Category Archives: Crimes against Humanity

The War on Innocence: Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Court

On July 29, 4-year-old Muhammad Rabi’ Elayyan was reportedly summoned for interrogation by the Israeli police in occupied Jerusalem.

The news, originally reported by the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), was later denied by the Israeli police, likely to lessen the impact of the PR disaster that followed.

The Israelis are not denying the story in its entirety, but are rather arguing that it was not the boy, Muhammad, who was summoned, but his father, Rabi’, who was called into the Israeli police station in Salah Eddin Street in Jerusalem, to be questioned regarding his son’s actions.

The child was accused of hurling a stone at Israeli occupation soldiers in the Issawiyeh neighborhood, a constant target for Israeli violence. The neighborhood has also been the tragic site for house demolition under the pretext that Palestinians there are building without permits. Of course, the vast majority of Palestinian applications to build in Issawiyeh, or anywhere in Jerusalem, are denied, while Jewish settlers are allowed to build on Palestinian land, unhindered.

With this in mind, Issawiyeh is no stranger to the ridiculous and unlawful behavior of the Israeli army. On July 6, a mother from the beleaguered neighborhood was arrested as a means to put pressure on her teenage son, Mahmoud Ebeid, to turn himself in. The mother “was taken by Israeli police as a bargaining chip,” Mondoweiss reported, quoting the Jerusalem-based Wadi Hileh Information Center.

Israeli authorities are justified in feeling embarrassed by the whole episode concerning the 4-year-old boy, thus the attempt at poking holes in the story. The fact is WAFA’s correspondent in Jerusalem had, indeed, verified that the warrant was in Muhammad’s, not Rabi’s, name.

While some news sources bought into the Israeli ‘hasbara’, readily conveying the Israeli cries of ‘fake news’, one must bear in mind that this event is hardly a one-off incident. For Palestinians, such news of detaining, beating and killing children is one of the most consistent features of the Israeli occupation since 1967.

Just one day after the summoning of Muhammad, Israeli authorities also interrogated the father of a 6-year-old child, Qais Firas Obaid, from the same neighborhood of Issawiyeh, after accusing the boy of throwing a juice carton at Israeli soldiers.

“According to local sources in Issawiyeh the (Israeli) military sent Qais’ family an official summons to come to the interrogation center in Jerusalem on Wednesday (July 31) at 8 am,” reported the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC). In one photo, the little boy is pictured while holding up to a camera the Israeli military order written in Hebrew.

The stories of Muhammad and Qais are the norm, not the exception. According to the prisoners’ advocacy group, Addameer, there are currently 250 children in Israeli prisons, with approximately 700 Palestinian children going through the Israeli military court system every single year. “The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years,” Addameer reports.

Indeed, Israel has so much to be embarrassed about. Since the start of the Second Intifada, the popular uprising of 2000, some 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli army.

But it is not only children and their families that are targeted by the Israeli military, but also those who advocate on their behalf. On July 30, Palestinian lawyer, Tariq Barghouth, was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Israeli military court for “firing at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions.”

As flimsy as the accusation of a well-known lawyer firing at ‘buses’ may sound, it is important to note that Barghouth is well-regarded for his defense of many Palestinian children in court. Barghouth was a constant source of headache for the Israeli military court system for his strong defense of the child, Ahmad Manasra.

Manasra, then 13-years of age, was tried and indicted in Israeli military court for allegedly stabbing and wounding two Israelis near the illegal Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in Occupied Jerusalem. Manasra’s cousin, Hassan, 15 was killed on the spot, while wounded Ahmad was tried in court as an adult.

It was the lawyer, Barghouth, who challenged and denounced the Israeli court for the harsh interrogation and for secretly filming the wounded child as he was tied to his hospital bed.

On August 2, 2016, Israel passed a law that allows authorities to “imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14.” The law was conveniently crafted to deal with cases like that of Ahmad Manasra, who was sentenced on November 7, 2016 (three months after the law was approved) to 12 years in prison.

Manasra’s case, the leaked videos of his abuse by Israeli interrogators and his harsh sentence placed more international focus on the plight of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system.

“Israeli interrogators are seen relying on verbal abuse, intimidation and threats to apparently inflict mental suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession,” Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children- Palestine, said at the time.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel, as of 1991, is a signatory, “prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Yet, according to Parker, “ill treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military and police is widespread and systematic.”

So systematic, in fact, that videos and reports of arresting very young Palestinian children are almost a staple on social media platforms concerned with Palestine and Palestinian rights.

The sad reality is that Muhammad Elayyan, 4, and Qais Obaid, 6, and many children like them, have become a target of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This horrendous reality must not be tolerated by the international community. Israeli crimes against Palestinian children must be effectively confronted as Israel, its inhumane laws and iniquitous military courts must not be allowed to continue their uncontested brutalization of Palestinian children.

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

Killing Tariq: Why We Must Rethink the Roots of Jewish Settlers Violence

Tariq Zabania

Seven-year-old Tariq Zabania from Al-Khalil (Hebron) was killed on the spot when an Israeli Jewish settler ran his car over him on July 15. Little Tariq’s photograph, lying face down on the road, was circulated on social media. His untimely death is heartbreaking.

Tariq’s innocent blood must not go in vain. For this to happen, we are morally obliged to understand the nature of Jewish settler violence, which cannot be viewed in isolation from the inherent racism in Israeli society as a whole.

We are all often guilty of perpetuating the myth that militant Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are a different and distinct category from other Israelis who live beyond the so-called “Green Line”.

Undoubtedly, the violent mentality that propels Israeli society, wherever it is located, is not governed by imaginary lines but by a racist ideology, of which disciples can be found everywhere in Israel, not just in the illegal Jewish colonies of the West Bank.

Israel is a sick society and its ailment is not confined to the 1967 Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

While Palestinians are imprisoned behind walls, fences and enclosed regions, Israelis are a different kind of prisoners, too. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness,” wrote the late anti-Apartheid hero and long-time prisoner, Nelson Mandela.

It is this racism and bigotry that makes Tariq invisible to most Israelis. For most Israelis, Palestinian children do not exist as real human beings, deserving of a dignified life of freedom. This callousness is a defining quality, common among all sectors of Israeli society — right, left and center.

An example is the terrorist attack carried out by Jewish settlers against the Palestinian Dawabshe family in the village of Duma, in the northern West Bank in July 2015, resulting in the death of Riham and Sa’ed, along with their 18-months old son, Ali. The only member of the family spared that horrific death was Ahmad, 4, who was severely burned.

This cruelty was further accentuated in the episodes that followed this criminal incident. Later that year, Israeli wedding guests were caught on tape while dancing with knives, chanting in celebration of the death of the Palestinian baby.

Three years later, as the Dawabshe family members were leaving an Israeli court, accompanied by Arab parliamentarians, they were greeted by a crowd of Israelis chanting “Where is Ali? Ali’s dead” and “Ali’s on the grill”.

The passing of time only cemented Israelis’ hatred of a little child whose only crime was his Palestinian identity.

The only survivor, Ahmad, was punished thrice: when he lost his whole family; with his severe burns and when he wasdenied compensation. The then Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, simply resolved that the boy was not a “terror victim.” Case closed.

Although the Dawabshes were killed by Jewish settlers, the Israeli court, army and political system all conspired to ensure the protection of the killers from any accountability.

This was no different in the case of Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, who, on March 24, 2016, killed an unconscious Palestinian man in Hebron. In his defense, Azaria insisted that he was following army manual instructions in dealing with alleged attackers, while top Israeli government officials came out in droves to support him.

When Azaria was triumphantly released following only nine months in jail, he was hailed by many Israelis as a hero. Possibly, he will have a successful career in politics should he decide to pursue that route. In fact, he was courted by Israeli politicians to help them garner more votes in April’s general elections.

Condemning solely Jewish settlers while sparing the rest of Israeli society is equivalent to political whitewashing, one that presents Israel as a healthy society prior to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This view presents Jewish settlements as a cancerous disease that is eating up at the otherwise proud and noble achievements of early Zionists.

It is convenient to classify Jewish settlers as right-wing extremists and to link them with Israel’s ruling right-wing political parties. But history proves otherwise.

It was Israel’s Labor Party that created the settlement projects originally, soon after the colonization of the West Bank. Some of Israel’s largest, and most militant colonial enterprises, in occupied East Jerusalem — Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, Ramot and Armon Hanatziv – are all the creation of the Labor Party, not the Likud.

Neither is the ‘settler’ a new phenomenon. Historically, the early settlers who preceded the establishment of Israel in 1948 were idealized as true Zionists, celebrated as “cultural heroes” — the Jewish redeemers, who eventually ethnically cleansed historic Palestine from its native inhabitants.

“The original Labor movement,” wrote Amotz Asa-El in the Jerusalem Post, “never thought settling beyond the Green Line was illegal, much less immoral.” If there was any debate in Israel regarding settlements, it was never truly concerned with the issue of legitimacy or legality, but practicality: whether these colonial projects can be sustained or defended.

Protecting the settlements is now the overriding task of the Israeli occupation army. The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, which monitors the conduct of the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank, explained the nature of this relationship in a report published in November 2017.

“Israeli security forces not only allow settlers to harm Palestinians and their property as a matter of course – they often provide the perpetrators escort and back-up. In some cases, they even join in on the attack,” B’Tselem wrote.

Another Israeli organization, Yesh Din, concluded in a report published earlier that 85% of cases involving settler violence against Palestinians are never pursued by law. Of the remaining cases, only 1.9% led to conviction, which is likely to be inconsequential.

Jewish settler violence should not be analyzed separately from the violence meted out by the Israeli army, but seen within the larger context of the violent Zionist ideology that governs Israeli society entirely.

This violence can only end with the end of the racist ideology that rationalizes murder, like that of little Tariq Zabania.

The CIA is Global Capitalism’s Secret Gangster Army

Douglas Valentine is the author of the five works of non-fiction: The CIA as Organized Crime (2017), The Strength of the Pack (2009), The Strength of the Wolf (2004), The Phoenix Program (1990), and The Hotel Tacloban (1984); the novel TDY (2000); and a book of poems, A Crow’s Dream (2011). Also editor of the poetry anthology With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century (2012).

To sum up The CIA as Organized Crime (review), outside of anti-imperial and/or socialist countries, Earth’s peoples live in a plasticine simulacrum of fake democracy and government/corporate controlled propaganda. The CIA has, since 1947, with almost limitless black funds from the sale of heroin, cocaine and weapons, effectively taken control of local, state and federal law and drug enforcement, judicial courts at all levels, the military, the White House, Congress, and executive departments, such as State, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, etc., not to mention maintaining an Orwellian grip on all important global media, such as TV, newspapers, magazines, Hollywood and the Internet. It runs secret armies and parallel governments in most of the world’s non-socialist countries, bribing, corrupting, blackmailing, extorting, assassinating and sabotaging supposed allies into servile submission, while working tirelessly to destroy any country that is not a whore for Wall Street and global capitalism, especially if they have exploitable natural and human resources. Look no further than China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere across the planet.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

View the Frontline Documentary on Gaza that PBS Pulled

PBS stations around the U.S. were scheduled to show a riveting new Frontline documentary, “One Day in Gaza,” but at the last minute PBS pulled it.

The film is missing important context about the issue, but it includes footage that Americans, as Israel’s top funders, should see – including a young, unarmed teen being shot in her head.

BBC, the coproducer of the film, broadcast it to British viewers. We are posting it below so that Americans can also view it.

Recently, hundreds of PBS stations around the United States were scheduled to broadcast a powerful new Frontline documentary: “One Day in Gaza.” But viewers tuning in found that it had been replaced by a slightly updated Frontline report on Robert Mueller that had been broadcast two months before and had been streaming online ever since.

PBS no longer has the Gaza film listed on its schedule.

The documentary was to be aired on the one-year anniversary of events that took place on May 14, 2018, when tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Gaza gathered with the intention of deploying the tactics Gandhi had used in freeing India from British control.

The demonstration that day was the 8th march in what Gazans named the Great March of Return.

Palestinians months earlier had announced their plan for a mass, peaceful demonstration in which Gazans would march for an end to Israel’s crippling 12-year blockade and, especially, for  their right to return to homes stolen by Israel in order to create a Jewish state. Palestinians’ right to return to their homes and ancestral land is well established in international law. This fundamental right, affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel had responded by immediately deploying a hundred snipers.

In the first seven weekly marches, Israeli forces killed about 50 of the marchers and injured over 7,000.

During the 8th march on May 14, the day depicted in the film, Israeli forces killed 60 more and shot 1,000 – an average of one person every 30 seconds.

While this was going on, a glittering Israeli celebration was taking place as a new, transplanted U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem, a city that Israel illegally annexed following the Six-Day War that Israel launched in 1967.

Who were the protesters?

Over 70 percent of Gazans are from families that Israel forced out in its founding war to establish “the Jewish state.” Israel confiscated their homes and land and has prevented them from returning ever since. This violates international law.

For 12 years Israel has perpetrated a strangling blockade of Gaza, causing 52 percent unemployment, hunger, the kind of malnutrition that causes growth stunting in children, and increasing hopelessness.

And this blockade is just the most recent one.

On April 15, 2002 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported, “The total blockade has paralysed the Palestinian economy… it is now in a deep recession, with millions of people severely impoverished and extremely food insecure.”

For many years it has been tremendously difficult, sometimes impossible, for Gazans to leave Gaza, and for others to enter it. As a result, many people describe Gaza as the largest open-air prison on earth.

While U.S. news coverage in general, and the Frontline documentary in particular, emphasize the rockets fired by Gaza’s diverse resistance groups, the fact is that Israeli violence preceded the rockets and has greatly exceeded their impact.

In the past year alone, Israeli forces have killed at least 293 Gazans, while Gazans have killed 6 Israelis. Palestinian rockets from Gaza, which are largely homemade, have killed a total of about 40 Israelis in the whole time they’ve been being shot, while during the same time period Israeli forces have killed over 6,000 Gazans. (See this Timeline of deaths and this Israeli source for more info.)

The film says that Israel “fought three major conflicts with Hamas,” but doesn’t mention that during these, Israeli forces killed about 3,600 Gazans (many of them women and children), while Gazan fighters killed approximately 80 Israelis, the large majority of them soldiers.

Powerful but flawed

The Frontline documentary One Day in Gaza is an extremely powerful, if flawed, record of the events of May 14, 2018.

It provides Israeli views, Palestinian views, and riveting, often tragic footage of the day’s events. However, perhaps because of its striving to be “balanced,” or due to constraints imposed by Israel’s powerful lobbies in England and the U.S., the film often leans toward the Israeli narrative and obscures some important points.

The Israeli interviewees in the film are calm, articulate, and seem well-trained in presenting their talking points. Perhaps this is not surprising given that one is an army spokesman, a second is a high-ranking officer, and two are Americans who immigrated to Israel (although this fact is not revealed in the film).

Not interviewed in the film are any of the members of the Israeli group, Breaking the Silence, composed of former Israeli soldiers who describe widespread military practices of gratuitous violence and cruelty.

Below is some background on two of the Israelis featured in the film:

Col. Kobi Heller

Perhaps because of time constraints, Col. Heller’s, background and political persuasion are left out of the film.

While Heller comes across as reasonable, professional, and reluctant to commit the murders we see from his troops, his resumé suggests that there is more to his story.

Heller is a member of Israel’s Religious Zionist movement, a group that has become known for its zealotry and sometimes extremist views of Jewish supremacy. He is called a “kippa shruga,” a term for the type of Jewish fundamentalist known for believing that Arabs should be expelled from Israel and for opposition to any Palestinian state, no matter how small.

It turns out that he has a previous connection to Gaza. Heller is a settler who studied at a religious Zionist yeshiva in a Gaza settlement that combined religious studies with military training. In 2005 the yeshiva was moved to Israel when the Israeli government forcibly expelled the settlers. This caused fierce objections in the settler movement. Many in the army were outraged at this action.

Heller is from Israel’s notorious Golani brigade, increasingly a bastion of the Israeli far right. An Israeli professor states:  “The officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of the preparatory academies.” The New York Times reports that many Israelis are concerned at this development, particularly since a booklet was handed out to soldiers during Israel’s 2009 assault on Gaza that contained a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy.

The Times reports: “The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”

Adele Raemer

An Israeli woman featured in the film is Adele Raemer. She is described as an “Israeli grandmother” who lives two kilometers from the Gaza fence.

In the film she describes her fear of Gazans who wish to return to their homes in Israel. The film does not mention that Raemer is originally an American from the Bronx.

In 1975 she immigrated to Israel and took up residency in the Nirim kibbutz on the border with Gaza. Since the area had originally possessed no history of Jewish habitation, the Zionist movement had established it in 1946 to create a Jewish presence in the Negev in order to claim it as part of a future Jewish state.

Raemer has written that her life in the kibbutz is “95 percent heaven.” Despite being located in a desert, it has green grass and a swimming pool. A little over a mile away, Gazans are enduring a water crisis that has caused Gazan children to suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, and impaired IQ.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders

The film shows the the flaws and sometimes fatal logistical failures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders during the Great March and says that Hamas has “refused to recognize Israel.”

However, the film doesn’t include the fact that Hamas has offered Israel a decade-long truce, that it is Israel that breaks the truces, and that Hamas has said it was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

In reporting these leaders’ flaws and mistakes, the film fails to mention the extreme difficulties Gaza’s leaders face, including the fact that by assuming this role they face very possible assassination by Israel. Many resistance members have been blown to pieces by Israeli drones.

Those who survive are trying to run a resistance movement, deploy efficient logistical support, and make wise decisions during chaotic conditions in one of the world’s most isolated and longest-besieged enclaves.

Most important, the Palestinian journalist and peace activist who originated the march and is interviewed in the film, Ahmed Abu Artema, says that the film attributed far too much significance to Hamas, and neglected the “primary role played by civil society activists in Gaza.”

In a detailed critique of the film, he writes: “The documentary did not show the reality of the prison that Gaza has become. One shot of the cattle market that exists at the Erez crossing would have been enough to convey the reality of this cage, where there is no freedom of movement, no economic growth, no future prospects – no hope.”

The U.S. connection

The film also fails to inform American viewers of our connection to Israeli actions – that the U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day. (The U.S. has given Israel on average 7,000 times more per capita than it has given other people around the world.)

And in its framing, the film neglects the fact that a prime driver of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy is billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson, who attended the celebration with his Israeli wife Miriam. (Adelson once said that he regretted serving in the U.S. army rather than the Israeli one – video here.)

Despite its flaws, Americans should see it

But the film cannot do everything, and it does some things extremely well. Overall, it’s not difficult to see why Israel partisans would not wish it broadcast to Americans.

It shows footage that the American public almost never sees. It was this kind of footage that eventually led to Americans ending the Vietnam war.

One of the main take-aways from the film is the extreme ruthlessness of Israeli forces.

Fully armed Israeli soldiers from one of the most powerful armies on earth are seen targeting multitudes of thin, unarmed men, women, and children. The film shows Israeli snipers shooting people in the head, in the back, in the legs.

It shows a youth whose leg was amputated and reports that many of the demonstrators lost limbs that day. (The UN recently reported that 1,700 Gazans shot by Israeli snipers are currently at risk of amputations.)

While U.S. news reports often downplay these actions, the film shows them in all their tragic and horrific reality.

The film shows people who are just standing there suddenly being picked off by snipers. It shows a 14-year-old girl chatting with a friend, then suddenly being shot in the head. And it shows her little brother, who had been with her, later describing how his sister had been killed. This is not footage that Israeli hawks wish American audiences to view.

Another takeaway from the film is the poverty of Gaza’s imprisoned population, particularly compared to the gathering in Israel to celebrate the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Amid the expensive suits and fashionable dresses, American-born Israeli official Michael Oren bemoans the fact that the situation in Gaza has blemished his enjoyment of the festive occasion.

This contrast with Gaza is stark.

With no powerful lobby to represent them and little clout in U.S. media, Palestinians are at the mercy of Israel. The film shows that many in Gaza feel they have little to lose after years of escalating oppression. Some voice impossible dreams that had motivated them, that they could recover their lost homes. Some simply hoped to see them. A few voice the fury that results from dispossession, imprisonment, and brutalization.

While this goes unremarked in the film, there are indications that the “tear gas” Israeli drones poured on people may have been particularly virulent. In the film we see some people convulsing, and one man is delirious. This seems reminiscent of a mysterious gas used in Gaza in early 2001 that caused similar symptoms (reported in the James Longley documentary Gaza Strip).

Courage

While Israeli soldiers shelter behind diverse barriers, armed with advanced weaponry and guided by female soldiers watching it all on TV screens in a remote bunker, it is the Palestinians who demonstrate incredible, sometimes tragic courage.

We see them without weapons, without body armor, without helmets, without uniforms. Old and young, men and women, strong and disabled, they wield slingshots, wave flags.

They’re out in an open field, Israeli forces in front of them, drones overhead. When yet another demonstrator is shot, the blood pouring out, they run to rescue him or her, and then sometimes they, too, are shot. Yet they continue.

The contrast between the Israeli and Palestinian women taking part in the day’s hostilities is acute. Israeli female soldiers are far away, watching the action on computer monitors, telling soldiers when and where to shoot. Their faces are blurred to keep their identities secret. One seems to question what she’s doing, but there’s no indication that she stops.

Gazan women join the mass gathering. They’re out are in the open field, marching, carrying flags, helping the injured… and getting shot.

Theft of a nation

For over 70 years, Israel has gotten away with its astoundingly massive theft of the land and homes of the non-Jews it dispossessed to create an ethnically defined nation, and its decades of violence to maintain this ethnic cleansing. A Palestinian historian has validly termed this the Palestinian Holocaust.

One Day in Gaza shows some of Israel’s millions of victims, their attempt to be free, and what’s being done to them. Americans are not supposed to see that.

While Artema’s biting critique of the film is valid and necessary, it is useful to be aware that for many Americans much of the film will be revelatory.

PBS’s action

PBS’s cancellation, however, has prevented Frontline‘s more than 4.6 million viewers from seeing it.

While PBS calls itself “a trusted window to the world,” someone at PBS shuttered the window on One Day in Gaza.

PBS spokespeople state that Gaza will be broadcast at some point in the coming months, but say they don’t know when. Since the film’s scheduled broadcast date was specifically focused on the one-year anniversary of the day it depicts, it seems odd for PBS to be so unconcerned about broadcasting it in a timely manner. BBC, on the other hand, aired the film on May 13.

According to a Frontline statement, One Day In Gaza was pulled because Frontline “decided to air a timely update to our documentary on the Mueller investigation.” The Mueller investigation report had been broadcast on March 16 and 17 and has been available online ever since. It can be viewed here.

The updated version that bumped One Day in Gaza can be seen here. The update consists of a few minutes added at the end of the report. This new information had already been reported widely in U.S. media, including PBS’s own primetime news program News Hour.

PBS vs local stations

PBS wields considerable power. A national study rated PBS “the most-trusted institution in America.”

Its Frontline program claims to be “American television’s top long-form news and current affairs series.”

According to its website, PBS is a “near-universal media service, available in 9-of-10 U.S. television households. For many Americans, public television is their connection to the world.”

PBS emphasizes the alleged independence of its nearly 350 television and radio stations, stating they are among “the last locally owned media organizations in the country.”

However, in reality it appears that local stations have less control than this implies. When someone at PBS prevented the broadcast of Gaza, that decision prevented all the local stations around the country from airing it.

The fact is that local PBS stations do not have independent access to the film – even though it received funding from the stations.

While most Americans may think that PBS is a public institution, given its name – Public Broadcasting Service” – it is not. It is, in its own words, “a private, nonprofit media enterprise.” One that is, however, largely funded by American taxpayers.

Its ownership is a bit convoluted and multi-layered. While it says it is “owned by its 350 member stations,” its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is another private nonprofit, but 95 percent of CPB’s funding comes from the federal government. Most of this money is then given to the member stations.

Phone calls to a PBS station, KQED in San Francisco, revealed that KQED had received many calls complaining about the cancellation and asking when Gaza would be shown. KQED’s customer service representative explained that none of this is in KQED’s hands.

“We Answer to You”

Frontline has refused to divulge who was involved in the decision to pull Gaza. It seems likely that its Senior Editorial Team – consisting of Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer; David Fanning, Founder and Executive Producer at Large; and Andrew Metz, Managing Editor – would have been involved. Fanning has previously been accused of censoring content regarding Israel/Palestine, a charge he denies.

Frontline‘s website announces: “We answer to no one but you.”

It’s unclear who the “you” is. It does not appear to be the member stations who fund it, or the many people whose federal dollars financed the film and wish to see it.

While PBS holds on to the film and fails to release it, people in Gaza continue their David against Goliath struggle.

On May 15th, Gazan men, women, and children again protested, and Israel again unleashed its heavily armed military, injuring 144, including 49 children. The same day, Israeli soldiers also fired at fishermen who were fishing off the coast of Gaza, injuring one of them – a frequent occurrence that Americans rarely, if ever, see on the News Hour.

And so it goes.

Perhaps at some point PBS/Frontline management will decide that the massacre of 60 people and the shooting of a thousand others in a single day is important enough to merit scheduling the film – particularly when the perpetrator has received more U.S. tax money than any other nation in the world.

This post will be updated if PBS schedules a new broadcast date.

It will be updated again if PBS actually shows it.

WATCH: One Day in Gaza    Download: Torrent | Magnet Link

Madonna’s Fake Revolution: Eurovision, Cultural Hegemony and Resistance

Rim Banna, a famous Palestinian singer who translated Palestine’s most moving poetry to song passed away on March 24, 2018, at the age of 51. Rim captured the struggle for Palestinian freedom in the most dignified and melodious ways. If we could imagine angels singing, they would sound like Rim.

When Rim died, all Palestinians mourned her death. Although a few international outlets carried the news of her passing at a relatively young age, her succumbing to cancer did not receive much coverage or discussion. Sadly, a Palestinian icon of cultural resistance who had inspired a whole generation, starting with the First Palestinian Intifada in 1987, hardly registered as an event worthy of remembrance and reflection, even among those who purport to champion the Palestinian cause.

Compare Rim to Madonna, an ‘artiste’ who has stood for self-aggrandizing personal fame and money-making. She has championed the most debased moral values, utilizing cheap entertainment while catering to the lowest common denominator to remain relevant in the music world for as long as possible.

While Rim had a cause, Madonna has none. And while Rim symbolized cultural resistance, Madonna symbolizes globalized cultural hegemony – in this case, the imposition of consumerist western cultures on the rest of the world.

Cultural hegemony defines the US and other Western cultures’ relationship to the rest of the world. It is not culture as in the collective intellectual and artistic achievements of these societies, but as a set of ideological and cultural tools used by ruling classes to maintain domination over the disadvantaged, colonized and oppressed.

Madonna, along with Michael Jordan, the Beatles and Coca Cola represent far more than mere performers and fizzy drinks, but also serve as tools used to secure cultural, thus economic and political dominance, as well. The fact that in some cities around the world, especially in the Southern hemisphere, Coca Cola “flows more freely than water” speaks volumes about the economic toll and political dimension of cultural hegemony.

This issue becomes critical when a pro-Israel Madonna decides to perform in Israel, as she has done repeatedly in the past, as part of the Eurovision contest. Knowing who she is and what she stands for, her decision should not come as a surprise; after all, in her September 2009 Tel Aviv concert, she sang while wrapped in an Israeli flag.

Of course, it is essential that artistes of her caliber and the contestants representing 41 different countries, are reminded of their moral responsibilities towards occupied and oppressed Palestinians. It is also important that Israel is confronted regarding its unrelenting efforts to mask its apartheid and war crimes in Palestine.

Indeed, the whitewashing of Israeli human rights violations using art – also known as “art washing” – should not be allowed to continue when Gaza is under siege, where Palestinian children are shot and killed daily without remorse and without the least legal accountability.

This is why such artistic events are important for the Israeli government and society. Israel has used Eurovision as a distraction from the blood and gore that has been taking place not far from that venue. Those who labored to ensure the success of the event, knowing fully how Israel is using the brand as an opportunity to normalize its war against Palestinians, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

But, on the other hand, should we be the least surprised? Aren’t such global music events, as Eurovision, at the heart of the western-centric globalization scheme of cultural hegemony, which sole purpose is to enforce a capitalist view of the world, where western culture is consumed as a commodity, no different from a McDonald’s sandwich or a pair of Levi jeans?

Calling on 60-year-old Madonna to refrain from entertaining apartheid Israel can be considered beneficial as a media strategy, for it helped highlight, although momentarily, an issue that would have been otherwise absent from news headlines. However, by placing so much focus on Madonna, and whatever human rights’ values she supposedly stands for, we also take the risk of inadvertently validating her and the consumerist values she represents. More, in this Madonna-driven trajectory, we are also neglecting Palestine’s cultural resistance, the core drive behind Palestinian ‘somoud’ – steadfastness – over the course of a century.

In response to her critics, Madonna answered, “I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.” In the eyes of many who are ignorant of the facts, such an answer may appear as if an ‘empowered’ response to those who are trying to sway a genuine, pure artiste from following her calling.

In fact, Madonna is an expert in appearing as if morally-guided, yet never translating such morality to anything meaningful in reality. In a speech described as “powerful” by the Rolling Stone Magazine, Madonna declared during a Women’s March in Washington D.C. in 2017 “to the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people.”

Of course, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian women – who have paid a heavy price for Israeli Occupation, war and marginalization – are not to be included in Madonna’s false revolution. And the chances are, shortly after she sings and dances in a jubilant, apartheid Israel, she will once more take on many platforms as if the Rosa Parks of revolutionary art.

While it is important that we keep the pressure on those who engage and validate Israel politically, economically and culturally, these efforts should come secondary to embracing Palestine’s culture of resistance. Behaving as if Madonna’s stage shenanigans represent true culture, while ignoring Palestinian culture altogether, is similar to academics addressing decolonization from the point of view of the colonizer, not the colonized. The truth is, nations cannot truly rid themselves from the colonial mindset without having their narratives take the center-stage of politics, culture and every other aspects of knowledge.

“The intellectual’s error consists in believing that one can know without understanding and, even more, without feeling and being impassioned,” wrote Italian anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci. This entails the intellectual and the artist to feel “the elementary passions of the people, understanding them and, therefore, explaining and justifying them.”

The truth is that appealing to Madonna’s moral sense without immersing ourselves passionately in the art of Rim Banna will, in the long run, do Palestinians no good. Only embracing Palestine’s culture of resistance will, ultimately, keep the self-serving, hegemonic and cheap cultural messages of the Madonnas of this world at bay.