Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup -- coming live, from the apartheid separation wall

I've been glued to the television the last few weeks, watching lots of football. America unfortunately exited in the round of 16, but the excitement continues, even for me, a lowly American. Here's a short clip about a restaurant in Bethlehem which has been projecting the World Cup games on the separation wall, which swallows up a nice chunk of Bethlehem.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Terrorism and Freedom Fighters

Terrorism. Freedom Fighter. What's the difference? Really the only difference is who is doing the naming.

I am currently reading a book by Robert Pape, called Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. It's the book I have been waiting to read my whole life, and it's the book that I should have written first. I guess that's to say that I really agree with Pape, his analysis and research are so important, and I wish I were as smart as him. He shows that suicide terrorism is used almost exclusively by sub-national political groups, as a last resort, in a effort to expel a foreign military power from land that the sub-national group calls its homeland. This book has gotten me thinking a lot about terrorism recently, and about the use of the word. Then I read Paul Woodward's post about the use of the word terrorism by Zionists. Here's Paul, on use of the word terrorism:
The word has only one purpose: to forestall consideration of the political motivation for acts of violence. Invoke the word with the utmost gravity and then you can use your moral indignation and outrage to smother intelligent analysis. Terrorists do what they do because they are in the terrorism business — it’s in their blood.
Read the italicized again.

That's exactly what happens when the word terrorism is used. You can only get skin deep when you use terrorism to describe the use of violence. Using the word terrorism assumes the acts of terrorism are born in vacuums, rather than spawned and festered through a constructed web of social, political, economic, and psychological factors used to subjugate and repress a group of people.

Woodward goes on to link the use of terrorism with Zionism.
We live in an era in which “terrorism” — as a phenomenon to be opposed — has become the primary bulwark through which Zionism defends itself from scrutiny. Keep on playing the terrorist-naming game and the Zionists win.

Border Policeman Admits Shooting Jilani at Point Blank Range

I initially reported on this story here, and later shared some analysis from other writers here.
Here is a cross-post from Tikun Olam's, Richard Silverstein:

Three weeks ago, an Israeli border police officer shot and killed Palestinian Ziad Jilani execution-style after a hit and run accident involving a squad of four police officers. After first reporting the police version of the incident that Jilani was a terrorist attempting to kill police, the Israeli media, in the person of Amira Hass, put forward a far more credible report claiming that a border policemen approach a wounded Jilani who was lying in the street and shot him in the head from point-blank range.

The Justice Ministry has begun an internal investigation and Jilani’s body has been exhumed and an autopsy will be done. As part of the investigation, the murder scene and entire incident were reconstructed. During this event, the shooter admitted, according to Haaretz’s report (Hebrew), that he shot Jilani at point-blank range. He claimed, however, that he believed Jilani was a terrorist and killed him because he feared he was wearing a suicide vest. Further, he claimed he fired to protect the lives of innocent bystanders.

There are a few problems with his account. First, by approaching Jilani so closely he could clearly see he was NOT wearing such a vest. Second, proper training for such an incident (and common sense) demand that an officer not approach a potential suicide bomber at close range so as not to be blown up if a detonation occurs. In other words, only a suicidal Israeli policeman would get that close to a potential bomber (or a policeman who knew the victim was NOT a bomber). Third, it should’ve been clear from Jilani’s two previous wounds (one in his back) that if he did have a suicide vest, these bullets would’ve detonated it. Fourth, no border policeman would care for the lives of the Palestinians living in Wadi Joz where the killing occurred. In fact, several residents went to Jilani’s assistance before he was killed and according to their accounts they were beaten by the police and shoved aside.

This is all a pack of lies spread like manure by the Israeli border police, one of the most brutal, homicidal of all Israel’s police and military forces. They are always spoiling for a fight and relish them when they come their way. It would be just like them to escalate a minor car accident into a cold-blooded murder.

The Border Police spokesperson presented a laughable response:
This incident showed all the signs of a terror attack. We take great pains to educate our officers about the purity of arms. It’s simply not possible that a soldier who did not sense danger would shoot someone at point-blank range.
In a far more credible statement, the lawyer representing Jilani’s surviving family told Haaretz:
This was a car accident and nothing more. This isn’t someone who boarded a bus with a bomb and they attempted to shoot him in the head to prevent him from harming others. Under no circumstance would it be permissible to shoot him at point-blank range. Without any doubt, this was murder.
Jilani’s widow is an American citizen. As such, she is entitled to the services of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem. Alas, the consulate’s response has been lackadaisical and sullen at best. After an inquiry from Jilani’s sister, a U.S. citizen living in California, Congressman Brian Bilbray wrote to the consulate. The response by Consul Debra Towry was typical CYA bulls(&t. She claimed falsely that a list of attorneys was offered to the family. The truth is that the family was forced to hire its own attorney with no help whatsoever, and certainly no list proffered, from the consulate. The consul noted in her letter to Bilbray that a consular representative attended the first legal hearing into Jilani’s death. This is true. But they only did so after the widow begged them to do so. Note in the consul’s letter to Bilbray she refuses to commit to attending future hearings:
…We [will] try to attend future hearings whenever possible.
In fact, the consulate continually told the widow there was nothing they could do to help her. This is a response that Palestinian-American U.S. citizens are used to getting from our diplomats in Israel.

After the murder, the police canvassed the neighborhood and confiscated any video footage documenting it. That will certainly never be seen again. However, and possibly unbeknownst to the authorities, there is footage they didn’t manage to get. I have not seen it yet. But I have been advised that it presents a powerful graphic and visual record of what really happened. Rodney King anyone? Of course, the difference between the two incidents is that in Los Angeles there was a conscience that could be troubled by the beating. In Israel, there is no such thing. The number of Israelis who will be shocked, scandalized or even troubled by this murder is very small. The majority will justify it as an unfortunate necessity given the terror war Israel confronts.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nawlins: Random Thoughts

I recently had the distinct privilege to visit New Orleans. I am not an New Orleans expert, nor have I spent any significant time in the South in general, this was in fact my first visit to the South. What I want to share are some reflections and memorable moments from my time in New Orleans.

I am from the West Coast, a Californian born and raised, and that thoroughly influences me, FYI.

My observations come from spending 4 days in New Orleans, so take any kind of general observations I make with a grain of salt. This is less about New Orleans and more about how I walked away a bit changed from my time in Nawlins.

New Orleans is a place full of natives. I met a lot of people who have lived in New Orleans for a long time. Most of those natives love the place and hope to never leave.

New Orleans is humid as hell. It rains in the summer, often.

New Orleans is surrounded by water.

New Orleans has amazing food. For example:
  • I had a Po-Boy Shrimp sandwich, a fried prawn sandwich with lettuce and a white sauce.
  • I had Rice and red beans. I was told this was a traditional Monday meal. A Monday meal because people traditionally would cook a ham on Sunday and have leftovers. So on Monday, you cook up some rice and red beans and put that leftover ham to good use. I had my red beans and rice (on a Monday night) with chicken.
  • I drank some Abita beer, a local brew from Abita Springs, LA. I tried their Amber, IPA, Purple Haze (Rasberry), and their summer wheat. Their rasberry beer was a good, sweet/fruity beer (it's definitely not my style, but it was a good fruit beer). I thought their IPA was a solid IPA that was worth going back to a couple of times.
  • I ate a pulled pork sandwich at a BBQ joint, with a stellar potato salad on the side. I believe the restaurant was called The Joint.
The most interesting and exciting experience relating to good was a crawfish boil. So crawfish are basically small lobsters, as a kid I called them crawdads, and we caught them in streams at Auburn Recreational Park. Apparently crawfish are pretty good when eaten. So a crawfish boil consists of buying a load of crawfish (we happened to purchase 80 pounds) and inviting over some friends for a nice afternoon meal. You fill up an 80 gallon pot with water and place a metal basket inside the pot. Add seasonings, lemons, onions, garlic, and any other desirable vegetables and fruit (I highly recommend mushrooms, onions, and pineapple), and about 40 pounds of crawfish. Leave on heat until the water returns to a boil. Turn off heat. Let sit for 20 minutes. Remove basket without scalding yourself, and let cool. Once the crawfish have cooled a bit, dump out your 40 pounds of crawfish + vegetable/fruit goodies on a big table. Yeah that's right, you set up a washable-table outside, place trashcans at either end of the table, and go to town. I also learned that there are crawfish tables. Thinking of a poker table first will help: a table designed for the game of poker, with chip holders, can/bottle holders, felt surface to keep cards in place, markings on the table for cards. Ok, so crawfish table, an aluminum table with a big hole in the middle of the table for a trashcan, providing easy access for everyone around the table. There are can/bottle holders in the table to prevent your cajun spice-reducing beverage from slipping away and there are two spindles on either end of the table for a roll of easily accessible paper towels. It's also made of smooth aluminum, for an easy hose-off after the crawfish feast. The Nawlins natives were shocked that I had never had crawfish.

a"You're kidding man, of course you have.""No really, I mean, I know what they are. But I have never had crawfish, I have never eaten them."
"Wait you know what they are, but you have never eaten them? Have you ever eaten, like, shrimp? Or lobster?"
"Yeah I have eaten shrimp and lobster, and most kinds of seafood, but people on the Left Coast don't eat much crawfish."

There is also a skill to eating crawfish. You break off the tale, suck the juices out of the head, throw the head away, and then eat the meat in the tail. Pros (i.e. not me) can just pinch with their fingers and pull with their teeth and get all the tail meat out. I had to peel off a bit of the tail shell to open up the meat a bit before I pulled with my teeth. Nonetheless, I think I held my own at that crawfish table.

The Lower Ninth Ward (the area of New Orleans that was pounded more heavily than most of the area when the levee breached during Katrina). We drove through the area and saw lots of concrete steps leading up to empty lots where houses used to be. There are lots of new homes in the area, built by Habitat for Humanity and Make it Right (among other organizations doing work in the area). The Make it Right Foundation homes (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's foundation) are building some really neat homes. Homes that are built with environmentally safe and responsible materials, homes with energy efficient design to stay cool in the Nawlins summers, homes that are solar powered. The designs are a bit eccentric and really change the vibe of the area (when you compare the new homes to the existing homes of the Ninth Ward). But the homes seem responsibly built with the future in mind. I hope they are doing right by the citizens of the Ninth Ward who were slammed with the 1-2 punch of Katrina and shitty protection, planning, and response which so happened to most strongly affect this lower-income, black neighborhood. I hope the residents of the Ninth Ward were consulted early and often in the building of their homes.

The BP oil spill is a big freaking deal. It is on talk radio non stop and there are TV commercials encouraging people to stay involved and informed. I didn't meet anyone whose job is directly affected, by the oil spill, but I certainly didn't search these people out. But I did met quite a few people who told me about how their lives will be affected by this oil spill. People who have a day job, but who fish on weekends. Several of these people are wondering how the fishing aspect of their life will be affected. People are getting in as much fishing as possible right now because the rumors are that they might not be able to fish for the next 5-10 years. A couple of guys I met had gone out fishing last Saturday. They had a good day and caught a lot of fish, thankfully the water directly surrounding New Orleans is still open to fishing. But they talked about a brown foamy substance they saw in the water. One thought it was crude oil and the other thought it might be chemical dispersants. That suspicious substance was a distance away from where their fish were caught, so they weren't concerned with any contamination. When asked if they would report the substance, they said no.

"Naw, if we report this oil or chemicals or whatever it is, they will probably close the whole area and then we won't be able to fish anywhere. This is one of the only areas left where we can fish."
"But if it got a lot worse, would you really want to catch your fish in crude oil."
"Catching your fish in oil is better than not fishing at all."

This isn't just, oh shoot, can't fish. But this is a way of life for people, this is many folks financial means all tied up with their way of life. The ocean, the marches, the seafood are things that have shaped people's identities, social norms and rituals, cuisine, and their culture and way of life writ large.

There is much more to say about New Orleans, but I should probably leave my reflections there so I will have a incentive to go back, eat more, meet more people, and experience more of this rich part of the world.

Let's keep actively thinking of how to make New Orleans and southeast Lousiana a place that will actually be here in the future, instead of an oil-dredged waste dump that British Petroleum (with the guidance of our fossil fuel addiction) destroyed back in 2010. The future is not yet.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Gaza Video Game

(hat tip to Mondoweiss)

The Israeli NGO Gisha has just released an interactive computer game called "Safe Passage" to highlight the ongoing siege of Gaza. A player chooses one of three characters - a student trying to use a scholarship, a businessman who wants to sell ice cream in the West Bank or a father trying to stay with his family - and attempts to navigate their way through Israel's closure policies.

While Israel's draconian restrictions on common foodstuffs like coriander and nutmeg have received much needed attention, the game helps point to two larger issues - the ongoing restriction on movement and the intentional separation of Gaza from the West Bank. Gisha's director Sari Bashi, points out, "This week's announcement of 'easing' the closure of Gaza fails to end the ban on export or on travel between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel should allow the free passage of goods and persons between Gaza and the West Bank as the basis for a healthy and prosperous society."

Play the game here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Militant Jewish Settler Movement (starring our friend Yehoshafat)

This video is alarming on many levels. Noteworthy is the fact that most of the settlers interviewed in the video are from the Hebron region, where I work, which is where most of these ideologically-driven settlers are located.

Also, Yehoshafat Tor, who makes an appearance in the first several minutes, lives in Havat Ma'on, approximately 2km from my house. Yehoshafat has beaten up young Palestinian children whom I know, routinely pranced around the area with his M-16, and made death threats against my friend Sean. He continues to be protected by the Israeli army and has never been arrested by the Police, despite the dozens of photos and videos that we have of him doing illegal and egregious things. All the Palestinians in the area know Yehoshafat by name, probably because most of them have been chased or shot by this thug.

Frightening stuff, really frightening. The part about the distance of an M-16 bullet serving the purpose of a fence is chilling.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Masked Israeli thugs attack a house full of women and children

Another outrageous and despicable incident perpetrated by settlers in the South Hebron Hills (in this case, specifically, settlers from Havot Ma'on a.k.a. Ma'on Farm). This account from Operation Dove:
At-Tuwani – On the morning of Saturday, 12th June 2010, shortly before 11.00, about thirty Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on oupost, masked and armed with slings and sticks, invaded At-Tuwani village, attacking the most exposed house of the village and throwing stones against Palestinian villagers.

The settlers approached the house and soon damaged the low stone fence and broke the glass of a window using an iron stick. At the time of the attack, only women and children were at home because all the men of the family were going to the near city of Yatta for a relative’s funeral. The women with the children soon left the house, running away scared. While running, one of the women, age 19, pregnant and with a baby in her arms, fell to the ground. Later in the morning, she has been transferred by a Palestinian Red Cross ambulance to the near hospital of Yatta.

When Operation Dove volunteers reached the place, together with many Palestinian residents of the village, the settlers were moving away from the house, without stopping throwing stones with slings. Some Palestinians have been hit and afterwards treated by paramedical staff.

Israeli army, police and border police came about half an hour after the aggression began, when the settlers had already retired among the trees of Havat Ma’on. Shortly after the security forces had arrived, some settlers with uncovered face came out from the wood, provoking a lot of tension among the Palestinians. Some activists, belonging to the Israeli peace association Ta’ayush, who had arrived shortly before, interposed betweeen the Palestinians and the soldiers; one of them have been arrested.

In the meantime, some army vehicles blocked the main entrance to the village, in order to control the area. After the accident, the police collected testimonies from all the witnesses and took pictures to document the damage caused to the Palestinian property by the settlers aggression. Two Palestinian men who live in the house attacked by settlers went to Kiryat Arba police station to file a complaint. Two Operation Dove volunteers did the same in order to release their testimony about the events and deliver evidences (photos and videos).

Operation Dove have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Pictures of the incidents:

Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma'on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Yeah a group of masked men attacked a home full of women and children. And one of the Israeli activists, who came to stand between the attacked Palestinians and the hateful settlers, was arrested. Wait what!? The people who broke the windows and terrorized the residents with iron bars and large stones weren't arrested. But the activists who came to intervene were arrested?! This is the wild, wild west, people.

Here is a follow-up of the incident from Rabbis for Human Rights:
Last Saturday settlers from Havat Maon damaged a home of a Twane resident in South Hebron Hills. Volunteers who came demanded from the regiment commander to detain the rioters, but in response to this demand the commander tried to remove the volunteers and even cocked his weapon at one of the volunteers. The RHR lawyer who was on the phone during this incident asked for the reaction of the Humanitarian Center of the Civil Administration and the reply that was received was that the regional commander cocked his weapon in order to deter the volunteers. The lawyer asked if the use of a weapon against unarmed people as a way of deterring trouble was reasonable. The police were requested to investigate the regional commander. A complaint regarding this incident will be passed to the Criminal Investigation Division.
Below are a couple pictures of kids, along with the matriarch of the family, who live in the house that was attacked. This woman and these 2 girls were probably home from school when 30 masked men surrounded their home with bats and stones.

Israeli police shot Palestinian man instead of arresting him

The exceedingly consistent Amira Hass reports on stories that the rest of the Israeli media refuses to investigate. She writes about Ziad al-Julani whose tragic story (or the tragic ending to his story) I brought you here. The statement, at the bottom of this article, by the border police spokesperson makes me want to smash the coffee cup I am holding over my head. I am including the article in full because it really deserves a read, at least so we know that 3 little girls' daddy died an innocent man, and not a terrorist.
A motorist from East Jerusalem who ran over and wounded several Border Police officers Friday was shot twice in the face from close range while still lying on the ground, eyewitnesses said. Neighborhood witnesses said the fatal shots were fired once the officers no longer had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, and could have easily arrested the suspect.

Witnesses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz told Haaretz that the motorist, Ziad Jilani, suddenly swerved his car and hit the group of officers walking further up the road. They said, however, that they believed the collision was an accident, and not committed intentionally as initially reported.Jilani, 39, was self-employed and the father of three daughters. His wife is a U.S. citizen, and he himself lived for an extended period in both the U.S. and Switzerland.

Around 2 P.M. Friday, Jilani was driving his van home from prayers in nearby Shoafat. Several minutes before the incident, Border Police officers were seen riding horses toward the Wadi Joz industrial area. A number of other officers were deployed around the area, and several started making their way toward Jerusalem's Old City. Jilani's car was traveling in tightly packed, slow-moving traffic with no oncoming vehicles.

The neighborhood soon filled up with people returning from Friday prayers, and some stores were already being opened. Two eyewitnesses said stones were hurled at the officers, one of which struck Jilani's car. He then swerved his car left, they said, veering from its lane and striking the group of policemen.

Shots were heard immediately, another witness told Haaretz, and one of the officers fell to the ground. Two policemen tended to him until an ambulance arrived, and the other officers got in their vehicles and began pursuing Jilani, who had continued driving after the collision, and shooting at his car.

Another witness said that he had not seen stones thrown, but rather believed Jilani had tried to overtake the vehicles in front of him. Several other witnesses said the windshield of Jilani's car had been shattered, but were unsure if the damage had been caused by a bullet or a stone.

Jilani turned his vehicle into a dead-end alley where his uncle lives, and the officers continued pursuing his vehicle and shooting.

A mother and her adult daughter present at the scene saw the man emerge from his car. The daughter told Haaretz, "I was further down the alley, and I heard shots ... I saw a car driving, followed by many police officers. The car stopped right next to me, and someone got out. I saw him next to the car door, and he looked at me with an expression I didn't really understand, but I will never forget.

"There was shooting and I started to scream," the woman continued. "My mother ran toward me and threw me to the ground. Everything happened within seconds. I realized he wasn't walking normally, and saw the shattered windshield of the car, maybe from a stone. He ran until he fell over," she said.

Ten meters separated the parked car and the spot where Jilani fell to the ground.

"He got out of the car, and they came after him. Not just one of them shot, but many of them, and then they started yelling in Hebrew for people to go back into their homes," the daughter said.

Both women said they saw Jilani lying on his stomach with several officers gathered around him, and the daughter said one of the policemen kicked him in the head. The mother said she saw an officer point his rifle extremely close to Jilani's head, and when she put her head down to the asphalt she heard a shot ring out.

A Border Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Moshe Pinchi, did not comment on the questions posed to him by Haaretz. In his response, Pinchi wrote, "Individuals have been killed and dozens wounded in vehicle attacks in Jerusalem between 2008 and 2009 ... All of those attacks were committed by East Jerusalem residents, and in each case those close to the perpetrators described the incidents as 'accidents.'

"Four Border Police officers were wounded in this last incident in Wadi Joz and hospitalized for treatment, and only by a miracle were fatalities avoided," he said.
And a brief word by Richard Silverstein, which I tend to agree with in both analysis and fact:
Not a word about the execution. Also, no proof provided that any of the incidents reported by him were proven to be terror attacks. The assumption, as always with the Border Police, is that any Arab is a likely terrorist and any Arab driving a car has a lethal weapon and is willing to use it. The Border Police have a well-deserved reputation among Israelis for extreme brutality against Palestinians.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Killing of Jerusalem man begs inquiry (yup, another one)

I am a few days late on this news item, but I thought it was worth getting out to those of you who aren't swimming in Israel/Palestine-related news, like yours truly.

First a summary from the Israeli daily, Haaretz:

A Palestinian driver was shot and killed in Jerusalem Friday after running over two Israeli border patrolmen, with an apparent intent to kill.

The man reportedly hit two the two policemen in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz, with reported light injuries sustained by both victims.

According to police officials, the driver drove on a short distance, and then proceeding to flee the scene on foot. Police officers called on the suspect to stop, and opened fire at him once it was clear he had ignored their instructions.

And here's the problem, usually the story stops here. People will pick up the NY Times tomorrow and read a one paragraph blurb on the attempted 'terror attack,' turn to their seat mate on the airplane and utter, "those people are still fighting over that worthless, arid piece of land in the middle east. Arabs are still trying to run over Jewish policemen. The fighting will never end over there."

That's why it's important that there are people not taking the Israeli official account of incidents at face value (see the recent Israeli monopoly of the media following the Freedom Flotilla incident which resulted in the murder of 9 Turkish activists at the hands of Israeli navy commandos).

The man killed was named Ziad Al-Julani, 38, he was the father of 3 girls.

Ziad was driving through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Al-Joz, when he came across a flying checkpoint, one of the many checkpoints that Israeli soldiers erect unannounced that only stay in place for a temporary time and purpose. This particular flying checkpoint was placed in Wadi Al-Joz following Friday prayers.

The Palestinian press agency, Maan, interviewed eyewitnesses (oddly, taking their account as well, instead of solely swallowing and regurgitating the official Israeli line):
Sa’d Hamed As-Silwadi, from Silwan and the father of a child injured during the shoot-out, told the center he parked his car beside a butchery and saw Al-Julani driving toward the Al-Hadmi neighborhood in Wadi Joz, where he was killed.

He said he saw Al-Julani get out of his vehicle when he was first shot by Israeli forces. A relative of Al-Julani tried to help him, As-Silwadi said, but was kicked by Israeli forces. As-Silwadi returned to his vehicle to find his five-year-old child with a rubber bullet wound to the neck and head, and rushed him the Maqased Hospital on the Mount of Olives.

Ahmad Qutteneh told the center he saw Al-Julani running from four members of Israel's Special Forces, approaching him and opening fire at close range. "Then I saw one of them come near him and shoot him in the face and body," Qutteneh told the center.

Mahmud Othman Al-Julani, 34, his cousin, told the center that he was home when the incident happened, near the site of Al-Julani's death, he said. "I went out of the house to see him laid on the floor, 15 meters away from me. When I tried to help him they [Israeli forces] beat me with sticks," the center quoted him as saying.

Others told the center the shooter was seen "dancing beside the body singing and cheering 'I killed an Arab, I killed an Arab'."
Palestine Monitor also interviewed teenage boys who were in the street at the time of the shooting:

Nawras, age 14, who lives on the street and witnessed the shooting.

Nawras tells us standing at his front door meters away from the street when he saw Israeli soldiers shooting at Al-Julani’s vehicle. He reported that when Al-Julani reached the corner he left the car and four soldiers shot at him, hitting his lower back. Al-Julani fell to the ground, and the soldiers gathered next to him. One soldier shot him three times in the head, according to the boy. When a neighbour tried to assist Al-Julani, the soldiers beat him back with their guns. Nawras also said that they hit some women as they blocked off the street and searched Al-Julani’s vehicle.

Here is an account from Iman Al-Julani, Ziad's sister, who laments over the incident:
My brother told his wife in the morning that he will go do his prayers at Al-Aqsa and after that he will visit his uncle and cousins before he comes back to take his American wife and three beautiful daughters to dinner. He did his Friday prayers and was on his way to visit his uncle in Wadi Al Jouz [in East Jerusalem]. He was surprised as he turned into a small street that there was a checkpoint and a confrontation between stone throwers and the Israeli special forces. His car was being hit with stones, and everybody thinks his car went out of control while he was avoiding the confrontation. No body knows if he hit anybody or not while his car went out of control, but all of a sudden one of the policeman shouted that he was trying to kill them and they started shooting at him in the car.
He was shot in the arm already when he got out of the car and he was trying to avoid more shots to himself so he started running towards my uncle’s house. He was shot in the back and leg and fell on the ground shouting asking for help from my cousins and others. People tried to come help him but they were beaten with bats and would not let anybody near him. My brother was still alive but flat on the floor and totally unarmed but one of the policeman came with rage and came close by and put the gun in my brothers head and shot him point blank in the face twice and another in the belly.
My cousin came at that time and realized it was my brother and he went running to him to try to save him since he was still breathing. The same policeman came and hit him in the head with his rifle and busted his head open. He then pointed the gun on his head wanting to shoot him too but his mom and other women intercepted and got beaten up with bats. My brother was still breathing and the ambulance was trying to get to him but the policemen just left him on the floor to die and would not allow anybody to help him. The policeman that killed my brother supposedly rejoiced killing an Arab and the others gave him a pat on the back and clapped for him. Finally the Red Crescent did not listen to the Special Forces and decided to risk it and go help my brother. My brother was on the ground for 15 minutes which could have saved his life if he got immediate medical attention. My brother died in the ambulance in my cousin's arms.

The LA Times at least had the journalistic integrity to present the official Israeli narrative and the eyewitness accounts:

According to the official Israeli account, Joulani attempted to run over police officers on an East Jerusalem street, prompting them to open fire. Police described the incident as an attempted "terrorist attack." Some officers were said to be "lightly wounded."
But family members say Joulani was caught in the wrong place and the wrong time between police and rock-throwing Palestinian youths. They say a rock hit his car, causing him to swerve and accidentally side-swipe a police car.
According to witnesses, Israeli police immediately opened fire, hitting Joulani in the arm. He still managed to drive to an open area, pull over and get out. But police officers continued to shoot, seriously injuring him. According to witnesses, he was killed with a shot to the head at close range.

I wonder when the world will stop buying the lies. I wonder when we will stop believing that it's TOTALLY conceivable that any Arab (or maybe even any brown-skinned) man is ready, willing, and able to kill people at the flip of a switch. When will when absolve ourselves and one another of the sins of Islamaphobia and the belief in the inevitability of collective punishment.

The al-Julani family says that Ziad was looking forward to taking his daughters out to dinner after Friday prayers.

Our silence is complicity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One of these things is not like the other: Notebooks, Toys, Sunflower Seeds, and Bombs

Here are some of the items that Israel denies the people of Gaza through it's blockade of the Gaza Strip. End the Blockade!

Thank You, Dennis Kucinich

The Democrat from Ohio is circulating this letter regarding the Freedom Flotilla:

Dear Mr. President,
Israeli commandos, acting at the direction of the State of Israel, attacked and seized a Turkish ship in international waters, in the Mediterranean Sea.

At least nine were killed in the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara. Hundreds of civilians were taken into custody and goods were confiscated. Since the United States considers Israel our most important ally in the region, whose survival is a primary concern, it is incumbent upon the Commander in Chief to call Israel to an accounting for its conduct in planning and executing the deadly military attack in international waters upon a peaceful flotilla carrying citizens from over 50 countries.

The State of Israel's conduct, attacking a Turkish ship in international waters, constitutes an act of belligerence against Turkey, which at one time Israel considered an important ally. It also undermines United States’ troops efforts in Iraq, since your administration's efforts to achieve stability in the region and to withdraw troops from Iraq has depended upon Turkey's cooperation through use of its air bases.

In its violent commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, the government of Israel showed no concern as to how its conduct may affect the lives of defenseless, innocent people, its friends and allies, and in particular the United States. The United States must remind Israel as well as all of our other friends and allies:

It is not acceptable to repeatedly violate international law.

It is not acceptable to shoot and kill innocent civilians.

It is not acceptable to commit an act of aggression against another U.S. ally.

It is not acceptable to continue a blockade which denies humanitarian relief.

It is not acceptable to heighten tensions in a region while the United States continues to put so much blood and treasure on the line.

The State of Israel's action necessitates that the United States, which is Israel's partner in the region, begin to redefine its relationship and to establish such boundaries and conditions which are sufficient for mutual respect and cooperation.

It is incumbent upon Israeli officials to bring forth the truth about the planning for and the attack upon the Mavi Marmara.

No one questions the right of Israel to defend its border, but that defense does not extend to shooting innocent civilians anywhere in the world, anytime it pleases.

Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers. Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara requires consequences for the Netanyahu Administration and for the State of Israel. Those consequences must be dealt by the United States. They must be diplomatic and they must be financial. The U.S. can begin by calling for an independent international inquiry of the Mavi Marmara incident. The integrity of such inquiry necessitates that it not be led by the nation whose conduct is under scrutiny. If our nation fails to act in any substantive way, the United States licenses the violence and we are complicit in it and our own citizens will be forced to pay the consequences.

We the undersigned deeply regret the loss of life. We are also fully aware of the dangers to world security which exist in the region, which is why the United States has been unstinting it its defense of Israel. We have a right to expect that Israel not add to those dangers with military conduct which all people of good will know is neither defensible nor moral. There must be consequences for such conduct. We await your response.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NBC reports on Gaza

The mainstream U.S. media gets it right, for once. This NBC report claims that 1.6 million Gazans are sentenced to life imprison. Alright NBC!

But wait, I also heard there is no siege or blockade on Gaza. This must be a crock of lies from NBC.

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Murder on the High Seas

Cross-posted (a partial posting) from
Silverstein's Tikun Olam:

In my earlier posts about the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara, I used terms like “kill shot” and “execution-style” to describe these events. I based my judgment on the narratives told by eyewitnesses and the Turkish autopsy reports. Some readers were taken aback and accused me of overstatement, exaggeration and worse. But this video vividly confirms my strong suspicions.

It shows IDF commandos executing a passenger on the Mavi Marmara with one and possibly two point blank shots from above into the victim who lies on the boat deck. In truth, one cannot distinguish the face of the victim since it is blocked by a boat railing. But from the muzzle flashes and weapon recoils and the downward direction in which the shooter looks at his victim, it is clear this is an execution just as I described earlier.

The video caption claims this is the murder of 19 year-old Turkish-American high school student Furkan Dogan. While it is possible there is earlier footage not shown in this video that displayed the victim’s face and enabled one to identify him, I won’t vouch for Dogan as being the specific victim. But what is incontrovertible is that this is A Mavi Marmara passenger being murdered.

This changes everything. Here for the first time is evidence that the IDF was not just engaged in a defensive operation, but that it had determined to murder passengers. Gone are the hasbara rationales which defended Israel and blamed the victims for their own deaths.

I am ashamed of Israel. I am ashamed of my president’s response to Israel.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A former US Marine was on the Mavi Marmara

Cross-posted from Paul Woodward's War in Context

“All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns.” These are the words of Ken O’Keefe, a former US Marine who was just deported from Israel after surviving the Mavi Marmara massacre.

In 2002, O’Keefe initiated what some would regard as a quixotic endeavor: an effort to prevent the war in Iraq by positioning Western volunteers as human shields at strategic sites in Iraq. TheTruth Justice Peace action failed, but O’Keefe’s passion to follow the dictates of his own conscience has continued unabated.

This is part of a statement O’Keefe made upon arriving in Istanbul on Friday after his expulsion from Israel:

I remember being asked during the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq if I was a pacifist, I responded with a quote from Gandhi by saying I am not a passive anything. To the contrary I believe in action, and I also believe in self-defence, 100%, without reservation. I would be incapable of standing by while a tyrant murders my family, and the attack on the Mavi Marmara was like an attack on my Palestinian family. I am proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who refused to let a rogue Israeli military exert their will without a fight. And yes, we fought.

When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli attack on the Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiastically committed to defence of the ship. Although I am also a huge supporter of non-violence, in fact I believe non-violence must always be the first option. Nonetheless I joined the defence of the Mavi Mamara understanding that violence could be used against us and that we may very well be compelled to use violence in self-defence.

I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably of Mossad or Shin Bet, and I say it again now, on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos. This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day. One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution. I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them. I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers. But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did. I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun. I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.

I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea. I and hundreds of others know the truth that makes a mockery of the brave and moral Israeli military. We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos. These boys were at our mercy, they were out of reach of their fellow murderers, inside the ship and surrounded by 100 or more men. I looked into the eyes of all three of these boys and I can tell you they had the fear of God in them. They looked at us as if we were them, and I have no doubt they did not believe there was any way they would survive that day. They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.

But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as they. Instead the woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive. Able to live another day. Able to feel the sun over head and the embrace of loved ones. Unlike those they murdered. Despite mourning the loss of our brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go. The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew all of their disgusting bile all they wish, the commandos are the murders, we are the defenders, and yet we fought. We fought not just for our lives, not just for our cargo, not just for the people of Palestine, we fought in the name of justice and humanity. We were right to do so, in every way.

While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect. Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted. Access to food and water and toilets was denied. Dogs were used against us, we ourselves were treated like dogs. We were exposed to direct sun in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands. We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routineness and comfort in their ability to lie, it is remarkable really. We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell.

In all this what I saw more than anything else were cowards… and yet I also see my brothers. Because no matter how vile and wrong the Israeli agents and government are, they are still my brothers and sisters and for now I only have pity for them. Because they are relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their humanity.

In conclusion; I would like to challenge every endorser of Gandhi, every person who thinks they understand him, who acknowledges him as one of the great souls of our time (which is just about every western leader), I challenge you in the form of a question. Please explain how we, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are not the modern example of Gandhi’s essence? But first read the words of Gandhi himself.

“I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.” – Gandhi

And lastly I have one more challenge. I challenge any critic of merit, publicly, to debate me on a large stage over our actions that day. I would especially love to debate with any Israeli leader who accuses us of wrongdoing, it would be my tremendous pleasure to face off with you. All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns, so I am ripe to see you in a new context. I want to debate with you on the largest stage possible. Take that as an open challenge and let us see just how brave Israeli leaders are.

I doubt that there is a single Israeli official who would have the guts to take up O’Keefe’s challenge. Instead, the IDF has issued a laughable claim:

Ken O’Keefe (Born 1969), an American and British citizen, is a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organization. He attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization.

The IDF spelled his name correctly and the year he was born — thereafter, the errors and deceptions follow. O’Keefe renounced his US citizenship in March 2001. He is now an Irish and Palestinian citizen, though describes himself as “in truth a world citizen.”

If the IDF had a shred of evidence that O’Keefe was heading to Gaza to train a commando unit for Hamas, I guarantee he would not now be in Istanbul. He would be in an Israeli jail awaiting trial. (In an interview with Al Jazeera appearing below, he does indeed dismiss Israel’s claims.)

But when O’Keefe says that all he saw in Israel was “cowards with guns” he points to a fundamental truth that reveals the character of the Jewish state.

As a nation that revels in its willingness to crush its opponents, Israel operates with the mindset of every bully: it only feels convinced of its strength when facing a weak opponent.

Lacking the courage to hold its own among equals, Israel operates in a world defined by dominance and oppression.