"Allah Yerhamu" – the link between Rachel Corrie's death and the Kufr Qassim massacre

Allah Yerhamu – May God have mercy on him.

Thia is an Arabic phrase spoken after the news of someone’s death.

A communication over military radio between D-9 bulldozers operating in Gaza when American activist Rachel Corrie was trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home in the spring of 2003. Corrie had just been crushed to death.

Rachel Corrie was, of course, female, a point the good doctor makes below in discussing a significant part of the military radio communications which were somehow missing from the transcript, and which only emerged when the audio was recently played in court. Rachel, an American student, was 23 years old on the day she was killed.

A trial in Haifa district court last week heard testimony from the D-9 bulldozer driver and his military commanders this week about what happened from their point of view.

Several fascinating and bitterly witty blog posts have been written about the trial, which opened last March in Haifa, by Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh, a retired physician from Arrabeh village in the Galilee, who has been attending the trial as a public witness. Dr. Kanaaneh wrote his report of the long-awaited Israeli military testimony in the court in Haifa last week, and posted on his own blog on Monday 18 October, here and then picked up on the Mondoweiss blog.

Rachel Corrie’s parents and her sister have been attending every session of the trial — as, apparently, have U.S. Consulate officials.

In his post, Dr. Kanaaneh makes a chilling link between Rachel Corrie’s death in Gaza seven years ago, and the Kufr Qassim massacre 54 years ago — and explains that the expression “Allah Yerhamu” is the connection:

Hussain Abu-Hussain, the Corries’ lawyer … spent the whole day trying in vain to trick witnesses of the murder of the late ISM volunteer into telling the truth. But the relevant portions of those witnesses’ memory were hermetically sealed behind an impermeable wall of forgetfulness. Limited in my scope of knowledge and understanding to the field of medicine, I am intrigued by the mystery of what effective mind-altering drugs the Israeli Defense Forces have at their disposal to wipe out selective segments of their soldiers’ recall and to effect such precise lacuna of brain damage. Hussain and his fellow international human rights legal expert, Jamil Dakwar, spent the morning interrogating the young and aggressive head of the Military Police unit that had investigated and dismissed as incidental and irrelevant the fact of Rachel’s death in close proximity to two IDF D-9R Caterpillars operating in the Gaza Strep. Despite his striking alertness and wide-eyed combative demeanor on the witness stand, he still lapsed into a state of amnesia when a question crept to within touching distance of the prohibited black hole of truth. On more than one occasion he would throw up his hands in a dismissive private gesture of exasperation to the judge as if in intimate private conversation with him. He seemed to do that every time he felt that he had succeeded in debunking a clever ploy by Abu-Hussain or in adequately deflecting another of the latter’s attempts at reminding him of details he had consciously forgotten. He confirmed, albeit indirectly, the statement previously made in court by one of his colleagues to the effect that “in war there are no civilians.” But he did so in such a circumspect and disconnected manner that the judge seemed to miss the point, for He (and the capital here is intentional, for that is how He seems to consider His position in the domain of His court of judgment) did not display any sign of distress or aggravation in line with what I have come to expect neurologically. Abu-Hussain grilled this witness on the specific point of what rules and regulations there existed on the subject of operating a D-9 in the presence of civilians in the area. The witness, whose name, Shalom, said it all, wavered between the written prohibition of operating the Caterpillar as a battle implement in close vicinity of civilians and the definition of what constituted a war arena and who were civilians and who were not and under what circumstances, etc. etc. ad infinitum. All that Abu-Hussain could prove was that it is very difficult to trick a man who is intent on forgetting to remember.

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Omar Khadr – in Guantanamo since age of 15 – is "full of rage"

According to a report by AP, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has analyzed Omar Khadr, the now-24-year-old Canadian citizen who has been imprisoned in extreme conditions at Guantanamo Bay prison since he was captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15, “Khadr was an extremist when he was taken to Guantanamo, where he was ‘marinated in radical jihadism’ over eight years in custody and became a leader among prisoners. ‘He’s highly dangerous’, Welner told jurors. ‘He is full of rage’ … ‘He is very angry about being in custody’, he told the jury of seven military officers”…

Weltner was hired as an expert witness by U.S. military prosecutors. He reported interviewed Khadr for 7 hours over the summer — less than one hour for each year that Khadr has spent in captivity at facilities at the U.S. Naval Base on the coast of Cuba. This AP report is posted here

The AP report says that Khadr “pleaded guilty Monday to five war crimes charges as part of a plea deal that spared him from a possible life sentence and calls for sending him back to his homeland after one more year in Guantanamo. The jury cannot impose a sentence greater than the amount set by the agreement, reportedly eight years, but they can issue one that is more lenient … The testimony [by Dr. Weltner] was part of a prosecution attempt to show that Khadr, despite his guilty plea, has no remorse for his past”.

According to AP, “Nathan Whitling, an attorney for Khadr, said they disagree with the prosecution’s assessment and will counter Welner with their own expert testimony. Khadr pleaded guilty to charges that included murder for killing an American special forces medic with a grenade during a four-hour firefight at an al-Qaida compound in southeastern Afghanistan … Defenders said he was a child soldier pushed into militancy by his father, who was killed in Pakistan after his son’s capture, and that killing a soldier during a firefight does not amount to a war crime”.

Khadr entered his guilty plea on Monday, in a surprise move. The reason he did it, his lawyers indicated, is that the deal will get him out of Guantanamo within a year, and back to Canada where he will serve the rest of his sentence — reportedly, another seven more years in jail.

Carol Rosenberg, a journalist who is covering the court proceedings in Guantanamo and other military matters for the Miami Herald, here, has tweeted here, today, that “I still can’t report how many hundreds of thousands of dollars the war court paid Dr. Michael Welner. I’ve asked and asked. Still no reply”.

About Welner’s testimony earlier today, Rosenbert sent these tweets:
Welner just summed up #Khadr: “His future risk is actually more in his capacity to inspire and be incendiary” than to do violence himself.

Omar #Khadr to Pentagon-paid forensic psychiatrist in June at #Guantanamo: “I’m not going to lie to you. I have cursed at guards before.”

Yesterday, Dr. Welner testified #Khadr read Harry Potter and the Koran but had no interest in Western studies. Today we learn, on cross:
Doctor’s notes show these books too: Nelson Mandela: “Walk to Freedom,” Obama: “Dreams of My Father,” John Grisham, Danielle Steele novels.
Doctor’s notes show, at #Guantanamo, #Khadr also read, Ishmael Beah’s “A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier,” “Chronicles of Narnia.”

From Dr. Welner’s June interview of Omar #Khadr: Welner: “What do you think it would be like for you as a devout Muslim living in Canada?”
Omar Khadr: “I’d practice my religion and everyone would practice his own religion.”
Welner accuses defense of cherry picking. Welner said he didn’t ask #Khadr whether he could live with Christians. Khadr offered it up.

Israelis protesting at OECD Tourism Conference

Via Mondoweiss, who thanks Max Blumenthal, and via jkdamours’s Channel on Youtube, an enormously witty and spot-on protest of the Israeli occupation at the OECD Tourism Conference in Jerusalem last week:

As delegates turn up in a bus for a dinner at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, cool Israeli protestors have blindfolded, bound people with plastic handcuffs, and behave more or less exactly as Israel forces do when they are on top of a security situation and trying re-establish calm:

“It’s nothing, really, just some Palestinians we arrested for really bad crimes”…

Phil Weiss writes, in a post on his mondoweiss blog here, which he titled “There is no such thing as tourism in an occupied city“: “Note the repeated stagings of Palestinian arrests and handcuffings and blindfoldings outside the Israel Museum as the attendees arrive. Note the parody of Eden Abergil’s facebook moment. Note the activist who approaches a bus full of OECD tourism people chanting the Israeli mantra: It’s nothing really, it’s just some Palestinians that we arrested for some really bad crimes. It’s nothing that you should be concerned with. Stop with the cameras!’ ”

Jimmy Carter does Sheikh Jarrah

Here’s former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, wading right into the middle of the weekly Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah on 22 October, accompanied by two other members of The Elders visiting the region, including delegation leader Mary Robinson and Ela Bhatt — and a whole squad of nervous U.S. security agents, some in suits, and some in short-sleeved shirts:

Via the Israeli Occupation Archives, here.

Qalandia – you have to see it to believe it…

…but you still won’t really feel the oppressive heat pounding down under the sun’s rays …

Machsom Watch  [Checkpoint Watch] – a group of Israeli women against the occupation and for human rights, who monitor the situation at Israeli military checkpoints and Israeli military courts in the occupied Palestinian West Bank – have put together this extraordinary video of Palestinian women in an extreme situation, who are being treated as… well, not quite as human beings.

One of the videos they have posted on their site shows the situation in the women’s line — the women’s line: yes, women and men are separated by the Israeli forces even before going into the Checkpoint area — at the disgraceful Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on a Friday in Ramadan last year, September 2009.

In Ramadan, adults fast — and abstain even from water — from two hours before dawn until sunset.

These women are trying to get from their homes all over the central and northern West Bank, into Jerusalem, to pray at the third holiest site in Islam, which is Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

During Ramadan, the Muslim faithful long to pray in Al-Aqsa.

This documentary is mesmerizing — and horrible to watch.

The crowding, pushing, shoving, and general pandemonium would have been completely unbearable by themselves. But it was also near 100 degrees in the blazing heat.

Because the women are wearing long and heavy clothing, as well as tight headcoverings, the intense heat at midday would be quite unbearable. And, they are fasting, so they will not drink water.

If it is possible to say one part was worse than another, the worst part was at the end, when the women who could not get through Qalandia Checkpoint lined up to pray in the little shade there was, created by The Wall… facing Jerusalem, right up against The Wall.

It’s on the Machsom Watch website, here — scroll down the page to the report dated 17/09/2009.

But, when I tried to watch this video on Youtube, here, to get the correct code to embed it on this page, I found this warning, instead: “This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community“…

A Machsom Watch video.
Filmed by Hadass Shuve and Merav Amir.
Edited by Hadass Shuve.
Translation from Arabic by Hasan Masri.

Wikileaks Iraq file – "the biggest military leak in history"

Asked by the U.S. government to refrain from publishing the anticipated WikiLeaks documents on Iraq, the American and international media is doing exactly the opposite.

The media coverage is extensive, and impressive work has already gone into analyzing the data – described as being mainly “secret field reports”.

An Al-Jazeera feature, about 7 minutes long, focuses on “escalation of force” killings at checkpoints in Iraq. In this Al-Jazeera report, a relative of one of the many victims saying that “if they [the U.S. military] are not held accountable now, they will do it again and again”.

Hundreds of civilians were “gunned down at checkpoints”, the Iraq War Logs report.

Torture in Iraq — a reason given to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein — did not stop with the U.S. invasion and occupation. The U.S. forces in the country “turned a blind eye”, several major media reported Friday evening, based on the WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs — which also show that abuse by U.S. troops continued [some 300 alleged cases have reportedly been discovered in the documents just released] after the Abu Ghraib prison revelations.

U.S. troops may have actually engaged Iranian combattants [Revolutionary Guards?] in Iraq, the Iraq War Logs suggest.

UN Security Council resolution 1546, adopted on 8 June 2004, stated that “by 30 June 2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty” — while “a fully sovereign and independent Interim Government of Iraq” was to assume full responsibility and authority, pending elections.

The Iraq War Logs cover the years from 2004 through 2009 [apparently, with some missing months].

The U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, with major combat operations ending in May.  Then, a declared military occupation began.

WikiLeaks leaked the Iraq War Logs to at least a dozen major media outlets in advance, to allow time for story preparation. The New York Times has an editorial note here, saying they actually got the documents in June…

The NYTimes editors add that “Deciding whether to publish secret information is difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes choose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times … Government officials did not dispute that the information was authentic. It is sometimes unclear whether a particular incident report is based on firsthand observation, on the account of an intelligence source regarded as reliable, on less trustworthy sources or on speculation by the writer. It is also not known what may be missing from the material, either because it is in a more restrictive category of classification or for some other reason”.

A WikiLeaks tweet says that the Iraq War Logs “detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’; 15,196 ‘host nation’ [Iraqi security forces] and 3,771 ‘friendly’ [coalition troops].”

That is almost three times as many civilian deaths as “enemy”…  And it is far higher than earlier estimates.

The Iraq War Logs are now publicly available on WikiLeakshere — though servers are reportedly overloaded — and analyzed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism here.

The US Department of Defense’s made this response: “We strongly condemn the unauthorised disclosure of classified information and will not comment on these leaked documents other than to note that ‘significant activities’ reports are initial, raw observations by tactical units. They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story. That said, the period covered by these reports has been well-chronicled in news stories, books and films and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past. However, it does expose secret information that could make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future. Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, we know our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources, and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment. This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed”. This is posted here.

In July, WikiLeaks released some 91,000 Afghan war documents.

My unanswered questions – by Said Ghazali

At the conference on Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations – from Camp David to the present day, held at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem last Tuesday, my two questions were left unanswered. Anybody could guess what they were?

Of course not, has anybody got possessed by any supernatural intellect power to read what’s in my mind? But those former Palestinian and Israeli officials who attended the conference read what’s in my mind.

They weren’t supernatural aliens.

One of them, the moderator tried to prevent me from asking questions. When he failed and I asked my questions, the speakers whose eight eyes were in direct contact with my eyes didn’t answer them. It is important to note that I’m not a party liner. I came to listen to their views to understand better why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict revolves in the orbit of failures.

The failure is the opposite of success.

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The Elders visit Sheikh Jarrah

The Elders delegation visiting the region visited the weekly Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah today, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said, according to a report in Hazaretz, that “the eviction of Palestinians from their homes might be in accordance with Israeli law, but is against international law”.

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The Elders…almost a wrap

As a delegation of The Elders wrap up their current Middle East visit, delegation leader Mary Robinson said in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, according to their press release, that “Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreement on its future must also be at the heart of any solution. The changing ethnic and religious character of the city has regional and global implications. As Elders we try to bring hope, but I was shocked at the practices the Jerusalem authorities are being allowed to get away with. All kinds of clever methods are being used to surround and squeeze the Palestinian population – tunnels, settler houses, new roads, and now tourist attractions. A solution must be found that respects the human rights of all.”

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The Elders … in Silwan

A delegation of The Elders, headed by Mary Robinson and including Jimmy Carter [see our previous posts here] visited Silwan, a hotspot in East Jerusalem just outside of the walls of the Old City of East Jerusalem, and downwind of two major Islamic sites — Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock — is a volatile hotspot where thousands of Palestinians are living under threat of eviction as two settler groups literally dig in to try to discover and track King David’s presence in ancient times.

A few hundred Israeli settlers are protected by armed semi-private security guards who are not supervised by the police or military, and several Palestinian deaths by gunfire from these guards have caused disturbances there this year.

Both Carter and Robinson expressed hope that East Jerusalem would become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

An Associated Press correspondent has filed a “pool report” for the Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA) describing the visit — during which Algeria’s former Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi (a UN official from time to time) was apparently not present.

According to Nuha + Khader Musleh’s very useful summary of the Palestinian press today, The Elders delegation was received by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday. [Too bad that it is so difficult, even impossible, to get useful information from the Presidential press office or any other Palestinian source for official information …]

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