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Israeli troops harass the residents of Qaddum, and poison a baby with CS gas while they’re at it

By Yossi Gurvitz | Yesh Din | March 9, 2014

The security forces have a problem with the village of Qaddum. We’re not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s the weekly demonstrations that its residents are holding. What is clear is that they have decided to teach the village a lesson. Recently, a mysterious officer, who according to testimonies of the residents calls himself Captain Sabri, walks around telling people he will come and teach them a lesson. Some of the residents suspect him of being an ISA (Israeli Security Agency, AKA Shin Bet) officer.

Whatever Sabri’s organizational loyalty may be, he keeps his word. The Friday demonstrations are dispersed with an iron fist, and beyond that the residents also report recurring attacks on the village, even on days when no demonstrations are held. These attacks include the throwing of stun grenades and CS gas canisters, CS gas being the more aggressive form of tear gas.

In one case which actually made the Israeli media – of course, under the utilitarian fear that one more person killed by the IDF will make the kettle boil and cook us a new intifada – an old man from Qaddum, Saeed Gasser Nassar Ali, aged 85, died after inhaling gas which seeped into his house following a demonstration. The doctor who treated Ali found it hard to give him the best treatment possible, since he too was suffocating from the gas. Let’s say that again: the man suffocated in his house, and died shortly after in the hospital. Not during a demonstration. In his house.

Three weeks before Ali died, M., a resident of Qaddum, woke up at about 1 AM. His brother warned him that the army was raiding the village, and that all windows must be closed. Soon after, even though he thought he had closed all the windows, gas seeped into the house. The first to feel it was seven year old A., who began screaming that he can’t breathe. Then four year old R. began complaining he was feeling ill. The gas came through the windows of the bathroom, which is close to the children’s room and was forgotten.

M.’s wife was in the bedroom, holding H., a two month old baby, in her arms. When the gas reached the bedroom, she too had trouble breathing. M. noticed H. was turning blue and throwing up. He called an ambulance, and reached the village’s doctor – the same doctor that, a few weeks later, himself under gas attack, would have trouble treating the late Ali. The doctor gave H. an injection and hooked him with oxygen, and soon afterwards he was evacuated to a hospital in Qalqiliya. The doctors told the parents H. was in critical condition; happily, by the morning he was significantly better.

None of this will make the news. No one died. It’s just two children and an infant, poisoned by tear gas in the peace of their home. That’s the way occupation works: it requires terror, and effective terror necessitates the knowledge that no place is safe, that even the peace of the children’s room may be violated at any moment, by a cloud of something burning and suffocating. Don’t look away, my dears: this is what we finance. This is what the flying shards, flying as the tree is cut, look like. Like the broken egg without which no omelet can be made, and all the other clichés we tell ourselves when we say – “there’s nothing we can do”. Perhaps we can begin by not suffocating babies with gas?

Fear not: no IDF soldier will be harmed as a result of complaints filed after such events. As apparent in the case of Jawahar Abu Rahma, killed after inhaling gas three years ago, in which case we still lead a legal struggle so that the IDF will begin an investigation (!) into her death, the soldiers have nothing to fear. They’re covered. In our case, M., the father, does not intend to lodge a complaint. The rhetoric of “the most moral army in the world” failed to convince him. He knows there is no point in the effort and the heartache. And who knows, if you complain, maybe you’ll be targeted for harassment. So what’s the point? Better to make sure all windows are properly closed. Maybe, next time, it won’t be your baby.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israelis set West Bank mosque on fire, as UN report reveals rise in settler violence

Al-Akhbar | January 15, 2014

IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers

A group of Israeli settlers set fire to a West Bank mosque and sprayed it with racist graffiti, Ma’an news agency reported on Wednesday.

The “price tag” attack comes as a United Nations report revealed that settler attacks on Palestinians have almost quadrupled in eight years.

Ayoub Abu Hijlah, the mayor of the northern village of Deir Istiya, told Ma’an that the settlers entered the village before dawn to set fire to the mosque’s door, causing minor damages.

The settlers also scrawled threatening graffiti on the walls of the mosque, including “Arabs out!” and “Best regards from Qusra,” in an allusion to an incident in early January in which a group of settlers was apprehended by Palestinian villagers as they intended to destroy their crops.

Another tag read: “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.”

Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas said that residents managed to extinguish the blaze before it spread to the interior of the mosque.

Most price tag attacks against Palestinians are never prosecuted, and many take place in full view of Israeli troops. According to rights organization Yesh Din, indictments were only filed in 8.5 percent of 825 completed police investigations it monitored.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report, relayed by the Associated Press, recorded 2,100 settler attacks since 2006, from 115 attacks that year to 399 in 2013.

OCHA figures estimated that in eight years, 10 Palestinians were killed by settlers, and more than 1,700 Palestinians were injured by settlers or by troops in clashes.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poor Man’s Sheep

Soldiers break into the wrong house at night, go on a rampage – and make off with a woman’s savings from 15 years of work

One night in early September, the members of the Kavajeh family in Tarqumiya were woken by IDF troops breaking into their house. According to the despicable custom of the last few years, some of the soldiers wore ski masks; before our apathetic eyes what used to be the premier line of fashion among criminals has become common military attire.

From this moment on, everything went as per the routine – a routine known to every soldier who has ever served in the occupied territories: the soldiers gathered all the family members in one room, not giving them time to dress properly. They then searched the house, found nothing, and as they left, the head of the family, ‘Issa, heard the soldiers say to one another that they had raided the wrong house. Needless to say, the soldiers did not apologize to the family. The soldiers told them not to leave the house while they were still present.

When the family realized the soldiers were gone, they began to estimate the damage. Here the words of Issa are worth quoting: “We began moving around the house and saw the horror.” The contents of the cupboards had been spilled, and the soldiers had thrown bedding, clothes and equipment onto the floor. The kitchen was the real calamity zone: the soldiers made certain to spill the flour on the floor, mix the sugar, the lentils and the salt together, poured the tahini into the kitchen sink, and, finally, broke the eggs.

Now, certainly some IDF spokesperson, whether an official or a self-appointed one, will manage to find a way to explain why there was a pressing military need behind this wanton destruction of food; we’ll probably find a fool who would explain why there was a need to break the eggs – how do you know what they might have hidden in there? And anyway, why don’t you show us what happened before? And do you know what happened in 1929?

But as the family members finished examining the results of the small green storm that passed mistakenly through their home, the real disaster was discovered: the savings of one of the family members, Thahani, had been stolen. These were two gold bracelets and a gold ring. Thahani had saved the money to buy the jewelry from working in a seamstress shop since 1998.

Fifteen years of savings. Fifteen years of painstakingly gathering, day by day, an ounce of meager pay. A slow collection culminating in 65 grams of gold, each one of them worth 60 Jordanian Dinars, each Dinar the equivalent of about $1.7 USD. Fifteen years of savings left Thahani with some $8,005 USD; a bit more than $385 USD a year, or $1.25 USD a day. This was Tahani’s portion of all her labor. Now it lies in the pocket of a soldier. Perhaps he’ll give them to his lover, who will be grateful and not ask where he got such gold bracelets and such a ring; perhaps they’ll end up in a pawnshop. Perhaps, loyal to the value of comradeship, he already split the loot with other troops in his section.

In the morning, the family complained both to the Red Cross and the Israeli police. This was a futile gesture: good luck finding the looter among dozens of troops, some of whom were hooded and all well-versed in covering for one another. But before the MPCID rushes to close the case claiming it couldn’t find a suspect, one more thing must be said.

Looting is a war crime. It is defined as such in the Fourth Geneva Convention. During wartime, armies often harshly punish looting soldiers, if only because looting is bad for military discipline. At best, looting soldiers have to lie to their commander, which opens the door to more lies; at worst, the commander will take a commission off the loot. Armies who don’t punish looting harshly quickly cease to become armies and turn into militias at best, gangs at worse.

Israel, as is well known, does not have laws against war crimes on its books. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t commit them. And as long as the MPCID does not shake itself up and find the thief, and as long as Israel does not compensate Tahani, it allows a war criminal – not a mere thief, but a war criminal – to roam freely. And since we know nothing of him but the colors of the uniform he wore, he besmirches through his act all those who wear them. And if the IDF wants to remove this stain from its uniform – admittedly, they are spotted with quite a few of them – it had better find the guilty party, and throw the book at him. Hard.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel admits: Just 0.7% of West Bank allocated to Palestinians

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | March 28, 2013

In documents released on Thursday to the High Court of Justice, the Israeli government has admitted what Palestinians have been saying for decades: that the Israeli government has taken over 99.3% of the West Bank, allocating most of the land to illegal Israeli ‘Jewish only’ settlements.

The Israeli designation of 1.3 million acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank as ‘Israeli state land’ flies in the face of past Israeli claims that they are willing to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians on the status of land in the West Bank.

The documents were released as part of a lawsuit filed by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din that challenged the construction of the illegal settlement of Hayovel on stolen Palestinian land. The Israeli government argues that the settlement and the road leading to it are on ‘uncultivated land’, and have declared that such lands are subject to takeover by the Israeli government.

After 1979, the Israeli government began wide scale takeovers of Palestinian land using a law that passed in the Israeli Knesset authorizing the Israeli government to take over any Palestinian land that had not been cultivated in ten years.

A study by Israeli researcher Dror Etkes found that the Israeli government has used land surveys that are meant to determine which land is cultivated and which is not as a political tool to take over nearly all of the land in the West Bank.

His report stated that his findings “prove the claims that Palestinian landowners have been consistently presenting over the past few decades: Under the aegis of the broad declaration of lands as state lands, which includes almost a million dunams, Israel has taken over extensive cultivated areas, which were stolen from their owners through administrative decisions over which public and legal oversight is minimal, because they were supposedly not cultivated.”

In the recent case of the outpost of Derech Ha’avot, the largest Israeli outpost colony in the West Bank, the Israeli High Court ruled that the takeover of private Palestinian land by the Israeli settlers was acceptable, leading the lawyers for Yesh Din (the Israeli human rights group representing the Palestinian landowners) to declare;

“Not only is the state reconciling itself to the breaking of the law, but it is also ultimately granting the usurped land to the lawbreakers. It is particularly outrageous that all the state authorities joined forces to accept the breaking of the law and are now attempting to provide an umbrella of state support, rather than combating organized ideological crime that violates human rights on a daily and hourly basis.”

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 3 Comments

AP again skews the story, this time about Israeli attacks on Palestinian farmers

By Alison Weir | October 15, 2012

It’s interesting to examine how the Associated Press reported on a recent statement by the UN envoy to Israel-Palestine demanding that Israel protect Palestinian farmers from daily attacks by Israeli settlers.

The situation is dire for Palestinian farmers. In the first weeks of the olive harvest, a critical period for sustaining their families, Palestinian farmers have suffered daily attacks by Israelis (often armed) living in nearby settlements.

Settlements are illegal colonies on confiscated Palestinian land that not only bar the Palestinians from whom the land has been confiscated, they also bar citizens of Israel who are Christian and Muslim from living in them.

In its lead paragraph AP reported, “The U.N. Middle East envoy says he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.”

The AP headline said: “UN envoy alarmed by attacks on Palestinian trees.”

Somehow the word “farmers” didn’t make the cut, implying that the UN envoy was alarmed about what could seem a minimal concern and playing into Israeli claims that the UN is unduly picking on Israel.

While the headline might sound like the UN envoy is quibbling over Palestinian trees while people (Israelis) are suffering, the true situation is lost entirely: that these trees are the livelihood for entire village communities whose subsistence is at stake.

Also, AP’s paraphrase of the envoy’s statement is far milder than his actual words: “I am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive trees at the height of the harvest season.”

The envoy, Robert Serry, also said:

“These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice.”

AP left that out.

Serry also said:

“Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace.”

AP also left that out.

Two Israeli human rights groups had released reports on the Israeli attacks a few days earlier.

One, B’Tselem, said that it had documented five such settler attacks on Palestinian farmers in the previous four days, and called on the Israeli army and police “to investigate each incident,” as well as complaints that Israeli soldiers, who are legally required to protect the civilian population under their control, “did not intervene to prevent attacks.”

AP also left that out.

The report by the other Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, stated that of 162 attacks on Palestinian trees since 2005, only one case had led to charges.

AP also left that out.

The Yesh Din report also stated that the Israeli failure to investigate the attacks is “only one aspect of its continuous and broad failure to enforce the law against ideological crimes by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

AP also left that out.

A recent story in Ma’an News reports that over 7,500 Palestinian olive trees were destroyed by Israelis throughout 2011, according to The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs.

AP also left that out.

Below is the AP story found on US newspaper websites in its entirety. Below that is the AP story in an Israeli newspaper.

Note that there are two significant paragraphs in the middle of the Israeli story that are not in the US version. I am placing them in boldface.

AP sends different versions of its articles to its different wires and in my experience generally sends milder articles on this topic to its US wire than to other wires.

Whether AP omitted those significant paragraphs from its US version of the story or the Israeli editors added them, we know that AP had easy access to that important context – and chose not to include it in its report to American audiences.

AP story for US news media:

UN envoy alarmed by attacks on Palestinian trees

The U.N. Middle East envoy says he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.

Robert Serry says Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, in a statement sent to reporters Sunday. Israel’s military had no immediate comment. The West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians for a state, is under Israeli military rule.

An Israeli rights organization, B’Tselem, counts 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on October 10.

Every year a small number of extremist Jewish settlers carry out attacks during harvest season. Most attacks occur close to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olive groves provide crucial income for Palestinian farmers.

AP story in Israeli newspaper:

UN envoy alarmed by attacks on Palestinian trees

The UN’s Middle East envoy said on Sunday that he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.

Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank in a statement sent to reporters.

Israel’s military had no immediate comment. The West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians for a state, is under Israeli military rule.

“I am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive trees at the height of the harvest season,” Serry wrote. “These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice.”

He continued: “Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace.”

An Israeli rights organization, B’Tselem, counts 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on October 10.

Every year a small number of extremist Jewish settlers carry out attacks during harvest season. Most attacks occur close to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olive groves provide crucial income for Palestinian farmers.

A 2006 study of AP’s coverage of Israel-Palestine found that AP covered Israeli children’s deaths at a rate over seven times greater than it reported on Palestinian children’s deaths.

* * *

B’Tselem report

Yesh Din report

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling

By Charlotte Silver | The Electronic Intifada | 7 February 2012
A construction vehicle moves a large block of concrete
Israel claims its exploitation of West Bank land benefits the Palestinian population. (Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Ramallah – Pillage: for some the word conjures up lawless warfare, a time before the order of nation states or the rule of international law. Indeed, in its petition to the Israeli high court, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din argues that “pillage” belongs to “ancient times,” when justice was determined by might and the victors of war were entitled to the fruits of the conquered land.

But in today’s world, pillage continues. Obscured in the thick mire of economic agreements or obfuscations of law, pillage remains part of the modern world.

In March 2009, Yesh Din filed a petition demanding a termination to all Israeli mining activities in the West Bank. The petition was served against the commander of the Israeli military, the head of Israel’s Civil Administration (which oversees the occupation of the West Bank) and 11 Israeli companies that run quarries in the West Bank and illegally transfer their spoils into Israel.

International law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the resources of the territories it occupies. According to international law, an occupying authority may only use resources of the occupied territory if they serve the benefit of the occupied population.

“Unique” nature of Israel’s occupation

But international law would also have it that an occupation is temporary, and after 45 years, there are few who would characterize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as short-lived — including the Israeli high court. This exceptionally prolonged and “unique” nature of the Israeli occupation is just one of the several confounding reasons the high court ruled against Yesh Din’s petition on 26 December 2011 (“Yesh Din’s response to the HCJ ruling on the organization’s petition challenging the legality of Israeli quarrying activities in the occupied West Bank,” 3 January 2012).

Due to the extraordinary ruling, Yesh Din has applied for an extended chamber to reassess the court’s ruling. While it is unusual for such a request to be granted, Yesh Din argues this case merits a further hearing.

Writing the opinion of the court, President of the High Court Dorit Beinisch states, “The belligerent occupation of Israel in the area has some unique characteristics, primarily the duration of the occupation period that requires the adjustment of the law to the reality on the ground, which imposes a duty upon Israel to ensure normal life for a period, which … is certainly long-term.”

Thus, contrary to the opinion of many governments and many Israeli legal scholars as well, the court’s ruling exempts the Israeli authorities from the standard restrictions placed on an occupier.

An expert legal opinion submitted by seven Israeli legal scholars and Yesh Din states that appropriate interpretation of the laws of occupation in prolonged circumstances should be the opposite of that given by the high court last December (“Expert legal opinion — Executive summary,” 26 December 2011).

Bizarre claim that quarries benefit Palestinians

The court opinion is unprecedented in another respect as well. It argues that the operations of the Civil Administration — i.e. the occupation — are in fact for the benefit of the Palestinian population.

Before the court could strike down the petition, it had to argue that the riches gained by Israeli companies were benefiting the Palestinian population to meet the requirements of the Hague Regulations of 1907, one of the main instruments of international law relating to military occupation.

That the quarries employ approximately 200 Palestinians hardly substantiates a benefit to the collective population.

Furthermore, according to documentation by the Israeli interior ministry itself, 94 percent of mined resources are transferred to Israel, and most of the remaining 6 percent is transferred to Israeli settlements.

In 2010, a senior official in the Israeli State Attorney’s Office told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that since the mid-1970s, Israeli companies with permits to operate in the West Bank were required to pay a regular fee and additional royalties for each ton of material they extracted to the Civil Administration (“Israel seizing hundreds of millions of shekels meant for Palestinian services,” 7 April 2010).

That all changed in 1995 when the newly-created Palestinian Authority signed the Interim Agreements (generally known as the Oslo accords) with Israel. At that point royalties began to be funneled to the Israel Lands Administration, the body that manages land inside the state. The assumption in the agreements was that after 18 months the quarries would be transferred to the PA (the agreements also envisaged a full Palestinian state within five years).

The Civil Administration, a unit of Israel’s ministry of defense, is in charge of administering the occupation. It is responsible for home demolitions, flying checkpoints, the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank and squelching protests.

To say the least, the Civil Administration is not a trusted benevolent body for the Palestinian people. Speaking to Haaretz in 2010, one legal expert said that the Civil Administration and the defense ministry insisted that building the wall, funding Israeli police in “Judea and Samaria” (as Israel calls the West Bank), constructing bypass roads and other settler infrastructure should also classify as “for the good of the local population” (“Digging up the dirt,” 3 September 2010).

Absolving Israel

But never mind those facts. The court invoked the Palestinian Authority to absolve the operation of Israeli quarries. “It seems that the petitioner may have forgotten that the best interests of the protected population … lie within the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, alongside other entities, which is engaged in diplomatic agreements with the State of Israel,” the court stated in its verdict.

Speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit, Ashraf Khatib completely refutes the court’s invocation of the PA as a source for legitimizing the quarries. “The interim agreement clearly states ‘quarries must be transferred to the Palestinian side within 18 months’ — Israel has not done so,” he told The Electronic Intifada.

And then, in a twist of reality too sick even for George Orwell, the court argued that the military is promoting projects that benefit Palestinians.

“Royalties paid to the Civil Administration by the operators of the quarries are used to finance the operations of the military administration, which promotes various kinds of projects aimed to benefit the interests of the area,” the ruling adds.

It is hardly surprising that the Israeli court would find a way to legalize the activities of the occupation, but it goes well beyond that and argues that the occupation — its military and economic operations — is intended to help the Palestinian population. Now that takes real chutzpah.

But then again, it is not entirely novel for countries advocating for an open-door policy (that only opens in one direction) to claim it serves the benefit of the land and population it is exploiting. And while the Palestinian Authority will surely balk at taking responsibility for its encouragement of this kind of neoliberal relationship, it was only three years ago that the PA’s appointed prime minister and former International Monetary Fund official, Salam Fayyad signed on to the “economic peace” plan. Promoted by Benjamin Netanyahu, that plan prioritized normalization of life under occupation.

Despite attempts to divorce politics from economics, the fact remains that Israel is reaping economic benefits from continuing to occupy and subjugate Palestinian people. The Interim Agreement in 1995 opened up these neoliberal lines of communication between Israel and the West Bank with the alleged objective of gradually building state institutions. Since then, Palestinians have been further separated from the very land on which their state was to be built.

Neoliberal policies work this way all over the world: vulnerable states are subjected to exploitation and devastation. In the West Bank, these savage realities are enforced — and intensified — with the military might of Israel.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank. She can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling