to pass through if there’s an explosive device or something in there. One of the high ranking commanders, he really liked the D9s. He was a real proponent of flattening things. He put them to good use. Let’s just say that after every time he was somewhere, all the infrastructure around the buildings was totally destroyed, almost every house had gotten a shell through it. He was very much in favor of that.
You keep shooting at the same houses, at the same windows. When you shoot at a house it doesn’t totally collapse. They stay standing. I was surprised by how long it takes until they fall. You can take down three walls and somehow they remain standing despite the fact that they’re all blown to bits, it’s all ruined. It’s like “Call of Duty” (a first-person shooter video game). Ninety-nine percent of the time I was inside a house, not moving around – but during the few times we passed from place to place I remember that the level of destruction looked insane to me. It looked like a movie set, it didn’t look real. Houses with crumbled balconies, animals everywhere, lots of dead chickens and lots of other dead animals. Every house had a hole in the wall or a balcony spilling off of it, no trace left of any streets at all. I knew there used to be a street there once, but there was no trace of it left to see. Everything was sand, sand, sand, piles of sand, piles of construction debris. You go into a house by walking up a sand dune and entering it through a hole in the second floor, and then you leave it through some hole in its basement. It’s a maze of holes and concrete. It doesn’t look like a street anymore. I really remember how every day we would get new aerial photos and every day a few more houses were missing from the map, and there would be these sandboxes instead.
38. We were we just trying to hit the cars
Unit: Armored Corps • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: Deir al-Balah
After three weeks in the tank, we went up to the post and saw this route and a sort of competition got going. “You’re a gunner, let’s see if you’re a real man, let’s see if you manage to hit a moving car.” So I picked a car – a taxi – and tried to fire a shell, but didn’t manage to hit it. Two more cars came by, and I tried with another shell or two, and didn’t hit. The commander said, “OK, enough, you’re using up all my shells, cut it out.” So we moved to a heavy machine gun. We didn’t manage to hit cars after a few times with that, either, until suddenly I saw a cyclist, just happily pedaling along. I said OK, that guy I’m taking down. I calibrated the range, and didn’t hit – it hit a bit ahead of him and then suddenly he starts pedaling like crazy, because he was being shot at, and the whole tank crew is cracking up, “Wow, look how fast he is.” After that I spoke about it with some other gunners and it turns out there was a sort of competition between all sorts of guys, “Let’s see if this gunner hits a car, or if that gunner hits a car.”
Did you consider what happens if there are people inside there? I mean, did that come up in the talk you held within the tank, that it’s civilians?
Me personally, deep inside I mean, I was a bit bothered, but after three weeks in Gaza, during which you’re shooting at anything that moves - and also at what isn’t moving, crazy amounts - you aren’t anymore really… The good and the bad get a bit mixed up, and your morals get a bit lost and you sort of lose it, and it also becomes a bit like a computer game, totally cool and real.
11. The people at their finest hour
Unit: Combat Intelligence Collection Corps • Rank: Sergeant First Class • Location: North Gaza Strip
What was said during the debriefing afterwards?
You could say they went over most of the things viewed as accomplishments. They spoke about numbers: 2,000 dead and 11,000 wounded, half a million refugees, decades’ worth of destruction. Harm to lots of senior Hamas members and to their homes, to their families. These were stated as accomplishments so that no one would doubt that what we did during this period was meaningful. They spoke of a five-year period of quiet (in which there would be no hostilities between Israel and Hamas) when in fact it was a 72-hour ceasefire, and at the end of those 72 hours they were firing again. We were also told that what had emerged was a picture of the people [of Israel] at their finest hour, the civil unity, the [national] consensus. Discounting a few weirdos who didn’t see it it to rally around this thing.
70. The discourse is racist. The discourse is nationalistic
Unit: Gaza Division • Rank: Lieutenant
As opposed to previous operations, you could feel there was a radicalization in the way the whole thing was conducted. The discourse was extremely right-wing. The military obviously has very clear enemies – the Arabs, Hamas. There is this rigid dichotomy. There are those involved [Palestinians involved in the fighting] and those uninvolved, and that’s it. But the very fact that they’re described as ‘uninvolved’, rather than as civilians, and the desensitization to the surging number of dead on the Palestinian side – and it doesn’t matter whether they’re involved or not – the unfathomable number of dead on one of the sides, the unimaginable level of destruction, the way militant cells and people were regarded as targets and not as living beings – that’s something that troubles me. The discourse is racist. The discourse is nationalistic. The discourse is anti-leftist. It was an atmosphere that really, really scared me. And it was really felt, while we were inside. During the operation it gets radicalized. I was at the base, and some clerk says to me, “Yeah, give it to them, kill them all.” And you say to yourself, ‘Whatever, they’re just kids, it’s just talk’ – but they’re talking that way because someone allowed them to talk that way. If that clerk was the only one saying it I’d write her off – but when everyone starts talking like that…
39. When you go in with a tank brigade, who cares about a mortar?
Unit: Infantry • Rank: Not for publication • Location: Gaza City
The bombings in the days that followed that incident [an incident in which seven IDF soldiers were killed by a rocket] were much more significant. And we retained the same mentality of bombardment as we advanced deeper inside Gaza, into more crowded areas. At 3:00, or 3:30 AM more targets get approved, there’s more activity, you can fire artillery cannons a bit to the side because they will be overshadowed by the air force bombings. You can add more targets because now you’re part of a large-scale offensive. It’s as if because now you’re entering with a tank brigade, firing mortars is totally fine – you’re going in with a tank brigade, so who cares about a mortar? So now when you go in with the all the firepower of F-16s and F-15s, laying down one-ton bombs and blowing up that hospital and all that, well, you can also fire a few mortars on the side while you’re at it.
What do you mean ‘on the side?’
There was an area out of which every two days [Palestinian militants] would shoot rockets – but it was also where their power station was, which generates electricity for an area where 200,000 people live. So take advantage and fire at the place – this one time you’ll get authorization, because there’s a surge in authorizations right now. When there’s a wave of air force strikes going on, you know that whoever is making the decisions is sitting in front of his map right now and marking ‘yes, yes, yes’ – it’s a larger offensive. When the offensive mentality goes large-scale, you can do things that it a large-scale offensive.
Was any fire directed at power stations?
Yes. Like the bombing of the Wafa Hospital. It grows and grows and grows and then they say, “OK, come on, let’s bomb it.” We woke up one morning and went, “Huh, they took it down.” And we marked another X on our list of optional targets.
Power stations were optional targets?
They were. It’s a strategic site, an important site, you mark it as a target. When do you act against it? That depends how things develop, on the circumstances.
More snippets and information on the report below...
[The report] include allegations that Israeli ground troops were briefed to regard everything inside Gaza as a “threat” and they should “not spare ammo”, and that tanks fired randomly or for revenge on buildings without knowing whether they were legitimate military targets or contained civilians.
In their testimonies, soldiers depict rules of engagement they characterised as permissive, “lax” or largely non-existent, including how some soldiers were instructed to treat anyone seen looking towards their positions as “scouts” to be fired on.
The group also claims that the Israeli military operated with different safety margins for bombing or using artillery and mortars near civilians and its own troops, with Israeli forces at times allowed to fire significantly closer to civilians than Israeli soldiers.
“The rules of engagement for soldiers advancing on the ground were: open fire, open fire everywhere, first thing when you go in,” recalled another soldier who served during the ground operation in Gaza City. The assumption being that the moment we went in [to the Gaza Strip], anyone who dared poke his head out was a terrorist.”
In at least one instance described by soldiers, being female did not help two women who were killed because one had a mobile phone. A soldier described the incident: “After the commander told the tank commander to go scan that place, and three tanks went to check [the bodies] ... it was two women, over the age of 30 ... unarmed. They were listed as terrorists. They were fired at. So of course they must have been terrorists.”
“The motto guiding lots of people was: ‘Let’s show them,’ recalls a lieutenant who served in the Givati Brigade in Rafah. “It was evident that was a starting point. Lots of guys who did their reserve duty with me don’t have much pity towards [the Palestinians].”
He added: “There were a lot of people there who really hate Arabs. Really, really hate Arabs. You could see the hate in their eyes.”
A second lieutenant echoed his comments. “You could feel there was a radicalisation in the way the whole thing was conducted. The discourse was extremely rightwing ... [And] the very fact that [Palestinians were] described as ‘uninvolved’ rather than as civilians, and the desensitisation to the surging number of dead on the Palestinian side. It doesn’t matter whether they’re involved or not … that’s something that troubles me.”
One sergeant who served in a tank in the centre of the Gaza Strip recalls: “A week or two after we entered the Gaza Strip and we were all firing a lot when there wasn’t any need for it – just for the sake of firing – a member of our company was killed.
“The company commander came over to us and told us that one guy was killed due to such-and-such, and he said: ‘Guys, get ready, get in your tanks, and we’ll fire a barrage in memory of our comrade” … My tank went up to the post – a place from which I can see targets – can see buildings – [and] fired at them, and the platoon commander says: ‘OK guys, we’ll now fire in memory of our comrade’ and we said OK.”
Excerpts from other newspapers below the fold along with more about Breaking The Silence. I am making my way through the report itself and shall post excerpts I find particularly interesting in a followup diary: