Eight members of the Wahdan family, the youngest only two years old, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home in Gaza after Israeli forces confined them inside and used their home as a military base.
On July 17, Israeli soldiers raided a home where 15 members of the Wahdan family were sheltering in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun during a period of intense Israeli artillery bombardment. Israeli forces detained and removed seven male family members from the home including, Rami Hatem Zaki Wahdan, 30. The eight remaining family members, including three children, were confined to the ground floor of the home by Israeli forces as they used the house as a military base for over a week, according to evidence collected by DCI-Palestine. On August 4, following his release, Rami returned to find Beit Hanoun destroyed and the family home flattened to the ground.
The charred remains of Su’ad Wahdan, 67, and her grandchildren, Zeinab, 27, Sumoud, 22, Ahmad, 14, and Hussein, 10, were found under the rubble. The remains of Zaki Wahdan, 70, his daughter-in-law, Baghdad, 51, and his great-granddaughter, Ghena, 2, have not yet been recovered.
“Israeli military offensives have been consistently characterized by disproportionate force directed at civilians,” says Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “In this incident, Israeli soldiers deliberately attacked a house while fully aware there were people inside. Targeting civilians is strictly prohibited under international law and this tragedy must be investigated as a possible war crime.”
In a sworn affidavit collected by DCI-Palestine, Rami said he was able to have limited contact with his sister, Zeinab, 27, via mobile phone. She told him that the situation in Beit Hanoun was very dangerous, and Israeli soldiers held them captive on the ground floor of their house. In Rami’s last contact with Zeinab on Friday, July 25, she explained that the Israeli soldiers had withdrawn from the house in anticipation of an upcoming humanitarian ceasefire, but ordered the family to stay in the home.
Rami, his father, three brothers and two uncles were bound and blindfolded and taken from the home for interrogation on July 17. Having no connection to Hamas or information on tunnels, Rami and the other men were released three days later from an interrogation facility near the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza. Continued fighting and shelling prevented them from returning to Beit Hanoun so they took shelter with relatives and at a school in the nearby Jabalia refugee camp.
Rami and his brothers returned to Beit Hanoun on August 2, but failed to locate their grandparents’ home before Israeli forces moved back into the area. On August 3, Rami learned that his father and three other members of his family, including his four-year-old niece, were killed in a separate incident when Israeli drones targeted a house in Jabalia refugee camp where they had sought refuge.
On August 4, Rami returned to Beit Hanoun with his brothers and uncles to continue their search but instead found complete destruction. The family’s house was one of a group of homes completely destroyed in an hour of continuous airstrikes just minutes before the humanitarian ceasefire began on July 26.
Rami and the other men started sifting through debris and rubble for any sign of their family that they believed had been forced to remain in the home. They discovered severed limbs and body parts of brothers Ahmad and Hussein, their sisters Zeinab and Sumond, and their grandmother Su’ad. No remains of their grandfather, his daughter-in-law or his two-year-old great-granddaughter were found.
Speaking to DCI-Palestine, Rami said, “I feel like my family is cursed. Those who stayed in the house were murdered, and those who fled the area were also murdered. And those who have survived are still struggling. I keep remembering the incident. I will not forget it.”
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires that all parties to an armed conflict distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects. Directly targeting civilians is a grave violation of international law and amounts to a war crime. Israeli forces confined the family to the home and therefore were aware that eight civilians were inhabiting the house. The circumstances of the attack strongly suggest conduct amounting to a war crime under international law.
The civilian population of the Gaza strip, particularly children, paid a heavy price during Israel’s seven-week military offensive known as Operation Protective Edge. The UN estimates over 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians and including 501 children, lost their lives. DCI-Palestine has independently verified 475 child deaths as of October 29, 2014.
Reflecting on the loss of twelve members of his family, Rami said, “I cry a thousand times a day. I cannot and will not forget what Israel did to us in this war and how they executed my family in two different incidents. They murdered my little brothers, my two sisters, my mother and my grandparents in Beit Hanoun. And they murdered my father, my niece, my brother’s wife and my uncle’s wife in Jabalia refugee camp.”
A video posted online by Al Arabiya News on July 29, 2014 captures the destruction of the Beit Hanoun neighborhood in one hour.
A few days ago, I published a short story linking to a PRN.fm radio interview I did with noted international law attorney Francis Boyle, whom I pointed out was a drafter of the US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed into law in 1981, which act supposedly barred the United States from continuing to keep or to develop new germ warfare weapons.
Boyle told me, on last Wednesday’s radio program “This Can’t Be Happening!,” that he believes the Zaire Ebola strain that is wracking Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in west Africa, originally came from one of several BSL4-level bio-research labs operated in those countries and funded by a combination of the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Department, perhaps because of testing of Ebola being conducted there, or because of some containment breach.
Boyle pointed out the oddity that the epidemic is the Zaire strain, which has in the past been limited to Zaire in central Africa, and not a local strain found in fruit bats in west Africa — the alleged vector that news reports have claimed is being suspected of initiating the outbreak of the disease. As he noted, fruit bats don’t migrate, and certainly didn’t fly 2200 miles from central Africa to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
For running this alarming interview with Boyle, I have received some criticism from readers who suggest that Boyle’s facts are weak.
Since then I have been checking out some of his claims and suspicions.
One particularly interesting one is his claim that a BSL4 lab handling Zaire Ebola in Kenema, Sierra Leone, was shut down in July by order of the Sierra Leone government.
I have confirmed that, and attach a screen shot (see below) from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s Facebook Page. This press release declares that the ministry was setting up a new operations center in Freetown for responding to the Ebola crisis, and that in the interim before that center was up and running, all Ebola cases would be brought to a treatment center operated by the government in Kailahun.
Significantly, the announcement also said that the move of operations away from Kenema came in response to concerns expressed by “health workers and the people of Kenema.” Even more significantly, it said that Tulane University, which had been operating the lab under US government contract, was being ordered “to stop Ebola testing during the current Ebola outbreak.”
Now just what kind of “testing” of Ebola might that be, it seems fair to ask. I did try, leaving messages with several people in the public relations office at Tulane University, but got no return calls.
UPDATE: On Thursday, a reader who is an MD contacted someone he knew at Tulane, Vice President for Research Laura Levy, asking her to explain what Tulane was doing in Kenema. He later sent me her response, which was a link to a web page on Tulane’s website. It seeks to debunk “myths” about Tulane’s work in West Africa. In that article, it states that it is a “myth” that Tulane has been ordered to leave Sierra Leone. But no one is saying that. Tulane was ordered to shut down it’s Ebola lab in the town of Kenema, not to leave Sierra Leone altogether. The article also states that it is a “myth” that the University and its researchers are “collaborating” with the military in Sierra Leone. It goes on to say that “Tulane is working with Harvard University and others in the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for Lassa fever and Ebola. Support for the consortium has come principally from the National Institutes of Health.”
But actually the consortium’s own website says that Tulane is the leader of the consortium. It lists a number of partners, including Harvard University, Scripps Research Institute, and a company called Corgenix. No government “partners” are listed. Yet Corgenix, on its company site, lists USAMRIID, the Pentagon’s bioweapons research unit, as a “member of the consortium.”
Curious indeed that Tulane Research VP Levy omitted that important bit of information.
Here’s what Coregenix had to say about USAMRIID:
USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases), located at Fort Detrick, Maryland, is the lead medical research laboratory for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, and plays a leading role in national defense and in infectious disease research. The Institute’s mission is to conduct basic and applied research on biological threats resulting in medical solutions (such as vaccines, drugs and diagnostics) to protect the warfighter. USAMRIID is a subordinate laboratory of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.
Corgenix and USAMRIID are members of the Viral Hemorrhagic fever Consortium, working to develop state of the art diagnostic products for biothreat agents and emerging pathogens.
Navy Times, hardly a den of conspiracy writers, published an article about Ebola and the US decision to send 3000 troops (not doctors!) to the impacted countries in west Africa, back on August 1. That article states:
Filoviruses like Ebola have been of interest to the Pentagon since the late 1970s, mainly because Ebola and its fellow viruses have high mortality rates — in the current outbreak, roughly 60 percent to 72 percent of those who have contracted the disease have died — and its stable nature in aerosol make it attractive as a potential biological weapon.
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have sought to develop a vaccine or treatment for the disease.
Boyle’s contention is that ever since the US signed onto the Geneva Convention outlawing germ warfare, it has used research into defense against germ weapons as a cover for US research into germ weapons themselves.
It’s interesting that Navy Times is reporting that Pentagon-funded researchers at USAMRIID have been trying to develop a vaccine for Ebola for decades, yet how does that square with a report on Oct. 23 in the New York Times that Canadian and US researchers had developed an Ebola vaccine that was 100% successful in monkeys a full decade ago, long after the Pentagon began “seeking to develop a vaccine” and several years after the NIH began a campaign to develop one. And yet, as the Times article states, the promising vaccine “sat on the shelf” for years without being tested in humans, because it encountered a “biotech valley of death” with no drug companies willing to pay for human testing.
So where was all that public US Defense Department and NIH funding, given the promise that this vaccine was showing?
Maybe it was just bureaucratic bumbling, nationalist prejudice (the vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, for god’s sake!, an concept that is toxic to the US drug industry), or just Washington stupidity. But then, if Boyle is right, then the Pentagon may not really have been all that interested in finding a vaccine, but rather was focussed on doing covert research on bioweapons, including Ebola.
It may seem hard to swallow the idea that your government could be contemplating such awful weapons, but let’s remember that the US is the country that continues to insist on its right to strew highly toxic and carcinogenic depleted uranium dust all over countries it invades or bombs, like Afghanistan, Syria and especially Iraq (according to a new report by David Swanson, the Obama administration is sending DU-armed aircraft to the Middle East again, evidently for use in its attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, as if it hadn’t spread enough of the stuff across the desert already).
As well, the US stands credibly accused of having deployed germ weapons in Cuba, Nicaragua and East Germany over the years, and perhaps in other places too.
And there was one other article in the New York Times — this one pulled, oddly, after it made it into the first edition of the paper on October 17. It reported that President Obama, “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents,” had announced that he was temporarily halting “all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” He asked those scientists already doing such government-funded research to “voluntarily halt” their work during this moratorium. Could this be a backhanded admission, or at least hint, that something like that might have been done to the Zaire Ebola strain that is circulating now in west Africa?
Got that? Your government has been paying researchers to do genetic modification of dangerous pathogens like avian or pandemic flu strains, SARS…and hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola, to make them more deadly and/or more easily transmitted!
A big problem is that this administration is and has been the most secretive since at least the post-Cointelpro reforming of the Freedom of Information Act, with the government under President Obama not just refusing to release information to journalists and the public, but resorting to aggressively pursuing and jailing whistleblowers, and even charging and jailing some under the wretched Espionage Act of 1917, and also threatening journalists themselves with jail, like James Risen of the New York Times.
As former Reagan administration Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts says, given that level of secrecy and prosecution of leakers, it behoves us as journalists and as news readers to be ready to believe the worst of this government of ours.
I believe that while Professor Boyle may in the end prove to have been an alarmist about what this Ebola outbreak really is, and to have been wrong that the US government was behind it, either through deliberate testing gone wrong or because of an accident at an African lab, he is right to raise the issues he’s raising.
Because giving this country’s historic track record, he also might be right.
On October 24 of this year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which, according to its website, “…was founded in 1913 ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all’,” printed an overview of what it called ‘Anti-Israel Activity on Campus After Operation Protective Edge: A Preview of the 2014-2015 Academic Year’. This article provides information about student groups that were appalled at Israeli cruelty during that country’s so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge’, the ridiculous name of the most recent invasion and carpet bombing of the Gaza Strip. It discusses the increase in student activity opposing Israeli policies, and projects that it will probably only continue to grow.
It is certainly true that opposition to Israel’s decades-long, brutal occupation of Palestine is growing. But the ADL made some statements in the article that belie belief. A look at one sentence suffices: “Student groups that constitute today’s anti-Israel movement hurl a multitude of hateful accusations against Israel, falsely claiming that Israel is guilty of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and a number of other war crimes in an effort to demonize Israel.”
Let us break this amazing sentence down into its component parts, and see what we can learn from it.
‘Student groups that constitute today’s anti-Israel movement’. Certainly, it can’t be denied that college campuses not only in the United States, but also throughout the world are seeing more opposition to Israeli practices. But such groups do not constitute this movement; they are simply a part of greater, ad-hoc organizations around the world that are finally waking up to Israel’s unspeakable cruelties.
‘Hurl a multitude of hateful accusations against Israel’. It would not be difficult to diffuse these ‘hateful’ accusations. If Israel is indeed innocent of these charges, all it would need to have done would be to have cooperated with any of the international investigations of the last few years, or that are currently ongoing, into its practices. If Israel has nothing to hide, why not show the facts to the world? On the other hand, if the facts are already there for all the world to see, why not try calling them ‘hateful accusations’ and see if that accomplishes anything?
“Falsely claiming that Israel is guilty of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and a number of other war crimes”. Are these false claims? A quick Internet search shows this definition for apartheid: ‘any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.’. Palestinians in the West Bank cannot drive on the same roads that Israeli’s use. They are hindered in their daily activities by countless checkpoints that Israelis establish and man arbitrarily. A Palestinian arrested in the West Bank may spend months incarcerated without charge, and without access to legal representation. An Israeli arrested in the West Bank is either charged or released within hours, and has access to legal representation immediately. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank need to ask permission from Israel to farm their own lands, and to harvest their own crops. No such restrictions or requirements are placed on Israelis.
Is Israel guilty of ethnic cleansing? Going to the same Internet source, this is how ‘ethnic cleansing’ is defined: “The elimination of an unwanted ethnic group or groups from a society, as by genocide or forced migration.” Israel was established in 1948 only after the forced removal (‘migration’) of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes. In the decades since that time, Palestinian homes have been, and continue to be, routinely demolished to make room for illegal Israeli settlements, in which only Israelis can live.
Now let us look at the charge of genocide. Returning again to the same dictionary site, genocide is defined thusly: “The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group.” When three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes in 1947 and 1948, at least 10,000 of them were killed. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were completely destroyed, leaving no trace of mosques, museums, schools, cemeteries or other signs of Palestinian culture. Since then, countless mosques, schools and other vital structures of Palestinian culture have been obliterated by Israel, in order to make room for more, Israeli-only, illegal settlements. Ironically, in June of 2011, Israel bulldozed the ancient Muslim cemetery, Ma’man Allah, in order to build a ‘Museum of Tolerance’ on the site.
During Israel’s recent horrific bombing of the Gaza Strip, many more ancient mosques were destroyed, further decimating Palestinian culture.
These student groups accuse Israel of ‘a number of other war crimes’, says the ADL article. According to International Law, an occupying force (Israel) cannot move permanent settlers into the occupied territory. Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has stated flatly that he has no intention of giving up the West Bank, where over 500,000 settlers live illegally. It is also in violation of international law to remove residents from their property, something Israel does routinely, and has done for decades, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, many who had to leave their homes for refugee camps.
International law also says that in war time, schools, hospitals, residences, places of worship and press and media facilities cannot be bombed. During the recent bombing of the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed all of these, as well as clearly-defined United Nations refugee centers, with apparent impunity.
All possible care, according to international law, must be taken to prevent civilian casualties. Yet IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers (read: terrorists) blatantly targeted children playing a beach, killing them in front of international reporters.
The protection of the occupied people is also a requirement of international law. Yet in the West Bank, IDF soldiers and illegal settlers constantly harass Palestinians, and routinely shoot and kill Palestinians, including children. When this happens, if there is any international outcry at all, Israel says it is ‘investigating’. Yet nothing substantive ever comes of these ‘investigations’.
Like many other organizations that exist ostensibly to protect poor, vulnerable little Israel from the non-existent power of its enemies, the ADL attempts to defend the indefensible. The many crimes that Israel commits on a daily basis may once have been hidden behind a wall of secrecy. But that was before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media enabled everyone with a cell phone and an internet connection to broadcast facts to the world. People around the globe see the horrors that Israel perpetrates, and understand it as all the things the ADL denies: apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and a number of other war crimes.
That students are waking up and taking action is another positive sign for Palestine. That Israel is becoming more and more isolated in the world community, with more and more countries recognizing Palestine and sanctioning Israel, is also very positive. That the ADL and other similar organizations are in panic mode, no longer able to defend a cruel, racist, apartheid regime, bodes well for a better future for Palestine.
Perhaps Israel felt it could once again bomb the Gaza Strip, and kill youths in the West Bank who have no weapons other than stones, with complete impunity. It must not be blamed for believing so; that was the model that was followed for years, and Israel can’t be faulted for not paying attention to sea changes that were occurring. Now that those changes have hit it in the face, full force, it can’t avoid seeing them. This new knowledge makes Israel all the more dangerous; any wild animal cornered will lash out, however erratically, in instinctive defense. Yet like the cornered animal that is eventually captured and controlled, this is what Israel can realistically expect. It will take time, but the process has begun, and it cannot be stopped now. Despite all Israel’s efforts to obliterate Palestine, it will fail; Palestine will be free.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man on the beach in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, medical sources said.
Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an that a 27-year-old man was seriously injured after being shot in the thigh in Beit Lahiya.
The man, identified only by his initials “S.Gh.” was taken to Kamal Udwan hospital.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed the incident, saying that two Palestinians had “approached the security fence” in the northern Gaza Strip.
Moreover, on Tuesday, 20-year-old Ibrahim Adli Asila, a Palestinian man from northern Gaza, died in Turkey of wounds he sustained in the recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip – by air, land and sea – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.
More than 2,160 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed – and 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks in July and August.
The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with the an Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement.
The truce calls for reopening Gaza’s border crossings with Israel, which, if implemented, would effectively end the latter’s years-long blockade of the embattled territory.
In addition, the sides agreed to hold further indirect meetings in Egypt to iron out further details of the truce. The meetings were postponed to November in the wake of a deadly attack on security forces in Egypt.
Gaza fishermen continue to suffer
The truce also stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually.
However, since the ceasefire was signed, Israeli forces have fired at several fishermen who they say have ventured beyond the newly-imposed limit of six nautical miles.
There have also been widespread reports of the Israeli navy opening fire at fishermen within those limits.
Last week, Israeli naval forces opened fire heavily on a group of Palestinian fishermen before detaining seven off the coast of Gaza City.
The head of the Gaza fishermen syndicate accused Israel of constantly violating the terms of the agreement.
“Since signing the truce, the Israeli army has violated (the agreement) eight times, arresting fishermen and destroying a giant fishing boat, in addition to firing at fishermen on a daily basis,” he said.
There are an estimated 4,000 fishermen in Gaza. According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 90 percent are poor, a 40 percent increase from 2008. This change is believed to be a direct result of Israeli limits on the fishing industry.
The eight-year Israeli blockade has severely crippled Gaza’s economy and contributed to the frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gaza residents.
Blocking building material
Israel also agreed to allow construction material into Gaza. But two months after the war ended, no building material has entered Gaza due to Israel’s ongoing blockade.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month during a visit to the Gaza Strip that the devastation he had seen was far worse than that caused in the previous Israel-Gaza conflict of winter 2008-2009.
“The destruction which I have seen while coming to here is beyond description. This is a much more serious destruction than what I saw in 2009.”
According to estimates based on preliminary information, as many as 80,000 Palestinians homes were damaged or destroyed during the days of hostilities, a higher figure than was previously thought.
Over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families, the UN says.
According to Palestinian Authority, rebuilding Gaza will cost $7.8 billion.
Israel routinely bars the entry of building materials into the embattled coastal enclave on grounds that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas could use them to build underground tunnels or fortifications.
For years, the Gaza Strip has depended on construction materials smuggled into the territory through a network of tunnels linking it to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
A recent crackdown on the tunnels by the Egyptian army, however, has effectively neutralized hundreds of tunnels, severely affecting Gaza’s construction sector.
The threat of unexploded Israeli shells
The Gaza Strip is still littered with a large number of unexploded Israeli shells, one of which has recently killed 4-year-old Mohammed Sami Abu-Jrad from the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.
Although Gaza police explosives teams have been working across the territory to destroy unexploded ordnance and prevent safety threats to locals, lack of proper equipment due to the seven-year Israeli siege as well as lack of resources more generally have hindered efforts.
Even before the most recent Israeli assault, unexploded ordnance from the 2008-9 and 2012 offensives was a major threat to Gazans.
A 2012 report published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 111 civilians, 64 of whom were children, were casualties to unexploded ordnance between 2009 and 2012, reaching an average of four every month in 2012.
Watch groups have warned that the ordinance can be a particular threat to children, who often think the bombs are toys.
During the 50-day war, according to UN figures, at least 505 Palestinian children were killed.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said 138 UNRWA students were killed during the assault and UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said that an additional 814 UNRWA students were injured and 560 have become orphans due to the Israeli onslaught.
(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an, AFP)
The U.S. Air Force says it is not halting its use of Depleted Uranium weapons, has recently sent them to the Middle East, and is prepared to use them.
A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). “Weight for weight and by number of rounds more 30mm PGU-14B ammo has been used than any other round,” said ICBUW coordinator Doug Weir, referring to ammunition used by A-10s, as compared to DU ammunition used by tanks.
Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with “300 of our finest airmen” have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but “that could change at any moment.”
The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. “If the need is to explode something — for example a tank — they will be used.”
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told me, “There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [U.S. military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed.”
On Thursday, several nations, including Iraq, spoke to the United Nations First Committee, against the use of Depleted Uranium and in support of studying and mitigating the damage in already contaminated areas. A non-binding resolution is expected to be voted on by the Committee this week, urging nations that have used DU to provide information on locations targeted. A number of organizations are delivering a petition to U.S. officials this week urging them not to oppose the resolution.
In 2012 a resolution on DU was supported by 155 nations and opposed by just the UK, U.S., France, and Israel. Several nations have banned DU, and in June Iraq proposed a global treaty banning it — a step also supported by the European and Latin American Parliaments.
Wright said that the U.S. military is “addressing concerns on the use of DU by investigating other types of materials for possible use in munitions, but with some mixed results. Tungsten has some limitations in its functionality in armor-piercing munitions, as well as some health concerns based on the results of animal research on some tungsten-containing alloys. Research is continuing in this area to find an alternative to DU that is more readily accepted by the public, and also performs satisfactorily in munitions.”
“I fear DU is this generation’s Agent Orange,” U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott told me. “There has been a sizable increase in childhood leukemia and birth defects in Iraq since the Gulf War and our subsequent invasion in 2003. DU munitions were used in both those conflicts. There are also grave suggestions that DU weapons have caused serious health issues for our Iraq War veterans. I seriously question the use of these weapons until the U.S. military conducts a full investigation into the effect of DU weapon residue on human beings.”
Doug Weir of ICBUW said renewed use of DU in Iraq would be “a propaganda coup for ISIS.” His and other organizations opposed to DU are guardedly watching a possible U.S. shift away from DU, which the U.S. military said it did not use in Libya in 2011. Master Sgt. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing believes that was simply a tactical decision. But public pressure had been brought to bear by activists and allied nations’ parliaments, and by a UK commitment not to use DU.
DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. The damage is compounded, Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told me, when the nation that uses DU refuses to identify locations targeted. Contamination enters soil and water. Contaminated scrap metal is used in factories or made into cooking pots or played with by children.
CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 assaults. The UK and the Netherlands have revealed targeted locations, Shah pointed out, as did NATO following DU use in the Balkans. And the United States has revealed locations it targeted with cluster munitions. So why not now?
“For years,” Shah said, “the U.S. has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The U.S. doesn’t want studies done.” In addition, the United States has used DU in civilian areas and identifying those locations could suggest violations of Geneva Conventions.
Iraqi doctors will be testifying on the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C., in December.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6 million to try to identify atrocities committed in Iraq . . . by ISIS.
Pro-Palestinian activism has risen significantly on US campuses since Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in the summer, according to a Jewish civil society organization.
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League said in a report published Friday that there had been 75 “anti-Israel” events scheduled on US campuses since the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year, which started in late August or early September at most American universities.
“During the same time period last year, there were only 35 of those events scheduled, marking a 114 percent increase in the number of those events scheduled to take place this year,” the report said.
Israel’s recent offensive in the Gaza Strip began July 7 and lasted for 51 days; it killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. More than 10,000 others were reported injured.
During the previous academic year, student groups at US colleges hosted at least 374 anti-Israel events, the report said.
It said nearly 40 percent of those events were held in support of an international campaign to seek boycott against Israel.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known by the initials BDS, calls for various forms of boycott against Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands.
The report also said pro-Palestinian protestors on US campuses drew parallels between Israeli actions in Gaza and the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
It mentions a particular “die-in” protest at John Jay College in New York, in which many students reportedly chanted slogans such as “from Ferguson to Palestine, Inifada Intifada,” referring to two popular Palestinian uprisings aimed at ending the Israeli occupation.
Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9. His death set off mass protests, which have since continued at various levels in the country.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that more than 500 anthropologists have publicly joined an academic boycott of Israel initiated by the American Studies Association, with another 77 joining anonymously.
The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago.
The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.
Instead, the Department of Energy, which oversees the nuclear weapons laboratories, is planning to produce 80 explosive plutonium cores—the key to every warhead—a year by 2030, according to The Guardian. The U.S. hasn’t needed this level of production since it was facing nuclear Armageddon with the former Soviet Union last century.
Over the next decade, the federal government plans to spend $355 billion modernizing the nuclear arsenal even though there are 15,000 cores in reserve in a Texas facility.
“I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-80 pits per year by 2030,” James Doyle, a former scientist in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said. Doyle was fired last summer for publishing an article that urged nuclear disarmament, even though the laboratory had approved the article for publication.
The commitment to build more cores stands in stark contrast to Obama’s declaration after taking over the White House in 2009 to cut the stockpile from 5,113 warheads to 1,500 by 2016. Only 309 weapons have been destroyed under his watch. His predecessor, George W. Bush, “cut the nuclear stockpile in half during his eight years in office,” Caty Enders at The Guardian reported.
Plans to expand nuclear weapons production come at a time when the Energy Department is still recovering from a significant accident earlier this year at the nation’s only repository for nuclear weapons waste. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has been closed since February, when a drum of radioactive waste exploded and exposed 22 workers to radiation.
To Learn More:
Nuclear Weapons Expansion Pushed in Congress Despite Accidents at Lab (by Caty Enders, The Guardian)
What Happened at WIPP in February 2014 (Department of Energy)
Nuclear Weapons are not Going Away…3,970 Still Deployed (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
GAO Audit Accuses Obama Administration of Lowballing Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Arsenal (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Video Music that shows the political violence in Peru, using the song composed by Ruben Blades, with the same title. Rodolfo Pereira was the director and editor.
An Argentine Federal court handed a life sentence to 15 out of 21 people accused of crimes against humanity during the last Argentine military dictatorship on Friday. Among the accused were soldiers, policemen, and former politicians.
The court also gave a sentence of between 12 and 13 years to four of the accused, and absolved one of them.
The 21 people were stood trial for their participation in the illegal detention center known as “La Cacha”. The judge ruled that they collaborated in the genocide that killed thousands of Argentinians.
They were also found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Laura Carlotto, daughter of Estela de Carlotto, founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. This movement searches for the disappeared babies that were taken away from their parents by the military during the dictatorship.
The proceedings began in December 2013, and ended with the reading of the verdict on Friday.The attendees, most of them human right activists, labeled the accused “murderers”.
Between 1976 and 1983, the Argentine dictatorship kidnapped, tortured and slaughtered some 30,000 people, most of them citizens and activists who opposed the military government. Up to now the grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have identified more than 110 of the disappeared children.
Three months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was violently brought down from the skies over Ukraine, there are still no definitive answers to what caused the tragedy.
Civil conflict in the area prevented international experts from conducting a full and thorough investigation.
The wreckage should have been collected and scrupulously re-assembled to identify all the damage, but this standard investigative procedure was never carried out. Until that’s done, evidence can only be gleaned from pictures of the debris, the flight recorders or black boxes and eye-witnesses’ testimonies. This may be enough to help build a picture of what really happened to the aircraft, whether a rocket fired from the ground or gunfire from a military jet.
The Jewish state of Israel in the Levant (JSIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are different in many ways. The most fundamental difference is that the former is a recognized state and a member of the United Nations, while the latter is not recognized as a legitimate polity and is considered a political/military terrorist organization. However, the two share core characteristics that define them and by recognising these similarities observers may be able to make predictions about their futures.
Divine right to exist
Both JSIL and ISIS display what might be termed “self-defined righteousness.” Although Israel is a modern state, its politics and treatment of others (Palestinians) are based on religious concepts and principles that can be traced back to the first century BC and the teachings of Rabbi Hillel, someone who would be considered a fundamentalist today. He instructed Jews to have a religious and social identity separate from those of other people (tribes). Israel introduces itself to the international community as a Jewish state and, based on this interpretation of Zionist Judaism, is a home to Jews wherever they are in the world. In other words, it is a state which includes all Jews but excludes the indigenous people of Palestine, the Palestinians. It uses its interpretation of Judaism to deny Palestinians equal rights and prevent them from accessing their lands.
ISIS believes that it is enacting God’s will and defines itself as the force to enforce the Islamic moral code, religious rituals and law (Sharia). ISIS’ interpretation of Islam goes back to Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) who promoted the idea that Muslims are different from non-Muslims both in their way of life as well as in religious instruction. This notion of non-acceptance together with cultural differences led Ibn Taymiyyah’s followers to the practice of excluding others and in some cases putting them to death. This particular interpretation of Islam also means the rejection of other branches of Islam.
The form of righteousness practiced by ISIS leaders and Israeli politicians is also used to set apart the “good” people from the “bad” ones. The good are those who believe and support their respective political projects while the bad ones are those who stand against them. It is this stance that makes it permissible for Israel to inflict damage on the bad ones and reward the good. As such, the Palestinian people are depicted in the official Israeli narrative as the bad people who work hard to inflict damage on the good Israeli Jews.
Historically, the state of Israel was established on the self-proclaimed premise of the Zionist movement, that anti-Semitism and murder might surge again in the world. Thus, the resurgence of another wave of anti-Semitism will inflict another Holocaust on the world’s Jews. The Zionist movement took anti-Semitism and the Holocaust out of their historical context. In other words, the concepts were given an absolute ahistoric “religious” meaning. Consequently, the “Jews” started to become reified as an ethnic identity and Israel as a refuge for the world’s Jewry from harm.
For ISIS, one of the underlying reason for Muslims’ degeneration over the centuries is that too many people have strayed far from the fundamental principles of Islam. The role of ISIS is to establish an Islamic state ruled by the caliph. It considers itself to be the force that will revive true Islam and create a state in which all Muslims can live in under its interpretation of Islam. Similarly to Israel, where non-Jews are discriminated against, there is no place for non-Muslims to live as equal citizens in the so-called Islamic State.
Both JSIL and ISIS use the self-serving interpretation of religious texts to enact pragmatic politick. The Zionist narrative that gave birth to the state of Israel and is now its official ideology starts with the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people and that God promised them the holy land. These two concepts of chosenness are ahistorical, unconditional, and self-limited. Thus, settler colonial expansion in Palestine beyond the 1948 borders is seen as the redemption of the biblically named Judea and Samaria for the Jewish people. Putting Palestinian communities under closure during Jewish holidays is usually disguised as a religious instruction and therefore not seen for what it is: a measure of control.
ISIS also claims it is justified in its actions; it considers itself the group fighting for God and enforcing the latter’s instructions on earth. The group’s interpretation of religious texts is based on its spiritual-political leaders’ rulings that place people into two main categories – believers in ISIS’ ideology are viewed as being on the right path for following the “correct” version of Islam while everyone else, including followers of other branches of Islam, is on the wrong path. Thus the expulsion or execution of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in Mosul who refuse to convert or pay Jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslims) is introduced as a religious instruction that permits politically motivated discrimination.
Indiscriminate attacks on perceived “enemies”
International humanitarian law forbids parties in armed conflict from deliberately launching attacks against civilians but both Israel and ISIS carry out indiscriminate attacks against their enemies, and they cite similar justifications for such attacks, mainly operational reasons.
JSIL, like ISIS, says that engaging in conflict in residential areas makes it difficult to avoid harm to civilians. Israel, which deems itself “superior” to others, says it launches military operations to prevent harm to its own people whose lives are worth much than those of “others.” ISIS believes it is on the right path and views everyone else as living in a state of sinfulness and, according to the group, sinners deserve to be put to death. Ultimately, ISIS and Israel attack civilians as part of their strategy to dispose of the natives and remove them from their lands. As such, in their quest for control of the land they both practice ethnic cleansing under a myriad of guises.In areas controlled by ISIS, in both Syria and Iraq, the group has carried out the mass executions of opposition militants captured by its forces and any person who assists its enemies is liable to be sentenced to death. Israel carries out a similar strategy of collective punishment against Palestinian resistance. It used it in its latest war on the Gaza Strip and during the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Even when Israel states that its attacks are intended to kill only resistance fighters, its bombardment of residential areas always leads to the killing of civilians. These attacks are clearly designed to target and punish the combatants’ families and homes.
During Israel’s latest war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Israeli army intentionally converted 40 percent of the Gaza Strip into uninhabited land. The Israeli army displaced up to 500,000 Palestinians out of their neighborhoods. This is the same tactic ISIS has been using in vast swaths in Syria and Iraq. The latest incident is the ongoing fighting in Kobane, the Kurdish city under Syrian jurisdiction, where ISIS’ shelling of the city forced the majority of its citizens to be displaced.
Displacement, collective punishment, terrorism and ethnic cleansing in the name of God are but a few similarities between the two entities. It is worth considering how the state of Israel has embraced the legend of the Maccabees, a sect of Judaism which fought other Jews and foreign powers in the name of piousness and righteousness, and how it has incorporated it within the contemporary ethos. The Maccabees were fundamentalists who used violence against their enemies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and carried out forced conversions much as ISIS does today.
Samer Jaber is a political activist and researcher. He is the managing director for Dar el-Karma Inc. for Media, Researches and Publication. He tweets at @Jerusalem_sbj
The French government has prosecuted a pro-Palestinian activist for disregarding the official ban on anti-Israel rallies during its recent offensive on the Gaza Strip, Press TV reports.
France has put the spokesperson of the New Anti-Capitalist Party on trial for his attempts to organize an “illegal demonstration” against the Israeli regime.
Meanwhile, several demonstrators held a rally on Wednesday to protest against the government’s prosecution of the pro-Palestinian campaigner.
“To incriminate the spokesman of a political party who is also a strong supporter of unions… is totally unjustified and unacceptable. We would like to know why the government singled him out,” said Patrick Picard, a member of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).
France was heavily criticized by rights groups after it officially banned demonstrations against the Israeli regime’s deadly attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip in summer. Thousands of people defied the French government’s decision, saying it was a glaring breach of their constitutional basic right to demonstrate.
“This government made two decisions this summer: to support the extreme-right regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, which was in the process of massacring people in Gaza and then, … it tried to weaken the Palestinian solidarity movement here in France by claiming it was anti-Semitic and violent which we totally reject,” stated the national secretary of Left Front Party (PG), Eric Coquerel.
The French government has recently intensified the trend of prosecuting social activists who disagree with the unpopular policies of President Francois Hollande.