Since Friday 13th March 2009, 16 fishermen from the Gaza Strip have been abducted by the Israeli Navy.
12 were abducted while fishing off the coast of Beit Lahia;
Zaki Mostafa Tarowsh, 44; Ismaeen Zaki Tarowsh, 16; Thaher Mahmoud Zayad, 45; and Nedal Thaher Zayad, 23 were abducted on Friday 13/02/2009.
Kamel Deeb Alankah, 57; and Yoness Deeb Zayal, 36 were abducted on Wednesady 18/03/2009.
Ramzy Mostafah Alsultan,36; Anes Mohammed Alsultan, 20; Ashraf Hossan Alsultan, 34; Mohammed Hossan Alsultan, 23; Mahmoud Mohammed Zayad, 23; and Fahme Salah Abu Reash, 18 were all abducted on Thursday 19/03/2009.
4 were abducted on Wednesday 25th March while fishing near Rafah;
Mohammed Abulah An Najjar, 26; Khalil abdullah an najjar, 20 ;Yousif Abdullah An Najjar, 18 ; and Ali Hasan an Najjar,18.
The fishermen were forced at gunpoint to strip naked and swim from their boats to the Israeli warships. After being taken to Ashdod they were all released within 24 hours. The Israeli Navy have however impounded all of their boats - 7 in total.
International law, and various agreements to which Israel is a signatory indeed recognise that the Fishermen from Gaza have a right to fish at least 12 miles from shore at a bare minimum. In practice however a “law of the gun” has been enforced by the Israeli Navy, and this right has been denied to them.
According to numerous reports from the international media the Israeli Navy were enforcing a no fishing zone 6 miles from shore prior to the wholesale attacks on the population of the Gaza Strip. It has been commonly reported that in the wake of these attacks, this limit has been reduced to 3 miles.
The fishermen abducted from Beit Lahia however say that this is not the whole story, and that for them, the limit has been reduced to a mere 200m. Were this not bad enough, all of them were actually within this limit when they were abducted. Several of them say that whilst in captivity, when they told Israeli investigators where they had been abducted from, the investigators expressed surprise and told them “… but that is not a forbidden area.”
It is unclear what the Israeli military regard as the official “forbidden” area. There are no official channels of communication open between the Israeli Navy and the fishermen from Gaza. All the information regarding this that the fishermen have is delivered at gunpoint, and is inconsistent with the actions of the gunboat crews. Experience informs the fishermen that at any moment any portion of Gaza’s territorial waters can be deemed “prohibited” by the gunboat crews, no matter how close to shore, and irrespective of what the gunboat commanders have previously decreed (the status of these decrees as both arbitrary and illegal in the context of international law should also be noted).
This uncertainty is further compounded by what the fishermen say are unusually high levels of aggression by the gunboats. On the 17th March 2009 a gunboat crew shot Deeb Alankah, in the arm and the back. He was less than 200m from shore near Beit Lahia, and says that no warning was given to him nor demand made before he was shot. Other fishermen confirm that typically when the Israeli gun boats begin shooting at them, they now do so without warning.
Deeb’s father Kamel Deeb Alankah was one of the fishermen abducted on the day after his son was shot. He says of his interrogation;
“A colonel in the intelligence said “We shot Deeb by mistake.”
I told him “why you shot at us, on the sands and the small boats, you killed us.”
He said all of this by mistakes, I said “no its not by mistake, when the shots hit a boat 3 meters long? Is that by mistake?””
Israel is refusing to return the 7 fishing boats - the sole means of income for fishermen already greatly impoverished by the siege on the Gaza Strip.
One notable example is the extensive earthworks being carried out in preparation for the construction of a road connect the settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah, with the Hayovel outpost Yuval, just south of the Arab city.
The earthworks are being carried out on private land owned by residents of the Palestinian village of Qaryut. The mayor, Abd al-Latif Lavum, plans to submit a petition today to the High Court of Justice demanding the issuing of a stop order to the Civil Administration to halt the work.
Dror Etkes, Lands Project Coordinator for the nonprofit organization Yesh Din, which is facilitating the High Court petition, said that the organization's records show the Eli-Hayovel road to be the largest such roadwork project related to the illegal outposts since since the publication of the Sasson Report on activity in the outposts in 2005.
Etkes, who has been monitoring Jewish construction in the West Bank for years, said that the construction began in Eli about two weeks ago. A dirt road was built between the two communities in 2003, but further development of the road was halted.
Etkes said that dozens of trucks brought gravel and earth over the past two weeks for the foundation of the 1,400-meter-long road. The cost of the project is estimated at a few million shekels. More than 90 percent of the road's course passes through privately owned Palestinian lands.
"While public attention was focused on the fighting in Gaza and the election campaign, we have been seeing a renewed effort on the part of settlers in outposts to increase construction," Etkes said.
He said this renewed effort put an end to a period of relative inactivity that he ascribed to criticism from the United States of construction in the territories combined with tighter enforcement by Israeli authorities.
In addition to the Eli-Hayovel road, Yesh Din has documented recent work at the Havat Gilad outpost, west of Nablus, where settlers built a road to the Nablus bypass road.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the defense establishment are committed to enforcing law and order in the West Bank and have prevented the creation of new outposts as well as removing people from existing ones.
"Minister Barak has instructed law enforcement authorities to act with determination against violations during the transition period as well," the statement said.
The Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements said the High Court petition was "a legal provocation."
South Hebron Hills, West Bank
[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of
Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli
settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are
illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]
In three recent incidents Palestinian shepherds asserted their right to
graze their sheep on their own land, despite Israeli settlers’ attempts to
intimidate the Palestinians and disrupt their agricultural work.
Palestinians in the South Hebron hills have responded to recent violence
and incursions on their lands with a law suit and a nonviolent grazing
The morning of March 22, as shepherds from the village of At-Tuwani grazed
their sheep in nearby Humra valley, a settler brought his flock to the
area from the Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma’on. The settler
called the police and army, claiming that one of the Palestinians had
thrown a stone at him. When the police arrived, they detained the accused
Palestinian and took him to Kiryat Arba police station. Internationals
who had been present and videotaped the scene showed the police video and
pictures demonstrating that the shepherd had not thrown stones, and the
man was released. The following day the Palestinian shepherd returned to
the police station with papers proving his ownership of the valley. He
has filed a suit against the settler for trespassing.
On March 25, while Palestinian shepherds grazed their sheep on land
belonging to the village of Juwayye, twenty Israelis approached from the
settlement of Ma’on and shot at the shepherds. Despite the presence of
Israeli soldiers and the Ma’on settlement security guard at the time of
the shooting, no Israelis were arrested. Palestinian shepherds continued
to graze their sheep for two hours after the shooting, but were then
forced from the land by soldiers claiming they were too close to road 317.
On March 28 shepherds from Tuwani and other villages in the South Hebron
Hills responded to recent harassment by gathering peacefully with their
families to graze sheep in Khoruba valley near Tuwani. After they had
been in the valley for about an hour four settlers, two with their faces
covered, walked out from Havat Ma’on outpost into the flocks and among the
shepherds and their children. In response, Palestinian shepherds sat down
and refused to remove their sheep from the area. Israeli soldiers,
police, and border police arrived but did nothing to prevent the settlers
from disrupting the grazing sheep.
Palestinians in Tuwani and the surrounding villages face continued threats
of violence and intimidation from setters. With the start of the grazing
season, villagers say they expect the actions of the settlers will become
increasingly disruptive, but that the villages remain committed to
nonviolence as they confront the incursions.
After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.
On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.
The families’ unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.
Interest in the plight of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents peaked in November when one couple, Fawziya and Mohammed Khurd, were evicted from their home by an Israeli judge. Mr Khurd, who was chronically ill, died three days later.
Meanwhile, Mrs Khurd, 63, has staged a protest by living in a tent on waste ground close to her former home. Israeli police have torn down the tent six times and she is facing a series of fines from the Jerusalem municipality.
The problems facing Mrs Khurd and the other residents derive from legal claims by the Sephardi Jewry Association that it purchased Sheikh Jarrah’s land in the 19th century. Settler groups hope to evict all the residents, demolish their homes and build 200 apartments in their place.
The location is considered strategic by settler organisations because it is close to the Old City and its Palestinian holy places.
Unusually, foreign diplomats, including from the United States, have protested, saying eviction of the Palestinian families would undermine the basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The help of the Turkish government has been crucial, however, because Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire when the land transactions supposedly took place.
Israel and Turkey have been close military and political allies for decades and traditionally Ankara has avoided straining ties by becoming involved in land disputes in the occupied territories. But there appears to have been an about-turn in Turkish government policy since a diplomatic falling-out between the two countries over Israel’s recent Gaza operation.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, accused his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, of “lying” and “back-stabbing”, reportedly furious that Israel launched its military operation without warning him. At the time of the attack, Turkey was mediating peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.
Days after the fighting ended in Gaza, Mr Erdogan stormed out of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, having accused Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, of “knowing very well how to kill”.
According to lawyers acting for the Sheikh Jarrah families, the crisis in relations has translated into a greater openness from Ankara in helping them in their legal battle.
“We have noticed a dramatic change in the atmosphere now when we approach Turkish officials,” said Hatem Abu Ahmad, one of Mrs Khurd’s lawyers. “Before they did not dare upset Israel and put us off with excuses about why they could not help.”
He said the families’ lawyers were finally invited to the archives in Ankara in January, after they submitted requests over several months to the Turkish consulate in Jerusalem and the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Officials in Turkey traced the documents the lawyers requested and provided affidavits that the settlers’ land claims were forged. The search of the Ottoman archives, Mr Abu Ahmad said, had failed to locate any title deeds belonging to a Jewish group for the land in Sheikh Jarrah.
“Turkish officials have also told us that in future they will assist us whenever we need help and that they are ready to trace similar documents relating to other cases,” Mr Abu Ahmad said. “They even asked us if there were other documents we were looking for.”
That could prove significant as the Jerusalem municipality threatens a new campaign of house demolitions against Palestinians. Last week, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the recent issuing of dozens of demolition orders in Jerusalem “ethnic cleansing”.
Palestinian legal groups regularly argue that settlers forge documents in a bid to grab land from private Palestinian owners but have great difficulty proving their case.
Late last year the Associated Press news agency exposed a scam by settlers regarding land on which they have built the Migron outpost, near Ramallah, home to more than 40 Jewish families. The settlers’ documents were supposedly signed by the Palestinian owner, Abdel Latif Sumarin, in California in 2004, even though he died in 1961.
The families in Sheikh Jarrah ended up living in their current homes after they were forced to flee from territory that became Israel during the 1948 war. Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem until Israel’s occupation in 1967, and the United Nations gave the refugees plots on which to build homes.
Mrs Khurd said she would stay in her tent until she received justice.
“My family is originally from Talbiyeh,” she said, referring to what has become today one of the wealthiest districts of West Jerusalem. “I am not allowed to go back to the property that is rightfully mine, but these settlers are given my home, which never belonged to them.”
Neither. It is the government of Bibiyahu.
Binyamin Netanyahu has proven that he is a consummate politician. He has realized the dream of every politician (and theatergoer): a good place in the middle. In his new government he can play off the fascists on the right against the socialists on the left, Liberman’s secularists against the orthodox of Shas. An ideal situation.
The coalition is large enough to be immune from blackmail by any of its component parties. If some Labor members break coalition discipline, Netanyahu will still command a majority. Or if the rightists make trouble. Or if the orthodox try to stick a knife in his back.
This government is committed to nothing. Its written “Basic Guidelines” – a document signed by all partners of a new Israeli government – are completely nebulous. (And anyhow, Basic Guidelines are worthless. All Israeli governments have broken their agreed Basic Guidelines without batting an eyelid. They always prove to be rubber checks.)
All this was acquired by Netanyahu on the cheap – a few billions of economic promises that he would not dream of fulfilling. The treasury is empty. As one of his predecessors in the Prime Minister’s office, Levy Eshkol, famously said: “I promised, but I did not promise to keep my promises.”
He also bestowed ministries on all and sundry. This little country will have 27 ministers and six deputy ministers. So what? If necessary, Netanyahu would have given a ministerial chair to each of the 74 members of the coalition.
THE PINNACLE of his achievement was the acquisition of the Labor party for his government.
In one stroke he turned a government of lepers, which would have been viewed by the whole world as a crazy bunch of ultra-nationalists, racists and fascists, into a sane and balanced government of the center. All this without changing its character in the least.
The most ardent supporter of this feat was Liberman, the new Foreign Minister of Israel. This extreme racist, this spiritual brother of the French Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Austrian Joerg Haider (I hope both, the living and the dead, will not feel insulted), was very anxious about what was awaiting him. In his imagination he saw himself extending his hand to Hillary Clinton and being left with his arm dangling in the air. Leaning forward to kiss Angela Merkel only to see her draw back in horror. Unpleasant.
The addition of the Labor Party solves everybody’s problem. If the social democrats are joining the government, all this talk of fascism must be nonsense. Obviously, Liberman has been misunderstood. He has been misrepresented. He is not a fascist at all, God forbid. He is not a racist. He is just a traditional right-wing demagogue who exploits the primitive emotions of the masses to garner votes. Which elected politician could object to that?
Indeed, the whole government has been given a kosher certificate by Ehud Barak. He continues the glorious Labor Party tradition of political prostitution. In 1977, Moshe Dayan entered the new government of Menachem Begin and gave it a kosher certificate, when the entire world considered Begin a dangerous nationalist adventurer. In 2001, Shimon Peres entered the new government of Ariel Sharon and gave him a kosher certificate, when the entire world saw in Sharon the man responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
WHY DID Barak do this? And why did the majority of the Labor Party support him?
Labor is a government party. It has never been anything else. As early as 1933 it took over the Zionist movement, and since than it ruled the Yishuv (the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine) and the state without interruption until Begin’s ascent to power in 1977. For 44 consecutive years it held unchallenged power over the economy, the army, the police, the security services, the education system, the health system and the Histadrut, the then all-powerful labor federation.
Power is encoded in the party’s DNA. It’s much more than a political matter – it’s its whole character, its mentality, its world view. The party is unable to be an opposition. It does not know what that is, and even less what to do with it.
I observed the Labor members in the Knesset, during the short periods they were stuck in opposition. They were downcast and mournful. Dozens of them were wandering forlornly around the corridors, like phantoms, lost souls. When they went up to the rostrum, they sounded like government spokesmen.
The Likud suffers from the opposite syndrome. Their predecessors were in opposition throughout the days of the Yishuv and during the first 29 years of the state. Opposition is in the blood of Likudniks. Even now, after many years (with interruptions) in government, they behave like an opposition. They are the eternal discriminated-against, miserable and bitter, people from the outside looking in, full of hate and envy.
Ehud Barak personifies the syndrome of his party. Everything is owed to him. Power is owed to him, the Ministry of Defense is owed to him. I would not have been surprised if he had insisted on a clause in the coalition agreement appointing him Minister of Defense for life (and his yeoman, Shalom Simchon, Minister of Agriculture for life). Governments come and governments go, but Ehud Barak must be the Minister of Defense – be the government rightist or leftist, fascist or communist, atheist or theocratic. It does not matter how he functions in his job – his appraisal can be nothing less than perfect.
SO WHAT will this government do? What can it do?
As far as the most important matter is concerned, there is complete unanimity. Liberman, Netanyahu, Barak, Ellie Yishai of Shas and Danny Hershkovitz of the “Jewish Home” party are in total agreement about the Palestinians. All of them agree on the need to prevent the establishment of a real Palestinian state. All of them agree not to talk with Hamas. All of them support the settlement enterprise. During Barak’s stint as Prime Minister, the settlements grew even faster than during Netanyahu’s tenure. Liberman is himself a settler, Hershkovitz’s party represents the settlers. All of them believe that there is no need for peace, that peace is bad for us. (After all, it was Barak, not Netanyahu or Liberman, who coined the phrase “We Have No Partner for Peace”.)
So what will be the real platform of this government?
In four words: Deception for the fatherland.
ON THIS government’s chosen path there lies a huge rock: the United States of America.
While Israel made a big leap to the right, the US has made a big leap to the left. One can hardly imagine a greater contrast than that between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. Or between the two Bara(c)ks – Barack Obama and Ehud Barak
Netanyahu is conscious of this problem, perhaps more than any other Israeli leader. He grew up in the US, after his father, a history professor in Jerusalem, felt himself deprived of his rightful place in academia because of his extreme right-wing views and went to America. There Binyamin attended high-school and university. He speaks the fluent American English of a traveling salesman.
If there is one thing that unites practically all Israelis, from right to left, it is the conviction that the relationship between Israel and the US is critical for the security of the state. Netanyahu’s main concern is, therefore, to prevent a serious break between the two countries.
Barak was admitted to the government precisely in order to avoid such a clash. Netanyahu wants to visit the White House with Barak, not Liberman, at his side.
The clash seems inevitable. Obama wants to create a new order in the Middle East. He knows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poisons the atmosphere against America in the Arab, and indeed in the entire Muslim world. He wants a solution to the conflict – exactly what Netanyahu and his partners want to prevent at any price, except the price of a breach with the US.
How to do this?
The solution is written in the Bible (Proverbs 24:6): “For by ruses thou shalt make thy war.”
(In the King James version, the Hebrew word Takhbulot is translated as “wise counsel”. In Modern Hebrew it means ruses, tricks, ploys – and that is the way it is understood by all Hebrew-speakers today.)
FROM THE beginnings of Zionism, its leaders have known that their vision necessitates a large measure of make-belief. It is impossible to take over a country inhabited by another people without disguising the aim, diverting attention, hiding the acts on the ground behind a screen of flowery words.
All states lie, of course. 400 years ago, a British diplomat, Sir Henry Wotton, observed: “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Because of the special circumstances of their enterprise, the Zionists have had to use deceit perhaps a bit more than usual.
Now the task is to present to the world, and especially the US and Europe, a false picture, pretending that our new government is yearning for peace, acting for peace, indeed turning every stone in search of peace - while doing the exact opposite. The world will be submerged by a deluge of declarations and promises, accompanied by lots of meaningless gestures, conferences and meetings.
People with good ears are already hearing Netanyahu, Liberman and Barak starting to play around with the “Arab Peace Initiative”. They will talk about it, interpret it, accept it ostensibly while attaching conditions that empty it of all content.
The great advantage of this initiative is that it does not come from the Palestinians, and therefore does not require negotiations with the Palestinians. Like the deceased “Jordanian Option” and others of its kind, it serves as a substitute for a dialogue with the Palestinians. The Arab League includes 22 governments, some of which cooperate on the sly with the Israeli leadership. They can be relied on not to agree among themselves on anything practical.
BUT DECEIVING, like dancing the tango, takes two: one who deceives and one who wants to be deceived.
Netanyahu believes that Obama will want to be deceived. Why would he want to quarrel with Israel, confront the mighty pro-Israel lobby and the US Congress, when he can settle for soothing words from Netanyahu? Not to mention Europe, divided and ridden by Holocaust guilt, and the pathetic Tony Blair moving around like a restless ghost.
Is Obama ready to play, like most of his predecessors, the role of the deceived lover?
The Biberman/Bibarak/Bibiyahu government believes that the answer is a resounding yes. I hope that it will be a resounding No.
Hurndall got it about right, didn't he? It wasn't so simple as war/no war, black and white, he wrote. "Things I've heard and seen over the last few weeks proves what I already knew; neither the Iraqi regime, nor the American or British, are clean. Maybe Saddam needs to go but ... the air war that's proposed is largely unnecessary and doesn't discriminate between civilians and armed soldiers. Tens of thousands will die, maybe hundreds of thousands, just to save thousands of American soldiers having to fight honestly, hand to hand. It is wrong." Oh, how many of my professional colleagues wrote like this on the eve of war? Not many.
We pooh-poohed the Hurndalls and their friends as groupies even when they did briefly enter the South Baghdad electricity station and met one engineer, Attiah Bakir, who had been horrifyingly wounded 11 years earlier when an American bomb blew a fragment of metal into his brain. "You can see now where it struck," Hurndall wrote in an email from Baghdad, "caving in the central third of his forehead and removing the bone totally. Above the bridge of his broken nose, there is only a cavity with scarred skin covering the prominent gap..."
A picture of Attiah Bakir stares out of the book, a distinguished, brave man who refused to leave his place of work as the next war approached. He was silenced only when one of Hurndall's friends made the mistake of asking what he thought of Saddam's government. I cringed for the poor man. "Minders" were everywhere in those early days. Talking to any civilian was almost criminally foolish. Iraqis were forbidden from talking to foreigners. Hence all those bloody "minders" (many of whom, of course, ended up working for Baghdad journalists after Saddam's overthrow).
Hurndall had a dispassionate eye. "Nowhere in the world have I ever seen so many stars as now in the western deserts of Iraq," he wrote on 22 February. "How can somewhere so beautiful be so wrought with terror and war as it is soon to be?" In answer to the questions asked of them by the BBC, ITV, WBO, CNN, al-Jazeera and others, Hurndall had no single reply. "I don't think there could be one, two or 100 responses," he wrote. "To each of us our own, but not one of us wants to die." Prophetic words for Tom to have written.
You can see him smiling selflessly in several snapshots. He went to cover the refugee complex at Al-Rowaishid and moved inexorably towards Gaza where he was confronted by the massive tragedy of the Palestinians. "I woke up at about eight in my bed in Jerusalem and lay in until 9.30," he wrote. "We left at 10.00... Since then, I have been shot at, gassed, chased by soldiers, had sound grenades thrown within metres of me, been hit by falling debris..."
Hurndall was trying to save Palestinian homes and infrastructure but frequently came under Israeli fire and seemed to have lost his fear of death. "While approaching the area, they (the Israelis) continually fired one- to two-second bursts from what I could see was a Bradley fighting vehicle... It was strange that as we approached and the guns were firing, it sent shivers down my spine, but nothing more than that. We walked down the middle of the street, wearing bright orange, and one of us shouted through a loudspeaker, 'We are International volunteers. Don't shoot!' That was followed by another volley of fire, though I can't be sure where from..."
Tom Hurndall had stayed in Rafah. He was only 21 where – in his mother's words – he lost his life through a single, selfless, human act. "Tom was shot in the head as he carried a single Palestinian child out of the range of an Israeli army sniper." Mrs Hurndall asked me to write a preface to Tom's book and this article is his preface, for a brave man who stood alone and showed more courage than most if us dreamed of. Forget tree huggers. Hurndall was one good man and true.
A number of people reported injury by the soldiers including several cases of beatings of small children and women. Soldiers also destroyed furniture, appliances, walls and various food products in at least 4 houses.
At 4:30pm most of the people who were arrested were released. At present IWPS is aware of 4 youths all aged 16 who have not been released and whose whereabouts is currently unknown. There are strong indications that more people were taken away and we are hoping to have more accurate figures soon.
At 2 am soldiers and jeeps entered Haris in a major military operation which lasted 15 hours. The soldiers raided most houses in Haris, arresting youths and interrogating them about their friends, family members and the layout of the houses. The IWPS has heard from many parents and adults that soldiers gave them a piece of paper with a number and photographed them holding this paper.
All those arrested were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to the primary school in Haris. Here they were seated in the classrooms and in the playground and interrogated one by one by Shabak and the military. Those released were given a paper so that other soldiers would not re-arrest them as the arrests continued throughout the day.
The IWPS members witnessed several of the arrests and we have managed to secure photographic evidence and statements form a number of victims and their relatives.
IWPS also received a report of a man who suffered a back injury due to excessive use of force by the soldiers. The IWPS called for an ambulance which arrived shortly after but was denied entry into Haris by the soldiers, in spite of being urged by the IWPS and the villagers living near by. The reason given was that if a person was injured it would be army’s responsibility to take care of them and provide the ambulance. However, the Israeli ambulance parked nearby was not called by the soldiers to treat the injured man.
Two photojournalists who managed to enter Haris close to the primary school where shortly after escorted by the border police out of the village. In addition, a TV van and two other journalists were denied entry into Haris.
The army incursion finished around 4.30 and villagers fear that it might continue in the near future.
When questioned about the purpose of the incursion, IWPS members were told by the army that they were updating their database of information of Haris residents. Last Saturday 21st March there was another army incursion into Haris where army jeeps and Shabak vans parked in front of the primary school and took photos of the school.
IWPS is concerned about the current wave of arrests of residents of Haris and especially minors and youths. IWPS is also very concerned about the violent behavior of soldiers during the arrests and the use of primary school for detention and interrogation purposes. In addition the media access has repeatedly been denied and there is limited flow information including about the very serious human right abuses mentioned above.
To view the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) website click here.
For a handful of ministries
Ehud Barak & Co.
Have agreed to serve
As fig leafs for
Netanyahu’s Government of
Occupation and settlement.
On the same day,
A public opinion poll showed
That most American Jews,
Whose support is essential,
Do not want
Fig leaves anymore.
They will support
If he acts rigorously
To put an end to
Ad in Haaretz, March 27, 2009
Cheques to help us continue the ads to: Gush Shalom, P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
The festival will take place in the Aqraba high school.
Aqraba village was given demolition orders last month for 15 structures, including homes, barns, a mosque and a water well. These structures are situated on the outskirts of the township, in an area known as Khirbit Al Taweel.
Israeli authorities want to displace the residents of Khirbit Al Taweel, which is located in Area C, under direct Israeli military control. The Israeli military has informed the owners of the 15 structures that they have until the 26th of March to evacuate their homes.
The festival, organized by the Aqraba municipality, the Agricultural Popular Committees, and the Local Council for Popular Resistance, will draw attention to the recent rise in home evictions and demolitions orders throughout Palestine.
A resident of Shiekh Jarrah, a neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem facing mass evictions, will speak about the shared struggle Palestinian communities face under Israeli occupation policies.
Gilad Shalit “who turned 22 in captivity, will have been a hostage of Hamas for about 1,000 days,” writes Isabel Kershner on March 8th 2009, in the New York Times . ِAround 11,700 Palestinians resisting illegal occupation, including children under the age of 18 and elderly, are held hostage by Apartheid Israel, writes the history of the oppressed. Most of those detained, according to Ali ‘Olwan a lawyer at the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs in Gaza, have spent more than twenty years in captivity. These prisoners are held under inhumane conditions, says ‘Olwan, in denial of medical examination, no visits by their families and children are allowed, in addition to being subject to various torture techniques. Majdi, who is now 43, hasn’t seen his brother, Bashir, who has been in captivity since 1986, 23 years of age then. “My mother’s wish is to see her son before she dies. It has been 15 years that she last saw his face.”
After collecting information about you, they would break into your house one night. The Shin Bet would arrest you, take you into prison, remove all your clothes off. Sometimes with underwear, sometimes without. Undressing you is a must. Then, they begin the hakirah , which includes extensive interrogation… and hitting. They would then bring you clothes with an acrid smell, and begin to use their torture techniques. Have you heard of the shabeh ?
Ihab Bidir, 30, arrested by the IOF on the Mata’hin checkpoint in Gaza six years ago after being accused of affiliation with Hamas, was released on the 27th of January, 2009. Before his release by four days, Bidir, in his testimony, admitted that he was taken into a special division of the Naqab prison, called division 1, which is not under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Prisons Authority, but under the military’s control. He specified being accused as an “enemy combatant” and that the officer investigating his case denied him access to legal representation and an independent and impartial court claiming his file as “top secret” and that this was “not a legal matter, but entirely political.” He was released after spending four nights in division 1, in solitude. Bidir was clueless as to why he got to be placed in, and why he was later released.
The chair would be made of metal. A low seated chair, with a low back support. They’d tie your hands to the back, so that your spine would be inclined against the metal low back support. Being seated as such for hours, the pain resulting from the back, and the spine, would be intolerable. And, then, they would ask you to spread your legs wide open, and begin to whack your member- you would go insane!
After the Israeli Occupation Forces claimed withdrawing its troops from Gaza in 2005, while redeploying them, it stopped implementing administrative arrest codes, but begun placing the detained under the category of “enemy combatant.” This category was used by Israel in dealing with Hezbollah detainees. Prof. Peter Jan Honigsberg of the University of San Francisco School of Law writes that “enemy combatant did not and does not exist under international law,” that it was a “generic term until February 2002,” and that the US administration created it for the case of its detainees (Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghreib) since it “circumvent[ed] the Geneva Conventions and the international human rights laws,” in addition, he continues, to “shelter individual members of the administration from being charged with war crimes.” Since January 18, 2009, after the 22 day genocidal attacks on Gaza, Israel has placed more than 20 Palestinian detainees under the category of “enemy combatant”, says Ali ‘Olwan, and the number is increasing, making each individual placed under this category unprotected by international law.
They would ask if you smoked, and then try to lure you into admitting into their accusations by allowing you a cigarette, or with food, water, or by admitting you to go to the bathroom. If you wet yourself, they would rub your body against the liquid on the floor and strike you. Did I tell you about placing detainees in refrigerators?
The Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War in its 13th, 14th, and 15th articles states that the detainees must be treated humanely, with no violence and “physical mutilation” in cruel treatment and torture, in addition to no offenses upon “personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”, along with “free of charge medical attention.” In placing prisoners under an internationally unrecognized category such as “enemy combatant,” the state of Israel adds on to the growing list of crimes against humanity yet another heinous violation. Kershner in her article published in the New York Times, states that “in a small country where 18-year-olds are conscripted into the army complete strangers feel intimately connected to the Shalits.” On a land whose non-Jewish natives underwent ethnic cleansing genocidal wars since 1948, it is time for the world to stand in solidarity with and be “intimately connected” to the six million refugees worldwide, the remaining families of martyrs, those men, women and children burnt alive, those who became physically challenged, those who live below the poverty line, those who cannot have an education, those who are racially discriminated against, those who want no help in fighting for their right to live with dignity on their land, those who choose to resist, limited resistance against the largest nuclear power in the region. What Kershner also needs to realize is that Shalit is an illegal occupier, and that the 11,700 detained Palestinians have the legal right to defend themselves, their land against any occupier, or modern-day colonizer.
More than 11,000 of us are in there. Is Shalit-the-occupier more human than us?
A detailed report from the agency says the Israeli military knew white phosphorus's lethal capacity to cause intense burns, and that the firing of it in airburst artillery shells revealed a "pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage."
And the 71-page report reveals that the 15 January firing of phosphorus shells on or near the UN Relief and Works Agency compound in Gaza City, where 700 civilians were sheltering, continued for at least two hours after UN staff began making repeated telephone calls to the Israeli military asking it to stop. The shells caused an estimated $10m (£6.8m) damage and led to burning for 12 days after the attack.
While documenting cases in which civilians were burnt to death or severely hurt and civilian property set on fire, the report says that the majority of civilian deaths were not caused by white phosphorus but from other "missiles, bombs, heavy artillery, tank shells, and small arms fire".
But the HRW researcher Fred Abrams said senior Israeli commanders should be held account for its usage in violation of international law requirements to avoid civilian harm. While the use of phosphorus is permitted to hide troop movements in non-civilian areas, Mr Abrams added: "In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops. It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safe smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."
An airburst 155mm artillery shell spreads 116 white phosphorus wedges in a range of 125 metres, which ignites on contact with oxygen and burns at up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit until nothing is left or the oxygen supply is cut. When it comes into contact with skin it creates intense and persistent burns, sometimes down to the bone. HRW says an Israeli health ministry report produced during the 22-day military offensive in Gaza said that burns to 10 per cent of the body can be fatal because of damage to the liver, kidneys and heart.
Witness reports taken by HRW describe the killing of a bank manager, his wife and two of their children in their car during white phosphorus shelling in the Tel-el-Hawa area of Gaza City on 15 January. According to a Palestinian journalist, Fathi Sabbah, whose own building in the area came under attack, when ambulances came to take the bodies away from the partly melted car, they found "only a few bones" of the four occupants. The report quotes another witness, Muhammad Al Sharif, as saying that a piece of a skull and some teeth lay beside the car.
The report also highlights, among a total of six cases documented in which 12 civilians were killed, the deaths of five members of the Abu Halima family and the wounding of five others. These included the badly burnt Sabah Abu Halima 44, who lost three of her children, in the Siyafa village on the edge of Atatra in northern Gaza when a phosphorus-bearing artillery shell hit their house. The accounts given to HRW broadly corroborate those given by family members to journalists in Gaza in January, including from The Independent, which found one of the sour-smelling phosphorus wedges outside the house.
HRW says it found no evidence that Hamas was using civilians as human shields in the area at the time of the cases of white phosphorus shelling it examined. And it called on the United States, as the main supplier to Israel of white phosphorus munitions to investigate whether they were used in violation of international law. HRW says that of the white phosphorus shells it found in Gaza were made in 1989 Thiokol Aerospace, which was running the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant at the time
The IDF orginally denied that it was using white phosphorus but later said that it use was in accordance with international law. The HRW report says that the apparently frequent use in cases where there were not even ground troops in the area "strongly suggests that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities but rather for its incendiary effect".
That was contested in an Israel Defence Forces response issued last night which said that the military's investigation of its use of "smoke shells" was close to conclusion and that based on the findings at this stage "it was already possible to conclude that the IDF's use of them was "in accordance with international law".
It added that claims of indiscriminate use were "baseless". It added that the third protocol on certain conventional weapons – though not signed by Israel – did not class "weapons used for screening" as "incendiary"
A burning issue: Weapon or flare?
White phosphorus, known as Willy Pete, ignites when exposed to the air. It is not banned by international law so long as it is used to create a smoke screen to protect advancing troops or to illuminate targets. However, the 1980 Geneva treaty stipulates it must not be used as an offensive weapon in densely-populated areas, where civilians can sustain severe burns.