The police rampage in Ferguson, Missouri has increased public awareness of police militarization and drawn well-deserved attention to writers like Radley Balko who’ve documented the proliferation of military equipment and culture in local police forces over the past decade.
It’s certainly true that the post-9/11 security state and the Global War on Terror have flooded police forces with surplus military equipment, increased the prevalence of military cross-training (including “counter-terrorism” training by Israeli military personnel encouraging American police forces to view their communities in much the same way Israeli security forces view the Palestinians in Gaza).
But the roots of police militarization go back way further than 9/11 – all the way back to the aftermath of insurrections by the black populations of major American cities in the 1960s and the American political elite’s desire to ensure that nothing like that ever happened again.
US presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon began creating an institutional framework to ensure that any such disorder in the future would be dealt with differently. This process culminated in DOD Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, aka “Garden Plot,” which involved domestic surveillance by the military, contingency plans for military cooperation with local police in suppressing local disorders, plans for mass preventive detention and joint exercises of police and the regular military. Frank Morales wrote in Cover Action Quarterly (“U.S. Military Civil Disturbance Planning: The War at Home,” Spring-Summer 2000):
“At first, the Garden Plot exercises focused primarily on racial conflict. But beginning in 1970, the scenarios took a different twist. The joint teams, made up of cops, soldiers and spies, began practicing battle with large groups of protesters. California, under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, was among the most enthusiastic participants in Garden Plot war games. … Garden plot [subsequently] evolved into a series of annual training exercises based on contingency plans to undercut riots and demonstrations, ultimately developed for every major city in the United States. Participants in the exercises included key officials from all law enforcement agencies in the nation, as well as the National Guard, the military, and representatives of the intelligence community.”
It was against this background that then-governor Reagan introduced the first SWAT teams in California.
When Reagan became president, he appointed Louis O. Giuffrida, who as head of the California Guard had enthusiastically participated in Garden Plot exercises under Reagan’s govenorship, to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In that role Giuffrida worked with Oliver North to draw up plans for martial law in the event of a “national emergency.” They worked together on the Readiness Exercises 1983 and 1984 (Rex-83 and Rex-84), which included mass detention of suspected “terrorist subversives” under the emergency provisions of Garden Plot.
The hypothetical civil disturbance/insurrection scenario these emergency exercises were supposed to be coping with was (ahem) a series of massive antiwar demonstrations in response to a U.S. military invasion of Central America. “North … helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad (Alfonso Chardy, “Reagan Aides and the ‘Secret’ Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987).
The militarization of local polic, and the encouragement of a police culture that viewed local communities (especially people of color in minority neighborhoods) as an occupied enemy populations, got further impetus from the War on Drugs, which was greatly intensified under the Reagan administration. By 1999 — well before the Global War on Terror — the phenomenon had progressed to the point that Diane Cecilia Weber wrote a Cato Institute paper titled “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments” (Briefing Paper No. 50).
Since 9/11, the problem has grown beyond Weber’s imagining. After Katrina the (largely black) flooded out portions of New Orleans got a demonstration of the same police hostility and aggression we’re witnessing today in Ferguson. It’s a safe guess that this is now the standard treatment to expect from local police in a community experiencing an “emergency” or (manufactured) “disturbance” of any kind.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is the government views its own people — particularly those of color — as the enemy. The question is how long we will tolerate it.
The release of an autopsy report in Louisiana is raising new questions about the unusual shooting death of a 22-year-old black male who died earlier this year in a police car while his hands were cuffed behind his back.
RT reported earlier this year that police in Iberia Parish, LA said Victor White III died in early March after he fatally shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. White had reportedly been apprehended for possession of drugs, and was searched no fewer than two times before being cuffed and placed in the backseat of a police vehicle. According to the police report from the time, White uncovered a gun while in the car and shot himself in the back.
According to a coroner’s report just recently obtained by NBC News, however, White died from a gunshot wound that entered his body in the chest. Nevertheless, Dr. Carl Ditch wrote in the report that White was capable of firing the shot while cuffed “due to his body habitus” and has agreed to rule the death a suicide.
Hannah Rappleye, a reporter for NBC, compared the coroner’s story with the official police report from March in an article published by the outlet this week.
“White was shot in the front, not the back. The bullet entered his right chest and exited under his left armpit. White was left-handed, according to family members. According to the report, the forensic pathologist found gunshot residue in the wound, but not the sort of stippling that a close-range shot can sometimes produce. He also found abrasions on White’s face,” she wrote. “And yet, despite the contradictions – and even though White’s hands were never tested for gunpowder residue – the Iberia Parish coroner still supported the central contention of the initial police statement issued back in March.”
“Although the decedent was handcuffed at the time with his hands to his back, due to his body habitus, the pathologist and investigators agree that he would have been able to manipulate the weapon to the point where the contact entrance wound was found,” Ditch wrote.
The deceased’s father, Rev. Victor White II, told NBC that he had his doubts about the coroner’s report.
“You can’t make me understand,” he said. “You can’t make me understand how my son took his left hand, when he was handcuffed behind the back, and shot himself. I don’t believe a thing they’re saying at this point.”
According to the coroner, however, White was indeed capable of causing his own death.
“As Coroner of lberia Parish it is my duty to rule on cause and manner of death in all such cases as Mr. White’s to the best of my ability and without bias. Based on the forensic evidence and information gained from the ongoing State Police investigation, I have determined the cause of death is a single contact gunshot wound to the right lateral chest, and the manner of death is suicide,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, though, the Louisiana State Police remain in the midst of an investigation launched nearly nine months ago into the shooting death. Writing for NBC, Rappleye wrote that that probe has so far failed to reveal any new information about the tragic death.
“Due to the pending investigation, records normally considered public are not available. The State Police will not yet release dash cam footage, or the number of or names of any officers present during White’s death. They will not give any timeframe as to when they expect the investigation to conclude,” she wrote.
“You always want to make sure in the end you did whatever you could do possible, that in whatever case you put forward, is the right case, and the outcome is the right outcome,” Trooper Brooks David, public information officer for the Louisiana State Police, told NBC. “So if it takes us eight months, or two months, you always want to make sure that you do the right thing.”
According to Rev. White, however, legal action might be the next step if the eventual release of the Louisiana State Police’s report raises more doubts about his son’s death.
“I don’t’ think anything is going to be different from what they already said,” he told NBC. “It’s difficult to see that anything else would bring us back what we need. The only thing we want back is our son.”
Ghosts of Olavarría: Human Rights Trial in Argentina Seeks Justice for Victims of Military Dictatorship
The central quarter of the Argentine city of Olavarría, with its leafy main square, whitewashed church, and historical architecture, merits its National Heritage status. Thanks to mineral extraction of the rock on which it stands, Olavarría is a prosperous and tranquil place, and home to the social science and engineering schools of the University of Buenos Aires Province. Now, however, this seemingly pleasant city has become the latest battleground in Argentina’s ongoing struggle to bring justice to those guilty of crimes during the military dictatorship of 1976–1983.
Olavarría, a city of around 100,000 inhabitants, is the setting for the upcoming trial of several ex-army officials accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship. A high level of public interest surrounds the proceedings, due to one of the defendants’ alleged involvement in a case which has dominated national media in recent weeks.
In early August, the human rights organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo announced that the long-lost grandson of its president Estela de Carlotto had been identified and was living in Olavarría under a different name. Guido Montoya Carlotto had been taken from his detained mother in 1978 when just a few hours old, one of hundreds of babies born in captivity and then raised by families linked to the military authorities. In most cases, their biological parents were murdered by the military. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have campaigned since the 1970s to reunite the stolen babies with their natural families and to expose the guilty parties.
Estela de Carlotto The recent news, a welcome dose of positivity on front pages of the country’s newspapers, has received intense media interest. Estela de Carlotto is highly-respected within Argentine society for her tireless campaigning as president of the famous headscarf-wearing Grandmothers. But, as the story has moved on from its initial feel-good element, there are now many questions over who was responsible for taking Guido from his mother, Estela’s 22-year-old daughter Laura Carlotto, who was killed soon after giving birth. The father, Walmir Montoya, abducted alongside his pregnant partner, had been murdered several months earlier.
The spotlight has shifted to Olavarría, location of the impending trial and the city in which Guido Montoya had lived until recently as Ignacio Hurbán. Although the trial date was set several months ago, it is now alleged that one of the accused participated in the transfer of Laura Carlotto’s baby to an adoptive family. Laura, who was handcuffed to a stretcher throughout the entire labor and birthing process, spent only a few hours with her newborn before being returned to her cell at the La Cacha detention center in La Plata.
On September 22, a court will begin listening to evidence against a number of ex-military officials charged with crimes against humanity, including kidnapping, torture and murder, committed at the Monte Peloni detention center in Olavarría. The officials on trial are: the local commander, Ignacio Verdura; Chief of Intelligence, Walter Grosse; Officer Horacio Leites; and Sub-Officer Omar Ferreyra. All of them are currently serving sentences for earlier convictions. While the trial is not directly connected to the removal of the Montoya Carlotto baby, it is suspected that Verdura was involved in the appropriation of babies.
For the last few years, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have claimed that an Olavarría businessman, Carlos Francisco Aguilar, acted as an intermediary between the military and adoptive families. Aguilar, who died earlier this year, owned the land on which Guido Montoya’s adoptive parents worked and was known to have strong links to the armed forces and the church. As a wealthy landowner, he moved in the same social circles as high-ranking military figures, such as Ignacio Verdura, the then-chief of the regional 2nd Tank Regiment.
Throughout the 1970s, Olavarría was a site of left-wing militant activity, which brought the city to the military’s attention. State repression began with worker organizations before targeting the lawyers representing them, and later moving on to the student movement. Those who felt the heavy hand of the state included striking workers at the Loma Negra (Black Hill) cement company. The company’s response to the strike was to call in the military to end the dispute with detentions and other suppressive tactics.
Carlos Moreno was a lawyer who represented the Loma Negra workers. He was detained in Olavarría and tortured before being killed in May 1977. A trial in 2012 exposed links between the military and civilians who had allowed their property to be used for detaining prisoners. The trial also ordered an investigation into the role of Loma Negra, whose president was Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, one of the world’s wealthiest women until her death two years ago at the age of 90.
Speaking to the Página 12 newspaper, Moreno’s son Matías said companies such as Loma Negra reaped the benefits of military rule.
“Before the dictatorship, Loma Negra was suffering losses, but its profits tripled under the dictatorship. The abduction of my father was intended as a disciplinary measure, after which there was a fall in labor costs,” said Matías. This was the aim of all the abductions.”
He also revealed that Commander Verdura lived next-door to the Moreno family. Any neighborly recognition, however, was irrelevant when it came to the military eliminating its opponents.
The Monte Peloni detention centerThe Monte Peloni detention center, where the majority of those detained in the zone were held, was a farmhouse in the countryside near Olavarría. Several prisoners, many of whom remain disappeared, passed through the center, which was administrated by the 2nd Tank Regiment of Ignacio Verdura.
Among the crimes that Verdura and his cohorts stand accused of are the disappearance of a young couple, Isabel Gutiérrez and Juan Carlos Ledesma, the detention of Isabel’s father Francisco Gutiérrez, and the murders of Jorge Oscar Fernández and Alfredo Serafín Maccarini. The latter was a prison guard whose rumored empathy for political prisoners made him a target for the military. Another ex-prisoner, Lidia Araceli Gutiérrez, who was raped and tortured in Monte Peloni, is to give evidence at the trial.
The Olavarría trial is the latest step in the legal battle to hold those involved in the abuses of the dictatorship accountable. As many as 2,000 people connected to the dictatorship have been accused of complicity in abuses, as, according to Human Rights Watch, Argentina has made “significant progress in prosecuting military and police personnel for enforced disappearances, killings and torture during the country’s ‘Dirty War.’” Yet the fact remains that a great many of those who willingly participated in dictatorship abuses have yet to answer for their crimes.
The stealing of babies from people who were subsequently killed continues to be a matter of great sensitivity, as the majority of stolen babies are now unidentified adults living normal lives in Argentine society. The Guido Montoya case was the 114th positive identification of a baby forcibly removed from its biological parents. However, it is estimated that there are hundreds of other citizens now approaching middle-age with little idea of their true identities. For families of the disappeared, the discovery of lost relatives can serve as an act of closure for their longstanding grief. Having spent decades dwelling on the past, they are finally able to look ahead.
In 2012, the dictator Rafael Videla, already serving a life sentence for human rights abuses, was given a further 50 years for his part in the systematic transfer of babies from prisoners to families linked to the military regime. Several other officials, including the country’s last military leader Reynaldo Bignone, have been convicted and imprisoned for their involvement in abuses. Bignone, who like Videla had already been found guilty of torture and murder in earlier trials, was said by the court to be complicit in “the crimes of theft, retention and hiding of minors, as well as replacing their identities.”
But the campaign of forced removal was perpetrated at all levels of the military hierarchy. As Guido Montoya Carlotto said in a recent interview with the newspaper El Popular de Olavarría, in his hometown “there are people who have to thoroughly explain themselves … I hope that people learn to question that which has been covered up, so that this not only represents my restitution but also the restitution for other people experiencing doubts.”
As Argentina continues to come to terms with the traumas of military rule, stories like the Carlottos’ provide inspiration for the justice movement to keep fighting. Yet, this is a journey that is unlikely to ever be fully resolved. The entrenched political system of brutality and repression was too widespread to hold all the guilty to account. But each small step signifies progress. Many will be closely watching the Olavarría trial in the hope that Argentina continues on its path toward redemption.
Nick MacWilliam is a British freelance writer and editor based in Buenos Aires.
Interview with Dr. Swee Ang Chai, co-Founder and Patron of British Charity Medical Aid for Palestinians
Why was the Lancet letter which has 24 signatories of doctors and scientists published?
Dr. Swee Ang Chai: All the authors and signatories fear the worse at the beginning of this crisis which erupted in early July based on their previous experience. However the situation has got much worse since the publication of the letter. Gaza has already been declared a disaster area by the UK government. Despite the destruction of infrastructure, doctors and healthcare workers in Gaza continued to work despite severe conditions and their personal circumstances. Their own homes are being destroyed and families killed, and to be landed with more than 12,000 wounded is simply overwhelming for any medical system. That this is why Swee and her surgical colleagues wanted to assist by volunteering to go to Gaza. As of yesterday (22 August 2014) the death toll reached 2083, with 50% women and children. Eighty five families were annihilated, and 12,656 injured. Forty five clinics and fifteen hospital were destroyed (two of the hospitals completely flattened), 8 fire stations, 1 ambulance station. Health institutions should be protected as sanctuaries under international law for the wounded and sick people, but they were targeted.
You and your consultant surgical colleague have just been deported as you entered Israel to get to Gaza… elaborate.
They first gave me a three month Israeli visa of the B2 type when they thought I was a tourist. Then when they realized I was going to Gaza, my colleague and I were taken aside and interrogated in a very humiliating way for three hours, following that we were detained, and deported after around 16-17 hours. But the personal humiliation, detention and deportation is not the worst part. It is the realisation that this is part of the siege imposed on Gaza. The siege does not only apply to medical equipment and supplies for Gaza but also to people who want to get to Gaza to assist. They can stop me from getting to Gaza but they cannot stop me from caring for and supporting the Palestinians, and they cannot stop the world from knowing about what they do to Palestinians. These crimes committed against Palestinians cannot be covered up. I will raise my voice and say what happened in Gaza. Gaza was shelled with tons of ammunition and depleted uranium which not only kill immediately but leave residues which emit radioactive rays causing malformations in utero and miscarriages. And this will continue despite repeated ceasefires. Gazans want to rebuild their broken homes but building materials are blockaded. People have no choice but to rebuild their broken homes with rubble contaminated with radioactive uranium as the siege continues. What do you want them to do? They have no choice but to rebuild their homes over mounds of destruction and ‘nuclear’ waste. Even if the war stops, these rays will have an impact on people’s lives.
Is Britain and the USA complicit in this?
I will not say that all of Britain and the US are complicit. Some in high positions are. But I can tell you that within a week of having published the Lancet letter, we got 20,000 signatures endorsing the letter. But there are others who are protesting against the letter at the same time. And there are people who have been subjected to threats via email saying that if you continue to support Palestinians you will be killed. But we must say what we have to say, this is the truth. This is what is happening, massacres, and if we are silent in the face of massacres we would not be fit to be doctors and scientists. We have to be witnesses. 32 years ago, I was a doctor supporting Israel, and my family and I used to support Israel. But when Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon in 1982, and bombed Lebanon for ten weeks, I could not tolerate it anymore. I decided not to support Israel and volunteered to help the wounded in Lebanon. Later I went to Gaza. My life changed, when I went to Lebanon, I went to Sabra and Shatilla, and I did not find terrorists. I found a people who are patient, gentle and generous and they welcomed me, amidst their enormous suffering. But they were labeled as terrorists. After the evacuation of the PLO, when they were defenceless, they were massacred. I went back after the attack (1982), and I found that some of the patients I treated were killed. I went back to London, and continued with my work and it is impossible to say nothing. For 32 years, I decided not to be silent , and will speak up for Palestinians as a witness to what happened to them. I am also a friend of the Palestinians. So wherever I go I will talk about what happened to Palestinians and the injustice which they have been enduring, and I will do this until I die.
Interviewer: You have written a book: From Beirut to Jerusalem, but since that time, there has been no change for the Palestinians. You were very angry. Let me read a section of the Gaza letter (published by Lancet):
“We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre” the letter is directed to Who?
Dr. Swee Ang Chai: This paragraph refers to all people who are guilty of knowing that the massacre is going on and yet say nothing. They are complicit in the crime. There are also the people who deliberately cover it up. It is our duty and that of Mayadeen to inform the world of what is happening. But when we speak up, many attacked us because they were complicit in this crime , and tried to cover up what is happening by intimidating and silencing us. For example deporting doctors so that we do not see and witness what is happening. But they forget that the Palestinian doctors are still there, and they can tell the world what is going on because they are there. For the rest of the world, some do not take a stand because of lack of knowledge and it is our role to inform them. Others are worried about speaking up through fear, but we must support them to take a stand.
What do you think of Israel’s attack on people, children etc., why do you think they are killing them?
I am very sad because only 10% of Israel want the massacre to stop and the rest want it to continue. In other words the other 90% of Israelis want Palestinians chucked out or killed, and this is compatible with ethnic cleansing and mass extermination, a strong word, but what is happening in Gaza is an attempted or incremental genocide..
Why do you decide to publish the letter in the Lancet?
As you know this is a strong letter. many editors have difficulty with it. But we know the Lancet is a prestigious journal, and Richard Horton took the risk in publishing this. He knows Palestine well, since several years. His conscience made him publish this letter. He is paying a high price for publishing the letter. There is a nasty campaign to get him fired.
Thank you Dr. Swee Ang Chai, founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians and for your voice as a medical doctor and humanitarian.
An open letter for the people in Gaza
by Paola Manduca, Iain Chalmers, Derek Summerfield, Mads Gilbert, Swee Ange, on behalf of 24 signatories
We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.
On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.
We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.
We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.
This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.
The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.1
People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”2
Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.3 Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade.3 They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.
Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.
Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.
Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.
According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),1 as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.
The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.
Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.4, 5 We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.
We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children’s wellbeing.
Israel’s behaviour has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.
This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.
Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.
As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.6 We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.
We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre.
GAZA – Abdullah Mortaja, a Palestinian journalist working for al-Aqsa TV Channel, died on Monday evening of wounds he sustained in an Israeli artillery attack on al-Shujaiya neighborhood, east of Gaza city.
Palestinian medics said Mortaja breathed his last after his health status went downhill and he kept bleeding non-stop due to the injuries incurred in the attack.
Mortaja is a graduate of the Journalism and Media Department at the Islamic University of Gaza. He worked as a correspondent for al-Aqsa TV Channel and a youth activist in Gaza.
Mortaja is the son-in-law of Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. His murder brings the death toll of journalists killed during the Israeli offensive, rocking besieged Gaza since July 7, to at least 17.
Scores of human rights and humanitarian organizations have called for the need to immediately launch an international investigation into Israel’s premeditated slaughter of journalists covering Gaza war.
The Palestinian Information Ministry said in a statement on Monday that 102 Israeli violations, targeting journalists and news reporters working for local and foreign news agencies have been registered.
The casualties’ list includes: Ali Shahta Abu Afsh, working for the American Agency, Italian journalist Simone Camili, working for the Associated Press, driver of Media 24 agency, Hamed Abdullah Shihab, and female media activist, Najla al-Haj among others.
According to the ministry, at least 16 Palestinian journalists and an Italian journalist were killed while 18 others sustained severe wounds. 29 journalists’ family homes and 17 media offices came under Israeli shelling, including the headquarters of al-Jazeera, al-Aqsa, Associated Press, and Doha Media Center.
More than 15 media sites, radios and TV channels have been jammed, the ministry further documented.
The report outlined a detailed account of journalists who have turned homeless as barrages of Israeli strikes rocked their family homes. Journalist Mahmoud Ahmad al-Athamna and his wife, along with their little child, sustained deadly wounds after Israeli fighter jets hit their home, razing it entirely to the ground.
Homes of journalists Rami al-Ajala, Shahda Naim, and al-Jazeera reporter Ahmad Fayadh, along with brothers Youssef and Atiya Abu Sharia’ were all subject to the same fate.
The Israeli occupation has stepped up its belligerent aggression on Palestinian and foreign pro-Gaza journalists since the launch of the Gaza offensive on July 7, denying local and international news agencies the right to broadcast an authentic coverage of Israel’s mass-murder of Gaza people.
Palestinian medical sources in Gaza have confirmed that 90 Palestinian families were completely exterminated by Israeli forces in their ongoing war on the Gaza Strip.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the number of fatalities on the 49th day of the war was 20 with more than 60 wounded.
On Sunday, the total deaths since the beginning of the war had climbed to 2,120, including 577 children, 260 women and 101 elderly. The number of wounded also became 10,854, including 3,307 children, 2,042 women and 401 elderly.
Spokesman of the ministry of health, Dr Ashraf al-Qudra, said: “The Israeli occupation took the Joudeh family out of the civil record. This massacre is added to 89 similar others.”
Al-Qudra noted that the 90 massacred families consisted of 530 members.
In recent days the Israeli occupation stepped up its attacks on residential areas. During the last 48 hours they destroyed a 14-story building in Gaza city, an entire neighbourhood in Khan Younis, a shopping centre in Rafah and three mosques in Rafah, Gaza and Beit Hanoun.
“We killed your brother and destroyed your family home.” The words hit the prisoner, Said Abu Shaluf, like a slap to the face. A few hours after bombing his home, Said was summoned by the Israeli prison administrators. They informed him that they killed his 31-year-old brother Abdel Rahman and destroyed their family home. This is Israel’s latest attempt to break the spirit of Palestinian prisoners, who dared to challenge the Israeli authorities through hunger strikes in more than one struggle, in a long line of struggles, for dignity. But who can hear the prisoners’ added pain now in light of the ongoing war on Gaza?
Abu Shaluf’s family tried to avoid informing their imprisoned son about the death of his brother Abdel Rahman or the destruction of their home by Israeli bombs, especially out of concern for his psychological state inside prison. But the Israelis beat the family and the media, where news is usually muddled yet moves quickly, delivering the devastating news in an insensitive manner. Since that day, the family learned that Said is in a very difficult psychological state, and he is refusing to eat even though his prison mates are trying to comfort and console him. This has naturally compounded his mother’s pain.
Abu Shaluf’s story is not unique. Before him, a 31-year-old prisoner called Basel Arif, who was serving two life sentences, was informed that Israeli forces killed four of his cousins in the massacre in al-Shujayeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City.
Other [Israeli] prison administrations have used a similar tactic. And so the story was repeated with a 24-year-old prisoner called Ahmed al-Soufi, who lost his brother Abdel Hadi and the homes of his family and relatives suffered major damage after an Israeli strike. The families of the two prisoners, Alaa Sheikh al-Eid (detained since December 2002) and Raafat Abu Snaimeh (detained since April 2009) said the Israelis also told their sons that their homes were destroyed. The same thing happened with prisoner Saleh Abu Shusheh (sentenced for 14 years) and all of them are residents of Rafah in southern Gaza.
The Fatah representative of the prisoners’ committee in Gaza, Nashaat al-Wahidi, stressed that the prisoners’ living and health conditions are deteriorating in light of Israel’s vengeful policies that are escalating as the assault on Gaza rages on. “The prisons’ administrations exploited the fact that people are preoccupied with the war and distracted from the plight of the prisoners to impose on them extra punishment, such as reducing the time they can be outside from four to two hours daily and allowing only 15 prisoners out at one time,” he added.
Some of the other penalties, according to Wahidi, include reducing each prisoner’s stipend from 1,200 shekel to 400 ($300 to $110), reducing family visits to half an hour every month, and disconnecting seven satellite channels out of 10. Two channels of the three that are left are in Hebrew.
Despite these penalties, Wahidi told Al-Akhbar that what weighs down on the prisoners the most is the psychological state that accompanies the war.
“Those whose homes are not destroyed or whose families are not hurt spend their time consoling their colleagues, worrying for their families and following the news,” he said.
Wahidi pointed out that prisoners have been deprived of the ability to follow the news of what their families are subjected to in Gaza after the prison administration decided to cancel Palestine TV and “prevented them from communicating with their families to check on them, not to mention the provocative searches and messing with their personal belongings as they look for cell phones.”
According to sources close to the prisoners, the Israeli Prison Service imposed strict penalties at the Megiddo Prison in north of occupied Palestine after the administration heard cries of “God is Great” emanating from prison cells when prisoners heard that the Resistance captured an Israeli soldier. The administration closed certain prison sections, prevented the prisoners from going out and buying stuff from the prison shop and suspended the broadcast of TV stations.
But the war did not only affect prisoners inside Israeli jails, it also affected those who have been liberated, especially those who were released during the 2011 Loyalty to the Free prisoner exchange deal. They are living through the second war since their release, compounded by the fact some of them had their homes bombed by the Israeli forces. One of the liberated prisoners exiled to Gaza is Hilal Jaradat, his apartment in one of the towers in al-Zahraa City in central Gaza which was recently bombed and badly damaged.
The house of another liberated prisoner, 54-year-old Mohammed Nashbat, in al-Nusairat refugee camp in central Gaza was hit and Nashbat is being treated overseas, especially since he came out of prison suffering from a heart disease. Another prisoner, liberated with the first group of prisoners prior to Oslo, 41-year-old Ayman Abu Sitta, lives in the al-Zawayda area in central Gaza. His home was completely destroyed.
According to an unofficial count, the Israeli occupation targeted seven other homes belonging to liberated prisoners during the course of this recent war. The Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said there are extensive and comprehensive punitive measures exercised against the prisoners linked to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad since before the war began, specifically after the Israeli authorities announced the disappearance of three settlers in Hebron. These measures intensified during the current war.
Russia doesn’t want to escalate tit-for-tat sanctions with the West, but is ready to do whatever is necessary to protect its legitimate interests, including those of national security in all its dimensions, Russia’s FM told The Daily Telegraph.
Peace in Ukraine can only be attained through a broad national dialogue that includes all regions and its terms cannot simply be dictated by a “government of the winners,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
“The point is for Kiev to stop war games and to abandon the illusion that the deep crisis in Ukraine can be resolved by winning the war against your own people,” Lavrov said, reiterating that with support from US and EU, Kiev continues to ignore its numerous commitments to a “government of national unity.”
“Unfortunately, the logic of “the winner takes it all” remains the thrust of Kiev’s actions resulting in thousands of victims among civilians, hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons, as well as almost totally destroyed social infrastructure in many cities and towns in Eastern Ukraine.”
A house in Donetsk destroyed by shelling. (RIA Novosti / Maks Vetrov)
Speaking further on the humanitarian catastrophe, Lavrov once again said it is “crucial to ensure immediate supply of humanitarian aid to the people of south-eastern Ukraine.”
The first convoy of Russian aid was ready to move as early as 17 August, but was delayed “primarily due to procrastination tactics employed by Kiev authorities,” he added, urging the Ukrainian government “to deliver on its promises and to facilitate safe and unhindered passage of future humanitarian assistance.”
Lavrov also spoke about the “meaningless tit-for-tat vicious circle” started by unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia, and called them “counterproductive” and “contradicting” the norms and principles of the international law.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to talk to Russia – and to anyone, for that matter – in the language of ultimatums and coercive measures,” the minister said, emphasizing that Russia’s response was balanced.
“It is not at all our choice, but there should be no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to protect our legitimate interests, including the interests of national security in all its dimensions.”
Lavrov also touched on the topic of the dragging Malaysian MH17 airliner tragedy, reminding that a number of simple questions which could shed some light on the incident still remain unanswered.
“Unfortunately, from the very beginning we have been witnessing attempts to conceal evidence and to hinder the implementation” of the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, the minister said. “Russia is the only country which officially presented to the international community the data related to the incident as received through our space monitoring capacity.”
“We hope to get answers to these and other questions both from the states which took the leading role in the international investigation and from those who made unsubstantiated public statements,” Lavrov said. “We must not allow the investigation of MH17 crash to be manipulated into oblivion like already happened to investigations of many Ukrainian tragedies, including the sniper assault against civilians in Kiev in February, massacres in Odessa and Mariupol in May and others.”
In the meantime, Lavrov once again rejected groundless speculation about Russian troops crossing into Ukrainian territory as obviously “part of an information war.”
“Unfortunately, the mass media continue to spread rumours, distorted information and even outright lies. Recently there were claims by Ukraine that its artillery destroyed an armoured column that had allegedly crossed from Russia into Ukraine,” he said. “No evidence, however, was presented, and even the US State Department could not confirm the incident.”
Two Crimean journalists, including a photographer who works with AFP and RIA news agencies, say they have been detained by enforcers from Ukraine’s Right Sector movement, while covering the conflict in the east of the country.
Reporter Evgeniya Korolyova and photographer Maksim Vasylenko were returning on a bus from the war zone near Donetsk, which is besieged by government forces, when a Right Sector patrol made them disembark, before taking them prisoner.
The information was reported by the Crimean Telegraph newspaper, where both journalists are on the payroll, which says that it received a phone call from the detainees on Sunday night.
“Evgeniya was allowed one phone call, but it seemed that there were people watching her every word as she spoke, so she couldn’t say exactly where she was arrested. Asked if her life was in danger, she denied it, but specified that she was detained as a journalist, not an ordinary citizen,” wrote the Crimean Telegraph.
The newspaper said that the pair were not on an editorial assignment, while Russia’s RIA news and AFP’s bureau in Moscow confirmed that Vasylenko had been working for them as a freelance photographer.
Crimean Telegraph editor in chief Maria Volkonskaya said the newspaper would submit an official query about the whereabouts of the two, while journalists in the Crimean capital Simferopol have scheduled a demonstration demanding their release for Tuesday afternoon.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced plans for a second humanitarian convoy to be sent to eastern Ukraine, urging foreign actors and agencies to participate in continuing efforts at relieving the crisis.
Failure to do so would constitute a violation of international law, he warned.
“Anyone in need of aid shall receive it,” the FM said, stressing that it is important to learn from the mistakes of the first attempt and to look forward to closer cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities this time around.
He stressed that as the indiscriminate shelling of areas such as Lugansk continues, the humanitarian need for water and food grows. This has been acknowledged by humanitarian agencies and international actors at large.
The distribution of aid is currently underway, and is headed by the ICRC.
The FM also added that the shelling of schools, hospitals, kindergartens and other vulnerable institutions and structures can no longer be excused by claims of “wrongful shooting” or be written off as “accidental.”
Minister Lavrov emphasized that Russia is willing and ready to participate in full in any type of negotiations on ending hostilities in the east, and expressed hope that Tuesday’s meeting in Minsk will include a focus on the crisis in Ukraine.
“We certainly expect that tomorrow’s meeting in Minsk will feature a discussion on the humanitarian crisis,” Lavrov said. “We express hope that all participants will urge for the removal of any obstacles to smooth aid delivery to those who are most in need of it,” he added.
The upcoming gathering will be attended by the Customs Union, the Ukrainian authorities and members of the EU.
Sergey Lavrov was asked a wide range of questions on the situations in Ukraine, including the claims that Russian arms were crossing the border.
Allegations of Russian attempts to smuggle military equipment into Ukraine are false and are the latest in a string of bad information that has been circulating in recent days, the minister said. No one, including Ukraine’s special services, could confirm those suspicions.
Lavrov went on to stress that reports of Russian forces crossing into Ukraine have not been confirmed by the OSCE, which is evidenced in their report.
“We were ready at the August 17 meeting in Berlin to urge the provision of any support necessary – including drones – to the OSCE mission.”
He further mentioned OSCE concerns that indiscriminate arrests carried out by the militias are beginning to resemble a “witch hunt.”
The people migrating into the west are not being taken in, nor are their children being given places in schools, he stressed.
If this is the sort of national unity Klichko, Tyangibok and Yatsenyuk spoke of, they lied to their own people, he said, referring to national unity agenda promoted by the leaders of the opposition to former president Viktor Yanukovich.
The minister was dismayed at the ongoing investigation into the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which aroused much controversy and finger-pointing. He said that at this point it would appear that Russia “seems to be the only interested party in giving this serious issue any further attention.”
Norman Finkelstein’s July 30, 2014 appearance at Red Emmma’s bookstore in Baltimore was recently broadcast on C-SPAN. In front of a large and highly engaged audience Finkelstein proved himself adept at discussing the legal and moral implications of Israel’s ongoing slaughter in the Gaza Strip. As usual, he was highly informative, passionately articulate, and fully committed to achieving peace in Palestine – so long as it doesn’t require the abolition of a Jewish state.
But what if it does?
Finkelstein took several shots at BDS activists (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) and any notion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which he denounced as supremely unrealistic.
He actually went further, suggesting it was a form of lunacy, lacking backing from even a single member state of the United Nations. A one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said, would be like proposing a resolution to U.S. immigration problems by eliminating the border with Mexico.
How appropriate is this analogy? Does the U.S. Constitution reserve citizenship to WASPs, as Israel does to Jews, thus excluding Mexicans by definition? Are Mexicans an actual or potential majority of a combined U.S.-Mexico, as Palestinians would be in Palestine if Palestinian exiles in Lebanon, Jordan, and around the world were allowed to come home? If Mexicans outnumbered the overwhelmingly white American middle class, and American citizenship were based on being a white Christian, would it really be reasonable to dismiss calls for a single-state democratic solution to this as a form of lunacy? This appears to be what Finkelstein is asking us to believe.
Finkelstein was particularly critical of BDS basing its campaign on international law, while at the same time dismissing the legitimacy of Israel, in spite of the fact that Israel is a legal member state of the United Nations. You can’t have it both ways, he said; either you favor international law in its entirety or you don’t really favor it.
Good point. So how does a two-state solution envision the implementation of the Palestinian right of return, as called for under international law? The answer is, it doesn’t. (Finkelstein side-stepped a question about how a two-state solution would be just to Palestinians, on the basis that the question was complicated, as it surely is, but so what? The entire issue is complicated.) No matter how borders are drawn to accommodate a two-state diplomatic settlement, many Palestinians with legal deeds to homes in pre-1948 Palestine will be permanently dispossessed, which outcome dissident professor Noam Chomsky (whose views on this topic parallel Finkelstein’s) says has to be accepted as “realistic,” since Israel will never allow complete implementation of the Palestinian right of return. Finkelstein, too, said that Israel would “never accept” a one-state solution, so it’s best to not even entertain the notion.
In other words, both Finkelstein and Chomsky take the position that what Israel refuses to accept should define the limits of a Middle East “peace.” The only problem with this stance is that Israeli leaders are certifiably insane even by the dismal standards of contemporary international politics, and cannot envision “peace” apart from total Israeli domination of the entire Middle East.
What these learned professors cannot seem to fathom is that a Jewish state, no matter how decent, humane, and democratic to Jews, is a massive obscenity to Palestinians on whose land the state is constructed, and until this fact becomes the basis for peace negotiations, there is no possibility of Middle East peace, now or ever.
The circumstances of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have brought that one police shooting into the national conscience. But many other Americans are killed by police and their deaths go unnoticed and mostly uncounted, despite a Congressional mandate.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Among its provisions was the order that “the Attorney General shall, through appropriate means, acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.” The Justice Department was also required to publish an annual report on the data collected.
And… that’s pretty much the last anyone heard of that. The work of collecting the data was shuffled off to the International Association for Chiefs of Police, which made a few efforts at collecting data and put together a report in 2001, but has produced nothing since.
“That’s a clear, clear problem,” Matthew Hickman, an associate professor of criminal justice at Seattle University, told Michael Doyle of McClatchy. “When it comes to use of force, we have almost nothing.”
Part of the reason is that the term “excessive force” is open to interpretation. Even a shooting ending in the death of an unarmed pedestrian could be judged by a jury to be justified. In addition, police departments are expected to report on their own incidences of excessive force, which some might be reluctant to do.
The Justice Department began to compile statistics on police shootings in 2001, according to the International Business Times. However, their reports cover only the years from 2003 to 2009 and don’t tell the whole story because of incomplete reporting and problems with research methods.
Wikipedia has tried to crowd-source a shootings database and blogger Jim Fisher, who scours the internet for information on police shootings, has had some success.
For now, Congress is still waiting for the statistics, although the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee that sought the data has moved on. His name is Joe Biden and he’s now Vice President of the United States.
To Learn More:
Data On Police Shootings Is Hard To Find (by Michael Doyle, McClatchy)
How Many Police Shootings Have There Been? (by Ross Keith, International Business Times)
How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)