Israeli Demolition Campaign in Tree Towns Across the West Bank

International Solidarity Movement

In an aggravation of Israeli policy of home demolitions, a house and two shops were razed in the Central West Bank village of Hares this morning. An additional house was reduced to rubble in the village of alKhadder, West of Bethlehem and a 1,000 square meters factory was demolished in the town Beit Sahour.

In what seems as a coordinated move, Israeli forces carried out demolitions in two different areas of the West Bank today, rendering at least 16 people homeless. In recent months, international pressure has cause a significant decline in the demolition of Palestinian houses in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank. Israel uses its statutory authority in Area C, which spans over 60% of the West Bank, to dramatically limit Palestinian development. Palestinians fear that today’s consorted demolitions may be the opening salvo in a provocative change in Israeli policy.

Mahmoud Zwahare a popular committee member from the Bethlehem region said during the demolitions that “Israel keeps claiming it strives for peace and constantly complains about Palestinian incitement and violence. It is doing so while carrying destructive and irreversible steps on the ground against ordinary civilians. The demolitions today has nothing to do with the security of Israelis and everything to do with provocation and injustice”.

A convoy of eight armored military jeeps and a D9 bulldozer entered the village of Hares in the early morning today and advanced towards the newly built house of Maher Sultan. The house, which Sultan had just finished constructing after five years, was to be home for himself, his wife and their five children. The two story house was quickly demolished by the bulldozer, which left nothing but rubble behind it.

The demolition order was posted on Sultan’s house a month ago, citing a Mohammed Mansour as the owner of the house, which complicated to procedures to stop the demolition. At the time of the demonstration, Sultan was actually at the DCO in Tulkarem to try an negotiate an injunction, unaware that his home is being razed.

After completing the demolition of Sultan’s house, the Israeli forces continued to demolish two stores in the outskirts of the village.

Almost simultaneously, a massive contingent of Israeli forces invaded the town of alKhadder, West of Bethlehem. The massive Israeli bulldozer demolished the house of Ali Mousa, which was home to nine people, including a one year old baby, as soldiers prevented anyone from nearing the house – including the family’s lawyer, who showed soldiers a 2006 court-issued injunction on the demolition.

After completing the demolition, an Israeli Civil Administration officer who was present at the scene informed people that more house demolitions will be carried in the near future.

Shortly after the alKhadder demolition, forces lead by the Israeli Civil Administration demolished a factory in the town of Beit Sahour. Roughly a year ago, Omar Ayyoub, the owner of the factory was served a halt-construction order by the civil administration, which he complied with and have been fighting ever since. When the bulldozers arrived today he pleaded with the officer in charge to stop the demolition, or at least present him with a valid demolition order. The officer refused and ordered to remove Ayyoub from the scene.

Over 60 percent of the West Bank is currently classified as Area C, in which, under the Oslo accords, Israel has complete control, over both civil and security issues. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) some 70 percent of Area C, or approximately 44 percent of the West Bank, has been largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military. The Israeli authorities generally allow Palestinian construction only within the boundaries of an Israeli-approved plan and these cover less than one percent of Area C, much of which is already built-up. As a result, Palestinians are left with no choice but to build “illegally” and risk demolition of their structures and displacement.

According to information released by the Israeli State Attorney’s Office in early December 2009, approximately 2,450 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been demolished due to lack of permit over the course of the past 12 years.


The News (Pakistan) - Letters to the Editor

The News (Pakistan)

The mysterious way in which Maryam Siddiqui, the daughter of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, turned up at her relatives' home in Karachi raises some disturbing questions. If Dr Aafia Siddiqui was indeed captured by US authorities, then it is a mockery of the Pakistani security setup that the US intelligence agencies operate unhindered on Pakistani soil, pick up a citizen of Pakistan whenever they want and drop them off whenever and wherever they like. Are these foreign agencies accountable to anyone? How can the Pakistani security agencies not trace the captors of Maryam Siddiqui? Who is going to pay for the ordeal through which Maryam and her family went during all these years? On the other hand, if the arrest of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her children was not the work of foreign agencies, is it correct to assume that Maryam Siddiqui has been a prisoner of her country's own security agencies? In either case, whether Dr Aafia Siddiqui's family suffered at the hands of the US or her own country, her case symbolises the horrific and inhumane nature of the war on terror which has brought death and destruction to millions of people in South Asia.

The consensus verdict of the New York jury against Dr Aafia Siddiqui, declaring her guilty, shows that the disregard for human rights and justice is institutionally ingrained in western polity. Dr Aafia Siddiqui's case and the war on terror help us understand the disillusionment of the Muslim world from the west and its ideals.

Moez Mobeen



It is good that Dr Aafia Siddiqui's daughter, Maryam Siddiqui, is with her family now. I am pleased that the girl has joined her relatives at last. I hope that Interior Minister Rehman Malik will help recover the still missing son of Dr Aafia Siddiqui. Mr Rehman should pressurise American authorities and get Dr Alafia Siddiqui released along with all those Pakistanis who are detained illegally by the Americans.

Mubashir Mahmood



Holocaust Survivor – Why I Support Palestinian Rights

by Suzanne Weiss

Political Theatrics

In Canada, Holocaust Memorial Day has been established by Heritage Canada to be on April 11. It is a good opportunity to review what we learn from the Holocaust experience and how we apply these lessons to the troubled situation in the Middle East.

This year, students in more than 60 cities took part in educational meetings on conditions in Palestine as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, held March 1–7. It is a controversial event, not popular in Canadian government circles. It is criticized for supposedly dishonouring the victims of Hitler’s holocaust.

I am a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, the Nazis’ mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The tragic experience of my family and community under Hitler makes me alert to the suffering of other peoples denied their human rights today – including the Palestinians.

True, Hitler’s Holocaust was unique. The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Hitler started with that, but went on to extermination. In my family’s city in Poland, Piotrkow, 99% of the Jews perished.

Yet for me, the Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the check points, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There’s no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity.

Many levels of government have recently been attacking the movement against Israeli apartheid, saying that it is anti-Jewish in character. This is bizarre. When Nelson Mandela opposed South African apartheid, was this anti-White? No, Mandela proposed that all South Africans, Whites included, join on a basis of democracy and equality in freeing the country from racial oppression. And that is precisely the proposal that the movement against Israeli apartheid makes to all inhabitants of Israel/Palestine.

We are told that Israeli Jews will never accept such a democratic solution. Why? Is there something wrong with their genes or their culture? The very notion is absurd – in fact, its logic is anti-Jewish. Opposition to Israeli apartheid is based on hope – a hope founded on the common humanity of the region’s Jewish and Palestinian inhabitants.

Hope from Holocaust Resistance
My family and their community in Piotrkow, Poland, suffered a hard fate under Hitler. The Nazis forced the city’s 25,000 Jews into the first ghetto in occupied Poland. The resistance movement in the ghetto was unable to link up with resistance outside. Only a couple of hundred Piotrkow Jews escaped death.

But my mother and father then lived in Paris. They were active in the ‘Union des Juifs,’ a Jewish resistance organization closely linked to socialist parties and other anti-Nazi groups. When the Nazis started rounding up Jews in France, the Union des Juifs hid thousands of Jewish children among anti-Nazis across the country. My parents were killed. But a brave peasant family in Auvergne, at great risk, took me in and hid me. And that is why I am here today.

The Nazis were routed, and the resistance dealt blows to racism that are felt in France even to this day.

There is a lesson here for us today. Hitler seemed all-powerful at the time. But he could not crush the resistance, a broad people’s alliance embracing many religions and many political viewpoints.

We need that kind of alliance in resisting oppression today – including the oppression of the Palestinians.

Jewish Values Are Not Those of Israel’s Apartheid
The United Nations has defined apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

The apartheid concept was found in North America when indigenous peoples were confined to reservations in remote corners of the lands stolen from them. The South African Dutch settlers and Israeli government further developed the concept.
Eliminating Israeli apartheid involves three simple measures:

The right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country.

An end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

The right of Palestinians within Israel to full equality.

On July 9, 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the institutions of Israeli apartheid. The BDS movement helped to end the crime of South African apartheid. Since 2005, the BDS movement against Israeli apartheid movement has won wide support around the world.

Nelson Mandela, the great leader of BDS against South African Apartheid, said, that justice for the Palestinians is “the greatest moral issue of the age.”

Support from Jewish Community
I recently discovered that my name is included in a website list of “7,000 self-hating Jews.” Why are Jewish supporters of Palestine labeled as “self-hating”? Because those who make this charge have redefined Judaism in terms of the present policies and character of the Israeli state. They see Judaism as nothing more than a rationale for oppressing Palestinians. What an insult to Jewish religion and culture!

As for the 7,000 self-haters, they need to add a couple of zeros to that total. In my experience, support of Palestine is stronger in the Jewish population than in society as a whole. And Jewish people work alongside their Palestinian brothers and sisters as a strong component of the Palestine solidarity movement.
Holocaust Awareness Week is an appropriate time to review our proud history as Jewish universalists, welcoming and encompassing humanity. We, as Jewish supporters of the Palestinians, stand on the finest traditions of Judaism, its great contributions to human religion, philosophy, science, and solidarity through the ages. The rights we expect for the Jewish people, we demand for all humanity – above all, for the Palestinians that the Israeli government oppresses in our name.

Rioters vent fury at US after Nato troops kill Afghan civilians on bus

by Julius Cavendish

The Independent

Protesters take to streets in Kandahar after attack kills four and leaves 18 wounded

Nato's hopes for winning over the Afghan population in the south of the country ahead of a massive new military campaign took a major blow yesterday when Nato soldiers opened fire on a civilian bus in Kandahar City and killed four passengers.

Eighteen passengers were also injured in the shooting, which sparked riots in Kandahar. Hundreds of protesters burned tyres, chanted "Death to America! Death to Karzai! Death to this government!" and blocked the main road out of the city.

The timing could hardly have been worse, with tensions already rising ahead of a summer offensive designed to bring the city and its surrounds back under the control of the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Nato and Afghan officials said the incident occurred shortly before dawn but accounts of what happened diverge. One passenger, interviewed in hospital, said the bus had pulled over to allow a Nato convoy to pass. "They just suddenly opened fire, I don't know why," said Rozi Mohammad, whose eye was swollen shut and face and clothes were matted with blood. "We had been stopped and after that I don't know what happened."

But Nato said that the bus accelerated as it approached a slow-moving convoy searching for roadside bombs. In the darkness soldiers only saw a large vehicle approaching them at speed and, after trying to warn it off with hand signals and flares, opened fire.

"Perceiving a threat when the vehicle approached once more at an increased rate of speed the patrol attempted to warn off the vehicle with hand signals prior to firing upon it. Once engaged, the vehicle then stopped," Nato said. It added that it had dispatched an "incident assessment team" to find out what happened.

Inside the city, protesters slammed not just Nato but also President Hamid Karzai for failing to stand up to the foreign forces. "The Americans are constantly killing our civilians and the government is not demanding an explanation," said Mohammad Razaq, a local resident. "We demand justice from the Karzai government and the punishment of those soldiers responsible."

Mr Karzai, who has in fact repeatedly criticised Nato for killing civilians, said: "This shooting involving a civilian bus violates Nato's commitment to safeguard civilian life."

The incident was a stark reminder of the difficulties facing US General Stanley McChrystal, the top Nato commander in Afghanistan, who is grappling with a counter-insurgency doctrine that calls for Nato troops to protect Afghan civilians. Since taking command last year, he has issued tighter rules of engagement and kept a constant stream of communication about the need to keep civilian casualties as low as possible.

In a video conference taking questions from troops earlier this year, General McChrystal said with some frustration, "We've shot an amazing number of people" who were not, in fact, threats. In February, he apologised to the Afghan people after a Nato airstrike killed 27 civilians. A separate strike in February killed five civilians suspected of planting roadside bombs close to the scene of Monday's incident.

Kandahar Mayor Gulam Hamidi said the blowback from civilian casualties was obvious. "I've told the Americans and Nato that people are very angry about these kinds of attacks," he said.

In a separate incident soon after the shooting, a Taliban suicide squad attacked the provincial headquarters of the secret police, a heavily defended compound in Kandahar City. Two of the bombers were killed in a 45-minute battle and a third was captured after being injured by security forces.

Nine civilians including a teacher and five children were wounded in the fighting. According to the UN, the Taliban was responsible for 67 per cent of civilians killed in Afghanistan last year.

The story of Christmas – and how it was ruined by Australia

by Kathy Marks

The Independent

Christmas Island was once called the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean. But a detention centre for asylum-seekers is threatening its rare crabs – and enraging the locals.

Until September 2001 Christmas Island, an Australian external territory in the Indian Ocean, was known only for its annual migration of native red crabs. Then John Howard's right-wing government deployed the SAS to prevent the Tampa, a Norwegian tanker, from docking with its cargo of shipwrecked asylum-seekers, and the island became a symbol of Australia's refugee crackdown.

Eight-and-a-half years on, a Labor government is in charge, but Christmas Island – the rugged tip of an extinct volcano, 1,600 miles north-west of Perth – is in the spotlight again. An immigration detention centre built there after the Tampa scandal is overflowing following a flurry of boat arrivals, and with an election due later this year, the former British colony finds itself once more a political football.

Last week the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, closed the door to Sri Lankans and Afghans, announcing that no new refugee claims would be processed for three to six months. He cited improved security in the two countries; however, cynics noted the timing of the move, which followed the interception this year of 38 boats in Australian waters, and revelations that Christmas Island is full.

The isolated tropical island, an Australian possession since 1958, was once known as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean because of its profusion of endemic species. Now it has a darker reputation, to the dismay of its 1,200 residents. Some locals – outnumbered nearly three to one by asylum-seekers and Immigration Department staff – can no longer afford rents. The price of food has skyrocketed.

At Flying Fish Cove, the main bay, children bodyboard in the shallow, crystal clear waters as giant frigate birds wheel overhead, waiting to swoop down on a fishermen's catch. It's an idyllic scene – apart from the Australian Navy ship just offshore and the blue-shirted security staff waiting on the jetty for the latest batch of gaunt-looking men, women and children plucked from crowded boats.

Residents – mostly descendants of indentured workers brought over from China and South-east Asia in the late-19th century to work in the island's phosphate mines – have grown accustomed to the almost daily ritual enacted at the cove.

The unscheduled visitors are transported to shore by barge, then transferred to school buses on the jetty and whisked to one of two detention centres. The main facility – situated on a bleak plateau, surrounded by jungle, at the island's north-west extremity – is for single men. Women and children are held in a separate, unfenced camp.

The island, a 45-minute flight from Jakarta, is the centrepiece of an immigration policy described by Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as "tough but humane". Soon after coming to power, he jettisoned Mr Howard's more extreme measures, including dispatching asylum-seekers to the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing, and granting refugees five-year rather than permanent visas.

However, as a sop to public opinion, and to dispel the impression of being "soft" on border protection, the government has continued to keep boat people off the mainland. Everyone picked up in Australian waters is taken to Christmas Island. It's an expensive sop: the main detention centre, North West Point, cost A$400m (£242m) to build, and, according to Oxfam, it costs A$1,830 a day to keep a detainee there, compared with A$238 in Sydney.

Locals have come to accept the prison camps, but many remain unhappy. "This is an incarnation of Christmas Island I don't approve of," says Simon Prince, who runs a dive operation. "But we don't get a say. My opinion is that these are people needing our help. I've been involved in rescues [at sea] in the past, and generally they've got a tragic story to tell."

North West Point, a 20-minute drive from residential areas, was supposed to accommodate at most 800 people; currently more than 2,000 are held on the island, with the overflow in prefabricated huts and air-conditioned tents. The facility is surrounded – for reasons that are unclear, in such a remote spot – by a tall metal fence. Islanders call it "that place" or "the dark side".

"Look," says Gordon Haye, Christmas's one taxi driver, swerving to avoid a red crab, "here's the A$50m recreation centre they built as a bribe to put that monstrosity [North West Point] up there." His figures might be inflated – the centre actually cost about A$8m – but there is no mistaking his bitterness towards the Australian government.

Mr Haye says the price of everything has shot up, thanks to the presence of 800 immigration officials, security guards, interpreters and medical staff. "My brother and his son are living in a little shed because they can't afford a house," he says. "I know of a family with two kids living in a laundry at the back of someone's house." Staff at the small hospital are struggling to cope, and waste and sewage services are overloaded.

Sighted on Christmas Day 1643 by a British naval captain, William Mynors, the island was not settled until 1888, when the British realised it contained rich phosphate deposits. Today its three principal residential precincts – Poon Saan (mainly Chinese), Kampong (mainly Malay), and Settlement (mainly European) – reflect its mixed ethnic heritage, as do the Buddhist and Taoist temples, the bright green mosque and the signs in three languages.

Phosphate is still the biggest employer, but mining has been on the wane for years, and an application for new leases – which would involve the destruction of pristine rainforest – is expected to be rejected.

The search is on for something to fill the gap, but Christmas has a history of grand projects that, for a while, seemed to offer economic salvation. A casino popular with Indonesian high-rollers, including cronies of Tommy Suharto, the dictator's son, closed in 1998 after just five years. Plans for a satellite launch pad never got off the ground, and the site has since been swallowed by jungle. Some believe eco-tourism represents the future of the island, which has one roundabout, one set of traffic lights and, instead of a newspaper, a blackboard on which public notices are scrawled – until a tropical downpour washes them away.

For now, though, the industry is tiny, and Linda Cash, marketing manager of the tourism association, sighs when asked about the challenges of promoting the place. "Most people in Australia have got a very skewed view of Christmas Island," she says.

So, for the moment, the refugee business is keeping Christmas afloat. "We have a detention economy on the island," says Gordon Thomson, president of the shire council. "It employs more than 100 people here, so it's our second largest employer."

The staff from outside, flown in at considerable expense to Australian taxpayers, are disliked locally not only for driving up prices, but also for killing native crabs. As well as the red crabs which carpet roads and beaches during their migration from the rainforest to the ocean, Christmas is home to 20 other species, including the robber or coconut crab – the world's largest land invertebrate.

Eaten to extinction, or close to, in many places, the outlandishly sized robber crabs – some as big as small dogs – are protected on Christmas. However, 190 of them have been killed by cars this year, and residents blame outsiders speeding up and down the road to North West Point.

The Tampa crisis is credited with helping Mr Howard to win the 2001 election. Mr Rudd is widely expected to be re-elected, with or without a crackdown. But his new hardline stance will doubtless help – although the numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia are minuscule compared with those in Europe, and 90 per cent arrive by air, not boat.

On Christmas, some yearn for more innocent times. "Everyone thinks of detention now when they think of Christmas Island," says Mr Prince, the dive operator. "I would like the place to be known for what it's best for: as a pristine wilderness, both above and below the water, and as one of the last frontiers of nature."

The island by numbers

2,800 Immigration officials, guards and asylum-seekers on the island

1,200 Estimated permanent population

190 Rare robber crabs to be hit by cars on the island's roads this year, a toll local people blame on outsiders

£242m Estimated cost of construction for the main detention centre

£1,100 Daily cost of holding a detainee on Christmas Island, according to Oxfam

£143 Daily cost of holding a detainee in Sydney

1,600 Distance in miles from the island to Perth, the closest Australian city

13,507 Visas granted by the Australian government to refugees in 2008-09. Of those, 11,010 were granted to those held offshore


Writer Uehara's book on discriminated hamlets wins nonfiction prize

Mainichi Shimbun

Writer Yoshihiro Uehara's book, "Nihon no roji o tabi suru" (Traveling Japan's Alleys), in which he traced the history of "buraku" (discriminated hamlets) in Aomori Prefecture in the north to Okinawa Prefecture in the south has been chosen as the recipient of this year's Oya Soichi Nonfiction Prize.

Uehara's joy was palpable through his matter-of-fact comment: "I'm so happy that the result of my research in the field has received such a great prize."

"Roji," or alleys, as Uehara calls Japan's discriminated hamlets which were inhabited by people and descendants of those considered to be outcastes in Japan's feudal era, was a term that was first employed by the late writer Kenji Nakagami. Uehara says that he employs this term in the book instead of the more commonly used "buraku" because he wants to inherit and build on Nakagami's achievements.

Uehara, who himself is an "alley" native, based his award-winning book on 13 years of research and reporting. The book has gained recognition for its incorporation of the author's fascination with his roots into a travelogue format without the accusatory tone of a whistle-blowing indictment.

"I, myself, have been involved not only in the buraku liberation movement, but also in work on behalf of disabled persons and the homeless," Uehara said. "But in this book, I chose purposely to take a wider perspective than that of activism, and decided I would just write what I have seen with honesty."

Of the four books nominated for the Oya Prize, two focused on buraku. Few nonfiction books covering the topic -- long considered taboo and rarely confronted head-on -- had attracted wide attention in the past. Uehara now thinks the situation is changing.

"I think (the fact that two of the nominated books were about buraku) is more striking and significant than the fact that I won. For someone who has been involved in the issue for 20 years, it feels like we're now living in a completely different age. That such works are now gaining recognition is a sign of great progress."

Uehara's journey is ongoing; he just finished looking into "alleys" in Mie Prefecture. "I want young people to read (the book). And I hope that it can serve as a catalyst also for those people who are not from buraku to think about the nature of their hometowns."





 「路地」とは、作家の中上健次が被差別部落を言い表した言葉だ。これを使うのは「中上さんの業績を引き継ぎ、さらに深化させたい」という思いか ら。自身も路地の出身である。受賞作は、13年間の取材に基づく。告発調ではなくさわやかに、出自へのこだわりを紀行文的なスタイルに溶け込ませたことが 評価された。


 今回の大宅賞は、候補4作中2作が被差別部落をテーマとしていた。正面から語られることが少なく、この領域のノンフィクション作品は注目されにく かっただけに、「私の受賞より印象的で、すごいこと。20年間、この問題にかかわってきた人間にとっては隔世の感がある。こうした作品が評価されるように なったのは大きな進歩だと思う」。



Imprisoning Palestinian children

by Stephen Lendman

The Palestine Telegraph

In June 2009, Defence for Children International (DCI)/Palestine Section published a report titled, "Palestine Child Prisoners: The systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities."

DCI/Palestine "is a national section of the international non-government child rights organisation and movement (dedicated) to promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children," according to international law principles.

Each year, about 700 West Bank children, under 18, are arrested, detained, interrogated, and prosecuted in Israeli military courts, in total about 6,500 since 2000. DCI lawyers represent 30 - 40% of them. The report focuses on their torture and abuse in custody.

Since the 1967 occupation, an estimated 700,000 Palestinian men, women, and children passed through Israel's judicial system, over 150,000 tried in military courts from 1990 - 2006, the remainder handled through plea bargains for lighter sentences. On average, over 9,000 Palestinians a year are affected, including 700 children treated the same as adults.

For nearly 43 years, Israeli military justice operated "almost completely devoid of international scrutiny," giving authorities license to violate human rights and humanitarian law with impunity. As a result, due process and judicial fairness don't apply under a system denying them.

Yet Article 37(b) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states:

"The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child...shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."

In fact, Palestinian children are routinely arrested at checkpoints, on streets, going to or coming from school, tending olive groves, at play, and (most commonly) at home in the middle of the night, usually from midnight to 4AM with family members threatened not to intervene, beaten if they try, forced onto streets in their nightclothes, regardless of weather, and given no explanation.

Typically, arrests are lawless and violent. Homes are broken into unannounced, property damaged or stolen, children blindfolded, shackled, and often beaten, then thrust into jeeps, sometimes face down, for transfer to interrogation and detention centers, a procedure that includes beatings, verbal abuse and other degrading and inhumane treatment.

At detention centers, they're either placed in a cell or interrogated immediately. Usually no lawyer is present for days or weeks until questioning ends with a signed Hebrew confession few can read or understand. Once gotten, they're used against them in military courts, never mind that torture extracted evidence is inadmissible under international law.

Article 15 of the UN Convention Against Torture states:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

In custody, children endure:

-- blindfolding and painful shackling;

-- beatings;

-- violent shaking;

-- sleep depravation;

-- solitary confinement;

-- other forms of sensory deprivation;

-- no food and water for extended periods;

-- poor quality or inedible food when gotten;

-- no access to toilets, showers and clean clothes;

-- exposure to extreme heat or cold;

-- painful stress positions for extended periods;

-- sexual abuse;

-- threats, insults and cursing; and

-- extremely loud noises.

Often their parents and siblings are also arrested, beaten, detained, and their homes sometimes demolished.

After interrogation, detainees are processed for trial, sentencing, and imprisonment by one of two West Bank military courts, both on military bases. Decisions may be appealed in the Military Court of Appeals, but rarely ever will the High Court of Justice hear them.

Judges and prosecutors are military officers, some not certified by the Israeli Bar Association. Dispensing justice is nearly impossible under a system with no accepted standards. Children as young as 12 (and some younger) are prosecuted the same as adults, tribunals calling them adults at age 16, in contrast to Jews at age 18.

Under Military Order 132, six months is the maximum sentence for children aged 12 - 13; 12 months usually from 14 - 15 for offenses with a maximum penalty of less than five years; and unlimited for more serious offenses; under Military Order 378, 20 years for stone-throwing is permitted (the most common offense charged); and children 16 or older are considered adults and treated no differently.

Military courts deny judicial fairness, including:

-- the right to counsel until forced confessions are extracted, commonly by torture, pressure, intimidation, and at times trickery;

-- the right to prepare a proper defense with enough time, in adequate facilities, in confidence, with court documents in Arabic;

-- under Military Order 378, detainees may be denied counsel for up to 90 days;

-- under a grossly unjust system, attorneys commonly seek plea bargains to avoid trials and harsher sentences;

-- defendants, including young children are presumed guilty, full acquittals gotten in just 0.29% of cases;

-- the right to examine witnesses is restricted; few full evidentiary cases are heard; according to Yesh Din (volunteers for human rights), of 9,123 cases in 2006, only 130 (1.42%) got full evidentiary trials because having them is futile and punishments far harsher when convicted;

-- unlike in civil courts for Jews, Palestinians have no right to trial without undue delay:

(1) detention until a hearing before a judge - 24 hours for Jews; up to eight days for Palestinians;

(2) total detention period before indictment - 30 days for Jews, and up to 75 on authority of the Attorney General; up to 180 days for Palestinians;

(3) detention from end of investigation to indictment - 5 days for Jews; 10 days for Palestinians;

(4) detention from indictment until arraignment - 30 days for Jews; up to two years for Palestinians;

(5) detention from arraignment to end of proceedings - 9 months for Jews; up to two years for Palestinians; and

(6) judicial approval of detention extensions if proceedings continue - 3 months for Jews (per a Supreme Court judge); six months for Palestinians (per Military Court of Appeals judge).

In addition, defense lawyers rarely know charges until hearing days. Palestinian children are usually denied bail, and respect for their rights under international law is ignored.

Fourth Geneva's Article 147 requires fair trials, holding those responsible for denying them criminally liable.

Detention Conditions

Children as young as 12, and sometimes younger, endure overcrowding, poor ventilation, little or no access to natural light, poor quality (often inedible) and inadequate amounts of food, isolation, torture and abusive treatment.

Little or no education is provided, and none in interrogation and detention centers where children are often held for three months or longer. Also, with one exception, prisons are inside Israel in breach of Fourth Geneva's Article 76, stating:

"Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein."

The provision also requires providing proper food, medical care, and spiritual help - women in separate quarters, supervised by women, and minors getting special treatment.

Palestinian detainees get none of the above, including permits for family members to visit imprisoned relatives.

Common Complaints

From January 2001 - December 2008, "over 600 complaints were filed against Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture." The Police Investigation Department and Justice Ministry conducted no investigations, claiming "insufficient evidence."

Relevant International Law

Torture, abuse, degrading and inhumane treatment are unequivocally prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions.

Article 2(2) of the UN Convention Against Torture states:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Its Article 1 defines it as follows:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Other relevant laws include Fourth Geneva, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, calling torture a crime against humanity in Article 7 and a war crime in Article 8.

These laws also prohibit other forms of abuse, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. In addition, all nations are obligated to prevent torture and other forms of abuse, and to prosecute offenders under its jurisdiction.

Fourth Geneva also mandates they search for and prosecute them under the universal jurisdiction (UJ) principle, relating to crimes of war, against humanity, genocide, or slavery. UJ is to ensure there's no place to hide.

Comments from Children During Arrests and Detention

-- "I went from having a normal life at home to handcuffs, deprivation of sleep, shouting, threats, rounds of interrogation and serious accusations. In these circumstances, life becomes dark, filled with fear and pessimism - tough days that words cannot describe."

-- "A soldier pointed his rifle at me. The rifle barrel was a few centimeters away from my face. I was so terrified that I started to shiver. He made fun of me and said: 'shivering? Tell me where the pistol is before I shoot you.' "

-- After arrest, "they stripped us out of our trousers and T-shirts. They then started to throw stones at our backs while laughing and making fun of us."

-- "While we were walking to the gate, the soldiers hit us with their rifles in our backs and laughed."

-- "As soon as the jeep started to move, (a) soldier who had pushed me, kicked me on my broken hand and beat me on my shoulders with his rifle."

-- Inside (a) clinic, they beat me on the back and neck with their hands. One of the soldiers took a rope that was on the table and placed it around my neck and pressed tightly to suffocate me."

-- A soldier "hit me in the face with the barrel of his rifle and that led to my nose and mouth bleeding profusely. All of this happened in front of my mother who was begging them to let me go."

-- "I felt my hands were about to explode because they were tied so tight. I asked the soldiers to loosen the handcuffs but they responded by shouting and using very obscene language."

-- "I felt extreme pain in my neck and back. I felt dizzy and was about to vomit. Whenever I lifted my head up, the soldiers would shout at me."

-- "I was interrogated for three days. My hands and feet were tied to the wall in the shape of a cross. I spent one full day in this position. I felt extreme pain and swelling in my hands. The soldiers then moved me to solitary confinement where I spent 15 days. I used to urinate in the cell."

-- "After two hours, the interrogator producer another paper written in Hebrew and asked me to sign it, saying it was an approval (for medical treatment), so I signed it. It turned out later that I had signed a full confession."


After arrest and transfer, they usually begin straightaway with no right to counsel or an adult present. Unlike in Israel, they're not videotaped to hide incriminating evidence.

Commonly, children are kept painfully shackled, threatened, cursed, tortured and abused during the process, at times while hooded. Interrogations continue for days until coerced (or at times tricked) confessions are gotten.

DCI/Palestine "encountered (no) single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated."

Female Detainees

They comprise a small percent of the total, around 4% in 2008. Like others, female child prisoners are usually incarcerated in Israel with adults, in violation of international law prohibiting both practices.

One of many poignant images shows a teenage girl and the caption: "I am not a terrorist."

Another, on the Separation Wall, shows a young girl holding balloons on strings being lifted into the air to liberation.

Administrative Detention

Under Military Order 1591, Palestinians, including children, can be detained without charge or trial for renewable six-month periods that can last years.

Fourth Geneva's Article 42 and ICCPR's Article 4 permit them only if:

"the security of the state...makes it absolutely necessary (and only according to) regular procedure," excluding long-term renewable extensions.

Under Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), no:

"child should be deprived of his or her liberty arbitrarily and detention should only be used as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time."

Most often, they're based on secret evidence, withheld from detainees and their counsel, making a proper defense impossible. At any time in 2008, up to 700 Palestinian, men, women and children were administratively detained, a procedure Israelis use against political leaders, human rights activists, protestors, and children accused of stone-throwing. It's also common for them to get multiple detention orders, renewed within days of their expected release.

Soldiers Justifying Palestinian Beatings and Abuse

On May 21, 2009, B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called on the chief of staff and judge advocate general to investigate an item called: "A Blow is Sometimes an Integral Part of the Mission," presenting testimonies of Col. Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade and Lt. Col. Shimon, commander of Shimshon Battalion.

They admitted authorizing harassment, violence, injurious, and at times lethal means, against Palestinians "to extract information (during) interrogation."

Col. Virob said:

"The mission is to try to upset the equilibrium of the neighborhood, village, or particular location, to get information....or to cause a hostile entity inside the village to make mistakes as a result or in reaction to actions of our forces, and thus disrupt his activity and expose it."

Tactics include "throwing stun grenades, breaking into a number of houses or institutions....arresting residents, seizing areas on rooftops, and the like....We will detain, interrogate and use suitable pressure on every person to get to the one terrorist. Of all the means of pressure that we use, the vast majority are against persons who are not involved."

Lt. Col. Shimon said:

"There are no exercises, nothing written (and to get information we) use force. These orders (include) routine use of violence and potentially injury-causing (acts, at times) lethal, against civilians, and harassing them, (even though they're) patently illegal," but are routinely used nonetheless.

It's a policy of premeditated state-sponsored terror against defenseless men, women and children. On May 15, 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (monitoring Convention Against Torture violations) issued Concluding Observations and conclusions on Israeli practices, expressing grave concerns about:

-- torture, abuse, degrading and humiliating treatment during and after interrogations;

-- Palestinian children detained and interrogated without counsel and/or family members present;

-- torture used to extract confessions;

-- 700 Palestinian children detained annually and prosecuted in military courts affording no judicial fairness;

-- 95% of convictions based on coerced confessions;

-- prisons in Israel violate international law and impede family visits, and

-- administrative detentions violate Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture because of abusive interrogations, secret evidence, and long incarcerations.

Israel is a serial scofflaw, systematically scorning and violating international laws and norms with impunity. DCI/Palestine says torture and abuse remain unabated, "from the moment of arrest, and continue during transfer, interrogation and detention."

The practice is "widespread, systematic and institutionalised, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command. This abusive system operates with the knowledge and assistance of some doctors, and is overseen by a military court system that ignores basic principles of juvenile justice and fair trial rights, whilst willfully turning a blind eye to the presentation in court of one coerced confession after another."

Israeli lawlessness is ignored by the world community that's obligated to act under international law, but won't. Short of enforced accountability, it's "unlikely that the situation endured by Palestinian children (their siblings, parents, and friends) described (above), will improve."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Iraq War Vet: "We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us"

by Dahr Jamail


On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.

As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.

"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces."

The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the US.

Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.

"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continued, "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent."

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation.... One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take "trophy" photos of bodies.

"An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by," he said, "This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment."

Kelly Dougherty - then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War - blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government.

"The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a 'few bad apples' misbehaving, are the result of our government's Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of US power," she said.

Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the US attack on Fallujah in November 2004, said orders he received from his battalion JAG officer before entering the city were as follows: "You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it's a trick and kill him."

Bryan Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

"... on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.

Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than "winning hearts and minds.

"There was also another motive," Ewing said. "If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn't attack. We used the kids as human shields."

In response to the WikiLeaks video, the Pentagon, while not officially commenting on the video, announced that two Pentagon investigations cleared the air crew of any wrongdoing.

A statement from the two probes said the air crew had acted appropriately and followed the ROE.

Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year.

Speaking on a panel at the aforementioned hearings about the ROE, he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, "This card says, 'Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself'."

Kokesh pointed out that "reasonable certainty" was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Truthout there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians.

"We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear," Kokesh said, "At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark."

Kokesh also testified that during two cease-fires in the midst of the siege, the military decided to let out as many women and children from the embattled city as possible, but this did not include most men.

"For males, they had to be under 14 years of age," he said, "So I had to go over there and turn men back, who had just been separated from their women and children. We thought we were being gracious."

Steve Casey served in Iraq for over a year starting in mid-2003.

"We were scheduled to go home in April 2004, but due to rising violence we stayed in with Operation Blackjack," Casey said, "I watched soldiers firing into the radiators and windows of oncoming vehicles. Those who didn't turn around were unfortunately neutralized one way or another - well over 20 times I personally witnessed this. There was a lot of collateral damage."

Jason Hurd served in central Baghdad from November 2004 until November 2005. He told of how, after his unit took "stray rounds" from a nearby firefight, a machine gunner responded by firing over 200 rounds into a nearby building.

"We fired indiscriminately at this building," he said. "Things like that happened every day in Iraq. We reacted out of fear for our lives, and we reacted with total destruction."

Hurd said the situation deteriorated rapidly while he was in Iraq. "Over time, as the absurdity of war set in, individuals from my unit indiscriminately opened fire at vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road. People in my unit would later brag about it. I remember thinking how appalled I was that we were laughing at this, but that was the reality."

Other soldiers Truthout has interviewed have often laughed when asked about their ROE in Iraq.

Garret Reppenhagen served in Iraq from February 2004-2005 in the city of Baquba, 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) northeast of Baghdad. He said his first experience in Iraq was being on a patrol that killed two Iraqi farmers as they worked in their field at night.

"I was told they were out in the fields farming because their pumps only operated with electricity, which meant they had to go out in the dark when there was electricity," he explained, "I asked the sergeant, if he knew this, why did he fire on the men. He told me because the men were out after curfew. I was never given another ROE during my time in Iraq."

Emmanuel added: "We took fire while trying to blow up a bridge. Many of the attackers were part of the general population. This led to our squad shooting at everything and anything in order to push through the town. I remember myself emptying magazines into the town, never identifying a target."

Emmanuel spoke of abusing prisoners he knew were innocent, adding, "We took it upon ourselves to harass them, and took them to the desert to throw them out of our Humvees, while kicking and punching them when we threw them out."

Jason Wayne Lemue is a Marine who served three tours in Iraq.

"My commander told me, 'Kill those who need to be killed, and save those who need to be saved'; that was our mission on our first tour," he said of his first deployment during the invasion.

"After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant those people] were to be killed. I can't tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us."

When this Truthout reporter was in Baghdad in November 2004, my Iraqi interpreter was in the Abu Hanifa mosque that was raided by US and Iraqi soldiers during Friday prayers.

"Everyone was there for Friday prayers, when five Humvees and several trucks carrying [US soldiers and] Iraqi National Guards entered," Abu Talat told Truthout on the phone from within the mosque while the raid was in progress. "Everyone starting yelling 'Allahu Akbar' (God is the greatest) because they were frightened. Then the soldiers started shooting the people praying!"

"They have just shot and killed at least four of the people praying," he said in a panicked voice, "At least 10 other people are wounded now. We are on our bellies and in a very bad situation."

Iraqi Red Crescent later confirmed to Truthout that at least four people were killed, and nine wounded. Truthout later witnessed pieces of brain splattered on one of the walls inside the mosque while large blood stains covered carpets at several places.

This type of indiscriminate killing has been typical from the initial invasion of Iraq.

Truthout spoke with Iraq war veteran and former National Guard and Army Reserve member Jason Moon, who was there for the invasion.

"While on our initial convoy into Iraq in early June 2003, we were given a direct order that if any children or civilians got in front of the vehicles in our convoy, we were not to stop, we were not to slow down, we were to keep driving. In the event an insurgent attacked us from behind human shields, we were supposed to count. If there were thirty or less civilians we were allowed to fire into the area. If there were over thirty, we were supposed to take fire and send it up the chain of command. These were the rules of engagement. I don't know about you, but if you are getting shot at from a crowd of people, how fast are you going to count, and how accurately?"

Moon brought back a video that shows his sergeant declaring, "The difference between an insurgent and an Iraqi civilian is whether they are dead or alive."

Moon explains the thinking: "If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat."

According to the Pentagon probes of the killings shown in the WikiLeaks video, the air crew had "reason to believe" the people seen in the video were fighters before opening fire.

Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions speaks to the "basic rule" regarding the protection of civilians:

"In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives."

What is happening in Iraq seems to reflect what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls "atrocity-producing situations." He used this term first in his book "The Nazi Doctors." In 2004, he wrote an article for The Nation, applying his insights to the Iraq War and occupation.

"Atrocity-producing situations," Lifton wrote, occur when a power structure sets up an environment where "ordinary people, men or women no better or worse than you or I, can regularly commit atrocities.... This kind of atrocity-producing situation ... surely occurs to some degrees in all wars, including World War II, our last 'good war.' But a counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting, especially when driven by profound ideological distortions, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity - all the more so when it becomes an occupation."

Cliff Hicks served in Iraq from October 2003 to August 2004.

"There was a tall apartment complex, the only spot from where people could see over our perimeter," Hicks told Truthout, "There would be laundry hanging off the balconies, and people hanging out on the roof for fresh air. The place was full of kids and families. On rare occasions, a fighter would get atop the building and shoot at our passing vehicles. They never really hit anybody. We just knew to be careful when we were over by that part of the wall, and nobody did shit about it until one day a lieutenant colonel was driving down and they shot at his vehicle and he got scared. So he jumped through a bunch of hoops and cut through some red tape and got a C-130 to come out the next night and all but leveled the place. Earlier that evening when I was returning from a patrol the apartment had been packed full of people."

Recovered girl Dr. Aafia's daughter


Pakistan confirms that an 11-year old girl, who has been in US custody for seven years and let loose in Karachi by unknown people, is the daughter of Aafia Siddiqui.

Daily Times, quoted the country's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, confirming the girl, Maryam Khan, as the daughter of Aafia Siddiqui.

A US citizen and MIT graduate, Aafia Siddiqui, disappeared on a trip to Pakistan. Six years later, it was known that she had been kept at the Bagram US Airbase, in Afghanistan.

Reports of rape and torture shows she has been kept under inhumane conditions at the base. She was later transferred to the US and was charged with attempted murder and links with al-Qaeda. She was given a sentence of 40 years.

This is despite of the fact that Aafia's finger prints were not found on the weapon that she had supposedly used. She was convicted for firing at FBI agents and US military personnel in a police station in Afghanistan's Ghazni.

Chairman of the Senate's Standing Committee on Interior, Senator Talha Mehmood, slammed the US for keeping the child in a military jail in a cold, dark room for seven years.

He noted that the act is in violation of human rights, and threatened to stop cooperating with Washington in the region, should Afia Siddiqui not be returned to Islamabad.

Fauzia Siddiqui, Aafia's sister, following a meeting with Pakistani interior minister, expressed hope that the country's Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani would press for Aafi release in his trip to the US.

Aafia's sentence to jail has triggered protests in Pakistan, as millions of her supporters asked for the immediate release and return of Aafia, calling it "a question of honor for Pakistan."

Israeli army fires at peaceful protesters in Al Atatra border area, North Gaza

International Solidarity Movement

This demonstration, which took place on the 6 April, is one of several weekly demonstrations happening in different places alongside Gaza’s border with Israel.

They are held in protest against the arbitrary decision by Israel to instate a 300 metre buffer zone as no-go area for Palestinians where shoot to kill policy is implemented. In fact, people have been shot with worrying regularity as far as 2 kilometres away from the border.

The organisers of the demonstrations are an association of residents activists of Beit Hanoun called the ‘Local Initiative’ and an umbrella called ‘Popular Campaign Against the Buffer Zone’, encompassing farmers and residents living near the border and a number of leftwing political parties.

About 200 participants gathered at noon at Al Atatra, near Beit Lahiya and marched towards the border. While the bulk of the participants headed by a group of local women stopped about 150 metres away, a group of about 50 marched to less than 10 metres form the border fence, where they placed Palestinian flags.

After 10 minutes three army jeeps arrived and about 10 heavily armed soldiers took firing positions at the raised area overseeing the demonstrators. A heavy firing of live ammunition ensued for about 20 minutes scattering demonstrators who run for cover showered by the bullets fired perilously close.

A small group of activists, which included the ISMers, held ground waving flags and showing V signs. The demonstrators did enter deeply into the buffer zone which is on the Palestinian land ,but it was obvious that demonstrators were no threat to the soldiers armed to their teeth.

The disproportionate use of force is therefore very worrying but not unexpected. Only less than a week ago a teenager collecting concrete for recycling from many demolished houses in this area, was shot in a leg for no apparent reason.


Uri Avnery's Column - The Big Gamble

by Uri Avnery

Gush Shalom

I MET Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, two weeks ago, and was again impressed by the calm and modesty he radiates.

Generally, I meet him at demonstrations, such as those at the Bil’in fence. This time, too, there was no opportunity for more than a perfunctory handshake and a few polite words.

We appeared together at the Land Day event in a small village near Qalqilyah, whose name is known only to a few: Izbat al-Tabib. The village was established in 1920, and the occupation authorities do not recognize its existence. They want to demolish it and transfer its extensive lands to the nearby Alfei Menashe settlement.

We were surrounded by a large group of respectable personalities – the heads of neighboring villages and officials of the parties that belong to the PLO – as well as the inhabitants of the village. I could speak to him only from the rostrum. I entreated him to strengthen the cooperation between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli peace camp, a cooperation that has weakened since the assassinations of Yasser Arafat and Faisal Husseini.

IT IS impossible not to like Fayyad. He radiates decency, seriousness and a sense of responsibility. He invites trust. None of the filth of corruption has stuck to him. He is no party functionary. Only after much hesitation did he join a small party (“the Third Way”). In the confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, he does not belong to either of the two rival blocs. He looks like a bank manager – and that is what he indeed was: a senior official of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The 58-year old Fayyad is the very opposite of Yasser Arafat, who first appointed him as Finance Minister. The Ra’is radiated authority, the Prime Minister radiates diffidence. Arafat was an extrovert, Fayyad is an introvert. Arafat was a man of dramatic gestures, Fayyad does not know what a gesture is.

But the biggest difference between the two lies in their methods. Arafat did not put all his eggs into one basket, he used many baskets. He was ready to use – simultaneously or alternatively - diplomacy and the armed struggle, popular action and secret channels, moderate and radical groups. He believed that the Palestinian people were much too weak to dispense with any instrument.

Fayyad, on the other hand, puts all his – and the Palestinians’ - eggs in one basket. He chose a single strategy and sticks to it. That is a personal and national gamble – and bold and dangerous indeed.

FAYYAD BELIEVES, so it seems, that the Palestinians’ only chance to achieve their national goals is by non-violent means, in close cooperation with the US.

His plan is to build the Palestinian national institutions and create a robust economic base, and, by the end of 2011, to declare the State of Palestine.

This is reminiscent of the classic Zionist strategy under David Ben-Gurion. In Zionist parlance, this was called “creating facts on the ground”.

Fayyad’s plan is based on the assumption that the US will recognize the Palestinian state and impose on Israel the well-known peace terms: two states, return to the 1967 borders with small and agreed-upon land swaps, East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, evacuation of all settlements which are not included in the land swap, the return of a symbolic number of refugees to Israeli territory and the settlement of the others in Palestine and elsewhere.

THAT LOOKS like a sensible strategy, but it raises many questions.

First question: Can the Palestinians really rely on the US to play their part?

In the last few weeks, the chances of this happening have improved. After his impressive victories in the domestic and foreign arenas, President Obama is demonstrating a new self-confidence in Israeli-Palestinian matters. He may now be ready to impose on both parties an American peace plan that includes those elements.

The US has made it clear that this is not a side-show, but a strategy based on a sober assessment of American national interests, supported by the military leadership.

But the decisive battle has not yet been joined. One can expect a Battle of Titans between the two most powerful lobbies in Washington: the military lobby and the pro-Israel lobby. The White House versus the Congress. Fayyad’s gamble is based on the hope that Barack Obama, with the help of General David Petraeus, will win this struggle.

It’s a reasonable gamble, but a risky one.

SECOND QUESTION: Is it possible to build a Palestinian “state-to-be” under Israeli occupation?

As of now, Fayyad is succeeding. There is indeed some prosperity in the West Bank, which, however, benefits mainly a certain class. The Netanyahu government supports this effort, under the illusion that ”economic peace” can serve as a substitute for real peace.

But this entire effort stands on feet of clay. The occupation authorities can wipe everything out at one stroke. We have witnessed this already in the May 2002 “Defensive Wall” operation, when the Israeli army destroyed at one stroke everything the Palestinians had built following the Oslo agreement. I have seen with my own eyes the destroyed offices of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the crushed computers, the heaps of ragged documents scattered over the floors of the Ministries of Education and Health, the broken walls of the Mukata’a.

If the Israeli government so decides, all the well-ordered government offices of Fayyad, all the new enterprises and economic initiatives, will go up in smoke.

Fayyad relies on the American security net. And indeed, it is questionable whether Netanyahu can do in 2010, in the Obama era, what Ariel Sharon did in 2002 under George W. Bush.

An important component of the new situation is “Dayton’s army”. The US general Keith Dayton is training the Palestinian security forces. Anyone who has seen them knows that this is for all practical purposes a regular army. (At the Land Day demonstration, the Palestinian soldiers, with their helmets and khaki uniforms, were deployed on the hill, while the Israeli soldiers, similarly attired, were deployed below. That was in Area C, which according to the Oslo agreements is under Israeli military control. Both armies used the same American jeeps, just differently colored.)

No doubt Fayyad is aware that there is only a narrow divide between his strategy and collaboration with the occupation.

THIRD QUESTION: What will happen if the Palestinians declare their state at the end of 2011?

Many Palestinians are sceptical. After all, the Palestinian National Council already declared an independent Palestinian state in 1988. On that festive occasion, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, written by the poet Mahmoud Darwish, was read out. It had an uncanny resemblance to the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Dozens of countries recognized this state, and the PLO representatives there enjoy the official status of ambassadors. But did this improve the situation of the Palestinians?

The main question is whether the US will recognize the Palestinian state on the day of its foundation, and whether the UN Security Council will follow suit.

In May, 1948, the USA accorded to the new State of Israel de facto but not de jure recognition. Stalin forestalled them by recognizing Israel de jure right away.

If Fayyad’s hope comes true and the US recognizes the State of Palestine, the Palestinians’ situation will change dramatically. Almost certainly, the Israeli government will have no choice but to sign a peace agreement that will be practically dictated by the Americans. Israel will have to give up almost the entire West Bank.

FOURTH QUESTION: Will this apply to Gaza?

Probably yes. Contrary to the demonic image created by Israeli and American propaganda, Hamas wants a Palestinian state, not an Islamic emirate. Like our own Orthodox, who aim at a Jewish state ruled by religious law and the rabbis, they know how to compromise with reality. Hamas’ aims are not restricted to the small enclave they now control. They want to play a major role in the future State of Palestine.

The official position of Hamas is that they will accept an agreement signed by the Palestinian authority if it is ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum or by an act of parliament. It should be noted that even now, Hamas treats the Fayyad experiment with relative indulgence.

Fayyad is a man of compromise. He would have reached a modus vivendi with Hamas long ago, if the US had not imposed a total veto.

The Palestinian split is, to a large extent, made in the US and Israel. Israel has contributed to it by disrupting all physical contact between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – in gross violation of the Oslo agreement, which defines the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one integral territory. Israel undertook to open four “safe passages” between the two territories. They were not opened for a single day.

The Americans have a primitive model of the world, inherited from the days of the Wild West: everywhere there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. In Palestine, the Good Guys are the Palestinian Authority people, the Bad Guys are Hamas. Fayyad will have to work hard to convince Washington to adopt a stance a little bit more nuanced.

WHAT WILL happen if Fayyad’s gamble proves to be an historic mistake? If the pro-Israel lobby wins against the statesmen and the generals? Or if some world crisis diverts the attention of the White House into another direction?

If Fayyad fails, every Palestinian will draw the self-evident conclusion: there is no chance whatsoever for a peaceful solution. A bloody intifada will follow, Hamas will take control of the Palestinian people - until they, too, are be supplanted by far more radical forces.

Salam Fayyad can indeed say: After me, the deluge.

Robert Fisk’s World: Malaya 1948: another shameful episode in Britain's colonial past

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

Some 24 innocent villagers were killed by Scots Guards in a pre-Vietnam My Lai

Tham Yong died 11 days ago. I bet there's not a single reader who remembers that name, unless they happen to live in Malaysia or, like me this week, happened to be in Kuala Lumpur and to read the disgracefully weak-kneed report of Tham Yong's demise in the capital's equally disgraceful daily newspapers.

A more grovelling, politically neutered, slovenly form of journalism outside Malaysia it would be difficult to discover, and it was typical that The Straits Times, once a serious journal of record (albeit of the colonial variety) decided to report the 78-year-old woman's death from advanced cancer on page 18.

A bit odd. Because Tham Yong was the only surviving adult witness to the massacre of 24 innocent Chinese Malay villagers by 14 soldiers of the Scots Guards during what the British called the "Malayan Emergency". This was when, in one of their very few successes in a guerrilla campaign, the British crushed the fighters of the Communist Party of Malaya who were struggling for 12 years to win what they called the "Anti-British War".

The slaughter at the village of Batang Kali – the victims were rubber tappers and tin mine labourers – took place on 12 December 1948. Our colonial authorities insisted that the unarmed Chinese Malayan men were guerrillas who had tried to escape their captors and, in the giveaway words of a British police officer in Singapore, "the Scots Guards had been well placed, and the bandits just ran into their guns. Everyone was killed".

Not quite. One villager played dead and escaped the massacre, which was described by The Daily Telegraph's staff correspondent at the time as "the biggest success in any one day's operation in one area since the declaration of the emergency". In fact, one villager was executed the night before the murders; on the following morning, the Scots Guards soldiers shot the rest in the back at close range. This little pre-Vietnam My Lai has long been acknowledged. The People broke the story in Britain in 1970. Several soldiers admitted they lied under oath at the original British inquiry – which had dismissed all charges against the Scots Guards.

Ironically, one of the best accounts of the killings comes from Chin Peng, the still living communist Chinese Malay guerrilla commander, who went to London to research British government documents at Kew. In his huge memoirs (My Side of History, published in Singapore), he recalls the extraordinary Second World War resistance movement he ran with British agents – one of them was Spencer Chapman of The Jungle Is Neutral fame – and of how he was turned into the "Butcher of Malaya" by the Brits the moment he turned against his wartime colonial masters.

In Kew, Chin – real name, Ong Boon Hua – diligently unearthed the records of Malcolm MacDonald, Britain's former colonial secretary and son of Ramsay, who turned out to have been quite an unpleasant man, stabbing successive British officials in the back after he became commissioner general for the Malayan Union and Singapore. I interviewed old MacDonald in 1978 – four years before his death – about his pre-Second World War handover of the Irish treaty ports to De Valera, and he seemed a gentle old man (they often do) as he fussed with a large teapot in his Sevenoaks sitting room. Churchill never forgave MacDonald for giving back the ports to the Irish three years before the start of the Battle of the Atlantic, and hated him almost as much for his Arab sympathies in Palestine before the war. At one point, MacDonald glowered at me, waved his finger, and said: "But you are living now in Beirut because I failed."

MacDonald's nemesis in Malaya, it turns out – and Chin's, too, by his own account – was General Sir Gerald Templer, the ruthless, communist-hating British hero of the Second World War – he was wounded in the 6th Armoured Division -- who was appointed to run the anti-insurgency war in Malaya. He was one of the supporters of Britain's outrageous security laws – inherited from his days oppressing the Jews and Arabs of Palestine as the War Office's 1946-48 director of military intelligence. Templer's legacy is Kuala Lumpur's Internal Security Act, which continues to neuter all Malaysian political life to this day.

I was delighted to discover from Chin that one of Templer's greatest hates was Louis Heren, South-east Asia correspondent of The Times, whom Templer slanderously described as "typical of all communist muck" after the brilliant Heren had exposed the humiliating failure of a British military operation in Malaya. Under Templer's poisonous influence, the British government tried to persuade Sir William Haley, editor of The Times, to move Heren – which Haley refused to do. And thank God for that – because more than a quarter of a century later, it was Heren – now foreign editor of The Times – who gave Master Fisk the job of Middle East correspondent on the same paper, encouraging me to accept the post because it would be "a splendid opportunity for you, with good stories, lots of travel and sunshine". I still sometimes tell the ghost of the Great Louis that he was right – especially about the sunshine.

Yes, the shade of Palestine – or "Palestine" as we must call it now – darkens so many of our lives, including, indirectly, Chin Peng. Now 85, he originally fled to China and lives today in exile in Thailand because the Malaysian government, with whom he signed a peace treaty, refuses to allow him home on the grounds that he can't produce his certificate of birth in Malaysia's Perak state; impossible, of course, because – as the Malaysian government well knows – the state's documentation was destroyed in the Second World War. The Internal Security Act, from Palestine to Templer's Malaya to Malaysia, allows the structure of occupation to continue to operate.

Up to 10,000 died in the Malayan "emergency", but even the Brits are still frightened of it. After the BBC took statements in 1992 from British soldiers who acknowledged the massacre at Batang Kali, there were calls for another public inquiry. No hope, of course. When the 15 surviving families of the dead sent the Queen a submission in 2008 – pointing out that the British soldiers' evidence of the massacre has never been disputed – the British high commissioner to Malaysia, Boyd McCleary, replied to them with Blair-like oiliness. "In view of the findings of two previous investigations ... and in the absence of any new (sic) evidence, regrettably we see no reason to reopen or start a fresh investigation." Not much point in Boyd trotting off to chat to old Tham Yong, of course, because she's now in her grave. "Regrettably", indeed!

Live Ammunition Fired at Nonviolent Demonstrators in Ni’lin

International Solidarity Movement

Facing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition, roughly sixty Palestinians gathered outside of Ni’lin today. Joined by 15 Israeli and International activists, the demonstrators protested the Israeli occupation which has claimed over 40% of the village’s land.

After congregating in nearby olive groves for midday prayers, demonstrators marched towards the illegal annexation wall with flags and chants led by village youth. Upon reaching the wall, demonstrators were met with a violent military response. Claiming nearly 30% of remaining village land, the wall annexes Ni’lin farmland for use by the nearby illegal settlement Modi’in Ilit. Soldiers fired tear gas and percussion grenades over the wall at nonviolent demonstrators, who were not deterred and continued a spirited protest.

Soldiers then invaded the village’s olive groves, firing live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. The use of live ammunition has claimed the lives of five Ni’lin residents since May 2008. No injuries were reported today.

Background on Nil’in:

Israel began construction of the Wall on Ni’lin’s land in 2004, but stopped after an injunction order issued by the Israeli Supreme Court (ISC). Despite the previous order and a 2004 ruling from the International Court of Justice declaring the Wall illegal, construction of the Wall began again in May 2008. Following the return of Israeli bulldozers to their lands, residents of Ni’lin have launched a grassroots campaign to protest the massive land theft, including demonstrations and direct actions.

The original route of the Wall, which Israel began constructing in 2004, was ruled illegal by the ISC, as was a second, marginally less obtrusive proposed route (http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=622). The most recent path, now completed, still cuts deep into Ni’lin’s land. The Wall has been built to include plans, not yet approved by the Army’s planning authority, for a cemetery and an industrial zone for the illegal settlement Modi’in Ilit.

Since the Wall was built to annex more land to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. Consequently, the army has erected a 15-25 feet tall concrete wall, in addition to the electronic fence. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only part of the route where a concrete wall has been erected in response to civilian, unarmed protest.

As a result of the Wall construction, Ni’lin has lost 3,920 dunams, roughly 30% of its remaining lands. Originally, Ni’lin consisted of 15,898 dunams (3928 acres). Post 1948, Ni’lin was left with 14,794 dunams (3656 acres). After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements and infrastructure of Modi’in Ilit, Mattityahu and Hashmonaim were built on village lands, and Ni’lin lost another 1,973 dunams. With the completion of the Wall, Ni’lin has a remaining 8911 dunams (2201 acres), 56% of it’s original size (http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=1366).

Ni’lin is effectively split into 2 parts (upper and lower) by Road 446, which was built directly through the village. According to the publicized plan of the Israeli government (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/819633.html), a tunnel will be built under road 446 to connect the upper and lower parts of Ni’lin, allowing Israel to turn Road 446 into a segregated-setter only road. Subsequently, access for Palestinian vehicles to this road and to the main entrances of upper and lower Ni’lin will be closed. Additionally, since the tunnel will be the only entryway to Ni’lin, Israel will have control over the movement of Palestinian residents.

Israel commonly uses tear-gas projectiles, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators.

Since May, 2008, five of Ni’lin’s residents were killed and one American solidarity activist was critically injured from Israeli fire during grassroots demonstrations in Ni’lin.

* 5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (http://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7023).
* 13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv with uncertain prospects for his recovery (http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5324).
* 28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008 (http://palsolidarity.org/2008/12/3742).
* 28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (http://palsolidarity.org/2008/12/3714).
* 30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008 (http://palsolidarity.org/2008/08/3346).
* 29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (http://palsolidarity.org/2008/07/3329).

In total, 20 people have been killed during demonstrations against the Wall (http://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7647).

Israeli armed forces have shot 40 demonstrators with live ammunition in Ni’lin. Of them, 11 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 29 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.

Since May 2008, 112 arrests of Ni’lin residents have been made in relation to anti-Wall protest in the village. The protesters arrested by the army constitute roughly 9% of the village’s male residents aged between 12 and 55. The arrests are part of a broad politically motivated Israeli campaign to suppress grassroots resistance to the Occupation.


Israeli journalist Anat Kam under secret house arrest since December

The Guardian

Woman faces treason trial after allegedly leaking documents that suggest military breached court order on West Bank assassinations

An Israeli journalist has been under secret house arrest since December on charges that she leaked highly sensitive, classified military documents that suggest the Israeli military breached a court order on assassinations in the occupied West Bank.

Anat Kam, 23, goes on trial in two weeks on treason and espionage charges and could face up to 14 years in jail. A court-imposed gagging order, proposed by the state and more recently by the defence, is preventing media coverage of the arrest and charges in Israel.

Kam is reportedly accused of copying military documents while she was a soldier on national service and then passing them to an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Kam denies the charges. Her lawyers declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

A Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau, who has written several stories critical of the Israeli military and who has been linked in internet reports to the case, has left Israel and is now in London, apparently for fear he will be targeted for his reporting. Haaretz and Channel 10, an Israeli television station, will challenge the media gagging order at a hearing on 12 April, two days before Kam's trial is due to start at the Tel Aviv district court.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which reported the story from New York this week, said the investigation into Kam was jointly conducted by Israeli military intelligence, the police and the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service. The Israeli military declined to comment on the case.

During her military service, Kam reportedly worked in the office of a senior Israeli general and is accused of copying classified documents from the office. After her time in the army she became a journalist, working for the Israeli news website Walla, which was previously partly owned by Haaretz but entirely editorially independent. Reports suggest she is accused of leaking the documents to Haaretz.

Attention has focused on an investigation Haaretz published on the Israeli military's assassination policy in November 2008, written by Uri Blau and headlined "Licence to Kill". He reported that the military, the Israel Defence Force, had been carrying out assassinations of Palestinian militants in the West Bank in contravention of an Israeli high court ruling, which said efforts should be made first to arrest suspected militants rather than assassinating them.

The story described meetings in the spring of 2007 in which senior Israeli generals discussed a mission to assassinate Ziad Subahi Mahmad Malaisha, a senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The army chief, General Gabi Ashkenazi, allegedly approved the operation but said Malaisha's car was not to be attacked if there was "more than one unidentified passenger" in it.

Malaisha and another Islamic Jihad leader were killed by the military in June that year, and the military claimed at the time that the militants had first opened fire at the soldiers.

One of the generals involved in the meetings, Major-General Yair Naveh, was quoted in the story as defending the killings as legal. The AP reported that Kam served in Naveh's office during her military service.

The Haaretz piece was accompanied by copies of military documents but it was approved by the military censor before publication, the Guardian understands. The story was published more than a year before Kam was arrested and was followed by several other articles by Blau that were similarly critical of the military.

Dov Alfon, editor of Haaretz, said: "Uri Blau is in London. He will be there until his editors decide otherwise. We are ready to continue to keep him in London as long as needed. Uri Blau published a lot of articles in Haaretz. All of them are dynamite stuff and it is clear of course that the authorities are not satisfied with these kind of revelations in a major newspaper.

"We understand this but we also understand that Israel is still a democracy and therefore we intend to continue to publish whatever public interest demands and our reporters can reveal."