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2017 Gaza Corner Archive

Heard live Saturday nights 11pm on Tangents 91.7 FM KALW San Francisco

This weekly feature includes news and opinion from the Middle East (and beyond) often ignored by the mainstream media followed by music from the relevant country or culture.

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

December 9, 2017

Donna Baranski-Walker, Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance is tonight's guest on Gaza Corner. Donna will provide an update on the threatened Palestinian village Susiya and what urgent action can be taken to stop its demolition.

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Children in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho, attend their first day of school in August 2017. US Senators are urging Israel not to demolish the village. (credit: Shadi Hatem APA images)

US senators cautiously challenge ethnic cleansing by Israel

In a rare move,10 US senators (including Bernie Sanders and Diane Feinstein) wrote Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week calling on him “not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susiya and the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar” in the occupied West Bank.

“Your government’s threats to demolish these communities are particularly distressing in light of [Israel’s] efforts to dramatically expand settlements throughout the West Bank,” the lawmakers state.

The letter comes in the same month as the unprecedented introduction of a House bill intended to end Israeli military detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian children.

B’Tselem to Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials: Demolishing Palestinian communities – a war crime for which you would bear personal liability

The demolition of entire communities in the Occupied Territories is virtually unprecedented since 1967. In its letter, B’Tselem warned that under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel is obliged to respect in all its actions in the West Bank, forcible transfer of protected persons inside the occupied territory is prohibited and constitutes a war crime. The organization emphasized that the prohibition on forcible transfer of protected persons is not limited to transfer by physical force, but applies also to “departure due to impossible living conditions created by the authorities – through, for instance, demolishing homes or disconnecting them from electricity and running water.“

B’Tselem further stressed that “forcible transfer is one of the offenses that come under the purview of the International Criminal Court.

December 2, 2017

audio not yet available

This coming Wednesday Trump is expected to announce a seismic shift in long standing US policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.This will destroy the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Such a declaration will not only cause an eruption in violence across the Middle East and possibly a 3rd Intifada, but could threaten to topple Arab states such as Jordan which has a large Palestinian population. It will also be ideal fodder for extremist groups such as IS to target US interests.

Trump poised to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel

Aaron David Miller, a longtime negotiator in the Middle East for Republican and Democratic administrations, said recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be “the single dumbest move this administration has made in the Middle East.”

“Why now?” asked Miller, now a scholar at the nonpartisan Wilson Center think tank. “There is not a single U.S. national security interest in this.”

Protesters outside U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv (credit: Jack Guez Getty/AFP)

Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Toppling Decades of U.S. Policy; World-Wide Muslim Protests, Violence Expected to Result

...Odds are the coming violence will far overshadow the last Intifada

So this is yet another totally ineffectual move by the Trump administration which will backfire. The only question is how badly it will fail and how many thousands of dead Israelis and Palestinians will result. U.S. diplomats and military personnel will inevitably become targets.

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during a protest in Nablus over US President Donald Trump's pledge to move the US embassy (credit: Reuters)

Palestinians in Jerusalem warn of 'Intifada' over US embassy plan

Jamal Juma, who lives in south-east Jerusalem, is the head of the ‘Stop the Wall’ campaign, which campaigns against the wall and settlements. Jamal has been arrested several times for his activism.

"Trump, with this step, will end all international efforts for the recognition of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem."

"Israel and US policies are provoking a third Intifada because they are not giving Palestinians any option but to rise up."

Experts warn moving US embassy to Jerusalem could provoke violent 'chaos'

Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer described the move of the embassy as a “great step forward to peace”, denying it would inflame tensions in the region.

Dore note: this quote is not a joke.

November 25, 2017

audio not yet available

Narrow alley street in Sur, Diyarbakir in 2011. Turkish security forces destroyed much of Sur during 2015 and 2016 including many of these historical narrow streets. (photo: Dore Stein)

Cultural genocide can take various forms and be masked by polite words such as gentrification. But make no mistake about it. Turkey used extreme military force to destroy the ancient heart of Diyarbakir known as Sur so that it can erase its 7000 year multi-cultural heritage and create a new identity. The plan includes the forced displacement of the Kurds so that generations from now will no longer consider Diyabikar the spiritual capital of the Kurds.

Heartbreak in Turkey's Diyarbakir as development transforms ancient Sur

Nevin Soyukaya, an archaeologist and former head of the Diyarbakir Fortress UNESCO World Heritage Site and Diyarbakir Museum explained “This renovation and the new urban plans are destroying the city’s tangible and intangible heritage. What they are trying to do will wipe out our collective memory.”

Serefhan Aydin, the president of the Chamber of Architects in Diyarbaki said “They call the whole thing ‘gentrification,’ pretending that our old houses were unhealthy and primitive and that we would have a better life standard. This is a lie...In 10 years' time, there will be no more security issues here, but the new urban plans will remain. Once you destroy the urban fabric, there is no turning back.".

Damaged buildings in the Sur district of the mainly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. (photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Damage Assessment Report on Old City (Sur) of Diyarbakir

Sur has been inhabited uninterruptedly for eight millennia. Sur is the collective memory of Diyarbakir.

With the excavations and debris removal which totally wiped out the traces of the buildings in five blockaded neighborhoods, this area has been erased completely, the original fabric, integrity and authenticity of the historical city has been altered irreversibly.

The forced eviction of the inhabitants, the demolition of thousands of houses and the expropriation clearly indicate that the true owners of Sur will never be allowed to return to their homes again...It is obvious that the aim is to transform the political and demographic structure.

Destruction of Kurdish sites continues as Turkey hosts UNESCO

"In a year, we went from UNESCO [listing] ... to destruction so complete, there is no chance of return," Nevin Soyukaya, head of Diyarbakir’s heritage office, told Reuters.

Turkish activists say UNESCO has been quiet on Sur's ruin. "The dilemma is [UNESCO's] support and funding come from governments, so political pressure renders such organisations ineffective," said renowned Turkish novelist Omer Zulfu Livaneli in an interview with Reuters.

Buildings damaged by the fighting.
(photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The destruction of Sur: is this historic district a target for gentrification?

Sur’s history stretches back millennia, with traces of dozens of civilisations and a much-lauded legacy of pluralism. Jews, Muslims and Christians, Persians, Arabs, Armenians and Turks have all made their mark here.

In Diyarbakir, we may be seeing something unprecedented: gentrification by military force. And it’s all the more troubling because of Sur’s ancient roots.

“This is no longer just about Kurds and the people of Diyarbakir,” Nevin Soyukaya head of Diyarbakir Municipality’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department says. “Sur is a part of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilisation, so this is a global concern. This is important to human history, and it would be an international crime to destroy it.”

Abdullah Demirbas, the mayor of Sur from 2004 to 2014 believes "this is also an ideological and cultural hegemony project. They change the demographic profiles of places where the people don’t share their views. They replace them with people who do.”.

Song of the Kurds: Dengbêj

Eastern Turkey's High-Volume Bards: Video documentary excerpt and description of dengbêj which is a striking Kurdish vocal style that is sadly, a dying art form.

November 18, 2017

audio not yet available

The war in Syria has been won by Assad's forces. But the war is not over as evidenced by the governments's continued bombing and siege of so-called "de-escaltion zones" which are more aptly described as starvation zones.

New Amnesty Report: ‘We Leave or We Die’: Forced displacement under Syria's 'reconciliation' agreements

Amnesty International on Syria: ‘Surrender or starve’ strategy displacing thousands amounts to crimes against humanity

"While the Syrian government’s stated aim has been to vanquish opposition fighters, its cynical use of ‘surrender or starve’ tactics has involved a devastating combination of sieges and bombardments. These have been part of a systematic, as well as widespread, attack on civilians that amounts to crimes against humanity,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“You need months before you die of starvation. The air strike attacks were a different story. You could die from a piece of shrapnel in a fraction of a second. Nobody was protected from the air strikes and shelling. Civilians, rebels, buildings, cars, bridges, trees, gardens etc. were all a target,” one Aleppo resident told Amnesty International.

Marked for ‘De-escalation,’ Syrian Towns Endure Surge of Attacks
A resurgence of deadly attacks by pro-government forces in so-called de-escalation zones in Syria, including a triple airstrike on a busy marketplace that killed more than 50 people, is undermining an agreement seen as a crucial step toward ending the six-and-a-half-year civil war.

The Syrian Civil War Is Decided
Al Assad has won the war, but that doesn't mean the war is over.

One-month-old Sahar Dofdaa weighing less than 2kg and ribs protruding under translucent skin died soon after this photo was taken in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, where a crushing regime siege has pushed hundreds of children to the brink of starvation. Sahar's mother was also undernourished, leaving her unable to breastfeed her child. (photo: Amer Almohibany/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria: shocking images of starving baby reveal impact of food crisis

After death of one-month-old Sahar Dofdaa, aid officials warn of catastrophe and say many more children are at risk.

“Today eastern Ghouta is suffering from the worst kind of criminality,” said the activist Raed Srewel. “Thousands of children are in danger, and if there is no international movement or a UN initiative to resolve this, the consequences will be extremely dangerous and Ghouta will become a humanitarian catastrophe.”

A Syrian infant suffering from severe malnutrition is carried by a nurse at a clinic in the rebel-controlled town of Kafr Batna, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus. (credit: AFP-JIJI)

In besieged Syrian ‘de-escalation’ region, children dying of hunger as aid is reduced to trickle

Eastern Ghouta is one of four “de-escalation zones” set up in May under a deal between backers of rival sides in Syria’s devastating six-year war.

But food supplies still rarely enter the region, where medical officials say hundreds of children are suffering acute malnutrition.

Before Syria’s War, This Place Was an Oasis. Now Children Are Starving.

Much of the world stopped caring about Syria a long time ago. But you are not most people. We need to raise $150,000 to help feed 3,400 besieged families—more than 13,000 people—for a month. We can write a different story for thousands of hungry children in Syria. $50 can help feed a besieged family in Syria for a month.

Please give today.

November 4, 2017

audio not yet available

Ross Daly and Dore Stein after Ross's concert and talk

Cretan lyra master Ross Daly discusses how he handled an Egyptian oudist's refusal to teach Israeli students at Ross' Labyrinth school and also how a personal experience caused Ross to stop performing in Israel.

The audio is excerpted from a 90 minute post concert talk Ross Daly gave to the Tangents Greece Music Tour Group on 10/13/17 in Peza, Crete.

September 23, 2017

audio not yet available

Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro is the most high profile victim of the recently enacted censorship law put forth by Presidential Decree by the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Released from PA jail, Issa Amro warns online censorship law threatens last line of defense against Israel
Issa Amro: “They’re destroying us with this censorship law. We are using human rights and freedom of expression as a tool to attack the occupation, to destroy the false image Israel has created–we are using our voices to show that Israel is an occupying country, and by making these kind[s] of arrests against activists, journalists and other groups they are taking away that tool from us, because the people will have both governments coming after them...They are attacking one of the only tools we still have to use against Israel–which is our voice.”

Issa Amro is merely the latest casualty of Palestine’s war on free speech
The passage of the Electronic Crimes Law and the PA’s subsequent actions, make clear that neither Israel nor the PA will tolerate dissent; their respective actions do not simply target the press but also those who speak out, as in the case of Amro. As part of Israel’s tactics to quash dissent, it has arrested Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, for writing poems, for criticising Israel on Facebook and for broadcasting stories critical of Israel, its occupation or leadership. To this end, Israel recently announced it would ban al-Jazeera from operating.

Issa Amro released on bail following campaign for his freedom

The Electronic Crimes Law, a new PA law put into place by decree by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.... aims to criminalize a broad swath of critical commentary on social media sites like Facebook under the pretext of disrupting social harmony or similar allegations.

The law and associated repressive arrests of journalists and activists by the PA come amid the targeting of hundreds of Palestinians for arrest and imprisonment by the Israeli occupation for their social media posts. It also highlights the issue of PA security coordination with Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, especially activists and human rights defenders.

Palestinian authorities arrest activist in growing free speech crackdown
Responding to Amro’s detention, Amnesty International said: “It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.

September 16, 2017

audio not yet available

There is a new FM radio station in Gaza called Hawwa radio. The mostly female staffed station is dedicated to empowering women and it aspires to becoming the voice of Palestinian refugees.

Hawwa, the first Palestinian radio station based in Nuseirat refugee camp, discusses daily life in the camps, relationships and the role of women. (picture taken 8/10/17 by Mohammad al-Hajjar)

Gaza radio station gives a voice to refugees, women
On the air since the first week of August, Hawwa radio station in Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip aims to become the voice of Palestinian refugees, and women in particular.

Palestinian radio presenter Nora Abdul Hadi works at Nisaa FM radio station, established in 2010 to address Palestinian women, in Ramallah, the West Bank, 11/4/12. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian media outlets commit to more coverage of women’s affairs

On Dec. 5, 2016, 17 public and private Palestinian media organizations in Ramallah signed a charter of honor prepared by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, to launch a safe media network that supports social issues and women’s affairs.

According to Minister of Women’s Affairs Haifa Agha the charter of honor is intended to "change stereotypes about women, support their rights and address women’s affairs such as violence against them, denial of their inheritance, the right to choose a spouse and gender equality."

September 9, 2017

audio not yet available

The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from illegally occupied East Jerusalem is spearheaded by a settler eviction campaign led by the right wing Israel Land Fund. It scored a major victory this week by forcibly evicting The Shamasnehs, including their 84-year-old grandfather, from their home of more than 50 years.

The discrimination inherent in Israel is clear. Jews can sue and return to the properties they owned before 1948. 750,000 Arabs expelled from their land during the creation of Israel have no such right.

Police escorting a member of the Shamasneh family from the roof of the family home, September 4, 2017. (credit: Olivier Fitoussi)

Clashes at Jerusalem house after Palestinians evicted

The Shamasnehs, including 84-year-old grandfather Ayoub, were forcibly evicted on Tuesday from their home of more than 50 years, after a court ruled Israeli Jews the legal occupants.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families lived in east Jerusalem homes before the 1948 war they can demand that Israel's general custodian office release the property and return their "ownership rights".

Members of the Shamasneh family watch as Israeli policemen clear their home to make way for Jewish settlers on September 5, 2017. (credit: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

Israel Evicts Palestinian Family From East Jerusalem Home to Make Way for Pre-'48 Jewish Owners
Joint List lawmaker Dov Khenin commented: "The injustice cries out to the heavens, not only because there are elderly and children among the family members, but also because of the discrimination that cries out to the heavens between Jews, who can sue and return to the properties they owned before 1948, and Arabs, who have no such right."

Palestinian family evicted from Jerusalem home of 50 years

Today, some 5 million Palestinians are registered as refugees with the United Nations, meaning that they, or their male ancestors, lost their homes and livelihood as a result of the 1948 violence.

None of these Palestinian refugees have the right to return to the homes their families fled in what is now Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.

September 2, 2017

audio not yet available

Gaza Corner examines Israel's excessive use of administrative detention thru the story of a circus clown held without charge or trial for almost 2 years before his release this week, and the recent arrest of Addameer's field researcher.

Amnesty International states administrative detention is "used by Israel as a way of sidestepping the criminal justice system and detaining people who should never have been arrested."

Palestinian clowns hold portraits of their colleague Mohammed Abu Sakha during a demonstration in solidarity with him in February 2016 in Gaza (AFP)

Israel frees Palestinian clown after nearly two-year detention without charge
Shadi Zmorrod, the founder of the circus school, and one of the organisers of the campaign to free Mohammed Abu Sakha, said “It’s shocking to see how someone can be imprisoned for 21 months, without charge, and at the end be released without being charged with any crime at all. They took away 21 months of his life, and 21 months from those that needed him.”

Administrative detention order issued against Addameer's field researcher Salah Hamouri

This arrest and decision is but one in a list of many, where the occupying power has attempted to stifle the legitimate pursuit of Palestinian human rights and basic dignity.

For human rights defenders, there are two choices. Give up on your cause, or accept the life of constant punishment.

Organizations, activists, and parliamentarians across France are mobilizing to demand Hamouri's freedom once again and to pressure the French government to take action on this case. Sign this petition directed to French president Emanuel Macron and European officials demanding them to act now.

Terrorism is a Tool Used by the Militarily Strong, Not Just by the Weak

The pattern of dehumanizing Palestinian Arabs and/or deliberately obscuring their humanity are factors that have facilitated Israel’s project of designating Palestinian resistance movements as terror organizations.

Israel, on the other hand, has a right to terrorize Palestinian populations openly, proudly and fiercely – a right the Jewish state has been exercising for 70 years with total impunity.

Israeli and Palestinian circus artists protest in Tel Aviv for the release of Palestinian clown, Mohammed Abu Sakha, who is being imprisoned by Israel, July 5, 2016. (credit: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel renews detention without charge of Palestinian circus performer for further six months

“The Israeli authorities must either charge Mohammad Abu Sakha with a genuine criminal offence or order his release. For decades, Israel has relied upon administrative detention, in many cases as an alternative to bringing Palestinians to trial, and used it to suppress peaceful dissent. They must take urgent steps to end this cruel practice once and for all.”

"The Israeli authorities claim they only use administrative detention in exceptional cases relating to security. In practice, however, it has been used to detain thousands of people, including those Amnesty International has considered prisoners of conscience."

Palestinians clowns during a show of solidarity for their colleague, Mohammed Abu Sakha, who was jailed by Israel in December, in front of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, Feb. 8, 2016. (credit: Majdi Fathi—NurPhoto/Sipa USA)

Why This Palestinian Clown is Being Jailed Without Trial

Abu Sakha is being held in an Israeli prison, under a legal procedure known as administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold prisoners for an indefinite period of time without charges and without trial, based on secret information. Abu Sakha is one of several thousand Palestinians who have been detained in this way in the last ten years.

Over the last decade, Israel has imprisoned nearly 4,000 people under administrative detention. Just 35 of them have been Jewish.

Just 5 percent of Palestinians held in administrative detention are indicted at the end of their detention. The vast majority are simply released.

August 26, 2017

audio not yet available

Afghanistan was in the news this week as Trump disclosed his strategy which was scant in details and amounts to more of the same failed policy. The US will continue this endless war because most Americans and Europeans don’t care about Afghan civilians dying.

Gaza Corner personalizes the war in Afghanistan through the story of a female doctor in Kunduz. She risked her life while trying to deliver a child as the Taliban attacked her city and the US Coalition dropped bombs. (Doctor's audio courtesy of BBC Outlook.)

Dodging Bullets to Deliver a Baby
For the past year, gynaecologist Dr. Marzia Salam Yaftali has been running the last-standing, public hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. The city has long been dangerous, but the stakes were especially high in 2015 when the Taliban attempted to recapture it. Marzia tells Outlook's Emily Webb about living through the Kunduz siege.

Taliban End Takeover of Kunduz After 15 Days
The Taliban announced that they had withdrawn completely from the northern city of Kunduz ending their first takeover of any Afghan city during the last 14 years of war.

Trump’s Afghanistan Un-Strategy Is a Recipe for Endless War
America’s longest war is about to get even longer.

Trump Outlines New Afghanistan War Strategy With Few Details

Mr. Trump declared, “In the end, we will win.”

But he did not define what victory would look like, nor did he explain how his path would be different from what he labeled the failed strategies of previous presidents.

“It didn’t work then,” said John Dempsey, a former senior State Department official who worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan. “And it especially won’t work now.”

August 19, 2017

The work of Israeli NGO Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, is highlighted. Gisha recently launched an interactive website, 50 Shades of Control, which describes Israel’s control over the lives of 1.9 million Gazans.

Gaza Corner also discusses Israel's absurd law of forcing Gazans to stay abroad for a year if they are able to receive a travel permit.

Gisha presents: 50 facts that prove Israel still controls the Gaza Strip

To mark ten years of closure on the Gaza Strip and 50 years since its occupation by Israel, Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement) has launched a new interactive website, 50 Shades of Control, promoting a better understanding of the scope of Israel’s continuous control over the lives of almost two million residents of the Strip.

In a PDF format, for your convenience: Here.

Gisha in letter to Gaza CLA: Stop the unlawful practice of making Gaza residents sign a commitment not to return for a year as they exit via Erez Crossing
Gaza residents traveling abroad via Erez Crossing attested to a practice imposed on the Israeli side of the crossing, by which, at the very last minute, residents were forced to sign a waiver, committing not to return to Gaza for at least a year, as a condition for being allowed to depart on their journeys.

More Gazans now allowed to travel abroad via Israel, but there’s a catch

“The fact that they made people sign after they had already received permits and were on the shuttle to go abroad indicates that the military authorities had already concluded that they met the criteria for travel from Gaza and did not pose a security threat,” said Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha.

“Wherever they are made to sign and at whatever stage, this is an unacceptable practice,” she added.

Israel to Let Gazans Leave via West Bank - as Long They Don't Return for at Least 12 Months
The condition that one must remain outside the country for at least a year is a strong deterrent since there is hardly any possibility of returning via Egypt.

Restricted Movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Control of Palestinian movement has been a feature of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territory since its inception in 1967. However, over the last 14 years the draconian system of movement controls used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory has become increasingly institutionalized and restrictive.

Taken together all of these factors contribute to forced displacement, severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water and basic services including health care and education, and perpetuate a system of segregation and legal and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis. Understanding how Palestinian’s freedom of movement is restricted is important to understanding the severe impact of Israel’s occupation on average Palestinians.

This paper provides background information on how Israel has restricted Palestinian movement and the impact that these restrictions have on Palestinians lives.

August 12, 2017

As the U.S. follows Trump's orders to bomb the shit out of IS, it has emerged as Syria's most lethal killer of civilians. In May and June combined, the U.S. led coalition killed more civilians than the Assad regime, the Russians or the Islamic State. Nowhere is the war against civilians more deadly than in the on-going annihilation of ISIS-occupied Raqqa.

Smoke rises from a coalition airstrike on the eastern side of Raqqa on 26 July, when 62 civilians were reportedly killed by such attacks. (photo courtesy of AP)

US-led anti-Isis campaign in Raqqa 'failing to avoid civilian deaths'

Hundreds of residents in Syrian city reportedly killed by airstrikes on Isis stronghold amid changes in targeting policy under Trump.

“In Raqqa city, if you don’t die from airstrikes, you die by mortar fire; if not by mortars then by sniper shots; if not by snipers, then by an explosive device,” MSF said, quoting a 41-year-old patient with shrapnel wounds who lost seven family members in the fighting. “And if you get to live, you are besieged by hunger and thirst, as there is no food, no water, no electricity.”

Airwars estimated that 119 children had been killed in the campaign to liberate Raqqa city, out of an estimated 340 civilian casualties in June and July, with casualties rising sharply in recent weeks.

(courtesy of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently)

Burning Raqqa

The U.S. war against civilians in Syria

Islamic State fighters have now essentially been defeated in Mosul after a nine-month, U.S.-backed campaign that destroyed significant parts of Iraq’s second largest city, killing up to 40,00 civilians and forcing as many as one million more people from their homes.

Dore note: The US approach in Raqqa, Syria is more of the same resulting in a what feels to inhabitants as a war on civilians.

From Wassim Abdo’s perspective, the coalition campaign in Syria has so far killed his parents and nephew and ruined his hometown. “My opinion of the international coalition is that it’s a performance by the international community to target civilians and infrastructure and to destroy the country. And this type of warfare is not part of eliminating Daesh.”

(This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com)

Some of the many children reported killed in the fierce battle for control of Raqqa city since June 6th. (courtesy of Airwars.org)

Children pay high price in fight to take Raqqa from ISIS

Airwars has tracked as many as 119 children alleged killed in Coalition actions since June 6th. Based on the quality of local reports, at least 87 and as many as 100 of those deaths appear likely to have resulted from US-led actions.

According to the local media activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), 50,000 civilians are in ISIS-held areas of the city.

RBSS publishes hourly updates via Twitter on the U.S. backed assault on Raqqa.

Coalition civilian casualty claims double under Donald Trump

The high civilian toll in part reflects the brutal final stages of the war, with the densely populated cities of Mosul and Raqqa under heavy assault by air and land. But there are also indications that under President Trump, protections for civilians on the battlefield may have been lessened—with immediate and disastrous results.

“Remarkably, when I interview families at camps who have just fled the fighting, the first thing they complain about is not the three horrific years they spent under ISIS, or the last months of no food or clean water, but the American airstrikes,” said Belkis Wille, Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Many told me that they survived such hardship, and almost made it out with the families, only to lose all their loved ones in a strike before they had time to flee.”

Iraq/Syria: Danger From U.S. White Phosphorus

“No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch.

“Horrific civilian harm from previous use of white phosphorus has generated public outrage and this latest use of white phosphorus underscores the urgent need for states to strengthen international law relating to incendiary weapons,” Goose said.

July 15, 2017

April’s inaugural Palestine Music Expo (PMX) was the first opportunity for a vibrant but sealed off Palestinian music scene to connect with the international music industry.

In all 8 acts secured international representation - more than 30%. The average is less than 5%. A blueprint appears to be in place and PMX 2018 is penciled in.

Dispatch from Rammallah
The inaugural music expo taking place in Palestine is aimed at shining a much-needed spotlight on burgeoning local artists

(Article text is not available online. Issues of Songlines is available at newsstands or by online subscription)

The Musicians Shaking Up the Occupied Territories
Refugee rappers, ska stars from the Golan Heights, the Kraftwerk of the Levant … meet the acts redefining Palestine in the shadow of the wall and the watchtowers

The First Palestine Music Expo Hopes to Open Doors for Region's Musicians

The expo showcases Palestinian music acts, most of whom have never met anyone from the music industry nor performed outside the West Bank.

“Most people don’t know that there is a Palestinian music scene. If you tell them you’re from a hard rock band or a metal band from Palestine, they won’t believe you,” said PMX co-founder Abed Hathot.

In depth interview by Larry LeBlanc with Palestinian Musician, Composer, and Music Producer Abe Hathot
Hathot is also one of the prime movers behind the first Palestine Music Expo (PMX).

Why these 7 music business execs just visited Palestine – and want you to join them

Imagine not being able to play a gig 40 minutes down the road because you don’t have the right permit to travel, imagine there were no promoters to put on your shows at any stage in your career; these are just a few of the issues facing the Palestinian musicians we met recently as part of the newly set-up Palestine Music Expo (PMX).

One of the things that struck me most from these conversations was as Palestinian’s they must obtain permits to travel into Israel, which are very rarely granted meaning not only can they not play in the country, but that some of their favourite artists will come to Tel Aviv and they have no way of going to see them; as no international acts play in Palestine.

Palestine Music Expo Preview

Palestine Music Expo Looks to Draw Attention to a Burgeoning Industry
PMX co-founder Martin Goldschmidt: "During conflict, one of first human expressions to be limited is a people's artistic culture. Its prominence in everyday society is relegated and the world is denied the positive messages that music and art delivers. PMX is being created to highlight and remind people of what music can do to reinforce a message of hope and bring Palestinian culture into wider consciousness by supporting some damn good music."

July 1, 2017

Israel is losing support from the next generation of American Jews due to a lack of shared values according to a new survey by a pro Israel marketing project. And Israel has no clue how to solve problem. Ending the Occupation would be a good start.

Fern Oppenheim, the co-founder of Brand Israel Group, presents a recent report, 'Sounding the Alarm: The American-Israeli Relationship,' June 20, 2017. (Photo by Amanda Borschel - Dan/Times of Israel)

‘Devastating’ survey shows huge loss of Israel support among Jewish college students

Brand Israel Group raises the alarm on a widening gap in the US between older supporters and the increasingly pro-Palestinian next generation.

The current Israel advocacy programs are not working, and Jewish college students are the leading defectors from Israel support.

‘The future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values.’

In fact, the more the study participants knew about Israel, the less favorably they felt about the country.

An anti Israel protester holds up a sign during a demonstration in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. June 23, 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The More Americans Learn About Israel, the Less They Like It, Study Suggests
As pro-Israel advocates tout “shared values” between the United States and Israel, fewer and fewer Americans actually think they believe the same things as Israelis.

'Massive drop in US Jewish college students' support for Israel

As anti-Israeli fervor intensifies in US colleges,researchers warn against losing the next generation.

The study acknowledged a solid base of core support for Israel comprised of Jews, evangelicals, older Americans and the political Right, but noted that college students overall, Jewish college students and minority groups are populations that Israel is at risk of losing.

Behind Brand Israel: Israel’s propaganda efforts
All of this strategizing and energy is needed in order to avoid the manifestly unimaginable truth — that Israel is increasingly unable to maintain a regime of ethno-religious exclusion, apartheid separation and colonial violence without paying a price. Its supporters are also unable to see that it will prove to be unsustainable.

June 24, 2017

Guest Jim Haber reports back from his second delegation with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence under the banner "Occupation is Not Our Judaism." The work centered on “Sumud Freedom Camp”, a historic coalition working to assist Palestinians reclaim land and dwellings they were evicted from by the Israeli military. Haber will also discuss the ‘Palestinian Gandhi’, Issa Amro, who faces a potential long prison sentence based on politically motivated bogus charges.

Raid on the Sumud Freedom Camp. (credit: Ethan Miller)

Confronting the Occupation with my Father

Less than 48 hours before the IDF attack, my father and I had walked down a dusty road into Sarura—a small Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills. We were walking with a historic coalition of Palestinian and Israeli groups, and with the Diaspora Jewish group the Center for Jewish Nonviolence.

We came to Sarura to accompany a Palestinian family previously evicted from their village who wanted to return to their homes. Three hundred people gathered for this occasion because, for a Palestinian family in the West Bank, moving home is a dangerous task.

Fadhel Ammar sits in one of the caves located on his land in Sarura. (credit: Elhanan Miller)

Jews Gather at Sumud Freedom Camp to Support Palestinian Outpost in the West Bank

Aamar, a 55-year-old farmer, said that in 1997, the violence of settlers from the nearby outpost of Havat Ma’on forced him and his family to relocate to the Palestinian village of Twaneh. “They would burn our crops and our tents, and threw animal corpses and chemical substances into our wells to destroy them,” he said.

Six months ago, a coalition of Palestinian organizations and Jewish American groups decided to take up Aamar’s cause. On May 19, 300 activists arrived on the site and set up the “Sumud” Freedom Camp, Arabic for “steadfastness.” The group, which included 130 volunteers with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, erected tents and began clearing rubble from the abandoned caves, preparing them for repopulation.

Why Israel Should Embrace This ‘Palestinian Gandhi’ — Not Jail Him

Issa Amro is the kind of Palestinian for which American Jewish officials say they yearn.

Unfortunately, the Israeli government does not yearn for Palestinian Gandhis. It arrests them.

The Israeli government is persecuting Amro because it fears him. Gaby Lasky, Amro’s attorney, explained: “Israel manages very well regarding how to act against violence. But Israel hasn’t found a good way to fight nonviolence. So the way they have chosen to treat nonviolence is to incarcerate the leaders to make people uncomfortable or afraid of coming to nonviolent activities because they see what happens to those leaders.”

“They don’t want civil disobedience because it’s the best methodology to defeat them,” Amro said.

A message to our mums after ’50 Years of Occupation’

While we met lots of Israelis, we also wanted to meet Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Why? Because of the values you brought us up with – to inquire, to act with kindness, to learn. What we experienced shocked us. Palestinians shared stories of discrimination, curfews and violence. We saw roads in Hebron divided into ‘Jewish’ and ‘Palestinian’ sections reminiscent of the signs in Apartheid history museums or the Jim Crow segregated South.

Palestinian life under occupation, carried out in our name, led us to participate on this trip.

We are part of a new Jewish generation saying ‘The Occupation is not our Judaism’.

Who’s Afraid of Nonviolence?

Issa Amro is a prominent Palestinian advocate of nonviolent resistance.

This is the man who now faces a long sentence in an Israeli military prison over offenses that include a schoolyard taunt he says he never uttered and an assault he says he could not possibly have carried out.

Self-assured, articulate and principled, Mr. Amro and his rising public profile serve as an embarrassment to the Israeli military regime that controls Palestine.

If Israel harasses and prosecutes community organizers like Mr. Amro, the youth of Palestine will have no models of resistance to turn to in their frustration and despair.

Stand with Issa

A letter is now circulating in the US House of Representatives calling on the State Department to protect the freedom of Palestinian nonviolent human rights defender Issa Amro as he faces 18 politically motivated charges in Israeli military court where the conviction rate is over 99%. Email your representative and tell them to sign the letter in support of Issa.

June 17, 2017

Life in Gaza is worse than it's ever been. And now Israel has partnered with the Palestinian Authority to further cut electricity in Gaza to only 3 hours per day. Who can live like this? Gazans may be nearing a boiling point as the incremental genocide in Gaza accelerates with an indifferent world looking on.

Palestinian children at home reading books by candle light due to electricity shortages in Gaza City on 13 June (AFP)

Israel implements illegal cuts to Gaza’s power supply

The cuts come despite dire warnings in recent weeks from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization and UN officials that the induced electricity shortage is causing a humanitarian catastrophe, as essential health, water and sanitation facilities cannot function.

“As the occupying power, Israel has obligations to ensure the basic needs of the civilian population are met,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said last week.

Palestinians walk on a street at the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City during a power outage on 11 June 2017 (AFP)

One question left in Gaza: Death by massacre or lack of electricity?
It may sound very benign – electricity has been cut to Gaza – but it is a death sentence for the almost 2 million Gazans like me living in the Israeli-imposed blockaded strip.

Who's in Favor of a Massacre in Gaza?

One more hour in Gaza without electricity, and the signal there will be given: Qassam rockets. Israel once again will be the victim, and the massacre will begin.

What other way does Gaza have to remind the world of its existence and inhuman distress, except the Qassam rocket?

A Palestinian woman washes the dishes by candlelight in the southern Gaza Strip, during a power outage on June 11, 2017. (credit: SAID KHATIB/AFP)

There's a Partner for Hurting Gaza
Israeli government must order the supply of electricity to Gaza to continue, and make it clear to Abbas that internal Palestinian battles won’t be waged on the back of either Israel’s own citizens or the people living under its control.

Gaza Power Crisis Explained: Why Israel and Hamas Are Heading for a Face-off Neither Side Wants
With Israel's decision to curb power supply to Gaza, the Strip is coming to a boiling point.

Mohammed and Noor Yasin study their lessons on candlelight in Gaza City 1/17/17 (credit: MEE/Mohammed Asad)

Blackouts and bedlam: Gazans left in the dark about their future

"I don't remember a day without power cuts."

Mohammed Yasin was born after the beginning of the electricity crisis in 2006, when an Israeli air strike hit the sole power plant operating in the Gaza Strip.

“I'm getting better at lighting the candles, and sticking them on plates with my mother's help,” Mohammed said.

June 10, 2017

Aswat Ensemble member Samira Kharoubi singing live at the KALW studio during Gaza Corner, 6/10/17. (photo by Dore Stein)

Live performance from members of Aswat Ensemble including Palestinian singer Samira Kharoubi. Samira sings songs from Libya, Syria and Iraq, 3 of the countries originally targeted by Trump's travel ban.

Also discussed Israel's policy of arbitarily resentencing Palestinians after being released.

Saturday, June 24 : Notes Against Trump's Travel Ban

A concert by Aswat Ensemble and guest performers showcasing the music of the 7 countries

SF Live Arts @ St. Cyprian's $25 (general) $22 (seniors, students, children)
2097 Turk St. (2 blks east of Masonic)
Advance Tickets

Salma Al Aasal, the Voice No Travel Ban Could Silence

An outstanding video (4:17)

Israel resentences 74 year old Palestinian 34 years after being released in prisoner swap deal
Israeli authorities have regularly redetained Palestinians who were released during prisoner exchange deals, in violation of the agreements.

Israel rearrests Palestinian released in prisoner swap 34 years ago

Two years ago, he started to take steps to return to his birthplace and the Israeli authorities granted him permission to do so.

He returned to Israel two weeks ago and “was immediately arrested and brought before the parole board,” which accepted a request to “cancel his release and to force him to immediately serve the life sentence imposed by the military court.”

Israeli military court reimposes life sentence on longest-held Palestinian prisoner Nael Barghouthi
Under Israeli military order 1651, former Palestinian prisoners released in an exchange can have their former sentences reimposed on the basis of “secret evidence” at the discretion of an Israeli military commission.

June 3, 2017

Gaza, 1990. (photo by Alex Levac)

This segment details the significance of June 5, 2017: the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Occupation.

This ongoing atrocity against Palestinians is a dark stain on the world community and could not be sustained without the complicity of the United States which has bankrolled the oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to the tune of more than $120 billion since the Occupation began.

Perhaps Israel's greatest achievement in sustaining the Occupation is deceiving the world into thinking it is a transient phenomenon.

Israel’s Irrational Rationality

This June, Israel is marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War...the start of a seemingly inexorable process of moral corruption and decline.

The assumption that Israel genuinely wants a peace agreement is simply wrong; the costs of such an agreement are tangible...involving the loss of territory, an end to colonization, and potential political collapse,

It has been clear for many years that the very notion of peace negotiations has been little more than a device to perpetuate, not to end, the occupation.

The occupation is a crime. It is, first of all, based on the permanent disenfranchisement of a huge population. Many Israelis seem not to know this.

Even worse is the continuous theft—literally hour by hour—of Palestinian land. There should be no doubt that this is the real point of the occupation.

What I've Seen in 30 Years of Reporting on the Israeli Occupation
The occupation has its own language: An Arab is a 'terrorist,' detention without trial is 'administrative,' the occupying power is forever the victim and writing about its crimes is treason.

Dore note: Gideon Levy may be the Israeli journalist with the most direct experience writing about the occupation the last 3 decades. This is a must read for anyone interested in this subject.

The Past 50 Years of Israeli Occupation. And the Next
The United States and its allies pay lip service to the need to end the occupation, but do nothing to steer Israel from its preferred option of perpetuating it.

Israel’s festivities will highlight 50 years of shame

One of the Zionist movement’s favourite early slogans was: "Dunam after dunam, goat after goat". The seizure of small areas of territory measured in dunams, the demolition of the odd home, and the gradual destruction of herding animals would slowly drive the Palestinians off most of their land, "liberating" it for Jewish colonisation. If it was done piecemeal, the objections from overseas would remain muffled. It has proved a winning formula.

Fifty years on, the colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank is so entrenched that a two-state solution is nothing more than a pipe dream.

It is past time to recognise that Israel has established an apartheid regime and one that serves as a vehicle for incremental ethnic cleansing. If there are to be talks, ending that outrage must be their first task.

How Palestinians plan to mark 50 years of occupation

The EU is supportive of making 2017 a year of Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. European officials believe that European public opinion will be attentive to the message of “enough with the occupation.”

Within the EU headquarters, policy planners are exploring several policy actions.

A possible route could be a possible French-sponsored UN Security Council resolution on the outlines of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines; further boycotting of Israeli settlements and their goods.

May 27, 2017

audio not yet available

When Starvation is a Weapon

Sunny Singh is a former Robben Island political prisoner who was on the Island from 1964-1974.

The struggle of the Palestinian political prisoners is one against solitary confinement, abuse by prison officials, a lack of adequate medical care, and for the right to visits from family members.

These are the very same demands that we as political prisoners on Robben Island made to the apartheid prison authorities.

We were beaten by our captors, but never experienced the type of abuse and torture that some of the Palestinian prisoners complain of. It was rare that we were put in solitary confinement, but this seems commonplace in Israeli jails.

It is time the Israeli government and the world listened to their demands. At the end of the day, even political prisoners have basic human rights.

Israel treats prisoners worse than apartheid, says Robben Island veteran

The situation of the Palestinian prisoners reminds the older generation in South Africa of their past.

Dr. Bangani Ngeleza grew up under South African apartheid.

“I am a child of an ANC freedom fighter who was imprisoned on Robben Island for 10 years by the apartheid regime.”

Ngeleza added that the decision to go on hunger strike “represents the highest level of commitment and bravery in asserting one’s dignity and human rights.”

Protesters gather under a banner with a picture of Marwan Barghouti during a rally supporting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, Ramallah, West Bank, May 3, 2017. (credit: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Palestinian Prisoners' Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails Ends

The prisoners’ two primary demands were for more frequent family visits and for prisoners to be allowed to speak to their families on public phones under supervision.

Haaretz has learned that over the past two weeks senior officials from the Shin Bet security service met with senior Palestinian officials and discussed with them the prisoners' demands. The meetings showed that the defense establishment was intending to meet some of the prisoners' demands and improve their conditions. However, the Shin Bet demanded that the hunger strike end first.

A man holds a photo of Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails after hundreds of prisoners launched a hunger strike, in the West Bank town of Hebron on 4/17/17 (credit: AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

Ending strike after 40 days, Barghouti is now Abbas’s undisputed heir

Palestinian media has been ceaselessly singing Barghouti’s praises. His picture is once again on display in every village, town and refugee camp. His name is now familiar even to those who were born after he went to jail for his role in leading the Second Palestinian Intifada and his five murder convictions.

For many of them, and however unpalatable to many in Israel, he is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela and, more practically, their next leader after Abbas.

South Africans: Israeli Apartheid “More Terrifying” than South Africa

Nelson Mandela: "Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

In 2008 a delegation of ANC veterans visited Israel and the Occupied Territories...one member said “The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime.”

One of the Jewish members of the delegation said that the Israelis are even more efficient in implementing the separation-of-races regime than the South Africans were.

May 20, 2017

audio not yet available

The billboard reads: "Together We Prevail." (credit: Reuters)

Saudi Arabia: Trump visit risks giving green light to violations of human rights

“Human rights are under continuous attack in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have been using counter terrorism as an excuse to ruthlessly crush and persecute critics, peaceful dissidents and human rights defenders,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“Even as families are killed inside their houses and internationally banned weapons are used by the Saudi led coalition in Yemen, the Trump administration is planning a multi-billion dollars arms deals with Saudi Arabia. This brazen disregard for human rights and humanitarian law will only serve to further embolden states in the Gulf and around the globe in their pursuit of ‘security’ at the expense of people’s basic rights.”

Why is Trump rewarding Saudi war crimes with more weapons?

According to the United Nations, at least 4,773 civilians have been killed and 8,272 wounded since this (Yemen) conflict began, the majority by (Saudi) coalition airstrikes. The war has driven Yemen, already the poorest nation in the Middle East, toward humanitarian catastrophe.

Seven million people face starvation and cholera ravages parts of the country.

Trump...will effectively be telling them to continue as before and not to worry — the flow of US weapons will not stop.

$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner’s Personal Touch

The Obama administration put a hold on precision-guided munitions it had agreed to sell the Saudis out of fear that they would be used to bomb civilians in Yemen. The Trump administration has freed up those weapons, which are part of the $110 billion package.

Mr. Trump is not expected to raise human rights concerns with the Saudis, in keeping with his approach to strongmen in Turkey, Egypt, China and the Philippines.

Why Saudi Arabia would rather pay a ransom to Trump than support its own people

Saudi Arabia is paying protection money even for arms it is never likely to use.

The question being asked by Saudis is this one: “How in God’s name can you shower so much money on the Americans when you are so reluctant to do so on your own people?”

Deputy Economy Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri... warned that the kingdom would be bankrupt within four years if the oil price remained at between $40 and $45 a barrel?...The IMF too warned the kingdom faced bankruptcy.

What Is Saudi Arabia Going to Do With Its Arms Buildup?

May 13, 2017

audio not yet available

Dutch journalist Derk Walters in East Jerusalem, May 3, 2017. (credit: Olivier Fitoussi)

Israel Expelling Dutch Journalist Critical of the Occupation, Cites visa Problems

Internal correspondence tells a different story

On March 8, 2016, Government Press Office (GPO) again contacted Walters, this time about a tweet. Walters quoted a Palestinian blogger who tweeted that “Boycott is legitimate political expression. It’s not less so just because used against Israel.”

Ron Paz, the GPO foreign press chief wrote to Walters that “we do not think it is legitimate for journalists to take a stance in this highly controversial issue.”

Israel expels Dutch journalist after he tweets +972 articles

The Israeli government office responsible for accrediting journalists takes issue with a foreign correspondent sharing +972 Magazine articles on social media, publishing critical stories, refuses to renew his visa.

The GPO has been critical of Walters’ reporting, but not because it was inaccurate; instead, they seemed disturbed by the incidents he chose to report and how he framed his reporting.

In one example, Walters described the situation in Hebron as one where 600 Israeli settlers keep 175,000 Palestinians hostage. Ron Paz, the head of the GPO’s communications program wrote in an email to Walters that this characterization was anti-Semitic.

Israel refuses credentials of Dutch correspondent for alleged ‘activism’

The work visa of Dutch correspondent Derk Walters will not be extended. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs is worried about the freedom of press in Israel.

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders stated: "I regret the fact that the visa of correspondent Derk Walters will not be extended in Israel. The ministry of Foreign Affairs has addressed this matter with the Israeli authorities repeatedly. Journalists have to be able to write what they want. Freedom of press is great good. We advocate this all over the world, also to Israel.”

Israeli troops arrest a Palestinian journalist
(credit: Activestills.org)

Israel detaining journalists without charge or trial

Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq can no longer walk after refusing food for three weeks in protest of his detention by Israel without charge or trial.

Over a dozen more Palestinian journalists and media workers remain behind Israeli bars. Some are being held without charge or trial, like al-Qiq, and others have been hit with incitement charges related to their work.

A letter to our readers: On censorship

From military censorship to the government deciding who is and isn’t a journalist, Israeli authorities use various tools to interfere with the press.

Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen said he will consider revoking the press credentials of journalists who pen articles carrying headlines not to his liking.

According to a December 2014 Knesset report report on official hasbara (propaganda) efforts, “The GPO tries to promote the State of Israel’s hasbara in its work with the foreign press,”

Nothing compared to the magnitude and scope of Israeli restrictions and violations against the Palestinian press — both inside Israel and the occupied territories.

May 6, 2017

audio not yet available

What drives the all female YPJ fighters is to free women enslaved by IS in Raqqa

Hundreds of women are being held inside Raqqa (as slaves). So far the YPJ has liberated 137 of them.

For the YPJ fighters, their ambitions for female emancipation are far greater than eliminating Isis. Ultimately they want to annihilate the patriarchal structure that they say oppresses women, and rebuild an equal society.

British volunteers preparing for 'bloodbath' fighting Isis in Raqqa as offensive on Syrian stronghold looms
'Dying for socialism is an honour,' say volunteers facing terrorists' car bombs, mines and snipers

YPJ fighters sharing a moment of respite (photo uncredited)

The revolutionary women of the YPJ lead fight for liberation

Hundreds of Yazidi women kidnapped by ISIS from their homeland of Sinjar in northern Iraq are still held as sex slaves in Raqqa (Syria).

YPG fighters played a critical role in rescuing the Yazidis from the Islamic State siege in Mount Sinjar in 2014.

The YPG and its all-female unit, the YPJ, are advancing step by step towards Raqqa.

April 29, 2017

Gaza Corner promotes a fundraising concert for Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) which provides humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced inside Syria and also has projects helping externally displaced Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan. Members of IRUSA speak about its work along with concert fundraiser promoter Irene Sazer.

April 22, 2017

audio not yet available

Gaza Corner focuses on this week's NY Times Op-Ed by Palestinian imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti spearheaded a mass prison hunger strike and explained his reasons for doing so.

A man holds a photo of Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti calling for his release during a rally supporting those detained in Israeli jails, in the West Bank town of Hebron on April 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Hazem Bader)

Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons


Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike.

Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions.

Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention.

I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead.

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population.

Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance.

Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity.

Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.

The main demands of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. (credit: Abbas Momani/AFP)

Israel Places Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti in Solitary Over Prisoners' Hunger Strike

Most of the demands...are new, such as the closure of the Israel Prison Service clinic in favor of bringing prisoners who need medical care to a hospital. The prisoners are also demanding an end to detention without trial and of solitary confinement.

Dore note: Detention without trial and administrative detention allow for indefinite prison terms. Some of the prisoners are setting world records for the longest period of political detention.

Demonstrators take part in a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in Ramallah, April 17. 2017. (credit: Mohamed Torokman/Reuters)

The Palestinian Hunger Strike Aims Beyond the Jailhouses

The Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike is about basic human rights that even prisoners, even prisoners who are members of the other nation, deserve.

Give them a public phone, and be done with the prison guards who get big money for smuggling in cellphones. Let them meet with their families without the continuous agony-strewn path to a once-per-year permit. Lengthen the visits and see what a positive impact that will have on the atmosphere. What the prisoners are trying to say to the Israel Prison Service and the Israeli public is that both sides have an interest in the prisons maintaining a level of decency.

The imprisoning of Palestinians is Israel’s default policy. But beyond the regular prisons, Israel has created and continues to create all kinds of other means of imprisoning Palestinians. Thus the experience of imprisonment, whether in a formal prison or another kind, is shared by all Palestinians.

The strike...has refreshing subversive potential. One can see in the strike an attempt to get the Palestinians to shake off their fatalism and inaction in light of Israel’s ever more powerful malevolence and rouse their quarreling leaders out of their complacency with the status quo and their delusion of sovereignty.

Barghouti's N.Y. Times Article Met by Israeli Ritual of Diversion and Denial

Comparing article to terror attack and suggesting sanctions against the Times, as Michael Oren did, is more damaging to Israel’s image.


At the end of his opinion piece in the New York Times about the Palestinian prisoners’ strike, Marwan Barghouti was originally described as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” After 24 hours of outrage and condemnation, an editor’s note conceded that further context was needed, pointing out that Barghouti had been convicted on “five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization.” News of the clarification spread like wildfire on social media. It was described in glowing terms as yet another historic victory of good over evil and of the Jewish people over its eternal enemies.

It was another example of the time-tested Israeli ritual of accentuating the insignificant at the expense of the essence, the results of which are well known in advance. First you manufacture righteous indignation... then you assault the newspaper...and cast doubt on its motives, then you demand to know how this was even possible and who will pay the price. In this way, the Israeli public is absolved of the need to actually contend with the gist of the article or public utterance, in this case Barghouti’s claims that he was physically tortured, that almost a million Palestinians have been detained over the years, that their conviction rate in the Israeli military court system is absurdly high, whether it’s really wise to hold as many as 6,500 security prisoners in custody at one time...

The guiding principle of this perpetual war waged by Israel and its supporters against the so-called hostile press... is “Don’t mention the occupation!”

A mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, painted on the West Bank separation wall. (credit: Sharon Bukov)

Palestinian Prisoners' Hunger Strike Would Seek to Rehabilitate Barghouti

The Fatah member held by Israel stands most to gain from the move.

This hunger strike has a double purpose. Outwardly, it’s a defiant move against Israel. But inwardly, it seems there is a different, perhaps more important reason: To restore the status of Marwan Barghouti, the senior Fatah prisoner who hopes to succeed current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Will Marwan Barghouti be the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?
Nearly a decade and a half after he began serving multiple life sentences for his role in the killings of the second intifada, Marwan Barghouti is still seen – among most Palestinians, many Israelis and world leaders – as the man who could lead his people to independence. Through a mediator, Barghouti tells Haaretz that he remains a staunch proponent of the two-state solution and that he intends to run for Palestinian president should elections be held.

Historical References:

US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Israel and The Occupied Territories
Military courts...rates of conviction of Palestinians charged with various crimes are...nearly 90 percent, according to Yesh Din.

Release Marwan Baghouti and All Palestinian Political Prisoners

Since 1967, over 800,000 Palestinians have endured imprisonment at some point in their lives. This is a very striking example of mass detention, aimed at breaking the will of an entire people. Some of them have spent over 30 years in Israeli jails, setting shameful world records for the longest period of political detention.

Marwan Barghouti was sentenced to five life sentences plus 40 years, by Israeli courts that regularly prove they are instruments of occupation rather than of justice. He was the first member of parliament to be arrested. Many more would follow. A widely popular Palestinian leader, a unifying figure, and a strong advocate of peace based on international law.

Some make the unacceptable argument that prisoners should be released only after peace between conflicting parties is concluded. This disregards what has proven to be the case in other conflicts – that prisoners, once released, can be instrumental in achieving peace.

Mandela stated that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.

The trial of Mr. Marwan Barghouti

Report by Mr. Simon Foreman, lawyer and expert appointed by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians


The numerous breaches of international law recalled in this report make it impossible to conclude that Mr. Barghouti was given a fair trial.

Most of the persons contacted are convinced that Mr. Barghouti will receive a severe sentence, but all are equally convinced that the verdict will have no legitimacy because it will have been dictated far more by intense media pressure and political interests than by any rigorous application of procedures respecting the integrity of the defendant and his right of defence.

The Barghouti case has very clearly demonstrated that, far from bringing security, the breaches of international law have, above all, undermined the authority of Israeli justice by casting discredit on its conduct of investigations and the procedures used.

April 15, 2017

audio not yet available

The US air force bombed Afghanistan with its most deadly non-nuclear weapon in a largely symbolic move that will not impact the course of the longest war in US history. The bomb's one mile blast radius terrorized the local population at a cost of $16 million to target about several dozen IS fighters.

A screenshot from the US Department of Defense shows the MOAB bomb drop in Afghanistan.

'It felt like the heavens were falling': Afghans reel from Moab impact

Locals describe the moment the ‘mother of all bombs’ was dropped, as critics question the wisdom of deploying the weapon

Afghanistan’s envoy to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal tweeted it was “reprehensible and counterproductive”.

Dr Omar Zakhilwal @DrOmarZakhilwal
If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today.
9:15 PM - 13 Apr 2017

Some observers questioned the necessity of deploying a weapon of that scale against a group whose estimated 600 to 800 fighters pose only a limited threat to the Afghan state.

“I don’t see why the bomb was dropped,” said the mayor of Achin, Naweed Shinwari. “It terrorised our people. My relatives thought the end of the world had come."

A MOAB - massive ordinance air blast, or ‘mother of all bombs’. (Photograph by Elgin Air Force Base/Handout via Reuters

Trump Drops the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan

The U.S. decision to drop the bomb was striking for several reasons. America’s biggest non-nuclear bomb–which costs sixteen million dollars, and three hundred million dollars to develop—was used on one of the smallest militias it faces anywhere in the world. ISIS-K is estimated to have only about seven hundred fighters in Afghanistan.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized the mission. “This is not the war on terror, but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as [a] testing ground for new and dangerous weapons,” he tweeted.

“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns

Fulfilling Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan.

Marc Garlasco, a former senior targeting official in the Bush-era Pentagon and currently a senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch stated “It’s got a huge blast radius. I mean, it’s beyond huge. I’m sure the collateral damage estimate is going to be fairly extensive. And you’re not talking about just blast, and people within that blast, you have to consider secondary and tertiary effects of use of the weapon. So looking at things like: How does that affect the water supply to people? Is it going to destroy power within the area?”

MOAB attack on Isis was a baffling choice in cold-blooded terms of cost

Each MOAB, or massive ordinance air blast – nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” – costs $16m out of a total programme cost of $314m which produced about 20 of the bombs.

Crunched down – and in the most cold-blooded terms – that means the US military has expended some 5% of its stockpile of Moabs to kill three dozen Isis members at a cost of almost $450,000 per individual. (Dore note: On April 15 The Guardian updated ISIS death count to at least 92.)

Thursday evening’s strike was against what amounts to a handful of largely lightly armed Isis fighters in a crude tunnel system.

Air Force drops non-nuclear 'mother of all bombs' in Afghanistan

It is 30 feet long, weighs nearly 11 tons and produces a devastating above-ground explosion. It supposedly obliterates everything in a 1,000 yard radius, sends a lethal shock wave more than a mile and a half away, and creates a mushroom cloud nearly five miles high.

Like the U.S. retaliatory missile strike in Syria last Friday, however, use of the monster munition in Afghanistan is more symbolic than tactical since it is unlikely to change the course of America’s longest war.

April 8, 2017

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(courtesy piranha.de)

Due to the horrific war in Syria, many of its musicians have been forced to flee. The fortunate ones are able to continue their music in Europe and the States. The Morgenland festival in Osnabrück, Germany has provided a platform for Syrian artists such as Kinan Azmeh, Dima Orsho, Muslim Rahal, and a mesmerising singer named Ibrahim Keivo. Gaza Corner celebrates the gift of Syrian music featuring Basel Rajoub's Soriana Project, soprano Dima Orsho, clarinetist Kiinan Azmeh and the remarkable vocalist Ibrahim Keivo.

Spreading Syrian Music Across the Globe

April 1, 2017

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U.S. deep pocketed donors including those within the Trump administration have poured tens of millions of dollars into Beit El, an illegal settlement located deep inside the occupied West Bank on stolen private Palestian land. Beit El is a caultron of Zionist nationalism with a Yeshiva complex that includes a pre-military academy.

Homes in the Ulana neighborhood of Beit El, where documents have been forged. (credit: Emil Salman)

American Billionaires Are Pouring Money Into an Emerging Jewish Battleground
Radical Beit El Settlement is a big donation draw for Trump aides and officials

Trump's Israel Ambassador's Family Still Fundraising for West Bank Settlement
US Ambassador David Friedman may have pledged to distance himself from the settlement movement - his son-in-law has not

Beit El, an Israeli settlement near Ramallah in the West Bank, was founded in 1977 on private Palestinian land. (credit: Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

Israeli Settlement Sees Friendly Faces in Trump Administration
Among the projects built to accommodate yeshiva staff members and students was the Ulpana neighborhood, which was partially evacuated in 2012 by court order because it was built illegally on private Palestinian land. According to the newspaper Haaretz, many fraudulent land deals in Beit El were subsequently found to have been covered up by forged documents.

An Israeli soldier stands guard in the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Inside the West Bank Settlement That Trump’s Envoy David Friedman Loves Best
Settlements like Beit El, which are illegal under international law, have eaten up land that Palestinians claim as their own, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible without evacuating hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Yet Friedman has insisted that the settlements are no obstacle to peace.

Fund Headed by Trump's Israel Ambassador Pumped Tens of Millions Into West Bank Settlement
Rabbi heading yeshiva supported by David Friedman’s organization called on soldiers to resist orders to evacuate settlements.

March 25, 2017

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When Russian or Syrian airstrikes kill hundreds of civilians in densely populated urban areas, the mainstream media express outrage and describe such atrocities as war crimes. In the fight to retake Mosul in Iraq, coalition airstrikes killed 400 civilians during the first week of March according to Airwars.org. In a still unfolding story 250+ civilians were killed by Coaltion airstrikes on March 17 in the al-Jadida neighborhood of Mosul. Where is the outrage? Will the Coalition be condemned for war crimes or are war crimes only applicable to the "the bad guys"?

Witnesses described horrific scenes of body parts strewn over rubble. (AFP)

Monitors and officials say there's been a marked increase in civilian deaths as Iraqi forces push into Mosul's Old City (AFP)

Marcus Yam staff photographer LA Times: "This scene will haunt me for a while: Turkya Azudin watches workers pull out corpses from her home and count relatives she had lost: 18."

Amnesty International Report: Civilians killed by airstrikes in their homes after they were told not to flee Mosul

According to Airwars, almost 1,500 civilians have reportedly been killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria this month alone.

“Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside. The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International, who carried out field investigations in Mosul.

“The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties. Disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.

Nearly 300 died in Mosul airstrike, making it one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in recent memory

As of April 5, they had removed 278 bodies, many of them children, and it was unclear how many more were buried beneath the rubble, said Civil Defense Lt. Col. Taha Ali.

...the largest civilian death toll since the battle against Islamic State began more than two years ago and among the deadliest incidents in decades of modern warfare.

Coalition and Iraqi forces not adequately protecting Mosul civilians

Entire families had gathered in house basements, which they hoped would afford them some protection from the ferocious air and artillery barrage targeting ISIL forces in the neighbourhood on March 17th-18th. Instead entire rows of houses collapsed, entombing those below.

Across Iraq and Syria, Airwars has monitored claims of more than 1,200 civilian fatalites tied to Coalition activity during March alone. That level of allegations is on a par with some of the most intense periods of Russian activity in Syria during 2016.

The question facing Coalition and Iraqi commanders – whatever their official rules of engagement or combat guidelines – is how many civilian deaths they are prepared to inflict in order to defeat ISIL at Mosul.

Men load the bodies of people recovered from the rubble of a house in western Mosul. (credit: Cengiz Yar)

Mosul's children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

Coalition bombs buried more than a hundred people in the ruins of three houses and raised fresh questions about US rules of engagement

At the graveyard, Majid al-Najim said: “Is an Isis sniper being on a roof enough of a reason to send a plane with a large bomb to destroy a house? They hit it many times. They wanted to destroy everything inside.

“Then after that, we needed equipment to rescue the people. Just one bulldozer. Anything. The corrupt government officials could not help us, and would not if they could. This is an enormous crime.”

Hundreds of civilians have died in Mosul, after US airstrikes. (credit: Felipe Dana/AP)

The west condemned Russia’s bombs – now coalition attacks are killing civilians in Mosul

The leaders who denounced Putin for deadly airstrikes in Syria are not speaking out over the siege of the Iraqi city

America and the UK condemned Russian airstrikes that killed or injured hundreds of civilians during last autumn’s siege of Aleppo, accusing Vladimir Putin of war crimes. The question now is whether the US, backed by British air power, is committing similar atrocities against civilians in Mosul.

90 year old flees Mosul (credit: Reuters)

The operation to retake Mosul has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes (credit: Reuters)

'Worst is yet to come' with 400,000 trapped in west Mosul, says UN
"The worst is yet to come, if I can put it this way. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions," said Bruno Geddo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq.

March 18, 2017

Palestinian protesters gesture as they climb over a section of the Israeli barrier at a protest marking the 12th anniversary of their campaign against the barrier, February 17, 2017. (credit: Reuters)

"Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid." This is the conclusion of a UN report that was withdrawn by the new Secretary General as soon as it was published, apparently due to intense US pressure. Gaza Corner digs deeper into this story.

Withdrawn 2017 UN Report: "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid"

'Apartheid' Israel: Head of UN body resigns over pressure to withdraw critical report

The report said it had established on the "basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.

"The secretary-general demanded yesterday that I withdraw the report, and I refused," said Rima Khalaf, adding: "I believe that discrimination on the basis of skin colour, religion or ethnicity is unacceptable."

Senior U.N. official quits after 'apartheid' Israel report pulled

It was the first time a U.N. body had clearly charged that Israel "has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole."

"I do not find it surprising that such member states, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices," Khalaf, of Jordan, wrote to (Secretary General) Guterres.

"It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims," Khalaf wrote in the resignation letter.

UN official resigns after pressure to withdraw Israel apartheid report

Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report,said “I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report.”

The report finds “beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the civil society coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, condemned Guterres’ intervention.

“The fact that a UN secretary general has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news,” the BNC said. “The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Washington, cannot put the genie back into the bottle.”

Head of UN agency resigns after refusing to retract report calling Israel an ‘apartheid regime’

Officials in Israel made far-reaching allegations against the report and its authors, charging anti-Semitism and making comparisons to Nazi propagandists.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon posted on social media: “#UN #ESCWA has issued today a ” Der Stürmer”like report, NOT endorsed by @UNSG . Friendly advice- dont read it without anti nausea pills….,” equating the UN report to the Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer.

Landmark UN report backs Israel boycott

“The mission of preserving Israel as a Jewish state has inspired or even compelled Israel to pursue several general racial policies,” the report says.

These include “demographic engineering, in order to establish and maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Israel.”

This encompasses the ethnic cleansing of almost 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, the denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and “a range of other policies designed to restrict the size of the Palestinian population.”

Although they can vote, the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel – about a fifth of the state’s citizens – are also systematically restricted, while full rights are granted only to Jews.

Meanwhile, Israel’s discriminatory “Law of Return” automatically grants citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world, “while denying citizenship even to those Palestinians who have a documented history of residency in the country.”

March 11, 2017

Not to be outdone by Trump, this week Israel passed its own travel ban. The law's intent is to bar visitors who are critical of the occupation, including diaspora Jews who call for boycotting products from Israeli settlements.

Pro-Palestinian activist arrested after attempting a 'fly in' protest in Israel's Ben Gurion Airport (credit: Daniel Bar-On)

Israel's Travel Ban: Knesset Bars Entry to Foreigners Who Call for Boycott of Israel or Settlements

New law doesn't include caveat urged by Justice Ministry: To exempt Palestinians who reside in Israel.

Dore note: Haaretz articles require free registration. If interested in Israeli/Palestinian content, consider subscribing.

The leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, strongly criticized the legislation, telling the Knesset of his recent trip to the J Street conference in the U.S.: "I was in the U.S. two weeks ago, I saw there thousands of Jews who support a boycott of the settlements. These are people who act not against the state but against the occupation.

"I'm against the occupation and for a boycott of the settlements that are a war crime and the theft of land from private individuals. The occupation will end up making Israel a leper everywhere."

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) said, “Who today doesn’t oppose a boycott of the settlements? Look at the UN, at the EU, at what’s happening in the international community. Do you want to boycott all of them and refuse them entry to Israel? The whole world thinks the settlements are illegal. You are essentially promoting a move that will strengthen the boycott of Israel.”

Five Ways Israel Will Make You Hate Israel This Week

The new Israeli law essentially creates a travel ban to be enforced by brain police. It would deny visitors entry to Israel if they were deemed to have called for boycotting Israel or the settlements.

In his government's version of a travel ban, Benjamin Netanyahu just handed the BDS movement to boycott, divestment from and sanction Israel – a movement already enormously and explicitly grateful to Bibi for its success – its most valuable single donation ever.

In one stroke, the new law simultaneously validates a range of the worst claims which Israel's critics level against the country.

A BDS demonstration in southern France, June 2015. (credit: George Robert, AP)

Israel's Travel Ban Backlash: Over 100 Jewish Studies Scholars Threaten to Not Visit Israel in Protest

"Among us are those who oppose the BDS movement, those who oppose BDS but support a settlement boycott, and those who support BDS”, says the petition that has come to the attention of Haaretz, although it has not yet been published.

“In spite of our different views, we stand in strong opposition to the new law. It will be bad for Israel, bad for the cause of democracy at this fragile moment, and bad for the principles of free speech and thought on which our scholarship is based."

Israel's Ugly New Travel Ban Tells the World: Stay Away if You Don't Agree With Us
Now, for the first time, Israel is rejecting Diaspora Jews who are engaged, who have a relationship with Israel, who care about her fate so deeply they are trying to do something about it in the form of actively choosing not to support the settlements.

A banner calling for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel hanging from the Manhattan Bridge in New York during a protest against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in 2014. (credit: Michael Appleton for The New York Times)

New Israel Law Bars Foreign Critics From Entering the Country

Some American Jewish leaders were alarmed that the new law makes no distinction between groups that support boycotts of Israel proper and those that support boycotting products made in the settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“It’s redefining as an enemy of Israel anyone who does not agree that the settlements are now and forever will be part of Israel,” said Lara Friedman, the director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now. “That’s going to be problematic for a lot of American Jews who care about Israel. It’s just heartbreaking.”

A Palestinian man walks past graffiti calling to boycott Israel on a street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Feb 11, 2015. (credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Israel law banning entry to boycott supporters draws fire

Opponents of new anti-BDS measure describe it as ‘neither Jewish nor democratic,’ say it will further isolate Israel

“We think that border control should not be used as thought control,” Hagai El-Ad, executive director of prominent Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, told journalists.

He noted that Israel also controls who enters the West Bank and Gaza Strip, apart from through Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and said the law could “absolutely” affect his group’s work.

The law follows other recent measures seen as targeting left-wing NGOs, and human rights groups said it could affect their work.

Last year, Israel budgeted NIS 118 million ($32 million) to fight the movement.

Haaretz Editorial: Eligible for Aliyah, Barred From Israel: The Absurdity of the anti-BDS Law

The true purpose of the bill is to impose a sweeping sanction on anyone who doesn’t accept the Israeli occupation policy.

It’s clear that the true purpose of the law is to be a disproportionate whip against whoever criticizes Israeli policy, even if we’re talking about Palestinians whose lives are rooted in Israel and whose residency permit is in any case held as collateral. It’s not far-fetched to assume that the next stage will be preventing the entry of Israelis living abroad who express support for boycotts. Equally absurd is the possibility of any Jew living abroad who supports boycotting the settlements will be entitled to immigrate to Israel, but will not be able to enter the country under the new law.

...a “blacklist” will be input into the border inspection computers and anyone appearing on it will be stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport. This, together with enforcement of the Anti-Boycott Law, which applies to Israeli citizens, will turn Israel into a model of McCarthyism.

Boycotts for political reasons are a legitimate tool that falls under the protection of freedom of political expression.

March 4, 2017

Afghanistan surpassed Vietnam as America's longest war in 2012. Five years later it is still raging yet also largely forgotten. Just a handful of Western news organizations maintain a presence in Afghanistan as most have abandoned the effort.

Eyewitness to America’s Longest War, After Others Have Gone
Foreigners have become a rare sight in the capital these days; even more rare are foreign journalists. Only a couple of years ago, there would have been a hundred of us.

Afghanistan: The campaign's forgotten war

The United States first set out to test the proposition that has formed the cornerstone of our national security policy since 9/11: That the deft application of U.S. military power can not only eliminate those threatening to do us harm, but also install in their place a stable political order conducive to liberal values.

In Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have succeeded on neither count, despite considerable sacrifice and expenditures exceeding one trillion dollars.

An employee of Doctors Without Borders walks inside the charred remains of the organization's hospital after it was hit by a US airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan. (credit: Najim Rahim/AP)

The case for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan

America’s Afghan presence has not deterred Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State from operating in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda as well as the Taliban has found sanctuary in Pakistan, and the Islamic State could do so as well.

Transparency International ranks Afghanistan 166 out of 168 in corruption.

February 25, 2017

Israel's racist double standard judicial system was on full display this week when a soldier who executed an incapacitated Palestinian was given a slap on the wrist.

Relatives of Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, who was shot dead as he lay on the ground by Israeli soldier Elor Azarya, watch television coverage of the sentencing of Azarya, at their Hebron home, 21 February. An Israeli court sentenced Azarya, an army medic, to 18 months in prison after he was convicted of manslaughter for the March 2016 executiion style killing of al-Sharif. (credit: Mamoun Wazwaz Xinhua)

Israeli soldier who executed incapacitated Palestinian gets slap on the wrist

“The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.”

At the time of the verdict, Human Rights Watch said that senior Israeli officials have been “encouraging Israeli soldiers and police to kill Palestinians they suspect of attacking Israelis even when they are no longer a threat.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, similarly called the sentence a “slap on the wrist.” She said that this is “another example of the way in which the Israeli justice system is based on completely different standards depending on whether the victim and perpetrator are Jewish or Palestinian” – a reality she labeled “apartheid.”

Highlighting the double standard, journalist Ben White contrasted Azarya’s light sentence with the case of Ahmad Yasser Baraghithi, a Palestinian youth sentenced last year to eight years in prison on accusations of throwing stones and injuring an Israeli police officer in occupied East Jerusalem.

Video of Soldier executing Palestinian lying injured on ground
In video footage captured by Hebron resident ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, who sent it to B'Tselem, he is seen lying on the road injured, with none of the soldiers or medics present giving him first aid or paying him any attention at all. At a certain point, a soldier is seen aiming his weapon at a-Sharif and shooting him in the head from close range, killing him. Although this occurs in the plain view of other soldiers and officers, they do not seem to take any notice.

The 18 month sentence for Israeli soldier Azaria who shot dead a Palestinian suggests those who commit violations 'protected by the system'

Israeli pop legend sings for “hero” who executed injured Palestinian

This stanza appears to give religious justification to Azarya’s act and to incite more such killings:

Your war is a holy war
Now is not the time to moan and cry
Do not fear
See straight
Operate under the rules of religion and morality
And any person who has a bit of sense in their head:
If anyone acts to kill you – be first to kill them.
There is such a terrible stench coming from the court,
Elor Azarya, we are here with you.

Elor Azaria: Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months in jail for shooting dead wounded Palestinian attacker

In a damning January verdict, Justice Maya Heller said that Azaria had been aware that his actions in shooting the wounded Palestinian assailant would result in loss of life, and that “the terrorist did not pose a threat”.

In the past 18 months, 36 Israelis have been killed in mostly stabbing and shooting incidents carried out by Palestinian assailants. At least 244 Palestinians – including unarmed bystanders and demonstrators – have been killed by IDF forces in the same period.

Right-wing politicians call for Hebron shooter Azaria to be pardoned

Netanyahu and many coalition MKs urge clemency while left-wing MK says lenient term sends message that Arab blood is worthless.

“The security of the citizens of Israel requires an immediate pardon for Elor Azaria, who was sent to protect us. It is forbidden for Elor to sit in jail because we will all pay the price,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party posted on Twitter.

Likud Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz wrote on Facebook that “the court said its piece, the legal process is done. Now is the time for clemency, to return Elor to his home.”

Youssef Jabareen of the Joint (Arab) List said, “The sentence does not reflect the severity of the act and it sends the harsh message that Palestinian blood is worthless. The case of Azaria is not an isolated incident but part of a widespread manifestation of the army, supported by the politicians, and nourished by not prosecuting soldiers.”

Former Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheim wrote on Twitter that the sentence was “embarrassing in its leniency, and even more embarrassing is the conduct of politicians who still demand pardon for a man who shot a terrorist in the head, because he ‘deserved’ it.”

Conviction of Israeli soldier must pave the way for justice for unlawful killings
For a soldier to carry out the deliberate killing of someone who had been captured and posed no imminent threat to life would amount to an extrajudicial execution and is a crime under international law.

Palestinian who filmed Israeli soldier shooting disarmed man dead in Hebron receives death threats

Mr Abushamsiya said he was shocked at the level of reaction to his video, claiming that similar incidents happen on a “daily basis” in Hebron.

“It is a surprise to us that people care now,” he added. “What would have happened if I was not there to film?”

Palestinians have flooded Mr Abushamsiya with messages of support, but Israeli settlers have also allegedly distributed his photo on posters calling for his death.

February 18, 2017

Mohammed-Aamar Jalad's father, Thabath. (credit: Alex Levac)

Mohammed-Aamar Jalad lies by highway after being shot by Israeli soldiers. (uncredited)

Palestinian Dies After Being Shot by Israeli Troops on His Way to His Last Chemo Session

No one bothered to keep the young Palestinian's family informed.

We asked the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit five questions:

  1. Why was Mohammed Jalad shot by the soldiers?
  2. Why was his family not allowed to visit him in the hospital?
  3. Why did his parents not receive an authoritative report about his condition?
  4. Why didn’t the IDF bother to inform them of his death and the reasons for his death?
  5. Why hasn’t his body been returned?

Palestinian succumbs to gunshot wounds inflicted 3 months ago by Israeli forces
Israel has come under repeated criticism for using lethal force on Palestinians when they pose no harm or they could be detained through nonlethal means, with the PLO labeling the deaths "extrajudicial executions."

Israeli forces shoot Palestinian after alleged stab attack in Nablus
Abdullah Abu Salim, 43, a merchant from Huwwara, told Ma'an at the scene that he and two of his friends, "saw [Amr] attempting to cross the road in Huwwara before being shot at by an Israeli soldier who then took out a knife and threw it next to the youth."

February 11, 2017

For decades it has been taboo for African-American athletes to express solidarity with Palestinians who also suffer under a system of oppression.

The blowback from a propaganda tour for NFL players sponsored by the Israeli government may be the catalyst that galvanizes African-American athletes into a more activist role connecting their own history of racial injustice with the Palestinian people.

Due to the fluid nature of this subject, several subsequently published articles are linked among the related stories.

Most NFL Players Pull Out of Planned Trip to Israel
Eleven NFL players were scheduled to take a trip to Israel this week. But only five players went through with the trip.

Solidarity is not Selective: Michael Bennett Brings the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom to the NFL

Why Michael Bennett Walked Away From the NFL’s Israel Delegation
Michael Bennett plans to visit Israel soon, but only if Palestinian people aren’t rendered invisible.

NFL Star Michael Bennett Explains Decision Not to Join Israeli Government Sponsored Tour

Open Letter to NFL Players Traveling to Israel on a Trip Organized by Netanyahu’s Government

“Palestinians have for decades been fighting policies similar to the ones people are protesting in cities across the United States.”

Below is an open letter signed by luminaries such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker as well as athlete-activists such as John Carlos and Craig Hodges, and organizations including Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The letter asks NFL players to consider the political ramifications of a propaganda trip organized by the Israeli government that aims to prevent players from seeing the experience of Palestinians living under military occupation.


These trips bringing celebrities to Israel are part of a larger “Brand Israel” campaign to help the Israeli government normalize and whitewash its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dedicated a lot of resources to this campaign, which is designed explicitly to improve Israel’s image abroad to counter worldwide outrage over its massacres and war crimes.

In 2015, more than 1,100 Black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations, including Angela Davis, Cornel West, and Talib Kweli, signed a Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine, declaring their commitment to working to “to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own.

Palestinians are struggling today for their rights just like those who struggled in the U.S. Civil Rights and South African anti-Apartheid Movements, and just like brown and black communities are doing so across the United States now.

We urge you to rethink your participation in this trip to Israel and the message it will send to your millions of fans who look up to you. The power athletes have in contributing to the fight for justice is evidenced in the legacy of the late Muhammad Ali, who himself was an advocate for Palestinian rights.

NFL players head to Israel to be used as 'opinion-formers' and 'ambassadors of good will'

Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan: “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin echoed the sentiment. “Football stars are a source of inspiration for all American citizens. I am sure that, after the experiences that the players will enjoy in Israel and after they have seen the unique tourist sites and the special atmosphere here, they will become ambassadors of good will for Israel.”

February 4, 2017

Gaza Corner dissects the lies spoken by Trump and press secrectary Sean Spicer following the botched raid in Yemen. The attack targeted a low level Al Qaeda operative who was killed, along with many civilians including children and women.

Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki, 8, was killed in a commando raid in Yemen ordered by President Trump. (Yemeni media / via Twitter)

A woman in Sana, Yemen, on Sunday walking past a graffiti protesting United States military operations in the war-torn country. (Credit: Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency)

Yemen: Jeremy Scahill & Advocates Question "Success" of Trump Raid That Killed Many Civilians

Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept:

"The idea that they were senior figures within al-Qaeda is just a joke, and a sick one at that, to anyone who actually knows about the inner workings and the structure of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Let’s remember that AQAP has long since been incapable of organizing any kind of a threat to the United States or U.S. interests, and their primary war right now, ironically, is against the same forces that the Trump administration claims are Iranian proxies—the al-Houthi militias and leaders inside of Yemen.

It’s never a success when you have 8-year-old kids and infants being killed, or when you have, you know, Navy SEALs being sent on missions that are not really about the defense of the United States.

Baraa Shiban, Yemen project coordinator for Reprieve: "There are 10 children who were killed, six women and eight other villagers."

International Crisis Group: Deadly U.S. raid may bolster Yemen's al Qaeda

"The raid ... is a good example of what not to do," ICG's senior Arabian Pensinsula analyst April Alley wrote.

"The use of U.S. troops and the high number of civilian casualties ... are deeply inflammatory and breed anti-American resentment across the Yemeni political spectrum that works to the advantage of AQAP," she added.

Raid did not have sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

One of the three U.S. officials said on-the-ground surveillance of the compound was “minimal, at best.”

Senior US Military Official: "Almost everything went wrong."

"A senior military official said "the raid was Trump's first clandestine strike — not a holdover mission approved by President Barack Obama."

Nasser al-Awlaki, Yemen's former agriculture minister and the grandfather of Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki, 8, who was killed in the raid:

"My granddaughter was staying for a while with her mother, so when the attack came, they were sitting in the house, and a bullet struck her in her neck at 2:30 past midnight. Other children in the same house were killed," al-Awlaki said. He said the girl died two hours after being shot.

"They [the SEALs] entered another house and killed everybody in it, including all the women. They burned the house."

Pentagon officials backtrack on claim no civilian casualties while Yemeni officials express outrage

After initially denying there were any civilian casualties, Pentagon officials backtracked somewhat on Sunday after reports from the Yemeni authorities begin trickling in and grisly photographs of bloody children purportedly killed in the attack appeared on social media sites affiliated with Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Abdul Malik Al Mekhlafi, appeared to take issue with the American military’s account on Monday, condemning the Special Operations raid on his official Twitter feed: “The extrajudicial killings and killing civilians are condemned acts that support terrorism.”

On Sunday, another Yemeni official said that at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13, had been killed in the raid.

January 28, 2017

Russia, the powerbroker in Syria, has drafted a proposal for a future Syrian constitution recognizing it's up to Syrians to ultimately decide. Respect for minority’s rights and rejection of Islamic sharia as the basis for law are among its conerstones. Importantly, the document appears to favor Kurdish autonomy.

Power split & minority rights among cornerstones of Russia-proposed Syrian Constitution

It stresses that all “faiths and religious groups” are “respected,” as long as they do not violate public order.

The draft further covers the rights of minorities in the country.

The draft also notes that Syria...not use its armed forces to “suppress” own people.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference following Syria peace talks in Astana. (credit: Reuters)

Key points of the Russian proposal for Syria’s new constitution

One of the conditions mentioned in the draft included that the word “Arab” be removed from the official name of the country “Syrian Arab Republic”.

The draft from the Russian delegation also proposed the dropping of religion as criteria for electing a president. Article 3 of the current Syrian constitution stipulates that the president has to be part of the Muslim faith.

Russia insists Kurdish participation in the Geneva process is “necessary” despite Turkish objections

In a move certain to rattle Turkey, representatives of Syria’s leading Kurdish party also attended the Moscow gathering (a mini-summit with state-approved representatives of the Syrian opposition) on Friday.

Turkey is waging a low-grade war against the Democratic Union Party in Syria, which Ankara views as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Kurdish participation in the Geneva process is “necessary.”

(Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov said that Russia floated a draft proposal for a future Syrian constitution in a bid to encourage debate — not as an attempt to enforce Moscow’s will on the Syrians.

Russian Foreign Ministry: Russia did not offer to enshrine Kurdish autonomy in the new draft Syrian сonstitution

"We have identified an array of issues to be addressed by the participants in the discussion on the Syrian сonstitution one way or another," explained Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. "...the way the Syrian state will be organized, the way it will exist and develop is not Russia’s objective. This task belongs to the Syrians themselves..."

Concerning the participation of the Syrian Kurds in the negotiation process, Zakharova noted that Russia’s stance on the issue is well known. "We proceed from the assumption that that they must join the process."

Russia-drafted new constitution for Syria offers Kurds greater autonomy

A draft version of proposed new constitution for Syria drawn up by Russia would grant Kurds greater administrative freedoms within a more decentralised government.

"The Arabic and Kurdish languages are equals in Kurdish areas of cultural autonomy," the draft says, adding that other regions have the right to approve the use of languages spoken by a majority of residents.

The draft suggests that the principle of "decentralised authorities" be applied and that greater powers should be granted to local administrations.

(The) constitution would confine presidential terms to a single seven-year period in office and no longer only allow Muslims to hold the top post.

Russian Delegation to Syria Proposes Kurdish Autonomy

Russia's delegation to the Syrian peace talks in Astana has recommended giving Kurds in northern Syria autonomy, the (Russian) RBC newspaper has reported.

RBC managed to obtain a copy of the text, which the newspaper reports contains 27 constitutional amendments. One of the provisions would give Kurds in northern Syria autonomy, as well as language equality.

Rojava (Syria Kurdistan) as gained worldwide attention, not only for its struggle against the Islamic State, but also for its radical mode of government which is based on direct democracy as well as ethnic and gender equality.

What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought

The radical, unlikely, democratic experiment in northern Syria

There is one pocket of the country where the desperate and dispossessed are still welcome. This is Rojava, where the Kurds have established a relative oasis of security and opportunity in a desert of anarchy and oppression. With their backs against the wall, they rescued the Yazidis of Sinjar from annihilation by ISIS, and have sheltered refugees through years of civil war in Syria and Iraq. Now, they’ve opened their arms to those fleeing Mosul.

January 21, 2017

Gaza Corner discusses Israel's surge of house demolitions in the heart of Arab communities inside Israel while continuing the ongoing destruction of Bedouin villages in the Negev.

Bedouin women react to the destruction of houses on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba, in Menahem Kahana (credit: AFP)

Hasounah Makhlouf with some of his family members in the rubble of one of their demolished homes in the Israeli Arab town of Kalansuwa on January 10,2017. The razing of the 11 illegally built houses is one of the biggest demolition operations in the Arab sector in recent years. (credit: Heidi Levine for The National)

Israeli officials demolished 11 buildings put up without proper permits in the Israeli Arab city of Kalansua. January 10, 2017. (credit: Moti Milrod)

Violent clashes erupt in Israel as Palestinians protest the largest increase in house demolitions in decades
Protests have intensified after an autopsy report casts doubt on claims that Palestinian teacher was killed after driving his car into soldiers

Israeli demolitions spark deadly violence in Palestinian village
"The Israeli supreme court’s decision to allow the state to proceed with its plan to demolish the village, Umm al-Hiran, which has existed for 60 years, in order to establish a Jewish town called ‘Hiran’ over its ruins, is one of the most racist judgments that the court has ever issued," Palestinian-run rights group Adalah, which has represented the villagers in court.

Israeli Arabs vow to press on against Netanyahu’s demolition plans

Arab leaders and citizens argue that discriminatory government planning policies preclude Arabs from getting building permits, forcing them to build illegally on their own land.

The demolitions came nearly a month after Mr Netanyahu called for increased demolitions of illegal buildings in Arab towns, apparently to counterbalance the expected demolition of the illegal Amona settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank.

Demonstrators said there was no comparison between illegal Arab building and the Amona settlement outpost, stressing that the Arab citizens had built on their own land, while the Amona construction was carried out on the private property of Palestinians.

While Coddling Illegal Outpost, Israel Demolishes Arab Construction With Glee

The government cites a lack of permits, but the Arab community can't accept its bleak situation for long.

Israeli Arabs – particularly their elected officials – fiercely object to the comparison with the settlers. Arab citizens aren’t stealers of land and haven’t built towns under the auspices of the occupation. They’re building on their own private land they bought with their own money, or inherited.

Israel’s political leaders are taking a stand to find a solution for 40 families of land thieves – the settlers at the Amona outpost. The political leaders are recruiting the attorney general and top experts in order to bypass the High Court of Justice’s decision to evacuate Amona. But they’re refusing to discuss any proposal to legalize tens of thousands of Arab homes built on private land in the heart of Arab communities and lead a consensual move for efficient planning for Arab society.

added after broadcast

Despicable terrorist? Bedouin village in Israel's south mourns a beloved teacher
No one in Umm al-Hiran believes Yakub Musa Abu al-Kiyan, a father of 13, intentionally ran over a police officer; residents remember his calls against violence: 'Let them demolish the house, only let no one be hurt.'

January 14, 2017

Turkey's two month battle for al-Bab to oust IS is resulting in a military quagmire and causing many civilian casualties. Turkey's costly misadventure could eventually lead to confrontations with Syrian Kurds or Assad's forces.

This still image taken from drone footage posted online Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, purports to shows an aerial image of a neighborhood damaged by Turkish airstrikes in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, in Aleppo province, Syria. (Aamaq News Agency via Associated Press)

Turkey bogged down in Syria as it realigns with Russia

Nearly two months into its assault, Turkey has become bogged down in an unexpectedly bloody fight to retake the Islamic State group’s last stronghold in northern Syria. It has been forced to pour in troops, take the lead in the battle from its Syrian allies and reach out to Russia for aerial support -- a move that tests its alliance with the United States and the Syrian opposition.

More than 200 civilians are believed to have been killed since the attack began Nov. 13.

"The battle for al-Bab has been mostly about killing civilians and destroying the city, whether by Daesh or the Turks," said Mustafa Sultan, a resident of al-Bab and a media activist. "The town is almost half destroyed."

For the U.S., the al-Bab assault risks causing direct confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian Kurdish forces, which are leading a U.S.-backed offensive toward the de facto IS capital, Raqqa. Washington supports and relies on the Kurds in the fight against IS.

The Battle for al-Bab is Bringing U.S.-Turkish Tensions to a Head

Contrary to Turkey President Erdogan's rhetoric about cleansing the Islamic State from northern Syria, the main goal of his Syrian intervention is to prevent the unification of the two large Kurdish cantons along the northern border. Al-Bab is the key junction point between them.

On January 4 Erdogan threatened to close Incirlik Air Base to the international coalition against the Islamic State, citing the lack of U.S. support for his efforts to take the IS-held Syrian city of al-Bab. That battle will likely force Washington to make some hard choices about which ally is most important in the anti-IS campaign — Turkey or the Kurds.

Russia pleased with deepening US-Turkey rift over Syria

It is clear that the rift between Ankara and Washington over the Syrian crisis is becoming a crisis in itself.

Moscow is adeptly using the semi-paralyzed state of US decision-making, pending the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Russian-Turkish cooperation, which was evident on the ground in Syria with the evacuation of opposition groups from Aleppo, has sidelined the United States and Europe.

Why is Turkey so focused on Syria's al-Bab?

Turkey cooperated with Russia for Aleppo and signed the Moscow Declaration, which acknowledged the legitimacy and the rights of sovereignty of the Bashar al-Assad regime. This was an admittance of the defeat of Turkey’s 5-year-old Syria policy that prioritized the removal of Assad. It was also a 180-degree about-face.

With an apparent policy failure impossible to cover up, Turkey sought a face-saving success story for its Syria policy: the fixation to move into al-Bab and to cleanse it of IS.

The underlying reason for the focus on al-Bab is more about the Kurdish PYD and YPG...taking al-Bab from IS serves as a pretext for preventing the establishment of the Kurdish corridor adjacent to Turkey’s border with Syria.

The fears that Turkey, with no exit strategy, can be dragged into a Syrian quagmire are being verified.

Al-Bab shaping up as more trouble for Turkey

The formal US stance has been that it will not help the Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield coalition or the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), led by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), capture al-Bab. It has refused to do so because it does not want to be dragged into Turkey’s ongoing battle to prevent the Syrian Kurds from linking territories under their control.

The Turks and the Kurds are US allies in the fight against IS, but their bloody tussles are disrupting coalition operations to seize Raqqa, the “capital” of the jihadists’ so-called caliphate, and playing straight into the hands of Russia, the Syrian regime and Iran.

Ankara appears to have won Russia’s approval to advance on al-Bab...Few believe Russia will relinquish its support for the YPG, because it gives Moscow leverage over Turkey and the regime alike.

Note: Turkey has since taken away Ms. Zaman's press credentials and blocked her from reporting in Turkey. This is just one of many examples. Although Ms. Zaman is free, Turkey has the most jailed journalists of any country in the world.

January 7, 2017

Waiting to Die: Israel's increasingly restrictive medical travel permit policy sentences Gazans who require treatment outside Gaza to “premeditated death sentences.”

Israeli Witness in Gaza: No Water, No Electricity and Gazans Dying Unnecessarily Due to Israel's Restrictive Medical Permit Policy

An eye-opening interview with Salah Haj Yahya, an Arab Israeli who has been leading delegations from Physicians for Human Rights to the Gaza Strip for 30 years.

interview excerpt:

Salah Haj Yahya: It can take months (for a medical travel permit). Sometimes there is no reply at all. Many people die while waiting. There is also the issue of blackmail.

Haaretz: Meaning what?

Salah Haj Yahya: Their travel permit is granted only on condition that they collaborate – information in exchange for an entry permit.

Haaretz: You’re saying that the Shin Bet blackmails these patients? Can you prove that?

Salah Haj Yahya: We (Physicians for Human Rights) have filmed documentation of patients being threatened or blackmailed in exchange for a permit. We’ve written a report on this. The questioning often deteriorates into unpleasant and humiliating situations. Violence is sometimes resorted to. There are also all sorts of regulations, such as prohibiting the entry of men aged between 18 and 45. So if there is a sick child, they won’t allow the parents to accompany the child. Even when it’s a baby they separate it from its parents. Many times, when we pressure the Shin Bet or the Israeli side, all of a sudden the patient gets a permit. In other words, there wasn’t really a reason for denying a permit in the first place.

Gazan women protest Israel's travel ban which prevents them access to cancer treatment, Jan 2016. Credit: Hope & Aid Organization for Cancer Patients

Gazan Women Protest Israel for Cancer Treatment

'Premeditated death sentence,' is what Gazan patients are calling Israel’s travel ban and delays that prevent them from accessing medical treatment in Israel and the West Bank.

The number of denials of requests to leave Gaza for treatment has risen dramatically.

Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO that helps patients from Gaza obtain permits to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment, says that over the past year the number of denials to allow patients to leave for treatments has risen by 44 percent.

Sihan al-Tatri, 53, suffers from lymphatic leukemia and must undergo chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks.

“If they don’t give me a permit they are sentencing me to death. What country can agree to us dying because we didn’t get the right to medical treatment?”

Fact sheet documents the freedom of movement restrictions that prevent Palestinians from receiving proper breast cancer treatment.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) have documented obstacles placed by the occupation that prevent Palestinian women from accessing proper treatment for breast cancer, in violation of international law. Although breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, for Palestinian women diagnosed with the disease estimates of five-year survival rates can be as low as 40 percent.

UN report: Increasing Neonatal Mortality among Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip

#DENIED : Harassment of Palestinian Patients Applying for Exit Permits

Report exposes Israel’s policy of arbitrarily denying medical treatment from Palestinians, even when such treatment can save their lives.

Out of 246 denied patients 117 were no longer considered “security threat” following PHRI’s intervention.

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2008-2011 Note: This feature was renamed Gaza Corner from 'News of the Day' on 5/30/10 after the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was attacked by Israel resulting in 10 deaths. The focus changed to Palestine/Israel and the Middle East.