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Dagelijks archief 21 augustus 2015

“Selfies in the Rubble”: Interview From Gaza a Year After Operation Protective Edge

“There is lot of wasted money, zero development, zero economy, 65% unemployment, and 40,000 employees without payments. People are struggling to put food on the table.”

a Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City

In this March 30, 2015 file photo, a Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City. The International Monetary Fund said in a Tuesday, May, 19, 2015 report, that reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is going “far more slowly than expected” after a devastating bombing campaign by Israel purportedly targeting Hamas last year

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Almost a year ago this week, thousands of Palestinians took to the bombed streets of Gaza to celebrate the agreement of a long-term ceasefire that would see the end of the deadly 50 day assault that killed over 2,200 Palestinians.

Earlier this week, the Anti-Media spoke to 21 year-old engineering student Muhammad Shehada to find out what things are like in Gaza a year after one of the longest and most bloody attacks in the history of the conflict.

Like all young people in Gaza, Shehada has lived through three brutal Israeli assaults during his short life in the city, which is strangled by an enduring eight-year land, air and sea blockade.

A student at the Islamic University of Gaza, one of the scenes of Israel’s aerial bombardment during Operation Protective Edge,  Shehada is also a community translator and researcher for outspoken author and critic of Israel, Professor Norman Finkelstein.

He described last year’s terrifying scenes in Gaza. “After an escalation of tension, the first day started with unforgettable non-stop lunacy, airstrikes everywhere and unjustifiable mass shelling. “ He went on to recall the lack of food and water, long-lasting cuts in electricity, destroyed ambulances, demolished schools and hospitals, and scattered bodies lying in the streets.

“The mortuary ran out of space — they had to put corpses in ice cream fridges. Our sincere evening prayers called for the heavens to help us. We were betrayed by most Arab leaders, given expired rotten food from Egypt, and had helpless delegations taking selfies in the rubble.”

The Shehada family was lucky to have a basement to hide in as airstrikes drew closer, although the combination of unbearable hot weather and Ramadan fasting during the seven week bombardment meant that after a while, they no longer had the energy to take cover.

“Evacuation leaflets were scattered everywhere as Israel urged us to leave our homes, but all the borders were closed and the land was burning, ” Shehada said. He went on to describe the non-stop background chatter of news reports on TVs and radios and the deafening shouts of joy when negotiations moved forward positively.

Referring to Israel as a merciless killing machine, Shehada claims “heaps of heartbreaking stories passed unmarked,” recalling scenes in the streets.

“People, all colours and shapes, men, women, and children were panicking and running in pajamas, traumatized survivors from the Shejaiya massacre in unforgettable bloody scenes.  I was wandering around Gaza, expecting the car next to me to blow up or buildings I was walking past to collapse on my head.”

As friends all over the world attempted to comfort him via Facebook during the attack, he said the longer the assault lasted, the more he lost hope.

“At one point, I was watching Robin Williams on an iPad — headphones blocked external hullabaloo.  Alone in my room, light-bombs blowing up showed us death was inevitably coming. Strangely, I didn’t care, and continued watching ‘Good Will Hunting.’ I think I lost my fear of death in the first war, this time I was losing my tendency for life.”

Asked what the international community can do to support Palestinians, Shehada wants to see the insistence of full Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 and a “reasonable resolution of the refugee question.”

Unsurprisingly, he added that the people of Gaza have entirely lost hope in international governments due to their unconditional support of Israel, but that people are aware of the difference between governments and the masses.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are willing to make great personal sacrifices in order to achieve justice for the Palestinians,” he said.

His dream is to see a “Palestinian million-person march” to the Erez checkpoint, led by women and children carrying a banner that reads, “The U.N. Says ‘lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.’ The People of Gaza Call on the World to Implement the Law.” He believes with proper planning, this could be accomplished within 6 months.

He said that while money spent on Palestine during the last 50 years is enough to establish a ”new Singapore”,  the international community, ‪Israel, and “PA corrupted decadents” stand in the way of fair administration of aid.

“Gaza lives almost purely from NGOs’ money, which makes it impossible for the Palestinians to think themselves out of a context where they rely on others. Foreign investments and interests always come with a price, which rarely benefits the Palestinians themselves, but rather acts as fuel for further division,” Shehada claimed.

He added that there are over 700 charities in Gaza, a number that is growing.

“Why not? It’s a most profitable business, like peacemaker NGOs, but their competitive behaviour will lead to the bankrupting of all of them. Sharing donations around 700 is a waste of both time and funds and small charities don’t have the same expertise and capabilities as the long-lived dependable ones.” He gave examples of psychological and trauma support services for children and claims they are in danger of making matters worse without the use of well-qualified specialists.

Gaza has vast numbers of food-distribution campaigns, but these are a temporary sticking plaster. The establishment of long-lasting sustainable development projects is almost impossible due to “periodic massacres and constant conflict,” according to Shehada.

Describing the bleak situation a year on, he was frank. “There is lot of wasted money, zero development, zero economy, 65% unemployment, and 40,000 employees without payments. People are struggling to put food on the table.”

(Source / 21.08.2015)

Palestinian Christians clash with Israeli police over separation wall

Israeli forces arrest a Palestinian protester who was trying to reach tractors working on the construction of Israel’s controversial wall in the Cremisan Valley

BEIT JALA (AFP) — Palestinian Christians clashed with Israeli border police near Bethlehem Wednesday after dozens of demonstrators, including priests, gathered to protest renewed work on Israel’s controversialseparation wall in the Christian majority town of Beit Jala.

An AFP journalist said the protesters, who were joined by a few foreign activists, gathered in Beit Jala to protest building a stretch of the wall, which started Monday, after years of legal battles.The three Roman Catholic priests tried to pray among olive trees that bulldozers and mechanical diggers were seeking to uproot but were stopped by police.One demonstrator was arrested as he tried to plant an olive sapling in front of the excavators.Police wrestled with protesters who chanted, “Israel is a terrorist state. It doesn’t scare us.”
The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah said they were “concerned” about the beginning of construction work in Cremisan, noting that it will directly affect the livelihoods of 58 families.
Israel began building the separation wall with concrete walls, fences and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian Intifada, claiming the barrier was crucial for security.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that construction of the barrier was illegal and, like the UN General Assembly, demanded that it be dismantled.
Palestinians, who refer to its as the “apartheid wall,” say the barrier is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.
The wall has already completely cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.The Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem says the wall will annex around 13 percent of the total area of the West Bank.
An Israeli excavator uproots olive trees to make way for Israel’s controversial separation barrier, in the West Bank town of Beit Jala on August 17, 2015
There has been fierce opposition from the local Palestinian Christian community,which has enlisted papal support, regardingthe area of the wall that approaches Beit Jala and the adjacent Cremisan Valley.
The case grabbed special attention when the wall was slated to separate Cremisan monastery from the neighboring convent and vineyards.It would have also separated Palestinians in the nearby Christian village of Beit Jala from their olive groves.Israel’s High Court ruled in April that the work must stop and told the government to consider alternative routes.But, in a new decision on July 6, the court said work could go ahead, ruling that the previous ban referred only to an area of a few hundred meters(yards) alongside the monastery and the convent.The people of Beit Jala were surprised Monday when Israeli bulldozers started uprooting olive trees east of the convent and monastery.They are protesting against the confiscation of their land and the fragmentation of their lives and also fear that the path of the wall may herald expansion of the nearby Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo.Settlements in occupied territory are illegal in the eyes of the international community.
The network of towering concrete walls, barbed-wire fences, trenches and closed military roads will extend 712kilometers(442 miles) when finished, separating the West Bank from Israel.

(Source / 21.08.2015)

Four Palestinian children, including 6-year old, Injured in Kufur Qaddoum protest march

Palestinian medical sources have reported that four residents were injured Friday, after Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest in Kufur Qaddoum town, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia.

Soldiers firing foul-smelling wastewater in the village of Kufur Qaddoum (image from video by Kufur Qaddoum committee)

Soldiers firing foul-smelling wastewater in the village of Kufur Qaddoum

The protesters, accompanied by international activists, marched through the village, demanding that Israel open the main village road that was blocked by the army 13 years ago in order to enable easy access by Israeli colonizers to the Kedumim illegal colony, built on Palestinian lands.

Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in the town Morad Eshteiwy said a large military force invaded Kufur Qaddoum before noon prayers, and fired a barrage of rubber-coated metal bullets.

The invasion and assault led to clashes between dozens of local youth and the invading soldiers; local youth hurled stones and empty bottles toward the invading soldiers and armored vehicles.

One child, identified as Abdul-Rahim Abdul-Salam, 6 years of age, was shot in the shoulder, while Mousa Abdul-Latif, 13, was shot in the arm, and Jamil Helmly, 17, was shot in the thigh and Odai al-Qaddoumi was shot with three rubber bullets in his arms and abdomen.

Eshteiwy further said that the soldiers fired several gas bombs and concussion grenades targeting the local mosque, and several homes, in addition to spraying homes with wastewater mixed with chemicals. Israeli concussion grenades also caused power blackouts in a number of neighborhoods.

Israeli soldiers invading village of Kufur Qaddoum (image from video by Kufur Qaddoum committee)

Israeli soldiers invading village of Kufur Qaddoum

(Source / 21.08.2015)

The right to resist in occupied Palestine: denial and suppression

The right of Palestinians to resist their occupation is enshrined in international and customary law, a fact that is denied and violated by Israel and wilfully overlooked by the rest of the world.

Palestinian boy with a slingshot

Israel’s reaction to Palestinians exercising the right to resist, a right enshrined in both the customs and treaties of international law, is nothing short of brutal. The past few weeks have seen an array of incidences highlighting the perversity of the Israeli forces’ suppression of peaceful protest: arbitrary arrests and detentions, tear-gassing of demonstrators and—in the tragic but sadly not unusual case of a teenager allegedly throwing stones—a fatal shooting.

These events are all too common in the Occupied Territories, their victims often children and young adults who, despite the IDF’s frequent and well-known violations against innocent civilians, boldly persist in their struggle for freedom. The continuing denial by Israel of the applicability of international humanitarian law to the Occupied Territories, serves as the framework in which it sustains its ongoing regime of criminalisation.

By criminalising non-violent resistance activities, effectively attempting to stifle the Palestinian psyche, Israel advances what Jeff Halper has aptly labelled its “matrix of control”—a complex web of legal, architectural and systemic devices designed to fragment and isolate Palestinian society.

Additionally, the international discourse, particularly coverage by western media outlets, serves to perpetuate and further solidify the stereotype of the Palestinian ‘terrorist’, discounting the severity of the apartheid regime, disregarding the relevant international treaties—and thereby discrediting the right to resist.

Relevant law and custom

As well as refusing to distinguish between legitimate armed struggle and acts of terror, Israel’s constant suppression of non-violent protest highlights its attempts to completely delegitimise the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was ratified by Israel in 1966, states that “all peoples have the right to self-determination.” It elaborates the right to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)—which together with the ICCPR, UN Charter and customary law, makes up the body of international human rights law—guarantees the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. The right to peaceful assembly—again, enshrined in both the UDHR and ICCPR—is inviolable, but for necessary “national security” interests.

What is more, the myriad of UN General Assembly resolutions that explicitly recognise the “legitimacy of the people’s struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination…by all available means” only strengthens the legal basis for the right to resist.

Resolution 2787 refers specifically to the ‘Palestinian people’. Whilst not carrying binding legal force, these resolutions reflect the views of the majority of sovereign states, which form the basis of customary international law. This is applicable regardless of whether or not it has been codified.

In the sphere of customary international law, the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice also merits attention. In 2004, it issued its opinion against the Separation Wall, stating that the path of the Wall—80 percent of which runs through Palestinian land, well outside of Israel’s internationally recognised borders—is illegal.

It emphasised Israel’s obligations to “terminate its breaches of international law” and cease construction of the Wall, as well as to make adequate compensation to Palestinians for the damage caused. The ICJ’s report also declared as illegal the building of Israeli settlements inside the Occupied Territories, confirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which states that an occupying power must not move its civilians into the occupied territory.

In light of Israel’s endless list of violations against the Fourth Convention, the existence of a parallel moral right to resist becomes obvious, especially given that numerous UN bodies have unequivocally stated that international humanitarian law (including the Geneva Conventions), as well as international human rights law, must be observed by Israel as an occupying power.

Just last October, the UN Human Rights Committee—in its fourth periodic review of Israel—strongly rejected Israel’s claim that the ICCPR does not apply to the Occupied Territories. Paragraph 5(b) of the Committee’s Concluding Observations stated that Israel must “acknowledge that the applicability of international humanitarian law…in a situation of occupation, does not preclude the application of the ICCPR.” The “right to protest”, therefore, though not mentioned per se in the legal apparatus, derives from the relevant legal norms and is guaranteed by these provisions.

Suppression and criminalisation

Evidently, Israel denies that the norms of international law apply to its practices in the West Bank. Forty-eight years after UN Security Council Resolution 242, instructing Israel to leave the Occupied Territories, the Wall still stands, cutting through the West Bank and devastating the lives of those that live in its shadow.

The ongoing construction of the Wall, of the settlements, of the various architectural elements that have come to shape what is described by Federica D’Alessandra as Israel’s “alternative legality”, demonstrates the extent of the denial. The Palestinian civilians who reject this false legality and decide to resist are met with disproportionate force from the military.

Last month, nineteen-year old Jihad al-Jafari, a resident of Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem, was shot dead by Israeli forces that had raided the camp. Muhanad Quasi, the victim’s neighbour, said, “Israeli soldiers prevented anyone from reaching or rescuing him. They fired at anyone who would get close to help him.”

Deheishe refugee camp is accustomed to routine raids by the military, and stone throwing is a popular way of denouncing this practice. Viewed by many as a rite of passage, its metaphorical significance cannot be understated. It was the primary method of resisting during the first intifada, and carries a uniquely Palestinian history, more an act of defiance as opposed to an intention to actually injure. The ruthless killing of a young man by fully armed, helmeted soldiers, however, is unthinkable as a response.

November of last year saw the Israeli cabinet pass a bill that, if approved, could mean twenty-year prison sentences for those charged with stone throwing. Approximately 700 children are annually sentenced for this ‘crime’ in the Occupied Territories. From an international law standpoint, this simply cannot be justified.

The international jurist Professor Emeritus Eric David of Brussels University, deems the IDF a “legitimate target” and asserts that “of course they (stone-throwing Palestinians) are allowed to do that…certainly not only from a jus contra bellum point of view, but also from a jus in bello point of view”. These are the two separate strands of the laws of war; Professor David legitimises stone throwing as protest in the face of military violations from the perspective of both strands.

The laws of war, by virtue of the Fourth Geneva Convention, authorise occupying powers to establish military courts for the civilians under occupation. The practices of the Israeli occupation forces, however, go far beyond the jurisdiction that is permissible and amount to grave human rights violations.

On February 16, eighteen year-old Lina Khattab, former student of Birzeit University, was given a sixth-month prison sentence after being tried in an Israeli military court. She was charged with “throwing stones” and “participating in an unlawful demonstration”, the only evidence against her being the testimonies of three Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli ban against demonstrations is but one example of the hundreds of military orders that strip the Palestinians of autonomy and illustrate just how far the regime extends. Military Order 101 forbade the gathering of more than ten people at a time. Order 107 prohibited a range of schoolbooks, including those on Arab grammar, the Crusades, and Arab nationalism. Order 1079 published a list of over a thousand banned items pertaining to Palestinian novels and poetry.

Resistance in all its forms is penalised.

Addameer, the leading prisoner support organisation operating in the West Bank, said that the arbitrary charges levelled towards Palestinians signify an “attack on the social fabric of Palestinian society”. Prior to receiving her sentence, Lina was held in administrative detention, which is known for its brutal procedures. “Detainees get told they won’t get fed until they confess, they’re told their houses will be demolished, their families are often threatened.”

When put on trial, the astonishing conviction rate of 99.74 percent ends any debate as to the legality of the regime. Students, farmers, ordinary men, women and children who resist in the face of great injustice—they are all convicts long before reaching court, prisoners of a system that deliberately and routinely turns them into criminals.

International discourse

The international community’s failure to compel Israel to observe the law allows this criminalisation to persist. The dominant discourse of the west obscures the lived reality of millions of Palestinians. Its tropes and terminology falsely depict each new incident as yet another phase of the ‘cycle of violence’ that plagues the region and, as Rashid Khalidi writes, “as though it is impossible to ascribe cause and effect to what is happening.”

In late 2013, the British centre-left newspaper, The Guardian, published an article about tensions caused among Israelis upon the release of Palestinian prisoners. It referred to the prisoners as “terrorists” without the use of quotation marks. A seemingly minor blunder, this is the type of subtle, pro-Israeli propaganda that enables Israel’s continued impunity and without question negates the Palestinian struggle.

It creates a narrative in which the notion of a Palestinian right of resistance becomes irrelevant; it is instead hijacked by the normalised conception of the ‘terrorist’ who warrants no sympathy. This is evident from UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech at Downing Street late last year, where in honour of the Chanukah holiday he addressed several representatives of the Jewish community:

“There is no moral equivalence between an Israeli government that wants to defend its people and its territory against attack, and terrorists that want to kill as many people as they can with the weapons and the bombs and the missiles that they throw over Israel’s borders.”

The refusal to contextualise, to even mention by name the Palestinian people, is striking. Last summer, in the wake of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Gaza, Human Rights Watch failed to hold Israel accountable for its conduct. Through the vague language of its press releases—that of “may be”, “apparent” and “appears”, Human Rights Watch “distanced itself from alleging Israeli war crimes”, as Norman Finkelstein has written.

These “muted legal findings” are irresponsible on the part of an international human rights organisation, and only play into the myth that the complexity of the conflict makes it impossible to be objective.

The right of resistance of the Palestinian people is grounded in law, custom and conscience. It is the moral duty of international organisations, governmental or non-governmental, to recognise this right, and aim to facilitate a dialogue which reflects the reality of the situation in the Occupied Territories.

Meanwhile, it is the moral duty of us all to think historically, critically and compassionately about the apartheid in Palestine, and heed the words of Nelson Mandela in 1997:

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

(Source / 21.08.2015)

HOSPITAL: HUNGER STRIKER MUHAMMAD ALLAN HAS SUFFERED BRAIN DAMAGE

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad Allan has suffered brain damage due to a lack of nutrients following two months of protest action against his detention without trial, Israel’s Barzilai hospital said Wednesday.
Hospital administrator Dr. Hezi Levy told reporters that an MRI scan revealed that Allan had suffered brain damage, likely caused by a lack of vitamins following over two months on hunger strike.
It is unclear if the damage is irreversible or whether Allan could return to full brain functioning after several weeks or months.
Israel’s High Court held a hearing Wednesday on whether to release him due to his health.The session, held in secret to discuss his medical condition and security files, was adjourned in the early evening without a ruling, and his lawyer said he hoped for a decision Wednesday night.
“According to the last medical report, there is brain damage,” Allan’s lawyer Jamil al-Khatib told journalists.”Due to the difficult health situation, and considering Mohammad Allan’s health condition, I imagine the decision will be tonight.”Discussions were also said to have taken place outside the court with the aim of reaching a deal.
Palestinian officials said earlier in the day that Israel had offered to free Allan on November 3 if he agreed to end his hunger strike, which began on June 18.Rights group Adalah, which has petitioned the court for Allan’s release, however said it was continuing to demand his immediate freedom.
Earlier, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, Qadura Fares, said that Allan was no longer able to communicate properly.
The hunger striker regained consciousness on Tuesday after being in a coma more than four days, but pledged to resume fasting if Israel did not resolve his case within 24 hours, the prisoner’s society said.Doctors had put him on a respirator and treated him with fluids and vitamins after he lost consciousness.
Allan, who has been held in Israeli custody since last November, went on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention.
Allan’s protest has raised questions over whether Israel will seek to invoke a law passed last month allowing prisoners to be force-fed when their lives are in danger.

(Source / 21.08.2015)

Israeli forces issue demolition notice for Palestinian home near Tubas

File photo

TUBAS (Ma’an) — Israeli occupation forces on Thursday issued a demolition order for a home and nearby water-well owned by a Palestinian man in Beit Tammoun village west of Tubas, the resident told Ma’an.Jamal Bani Odah said that the Israeli Civil Administration, the Israeli body responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank, placed demolition notices on his house, informing him of the planned demolition of both his home and water-well.

The order said that the notice was issued because Odah had allegedly built the structures without a building permit.Under the Oslo Accord, building permits must be approved by the Israeli Civil Administration for construction to take place in Area C.

As a result of rarely-approved permits, however, Palestinian residents are often forced to build structures without permits, which are liable to be torn down later by Israeli forces.UN officials on Tuesday slammed a recent spate of Israeli home demolitions east of Jerusalem and called for an immediate freeze on demolitions across the occupied West Bank.Israeli forces on Monday demolished 22 structures belonging to the Jahalin Bedouin community in eastern Jerusalem, leaving 78 Palestinians homeless, including 49 children, the UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said in a joint statement.”According to UN records, this is the largest number of Palestinians displaced in the West Bank in one day in nearly three years,” the statement said.Since the beginning of 2015, Israeli forces have demolished 294 structures in the occupied Palestinian Territory, leaving 251 Palestinians displaced, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
(Source / 21.08.2015)

It’s Time To Hold Israel, Israelis And American Zionists Financially Responsible For Terrorism

AIPAA group of activists protest outside the Washington Convention Center where American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is holding its annual meeting on March 01, 2015C

A group of activists protest outside the Washington Convention Center where American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is holding its annual meeting on March 01, 2015

SEATTLE — How do you hold a nation legally responsible for acts of terrorism perpetrated either by its citizens or the state itself? One solution is the International Criminal Court, which exists for such matters.

However, the ICC largely avoids taking on cases outside of Africa. Critics accuse the ICC of operating with apolitical agenda in terms of cases it accepts or rejects — sometimes based on financial support — and ignoring obvious war crimes. In the Mavi Marmara case linked above, the chief prosecutor rejected the case in 2014, only to be overruled by an appeals panel several months ago. The prosecutor is now appealing the appeal.

This sort of bureaucratic inertia has hobbled it from its inception.

Even if the ICC does eventually accept jurisdiction, given such resistance it appears unlikely there will be a serious attempt by the ICC to hold Israel accountable for these acts.

So far, Palestinian Authority attempts to get the court to accept jurisdiction over Israeli violations of international law have had little success. What other options or legal models may be available?

The aftermath of the May 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara, part of the first Freedom Flotilla, by the IDF commando force, Shayetet 13, offers an important precedent. The Turkish government sought justice for this massacre in which Israeli soldiers killed 10 Turks, including one Turkish-American. Since Turkey broke off diplomatic relations over the incident, resumption of ties have also become part of the negotiations to resolve the dispute. Last February, the Times of Israel reported that part of the agreement under discussion involvesIsrael paying $20-million to the families of the victims.

Press reports this week speak of an imminent deal in which Israel and Turkey would resolve their differences, resume diplomatic relations and Israel would end the siege against Gaza. It’s not known what the final outcome will be regarding damages, but certainly Israel will be forced to acknowledge responsibility for the attack and pay compensation to the victims.

This offers an interesting model for pursuing future litigation to hold Israel financially responsible for acts of terror perpetrated by its citizens and its military against Palestinian civilians and citizens of other nations. Over the years, Israeli forces have severely injured or killed nationals of a number of countries in Palestine and elsewhere.

Shurat HaDin: ‘Bankrupting terror one case at a time’

One of the primary practitioners of “lawfare” among pro-Israel NGOs is an Israeli-American legal non-profit called Shurat HaDin (SHD, also known as the “Israel Law Center”). According to The New York Times, the group, founded by non-attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, targets Arab financial institutions and even the assets of Arab and Muslim states, claiming they fund and/or support “Arab terrorism.” They use two provisions of U.S. law, the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act, in order to pursue their objectives.

In a WikiLeaks cable filed by a U.S. diplomat serving in the embassy in Tel Aviv, the group’s founder conceded that she founded SHD in close collaboration with Israeli intelligence, specifically the Mossad:

Leitner said that in many of her cases she receives evidence from [Goverment of Israel (GOI)] officials, and added that in its early years ILC took direction from the GOI on which cases to pursue. ‘The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do,’ claimed Leitner. Among her contacts, Leitner listed Udi Levy at the NSC and Uzi Beshaya at the Mossad, both key Embassy contacts on anti-terrorist finance cooperation.”

Though Darshan-Leitner does not mention receiving government funding to enable her to pursue her initial targets, this appears a possibility as well. The founder of the group declined to reveal the sources of the group’s funding to The New York Times in 2014, citing the vague grounds of “security.”

Given that Israeli intelligence agents routinely testify in such cases and U.S. judges have even permitted such testimony in private, in violation of the respondent’s right to confront witnesses against it, SHD continues its close relationship with the security services. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that NGOs like SHD are handmaidens of the Israeli state. They pursue objectives that advance the interests of the state in areas in which the state decides it should not directly venture.

Though the numbers are unverifiable, Darshan-Leitner claimed in media interviews that SHD has recovered a billion dollars in assets on behalf of American terror victims and their survivors who were killed or injured in Palestinian terror attacks. SHD’s motto is “bankrupting terrorism, one case at a time.” She works with a network of 30 attorneys who file and pursue these cases in cooperation with her organization.

Last Friday, according to Al-Jazeera, Arab Bank, the largest bank in the Middle East, agreed to an undisclosed settlement on behalf of 500-class action participants in a lawsuit that accused the institution of facilitating Palestinian terrorism. Provisions of the agreement were not disclosed, but given that the plaintiff’s attorney trumpeted it publicly, it’s safe to say Arab Bank will be parting with a significant amount.

The suit appears little more than a vehicle for the Israeli government and its interest in promoting an image of the Arab and Muslim world as a nest of terrorists. Its tactics exploit the law on behalf of national interests, while cloaked in the mantle of aiding victims of terror. But if the FBI and Justice Department could use the tax code to take down Al Capone, what’s wrong with doing something similar to address Israeli terrorism?

A model for holding Israel accountable for terror

Given the success of Darshan-Leitner’s project, one can pay her no higher compliment than turning the tables. Israeli terrorism, perpetrated by individuals, terror networks like the recently exposed group called “The Revolt,” and the state itself, have caused incalculably more harm to Arabs than Arabs have caused to Israelis.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found that, from 2000-2008, Israel killed four times more Palestinians than Palestinians killed Israelis. That ratio has widened since then. Though many of these deaths happened during armed conflict, a significant number were acts of terror, like an incident earlier this month in which Jewish extremists burned alive an 18 month-old Palestinian baby and his father in a West Bank arson attack that remains unsolved.

Israel invariably refuses to hold such terrorists accountable for their actions (with few exceptions, and only in cases involving notoriety and international exposure like the brutal kidnap-murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, burned to death by radical Israeli Jews). When prosecutions do occur, Israel often pardons or commutes their sentences..

Holding Israeli terrorism legally accountable offers an opportunity to use the same U.S. laws to pursue similar targets among Israeli financial and state institutions. The goal would not be to bankrupt Israel or its banks, but rather to force Israeli corporate and government interests to understand that there is a steep price to pay.

An Israeli Jewish settler shoots in the air as Palestinians protest against the Prawer Plan to resettle Israel’s Palestinian Bedouin minority from their villages in the Negev Desert, near the Israeli settlement of Bet El, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

An Israeli Jewish settler shoots in the air as Palestinians protest against the Prawer Plan to resettle Israel’s Palestinian Bedouin minority from their villages in the Negev Desert, near the Israeli settlement of Bet El, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah

There are hundreds of Israeli settlers who’ve killed and maimed thousands of Palestinian civilians. A 2011 report from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documented 121 incidents in which settlers caused Palestinian casualties in that year alone. These terrorists use guns and other weapons provided to them either by their settlements, the Israeli army, or other civilian authorities. Settlements and their security (likely including weapons used in some attacks on Palestinians) are directly funded by the Israeli government.

US nonprofits may aid Israeli terror

U.S.-based pro-settler non-profits also support acts of intimidation, land theft and violence against Palestinians. During his free-wheeling days as a Washington DC lobbyist, Jack Abramoff’s laundered $140,000 from the Chippewa Tribe through his Capitol Athletic Fund to the Beitar Illit settlement, according to a 2005 story from The Texas Observer. The money purchased “sniper scopes, camouflage suits, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager and shooting mats” for a “sniper school” run by a former-IDF officer.

The Orthodox Jewish settler who ran the school “talked of a fifth column of Jewish warriors that will someday issue its own ‘call to arms.’ He also regaled Abramoff with accounts of sniper positions his group set up to cover IDF soldiers as they worked, “neutralizing’ terrorists, and watching ‘the dirty little rats’ on the Palestinian side of the fence,” wrote Louis Dubose in The Texas Observer.

In this case and others involving different U.S. charities supporting similar projects, settlers benefit from tax-deductible donations and other forms of official support in their acts of intimidation, threats and even terror against Palestinians.

For those few who are convicted of their crimes and imprisoned, there are Israeli NGOs like Lehava and Honenu which advocate for terror attacks and/or support the perpetrators and their families when they are behind bars. The Nana article linked above notes Honenu gave $60,000 directly to convicted Israeli Jewish terrorists and another $10,000 to their families. These NGOs receive government funding to support their general mission and their work with the families of terrorists. The Israeli state also implicitly endorses and subsidizes the mission through tax deductions on donations.

One of the important precedents SHD established is charging Palestinian organizations with culpability for terror through their funding of payments to the families of shahids who carried out terror attacks. SHD targets Arab banks which offer financial services to individual terrorists and national bodies which provide them with financial support. Such behavior is mirrored precisely on the Israeli side. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

Further, Israel has sent its agents around the world to murder (and in some cases kidnap) individuals associated with Palestinian militant groups. Though Israel claimed that some of them are guilty of planning and carrying out terror attacks, many have either had no connection to terrorism or only very peripheral involvement. The Mossad assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai. His crime was that he was a weapons procurement officer who arranged for the shipment of Iranian weapons to Hamas.

Since 2007, the Mossad has also assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists. Though Israel has never accepted responsibility directly for these acts of state terror, its leaders expressed approval of them and even said that whoever did them should be applauded. Numerous foreign intelligence agencies and journalists confirmed the likelihood of Israeli responsibility.

NGOs and lawyers should force the Israeli government to prove or disprove this claim in a U.S. court. If the Israelis refuse to do so or attempt and fail to do so, they should be held to the same standards SHD is demanding of Arab banks and states in U.S. courts.

Arab Victims Face Far Higher Hurdles in U.S. Courts Than Israeli Victims

Though the theory behind this proposal is sound, executing it will be a different matter. Gadeir Abbas, a former staff lawyer for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told MintPress News that there are significant hurdles confronting those seeking to hold Israel accountable for acts of terror.

First, he noted that Israel is a state, which therefore enjoys sovereign immunity from various types of tort cases. Since Palestine statehood isn’t recognized by the U.S., its political organs, like the Palestinian Authority, have no such protection.

Abbas raised the example of Rachel Corrie. She was a young American volunteering on behalf of the International Solidarity Movement to defend Palestinian homes in Gaza that were being demolished by the IDF. An armored bulldozer manufactured by the U.S. Caterpillar Company and driven by an IDF soldier ran her over and killed her.

“When you have the U.S. government actually paying for the Caterpillar bulldozer which killed Rachel Corrie, it poses an almost insurmountable obstacle to suing Israel in a U.S. court,” Abbas said. “Add to that a built-in prejudice against Arab or Muslim victims who are often seen in the U.S. media as perpetrators, rather than victims of terror. Alternatively, American and Israeli Jews have not, until recently, been seen as perpetrators of terror. So it becomes easier for judges and juries to rule in their favor as victims.”

Cindy, right, and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, stand together with their daughter Sarah after the district court's ruling in Haifa, Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Cindy, right, and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, stand together with their daughter Sarah after the district court’s ruling in Haifa, Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012

In the resulting lawsuit filed by her parents, a U.S. court ruled that since the tractor had been purchased under a U.S. government program (and paid for by the government itself), this indicated our country had approved the sale and use to which the IDF put the vehicle. It therefore dismissed the federal suit as a violation of the foreign policy prerogatives of the executive branch.

When the Corries followed suit by filing in an Israeli court, it heard the case but refused to find any culpability on the part of the IDF for Corrie’s killing. This, Abbas noted, is part of the high barriers faced by those seeking to hold Israel responsible for acts of terror and homicide against U.S. citizens.

The former CAIR attorney did indicate that lawsuits against individual Israeli officials rather than the government itself might be more successful. An even more promising strategy would be to identify non-state actors such as settlers or NGOs who might support their crimes. But it would be critical to be able to prove that any party sued, whether an NGO or a bank, knew in advance that the activities it supported were illegal (which could include violations of international law).

Despite these caveats, Abbas considers this a promising avenue worth pursuing, especially if victims and survivors come forward wishing to do so.

Another lawyer with considerable experience in the field of corporate litigation told me that no major American law firms would touch such a case. First, it would poison relations with many Jewish clients or even corporate clients with a large Jewish customer base. Second, no matter how vigorous the defense mounted by the Palestinian Authority, the Arab Bank or the government of Iran, Israeli banks and government bodies would mount an even more ferocious defense, hiring the most prominent, aggressive legal team to represent them. Any legal nonprofit taking up this project would face extensive criticism from the Israel lobby.

Despite these complications, Israeli targets present a deep-pocketed opportunity for a willing lawyer. The Israeli government registry for nonprofits notes Darshan-Leitner’s last recorded salary in 2012 was $110,000, quite a tidy sum in the Israeli nonprofit world. Her cottage industry has flourished and her associated attorneys have earned major fees for their work.

To avoid the stain of personal benefit, those working on this project on behalf of Arab victims should eschew profit to the greatest extent possible. Expenses and reasonable fees should be covered. Any assets seized or settlement funds should be distributed to victims and NGOs working on their behalf.

NGOs and law firms must hold individual Israelis, financial institutions and the state itself accountable for anti-Muslim terror. The major Israeli banks have American subsidiaries, which make them even more vulnerable.

(Source / 21.08.2015)

Senior Hamas official says ceasefire dependent on lifting of Gaza siege

Mahmoud Al-Zahar

Mahmoud Al-Zahar

A member of Hamas’ political bureau, Mahmoud Al-Zahar said on Thursday that the ceasefire agreement with Israel depends on the lifting of the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

“The ceasefire with the Israeli occupation remains in place and if Israel wants to keep it in place it must pay its price, which is a full lifting of the blockade on Gaza,” Zahar said in remarks to Safa news agency.

“The Palestinian factions have agreed during the Cairo negotiations on a period of calm in exchange for lifting of the siege, and if the Israeli occupation is interested in the ceasefire or expanding a truce it must lift the siege on Gaza, because nothing comes without a price,” he added.

Zahar stressed that Israel has not as yet lifted the siege; “therefore, the question here is for how long will the truce that was agreed upon remain in effect?”

Palestinian factions and Israel reached a ceasefire agreement on 26 August last year under Egyptian auspices ending 51 days of Israeli aggression against the enclave.

Several media sources reported that efforts being exerted by mediators to consolidate the ceasefire agreement in exchange for a total lifting of the blockade and the establishment of a waterway to the world have yet to reach a final agreement.

(Source / 21.08.2015)

The brothers who funded Blair, Israeli settlements and Islamophobia

Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation received money from a financial fraudster linked with illegal Israeli settlements and an American Islamophobic network

Tony Blair is again in the headlines, this time after Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn publicly voiced the opinion of millions of British citizens: that the former prime minister should stand trial on charges of war crimes if the evidence suggests that he broke international law during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Blair’s conduct since leaving office has received less scrutiny, however. Our investigations show that while Blair was serving as the special Middle East peace envoy of the Quartet, representing the UN, Russia, US and EU, the American fundraising arm of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation accepted money from a family that finances illegal Israeli settlements via the earnings of a convicted felon.

While conducting research on the transatlantic funders of the occupation in Palestine, to be published by Public Interest Investigations later this year, we uncovered tax documents revealing that the California-based Milken Family Foundation donated $1 million to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in 2013. The Milken Family Foundation’s director is Michael Milken and its president is his younger brother Lowell, who is also president of another family foundation, the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, registered at the same address.

Milken the ‘Junk Bond King’

Michael Milken, with the legal assistance of his brother Lowell, is known for having developed the market for high-yield and high-risk bonds in the 1980s, earning him both billions of dollars and the nickname of “Junk Bond King”. In 1990, he plead guilty to six felonies and agreed to pay $600 million, including $200 million in fines, to settle what The New York Times had called “the biggest fraud case in the history of the securities industry”. Milken was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but served only 22 months.

According to Mother Jones magazine, Lowell was also indicted on federal racketeering and fraud charges connected to insider-trading violations at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the now-defunct Wall Street investment bank where both brothers worked. However, in order to get Michael to accept a plea deal, the charges against Lowell were dropped.

The magazine further notes that the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert and a number of other savings and loan partnerships (many of them affiliated with the Milken brothers) fuelled the larger savings and loan crisis between 1986 and 1995, creating an economic recession and costing American taxpayers about $500 billion.

But despite his criminal record and legacy, Forbes magazine estimates that Michael is currently worth $2.5 billion, making him the 737th richest person in the world. Lowell’s real estate investments helped to make him worth $1 billion in 2008. Back in 1984, he even paid $975,000 in cash for a two-story beach house in Malibu with five bedrooms and four baths.

From fraud charges to illegal settler funding

In recent years, the Milken brothers have focused their attention on philanthropy, working on a wide range of causes, several linked to pro-settler and Islamophobic groups. For example, between 2009 and 2013, the Lowell Milken Family Foundation funnelled $607,000 to the Ariel settlement in the central occupied West Bank, either through the tax-exempt charity American Friends of Ariel or directly to the Ariel University Center of Samaria.

Indeed, Lowell Milken’s contributions to the illegal settlement are so important that the Friends of Ariel website has dubbed him ‘Ariel’s Celebrity’.

Also between 2009-2013, the Milken family foundations donated $555,000 to Aish HaTorah, an international Jewish Orthodox organisation that staunchly defends Israeli policies and features pro-settlement articles on its website. Ronn Torossian, a spokesperson for Aish HaTorah in New York, once told writer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine, “I think we should kill a hundred Arabs or a thousand Arabs for every one Jew they kill,” adding that: “If someone from a town blows himself up and kills Jews, we should wipe out the town he’s from, kill them all.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Aish HaTorah has close ties to the virulently anti-Muslim Clarion Fund, which is behind the notorious anti-Islam film Obsession: Clarion’s address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, the group’s fundraising arm.

Funding Islamophobia

This is not the Milken family’s only link to the “Islamophobia network”. Another anti-Muslim cause funded by it is CAMERA, an organisation based in Boston that claims to monitor American media coverage of Israel, but which according to a 2015 report published by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network in reality “is an Islamophobic watchdog organisation that bullies media outlets into producing pro-Israel coverage”.

The Milken family foundations have also given a substantial amount of money to MEMRI, founded by Yigal Carmon, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, and Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli-born American political scientist, to provide free English language translations of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Pashto and Turkish media reports.

The Center for American Progress has called MEMRI “the Islamophobia network’s go-to place for selective translations of Islamist rhetoric abroad”. One of its directors is Steve Emerson, a media “terrorism expert” who in January 2015 falsely told Fox News that Birmingham is a “Muslim-only city” where non-Muslims “don’t go”. The subsequent public outcry forced him to apologise.

Other recipients of the Milken brothers’ crooked fortune include: Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, the largest international donor of Israel’s occupation forces; Jewish National Fund, tasked to secure the Jewish stewardship of Palestinian lands; and Zionist Organization of America, the US branch of the World Zionist Organization, which according to The New York Times has played a key role in managing land and infrastructure in Israeli settlements.

Of course, these financial connections are not the first controversy surrounding Blair’s faith foundation. Last year, Martin Bright, a former website editor for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, complained that “Blair continues to use a ministerial-style ‘red box’ for his urgent correspondence and was a strong presence at the charity,” leading the UK Charity Commission to examine the allegations. Bright also criticised the foundation’s decision to accept funds from an organisation linked to Saudi Arabia’s repressive regime.

Blair’s role in the illegal war in Iraq may yet be uncovered; however, the full range of his current international networks needs much fuller investigation.

(Source / 21.08.2015)

White House says airstrike killed IS group number two Hajji Mutazz

The White House confirmed on Friday that the second-in-command of the Islamic State militant group had been killed by a US air strike on Tuesday.

“Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz … was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah,” White House spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

“Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics,” Price said, referring to the group by an acronym.

(Source / 21.08.2015)