Briefing Paper June 2011
Describing the distress of a young woman who tearfully pleaded to be allowed to pass through a Jenin checkpoint in order to sit an important exam, Arnon Degani (Golani brigade) concluded that the Israeli army’s intention was “to enforce tyranny on people who you know are regular civilians” and to “make it clear who’s in control here”.
Part of the silence of Israeli society is to believe these are isolated and exceptional incidents. But these are the most routine, day-to-day, banal stories.
Yehuda Shaul Breaking the Silence.
I´m sick of The Wall
I´m sick of the checkpoints between Palestinian cities
I´m sick of illegal Israeli settlers and settlements
I´m sick of having the Hebrew language on my ID card
I´m sick of people not knowing anything about our history
but knowing so much about Jewish history
I´m sick of people ignoring the Palestinian Right of Return
and accepting the Jewish Law of Return
I´m sick of the Oslo Agreement which no one here
wanted in the first place
I´m sick of the Palestinian Authority
having zero authority
I´m sick of watching my father being humiliated at checkpoints
by people my age and younger
I´m sick of my international friends having to lie about
coming to visit; being interrogated, stripsearched
and sometimes deported in the process
I´m sick of people not understanding
what “Occupation” is
I´m sick of being scared all the time
I´m sick of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
being a normal state of being here in Palestine
I´m sick of how ineffective the UN has become
I´m sick of International Humanitarian Law
not applying to the State of Israel
I´m sick of how fighting for basic human rights for Palestinians
or being critical of Israeli policy
is so often labelled “anti-Semitic”
I´m sick of the fact that everybody forgets I´m a Semite
I´m sick of hearing Israelis complain about discrimination
when the State of Israel was founded on a principle of ethnic purity
I´m sick of living in a time
when racial profiling has become acceptable
I´m sick of constantly being treated as a suspect
I´m sick of how mainstream media portrays us and our situation
I´m sick of the whole world caring about Gilad Shalit
when there are more than 7000 Palestinians inside Israeli prisons
I´m sick of trying to defend myself, friends or countrymen
and being labelled a terrorist
I´m sick of the fact that everywhere I go
I can see The Wall, a settlement or Israeli soldier
I´m sick of 63 years of Israeli occupation
Where now for the Goldstone report?
John Dugard New Statesman 06 April 2011
John Dugard is Professor of Law, University of Pretoria; Emeritus Professor, University of Leiden; former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In short, there are no new facts which could possibly have led Richard Goldstone to change his mind.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post Richard Goldstone, former South African Constitutional Court judge and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, expresses misgivings about the central finding of the UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission Report on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-9 (named after its chairman, “the Goldstone report”) that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians were intentional.
The op-ed makes strange reading. It states that the Goldstone report would have been a different document “had I known then what I know now” but fails to disclose any information that seriously challenges the findings of the Goldstone Report. It claims that investigations published by the Israeli military and recognised by a follow-up UN Committee Report chaired by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, which appeared in March, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”, but the McGowan Davis report contains absolutely no such “indication” and instead seriously questions Israel’s investigations, finding them to be lacking in impartiality, promptness and transparency.
Goldstone expresses “confidence” that the officer responsible for perhaps the most serious atrocity of Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s codename for its assault on Gaza) — the killing of 29 members of the al-Samouni family — will be properly punished by Israel despite the fact that the McGowan Davis report provides a critical assessment of Israel’s handling of the investigation into this killing.
Finally, he claims that the McGowan Davis report finds that Israel has carried out investigations “to a significant degree”, but in fact this report paints a very different picture of Israel’s investigations of 400 incidents which have resulted in two convictions, one for theft of a credit card, resulting in a sentence of seven months imprisonment and another for using a Palestinian child as a human shield which resulted in a suspended sentence of three months!
In short, there are no new facts which exonerate Israel and which could possibly have led Goldstone to change his mind. What made him change his mind therefore remains a closely guarded secret.
The Goldstone report was not the only fact-finding report on Operation Cast Lead. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the League of Arab States (whose mission I chaired) all produced thorough reports on the conflict. In all reports, including the Goldstone report, there were accounts of the killings of civilians by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in a cold, calculated and deliberate manner. But the principal accusation levelled at Israel was that in its assault on Gaza it used force indiscriminately in densely populated areas and was reckless as to the foreseeable consequences of it actions which resulted in at least 900 civilian deaths and 5,000 wounded.
In terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court it is a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against a civilian population (article 8(2)(b)(i)). Such an intention need not be premeditated: it suffices if the person engaging in such action meant to cause the consequence of his action or “is aware that it will occur in the ordinary course of events”(article 30).
Goldstone’s op-ed may be interpreted to mean that he is now satisfied (although there is no evidence to support this) that Israel did not as a matter of policy deliberately and in a premeditated manner target civilians and that where the calculated killing of civilians occurred this was without the blessing of the Israeli military and political leadership. But he could not possibly have meant that Israel did not “intentionally target civilians as a matter of policy” in the legal sense of intention. That Israel’s assault was conducted in an indiscriminate manner with full knowledge that its consequences would be the killing and wounding of civilians is a matter of public record fully substantiated by the Goldstone Report and other equally credible reports.
In his op-ed Goldstone declares that Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel, which resulted in the killing of four civilians, was an “intentional” targeting of civilians and consequently a war crime. But how he can suggest that the indiscriminate bombing and shooting of Palestinians in Gaza by the IDF, which resulted in nearly a thousand civilian deaths, was not “intentional” is a mystery. Goldstone does not, like his critics, describe his op-ed piece as a retraction of the Goldstone report. This is not surprising. Richard Goldstone is a former judge and he knows full well that a Fact-Finding Report by four persons, of which he was only one, like the judgment of a court of law, cannot be changed by the subsequent reflections of a single member of the committee.
This can be done only by the full committee itself with the approval of the body that established the Fact-Finding Mission – the UN Human Rights Council. And this is highly unlikely in view of the fact that the three other members of the Committee – Professor Christine Chinkin of the LSE, Ms Hina Jilani, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Colonel Desmond Travers, formerly an officer in the Irish Defence Force – have indicated that they do not share Goldstone’s misgivings about the report.
The Goldstone report is a historical milestone. It is a credible, reasoned, comprehensive and thoroughly researched account of atrocities — war crimes and crimes against humanity — committed by Israel in the course of Operation Cast Lead and of war crimes committed by Hamas in the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel. It is a serious attempt to secure the accountability of a state that has for too long been allowed by the West to behave in a lawless manner. That the credibility of the Goldstone report has been undermined by Richard Goldstone’s strange op-ed in the Washington Post cannot be denied. Although the Report was authored by four experts with the backing of a team from the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights it has undoubtedly come to be associated with the name of Richard Goldstone. Inevitable the misgivings he has expressed about his own role in the Report will weaken its impact as an historical record of Operation Cast Lead.
Already the Israeli Government has expressed delight at what it construes to be a retraction of the Report and demanded both a contrite apology from Goldstone and a refutation of the Report by the United Nations. Predictably the US Department of State has welcomed Goldstone`s op-ed and one fears that European governments will find in it an excuse to justify their continued support for Israel.
Richard Goldstone has devoted much of his life to the cause of accountability for international crimes. It is sad that this champion of accountability and international criminal justice should abandon this cause in such an ill-considered but nevertheless extremely harmful op-ed.
Awarta Mazin Qumsiyeh
One Democratic State Group 29/04/11
We finally toured the devastated village of Awarta Wednesday and were stunned at what we saw and heard. On the way, we stopped by a tiny village called Izbet Al-tabib, a village of 350 people was served with a new order by the Israeli military to take over a significant portion of their land. The wall that will be built and isolate this land behind it is supposed to “protect” the illegal highway 55, an Israeli road built already on Palestinian lands to serve the Jewish colonies built on the rich Western water aquifer of the Palestinian West Bank. Yet, instead of building the wall on the colonial road 55, it is to be built a long distance from that to the north side near the village houses with the idea of capturing the rich agricultural land between. The villagers do not know what to do beyond going to the biased Israeli courts run by Israeli judges that obviously favor Israeli colonial interests. The work on the wall is slated to start Sunday and the villagers asked if we could all go there then. Leaving this small devastated village near Qalqilia, we headed east towards Nablus and Awarta.
After a quick lunch in Nablus hosted generously by our friend Dr. Saed Abuhijleh, we drove the short distance to Awarta. We enter the rich valley from the Western side and past the Israeli military camp and notice the colonial Jewish settlements dotting the hilltops around the valley. The native village of 6000 brave souls is on the slope to north side of the valley and villagers have to face this scene of growing colonial settlements on their lands. The main colonial settlement built on stolen village lands is called by Jewish settlers Itamar. Over 12,000 dunums (4000 acres) of Awarta’s lands were already taken by this colony inhabited by the most rabid and fanatical of Jewish settlers. Two Palestinians from Awarta were killed for coming within 500 metres of the fortified fencing of this colony. This is one of the many reasons why we are very convinced that the whole story about the killing of a settler family by two teenagers from the village of Awarta is a lie. But the killing of these settlers set stage for a ransacking of the village by the colonizing army of the state of Israel. Beating people, massive destruction, torture and more was inflicted on the village of 6000 people as collective punishment. It is hard to describe what we saw and heard.
The village has already suffered repeated attacks from settlers in the past. Just last year, settlers and soldiers executed (shot at close range) two youths (18 and 19 year old cousins Salah and Muhamad Qawariq) who were working their agricultural field. Villagers asked us why there was no outrage and no one held accountable in any of these atrocities. We are all 100% convinced that that the settler family was not killed by the Palestinian teenagers that are claimed as culprits by the Israeli authorities. The story the colonial army gave is so full of holes that it is simply not plausible.
Things that do not make sense:
-Why would two young teenagers not involved in politics, one of them a straight A student in his last year of high school and the other a westernized rapper enjoying his life decide to do such a thing? Killing children is especially not tolerated in our culture no matter what?
-How could such a pair manage to bypass one of the most heavily guarded and secured colonies in the WB. How would they cut through the electrified security fence and its other barriers in a settlement that brags that it is the most secure of Jewish colonies in the West bank. How could two strangers manage to stay in the settlement for two hours and even go back to the same house supposedly after leaving to get an M-16 gun that happened to be just sitting there in a bedroom (army story)?
-Why would two people who committed such a crime go back to studying and enjoying their lives for days even after one of them was arrested, questioned for 10 hours and released? Why not run away?
-There were reports in Israeli papers that a Thai worker who has not been paid thousands of shekels as being involved but then this suddenly disappeared from print. Why?
-What of the villagers’ contention that this whole incident is calculated to acquire 1000 more dunums of their lands?
-Why did Israeli authorities not allow media scrutiny of what was really happening?
-Why did Israeli authorities not allow independent investigation or International protection or presence to witness what was really going on?
-Why would the two young people be denied access to lawyers and family visits?
These and hundreds of other questions poured out from the villagers. I was particularly shocked to hear from Um Adam, a 7- year-old grandmother (14 living children, over 75 grandchildren). She herself was arrested with hundreds of others and forced (like all of them) to take a DNA test and to put her fingerprints on a document in Hebrew that she does not read. She, like hundreds, was not allowed access to lawyers during their detention. 14 of her children and grandchildren are still kidnapped by the colonial soldiers. One of her children still held by the Israelis is the volunteer head of the Municipal council. Another child is the only doctor in town. The homes of these two children, her home, and many other homes were ransacked and heavily damaged (the fascist soldiers had clearly come to destroy as an act of collective punishment). The doctor’s room and his medical books and supplies were not spared. While we visited nearly three weeks after the damage and after much of the houses were tidied-up with help of international volunteers, we still could see significant evidence of the damages. To punish a whole village in such a fashion reminds us of the worst regimes in history.
The legal tsunami is on its way
Michael Sfard Ha’aretz 29/04/11
The significance of a Palestinian state joining the UN is that, for the first time, it will be the Palestinians who will decide what the international legal framework is that is binding in their territory.
Israel considers itself the representative of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and as such was one of the initiators of the establishment of an international criminal court for war crimes. The height of jurisdictional isolation came when Israel decided not to ratify the court’s statute so as not to grant it authority to investigate and discuss crimes that, allegedly, were/are being carried out by Israeli officers and soldiers.
Israel’s cautious foreign policy on legal matters over the past 44 years is likely to collapse in September. The mechanisms of legal defense that it built since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to combat the “danger” of international jurisdiction about its conduct toward millions of people who are under its control, are likely to turn into dust at the stroke of the diplomatic moves.
If indeed the international community recognizes a Palestinian state, the question whether officers in the Israel Defense Forces who are involved in assassinations, shooting at unarmed demonstrators and using phosphorus bombs will be interrogated and brought to trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the question of whether international human rights treaties (and other treaties) will obligate Israel during action in the territories, will no longer be decided in the government offices in Jerusalem but rather in the corridors of the Muqataa in Ramallah. Together with the diplomatic “tsunami” that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has forecast, Israel can expect a legal tsunami, which for the first time will claim a price for violating human rights in the occupied territories.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories that Israel conquered in 1967, are not an internal Israeli issue. This is an international conflict in which the international community has a legitimate interest. However, during the years of the occupation the state of Israel has repelled the professional legal mechanisms of the United Nations, that deal with protecting human rights, from discussing its actions there. Thus, for example, Israel refrained from granting authority to the UN Committee on Human Rights to discuss complaints from Palestinians against the IDF. (This committee is a professional body that consists of world renowned experts in human rights law, as opposed to the Council on Human Rights, which is a political body composed of representatives of countries.)
In a similar vein, in the territories Israel refused to apply the various human rights treaties that deal, inter alia, with discrimination against women; rights of the child; racial and other discrimination; and torture. Some of Israel’s most talented advocates were sent to Geneva to claim that these treaties were not binding on Israel beyond the Green Line. Israel considers itself the representative of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and as such was one of the initiators of the establishment of an international criminal court for war crimes. The height of jurisdictional isolation came when Israel decided not to ratify the court’s statute so as not to grant it authority to investigate and discuss crimes that, allegedly, were/are being carried out by Israeli officers and soldiers.
Over the course of 44 years, Israel has succeeded in putting the job of judging its actions in the occupied territories in the hands of the High Court of Justice, which approved almost every policy and practice of the army in the territories, deepening the occupation and making possible massive violations of human rights under its patronage. Israel succeeded in leaving the investigations of its crimes to military advocates/attorneys who made sure that the policy of investigation would be such that enforcing the rigor of the law on soldiers and officers who had violated it would be a sort of miracle.
All of this is about to come to an end. Judging Israel’s actions in the sphere of human rights is apparently about to be placed in the hands of the nations of the world. To become internationalized. If indeed Palestine is accepted as a full member of the UN in September, the button controlling jurisdiction over events that will take place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will, to a large extent, be transferred from Jerusalem to Ramallah, from Benjamin Netanyahu to Mahmoud Abbas – because the significance of accepting Palestine as a member of the UN is that the new member will be sovereign to sign international treaties, to join international agreements and to receive the jurisdictional authority of international tribunals over what happens in its territory.
The young state of Palestine will act wisely if it decides, immediately on joining the UN, to sign all the major human rights treaties and all the clauses or protocols that grant its professional bodies the authority to discuss claims by civilians of violation of their rights. If the Palestinian government also decides to sign and ratify the international criminal court’s Rome Statute, the territories of the West Bank and Gaza will fall under the international tribunal’s authority to investigate and prosecute.
The significance of a Palestinian state joining the UN is that, for the first time, it will be the Palestinians who will decide what the international legal framework is that is binding in their territory. After more than 40 years in the wilderness of the occupation, the Palestinians will have the possibility of influencing their fate through legal means.
Mood in Cairo turns against close ties
Jonathan Cook 7/05/2011
Israeli officials have expressed alarm at a succession of moves by the interim Egyptian government that they fear signal an impending crisis in relations with Cairo. The widening rift was underscored on 4 May when leaders of the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact in the Egyptian capital. Egypt’s secret role in brokering the agreement last week caught both Israel and the United States by surprise.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, called the deal “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”. “…the interim Egyptian government, under popular pressure, is consciously distancing itself from some of the main policies towards Israel and the Palestinians pursued by Hosni Mubarak…”
Several other developments have added to Israeli concerns about its relations with Egypt, including signs that Cairo hopes to renew ties with Iran and renegotiate a long-standing contract to supply Israel with natural gas.
More worrying still to Israeli officials are reported plans by Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, closed for the past four years as part of a Western-backed blockade of the enclave designed to weaken Hamas, the ruling Islamist group there. Egypt is working out details to permanently open the border, an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on 1 May. The blockade would effectively come to an end as a result. The same day Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, called on the United States to recognize a Palestinian state – in reference to a move expected in September by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.
Israel and the US have insisted that the Palestinians can achieve statehood only through negotiations with Israel. Talks have been moribund since Israel refused last September to renew a partial freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to analysts, the interim Egyptian government, under popular pressure, is consciously distancing itself from some of the main policies towards Israel and the Palestinians pursued by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president overthrown by a popular uprising in February. Mubarak was largely supportive of Israel and Washington’s blockade policy to contain Hamas’s influence. Egypt receives more than 1.3 billion dollars annually in US aid, second only to Israel.
But the popular mood in Egypt appears to be turning against close diplomatic ties with Israel. A poll published last week by the Pew Research Centre showed that 54 per cent of Egyptians backed the annulment of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, with only 36 per cent wanting it maintained. Israel’s Yedioth Aharonoth daily reported this week that Egyptian social media sites had called for a mass demonstration outside the Israeli embassy, demanding the expulsion of the ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon. In comments to several media outlets last weekend, unnamed senior Israeli officials criticized Egypt’s new foreign policy line. One told the Wall Street Journal that Cairo’s latest moves could “affect Israel’s national security on a strategic level”.
Another unnamed official told the Jerusalem Post that “the upgrading of the relationship between Egypt and Hamas” might allow the Islamic movement to develop into a “formidable terrorist military machine”. Silvan Shalom, Israel’s deputy prime minister, told Israel Radio on 1 May that Israel should brace for significant changes in Egyptian policies that would allow Iran to increase its influence in Gaza. Egypt’s chief of staff, Sami Hafez Anan, responded dismissively on his Facebook page to such statements, saying, “Israel has no right to interfere. This is an Egyptian-Palestinian matter.”
In a sign of Israeli panic, Netanyahu is reported to be considering sending his special adviser, Isaac Molho, to Cairo for talks with the interim government. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly complained to visiting European ambassadors and US politicians about what he regards as a new, more hostile climate in Egypt. Late last month Elaraby said Egypt was ready to “turn over a new leaf” in relations with Tehran, which were severed after the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty more than three decades ago.
Egyptian officials have also warned that the supply of natural gas to Israel may be halted. The pipeline has been attacked twice on the Egyptian side, including last week, in acts presumed to be sabotage.Even if Egypt continues the flow of gas, it is almost certain to insist on a sharp rise in the cost, following reports that Mubarak and other officials are being investigated on corruption charges relating to contracts that under-priced gas to Israel.
“We are entering a new chapter in the region’s history and Israeli politicians and the public are not yet even close to understanding what is taking place.”
Yoram Meital, Ben Gurion University
Yoram Meital, an expert on Israeli-Egyptian relations at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, said Egypt’s policy change towards Gaza threatened to “provoke a severe crisis in Egyptian-Israeli relations” by undermining Israel’s policy of isolating Hamas. With the toppling of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, Meital noted, the Egyptian government is under pressure to be more responsive to local opinion. “We are at the beginning of this crisis but we are not there yet. However, there is room for a great deal more deterioration in relations over the coming months,” he said.
Analysts said Cairo wanted to restore its traditional leadership role in the Arab world and believed it was hampered by its ties with Israel. Menha Bahoum, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, told the New York Times last week: “We are opening a new page. Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated.” That assessment is shared by Hamas and Fatah, both of which were looking to Egypt for help, said Menachem Klein, a politics lecturer at Bar Ilan University. He noted that Abbas had lost his chief Arab sponsor in the form of Mubarak, and that the Hamas leadership’s base in Syria was precarious given the current upheavals there.
With growing demands from the Palestinian public for reconciliation, neither faction could afford to ignore the tide of change sweeping the Arab world, he said. Meital said: “We are entering a new chapter in the region’s history and Israeli politicians and the public are not yet even close to understanding what is taking place”. A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.
My Friend Vik
Lauren Booth Palestine Chronicle.com 18/04/2011
“I want to see (the) Gaza that my son loved and sacrificed for, I want to meet the good people living there that my son Vik always talked about”. Vittorio Arrigoni’s mother
The killing of Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni in Gaza this week follows (too) closely, the murder of pro-Palestinian peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis in the West Bank. Juliano, 52, was shot dead outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp on the West Bank on the 4th April. His documentary Arnas’s Children detailed the work of his mother in helping Palestinian children deal with the trauma of living under Occupation through the use of drama and self – expression.
Juliano’s untimely, bloody, end was one he had predicted three years ago on Israeli television. Vittorio Arrigoni was found, this week, hung, by armed ‘fanatics’ in an apartment in Gaza. An end he would never, ever, have predicted.
For friends of Vik, touched forever by his deep, smile filled voice, the pain of loss is made more acute by two factors. The first is the brutal manner of his death. For, Vik, was a gentle giant. A Samson in size and appearance, black curly hair about his rugged face. His arm muscles, there to scoop up a passing child, or wave the Palestinian flag at a moment’s notice, in the face of Israeli sniper fire, aimed at farmers attempting to harvest crops, or at fishing the coastal Gazan waters. That a man dedicated to non-violent resistance should die in violence is bad enough.
Worse, far worse is this; that his avowed enemies the ‘Fascisti’ in Israel (as he would call the government there) seek to make political gains from a life lived in direct challenge to them. This, as much as the sight of that last, dreadful film showing his eyes taped and his face bruised, is a knife in the heart of all who loved or knew of him. The headline ‘Italian peace activist killed by Palestinian extremists’ is an Israeli propagandists wet dream. A gift as potentially large in its political implications as the now inevitable retraction by the UN of the Goldstone report.
Two reasons. firstly, if nothing is done, and fast, Israel will use the momentum of these two machinated events, as an excuse to re-invade the Gaza Strip under the auspices of ‘terrorism and security’ issues. Secondly, Israeli is seeking to end the growing momentum of the siege breaking movement and the increasing appeal of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement). Which brings us to timing of both Juliano and Vittorio’s murders. Both men were respected for their creative work. Juliano, for inspiring a new generation of actors and writers in Jenin and for his film making on the subject of life under Occupation. Vik for his award-winning writings and broadcasts, on the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Both men were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most – in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.
More, though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non-violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. The ISM in Gaza took time to consider whether it could encourage, young activists to join them on the ever increasingly mission to accompany Gazans about their daily business. Human shield work. Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie’s deaths were part of a dedicated attack by Israel on the work of the increasingly effective ISM.
More recently, IOF commanders have been focusing their attention on the Freegaza Movements efforts to break the siege of Gaza by sea. It is no coincidence then that both Juliano and Vittorio should die within two weeks. Both, at the hands of unknown Palestinian ‘cells.’ As they say on children’s TV – tell us boys and girls what’s wrong with this picture? Israel’s supporters will doubtless feel affronted at the assertion that Vittorio was murdered by those almost certainly in the pay of the Jewish State. But they can’t have their dark ops cake and eat it too. Not this time. Too many of us have our eyes open to the filthy tactics employed by Israel every time they come under intellectual attack. And there is no doubt that Israeli Apartheid is losing traction by the day.
Still unsure who was behind Vittorio’s murder? Well, how often have the Israeli press lauded and applauded ‘covert ops’ in the Occupied Territories? Want some examples? Fine. In 1952, Shin Bet agents were sent undercover to spy inside Palestinian villages. Ten Jewish men assimilated into Arab communities in the early 1950s, marrying local women and starting families with them, were, all the while serving in the Shin Bet as “mistaarvim,” literally- masqueraders. The men learned the Palestinian dialect, studied the Quran and espionage techniques in an Intelligence Corps base near Ramla. With a detailed cover story, they were sent into Palestinian villages and cities pretending to be refugees from the Nakba returning home. Just last year, Israel has carried out an assassination in Dubai of a Hamas member (or as it was known in the British media – the ‘passports scandal’). More recently, Mossad operatives have kidnapped a Palestinian engineer from the Ukraine, who is now, illegally held in an Israeli prison. And what of the sadistic coercion that Palestinians with chronic illnesses have been subjected to by Shin Bet? Known in Gaza as treachery for treatment? A Palestinian patient requests a permit from the Israeli- Palestinian Civil Liaisons Department to be allowed to travel from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel for an operation. After exhausting efforts, patients receive permits and go to Erez. Prominent human rights centres report that Shin Bet officers, then attempt to coerce and entrap patients, to do dirty work for them in their home towns and villages in return for rapid and/or ongoing medical treatment.
Yes folks, spies-for-health. Israel then, ‘has form’ when it comes to lying, murdering, and coercion, for its own ends.
As Hamas rounds up the perpetrators of this most recent, deadly crime, the Gaza grapevine is buzzing with the news that they will indeed be found to be, (as suspected from the get-go), Israeli collaborators. Statements of denial from the ‘Salafis’ accused of the murder have already been issued. Despite the fact the Western media is still running with the story of their guilt. There were statements from Tawid wal – Jihad and Ma’sadat al-Mujahedin An excerpt from a statement read, “we strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrigoni)…Our statements are distributed exclusively through Shoumouk al – Islam, Attahadi Network and the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network…Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, have nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites…”
So, who benefits from the killing of Vittorio Arrigoni? And what is the significance of the timing of his murder?
Sure, the kidnappers’ video looked genuine at first. It had all the customary layout of the kind of ‘Jihadi’ videos that the tabloid press loves: the black flag of Islam, the Quranic verse in the introduction, footage of the kidnapped victim. But a small detail on the black flag, underneath the precious, Islamically untouchable phrase ‘There is No God, but God’ raises questions about the authenticity of the groups grasp on Islam. The extra words read something like “the Brigades of Muhammad Ibn Maslama.” This has been hard for experts to verify because the video is being systematically pulled off YouTube. But one thing is certain; ‘Jihadis’ never write ANYTHING on the flag besides La Ilaha Ila Allah.
Also unusual, was the lack of customary logos of the Jihadi media distribution channels: Shoumoukh al-Islam, Ansar al-Mujahideen, Global Islamic Media Front, etc.
You know what, right now, who cares?
Vik; friend, solidarity activist, hero, author, is dead and his enemy is making gains from his life. A life dedicated to the opposition of Israeli Fascism. So what can, what should be done, must be the focus now, not only of his friends, but of all those who support the cause of Palestinian justice. It was in 2008, as a passenger of the Freegaza, that Vittorio arrived in Gaza for the first time. I had the pleasure of being one of the activists arriving, alongside him on that day. During the weeks preceding the successful crossing all of the passengers had considered Israel’s possible tactics for stopping a sea channel from effectively opening up. Two options seemed most likely. A massively violent boarding of the ships, incurring several deaths that would act as a warning to other potential voyagers not to sail.
The option, I feared most. The use of on-the-ground collaborators to do Israel’s dirty work for them. A network of paid for ‘cells’ who would pick off activists one by one in the Gaza strip. Thus, both terrifying the solidarity movement AND providing Israel with some much-needed beneficial headlines of the kind we have seen since Vik’s death.
We know all too well, the bloody massacre that took place last year on the Mavi Marmara, committed by Israeli forces. Now, as the second Armada plans to chart the same course on or near the anniversary of that sailing, Israel is pulling out all the stops, in its efforts to stop, frighten, threaten and deter, hundreds more activists from taking action against their Apartheid state. Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, has just asked the Turkish government to help halt the flotilla movement saying their sailing would be a “provocation.” Asked about the pressure, a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters: “We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society.” The official did not elaborate. Strike one, for Israel. But the efforts continued.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on EU ambassadors in Jerusalem saying “This flotilla must be stopped.” And there’s more. On April 1, Netahyahu’s office asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop the flotilla setting sail. Netanyahu told Ban Ki-moon that the mission of ships was being organized by (guess who folks?) “Islamic extremist elements” intent on bringing about “a flare-up.” Then, on Wednesday, the morally bankrupt, Silvio Berlusconi, told Israel Radio, that he would work to prevent the next flotilla bound for Gaza, from sailing. Berlusconi said that a peaceful Middle East is farther from reality now than it ever has been before, adding that Israel has no viable peace partner. He even asserted that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that the West can trust, and that Israel should join the European Union.
The next day, Vik was kidnapped.
The same night, before any realistic negotiations could take place for his release, Vik was murdered. Feeling sick yet? Yeah, me too. Because this was a hit. A hit carried out to intimidate, to frighten off those who have already signed up for the next flotilla to Gaza and may be traveling there for the first time, those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about. If he were still here.
We mustn’t let the Israeli ‘fascisti’ succeed in their latest terror tactic. Early signs are that for all the pain Vik’s death has caused, all the tears that have flowed. that we, in the solidarity movement will only grow more determined, in light of this crime. Since his death, the ISM has reported a sharp rise in people wanting to go to Palestine. Meanwhile, a Freegagza Movement contact, tells me that no one from the next convoy expected to include Turkish, Algerian, Scottish, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Jordanian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Swiss, US, Canadian, British and French nationals, has pulled out as a result of Vik’s murder.
Scottish Friends of Palestine
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