Palestinians displaced by Israeli strikes wait to get water from portable tanks near a makeshift encampment behind Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, July 26, 2014. (Joe Catron)
UNITED NATIONS — Israeli restrictions on Palestinian water use, as well as damage to water supplies and infrastructure by both Israeli forces and Jewish settlers, continue to deplete the already limited water supplies available to millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Water is used by the Israelis to achieve non-water interests, as a tool of punishment,” Dr. Abed Elrahman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group in Ramallah, told MintPress News.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of Palestinians within Israel continue to lack access to running water, despite their citizenship in the state and the equality they should receive under its laws.
Israel has limited the water available to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since its forces occupied the enclaves, placing them under military rule, in 1967.
‘Scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating’
The Oslo II Accord, signed by Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization on Sept. 28, 1995, formalized this disparity, imposing what Israeli newspaper Haaretz writer Amira Hass called “a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.”
The agreement afforded Palestinians 118 million cubic meters of water per year from the Mountain Aquifer that stretches into Israel from the West Bank, while obligating Israel to sell Palestinians a further 27.9 mcm annually at full price.
It also entitled Israel to claim 483 mcm per year – over four times as much – but allocated none to the Gaza Strip, which was left to rely on the small Coastal Aquifer.
According to its own terms, Oslo II should have terminated in Palestinian independence after five years, with a joint committee increasing Palestine’s water allocation through consensus in the meantime. Neither scenario has come to pass.
In coming years, Israel would make clear that it had no intention of ever ending its control of Palestinian water. A June 7, 1997 order reiterated its longstanding policy: “All the water in the land that was occupied again is the property of the State of Israel.”
Successive governments pushed new waves of settlement construction, universally considered war crimes under the fourth Geneva Convention, on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. By 2000, the number of settlers had swelled 26 percent.
Like earlier settlements, the sites of many new units were calculated to maximize Israeli control of Palestinian water. In 2001, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Haaretz : “Is it possible today to concede control of the aquifer, which supplies a third of our water? Is it possible to cede the buffer zone in the Jordan Rift Valley? You know, it’s not by accident that the settlements are located where they are.”
Israeli measures to cement its occupation, along with provocative raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, ultimately produced the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising that erupted on Sept. 28, 2000, five years to the day after Oslo II.
A vicious water cycle
Palestinians currently use no more than 11 percent of the Mountain Aquifer, with Israel enjoying the rest, according to the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 28 Palestinian and international agencies dealing with water issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, West Bank Palestinians purchase 50 mcm of water each year from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, paying $50 million for the return of their own resources at prices up to three times those charged to Israeli consumers.
Oslo II obligated Israel to increase its water sales to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from 5 to 10 mcm annually during the supposed five-year “interim period.” But only this year, following widespread condemnation of its military operation against the besieged enclave last summer, did it finally do so, meeting 5 percent of the water needs of a population that has more than doubled.
On September 1, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report repeated a warning, first made by the UN’s Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory in 2012, that the Gaza Strip could become unlivable by 2020.
UNCTAD cited the destruction of Gaza infrastructure during repeated Israeli offensives, including damage to 20-30% of the enclave’s water and sewer network, a water desalination plant, and 220 agricultural wells during last summer’s 51-day operation alone, as well as Israeli restrictions on economic development and reconstruction.
It also warned that “a severe water crisis” had forced the use of water from the Coastal Aquifer — 95% of it unfit for drinking — at levels “well above the recharge rate by over 100 million cubic meters, almost twice the sustainable rate.”
“The over-abstraction and scarcity of drinking water have been exacerbated by crumbling sanitation infrastructure, while the blockade creates chronic shortages of electricity and fuel, which in turn aggravate contamination and the water crisis,” the report said.
“The damage of contamination and over-abstraction is such that the aquifer may be unusable by 2016 and, if unaddressed, the damage may be irreversible by 2020.”
The total damage inflicted to the water sector by Israeli strikes last summer reached over $34 million, according to a report by the Palestinian Water Authority, although UNCTAD’s report says that “long-term repair of the accumulated damage and decay of the water and sanitation infrastructure will require $620 million.”
Palestinians have never extracted their full 118 mcm of water from the Mountain Aquifer, as Israeli restrictions on wells and other infrastructure across most of the West Bank prevent them from doing so.
These military orders stretch into the Gaza Strip, where the threat of airstrikes forces residents hoping to dig wells to first seek permits from the Israeli army.
While sometimes given there, such permission is usually denied in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli military administration, often on the claimed basis of Israeli security.
Israel targets unauthorized construction ruthlessly. Since the beginning of this year, its forces have destroyed 36 Palestinian water, hygiene and sanitation structures in Area C, usually citing their lack of permits, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data reviewed by EWASH.
Rare permits come at high prices. A 2013 study found that Israel usually conditions its approval of Palestinian water projects on the Palestinian Authority’s acquiescence to the construction of new settlement infrastructure, forcing the occupied population to “consent to their own colonization.”
As Palestinians, particularly in agricultural communities, scramble to meet their needs for water, Israel’s demolition of the necessary infrastructure, from pipes in Kafr Qaddum and Khirbet Yarza to wells in Hebron, continues.
The pollution resulting from the destruction of wastewater treatment facilities has further damaged Gaza’s already depleted aquifer, rendering over 90 percent of local water unfit for drinking.
In the West Bank, 73.5 percent of Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the quality of their water.
Yet the quantity remains woefully inadequate, as the average Palestinian can use only 70 liters of water per day – a figure that dips to 20 in some cases – while illegal Israeli settlers enjoy over 300. The World Health Organization suggests a minimum of 100 liters of water per day for sanitation, hygiene and consumption.
Confronted by a lack of water in some areas of the West Bank, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians face the “economic burden of purchasing water from tankers,” the Palestinian Hydrology Group’s Dr. Tamimi said.
In a March 2013 report, the Ramallah-based human rights group Al-Haq called Israel’s “demarcation of the population along racial lines,” their “segregation into different geographical areas” and the “use of ‘security’ to justify an institutionalized regime of domination and systematic oppression,” “the three pillars of Israel’s ‘water-apartheid.’”
“[A] second and disadvantaged Palestinian society living in the same territory is denied most of its basic rights,” Al-Haq stated. “Palestinians are forcibly confined to a land-locked archipelago of territory with minimal water resources available.”
This gross asymmetry extends inside Israel, where a June 2014 report by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality found that 73,000 Palestinian Bedouin, living in villages unrecognized by the state, lacked sufficient running water.
Despite paying 30 percent more than other consumers for the meager supplies of water they received, the Israeli Ministry of Health did not monitor its quality.
Palestinian water supplies face further threats from pollution by Israeli waste, both dumped from nearby illegal settlements and shipped from inside Israel.
A June 2013 Israeli state report found that a third of sewage treatment facilities in settlements were either insufficient or inoperative.
The previous year, it reported, 2.2 mcm of waste had flowed from settlements directly into nearby waterways and cesspits.
As many settlements stand on hills, much of this untreated sewage then becomes the problem of neighboring Palestinian communities whose farmlands and groundwater it pollutes.
“The settlement wastewater goes to the aquifers and pollutes the groundwater,” Dr. Tamimi said.
The city of Salfit and nearby town of Kafr al-Deek have been repeatedly drenched with sewage from the settlements of Ariel and Yakir, most recently on Wednesday, affecting their agriculture and tourism, as well as local water supplies.
“Josephine,” a volunteer for the Ramallah-based International Solidarity Movement, noted that settlement pollution does not stop with sewage. “Many factories let out polluted water and waste into the water sources that Palestinians use,” she told MintPress.
In February, after Palestinian customs police discovered a truck transporting asbestos from Israel to a landfill in Tulkarem, the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority warned against attempts to smuggle Israeli waste into the West Bank.
‘A form of racism’
On July 2, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel announced that Israel’s High Court had ruled in favor of its clients, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who had faced years of water shortages and cutoffs.
Their neighborhoods, lying within the Jerusalem boundaries claimed by Israel but beyond its West Bank barrier, had been “perennially neglected by both municipal and national water authorities,” ACRI said.
The court’s ruling ordered the National Security Council to “investigate and work to mitigate the water crisis in East Jerusalem.”
By the following month, a new water crisis had gripped Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank as governorates in Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and the Jordan Valley resorted to water schedules announcing planned cutoffs.
These windows of austerity, many Palestinians say, are nothing new. They often occur when demand for water is at its height, like during the hot summer months. Still, they never result in cutoffs inside illegal settlements or in Israel itself.
This disparate treatment, some think, aptly demonstrates the nature of the occupation itself. As Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti put it: “Restricting water and electricity is a form of racism.”
Israel’s government no longer bothers to deny the intended permanence of its occupation. Last week, as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely readied a diplomatic offensive against a pending European Union policy to label settlement products, she told the Times of Israel that withdrawals from “Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians.”
The occupied West Bank will remain under Israel’s “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said.
“It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it,” she continued, adding: “What I can promise is that Israel’s position will be very forceful and tough on this matter.”
A nonprofit legal advocacy organization has documented and responded to nearly 300 incidents of censorship, punishment, and other actions intended to “burden” advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The incidents point to a pervasive problem on American campuses, which is chilling the rights of individuals to engage in free speech.
The incidents are largely a result of pressure from defenders of Israel to the increased success of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli military occupation.
Palestine Legal, which was founded in 2012 to support the rights of Americans to speak out for Palestinian freedom, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) put together a “first of its kind” report focusing on the suppression of speech, expression, and activism over the past two years.
According to the report, the organization “responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression” in the first six months of 2015. In 2014, the organization “responded to 152 incidents” and “68 additional requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such actions.”
“The overwhelming majority of these incidents—89 percent in 2014 and 80 percent in the first half of 2015—targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights,” noted Palestine Legal.
Of incidents from the first six months of 2015, Palestine Legal found more than half involved “false accusations of anti-Semitism” based “solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.” About half of the incidents responded to in 2014 involved accusations of anti-Semitism based solely on criticism of Israeli policy.
Nearly a third of incidents in the first six months of 2015 stemmed from “false accusations of support for terrorism.” This was an increase, as only 13 percent of incidents in 2014 suggested Palestinian advocates supported terrorism.
“The claim that Palestine activists support terrorism frequently relies on anti-Muslim and xenophobic stereotypes about the inherent violence and hateful worldviews of Arab, Muslim, and international students,” the report states.
Most importantly, the accusations are “baseless,” because “no links between terrorism and student activism for Palestinian rights have been substantiated.”
Dima Khalidi, the director for Palestine Legal, noted the organization had interviewed hundreds of students, professors, administrators, and others. Eighty-five percent of the incidents took place on 65 college and university campuses and in 24 different states.
“We’re not just talking about a handful of isolated incidents,” Khalidi declared. “This is really a widespread problem that affects hundreds of people across the country.”
A “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups is vilification
Israel advocacy groups, university administrators, and government officials accuse Palestinian human rights activists of anti-Semitism or “supporting Hamas” to frighten them into abandoning their organizing. Several students informed Palestine Legal false accusations “would hinder their ability to find a job or travel.”
As the report acknowledges, “The speech activities of Palestinian-American, Arab-American, and Muslim students routinely subject them to heightened harassment, intimidation, and discriminatory treatment in the midst of a post-9/11 climate in which their communities already face infringements of their civil liberties.”
Vilification is a “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups. One student falsely accused of associating with terrorists suggested, “The underlying message [is] that if you speak out too loudly or work too hard … anti-Palestinian activist[s] will smear you just like [they] tried to smear me.”
These accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism coerce campus administrators into restricting and punishing students or scholars for their speech.
Fodder for character assassination against Palestinian human rights activists sometimes comes from surveillance of social media. Organizations “identify out-of-context quotations, Facebook posts, and other material.”
In January 2015, as the report highlights, “The Reut Institute reportedly held a ‘hackathon,’ in which Israeli officials and a number of other Israeli advocacy groups participated, aimed at exploring ways to gather intelligence on and target individuals involved in Palestine solidarity work. In its June 2015 strategy document, the Reut Institute highlighted the need to ‘out-name-shame the delegitimizers’ as a strategy to fight BDS, recommending the use of ‘all available firepower—financial, social, legal, etc.’”
A shady outfit called Canary Mission put out a “list of organizations and activists it accused of supporting terrorism, including campus chapters of the Muslim Student Association, which it refers to as a ‘virtual terror factory.”
The list was published for the express McCarthyist purpose of “exposing” individuals and student groups to make it harder for them to obtain positions in school and earn jobs after graduation.
Students have reported being spied upon by Israeli consulate officials. For example, in 2014, students reported members of the Israeli consul general’s entourage “photographed pro-divestment student campaigners as they spoke with other students and leafleted.”
The surveillance was part of acts to disrupt a divestment vote on campus. Students with family and friends in occupied Palestine expressed concern “such surveillance could have serious consequences” as it might allow Israel to block them from entering Israel and the West Bank to visit family.
Additionally, the comprehensive report examines various other tactics used against activists, including: official denunciation, bureaucratic barriers, cancellations and alterations of academic and cultural events, administrative sanctions, threats to academic freedom, lawsuits and legal threats, legislation, and criminal investigations and prosecutions.
“All of these tactics—individually and in the aggregate—threaten the First Amendment rights of people who seek to raise awareness about Palestinian human rights and challenge the dominant perspective in this country, which discounts Israel’s discriminatory and violent government policies,” the report asserts.
Multiple examples of tactics used against activists
The report details several examples of instances when these tactics were wielded to disrupt and stifle actions.
In February 2015, DePaul University’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter sought to hold a fundraising event for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American organizer who was tortured by Israeli forces into confessing that she played a role in a 1967 bombing. The United States government prosecuted her for lying about her past history in immigration documents.
DePaul administrators imposed security fees on the SJP because of a “planned counter-protest,” which led administrators to determine they might need the protection. Four security guards were detailed, and SJP was billed $480. After being forced to subsidize risk from threatened opposition, SJP could not afford to pay the bill and lost the privilege to reserve space for events on campus.
On October 8, 2014, John Jay College instructed the SJP chapter not to “use sheet covered in red paint (representing blood),” as they did during their “Die In/Vigil from Ferguson to Gaza” action. The instruction was a response to pro-Israeli students, who claimed they “felt uncomfortable with the message.”
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign violated Professor Steven Salaita’s academic freedom when they terminated him in 2014 over tweets he sent reacting to Israel’s assault on Gaza.
At Montclair State University, the student government initially sanctioned the university’s SJP for handing out “offensive” pamphlets. The literature led SGA to “fine the group five percent of its fall semester budget” and an order to cease distribution of all “political propaganda.” The brochure focused on Israeli settlements and the loss of Palestinian land from 1946 to 2000.
In April 2013, Northeastern University placed SJP members on “probation” after they walked out of a campus event featuring a soldier from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Offficials warned the students before the event not to hold signs or engage in “vocal disruption.”
“Students decided to tape the names of Palestinian children killed by the IDF to their shirts and planned a walkout,” the report notes. “During a pause in the presentation, one SJP student stood up and stated, ‘The IDF are war criminals and they are not welcome on our campus,” then proceeded to walk out with other students, who spontaneously chanted ‘Free Palestine’ as they left the room.”
Students were investigated by university administrators, and the university canceled a lecture the SJP had planned with Dr. Abu Sitta. The students were later charged with violations of school codes, and after a hearing, SJP was found to have violated “demonstration policy.” They were on probation until December 2013 and forced to write a “civility statement.”
In November 2010, Rutgers University administrators refused to allow students, who raised money for the Gaza Flotilla, to disburse those funds after Hillel alleged the fundraising constituted “material support for terrorism.”
Rather stunningly, University of California President Mark Yudof issued a rare public statement in February 2012 after activists disrupted an event, which compared Palestinian rights activism to incidents of racism. He likened the “hecklers” to the “hanging of nooses” on black students’ dorm doors or putting “swastikas on Jewish students’ property. He pledged to get the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance involved to “improve campus climate for all students.”
In the spring semester of 2015, the University of Toledo student government caved to Israeli advocacy groups and blocked the public from attending a divestment hearing, a violation of the Open Meetings Act in Ohio. Attendance by SJP members was restricted, as they were forced to sit in a “separate room” away from Hillel students. Student senators were blocked from voting on the resolution. But outcry eventually led to the resolution coming up for a vote and it passed “overwhelmingly.”
One of the more stunning examples involves eleven University of California-Irvine students, who were criminally prosecuted in 2010 for walking out of a speech by then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. They were charged with misdemeanors for disrupting a public meeting, and the jury found ten of the students guilty.
The numbers do not necessarily tell the full story of how organizing is being suppressed. These are only incidents, which were reported to Palestine Legal so the organization could provide assistance.
“They’re really only the tip of the iceberg with a lot more incidents that go unreported,” Khalidi added.
However, the report clearly demonstrates how heavy-handed tactics are being used to intimidate Palestinian human rights activists and chill their criticism of Israeli policies against Palestinians.
Reprieve – October 2, 2015
The US government has asked a D.C. court to dismiss the case of a Yemeni man whose family members were killed by a US drone strike, on the basis that he has no legal ‘standing’ to bring a case against them.
Earlier this year, Mr bin Ali Jaber filed a lawsuit against President Obama, seeking a declaration from a federal court in Washington, D.C., that the 2012 strike was unlawful and his innocent relatives were wrongfully killed. The Obama administration yesterday filed a motion asking the court to dismiss Mr bin Ali Jaber’s case entirely. They argued that Mr Jaber has no standing – i.e. that he has no legal right to bring his case in the US – and that whether a US drone killed his relatives is a ‘political question’ that no court should review.
However, in November 2013 Mr bin Ali Jaber travelled to Washington, D.C. where he had meetings with White House and NSC officials about his relative’s deaths. No US official suggested then that Mr. Jaber, who is the appointed representative of the Jaber family estates, lacked authority to speak for the family.
Faisal lost his nephew Waleed and his brother-in-law Salem in a US drone attack in the village of Khashamir on August 29 2012. Waleed was a local policeman, and Salem was an imam who was known for speaking out against al-Qaeda in his sermons – including on the Friday before he was killed. After the strike and Faisal’s travels to the US, Faisal’s relatives were given a plastic bag containing $100,000 in sequentially-marked US dollar bills as a condolence payment, but the US has never admitted responsibility for the killings.
Mr bin Ali Jaber had previously written to the White House offering to settle the case on one condition – that he receive a public apology from the US. He did so in the footsteps of President Obama’s apology, earlier this year, to the families of Giovanni Lo Porto and Warren Weinstein, an Italian and an American citizen who were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in January. It marked the first known US acknowledgement of responsibility for civilian deaths under the drone programme.
In a letter to President Obama, Cori Crider – Mr bin Ali Jaber’s lawyer at human rights organization Reprieve – writes: “I write today to make a formal offer of settlement. In consideration for dropping this lawsuit, Mr. Jaber asks for nothing more than what you gave the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto: an apology and an explanation as to why a strike that killed two innocent civilians was authorized.”
Covert strikes by the CIA in Yemen and Pakistan are believed to have killed hundreds of civilians, but the US has never formally admitted responsibility beyond the deaths of Mr Lo Porto and Mr Weinstein.
Cori Crider, attorney for Faisal bin Ali Jaber and a director at international human rights charity Reprieve, said: “Once again we see the yawning gulf between this President’s rhetoric on drones and the reality. President Obama once said innocent drone deaths would haunt him as long as he lives – so why, then, does sorry seem to be the hardest word? It is insulting to my client to be told he has no right to represent his family’s estate, when White House officials certainly thought he was worthy of meetings in Washington. The US is now trying its level best to block Faisal’s quest for justice by kicking him out of the courts. There is no good reason that the President stood up in front of the world with the Lo Porto and Weinstein families to say sorry for the US’ tragic mistake, but can’t do so for a Yemeni man. The hypocrisy of the Administration’s stance sends a harmful message, telling the entire Muslim world that its lives have no value to the United States.”
Hebron, occupied Palestine – On the second day of the Jewish Sukkot holiday, hundreds of settlers continued filing into al-Khalil (Hebron) creating mass restrictions and sharp escalations in violence against Palestinians living here. Over a period of two hours dozens of them continuously invaded the roof of the Palestinian Abu Shamsiyye family home where several small children live.
Laughing and trying to gain vantage point to view Israeli forces teargassing, stun grenading and firing rubber coated steel bullet projectiles into crowds of Palestinians in the Bab al-Zawiya area of H-1 Hebron, the settlers spit and cursed at the children, darted towards them to frighten them, called them “Arab terrorists” and one male settler charged at and punched a female ISM international human rights monitor as she filmed him trespassing on the roof. The settler was allowed to leave the scene without incident as Israeli forces stood present but did nothing.
Shortly thereafter, as a Palestinian man and his two young sons tried to exit the gate fronting their home, a crowd of a dozen settler boys sat and stood in front of the gate blocking his exit as he politely asked to be allowed to pass. For fifteen minutes the boys kept the man and his sons trapped until an Israeli soldier finally came and told them to move.
Through the sounds of stun grenading and the blasts of high powered rubber coated steel bullets being showered onto Palestinians by Israeli forces just past checkpoint 56, the settlers, of all ages, took turns standing in the Israeli military post where they posed for photos, shouted curses and racial abuses at Palestinians and international human rights monitors and cheered each time a blast rang out.
This was the situation just outside the Abu Shamsiyye family home alone. But hundreds of Palestinian families have been literally under siege during the Jewish Sukkot holiday began yesterday as their roads have been closed, their businesses have been attacked, their children have been arrested and their streets have undergone hours of endless assault by heavily armed Israeli forces both on roofs as well as in the streets to allow for settlers to move freely through Palestinian governed areas it is illegal for them to be, in so they could pray in the streets.
The misery continues for Palestinians existing in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron).
… Filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman freelancing for France 2, Jamal al-Durrah and his 12-year-old son Muhammad are seen, backs pressed against the wall, Jamal’s arm shielding his young son whose mouth is oval with what must have been a paralyzing fear. And then the shots.
When the cloud of dust cleared, the boy is on his side, draped over his father’s lap.
Throughout an enduing four and a half year widespread Palestinian resistance, with all of its gut wrenching failures, and with the solace and strengths of solidarity en masse coming from both the history before the second intifada and the aftermath in its wake, the slaughter of Muhammad al-Durrah continues to be a defining moment. A young boy viewed guilty through the eyes of the Israeli military due only to the origin of his birth.
In the investigation to follow, an Israeli-initiated tug of war of blame across the grave of and over Muhammad’s murder ensued. Where initially the Israeli government took blame and expressed public relational regret with an apology, that space soon became occupied with denials, accusations and disturbing tales of Palestinian’s faking the boy’s death. If only Palestinians weren’t so busy mourning the actual mass murders of their children in order to be able to spontaneously arrange for the staged murder of one, a second intifada might not have been necessary, nor a third or a fourth for that matter.
Without politicizing the end of a human life, in a 67 year crime drenched in politics; fifteen years ago today a terrified little boy was shot to death while he hid beside his father. And the world should remember his name.
Warning graphic content! Raw footage of Mohammed ad-Durrah’s final moments of his life:
Israel, The New York Times tells us, has vowed to crack down on violence in Jerusalem, allowing the use of live fire against Palestinians who take to “rock throwing and firebombing,” expanding the rules of engagement and lengthening sentences for such crimes.
In a story titled “Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem,” Isabel Kershner quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls such Palestinian weaponry “deadly and murderous objects,” which have been “thrown without response and without being thwarted.”
It is noteworthy that Netanyahu, responsible for bombing and strafing the 1.8 million residents of Gaza, can say these words without a hint of irony. It is also striking that the Times can report his utterances without pointing out the full context here—the lopsided nature of the conflict.
In fact, it is the Palestinians who face a deadly enemy: Israel possesses armored vehicles, automatic rifles, drones, rockets, fighter jets, smart bombs and sophisticated surveillance equipment, all of them more “deadly and murderous” than Palestinian rocks. As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel also has a stockpile of up to 300 nuclear weapons, which can be launched by air, land or sea.
Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have nothing more than stones, firecrackers, kitchen knives and homemade firebombs. The mortality figures reflect this disparity: Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank (settlers have killed at least another three), while Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of four Israelis within the West Bank and Israel combined.
Yet the Times strains to make Israelis appear as the victims, giving voice to the claims of Netanyahu, playing down Palestinian deaths and hyping Israeli casualties. A recent headline declared, “Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem,” suggesting that the driver was stoned to death. In fact, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car and ran into a light pole. The Times story cites only one object hitting the car.
By contrast, the paper gives a bland and ambiguous title to the story of a young Palestinian woman who died from a barrage of Israeli bullets last week as she tried to cross a checkpoint in Hebron. This news appears under the title, “2 Are Killed in West Bank as Jewish and Muslim Holidays Approach.”
Readers find no hint of the bloody assault on 18-year-old Hadeel Al Hashlamoun in this headline, and the Times has also failed to report that Amnesty International termed her killing a “extrajudicial execution” and called for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations” into her death.
Firsthand accounts say that an Israeli soldier shot Al Hashlamoun in the leg, and when she lay motionless on the ground, approached her and fired several more shots into her abdomen. Witnesses add that soldiers refused to let a Palestinian ambulance approach her and left her to bleed for about half an hour before allowing an Israeli ambulance to arrive and take her away. Video footage also shows a soldier grabbing her by a foot as she lay bleeding on the ground and dragging her out of camera sight.
This is raw violence with “deadly and murderous” arms, but the Times and Netanyahu do not find the word “violence” appropriate here. They reserve its use for Palestinians who throw rocks and firecrackers, never applying it to the atrocities of Israeli security forces. The irony and hypocrisy in this discourse seem to elude them entirely.
In a story that appeared online yesterday, the Times reports that four Palestinian youths have been arrested for throwing rocks at the car of the man who died after crashing in East Jerusalem. This news is in striking contrast to the latest, disturbing developments in the case of three Palestinian family members who died in an arson attack.
When news broke of the fire that killed a toddler in the West Bank village of Duma and led to the later deaths of his mother and father, the Times quoted the reactions of Israeli politicians at length and described Jewish Israeli “soul searching” over the deaths. The paper also noted that some extremist settlers had been arrested but that no one accused of the Duma arson was in custody.
The Times ran several stories immediately after the arson attack, reporting that Netanyahu vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but after running a brief article when the mother died earlier this month, the newspaper has been silent, even though there is news to tell: Israeli officials know who committed the crime but do not plan to arrest them.
Israeli media have reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted that the names of the suspects are known but the defense establishment has not arrested anyone “to avoid revealing intelligence sources in court.”
So we have the quick arrest of four youths suspected of throwing rocks and (perhaps) indirectly causing the death of an Israeli driver, while those responsible for burning and killing three innocent Palestinians go free. The remarks by Ya’alon add even more irony to Netanyahu’s complaint that rock throwing occurs “without response and without being thwarted.”
The Times has shown itself to be tone deaf to such dissonance in the Israeli narrative. Far from analyzing or commenting on the hypocrisy of vilifying rock throwers, it has worked to support this deliberate distortion of the reality in Palestine.
So in the Times we find silence concerning official complicity in settler crimes, efforts to portray Israelis as victims and a refusal to state the obvious: Killing civilians with the world’s most sophisticated weapons ranks high on the scale of violence, far above the efforts of Palestinian youth who face armored soldiers and tanks with slingshots and stones.
Yesterday, the University of California Board of Regents held an open meeting allowing students, faculty, members of the UC community, and other interested parties to share their thoughts on UC’s proposed Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.
The statement came about after the UC Regents decided not to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Free speech advocates pointed out that a public university’s adoption of this definition as policy would raise serious First Amendment concerns and chill protected speech, including criticism of Israel’s government.
Earlier this week, FIRE’s Will Creeley explained that while the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance doesn’t include the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, it still impermissibly chills speech by telling students that certain viewpoints don’t belong at their university, encouraging them to report such views, and promising a “prompt” and “effective” institutional response. Will told the Associated Press yesterday that the policy, if implemented, would create “a kind of race to the bottom, sooner or later, by public universities punishing students or faculty for a particular viewpoint.”
Given the First Amendment concerns over both proposed policies, that this open meeting was held on Constitution Day was fitting. Many speakers at yesterday’s meeting agreed that the new proposed policy was a bad idea—but, unfortunately, for a different reason: they want UC to draft a policy that is even more hostile to speech.
The suggestions put forth and the demands made during the meeting were alarming. Despite having only one minute to share their thoughts, plenty of speakers managed to find time to demand that UC violate its students’ speech rights and ignore its obligations under the First Amendment. (Note: The following may include minor transcription errors.)
Comments from the UC Campus Community
Gary Fouse, an adjunct at UC Irvine, claimed that UC’s current proposed statement against intolerance is “useless” without the incorporation of the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism:
The Israeli-Palestinian debate has led to an atmosphere where many Jewish students who support Israel are often spending their college years in a climate of intimidation, not just from Pro-Palestinian students but in many cases from professors in the classroom. The problem is not neo-Nazis or skinheads. Rather, it is the pro-Palestinian lobby such as the Students for Justice in Palestine, BDS promoters and other faculty allies. Each year these groups invite speakers to campus, some of whom cross the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to attacking Jews as people.
But it’s not up to public university officials to decide what criticism of a foreign government is legitimate or forbidden, and, in turn, to demand everyone at the university abide by their perceptions of “legitimate criticism.” The idea of a public institution doing so should trouble anyone who believes in the fundamental importance of the right to dissent. In fact, President Obama made similar arguments this week at a town hall meeting when he said “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” and that silencing arguments we oppose is “not the way we learn.”
Another commenter, a UC Berkeley alum, pointed out the absurdity of Fouse’s argument:
When I was a student at Berkeley, it was criticizing the US government that wasn’t permitted. In fact, we had to have a free speech movement in 1964 in order to have any political speech on campus. So now apparently criticizing the Israeli government is going to be banned.
As this commenter suggested, it’s noteworthy that students in the UC system have historically fought especially hard for their First Amendment rights—rights that should not be so easily set aside.
A group of UC students made a joint statement together saying that the State Department definition of anti-Semitism is “the only existing definition that is capable of addressing the nuanced hatred that we experienced on our campuses today.” If UC follows the advice of these speakers and a majority of those present at this meeting, it will be adopting a deeply troubling policy.
Another worrisome trend in this meeting was the use of criminal or violent acts as examples of why this policy is needed. Several commenters brought up examples of vandalism, including swastikas drawn on fraternity houses and violence against Jewish students, to justify the adoption of the State Department’s definition. But these actions are criminal—they’re already illegal. Trying to target such acts through this new policy is not only superfluous, but would implicate constitutionally protected political speech in the process.
The Regents Respond
Comments from the Regents themselves were hardly any better.
While Regent John Perez’s acknowledged that the State Department’s definition could potentially limit academic freedom, that was one of the few displays of sound judgment.
The most worrying statements came from Regent Richard C. Blum, whose wife is United States Senator Dianne Feinstein. Blum said earlier in the meeting that “we’ve been too tolerant, too patient about all this for too long,” and continued:
I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want. Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.
Yes, a UC Regent flatly threatened the university with political consequences if it failed to craft a “tolerance” policy that would punish—and even expel—its violators.
The consequences of this suggestion are grave: If UC adopts the State Department definition of anti-Semitism (or any policy banning criticism or intolerance), and accedes to Blum’s demands, students could potentially face expulsion for any language a person subjectively believes is “intolerant.”
Regent Hadi Makarechian later echoed Blum’s demands, stating:
I just wanted to say that I agree with Regent Blum, that principles are great, rejection of actions are great, but we need to address the punishment. If we don’t have punishment we’re just putting a lot of paper together. We’re just stating a lot of stuff on pieces of paper.
The board concluded the meeting by saying there was more work to be done, and announcing the formation of a working group, led by Regent Eddie Island. Island said he would compose a group of university stakeholders who would work together to craft a policy that addressed concerns about both intolerance and freedom of speech.
We at FIRE believe robust protections for freedom of speech accomplish both goals by providing a platform to debate the merits (or lack thereof) of intolerance in the marketplace of ideas.
Hopefully this working group recognizes that more speech and the hard work of convincing someone they’re wrong are the only real, effective remedies against intolerance. UC students and faculty who value free speech and academic freedom should watch these developments very closely.
Dozens of Israeli soldiers, police officers and undercover forces, invaded on Monday morning, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, fired gas bombs and concussion grenades causing many injuries, before forcibly removing the worshipers, and surrounded dozens in the Al-Qibli Mosque
Eyewitnesses said around 150 soldiers and officers invaded the holy site, and started forcing the Palestinians out by firing gas bombs, concussion grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, and several live rounds.
The soldiers also assaulted many Palestinians with clubs and batons.
The invasion also led to clashes between the invading troops and Palestinians, in the mosque and its courtyards.
The Israeli attack caused fires at the main entrance of the al-Qibli mosque, but local firefighters, working for the Islamic Waqf Department, managed to contain it before it spread.
Many residents were injured, and received treatment by Palestinian medics, in the Mosque’s clinic.
The army also used special tools to remove wooden doors and windows of the Al-Qibli Mosque, and hurled several concussion grenades into it.
In addition, soldiers stationed at the gates leading to Al-Aqsa, prevented dozens of worshipers from entering the mosque’s courtyards, especially through Bab Hatta and the Chain Gate.
The soldiers then assaulted many Palestinians, and started pushing them away.
The removal of the worshipers was carried out while dozens of Israeli fanatics gathered nearby, and marched into the mosque’s courtyards under heaving army and police accompaniment.
RAMALLAH – Israeli occupation forces have arrested over 90,000 Palestinians since the start of Al-Aqsa Intifada on September 28th, 2000, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said on Sunday.
Such arrests targeted all categories of Palestinian society, including injured civilians, sick persons, girls, children, MPs, lawmakers, and the elderly, the documentation department at the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported.
The Palestinian arrestees included 12,000 children below the age of 18 and 1,200 women, four among whom gave birth to newborns in Israeli lock-ups.
The commission added that there are 200 children and 25 women still behind Israeli bars.
According to the report, the Israeli occupation arrested more than 65 lawmakers and ministers over the same period.
The Israeli occupation authorities issued 25,000 new or renewed administrative sentences against the Palestinian detainees. 480 inmates are still held administratively in Israeli jails.
At least 83 Palestinian detainees died of harsh torture and preplanned medical neglect in Israeli jails since 2000. Dozens of others died shortly after they were released as they succumbed to diseases they caught while jailed.
The Palestinian detainees suffered all kinds of torture and maltreatment during their arrest period, the group further documented.
Labour Friends of Israel, a pro-“Israel” political advocacy group, has invited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to speak at its annual reception(1) in Brighton on Tuesday. The power of the “Israeli” lobby in Whitehall(2) is not news to those with a keen eye on British politics. That being said, for any British voter this should raise eyebrows at the very least.
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is a Jewish lobby group(3) which,
“promotes a negotiated two state solution for two peoples; with Israel safe, secure and recognised within its borders; living alongside a democratic, independent Palestinian state”
The above synopsis, garbed in liberal, peaceful and noble language, gives LFI (and “Israel”) an innocuous image to the layperson.
Typical of Zionist rhetorical trickery, this false appraisal is fraudulent for a number of reasons.
“Israel” has to this day not declared its borders for the simple reason that it has an expansionist, hegemonic agenda. It exists on land (every inch – from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea) it violently stole from the native Palestinians in 1948. The actual goal of LFI (as with CFI and LDFI – the Conservative and Liberal Democrat sister lobbies) is to influence British policy to ensure continued British support for the brutal, immoral and illegal occupation of Palestine and the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.
“Israel”: Friend or Foe?
“Israel” is a belligerent foreign nation whose interests are far removed from those of Britain.
We are talking about a country that can fake British passports and use them to commit murder on foreign soil with complete and total impunity.(4) We are talking about a nation that celebrates the slaughter of Britons in a Jewish terror attack on a Jerusalem hotel.(5) We are talking about a nation whose cowardly snipers can murder British civilians(6) with zero legal or diplomatic repercussions.
“Israel” is by no means a friend of Britain, so why should British party leaders be humiliated into proving they are “friends” of hers? Here we have a lobby group representing a belligerent foreign nation, that has the power to summon party leaders to explain themselves like naughty schoolchildren.
Aside from brazenly representing a foreign nation from within the British Parliament, Ryan has demonstrated her contempt for the British taxpayer and voter in other ways – namely by disgracing herself in the MP expenses scandal.
In October 2007, the Evening Standard reported that in the 2006/2007 tax year, Ryan claimed a staggering £173,691 in expenses(7) – more than any other MP.
The British voter could be forgiven for asking Ryan where her loyalties lie – with Britain? Or with the belligerent foreign nation that she duplicitously represents?
That a foreign lobbying organisation can subvert the political decision making process in such a brazen way – with Jewish MPs literally acting as moles in parliament – makes a mockery of British democracy. I shudder to imagine the tsunami of outrage that would ensue if Muslim MPs were in the same position, lobbying for a hostile foreign government.
(1) ‘Labour Friends of Israel invites Jeremy Corbyn to explain his Palestine policy to them’ – The Independent, 22 September 2015.
(2) ‘All in the Family: David Cameron’s Jewish Roots and the Coreligionists Who Brought Him to Power’ – EmpireStrikesBlack, 7 January 2014.
(3) ‘About Labour Friends of Israel’ – lfi.org.uk, 27 September 2015.
(4) ‘Dubai Hamas assassination: ‘Israeli hit-squad’ used fake British passports’ – The Telegraph, 17 February 2010.
(5) ‘Israel celebrates Irgun hotel bombers’ – The Telegraph, 22 July 2006.
(6) ‘In memory of Tom Hurndall, shot in the head by Israeli sniper 10 years ago today’ – tomhurndall.co.uk, 11 April 2013.
(7) ‘Revealed: London MPs claiming £9m expenses’ – Evening Standard, 26 October 2007.
Nabi Saleh, occupied Palestine – On the 28th of August, Mahmoud Tamimi was arrested in Nabi Saleh during the weekly non violent demonstration. Every Friday, just after the prayer, the residents demonstrate against the expansion of the illegal settlement of Halamish which has continuously confiscated Palestinian land as well as the only water source of the village: ‘Ain al-Qaws.
During the Friday march towards the expropriated lands the residents were stopped by Israeli forces using excessive brutality, shooting tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition and sound grenades against civilians. Additionally, demonstrators are often arrested and beaten up.
On the 28th of August, in the course of the demonstration I, as a foreigner, was arrested by Israeli forces together with the 19-year old Palestinian Mahmoud Tamimi.
Both of us have been brutally beaten by the soldiers with punches, kicks and the butts of their guns. Both of us were arrested and secluded for 6 hours, kept blindfolded and handcuffed in a small room in a military base.
Afterwards, we were taken to the police station based in the illegal settlement of Ben Yamin and, at that point, our paths were divided: he was brought to the military prison of Ofer and I was brought to “Ramle” near Tel Aviv.
Within a few days, my predicament was positively solved: I was acquitted from the charges of throwing stones and other objects, and returned to be a free citizen. Regarding Mahmoud, although the charges were exactly the same, because he’s Palestinian, the situation is completely different: in fact Mahmoud is still under arrest in Ofer military prison and is waiting to attend his first hearing, to be held on the 28th of October, that is 60 days after his arrest. In my case, the first hearing took place the day after my arrest.
Israeli soldier arresting Mahmoud
Mahmoud is now under threat of a penalty of a minimum of 7 months which, under the practice of military law and consequently administrative detention used on the Palestinians of the West Bank, this sentence can be arbitrarily renewed for additional 6 month periods of imprisonment.
The absolute asymmetry of treatment endured by me and Mahmoud is a blatant demonstration of the discriminatory laws applied by Israel for over 40 years towards the Palestinians. According to the International law, the application of military laws in occupied territories is completely illegitimate.
Israeli soldiers use brutal force on Mahmoud
Mahmoud will be accused by military personnel covering the role of persecutors and will be judged by some other military personnel covering also the role of judges. He doesn’t have the right to be tried in front of a civilian court, although Mahmoud is a civilian – and not a soldier. All of this because he’s a Palestinian.
Even if the evidence does not indicate his guilt, just the fact that he’s in a military court with both the prosecutor and the judge from the military, will most likely result in a guilty verdict. The procedures in military court are not about establishing the truth, the possibility of establishing a defense is extremely slim, justice simply isn’t done in a military court. It’s about punishment, punishment to weaken the Palestinian resistance to an illegal occupation, even if this resistance is non-violent.
Mahmoud in court
Within this system, it must be said, settlers from illegal settlements in the West Bank are judged in front of civilian courts, not military courts – just because they have a different status: they are not Palestinians.
In my case, hard evidence would be required to bring charges against me, for Mahmoud in contrast, as a Palestinian, no evidence is required at all. All the trial is only based on the statement of 18-year old soldiers.
Of course, when an international is unjustly beaten and arrested the media reacts with utter disapproval attracting the medias’ attention and causing the civil society’s indignation. When it’s a Palestinian receiving the exact same treatment, however, the reaction is quite different. Mahmoud‘s case seems to be totally forgotten. Currently he is still rotting in a prison cell in Ofer military prison, while being entirely ignored by the media and the international community.
Mahmoud Tamimi is only 19 years old, he has 2 brothers and a sister. His uncle is Rushdie Tamimi, one of Nabi Saleh’s martyrs killed by the Israeli forces 3 years ago on the 19th of November. He died following an intense shooting during which he was inured in the thigh and the stomach. Rushdie is already the second martyr in a village which counts only 500 inhabitants. Considering the dimension of the village, they are indeed suffering from significant losses. However, we must keep in mind that in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the violence and the killings are daily and are perceived by the so called civilized world as casualties of a 60 year old conflict.
Mahmoud at al-Aqsa mosque
Let’s take a stand and spread Mahmoud’s story, let’s not forget him. We should show the world that the treatment a Palestinian youth receives – and thus the live of a Palestinian – is not less worth reporting about in the media and has to receive as much attention and result in an outcry as that of an Italian citizen. Let this not be about the rare case of an international being maltreated by Israeli forces, but about the every-day harassment, violence, illegal detentions and arrests of Palestinians.
BETHLEHEM – Three Palestinian youth were injured by live Israeli fire during clashes that erupted in the town of Tuqu in southeastern Bethlehem on Friday.
Locals told Ma’an that Israeli military forces arrived to the town and were deployed onto the rooftops of resident’s homes, targeting youth with bullets and tear-gas.
Clashes had erupted between the youth and Israeli forces around the town’s municipality building when Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring the three youth in the legs with live fire, locals said.
The youth received aid at the town’s medical clinic before being taken to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital by Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances.
Their injuries were reported as moderate.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that clashes with the forces began after “about 30 rioters” started throwing rocks near the main road outside the town.
The clashes then moved inside of the town and Israeli forces responded to the youth throwing rocks with “riot dispersal means,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson had no reports of Israeli soldiers entering private homes and deploying on rooftops.
Earlier Friday, the chief of police in the Nablus district and his three-year-old daughter were injured after being shot by Israeli forces with rubber-coated bullets during a raid in the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya.
A weekly average of 39 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces since the start of 2015. The majority of injuries sustained by Palestinians occur during unarmed demonstrations.
Rights organizations have argued that methods of crowd control used by Israeli forces often result in excessive and sometimes fatal use of force.