Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Palestinians capture violence of Israeli occupation on video

Palestinians capture violence of Israeli occupation on video

In a graphic and hard-hitting film Peter Beaumont speaks to Palestinians filming abuse from settlers and Israeli armed forces

Peter Beaumont in Ni'ilin

The Guardian, Wednesday 30 July 2008

An Israeli child from a far-right settler group in the West Bank city of Hebron hurls a stone up the stairs of a Palestinian family close to their settlement and shouts: "I will exterminate you." Another spits towards the same family.

Another settler woman pushes her face up to a window and snarls: "Whore!"

They are shocking images. There is footage of beatings, their aftermath, and the indifference of Israel's security forces to serious human rights abuses. There is footage too of those same security forces humiliating Palestinians – and most seriously – committing abuses themselves.

They are contained in a growing archive of material assembled by the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem in a remarkable project called Shooting Back.

The group has supplied almost 100 video cameras to vulnerable Palestinian communities in Hebron, the northern West Bank and elsewhere, to document and gather evidence of assaults and abusive behaviour – largely by settlers.

"We gave the first video camera out in Hebron [in January 2007]," says Diala Shamas a Jerusalem-based researcher with B'Tselem. But the project took off in earnest, however, in January this year.

The video is sometimes chaotic, jumpy. Sometimes only the audio is captured and a pair of soldiers' boots.

But what it documents in all its rough reality is the experience of occupation on a daily basis for the most vulnerable families and communities – giving a voice to those who have been voiceless for so long.

"Right now we have about 100 video cameras," adds Shamas. "The largest number are in the Hebron region where the most frequent complaints of settler attacks are. And recently in the northern area and the region next to the [building] of the [separation] wall where there are demonstrations."

She explains the reason for introducing the Shooting Back project.

"The project started as response to the need to gather evidence. We were constantly filing complaints to no avail on the basis of lack of evidence, or … we don't know the name of the settler.

"Now we are going back and forth with our video-cassettes to [Israeli] police station begging them to press rewind, freeze… it is the bulk of our work. The value of the footage is not only evidential. It also has had a remarkable value in terms of advocacy and campaigning.

'We quickly realised the media value of this footage. It is maybe an overstatement but we started bridging this gap between what was happening in the occupied Palestinian territories and what the Israeli public can see.

"There was a conspiracy of silence surrounding settler violence in particular. This footage is shocking to Israelis.'

And in particular it has been two pieces of video, shot by Palestinians this year and released by B'Tselem, that have gained massive international attention by throwing the issue of human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories back into the spotlight.

The first was footage of a group of four hooded settlers from the settlement of Susya armed with what look like pickaxe handles brutally beating a group of Palestinian farmers.

The second – not taken as part of Shooting Back programme – but supplied to B'Tselem by a 17-year-old schoolgirl from the village of Ni'ilin earlier this month showed a protester against the building of the West Bank barrier on his village's land being shot in the foot by an Israeli soldier with a plastic bullet as he was held blindfold and bound.

The protester was Ashraf Abu Rahma, aged 27. The video was shot by Salam Kanaan aged 17. A constant presence at the demonstrations in the Palestinian villages in the rocky hills of the West Bank, Ashraf is employed by the villages as a watchman on land that is threatened with being taken from the Palestinian villages for the building of the West Bank barrier.

He says he was unaware of what was happening to him until almost the moment before he was shot and wounded in the foot.

It is only when he saw the video too that he was able to understand what happened to him.

Arrested during a demonstration against the West Bank barrier in Ni'ilin on July 7 he recalled last week being almost immediately blindfolded.

"They had rounded up the foreigners [from the International Solidarity Movement] and arrested me and another guy separately.

"They put me in a jeep and started cursing me, hitting me and using bad language in Hebrew and Arabic. It had never occurred to me that they would shoot.

"They held me in the sun for a long time. Later I heard them discussing what they were going to do with me.

"I recall hearing a conversation about how to shoot me. What I recall is the words rubber bullet, rubber bullet... I was blindfolded so I was only aware of their aggression.

"It was only when I saw Salam's video that I understood what happened to me. The guy touching me on my right shoulder before I was shot.

"Just before it happened they said they're going to beat me. They said they were going to send me to hell. They know me because I've been to every protest."

Ashraf claims the abuse continued even when he was on the ground after the shot was fired. "When I asked for medical attention they said: this is nothing, we are going to beat you more."

Although the Israeli military's version is that the shooting was a misunderstanding of the orders given by the lieutenant colonel on the scene — and that the aim was only to "frighten" Ashraf examination of the footage makes it hard to credit that version.

Eyad Haddad, B'Tselem's Ramallah-based field researcher who tracked down the footage of Ashraf's punishment shooting, believes that the project has helped supply crucial evidence in documenting abuses.

"These events that happen are often so distant, or happen in the middle of the night, where there is no media.

"Where we've seen there is a lot of violation from the settlers and especially where there are demonstrations happening and we want to monitor the Israeli soldier's behaviour we are distributing video cameras.

"It is having a good effect and it will stop the violations."

Haddad says the organisation is now trying to encourage people living in areas of confrontation to use their own cameras — if they have them – or mobile phones to film potential abuses that they encounter.

"We want to encourage a mentality to use the cameras. It is the only weapon that the civilians have."

According to Diala Shamas the recent high international profile of the footage shot of the settler beating in Susya and the shooting of Ashraf Abu Rahma has meant that the group has not only been inundated with requests for cameras from Palestinian communities, but those who already have cameras supplied by B'Tselem are shooting more footage of their day to day experiences.

"In the beginning we were almost begging people to take the cameras with them when they went out. They didn't see the use of it. But after the media coverage over the Susya incident… we've gotten a flood of requests for our video cameras. And those who have got the cameras are using them much more frequently."

Commenting on the Ni'ilin footage she said: "It is one of the biggest victories because it is the troops not the settlers. It is not just a 'rotten apple' which is usually the response that we get from the government spokespeople. We didn't give out 100 video cameras to document rotten apples. It was to show there was something systematic happening and it was structural to the occupation.

"In this case it was remarkable that it was actually the soldiers themselves. They did in fact open an investigation.

"They couldn't ignore it."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Humanity stranded at Gaza's gate – thanks to Israel’s Egyptian collaborators

Will humanity vanquish gross and unlawful oppression?

Khalil and Linda left Edinburgh 18 days ago with their precious cargo of medical supplies for Gaza. The 1.5 tons had been gathered together by them. The idea of this journey for humanity and reason was conceived by them. It has been pursued with courage and tenacity. This shows it.

They were turned away at the borders of Croatia but why? That meant retracing their steps. Thirteen hours at the Turkish border was the next hoop. Khalil phoned me to say that a valuation of the cargo from the D&D was needed. Soon after I sent the fax they were on their way. The Syrians were very friendly and an escort was provided by them up to the Jordan border. After they crossed by ferry from Aqaba to the Egyptian shore they had 25 hours to wait. This would have tried the patience of Job (perhaps he lived in those parts and liked a swim). Then on to Rafah about 8 days ago where the barrier was a mile high. Some helpful guards offered to look after the van at Rafah and they retired to El Arish for some food, water and rest.

Each day this valiant couple present themselves at the Rafah gate. One minute they are told that it is likely they will be let through and in the next breath that it will never be allowed. There are no EU observers, those having been removed over 2 years ago. It is known that the Egyptian border guards liaise with an Israeli office about who is to leave or to enter.

Linda has to return to her nursing post in 3 days so is flying home tomorrow from Sharm El Sheikh with the holiday makers. The money has run away with phone calls especially and with a trip which is twice as long as they had planned.

The essence is this. Humanity is made to matter little. The supplies are needed in Gaza such as tracheostomy tubes for sick children and adults. But maintaining the draconian siege is more important to Israel, Egypt and about 40 other nations including the 27 nations of the EU. How does the barring of these supplies and their good guardians square with the European Charter on Human Rights? Why the collective punishment of 1.5 million people.

The press officer at the British Embassy was asked today 'What international law is being used to bar the entry of these humanitarian supplies and the couple who convey them at Rafah gate?'

“This is legal matter between Egypt and Israel.” She did intimate that Israel has the whip hand in this inhumanity.

The fact is that the most sophisticated weapons glide so easily across borders.


This article first appeared on the Dove and Dolphin website.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Ask Gordon Brown why he fails to condemn the Israeli occupation and ignores the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) on its 60th anniversary

British Prime Minister Brown’s speech to the Knesset today was a declaration of support for the Zionist project of dispossession and subjugation and a betrayal of the Palestinian people’s legitimate hopes for recognition of their human and national rights. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is dismayed that he failed to mention the ethnic cleansing wreaked on the Palestinians, when 13,000 Palestinians were killed and 750,000 Palestinians forced from their homes, it what is known as the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) to create the state of Israel.

Mr Brown spent two thirds of his address to the Knesset laying out his emotional, historical and political commitment to Israel, referring to two-thousand-year old-alleged rights while ignoring the ongoing crimes of the state of Israel; the illegal Wall; the land grabs; the killing and injuring; the 11 thousand political prisoners. While mentioning terrorist attacks against Israelis, he failed to mention the daily terror inflicted on Palestinians by the military and settlers – in recent weeks three incidents of brutality against Palestinian civilians would have been ignored by Israel, if they have not been captured on video and broadcast round the world. While praising the Israeli state for its commitment to the education of its citizens, he failed to condemn it for suppressing the Palestinian right to education.

Betty Hunter, PSC General Secretary, said:
Mr Brown, in his eulogising that: "nothing - no prison cell, no forced migration, no violence, no massacres ... could ever break the spirit of a people yearning to be free", should understand that this equally applies to the Palestinian people. He conveniently forgot that his description of the suffering of the Jewish people echoes the current oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people. Mr Brown is out of step with the majority of the British people, who while having a proud tradition of fighting anti-semitism, are no longer prepared to allow the Israeli government to commit its acts of subjugation and oppression with impunity.
If the prime minister believes that a brief urging for Israel to agree to international law, freeze settlements, recognise a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem the capital for both, and a just and agreed settlement for refugees will have any effect on Israel then he is simply continuing to abrogate Britain’s responsibility. During more than 40 years of military occupation Israel has repeatedly reneged on these same points while the world has done nothing.

The Palestinian people deserve more than a cursory visit to the Church of the Nativity and the promise of £30 million. Without political support for a just solution, the Palestinians will be dependent on such international aid for decades to come.

To view the full speech, click here.

Please write to Gordon Brown with the following points, and also write to your local media:

1. How long did he spend in the West Bank?

2. Why does he fail to mention the Palestinian Nakba?

3. Why does he ignore all aspects of occupation in the speech, including the continued building of the wall and illegal settlements?

4. Why does he fail to mention Israeli nuclear weapons?

5. Money is not enough, a political solution needed.

6. The prime minister’s website has only a passing reference to the £30 million deal and visit to Church of the Nativity – does this reflect the partisan way in which he is engaged in the issue of Palestine/Israel?


The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. PSC seek to bring pressure on both the British and Israeli government to bring their policies in line with international law. PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from communities across the UK. Join PSC today!

Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Tel: 020 7700 6192
Fax: 020 7609 7779

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Egypt blocking Scottish medicines for Gaza

Scottish medicines for Gaza now in Egypt, heading to El Arish

(Sunday 20 July, 4.45 p.m.) The 1.5 tons of medicines from Scotland to Gaza are now a few metres outside the gate into Gaza at Rafah on the Egyptian side of the Israeli-built wall that has enclosed the people of this area, mainly refugees, for decades.

The Egyptian authorities in Rafah are refusing entry of the medicines to Gaza and are now demanding that Khalil and Linda drive the van away from their destination towards El Arish. They are threatening to load the van onto a truck and impound van and medicines.

Khalil and Linda, who have overcome may obstacles on the road from Scotland to Rafah to deliver these medicines, are refusing to drive the medicines away from the gate through the Wall into Rafah.

Please text and call with your support for Linda (+ 44 [0]795 867 3840) and Khalil (+ 44 [0]796 00 87 000)

Also write and/or call

Egyptian Prime Minister:
Dr. Ahmed Mahmoud Mohammed Nazif
Phone: + (202) 7958 014/35/36
Fax: + (202) 735 6449 - 795 8016

Egyptian Interior Minister
General Habib Ibrahim Habib El Adly
Phone: + (202) 794 8308 - 7984300
Fax: + (202) 794 5529

At the Egyptian Embassy in London, please email Mr Amr Al Shams at 44 (0)785 233 7210

If he is unavailable, you can also try calling + 44 (0)795 091 2304

+ (020) 7235 9719 Consulate General
+ (020) 7409 2236 Press and Information Office

A projected five-day journey has turned into 10 days: earlier, they were turned back by the Croatian authorities, and had to drive through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to reach the Turkish border. There, they were initially refused entry and told to turn back, before the medicines were allowed to transit Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt to get to the people of Gaza.

Obviously, this is a very modest gesture of our support for the people of Gaza, in the main a refugee people, who are suffering the grim results of a wholly man-made crisis. We must all redouble our efforts to end the shameful EU-wide support for Israel's brutal siege and wider policies of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
SPSC is affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)

For more information, click here and view Khalil's and Linda's video below.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Zionist "left" and "right": a tactical difference over a secondary matter

From Henry Lowi:

This article, by Zeev Sternhell, a respected Israeli professor, exemplifies the difference between the Zionist “left” and the Zionist right as a tactical difference over a secondary matter. Not a difference over values. The Zionist right denies the rights of the people of Palestine by military domination of the country, enforcing the Nakba, and enacting apartheid-like legislation. The Zionist “left” -- that led the Nakba and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights -- now says that, to preserve the “Jewish state”, what is required is an international border separating Jews and Arabs.

So, those are the options offered by Zionism: apartheid legislation within one state, or apartheid partition into two states. In both cases, Palestine refugees are not welcome home. In both cases, no effect is given to the values of equality, democracy or human rights. Is it any wonder that the Israeli “peace movement” cannot gather any steam?! It has nothing to offer!

As you read the article, pay attention to Prof. Sternhell's reference to the "number of marriages between Israeli citizens and foreigners" as a negative factor. What Neanderthalism!

And "the idea of special legislation for Arab Israelis would not have even come up" because ... there would have been no "Arab Israelis". They would all have been ethnically cleansed! Like dust!

This is the self-described voice of "sanity" in Israeli society. This is the current that claims to be in sync with enlightened universal norms. These are the people for whom "a common political framework for everyone living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, thus creating a multinational, multicultural, androgynous entity, turning Zionism into a passing episode" is the worst nightmare!

Oh, the longing for the ethnically homogeneous ghetto, crucible of backwardness, inbreeding and oppression!

These are the people who say: "Don't impose an international boycott on Israeli academic and cultural institutions because WE, YOUR ALLIES, will be its first victims!"

Well, actually, our allies are the workers, the farmers and the refugees, who have nothing to lose but their chains, and who have a world to win.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Israel's UK ambassador fails to respond to assault claim

Friends of Mohammed Omer: No response from Israeli ambassador to assault claim

A week ago we asked the Israeli ambassador in Britain for the truth about the brutal attack on Mohammed Omer by security officials and, if appropriate, for an apology, compensation for his injuries and an undertaking in future to respect his right to go about his work unmolested. He has not replied.

By all accounts Mohammed's tormentors were taking an unhealthy interest in the whereabouts of his prize-money and put him in hospital when his answers weren't to their liking.

We sent Ambassador Ron Prosor numerous published reports and he will presumably have read John Pilger's article in The Guardian. Pilger, twice winner of the Journalist of the Year award, can be relied on to check his sources for accuracy as far as is humanly possible.

Omer was an honoured guest in Britain and was on his way home to his family in Gaza, having committed no crime, when Israeli security officials detained and tortured him. Reports say he was accompanied by Dutch diplomatic staff, who had helped with his travel arrangements in and out of Occupied Palestine.

According to an account on, the Israelis "proceeded to go through every document and paper he had on him, taking down the names and numbers of the European parliamentary officials he had met on his tour. The Shin Bet officials then started to make fun of the European parliamentarians..."

If this is true the Israelis compound their lawlessness by insulting British MPs, among others, and violating their privacy and confidential dealings.

Dahr Jamail, co-recipient of the Martha Gellhorn award with Mohammed Omer, has filed this report:

He was met by a Dutch official at the Allenby Bridge crossing (from Jordan to the West Bank) who was to ferry him back into Gaza. The official waited outside for Omer as he entered the Israeli building. Inside, Omer was told he was not allowed to call this embassy escort when he asked to do so; a Shin Bet officer searched his luggage and documents, and asked him for his English pounds.

Omer was surrounded by eight armed Shin Bet officers. This is how he described what happened next. “A man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: 'Why are you treating me this way? I am a human being.' He said, 'This is nothing compared with what you will see now.' He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said: 'Why are you bringing perfumes?' I replied: 'They are gifts for the people I love'. He said: 'Oh, do you have love in your culture?’

"I had now been without food and water and the toilet for 12 hours and, having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of
them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing it into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror."

Consider the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court has allowed the use of “moderate physical pressure” in the questioning of prisoners... Now consider the fourth Geneva Convention (1949): “(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

As the civilized world knows, violence towards civilians, including cruel treatment, torture and outrages to personal dignity, is prohibited. We have added Jamail's report to the ambassador's reading list.

Israel's immediate response to the Omer incident was a denial. An unnamed Israeli security official was quoted as saying that a body search and an examination of Omer’s belongings were carried out “because of the suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to smuggle something in”. Omer received “fair treatment and no irregular action was taken towards him”. As for his injuries, he lost his balance and fell "for some reason unknown to us", they said.

This contradicts the Dutch diplomats who accompanied Omer, the doctors in Jericho and Gaza who examined Omer and found he had suffered bruises and broken ribs, and Reporters Without Borders who have recorded a sharp rise in Israel's brutal treatment of journalists, especially those returning from Europe.

Mohammed's experience is a tiny window into the widescale, systematic abuse of Palestinian people, which goes largely unreported in the West. Since the international community has permitted a situation in which all residents of Palestine - and visitors - must enter and leave through Israeli crossings the least it should do is insist on a UN presence at all detentions and interrogations.

In the meantime Israel seems especially twitchy about Palestinians with links to Europe.

[Editor's note: The Israeli ambassador in London can be contacted by email by clicking here.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

British peer defies Israel lobby

News Release

In a House of Lords debate on Wednesday 3 July, Baroness Jenny Tonge lashed out at the Israelis for their relentless expansion of settlements on Palestinian land in defiance of Geneva Conventions and criticized the international community for failing to take action.

She warned her parliamentary colleagues that the world will never be free of terrorism unless a just solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is delivered.

The debate was initiated by Lord Turnberg. Seventeen peers put their names down to speak but were limited to only two minutes each.

Making full use of this meagre time-slot, Baroness Tonge pressed home her key message: "If Israel is not persuaded to obey UN resolutions and especially start to dismantle the settlements in the West Bank, anti-Semitism will again stalk Europe. Israel will never have peace; the world will never be free of terrorism unless this problem is resolved.

"Attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq - Iran next - they are not the answer. They have created more terrorism. The answer is a peaceful and just settlement for Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel holds ALL the cards."

She said she was was horrified by the treatment of Mohammed Omer, the prize-winning journalist, who had briefed parliamentarians in London before returning home to Gaza, only to be beaten unconscious by Israeli security guards at the Allenby Bridge crossing while an official from the Dutch Embassy, which had arranged his travel, waited outside. "I am horrified by the rockets from Gaza terrorizing Israelis," she went on, "and by the helicopter gunships on their deadly missions, by the monstrous security wall, the checkpoints, the permit systems..."

The Baroness roundly condemned the power of the Israel lobby, as active here in Britain as in the USA, and the threat of AIPAC, Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "The vindictive actions against people who oppose and criticize the lobby, getting them removed from positions they hold, preventing them speaking... I understand their methods." She spoke of "the constant accusations of anti-Semitism, when no such sentiment exists, to silence Israel’s critics".

She has bitter experience. In 2004 Member of Parliament Jenny Tonge, as she was then, outraged her party leader and Friends of Israel in all corners of Parliament when, addressing a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, she said of Palestinian suicide bombers: "If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself." She was promptly sacked from her position on the Liberal Democrat Party's front bench by Charles Kennedy and the Israel lobby immediately distorted her remark to read: “If I were Palestinian, I’d be a suicide bomber.”

In a debate in the House of Commons a few months ago Dr Kim Howells, the minister for the Middle East and a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, again misquoted her and said, in an attempt to blacken her character: "That is not what a responsible representative in a democracy should say; such a statement contains elements of the insanity that drives people to do that."

The Baroness, however, is determined not to allow Israel's apologists to muzzle her. "Given more time in this debate, I would have expanded on the influence of the Israel lobby because it directly influences our foreign policy and is deeply embedded in our public life as well as Parliament."

As for what ought to be done, she says: "The UK should be pushing the European Union to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which accounts for 60 per cent of Israel’s trade, until such time as Israel shows respect for human rights and complies with international law. That is something we could do independently of the USA. It is absurd that we have just upgraded the agreement to Israel's greater benefit."

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

"Sleeping with the enemy" and "enforced separation between Jews and Palestinians"

From Henry Lowi:

The widely accepted myth is that the State of Israel is a Western-style democracy whose bloodthirsty neighbours want to destroy. Even critics of Israeli policies echo that myth, pretending that Israel is, or was, just fine, and that only some undesirable features need to be reformed.

Here are reports of Israeli state-sponsored racist incitement. Not spontaneous grassroots bigotry. Racist incitement and segregation sponsored by the Kiryat Gat municipality, its Welfare department, the Ministry of Education public schools, and the Israel Police.

I don’t know about you, but the “Sleeping with the Enemy” programme reminds me not only of a Hollywood movie. It reminds me of a programme of a long-gone militarist genocidal regime that targeted Jews as “the enemy”.

Kiryat Gat tells its school girls: No romancing with Bedouin

Kiryat Gat teens warned against dating Bedouins

Israel tells schoolgirls: Don't bed the Bedouins

Culture of fear
“In the vacuum left by enforced separation between Jews and Palestinians, rampant fabrication runs riot, and fiction becomes truth in the minds of the masses.”