Last week Israeli military forces delivered demolition orders to the residents of Susiya, a small village in the South Hebron Hills. The villagers were told that they have illegally erected over fifty buildings without the permission of the Israeli Defense Force.
The demolition order came a few short days after Regavim, a right-wing NGO dominated by Israeli settlers, filed a petition in Israel’s High Court, requesting that a building freeze be imposed on Susiya.
The village is situated, much to the dismay of its inhabitants, in Area C of the West Bank, the land which was designated for full Israeli administration after the Oslo Accords. It is nearly against the fence of a particularly hostile Israeli settlement, which is also named Susiya. Yatta, a much larger Palestinian village, is less than a kilometer, though there are several Israeli military outposts on the path there.
Allotted only three days to appeal, it appears that Susiya will be destroyed. The village’s legal representative intends to take the matter to Israel’s High Court.
The “illegal buildings” they have erected, in actuality, are tents which were hastily constructed from cinderblocks and rain tarps. For, this will be the sixth–not the first–time that Susiya will be demolished by the IDF. The village–which consists of Bedouins, cave-dwellers, and Palestinians who were displaced from the Negev Desert in the 1948 war–was razed in 1985, 1991, 1997, and twice in 2001.
Each time Susiya is destroyed, the neighboring settlement further usurps the land that legally belongs to its Palestinian owners. The villagers refuse to leave, and each time the village is crumbled, they resurrect it.
The villagers have been regular targets of attacks from the settlers next door. Their water wells have been poisoned on several occasions. Their sheep, on which they depend for butter and milk as their sole source of income, have frequently been slaughtered by their zealous neighbors. Settler attacks are generally treated with legal impunity, and this is to say nothing of the Israeli military’s repeated destruction of Susiya’s caves, in which Susiya’s residents have historically lived.
When I visited the village last fall, Nasser Nawajeh, a resident of Susiya and longtime activist, spoke of one occasion in which the IDF used a bulldozer to collapse his family’s water well. Under Israeli martial law, Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank are not allowed to dig deeper than three feet without a permit. After the well was destroyed, he recalled, they stuffed mangled car parts into its base in order to discourage them from rebuilding it.
In recent years, international activists and left-wing Israeli NGOs have helped draw attention to Susiya’s abysmal situation. Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers who have decided to speak out against the occupation, brings a regular tour of internationals to meet with the Nawajeh family in Susiya. Rabbis for Human Rights has also tried to raise awareness inside Israel of the struggle that Susiya faces at the hands of military occupation and continued settlement expansion.
Nonetheless, many international efforts to aid the residents of Susiya have been shortsighted and concerned more with the appearance of having helped, rather than fixing the roots of the problems. Little has been done, for instance, to help the villagers obtain water for their sheep. The Nawajeh family, because their wells are repeatedly destroyed, are expected to buy water from Yatta, which costs three times the price of water inside Israel, not including transportation fees.
The plight of Susiya is indicative of the larger dialectic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli officials will continue to accuse the Palestinians of being unprepared for peace negotiations, while its military and settlement enterprise employ the force of arms to wrangle the West Bank from its native inhabitants. Western governments and the international community will continue to portray the situation in an absurd light: a fragile democracy attempting to quell restive “terrorists.”
However, Susiya’s struggle is of another stripe. The villagers, possessing none of the violent and fanatical traits of the settlers that so often attack them, are committed to living on their land. None of the colonial arguments to the contrary will persuade them otherwise.
Susiya, though facing another impeding annihilation, refuses to be the next casualty of Israel’s suffocating 45-year military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“We’ve been kicked displaced and kicked off our land five times,” Nasser Nawajeh told me. “We’re not leaving again.”
- Patrick O. Strickland is a freelance writer living and traveling on both sides of the ‘Green Line’ in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is a weekly Israel-Palestine correspondent for Bikya Masr and writes regular dispatches on his blog, http://www.patrickostrickland.com.
- Israeli forces order Hebron village demolished after settler case (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jewish Extremists Burn Mosque Near Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Russia has denied reports in media that it allegedly planned joint military exercises with China and Iran on Syrian territory.
‘This is absurd’, Mr. Igor Dygalo, aide to Russia’s Navy commander said.
Earlier this week the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel reported that Russia, China and Iran were planning joint exercises, the largest in the Middle East, comprising some 90,000 ground, naval and air forces, as well as 400 aircraft, 1,000 tanks and Russian submarines, destroyers and an aircraft carrier.
The report said that Egypt had allowed 12 Chinese navy ships to go through the Suez Canal to arrive in Syria.
This false report also claimed that Syria was going to test its anti-ship missiles and air defense system.
Stay in a kibbutz, go out clubbing in Tel Aviv, say a prayer at the Western Wall and then go to a settlement to practice killing Palestinians.
This is the new summer camp for American tourists keen to get shooting at ‘terrorists’ in illegal settlements in the West Bank. At Gush Etzion, Israeli residents, who run activities, offer the chance to hear tales of ‘battles’, watch simulated assassinations and fire guns.
At the end of the thrill-filled day, tourists get a certificate to record that they “completed a basic shooting course in Israel.”
“Suppose that the terrorist in front of me has an automatic weapon,” Shay, one of the guides, told Ynet. “He can spray a cartridge within 2.8 seconds, which means I have less than three seconds to take him down. And that is what I will do.”
The location of the course – over the green line and in Palestinian territory – is the main draw for the danger-seeking tourists. Although guides are clear that there is no actual threat.
Just outside the settlement, Palestinians who live in and around Bethlehem must go through checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers. The security presence means gun-toting tourists would be unlikely to meet a ‘terrorist’.
Conversely, attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians are on the increase. According to The Jerusalem Fund: “Israeli settler violence is growing and is a consistent threat to Palestinian livelihoods.” The attacks span from burning olive trees to breaking into Palestinian homes, carrying automatic weapons.
And it’s not just adult tourists who are taking part in the shooting practice course. According to an investigation by Ynet, children as young as five were allowed to shoot at the range:
Michel Brown, 40, a Miami banker, chose to take his wife and three children to the range with the purpose of “teaching them values.”
Upon entering the range, his five-year-old daughter, Tamara, bursts into tears. A half hour later, she is holding a gun and shooting clay bullets like a pro.
“This is part of their education,” Michel says as he proudly watches his daughter. “They should know where they come from and also feel some action.”
- Jewish Extremists Burn Mosque Near Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli kills 2 Palestinians near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers injure three Palestinians, uproot dozens of olive trees in two separate incidents (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian Injured After Being Attacked By Boars Released By Settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Ninth Circuit to DEA: Putting a Gun to an 11-Year-Old’s Head Is Not OK
At 7 a.m. on January 20, 2007, DEA agents battered down the door to Thomas and Rosalie Avina’s mobile home in Seeley, California, in search of suspected drug trafficker Louis Alvarez. Thomas Avina met the agents in his living room and told them they were making a mistake. Shouting “Don’t you fucking move,” the agents forced Thomas Avina to the floor at gunpoint, and handcuffed him and his wife, who had been lying on a couch in the living room. As the officers made their way to the back of the house, where the Avina’s 11-year-old and 14-year-old daughters were sleeping, Rosalie Avina screamed, “Don’t hurt my babies. Don’t hurt my babies.”
The agents entered the 14-year-old girl’s room first, shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl, who was lying on her bed, rolled onto the floor, where the agents handcuffed her. Next they went to the 11-year-old’s room. The girl was sleeping. Agents woke her up by shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl’s eyes shot open, but she was, according to her own testimony, “frozen in fear.” So the agents dragged her onto the floor. While one agent handcuffed her, another held a gun to her head.
Moments later the two daughters were carried into the living room and placed next to their parents on the floor while DEA agents ransacked their home. After 30 minutes, the agents removed the children’s handcuffs. After two hours, the agents realized they had the wrong house—the product of a sloppy license plate transcription—and left.
In 2008, the Avinas—mom, dad, and both daughters—filed a federal suit against the DEA for excessive use of force, assault, and battery in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. That court ruled in favor of the DEA, and the Avinas appealed. Last week, the family got justice.
While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals defended the agents’ rough treatment of Thomas and Rosalie, it also declared that yanking the Avina children of their beds and putting guns to their heads did, in fact, constitute the “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” (Read the Obama administration’s defense of the DEA agents.)
“A jury could find that the agents pointed their guns at the head of an eleven-year-old girl, ‘like they were going to shoot [her],’ while she lay on the floor in handcuffs, and that it was excessive for them to do so,” reads the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which was filed June 12. “Similarly, a jury could find that the agents’ decision to force the two girls to lie face down on the floor with their hands cuffed behind their backs was unreasonable.”
More from the decision:
Under our case law, an issue of material fact exists as to whether the actions of the agents were excessive in light of the ages of B.S.A. (age eleven) and B.F.A. (age fourteen) and the limited threat they posed. See Tekle, 511 F.3d 839 (holding that officers were not entitled to summary judgment on excessive force claim where officers pointed guns at an eleven-year-old boy’s head during the arrest of the boy’s father); Motley v. Parks, 432 F.3d 1072, 1089 (9th Cir. 2005) (en banc) (holding that officer’s act of pointing a gun at an infant during the search of a gang member’s house was objectively unreasonable); see also McDonald ex rel. McDonald v. Haskins, 966 F.2d 292, 294-95 (7th Cir. 1992) (holding that officer’s act of pointing his gun at a nine-year-old’s head during the search of home was excessive use of force). Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States on B.F.A.’s and B.S.A.’s claims for assault and battery.
In a footnote, the court wrote:
Although there is evidence that the agents released the girls from their handcuffs once they realized how young they were, there is also evidence that the agents knew, prior to entering the girls’ bedrooms, that the girls were children. Rosalie testified that, as the agents were heading towards the girls’ rooms, she screamed at the agents several times, “Don’t hurt my babies.” Moreover, one of the agents testified at his deposition that, when he first saw one of the girls (presumably the older of the two girls), she appeared to be “12 [or] 13 years old.”
The ruling concludes:
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Avinas, a rational trier of fact could find that agents engaged in “extreme or outrageous” conduct when the agents: (1) pointed their guns at the head of eleven-year-old B.S.A. “like they were going to shoot [her]” while B.S.A. was lying on the floor in handcuffs; (2) forced eleven-year-old B.S.A. and fourteen-year-old B.F.A. to lie face down on the floor with their hands cuffed behind their backs; (3) left B.S.A. and B.F.A. in handcuffs for half an hour; and (4) yelled at eleven-year-old B.S.A. and fourteen-year-old B.F.A. to “[g]et down on the f[uck]ing ground.” See Tekle, 511 F.3d at 856 (holding that officers were not entitled to summary judgment on claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress where officers pointed guns at eleven-year old’s head during the arrest of the eleven-year-old’s father); see also id. at 859 (Fisher, J., concurring). Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States on B.F.A.’s and B.S.A.’s claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As a side note: While this raid was conducted under President George W. Bush, the deputy administrator of the DEA at that time was Michele Leonhart. She is now the administrator of the DEA, thanks to an appointment by President Barack Obama. Furthermore, the Obama Administration could have declined to defend the DEA in this case. Instead, Obama’s Justice Department has decided to make the case that federal agents should be allowed to hold guns to the heads of children.
- DEA Embroiled In Prostitution Scandal (huffingtonpost.com)
- The DEA and the Massacre in the Moskitia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Here’s How the Obama Administration Defended DEA Agents Who Put a Gun to a Little Girl’s Head (reason.com)
A report released by the ACLU in June 2012 concludes that the Puerto Rico Police Department is plagued by a culture of unrestrained abuse and impunity. The PRPD – which, with over 17,000 officers, is the second-largest police department in the U.S – is charged with policing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
After a comprehensive six-month investigation of policing practices in Puerto Rico, building on eight years of work by the ACLU of Puerto Rico documenting cases of police brutality, the ACLU has concluded that the PRPD commits serious and rampant abuses in violation Puerto Ricans’ constitutional and human rights, including:
- Use of excessive and lethal force against civilians, especially in poor and Black neighborhoods and Dominican communities, often resulting in serious injury and death. Read More»
- Violent suppression of peaceful protestors using batons, rubber bullets, and a toxic form of tear gas that was phased out by mainland U.S. police departments in the 1960′s. Read More»
- Failure to protect victims of domestic violence and to investigate reported crimes of domestic violence, rape, and other gender-based crimes. Read More»
The ACLU’s research shows that these abuses do not represent isolated incidents or aberrant behavior by a few rogue officers, but that such police brutality is pervasive and systemic, island-wide and ongoing. In fact, our research has found that the PRPD’s disciplinary, investigatory, and reporting systems prevent accountability. Read more»
The report offers numerous detailed recommendations, including:
- The Justice Department should enter into a court-enforceable and court-monitored agreement with the PRPD.
- The PRPD should develop and implement policies on the use of force, improved training, the investigation of civilian complaints of police abuse, and the discipline of officers.
- Puerto Rico’s legislature should create an independent and effective oversight body to monitor the PRPD. Read more»
The ACLU’s report comes nine months after the release of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report on the PRPD, which found a pattern and practice of constitutional violations by the department, including widespread use of excessive force. The Justice Department investigation, the findings of which were long-delayed, focused on 2004 to 2008. The ACLU’s report focuses on incidents from 2007 through May 2012.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit filed by seven Guatemalans who alleged that they had been the subject of non-consensual human medical experimentation by the US Public Health Service (PHS) [official websites]. In its decision, the court found that under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) [text] the US government is specifically exempt from liability for torts that occur outside of the US. Because the plaintiffs sued government officials who were acting in the capacity of their positions, the claim is automatically converted to a claim against the US government, and the court is bound by the FTCA. In his decision, Judge Reggie Walton acknowledged that “the Guatemala Study is a deeply troubling chapter in our Nation’s history,” but concluded that the court had no authority to provide relief. He suggested that the victims seek a remedy through political means. The Guatemalan government had reportedly requested that the US government provide out-of-court settlements [AP report] before the lawsuit was filed, but the US did not respond.
The victims filed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] in March 2011. The suit was brought on behalf of all individuals who were subjected to experimentation in Guatemala or were infected to be used as vehicles to infect test subjects for the venereal disease experiments. The complaint alleges that the PHS conducted the human medical experiments in Guatemala to test whether penicillin could also be used as a prophylaxis immediately following exposure to the syphilis bacteria. The plaintiffs sought relief under the Alien Tort Statute [28 USC § 1350], the Fifth Amendment and the Eighth Amendment [materials]. Evidence of the PHS program [report] was discovered by Professor Susan Reverby [academic profile]. US President Barack Obama apologized [BBC report] to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom for the testing. Reverby’s study shows that the PHS infected more than 700 people in Guatemala with syphilis and gonorrhea. The patients were prisoners and people suffering from mental health problems and were unaware they were being tested.
Arab Member of Israeli Knesset, Hanin Zoabi, sent a letter to the Legal Councilor in the country demanding him to order an investigation into a study guide for the Israeli “Bagrut” (the Civics Matriculation exam) stating that Jewish girls associating with Arab youths undermine their security and their right to life.
Zoabi demanded the Legal Councilor to take a firm legal action against those responsible for the preparation of the textbooks for the Civics Matriculation, as these textbooks contain racist language and assumptions, inciting the Jewish students against the Palestinians for their national affiliation.
The letter came after Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the “Rekhes” company, specialized in preparing the supplementary materials for the Bagrut exam, published a study guide that contains a question about the stances of the students regarding Rabbis who instructed young Jewish girls to stay away from Arab youths, and one of the answers was that “Arab youths pose a threat to the lives of Jewish girls”, and that “relationships between male Arab youths and female Jewish youths pose a threat to the Jewish majority in the country”.
MK Zoabi said that the Rekhes Company is not the only party that is responsible for this outrageous racism, as the Ministry of Education is solely responsible for monitoring and supervising all textbooks, but failed to stop the publication of this racist material.
She said that the ministry must boost the morality of the students, and must act on developing their values of democracy, equality and citizenship, “but instead, it is burying these principles, either by publishing materials that deny the very existence of the Palestinians, or by issuing publications that incite against the Palestinians, and call for treating them with animosity, hatred and racism”.
The Arab MK demanded the Legal Councilor to initiate a serious and prompt investigation into the issue, and to indict those responsible for these racist statements in the textbooks.
In December of 2010, dozens of top Israeli rabbis signed on to a new religious ruling that would call on Jews not to rent homes to Arabs.
The religious ruling was made a few months after a call signed by a group of 18 prominent rabbis, including the chief rabbi of Safad, urging Jews to not rent or sell property to non-Jews.
Amongst those who signed on to the new ruling are the chief rabbis of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah, and other cities.
Most of the signatories are from Safad, a city with an increasing number of Arab students enrolled at the town’s local college. The chief rabbi of Safad, Shmuel Eliyahu, was the most prominent one to sign the call, has been criticized in the past for his inflammatory remarks against the Arab population.
Last year, the Israeli Knesset passed the so-called “Nakba Law” preventing the Palestinians in the country from marking the Nakba day (the day Israel celebrates its independence after destroying hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages), and authorizing the Minister of Finance to cut, withhold, or reduce funding to government institutions that mark the Nakba day, under the pretext of “denying the existence of Israel”.
The law was supported by 37 votes, while 25 opposed it; the “Law” further states that “any government funded body in the country, and any public institute that marks the Nakba will be barred from funding as”, according to the law, “by marking Nabka, these intuitions negate the existence of Israel as a state of the Jewish People”.
The law that passed by the Knesset was considered a “more moderate version” of the original law that was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in 2009.
- Tel Aviv University imposes restrictions on Nakba Day events (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- MK Zoabi: Struggle for democracy is a struggle against Zionism (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Local sources reported that the settlers wrote racist graffiti on some of the walls of the mosque, including the “Price Tag” graffiti that they frequently use when attacking and burning Palestinian mosques, and property.
Settlers are responsible for numerous similar attacks against the residents, their homes, lands and property in several parts of the West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem, including the following:
On Monday, January 16, 2012, settlers torched the car of a Palestinian Authority Intelligence officer, Mohammad Ghannam, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, a group of fundamentalist Israeli settlers burnt three Palestinian cars in Dir Estia village, in the West Bank district of Salfit, and defaced the local mosque with “Price Tag” graffiti.
On Wednesday morning, January 4th 2012, settlers set fire to two Palestinian trucks and spray-painted anti-Arab racist graffiti.
On February 20, 2012, settlers spray-painted racist graffiti on a church in occupied East Jerusalem in the third such incident since January 2012.
The graffiti included “Death to Christians” and the phrase “price tag” was found on the walls of the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation. Furthermore residents of the area found their car tires slashed.
This attack follows a similar such incidents, occurring on the same day in February, where the bilingual school Hand In Hand and the Monastery of the Cross were vandalized, also promoting violence against Christians.
On December of 2011, settlers carried out four attacks against mosques in several parts of the occupied West Bank, and set ablaze five Palestinian cars near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.
In the attack on the mosque, the settlers spray-painted slogans including ‘Price Tag’, (a reference to the idea that Palestinians must all ‘pay a price’ for the dismantling of illegal settlement outposts by the Israeli military).
In mid-December of last year, a group of fanatic Israeli settlers burnt a mosque in Borqa village, east of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and wrote racist graffiti on its walls.
The attack came only one day after a similar arson attempt targeted the historic mosque of Okasha in Jerusalem. Before setting parts of the mosque ablaze, the settlers spray-painted racist graffiti targeting the Palestinians and the Muslim prophet.
- Israel To Demolish Buildings In East Jerusalem To Build “King David” Park (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Residency Of 240,000 Palestinians Revoked By Israel Since 1967 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jerusalem Family Displaced, Home Handed To Settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)