Bothaina Al-Najjar, 42, is fearful and cautious while harvesting the wheat and barley on her farm. She can hear the Israeli tanks roaring just a couple of hundred metres away from the Gaza Strip city of Kuza’a. On Friday, Israeli snipers positioned on the Gaza border in the north of the besieged territory shot a Palestinian farmer, causing him serious injuries.
This is an almost daily experience, she told Anadolu reporter Hani Al-Shaer. Israeli tanks could be seen from time to time aiming their barrels towards them during the interview. They also felt that they were in the cross-hairs of Israeli snipers.
Wearing her traditional dark dress and almost hidden by the wheat crop, she said, “I come to my farm in the early morning and start working very fast in case I am targeted by the Israeli forces.” She does not know why the Israelis target the Palestinians in their land. “We are civilians and they know very well that we pose no danger to them.” Al-Najjar added that she and her family have been there for decades.
Nearby, the Anadolu journalist spotted a 70-year old man who was, along with his wife and sister, harvesting their barley crop. Mahmoud Qdeeh had arrived on his farm at 9:30am. When Al-Shaer approached to speak to him, gunfire could be heard, fired from the Israeli side of the border.
Qdeeh ignored the shots, but his sister insisted that he should leave. They collected what they had harvested, packed it onto a donkey cart and fled.
Recalling her youth, Al-Najjar told the journalist that at harvest time the farmers used to prepare big meals and invite their neighbours to eat. “But, after 2000, the Israeli occupation razed hundreds of acres of Palestinian farmland and made our lives hell.”
Waste outside an abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation, Cameron, Arizona (Image from ehp.niehs.nih.gov)
As part of a cleanup settlement, the US will pay out more than $13 million to start dealing with hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation territory. Navajo officials tell RT it is just the first step on a long road ahead.
The money will be put into an “environmental response trust” managed by the Navajo Nation with the support of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
“It will provide us with funding to do a very specific task under the cleanup process that’s authorized by the federal superfund law,” Stephen Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation’s EPA, told RT’s Ben Swann.
The funds will cover evaluations of 16 abandoned mines throughout Navajo lands, chosen from a list of 46 priority sites. There are hundreds of sites that still need to be addressed. By one estimate, there are more than 1,200 abandoned uranium mines within the borders of the Navajo Nation, a 27,000-square-mile territory stretching across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
The EPA says it has repaired 34 homes, surveyed 521 mines, compiled a list of 46 priority sites for cleanup, and performed stabilization or cleanup work at nine mines so far. The agency has also provided safe drinking water to more than 1,800 families.
A 2014 settlement set aside $985 million from a multi-billion dollar settlement with subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corp to clean up approximately 50 abandoned Kerr-McGee mining operations in the Navajo Nation.
Federal surveyors found rich uranium deposits on Navajo lands in the 1940s, and the government authorized private contractors to extract the ore for US weapons and energy needs. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the area between 1944 and 1986, after which the mining was halted. The federal government, through the Atomic Energy Commission, was the sole purchaser of the ore until 1966.
Navajo miners worked without any kind of protective gear or decontamination protocols for wages sometimes less than $1 an hour. In her 2011 book, Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed, journalist Judy Pasternak wrote that the miners suffered radiation exposure four times that of the Japanese exposed to nuclear bombs during World War II.
In the 1950s, cancer rates among the Navajos were so low, they were thought naturally immune, wrote environmental journalist Sonia Luokkala. By 2004, cancer had become the leading cause of illness and death among the Navajo.
A 2014 survey by the EPA of about 500 abandoned mines found radiation levels up to 25 times higher than normal. Many of the mines with the highest radiation levels were found within a quarter mile of human habitation.
“Chronic exposure is definitely one thing we want to get a better understanding of,” Etsitty told RT. Many of the Navajo live in the remote areas of the reservation, often close to the abandoned mining pits that have since filled up with water. Humans and animals drink the water from the pits, often not aware of the possible issues with radiation or toxicity.
“We still have not completed meaningful public health studies to begin answering those questions,” Etsitty said. The DOJ settlement should offer a little bit of help in the process, but merely surveying the extent of the contamination and environmental impact will take much more money and time.
Natalie Abed Rabbo
JERUSALEM – A young Palestinian woman from occupied East Jerusalem has accused security guards at an Israeli light rail station, along with Israeli police officers, of physically and verbally assaulting her on Thursday.
Natalie Abed Rabbo, 18, told Ma’an that she had bought a light rail ticket and was boarding the tram, when “all of a sudden, a security guard approached me and accused me of boarding the tram without a ticket.”
She said that she showed her ticket to the the guard, but that he ignored it. She added: “I asked him to check the surveillance cameras to make sure that I had bought a ticket, but he refused.”
Abed Rabbo said that she then asked to speak to an officer to submit a complaint, but before she was able to do so, “eight security guards attacked me and pushed me into a corner, grabbing me by the neck.”
She said that a female Israeli police officer tried to take away her handbag, but that she held onto it.
Abed Rabbo said she was able to use her mobile phone to call her family, and that her mother and brother soon arrived on the scene.
However, she said: “Special force officers then arrived and they beat my mother and brother, and they cuffed my hands and my feet.”
The young woman said she was taken to the Russian Compound police station where she said she was again physically assaulted.
The interrogator “accused me of boarding the tram without a ticket, as well as assaulting security officers and police personnel,” she said.
Abbed Rabbo was released several hours later having paid a bail of 3,000 shekels. She said she was also forced to pay a fine of 200 shekels for breaching tram regulations.
On Monday, a Palestinian man was shot in the foot by a security guard at a light rail station near the illegal Israeli French Hill settlement in East Jerusalem.
The security guard alleged that Hatem Salah had been attempting to stab passengers, although police later withdrew the allegations after it became clear that Salah had not been in possession of any sharp objects at the time.
Early investigations showed that Salah had been physically assaulted by two Israeli light rail guards on Sunday, the day before he was shot.
The light rail service began operating in 2011 along a 14-kilometer (nine-mile) route which begins at Mount Herzl and passes through West Jerusalem before heading through the Palestinian east of the city and ending at the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev.
Land belonging to Palestinians in Shuafat was confiscated in 2001 by the Jerusalem Municipality for the construction of the light rail, which will eventually link more illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem upon its expected completion in 2016.
A True Blue liberal except for Iran and Palestine
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is not very well known to the public, overshadowed as he is by his own party’s more newsworthy and photogenic congressional leadership and the gaggle of Republicans that is currently lining up in a bid to take the White House. Cardin is, by most accounts, a conventional liberal. He was active in the civil rights movement and embraced every progressive cause in his pre-senatorial days while his voting record both as a congressman and a senator has been reliably left-of-center.
Ben Cardin is the scion of a Baltimore family heavily involved in Maryland state politics. He, his father and uncle all served in the State Assembly and his father was later a judge. All three are lawyers and all were closely connected to Maryland’s politically powerful Jewish community, concentrated in Montgomery and Baltimore counties, which has been traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party.
As an elected official, Cardin regards himself as personally responsible for delivering benefits to his Jewish constituents. He sponsors the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program and also has been active in steering Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants to what he calls “high risk” Jewish organizations in Baltimore. Due to the assiduous efforts of Congressmen like Cardin fully 97% of all DHS grants go to Jewish groups.
Support for Israel is inevitably a sine qua non in Cardin’s circle and candidates for higher office in Maryland are routinely screened for the views on the Middle East. Donna Edwards, an African-American congresswoman who is currently running to fill the seat that will be vacated by incumbent Senator Barbara Mikulski in 2016, has, for example, fallen afoul of the Jewish community thought police on the Israel issue. Though repeatedly asserting her love and support for Israel she is being castigated because “she has regularly ducked resolutions and letters backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington’s dominant Israel lobby, which takes a harder line in support of the country’s self-defense.” She also voted “present” rather than “yes” when the House of Representatives passed its malicious 2009 resolution endorsing Israel’s right to use overwhelming firepower to defend itself against bottle rockets from Gaza. More recently she boycotted the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because she believed it to be an affront to the President of the United States. Even though Edwards has never in any sense voted against Israel in any substantive way she is clearly regarded as not subservient enough by those who matter.
Cardin, who received donations of $218,000 from the Israel Lobby for his 2012 Senate race alone, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, a position he acquired when disgraced New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez was forced to step down. He has been in the news lately for taking on a seemingly uncharacteristic task in the Senate, having co-sponsored with Republican Bob Corker a bill that will require the Senate to vote on any agreement that President Obama makes with Iran. The bill, which passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee by a unanimous 19-0 vote, has been described as a watered down version of a more rigorous bill crafted by the Republican majority, enabling a number of Democrats to add their support.
Recognizing that it might be a less bad option, a reluctant President Barack Obama, perhaps unwisely, has even pledged not to veto the revised bill. The stated intention of Corker-Cardin is to permit the congress to have some voice regarding what is undeniably a major foreign policy issue. Supporters want the country’s legislature to be able to indicate their lack of support for a bad bill, if that should turn out to be the case.
Though the bill is being described as a compromise it does not really change very much. While the president can on his own authority suspend sanctions on Iran, the passage of the bill would delay his ability to do so until after Congress has between 30 and 82 days (depending on details) to review the deal and vote for or against it. And while the president can indefinitely suspend their implementation, only Congress can actually cancel the sanctions because they are mandated through legislative authority.
Thus Congress can hold up a final agreement but the bill does not actually require congressional approval for an agreement to be implemented. And though Congress could theoretically block any lifting of its own legislative sanctions on Iran, it would require a two-thirds vote of both the Senate and House to override the expected Obama veto. Nevertheless, Obama’s agreement to allow a vote does concede that Congress has a potential oversight role in foreign policy, something that the president would have chosen to avoid.
The assumption that Cardin, a loyal Democrat, was interested in producing a compromise to help the president attain a negotiated agreement to eliminate Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program is intriguing but not completely convincing given the Senator’s demonstrated inclination to see U.S. foreign policy from the point of view of Israel. And interestingly enough, AIPAC also supports the Corker-Cardin bill as-is and has resisted attempts by Republicans to make it stronger.
Why would that be the case as AIPAC consistently calls for forceful action against Iran? It might be because, appearances aside, Cardin is not acting in good faith and is actually likely to be working hand-in-hand with AIPAC to accomplish two things. First, he almost certainly wants to reestablish complete congressional bipartisanship on any and all issues relating to Israel, countering the troubling Republican Party’s alignment of its own foreign policy interests with those of Benjamin Netanyahu. As an AIPAC official has expressed it, “Our fundamental view is that this bill is the first step of a number of different steps on the Iran deal. The first and foremost priority is to make sure the bill gets passed to make sure congress is guaranteed a chance to pass judgment on the deal.”
This means that both AIPAC and Cardin want the modified Corker bill to pass but they want that to happen in expectation that the Obama White House agreement with Iran will eventually fail in a bipartisan fashion with more than two-thirds of congressmen in opposition. By some estimates, AIPAC believes that it already has the votes in hand in the Senate at least to do just that and expects that a number of Democratic Senators to include Charles Schumer of New York, who regards himself as “Israel’s guardian” in the upper chamber, will join Republicans in voting against the president.
The AIPAC comment that the bill is a “first step” is critical to understanding what is going on while Senator Ben Cardin’s regard for Israel and its presumed interests should be taken as a given. In March Cardin spoke at AIPAC’s annual gathering where he promised to introduce legislation to block European attempts to boycott or sanction Israeli exports produced in the occupied territories. Cardin’s mixed-up view of a progressive world order combined with deference to what he regards as Israeli interests were notably on display one week after his agreement with Corker when he delivered on his promise.
On April 21 st Cardin and his House colleague Peter Roskam attached at the last minute AIPAC drafted amendments to an omnibus trade bill that committed the United States government to use its leverage in trade agreements to block European Union efforts to boycott or sanction products being produced in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements. The issue is of some consequence as the EU is Israel’s largest export market. The Cardin-AIPAC amendment includes language making it a primary U.S. objective to protect both products from Israel and from what is referred to by the euphemism “Israeli-controlled territories,” a curious position for a U.S. Senator to be taking as United States policy has long been opposed to the settlements and has frequently declared them to be illegal.
Cardin hypocritically justified his amendment by stating “I think it’s critically important that the provisions that are included… for good governance and respect for international human rights need to be a principle trade objective.” Concerning Cardin’s stated respect for international human rights, it should be noted that he enthusiastically supported boycotting apartheid South Africa even though he is opposed to the Palestinians using the same legal and non-violent expedient to obtain their freedom from a brutal Israeli occupation. To that end Cardin characteristically is willing to put U.S. interests on a back burner so he can use American trade policy to protect Israel while perversely cloaking his turpitude in faux sentiments about doing the right thing.
Finally, it is the ultimate irony that the sanctimonious junior Senator from Maryland serves as the ranking member of the U.S.-Helsinki Commission on Human Rights. He recently traveled with his wife by way of military Gulfstream to Copenhagen for official meetings arranged by that organization, stopping for a couple of days in Paris where he stayed in a five star hotel and met with Jewish leaders. The issue of Palestine apparently did not come up.
HEBRON – Settlers harassed the head of the Palestinian National Union for Football and the South African head of an anti-racism group during a tour in Hebron’s Old City this week.
Palestinian football chief, Jibril al-Rajoub, was heading a FIFA delegation tour in the city on Tuesday when the incident took place. The group included Tokyo Sexwale, an anti-apartheid activist imprisoned for 13 years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, and co-chair of Global Watch: Say No To Racism-Discrimination In Sport.
The delegation was briefed on the difficult living conditions in the Old City by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee and were shown videos documenting army and settler violence against Palestinians in the city.
Israeli forces then prevented the delegation from entering several areas of the Old City, with settlers verbally insulting the group as they tried to continue the tour.
Sexwale said that life for Palestinians in the city is intolerable, saying he was proud of the Palestinians for their determination to remain on their land.
The South African official had to enter Ramallah via the King Hussein Bridge to avoid entry from Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has called for a vote at the FIFA annual congress on May 29 calling for Israel’s expulsion for blocking Palestinian football through its sanctions on the Palestinian territories.
In its draft resolution for the FIFA congress, the PFA protests Israel’s treatment of Arabs and acts such as setting up clubs in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli forces raided the PFA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in November.
Palestinian football chiefs have also condemned Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian players and on importing equipment into the occupied territories
Of the three cops charged over the death of African-American man Freddie Gray, media hand-out photos show that three of the arraigned officers are themselves of black ethnicity or “people of colour”.
The brutal death of 25-year-old Gray from a severed spinal cord while in police custody has become the latest symbol of racist policing in America.
Amateur video footage shows the young Baltimore man being hauled into a police van, limp and in agony, moments after his prone body on a sidewalk had been knelt on by at least two officers. Gray died a week later on April 19, with an autopsy showing that at least three of his spinal vertebrae had been crushed.
Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby has concluded that Gray’s death was homicide and she has moved to bring criminal charges against all six police officers involved in the man’s arrest. He had, by the way, been arrested for no probable cause, or as some witnesses said because he merely “looked at the cops the wrong way”.
All across America, thousands of indignant citizens — black, white, latinos and others — have taken to the streets over the past week to proclaim “Black Lives Matter” and to denounce “racist policing”. One protest banner read: “End America’s Blue KKK” — comparing the blue-uniformed law-and-order force to the white supremacists of the banned Klu Klux Klan.
But what do we mean by “racist policing” when three of the officers charged over Freddie Gray’s killing are themselves non-Caucasian?
Moreover, the public face of Baltimore’s police force has emerged as senior officer Anthony Batts — an African-American — who has been leading the force’s media response.
The Maryland state attorney, Marilyn Mosby, who delivered the homicide charges on the suspected police officers in the Gray case, is also of African-American heritage.
Justice campaigners and the Gray family welcomed Mosby’s decision to prosecute as a step in the right direction. Previous cases of black men dying as a result of police misconduct have conspicuously gone without any prosecution of the officers concerned, compounding the anger of civil rights and justice advocates. State attorney Mosby trenchantly declared that “no-one would be above the law” before her announcement on the filing of charges.
Furthermore, it is noted that the mayor of Baltimore City — whose population is 63 percent black — is an African-American woman.
And while we are at it, let’s go all the way to the top here to include President Barack Obama — the first elected black holder of the White House. Also only last week, Obama appointed another African-American, Loretta Lynch, as the US federal attorney-general — the highest law-and-order official in the country.
With African-Americans featuring prominently in the Gray case — from the prosecuting attorney to the three cops who are being charged over the man’s death — what does it mean to accuse US police forces of racism? Some might ask, is it even appropriate to level the accusation given the circumstances of Baltimore?
These apparent contradictions in the Gray case are just that. The operative word is “apparent”. That three police officers who allegedly meted out lethal force to Freddie Gray are themselves black should not distract from the fact that in the vast majority of cases black people are the victims of a largely white police force.
The deaths last year of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and of Eric Garner in New York are much more typical of the circumstances surrounding police violence. Black men are 20 times more likely than whites to die from lethal police force. And, disproportionately, in such cases no officer is ever charged.
What we are dealing with is the structural nature of police violence and impunity in America. And a racial aspect of this structural problem is irrefutable. From stop-and-search practices on the streets, to traffic police harassment of “driving-while-black”, to prison incarceration rates and ultimately the use of lethal extra-judicial force — the oppressive problem is predominantly burdened on African-Americans and people of colour.
America therefore surely has institutionalised racist policing.
However, it would be mistake to see the problem as merely a racial issue.
What needs to be addressed is the structural condition of oppressive state policing that is now prevalent in America. Last week, the Washington Post published an analysis of deaths at the hands of US police officers during the last 10 years. It reported that out of thousands of deaths over the past decade, only 54 police officers ever faced criminal charges, and most of those prosecutions resulted in the officers being acquitted.
The increasing militarisation of America’s police force, from the deployment of heavy-duty weaponry to the use of “war on terror” tactical assaults on inner-city communities, seems to be the bigger issue that needs to be addressed. Black communities, being disproportionately impoverished and ghettoised, are at the front-line of this systematic police state violence.
But it is all marginalised communities within the US that are potential targets for the country’s surge in militarised policing.
Growing poverty, social exclusion and the erosion of civil liberties for all citizens across the US go hand-in-hand with this increasingly oppressive police power.
The debate over racist policing in American needs to be broadened to confront the general state of oppressive policing that is directed against all those — the majority of the population — who are increasingly disenfranchised by an oligarchy where one per cent of the nation owns nearly 90 per cent of the total wealth. That polarisation of wealth and massive impoverishment of the majority is itself a form of state violence inflicted on the nation; and the police are the front-line enforcers of this systematic violence.
The fact that three police officers implicated in the brutal death of Freddie Gray are non-whites; the fact that the police chief and mayor of Baltimore are African-Americans; the fact that government attorneys are black; and the fact that the president of the United States is also black, all that serves to show that the inherent nature of police state violence in the US is both structural and endemic. The problem of how America has now degenerated into an oppressive police state is thus the central issue.
Today over 2.2 million people are imprisoned in jails across America — an incarceration rate that is said to be the highest in the world.
Some observers have noted that the US has locked away more people in its jails than there were even during the supposed Stalinist despotism of the former Soviet Union. Now that is saying something about the Orwellian nature of life in present-day USA — the “land of the free”.
An Israeli soldier said that he and his colleagues bombed civilian targets in the Gaza Strip during last year’s war on the enclave for entertainment.
During an interview with French Le Monde newspaper in Jerusalem yesterday, the soldier who identified himself as Arieh, 20, said: “I was called to service early on July 2014 and was deployed to the Gaza Strip but until that time the operation [Operation Protective Edge] was not announced yet. Only some soldiers speculated that there will be war, but later our commander told us to imagine a 200 metre radius and to immediately shoot anything moving inside this circle.”
“We bombed civilian targets for entertainment,” he said, adding that “one day at about 8am we went to the Al-Bureij; a highly dense residential area in central Gaza, and the commander told us to select a random target and shoot it, at the time we did not see any Hamas fighters, no one shot at us, but the commander told us jokingly: ‘We have to send Bureij a morning greeting from the Israeli army’.”
“I remember that one day, a soldier from our unit was killed and our commander asked us for revenge so I drew the tank randomly towards a huge white residential building, just four kilometres away from us and fired a shell at the 11th floor. I must have killed civilians who were absolutely innocent,” he continued.
He pointed out that the target was to destroy Gaza’s infrastructure, not only Hamas, saying: “We entered the Gaza Strip on July 19 2014 to search for Hamas’s tunnels between Gaza and Israel, but our goal was to destroy Hamas and the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure and to create the largest possible damage to the agricultural land and the economy. Hamas had to pay an expensive bill in order to think twice before entering into a new conflict with us.”
“We destroyed many Palestinian buildings, farms and electricity poles. They told us that ‘we must avoid civilian casualties as much as possible’, but how could you do that when they ask you to leave behind so much destruction,” he added.
He stressed that what happened in the Gaza Strip violates what he learned in the army. “I learned in the army that you are responsible for setting goals and hitting them. We have also learned during our training that you cannot play with the trigger, even on a trial basis, but what happened in the enclave was contrary to our consciences.”
Arieh said: “During the operations in the Gaza Strip, the unit commander said: ‘If you see someone in front of the tank who does not immediately flee, you must kill them.’ so he could see that there are civilians.”
Arieh added that the limits for the battle were very broad and based on personal decision.
“If you see something suspicious in the window of a Palestinian home, or were afraid while you approached a house with a tank, you could fire immediately, even if there was no actual threat. This principle was contrary to everything we have learned in previous military exercises before the July 2014 operation in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
“We used shells excessively, when I saw anything moving, if an open window, I would shell it. If I saw a moving car, I would fire a rocket. We fired missiles at moving objects and not individuals. We did not see moving individuals in our surroundings, but we fired anyway. We only saw women and children and elderly in the ceasefire which lasted only for a few hours, but I was so afraid that there were suicide bombers among them that I thought to shoot near them.”
“I can confirm that we only saw civilians, we did not see any Hamas fighters. We knew they moved through tunnels. We would enter an area and suddenly they would start firing at us and we would retreat. We were more afraid than Hamas spies who stood on rooftops with their phones to reveal our locations,” the soldier explained.
Arieh said the Israeli army would fire at any house if they saw someone holding a telephone and standing on the rooftop. “We considered anyone with a telephone on a rooftop a Hamas spy, even if that person was a woman.”
Arieh is one of about 60 Israeli soldiers who agreed to testify in a report prepared by Israeli human rights organisation Breaking the Silence.
The 237-page report concluded that the Israeli army left “unprecedented harm” among Palestinian civilians during the war through random firing and the application of loose rules of engagement.
The Israeli army launched a 51-day war on the Gaza Strip on 7 July 2014, resulting in the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians and wounding about 11,000 others, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, 68 Israeli soldiers and four civilians were killed and 2,522 more were injured including 740 soldiers, according to official Israeli figures.
A journalist learns that if you photograph Border Policemen committing a felony, you’ll probably end up paying for it.
Near the end of January 2015, Amin Hassan Raneh Alawiya left his home in East Jerusalem’s Al-Azariya neighborhood and made his way to a wedding. As he later described it in his police complaint, upon leaving the house, lawiya – a photojournalist by profession – noticed a demonstration taking place nearby. Naturally, he picked up his camera and went over to document it. A Border Policeman, whom Alawiya recognized, ordered him to move away. In fact, he gave Alawiya the choice of either moving away, getting arrested or getting shot. Alawiya went back home and photographed from there.
Two policemen then came to the house and called Alawiya to come out. When he did the two cops jumped him. They continued hitting him as he was led to their vehicle, and from what they said on the two-way radio, Alawiya understood that he was to blame for disregarding their instructions. Inside the vehicle, the policemen kept hitting him, one of them shouting “this is for our friend” and “our friend will shoot you,” using the name of a third policeman. One of them also used the opportunity to curse the founder of Islam, Muhammad, until the other one told him to stop.
Who is the third cop? Ah! This is the core of the story. In May 2014, as part of his job, Alawiya documented Border Policemen assaulting a hooded child in East Jerusalem, after he was suspected of throwing stones. The policemen also took photos of themselves with the wounded child. The “friend” is one of those documented in Alawiya’s video, which enjoyed widespread distribution on Al Jazeera and other networks. Ever since, he says, he became a target for the Border Police in East Jerusalem, which he claims prevent him from filming in the city and even broke one of his cameras.
Alawiya’s detention in January was part of the Border Police’s quest for vengeance. One of the problems with police forces, particularly forces that are not subject to serious oversight, is that they tend to become a kind of gang: the permeation of a culture of violence and lies becomes common. We have seen the violence, now let’s deal with the deceitfulness.
After his detention, Alawiya was held, handcuffed and blindfolded, in the Abu Dis Border Police base for some two hours. He was then transferred to the police station in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Edumim. There he requested to file a complaint of assault against the cops, but the officer present refused to receive the complaint, and told him he should turn to Israel’s Internal Affairs Division. As we will see, this was a hollow demand that reflected the police’s negligence. Alawiya was immediately informed that he was charged with assaulting and obstructing an officer. The police then demanded Alawiya sign a document saying he was not attacked by the police. He did so, but added in Arabic that it was he who was assaulted. Soon afterward, Alawiya was led to an interrogation room, where he was informed by the interrogator that he was suspected of obstructing an officer.
Did you get what, according to the complaint, just happened? Prior to signing a document saying he was not assaulted by the police, Alawiya was accused of assaulting an officer. After he signed the document, the charge of assaulting an officer simply evaporated. There is a method here, well-known to veterans of demonstrations in Israel and East Jerusalem: as soon as you complain about police brutality, you are automatically charged with assaulting an officer.
When a police force fabricates a complaint against a civilian, especially after he complains of being assaulted by a cop, there is, to put it mildly, a gross misunderstanding of the function of the police. Its duty is to maintain law and order, not to protect itself. When it distorts reality, it lies to itself, to the public that pays its salary and to the courts. When it pins false charges on a person, it is conspiring to damage his good name, his livelihood, and in the worst case scenario, deprives him of his liberty. It then ceases to be the servant of the public and becomes its enemy; it ceases being a vehicle for safeguarding human rights and becomes a tool for their denial.
Alawiya couldn’t file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Division, since he lives in East Jerusalem, specifically in a neighborhood that lies east of the separation wall. Despite the fact that Israeli Police (which includes the Border Police) have been active in East Jerusalem since it was occupied in 1967, there is no Internal Affairs Division station there. In order to lodge a complaint, Alawiya either needs a permit to enter Israel, or needs to use mediators such as human rights organizations. He says that ever since he documented the young boy being abused in May 2014, his permit has been denied.
And if you thought that was bad, the story doesn’t end there: a relative of Alawiya paid NIS 2,000 for his release on bail, since being assaulted by police and and then being wrongfully detained means you need to post bail. The relative, however, did not receive a receipt for the money. What happens to money given to a policeman when no receipt is given? Your guess is as good as mine.
In March 2014, Yesh Din Attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, sent a complaint to the Internal Affairs Division, demanding an immediate investigation on suspicion of, inter alia, false arrest, assault, abuse of the power of office and conduct unbecoming.
Given that in 93 percent of the complaints submitted in 2011-2014, the Internal Affairs Division closed the case without any investigation; that of the 11,282 complaints in the years 2011-2013, only 2.7 percent turned into indictments; and that the former chief of the division is on record saying that the police suffer from a “culture of lies” and that policemen cover for each other, one cannot hope too much that a journalist who exposed the face of the police will see justice. And these, we note, are the results for all complaints to the Internal Affairs Division, not just those by Palestinians. We’ll keep you posted.
In recent months activists on the ground have witnessed an escalation of violence directed at Palestinians. There is an urgent need for international volunteers to support grassroots, non-violent Palestinian popular resistance to the Israeli Occupation.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched, systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using the principles and methods of non-violent, direct-action. ISM works where internationals can be most effective; we walk in solidarity with Palestinians in demonstrations, we respond to the violence, threats, house demolitions and land confiscation by the Israeli military and settlers.
The threat of demolition orders means that we have presence in places such as Jerusalem, Hebron and the Jordan Valley. We respond to violations of human rights by supporting Palestinian political prisoners. This includes bearing witness in Israeli military courts, campaigning and supporting families with loved ones imprisoned. In Hebron we walk with children who face violence and intimidation on their way to school. In the South Hebron Hills we assist farmers and shepherds who are harassed by settlers and occupation forces whilst trying to work on their own land. In the Jordan Valley we work with locals to build where the Israeli military destroys, in order that communities can resist by staying put. In Gaza we accompany farmers and fishermen into the buffer zones where they risk massive violence from the Israeli military. ISM constantly documents and reports on the daily violations of human rights committed by the state of Israel. ISM works to stop Israels’ crimes from going unreported.
You can be a part of this. ISM is Palestinian led, but has no leaders, and we have supported Palestinians in their struggle against the Occupation since 2001. To us, solidarity means that we are a tool for Palestinians to use in their popular resistance. We recognise that as internationals working under Israeli apartheid our position is privileged. We have rights that are denied to Palestinians. When we are arrested we are taken to a police station and have the right to a lawyer. When Palestinians are arrested they are taken to military bases where they face indefinite detention without a lawyer or fair trial. ISM uses the privileges of internationals to support Palestinian popular resistance. We believe that our presence as internationals supporting Palestinian led actions can afford some protection from some of the worst excesses of Israel’s violence.
For more information about our work and for up to date information about the situation in Occupied Palestine, visit palsolidarity.org
If you are planning to volunteer with ISM please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
An Israeli Court ruled Monday on the removal of Susiya Bedouin village, in Masafer Yatta area, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, after colonists of the illegal Susya settlement, demanded the removal of the Palestinian enclave.
Coordinator of the Popular and National Committee in southern Hebron Rateb Jabour told the WAFA News agency that the Israeli decision could be enforced at any given moment, rendering dozens of residents homeless.
He added that the head of the Susiya Village Council Jihad Nawaj’a, received an official Israeli order informing him of the intention to remove the village.
Nawaj’a stated that the Susiya has been subject to dozens of violations and assaults by Israeli soldiers and fanatical colonizers.
“Our village is a historic area; Israel wants to remove us to control it,” he added, “There are many Islamic and Roman archeological sites here.”
The villagers have been constantly suffering, and literally fighting for their very existence, since Israel started the construction of Susya colony in 1983 on privately owned lands belonging to five Palestinian families from Yatta.
The villagers were forcibly removed from their village in 1986, and relocated to the current location, yet again, are facing the same fate.
Removing the village means displacing at least 50 families, and the illegal annexation of hundreds of Dunams of private Palestinian lands.
Nawaj’a said the residents have all deeds proving ownership of their lands, but Israel continues to displace them, in addition to constantly preventing them from having any access to running water, electricity and other basic services.
Several Palestinian, Israel and international human rights groups frequently warned of the Israel plans, and said Tel Aviv is planning to destroy 13 Palestinian villages in Hebron, under the pretext of “being located in military training zones.”
Removing the 13 communities would lead to the displacement of around 1,650 persons.
Photo from facebook.com/nejtaktilbsp
The Danish Palestinian Friendship Association said Monday it would expand its anti-settlement advertising campaign after Copenhagen bus operator Movia said it was dropping their ads from buses in the city.
The advertisements were put on 35 buses in the Danish capital and featured two women and the quote: “Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry.”
But Movia said they dropped them after four days because of the number of inquiries they received about what the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association stands for, AFP reports.
[We] “received a significant number of inquiries regarding the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association’s campaign against Israeli settlements.”
The company declined to comment but released a statement saying the ads were “unnecessarily offensive.”
Fathi El-Abed, the Chairman of the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association, however said that the ads were harmless.
“It’s a clear attempt to deny us our freedom of speech. There is nothing whatsoever about this campaign that is harmful, discriminatory or hateful in any way,” he told AFP.
He insisted that his organization would press on with a national advertising campaign on Israeli settlements.
El-Abed also said that his group was supported by people “who’ve never had anything to do with the Palestinian cause.”
Christian Juhl, a lawmaker from the Red-Green Alliance, said that he thought the decision by the bus company was “embarrassing.”
The decision by Movia is in stark contrast to their refusal last year to drop ads featuring bare breasts by a plastic surgery clinic after complaints by feminists.
In New York an arguably far more offensive ad campaign was allowed on buses after a judge overturned a ban in April from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The adverts were commissioned by the pro-Israeli American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and featured a masked man next to the caption “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah. That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”
The adverts were a spoof of an earlier far less offensive campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which encouraged Twitter users to post messages with the hashtag MyJihad where they would right about their personal and peaceful achievements.
There were also ads showing a 1941 photo of a Muslim leader meeting Hitler, which appeared on buses in Philadelphia, which were also organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a pro-Israel group led by blogger Pamela Geller.
AFDI was also behind the contest in Texas on Sunday to award $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad, which ISIS attempted to attack.
The latest ads come after ads linking “Islamic Jew-hatred” with Adolf Hitler appeared in San Francisco In January and in Washington DC last year.
The campaign to boycott Israeli produce and companies operating in the areas of the West Bank, which have been occupied by Israeli settlers, began in 2005, although its effectiveness in stopping the settlement program and its impact on the Israeli economy has been questioned.
The issue of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank is one of the main stalling factors in the now dead Palestine-Israeli peace talks.
In an interview Sunday with the Financial Times and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jimmy Carter, former American President and peace activist, said the peace process was dead because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would never accept a Palestinian state.
LAS VEGAS — Luxury buses pulled up to the front entrance of the private hangar here where Sheldon Adelson keeps his corporate jets, dropping off Republican donors to hear Jeb Bush speak.
But Adelson arrived late — and in more extravagant style, pulling right into the massive structure in his Maybach limousine with dark tinted windows trailed by a second Maybach carrying glaring bodyguards.
The grand entrance was vintage Adelson. And it kicked off a Republican Jewish Conference four-day retreat this past weekend in which the 80-year-old casino mogul wowed his guests with a distinct blend of megawatt GOP politics and Vegas opulence, keeping them — and the political class, as a whole — waiting and wondering about what would come next.
The guessing game is creating anxiety among Republican Party elites eager to avoid a repeat of 2012, when Adelson and his family dumped more than $20 million into a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s long-shot GOP presidential campaign. The Adelsons went on to give even more money to help Mitt Romney, but by the time he was the party’s nominee, the damage was done. The infusion to boost Gingrich roiled and prolonged the primary and hurt the party’s chances of winning the White House.
When Adelson summoned Bush and Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin to Las Vegas for the annual spring RJC meeting, GOP stalwarts hoped it might mean the megadonor was committing to get behind one of the establishment favorites for 2016, and not going rogue again.
But interviews with Adelson intimates, an analysis of his political alliances and reporting from the Las Vegas retreat suggest that the headstrong billionaire isn’t a new man, but the same gambler he has always been: a true wild card.
“If anybody tells you what Sheldon is going to do, or how or why he is going to do it, they don’t know Sheldon. Sheldon makes up his own mind,” said Ari Fleischer, a longtime Adelson confidant. Fleischer, an RJC board member, was scheduled to lead a board discussion about what Republicans are doing to improve on their 2012 effort.
The possibility that Adelson might use his checkbook to upend the 2016 primary “is worrisome,” Fleischer conceded, though he stressed the same could be said of other very wealthy Republicans.
The new big-money political landscape — in which a handful of donors can dramatically alter a campaign with just a check or two — explains both the eagerness of busy governors to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, and the obsession with divining Adelson’s 2016 leanings.
All manner of national media flocked to Adelson’s Venetian casino and resort hotel, which hosted the RJC meeting. But reporters were kept away from Adelson by coalition staff, as well as casino and personal security, and his team turned down interview requests, including for an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
As Adelson whizzed around his Venetian kingdom on a motorized scooter during the retreat, he was often trailed by GOP operatives, politicians and fellow donors eager to assess his state of mind, advise him on what he should do or just lavish him with praise and gratitude.
The son of poor Jewish immigrants, Adelson was raised in a working-class Massachusetts town. He amassed a fortune estimated at $40 billion today by following his gut and bucking conventional wisdom, forging a business- and family-travel industry in Las Vegas and rushing into the uncertain middle-class gambling market in the Macao region of China.
He donates huge sums to Israeli causes and has ramped up his domestic political giving in recent years, culminating in an unprecedented $100 million spending spree in 2012. Despite his paltry success rate, he has said he intends to spend even more in future campaigns.
At a closed-press Saturday night gala, Adelson quipped that he couldn’t oblige a request from the RJC for a $50 million contribution because the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, didn’t have change for $1 billion.
Neither Adelson’s speech nor his private conversations over the weekend provided those closest to him with any clearer sense of which way his gut was leading him in the 2016 presidential race, leaving all grasping at clues.
“His priority is Israel. So, if you look at his vetting process, I haven’t sat in any of the meetings, but I assure you that the first question is ‘tell me where you are on the safety and security of the state of Israel,’” said GOP bundler Fred Zeidman, a Houston private equity investor who is friendly with Adelson.
All the prospective candidates who turned up in Vegas stressed their support for Israel in speeches and private meetings with Adelson. There were several veiled swipes at GOP politicians and prospective presidential candidates with more noninterventionist foreign policy perspectives, like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who are considered unlikely candidates for Adelson’s support. Yet most of the governors who were invited to Vegas have fairly limited foreign policy chops.
Walker conceded as much in a Saturday speech, explaining foreign affairs is “not an area that governors typically look at,” though he mentioned that he is commander in chief of the Wisconsin National Guard. He also sought to forge cultural common ground with RJCers by explaining that he lights a menorah at the governor’s mansion during Hannukah and named one of his two sons Matthew — which means “gift from God” in Hebrew.
Christie’s efforts at playing the Israel card backfired when he inadvertently used a term [occupied territories] for disputed Middle East territory during a Saturday speech that offended Adelson and some of his guests. The New Jersey governor apologized in a private meeting in the casino mogul’s Venetian office shortly afterward.
The foreign policy deficit may, in fact, be a side effect of another factor Adelson has identified as important, according to sources close to him — “executive experience.” That could potentially rule out prospective candidates with more hawkish foreign policy attitudes, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Kasich of Ohio played straight to Adelson.
“Sheldon and I were kind of talking about his background. I come from a little town outside of Pittsburgh called McKees Rocks — it was very blue collar,” Kasich said, in one of several Adelson-related non sequiturs.
Even when he discussed his effort to clamp down on prescription drug dissemination, he said Adelson — who took as many as 25 medications in a day in 2001 to manage pain from a neurological condition, and whose wife, Miriam Adelson, is a physician who specializes in treating drug addiction — “is someone who knows about this.”
Some possible candidates who seem to meet Adelson’s criteria either weren’t invited or didn’t come to Las Vegas, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He has both executive experience and a track record of supporting Israel, but seems to face electability hurdles similar to those that hamstrung Gingrich.
Yet late last year, when Adelson at a Zionist Organization of America dinner presented the Adelson Defender of Israel award to Huckabee, he called the ordained Southern Baptist minister “a great politician,” as well as “a great person, a great American and a great Zionist.” Since then, the two have met privately twice — once with their spouses — and are “very good friends [who] share a deep commitment to Israel,” according to a source close to Huckabee.
Mel Sembler — a Florida mall developer, former U.S. ambassador to Italy and major GOP rainmaker — in 2012 urged Adelson to halt his Gingrich super PAC funding stream for the good of the party, as did fellow RJC board member Zeidman. As Sembler boarded a bus taking donors from Adelson’s Palazzo hotel to the Bush speech at the private hangar Thursday night, he suggested that Adelson may have recalibrated his approach based on the 2012 failure. “Sheldon has his own mind, but he’s learned. He’s learned a lot. He’s matured.”
Plus, Zeidman suggested that Adelson’s personal feelings on the various 2016 possibilities won’t factor into his decision as they did in 2012. “None of them have a 20-year history like Newt Gingrich did,” Zeidman said of the former House speaker’s relationship with Adelson.
The goal of hearing from the candidates was to start a vetting process that will produce a consensus — one that includes Adelson — of the best candidate, according to Sembler.
“We’re going to talk about that one,” he said. “We’re going to support the best candidate we can possibly get. That’s who we’re going to support.”
Adelson may have done that in his closed-door meetings with the candidates (he also met privately with House Speaker John Boehner, who was in town for other business). But when it came to the official RJC sessions, the mogul was often late and frequently seemed more interested in kibitzing than in official business. “He mingles pretty good,” remarked Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, as he left a Friday evening Shabbat dinner at which the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. spoke.
Adelson — who is not known as a morning person and also was nursing a cold — skipped Saturday morning speeches from Walker and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He entered the hall midway through Christie’s address, walking with the help of a bodyguard to a reserved seat in the front row as Christie talked about his governing style.
He showed up 20 minutes late to a Friday morning RJC board meeting, zipping up to the entrance on his scooter flanked by two Hebrew-speaking bodyguards, one of whom helped him to his feet to walk into the meeting. As other board members queued up to greet him, Adelson perused the breakfast buffet of bagels, lox, pastries and eggs, using his fingers to sample a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese in a serving bowl. The spread was certified kosher by Rabbi Tzvi Braunstein and the Chabad of Southern Nevada, according to an agenda.
“Who let you in here?” he demanded when POLITICO approached. “You can’t come in. This is a private meeting,” he said, rejecting a question about whether he’d try to avoid a costly and protracted primary this time around. “You can ask anything you want, but you’ll have to talk to the wall, because I’m not talking to you,” he said, as one of his bodyguards stepped in, ushered POLITICO from the room, and later called hotel security to bar the reporter from the adjacent hallways.
At the meeting, board members got a briefing on Senate races and were informed of efforts by the group to assist hawkish allies including Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and GOP Senate nominee Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in their 2014 Senate primaries. The weekend’s private events drew appearances by Reps. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both running for Senate, as well as Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
Other closed-press sessions included a scotch tasting, a poker tournament and a panel on “the lessons of 2012 and the current path forward for the GOP.” Then there were VIP discussions and photo ops with former Vice President Dick Cheney, Walker and Kasich, four Jewish prayer services for the more devout, and a Saturday night gala featuring a speech by Cheney. He warned against “what I sense to be an increasing strain of isolationism, if I could put it in those terms, in our own party. It’s not taking over, by any means, but there is without question a body of thought now that’s supported by many Republicans and some candidates that the United States can afford to turn its back on that part of the world.”
Cheney said “it’s crucial” to have candidates with muscular foreign policies and for Republicans to “take back the Senate and take back the White House so we can deal with what has been developing” around the world.
Regardless of any shared ideology on foreign policy or other issues, an adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested it’s distasteful for the party’s prospective candidates to be flocking to court Adelson.
“It sets a bad precedent for a billionaire to say ‘come hither’ this early on, and some people actually do,” said John Brabender, who was a leading strategist on Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign and is helping him build a political foundation that could serve as a springboard to a 2016 campaign. Santorum, who is an ardent defender of Israel, didn’t attend the RJC meeting, and Brabender questioned the optics for the possible 2016 rivals who did. “I don’t know why any prospective candidate wants to be seen as the mainstream Republican, because that’s got negative connotations among most Republican primary voters.”
The narrative that holds Adelson went rogue in 2012 and now is realigning himself with the GOP mainstream is flawed, asserted RJC president Matt Brooks, who works closely with Adelson. “The notion that somehow he was a rube and got duped and made awful investments in 2012, and has all these lessons to learn, is misreading what happened,” said Brooks. “The fact is, Republicans got wiped out all across the board. So it’s not like everybody else won and he was the outlier who put his money into losing causes.”
Except that Adelson is distinct from other conservative megadonors in his willingness to choose sides in primaries, then go it alone, seemingly immune from peer pressure. The only conservative donors who rival his spending power, Charles and David Koch, mostly avoid major involvement in primary fights and focus instead on building consensus among a wide network of donors. Plus, they try — increasingly unsuccessfully — to keep a lower profile.
Still, there is growing overlap between Koch world and the Adelson-RJC crew, with Adelson attending a 2012 Koch donor seminar and Tim Phillips, president of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity group, attending his first RJC meeting last weekend.
Democrats have mostly kept their deepest pockets in line, thanks to a smaller universe of super PACs and megadonors, and greater ideological unity — not to mention the rallying of deep pockets behind early presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“The parties have to some degree switched procedures,” said Fleischer. “Republicans used to be the hierarchical, organized party.” Now, though, “Democrats, because they have the White House, and because so many of them are lined up behind Hillary, if she runs, are the hierarchical party, at least for the moment.”
Still, he said, all it takes is one headstrong billionaire to throw everything into chaos, and nobody can stop it.
“If you think that people like Sheldon or George Soros or Tom Steyer are going to be influenced by the thinking of others, you don’t know the mindset of highly successful, entrepreneurial individuals who have made it their own way their whole lives,” said Fleischer. “At the end of the day, these individuals are going to do what they think is the best right thing to do, and it may not necessarily be reflective of the good of the greater party.”
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