Everyone is rushing to condemn the gruesome murder of a family in the illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar. Even President Barack Obama felt compelled to offer his “unequivocal condemnation” of the murders. For what it’s worth (very little), I offer my own denunciation of the killings. Murdering kids can not be justified on any human level. However, even if the motives of the killer seem obvious to everyone, journalists covering the incident must be reminded there is no hard evidence that a Palestinian terrorist committed the crime. No viable armed faction has taken credit, and Israeli police are even treating Thai workers as suspects.
Itamar is heavily guarded, surrounded by an electrified fence, and monitored 24/7 by a sophisticated system of video surveillance. Yet there is no video of the killer. Like it or not, until the identity of the killer is confirmed, the murder can only be described by journalists as an “alleged terror attack.” Legitimate outrage is no excuse to flout the basics of journalism 101.
Given the amount of violence visited upon local Palestinians by the residents of Itamar and nearby settlements, I will not be surprised if the killer turns out to be a rogue Palestinian bent on revenge. In one instance documented in 2007, settlers from Itamar stabbed a 52-year-old shepherd named Mohammad Hamdan Ibrahim Bani Jaber to death while he tended to his flock. Routine attacks from Itamar have prompted the near-total evacuation of the village Izbat Al Yanoon, while settlers from nearby Jewish colony of Yitzhar have staged homemade rocket attacks on local Palestinians and torched their mosques. As I have reported, Yitzhar is home to Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, author of the notorious “Torat Hamelech,” which uses rabbinical sources to justify the killing of non-Jewish civilians, including children, in combat situations.
Medical x-ray of live ammunition lodged in the skull of Ussayed Qadous, shot at point blank range by Israeli troops near Itamar in 2010
A year ago in nearby Palestinian farming villages Awarta and Iraq Burin, Israeli soldiers were accused of executing local youths during riots against settlement expansion. As Jesse Rosenfeld reported, despite the clear evidence of execution style killings, none of the soldiers who held the Palestinians in custody at the time they were shot were convicted of any crimes. And to my knowledge, no official American response followed. Thus the besieged villages near Itamar have been left without any recourse or legal means to redress their harassment and murder.
Israel’s method of occupation and its military rules of engagement — which are supported by the US in spirit and through acts like the recent UN settlement resolution veto — openly skirt international law, eliminating any outside mechanism for mediating conflict or redressing the grievances of civilians harmed by war. Under these terms, where distinctions between civilians and combatants are deliberately blurred in order to deepen Israel’s control over land gained through military conquest, horrific attacks like the kind allegedly witnessed in Itamar become all the more possible.
To establish an ethical basis for military operations aimed at consolidating the occupation, the Israeli army has turned to Zionist academics like Tel Aviv University philosophy professor Asa Kasher. In the service of the army, Kasher churned out elaborate manifestoes justifying Israel’s tactics during Lebanon II and Operation Cast Lead. Kasher’s concepts of warfare are best defined by his explicit justifications for killing unarmed civilians in any instance when an Israeli soldier believed that they were in danger. Kasher strained his logic to the point that he highlighted the 2004 US invasion of Fallujah in Iraq, when American troops fired white phosphorous shells into the city center and demolished hundreds of homes, to justify Israeli actions in Gaza. “If it’s between the soldier and the terrorist’s neighbor, the priority is the soldier,” Kasher said. “Any country would do the same.”
Another academic with close ties to the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus, Professor Arnon “the Arab Counter” Soffer of Haifa University, urged the army to massacre Palestinian civilians after the withdrawal from the illegal settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza. Soffer, who devised the separation wall policy in order to confine the Palestinians of the West Bank to what he called “three sausages,” reasoned that mass murder was the only way to maintain the security of the Southern Israeli perimeter communities while avoiding political concessions to the Palestinians of Gaza.
Prof. Arnon Soffer: “Kill, kill, kill.”
“When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Soffer argued. “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” And that is exactly what Israel did when it followed Soffer’s logic in Operation Cast Lead. (Note the use of the word “animal” in Soffer’s language and in the language of Israelis responding to the murders in Itamar; the word is essentially a signal to kill Palestinians indiscriminately).
While Soffer and Kasher have both served as outside consultants for Israeli governments and the army, another advocate for slaughtering Palestinian civilians, Yaakov Amidror, has been appointed to serve as Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor. “That’s a totally illegal order,” Amidror once snapped at Israeli news anchor Haim Yavin, who had said that Israeli soldiers were instructed to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon. “What should be said is ‘kill more of the bastards on the other side, so that we’ll win.’ Period.” Amidror has criticized Kasher for formalizing the army’s ethical code — “I said this should remain unwritten, so there wouldn’t be anything written, as [then] it would become technical,” he declared — and even called for the on-site execution of Israeli soldiers who refused to advance in battle. (Amidror also happens to be a religious settler who lives in the West Bank.)
Kasher, Soffer, and Amidror’s arguments relating to the killing of civilians are eerily similar to those advanced in a halakhic context by religious nationalist rabbis. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of Yitzar, a settlement that neighbors Itamar, has written in his book “Torat Hamelech” that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and should be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” A guide for anyone pondering when killing goyim is permissible, the book has been described by Rabbi Dov Lior of the settlement Kiryat Arba as “very relevant, especially in this time.” Lior, who has said that “gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring,” is also a firm advocate of slaughtering Palestinian civilians. In 2008, when the IDF’s chief rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Ronski, brought a group of military intelligence officers to Hebron for a special tour, he concluded the day with a private meeting with Lior, who reveled the officers with his views on modern warfare: “no such thing as civilians in wartime.” (For his part, Ronski has urged Israeli troops to show Palestinian civilians “no mercy.”)
National Security Advisor appointee Yaakov Amidror: kill civilian “bastards” and shoot non-compliant soldiers on the spot
So what is the difference between rabbis like Lior and Shapira and secular academics like Kasher and Soffer? I put this question to a 20-something settler (he is the last guy I interviewed in this video) during a rally in defense of the publication of “Torat Hamelech.” “Well, the difference is that someone like Kasher is speaking from his kishkes [guts],” the settler told me. “But Yitzhak Shapira is speaking from Torah; he’s speaking from Hashem.” In other words, the philosopher and the rabbi share a philosophy that justifies killing non-Jewish civilians, but the ethicist uses rational arguments rooted in secular Enlightenment thought, while the rabbi claims to be translating for God from ancient documents. In the end, both are working to cultivate an environment in which legal and moral protections for civilians are discarded in order to advance the maximalist goals of Jewish nationalism.
During his opening statement in his debate against Judge Richard Goldstone at Brandeis University on November 5, 2009, former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold claimed that the Goldstone Report was in fact an attack on Israeli society. In a section entitled “Maligning Israeli Society,” Gold and Lt. Col. Jonathan Dahoah Halevi wrote: “The language used by the UN Gaza report — and the gravity of its allegations about “deliberate” Israeli attacks on civilians — maligns Israeli society as a whole, for the Israel Defense Forces is a citizen’s army, an army which is made up of the people of Israel.”
In Gold’s own words, there is no difference between Israeli civilians and soldiers — the army is society. Without knowing it, Gold deployed the very same argument Palestinian militant factions have used to justify suicide attacks inside Israel and the murder of the children of settlers in the West Bank. Thus Gold revealed the extent to which the process of comprehensively militarizing Jewish Israeli society — a central goal of Zionism since the days of Joseph Trumpeldor — had obliterated the distinction between civilian and combatant, transforming every human being into a possible target.
In such an environment, horrific violence against the innocent is not only possible, but inevitable. Of course, most of the violence will be meted out against the Palestinians, who live under a seemingly permanent occupation with negligible deterrent capacity and no political rights. But Israelis must also live in this moral wasteland and face the depressing consequences. Having to someday accept that they were responsible for its creation might be the cruelest fate of all.
Wisconsin Violated the Constitution
The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) sent a notice to the Wisconsin Legislature, explaining that its attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers is illegal.
Anyone who has watched the events unfolding in Wisconsin and other states that are trying to remove collective bargaining rights from public workers has heard people protesting the loss of their “rights.” The ICLR explained to the legislature exactly what these rights are and why trying to take them away is illegal.
The ICLR is a New York based non-governmental organization that coordinates a pro bono network of labor lawyers and experts throughout the world, www.laborcommission.org. It investigates labor rights violations, and issues reports and amicus briefs on issues of labor law.
The ICLR identified the right of “freedom of association” as a fundamental right and affirmed that the right to collective bargaining is an essential element of freedom of association. These rights, which have been recognized worldwide, provide a brake on unchecked corporate or state power.
In 1935, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the NLRA, or the Wagner Act), it recognized the direct relationship between the inequality of bargaining power of workers and corporations and the recurrent business depressions. That is, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners, the economy fell into depression. The law therefore recognized as policy of the United States the encouragement of collective bargaining.
While the NLRA covered U.S. employees in private employment, the law protecting collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors has developed since 1935 to cover all workers “without distinction.”
The opening paragraph of the ICLR statement reads:
“As workers in the thousands and hundreds of thousands in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and around the country demonstrate to protect the right of public sector workers to collective bargaining, the political battle has overshadowed any reference to the legal rights to collective bargaining. The political battle to prevent the loss of collective bargaining is reinforced by the fact that stripping any collective bargaining rights is blatantly illegal. Courts and agencies around the world have uniformly held the right of collective bargaining in the public sector is an essential element of the right of Freedom of Association, which is a fundamental right under both International law and the United States Constitution.”
The ICLR statement summarizes the development of this law from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through the International Labor Organization’s Conventions on Freedom of Association (that is, the right to form and join unions) and on Collective Bargaining. It cites court cases from the United States and around the world. All embrace freedom of association as a fundamental right and the right to collective bargaining as an essential element of freedom of association.
Some anti-union voices argue that since federal employees presently do not have the right to bargain collectively, neither should state workers. In fact, the argument should go the other way. The law cited in the ICLR statement means that denying Federal employees collective bargaining rights – which they have had over the years when presidents have recognized them by executive order – is just as illegal as denying collective bargaining rights to state public employees. President Obama should take this opportunity to reinstate the rights of Federal employees to collective bargaining.
Jeanne Mirer, who practices labor and employment law in New York, is president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild.
February 26, 2011, marks the eighth anniversary of the imprisonment of Dr. Rafil Dhafir. Dhafir continues to pay the price for feeding the children of Iraq during the US- and UK-sponsored UN sanctions against that country.
According to the United Nations’ own statistics, every month throughout the 1990’s, 6,000 children under the age of five in Iraq were dying from lack of food and access to simple medicines. Three senior UN officials resigned because of what they considered a “genocidal” policy of sanctions against Iraq. Dhafir’s charity, Help the Needy (HTN), openly sent food and medicines to starving civilians in Iraq during the brutal embargo.
Seven government agencies investigated Dhafir and HTN for many years. They intercepted his mail, email, faxes and telephone calls; bugged his office and hotel rooms; went through his trash; and conducted physical surveillance. They were unable to find any evidence of links to terrorism, and no charges of terrorism were ever brought against Dhafir. Yet he and other HTN associates were subjected to high-profile arrests in the early morning of February 26, 2003, just weeks before the US invasion of Iraq. Simultaneous to the arrests, between the hours of 6 AM and 10 AM, law enforcement agents interrogated 150 predominantly Muslim families because they had donated to HTN. On that day, former attorney general John Ashcroft announced that “funders of terrorism have been arrested.”
In light of the demonization of Muslims in the US in the post-9/11 period and the fact that the government was hinting at terrorism connections without bringing any charges, I felt compelled to attend all of Dhafir’s 14-week trial; I did not know Dhafir before attending. I have had a passion for protecting civil liberties since I was 14 years old, when I saw a documentary film about the Allies going into Bergen-Belsen. For 38 years, I have been a voracious reader of firsthand accounts of what happened in Germany in the 1930’s. I always knew that should anything like that happen in my lifetime, I wanted no part of it.
Dhafir was born in Iraq in 1948. He completed medical school before immigrating to the US in 1972 and has been a US citizen for more than 30 years. As an oncologist in an underserved community, Dhafir treated many of his patients for free, paying for expensive chemotherapy out of his own pocket. He is regarded as a pillar of the Central New York Muslim community and a well-known national and international figure. Although charged with white-collar crimes, Dhafir was held without bail for 19 months before trial, which greatly impeded his ability to prepare his defense.
The trial’s proceedings showed Dhafir to be a devout, compassionate man who was highly esteemed by all of his associates; the chilling message his conviction sent to the Muslim community cannot be overstated. Dhafir was convicted on 59 counts of white-collar crime (the government had made a mistake in one of the counts, and the jury was not allowed to deliberate on it) and is currently serving 22 years for a crime he was never convicted of in a court of law: money laundering to help terrorist organizations. Dhafir is imprisoned in a special Communications Management Unit (CMU) that houses almost exclusively Muslim and/or Arab prisoners.
Before attending Dhafir’s trial, I spent my entire life secure in the knowledge that my civil rights would always be respected. I no longer believe this to be true.
Iraq Under Sanctions and Dhafir’s Humanitarian Response
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 1, 1990; US sanctions against Iraq were put in place the next day. On January 17, 1991, the first bombs of the Gulf War were dropped on Baghdad.
Before the war, the people of Iraq had a standard of living in some ways comparable to that of many Western countries. Although it was a brutal dictatorship, the government provided universal health care and education, including college, for all of its citizens. There was very little illiteracy, and the education and health systems were the best in the region. The sanctions changed all that.
Several government witnesses of Iraqi descent broke down on the stand when they began to talk about the effects of the sanctions on their families. Each time this happened, the prosecution immediately interrupted the testimony. In fact, throughout Dhafir’s trial, the government did its utmost to prevent any discussion of the conditions in Iraq under the sanctions. When the defense attempted to question Susan Hutner of the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) about the Oil for Food program, the court ruled the line of questioning irrelevant. Government employees, including Hutner, testified to having no knowledge of the effects of the sanctions. As the government attorney addressing the situation in Iraq, Hutner helped draft the initial legal documentation to implement the sanctions and then worked on them for 12 years.
During the Gulf War, more bombs were dropped on Iraq in a six-week period than were dropped in the whole of World War II; the country was devastated. In total, these bombs were at least six times more powerful than two atomic bombs. Many types of bombs were used, including ones containing depleted uranium (DU), the waste matter from nuclear plants; hundreds of tons of DU ammunition now lie scattered throughout Iraq. The DU dust has entered the food chain through the soil and the water. As a result, many diseases formerly unseen in Iraq are now prevalent there. Many pregnant women delivered babies as early as six months, and many babies were born with terrible deformities. Cancer rates increased dramatically. These effects have been compounded by the current war.
All major bridges and communication systems were bombed, making communications both inside and outside the country extremely difficult. The water purification system was bombed and the UN never allowed it to be repaired; as a result, 15 years’ worth of raw sewage piled up in the streets and resulted in widespread disease and death, particularly among the young and the very old. Hospitals and schools were not spared.
As a result of the bombings and sanctions, the health and education systems in Iraq, once the best in the region, became the worst.
The United States led the effort to place restrictive sanctions on Iraq. When Madeleine Albright, then-US ambassador to the United Nations, was asked in a CBS interview if the deaths of half a million children were a price worth paying to punish Hussein, she infamously replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” When adults and children over the age of five are included, the number of civilians killed as a direct result of the sanctions rises to between 1.5 and 2 million.
It was in direct response to this humanitarian catastrophe that Dhafir founded HTN. For 13 years, he worked tirelessly to help publicize the plight of the Iraqi people and to raise funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated $1.4 million of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about Iraq’s skyrocketing cancer rates and the role of DU.
From the outset of Dhafir’s case, the government was duplicitous. Using unfair tactics and innuendo and aided by a compliant media, the government transformed Dhafir’s community image from that of a compassionate humanitarian into one of a crook and supporter of terrorism.
Just before the start of Dhafir’s trial in October 2004, Michael Powell of The Washington Post wrote: “There is a shadow-boxing quality to the terror allegations lodged against Dhafir. In August , Gov. George E. Pataki (R) described Dhafir’s as a ‘money laundering case to help terrorist organizations … conduct horrible acts.’ Prosecutors hinted at national security reasons for holding Dhafir without bail. But no evidence was offered to support the allegations.”
Pataki’s description of Dhafir was perfectly timed to reach potential jurors. While national and state figures tarred Dhafir with the terrorist brush, then-district attorney Glenn Suddaby (now a federal judge) and local prosecutors maintained that Dhafir was nothing more than a common thief. The prosecution even successfully petitioned the presiding judge to exclude any mention of terrorism from the proceedings. This meant that throughout the trial, the prosecution could hint at more serious (terrorism) charges, but the defense was prohibited from addressing these inflammatory innuendos head-on. The government’s “shadow-boxing” gave a surreal feel to the proceedings; what was happening in the courtroom was not what the trial was really about.
The first indictment against Dhafir contained 14 charges related only to the Iraq sanctions. Later, when Dhafir refused to accept a plea agreement, the government piled on more charges, and he eventually faced a 60-count indictment that included violating federal regulations related to economic sanctions imposed against Iraq, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, tax evasion, visa fraud – all related to running the charity – and Medicare fraud.
Medicare charges usually involve fictitious patients and made-up illnesses; none of these factors were present in Dhafir’s case. The government never contested that patients received care and chemotherapy. Its argument for all 25 counts was that, because Dhafir was sometimes not present in his office when patients were treated, the Medicare claim forms were filled out incorrectly, and he was thus not due any reimbursement for treatment or for the expensive chemotherapy his office had administered.
Mrs. Dhafir’s cross-examination by the defense also took on a shadow-boxing quality. Mrs. Dhafir was Dr. Dhafir’s bookkeeper, and took a plea deal by pleading guilty to one count of lying to a government agent; she had told a government agent that her husband had been present in his medical office on a day that he had not been. On the stand, she answered questions about the intricacies of Medicare reimbursement and identified office staff signatures on Medicare reimbursement forms. While she testified, a large screen opposite the jury featured an excerpt from the Medicare handbook, which said that in the event of a billing error, “a refund would be requested.”
This was the backdrop as Mrs. Dhafir described the mayhem at her house on the day of her husband’s arrest. (She was not arrested on that day and did not face any charge until later.) Her husband left for work at his usual time, 6:30 AM. After he left, the doorbell rang. Before Mrs. Dhafir could answer the door, five FBI agents broke it down. Finding her on the other side, they held guns to her head. Helicopters and local media hovered over the house as 85 government agents visited the house throughout the day. Mrs. Dhafir spent the day in her nightclothes and was not allowed to shut the door when she went to the bathroom.
Jennifer Van Bergen, author of “The Twilight of Democracy,” wrote a two-part article on Dhafir’s case entitled “New American Law: The Case of Dr. Dhafir” and “New American Law: Legal Strategies and Precedents in the Dhafir Case.” In these and other writings, Van Bergen warns about the danger of civil liberties being undermined when the government uses parallel legal tracks that were never intended to be mixed. She notes that, as happened in Dhafir’s case, conspiracy laws and money-laundering laws used “creatively” with the PATRIOT Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) can be used to construct a vastly distorted picture.
“Collateral Damage: How the War on Terror Hurts Charities, Foundations, and the People They Serve,” a July 2008 report by OMB Watch, a nonprofit watchdog organization that monitors the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), describes the difficult terrain that Muslim charities must navigate:
“Since 2001, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Justice Department have incrementally expanded their interpretation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and what is considered prohibited ‘material support’ of, or ‘otherwise associat[ing] with,’ designated terrorist organizations or individuals. Originally understood to be direct transfers of funds or goods, ‘material support’ is now interpreted to include legitimate charitable aid that may ‘otherwise cultivate support’ for a designated organization. Furthermore, ‘other-wise associated with’ can include indirect or past relationships, even when there is no claim that the relationship included aiding terrorists or participating in terrorist plots or conspiracies.”
Inconsistencies in the government’s position were a startling feature of Dhafir’s case from its inception and suggested two possibilities: either one hand of the government didn’t know what the other was doing, or the government was deliberately aiming to deceive. The fact that the district attorney and local prosecutors claimed Dhafir’s conviction as a successful prosecution in the “war on terror” suggests that the government’s duplicity was a strategy from the outset. Mrs. Dhafir is now listed on the government’s list of successful terrorism prosecutions along with her husband and other HTN associates, including Dhafir’s personal accountant, an older man from a small town in upstate New York who was also subject to a high-profile arrest.
According to the OMB Watch report, “The incremental expansion of what is prohibited activity, coupled with the vague standards defining alleged terrorist associations, makes it increasingly difficult for charities and foundations to predict what constitutes illegal behavior. Consequently, the US nonprofit community operates in fear of what may spark OFAC to use its power to shut them down.”
Dr. Dhafir’s case sets a legal precedent and means that others who provide humanitarian and medical assistance to those in need could end up like him: put away for the rest of their lives.
On 2 March 2011, the Civil Administration demolished all the structures in the Palestinian village Khirbet Tana, in the Jordan Valley. This is the sixth time that the Civil Administration has demolished structures in the village since 2005, and the fourth in the last four months. The pretext for the demolitions is that the village is located within a closed military area intended for military exercises, in which Palestinians and Palestinian construction are prohibited.
Khirbet Tana is a small Bedouin community of 250 persons to the east of Beit Furik. The community has lived in the western section of the Jordan Valley for dozens of years, gaining their livelihood from farming and raising livestock.
For many years, residents of the village, like other Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, have suffered from Israel’s policy restricting their access to extensive areas of land, in an attempt to remove them from the area. The village lies in Area C, which is under complete Israeli control, on land that was, in the 1970s, classified a closed military area when some of the residents were already living there. According to residents of the village, the area has never been used for military exercises. Israel’s restrictions on movement prevent rapid access to the village from main traffic arteries in the Jordan Valley, compelling the residents to use alternate, dirt roads from the Nablus area.
In recent years, villagers twice petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the army reduce the area in which entry is prohibited and that the Civil Administration prepare an outline plan for the village to enable them to build their houses lawfully. The petitions were denied “for substantive reasons relating to the needs of the surrounding area.”
The army has carried out four demolition operations in the village in the past four months, destroying temporary and permanent structures, and enclosures for livestock. On 8 December 2010, the Civil Administration demolished 18 structures, including a school and six residential dwellings, leaving 48 persons, among them 14 minors, homeless. On 9 February 2011, the Civil Administration destroyed nine residential dwellings and 12 enclosures for livestock. This operation left 60 persons, including 19 minors, homeless. A week and a half later, on 20 February, the Civil Administration demolished seven residential dwellings (in which 58 persons, including 21 children, lived) and seven livestock enclosures.
Following the last mentioned operation, the UN coordinator for humanitarian activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Maxwell Gaylard, issued an announcement pointing out that, under international law, Israel is forbidden to destroy property in occupied territory. “If the authorities ultimately responsible for these demolitions could see the devastating impact on weak and vulnerable Palestinian communities, they might reflect upon the inhumanity of their actions,” Gaylard said.
On 2 March, the Civil Administration finished the demolition work, destroying all but one of the remaining structures, 46 in all, including water reservoirs and eight ancient caves that were used as dwellings and to raise their flock, leaving the village’s 152 residents, 64 minors among them, homeless. The sole structure that was not demolished was a mosque that the villagers relate was built 150 years ago. Village residents are now living in the mosque and in tents provided by international aid organizations.
Following the demolitions, villagers again petitioned the High Court, demanding that the court order the state to stop demolishing structures in the village and to cease removing its residents. On 7 March, the court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting further demolition and removal of the residents, unless “the removal or demolition is required to meet urgent combat needs and is due to imperative security reasons.” The state’s response is expected by 22 March.
Khirbet Tana is the third Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley from which the Civil Administration has sought in recent years to expel the residents. In 2008, the Civil Administration planned to demolish most of the houses in al-Aqaba, a village in the northern Jordan Valley. Following a campaign by the residents and international organizations, the Civil Administration did not carry out the demolitions. In the summer of 2010, the Civil Administration demolished all the structures in al-Farsiyya, a village east of which the Shademot Mehola settlement had been built. Since then, the village has been rebuilt.
The destruction of structures in Palestinian communities in territory under Israeli control in the Jordan Valley is part of Israel’s ongoing efforts to remove the Bedouin from the Jordan Valley. These efforts include prohibition on building in Bedouin communities, not providing electricity and water hook-ups, and repeated destruction of residential dwellings and structures for raising livestock.
As part of the these efforts, Israel has declared 45 percent of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea closed military areas intended for military training, and prevents Palestinian access to them. Some of these areas remain closed even though they are not actually used by the army. In recent years, the army has posted concrete panels bearing the warning “Firing Area” next to Bedouin communities , even though some of the land lies close to main roads, and settlements have been built nearby.
The army also restricts Palestinian movement between the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank. Palestinians who are registered as residents of the Jordan Valley are almost the only persons allowed to enter by private vehicle. The restrictions make it difficult for Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley to obtain health services and attend school and impair their ability to gain a living, market their agricultural produce, and maintain family and social ties.
Attorneys for a group of Guatemalans have sued top US officials, accusing them of “intentionally” experimenting on them in the 1940’s and infecting them with syphilis.
Hundreds of Guatemalan prisoners, psychiatric patients and orphans were infected in a program to study penicillin.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday by lawyers for seven Guatemalan plaintiffs. But there is a high possibility that the number of the plaintiffs could reach to hundreds.
Last year, the United States apologized for the “reprehensible” experiments, according to state-run BBC.
The Obama administration, however, has not yet responded to a request for an out-of-court compensation settlement.
The experiments took place between 1946 and 1948 and around 700 Guatemalan nationals were used to test the efficiency of penicillin as a treatment and a preventative agent.
Evidence of the program was exposed by Professor Susan Reverby at Wellesley College in the US.
Reverby believes the then Guatemalan government gave permission for the tests but the people infected were unaware they were being experimented on.
In the experiments, researchers bribed care workers to let them inject their charges, while prisoners were encouraged to sleep with infected prostitutes.
Israeli forces have maintained a closure of the village of Awarta for the last three days, preventing all residents from leaving their homes, with no indication as to when the closure will end and the residents will be allowed out of their homes. Any person caught leaving their home for any reason has been abducted by Israeli troops.
The village closure began soon after the murder of an Israeli family, including a baby and two small children, on Friday night in Itamar settlement, located near the village of Awarta in the northern West Bank.
Since Awarta is the closest village to the settlement, Israeli forces searching for the assailant poured into the village in the early hours of Saturday morning, and have remained in Awarta since that time, searching and ransacking homes and maintaining a strict closure.
Three international non-violent activists with the International Solidarity Movement, Cinda, 23, Chad, 25, from Sweden, and Cissy, 53, from Norway, have been unable to leave the village, and have reported several incidents of soldiers beating local residents in their presence.
The activists also reported that around 100 men were rounded up and held for interrogation at a local school on Monday.
The Israeli army has made no statement as to the identity of the perpetrator of Friday night’s attack, although they have abducted around 30 Palestinians from nearby areas, including Awarta village, for interrogation.
An early morning food delivery from the municipality of Nablus appears not to have been delivered to all residents of the town, which according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has over 5,000 inhabitants.
Dutch journalist Lydia de Leew, traveling with medics from the Union of Health Care Committees, told Ma’an that they were waiting for permission to enter the village, after hearing reports that an Israeli sniffer dog had attacked a child.
BETHLEHEM — An Israeli settler gunned down a Palestinian car on the road near Bani Na’im village on Tuesday afternoon, causing severe damage to the car but no injuries, the victim reported.
The incident occurred north of Hebron, driver Muhammad An-Najjar from the town of Yatta told Ma’an.
“The settler car passed me and just opened fire,” he said, describing punctured tires and car doors riddled with bullets.
An-Najjar said he was contacted by Israel’s Civil Administration shortly after the incident, and asked for details on the attack.
He said he returned to the scene of the attack with police and gave several statements.
A representative of the Civil Administration could not be reached for comment.
The attack is just the latest in a stream of settler violence that has seen dozens injured as roving mobs of settlers enter Palestinian villages, throwing stones and bottles, spray painting property, burning fields and cars and launching Molotov Cocktails at civilians.
Villagers in Awarta, which has remained on an Israeli military lockdown since Saturday, reported hundreds of settlers protesting and throwing rocks at homes, elsewhere in the West Bank reports flooded in of settler attacks targeting Palestinians.
An estimated 200 settlers from the Kedumim settlement, five kilometers west of Nablus, demonstrated on the main road leading north, hurling stones at passing Palestinian cars.
To the east of Nablus, witnesses reported seeing settlers throwing stones from their parked cars at passing traffic.
Settlers reported stones thrown by Palestinians at Israeli traffic near Nablus and close to the Shiloh settlement, near Ramallah. No casualties were reported in any of the incidents.
Overnight, settlers torched two Palestinian cars just north of El-Bireh, also near Ramallah, residents said. They said the two vehicles, which were set alight before dawn near Beit El settlement, were totally gutted.
Both the Israeli military and the police say they remain on alert, fearing a wave of revenge attacks in response to the killings of five members of the Fogel family, residents of the illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar in the Nablus district.
Five out of eight members of the Fogel family were stabbed in their beds on Friday night, pictures of their bodies were widely circulated by settler leadership.
Amnesty International called on Israel to halt the settler attacks, which are posed as reprisal attacks against Palestinians, who Israeli officials blamed for the death of a settler family in Itamar, next to Awarta.
“We say the United States has given them the green light. From the moment the US Secretary of Defense left Bahrain, we’ve seen the Bahraini government take the decision to invite the troops from the neighboring countries, and it’s been agreed to by the United States. This is an act of violence, an act of war, and we think these troops are not welcome in this country. People are very angry on what has been happening. It’s going to deteriorate… “
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has declared a three-month state of emergency in the country as anti-government protests continue in the Persian Gulf state.
The decision comes as Bahraini Shia majority have voiced readiness to sacrifice their lives in defense of the people’s right to hold peaceful protests against Sunni Al Khalifa royal family.
The government’s violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations has been stepped up by a military incursion by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar who dispatched their armed forces to Bahrain.
The move has concerned UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has called for a meaningful and broad-based national dialogue.
He has also urged Bahrain’s neighbors and the international community to support a dialogue process and an environment conducive for credible reform in Bahrain.
At least seven people have been killed and hundreds of others injured in the Bahraini government’s violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.
On Tuesday, military helicopters were hovering over residential areas in Manama and randomly shot at people as reports of more mortality came from Bahraini medics and hospital sources.
Thousands of Bahraini anti-government protesters are still camping out in Manama’s Pearl Square — which has become the symbol of the popular drive for change. They say they will not abandon their ground unless their demands are met.
Inspired by the popular revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Bahraini protesters have been calling for freedom, a constitutional monarchy and a say in the government.
Commenting on Arab neighboring countries intervention in Bahrain, Hezbollah issued the following statement:
“In front of recent developments of Bahrain, featured by forces of neighboring Arab countries entering the Bahraini land, alongside with the use of violence which harvested many as martyrs and wounded, Hezbollah can only express his deep concern and strong condemnation of targeting peaceful civilians.
Hezbollah views that the military intervention and the use of violence against a peaceful popular movement will not only be in vain, but will also complicate issues and eliminate the solution opportunities.
Hezbollah considers that the U.S. stance toward those developments is very suspicious, and reflects the real policy of the U.S. administration towards movements of peoples.”
–End of Hezbollah Statement