2017-02-20

James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness

Chris Hedges - Truthdig


Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen

I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out. The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin’s prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans’ steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin’s only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now.

History “is not the past,” the film quotes Baldwin as saying. “History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal.”

The script is taken from Baldwin’s notes, essays, interviews and letters, with some of the words delivered in Baldwin’s voice from audio recordings and televised footage, some of them in readings by actor Samuel L. Jackson. But it is not, finally, the poetry and lyricism of Baldwin that make the film so moving. It is Peck’s understanding of the core of Baldwin’s message to the white race, a message that is vital to grasp as we struggle with an overt racist as president, mass incarceration, poverty gripping half the country and militarized police murdering unarmed black men and women in the streets of our cities.

Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire.

“The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world’s most direct and virile, that American women are pure,” Baldwin wrote. “Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents?or, anyway, mothers?know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.”

America was founded on the genocidal slaughter of indigenous people and the holocaust of slavery. It was also founded on an imagined moral superiority and purity. The fact that dominance of others came, and still comes, from unrestrained acts of violence is washed out of the national narrative. The steadfast failure to face the truth, Baldwin warned, perpetuates a kind of collective psychosis. Unable to face the truth, white Americans stunt and destroy their capacity for self-reflection and self-criticism. They construct a world of dangerous, self-serving fantasy. Those who imbibe the myth of whiteness externalize evil?their own evil?onto their victims. Racism, Baldwin understood, is driven by moral bankruptcy, narcissism, an inner loneliness and latent guilt. Donald Trump and most of those around him exhibit all of these characteristics.

“If Americans were not so terrified of their private selves, they would never have needed to invent and could never have become so dependent on what they still call ‘the Negro problem,’ ” Baldwin wrote. “This problem, which they invented in order to safeguard their purity, has made of them criminals and monsters, and it is destroying them; and this not from anything blacks may or may not be doing but because of the role a guilty and constricted white imagination has assigned to the blacks.”

“People pay for what they do, and, still more for what they allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin went on. “And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.”

Footage in the Peck documentary of past murder cases including the 1955 lynching of the 14-year-old Emmett Till is interspersed with the modern-day lynching of young black men such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Images of white supremacist parades from the 1960s, with young men carrying signs proclaiming “Keep America White,” shift directly to footage of Ferguson, Mo. This juxtaposition is almost too much to bear. If it does not shake you to the core you have no heart and no understanding of who we are in America.

The film begins with Baldwin’s 1957 return from France, where he had been living for almost a decade. He comes back to join the nascent civil rights movement. He was deeply disturbed by a photograph of Dorothy Counts, 15, surrounded by a mob of whites spitting and screaming racial slurs as she walked into a newly desegregated high school in Charlotte, N.C.

“I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem,” he said. “Everybody was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.”

In short, he returned to the United States so that black children like Dorothy Counts would not have to walk alone through a sea of racial hatred.

He spoke and participated in hundreds of events for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, however, largely held him at arm’s length. Baldwin was too independent and outspoken about the truth. His words made King’s Northern white liberal supporters uncomfortable. Baldwin was supposed to speak at the 1963 March on Washington, but King and the other leaders of the march replaced him with the actor Burt Lancaster. Baldwin steadfastly refused to be anyone’s “negro.”

Baldwin was, like Orwell, an astute critic of modern culture and how it justifies the crimes of racism and imperialism. In his book “The Devil Finds Work” he pits Hollywood’s vision of race against the reality. The Peck documentary shows clips from films Baldwin critiqued in the book including “The Birth of a Nation” (a 1915 movie Baldwin called “an elaborate justification of mass murder”), “Dance, Fools, Dance” (1931), “The Monster Walks” (1932), “King Kong” (1933), “Imitation of Life” (1934), “They Won’t Forget” (1937), “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Defiant Ones” (1958), “Lover Come Back” (1961), “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967). In film after film Baldwin pointed to the ingrained racial stereotypes of African-Americans in popular culture that sustain the lie of whiteness.

Blacks were, and often still are, portrayed by mass culture as lazy and childlike, therefore needing white parental supervision and domination, or as menacing and violent sexual predators who needed to be eliminated. These Hollywood stereotypes, Baldwin knew, existed as foils for an imagined white purity, decency and innocence. They buttressed the myth of a nation devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty and democracy. The oppressed, because of their supposed character defects, were the architects of their own oppression. Oppression was for their own good. Racism was a form of benevolence. Baldwin warned that not facing these lies would see America consume itself.

In “The Devil Finds Work” Baldwin also wrote about the film “A Tale of Two Cities” (1935). He had read the novel by Charles Dickens “obsessively” as a boy to understand “the question of what it meant to be a nigger.” This novel and other novels he consumed, such as “Crime and Punishment,” spoke of the oppressed. He knew that the oppression of the characters in these stories had “something to do with my own.” The books “had something to tell me.” He wrote:

I was haunted, for example, by Alexandre Manette’s document, in A Tale of Two Cities, describing the murder of a peasant boy?who, dying, speaks: “I say, we were so robbed, and hunted, and were made so poor, that our father told us it was a dreadful thing to bring a child into this world, and that what we should most pray for was that our women might be barren and our miserable race die out!” (“I had never before,” observes Dr. Manette, “seen the sense of being oppressed, bursting forth like a fire.”)

Dickens has not seen it all. The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their only weapon against life, life is all that they have. This is why the dispossessed and starving will never be convinced (though some may be coerced) by the population-control programs of the civilized. I have watched the dispossessed and starving laboring in the fields which others own with their transistor radios at their ear, all day long: so they learn, for example, along with equally weighty matters, that the Pope, one of the heads of the civilized world, forbids to the civilized that abortion which is being, literally, forced on them, the wretched. The civilized have created the wretched quite coldly, and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the “conscience” of the civilized world. There is a “sanctity” involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it. Dreadful indeed it is to see a starving child, but the answer to that is not to prevent the child’s arrival but to restructure the world so that the child can live in it: so that the “vital interest” of the world becomes nothing less than the life of the child.

Nearly all African-Americans carry within them white blood, usually the result of white rape. White slaveholders routinely sold mixed-race children?their own children?into slavery. Baldwin knew the failure to acknowledge the melding of the black and white races that can be seen in nearly every African-American face, a melding that makes African-Americans literally the brothers and sisters of whites. African-Americans, Baldwin wrote, are the “bastard” children of white America. They constitute a peculiarly and uniquely American race.

“The truth is this country does not know what to do with its black population,” he said. “Americans can’t face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh.”

White supremacy is not defined, he wrote, by intelligence or virtue. The white race continues to dominate other races because it has always controlled the most efficient killing mechanisms on the planet. It used, and uses, its industrial weapons to carry out mass murder, genocide, subjugation and exploitation, whether on slave plantations, on the Trail of Tears, at Wounded Knee, in the Philippines and Vietnam, in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson or in our endless wars across the Middle East.

The true credo of the white race is we have everything, and if you try to take any of it from us we will kill you. This is the essential meaning of whiteness. As the white race turns on itself in an age of diminishing resources it is in the vital interest of the white underclass to understand what its elites and its empire are actually about. These lies, Baldwin warned, will ultimately have fatal consequences for America.

“There are days, this is one of them, when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it,” Baldwin said. “How precisely you’re going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel white majority that you are here. I’m terrified at the moral apathy?the death of the heart?which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human.”

2017-02-18

Joy and fear: a mother’s lot in Gaza

Nesma Seyam - The Electronic Intifada

The doctor studied the test results, raised her head and smiled.
“Pregnant,” she said. “Congratulations, you are pregnant!”
All I could muster in response was: “Why?”
Joy, excitement and fear knotted inside me. My husband and I would soon have a baby, filling our life with love and noise.
But a storm of questions raged in my head. I immediately began to fear that Israel would bomb us again.
How would we run away if that happened? How would we survive?
I was scared and nervous. The memories of all the wars I had lived through came alive and overpowered me.

Terror

Even though I am a media worker, I try to avoid watching the news when Israel is bombing us, to spare myself the sight of shredded bodies, of mothers weeping for their sons.
When Israel bombed Gaza in November 2012, the television showed a mother running right and left in a hospital after she saw the bodies of three of her children, looking for the fourth, asking everyone around her if they knew where the child was.
Is this what it means to be a mother in Gaza?
Two years later, during Israel’s 51-day onslaught in the summer of 2014, most of my family, including my sister and her four children, slept on the floor of the living room on the western side of our apartment.
The eastern side of the home is situated above an apartment which belonged to a man who was wanted by Israel. My bedroom was located on that side of the apartment.
I slept in it throughout the war, even though it was directly above a likely target. I was never afraid, because I believed that I would not hear or feel the missile that would end up killing me.
One night, the shelling and bombings intensified terribly, and my mother insisted that I sleep in the living room with everyone else. She rejected my efforts to convince her that the missile has no intellectual capacity to recognize that it is approaching our living room and change its path.
As we sat in silence, my sister Walaa started to frantically separate her children on opposite sides of our home.
Her entire body shaking with fear, she said, “I’ll put one girl and one boy on my right and the other boy and girl on my left. If they bomb one side of the apartment, then two of them will likely survive. I don’t want all of them to die at once.”
It took me a while to process what she had said. I forced a smile while tears gathered in my eyes. Slowly, I slid under my sheets, pretending to sleep, and cried all night.
My ears were alert throughout the night. Walaa didn’t sleep as her eldest daughter, Shahd, who was 6 years old at the time, kept waking up, frightened, and would run to the corridor. Walaa would bring her back, calm her down and put her back to sleep again.

Alive but not unharmed

We were not bombed in the end. But that does not mean we were unharmed.
Two years have now passed. I’ve since gotten married and gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl with black hair and two deep dimples on her cheeks. She’s 6 months old now.
I am happy I am a mother and I love my daughter beyond words. But I am also afraid. I can’t bear the thought that because I am a Palestinian in Gaza, I may have to guess where in our home my baby is least likely to be killed.
Whenever I hear a loud sound, I run to my child and hug her. Every night I hear thunder, I bend over and cover her to try and protect her.
The havoc the last war wrought on my soul is immense, the sound of the bombing and shelling traumatize me to this day.
I carry my baby daughter with me everywhere, to meetings with officials and notables, not caring what they think of it, not caring when I hear her crying on the audio recordings when I am transcribing my interviews.
The only thing I care about is that she is with me, and whatever our fate, we will receive it together.
Nesma Seyam is an interpreter, journalist and fixer based in Gaza. Twitter: @Nesma_Seyam

2017-01-29

Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Culmination of War on Terror Mentality but Still Uniquely Shameful

Glenn Greenwald - The Intercept

IT IS NOT difficult for any decent human being to immediately apprehend why and how Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries is inhumane, bigoted, and shameful. During the campaign, the evil of the policy was recognized even by Mike Pence (“offensive and unconstitutional”) and Paul Ryan (violative of America’s “fundamental values”), who are far too craven and cowardly to object now.
Trump’s own defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, said when Trump first advocated his Muslim ban back in August that “we have lost faith in reason,” adding: “This kind of thing is causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through this international system.”
The sole ostensible rationale for this ban — it is necessary to keep out Muslim extremists — collapses upon the most minimal scrutiny. The countries that have produced and supported the greatest number of anti-U.S. terrorists — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, UAE — are excluded from the ban list because the tyrannical regimes that run those countries are close U.S. allies. Conversely, the countries that are included — Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen — have produced virtually no such terrorists; as the Cato Institute documented on Friday night: “Foreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and the end of 2015.” Indeed, as of a 2015 study by the New America research center, deaths caused by terrorism from right-wing nationalists since 9/11 have significantly exceeded those from Muslim extremists.
Trump’s pledge last night to a Christian broadcasting network to prioritize Christian refugees over all others is just profane: The very idea of determining who merits refuge on the basis of religious belief is bigotry in its purest sense. Beyond the morality, it is almost also certainly unconstitutional in a country predicated on the “free exercise of religion.” In the New York Times this morning, Cato analyst David Bier also convincingly argues that the policy is illegal on statutory grounds as well.
Making this worse still is the central role the U.S. government played in the horrors from which many of these now-banned people are fleeing. The suggestion that Trump protected the countries with which he does business is preposterous. The reality is that his highly selective list reflects longstanding U.S. policy: Indeed, Obama restricted visa rights for these same seven countries, and the regimes in Riyadh and Cairo have received special U.S. protection for decades, long before Trump.
Beyond U.S. support for the world’s worst regimes, what primarily shapes Trump’s list is U.S. aggression: Five of the seven predominantly Muslim countries on Trump’s list were ones bombed by Obama, while the other two (Iran and Sudan) were punished with heavy sanctions. Thus, Trump is banning immigrants from the very countries that the U.S. government — under both Republicans and Democrats — has played a key role in destabilizing and destroying, as Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, with surprising candor, noted this week:
It is critical to recognize and fight against the unique elements of Trump’s extremism, but also to acknowledge that a substantial portion of it has roots in political and cultural developments that long precede him. Immigration horror stories — including families being torn apart — are nothing new. As ABC News noted last August, “The Obama administration has deported more people than any other president’s administration in history. In fact, they have deported more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century.”
And the reason Trump is able so easily to tap into a groundswell of anti-Muslim fears and bigotry is because they have been cultivated for 16 years as the central fuel driving the war on terror. There are factions on both the center-left and right that are primarily devoted to demonizing Muslims and Islam. A government can get away with bombing, invading, and droning the same group of people for more than 15 years only by constantly demonizing and dehumanizing that group and maintaining high fear levels, which is exactly what the U.S. has done under two successive administrations. Both the Bush and Obama administrations ushered in all-new and quite extreme civil liberties erosions aimed primarily if not exclusively at Muslims.
Trump did not appear out of nowhere. He is the logical and most grotesque expression of a variety of trends we have allowed to fester: endless war, a virtually omnipotent presidency, unlimited war powers from spying to due process-free imprisonment to torture to assassinations, repeated civil liberties erosions in the name of illusory guarantees of security, and the sustained demonization of Muslims as scary, primitive, uniquely violent Others.
A country that engages in endless war against multiple countries not only kills a lot of people but degrades its own citizenry. Trump is the rotted fruit that inevitably sprouts from such fetid roots.
Trump is not a Russian phenomenon, nor an Italian one, nor Latin American: He is distinctly and consummately American, merely the most extreme face yet from America’s endless war on terror and its post-2008 lurch toward oligarchy. Pretending that Trump is some grand aberration, some radical departure from U.S. history and values, is simply a deceitful way of whitewashing what we have collectively endorsed and allowed.
Thus did we witness the spectacle last week of many acting as though Trump’s plans for CIA black sites, torture, and rendition were shocking Trumpian aberrations even though many of those denouncing the plans were the ones who advocated or implemented those policies in the first place or protected those who did from criminal prosecution. Denouncing and opposing Trump should not serve to obscure sins of the recent past or whitewash the seeds planted before him that have allowed him to sprout. Opposing Trump’s assault on basic liberties requires a clear understanding of the framework that gave rise to it.

BUT THIS MUSLIM ban — and that, in effect and by design, is what it is — is nonetheless different in significant degree if not in kind. Despite what came before it, there is no denying that Trump is now taking the U.S. to dark and foreboding places that are a step beyond what even recent presidents, in the name of protection against Muslims, have ushered in. A formal and absolute codification of this anti-Muslim premise is inherently dangerous, as it is likely to further indoctrinate millions of Americans to regard Muslims as uniquely menacing and threatening.
Beyond that, the humanitarian horrors instantly produced by Trump’s immigration ban are impossible to overstate. That countless war refugees fleeing the ravages the U.S. helped create are now banned from refuge, many consigned to their deaths, is self-evident. The parallels with how Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution were treated in the 1930s and 1940s are obvious. This new Twitter account has been describing individual Jews whose ship was refused entry by the Roosevelt administration in 1939 as they were fleeing Nazis, only to end up dying in Auschwitz and other camps.
As my colleague Lee Fang documented in 2015, the prevailing rhetoric about Muslim refugees is identical to that used to demonize Jews during the World War II era. Indeed, the right-wing rag Daily Mail’s 2015 cartoon showing Muslim refugees as rats (top cartoon, below) perfectly tracked a 1939 cartoon in a Viennese newspaper depicting Jews the same way (bottom, below):
The Daily Mail, 2015.
Das Kleine Blatt, 1939.
But as I’ve noted before, it is often the more pedestrian, less dramatic injustices that resonate when it comes to civil liberties abuses. This McClatchy article from yesterday, for instance, tells the story of Murtadha Al-Tameemi, a 24-year-old Iraqi-born software developer at Facebook who had to urgently leave Canada, where he was visiting his family this week, in order to rush back into the U.S. before Trump’s ban took effect, and he is now barred from visiting them due to (rational) fear that he will not be able to return. In that article, Al-Tameemi describes the hideous abuses and indignities he has long faced as a Muslim immigrant in the U.S., but he now faces a full and absolute ban from entering.
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reports this morning that many Muslims and Arabs who have long carried visas to the U.S. are being stranded in airports and barred from entry to their planes. Even more significant, albeit harder to quantify, is the extreme fear that Muslim Americans and immigrants quite rationally harbor about what this will all spawn, both in terms of cultural norms and additional policies. Just as attitudes toward LGBT Americans changed as their personal stories became more known, these kinds of stories of how ordinary Muslims are having their basic rights trampled on with no justification are critical for highlighting how abusive these policies are.

ONE OF THE greatest dangers of these trends is the ongoing ability of groups devoted to protecting Muslim Americans’ civil rights to function freely and effectively. The largest such group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has long been the target of the U.S. government. The Bush administration branded the group an un-indicted “co-conspirator” in a terrorism case, ensuring it would be smeared but remain without the ability to defend itself in a court. As we reported in 2014, the group’s executive director was targeted with invasive, highly personalized electronic surveillance by the NSA.
CAIR now plays a critical role in defending American Muslims and immigrants from these civil liberties assaults. The group already announced that it would file suit challenging the constitutionality and legality of Trump’s ban. Muslims who have nowhere else to turn are often defended by CAIR as their basic rights are assaulted, and that will be even truer now.
But the group has long been in the cross-hairs of the worst anti-Muslim extremists, such as Peter King, along with even worse radicals who now exert significant influence in the Trump administration. Breitbart, whose former chief Steve Bannon is now one of the most powerful individuals in the White House, has long had an intense fixation with the group.
There is a serious risk that CAIR will be targeted, as it has been in the past by less extreme officials. The group is a critical bulwark protecting Muslim Americans and Muslim immigrants from serious civil liberties abuses, and needs and deserves support from anyone able to provide it, which one can do here (as disclosure: I have spoken several times at CAIR events and to various affiliates and intend, in solidarity, to do so even more this year).
It is often the case that extremists on both sides of a protracted conflict end up mirroring one another’s attributes, mentality, and tactics. That is precisely what we are now witnessing as anti-Muslim crusaders in the U.S. adopt the same premises as ISIS and its allies: that the West and Muslims are inherently and irreconcilably adverse. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain described in 2015, the ultimate strategic and propaganda goal of ISIS is to eliminate the “gray zone” for Western Muslims, “generating hostility between domestic Muslim populations and the broader societies that they live in” so as to convince both sides that they should be at war rather than striving for harmony and assimilation.
It is difficult to envision anything that helps ISIS’s overarching objective, its central narrative, more than Trump’s immigration ban aimed at Muslims while privileging Christian refugees. But it’s not impossible to imagine policies that could be worse in this regard. The danger now is that this immigration ban is merely the first step on this heinous path, not the last. That’s why it’s urgent that everything be done to denounce it, battle it, and defeat it now.

2017-01-27

Braving Israeli bullets in Gaza’s sea


Nesma Seyam - The Electronic Intifada
Gaza’s fishermen have already endured regular Israeli attacks during the first few weeks of 2017.
On 4 January, Muhammad al-Hissi went missing after the Israeli navy sunk the vessel on which he worked. Although his body has not been recovered, members of his family have resigned themselves to the probability that al-Hissi was killed.
A memorial service was organized for al-Hissi a few days after he went missing, while his family issued a statement describing him as a “martyr for God’s reward.” Aged 33, he was the father of three children.
“He is an excellent swimmer – like all fishermen,” said Muhammad’s brother Wael. “He would have made it to the shore if he was alive.”
The incident occurred off Sudaniya Beach in northern Gaza. An Israeli navy gunboat rammed directly into the fishing vessel, which belongs to Rashad al-Hissi, Muhammad’s cousin, causing it to capsize. No warning was issued before the attack.
An Israeli army spokesperson told the Ma’an News Agency that “naval forces were escorting a Palestinian fishing boat which had deviated from the Israeli-designated fishing zone to a port … when ‘the Israeli vessel collided with another Palestinian vessel which was not visible.’”

Safe area?

Jamal al-Hissi, also a cousin of Muhammad, was in another vessel a few hundred meters away at the time. He said that the vessel carrying Muhammad was shot at by live ammunition and flooded by water cannons.
“We were fishing around five nautical miles offshore, which is supposed to be a safe area,” Jamal said. “In the blink of an eye, the vessel vanished and Muhammad disappeared.”
Nizar Ayyash, head of the Gaza fishing union, accused the Israeli authorities of deception.
“The Israeli gunboat drowned the vessel,” he said. “Then the Israelis lit flares, claiming to look for the missing fisherman.”
A number of other attacks against fishermen have taken place since then.
On 12 January, Israeli naval ships opened fire at fishermen working off Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Four days later, Israel shot at fishermen in the northern Gaza area. Five fishermen were taken into detention.
Anas Siyam and his father, Imad, were among those arrested. They were held until the following day.
“We were operating within the permitted fishing area,” Anas said. “Yet they still arrested us and confiscated our net, power generator and the boat itself.”
On 17 January, a fisherman was injured after the Israeli navy fired rubber-coated steel bullets at him. That incident, too, occurred in the northern Gaza area.
Another fisherman was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet six days later. The fisherman in question, Auranus al-Sultan, was one of those who had been detained by Israel the previous week.
Under the 1993 Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel is supposed to allow fishermen to work freely within 20 nautical miles of the Gaza coastline.
Israel has, however, used the tightened siege it imposed on Gaza in 2007 as a pretext to launch frequent – sometimes daily – attacks on the 4,000 fishermen living and working in the strip. Over the past decade, Israel has only allowed fishing within three to six nautical miles and has repeatedly changed the official limits.
On many occasions, Israel has attacked fishermen working inside the limits it has set.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights recorded a total of 126 incidents in which fishing vessels were fired upon by Israel during 2016. More than 130 people were detained by Israeli forces while they were on fishing vessels last year, five of whom were children. Twelve of Gaza’s fishermen were injured as a result of Israeli attacks.

Drop in earnings

Fayez al-Amoudi, a resident of Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, began his fishing career in the 1990s.
“I still remember the sudden drop in our earnings after the limit was shrunk to six nautical miles,” he said. “Besides the physical harassment, we are continuously subjected to verbal and psychological harassment. The Israeli navy has flooded us with sewage water while we are on board our vessels.”
Marwan al-Saidi has been working as a fisherman for more than four decades.
“The last 10 years have been the worst,” he said. “I have no idea why the Israeli authorities designate fishing limits if they are intent on harassing fishermen working within the limits. They know that fishing is the only source of living for us. Our belongings are constantly confiscated and we are expected to stay silent about this treatment and take it.”
Nesma Seyam is an interpreter, journalist and fixer based in Gaza. Twitter: @Nesma_Seyam

2017-01-26

These are the Palestinian children killed by Israel in 2016


Maureen Clare Murphy - THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA
For Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, 2016 was the deadliest year in the past decade.
Thirty-five Palestinian children were killed by Israeli soldiers, police and armed civilians during the year, all but four of the deadly incidents taking place in the West Bank. Children account for a third of the 105 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during 2016.
Most, but certainly not all, of those children were killed during the course of what Israel alleges were attacks or attempted attacks, mainly on soldiers at checkpoints in the West Bank.
Two Israeli civilians were killed in such incidents, one a 13-year-old girl stabbed to death in her bedroom in a West Bank settlement, the sole Israeli child killed by a Palestinian during the year.
But in the vast majority of alleged attacks that left a Palestinian child dead, no Israeli civilians or soldiers were injured. In a handful of cases, Israeli soldiers were reported to have suffered only light injuries.
In several incidents, there may not have been any attempted attack when a Palestinian child was shot and killed. Amnesty International has called for one such slaying to be investigated as an extrajudicial execution.
Other children were killed on their way to class, or coming home from a pool party. Several were shot dead while protesting the occupation. A brother and sister were killed in their Gaza home when their neighborhood was hit in an Israeli airstrike.
As Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) points out, “Accountability for shootings [of Palestinian children] by Israeli forces is extremely rare. Only one incident since 2014 has resulted in an indictment.”
The group’s accountability program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish stated: “Intentional lethal force now appears to be routinely used by Israeli forces, even in unjustified situations, with no accountability, putting more and more children at risk.”
DCIP has summarized other ways Israel violated Palestinian children’s rights during the year.
These are the Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in 2016:

Ahmad Younis Ahmad al-Kawazba, 17

Ahmad, from the village of Sair in the southern occupied West Bank, was shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly stabbing and lightly wounding a soldier in the area of the Gush Etzion intersection near the city of Hebron on 5 January.
Hebron’s district attorney said the “autopsy suggested the 17-year-old had been left to bleed to death and had received no medical treatment,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.
Ahmad was buried next to his friend and schoolmate Mahmoud al-Shalalda, who was shot and killed by Israeli forces in November 2015.

Alaa al-Din Abd Muhammad al-Kawazba, 17

Israeli forces shot and killed Alaa al-Din along with two of his adult cousins near the Gush Etzion bloc of Israeli settlements north of Hebron on 7 January. The army claimed the three were “armed with knives” and attempted to attack soldiers. No soldiers were reported injured during the attack. Alaa al-Din was from the Hebron-area village of Sair.

Khalil Muhammad Issa Wadi, 15

Khalil was shot dead by Israeli forces after he allegedly attempted to stab a soldier at the Beit Einoun junction near Hebron on 7 January. No Israelis were reported injured during the incident. The boy’s adult brother, Mahmoud, was shot and killed by Israeli forces in the same location in November 2015.
Like Ahmad al-Kawazba and Alaa al-Din Kawazba, Khalil was from the Hebron-area village of Sair. He was at least the 10th resident of the village to be slain by Israeli forces since October 2015, including the November 2015 execution in a Hebron hospital room of Abdallah Azzam al-Shalalda and the killing of a disabled father of a young baby in December 2015.

Adnan Ayid Hamid al-Mashni, 17

Youth wearing jacket stands in front of palm fronds
Adnan Ayid Hamid al-Mashni
An investigation by the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz found that Adnan, from the village of Shuyukh, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers at the Beit Einoun junction near the West Bank city of Hebron while on his way to physics class on 12 January.
Adnan had traveled to the junction in a taxi van and crossed the road and entered into a second van when another young man in the vehicle jumped out and yelled “God is great” while brandishing a knife or hatchet, according to Haaretz.
The armed young man, Muhammad Kawazba from the village of Sair, was immediately shot and killed. The driver of the van from which Kawazba emerged “tried to drive away as fast as he could, for fear that he too would be shot,” Haaretz added. “The soldiers, seeing the vehicle pulling out, opened fire at it, though they had no idea who was inside it.”
The driver managed to escape on foot while Adnan, still inside the van, was struck in the upper right side of his body and died soon after in hospital.

Ruqayya Abu Eid, 13

Ruqayya was shot dead by a private security guard after she allegedly attempted to stab him in the Anatot settlement near Jerusalem on 23 January.
A Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, condemned the girl’s slaying. “Even if she had a knife, it would have been possible to arrest a girl that age instead of killing her,” Esawi Frej of the Meretz party said.
Haaretz reported that Ruqayya died of a single bullet wound to the heart.
“I have no explanation for her decision,” the girl’s father told the paper. “There were two guards there, and they could have overcome her. A little girl. They are trained and armed, you know, so how is it they could not arrest a little girl of 13? Was a girl of 13 a threat to them? Whatever she planned to do, they could still have arrested her.”
Ruqayya was laid to rest in the village of al-Karmel east of the West Bank town of Yatta, near Hebron.

Hussein Abu Ghosh, 17

Hussein was shot dead by an Israeli security guard at a supermarket in Beit Horon settlement near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on 25 January.
The youth was killed along with Ibrahim Usama Allan, 23, after stabbing two Israeli women; one of the women, 24-year-old Shlomit Krigman, died from her injuries the following day. Israeli media reported that Allan and Hussein were shot as they ran, suggesting the two may have been extrajudicially executed.
Israeli forces destroyed Hussein’s family home in Qalandiya refugee camp near Ramallah in April.
Punitive home demolitions, along with other acts of collective punishment, are considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Ahmad Hassan Abd al-Latif Tubah, 17

Ahmad, from the village of Kufr Jammal, was killed by Israeli forces after allegedly attempting to stab a soldier near a settlement in the Tulkarm, West Bank, area on 1 February. No soldiers were reported to have been injured.
“According to media reports, he crossed the [Israel’s wall in the West Bank] without an entry permit and was discovered by soldiers who tried to apprehend him. He then pulled a knife on them and was shot,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported.

Haitham Saada, 14

Haitham died after he was hit by two bullets fired by soldiers near the entrance to Halhoul village, near Hebron, on 5 February. The army said that the boy was preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers when he was killed.
“Other than Haitham’s younger cousin, Wajdi, who was also in his class and was with him when he died, and the soldiers, of course, there are no eyewitnesses who can relate what happened and why Haitham was shot and killed,” the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretzreported at the time. “Wajdi was arrested on the spot and is still incarcerated in Ofer Camp, near Ramallah. He has not been allowed visitors.”

Omar Yousif Ismail Madi, 15

Omar was slain by a bullet when Israeli soldiers fired on youths who were throwing stones at them in Arroub refugee camp near Hebron on 9 February. The city’s district attorney told the Ma’an News Agency that the boy “died after being hit by a single bullet that entered his body from the right side of his chest.” The bullet “penetrated the teen’s liver, kidneys, and spleen before exiting his body from the lower left side of his rib cage.”

Nihad Raed Muhammad Waked, 15, and Fuad Marwan Kamal Waked, 15

Nihad and Fuad were shot and killed by Israeli forces after they allegedly opened fire at soldiers on 14 February. No Israelis were injured during the incident near the village of al-Araqa, west of the northern West Bank town of Jenin. Palestinian emergency medics were reportedly prevented from providing treatment at the scene.
“Soldiers reported that one of the Palestinians was armed with a makeshift weapon and another was carrying a knife,” Haaretz reported. The boys’ families “vehemently denied the army’s claim they had fired at the soldiers and said the two were roaming farming lands owned by the family that are adjacent to [Israel’s] West Bank barrier,” the paper added.
“I know the families and the two youths, these are not families that deal with arms or have access to arms,” a teacher in al-Araqa who knew the teens told Haaretz. “These are just kids and to attribute an attempted shooting to them sounds highly unlikely or believable.”

Naim Ahmad Yousif Safi, 16

Naim was shot and killed after he allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint north of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on 14 February. Israeli police told media the teen approached soldiers while carrying a knife. No Israelis were reported injured during the incident. Naim was from the nearby village of al-Ubediya.

Qusay Abu al-Rub, 16

Qusay Abu al-Rub (via Ma’an News Agency)
Soldiers fired on Qusay after he allegedly attempted to stab one of them at the Beita checkpoint near Nablus in the northern West Bank on 21 February. No Israelis were injured during the incident. Palestinian medics were reportedly prevented from accessing the wounded boy. Qusay, from Qabatiya village in the northern West Bank, was the 10th youth from the town to be slain since October 2015.

Mahmoud Shaalan, 16

Mahmoud, a Palestinian American resident of the Ramallah-area village of Deir Dibwan, was shot dead by Israeli forces near a checkpoint in the central West Bank on 26 February. Israel claimed that the boy had tried to stab soldiers when he was killed.
Amnesty International has stated that his death – as well as that of more than a dozen other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past year – should be investigated as a possible extrajudicial execution.
An eyewitness testified to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem that Mahmoud had attempted to cross a checkpoint and was turned away by soldiers.
“As he was walking away from the soldiers, one soldier shot Mahmoud Muhammad Ali Shaalan from some distance away with around three bullets. He immediately fell to the ground, and the soldier then approached and shot him twice more, according to the witness,” Amnesty states.
An autopsy found that no bullets had been fired from close range, throwing into question Israel’s claim that Mahmoud was attempting to stab soldiers when he was killed.
Witnesses told Haaretz that soldiers prevented a Palestinian ambulance from evacuating the boy, and that his naked body lay on the road for more than two hours.
Fifteen rights and faith groups in the US have called on the Obama administration to investigate the killing. A top US diplomat told concerned groups that the US embassy in Tel Aviv asked Israel to investigate Mahmoud’s death.

Labib Khaldoun Anwar Abd al-Azzam, 17 and Muhammad Hashim Ali Zaghlawan, 17

Labib and Muhammad, both from Qaryut village near the West Bank city of Nablus, were shot dead by Israeli forces on 2 March after allegedly attacking and lightly injuring a settler as he was leaving his home in the Eli colony. The settler was wearing his army uniform, and was en route to the military reserve unit he serves in, Israeli media reported.

Abd al-Rahman Radad, 17

Abd al-Rahman, from al-Zawiya village near the West Bank town of Salfit, was shot and killed by police after he allegedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli man near Petah Tikva, a city in Israel, on 18 March. Graphic video shows Abd al-Rahman lying on the floor of a liquor store, gravely injured and apparently struggling to breathe, as Israelis curse him and call for him to die.

Ahmad Yousif Ismail Amer, 16

Ahmad was shot dead by Israeli forces at a military checkpoint outside of al-Zawiya village near the West Bank town of Salfit on 9 March. The village was blockaded by the military after one of its residents, Abd al-Rahman Radad, allegedly stabbed an Israeli before being shot dead by police.
An army spokesperson told media that an “assailant armed with a knife” approached the checkpoint and soldiers “thwarted” the attack by shooting him dead. No Israelis were injured during the incident.
Another Palestinian was shot during the incident, and a local official said that both wounded Palestinians were left bleeding while Palestinian emergency medics were prevented from reaching them.
Ahmad, from the nearby village of Masha, reportedly left a note bidding farewell to his parents, asking them for their forgiveness.

Yasin Abu Khusa, 9, and Isra Abu Khusa, 6

Yasin and Isra, brother and sister, were killed during an Israeli air strike on their neighborhood in northern Gaza on 12 March.
The Abu Khusa family home, located on the outskirts of Beit Hanoun, had been previously attacked twice by Israel in recent years. They had asked the authorities in Gaza that they be relocated somewhere safer, but their request went unanswered, the family told The Electronic Intifada. They said they did not receive any financial aid to repair damage caused during previous attacks.

Yusif Walid Mustafa al-Tarayra, 17

Yusif, from the village of Bani Naim, was shot dead by soldiers after he hit a military officer with his car in Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron on 14 March. The officer was lightly injured, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Abdallah al-Ajluni, 16

Abdallah, from the West Bank city of Hebron, was shot dead by Israeli Border Police after he stabbed and lightly injured a soldier at at checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron’s Old City on 19 March.

Ibrahim Salih Hassan Taha, 16

Ibrahim was killed along with his pregnant adult sister, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, at the Qalandiya military checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem on 27 April.
Israeli police claimed the siblings were carrying knives and attempted to attack soldiers. No Israelis were injured during the incident.
Israel’s justice ministry declined to open an investigation after an initial probe found that the brother and sister were shot by civilian security guards and not by police.

Mahmoud Badran, 15

Mahmoud, from the central West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, was killed when Israeli forces opened fire on a car of young Palestinians returning from a late-night pool party celebrating Ramadan on 21 June. Five others were injured during the incident, including the driver of the car, who lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wall.
The army admitted the Palestinians were “mistakenly hit” while soldiers were responding to reports of rock-throwing and firebombing on a highway used by settlers in the West Bank.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that soldiers prevented paramedics from providing first aid to the injured Palestinians for more than 90 minutes.
Four boys pose for camera while in a swimming pool
Mahmoud Badran, at right, during the pool party he attended shortly before he was killed. (B’Tselem)
One of the survivors told B’Tselem that the shooting came from a civilian car.
“Everything was normal and there was nothing suspicious,” Hadi Badran testified. “Suddenly we were under fire. I looked at the direction the fire was coming from and saw a white civilian car. There were two people there, in civilian clothing, and they were the ones shooting at us.”
“Media reports indicate that the soldiers and officer who opened fire belonged to the Duchifat regiment of the Kfir brigade, and that they were passing by, on their way to take care of logistical matters,” B’Tselem stated, adding that “the soldiers arbitrarily fired at the car, having no indication that any of its passengers had been involved in stone or Molotov cocktail throwing.”
According to the rights group, “This shooting incident is a direct result of military policy which enables, despite the official prohibition in the [Israeli military’s] open-fire regulations, to use deadly fire even in cases where there is no threat to life and even when the soldiers have other, non-lethal, means at their disposal. This policy is backed by the most senior ranking military and government officials who do nothing do change it, despite the lethal results.”

Muhammad Nasir Mahmoud Khalil al-Tarayra, 16

Muhammad was shot dead after after stabbing a 13-year-old girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in her home in the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron on 30 June.
The New York Times reported that Muhammad then locked himself in the girl’s house for some time while armed residents of the settlement, including the girl’s father, tried to track down who had breached the settlement’s fence.
When they forced their way into her home, Muhammad, from the nearby village of Bani Naim, stabbed one of the armed settlers before being shot dead.
Ariel was rushed to a hospital, where she died a short time later. The US State Department confirmed the girl held American citizenship. Ariel was the only Israeli child killed by Palestinians during 2016.
Israeli forces demolished the home belonging to Muhammad’s family in August.

Muhyee al-Din Muhammad Sudqi Sadiq Tibakhi, 10

Muhyee Sidqi al-Tibakhi
Muhyee died after he was shot in the chest and head during confrontations that broke out when Israeli forces raided al-Ram town near Jerusalem on 19 July.
Defense for Children International - Palestine stated that the “boy died from a sponge-tipped bullet to the chest fired by Israeli forces.”
Muhyee is the second Palestinian child to be killed by a sponge-tipped bullet, according to the group. Muhammad Sinokrot, 16, died of his injuries in 2014 after an Israeli Border Police combatant shot the right side of his head, causing a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage. An Israeli investigation of Muhammad’s case was closed without charging the Border Police officer responsible, Defense for Children said.

Abd al-Rahman Ahmad al-Dabbagh, 15

Abd al-Rahman Ahmad al-Dabbagh (DCIP)
Abd al-Rahman was killed instantly after he was directly hit by a flare bomb fired by an Israeli soldier during a protest near the boundary between Gaza and Israel on 9 September.
After the teen was hit, “Abd al-Rahman was then seen lying on the ground, with his head on fire,” a report on the incident by the human rights group Al-Haq stated.
“His shocked friends ran to help him, but the Israeli soldiers pointed their weapons at them, and stated, ‘whoever will dare and try to approach will suffer the same fate as him,’” Al-Haq added.
Defense for Children International - Palestine published a video still showing Abd al-Rahman lying on the ground, flames and smoke coming from his head.
“An X-ray image shared with DCIP … appears to show the flare punctured and lodged in Abd al-Rahman’s skull above his left eyebrow,” the group stated. The projectile that killed Abd al-Rahman is produced by Chemring Ordnance and AMTEC Corporation, both based in the US, DCIP added.

Firas al-Khadour, 17

A witness to the slaying of Firas denied Israel’s claim that the teen was attempting to attack soldiers with his car when he was killed on 16 September.
The witness, who was riding in the car with Firas when he was killed, said that the vehicle had faulty brakes which failed when it approached the Kiryat Arba settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron, causing it to crash into a bus stop.
After the car was stopped, soldiers opened fire on it from multiple directions, killing Firas and critically wounding the witness.
“Firas began slowing down, but the brakes were not responding at all. The car’s speed was increasing, and he tried to use the handbrakes to stop but that did not work out either,” Raghad, the witness, told Defense for Children International - Palestine. “I was very scared, and the scary part was that we were approaching the entrance of the settlement.”
Both Firas and the witness are from Bani Naim village.

Muhammad Thalji Kayid Thalji al-Rajabi, 15

Muhammad was shot dead after allegedly stabbing and lightly injuring an Israeli soldier near the Tel Rumeida area of the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank on 16 September. Israeli forces reportedly prevented an ambulance from reaching al-Rajabi after he was shot.

Amir Jamal al-Rajabi, 16

Amir was shot and fatally wounded along with Muhannad Jamal al-Rajabi, 21, while brandishing a knife at the Ibrahimi mosque checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on 19 September. The Palestine Red Crescent Society told the Ma’an News Agency that one of their ambulances was “denied access” to the scene. An Israeli soldier was reportedly lightly injured in the hand during the incident.

Issa Salem Mahmoud al-Tarayra, 15

Issa as slain by soldiers who claimed that the boy was carrying a knife and intended to stab them at a checkpoint near the West Bank town of Bani Naim on 20 September. No Israelis were injured during the incident.

Faris Ziyad Ata al-Bayid, 15

Close-up of adolescent boy's smiling face
Faris al-Bayed (DCIP)
Faris died on 23 December after he was in a coma for 69 days as a result of being shot during confrontations with Israeli forces at the entrance of Jalazone refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Doctors told Defense for Children International - Palestine that a rubber-coated metal bullet pierced the front of Faris’ head and lodged in his brain, “causing severe damage and bleeding.”
Faris had attended a march commemorating the killing of Ahmad Sharaka, 14, also from Jalazone camp, shot by soldiers one year prior.
A military inquiry found that the soldiers were justified in opening fire at Faris. The Israeli rights group B’Tselem stated, however, that the shooting was “unlawful,” and that the boy did not pose a lethal danger to soldiers when he was shot.

Khalid Bahr Ahmad Bahr, 15

Aerial view shows smiling adolescent boy lying next to baby sister
Khalid Bahr Ahmad Bahr (DCIP)
Khalid was shot in the back from a distance of approximately 20 meters while running away from soldiers, who accused the teen of throwing stones at them, at the entrance to a grove near Beit Ommar, a village in the southern occupied West Bank, on 20 October.
A military inquiry into the incident determined that “the soldiers’ lives were not in danger, and that they could have acted differently in this case,” according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz. An Israeli army spokesperson said that the incident is being investigated by the Military Police Investigation Unit, and will then be referred to the Military Advocate General.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem stated that Israeli forces “acted without any justification and did not face lethal danger” when they shot the boy.
Israel withheld Khalid’s body for several weeks, preventing his family from burying him.

Muhammad Nabil Jawdat Salam, 14

Young man wears T-shirt and baseball cap
Ahmad Zeidani (DCIP)
Muhammad was shot dead by a private security guard near the Shuafat checkpoint in the Jerusalem area on 25 November. Israeli police claimed that the youth had attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. No Israelis were injured during the incident.

Ahmad Zeidani, 17

Israeli forces shot Ahmad when he was running away from them on 18 December, security camera footage released by B’Tselem shows.
Ahmad was among a group of youths attempting to repel the forces from entering Beit Rima, a village near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
B’Tselem stated that the youths were “some 10 to 20 meters away from the soldiers and officers, and they were running away from them” when they were fired on. “There was no justification for shooting them and this action was unlawful.”
Names and ages reported here may vary from earlier reporting by The Electronic Intifada. All names, ages and dates of deadly incidents presented here have been verified with Defense for Children International - Palestine, which obtains the child’s government-issued ID card or birth certificate, or both in some cases, typically from the child’s immediate family, to verify name and age.