Israeli War Crimes: Gaza convoy activists claim Israeli soldiers using debit cards stolen in raid
- Gaza convoy activists claim Israeli soldiers using debit cards stolen in raid
Boarding party troops in deadly flotilla raid confiscated cards and spent on them, claim campaigners who were on board
guardian.co.uk, Friday 18 June 2010 18.59 BST
Israeli troops have been accused of stealing from activists arrested in the assault on the Gaza flotilla after confiscated debit cards belonging to activists were subsequently used.
In their raid of 31 May, the Israeli army stormed the boats on the flotilla and, as well as money and goods destined for the Palestinian relief effort in Gaza, the bulk of which have yet to be returned, took away most of the personal possessions of the activists when taking them into custody.
Individual soldiers appear to have used confiscated debit cards to buy items such as iPod accessories, while mobile phones seized from activists have also been used for calls.
Ebrahim Musaji, 23, of Gloucester, has a bank statement showing his debit card was used in an Israeli vending machine for a purchase costing him 82p on 9 June.
It was then used on a Dutch website, www.thisipod.com, twice on 10 June: once for amounts equivalent to £42.42 and then for £37.83. And a Californian activist, Kathy Sheetz, has alleged that she has been charged more than $1,000 in transactions from vending machines in Israel since 6 June.
Musaji and Sheetz were on board two separate boats – one the Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish activists were killed, the other on the Challenger 1. Both activists only entered Israel when arrested, and were in custody for their entire time on Israeli soil.
"They've obviously taken my card and used it," Musaji told the Guardian.
"When they take things like people's videos and debit cards and use them, and their mobile phones, it becomes a bit of a joke.
"We were held hostage, we were attacked, and now there's been theft. If the police confiscate your goods in the UK, they're not going to use your goods and think they can get away with it."
Musaji cancelled his card on 7 June, the day after he returned to Britain, where he is a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. His bank has agreed to treat the transactions as fraudulent and he will not be charged for them. His mobile phone was also used for two short calls in Israel after it had been confiscated.
Another American activist, David Schermerhorn, 80, from Washington state, claims his iPhone was used, while Manolo Luppichini, an Italian journalist, said his card was debited with the equivalent of €54 after it was confiscated.
Activists say Israel still has possession of at least £1m of goods and cash, comprising aid and personal possessions, including laptops and cameras.
Some passports, three of them belonging to British citizens, have still not been returned. On Thursday, delegations in 12 countries, including the UK, held meetings with their respective governments to exert pressure on Israeli to return the seized property.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in London advised Musaji to register a formal complaint.
"We regard any misconduct as described in Mr Musaji's allegations to be utterly unacceptable and intolerable, and suggest waiting until this subject matter is clarified," she said. "As had happened previously, an Israeli soldier was found guilty of illegal use of a credit card for which he was indicted and sentenced to seven months' imprisonment."
UN blasts razing of Jerusalem homes
The UN secretary general has criticised municipal authorities in Israel for pressing ahead with a plan to raze Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, calling it illegal.
Ban Ki-moon's office said on Wednesday that he was "concerned about the decision by the Jerusalem municipality to advance planning for house demolitions and further settlement activity in the area of Silwan".
"The planned moves are contrary to international law, and to the wishes of Palestinian residents," the statement said.
Israeli municipal authorities moved ahead on Monday with plans to demolish 20 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, risking more US-Israeli friction and international criticism following its recent deadly raid on a flotilla trying to take humanitarian goods into Gaza.
Ban reminded Israel "of its responsibility to ensure provocative steps are not taken which would heighten tensions in the city".
The roots of Israeli exceptionalism
An American academic once told me: "Many people in the Islamic world think America does not believe in human rights, but they are wrong; America believes in human rights indeed, the problem is the American definition of human."
In other words: the American definition of 'human' is not a universal one. This is not purely an American characteristic; every culture faces the challenge of broadening its cultural limits and universalising its moral norms.
But among all human cultures and ideologies, the Israeli case is unique in its double standard.
Criminality wrapped in self-righteousness and aggression immersed in victimhood are a few striking characteristics of the Israeli reality and discourse.
The Israeli personality
The duality of "Israel's insistent emphasis upon its isolation and uniqueness, its claim to be both victim and hero," as Tony Judt wrote in Haaretz a few years ago, reflects the fragility and self-centeredness of the Israeli personality. This is not, unfortunately, exclusive to Israel's political elite, but rather it extends to their Zionist supporters worldwide, including those, such as novelist Elie Wiesel and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who portray themselves in humanistic and aesthetic images.
I was profoundly moved by the graphic description of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust in Elie Wiesel's Night, which depicts his and his father's experience of a terrifying process that violates human life and degrades human dignity.
But I was struck by the tone of self-righteousness and self-justification in Wiesel's fictional Dawn, particularly when he writes: "The commandment thou shalt not kill was given from the summit of one of the mountains here in Palestine, and we were the only ones to obey it. But that all over ... in the days and weeks and months to come, you will have only one purpose: to kill those who have made us killers."
When the Jewish South African judge, Richard Goldstone, exposed Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Wiesel called that "a crime against the Jewish people". But this is simply an immoral use of past atrocities as a moral justification for present brutalities and oppression.
Moreover, one cannot but entertain two questions here: Firstly, what kind of moral claim does Wiesel, who was born of a Romanian father and a Hungarian mother, have over the divine call at Mount Sinai in the heart of a Middle Eastern desert? And secondly, by which moral or legal norm are the Palestinians of today responsible for the wrongdoings of the Germans of yesterday?
Deadly Israeli air raid on Gaza
Officials in Gaza have retrieved the bodies of two Palestinians killed in Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press news agency has reported.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the overnight strikes targeting what they said were two smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border near Egypt, and an alleged weapons storage facility on the northern Gaza border.
"Our planes attacked an armoury in the north of the Gaza Strip and two tunnels used for gunrunning in the south" from Egypt, the spokesman said on Friday.
He said the raids came in retaliation for over 10 mortar shells fired from Gaza into Israel on Thursday, seven of which landed in Israel causing no injuries.
Flotilla aid will enter Gaza
About 10,000 tonnes of aid from the freedom flotilla for Gaza has been caught in the middle of a propaganda campaign between Israel and Hamas, the movement which controls Gaza.
Initially, Israel said all of the aid could go in, except for construction material and pre-fabricated homes.
So Israel sent five truckloads of wheelchairs from the flotilla to the Keram Abu Salem crossing, on the border with Gaza.
We waited on the edge of a road lined with dozens of trucks for the goods to enter Gaza. It was a very hot day, that seemed to stretch as long as the road in front of us.
In the end, the wheelchairs did not enter Gaza because Hamas said they would not accept the flotilla aid until Israel agreed to send all of it in, including cement.
It was 'all or nothing' for Hamas.
Later, we visited a family in northern Gaza which had been selected by the Turkish aid organisation, IHH, to receive a new house from the flotilla aid.
It was my first trip to this part of Gaza, an area which was heavily bombed during the war with Israel.
Here, there are few signs that any rebuilding has taken place. Families are living in tin shacks and mud brick homes, right next to the rubble of their old houses.
This is where we met the Dardona family. The father, Adley, showed me around his old home - what's left of it - a pile of steel and cement.
He is now living with his four sons and wife in a shed, stitched together from different sheets of tin.
Adley says he was excited to hear he had been selected to receive a new house, and then deeply disappointed to find out Israel would not allow the construction material in.
Despite this, he agreed with Hamas that people in Gaza should wait until Israel agrees to send in all of the aid.
So while the wheelchairs, clothes, shoes, dentist chairs and sewing machines (just to mention some of the goods) sat in the sun at an Israeli army base near Tel Aviv, the Israelis, Turks and United Nations debated what to do with it.
Flotilla flap at the UN
Israel has engaged in a war of words with the United Nations Correspondents Association which hosted an event during which a passenger on board the Mavi Marmara was allowed to show a video that was shot as Israeli commandoes raided the aid ship.
The Israeli mission to the UN took aim at UNCA in a letter dated June 17. It says Israel was denied the opportunity to present its point of view to UN journalists and demands an apology.
"Offering UN media facilities to screen video produced by a one-sided activist while actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time is severely unethical," Israeli spokesperson Mirit Cohen wrote in her complaint.
Cohen had asked to show a five minute film put together by the IDF right after a screening of footage smuggled out of Israel by Brazilian-American activist Iara Lee.
She told the Israeli press that she was asked to reschedule at the last minute.
But UNCA president, Giampaolo Pioli, fired back.
… It was you who turned down our offer to screen your Israeli film and make your statement directly before or after Ms. Lee's presentation, you who refused to take the stage alongside Ms Lee to present your side of the story, you who declined to take questions from UNCA journalists - a requirement for all UNCA presentations.
Pioli forwarded the following email exchange to UN correspondents.
Email exchange between Pioli and Cohen from June 10:
From Mirit Cohen:
Please find bellow the link to the short film from the IDF spokesperson unit re the events on the Mavi Marmara, which we ask to screen today after the other film. We will make a short statment as well."
Questions remain in Israel shooting
A week after a Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli policein East Jerusalem, details of the circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear.
With most media focused on the global outrage following Israel's deadly assault on a Gaza aid flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, the death of 41-year-old Ziad Jilani has gone relatively unnoticed.
Jilani, a father of three, was shot dead while returning from Friday prayers on June 11, in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz, after what police said was an attempt by Jilani to ram his car into two officers.
A friend of his family told Al Jazeera that Jilani was a "very family-oriented man, a loving husband and a devoted father" to his three daughters.
"His wife told me that before her husband left the house that morning, they had discussed taking the kids out someplace fun that afternoon. This was no premeditated attack," she said.
'Intent to kill'
Israeli officialssaid that Jilani's car hit two Israeli policemen, with an apparent intent to kill, before driving a short distance and proceeding to flee the scene on foot.
They said that the police officers called on the suspect to stop, and opened fire and killed him once it was clear that he had ignored their instructions.
Ziad, holder of a US "green card", was married to Moira, an American citizen who was born in Barbados and raised in Texas. They apparently moved to Jerusalem to be near his family.
The week following his death saw many blogs written, asking why a father of three daughters would try to kill Israeli soldiers when returning from Friday prayers.
Witnesses quoted in various Arab and Israeli media gave a very different account to the events of that tragic afternoon.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that several minutes before the incident, Israeli police were seen riding horses towards the Wadi Joz industrial area.
Earlier in the day, Israeli army radio raised alert levels in East Jerusalem in anticipation of protests that they expected following Israel's May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews accused of racism over education demands
Parents of European descent are refusing to let their daughters attend school with girls of Middle Eastern or North African origin
By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem
More than 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets across Israel yesterday for a showdown between religious and secular society over the way the Jewish state runs its education system.
The protests brought central Jerusalem to a standstill as a group of religious parents prepared to go to prison for defying a court order demanding their daughters attend classes with girls of different ethnic origin.
Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, origin do not want their daughters to be educated in the same classroom as schoolgirls of Middle Eastern and North African descent, or Sephardim, claiming that they are not as religious.
Waiting in Gaza
The volatile situation in the Palestinian territories puts the Gaza Strip in the headlines frequently.
But despite the adversity behind these newsworthy events, there is nothing that Gazans fear more than dropping out of the headlines - the only real link to the outside world - and falling deeper into the isolation and obscurity of the Israeli blockade.
Gaza under siege is a forgotten place where time and change are irrelevant aside from degradation, both of physical surroundings and the quality inside us that makes human beings yearn for life.
What keeps it afloat is outside humanitarian aid, but what infuses it with that faint semblance to normalcy are the tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt.
Covert and basic only two years ago, tunnel trade increased as the blockade continued.
The not so distant memory of the fuel crisis, when hospitals shut down and cars ran on diesel mixed with cooking oil, is what led more traders to go underground.
Today, store shelves are no longer empty, and pharmacies carry more types of medication.
Today electrical appliances can be brought in from Egypt, and power cuts have gone down to eight hours a day.
For many Gazans this is a far cry from the conditions they have endured since as far back as 2005.
But contrary to recent Israeli propaganda claims, in Gaza poverty, destitution and inhumane conditions not only exist, but thrive.
Orthodox Jews rally against verdict
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have staged mass demonstrations against a court ruling that forces the integration of a religious girls' school.
The rallies took place in Jerusalem and in other cities on Thursday in a show of mass defiance over the ruling by the supreme court.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said 10,000 police were deployed to maintain order as demonstrators held posters that read: "The Supreme Court is fascist."
"The prisoners of Emanuel are the messengers of the Jewish people," read another.
At the centre of the dispute is an Orthodox school in the Emanuel Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank.
Parents from the strictly observant Slonim Hassidic sect of Ashkenazi Jewry refused to let their children attend school with girls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.
They insist they are not racist, but want to keep the classrooms segregated, as they have been for years, arguing that the families of the Sephardi girls are not religious enough.
However, the court rejected that argument and ordered the jailing of at least 43 sets of Ashkenazi parents refusing to send their daughters back to school.
Abuse of Palestinians 'widespread'
The death toll in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was "much lower" in 2009 than previous years, but human rights abuses against Palestinians remain widespread, according to a new report from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces dropped by more than 80 per cent last year, the report pointed out on Monday.
But human rights abuses still run rampant in the Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where B'Tselem blamed Israel's blockade for "the collapse of the economy".
The report noted that 95 per cent of Gaza's factories have closed, that 98 per cent of residents suffer from blackouts, and that 93 per cent of Gaza's water is polluted.
"Poverty and deprivation, which were widespread before the operation [Israel's war on Gaza], have worsened still further," the report said.
"Absurdly, Israel's decision to prevent imports and exports has encouraged the development of the tunnels economy between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which is controlled by Hamas and increases its power."
B'Tselem also denounced what it described as a culture of impunity within the Israeli security forces.
"From the soldier at the checkpoint to the top echelon of the army and government, accountability for harming Palestinian civilians is the exception rather than the rule," it said.
The report also criticised continued settlement growth in the West Bank as a violation of several Palestinian rights, including "the right to housing, to a livelihood, and to freedom of movement".
B'Tselem's report acknowledged, though, that the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has "improved in several important ways". Israel had reduced the number of manned checkpoints in the West Bank to 44 by the end of February, for example, down from 63 in 2008.
Eighty-three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces between the end of the Gaza war, in January 2009, and April 2010. More than one-third of them were not engaged in hostilities, the group said. That compares with 456 Palestinian deaths in 2008.
During the same period, Palestinian fighters killed three Israeli civilians, compared with 21 in 2008; and four members of Israel's security forces were killed, as opposed to 10 in 2008.
None of B'Tselem's figures include casualties from the three-week Gaza war, during which more than 1,100 Palestinians were killed along with 10 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians.
B'Tselem was founded in 1989 by a group of Israeli lawyers, academics, journalists and politicians to document human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Time to end, not 'ease' the siege
Red Cross: Gaza blockade illegal
Gaza flotilla attack: activist releases new footage
Documentary maker Iara Lee smuggles out video despite Israeli attempt to confiscate all recordings
Kidnapped by Israel, forsaken by Britain
By Jamal Elshayyal in
on June 6th, 2010
Firstly I must apologise for taking so long to update my blog. The events of the past few days have been hectic to say the least, and I am still trying to come to grips with many of the things that have happened.
It was this time last week that I was on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and first spotted Israeli warships at a distance, as they approached the humanitarian flotilla. Little did I know how deadly and bloody the events that soon unfolded would be.
What I will write in this entry is fact, every letter of it, none of it is opinion, none of it is analysis, I will leave that to you, the reader.
After spotting the warships at a distance, (at roughly 11pm) the organisers called for passengers to wear their life vests and remain indoors as they monitored the situation. The naval warships together with helicopters remained at a distance for several hours.
At 2am local time the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night.
Just after 4am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters. It was an unprovoked attack. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction.
Dozens of speed boats carrying about 15-20 masked Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth surrounded the Mavi Marmara which was carrying 600 or so unarmed civilians. Two helicopters at a time hovered above the vessel. Commandos on board the choppers joined the firing, using live ammunition, before any of the soldiers had descended onto the ship.
Two unarmed civilians were killed just metres away from me. Dozens of unarmed civilians were injured right before my eyes.
One Israeli soldier, armed with a large automatic gun and a side pistol, was overpowered by several passengers. They disarmed him. They did not use his weapons or fire them; instead they threw his weapons over board and into the sea.
After what seemed at the time as roughly 30 minutes, passengers on board the ship raised a white flag. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition. The ships organisers made a loud speaker announcement saying they have surrendered the ship. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition.
I was the last person to leave the top deck.
Below, inside the sleeping quarters, all the passengers had gathered. There was shock, anger, fear, hurt, chaos.
Doctors ran in all directions trying to treat the wounded, blood was on the floor, tears ran down people’s faces, cries of pain and mourning could be heard everywhere. Death was in the air.
Three critically injured civilians were being treated on the ground in the reception area of the ship. Their clothes soaked in blood. Passengers stood by watching in shock, some read out verses of the Qur’an to calm them, doctors worked desperately to save them.
Several announcements were made on the load speakers in Hebrew, Arabic and English - "This is a message to the Israeli army, we have surrendered. We are unarmed. We have critically injured people. Please come and take them. We will not attack."
There was no response.
One of the passengers, a member of the Israeli Parliament, wrote a sign in Hebrew, reading the exact same thing; she held it together with a white flag and approached the windows where the Israeli soldiers were standing outside. They pointed their laser guided guns to her head, ordering her to go away.
A British citizen tried the same sign - this time holding a British Flag and taking the sign to a different set of windows and different set of soldiers. They responded in the same manner.
Three hours later, all three of the injured were pronounced dead. The Israeli soldiers who refused to allow them treatment succeeded where their colleagues had earlier failed when they targeted these three men with bullets.
At around 8am the Israeli army entered the sleeping quarters. They handcuffed the passengers. I was thrown onto the ground, my hands tied behind my back, I couldn’t move an inch.
I was taken to the top deck where the other passengers were, forced to sit on my knees under the burning sun.
One passenger had his hands tied so tight his wrists were all sorts of colours. When he requested that the cuffs be loosened, an Israeli soldier tightened them even more. He let out a scream that sent chills down my body.
I requested to go to the bathroom, I was prevented. Instead the Israeli soldier told me to urinate where I was and in my own clothes. Three or four hours later I was allowed to go.
I was then marched, together with the other passengers, back to the sleeping quarters. The place was ransacked, its image like that of the aftermath of an earthquake.
I remained on the ship, seated, without any food or drink, barring three sips of water, for more than 24 hours. Throughout this time, Israeli soldiers had their guns pointed at us. Their hands on the trigger. For more than 24 hours.
I was then taken off the ship at Ashdod where I was asked to sign a deportation orde. It claimed that I had entered Israel illegally and agreed to be deported. I told the officer that I, in fact, had not entered Israel but that the Israeli army had kidnapped me from international waters and brought me to Israel against my will; therefore I could not sign this document.
My passport was taken from me. I was told that I would go to jail.
Only then were my hands freed, I spent more than 24 hours with my hands cuffed behind my back, with nothing to eat, and barely anything to drink.
Upon arrival at the prison I was put in a cell with three other passengers. The cell was roughly 12ft by 9ft.
I spent more than 24 hours in jail. I was not allowed to make a single phone call.
The British consulate did not come and see me. I did not see a lawyer.
There was no hot water for a shower.
The only meal was frozen bread and some potatoes.
The only reason I believe I was released was because the Turkish prisoners refused to leave until and unless the other nationalities (those whose consulates had not come and released them) were set free.
I was taken to Ben Gurion airport. When I asked for my passport, the Israeli official presented me with a piece of paper and said "congratulations this is your new passport". I replied "you must be joking, you have my passport". The Israeli official's response: "sue me".
There I was asked again to sign a deportation order. Again I refused.
I was put on a plane headed to Istanbul.
Masked Israeli soldiers and commandos took me from international waters.
Uniformed Israeli officials locked me behind bars.
The British government did not lift a finger to help me, till this day I have not seen or heard from a British official.
The Israeli government stole my passport.
The Israeli government stole my lap top, two cameras, 3 phones, $1500 and all my possessions.
My government, the British government has not even acknowledged my existence.
I was kidnapped by Israel. I was forsaken by my country.
Palestinians killed by Israeli fire