Israeli commandos fired from air in 2010 Gaza flotilla raid – former US Marine

Israeli forces approach one of six ships bound for Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea (Reuters / Uriel Sinai / Pool)

Israeli forces approach one of six ships bound for Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea

A former US Marine-turned activist told a Turkish court on Thursday that Israeli commandos had opened fire from a helicopter on a Gaza-bound aid ship three years ago. The claim contradicts Israeli’s claim that the soldiers had acted in self-defense.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandos using speedboats and helicopters boarded the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, part of the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ that was attempting to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip and deliver humanitarian relief.

In the ensuing melee, eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American were killed, and many were wounded. Ten Israeli commandos were also wounded, one of them seriously.

The incident sparked a deep diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey – the former a committed ally of the United States, the latter a full-fledged NATO member waiting for membership in the European Union. Today, relations between the two remain tense.

Now, a trial being held in absentia in Istanbul against Israel’s former Chief-of-Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and three other senior commanders may aggravate bilateral relations even more between the two former allies.

Kenneth O’Keefe, an Irish-Palestinian and former US marine who was aboard the humanitarian vessel during the conflict, told the Turkish hearing, which convened in June of last year, that Israeli soldiers had started shooting from the helicopter while it was still in the air.

“Within five to 10 minutes after the Israeli helicopter approached the ship, I ran into Cevdet Kiliclar’s dead body on the deck, before any Israeli commando had boarded the vessel,” O’Keefe said, referring to one of the Turkish activists.

“He must have been shot from the air. After seeing Kiliclar’s dead body, I went upstairs to the top of the deck and saw several people lying on the ground, wounded or dead.”

Israel has dismissed the Turkish proceedings as a political “show trial” of four former IDF commanders.

The 144-page indictment lists “inciting murder through cruelty or torture” and “inciting injury with firearms” among the charges against the now-retired Israeli officers and seeks life sentences for the commandos.

O’Keefe’s testimony supports Turkey’s official findings of the incident, described in a September 2011 UN report, which said Israeli commandos had fired upon the activists before boarding the ship.

“IDF personnel began firing on the Mavi Marmara from both the speedboats and helicopters before boarding had commenced….Two passengers were killed by shots from the helicopters before the first soldiers had boarded the vessel,” the Turkish Commission report said.

Turkey’s version of events, however, clashes with that of Israel’s version, also summarized in the UN report.

“Three ‘flash bang’ stun grenades were thrown from the helicopter before and during the descent, but no shots were fired. The soldiers from the first helicopter were met with an extreme level of violence from a group of passengers on the vessel,” according to the Israeli position.

Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador after the 2011 UN report, which concluded, seemingly in favor of the Israeli position, that while Israel had used “unreasonable force” during its raid on the Turkish ship in international waters, its blockade on Gaza was legal.

Ankara announced its demands for normalizing bilateral relations with its neighbor – an apology, compensation and Israel ending its embargo on Gaza.

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologized for the deaths of the nine activists, pledging to reach an agreement on compensation for their families.

The hearing has been adjourned until March 27, 2014.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

U.S. National Lawyers Guild calls for freedom for Palestinian lawyer Anas Barghouti

 

anasb National Lawyers Guild President Azadeh Shahshahani sent letters calling for freedom for imprisoned Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender Anas Barghouti to Israeli and U.S. State Department officials on October 8, 2013.

The letters urge immediate release for Barghouti, 30, a Palestinian lawyer known for his representation of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian Authority prisons.

Barghouti, who has been recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is a former employee of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. Addameer, a leading prisoner human rights NGO in Palestine, has been targeted for its work: several employees (Ayman Nasser and Samer Arbid) have been arrested and director Abdellatif Ghaith has been issued a travel ban.

The letters were sent in advance of Barghouti’s hearing in Ofer military court on October 9. Barghouti’s charges relate to his peaceful political activity and protest of occupation practices and policies. Barghouti’s next hearing will take place on October 22.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Download Letters

NLG Letter to Acting Assistant Secretary of State A. Elizabeth Jones

NLG Letter to Brigadier General Dani Afroni

(Source / 11.10.2013)

‘Arafah & offerfeest!

Zoals aangegeven in het vorige bericht, is het sterk aanbevolen om de negende dag van de maand Dhul-Hidjah te vasten, de dag vóór ‘Ied. Deze komt dit jaar overeen met maandag 14 oktober.

Dat is de dag waarop de bedevaartgangers in de plaats ‘Arafah verblijven; het belangrijkste onderdeel van de bedevaart! Zij verblijven daar van dohr tot zonsondergang Allah gedenkende en aanroepende hopend op Zijn vergiffenis.

Voor de moslims die niet aan de Hadj deelnemen is er alsnog de kans om deel te nemen aan een grote aanbidding op deze grote dag: het vasten.

De profeet sallallaaho ‘alaihi wa sellam werd gevraagd over de verdienste van het vasten van de dag van ‘Arafah, waarop hij antwoordde:

“(de kleine zonden van) Het vorige en komende jaar worden daardoor kwijtgescholden.” [Sahih Moslim]

Voor degenen die nog dagen van Ramadan moeten inhalen, is het ook aanbevolen om de dag van ‘Arafah te vasten. Zij kunnen dan de intentie nemen voor het inhalen van Ramadan én de dag van ‘Arafah, zoals dat de mening is van o.a. shaych bin Baaz en al-‘Uthaimeen – moge Allah beide genadig zijn.

Een mooi initiatief naar aanloop van deze dag is het organiseren van een gezamenlijke iftaar met familie of samen met wat vrienden. Dit vergemakkelijkt het vasten en is tegelijkertijd een bekendmaking voor de broeders en zusters die niet op de hoogte zijn van de verdienste van het vasten.

Beste broeders en zusters:

Zonsondergang is deze dagen redelijk vroeg; een makkelijke buit dus die je niet mag mislopen!

‘Ied ul-Adha

Aan het einde van deze tien gezegende dagen van de maand Dhul-Hidjah is het offerfeest. Sommige geleerden zijn van mening dat het de beste dag van het jaar is!

De moslim start deze dag met het ‘Iedgebed, gezamenlijk in de moskee. Het is aanbevolen om voor vertrek naar het gebed de grote wassing te verrichten. Net zoals je dat doet voor het vrijdaggebed.

Ook is het aanbevolen om de takbeer uit te spreken onderweg naar de moskee en wachtend op het gebed. Wel moet daarbij worden gezegd dat dit niet gezamenlijk in één stem hoort te gebeuren, maar ieder voor zich.

Een vorm van de takbeer is:

اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ، اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ
(Allaaho akbar, Allaaho akbar, Laa ilaaha illallaah. Allaaho akbar, Allaaho akbar wa lillaahilhamd)

Ook is het sunnah om op de terugweg van de moskee naar huis een andere weg te nemen dan de heenweg.

Het is aanbevolen om pas te eten nadat je terugkomt van het ‘Iedgebed, zodat het eerste wat je eet van jouw offer is. Maar mocht dit echter niet mogelijk zijn, dan kan er gewoon voor het gebed worden gegeten of na het gebed, al is het van iets anders dan jouw offer.

Zoals in het vorige bericht al was aangegeven, volstaat een schaap voor jezelf en de mensen die jij onder één dak onderhoudt. Voor degene die op zichzelf woont en in zijn eigen onderhoud voorziet, is het aanbevolen om een eigen schaap te slachten.

Ook is het mogelijk om het schaap in drieën te delen. Een deel voor eigen consumptie, een deel om als gift weg te geven en een deel als liefdadigheid (sadaqah) aan de armen en behoeftigen.

Of eventueel in twee delen: een deel voor eigen consumptie en een deel voor de armen en behoeftigen.

Allah zegt:

“Eet ervan (offer) en voedt de arme behoeftige.” [22:28]

Een idee is misschien om een deel van het vlees te schenken aan onze broeders en zusters in de asielzoekerscentra, zodat ook zij de vreugde van de moslims ervaren.

Het is toegestaan om een deel van het schaap te schenken aan niet-moslims, dit is dus een mooie gelegenheid om jouw buren de vrijgevigheid van de islam te tonen. Dit door hen een deel van het schaap te schenken, het beste zou zijn gekookt en al.

Het slachten beperkt zich niet tot de dag van ‘Ied, maar kan tot drie dagen na ‘Ied. Dus mocht het voor iemand door omstandigheden niet mogelijk zijn om te slachten op de tiende dag van Dhul-Hidjah, dan kan dat nog tot zonsondergang van de dertiende van de maand, oftewel vrijdag 18 oktober.

Bekeerde broeders en zusters

Houdt rekening met onze bekeerde broeders en zusters zodat ook zij de ‘Ied als een bijzondere dag ervaren.

Het is niet gepast dat wij gezellig met onze familie zitten en dat zij deze dag alleen doorbrengen. Gedenk dat één van de meest geliefde daden bij Allah blijdschap is die je een moslim brengt.

Vreugde

Beste broeders en zusters:

De ‘Ied is een dag van vreugde, en dat mag je laten blijken door je beste kleding te dragen, allerlei lekkers in huis te halen en door elkaar te omhelzen en te begroeten met woorden als taqabbala Allaaho minnaa wa minkomIed Mobaarak e.d.

De ‘Ied is een dag van familiebezoek, samenhorigheid en gezelligheid. Uiteraard gezelligheid binnen de grenzen die Allah heeft voorgeschreven. Gezelligheid hoeft niet gepaard te gaan met verboden zaken en ook niet met overlast aan moslims of niet-moslims.

De ‘Ied is ook een mooie gelegenheid om geschillen en conflicten bij te leggen. De beste is degene die het initiatief neemt ook al is hij van mening dat de andere fout zit, al is het slechts met een berichtje waarmee je de betreffende met de ‘Ied feliciteert.
Laat de kinderen ook de vreugde van deze grote dag ervaren door ze te verwennen met bijvoorbeeld cadeautjes en wat zakgeld.

Vergeet niet dat de ‘Ied een dag is van dankbaarheid aan Allah. Onze Barmhartige Heer die ons van ontelbare gunsten voorziet.

Tot slot wens ik iedereen alvast een gezegende ‘Ied toe.

Stuur het door; “Wie aanspoort tot het goede, heeft dezelfde beloning als degene die ernaar handelt.” [Sahih Moslim]

Abulfadl, student aan de Universiteit van Medina. Saudi Arabië.

6 Dhul-Hidjah 1434

(Mail / 11.10.2013)

Italian minister denies Hebron visit ‘in solidarity with settlers’

The minister meeting with his Israeli counterpart

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Italian Minister of Tourism and Culture Massimo Bray has denied allegations of acting in “solidarity” with Israeli settlers after meeting with a leader of the illegal Jewish settler community in the Old City of Hebron on Tuesday.

A statement released by the Italian consulate denied these “specious” allegations, highlighting that the visit was not in “solidarity with the settlers” but was instead part of a mission to “contribute to Palestinian institutional building in the field of culture and tourism promotion.”

The statement added that the minister had visited the Old City of Hebron and had, “sorrowfully seen the consequences of occupation in order to give testimony about them,” stressing that Italy’s official position is that “settlements remain illegal under international law.”

Youth Against Settlements, a Palestinian activist group, earlier accused Bray of showing “solidarity with fanatic Israeli settlers” and of acting in “clear contradiction with EU regulations and declared policy to stop any support and/or cooperation with the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

“Bray is now seen as a partner in the occupation and oppression regime of the Israeli government and settler movement, which carries out human rights violations in Hebron on a daily basis,” said a statement posted by the group on Facebook.

The minister visited Hebron under the guidance of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, a civilian observer mission that records violations of international humanitarian law and other incidents which occur in the city.

During the tour, a representative of the Hebron Jewish settler community, American-born David Wilder, approached the minister and shook his hand. The minister subsequently continued on a tour with the settler leader, as seen in a Youtube video that has been leaked.

The video shows him being led by Wilder through a museum and day-care center in Beit Hadassa, an illegal Jewish settlement in the center of Hebron’s Old City.

On his blog, the minister mentions both the tour of the Palestinian souq as well as the meeting with the Israeli settler. He mentions that the souq was “covered with iron nets to protect them from the rocks and garbage thrown from the windows of settlers.”

In the same post, he also mentions meeting with Israeli culture minister Limor Livnat, and discussing ways to increase “cooperation” between the two states.

The minister did not appear to hesitate to meet with the representative of the settler community when approached.

The Hebron Jewish community has referred to the visit as a “historic meeting.”

According to Israel National News, “Hebron’s Jewish community welcomes such visits and hopes that other international leaders, particularly those from the EU, will follow in Minister Bray’s footsteps, following his example, and meet with Hebron community leaders.”

Hebron is a frequent site of clashes due to the presence of 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces. Settlers and Israeli forces regularly target local Palestinans for harassment, and many have been forced from their homes as a result.

A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control.

The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, home of the revered Ibrahimi Mosque — also split into a synagogue referred to as the Cave of the Patriarchs — and the once thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shops fronts and closed homes.

Jewish settlers have forcibly confiscated land and evicted Palestinians from their homes throughout the Old City of Hebron. A 2006 survey by Israeli organization B’Tselem revealed that around 1,014 Palestinian homes in the Old City had been vacated by their occupants and more than 1,800 businesses had been closed as a result of the Israeli takeover.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

ISRAËL/ BEZETTE PALESTIJNSE GEBIEDEN: GEDWONGEN UITZETTINGEN VAN PALESTIJNEN GAAN DOOR

Israelisch leger vernietigt huizen, West Bank, 2008

Zo’n 1000 Palestijnen in het zuiden van de bezette Westelijke Jordaanoever, waarvan ongeveer de helft kinderen, dreigen nog steeds uit hun huizen te worden gezet door het Israëlische leger. Het Israëlische Hooggerechtshof sprak zich niet uit in hun voordeel.

Het Israëlisch leger is van plan om alle inwoners van acht dorpen in de heuvels in de omgeving van Hebron te verdrijven om plaats te maken voor een militaire training-zone. Als de uitzettingen doorgaan, schenden deze verschillende rechten van de bewoners, waaronder het recht op onderdak, water, sanitair, gezondheidszorg en onderwijs.

Het Israëlische Hooggerechtshof oordeelde dat de uitzettingen niet illegaal zijn volgens de Vierde Conventie van Genève aangezien ze niet gedwongen zouden zijn. De grondgedachte is dat de dorpelingen geen echte inwoners van de dorpen zijn, maar eerder het land occasioneel gebruiken.

Vraag de Israëlische autoriteiten om gehoor te geven aan het voorstel van het Hooggerechtshof om onderhandelingen aan te gaan met de gemeenschappen. Eis dat dit gebeurt volgens internationale standaarden.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

U.S. says captured top Pakistan Taliban leader

The United States says it has captured Latif Mehsud, a senior commander with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

American troops have captured a senior leader of the Pakistani Taliban in a military operation, a U.S. official said Friday.

“I can confirm that U.S. forces did capture… terrorist leader Latif Mehsud in a military operation,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, descriving the captive as a senior commander in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

She gave no details of the operation and did not say where and when it took place.

“Mehsud is a senior commander in TTP and served as a trusted confidante of the group’s leader Hakimullah Mehsud,” Harf said.

She told reporters that the TTP had claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Times Square, New York, in 2010.

The group “had also vowed to attack the U.S. homeland again,” Harf said, adding it had also been behind attacks on U.S. diplomats in Pakistan as well as incidents that killed Pakistani civilians.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

Free Syria

 

​a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit

OUR MISSION

Rafif Jouejati on the humanitarian crisis in Syria:

  • Non-violent civil resistance
  • Secularism: no religious affiliation
  • Women’s Empowerment
  • Children’s Education
  • ​Freedom. Dignity. Democracy.

WHAT WE STAND FOR

The bottom line is that the majority of the country is engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, for democracy, for dignity. We have mountains of evidence indicating that his armed forces have been engaged in systematic torture, rampant detentions, massacres across the country.”

MISSION & VISION

We focus on humanitarian relief, children’s psychological needs, and women’s empowerment in Syria.

VOLUNTEERING

We’re grateful for our volunteer fundraisers, ranging from college campuses to an art auction.

RECENT PROGRAMS

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@RafifJ

OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Rafif Jouejati is the founder and Director of FREE-Syria.  She is also the English spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) in Syria, a grassroots network designed to align the activities of pro-democracy Syrians in each of the country’s 14 governorates. As an Executive Committee member of the Day After Project, Rafif worked with key actors in the Syrian opposition to develop a transition plan for Syria.  At a Women’s Democracy Network event and at the Olof Palme Center in Stockholm, Rafif advanced a charter demanding 50% representation of women in every aspect of Syria’s governance.  She upholds a commitment to women’s equality as an integral part of human rights. Rafif frequently travels to the Middle East, including Syria, and coordinates with other activists. She writes articles and editorials, and makes frequent media appearances. She is onTwitter.

The Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria (FREE-Syria) was established to help ease the suffering of Syrians being targeted by the Assad regime. Our immediate focus is on providing much-needed humanitarian relief. Our long-term focus is to implement sustainable projects designed to promote equality and education in Syria, with particular regard for children’s psychological needs and women’s empowerment.

OUR PARTNERS

LOCAL COORDINATION COMMITTEES IN SYRIA (LCC)

FREE-Syria works closely, but not exclusively, with the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC).  The LCC is a grassroots organization made up of committees across Syria. The LCC organize and lead acts of civil disobedience, document the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity, disseminate up-to-the-minute news, and distribute humanitarian relief.

Today, the LCC is among the largest networks inside Syria and is able to deliver relief and support across Syria despite the inherent constraints.  LCC has sought outside support because the Assad regime has made it impossible for a nongovernmental organization (NGO) to operate from within Syria.  FREE-Syria is the only LCC-endorsed NGO in the United States, and one of only two LCC-endorsed NGOs worldwide.

ORGANIZATIONAL INFORMATION

  • Purely humanitarian mission

FREE-Syria was founded in 2011 in response to the Assad regime’s brutality against peaceful protestors and innocent civilians. We are neither religiously nor politically affiliated.

  • No overhead charges

FREE-Syria does not charge administrative or overhead fees when providing support to donor-specified relief campaigns.

  • Tax-deductible

FREE-Syria is a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and all donations are tax-deductible. FREE-Syria’s tax ID number is 45-4984231.

NONVIOLENCE INTERNATIONAL (NI)

Nonviolence International researches and promotes nonviolent action and seeks to reduce the use of violence worldwide.  They believe that every culture and religion can employ appropriate nonviolent methods for positive social change and international peace.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

Al-Qaeda has committed ‘crime against humanity’ in Syria

Al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups fighting the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad executed scores of civilian men, women and children after a battle in the north-west of the country, Human Rights Watch has said

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims a weapon as he takes a defensive position in Ain-Assan in the southern countryside of Aleppo

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims a weapon as he takes a defensive position in Ain-Assan in the southern countryside of Aleppo
A researcher from the organisation interviewed survivors of an offensive against villages occupied by members of the Alawite sect to which the Assad family belongs in Latakia province, confirming widespread reports of atrocities.

The attack followed regime massacres of hundreds of civilians in two Sunni towns in the same province in May, and was described by the militants’ own propaganda outlets in highly vengeful, sectarian terms.

Alawite villagers told how they returned to their homes to find relatives – often those too old or infirm to flee – butchered.

“My dad stayed in the house,” said one man who fled with his mother.

“He was killed in his bed. My aunt, she is an 80-year-old blind woman, was also killed in her room.”

In another graphic account, Hassan Shebli, who lived in the village of Barouda, showed HRW the house where his wife, Shamieh Ali Darwish, and son, Safwan Shebli, 23, were killed. Both were disabled. “You can still see the blood,” he said.

HRW found videos posted online by the militants with Mrs Darwish and Safwan Shebli at home, Mrs Darwish is seen walking on crutches. But when Mr Shebli returned, he found their graves behind the house. Three other members of the extended Shebli family were killed.

Altogether, the researcher compiled a list of names of 190 civilians who had been killed in the attacks, which began on August 4. She had evidence that 67 had been executed or otherwise killed illegally. The evidence in other cases was not clear.

“The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses committed by the opposition forces on August 4 rise to the level of crimes against humanity,” the report concludes. “The scale and organization of these crimes indicate that they were systematic as well as being planned as part of an attack on a civilian population.”

About 200 civilians were taken as hostages by the rebels, the report added. Negotiations are continuing for their release. It said the attacks had a clear sectarian agenda, with a local Alawite shrine desecrated and the sheikh who was the presiding religious authority executed for supporting Mr Assad.

Early in May, Alawite-led militias killed over 250 and as many as 450 people in two districts of the town of Baniyas, on Latakia’s coast. Rebel militias swore revenge at the time.

The HRW researcher was escorted to the villages by regime officials and soldiers, who now control the area again, on the first trip inside the country licensed by the government.

However, its report points out that it has previously accused the regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that accusations against one side do not vindicate the other. In a finding that has international ramifications, it says funding for the attack on the Alawite villages was raised privately in the Gulf, including wealthy donors in Kuwait.

It was led by mainly jihadist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the “foreign legion” of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, all of which are affiliated to al-Qaeda, and two other militant Islamist groups, Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Ezz.

The researcher, Lama Fakih, said it was not clear whether rebels of the western-backed Free Syrian Army participated in the killings, and the political opposition in exile, the Syrian National Coalition, said in a statement that what happened did “not represent an effort by the true Syrian opposition, but rather a shameful one-time attack by outlier extremist groups that thrive under the hand of the Assad regime”.

HRW urged Gulf states and the authorities in Turkey, through which most of the foreign support for the militant Islamists passes, to do more to cut off supply lines to them.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

Why did BBC let Simon Schama make “moral case for Israel” unchallenged

A documentary by Simon Schama (center) tried to dress up Israel’s lies about its wall in the West Bank as facts.

“After the screening of [Simon Schama’s] sweeping five-piece [series] The Story of the Jews on prime time in Britain last month, no one will be able to say for at least another decade that the BBC has an inherent bias against Israel.”

So began an article in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, last week as it interviewed Schama, the Zionist presenter of this “sweeping five-piece” series that ran on the BBC every Sunday evening in September.

It was not the telling of the story of the Jews that upset anyone. It was the fact that the BBC, which claims to be an impartial broadcaster, allowed Schama to use the final episode of this series to make what he called “the moral case for Israel.”

The Zionist historian was given an hour, unchallenged by anyone, to make his case for the Zionist state.

And, as Haaretz so triumphantly declared a few days later, “no one will be able to say for at least another decade that the BBC has an inherent bias against Israel.”

Even Schama himself, in the interview that follows, can’t seem to believe what the BBC let him get away with.

The Haaretz journalist, Anshel Pfeffer, puts it to Schama that it would appear the BBC seems to be on Israel’s side after all.

“ ‘I know,’ [Schama] says, laughing, ‘people were tweeting to me last night in amazement, ‘Is this the BBC?’,” Pfeffer reports.

“Romance and sunshine”

Unfortunately, this is the BBC. A publicly funded organization which gives over prime airtime to promoting the Israeli state — an occupying power — and which consistently fails to give a similar voice to those whose land it occupies, the Palestinians.

No wonder Schama was laughing in delight.

In the series’ third episode, titled A Leap of Faith, Schama sat in a café in Vienna, holding Theodor Herzl’s book The Jewish State and said to camera: “I am a Zionist and quite unapologetic about it.”

Two weeks later, Return, the fifth and final episode was screened. Eight minutes into the program, Schama declared: “It was not just what the Nazis did to the Jews, but what everyone else failed to do, that made the moral case for Israel.”

The unapologetic Zionist then spent the next 52 minutes giving his take on the creation of Israel, his view of the Nakba, his opinion of Israel in the twenty-first century.

Of the kibbutz movement, built on the back of the destruction of Palestinian villages and the often violent displacement of their inhabitants, Schama said: “It was an irresistible blend of romance, social idealism, adventure and sunshine.”

The settlements, whose presence and continued growth eats away at any hope for a Palestinian state, are “a source of affordable housing” for many Israelis.

Parroting Israel’s narrative

The BBC and supporters of this particular episode will no doubt point to the fact that one Palestinian was interviewed during the course of its sixty minutes, and that Schama did not hide his irritation at the uncompromising attitude of the Israeli settler he spoke to.

But does that mean we should be grateful for these crumbs pushed our way? Or should we be insulted that this is the best the BBC can offer in terms of a Palestinian perspective?

Those who pay the license fee, and the wider global audience, should be asking the BBC: where is the documentary on Palestine, on its destruction, its dispossession, its ongoing Nakba? Where is the presenter who can unapologetically and unashamedly appear on the BBC and say he is pro-Palestinian?

Schama saved his strongest Zionist comments for the end. In the final seven minutes ofReturn, standing in front of a section of Israel’s apartheid wall, he described how “it cuts Israel off from the West Bank.”

This program was all about the Israeli perspective. The reality is that the wall cuts Palestinians off from each other, from their land, from their livelihoods, and, ultimately, from the outside world. But while Schama acknowledged that it “makes life for the Palestinians a daily ordeal,” his main concern was for Israel — that it is Israel which has been cut off.

Schama then went on to parrot the official Israeli narrative, that the wall was built as a security measure to protect Israelis from Palestinian “terrorists.” He tells the viewer that “very few” people have been killed since the wall was built.

In actuality, 4,286 Palestinians have been killed between 2004, when construction of the wall began, and 2013. But Schama is not concerned with Palestinians or their deaths at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers. He is, of course, talking about the safety of Israelis only.

Unchallenged views

And then Schama said this: “I want to say, nobody, including me, ultimately has the moral right to say that shouldn’t have happened, the wall shouldn’t have happened. Before the wall happened, hundreds of people were dying every year from terrorist attacks; after the wall happened very, very few. In some senses, if you don’t live in Israel — I don’t live in Israel — you are morally obliged to be nearly silent.”

And there we have it — a self-declared Zionist telling the BBC’s viewers that they have a moral obligation to remain silent (or “nearly silent,” whatever that means) about Israel’s atrocities, its flouting of international law, its violation of human rights, all of them summed up by its apartheid wall.

Of course Schama wants us to remain silent. Just look at the ugly side of Israel which is exposed if we choose to speak out. No Zionist wants an unremitting spotlight shone on that.

And Schama is entitled to his view. But why is the BBC, a public broadcaster, allowing him to push those views unchallenged?

Where is the balance? Where are the pro-Palestinians telling the BBC’s viewers that the world has been silent for long enough and must now speak out against the injustices Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians? Where are the humanitarians explaining the reasoning behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign?

It is hard to imagine such views, critical as they are of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians, ever being expressed on the BBC’s airwaves. Instead, we are told to be silent.

“Moral quandary”

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, secretary and founding member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, wrote to the program’s producer, Nick Kent, asking why the wall had been presented according to the official Israeli line, as a security measure, while itscondemnation by the International Court of Justice had been ignored.

Kent defended the partiality of the presentation by arguing “that the heart of Professor Schama’s piece-to-camera is about the agonizing moral quandary the wall represents.”

Incredibly, Kent seems to believe that an occupier can have a moral quandary about the systems it uses to oppress and maintain its occupation. And this is the point that Kent, and the BBC, just cannot seem to grasp — Israel is the occupier. It has built the wall to contain a people who refuse to accept their occupation and subjugation.

Call it containment or call it security, the simple fact is that there would be no need for a wall if Israel hadn’t stolen and occupied Palestinian land. That is the beginning of the current situation — the dispossession of the Palestinians.

The BBC needs to stop producing programs which ignore or skate over this beginning and which treat Israel as if it is the victim rather than the aggressor. Such programs, including this latest offering from Schama, are fundamentally dishonest.

And to proffer Schama as a presenter who can give an impartial view of Israel, from its origins to now, is also dishonesty on the BBC’s part. Schama has said he’s a Zionist. He is attached to this ideology and to Israel, and so any attempt to give BBC viewers a detached, impartial viewpoint is bound to failure as his plea for silence on the wall shows.

As Haaretz has pointed out, with Schama in gleeful agreement, the BBC has successfully proved that it does not have an anti-Israel bias. Let this public broadcaster now prove, with its next round of documentary commissioning, that it also does not have an anti-Palestinian bias. Balanced broadcasting, after all, demands nothing less.

(Source / 11.10.2013)

Palestine solidarity activists protest US deportation policies in Arizona

Gabriel Schivone (left) and other activists locked themselves to buses protesting the criminalization and mass deportations of migrant persons in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network)

In an important direct action today in Tucson, Arizona, a group of immigrant rights activists, including members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), have locked themselves to the entrance of a courthouse where buses carrying migrant detainees are taken for court proceedings. Some of the activists also locked their bodies to the buses themselves.

The Electronic Intifada’s contributor Gabriel Schivone is one of the activists who is taking part in the action. Schivone is a member of the University of Arizona’s SJP chapter, and is a campaigner for justice for undocumented persons. He locked himself to one of the buses.

The coordinated action was called to stop Operation Streamline — “the mass prosecution program that criminalizes, en masse, on average eighty (mostly Mexican and Central American) migrant detainees each day in Tucson,” Students for Justice in Palestine has stated.

President Barack Obama has refused to halt the mass arrests and deportations of undocumented persons. The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration “has been deporting more than 1,000 people a day, and nearly 410,000 last year, a record number.”

“An injustice”

Danya Mustafa of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of New Mexico told The Electronic Intifada by phone that “this is an important action to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are struggling here, whose families are being torn apart, whose livelihoods are being taken away from them.”

What is happening to immigrants and undocumented persons in the US by the Obama administration and the Arizona state government “is an injustice,” Mustafa added. “As SJP we know that injustice all too well, especially as Palestinians. We need to keep our families together. Community suppot is important. This is a direct action based on the needs of the community, and mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers are coming out to support this action. We support it 100 percent. We want to show solidarity with those who have shown solidarity with us.”

There is strong cross-movement solidarity between activists working for justice for Palestinians and activists working for the rights of undocumented and migrant persons in the US — particularly near the US-Mexico border. Gabriel Schivone has documented much of this growing movement for The Electronic Intifada himself.

There are also symbolic and literal parallels to the wall at the US-Mexico border andIsrael’s wall in the occupied West Bank, as some of the same companies provide equipment and building materials to both walls.

The SJP press release added:

Gabriel M. Schivone and Ryan Tombleson — both part of the University of Arizona’s SJP chapter — are participants in the action, which is organized into two groups. Ryan and other activists have locked themselves to the entrance of the courthouse where the Streamline buses carrying migrant detainees are taken for court proceedings. Meanwhile, Schivone’s group stopped two prison buses off the local I-10 freeway and locked themselves under and around the buses.

The activists aim to hold their positions indefinitely, stopping Streamline proceedings for the day. As federal and local authorities descend on the scene, today’s activists shout “Ni uno mas/Not one more!” aligning themselves with the national campaign to end President Obama’s mass deportation policy.

Operation Streamline is all about besmirching migrants with criminal records instead of processing their cases through civil or administrative immigration courts, as has been done in the past. Much thanks to Streamline, now Latin@s represent more than half of all those sentenced to federal prisons. More than 200,000 people have been prosecuted through Streamline-related enforcement throughout the Southwest and interior since its onset in 2005 — with 74,000 prosecutions in Tucson alone since it started here in January 2008. The current “security” package of the latest immigration reform proposal intends to expand Streamline by 300 percent.

Schivone and Tombleson’s protests extend beyond the issue of US immigration law and border enforcement policies. They would like to make it clear that a strike at such repressive US immigration and border enforcement policies, and their corporate sponsors, is also a strike at the US security relationship with Israel. Just take if from Arizona state legislators themselves, who affirmed in their unanimous February 2012 resolution “Supporting the Nation of Israel”: “Israel receives vital military and security assistance from the United States, much of which, in turn, is spent here in Arizona with its defense contractors.”

The SJPers locked down in Tucson today wish to remind activists throughout the country that more traumatic and direct political action will be needed to stop government programs of death and suffering in the Mexico-US borderlands and beyond, resulting from US immigration and border enforcement policies. They call on SJP individuals, groups and supporters to join those in their local communities to resist these policies directly.

Breaking updates on Twitter

Activists are using the hashtags #Not1More and #ShutdownICE on Twitter. Below are some tweets that have been posted about the direct action this morning. As of 11am Pacific time, the direct action to shut down Operation Streamline is still in process.

 

View image on Twitter

President Obama can stop deportations, until that happens, he is the deporter in chief  

Yvette, one of the 12 locked to bus: I am using my body to send a msg to stop deportations.  

5:36 PM – 11 Oct 2013 from Tucson, AZ, United States

View image on Twitter

Immigrant rights protesters still locked down at  blocking court gate 

 

Live stream of protestors locking themselves to wheels of deportation buses in Tucson http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/2013/10/10/tucson/ …   

(Source / 11.10.2013)