ISM Gaza met the fisherman Sami Ali El Goga, 36, who lost his hand and part of his arm the 12th March 2007, when he was attacked by the Israeli navy. In the same attack his boat was completely destroyed and his 13-year-old nephew, who was in the boat with him, sustained shrapnel wounds throughout his body.
Eight years later he is still waiting for the assistance promised by several international agencies, as he hasn’t been able to work since the attack, and without the boat a 20-member-family lost its source of income.
On that day, Sami and his nephew had just reached the 1.5 miles naval blockade when the zionist army approached and started shooting rockets towards them. They attempted to escape to the closest beach, as there was no chance to reach the port. Once on the beach the shooting didn’t stop. Whilst attempting to escape from the boat with his nephew, it was hit by a rocket and in the explosion Sami was severely injured. He nearly bled to death waiting for medical assistance as the Israeli navy prevented any recue from reaching him until 30 minutes later.
After 3 hospitals in Gaza weren’t able to treat him the Palestinian Authority mediated in order that he could be treated in a Hospital in the ‘48 territories (AKA Israel), as the occupation had previously refused to allow him to exit Gaza. The doctors there amputated his hand and afterwards he was taken by the zionist intelligence for an interrogation before sending him back to Gaza.
This wasn’t the first attack Sami suffered, as another boat from his family had been stolen by the occupation in the past.
The UK government has said it intends to change legislation in order to prevent local councils divesting from the arms trade and Israeli human rights abuses.
Announcing the plans, a Conservative spokesperson said that “Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry.”
The spokesperson continued: “Hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.”
The proposed amendment to legislation will be aimed at stopping councils from incorporating the concerns of human rights campaigners into their pension and procurement policies.
According to Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark, such a step would be a challenge to “the politics of division.”
The language used by the Conservatives, including the claim that divesting from companies complicit in Israeli atrocities “poison[s] community relations”, mirrors the rhetoric of pro-Israel lobby groups.
Clark added that “divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax.” Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said: “We will…prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Palestinians displaced by Israeli strikes wait to get water from portable tanks near a makeshift encampment behind Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, July 26, 2014. (Joe Catron)
UNITED NATIONS — Israeli restrictions on Palestinian water use, as well as damage to water supplies and infrastructure by both Israeli forces and Jewish settlers, continue to deplete the already limited water supplies available to millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Water is used by the Israelis to achieve non-water interests, as a tool of punishment,” Dr. Abed Elrahman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group in Ramallah, told MintPress News.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of Palestinians within Israel continue to lack access to running water, despite their citizenship in the state and the equality they should receive under its laws.
Israel has limited the water available to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since its forces occupied the enclaves, placing them under military rule, in 1967.
‘Scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating’
The Oslo II Accord, signed by Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization on Sept. 28, 1995, formalized this disparity, imposing what Israeli newspaper Haaretz writer Amira Hass called “a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.”
The agreement afforded Palestinians 118 million cubic meters of water per year from the Mountain Aquifer that stretches into Israel from the West Bank, while obligating Israel to sell Palestinians a further 27.9 mcm annually at full price.
It also entitled Israel to claim 483 mcm per year – over four times as much – but allocated none to the Gaza Strip, which was left to rely on the small Coastal Aquifer.
According to its own terms, Oslo II should have terminated in Palestinian independence after five years, with a joint committee increasing Palestine’s water allocation through consensus in the meantime. Neither scenario has come to pass.
In coming years, Israel would make clear that it had no intention of ever ending its control of Palestinian water. A June 7, 1997 order reiterated its longstanding policy: “All the water in the land that was occupied again is the property of the State of Israel.”
Successive governments pushed new waves of settlement construction, universally considered war crimes under the fourth Geneva Convention, on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. By 2000, the number of settlers had swelled 26 percent.
Like earlier settlements, the sites of many new units were calculated to maximize Israeli control of Palestinian water. In 2001, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Haaretz : “Is it possible today to concede control of the aquifer, which supplies a third of our water? Is it possible to cede the buffer zone in the Jordan Rift Valley? You know, it’s not by accident that the settlements are located where they are.”
Israeli measures to cement its occupation, along with provocative raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, ultimately produced the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising that erupted on Sept. 28, 2000, five years to the day after Oslo II.
A vicious water cycle
Palestinians currently use no more than 11 percent of the Mountain Aquifer, with Israel enjoying the rest, according to the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 28 Palestinian and international agencies dealing with water issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, West Bank Palestinians purchase 50 mcm of water each year from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, paying $50 million for the return of their own resources at prices up to three times those charged to Israeli consumers.
Oslo II obligated Israel to increase its water sales to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from 5 to 10 mcm annually during the supposed five-year “interim period.” But only this year, following widespread condemnation of its military operation against the besieged enclave last summer, did it finally do so, meeting 5 percent of the water needs of a population that has more than doubled.
On September 1, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report repeated a warning, first made by the UN’s Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory in 2012, that the Gaza Strip could become unlivable by 2020.
UNCTAD cited the destruction of Gaza infrastructure during repeated Israeli offensives, including damage to 20-30% of the enclave’s water and sewer network, a water desalination plant, and 220 agricultural wells during last summer’s 51-day operation alone, as well as Israeli restrictions on economic development and reconstruction.
It also warned that “a severe water crisis” had forced the use of water from the Coastal Aquifer — 95% of it unfit for drinking — at levels “well above the recharge rate by over 100 million cubic meters, almost twice the sustainable rate.”
“The over-abstraction and scarcity of drinking water have been exacerbated by crumbling sanitation infrastructure, while the blockade creates chronic shortages of electricity and fuel, which in turn aggravate contamination and the water crisis,” the report said.
“The damage of contamination and over-abstraction is such that the aquifer may be unusable by 2016 and, if unaddressed, the damage may be irreversible by 2020.”
The total damage inflicted to the water sector by Israeli strikes last summer reached over $34 million, according to a report by the Palestinian Water Authority, although UNCTAD’s report says that “long-term repair of the accumulated damage and decay of the water and sanitation infrastructure will require $620 million.”
Palestinians have never extracted their full 118 mcm of water from the Mountain Aquifer, as Israeli restrictions on wells and other infrastructure across most of the West Bank prevent them from doing so.
These military orders stretch into the Gaza Strip, where the threat of airstrikes forces residents hoping to dig wells to first seek permits from the Israeli army.
While sometimes given there, such permission is usually denied in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli military administration, often on the claimed basis of Israeli security.
Israel targets unauthorized construction ruthlessly. Since the beginning of this year, its forces have destroyed 36 Palestinian water, hygiene and sanitation structures in Area C, usually citing their lack of permits, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data reviewed by EWASH.
Rare permits come at high prices. A 2013 study found that Israel usually conditions its approval of Palestinian water projects on the Palestinian Authority’s acquiescence to the construction of new settlement infrastructure, forcing the occupied population to “consent to their own colonization.”
As Palestinians, particularly in agricultural communities, scramble to meet their needs for water, Israel’s demolition of the necessary infrastructure, from pipes in Kafr Qaddum and Khirbet Yarza to wells in Hebron, continues.
The pollution resulting from the destruction of wastewater treatment facilities has further damaged Gaza’s already depleted aquifer, rendering over 90 percent of local water unfit for drinking.
In the West Bank, 73.5 percent of Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the quality of their water.
Yet the quantity remains woefully inadequate, as the average Palestinian can use only 70 liters of water per day – a figure that dips to 20 in some cases – while illegal Israeli settlers enjoy over 300. The World Health Organization suggests a minimum of 100 liters of water per day for sanitation, hygiene and consumption.
Confronted by a lack of water in some areas of the West Bank, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians face the “economic burden of purchasing water from tankers,” the Palestinian Hydrology Group’s Dr. Tamimi said.
In a March 2013 report, the Ramallah-based human rights group Al-Haq called Israel’s “demarcation of the population along racial lines,” their “segregation into different geographical areas” and the “use of ‘security’ to justify an institutionalized regime of domination and systematic oppression,” “the three pillars of Israel’s ‘water-apartheid.’”
“[A] second and disadvantaged Palestinian society living in the same territory is denied most of its basic rights,” Al-Haq stated. “Palestinians are forcibly confined to a land-locked archipelago of territory with minimal water resources available.”
This gross asymmetry extends inside Israel, where a June 2014 report by the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality found that 73,000 Palestinian Bedouin, living in villages unrecognized by the state, lacked sufficient running water.
Despite paying 30 percent more than other consumers for the meager supplies of water they received, the Israeli Ministry of Health did not monitor its quality.
Palestinian water supplies face further threats from pollution by Israeli waste, both dumped from nearby illegal settlements and shipped from inside Israel.
A June 2013 Israeli state report found that a third of sewage treatment facilities in settlements were either insufficient or inoperative.
The previous year, it reported, 2.2 mcm of waste had flowed from settlements directly into nearby waterways and cesspits.
As many settlements stand on hills, much of this untreated sewage then becomes the problem of neighboring Palestinian communities whose farmlands and groundwater it pollutes.
“The settlement wastewater goes to the aquifers and pollutes the groundwater,” Dr. Tamimi said.
The city of Salfit and nearby town of Kafr al-Deek have been repeatedly drenched with sewage from the settlements of Ariel and Yakir, most recently on Wednesday, affecting their agriculture and tourism, as well as local water supplies.
“Josephine,” a volunteer for the Ramallah-based International Solidarity Movement, noted that settlement pollution does not stop with sewage. “Many factories let out polluted water and waste into the water sources that Palestinians use,” she told MintPress.
In February, after Palestinian customs police discovered a truck transporting asbestos from Israel to a landfill in Tulkarem, the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority warned against attempts to smuggle Israeli waste into the West Bank.
‘A form of racism’
On July 2, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel announced that Israel’s High Court had ruled in favor of its clients, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who had faced years of water shortages and cutoffs.
Their neighborhoods, lying within the Jerusalem boundaries claimed by Israel but beyond its West Bank barrier, had been “perennially neglected by both municipal and national water authorities,” ACRI said.
The court’s ruling ordered the National Security Council to “investigate and work to mitigate the water crisis in East Jerusalem.”
By the following month, a new water crisis had gripped Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank as governorates in Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and the Jordan Valley resorted to water schedules announcing planned cutoffs.
These windows of austerity, many Palestinians say, are nothing new. They often occur when demand for water is at its height, like during the hot summer months. Still, they never result in cutoffs inside illegal settlements or in Israel itself.
This disparate treatment, some think, aptly demonstrates the nature of the occupation itself. As Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti put it: “Restricting water and electricity is a form of racism.”
Israel’s government no longer bothers to deny the intended permanence of its occupation. Last week, as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely readied a diplomatic offensive against a pending European Union policy to label settlement products, she told the Times of Israel that withdrawals from “Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians.”
The occupied West Bank will remain under Israel’s “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said.
“It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it,” she continued, adding: “What I can promise is that Israel’s position will be very forceful and tough on this matter.”
A nonprofit legal advocacy organization has documented and responded to nearly 300 incidents of censorship, punishment, and other actions intended to “burden” advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The incidents point to a pervasive problem on American campuses, which is chilling the rights of individuals to engage in free speech.
The incidents are largely a result of pressure from defenders of Israel to the increased success of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli military occupation.
Palestine Legal, which was founded in 2012 to support the rights of Americans to speak out for Palestinian freedom, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) put together a “first of its kind” report focusing on the suppression of speech, expression, and activism over the past two years.
According to the report, the organization “responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression” in the first six months of 2015. In 2014, the organization “responded to 152 incidents” and “68 additional requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such actions.”
“The overwhelming majority of these incidents—89 percent in 2014 and 80 percent in the first half of 2015—targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights,” noted Palestine Legal.
Of incidents from the first six months of 2015, Palestine Legal found more than half involved “false accusations of anti-Semitism” based “solely on speech critical of Israeli policy.” About half of the incidents responded to in 2014 involved accusations of anti-Semitism based solely on criticism of Israeli policy.
Nearly a third of incidents in the first six months of 2015 stemmed from “false accusations of support for terrorism.” This was an increase, as only 13 percent of incidents in 2014 suggested Palestinian advocates supported terrorism.
“The claim that Palestine activists support terrorism frequently relies on anti-Muslim and xenophobic stereotypes about the inherent violence and hateful worldviews of Arab, Muslim, and international students,” the report states.
Most importantly, the accusations are “baseless,” because “no links between terrorism and student activism for Palestinian rights have been substantiated.”
Dima Khalidi, the director for Palestine Legal, noted the organization had interviewed hundreds of students, professors, administrators, and others. Eighty-five percent of the incidents took place on 65 college and university campuses and in 24 different states.
“We’re not just talking about a handful of isolated incidents,” Khalidi declared. “This is really a widespread problem that affects hundreds of people across the country.”
A “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups is vilification
Israel advocacy groups, university administrators, and government officials accuse Palestinian human rights activists of anti-Semitism or “supporting Hamas” to frighten them into abandoning their organizing. Several students informed Palestine Legal false accusations “would hinder their ability to find a job or travel.”
As the report acknowledges, “The speech activities of Palestinian-American, Arab-American, and Muslim students routinely subject them to heightened harassment, intimidation, and discriminatory treatment in the midst of a post-9/11 climate in which their communities already face infringements of their civil liberties.”
Vilification is a “primary tool” for pro-Israel groups. One student falsely accused of associating with terrorists suggested, “The underlying message [is] that if you speak out too loudly or work too hard … anti-Palestinian activist[s] will smear you just like [they] tried to smear me.”
These accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism coerce campus administrators into restricting and punishing students or scholars for their speech.
Fodder for character assassination against Palestinian human rights activists sometimes comes from surveillance of social media. Organizations “identify out-of-context quotations, Facebook posts, and other material.”
In January 2015, as the report highlights, “The Reut Institute reportedly held a ‘hackathon,’ in which Israeli officials and a number of other Israeli advocacy groups participated, aimed at exploring ways to gather intelligence on and target individuals involved in Palestine solidarity work. In its June 2015 strategy document, the Reut Institute highlighted the need to ‘out-name-shame the delegitimizers’ as a strategy to fight BDS, recommending the use of ‘all available firepower—financial, social, legal, etc.’”
A shady outfit called Canary Mission put out a “list of organizations and activists it accused of supporting terrorism, including campus chapters of the Muslim Student Association, which it refers to as a ‘virtual terror factory.”
The list was published for the express McCarthyist purpose of “exposing” individuals and student groups to make it harder for them to obtain positions in school and earn jobs after graduation.
Students have reported being spied upon by Israeli consulate officials. For example, in 2014, students reported members of the Israeli consul general’s entourage “photographed pro-divestment student campaigners as they spoke with other students and leafleted.”
The surveillance was part of acts to disrupt a divestment vote on campus. Students with family and friends in occupied Palestine expressed concern “such surveillance could have serious consequences” as it might allow Israel to block them from entering Israel and the West Bank to visit family.
Additionally, the comprehensive report examines various other tactics used against activists, including: official denunciation, bureaucratic barriers, cancellations and alterations of academic and cultural events, administrative sanctions, threats to academic freedom, lawsuits and legal threats, legislation, and criminal investigations and prosecutions.
“All of these tactics—individually and in the aggregate—threaten the First Amendment rights of people who seek to raise awareness about Palestinian human rights and challenge the dominant perspective in this country, which discounts Israel’s discriminatory and violent government policies,” the report asserts.
Multiple examples of tactics used against activists
The report details several examples of instances when these tactics were wielded to disrupt and stifle actions.
In February 2015, DePaul University’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter sought to hold a fundraising event for Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American organizer who was tortured by Israeli forces into confessing that she played a role in a 1967 bombing. The United States government prosecuted her for lying about her past history in immigration documents.
DePaul administrators imposed security fees on the SJP because of a “planned counter-protest,” which led administrators to determine they might need the protection. Four security guards were detailed, and SJP was billed $480. After being forced to subsidize risk from threatened opposition, SJP could not afford to pay the bill and lost the privilege to reserve space for events on campus.
On October 8, 2014, John Jay College instructed the SJP chapter not to “use sheet covered in red paint (representing blood),” as they did during their “Die In/Vigil from Ferguson to Gaza” action. The instruction was a response to pro-Israeli students, who claimed they “felt uncomfortable with the message.”
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign violated Professor Steven Salaita’s academic freedom when they terminated him in 2014 over tweets he sent reacting to Israel’s assault on Gaza.
At Montclair State University, the student government initially sanctioned the university’s SJP for handing out “offensive” pamphlets. The literature led SGA to “fine the group five percent of its fall semester budget” and an order to cease distribution of all “political propaganda.” The brochure focused on Israeli settlements and the loss of Palestinian land from 1946 to 2000.
In April 2013, Northeastern University placed SJP members on “probation” after they walked out of a campus event featuring a soldier from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Offficials warned the students before the event not to hold signs or engage in “vocal disruption.”
“Students decided to tape the names of Palestinian children killed by the IDF to their shirts and planned a walkout,” the report notes. “During a pause in the presentation, one SJP student stood up and stated, ‘The IDF are war criminals and they are not welcome on our campus,” then proceeded to walk out with other students, who spontaneously chanted ‘Free Palestine’ as they left the room.”
Students were investigated by university administrators, and the university canceled a lecture the SJP had planned with Dr. Abu Sitta. The students were later charged with violations of school codes, and after a hearing, SJP was found to have violated “demonstration policy.” They were on probation until December 2013 and forced to write a “civility statement.”
In November 2010, Rutgers University administrators refused to allow students, who raised money for the Gaza Flotilla, to disburse those funds after Hillel alleged the fundraising constituted “material support for terrorism.”
Rather stunningly, University of California President Mark Yudof issued a rare public statement in February 2012 after activists disrupted an event, which compared Palestinian rights activism to incidents of racism. He likened the “hecklers” to the “hanging of nooses” on black students’ dorm doors or putting “swastikas on Jewish students’ property. He pledged to get the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance involved to “improve campus climate for all students.”
In the spring semester of 2015, the University of Toledo student government caved to Israeli advocacy groups and blocked the public from attending a divestment hearing, a violation of the Open Meetings Act in Ohio. Attendance by SJP members was restricted, as they were forced to sit in a “separate room” away from Hillel students. Student senators were blocked from voting on the resolution. But outcry eventually led to the resolution coming up for a vote and it passed “overwhelmingly.”
One of the more stunning examples involves eleven University of California-Irvine students, who were criminally prosecuted in 2010 for walking out of a speech by then-Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. They were charged with misdemeanors for disrupting a public meeting, and the jury found ten of the students guilty.
The numbers do not necessarily tell the full story of how organizing is being suppressed. These are only incidents, which were reported to Palestine Legal so the organization could provide assistance.
“They’re really only the tip of the iceberg with a lot more incidents that go unreported,” Khalidi added.
However, the report clearly demonstrates how heavy-handed tactics are being used to intimidate Palestinian human rights activists and chill their criticism of Israeli policies against Palestinians.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, speaking at the UN Security Council as it discussed the situation in the Middle East and northern Africa, said that it was “concerning” that after decades, the UN was still talking about Palestine, and was not standing up to the attacks on Syria.
She condemned the “illegal occupation” of Palestine and stated that, “Venezuela is a country that has historically condemned terrorism.” If there is a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, “it should be two states that are truly equal and sovereign, not where there is terrorism and discrimination … we have to put effort into making this happen. There is a situation where the Israeli state is promoting terrorism and violating Palestinian human rights,” she said.
Talking then about Syria, where the U.S. claims to be attacking the Islamic State, and where Russia has, after talks with the Syrian government, agreed to attack the Islamic State group, Rodriguez said, “Terrorist groups aren’t born spontaneously, we want to know who finances them … This is a multilateral organization that respects international law, or are we here hypocritically, not condemning unilateral interventions (such as that by the U.S). What is the cost in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan? What do we want today for Syria? The same?”
“Why are we here if we don’t plan to respect international law?” she said.
“In Venezuela we call for abandoning hypocrisy and for real willingness to combat terrorism, and that it not be used to support a certain leader. The UN should assume its leadership and apply international law against aggressions against people. Syria should have sovereignty” over what occurs in its territory,” she concluded.
Hebron, occupied Palestine – On the second day of the Jewish Sukkot holiday, hundreds of settlers continued filing into al-Khalil (Hebron) creating mass restrictions and sharp escalations in violence against Palestinians living here. Over a period of two hours dozens of them continuously invaded the roof of the Palestinian Abu Shamsiyye family home where several small children live.
Laughing and trying to gain vantage point to view Israeli forces teargassing, stun grenading and firing rubber coated steel bullet projectiles into crowds of Palestinians in the Bab al-Zawiya area of H-1 Hebron, the settlers spit and cursed at the children, darted towards them to frighten them, called them “Arab terrorists” and one male settler charged at and punched a female ISM international human rights monitor as she filmed him trespassing on the roof. The settler was allowed to leave the scene without incident as Israeli forces stood present but did nothing.
Shortly thereafter, as a Palestinian man and his two young sons tried to exit the gate fronting their home, a crowd of a dozen settler boys sat and stood in front of the gate blocking his exit as he politely asked to be allowed to pass. For fifteen minutes the boys kept the man and his sons trapped until an Israeli soldier finally came and told them to move.
Through the sounds of stun grenading and the blasts of high powered rubber coated steel bullets being showered onto Palestinians by Israeli forces just past checkpoint 56, the settlers, of all ages, took turns standing in the Israeli military post where they posed for photos, shouted curses and racial abuses at Palestinians and international human rights monitors and cheered each time a blast rang out.
This was the situation just outside the Abu Shamsiyye family home alone. But hundreds of Palestinian families have been literally under siege during the Jewish Sukkot holiday began yesterday as their roads have been closed, their businesses have been attacked, their children have been arrested and their streets have undergone hours of endless assault by heavily armed Israeli forces both on roofs as well as in the streets to allow for settlers to move freely through Palestinian governed areas it is illegal for them to be, in so they could pray in the streets.
The misery continues for Palestinians existing in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron).
Dozens of Israeli settlers raided a park and ancient pool in the Palestinian town of al-Karmil in the southern occupied West Bank on Wednesday, under the armed protection of Israeli forces, witnesses said.
The park, part of the Yatta Municipality in the south Hebron hills, lies in Area A, under full Palestinian jurisdiction according to the Oslo Accords.
Buses carrying the settlers arrived to the park escorted by large numbers of Israeli forces and military vehicles, locals said.
Settlers came from the nearby settlements of Maon, Karmel, Beit Yatir, Susya, and the outposts of Havat Yair, Mitzpe Yair, Havat Maon, and Avigal, in order to “perform religious rituals” for several hours, they added.
The mayor of Yatta, Moussa Makhamreh, condemned the raid, pointing to the “dangerous nature of Israeli authorities’ and settlers’ racist actions taken under armed security.”
Makhamreh called upon local governance to support and protect the park in order to end frequent violations by Israeli settlers in the area.
An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate information on the incident.
The park was created in 2011 by the Palestinian Yatta municipality, which renovated an ancient pool located at the site.
Settlers have come to the area in the past through the initiative of the Susiya Tour and Study Center which describes the pool as the historical site of the Biblical settlement of Carmel, according to rights group B’Tselem. Such visits are generally approved by and coordinated with Israeli authorities.
In April, Israeli soldiers expelled Palestinians from the pool in order to allow settlers to swim and have exclusive use of the park.
Around 3,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only settlements in the Yatta region according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem.
The presence of settlements in the area, considered illegal under international law, comes at the expense of Palestinian residents’ ability to build homes and infrastructure, or live unimpeded by constant and often violent interruption from Israeli forces and settlers.
Israeli soldiers attacked, Tuesday, several Palestinian ambulances while transporting wounded Palestinians to hospitals, in Ramallah, kidnapped one Palestinian after dragging him out of the ambulance, and attempted to abduct another.
Medical sources said at least two Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, and dozens suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, after the soldiers assaulted hundreds of Palestinians protesting the ongoing Israeli invasions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
The soldiers stopped Palestinian ambulances, trying to transfer injured residents to hospitals in Ramallah, and kidnapped a wounded Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Ouri, after forcibly removing him from the ambulance.
They also attacked another ambulance, transferring a wounded Palestinian, but were unable to abduct him.
The assaults took place near the Beit El roadblock, north of Ramallah, when the soldiers assaulted dozens of protesters, including various political leaders of different Palestinian factions.
The army fired rounds of live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, concussion grenades and gas bombs, in addition to spraying the protesters with wastewater mixed with chemicals.
In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, soldiers kidnapped a Palestinian child, identified as Bassel Issa Shawaheen, 12 years of age, after breaking into his family’s home and searching it.
Also on Tuesday, at least 18 Palestinians were injured, as Israeli forces suppressed demonstrations across the occupied West Bank in support of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Nine Palestinians, including three women, have also been kidnapped in occupied East Jerusalem, after the soldiers attacked several men and women near Al-Aqsa Mosque, and prevented them from entering it.
… Filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman freelancing for France 2, Jamal al-Durrah and his 12-year-old son Muhammad are seen, backs pressed against the wall, Jamal’s arm shielding his young son whose mouth is oval with what must have been a paralyzing fear. And then the shots.
When the cloud of dust cleared, the boy is on his side, draped over his father’s lap.
Throughout an enduing four and a half year widespread Palestinian resistance, with all of its gut wrenching failures, and with the solace and strengths of solidarity en masse coming from both the history before the second intifada and the aftermath in its wake, the slaughter of Muhammad al-Durrah continues to be a defining moment. A young boy viewed guilty through the eyes of the Israeli military due only to the origin of his birth.
In the investigation to follow, an Israeli-initiated tug of war of blame across the grave of and over Muhammad’s murder ensued. Where initially the Israeli government took blame and expressed public relational regret with an apology, that space soon became occupied with denials, accusations and disturbing tales of Palestinian’s faking the boy’s death. If only Palestinians weren’t so busy mourning the actual mass murders of their children in order to be able to spontaneously arrange for the staged murder of one, a second intifada might not have been necessary, nor a third or a fourth for that matter.
Without politicizing the end of a human life, in a 67 year crime drenched in politics; fifteen years ago today a terrified little boy was shot to death while he hid beside his father. And the world should remember his name.
Warning graphic content! Raw footage of Mohammed ad-Durrah’s final moments of his life:
“There is one scene I will always remember. There was one child. The mother died, but he was trying to take milk from his mother. He was still alive.”
Jamili’s face betrays little emotion as she recalls the scene from thirty-three years ago. She has told the story many times, and perhaps it has lost some of its power in its retelling. Jamili works for Beit Atfal Assamoud, an NGO that provides medical, social and educational services to the residents of the Shatila refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Beirut, and she is talking about her experiences during the massacre of 1982.
“The best way to forget about the horrible things that have happened in the past is to work, to help,” she tells me.
There are currently fifty-nine Palestinian refugee camps scattered throughout the Middle East. When Zionist forces instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing aimed to dispossess the Palestinians of their land in 1947-1948, close to 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. The camps were built to house the refugees in the short term, but as the problem persisted, so did the camps. It is estimated that there are currently 2.5 million Palestinian refugees living in the camps, which are located in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.
Shatila is probably the most well-known of all the Palestinian refugee camps. In September of 1982, a local Christian militia, known as the Phalange, aided by its Israeli allies, entered Shatila and bordering Sabra, engaging in an orgy of torturing and killing that lasted several days. It is estimated that 3000 people died in this massacre, which has become one of the enduring symbols not only of the Lebanese civil war, but also of the continuing disregard in which Israel holds the Palestinian people.
Jamili was born in 1958, during Lebanon’s first civil war, and she moved with her family from Baalbek, site of the spectacular Roman ruins, to Shatila at the age of one. Although she was not alive during the Nakba – the Catastrophe – and the original establishment of the camp that followed it, she has heard countless stories from her relatives about this time. In the fifty-seven years since her move, she has witnessed all of the tragedies that have befallen Shatila. She can associate each event in the history of the camp with an episode in her life. Her history has become intertwined with that of Shatila.
“My house was destroyed seven times,” she tells me, “and we rebuilt it seven times.”
I have now been in Shatila almost four weeks, and as of yet, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to anybody about their personal experiences during the massacre. When I first arrived, I was expecting that the tragic events of 1982 would somehow cast an enormous shadow over the camp, that it was something everybody was still dealing with on some level. And so I was hesitant to discuss this topic with anybody for fear that I might bring up some memories that might be best left undisturbed. But when I was introduced to Jamili a few days ago as part of a visit to Beit Atfal Assamoud, she began talking about the massacre immediately. When I asked her if we could discuss the matter in greater detail, she agreed to give me an interview.
We are sitting in comfortable black chairs in her office. A fan whirs in a corner of the room, making the heat a little less oppressive. There is an enormous sleek, black desk behind her, at which I have yet to see her sit. Jamili’s work involves connecting with the residents of the camp who come to seek her help, and I suspect she feels a big desk between them would make them feel uncomfortable.
Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982 in order to rid the country of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had fled Jordan during Black September in 1970 and had since established a presence in the refugee camps of Beirut. Israel killed roughly 20,000 people, mostly civilians, during the invasion, and it managed to drive out the PLO.
“During the invasion, 90% of the camp was destroyed. We left Shatila and stayed in Hamra (a Beirut neighborhood a few miles north of Shatila). The people lived in schools and cinemas. My house had five rooms, but when we returned to the camp, we found that only one room was left standing.”
In August of that year, Israel pressured the Lebanese parliament to choose Bashir Gemayal, leader of the Israel-allied Maronites, as president. However, Gemayal was assassinated on September 14, and the Maronite Christian community, especially the Phalange, a brutal Maronite militia, blamed the Palestinians for his death. By this time the PLO had already left the camps, and only women, children and old men remained.
“The PLO had left. All of our youths were in prison,” says Jamili.
The international force that had overseen the evacuation of the PLO had by now departed, and the residents of Shatila were completely exposed.
Yassir Arafat had foreseen this possibility. In the negotiations for his departure from Beirut, he had expressed concern for the safety of the civilians he would be leaving behind in the camps. The US and the government of Lebanon had given their word that Israel would not be allowed to enter West Beirut and had ensured the safety of the Palestinians remaining in the camps. But these promises proved to be empty.
On the day following Gemayal’s murder, Wednesday, September 15, the Israelis seized West Beirut, entrusting to the Phalange, whose hatred for the Palestinians had been inflamed by the assassination of their leader, the task of cleaning up the refugee camps.
On the evening of the following day, Thursday, the Phalange finally entered Sabra and Shatila, and the carnage began almost immediately. David Hirst provides a chilling description in his book Beware of Small States :
“They broke into houses and killed their occupants. Sometimes they tortured before they killed, gouging out eyes, skinning alive, disemboweling. Women and small girls were raped, sometimes half a dozen times, before, breasts severed, they were finished off with axes. Babies were torn limb from limb and their heads smashed against walls.”
Unaware of the massacre, Jamili and her family sought shelter in a mosque in the center of the camp from the Phalange bombs that were falling on West Beirut.
“The houses, after the Israeli invasion, were not strong. The mosque was strong and standing. All of our neighbors left their houses, because they were weak. And we sat in the mosque. People came from outside and said there will be a massacre. Some people didn’t believe them. Where would we go? At the beginning we didn’t believe. But when many people came covered with blood and told terrible stories, then we were afraid.”
A group of old men decided to try to find a high-ranking Israeli officer and convince him to stop the bloodshed. Jamili’s father was among them, but at the last minute he opted to stay behind, a decision that most likely saved his life.
“And these men, until now we don’t know where they are. They went to tell they Israelis there are only children in the camp. They went to protect the camp. But they killed them. They were all friends of my father. Until now nobody really knows what happened. ”
As darkness fell in the evening, the violence continued. The Israelis fired flares over the camp to aid the militia with its grizzly work.
“They lit the streets of the camp. The hopeless thing is that the children saw the lights, and it made them feel happy. But we explained to them that it was the Israelis throwing bombs. Many houses burned. One bomb hit a neighbor’s house, and my father went to help put the fire out.”
Jamili spent that terrifying night in the mosque with her family.
“In the morning, at six o’clock, a group of women, children and old men came and entered the camp and passed by the mosque. They were crying and shouting, and then we believed that a massacre was going to happen.”
On Friday many of the residents of Sabra and Shatila escaped and made their way to two nearby hospitals – the Gaza and Akka hospitals.
“We carried our children and didn’t take anything. We went to the Gaza hospital.”
But even in the hospitals the terrified residents of the camp were not safe from the murderous intentions of the Phalange. In fact, on that day the militia entered the Akka hospital and murdered some of the wounded as they lay in their beds.
“The doctors and the nurses said ‘Don’t stay here. They will come to get you. Please leave this area.’”
“So we left. At that time I was with my family and all of my relatives. There were hundreds of people in the streets, carrying their children.”
Jamili’s destination was Hamra, the Beiruti neighborhood where she and her family had spent the bulk of the Israeli invasion. They had lived in a friend’s apartment, and they still had the key. That night they spent in an unfinished building on the way to Hamra.
“It had no doors or windows, but at least we had a place. In the morning hundreds of people from the camp came and shouted, and we felt that it was dangerous and that we must leave.”
On Saturday morning they were stopped by Israeli soldiers.
“They allowed the women and children to pass, but the young men had to stay. My brothers and uncles had to return back while the women and children continued to Hamra. Our men were not with us, and we were afraid. What would happen to them? We were running away from danger, and they were going to danger.”
By now journalists had entered Shatila, and news of the massacre had spread. When Jamili and her family reached Hamra they went to a supermarket to meet its owner, a man they knew. He was astonished to see them.
“’You are still alive?’ he asked us.”
By ten o’clock on Saturday morning the last of the Phalange had left Sabra and Shatila. The killing was over.
“I am lucky. I didn’t see anybody killed in front of me. But I saw the bodies. The mosque was filled with bodies. You can see the houses that were destroyed and the legs of the children appear from these houses. I saw all this.”
When Jamili saw the pictures in a newspaper, she was horrified. She imagined that all the bodies she saw belonged to her relatives, whom she had been forced to abandon outside of Hamra.
“All youths wear sport shoes and jeans and t-shirts. Their bodies were facing down. We felt that all our men had been killed. We decided to return back to the camp. On Monday morning we entered Sabra, and we were afraid to enter the camp. We saw the bodies in the street. I couldn’t stand. We couldn’t continue. We knew that all our relatives had died. I went to my house. I walked a few meters and then returned back. Because I was afraid to find out what happened.”
But it turned out that her male relatives had found shelter in a school outside the camp.
“When I saw them I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I felt foolish. When I found out that my whole family was safe, it was a perfect day.”
Jamili sighs. Her brown eyes glisten. Telling the story has brought back memories and emotions.
The massacre was over, but the problems for the residents remained, as the camp was almost entirely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
“We had a group of about twenty girls. We could stand against the enemy. We were not afraid. What choice did we have? To die? To live or die, it was the same.”
And so Jamili and her friends threw themselves into the task of rebuilding the camp, because, among other things, it helped them forget what had happened. But one cannot forget such an event.
Jamili leans closer, her face showing the confusion, the inability to accept what had happened so many years ago. How could one group of human beings do this to another?
“Why did Israel make the massacre? For the children? For the old men? Nobody could imagine that a massacre would happen. Why? For whom? We didn’t have any men. Some of them left, and some of them died. Some of them went to prison.”
Today, thirty-three years later, Shatila faces a multitude of problems. The camp, originally built for 4000 residents, is contained in an area that is in the shape of a square of side length less than one kilometer. With the recent influx of refugees from the war in Syria, the current population is estimated to be close to 25,000. This high concentration of people makes itself felt in the ubiquitous crowds that fill the narrow alleyways, in the piles of garbage that accumulate too quickly for the trash removal workers to keep up with, in the many buildings that extend skyward to accommodate the residents, and in the lack of open spaces in the camp. Living conditions are horrifying. Electricity is cut for at least twelve hours a day, and the tap water is so salty that it corrodes the faucets. Guns are present throughout the camp, and tensions, already high because of the extreme overcrowdedness, often explode to the point of physical conflict. (One week after my arrival in the camp two people were murdered during a dispute over a motorcycle parking spot.)
Most of the people in the camp dream of going back to their village in Palestine. And so it is with Jamili.
“Our problems will stop when we return. Why cannot we return to our homeland? My village is empty. It has been destroyed. Until now nobody lives there. Why must we live in this bad situation?”
As Israel moves further and further to the right, it appears as unlikely as ever that Jamili or any of the other millions of Palestinian refugees will ever be able to return to their homes. As their wait continues into its seventh decade, the international community appears to be losing interest even in providing material support for them. Until a few weeks ago, a UNRWA budget shortfall threatened to close all schools in the refugee camps, an action that would have been a disaster for the residents. Saudi Arabia and a few other nations came up with the funding at the last minute, but the message that the world doesn’t care about the refugees was delivered, regardless. These are dangerous times for the Palestinian refugees, and it is crucial that the international community, especially the West, who bears responsibility for their displacement in the first place, doesn’t forget about their plight.
 David Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East
Richard Hardigan is a university professor in the United States.
Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly seemed like a real bore for Secretary of State John Kerry
NEW YORK – US President Barack Obama declared during his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York his country’s readiness to cooperate with Russia and Iran to solve Syria crisis. However, he ignored to address the Palestinian cause.
The Palestinian Authority slammed Obama for neglecting the Palestinian issue in his speech at the UN on Monday.
Obama called for “a managed transition away from al-Assad,” whom he called a “dictator.”
“Nowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria. When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs — it breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all”.
He expressed surprise over those who “support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.”
Likewise, when a terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the innocent and enslaves women, that’s not a single nation’s national security problem — that is an assault on all humanity, he said in reference to ISIS.
The United States, according to him, has worked with many nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world war — by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people.
However, US president failed to mention the Palestinian cause in his speech at the UN General Assembly.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat expressed disappointment in US president Barack Obama for neglecting the Palestinian cause in his UN speech.
“Does President Obama believe he can defeat ISIS and terrorism, or achieve security and stability in the Middle East, by ignoring the continued Israeli occupation, settlement expansion, and the continued attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque?” he said.
Israel, The New York Times tells us, has vowed to crack down on violence in Jerusalem, allowing the use of live fire against Palestinians who take to “rock throwing and firebombing,” expanding the rules of engagement and lengthening sentences for such crimes.
In a story titled “Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem,” Isabel Kershner quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls such Palestinian weaponry “deadly and murderous objects,” which have been “thrown without response and without being thwarted.”
It is noteworthy that Netanyahu, responsible for bombing and strafing the 1.8 million residents of Gaza, can say these words without a hint of irony. It is also striking that the Times can report his utterances without pointing out the full context here—the lopsided nature of the conflict.
In fact, it is the Palestinians who face a deadly enemy: Israel possesses armored vehicles, automatic rifles, drones, rockets, fighter jets, smart bombs and sophisticated surveillance equipment, all of them more “deadly and murderous” than Palestinian rocks. As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel also has a stockpile of up to 300 nuclear weapons, which can be launched by air, land or sea.
Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have nothing more than stones, firecrackers, kitchen knives and homemade firebombs. The mortality figures reflect this disparity: Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank (settlers have killed at least another three), while Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of four Israelis within the West Bank and Israel combined.
Yet the Times strains to make Israelis appear as the victims, giving voice to the claims of Netanyahu, playing down Palestinian deaths and hyping Israeli casualties. A recent headline declared, “Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem,” suggesting that the driver was stoned to death. In fact, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car and ran into a light pole. The Times story cites only one object hitting the car.
By contrast, the paper gives a bland and ambiguous title to the story of a young Palestinian woman who died from a barrage of Israeli bullets last week as she tried to cross a checkpoint in Hebron. This news appears under the title, “2 Are Killed in West Bank as Jewish and Muslim Holidays Approach.”
Readers find no hint of the bloody assault on 18-year-old Hadeel Al Hashlamoun in this headline, and the Times has also failed to report that Amnesty International termed her killing a “extrajudicial execution” and called for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations” into her death.
Firsthand accounts say that an Israeli soldier shot Al Hashlamoun in the leg, and when she lay motionless on the ground, approached her and fired several more shots into her abdomen. Witnesses add that soldiers refused to let a Palestinian ambulance approach her and left her to bleed for about half an hour before allowing an Israeli ambulance to arrive and take her away. Video footage also shows a soldier grabbing her by a foot as she lay bleeding on the ground and dragging her out of camera sight.
This is raw violence with “deadly and murderous” arms, but the Times and Netanyahu do not find the word “violence” appropriate here. They reserve its use for Palestinians who throw rocks and firecrackers, never applying it to the atrocities of Israeli security forces. The irony and hypocrisy in this discourse seem to elude them entirely.
In a story that appeared online yesterday, the Times reports that four Palestinian youths have been arrested for throwing rocks at the car of the man who died after crashing in East Jerusalem. This news is in striking contrast to the latest, disturbing developments in the case of three Palestinian family members who died in an arson attack.
When news broke of the fire that killed a toddler in the West Bank village of Duma and led to the later deaths of his mother and father, the Times quoted the reactions of Israeli politicians at length and described Jewish Israeli “soul searching” over the deaths. The paper also noted that some extremist settlers had been arrested but that no one accused of the Duma arson was in custody.
The Times ran several stories immediately after the arson attack, reporting that Netanyahu vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but after running a brief article when the mother died earlier this month, the newspaper has been silent, even though there is news to tell: Israeli officials know who committed the crime but do not plan to arrest them.
Israeli media have reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted that the names of the suspects are known but the defense establishment has not arrested anyone “to avoid revealing intelligence sources in court.”
So we have the quick arrest of four youths suspected of throwing rocks and (perhaps) indirectly causing the death of an Israeli driver, while those responsible for burning and killing three innocent Palestinians go free. The remarks by Ya’alon add even more irony to Netanyahu’s complaint that rock throwing occurs “without response and without being thwarted.”
The Times has shown itself to be tone deaf to such dissonance in the Israeli narrative. Far from analyzing or commenting on the hypocrisy of vilifying rock throwers, it has worked to support this deliberate distortion of the reality in Palestine.
So in the Times we find silence concerning official complicity in settler crimes, efforts to portray Israelis as victims and a refusal to state the obvious: Killing civilians with the world’s most sophisticated weapons ranks high on the scale of violence, far above the efforts of Palestinian youth who face armored soldiers and tanks with slingshots and stones.