On Friday, I was detained by Border Police officers in Nabi Saleh along with another Israeli. We were handcuffed behind our backs, thrown to the ground and beaten. The other Israeli was beaten much worse than I. His head was smashed against the ground and he was kicked repeatedly in the stomach. All of this happened in front a Palestinian Btselem photographer who captured the whole thing on video. After the beating, we were then detained and held in a Jerusalem prison for thirty hours. This story is only unique because it happen to Jews.
It is almost a daily ritual for Palestinians in the West Bank. In the coming days I will publish a more detailed account of my detention and the harassment which I experienced. The border police commander who led the beating gave us a clear explanation for his actions while in the police station when he said, ‘don’t come back to Nabi Saleh you piece of shit.” Israel does not want Israelis in Nabi Saleh documenting the ruthless and brutal repression of Palestinian unarmed demonstrations. The state will go to shocking lengths to intimate, beat and detain us. One has to experience it to fully believe it.
Before I release my in depth account of the events, I would like to draw your attention to a video just released by Btselem documenting a solider beating a Palestinian Btselem photographer. The photographer was on his own land when the soldier attacked him. No charges will be filed against this soldier.
December 27, 2008
I feel like sharing my story with my friends to show how much terror Israel has brought to us….
That day I was walking in the street with a friend of mine in the middle of Gaza City…we were laughing at some jokes he was saying…and all of the sudden we heard the roaring of the Israeli F16s…It is normal in Gaza to hear such things, so we did not pay much attention to that, we kept moving with our jokes….Then with a glance, an explosion happened in a police station that was around 150 meters away from us.. We went running to the place when another explosion took place followed by a third, then a fourth, a fifth, we didn’t know what was happening but we didn’t hesitate to keep on going to the first place bombed…We had our hands over our ears because the explosions never ended, it was very loud to the limit you think that you are the one being hit with those rockets.
When we arrived at the police station, this is exactly what we saw.. On the door there were two officers lying on the ground injured, when I told the man, “I am going to save you just hang on,” he said, “leave me and get inside”.. I didn’t know what was happening inside, so I went with my friend and with 15 other people following us…We found over 40 bodies lying on the ground dead and about 250 others were injured, most of them had bad injuries…
We left the dead and started to take the survivors out of the place fearing that the Israeli F16s would bomb the place for another time… Most of the survivors were in bad shape, while I was carrying the people, I reached to a person who was badly injured but he looked like he was dead to me, his body was all burned.. he was saying, “ashhad an la elah ela allah, ashhad an mohammed rasool allah”…and that’s what made me notice that he was alive…I just moved towards him and in a hurry tried to take him out of the place, I grabbed him by the hand but the problem was that his hand was not part of his body anymore…I tried from his leg and the same thing happened, his leg just slipped out of his body, so I was there looking at him and knowing that he has no hope. “What shall I do?!” I was saying in a loud voice, I didn’t know how to carry him because each part of his body was a piece and I had to take him out of that place…I had three other people coming towards me and shouting very loud, “lets get him out of here quick,” and that’s what we did…
After like fifteen minutes we took all the survivors and the bodies out of the place, we all left, and after 5 minutes…the Israeli airplanes just hit the place again…we all were praying that we don’t get hit while we were inside… I moved to the hospital with the last ambulance to see what was happening and believe me what I saw was really disgusting and awful… Bodies all lying on the ground… the white suit of all the doctors turned out to red as if they are working in a grocery… This is the day where I decided to work and tell the world about Palestine and about the crimes Israel commits against Palestinians…
And every Palestinian has his own story, because no one stayed at home that day…everyone wanted to take a role in rescuing the injured.
We the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, two years on from Israel’s genocidal attack on our families, our houses, our roads, our factories and our schools, are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the time is now to hold Israel to account for its ongoing crimes against us. On the 27th of December 2008, Israel began an indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The assault lasted 22 days, killing 1,417 Palestinians, 352 of them children, according to main-stream Human Rights Organizations. For a staggering 528 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces let loose their US-supplied F15s, F16s, Merkava Tanks, internationally prohibited White Phosphorous, and bombed and invaded the small Palestinian coastal enclave that is home to 1.5 million, of whom 800,000 are children and over 80 percent UN registered refugees. Around 5,300 remain permanently wounded.
This devastation exceeded in savagery all previous massacres suffered in Gaza, such as the 21children killed in Jabalia in March 2008 or the 19 civilians killed sheltering in their house in the Beit Hanoun Massacre of 2006. The carnage even exceeded the attacks in November 1956 in which Israeli troops indiscriminately rounded up and killed 275 Palestinians in the Southern town of Khan Younis and 111 more in Rafah.
Since the Gaza massacre of 2009, world citizens have undertaken the responsibility to pressure Israel to comply with international law, through a proven strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions. As in the global BDS movement that was so effective in ending the apartheid South African regime, we urge people of conscience to join the BDS call made by over 170 Palestinian organizations in 2005. As in South Africa the imbalance of power and representation in this struggle can be counterbalanced by a powerful international solidarity movement with BDS at the forefront, holding Israeli policy makers to account, something the international governing community has repeatedly failed to do. Similarly, creative civilian efforts such as the Free Gaza boats that broke the siege five times, the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and the many land convoys must never stop their siege-breaking, highlighting the inhumanity of keeping 1.5 million Gazans in an open-air prison.
Two years have now passed since Israel’s gravest of genocidal acts that should have left people in no doubt of the brutal extent of Israel’s plans for the Palestinians. The murderous navy assault on international activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea magnified to the world the cheapness Israel has assigned to Palestinian llife for so long. The world knows now, yet two years on nothing has changed for Palestinians.
The Goldstone Report came and went: despite its listing count after count of international law contraventions, Israeli “war crimes” and “possible crimes against humanity,” the European Union, the United Nations, the Red Cross, and all major Human Rights Organizations have called for an end to the illegal, medieval siege, it carries on unabated. On 11th November 2010 UNRWA head John Ging said, “There’s been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy…The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt.”
On the 2nd of December, 22 international organizations including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, and Medical Aid for Palestinians produced the report ‘Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade’ calling for international action to force Israel to unconditionally lift the blockade, saying the Palestinians of Gaza under Israeli siege continue to live in the same devastating conditions. Only a week ago Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report “Separate and Unequal” that denounced Israeli policies as Apartheid, echoing similar sentiments by South African anti-apartheid activists.
We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarem, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely. We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel’s white phosphorous and chemical warfare. We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege. We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression.
We ask: when will the world’s countries act according to the basic premise that people should be treated equally, regardless of their origin, ethnicity or colour – is it so far-fetched that a Palestinian child deserves the same human rights as any other human being? Will you be able to look back and say you stood on the right side of history or will you have sided with the oppressor?
We, therefore, call on the international community to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinian people from Israel’s heinous aggression, immediately ending the siege with full compensation for the destruction of life and infrastructure visited upon us by this explicit policy of collective punishment. Nothing whatsoever justifies the intentional policies of savagery, including the severing of access to the water and electricity supply to 1.5 million people. The international conspiracy of silence towards the genocidal war taking place against the more than 1.5 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.
We also call upon all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations to demand:
- An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of their exercise of democratic choice.
- The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention.
- The immediate release of all political prisoners.
- That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be immediately provided with financial and material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing
- An end to occupation, Apartheid and other war crimes.
- Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip.
Boycott Divest and Sanction, join the many International Trade Unions, Universities, Supermarkets and artists and writers who refuse to entertain Apartheid Israel. Speak out for Palestine, for Gaza, and crucially ACT. The time is now.
Besieged Gaza, Palestine
List of signatories:
General Union for Public Services Workers
General Union for Health Services Workers
University Teachers’ Association
Palestinian Congregation for Lawyers
General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
General Union for Agricultural Workers
Union of Women’s Work Committees
Union of Synergies—Women Unit
The One Democratic State Group
Arab Cultural Forum
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
Palestine Sailing Federation
Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime
Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organizations
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students’ Union
Medical Relief Society
The General Society for Rehabilitation
General Union of Palestinian Women
Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun
Union of Health Work Committees
Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Posted on 27-12-2010
A spokesman for the US-led military alliance says the war in Afghanistan will escalate in 2011 as militants step up their attacks against the foreign forces in the country.
NATO spokesman Brigadier General Joseph Blotz says there is no end to the war and NATO needs to keep pressure on the Taliban all over Afghanistan.
“There is no end to the fighting season; we need to keep pressure on the Taliban all over the country.”
The remarks come as war has taken the lives of over 705 US-led foreign troops so far in 2010, making it the deadliest year for NATO since 2001.
This is while another NATO service member was killed on Monday. The Western military alliance says the soldier lost his life in a roadside blast in the south, without providing further details.
Southern Afghanistan has seen an escalation in violence this year.
A recent comparison of internal maps of the UN indicates “deterioration of the security situation” in Afghanistan despite the United States’ recent claim of progress in the Afghan war.
Fighting has recently spilled over into the previously peaceful regions in northern Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal compared two confidential “residual risk accessibility” maps and found that violence has worsened in northern and eastern provinces.
UN personnel use the maps to estimate the dangers of travel and running programs.
US President Barack Obama in his Afghan war strategy review claimed that the US-led forces had made progress in the war-battered country.
Obama had pledged a major drawdown from Afghanistan by July 2011. But Washington has confirmed that American troops will remain in war-ravaged Afghanistan for at least four more years.
The US military adventurism comes as the United Nations recently announced that Afghan civilian deaths had soared by over 30 percent in 2010 compared to the same period last year.
The UN says more than 2,400 civilians died in the crossfire across the country in the first 10 months of 2010.
The 2001 US-led invasion was launched with the objective of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. After nine years and despite the presence of over 150,000 foreign troops across Afghanistan, militancy is still high.
Of all the criminals involved with the 2008 Gaza war, an Israeli leftist will be going to jail for riding his bike against the war in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv Magistrates court judge Yitzhak Yitzhak convicted Israeli leftist Jonathan Pollak of illegal assembly for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza and then sentenced him to three months imprisonment that will begin on January 11th, 2011. Pollak was the only one detained at the said protest, and was accused of doing nothing other than riding his bicycle in the same manner as the rest of the protesters. The conviction activates an older three-month suspended sentence imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of the Separation Barrier. An additional three month prison term was also imposed for the current conviction, which will be served concurrently. His imprisonment is part of a clear strategy of silencing dissent in the Israeli left.
Jonathan Pollak is one of the founders of the Israeli leftist group “Anarchists Against the Wall“, which join weekly unarmed Palestinian protests throughout the West Bank against the Separation Wall and the Occupation. Since 2008, he has served the media coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, an Palestinian umbrella organization designed to garner media attention for the unarmed struggle in the West Bank. On his conviction, Pollak argued for his sentence, saying “I find myself unable to express remorse in this case … If His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.”
On January 31, 2008, some thrity Israeli protesters participated in a Critical Mass bicycle ride through the streets of Tel Aviv against the siege on Gaza. During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak’s arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions.
The arrest and subsequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak’s behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more severe obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment.
According to Pollak’s lawyer, Adv. Gaby Lasky, “The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”
During the trial, an Israeli supporter of Pollak was violently removed from the courthouse for wearing a shirt that said “there is no pride in occupation.” After the verdict was handed down, supporters began chanting in the courtroom against Israeli fascism and the occupation. They were forcibly removed one by one from the courthouse and subsequently held a demonstration on the sidewalk.
Despite evidence of Israeli wrongdoing in the course of the Gaza war, the only Israeli sentenced to jail so far is a leftist who choose to ride his bike through Tel Aviv in non-violent protest. The state of Israel sent a clear message with this verdict: that it will not tolerate dissent from the left. In fact, the state persecutor asked for a severe sentence in order to ‘make an example out of Pollak and those who engage in similar anti-occupation work.” Pollak said that he will continue to work with Palestinians against the occupation and repeatedly cited the much harsher verdicts given to Palestinians involved in non-violent protests. The only remorse that he showed was that he did not do enough to express dissent about the siege of Gaza. If peacefully riding a bike against violent aggression is a crime, Pollak said that we will happily go to jail. The fragility of Israeli democracy is on full display when one of its privileged sons can’t even ride a bike in protest of an aggressive and violent war on a besieged people.
Israeli soldiers stationed at the Za’tara Roadblock, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, stopped three Palestinian youths and violently assaulted one of them for not understanding them when they spoke to him in Hebrew.
The youth, Bilal Hasan, 20, and two of his friends from Qaqra village, south of Nablus, were standing at the Za’tara Israeli military roadblock, waiting for a cab to take them to Salfit city where he is taking driving lessons.
Bir Zeit University Journalism student, Ahmad Judy, was standing at the roadblock and witnessed the attack.
He said that a military Jeep drove to the roadblock, and the soldiers started talking to the three youths in Hebrew.
When the three could not understand what the soldiers were saying, as they cannot speak Hebrew, one of the soldiers wrapped the wire of his two-way communication radio around the neck Bilal Hasan and tried to strangle him with it, which made him push the soldier away.
The soldiers then started beating and kicking Hasan before they cuffed him and took him to an unknown destination.
27 December 2008: Israel began its deadly three-week assault on Gaza. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)
The Gaza massacre, which Israel launched two years ago today, did not end on 18 January 2009, but continues. It was not only a massacre of human bodies, but of the truth and of justice. Only our actions can help bring it to an end.
The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report documented evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in an attack aimed at the very “foundations of civilian life in Gaza” — schools, industrial infrastructure, water, sanitation, flour mills, mosques, universities, police stations, government ministries, agriculture and thousands of homes. Yet like so many other inquiries documenting Israeli crimes, the Goldstone Report sits gathering dust as the United States, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority and certain Arab governments colluded to ensure it would not translate into action.
Israel launched the attack, after breaking the ceasefire it had negotiated with Hamas the previous June, under the bogus pretext of stopping rocket firing from Gaza.
During those horrifying weeks from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, Israel’s merciless bombardment killed 1,417 people according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza.
They were infants like Farah Ammar al-Helu, one-year-old, killed in al-Zaytoun. They were schoolgirls or schoolboys, like Islam Khalil Abu Amsha, 12, of Shajaiyeh and Mahmoud Khaled al-Mashharawi, 13, of al-Daraj. They were elders like Kamla Ali al-Attar, 82 of Beit Lahiya and Madallah Ahmed Abu Rukba, 81, of Jabaliya; They were fathers and husbands like Dr. Ehab Jasir al-Shaer. They were police officers like Younis Muhammad al-Ghandour, aged 24. They were ambulance drivers and civil defense workers. They were homemakers, school teachers, farmers, sanitation workers and builders. And yes, some of them were fighters, battling as any other people would to defend their communities with light and primitive weapons against Israel’s onslaught using the most advanced weaponry the United States and European Union could provide.
The names of the dead fill 100 pages, but nothing can fill the void they left in their families and communities (“The Dead in the course of the Israeli recent military offensive on the Gaza strip between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009,” [PDF] Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 18 March 2009).
These were not the first to die in Israeli massacres and they have not been the last. Dozens of people have been killed since the end of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” the latest Salameh Abu Hashish last week, a 20-year old shepherd shot by Israeli occupation forces as he tended his animals in northern Gaza.
But the tragedy does not end with those who were killed. Along with thousands permanently injured, there is the incalculable psychological cost of children growing up without parents, of parents burying their children, and the mental trauma that Israel’s offensive and the ongoing siege has done to almost everyone in Gaza. There are the as yet unknown consequences of subjecting Gaza’s 700,000 children to a toxic water supply for years on end.
The siege robs 1.5 million people not just of basic goods, reconstruction supplies (virtually nothing has been rebuilt in Gaza), and access to medical care but of their basic rights and freedoms to travel, to study, to be part of the world. It robs promising young people of their ambitions and futures. It deprives the planet of all that they would have been able to create and offer. By cutting Gaza off from the outside world, Israel hopes to make us forget that the those inside are human.
Two years after the crime, Gaza remains a giant prison for a population whose unforgivable sin in the eyes of Israel and its allies is to be refugees from lands that Israel took by ethnic cleansing.
Israel’s violence against Gaza, like its violence against Palestinians everywhere, is the logical outcome of the racism that forms the inseparable core of Zionist ideology and practice: Palestinians are merely a nuisance, like brush or rocks to be cleared away in Zionism’s relentless conquest of the land. This is what all Palestinians are struggling against, as an open letter today from dozens of civil society organizations in Gaza reminds us:
“We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarem, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely. We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel’s white phosphorous and chemical warfare. We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege. We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression.”
Those of us who live outside Gaza can look to the people there for inspiration and strength; even after all this deliberate cruelty, they have not surrendered. But we cannot expect them to bear this burden alone or ignore the appalling cost Israel’s unrelenting persecution has on the minds and bodies of people in Gaza or on society itself. We must also heed their calls to action.
One year ago, I joined more than a thousand people from dozens of countries on the Gaza Freedom March in an attempt to reach Gaza to commemorate the first anniversary of the massacre. We found our way blocked by the Egyptian government which remains complicit, with US backing, in the Israeli siege. And although we did not reach Gaza, other convoys before, and after, such as Viva Palestina did, only after severe obstruction and limitations by Egypt.
Yesterday, the Mavi Marmara returned to Istanbul where it was met dockside by thousands of people. In May the ship was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which set out to break the siege by sea, only to be attacked and hijacked in international waters by Israeli commandos who killed nine people and injured dozens. Even that massacre has not deterred more people from seeking to break the siege; the Asian Convoy to Gaza is on its way, and several other efforts are being planned.
We may look at all these initiatives and say that despite their enormous cost — including in human lives — the siege remains unbroken, as world governments — the so-called “international community” — continue to ensure Israeli impunity. Two years later, Gaza remains in rubble, and Israel keeps the population always on the edge of a deliberately-induced humanitarian catastrophe while allowing just enough supplies to appease international opinion. It would be easy to be discouraged.
However, we must remember that the Palestinian people in Gaza are not objects of an isolated humanitarian cause, but partners in the struggle for justice and freedom throughout Palestine. Breaking the siege of Gaza would be a milestone on that march.
Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament and a passenger on the Mavi Marmara explained last October in an interview with The Electronic Intifada that Israeli society and government do not view their conflict with the Palestinians as one that must be resolved by providing justice and equality to victims, but merely as a “security” problem. Zoabi observed that the vast majority of Israelis believe Israel has largely “solved” the security problem: in the West Bank with the apartheid wall and “security coordination” between Israeli occupation forces and the collaborationist Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and in Gaza with the siege.
Israeli society, Zoabi concluded, “doesn’t feel the need for peace. They don’t perceive occupation as a problem. They don’t perceive the siege as a problem. They don’t perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don’t pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza].”
Thus the convoys and flotillas are an essential part of a larger effort to make Israel understand that it does have a problem and it can never be treated as a normal state until it ends its oppression and occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and fully respects the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian refugees. And even if governments continue to stand by and do nothing, global civil society is showing the way with these efforts to break the siege, and with the broader Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Amid all the suffering, Palestinians have not celebrated many victories in the two years since the Gaza massacre. But there are signs that things are moving in the right direction. Israel begs for US-endorsed “peace negotiations” precisely because it knows that while the “peace process” provides cover for its ongoing crimes, it will never be required to give up anything or grant any rights to Palestinians in such a “process.”
Yet Israel is mobilizing all its resources to fight the global movement for justice, especially BDS, that has gained so much momentum since the Gaza massacre. There can be no greater confirmation that this movement brings justice within our grasp. Our memorial to all the victims must not be just an annual commemoration, but the work we do every day to make the ranks of this movement grow.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse