An eye for an eyelash: Sec. Pompeo visits Israel, supports snipers shooting 14 year olds.

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jordan at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour through the Middle East, expressed support on Monday for Israel and its response to weekly protests in Gaza that have left dozens of people dead.

“We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we’re fully supportive of that,” he said at a news conference with Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, when asked about the protests. — www.nytimes.com/…

Let us be clear, what Pompeo called “defense” was a nuclear-armed state sending young men and women to shoot at protesters in Gaza, most of whom have been trapped within the 140 square mile territory their entire lives. Israeli snipers have taken up positions along a fence constructed by Israel within Gaza, and are shooting at protesters.  This is not the only place where Israeli authorities have taken over Palestinian lands for “security purposes”. The same is true in the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, dozens of places in the West Bank and along the northern border. It is a strange point of view that characterizes Israeli soldiers shooting or bombing people on the other side of a purported border as “defense”.

The same madness that drives our media to use terms like “officer involved shooting” for the killing of unarmed people by police, also drives reporting of Israel’s military.

And who did Pompeo think the nuclear-armed IDF was defending itself from? Palestinians have neither an army, nor a navy, nor an air-force, and have never had one. But we do know where this rhetoric of “defense” comes from. Pompeo shares Trump’s view of brown and black people in the US as a threat to white supremacy. So just as 14 year olds like Trayvon Martin are murdered by vigilantes with impunity in the US, 14 year olds like Mohammad Ayoub are murdered with impunity by Israeli soldiers.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub ignored his mother’s objection and slipped away to join this week’s protest along the Gaza-Israel border, just hours after Israel’s military dropped leaflets in his Gaza village warning residents to stay away.

A few hours later, the teenager was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head, Palestinian health officials said. “He asked his aunt to tell me he would be back in an hour,” said his mother, Raeda, who instead buried her son late on Friday.

— www.reuters.com/…

Or 15 year olds like Azzam Awaidah.

DCI-Palestine is reporting that Israeli authorities are holding 26 children in solitary confinement and have a total of 310 in prison. These are children are essentially political prisoners.

Defense for Children International – Palestine has confirmed that three children, Hussein Mohammad Adnan Madi, 13, Aladdin Yahia Ismail Zamili, 15, and Ibrahim Abu Sha’er, 17, all died after Israeli forces shot them during two weeks of Friday “March of Return” protests that took place on the Gaza side of the border. DCIP also documented three serious injuries to children in Gaza on March 30, both by live ammunition. Under international law, all individuals below the age of 18 are children. — www.dci-palestine.org/…

Pompeo was confirmed 57-42, with six Democratic senators (plus Angus King, who is an independent) voting to confirm Mike Pompeo. They were: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin III (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Angust King (ME) and Doug Jones (AL). All except Jones are up for election in 2018, Jones will be on the ballot in 2020.

It is noteworthy that Jon Tester (MT) did not vote for Pompeo, though he faces a tough re-election battle. He is on the ballot this year, in a state Trump won by 20 points. For those who have long supported Jon Tester, this was welcome news.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. […]

“No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians,” said Daniel B. Shapiro, an American ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration. — www.nytimes.com/…

For anyone who’s watched Pompeo’s career, this is not a surprise. He’s among the group of American politicians whose foreign policy is guided by his belief in the “rapture”.

For Pompeo, American patriotism and a narrowly defined brand of Christian pugilism are inextricable from one another. He’s not subtle about it, either. “To worship our Lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right,” he told attendees at a Kansas rally in 2015, “it is our duty.” He added that politics is “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.”

Pompeo’s reference to the rapture here is particularly noteworthy. The rapture is a distinctively American fringe theology that says Christians will be taken up, or “raptured,” into heaven at the onset of the end times.

[…] For many evangelicals, apocalyptic “good versus evil” battles, particularly centered over the “Holy Land” of the Middle East, are signs that the longed-for end may be at hand. — www.vox.com/…

Earlier this month, TYT reported that Mike Pompeo had been discussing the rapture with CIA staff and demonstrated an intolerance towards anyone who wasn’t a fundamentalist Christian.

Pompeo’s deep biases, bigotry, war-mongering and advocacy of torture are well understood from his time in the House, and numerous public statements. Inevitably, some of the Democrats who voted for either Pompeo confirmation, will disavow one of his actions. At the time, they should be asked why they voted for him knowing who he was.

The “defense” Pompeo refers to has resulted in dozens of protesters killed, and thousands more maimed and injured in the past four weeks alone.

The Washington Post has a story about the thousands of devastating injuries inflicted by Israeli snipers firing on protesters in Gaza. The snipers are on the other side of an electrified fence built entirely within Gaza by Israeli authorities on Palestinian farmer’s property. This is similar to the “West Bank barrier”, which is also built within the West Bank, on land owned by Palestinians.

In 2009, during another Israeli bombing of Gaza, Avi Shlaim wrote:

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable. — www.theguardian.com/…

Politicians who support and defend Israeli violence against Palestinians should expect to see grass-roots protests against their positions.

— @subirgrewal

Nikki Haley blocks UN Palestinian rights statement as Israeli troops kill journalist in press vest.

The United States for a second week in a row blocked a UN Security Council statement supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into deadly protests in Gaza.

Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Friday evening that 14 of the 15 council nations agreed to the statement, but the United States, Israel’s closest ally, objected. — www.timesofisrael.com/…

Nikki Haley’s move to block a recognition of Palestinian’s rights was opposed by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN. Trump’s mid-east envoy, Jason Greenblatt said Gazans should obey Israeli commands to keep out of the half a kilometer wide strip of Gaza near the border.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon claimed Palestinians were using “children as human shields”. Danon’s sudden concern for the children of Gaza is perplexing, since he has previously advocated for wanton bombing of Gaza, where fully half the population are children. In 2011, Danon said Israel should be “deleting a neighborhood in Gaza” to retaliate for Hamas’ rockets. In 2014, after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped, Danon said the IDF should “start leveling Gaza”.

Two Palestinians succumbed early Saturday to injuries sustained in a protest on the border fence with Israel a day earlier, including a journalist shot by Israeli forces despite apparently wearing a vest that clearly marked him as press.

Video and photos of Yasser Murtaja, 31, being treated after sustaining a bullet wound to the lower abdomen, including one shot by Agence France-Presse news agency, show him wearing a blue and white protective jacket with “PRESS” emblazoned on the front.

Murtaja, who worked for a Gaza-based news agency called Ain Media, was one of six Palestinian journalists shot, according to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, which said they were all clearly identifiable as media. The Israeli military has maintained that the shooting into the border crowds is carefully targeted. It could not immediately provide a comment on how six journalists could have been shot. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Al-Jazeera reported that seven other journalists were shot by Israeli troops, including Khalil Abu Athira below:

After last week’s Land Day protest, where Israeli troops shot over 750 Palestinians protesters, killing 19, the IDF officially claimed in a tweet that it “knew where every bullet landed”. The tweet was later deleted.

A scene from the protest today that terrified Israel’s nuclear armed military into shooting hundreds of Palestinians:

Nikki Haley has consistently worked to advance Trump’s bellicose agenda in the Middle-East. Some suspect her disregard for Palestinian rights is cultivated to further her political ambitions. Last year, she worked to undermine the Iran nuclear deal which had been negotiated by the Obama administration. In this effort, she was supported by former John Bolton, who has now been installed as National Security Advisor:

Haley wasn’t alone. The fingerprints of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose access to Trump was recently limited by chief of staff John Kelly, were also on Trump’s Friday address in the form of a warning that Trump, who opted not to push for steps that could undo the nuclear agreement, could still cancel the deal “at any time.”

The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict, reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

— @subirgrewal

DSA votes for BDS. NYT’s Jerusalem bureau chief says they self-censor and Israel practices apartheid.

90% of the delegates to the Democratic Socialists of America 2017 convention voted to adopt Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The text of the resolution read:

1. Democratic Socialists of America declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights, and self-determination.

2. Democratic Socialists of America responds to Palestinian Civil Society’s call by fully supporting BDS.

3. Democratic Socialists of America affirms that any political solution to the ongoing crisis must be premised on the realization of basic human rights, including all rights outlined in the BDS call.

4. Democratic Socialists of America condemns all efforts to deny the right of Palestinian in the United States and their allies to free speech, assembly and academic freedom.

— Twitter

Following the vote, DSA has come in for criticism from various angles. The Jerusalem Post criticized DSA for holding the vote on Saturday. The pro-Likud ‘zine Tablet said the DSA was a “disgrace” that had “descended into anti-Zionism”. The JTA suggested the DSA were allied with the Palestinian-American activist (and co-organizer of the Women’s March) Linda Sarsour and this was a bad thing.

Yet, as this thread expertly demonstrates, much of the criticism of BDS is exactly what was leveled against proponents of boycotting South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Meanwhile, Jodi Rudoren, formerly the New York Time’s editor in Jerusalem admits they censor opinions and reporting due to attacks and pressure from pro-Israel organizations.

The former New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem Jodi ­Rudoren has admitted to “defensive writing” after several “Twitter campaigns” against her. Rudoren says this was “to protect ­myself and keep me focused on the essence of what I’m trying to do instead of these distractions but you could totally get out of hand with this”. She says there is not a healthy debate in the US about Israel because of the power of pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC.

The interviews are contained in Balcony Over Jerusalem, in which journalists tell how they come under attack from pro-Israel groups if they ­report what they see in Israel and the West Bank.

The New York Times’ Rudoren says that because the occupation of the Palestinians has gone on for so long — 50 years — it has started to look “a lot like apartheid”. While Rudoren was talking about the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, she also addressed the plight of Palestinians in Israel — the so-called Arab Israelis. She says: “I actually think the issue of apartheid is more relevant to how Arab Israelis are treated within the framework of the country (Israel).” — www.theaustralian.com.au/…

Jonathan Cook writing in Alternet covers the relentless campaign to influence coverage of Israel by pressuring journalists, editors and publishers. His analysis is very thorough, discussing the ways in which individual journalists end up self-censoring, and how editors cave in by developing “guidelines” .  He also examines more subtle influences, for example the NYT’s tacit policy to only appoint Jewish reporters as heads of the Jerusalem division. Rudoren’s predecessor actually had children serving in the IDF. One of the most powerful testimonials is from Clyde Haberman, whose byline should be familiar to all:

Here is another veteran NYT correspondent, Clyde Haberman, telling Lyons that the lobby’s “non-stop assault” on the paper’s Jerusalem correspondents has made the posting a poisoned chalice. Few want it, says Haberman.

We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how talented they are or how many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews; at some point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper. This is what you can expect if you go there—to have your integrity hurled back in your face every single day,” he says.

Pause for a second. Unless I have wildly misunderstood the implication of “seeping into the newspaper’s DNA”, a leading journalist at the U.S. paper of record has just suggested that for decades its reporters and editors have toned down their coverage to avoid run-ins with the Israel lobby. As near as he dare, Haberman has conceded that you won’t learn the full truth about Israel and Palestine from the NYT. 

— www.alternet.org/…

Senate/House bill would make it a felony to support a boycott of Israel.

Senate bill 720 seeks to criminalize speech supporting a boycott of Israel. The bill is meant to target the growing BDS movement. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

This anti-boycott bill is part of a long tradition that seeks to undermine labor, civil rights and liberation movements employing non-violent protest. I’ll explore the history of anti-boycott laws later in the diary.

If the bill is enacted, violators would be subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment for up to 20 years. Here’s the letter the ACLU sent to the Senate yesterday:

The bill seeks to expand the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 which, among other things, prohibit U.S. persons from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country friendly to the U.S. The bill would amend those laws to bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union.  It would also broaden the law to include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.  We take no position for or against  the effort  to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter. However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.

There is a House version as well. What’s deeply troubling is that many of the Senators and Representatives co-sponsoring this bill do not seem to understand its implications. The Intercept called the offices of several Democratic co-sponsors who were unaware that the bill criminalizes support for a boycott.

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the west. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing t-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.

But now, a group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

— The Intercept

The 14 Democrats who want to make it a felony for Americans to support a boycott of Israel are:

  • Ben Cardin (MD)
  • Bill Nelson (FL)
  • Robert Menendez (NJ)
  • Richard Blumenthal (CT)
  • Gary Peters (MI)
  • Maria Cantwell (WA)
  • Chuck Schumer (NY)
  • Maria Cantwell (NH)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Joe Donnelly (IN)
  • Joe Manchin (WV)
  • Ron Wyden (OR)
  • Chris Coons (DE)
  • Michael Bennett (CO)

The bill is part of a concerted campaign by anti-Palestinian groups to criminalize non-violent protest of Israel’s oppressive policies and violation of Palestinian’s human rights. Concerted pressure by left-wing activists is a concern for the Israeli government which has been accustomed to unquestioned support from most European and US administrations. In 2015, the EU instituted labelling requirements which direct Israeli companies to clearly label agricultural products made in the Occupied Territories. It is illegal for occupying powers to exploit the natural resources (including land) in any way. The US went almost as far, by issuing a statement that effectively warned Israeli companies from labelling goods made in the West Bank or East Jerusalem as “Made in Israel”.

The push-back from anti-Palestinian groups has been severe. Those who support, or even fail to oppose, a boycott of Israel modeled on the South African example, have been viciously attacked. Pamela Geller’s outfit called various left-wing Jewish organizations “judenrat” and “kapos” last year when they opposed anti-BDS laws at the state level.

AIPAC has been pushing several versions of anti-BDS legislation through state legislatures for years. They’ve been successful to varying degrees, in Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois. The bill seeks to criminalize speech supporting BDS in the US, in the same way it is in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court has called the BDS movement “political terrorism” and allowed publishers to be sued for printing statements supporting BDS. The Senate and House bills seek to do something similar here, by criminalizing non-violent protest and political speech. Similar attempts have had some success in Europe. A French court fined activists protesting at a grocery store $14,500 for wearing t-shirts that supported BDS. That is the sort of reality American protestors might face as well.

A note on the history of anti-boycott laws and how they have been used to suppress dissent, unions and liberation movements is below.


The Forward discussed the origins of this bill in their brief note:

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that bar complying with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

forward.com/…

It’s worth noting at this point, the long history on anti-boycott laws, which were first employed at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th as a tool against organized labor. In 1901, Deitrich Loewe opened a non-union factory in Danbury, CT. The United Hatters of America (UHU) led a strike and worked with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to promote a national boycott by consumers, wholesalers and retailers. Loewe filed suit contending the boycott was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case was Loewe v Lawlor, and Loewe won in the Supreme Court. For years, the courts continued to issue injunctions against boycotts and strikes, and supporting employers who forced employees to sign non-unionization contracts (yellow dog contracts).

These practices continued till the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, which, among other things exempted labor unions from antitrust laws. The US Supreme Court applied Norris-LaGuardia in the New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co. case in 1938, supporting the right of workers to organize a boycott. In this case it was black workers protesting discriminatory hiring practices. Since then, there’s been a long history of labor organized boycotts in the US, including the salad bowl strike organized by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

Boycotts have a long history in liberation struggles and anti-colonial movements. In particular, Gandhi (building on the thoughts of an earlier generation of leaders including Naoroji) led a successful boycott of British goods during the Indian independence struggle. The Indian Swadeshi movement lasted for almost half a century, and intentionally targeted the economic underpinnings of colonial exploitation.

A more recent example is the South African boycott movement, which applied sustained pressure on the apartheid-era government to end the practice of apartheid. Israel was a close ally of the South-African government. The Israeli government has such a concerted focus on BDS because it’s aware of how the South African apartheid regime was forced to end its discriminatory practices under pressure from an international boycott.

Anti-boycott laws were employed in the US against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1955 in response to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

White officials in Alabama conducted two concerted efforts to defeat Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement legally, by indicting King for violating an anti-boycotting law during the Montgomery bus boycott and for income tax fraud, in 1956 and 1960, respectively.

On 21 February 1956 King was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for his boycott of the Montgomery City Lines, Inc. According to the State of Alabama, King and 89 others violated a 1921 statute that outlawed boycotts against businesses. — kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/…

Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters” discussed in extensive detail how Alabama attempted to use this law to shut down the activities of the MIA and the SCLC.

Attempts by states to criminalize civil rights related boycotts continued up until the 1980s:

The case, N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware, arose out of a 16-year effort by black civil rights leaders to achieve some modicum of racial equality in Claiborne County in Mississippi. In 1966, black citizens of the county, under the leadership of Charles Evers, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, presented white elected officials with a petition for constitutional equality. Included were such fundamental demands as desegregation of public schools, selection of blacks for jury duty, integration of the public toilets in the county courthouse, and insistence that ”Negroes are not to be addressed by terms as ‘boy,’ ‘girl,’ ‘shine,’ ‘uncle,’ or any other offensive term, but as ‘Mr.,’ ‘Mrs.,’ or ‘Miss,’ as is the case with other citizens.”

These demands were ignored, and, in response the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter organized a boycott of white merchants in the area. The boycott proved singularly effective, so effective that Mississippi officials reacted with a legal attack.

After years of litigation, a Mississippi trial court found that the boycotters had unlawfully and maliciously interfered with the white merchants’ businesses, engaged in a secondary boycott in violation of state law and violated the Mississippi antitrust statute. Damages, penalties and attorney’s fees of $1.25 million plus interest were assessed against the N.A.A.C.P. and 130 individuals. The Mississippi Supreme Court reduced the damages and rejected some of the trial court’s legal theories – including a ruling that retroactively applied a state statute enacted two years after the boycott had begun – but it nonetheless found the boycott to be a violation of state law.

— www.nytimes.com/…

In July 1982, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the NAACP, and said that calls for violence by some could not be used to criminalize non-violent protest by others. In Justice Stevens’ decision he wrote:

”One of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

“[Legal] liability may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.”

‘A massive and prolonged effort to change the social and political and economic structure of a local environment cannot be characterized as a violent conspiracy simply by reference to the ephemeral consequences of relatively few violent acts.’

PS. I am deeply indebted to a fellow Kossack who, years ago, shared their substantive knowledge of the history of anti-boycott laws with me.

An Israeli tourist attraction: shooting at targets dressed as Palestinians, in a “mock” boot-camp.

Taking in the scene of a simulated fruit market in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, a group of tourists ponders whether a poster-size figure of an Arab man holding a cellphone is a threat and should be shot.

The aim of the mock scenario is to teach rapt foreign visitors how to deal with an attack on a market. It is part of a counter-terrorism “boot camp” organized by Caliber 3, a company set up by a colonel in the Israeli army reserves.

Entrance to the gated compound in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc – built on land the Palestinians want for their own state – costs $115 for adults and $85 for children.

— www.reuters.com/…

Companies specializing in this sort of military tourism, she notes, have experienced a boom in business over the past year. “For a long time, it was popular for Jewish tourists, and especially organized missions, to visit Israeli army bases and meet with the soldiers and watch them during their military exercises,” says Sand, the founder of Travel Composer, a boutique Israeli agency that specializes in luxury tours.

“Often, donations would be handed over in exchange. But last year the army began cracking down after it emerged that these visits were becoming a major disruption. So for those who still want to experience the Israeli army, these for-profit facilities provide a great alternative.” […]

As his [Caliber 3’s owner] instructors like to point out, it’s not only Israeli soldiers who operate according to the army’s “purity of arms” doctrine, which stipulates that soldiers will maintain their humanity even in combat. So do their attack dogs. At a live demonstration, the visitors watch as Zeus lunges at a “terrorist” wielding a knife, forcing him to the ground while tearing into his padded coverall. But once that knife is dropped and the threat is eliminated, Zeus backs off. “Even the dogs in the IDF value human life,” the instructor says.

— www.haaretz.com/…

This statement that the IDF “value human life” is questionable. The IDF has had radical, insurgent elements within it for decades and depending on the government in charge, hard-line factions have been ascendant within the command structure. Lately the religious-nationalist settler movement has gained power within the army. These trends accelerated after Likud first won election and Rafael Eitan was appointed Chief of Staff of the IDF (prior the 1982 Lebanon war).

As an example, a soldier who summarily executed a Palestinian man last year, has been released under house arrest. At the same time, Israel imprisons hundreds of Palestinians as political prisoners.

Caliber 3, which is based in the West Bank and run by a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), calls itself “the premier academy for counter terror and security”. It offers six programs for tourists, including desert “Survival Training”, krav magna martial arts, and “Combat Rappelling” using paintball guns.

Its “Ultimate Shooting Adventure” has raised eyebrows for its use of real guns and simulated terror attacks – with targets dressed up in Palestinian keffiyehs. […]

He [the owner Gat] said that the thought came to him after thinking about the horrors of the Holocaust. “I said to myself that I am going to open this place to the public to show what a long way the Jewish people have come in 75 years,” he said.

— www.independent.co.uk/…

The company has a Facebook page to promote itself and has been around since 2003. Reuters reported on it in 2009:

“The most shocking part was when they had us shout ‘terrorist’ before getting into shooting position,” he said.

He enjoyed the course and felt it was safe but morally questionable. “It could indoctrinate children with racist beliefs. It was sad to hear young kids express such racism. It makes the likelihood or reaching a peaceful settlement to the (Middle East) crisis seem more difficult.” In the group before his, James said, excited children shouted to their parents about being able to “shoot the Arabs.”  […]

But Gat [the instructor] says his course is not just about shooting guns; it also teaches “Zionist values.”

— www.reuters.com/…

— Cross-posted at NotmeUs.org | @subirgrewal

As military occupation enters 51st year, Trump administration wants UN to stop “bullying” Israel

What’s the difference between a Bantustan and Area A?

Palestinians have lived for 50 years under a military occupation by a foreign government and there are no signs this will end anytime soon. The Israeli government has been busily dispossessing Palestinians as individuals and as a nation of land and resources. Three generations of Palestinians have lived the bulk of their lives (five decades) with their human and civil rights curtailed by the Israeli government.

The Trump administration believes the UN is “bullying” Israel by condemning these policies:

[US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki] Haley arrived in Israel to a hero’s welcome one day after warning that the United States might pull out of the U.N. Human Rights Council unless it changes its ways in general and its negative stance on Israel in particular.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina who often is touted as a future Republican presidential candidate, has focused heavily on what she calls the mistreatment of Israel during her six months at the United Nations. Her efforts have made her a darling of Israeli leaders, and have endeared her to conservative pro-Israel organizations in the United States. […]

“You know, all I’ve done is to tell the truth, and it’s kind of overwhelming at the reaction,” she said. “It was a habit. And if there’s anything I have no patience for it’s bullies, and the U.N. was being such a bully to Israel, because they could.” — WaPo

Israeli policies towards Palestinians have many parallels with our own treatment of Native Americans. There are other parallels to our history too. For much of the 20th century, towns across the US systematically excluded African-Americans from living there.

What Palestinians are allowed to do in the settlements is work, assuming they can pass a rigorous security screening and a get a permit. But the workers — mostly in construction and service jobs — are not allowed to drive in, and they can’t spend the night. During my two weeks in the West Bank, I learned that the best way to estimate the number of Palestinians working in a given settlement at any moment is by counting the cars parked just outside the gate. This underscored one of the ironies of the settlements, which is that Palestinian hands built most of them: their houses and synagogues, their community centers and shopping malls. — Washington Post

Palestinians are often building these houses for settlers on public Palestinian lands which the Israeli government or settlers have encroached on. In other cases, Israeli officials will condemn private Palestinian lands, establishing “nature preserves” which then turn into gardens or farms for Israeli settlers.

Across Israel proper, housing discrimination is pervasive and various types of discrimination are codified into law. Most housing is largely segregated, with Jewish Israelis living in separate towns and communities, from their Arab Muslim or Christian fellow-citizens. Of course, in the occupied territories, the Israeli army enforces such segregation, just as law enforcement and vigilante groups did in the US.

Such discrimination and oppression is only possible if you successfully propagate a supporting narrative through schools and media. Gil Gertel writing in +972mag discusses how the Israeli education system has helped sanitize Palestinian suffering:

In the wake of the 1948 War, the list of people we forgot only got longer — refugees whom we continued not to see. This is what students read about that period from the “Artzi” textbook, published in 1950: “It is very good that we found a desolate and abandoned land. It is good that every piece of land we obtained is for us […] none of those who hate us (and their numbers are great) can complain that we took someone else’s land.

This book was published two years after the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes. The Israeli government subsequently razed to the ground hundreds of villages to prevent the inhabitants from ever returning. The JNF began a campaign to plant “forests” to erase evidence of Palestinian villages. Palestinian houses in urban areas were reassigned to Jewish persons.

Students, however, were told it was a “desolate and abandoned land”. In a way, this is analogous to the stories we still tell our students about early European colonization of this country and the impact on Native American peoples.

This is what we teach our children, from a fifth-grade textbook: “In 1967, following the Six-Day War, the territories of Judea and Samaria, which were not yet in Israeli hands, came under its control. Today it is populated by both Arabs and Jews. The Arab population, according to estimates, is comprised of 1.5-2.5 million people, who live mostly in urban areas […] the Jewish population is closer to 400,000, who live in approximately 125 settlements.” (pg. 156). How idyllic: those territories “came under our control,” a real miracle. Jews and and Arabs living side by side — the Switzerland of the Middle East.

— @subirgrewal

Israel’s occupation has lasted 50 years, it’s on track to run for 50 more.

As the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza approaches, there will be several lengthy retrospectives. One of the better ones was, surprisingly, published by the NY Times today.

Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. He’s also the author of “The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine.” he makes a persuasive case that the Israeli occupation is on track to run another 50 years, aided and abetted by the US. The widely held misconception that the occupation is unsustainable and prone to collapse any minute now, under the weight of its own inequity and oppression is part of what keeps it going.

Israel, with the strongest army in the region, has repeatedly demonstrated that it can endure and outlast whatever bursts of resistance the divided and exhausted Palestinians can muster.

The next threats, too, came up empty. The rise of nominally pro-Palestinian powers like India and China has, to date, had no negative effect on Israel, which has strengthened ties with both countries. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, though noisy on some American campuses, has yet to make a dent in Israel’s economy or its citizens’ self-reported level of life satisfaction, among the highest in the world. — NY Times

The article is well worth your time. It doesn’t, however, directly contend with the NY Times and western media’s role in perpetuating the occupation. That is probably best captured by Malcolm X:

The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. — Speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (13 December 1964)