Israeli military sources reported that a soldier was killed by “friendly fire”, on Friday at night, during clashes that took place with Palestinian resistance fighters along the border with the Gaza Strip. Four soldiers were wounded, one seriously.
The sources stated that Israeli paratroopers exchanged fire with fighters who were trying to plant explosives on a border road used by the army, and that during the clashes, another military brigade accidentally fired rounds of live ammunition and mortars towards the soldiers killing one and wounding five others.
The wounded soldiers were airlifted to the Soroka Israeli hospital in Be’er Sheva. The extent of their wounds was not declared.
Following the clashes, Israeli soldiers and army choppers scouted the area searching for fighters and for explosives that could have been placed by the fighters.
The army also said that according to initial investigations, Palestinian fighters fired several mortars at soldiers, stationed at the Kissufim military base, and exchanged fire with them.
The National Resistance Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, and said that the slain soldier and the four wounded were shot by Palestinian fire and not, as claimed by the army, by friendly fire.
Abu Khaled, spokesperson of the Brigades, said that the attack comes in retaliation to the ongoing Israeli aggression and the killing of Omar al-Qawasmy, 66 years old, who was killed while in his bed after being repeatedly shot by the army in al-Sheikh neighborhood in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
On Friday evening, Israeli soldiers fired artillery shells into an area east of Al Buriej refugee camp in central Gaza. Israeli “Apache” helicopters also fired sounds of live ammunition into the area.
Palestinian sources reported that the attack targeted Juhr Ad Deek area causing excessive damage, no injuries.
Also, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for firing a mortar at soldiers invading Abu Al Ojein area, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
Activists and concerned citizens around the United States are preparing for a national day of action on 25 January, the date that several Palestine solidarity activists and Palestinian American community organizers have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Meanwhile, dozens of civic, labor and student organizations in the United States and around the world have condemned the crackdown by US authorities on anti-war activists.
The activists have been subpoenaed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of what the US government calls an investigation into “material support” for groups the US State Department has unilaterally declared “foreign terrorist organizations.” On 24 September 2010 more than seventy federal agents in a coordinated early-morning raid burst into the homes and offices of prominent anti-war, labor and international solidarity activists in Chicago and Minneapolis.
Until now, a total of 23 activists have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. No one has been arrested or charged with any crime, nor has the government specified any alleged crimes that it might be investigating.
A grand jury, no longer in use anywhere outside the US, is an investigative tool that allows the government to compel citizens to testify even if they are not suspected of any crime. The US government has historically abused the grand jury to intern slavery abolitionists during the pre-Civil War era, African American community leaders during the Reconstruction period, labor activists organizing for an eight-hour work day, civil rights organizers and in recent decades, Puerto Rico independence advocates.
One of the nine activists summoned to the grand jury on 25 January is Maureen Clare Murphy, an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago and Managing Editor of The Electronic Intifada.
In a 22 December 2010 editorial, The Electronic Intifada stated that “Although The Electronic Intifada itself has not been a target of any of the subpoenas — contrary to some media reports — we consider the grand jury investigation and all of the subpoenas to be part of a broad attack on the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements and a threat to all of our rights.”
At a 23 December press conference outside the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, where the grand jury convenes, Murphy told reporters and supporters that she does not intend to participate in what activists are describing as a “fishing expedition.” So far none of the activists previously summoned have consented to testify before the grand jury, though they risk being jailed for contempt of court for exercising their right against self-criminalization guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.
“It is very clear that no crime has been committed and that the government’s motivation in issuing these subpoenas is to have us name the names of other activists not only here in the United States, but also in places like Palestine and Colombia, where many of us have traveled to learn about the human rights situations in those places,” Murphy said.
“We can only assume that the US government shares intelligence with the governments of Israel and Colombia, whose repressive military rule the US bankrolls at the US taxpayer’s expense. And it is essentially a prison sentence or worse for human rights activists in Palestine and Colombia to be singled out and identified in this way. And I have no intention in playing any role in that,” she added (Murphy’s full statement is published on the Mondoweiss website).
FBI agents in Chicago also telephoned Sarah Smith to question her about a trip she made last summer to the occupied West Bank. In a statement read by her father at a 6 December 2010 press conference in Chicago, Smith, a young Jewish woman, stated: “I went with two Palestinian-American friends. You would think Jews and Palestinians going together to visit Israel [and the occupied West Bank] is something the US government would encourage. Instead, all three of us are now being ordered by the FBI to go before a grand jury for going on that trip.”
“Top US government leaders meet with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians on the street? I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk about what I saw. It seems to me our government wants to hide what Israel is doing to Palestinians,” Smith added (Smith’s full statement is available on the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website).
An attack on the Palestine support movement
Many of the others subpoenaed in Chicago during the past few weeks are Palestinian Americans who have organized within their community — Chicago is home to one of the largest Palestinian populations outside of the Middle East — and have played a role in the Palestine solidarity movement in the US.
In response to the government’s repression of activists, the United States Palestinian Community Network stated: “Federal harassment of our communities and associational life has grown precipitously during the last decade, as Arabs, Muslims and their allies continue to be persecuted for their lawful and necessary civic engagement. This suppression of civil rights and free speech seeks to criminalize and quell civic activism undertaken in support of Palestinian and other oppressed peoples’ struggles against US-funded occupation and war. This harassment must stop.”
The Electronic Intifada reported in November that the investigation targeting the subpoenaed activists is just the latest chapter in a long history of US government attempts to criminalize Palestine community organizing and support work in the country. In December 2001, it shut down the largest Muslim charity in the US, the Holy Land Foundation, which sent direct humanitarian aid to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, amongst other places. Five defendants prosecuted by the government in relation to the case are serving out lengthy prison sentences of 15 to 65 years (for more information, see the Holy Land Foundation case website).
Other prominent Palestinian community organizers in the US who have been put on trial in recent years because of their work educating Americans about the impact of US military aid to Israel and raising funds for humanitarian assistance for Palestinians living under occupation are Dr. Sami al-Arian, Muhammad Salah and Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar. All three were acquitted by juries of US citizens of all terrorism and racketeering-related charges but have been charged with or convicted of obstruction of justice and contempt of court for refusing to name the names of other Palestinian activists in the US and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Defending rights, defending movements
As the repression of the Palestinian American community and the Palestine solidarity movement grows ever broader, so does the movement that has rallied around the targeted activists.
Trade unions representing more than half a million workers in the US have passed resolutions condemning the invasive investigation. On 5 January the Chicago Teachers Union — with more than 30,000 members — resolved to condemn the raids and grand jury investigation and to bring the resolution forward to the Illinois Federation of Teachers (the resolution is available on the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website).
Solidarity groups in Palestine and the US have also spoken out in defense of the 23 activists and the wider solidarity movement, including the occupied West Bank-based Palestine Solidarity Project, American Muslims for Palestine, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign and Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network (solidarity statements are being indexed by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression).
Student groups representing more than fifty US campuses also issued a statement calling upon US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald “to respect the civil rights and free speech of all those who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom by immediately withdrawing grand jury subpoenas which threaten the First Amendment rights of students and activists around the country.”
The student activists added “Today, America unfortunately stands behind Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people with money, weaponry and diplomatic support. We seek to reverse this situation so that American foreign policy stands on the side of people who work towards justice. We reject the government’s efforts to isolate the Palestinian people by severing them from their nonviolent supporters abroad.”
Three subpoenas reactivated
As more and more activists receive summons to appear before a grand jury, attorneys have said that three of the 14 activists subpoenaed on and around 24 September will have their subpoenas reactivated by the US attorney. The other activists targeted whose court dates have passed have been essentially put on hold by the US government.
Once they receive a court date, the three activists whose subpoenas are being reactivated — Tracy Molm, Anh Pham and Sarah Martin — are anticipated to be given the choice of testifying about the activity of other activists in the US as well as abroad, or immediate detention for contempt of court (profiles of Molm, Pham and Martin are available on the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website).
In its call to action, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, which formed around the 24 September 2010 raids and the grand jury investigation, is calling supporters to stand with the three women as well as the nine activists most recently subpoenaed on 25 January “by protesting Patrick Fitzgerald and his use of the grand jury and FBI to repress anti-war and international solidarity activists” (“Join the National Day of Action on Tuesday January 25, 2011“).
A Senate Finance Committee investigation into several high-profile TV ministries went badly off track when staffers recommended that Congress repeal a federal ban on partisan politicking by churches and other non-profit groups, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) announced in 2007 that committee staff would investigate six TV ministries that might have been abusing their non-profit status. A staff memo delivered to Grassley yesterday reports on the findings, including lack of cooperation from four of the six ministries being examined.
But the report also includes a recommendation that the Congress do away with the federal tax law ban on partisan political activity by non-profit groups.
“I have to wonder what these Senate staffers could possibly be thinking with this breathtakingly wrong-headed suggestion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It’s a sign that this investigation has gone seriously off course.”
Lynn noted that the investigation got under way because of allegations that several high-profile TV preachers were abusing non-profit status by living lavishly while raking in millions tax-free every year. Issues of church-based politicking had not been raised during the investigation.
Lynn said if the ministries were abusing non-profit status, then more accountability and oversight might be in order. Yet Grassley’s staffers have recommended doing away with the “no electioneering” rule, which would only turn these same ministries loose in the world of partisan politics to do what they will with little or no oversight.
“If these multi-million-dollar ministries are already misusing their donations for personal gain, imagine how much more dangerous they would be operating in the world of partisan politics,” said Lynn. “I don’t want to see Pat Robertson and other TV preachers using their tax-exempt empires to give backing to favored candidates, and I don’t think most other Americans want that either.”
Under current federal law, all non-profit groups holding a 501(c)(3) tax exemption are forbidden to intervene in partisan elections. This ensures that money donated to these groups is used for charitable purposes, not political ones.
Scrapping this rule, Lynn said, would open the door to the politicization of America’s religious organizations and wreak havoc with campaign-finance reporting laws.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
The Danish-British security firm G4S recently confirmed in a letter its involvement in the Israeli occupation and violations of international law — reported on last month by The Electronic Intifada.
After the publication of The Electronic Intifada’s report on 15 December 2010, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre asked G4S to respond to the investigation as well as a 28 November 2010 article published by Press TV (“‘Firm sold torture instruments‘”).
Within a week G4S replied, confirming that it had withdrawn from contracts providing security officers to residential settlements in the West Bank in 2002. “However, we continue to serve major commercial customers, for instance supermarket chains, whose operations include the West Bank,” the company stated (the letter can be downloaded from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s website).
G4S claims in its letter that the commercial clients in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank serve the general public. The company wrote that contracts include the provision of security officers to protect the premises of “commercial clients who serve the general public” in the occupied West Bank. However, G4S fails to address that Israeli settlements serve an exclusively Jewish population and are built illegally on occupied Palestinian land.
By providing security services to illegal settlement businesses, G4S facilitates Israel’s violations of international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reaffirmed the illegality of the construction of the wall and settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to the ICJ, construction activities should stop immediately and the wall and settlements be dismantled.
G4S tries to downplay its involvement by stating that the number of security officers deployed in the West Bank is “generally less than twenty and currently stands at eight.” However, violation of international law remains a violation, no matter the size.
G4S further attempts to evade responsibility by stating that it does “not carry out police or military-style patrols anywhere in the West Bank.” The company provides security officers to protect police facilities “from time to time,” but they do not perform any kind of law enforcement or public security role, the company stated. G4S also confirmed it provided security equipment, including X-ray machines and body scanners, with associated maintenance services, to the Israeli police, prison service and Ministry of Defense. In its letter the company adds, “We do not control, nor are we necessarily aware, where this equipment is deployed as it may be moved around the country.”
The feigned ignorance about where the equipment is deployed is contrary to the detailed information mentioned in a G4S promotional brochure it distributed this summer.
In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).
G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.
G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.
The ICJ affirmed in 2004 that Israel’s wall and checkpoint regime in the West Bank impede Palestinians of “the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living” and are contrary to international law.
G4S also revealed in its letter to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre that it sells security equipment “with associated maintenance services.” In order to provide maintenance service, G4S presumably must know where the equipment is deployed. By providing maintenance service for years after the installment of the security equipment, G4S continues to facilitate Israel’s violations of international law.
Meanwhile, new research by Who Profits? shows that in 2009 G4S won a tender for providing central control rooms to all the prisons and detention facilities of the Israeli Prison Authority (“G4S Technologies will provide security systems for the prisons and the detention facilities of the Israeli Prison Authority,” G4S website). Therefore, G4S security equipment is deployed in every Israeli prison and detention facility.
G4S’s response to the revelations of its involvement in human rights violations shows the company is not heeding the responsibilities that come with its endorsement of the principles of the UN Global Compact. According to the first two principles of the compact — is a strategic policy initiative launched in 2000 for businesses that are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices — G4S should support and respect the protection of international human rights within its spheres of influence and make sure it is not complicit in human rights abuses.
G4S can expect to come under pressure from the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement until it untangles itself from Israel’s brutal occupation.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate.
Human Rights Watch and other organizations have demanded a criminal investigation into the death of a 20 year old Palestinian patient who was denied a permit by Israeli Authorities to leave Gaza. The Israeli authorities insisted that an unconscious patient appear for questioning by the Israel Security Agency; the patient died in Gaza while waiting for a response.
On 5 January 2011, Adalah, in its own name and on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza), submitted a complaint to the Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein, and to the Israeli Military Advocate General, Avichai Mendelblit, demanding the opening of a criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible into the suspicious death of Mr. Anas Saleh, a 20 year old Gaza resident, who died on 1 January 2011 from liver disease in Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
Although the patient was in a critical medical condition, which was known to the Israeli authorities, Israel prevented his exit from Gaza for lifesaving medical treatment. Adalah Attorney Fatmeh el-Ajou filed the complaint on behalf of the victim whose case was followed and documented by PHR-I and al-Mezan.
The human rights organizations argue in the complaint that the denial of an exit permit in these circumstances is an act against the legal obligation to provide medical treatment to save the life of the patient, an act which brought about, or at least hastened, the death of the deceased.
The aforementioned act, or failure, raises the suspicion of manslaughter (section 298 of the penal law, 1977), and/or causing death by negligence (sections 304 and 309 (4) of the penal law, 1977) and responsibility for helpless person and violation of obligation of parent or of responsible person (sections 322 and 337 of the penal law).
In September 2010, Anas Saleh was diagnosed with a liver disease, Budd Chiari Syndrome (a clinical syndrome resulting from obstruction of the veins in the liver). Due to a lack of appropriate medical treatment in the Gaza Strip health system, his condition deteriorated into acute liver failure and hepatitis.
The patient was referred for lifesaving medical treatment to Muqassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, and a hospital referral and appointment were in his possession for 26 December 2010. On 13 December 2010 the family presented a request, via the Palestinian Liaison Office, to the Israeli authorities in order to obtain an exit permit from Gaza.
Thirteen days later, on 26 December 2010, the patient’s hospital appointment date, the army informed the Palestinian Liaison Office that the patient must appear for interrogation by the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shabak) on 30 December 2010 to further consider his request. However, on that date the patient was already unconscious, in a comatose state, and could not appear at the interrogation.
This information was forwarded, according to the Palestinian health coordinator, to the Israeli military on that same day, with a request to speed up the request procedure and to issue an exit permit from Gaza urgently.
Paradoxically, despite the ISA continued to insist that the patient appear for questioning. According to the father’s testimony, on 28 December 2010 he received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as an ISA representative, and requested that his ill son present himself for questioning on the following day. The father informed him that his son was in a coma and asked that he be allowed to leave for medical treatment without delay.
Throughout this process, medical documents substantiating the patient’s medical condition were transmitted to the Israeli authorities. A final medical document confirming the patient’s critical condition was sent on 29 December 2010.
The patient died in Shifa Hospital in Gaza 1 January 2011 at 18:00 (6 pm). Until today, no response to the request has been issued by the Israeli authorities.
Prof. Zvi Bentwich, PHR-I Chairperson states that the patient could have been saved had he been granted immediate entry for emergency surgery.
This is just one of many examples of Israel’s enduring intransigence towards residents of the Occupied Territories, which leads to unnecessary harm and in this case even led to a loss of life that could have been prevented.
Mahmoud Abu Rahma, from al-Mezan, states that: “The Israeli blockade has left thousands of victims suffering from the lack of medical care that is available only an hour away from them by car.” He added that, “Al-Mezan and PHR-I have followed the cases of hundreds of patients who have been restricted from urgent medical treatment outside of Gaza, many of whom died and some of whom were arrested or delayed for long periods of time.
“This situation is still causing inhumane conditions for the patients and, if it continues, it will result in grievances by many others.”
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, al-Mezan and Adalah are calling on the Israeli authorities to bring to justice those responsible for preventing 20 year old Anas Saleh from leaving Gaza for life-saving treatment and ultimately causing his death and take the necessary measures to prevent such occurrences in the future.
Israel must fulfill its legal obligations towards Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip and guarantee patients’ full access to medical treatment.
HEBRON — At least 4,000 gathered Friday afternoon to attend the funeral of Omar Salim Al-Qawasmi, 66, executed by Israeli forces early that morning, in what military officials later admitted was a case of mistaken identity.
Hamas and Fatah officials joined in the event, hosted following the Friday prayers at a Hebron mosque. The joint participation followed a day of accusations by party officials, with Hamas accusing the PA of being responsible for the death, and accusing the government of coordinating with Israel ahead of the incident.
Al-Qawasmi was killed during an arrest raid that saw five Hamas men, who were released by PA forces the day before, detained by Israeli forces. He was the uncle of one of the men released and re-detained.
Hamas leader Aziz Dweik, former head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, spoke at the funeral, and called the incident a “stupid mistake,” and condemned the detention of the men, who had lobbied for their release with a weeks-long hunger strike.
Dweik said Israel’s “message is clear, they want nothing for the Palestinians,” and accused the Israeli government of trying to sabotage unity efforts.
The release of six men on Thursday was done on order of President Mahmoud Abbas, after receiving requests from Hamas officials in Gaza, Damascus and a special call from a Qatari Emir asking for their freedom. Six were released, five were detained by Israel the following day. A sixth returned home to Jenin, where he remains free.
Hebron Governor Kamel Hamid, who congratulated the men on their freedom the day before, only hours after being mobbed by settlers in the Tel Rumeida area of the city, said “Israel wants to destroy Arab and Palestinian efforts for peace, it wants the settlers to run the place.”
Also present at the funeral was relative of the slain man, Khaled Fahd Al-Qawasmi, who holds the Ministerial post for Local Governance, members of the PLC with both Fatah and Hamas, faction leaders and PA security heads, who had been instrumental in securing the release of the men.