Newly-released FBI files reveal that authorities tampered with an investigation into a police officer’s death in the 1970s, resulting in a Black Panther leader dying in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In 1970, Mondo Even we Langa (formerly David Rice) was one of 17 people arrested in connection with a bombing that killed Omaha police officer Larry Minard, eventually serving a life sentence for the murder.
At the time, Mondo was deputy of information for Omaha’s National Committee to Combat Fascism, an affiliate group of the Black Panther Party, and unbeknownst to him, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had placed him on a secret detention list and ordered agents to neutralize him.
Nearly 50 years after his conviction, heavily-redacted documents show that the agency called off a search for Minard’s killer just days before his funeral, and canceled the testing of the call that lured the officer to his death, which indicated 15-year-old Duane Peak as a lead suspect.
The San Francisco Bayview quotes one of the documents saying, “Special Agents of the FBI in conjunction with members of the Omaha Police Department arrested [Duane Peak].” and “Captain [Hartford] advised that the Police Department was in the process of obtaining a search warrant … and that he would advise the FBI as to the results.” Another section read,”Captain [Hartford] requested our assistance in interviewing [REDACTED] for any information he may have regarding the bomb slaying.”
Although the documents indicate deep cooperation between the FBI and Omaha police, officials testified that the agency had no involvement in the investigation.
In 1982, New Jersey Congressman Richard Roe requested an FBI report on the investigation. Two weeks later Roger Young, assistant director in charge at the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, replied to Roe claiming, “The investigation of these two individuals was conducted by the Omaha Police Department and the trial was held in state District Court, not in a federal court. … I am, therefore, not in a position to furnish you a report.”
Some documents are missing from the files, and Mondo’s co-defendant and former NCCF chair, Edward Poindexter, remains imprisoned in a maximum-security facility.
The “Omaha Two,” as Poindexter and Mondo have been referred to, appear to be the targets of Hoover’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a wide-ranging effort to infiltrate, disrupt, and neutralize many activist groups of the period. Many Black Panthers and other radical activists were monitored, set up for crimes they did not commit, railroaded into prison and assassinated, as a result of the program.
In 1969, the ‘Panther 21’ were indicted on conspiracy charges in New York for allegedly plotting to bomb police stations and assassinate police officers. The hotly-contested eight-month trial resulted in all 21 Panthers being acquitted, thanks, in no small part, to the work of one the defendants, Afeni Shakur, mother of late rapper Tupac Shakur.
That same year, informant William O’Neal provided Chicago police with the floor plan to Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton’s house. Police raided Hampton’s house in the wee hours of the early morning, killing him in his sleep. They later claimed that Panthers opened fire on them.
Mondo died in prison in March 2016.
It was August 2014. Our secret and nefarious meeting had to be disguised as a public event. So, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings and was of course in on the conspiracy.
Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO. He served an eight-course Russian dinner for select guests prior to the public forum in an underground lair deep inside Observatory Hill.
Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium at UVA and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.
He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring “great difficulties” to that country. “And look what is happening today,” he said. He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.
There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War. Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact. It’s easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia. He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to “suffocate” Russian agriculture.
Asked about “annexing” Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.
There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television “news.” One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine. Kislyak didn’t.
I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening. For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he’d never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia. No one had uttered the word “NATO.”
So I pointed out the then upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.
The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to “present his credentials” to NATO, and that he had “overestimated” NATO’s ability to work with Russia. He’d been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.
“We were promised,” Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. “And now look.” NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they’re opposed.
The ambassador used the word “disappointed” a few times.
“We’ll have to take measures to assure our defense,” he said, “but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness.”
Wouldn’t we all. I mean, all of us who aren’t interested in risking World War III as long as it can gin up a pretense that Hillary Clinton lost because of Russian evil.
File photo shows Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov (R) and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel
In the first high-level contact after NATO unilaterally froze ties with Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, military chiefs from Russia and the Western alliance have held a phone conversation.
“This is the first high-level military contact after the NATO Council made a decision on the freeze of relations with Russia,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday.
It also said the chief of Russia’s General Staff, First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Valery Gerasimov, had held the telephone talk with NATO’s chairman of military committee, General Petr Pavel.
The two sides, the Russian Defense Ministry said, exchanged opinions about current security issues.
The Russian side also relayed Moscow’s security concerns regarding NATO’s “considerable” buildup of military activity near Russian borders.
NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, confirmed the phone conversation. It said “active military to military lines of communications are in the mutual interest of NATO and Russia.”
The NATO headquarters added that the frozen communication lines would “remain open,” without giving any details about what was discussed during the latest talks.
NATO severed ties with Moscow in 2014, after Crimea in eastern Ukraine rejoined the Russian Federation following a historic referendum. Since then, NATO has been deploying weapons and equipment close to Russia’s borders.
In early January, the US military began the deployment of hundreds of combat vehicles such as tanks and artillery guns along with 3,500 troops to Germany.
In mid-February, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin accused NATO of trying to embroil Moscow in confrontation by constant provocative actions.
NATO “has been expanding as it did before but now they seem to have found new serious reason to justify the bloc’s expansion and have sped up the process of deploying conventional and strategic weapons beyond the member states’ borders,” the Russian president said at a board meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that during the phone conversation both military leaders agreed to make efforts to reduce tensions. “The sides confirmed the need of mutual steps aimed at reducing tension and stabilizing the situation in Europe.”
“The two generals agreed that they would remain in contact,” the ministry added.
People take part in a demonstration in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on March 3, 2017 to denounce the Saudi military campaign against their country
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a to express outrage over Saudi Arabia’s deadly military campaign against the impoverished Arab country.
The protesters converged in the Old City of Sana’a following Friday prayers, carrying Yemeni flags and banners in condemnation of the Saudi aggression.
Participants in the demonstration, under the motto “Tough against Disbelievers”, also held up pictures of civilians injured in the deadly Saudi airstrikes, calling on the United Nations to fulfill its responsibilities and stop the Riyadh regime’s atrocious military offensive.
They also warned the Saudi leadership that the continued attacks on the people in Yemen will only strengthen the steadfastness of the nation.
Protesters also accused the United States of being complicit in the Saudi crimes against the Yemeni nation by providing the Al Saud regime with various munitions.
Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a close Riyadh ally.
The airstrikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, says the Saudi campaign has claimed the lives of 10,000 Yemenis and left 40,000 others wounded.
McGoldrick told reporters in Sana’a earlier this year that the figure was based on casualty counts given by health facilities and that the actual number might be higher.
On February 23, Yemen’s Legal Center for Rights and Development, an independent monitoring group, put the civilian death toll in the war-torn Arab country at 12,041.
The fatalities, it said, comprise 2,568 children and 1,870 women.
RT | March 3, 2017
The global network of humanitarian organisations that defends children’s rights across the world has called on the UN to blacklist the Israeli Defence Forces, for multiple violations of children rights. Various human rights organisations have noted a number of incidents in the recent past where Israeli forces have applied psychological pressure on children.
Sweden has decided to reintroduce mandatory military service for both men and women next year, citing what it says is a military threat from Russia.
The Swedish Defense Ministry said on Thursday that thousands of male and female youths will be conscripted and selected for military training in a program starting in 2018. The decision has also been backed by the parliament.
Sweden, a member state of the European Union (EU), had ended compulsory military service in 2010.
Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist cited alleged Russian military buildup near the Baltic region and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict as reasons for the decision. “We have more exercise activities in our neighborhood. So we have decided to build a stronger national defense,” he said.
The government will call up 4,000 men and women for military training per year in 2018 and 2019.
Back in December last year, Sweden’s Civil Contingency Agency asked local authorities across the country to improve security measures to face a possible military attack. The measures included maintaining and upgrading underground bunkers as emergency bases of operation.
According to a letter from the Agency, municipalities around the country were called to “increase their ability to resist an armed attack against Sweden from a qualified opponent.”
Sweden is not a member of NATO but cooperates closely with it.
NATO, which has suspended all ties with Russia since April 2014, has deployed thousands of its troops as well as military hardware near Russian borders. Russia has previously warned that it would take measures to respond to the increased activities near its borders.
The Pentagon has carried out its first major military operation in Yemen since a botched raid in January that killed women and children as well as an American commando.
US forces conducted more than 20 airstrikes involving a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft early on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the airstrikes targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in three south-central provinces of Abyan, Shabwah and al-Bayda.
“The strikes will degrade the AQAP’s ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
The US military did not share a casualty estimate, but local officials said at least nine suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed.
Davis said the operation was coordinated with resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a strong ally of Saudi Arabia that has been engaged in its own military campaign against Yemen.
Troops engage al-Qaeda on the ground
Military helicopters and drones launched a flurry of fresh airstrikes in Shabwah province early on Friday, witnesses said, according to Reuters.
The raids targeted the residence of Sa’ad Atef, an al-Qaeda leader, as well as other suspected militant positions in the area.
The unidentified aircraft, believed to be American, also deployed troops to the al-Saeed area of the southern province, who engaged suspected al-Qaeda militants on the ground for nearly half an hour.
The military operations came more than a month since a January 29 raid, the first of its kind authorized by President Donald Trump, in al-Bayda which residents said left as many as 25 civilians dead.
An ongoing investigation by the US Central Command has also determined that civilians, including possibly children, lost their lives during the botched raid.
The White House hailed the operation as a success, but critics said it was a failure since it resulted in the death of civilians and 36-year-old Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.
Three other Americans were also wounded in the Navy SEAL Team Six mission and a military aircraft worth $75 million was destroyed after it crash-landed at the raid site.
Trump blames generals for botched raid
President Trump has tried to distance himself from the raid by emphasizing that the operation had been in the works long before he took office. “This was a mission that was started before I got here,” he said in an interview with Fox News this week.
“This was something that, you know, they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected,” the president said. “And they lost Ryan.”
During his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL, and insisted that the operation yielded valuable intelligence that would “lead to many more victories in the future.”
Some US officials, however, have disputed that claim, saying the raid gathered little, if any, workable intelligence.
The United States conducts drone strikes in Yemen and several countries. Washington claims the airstrikes target members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, civilians have been the victims of the attacks in many cases.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has grown in weapons and number since the start of the Saudi military campaign in March 2015, which was launched to bring back Hadi to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
One year after the assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Caceres, human rights organizations and Indigenous communities continue to demand justice in the case, while the international branch of the struggle pressures to an end of U.S. funding for police and military forces accused of human rights abuses in the Central American country.
Caceres’ family sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Representative Norma Torres to ask for her support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which was reintroduced the same day to the House of Representatives after stalling without adequate support since last year. The bill seeks the suspension of Washington’s security aid to Honduras until the country fulfills more rigorous human rights conditions — including an end to abuses by the police and military and justice in cases like Berta Caceres’ murder.
“It is increasingly clear that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez is unwilling to act decisively to stop the killings of social activists in Honduras and to conduct honest and thorough investigations of killings and attacks,” Caceres’ family members state in the letter to Torres, urging her to “stand with” them and with Honduras. “In addition, the government has consistently failed to respect basic indigenous land rights, as it is required to do under its international treaty obligations.”
The original U.S. bill inspired by Caceres’ murder paints a grim picture of Honduras’ grave human rights situation, including the lack of justice in cases like Caceres’ murder. “Impunity remains a serious problem, with prosecution in cases of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moving too slowly or remaining inconclusive,” it states, adding that the U.S. State Department itself reported in 2015 problems of “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system” in Honduras.
Caceres’ family addressed the letter to Torres to ramp up individual pressure for support of the bill. Torres, the first and only Central American in Congress and the founder of the bipartisan Central American Caucus, has faced criticism for aligning herself with the Honduran government, backing Washington’s controversial Alliance for Prosperity security aid package for Central America’s Northern Triangle and for refusing to support the Berta Caceres bill.
“We believe that your support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act will further strengthen your standing as an advocate for Central Americans and human rights, both in the U.S. and Honduras,” the family wrote in its letter to Torres, imploring her endorsement of the bill.
Caceres’ family also highlighted in the letter the involvement of active and former members of the military — including suspects trained at the infamous U.S. School of the Americas — in her murder, underlining the urgent need for more rigorous conditions on security aid to Honduran state forces. A former member of the military police in Honduras revealed to the Guardian that her name had been at the top of a “hit list” that a U.S.-trained unit received.
“A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government,” the letter stressed, adding that Caceres’ murder is only one example among scores of assassinations, attacks and other forms of intimidation targeting activists in the country.
According to a recent report by the international rights organization Global Witness, 120 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2010 after an increase in state-sanctioned abuses in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup.
Meanwhile, in Honduras, members of the organization that Caceres founded — the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras or COPINH — held a march Wednesday in the capital city Tegucigalpa demanding justice one year after her death.
They blasted Honduran authorities over the fact that, to this day, the motive for her assassination has not been identified and perpetrators in the killing not brought to justice. Demonstrators with banners shouted slogans demanding that authorities arrest the masterminds behind Caceres’ murder.
Caceres rose to international prominence for leading the Indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against a controversial hydroelectric dam project in the community of Rio Blanco that was put in motion without consent from local communities. She was also a key leader in the post-coup resistance movement that demanded a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran Constitution.
For her environmental and land defense work, she was awarded the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, while at the same time suffering dozens of death threats and other forms of harassment. Berta Caceres was shot dead just before midnight March 2, 2016, when gunmen stormed her house and attacked her.
Caceres’ family claim that the Honduran company behind the hydroelectric project she fought against, Desarrollos Energeticos or DESA, and the Honduran government hired contract killers to murder her and other activists.
Her family and fellow activists insists that her legacy will continue to inspire a movement for rights and justice.
In a statement ahead of the anniversary of her murder, Caceres’ COPINH reiterated calls for justice and an end to unwanted corporate projects on Indigenous land and vowed to forge on in the struggle that Caceres championed in the name of a “just society where life is respected.”
“One year after Berta’s murder, she continues teaching us that ideas cannot be killed and the processes of the people cannot be stopped,” the organization said. “May she continue to be present and our task continue with her legacy of resistance and struggle against injustice.”
Amid a recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine, a new bill to be introduced in the US House of Representatives proposes dramatically cutting military aid to Kiev, including lethal weapons, as well as logistical and intelligence support.
Reducing military-related costs inherited from the Obama administration is said to be the bottom line of the new 2017 Defense Appropriations bill, according to the House Appropriations Committee’s press release published on Thursday. The bill is due to be heard in the House next week.
Among other cost-saving measures, the bill proposes allocating only $150 million for “training, equipment, lethal weapons of a defensive nature, logistics support, supplies and services, sustainment, and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine.”
While still sizeable, the figure is only half that transferred to Ukraine by the US last year. Under the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the US paid out $300 million to assist Kiev “in defending itself against actions by Russia and Russian-backed separatists.”
Notably, the use of funds “to procure or transfer man-portable air defense systems” is prohibited in the 2017 bill.
Low-intensity violence in eastern Ukraine quickly escalated in early February after Ukrainian government forces shelled the town of Avdeevka, which lies just 10 kilometers from Donetsk. Tanks, heavy armor, artillery, and multiple-launch rocket systems were used in what Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Igor Pavlovsky called a “meter-by-meter, step-by-step” advance towards Donetsk.
Reports from the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) also confirmed that heavy weapons, which have long been banned under the landmark Minsk agreement, had been moved closer to the disengagement line.
Kiev has blamed the escalation on the rebels, while the OSCE says both sides of the conflict have violated the truce. In its latest report on Wednesday, the SMM said it had recorded “more ceasefire violations in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions, including more than twice as many explosions compared with the previous reporting period.”
In a February interview with Ukrainian and Russian media outlets, including RT, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who was toppled in the 2014 Euromaidan coup, said that Kiev’s crackdown on eastern Ukraine amounted to a declaration of war on its own people.
“Of course, everyone who took part in this decision must be held responsible. This is a crime against their own people,” Yanukovich said. “The current authorities did not make a single attempt to talk to the people, who were against the coup,” he argued, adding that, instead, Kiev simply “divided the country into winners and losers,” prompting the alienation of the eastern regions.
Despite the rising civilian death toll in eastern Ukraine, the US and its NATO allies have been actively integrating Kiev’s forces into Western military structures. US Army-run exercises dubbed ‘Rapid Trident’ have been held in western Ukraine annually since 2014, while Ukrainian soldiers are often seen at various NATO-led war games in the Baltics and eastern Europe.
The following is an email sent out recently by Deir Yassin Remembered announcing the take-down of one of their billboards.
The taken-down DYR “America First” billboard, the Southern Poverty Law Centre and a quote from Elie Wiesel – what could they have in common? Henry Herskovitz tells us more:
Jewish Power Never Sleeps
Like Michigan rust on vehicles, Jewish Power remains relentless at getting its way. Just when Witness for Peace was to announce the installation of a local billboard – sponsored by sister organization Deir Yassin Remembered and carrying our message “America First, Not Israel” – we get “the call”. The billboard pictured was taken down by Adams Outdoor Advertising one week after installation, effectively terminating a three-month contract.
That’s how long it took for Jewish Power to pressure Adams’ executives into seeing things their way. The call came from General Manager Mike Cannon, who admitted to receiving phone calls asking that the billboard be taken down. Mike claimed he was not the one who made the decision, and provided the phone number of Vice President of Human Resources
Brian Grant to field my questions.
Brian developed a mantra for the conversation we shared: “the decision to remove the billboard was a collective decision and was made because the message did not meet Adams’ company standards. We removed the billboard and refunded your money. And that’s all I can say.” Brian fell back on this mantra at least a half dozen times during our 20-minute discussion. And reminded me that, since a clause in the contract allowed Adams to terminate at any time, there was no “breach of contract”.
Q: What were the company standards?
A: [Brian was not going to go into that.]
Q: How do you square the fact that the message was initially approved by Adams?
A: It should not have been approved; due diligence was not applied.
Q: Who were the people complaining about the billboard?
A: [Would not answer that.]
Q: What were the organizations calling for the billboard to be taken down?
A: [See above.]
Q: Would the decision to pull the billboard have been the same had the message been simply America First?
A: Well, you’re asking a hypothetical.
Q: You mean Adams would NOT run a billboard saying America First?
A: [No answer.]
And so it goes. By deception shall you make war. DYR and WfP lose the round; Jewish Power wins. We move on.
Ann Arbor placed on SPLC “Hate” Map
The Southern Poverty Law Center exercises its own brand of Jewish Power by placing Deir Yassin Remembered (and its satellite office in Ann Arbor) on its “hate” map. This information came to us, not by direct communication from the SPLC, but through an article appearing in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, entitled: “Rochester area makes SPLC Hate Map”
Defining “hate” proves difficult. A friend asks if forming a group which hates “hate” groups is in itself a “hate” group? Hmmm. The only clear example of hate speech that has come across this writer’s desk belongs to Holocaust icon Elie Wiesel:
“Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate — healthy, virile hate — for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.”
Deir Yassin Remembered / Witnesses for Peace
By Thomas Vescovi | Middle East Eye | February 1, 2017
The French provide some of the most important contingents of volunteers in the Israeli army. If until now the French state seems to have closed it eyes on this affair, the admission of Palestine to the International Court of Justice is likely to be a game-changer.
On 4 January 2017, the Franco-Israeli Elor Azaria, sergeant in the Israeli army (IDF), was convicted by a military tribunal of voluntary manslaughter. On 24 March 2016, he had been filmed while killing, with one shot to the head, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a 21 year-old Palestinian involved in a knife attacked against Israeli soldiers, near the settlement of Tel Rumeida around Hebron. This judgment has rekindled debate on the engagement of French citizens in the IDF.
‘Give up some of your time for Tsahal’
There are five volunteer programs for foreign citizens who wish to get involved with the IDF. The only condition is to be recognized as a ‘jew’ according to the criteria laid down by the state of Israel. These programs include a course of Hebrew, physical training and lessons in the history of Israel and of Zionism.
The Sar’El program recruits unpaid 16 year-olds to work in a military base for up to three weeks. The tasks are diverse – prepare meals for soldiers and first aid kits, clean military equipment, etc. For its part, Marva recruits 18 to 24 year-old volunteers who wish ‘to experience and try out life on a military base’.
Three other programs involve wearing a uniform and carrying arms.
Created in May 2010, Mahal recruits 18 to 23 year-old males and 18 to 20 year-old females for a military engagement of 14 to 18 months. The principal ambition of this program is to accompany ‘lone soldiers’, volunteers who have no relative in Israel nor Israeli nationality. On its site, Mahal claims to have already involved more than 350 youngsters from around the world, including French citizens. The allocation varies depending on each person’s medical profile and physical capacities. They have access to all the regular IDF units, outside of elite units.
Anyone fearful of such direct engagement on his/her own can join Garin Tsabar, a program of staged enrolment, beginning with residence in a kibbutz before being allocated to a unit.
The last program is directed at students. Atouda permits them to pursue studies in an Israeli school, doing their basic military training during their holidays. The army absorbs university expenses of up to €2,080 per annum. At the completion of their studies, these students commit themselves to complete their three year military service, for both men and women.
Among advantages offered, these young volunteers benefit from pay equivalent to other military personnel, but tax-free. In addition, several organizations offer assistance with lodgment and food.
France tops the volunteer list
Several reports have already drawn attention to the presence of French citizens in the IDF. According to Le Nouvel Obs, The Mahal program included almost 500 French people at the time of the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip during summer 2014. One of them, Jordan Bensemhoun, was killed in Gaza’s Shuja’ivya quarter. The Deputies Jean-Jacques Candelier (Parti Communiste) and Pouria Amirshahi (ex-Parti Socialiste) had immediately questioned the government on possible judicial proceedings against them and on the activities of these young people who “fuel tension between the communities and import into France … a conflict that endangers national unity”.
But the examples accumulate. On 30 October 2015, it is a Franco-Israeli soldier, Alison Bresson, who executes, at a checkpoint on the Nablus road, Qasem Saba’aneh, 19 years-old, and seriously wounds Fares Al Na’asane, 17 years-old. In 2016, she [AB] was invited to light one of the twelve torches traditionally featured in the ceremony of the Israeli national day, Yom Ha’atzmaout.
The French Defense Minister relies on a convention, signed 30 June 1959, gazetted in the Journal Officiel on 19 December 1961, establishing an accord between Israel and the French authorities on the terms of authorization of military service for those with dual nationality. However, the volunteer soldiers do not have Israeli citizenship. They are French, and are not covered by this convention.
Moreover, article 2 of an administrative arrangement of 20 March 1963, gazetted in the Journal Officiel, highlights that, to be recognized as a ‘permanent resident’ in Israel, it is necessary to reside in territory under which Israeli law applies. Premonitory of post-1967, this arrangement does not recognize the right of French citizens possessing Israeli nationality to fulfill military service in Israel if they reside in the Occupied Territories. If martial law applies in these territories, the Occupation nonetheless remains illegal according to international law.
It seems impossible to obtain precise figures. France is regularly mentioned as one of the countries providing the most volunteers. According to Israeli broadcaster i24 News, in 2014 the IDF included 3,384 foreign volunteers, 70 per cent being males. One quarter were of American origin, and the rest were distributed amongst different countries including France.
However, according to the Franco-Israeli blog Coolamnews, the French now count as the first nationality involved: in 2015, 43 per cent of the total came from France against 38 per cent from the US. Moreover, 90 per cent of volunteers were serving in combatant units.
Other issues implicating France in Israeli politics deserve exposure. In 2016, the number of French people living in Israel has been estimated at 150,000. Among them, between 15,000 and 20,000 live in illegal West Bank settlements, participating with total impunity in the spoliation of Palestinian land.
On 10 March 2016, Nathalie Goulet, UDI [Union des Démocrates et Indépendants] Senator from the Orne, wrote to the Secretary of State for the Budget, Christian Eckert, a propos a tax dodge permitting French citizens to make tax-free donations to the IDF. She subsequently received death threats via social media, but no response from the Government.
A genuine feeling of insecurity
Between the Ilan Halimi affair , the attack by Mohamed Merah against a Jewish school in Toulouse  and that by Amedy Coulibaly against a kosher supermarket on the eastern perimeter of Paris , those signing up for these Israeli programs experience a genuine feeling of insecurity in France, fostering a sectarian withdrawal.
The French Jewish community seems to be caught in a vice between several dynamics. On the one hand, although significant proportion of French Jews do not feel strongly linked to the Middle East, the political atmosphere at home perennially draws their attention to the situation there. Given that the Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF) supports unconditionally the Netanyahu Government, its officials reinforce in the minds of the most susceptible the idea of a link between the Israeli polity and French citizens of Jewish faith.
Certain events reinforce this reductive mentality, such as the information session for potential volunteer recruits organized at the Grande synagogue de la Victoire, in Paris’ 9th arrondissement on 26 May 2013. For the more undecided, the official present offered individual meetings at the Israeli Embassy.
Since the 1990s, the Israeli Right has demanded that the Great Powers recognize Israel as ‘the state of the Jewish people’. Already in 1985, the Knesset had debated an amendment aiming to define Israel as ‘the state of the Jewish people and of some Arab citizens’. At the time, a majority of the Knesset Deputies strongly rejected this wording, considering that the concept of citizenship refers to a juridical statute which confers rights and duties and establishes a nation of equals on a territory where all have an equal share in the exercise of sovereign rights.
In fact, the state is not able on the one hand to bequeath membership to some individuals who are not citizens whereas others who are citizens but not Jews could be considered as excluded from membership of this state. Nevertheless, the Netanyahu Government uses and abuses this rhetoric [of the Jewish state], profiting from all attacks against Jews globally to call them to emigrate to Israel.
This language in effect serves Israeli political interests in creating the impression of a similarity between anti-Semitic acts in France and events in Israel/Palestine. In other words, the unbalanced individual who justifies attacks against Jews on French soil in the name of the Palestinian people reinforces in the mind of one part of the Jewish community the idea that it faces the same threat as Israeli Jews.
Moreover, this mentality operates to erase the strictly nationalist aspirations of Palestinian militants. Thus, colonization, occupation, imprisonment of children, all these injustices perpetrated by the Israeli government against the Palestinian population are perceived at best as a ‘lesser evil’ for the security of the Jewish people, at worst as the affirmation by force of the inalienable rights of this people to the ‘Promised Land’.
What about international law?
The colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the military occupation and all that it implies in terms of arbitrary arrests and humiliation, the erection of a 8-metre high wall over hundreds of kilometres, the blockade of the Gaza strip – all these acts are unambiguously condemned by international law. Amnesty International had denounced the occurrence of ‘war crimes’ during the Israeli military operation of summer 2014. On Friday 23 December 2016, the UN Security Council condemned Israeli ongoing settlement creation in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In this context, no-one doubts that each individual enlisted in the IDF renders themselves indubitably complicit with these injustices. In other words, such individuals find themselves outside international law.
On 1 April 2015, Palestine became the 123rd member of the International Court of Justice. The prospect of an inquest on and prosecution of Israeli colonization or of crimes of occupation is conceivable. Besides the necessity of taking political decisions in France on these violations of law by Israel and the involvement of French citizens, a condemnation of Israel before the ICJ could reinforce the imperatives of prosecution against the latter.
Thomas Vescovi teaches and researches contemporary history. He is the author of Bienvenue en Palestine (Kairos, 2014) and Le Mémoire de la Nakba en Israël (L’Harmattan, 2015).
Translated by Evan Jones.
* The author omitted mention of the figure of Gilad Shalit, Franco-Israeli captured by Hamas in June 2006 and held as hostage for five years. Shalit’s role in Palestinian oppression has been submerged into his current status as an icon of Israeli righteousness, being accorded (according to his English Wikipedia entry – that strictly non-partisan outlet on anything to do with Israel!) honorary citizenship of ‘Paris, Rome, Miami, New Orleans, Baltimore and Pittsburgh’.
* On 10 February, the National Front Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen warned that her preferred France is one where citizens with dual nationality including a non-European country will have to choose one or the other. Ariel Kandel, CEO of Qualita, which represents French immigrants to Israel, claimed to Haaretz that Le Pen’s proposal is an “attack on our Jewish identity, because we see ourselves as connected to both France and Israel … We live in an age of complex identities …[but] they say we have to choose between our Israeli and French identities.”