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.
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.
÷zgecan 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 ÷zgecan 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 ÷zgecan’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 ÷zgecan 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 ÷zgecan
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 KobanÍ, 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 KobanÍ are blocked, it is not possible for
humanitarian supplies to reach the city. Due to the plight of refugees
from KobanÍ 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
KobanÍ, which is being centrally controlled by the state, has been
discontinued. The population in KobanÍ thereof has built an alternative
water line to KobanÍ. 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 KobanÍ
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 KobanÍ 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 KobanÍ.
* Securing drinking water and food supply.
* Sending international teams of doctors for medical care.
* Technical equipment for the reconstruction of the city.
Akın ‹nver 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 ‹nver) 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 ‹nver is an assistant professor of international relations at
Kadir Has University in Istanbul and an energy and political risk
consultant. Dr. ‹nver 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 only
extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.
Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has
been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over
the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.
After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence
in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from
the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism
Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the
main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her
criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza,
dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which
left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.
In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio
interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of
three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce
those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.
Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.
During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi
said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive,
racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those
lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”
In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent
comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance
movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a
terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She
added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and
no red lines.”
Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”
“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for
it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel
Tyranny of the majority
Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the
government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple
majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.
Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.
Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the
majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish
to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to
democracy,” she said.
Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded,
the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish
politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.
“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while
ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and
even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were
filed against them.”
She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”
Nov 1 is an urgent call for action appealing to people all over the
world to show solidarity with Kobane, which is still under siege by the
Islamic State (IS) and facing the possibility of a genocide.
Prominent signatories include Professor Noam Chomsky and Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, who have both been long-time supporters of the Kurdish
struggle for self-determination, as well as Nobel Peace Prize Laureates
like Adolfo Erez Esquivel, and Jose Ramos-Horta, former President of
East Timor and Nora Cortinas, cofounder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
in Argentina and Palestinian singer Reem Kelani.
For nearly two months, the city of Kobane has been facing an onslaught
from IS. The call for action states that the US-led coalition “has not
fulfilled their real international legal obligations. Some of the
countries in the coalition, especially Turkey, are among financial and
military supporters of IS in Iraq and Syria.”
In response to the call to action there were rallies in some 30 countries spanning 5 continents.
The reinforcements (including
desperately needed anti-tank missiles and artillery) were the first
Turkey had allowed to cross through into Syria after weeks of tense
Turkey has strong reservations about helping Kurdish communities in
Syria and Iraq that are aligned with its own restive Kurdish population.
For many ordinary Kurds, the Peshmerga's arrival was a symbol of a
long-sought united front to save Kobane, which has become a symbol of
their resistance not only to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
but all the many enemies against which they have fought over the years
in all three countries.
Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish political analyst at the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy said the range of forces now in Kobane was
striking. It incorporates Syrian Arab rebels, the Iraqi Kurds, and
local Kurdish fighters from the Y.P.G., a militia affiliated with
Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., movement.
“That’s huge, the first time this has happened,” he said. “This builds
up a working relationship between these three groups, so if the goal is
to build a native, indigenous boots-on-the-ground strategy, this could
be the beginning.”
Meysa Abdo, who is also known by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin, is a commander of the resistance in Kobani.
Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been
fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the
army of the Islamic State, also known as IS.
Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month,
including the deployment of United States (captured) tanks and armored
vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance
of Kobani’s fighters.
We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre.
Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women.
We had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside
world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on
Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run
out of ammunition.
None of that changes the reality that our weapons still cannot match those of the Islamic State.
Turkey, a NATO member, should have been an ally in this conflict. It
could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian
Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth
through Turkish territory.
Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times
publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and
democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because
of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish
leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of
Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross
into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross
Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting
As a result, the Islamic State can bring in endless amounts of new
supplies and ammunition, but we are still effectively blockaded on all
We believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a
border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather
than one with the Islamic State.
Western governments should increase their pressure on Turkey to open a
corridor for Syrian Kurdish forces and their heavy weapons to reach the
defenders of Kobani through the border.
We have proved ourselves to be one of the only effective forces
battling the Islamic State in Syria. Whenever we meet them on equal
terms, they are defeated.
The people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world.
This article was translated from the Kurdish for the New York Times by GŁney Yildiz.
Raqqa is a city where life under the
Islamic State is as inscrutable to outsiders as it is terrifying — a
reminder of the caliphate's brutality as much as of its bureaucratic
With open dissent all but stifled in the city — and punished with
death, when it still happens — a group of young residents has taken the
huge personal risk of documenting life under the Islamist fighters'
rule — sharing photos, videos, and stories from the city on the web.
Even after one of them was caught and executed, the group carried on,
speaking with journalists and sharing images from the city.
VICE News caught up with 22-year-old Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a member of
the group who in the last four years went from medical student, to
activist against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, to a chronicler of the
fate of his city under the Islamic State, which he documented one
crucifixion at the time until he was forced to flee just two weeks ago.
After the northern Iraqi town of
Makhmour fell to Islamic State militants last month, Kurdish forces
were gathered in the nearby village of Bazarga. Perched on the hillside
overlooking the city, it gave the Kurds a safe vantage point from which
to observe their enemy.
Volunteers had also converged on the area, offering their help to the
Kurdish army, or Peshmerga. Hundreds of parked cars lined the side of
the main road from the regional capital, Erbil, with young men leaning
against their doors. Like the security forces stationed at a camp
hidden from the road, they were waiting for an opportunity to take on
The upside to the current crisis, says a
28-year-old PKK guerilla called Slaw, is that the Kurds are finally
working together. One of the PKK's many female fighters, Slaw lives in
the Makhmour camp. The battle for Makhmour was her first experience of
armed combat and the first time she had seen Kurds united.
"Now there are no borders between the different parts of Kurdistan.
Kurds from Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq are here. We've all crossed
the borders to fight the Isis. The Kurds are united to bring our land
back under our control."
Kurdish forces successfully retook Makhmour a few days later and the
PKK have now deployed to Sinjar and Jalawla, Kurdish areas in the west
and east of the country where extensive fighting continues. But
divisions between the different factions are starting to re-emerge,
with the Kurdish authorities apparently distancing themselves from the
The local media close to the government has played down the role of the
PKK in providing aid to the tens of thousands of Yazidi stranded on a
mountain after Islamic State militants overran the western district of
Sinjar, and then in creating a safe corridor that allowed them to
Unlike the recent refugee camps scattered across the Kurdistan region,
Makhmour's residents live in houses, some built out of local stone,
others out of grey cement blocks. Trees, gardens, and winding streets
give the camp a village-like feel, while pictures of Ocalan and pro-PKK
graffiti leave no doubt about where the residents' allegiances lie.
When Islamic State entered Makhmour the battle-hardened PKK fighters
are said to have volunteered to take the front line, ahead of the
Peshmerga, who had not been engaged in active combat for years.
"We thought it would raise their morale to have us in front of them,"
said Massoum, one of three PKK commanders who run the camp.
Massoum says the international community is reluctant to give the PKK
the credit they are due or the military support they could use to help
to keep Islamic State at bay. "People are blind, deaf and dumb and
don't want to strengthen the PKK. They call Isis 'jihadists' and call
us 'terrorists'. They see us as a threat when they should understand
that none of us can stand alone against Isis."
A 91-year-old Dutch man who was declared
a Righteous Among the Nations for saving a Jew during the German
occupation on Thursday returned his medal and certificate because six
of his relatives were killed by an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip
In 2011, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum declared Henk Zanoli and his
late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, Righteous Among the Nations for having
saved a Jewish child, Elhanan Pinto, during the Nazi occupation of
Holland. Pinto, born in 1932, was hidden by the Zanoli family from the
spring of 1943 until the Allies liberated Holland in 1945. His parents
perished in Nazi death camps.
In the accompanying letter, addressed to Ambassador Haim Davon, Zanoli
began by describing the price his family paid for resisting the Nazis
and their successful effort to save a Jewish child.
Ambassador Haim Davon
Embassy of Israel
2513 AH The Hague
The Hague, August 11 2014
My mother and her nuclear family risked
their lives fighting the German occupation. My mother lost her husband
who was deported to Dachau as early as 1941 because of
his open and outspoken opposition to the German occupation. He
eventually perished in Mauthausen Concentration Camp. My sister
lost her husband who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his
involvement in the resistance. In addition to this my brother
lost his Jewish fiancťe who was deported, never to return.
My steadfast and heroic mother nevertheless continued the struggle,
amongst others, by taking in an 11 year old Jewish boy in her home
risking both her own life and that
of her children. This boy survived the war under the wings of my mother andeventually moved to Israel.
Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that
today, fourgenerations on, our family is faced with the murder of our
kin in Gaza. Murder carried
out by the State of Israel.
The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their
grandmother, threeuncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the
Israeli army. Their family apartment
building in Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza was bombed on July 20 from an
Israeli F16,turning the four storey building to rubble, leaving every
single family member inside
I understand that in your professional
role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express
understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced
that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound
understanding of thefact that for me to hold on to the honour granted
by the State of Israel, under these
circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous
mother whorisked her life and that of her children fighting against
suppression and for the
preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family,
four generationson, who lost no less than six of their relatives in
Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.
On a more general note the following. After the horror of the
holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with
regard to their aspirations to build a
national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to
realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist
element in it in aspiring to build
a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing
took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your
state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and
in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967.
The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in
serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a
retired lawyer it would
be no surprise to me that these accusations could lead to possible
convictions if true and unpoliticized justice is able to have its
course. What happened to our kin in Gaza
will no doubt be brought to the table at such a time as well.
The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have
gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of
the State of Israel the same political
rights and social and economic rights and opportunities. Although
this will result in a state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a
state with a level of righteousness on
the basis of which I could accept the title of ‘Righteous among the
Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me together with the medal.
Today I am a 91 year old man who does not expect radical change with
regard to the current sad reality within my, most likely, still limited
lifetime. If your state would be
willing and able to transform itself along the lines set out above and
there would still be an interest at that time in granting an honour to
my family for the actions of my
mother during the second world war, be sure to contact me or my descendants.
Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza
Projects for the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) based in
Berkeley, is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s
rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. She was born in
Khan Younis, Gaza and has dedicated herself to developing community
based programs that aim to improve health quality and link health
services with cultural and recreation services all over the Gaza Strip.
Dr. El-Farra is also the Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent
Society of the Gaza Strip and a member of the Union of Health Work
Dr. Fara has spent most of the war at the Red Crescent society, where
she is vice president, diagnosing injuries, distributing hygiene kits
to shelters, and setting up a hotline to answer medical questions.
made a powerful speech on July 31 condemning Israel’s massacre in Gaza
and the complcity of American, Irish and other European governments.
Gilbert asks his fellow Norwegians to
"imagine what their country would be like today if they had not
struggled for its liberation from German occupation:
We actually built this country on respect for diversity, respect for the individual, respect for human dignity.
And imagine being back in 1945. And I beg to be understood when I
say that I am not comparing the German Nazi regime with Israel. I do
But I compare occupation with occupation.
Imagine that we in 1945 did not win the liberation struggle, did not
throw out the occupier, could not see a bright future or believe our
kids had a future. Imagine the occupier remaining in our country,
taking it piece by piece, for decades upon decades. And banished us to
the leanest areas. Took the fish in the sea, took the land, took the
water, and we became more and more confined.
And here in TromsÝ (imagine) we were actually imprisoned, because
here there was so much resistance to the occupation. So we are
imprisoned for seven years, because in an election we had chosen the
most resilient, those who would not accept the occupation.
Then after seven years of confinement in
our city, TromsÝ, the occupier began to bomb us. And they began to bomb
us the day we made a political alliance with those in the other
confined parts of occupied Norway, to say that we Norwegians would
stand together against the occupier. Then they began to bomb us.
They bombed our university hospital, then the medical center, then
killed our ambulance workers, they bombed schools where those who had
lost their homes were trying to seek shelter. Then they cut the power
and bombed our power plant. Then they shut off the water supply. What
would we have done?
Would we have given up, waved the white flag? No. No, we would not. And this is the situation in Gaza.
This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the
enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the
Palestinian people’s will to resist. The unbending determination not to
submit to the occupation!
It is the Palestinian people’s dignity and humanity that will not
accept that they are treated as third, fourth, fifth-ranking people.
In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews “Untermenschen,” subhuman.
Today, Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, in the Diaspora are
treated as Untermensch, as subhumans who can be bombed, killed,
slaughtered by their thousands, without any of those in power reacting.
So I returned home to my free country – and this country is free
because we had a resistance movement, because we said that occupied
nations have the right to resist, even with weapons. It’s stated in
You are permitted to fight the occupier even with weapons. One should of course respect international law …
Nobody wants to be occupied!"
Leading Jewish voice Rabbi Henry Siegman was in the news with strong opinions about Israel's war on Gaza.
Siegman's father was one of the founding fathers of the European Zionist movement.
Siegman is former executive director of the American Jewish Congress
from 1978 to 1994 and former executive vice president of the Synagogue
Council of America. He also served as senior fellow at the
Council on Foreign Relations. He is president of the U.S./Middle East