Israel has again attacked Gaza. In its aerial and ground assault that began on Saturday, November 10th, at least 7 Palestinians have been killed, 5 of them civilians, 3 of whom were children. Up to 52 others, including 6 women and 12 children, have been wounded.
As in every vicious military offensive Israel carries out in Gaza, the dominant narrative is that it is a response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. This is how it’s being reported in the US, and this is how virtually every American understands it.
And it’s a lie.
It’s true that on Saturday, prior to the expanded Israeli bombardment, the military wing of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli Defense Forces vehicle near the Gaza border, wounding four Israeli soldiers. But what prompted the firing of the anti-tank missile?
First, on Monday, November 5th, Israeli forces shot and killed 23 year old Ahmad Nabhani when he “approached the border fence with Israel.” According to at least one account, Nabhani was mentally challenged.
Then, on Thursday, November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers, to be exact – invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (via):
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF military vehicles that had moved into the ‘Abassan village, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,200 meters away from the area where the IOF were present.
So, even if honest observers brush to the side the cruel and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and refuse to let it influence the equation of exactly which side started this flare up of violence, it is clear Israel started this latest clash. And in response to the response, Israel has waged a harsh, disproportionate military assault.
This would be a simple thing to understand if, for example, Western media bothered to ask the other side what happened. Palestinian news media immediately reported that the anti-tank missile Israel was supposedly responding to was admitted to by the Popular Resistance Committees, who described it as “revenge” for preceding Israeli violence on Gaza. But that basic task of honest journalism is apparently out of the question.
Every single Israeli incursion or attack on Gaza is accompanied by the same narrative: Israel fairly responded to unprovoked Palestinian rocket fire. The last major war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December ’08-January ’09, also carried this narrative. Israel committed war crimes in that one-sided conflict, targeting and killing hundreds of civilians, using indiscriminate weapons, and intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure. It has become an accepted fact – even among critics of Israel – that the offensive was a response to Hamas rocket fire. The rocket fire did indeed occur immediately before the assault, but it was in response to Israel’s breaking of the six-month cease-fire, which even Israeli officials in WikiLeaks cables admitted Hamas had kept to.
The Foreign Office revealed last night that it would be challenging the Israelis over their treatment of Palestinian children after a report by a delegation of senior British lawyers revealed unconscionable practices, such as hooding and the use of leg irons.
In the first investigation of its kind, a team of nine senior legal figures examined how Palestinians as young as 12 were treated when arrested. Their shocking report Children in Military Custody details claims that youngsters are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, have their wrists bound behind their backs, and are blindfolded and made to kneel or lie face down in military vehicles.
Children from the West Bank are held in conditions that could amount to torture, such as solitary confinement, with little or no access to their parents. They can be forced to stay awake before being verbally as well as physically abused and coerced into signing confessions they cannot read.
The team – led by Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal judge – heard that “every Palestinian child is treated like a potential terrorist”. In a damning conclusion, the report points out repeated breaches of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“We were sitting in court and saw a section of a preliminary hearing when a very young looking child, a boy, was brought in wearing a brown uniform with leg irons on. We were shocked by that. This was a situation where we had been invited into the military courts for briefings from senior judges,” explained one of the report’s authors, human rights barrister Greg Davies. “To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture,” the report said. Last night the Foreign Office, which backed the report, said it would be taking up the claims with the Israeli authorities:
“The UK government has had long-standing concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, and as a result decided to fund this independent report. While recognising that some positive recent steps have been made by the Israeli authorities, we share many of the report’s concerns, and will continue to lobby for further improvements.”
While the legal team said it was in no position to prove the truth of the claims of cruelty made repeatedly by Palestinian children, but denied by the Israeli authorities – which offered unprecedented access to the delegation – it pointed to the disparity in the law.
Israeli children must have access to a lawyer within 48 hours and cannot be imprisoned under the age of 14. But Palestinian children as young as 12 are jailed and can be kept for three months without legal representation. Between 500 and 700 are jailed each year.
“The other shocking thing is they are incarcerated in breach of many conventions. The practical effect is parents can’t get there because they can’t get permits,” said Marianna Hildyard QC.
While the investigating team welcomed improvements introduced by the Israeli authorities, both Palestinian and Israeli lawyers on the ground insisted much of it was “rhetoric ra ther than real change”.
Last night, Israeli Embassy spokesperson Amir Ofek said the country appreciated the efforts of the delegation but blamed Palestinians who “glorify terrorism”. He said: “As a result [children] are frequently involved in lethal acts. With the Palestinian Authority unable or unwilling to meet its obligation to investigate and prosecute these offences, Israel has no choice but to do so itself.
“Israel notes the detailed recommendations in the report and will study them closely as part of its ongoing efforts to find the most appropriate balance between preventing violence and treating perpetrators with humanity.”
The report details claims children are dragged from their beds, bound and blindfolded
Dozens of international activists detained and arrested at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for the crime of declaring their intention of visiting Palestine, Palestinian prisoners announcing the start of a mass hunger strike protesting Israel’s policy of administrative detention and occupation, and it’s business as usual when it comes to the world’s only apartheid state.
Who now apart from the ignorant or wicked can continue to deny the fact that for the State of Israel crimes against humanity are the norm rather than a departure from the norm? More, they are the very foundation upon which its government, institutions, armed forces, social relations, and entire history rests.
The fly-in organised by the international Palestine solidarity movement has succeeded for the second year in a row in laying bare the lie of Israeli democracy. However this year hundreds of those booked on flights to take part in the fly-in were prevented from doing so by airlines in their country of origin in response to a request by the Israeli authorities. This alone reveals the vulnerability of Israel to its apartheid heart being exposed. It also speaks to the shameful complicity of international companies and corporations in apartheid, illegal military occupation, and ethnic cleansing.
It is worth recalling that today four million Palestinians are incarcerated in the giant open prison otherwise known as the Palestinian Territories. Under the rubric of security, which occupying powers have always upheld as justification for barbarism, Israel operates an apparatus of military occupation, economic strangulation, settlement building, ethnic cleansing, harassment, arrest and imprisonment without trial, plus regular bouts of state-sanctioned murder. Taken together it makes the dystopia described in Orwell’s 1984 almost seem like Tenerife by comparison. Compounding the aforementioned crimes further is a massive propaganda operation designed to deny the Palestinians, forced to eke a semblance of a human existence out of this state of affairs, the right to be classified as victim.
Instead, utilising the inverted logic of an upside down world, they are deemed responsible for, to paraphrase former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, forcing Israel “kill their children”.
A particular insult to the very concept of human decency are the settlers, among them the most committed of Zionist thugs and terrorists, who act as the vanguard of the right wing Israel establishment’s objective of a Greater Israel. Imagine if the KKK in the southern states of the US enjoyed the tacit support of its government and you begin to understand the role eagerly played by these religiously and politically committed racist settlers in Palestine.
When it comes to the prisoners, according to the Palestine Monitor over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. This forms approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Of the just under 5000 Palestinians currently being held in detention by Israel, around 300 exist in what is categorised as ‘administrative detention’, an Orwellian term designed to sanitise indefinite imprisonment without trial, charges being brough, access to legal counsel or any of the rights afforded prisoners in a civilised society. At present 11 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike in protest at administrative detention, with two of those now having refused food for 46 days.
The case of one hunger striker, Hana Shalabi, recently became an international cause celebre to the extent that her plight became an embarrassment to the Israeli authorities. Originally from Jenin in the West Bank, Shalabi initially spent 25 months in administrative detention before being released as part of the prisoner swap with Israel last year for Gilad Shalit, who up to this point was the only Israeli being held prisoner by the Palestinians. Shalabi was re-arrested in February of this year and spent 43 days in hunger strike in protest before the Israelis agreed to release her, deporting her to Gaza. The commencement of a mass hunger strike of an additional 1600 prisoners will focus even more international attention on the injustice being suffered by the Palestinians both in and out of prison – though again who could argue that the West Bank and Gaza are not themselves glorified open prisons?
Previously, the injustice, cruelties, and depredations suffered by the Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories would have remained more or less concealed from the world. Such was the ability of western governments and Israel’s supporters to provide effective political and moral support to the apartheid state. Not anymore.
Since Operation Cast Lead, described by Amnesty International as “22 days of death and destruction”, was unleashed on the Gaza Strip in 2008/ 09, a veritable army of activists from around the world has emerged. In the three years since it has organised and delivered numerous aid convoys to Gaza by land and sea – in the process being assaulted and murdered by Israeli commandoes – organised peace walks which have likewise broken the siege, and conducted fly-ins to Israel demanding open access to the West Bank. Most important of all has been the building of an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) with the aim of isolating Israel economically, politically, and culturally. It has grown exponentially since its inception in 2005, when the call for a boycott by Palestinian civil society was first made, and has succeeded in bringing the issue to public consciousness and awareness across the world.
The tangible result has been to increasingly turn support and cover for Israel from a political net gain to a political albatross for politicians and public figures in the West, cutting through the pro-Israel nexus of professional lobbyists and supporters, who despite their access to political power are now finding their influence on the wane.
It is only right that it is so. Israel is an apartheid state.
This is a guest post from Norma Turner. Thanks to Richard Searle for the video.
30 people had committed themselves to flying to Tel Aviv from Manchester Airport as part of “Welcome to Palestine”. These people were all ages, from 20s to 70s. They represented a wide range of professions, including teaching, nursing and other skills useful to the project of building a much needed school in Bethlehem. They all intended to travel peacefully and were at no time going to disrupt the flights or the airports.
The Jet2.com flight was due to leave at 10.00 am on Sunday 15th April 2012. They would be joining at least 1,500 activists, mostly from Europe, who had been planning to travel directly from Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv to Bethlehem in the West Bank for a week-long programme of educational and cultural activities under the banner of “Welcome to Palestine”. Israel controls all entry points to the West Bank.
Everyone had booked and paid for their flights with Jet2.com and most had checked in online. Midday on Friday 13th April through to Sunday morning people started to receive emails from Jet2 saying that they would not be allowed on the flights, because Israel would not receive them. Jet2 also said they would not refund the tickets.
Israel had distributed a list of about 1,200 names of personae non grata to airlines, demanding they be barred from flights. “Failure to keep this instruction could lead to imposing sanctions against the airline,” said a letter from the immigration authority. Carriers were told they would bear the cost of repatriating deported activists.
Hundreds of ticket-holders across Europe were told hours before their flight that they would not be permitted to board planes.
At the time of check-in at Manchester Airport there were 10 people remaining who had not received emails telling them they could not fly. The decision was made that those 10 would go through to the departure lounge individually without joining in any demonstration.
Meanwhile 60 people gathered to demonstrate in the Jet2.com check in area. Together with the participants in “Welcome to Palestine” who had been denied their flights, there were between 3 and 6 police who were handling the security. Once the demonstration was confident that the 10 had got through to the departure lounge, the remaining people who had booked flights approached the check-in desk, demanding they would be allowed to fly. They were followed by a demonstration who unfurled banners, slogans and Palestinian flags.
At the check-in desk the Jet2.com manager told the first person to try to check in, Mick Napier from Edinburgh, that he could not fly. She took his boarding pass and tore it up into little pieces in front of his eyes. The same treatment followed for everyone else. Jet2.com managers through this action began to lose control of themselves in the face of pressure of the demonstration and a senior police officer was brought in to negotiate. This resulted in Jet2.com backing down and agreeing to refund. We demanded that this was put in writing and the managers went away to organise printing the refund letters.
The cowardly shamefaced managers of Jet2.com would not even show their faces and the police had to deliver the letters to protestors outside.
Jet2.com was doing Israel’s work for it. They were extending Israel’s apartheid system to Manchester. The slogan shouted was “Jet2 – shame on you; doing what Israel told you to”. In the face of a large peaceful protest they had to back down – which was a minor victory. But a more major victory was getting 10 people onto the plane in order to demand the right to visit Palestine.
Many visitors, from around the world, did however get through to Tel Aviv – but were arrested or put on return planes. Those from the North of England will be supported when they arrive back at Manchester Airport.
MPs will be raising the behaviour of Jet2.com in Parliament this week. Encourage your MP to join them.