BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities Monday announced the approval of plans to build a new township for Israel’s Bedouin community in the Negev desert, according to Israeli media, in a continuation of what rights groups have said is Israel’s discriminatory policy of forcibly transferring Bedouins to Israeli-zoned townships to make room for Jewish communities.
The planned township is expected to be built just south of Segev Shalom, another Bedouin township, and would transfer at least 7,000 Bedouins from the unrecognized village of Wadi al-Naam, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The approved village would comprise of an area of approximately 9,000 dunams (2,224 acres), while providing housing to some 9,000 residents, The Times of Israel reported.
The proposal to expand the area of Segev Shalom was challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court last year, as the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who assisted in the court proceedings, argued that any expansion of the town would be followed by the forcible removal of Bedouins from unrecognized villages, particularly from Wadi al-Naam.
Wadi al-Naam residents and Israeli human rights groups presented an alternative planning proposal to the Supreme Court in April last year, which presented 15,000 dunams of land for a town separate from the densely populated neighborhoods of Segev Shalom.
According to Haaretz, Israel’s National Planning and Building Council recommended to the court the construction of the township in January in cooperation with village residents. However, residents of Wadi al-Naam have reportedly not been consulted about the approved plans.
Wadi al-Naam is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to ACRI, more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.
While Bedouins of the Negev are Israeli citizens, the villages unrecognized by the government have faced relentless efforts by the Israeli authorities to expel them from their lands in order to make room for Jewish Israeli homes.
The classification of their villages as “unrecognized” prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, as their villages are considered illegal by Israeli authorities. According to ACRI, entire Bedouin communities have been issued demolition orders in the past, while the village of al-Araqib has been demolished at least 100 times by Israeli forces in the past six years.
Israeli authorities have also refused to connect unrecognized Bedouin villages to the national water and electricity grids, while excluding the communities from access to health and educational services, and basic infrastructure.
Bedouins are considered a semi-nomadic group, as their way of life is dependent on access to wide areas of grazing land for their animals. Rights groups have argued that the relocation of Bedouins to permanent Israeli townships, oftentimes located in already stressed environments, severely disrupts their traditional lifestyles.
The Wadi al-Naam village was established in the 1950s soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that established the state of Israel. Military officials forcibly transferred the Negev Bedouins to the site during the 17 year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel’s military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.
Now more than 60 years later, the village has yet to be recognized by Israel.
According to Israeli human rights group Bimkom, Wadi al-Naam, much like other unrecognized villages in the Negev, are “not connected to the water, electricity, sewage, telephone or road networks, and its inhabitants suffer from a severe lack of education, welfare and sanitation services.”
The group also pointed out that Israeli authorities have created hazardous conditions in the villages by establishing industrial zones near their vicinities. The Ramat Hovav Industrial Zone, for instance, was established near Wadi al-Naam, which residents have said releases bad odors into the air and pollutes the air, soil, and water, while a site purposed with burying explosive materials was also established near the village.
However, rather than working to remove the source of pollution from their communities, Israeli authorities have instead pushed for their eviction from the area.
Meanwhile, Israeli Jewish settlements in the Negev continuously expand, with five new settlements approved last year. According to an investigation undertaken by ACRI and Bimkom, two of the approved settlements are located in areas where unrecognized Bedouin villages already exist.
The plan would see the displacement of at least 7,500 Bedouins from the unrecognized villages of Katamat and Beer Hadaj.
As in many cities around the country, Black Lives Matter held a demonstration in Dallas to protest the police shootings of two more black men, Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota. During the demonstration, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, mounted his own personal, deadly protest by shooting police officers guarding the nonviolent rally. Five officers were killed and seven wounded.
After negotiating for some time with Johnson, who was holed up in a community college parking garage, police sent in a robot armed with explosives and killed him. Dallas police chief David Brown said, “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the subject was,” adding, “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”
The legal question is whether the officers reasonably believed Johnson posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to them at the time they deployed the robot to kill him.
Johnson was apparently isolated in the garage, posing no immediate threat. If the officers could attach explosives to the robot, they could have affixed a tear gas canister to the robot instead, to force Johnson out of the garage. Indeed, police in Albuquerque used a robot in 2014 to “deploy chemical munitions,” which compelled the surrender of an armed suspect barricaded in a motel room.
But the Dallas police chose to execute Johnson with their killer robot. This was an unlawful use of force and a violation of due process.
The right to due process is a bedrock guarantee, not just in the U.S. Constitution, but also in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty we have ratified, making it part of our domestic law. Due process means arrest and fair trial. It is what separates democracies from dictatorships, in which the executive acts as judge, jury and executioner.
During the standoff, Johnson reportedly told police there were “bombs all over” downtown Dallas. The police didn’t know if that was true. In order to protect the public, they could have interrogated him about the location of the bombs after getting him out of the garage with tear gas.
Apprehension and interrogation are recommended in a 2013 study conducted by the Pentagon’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. The study was cited in “The Drone Papers,” leaked to The Intercept by an anonymous whistleblower who was a member of the intelligence community. It concluded, “kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available from detainees and captured material” and recommended capture and interrogation rather than killing in aerial drone strikes.
The Obama administration currently uses unmanned armed drones to kill people in seven countries, effectively denying them due process.
There is a slippery slope from police use of armed robots to domestic use of armed drones. The Dallas police department’s robot was apparently manufactured by Northrup Grumman, the same company that makes the Global Hawk drones, used for surveillance in Obama’s drone program.
More than half the U.S.-Mexico border is patrolled with surveillance drones. Customs and Border Protection is considering arming them with “non-lethal” weapons. That could include rubber bullets, which can put out an eye.
The killing of Johnson is evidently the first time domestic law enforcement has utilized an armed robot to kill a suspect. It will not be the last. Police departments are becoming increasingly militarized, using assault weapons, armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, and ear-splitting sirens known as LRADs. Much of this equipment is purchased from the Pentagon at a significant discount.
But the answer to our national epidemic of racist police killings is not to further militarize law enforcement. We must completely rethink and restructure policing. That means requiring advanced degrees for police officers, intensive screening for racism, and rigorous training in how to handle cross-racial situations. It means moving toward community-based policing and citizens police-review boards with independent authority. And it means coming to grips with the pernicious racism that permeates our society.
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She writes, speaks and does media about human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Follow her on Twitter.
By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | July 24, 2016
Days after the German mainstream press attempted to portray the Munich shooter both as an ISIS fighter and a right wing extremist, more information has come to light surrounding the history of the shooter and his motives. But, the more information reported by the mainstream press regarding the incident, the more questions that arise in connection to the incident itself.
To be clear, there is not enough evidence to clearly label this attack as a false flag or as a lone nut incident. Still, there are a number of questions that need to be answered and there are a number of aspects to this case that need to be addressed as potentially more than merely striking coincidences. We must avoid the temptation to label every attack as a false flag but we must never ignore the signs that we are witnessing one.
ISIS/Extremist Narrative Abandoned
Despite their best efforts, the mainstream press was forced to abandon its “suspicions” that the attack was the handiwork of a right wing extremist despite its constant reminders of the possibility that such an attack still could have been conducted by an individual of this variety. Attempts to link the shooter, 18-year old David Ali Sonboly, to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass shooter and right winger (another incident of a questionable nature) proved unsuccessful despite efforts to do so by numerous agencies. Strangely, the media has been reporting that Breivik’s manifesto was not found Sonboly’s apartment, something for which law enforcement agencies should never have been actively searching for to begin with.
Sonboly also has no apparent links to ISIS, despite media reports that the attack could have been one of Islamic extremists, a possibility made even more unlikely by Sonboly’s Iranian heritage and citizenship.
It is noteworthy that the German and international media immediately jumped to the possibility of a right wing extremist being responsible for the attack despite a track record of the opposite (most attacks of this nature in Germany have been of the Islamic extremist variety) while simultaneously stoking the predictable possibility that the shooter could have been linked with ISIS and thus a “Muslim attacker” at best. All this while a cleverly inserted Iranian link was added to the mix.
Presence of Book
In a classic Catcher In The Rye moment, Sonboly was found to have a copy of Dr. Peter Langman’s book Amok In The Head: Why Students Kill, a study of mass school shootings in the U.S. While Sonboly may have been legitimately reading the book, we must also wonder if it were not another intentional telegraph of who was responsible and what his motive may have been in the same way that passports and I.D. papers keep turning up after shootings and terror attacks in other locations.
Purchase and Modification of Gun
Another interesting aspect of the shooting is the fact that Sonboly not only purchased a gun from the “dark net” in a country already wrecked with oppressive anti-gun policies and laws, but he apparently augmented the gun if reports are to be interpreted correctly. Consider the BBC report which states:
David Ali Sonboly, 18, who had a Glock pistol and more than 300 bullets, killed himself after the attack.
Bavarian officials said the gunman, still not officially named, appeared to have bought the illegal pistol used in the attack on the so called “dark net”.
. . . .
He said it was likely the Glock pistol – which had been reactivated – was bought on the “dark net” market, an area accessible only with the use of special software.
Sonboly was said to be a keen player of “first-person shooter” video games.
So who “reactivated” a “deactivated” gun? The seller or the buyer? And why would the “reactivation” element even be newsworthy? Are authorities suggesting that an 18 year old with little gun experience (he had to order the one he would use via the internet) was able to repair and “reactivate” a weapon, something that requires some knowledge of firearms in order to do?
Reports of Multiple Shooters – Now Only One Shooter
It is incredibly important to note that the reports of multiple shooters have now been molded into one and only one shooter.
In informed researching circles, it is well-known that the information that comes out shortly after the event is usually the most reliable. This is not to discount the existence of confusion related to panicked reports coming from eyewitnesses and the like. However, the information coming out early on has not yet been subjected to the top-down media revision that will inevitably take place as the story becomes molded to fit the narrative pushed by the individuals who either directed the attack at the higher levels or at least have connections with those who are able to control the manner in which various media outlets report the event.
For instance, in times of false flag attacks, the initial reports may point to 5 gunmen. Very shortly after, reports may only mention two. Only a few hours after the attack, however, all references to more than one gunmen are removed entirely, with only the “lone gunman” story remaining. Any other mention of additional gunmen after this point is ridiculed as “conspiracy theory.”
It is important to note that, while there is not enough evidence to declare this attack a false flag event, there are a number of anomalies that should, at the very least, give us pause to question the official narrative of what took place in Munich. Clearly, we have entered a new phase in the Western world where terrorist attacks, mass shootings, mob and racial violence, and authoritarianism are the “new normal.” Whether false flags are continuing to take place or whether they have merely served as the spark that is initializing a growing trend of violence will also likely be an important question in the very near future.
Indian authorities on Sunday extended a curfew for the 16th consecutive day in several parts of the Indian-administered Kashmir.
The move came more than two weeks after the killing of a popular rebel leader in the Himalayan region.
Media reports said a large number of paramilitary troops and thousands of armed police in riot gear patrolled the deserted streets of many towns and villages across the region, including the city of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
Almost all institutions and businesses remained closed and traffic stayed off the streets across major towns of the disputed valley. The authorities ordered restrictions on the movement of residents across the Muslim-majority region.
Mobile phones and broadband internet services have been blocked to prevent large-scale demonstrations.
Large parts of the Indian-administered Kashmir have been under a 24-hour curfew in recent weeks. The curfew has been lifted in four districts.
Deadly clashes erupted after Burhan Wani, a top figure in the pro-independence Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) group, was killed along with two others in a shootout with Indian forces on July 8. More than 45 civilians are now confirmed dead and over 3,500 others injured following several days of violent clashes.
Anti-riot police have used live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas to disperse the crowds over the past days.
Kashmir has been at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947.
New Delhi and Islamabad both claim the region in full, but rule parts of it. The two countries have fought two wars over the disputed territory.
The last bout of serious violence in the scenic valley was in the summer of 2010, when more than 100 people died in anti-India protests.
A Wall Street Journal reporter returning from Beirut was taken into holding, grilled and asked to hand over her phones by the Department of Homeland Security at Los Angeles International Airport.
When the journalist, Maria Abi-Habib, returned from Beirut, it was another ordinary work trip. But after touching down at LAX in Los Angeles, she was treated as a dangerous suspect by the service, which now enjoys broad authority at airports.
She outlined the ordeal in a Facebook post, largely focusing on the dangers of the loss of privacy and the risk to journalistic work emerging out of the DHS practice.
As soon as she joined the line for immigration, a friendly officer walked up, giddily saying “Oh, there you are. I was trying to recognize you from your picture. I’m here to help you get through the line.” The friendly greeting by the female agent was only offset by the fact of how much she already knew. As Abi-Habib explains:
“The DHS agent went on to say she was there to help me navigate immigration because I am a journalist with The Wall Street Journal and have travelled to many dangerous places that are on the US’ radar for terrorism. She independently knew who I worked for and my Twitter account, countries I’d reported from (like Iraq) and even recent articles I’d written — I told her nothing about myself.”
But to a journalist already on the US Immigration list, this was unsurprising. Abi-Habib was put on the list precisely because of her line of work, and it had previously served to help her navigate customs more quickly.
But this time was different. After being escorted to baggage claim, she was led into a closed-off section of LAX into a room, where another DHS agent was already waiting.
“They grilled me for an hour – asking me about the years I lived in the US, when I moved to Beirut and why, who lives at my in-laws’ house in LA and numbers for the groom and bride whose wedding I was attending.”
Although she took this all in high spirits – given her previous work experience with security checks – Abi-Habib’s story quickly took a darker turn when the DHS officers asked her for her two mobile phones, saying they needed to “collect information,” though didn’t say about what.
Abi-Habib tried to explain that this not only violated her First Amendment rights, but exposed the professional sources she was protecting as a journalist. Although the words are nothing out of the ordinary for the profession, the DHS officer questioning her shot back: “Did you just admit you collect information for foreign governments?”
Shocked, Abi-Habib replied: “No, that’s exactly not what I just said,” as she proceeded to protest the confiscation of the phones.
That is when the real shock came. Abi-Habib was promptly handed a DHS document, which outlined that the service could deprive her of her rights as a US citizen at any border, and that the authority extended up to 100 miles (160km) from the border inside the actual country.
“So, all of NY city for instance,” she writes. “If they forgot to ask you at JFK airport for your phones, but you’re having a drink in Manhattan the next day, you technically fall under this authority. And because they are acting under the pretence to protect the US from terrorism, you have to give it up.”
Abi-Habib tried a different tactic – revealing that the phones were the property of the Wall Street Journal, and that the service would need to contact the paper’s attorneys to obtain permission. At that point things became potentially even more dangerous. The DHS now accused her of impeding the investigation.
That is “a dangerous accusation,” she wrote, “as at that point, they can use force.”
“She said she had to speak to her supervisor about my lack of cooperation and would return,” she wrote, as another officer remained.
The female officer returned 30 minutes later and said Abi-Habib was free to go.
“I have no idea why they wanted my phones – it could have been a way for them to download my contacts. Or maybe they expect [sic] me of terrorism or sympathizing with terrorists – although my profile wouldn’t fit, considering I am named Maria Teresa, and for a variety of other reasons including my small child.”
The DHS’ expanded powers are coming under increasing scrutiny in an age when all of one’s most private information is carried in their back pocket – not to mention sensitive work-related information. But as Abi-Habib later found out, the DHS was indeed perfectly within its right to deprive a citizen of their rights for up to 100 miles within US borders – a law that was “quietly passed” in 2013.
“This legislation also circumvents the Fourth Amendment that protects Americans’ privacy and prevents searches and seizures without a proper warrant,” she explains, adding that using encryption is now practically a must – although even then is not a guarantee, seeing as some apps will reveal the identity of the recipient, if not the chat history.
“Never download anything or even open a link from a friend or source that looks suspicious. This may be malware, meaning that they have downloaded software on your phone that will be able to circumvent the powers of encryption,” Abi-Habib warns after speaking to an encryption expert.
She also advises to “travel naked” – an expression which a tech-savvy acquaintance used. That means not taking a sensitive phone with you – only the SIM card – and using it in a ‘clean’ phone. All sensitive numbers should also be written on paper.
Abi-Habib’s story follows a wave of controversy over special powers now afforded to US agencies at the border. A new proposal to ask visitors for their “social media identifier” could help border agents search your background without having to go to the National Security Agency (NSA), it turned out late June.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is part of the DHS, believes having this “identifier” could help it find “possible nefarious activity and connections.”
The public consultation process for that proposal will expire August 22. If successful, the social media information would be gathered in addition to the numerous database checks, fingerprinting, and face-to-interviews that already take place. How it would be processed is not revealed in the proposal and providing the information would be voluntary.
A senior European Union security official says the body is looking into Israeli technology for online surveillance in Europe.
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said Tuesday that the bloc was turning to Israeli methods after internet companies proved reluctant to monitor individuals.
The official cited a series of deadly attacks across Europe which had prompted officials to think of using Israeli technologies.
Once focused on “meta data” or information regarding individuals’ communications patterns, Israeli spy agencies now have refocused on social media as a complementary means of snooping on Palestinians.
An Israeli military official who administers these methods said human intervention is required to set parameters such as age, religiosity, socio-economic background for the population being monitored.
Traditionally a source of funds for the Israeli military to maintain its “edge” in the Middle East, the US and Europeans have recently turned to a major customer of Israeli weapons.
Last month, the US military said it had tested an Israeli short-range missile for possible use in its European network of missile systems to deter Russia.
Major General Glenn Bramhall of the US Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command said a variant of the Israeli “Tamir” rocket which is incorporated to Tel Aviv’s so-called Iron Dome missile system had been tested.
Last month, a report said European countries were increasingly purchasing weapons from Israeli arms manufacturers, promoting their products on the grounds that they have been “field-tested” against Palestinians.
The report came as 29 Israeli arms makers displayed their military technologies earlier this week at the Eurosatory conference in Paris, one of the world’s largest land defense exhibitions.
French purchases of weaponry from Israeli firms more than doubled in 2015 compared to a year earlier, amounting to $355 million.
In 2016, Israel is projected to overtake Italy as the world’s seventh-largest weapons exporter, the report said, citing IHS Jane’s.
Many of the Israeli arms technologies being sold to Europe are used in the repression of Palestinians, including in the destructive 2014 war on the besieged and densely-populated Gaza Strip.
The war left over 2,200 dead — mostly civilians — while injuring thousands more and displacing nearly 500,000 people, according to UN figures.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the purchase of field-tested Israeli weapons, saying the group has documented “violations of the rules of war that appear to rise to the level of war crimes in Gaza using some of these weapons.”
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli occupation police have handed professor Jamil Hamami, secretary-general of the higher Islamic commission in Occupied Jerusalem, a written order banning his travel abroad and to the West Bank.
According to this police order, Hamami will be prohibited from entering the West Bank for four months and the previous ban on his travel abroad will be extended for six months.
The police justified the measure against Hamami by saying that he is involved in banned activities and his departure for other countries will constitute a security threat to Israel.
For his part, Hamami, who works as a lecturer at al-Quds University, condemned Israel’s decision against him as “unjust and a violation of the Palestinians’ right to travel and movement”. He considered this Israeli step as “part of the Israeli campaign that targets the Palestinian dignitaries in Jerusalem.”
Are these the tell-tale signs of kids at risk of committing violence: An 8-year-old who wore a t-shirt saying he wanted to be like a seventh-century Muslim leader? A 17-year-old who sought to draw attention to the water shortage in Gaza by handing out leaflets? A 4-year-old who drew a picture of his dad slicing a vegetable?
Teachers and school officials in the United Kingdom thought so, and they referred these children for investigation as potential terrorists. They were interrogated by U.K. law enforcement. They’re likely subject to ongoing monitoring, with details of their childhoods maintained in secret government files potentially indefinitely.
A report released last week by Rights Watch (UK) highlights these and other children’s experiences under a U.K. countering violent extremism (CVE) program known as Prevent. Prevent imposes a legal obligation on schools to implement policies assessing whether children have “extremist” views or are at risk of engaging in terrorism, and to “intervene as appropriate.” Intervention may include referring the child to a related program in which panels of police officers, teachers, and other government employees identify children they think are vulnerable to terrorist recruitment.
Why should any of this concern Americans? Because the FBI wants to do something a little bit too close for comfort in U.S. schools, and American schoolchildren may come under similar suspicion and scrutiny.
While there’s no similar government-imposed duty on American schools, U.S. CVE initiatives are based on the Prevent model. Due to this, a core component of the U.S. CVE plan tasks teachers, social workers, and school administrators with monitoring and reporting to law enforcement on children in their care. An FBI document released earlier this year tells teachers to spy on their students’ thoughts and suggests that administrators essentially turn schools into mini-FBI offices. Rights Watch’s report shows what might happen if American schools actually follow the FBI’s proposals.
Prevent, unsurprisingly, turns out to be controversial and divisive—a “toxic brand.” Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s largest teachers union voted to reject the program, calling it ineffective and counterproductive and stating that it causes “suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staff room.”
We’ve written before about one fundamental concern with CVE programs: They are premised on disproven theories and junk science. Despite years of study, there is no reliable indicator to predict who will engage in violence. In the absence of reliable indicators, the Rights Watch report shows that U.K. programs rely on over-broad and ambiguous criteria describing common and entirely innocent conduct. These so-called indicators include changing one’s style of dress or appearance to match a certain group, expressing a need for identity or belonging, or “becoming quieter” — factors so general it would be difficult to find a child or teenager who hasn’t exhibited such behavior at some point.
Unsurprisingly, when teachers are required to report on “extremist” thoughts or conduct using unreliable and vague criteria, some of those teachers’ suspicions reflect society’s prejudice. Rights Watch found that although Prevent purports to apply to all children at risk of extremism, it disproportionately targeted Muslim children. According to Rights Watch:
“[T]argeting Muslim children, making them feel that they are not welcome to discuss political or religious matters at school, and creating a dynamic in which Muslim youth come to be fearful of the educational setting and distrustful of their teachers and their classmates, is counter-productive, discriminatory, and a violation of the fundamental rights that are at the heart of the very civil society the government seeks to protect.”
CVE programs in the United States using similarly over-broad and ambiguous criteria will inevitably result in discriminatory and unfair targeting of American Muslim children, too.
Another concern about CVE programs is that the government uses them to task people to spy on each other. The Rights Watch report bears out this concern — and its consequences. In the U.K., students fear that reading “controversial” books or engaging in classroom discussion may cause teachers to report them as potential terrorists. Teachers in turn report that Muslim students are ceasing to engage in classroom debate and that teachers themselves are self-censoring the topics they discuss in classrooms. Rights Watch found resulting violations of students’ freedoms of speech and association and their rights to privacy and equal treatment in education.
Here in the United States, the first principle of the National Education Association’s Code of Ethics is a commitment to the student. Teachers may not deny a student’s access to different viewpoints, deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to a student’s progress, or restrict benefits to any student on the basis of race, national origin, or political or religious beliefs. The Rights Watch report is a warning to American principals and teachers of how CVE programs can violate that first principle. It’s also a warning to the U.S. agencies charged with formulating or implementing CVE, including the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Education.
There are some things we just shouldn’t import — and on the top of that list should be a discriminatory government program that turns teachers into spies and stifles children’s ability to learn, ask questions, and debate ideas.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has slammed a newly-passed Israeli law designed to facilitate the expulsion of publicly-elected Palestinian parliamentarians in the Knesset.
The law, approved overnight by a vote of 62 to 45, is described by Adalah as posing a “grave danger to basic democratic rights”, and intended to expel those Arab Knesset members “who ‘dare’ to stray beyond boundaries dictated to them by Israeli Jewish majority.”
As Adalah explains, under the new law, “a majority of 90 Knesset members may oust a serving Knesset member on two grounds, as enumerated in Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset: 1) incitement to racism; and 2) support for armed struggle against Israel.”
In addition, “the law stipulates that when the Knesset decides on an expulsion, the statements of the ‘suspect’ Knesset member will also be examined and not only their aims or actions.”
The law also provides that: 1) a member’s expulsion lasts for the full period of the Knesset’s remaining term; 2) the commencement of expulsion proceedings requires the support of 70 Knesset members, including a minimum of 10 opposition members; and 3) suspension proceedings may not commence during an election campaign.
Described as “the latest attempt by the government to trample on the political rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel”, according to Adalah, “there are no existing laws in western democratic states comparable to Israel’s new Expulsion Law.”
The Expulsion Law is the latest expression in a disturbing national tendency over the past several years – including many attempts to disqualify Arab Members of Knesset and Arab party lists from participating in the elections, the government’s decision to outlaw the Islamic Movement in 2015, and the Knesset’s approval of a series of laws such as the ‘Electoral Threshold Law’, the ‘Nakba Law’, and the ‘Boycott Law’ – all intended, via varying means, to silence the Arab public.
Recently, President Obama held a town hall meeting to address the growing tension between minority communities and police forces after the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas. He urged police officers to forge trust with communities and recommended better training and more resources.
Many groups around the country have been asking for better training programs, mandatory body cameras, and other reforms. These may indeed help to reduce shootings of civilians, but a deeper concern has to do with the laws surrounding the use of deadly force by law enforcement. What legal standards exist that police officers can use to defend their actions after the fact?
Last year, Amnesty International conducted an investigation into the legal standards for the use of deadly force by police officers in the United States, comparing them with current Supreme Court rulings and international human rights standards, and found enormous disparities.
* It turns out that nine states and the city of Washington, DC have absolutely no legal standards about when officers may use deadly force in arresting suspects.
* There are no states in the country that comply with international law enforcement standards. The current United Nations standard is that police officers should only use deadly force when it is a last resort, and then, only to prevent grave harm or imminent death to themselves or another person.
* What is even more astounding is that there are 13 states that that do not even comply with current constitutional standards set by the US Supreme Court. In the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner, the Court ruled that police officers may only use deadly force if they have probable cause that the suspect poses significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officers or others.
My home state of Oregon is one of these places out of step with the Constitution, along with the very populated states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California. In Oregon, for instance, police officers are allowed to shoot to kill if the police officers have a reasonable belief that a fleeing suspect has committed a kidnapping, arson, burglary, or indeed, any felony at all, even if the suspect is not posing an immediate threat of death of physical harm. Oregon law does not require that a suspect be given a warning of the use of deadly force, even though such a warning is an international legal standard. Up to 20 states allow police officers to kill a suspect simply for trying to escape prison or jail.
Given this legal framework, incidents of police shootings will not be reduced by body cameras or better training alone since it is the law itself that licenses wide discretion on whom and when police can kill.
This year, at least one state, Missouri, has started working to change that. After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the protests that followed, legislators looked at the use of force provisions (which allowed officers to kill suspects who they believed had committed a felony) and found that it was out of step with the Garner standard.
Everyone who is concerned about the tension in the country and the grievances of the Black Lives Matter movement should press their state lawmakers to ensure that law enforcement officials in their states are at least upholding the US Constitution.
The Jewish Holocaust occupies a unique position in modern Western society, in that questioning the facts of the Holocaust is suppressed and vilified on a global scale as no other topic of human history. Why is research into the Holocaust so problematic? Why is it that serious research by scientists, historians and other academics is rejected out of hand as immoral? Why is the suppression of research into ANY aspect of history acceptable?
At present there are 14 countries that criminalise ‘Holocaust denial’, i.e. publicly questioning, or disseminating research that questions, any aspect of the approved Holocaust narrative: Canada plus 13 European countries including Germany, Austria and France. In many of these countries legislation was passed decades after the end of WWII, in France only in 1990. As recently as 2015 a German court convicted 87 year old Ursula Haverbeck of ‘Holocaust denial’ and sentenced her to 10 months prison. Other revisionists who have served jail sentences include the German publisher Ernst Zündel and the British historian David Irving, who was arrested, sentenced and imprisoned in Austria in 2005. Academic Robert Faurisson was convicted in France of holocaust denial in 2006 and given a three month suspended sentence. In Germany convictions are rising steadily: in 2000 there were more than 2,666 violations of the Holocaust denial law STGB 130, as compared with 437 in 1987.
Even where Holocaust revision is legal, those who are involved in it or support it in any way are liable to be vilified, persecuted and generally treated as lepers. British academics like Irving and Nicholas Kollerstrom saw their careers destroyed, and every effort is made to deny revisionists any sort of platform; it goes without saying that they are subjected to vindictive trolling on social media. Some, like Faurisson and Zündel, have been physically assaulted on more than one occasion. After pro-Palestine activist Paul Eisen wrote an article ‘The Holocaust Wars’ in which he suggested there were questions to answer about the Holocaust, he experienced an extraordinary campaign of vilification and ostracism, especially from the pro-Palestine movement he had given so much to. That he was Jewish himself was no defence against the charge of antisemitism. As Eisen himself says, ‘I had metamorphosed into that lowest of animal life forms, the maggot at the bottom of the food chain – a Holocaust denier’.
Paul Eisen saw an unexpected rise in his profile during the 2015 campaign for election of the leader of the UK Labour Party. It was discovered that Jeremy Corbyn had had some links with Eisen in the past, including appearing on the same platform as him. The media, who had hardly been supportive of Corbyn’s candidature, had a field day accusing Corbyn of associating with a Holocaust denier. Jeremy Corbyn’s response to accusations of an association with Eisen was unequivocal : ‘had I known he was a Holocaust denier I would have had nothing to do with him […]. Obviously Holocaust denial is vile and wrong’. (From 2.47 mins in the following)
There are two principle assumptions relating to the Holocaust, both implicit in Corbyn’s denial of Paul Eisen:
- It is an an indisputable fact that Adolf Hitler planned to exterminate the Jews of Europe, that he did so by gassing them with cyanide in specially constructed gas chambers, and that he was thus responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews
- People who question any of these premises, do so ONLY because they are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who wish to conceal the crimes of the Nazis while at the same time sharing their ideology. They are ‘Holocaust deniers’, and all Holocaust deniers are of necessity antisemitic.
The immutability of these two premises leads to another, that anyone who questions any aspect of the Holocaust or who supports the right of others to question the Holocaust, is at best morally compromised, and probably downright evil, deserving responses ranging from suspicion, condemnation, vilification, isolation, hate mail, through to arrest and imprisonment, sometimes for many years. Those who accept unreservedly the two premises are automatically morally superior to anyone who smells a rat.
In 2012 Piers Morgan interviewed the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and asked him about his attitude to the Holocaust. I say ‘asked’, but Morgan puts his own position very clearly.
Morgan states that ‘it is an indisputable fact’ that over 6 million Jews were annihilated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. ‘Do you dispute that 6 million Jews died or no.’ Although Ahmadinejad tries to voice his suspicions about the narrative, aroused principally because so much effort goes into suppressing research, Morgan is unmovable: the Holocaust is a fact: either you believe in it or not (subtext: and if you don’t it’s because you choose to, because you are a bad person).
The biologist Richard Dawkins sees Holocaust debate in precisely the same terms as Piers Morgan:
So according to Richard Dawkins, too, the Holocaust’ is an immutable fact, and those who question it are intellectually on a par with people who think the earth is flat, and morally on a par with racists. Again, the Holocaust is presented as just one fact, a single package – you either believe in it or you don’t.
What is particularly interesting about Dawkins’ position is that he is one of the leaders of the New Atheist movement, ostensibly dedicated to pointing out all that’s wrong with religion. One might have thought he would be sensitive to the features of the Holocaust narrative and the protectors of its memory that are evocative of the most intolerant religions, for example Catholicism in medieval times. Criminalising Holocaust denial is like burning Bruno Giordano at the stake for claiming that the earth goes round the sun.
A number of writers have in fact analysed the parallels between the Holocaust and religion, most notably the Israeli writers Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Shraga Elam, Gilad Atzmon, and Yoshua Shalev. Their arguments have been summarised as follows: Most Jews today are either atheists or shun the religion of Judaism. Therefore, the Jewish people had to adopt belief in the ‘Holocaust’ as their new religion. They have spread this religion all over the world. ‘Holocaust’ museums are the new houses of worship and are present in most major cities. The new religion has its commandments, its decrees, its prophets, its high priests, its circle of saints, its rituals and its pilgrimages. It knows neither mercy, nor forgiveness, nor clemency but only the duty of vengeance. The Holocaust religion is coherent enough to define the new ‘antichrists’ (the Deniers) and it is powerful enough to persecute them (Holocaust denial laws).
The ‘Ten Commandments’ of this ‘Holocaust Religion’ have been enunciated as follows:
- Remember what Amalek (the Non-Jews) has done to thee.
- Thou shalt never compare THE HOLOCAUST with any other Genocide.
- Thou shalt never compare the Nazi crimes with those of Israel.
- Thou shalt never doubt the number of 6 million Jewish victims.
- Thou shalt never doubt that the majority of them died in gas chambers.
- Thou shalt not doubt the central role of SATAN Hitler in the extermination of the Jews.
- Thou shalt never doubt the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state.
- Thou shalt not criticize the leading Jewish organizations and the Israeli government.
- Thou must never criticize Jewish organizations and the Zionist leadership for abandoning the European Jewry in the Nazi era
- Thou shalt take these commandments literally and never shew mercy to them that doubt!
So what if you question this Holocaust religion? There is an almost universal assumption that if you don’t believe in the Holocaust it is not because you have an inquiring mind, it’s because you are innately evil. The belief underlying the draconian legislation relating to Holocaust denial would seem to be that the Holocaust is only questioned by neonazis, whose ‘denial’ is motivated by hate and so they should be locked up before they contaminate anyone else.
I have to confess that when I recently learned of the existence of Ursula Haverbeck and her prison sentence for ‘Holocaust denial’, in a European country in the 21st century, for carrying out, as I saw it, serious research into history, I was shocked to the core. I mentioned this to various acquaintances here in Wellington, who were equally horrified, not at the imprisonment of Ursula Haverbeck, but at the thought that I appeared to be questioning the Holocaust narrative. I was quickly made to understand that if I thought there was something worrying, something odd about this punitive response to historical research, it indicated a moral flaw in my makeup.
Soon after I had a twitter exchange with one Daniel Finkelstein, peer of the British realm, ex-editor of The Times. I came across his savage indictment of a prolific tweeter, who had defended David Irving, the notorious ‘Holocaust denier’. When I commented that the said person ‘opposes land theft (in Palestine), ethnic cleansing and child abuse – what’s not to like? Finkelstein, twitter handle ‘Dannythefink’, responded by asking me what I thought of the Holocaust. The exchange continued as follows:
It comes as no surprise that Daniel Finkelstein, who is in total support of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and cruelty in Palestine, assumes morally superiority to me, since I have spoken in defense of a man who has spoken in defense of a man who does research into a field of history. And of course I have refused to commit myself to the undeniability of the Holocaust package …
One can assume that all these experts on the Holocaust, who know enough to be confident of the immutable truth of the Holocaust narrative, whether it be Piers Morgan, Dawkins, or Daniel Finkelstein, would also know another immutable truth about the Holocaust, that the Director of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss was tortured for three days and three nights, and that his testicles were smashed beyond repair,as happened to 137 out of 139 Germans ‘interrogated’ before the Nuremberg trials. One can assume that this makes no difference to their perception of the Holocaust narrative, and they will remain confident of their moral superiority to those of us who are distressed and alarmed by the knowledge that German witness statements at Nuremberg were obtained under the most brutal torture. (From Höss’s confession was derived the figure of 4 million deaths at Auschwitz; the figure was later revised down to 1 million.)
‘Holocaust denial’ is generally conflated with antisemitism, ‘Jew hate’ or racism, and so automatically deserving of vilification. However, even if revisionism is considered to be intrinsically antisemitic, protectors of the Holocaust narrative like to bolster their case by pointing to more general indicators of racism in the culprit.
To the uninitiated the best-known Holocaust revisionist is probably the British historian David Irving, who was convicted of Holocaust denial in an Austrian court and sentenced to three years in prison. Irving was interviewed by Tim Sebastian on the BBC’s Hardtalk in 2000. The programme’s style is intended to be aggressive, but when I watched the programme in 2000, knowing nothing about either Irving or Holocaust denial, I was repelled by Sebastian’s overt hostility to Irving, and I believe that any other impartial person would be too. (Sebastian underlined his antagonism by refraining from shaking Irving’s hand at the end of the interview.)
Sebastian suggests that to deny the gas chambers is hurtful and tasteless (Holocaust denial is immoral per se). But like many others he feels the need to shore up this assumption by showing that there is other evidence that David Irving is a racist, and though he has few examples to work with he is relentless on this point. Irving’s suggestion that he is no more racist than millions of other people is brushed aside with the rather strange claim from the interviewer that there is no evidence for this whatsoever (so only Holocaust deniers are racist). Furthermore, it would appear that honest but naive David Irving confessed in an interview with the Independent that he once called someone a ‘nigger’, something he immediately regretted and remained bitterly ashamed of. As someone put it in the comments below the YouTube video, David Irving is probably the most honest person on the planet.
Another protector of the Holocaust narrative is Max Blumenthal, an American Jew who has a profile as a supporter of the rights of Palestinians. Blumenthal has attracted criticism from some pro-Palestine activists, who see him as an ‘antizionist’ zionist (AZZ), or gatekeeper, due to his attacks on other activists such as Alison Weir and Gilad Atzmon, his opposition to criticism of Jewish power, his prioritising of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and his peddling of the NATO narrative on Syria; Gilad Atzmon sees him as racist, agressive and supremacist. In 2008 Blumenthal attended a meeting by David Irving when he was touring the States, and created this video:
The video is interesting for several reason. Blumenthal has interspersed his footage with clips from old German propaganda films promoting Germans superiority – of course if you question the Holocaust you must be a Nazi and white supremacist. Like Piers Morgan he presents the question of the Holocaust in bald holistic terms, with no allowance for individual aspects, or degrees of doubt. ‘Are you a Holocaust denier’, he asks, pretty much as one might ask ‘are you a paedophile?’
And as Holocaust denial is such a heinous crime, Blumenthal is justified in first finding out the location of the meeting (given freely to him by David Irving), and then outing Irving to the Vicar of the church hosting the meeting as a ‘Holocaust denier’. The smugness, the self-satisfaction of Blumenthal are palpable; he clearly sees himself as a hero, where others might just see a manipulative sneak. In any case we are left in no doubt that Max Blumenthal, the anti-German racist, the Palestine activist who along with Israel promotes the destruction of Syria, is morally superior to the ‘Holocaust denier’ David Irving, regardless of the latter’s transparent integrity.
The claim that ‘Holocaust denial’ is innately antisemitic was blown out of the water when Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, took into his head to declare that the Holocaust was the brainchild of the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Husseini (so not Hitler afterall), that Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, not exterminate them (thereby breaking Commandment 6, see above). There was anger and ridicule in Israel and amongst Jews abroad and Netanyahu was forced to climb down. Although Netanyahu was in general accused of ‘playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers’, he was actually guilty of Holocaust denial as it is defined, ie questioning an aspect of the Holocaust discourse – any German who made Netanyahu’s claim would be arrested. If one accepts the ruling that says ‘Holocaust denial’ is antisemitic, Netanyahu must be antisemitic. Which is clearly nonsense – Netanyahu’s racism does not lie in antisemitism, but in an overweening belief in Jewish exceptionalism.
It could be that those protecting the approved version of the Holocaust with such intolerance, aggression, and hate are absolutely right, that 6 million Jews died, in gas chambers, according to a plan drawn up by Adolf Hitler. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t done the research necessary for me to form an opinion.
However it is manifestly clear that those who question or deny the Holocaust are not united by a common neo-Nazi philosophy, of a type that on the one hand insists that Hitler was not guilty of the crimes attributed to him and on the other claims ‘Hitler was right’ to commit these crimes. Mainstream Holocaust revisionists are academics, philosophers, German patriots or Palestine activists. They do not necessarily support the far-right – many of them probably vote for left of centre parties. Some of them are notable for their immense compassion, such as Paul Eisen, who has always been a strong advocate of justice for Palestine. All of them have shown great courage and integrity, and are prepared to look for the truth and to speak it as they see it.
Regardless of the facts of the matter, criminalisation of responsible research into the Holocaust, and the vilification and isolation of those who carry it out, or even those who simply support their right to do so, is an outrageous denial of academic endeavour and historiography as a discipline. Anyone who supports such criminalisation, vilification and isolation is NOT morally superior but in fact morally and intellectually compromised. Furthermore, any honourable person with a modicum of intelligence and a modicum of courage will fight for the right of all people to carry out research into any branch of history, without treating one particular aspect as sacred and therefore exempt from scrutiny.
An inquiry published Saturday has revealed that there is virtually no physical evidence to support the Mexican government´s version of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students traveling by bus to Mexico City. Government officials insist that a drug gang kidnapped the students at gunpint, killed them and burned the bodies at a dumpsite near the southwesten town of Iguala, but the report, based on forensic records requested by the Associated Press, revealed no signs of a fire on the night in question.
But the notes of a forensic examination of the Cocula dumpsite in Guerrero state in western Mexico shows that investigators could not confirm a fire on the night that the students vanished on September 26, 2014. The AP obtained the documents under a freedom of information request permissible under Mexican law.
The AP inquiry is the latest in a series of independent investigations that undermines the Mexican government´s version of events. Police say that five suspects have confessed to the crimes but an international panel of experts earlier this year concluded that the confessions were obtained by torture.
Earlier this year the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) found animal and human remains at the dumpsite but said none of the remains corresponded to the government´s allegation that the bodies were incinerated by members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel. The Attorney General’s Office in April presented evidence of a huge fire and the discovery of the remains of at least 17 adults but the bone fragments were too badly burned to identify, the Argentine team said.
The government´s handling of the case has triggered massive protests that include parents and friends of the students, trade unons and grassroots organizations who believe that law-enforcement authorities are complicit in the slayings of the 43 students, who had effectively stolen a bus, ironically enough, to attend the commemoration of a 1968 police massacre of students.
The case has marred the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office promising to reduce violence, curb corruption, and human rights abuses in the country.