Report Details Israel’s Use of Armed Drone That Killed Gazan Children

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams.

A secret report by the Israeli military police—obtained by The Intercept‘s Robert Mackeyreveals that a week into Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, “air force, naval, and intelligence officers” mistook four 10- and 11-year-old boys who were playing on a beach in Gaza for Hamas militants and killed them by firing missiles from an armed drone.

While “hacked Israeli surveillance images provided to The Intercept by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed an Israeli drone armed with missiles in 2010,” Mackey notes that “the Israeli government maintains an official stance of secrecy around its use of drones to carry out airstrikes”—meaning this report provides perhaps “the most direct evidence to date that Israel has used armed drones to launch attacks in Gaza.”

The 2014 attack on the four boys, which occurred in the middle of the afternoon, provoked outrage the world over after it was documented by several international journalists staying in the area, who captured photographs of the dead children on the beach. It was initially suspected that Israel had launched the missiles from naval boats.

The four boys—Ismail Bakr, 10; Ahed Bakr, 10; Zakaria Bakr, 10; and Mohammed Bakr, 11—were cousins, the sons of Gazan fisherman. Their families, with support from the Israel-based Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, or Adalah, are still fighting in court to hold accountable the members of the military directly involved with the airstrikes that killed the children.

Armed drones “alter the process of human decision-making,” and “[expand] the circle of people responsible for the actual killing of the Bakr children,” Suhad Bishara, one of the attorneys representing the families, told The Intercept. Israel’s use of the technology to kill Palestinians, Bishara added, raises “many questions concerning human judgment, ethics, and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

As Mackey outlines:

After images of the attack prompted widespread outrage, Israel’s army conducted a review of the mission and recommended that a military police investigation into possible criminal negligence be conducted. The testimonies collected by the military police from the strike team were included in a report presented to Israel’s military advocate general, Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni, 11 months after the boys were killed.

Efroni did not release the testimonies, but did make a summary of the report’s findings public on June 11, 2015, when he closed the investigationwithout filing any charges. Israel’s chief military prosecutor decided that no further criminal or disciplinary measures would be taken, since the investigators had concluded that “it would not have been possible for the operational entities involved to have identified these figures, via aerial surveillance, as children.”

Efroni did not explain why that was impossible. Two days before the strike in question, Israel’s military PR unit had released another video clip in which drone operators could be heard deciding to halt strikes because they had identified figures in their live feeds as children.

Hagai El-Ad, director of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told The Interceptthat the Israeli government’s use of armed drones is an “open secret,” and emphasized the responsibility of the military figures who order such attacks. In 2016, his group released a report titled “Whitewash Protocol: The So-Called Investigation of Operation Protective Edge,” which criticizes the Israel for inadequately reviewing the killings of Gazan civilians.

“The various specific delays, gaps, failures in the so-called investigation are all part of that broad systematic way to eventually close the files, while producing all this paper trail which may look from the outside as a sincere effort,” El-Ad told The Intercept. “It’s all totally routine.”

The Intercept‘s reporting, published Saturday, came after Israel conducted a bombing campaign in Gaza on Thursday, killing a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old daughter. As Common Dreams reported, Israel’s attack “was characterized as the largest escalation since 2014.”

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How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

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How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

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Israel’s Druze Minority Furious Over Apartheid Law, Given Their Military Service

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

Israel may never have been paradise for the some 20% of its citizens who are non-Jewish and Arabic-speaking. They did face de facto and sometimes even legal discrimination. But at least in the eyes of the law, they were full citizens.

After the passage last week of the “nationality” law, Israel is no longer multicultural. It is a country where national sovereignty solely lies in the hands of its Jewish citizens.

Among the Palestinian-Israelis with Israeli citizenship, only about 130,000 are Druze. This religious community was a medieval offshoot of the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam, but Druze nowadays are viewed as doing their own thing. They do not have Friday prayer services, for instance.

Alone among the Palestinian-Israelis, the Druze serve in the military.

And therein lies the rub. Two Druze officers have resigned over the nationality law.

It is one thing to labor under a discriminatory government, as most Palestinian-Israelis do. But to serve in its armed forces and to risk one’s life, and that of one’s sons, is a different matter. And to take that risk for the sake of an unequal state that discriminates against you?

Hence, some of the more poignant protests have come from parents who lost family members in wars. They say they were fighting for their ‘nationality’ but that now it isn’t theirs anymore.

They don’t belong to the sovereign nationality.

They say they will do whatever they can to ensure that their grandchildren don’t serve in the Israeli army.

Druze elders are petrified of this sentiment, and this movement, which threatens to turn their community into ordinary Palestinians, and they have commanded the Druze rank and file to stay out of politics and do their military service.

Israel benefited from being a multicultural country with a strong Jewish majority. There was always a tension between democracy and a tyranny of the majority, but it wasn’t unique and there was at least a little wriggle room for dissent in politics, the parliament, and the courts. It is now not even clear that Palestinian-Israelis have access to the Supreme Court for certain purposes that affect national sovereignty.

Israel is no longer a multi-cultural country, since sovereignty is explicitly vested solely in its Jewish citizens. And with that change, to what amounts to an apartheid state, Israel is losing the loyalty of the more conservative communities among the Palestinian-Israelis. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has turned them into Palestinians, without the hyphen. They are not stateless the way the latter are, but they aren’t full citizens either. The statelessness of the refugees and the Occupied has finally rubbed off on them.

 

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Why Palestine’s Feminists Are Fighting on Two Fronts

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Fadi Abu Shammalah and Jen Marlowe / TomDispatch.

“I am here because I heard my town call me, and ask me to maintain my honor.” Fifty-seven-year-old Um Khalid Abu Mosa spoke in a strong, gravelly voice as she sat on the desert sand, a white tent protecting her from the blazing sun. “The land,” she says with determination, “is honor and dignity.”

She was near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khuza’a, the heavily fortified barrier with Israel in plain sight and well-armed Israeli soldiers just a few hundred meters away. Abu Mosa’s left arm was wrapped in a sling fashioned from a black-and-white-checkered kuffiyeh, or scarf, and a Palestinian flag. Israeli soldiers had shot her in the shoulder with live ammunition on March 30th as she approached the barrier to plant a Palestinian flag in a mound of earth. The bullet is still lodged in her collarbone. Three weeks later, however, she’s back at the Great Return March, a series of protests organized around five encampments stretching along a unilaterally imposed Israeli buffer zone on the 37-mile barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Return March, which has just ended, was unique in recent history in Gaza for a number of reasons. Palestinians there are known for engaging in militant resistance against the Israeli occupation and also for the internal political split in their ranks between two dominant factions, Fatah and Hamas. Yet, in these weeks, the March has been characterized by a popular, predominantly nonviolent mobilization during which Gaza’s fractured political parties have demonstrated a surprising degree of unity. And perhaps most noteworthy of all, women activists have played a visibly crucial role in the protests on a scale not seen for decades, possibly indicating what the future may look like when it comes to activism in the Gaza Strip.

The Return March began on March 30th, or Land Day, commemorating the 1976 killings of six Palestinians inside Israel who had been protesting land confiscations. The March was slated to end on May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.” The term is used to refer to the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel and the displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians, as well as the depopulation of more than 450 Palestinian towns and villages. Seventy percent of Gaza’s blockaded population is made up of those who fled or were expelled from their lands and villages during the Nakba or their descendants. The vast majority of those participating in the Great Return March, including Abu Mosa, know those native villages only through family lore, yet their yearning to return is visceral.

During the March, 125 Palestinians were killed and a staggering 13,000 wounded. Abu Mosa saw many fellow protesters wounded or killed, especially on May 14th, the day the Trump administration opened its new embassy in Jerusalem when the protests escalated and some participants attempted to break through the barrier.

On that day alone, Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians and injured 2,700 more. “Don’t ask me if someone close to me has been injured or killed,” Abu Mosa says. “All the protesters are my relatives and friends. We became one family.” After the carnage of May 14th, the grassroots committee organizing the March decided that the protests had to continue. The killings continued as well. On June 1st, a 21-year old woman volunteer paramedic was, for instance, shot in the chest and killed.

For Abu Mosa, a schoolteacher and mother of six, the March centers entirely on her dream of returning to her native town of Beer Sheva. And in its wake, she insists that she will go back, “and on my way, I will plant mint and flowers.”

Much like Abu Mosa, 20-year-old Siwar Alza’anen, an activist in an organization called the Palestinian Students Labor Front, is motivated by a deep desire to return to her native village. She is also marching “to send a message to the international community that we are suffering a lot, we are living under pressure, siege, pain, poverty.”

The Great Return March and the First Intifada

A small Palestinian flag flutters on the edge of Samira Abdelalim’s desk in Rafah, the southernmost town in the Gaza Strip. Forty-four-year-old Abdelalim serves as the director of the women’s department at the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Her steely eyes are framed with a simple navy-blue headscarf. Abdelalim hopes the Great March of Return will peacefully achieve the right of return to her people’s villages, self-determination, and the possibility of living “in peace and freedom” — but she’s realistic, too. “I know that the occupation will not end in one day,” she says, “but by cumulative work.”

Iktimal Hamad is on the Supreme National Commission of the Return March, the only woman among the March’s 15 lead organizers. Sitting in her Gaza City office, her light brown hair pulled into a tight bun, she speaks about her own double agenda — to end the Israeli occupation, but also to promote equality for women in Gaza. “Women can play a prominent role in the liberation of Palestine, because they are integral to the Palestinian community,” she tells us.

Abdelalim leads the March’s women’s committee in Rafah, one of five with 15 members for each of the encampments. With her fellow committee members, she organizes the women in the March, arranges logistics such as water and buses, and plans youth empowerment and cultural activities.

Her own activism began during the first Palestinian Intifada (Arabic for “shaking off”) or “uprising” and she insists that the goals and methods are the same in the present set of demonstrations. The First Intifada began in 1987 and was characterized by a highly coordinated, unarmed mass-mobilization against the Israeli occupation. Widespread acts of civil disobedience included strikes, boycotts, the creation of “underground” schools, grassroots projects to develop economic independence from Israel, and mass demonstrations. Women were that uprising’s backbone.

“The masters of the field are the protestors,” Abdelalim says of both then and now. “In the First Intifada, women and men used to stand shoulder to shoulder beside each other, struggling together.”

Abu Mosa, who is typical of many women in Gaza in not having been politically active in more than 25 years, tells us that the Return March brings back her memories of that earlier period. Even the smell of tear gas makes her nostalgic. “I feel this March is the First Intifada.”

Hamad was also a young activist during the First Intifada. Now 51, she remembers how women were “the vanguard” of that uprising. “There was a unified women’s council in 1989 and this council had the responsibility of the streets,” she recalls. Women led demonstrations and sit-ins, distributed leaflets, created neighborhood committees and participated in a unified women’s council. They even worked together in remarkable unity, whatever political faction they belonged to.

Women’s Activism After the First Intifada

The First Intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, a peace agreement negotiated in secret between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Made up only of Palestinians in exile, the PLO negotiation team was all male.

The Oslo Accords led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority and the return of the exiled PLO leaders to the West Bank and Gaza. Many of the grassroots activists who had led the uprising were promptly marginalized in the formation of new leadership structures — and women were excluded altogether.

According to Samira Abdelalim, the trajectory of the struggle, and particularly the role of women, then shifted radically. There was now an armed, institutional Authority governing a traditional, patriarchal society. “The male societies refused to include women in the decision-making units, and denied women’s [engagement] in policies and plans,” she explains. So, rather than confronting the Israeli occupation, Palestinian women began agitating for social, political, legal, and economic rights within Palestinian society. Abdelalim and other women activists organized around the task of creating laws to protect women from honor killings — that is, the murder of a female family member when she is perceived to have brought shame upon the family — and to prevent gender-based male violence.

The Oslo process was supposed to culminate in agreements on a set of thorny “permanent status” issues between Israel and the Palestinians. These issues included Jerusalem, water rights, border delineation, settlements, and refugees. However, trust in the process continued to erode over the years and the “final” status negotiations held in the summer of 2000 collapsed, setting the stage for the Second Intifada, which erupted on September 29th of that year.

Though that uprising initially began with large-scale demonstrations reminiscent of the previous one, it quickly turned toward armed resistance. According to political scientist Marie Principe’s research for the United States Institute for Peace, nonviolent movements create openings for a wide range of people, including women, children, and the old, to get involved in a way that violent campaigns don’t. Due to the armed nature of the Second Intifada, the space for the involvement of women, in particular, began to shrink radically. In this period, according to Abdelalim, women activists refocused their work in the international arena, attempting to expose the violence of the occupation to the world through documentation, media reports, and international conferences.

This sort of activism, however, was predominantly open only to women from a higher socio-economic class — those, in particular, who worked for NGOs, had access to university education, andhad some ability, however restricted, to reach the outside world, whether through travel or the Internet. Many of the women who had been out on the streets during the First Intifada were left without roles to play.

In 2006, Hamas (an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement) won the Palestinian legislative elections over the previously dominant Palestinian National Liberation Movement, or Fatah. Some Gaza-based leaders of Fatah then sought to oust Hamas (with U.S. backing), leading to a bloody internecine civil war on the Strip in which Hamas violently gained control in 2007.

The Hamas-Fatah divide became a new focal point for women activists in Gaza. In those years, women generally called for Palestinian unity, remembers Abdelalim, insisting that their enemy should be the Israeli occupation, not a competing Palestinian faction. The official reconciliation negotiation team (which signed multiple unity agreements starting in 2011 that were never implemented) did not include women. Abdelalim and other women activists nonetheless held weekly demonstrations to protest the internal split in Gaza, even drafting a joint statement by women on both sides of the political divide calling for national unity.

Under the Hamas regime, however, the situation of women only continued to deteriorate. “Hamas took us back decades,” says Iktimal Hamad, noting the regime’s desire to impose Islamic Sharia law in place of the Palestinian law in force on the West Bank. “Hamas doesn’t believe in equality between women and men,” she says bluntly.

Palestinian society has indeed grown ever more religiously conservative over the past decades, especially in Gaza. Siwar Alza’anen remains among a small minority of women in that imprisoned strip of land who do not cover their hair. She admits, though, that most women in Gaza have little choice but to adhere to restrictive societal norms in dress and culture. They generally can’t even leave home without the permission of a male relative. Abu Mosa remembers protesting during the First Intifada alongside women with uncovered hair who were wearing short skirts. “Now they ask girls to wear head scarves at the age of 12,” she adds with obvious disapproval, though she herself does cover.

Yet throughout those repressive years, Hamad points out, women continued to play a central role in the Palestinian struggle through family education. Women were the mothers of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. A woman, as she puts it, remains “half of the community and the community is not complete without her contribution.”

Women Begin to Reclaim Their Activist Roles

Abdelalim and Hamad are hopeful that the current protests indicate a new phase for women’s activism in Gaza and may provide a path to greater gender equality. “What happened in this Great Return March is that women reclaimed their large role in the Palestinian struggle,” Abdelalim says. As Hamad observes, the number of women involved increased each Friday. In fact, according to Abdelalim’s estimate, women made up about 40% of the protesters, a remarkable figure given the history of these last years.

Because the protests are unarmed and popular in nature, men have even supported women’s involvement. Hamad is organizing for the first time not just with men from the national secular movements but from the Islamic movements as well, and she feels respected and appreciated by them.

Still, Abdelalim insists that women have never simply sat around waiting for men’s permission to act. “We’ve always claimed our role in the struggle,” she says.

Abdelalim, Hamad, Alza’anen, and Abu Mosa all spoke with pride about the unity exhibited during the Great Return March. As Hamad put it, “In spite of the internal political split, we succeeded in embodying the unified struggle.”

“No one raises the flag of their political faction,” adds Alza’anen. Instead, the chants for Palestine send a message of unity both to Palestinians and to the world.

Women’s participation in the March boosts their self-confidence, says Abdelalim. “The march broke the wall of silence between the women and [the rest of our] community,” she insists. And she’s convinced that this new sense of power will lead women to struggle to take part in decision-making on a larger scale, while becoming more courageous in demanding their rights. After marching at the border side by side with her father, her husband, her brothers, no young woman will be content to “stay at home waiting for men to give her small benefits.”

All four women hold expansive visions of what they want their national struggle to yield. Abdelalim says that she is “fighting to guarantee the best future” for her children. She wants her people to be free in their homeland. She imagines children playing with joy instead of fear and a future world lacking refugees, hunger, or war-related disabilities. “The future means young men and women singing, dancing, building their homeland,” she muses.

For Abu Mosa, “the future is hope and love for the homeland.” In her dream of the future, she describes an old man, right of return fulfilled, wiping away his tears so many years later. Her vision also has space for non-Palestinians. “I have no problem with Jews. If they visit me, I will host them in my house, and they can live in my country.” But, she adds, she will not tolerate the presence of the Zionists who displaced her family.

Alza’anen hopes the losses sustained during the March will not be in vain. The killings “motivate us to keep walking in the same direction, that our determination and intention will not collapse.”

Hamad is convinced that the liberation of Palestinian women is dependent on the national liberation that the Great Return March embodied. “Women,” she says, “will always be in the front lines of our national struggle.”

Truthdig is running a reader-funded project to document the Poor People’s Campaign. Please help us by making a donation.

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NYT Carries IDF Attack on Murdered Gaza Medic–Reveals It’s a Smear in 20th Paragraph

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

NYT: Israeli Video Portrays Medic Killed in Gaza as Tool of Hamas

Journalism how-not-to: New York Times (6/7/18) puts the attack in the headline, reveals it’s a smear in paragraph 20.

A reporter at the most influential paper in English-language media appears to not know the difference between a government “tightly editing” and selectively editing video. New York Times reporter Herbert Buchsbaum (6/7/18) wrote up a propaganda video posted by the Israeli Defense Force, showing Rouzan al-Najjar–a 21-year-old medic the Israeli Defense Force shot and killed earlier this month—apparently throwing a tear-gas canister, along with a brief clip of her purportedly saying, “I am here on the front line and I act as a human shield.”

The video seems to suggest that throwing a device spewing caustic gas away from people into an empty field is a sort of violence. (“This medic was incited by Hamas,” the video reads as she grabs the canister.) But the primary problem with the IDF video is that it deceptively edits her comments to distort what she said—a fact not noted by the Buchsbaum until paragraph 20, when he threw in this crucial piece of information:

In the longer video, the comment that the military translated as “I act as a human shield” was part of a sentence in which Ms. Najjar said, “I’m acting as a human rescue shield to protect the injured inside the armistice line.”

“Acting as a human shield to protect the injured inside the armistice line” has a radically different meaning than the commonly understood canard about Palestinians using “human shields” to protect “terrorists.” This hugely consequential fact should have led the story; instead, it’s casually tossed out in the third-to-last paragraph. The story here is that the IDF—as it has been doing for decades—casually lies and distorts facts to suit its narrative. Like all militaries, the Israeli military is not presenting a “dueling narrative” in good faith, as a New York Times tweet suggested; it’s manipulating video, hoping credulous journalists help them muddy the waters, as Buchsbaum did.

Indeed, the bizarre IDF press release write-up serves no other purpose than to reframe the gunning down of the unarmed medic from a clear crime committed by Israel to a Fog of War “dueling narratives between Israel and Hamas” tale of “both sidesism.” Buchsbaum vaguely alludes to—but strangely omits—the deceptive editing in the opening with his risible turn of phrase in paragraph two:

The tightly edited video shows a woman identified as the medic, Rouzan al-Najjar, throwing what appears to be a tear-gas canister.

“Tightly edited”? What does this mean, exactly? “Tight” editing is generally considered a compliment in the film and TV world, and says nothing about deliberate omissions for the purposes of misleading the viewer. When videographer Tate B. James confronted Buchsbaum about this fact, Buchsbaum appeared to think he had covered his bases:

 

Either Buchsbaum doesn’t know he’s being misleading, and is thus severely unqualified to be writing for a major paper, or he knows he’s spinning in Israel’s favor, but was hoping no one would really notice. Either way, the New York Times is once again (FAIR.org, 7/14/175/17/185/15/18) using its pages to confuse readers to the benefit of the Israeli military.

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Israeli Snipers Kill Palestinian Nurse, Injure 100, at Gaza March of Return

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

Ma’an News Agency reports,

    “Israeli forces shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian woman paramedic on Friday, as she was treating injured protesters during ongoing demonstrations along the Gaza border with Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip. The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 21-year-old Razan Ashraf al-Najjar, from the Khan Younis-area town of Khuzaa, was shot in the stomach as Israeli forces deployed near the border fence opened fire on a group of five paramedics, including al-Najjar, as they were aiding injured protesters near the fence. The spokesperson of the ministry, Ashraf al-Qidra, added that more than 100 protesters were injured on Friday, 40 of them with live ammunition, while the others suffered from tear-gas related injuries. Al-Najjar was one of at least two medics who had been killed by Israeli forces since the “Great March of Return” began in Gaza on March 30th. Since then, over 110 more Palestinians have been killed, including journalists and children.”

For the Israeli Army to shoot unarmed Palestinians who posed no danger to anyone simply because they were in a zone declared off limits within Gaza is a war crime. Shooting unarmed civilian nurses is certainly a war crime:

    • “Article 24 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I provides:

Medical personnel exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical units and establishments … shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.”

The practice has nevertheless been sanctioned by the Israeli Supreme Court, a stark illustration of the Israeli Establishment’s spiral down into a form of Central European fascism and supremacist ethnic nationalism.

The 1949 Geneva Conventions were enacted to prevent the recurrence of common practices of the Nazis in Europe.

While there had been exchange of fire between Israeli fighter jets and some small rockets of the Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza earlier this week, the Friday march involved unarmed civilian activists. No clashes occurred and Ms. al-Najjar was on Gaza soil wearing clothing marking her as a paramedic. Israeli snipers have very good scopes and her death, or the injuries to a hundred other civilians, was unlikely to have been an accident. Israeli snipers have in the past been caught on camera rejoicing over their long-distance shooting of defenseless Palestinians in Gaza.

Update: The Palestinian Medical Relief Society released a statement:

    “Today the Palestinian Medical Relief Society mourns the loss of one of our own. 21-year old volunteer medic Razan Al Najjar was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper yesterday in Gaza as she was attempting to provide first aid to an injured protester. She was shot to the chest, the bullet ripping through the white vest with red emblem and PMRS logo that was marking her as medical personnel. Yesterday, 3 other PMRS first aiders were injured by live bullets: Rami Abu Jazar, Mahmoud Fa’wur and Mahmoud Odeh. In total, Israel has injured 223 paramedics since the end of April, 29 of them with live ammunition.”

Haaretz and Israeli Human Rights groups also reported on these events:

 

The YouTube site preserves an interview conducted with Razan while she was caring for wounded Palestinians.

On Friday before the carnage, Middle East Monitor had reported:

    • “Palestinians on Friday gathered along the Gaza-Israel security fence — for the 10th consecutive Friday — to take part in ongoing rallies against Israel’s decades-long occupation.

Gaza’s National Authority for Breaking the Siege, which is organizing the rallies, dubbed Friday’s demonstration “From Gaza to Haifa: Unity of Blood and Shared Destiny”.

“We also urge Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem — and inside Israel — to rise up against the occupation,” the authority said in a statement.

In Israel’s northern city of Haifa, meanwhile, Palestinian activists said they, too, planned to hold demonstrations in solidarity with their compatriots in blockaded Gaza.

For the first time last Friday, a parallel demonstration was held in Haifa to condemn ongoing Israeli violence against unarmed Gazan demonstrators.

Israeli police forcibly dispersed the Haifa demonstration, arresting 19 protesters — including one whose leg was allegedly broken later while he was in police custody.

“To our people [in Gaza] from the territories occupied by Israel in 1948: let’s act together to defend our legitimate rights,” Palestinian activist Amani Mushtahi declared in a video message broadcast from Haifa.

Activist Ayman Ali, for his part, tweeted: “We must take part in the Gaza-to-Haifa rally for the sake of our martyrs, injured and imprisoned.”

Since 30 March, at least 118 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli army gunfire near the Gaza-Israel security fence.”

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Blaming the Victims of Israel’s Gaza Massacre

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Gregory Shupak / FAIR.

Israel massacred 60 Palestinians on Monday, including seven children, bringing to 101 the total number of Palestinians Israel has killed since Palestinians began the Great March on March 30. In that period, Israel has killed 11 Palestinian children, two journalists, one person on crutches and three persons with disabilities.

Monday’s casualties included 1,861 wounded, bringing total injuries inflicted by Israel to 6,938 people, including 3,615 with live fire. Israel is using bullets designed to expand inside the body, causing maximum, often permanent damage: “The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities,” says Médecins Sans Frontières.

On the 70th anniversary of Israel’s so-called “declaration of independence,” the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem—a city Israel claims as its own, despite what international law says on the matter—and Palestinians undertook unarmed protests in reaction to the move and as part of the Great Return March. Although to this point, the only Israeli casualty during the entire cycle of demonstrations has been one “lightly wounded” soldier, considerable space in coverage of the massacres is devoted to blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.

Two of the first three paragraphs in an NBC report provided Israel’s rationalizations for its killing spree. The second sentence in the article says that the Israeli military:

accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown towards the barrier.

Washington Post article devoted two of its first four sentences to telling readers that Palestinians are responsible for being murdered by Israel. Palestinian “organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them,” read one sentence. “At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side,” stated the next one, as though stones and burning kites released by a besieged people is violence remotely equivalent to subjecting people to a military siege and mowing them down.

The New York Times article said that “a mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire,” painting Israel’s rampage as a reaction to a Palestinian provocation. Like FAIR has previously said of the word “retaliation,” “response” functions as a justification of Israeli butchery: To characterize Israeli violence as a “response” is to wrongly imply that Palestinian actions warranted Israel unleashing its firing squads.

Yahoo headline described “Violent Protests in Gaza Ahead of US Embassy Inauguration in Jerusalem,” a flatly incorrect description in that it attributes the violence to Palestinian demonstrators rather than to Israel. The BBC did the same with a segment called “Gaza Braced for Further Violent Protests.”

One Bloomberg article by Saud Abu Ramadan and Amy Teibel had the same problem, referring to “a protest marred by violence,” while another one attributed only to Ramadan is headlined “Hamas Targets Fence as Gaza Bloodshed Clouds Embassy Move,” as though the fence were Monday’s most tragic casualty. Ascribing this phantom violence to Palestinians provides Israel an alibi: Many readers will likely conclude that Israel’s lethal violence is reasonable if it is cast as a way of coping with “violent protests.”

The second paragraph of the Bloomberg article solely written by Ramadan says that:

Gaza protesters, egged on by loudspeakers and transported in buses, streamed to the border, where some threw rocks, burned tires, and flew kites and balloons outfitted with firebombs into Israeli territory.

This author—like the rest in the “Palestinians were asking for it” chorus—failed to note that Israel’s fence runs deep into Palestinian territory and creates a 300-meter “buffer zone” between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which makes it highly unlikely that the kites and balloons of the colonized will have an effect on their drone-operating, rifle-wielding colonizers, let alone on people further afield in Israeli-held territory.

The New York Times editorial board wrote as though Palestinians are barbarians against whom Israel has no choice but to unleash terror:

Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.

The board claimed that “Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza,” incorrectly suggesting that Palestinians were aggressors rather than on the receiving end of 100 years of settler-colonialism.

Moreover, like the Times and Bloomberg articles discussed above, the editorial attempts to legitimize Israel’s deadly violence by saying that it is defending a border that Palestinians are attempting to breach, but there is no border between Gaza and Israel. There is, as Maureen Murphy of Electronic Intifada pointed out, “an armistice line between an occupying power and the population living under its military rule” that Palestinians are trying to cross in order to exercise their right to return to their land.

Washington Post editorial called the Palestinians hunted by Israel “nominal civilians.” Apart from being a logical impossibility (one either is or isn’t a civilian), the phrase illuminates how too much of media think about Palestinians:  They are inherently threatening, intrinsically killable, always suspect, never innocent, permanently guilty of existing.

Business Insider piece by columnist Daniella Greenbaum described “Palestinian protesters who ramped up their activities along the Gaza strip and, as a result, were targeted by the Israeli army with increasing intensity.” Greenbaum’s use of the phrase “as a result” implies that it was inevitable and perhaps just that Palestinians’ “ramped up activities” led to Israel mowing down a population it occupies, 70 percent of whom are refugees Israel refuses to allow to return to their homes.

Greenbaum then climbs into the intellectual and moral gutter, claiming that:

absent from the commentary that children have unfortunately been among the injured and dead are questions about how they ended up at the border. On that question, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which Palestinians have glorified violence and martyrdom — and the extent to which the terrorist organization Hamas has organized the “protests.”

In her view, dozens of Palestinians died because they are primitive savages who take pleasure in sacrificing their own children, not because Israel maintains the right to gun down refugees in the name of maintaining an ethnostate.

In a rare instance of a resident of Gaza allowed to participate directly in the media conversation, Fadi Abu Shammalah wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that offered an explanation of why Palestinians are putting their lives on the line to march. Life for the people of Gaza, including for his three young sons, has been “one tragedy after another: waves of mass displacement, life in squalid refugee camps, a captured economy, restricted access to fishing waters, a strangling siege and three wars in the past nine years. ” Recalling the concern for his safety expressed by his seven-year-old child, Shammalah concludes:

If Ali asks me why I’m returning to the Great Return March despite the danger, I will tell him this: I love my life. But more than that, I love you, Karam and Adam. If risking my life means you and your brothers will have a chance to thrive, to have a future with dignity, to live in peace with all your neighbors, in your free country, then this is a risk I must take.

Palestinians have a right to liberate themselves that extends to the right to the use of armed struggle, yet as Shammalah wrote, the Great Return March signifies a “nearly unanimous acceptance of peaceful methods to call for our rights and insist on our humanity.” Nevertheless, based on media coverage, readers could be forgiven for concluding that it was Palestinians, not Israel, who carried out what Doctors Without Borders called “unacceptable and inhuman” violence.


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Time’s Up for Israel’s Impunity

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Sandy Tolan.

Side by side on the screen, the images could hardly be more grotesque. In Jerusalem, a beaming Ivanka Trump, clad all in white, extends her hand like a game-show hostess, unveiling the plaque of the new American embassy that bears her father’s name. Scarcely 40 miles away, dozens of unarmed Palestinians, children and a baby among them, are slaughtered by Israeli soldiers near a fence in Gaza.

In the hours following the massacre, U.S. officials followed a familiar script to convey upon Israel, yet again, a blanket impunity. As Gazans were still counting their dead, a White House spokesman blamed “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” by Hamas. Jared Kushner declared the Gazans to be “part of the problem.” At the U.N., U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley managed to blame Iran. And the president, icon of oblivious disregard, praised the “big day” for Israel. “Congratulations!” he tweeted.

Without question, much of the cable news chattering class echoed the White House’s talking points. Yet this time, many who ordinarily provide cover for Israel found the whole thing too much to stomach. “Daddy’s Little Ghoul,” declared the front page of the New York Daily News, as the smiling Ivanka’s outstretched hand appeared to point to the carnage in Gaza. “Israel Kills Dozens of Unarmed Protesters in Gaza as Jared Kushner Speaks of Peace, in Jerusalem,” the New Yorker intoned. And The New York Times, blasted on social media for tweeting that “Palestinians have died” in Gaza (from what—a flu epidemic?) corrected its passive language in a subsequent headline: “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.”

In Hollywood, criticizing Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza risked career suicide. But in late April, after Israeli soldiers had wounded hundreds of unarmed Gazans and killed 28, actress Natalie Portman pulled out of a prestigious awards ceremony in her native Israel. After Monday’s massacre, more were emboldened. “You have lost your humanity,” director and comic Judd Apatow replied to a troll on Twitter. “You watch these images and see a game, not the death of children.” Added Bette Midler: “Fifty-two people die in protest. … Thanks, asshole! Your uninformed and demented actions have consequences! Don’t you get it? Those people had families too!”

Could cracks finally be appearing in the armor of Israel’s impunity? For decades, American shade excused Israel’s criminal behavior: its theft of lands by hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers; its imprisonment of thousands of young men and children without charge; its military occupation without end; its ongoing siege of Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison. Even during the 2014 Gaza War, in which Israeli explosive power outnumbered that of Hamas by 1,500 to 1 and American-made Israeli rockets and bombs killed more than 500 children (compared with one Israeli child killed by a Hamas rocket), American politicians and punditry convinced the masses that “Israel has a right to defend itself.”

But now, before the images of thousands of defenseless Gazans being shot down by one of the world’s most powerful armies, the impunity may be crumbling. Perhaps it is the sickening juxtaposition itself—the raw imagery of carnage alongside the imperious celebrations of the callous elite—that is finally too graphic to ignore.

A cynic might say that this response is different because Trump is president, not Barack Obama. After all, it was under Obama, in 2014, that the American military resupplied Israel’s ammunition depot—in the middle of the Gaza War. And it was Obama who implored both sides to seek a peaceful resolution, just as he inked a 10-year, $38 billion pledge to renew Israel’s arsenal.

Yet the disgust with Israel’s slaughter of innocents in Gaza, as it was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its birth from the ashes of the Holocaust, is palpable. The images of Gazans yearning to live in freedom and dignity being gunned down while trying to are not something open-hearted people can un-remember.

Perhaps this moment will fade quietly into the mosaic of terrible images and memories from generations of the tragedy that is Israel and Palestine. But sometimes a single moment, and the understanding that comes from it, can change everything. Nick Ut’s image of the screaming, naked “Napalm Girl” helped shift the understanding of the American role in Vietnam. In Birmingham, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church helped turn the tide in the American civil rights movement.

The Gaza massacre of 2018 could be a catalyst to change the way Americans think about Israel’s behavior and its blanket protections from America. Twenty years ago, when I was reporting in Gaza, a white-haired old man in a crisp blue suit forecast as much. “The Israelis think that America will always protect them,” Issam Shawa told me. “They think America will always give them arms, and they will always be the biggest power in the Middle East.

“They are now. But do you think this can prevail forever and a day?”

For the people who lived through them, the last 70 years in Israel and Palestine may only feel like forever. But it’s foolhardy to think that the political and military status quo will stand for seven decades more.

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Netanyahu: Don’t look Here Where We’re Shooting Children, Look at Iran

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a notorious warmonger, serial liar and supremacist racialist who used to lead the closest thing Israel has to a fascist party until parties even more extreme got elected to parliament, is attempting to bamboozle the clueless Trump into getting on a war footing with Iran.

Netanyahu’s breathless announcement that there was a potential weapons aspect to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program has been known for a decade and a half.

Netanyahu even seems to have provoked the White House to issue a communique falsely stating that Iran has a weapons program presently, which it promptly had to retract. The incident is so scary because it shows how easy it is to manipulate the erratic Trump and his not-ready-for-prime-time staff. That sort of thing, David Frum said on Twitter, can cause a war. And he should know.

But the retraction is incorrect, as well. Iran in the distant past had done some things that would be helpful if it had launched a full blown weapons program. It never did launch such a program.

Netanyahu instanced no evidence at all that Iran is out of compliance with the 2015 deal, and UN inspectors continually have affirmed that Tehran *is* in compliance. His allegation that Iran’s recent missiles are designed to be fitted with warheads is simply false.

So why try to put Iran on the front burner of American war-making? It is a desperate attempt on Netanyahu’s part to divert world attention from the ongoing Israeli Apartheid discrimination against the stateless Palestinians, which it militarily occupies (directly with jackboots and colonial settlers on the West Bank, indirectly with military encirclement and the sniping of innocent protesters in Gaza).

In recent weeks, Israeli snipers have used live ammunition to kill some 40 and wound hundreds of Palestinians who were unarmed and peacefully protesting their imprisonment in the Gaza Strip (70% of their families were kicked out of their homes in Israel and now live in squalid refugee camps while European Israelis took over their houses and farmland and are living it up). The sniping victims have including children, journalists, demonstrators distant from the Israeli confinement fence, and worshipers at prayer with the mention of God on their lips. Shooting unarmed people who pose no threat is a war crime, and doing it systematically amounts to a crime against humanity. So too is the crime of Apartheid described in the Statute of Rome as a “crime against humanity,” and Israel manifestly and robustly practices Apartheid against the Palestinians under its military heel.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program (to make fuel for reactors generating electricity) was designed to prevent Iran from weaponizing the program.

All nuclear enrichment via centrifuges is potentially dual use. Uranium can be enriched to 5% for reactor fuel, but if scientists keep feeding it through the centrifuges they can enrich it to 95% for a bomb. The Iran deal was designed to keep Iran from making high enriched uranium (HEU).

Iran accepted spot inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. No country under active inspections has ever developed a nuclear weapon.

Iran vastly reduced the number of centrifuges it has, which means it would take at least a year or even years to make HEU, even if it could do so without the inspectors detecting the signature at the site, which it cannot.

Iran discontinued and bricked in its planned heavy water reactor at Arak. Fissile material builds up on the rods in a heavy water reactor much faster than on a light water reactor, and so the heavy water ones can theoretically aid in making a bomb. Iran no longer even has a plan for a heavy water reactor.

Iran destroyed its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5% for its medical reactor. It has no enriched uranium higher than 5%, useful for its three reactors at Bushehr. Iran benefits from nuclear energy because it burns oil for electricity generation, cutting into the money it could make from instead selling it on the open market.

South Korea, Japan and France all use nuclear reactors for electricity generation just as Iran is starting to. France enriches uranium both for that purpose and to make nuclear weapons. If you don’t think Japan could construct a bomb in three weeks if it wanted to, you don’t know Japanese technology (they have a big stockpile of plutonium).

So Netanyahu and the American Right should have sighed in relief, right? Remember, Netanyahu has several hundred actual real nuclear bombs that it could drop on Iran, and Iran has bupkes. Likewise the US is bristling with nuclear warheads. Iran has some old F4 jets Nixon gave them.

In 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate of the CIA assessed that Iran did some experiments with military significance in 2003 but then halted them ever after. The 2011 NIE repeated the conclusion that Iran did not have a weapons program at that time and had not decided to pursue one.

Our sloppy and sometimes propagandistic press keeps talking about Iran’s “nuclear weapons program,” but it is a unicorn. No such thing has ever existed per se, though the experiments and programs Iran pursued as part of its civilian energy program always had potential weapons implications, and Iranian scientists did perform some occasional experiments that might have had weapons purposes.

Because nuclear enrichment is dual use, Iran until 2015 always had the option of going for broke and pursuing a bomb, using know-how gained from the civilian program. That is all the CIA was saying. It was also saying that no such decision had been taken, a conclusion echoed by Israeli politicians like Ehud Barak and by Israeli intelligence.

But the JCPOA forestalled any such decision. Iran could only make a bomb now by kicking out the inspectors and manufacturing thousands of centrifuges, in other words by putting up a huge neon sign saying “I am making a nuclear bomb here.”

Iran’s nuclear enrichment program has also always probably been intended to have deterrent effects against anyone thinking of doing to the country what Bush did to Iraq. I.e. if it was clear someone was planning to invade, Iran could in fact go for broke and try to defend itself.

Since the US right wing and the government of Israel would very much like to see Iran invaded and its government overthrown, and its legs broken, this nuclear latency or the Japan option is an annoyance they would like to remove. It is easier to execute someone if you disarm him first.

But Iran of course is already substantially disarmed, voluntarily. What is going on now is an attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes about that and to con them into spending $6 trillion on another ruinous Middle East conflict.

That will keep everybody busy while Netanyahu finally succeeds in ethnically cleansing what is left of the Palestinians, his ulterior ultimate goal.

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