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Reposted from subir by poco

During Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] bombed dozens of residential structures, killing hundreds of civilians. Over 500 children were killed.

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Unit: Air force • Rank: Not for publication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

Unit: Infantry • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: Northern Gaza Strip
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Unit: Not for publication • Rank: Not for publication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

Unit: Infantry • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: Northern Gaza Strip
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.

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Reposted from subir by poco

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 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.

21. Everything exploded. Everything destroyed

Unit: Infantry • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: Northern Gaza Strip

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...

Continue Reading
Reposted from subir by subir

In the summer of 2014, 2,205 people were killed in Gaza. 547 children were among those killed and over 1,000 were permanently disabled. Entire families died in their homes as a result of IDF bombs.

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli organization of former veterans. They released a report today on Operation Protective Edge:  This is How We Fought in Gaza - Soldiers' testimonies and photographs from Operation Protective Edge (2014)

The Guardian has the best coverage I've found so far. They have excerpts from the report up at: In their own words: Israeli troops break ranks on Gaza campaign

They also have an article written up with background: Israeli soldiers cast doubt on legality of Gaza military tactics

I have two other diaries on this subject, the second one is here and third one here.

[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:
Continue Reading

Sun May 03, 2015 at 02:46 PM PDT

Tel Aviv looked like Baltimore today

by Havoth

Reposted from Havoth's Thoughts by poco

CNNI was covering in detail racial protests turned violent in Tel Aviv Israel today. While the first video I found of it was from April 30th, the protests continue today in Tel Aviv.

 The protests were allegedly sparked by a viral video of a white Jewish policeofficer beating on a Ethiopian Jew, who happens to be a veteran of Israel's military. The video is silent, and shows an interaction between a cop (it could be anywhere in America) where he is obviously pushing on the man's bicycle and telling him to move along. The officer starts to walk away and the man, Damas Pakedah -wearing his IDF uniform at the time -  apparently asks a question or says something else to the officer, whose response is to jump him. Now, this man, Mr. Pakedah, hangs onto a post until the cops (another officer had joined him briefly) gives up, and lets go of him. He then continues to speak out against them and picks up a large rock, which provokes the officer who initiated the violence of the encounter, to place his hand on his gun, in an apparent threat response. But his fellow officer seems to have him under control and they decide not to shoot the man and Damas drops his rock.

In April 2015 an Ethiopian soldier in the IDF was the victim of an unprovoked and allegedly racist attack by an Israeli policeman and the attack was caught on video. The soldier, Damas Pakedeh, was arrested and and then released, after being accused of attacking the policeman. Pakedah is an orphan who emigrated from Ethiopia with his siblings in 2008. He believes the incident was racially motivated and that if the video had not been taken, he would have been punished. Instead, the police officer and volunteer were suspended pending an investigation. Likud MK Avraham Neguise called on National Police Chief Yohanan Danino to prosecute the police officer and volunteer, saying they engaged in “a gross violation of the basic law of respecting others and their liberty by those who are supposed to protect us.” The Jerusalem Post notes that in 2015 " there have been a series of reports in the Israeli press about alleged acts of police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis, with many in the community saying they are unfairly targeted and treated more harshly than other citizens." - Wikipedia entry

It looks like any average action between a black man and a cop in Anytown in America.

What is striking is how the protests in Tel Aviv today looked much like Baltimore on last Monday, April 27th.  View it here and here (thanks to a commenter who pointed my errors in video links)

Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in several waves by the Israel government and religious bodies as part of the Right To Return. Evidence of racism was shown by opposing parties in Israel by first demanding a clear rabbinical decision that they were, in fact, Jews.

In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel).

Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status.

Regarding religious leadership, 60 Kessim (priests) of the Ethiopian immigrants in Israel are employed by the Ministry of Religious Services, and many of them conduct religious ceremonies in Israel. They are however not recognized as rabbis and do not have the authority to perform marriages. Nevertheless, a new generation of rabbis of Ethiopian origin trained in Israel are gradually taking over.

Due largely to a high rate of illiteracy, the Ethiopian Jews have had a difficult time being absorbed into Israeli society and economy. The biggest challenge to the Israeli Ethiopian Beta Israel community probably lies in the very low level of formal education of the immigrants. With few exceptions, when they first arrived to Israel they had no useful training for a developed economy like that of Israel, and in addition to that they did not know Hebrew. But as younger generations born or raised in Israel and educated in Israel, they are experiencing this less and less. But still, Ethiopian Jews make 30-40% less than Arabs citizens of Israel, themselves a minority group that experiences a high ethnic-based state of bigotry. Unemployment among the Ethiopian Jewish community in 2005 was as high as 65% for those over the age of 45.  As of 2011, The Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel community, made up about 1.75% of Israel's population, at approx 126,000.

Other discriminatory attitudes persist within Israel for the Beta Israel community, such as:
* delays in immigration processing
* mayors of small towns like Or Yehuda in 2005 refusing to accept Ethiopian immigrants because he felt they would lower property values and increase crime in the area. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
*  Ethiopians blood donations are routinely disposed of as a matter of the public health policy. Officially it was thought that blood donations of the immigrants would have high rates of Hepatitis B, which was found to be largely untrue. Of the 5200 immigrants that arrived in the late 90s during Operation Solomon, only 2.3% were found to be carriers of HIV.
*  Ethiopian women were reported in 2010 to have been given Depo-Provera for birth control while in transition camps awaiting processing without their full knowledge of the effects of the drug and without consent. The practice was first reported in 2010 by Isha le'Isha, an Israeli women’s rights organization. Hedva Eyal, the author of the report, stated: "We believe it is a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor."

I used the Wiki entry as much of the source of quick info on the background of Ethiopian Jews, but also I read every link of their sources and researching other news articles to make myself reasonably certain of the information provided. I'm also watching the CNNI coverage as I put this together. I'm not a reporter or regular blogger, but this news struck me, as much as it did anyone seeing it on CNN and the worldwide media including Al Jazeera, of the shock that Tel Aviv could look so much like Baltimore MD and the types of "race riots" so often seen in America lately, is happening elsewhere. The recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Betanyahu is planning on a meeting with community leaders and police on Monday, to engage in a discussion on how to avoid these sorts of "American policing problems" - per the phone-in reporter on CNN I'm listening to right now.

Reposted from Meteor Blades by Flyswatterbanjo
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) questions members of the panel testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Bob Corker has his work cut out for him keeping poison pill amendments out of Iran nuclear deal review bill.
In a week when Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are meeting in New York to discuss next steps in negotiating a deal that would remove economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curtailment of its nuclear program, senators will be debating a bill that would give them the opportunity to reject any agreement the negotiations come up with.

The deadline for coming to a comprehensive pact is June 30. There are still several sticking points between the negotiating parties, which include the U.S., four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Iran and Germany.

The Senate bill—The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, S 615—now has 63 co-sponsors, 18 of them Democratic senators plus independent Angus King who caucuses with the Democrats. The legislation cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously April 14. Those 63 co-sponsors only need four more votes to make their bill veto-proof.

But that doesn't matter. Even if the bill passes the Senate and the House, Speaker John Boehner says he would not have enough votes to override a veto if Congress were to reject an agreement with Iran when it is reviewed. More about that in a moment.

The bill got through the SFRC as a consequence of vigorous efforts by Sen. Bob Corker and ranking committee Democrat Ben Cardin to take poison pills out the original text to that gives Congress 30 days to review and, if unhappy, additional days to reject any deal curtailing Iran's nuclear program. Although it had strong Democratic opposition in committee, that was overcome when President Obama said he could support a bill with the poison extracted. The needed changes were made and Corker managed to keep out amendments that would have restored the opposition from several Democrats and Obama.

But now he's got to do it all over again on the floor of the Senate. How difficult that will be is uncertain. Corker himself has said anything can happen in the "Wild West" of Senate debate and procedure. Others had stronger responses. For instance:

"Anybody who monkeys with this bill is going to run into a buzz saw," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a possible White House candidate, warned ahead of this week's debate.
What amendments could peel away Democratic support and wreck the chances of the Senate passing a veto-proof bill on the Iran agreement? Read below the fold.
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Reposted from subir by poco
A Palestinian child sits in front of a wall riddled with shrapnel, in the city of Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip on November 17, 2014.
Palestinian child sits by a wall riddled with shrapnel
Defense for Children International is an non-governmental organisation focused on promoting and protecting the human rights of children on a global, regional, national and local level. They've been around since 1979.

They do great work in a lot of difficult environments. Please consider supporting them if you have the wherewithal.

DCI's Palestine unit has been gathering data on the treatment of Palestinian children for years. They issued a very detailed report earlier this week titled Operation Protective Edge: A war waged on Gaza's Children.
DCI-P have been on the ground in Gaza since last summer collecting data and building a database of children killed and maimed. The complete report makes for heart-rending reading. I've excerpted numerous segments that I found compelling:

In total, Operation Protective Edge claimed the lives of 2,220 Palestinians, including at least 1,492 civilians.

Five Israeli civilians, including one child, and 67 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives.

Evidence and testimonies collected by DCIP showed that there was no safe place for children in Gaza during the Israeli assault. Children were killed in their homes by Israeli missiles, while sheltering in schools by high-explosive Israeli artillery shells, and in the streets by Israeli drone-fired missiles and artillery shells as they attempted to escape the onslaught with their families.

Those who survived these attacks will continue to pay the price for many years. More than 1,000 children suffered injuries that rendered them permanently disabled, according to OCHA. Amputees like Mohammad Baroud, 12, who lost both his feet in an explosion that killed 11 of his neighbors, will require lifelong medical care and support.

Israel, the world’s largest exporter of aerial drones, killed at least 164 children in drone attacks during its assault on Gaza. In a number of incidents, evidence suggests that Israeli forces directly targeted children. In one such case, Rawya Joudeh, 40, and four of her five children were killed by an Israeli drone-fired missile as they played together in the family’s yard in Tal al-Zatar, Jabalia refugee camp, North Gaza, on the afternoon of August 24. The children were aged between 6 and 14.

Just under half of the children who died during the offensive lost their lives in aerial attacks on residential buildings. Missiles dropped by Israeli warplanes killed 225 children while they were in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat with their families, played, or slept.

Gideon Levy wrote last summer about the seeming indifference his countrymen exhibited towards the hundreds of children being killed by their army only a few dozen miles away.
Though the scale of the violence in 2014 far exceeded previous Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, the experiences of Palestinian children during the conflict were not new. Since 2000, a generation of children living in the OPT have been shot at, shelled and bombed. During this time, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,950 Palestinian children, the vast majority of whom were living in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces fired more than 36,000 artillery shells into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. A former Israeli infantryman, Idan Barir, likened the use of artillery shells to “Russian Roulette,” stating “it is impossible to aim the shells in an accurate manner.”

The effects of high-explosive artillery shells cannot be limited as required by international law and when fired in close proximity to civilians or civilian structures constitute an indiscriminate attack.

Natasha Roth over at +972mag wrote about the report: In war, there is no safe place for Gaza's children
There came a point early on during last summer’s Gaza war when it seemed we reached a nadir. Four children, all under the age of 12, were killed by an Israeli naval attack while playing soccer on a beach. The boys were directly struck by two shells, which also seriously wounded four other children.
One three-day period saw a child killed every hour. By the end of the war, an average of 11 children had been killed per day.
...the Israel Broadcast Authority and the Supreme Court banned a B’Tselem radio advert reading out the names of the children killed in the conflict.

Nonetheless, a week after that day on which 59 children were killed, footage emerged of a crowd of right-wing Israelis chanting at a pro-war demonstration in Tel Aviv: “Tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.” Somehow, they knew exactly what the army was doing in Gaza. And even if there was a majority in Israel that remained silent between its own fear and apathy, it is difficult not to recall the words of IDF Lt.-Col. Dov Yermiya, who during the 1982 Lebanon War decried “[t]his arrogant, cruel nation that dances at the edge of destruction.”

Much more, including data on what kind of weapon killed each child is below the fold:
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Reposted from subir by poco

Haaretz ordered a survey to gauge public support for various solutions once the peace talks broke down last year.  The survey was conducted between June 9-11, 2014 and published in July last year. It is even more interesting and relevant due to its age, because it was conduced prior to the following significant events:

- Three Israeli children were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank (June 12)
- A Palestinian child was kidnapped and killed in East Jerusalem (July 2)
- The IDF and Hamas began lobbing rockets/bombs into and out of Gaza in earnest. (July 7)
- Operation Protective Edge began (July 8).

In other words, the survey was completed in a time of "quiet". Here's how Haaretz summarized the results:

In the question that presented possible long-term solutions, partition of the country was the most popular, preferred by 28 percent of those polled. At the same time, two other possibilities were not far behind: “Continuation of the present situation” is favored by 25 percent; and an apartheid state model – “one state, in which the Palestinians will have limited rights,” as the question phrased it – is preferred by 23 percent of Israelis. Only 10 percent said they would opt for a state in which all citizens will have equal rights.
So when asked which long-term solution was best for Israel, Israelis preferred:

58%: One State
28%: Two States
14%: Don't Know

Digging into the 58% who are for a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, we have:

10%: One State with equal rights
23%: Open Apartheid where Palestinians have limited rights
25%: Implicit Apartheid enforced by a long-term military occupation.

Personally, I am most impressed by the 14% who "Don't Know". They show us that you can go about your daily life and ignore the "peace process" that never seems to go anywhere. I applaud them, and I suspect if I were in my twenties in Israel, I'd probably be in the "Don't Know" camp. Now if only Palestinians had the ability to go about their daily lives not knowing or caring about the peace process.

And in case you don't believe so many would want apartheid, the pollsters asked a more direct question on that subject. "If Israel were to annex territory, do you think the Palestinians living there should be given full rights, including the right to vote for the Knesset, or partial rights, without the right to vote for the Knesset?". 56% said partial rights, 31% said full rights, and 13% said Don't Know.

Supporters of a two-state solution may highlight a different question in the survey:

Sixty percent of those asked responded affirmatively to the question, “If the prime minister reaches an agreement, whereby a Palestinian state will be established alongside Israel, would you support or not support that agreement?” Only 32 percent said they wouldn’t support such an agreement, while 7 percent said they didn’t know.
I believe their hopes are misplaced since it seems Israelis do not understand the parameters of a two-state solution:
When the implications of partition and the specifics of an agreement were presented to the respondents – “The establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 boundaries with border modifications, most of the settlements to be annexed to Israel, Jerusalem to be divided and no return of refugees” – support for the two-state solution plummeted to 35 percent, with 58 percent replying in the negative.
Or as Haaretz put it "the Israeli public is seemingly unfamiliar with the geopolitical situation". And that's with "no return of refugees". I expect it would plunge further if there were any support for even a limited "right of return".

Perhaps that is because no Israeli leader who values his life cares to present it to the Israeli public. Yet another reason to respect the 14% who have thrown up their hands and are honest enough to say it by responding "Don't Know".

To relate the Palestinian quest for self-determination and justice to the American context, I'd like to let two famous quotes stand in for lengthy expositions on I/P history:

When discussing slavery in the US, Jefferson remarked:

We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
And in reference to Jim Crow, MLK said:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
A little more below the fold:
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Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 08:33 PM PDT

Saudis Ending Yemen Bombing Fail

by divineorder

Reposted from divineorder by Assaf

Hey, let's go bomb somebody!  Then lets go invade on the ground!

Middle East
Saudis Announce Halt to Yemen Bombing Campaign
Civil war. Religious War.  GWOT.  Which is it?

Recently  a Catholic blogger asked this key question:

Will the US join a religious war in the Gulf?
Drew Christiansen Ra'fat Aldajani  |  Apr. 20, 2015 NCR Today

Although Saudi Arabia is a key ally to the United States, it is important that the U.S. have honest conversations with the Saudis about issues that have been considered too sensitive to Saudi sensibilities, namely the long-term risk to the U.S. and the West from Saudi Arabia's missionary Wahhabism (a strict version of Sunni Islam). The worldwide network of madrassas (Quranic schools) and Wahhabi mosques funded by the Saudis have in many cases provided the theoretical and religious basis for militant and terrorist groups around the world who have turned theology into violence.

The conflicts across the Middle East have lately defied any coherent and meaningful U.S. policy. Getting embroiled in a religious war would be to step into a viper's tangle. Drone warfare against terrorists has moral complications all its own, and they need to be resolved. But the rationale for counterterrorism is clear.

Involvement in the Saudi-Sunni war vs. Iran-Shiite battle for regional power, by contrast, is a destination amply marked with signs: Danger ahead. Under these conditions, President Barack Obama's caution and deliberation are qualities the American public should welcome.

[Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen is former editor of America magazine and a professor of ethics at Georgetown University. Ra'fat Aldajani is a Palestinian-American writer and commentator.]

More troubling news along with the announced end to bombing is the sending in of the Saudi Kings' forces. For a gung ho but interesting history of how this control force came about check out:
Military & Defense More: Saudi Arabia Military Defense Bahrain
Saudi Arabia's elite National Guard has been ordered to take part in the war in Yemen

    Jeremy Bender

    Apr. 21, 2015, 11:32 AM    2,388 4   

Read more:

Many would like to see diplomacy take the place of bombing and killing of civilians.
UN chief urges immediate ceasefire, political solution in Yemen
WASHINGTON – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Yemen, saying a political solution is the best way out of the conflict in the Arab country.

“I am calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen by all parties. It is time to support corridors for lifesaving aid and a passage to real peace,” the secretary-general said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Thursday night. “The United Nations-supported diplomatic process is the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability.”

The UN chief also said the government in Riyadh is aware of the importance of dialogue in resolving the Yemeni crisis. “The Saudis have assured me that they understand there must be a political process,” he pointed out, calling on all Yemenis to participate in diplomacy. Ban further said that he was trying to find a new representative who can be immediately deployed" to the violence-wracked country. Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy to Yemen, has Wednesday resigned.

Hundreds have been killed while deliveries of humanitarian supplies were being blocked and UNICEF recently reported that one third of fighters in the country were children. “It is time to support corridors for lifesaving aid and a passage to real peace. The United Nations-supported diplomatic process is the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability.”

The US policy in Yemen has been an abject failure, with drone deaths of civilians and even US citizens.  That needs to change, but apparently now Obama admin is more concerned about pleasing the Saudis.

According to Politico   (with apologies)

“Our involvement in Yemen is a direct function of the talks, and it’s a decision by the administration to try to reassure our Arab partners,” says Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama State Department and Pentagon official specializing in the Middle East. “I’m not sure what we’re doing in Yemen is good Yemen policy. In fact I would probably venture that it’s bad Yemen policy. But I would say that it’s good U.S.-Saudi relationship policy.”

Any American effort to interdict arms shipments to Yemen would have the imprimatur of the United Nations: Last week, the international body approved an arms embargo authorizing member states to “immediately take necessary measures to prevent direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of arms to the Houthis, according to a U.N. news release.

Read more:

Just two hours ago Reuters reported more civilian deaths:
World | Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:13pm EDT
Related: World, Yemen
Two air strikes in Yemen kill at least 40 people, mostly civilians
Good to see the Saudi say they are ending the bombing, not so happy to see they are sending in ground forces.

Supporting the Saudis needs to end.  We need a sea change in US foreign policy.

 It has to come with working from the ground up to get a Congress that works for this instead of letting the War Profiteers fill   pockets and complicate policies with their greed.

We also need a Democratic President who will lead in that direction.  Who will that be?

Reposted from subir by poco

This is a roundup of news related to Palestine with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper.

We use the name Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) for their homeland.

Female IDF soldiers barred from mess hall due to presence of ultra-Orthodox troops (Haaretz)

The army closed a mess hall to women and barred a female officer from entering when new recruits of the ultra-Orthodox Nahal battalion were having lunch, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The incident happened at the Tel Hashomer induction base Thursday. The IDF explained the move by saying the army had promised that there would be no women around ultra-Orthodox recruits during their induction.
The reservist said a female officer who arrived at the mess hall was told she could not enter and eat because of the presence of the ultra-Orthodox recruits.

“If a female officer can’t sit in the mess hall on this day, we’ve gone crazy,” said the reservist, who said he knew ultra-Orthodox society well. “What if a group of settlers said they didn’t want to sit with Arabs or Druze, or that we couldn’t serve with Muslims?”

After the officer was barred from the mess hall, women soldiers who came to eat were sent to another mess hall usually reserved for officers, the reservist said.

The NY Times discussed this issue in the context of plane flights:
When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith

There have been prior incidents of violence towards women in Israel by ultra-Orthodox men over seating and dress:

When shooting a Palestinian in the back is merely 'reckless' (+972mag)

In January 2013, an Israeli soldier shot a 16-year-old Palestinian who posed absolutely no threat in his back. Samir Awad, from the village Budrus, didn’t survive the valiant military operation, and was killed. Last December, the High Court of Justice harshly criticized the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) handling of the case calling on it to finish its investigation.

On Tuesday, the State announced that it would charge the soldier reckless and negligent use of a firearm. Had the incident not ended with the death of a teenager, it could have come off as no more than a silly act of mischief.

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which accompanied the Awad family throughout the legal process, called the decision a “new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The State Attorney’s Office has sent security forces in the Occupied Territories a clear message: if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will do everything to cover it up and ensure impunity.” According to Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories that has researched this issue in the past few years, 97.8 percent of the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) investigations vis-a-vis harm caused to Palestinians have ended without indictments.

Here's Gideon Levy on the killing: Only The Hague can deal with Israel’s war criminals (Haaretz)
Murder. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe what Israeli soldiers have done. But at the separation barrier near the village of Budrus late on the morning of Tuesday, January 15, 2013, a murder was committed.

Samir, 16, had finished a science test and gone with six friends to where the fence had a breach. It was a test of courage they played: To get near the fence that imprisons their village. His friends stayed back and he crossed the breach. He didn’t know that armored-corps soldiers were lying in ambush between the cacti and the ditch alongside the barrier.

They shot and wounded him in the thigh. Bleeding and terrified, he fled for his life toward the village. One of the soldiers grabbed him by the arm, but he broke free. He made his way up the rocky hillside and they shot him again, this time from behind. They shot an unarmed and already wounded youth with two live bullets. It was a distance of about 10 meters; one in his back, one in his head.
The months passed and the Israel Defense Forces of course didn’t lift a finger. After about a year the father, with the help of the rights group B’Tselem, petitioned the High Court of Justice, to require the military advocate general to decide whether to put the soldiers on trial or close the case.

The IDF prolonged the investigation another year, as it always does. The soldiers were released from the army and went back to their civilian lives, the case was transferred to civilian prosecutors, and two days ago there was a decision: The soldiers, it’s not clear who, will go on trial on two grotesque charges — recklessness and negligently handling a weapon.
This is the example that should finally convince every supporter of justice: only The Hague. Only at the International Criminal Court will it be possible to put on trial those who commit war crimes like the murder of Samir Awad. Anyone who objects to The Hague wants the crimes to continue. Anyone who fears The Hague knows he has a lot to hide.

High Court on BDS: Somewhere between terror and Holocaust denial +972mag quotes selectively from the Israeli Supreme Court's decision legitimizing civil compensation claims against anyone calling for a boycott of Israel or its institutions, and anyone publishing such a call. Taken together with the ruling on confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem, this may set the stage for settler organizations to push the envelope again by claiming BDS speech is "political terror" causing them direct economic harm for which they would like to be compensated with the Palestinian "terrorist's" house and building over there please.

“Thus the call for boycott falls into the category that is known in constitutional literature: the democratic paradox, which allows for limiting the rights of those who seek to enjoy the fruits of democracy in order to harm it. Calling for boycott and participating in it, therefore, can sometimes be considered ‘political terror.’”
(Justice Meltzer, pg. 37)

“Even the boycott against Israel, in its old form, which Israel — as well as other countries, headed by the United States — worked to combat, falls within the realm of freedom of speech; it would be terrible for this freedom of speech to reach its goals. It may be akin to — without comparing — Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic and racist remarks, which in my eyes must enjoy the protection of free speech.”
(Justice Rubinstein, pg. 164)

And also from +972mag is the opinion piece: You can boycott anything in Israel — except the occupation
A few months ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called for a boycott of businesses owned by Arab citizens of Israel. Such remarks — blunt racism directed at 20 percent of Israelis, regardless of their actions, opinions or political affiliations — are nowwell-embedded within the Israeli mainstream. Liberman himself is a legitimate coalition partner as far as either Labor or Likud are concerned. Meanwhile, the call to boycott those who profit from the occupation is now officially considered a civil offense. This is the bottom line of the High Court of Justice’s verdict, which approved the Knesset’s anti-boycott law (with the exception of a single article) on Wednesday afternoon.
This verdict should put an end, once and for all, to the myth of Israel’s “liberal” High Court. Just in recent years, the court has approved the Nakba Law (allowing the state to withdraw funds from institutions that teach about the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948); the “admission panels” law(allowing small communities to reject applicants based on race or ethnicity); The “citizenship law” (forbidding Arab citizens who marry non-citizen Palestinians to settle in Israel with their spouse); and now the boycott law. There were also other troubling rulings, which received little public attention, such as the one allowing Israel to operate quarries in the West Bank, profiting from the little resources Palestinians actually own, in direct violation of international law regarding occupied territories.

A show of unity from Zionist Union on Iran deal (Haaretz)

In a position paper issued on Sunday on the framework agreement between Iran and the six world powers on restricting Tehran’s nuclear program, Zionist Union refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach, calling it an issue “on which there is no coalition or opposition.”

The three-page document, published nearly two weeks after the deal was announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, comes in the midst of the stalled coalition negotiations between Likud and the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Given the impasse, some in Likud have recently raised the possibility of forming a unity government with Zionist Union.

IDF soldier charged for ordering Palestinian to drive him to settlement (Haaretz)

An elite Israeli soldier has been charged with extortion after military prosecutors said he ordered a Palestinian man to drive him to the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in late March.

The Palestinian man, Bader Yasser Oudeh, drove into a tree to escape the soldier, whom he said he thought was abducting him.
The appeals court said the soldier, who serves in the elite Golani Brigade, "exploited his position and his weapon to act in a threatening and aggressive manner toward a local resident in an area subject to military control. In so doing, he seriously damaged the might and the image of the army."

Interview with Dr. Basman Alashi in Gaza in Gaza, Interview April 14, 2015 (Int'l Solidarity Movement)

“You corner me, you kill me, and on top of that you ask me not to defend myself. Human beings in this world have the right to defend themselves. We, as Palestinians, have the right to defend our land and our families by all means available”, said the Dr. Basman Alashi.

The night of the 17th of July 2014 the Israeli occupation forces bombed the Al Wafaa Hospital, in Shijaia, Gaza Strip. The hospital´s speciality was the rehabilitation of paralyzed patients.

This is the moving testimony of Dr. Basman Alashi, its director:

How is it possible to reach the point of bombing a hospital full of patients and medical staff?

“The UN told me that, according to a report from the Israeli occupation forces, the bombing of the hospital was due to the fact that there were weapons within its facilities … I can assure you that this report is completely false; the hospital opened its doors to the international press and to all the foreigners who freely inspected our facilities without finding any weapons at all. Despite all the overwhelming evidence, our hospital was bombed in the middle of the night, with its patients, medical staff, and some international witnesses, still inside the buildings.”

Israeli settlers profit from Palestinian child labor (Haaretz)

Human Rights Watch said the settlement farms, most of them in the Jordan Valley, employ children as young as 11, pay them low wages and subject them to dangerous working conditions. In a 74-page report, the New York-based group said hundreds of children work in the settlement farms, often in high temperatures, carrying heavy loads and are exposed to hazardous pesticides.
"Israel's settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Children from communities impoverished by Israel's discrimination and settlement policies are dropping out of school and taking on dangerous work because they feel they have no alternatives, while Israel turns a blind eye."
The report is titled Ripe for Abuse

Aid groups urge world to push for end of Gaza blockade (Haaretz)

Reconstruction of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed in last summer's Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has barely begun and living conditions in the territory have only worsened six months after donor countries pledged $3.5 billion for the task, a coalition of international aid groups said Monday.

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) urged the international community to adopt a new approach to Gaza, including by pressuring Israel to lift its border blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The blockade, also enforced by Egypt, has been in place since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

‘Price tag’ settler argues in court that revenge isn’t a crime (+972mag)

Were people’s lives and livelihoods not at stake, it would have been an almost sublime piece of parody. During the trial of four teenage Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian-owned cafe in the West Bank town of Dura, which concluded on Monday, the defendants’ attorneys – as reported by Ynet – brought forth the claim that because the arson was an act of revenge, their clients were not guilty of breaking the law.

Welcome to Netanyahu's 'resolution' to the conflict By Noam Sheizaf | November 18, 2014
Let’s think about that for a moment. The arson was investigated by the Israel Police’s Nationalistic Crimes Unit in the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District. This body was set up as a response to settler violence, which frequently manifests as price tag attacks – i.e. acts of violent revenge by Israelis against Palestinians and their property
As per the recent findings of Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the rate of indictment for nationalistic crimes is remarkably low; a survey of SJ District Police files investigating attacks against Palestinians and/or their property by Israeli civilians showed that between 2005 and 2014, only 7.4 percent of such cases ended with indictments.

Israel demolishes homes in unrecognized Palestinian village (+972mag)
Israeli bulldozers demolished three structures in the unrecognized Palestinian village Dahmash, near Lyd (Lod in Hebrew) on Wednesday morning. The demolition took place despite both a High Court decision that called for a mutual agreement and a demand by the Lod District Court that the State delay its demolition plans. The homes were uninhabited at the time of the demolition.

The unrecognized village Dahmash is under the jurisdiction of the Emek Lod Regional Council, a mere 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. The village has been around since 1948, and its residents even have proof of ownership in the Israel Land Registry. However, the State does not recognize their claim to the land, and does not provide the village with the necessary infrastructure or even the most basic services, such as sewage, roads, electricity, garbage collection or a post office. Over the past few years, the residents have been struggling against repeated home demolitions by coming up with their own master plan in order to gain recognition for their rights to live on their land.

Haaretz on the same story says Israeli Arabs call for general strike over home demolitions (Haaretz)
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, the main Israeli Arab leadership body, announced a general strike in the Arab sector on April 28, including in schools, because of the demolitions. The committee also said it would help the affected families rebuild their homes without any help from international organizations. Many Israeli Arabs believe that the recent spate of demolitions signifies a change of policy in the wake of the recent Knesset election.

Four years ago we lost Vik (Int'l Solidarity Movement)

“History is us.
History is not cowardly governments
with their loyalty to whoever has the strongest military
History is made by ordinary people
everyday people, with family at home and a regular job
who are committed to peace as a great ideal
to the rights of all
to staying human...."

These were the first words Vittorio Arrigoni posted to his Italian blog after he arrived to Gaza.

Today April 15, 2015, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of ISM activist and comrade Vittorio “Vik” Arrigoni in the Gaza Strip. Vittorio arrived in Gaza on the 23rd of August 2008, breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza with around 40 other international activists which he described as one of the happiest moments of his life: “It became clear, not only to the world, but Palestinians also that there are people who are willing to spend their lives to come and hug their brothers here in Gaza.”

In the words of Vik’s mother, Egidia Beretta:

This lost child of mine is more alive than ever before, like the grain that has fallen to the ground and died to bring forth a plentiful harvest. I see it and hear it already in the words of his friends, above all the younger among them, some closer, some from afar…we were a long way from Vittorio, but now we are closer than ever, with his living presence magnified at every passing hour, like a wind from Gaza, from his beloved Mediterranean, blowing fierily to deliver the message of his hope and of his love for those without a voice, for the weak and the oppressed, passing the baton.

Zionism is an abominable, racist and colonial movement. Like all colonial and apartheid systems, it’s in the interest of all that it be swept away. My hope is to see it replaced, without any bloodshed, with a democratic, secular and lay state – for example on the borders of historic Palestine – and where Palestinians and Israelis could live under equal rights of citizenship without ethnic and religious discrimination. It’s a wish that I hope will soon become a reality.

Victory for Residents of the Village of Burka in Petition Submitted with the Assistance of Yesh Din against a Planned Mass Event on the Village’s Land at Passover: Israel Police Opens Investigation against the Planners of the Event

The State Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank and the Commander of the SJ District Police, this morning announced that they intend to take action to prevent a “pilgrimage” to land belonging to the Palestinian village of Burka (the former settlement of Homesh) planned by a group of Israelis. The announcement was made in response to a petition submitted by Yesh Din. The authorities added in their response that the Israel Police plans to open an investigation against the planners of the event.
Israel evacuated the settlement of Homesh, in the north of the West Bank, as part of the Disengagement Plan in 2005. At the time of the evacuation, an order was imposed prohibiting the entry of Israelis to the site. Despite this order, hundreds of Israeli civilians continue to visit the site on festivals and special days. There is even a permanent presence on the site of a group known as the “Homesh Yeshiva.” Homesh has become a symbol of opposition to the Disengagement Plan, and the squatters on the site enjoy visits of support from politicians and various public figures.

Help came too late for Jafar Awad in Israeli jail (Haaretz)

But on January 21, Jafar, weak and frail, was taken by ambulance from the Ramle clinic to Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron. His father says the family had to pay 40,000 shekels (about $10,000) before their son could be released. That night Jafar lost consciousness again, but before that, his father says, his son told him that Shin Bet security service agents offered to arrange treatment for him if he became a collaborator.

A spokesperson for the Shin Bet said in response to that claim: “As you know, the Shin Bet does not comment on its operational activities. However, the claim that it conditioned the medical treatment of Jafar Awad on his agreement to collaborate totally lacks any basis in fact or connection to reality.”

UCLA Jewish studies director cancels Illinois lecture, citing treatment of Salaita case (Haaretz)

The director of UCLA’s Jewish studies center canceled a lecture at the University of Illinois over its withdrawal of a job offer to Steven Salaita, a harsh critic of Israel.

Professor Todd Samuel Presner sent a letter in late March to Phyllis Wise, chancellor at the Urbana-Champaign school, informing her that he will not come to the campus for its Rosenthal Lecture because of how her office and the university board handled the Salaita case. The letter was made public by the university on Wednesday.

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Reposted from subir by Flyswatterbanjo

When it rains it pours, and if you're a Palestinian it seems you're stuck in a perpetual monsoon. I wouldn't normally publish back to back diaries on Israel Supreme Court rulings, but this one is too important to pass up.

From the Haaretz story:

Only a day after the High Court of Justice upheld most of the sections of the “Anti-Boycott Law,” the justices of the Supreme Court approved the use of another controversial law: The application of the Absentee Property Law to assets in East Jerusalem. The practical effect of the ruling is that it allows the state to take control of property in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank or Gaza.
However, the expanded seven-justice panel, headed by former Supreme Court president Asher Grunis and present President Miriam Naor, did warn that the application of the law to East Jerusalem presents many problems and it must be used in only the “rarest of rare cases.” Grunis even went as far as to say that the “literal” use of the law for Palestinians who reside in the West Bank could bring about its application to Jewish settlers who own property within Israel proper, enabling the state to take over their property as well.
Riiiight, the Israeli state is going to confiscate the property of settlers. That'll happen right after they demolish Baruch Goldstein's home.  Because it's the policy of Israel to demolish the home of terrorists and this is applied to all without fear or favor.
Avigdor Feldman, the lawyer representing one of the appelants in the case, said: “The justices demonstrated a very formalistic approach. They determined that it is not proper, but have passed the buck to the courts, attorney general and the Custodian. They have asked to trust the generosity of the state not to make use of [the law]. That is running away from responsibility. It is clear that the law was created during a different situation and for other purposes, and is not appropriate for the present circumstances.”

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which joined the case as a “friend of the court,” said after the ruling: “Even though the court noted in its ruling that the law is arbitrary, and the ruling brings examples of that, it allows the continued application of one of the most racist and arbitrary laws in Israel, which was enacted in 1950 with the goal of confiscating the property of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes."

Yet another nail in the coffin of the "two state solution" by a "respected institution" in the "only democracy in the region" demonstrating its commitments to "minority rights" except when those minorities are the kind who takes buses in "droves". I think I've reached the limit for snarky air-quotes in one sentence.
In 1967, after the Six-Day War, which saw the extension of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Palestinians with assets in Jerusalem suddenly found themselves considered “absentee” owners, even though they hadn’t gone anywhere. Sometimes they were living only a few hundred meters away, but outside the new Jerusalem city limits and officially in the West Bank, and found their property confiscated only because Israel drew the new municipal border between them and their property, making them no longer residents of Jerusalem - though they never left their homes.
The present Supreme Court ruling came in response to a number of cases appealed to the highest court over the past few years filed by Palestinians who had their property taken under the law.

The decision concerning the application of the law in East Jerusalem has significant implications for Jewish settlement in the city’s predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods. Over the years, the Absentee Property Law has become a tool for right-wing groups seeking to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. These groups ask the custodian to expropriate houses whose residents are in the West Bank and then rent the premises from the custodian, usually for a nominal fee.

Grunis, with the rest of the justices concurring, ruled that the law does apply in East Jerusalem — and rejected the appeals of the Palestinian property owners.

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Reposted from subir by subir

In 2011, the Knesset passed a law banning calls for boycotts of Israel. The law read in part:

In this bill, "a boycott against the State of Israel" is defined as: deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or body solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
During the debate:
MK Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz blasted the law, calling it outrageous and shameful. "We are dealing with a legislation that is an embarrassment to Israeli democracy and makes people around the world wonder if there is actually a democracy here," he said. Ilan Gilon, another Meretz MK, said the law would further delegitimize Israel.
Before the vote, the Knesset's legal adviser, attorney Eyal Yanon, published a legal assessment saying parts of the law edge towards "illegality and perhaps beyond." He went on to warn that the law "damages the core of freedom of expression in Israel." Yanon's assessment contradicts that of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who said the bill is legal.
Human rights groups filed lawsuits against the law almost immediately and in December 2012, Israel's High Courty granted a stay. Earlier today, it issued it's final ruling striking down some portions of the law unanimously and letting others stand in 8-1 and 5-4 split decisions. This is a very significant ruling with long-range impact on free-speech in Israel. I'm going to do a round-up of coverage from a variety of news sources.

+972mag: High Court upholds controversial 'boycott law'

The High Court rejected a petition by human rights organizations, upholding the controversial “boycott law” on Wednesday. The law give grounds for individuals to sue anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or areas under its control.

The court struck down only one section of the law, which establishes that one may seek punitive damages for a deliberate call to boycott without needing to prove actual damages. It appears that one will now need to show actual damages in order to win a lawsuit.

Justice Hanan Meltzer, who wrote the majority opinion, ruled that a call to boycott is not consistent with the true purpose of freedom of expression, and therefore is not protected speech. He went on to describe boycott calls as “political terrorism,” adding that the state has a right to defend itself from them.
Nearly four years ago, the Israeli Knesset passed the Law to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott, which rights groups challenged in court almost immediately. (Read a translation of the law itself here.)

The law was a direct response to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. It enables anyone who feels they were (or might be) harmed by a boycott, “solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control (read: settlements in occupied territory, MSO), in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage,” to sue for both punitive and compensatory damages.

The Jewish Press (a US-based weekly with an orthodox readership) has a story: Supreme Court Judge Calls Anti-Israeli Boycotts ‘Political Terrorism’
NGOs opposing the bill were quoted by the website as having commented on the court’s unanimous ruling, “The boycott law is a law to silence legitimate criticism. The High Court ruling is a serious blow to freedom of expression and basic rights for political participation on a disputed topic.”

“Freedom of expression” is very a popular concept among those who exploit it to demonize Israel and try to turn it into an Arab country.

Haaretz also has coverage: High Court largely upholds controversial 'Anti-Boycott Law'
“Boycotts and encouraging divestment are recognized throughout the world as legitimate, nonviolent tools,” said the Women’s Coalition for Peace, which is one of the petitioners and had previously promoted boycotts and divestment. “In its decision today, the High Court is approving the silencing and restriction of legitimate protest aimed at criticizing and working to change Israeli policy.”
Melcer, Grunis and his successor, current Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, voted to uphold the Anti-Boycott Law, along with fellow justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Issac Amit. Justices Salim Joubran, Yoram Danziger, Uzi Vogelman and Neal Hendel made up the minority.

In his minority opinion, Danziger wrote that the law undermines free expression to an unreasonable extent.

“I believe that the call for a boycott is consistent with the purposes of free expression,” he wrote. “A boycott expresses disgust with the boycotted behavior. It displays a lack of desire to support and finance behaviors that the boycotter feels are unworthy… and in the Israeli political reality, calls for boycotts of the State of Israel are heard from only one side of the political map. … The law thus creates discrimination based on one’s position.”

Yedioth Ahronoth: Court tempers Boycott Law, rules out unlimited compensation

Israel Hayom (owned by Adelson): High Court: State may punish anti-Israel boycotters

Some four years after state passes anti-boycott law, justices rule that protecting the well-being of the state trumps the right to boycott and does not infringe on free speech.  Law makes the call for the boycott of Israel a civil offense.
During the court hearings, the state said the bill would help safeguard Israel's stature on the world stage and protect its foreign relations.
The Jerusalem Post has a great in-depth article (more excerpts below fold): High Court upholds part of Anti-Boycott Law, strikes part and splits on '1967 Israel'
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel also slammed the ruling, while Gush Shalom’s lawyer Gabi Lasky said, “It cannot be that it is permitted to boycott cottage cheese within the Green Line because of its price, but according to the High Court it is prohibited to call for boycotting cottage cheese... in the settlements for political ideals.”

On the other side, Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said the verdict is “a clear proof that attempts to harm the State of Israel via boycotts are unacceptable. Israel has a right to defend itself not only from harm to its security, but also from economic harm.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said following the verdict that “the extreme Left is trying unsuccessfully to instill its post-Zionist values.

“Yesterday the High Court decided that terrorists can’t study in prison, and today it rejected the petition against the Boycott Law. Not only did the public speak out clearly against the Left’s petitions, the High Court Justices did, too,” he said.

At one point, new Justice Yitzhak Amit noted that “some say that BDS is anti-Semitism.”
And finally from Haaretz again:
Gaby Lasky, a lawyer who represented petitioner Gush Shalom in the case, also said the court was silencing the left.

“This is a regrettable decision with far-reaching ramifications; the High Court justices are changing Israeli constitutional law as we have known it to date and put the interests of perpetuating the settlement enterprise over all the state’s citizens’ basic right to freedom of expression,” said Lasky.

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Reposted from Meteor Blades by Flyswatterbanjo
Bob Corker
Sen. Bob Corker answers reporters' questions Tuesday.
The unanimous vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday in support of an amended bill authorizing a congressional review of any agreement with Iran over its nuclear program doesn't mean conflict between the White House and foes of such an agreement has ended. Assuming the bill passes the full Senate and the House of Representatives, it's only a truce likely to end once the parameters of the agreement are announced. That is supposed to happen by June 30.

But while the domestic fight over any deal with Iran is not over, this was a clear White House victory.  Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker report:

While Mr. Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, the president decided the new proposal put together by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was acceptable.

“What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is that the president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.

Administration officials have argued all along that Congress has no authority to approve or reject an agreement. All it can do, they say, is vote for or against lifting sanctions.

More analysis can be found below the fold.

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