Category Archives: Occupation practices

The nuts and bolts of racial discrimination, Zionist style

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/May-11/297484-israels-west-bank-housing-policy-by-numbers.ashx

Israel’s West Bank housing policy by numbers

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in an area covering over 60 percent of the territory.

Although settlers can secure building permits with ease, the opposite applies for Palestinians who are forced to build illegally, with Israel bulldozing hundreds of such structures every year, rights groups say.

Villages vs. settlements Over 60 percent – around 360,000 hectares – of the West Bank is classified as Area C, which Israel aims to retain under any final settlement. This is where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration.

U.N. figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, in 532 residential areas. There are also 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 or so unauthorized outposts.

Less than 1 percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent which falls within the domain of local settlements, the U.N. says. Palestinian construction in the rest of Area C is subject to severe restrictions and almost impossible to carry out.

Demolition orders vs. permitsSince the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords were signed, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, according to Israeli planning rights watchdog Bimkom.

So far, about 2,925 structures have actually been demolished.

Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past two decades, Israel has issued demolition notices to nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned structures.

Last year, Israel issued 911 demolition orders on grounds of a lack of building permits. There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented, Bimkom says.

Structures can include anything from a house to an animal shed, a road or fence, foundations, infrastructure, cisterns, cemeteries and solar panels. Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.

According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999. And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says. In 2014, Israel granted a single permit.

Two-tier planning system

In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative system for Jewish settlers, and a military system without representation for Palestinians, Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights says.

In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite – to include as much area as possible, producing low density, it says.

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/05/quantum-mechanics-israeli-totalitarianism-150507072609153.html

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
 
Source: Al Jazeera

Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/israel-road-signs-policy-erases-memory-place-150202105553841.html
Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’

In some areas, street signs only indicate the nearest Israeli settlements.

Rania Zabaneh, Dalia Hatuqa |  Al Jazeera, 04 Feb 2015

Ramallah, West Bank – Just outside of Ramallah, on the edge of the main West Bank north-south artery known as Road 60, a large green road sign is hard to miss. It indicates that the Israeli settlements of Kokhav Yaakov and Geva Binyamin are nine kilometres to the south, while Pesagot is another 13km away.

Just south are the Palestinian villages of Deir Dibwan, Burqa, Mikhmas and Jaba – but they are not mentioned on any of the major signs on the highway. This is a situation replicated across the West Bank, where approximately 150 settlements peppering the higher elevations are connected by a network of roads.

A United Nations report said this network is “primarily for Israeli use that specifically link West Bank settlements to each other and to Israel … Palestinian access on to this network is restricted by a closure regime consisting of … checkpoints, roadblocks and a permit system for Palestinian vehicles.”

Israeli authorities have long banned the Palestinian Authority (PA) from putting up its own road signs that refer to Palestinian towns and villages. This is true mostly for population centres in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli administrative and security control.

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: “The matter is being checked and addressed.” COGAT is an Israeli defence ministry unit that encompasses the Civil Administration, the Israeli governing body in the West Bank.

On an intersection on a two-lane highway in the northern West Bank, cars, lorries and taxis whiz by, travelling to various destinations. But it is difficult for Palestinian travellers here to pinpoint where they are; street signs only indicate where the nearest Israeli settlements are.

“We normally know this street as the ‘Yitzhar line’,” said one truck driver, referring to the settlement thrust in the heart of three Palestinian villages; Burin, Madama and Asira al-Qibliyeh. “We are between Qalqiliya and Huwara. There isn’t anything to indicate where Nablus or Qalqiliya are except Yitzhar.”

Not only are the proper names of Palestinian locales – in either Arabic, English or Hebrew – often absent from street signs, but in some cases, even the Arabic spelling of Hebrew names has been painted over or erased.

“We got used to the Hebrew name of the area because there are no other signs,” one taxi driver told Al Jazeera. Another added: “We have a hard time getting to places. We have to ask for directions the whole time.”

In 2009, the PA kick-started a US-funded project to install road signs in Arabic and English script. The $20m project was expected to last four years. However, about half of the signs were not erected because of Israeli opposition, and the project was subsequently shelved.

“Israel does not allow us to erect street signs, especially on main streets and bypass roads in Area C,” Mohammad Jabarin, the deputy minister of local government, told Al Jazeera. “We managed to put up signs inside Palestinian population centres, but not outside.”

That has not made it easier for Palestinians to navigate their way through the West Bank, carved up by a matrix of Israeli infrastructural obstacles, including the separation wall, about 100 fixed checkpoints, concrete blocks, and earth mounds.

Critics contend that the Israeli military occupation has not only effectively changed the landscape, but also affected Palestinian memory “through visual and linguistic manipulation.”

“Perceived as mundane and experienced as mere informative images, innocent and indisputable, road signs can constitute part of a highly invested political strategy for producing a linguistic landscape,” wrote Liora Bigon and Amer Dahamshe, who studied Israeli road-sign policy.

Others say the presence of Israeli military infrastructure has affected Palestinians’ usage. Places like Qalandiya, the name of a West Bank refugee camp, are now synonymous with the checkpoints thrust in their midst.

“The most imminent danger is when the colonial terms are used by individuals under occupation,” said Abaher el-Sakka, a professor of social sciences at Birzeit University.

Another danger, according to Sakka, is “erasing the memory of the place, connected to the original owners of the land, by using names that serve the interests of the colonisers, and this means the ultimate success of the colonial project”.

Sakka’s fears do not seem to be inflated: Many drivers on the “Yitzhar line” could not name the nearby Palestinian villages where the settlement was built. “There’s no Arabic name for this area,” said one taxi driver. “There’s an Arab village here, but I can’t remember its name, because there are only Hebrew signs.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Israeli soldiers are licensed thugs applying state violence in the West Bank

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.631735

Israeli soldiers are licensed thugs applying state violence in the West Bank

Even without tear gas grenades and grabbing Ziad Abu Ein by the throat, the presence of IDF troops in Turmus Aya was an act of violence in itself.

By Amira Hass, Haaretz, 15.12.14 3
 
The death of the Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein is more evidence of how the violence of the Israel Defense Forces has become normal, an obvious routine, one that is not seen and not changed. We have been busy with “a heart attack or not a heart attack,” we dealt with “suspending security coordination or not suspending security coordination” and with “how the IDF prepares for escalation.” In other words, we have been dealing with what slightly tickles Israeli fake normalcy.

Nobody addressed the naturalness with which a line of IDF soldiers and Border Police and army jeeps set up in a Palestinian field to prevent farmers from accessing their land. There is no criticism of the nonchalance with which the licensed thugs shoot tear gas and stun grenades at old people, women and young people. And why? So they will not come near the unauthorized and illegal outpost of Adei Ad, located on their land.

Even without tear gas grenades and stun grenades, even without grasping Abu Ein’s throat – the presence of IDF and Border Police forces there was pure violence. Every pillbox in the West Bank, every military camp and Civil Administration jeep, and every tractor of the Jerusalem municipality in the eastern part of the city, they are all an inseparable part of the state violence.

The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 as part of a deal for a period of five years: The Palestinians will not respond to the Israeli state violence, and Israel will gradually reduce the areas in which its licensed thugs apply their violence. This was the practical essence of the Oslo Accords. But the best and brightest of the Israeli forces did everything so that the Palestinians would be portrayed as the agreement’s violators if they respond to Israel’s non-shrinking violence. To shout at a soldier is also a violation of the deal. That is why Abu Ein was grabbed by the throat.

We are now 20 years after. And even if there are pockets of pseudo autonomy with Palestinian policemen (who hide during the IDF’s nighttime invasions), state violence has not retreated, not been reduced. On the contrary – it has only spread, grown stronger and even more arrogant.

The job of the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the police is to protect the Jewish citizens of Israel, including the settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, of course). With every settler added to the proud list of preferred citizens, the means of protection must be increased. The settler population is growing, and so does the violence of the state and its institutions. The soldiers are thugs on behalf of the state and the settlers are licensed thieves, thieves on behalf of the authorities.

The land the unauthorized and illegal outposts stole is insignificant compared to the land stolen by the illegal official settlements, the bypass roads, the official institutions (Border Police, police, government, army). This theft is what must be protected. And that is the job of every soldier.

Only a minority among the settlers personally attack and endanger the lives of Palestinians. Only a minority personally abuse and harass the residents of the villages, whose bitter fate has brought them such “neighbors.” The rest of the settlers – their work is being carried out by the IDF’s lawyers and the State Prosecutor’s office, by the clerks and officers of the Civil Administration, architects and contractors, and the thugs in uniform. To be more precise: The settlers are just the well-pampered representatives of the state, its institutions and its mission of dispossession.

The minority that personally does harass is Jewish Israeli, and the IDF is required to protect them. This protection, for all the settlers, is done in two ways. One is passive: When the settlers attack Palestinians, the soldiers are absent or stand to the side. The night before Abu Ein’s death, a large group of Israeli citizens went down from the direction of the Adei Ad outpost and raided the village of Mughayer. They threw rocks at houses and cars, damaged trees and land between Mughayer and its neighboring village of Turmus Aya. The explanation that reached Palestinian authorities: The Israelis claimed a horse had been stolen from them.

The second form of protection is active: arrests, shooting, wounding, killing Palestinians and blocking their access to their land. This is the easy solution for the army: So they will not have to prevent Jews from harming Palestinians, it forbids the Palestinians from working their land.

The history of these attacks and their results – the evaporation of tens of thousands of dunams of land and a source of sustenance for Palestinian villages – is found in the impressive and shocking content of two studies: “The Road to Dispossession: A Case Study – The Outpost of Adei Ad” from Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights; and the Kerem Navot’s (Naboth’s Vineyard) “Israeli Settler Agriculture as a means of Land Takeover in the West Bank” by Dror Etkes in cooperation with Quamar Mashriqi-Assad of Rabbis for Human Rights – Israel. They are required reading for anyone who wants to understand how state violence and the violence of the settlers join together, are dependent on one another, feed each other.

On Wednesday the lawyers of Yesh Din were supposed to present on the land of the four villages the petition they filed that same morning in a demand to evacuate Adei Ad. The response of Adei Ad, as was distributed to some of the journalists last Wednesday, testifies to the alliance between the thugs: “The residents of Adei Ad are busy at the moment pushing back a security incident initiated by Yesh Din. It turns out that this same organization filed a petition with the High Court of Justice this morning against the community. The residents will not be dragged into a provocation, and trust the army to do its job and distance the terrorists from the houses of the community.”

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/palestinian-children-tortured-used-as-shields-israel-un_n_3471009.html

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

06/20/2013
By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 20 (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had responded to a report by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in March on ill-treatment of Palestinian minors and questioned whether the U.N. committee’s investigation covered new ground.

“If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Kirsten Sandberg, a Norwegian expert who chairs the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, said the report was based on facts, not on the political opinions of its members.

“We look at what violations of children’s rights are going on within Israeli jurisdiction,” she told Reuters.

She said Israel did not acknowledge that it had jurisdiction in the occupied territories, but the committee believed it does, meaning it has a responsibility to comply with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report by its 18 independent experts acknowledged Israel’s national security concerns and noted that children on both sides of the conflict continue to be killed and wounded, but that more casualties are Palestinian.

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of throwing stones, which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said.

The watchdog examined Israel’s record of compliance with the children’s rights convention as part of its regular review of the pact from 1990 signed by 193 countries, including Israel. An Israeli delegation attended the session.

The U.N. committee regretted what it called Israel’s persistent refusal to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.

“DISPROPORTIONATE”

“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of (Israeli) military operations, especially in Gaza,” the report said.

Israel battled a Palestinian uprising during part of the 10-year period examined by the committee.

It withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but still blockades the Hamas-run enclave, from where Palestinian militants have sometimes fired rockets into Israel.

During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the U.N. report said.

Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.

Almost all had remained unpunished or had received lenient sentences, according to the report.

Sandberg, asked about Israeli use of human shields, said: “It has been done more than they would recognise during the dialogue. They say if it happens it is sanctioned. We say it is not harsh enough.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; editing by Alistair Lyon and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/palestinian-recourse-to-the-international-criminal-court-the-time-has-come/

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

The most moral army in the world

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.577295

The most moral army in the world

The Israel Defense Forces believes brute strength is the only way to act, yet Israelis refuse to see what Amnesty International and others tell them.

By Gideon Levy |  02.03.14

The most moral army in the world fired an anti-tank missile at the house in which a wanted young Palestinian was hiding. The most moral army in the world ran a bulldozer over the top of the house and destroyed it.

The most moral army in the world used dogs to search the ruins. The most moral army in the world used a drill it calls a “pressure cooker” – a rather disgusting drill it invented for itself.

It happened last Thursday, at Bir Zeit in the West Bank. The soldiers of the most moral army arrived early in the morning for another “arrest operation,” like others that happen every night and which you rarely hear anything about.

It involves sowing fear in villages in the middle of the night, invading houses whose inhabitants – including the children – are sleeping soundly, brutal searches and destruction. Sometimes, like last Thursday, it also ends in death.

All this is happening at a time when terror operations are very limited.

Sometimes these operations are conducted for a true operational need, but also sometimes as a training routine in order to preserve the readiness of the forces and a demonstration of sovereign power toward the residents.

The Israel Defense Forces has also created a heartwarming name for all this: the “Tool of Disruption” – storming a civilian community for the purpose of causing panic and fear, and to disrupt its life – as was once exposed in the military court and by the Yesh Din human rights organization.

In Bir Zeit, it was for three young men who were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization that is not especially active.

And even as the military correspondents rushed to say, as is their wont, that the IDF claimed the three “had the intention to carry out a terror attack in the near future” – yes, the most moral army in the world is also an army that reads intentions – it is doubtful if they were worthy of death.

But the IDF killed Muataz Washaha, who refused to surrender, claiming he had a rifle – an assassination in the third watch without a ticking bomb, and Israel also accepted this story with a yawn.

That is how the most moral army in the world acts, and how it believes it must act. There is no other way to arrest a young man except for killing him with an anti-tank missile and destroying his family’s home.

As luck would have it, that very same day a professional opinion was released on the true morality of the IDF: Amnesty International published a report, called Trigger Happy, in which it determined that IDF soldiers demonstrate gross contempt for human life, expressed in the killing of dozens of Palestinian citizens, including children. The organization states that this is intentional killing that is possibly even a war crime.

Of course, this did not succeed in breaking the enthusiastic belief of Israelis in the exalted morality of their army. “Go to Syria” is their frequent riposte.

The Foreign Ministry and the IDF explained that Amnesty International suffers a “complete lack of understanding of the operational challenges.”

And in truth, what does Amnesty understand? At the end of last week, the military regime that rules in Myanmar (Burma) halted the activities of the Médecins Sans Frontières organization within its borders, for similar reasons. If it could, Israel would also stop the work of Amnesty and similar groups.

But a respectable citizen does not need Amnesty International to know. Only two days ago, the IDF killed a woman on the Gaza border at Khan Yunis, after conducting another protocol against her – the “Distancing Protocol.” The killing of demonstrators near the fence that chokes the Gaza Strip is routine – what’s to report? It’s just like the firing on fishermen.

In the West Bank, too, protesters, stone throwers, children and young people are shot and killed.

That is how the child Wajih al-Ramahi was shot in Jalazun, about two months ago. Two weeks ago, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories published its autopsy conclusions: Ramahi was shot in the back, from a range of 200 meters.

This was also the fate of the youth Samir Awad from Budrus, and of dozens of others killed who did not endanger the lives of anyone and were shot to death by a frighteningly easy trigger finger, dying for no purpose.

No one was put on trial for these acts of killing. With Awad, who was shot in the back in an ambush and whose death was documented at the time, the case has been gathering dust for over a year with the military prosecutor.

And all this from the most moral army in the world. Just try to appeal it. Just try to claim that the IDF is the second most moral army in the world – let’s say, after the army of Luxembourg.

Spotlight shines on Palestinian collaborators

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/spotlight-shines-palestinian-collaborators-201421611151157762.html

Spotlight shines on Palestinian collaborators

Spate of recent films addressing collaboration with Israeli agents has brought the issue out from the shadows.

Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera, 17 Feb 2014
 
Jerusalem – Fadi al-Qatshan is one of the latest casualties of a war taking place in Gaza’s shadows, as Israel seeks ever more desperate ways to recruit collaborators while Hamas, the Islamic movement ruling Gaza, enforces tough counter-measures.

The 26-year-old graduate died in November. He was killed not by a bullet or in a missile strike, but when a simple piece of medical hardware – an implant in his heart – failed. His repeated requests to the Israeli authorities over more than a year to be allowed out of Gaza for medical treatment had gone unheeded.

According to his family, Israeli security services knew his life was in danger but denied him a permit to attend a medical appointment at a hospital in East Jerusalem. Gaza’s own hospitals, in crisis after years of Israel’s blockade, warned him they could no longer help.

Following a request for a travel permit, his family says al-Qatshan received a call from someone identifying himself as from the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service. Speaking in Arabic, the man said he knew the device in his heart “might explode any minute”. He was urged to “cooperate” in return for a permit.

Al-Qatshan was told he could call the mobile phone number on his screen and arrange an appointment at Erez, the Israeli-controlled crossing that is the only way for ordinary Palestinians to exit Gaza. The agent reportedly rang off with the words, “See you in Tel Aviv”, Israel’s large coastal city. Al-Qatshan sealed his fate by deleting the number.

‘Terrible choices’

Issam Yunis, director of Al-Mezan human rights organisation in Gaza City, says his group regularly records cases of Palestinians in desperate need of medical treatment being approached to collaborate. “The choice for these patients is really a terrible one. It is to cooperate with Israel or die in Gaza.”

Although Israel is suspected of recruiting tens of thousands of Palestinians as collaborators since its creation in 1948, the practice has rarely attracted more than superficial attention. Palestinians are ashamed that cooperation with the Israeli security services is widespread, while Israel is loath to draw attention to the systematic violations of international law at the root of its system of rule in the occupied territories.

But the issue of collaboration is finally emerging from the shadows, assisted in recent months by a spate of films addressing the subject.

In the running for an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony next month is Omar, a Palestinian film that places the awful dilemmas faced by collaborators at the heart of its love story.

Omar nudged out of the competition Israel’s own entry, Bethlehem, which features a similar story about the fraught relationship between a Shin Bet agent and a young Palestinian informant.

And last month the audience award at the Sundance Festival went to the Green Prince, an Israeli documentary based on the memoirs of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas leader in Gaza who channeled information to the Shin Bet for 10 years before fleeing to the United States. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, was recently released from an Israeli prison.

With Palestinian collaborators a hot topic in Hollywood, they are also in the spotlight in the occupied territories.

A missile strike that killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in November 2012 – the opening salvo in Israel’s eight-day attack on Gaza known as Operation Pillar of Defence – has been widely ascribed to intelligence provided by a collaborator.

In response, Hamas carried out public executions of several suspected informants in the streets of Gaza City, including dragging the body of one behind a motorbike.

‘Tightly classified’

According to Hillel Cohen, who has researched Israel’s recruitment of collaborators since the state’s earliest years, the extent of the problem is difficult to assess. Israel keeps most of the archives on its intelligence operations in the occupied territories “tightly classified”.

The use of collaborators, he says, was probably most extensive in the 1970s and ’80s, before Israel handed over areas of the occupied territories to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords and before the advent of today’s more sophisticated surveillance technology.

Nonetheless, the practice has far from ended.

“Israel still needs people on the ground,” says Cohen. “If they want to place a bomb in a car or supply a phone with a hidden tracking device, someone has to do it. The technology can only help so much.”

According to Saleh Abdel Jawwad, a politics professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, there are many different types of collaborators.

In East Jerusalem, for example, where Israel hopes to prevent any future Palestinian control of the city, a feature of life are the “land dealers”, Palestinians who buy land in strategic areas, secretly on behalf of settler organisations.

Israel also uses economic collaborators, who, for example, act as contractors for Israel in selling its products in the occupied territories. Israel has also tried to recruit political collaborators, in an effort to place them in charge of Palestinian communities or weaken candidates Israel opposed.

But Israel prizes most highly the recruitment of active members of Palestinian national organisations, who can provide reliable information on resistance operations or the movements of Palestinian leaders.

Typically, these collaborators are “turned” after their arrest. They may agree to cooperate under torture or as a way to receive a reduced prison sentence, said Morad Jadalah, a researcher with Addameer, a prisoners’ rights organisation in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Children recruited

But the most common type of collaborator is the informant, who provides general information about the activities of political groups or the movement of individual activists, as well as the names of those taking part in demonstrations.

Jadalah says when Palestinians are arrested, as they try to cross a checkpoint or during a raid on their village, the weakest and most vulnerable – often children – are targeted during interrogation with a mix of threats, violence and inducements.

Long jail terms and the use of administrative detention – imprisonment on secret charges – are the most obvious threats, but there are other ways to pressure Palestinians in detention, says Jadalah.

“The interrogators may beat them, or threaten to beat or rape their mother or sister, or arrest a close relative. They usually already know something about the family, so they can threaten, for example, to revoke the father’s work permit. They may even threaten to spread rumours that the family are already acting as informants.”

In other cases, the Israeli security services may offer inducements. “Israel controls most people’s lives, including their ability to work and move around. Between 30 and 40 per cent of adults are unemployed. That gives Israel the leverage it needs to recruit collaborators.”

According to Jadalah, the Israeli security services usually want general information about the neighbourhood where the collaborator lives, or details about a specific person.

Reports suggest in recent years the Shin Bet has been using arrested children to gain information about the leaders of non-violent resistance movements in the West Bank. They have shown special interest in villages such as Bilin, Nabi Saleh and Budrus where well-publicised protests are trying to stop Israel’s efforts to build the separation barrier on Palestinian land.

Cohen says the benefit to Israel of controlling an extensive network of collaborators is not limited to the information they pass on.

“It encourages the atomisation of Palestinian society. It fosters mistrust within the society and between members of the political movements. When everyone becomes a potential suspect, political passivity is encouraged. That is, in fact, the main goal.”

‘Infiltrated society’

Yunis, of Al-Mezan, agrees: “We are an infiltrated society. When there is so much suspicion, organised and effective resistance to the occupation becomes extremely hard.”

In addition, Jadalah blames the Palestinian Authority for setting a bad example. “When it is clear that our leaders are working with Israel on ‘security cooperation’ and that they look to Israel for protection, a very powerful message is sent to Palestinian society that only Israel can offer such guarantees.”

Hamas, apparently fearful of its inability to organise in the face of extensive collaboration, has officially waged war on Gaza’s informants.

Early last year it offered a brief amnesty to existing collaborators, many of them recruited before Israel’s 2005 disengagement, allowing them to turn themselves in in return for lenient sentences and financial help for their families. However, it has vowed a policy of zero tolerance since.

Faced with a shrinking pool of collaborators in Gaza, says Yunis, Israel has increased its use of electronic surveillance, especially drones. But it has sought new ways to recruit collaborators too.

That includes exploiting increased opportunities to reach Palestinians in Gaza indirectly, through social media. In particular, youngsters, often those without jobs or whose families are in dire need, are approached via Facebook or receive a call to their mobile phone.

“The caller might introduce himself as a businessman and says he can help them to get a permit out of Gaza. Once they attend the meeting, they are ensnared,” says Yunis.

Fishermen are also reported to have been targeted since Israel tightly limited the extent of the waters they are allowed to fish. When they cross out of that zone, they can be picked up by a naval patrol and taken for interrogation in Israel. There they can be pressured to turn informant.

‘Desperate’ situation

But the most wrenching cases, says Hamdi Shaqura, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, occur with patients such as al-Qatshan who need urgent medical treatment.

Because they are among the few cases that Israel still treats as humanitarian, they and the relative that accompanies them present the Shin Bet with a rare opportunity to try to recruit a collaborator directly.

“These permits from Israel become a tool for blackmail. It is a serious violation of international law. Because Israel still occupies Gaza, the welfare of these patients is fully its responsibility. Israel is obligated to facilitate their movement and access to proper healthcare.”

According to the World Health Organisation, about 150 patients from Gaza were called for a security interrogation by the Shin Bet last year, including a 16-year-old girl in November. In most cases they were denied a permit afterwards.

Israel also arrested five patients at Erez and six of their companions over the course of last year. They included Mohammed Saber Abu-Amsha, a 33-year-old patient with damage to his eyes, who has been held in prison in Israel since his arrest on December 4.

Amal Ziada, a researcher for Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, said her organisation was hoping to launch a new campaign to raise awareness among the Israeli public of the pressures being used against medical patients.

That included lobbying members of the Israeli parliament and taking high-profile cases to the Israeli supreme court.

“What these patients go through is a kind of torture,” she said. “The danger is that some of them avoid seeking medical treatment because they are afraid. They are worried about being arrested, or the suspicion among other Palestinians that they may have collaborated if they receive a permit.”

Guy Inbar, spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli military unit that coordinates civilian matters in the occupied territories, said he awarded permits to Palestinians for medical treatment based only on medical need and the applicant’s security record.

A senior Israeli security official said the accusation that Israel used the permit system to recruit collaborators was “baseless”. “There have been many recent instances where terror organisations have manipulated people needing humanitarian help so that they assist in carrying out terror operations.”

According to an Israeli human rights lawyer, Yadin Elam, most of the collaborators whose cover is blown and manage to flee the occupied territories do not receive the warm welcome in Israel they may have expected.

Israeli authorities divide collaborators into two groups, he says. Important collaborators, categorised as sayanim, or helpers, fall under the responsibility of the defence ministry and receive a salary and status inside Israel.

But most collaborators who reach Israel – numbering a few hundred, according to Elam – are classified simply as “threatened people”, referring to the fact that they might be killed if they return to Palestinian areas.

Elam says Palestinians in this latter category are usually left in a desperate situation, sometimes given a temporary permit to stay for a few months, but denied permits for their immediate family or the right to work. Typically they live underground in Israel with their families and drift into crime.

Elam says these collaborators’ insecurity, and their frequent arrests, provide an ideal opportunity for Israel to keep up the pressure.

“When things are so desperate, it is easier to persuade the family, including the children, to continue working for the intelligence services.”