The West Point Soldier Who Called It as He Saw It

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Spenser Rapone.

Editor’s note: On the outside, Spenser Rapone’s West Point graduation uniform looked like all the other cadets’. Underneath his dress uniform, however, was evidence of his political views: a T-shirt bearing Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara’s image, and a cap that read, “Communism will win.”

The shirt and hat made waves in the U.S. military community after Rapone posted photos of them on social media in September, and now he has been given an “other than honorable” discharge. According to The Associated Press, he was charged with “conduct unbecoming of an officer” after an Army investigation determined that he “went online to promote a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers.”

In the following statement for Truthdig, Rapone explains his political beliefs.

I am a combat veteran with the First Ranger Battalion, a recent graduate of West Point and a former second lieutenant who was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. Since identifying myself as a socialist, there has been much controversy generated by a number of my public statements.

It began with my post on social media, in which I expressed my full and enthusiastic support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, white supremacy and police brutality. After revealing a picture of myself in uniform with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, I was met by solidarity from my fellow soldiers, as well as harsh blowback from my chain of command.

To this day, I stand by my convictions, despite the efforts of ranking officers to pressure me into silence. I believe that standing up for the exploited and the oppressed is the most honorable thing we can do as people. No job should hinder or repress this pursuit, which is why I decided to resign my commission as an officer in the United States Army. My conditional resignation was denied by the secretary of the Army. Instead, the military forced me into either submitting an unconditional resignation or appearing before a board of inquiry—an adversarial trial in which a jury of senior officers would determine my fate. Rather than submit to the antics of what amounts to a show trial at best, I tendered my unconditional resignation. Passing judgment on me one last time, the military determined the character of my service to be “other than honorable.” Despite the brass prolonging my time in service, I have come to the conclusion that leaving the military altogether, whatever the circumstances, is the only moral way forward. During this ordeal, I have learned that I am far from alone in my feelings of disillusionment and betrayal within the rank and file of the U.S. military.

As a teenager, I believed the United States military was a force of good for the world. I thought that I signed up to fight for freedom and democracy, to protect my loved ones and my country from harm. My experiences showed me otherwise.

After bearing witness to the senseless destruction in Afghanistan during my combat deployment to Khost Province in the summer of 2011, I knew that our wars must be stopped. I was assigned to my platoon as an assistant machine-gunner. I took part in missions where human beings were killed, captured and terrorized. However, the horror wrought by the U.S. military’s overseas ventures is not limited to combat engagements alone. Some nights, we barely did anything at all but walk through a village. As such, the longer I was there, the more it became apparent that the mere presence of an occupying force was a form of violence. My actions overseas did not help or protect anybody. I felt like I was little more than a bully, surrounded by the most well-armed and technologically advanced military in history, in one of the poorest countries in the world. I saw many of my fellow soldiers all too eager to carry out violence for the sake of violence. There is no honor in such bloodlust; quite the contrary. I saw firsthand how U.S. foreign policy sought to carry out the subjugation of poor, brown people in order to steal natural resources, expand American hegemony and extinguish the self-determination of any group that dare oppose the empire. Idealistic and without a coherent worldview yet, I thought that perhaps pursuing an officer’s commission would allow me to change things and help put a stop to the madness. I was wrong.

It soon dawned on me how pervasive the military-industrial complex is. I studied, examined my own experiences and began to grasp more completely the horrors and impact of U.S. imperialism. Learning that over a million people have lost their lives since 9/11—the vast majority being innocent civilians—began to haunt me. Seeing that up to a trillion dollars a year were being diverted from education, health care and infrastructure in the U.S. to support our 800 military bases around the world began to feel increasingly maddening. Within the Army itself, one out of three women are sexually assaulted. The death of football player and later soldier Pat Tillman by friendly fire was covered up to sell a war. Generals responsible for war crimes—from the unbridled destruction of Afghan and Iraqi villages to the construction of torture prisons—are rewarded with accolades and political power. These sad and dishonorable truths increasingly grew impossible to ignore. The military was not the noble and selfless institution the commercials and Hollywood movies made it out to be—far from it.

At West Point, I soon found myself at odds with my future role as someone tasked with the responsibility of leading soldiers into battle. However, leaving West Point after my junior year would have meant returning to the enlisted ranks or finding a way to come up with a quarter-million dollars to pay the academy back. So I stuck it out, hoping I would find a way to reconcile this contradiction. Again, I was wrong. Upon returning to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin my training as an infantry officer following graduation, I was filled with dread. It was like I was in a place simultaneously familiar and unknown. There were things I noticed that my 18-year-old self could not have recognized before. Most strikingly, I observed the scope of the brainwashing within the ranks, from bald, buzz-cut, mostly teenage infantrymen fresh out of training, to college graduates eager to lead those naïve soldiers into America’s next war. I felt witness to a collective delusion—one that I was once a part of, but had somehow miraculously escaped. After nearly a year there, as I prepared to move to my new duty station at Fort Drum, one thing became clear: I cannot be a part of this any longer. I cannot kill or die for the U.S. military—no one should.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. My feelings and experiences are not an anomaly. I know, because I have had conversations with others who have expressed the same sentiments.

You are out there, and should you take the same steps that I have, I am with you. While the prospect is daunting, united together we have far more power than all of the generals and politicians combined. We possess the ability to grind this entire military machine to a halt. It is high time we live up to the trust and respect bestowed upon us by the people. Let our mutual love of humanity and our desire for liberation and peace be our guiding principles.

Most importantly, let us find common cause with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Libya and so many others who have suffered at the behest of the United States. To those soldiers who I’ve heard from, and to those I haven’t yet, I hope that you too find the courage to lay your weapons down with me, and refuse your orders to kill and die for the benefit of a handful of ruling-class elites at the great expense of the rest of us. Freedom lies on the other side. Together, let us fight to put a stop to these endless trillion-dollar wars, and let us join our brothers and sisters around the world in putting a stop to all forms of exploitation, oppression and senseless violence.

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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.”

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Two Important International Votes Against Israeli Occupation

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

In a blow to the Trump administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted, by 120 votes in favor, a resolution introduced by Algeria and Turkey condemning Israel for deploying excessive force against Palestinians at rallies near the border of Gaza.

After a thorough investigation, Human Rights Watch concluded that there are credible grounds for charging Israeli officials with war crimes at the International Criminal Court over the tactic of sniping at unarmed civilians who posed no immediate danger to Israeli troops (while over 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured by live ammunition since March, no Israeli troops appear to have been so much as injured).

The resolution was backed by 12 European states, including France, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Portugal, and Greece. 16 European countries abstained, but none voted against the resolution.

 

Although the US and Israeli ambassadors to the UN attempted to deride the vote as mere anti-Semitism, in fact world leaders have been deeply disturbed by the naked Israeli violation of basic international legal norms in Tel Aviv’s response to the Gaza protests. For an Occupying power systematically to shoot down unarmed civilians in an occupied territory for mounting protests that posed no immediate danger to anyone is clearly a war crime under the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Indeed, repeated war crimes may amount to a crime against humanity.

The resolution instructed UN Secretary General António Guterres to institute some sort of protection for Palestinians from this use against them by Israel of indiscriminate and disproportionate force.

The resolution also condemned the firing from Gaza of rockets toward Israel.

The Israeli ambassador castigated the vote as tantamount to terrorism. “Instigation” has become right wing Israeli code for any condemnation of oppression of Palestinians, and is increasingly a thought crime in Israeli itself punishable by prison. Poets and bloggers are in jail for the same “crime” of which the UN General Assembly stands accused.

A similar resolution was supported by the UN Security Council, but the US cast the sole veto.

A US resolution condemning Hamas failed to receive the necessary 2/3s majority to be voted on.

American pro-Israeli propaganda, prominent in the editorial pages of the New York Times, attempts to blame the Palestinian party-militia Hamas for the deaths and injuries of Palestinians at the border rallies. However, Hamas did not set the rules of engagement of the Israeli army or force snipers to shoot unarmed medics, journalists, children, and ordinary protesters. The US press almost never mentions that 70 percent of the families in Gaza are refugees deliberately chased out of their homes in what is now southern Israel, and kept cooped up in the world’s largest outdoor prison.

In another important international vote, the 4 million strong Indian Student Federation has voted to boycott Hewlett Packard computers and other equipment on the grounds that the company is involved in the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli occupiers. This step seems to me among the more significant victories for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement promoted by Palestinian civil society. BDS is not practiced by the State of Palestine itself.

The Indian student vote points to the significance of the UN General Assembly resolution, inasmuch as it will encourage more such civil society boycotts of Israel, which if they grow large enough could inflict substantial pain on the far right wing Likud government.

 

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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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Rights Group: Israeli Lethal Force in Gaza May Be War Crime

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by ILAN BEN ZION / The Associated Press.

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks may constitute war crimes.

The statement was issued Wednesday ahead of an emergency U.N. General Assembly meeting to vote on a resolution condemning Israel’s “excessive use of force.” A similar Security Council resolution was vetoed earlier this month by the United States for being “fundamentally imbalanced” and “grossly one-sided,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said.

Palestinians have held near-weekly protests since March 30, calling for a “right of return” to ancestral homes now in Israel. At least 120 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli fire in protests along the border. The overwhelming majority of the dead and wounded have been unarmed, according to Gaza health officials.

The Israeli military has said its soldiers adhere to the rules of engagement to defend Israeli civilians and security infrastructure from attacks cloaked by the protests.

Human Rights Watch contended in its statement that the mostly unarmed protesters didn’t pose an imminent threat to Israeli troops or civilians, and therefore the use of live fire suggests a violation of international law. The organization said eyewitnesses recounted Palestinians were shot from a great distance from the fence, and others who “had not thrown stones or otherwise tried to harm Israeli soldiers” were shot from a closer range.

Israel has been accused of committing war crimes in its three wars in the Gaza Strip in the last decade. Last month the Palestinians urged the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation into Israeli policies and actions in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, accusing Israel of systemic crimes.

Israel has called the Palestinian move “legally invalid.” Israel is not a member of the ICC and argues the court does not have jurisdiction.

The ICC has conducted a preliminary investigation since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including West Bank settlement construction and war crimes by Israel and Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch’s Mideast director called on the international community to “impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives.”

“The U.N. Human Rights Council inquiry should identify and call for sanctions against officials implicated in ongoing serious human rights violations,” Sarah Leah Whitson said.

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Jewish Trump Supporters Put Democracy at Risk

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Bill Boyarsky.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his conservative Republican Jewish supporters and President Donald Trump are trying to influence the upcoming United States elections with a toxic mixture of religion and right-wing politics, helping to turn the country against constitutional protections for ethnic minorities, including Jews.

The effort to shape the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential contest is being overlooked by much of the media, which is occupied with Trump and the investigation of Russian interference in the last election. But it’s a story too important to be ignored.

The Netanyahu-Trump-conservative Republican Jewish alliance poses a threat to democratic institutions. The Justice and Homeland Security departments’ anti-immigrant campaign provides an example of how that works. They are stopping endangered immigrants from applying for amnesty, imprisoning them in crowded detention centers and separating them from their children. This violates the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. American Jews are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Jewish support for a president who orders such treatment betrays the history of a country that welcomed their forebears from oppressive regimes.

Jews have relied on the Constitution and laws implementing it for protection against the anti-Semitism that brought so many of them to the United States. Such protections are starting to lose their effectiveness now that xenophobia has become a national disease, spread by Trump. Still, people of color, as well as Jews, continue to benefit from laws against racial attacks.

I’m a Jew and a supporter of a Jewish state of Israel, but that does not persuade me to join hands with this Trump-Netanyahu crew. Likud is no more my party than is the Republican right wing. I actually believe there should be two states—one Jewish, the other Palestinian.

Polls indicate that only a minority of American Jews support Trump. An American Jewish Committee poll last September showed that 55 percent disapproved of Trump’s handling of Israel; only 40 percent approved. A total of 57 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 20 percent as Independent and 15 percent as Republican. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was backed by 64 percent Jews, compared to 18 percent for Trump.

According to a February Gallup Poll, “Americans’ stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as strongly pro-Israel as at any time in Gallup’s three-decade trend. Sixty-four percent say their sympathies in the dispute lie more with the Israelis, tying the high previously recorded in 2013 and 1991.”

But Israel has become a partisan issue. The Pew Research Center reported the results of its own survey in January, saying, “Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%.”

Months before the November election, it’s an imprecise numbers game. But Jewish Republicans are already campaigning against Democrats by portraying their opponents as anti-Israel.

That was clear in a Times of Israel interview with David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel who was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and is a fierce critic of Jews who favor a peaceful, two-state solution to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.

“There is no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats,” he said. “There is a large Democratic constituency right now that is not pro-Israel.”

Friedman has attacked one of the most prominent supporters of the two-state idea, the nonprofit organization J Street, in virulent terms. In 2016, in the publication Arutz Sheva, he wrote that J Street supporters “are far worse than kapos—Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas—it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, a leader in the Jewish pro-Trump campaign, supported Friedman’s appointment, which was generally opposed by Democrats.

The coalition’s chair, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, helped raise $30 million from big Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, for this year’s GOP congressional campaigns. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, own Israel Hayom, a widely read Israeli paper that is a staunch supporter of Netanyahu. She is the publisher.

Chemi Shalev, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, wrote last month that the Netanyahu-Trump alliance is a threat to democracy.

“Both rely on a radical, nationalist base that disdains liberal democracy and demands total loyalty to the leader, ” Shalev said. “Both wield their power bases as a whip, with which they have changed their ruling parties from independent ideological forums into ongoing spectacles of flattery and fawning. Both torment the rule of law and seek to tame their Supreme Courts for ideological as well as personal reasons. Both are assaulting the free media, aided and abetted by loyalist journalists who disseminate their lies while delegitimizing their liberal colleagues.”

In her new book, “Fascism: A Warning,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab. … [W]e have not had a president in the modern era whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals. …

“From the early stages of his campaign and right into the Oval Office Donald Trump has spoken harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of open government. In the process he has systematically degraded political discourse in the United States, shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessors, threatened to ‘lock up’ political rivals, referred to mainstream journalists as ‘the enemy of the American people,’ spread falsehoods about the integrity of the US electoral process, touted mindless nationalistic economic and trade policies, vilified immigrants and the countries from which they come and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world’s foremost religions.”

Albright is Jewish, and she and her family fled when her native Czechoslovakia was taken over by Hitler and the Nazis. They and their fellow fascists imposed an iron grip on Europe. Albright understands fascism, both that of Hitler and of Italy’s Mussolini.

There is, by the way, a version of history that says Mussolini was much easier on Jews than Hitler. It’s true he didn’t run death camps but, as The New York Times noted, in 1938, “Mussolini’s Fascist government forbade Jewish children to attend public or private schools, ordered the dismissal of Jews from professorships in all universities, and banned Jews from the civil service and military as well as the banking and insurance industries. …. [M]ore onerous laws in 1939 and 1940 revoked peddlers’ permits and shopkeepers’ licenses, and required Jewish owners of businesses—as well as stock or bond holders—to sell those assets to “Aryans.”.

That, Albright fears, is where Trump could be taking us. Read Merriam-Webster’s definition of fascism: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime … that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

The definition fits Trump. It is counter to democracy. The American Jews who are rallying around him and his ideological brother Netanyahu are betraying the ideals of their people, who were drawn to America by the freedom it offered. Without such freedom, America is not safe for Jews or other ethnic minorities.

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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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Burying the One-State Solution in Palestine/Israel

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

The one-state solution is the idea of bringing justice and peace to Palestine/Israel by having all inhabitants of historic Palestine—the land that includes Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza—living in one, binational country, where everyone has equal rights and political matters are settled on the basis of one person, one vote. This arrangement differs from the two-state solution, which would partition historic Palestine into two states divided along ethno-religious lines, and contrasts with present conditions, in which Palestinians live as second-class citizens inside Israel, and under Israeli occupation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza—the last of which is subject to a merciless siege.

The one-state option is gaining traction, but media coverage consistently suggests that the only possible scenarios for Palestine/Israel are either the two-state solution or the continued regime of Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid.

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi says that “partition is the only real alternative to a Yugoslavia-like single state in which two rival peoples devour each other,” even though that quite clearly is not the “only real alternative”; there are numerous binational or multinational states whose peoples have not “devoured each other,” including Malaysia, Switzerland and South Africa.

Reuters report on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that he is “open to a two-state solution” lists the failures of this approach, noting:

Some 70 years after the creation of Israel, prospects for a Palestinian state appear dim. Israeli/Palestinian peace talks were based on the 1993 Oslo accords that envisaged a two-state solution. Those talks have been stalled for years, and Israel has built more settlements in the occupied territories, which it seized during the 1967 Arab/Israeli War. Israel has refused any right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled and became refugees after the country declared independence in 1948, fearing it would lose its Jewish majority.

However, the article fails to note that maintaining ethnic supremacy is not a justifiable rationale for denying an internationally recognized human right like the right to return to one’s home. It also excludes the idea of everyone living across historic Palestine being part of one, democratic country as a legitimate alternative to partition.

The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed in which Halevi, a staunchly Zionist Israeli researcher, says of Palestine/Israel that it’s necessary to “acknowledge that two rightful claimants share this tortured land between the river and the sea,” but the two-state solution is the only one he considers, ignoring the possibility of everyone living on that “tortured land between the river and the sea” doing so as equals.

The editorial board of the Independent writes that the Trump administration’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem “has killed stone dead any remaining hopes of peace and a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians,” without recognizing that the two-state solution isn’t the only measure that might be taken to create a just peace.

In the New York Times’ editorial on Israel’s mass murder of 62 unarmed Palestinians on May 14, the paper takes for granted that dividing historic Palestine into two states along ethnic lines is the answer, criticizing “successive right-wing Israeli governments” for expanding “Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians expected to be part of any Palestinian state,” as well as blaming Trump for failing to urge “a peace formula in which” Palestinians and Israelis “would negotiate core issues” such as “establishing boundaries between the two states.”

The Washington Post  ran an op-ed by Daniel B. Shapiro, an advisor to President Obama, entitled “Don’t Let This Gaza Crisis Go to Waste” (a phrase so ridiculous he may as well have coined the term “massacre-tunity”). Shapiro, who blames Israel’s killing of unarmed Palestinians on Hamas, supports the embassy move but says it should have been done “in the broader context of US efforts to end the conflict in a two-state solution, in which Palestinians could also realize their ambitions for a capital in East Jerusalem.” This phrasing wrongly suggests that the two-state outcome is the one to which all Palestinians aspire.

In Thomas Friedman’s piece (New York Times) endorsing the May 14  atrocity, he (in the manner of a colonial schoolmaster) instructs Palestinians that Israel might stop slaughtering them if all 2 million residents of Gaza go to the fence between the Strip and Israel carrying an olive branch in one hand and in the other a sign written in both Hebrew and Arabic that says, “Two states for two peoples: We, the Palestinian people of Gaza, want to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish people — a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments.”

Later, he criticizes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for:

implanting more settlers deep inside Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank—now 100,000 — beyond the settlement blocs that Israel might keep in any two-state peace deal. It makes separating Israelis and Palestinians increasingly impossible and therefore an apartheidlike situation increasingly likely.

For Friedman, the only choices are two separate states or a single “apartheidlike situation,” as the option of having all residents of the land live in one country, based on the principle of one person, one vote, is excluded from his framework. Note also that “increasingly impossible” is an oxymoron; if partition is already impossible, the only thing that is increasing is the obviousness of this fact. (One could also point out that an “apartheidlike situation” already obtains in Palestine/Israel, and is more succinctly described as “apartheid.”)

These cases are consistent with longer-term trends. A search of the last five years of the New York Times’ archives using the media aggregator Factiva finds 1,077 articles with the terms “Israel,” “Palestine” (and variants) and “two state solution.” Pairing “Israel,” “Palestine” and variants with “one state solution” yields 93 results. The same queries of the Washington Post produce 283 articles that mention the two-state solution and 18 with references to the prospect of one state. In the Wall Street Journal, the ratio is 595 to 20 for two states/one state.

By suppressing the one-state idea, the media are hampering the public’s capacity to comprehend and debate the full range of possible ways to reach a just and viable resolution to the question of Palestine, and to act accordingly.

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Palestinians Seek World Court Investigation of Israel

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by MIKE CORDER / The Associated Press.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Calling it a “historic step” toward justice, the Palestinian foreign minister asked the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to open an “immediate investigation” into alleged Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

The development was sure to worsen the already troubled relations between the internationally backed Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Peace talks have been frozen for over four years, and contacts between the two sides are minimal.

Speaking to reporters at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he submitted the “referral” to the court during a meeting with the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

The referral sought an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction in 2014, he said.

This includes Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as the recent round of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli fire killed over 100 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border, Malki added.

“There is a culture of impunity in Israel for crimes against Palestinians,” Malki said. “This referral is Palestine’s test to the international mechanism of accountability and respect for international law.”

The ICC has been conducting a preliminary probe since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict. Tuesday’s referral could speed up a decision on whether to open a full-blown investigation that could ultimately lead to the indictment of high-ranking Israelis.

The move comes with Israeli-Palestinian relations at their lowest point in years in the aftermath of the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and the recent bloodshed on the Gaza border.

“This is a conduct that requires that we take action and this is why we moved in this regard,” said Palestinian Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs Ammar Hijazi, referring to recent Gaza violence.

Israel has said it was defending its border and accused Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group of using the unrest to carry out attempted attacks and of using civilians as human shields.

In new violence, the Israeli army said it targeted a Hamas observation post in Gaza with tank fire after a group of militants briefly entered Israel and set fire to an Israeli military post. The army said there were no injuries on the Israeli side, and no additional details were immediately available.

In response to Tuesday’s move at the ICC, Israel said it took a “severe view” of the Palestinian request, calling it a “cynical” and “absurd” step. It accused the Palestinians of violent incitement against Israel and exploiting women and children as human shields. It also said the ICC had no jurisdiction in the case because Israel is not a member of the court.

“Israel expects the ICC and its prosecutor not to yield to Palestinian pressure, and stand firm against continued Palestinian efforts to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate,” the Israeli statement said.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens can be charged by the court if they are suspected of committing grave crimes on the territory or against a national of a country that is a member. The ICC has recognized “Palestine” as a member state.

The ICC is a court of last resort — it is authorized to take on cases where national authorities cannot or will not launch prosecutions.

Israel says it has investigated actions by its forces during the Gaza conflict, and says it has opened a number of investigations into the latest Gaza violence as well. But critics say the investigations rarely lead anywhere.

“Israel acts in accordance with independent and thorough judicial review mechanisms, befitting a democratic state, and in accordance with international law,” the Israeli statement said.

While the ICC can indict suspects, it has no police force and has to rely on cooperation from member states to enforce arrest warrants.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, said Bensouda, the chief ICC prosecutor, should now “take steps to open a formal probe aimed at holding perpetrators of serious crimes to account and ensuring impartial and comprehensive justice consistent with the court’s statute.”

The Palestinians appear to have an especially strong case in the matter of settlements. In 2004, the United Nations’ highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, ruled in an advisory opinion that the settlements breached international law.

In late 2016, the U.N. Security Council also declared the settlements to be illegal.

Over 600,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories sought by the Palestinians as parts of their future state. Israel captured both territories from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war.

Under international law it is illegal to transfer populations out of or into occupied territory.

Israel claims east Jerusalem as an inseparable part of its capital — though its annexation is not international recognized.

Israel claims the West Bank is not occupied because it was captured from Jordan, not the Palestinians, and Jordan does not make a claim to the territory.

Since the Palestinians never ruled the West Bank, Israel says this territory is disputed and its final status should be resolved in negotiations. It also claims that settlements can be torn down and therefore do not prejudice the final status of the territory. It notes that in the case of Gaza, for instance, it uprooted all settlements there when it withdrew in 2005. Israel also captured Gaza in the 1967 war.

While the Gaza withdrawal removed some 8,000 settlers, the much larger population in the West Bank and east Jerusalem would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to move.

___

Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Israel’s Days of Shame

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Uri Averny / Tikkun.

On bloody Monday this past week, when the number of Palestinian killed and wounded was rising by the hour, I asked myself: what would I have done if I had been a youngster of 15 in the Gaza Strip?

My answer was, without hesitation: I would have stood near the border fence and demonstrated, risking my life and limbs every minute.

How am I so sure?

Simple: I did the same when I was 15.

I was a member of the National Military Organization (the “Irgun”), an armed underground group labeled “terrorist”.

Palestine was at the time under British occupation (called “mandate”). In May 1939, the British enacted a law limiting the right of Jews to acquire land. I received an order to be at a certain time at a certain spot near the sea shore of Tel Aviv in order to take part in a demonstration. I was to wait for a trumpet signal.

The trumpet sounded and we started the march down Allenby Road, then the city’s main street. Near the main synagogue, somebody climbed the stairs and delivered an inflammatory speech. Then we marched on, to the end of the street, where the offices of the British administration were located. There we sang the national anthem, “Hatikvah”, while some adult members set fire to the offices.

Suddenly several lorries carrying British soldiers screeched to a halt, and a salvo of shots rang out. The British fired over our heads, and we ran away.

Remembering this event 79 years later, it crossed my mind that the boys of Gaza are greater heroes then we were then. They did not run away. They stood their ground for hours, while the death toll rose to 61 and the number of those wounded by live ammunition to some 1500, in addition to 1000 affected by gas.

On that day, most TV stations in Israel and abroad split their screen. On the right, the events in Gaza. On the left, the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

In the 136th year of the Zionist-Palestinian war, that split screen is the picture of reality: the celebration in Jerusalem and the bloodbath in Gaza. Not on two different planets, not in two different continents, but hardly an hour’s drive apart.

The celebration in Jerusalem started as a silly event. A bunch of suited males, inflated with self-importance, celebrating – what, exactly? The symbolic movement of an office from one town to another.

Jerusalem is a major bone of contention. Everybody knows that there will be no peace, not now, not ever, without a compromise there. For every Palestinian, every Arab, every Muslim throughout the world, it is unthinkable to give up Jerusalem. It is from there, according to Muslim tradition, that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, after tying his horse to the rock that is now the center of the holy places. After Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is the third holiest place of Islam.

For the Jews, of course, Jerusalem means the place where, some 2000 years ago, there stood the temple built by King Herod, a cruel half-Jew. A remnant of an outer wall still stands there and is revered as the “Western Wall”. It used to be called the “Wailing Wall”, and is the holiest place of the Jews.

Statesmen have tried to square the circle and find a solution. The 1947 United Nations committee that decreed the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state – a solution enthusiastically endorsed by the Jewish leadership – suggested separating Jerusalem from both states and constituting it as a separate unit within what was supposed to be in fact a kind of confederation.

The war of 1948 resulted in a divided city, the Eastern part was occupied by the Arab side (the Kingdom of Jordan) and the Western part became the capital of Israel. (My modest part was to fight in the battle for the road.)

No one liked the division of the city. So my friends and I devised a third solution, which by now has become a world consensus: keep the city united on the municipal level and divide it politically: the West as capital of the State of Israel, the East as capital of the State of Palestine. The leader of the local Palestinians, Faisal al-Husseini, the scion of a most distinguished local Palestinian family and the son of a national hero who was killed not far from my position in the same battle, endorsed this formula publicly. Yasser Arafat gave me his tacit consent.

If President Donald Trump had declared West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and moved his embassy there, almost nobody would have got excited. By omitting the word “West”, Trump ignited a fire. Perhaps without realizing what he was doing, and probably not giving a damn.

For me, the moving of the US embassy means nothing. It is a symbolic act that does not change reality. If and when peace does come, no one will care about some stupid act of a half-forgotten US president. Inshallah.

So there they were, this bunch of self-important nobodies, Israelis, Americans and those in-between, having their little festival, while rivers of blood were flowing in Gaza. Human beings were killed by the dozen and wounded by the thousand.

The ceremony started as a cynical meeting, which quickly became grotesque, and ended in being sinister. Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

When the last hug was exchanged and the last compliment paid (especially to the graceful Ivanka), Gaza remained what it was – a huge concentration camp with severely overcrowded hospitals, lacking medicines and food, drinkable water and electricity.

A ridiculous world-wide propaganda campaign was let loose to counter the world-wide condemnation. For example: the story that the terrorist Hamas had compelled the Gazans to go and demonstrate – as if anyone could be compelled to risk their life in a demonstration.

Or: the story that Hamas paid every demonstrator 50 dollars. Would you risk your life for 50 dollars? Would anybody?

Or: The soldiers had no choice but to kill them, because they were storming the border fence. Actually, no one did so – the huge concentration of Israeli army brigades would have easily prevented it without shooting.

Almost forgotten was a small news item from the days before: Hamas had discreetly offered a Hudna for ten years. A Hudna is a sacred armistice, never to be broken. The Crusaders, our remote predecessors, had many Hudnas with their Arab enemies during their 200-year stay here.

Israeli leaders immediately rejected the offer.

So why were the soldiers ordered to kill? It is the same logic that has animated countless occupation regimes throughout history: make the “natives” so afraid that they will give up. Alas, the results have almost always been the very opposite: the oppressed have become more hardened, more resolute. This is happening now.

Bloody Monday may well be seen in future as the day when the Palestinians regained their national pride, their will to stand up and fight for their independence.

Strangely, the next day – the main day of the planned protest, Naqba Day – only two demonstrators were killed. Israeli diplomats abroad, facing world-wide indignation, had probably sent home SOS messages. Clearly the Israeli army had changed its orders. Non-lethal means were used and sufficed.

My consience does not allow me to conclude this without some self-criticism.

I would have expected that all of Israel’s renowned writers would publish a thundering joint condemnation while the shooting was still going on. It did not happen.

The political “opposition” was contemptible. No word from the Labor party. No word from Ya’ir Lapid. The new leader of the Meretz party, Esther Sandberg, did at least boycott the Jerusalem celebration. Labor and Lapid did not even do that.

I would have expected that the dozens of our brave peace organizations would unite in a dramatic act of condemnation, an act that would arouse the world. It did not happen. Perhaps they were in a state of shock.

The next day, the excellent boys and girls of the peace groups demonstrated opposite the Likud office in Tel Aviv. Some 500 took part. Far, far from the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated some years ago against the price of cottage cheese.

In short: we did not do our duty. I accuse myself as much as I accuse everybody else.

We must prepare at once for the next atrocity. We must organize for mass action now!

But what topped everything was the huge machine of brain-washing that was set in motion. For many years I have not experienced anything like it.

Almost all the so-called “military correspondents” acted like army propaganda agents. Day by day they helped the army to spread lies and falsifications. The public had no alternative but to believe every word. Nobody told them otherwise.

The same is true for almost all other means of communication, program presenters, announcers and correspondents. They willingly became government liars. Probably many of them were ordered to do so by their bosses. Not a glorious chapter.

After the day of blood, when the army was faced with world condemnation and had to stop shooting (“only” killing two unarmed demonstrators) all Israeli media were united in declaring this a great Israeli victory.

Israel had to open the crossings and send food and medicines to Gaza. Egypt had to open its Gaza crossing and accept many hundreds of wounded for operations and other treatment.

The Day of Shame has passed. Until the next time.

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