+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:42:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Resource: Privatizating law enforcement in, around settlements http://972mag.com/resource-privatizating-law-enforcement-in-around-settlements/96879/ http://972mag.com/resource-privatizating-law-enforcement-in-around-settlements/96879/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:14:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96879 ‘The Lawless Zone’ is a report by Yesh Din on the transfer of policing and security powers to the Civilian Security Coordinators (CSC) in Israel’s West Bank settlements and outposts. The report presents an analysis of the institution of the CSCs as an inherent aspect of the biased and chaotic state of Israeli law enforcement in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The report demonstrates how the regime of civilian security coordinators undermines the rule of law in the West Bank to the point of stripping it of all meaning. It constitutes another layer in Israel’s dereliction of its duty to protect the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Yesh Din writes.

Read more about the report here. Watch a video explaining the civilian security system here.

Related:
Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Sheriffs of the land: Meet the settlers with military authority

Yesh Din is a volunteer organization working to defend the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation.

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How the IDF abdicates its monopoly on violence in the West Bank http://972mag.com/how-the-idf-abdicates-its-monopoly-on-violence/96873/ http://972mag.com/how-the-idf-abdicates-its-monopoly-on-violence/96873/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:52:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96873 The IDF grants arrest and other powers to civilians in West Bank settlements and outposts but fails to ensure they are held accountable. In essence, the army has privatized law enforcement.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement's civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement’s civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Privatizing the state’s use of force should be a source of concern to us all. Such a process – and particularly when the powers are transferred to a body with a clear political agenda – creates uncontrolled militias. This is the process that has occurred in the West Bank due to the army’s policy of delegating some of its law enforcement powers to civilian security coordinators, as discussed in Yesh Din’s new report, “The lawless zone.”

The institution of the civilian security coordinator in itself is not new; it is part of a spatial defense approach that predates the establishment of the State of Israel. This function was formalized in the Local Authorities Law (Arrangement of Guarding), 1961. That law established that the security coordinators and guards were to be accountable to the police or the army. In the West Bank, where this mechanism was introduced by a military order in 1971, is more complex.

Read the full Yesh Din report here

The security coordinators — and the guards accountable to them — enjoy quasi-military and law enforcement powers, such as the power to detain or search a suspect and to arrest him if he resists. Despite this, supervision over their actions is remarkably vague. In official terms, security coordinators derive their powers from appointment by the IDF’s Central Command. In practice, however, they are appointed by the settlements in which they work. In official terms, security coordinators are accountable to the army, which grants them their powers and provides training programs, and to military law. In practice, there is not even a single documented instance in which a security coordinator has been prosecuted for deviating from his authority, despite the fact that the new report itemizes a number of documented violations. In official terms, the security coordinator receives instructions from the army brigade; but he receives his salary from the settlement where he operates. The security coordinator is not an employee of the Defense Ministry and coordinators who have filed suits for compensation against the ministry have been unsuccessful for this reason.

While we were preparing the report, the IDF Spokesperson was forced to admit that there is no document establishing procedures for the supervision and assessment of security coordinators, along the lines of the procedures relating to army officers, for example. The Spokesperson also confirmed that it has no information about disciplinary proceedings against coordinators or against members of their guarding units. Yet according to an Operations Division order, the security coordinator bears a “responsibility to soldiers undertaking a guarding function in the area, including briefing them on their arrival, monitoring the execution of their task, and attending to their welfare.” It is also worth noting that then-deputy state attorney Shai Nitzan stated in an official letter that commander-commandee relations are not applicable to the relationship between security coordinators and soldiers. This claim is contradicted by the experience of many soldiers who have reported such relations.

The transfer of military powers to civilians is particularly serious when it is to a group of civilians with a distinct ideological viewpoint, who are motivated by an aspiration to seize additional Palestinian land and who refuse to recognize Palestinian land rights in the West Bank. The transfer of quasi-military powers to an ideological group, some of whom do not recognize the State of Israel and some of whose leaders have called for the elimination of the democratic regime, can only be seen as the army waiving its authority to exercise power. Or in other words – privatization.

Been there – done that. When the Finance Ministry attempted to privatize Israel’s prisons and build the first prison managed by a private company, the High Court struck down the law. Justice Ayala Procaccia explained that such privatization creates the clear potential for the violation of human rights: “the private body that receives a governmental authority carrying the potential to violate the core of individual rights is not rooted in the framework of rules of action and criteria that dictate the standards of use of the institution power of authority and guide the actions of state organs. It did not grow up and was not educated in this framework; it is alien to its concepts, and it has never internalized the theory of balances in the use of governmental power.”

Anyone seeking a practical example of all these defects need look no further than the security coordinators. By the way, we should note that the state is currently attempting to privatize another arm of the law enforcement system, namely the prosecution: it is proposing to employ attorneys from the private sector as prosecutors who will decide whether or not to serve indictments. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has asked the attorney general to halt this further attempt at privatization: responsibility for the penal process must remain entirely in the hands of the state.

To sum up: when the state – and remember that in the West Bank, the Israeli army acts as the sovereign – transfers any of its powers to use force to private individuals who are accountable not to the army but to their settlement, it damages its own standing, the ability to enforce the law, and above all – the occupied population whose person and property it is obliged to protect. Accordingly, Yesh Din’s report urges the army to correct this flaw and to appoint security coordinators who are not settlers but officers in the standing army; and to ensure that they are accountable to the army and not to the settlements. In a nutshell: the army should take back its monopoly on the use of force.

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:
Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Sheriffs of the land: Meet the settlers with military authority

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The U.S. is also guilty in Palestine http://972mag.com/the-u-s-is-also-guilty-in-palestine/96863/ http://972mag.com/the-u-s-is-also-guilty-in-palestine/96863/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:46:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96863 When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

By Sam Bahour

The U.S. is not a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is an active participant and is guilty of the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians, most recently, the mass killings and destruction Israel wrought on the Gaza Strip during the summer. The reality that the U.S. is an active supporter of unimaginable suffering may very well be the motivating force behind the U.S.’s adamant attempts to block the Palestinians from using any of the internationally recognized tools of accountability to hold Israel responsible, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

While Israeli bombs were hammering Gaza, Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd, drafted a 32-page pamphlet which was published by the Palestine-Israel Working Group of Historians Against the War (HAW) titled, Violations by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (August 2014). The policy paper places the U.S. in front of its own mirror and meticulously documents how one hand of the U.S. government systematically documents Israeli violations of U.S. law and international law, while the other hand unconditionally dishes out financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel.

The study notes that:

United States law states that no military assistance will be provided to a government that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Yet the United States gives more military assistance to Israel than to any other country, currently in excess of $3.1 billion per year. The U.S. participates in joint military exercises, military research, and weapons development.

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the "Blue Flag" exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the “Blue Flag” exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

This contradiction of its own policy would seem incriminating enough, but if all the other means of U.S. support to Israel are added – especially the U.S.’s unwavering role in the UN Security Council as a proxy for Israel’s interests by vetoing and thereby blocking international steps for justice – the evidence that the U.S. is an active player in Israel’s onslaught and continued military occupation becomes overwhelming.

It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.

While this new document was being researched, the Historians Against the War circulated a letter to President Obama and members of Congress that begins: “We deplore the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel. We also recognize the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” (July 31, 2014). The pamphlet’s contents strike this point home with incriminating details.

The pamphlet quotes historian Robin D. G. Kelley who recently said about the ongoing conflict, “Determining next steps requires that we go back many steps—before the siege, before the election of Hamas, before the withdrawal of Jewish settlements in Gaza, before the Oslo Accords, even before the strip came under Israeli occupation in 1967.” (“When the smoke clears in Gaza,” Aug. 8, 2014, Black Educator).

Read +972′s full coverage of the Gaza war

I had the honor of working with both authors of this pamphlet following the First Gulf War (1990-1991) when they suggested we co-edit an oral history of Palestine as a tool to understand the centrality of Palestine to the entire destabilization of the Middle East, a reality that is even more true today. Following several field visits to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Golan Heights, that effort resulted in the publishing of Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (1993). Their new effort revisits many familiar topics that we addressed in our book, with chapter headings such as International Agreements and U.S. Law, International Agreements on Human Rights, U.S. Law on Foreign Assistance, Violations of Internationally Recognized Human Rights, Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Arbitrary Arrest or Detention, Collective Punishment, among many more.

Perhaps the most important chapter in this brief pamphlet is “The Problem of Enforcement.” One need not be a historian or political scientist to understand that as long as global enforcement mechanisms of accountability are denied to Palestinians due to the political whims of a superpower, Israel has the green light to attack Gaza and the West Bank at any time with impunity.

Israel’s senseless military attack this summer (deceptively coined “Operation Protective Edge” in English, and more accurately “Solid Cliff” in Hebrew) left 2,168 Palestinians dead, more than 500 of them children. The Institute for Middle East Understanding compared the proportionate impact of these deaths to the population in the U.S. Gaza’s devastating human loss would be equivalent to 376,680 Americans killed in 51 days if such events were undertaken in the U.S. To put this in perspective, this number is slightly fewer than the 407,000 U.S. soldiers killed in World War II. It is not hyperbole to say that everyone in Gaza knows at least one person who died or was injured in this atrocity, with each person left wondering if he or she would be next.

If humanity is to be served, citizens who believe in equal access to international tools of justice must speak up and denounce the continued U.S. hegemony over Palestine. It is time to demand a change in policy so that marginalized populations are not shut out of systems of justice when they are the victims of crimes against humanity. Holding individuals responsible for their crimes is a core American value; it’s a value we should not compromise for any country, especially our own.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and blogs at ePalestine.com. This article was first published in The Hill.

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All Israelis are implicated in the occupation http://972mag.com/all-israelis-are-implicated-in-the-occupation/96847/ http://972mag.com/all-israelis-are-implicated-in-the-occupation/96847/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:45:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96847 Rather than an army secret, the systems supporting the occupation include such normal institutions as taxation, infrastructure projects, the education system and, of course, army service.

The debate over refuseniks from IDF intelligence unit 8200 unleashed acrimonious debates all week. While I have already observed some of them, here are a few more that stand out.

Carolina Landsmann has one of the most powerful opinion pieces I’ve read in a long time, in Haaretz. It may yet appear in English, but for now the excerpts here are my translation. Like one former member of Unit 8200 who spoke to me, Landsmann says their act of refusal is a statement that intelligence work and the system of occupation are directly linked, cutting into the belief that only those who hold the guns are responsible.

She then takes this insight to its next logical step. In blunt language, she writes that the refuseniks point to a perspective built into Israeli thinking that is

key to understanding what allows the state to continue its control and oppression of millions of Palestinians for 47 years. The illusion that certain islands within Israeli society are disconnected from the military rule over the territories, and those lucky enough to fit themselves into one of them are free from the responsibility for its injustices, [that illusion] has anesthetized the conscience of those opposed to such control, and stops them from rising up against it.

All of Israeli society, writes Landsmann, supports this system. I find this one of the most essential and accurate observations of Israeli reality that is rarely understood.

Military rule… is not a secret system of the IDF – it is the largest, most visible project, with broader participation than any other endeavor in Israel.

Rather than an army secret, the systems supporting the occupation include such normal institutions as taxation, infrastructure projects, the education system and, of course, army service. She concludes with disturbing clarity, “No one can say ‘I have no part in it.’”

I don’t believe Landsmann means that all Israelis are evil, and I reject that idea myself. But the fact that all social and political structures of society support the occupation is true and must be internalized. Not in order to blame individuals; to help them know that stopping this means identifying their personal contribution, through whichever social system they belong, and changing it. The refusal letter, she hopes, may be the first steps of this profound mental shift.

The important thing is to break down the imaginary border-wall that separates the army from civil society, the one that distinguishes the residents of the state from those of the settlements in terms of their responsibility for Palestinians. In Israel, a democratic country, all citizens – soldiers and settlers – participate in injustices and bear the responsibility for them.

Ironically, the far right has said this repeatedly. They argue that settlers are unfairly demonized, when in fact all of Israel, people and government alike, supports settlements.

Once, at a Nakba commemoration event at Tel Aviv University, I spotted far-right Hebron settler leader Baruch Marzel wearing a T-shirt reading “Solidarity: Sheikh Munis,” the original Arabic name of the Palestinian village where the university now stands. For a fleeting instant I wondered if the world had turned upside down. But simultaneously I knew it was mockery, an extension of the slogan: “The fate of Hebron will be the fate of Tel Aviv!”

Baruch Marzel at Tel Aviv University, May 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Baruch Marzel at Tel Aviv University, May 2012 (photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Settlers in his camp believe it is hypocritical for Israel to make any distinction between its claim on Tel Aviv and Hebron. By that logic, there is also no distinction between Israelis who make life in Tel Aviv what it is today, and those responsible for making Hebron what it is today: a city divided by identity at the level of its sidewalks, by virtue of Israeli military law.

I believe the realization that regular Israelis are part of the occupation and regular Israelis must act to stop it, is at the heart of a bitter and deepening wedge between different types of “left” in Israel. The condemnation of IDF refusal by politicians considered center-left (primarily Labor, and primarily Shelley Yachimovich) infuriated some people not normally identified with the far left.

Uri Misgav, who has been writing at length about Unit 8200 all week, published a short piece today, so simple it hurt. What else can a person do?

He successfully conveyed the suffocating sense that no action opposing the occupation is legitimate or effective. His everyman citizen who rejects this policy has nowhere to turn. “Time after time he sees how the ‘left’ and ‘center’ strengthen coalitions of the right that entrench and perpetuate [the occupation].”

If Landsmann revealed that all Israelis are part of it, Misgav’s average citizen searches for some way not to be (my translation).

He just doesn’t want to contribute his part. He wants to live in peace…It seems absurd to finance [the occupation] with his taxes, but tax evasion is a criminal offense and a tax rebellion isn’t realistic. If he wants to boycott settlement products, they explain to him that boycott is an awful thing and who more than the Jews must remember that…If he joins a human rights group, they accuse him of damaging the image and reputation of the state. If he agitates for external support or international involvement, he becomes a Jew-boy doormat to the anti-Semitic goyim. Of course, he cannot fathom any sort of violence.

So, Misgav’s everyman against the occupation says, enough. I don’t know how to end it, but I just can’t take part. Switching to the first person and speaking for that everyman, Misgav writes:

I won’t bomb him from the air, raid his home in the dead of night, make his life miserable at checkpoints, spray rubber or sponge bullets at demonstrators, blackmail him to become a collaborator, and I won’t even gather intelligence that will enable all this to go on to the end of days.

Misgav then walks through the vile attacks that would be, that were, unleashed on such a person. The conclusion is a tragic plea.

He wants to live. Again, he wonders, what else there is to do? He doesn’t want to leave. He doesn’t want to commit suicide. He wants to live in peace with his conscience in the State of Israel, without supporting the project of occupation and settlements. Please help him, dear readers: is there a legitimate way to do this?

I might rephrase the end: is there a legitimate way to stop this?

Related:
Refusal by elite IDF reservists angrily dismissed as ‘political’
IDF’s ‘start-up nation’ reservists refuse to serve the occupation
How can you tell that Israeli refuseniks are are scaring the system?

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PHOTOS: Amid rubble and trauma, Gaza goes back to school http://972mag.com/photos-amid-rubble-and-trauma-gaza-goes-back-to-school/96818/ http://972mag.com/photos-amid-rubble-and-trauma-gaza-goes-back-to-school/96818/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:13:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96818 With displaced families still living in some schools, and despite severe damage to classrooms, Gaza’s children return to school after a summer of Israeli bombardment.

Photos by: Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler

The high school certificate of Adeel,Balata in the ruins of the home of her father Abdelkarim Balata, which was destroyed during an Israeli strike which killed eleven members of the family, Jabalia refugee camp, September 14, 2014. Adeel (17) whose nickname was 'Delo' was killed during the attack. She was a brillant student and wanted to be a doctor. Amid the victims were the almost entire family of Naim Balata who was killed together with his wife and 6 of his children. Only Ala Balata, 18, survived out of the family of Naim who were actually taking refugee in the home of Naim's brother, Abdelkarim. Also killed was the brother of Abdelkarim, Nasme together with his wife (Wafa) and his 1 year and an half son (Abdelkarim). During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

The high school certificate of Adeel Balata lies in the ruins of the home of her father Abdelkarim Balata, which was destroyed in an Israeli strike that killed 11 members of the family, Jabalia Refugee Camp, September 14, 2014. Adeel (17), whose nickname was ‘Delo,’ was killed during the attack. She was a brilliant student and wanted to be a doctor, her family says. Among the victims was almost the entire family of Naim Balata, who was killed together with his wife and six of his children. Only Ala Balata, 18, survived.

Despite damaged classrooms and destroyed schools, Gaza’s school year began this week after delays due to the recent Israeli offensive known as Operation Protective Edge. According to Gaza Education Ministry official Ziad Thabet, the first weeks of classes will focus on recreational activities and psychological counseling to help children recover from the trauma sustained during this summer’s attacks.

During the seven weeks of military strikes, 29 schools were totally destroyed and about 232 damaged. According to the UN, Israel’s attacks killed least 2,131 Palestinians, including 501 children. Rockets launched from Gaza killed six civilians in Israel, including one child, and 66 Israeli soldiers died during the ground invasion. The destruction of homes in Gaza left some 110,000 people seeking emergency shelter, including some 64,000 Palestinians still being housed in about 20 UN schools.

This week also saw the release of a report by Human Rights Watch condemning Israeli attacks on three UN schools, which killed some 45 Palestinians, including 17 children. Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection, and the resulting carnage.”

HRW’s report came shortly after the Israeli military announced its own investigations into at least one attack on a UN school this summer. This, just days after human rights groups B’Tselem announced that it had refused to share information with an Israeli military investigation, declaring the army’s internal investigation system a “whitewash” and “a complete failure… marred by severe structural flaws that render [the military] incapable of conducting professional investigations.”

Throughout its offensives on Gaza in recent years, the Israeli military has claimed that activity by Palestinian militants in civilian areas justified strikes that resulted in civilian deaths. International humanitarian law (IHL), however, does not support the premise that two wrongs make a right.

“Israeli officials have argued that part of the harm to civilians was justified by the conduct of armed Palestinian groups, which included firing at Israel from locations adjacent to civilian homes and concealing explosives in civilian homes,” states a B’Tselem analysis of Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2012. “Nevertheless, although the conduct of the Palestinian groups undeniably creates additional difficulties for the Israeli military, their violations of IHL cannot serve as justification for IHL violations by the Israeli military.”

A classroom lies damaged following the overnight Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabalia, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack which injured more than 100. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,300 Palestinians and injured more than 6,900. At the same time, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel.

A classroom is damaged following the Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, which injured more than 100.

 

Palestinian school students stand in a destroyed classroom in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students stand in a destroyed classroom in the Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year started after delays due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools were totally destroyed, and around 230 damaged.

 

Palestinian school students clean hallways on their second day of school, in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students clean hallways on their second day of school in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Boys walk to school on the first day of classes after Israeli attacks, Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Boys walk to school on the first day of classes after Israeli attacks, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Boys line up in the morning to practice daily exercises an UNRWA school in Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Boys line up in the morning to practice daily exercises at an UNRWA school in Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The first weeks of classes will be dedicated to recreational activities to help children overcome the trauma suffered during the the seven-week Israeli military offensive.

 

A Palestinian school student draws an home on fire during one of the activities conducted in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

A Palestinian school student draws a home on fire during one of the activities conducted in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Wedhad a Palestinian girl from Shujaiya, stands in front of  the UNRWA school in zeitoun area which is used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive , Gaza city, September 14, 2014. Wedhad said that she could not go to school as her school in Shujaiya, was destroyed, and that her mother is still looking for another school for her to register.  The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged.  During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Wedhad, a Palestinian girl from Shujaiya, stands in front of the UNRWA school in the Al Zeitoun area of Gaza City, which is being used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive, September 14, 2014. Wedhad said that she could not go to school as her school in Shujaiya was destroyed, and her mother is still looking for another school for her to register at.

 

Palestinian children use water reservoirs to drink in an UNRWA school in zeitoun area which is used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive , Gaza city, September 14, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian children use water tanks to wash and drink from in an UNRWA school in the Al Zeitoun area of Gaza City which is being used as a temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

A Palestinian schoolgirl enjoys jumping on a trampoline after her first day of school, Gaza city, September 14, 2014. The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

A Palestinian schoolgirl jumps on a trampoline after her first day of school, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

Palestinian school students buy snacks after their first day of school, Gaza city, September 14, 2014. The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students buy snacks after their first day of school, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

Palestinian school students pass by some destroyed buildings and homes in the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. Shujayea was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, and some areas are totally destroyed; leaving many Palestinians homeless. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students pass by destroyed buildings and homes in the Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. Shujaiya was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, and some areas totally destroyed, leaving many Palestinians homeless.

 

Classrooms in an UNRWA school are stil l inhabited by people whose houses are completely destroyed by Israeli attacks, Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Classrooms in an UNRWA school are still inhabited by people whose houses were completely destroyed by Israeli attacks, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

Related:
PHOTOS: Living in the ruins of a shattered Gaza neighborhood
In Gaza, justice delayed is justice denied
PHOTOS: Losing your home twice in one war

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Contradicting its own ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities http://972mag.com/contradicting-its-own-ruling-israels-supreme-court-legalizes-segregated-communities/96817/ http://972mag.com/contradicting-its-own-ruling-israels-supreme-court-legalizes-segregated-communities/96817/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:08:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96817 The Israeli Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed various petitions against the Admissions Committees Law, which allows admissions committees in hundreds of communities in Israel to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

By Amjad Iraqi

March 8, 2000 marked a unique moment in Israeli history. In a major decision, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the town of Katzir, which was established on state land by the Jewish Agency, could not deny the right of the Arab Ka’adan family to live in the town simply on the basis that they were not Jewish. This was the first time that Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully challenged the legality of “Jewish-only” communities in the state, generating cautious optimism that it could set an important precedent for Palestinian rights in land and housing.

Fifteen years later, on September 17, 2014, these hopes came to an abrupt end. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed various petitions filed by human rights groups against the Admissions Committees Law, enacted by the Knesset in 2011. The law allows admissions committees in 434 communities in the Negev and the Galilee (about 43 percent of all towns in Israel) to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability” and the communities’ “social and cultural fabric.” In effect, these committees are now legally permitted to refuse residency based on any “undesired” identity, including Palestinian, Sephardic, African, gay, religious, secular and others.

The Admissions Committees Law is the Israeli right wing’s response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Ka’adan case. Realizing that marginalized groups were increasingly challenging the state’s discriminatory practices, the Knesset under the 2009-12 Netanyahu government sought to turn Israel’s historical policies against these groups into law. Many Knesset members openly declared that the purpose of these laws was to subdue the “threats” posed by Palestinian citizens to the Jewish character of the state. The authors of the Admissions Committees Law even stated that, though deliberately written in neutral language, its main aim was to prevent Arab citizens from living with Jews.

This objective of segregation is not a new phenomenon in Israel, and has in fact been a central, ongoing practice since the state’s establishment in 1948. Legislation ranging from the Absentees Property Law (1950) to the Negev Individual Settlements Law (2011), along with the policies of the Jewish National Fund, Israel Land Authority and the government itself, operate with the explicit goal of securing maximum and privileged control of land for Israel’s Jewish citizens – a process known as “Judaization.” This runs jointly with the state’s goal of minimizing and concentrating non-Jewish communities in Israel, resulting in the mass confiscation of Palestinian land and the containment of Palestinian towns through discriminatory planning, home demolitions and unequal resource allocation.

Protesters outside the village of Hura in the Negev, protesting against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Protesters outside the village of Hura in the Negev, protesting against the Prawer Plan, November 30, 2013. The Prawer Plan, if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. (Photo: Activestills.org)

However, what makes the admissions committees case significant is that the Supreme Court – the supposed bastion of Israeli democracy – has upheld this clearly discriminatory law, claiming that it could not determine yet if the law violated constitutional rights. Numerous petitions condemned the law from multiple angles, including nationality, race, religion and sexual orientation, but the court swept them aside. More importantly, the court directly undermined its own landmark ruling in the Ka’adan case, overriding one of the few legal decisions that set a precedent for minority rights in Israel and the struggle against state-sanctioned discrimination.

The latest ruling instead illustrates the deteriorating status of Palestinian citizens of Israel at the hands of an increasingly right-wing government and high court. Rather than introducing laws that guarantee equal rights for all of Israel’s citizens, the Knesset has worked to deepen racial inequality and consolidate its discriminatory vision for the state. Meanwhile, the judiciary has allowed the government to carry out this program, choosing not to set precedents on critical cases affecting Palestinian rights. With more discriminatory laws being introduced – including the Prawer Plan Bill, the Contributors to the State Bill, and the Jewish Nation-State Bill – Palestinian citizens and others are left fearing that, despite their best efforts to overturn it, race will continue to be the prime determinant of their rights.

It is therefore up to the public, non-governmental actors and the international community to take a principled stance against this unjust law. Racial separation, especially when engineered by a state, must elicit the same condemnation as other cases have before. Under the segregation laws of the Jim Crow South, gentrification and ghettoization were deliberately used against black Americans in order to keep white neighborhoods economically superior and racially homogenous, the effects of which remain damaging to this day. A more infamous comparison is apartheid South Africa’s Group Areas Act, which legalized the state’s policy of designating land for separate races. Like some of the Israeli law’s proponents today, South Africa’s leaders attempted to sugar-coat their intentions by describing racial separation as a policy of “good neighborliness.” However, such claims cannot conceal the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court’s approval of the Admissions Committees Law has granted legal cover for the principle of segregation and, at worst, has permitted a housing system that disturbingly resembles apartheid.

Amjad Iraqi is a projects and advocacy coordinator at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Related:
Knesset passes segregation law
Israel’s other war: Silencing Palestinian citizens
On the Israel-apartheid analogy, yet again

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WATCH: Get arrested at a protest? There’s an app for that http://972mag.com/watch-get-arrested-at-a-protest-theres-an-app-for-that/96813/ http://972mag.com/watch-get-arrested-at-a-protest-theres-an-app-for-that/96813/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:18:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96813 Being a human rights activist can put you in risky situations, including the very real possibility of arrest. Amnesty International this summer released a new Android app to facilitate discreet, emergency assistance from your chosen contacts in the event of arrest. Social TV speaks with Amnesty’s Israel director about its ‘local’ uses.

Related:
Rights of demonstrators in the occupied territories

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In Gaza, justice delayed is justice denied http://972mag.com/in-gaza-justice-delayed-is-justice-denied/96786/ http://972mag.com/in-gaza-justice-delayed-is-justice-denied/96786/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:18:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96786 Israeli army investigators have not even contacted the teenage victim of one of the few alleged war crimes it says it is probing. More than two months after Israel’s assault on Gaza began, victims of the air, land, and sea invasion continue to have no recourse against their occupiers.

It’s been nearly two months since 17-year-old Ahmad Abu Raida says he was used as a human shield by Israeli forces near the Gaza border town of Khan Younis. Since then, human rights organizations and various media outlets have reported on the case (+972 was among the first), but Abu Raida has yet to face his alleged captors — and, so far, his family sees no hope for justice.

Although Israeli army’s office of the Military Advocate General said it has opened an investigation into the case, Abu Raida’s father said on Monday that neither he nor his son had been contacted by the military. That comes as no surprise to Brad Parker, an attorney with Defence for Children International’s Palestine section, which first documented Abu Raida’s story.

Ahmad Abu Raida (Photo courtesy of DCI-Palestine)

Ahmad Abu Raida (Photo courtesy of DCI-Palestine)

“Impunity is the norm, as investigations are neither transparent nor independent and rarely result in an Israeli soldier being held criminally responsible or accountable,” Parker told +972. “How serious can any investigation be where, as of today, no Israeli investigator has even contacted Ahmad or his family to gather information concerning his use as a human shield?”

Abu Raida’s case is one of only a handful still being “investigated” by the MAG’s office. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said last week that Israel had committed war crimes during its 51-day assault on Gaza this summer. Others, including participants in the upcoming Russell Tribunal on Palestine, are asking whether Israel’s actions constituted “genocide.”

The tribunal, slated for September 24-25 in Brussels, will include law professors John Dugard and Richard Falk, both of whom have served as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine. In a press release announcing the two-day “extraordinary” session, the organizers said: “[t]he Tribunal will examine Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, and, for the first time regarding Israel, the crime of genocide.”

Read +972′s full coverage of the Gaza war

The United Nations defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

“In a context where systemic impunity is the status quo, initiatives like the Russell Tribunal on Palestine are needed to push for and deliver justice and accountability,” said Parker. He also cited the International Criminal Court, but attempts to bring claims against Israel there have been hobbled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has yet to sign the Rome Statute defining the court’s purview.

For Palestinians with claims against Israel, the lack of recourse under international law only encourages the state’s impunity. Using language from the ICC itself, leading Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem announced on September 8 that it would no longer cooperate with the MAG because Israel is “unable and unwilling” to investigate itself.

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad called the MAG inquiry into Abu Raida’s case a “whitewash,” adding, “the announcement demonstrates one of the current system’s main shortcomings — its adamant refusal to investigate senior officials and examine, honestly, wide-ranging policy issues pertaining to Israel’s use of military force.”

Meanwhile, the Abu Raida family, like tens of thousands of others whose homes were damaged or destroyed during Israel’s air, land and sea bombardment, continues to piece together what remains of their lives. In that sense, they are among the fortunate in Gaza, where more than 2,100 people, including 501 children, were killed. How that happened — and who will be held responsible — remain pressing questions for Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians.

Related:
Short-term memory loss champions of the world: Gaza? What Gaza?
Leading Israeli human rights group stops cooperating with IDF Gaza probes
PHOTOS: Living in the ruins of a shattered Gaza neighborhood

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Against spy revelations, Israel doth protest too much http://972mag.com/against-spy-revelations-israel-doth-protest-too-much/96781/ http://972mag.com/against-spy-revelations-israel-doth-protest-too-much/96781/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:18:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96781 The nation’s establishment has called the whistle-blowers of Unit 8200 every bad name, but it has no answer to their charge that information deliberately gathered on innocent Palestinians is used to blackmail them into collaborating.

Illustrative photo of digital surveillance. (Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of digital surveillance. (Shutterstock.com)

The 43 refuseniks in Unit 8200, Israel’s legendary high-tech snoops, are this week’s Gideon Levys, this week’s Haneen Zoabis – the focus of patriotic hatred in the land. “Baseless slander” is what Netanyahu called their letter, published Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth, in which they declared they would no longer spy for the occupation.

Aside from being called traitors, the 43 reservists have been called cowards, spoiled brats, cynical political operatives and, as mentioned, baseless slanderers. But neither Netanyahu nor any of the other accusers have answered the whistle-blowers’ most incendiary revelation: that Unit 8200 not only spies on the phones, emails and other devices of militants, but on those of completely innocent Palestinians, hoping to find out their secrets so the Shin Bet can use the information to blackmail them into becoming collaborators.

Interviewing six of the letter’s signatories, Yedioth’s Elior Levy wrote (in Hebrew), “According to them, the Israeli public believes that intelligence is gathered only against those involved in terror. They want to publicize the fact that a substantial portion of the targets they follow are innocent people who are not connected in any way to military activity against Israel, and who interest the intelligence branches for other reasons.”

According to “N.” one of the six dissidents interviewed, “At the base they told us that if we turn up some ‘juicy’ detail, this is something important to document. For instance, economic hardship, sexual orientation, a severe illness that they or someone in their family has, or medical treatments they need.”

“N.” continued:

If you’re a homosexual who knows someone who knows a wanted man – Israel will turn your life into a misery. If you need urgent medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank or overseas – we’re on your tail. The State of Israel will let you die before it lets you go for medical treatment without your first giving information about your cousin, the wanted man. Every time we hook an innocent person who can be blackmailed for information, or to conscript him as a collaborator, that’s like gold for us and for the entire Israeli intelligence community. In a training course we actually learned and memorized the different Arabic words for homosexual.

The army spokesman’s response to these and other specific accusations goes as follows: “The concrete claims made in the report are unknown in the Intelligence Directorate.”

In an interview on TLV1 radio, I asked Noa Levy, a former draft resister who now defends others taking that route, what she thought of the army spokesman’s response. She gave a derisive laugh and said,

That is quite ridiculous, which I can say from my experience as a human rights lawyer. There are many cases of LGBT people from the Palestinian territories who get to Israel and try to get refuge after the Shin Bet blackmailed them, and they get to the point when they are known to Palestinian society as homosexuals or traitors, and [Palestinians] presume they’re informers. This phenomenon was known for a long time, but it was thought to be marginal. What these soldiers allow us to say is that it’s a general thing … a general policy. [Unit 8200]  gathers information on [Palestinian] homosexuals and uses it to turn them against family members or friends.

In Yedioth, Israel’s leading print journalist, Nahum Barnea, fully defended the truthfulness (though not the judgment) of the dissidents:

One would have expected the military to respond to this claim [of spying on innocent Palestinians to blackmail them into collaborating] with a commitment to examine it and correct any failings. Instead we got a wholesale denial – a denial that brought a cynical grin to the face of everyone who is familiar with the reality of the [intelligence-gathering] system. …

The occupation corrupts, say the refuseniks of 8200, and they’re telling the truth. In the best case, the information they pick up prevents terror; in many other cases it serves the malice, arbitrariness and stupidity of the occupation, or it provides a presentable wrapping for some deceitful government policy.

To balance out Noa Levy on the radio program, I asked Eitan Meirsdorf, a reserve Israeli soldier and head of the far-right Im Tirtzu organization at Bar-Ilan University, what he thought of Unit 8200 spying on Palestinian innocents for the purpose of blackmail. Meirsdorf, at least, was candid enough to say what the Israeli establishment is not: that he has no problem with it:

This is not specific to Israel – every single intelligence unit in the world does it. [Unit 8200] is trying to catch terrorists, and at the end of the day, as an Israeli citizen, if there’s a chance that a terrorist is going to blow up my house, my family, then yeah, I would try to do everything I could to stop them. For them to pass up a chance to catch a terrorist and then that terrorist kills Israelis – that doesn’t seem very moral to me.

In other words, in the name of Israeli security, anything and anybody goes.

As for the refuseniks’ charge that medical information on innocent Palestinians is also leveraged by the Shin Bet, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel said, “The testimony PHR gathered from [Palestinian] patients matches the description given by the reservists in Unit 8200. [Palestinian patients] tell of direct and implied blackmail, the latter being in the nature of ‘Help us and we’ll help you.’”

Read PHR’s full report on the practice

Faced with the dissidents’ revelations, official Israel has tried to change the subject, to make the dissidents themselves the subject. The army accuses them of running to the media with their complaints before going to their commanders, which sounds far-fetched, and which some of the reservists have flatly denied, saying they complained first to their commanders, but were rebuffed. The army also claims that only 10 of the 43 signatories, the officers in the group, were part of the “circle of control” in intelligence-gathering on Palestinians. The refuseniks say they were all involved in the work.

The army’s complaints seem beside the point – but that is the point: to distract attention from what these honorable young men and women are saying, because neither the army nor any other part of official Israel has any honorable answer to it.  So they lie, throw mud, threaten and rage – because when it comes to its treatment of Palestinians, Israel can’t handle the truth.

More on the 8200 refusal letter:
Resource: How the Shin Bet holds Gazans’ health ransom
IDF’s ‘start-up nation’ reservists refuse to serve the occupation
Refusal by elite IDF reservists angrily dismissed as ‘political’

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Resource: How the Shin Bet holds Gazans’ health ransom http://972mag.com/resource-how-the-shin-bet-holds-gazans-health-ransom/96794/ http://972mag.com/resource-how-the-shin-bet-holds-gazans-health-ransom/96794/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:10:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96794 A 2008 report by Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, detailing for the first time the methods Israel’s domestic security services use to exploit the medical needs of Gaza Strip residents in order to extort them into becoming collaborators for Israel.

In September 2014, dozens of Israeli army intelligence reservists publicly spoke out about the way that they were trained and ordered to conduct surveillance on innocent Palestinians to find ways of extorting them into becoming informants. Such information included innocent Palestinians’ sexual orientation, which the Shin Bet could threaten to expose, or health problems — their own or of a family member.

The practice of leveraging Gazans’ access to health care in order to get intelligence information out of them has been documented in the past. Six years earlier, in 2008, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) put out a detailed report on the practice, including testimonies from Palestinians whom the Shin Bet demanded information from in exchange for permission to enter Israel to receive needed medical care.

Following the Unit 8200 reservists’ letter, PHR-I responded that soldiers’ testimonies corroborate the testimonies it collected from Gazan patients six years earlier, calling it “direct extortion.” The organization added, “we are encouraged by the fact that these acts also bother those serving in the security forces and we hope that this will bring about a discussion of the matter and an end to this practice.”

+972 is republishing the report here in order to explain in greater detail exactly what the reserve intelligence officers are describing:

More on the 8200 revelations:
Against spy revelations, Israel doth protest too much
IDF’s ‘start-up nation’ reservists refuse to serve the occupation
Refusal by elite IDF reservists angrily dismissed as ‘political’

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that strives to promote a more fair and inclusive society in which the right to health is applied equally for all. It is PHR-Israel’s view that Israel’s prolonged occupation over Palestinian territory is the basis of human rights violations. For this reason it opposes the occupation and endeavor to put an end to it.

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