+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 22 Jul 2014 23:19:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Following wave of protests, Israel arrests scores of Arab activists, minors http://972mag.com/following-wave-of-protests-israel-arrests-scores-of-arab-activists-minors/94131/ http://972mag.com/following-wave-of-protests-israel-arrests-scores-of-arab-activists-minors/94131/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:26:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94131 Hundreds of Arab citizens of Israel have been detained in recent weeks, including dozens of minors. Abusive interrogations and preemptive arrests suggest that many of the tactics of occupation have crossed the Green Line.

By Hagar Sheizaf (Translated by Ofer Neiman)

The murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir and the military onslaught in Gaza have brought about a wave of protest among Arab citizens of Israel. Reports on that wave should be supplemented by unprecedented data: more than 410 Arab citizens of Israel have been arrested on various grounds related to their participation in demonstrations since July 5, according to data provided by human rights NGO Adalah.

Protests in Arara following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem earlier in the week. At least two people were arrested. July 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Protests in Arara following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem. At least two people were arrested. July 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Moreover, police statistics reveal that a significant portion of the detainees in the past week are minors.  Fifty-four minors are reported to have been arrested in the past two weeks in Israel’s northern district alone, comprising one-third of all detainees in that district.

Policemen outside the door

“I have been active for 14 years and I have never seen such a wave of arrests of minors,” says Ward Yassin, 34, from Jdeideh el-Makr. “The feeling is that the police have no red lines.” Yassin himself was arrested on Monday, July 7, the day after a demo that took place in his town, attended by around 200 people who were protesting the murder of Abu Khdeir, as well as the assault on Gaza.

The arrest of political activists like Yassin represents the second prominent group in the recent wave of arrests, of protest organizers and well-known activists in Arab towns. Dozens of demonstrations have taken place, receiving little media coverage, if any. Some of them escalated into confrontations with the police, which including stone-throwing.

“The day after the protest my wife called me, saying there were 30 policemen outside the house as well as a few inside, and they’re turning the place upside-down and searching,” Yassin recounts. A few minutes later, the police arrived in Acre, where he was at the time, and took him in for an interrogation, at the end of which he was told he was under arrest, along with seven young men from the village. All of them are minors.

“The police asked whether I had organized the protest and told me I was accused of stone-throwing,” Yassin says. “I knew the police took footage during the protest, so I told them to get the photos so that they would see I hadn’t done anything.” Yassin was released to house arrest the following day, after the court rejected the police’s request to extend his arrest. After his release, he continued to receive threatening phone calls from the police, saying that he would be arrested again if he continued organizing in the village. “I think they were surprised by the protest, and they wanted to deter us,” he adds. “Most of the participants were young, therefore young men became the target for the police.”

Confessions in Hebrew

During a series of protests held last week in Nazareth, minors were once more the main target of police arrests. According to reports, 11 minors between the ages of 13 and 18 were arrested immediately after the protest held in the city last Saturday. Most of the detainees were released after midnight, and according to testimonies, a significant number of them had not participated and were arrested for being present on the main road where it was held.

“Egregious violations of rights were committed, especially against minors; they treated them in a manner resembling a military regime rather than the arrest of citizens,” says Attorney Suheir Asa’d, who represented some of the detainees. “Minors were interrogated late at night, did not meet a lawyer, and their parents were not present during the interrogation.”

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protestor during clashes in Arara, in Israel's north, in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protestor during clashes in Arara, in Israel’s north, in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Minors are supposed to be protected by special laws, which prohibit interrogations later than 10 p.m. and require that the minor’s parents be notified. “The officer authorized interrogations without parental presence, seemingly out of fear of obstructing interrogation procedures,” explains Asa’d, “However, one must realize that in most cases this is authorized only in order to protect the minors, in case parental knowledge puts them at risk. In these recent cases, one can assume that the authorization was guided by the protection of police interests rather than that of the minors.”

The following day, another protest was held in Nazareth in the early afternoon. After it ended, 30 people were arrested, including 13 minors. Five lawyers waited outside the police station from the afternoon, trying to reach the detainees, but their entrance was not approved until 10 p.m. By then, all the minors, except for one, had already been interrogated. According to Asa’d, “[The police managed to] convince them that a meeting with a lawyer would harm them.”

When the lawyers entered the police station, they found out that the minors had to sign documents and confessions in Hebrew, despite the fact that most of them do not have sufficient Hebrew knowledge to understand their contents. Some of the minors remained in custody for several days after the protest, and were released under restrictive conditions, including restraining orders and long-term house arrests.

“The policemen took off the keffiyeh and peed on it”

“We have testimonies about police brutality during arrests and interrogations following the Nazareth demo. Detainees told us they were slapped, kicked and cursed at,” says attorney Maisa Arshid, who was present at the police station that night. “One of the detainees I represented, a 19-year-old, was bleeding after he had been beaten by the police; he was not taken to the hospital until 3 a.m. Another youth who was arrested on Sunday recounted that after he was taken into the police station, the [policemen] took off his keffiyeh, peed on it and then wrapped it around his neck.”

The lawyers reported that minors had been arrested despite suffering from various medical conditions – from asthma to mental retardation. “Almost none of the Nazareth detainees are well-known political activists,” adds attorney Arshid. “Some of them were just passing by; one of them was holding a grocery shopping list in front of the supermarket when he was arrested. The offenses and allegations ascribed to the detainees are not necessarily connected to what really happened.”

Police arrest an Arab protester during a demonstration in Nazareth against the Gaza war. (photo: Activestills.org)

Police arrest an Arab protester during a demonstration in Nazareth against the Gaza war. (photo: Activestills.org)

Many of the allegations on which the police based its requests for extended detention are questionable, due to their wide scope and their being based on partial or missing information. For example, the detention of a 19-year-old who was arrested at the demo in Nazareth, and suspected of participating in an illegal gathering and of stone-throwing, was based on his presence at the scene – not on an allegation that he himself took part in the act.

It follows that the detainee’s arrest was extended on the basis of a serious offense that was not ascribed to him personally, but rather on the basis of the police’s perception of the detainees and those present at the scene in general. Furthermore, the lawyer in charge of the case says that during his interrogation, the detainee was asked about his political views on the issue of Arab youths refusing the draft, which is completely irrelevant to the cause of his arrest.

From Facebook to the police station

The political issue comes up again and again in the testimonies of the detainees. The fear that arrests and interrogations are a tool for suppressing the demonstration gets only more substantiated after hearing the story of Rafat Awaisha, 20, from Laqiyeh in the Negev. “I was arrested after I shared a post inviting people to a protest that had been scheduled for the very same day in Laqiyeh,” says Awaisha. “They called me half an hour later from the Be’er Sheva police station and came to take me from the [Ben-Gurion] university dorms.”

Awaisha was interrogated and released after an hour. Later that day, his parents called him from their home in Laqiyeh, and told him that the house had been searched. A short time later, he was held for another interrogation, at the end of which he was told he was under arrest. “During the interrogation, they asked me again and again about the post I had published on Facebook, claiming it amounted to incitement,” he says. “I asked them what an invitation to a protest had to do with incitement. But I received no response, only another barrage of questions regarding my profile picture.” Awaisha had changed his profile picture to a photo of Abu Khdeir. The following morning, following a few more hours of interrogation during which he suffered verbal abuse, was pushed and shoved, received no food and did not meet a lawyer, Awaisha was released. The protest in Laqiyeh, which he had promoted on his Facebook account, had already ended by that time.

Riot police run during a demonstration in Arara against the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Riot police run during a demonstration in Arara against the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

On the same day, demonstrations were held in other Negev towns, including Ara’ra, Hura, Tel Sheva and Segev Shalom, to protest the murder of Abu Khdeir and the outburst of violence and racism towards Arabs. Mufid Abu Swilab, 30, from Segev Shalom, was arrested along with his brother two days after the demonstration was held in his town.

“My brother and I did not even attend the protest about which we were interrogated. However, the police claimed that we threw stones and incited the participants,” says Abu Swilab. “My entire police dossier was based off of intelligence information, and I wasn’t even at the scene.”

During the interrogation, Abu Swilab experienced humiliating treatment, with a few policemen addressing him as a ”terrorist.” According to his testimony, he met 30 minors from Ara’ra, Segev Shalom, Um Batin, Laqiyeh and Rahat during his detention, all of whom had all been arrested on charges of stone-throwing and incitement. Some of them are still under arrest, even though they also claim they were not at the demonstrations. Abu Swilab’s arrest was extended by five days, during which he was interrogated at length about his Facebook account. He was released two hours before his trial.

“They know that I am a social and political activist in my town and they just wanted to scare me, so they took me for a few days,” says Abu Swilab. “Last Friday there was a protest planned in Segev Shalom while I was detained. They brought me to an interrogation on Friday morning, and asked whether I was the one who planned it.” On the same day, the police published an announcement on a local website, which called on the residents of Segev Shalom not to attend the protest.

Like in the West Bank

The list of 83 detainees in the Negev over the past two weeks was supplemented last Wednesday by the arrest of Rateb Abu Krinat, the field coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum. He was released 24 hours later without any hearing. In another case, nine people were arrested in the town of Tel Sheva while sitting in cafe located two kilometers from a protest. The extension of their arrest was based, inter alia, on an offense based on the military law of the West Bank, and is not valid inside Israel.

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Police are also arresting activists shortly before planned demonstrations in their cities or towns, and releasing them only after they end. In Acre, three key political activists were arrested shortly before a protest, and were released the following day. Prominent activists in Shfar’am were also arrested a short while before the demonstration; they received a restraining order ordering them to stay away from the city for 15 days. A prominent activist from Majdal Krum was arrested before the demo in his town, and received a similar restraining order for 15 days.

“It looks like their main objective is to thwart future political activity,” says Majd Kayyal, who works for Adalah. Kayyal, a journalist and political activist who has recently become well known due to his trip to Beirut and subsequent arrest, was arrested once again last Monday after participating in a demo in Haifa against the killing of civilians in Gaza. “I, along with two other activists, were arrested after the demo ended,” says Kayyal. “It was evident that the police wanted to release us on conditions that would prevent us from attending the protest that was scheduled to take place in Haifa that Friday.”

Hanging on to their homes

There is no doubt that the wide scope of arrests of young Arab men and Arab political activists in Israel signifies a deterioration in police treatment. Reliance on confidential intelligence as grounds for arrests, as well as the harsh treatment of the detainees, reminds one to some extent of the policy of arrests applied to minors and Palestinian political activists in the West Bank (as stated by some of those interviewed for this report). But could it be that the massive arrests of minors also points to increased participation of a young crowd in these demonstrations?

“Protests with a significant number of young people, some of them schoolchildren, took place primarily in Arab towns and villages and not in the mixed cities,” explains Fida Shehade, a political activist from Lydd. “In these places, there are only a few organized political venues and the young people stepped in to fill this vacuum by protesting in an independent and spontaneous basis.”

Some of the young protesters said they regarded Palestinians living in Gaza as role models for the struggle of those who are unwilling to give up their homes. “There is a certain generational change, and this is obviously related to Facebook as well – there is a flow of lots of information and photos. The young know what’s going on in Shuafat [East Jerusalem] and Gaza – they are more connected,” adds Shehade.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

The fact that the protests broke out during Ramadan has also changed the rules of the game: more young people are awake at night, after Iftar, and many demonstrations start accordingly, late in the evening, carrying on into the night. “One has to understand that young Arabs who grew up after 2000 are living with a great deal of police presence around them.” says Shehade. “The encounters of many of them with Jews have been through confrontations with the police or other racism-filled interactions, and we are witnessing the outburst now.”

The spokesman of the northern command of the Israeli police had this to say in response:

The police has respected the public will to express their protest and has allowed it within the scope of the law. Since some of the protesters did not respect the terms of the protests and the instructions given by the police force at the scene, a few resolute and uncompromising enforcement actions were taken, and they brought about the arrest of the suspects, and life was restored to normal.

Since the beginning of the events and during the past two weeks, 175 suspects have been arrested in the northern district (121 adults, 54 minors) on suspicion of various offenses, such as: illegal gathering, stone-throwing, causing damage to property, jeopardizing human life on a transportation route, assaulting police officers and more. So far, 42 people have been charged on the basis of 29 indictments. The investigation continues and additional indictments are expected. The Israel Police is a national police force which belongs to all citizens of Israel and during the events of previous weeks, the police exercised tolerance and sensitivity, without any discrimination towards individuals and groups of society, while maintaining order and the citizen’s personal security.

We would like to praise the local leadership, which has assisted the police in calming the protestors, and has chosen to take all measures to prevent any damage to the existing fabric of relations between all religions in the northern district. We reject allegations raised in your letter, according to which the northern district police has implemented a policy of preventive arrests, and we stress that the arrests of suspects took place on the basis of suspicion that criminal offenses had been committed, and in accordance with the grounds stipulated by the law. Regarding the claims made by protesters as presented in your letter, these may be referred to the appropriate authority so that they can be checked in detail.

From the spokeswoman of the Negev district:

The officers of the Negev region in the southern district have arrested 83 people suspected of being involved in the disturbance of peace and stone throwing towards passing vehicles and the security forces, two weeks ago in the Negev. So far, 25 indictments have been submitted and additional indictments are expected.

The police respects the public’s will to express its protest, and allows for protesting under conditions of abiding by the law, keeping the peace and public order, refraining from damaging the people’s property, as well as respecting the lives of drivers and passers by. During the past weeks, incidents in which public order was disturbed took place, as well as stone throwing towards passing vehicles and police forces. These incidents escalated, and following comprehensive and poignant treatment by the southern district police, these have come to an end.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir
‘Our’ murderers – what would Arendt and Buber say?

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For Palestinians in Jerusalem, to strike or not to strike? http://972mag.com/for-palestinians-in-jerusalem-to-strike-or-not-to-strike/94104/ http://972mag.com/for-palestinians-in-jerusalem-to-strike-or-not-to-strike/94104/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:42:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94104 A call for a general strike on both sides of the Green Line, in solidarity with Gaza, prompts a range of responses and dilemmas among Palestinian workers in Jerusalem.

By Corey Sherman

Heeding calls from Palestinian leaders on both sides of the Green Line, Palestinians across Israel and the West Bank observed both a general strike and day of mourning Monday, in solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip.

The strike, which is to last three days in the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, ground business to a halt and brought to the streets a diverse group of protesters in Ramallah. In Nazareth, a protest drew some 20,000 participants from around the country. In East and West Jerusalem, however, many Palestinian businesses remained open, with many workers arriving for work.

Throughout the city, Palestinians who chose not participate in the strike expressed a range of emotions on the efficacy and feasibility of such protests. Abdullah, a cab driver from Silwan, explained his decision to work Monday as resulting from steadfastness in the face of political turmoil, “Even during the Second Intifada, Palestinian cabbies still worked,” he proudly proclaimed.

Palestinian-owned stores in Jerusalem's Old City are shuttered in honor of a three-day strike across Jerusalem and the West Bank. (photo: Bilha Calderon)

Palestinian-owned stores in Jerusalem’s Old City are shuttered in honor of a three-day strike across Jerusalem and the West Bank. (photo: Bilha Calderon)

Amir, a receptionist for an ear doctor in Bab Al-Zahra in East Jerusalem criticized this approach, attributing them to a lack of nationalism. “In Jerusalem everyone stays open,” Amir, who lives Ramallah, told me. “Go to Ramallah, go to Bethlehem—everyone is closed there.”

Others working near the Old City explained that grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies and doctors’ offices have to stay open to allow people to run last minute errands during Ramadan, or to provide those fasting with medical attention. If he didn’t work in the medical profession, Amir told me, he’d have stayed in Ramallah and gone to the protests that took place there.

As we were talking, a friend of his who works at a shoe store on Salah ad-Din Street popped in to say good morning.

“Where are you off to?” Amir asked his friend, winking at me. “To open up,” his friend replied. “You see?”

Abdullah dismissed such accusations as baseless, citing instead the long-term risk of taking one day off in protest. “Are the Israelis going to give me anything if I don’t work today, if I lose my job?” he yelled, turning down his radio, as we snaked along a mostly empty Salah ad-Din street en route to French Hill just before noon on Monday. That the strike is occurring during Ramadan is an added stress, with families buying gifts and updating household wares and appliances. “Its just not possible for me right now.”

Read +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

At Café Malha in French Hill, employees and customers offered an entirely different take on the strike.

Abu Omar lives in the Old City and took the day off as part of the strike. An older man in a brown button-down shirt and neatly pressed slacks, he came to French Hill to play the lotto and catch up with some friends. A one-day strike, he told me, won’t affect the economy, and it won’t change Israeli leaders’ strategic calculation. The move, he explained, is largely symbolic.

“Efforts like these are aimed at achieving a unity in spirit for all Palestinians,” he explained as an employee looked on. “Striking is to remind us that while we aren’t being attacked the way they are in Gaza, we are still a part of the same struggle.”

At Q’s, a burger and wings restaurant located a floor above Café Malha, Ismail, the lone employee there that afternoon, criticized the strike as a subtle form of escalation – one that will be met with backlash from Israeli Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, for example, called for Israelis to boycott businesses that closed in solidarity with Gazans. “The strike is an error. Its like throwing stones,” Ismail argued waving to pedestrians from his empty, air-conditioned restaurant. “Do people think there won’t be an equal, or heavier response?”

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“The person under the lash is not the same as the one counting the lashes from a distance,” Abdullah opined to me, quoting Emile Habibi, a Palestinian poet and politician, in response to criticisms throughout the Arab world on his accepting the 1992 Israel Prize.

Who is under the lash, and who is counting from a distance, however, is not clear.

Just before 4 p.m., a group of construction workers in the Nahlaot neighborhood filled out time cards and called their families to tell them they were leaving work to return home. Some sat in the van they used to travel to and from work, others meandered around the construction site, cracking jokes.

“If we don’t work,” the foreman told me as he collected time cards from employees boarding a van to return them to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, “[Jewish employers] will find [other Palestinians] who will—that’s all there is to it.”

Ben Drusinsky contributed reporting to this story.

Corey Sherman is a student and journalist. Follow him on twitter at @shermancoreya and on Instagram @cs_herman.

Related:
PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Why Palestinians continue to support Hamas

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Palestinian human rights leader: ‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’ http://972mag.com/palestinian-human-rights-leader-cast-lead-was-a-joke-compared-to-this/93968/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-human-rights-leader-cast-lead-was-a-joke-compared-to-this/93968/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 18:17:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93968 LISTEN: Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard speak to Raji Sourani, founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, about the ongoing destruction in Shujaiyeh, the use of human shields and the fate of Gaza’s civilian population. 

By Michael Sfard and Raji Sourani

Raji Sourani: Hello

Michael Sfard: Raji? This is Michael. Can you speak now?

R: Yes, yes.

M: So, how was last night?

R: Well last night was difficult, the worst in the last two weeks. This is incredible evil. Ambulances weren’t able to reach the areas which were under heavy bombardment by tanks and F16s. And F22s were used too last night. And these kinds of bombs that we are not familiar making the houses last in an earthquake. You know, it just shakes for a few seconds.

M: There are no warnings before?

R: No no no. It just on the top of the people, on their heads. It is a war zone, not bombing. You see slain [people]. Six to eight bombed per minute. Not for 10 minutes, or one hour, all the east side of Gaza, Zeiton, Shujaiyeh, eastern Jabaliya, nothern area, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah…

M: Israeli friends reported that the IDF, the Israeli army made notifications that the civilians could go to some areas. Are there any areas that are safe to be?

R: No, there is not safe place in Gaza. You can be in the street, in my office or home and you will be bombed and away from my house, sixty meters a house was bombed by an F16. This can anywhere, whether it a drone, F16, and tonight they used F22. Gaza, Michael, I’m telling you, 350 square kilometers, two million people are living in it. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Anywhere you move. You can ask people from the northern or eastern areas to move but you are taking about 400,000. They ask eastern Khan Younis, where to go?

Relatives mourn on family members at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Relatives mourn family members at the Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

So far there is 70,000-80,000 [civilians] that moved since mid-day yesterday (July 19), but where are the people can go? UNRWA? Each school hold 1,500-2,000 people. There is shortages in the UNRWA schools. It’s madness. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

M: Do you think it is worse than Cast Lead?

R: That was a joke. This is very, very serious. I think the army is losing their minds. They really want to inflict pain and terror on the civilians. I have no objection to do that with Fatah, with Hamas, with PFLP, they are competent, they are resistance. But I’m telling about hitting the flash, they are bombarding randomly. Bombing the civilians houses. Many, That is why many families fled. I challenge if in Gaza, one million people, if any of them slept.

M: Raji, what are the PCRH figures of civilians killed since the beginning?

R: Only yesterday we had something between 70 to 80 killings. And injuries you have much, much more.

M: And since the beginning?

R: It has exceeded 420.

M: Now you told me before that there is a suspicion for the use of DIMES?

R: Yes, that is what the doctors are telling us, including international doctors. They see we don’t see clean wounds, they see sharp ones; it is a very strange kind. There are hemorrhages, amputations.  You hear the rockets and then it is over, you are hurt. It is like X-Files.

M: And there is no shrapnel?

R: No. Tonight and the night before, they are using tanks heavily, and using heavy artillery. On the civilians areas. Of course the tanks don’t use DIMES – these are tank bombs.

M: Are the Hamas forces visible around the streets of Gaza?

R: No. You can’t figure out one of them. You don’t see them, they are ghosts. They don’t function from the civilian areas. They don’t move anything. Everything was planned in advance.

M: But what do you mean they don’t function from civilian areas? They do shoot.

R: You don’t see any of them them.

M: But some of the rockets are shot from civilian areas. This is something that is quite clear, no?

R: Of course. All of Gaza is a civilian area. By definition. Where these rockets are coming from? Of course. But “using civilians as shields” is nonsense and disgusting. And it doesn’t exist. The plains they (Israel) are using [for targeting Hamas), but you don’t hear any second explosion, Michael. You don’t hear. They would say we bombed the south because it is a storage area, but if they would bomb [a storage area] it will destroy 20-30 houses around them, but this is not the case.

M: Raji, how many PCHR people do you have on the ground now?

R: How many?

M: I mean, are field workers still going out?

A body lays at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Al Shifa hospital taking in bodies from the Shujaiyeh area, Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

R: Yes, we had our own field workers, and we depend only on our accounts. We don’t take any over accounts, including hospitals. We may take these numbers to compare. We have field workers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun, and in between, and we have our lawyers, for this documents, also. We have an aim to represent most of the families who has been raided, including the family who lost their children on the beach.

M: Now I understand that as this time there no indications of use of white phosphate right?

R: No. We haven’t noticed that at all.

M: Raji, take care.

R: Last night people were pleading for them to go and take the injured. And they couldn’t do anything for them. People died bleeding, literally, especially in Sajahiya, and Zeiton, and Turkman area

M: I will be in touch, and what can say, I hope this ends soon.

R: We will remember this in a good way. This is tough, it’s  unprecedented, it never ever came up to this. Keep well.

M: You too.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

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Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’ http://972mag.com/gaza-diary-a-second-of-silence-then-the-bombs-go-off/93889/ http://972mag.com/gaza-diary-a-second-of-silence-then-the-bombs-go-off/93889/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 15:40:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93889 Despite the danger, Walid Abuzaid couldn’t be separated from his home in Gaza for very long. And though coming home means facing possible death, he refuses to give in to hate. 

By Walid Abuzaid

Thursday, June 27

I was in Cyprus when it all started. When we heard about the kidnapped teens, we were thrilled by the possibility of another prisoner release. Hamas would be held responsible for the kidnapping, but we treat our prisoners well – at least the one prisoner we’ve ever had.

It’s my last night in Cyprus and one of so few in which I smile before I go to bed, for tomorrow I’m on my way home. I know it isn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made, but I miss Gaza. I miss my life.

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

“I don’t want to fucking go to Cairo, I want to go to Gaza. How many times do I have to tell you? Do you want me to say it slower?!” I yell at the woman at the gate who takes my passport and makes me watch every passenger get on that fucking plane until the gate closes. “Wait here, please,” she says for the 10th time, before whining about Arabs in Turkish to the lady next to her, who lends me her seat while I wait. An airline employee official who speaks Arabic finally arrives. She hasn’t come for me, but rather for the Yemenite whose Saudi residency has expired. He isn’t allowed to go to Cairo either; nor does he want to.

For three days I’m being prevented from traveling to Cairo from the Istanbul Airport, since Rafah crossing isn’t open until Sunday. I try explaining that I do not want to enter Cairo, and that I agree to be held in that disgusting deportation hall in the Cairo airport until the border opens. Yet, nothing I say changes the officials’ minds. In Arabic, “How do you even know Rafah will be open?” the translator dares to ask me. I refuse to even glance at him and continue to scream in English at the cold officials. It’ll be three days of this.

Rafah crossing, where the Gaza Strip and Egypt meet. (photo: Activestills.org)

Rafah crossing, where the Gaza Strip and Egypt meet. (photo: Activestills.org)

Monday, June 30

I’m finally home, after my dad spent a lot of money to buy me another plane ticket on a different airline. I only had 30 euros for the way back; that’s what was left from the 250 euros that my uncle sent from Germany.

Fuck. My bag is still in Cairo, but who cares – I’m home. I’ll go to my other uncle, the lawyer, and have him write a contract that will allow my relative in Egypt, Mohammed, to collect my bag for me. Then I’ll go to the bar association to make it all official, before sending the papers through DHL and waiting a week for them to arrive. After that, Mohammed may have to wait a few hours at the airport until he receives my bag. Following that, all that’s left is to wait for the border to open again. Simple!

This isn’t even what I intended to write about, god damn it.

Tuesday, July 1

I’m getting ready to embrace my mom, after not seeing her for almost a year. “Wasim, we’re fucked; they’ve just found the bodies of the three Israelis. Don’t tell mom.” My younger brother, of course, decides to use that as an excuse to tell mom that I’m still not in Gaza in order to surprise her when I get to her home. Wasim is like that. He arrived from Indiana just a couple of days before I did. He was there on a year-long youth exchange and study program – the same one I did in 2012. We call it a taste of freedom.

Wednesday, July 2

My mother cries all through the night, a sense of déjà vu overwhelms me as I recall the night of Nov. 11, 2014.

Back at my dad’s, home, we discuss the repercussions. My father and I don’t usually agree, but this time we both know something bad is going to happen. He asks my stepmother, Nirmeen, for the grocery list. She points out that she has already evaluated the situation and the list will be longer than a week. Lamar, my younger sister, comes along for one last ride before she has to stay in an apartment for an unknown length of time. She understands. She remembers October 2012, she was three years old then.

Thursday, July 10

We are in the living room with an incredible view. We can see Gaza’s entire harbor. I try to cover two-year-old Eimar’s ears when a rocket drops and destroys a mini yacht called “Gaza’s Arc.”  She can’t sleep yet; she’s scared. She likes the fire though. She laughs.

A fisherman stands near Gaza's harbor. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A fisherman stands near a bombed out boat in Gaza’s harbor. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

“You look upset, you’ve been watching that boat for 30 minutes, what’s wrong?” Wasim wonders. “I don’t know what was in it,” I respond, “I don’t know why they bombed it, but I know someone loved that boat. That boat was someone’s dream, they just killed someone’s dream. That’s far worse than killing them.”

Friday, July 11

My dad and I go out for the first time in five days to get rgag, a kind of bread made in a saj oven, for the delicious Fatteh dish. It’s 5:22 p.m., the electricity’s been out for three hours. It’s the usual eight-hour rounds and the batteries are almost out. The windows of the house are open and the sweet wind is blowing in. I can hear the jets, drones, gunboats and the occasional thud. Eimar is still awake.

Saturday, July 12, 8:23 p.m.

I’ve just finished eating and I’m heading to my room for a long-awaited smoke or two. My mind is rushing with thoughts of the Brazil vs. Netherlands match. I saw a photo of Neymar with the rest of the team earlier today. I hope Brazil saves some face and wins the game – that would cheer up my Brazilian friend Pedro a bit. I’ve been to Amsterdam, and have friends there too, so I also want the Netherlands to win. Oh well. I’ll go on Facebook before I start looking for a good online stream of the match, one that can tolerate my agonizingly slow Internet speed.

“Breaking: Al-Qassam Brigades threatens to hit Tel Aviv with J-80 rockets at 9 p.m.”

8:28 p.m.

“You still want to go donate blood?” Wasim asks sarcastically. I don’t indulge him this time. A couple of minutes later my mom calls. She succeeds in convincing me not to go out tonight. I haven’t moved from my place yet. I’ve smoked four cigarettes so far. It’s 8:58 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

My dad asks me to take the car keys to the guard tower so he can park it in the underground garage. A chance to buy more cigarettes, I tell myself. I’m dreading the fact that I have to walk rather than “borrow” the car to drive to the market, since, like last night, Abu-Malek has closed up his shop. I don’t blame him. Tonight will be a particularly loud one, and I’m rehearsing the lies I have to tell Eimar.

Displaced Palestinians in Gaza find shelter in an UNRWA school. (photo: Activestills.org)

Displaced Palestinians in Gaza find shelter in an UNRWA school. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Sunday morning, July 13

As Wasim so elegantly put it in a Facebook post, “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off! I can wrap it all up in one sentence, but I can never make you feel it.” As Wasim, who sleeps in the bed under the window, rushes toward me for cover, I run to the window. I’m curious like that. Wasim and I can feel the heat. His leg sustained second-degree burns in 2008, though now he is just shaking.

They bombed Ansar, a nearby cluster of Hamas government buildings. I doubt they had any rockets there, since they are surrounded by four residential towers that allow people to see everything that moves there. I find it hard to believe that we would miss the transport of rockets in or out. The attack was to be expected anyway. My dad is relieved – he now expects quieter nights since there are no more suspicious targets around us. I disagree.

An Israeli airstrike over Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

An Israeli airstrike over Gaza. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

We are watching the World Cup final in the Gaza Hotel’s reception area. It is 30 meters away from our tower, they have a better Internet connection. We’re close friends with the family who owns the place, especially Madj, the owner’s son. They don’t have anyone staying in the hotel anyway; they rarely ever do.

Palestinians in Bethlehem gather to watch the World Cup. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians in Bethlehem gather to watch the World Cup. (photo: Activestills.org)

No one celebrates Germany’s win. Gaza is occupied with a match of its own.

Saturday afternoon, July 14

As soon as my dad and I drive though the garage door, we’re startled by another ear-splitting explosion. We stare at each other for three seconds, both of us thinking the same thing: that was close. We no longer discuss the not-so-loud ones anymore. We rush, we don’t stop. The streets are empty, like in one of those zombie movies. I think of Will Smith and giggle inside.

Sunday, July 15, 11 p.m.

When the electricity finally returns and the elevator is working we go downstairs. Abu-Malek is open tonight. We share a couple smokes and laughs with a friend of mine from high school, Mohammed, and his brother, Ramadan. Our minds can no longer stand the house arrest we’re in; we cannot be forced into depression. They haven’t occupied our smiles… yet. Mohamed and Ramadan live in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Strip, but they came to Gaza City with the entire family because it’s safer. Or so they think. They’re in an apartment two blocks away now, and I bet they miss their beautiful garden. Only three kids are playing in the garage of the opposite tower. Usually I can’t count those noisy rascals, but they’re quiet tonight.

Wasim and I watch the helicopters from the window while they bombard residential towers. We see a yellowish flash from what seems to be nowhere in the bright, night sky, directing us to where we should expect it. Then the notorious red-flamed explosion is accompanied by a thunder-like roar that makes us duck, even though we know it’s far away. I think it’s just a reflex, but hell, you can never be safe enough.

Monday, July 16, 6:05 p.m.

I’ve been up since 6 a.m., the electricity was down from 7 a.m to 3:30. The gunboats and helicopters kept me up as they roared through the night. I just read that four children, none of them older than 11, were killed on a near beach. They were all members of the Baker family. Ahed Atif Baker (10) Zakaria Ahed Baker (10) Mohamed Ramiz Baker (11) Ismael Mohamed Baker (9). What kind of target were they?

I wish Eimar and Lamar never grow up. I wish they annoy me for the rest of my life, come into my room every morning and bite my ear until I wake up. I wish for them to stay safe and ignorant, since ignorance truly is bliss. I do not want them growing up hating their Palestinian passport because it takes months until it gets them somewhere, if it does at all. I do not want them hating their fate for putting them in an inherited feud that will not be over anytime soon. I do not want them hating every Arab leader for not having any balls. I don’t want them to live the life I have lived, or see the things that I have seen. I do not want them to live in war. I do not want them to hate.

Hamda Abdun, age 4 , lies in a bed in Al Shifa Hospital after having been injured in an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 14, 2014. Four members of his family were injured.

Hamda Abdun, age 4 , lies in a bed in Al Shifa Hospital after having been injured in an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 14, 2014. Four members of his family were injured.

I want them to grow up with grace. I want them to live with freedom, and not only taste it. I want them to be able to choose whether to spend their summer in the isles of Bethlehem or Berlin. I want them to dine in Naples and have knaffeh in Nablus. I want them to love and to have their hearts broken. I want them to love life and see how beautiful it can be. I want them to be grateful and appreciate every minute they have. I want Lamar to be able to take every ride with us. I want Eimar to sleep peacefully. I want them to live in peace. I want them to love.

I am representing myself, Walid, and myself only. I am not affiliated with any political or religious movement. I am among the few who, when Egypt chooses to be merciful, can leave Gaza occasionally. I am among the lucky few. I will choose to come back to Gaza over and over again, in times of peace and most certainly in times of war. I am helpless, a statistical number to many, a hashtag perhaps, another Gazan, another Palestinian. I am a son, a step-son, a brother, a cousin, a friend, a dreamer, a lover, a fighter. I support the resistance, I am part of the resistance, equipped with a couple thousand words in a war of history books.

But, this is non-fiction.

Related:
Shedding the pretense of ‘precision’ in Gaza
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
The unfolding lie of Operation Protective Edge

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In search of teens, soldiers ‘looted’ Palestinian homes http://972mag.com/in-search-of-teens-soldiers-looted-palestinian-homes/93892/ http://972mag.com/in-search-of-teens-soldiers-looted-palestinian-homes/93892/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:25:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93892 Palestinians reported numerous incidents of looting by IDF soldiers during Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank. Here’s the first case documented by Yesh Din.

By Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din

During Operation Brother’s Keeper, IDF soldiers invaded thousands of houses in the West Bank, under the pretext of looking for the three kidnapped teenagers. These raids give us brief glimpse at the differences between Palestinians living under Israeli control and Israeli citizens.

For instance, were someone to be kidnapped in Petah Tikva, no one would imagine placing the city under curfew, preventing its denizens from traveling abroad or carrying out “searches” in random apartments without the need to show a legal search warrant.

Yet that is precisely what happened to Wasafia Sadeq Othman Salah Khater, a senior citizen living in the village of Aqraba, on June 22. At around 2:30 a.m., about a dozen soldiers knocked on her door, entering without explanation nor a warrant. The soldiers found nothing, as there was nothing to be found; but for an hour they wreaked havoc on Khater’s house. Aside from her, the house was home to her pensioner husband and their eight sons.

An elderly Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier taking part in the search operation for three Israeli teenagers believed to have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank city of Hebron. Israel stepped up efforts against Hamas in the West Bank Tuesday as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers entered its fifth day. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An elderly Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier taking part in the search operation for three Israeli teenagers believed to have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank city of Hebron. Israel stepped up efforts against Hamas in the West Bank Tuesday as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers entered its fifth day. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The soldiers were not satisfied with simply ripping off the covering of the sofas and spreading out their contents, nor with breaking a closet door: they did what the army will not speak of: they looted the house. At first, the soldiers stole an expensive wrist watch, worth approximately $200. Then, they looted an envelope that Khater held on her body – a very reasonable thing to do, when strangers invade your home – which contained 15,000 shekels (the equivalent of $4,400) and 1,700 Jordanian dinars (about $2,400).

Even if this had been a legal confiscation – and there is no way of telling, since the soldiers didn’t leave any written confirmation – Khater has no reasonable way of getting the money back. In order to do so she would have to appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice, But since she didn’t receive a confirmation, the incident didn’t count as confiscation. Later on, as she looked through the house, Khater found that the soldiers ran off with her purse, which contained 400 NIS. Looting, it should be remembered, is a war crime. And while the Israeli military law does not recognize war crimes, it does punish looters with up to 10 years imprisonment.

Khater’s husband is a pensioner; she herself is a housewife. The money they have comes from their children. They were looted by several soldiers, who were commanded by an officer who either did not know what occurred – in which case he is unfit for command – or knew and turned a blind eye, in which case he is unfit for command and should spend time in prison with his looting soldiers. Either way, he is responsibile for their actions.

But the chances that he will be prosecuted are practically nil. The rate of indictment of soldiers is near-zero. And after all, this incident took place as the national brain was suffused with blood.

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Israelis have grown accustomed to explaining away everything done by IDF soldiers, up to and including the killing of children. The only things they can’t explain are: 1) intentional attacks on animals and, 2) looting. Nobody can claim that looting makes any operational sense; no one can claim it is not a crime (and one of the most serious in the Israeli military law). Therefore, the IDF and the Israeli media, which has become very adept at not challenging the Israeli way of thinking, simply do not speak of it.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

Related:
How an army of defense became an army of vengeance
Looting by IDF soldiers: ‘But on the spoil, laid they not their hand’

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On dual standards and the hypocrisy of peace http://972mag.com/dual-standards-and-the-hypocrisy-of-peace/93866/ http://972mag.com/dual-standards-and-the-hypocrisy-of-peace/93866/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:59:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93866 Israel has no problem asserting an inviolable right to self-defense, while repeatedly denying the same right to Palestinians. The same state that decries Palestinian violence has no qualms meeting non-violent protests with fully armed aggression.

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

The ongoing conflict in Gaza has led international actors to reassert Israel’s right to self-defense. Any objection that these same actors have repeatedly failed to recognize, much less support, a Palestinian right to self-defense is routinely rejected upon the basis that it is not the international community’s role to take sides. Needless to say, in a context of open oppression and subjugation, this self-sanctifying neutrality is a form of ‘taking sides.’

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, concepts such as balance have long assumed almost Orwellian overtones: in this context, balance has been equated with the imposition of a range of inequitable requirements on the Palestinians, without any similar requirements being placed upon their Israeli counterparts.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Palestinians are occupied and they resist like any other nation in the same circumstances. As Israel intensified its measures over the years, Palestinians intensified their resistance. Israel sliced up the land and separated Palestinians into different categories: good Palestinians and bad Palestinians. But for the Israelis the good are not good enough. We are all suffocated and strangled by the occupation, yet Gaza suffers the most. The situation affects all Palestinians and Israelis, but the Palestinians are affected on a much larger scale and physically, not only psychologically. Furthermore, we never include all the Palestinians who have suffered extensive trauma from constant Israeli aggression and attacks.

At the same time that international actors insist upon an impossible balance, official Israeli rhetoric is predicated upon a set of binary distinctions: it is as if Israel can only define itself in Manichean terms: civilized versus barbaric, sanctity of life versus culture of death. At all times there is a sustained refusal to conceive of Palestinians as equals, as if to even acknowledge the subject would somehow be a denigration of one’s own rightful status and prestige.

In similar terms, Israel has no problem asserting an inviolable right to self-defense while repeatedly denying the same right to Palestinians; or in celebrating its own “liberal democratic” character while instituting an occupation regime that is predicated upon the arbitrary and widespread use of both direct and indirect violence. The same state that decries Palestinian violence has no qualms meeting non-violent protests with fully armed aggression.

Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel

As with historical colonialism, Israel’s self-righteousness is matched only by its hypocrisy. Whenever I hear Israeli spokesmen talk of a Palestinian culture of violence and hatred, I think back to the 1980s when my village routinely encountered curfews, home invasions and calculated, systematic acts of violence by Israeli troops. Local men were driven to the village schoolyard in the middle of the night to be humiliated and beaten. Birzeit University in the West Bank was closed several times by military order; I was not able to graduate on time. This punishment was consciously collective in character – there was, as there is now, no respect for fundamental human rights or any attempt to distinguish non-combatants from combatants.

It is therefore surprising to hear Israeli politicians now calling for Palestinians to disavow violence. This is just another example of the dual standards that have historically sustained colonial power: “our” violence is inherently moral, yet “their” violence is further confirmation of an inherent barbarity. The Oslo Accords did nothing to address this dual standard and, in fact, further institutionalized it.

Over the course of the 1990s Palestinians were subjected to an increasingly wide range of restrictions and prohibitions, all under the aegis of an illusionary “peace” process and in part due to the settler roads that carved up Palestinian land. Ironically, prior to the so-called peace process, it was possible for me to meet friends in Gaza and Jerusalem, and relatives in Haifa. Now we keep in touch via social media.

Travel within the West Bank is similarly difficult. Trips that previously took 5-7 minutes now routinely take 35 minutes. The short journey between Birzeit University and Ramallah has at times taken me several hours due temporary checkpoints set up along the road. There is no longer any room left for a contiguous Palestinian state.

Israeli canons at an army deployment area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, on July 16, 2014. Operation 'Protective Edge' enters it's ninth day of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as yesterday's ceasefire agreement proposed by Egypt has failed to restore calm (photo: Activestills)

Israeli canons at an army deployment area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, July 16, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

There is also no sense of normality when everyday life is subject to the arbitrary decisions of the occupation’s administrators. The establishment of the “security” wall is further evidence of the extent to which Israeli security is predicated upon Palestinian insecurity; Israeli rights necessarily mean the denial of Palestinian rights.

During the First Intifada it was possible to conceive of a peace founded upon equal rights – the two-state solution had not yet been discredited among Palestinians and many Israeli peace and human rights groups actively asserted the rights of Palestinians. The Second Intifada made it more difficult for these voices to be heard, and Israel’s subsequent drift to the Right has marginalized them still further.

Even if these voices were to reassert themselves, Palestinians would have good reason to be suspicious. In the past, “peace” has served as a means by which existing imbalances are preserved and institutionalized. Even now, international interventions take Israel’s security as a non-negotiable precondition, without any mention of the fact that its current government increasingly appears to be the main threat to its own long-term security. In this sense, peace has become complicit in the ongoing abuse and denial of fundamental rights, and the subordination of justice to other imperatives.

Ultimately, there is the suspicion that any peace that is not founded upon mutual regard and the equal rights of both sides is not a peace worth pursuing or preserving.

Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab has a PhD in Middle East Studies and is an Associate Research Fellow at the European Center of Palestine Studies-Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

Related:
The abnormal reality of the occupation and its ‘escalations’
Propaganda wars: Searching for a narrative in Operation Protective Edge
COMIC: What if Mahmoud was named Jonah

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Propaganda wars: Searching for a narrative in Operation Protective Edge http://972mag.com/searching-for-a-narrative-in-operation-protective-edge/93793/ http://972mag.com/searching-for-a-narrative-in-operation-protective-edge/93793/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:32:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93793 No amount of Tweeting, tagging, posting or liking will save Gazans from an Israeli ground invasion. So why bother?

By Corey Sherman

Recent political upheavals in the Middle East tend to have a social media subplot, whether it’s how savvy youth use it to subvert harsh authority, or how states manipulate access to it so as to stop such subversion.

There’s the story about how State-Department-Official-cum-Google-Ideas-Chief, Jared Cohen, requested that Twitter delay a scheduled maintenance of their network to enable Iranians to continue to use the platform to organize during the harsh crackdown on post-election protests in 2009. Or how Josh Koster, an American advertising executive, crashed the servers of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Agency to stymie the flow of the Iranian government’s official pronouncements during that same time. And let’s not forget the so-called Twitter Revolutionaries of the so-called Arab Spring.

It may be flippant to attempt to search for the subplot in what the Israeli government calls Operation Protective Edge. The fact is that no amount of Tweeting, tagging, posting or liking will save Gazans from an Israeli ground invasion. So why bother?

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

At the same time, the number of people running from bombs in Gaza or into shelters across southern and central Israel pales in comparison to the number of people experiencing this conflict on their mobile phones, their tablets or their computer screens. For most humans, this conflict exists only in the images, sounds and texts that are coming out of Israel/Palestine. The mass mediation of this conflict, both in print and online, is part of its story. How states, media organizations and citizens choose to tell the story of this conflict helps explain how interested parties perceive this current flare-up – and what they believe is at stake.

A Reminder of Resistance

The war in the south is only part of the story here right now. Over the weekend, Gregg Carlstrom (Politico Magazine) and JJ Goldberg (The Forward) contextualized, correctly, the current hostilities into the larger social upheaval occurring here since the kidnappings and killings of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel, and Muhammed Abu Khdeir. Let’s not forget the 63-day-long hunger strike of Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli jails, which ended amidst the hunt for Shaar, Yifrah, and Fraenkel’s bodies and their kidnappers.

In the heady days after Khdeir’s body was found charred in the Jerusalem forest, when Palestinians clashed with security services in East Jerusalem and in Palestinian towns and cities across Israel, Israeli and Palestinian media disseminated images that framed the clashes as relating to previous periods of unrest – namely the intifadas.

On July 3, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot’s front page contained a small picture of Abu Khdeir, and a larger picture, taking up most of the page, of Palestinians burning tires with the words “Murder and Rage” written in large red letters. The caption beneath the picture read, “Revenge for the murder of the boys or criminal act? The police are still not sure if extremist Jews were the ones who forced the 16-year-old from Shuafat into the car, killed him and burned his body, but Jerusalem began to burn immediately. Angry Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the police amid calls for a Third Intifada.”

Yedioth Ahronoth Abu Khdeir

Inside the day’s edition, images and text reinforced the connection to an intifada. Along the border of the pages in the news section, banners reading “Murder and Escalation” were framed by pictures of Shaar, Yifrah and Fraenkel, and a stone-throwing Palestinian with a kuffiyeh wrapped around his head. Khdeir’s picture was, for the most part, absent on Yedioth’s inner pages, leaving the reader to think that the murder of the three Jewish boys was followed by an escalation in violence by Palestinians resorting to the age-old tactic of throwing rocks at Israeli authorities.

Four days later, the day Israel would begin Operation Protective Edge, the faces of the boys disappeared, but the stone-thrower remained, this time with the caption: “stop the bloodshed.”

Yedioth banner

Yedioth Ahronot caption reading: ‘Stop the bloodshed’

Such a framing of events reduces Palestinian action to fits of rage and irrationality. Furthermore, it ignores the fact that, as this publication has pointed out, the occupation and resistance to it occur daily and in both overt and covert ways.

For some in Palestine, though, social media serves as a platform to wrestle this narrative away from those who trivialize resistance to the occupation.

“The drive to resistance,” one Palestinian student activist told me, “is inside every Palestinian – even though the emotions may wane from time to time.”

In the days after Abu Khdeir’s body was found, this student who studies philosophy and political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was one of several friends of mine on Facebook who changed their profile pictures to a drawing of Khdeir. “The execution of Abu Khedir redefined what it means to be a Palestinian, and is making people aware of their role in freeing the Palestinian people from the occupation,” he said.

“The resistance will remain active until the Palestinian people are free, he explained. “The reaction of the street [after the kidnappings] is the natural response of the people under occupation.”

For Yedioth, that same resistance is unpredictable – hidden from view but always lurking. For the student activist, resistance, like the occupation, is a daily fact – which is why Facebook is an apt venue for his activism.

Some good ol’ hasbara

The use of mass media for psychological warfare and propaganda is not new in Israel’s conflicts with the Palestinians and Arab States. Over the last week, however, social media, specifically the popular and playful platforms of Instagram and YouTube, provided a venue for Israelis to present a palatable international image, and to instruct others how to win the war of ideas.

Ron Dermer’s interview on CBS Face the Nation Sunday seemed less like a news interview and more like an advertisement for Israel’s closely linked high-tech industry and military culture. Thirty seconds into the interview, host Bob Shieffer asks the Israeli Ambassador to the US about how he stays informed of rocket attacks from afar. “It’s not just Israel’s Ambassadors [who] can get [rocket alert sirens] on their phone, anyone can get it on their phone,” Dermer beamed with pride. “They can download an app called ‘Red-Alert Israel,’ and what happens is every time a siren goes off in an Israeli city when an incoming rocket is coming in, you’ll get it on your phone and you’ll know exactly what city is being targeted and when it is being targeted.”

Later in the interview, while explaining Israel’s view of the allegations that it targets civilians in Gaza, the phone brings to millions of viewers in the United States the sirens heard in Israeli cities that send frightened parents and screaming children into hiding. What we end up seeing is an Israeli official on live television demonstrating for viewers how they can simulate the genuine fear those sirens evoke in people living here. In so doing he draws people closer to a conflict that they will never experience firsthand.

Hamas, for their part, does more or less the same, though on a much smaller scale. This YouTube video, which has a paltry 2,689 views, instructs Gazans as to how to effectively engage on social media. The Times of Israel Arab Affairs Correspondent, Elhanan Miller, translated the video last week. Hamas instructs Gazans to refrain from posting locations of rocket launchers; to use the terms “innocent civilian” to describe those killed; to explain that the rockets are a natural response to the occupation; and to post pictures of those injured in the attacks.

Such cynical propaganda should call into question the extent to which either side has an interest in annihilating the other or whether they seek only to draw attention to the strife that their populations are feeling at this current time – strife that would decrease if the fighting ceased.

***

Lee Smith wrote last week in Tablet Magazine that the failure of the American-led peace talks set the region ablaze. An examination of the conflict’s presentation in mass media should call into question such a notion. Forget questions about land swaps and how to divide Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians are simply far apart on issues of vital importance, such as what constitutes legitimate resistance to a military occupation, and who is responding to whose rocket fire.

Rather than blame the US for the failure of the peace talks, the question should be why the US even bothered in the first place.

Related:
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Details of Palestinian deaths jeopardize a system of denial
How the public was manipulated into believing the teens were alive

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COMIC: What if Mahmoud was named Jonah? http://972mag.com/comic-what-if-mahmoud-was-jonah/93839/ http://972mag.com/comic-what-if-mahmoud-was-jonah/93839/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:28:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93839 By Eli Valley

Eli.Valley.Gaza.Leaflets.Vertical

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

More from Eli Valley:
Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution
The hater in the sky / By Eli Valley

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How an army of defense became an army of vengeance http://972mag.com/how-an-army-of-defense-turned-into-soldiers-of-vengeance/93740/ http://972mag.com/how-an-army-of-defense-turned-into-soldiers-of-vengeance/93740/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:26:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93740 I will never forget the evening my friends and I were sent to kill Palestinian police officers in a revenge attack. We went from soldiers sent to defend our families to murderers of innocent people.

By O.K.

A month has passed since we were informed of the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel. Ever since, there has been unrest in the region. Along with their families, we all hoped for good news, and mourned with them when the teens’ bodies were found. However, over the past few weeks our computer screens and our streets have been filled not only with sorrow, but also with cries for revenge. Israeli citizens and leaders alike have openly called for avenging the deaths of the three boys.

“No more playing by the rules,” said MK Ayelet Shaked. The Secretary General of World Bnei Akiva youth movement called for bloody vengeance. These calls of action, among many others, led Israeli citizens to take to the streets and attack Palestinians indiscriminately. This air of revenge claimed the life of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian youth from Shuafat who was murdered by Jewish Israelis.

Right-wing Israeli settlers burn a Palestinian flag and shout racist slogans during an anti-Palestinian demonstration at [Gush] Etzion junction, a bloc of settlements next to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, June 16, 2014. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped near the Etzion junction late last week. (Oren Ziv/Activestlls.org)

Right-wing Israeli settlers burn a Palestinian flag and shout racist slogans during an anti-Palestinian demonstration at [Gush] Etzion junction, a bloc of settlements next to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, June 16, 2014. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped near the Etzion junction late last week. (Oren Ziv/Activestlls.org)

The cycle of violence didn’t end with the youth. The Israeli leadership responded to the demands for revenge by mobilizing the Israeli military as an army of vengeance, and Hamas responded in kind. The military operation that commenced in the West Bank as a result of the kidnapping included collective punishment of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Hamas returned to shooting rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians in Israel, and the Israeli army launched a military operation against the Gaza Strip. Over 200 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, and one Israeli citizen have been killed since the upsurge in violence. The Israeli army has carried out approximately 1,825 air strikes in the Gaza, and Palestinian militants have fired more than 900 rockets into Israeli territory. At this point, there is no end in sight to the cycle of reciprocal violence that continues due to the logic of revenge.

Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel

Following the vengeful civilian actions, a debate emerged among the Israeli public between supporters and opponents of revenge; yet the majority of the Israeli public has remained indifferent to the mobilization of Israeli combat soldiers in operations of revenge. I know this indifference well, as I myself was sent as a military officer to carry out such a mission, and hardly anyone thought twice about it.

I want to tell you about one day in 2002 when my soldiers and I were sent to seek revenge for the deaths of six soldiers. I served in the Israeli army as a combat soldier and an officer in an elite unit during the Second Intifada. In February 2002 I was with my unit near Nablus when we were informed that Palestinian militants had killed six military engineers at an army checkpoint at the Ein Arik junction and had managed to escape.

The next day we gathered for a briefing prior to the operation. Our commanders informed us about the events at Ein Arik and explained that our unit would be sent to checkpoints in the area manned by Palestinian police officers with the objective of killing any officer we found. They didn’t say, “You’re going to seek revenge,” but there was no need to state it explicitly. We knew we were going out to avenge the deaths of the soldiers and we spoke about it explicitly among ourselves.

Until that day, we were expressly forbidden from opening fire on Palestinian police officers. We also knew that the army had a special agreement with the Palestinian security forces, whereby we were to avoid harming them. However, that evening none of this was relevant anymore. We did not know who we were sent to kill – neither their names nor what they had done in their past – yet we knew for certain that they had nothing to do with the murder of the soldiers at the Ein Arik checkpoint. We left behind a few human bodies that had posed no threat to us at all. I am sure that those police officers had not expected anything; they likely had no idea why they were attacked.

Hebron, West Bank, 17.6.2014

That same night, as part of the same “revenge operation,” two similar attacks took place near two other posts guarded by Palestinian police officers in the West Bank and Gaza. All in all, 15 Palestinian police officers were killed that night. The morning news headlines about the operation read: “IDF Objective: Palestinian Police.” The IDF responded regarding the motives for revenge by stating, “The Palestinian police failed to prevent the entry of terrorists into Israel.” For many readers this response was enough, and many others probably didn’t care. But I knew what we did. We avenged the deaths of six Israeli soldiers with the deaths of 15 Palestinian police officers. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

I will never forget that evening, the evening when my friends and I were transformed from soldiers of an army of defense to soldiers of an army of vengeance. We changed from soldiers sent to defend our families into murderers of innocent people.

A few years after that night, I broke my silence because I believed that the Israeli public needed to know what takes place, in its name, on a daily in the occupied Palestinian territories. I am breaking my silence again today because I believe that the Israeli public and its leadership need to know what they are asking for when they call for revenge. They need to know that when they seek revenge they are actually asking us to turn today’s soldiers – our friends, siblings, and children – into murderers. It is the same bloody transition my friends and I underwent back in 2002.

With respect to the victims of vengeance on both sides, and for the sake of the youths sent to be turned into murderers, the time has come to stop this cycle of revenge.

*O.K. served as an officer in the paratroopers reconnaissance unit during the Second Intifada and is a member of Breaking the Silence.

Related:
Why there is no room for diplomacy in Gaza
The unfolding lie of Operation Protective Edge
I am the woman who translates the names of the dead

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I am the woman who translates the names of the dead http://972mag.com/i-am-the-woman-who-translates-the-names-of-the-dead/93701/ http://972mag.com/i-am-the-woman-who-translates-the-names-of-the-dead/93701/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:29:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93701 In these frenzied days, I look for routine and find it in the task of translating names. Not that anyone reads all of them, but here’s another child, and another, and a last name that gets repeated again and again. And then I realize that a whole family has been wiped out.

By Michal Rotem (Translated by Sol Salbe)

For several days now I’ve been translating the names of those killed in Gaza to Hebrew. It was not my idea, and I’m not an expert in literary Arabic, but I volunteered my meager translation skills to help John Brown, because it seemed the right thing for me to do, for some odd reason. Every day my capabilities seem to grow, and I freely scan though Palestinian news sites and the website of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, plucking out more and more names of the dead.

But I’m oblivious to it. Like a robot, I sit and translate more and more names of the deceased and I do not comprehend at all what this list really is. Every so often it hits me, when suddenly in the middle of the list, I encounter a series of names that are too similar, with too big an age range and from the same locality, and it dawns on me that these are the names of members of a family that was wiped out in a single moment. I press on with the list, which expands by the minute, unmindful of its various meanings. But then comes a familiar last name, and I realize I may know people in the Negev/Naqab from this family, and I come back to reality. The names that share first names with close friends of mine also make me sad, because I remember that ultimately these are human beings.

Bodies are carried from the morgue of Al Shifa Hosptial, Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

Bodies are carried from the morgue of Al Shifa Hosptial, Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

There’s something very anodyne about this list: name, place of residence, age. Some people have their details missing, some are updated in the days following. I’m not sufficiently versed in these matters to know who was a senior Hamas commander, who fired rockets and who is just trying to live their life – a life that was taken in a minute. All the names are listed one after the other, without notes about the deceased’s degree of involvement in the situation. When I start to think about it, some things become clearer. Dozens of children, aged one-and-a-half, three and 11, and even 16, along with older women aged 73 and 80, are all victims of this intolerable situation.

In my quest for routine these days, I seem to find it in updating this list. I don’t think anyone really sits down and reads the list name after name, thinking who s/he was and what s/he did just before it was all over. But out of desperation I want to believe that there are people for whom this awful list of names will have some impact, turn their stomachs, make them want to stop everything and choose a different path.

The list is updated every few hours, and for every person involved in the fighting there are several other names of victims who have no connection to the fighting. Dozens of names are added every day. Regardless of your stance on Gaza, open the list and try to read out loud one name after another. You can choose to read just the kids’ names. Then please try tell me that this killing must not stop.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza
‘We stay together or we leave this world together’
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like

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