Friday, March 20, 2009

Israeli Troops Confess to Killing Civilians and PCHR Confirms over 83% Civilians Dead in Gaza

Troops with the Israeli army confirm killing civilians and intentionally destroying their property. The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some excerpts of their confessions:

"There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away....

"All the articles had one clear message," one soldier said. "We are the people of Israel, we arrived in the country almost by miracle, now we need to fight to uproot the gentiles who interfere with re-conquering the Holy Land."

"Many soldiers' feelings were that this was a war of religion," he added.

See Ha'aretz here and the BBC here.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) confirms that the vast majority of dead in the War on Gaza were civilians and non-combatants. A total of 1,417 Palestinians were killed. Of these, 236 were combatants. 926 civilians lost their lives, including 313 children and 116 women. The 255 police officers that were killed were non-combatants. See the PCHR press release here and download the list of dead here. Ynet's report on the list is available here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Suheir Hammad - Def Poetry - Affirm Life World

Respect for the truth. Please listen. Affirm life world.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Israel Officially Silences Al-Jazeera

The Israeli government has taken an official decision to silence Al-Jazeera and restrict its activities in Israel. As a result of this directive:

- Israel will not renew the visas of Al Jazeera's non-Israeli employees or grant visas to new employees;
- Station representatives will have reduced accessibility to government and military bodies, and will not be allowed into briefings or press conferences;
- Al-Jazeera will have access to only three official spokespeople - those of the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces. The information directorate has also provided a non-binding instruction to Knesset members and ministers not to grant interviews or otherwise cooperate with Al Jazeera.

See Ha'aretz here.

A Foreign Ministry official commenting on the government's decision nevertheless insisted, "Israel believes in freedom of the press and in the public's right to know".

Although Israel claims that this decision is a response to Qatar's closing of the Israeli trade office in Doha, another valid (unstated) reason is Al-Jazeera's stellar coverage of the war in Gaza. That coverage spoke to the world of Israeli atrocities on Gaza's population and infrastructure. It showed the world how ugly war can get and turned even those otherwise supportive of Israel's 'war on terror' less swayed by Israel's military tactics and its general future direction. To restrict Al-Jazeera's coverage post war seems only due punishment.

And so silencing of the media in Israel continues.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Hannibal Lives, Israeli Soldiers Die, in Gaza

The Hannibal Procedure, an Israeli military operation in effect since 1986, reads like this: Better a dead Israeli soldier than a captured one.

This post draws on the great investigative journalistic work of Sara Leibovich-Dar here and Uri Avnery's followup article here.

According to Leibovich, in 1986 three senior officers of the Northern Command drew up 'The Hannibal Procedure' as a means of tackling abductions - the three were Yossi Peled, Gabi Ashkenazi and Yaakov Amidror. The need for the procedure arose after the abduction of the soldiers Yosef Fink and Rafael Alsheikh in February of that year.

Testimonies indicate that the Hannibal procedure was fully activated when three soldiers - Sergeant Benny Avraham and Staff Sergeants Omar Sawid and Adi Avitan - were abducted in the Har Dov region along the Lebanon border on October 7, 2000. In line with the procedure, the army was commanded to open fire at 26 vehicles that they suspected of carrying the soldiers.

Leibovich writes that there was huge opposition within the army to the procedure, with many unable to grasp how they were being called upon to kill their comrades.

Why institute such a procedure? According to Avnery, 'when an Israeli soldier is taken prisoner, a huge public demand arises to bring him home, even at the cost of releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. In May 1985, Israel released 1150 Palestinians in return for three Israeli prisoners-of-war, in an exchange known as the "Jibril deal"'. The army was determined not to allow a repeat scenario.

It seems that Hannibal was around in Gaza. See my post on January 26 speaking of how Israeli soldiers confirmed being given orders to kill themselves over being taken hostage in Gaza.

The fact that the Hannibal procedure has been in operation since the mid-80's, continued as of 2003 in Lebanon in spite of official army word that the procedure had been halted, and that the Israeli Military Censor has prevented most publications on the issue would give credence to Hamas' assertion (and Israel's denial) that two kidnapping operations of Israeli soldiers did take place, the first on the third day of the ground invasion and the second on January 5, and that in both cases, the Israeli air force struck and killed the kidnappers and the kidnapped - their own soldiers.

Speaking of the procedure to Leibovich, Peled asserts, "Decisions have to be made that endanger soldiers; sometimes there is no choice. The army is supposed to maintain the state's security as the top priority, not the lives of its soldiers".

In light of war crimes charges being brought against IDF operations in Gaza, Barak promises to provide legal aid to soldiers and to support what he insists is the
"most moral army in the world".

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Israel Tortures Palestinian Detainees Captured in Gaza War

Most people have heard about Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier taken hostage in late June 2006 but not so much about the kidnapping earlier in the month of Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh, two Palestinian girls (both 16) kidnapped from their homes in Bethlehem and held without charge in administrative detention. See a piercing post about the issue here.

It is similarly unlikely to expect mainstream media to report on the roughly 200 Palestinians kidnapped by Israeli forces during Israel's most recent war on Gaza and the torture to which they have been subjected.
Speaking about the kidnapped, seven Israeli human rights groups assert that:
... minors and adults were held in ditches dug in dirt for hours, sometimes days, exposing the detainees to the elements while handcuffed and blindfolded. The testimonies also suggested that food and shelter were not always made available to the detainees. Even after the detainees were taken out of the ditches, the letter argued, the detainees were held inside a truck for an entire night, handcuffed, with one blanket for every two people. They suffered violence and humiliation at the hand of IDF soldiers and investigators, the letter went on to suggest. The rights groups went on to argue that after the detainees were transferred to a military detention facility, they were denied showers and bathroom facilities.
See Ha'aretz here. According to Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs (yes, so persistent is the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails that a ministry was created):
...prisoners were subjected to severe beating especially in the upper parts of the body, forced to sit in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep and forced to sit on children chairs while both hands and feet shackled in addition to violently shaking them and exposing them to extreme cold... some of those detainees were moved to the Negev desert prison without any clothes, covers or other basic necessities, and noted that the IOA [Israeli Occupation Authority] was dealing with those detainees as "unlawful combatants", which meant they had no rights and [are] indefinitely detained without trial or specific charge or knowing the reason for their detention.
See Palestine Information Center here.

The Shin Bet is currently releasing information that 'terrorists' that they captured in Gaza are now confessing to
Palestinian terrorist groups training and hiding bombs in mosques. Sure, nothing a little waterboarding and torture can't dream up for the occupation.

There are currently 11,000 Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel, including 345 children and 53 parliamentary members! Inspite of the 1999 High Court of Justice ruling prohibiting most means of torture by the Israeli security forces, Palestinian detainees continue to be victims of torture.

Obama's Math Theorem = 100 Palestinian Kids' Lives < (Worth Less Than) 1 Israeli Kids' Life

On July 23 2008, when visiting Sderot (the Qassam hit-town) in Israel, Obama spoke the following, "if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that." See Ha'aretz here.

During the Gaza War, which conveniently ended two days before Obama's inauguration as President, he insisted on not commenting on the assault because 'there is only one president at a time'. His charming rhetoric was being put on hold because it would mean he would not have to talk about Palestinian lives under threat from chiefly US-supplied arms.

Following inauguration, the silence on Palestinian children and Palestinians continued. Rather, he spoke with Mahmoud Abbas and Olmert and with the heads of Jordan and Egypt (the American-friendly regimes at peace with Israel who came under serious criticism for essentially echoing the Israeli line in the opening days of the assault). He did not call the elected government of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, who throughout was under threat of political assisinations together with the people of Gaza.

The following photo is of Palestinian kids back in school following Israel's 22 day assault on the Gaza Strip. Placards indicate classmates who are no longer with them.

Mohammed Kutkut, 14, right, covers his face as he sits next to the name sign of his killed friend Ahed Qaddas in the Fakhoura boys school in Jebaliya, northern Gaza strip, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. Three friends of his class where killed when the Israeli army shelled Jebaliya in the past weeks (AP)

So really Obama? You would do everything? You would kill over 400 Palestinian kids to stop home-made rockets from landing on your home (rockets which incidentally have killed around 18 Israelis since 2000)? Well, if your theorem reads that 1 Israeli life (13 Israelis dead) is worth more than that of a hundred Palestinians (over 1300 Palestinians dead), I'd see how you would.

Please see Noam Chomsky's take on Obama's oratorical prowess but moral ineptness here. On how Obama learned to love Israel to stay in political power see Ali Abunimah here.

Shame on your silence. Shame.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Israeli Soldiers Confirm Suicide Orders Over Being Taken Hostage in Gaza War

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv and the Israeli Channel 10 Tv station, a number of Israeli soldiers have confirmed that they were given strict orders not to be kidnapped, and to kill themselves rather than be taken hostage in the War on Gaza. See the report at arabs48 here.

This would strengthen Hamas' claim that two kidnapping operations did take place, the first on the third day of the ground invasion and the second on January 5, and that in both cases, the Israeli air force struck and killed the kidnappers and the kidnapped - their own soldiers. See my previous post on this issue here. At the time I wrote that report, there was no news of the kidnappings. However, now Israeli soldiers and the media are speaking up.

According to an officer from Battalion 501 of the elite Golani Brigades, "No troop member from the 501 battalion was to be kidnapped at any cost, nor in any situation, even if this means blowing up a grenade in his possession, killing himself and those trying to kidnap him".

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot, army instructions called for the prevention of kidnapping at all costs, including shooting at the area where the kidnapped soldier was being held.

According to one soldier, he received the following instruction from a Givati Brigades officer before the ground incursion into Gaza, "What is happening is not important, there will not be a kidnapped soldier, we will not have 2 Gilad Shalits at any price."

Is this honestly an establishment and an order that cares about its soldiers? The government's public adulation for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped June 2006, really amounts to naught when we factor in these strict orders - for Israeli soldiers to commit suicide over being taken hostage - during the Gaza operation.

We come to realise that Israeli lives do not matter, contrary to government professions. The gesturing for Gilad Shalit is just that, gesturing. What the overarching goal of the government is is to prevent 'political casualties', those events that would make the government appear weak.

The Israeli establishment's war ethos makes it so morally devoid that not only do over 1300 Palestinian lives, 86% of them civilians, not count, their own countrymen do not count either - they explicitly call for their deaths over suffering a 'political casualty'.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Palestinian Resistance: Around 80 Israeli Soldiers Killed in Gaza War; Israel Silent

Ezzedeen Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, confirm having killed 49 Israeli soldiers during the War on Gaza, and estimate that throughout the war around 80 Israeli soldiers were killed. They confirm having injured hundreds. They also assert that they undertook two kidnapping operations of Israeli soldiers - the first was on the third day of the ground invasion and the second was on January 5. In both cases, the Israeli air force struck and killed the kidnappers and the kidnapped - their own soldiers.

See the full press release in Arabic here, a roughly translated version of the press release in English here, and an English news brief on the press release here.

However, there has been no mention of such Israeli soldier deaths, injuries or kidnappings from the Israeli media. Israel insists that only 10 soldiers were killed during the war and 4 of them from friendly fire. Either Hamas is outright lying or Israel isn't telling the whole story. If the latter is true, it can be explained by the fact that the Israeli Military Censor strictly forbids news of soldiers deaths, rocket strikes, and troop movements from being published without it going through the news item first. This is so as to prevent aiding an enemy or harming the security of the state.

Zatzman in 'The Return of the Israeli Military Censor' writes of the Israeli Military Censor (IMC):

...the Israeli military censor has been and will continue to suppress publication of information it considers not appropriate to relay to the Israeli public at this time. Until now, the Israeli Military Censor had been trotted out, especially during the first Intifada, to keep the foreign press from reporting struggles waged or victories won by Palestinian military forces against regular Israeli military forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Read the full article here on the IMC's role during the Lebanon War.

Should the Hamas reports on the kidnappings be true, we can conclude that the establishment almost certainly wants to avoid creating another Gilad Shalit and the heat it would come under as a result. But would that warrant taking out their own soldiers?

Further, the lack of coverage on Israeli soldier casualties can be explained partly by the fact that the Israeli public is very sensitive to news of that kind, the occurrence of which could all taste very sour for politicians in their scramble for votes in the upcoming elections. But does censoring soldier deaths really assist the enemy or harm the security of the State according to IMC directives? Very unlikely. Rather, publishing the truth on the number of casualties allows the Israeli public the opportunity to judge for themselves whether or not they want this war and future wars of this kind. Moreover, it is the right of the Israeli public to know fully the extent of their army's wars - the real motives of going to war, the 'nature' of their 'enemy', the financial cost, and very definitely the human cost - on both sides, Palestinian and Israeli.

However, the establishment is not giving their public this right. It is censoring the truth. And it achieves this with the media's complicity. This is so that the upper echelons of society, those with political and capital gain at stake, are the only recipients of truth, the broadcasters of untruths and convenient truths, and the decision makers and fate sealers for their people and those that they occupy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Now is Time for the Rebirth of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Campaign

Now is a very opportune moment to join and support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign and support Palestinians who are a defenceless people on the receiving end of a belligerent force that has lost moral direction, and certainly too its political compass.

The BDS Campaign is a moral action to pressure Israel to comply with basic principles of justice and international law, including ending the occupation, facilitating the right of Palestinian refugees to return and ensuring equal rights for all Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Please, this is a call to all people of conscience, wherever you may be, to impose broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. This would be similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. This is also an invitation to conscientious Israelis to support this call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

Haidar Eid, a professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza makes a very convincing plea in this interview given on January 19 of the urgency of the BDS campaign at this time.

For more on what you can do in the US see adalahny here, in the UK see BIG here, and more generally see the Global BDS Movement here.

The Israeli barcode starts with 729. Please, do your bit.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dimi Reider on Israeli Media Propaganda during Gaza War

Picking up on my previous post about Israel's cheerleader media, this article by Dimi Reider on the online journal, Index on Censorship is a great read. He talks about Keshev, the lack of coverage on the anti-war movement within Israel, and brain-jolting oxymorons by Tzipi Livni:
IDF statements are given as news items and the most extravagant quotes by the Israeli politicians are reported as they are. (The prize-holder for these is, undoubtedly, Tzipi Livni, with such profound statements as ‘a ceasefire would damage negotiations’ and ‘the war is necessary to promote peace.’)
See the full article here.

Photo taken from