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.
was originally conceived to focus attention on relieving the
humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has been under a severe blockade
imposed by Israel since 2006. Gaza Corner has evolved to include the
Middle East, Magreb, Kurdistan and Turkey.
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
Palestinian women in Galilee (now part of Israel)
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.
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.
Israeli military attacks Nakba Day
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.
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…."
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
“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.”
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 solutions for this
difficult issue. While there are differences between us (the migrants
traveling to Europe must cross a sea while those heading for Israel
have a direct overland connection), you can see the rectitude of our
government’s policy to build a fence on the border with Egypt, which
blocks the job-seeking migrants before they enter Israel. The elections
are over — you can give us some credit now.”
Only four days earlier, Katz published a sombre Facebook statusabout
Holocaust Remembrance Day (with a gratuitous claim that Israel now
faces another Holocaust — i.e., from Iran’s nuclear program).
Katz seems not to remember some basic historical information about
events leading up to and immediately after the Holocaust. When Israeli
and Jewish schoolchildren around the world are taught about the Shoah,
one of the most-emphasized points is that the Jews trying to escape the
Nazis were denied refuge by nearly every country in the world. And that
the Nazi regime felt it had carte blanche to carry out its genocide
because the world had demonstrated its indifference to the fate of the
Jews. They are taught about the 1938 Evian Conference, initiated by
Franklin D. Roosevelt, which brought together representatives of 32
states for over a week in that Swiss resort town to discuss the
possibility of taking in more refugees from Germany and Austria, which
were then the only two countries under Nazi rule. But none would agree
to expand their quotas. After the war, Jewish survivors of the death
camps who tried to make their way to Palestine by boat were turned away
and forcibly interned by the British army on the nearby island of
The comparisons are so obvious that they should not need mentioning.
They should be obvious to the government of Israel, and to Yisrael Katz
specifically. Israel is a country that uses the Holocaust to justify its policies
even its very existence — but somehow politicians like Netanyahu, Katz,
Miri Regev and others seem to believe that compassion begins and ends
Katz demonstrates an almost pathological
lack of compassion with his gleeful-sounding status, in which he makes
political capital of a catastrophe.
Pre-army students to Netanyahu:
Over the past few years, Israel has treated the asylum seekers from
sub-Saharan African very badly. It has refused to consider their
refugee status, refused to grant them the right to work
legally,imprisoned them and deported them by force.
Israel is not the only country to treat asylum seekers badly. In Europe
and in the United States, governments dither over refugees because
right-wing, populist and racist opposition politicians have put them on
the defensive. But in Israel those right-wing, populist and racist
politicians are the government.
Stop deportation of refugees
Over 130 students
from pre-military academies send a letter to the prime minister,
calling on him to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and put an end to
Israel’s policy of deporting Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers.
Israel to indefinitely imprison asylum seekers
who refuse deportation
In a move
unprecedented in Western countries, Israel’s outgoing interior minister
announces plan to compel asylum seekers to leave the country. Israel’s
High Court has repeatedly struck down laws that authorized the
indefinite detention of asylum seekers.
Israel has granted refugee status
to 0.07% of African asylum seekers
Israel has not
granted a single Sudanese asylum seeker refugee status, in spite of a
wave of migrants fleeing violence, according to official state
statistics, submitted to the High Court of Justice on February 16. In
all, the government has granted refugee status to only 0.07% of the
5,573 Sudanese and Eritreans who have applied for asylum in the country—
a mere four individuals.
African imigrants speak out about life
in Israel's detention centres
includes a 7 minute documentary which captures the lives of Sudanese
and Eritrean refugees living in limbo in Israel.
NBC News Alters Account Of
Correspondent’s Kidnapping In Syria
2012, numerous American factions were pushing for U.S. intervention in
Syria to bring down the regime of Bashar Assad, who throughout the War
on Terror had helped the U.S. in all sorts of ways, including torturing
people for them. But by then, Assad was viewed mostly as an ally of
Iran, and deposing him would weaken Tehran, the overarching regional
strategy of the U.S. and its allies. The prevailing narrative was thus
created that those fighting against Assad were “moderate”
with the leading one dubbed “the Free Syrian Army.”
As it turns out, the “moderate” “Free Syrian Army” was largely a myth
according to Greenwald. By far, the most effective fighting forces
against Assad were anything but “moderate,” composed instead of various
Al Qaeda manifestations and even more extreme elements.
In December 2012 – as the pro-intervention cause was strengthening – a
group of six journalists working for NBC News, including its star
international reporter Richard Engel, was kidnapped inside Syria. They
were held for five days, threatened with death, treated inhumanely, and
forced to record a video in which Engel was made to call for an end to
U.S. involvement in Syria. Scrawled on the walls of the room where the
video was recorded was graffiti of pro-Assad messages along with
well-known Shiite references.
Journalists working for NBC including Richard Engel on far left held in detention
during an elaborate kidnapping ruse by Syrian rebels. Click photo for video.
obvious intent was to make it appear that these NBC journalists had
been kidnapped and mistreated by Shiite forces associated with Assad.
Once they were released, Engel quickly gave numerous interviews
including the "Today" show just hours after emerging. Engel
's unequivocal narrative was that the captors were aligned with Assad
and that he was rescued by anti-Assad forces. That then became
unquestioned fact on NBC.
Engel appeared on the Rachel Maddow show on December 21.
Engel described how the rebel commander heroically tried to sacrifice
his own life to save the journalists, but to no avail: the
“pro-government forces” brutalized, tortured and threatened the
reporters and even executed some of the rebels."
The ordeal ended, Engel said, only when his pro-government captors
accidentally ran into a rebel checkpoint, where the rebels heroically
killed some of Assad’s forces and freed the journalists, treating them
with great compassion.
Three days earlier, in a December 18 appearance on Maddow's show, Engel
– after describing how brutal and inhumane his captors were – actually
linked them to both Iran and Hezbollah in response to a question from
There were ample reasons at the time to be suspicious that this was a
scam (perpetrated on (not by) Engel and his fellow captives) to blame
Assad for the abduction. There was skepticism expressed by some
independent analysts – although not on NBC News. According to Glenn
Greenwald the brilliant political science professor and blogger As'ad AbuKhalil, (angryarab.blogspot.com) was highly skeptical from the start about the identity of Engel’s captors.
AbuKhalil himself examined the video and wrote:
"I looked at the video and it is so clearly a set up and the slogans
are so clearly fake and they intend to show that they were clearly
Shi’ites and that they are savages."
As it turns out, that seems to be exactly what happened. On April 15 Engel posted a new statement on the NBC news website where he wrote:
“The group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia” and that “the group
that freed us” – which he had previously depicted as heroic anti-Assad
rebels – actually “had ties to the kidnappers.”
Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said
that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with
rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the
rebel efforts to court Western support.
Nobody can blame Engel – a courageous reporter, fluent in Arabic – for falling for what appears to be a well-coordinated ruse.
the same is most certainly not true of NBC News executives. In writing
his new account, Engel does not mention the most important and most
incriminating aspect of the New York Times reporting: that NBC
officials knew at the time that there was reason to be highly skeptical
of the identity of the captors, but nonetheless allowed Engel and
numerous other NBC and MSNBC reporters to tell this story with
virtually no questioning.
The NY Times states that “Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken
by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the
loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.” That rebel group is
“known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade” and is “led by two men, Azzo
Qassab and Shukri Ajouj.” NBC executives knew that this was at
least very possible even during Engel’s kidnapping, and yet the NY
"NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible
involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity. Still, the network
moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming
Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of
In other words, NBC executives at least had ample reason to suspect
that it was anti-Assad rebels who staged the kidnapping, not pro-Assad
forces. Yet they allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC
personalities repeatedly and unequivocally to blame the Assad regime
and glorify the anti-Assad rebels, and to link the kidnapping to
Iran and Hezbollah, all with no indication that there were other quite
NBC refused to respond to the NY Times and The Intercept's questions about that.
believes this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless
eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to
disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in
line with the story which official Washington was selling.
About this story, Professor AbuKhalil emailed this comment:
"This is a culture: they all were part of a charade to promote and
champion the Free Syrian Army when that very army was kidnapping
innocent Lebanese Shi’ites and killing people on sectarian grounds."
He also passed along an email from a Western correspondent based in the
region, asking not to be identified, who said: “Everybody knew that it
was a Sunni group tied to the [Free Syrian Army] that had kidnapped
[Engel] from the moment it happened: people were talking about it in
South Turkey, journalists, opposition people.”
Yet Richard Engel in his April 15th mea culpa states that once he
learned from the NY Times that the kidnapping may have been an
elaborate ruse he "spoke to multiple U.S. law enforcement and
intelligence sources who had direct knowledge of our case. They all
said they did not doubt our story back in 2012 or anytime since."
(Dore note: which suggests Engel's intelligence sources are lying or maybe not so intelligent.)
noted above, Engel claimed repeatedly that the anti-Assad rebels killed
some of his pro-government captors when rescuing him. He stated the
same thing in a Vanity Fair article he wrote recounting his kidnapping.
But as the New York Times notes, Engel now acknowledges that he never
saw a body.
Origin of Islamic State Yarmouk Attack
past five months there has been a wave of assassinations inside Yarmouk
Camp which targeted a diverse group of individuals. They were all
killed professionally and mysteriously, and included activists
affiliated to Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions. This wave
was finally confronted with the assassination of Yahya Hourani (aka Abu
Suhaib), a former Hamas official in Yarmouk, and a leading medical aid
Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM), which is linked to Hamas, first accused IS in the
nearby al-Hajar al-Aswad area of orchestrating the murder, then
detained IS members. Within twenty-four hours, IS raided the camp and
besieged the Diaspora Office which is run by ABM. IS quickly took
control of most of the southern parts of Yarmouk, which had previously
been under the control of al-Nusra Front, sparking suggestions that
there had been a prior agreement between the two groups about allowing
scenario unfolds for the Palestinian fighters, Yarmouk Camp’s future
looks bleak, irrespective of whether IS controls it fully or partially,
or whether it is recovered by the Palestinian groups – either ABM or
some faction loyal to the Syrian regime. Palestinians in Yarmouk will
continue to pay a heavy price until the Syrian crisis reaches a stable
and permanent outcome, or major changes take place in the battlefield
in southern Damascus. If IS remains in control of parts of the camp, an
increasing number of civilians will attempt to leave, as IS’s
indifference to the popular sentiment will alienate more people and
make their daily lives even more miserable.
Yarmouk destruction April 2015 photo by AFP
When the Islamic State (IS) group
entered Yarmouk in southern Damascus lApril 1, the Palestinian refugee
camp was thrust back into the media spotlight.
Caught between the rockets of Syrian government forces and IS, factions
inside Yarmouk, chiefly the (anti-Syrian regime) Palestinian group
Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), fought fierce gun battles with IS.
With concern over the fate of the camp growing, the PLO sent a
delegation from the West Bank to Syria to discuss the plight of the
refugees with Syrian authorities. An initial statement from PLO
official Ahmad Majdalani said that Palestinian factions had agreed to
cooperate with Syrian government forces inside the camp to counter IS.
However, another statement released shortly afterwards from the PLO
leadership in Ramallah contradicted this, saying that they refused to
be drawn into military actions.
Residents of Yarmouk offer a very different version of events.
“Palestinian militias allied to Bashar
al-Assad like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General
Command [PFLP-GC] are the ones who dragged the camp into the Syrian
conflict,” 30-year-old journalist Ahmad, a resident of the camp, told
Middle East Eye via Skype on Thursday. (Dore note: Ahmad's last name
and journalist credential is not provided).
“Before, the camp was a safe haven, a
neutral zone for people in the areas around it," Ahmad said. "These
militias, led by PFLP-GC’s Ahmad Jibril, are the ones who began
kidnapping and arresting activists within and around the camp and
handing them over to the regime.”
Anwar Abdul Hadi, a PLO official based in the government-controlled
capital of Damascus, said on Sunday that 2,000 people were evacuated
from the camp to the capital under the protection of the Syrian army.
Shaml Media, a Palestinian media network in Syria, was the first to
contest the PLO’s claims, tweeting out that only 180 people left
Sources within the camp who spoke to various humanitarian organisations
within Yarmouk told MEE that approximately 200 people left on the day
the PLO issued its statement.
“They weren’t evacuated,” said Ahmad. “I can confirm that the regime
forces did not offer a safe passage for the ‘evacuation’ of the
refugees. Rather, the refugees took refuge outside the camp.”
"Here in southern Damascus we are under siege but there are 6 or 7
neighborhoods that are linked to each other. It is possible to move
from one to another, like moving from island to island. This is what
southern Damascus is like" said a Yarmouk resident.
It remains unclear as to how exactly the 200 residents managed to make it to the government-controlled part of the capital.
“No one goes to the regime-controlled entrances,” Ahmad explained.
“It’s just not checkpoints they’ve erected; it’s an entire
battleground, with snipers ready to shoot at anything moving.”
Presence of IS exploited by factions for media
Salim Salamah of the Yarmouk emergency
team and based in Sweden, admitted to the confusion surrounding the
news of the residents fleeing.
“We need to distinguish between two things,” he said. “The displacement
of the people from the camp within southern Damascus and the
displacement of the people from the camp to outside, who are now in the
Ahmad said that Yarmouk, a 2.11-square-km area (less than a sq
mile) that used to house 160,000 people are now reduced to around
Since IS entered Yarmouk on April 1, a total of 4,000 residents had
fled to nearby neighbourhoods. "Most of the people that managed to
leave are now living in schools or in the streets," Ahmad added.
Military entry will bring further death
Anger at the PLO has risen in the camp, especially since the
announcement that Palestinian officials would be meeting with Syrian
authorities who Yarmouk residents see as responsible for the camp’s
Fawzi Hameed, the head of the civil society organisations in Yarmouk,
stated that a military solution would only bring more devastation.
“We stress that the entry of the military will bring about further death and destruction and is not the solution,” he said.
Analysts say that the renewed attention
that Yarmouk is now under masks the complicity of both pro- and
anti-government factions that contributed to Yarmouk's demise.
“Everyone is trying to profit from the camp’s suffering,” Ahmad said.
“They all want to turn Yarmouk into a Kobane to achieve their victories
on the backs of the flesh of the civilians,” referring to the Kurdish
city that garnered major media attention after IS overran the city and
the US-led military coalition started a bombing campaign against the
Speaking through Skype, Ahmad halted a few times as the whining of a
Syrian military plane sounded overhead. After a couple of loud booms,
he apologised and said he would call back later as he had to move to
the lower ground of the house he was in.
“One thing we have to be mindful of is that the presence of the Islamic
State in Yarmouk provides other sides, the opposition factions and the
government regime alike, to exploit the media in a favourable way,” he
“There are limited battles on the outskirts but IS did not enter the camp - this is all for the media" claims Ahmad.
Meanwhile the media has turned a blind eye to the government forces’
role in starving Yarmouk’s residents in favour of intensive reporting
on the army’s alleged military proposition to enter the camp in order
to repel IS. Yet Yarmouk’s residents maintain that the biggest threat
they encounter is from the Syrian military airstrikes on the camp.
“Media sources have reported that there
are massacres and mass beheadings in Yarmouk,” said Abu Ahmad Huwari,
the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Body for Yarmouk
camp, pointing out that this has caused families who were previously
displaced from the camp to panic. (Dore note: two beheadings have been
“We in Yarmouk assert that there is no truth to these reports, and we
confirm as civil society organisations that there are airstrikes that
kill civilians, and that we will remain in the camp in order to ensure
a dignified life and to ensure the return for our families,” he
declared. “We will not leave the camp despite the barrel bombs or the
gun battles. We will only leave if we go back to our land in Palestine.
For now, we demand a safe passage so that food and medical supplies can
enter for our people.”
Aerial bombings biggest danger
Ahmad dismissed claims of an IS takeover of the camp.
“Here I am, talking to you and smoking,”
he said. “I can go down to the store in the street and buy a pack of
cigarettes, and I won’t be beheaded by IS because I am not living in
2 short films made inside Yarmouk by Palestinian youth:
“They didn’t impose their rule and declare Yarmouk as part of their
caliphate,” he added. “Their presence should not be confused with
controlling the camp.”
The airstrikes remain the biggest danger to the civilians.”
“More than 30 barrel bombs targeted the camp in the last nine
days,” Salim Salamah said. “On Wednesday night 16 barrel bombs fell on
the camp, including one that targeted Palestine Hospital. These aerial
bombardments are extremely destructive and are in no way comparable to
the ground invasion of IS.”
“If medical and food supplies don’t enter the camp within the next 48 hours, the result will be beyond tragic,” he said.
This film is the outcome of a workshop via Skype with twelve young
Palestinians under siege in Yarmouk. This film expresses four daily
realities of this siege. While finalizing the film, the situation in
Yarmouk worsened and it became difficult for them to meet together.
Following the attack on Yarmouk by IS last week people involved in the
making of the film were killed as detailed below.
Pasted from the closing credits:
During the four months it took to make this film, Abed one of the
filmmakers, lost his father to a regime sniper. Another of the
filmmakers, Abdallah, was subject to a kidnapping attempt. Jamal
Khalife, one of the filmmakers, was killed during the attack of IS on
Yarmouk camp. (Jamal was also one of the filmmakers on the film
"Blue".) Firas Naji, coordinator of Wahid Center, was assassinated in
his home. Wahid Center was the main partner in making this film.
This is just a small glimpse of the siege on Southern Damascus.
Blue is a moving film about a young pianist who rolls his worn piano on
a cart into the middle of a street in Yarmouk, and plays amid rubble
and mortar shells falling.
Islamic State Seizes Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria
(Anne Barnard, NY Times, 4/4/15)
ISIL seizes most of Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp
Thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in the Damascus camp,
where heavy shelling has been reported since Wednesday
(Al Jazeera/AP, 4/04/14)
Thousands of Palestinian refugees queuing to receive food in Yarmouk camp, Damascus, Syria.
18,000 Palestine refugees remain trapped in the Yarmouk neighbourhood of Damascus
”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water,
heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood”
Anas, Yarmouk resident.(unrwa.org/crisis-in-yarmouk; March 2014)
Syria: ISIL Conquest of Yarmouk Palestinian Camp
refutes Israeli Propaganda(Juan Cole Blog, 4/2/15)
Yarmuk Refugee Camp
and the Syrian Uprising:
A View from Within(Nidal Bitari, palestine-studies.org, Vol 43, 2013/2014)
combined source excerpt:
(Al Jazeera, AP, UNRWA, NY Times, Reuters, Juan Cole, Nidal Bitari and Dore Stein)
It's been a heavy week for news coming
out of the Middle East dominated by the framework for a nuclear
agreement with Iran, Palestine attaining membership of the
International Criminal Court and Saudi Arabia launching an air war on
Yemen along with other Gulf and north African countries, with
logistical support from the U.S.
However, mainstream American news sources did not include an alarming
news story that will be the focus of this Gaza Corner. Even
prominent public radio programs such as National Public Radio's Morning
Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition Saturday and PRI's The
World (from doing searches on their websites), all failed to
cover the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe of 18,000 Palestinian
civilian refugees trapped within less than a square mile in Damascus,
This past Wednesday the Islamic State (IS) fighters launched a
lightning assault on the Yarmouk camp. Yarmouk is an "unofficial"
refugee camp and was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community
in Syria. Yarmouk is just six miles from downtown Damascus, marking
IS's deepest foray yet into Syria's capital. Human Rights groups
say IS now controls 90% of the camp.
click above to enlarge
First built for Palestinians fleeing the
1948 Arab-Israeli war, Yarmouk was once considered to be the de facto
capital of the Palestinian refugee diaspora. Yarmouk prospered as a
safe haven for Palestinians. Prior to the Syrian civil war, it
had more than 150,000 refugees living there. It had been a bustling
commercial center with a huge market with its own mosques, schools and
public buildings. Though people still refer to it as a “camp”, tents
were replaced with solid housing soon after its founding in 1957. As
well as being home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinian
refugees, it also housed some 650,000 Syrians.
Prior to the IS attack, Yarmouk has been under a brutal government
siege the last two years. It is a prison for its remaining residents,
who survive on little food and water, with no hope of escape.
The fate of the 18,000 Palestinian civilians is unknown (the number is
approximate as it includes anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 Syrians) as
civilians are trapped amid intense shelling and clashes. The Syrian
regime reacted to the attack by adding it’s own barrage of artillery
into the mix, adding to the civilian casualty count. A local
activist reported: “The regime forces are shelling the camp with
mortars. They hit the emergency entrance for Palestine hospital. Some
civilians were killed from it.”
Earlier today in what was described as "Breaking News" Reuters
and the New York Times showed video
with footage uploaded to social
media that purports to show surface-to-surface missile launches by
Syrian regime forces targeting the Yarmouk refugee camp.
On Thursday, April 2, the day after IS entered Yarmouk, this urgent call to action
The IS attack came days before a deal to
ease the humanitarian situation for civilians in the camp was set to
come into operation.
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker said that
despite calls from the United Nations and activists, the Syrian
government was unlikely to open a humanitarian corridor for 18,000
civilians who are still in the camp.
"It is a complex situation. The government forces control the northern
part [of the camp] towards Damascus. It is their priority to keep the
capital safe," said Dekker. "The fact that ISIL fighters are less than
10km away is of a huge concern. If they allow a humanitarian corridor,
who will be coming out?"
There are reports that mosques are blaring calls for blood donations in
the areas surrounding the camp as hospitals received wounded civilians
Among the 18,000 civilians trapped in Yarmouk are 3500 children.
There are 560,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 Palestinian refugee
camps in Syria - 95%, or 480,000 have been unable to escape
and are still there in the midst of this horrific war.
In a detailed March 5 Guardian UK article
article by Jonathan Steel, he
described Yarmouk "as a refugee camp designed as a safe haven for the
Palestinian diaspora that had become the worst place on earth.
electricity for months. No piped water. No access for food. Worse
still, no chance for people to leave or return." Some called it
Syria’s Gaza, but its plight was even worse.
Yarmouk has been under a government-imposed blockade since
mid-2013. It grabbed international attention more than a year ago after
images emerged of emaciated children and gaunt adults wasting away
under the toll of the siege. (click for article
Baby Israa al-Masri died of a hunger-related illness on January 11, 2014 in the Yarmouk camp [AP]
The U.N. has said more than 100 people have died there from starvation
and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or lack of medical aid. Tests
conducted in 2014 on a random sample of patients found that 40% had
In October 2013, in a sign of how bad things had become, the imam of
Yarmouk’s largest mosque issued a fatwa that permitted people to eat
cats, dogs and donkeys.
Since 6 December, the siege has once again become impassable as UNRWA
reports that it has not been able to deliver any food at all.
Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees
described the situation in the camp before the attack as "beyond dire".
"Since July 2013 there has been an almost total siege, there's been almost no water, no electricity," he said.
"We have reports of women dying in childbirth through lack of medicines, we have reports of children starving to death."
UNWRA's website has a page called Save Yarmouk and these quotes under a heading Voices fr Yarmouk:
”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water,
heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood” –
Anas, Yarmouk resident.
"Most houses have no doors or windows, and in the snow storm life
became harder. We depend on radishes and lettuce and green things grown
in the camp, but those food items had frozen. The water pipe exploded
because of the snow." – Raed'a.
"There is no wood, we are burning furniture and clothes to keep warm.
People have burned their bedrooms, chairs, living rooms. We are burning
things which are not purely wood, which has caused many health
problems." - Ra'eda.
"The most difficult thing is when my kids get up in the morning and ask
for milk and bread and it is not available and I have to give them a
radish or some vegetable, and sometimes that is not available." – Mahd.
"At 7am I walk one kilometer to get water for my home. I usually spend
five hours a day collecting water, but I only collect water every five
days because it is only available every five days."
– Aziz, aged 10
The day after IS entered Yarmouk, prominent writer and journalist Juan Cole
wrote a blog
which provides essential historical context:
"On Wednesday, the extremist Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) group, known for its
brutal beheadings and mass murder, took over the Yarmouk Palestinian
refugee camp inside Damascus city limits. Palestinian women and
Christians and male secularists are at special risk now. Had they been
living normally in their homes in what is now Israel, with their own
state, they would not have been left vulnerable to this fate. Refugees
and stateless people not only have no courts or armies to defend their
rights, they are not even recognized as having the right to have rights.
The Israelis ethnically cleansed three fifths of the Palestinians of
British Mandate Palestine in 1947-48, creating enormous refugee crises
in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that roiled the
region through the subsequent decades and continue to contribute to
instability in the region. Some 70% of the Palestinians cooped up by
the Israelis in the open-door concentration camp called Gaza are
descendants of refugee families from what is now Israel, some living
only an hour’s walk from the homes that were stolen from them. Some 40%
of Palestinians in Gaza are still living in refugee camps, despite
Israeli direct rule 1967-2005.
Propagandists who excuse the ethnic cleansing campaign and the
continued explicit denial to Palestinians of the right of citizenship
in a state often maintain that it should have been possible for “the
Arabs” to “absorb” the Palestinians. But in international law, the
state that committed the ethnic cleansing is responsible for it and for
reparations, not the hapless neighbors on whom the refugees were
The Palestinians expelled by Israelis to Syria are a case in point.
They have grown through natural increase to some 400,000 (Syria’s
population is 23 million). Many of these Palestinians still live in
refugee camps. Among the more prominent is Yarmouk, a camp that had
until recently come to have 160,000 residents and now has only about
18,000. Palestinians are not Syrians and do not have Syrian
citizenship, but they were given substantial rights as residents in
None of that means anything now that the Syrian state is in collapse.
Some 90 percent of the population of Yarmouk has fled, caught in the
cross-fire of the civil war. with tens of thousands of refugees made
refugees all over again.
Does it mean anything for the displaced Palestinian victims of the Israelis that they are “Arabs” among Daesh murderers? Palestinians continue to suffer, not only under Israeli military
occupation, but wherever they are stateless refugees, open to the cruel
turns of fate that beset the powerless."
Amnesty International Report
Unlawful and deadly:
Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups
during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict
(Amnesty International, Vice News and Dore Stein)
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed war crimes during last summer's Operation Protective Edge,
which left more than 72 Israelis dead. The alleged crimes include
rocket fire that resulted in the deaths of six Israeli civilians,
including one child according to a March 26 report by Amnesty International (AI). (click above link for access to 68 pg. PDF file)
Protective Edge was an Israeli 51-day invasion into the Gaza Strip that
began on July 7, 2014. Israelis say it was an effort to stop rocket
fire; Palestinians say the rocket fire was a result of continued
ceasefire violations committed by the Israelis.
During the 'war on Gaza' (Dore Stein's phrase), Palestinian armed
groups responded by firing thousands of unguided rockets and mortars
towards Israel, in many cases directing them towards Israeli civilians
and civilian objects, in violation of international law according to
the Amnesty International report. These attacks killed six civilians in
Israel, wounded others, and damaged civilian property. The conduct of
Palestinian armed groups also endangered civilians in the Gaza Strip.
In one case, the available evidence according to Amnesty International,
indicates that a rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group on 28 July
2014 killed 11 children and two adults in the al-Shati refugee camp,
north-west of Gaza City. If the projectile which landed in the al-Shati
refugee camp is confirmed to be a Palestinian rocket, it would mean
that attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014
conflict killed more civilians inside the Gaza Strip than in Israel.
The Amnesty International report does not address the summary killings
of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by Hamas forces for alleged
“collaboration” with Israel during the July/August 2014 conflict, which
will be the subject of a forthcoming report.
Israeli forces also committed serious violations of international law
during the hostilities, but these are not the focus of this report.
Some of the Israeli violations, including attacks that constituted war
crimes, have been analysed in previous Amnesty International reports,
and additional reports will be published in the coming months.
Dore note: It's worth distinguishing that unlike the Palestinians who
fight with mostly crude unguided rockets, the Israeli Defense Forces
possess advanced weaponry such as precision guided bombs and missiles
yet still killed at least 1585 Gazan civilians including over 500
children and 300 women, and more than 11,000 Gazans werw injured
according to the Amnesty International report. It seems to me the IDF
either intentionally targeted the civilians or had really bad aim which
is hard to believe.
critical of Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, the Amnesty
International report clears Hamas of using the civilian population of
Gaza as human shields, an accusation commonly employed by Israeli
"There is no evidence of any use of Gazans as human shields by Hamas or
any other armed group," according to Deborah Hyams, an Amnesty
International researcher who contributed to the report.
Dore Note: Apparently Amnesty International did not deal with the
question of whether the Israeli Defense Forces used Palestinians as
human shields which has been reported and documented.
criticism of the Hamas government is that they do not build bomb
shelters for the residents of Gaza, a fact that many feel contributes
greatly to the lack of safe areas. VICE News asked Amnesty
International 's Hyams whether the lack of bomb shelters could be
attributed to Hamas policies, or the Israeli siege of Gaza.
"It's potentially both," the researcher began. "The siege has made all
construction difficult, not just in the area of bomb shelters." Hyams
went on to address the common criticism that Hamas builds tunnels
instead of shelters: "There's a point to be made there, but we aren't
necessarily criticizing the tunnels. If they aren't used to attack
civilian targets, they are a legitimate tactic. But if you can build
tunnels, why not build shelters?"
Israel's Operation Protection Edge brought an unprecedented level of
death, destruction, damage, and injury to the occupied Gaza Strip. More
than seven years of Israeli blockade, imposed in June 2007 after Hamas
took over Palestinian governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip, had
already inflicted a severe cumulative toll on infrastructure, health
systems, and all aspects of life in the territory. The 1.8 million
Palestinians squeezed into the Strip could not leave, as the borders
were sealed and no place inside the Strip was truly safe. There are no
bomb shelters or warning systems to help protect civilians in the Gaza
Strip. At the height of the hostilities according to the report an
estimated 485,000 people had fled to UN schools, government schools,
and other public buildings, or were staying with relatives, but several
UN schools sheltering displaced civilians came under attack.
Dore note: Assessing blame for attacks on U.N. schools was not part of this report. However, Human Rights Watch investigated three attacks on Gaza schools which occurred on July 24 and 30, and August 3, 2014, that killed 45 people, including 17 children.
the Israeli side, bomb shelters, advanced warning systems, and Israel’s
Iron Dome missile defence system helped limit civilian casualties in
many areas. However, the conflict provided renewed evidence that
vulnerable communities in Israel, particularly Bedouin villages in
Israel’s southern Negev/Naqab region, many of which are not officially
recognized by the Israeli government, lacked protection. On both
sides, civilians once again bore the brunt of the third full-scale war
in less than six years.
Dore note: I'm not sure how Amnesty International draws the conclusion
that on both sides civilians bore the brunt of casualties.
According to the report, 66/72 Israeli deaths were members of the
Israeli Defense Forces. The report sources the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), confirms over 2,250
people were killed in the Gaza Strip, at least 1,585 of whom were
civilians, including 538 children and 306 women. More than 11,000
Palestinians were injured, up to 10% of them permanently. It is obvious
the Gazans bore the brunt of the third full-scale war in less than six
years, as they always do.
the Israeli nor the Palestinian authorities have conducted credible,
independent investigations meeting international standards following
previous conflicts, and those responsible for violations have
consistently escaped accountability. Since the 2014 conflict, Israel’s
investigations into the actions of its forces have once again been
conducted by the Israeli military itself, and there is no indication
that the Palestinian authorities are investigating violations by
Palestinian armed groups.
"To date, the situation with domestic investigations on both sides is
not looking good. Israeli investigations are conducted by the Israeli
military, and there's a huge conflict of interest there,"
Amnesty International researcher Hyams declared, criticizing Israel's
method of inquiry. "On the Palestinian side, we just don't know of any
investigations into alleged crimes," she concluded.
An independent commission of inquiry established to investigate all
violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) “in the context of the
military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before,
during or after” is due to report to the UN Human Rights Council in
June 2015. Amnesty International has consistently urged both the
Israeli and Palestinian authorities to co-operate with the UN
Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict. Israel’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in November 2014 that Israel
would not co-operate with the Commission, and the Israeli authorities
have refused to grant its investigators access to Israel or the OPT.
pattern of impunity for serious violations and crimes, as well as
evidence that both sides were committing further crimes during
Operation Protective Edge, led Amnesty International to call for an
International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into crimes under
international law committed in Israel and the OPT. Palestine’s
accession to the ICC, which will take effect on 1 April 2015, and its
submission of a declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction from 13
June 2014, are important steps towards justice for victims on both
Dore note: The Amnesty International report fails to point out that
Israel and the United States are not signatories to the Rome Statute of
the International Criminal Court and as such have no legal obligations
resulting from ICC rulings.
Amnesty International acknowledges In the Methodology portion of the
report that it has been unable to send a delegation of researchers,
including military experts, to visit the Gaza Strip since the beginning
of Operation Protection Edge in July 2014. The Israeli
authorities have refused, up to the time of finalizing this report,
more than six months after the hostilities ended, to allow Amnesty
International and researchers from other international human rights
organizations to enter the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing with
Israel, despite the organization’s repeated requests since before the
beginning of the conflict. The Egyptian authorities have also not
granted Amnesty International permission to enter the Gaza Strip
through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, again despite the organization’s
Amnesty International has consequently had to carry out research in the
Gaza Strip remotely, supported by two fieldworkers based in Gaza.
Among several report recommendations, one conclusion states "Israeli
authorities should completely lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip,
including permitting the unrestricted transfer of construction
materials into the Gaza Strip and the transfer of goods from Gaza to
Israel and the West Bank, subject only to necessary and proportionate
security checks, as an essential step towards addressing the shelter
and protection needs
To mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which commences on the first day of spring, President Obama released a video greeting
to the Iranian people. “For decades, our nations have been separated by
mistrust and fear,” he said. “Now it is early spring. We have a
chance—a chance—to make progress that will benefit our countries, and
the world, for many years to come.” The message was pegged to the tough
diplomatic endgame over a deal to prevent Iran from making a nuclear
bomb. The deadline for the negotiations is March 30th.
By now, Secretary of State John Kerry has almost certainly spent more
time with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, than with any
other foreign minister in the world. Unofficial relations between the
two countries seem closer today than they have been at any time since
the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran.
The tenor of the negotiators’ personal relationships was evident after
news reports announced the death of Sakineh Peivandi. She is the mother
of the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and of his brother Hossein
Fereydoun, who is one of the negotiators. Kerry and Secretary of
Energy Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who recently joined the
American negotiating team, paid a condolence call on Fereydoun in
Lausanne. In a press statement, Kerry said, “We share in their grief .
. . and we keep their family in our thoughts.”
An Iranian news agency released several pictures of the visit. In one,
Kerry and the President’s brother are walking toward each other with
open arms, about to embrace.
These images and others, which would have been considered treasonous in Tehran not long ago, were widely shared on social media.
Serious obstacles remain, Obama noted in his video greeting. They are
said to primarily concern Iran’s nuclear research and development
programs and the terms for lifting the punitive international sanctions
imposed on Iran over the past decade.
More troubling, the United States and France are split: France insists
that Iran disclose all past military research and development
activities that could be used to build a warhead to deliver a
weapon and that sanctions be lifted in slower phases.
A potential deal faces even bigger challenges down the road. In his
video message, Obama said, “There are people, in both our countries and
beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you—the
people of Iran—is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we
Senators Bob Corker, a Republican, and Robert Menendez and Tim Kaine,
both Democrats, introduced a bill this month that would require Obama
to submit the text to Congress for review. More than three hundred
House members sent a letter to the White House this week demanding that
any permanent sanctions relief require new legislation.
Senator Lindsey Graham warned Thursday that he would move to suspend
U.S. funding of the United Nations if it moved to lift sanctions on
Iran before receiving congressional approval. And two Republican House
members, Peter Roskam and Lee Zeldin, asked colleagues to co-sign a
letter to Obama threatening to cut off funding for the negotiations.
Near the end of his video message, Obama quoted the fourteenth-century
Persian poet Hafez on the joys of a new season, and said, “This moment
may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic
opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully—an opportunity we should
not miss.” Getting an agreement from the Iranians may prove easier than
winning approval in Washington.
The New Yorker article does not mention that 47 Republican Senators who at minimum violated the spirit of the Logan Act
by sending an open letter to Iran's leaders warning them that they’ll
reverse any nuclear deal Iran signs with President Obama's
administration after he leaves office.
The aim was to sabotage the negotiations.
This letter may be a violation of federal law, breach of national security, and sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.
The Logan Act is a law that's been on the books since 1799. Although
laws are more than their written words and must be viewed with context
and precedent in mind, here is what it states:
"Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who,
without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly
commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any
foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to
influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any
officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies
with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three
years, or both."
If you believe the Logan Act has been violated, here is a petition
can sign. It demands these Senators be charged with violating the Logan
Act for attempting to sabotage negotiations with Iran.
B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
March 8, 2015International Women’s Day
States of combat and human rights
violations have a distinctive impact on women. It is important that we
hear their voices. In honor of International Women’s Day we asked
Palestinian women to interview other Palestinian women about their
hopes, dreams and sources of inspiration.
March 4, 2015Civil Administration demolishes ‘Ein Karzaliyah
for the second time this winter
Israeli authorities demolished all
structures in Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah in the northern Jordan Valley,
for the second time this year. Bulldozers raked the dirt road leading
to the community, preventing access by car. This cruel harassment of a
particularly vulnerable population is part of Israel’s policy aimed at
displacing thousands of Palestinians from communities throughout Area
C. B'Tselem urges Israel to allow residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah
to remain where they have lived and grazed their flocks for 25 years
March 2, 2015
Soldier’s video of military dog attack on a Palestinian boy published
today. The media reports that the military stated it would investigate
the incident and take measures to prevent its recurrence. However, the
attack was part of an official military operation which was likely
approved by the senior command. MAG Corps has yet to respond to
B’Tselem’s demand for an end to the policy of dog attacks on
Feb 26, 2015What would it take for the authorities to stop olive tree vandals rampaging in the Southern Hebron hills?
In the past two months vandals destroyed
Palestinian olive groves in four locations in the Southern Hebron
hills, near the settlements Susiya and Mitzpe Yair. All incidents
occurred only several hundred meters apart, under the nose of the
Police and army, who appear to have not lifted a finger to stop this
Feb 23, 2015
Civil Administration dismantles, confiscates
water pipes in Khirbet Yarza, Jordan Valley
On 29 Jan. 2015, the Civil
Administration dismantled water pipes recently installed for the small
shepherding community of Khirbet Yarza in the Jordan Valley and
confiscated the parts. Before the installation, the community relied on
rainwater and private water purchase. This is one measure of several
taken by Israeli authorities to displace thousands of Palestinians
living in Area C. As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel must
allow residents to maintain their lifestyle, permit them to build
legally, and provide them water and electricity.
Feb 15, 2015
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah:
Israeli authorities continue persecution of a tiny community in Jordan Valley
Khirbet 'Ein Karzaliyah is a tiny
community of 24, including 14 minors, who live off farming and
shepherding in the Jordan Valley. Israeli authorities have repeatedly
attempted to expel the community from their place of residence and have
repeatedly demolished their homes, as part of a decades-long policy to
expel thousands of Palestinians living in dozens of shepherding
communities scattered throughout Area C. On 22 January 2015, bulldozers
again demolished all the community’s structures, for the fourth time
since January 2014. ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the
Jordan Valley, documented the trail of destruction the bulldozers left
behind on 22 Jan.
Feb 9, 2015Israel’s High Court of Justice to state:
Demolish nine structures in the settlement of Ofra
In a dramatic ruling, Israel's High
Court of Justice accepted a petition filed by Palestinians from the
West Bank village of 'Ein Yabrud together with Israeli human rights
organizations B'Tselem and Yesh Din, and instructed the state to carry
out demolition orders issued for nine structures built for the
settlement of Ofra on the villagers' land. Most other structures in the
settlement were also unlawfully built on privately-owned Palestinian
land, without permits. B'Tselem welcomes the ruling but notes that the
overall picture remains unchanged: Israel has been taking over
Palestinian land in the West Bank for years, whether by gaining control
of private land or by appropriating public land for settlement use
under the guise of 'state land'.
Feb 8, 2015
Video: Khuza'a, the Gaza Strip, Jan. 2015
Safiyeh a-Najar from Khuza'a describes
life after Operation Protective Edge in a 1:49 video. The town of
Khuza'a lies in south Gaza, about 500 meters from the Israeli border.
The town council listed some 15,000 residents before the operation, in
about 2,000 homes. Residents told B’Tselem that on 22 July 2014, 2 days
after ground forces entered Gaza, the town was heavily attacked and
many fled to schools in nearby Khan Yunis. The UN listed 556 homes
damaged, 336 of them destroyed. Many residents still live in UN
schools, trailers, or with relatives. Some, like a-Najar's family, are
living in rough conditions among ruins.
Safiyeh a-Najar is a Palestinian mother
of 8. In the video she invites the camera person into her bombed out
home. I transcribed some of her words: "We are suffering greatly
from the winter's cold. Our house is ruined. It's inhumane the way
we're living. We didn't sleep last night. We kept a fire going
all night. I had sheep. I had olive trees. It's all been ruined.
Everything is in God's hands. I don't want anything, just to have my
home back the way it was."
Jan 28, 2015
Full 63 pg report: (pdf)
Click for summary
On Wednesday, 28 January 2015 B’Tselem
published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings
in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
The report addresses one of the
appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in
which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter
of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again
Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single
instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives
mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its
intention to harm Israeli civilians. In contrast, the Israeli
government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza.
Is that the case?
Jan 18, 2015
Military steps up use of live 0.22 inch bullets
against Palestinian stone-throwers
Recent months have seen a dramatic rise
in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets in
clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this
ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of
protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young
Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one
Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national
who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets.
The military commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai,
confirmed that the military had adopted a policy of firing live
ammunition at stone-throwers.
Mali's main rebel group asks for delay on peace dealTuareg rebel alliance says it has asked for "reasonable delay"
for consultations before signing.
(Al Jazeera/AFP, 3/1/15)Worries over Mali peace
(Matthaei, Katrin, Yaya Konate, (Deutsche Welle 3/6/15)
The Malian government has signed a peace agreement with some northern
rebel groups but the main Tuareg armed coalition asked for more time to
consult its grassroots.
The main members of the alliance, the National Movement for the
Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MMA) now
have a difficult task ahead of them. Azawad is a term that supporters
of independence use to refer to the vast expanse of northern Mali, an
area three times as big as France. The task will be difficult because
their base comprises a variety of ethnic groups and very diverse
players. In the eyes of some Tuareg clans and armed groups, the
negotiators are returning home empty-handed. In the course of the
negotiations, they had to give up their most important demand for broad
autonomy or a federal structure.
It is very difficult for the rebels to succeed in convincing the
majority of the fighters to accept the agreement, Paul Melly of the
Chatham House think tank in London told DW. "There are lots of young
men, many of whom have taken up arms. There are not really very many
job opportunities in the far north - the formal economy is quite
limited." In the far north, he said, many rebels made a living
smuggling drugs or arms via Algeria. The lucrative business would be
jeopardized if the central government regained control over the area.
Rinaldo Depagne of the International Crisis Group also sees the
representatives of rebels in a difficult position. "Either they sign
against the will of a major part of the population, or they don't sign
and are held responsible by the international community for the failure
of the agreement," he told DW. If they refused to sign the agreement,
they would also alienate Algeria, the most important regional player.
The deal provides for the transfer of a raft of powers from Bamako to
the north, a large swath of territory the Tuareg refer to as "Azawad".
Algeria and the United Nations have led mediation talks in the capital
Algiers since last July between ministers and six armed rebel groups
amid a surge in violence that threatened to jeopardise the peace
The armed organisations which took part are dominated by Tuareg and
Arabs, however, and no "jihadist" group was invited to the dialogue.
Tuareg separatists have spawned several rebellions in the north since the 1960s [EPA]
In northern Mali, music silenced
Fighters linked to al-Qaeda seized control of northern Mali for more
than nine months until a French-led military intervention launched in
2013 partly drove them from the region.
The 30-page "Agreement for Peace and reconciliation in Mali from the
Algiers Process", seen by the AFP news agency calls for "reconstruction
of the country's national unity" in a manner that "respects its
territorial integrity and takes account of its ethnic and cultural
The draft deal proposes "greater representation of the northern populations in national institutions".
as Islamists drive out artists(Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, 11/30/2012)
Khaira Arby, one of Africa’s most
celebrated musicians, has performed all over the world, but there is
one place she cannot visit: her native city of Timbuktu, a place
steeped in history and culture but now ruled by religious extremists.
The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali
(Andy Morgan, thinkafricapress, 2/6/2012)
The Crisis in Mali:
One day, they broke into Arby’s house and destroyed her instruments.
Her voice was a threat to Islam, they said, even though one of her most
popular songs praised Allah.
“They told my neighbors that if they ever caught me, they would cut my tongue out,” said Arby, sadness etched on her broad face.
Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland.
A Historical Perspective on the Tuareg People(Devon DB, Glboal Research 2/1/2013)
The Tuareg are a people that have lived
in northern Mali as early as the fifth century BCE. After establishing
the city of Timbuktu in the 11th century, the Tuareg traded, traveled,
and conquered throughout Saharan over the next four centuries,
eventually converting to Islam in the 14th century, which allowed them
to gain great wealth. This independence was swept away when the French
colonized Mali when they defeated the Tuareg at Timbuktu and
established borders and administrative districts to rule the area until
Mali declared independence in 1960. The Tuareg people have consistently
wanted self-independence and in pursuit of such goals have engaged in a
number of rebellions.
Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad
The first was in 1916 when, in response to the French not giving the
Tuareg their own autonomous zone (called Azawad) as was promised, they
revolted. The French violently quelled the revolt and subsequently
confiscated important grazing lands while using Tuaregs as forced
conscripts and labor – and fragmented Tuareg societies through the
drawing of arbitrary boundaries between what is now Mali and its
This did not end the Tuareg goal of an independent, sovereign state.
Once the French had ceded Mali independence, the Tuareg began to push
toward their dream of establishing Azawad once again.
However, Modibo Keita, Mali’s first President, made it clear that independent Mali would not cede its northern territories.
The Tuareg were greatly oppressed by the government of Modibo Keita, as
they were singled out for particular discrimination, and were more
neglected than others in the distribution of state benefits.
between Israeli secret service and Netanyahu revealed in documents
shared with the Guardian and Al Jazeera along with other secrets
including CIA bids to contact Hamas
• Read the leaked document here
(Seumas Milne, Ewen MacAskill and Clayton Swisher, The Guardian UK, 2/23/15)
Mossad contradicted Netanyahu
on Iran Nuclear Programme
Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after Netanyahu sounded alarm at UN in 2012.
(Will Jordan, Rahul Radhakrishnan, Al Jazeera, 2/23/15)
Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic
declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away
from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service,
according to a top-secret Mossad document.
A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit and shared
with the Guardian UK newspaoper reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret
cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a "bottom
line" assessment of Iran's nuclear work.
It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from
the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks
in recent times.
The secret report stated Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad concluded that Iran was “not
performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report
highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top
Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and
Media reports and public comments by senior current and former
officials have frequently indicated dissent from within Israel's
security services over Netanyahu's alarmist messaging on Iran.
Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of
nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic's scientists
are "working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as
Such activities, however, "will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given".
That view tracks with the 2012 US National Intelligence estimate, which
found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its
nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived
efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in
The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest
ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned
address to the US Congress on 3 March.
The White House fears the Israeli leader’s anticipated inflammatory
rhetoric could damage sensitive negotiations between Tehran and the
world’s six big powers over Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to
agree on a framework is in late March, with the final settlement to
come on 30 June. Netanyahu has vowed to block an agreement he claims
would give Iran access to a nuclear weapons capability.
President Obama will not meet Netanyahu during his visit, saying
protocol precludes a meeting so close to next month’s general election
The papers include details of operations against al-Qaida, Islamic State and also the targeting of environmental activists.
The files reveal that:
• South Korean intelligence targeted the leader of Greenpeace.
• Barack Obama “threatened” the Palestinian president to withdraw a bid for recognition of Palestine at the UN.
• The CIA attempted to establish contact with Hamas in spite of a US ban.
The cache mainly involves exchanges between South Africa’s intelligence
agency and its counterparts around the world. One of the biggest hauls
is from Mossad.
The Mossad briefing about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2012 was in stark
contrast to the alarmist tone set by Netanyahu, who has long presented
the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat to Israel and a
huge risk to world security. The Israeli prime minister told the UN:
“By next spring,
at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have
finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From
there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get
enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
He said his information was not based on
secret information or military intelligence but International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.
Loud calls to action
Behind the scenes, Mossad took a different view.
The report states that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich
uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. Iran has
always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy
ast week, Netanyahu’s office repeated the claim that “Iran is closer
than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb” in a
statement in response to an
Mossad had been at odds with Netanyahu
on Iran before. The former Mossad chief
Meir Dagan, who left office in December 2010, let it be known that he had opposed
an order from Netanyahu to prepare a military attack on Iran.
The spy chief said it would be a "stupid idea" to attack Iran before
other options were considered. "An attack on Iran before you are
exploring all other approaches is not the right way," Dagan had said.
His comments would likely have been informed by his former agency's analysis reflected in the document obtained by Al Jazeera.
Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by
Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of
military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet,
Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of “messianic”
political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and
the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue.
follow murder of young Turkish woman
(Selin Girit, BBC 2/19/15)
The murder of student Ozgecan Aslan has led to protests in Turkey (EPA)
Ms Aslan's murder comes amid a dramatic rise in violence against women in Turkey (BBC)
The 20-year-old was killed on public transport as she made her way home (AFP/Getty)
Turkey has been mourning the murder of a young woman for the last week.
Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old psychology student, was stabbed in a
minibus while resisting a rape attempt on her way home. Her
bodywas found burned and dismembered. Three men have been arrested in
connection with her murder.
Not long after this incident, another woman's dismembered body was
found dumped in a bin. Her husband of 17 years admitted to the murder.
Women's rights organisations have for years been trying to raise
awareness about the rise in violence against women that has taken place
in the last decade.
According to local reports, between 2003 and 2010 there had been a 1,400% increase.
Many women think that this is linked to
the policies or rhetoric of the governing party in Turkey, which has
its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Feminist lawyer Hulya Gulbahar says the murder of Ms Aslan is the last
straw. "The government is constantly making
propagandist statements such as 'women and men being different by
nature' or 'motherhood being the sacred role of women'. So we are
facing a political violence here," she argues.
President Erdoğan has tried to introduce laws to curb abortion and has
also advised women to have at least three children. Turkey's
Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, commented last year that women
should not laugh out loud in public. Last month, Health Minister
Mehmet Muezzinoglu said: "The best career for women is motherhood."
In Turkey, most women's murders are perpetrated by their partners or ex-partners.
Asking for a divorce is one of the main causes leading to murder. However, women get killed for it seems for any reason.
Recent court cases include putting too much salt in food, answering a
phone call too late, wearing leggings, looking for a job or having a
The circumstances of Özgecan Aslan's death have prompted a wave
of empathy both on the streets and social media. Many men
thought: "It could have been my daughter, my wife or my girlfriend."
That prompted a wave of empathy. Both on the streets and on social media.
Ms Aslan's name appeared more than four million times on Twitter.
Women started sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse and
Hulya Gulbahar says that Ms Aslan's murder might be a watershed moment in their struggle to prevent violence against women.
"This society always finds excuses to justify the rape and murder of
women. But now there is no excuse to whitewash the murder. "Women
and men from all political backgrounds have been protesting since
Ozgecan's death. I think this gives a hopeful message for Turkey."
Turkish women share
stories of abuse
(Gemma Newby Blog, BBC, 2/17/15)
The attempted rape and murder of a young woman has electrified social media in Turkey.
Turkey rallies over murder of woman
And now hundreds of thousands of women are sharing their own stories of sexual abuse.
who 'resisted rape'
(Selin Girit, BBC, 2/15/15)
Thousands of people in Turkey have
protested the murder of a young woman who allegedly resisted an attempt
by a bus driver to rape her.
Turkish President Erdoğan slams women
Police discovered the burnt body of Ozgecan Aslan, 20, in a riverbed in
the city of Mersin, on Friday. They have arrested three men in
connection with her death - a minibus driver, his father and a friend.
Ms Aslan, a psychology student, was kidnapped on Wednesday on her way home.
The driver allegedly tried to rape her. She reportedly fought him off
with pepper spray, but was then stabbed to death. She was also hit on
the head with an iron pipe. The brutality of the murder caused an
outcry across Turkey.
At the protest was a gender studies academic who would only give her
first name, Zeynep. She thought Ms Aslan's murder was of a political
"It is the result of the radical Islamic atmosphere created by the
government. The men say that women should be conservative. They think
if they are not conservative, they deserve this kind of violence," she
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Women's rights organisations say violence against women has risen
sharply in the last decade. Last year alone, almost 300 women
were killed at the hands of men and more than 100 were raped, according
to local reports.
protesting Özgecan’s murder by dancing
(Hurriet Daily News, 2/16/15)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has
harshly criticized some women’s organizations who have protested the
killing of Özgecan Aslan by dancing, saying it was not a part of
Turkey president Erdoğan:
What place does this have in our culture? It’s like enjoying death,”
Erdoğan said in his first public response to the murder of Özgecan
Aslan on Feb. 16.
He was referring to a protest held by a group of women, including Aylin
Nazlıaka, a woman lawmaker from the ranks of the Republican People’s
Party (CHP), who took part in an event to raise their voices against
rape, sexual harassment and violence against women by singing songs and
dancing on Feb. 14.
Women are not equal to men
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has said women cannot be treated as equal to men, and has accused
feminists of rejecting motherhood.
The ugly truth about Israel's actions in Gaza
(Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2/5/15)
Haaretz requires registration
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," he told a meeting in Istanbul. "It is against nature."
Smoke, dust and debris rise over Gaza City after an Israeli strike on August 8, 2014,
during the 51-day Operation Protective Edge. Photo by AP
(mostly from Gideon Levy opinion piece)
What a huge diplomatic achievement:
Israel has succeeded in getting the Canadian law professor William
Schabas to resign from his post as head of a UN inquiry panel into
potential war crimes in Gaza.
Through persistent surveillance, Israel’s intelligence and propaganda
branches revealed that Schabas had once received a $1,300 fee from the
PLO. Conclusion: he sold his soul to the devil.
Professor Schabas, regarded as an authority on international law, said
it had not occurred to him that having been paid $1,300 by the P.L.O.,
for consulting on the statute of the International Criminal Court,
would be an issue. “I wrote a small paper of a technical nature,” he
said. “I do this all the time. I’ve acted for all kinds of governments
and organizations and individuals.”
The professor also said that he had been subjected to a stream of vulgar and violent emails and several death threats.
One needs a great deal of chutzpah and arrogance to dig anew into the
pasts of Israel’s critics in an effort to assassinate their character,
as in the case of Richard Goldstone, merely because they dared to
criticize the state. As far as Israel is concerned, the fate of anyone
who criticizes the country is sealed. He’s an anti-Semite,
anti-Israeli, greedy or driven by ulterior motives.
In Israel’s eyes there’s no such thing as conscientious individuals who
are genuinely and truly shocked by its acts. As far as Israel is
concerned, there are no justice-seeking people of law, or simply decent
ordinary people, who were aghast at what it did in the Gaza Strip last
But the truth is just the opposite.
It was impossible not to be
appalled by what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did in Gaza last
summer — unless you’re a propagandist, a liar or a racist. In any case,
it’s impossible to support Israel in view of what it is doing to the
Palestinians. Nor is there a way to be an international law expert and
sympathize with what Israel is doing.
Professor Schabas, the commission and a 12-member staff proceeded with
their work, albeit forced to hear witnesses and experts in Geneva and
Jordan because Israel refused to allow the investigating teams to visit
Israel or the occupied West Bank. They could not enter Gaza from Egypt
because of the deteriorating security situation in northern Sinai.
report (click for 49 pg PDF file report)
released last week (“Black Flag: the legal and moral implications of
attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, summer 2014”)
recounted what had so rapidly been forgotten: war crimes.
B’Tselem investigated 70 cases of bombarding residential buildings, in
which 606 people were killed in their homes or near them, over 70
percent of them children, women and elderly people. The mind boggles.
The most moral army in its most immoral spectacle yet, with the
missiles aimed at buildings’ rooftops and all its “warnings.”
The victims’ blood is crying out. But not in Israel. Here the
propaganda and media have done their job. In the election campaign
there’s no mention of the most important event in the outgoing
government’s term. Even the opposition dares not mention it. The
(centre-left political alliance ) the Zionist Camp
it would have done the same (“in the war on terror there’s no coalition
and opposition,” Zionist Camp candidate Isaac Herzog said last week).
Even the fate of 20,000 people who still remain homeless, about half a
year after the bombardment, in Gaza’s winter, is of no concern to
anyone here. They’re Palestinians.
Soon the report of the panel without Schabas will be released. It won’t
be “balanced,” as Israeli propaganda is demanding, because the
situation is far from being balanced. The five Israeli citizens and 67
soldiers who were killed will likely be mentioned in it, as will the
thousands of rockets fired at Israelis. But even with the panel’s new,
“balanced” head, the report will mention that in the summer of 2014
Israel committed atrocities beyond all proportion in the Gaza Strip.
There’s just no other fair way to describe it.
Professor William Schabas’ resignation from his post as head of the UN
panel to investigate the war in Gaza is seen in Israel, inexplicably,
as a huge diplomatic achievement. Now, Israel believes, it will be
treated in a more balanced way by the panel’s new head, Mary
McGowan-Davis, who once wrote a more agreeable report about Israel.
But what is the importance of a more balanced inquiry leader, as long as Israel refuses to cooperate with the inquiry panel?
Israel’s main argument is against the United Nations’ double standard
in investigating its deeds. The state claims that as long as the United
Nations is not investigating states like Syria or North Korea, it
should not make demands of Israel.
But a state that frequently compares itself to European states and to
the United States cannot hold both ends of the stick. A state that
wants to be treated like a Western state must respect the international
institutions, rather than place itself in line with the most abominable
states to demand “justice.”
Israel’s position regarding the UN inquiry would have gained more
legitimacy had it tried to speed up its own investigations into
Operation Protective Edge, including those launched by the Knesset’s
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the state comptroller. But
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee suspended its inquiry.
Geerdink: Dutch journalist facing five years in prison in Turkey for
'terrorist propaganda' after highlighting the struggle of the Kurds
(Chris Green, The Independent UK, 2/3/15)
Dutch journalist says she is doing her job. Turkey says she is helping terrorists
includes audio interview w/ Frederick Geerdink
(PRI's The World, 2/6/15)
Turkey indicts Dutch reporter
over PKK 'terror propaganda'
(Umut Uras, Al Jazeera, 2/3/15)
In Washington, Turkish minister highlights
press freedom, bans critical journalists
(Mahir Zeybnalov, Today's Zaman, 2/6/15)
combined excerpt from above headlined stories:
Frederike Geerdink, a Dutch
journalist based in southeastern Turkey has been officially indicted by
Turkish prosecutors for spreading "terrorist propaganda" on social
media. The charge refers to tweets
posts as well as her weekly column on Diken
, an independent Turkish news website.
Geerdink is charged with spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
that has been fighting against the Turkish state since mid-1980s. She is facing one to five years in prison.
In the past years, many local journalists, mostly ones with Kurdish origins, have been arrested under the same law.
Dore note: According to the Comittee to Protect Journalists, Turkey was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013. China was number one in 2014.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed “there is no
freer press, in Europe or elsewhere in the world, than in Turkey”.
Geerdink settled in Istanbul in 2006
before moving to Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s predominantly
Kurdish south-east, where she has documented the Kurds’ struggles.
Geerdink says she's essentially being charged for doing her job as a
President Erdogan claims press in Turkey
To date, the long-running insurgency by PKK militants demanding greater
autonomy in Turkey has left an estimated 40,000 people dead. A
ceasefire with Turkey was agreed in 2012, but talks have stalled in
recent months. Ms Geerdink said that as a journalist, the subject was
too important for her ignore.
“I’ve always been interested in identity issues – I think that’s
eventually what human rights boil down to,” Geerdink said. “The Kurdish
issue is the biggest that Turkey has, it is the country’s biggest
problem, so for a journalist it’s very relevant.
"For the Kurds, they have not been able to live their identity for more than a century now, being suppressed.”
The rub is in how Turkey views Kurdistan. "Now, 'Kurdistan' is not an
official country," Geerdink notes, "but Kurdistan is known for a
struggle for human rights that is going on here. And this struggle is
framed in Turkey as 'terrorism.'"
Geerdink claims she's the first Western journalist since the 1990s to face this kind
of government action. Part of the problem, she says, may be that she
started writing in Turkish in the past year, and not just in English
and her native Dutch. "And that is getting on the state's nerves."
Some might be tempted to return home rather than face the prospect of
spending years in a Turkish jail. But Ms Geerdink said she has no
intention of leaving and intends to fight her case – which may drag on
for more than a year – as a matter of principle.
“I hope it will draw more attention to the Kurdish issue,” she said.
“Everybody is supporting me, but today 16 Kurds were taken into custody
for putting a table on the street and starting a signature campaign for
the freedom of [the jailed PKK founder] Abdullah Ocalan.
“This is happening every day in the south-east of Turkey, and it
doesn’t get a lot of attention. This anti-terrorism law is being
misused on a very, very big scale.”
is freer than anywhere else in the world
(Ben Tufft, the Independent UK, 12/14/14)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claimed “nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey”.
Mr Erdogan defended his regime's record on press freedom stating that
"the press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders,
defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even
in democratic countries."
Recently a 16-year-old boy was arrested when he read a statement
critical of the ruling AK party and the president, implicating him in
corruption. It was claimed the teenager had "insulted" the president.
The boy was released pending a trial, but could face up to four years in jail if convicted.
Johann Bihr, a spokesman from Reporters Without Borders
, (pdf file, see pg 8)
said "Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in our 2014 Press Freedom Index.
Kurdish victory in Kobane defeat for Turkish policy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressly
ruled out the northern Iraq model for Syria's Kurds.
(comprehensive analysis by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor.com, 1/29/15)
People gather to celebrate in the Kurdish-dominated city of Diyarbakir
in southeastern Turkey
after Kurdish forces took control of the Syrian
town of Kobani, Jan. 27, 2015.
(photo by Reuters/Sertac Kayar)
Rift between PM, President grows
following Kobane statement
(Today's Zaman, 1/26/15)
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's recent
praise for Kurds who resisted an armed siege by the Islamic State
in the Syrian border town of Kobani has been taken as a sign of a
growing conflict with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who claims that
any sympathy and assistance for Kurdish groups fighting in Syria amount
to support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Kobane is liberated from Islamic State Siege
(Opinion by Dore Stein, 1/27/15)
(Spelled Kobane in Kurdish regions and Kobani in the West)
Tom Bowmans's report on Kobane
(3:55, click above to listen)
During September and October of 2014 Gaza Corner
focused on the siege of Kobane where the Islamic State was poised to commit a genocidal Kurdish massacre.
After a 134 day siege, Kobane was liberated on January 26. This
was a result of sustained US air strikes and determined resistance from
the disciplined Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Kurds practice an egalitarian society unlike any place I
know. People are treated as equals. There are no gender or class
distinctions. There is religious tolerance. This victory is a watershed
moment in Kurdish history. The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples
of this region and the largest stateless people in the world.
The destruction in Kobane resembles what happened to Gaza over the
summer. Refugees cannot return to Kobane in meaningful numbers because
of a lack of food, medicine, housing, electricity etc. World powers and
humanitarian agencies are needed to assist the rebuilding of
Kobane. Turkey should not block humanitarian corridors as it has
done in the past.
Contrary to a report from NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman
during All Things Considered on January 27, the significance of
Kobane surviving as a Kurdish canton cannot be overstated.
At the end of the interview, Tom Bowman concludes with the statement: "...hundreds of air strikes for a small town."
Is Bowman suggesting this 'small town' did not justify the large commitment of US air strikes?
This 'small town' Kobane had served as a last refuge for Syrians of all
faiths fleeing IS and the Syrian military. Its population more
than doubled to a half million as desperate Syrians from Raqqa, Homs
and elsewhere sought safe haven in Kobane.
When IS captured Mosul during the summer
and acquired a vast array of modern American heavy weaponry, the
calculus changed. The US re-entered Iraq militarily and started bombing
IS which forced a strategic retreat into Syria. IS had previously tried
to capture Kobane but had been rebuffed for two years. But with their
newly acquired massive weaponry, IS set their sights on Kobane again.
Capturing Kobane was more than symbolic as it would enable IS to
control much of the Syrian/Iraqi 510 km border with Turkey.
IS faced stiff resistance once again. Because of its military advantage, IS eventually controlled a majority of Kobane.
A genocidal massacre was imminent as Kobane was nearing collapse.
The Kurds were running out of food and ammunition. The US had
turned a blind eye up until that point. But at that moment the US
strategy changed 180 degrees. An air strike campaign was initiated to
assist the tenacious Kurdish fighters. US C-130 cargo
planes also dropped desperately needed aid and weapons.
Why the change?
Remember IS had been acquiring territory at a frightening pace and had
not faced meaningful resistance. IS already occupied Mosul and Raqqa.
Yet the Kurds had fought off IS with mostly rifles against tanks,
rockets and mortars for more than a month.
The US noticed.
The US needs competent fighting forces
on the ground in Syria and Iraq. The Kurds are an obvious choice to be
part of the answer.
The US already witnessed the Syrian Kurdish militias YPG and (female)
YPJ, and the PKK secure a human corridor for the initial rescue of the
Yezidis off Sinjar Mountain in Iraq. This is something the Iraqi army
and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga were not able to do.
The US did not publicly credit the Kurds for the initial Yezdi rescue
because of not wanting to offend Turkey who considers the PKK and their
Syrian cousins terrorists. When Turkey joined NATO, the US and EU
obliged Turkey by adding the PKK to the global terrorist list. The PKK
has launched attacks inside Turkey for 30+ years due to Turkey's
oppression of the Kurds since the creation of Turkey.
The Kurdish struggle has nothing to do with the US or the EU.
'Terrorist' is a manipulated label in geopolitical linguistics.
All indigenous resistance movements are labelled terrorist by the
governments they oppose. American revolutionaries who founded the
United States were considered terrorists by the British and so it goes.
Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter & Fergusion Reps
Take Historic Trip to Palestine
The decision to assist the Kurds in
Kobane with air strikes was also helped by sympathetic Western media
coverage which is enamored with Kobane's egalitarian society and female
Turkey did nothing to prevent the fall of Kobane until late in the
siege. Tom Bowman's assertion that Turkey provided a weapons corridor
for Kobane's Kurds provides zero context. Since the start of the 134
day siege, Turkey vetoed any form of weapons being sent to the YPG/YPJ
in Kobane. Only when the US pressured Turkey did President Erdogan
finally relent and allow Iraqi Peshmerga forces to cross into Kobane
with desperately needed heavy weapons.
Turkey does not want Kurds or IS on its border. It likely wished IS and the Kurds would destroy each other. When that did
not occur, Erdogan hoped the Iraqi Peshmerga or the Free Syrian
Army would control Kobane which also did not develop. But Turkey also
knows it would face massive unrest from its large Kurdish population
(22%) if Kobane were to fall. Thus they reluctantly allowed Pershmerga
heavy weaponry to enter Kobane which was an important element in the
ouster of IS from Kobane.
Tom Bowman's piece also fails to convey the historical significance of
the liberation of Kobane. Kurds are an indigenous people of the region
and comprise the largest stateless population on earth. In 1920 The Treaty of Sevres,
signed between the Ottoman Empire and Allied forces, envisaged the
creation of a Kurdish state. The plan was annulled after the Turks won
its war for independence. In 1923 The Treaty of Lausanne
established the boundaries of Turkey and divided the Kurds among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Kobane is part of the ancestral land of the Kurds. Kobane has become a
symbol that has unified the Kurds of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran and
renewed hopes that its homeland, Kurdistan, ('Nishtiman') promised in
1920 is still possible.
Leaders from American racial justice movements
connect with Palestinians living under occupation
at the forefront of the movements for Black lives and racial justice
have taken a historic trip to Palestine this week to connect with
activists living under Israeli occupation.
Black journalists, artists and
organizers representing Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth
Project 100 (BYP100), and more joined the Dream Defenders for a 10-day
trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.
Ahmad Abuznaid, Dream Defenders' legal and policy director and a co-organizer of the delegation, said that the goal of the trip was to make connections.
“The goals were primarily to allow
for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation,
ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians,
but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading
the fight for liberation,” wrote Abuznaid. “In the spirit of Malcolm X,
Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the
connections between the African American leadership of the movement in
the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished
Abuznaid said the trip represented a chance to bring the power of Black organizing to Palestine.
The delegation met with refugees,
Afro-Palestinians, a family that was kicked out of their house by
settlers in East Jerusalem, and organizations representing Palestinian
political prisoners, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said apartheid is what immediately struck her about what she saw on the ground.
“This is an apartheid state. We
can't deny that and if we do deny it we are apart of the Zionist
violence. There are two different systems here in occupied Palestine.
Two completely different systems. Folks are unable to go to parts of
their own country. Folks are barred from their own country.”
Community organizer Cherrell Brown said she saw many parallels between state violence against Palestinians and Black Americans.
“So many parallels exist between how
the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black
community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates
the same on Palestinians,” Brown said.
Brown also commented that the struggles are not the same.
“This is not to say there aren't
vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our
oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one
another - and as oppressed people we have to do the same,” she said.
Hip-hop was a unifying force
for the delegation, Pargett said, commenting that Palestinians have
been inspired by hip-hop in the US and use it as a tool to amplify
their own voices.
St. Louis-based rapper and activist Tef Poe said his experience in the camps connecting through hip-hop was the best day of his life.
Naima Shaloub Sings Ferguson-Gaza Blues
(Electronic Intifada, 1/24/15)
Naima Shaloub: This
video captures the first live performance of this song on
November 28, 2014 at The Sound Room in Oakland, as well as various
clips from moments in Gaza, Ferguson, Oakland, and elsewhere.
Written and sung by Naima Shalhoub,
Bouchaib Abdelhadi - Oud
Jeremy Mitchell - Drum kit
Timothy Wat - Piano
Video editing and music performance filming by The Pixel Pushrs
Film clips from various sources.
learned, seen and felt the systemic connections between the racial
oppression of Palestinians in Palestine, as well as the racism against
and mass incarceration of Black people in the United States for quite
August, however, when the attacks on Gaza were happening at the same
time as the Ferguson protests and the wider call to draw attention to
police brutality against Black and brown people, the grief was
overwhelming. As an artist, I couldn’t help but write a song attempting
to draw the connections between the two.
A Message From the Dispossessed
(Opinion by Chris Hedges, Truthdig.com, 1/11/15)
Both peoples experience oppression
stemming from the global prison-industrial complex. It is no
coincidence that Gaza is the largest open-air prison while the United
States has rampant incarceration rates and death rates of Black and
The histories of slavery and
colonization continue to haunt and fuel the present. I felt called to
write something that tells somewhat of a story of the deep
contradictions at present as well the lives lost in the name of
so-called “security” and “democracy.”
Being an Arab American, I have an
intimate relationship with contradictions, with living in a country
that sponsors the oppression of many. Nina Simone said that “it is an
artist’s duty to reflect the times.” I take that call seriously and
just hope to join the choir of many who came before me that really put
their life on the line with their music in the name of justice, freedom
I work weekly with a group of
incarcerated women in San Francisco county jail facilitating music
sessions in hopes to create a safe space behind bars that intervenes on
the isolation and confinement of the prison-industrial complex and
offers a place where incarcerated women can express and share their
voices and creativity. My debut album Borderlands will be intersecting
with this work. I’m currently working on it and plan to record and
release it by early summer.
The terrorist attack in France that took
place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free
speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the
fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging
dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to
survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by
the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial
West, lash out in nihilistic fury.
We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory
global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And
rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate
it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and
surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and
torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of
industrial warfare to dominate the world by force. This is not about
justice. It is not about the war on terror. It is not about liberty or
democracy. It is not about the freedom of expression. It is about the
mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor.
And the poor know it.
If you spend time as I have in Gaza,
Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan, as well as the depressing,
segregated housing projects known as banlieues that ring French cities
such as Paris and Lyon, warehousing impoverished North African
immigrants, you begin to understand the brothers Cherif Kouachi and
Said Kouachi, who were killed Friday in a gun battle with French
police. There is little employment in these pockets of squalor. Racism
is overt. Despair is rampant, especially for the men, who feel they
have no purpose. Harassment of immigrants, usually done by police
during identity checks, is almost constant. Police once pulled a North
African immigrant, for no apparent reason, off a Paris Metro subway car
I was riding in and mercilessly beat him on the platform. French
Muslims make up 60 to 70 percent of the prison population in France.
Drugs and alcohol beckon like sirens to blunt the pain of poor Muslim
The 5 million North Africans in France are not considered French by the
French. And when they go back to Algiers, Tangier or Tunis, where
perhaps they were born and briefly lived, they are treated as alien
outcasts. Caught between two worlds, they drift, as the two brothers
did, into aimlessness, petty crime and drugs.
Becoming a holy warrior, a jihadist, a champion of an absolute and pure
ideal, is an intoxicating conversion, a kind of rebirth that brings a
sense of power and importance. The converts believe they live in a
binary universe divided between good and evil, the pure and the impure.
As champions of the good and the pure they sanctify their own
victimhood and demonize all nonbelievers. They believe they are
anointed to change history. And they embrace a hypermasculine violence
that is viewed as a cleansing agent for the world’s contaminants,
including those people who belong to other belief systems, races and
Hamas Condemns Charlie Hebdo attacks
(Agence France-Press, 1/10/15)
When you sink to despair, your religion
is all you have left. Muslim prayer, held five times a day, gives you
your only sense of structure and meaning, and, most importantly,
self-worth. And when the privileged of the world ridicule the one thing
that provides you with dignity, you react with inchoate fury.
It is dangerous to ignore this rage. But it is even more dangerous to
refuse to examine and understand its origins. It did not arise from the
Quran or Islam. It arose from mass despair, from palpable conditions of
poverty, along with the West’s imperial violence, capitalist
exploitation and hubris.
The cartoons of the Prophet in the Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie
Hebdo are offensive and juvenile. None of them are funny. And they
expose a grotesque double standard when it comes to Muslims. In France
a Holocaust denier, or someone who denies the Armenian genocide, can be
imprisoned for a year and forced to pay a $60,000 fine. It is a
criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo
mocked Islam. French high school students must be taught about the Nazi
persecution of the Jews, but these same students read almost nothing in
their textbooks about the widespread French atrocities, including a
death toll among Algerians that some sources set at more than 1
million, in the Algerian War for independence
colonial France. French law bans the public wearing of the burqa, a
body covering for women that includes a mesh over the face, as well as
the niqab, a full veil that has a small slit for the eyes. Women who
wear these in public can be arrested, fined the equivalent of about
$200 and forced to carry out community service. France banned rallies
in support of the Palestinians last summer when Israel was carrying out
daily airstrikes in Gaza that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.
The message to Muslims is clear: Your traditions, history and suffering
do not matter. Your story will not be heard.
Ali Abunimah @AliAbunimaha
"In an effort to exploit the Paris attacks for its own gain, PM Netanyahu
was deliberately misleading and inflammatory"
Hamas condemned the strike as an
unjustifiable terrorist attack
(World Bulletin, 1/10/15)
Extremists harm Islam more than cartoons
Hassan Nasrallah says Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people have harmed Islam more than anyone else in history.
Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
condemned the killing of 12 people in an attack on French satirical
weekly Charlie Hebdo's offices by two French Islamists.
"(Hamas) stresses that its position on the latest events in Paris is in
line with the statement issued by the International Union of Muslim
Scholars which condemned the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper
and that any differences in opinion are no justification for killing innocents," Hamas said in a rare statement in French.
Hamas added in its statement that Israelis should be tried for war
crimes and condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
"desperate attempts to make
a connection between our movement and the resistance of our people on the one hand and global terrorism on the other."
The Palestinians will formally become a
member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, when the
court could exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone
on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security
Council. Israel is not a member of the Hague-based ICC but its citizens
could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land. Palestinians
could also be liable for prosecution for actions against Israelis.
Israel's soft power boosts its diplomatic efforts
(Saleh Al-Naami, Middleeastmonitor.com 1/3/15)
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 2,100
Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the Israeli
onslaught on Gaza in August. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six
civilians in Israel were also killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the Paris attack to
Hamas firing rockets from the Gaza Strip. Mr Netanyahu had
extended his condolences to the
people of France, adding: “If the terrorist fanatics of Hamas,
Hezbollah, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda will not be stopped here,
[the attacks] will spread all over the world."
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group
says Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Mohammed
more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.
He said Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people — a
reference to the IS group's rampages in
Iraq and Syria — have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in
history. His remarks are in stark contrast to those of Sunni
militants from the IS group and Al-Qaida who have called for attacks on
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called President Francois Hollande
to express condolences and condemn the attacks. Mr Abbas assured the
French president of "the solidarity of the Palestinian people and
leadership with France after this terrorist attack."
A rally in solidarity with France, called for by the Palestinian Liberation Organization,
will be held in Ramallah in the West Bank
on Sunday, at the same time as a huge march in Paris.
UN Security Council rejects resolution
on Palestinian state
Bid to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by 2017 garners eight votes,
one short of total needed to pass.
(Al Jazeera , 12/31/14)
Why I want Obama to veto
Abbas' UN resolution on Palestine
(Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 12/18/14)
The UN Security Council has rejected a
Palestinian resolution calling for peace with Israel within a year and
an end to Israel's occupation by 2017.
The draft resolution called for:
• Two sovereign states living side by side; Israel and Palestine
• End of Israeli occupation and establishing the
Palestinian state within a time frame of no more than three years
• East Jerusalem as the capital of the
state of Palestine which will be established on 1967 borders
• Settle the refugees’ question according to UN resolution 194
• End settlement activities in West Bank and East
Jerusalem and to release all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails
The motion received eight "yes" votes, including from Russia and
France, two "no" votes from the United States and Australia, and five
abstentions including the UK.
Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada
, derided the resolution.
"It insists that the entire question of Palestine be reduced to the
question of the 1967 occupation and that merely ending this occupation
would effectively end all Palestinian claims."
"The resolution uses vague, deceptive and in some places outright
dishonest language that would deal a devastating blow to Palestinian
rights, particularly the right of return for refugees.
"It contained so many compromises in an attempt to avoid a US veto that it was weaker than existing UN resolutions," he said.
Contrary to what some had expected, the ambassadors of Arab countries
at the UN failed to secure the necessary nine Security Council
votes. Hearing that two African countries abstained, Nigeria and
Rwanda, should not have been a surprise. During the Security Council
deliberations during the Israeli war on Gaza last summer, these two
countries gave Israel room to manoeuvre and continue its killing and
destruction by thwarting all attempts to get a resolution to end its
aggression, again by abstaining in the crucial votes.
This is interesting because African countries have traditionally voted
in favour of all draft resolutions supportive of Palestinian rights.
The significant shift in this position is a result of the Israeli
strategy in international relations by which it utilises its
development of advanced technology as a diplomatic bargaining tool.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman formulated the simple
strategy whereby countries are offered access to Israeli technology in
exchange for diplomatic support. Rwanda has been courted by
Israel for a decade or more, spending large sums in order to improve
relations with the central African state.
Further east, there is no doubt that one
of the resounding success stories of Israel's export of advanced
technologies is that India is very keen on improving relations with Tel
Aviv. The Hind, India's most
popular newspaper, has revealed that the government in New Delhi is on
the verge of reconsidering how it votes on international resolutions
relating to Palestine.
According to the Hind, there
is growing intent among India's leaders to refrain from voting on any
issue linked to the Palestinian cause in the international arena. This
is a major turning point as India was, until recently, a leading member
of the Non-Aligned Movement,
which had a default position of supporting the Palestinians. Despite
the fact that the bloc no longer exists, the shift in India's
international positions will have an impact on the behaviour of other
countries. As in Africa, the Indian shift is a result of smart Israeli
investments including weapon sales.
Technology has also played a key role in the development of relations
between Israel and China. It is true that no one would expect the
Chinese to behave like the African countries in international votes,
but it is clear that Beijing is showing a great deal of interest in
improving relations with Tel Aviv, again due to its desire to benefit
from Israel's advanced technology capabilities.
China is interested in Israel's advanced technology to boost its
economic capability, especially in industry and agriculture. The
Israeli Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett, leader of the
religious far right-wing Jewish Home Party is trying to spread the
message that Israel can utilise its success and superiority in advanced
technology to improve its international standing and strengthen
relations with influential countries without having to make any
concessions to the Palestinians. The Israelis are aware that Beijing is
keen on establishing security and intelligence cooperation with Tel
In short, Israel's advanced technology
developments have become its most prominent soft power tool for
boosting diplomatic ties and improving its position in the world,
enhancing its own security in the process.
Gaza Update: Still reeling
This is almost the complete opposite of the behaviour of the Arab
countries, whose bilateral relations with foreign states are not
subject to national security requirements. Instead, some Arab countries
do not hesitate to play a functional role for the benefit of Israel,
usually at the behest of the United States. While Israel plans and
builds for its future, the Arab states are very short-sighted and
bargain away their future for short-term gains. Israel is using its
soft power to great advantage in more ways than one.
The Palestinians had warned that if the UN resolution failed they were
prepared to join the International Criminal Court to file suits against
On Friday in a move that could lead to cuts in U.S. aid the
Palestinians delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Washington
sends about $400 million in economic support aid to the Palestinians
every year. Under U.S. law, that aid would be cut off if the
Palestinians used membership in the International Criminal Court to
make claims against Israel.
Meanwhile Israel is delaying the transfer of $127m in taxes it collects
on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their application to
join the Hague-based International Criminal Court, according to Israeli
from summer assault
(Patrick O. Strickland, Electronic Intifada, 12/27/14)
Israel violates Gaza ceasefire nearly every day
(Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, 12/22/14)
As Hamas and Fatah quarrel, Gaza is orphaned
(Amira Haas, Haaretz. 12/22/14)
photo by Christophe Gowans
Gaza: One War, One Family.
Five Children, Four Dead
(Sarah Helm, Newsweek, 12/22/14)
Israel’s 51-day offensive on the Gaza
Strip this past summer. “Operation Protective Edge”, was Israel's third
war in Gaza in the last six years.
Palestinian women walk near
the ruins of houses, which witnesses said were destroyed by Israeli
shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in
the east of Gaza City December 1, 2014. Mohammed Salem/Reuters
Home to an estimated 1.8 million Palestinians, Gaza endured
unprecedented destruction. Unlike during the 2012 attacks, Israel
launched a ground invasion that devastated the Strip. For
Palestinians in Gaza, the war meant “a record number of civilian
casualties, the devastation of civilian buildings and infrastructure,
and large scale displacement,” according to United Nations monitoring
group OCHA (UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Afffairs).
Some 100,000 persons are still displaced, living in schools, shelters
or with host families.
All across Gaza there is rubble – areas that look like mini Dresdens,
or London during the Blitz; bombed hospitals, schools and factories
were flattened too including the famous al-Awda biscuit factory, which
once employed 400 workers.
OCHA estimates 2,257 Palestinians
were killed, including 1,563 civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 7
civilians were also killed (including 1 child).
At least 538 children were killed during the attacks (including 3000
injured of whom 1000 have injuries that have paralyzed them.) 1,500
-1800 children are estimated to have been made orphans during Operation
Israel accused Hamas of using children as “human shields” during the
war but the whole Gazan population was a human shield. Wherever Hamas
fired its rockets from, when Israel retaliated there was nowhere in
this crowded land for civilians to go – no safe havens. “Civilians were
at the eye of the storm,” said Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights.
The August ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt, while never made
transparent to the public, reportedly called for the opening of Gaza’s
crossings, allowing the entry of reconstruction materials needed to
rebuild Gaza’s devastated neighborhoods, the extension of the permitted
fishing areas off Gaza’s shore and the relaxation of access
restrictions in the areas along Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel.
These truce conditions are similar to those that ended twelve days of
Israeli bombing — claiming hundreds of Palestinian lives in Gaza — in
Like its violations of that earlier ceasefire, Israel has violated the August agreement with total impunity.
Here is a brief breakdown:
• Gaza remains sealed.
While the Israeli closure of all of Gaza’s other crossings remains in
place, travel through the Rafah crossing with Egypt — the sole point of
entry and exit for the vast majority of Gaza’s residents — has also
been strangled. On Sunday, approximately 630 Palestinians left Gaza via
Rafah after Cairo temporarily reopened the crossing — for only the
second time in two months.
Palestinians attempt to enter Egypt at Rafah Crossing
on 21 December.(Ashraf Amra / APA images)
Travel via Rafah is limited to those seeking medical treatment or
people holding permits to stay abroad; at the end of last month, there
were an estimated thirty thousand people waiting to exit Gaza via
Rafah. Amongst them were one thousand patients who include “those with
advanced cancer, renal and heart diseases, and orthopedic and
ophthalmological needs,” according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.
• Construction materials are not allowed in to Gaza.
Though $5.4 billion was pledged at a donors conference in Cairo in
October, “reconstruction of Gaza has barely begun” and “even fewer
construction materials are now entering Gaza than before the conflict,”
according to the humanitarian group Oxfam. Despite the massive scale of
destruction — it is estimated that Israel dropped the equivalent of an
atomic bomb on Gaza this summer — only one percent of the estimated
five million tons of construction materials required have been allowed
in to Gaza. “At this rate it would take more than 23 years to meet
‘immediate’ needs alone,” states Oxfam.
• Exports are not allowed out of Gaza.
• Gaza is under
constant Israeli fire. The Israeli military, which monitors movement in
the area of the boundary fence, uses deadly force against any
Palestinians who dare approach the perimeter areas, where much of the
most fertile farmland is located.
Though the August ceasefire deal stipulated that Palestinians would
have increased access to the perimeter areas, Israel has “so far not
officially announced the boundaries of what they consider a restricted
area, thus generating uncertainty and increasing the risks to the
civilian population,” states OCHA. Meanwhile, access to fishing waters
“is restricted to six nautical miles from the coast.”
Accusations of abandoning the residents of Gaza to a miserable fate
were publicly aimed at the UN, the donor nations that still have not
transferred the money they promised at the October Cairo conference on
Gaza reconstruction to the Palestinians, and the PA.
Transferral of the donations, one Western diplomat told Haaretz,
depends on the functioning of the reconciliation government in Gaza.
The donors want to be sure the money reaches a leadership it approves
of. But the ability and willingness of such a government to function
depends on the relations between Fatah and Hamas, and they are now bad,
Last April Hamas gave up the government it led (although its security
agencies are still in control),and returned responsibility for the
disaster-stricken Strip to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. This
included the responsibility for rebuilding the enormous physical,
economic and mental destruction caused by Operation Protective Edge.
The rift between the two movements comes in addition to a split within Fatah itself.
Gazans have many reasons to despair. The blockade on the Strip, whose
removal was the first, official condition raised by Hamas in the
cease-fire negotiations last summer – has become even worse. Gaza
students who were accepted for studies abroad, for example, cannot
Brad Parker, attorney and international
advocacy officer for Defence for Children's International-Palestine,
explained that Israel’s attacks in Gaza have consistently been
“characterized by a complete disregard of international humanitarian
Explaining that an estimated half of Gaza’s total population is under
eighteen years old, Parker described the summer war’s impact: “Children
in Gaza witnessed the killing and maiming of their parents, siblings
and other family members, and experienced the systematic destruction of
their homes, schools and communities."
Parker also warned that the suffering will continue, particularly for
children, as long as Israel’s brutal seven-year blockade on Gaza
During the 51 days of Israeli bombing this summer, the unanimous cry
from Gaza was not just for the ending of the violence. A return to the
status quo of slow suffocation under siege and complete impunity for
Israel’s constant violations of Palestinian rights was not tenable.
Gaza’s staggering sacrifice — more than one in every thousand of its
residents killed — required the fulfillment of basic human rights.
Not only is the pre-ceasefire status quo of Israeli siege still firmly
in place, but the secret terms of the United Nations-backed Gaza
Reconstruction Mechanism “include onerous controls of building supplies
and intrusive monitoring of Palestinian families seeking to rebuild
homes destroyed by Israel,” as The Electronic Intifada has previously
Instead of easing its grip since August,
Israel finds that it enjoys more control over Palestinians in Gaza than ever before.
Palestinian children describe confinement
in israeli military prisons
(Samer Badawi, dci-palestine.org, 12/20/14)
Defence for Children International i-Palestine (DCI-Palestine) is
an independent, child rights organization based in Ramallah dedicated
to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the
occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in
accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
"I won't move until I say goodbye to my mother."
"For speaking these words, Diyaa was knocked to the floor of his family
home, kicked, and beaten by Israeli soldiers who, two weeks earlier,
had done the same to his two friends. It was 3 am, and Diyaa's parents
could only watch as their 16-year-old son was dragged to an army jeep,
blindfolded, and—like thousands of Palestinian children before
him—forced into a military detention center in the Israeli-occupied
What happened next, according to affidavits given by Diyaa and his
friends, fits a pattern of Israeli abuse designed to coerce confessions
from Palestinian children. Among the most troubling of their
experiences were prolonged periods of solitary confinement.
"Although it’s true that, in the United States, children and
juvenile offenders are sometimes held in solitary confinement—either as
a disciplinary measure or to separate them from adult populations—in
Israeli military detention, Palestinian children are held in solitary
confinement for interrogation purposes," said Brad Parker,
international advocacy officer and attorney for DCI-Palestine.
"Using solitary confinement in this way
is conduct that amounts to torture under international law," says
Parker. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has explicitly
found that solitary confinement, when "used intentionally during
pretrial detention as a technique for the purpose of obtaining
information or a confession" amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment.
In more than 97 percent of cases documented by DCI-Palestine between
2012 and 2013, "children held in solitary confinement were not properly
informed of their right to silence, were denied access to legal counsel
and did not have a family member present during interrogation,"
according to a May 2014 report prepared by the organization. In the
same time period, more than three-quarters of child detainees were
strip searched, subject to physical abuse, and denied access to food
Isolation, interrogation, and beatings
On the day of his detention, 16-year-old Diyaa remembers being thrown
into a windowless cell, where he was to spend the next 15 days. During
that time, he emerged only to be escorted to an interrogation room. He
estimates that he was interrogated 15 times, for two hours each—all
with his feet and hands bound to "a low metal chair."
The interrogator accused Diyaa of throwing stones, an offense that,
according to a November 2009 Israeli military order, could carry a
sentence of up to 20 years. "I kept saying I wanted to see a lawyer,"
"He asked me when I threw stones and with whom, but I did not answer.
He interrogated me for about two hours. He did the same the following
On the fifth day, Diyaa relented. "I had
to confess to throwing stones because of my horrible detention
conditions in the cell. I also thought they would transfer me to a
regular prison if I confessed." But even after his "confession," Diyaa
was thrown back into his cell. His isolation was to last another 10
days, punctuated by more interrogations and, this time, beatings.
"One of the jailers used to beat me whenever I knocked on the door to
ask for something," Diyaa told DCI-Palestine. "He would come to the
cell with another jailer, tie my hands and feet, and kick me hard while
I was on the floor, and punch me on my stomach and head without any
The aim, it turned out, was to extract
another confession—for a specific stone-throwing incident to which
Diyaa's friend had, according to the interrogator, already admitted.
Fending for themselves
But in sworn testimony to DCI-Palestine, Diyaa denied any involvement in the incident:
"The interrogator said that my friend Thabet accused me in his
statement of throwing stones with him at a settler car, that the car
overturned and the passengers were injured. I told him that was not
true, and that I was at the local supermarket when I heard about the
Diyaa's friend Thabet, it turns out, had just admitted to stoning a car
carrying residents of an illegal settlement near his hometown of
Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But the 16-year-old's
"confession" came after four days of solitary confinement and abuse.
According to Thabet, an Israeli interrogator told him: "If you
don't confess, I'll have both of your parents arrested, brought here to
this room, and killed."
"I was scared they would actually do what they said they would do about
arresting and killing my parents," Thabet told DCI-Palestine. "So I
confessed. I confessed to throwing stones several times at a settler
car, and the stones hit the car and overturned it, and that the
passengers were injured, as I [recall]."
Until their "confessions," Diyaa,
Thabet, and a third friend—17-year-old Bashar, also accused of
stone-throwing—were left to fend for themselves, deprived of family
visits and legal counsel. Parker says this, too, is part of a pattern
of Israeli abuse:
"[Child detainees] are often denied access to an attorney until after
being subjected to several days of prolonged interrogation and
isolation," according to Parker. "The apparent goal," he says, "is to
obtain a confession" at all costs.
"This pattern of abuse by Israel is grave," said Richard Falk, a former
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in
the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Falk, who is also a professor
emeritus of international law at Princeton University, called Israel’s
use of solitary confinement against children "inhumane, cruel,
degrading, and unlawful; and, most worryingly, it is likely to
adversely affect the mental and physical health of underage detainees."
According to the cases DCI-Palestine
documented in 2012 and 2013, some 20 percent of Palestinian child
detainees were subjected to solitary confinement during their
interrogations. Any "confessions" extracted by this practice are
suspect, say legal experts.
"Israeli military court judges rarely exclude confessions or other
evidence extracted from coercive interrogations," says Parker.
"Palestinian child detainees are denied access to counsel, ill-treated
and tortured, and then find themselves before a military court process
that falls drastically short of international juvenile justice
As of September, DCI-Palestine recorded 182 Palestinian children in
Israeli detention. Since 2000, an estimated 8,000 Palestinian children
have been detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.
Badawi is a freelance contributor to Defense for Children International
Palestine. Based in Washington, DC, he spent the summer reporting in
Gaza for +972 Mag. Follow him @samwithaner.
Turkish Government Refuses
Humanitarian Aid to Yezidi Refugees
(Amy L. Beam, KurdistanTribune.com, 9/21/14)
note: Amy Beame reported live during Gaza Corner 12/13/14
Conditions in 11 Yezidi Refugee Camps in Turkey
(Amy L. Beam, KurdistanTribune.com, 9/17/14)
Urgent call from Kobane Canton government
to UN and international community
(original link no longer exists)
The attacks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) on Kobanę, a
Kurdish town in northern Syria, have been ongoing since the 15th of
September. As a result of the war, large parts of the city and the
surrounding villages have been destroyed and devastated. The
humanitarian emergency is exacerbated due to the de facto existing
embargo. Since all routes to Kobanę are blocked, it is not possible for
humanitarian supplies to reach the city. Due to the plight of refugees
from Kobanę located in Turkey, more and more people are returning to
The biggest problem is the lack of clean drinking water. After the
start of the popular uprising in Syria, the water supply line to
Kobanę, which is being centrally controlled by the state, has been
discontinued. The population in Kobanę thereof has built an alternative
water line to Kobanę. As a result of the attacks conducted by the
terrorist militia called Islamic State, this self-constructed water
supply line has also been destroyed. Currently, the people from Kobanę
obtain their water from the few existing wells. However, this does not
involve potable water. It is therefore only used for cleaning and
hygiene matters. Drinking water is currently only available in closed
PET-bottles. Yet, the stocks are low and won’t be sufficient for much
longer. Similarly, there is a lack of food, especially of wheat and
flour with which at least the basic needs of sustenance could be met.
The bread production site, which was managed by the city
administration, has fallen under the control of the ISIS with all its
Another problem is the power supply. Since power supplies too are
directed by the central government, there has been a power cut for 2
years now. Until the attacks of the ISIS, the population provided
electricity via generators. However, ISIS has attacked and destroyed
the fuel depot for the generators. Also, there is a lack of winter
clothing, especially with jackets and shoes. When people fled their
villages, they had to leave all their belongings behind.
Further, medical care proves to be a serious problem. The existing
three hospitals were all destroyed. Currently, an abandoned house
functions as a temporary location for patient care and is managed only
by a volunteer doctor. However, due to the lack of medicine it is not
possible to treat many diseases. Although some medical equipment is
available, they cannot be used in important operations since the power
supply, which is required for these devices, is non-existent.
Rotting corpses and the bombing provide an acute risk of epidemics. Due
to the constantly ongoing attacks of the IS and the lack of technical
material, it is not possible to remove the corpses.
We estimate that the people of Kobanę can only survive another month
with the existing stock of food, water and heating oil. However, the
influx of people from Turkey returning to Kobane makes it difficult to
give a detailed prognosis. Yet above all, the drinking water supply
poses a huge problem. Therefore, we aim to appeal to the international
public and community with this letter.
* The establishment of a corridor for humanitarian aid under the control of the UN.
* International delegation of experts to examine the situation in Kobanę.
* Securing drinking water and food supply.
* Sending international teams of doctors for medical care.
* Technical equipment for the reconstruction of the city.
Akın Ünver on Turkish Foreign Policy Challenges(Foreignpolicyblogs.com, 10/27/14)
3 key excerpts:
1) Turkey made three absolutely vital, high-risk decisions since 2011 –
Morsi, Assad and Kobani – and all of them failed colossally.
2) Ankara believed that even if it saved Kobani, the collapse of its peace process with the Kurds would be inevitable.
3) I (Akın Ünver) still personally favor Turkish aid to Kobani; first,
because a conflict with ISIS is inevitable – and second, saving Kobani
would enable Ankara to start the next Kurdish peace process from an
Akın Ünver is an assistant professor of international relations at
Kadir Has University in Istanbul and an energy and political risk
consultant. Dr. Ünver is a widely recognized expert on Turkish foreign
policy and Kurdish issues.
Peter Clifford Online
Excellent blog that keeps up-to-date on developments in Syria and Iraq with focus on Kobane
1) Rojava (aka Syrian Kurdistan)
Syria's Secret Revolution
Produced by BBC "Our World"
2) Kobane: The little city that stood up to ISIS
Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, outlines the
features of the fight against Ithe Islamic State in the closely watched
battleground city of Kobane.
3) A rare view from inside Kobane
produced by independent journalist Lindsay Snell who was one of the
first of the international media inside Kobane after the Islamic State
The Unholy City
(Uri Avnery, 11/21/14)
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer. He is a former member of the Knesset
and the founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. He writes a weekly
column published in several countries and is the author of many books,
including 1948: A Soldier’s Tale—The Bloody Road to Jerusalem, Israel’s
Vicious Circle and My Friend, the Enemy.
Born in Germany, Avnery fled Nazi Germany with his family. As a youth,
he joined the Irgun Zionist terror gang, which he later quit to become
a leading peace activist in Israel.
Rage in Jerusalem
(Nathan Thrall, 11/21/14)
Uri Avnery excerpt:
In its long and checkered history, Jerusalem has been occupied by dozens of conquerors.
Babylonians and Persians, Greeks and Romans, Mamluks and Turks, Britons and Jordanians – to mention just a few.
The latest occupier is Israel, which conquered and annexed Jerusalem in 1967.
(I could have written "East Jerusalem" – but all of historical
Jerusalem is in today's East Jerusalem. All the other parts were built
in the last 200 years by Zionist settlers, or are surrounding Arab
villages which were arbitrarily joined to the huge area that is now
called Jerusalem after its occupation.)
This week, Jerusalem was in flames -
again. Two youngsters from Jabel Mukaber, one of the Arab villages
annexed to Jerusalem, entered a synagogue in the west of the city
during morning prayers and killed four devout Jews, before themselves
being killed by police.
Jerusalem is called "the City of Peace". This is a linguistic mistake.
True, in antiquity it was called Salem, which sounds like peace, but
Salem was in fact the name of the local deity.
It is also a historical mistake. No city in the world has seen as many wars, massacres and as much bloodshed as this one.
All in the name of some God or other.
Jersalem was annexed (or "liberated", or "unified") immediately after the Six-day War of 1967.
That war was Israel's greatest military triumph. It was also Israel's greatest disaster.
The annexation was presented to us (I was a member of the Knesset at the time) as a unification of the city.
In fact, what happened in 1967 was anything but unification.
If the intent had really been unification, it would have looked very different.
Full Israeli citizenship would have been automatically conferred on all
inhabitants. All the lost Arab properties in West Jerusalem, which had
been expropriated in 1948, would have been restored to their rightful
owners who had fled to East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem municipality would have been expanded to include Arabs from the East, even without a specific request. And so on.
The opposite happened. No property was restored, nor any compensation paid. The municipality remained exclusively Jewish.
Arab inhabitants were not accorded
Israeli citizenship, but merely "permanent residence". This is a status
that can be arbitrarily revoked at any moment – and indeed was revoked
in many cases, compelling the victims to move out of the city. For
appearance's sake, Arabs were allowed to apply for Israel citizenship.
The authorities knew, of course, that only a handful would apply, since
doing so would mean recognition of the occupation. For Palestinians,
this would be paramount to treason. (And the few that did apply were
In practice, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory.
Mayor Teddy Kollek who was elected two years before the annexation and
Moshe Dayan, then the Defense Minister, believed in keeping the
Palestinians quiet by giving them all possible benefits, except freedom.
A few days after the occupation of East Jerusalem Moshe Dayan removed
the Israeli flag which had been planted by soldiers in front of the
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Dayan also turned the de facto
authority over the Mount over to the Muslim religious authorities.
Jews were allowed into the Temple
compound only in small numbers and only as quiet visitors. They were
forbidden to pray there. They could, after all, pray to their
heart's content at the adjoining Western Wall (which is a part of the
compound's ancient outer wall).
The government was able to impose this decree because of a quaint
religious fact: Orthodox Jews are forbidden by the rabbis to enter the
Temple Mount altogether. According to a Biblical injunction, ordinary
Jews are not allowed into the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest was
As a result, the first few years of the occupation were a happy time
for East Jerusalem. Jews and Arabs mingled freely. It was fashionable
for Jews to shop in the colorful Arab market and dine in the "oriental"
restaurants. I myself often stayed in Arab hotels and made quite a
number of Arab friends.
This atmosphere changed gradually. The government and the municipality
spent a lot of money to gentrify West Jerusalem, but Arab neighborhoods
in East Jerusalem were neglected, and turned into slums. The local
infrastructure and services degenerated. Almost no building permits
were issued to Arabs, in order to compel the younger generation to move
outside the city borders. Then the "Separation" Wall was built,
preventing those outside from entering the city, cutting them off from
their schools and jobs.
Political oppression grew. Under the Oslo agreements, Jerusalemite
Arabs were allowed to vote for the Palestinian Authority. But then they
were prevented from doing so, their representatives were arrested and
expelled from the city. All Palestinian institutions were forcibly
Then an additional disaster occurred. Secular Israelis are leaving
Jerusalem, which is rapidly becoming an Orthodox bastion. In
desperation they decided to oust the Orthodox mayor and elect a secular
businessman. Unfortunately, he is a rabid ultra-nationalist.
Nir Barkat behaves like the mayor of
West Jerusalem and the military governor of East Jerusalem. He treats
his Palestinian subjects like enemies, who may be tolerated if they
obey quietly, and brutally suppressed if they do not. Together with the
decade-old neglect of the Arab neighborhoods, the accelerated pace of
building new Jewish neighborhoods, the excessive police brutality
(openly encouraged by the mayor), they are producing an explosive
The total cutting-off of Jerusalem from the West Bank, its natural hinterland, worsens the situation even more.
To this may be added the termination of the so-called peace process,
since all Palestinians are convinced that East Jerusalem must be the
capital of the future State of Palestine.
This situation needed only a spark to ignite the city. This was duly
provided by the right-wing demagogues in the Knesset. Vying for
attention and popularity, they started to visit the Temple Mount, one
after the other, every time unleashing a storm. Added to the manifest
desire of certain religious and right-wing fanatics to build the Third
Temple in place of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the
Rock, this was enough to create the belief that the holy shrines were
indeed in danger.
Then came the ghastly revenge-murder of an Arab boy who was abducted by
Jews and burned alive with gasoline poured into his mouth.
Individual Muslim inhabitants of the city started to act. Disdaining
organizations, almost without arms, they started a series of attacks
that are now called "the intifada of individuals". Acting alone, or
with a brother or cousin whom he trusts, an Arab takes a knife, or a
pistol (if he can get one), or his car, or a tractor, and kills the
nearest Israelis. He knows that he is going to die.
The two cousins who killed four Jews in
a synagogue this week – and also an Arab Druze policeman – knew this.
They also knew that their families were going to suffer, their home
demolished, their relatives arrested. They were not deflected. The
mosques were more important.
Illustration by Sam Kalda for BuzzFeed
My Last Day In Yemen
Yemen was like a
home away from home for me — until the day I was nearly abducted in
broad daylight, and narrowly missed suffering a grim fate similar to
other journalists drawn to covering, and living in, the Middle East.
(Gregory D. Johnsen, Buzzfeed 11/16/14)
Gregory Johnsen is a Michael Hastings
National Security Fellow and author of The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda
and America's War in Arabia.
Immediately after the Synagogue killing, the Israeli choir of
politicians and commentators went into action. They did so with an
astonishing unanimity – ministers, Knesset members, ex-generals,
journalists, all repeating with slight variations the same message. The
reason for this is simple: every day the Prime Minister's office sends
out a "page of messages", instructing all parts of the propaganda
machine what to say.
This time the message was that Mahmoud Abbas was to blame for
everything, a "terrorist in a suit", the leader whose incitement causes
the new intifada. No matter that the chief of the Shin Bet testified on
the very same day that Abbas has neither overt nor covert connections
with the violence.
Binyamin Netanyahu faced the cameras and with a solemn face and
lugubrious voice – he is a really good actor – repeated again what he
has said many times before, every time pretending that this is new
recipe: more police, harder punishments, demolition of homes, arrests
and large fines for parents of 13-year old children who are caught
throwing stones, and so on.
Every expert knows that the result of such measures will be the exact
opposite. More Arabs will become incensed and attack Israeli men and
women. Israelis, of course, will "take revenge" and "take the law into
their own hands".
For both inhabitants and tourists, walking the streets of Jerusalem,
the city which is "joined together", has become a risky adventure. Many
stay at home.
The Unholy City is more divided than ever before.
Cairo was exotic but crowded and
Jordan’s eastern desert was drab and dreary, more volcanic rock than
sand. But Yemen was different. Vibrant and stark, it felt like the
underside of a rainbow. Sanaa had character and a wild, intoxicating
I was 24 years old and I was hooked.
I went back to Yemen again and again over the next several years,
neglecting my Ph.D. dissertation to write a book about the country and
cobbling together grants for visits. In late 2012, after the Arab Spring
and the uprisings that forced Salih to step down, I scheduled another
quick trip. I had lived through the revolution in Cairo, and
had seen the expectations of change and a better life inflate and then
burst leaving everyone more confused than ever. Yemen had changed as
well. No one seemed to know the rules anymore. Salih was out and
security was evaporating. There was a mad scramble for power that fall,
and for the first time I felt physically unsafe. It was just a feeling,
impossible to quantify, but I couldn’t shake it.
Western embassies issued travel
warnings, but they were as vague as everything else. Yemen was bad —
maybe not Iraq bad — but the speculation kept getting worse.
Still, earlier this spring I decided to go back one more time. I
pitched it to my editors as a three-story trip. But in my mind, it was
a final farewell. I was getting married in a few months, and I wanted
to move on.. On March 6, I boarded the plane for my last trip to Yemen.
Sixteen days later I was done. I had my three stories. But I didn’t
want to leave, not yet. Something was still missing. Instead of flying
home early, I compromised: One more story.
I already knew the one I’d do. Mine was a tragedy that started with a Guantanamo interrogation.
The detainee, Adnan Abd al-Latif, was a mentally unstable man who had
suffered severe brain damage as a result of a car crash in 1994. Twice
he had been cleared for release, but each time something went wrong and
he remained locked in his cell.
On Sept. 10, 2012, he committed suicide.
He had been in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade.
Latif’s case seemed to get at all the horrors of that lost decade: a
handicapped man who confused al-Qaeda with a Yemeni village of the same
name, locked up as the worst of the worst.
He was a man with a history and a family, and I wanted to write about them, to tell his story.
Since arriving in Sanaa I had been working with Shuaib, a young fixer
and friend, who knew how to get things done in a country where nothing
(fast forward to later in story)
Shuaib wanted breakfast. Stepping
up onto the sidewalk, Shuaib bumped into a soldier who was coming out
of the restaurant, catching his windbreaker on the man’s rifle.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, as he reached over to untangle his jacket. The man
just looked at him, taking in Shuaib’s youth and his slight frame. And
then he saw me. I was used to it, the attention and the double takes.
Yemenis tend to stare at obvious foreigners, observing them as if they
were under glass. But this time the lack of words was disconcerting. We
were in the man’s space, inches from his face with Shuaib’s jacket
hooked on his rifle. The whole thing was too intimate for silence.
That was it, a few seconds on the street before breakfast. It was
nothing and he was no one, a soldier with a gun in a country that had
plenty of both. We were already past it.
Fifteen minutes later, the man was waiting for us. I saw him as soon as
we left the restaurant: Ten yards up the road next to another man in a
military uniform. Both of them were young, and both had guns.
The first man, the one Shuaib had bumped into, crossed the space between us surprisingly quickly and grabbed his arm.
“Who is this?”
“He’s my friend,” Shuaib replied.
“Is he a foreigner?”
“Yeah,” Shuaib said. “He’s an American researcher.”
“OK,” the man said, pulling Shuaib toward the street. “Come to the base with us. We need to ask you some questions.”
“Sure, why not,” Shuaib shrugged.
Israel bans renowned doctor and human rights activist Mads Gilbert from entering Gaza for life
Somehow the other man had circled around
behind me. Grabbing my arm, he started pulling me toward the street. My
eyes followed my body and I saw the yellow-and-white taxi: driver
inside, back door open. And then I knew.
I had played through this scenario dozens of times. Get in the car and you’re kidnapped, resist and you’re dead.
When the moment came, my body didn’t give me a choice. I couldn’t get into the car.
I jerked my arm back. The man pulled harder, and we were scuffling.
There was no punching or screaming, none of the things I would have
imagined, just a weird one-armed tug-of-war over a few yards of
asphalt. I was older and stronger, but he had a gun. His hand slipped
down past my wrist, catching on the backpack that I had slung over one
arm. For a second, I thought about dropping the backpack and running.
But it had $600, my passport, and all my notebooks from two weeks of
work. I tugged.
Dropping Shuaib’s arm, the (other) man grabbed for his gun. That’s when
I thought he would start shooting. Shuaib moved fast, escaping up the
street and scrambling for cover. The second man let go of my backpack
to chamber his own bullet, and then I was running too.
I remembered to zigzag as I ducked into a different restaurant and
headed for the back. My plan was to run through the kitchen and escape
out the back and then make a big loop back to the American Institute,
where I was staying. I made it to the rear of the restaurant, but as I
tried to go through the kitchen, one of the Yemeni workers blocked me.
“Mamnu‘a” he said.
I was trapped.
end of excerpt
note: Click here
to read the full story.
Dr. Gilbert has volunteered at al-Shifa hospital during three wars,
treating thousands of patients [AP]
Mads Gilbert, an outspoken Norwegian doctor and activist who
treated patients at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital during Israel’s assault on
the Palestinian territory this summer, has been denied access to Gaza
"indefinitely" by Israeli authorities.
Gilbert said on Friday that he was turned away from the Erez border
crossing when attempting to return to Gaza in October, despite having
all the legitimate paper work.
"To my surprise I was denied access by the Israeli military," he said.
"When I asked the reason they informed me that it was a security issue."
Gilbert said that when he asked for a fuller explanation, he was told to "leave the premises or the police would be called".
The 67-year-old, who has been involved in solidarity work with
Palestinians for decades and volunteered at al-Shifa on and off for 17
years, has been a vocal critic of Israel's military campaigns and its
occupation of Palestinian territory.
During the seven-week conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement
that left nearly 2200 Palestinians dead, Gilbert frequently spoke to
international media, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now, about the
situation at al-Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with civilian
During the recent war, Gilbert accused Israel of committing "state
terrorism at a very sophisticated and very high level,” and said its
army was "using a wide variety of sophisticated modern weapons against
a basically naked civilian population.
BBC aired an interview with Gilbert, conducted at al-Shifa
hospital. The interviewer began asking him to respond to Israel’s
claims that it was not targeting civilians, that it was only attacking
Hamas militants. Gilbert called the claim “an absolutely stupid
statement” and explained that, among the hundreds of patients he had
seen at that point, only two had been fighters. The “large majority”
were women, children, and men civilians. “These numbers are
contradictory to everything Israel says,” he reported.
In 2008 and 2009, Gilbert treated Palestinians who had been wounded by
Israel’s use of experimental and illegal chemical weapons, including
white phosphorous, dense inert metal explosives (DIME) munitions, and
flechette shells. In
July 2014, in the midst of Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza, Gilbert
spoke with Electronic Intifada, revealing that he saw indications of
renewed use of DIME weapons and flechettes.
Dore note: Flechettes are described as illegal under rules of
humanitarian law. The way they’re described is they explode in the air
above a target, sending out a cone of thousands of tiny steel darts,
small darts. DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosives) weapons are
banned under international law and "kill their victims through the
amputation of limbs in a way that resembles an automated saw. As for
those who are able to survive, they are vulnerable to cancer because
[the weapons] contain carcinogenic tungsten," according to a
report by Al Jazeera.
Dr. Gilbert told Al Jazeera he was informed that the ban was "infinite without any time limit".
Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-registered charity, which has been
working in the occupied West Bank and Gaza for over 20 years and
supports al-Shifa hospital, called the ban on Gilbert "deeply
concerning" and reiterated that, "following the recent conflict,
thousands of Palestinians in Gaza require specialised surgical
treatment and it is imperative that the right to health is unimpeded".
Dr. Gilbert said he had been invited by the Gaza Health Ministry, which
had requested his assistance to research the impact on healthcare of
the Israeli bombardment.
Before Operation Protective Edge commenced in early July 2014, Gilbert
toured medical and health facilities and individual homes in Gaza,
researching for a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) report on the dire state of the
strip’s health sector.
He wrote of “overstretched” health facilities, widespread physical and
psychological trauma, “a deep financial crisis,” a lack of needed
medical supplies, and a “severe energy crisis.” He also noted the
“devastating results of the blockade imposed by the Government of
Israel,” with rampant poverty, a 38.5% unemployment rate, food
insecurity in at least 57% of households, and inadequate access to
clean water. All of these already extreme ills were only exacerbated by
the July-August Israeli assault on Gaza, an onslaught that left roughly
2,200 Palestinians dead, including over 1,500 civilians, more than 500
of whom were children.
Gilbert is not the only one Israel has recently prevented from entering
Gaza. In August, just after the end of its military assault, Israel
refused to allow Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the
world’s leading human rights organizations, from entering the strip,
impeding them from conducting war crimes investigations.
Denouncing his entry ban as a limitation of freedom of expression,
Gilbert said it appeared the Israeli government "doesn't want the
effects of their continuous attacks on the civilian population in Gaza
to be known to the world".
"Telling the world about the burdens of the Palestinians in Gaza is
considered a security risk," he said, adding that in a larger
perspective, the ban was not about him, but about the Gazans' right to
He vowed to continue to challenge Israel
and called for political pressure to be exerted to lift the "long overdue" siege of Gaza.
"There is no way we’re going to accept that medical and humanitarian
assistance to the people in Gaza shall be denied just because the
Israeli government has decided so. I will not give up travelling to
Gaza as long as they have medical needs," he said.
While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer calls often produce "intolerable noise",
it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance (Photo: Rex Features)
Israeli Right-wingers have revived highly contentious plans that could
effectively silence the Muslim call to prayer, known as the adhan.
In a move that risks stoking already simmering tensions in Jerusalem
between Jews and Arabs, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition
Robert Ilatov, a parliamentarian with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael
Beiteinu party, is sponsoring the bill with the support of Avigdor
Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister who is also the party's leader.
While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer
calls often produce "intolerable noise" that disturbs many citizens'
sleep, it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance and
prejudice against Israel's Muslim minority.
"Hundreds of thousands of citizens in Israel, in the Galilee, the
Negev, Jerusalem and other locations in central Israel suffer on a
regular basis from noise that is caused by muezzin [prayer caller]
calls in mosques," the bill states.
Around 20 per cent of Israel's population are Arabs, most of them
Muslim, meaning the adhan is a familiar sound five times a day -
including before dawn - despite the country's de facto status as a
Mr Ilatov suggested that freedom of religious worship was trumped by the right to peace and quiet.
"Freedom of religion and worship is a universal freedom to which
everyone is entitled in every democratic state, and of course in
Israel," he told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "This does not mean that
additional rights can be trampled, such as the right to conduct a
normal daily routine that includes peaceful and uninterrupted sleep
during the night."
The proposal comes against the backdrop of a clampdown by security
forces in Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem which have witnessed
almost nightly scenes of unrest in recent months following the murder
of a 16-year-old Palestinian by Jewish vigilantes seeking revenge for
the killing of three Israelis in the West Bank.
The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend
Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian
minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent
It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.
At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”
“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t
want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she
The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a
criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset
considers stripping her of citizenship.
But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing
line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election
to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to
exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority.
One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.
In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to
outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the onl