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Gaza Corner Archive: Jan 2014-Dec 2015
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This weekly feature includes news and opinion from the Middle East (and beyond) often ignored by the mainstream media followed by music from the relevant country or culture.

Gaza Corner was originally conceived to focus attention on relieving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has been under a severe blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.  Gaza Corner has evolved to include the Middle East, Magreb, Kurdistan and Turkey.

Samir Kuntar, left embraced his brother Bassam in Beirut in 2008
after being released from Israeli prison.
  Credit Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Last week's Gaza Corner discussed the alarming rate of Palestinian incarceration in the Occupied Territories. 20% of all Palestinians have spent time in Israeli prison including 40% of all males in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians who are released from prison are often re-arrested. Israeli security forces don't need a reason.  They can use vague justification such as alleging they violated the conditions of their release.

There is a worse fate than being re-arrested. This past week one former Palestinian prisoner who was released in 2008, was assasinated in Damascus, Syria by an Israeli military airstrike.

Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is a network of organizers and activists, based in North America, working to build solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in their struggle for freedom. Samidoun developed out of the September-October 2011 hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, seeing a need for a dedicated network to support Palestinian prisoners.

background story:

Netanyahu outlawed the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, a popular party among Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Netanyahu and his ministers justified the decision by conflating the Islamic Movement with Hamas and ISIL But the movement operates entirely within Israeli law. Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency opposed Mr Netanyahu’s move, admitting that it had failed to find any evidence linking the movement to violence.  However. Netanyahu and the Israeli right equate all Islamic activism with terrorism.

Outlawing the Islamic Movement looks set to be the first step down a path to greater political repression.
Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist in Nazareth, Israel. Jonathan’s reports and commentaries have appeared in the most influential European and ME publications but unfortunately not in the US mainstream press where there is self- censorshop of the Palestinian narrative.
On Twitter: @jonathan_k_cook

"Israel, which pretends to be a democracy, has political prisoners, political arrests and political prison sentences, at least in the Occupied Territories. The fact that Jarrar was thrown into prison because of her political first and foremost an indictment of the State of Israel, which puts politicians on trial because of their legitimate opposition to the occupation and even sentences them to jail."
note:  all Haaretz articles require free registration

Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar
in Ofer military court, May 2015
(photo by Alex Levac)

related articles:

Jailed Palestinian MP's Trial
Demonstrates How Much the Game Is Fixed
Khalida Jarrar ultimately had no choice but to agree to a plea bargain.
(Amira Hass, Haaretz, 12/8/15)

Minus Shackles, Israeli Trial of Palestinian Lawmaker Opens
The defense attorney for Khalida Jarrar denies all charges.
(Amira Hass, Haaretz, 6/23/15)

Palestinian MP's Crimes:
Visiting Prisoners and Talking to the Media
Nothing demonstrates political persecution better than the 12 counts
on which Khalida Jarrar was convicted and jailed.

(Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, Haaretz, 5/29/15)

My Wife, the Jailed Palestinian MP
An elected representative like Khalida Jarrar, being sent to prison for six months without undergoing a trial – such things are everyday occurrences in Israel. But there's no public discussion at all.
(Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, Haaretz, 5/24/15)

Israel Must Free Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar
Judging by all the evidence, Jarrar is not a terrorist but rather a nonviolent activist who is working to liberate her people from the occupation.

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 11/28/15

Inside Hebron
In no city are Israelis and Palestinians are as far away as in Hebron
where they live side by side.

(Francesca Borri FB Blog Entry; 11/20/15)

Francesca Borri has been a Middle East war correspondent for 10+ years.
She is currently in Hebron.  She has spent most of her time based in Baghdad and Aleppo.
She wrote the book Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War.

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 11/21/15

Part Two:
Interview with
Suhail Koury, General Director of the
Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM)

Dore Stein:

The above is excerpted from an  interview with Suhail Koury at ESNCM in occupied East Jerusalem on October 16, 2015.

Despite daunting political and financial hurdles, including the destruction of its Gaza branch by Israeli bombs, (the school has been rebuilt), ESNCM continues to be a lifeline for music education in Palestine.

Consider contributing directly to ESNCM here.

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 11/14/15

Part One:
Suhail Koury, General Director of the  Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), tells how he became the first Palestinian imprisoned (and tortured) for composing music. It occurred in 1988 during the first intifada.

Dore Stein:

The above story is 15 minutes out of a 90 minute interview with Suhail Koury that took place at ESNCM in occupied East Jerusalem on October 16, 2015.  It almost didn't happen due to Israeli security.

My appointment with Suhail  was scheduled for 2p. I called a taxi service and was informed that although it normally took 5-10 minutes to drive to the conservatory from the old city's north gate, there were 4-5 check points in our way. The driver informed me it could take an hour or more and he might have to let me off near but not at the conservatory. I declined.  I rescheduled the meeting for a couple hours later in case the check points were removed. Luckily the obstacles were gone by late afternoon.

Meeting Suhail and learning about the extraordinary work of ESNCM was one of my trip highlights.

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 11/07/15
Dore Stein discusses his recent trip to Israel/Palestine.

related stories:


It seems that too often, instead of acting in a manner consistent with the nature of each incident, police officers and soldiers are quick to shoot to kill. The political and public support for such actions endorses the killing Palestinians in the Territories and in Israel.

Rather than imposing collective punishment on Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government should act to end the reality of ongoing and daily oppression faced by some four million people who live without hope of any change in the situation, without any horizon for the end of occupation, and without prospects for a life of liberty and dignity.


For most parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, October was the deadliest month since the Second Intifada, with at least 69 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. 10 Israelis killed by Palestinian attacks in October. Red Crescent reports 8262 Palestinians injured during October, majority due to excessive tear gas inhalation. The spokesperson told Ma'an that at least 760 Palestinians were shot with live rounds across the occupied Palestinian territory, while another 1,857 were hit with rubber-coated steel bullets.

Dore Stein: 

The above photo is of my neighbor on a 1.5 hour train ride from Acre to Tel Aviv. He was an off duty member of Yasam(Special Patrol Unit) with pistols in his back pockets and a M-16 in his
arms at all times. He told me he at first he not want his photo taken  because when on duty he is masked. But we got chummy and he allowed his photo to be taken not realizing his face was reflected
in the window.  He also told me his job involved infiltrating Arab protests wearing his mask and having gun ready if Palestinians got out of hand.

related stories:

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of Rabbis for Human Rights attacked by a knife wielding masked Israeli settler

Rabbi Arik Ascherman is co-founder of the group
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). The incident took place after Ascherman tried to film Israeli settlers setting Palestinian olive trees on fire in the West Bank village of Awarta outside of Nablus. The video shows the masked man grabbing a knife out of his back pocket, then repeatedly lunging at the 55-year-old rabbi, who was attempting to retreat. The masked man also kicked and punched Ascherman while making threatening gestures with the knife. The settler eventually ran away. For over a decade RHR has dispatched volunteers to protect the Palestinian olive harvest.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman: 
What I Wish for the Settler Who Attacked Me With a Knife

In the moment my attacker nearly became my murderer, did he wonder why he was on a hilltop in the Occupied Territories, driven to violence because the Israeli army was protecting Palestinian farmers?
(Haaretz, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, 10/30/15)
(requires registration)

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 10/10/15:
Fear and Loathing Preparing for Ben Gurion Airport

If you plan on visiting Palestine, you better not say so
or you may be put on a return flight back to where you came from.


The Children Who Live
Under Israel’s Missile

(Produced by The Nation, Dan Cohen and Rebecca Pierce; 9/17/15)

Relatives of four boys from the Bakr family comforted each other
after hearing that the children were killed by Israeli shelling of a Gaza City beach,

16 July 2014.
Ashraf Amra APA images

Background on Video:
(Click above for full text by  Dan Cohen and Rebecca Pierce.
Below combines excerrpts from above, related articles
linked at bottom and additional notes by Dore Stein.)

More than anyone, children bear the brunt of regular Israeli military assaults on the Gaza Strip. During the 51-day war in the summer of 2014, 551 children were killed and 3,436 were injured. But these gruesome figures say little about the psychological state of the nearly 800,000 children who have survived the periodic bombing campaigns.

UNICEF estimates that at least 425,000 Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip require “immediate psychosocial and child protection support.”

This 10:00 video reports on the psychological scars of children in Gaza resulting from Israel's 51 day war last summer.  The suffering is seen thru the eyes of the Bakr family. Their young son survived a missile attack that killed his brother and 3 young cousins while they played soccer on
a beach. The surviving son, Muntasir, suffers from post dramatic stress syndrome.

Dore note: Israel and Egypt prevent people, including healthcare workers, from entering Gaza. Gazans are unable to leave and thus are denied medical treatment in Israel.  The result is a generation of traumatized children in Gaza.

“Data from our community centers shows that about 50 percent of children referred to us have developed post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Dr. Yasser Abujamei, the executive director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, “and another 10 percent have problems with bedwetting.”

The eight-year Israeli siege and repeated Israeli attacks on medical facilities have rendered Gaza’s healthcare system incapable of treating such widespread trauma. Severe restrictions on freedom of movement leave Gaza isolated and unable to send children abroad, or to import experts to assist in alleviating this perpetual crisis.

In perhaps the most publicized war crime (Dore's word) of Israel's assault on Gaza, the IDF launched a mid-day attack on one of the most popular beaches in the Gaza Strip. The military later released a statement claiming that, under real-time visual surveillance, it had detected Hamas naval commandos in the area and that a civilian presence had been ruled out. However, this was refuted by international journalists (including from NBC and the Guardian UK who witnessed the attack.

Meanwhile, a United Nations report found “strong indications” that Israel failed to uphold international law in this case by not taking all feasible measures to protect civilians. Based on the report, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently adopted a resolution condemning Israel’s actions during the war.

Two separate missile attacks,  moments apart, struck eight boys from the Bakr family as they played soccer on the beach, instantly killing four, all between 7 and 11 years old.

The survivors, Yunis, 11; Hamada, 15; Sayed, 14; and Muntasir, 12, were badly wounded and rushed to Al-Shifa hospital. They received emergency surgery but have pieces of shrapnel lodged throughout their bodies.

While their physical wounds have since healed, they live with deep psychological trauma. The soft-spoken Yunis Bakr rarely speaks since his cousins were killed. Both Sayed and Muntasir Bakr live with intense psychosomatic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, causing them to get severe cramps. Muntasir’s case is even more dire, as he becomes tense before losing consciousness and collapsing. (Muntasir is seen having an attack during the video.)

Before the missile attack, Muntasir is described by his father as "always singing and was light-hearted." His mother explains "the shrapnel in his head keeps hurting him and his condition keeps getting worse and he is losing weight." His father tells how Muntasir tried to commit suicide three or four times.

An anguished Muntasir, 12 years old,  describes his feelings:

"As a child, I cannot live this life.  I don't have anything to say, except God will judge you, Tel Aviv and your supporters. I will never be comforted until Netanyahu is in a prison cell."

"Before the war I wanted to be a fisherman to help my father. Now I want to be a fighter to defend Gaza and avenge my brother."

Muntasir is like many boys who saw family members killed in front of them and now aspire to join the ranks of Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, Gaza’s largest armed resistance faction.

Already impoverished by the Israeli/Egyptian siege and naval blockade, the family of refugees can no longer afford even the most basic treatment to alleviate Muntasir’s immediate symptoms. As Israeli politicians threaten the next round of “mowing the lawn”—a euphemism for periodic military campaigns—the Bakr family is left to cope with the psychological trauma of the beach massacre and the burden Muntasir carries as a survivor.

related articles:

A Year Later,
Palestinian Family Mourns 4 Boys Killed on Gaza Beach
(Naomi Zeveloff, The Forward, 7/14/15)

The living martyr, a visit to the Bakr family in Gaza
(Dan Cohen, Mondoweiss, 6/19/15)

Israeli military exonerates itself
in slaughter of children on Gaza beach
(Patrick Strickland, Electronic Intifada, 6/13/15)

NY Times helps Israel whitewash the killings
of four boys playing soccer on Gaza beach
(James North, Mondoweiss, 6/11/15)

Walking in War’s Path
For residents of Israel and Gaza,
routine paths are full of reminders of last summer’s war on Gaza.

(New York Times; 8/23/25; Inteactive Motion Photography by Tomas Munita;
Text by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner;  Produced by David Furst,
Jon Huang and Sergio Pecanha)

Gaza could soon become uninhabitable, UN report predicts
article includes a moving video
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 90215)

Click for UN Report
(18 pg PDF file)

Gaza Corner Audio Stream for 9/5/15


This past week it took two shocking events to galvanize the world on the unprecedented refugee exodus from the ME and Africa to Europe.

First we heard 71 refugees were discovered inside a truck in Austria - all dead from suffocation.

Then a heartbreaking photo of a 3 yr old Syrian boy washed ashore on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey seemed to shock European leaders. Perhaps these events will galvanize the EU into a more accommodative refugee policy.

The sad truth is many refugees die daily outside the glare of mass media. I was sickened by the outrage from world leaders and the media this week. Where have these  voices been up until now and why have EU policies been so dysfunctional?

More than 300,000 refugees have risked their lives crossing the sea to reach European shores this year alone with around 2,500 drowned according to the UN refugee agency estimates.

With so much attention on the global refugee crisis, a UN report that predicts catastrophic prospects for Gaza's population, over 70% of whom are Palestinian refugees sealed inside a tiny enclave, went largely unnoticed.

These refugees live just miles from where their families lived for centuries yet they cannot return.  For the past 8 years Gazans have been subjected to a blockade that has resulted in mass poverty, hunger, denial of basic human rights and essentially are exposed to a slow motion genocide. The world, especially the US, refuses to do anything about it. Apocalyptic-like photos reminiscent of the bombings in Hiroshima or Dresden have not spurred the world to act.

Gaza devastation, 2014 (uncredited)

The pull no punches United Nations report (18pg PDF) says Gaza could become uninhabitable in less than five years

"The prospects for 2015 are bleak, due to volatile political conditions, reduced aid flows, the slow pace of reconstruction in Gaza and lingering effects of Israel’s withholding of Palestinian revenue during the first four months of 2015."

The Palestinian economy is the economy of an occupied territory, and therefore donor support has been undermined by occupation, not by the inadequacy of Palestinian National Authority policies or poor donor coordination. No amount of aid would have been sufficient to put any economy on a path of sustainable development under conditions of frequent military strikes and destruction of infrastructure, isolation from global markets, and confiscation and denial of access to national natural resources."

Just drinking clean water in Gaza is a major challenge.  There is an ongoing severe water crisis as 95 per cent of its water is not safe for drinking.

Talk about peace between Israel and Palestine is a pipe dream without addressing the root causes of Palestinian suffering. Lifting the eight year blockade on Gaza and freezing settlement expansion have to be immediate priorities.

The UN states: "With the population expected to increase from 1.8 million to 2.1 million in five years, the water-related, electricity-related, infrastructural and environmental crises in Gaza can only deepen unless the blockade is lifted."

How would you cope in a place where you can't find a job, your family is chronically hungry, there is no possibility to leave and bombs drop on you every other year?

Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world, 44%.  The UN acknowledges it's actually much worse.

People are going hungry in Gaza. "Large sections of the Palestinian population are subject to poverty and food insecurity. Before last summer's war on Gaza "food insecurity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was already very high, with one in three households food insecure, according to 2013 data. Conditions were worse in Gaza, where nearly 6 in 10 households were food insecure"

Meanwhile Israel makes a mockery of a so-called peace process by stealing Palestinian land and accelerating settlement expansion.

The number of settlers has quadrupled since the Oslo Accords (Oslo II, 1995). Today, settlers outnumber Palestinians in Area C (61 per cent of West Bank area), which includes the most valuable Palestinian natural resources."

The UN report also documents "Settlers’ violence against Palestinians and their productive assets continued, with 9,333 productive trees destroyed or vandalized in 2014. The violence escalated in 2015; in January alone, another 5,600 trees across the West Bank were uprooted or vandalized."  A new Israeli law can imprison a Palestinian child 20 years for throwing a rock.  But settlers commit violence and vandalism and rarely get indicted let alone punished.

During the last six years, Gaza has endured 3 wars claiming the lives of at least 3,782 Palestinians (majority civilians (well over 500 children died in last summers' bombings along) Gaza witnessed the highest civilian death toll since 1967.  During the last 3 wars on Gaza 95 Israelis  died..

The economic blockade coupled with the  wars on Gaza have caused de-development. That is to say development is not only hindered, but reversed. "Socioeconomic conditions are at their lowest point since 1967" according to the UN report.

Back in 2011 the UN conducted a study to predict Gaza’s living conditions in 2020. The study claims for Gaza to be a livable place in 2020 “herculean efforts” are needed in health, education, energy, water and sanitation. However, conditions in Gaza has significantly deteriorated accelerated by the destruction caused by Israeli bombs in 2014.

The UN final conclusion is chilling

"If the current blockade and insufficient levels of donor support persist, Gaza will become economically unviable and the already grim socioeconomic conditions can only deteriorate. The likely outcome will be more conflict, mass poverty, high unemployment, shortages of electricity and drinking water, inadequate health care and a collapsing infrastructure. In short, Gaza will be unliveable."

The Middle East war on few people's radar: Yemen
combined excerpt follows recent headlines

Millions of Yemenis 'staring at famine' as war rages
(8/20/15, Al Jazeera)

WFP Warns Of Food Crisis In Yemen
Amid Challenges In Reaching People
(, 8/19/15)

Bloody Trail of Civilian Death and Destruction Paved with Evidence of War Crimes in Southern Yemen
(Amnesty International Press Release, 8/17/15)
additional coverage of this report:
(Rick Gladstone, NY Times, 8/18/15)
(Al Jazeera, 8/18/15)

Yemen (uncredited)

Yemeni Government Faces Choice
Between a Truce and Fighting On
(Shuaib Almosawa, Kareem Fahim and Somini Sengupt, NY Times 8/14/15)

Yemen 'already looks like Syria after five years of war
(Louisa Loveluck, Telegraph Uk, 8/19/15)

Young Yemenis walk past a tank destroyed in clashes between Houthi and opposition forces in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen Photo: EPA

A doctor's diary from Yemen tells the story
of the forgotten Arab war
(Leo Hornak, PRI's The World, 7/31/15)

Jihadis likely winners of Saudi Arabia's futile war
on Yemen's Houthi rebels
(Kareem Shaheen, Guardian UK, 7/7/15)

Yemen: another forgotten war?
Excellent interview with Brett Scott former Editor at the Yemen Times.
Brett provides valuable background and historical context.

(Komal Qureishi,, 5/24/15)

combined excerpt;
(Dore notes are in parentheses)

The head of the International Red Cross, Peter Mauer, after a visit to Yemen said entrenched poverty, months of intensified warfare and limits on imports because of an international embargo have contributed to "catastrophic" conditions.

"The images I have from Sanaa and Aden remind of what I have seen in Syria," said Maurer. "So Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years."

The World Health Organization reported on August 17 that more than 4,300 people have been killed and over 22,000 injured in Yemen, since March 19.  An estimated 1.3 million people have been displaced by the war.

British Dr. Natalie Roberts who is in Yemen with Doctors Without Borders, has worked in conflict zones before. But she says Yemen's war zone is unlike anything she has seen elsewhere. "What's really surprising to me here is that I've never seen so few [aid workers and journalists] on the ground. Syria, when I was there, was counted as the most dangerous conflict in the world — but Yemen? I just haven't met anyone."

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, and has been politically unstable since the Arab Spring. But civilian casualties increased dramatically starting March 26 when the United States green-lighted a Saudi-led military coalition (with American made fighter jets and weaponry).  They began bombing towns and villages to try to defeat a rebel force known as the Houthis under the name Operation Decisive Storm. (What has been decisive is the horrendous cost to civilians.)

United Nations humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council that “the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible.” Four out of five Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, and nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced.

In a report issued last August 18, The United Nations Children's Rights & Emergency Relief Organization, UNICEF, reported as many as eight children are being killed or maimed every day in Yemen. Nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 injured. Aid workers have previously estimated that a third of all fighters sucked into the country’s war are under 18.

Yemen is now one of the world’s most acute humanitarian catastrophes, with 80 percent of its 25 million population in dire need of food and other emergency relief. Essential services including access to clean water and electricity are cut off and food prices have sky-rocketed. Nevertheless, Yemen's war still gets limited attention from an international media preoccupied with the threat from Islamic State’s advances in Syria and Iraq.

“Yemen is the Mexico (Dore note: I would have analogized Haiti) of the [Arabian] Gulf,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni expert with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “It’s not on the border of Israel and our blood type is not oil+, so nobody cares what’s happening there.”

The conflict has left Yemen on the brink of a famine.  Millions of women and children are facing possible starvation in Yemen, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN's World Food Program said. WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Even before this crisis began, Yemen had one of the highest malnutrition rates in the entire world according to Cousin.

“Right now, the conflict-driven convergence between the lack of staple food, access to clean water, and a diminished fuel supply create the dawn of a perfect storm for the most vulnerable Yemeni people,” said WFP Executive Director Cousin.

WFP estimates that the number of 'food insecure' people in Yemen is now close to 13 million, including 6 million who are severely food insecure and in urgent need of external assistance – that is one in five of the country’s population.

More than 1.2 million children are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and over half a million children are severely malnourished. “The damage to Yemen’s next generation may become irreversible if we don’t reach children quickly with the right food at the right time. We must act now before it is too late,” said Cousin.

On August 17 Amnesty International issue a 46 page (PDF file) report titled: 'Nowhere Safe for Civilians': Airstrikes and Ground Attacks in Yemen

(press release here)

The detailed report highlights the impact of unlawful coalition airstrikes in densely populated residential neighborhoods, and attacks by Huthi loyalists and anti-Huthi armed groups operating on the ground, who have carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in civilian areas.

“The report depicts in harrowing detail the gruesome and bloody trail of death and destruction in Ta’iz and Aden from unlawful attacks, which may amount to war crimes, by all parties.”

Amnesty International investigated eight airstrikes by the (American supported) Saudi Arabia-led coalition which killed at least 141 civilians and injured 101 others, mostly women and children, during a research mission to Yemen in June and July 2015. The evidence gathered reveals a pattern of strikes targeting heavily populated areas including civilian homes, a school, a market and a mosque. In the majority of cases no military target could be located nearby.

“Coalition forces have blatantly failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties, an obligation under international humanitarian law. Indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amount to war crimes,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International.

Fighters from both parties routinely used imprecise weapons including rockets, mortars and artillery fire in densely populated residential areas. Such indiscriminate attacks may amount to war crimes.

The Obama administration has supplied weapons to Saudi Arabia and provided the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis with intelligence and logistical support. But American as well as British diplomats have been encouraging the combatants to make political concessions, believing neither side is likely to prevail in the war, according to (unnamed) analysts.

An escalation of the war would benefit Al Qaeda’s powerful franchise, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which has seized territory during the conflict and has remained largely unchallenged amid the chaos.

The Islamic State (IS) has claimed recent, bloody suicide bombings in Houthi mosques and Sana’a when it once had no known presence in the country.

All the while the war is tearing at the fabric of Yemeni society. wounds that may never be healed at the war’s end and threatening Yemen’s future unity.


My visit, coming after two years of seeking a journalist’s visa to report from Iran, represented something special: I was the first journalist from a Jewish, pro-Israel (if not always pro-Israel government) publication to be granted a journalist’s visa since the 1979 Revolution. Whether this was a reflection of increased openness by the government I cannot say. My visa came only after a former representative of Iran’s Jewish community in the country’s parliament wrote a letter on my behalf.

But for me, my visit was special for another reason. I had lived in Iran for almost two years in the late 1970s, just before the revolution.

Then, the discontent was eruptive and in the open. Student strikes in the major universities went on for weeks. The rampant corruption under the shah constantly stared Iranians, and visitors, in the face. The fear of intelligence agents was thick in the air.

The Iranian Jewish community, whose members are today free to stay in the country or emigrate, currently numbers anywhere from 9,000 to 20,000, depending on whom you talk to, and down from 80,000 to 100,000 before the revolution. These Jews — along with Christians and Zoroastrians — are tolerated and protected under Iranian law, but subject to a number of discriminatory laws and practices that limit their opportunities for work in senior government posts and in other ways. But they do not limit their opportunities in business.

The Jews, are basically well-protected second-class citizens — a broadly prosperous, largely middle-class community whose members have no hesitation about walking down the streets of Tehran wearing yarmulkes.

But there is a catch. The government makes a rigid distinction between hostility to “the Zionist entity” and respect for followers of Judaism.

Though I had to work with a government fixer and translator, I decided which people I wanted to interview and what I would ask them. Far from the stereotype of a fascist Islamic state, I found a dynamic push-and-pull between a theocratic government and its often reluctant and resisting people.

During the course of my conversations with several senior ayatollahs and prominent political and government officials, it became clear that there is high-placed dissent to the official line against Israel. No one had anything warm to say about the Jewish state. But pressed as to whether it was Israel’s policies or its very existence to which they objected, several were adamant: It’s Israel’s policies. Others, notwithstanding their ideological objection to a Jewish state, made it clear they would accept a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians if the Palestinians were to negotiate one and approve it in a referendum.

Ordinary Iranians with whom I spoke have no interest at all in attacking Israel; their concern is with their own sense of isolation and economic struggle.

In Iran today, freedom of the press remains a dream. But freedom of tongue has been set loose. I was repeatedly struck by the willingness of Iranians to offer sharp, even withering criticisms of their government on the record, and their readiness sometimes even to be filmed doing so.

“The people of Iran want in some way to show the world that what’s going on in the last years is not the will of the Iranian people but of the Iranian government,” Nader Qaderi told me as I filmed him with my phone outside his butcher shop in North Tehran’s Tajrish Market. A small crowd looked on as we talked. “We have no hostility against Israel,” he stressed.

I passed through a security checkpoint in Tehran’s domestic air terminal and showed my U.S. passport to a guard who told me, “More of you should come!” It occurred to me when I entered the vast, monumental burial site of Khomeini and, on being told I was an American Jew, the Revolutionary Guard on duty waved me through with a huge grin, allowing me to enter with my camera, against the rules. One of his comrades posed happily for a photo with me.

Underneath the superstructure of Iran’s theocracy, a panoply of activists, thinkers and ordinary citizens are struggling to understand the world around them, from which they have been largely isolated — partly by international sanctions and, more importantly, by a government monopoly over information that seems to work, however imperfectly. Television, where most Iranians get their news, is under the control of an office that answers only to the supreme leader. And while satellite dishes abound in Tehran’s more affluent neighborhoods, the government does all it can to block them. Periodically, it also cracks down on the illegal dishes, imposing fines and confiscating the equipment.

The Internet, another potential information source, is stringently censored. (Our website, , is one of many blocked.) While tech-savvy young people devise workarounds, the effort is time consuming and only for the most motivated. This leads to a paradox: In contrast to Americans, who are often uninformed, Iranians are very much up on the news, but often profoundly misinformed, especially about the outside world. But they are curious.

Curiously enough, it was among some of Iran’s most senior ayatollahs that I found indications of serious debate — or at least divergences from Khamenei’s official position.

Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, a senior cleric with family ties to some of Iran’s most prominent political figures, singled out Israel’s policies, not its existence, as his problem with the Jewish state, citing purported violations of international law rather than religious objections.

“What I have against Israel is its policies against humanitarian law,” he told me during a long interview at his home in Tehran. “That’s it. Whenever it’s about international law, I stand up and raise my voice against that violation. And many people think like me. It’s their violations of the Geneva conventions.”

Meanwhile, in the conservative holy city of Qom, I spoke with two of Iran’s handful of living grand ayatollahs.

One of these is Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili, 89, a close friend, confidant and longtime supporter of Khomeini.

Yet, Ardebili is today a supporter of the reformist movement that helped bring Rouhani to power. Still, during an audience in his home, Ardebili said little that would indicate a moderating stance on Israel from a reformist champion.

“Islam’s point of view regarding the Jewish nation is very high,” he said, speaking through his son, Seyed Masoud Moosavi Karimi, a noted academic, who translated. “We learn from the Quran that Jews are as respected as Muslims.”

But, responding specifically to my question about Israel and whether it was Israel’s policies or its actual existence to which he objected, Ardebili said, “We believe that the State of Israel must be changed, corrected and improved. And if that is not possible, and if the nature of the state does not allow for improvement, then the state must be destroyed.”

The only way to achieve peace, he explained, was for the Israelis “to stop their cruelty against Palestinians.” Israel, he said, “kills children and proudly defends killing them.”

I asked Ardebili in what instance Israel had proudly defended killing children. Karimi quickly explained that his father meant that Israel “defends the policies behind this killing.”

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei who was one of Khomeini’s prize students, is considered a reformist — in fact, he is often referred to as “the spiritual father” of Iran’s Green Movement.

On the question of whether Israel deserved annihilation, Saanei was adamant. “The idea that Israel should be destroyed is Ahmadinejad’s,” he said. “What Israel should do is change its policies…. It’s impossible to destroy a country.”

Mohammad Hassan Asafari is today the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee. Asafari,  has a reputation as a hard-liner. But he did not bat an eyelash when I explained that I was in Iran on behalf of a prominent American Jewish publication.

“We pay much respect to the Jewish people of the world,” he told me. “We have no problem with Jews. The belief that the Jewish community has is the same as ours: one God. The problem is the occupying Zionist regime, which is dominating and displacing the native people.”

Unlike some of the others, Asafari was barely more upbeat about the prospects for improved relations with Washington.

Like many opposed to reform, Asafari cited a longstanding list of grievances towards America. There was the CIA’s role in ousting Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossedegh, and restoring the Shah to power in 1953—for many Iranians, something akin to the Original Sin.

After that, there was America’s support for Iraq during Iran’s eight-year war with that country. In 1988, Asafari recalled, the U.S.S. Vincennes, an American battleship in the Persian Gulf, shot down an Iran Air civilian commercial plane flying in Iranian airspace, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board, including 66 children.

“We never have had hostility to Americans,” he said, “But always America has had bad intentions toward us.” Still, he added, “If the Americans will be faithful to the terms of the [nuclear] deal, this could be a first step” toward a broader relationship.

Contact Larry Cohler-Esses at

related stories:

The Moral Responsibility That Rivlin Accepts
and Netanyahu Denies
After a Palestinian baby is burned,
Netanyahu lies about Israeli incitement - including his own.

(Peter Beinart Opinion, Haaretz, 8/5/15)
note: free registration required

President Reuven Rivlin visits Ahmed Dawabsha on Friday, July 31, 2015.
Dawabsha was badly burned after Jewish terrorists burned the house in which he lived
in the village of Duma, near Nablus in the West Bank. (Mark Neyman/GPO)


Below excerpt is primarily from Beinart opinion piece and augmented with Rivlin details and quotes from headlined stories posted below.

What’s the difference between Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu? Rivlin can feel shame. “I visited the family in Tel Hashomer hospital,” said Rivlin after Jews burned Palestinian infant Ali Dawabsheh to death last week* in the West Bank. “I visited, silently, ashamed.”

* subsequent to this article Ali Dawabsheh's father died while his mother remains on life support.

The president spoke at an anti-violence rally in Jerusalem and warned that “flames of hatred” were consuming Israel and that Jewish extremists must be met head-on.

“We are in the middle of a great fracture,” Rivlin stated. “Everything’s possible,” he answered, when asked if he felt Israel could witness another political assassination.

“Today there are those who hallucinate that a democratic and Jewish state is only democratic for the Jews,” he warned.

“Terror is terror is terror, and it doesn’t matter what nationality that terror belongs to. There is difficulty in combating the type of terror that is perpetrated by groups of radical Jews. It’s terror from within and it is difficult to bring these perpetrators to justice; we need to create tools in order to combat this style of terrorism.”

“Within this country, we tolerate the targeting of our citizens — those who are not Jews, [those who are] Arabs, Christians or Muslims. This may lead us to a situation where we can lose everything. We need to deal with this situation where children are killed, or where we allow the blood of others to be spilled, or where you have people who say ‘my religious beliefs command of me to burn, shatter and destroy.’ We must deal with terrorism as terrorism, whether it’s Arab terror or Jewish terror,” Rivlin told Walla News.

In response to Rivlin lashing out against the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the Dawabsheh home, the President received death threats, some of whom called him a traitor.

President Rivlin: “The perpetrators of these acts hurt us more than anyone else. This way they will bring our destruction upon us. They are inhuman, and if they are doing this because they think it’s their mission — then we’re in a state of madness. It’s not important if the act of terrorism was done by Jews, Arabs, Christians or Muslims. We need to fight terrorism because it eats away at the good within us.”

“If we’re all silent about these things, we’re all complicit."

“Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: What is it about the public atmosphere that allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight? What is it that has enabled these weeds to threaten the safety of the entire garden of flowers?” said Rivlin.

“Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, needs a wake-up call today,” he urged.

In other words, says Peter Beinhardt in his Haaretz opinion piece, Rivlin acknowledged that he is implicated in Dawabsheh’s death, that in Rabbi Heschel’s famous words, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Netanyahu did almost exactly the opposite. Yes, he called the murders “terrorism.” But in the very next sentence, he boasted that, “The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are.” That’s a lie. When Palestinians murdered members of the Jewish Fogel family in 2011, the Israel Defense Forces quarantined the entire city of Nablus and reportedly interrogated every man in the nearby village of Awarta. When Israel caught the murderers, it approved the demolition of their homes.

Israel never responds to Jewish terrorism that way. In the past, in fact, it has barely responded at all. According to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, Palestinians filed 150 complaints against settlers with the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) police between 2013 and 2014. Only two even resulted in indictments.

After that first self-congratulatory lie, Netanyahu soon told another. “What distinguishes us from our neighbors,” he declared, “is that we denounce and condemn murderers in our midst and pursue them until the end, while they name public squares after child murderers.”

Evidently Netanyahu is unfamiliar with David Raziel, a member of the Irgun who in 1938 placed a bomb in Haifa’s Arab market, killing 21 and injuring more than 50. There are streets named for Raziel in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon, Tirat Karmel, Tiberias, Ramla, Beersheva, Kefar Sava and Haifa itself. Raziel’s face also adorns an Israeli postage stamp. In the same year Raziel committed his act of terrorism, another Irgun member, Shlomo Ben-Yosef, threw a hand grenade at an Arab bus travelling between Tiberias and Rosh Pina, hoping to make it crash. There are streets named for Ben-Yosef in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bnai Brak, Be’er Yaakov and Ramat Gan. He’s on a postage stamp too.

I’m not saying this to excuse Palestinians who celebrate murder. Venerating terrorists who intentionally kill Israelis, as Palestinian leaders too often do, is always wrong. Promoting hatred of Jews, as Palestinian leaders too often do, is always wrong.

But there’s something sickening about Netanyahu applauding his government for not inciting acts of violence when Israelis have just burned a Palestinian baby to death.

Not only sickening, but factually wrong. According to a poll of Jewish Israeli teenagers in June, forty-five percent said they would not study in class with an Arab. Forty-eight percent of those who identified as “right-wing” expressed sympathy for “price tag” attacks* against Palestinians.

* “price tag” attack is when Israeli settlers seek retaliation for government demolitions of settlements by committing acts of violence against Palestinians.

Does Netanyahu really believe his government did nothing to “incite” these hateful views? Is it mere coincidence that Israel’s justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, last year posted an article on Facebook saying Israel was at war with “the Palestinian people” and calling Palestinian children “little snakes.” Or that in 2013, Israel’s current education minister, Naftali Bennett, boasted that “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that.”

Or that Israel’s current deputy defense minister, Eli Ben Dahan, said Palestinians “are like animals, they aren’t human.”

Or that in March, Israel’s then foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman said “we need to pick up an ax and cut off” the heads of Palestinian citizens who are disloyal to Israel.

And is it any coincidence that Netanyahu himself, in his heftiest book, A Durable Peace, favorably quotes former British Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen as saying that “The Arab is a poor fighter, though an [sic] adept at looting, sabotage and murder.” Or that as finance minister in 2007, Netanyahu boasted that his social welfare cuts had reduced the birthrate among Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Or that this year he helped secure reelection by warning that “Arab voters are coming out in droves.”

A year ago, Rivlin called racism “a terrible evil and a disgrace to Israeli life.” That evil manifested itself last week in a small Palestinian town in the West Bank but the disgrace starts at the very top.

Revlin related headlines:

Rivlin, in attack on Netanyahu: ‘Israel has no leaders'
(Times of Israel staff, 8/8/15)

Rivlin’s security calls police over death threats
President faces deluge of criticism after expressing ‘shame’
over killing of Palestinian baby in West Bank

(Josefin Dolsten, Times of Israel, 8/2/15)

Rivlin: Another political murder ‘possible,’ but I have no fear
In wake of death threats against him following condemnation of Duma attack, president says he will not be intimidated
(Times of Israel staff, 8/7/15)

A burned infant was only a matter of time

in view of policy to not enforce law on violent settlers
(B', 7/31/15)

Photographs of Ali Saad Dawabsha, the Palestinian baby in an overnight arson attack,
are laid out on the floor of his family home, Douma, West Bank, July 31, 2015.
(photo: Oren Ziv/

combined excerpt from Israeli human rights
NGO B'Tselem (see link above photo)
and headlined stories below:

The killing of a one and a half year old infant, 'Ali Sa'ed Dawabshe, and the critical injuries to his mother Riham, and his father Sa'ed (on life support) and his toddler brother 'Ahmed, after a suspected arson attack by Israeli civilians burned their home, was only a matter of time. This, due to the authorities' policy to avoid enforcing the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians and their property. This policy creates impunity for hate crimes, and encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning's horrific result.

In recent years, Israeli civilians set fire to dozens of Palestinian homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank. The vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli Police did not even bother take elementary investigative actions.

According to the UN, at least 120 attacks by Israeli settlers have been documented in the occupied West Bank since the start of 2015.

A recent report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, showed that more than 92.6 percent of complaints Palestinians lodge with the Israeli police go without charges being filed.

The indictment rate for such crimes is also extremely low: Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din has reported that a survey of Samaria and Judea District Police files investigating attacks against Palestinians and/or their property by Israeli civilians showed that between 2005 and 2014, only 7.4 percent of such cases ended with indictments.

Critics say Israel doesn't enforce the law when it comes to settlers because of the political power that the settlers wield in parliament and because they are still perceived in some circles as Zionist pioneers who are settling the land like the vanguards who established the Jewish state. (All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem violate international law, according to the U.N. Security Council, even those permitted by Israeli law.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the arson “an act of terrorism in every respect.The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are.”

 Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party declared: "This is murder. Terror is terror is terror.” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Jewish Home, also referred to terrorism and claimed that in an event such as this, “there is no Jewish or Arab, Left or Right,” just “a battle between the forces of light and darkness.”

By and large, these responses sing from the same hymn sheet: all are big on condemnation, but most utterly fail to acknowledge the endemic nature of settler violence. Lacking, too, is any word on incitement by Israeli politicians. Bennett’s calls to annex the West Bank to Israel, coupled with his infamous statement about having personally killed many Arabs, sit rather awkwardly with his announcement this morning. Shaked, for her part, posted a notorious Facebook update during last summer’s Gaza war in which she called Palestinians “snakes” and suggested that Palestinian mothers and their houses “must go… Otherwise they will raise other little snakes there.”

The only statements from Jewish Israeli politicians that mention the government and army’s systemic failures in stemming Jewish terrorism have come from either Meretz or the Joint List.

In response to the murder, Meretz head Zehava Galon wrote that “the writing was on the wall” and criticized the right-wing leadership for being blind to the “direct line” between their failure to properly enforce the law in the West Bank and incidents such as last night’s lethal attack. She urged the arrest of not only the perpetrators but also the rabbis she said were responsible for inciting them and legitimizing such attacks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "continued failures to effectively address impunity for repeated acts of settler violence have led to another horrific incident involving the death of an innocent life," his spokesman told reporters. "This must end."

According to the statement, “the absence of a political process and Israel’s illegal settlement policy, as well as the harsh and unnecessary practice of demolishing Palestinian houses, have given rise to violent extremism on both sides. This presents a further threat to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for statehood as well as to the security of the people of Israel.”

The fact that the Samaria and Judea (SHAI) Police and other law enforcement bodies have failed to solve these attacks isn't fate. Rather, it is the result of a policy expressed throughout all levels of the law enforcement system, in particular the political echelons, up to and including the Prime Minister. In light of this, official condemnations of this attack are empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve is backdrop to these acts.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement “We hold the Israeli Government fully responsible for [last night’s events]...Over a year ago President Abbas requested international protection for Palestinians, a call that has been ignored so far. Today we can see the consequences... This is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism. This is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community...Since 2004, over 11,000
settler attacks have taken place against Palestinian homes, cars, churches, mosques, trees and others with full impunity.”

The scale of such attacks indicates the extent to which settler violence is part of the culture of the West Bank and not merely an issue of “bad apples.”

The culture of settler impunity is one that human rights activists have challenged for years — in vain. The entire system of governance in the West Bank is designed to protect Jewish settlers and leave Palestinians vulnerable. The settlements have security systems and armed guards, while Palestinian villagers are not only physically unprotected but also forbidden to own weapons. A Palestinian who defends his property is liable to be arrested by soldiers and detained for weeks or months in a military prison.

Several years ago, writer Lisa Goldman visited a Palestinian village in Area B of the West Bank, where some of the local men decided to sleep in their family olive groves after settlers torched several of their trees. Settlers carrying jerrycans of kerosene returned, saw the village men waiting for them and attacked them. The Palestinians fought back, using their fists. To prove they were unarmed, they showed us photos of the altercation. When soldiers arrived, they arrested the Palestinians and sent the settlers home.

While Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military law, under which many are routinely imprisoned on the basis of flimsy evidence, Israeli settlers in the same territory are subject to Israeli civil law and the protections it offers. Although Palestinian Authority security forces refrain from protecting Palestinians from Israeli settlers or soldiers, the Israeli military is not viewed as a protector for Palestinians even when settlers are breaking Israeli law.

Polls show that a majority of Israelis do not see Palestinians as potential neighbors with whom they are prepared to share their streets or apartment buildings. And their failure to connect the ever-expanding settlement enterprise with the violence being visited on the Palestinians has cultivated the climate of impunity now under international scrutiny.

In light of this, the clock is ticking in the countdown to the next arson attack, and the one after.

The above was excerpted from the B'Tselem press release and the headlined stories below

West Bank murder:
Leaders fail to address nature of settler violence

The murder of a Palestinian baby has provoked condemnation from Israeli leaders across the political spectrum. Yet the harsh rhetoric masks a consistent failure by the Israeli establishment to understand the endemic nature of this kind of violence.
(Natasha Roth, 972.mag, 7/31/15)

Suspected Jewish extremists burn Palestinian child to death
(Mohammed Daraghmeh and Tia Goldenberg, AP, 7/31/15)

West Bank attack puts Israel’s settlement policy in the spotlight
Analysis: The murder of baby Ali Saad Dawabsha
highlights the occupation’s impunity for settler violence

(Lisa Goldman, Al Jazeera, 7/31/15)

Anger, grief as arson blamed on Israeli settlers
kills West Bank infant
Protests erupt across Palestinian territories after attack in Duma leaves child dead, young family struggling to survive
(Dalia Hatuqa, Al Jazeera, 7/31/15)

Palestinian toddler killed in settler price-tag attack
Allison Deger, Mondoweiss, 7/31/15)

Palestinian baby burned to death in settler attack
(Al, 7/31/15)

Killing Gets Easier

(David Shulman, Opinion,The New York Review of Books, 5/29/15))

related story:

This is How We Fought in Gaza:
Soldiers' testimonials and photographs from
Operation "Protective Edge (2014)

(links to full 242 pg PDF file report at the website)

David Shulman opinion excerpt:

Rescuers looking for survivors and bodies at the Qassam Mosque in the Neuseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 8/9/14
(Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

In early May, Breaking the Silence, the organization of Israeli ex-soldiers that is by now well known for its meticulous independent accounts of IDF operations, published a report on the Israeli army’s campaign in Gaza last summer. The report revealed that the large number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side was a consequence, among other things, of military tactics and orders explicitly adopted by the IDF.

Israelis like to think that their army holds to high moral standards, and they react badly to hard evidence that shows this is not the case. There has been particular outrage at the suggestion that there is anything wrong about the new “Gaza rules” and the high civilian body count. Most Israelis simply, and simplistically, blame Hamas for the fighting and its cost, which they also see as the natural result of fighting in the thickly populated urban space of Gaza.

The seven-week operation known as “Protective Edge” (Tzuk Eitan, “Steadfast Boulder,” in Hebrew) was a violent conflict aimed at stopping rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. According to the United Nations, some 2,200 people were killed, of whom 1,492, or more than two thirds, were civilian. The overwhelming majority of these were Palestinian. (The Israeli military recorded the deaths of sixty-six Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians in the conflict.)

The evidence presented in the Breaking the Silence report can be summarized relatively simply: soldiers briefed by officers before they went into Gaza were instructed to avoid all risks to themselves even at the cost of certain, possibly substantial, civilian casualties. In practice, this meant they shot at everything that moved in their zone of combat, including animals and, inevitably, civilians who for whatever reason could not get out in time. This point is a weighty one. The army delivered warnings to civilians to evacuate areas slated for attack; usually these took the form of leaflets or text-messages to cell phones, but there was also the Israeli invention called “a knock on the door”—a small missile or shell shot at a building as a warning that heavier shelling was about to begin. Civilians who failed to heed such warnings were, according to the army briefings, fair game. They were not supposed to be there.

The difficulty with these measures is by now well known and has been discussed at some length. At times the interval between the knock on the door and severe or total destruction was so short—measured in minutes or even seconds—that there was simply no time for civilians to get out. Moreover, such warnings are largely meaningless unless there is a corridor of safety for evacuees fleeing the battle zone and some provision for their survival once they get beyond the immediate threat, as the prominent human-rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, wrote last summer while the battles were still raging. Such measures were, in general, absent during last summer’s fighting. Many civilians certainly died in a desperate attempt to reach safety; some troubling cases are documented in the report.

For the sake of comparison, we might recall the Israeli army’s traditional rules of engagement, taught to generations of recruits. A potential enemy can, we were told, be killed if he has a weapon, an apparent intent to cause harm, and a realistic capability of doing so. “Gaza rules” were far more lenient, as many of the Breaking the Silence interviews state directly:

What were the rules of engagement?

There weren’t really any rules of engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot something—shoot. They told us: “There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.” Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal.

The same approach—massive fire, sometimes uncontrolled or indiscriminate—held true at much higher levels of operation, as in the destruction of buildings, indeed of entire neighborhoods, such as Shuja’iyya in the central zone and Khuza’a in the far south, either by ground artillery or from the air. The heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side included some five hundred dead children. Destruction of homes and infrastructure in Gaza was immense, some of it clearly meant to teach a lesson, or to take revenge, or to create a passable illusion of military victory or some form of deterrent against future attacks.

The findings of the report—including the results of the fighting and the orders that brought them about—are nothing very new. What is more striking is how they suggest the impressive persistence and, indeed, continual intensification of practices that have occurred over the last three or four decades. Significant change lies only in the fact that the acts in question now reflect deliberate and explicit policy of a systemic nature coming down from the top. The Israel army once claimed to hold, nominally at least, to moral considerations of an entirely different order than those officially adopted last summer. Now, even that pretense seems to be gone.

How did we get to this point? It’s important to remember that Gaza has a history that goes back far beyond last year, and that Hamas rule there developed as part of the longue durée, or the lethal dialogue, of Israeli-Palestinian relations, including the last forty-eight years of Occupation and in large measure, because of Israeli’s policy of colonizing the West Bank, including the massive theft of land, the disenfranchisement of millions of Palestinians, an entrenched regime of state terror, and the lack of meaningful legal recourse to those living under the Occupation. It will also reflect Israel’s adamant refusal to make peace.

To my mind, the true significance of the Breaking the Silence report lies just here. There is a sinister link between the conduct of the army in Gaza last summer and the system now firmly in place on the West Bank—despite attempts by the government (and large sections of the electorate) to deny any such connection. Three recent examples may suffice:  (only one is posted for this excerpt)

• On May 17, 750 olive saplings were uprooted and savagely destroyed, undoubtedly by settlers, on Palestinian land east of the Etzion settlements in the south Hebron hills. The land is privately owned by the Abu Shanab family. Destruction of Palestinian olive trees is a routine event in the south Hebron hills; I have seen the results myself, near the village of Twaneh and elsewhere. One needs to bear in mind that many Palestinian herders and small-scale farmers subsist largely, even primarily, on olives, and the ancient trees themselves are often treated as beloved members of the family—hence, I suppose, the settlers’ delight in uprooting them. It goes without saying that no attempt has been made by the police or the army to find the perpetrators of this wanton act.

If Palestinians—all of them—are the enemy; if they are different enough from Israelis to be seen as a separate (lower) category of human beings; if their civilian casualties don’t really count for much (to say nothing of the now notorious posts from last summer in Israeli social media actually celebrating these deaths); if official Israeli policy is based on maintaining the cruel system of the occupation indefinitely, denying elementary human rights to Palestinian residents; if the Prime Minister allows himself to speak even of Israeli Arabs, citizens of the state, as constituting a threat to the domination of the Jews and the rule of the Israeli right, as he did on the day of the recent election—if all this is now acceptable public discourse inside Israel, then killing more of them will become easier and easier and look less and less like the crime it is. 

Israel tops explosive killers’ list
(Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada 6/30/15)

Israel killed and injured more civilians with explosive weapons than any other state in the world in 2014 due to its military assault on Gaza. This is according to a new report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), an organization that tracks the global impact of explosive weapons on civilians.

While both state and non-state groups contributed to civilian casualties in 2014, states were responsible for 28 percent of civilian injuries and deaths, a sharp 17 percent rise from the previous year. This was due in large part to Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which accounted for 44 percent of all explosive violence in 2014.

(Source: Action on Armed Violence)

Dubbed Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign killed 2,251 Palestinians and injured another 11,000, according to UN figures.* The vast majority of those killed (1,462) were civilians, including 551 children, making Gaza the third most dangerous place in the world to be a civilian in 2014, according to AOAV.

* (see the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict)

As a result, Palestinians in Gaza made up 43 percent of global civilian casualties from artillery shelling, 35 percent of civilian casualties from aerial bombings and 40 percent of worldwide child casualties from explosive violence in 2014.

After the dust settled, bomb disposal experts estimated that Israel dropped the equivalent of six atomic bombs on Gaza.

(Dore note: General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative (PNI), Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, recently stated at a July 9 speech in Berkeley that 21,000 tons of explosives landed in Gaza, the equivalent of two nuclear bombs.)

In 2014, Gaza accounted for the third highest number of civilian casualties from explosive violence globally, exceeding civilian death and injury in Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Of the 4,022 injuries and deaths from explosive violence AOAV recorded in Gaza, 3,813 were civilians.

This means that civilians comprised an alarming 95 percent of those killed or maimed by explosives in Gaza, placing Israel in the same league as the militant group Boko Haram, whose deadly suicide and IED (improvised explosive device) attacks resulted in a 97 percent civilian casualty rate in Nigeria. By comparison, the rate of civilian casualties in Syria, to which Israel often refers to deflect from its own atrocities, was 81 percent.

Such findings contradict Israeli proclamations that it does more than any other force on earth to avoid civilian casualties.

Israel was responsible for more than one third, or 35 percent, of civilians hit by air-launched explosives, Syria for 43 percent and Iraq for 8 percent, leading to a nearly threefold global rise in civilian casualties from aerial explosives in 2014.

The report found that 43 percent of Israeli air attacks were launched by drones, accounting for 29 percent of Gaza’s civilian casualties.

An investigation by the Associated Press generated similar results, finding that over half of civilians killed in Gaza died in Israeli airstrikes on their homes, “including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of one and five.”

Aerial explosives were particularly detrimental to children around the world, “with 44 percent of all deaths and injuries being reported as caused by air launched weapons,” the AOAV report states, citing as an example the 29 July air assault on an apartment building in Khan Younis (Gaza) that killed 18 children and critically injured another four as they sheltered with their families.

A study by Defense for Children International-Palestine found that 225 Palestinian children were killed in Israeli airstrikes “while they were in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat with their families, played or slept.” Another 164 children were “directly targeted and unlawfully killed” by Israeli drone strikes on their homes and in the street as they attempted to flee to safety.

Indeed, Israel proved itself to be a world leader at killing and maiming children with explosives. Of the total child casualties from explosive violence in 2014, 40 percent were in Gaza and 25 percent were in Syria, revealed AOAV.

Though Israel possesses a high tech arsenal of precision-guided weapons, it pounded the densely populated Gaza Strip with 34,000 unguided shells, including 19,000 high-explosive artillery shells. As a result, Palestinians in Gaza made up 43 percent of global civilian casualties from artillery shelling.

Israel fired these weapons indiscriminately into Gaza’s densely populated neighborhoods.

On 19 and 20 July, Israel battered the neighborhood of Shujaiya with 7,000 high explosive shells, firing 4,800 shells within a seven-hour period. The extent of the indiscriminate shelling, which killed at least 55 people, including 19 children and 14 women, was so unprecedented, senior US military officers who participated in the US destruction of Iraq were reportedly left “stunned.” *

* One of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at Fox News caught U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Artillery pieces used during the operation included American made weaponry that can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”

“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action in Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.”

While the AOAV report attributes high civilian casualties by states to the targeting of groups and individuals in populated areas, it should be noted that statements by Israeli military leaders demonstrate a calculated military strategy that deliberately and systematically targets civilians and civilian infrastructure.

As a recent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council observed, Israel’s widespread attacks on civilians in Gaza “may have constituted military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration approved a $1.9 billion weapons package to Israel in  “compensation” for the US nuclear deal with Iran, which the Israeli regime staunchly opposes. This
essentially guarantees Israel’s capacity to reenact its 2014 attack against the people of Gaza.

Israel losing Democrats,
‘can’t claim bipartisan US support,’ top pollster warns
New survey by Frank Luntz shows almost half of Democratic ‘opinion elites’ think Israel is racist, barely half believe it wants peace,
and three quarters feel it has too much influence on US policy

(David Horovitz, The Times of Israel, 7/5/15)

Three quarters of highly educated, high income, publicly active US Democrats — the so-called “opinion elites” — believe Israel has too much influence on US foreign policy, almost half of them consider Israel to be a racist country, and fewer than half of them believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors. These are among the findings of a new survey carried out by US political consultant Frank Luntz.

Detailing the survey results to The Times of Israel on Sunday, Luntz called the findings “a disaster” for Israel. He summed them up by saying that the Democratic opinion elites are converting to the Palestinians, and “Israel can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America.”

He said he “knew there was a shift” in attitudes to Israel among US Democrats “and I have been seeing it get worse” in his ongoing polls. But the new findings surprised and shocked him, nonetheless. “I didn’t expect it to become this blatant and this deep.”

A prominent US political consultant known best for his work with Republicans, who describes himself as "right of center" in US politics, Luntz said “Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America, while at the same time it is losing the Democrats,” he said.

The survey, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, was conducted last week. Among the key findings:

• Asked about Israeli influence on US foreign policy, an overwhelming 76% of Democrats, as compared to 20% of Republicans, said Israel has “too much influence.”

• Asked whether Israel is a racist country, 47% of Democrats agreed it is, as opposed to 13% of Republicans.

• Asked whether Israel wants peace with its neighbors, while an overwhelming 88% of Republicans said it does, a far lower 48% of Democrats agreed.

• Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local politician who criticized Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians, 45% of Democrats said yes, compared to just 6% of Republicans.

• Asked whether the US should support Israel or the Palestinians, a vast 90% of Republicans and a far lower 51% of Democrats said Israel. Another 8% of Republicans and 31% of Democrats were neutral.

• Asked about which side they themselves support, 88% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats said they were “pro-Israeli” while 4% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats said they were “pro-Palestinian.”

• Asked if settlements are an impediment to peace, 75% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans agreed.

A specialist in finding and testing the language that can impact public opinion, Luntz said the word “Zionism” could play no part in messaging designed to repair relations with US Democrats. There has to be an “end to the [use of the] word Zionism,” he said. “You can’t make the case if you use that word. If you are at Berkeley or Brown and start outlining a Zionist vision, you don’t get to make a case for Israel because they’ve already switched off.”

He also predicted that Israel is in for “a lot more trouble” from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) campaign. Once they had been informed about the BDS campaign, 19% of respondents supported it — 31% of Democrats and 3% of Republicans. And, stressed Luntz, 60% of America’s opinion elites said they were not familiar with BDS. “Israel is already having trouble with BDS, and Americans don’t even know what it means. Can you imagine how bad it will get?”

He also foresaw a looming battle in the US over foreign aid to Israel. Some 33% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans, his poll found, were upset that “Israel gets billions and billions of dollars in funding from the US government that should be going to the American people.”

The poll also found, 50% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans (and 36% of all respondents) agreed with the proposition that “Jewish people are too hyper-sensitive and too often label legitimate criticisms of Israel as an anti-Semitic attack.”

related stories:

One Year After Israel's Assault on Gaza

Dore note:

I recently saw Mad Max: Fury Road.  The setting has been described as a dystopian wasteland.  Dystopian is defined "as bad as can be; characterized by human misery".  Dystopia is defined as  "An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror."

You don't have to imagine such a place on earth. It already exists. That place is Gaza.  One year after the start of the 51 day war on Gaza, Max Blumenthal, author of the new book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza describers Gaza as an "apocalyptic oblivion."

Nothing has changed since the 51 days of hell. No reconstruction has begun. 18,000 homes were destroyed/damaged and not one has been rebuilt. Not one.

The 51 days of carnage Israel inflicted on Gazans is referred to by Israelis as  Operation Protective Edge.

The explosive power Israel fired on Gaza by land, sea and air was the equivalent of two nuclear bombs - about 21000 tons of explosives on the 139 square mile territory.

During so called Operation Protective Edge, six Israeli civilians were killed, including an Arab Israeli, a Thai civilian worker and one child.  67 IDF soldiers died.

During the same 51 days 2251 Palestinians were killed including 551 children; over 1000 children were permanently disabled; the total injured was 11,231; 100,000 Gazans remain displaced. 1.8 mill Gazans remain under occupation, siege and blockade - the longest blockade in modern history.

Many news outlets and human rights organizations wrote stories on Gaza - One Year later.

Below are several headlined links that I encourage you to read. I've included a series of articles by the Independent UK, one by Max Blumenthal and one from the Israeli human rights NGO, B'Tselem.

A window to hell in Gaza
(Max Blumenthal The Electronic Intifada, 7/10/15)

A year after Operation Protective Edge:
For hundreds of thousands living in Gaza, it’s not over
(B'Tselem, 7/7/15)

Below are 5 separately linked stories from a recent series by the Independent UK:

Gaza a year on from Operation Protective Edge:

The shelling may have stopped,
but there's little relief for those left behind

Families still living among the rubble of 18,000 homes
destroyed in a 50-day war

No hope and no jobs, so the young risk their lives and run for it

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza One Year Later: The Quest for Accountability
Click link above to take action to hold Israel accountable.

U.S. State Department:
We won’t protect Israeli settlements against boycott

Congressional efforts to extend anti-BDS fight to occupied territories show pro-Israel lobby the perils of biting off more than one can chew.
(Chemi Shalev, Haaretz, 7/1/15)
note: requires free registration


The U.S. State Department on Tuesday punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to boycott of Israel proper.

A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented legitimacy.

The statement came in the wake of President Obama’s signing of the Trade Promotion Authority bill, which grants him the authority he had sought to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. But as the bill deals with free trade agreements in general, a clause was inserted in the Senate  and in the House of Representative that instructs American diplomats to include opposition to any boycott of Israel - or of persons from “territories controlled by Israel” - in their free trade negotiations with the European Union.

The State Department statement, however, makes clear that the bill will not change U.S. policy towards the settlements. “The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them,” it said. It went on to note: “Administrations of both parties have long recognized that settlement activity and efforts to change facts on the ground undermine the goal of a two-state solution.”

The defiant rebuff of the Congressional bill comes in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Menachem Zivotofsky that rebuffed Congressional attempts to force the administration to record “Israel” next to his city of birth “Jerusalem.” And just as the Zivotofsky decision weakened Israel’s hold on Jerusalem, the boycott decision only delegitimizes the settlements more than ever before.

Thus, the effort to strengthen the settlements, supported by AIPAC and other mainstream and right-wing groups and opposed by J-Street and organizations on the left, actually ends up weakening them. The attempt to blot out the differences between a boycott of Israel and of the territories actually highlights them. The boycott of settlements, in effect, has now been officially stamped “kosher” by the State Department.

related story:

United Church of Christ Votes to Boycott & Divest
from Companies Profiting from Israel's Occupation

Press Release Excerpt:

June 30, 2015
"As disciples of Jesus, we hear and seek to heed his call to be peacemakers, responding to violence with nonviolence and extending love to all," said Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, which submitted the resolution.. "It is in that spirit of love for both Israelis and Palestinians, and a desire to support Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for freedom, that the United Church of Christ has passed this resolution.”

"In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,”
said Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Christian Palestinian and Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. “For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft
of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.”

The vote, which was 508 in favor, 124 against, with 38 abstentions, was the culmination of a process that began in 2005, to end the Church's complicity in Israel's nearly half-century-old occupation and other abuses of Palestinian human rights.

The United Church of Christ is following in the footsteps of sister mainline churches like the Presbyterian Church (USA), which passed a similar resolution last year divesting from Israel’s occupation, and the United Methodists, who voted to boycott products made in Israeli settlements
in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Survivors Describe Entire Families Being Massacred
in Brazen Islamic State Attack on Kobane
(Samuel Oakford, Vice News, 6/27/15)

Peter Clifford Blog:  Syria and Iraq News
combined excerpt :

During two days of global terror last week at least 27 worshipers during Ramadan were killed by a suicide bomber in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait,  39 tourists including including 15 were slaughtered at a beach resort in Tunisia. IS claimed responsibility for these atrocities.  Also in Africa Al Shabab murdered 30 people in Somalia. And the severed head of a businessman hung on a factory gate in a quiet corner of the Rhône-Alpes region of France in a killing apparently inspired by the IS-style beheadings in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

The mainstream press focused on the Tunisian and French terrorist attacks because the deaths involved Europeans.

There was another terrorist attack and it was by far the most gruesome and bloodiest.  But because it took place in Syria where death is a daily occurrence, it received far less coverage.

It happened in Kobane where 200+ women, children and elderly were murdered - some in their sleep. Many more are critically wounded.

The attack on Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan marked the biggest single massacre of civilians by IS in Syria since it killed hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe last year, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Kobane is a Kurdish border town, a stones throw from Turkey. Kobane has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance because the Kurds of Kobane were the first fighting force to successfully stand up to the Islamic State at a time when IS seemed invincible after its conquest of Mosul (Iraq) and Raqqa (Syria).

Last October it appeared a genocidal massacre of horrific proportion was imminent in Kobane. 200,000 civilians fled into Turkey.  But backed by determined and skilled fighters and US air support  IS was expelled from Kobane after a 4four month siege. The date was Jan 27 2015 and since then until last Thursday, the Kurds had recaptured 200+ villages from IS and not ceded any of the territory.

The success of the Kurds against IS is the only example thus far of the US working with a capable partner on the ground.

Just last week, IS was driven from the strategic border town of Tal Abyad, cutting off vital northern supply lines to IS Syrian headquarters in Raqqa. The Kurdish YPG with help from the FSA and US airstrikes are only 30 miles from Raqqa, the capital of the IS Caiphate.

Perhaps as retribution for these defeats Islamic State (IS) fighters staged a surprise attack on Kobane.  The militants targeted civilians with drive-by killings and massacred entire families during a brazen suicide mission.

Concurrent with the primary attack on Kobane early on Thursday morning, the IS Jihadists attacked the village of Berxbatan (Barkh Butan) on Kobane Canton’s southern frontier.

The death toll there is now reported as 33 villagers, many of them having been beheaded, and at least 15 wounded.

The Kobane surprise attack began when IS fighters detonated a series of car bombs in Kobane. Questions are being asked if the attackers made it in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn't stop them.

The reason that this IS force was able to penetrate into the heart of Kobane is that they had shaved off their beards and were wearing Kurdish People's Protection Units  (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) uniforms. Their vehicles were also decked out with Burkhat Al-Firat, YPG and FSA flags. Burkhat Al-Firat (“Euphrates Volcano”) is the combined force fighting the Islamic State.

A second objective of the IS fighters disguising themselves to gain entry to Kobani is to instill paranoia in the population.

Following the primary suicide bomb attack at the frontier gate, the IS Jihadists then attempted to take control of the Kaniya Kurda neighborhood including the Doctors without Borders Hospital.

With the Jihadist group were many snipers who proceeded to shoot randomly at anybody on the street and who also broke into a number of homes wiping out entire families.

Dozens of IS fighters entered the town. Some speculate there were IS sleeper cells in Kobane.  Kobane locals confirm most of the IS fighters  were speaking Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic.

Kobane is miles from current front lines giving many residents a sense of security. Many people who ventured out of their homes out of curiosity after hearing the suicide bomb explosions were gunned down. In some incidents, Kurdish-speaking IS fighters knocked on the doors of houses, beckoning families outside and into a hail of bullets.

By Saturday, the remaining IS forces in Kobane had either been killed or fled the town. The number of civilians killed since bands of IS fighters infiltrated the town early Thursday has exceeded 200 and is likely to rise as the search for bodies continues the majority are women, children and elderly. At least 54 IS fighters were reported killed.

VICE News obtained testimony collected by a local NGO worker who interviewed victims at a hospital in Turkey. International human rights workers corroborated the accounts as legitimate.

Ibrahim Jasim, the manager of a bakery in Kobane, said Thursday morning began as usual, but quickly descended into bloodshed.

"I left my house to go to the baker, as usual, unaware of what was going on," he said. "When I arrived to the bakery I saw the bodies of my three workers outside of the bakery. They had most likely been targeted by snipers from the MSF building, as the baker is visible from there," he added, referring to a Doctors Without Borders hospital captured by IS.

"When I was standing there, a sniper fired at me and wounded me in the chest," he said.

A 30-year-old woman named Fatma, also speaking from a hospital just across the Turkish border, said she was on her way to Amel hospital in Kobane early Thursday to retrieve the body of her father, who had passed away hours earlier of natural causes. As she entered the town's center in a car with her husband and one of his friends, IS gunmen pulled up alongside and began firing wildly into the vehicle. The militants, she said, yelled "Kouffars! We have come for you," as they shot, referring to them as infidels.

"They shot my husband in the head, his brains splattered in front of my eyes on the car," Fatma said. Her husband's friend was also killed by gunfire. Fatma, who is more than eight months pregnant, said she threw herself out of the car and was rescued by Kurdish YPG soldiers. Taken to Turkey, doctors were able to deliver her baby in an emergency procedure, and both survived. Her other children remained in Kobane, and she was not sure of their fate.

Another woman, 19, said that her entire family was shot to death outside of their home in Kobane. The woman was herself wounded, and she wept uncontrollably as she spoke from a hospital inside Turkey. She was unable to count the number of family members who perished.

A woman in her mid-50s, who did not give her name, said IS fighters captured her from her house and held her hostage. "I was taken by ISIS to the field hospital — there outside the hospital they shot me in the leg and told me to call my children to come and take me away," she said, using another common abbreviation for IS. "I called my children but could not reach them.

"Thank God, later I learned that this was a tactic they used to get people out so they could kill them," the woman said, explaining that she was able to escape and crawl to the Turkish border, where she was recovering in a hospital. The fate of her family was unclear.

Locals also reported that IS snipers set up around Kobane to pick off civilians who ventured outside.

Given the strong Kurdish grip on the area, the IS mission appeared to be suicidal and intended to kill civilians.  Many are now seeing the IS attack as revenge for the capture of by Kurdish forces of Tal Abyad and for getting far too close (30 mi) to their “Syrian capital” of Raqqa.

Kurds fight Kurds in Syria
(Mahmut Bozarslan; Al Monitor, 6/25/15)

A considerable number of Kurds, most of them from Turkey, have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq.

The impoverished province of Bingol, home to some 267,000 people, has emerged as a major IS recruitment base in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. Official figures are not available, but locals estimate at least 600 young men have joined the jihadist group, lured through religious indoctrination and various promises, including money and marriage.

Bingol stands out as a strongly conservative region whose population is overwhelmingly Zaza, an ethnic subgroup in the Kurdish fold.

Mehmet Kurt, a Bingol University academic who studied radicalization in Turkey’s southeast  told Al-Monitor that a complex mix of “strong historic and social dynamics” nourish radicalization in Bingol.

Kurt said that the question of whether Zazas are really Kurdish or not — a debate that has intensified in recent years — contributed to an identity crisis among the Zazas, which often resulted in religious affiliation superseding ethnicity.

The Evil That Dare Not Speak Its Name:
Israel’s Apartheid

(By Sandy Tolan, Truthdig, 6/14/15)

Palestinian workers wait to cross at the Israeli checkpoint in Jalameh,
south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel.

(Mohammed Ballas / AP)

Journey through a fractured landscape
(By Sandy Tolan, Mondoweiss, 6/18/15)
note: Sandy's website is Ramallah Cafe

Debris thrown by Israeli settlers into a net above
the Palestinian market in the old city of Hebron.
(Photo: Manfred Schweda/

Making music under occupation
A conversation with veteran journalist Sandy Tolan about his new book, "Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land.”
He tells the story of Ramzi Aburedwan and his journey from stone thrower during the first Intifada to music student to music teacher, transforming the lives of thousands of Palestinian children living under the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

Sandy is also author of 
"The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East."
(Your Call Radio, KALW, 55 min, 6/19/15)

The Flute at the Checkpoint
(by SandyTolan, Huffington Post 4/30/15)

combined excerpt from first two listed stories under Gaza Corner:

For years the “A-word” has been off-limits in polite conversation about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The A-word, we have been told, unfairly singles out the Jewish state and its use is perhaps even anti-Semitic. Such declarations can have a powerful silencing effect.

However, in 2002 Archbishop Desmond Tutu broke the taboo, writing in the British newspaper The Guardian that “the humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks” reminded him “of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

Four years later Jimmy Carter committed a similar indelicacy with the very title of his bestseller, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” A wave of condemnation of the former president followed.

For the most part, in the mainstream U.S. press at least, the decorum that forbids use of the A-word remains in place. Yet increasingly, as Israel continues to colonize the West Bank with settlers, and its army ensures their dominion over the lands they occupy, adhering to the A-word ban requires shielding one’s eyes, or, at a minimum, engaging in verbal gymnastics.

What, after all, to call a system of legalized discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in which one group has full voting rights and the other does not? What to call a system under which one people can travel freely on roads built specifically for them, whisking through checkpoints because of their religion and the color of their license plates, and under which the other must submit to inspection at military kiosks frequently manned by snipers? A system under which one population in hilltop enclaves is protected by troops and military surveillance towers, while the other is subjected to frequent night raids by those same troops? Under which 40 percent of the adult male population has been forced to spend time in prison? Under which one group’s “civil administration” can designate a town of the other group as a historic archeological site and evict all the residents, who then must move into tents? Under which soldiers ordered Palestinian bathers out of a public swimming pool last spring so Jewish settlers could have a swim, alone and unbothered by the darker-skinned native population?

Numbers tell a certain kind of grim story in the landscape of Palestine:

109,000: the number of West Bank settlers, excluding East Jerusalem, in September 1993, the time of the christening of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn.

350,000: the number of those settlers today — a tripling during something called the “peace process.”

40,000+: the population of Maale Adumim, well inside the West Bank, but considered a “suburb” of Jerusalem by Israel.

20,000: the number of settlers in Ariel, where the separation barrier snakes a third of the way inside Palestinian lands to make the settlement part of “greater Israel.”

18: The number of Israeli settlements directly encircling the hoped-for capital of the Palestinian state, East Jerusalem, cutting off the city from the rest of Palestine, but for a piece of land called E-1, which Israel plans to develop.

Roads 60, 443, and myriad other randomly-chosen numbers: smooth-as-glass highways slicing through West Bank Palestinian lands, but for long stretches reserved for almost exclusively for settlers.

Yet the numbers, telling as they may be, can’t begin to evoke the feeling of the transformed Palestinian landscape, nor the profound power imbalance that defines relations between Israel and the Palestinians.  Only a road trip through Palestine can do that.

Our destination was the old city of Hebron, one of the most surreal tableaus of the entire tragedy of Palestine and Israel, where 500 to 600 Jewish settlers, many of them from the United States, are protected by at least 1,500 soldiers in a city of 170,000 Palestinians.

We walked through the moribund Old City of Hebron, where urban settlement blocks stand brick to brick with Palestinian homes in a contorted geographical designation known as H-2. This arrangement was sanctioned by the international community in an agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo “peace process.” Israel had insisted that a few hundred settlers be allowed to stay in a neighborhood of tens of thousands of Palestinians because of a long Jewish presence there. The current settlers say they live in Hebron to honor the memory of Jews massacred there by Palestinians in 1929, during riots over Jewish immigration to Palestine. Yet the current settlers, among the most extremist of all Israelis, have little or no connection to the descendants of those massacred. Some of the descendants have denounced the Hebron settlements, pointing out that some Palestinian families sheltered Jews in the massacre; they call for removal of the settlers.

Today, the 1,500 Israeli soldiers, more than twice the number of settlers they were sent to protect, spend much of their time escorting their charges from one part of the city to another. When the armed escort squads push through the narrow alleys of Old Hebron, life on the Palestinian street freezes; such is the primacy of Israel’s settlement project. Steel screens above the old Arab casbah protect the Palestinian vendors against a stream of trash, bottles, plastic chairs and bags of feces that the settlers hurl down from above. This is everyday life.

We walked toward Shuhada Street, the once-bustling main street of Palestinian life. H. (our guide) stopped; as a Palestinian, he is not allowed to walk there. The street was nearly vacant. The doors on some of the shops were welded shut; access to some homes is now possible only by ladder, or, in one case, a rope to a window.

We came upon one of H-2’s 120 military checkpoints and other obstacles ensuring separation between Arab and Jew.

Around the bend we came to a tiny mosque, whose imam, H. told us, is in his nineties. He wants to retire, but if he does, he fears the settlers will take over the modest building. So he hangs on, despite increasing obstacles. The latest: 24 massive concrete blocks, each 16 feet high, cutting of the imam’s path from his home on the hill just above. Now the 92-year-old must walk a mile to reach the mosque.

Nearby stood a Palestinian elementary school, its entire perimeter marked with looping razor wire. Many of the children must cross checkpoints to get to the school, walking past graffiti in English saying “Gas the Arabs!” and sometimes enduring a gantlet of flying stones and rotten vegetables and attacks from settlers’ dogs. Across from the school lies a flat expanse of asphalt. Once this was a play area for the school. The old soccer and volleyball grounds have been replaced by a parking lot for buses from the settlements.

It was from an adjacent settlement, Kiryat Arba, in 1994 that a settler from Brooklyn named Baruch Goldstein emerged, traveling with his Galil automatic rifle to the Ibrahimi Mosque and somehow getting through Israeli security before gunning down 29 Palestinians as they prayed. Survivors beat him to death. Today Goldstein is revered among some settlers. At his gravesite in Kiryat Arba, these words are inscribed: “He gave his soul for the people of Israel, the Torah, and the Land. His hands are clean and his heart good. …”

We headed to the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. The call to prayer from this mosque, H. told me, is often banned by the Israeli authorities, who say it bothers the settlers.

Power in Hebron, as it does across the West Bank, lies most clearly in the hands of Israel; Palestinians are no match for Israel’s military might or its political influence with the United States, the world’s sole superpower. Palestinian power lies instead in sumud, or steadfastness: a determination to persevere and to live for a better day, confronting Israel on moral grounds while hoping the world will one day bear greater witness to the facts on the ground.

“Existence,” declares a popular Palestinian slogan, “is resistance.”

But the system in which they exist cannot stand in the long run. And although some commentators and others, even after looking at the facts, may continue to decry the use of the A-word—A for Apartheid—to me it matters little what we call it. I am also fine with comparing these conditions, and others like them all over Palestine, to the legislated racism and racial violence that were known in America as Jim Crow.

Whatever we call it, it is separate and unequal. And like apartheid, like Jim Crow, it is destined for the dustbin of history.

Life in Mosul one year on:
'Isis with all its brutality is more honest
than the Shia government

Islamic State (IS) militants conquered Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a lightning advance in June 2014. Here, residents of the city share their experiences of life under IS.
[stories are both pro and anti IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
(Mona Mahmood, Guardian UK, 6/10/15)

Inside Mosul:
What's life like under Islamic State?

Exclusive footage reveals how Islamic State wields power over people's everyday lives in Iraq's second city, Mosul, a year after it was captured.
Secretly filmed videos obtained by the BBC's Ghadi Sary show mosques being blown up, abandoned schools, and women being forced to cover up their bodies.
[These BBC produced stories are anti-IS; local residents excerpts below headlines]
(BBC, 6/9/15)

A Glimpse Of Life In Mosul
BBC reporter Ghadi Sary speaks with NPR's Arun Rath about secretly filmed videos obtained of harrowing conditions in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is controlled by the self-declared Islamic State.  The videos, smuggled out of the city, feature ordinary people describing and documenting their lives under ISIS rule.
(NPR, 6/13/15)

background articles and resources:

Citizens of Mosul endure economic collapse
and repression under Isis rule
Many Sunnis were glad to see the Iraqi army go when Islamic State took over – but for many the situation is now far worse
(Mohammad Moslawi in Mosul, Fazel Hawramy in Irbil and Luke Harding; Guardian UK, 10/27/14)
note: Mohammad Moslawi is the pseudonym of an Iraqi reporter in Mosul

Mosul Eye
Mosul Eye is the pseudonym of a local historian who has been secretly documenting IS's activities in Mosul. While it is not possible to verify the blogger's identity, Iraq watchers believe the accounts are credible.

The Islamist Phoenix:
The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East

In this book world-renowned terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni demonstrates that while Western media portrays the Islamic State as little more than a gang of thugs on a winning streak, the organization is proposing a new model of nation building.

"A vital contribution to our understanind of what is happening in the Middle East."  Chris Hedges
(Seven Stories Press - 2014)
Excerpt from "Life in Mosul: One year on":

Shaima Yousif -  Widow and mother of four, 33

Last June, Isis took over Mosul and dominated the scene in the city. I advised Kareem, my husband, to leave his job and for us to flee together to Turkey. He was nearly convinced, but learned that he would be murdered soon if he did not assist Isis in repairing damaged vehicles left by the Iraqi army to use in their military operations.

I will never forget the day when my husband rushed out early in the morning to a deserted military camp in the suburbs of Mosul to fix damaged military equipment belonging to Isis. He was killed by an air strike.

Isis men kept coming to my husband’s parents’ house during the funeral in a pickup loaded with food for us and for the mourners. They also brought $300 in cash for the kids with a promise to keep sending $100 a month as a pension.

I struggled to cope with my children’s daily demands. I sold my daughter’s bracelets at the jewellery shop, and went back the next day and slipped on a ring and walked out, hoping the owner would not recognise me with all the women wearing the veil. I walked out of the shop but the owner stopped me, and a woman from the Isis female security forces took me to their centre.

“Why did you steal the ring?” an Isis interrogator asked me. I answered in tears, “I’m a widow of an Isis martyr with four children. I needed money to feed my children and pay the rent. Please forgive me.”

I was questioned by two judges. The second day after my last hearing, I was taken from my room by three Isis women to another room where an old man was standing. He said: “Tie her to the table.”

I was tied firmly, and another man came with a sword in his hand. When I saw him, I began to shout, “Mercy, have mercy on me.” I screamed and begged him to leave me alone. He looked so determined. I wanted to run away but couldn’t. I couldn’t believe the whole scene, and thought it was a nightmare. The man did not hesitate before chopping my left hand at the wrist. The whole world turned into black in my eyes and my legs were numb. No words in humanity’s dictionary can describe my pain and feeling at that horrifying moment. I fainted immediately.

My eldest daughter wept all the time whenever her eyes met mine in the hospital. I was discharged and went home. I tried to commit suicide a few times by strangling myself but the image of my little children kept stopping me. I live now for them and have vowed to make sure they all finish their education and marry only the men they love.

Ghazwan Abdul Rahman - High school graduate, 19, supports Isis

I was chatting with my friend about college when all of a sudden I received a hell of a push on my back. A towering man in Isis clothing was pushing aside any man obstructing his way towards the owner of the bakery. “I want some bread now, I can’t wait and need to go back to my other fighter brothers,” he said.

But the owner told him to join the queue like the others. The argument heated up and the Isis fighter lost his patience, and directed a kick to the face of the owner, filled his bag with bread and dashed away after leaving some money on the table.

We were all in an absolute silence watching without being able to say a word or do anything. The owner was bleeding from his nose. Two or three men ran to help and stop the bleeding while the owner vowed that he would complain to the sharia court. After two days, Isis police from the sharia court were in the bakery asking witnesses if the fighter or the owner provoked the situation and attacked first. All the men in the bakery confirmed that the fighter was the offender and the owner was merely trying to be fair and keep customers in queue. The sharia court verdict was in favour of the bakery owner and the Isis fighter had to apologise to him publicly. Then he was kicked out of the caliphate for his uncivilised behaviour.

Isis succeeded in winning people’s hearts in Mosul from the first day they liberated the city for being modest, unprejudiced and cooperative. They restored the dignity and pride of the Sunni man in Mosul after enduring a great deal of humiliation and revenge under successive Shia governments since the US occupation of Iraq.

Corruption was widespread and eroding all the city facilities, which were like a huge military barracks suffocating people. The city did not witness any reconstruction for the entire last 10 years despite all the billions that were poured into the city council.

Mosul now lives in a golden era. Though world media is in an effortless campaign to mar the image of Isis fighters, show them as brutal terrorists and monsters, on the contrary they are most welcomed in Mosul for the great sacrifices they have offered to protect Sunni people from the Shia army’s inhuman practices in Mosul and other Sunni provinces in Iraq.

None of the people in Mosul who pledged their allegiance to Caliph al-Baghdadi want Shia militias to get close to Mosul. I would be the first to fight these militias who come to sow destruction and killing among Sunnis. We have seen their atrocities in Tikrit and Jurf al-Sakher against isolated civilians.

Mosul is more stable and safe now, my father can leave his shop open and go for prayers, and no one dares to steal a straw from the shop. Civil services are better now, like power and water, and roads are more clean. I spend most of my free time praying in mosques and attending courses in Islamic sharia and hadith*.
* Hadith - collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Dr Firas Ghalib - Neurologist, 45, father of two children

I know a professor at Mosul University who was caught by the Isis hisbah (religious police) in a room with his female colleague correcting students’ final exams notes. The penalty was that he had to marry his female colleague or get 30 lashes. The professor refused as he already had a wife and children, and he accepted the lashes.

I was with my wife in the car driving towards my parents house, and my wife had to take off her veil to breastfeed our little baby. The veil was keeping the blowing air off the baby, who was also terrified of her mother’s face being covered. Not that long after, an Isis hisbah patrol saw me and maintained that my wife should wear the veil under whatever circumstances, otherwise I would be in trouble.

I left Mosul with my wife and two children recently and went to Irbil.

Basheer Aziz - College graduate, 26, supports Isis

Mosul before Isis was like a grand, horrifying prison. The bus had to stop by countless army checkpoints where there were feverish hunts for men’s IDs. Often, the whole bus would wait for an hour or two while a soldier was engaged in beating a passenger who happened to be not holding his ID.

Islamic State is the dream and utmost desire of any Muslim. We longed to be governed by the holy Qur’an’s rules and the prophet Muhammad’s sunnah.*
* Sunnah is the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and interpretations of the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

Now, with any call to prayer, all shops are shut down. Men have to grow their beards. Any act of adultery will be dealt with either by stones or lashes. The penalty of looting is a hand cut and men are imprisoned for publicly harassing women.

Then Isis diwans (departments for health, complaints, preaching and mosques, education, almsgiving, hisbah and services) were established. The almsgiving department is in charge of collecting taxes to divide among needy families. Each family receives $25 a month, an amount that will be raised to $50 with the harvest season, in addition to a good portion of wheat, rice, sugar, pickles, food oil and fuels.

Recently, an exclusive market for women was opened in Mosul to allow them to do their shopping at ease. There is no ban on women driving. The Isis municipality is doing its best to keep roads clean and paved, setting up lampposts, providing water and power and repairing the damage from coalition air strikes.

I feel so proud being part of Isis, it granted me freedom. We live in glory now except for the coalition air strikes that spread panic and fear among the civilians.

I disagree with Isis practices against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Mosul. I’m still in touch with our Christian neighbours and wish they would come back shortly. All people in Mosul are in disagreement with the demolition of ancient sites in Mosul, and some Isis militants are not happy either.

There is an acute financial crisis in Mosul now due to lack of jobs. Only those who receive monthly salaries from the government in Baghdad are surviving in Mosul. People do not know if Isis will last forever, or if another military organisation will come and exact revenge on those who were working for Isis. Depression is widespread among people of Mosul now.

At the same time, most of the people are against the return of the corrupt politicians or Shia militias who will destroy the city, not liberate it as they claim. Isis with all its brutality is more honest and merciful than the Shia government in Baghdad and its militias.

Excerpt from BBC "Inside Mosul":


"Since IS took the city, it has been applying the 'Laws of the Caliphate', as it calls them. The minimum punishment is flogging, which is applied for things like smoking a cigarette.

"Theft is punished by amputating a hand, adultery by men by throwing the offender from a high building, and adultery by women by stoning to death. The punishments are carried out in public to intimidate people, who are often forced to watch.

"I know many people who have been arrested by IS. Some of them are my relatives. Some were killed because they were in the security services. Others have been released. They tell unimaginable stories of atrocities committed by IS in its prisons.

"Many who come out prefer not to speak. They stay silent, because they're terrified that if they speak, they'll be rearrested."

"Daily life has changed in an indescribable way.  There are no jobs anymore. The poor have been left to the mercy of God.

"I have lost my job and have been forced to abandon my studies. Like everyone else, I am denied my basic rights. According to IS, everything is 'haram' (forbidden) and so I end up just sitting at home all the time. Even simple leisure activities like picnics are banned now in Mosul, under the pretext that they are a waste of time and money.

"IS takes a quarter of everyone's salary as a contribution towards paying for rebuilding the city.

"The group has even replaced the imams in the mosques with pro-IS people. Many of us have stopped going to the mosques because those attending are asked to give an oath of allegiance and we hate that.

"Meanwhile, my brother was given 20 lashes just because he didn't shut his shop during prayer time.

Spirit of Humanity’ Photo Contest Winners

Numerous disasters and increasing conflict are negatively impacting the lives of millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa. In response, innumerable individuals, volunteers and professional humanitarian workers are providing those in need with essential protection and assistance, often under dangerous circumstances.

To capture this Spirit of Humanity, the World Humanitarian Summit which was initiated by the UN Secretary General and will culminate in Istanbul in 2016, launched its first photo contest.
Many of the pictures showed the hardship of daily life and the suffering of children, men and women living in conflict zones or refugee camps. But despite the misery and the constant fear, the photographers managed to catch glimpses of hope and moments of joy.

The winners are Islam Mardini from Aleppo and Mohammed Muhaisen from Gaza.

The photos are stunning.

A group of children play outside their destroyed house in the Al Zaytoun area in Gaza City.
© Mustafa El Halabi

Have a look.
(click above for all 27 photos)

When pain and suffering make it impossible to speak, feelings show through the eyes.
© Karim Ahmed

Israeli rights groups join battle to save
symbol of Arab resistance to evictions

The fate of the West Bank Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya has attracted worldwide attention. Now bulldozers are set to displace its residents yet again
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 6/6/15)

related article:

Palestinian village Khirbet Susiya
under imminent threat of demolition
Susiya reflects Israeli authorities’ policy throughout Area C of West Bank
(B'Tselem, 5/7/15)

excerpt from Guardian UK article:

In the cool of evening, the Palestinian villagers of Khirbet Susiya go about their business.

A beekeeper in a protective suit and veil moves among his hives with a smoke can. Others use the warm wind blowing from the nearby Negev desert to separate rough legumes from chaff. Shepherds move their animals across the low, rolling yellow hills while children run about the playground.

It appears a peaceful scene. Except that, for a third time in almost three decades, the few hundred villagers who live in crude temporary houses dotted about this area of the south Hebron hills of the occupied West Bank are under imminent threat of a new forced displacement.

Last month an Israeli high court judge ruled against the villagers’ injunction seeking to halt Israel’s planned destruction of Khirbet Susiya. Now the village has become the centre of a growing international campaign over its future which has drawn in European diplomats and human rights campaigners.

Khirbet Susiya is home to between 250 and 350 villagers – depending on the season – who live in around 100 structures and eke out an existence largely from subsistence agriculture.

Built on a scrubby ridge of limestone pavement, the houses of Khirbet Susiya are closely overlooked by a neighbouring Israeli settlement built on land expropriated from the villagers – illegal under international law – and, unlike the Palestinian village, connected to public services. On the other side of the nearby road is an archaeological site also run by settlers. Khirbet Susiya is sandwiched in-between.

It is this proximity – critics allege – that underlies Israeli plans to move the villagers. The residents say that the destruction of their homes would mean the latest in several forcible expulsions from their land for which they have deeds going back to the Ottoman era.

In 1986 they were expelled from their original village  and the army expelled the residents again in 2001 during the second intifada.

While Israel claims the structures in Khirbet Susiya are illegal because they were put up without building permits, critics say that Israel’s civil administration has a policy of rarely issuing building permits to non-Jews in Area C – the part of the occupied territories under full Israeli administration. Although the Israeli court accepted the villagers’ ownership of the land, it ruled that they did not have permission to build there.

Seventy-year-old Mohammad Ahmad al-Nuwaja has lived on the land around Susiya most of his life. “I was born in Tal Arad, but after the Nakba [‘the catastrophe’ as Palestinians call the mass displacement that occurred when Israel was founded] we moved here. We are the original owners of this land,” he explains. “We have deeds from the Turkish time.

“They claim these houses were built without permits. We have applied so many times and the Israelis rejected permission. They claim we don’t have the infrastructure to support living here, but they are the ones who won’t allow the infrastructure. We were offered land in exchange for moving from here near Yatta [the neighbouring town visible from Khirbet Susiya] but they have no right.”

The long saga of Khirbet Susiya is symbolic of a wider problem of demolition and displacement affecting unrecognised villages in both the occupied Palestinian territories and Bedouin communities in Israel itself. According to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO which has been supporting the village in its efforts to get planning permission: “The village of Palestinian Susiya has existed for centuries, long before the establishment of the [Jewish settlement of Susiya in 1983. There is documentary evidence of a settlement in the area dating back to 1830, and it is also marked on British mandatory maps from 1917.”

There are indications, however, that the Israeli military intends to go ahead with the demolition. The latest threat to Susiya was prompted by a complaint three years ago by Regavim, a rightwing Israeli NGO, which uses the courts to insist on the demolition of Palestinian buildings it argues are illegal.

Dore note: Regavim's motto is "Ensuring the responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel's national lands."

The villagers’ plight was described in a recent report by the Israeli human rights organisation BT’selem. “The state has been abusing the residents of Khirbet Susiya for many years: the army and the civil administration have repeatedly removed the residents from their homes, in which they have lived since before 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank.

“The [Israeli] civil administration is responsible for all aspects of civilian life in area C and is theoretically supposed to promote the wellbeing of the local population. In practice, the administration uses its planning systems, in which Palestinians are not represented, to prevent them from promoting solutions that would meet their needs, barring them from building legally and from connecting to water and power supplies.

“The authorities also systematically refrain from protecting the residents of Khirbet Susiya from settlers who attack them or vandalise their property, and restrict their free access to the main town in the district, Yatta.”

Nasser Nuwaja is a resident who has been leading the campaign to save it.
“Since the court ruling, people here have gone to bed not knowing whether the bulldozers would come in the morning. It is like trying to balance on a chair with only one leg and not knowing when you will fall off. People here are living on edge.”

And for now international pressure remains their best hope. “We’ve been campaigning hard on this issue,” said one European diplomat.

“We are trying to put pressure on the Israeli government to prevent the demolition.”

Although the villagers will try to go to court again on 3 August many are fearful the village will be destroyed and moved again. “God forbid they demolish Susiya again,” says Nasser. “But if they do, we will rebuild it.”

US blocks push for Middle East nuclear arms ban

    * US, UK and Canada opposed Egyptian plan for nuclear-free region
    * Israel is Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power

background articles:

Pictures of the secret Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel,
showing where the plant has allegedly been camouflaged. Photograph: space imaging

Israel has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the 1950s. And western governments, including Britain and the US, turn a blind eye. But how can we expect Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions if the Israelis won't come clean?

combined excerpt from all 3 articles:

A month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure over disagreements on the issue of a Middle East atomic weapons ban.

A senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity:

“The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East.”

In reality, neither US nor British intelligence believe Iran has decided to build a bomb.

Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, convene within 180 days a regional conference on banning weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as called for at the 2010 NPT review meeting.

Ban voiced disappointment that NPT parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD)”.

Despite the fact that the Israel's nuclear programme has been an open secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to confirm or deny its existence.

When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo last year, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as "outdated and childish" a rightwing group formally called for a police investigation for treason.

In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at about 200 nuclear bombs and missile warheads – and even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public awareness of what it was doing.

Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of "opacity" by avoiding all mention of the issue.

But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from smuggled parts and pilfered technology.

The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today's drawn-out struggle over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact – Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today's staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.

Meanwhile, Israeli agents charged with buying fissile material and state-of-the-art technology found their way into some of the most sensitive industrial establishments in the world. This daring and remarkably successful spy ring, known as Lakam, the Hebrew acronym for the innocuous-sounding Science Liaison Bureau, included such colourful figures as Arnon Milchan, a billionaire Hollywood producer behind such hits as Pretty Woman, LA Confidential and 12 Years a Slave, who proudly exclaimed in a recent Israeli documentary:

"Do you know what it's like to be a twentysomething-year-old kid [and] his country lets him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exciting."

Israel had few qualms about proliferating nuclear weapons knowhow and materials, giving South Africa's apartheid regime help in developing its own bomb in the 1970s in return for 600 tons of uranium oxide, known as yellowcake.

Israel's nuclear-weapons project could never have gotten off the ground, though, without an enormous contribution from France. The country that took the toughest line on counter-proliferation when it came to Iran helped lay the foundations of Israel's nuclear weapons programme, driven by by a sense of guilt over letting Israel down in the 1956 Suez conflict, sympathy from French-Jewish scientists, intelligence-sharing over Algeria and a drive to sell French expertise and abroad.

In Dimona, French engineers poured in to help build Israel a nuclear reactor and a far more secret reprocessing plant capable of separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel. This was the real giveaway that Israel's nuclear programme was aimed at producing weapons.

By the end of the 50s, there were 2,500 French citizens living in Dimona, transforming it from a village to a cosmopolitan town and yet the whole endeavour was conducted under a thick veil of secrecy.

The Israelis admitted to having a reactor but insisted it was for entirely peaceful purposes.

Throughout the 60s it flatly denied the existence of the underground reprocessing plant in Dimona that was churning out plutonium for bombs.

Israel refused to countenance visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), so in the early 1960s President Kennedy demanded they accept American inspectors. US physicists were dispatched to Dimona but were given the run-around from the start.

The US physicists sent to Dimona were not allowed to bring their own equipment or collect samples.  Before each American visit, the Israelis had built false walls around the row of lifts that descended six levels to the subterranean reprocessing plant.

As more and more evidence of Israel's weapons programme emerged, the US role progressed from unwitting dupe to reluctant accomplice.

The US policy continues to this day -  most recently (as discussed above)
blocking a proposal for
a nuclear free Middle East. Meanwhile Israel appears to be continuing to trade on the nuclear black market, albeit at much reduced volumes.

Avner Cohen, the author of two books on Israel's bomb, said that policy of opacity in both Israel and in Washington is kept in place now largely by inertia. "At the political level, no one wants to deal with it for fear of opening a Pandora's box. It has in many ways become a burden for the US, but people in Washington, all the way up to Obama will not touch it, because of the fear it could compromise the very basis of the Israeli-US understanding."

The Bedouin of Palmyra
for Musa

It is from touching your thick calloused hand
I become aware
the sun that I merely look upon as day
sculpt your drought-inflicted skin.
You examine my palm
gently squeeze each finger
to comprehend my delicacy,
a consequence from the sheltering sky.

In the olive and palm tree grove
where the guttural gurgle of camels
linger in the night breeze,
an obscured brook languishes
with occasional shuffle among the leaves.
You observe the pregnancy of the predictable moon
while I fill my mouth with sugary dates.

“Maybe rain will make you restless”.

“Come now”, you said,
“I will never go beyond the desert.
Ancient stones are my chronicle
sand washes me clean
I feed on earth’s nectar
dreamless under the Bedouin sky.”

~Clara Hsu

Dore and Musa in Palmyra in 2004

ISIS Seizes Historic Syrian City Palmyra
Some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity
face destruction as forces loyal to Assad withdraw

(Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian UK, 5/21/15)

(photo by Clara Hsu)

related articles:

ISIS seizes Syrian military base near Palmyra
as it consolidates grip on city
(Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian UK, 5/22/15)

Resident: ISIS is 'everywhere'
in full control of ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

combined excerpt:

Isis took Palmyra, a Silk Road hub of the ancient world and a Unesco world heritage site with magnificent ruins, on Wednesday.

Palmyra is home to some of the most magnificent ancient ruins from antiquity, and its fall has led to fears that Isis fighters will destroy much of its cultural heritage as they have done in historic sites such as Nineveh.

The city already was a caravan oasis when Romans overtook it in the mid-first century. Its importance grew as a city on the trade route linking the Roman Empire to Persia, India and China, according to the U.N. agency.

British historian and novelist Tom Holland has described Palmyra as "an extraordinary fusion of classical and Iranian influences intermixed with various Arab influence as well."

"Mesopotamia, Iraq, Syria, this is the wellspring of global civilization," he said. "It really couldn't be higher stakes in terms of conservation."

The Islamist extremists have shown no hesitation destroying such history, propagandizing that destroying idols or false gods follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed, who smashed statues in Mecca. In fact, they've often made a show of it.

Besides destruction, ISIS could also try to profit from its rampage, said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at The London School of Economics.

"They have networks that allow them to traffic in cultural treasures," adds Gerges, the author of the forthcoming book "ISIS: A Short History." "They have made tens of millions of dollars selling artworks."

 Isis has not released images of any assault on Palmyra ruins. The militant group is also now in control of two major gas fields near the city which supply the power stations of western Syria.

The UN high commissioner for refugees said 11,000 civilians had fled Palmyra since the Isis offensive began, settling in nearby villages. The city was home to internally-displaced people from other areas of Syria, many of them now fleeing again.

“People are arriving exhausted, scared and in increasing numbers,” said Bhajat Al Arandas, an official with Al-Birr Society, which is working with UNHCR to distribute aid to the refugees. “They fled their homes in Palmyra and neighbouring villages with hardly anything and report there is no water, electricity or working mobile phone network [in the city].”

But two-thirds of residents are believed to still be in Palmyra, raising fears of retribution from Isis, which has already executed members of a rebellious tribe called the Shaitat that it accused of fighting alongside government forces.

The Assad regime had claimed that it evacuated most of the civilians in Palmyra before withdrawing from the city. But citing what she said were credible sources, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said there were reports of government forces preventing civilians from leaving until they themselves fled and Isis took control of the city.

“Isil has reportedly been carrying out door-to-door searches in the city, looking for people affiliated with the government. At least 14 civilians are reported to have been executed by Isil in Palmyra this week,” she said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

The Nakba

The following is an excerpt from the
Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA)

"Each year on May 15th, Palestinians in Palestine and around the world commemorate the Nakba or “catastrophe”— the  massive uprooting, terror, destruction and ethnic cleansing that Zionist forces carried out in order to create a Jewish majority state. "

Officially, this is the 67th anniversary of the Nakba but it actually began in 1947, before the “Arab-Israeli War.” That year, 250,000 Palestinians—more than 25% of the population—were driven from their land and their homes. A total of 800,000 Palestinians were driven out or fled in terror; 531 villages were destroyed.

For Palestinian refugees there are two powerful symbols of the Nakba.  Many still hold the keys to their original homes, which are handed down from one generation to the next.  The keys represent the hope and the commitment to realizing the right of return. The other symbol is the tent, which is part of the refugees’ past, present and a constant threat. In 67 years, Palestinian refugee camps have grown enormously.

The original Nakba continues when the Israeli military bombs homes in Gaza, when the Israeli government carries out “administrative demolitions” of homes throughout East Jerusalem; when stateless Palestinians, along with Syrians, flee the tragic war in Syria and are forced to survive again in tents in neighboring countries.

Since MECA started in 1988 we have always stood with the people holding the keys and struggling for their right of return.  And our work has always been focused on those surviving in tents or living with the reality or the threat of displacement — especially children.  Today, we join Palestinians all around the world to commemorate the Nakba and renew our commitment to refugees in Palestine and throughout the Middle East. We know that justice is only possible when the right of return becomes a reality.

Palestinian women in Galilee (now part of Israel)
fleeing to Lebanon during the ethnic cleansing 1948

(photo courtesy MECA)

For more about the Nakba:

Israel continues to criminalise marking Nakba Day
Activists now face difficulty in commemorating Palestinian dispossession
during Israel's founding due to Israeli law.

(Patrick Strickland, Al Jazeera, 5/14/15)

Forced to leave grapes on the vine:
the open wounds of May 1948
(Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 5/14/15)

Nakba Day is not just about remembering -
it is about the Palestinians' return
(Ben White, Middle-East Eye, 5/15/15)

67 years ago, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine unfolded through expulsions, massacres, and demolitions. Hundreds of villages were emptied, then levelled; centres of Palestinian urban life and community disappeared; columns of refugees took flight at the barrel of a gun.

A society was dismembered and fragmented. In the months and years after 1948, the army of the State of Israel, formed from the militias who had occupied and 'cleansed' village after village, used bullets and landmines to keep out the refugees trying to return home.

Nor is it just about remembering – it is also about the ongoing Nakba, and resistance to the apartheid horror of Palestine today: the systematic discrimination faced by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, the Gaza prison camp, the military regime and matrix of control in the West Bank.

Israeli military attacks Nakba Day
protests with live

(Mondoweiss, 5/16/15)

Series on the Palestinian 'catastrophe' of 1948

that led to dispossession and conflict that still endures
(click above to access Series)


"The Nakba did not begin in 1948. Its origins lie over two centuries ago…."

So begins this four-part series on the 'nakba', meaning the 'catastrophe', about the history of the Palestinian exodus that led to the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and the establishment of the state of Israel.

Arab, Israeli and Western intellectuals, historians and eye-witnesses provide the central narrative which is accompanied by archive material and documents, many only recently released for the first time.

MECA Action:
Help Dr. Mona El-Farra exit Gaza
and raise awareness of the ongoing blockade

Turks feat Saudi alliance will drag country into war in Syria
Opposition politicians in Turkey have charged President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan  with leading Turkey to war in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) is bid farewell by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
after their meeting at Riyadh's Erga Palace in Saudi Arabia on March 2, 2015.

 | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

background article:

combined excerpt:

Although Turkey has long been implicated in the depths of the Syrian crisis, the Turkish public is newly anxious over claims that the Turkish Armed Forces are preparing to invade Syria to set up a buffer zone following the fall of Idlib in late March to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

Turkey's opposition party fears Erdogan might go to war in order to cancel the upcoming legislative elections if Erdogan thinks he won't get the 400 parliamentary seats he so covets.

Turkey's military is one of the most dominant in the region and second in size only to the U.S. within NATO.

The possibility of Turkey becoming a party to the Syrian civil war was also being driven by eyewitness reports that weapons financed by Saudi Arabia and others were entering Syria from Turkey and that Turkish units were deploying along the border.

A military source along Hatay’s border, where the massing of Turkish troops is visible, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there are no preparations for a cross-border operation.

Mehmet Ali Edipoglu, CHP parliamentary foreign relations committee member, said, “There have been military movements toward the border for the past two months. Then came the fall of Idlib. That war was 15 kilometers [9 miles] from our border. Of course there is a possibility of Turkey entering the war in Syria. But I think, instead of Syria, it is more likely that we will enter Iraq for the Mosul operation. Our army is not happy with our Syria policy. The soldiers are very uneasy about this. I don’t think that such a war is likely.”

It is no secret that despite a long history of rivalry, Turkey has built momentum with the Saudis if not to enter Syria now, then to galvanize a proxy war that in the long term could be even more perilous. After meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud during a visit to Riyadh Feb. 28-March 2, Erdogan had told journalists that they had agreed to boost support to the Syrian opposition to allow them to produce results.

The agreement stipulated that in return for Turkey’s support of the Saudi operation against Yemen, the two countries would join forces against the Syrian regime and form a bloc to counter Iranian influence in the region. Given the Saudi-Turkish agreement, the surge in activity along the Turkish-Syrian border cannot be a coincidence. The fall of Idlib followed palpable new military activity. According to one claim, developments in Syria are being managed from the Antakya Operations Room under the control of US and Turkish intelligence officials.

The ongoing rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia also includes a softening of the Saudi's hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a key sticking point for Turkey.

Aaron Stein, a Turkey expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said Saudi King Salman has led a strategic shift to align his country more closely with Turkey and Qatar on Syria policy, with a focus on uniting Islamist fighters to battle both the Syrian regime and Islamic State extremists.

“He may dislike [the Muslim Brotherhood]," Stein said of the Saudi king, "but he has realized that the war against them was dividing the Arab world, and preventing unity on key Saudi foreign policy goals like rolling back Iran and defeating Assad -- which the Kingdom views as being one and the same.”

Riyadh and Ankara have shared the goal of arming Assad's opposition since the early days of the Syrian civil war, which has now been going on for four years. But relations between the two have frayed as they have repeatedly found themselves on opposite sides of other regional conflicts such as Israel's most recent war in Gaza which Erdogan characterized as "genocide by israel" while the Saudis refrained from publicly criticizing Israel.

Existence of the Saudi-Turkish partnership was exposed by the use of TOW anti-tank missiles against regime forces at Idlib and confirmed by the Syrian opposition.

Some observers believe that the unlikely cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey has been spurred in part by the perception that Iran and the U.S. are moving closer together.

Beyond the nuclear framework agreement that Iran reached with six world powers earlier this month, Iran-backed forces and the U.S. have also been in a tacit alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq. By propping up Shiite militias there, Iran has played a major role in the effort to retake Iraqi territory from the militant group.

"It’s an alliance that’s being forced by the perceived success of the Iranians,” said Firas Abi Ali, a Middle East senior manager at the risk analysis firm IHS, referring to the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the issue of Syria.

Ali added that without international sanctions, Iran would likely be doing even more to help Assad.

“Iran has been engaged in Syria with one hand tied behind its back as a result of the sanctions," he said. "Without that constraint, the perception among the Sunni states -- Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- would be that they need to contribute significantly more to match what they fear will be an increased Iranian commitment."

Will the alleged efforts succeed in dragging Turkey into a military adventure? Many people following developments believe that in light of the mechanisms imposing moderation and oversight in Turkey being in disarray, only tactical objections by the military can rule out such an eventuality. The objections of the military can best be summed up as follows: If Turkey enters, it can’t exit. The war will spread to the entire region.

Palestinians inspect a damaged classroom of the UN school in Jabalia, northern Gaza, in July. Photograph:Mohammed Saber/EPA

Israel responsible for Gaza strikes
on UN schools and shelters, inquiry finds
Ban Ki-moon condemns attacks, including strike on UN school that killed 20 people and wounded dozens, ‘as a matter of the utmost gravity’
(Peter Beaumont, Guardian UK, 4/27/15)

A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries caused by an Israeli strike.
Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

related article:

Gaza crisis:
a closer look at Israeli strikes on UNRWA

UN-run schools acting as civilian shelters have been hit seven times during Israel’s Gaza offensive. We catalogue them in detail

 "It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.” – UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon
  (Raya Jalabi, Tom McCarthy and Nadja Popovich, Guadian UK, 8/8/14)

excerpt from (top) 4/27/15 article:

Israel was responsible for striking seven United Nations sites used as civilian shelters during the 2014 Gaza war and within those seven UN sites 44 Palestinians died and 227 others were injured.  This is the conclusion of an inquiry ordered by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed during the Gaza conflict last July and August. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed by rockets and attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

Releasing the report last Monday, Ban condemned the attacks “as a matter of the utmost gravity” and said “those who looked to them for protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their hopes and trust denied”.

Ban insisted that UN locations were “inviolable”.

The issue is particularly sensitive as the locations of all UN buildings – including schools used as shelters – are routinely provided to the Israeli military and updated in times of conflict.

Ban’s criticism was contained in the published summary letter of a confidential internal report, commissioned by the secretary general in November, running to 207 pages.

There is a link to a 3:00 video where Ban-Ki-moon states "nothing more shameful than attacking sleeping children".

Although the report has no legal status, the disclosure of the inquiry’s findings comes at a difficult time for Israel on the international stage, facing increasing international isolation over its policies and following the acceptance of the Palestinian Authority as a signatory to the International Criminal Court earlier this month.
The attacks on UN schools being used as shelters were among some of the most controversial incidents of the war. International humanitarian law – while complex – requires attacking forces in areas where there are non-combatants to protect civilians and adhere to the principle of proportionality, safeguards even more stringent when civilians are under UN protection.

In one of the most serious incidents, the UNRWA school in Jabaliya was struck by Israeli fire, killing 20 people and wounding dozens.

In another incident that saw Israeli munitions strike a UN school in Beit Hanoun 15 Palestinians were killed in the playground as they awaited evacuation while dozens more injured.

Israeli sources had originally tried to suggest that the attack had been due to a Hamas weapon falling short.

The UN inquiry – separate form an inquiry launched by the UN Human Rights Council – was headed by retired general Patrick Cammaert, a former officer in the Dutch military and included military and legal experts.

The details of the contents of the board of inquiry are confidential and only Ban’s covering letter has been made public. Conceding that the report was of “considerable interest” he said he had taken the decision to release a summary of the inquiry’s findings.

When Ban visited Gaza in October, he said the destruction was “beyond description” and “much more serious” than what he witnessed in the Palestinian territory in 2009 in the aftermath of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

Ban said on Monday he has established a group of senior managers to look into the inquiry’s recommendation. A number of questions remain unaddressed in the summary of the report, not least the issue of what communications there were between UN staff and the Israeli military in particular ahead of the attack on the school in Beit Hanoun when UN staff are understood to have communicated to Israeli forces their intention to bus out civilians who were waiting for evacuation at the time of the attack.

Also unaddressed is why Israeli forces fired on designated protected locations outside of the principle of immediate self-defence when they were aware of concentrations of civilians sheltering there.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, which runs Gaza’s UN schools said: “The inquiry found that despite numerous notifications to the Israeli army of the precise GPS coordinates of the schools and numerous notifications about the presence of displaced people, in all seven cases investigated by the Board of Inquiry when our schools were hit directly or in the immediate vicinity, the hit was attributable to the IDF.

“The board confirms the use by the IDF of weaponry such as 120 mm high explosive anti-tank projectiles and 155 MM high explosive projectiles on or in the surrounding area of UNRWA schools where civilians had taken refuge. In the incidents investigated at least 44 people were killed and 227 injured including women and children. In none of the schools which were hit directly or in the immediate vicinity, were weapons discovered or fired from. If it were confirmed that militants did fire rockets from our schools we would condemn it, just as we robustly we condemned other violations of our neutrality.”

ISIS executes three Eritrean asylum seekers deported by Israel
It should be noted the three victims signed “voluntary departure” forms, although most asylum seekers and NGOs see this as another form of deportation, since the other option afforded to asylum seekers is indefinite detention at Holot in the middle of the Negev Desert.
The Israeli government recently announced its intention to begin forcefully deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. Refugee organizations are concerned that the state refuses to reveal its back channel deals with “third countries,” and worry that those same countries will not guarantee the safety of asylum seekers.

Likud minister: Drowning of migrants justifies Israeli policy
Just one day after 950 asylum seekers drown on their way to Italy, Israel’s transportation minister praises the government for preventing migrants from entering the country.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) sees lessons for Israeli policy in the tragic massacre of 700 asylum seekers who drowned when their vessel capsized on Sunday in the Mediterranean Sea. Posting a photo showing rows of corpses brought to shore by rescue workers, Katz wrote the following caption, which is translated here from Hebrew:

“Hundreds of migrants from Africa drowned to death close to Italy in a disaster that horrified all human beings. Europe is having a difficult time dealing with the migrants, and with creating sol