“Black Friday: Carnage in Rafah,” a new report by Amnesty International, has drawn international media attention with its accounts of destruction and suffering during four days of the Gaza conflict last year. Headlines worldwide announce charges of Israeli war crimes, and photos present readers with towering columns of smoke, smoldering ruins and grieving Palestinians.
It is a story of suffering on a massive scale, but in reporting this narrative The New York Times has chosen to look not at Gaza and its agony but, once again, at Israel. Thus we find an article that gives focus to Israeli losses—a soldier missing in action, his comrades at arms and his bereaved family. The photo is of two Israeli parents grieving by a tombstone.
In her story, “Signs of War Crimes Seen in Israeli Hunt for Ambushed Soldier,” Isabel Kershner imposes this twist on a story of Palestinian suffering and Israeli atrocities by overplaying one element of the narrative: The attacks on the southern Gaza city of Rafah came after Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured on Aug. 1 and were a response to this event.
After Lt. Goldin was seized and taken into a tunnel, the Israeli army put its notorious “Hannibal Directive” into effect. This, in the words of the Amnesty report, is “a controversial command designed to deal with captures of soldiers by unleashing massive firepower on persons, vehicles and buildings in the vicinity of the attack, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier(s).”
Kershner builds her story not around the findings of the report, but the capture of Lt. Goldin and the reactions of his family and comrades. Thus, the article opens with the moment his unit realized he was missing, it refers to him throughout and ends with the comments of his grieving parents.
In all, Kershner mentions Lt. Goldin in some 13 paragraphs, nearly half the article. Readers find news of the report in her piece, including the most vehement condemnations by Amnesty officials, but her angle undercuts the thrust of the document. (Readers might want to compare accounts in The Independent, Al Jazeera or Newsweek, among others.)
The report is the work of Amnesty and Forensic Architecture, a British research group. It presents a meticulous analysis of the attacks on Rafah from Aug. 1 through Aug. 4 last year, describing numerous assaults that left at least 135 dead, including 75 children. It contains chilling accounts of events on the ground: desperate attempts to escape, strikes on ambulances and residents blasted into fragments.
The investigation found “overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate attacks, which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets or in vehicles, and injured many more.” It goes on to say, “In some cases there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.”
These findings provide “strong evidence” of “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the report states, as well as “other war crimes.” Kershner, however, attempts to cast doubt on the aims of the report in one sentence that steps outside the bounds of reporting into editorializing.
She writes, “[The report] tries to offer the most detailed reconstruction of the events of Black Friday to date, in hopes of bolstering allegations against Israel that are now the subject of a preliminary investigation before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
In other words, Kershner says, Amnesty and Forensic Architecture are motivated by a desire to delegitimize Israel, and their analysis is merely an attempt to be “the most detailed.”
It seems that the Times was reluctant to tell this story. The problem, once again, was how to report the news of yet another damning report and at the same time to shield Israel, and so we have an awkward piece, one that tries to mesh two opposing narratives: the fate of Lt. Goldin and the disclosure of Israeli war crimes in Rafah.
The result is a confusing combination of reporting and obfuscation, a frequent outcome of the Times’ effort to serve Israeli interests over those of the reading public.
“Recognizing that, in all countries in the world, there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions, and that such children need special consideration…” – from the Preamble of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
In the past two weeks, CPT has witnessed a significant increase in the targeting of Palestinian children by Israeli occupying forces. From soldiers confiscating their bicycles to chasing them down in the street, the Israeli occupying forces are stripping children of their fundamental right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities.
These are the stories that CPT has documented in Hebron’s Old City, but many more stories of boys and girls remain invisible.
Sunday 19 July – A six-year-old boy was swarmed by the heavily armed Israeli military, forced to empty his pockets, and aggressively interrogated.
Monday 20 July – Israeli soldiers detained and allegedly assaulted 14-year-old Anan, then took him to the police station. The Israeli military then continued to raid the streets of Hebron, detaining young people outside an Internet cafe at 9:30 pm.
Thursday 23 July – Israeli soldiers invaded a Palestinian house in the Old City of Hebron while chasing a Palestinian boy. The soldiers claimed that the boy ran away from them, which made him “suspicious”.
Friday 24 July – Four boys were playing in the street when six Israeli soldiers began charging towards them and yelling. The boys ran home, and the Israeli soldiers followed them into their house. After five minutes of questioning the boys, the soldiers left.
Saturday 25 July – Wasim, 10 years old, was riding his bike with his friends behind a patrol of soldiers. The soldiers told him to go ahead and pass them on his bike, but then blocked CPTers from following. Wasim told CPT that the soldiers slapped his face as they took him towards the gate. Palestinians in the community and CPTers advocated for the release of the boy, but the Israeli soldiers pushed back and took him. Another witness saw the soldiers kicking Wasim as they took him away. They released him ten minutes later.
Tuesday 28 July – Israeli Border Police stopped a Palestinian child who was trying to pass through the military turnstile near the Ibrahimi Mosque. The Border Police opened the gate for him, helped him move his bike, and then looked him in the eye and said, “I confiscated your bike, now leave.” The Border Police then told the child, “You know only walking is allowed here. Next time you will bring a car trying to pass.” After five minutes, another Border Police officer gave the child his bike back and asked him to leave.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) also reported that a teenage boy was stopped and detained by a group of Israeli soldiers near the Souq in Hebron’s Old City. The reason for his detention was that he had a small box of children’s “pop pop fireworks.” Soldiers detained the boy for thirty minutes and then released him.
Wednesday 30 July – Moath, 16-years-old, was picked off the streets in Hebron by Israeli soldiers who body searched him, zip-tied his hands behind his back, and blindfolded him. CPT asked about the nature of his detention, but received no reason. Soldiers took Moath into custody for identification and released after an hour. Watch the video here.
“States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities…. States Parties shall ensure that no child be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” – from Articles 31 and 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
It is not only the fact that the Israeli military oppresses children and violates their human rights that is the outrage, but that it does so with impunity. These incidents did not happen in a corner or a dark alleyway, but in public spaces. CPT is sometimes able to advocate for the rights of children, but despite the presence of human rights observers, there is still a lack of accountability for Israeli occupying forces. It is up to all of us to share these stories, and shift the prevailing narrative towards one of truth and justice.
NABLUS – Israeli settlers killed a Palestinian toddler and injured four others early Friday morning after setting their home ablaze near Nablus in the occupied West Bank in what the Israeli leadership called an act of terrorism.
Israeli settlers smashed the windows of two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma before throwing flammable liquids and Molotov cocktails inside, a local resident told Ma’an.
Ali Saad Dawabsha, one-and-a-half years old, was trapped in the house and died shortly after sustaining serious burns, said Ghassan Daghlas, a local official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank.
His mother and father, Riham and Saad, and their son Ahmad, four, also sustained serious injuries and were evacuated by Israeli forces to hospital.
The mother was in critical condition with third-degree burns covering 90 percent of her body, an Israeli doctor told public radio, stressing that her life was threatened. The father had burns on 80 percent of his body.
The Israeli settlers from nearby settlements also attacked and partially burned the home belonging to Maamoon Rashid Dawabsha.
Local media reported that the graffiti said “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” and that the attackers threw firebombs inside the two homes, one of which was empty.
The homes were located near the main entrance to the village and the settlers were able to flee the scene quickly before residents identified them, Daghlas said.
Dozens of villagers from Duma rushed to help rescue the two families from their burning homes, witnesses said. The injured were later taken to Israeli hospitals for treatment via a military helicopter.
Musallem Dawabsha, 23, told Ma’an : “We saw four settlers running away keeping distance between each other. We tried to chase them but they fled to the nearby Maale Efrayim settlement.” … Full article
Cincinnati, Ohio — After spending one day in jail, University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has already been released from custody on bail following his indictment for the murder of Samuel DuBose. Meanwhile, two UC Cincinnati police officers have now been placed on leave in the fallout of the fatal shooting of Sam DuBose by officer Ray Tensing.
Tensing was indicted for murder by a grand jury on Wednesday and officers Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt testified that “[t]hey didn’t see anything,” said Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.
At the time of the incident, Tensing had claimed he shot DuBose after a scuffle led to him being dragged down the street by DuBose’s car. Tensing’s body cam footage—released to the public on the same day charges were announced—proved that story was fabricated. Now the video from Kidd’s body cam has also been released, and shows him arriving on scene and proceeding to corroborate Tensing’s story—the same scenario repeated in the official police report of the incident.
Despite video evidence to the contrary, Tensing can be heard in Kidd’s body cam footage explaining how he’d been dragged, to which Kidd says, “Yeah, I saw that.” When Tensing is overheard explaining the same story to yet another officer on the scene, Kidd says, “Don’t say anything.”
In the official incident report, Officer Eric Weibel wrote: “Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord drag Officer Tensing.”
A stunning discovery found in Officers Kidd and Weibel’s shared history, is the death of a mental health patient in 2010 at University Hospital, as revealed by The Guardian. Kelly Brinson was suffering a psychotic episode and had to be placed in an isolation room, where he was repeatedly tasered by seven UC police officers. Brinson died three days later after succumbing to respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Brinson’s family later filed suit, and all seven officers, according to court documents, are accused of excessive force and that they “acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr. Brinson.” And further, that before being restrained, Brinson “repeatedly yelled that slavery was over and he repeatedly pleaded not to be shackled and not to be treated like a slave.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Brinson’s brother, Derek, said that if those officers had been properly disciplined back in 2010, DuBose might still be alive. Brinson said the officers were “supposed to be fired […] but what happened was because we had an out-of-court settlement, they had immunity and they couldn’t be prosecuted. Everybody . . . associated with this case was supposed to be terminated,” he said, “and they didn’t — they didn’t terminate them.”
Legal experts feel Kidd potentially faces charges of giving a false statement. “I would expect that to be forthcoming,” said Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson, as reported in Cincinnati.com. “It was a false statement. The video evidence doesn’t support it. There seems to be the elements of a crime there.” (Watch the Officer Phillip Kidd body cam footage from Samuel DuBose shooting.)
Despite the charges of murder, Tensing’s body cam footage has been called into question. “It is our belief that he was not dragged,” explained Deters. “If you slow down this tape, you see what happened. It takes a very short period of time from when the car starts slowly rolling that the gun is out and he’s shot in the head.”
At the arraignment before a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Thursday morning, Tensing pled not guilty to charges of murder. His bond has been set at $1 million. While Stew Mathews, the attorney representing Tensing, maintains the former officer, “was in fear of his life at the time this happened,” Deters saw something entirely different in this shooting—describing the incident as “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make. It was unwarranted.”
Despite the clear evidence in the video from the shooting showing wrongdoing, a segment of the public has seemingly come to Tensing’s defense as funds are quickly mounting to pay his legal fees. Mathews said, according to WCPO, “I think people feel like he’s getting railroaded here in Cincinnati. You’d have to be blind not to see that.”
Watch the full length Officer Ray Tensing body cam footage from Samuel DuBose shooting below:
There are now questions surrounding Tensing’s qualifications to have been a police officer in the first place. As Cincinnati.com reported, “The Ohio State Highway Patrol hired [him] nearly two years ago, but he quit after one day on the job. Tensing started the patrol’s 26-week academy Sept. 18, 2013, and left the following day citing that he ‘couldn’t adapt to the training environment.’”
The Grand Jury, both police departments, the Prosecutor, and much of the general public must, then, be blind. Video evidence in this fatal shooting is clear. Continuing to argue over a flagrantly unjustified shooting is only bringing absurdity to new levels. The Anti-Media will continue to update as new information comes to light in this tragic case.
A senior Iranian lawmaker has called on French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to officially apologize to the Iranian nation over his role in the export of infected blood.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who serves as the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, said Tuesday that Fabius must apologize over involvement in the selling of infected blood products to Iranian companies in the 1980s.
The controversial case dates back to 1984 and 1985, when Fabius served as the prime minister of France. He was, at the time, accused of having a hand in a French company’s deliberate selling of blood products contaminated with HIV to a number of countries, including Iran. The blood products were used for the treatment of haemophiliacs in the target countries. Fabius and two of his ministers were charged with manslaughter but the then French premier was later acquitted.
Boroujerdi said most of the countries that received the bloods were compensated by Paris over the years, but the French government has yet to pay redress to Iranians.
“The relevant bodies, especially the [Iranian] Foreign Ministry, should take action” to get reparations from the French government, Boroujerdi said.
Fabius is due in Tehran on Wednesday for talks with senior Iranian officials.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Saleh Jowkar, another member of the Iranian parliament (Majlis), highlighted the role of Fabius in the controversial case, saying the people of Iran cannot forget his antagonistic actions toward the Iranian nation.
Jowkar also criticized Fabius for adopting an “arrogant” stance toward Iran during the nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
“We will not forget his oppositions, distractions and his advocacy for the Zionist regime during the negotiations,” Jowkar said, adding that the Wednesday visit by Fabius to Tehran is in line with France’s business and economic objectives.
Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the US, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany – finalized the text of an agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna on July 14 after 18 days of intense talks.
67.8% of respondents to a Google Consumer Survey said Israel should receive no compensation for the US finalizing a deal with Iran over its civilian nuclear program, which was begun at the behest of the US when Washington’s puppet, the Shah, one of the world’s worst human rights violators, ruled over Iran.
Obama is currently offering Israel increased aid to compensate for the agreement. Israel is the biggest recipient of US aid at over $3 billion per year, and Obama has increased aid to Israel after each of Israel’s major massacres in the Gaza refugee camp since Obama assumed power.
The major study of the issue of citizen impact on US government policy, conducted in 2014 by research teams out of Princeton and Northwestern universities, looked at nearly 2,000 policies and found that average-income US citizens have “near zero, statistically non-significant” impact on them, while the most affluent citizens essentially dictate policy. This dynamic has been illustrated by previous research, such as by Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt.
Another issue to watch for: the “world’s most influential” think tank, the Washington-based Brookings Institute, has suggested (among other options), as a way for the US to gain dominance over Iran, making it appear that Iran has rejected a “great” deal, then using Israel to attack Iran. (Note the above poll asks if Israel should be given long-range bombers and “bunker-buster” explosives.)
The US and Israel have both continued to make threats of force, criminal acts under the UN charter adopted by both countries, against Iran since the agreement, and Obama’s anti-democratic offering of increased aid to Israel could possibly signal that the “leave it to Bibi” strategy is still being entertained, along with any number of other goals.
Author is a US-based researcher focusing on force dynamics, national and global. @_DirtyTruths
RAMALLAH – The number of Palestinian administrative detainees held in Israeli jails without charge or trial has doubled within a year, Haaretz (Hebrew) newspaper reported Monday.
Since the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli soldiers in al-Khalil last summer, Israeli authorities notably intensified the use of administrative detention policy against Palestinians “due to the Military Advocate General’s decision to lower the requirements in such cases for holding people involved in terrorism.”
Israeli administrative detention order, based on a secret file which neither the detainee nor his lawyer are allowed to see, can be renewed more than once.
More than 1,000 administrative detainees were documented in 2003. The number had fallen significantly to 134 in August 2013, only to rise again to reach 473 in 2014 after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli soldiers.
There are currently 391 administrative detainees in Israeli jails … twice as many as were being held before the kidnapping process.
Susiya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, has now made it into the pages of The New York Times news section, and we are permitted a view of how Israel wants us to see this disturbing story: All the fuss about Susiya is little more than the result of clever marketing on the part of the villagers.
Thus we find a story today by Diaa Hadid titled (in the online version) “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention.” This primes readers from the start to expect a tale of simple villagers who devised a winning media strategy, and it distracts from the real issue, which is nothing less than ethnic cleansing: Susiya is to be destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.
High in her story Hadid writes, in a telling phrase, that “the cause of [this] tiny village” has become “outsized,” in other words overblown, as if Susiya, with its population of 300 or so, is not worth the fuss.
The village first got notice when “sympathetic” foreigners visited Susiya some 20 years ago and took up its cause, Hadid states. By that time the residents had been forced out of their original homes and were living near the centuries-old site that had belonged to their ancestors.
Jewish settlers had taken over the original village in 1986, she writes, and Israeli forces made them move on again them in 1990 “for unknown reasons.” They were expelled once more in 2001, according to Hadid, “as collective punishment over the shooting death of a Jewish settler.”
Her story omits a crucial detail: The authorities knew that the villagers were innocent of the killing but used the incident as an excuse to harass the Susiya residents once more. The Times account leaves the impression that a Susiya resident was responsible for the settler’s death.
Hadid quotes a staff member of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, who notes that residents “have managed to place Susiya on the international agenda in ways that other villages have not managed to do,” and her story goes on to say that “years of advocacy appeared to pay off when Susiya’s residents began warning early this month that their village was under threat.”
As a result, the story reports, Susiya received visits from a European Union delegation, Israeli activists and American consular officials. Then, a week ago, the U.S. State Department mentioned Susiya in a press briefing and urged Israel to spare the village.
The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.
Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”
We find the word “occupied” here, as usual in Times reporting, but it is devoid of meaning. Readers do not hear that the West Bank is Palestinian territory; that Israel is there as an invading military force; and that the settlements violate international law, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population into the foreign territory.
The Times story makes no reference to international law, but it does quote an Israeli military spokesman who says Susiya “was built illegally.” Thus Hadid emphasizes the pretext of legality Israel draws over its defiance of international norms while she ignores the flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention and other standards.
Readers can pick up some revealing details in the story: the ousted villagers’ descriptions of sleeping outside “in the wild, in the rain,” the fact that they can no longer access two- thirds of their original land because of the settlers, the expectation that if Susiya goes, other vulnerable villages will also fall to Israel’s greed for Palestinian land.
But the story glosses over these details to present the Susiya’s case as above all a successful publicity effort. The Times would have us believe that the real story here is how the village became an “outsized” international cause, through “years of advocacy.”
Susiya is just one of many villages in Israel’s Negev and in the occupied West Bank where Israel is determined to ethnically cleanse certain areas of their indigenous inhabitants and install Jewish residents in their place. Times readers are finally learning about Susiya only because international attention has forced the newspaper to acknowledge the issue.
The village should have been known to readers long before now, just as they should also know of dozens more facing annihilation: Al Araqib, Umm Al Kher and Khirbet Yarza, to name just a few. In the South Hebron Hills alone, where Susiya is located, some 30 villages are faced with demolition.
But even now the Times can’t just tell the story of a village nearly helpless under the weight of Israeli might, a community faced with extinction after centuries of living on the land. Instead we find an effort to play down the tragedy, to present it as an overblown cause, not really worth our concern.
Occasionally, this writer will read an article from an Israel publication. Often, there is a survey which pops up when he clicks on the article, and the question often is this: ‘Do you believe Israel has the right to defend itself?’
The question is not a valid one. Any nation, one supposes, has such a right, but Israel has not had to defend itself for decades, if ever. Responding to ineffective ‘rocket’ fire from the Gaza Strip is not defense. An occupied nation has the internationally-recognized right to resist with violence the occupation. The occupier is not ‘defending’ itself; it is merely enforcing the occupation.
So why ask the question? Let’s look at the two possible answers that may shed light upon that reason.
A ‘yes’ response indicates that Israel is justified in its periodic carpet-bombing of the Palestinians. The publication issuing the survey can proclaim, therefore, that X% of its survey respondents support Israel.
A ‘no’ response, on the other hand, will be seen as anti-Semitic, denying Israel its basic right of existence. Why, the publication can ask, do Y% of respondents deny Israel its right to self-defense? People would only respond in this way if they hate Jews.
The question, in many ways, is reminiscent of the old political question, ‘Do you still beat your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ is wrong for obvious reasons. ‘No’, however, is still wrong, since it would indicate that spousal abuse was, at one time in the past, something the responder did, but no longer does. So a man who never beat his wife would have no right answer for that question.
So in answering the question about Israel’s right to defend itself, the thoughtful respondent has no right answer. ‘Yes’, gives Israel more ammunition to say that the world supports it, and ‘no’ is dismissed as the response of an anti-Semitic bigot, showing again, in Israel’s view, the great existential threat that it faces.
Israel and the people and publications that support it must resort to such deceitful tactics, since they are without a moral leg to stand on. Reviewing a few facts of international law relating to occupation, and Israel’s blatant and constant violations of them, may be helpful:
Law: An occupying power must not move its own citizens permanently onto the occupied nation’s land. Temporarily housing soldiers on a short-term basis there to maintain peace and the safety of the occupied people is allowed.
Israeli violations: Israel has moved over half a million Israelis into the West Bank, and Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has stated categorically that not one of them will be removed.
Law: The people of the occupied lands must not be displaced permanently.
Israeli violations: Millions of Palestinians have been forced from their homes to make room for illegal Israeli settlers.
Law: The culture of the occupied land must be respected.
Israeli violations: Israel has done much to destroy and obliterate the culture of Palestine. The destruction of entire towns and villages, mosques and historical sites is ongoing. In one particularly egregious example, Israel bulldozed the ancient Ma’man Allah cemetery, dating at least to the 12th century and possibly earlier, and constructed a ‘Museum of Tolerance’ on the site.
Law: The occupying power must ensure the safety of the occupied peoples.
Israeli violations: Bombing the Gaza Strip, breaking into the homes of Palestinians in the West Bank at all hours of the day and night, arresting men, women and children without charge, shooting peaceful protesters in the back, cannot be seen as ensuring their safety, and protesting these atrocious crimes does not make one anti-Semitic.
The list is long; a short, representative sample is all that has been given here.
In addition to this, Israel refuses to cooperate with any investigation into its ‘alleged’ war crimes. If, as Israel continually proclaims, it has the most moral army in the world, why would it not welcome such investigations, to prove the falsehood of such allegations? Why not assist the United Nations, and the International Criminal Court, in thoroughly examining each charge, if Israel is confident that each is false?
Of course, Israel knows it is guilty of war crimes, and labors under the mistaken belief that it can continue to commit them, because the United States will always protect it.
Although it can’t be said that anyone has neglected to advise Israel that the rules of the game have changed, for some reason, the information has not been received. Transmission, obviously, does not equate to reception. Today, Israel continues to destroy entire Palestinian villages to make room for illegal settlements; IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists continue to shoot and kill innocent men, women and children in the West Bank, and arrest without charge men, women and children. None of this is new; what is new is that the world is now aware of it. The news media, which now actually gets paid by organizations and individuals to run ‘news’ stories that are written by lobbyists, corporations, and other major advertisers, has not seen fit to report this information. Massive demonstrations in support of Palestinians in major cities in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East are not seen on the evening news, but that is no longer the only venue for information. Social media gives everyone with a camera and an internet connection a worldwide audience, and that audience is seeing atrocities it never knew existed. As a result, the ostracization of the rogue state of Israel is ever growing, as more churches and businesses divest from Israeli companies, and performers and academics refuse to appear in that apartheid nation.
This writer always ignores the question, ‘Does Israel have a right to defend itself’, and will continue to do so. A ‘yes’ only gives Israeli atrocities a false veneer of legitimacy which is untenable.
Apartheid Israel is a world power in decline, and therefore very dangerous. Yet despite the mad behaviors it may still indulge it, its decline is snowballing, and cannot be stopped by anything but justice for the Palestinians, and the Arabs, Africans and other people living within its much-disputed borders. That day cannot come soon enough.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
On Thursday at dawn Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man who was in his own home, in Beit Ummar town, north of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, as he tried to help his son who was shot and injured by army fire, also in his family home.
Falah Hamdi Abu Mariya, 53 years of age, was shot dead in his home, while two of his sons, Mohammad and Ahmad, were injured by Israeli army fire, after dozens of soldiers surrounded their home, and stormed it.
The family said soldiers fired two live rounds at Mohammad, one of Abu Mariya’s sons, wounding him in the pelvis. The father then rushed to help his wounded son, before the soldiers fired two more rounds, striking Abu Mariya in the chest.
Mohammad Ayyad Awad, spokesperson of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Ummar, reported that a group of Israeli soldiers, including an undercover unit, stormed Abu Mariya’s home, and fired at Mohammad, 22 years of age, wounding him with two live rounds in the pelvis.
He added that the distraught father tried to help his wounded son, but the soldiers fired three more rounds directly at him, seriously wounding him in the chest; he was moved to the al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he died of his serious injuries.
Medical sources also stated that Falah’s son, Ahmad, 25 years of age, was hit by bullet shrapnel in the chest, and was also moved to the al-Ahli Hospital suffering minor injuries.
During the invasion, the soldiers also kidnapped a former political prisoner, identified as Hammad Ahmad Abu Mariya, 23 years of age, and took him to an unknown destination.
On Wednesday at dawn, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man in Burqin village, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Although the facts, the law, and admissions by Israeli government officials all pointed otherwise, during the July-August 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, the Israeli government was successful in promoting its self-defense claim with western news media and in persuading certain U.S. politicians that Israel was implementing its right to defend itself.
Claims of “self-defense” against Hamas rocket fire were invoked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United States Senate, and not only as justification for the Israeli assault. “Self-defense” against the rockets also served to deflect allegations that Israeli forces committed war crimes by targeting civilians and civilian property in Gaza.
Public relations campaigns based on self-defense have been critical to Israeli officials avoiding accountability after each of the six major assaults on Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005. Notwithstanding the reports of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the remarkable success of those self-defense based public relations campaigns continued to provide Israeli officials with impunity: the freedom to strike militarily again.
That impunity may come to an end if the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine and prosecutions follow. However, immediately after the Prosecutor announced that she was launching a “preliminary examination” on January 16, 2015, Netanyahu launched a multi-pronged “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent decision to start an inquiry into what the Palestinians call Israeli ‘war crimes’ in the disputed territories.” The public diplomacy campaign is based entirely on Israel’s claim that it acted in self-defense. The Israeli campaign also included a threat to disregard the decision of the court, a threat to the funding of the court, and the announcement that Israel was freezing transfer of more than $100 million a month in taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the State of Palestine joining the ICC and requesting the ICC inquiry.
A new 63 page report, “Neither facts nor law support Israel’s self-defense claim regarding its 2014 assault on Gaza,” submitted to the ICC Prosecutor on behalf of the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild (“the ICC submission”), uses both authoritative contemporaneous Israeli and Palestinian reports and newly released reports and documents to demonstrate that Israeli claims of “self-defense” for its 2014 attack on Gaza are unsupported in both fact and law. The ICC submission notes that the unusual strategy implemented by Israeli officials to publically discredit the court inquiry demonstrated a distinct departure from the traditional method of respectfully presenting evidence and persuasive arguments to the court.
The facts don’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Among the material considered in the ICC submission is the 277 page Israeli government report, “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects” that was released by the Israeli government on June 14, 2015. Although the Israeli government report builds its case around self-defense, to its credit, the Israeli government report openly acknowledges that Israeli military forces (a) had been striking Gaza during 2013 and early 2014, (b) had launched a massive attack on the West Bank in mid-June 2014, and (c) had launched an aerial strike on a tunnel in Gaza on July 5, 2014. However, the Israeli government report omits mention that all these dates were before the night of July 7, 2014, the date a contemporaneous report from an authoritative Israeli source said “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 21, 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire” (emphasis in the original). The contemporaneous report was issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that the Washington Post says “has close ties with the country’s military leadership.”
While the Israeli government report acknowledged the aerial strike on the tunnel in Gaza, it omitted mention of the extent of Israeli attacks on Gaza during the night before Hamas participated and claimed responsibility for its first rocket fire since 2012: The contemporaneous ITIC July 2 – July 8, 2014 weekly report states that on July 7 “approximately 50 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were struck,” by Israeli forces, including strikes that killed six Hamas members in the tunnel.
The Israeli government report states:
On July 7, 2014, after more than 60 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on a single day, the Government of Israel was left with no choice but to initiate a concerted aerial operation against Hamas and other terrorist organisations in order adequately to defend Israel’s civilian population.
Thus, the Israeli government report claims that the government was acting to defend Israel’s civilian population notwithstanding the fact that it had just admitted to an Israeli government attack that preceded the Hamas rocket fire on July 7. The attack on the tunnel that the ITIC reported killed the six Hamas members.
In a minute by minute timeline of events that day, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported the Israeli attacks that began during the night of July 6 and continued in the early morning hours of July 7 that showed that the Israeli attack on the tunnel preceded the Hamas rockets:
at 2:24 a.m. on July 7:
Hamas reports an additional four militants died in a second Israeli air strike in Gaza, bringing Sunday night’s death total to six. This is the biggest single Israeli hit against Hamas since 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
at 9:37 p.m. on July 7 Ha’aretz reported:
Hamas claims responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashdod, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Netivot. Some 20 rockets exploded in open areas in the last hour.
Thus, an authoritative contemporaneous Israeli report acknowledged the fact that Hamas started firing its rockets some 20 hours after Israeli forces launched the attack on Gaza and killed the six Hamas members.
The Israeli government report couches the more than 60 rockets launched at Israel on the night of July 7 as giving the government of Israel no choice but to escalate aerial operations. But the report fails to mention that Israel actually had a choice as to whether or not to launch its prior lethal attack on the night of July 6 and the early morning hours of July 7. By omitting mention of the timing and the lethal effects of its attack on the tunnel, the Israeli government report avoids recognizing that its killing of the six Hamas members provoked the Hamas rocket fire.
While the Israeli government report mentions strikes on Gaza during 2013 and 2014, it omits mention of the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks during 2013 and the increased rate of such killing during the first three months of 2014.
According to a report issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “PCHR Annual Report 2013:”
The number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces was 46 victims in circumstances where no threats were posed to the lives of Israeli soldiers. Five of these victims died of wounds they had sustained in previous years. Of the total number of victims, there were 41 civilians, 33 of whom were in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip, including six children, two women; and five non-civilians, including one in the West Bank and the other four in the Gaza Strip. In 2013, 496 Palestinians sustained various wounds, 430 of them in the West Bank and 66 in the Gaza Strip, including 142 children and 10 women.
An escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians in early 2014 compared to the rate for the entire year 2013 is evident from PCHR’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 1st Quarter of 2014.”Among the violations presented in the report, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the first three months of 2014, including 11 civilians of whom two were children; 259 were wounded, of whom 255 were civilians, including 53 children. “The majority of these Palestinians, 198, were wounded during peaceful protests and clashes with Israeli forces.”
Nor does the Israeli government report mention any of the lethal Israeli government attacks on the West Bank and Gaza in the days and weeks before three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed on the West Bank on June 12, 2014:
* Israeli forces shot 9 teenagers demonstrating on the West Bank on May 15, killing two.
* Israeli forces wounded nine Palestinian civilians, including a child during the week of June 5 to June 11.
* Israeli forces launched an extrajudicial execution on June 11 in Gaza that killed one and wounded three.
Nor does the Israeli government report describe the extent of casualties inflicted by the June 13 to June 30 military offensive on the West Bank, Operation Brothers Keeper, in which Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51, according to the contemporaneous weekly reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
In addition, the Israeli government’s 277 page report omits mention of admissions by Prime Minister Netanyahu of other military and political purposes for its assault on the West Bank, described in a contemporaneous report in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, on June 15, 2014: to capture Hamas members (some of whom the Israeli government had previously released in a prisoner exchange and some of whom were Parliamentarians in the new Palestinian unity government), create “severe repercussions,” and punish the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for forming a unity government. Importantly, although he accused “Hamas people” of carrying out the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, Netanyahu made no mention of stopping rocket fire. The non-mention of rocket fire by Netanyahu is consistent with the ITIC report of no rocket fire at that time.
Similarly, after describing the Israeli operations that caused Hamas to pay a “heavy price” on the West Bank, as shown in a video of his speech at the US Ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv on July 4, Netanyahu acknowledged that “in Gaza we hit dozens of Hamas activists and destroyed outposts and facilities that served Hamas terrorists.” Thus Netanyahu himself acknowledged major Israeli military operations in Gaza preceding the launching of Hamas rockets on July 7.
Facilitating the Israeli and U.S. government campaign to pin responsibility on Hamas and support an Israeli self-defense claim, certain western news media, including the New York Times, published an incorrect timeline. The timeline published by the New York Times dated the start of the war to July 8, the first full day of Hamas rocket barrages, and more than a day after Israeli forces had escalated their aerial attack on Gaza killing the six Hamas members. The Times timeline simply omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks on the night of July 6 and early morning hours on July 7 that Ha’aretz said preceded the Hamas barrage of rockets on the night of July 7. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the 24 days of “Operation Bring Back Our Brothers,” that began on June 13, the June 11 extra-judicial execution of a Hamas member in Gaza, the June 13 attack on the “terrorist facility and a weapons storehouse in the southern Gaza Strip,” and the killing of the two Palestinian teenagers and wounding of seven other Palestinians who were demonstrating on May 15. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks in 2013 and the escalation of those attacks in early 2014 that the Israeli government report admitted under the euphemism “targeted efforts to prevent future attacks.”
The law doesn’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Not just facts and admissions stand in the way of Israel’s self-defense claim. In a 2004 decision rejecting Israel’s self-defense claim for the wall, a relatively passive structure crossing occupied Palestinian territory, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that, under the UN Charter, self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter is inapplicable to measures taken by an occupying power within occupied territory. While the ICJ recognized Israel’s right and its duty to protect its citizens, it said “The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.” While the Israeli government report includes mention of a law review article that relies on an ICJ holding favorable to an Israeli position on another issue, the Israeli government report omits mention of the directly on point ICJ case regarding applicability of self-defense to Israel as occupying power in Gaza.
But even if Israel could overcome the facts showing that Israeli forces initiated the combat, and even if Israel was not the occupying power in Gaza and did not have to address the law regarding self-defense for an occupying power presented in the ICJ decision, Israel’s claim to self-defense would still be invalidated if its assault extended beyond what was necessary and proportionate to deal with an armed attack it was purportedly facing, as more fully described in the ICC submission.
Necessity was contradicted by the data provided by the ITIC showing that Israel had been wildly successful at stopping and/or preventing rocket fire by agreeing to and at least partially observing a ceasefire, while Israel consistently dialed up rocket fire with each of its major assaults on Gaza since 2006. By contrast, as shown in the ICC submission, hundreds of times more rockets were falling on Israel during each day of each of the major assaults on Gaza than were falling in the periods before Israeli forces attacked or after the assault ended with a new ceasefire.
Necessity was also contradicted by an article in the May 2013 Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” quoting the IDF General who commands the army’s Gaza Division who said that Hamas had been policing other groups in Gaza “to thwart rocket attacks from the strip.” The Hamas observance of the ceasefire and its policing of other groups to prevent rocket fire demonstrated an effective alternative to an Israeli assault. The Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza during the period between June 13 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2014 put that ceasefire and that Hamas policing of other groups at risk. Israel could have more effectively protected its citizens from rocket fire by continuing to at least partially observe the successful cease-fire in place before Israel escalated its assaults on the West Bank and Gaza. So the necessity for the escalation on June 13 and the further escalation on July 7 to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire has not been shown.
The necessity and proportionality requirements for a self-defense claim were also contradicted by evidence that actions by Israeli forces during the assault on Gaza went outside the laws of war by directly targeting Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. The proportionality requirement was further contradicted by evidence of widespread Israeli attacks that harmed civilians or civilian property disproportionate to the military advantage Israeli forces received from the attacks. The evidence for such war crimes cited in the ICC submission comes from reports of investigations conducted by the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (June 22, 2015); the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Lawyers for Palestinian for Human Rights (LPHR), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (June 26, 2015); the UN Human Rights Council (December 26, 2014); Defense for Children International Palestine (April 2015); Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) (January 20, 2015); Al-Haq (August 19, 2014); the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (September 4, 2014); Breaking the Silence (May 3, 2015); The Guardian (May 4, 2015); The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (March 27, 2015), and contemporaneous and periodic reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Along with support from top U.S. officials, the enormously successful public relations campaigns based on claimed self-defense that Israeli officials mounted during and after each of the Israeli assaults on Gaza allowed Israel to avoid accountability, maintain impunity, and launch subsequent attacks. In view of that successful record, the effectiveness of Israel’s “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the ICC inquiry” based on the same self-defense claims should not be underestimated. Widespread recognition that Israel’s self-defense claim is deeply flawed is needed to counter the intense pressure Israeli officials and their allies are exerting on the ICC so the court may resist that pressure and base its decisions strictly on the facts and law.
James Marc Leas is a patent attorney and a past co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in Gaza immediately after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 as part of a 20 member delegation from the U.S. and Europe and authored or co-authored four articles for Counterpunch describing findings, including Why the Self-Defense Doctrine Doesn’t Legitimize Israel’s Assault on Gaza. He also participated in the February 2009 National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza immediately after Operation Cast Lead and contributed to its report, “Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.”
In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defined chutzpah as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” Today we have a new paradigm for chutzpah: the Israeli government’s demand for “compensation” from the American taxpayers for the Iran nuclear agreement.
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Times of Israel that during U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit the Israeli government would discuss “the compensation that Israel deserves in order to maintain its qualitative [military] edge” over Iran. The Obama administration of course is amenable.
Why does Israel deserve compensation (in addition to its $3 billion in U.S. aid every year)? If anything, Israel should compensate American taxpayers!
Iran is not — and was not going to become — a nuclear threat. American and Israeli intelligence have said so repeatedly.
But even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were right about Iran’s intentions, he should be rejoicing at the agreement, under which Iran will get rid of nearly all of its enriched uranium and two-thirds of its centrifuges. Its nuclear facilities will be open to even more intrusive inspections than they have been under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Even its non-nuclear military sites will be subject to inspection, an intrusion no other government — particularly the United States — would accept. And that is just the beginning. Uranium-enrichment research will be restricted, and construction of a heavy-water reactor, which would yield plutonium, will be scrapped.
The term for these various restrictions begin at 10 years and lengthen from there, but this does not mean that Iran will later be free to do what it wants. As an NPT party (unlike nuclear monopolist Israel), it will always be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which certifies that Iran has not diverted uranium to military purposes.
What did Iran get in return for those concessions? Iranian money frozen since the 1979 Islamic revolution will be released and the economic warfare perpetrated by the United States and the rest of the world — euphemistically called “sanctions” — will eventually be ended.
In other words, Iran can rejoin the world economy — its people relieved of cruel economic warfare — if it gives up a weapons program it never had, never wanted, and did not plan to pursue. Those crafty Iranians! They acquired thousands of centrifuges as bargaining chips to be traded away for peaceful commercial relations with the world.
Israel’s rulers, like their American supporters, say they have another reason to hate the agreement. (For my own far different reservation, see this.) “Giving” Iran all that cash (it belongs to Iranians) will let the Islamic Republic pursue its aggressive aims in the Middle East, which include helping Israel’s enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Balderdash. Iran is not pursuing an aggressive policy in the Middle East, and it is sheer projection for an American or Israeli to make that charge. George W. Bush handed Shia-majority Iraq to Iran when he overthrew Iran’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein. Barack Obama is siding with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq. Iran’s ally, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, is under assault by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the United States. And the Houthis in Yemen, who get some Iranian help and are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have long struggled against the central government for self-rule, in response to which U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia is waging a bloody war of aggression.
Iran has supported Hamas, although the Palestinian group (like Israel) opposes Assad. But Hamas exists to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Likewise, Hezbollah arose to resist Israeli occupation of and periodic attacks on southern Lebanon. While some of Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s tactics have indeed been atrocious, their raison d’être is opposition to Israeli aggression — not terrorism.
There is no Iranian imperialism.
Nuclear Israel faces no threat. In the current turmoil it sides with Sunni Arabs, including al-Qaeda affiliates, against Iran, because turmoil serves Israel’s interests and Iran is a ready-made bête noire. Why does Israel need a manufactured threat? Because if Americans knew the truth, they might focus on the Palestinians’ plight. Israel and its Lobby cannot have that.