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How Israel kills at will and in total impunity while the world asks the Palestinians for non-violent resistance

Frank Barat writes of the life and death of Bassem Abu Rahme, shot by an IOF soldier with “the rocket”, a new kind of weapon also used on critically injured US citizen Tristan Anderson some weeks ago.

On April the 17th, like any Friday afternoon for the last 4 years, the small village of Bil’in, north of Ramallah, was preparing for the usual demonstration against Israel’s annexation wall … The village of Bil’in has, since the mid eighties, lost more than 60% of its land for the purpose of Israeli growing settlements and the construction of the wall. The inhabitants of the village used to live mainly from agriculture and olive trees plantations but more and more, the people of Bil’in have to rely on the women to survive. Embroidery has become one of the main resource of the place, located a few kilometres away from Tel Aviv (on a nice day, you can see the “inaccessible”–for the Palestinians– beach from the roof tops of Bil’in).

In January 2005, a village committee (led by Mohamed Khatib, Iyad Burnat and Abdullah Abu Rahme) was created and a month later non-violent demonstrations started, first taking part every day, then once a week, on Yum Al Juma’a (Friday, day of prayer).

The village won a huge battle in August 2008 (1) when the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the new route of the barrier in Bil’in was in violation of the Court ruling released on September 2007 (2) (which ruled that the Wall path was prejudicial to Bil’in and must be altered) and ordered the State to present within 45 days a new route, which will uphold the principles of the ruling.

On Friday the 17th of April 2009, the wall still had not moved one inch and while the inhabitants of the village were praying at the village mosque, many internationals (coming from all around the world) and the strong Israeli contingent (including people from the Alternative Information Centre (3) and Anarchists Against the Wall (4)) were looking for some shade (to hide from the baking sun) and chatting about the day’s event. As soon as prayer was over with, the demonstration started to move forward in direction of the wall, a few kilometres away.

You can be sure that Bassem (aka Phil) was right at the front of the march. He always was. I had met Bassem a few times while visiting Bil’in. He was a strong looking man, singing the loudest, joking all the time, jumping around and leading the way, accompanied by the rest of the village committee and the Israeli contingent.

As it usually happens, as soon as the march reached the corner where the Israeli soldiers can be seen, the tear gas started. A few brave ones, always continue anyway and reach the beginning of the wall, after a few minutes. Bassem, as usual, was one of those. The Israelis present at the front of the demonstration started talking with the nearby soldiers in Hebrew and Bassem too, screamed “We are in a non violent protest, there are kids and internationals…”. He was shot in the chest and never managed to finished his sentence. He fell on the floor, moved a little bit, fell again, and died. ( , scroll down for stills and videos)

Bassem was shot by a new kind of Tear Gas, called “the rocket”. The soldier who shot was a mere 40 meters away. This is the same type of tear gas that critically injured US citizen Tristan Anderson a few weeks ago. Those tear gas canisters are as fast and lethal as live ammunition. Very hard to get away from. Normally, tear gas canisters fly in the air for a long time, then fall and bounce a few times. Those ones fly like a bullet and go straight, not up and down.

Once more, Israel using the West Bank as its testing ground, the Palestinians as guinea pigs.

The soldier who fired, knew what he was doing and who he was targeting. The shame is that he probably knew Bassem. Bassem was always at the front, and had been for a few years now. The soldiers often come back more than once in Bil’in and start to get to know the ones facing them. Bassem did not get a chance to say hi, or bye.

On April the 17th , Bil’in and Palestine lost one of their heroes.

What is going to happen next?

Israel has already said that it will investigate the incident (out of every single investigation into such crimes, only 6% of the soldiers were ever prosecuted, often let off with a few weeks suspension), but before it did, started the usual propaganda, saying that the protest had been really violent and that the soldiers had to react (the video of the demonstration clearly shows otherwise).

We might even hear in a few days that it was actually the Palestinians who fired the tear gas and killed their beloved friend.

The P.A, instead of issuing the strongest statement against this act, stopping once and for all the negotiations with the Israeli government and joining the demonstrators every Friday to be hand in hand with its people, said next to nothing, and is looking forward to the upcoming White House meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Obama (this is being planned while I write).

The media hardly reported this. The Palestinians do not count. Even more shocking when a video of the event is available to all and could have been used to great effect.

The international community (for what it means) will not mention this “incident” (it is for them) and continue issuing calls for the Palestinians to renounce violence and resist peacefully while saying nothing about Israel’s killings (since the start of the second intifada, 87% of the dead have been Palestinians), violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinians.

It is therefore down to us, the citizens of this world, to act, join solidarity groups, write articles, make films and talk, constantly, about the plight of the Palestinian people. Palestine has to become the number one issue.

This is a must.

For Bassem, his family, Bil’in and Palestine.

Frank Barat is in the organizing committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK.


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January 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on How Israel kills at will and in total impunity while the world asks the Palestinians for non-violent resistance

“Our hands have not shed this blood”? Give me a break

The IDF insists on not indicting the security officer who killed Bassem Abu Rahme, even though we provided it with enough details to find him

By Yossi Gurvitz | Isolated Incident | September 15, 2013

In April 2009, an Israeli uniformed officer fired a gas canister, using dead reckoning, into the chest of demonstrator Bassem Abu Rahme, during the weekly demonstration in the village of Bil’in, and killed him. The killing was carried out in the presence of senior officers. Firing a canister using dead reckoning is contrary to the orders of the IDF itself, not to mention the moral meaning of shooting an unarmed man; but Abu Rahme was a Palestinian, and it would seem the IDF would do anything possible to avoid meting justice to his killer – even though he can find his identity easily.

Last week, hours before Rosh Ha’shana – classic news-killing move – the government announced that the Judge Advocate General decided to close the case, citing “lack of evidence” for an indictment.

This argument is rubbish, and I’ll be back with it soon. But first we need to give a brief history of the case. Several days after the killing, B’Tselem wrote to the military prosecution, demanding an MPCID investigation of the shooting; at about the same time, Atty. Michael Sfard made the same demand.

But even though an unarmed civilian was shot to death by a security officer – a fact which is not contested – the military prosecution refused to open a criminal investigation, insisting instead on a military debriefing process. On 28th March, 2010 – some 11 months after Abu Rahma was killed – the military prosecution announced that it would not open an MPCID investigation. They used a creative excuse: They claimed the canister may have hit the fence and ricocheted towards Abu Rahma, and hence there was no guilt. And perhaps, they mused, the fact that Abu Rahme was standing on a rock “caused a convergence” between him and the arc of the canister.

These are precisely the sort of questions an MPCID investigation would have answered. And yet, the prosecution refused to open one. There is another critical point here: The prosecution claimed that, despite the debriefing, it does not know who the shooter was. If an IDF debriefing can’t answer this basic question, every Israeli should wonder what this process is good for.

So we happily solved this riddle for the prosecution. On June 3rd, 2010, Attys. Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer demanded the military prosecution open an MPCID investigation, adding to their demand an opinion based on a technology called Forensic Architecture. The death of Abu Rahme was documented by three different video cameras; from the merging and rebuilding of the images [see video; the shooting is just after 3:40], you can plainly see where the soldier who shot him stood, and you can see that the shooting was dead reckoning. We don’t know the identity of the shooter, but we found out where he stood during the shooting. Any self-respecting investigative outfit ought to be able to answer this question rather easily – particularly after a military debriefing.

It should be further noted that according to a testimony gathered by the NGO Breaking the Silence (Hebrew) one of the soldiers involved documented the killing by video, and “some soldiers had this video on their mobile phone. They sent it to one another and laughed about it a bit. The guy who shot him, I don’t remember his name, personally I don’t know him too well but I sort of knew who he was, he was rather happy with the story. He put an X on his grenade launcher.” Somehow, all this evaded the debriefing, and the MPCID investigation as well. Was it incompetence or a case of following the spirit of the commander?

The forensic architecture finding left the prosecution with little choice, and about a month later, on July 11th 2010 – some 15 months after the shooting, but who’s counting – it ordered an MPCID investigation. This carried on and on and on, perhaps expecting us to take the hint and go bark up another tree. This was just a Palestinian, after all, and furthermore one who caused the hasbara system some embarrassment by starring in “Five Broken Cameras.”

So we were left with no choice, and on March 3rd 2013, we appealed, together with B’Tselem, to the High Court of Justice, demanding two remedies: That the prosecution should reach a decision in the case; and that it should indict, at a minimum, for unlawful use of a weapon.

And, as mentioned, last week we got the answer: the military prosecution still insists it is ignorant of the identity of a shooter documented in three cameras, even after we specifically noted his location. Therefore it asks the Court to reject the appeal, close the file without any indictments, and offers us to appeal its decision – a process which can easily drag on for a year or two.

To sum: In April 2009, a person wearing Israeli uniform shot an unarmed demonstrator. Four years later, the IDF’s glorious investigative organs – a debriefing and an MPCID investigation – claim “lack of evidence” for an indictment. Didn’t you get the hint, you bleeding hearts? What, do you seriously think we would indict a soldier for killing a Palestinian, and worse – screw up his superior’s career? As our data sheet showed, the rate of indictment of soldiers and officers for killing Palestinians is very low, and the conviction rate is also rather sparse.

“If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field,” orders the Bible, “and it be not known who hath slain him: Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain: And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke; And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley: […]  And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley. And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge.” During the misty days of the descent of the Second Temple, the writers of the Talmud repealed this decision, as the killers multiplied and acted openly.

Here is one found slain in the field. The IDF cannot wash its hands, cannot say “our hands have not shed this blood,” cannot say “neither have our eyes seen it,” since it insists on averting its eyes. And what about “lay not innocent blood unto thy people,” the basic demand, universal to all human societies, that a death should be atoned for, what of it?

Don’t worry. He was just a Palestinian.

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Comments Off on “Our hands have not shed this blood”? Give me a break

Israeli government closes case of killing of unarmed protester; cites ‘lack of evidence’

bassam_abu_rahme_3 Bassem Abu Rahme flying a kite (image from palestinechronicle)
B’Tselem – September 10, 2013

Four and a half years have passed since the killing of Bassem Abu Rahmeh by a tear gas canister fired at him directly from a short range. The death was documented by three video angles, but the Israeli state announced Monday it is closing the case citing lack of evidence

Military Advocate General (MAG) Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni decided to close the case file in the investigation of the circumstances of the killing of Bil’in resident Bassem Abu Rahmeh, citing lack of evidence. The MAG made this decision in late July, and it was recently conveyed to the Israeli High Court of Justice as part of an updating statement by the Office of the State Attorney in a petition filed by Subhiya Abu Rahmeh, Bassem’s mother, together with Bil’in Village Council and Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din.

According to the statement signed by Senior Deputy at the Office of the State Attorney, Att. Michal Michlin-Friedlander, and Assistant to the State Attorney, Att. Udi Eitan, also former Deputy State Attorney Yehoshua Lemberger had reached the same conclusion.

30-year-old Bassem Abu Rahmeh, a resident of the village of Bil’in, whose story was told in the film “Five Broken Cameras” nominated for Best Foreign Film in the Academy Awards, was killed in April 2009 after he was struck in the chest by an extended-range tear gas grenade during a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in his home village of Bil’in. Three video segments filmed during the demonstration prove that Abu Rahmeh was situated to the east of the barrier, did not act violently, and did not endanger the soldiers in any way. An analysis of the video footage of the incident, by visualization experts determined that the grenade was fired directly at Abu Rahmeh, in complete contravention of open-fire regulations.

In its response, the state did not explain the rationale behind its decision, limiting itself to the following laconic wording: “There is not enough evidence needed for criminal proceedings for adopting legal measures against any of the soldiers involved in the incident.” No information was given regarding the findings of the investigation, which the state argued had included “comprehensive and rigorous investigative actions,” or about the versions provided by the soldiers who had been questioned. Neither did the statement provide the contents of the opinions given by experts of the Israeli military and police and their interpretation of the findings disclosed by the video footage.

Ever since Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed, his family – aided by NGOs Yesh Din and B’Tselem – has been continuously striving to have the truth of the incident brought to light and to have those responsible for their son’s death prosecuted. Their efforts have been repeatedly thwarted by the sluggish conduct of the MAG Corps. Due to the initial refusal by the MAG at the time to launch a Military Police investigation, the investigation was opened a year and half later than it should have. The foot-dragging and procrastination in the case have continued even once the investigation was launched over three years ago. Only a petition to the High Court of Justice finally brought about a decision in the case.

In response to the statement submitted by Office of the State Attorney, Att. Emily Schaeffer of Yesh Din’s legal team said: “The decision to close the file in the killing of Bassem Abu Rahmeh is unacceptable, particularly in view of the expert opinion that determined that the tear-gas grenade was fired directly at Abu Rahmeh from a close range. Despite three separate videos that recorded the killing of Bassem, the MP and police have failed to find the factors that caused the death of an unarmed demonstrator. The conduct of law enforcement bodies in this case is further proof of the feebleness of the authorities in cases of Palestinian casualties. Moreover, it seems that there might be no intention of finding out the truth or prosecuting the offenders even in extreme cases such as this, in which there is clear-cut and unambiguous evidence. Bassem’s family, together with B’Tselem and Yesh Din, will continue in its struggle to bring the parties responsible for his death to justice.”

Att. Yael Stein, Director of Research at B’Tselem, said in response: “The unbearable procrastination taken by the authorities in this case, and the fact that the MAG only made a decision due to a High Court Petition, once again demonstrate that the MAG Corps must adopt the recommendations of the Turkel Commission without delay. This includes determining a pre-defined schedule for each stage of the investigation, and ensuring that each stage is brief. Also, the statements made by investigative bodies about their decisions must include the reasoning underlying the decision so as to enable lodging effective appeals.”

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Comments Off on Israeli government closes case of killing of unarmed protester; cites ‘lack of evidence’

Four Injured, Palestine TV Reporters Kidnapped In Kufur Qaddoum

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC | June 22, 2013

The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Kufur Qaddoum village, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, reported Friday that dozens of Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest, wounding four residents, and kidnapped reporters of the official Palestine TV.

The Committee said that the soldiers violently attacked and beat reporter Ahmad Shawar and cameraman Bashar Nazzal, working for the Palestinian TV, confiscated their cameras, and threw the rest of their equipment in the trash.

An  Israeli army spokesperson claimed that the kidnapped journalists “attacked the soldiers”, and that they have been transferred to an interrogation facility.

Morad Shteiwy, coordinator of the Popular Committee in the village, has reported that the army surrounded the village since early morning hours Friday, and invaded it in an attempt to prevent the residents from holding their weekly protest against the illegal Annexation Wall and settlements.

“The large number of soldiers deployed in the village could not prevent the determined residents from holding their protest”, Shteiwy said, “the soldiers violently attacked the protesters and fired dozens of gas bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber-coated metal bullets”.

He further said that resident Aqel Mahmoud Shteiwy, 25, was shot with a rubber-coated bullet in his hand, and that one of his fingers was amputated, and added that resident Yousef Mustafa Shteiwy, 21, was shot in the chest, Bassam Ayyoub Shteiwy, 26, was shot in the back and Bashar Mahmoud Shteiwy, 22, was shot in the abdomen.

Also on Friday, soldiers used tear gas, chemical water and rubber-coated steel bullets to attack the weekly protests at the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, where residents and their international and Israeli supporters, managed to reach the wall; two protesters were injured and many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In Bil’in, gas bombs fired by Israeli troops caused a fire that damaged olive trees owned by local farmers. Soldiers also fired tear gas at residents who tried to put out the fire.

At the nearby village of al Nabi Saleh, Israeli soldiers attacked the villagers and their supporters before leaving the village.

Dozens of soldiers stormed the village and fired gas bombs into resident’s homes. Many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.

In al Ma’sara village, near Bethlehem, dozens of soldiers stopped the villagers and their supporters at the village entrance and then forced them back, using rifle-buts and batons to push people back, no injuries were reported.

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Injured, Palestine TV Reporters Kidnapped In Kufur Qaddoum

Israeli interrogators sexually harass Palestinian children in detention

Palestine Information Center – 08/07/2012

RAMALLAH — A number of Palestinian children who were detained in different circumstances have reported their exposure to abuse and maltreatment by Israeli soldiers and interrogators.

In some cases, the interrogators sexually harassed the children and on other occasions they threatened to rape them if they did not cooperate or make certain confessions, according to the children’s testimonies.

Palestinian statistics documented the detention of more than 9,000 children during the past ten years, mostly from occupied Jerusalem and West Bank villages such as Bil’in, Ma’sarah, Kafr Qaddum, Nabi Saleh and Beit Ummar.

A child named Mohamed said an Israeli interrogator threatened to sexually harm him if he refused to confess to throwing stones at soldiers and settlers.

Samer, another child, was given the choice of working as an informer or else he would be tortured, raped and jailed on a charge of throwing a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli patrol in Azzun village near Qalqiliya city.

For his part, director of the Al-Haq organization for human rights Shawan Jabbarin said the Israeli interrogators offer to get rid of the sexual and psychological pressure inflicted on the detained Palestinian children if they will work for them.

Jabbarin noted that Israel violates all limitations for the detention of minors under age 18 as stipulated by the fourth Geneva convention.

He stressed the need for the presence of a lawyer or one of the parents during the interrogation of children to prevent violations against them and to protect their rights.

The activist appealed to the UN and human rights organizations to intervene and oblige Israel to respect international law on the rights of children and release them all from its jails.

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Israeli Soldiers Invade Bil’in, Break Into Home Of Local Peace Activist

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC | May 28, 2012

Late on Sunday night Israeli soldiers invaded the village of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and attempted to kidnap a local peace activist, one of the organizers of nonviolent peaceful protests against the illegal Israeli Annexation Wall and settlements in the area.

The Friends of Freedom and Justice Committee in Bil’in (FFJ) reported that resident Hosam Hamad, 33 years old, was not at home when soldiers invaded it. Instead, the soldiers handed his mother a warrant for his arrest.

The FFJ added that the army pushed journalists and cameramen away when they attempted to ask the soldiers why they were trying to take Hamad. They informed them that they were not allowed to document the invasion and did not provide any explanation for their actions.

Bil’in is known for its leading role in creative non-violent resistance against the Annexation Wall and settlements in the area. Peace activists from different parts of the world as well as Israeli activists participate in the weekly non-violent protests.

Israeli soldiers use excessive force against the protesters, and repeatedly kidnap local activists of the non-violent resistance. The army is responsible for hundreds of injuries and several deaths because of its use of force against the protesters.

In 2008, Ashraf Abu Rahma was detained during a nonviolent protest; he was cuffed and blindfolded before one soldier held him while another soldier shot him in the leg.

The shooting was caught on tape by a young Palestinian woman from Bil’in, and was handed to a number of human rights groups to expose the Israeli crime. The soldiers subsequently detained her father as an act of punishment.

Abu Rahma’s brother, Basem, and his sister, Jawaher, were killed by Israeli fire in different non-violent protests against the Wall and settlements.

A statement issued by the spokesperson of the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton, said last Tuesday that the European Union defends the right of Palestinians to hold peaceful protests against illegal Israeli settlement construction on their land.

May 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’

By Haggai Matar | +972 | February 28 2012

A new video from Nabi Saleh shows a night-time raid on the home of activist Bilal Tamimi, during which soldiers claim they just want peace – as they take all the children out from their beds.

Nightly raids on the homes of Palestinian activists in the popular struggle are nothing new. The people of each and every village where demonstrations take place on a regular basis know that at one point or another – their houses are likely to get raided in the dead of night, at times turned upside down, at times leading to arrests, but often just for the sake of intrusion and intimidation. In certain villages, like Bil’in, soldiers would just roam the streets at night, throwing around stun and tear gas grenades into front yards. As Noam Sheizaf recently wrote – it’s just another part of the routine of occupation.

The video documentation of these raids, taken on by the villagers themselves, gives a unique look into the way soldiers think and work while parading through civilians homes in large groups, armed from head to toe. In the latest video, shot by Bilal Tamimi in his own home during a raid that took place between Sunday and Monday night, the soldiers are seen entering the house and asking that all residents be concentrated in one room. When asked why they are doing this, the officer leading the operation gives the amazing answer: “Of course. Because we want peace, and you are always throwing stones on our roads,” and later adds that they just came “for a  visit.”

As the recording proceeds the soldiers enter the house, ask to wake all the children up and put them all in one room. Confronted with the fact that some of the children are but 5 years old, the officer insists they are all to stay in one place. While performing a short search of the house the soldiers are glad to find empty tear standard tear gas canisters, shot by the army at demonstrators and often kept by activists as memorabilia. In the past, Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu-Rahme was actually charged with illegal possession of weapons for holding such a stash – worthless as an actual weapon, of course.

By the end of the video the officer is also seen questioning two of the children if they have “anything that is prohibited,” going through a school bag, and leaving with a “good night” greeting to the family. When entering another house, where a woman tells them that she is alone and that this is the twentieth time they’ve come to her house, some of the soldiers stop Tamimi from filming.

The most amazing thing about this short peep into the raids’ routine is the soldiers’ apparent complete lack of self-awareness. Standing there inside a family’s house, in the dead of night, pointing guns at civilians young and old, they try to act natural and even nice, and of course – all in the name of their genuine intent for peace.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Comments Off on Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’