Category Archives: Israel

Focus on Gaza: A Crime of War?

Human rights investigators continue to look into allegations that Israeli soldiers may have committed crimes of war during their Gaza military campaign. As the first Focus on Gaza A Crime of War…

Human rights investigators continue to look into allegations that Israeli soldiers may have committed crimes of war during their Gaza military campaign.

As the first Focus on Gaza A Crime of War? looks at the story of an alleged war crime that occurred during the war in the small village of Khuzaa, half a kilometre from the Israeli border.

Ayman Mohyeldin speaks with village residents who tell the story of a Gazan woman who was killed with a single shot to the head while waving a white flag as she led children to safety.

ONCE YOU SEE WHAT TRULY HAPPENED IN GAZA, IT WILL CHANGE YOU FOREVER

ONCE YOU SEE WHAT TRULY HAPPENED IN GAZA, IT WILL CHANGE YOU FOREVER

By Medea Benjamin

When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called “Gaza will not die” that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.

It is a photo of a young Palestinian girl who is literally buried alive in the rubble from a bomb blast, with just her head protruding from the ruins. Her eyes are closed, her mouth partially open, as if she were in a deep sleep. Dried blood covers her lips, her cheeks, her hair. Someone with a glove is reaching down to touch her forehead, showing one final gesture of kindness in the midst of such inhumanity.

What was this little girl’s name, I wonder. How old was she? Was she sleeping when the bomb hit her home? Did she die a quick death or a slow, agonizing one? Where are her parents, her siblings? How are they faring?

Of the 1,330 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military during the 22-day invasion of Gaza, 437 were children. Let me repeat that: 437 children — each as beautiful and precious as our own.

As a Jew, an American and a mother, I felt compelled to witness, firsthand, what my people and my taxdollars had done during this invasion. Visiting Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness. Unlike the primitive weapons of Hamas, the Israelis had so many sophisticated ways to murder, maim and destroy-unmanned drones, F-16s dropping “smart bombs” that miss, Apache helicopters launching missiles, tanks firing from the ground, ships shelling Gaza from the sea. So many horrific weapons stamped with Made in the USA. While Hamas’ attacks on Israeli villages are deplorable, Israel’s disproportionate response is unconscionable, with 1,330 Palestinians dead vs. 13 Israelis.

If the invasion was designed to destroy Hamas, it failed miserably. Not only is Hamas still in control, but it retains much popular support. If the invasion was designed as a form of collective punishment, it succeeded, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.

To get a sense of the devastation, check out a slide show circulating on the internet called Gaza: Massacre of Children (www.aztlan.net/gaza/gaza_massacre_of_children.php). It should be required viewing for all who supported this invasion of Gaza. Babies charred like shish-kebabs. Limbs chopped off. Features melted from white phosphorus. Faces crying out in pain, gripped by fear, overcome by grief.

Anyone who can view the slides and still repeat the mantra that “Israel has the right to self-defense” or “Hamas brought this upon its own people,” or worse yet, “the Israeli military didn’t go far enough,” does a horrible disservice not only to the Palestinian people, but to humanity.

Compassion, the greatest virtue in all major religions, is the basic human emotion prompted by the suffering of others, and it triggers a desire to alleviate that suffering. True compassion is not circumscribed by one’s faith or the nationality of those suffering. It crosses borders; it speaks a universal language; it shares a common spirituality. Those who have suffered themselves, such as Holocaust victims, are supposed to have the deepest well of compassion.

The Israeli election was in full swing while was I visiting Gaza. As I looked out on the ruins of schools, playgrounds, homes, mosques and clinics, I recalled the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, “No matter how strong the blows that Hamas received from Israel, it’s not enough.” As I talked to distraught mothers whose children were on life support in a bombed hospital, I thought of the “moderate” woman in the race, Tzipi Livni, who vowed that she would not negotiate with Hamas, insisted that “terror must be fought with force and lots of force” and warned that “if by ending the operation we have yet to achieve deterrence, we will continue until they get the message.”

“The message,” I can report, has been received. It is a message that Israel is run by war criminals, that the lives of Palestinians mean nothing to them. Even more chilling is the pro-war message sent by the Israeli people with their votes for Netanyahu, Livni and anti-Arab racist Avigdor Lieberman.

How tragic that nation born out of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust has become a nation that supports the slaughter of Palestinians.

Here in the U.S., Congress ignored the suffering of the Palestinians and pledged its unwavering support for the Israeli state. All but five members out of 535 voted for a resolution justifying the invasion, falsely holding Hamas solely responsible for breaking the ceasefire and praising Israel for facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza at a time when food supplies were rotting at the closed borders.

One glimmer of hope we found among people in Gaza was the Obama administration. Many were upset that Obama did not speak out during the invasion and that peace envoy George Mitchell, on his first trip to the Middle East, did not visit Gaza or even Syria. But they felt that Mitchell was a good choice and Obama, if given the space by the American people, could play a positive role.

Who can provide that space for Obama? Who can respond to the call for justice from the Palestinian people? Who can counter AIPAC, the powerful lobby that supports Israeli aggression?

An organized, mobilized, coordinated grassroots movement is the critical counterforce, and within that movement, those who have a particularly powerful voice are American Jews. We have the beginnings of a such a counterforce within the American Jewish community. Across the United States, Jews joined marches, sit-ins, die-ins, even chained themselves to Israeli consulates in protest. Jewish groups like J Street and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom lobby for a diplomatic solution. Tikkun organizes for a Jewish spiritual renewal grounded in social justice. The Middle East Children’s Alliance and Madre send humanitarian aid to Palestine. Women in Black hold compelling weekly vigils. American Jews for a Just Peace plants olive trees on the West Bank. Jewish Voice for Peace promotes divestment from corporations that profit from occupation. Jews Against the Occupation calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

We need greater coordination among these groups and within the broader movement. And we need more people and more sustained involvement, especially Jewish Americans. In loving memory of our ancestors and for the future of our-and Palestinian-children, more American Jews should speak out and reach out. As Sholom Schwartzbard, a member of Jews Against the Occupation, explained at a New York City protest, “We know from our own history what being sealed behind barbed wire and checkpoints is like, and we know that ‘Never Again’ means not anyone, not anywhere — or it means nothing at all.”

On March 7, I will return to Gaza with a large international delegation, bringing aid but more importantly, pressuring the Israeli, U.S. and Egyptian governments to open the borders and lift the siege. Many members of the delegation are Jews. We will travel in the spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world, but with a heavy sense of responsibility, shame and yes, compassion. We will never be able to bring back to life the little girl buried in the rubble. But we can-and will–hold her in our hearts as we bring a message from America and a growing number of American Jews: To Gaza, With Love.

For information about joining the trip to Gaza, contact gaza.codepink@gmail.com.


Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK:Women for Peace.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Report from Gaza by US National Lawyers Guild Delegation

Report from Gaza by US National Lawyers Guild Delegation

February 9, 2009
http://www.counterpunch.org/nlg02092009.html

A Report from Gaza
Strong Indications of Israeli War Crimes By NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD

Gaza City.
We are a delegation of 8 American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild in the United States, who have come here to the Gaza Strip to assess the effects of the recent attacks on the people, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred and whether U.S. domestic law has been violated as a consequence. We have spent the last five days interviewing communities particularly impacted by the recent Israeli offensive, including medical personnel, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations representatives. In particular, the delegation examined three issues: 1) targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; 2) illegal use of weapons and 3) blocking of medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians.
Targeting of Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure
Much of the debate surrounding Israel’s aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has centered on whether or not Israel observed principles of proportionality and distinction. The debate suggests that Israel targeted Hamas i.e., its military installations, its leaders, and its militants, and in the process of its discrete military exercise it inadvertently killed Palestinian civilians. While we have found evidence that Palestinian civilians were victims of excessive force and collateral damage, we have also found troubling instances of Palestinian civilians being targets themselves.

The delegation recorded numerous accounts of Israeli soldiers shooting civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, in the head, chest, and stomach. Another common narrative described Israeli forces rounding civilians into a single location i.e., homes, schools which Israeli tanks or warplanes then shelled. Israeli forces continued to shoot at civilians fleeing the targeted structures.
We spoke to Khaled Abed Rabbo, who witnessed an Israeli soldier execute his 2-year-old and 7-year-old daughters, and critically injure a third daughter, Samar, 4-years old, on a sunny afternoon outside his home. Two other Israeli soldiers were standing nearby eating chips and chocolates at the time on January 7, 2009. Abed Rabbo recounts standing in front of the Israeli soldiers with his mother, wife and daughters for 5 – 7 minutes before one of the soldiers opened fire on his family.
We spoke to Ibtisam al-Sammouni, 31, and a resident of Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City. On January 4th, the Israeli army forced approximately 110 of Zaytoun’s residents into Ibtisam’s home. At approximately 7 am on January 5th, the Israeli military launched two tank shells at the house without warning killing two of Ibtisam’s children: Rizka, 14 and Faris, 12. When the survivors attempted to flee Israeli forces shot at them. Her son Abdullah, 7, was injured in the shelling and remained in the home among his deceased siblings for four days before Israeli forces permitted medical personnel into Zaytoun to rescue them. After medical personnel removed the injured persons, an Israeli war plane destroyed the house and it crumbled over the lifeless bodies. The dead remained beneath the rubble for 17 days before the Israeli Army permitted medical personnel to remove their bodies for burial.
We spoke to the family of Rouhiya al-Najjar, 47, who lived in Khoza’a, Khan Younis. Israeli forces ordered her neighborhoods residents to march to the city center. Rouhiya led 20 women out of her home and into the alley. They all carried white scarves. Upon entering the alley, an Israeli sniper shot Rouhiya in her left temple killing her instantly. Israeli forces prevented medical personnel from reaching her body for twelve hours. These are only some of the accounts that we’ve collected.
Israeli forces also destroyed numerous buildings throughout the Gaza Strip during the recent incursion. Guild delegates viewed the remains of hundreds of demolished homes and businesses – in addition to the remains of the American School in Gaza, damaged medical centers, and the charred innards of UNRWA warehouses. While in situations of armed conflict, collateral damage and mistakes can occur, the circumstances surrounding the cases that the delegation investigated indicate deliberate targeting rather than collateral damage or mistake. Specifically:
The American School at Gaza, which was hit with two F-16 missiles on January 3, 2009, killing the watch guard on duty. According to Ribhi Salem, the school’s director, the Israelis gave no warnings. Mr. Salem stated that the school had come to an agreement with resistance groups not to use school grounds and there had never been resistance activity on the property.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
John Ging, the Director of Gaza Operations for UNRWA reported that Israeli forces fired missiles at UNRWA schools in Gaza City, Jabalyia and Bet Lahiya. The United Nation compound in Gaza city was also hit with white phosphorous shells and missiles. Ging noted that al United Nations buildings and vehicles all fly UN flags, are marked in blue paint from the top, and that during hostilities the UN personnel remained in constant contact with Israeli authorities.
Misuse of Weapons
Our delegation has heard allegations of the use of DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weaponry, white phosphorus and other possible weapons whose use in civilian areas is prohibited. We have also heard of the use of prohibited weapons, such as fleshettes. We have found our own evidence of the use of fleschette shells, which we will combine with evidence collected by Amnesty International to push for further investigation. We have not found any conclusive evidence of the use of DIME, though we believe that this warrants further investigation and disclosure by the Israeli military.
Our findings overwhelmingly point to the use of conventional weapons in a prohibited manner, specifically, the use of battlefield weaponry in densely populated civilian areas. Customary international law forbids the use of weapons calculated to cause unnecessary suffering. We found evidence that Israel used white phosphorus in extensively throughout its three-week offensive in a manner that led to numerous deaths and injuries. For example, Sabah Abu Halima, 45, lived in Beit Lahiya with her husband, seven boys, and one girl. It was midday and she and her entire family was home. Within minutes she felt her home shaking and missiles fell through the rooftop. She fell to the ground upon impact. When she looked up she saw her children burning.
Preventing Access to Medical and Humanitarian Aid
Under customary international humanitarian law, the wounded are protected persons and must receive the medical care and attention required by their conditions, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay. Parties to a conflict are required to ensure the unhindered movement of medical personnel and ambulances to carry out their duties and of wounded persons to access medical care. Speaking to medical workers and the family of victims, NLG delegates documented serious violations of this provision. Among the stories documented include:
Zaytoun neighborhood, which came under attack and invasion by ground foces on January 3, 2009. The Palestinian Red Crescent received 145 calls from Zaytoun for help, but were denied entry by Israel. Bashar Ahmed Murad, Director of Emergency Medical Services for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told us that “a lot of people could have been saved, but hey weren’t given medical care by the Israelis, nor did the Israeli army allow Palestinian medical services in.” When paramedics were finally allowed to enter on January 7, Israeli forces only gave them a 3-hour “lull” to work and prohibited ambulances into the area. Instead they forced paramedics park the ambulances 2 kilometers away and enter the area on foot. Murad told delegation members how they had to pile the wounded on donkey carts and have the medical workers pull the carts in order to help the most people possible in the short time they were given. After the 3 hours were over, the Israeli army started shooting toward the ambulances. The Red Crescent was not able to reach that area again to evacuate the dead until January 17, 2009 when the Israeli army pulled out.
Al-Shurrab Family
On January 16th, Israeli forces shot at the jeep of Mohammed Shurrab, 64 years of age, and two of his sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, aged 28 and 18 as they were returning from their fields. Mohammad was shot in the left arm and Ibrahim was shot in the leg. The elder son, Kassab, sustained a fatal bullet wound to the chest, being shot multiple times after being ordered out of the car. Mohammad, bleeding from his wound, contacted the media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a number of NGOs via mobile phone in order to acquire medical assistance. Israeli forces denied medical relief agencies clearance to reach them until almost 24 hours after Mohammad, Ibrahim and Kassab had been shot. Earlier that morning, Ibrahim had succumbed to his wound and died. Mohammad Shurrab and his sons were shot during a so-called “lull” in Israeli ground operations, which Israeli forces had agreed to in order to allow humanitarian relief to enter and be distributed in the Gaza Strip. As such NLG delegates fail to see how this denial of medical access to the wounded Shurrab family could have been absolutely necessary and not simply arbitrary.
International humanitarian law also prohibits attacks on medical personnel, medical units and medical transports exclusively assigned to carry out medical functions. Delegate members saw ambulances seriously damaged and destroyed, some apparently deliberately crushed by Israeli tanks. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Palestinian Ministry of Health informed delegates that 15 Palestinian medics were killed and 21 injured in the course of Israel’s assault.
Conclusions
This delegation is seriously concerned by our initial findings. We have found strong indications of violations of the laws of war and possible war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. We are particularly concerned that most of the weapons that were found used in the December 27 assault on Gaza are US-made and supplied. We believe that Israel’s use of these weapons may constitute a violation of US law, and particularly the Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act.
A report of our initial findings will be compiled and submitted to, among others, members of the United States Congress. We intend to push for an investigation by the United States government into possible violations by Israel of US law. We also hope to contribute our finding and efforts to other efforts by local and international lawyers to push for accountability against those found responsible for the egregious crimes that we have documented.
MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL DELEGATION
Huwaida Arraf (New York, Washington DC)
huwaida.arraf@gmail.com
Palestine: 0599-130-426
USA: 1-202-294-8813

Noura Erekat (Washington DC)
noo194@yahoo.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-510-847-4239

James Marc Leas (Vermont)
jolly39@gmail.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-802 864-1575 and 1-802 734-8811(cell)

Linda Mansour (Ohio)
Lindamansour@aol.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-419-535-7100 and 1-419-283-8281 (cell)

Rose Mishaan (California)
roseindigo7@gmail.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-917-803-2201

Thomas Nelson (Oregon)
nelson@thnelson.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-503-709-6397

Radhika Sainath (California)
radhika.sainath@gmail.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-917-669-6903

Reem Salahi (California)
reemos@gmail.com
Palestine:
USA: 1-510-225-8880

Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace – World Economic Forum – Davos

Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace
The uncertainty and complexity surrounding the crisis in Gaza have captured the attention of the world.

What needs to be done to prevent the Middle East peace process from slipping away yet again?

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey
Amre Moussa, Secretary-General, League of Arab States, Cairo
Shimon Peres, President of Israel

Chaired by
David Ignatius, Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post, USA

The Day Israel Used a 13 Year-Old as a Human Shield

The Day Israel Used a 13 Year-Old as a Human Shield

Matthew Kalman – Future Fast Forward


This is what happened to a Palestinian child who joined teenagers throwing stones at Israeli border police.

Muhammad Badwan was grabbed by officers and tied by an arm to the grille covering the windscreen of their security vehicle (circled).

Last night the 13-year-old’s father said the police had illegally used his son as a human shield to try to stop demonstrators throwing stones at them.

‘When I saw him on the hood of the jeep, my whole mind went crazy, ‘ said Saeed Baswan, a 34-year-old labourer. ‘It’s a picture you can’t even imagine. He was shivering from fear.’

Muhammad said: ‘I was scared when they got me at first. I thought they would put me in prison. I was scared a stone would hit me.’

The incident happened in Muhammad’s home village of Biddo, north-west of Jerusalem, which has become a flashpoint for violence between Israeli forces and demonstrators protesting against the building of an Israeli security fence.

The picture was published by an Israeli human rights group trying to expose the behavior of some Israeli security personnel. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, director of Rabbis For Human Rights, heard about the boy and tried to intervene with the police, demanding he be released.

The rabbi claimed he was head-butted by one of the officers and arrested. He said he intended to press charges against the police.

‘The boy was sitting on the hood of a vehicle, unsuccessfully trying to hold back his tears, shivering with fright, and with one arm tied to the screen protecting the windshield,’ he said.

‘We tried to calm him down and reassure him. I asked if he was hurt. He said he had been beaten and was in pain.

‘It is very depressing that we have come to this position where this is what we do.’The Israeli police said they were investigating the incident.
http://futurefastforward.com/component/content/article/906-misc/823-the-day-israel-used-a-boy-aged-13-as-a-human-shield?