Briefing Paper March 2013

Scottish Friends of Palestine AGM

Sunday 14 April 2013 12.30pm to 2.00 pm

STUC Centre 333 Woodlands Road Glasgow G3 6NG

Thereafter to Deir Yassin commemoration plaque in Kelvingrove Park (to the rear of the Art Galleries) for a short ceremony of commemoration (commencing around 2.30pm)

Motions for the AGM can be submitted to the Secretary 31 Tinto Road Glasgow G43 2AL or to or on the day of the AGM

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Not to go to the UN would be suicidal for the Palestinian Authority. All these people [in Gaza] took the brunt of the attack and now we should chicken out because they [the US and Israel] will cut off some money? What we’re doing is not violent; it’s not military; it’s not illegal. The world should see that if they keep maintaining the status quo, it will get you nothing but more bloodshed. That’s the lesson from Gaza.”

Clinton just a few days before Gaza said it would be a very long time before the Palestinian issue is going to get attention. Which means what: we only get attention when we use force? If we get this vote, people will feel nonviolence produces results; if we do not, they will reach the opposite conclusion.

Nabil Shaath The Guardian 27/11/12

Israeli peace negotiator Gershon Bashkin reports that a proposal he drafted for a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was on the verge of being accepted by senior Hamas officials, including Ahmed Jabari. On the morning of the 14th — just two days after the PA’s announcement concerning its UN bid — a revised version was being assessed by Jabari and was due to be sent to Israel. Hours later, Jabari was assassinated on Netanyahu’s orders. “Senior officials in Israel knew about [Jabari’s] contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination,”

Bashkin told Ha’aretz.

“Flatten all of Gaza” . . . Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza because there are no innocent civilians. “They elected Hamas. . . they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences” Such language would be shocking were it not so familiar: in Israel the rhetoric of righteous victimhood has merged with the belligerent rhetoric – and the racism – of the conqueror. Gilad Sharon (son of Ariel Sharon) from the Jerusalem Post (taken from “Why Israel Didn’t Win” London Review of Books 6/12/12)

Gaza: ‘My child was killed and nothing has changed’

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian, 11/12/12

After eight days of war, an uneasy peace has been patched up once again between Israel and Gaza. Hamas are jubilant, but for ordinary people, there’s little cause to celebrate amid the ruins of a shattered city

The morning ritual goes like this: three-year-old Ali Misharawi wakes up and reaches for his father’s mobile phone. He kisses and strokes the face of his baby brother, Omar, on its small screen. Then he starts asking questions. Why is Omar in paradise? Why did you put my brother into the ground? Why can’t I play with him anymore?

“He asks a lot of questions. Every day he asks if Omar is alive or dead. He knows what happened, he was there, but he needs to make sense of it,” says his father, Jihad Misharawi, whose family was devastated in an inferno on the first full day of last month’s war. Misharawi’s 11-month-old son Omar and 19-year-old sister-in-law Heba were killed instantly; his brother Ahmed, 18, died after 12 days in intensive care with burns to 85% of his body.

A photograph of Misharawi, a video editor employed by the BBC, with eyes closed and head tilted up in agonised grief while clutching the shrouded body of his baby, was one of the searing images of the eight-day war between Israel and Gaza. Standing amid blackened wreckage the day after Omar’s death, Misharawi showed me other haunting photographs on a mobile phone: his infant’s scorched, rigid corpse; the child’s mouth stretched in a charred rictus.

Three weeks on, Gaza City has almost returned to what passes for normal in this densely overcrowded, impoverished and war-ravaged strip of land whose borders – apart from one exit to Egypt – are tightly controlled by Israel. In sharp contrast to the deserted streets and shuttered shops during the conflict, cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and donkey-drawn carts clog the roads; traders are open for business; boys play football on open patches of scrubby land; teenage girls, wearing white hijabs and floor-length jilbabs to cover their skinny jeans, amble home from school.

But the city also bears the ugly physical scars of eight days of intensive bombardment by Israel: mounds of crushed masonry, twisted metal and shattered glass that were previously homes, offices or public buildings. The Israeli military said it struck 1,500 targets during the offensive, an average of 187 a day. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 167 people were killed, a majority of whom were civilians, including 35 children. Six Israelis were also killed. Ahead of a massive triumphalist rally, marking both the Islamist organisation’s 25th anniversary and what Hamas leaders claimed was its victory over Israel in the war, the streets of Gaza City are festooned with green Hamas bunting. An enormous model of a rocket, emblazoned “Made in Gaza”, illustrates Hamas’s exultation.

“We believe Israel lost this war, and victory is ours,” Hamas official Taher al-Nounou told me a few days before the rally. “Not a military victory, but a victory for our will.”

Despite the scale of devastation and casualties, he insisted: “They tried to destroy our government and failed. They tried to stop Hamas rockets and failed. After six years of isolation, we are more powerful than ever before.”

The night the ceasefire was announced, Hamas supporters poured on to the streets, firing guns in the air, blasting horns, letting off fireworks and whooping over their “victory”. There were no celebrations in Misharawi’s family, who watched the gunmen with dismay and bitterness. “I think Hamas is fooling itself when it says there was a victory,” says Misharawi, 27. “How can you have a victory when all these people were killed and injured? What was achieved? Only sorrow, frustration and death for ordinary people.” He tells me he is “OK now” compared to our first meeting, but anger and grief bubble close to the surface.

Hamdi Shaqqura of PCHR accuses Israel of “an offensive against civilians and civilian targets”. Victory or defeat is, he says, “a political interpretation. I’m concerned with the loss of human life and civilian property. This has been horrific for the civilian population of Gaza.” More than 1,000 people had been injured, 96% of whom were civilians, and some of whom suffered “permanent injury” such as loss of limbs, he explains.

Hamas political officials and military commanders were believed to have spent the war sheltering in a network of underground bunkers and tunnels, although al-Nounou claimed that “all the Hamas leadership were working regularly in their offices”. Above ground, in a city with no public bomb shelters and no air-raid warning system, the civilian population huddled in their homes, awaiting the next shuddering blast. Some desperately tried to move their families to more secure locations, only to realise there were no safe places. One family I met on a roadside during the offensive were waiting for a taxi to take them and a few belongings stuffed into plastic bags to the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood, which they believed would not be targeted. The next day, it was the scene of a massive airstrike, which destroyed the home of the Dalou family, killing 12 people including four children.

Israel insisted its airstrikes were precision-targeted at legitimate sites: weapons stores, Hamas-run government buildings, training and rocket-launching grounds. But it also targeted what it claimed were the homes of militants. In the dense residential streets of Gaza City and other towns, relatives and neighbours were killed or injured and adjacent homes suffered extensive damage. At the site of the Dalou family home, the detritus of family life – odd shoes, half-buried rugs, plastic toys – was visible amid the rubble last week. Houses on three sides were badly damaged by the explosion; two neighbours were among the dead. Tribute banners showing the four Dalou children – smiling portraits alongside a harrowing picture of their corpses squashed together on a morgue tray – hung from the wreckage.

Palestinians release balloons at the site of the bombed Dalou family home Palestinians release balloons at the site of the Dalou family home in Gaza. Twelve members of the family were killed in an IDF airstrike.

In a statement emailed to the Guardian in response to a request for explanation for the bombing, the Israeli Defence Forces said: “The IDF targets only terror-related sites based on carefully collected intelligence. Every possible precaution was taken as the civilians in Gaza were not targets in this operation. “The Dalou residence was known to the IDF intelligence as a hideout of a senior militant operative in Hamas’s rocket-launching infrastructure. While the IDF regrets the loss of life on both sides, the responsibility ultimately lies with terror operatives who use the civil population as human shield when using civilian buildings as hideouts or to store weaponry.”

This came as news to Bodour al-Dalou, 25, who lost her mother, brother, two sisters, a sister-in-law, an aunt and four nephews and nieces in the airstrike. “There were no fighters in the house,” she says. “I have no idea why the Israelis targeted us. I have heard they said it was a mistake, but what difference does that make?” An investigation by Human Rights Watch into the bombing of the Dalou family home concluded it was “a clear violation of the laws of war”. Mohamed al-Dalou, the only man in the house at the time, whose body was dug out of the rubble five days later, was a low-ranking civilian police officer, HRW said. “Even if [he] was a legitimate target under the laws of war, the likelihood that the attack on a civilian home would have killed large numbers of civilians made it unlawfully disproportionate.” Nine of the 10 Dalou family victims were women and children.

Bodour says her three sons, aged six, four and one, were now “always crying because of what happened. Every loud voice, every knock on the door affects them. They say: ‘Mummy, I don’t want to die.'” But, in a profoundly depressing illustration of how Gaza’s perpetual cycle of violence can shape each generation, she adds: “I tell my sons: ‘You will be the ones to take revenge for your cousins.’ I wish we could live in peace, but the situation forces this on me.”

Unicef, the UN agency for children, conducted research a few days after the conflict ended, interviewing 545 children in Gaza’s most heavily affected areas on their feelings during the eight days of bombing. “During this time, children were constantly hearing extremely loud noises, both coming in and going out,” explains Frank Roni of Unicef. “It was a nightmare for them and their parents. When danger comes so close, it has a big psychological impact. Children of all ages didn’t feel safe in their own homes, they wanted to sleep with their parents, a lot were afraid to go to the bathroom so you see bedwetting.”

Among a long list of statistics Roni reels off are the following: 91% of children reported sleeping disturbances during the conflict; 94% said they slept with their parents; 85% reported appetite changes; 82% felt angry; 97% felt insecure; 38% felt guilty; 47% were biting their nails; 76% reported itching or feeling ill; 82% were either continuously or usually in fear of imminent death.

There may also be a “long-term effect on family dynamics,” says Roni. “Children see their parents frightened, hopeless, helpless, angry, frustrated and unable to protect their family members. These intensive emotions in front of children can have a negative impact.” Some of these children would have permanent psychological scars from the conflict, particularly those still exhibiting signs of stress from the last war, Operation Cast Lead, which ended in January 2009 after 22 days of intensive onslaught by Israel, he said. “A second war within a four-year period brings a lot of flashbacks and re-opens trauma.”

Just as in the aftermath of that previous conflict, many Gazans were last week trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild their shattered homes in the resigned belief that this year’s conflict will not be the last. Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil acknowledges the “devastation and damage” caused in the eight-day war. “But sometimes, for your dignity and independence, you have to pay a high price,” he says. “People in Gaza have the right to be sad, and we are sad for them, but we are angry as well. Anger should be directed against the aggressor.” Popular support for Hamas has increased, he adds. “Israel is used to causing pain to Palestinians, but this time it was on the receiving end of pain. The deal is different now.”

Jihad Misharawi disagrees. “Hamas think they were heroes, with a great victory. I don’t know how they can talk about victory. There will be another escalation for sure. Like everyone here, I’m not expecting a long period of quiet. My child was killed, and nothing on the ground has changed. No one achieved anything. Families lost children and loved ones. How can this be a victory?”

Al-Fardous and its hostile Israeli military neighbours

The Palestine Monitor 12/12/12

Between the years 23 and 15 BC, Herod the Great, the Roman client king of ancient Judea, commissioned a lavish palace to be built for himself within the fortress of Herodium. Atop a large plateau situated 12 kilometres from Jerusalem, Herod placed his palace in a strategic position from which he could fortify the Roman Empire’s control of the area.

Today, upon the scattered remains of Herod’s palace and its accompanying city of Herodium, sits the Palestine village of Jabl al-Furdous. The village along with the ruins of Herod’s palace fall within what is now known as Area C of the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories – Area C signifies the 62% of the West Bank which falls under complete Israeli civil and military control.

During his rule, King Herod was known for his harsh attitude and polices directed towards the local Jewish population—a suppression which eventually came back to bite him in the year 112 AD when the native Jewish population rebelled and took over his palace.

As of 1990, the modern day Jewish population has once again attempted to reassert its control over the tiny hilltop and subsequently the entire surrounding area via its creation of an Israeli military base upon Herod’s ruins.

The ruins of Herod the Great’s ancient palace now play home to the antagonistic relationship between the newly built Israeli military base, vying to assert its control on the area, and the villagers of Jabl al-Furdous, struggling to gain access to their land in order to survive.

Drying out the Palestinians

Ha’aretz Editorial 10/12/12

Basic moral principles require that Israel cease destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has destroyed 35 rainwater cisterns used by Palestinian communities, 20 of them in the area of Hebron and the southern Hebron Hills. In 2011, Israel destroyed 15 cisterns, and in the preceding 18 months, 29. In many of these cases ancient cisterns were destroyed that had served the forefathers of the inhabitants of these communities. Recently, they have been restored with European assistance. The cisterns show the continuity of Palestinian habitation long before 1948. Usually, the communities whose cisterns were destroyed are a short distance from settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply. At the same opportunity, the Civil Administration almost always destroys Palestinian tents, animal pens and food storage facilities.

This information is based on data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. The spokesman for the military Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories did not respond to Haaretz’s queries about the number of cisterns destroyed over the past two years, or why the restoration of an ancient cistern is considered an offense. The spokesman did explain (Haaretz, December 7) that “the digging of cisterns – which constitutes infrastructural change – requires the receipt of a permit from the authorized planning institutions.” But from the outset, Israel did not include in its master plans the Palestinian communities that now depend on cisterns, and therefore they cannot expect to receive a legal permit.

Leaving Palestinian communities disconnected from infrastructure, declaring large areas as firing zones and destroying cisterns are part of an intentional policy since the early 1970s. Its goal is to leave as few Palestinians as possible in the majority of the West Bank (today’s Area C, under Israeli civil and military control), to expedite Jewish settlement and thus make it easier to annex these areas to Israel.

The European Union opposes Israel’s policies in Area C, which the EU believes sabotages the two-state solution. It also bases its position on international law, which prohibits the demolition of structures that would leave a protected population without food and water and result in their forced dislocation. Basic moral principles, as well as avoiding another head-on collision with our friends, requires that Israel cease and desist from destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

Israeli soldiers say it’s “intolerable” they can’t kill Palestinians more freely due to cameras, “rules”

Ali Abunimah Electronic Intifada 10/12/12

Israeli occupation soldiers have complained to Israel’s Ynet that they are not allowed to be more violent against Palestinians whose land they occupy in the West Bank. In particular, the soldiers seem unhappy that they can no longer just shoot dead Palestinians who throw stones at them because Palestinians do not like foreign armies occupying their towns. Ynet used only initials to identify the soldiers.

According to S., orders to open fire address situations of a clear and present danger and only if there is a person with the means and intent to kill. “But what is an angry mob throwing stones and sometimes rocks at you if not a life threatening situation? I wouldn’t order opening fire at a crowd of people but we can’t have a situation where you stand in front of a person with a rock and start to ask yourself is this person life threatening. If I shoot at him I go to jail.

“Intolerable” not to be able to shoot Palestinians at will

One soldier admits that the presence of cameras – presumably in the hands of Palestinian and other videographers – inhibits the soldiers from being even more abusive:   T. says the cameras on the ground undermine the forces’ efforts. “A commander or an officer sees a camera and becomes a diplomat, calculating every rubber bullet, every step. It’s intolerable, we’re left utterly exposed. The cameras are our kryptonite.”

Occasionally crimes by Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers are caught on video. But more often they are not. In recent testimonies given to the group Breaking the Silence, Israeli soldiers admitted to horrifying crimes including deliberate and random attacks on Palestinian children, sometimes killing them and sometimes just for amusement.

In video shot by Palestinians last May, Israeli settlers can be seen attacking a village with stones, live fire and setting fire to fields as Israeli occupation forces guard the settlers.

It seems unlikely that “S.” and “T.” would be too keen on Palestinians being given the right to shoot at them. Stones are only deadly weapons, it would appear, in the hands of Palestinians, and when directed against heavily-armed, invading occupation forces. Israeli soldiers kill with impunity anyway

While “T.” worries about “calculating every rubber bullet,” Israeli soldiers have found ways around rules nominally meant to prevent wanton killing of Palestinians. Exactly one year ago, Mustafa Tamimi, 28, was killed when Israeli soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh fired a tear gas canister at his face at point blank range, a murder witnessed by Linah Alsaafin. In November, harrowing video caught images of Rushdi Tamimi, 31, also in Nabi Saleh, lying on the ground shortly after being shot in the stomach and thigh by Israeli occupation forces during a protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. The video shows the occupation soldiers threatening the woman shooting the video and preventing villagers from tending to Tamimi, who died of his wounds in hospital two days later.

In addition to Tamimi, 22-year-old Hamdi al-Falah was killed by Israeli soldiers during protests against the attack on Gaza in the West Bank city of Hebron. “S.” who was concerned, “If I shoot at him I go to jail,” need not worry. A year after Mustafa Tamimi’s killing, no one has been brought to justice. It’s unlikely that Rushdi Tamimi’s killers will face justice either.

It’s been like that since video of Israeli soldiers brutalizing Palestinians came to light during the first intifada, which began 25 years ago this weekend. Videos or no videos, decade after decade, Israel’s brutal occupation grinds on without accountability and with impunity for those who give the orders and those follow them.

Stepping over the line by accident: still possible, ever more disturbing 972mag Yuval Ben Ami 26/12/12

A stroll west of West Jerusalem (Beit Iksa) can lead to a surprising discovery, confronting the casual walker with various layers of the Palestinian tragedy — I just finished an ordeal at the Knesset. The next thing on the agenda was a long phone call, one that would last for at least an hour. Instead of walking about West Jerusalem for an hour, I decided to begin heading west on foot …

While speaking leisurely on the phone, I crossed to the other ridge and began climbing a slope that I thought would lead me to Mevaseret Zion and to the bus. It did not. The houses atop the hill were not lined along neatly planned streets, as they would be in Mevaseret. Instead, homes were freely scattered along badly paved roads, some of them were new, others – as old as those of Lifta. This was a Palestinian village, and various signs told me that it was not Palestinian-Israeli, such as nearby Abu Ghosh.

The roads really were in a very poor shape, and the roofs bore black water tanks, rather than the white ones typical in Israel. How could this be? I have been walking west from West Jerusalem. I am supposed to be in Israel proper, in the “Jerusalem corridor” — sandwiched between the north and south West Bank. This village is located only a half a mile from the Jerusalem — Tel Aviv freeway, which trails the adjacent slope … Walking a bit further in, I began to see cars. Their license plates were white and green — Palestinian. Such cars are not allowed on Israeli roads. The mystery thickened. I haven’t crossed a fence nor a wall, and yet I entered the West Bank on foot … I knew that the separation barrier was not complete, but was amazed to find it non-existent at such proximity to West Jerusalem … Then I turned back, looked over at Jerusalem and felt a great sadness take over me. The people who live in the house shown in the above photo are not allowed to walk down the trail I took. It is unlikely that they possess a rare “Jerusalem pass” issued by the Israeli authorities. Most likely, they risk arrest and interrogation if they dare to visit the city. It is a city that appears every morning through their windows, a city that is sacred to them, a city that is the birthplace of their culture. A city that is off bounds.

Attacks on Urif continue, soldiers invade the village

ISM 28/12/12

Following three days of incessant attacks from Israeli soldiers and settlers on Soldiers checking people in the streets of Urifthe village of Urif, south of Nablus, around seventy soldiers on ten military jeeps soldiers invaded the village at 9:30 this morning. They started firing tear gas on children aged three to six years that were leaving their school after having finished an exam. The whole village was put under curfew for a few hours.

International solidarity activists arrived in Urif to find scores of terrorized children running away from a school that had just been attacked with tear-gas by the Israeli military. The soldiers ordered everyone to stay off the streets and shot tear-gas directly at old women who were next to a home in the village centre. Dozens of soldiers went around the village with military jeeps, broke into homes and fired tear-gas into buildings and streets, while others positioned themselves on roof tops. One international activist was briefly handcuffed and detained by the military. In another incident an international activist was punched in the chest and in the face after having been asked for his documents by the Israeli Border Police. Soldiers started leaving the village at 1:30pm. No arrests were made.

Life in the village of Urif has been completely disrupted in the past month as settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yizhar have been attacking the village almost daily. This is usually followed by attacks from the Israeli army against the people who go to defend their village from the settlers. The military also carried out various incursions into the village. In past four days soldiers entered the village twice in the middle of the night and shot tear-gas and sound bombs until the early hours of the morning. The villagers of Urif also talked about a particularly toxic tear-gas that is being used. Only in the past month, 17 women from Urif have had miscarriages from tear-gas inhalation. Although attacks from settlers were not uncommon in all of the past two decades, people in Urif told us that after the successful bid by Palestine to become UN observer member, attacks by Israeli settlers and soldiers became incessant, effectively denying any semblance of normality to life in the village.

The EU’s External Action towards the Middle East: Resolution required (an extract)

Steven Blockmans (Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit) 07/01/13

The EU also has to face up to the fact that there is not going to be a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, at least not in the way envisaged before Palestine received overwhelming support in the General Assembly for its request to be recognised as a non-member observer state at the United Nations. The Israeli political right has no interest in the two-state solution, the Palestinians are too weak and divided to put meaningful pressure on them, and the US is too compromised by the Israeli lobby to be an effective mediator. The mantra of a two-state solution has become a convenient fig leaf for politicians, while realities on the ground make it less and less likely by the day. At their December 2012 summit in Brussels, the EU and Russia fired the first shot across the bows by calling for “bold and concrete steps towards peace” to be taken by the parties “in direct and substantial negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve a lasting solution to the conflict”. The EU and Russia indicated that they “will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties”. In 2013, the EU and the other members of the Quartet will have to do some serious soul searching about what an alternative policy should be to address such prickly questions as how to ensure safety for all, ‘one person, one vote’, and how to end the current state of apartheid.

Time to bin left and right terminology in Israel

Gilad Atzmon 23/01/13

Most commentators on Israel fail to see that notions of “left” and “right” are pretty much irrelevant to the understanding of Israeli politics. Israel defines itself as the Jewish state and, as the years pass, it is indeed becoming more and more Jewish.

Naftali Bennett, who for a while appeared to be the rising star of the current election, realized this all too well. He reinvented Jewish Home, a political party that celebrates the Israeli aspiration to fulfil his co-religionists Jewish destiny: he promised his followers that they can live as the chosen people in their Jew-only state, regardless of ethical or moral concerns.

But then most, if not all, Jewish participants in the Israeli political game are committed to the “Jewish state” dream. Of course, they differ on some minor practical and pragmatic issues, but they clearly agree on the basics. Here is an old Israeli joke: “An Israeli settler suggests to his lefty friend – ‘Next summer we should put all Arabs on buses and get them out of our land.’ The lefty replies: “OK, but make sure the buses are air-conditioned.”

The assumption that there is political division in Israel is just a myth that the goyim (gentiles) are happy to buy into because it gives the impression of the possibility of political change and even spiritual transformation.

In Israe,l there are no hawks or doves. Instead, all we have is a mild debate between a few interpretations of Jewish tribalism, nationalism and supremacy. Some Jews want to be surrounded by towering ghetto walls – they like it, it’s cosy, it feels safe – others prefer to rely on the Israeli army’s power of deterrence. Some would support the excessive use of white phosphorous, others would like to see Iran wiped out.

The assumption that there is political division in Israel is just a myth that the goyim – or gentiles – are happy to buy into because it gives the impression of the possibility of political change and even spiritual transformation. But the grave truth is that, when it comes to the real fundamentals, Israelis are pretty much united: Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich and war criminal Tzipi Livni were both among those who rushed to support Binyamin Netanyahu’s Operation Pillar of Cloud. Yair Lapid, the leader of the second biggest Israeli party, also identified as a centre leftist, wouldn’t refuse a ministerial job by Netanyahu. Meretz, which though a Zionist party, is the only Jewish party in Israel that has even a trace of ethical, universal thinking and values of equality, still comprises a mere six Knesset members out of 110 Jewish MPs.

So If we want to grasp Israeli politics, we need to bin our 19th century archaic terminologies of left and right and start to dig into the real culture and ideology that drives the Jewish state. Israel, with not a single Jewish party that has empathy towards Palestinians in its political agenda, defies the very notion of universal equality. It is concerned solely with the interests of the chosen people, and the results of the Israeli election confirms this. All we see is a vacuous competition between different Judeo-centric narratives.

Israel’s sewage war

Nureddin Sabir 24/11/2012

A picture is worth a thousand word. The videos below are both instructive and appalling. They sum up the character of the Jewish settlers – the misfits, thieves and squatters from the United States, Europe, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere who are stealing and blighting Palestinian lands in increasing number – and they expose the deep-seated racism that underlies their contempt for Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.

This first video below, shot by a special correspondent, shows raw sewage flowing from the illegal Jewish colony of Beitar Illit on to the farmlands of the besieged Palestinian village of Wadi Fuqeen.

At least twice a month, starting on Friday afternoons and continuing for a large part of the following day, the authorities in the illegal Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, which is built on land stolen from the neighbouring Palestinian village of Wadi Fuqeen, near Bethlehem, open their sewage tanks on to the farmlands of the village. As the video shows, the sewage, which runs through specially-built pipelines that open on to the slopes leading to Wadi Fuqeen, accumulates on the Palestinian farmlands, poisoning crops, contaminating the water table and posing a serious health threat to villagers.

This second video, taken recently by Church of England Reverend Stephen Sizer, also shows the sewage waters flowing down the hillsides from the illegal Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit on to farmland of Wadi Fuqeen. Note that the interviewee explains that the next village along, Nahalin, is experiencing the same problem. In this video, also made by the Rev. Sizer, you can see the type and scale of damage caused by the sewage from the illegal settlement of Beitar Illit to Wadi Fuqeen’s agricultural land.

Efforts by the Palestinians of Wadi Fuqeen and some Israeli peace activists to persuade the Israeli authorities so stop this appalling and disgraceful behaviour have come to nothing. The “mayor” of the illegal Beitar Illit settlement even had the audacity to suggest that this is a Palestinian problem and that they, the Palestinians, not the Jewish producers of the sewage, should find a way, such as constructing an aqueduct, to divert the Jewish sewage away from their farmlands.

Israeli prosecutors will explain to the High Court of Justice on Monday why it’s hard to protect two elderly people from attacks by young Jews

Amira Hass Ha’aretz 28/01/13

The Israel Defence Forces and the Israeli police in the West Bank will continue trying to convince the High Court of Justice on Monday that the routine of fear in which two elderly farmers live due to attacks by settlers is reasonable and proportionate.

In the name of the IDF and the Israel Police, the State Prosecutor’s Office will try to convince justices Asher Grunis, Esther Hayut and Neal Hendel not to be overly shocked by the descriptions by Rabbis for Human Rights attorneys Quamar Mishirqi-Assad and Avital Sharon. At issue are the attacks on brothers Hammad and Mohammed al-Sleibi, age 78 and 70, from the village of Safa southwest of Bethlehem.

The state will ask that the petition on behalf of the two brothers be rejected, as well as the request that the West Bank law-enforcement authorities protect the welfare, property and work of the brothers and their descendants. For about 50 years, the brothers have been making a living from a 45-dunam plot in Wadi Abu Rish west of the village of Beit Omar. The settlement of Bat Ayin sits on top of a hill about 200 meters from the plot, which is abundant with trees and vines: olives, grapes, dates, apricots, plums, quince, peaches, pomegranates, loquats and almonds.

In September 2005, about 300 goats and their shepherds heading from the settlement entered the plot. In a complaint to the police, the brothers reported damage to their crops, both by the goats and the shepherds’ sticks. They expected protection. Instead, in the following eight months, their trees were damaged at least five times, and the two men were attacked with stones and injured. In 2007, young men heading from the settlement beat Hammad al-Sleibi with an iron rod and stones.

A few months later, young men from the settlement beat Mohammed and didn’t stop until he lay down and pretended to be dead. In both cases the farmers needed medical treatment. In 2009, about 20 young Jewish men heading from Bat Ayin beat Hammad and another brother, Abdullah, who needed 17 stitches in his head. That year the plot was set on fire three times; the brothers say hundreds of trees went up in flames. From the middle of 2011 the frequency and severity of the attacks increased. Until the petition was filed in May 2012, the unidentified assailants destroyed trees at least eight times by either chopping them down or uprooting them.

Sometimes the attackers or the tree destroyers left messages: Kahane was right, Death to the Arabs, Regards from Bat Ayin. One time people saw teenagers leaving the burned area for the settlement. The eyewitnesses were not summoned for questioning by the police. The more than 15 complaints filed with the police (14 since 2009 alone) were all answered with “no offenders were found.”

The state will try to explain to the honorable justices that this situation stems from totally objective reasons; for example, that the attackers sometimes were masked, that the Israelis living in the area are not cooperative with the police, and that there is no evidence to carry out a criminal procedure. Attorney Yuval Roitman, a senior deputy at the State Prosecutor’s Office, has already replied in writing to that effect.

And the state has further reasons for the High Court to conclude that the police and army are doing their utmost: The army conducts numerous ambushes and patrols in the area to prevent an attack “for national reasons,” whether on Israelis or on Palestinians; in July 2012 the Defense Ministry agreed to compensate the petitioners “beyond the letter of the law” with NIS 19,760 for damage to their trees in August 2011; many other acts of arson in the area are committed by Palestinians, and here too the law-enforcement authorities can’t find the offenders; when the police or the Civil Administration visit the plot to assess the damage, there is a discrepancy between the damage they find and the damage reported; the army offered to escort the petitioners up to twice a week (and the petitioners refused because they work every day and fear that the offer to escort will turn into a prohibition against access without an escort); the area’s terrain is difficult; the petitioners’ plot is long and narrow, and visibility is poor most of the time; the protection the petitioners are demanding (including cameras, a fence and a locked gate) is too expensive, and protecting them from sabotage requires a lot of manpower. Finally, “the residents of Bat Ayin are familiar with the IDF’s operational routine.”

And Roitman wrote: “It should be noted that the brigade commander believes that to totally prevent damage to the petitioners’ property, he must deploy a large number of soldiers in the area at any given moment. The military commander believes that deploying a large number of soldiers near the land being cultivated by the petitioners would seriously impede the fulfillment of other tasks imposed on the military forces in the region. These include the protection of Israeli settlements in the area and the traffic arteries that pass through them from terror threats, and maintaining public order.”

In other words, says the state to the High Court, the two farmers’ request for protection disrupts the natural order in which the army is obligated to protect the Jewish settlements in the region, including Bat Ayin.

Israel fails to show up at mandatory UN human rights review

Adri Nieuwhof 29/01/13

Despite pressure from the US, Israel has boycotted the review of its human rights situation which was scheduled for today. All UN member states are required to undergo such Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) by the Human Rights Council. It is the first time that a state has refused to cooperate in this mandatory review process without giving a reason. Until now, all countries have attended, including Syria and North Korea.

However, the council has not let Israel off the hook. It unanimously agreed — supported by the US — to defer the review until its next session in October and November at the latest. Israel’s boycott follows the decision to cut its working relations with the UN Human Rights Council in March last year in response to the council’s decision to investigate Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza stated today:

Israel’s decision to boycott the UPR is yet another demonstration of its contempt for international human rights norms, and is made possible by the complacency of the international community. The failure to hold Israel to account for its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law has further deepened the culture of impunity which allows such violations to occur.

Fifteen Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations have called on the Human Rights Council “to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date,” warning that Israel’s unprecedented move is “one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals.”

The groups add that: “Israel’s decision to disengage from core mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system has, in effect, resulted in preferential treatment. All but one of the 193 UN Member States have attended their UPR as scheduled; in that single instance the State of Haiti was unable to attend due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. Israel should not receive any benefits or concessions for its efforts to undermine the system of the UN and, in particular, its human rights system.”

Israel’s track record is summarized by the groups: Israel’s move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN. Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognise the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.

The organizations note that Israel also rejects that it an occupying power bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the wall in the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel declined to cooperate with the 2009 UN Fact-finding Mission on Gaza headed by Justice Richard Goldstone. In 2012, the UN Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements was denied entry into the West Bank. Israel has also refused entry to a long list of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, including Special Rapporteur Richard Falk who was never allowed to enter the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to carry out his work.

Ongoing attacks result in injuries and 17 miscarriages in Urif

West Bank ISM 29/01/13

The Israeli army and illegal settlers have been, on almost daily basis for the past two months, invading and attacking the village of Urif in the West Bank. A local doctor reports that these actions have inflicted 17 miscarriages only in the month of December, numerous injuries, sleep deprivation and significant disruption to life. The attacks occur day and night. Tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets as well as live ammunition are routinely used by the army. The village has been the site of regular attacks over many years, but from early December 2012 there has been a significant increase.

A video published shows soldiers entering a silent Urif around 1 am on the 29th December. The soldiers explode sound bombs, use an air raid siren and boast through a loud-speaker “good morning Urif, get up all the village, get up” (4:15) and then repeatedly use the horn on an army vehicle (6:28). These night incursions have become a frequent occurrence in Urif and continue up till now.

Large amounts of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets are being used against the villagers, continually inflicting a high number of casualties. A local doctor – a primary healthcare worker, reports that there have been 17 miscarriages in the past month as a direct result of this gas. The doctor describes how his wife lost her unborn child: “After the gas entered my home, my wife started to have a discharge of blood. We went to the hospital for an ultrasound scan and we saw there was no longer a heartbeat.” He gives an account of another case: “My neighbour was pregnant for 8 months but after a gas attack they also lost their baby.” In a village of barely 3000 people, this is a huge anomaly in miscarriages.

Jim, an international solidarity activist present in Urif, observed that “the gas is very strong, it has a potent effect even from a great distance and we have seen the army firing this gas directly at people’s homes. Sometimes the whole village is in a cloud of this chemical gas”. One of the villagers describes the gas further: “My face burns and I cannot breathe, it is not like the normal gas. With this gas, my sight is affected, everything is blurred and I feel dizzy”. According to other villagers, the gas also affects animals. Eight sheep have died from its inhalation, one pregnant cow miscarried and then died shortly after a still birth. The gas seems to have inflicted death to many new born puppies, too.

Settlers from Yitzhar, the nearby illegal settlement, regularly throw stones at the local school and shout abuse at children inside. Recently, the army fired tear gas into the school while the children were sitting their end of year exams. On New Year’s Day a wedding was attacked with gas and a mentally ill man was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, as the villagers reported to the international activists. The bullet lodged in his leg, as he was shot at such close range. On 10th January settlers were shooting live bullets, throwing stones, uprooting olive trees and attacked two houses. A similar scenario occurred in the village of Qusra, with settlers from the Esh Kodesh and Qida illegal settlements attacking at the same time when the attack in Urif was underway, thus raising the possibility that these were coordinated attacks.

Silwan, East Jerusalem

Ma’an News Agency 28/01/13

Israeli forces demolished at least four buildings and a sewage network in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan early Monday, locals said. Bulldozers leveled land and uprooted olive trees in order to access the demolition sites, closing all the surrounding roads, witnesses told Ma‘an. The raid, shortly after the dawn prayer, prompted clashes with local residents. Witnesses said several youth were detained by Israeli police, including Khalid al-Zeir and Firas Awad … Silwan resident Abdul-Munim Shuweiki said forces demolished a fence and uprooted 10-year-old olive trees to access his land. The bulldozers razed his garage and a steel building, damaging an external staircase, he told Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh Information Center. Ahmad Simrin, who owns land in the area, said Israeli bulldozers leveled parts of his land and demolished a sewage network. He told the Wadi Hilweh Center that he showed an Israeli commander a title deed dating back to 1892, which proves that the land was owned by his grandfather Awad Simrin. Israel does not recognize that deed and insists the area is a national park, he said.

Attacks Continue Against Silwan

IMEMC & Agencies Report 01/02/13

For the second day in a row, Israeli soldiers and policemen continued their campaign in Silwan town, in occupied East Jerusalem. The army broke into homes and stores, and kidnapped a number of residents.

Soldiers, policemen, and personnel of the tax department in the city, started their campaign on Thursday morning, and installed several roadblocks at the entrances the neighborhoods of Be’er Ayyoub, Wadi Al-Rababa, Ein Al-Lowza, Al-Bustan, Ath-Thoury, Al-Abbasiyya, Wadi Hilweh, and Al-Ein. They searched dozens of vehicles causing huge traffic jams, especially in the morning hours and at noon. Policemen also ticketed dozens of drivers after searching their cars and inspecting them, while personnel of the revenue department inspected their files.

On Thursday evening, the army kidnapped three Palestinian youths in Silwan, including one who carried a West Bank ID card. They were kidnapped at the military roadblock in Wadi Al-Rababa. The two have been identified as Sa’id Al-Tawil and Shihab Abu Rmeila.

Jawad Siyam, head of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan reported that a similar campaign was carried out for a month in the Al-Esawiyya town, in East Jerusalem, adding that the army kidnapped dozens of residents, including women and children; four residents are still imprisoned. Siyam stated that the arrests are arbitrary, without any cause or warrant, and that the army also broke into dozens of stores and homes, and repeatedly shutoff water pipes leaving the town without water.

Siyam also stated that the ongoing attacks are acts of collective punishment practiced against the residents, and that there is an Israeli special task force that repeatedly invades and attacks Jerusalem villages and towns that protest the ongoing Israeli settlement activities, the illegal confiscation of Palestinian lands and the ongoing arrests.

On Thursday evening, Israeli soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians in Silwan and took them to a nearby detention center. The two have been identified as Sa’id Tawil and Shihab Abu Rmeila.

In related news, the District Court in Jerusalem extended remand of several Palestinians, including a number of children. Dozens of youths and children were kidnapped last month during repeated invasions and attacks carried out by the police in Silwan.

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

0141 637 8046

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