Israel War Crimes: Israel 'committing memorycide'
- Israel 'committing memorycide'
Monday, May 19, 2008
As part of Al Jazeera's coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian 'Nakba', Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.
The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.
This is a group of 50 to 60 villages that remained within the state of Israel and its population was steadfast and was not expelled over to the other side of the border - to Lebanon or Syria.
The international community was aware of the ethnic cleansing but the international community, especially in the West, decided not to confront head on the Jewish community in Palestine after the Holocaust.
And, therefore, there was a kind of conspiracy of silence and again the international community did not react and was complacent and this was very important for the Israelis because it showed them that they can adopt as a state ideology ethnic cleansing and ethnic purity.
Part of any ethnic cleansing operation is not just wiping out the population and expelling it from the earth. A very typical part of ethnic cleansing is wiping people out of history.
For ethnic cleansing to be an effective and successful operation you also have to wipe people out of memory and the Israelis are very good at it. They did it in two ways.
They built Jewish settlements over the Palestinian villages they expelled and quite often gave them names that reflected the Palestinian name as a kind of testimony to the Palestinians that this is totally now in the hands of Israel and there is no chance in the world of bringing the clock backwards.
The other way they did it is planting trees - usually European pine trees - over the ruins of the village and turning the village into recreational spaces where you do exactly the opposite of commemoration - you live the day, you enjoy life, it is all about leisure and pleasure.
That is a very powerful tool for 'memorycide'. In fact, much of the Palestinian effort should have been but was never unfortunately - or only recently began - was to fight against that 'memorycide' by at least bringing back the memory of what happened.
I think that there should be no reason in the world that two people - the Palestinians and the Jews - despite everything that happened in the past should not be able live together effective and in one state.
You need three things for that to happen. You need closure for the 1948 story - namely you need an Israeli acknowledgment of the crime it committed against the Palestinian people.
The second thing that you need is you need to make Israel accountable for this and the only way of making Israel accountable is by, at least in principle, accepting the Palestinian refugees right of return.
And thirdly you need a change in the Palestinian and Arab position towards the idea of a Jewish presence in Palestine as something legitimate and natural and not as an alien colonialist force.
I think these principles have to emerge and so far the political elites on both sides are unwilling to accept them.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera
UN: Israel violated truce 7 times in one week
27/06/2008 10:00:00 PM GMT
Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire with Hamas have been recorded, a UN source said.
Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the Palestinian factions have been recorded, a UN source told Ynet on Thursday.
According to the source, seven violations were committed by the Israeli army, while the Palestinians are responsible for just one.
"It is important that both sides honor the ceasefire, in order for it to be the first constructive step towards a wider and more extensive peace process between the sides," the source said.
Closure, Killing Violate Truce: Hamas
By Ola Attallah, IOL Correspondent
Wed. Jun. 25, 2008
GAZA CITY — The closure of borders crossings with the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday, June 25, is the latest Israeli breach that shakes the fragile ceasefire agreement, Hamas leaders said.
"The closure decision is a violation of the deal for ceasefire in Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told IslamOnline.net.
Israel shut down shut down border crossings with the Gaza Strip saying that the decision is in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on southern Israel.
Israeli military added that the crossings would stay closed until further notice.
Abu Zuhri accused Israel of bad faith in closing the crossings, whose opening was a principal part of the Egyptian-brokered truce between the two sides.
"The closure reflects the Israeli occupation's bad intentions towards any agreement of calm," he said.
The truce, which took effect last Thursday, calls for a halt of the rocket fire from Gaza in return for stopping Israeli aggressions in Gaza and easing its economic blockade on the strip, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.
Under the deal, the crossings were scheduled to be opened at 8am (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday, to allow food, medicines and other basics to reach 1.5 million Gazans.
The second phase of the truce stipulates after three days of the truce, the Karni and Sufa commercial crossings would be opened to allow food, medicine and other basics into the densely populated coastal territory.
The Islamic Jihad movement took responsibility for the three rockets fired on Tuesday, which caused some damage and slight injuries to two people in the Israeli town of Sderot.
The resistance group said the rockets came in response to the Israeli raid in the West Bank town of Nablus earlier in the day in which two Palestinians were killed.
Apart of the crossings closure, Hamas said that the Israeli aggressions against the Palestinians have not stopped.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli occupation troops opened fire on Gazan farmers working the pock-marked land near the border with Israel.
Salim Ahmed Abu Reida, a 75-year-old farmer, was shot in the shoulder and the hand as he worked his field in the village of Khuza east of Khan Yunis and near the Gaza border.
The Israeli army did not comment of the shooting.
"The firing at Palestinian farmers is another grave violation of the understandings of the truce," Abu-Zuhri affirmed.
The border shooting is the second attack by the Israeli military in two days.
On Monday, another Palestinian farmer was shot by the occupation fire in northern Gaza.
Hamas interior ministry officials have urged resistance groups to exercise restraint in the face of Israeli attacks.
Hamas said that by such actions, Israel is provoking the resistance to respond.
"We call upon all concerned parties to urgently intervene to make Israel stop its breaches and respect the calm agreement."
Cameras Vs Settlers in West Bank
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
Fri. Jun. 20, 2008
HEBRON — With Israeli police turning a blind eye to repeated attacks by armed settlers, Palestinians are using cameras as their frontline defense against setters' assaults.
"I always keep the camera at my side," Bassam al-Jaabari told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday, June 20, in his poorly stocked grocer's shop in the West Bank town of Al-Khalil (Hebron).
"It's the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop," he added, pointing to a three-storey house about 100 meters (yards) away.
More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras.
Immediately, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem provided the four Palestinian families living near to that house with video cameras to document settlers' assaults, as part of its program "Shooting Back".
"We know from experience what happens as soon as settler move into the heart of Palestinian areas," said Issa Amro, the B'Tselem official responsible for the volatile Hebron sector.
About 500 settlers are housed in several tiny enclaves built since 1980 in the heart of the city, home to more than 167,000 Palestinians.
B'Tselem has distributed about 100 cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of 2007 to record assaults by settlers.
"They (the settlers) make the life of the Palestinians impossible," said Amro.
"But if their neighbors film them, they think twice before harassing them."
Last week, B'Tselem released a footage showing Israeli settlers brutally attacking two old Palestinian farmers in Al-Khalil.
"The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land," Thamam al-Nawaja, 58, told the BBC after spending three days in hospital following the attack.
She said she and her 70-year-old husband stood their ground and that her arm was broken and her left cheek fractured in an ensuing attack.
Some of the videotapes showing the setters' assaults have also been broadcast by international media, including one in March last year that showed an Israeli woman hurling a stream of insults at a Palestinian neighbor in the old town of Al-Khalil.
"The pictures of this woman have been broadcast throughout the world and provoked at lot of reaction," recalled Oren Yacokovobish, in charge of the B'Tselem program.
"It was then we realized the potential of 'Shooting Back' which was then in a testing phase.
"The cameras have above all a deterrent effect; they protect Palestinians. They also enable the public to see incidents which otherwise are invisible and whose veracity can always be challenged."
Gaza: Humiliation and Dying Children
By Ramzy Baroud
Sun. Jun. 15, 2008
A 6-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza was killed by Israeli fire, June 12. “Medics say the girl was decapitated by a (tank) shell,” the Associated Press reported the next day. The Israeli military said the soldiers opened fire in retaliation to “militants launching rockets into Israel.” AP dispassionately elaborated that “Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel almost daily.” The story of a few lines ends with another corroboration of the claims made by the Israeli military: “the shelling occurred near the border where militants fired 30 rockets into Israel on Tuesday.”
But this is not another tirade about the dehumanizing reporting of the media, where the death of innocent nameless Palestinians are often, if not always, blamed, one way or another on the ‘militants”. Neither is the evoking of this freshest tragedy – the child victim is later named Hadeel al-Smeiri – is meant to underscore the daily crimes committed by the Israeli military against Palestinians in the occupied territories, ones that largely go unnoticed, buried in the not-so-important news items, or used to accentuate cold-hearted assertions such as blaming Palestinians themselves for forcing Israel’s hand to carry out such tragic ‘acts of retaliation.’
The story struck me beyond its value in attempting to analyze mainstream reporting, or the callousness required of a military spokesperson to defend the decapitation of a 6-year-old as necessary retaliation. What is equally disturbing is the fact that Palestinian factions fail to see in Hadeel’s untimely death a compelling reason for unity, and carry on with their political sparring as if they have the luxury of endless time, while helpless Palestinians are victimized daily; victimization that is followed by no serious repercussions, save the firing of useless rockets that are used to fuel yet more Israeli ‘retaliation’, thus justifying the slow genocide and the starvation of the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza.
Some Palestinians, especially those in Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ camp, are still struggling with their sense of priorities.
Jeremy Bowen of the BBC wrote, June 11, “The humiliation of June 2007 (when Hamas took over Gaza) will not easily be forgotten by Fatah's people. For the last 12 months, the suggestion that they should try to end their argument with Hamas has been guaranteed to get a testy response from senior figures close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.” He continued, “One of his senior ministers exploded with such fury whenever I asked him about it that his voice sent the dials on the BBC's recording equipment hurtling into the red.”
Reading the above, I immediately wondered if the respected minister would respond with such intensity if Bowen sought his views on the murder of Hadeel? Or that the minister’s own people are caged, not only in Gaza, but large parts of the West Bank, behind Israeli military barricades, electric fences and ‘security’ walls?
If the minister fails to appreciate the misery of Hadeel’s generation, maybe he should take a few minutes away from his busy schedule to browse some of the grim data on the daily victimization of Palestinian children.
UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Sigrid Kaag visited the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on June 9, the poorest of Gaza’s slums, where the uprising of 1987, unsurprisingly, broke out. “To witness the impact of the current blockade on the children of Gaza firsthand was a daunting experience,” Kaag said. “This situation must end.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs “as of 26 May, 64 children had been killed in the conflict since the beginning of the year – more than the total child death toll for all of 2007. Fifty-nine of the deaths were in Gaza and another four victims were Israeli children.”
Bowen wrote: “The fighter who emptied his Kalashnikov into the desk of Mohammed Dahlan, until that day the Fatah strongman in Gaza yelled ‘This is the fate of traitors like the scumbag Dahlan’ as he pulled the trigger, and it was recorded and put on television for all to see.” The minister, of course, finds it difficult to get over such seemingly unforgivable action by Hamas, while himself forgetting reports in the US media – Vanity Fair to be more precise – that Dahlan headed the US-Israeli plot to carry out a military onslaught against the democratically elected government in Gaza. The plan was botched because of Hamas’ pre-emptive take-over of the strip.
But consider this. UNICEF reported: “Across the West Bank, some 600 obstacles to movement – and the barrier separating the West Bank from Israel – make it difficult for children to attend schools, patients to go to health centers and families to see each other. The closure regime is tightening even for UN humanitarian operations.”
Yet, the minister, and many like him, finds Hamas’ violence in June 2007 the pinnacle of humiliation. Puzzling, indeed.
What is more humiliating, I wonder: the site of Dahlan’s office chair filled with bullet holes, or Palestinian mothers, elders, children lining up before an abusive group of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers, jeering in broken Arabic every racist word that they can conjure up?
Meanwhile, recent news reports spoke of assurances made by Abbas to the anxious Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his offer to dialogue with Hamas is conditional. Why condition talks among brethren while allowing Israel the endless benefit of the doubt in stretching the meaningless ‘peace process’, with no end in sight, while allowing its army to kill kids like Hadeel, at will and without repercussions, whatsoever?
Perhaps Abbas, and the angry minister in the BBC report are not clear on how Israel envisions the Palestinian state they tirelessly promise. “The future Palestinian state must be established according to Israel's security needs, including supervision of border crossings and the disarming of militants,” reported Haaretz in reference to comments made by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; so much for the ‘sovereignty’ aspect of any self-respecting country.
More, the Israeli paper went on to report: “Israel says it intends to keep major settlement blocs in the West Bank under any future peace deal with the Palestinians and that its network of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank helps to prevent attacks on Israelis.”
Even if the Israeli promise of statehood ever actualizes, it has the word ‘Apartheid’ written all over it.
Palestinians need not pay much attention to Livni’s futile visions, and focus their energies to unify their rank for nothing compels more fury than their disunity, and nothing is as humiliating as their reliance on Israeli and US arms and money to keep their own brethren in Gaza, starved and browbeaten, at bay.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).
Israel pressed to reveal why army killed cameraman
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Monday, 16 June 2008
The Israeli military has come under renewed pressure to explain why its tank shells killed a Reuters cameraman and eight other Palestinians on a road in Gaza two months ago.
Reuters is pressing for immediate release of the military's internal inquiry findings after an independent report for the London-based news agency found that there had been was no militant activity in that area.
Fadel Shana, 24, was killed on 16 April by flechette darts that burst from a tank shell as he was filming about a mile away from the tanks and in clear view of them. Eight bystanders aged between 12 and 20 were also killed, involving two tank shells.
Mr Shana's car and body armour carried press markings, and none of the other casualties were armed.
The Israeli army has not yet produced a detailed account but has said its soldiers did nothing wrong. Mark Thompson, Reuters' Middle East managing editor, has written to the military to ask how the soldiers involved failed to identify Mr Shana as a cameraman or the other victims as children and other civilians.
The investigation carried out for the agency found that the Reuters crew had half an hour earlier driven past a point 700 metres from the tanks.
Rejecting a request that IDF officers relay information to field commanders from journalists about their movements in Gaza for their safety, the military said last month: "There will be no co-ordination of press movement and activity in the areas of IDF operations."
Major Avital Leibovich, an IDF spokeswoman, said: "We are in the process of checking a few more details in order to complete the picture. As soon as we have the conclusions we will share them."
Gaza prisoners in bid to lift ban on family visits
By Donald Macintyre
Saturday, 14 June 2008
Palestinian prisoners from Gaza held in Israeli jails have launched a legal battle along with their families to lift a year-long ban on visits organised by the Red Cross.
Their legal action, supported by a series of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations, is seeking to overturn a decision by the Israeli authorities to bar prison visits while Hamas remains in control of Gaza.
One of the Israeli organisations, Hamoked, says there are about 930 prisoners from Gaza held in Israeli jails and the cancellation of regular family visits "constitutes collective punishment and violates international law".
In a response to Hamoked, the Israeli authorities said that "since Hamas' military coup in the Gaza Strip ... [it is not] possible to co-ordinate passage through the border crossings, which are now under the control of terrorist organisations." But the rights group says that the International Committee of the Red Cross is willing to co-ordinate the visits as it always has in the past and has itself pressed for the restoration of the visits.
Its court petition quotes Ruweida Al-Burdini, the wife of one prisoner held in an Israeli jail, as saying that her husband has had 10 operations since being detained but that she has been unable to find out the details. She said: "The children and I miss my husband very much ... We want to realise our right to visit him in prison. We did not do anything wrong. Why are we being punished?"
*Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, told Labour Party activists yesterday that turmoil in the ruling Kadima party was undermining truce negotiations with Hamas. "If this government wasn't overshadowed by the Kadima primaries, a truce agreement with Hamas would have been achieved a long time ago."
Israel cuts off Palestinian tax funds as relations hit new low
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Israel has withheld part of its $75m (£38m) monthly tax revenue payment to the Palestinian Authority after a diplomatic offensive by the Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, designed to stop the continued expansion of Jewish settlements.
The move appeared to mark a new low in relations between Israel and a moderate Palestinian leadership increasingly disillusioned by the lack of progress in talks with Ehud Olmert's government.
Israel has accused Mr Fayyad, who is widely respected by Western governments, of trying to "undermine" its relations with Europe. The Palestinian Prime Minister has written to all EU prime ministers urging them to shelve plans to upgrade the EU's relationship with Israel until it ceases to "flout its international obligations", including those on settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Israeli officials expressed deep "regret and disappointment that our Palestinian interlocutors with whom we are working for a common goal – especially Prime Minister Fayyad – are spending time and energy to undermine Israel's bilateral relations with the EU".
The EU, whose foreign ministers will discuss the issue at a meeting in Luxembourg on 16 June, is already split over whether to deepen technical and political ties with Israel. Israel is seeking a series of new joint technical committees and regular high-level political meetings with the EU.
The Israeli Finance Minister, Roni Bar-On, initially withheld the full monthly payment owed to the Authority after Mr Fayyad also wrote in similar terms to the Paris-based Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development urging it to suspend current negotiations on Israel's application for full membership.
Yesterday Mr Bar-On relented by agreeing to transfer a large portion of the money tomorrow. Israel says the remainder that it is withholding is part of a $50m debt owed by the Palestinians for electricity supply, but it had not made such a deduction before and Israeli sources did not deny that it relates to Mr Fayyad's approach to the OECD.
This week, the Palestin-ian President, Mahmoud Abbas, called for a "national dialogue" with Hamas. Western officials see the move as a significant overture despite declarations by his aides that he was still insisting on Hamas ceding the absolute control of Gaza it seized in June last year.
One theory was that having been persuaded not to attempt a reconciliation with Hamas because he would lose the fruits of any negotiations with Israel, Mr Abbas was beginning to think that the progress of talks so far made that an empty threat.
The Israeli Housing Ministry has confirmed that despite complaints by the US, EU and the UN, it plans 884 more housing units in East Jerusalem settlements.
According to reports of Mr Fayyad's letter to the EU prime ministers he says "Now – more than ever – is the time for the EU to act on the principled position that it reaffirmed again .. that Israeli settlement activity anywhere in the [occupied territories], including East Jerusalem, is illegal" and "threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution".
Mr Fayyad, who also condemns Israel's failure to implement the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the route of the separation barrier through parts of the West Bank was illegal, says an unconditional EU upgrade would be seen as rewarding "unlawful behaviour".
The monthly payments of tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA were witheld for more than a year after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 but reinstated after Mr Abbas installed an emergency government under Mr Fayyad when Hamas seized full control in Gaza.
And renewed warnings of a possible large-scale military invasion of Gaza further threaten the faltering negotiations between Mr Abbas and Mr Olmert. Yesterday, a Palestinian militant was killed and an Israeli soldier wounded in a exchange of fire at the Gaza border.
Hundreds New Settlement Units in Al-Quds
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
Sun. Jun. 1, 2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Defying international calls to halt settlement construction, Israel unveiled on Sunday, June 1, plans to build hundreds of settlement units inside Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).
"We will invite tenders for the construction of 121 housing units in Har Homa and 763 others in Pisgat Zeev," Israeli Housing Ministry spokesman Eran Sidis told Agence France-Presse (AFP), referring to two settlements in Al-Quds.
The construction bid comes few days before the 31th anniversary of Israel's occupation of the holy city during the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel captured and occupied Al-Quds in 1967, then declared its annexation in a move not recognized by the world community or UN resolutions.
The holy city is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam's third holiest shrine Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Under the internationally-backed roadmap, Israel must freeze all settlement activities and vacate all settlements constructed after March 2001.
Israel, however, never halted settlement construction.
Over the past few months, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given the green light for at least 1,710 new housing units in the West Bank, 750 of them in Al-Quds.
Last year, Israel announced a 1.5 billion-Shekel plan to expand settlements inside the city and build three more to encircle it.
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.
The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.
The Israeli move drew fierce criticism.
"We strongly condemn this decision, which is a continuation of similar decisions to expand settlements that have never stopped," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas described the decision a "dangerous threat" to the peace process.
"[The peace process] cannot advance without a complete and total halt to settlement activity," he said in a statement issued by his office.
The Palestinians want Al-Quds, home to 260,000 Palestinians, the capital of their future state.
The Israeli peace watchdog Peace Now also blasted the move.
"More settlements in Jerusalem will mean that the physical ability to have compromises between Israelis and Palestinians will be harder," director Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP.
"The only legacy Olmert’s government will leave is the expansion of settlements and turning Jerusalem into an unsolvable problem."
Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing mounting calls to step down over corruption charges.
Peace Now said in a recent report that settlement building has been on the upswing since the US-backed Annapolis peace conference in November.
"[It is] like a nail in the Annapolis peace summit's coffin."