Former Palestinian prisoner, released in the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar prsoner exchange, Mazen Fuquha, was assassinated with four shots to the head with a silenced gun yesterday evening, 24 March, outside his home in Tal al-Hawa, south of Gaza City in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. Fuquha, 38, is from Tubas in the West Bank, and was forcibly displaced to Gaza after the prisoner exchange.
Fuquha was well-known as a leader in Hamas, and was sentenced to nine life sentences before his release, accused of participation in the armed Palestinian resistance. His father spoke with Asra Voice radio station, and said that the Israeli occupation army had broken into the family home in Tubas on multiple occasions and threatened his son, demanding the father tell his son to stop his activity.
Palestinian political parties and resistance factions condemned the killing of Fuquha and placed responsibility for the crime with the Israeli occupation forces. Internal security police in Gaza are investigating the killing and seeking evidence as to how the assassination was carried out.
Khalil al-Hayya of Hamas said that “the only beneficiary of this assassination is the occupation; the martyr Fuquha had no quarrels with anyone.” The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the killing as a “cowardly crime” of the occupation that attempts to target Palestinian resistance, emphasizing the importance of protecting Palestinian fighters. The Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement that the assassination is a “treacherous crime on the agenda of the occupation and carrying the fingerprints of its terror.”
Fuquha grew up in Tubas before attending An-Najah National University in Nablus, where he became involved with the Islamic Bloc and later the Hamas movement. He was arrested three times by Palestinian Authority security and by the Israeli occupation army on 5 August 2002 after a siege that lasted six hours. He was accused of organizing Palestinian armed actions and was sentenced to nine life sentences, and was one of the high-profile prisoners released in the Wafa al-Ahrar exchange. Nearly 60 prisoners released in the exchange, including the longest-serving prisoner Nael Barghouthi, have been targeted for re-arrest and the reimposition of their former sentences by Israeli occupation forces.
Former Basque politician Nekane Txapartegi, Sept. 2016 | Photo: Berria
Swiss officials announced on Thursday they would extradite a former Basque politician and purported ETA activist to Spain after denying her request for asylum given allegations she was brutally tortured while in a Spanish prison.
Nekane Txapartegi had fled to Switzerland after a 2007 conviction for supporting the Basque separatist group ETA’s activities, later claiming asylum on the basis that she had been suffocated with a plastic bag, raped, beaten and subjected to electroshock treatment while in a Spanish prison after a 1999 arrest.
At the time of her arrest, Txapartegi was an elected city councilor in Asteasu in the Basque region of northern Spain and was later elected mayor while still in prison awaiting trial.
After several years underground in Switzerland, Txapartegi was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland in April 2016 on an international warrant and has been in detention awaiting the judgment in her asylum request case.
The World Organization Against Torture had intervened in Txapartegi’s case noting that her confession of supporting illegal ETA activities had been extracted via torture, allegations supported by a prison doctor who examined Txapartegi after her detention and found injuries consistent with torture.
In 2010 a Spanish court found four police officers guilty of torturing suspected ETA militants, sentencing them to prison and ordering them to pay compensation to their victims.
The ETA was founded in 1959 in response to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s brutal repression of Basque culture and independent politics.
For over 40 years the ETA carried out clandestine attacks on police and military officials as well as Francoist politicians, sometimes killing civilians in the process.
The ETA was eventually labeled a terrorist organization by both the Spanish and U.S. governments for its fight to achieve Basque independence.
In 2011, the ETA declared a permanent ceasefire.
Waldomiro Costa Pereira, an activist with the Landless Workers Movement, MST, was killed Monday when gunmen stormed a hospital in Parauapebas in northeastern Brazil’s Para state, activists said in a statement.
Five armed men burst into a small town hospital in the Brazilian Amazon, surrounded security guards and shot dead the prominent land rights activist, in the latest deadly attack on land campaigners.
The motive for Pereira’s murder was unclear, the MST said, but the activist had been recovering in the hospital from a previous assassination attempt.
“This is yet another murder of workers in the state of Para,” the MST said in a statement. “Impunity has become commonplace as has the action of criminal militia groups,” the group said, adding that Pereira was a longtime activist in the “struggle for agrarian reform.”
At the time of his killing, Pereira was not active with the MST and was instead devoting his time to advising the local government on agriculture, the activist group said.
Local officials in the city of Parauapebas condemned the murder and police said they were investigating the killing, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.
Conflicts over territory are common in Brazil where 1 percent of the population owns nearly half of the nation’s land, according to a 2016 study from the University of Windsor in Canada.
Brazil has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for land rights activists, with 61 killed in 2016, the highest level since 2003, according to Brazil’s Pastoral Land Commission.
Australia finds no funds diverted in World Vision probe, further debunking Israeli claims against al-Halabi
In yet another blow to the propaganda-driven case against Palestinian aid worker Mohammed al-Halabi, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported on Tuesday, 21 March that “an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas.”
Al-Halabi was seized by Israeli occupation forces at the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing and in August 2016, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, went on a propaganda offensive, claiming that Halabi had redirected World Vision funds to the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas. Israeli occupation officials declared that he had diverted $43 million in charitable funds to the Palestinian resistance, including a video from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Palestinians of not caring about their people. The amounts cited dwarfed the actual budget to which al-Halabi had access, by all accounts. These seemingly impossible claims were made after nearly a month of interrogation, during which Halabi was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.
The claims against Halabi were accompanied by similarly touted claims against civil engineer Waheed Bursh, a contractor with the UN Development Program, also accused of redirecting resources to the Palestinian resistance – in his case, rubble from the Israeli bombing of Gaza. However, despite the large-scale publicity surrounding Borsh’s arrest, he was released seven months later, indicating that no serious charges were ever made. He was cited as a “witness” againat al-Halabi, and later confirmed that he completely denied any allegations against the aid worker.
“The news DFAT found no evidence of the misuse of World Vison funds comes as Mr Halabi’s trial continues in Israel. He has rejected a plea deal offered by Israeli authorities and has pleaded not guilty, claiming he is innocent of all charges,” reported the Australian Brodcasting Corporation. The plea agreement he rejected would have seen him imprisoned for three years, a short sentence which again indicates a lack of serious charges or evidence in the case.
Indeed, rather than presenting any evidence to back up the widely-publicized public claims against World Vision and Halabi, Israeli occupation officials have instead submitted additional, lesser charges against Halabi that have no relation to diverting funds or his work with World Vision; two such charges are those of “passing information to the enemy” and of “aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war,” with the enemy in question being Palestinians in Gaza. Al-Halabi is, himself, of course, a Palestinian living under occupation and siege in Gaza.
He is also charged with giving small donations of his own money, rather than redirecting World Vision funds, to charities and mosques in Gaza. ABC notes that “One incident detailed accuses El Halabi of allegedly giving ‘300 Israeli shekels on a monthly base to a charity managed by Hamas’…Another says the defendant transferred ‘hundreds of shekels during 2015-2016 to a mosque managed by Hamas’… No details are given of the ‘millions’ of dollars Israeli intelligence officials initially accused El Halabi of diverting.” 100 NIS is approximately $26 USD.
“So far, our own ongoing forensic audit has not uncovered any money subverted and to hear DFAT say their investigation hasn’t either is consistent and is very good news,” said Tim Costello of World Vision.
Despite the severe lack of evidence or credibility for Israeli claims in this case, World Vision’s work in Gaza – and government funding from the Australian and German governments – have been shut down. Over 100 Palestinian workers for World Vision have lost their jobs in Gaza in an area already suffering from massive unemployment and poverty.
TUBAS – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning detained a young Palestinian man in the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank and confiscated a tractor and a private vehicle in the area.
Muataz Bisharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by several Israeli Civil Administration jeeps, detained Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub, 23, and confiscated a tractor belonging to his father and a vehicle belonging to Hayil Turkman.
The confiscated vehicles were taken to the Nahal military site in the al-Maleh area of the Jordan valley, Bisharat said.
A spokesperson from Israel’s civil administration declined to comment on the incident.
Bisharat highlighted that Israeli forces had confiscated at least three tractors from the surrounding areas, which are located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control — during the past two months.
Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations and interruption due to Israeli military exercises on or near their land. The Jordan Valley district of Tubas is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, while at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
According to the Palestinian nonprofit the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), using data from the Palestine Ministry of Wall and Colonization Affairs, the group reported that more than 400,000 dunams (98,842 acres) of the 720,000 dunams (177,916 acres) that make up the total area of the Jordan Valley has been transformed into closed military and firing zones, with at least 27,000 dunams (6,672 acres) confiscated for illegal Israeli settlement building.
Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court
The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.
Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook. Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC.
Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas.
The 11 detained PLC members include: Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zboun, both from the Bethlehem area, members of the Change and Reform bloc, seized on Monday, 6 March. Zboun spent over six years in Israeli prison, including several months in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, a former deportee to Marj al-Zohour, was also previously held in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, Zboun, Halaiqa and al-Tal were all arrested in the month of March.
Other detained PLC members include Hassan Yousef and Ahmad Mubarak of Ramallah and Azzam Salhab and Mohammed Jamal Natsheh of al-Khalil. All members of the Change and Reform bloc, they are held in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison, while Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi is serving several life sentences. Jerusalemite PLC member of the Change and Reform bloc, Mohammed Abu Teir, was subject to expulsion from his home city of Jerusalem and is now serving a 17-month sentence in Israeli prison.
With Senator John McCain in his last term in the U.S. Congress and Senator Lindsey Graham in potential political trouble in South Carolina in 2020, the neo-conservatives have their high hopes set on freshman Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Sasse is the new face among cheerleaders in the U.S. Senate advocating further sanctions on Russia, a full investigation of alleged links between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russia, and full-throttle support for NATO and numerous free trade agreements.
Recently, Sasse has been a leading Senate critic of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over the release of some 8000 classified documents detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s ability to conduct computer hacking and cyber-warfare. Sasse sent out a statement calling for Assange, who has been living under political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past five years, to be imprisoned in the United States.
Sasse’s statement wrote the following about the so-called CIA «Vault 7» leaks: «It is important to comment on the particulars of these leaks but this is dead certain; Julian Assange should spend the rest of his life wearing an orange jumpsuit. He’s an enemy of the American people and an ally to Vladimir Putin. Mr. Assange has dedicated his life’s work to endangering innocent lives, abetting despots, and stoking a crisis of confidence in the West». Sasse always fails to mention that it his religious dream and that of his extremist cult for a Christian theocratic despot to take over power in the United States.
Sasse claimed his personal and government computer devices were targeted by hackers after his criticism of Assange and WikiLeaks. In a few tweets, Sasse texted that he was experiencing multiple «password reset» attempts, adding that his followers should ignore any «crazy-tweets’ from his account.
Strangely, Sasse ran for the Senate as a «Tea Party» outsider. He is anything but an outsider but a typical neo-con who was «sheep-dipped» in various mid-level jobs in the George W. Bush administration and, before that, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sasse had powerful assistance from the «deep state» in achieving his U.S. Senate seat. Sasse came from four percent name recognition before the Nebraska Republican primary to defeat three other candidates, including former Navy pilot Shane Osborn, the pilot of the U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane forced to land in Hainan island, China in 2001.
Sasse is a consummate insider who represents the dark political side of the Republican Party, namely the Christian Dominionists, also known as «Reconstructionists». This powerful cult favors the establishment of a Christian theocracy in the United States. Sasse, whose campaign cash mostly poured in from out of state, outspent Osborn by a wide margin. As a Dominionist, Sasse has like-minded allies in the Trump administration, particularly Vice President Mike Pence.
The Dominionists are largely wealthy Republicans who have been extremely active in Nebraska politics. Dominionists like Sasse and Pence are adherents of the extremist tenets of the father of Christian Reconstructionism, the late P. J. Rushdoonie.
Although Sasse does not have a law degree, he has other «credentials». Sasse received his M.A. and PhD in Philosophy from Yale, his M.A. from St. John’s College in Annapolis, and B.A. in History from Harvard. These non-legal degrees were considered sufficient for Sasse to work under U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in the Bush administration as chief of staff in the Office of Legal Policy. There, Sasse worked with the CIA to draft the infamous torture memos.
The «torture memos», which gave legal justification to President George W. Bush to carry out «enhanced interrogations» of prisoners and detainees, tainted both the Bush and Barack Obama administrations. From the Department of Justice, Sasse was somehow able to parlay his religious academic credentials to serve as an adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in 2005 and as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Michael Leavitt from 2006 to 2007.
Sasse also served as chief of staff to Nebraska Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry, who has a post-graduate degree in theology. While Sasse was earning additional Washington «insider» points working for Fortenberry, another rising GOP staffer, Ryan Loskarn, was honing his political skills under Republican Representatives Wally Herger of California and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. In early 2014, Loskarn, the chief of staff for Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, allegedly committed suicide after he was arrested in December 2014 for possession and distribution of child pornography.
It is inconceivable that Sasse, whose degrees were more in keeping with those of an aspiring theologian, would have been involved with career attorneys in the Justice Department. However, Sasse had already punched the right career «tickets.» From 1994 to 1995, Sasse worked for the Boston Consulting Group, Mitt Romney’s and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s old firm. From 1996 to 1998, Sasse was a tutor and proctor for the pederasty-plagued U.S. House of Representatives page program. It was Sasse’s responsibility to protect the underage teen House pages from, among other threats, predatory members of Congress. Sasse failed miserably.
One of the members of the House Page Board while Sasse served as a tutor and proctor was Republican Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona. In 1996, while Sasse was a proctor and tutor for the pages, Kolbe, a member of the oversight House Page Board, took two 17-year old male pages on a three-day Independence Day camping trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Kolbe revealed that he was aware of then-Republican Representative Mark Foley’s inappropriate e-mails to underage male pages as early as 2000. However, Foley’s indiscretions with the pages reportedly began as early as 1998, while Sasse was still a proctor/tutor. Foley, a Florida Republican, later resigned after it was publicly revealed that he had made sexual advances toward male pages, including attempts to coax them from their dormitory on Capitol Hill. One of the members of the House leadership who helped cover up for Foley as long as he possibly could, was the Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. It was later revealed that Hastert paid hush money to underage males he was accused of having sex with while he was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois. Hastert is now serving a prison term for hiding his hush money transactions.
Kolbe eventually stepped down as chairman of the House Page Board after questions were raised about his camping trip with the pages. Sasse, as a proctor and tutor for the pages, had the responsibility of stopping Kolbe from taking the pages out of state for possible illegal purposes. Sasse’s closeness to the «House Page Sex Scandal» begs the fabled Washington scandal question: «What did Sasse know and when did he know it?» If Sasse was unaware of the activities of Kolbe and Foley with House pages between 1996 and 1998, why did he not know? As a proctor and tutor, it was Sasse’s job to know. If Sasse was aware of the activities of Kolbe and Foley and chose not to report them to the House leadership, that makes Sasse an accessory to criminal behavior.
Neo-con Republicans like Sasse are now fond of conjuring up «conspiracy theories» around deaths they link to some nefarious foreign plot to control Donald Trump and his administration. However, Sasse’s time in the House coincided with a dead body, a very important one. The chair of the House Page Board in 1998, Sasse’s final year as proctor/tutor, was Republican Representative Tillie Fowler of Florida. Fowler died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage on March 2, 2005, shortly after allegations about Foley’s sexual abuse of pages first hit the front pages.
Sasse is well-funded by the Club for Growth, an extremist capitalist group that favors shrinking government and eliminating regulation of the private sector, including parochial schools and child protective services, just the places where child sexual abuse is usually found to be rampant.
Sasse’s doctoral dissertation at Yale took on American atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hare. The dissertation was titled: «The Anti-Madalyn Majority: Secular Left, Religious Right, and the Rise of Reagan’s America.» Sasse’s dissertation postulated that a conservative Protestant alliance could take over political power in the United States. That rhetoric, coupled with Sasse’s belief in the «just war», is strikingly similar to the Dominionist beliefs of P. J. Rushdoonie and his adherents. Sasse’s fellow Dominionist, Pence, is now a mere heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency.
An Argentine federal court on Wednesday sentenced former military dictator Reynaldo Bignone to life imprisonment for his role in kidnapping, torturing and murdering anti-government protesters during the 1970s and 80s.
Bignone, along with six other former military leaders, was convicted for “crimes against humanity.” He was also charged for human rights violations against conscripts of Argentina’s Military College that occurred between 1976 and 1977.
Dubbed “Argentina’s last dictator,” Bignone ruled as president from 1982 to 1983, representing the country’s right-wing military dictatorship that arose during the Dirty War.
The Dirty War was Argentina’s offshoot of Operation Condor, a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America. Through the campaign, which resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths, the U.S. teamed up with right-wing military dictatorships to extinguish leftist movements.
With help from death squads, Argentina’s military dictatorship ruthlessly murdered thousands of left-wing students, journalists, labor leaders and armed militants. Bignone, who played a leading role in organizing the Dirty War, oversaw the mass disappearance of socialist activists throughout his tenure.
“This ruling, about the coordination of military dictatorships in the Americas to commit atrocities, sets a powerful precedent to ensure that these grave human rights violations do not ever take place again in the region,” Human Rights Watch Americas director told Reuters last year, when Bignone was first found guilty.
Last month, Argentina’s former army chief Cesar Milani was arrested on charges related to the kidnapping and torture of three people during the Dirty War. Milani, a retired general who headed Argentina’s military from 2012 to 2015, was arrested in the northern province of La Rioja.
His arrest was part of Federal Judge Daniel Herrera’s investigation into the 1977 kidnapping and torture of Pedro Olivera and his son Ramon, as well as the 1976 abduction of then 17-year-old Verónica Matta.
“We are happy because we believe, somehow, that we are on the path to really having justice done,” Ramon Olivera, one of the accusers, told Todo Noticias television. “It is an auspicious thing that Milani was detained.”
Both Bignone and Milani were close allies of the U.S. during their time in office.
Activists gathered in Leuven’s crowded Oude Markt in the Belgian university city on Thursday, 16 March, to demand an end to participation by KU Leuven (the Catholic University of Leuven) and Belgian police and prosecutors in an EU-funded collaboration with Israeli police. Titled LAW-TRAIN, the project aims to “develop interrogation techniques.” A coalition of groups in Belgium have come together to oppose participation in LAW-TRAIN and end such collaborations with Israeli institutions through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research fund.
Organized by Leuven-based groups, including Comac Leuven, Intal and the Leuven Palestine Action Group, participants from a number of organizations, including Palestina Solidariteit and Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, joined in the awareness-raising street theater-style protest calling on KU Leuven’s rector, Rik Torfs, to pull out of the project.
Students representing ‘detainees’ were tied to chairs in front of a university building in the square as ‘Israeli soldiers’ paced menacingly behind them. Other participants held signs and placards calling on KU Leuven to get out of the LAW-TRAIN project and support Palestinian human rights, while speakers addressed students and others in the busy square in Dutch and English about the LAW-TRAIN program and Israeli torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Activists distributed flyers and information and gathered signatures on the petition demanding Belgian institutions stop participating in LAW-TRAIN.
Activists across Belgium have emphasized the involvement of the Israeli police in the torture, repression and interrogation of Palestinians from Jerusalem and Palestine ’48, as well as their involvement in home demolitions and destruction of Bedouin Palestinian communities in the Naqab. The Israeli Ministry of Public Security, presided over by far-right minister Gilad Erdan, who also holds the state’s anti-BDS portfolio seeking to suppress the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions, is also a partner in the project, along with Bar-Ilan University.
“We are protesting the collaboration between KU Leuven and, among others, the Israeli police and Bar-Ilan University. KU Leuven now has ties with the Israeli police and the Israeli security forces, who have been condemned by organizations such as Amnesty International on numerous occasions for their human rights violations and torture practices. We believe it is not OK for a university such as KU Leuven to continue this collaboration. It is condoning and accepting these human rights violations so long as this continues. We want to call on our Rector, who’s been ignoring this whole matter, to end this collaboration,” said Casper Mullie, a student of philosophy at KU Leuven participating in the protest.
“As students, we cannot accept that our universities and institutions where we pay fees every year, to participate in projects that violate Palestinian human rights. In this case, the human rights violations are particularly egregious,” said Ibrahim, a student organizer with Rise Up who traveled from Brussels to participate in the protest in Leuven.
Hundreds of Belgian academics and cultural workers have signed an open letter organized by BACBI,
the Belgian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, calling on the Belgian government and universities to break with the project. In addition, a delegation of high-profile Belgian lawyers and human rights experts traveled to Palestine to study the use of torture by Israeli police and security forces. Israeli Apartheid Week events organized by students at campuses across Belgium had a strong focus on Palestinian prisoners and the campaign to stop LAW-TRAIN.
Samidoun is a member of the coalition against LAW-TRAIN, along with Intal, Comac, Palestina Solidariteit, BACBI, Medicine for the Third World, Vrede, CNAPD, Broderlijk Delen, 11.11.11, Solidarite Socialiste, Een Andere Joodse Stem (Another Jewish Voice), EcoloJ, CNCD 11.11.11, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine, Association Belgo-Palestinienne, Leuven Palestine Action Group, Pax Christi Vlaanderen and the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP).
TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition against LAW-TRAIN at http://stop-law-train.be
Major LAW-TRAIN resources include:
- Belgian Coalition against LAW TRAIN
- BACBI archive of LAW TRAIN resources
- BACBI dossier, “The LAW-TRAIN Project: Why a Partnership with the Israeli Police is Indefensible”
- Stop the Wall Campaign, LAW-TRAIN: European License for Israeli Torture
- Stop the Wall Campaign, ECCP, Belgian Coalition Against LAW-TRAIN, “The LAW TRAIN Project: Concerns go Unaddressed“
Stonewalls Queries during “Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know”
In the midst of journalism’s “Sunshine Week” – during which the Associated Press and other news organizations are valiantly proclaiming the public’s “right to know” – AP insists on conducting its own activities in the dark, and refuses to answer even the simplest questions about its system of international news reporting.
Most of all, it refuses to explain why it erased footage of an Israeli soldier intentionally shooting a Palestinian boy.
AP, according to its website, is the world’s oldest and largest news organization. It is the behemoth of news reporting, providing what its editors determine is the news to a billion people each day. Through its feeds to thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations, AP is a major determinant in what Americans read, hear and see – and what they don’t.
What they don’t is profoundly important. I investigated one such omission when I was in the Palestinian Territories last year working on a documentary with my colleague (and daughter), who was filming our interviews.
On Oct. 17, 2004 Israeli military forces invaded Balata, a dense, poverty-stricken community deep in Palestine’s West Bank (Israel frequently invades this area and others). According to witnesses, the vehicles stayed for about twenty minutes, the military asserting its power over the Palestinian population. The witnesses state that there was no Palestinian resistance – no “clash,” no “crossfire.” At one point, after most of the vehicles had finally driven away, an Israeli soldier stuck his gun out of his armored vehicle, aimed at a pre-pubescent boy nearby, and pulled the trigger.
We went to the hospital and interviewed the boy, Ahmad, his doctors, family, and others. Ahmad had bandages around his lower abdomen, where surgeons had operated on his bladder. He said he was afraid of Israeli soldiers, and pulled up his pants leg to show where he had been shot previously.
In the hospital there was a second boy, this one with a shattered femur; and a third boy, this one in critical condition with a bullet hole in his lung. A fourth boy, not a patient, was visiting a friend. He showed us a scarred lip and missing teeth from when Israeli soldiers had shot him in the mouth.
This was not an unusual situation. When I had visited Palestinian hospitals on a previous trip, I had seen many such victims; some with worse injuries. Yet, very few Americans know this is going on. AP’s actions in regard to Ahmad’s shooting may explain why.
We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine. He sent his video – an extremely valuable commodity, since it contained documentary evidence of a war crime – to the AP control bureau for the region. This bureau is in Israel.
What happened next is unfathomable. Did AP broadcast it? No. Did AP place the video in safe-keeping, available for an investigation of this crime? No.
According to its cameraman, AP erased it.
We were astounded. We traveled to AP’s control bureau in Israel. With our own video camera out and running, we asked bureau chief Steve Gutkin about this incident. Was the information we had been told correct, or did he have a different version? Did the bureau have the video, or had they indeed erased it. If so, why?
Gutkin, repeatedly looking at the camera and visibly flustered, told us that AP did not allow its journalists to give interviews. He told us that all questions must go to Corporate Communications, located in New York. He explained that they were on deadline and couldn’t talk. I said I understood deadline pressure, and sat down to wait until they were done. When he called Israeli police to arrest us, we left.
Back in the US later, I phoned Corporate Communications and reached Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes, AP’s public relations spokesman. I had conversed with Stokes before.
Over the past several years I have noticed disturbing flaws in AP coverage of Israel-Palestine: newsworthy stories not being covered, reports sent to international newspapers but not to American ones, stories omitting or misreporting significant facts, critical sentences being removed from updated reports.
I would phone AP with the appropriate correction or news alert. One time this resulted in a flawed news story being slightly corrected in updates. In a few cases stories were then covered that had been neglected. In many cases, however, I was told that I needed to speak to Corporate Communications. I would phone Corporate Communications, leave a message, and wait for a response. Most often, none came.
Several times, however, I was able to have long conversations with AP spokesman Stokes. None of these conversations, however, ever ended with AP taking any action. Some typical responses:
- The omitted story was “not newsworthy.”
- The story deemed by AP editors to be newsworthy to the rest of the world – e.g. Israel’s brutal imprisonment of over 300 Palestinian youths – was not newsworthy in the US (Israel’s major ally).
- Burying a report of Israeli forces shooting a four-year-old Palestinian girl in the mouth was justified.
- Misreporting an incident in which an Israeli officer riddled a 13-year-old girl at close range with bullets was unimportant.
Despite this unresponsive pattern, when I learned firsthand of an AP bureau erasing footage of an atrocity, I again phoned Corporate Communications. I no longer had much expectation that AP would take any corrective action, but I did expect to receive some information. I gave spokesperson Stokes the numerous details about this incident that we had gathered on the scene and asked him the same questions I had asked Gutkin. He said he would look into this and get back to me.
After several days he had not gotten back to me, so I again phoned him. He said that he had looked into this incident, and that AP had determined that this was “an internal matter” and that they would give no response.
Footage of this boy being intentionally shot by an Israeli soldier was erased by the Associated Press. Photo: Reuters
While I should have known better, I was again astounded. AP was blatantly violating fundamental journalistic norms of ethical behavior, and clearly felt it had the power to get away with it.
Journalism, according to the Statement of Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, is a “sacred trust.” It is the bulwark of a free society and is so essential to the functioning of a democracy that our forefathers affirmed its primacy in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.
According to the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the four major pillars of journalistic ethics is to “Be Accountable.” According to the SPJ’s Code of Ethics:
“Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
- Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
- Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
- Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”
Finally, this week, on deadline with a chapter about media coverage of Israel-Palestine, I again tried to confirm some of my facts with AP. Certainly, I felt, during “Sunshine Week” AP would respond. As part of the Sunshine campaign, AP’s CEO and President Tom Curley is traveling the country giving speeches on the necessity of transparency and accountability (for government) and emphasizing “the openness that effective democracy requires.”
“The trend toward secrecy,” AP’s President has correctly been pointing out, “is the greatest threat to democracy.”
I emailed my questions to AP, talked to Stokes by phone, and again was told he would get back to me. Again, I got back to him. Then, in a surreal exchange, he conveyed AP’s reply: “The official response is we decline to respond.” As I asked question after question, many as simple as a confirmation of the number of bureaus AP has in Israel-Palestine, the response was silence or a repetition of: “The official response is we decline to respond.”
The next day I tried phoning AP’s President Curley directly. I was unable to reach him, since he was on the road giving his Sunshine Week speeches (“Secrecy,” Curley says, “is for losers”), but I left a message for him with an assistant. She said someone would respond.
I am still waiting.
It is clearly time to go to AP’s superiors. The fact is, AP is a cooperative. It is not owned by Corporate Communications spokespeople or by its CEO or even by its board of directors. It is owned by the thousands of newspapers and broadcast stations around the United States that use AP reports. These newspapers, radio and television stations are the true directors of AP, and bear the responsibility for its coverage.
In the end, it appears, the only way that Americans will receive full, unbiased reporting from AP on Israel-Palestine will be when these member-owners demand such coverage from their employees in the Middle East and in New York. As long as AP’s owners remain too busy or too negligent to ensure the quality and accuracy of their Israel-Palestine coverage, the handful of people within AP who are distorting its news reporting on this tragic, life-and-death, globally destabilizing issue will quite likely continue to do so.
In the final analysis, therefore, it is up to us – members of the public – to step in. Everyone who believes that Americans have the right and the need to receive full, undistorted information on all issues, including Israel-Palestine, must take action. We must require our news media to fulfill their profoundly important obligation, and we must ourselves distribute the critical information our media are leaving out.
If we don’t take action, no one else will.
JERUSALEM – Five Palestinians said they were pulled from their vehicles, violently assaulted, and detained by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in occupied East Jerusalem, after returning home from southern Israel where they had attempted to welcome home their relative who had just been released from Israeli prison.
Moussa Darwish was set to be released from Ktziot prison in the Negev region on Sunday after completing a 12-year sentence, but the newly freed man found Israeli intelligence officers waiting for him outside the prison, who immediately redetained him.
Israeli forces prevented the group of family and friends from approaching Darwish, after they had traveled from Issawiya in East Jerusalem and arrived to the prison.
They were notified that Darwish had been taken to Israel’s Russian Compound detention center back in West Jerusalem for interrogation. After several hours, Israeli forces again released Darwish.
However, Darwish’s friends and relatives — Ahmad Darwish, 52, Ibrahim Darwish, 42, Mansour Darwish, 28, Muhammad Ubeid, 25, and Saeb Dirbas, 23 — said that upon their return to Jerusalem, their three vehicles were “ambushed” by Israeli forces who had set up a flying checkpoint at the entrance to the city.
In an interview with Ma’an on Wednesday, Mansour Darwish, the former prisoner’s cousin, said that their group encountered a crippling traffic jam caused by the checkpoint.
“When we tried to pass the checkpoint, our cars were stopped one after the other. Without even asking for our IDs or driving licenses, they made us step outside, and officers from the Israeli police special Yasam unit started to beat us violently — and we had no idea why.” … continue
Israeli police officers abducted, on Saturday morning, a Palestinian novelist after she finished writing her latest work dubbed “The Jackal’s Trap,” talking about informants and collaborators, spying on their own people.
The Palestinian novelist, identified as Khaleda Gousha, was abducted after the police and soldiers stormed her home, in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied Jerusalem.
Khaleda’s business manager, Amani Abdul-Karim, said Khaleda was moved to an interrogation facility in Nevi Yacov illegal colony, built on illegally-confiscated Palestinian lands, owned by Beit Hanina residents.
She added that Khaleda called her colleagues from the interrogation center, and informed them that she needs a lawyer to represent her.
Khaleda said that she was officially informed that the reason behind her abduction and interrogation is her latest Novel, The Jackal’s Trap, which she intends to publish this coming October.