JERUSALEM – The PLO’s Executive Committee issued a report Saturday documenting serious violations of Palestinians’ human rights during the first week of 2011.
The report highlighted three killings in the West Bank during the week. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot and killed 66-year-old Omar Qawasmi. The Hebron resident was killed in his bed in what the army later admitted was a mistake.
On Saturday an anti-wall protester died after inhaling large amounts of tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers at a rally in Bil’in. A day later, Israeli forces shot dead Ahmad Maslamani at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank. Maslamani was shot on his way to work in Israel.
Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities demolished two Palestinian homes and several Palestinian businesses. The PLO report detailed that Israeli forces bulldozed Nasser Yousif Siyam’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, and Nayif Uweida’s shop and home. The properties were destroyed under the pretext that they were built without the necessary licenses. Uweida said his home was built 10 years ago.
The report added that on Wednesday Israeli authorities destroyed two garages, a car wash and building materials belonging to Abed Al-Aziz Al-Khatib, a resident of Hizma northeast of Jerusalem. The buildings provided the main source of income for Al-Khatib’s 50-member family.
In Nablus district in the northern West Bank, the report added, Israeli settlers launched several attacks including ransacking the home of a Palestinian woman in Burin village. The woman was rescued by villagers who responded to her calls for help. Settlers also killed sheep in Qusra southeast Nablus, the PLO said.
Hebron district in the southern West Bank witnessed several Israeli violations by settlers and by Israeli forces. Bulldozers dug up lands belonging to residents of Yatta to expand the illegal Israeli settlement Karmi Zur. In the same area, Israeli forces declared a closed military zone on Palestinian agricultural lands, denying farmers access to their fields.
Uri Avnery views the alliance of racists and fascists behind a bill, recently adopted by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to investigate the funding sources of human rights and civil liberties groups but not the settler organizations that are financed by US evangelical sects and Russian mafiosi.
Good morning, Joe. At home in the US, your name is mud. But here in Israel you can really feel at home.
In your time, you succeeded in infecting all of the US with hysteria. You detected a Soviet agent under every bed. You waved a list of Soviet spies in the State Department (a list which nobody was ever shown). In a hundred languages around the world – including Hebrew – the name McCarthy, McCarthyism, has become a household word. Yes, you made your mark alright.
But you were, after all, only a plagiarist. Before you, the House Un-American Activities Committee terrorized the country, destroyed careers, hounded people into suicide and tarnished the reputation of the US throughout the democratic world. It “investigated” intellectuals and artists and branded many of them as “anti-American”.
I doubt that Faina Kirschenbaum ever heard about this committee. She was not born in the United States but in the Stalinist Soviet Union, and that’s her spiritual homeland. Her attitude towards democracy reflects this background.
The meaning of her Germanic name is “cherry tree”. But the fruits of this tree are poisonous.
This week, the Knesset adopted a bill tabled by Kirschenbaum, a settler who is also the director-general of Avigdor Lieberman’s party. The bill calls for the appointment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate whether international funds or foreign countries are financing organizations that “take part in the campaign to delegitimize IDF [Israel Defence Forces] soldiers”. A parallel bill tabled by Likud member Danny Danon demands that the inquiry commission investigate whether foreign governments finance Israeli “activities against the State of Israel”.
It is easy to guess what such an investigation by a committee composed of politicians, appointed by the rightist-racist majority of the Knesset, will look like. The infamous Un-American Activities Committee will look distinctly liberal in comparison.
It is very interesting to see who voted for and who against this. Among the 41 who voted for, there were not only the usual fascists of the extreme right, headed by the declared Kahanist Michael Ben-Ari, but also the chief Orthodox representative, Jacob Litzman, the former army spokeswoman, Miri Regev, and the former army chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon. Special mention must go to Matan Vilnai, who once almost became chief of staff, a leading member of the Labour Party, at present the deputy minister of defence in charge of settlements.
Among the 17 who voted against were, of course, the Arab MKs [Members of the Knesset] who were present and all the Meretz members. A pleasant surprise was provided by Yitzhak Herzog, a candidate for the Labour Party chairmanship; the former Likud and present Kadima member Meir Sheetrit; and the Likud member Michael Eitan. Eitan is the last remnant of the Revisionist movement of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which combined an extreme nationalist agenda in foreign affairs with a very liberal attitude in local matters.
All in all, 58 of the 120 members of the Knesset took part in the vote. Where were the other 62? They were in hiding. Binyamin Netanyahu disappeared. Ehud Barak disappeared. Tzipi Livni disappeared. Even Eli Yishai disappeared. Presumably, they all have a doctor’s certificate to cover their absence.
There are votes whose significance is greater even than the matter itself – votes that characterize an era and are looked upon, in retrospect, as decisive. This may well have been such a vote.
The first thing about this law that stands out is that it does not apply to all political associations in Israel.
If such an even-handed law had been enacted, I would have welcomed it. I am very curious about the origin of the money that supports the settlers and the other extreme-rightist organizations.
Huge sums, tens and hundreds of millions, are flowing to these bodies – many times more than the comparatively pitiful amounts received by the human rights and peace associations. Some of the recipients are devoted to the expulsion of Arabs from East Jerusalem. They offer Palestinian home-owners astronomical prices for their property and promise them new identities in the US so they can live there happily ever after. They use hired straw men, mostly Arab. The weak succumb to the temptation. That costs a lot of money, and one of the well-known donors is a famous billionaire who made his money as an owner of casinos. In Israel, incidentally, owning a casino is a felony.
It is known that the financiers of the extreme right include some of the heads of evangelical sects, born anti-Semites, who believe that Jesus will return to Earth when all the Jews are concentrated in this country. Then – either the Jews get baptized or they will be annihilated to the last man and woman. These adherents of the really-final solution are the main source of the money that finances many rightist associations.
This money nurtures openly fascist associations as well as more discreet ones, who advocate the dismissal of “leftist” professors from the universities, organize networks of student-spies who inform on their lecturers (another way of earning money for their studies). Some organizations monitor the media in order to cleanse them of people suspected of such misdemeanors as striving for peace. There is also a huge apparatus that combs all TV, radio and print media throughout the Arab world and provides our “correspondents for Arab affairs” (almost all of them army intelligence and Shin-Bet alumni) choice pieces, like something about a crazy Muslim preacher in Yemen or a particularly nasty statement in a Cairo salon. They are very successful in poisoning the wells of peace.
If a serious inquiry committee investigates the financing of the extreme right, it will discover that much of it comes straight from the pocket of the American taxpayer. That is one of the great scandals: the US government is financing many of the settlements. For dozens of years, it has turned a blind eye to the American organizations that are providing funds to the settlements – settlements that are illegal even in the official policy view of the US government. In the US, one can donate tax-free money for humanitarian purposes – but not for political purposes. Almost all the money flowing to the extreme right in Israel is officially marked as devoted to humanitarian purposes.
And what about the Russian mafiosi, who are intimately connected with the Israeli right? What about the various dictators in fragments of the former Soviet Union? Where does Lieberman, whose connections with these countries are well-known, get his money from? Police investigators have been trying for years to unravel this mystery, with no concrete results so far.
All this could keep several inquiry committees busy for years to come – and the initiators of the bills know this perfectly well. They are adamant: inquiry into leftist associations only, most definitely not rightist ones. (Rather like the lady who cried out in the darkness of a cinema: “Take your hands of me! Not you, YOU!”)
The initiators of the bills did not hide the identity of the associations they want to “investigate”. The list includes:
- B’Tselem (“In the Image”), a veteran outfit that monitors events in the occupied territories and is treated with respect even by the army;
- Shovrim Shtika (“Breaking the Silence”), a group of former soldiers that collects testimonies from soldiers;
- Yesh Din (“There is a Law”), which is active in matters of land ownership in the occupied territories as well as overseeing the military courts;
- Yesh Gvul (“There is a Limit”), which defends soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories;
- Machsom Watch (“Checkpoint Watch”), an organization of female volunteers who oversee what’s happening at the roadblocks;
- “Physicians for Human Rights”, who have just been awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm for activities in service of the sick in the occupied territories;
- Association for Human Rights, the New Fund, IR Arim (“City of Peoples”), which conducts legal fights against the penetration of settlers into East Jerusalem; and
- Shalom Achschav (“Peace Now”) for its important activities monitoring the building in the settlements…
There is nothing wrong with receiving funding from international governmental sources that are active in the field of human rights around the world. The Breaking the Silence group did not hide the fact that its recent book, a collection of the testimonies of 183 soldiers, was financed by the European Union. They boasted about it on the cover of the book.
Especially reprehensible is the pretence of the racists to be acting on behalf of the soldiers. They do not speak about the delegitimization of the settlers, or of the fascist right, or of the racist policies of our government – only about the “delegitimization of the IDF soldiers”.
That is a classic tactic of all fascist movements in the world. They wrap themselves in the flag of patriotism (“patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”) and claim to defend “our troops”.
Our troops come from all segments of society. They include rightists and leftists, the religious and the secular, settlers and the informants of Breaking the Silence. Who appointed this peddler of poisoned cherries to speak for “our troops”? Woe to the army that needs defenders like these!
The career of Joe McCarthy was suddenly cut short. It was buried under one sentence that made history.
Joseph Nye Welch, a respected lawyer representing the US army, who appeared before the McCarthy committee, was shocked by his tactics and cried out: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
The audience in the hall burst out in spontaneous applause. These few words electrified the American public. Suddenly the wheel turned. The McCarthy era ended, the public regained its sanity and since then, McCarthyism is remembered only as something to be ashamed of.
I am waiting now for a decent Israeli citizen to seal the open sewer in the Knesset that is threatening to submerge the entire country.
Mr Binyamin Netanyahu, sir, have you no sense of decency left?
Israel is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.
It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza - code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis - that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.
The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying “It’s not a question of if, but rather of when,” a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by “government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region”.
The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, “as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete”. He adds with unconscious irony, “we have not lost our right of self-defence”.
More accurate would be the assertion, “we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity”.
And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?
Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.
Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.
Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.
As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.
Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: “We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from ‘safe havens’ amid [their] civilians.”
With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.
Silence is complicity
Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.
World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.
This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.
We have witnessed the carnage of ‘preemptive war’ and ‘preventive war’ in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of ‘preemptive peace’ and ‘preventive peace.’ How long must the peoples of the world wait?
It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: “While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.”
International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of ‘responsibility to protect,’ but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.
And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.
It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.
The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.
Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).
Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.
This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.
I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.
I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.
Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).
He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
An 18-year-old youth has been killed in riots in Algeria, becoming the first casualty since the outbreak of clashes over soaring food prices and rampant unemployment in the African country.
Azzedine Lebza was hit by a bullet in Ain Lahdjel in the M’Sila region, 300 kilometers (180 miles) southeast of Algiers and died instantly as youths clashed with police in the capital and several other towns, AFP reported on Saturday.
But Algerian authorities have not yet confirmed the death.
Citizens in the North African country started to protest nationwide when the government announced price increases for basic commodities such as oil and sugar at the beginning of this year.
The official APS news agency said protesters ransacked government buildings, bank branches and post offices in “several eastern cities” overnight, including Constantine, Jijel, Setif and Bouira.
On Friday afternoon, rioting youths set shops on fire in the capital and clashed with police in several other cities.
Meanwhile, police fired tear gas and water cannons at young people hurling stones and glass bottles at security forces.
The General Union of Algerian Traders and Artisans said consumer prices had increased 20% to 30% in recent days, especially the prices of sugar and oil.
The prices of flour, cooking oil, and sugar have doubled in Algeria over the past few months.
According to the International Monetary Fund, about 75 percent of Algerians are under the age of 30, and 20 percent of the youth are unemployed.
The still-unfolding riots have raised the specter of a political turmoil reminiscent of the 1990s that triggered 10 years of civil strife.
NABLUS — Israeli troops stationed at Hamra checkpoint east of Nablus on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian man, medics said.
Onlookers identified the victim as 25-year-old Khaldoun Sammoudi, of Al-Yamun village near Jenin.
Palestinian Red Crescent medics said forces initially declared the area a closed military zone and ordered ambulances to stay 300 meters away.
An Israeli military spokesman said a man approached the checkpoint in a taxi, then got out of the vehicle and ran towards forces holding a suspicious object and shouting “Allah Akbar.” He did not heed orders to stop and forces followed operational procedures and shot him, the army official said.
The spokesman said the man was carrying a pipe bomb, and that the area was declared a closed military zone while soldiers neutralized it.
Forces also found an explosive device and a knife on the man’s body, he added.
When the man left the taxi, all the other passengers fled the scene, the spokesman said.
An eyewitness told Ma’an’s correspondent that Sammoudi stepped out of a car and approached the checkpoint in a hurry. Some of the soldiers ran away while another soldier ordered Sammoudi to stop and then opened fire at him, the witness said.
He added that soldiers stripped the man of his clothes and left him to bleed to death.
Onlookers said forces also violently beat a Palestinian man identified as Amir Al-Kharraz at the checkpoint. Al-Kharraz is a guard at a nearby park, witnesses said.
A military spokesman was not aware of the incident.
Less than a week ago soldiers shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian at the same checkpoint. A military spokeswoman said Ahmad Maslamani approached soldiers in an unauthorized lane carrying a glass bottle and did not heed orders to stop. Soldiers followed operational procedure and opened fire, she said.
Witnesses said the victim approached the checkpoint carrying a coca-cola can, a female soldier shouted at him and two male soldiers immediately opened fire. Medics said Maslamani’s body was riddled with bullets.
Earlier on Saturday, soldiers closed the Container Checkpoint east of Bethlehem and inspected Palestinian cars.
Following the shooting, Israeli forces erected a flying checkpoint at the entrance to the northern West Bank village of Talluza and inspected all cars and passengers.