A 14-month old boy died of tear gas inhalation in the Isawiyya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Friday. The toddler was apparently at home when the tear gas was fired [by Israeli Border Police], though Israeli media reports misleadingly suggest that the child died “during a riot”. YNet is also reporting here that “a possibility that the infant’s death was accidental – as a result of a gas leak at his home – is also being investigated”. An Israeli police spokesperson told the media that no report of an infant’s death has been received.
[And, a 20-year old fishermen was reported killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza coast on Friday.]
Earlier in the week, two men were killed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. A private Israeli security guard driving alone in the neighborhood said he felt threatened and feared for his life when he came upon the men, and fired.
Normally, people should be able to be out on the streets at 4 a.m. without fear of being shot and killed as a suspected threat. One victim had a criminal record — and a screwdriver and a knife in his pocket — YNet reported.
But, there has been no call yet for any investigation into this killing.
UPDATE on SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: Lisa Goldman has just reported in +972 magazine that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has formally requested a [police only?] investigation. Her article is posted here.
A spokesperson for the private security agency which employed the man who did the shooting told YNet that “The guards asked for permission to use crowd dispersal means, but were turned down, so the only weapon left is a pistol … The security guards’ job is to safeguard the [n.b. – Jewish] residents’ lives and property. They should not have to deal with disturbances.” This is posted here.
All of this makes perfect sense to the security company spokesperson, and apparently also to the media and large segments of the Israeli government and public. And, this is considered “objective reporting” –with no thought of incitement, much less of responsibility for reckless endangerment to human life.
The same YNet story did note, however, that “The Association for Civil Rights [ACRI] in Israel, an Israeli advocacy group, recently wrote in a report that Israeli security firms act like a private police force for Silwan’s Jewish residents. It said the firms often receive government funding and frequently use threats and violence against Arab residents, while police are reluctant to intervene.”
This ACRI report, which focuses on the complaints of the Palestinian residents of targetted neighborhoods in East Jerusalem “whose voice is seldom heard in the Israeli public discourse”, is published here, earlier this month. It states that the private security companies are hired by the Israeli Ministry of Housing, to protect some 2,000 Jewish residents who are now scattered in small guarded compounds in various Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. And, the report states, “Jewish settlement in these neighborhoods did not develop in a spontaneous manner, but is rather the intended outcome of a number of well-organized political NGOs whose common stated goal is to ‘Judaize’ East Jerusalem”.
While Jewish settlers “complain of stone throwing, vandalism, racial slurs, and more”, the ACRI report states, “perhaps the most troubling phenomenon that arises from the state of mutual complaints is the biased behavior of Israeli authorities, who practice selective law enforcement and fail to provide even the most minimal protection to Palestinian locals”.
While there were small — very small — signs of a conscious attempt by some Israeli police officials to coordinate with some Palestinian residents in some of the affected areas, and to avoid intimidation in East Jerusalem neighborhoods where there had been no demonstrations nor any violence this week, the overall policy has not visibly changed.
The ACRI report urged Israeli authorities to work hard “to vigorously protect the human rights of all residents, including the right to bodily integrity, personal security, freedom of movement and privacy”. However, the report noted, “the testimonies of local residents point to the opposite. Law enforcement agencies have become complicit in violating Palestinian rights; in many cases they do not enforce the law or do so only in a discriminatory manner. At times, their proxies — the security guards employed by the state to protect Jewish residents and the police forces stationed in those areas — employ physical and verbal violence and abuse Palestinian residents”. Complaints are treated with disregard and indifference, the ACRI report states — and sometimes “are not even investigated”.
On top of that, ACRI reported, there is preferential treatment for the small Jewish garrison communities in East Jerusalem in terms of “planning and zoning, construction and development, and in control of the area’s scarce resources”. And, the “state of human rights in East Jerusalem is decidedly poor, especially as it relates to home demolitions, lack of infrastructure, the severe shortage of schools, and inferior health and social services”.
In mid-week, later on Wednesday morning, after the funeral of one of the victims [one body is reportedly still in the Israeli autopsy facility of Abu Kebir, in Tel Aviv], masked Palestinian teenagers threw stones in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods [Silwan, Isawiyya and Ras al-Amoud in particular] and burned cars in the Mount of Olives area.
The media output service of JerusalemOnline.com simply reported that East Jerusalem Palestinians “rioted” on Wednesday, without mentioning the killing of two Palestinian residents of Silwan by the armed Israeli private security guard. This, too, can hardly be called “objective” or honest reporting.
A heavy Israeli security presence was deployed at the perimeters of these neighborhoods — which are generally those most affected by The Wall [especially in the Shuafat refugee camp in the northern Jerusalem area, which has only two entrances + towards Jerusalem, both of which are prison-like checkpoints], while Silwan is affected by numerous house demolition orders and a small but militant Israeli settler presence which is always backed up by Israeli forces.
The Jewish holiday of Succot — when many Jewish families live in decorated square huts or tents put up just outside their normal homes or apartments, with walls made of sheets and thatched roofs made of palm branches through which they can see the sky, to commemorate 40 years of wandering in the desert and centuries of exile — began on Wednesday night, and the IDF renewed its full closure of the West Bank for the holiday (until at least 30 September).
There was one report of clashes at Qalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem during Thursday night rush hour, when the checkpoint is jammed, and many Palestinians who live and work in Jerusalem are heading to Ramallah either to go to packed restaurants with dancing + drinking in Ramallah or to stay with relatives for the weekend.
Friday prayers were held without incident — but with about one-tenth of the usual attendance at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Haram ash-Sharif esplanade (which Israelis call the Temple Mount). Access was restricted — the only Palestinian men who were able to attend had to be over 50 years old, with Israeli residence permits.
Several East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods were locked down during the day on Friday, and Israeli military headquarters flew over the Old City of East Jerusalem and related neighborhoods in the late afternoon, when a decision was made to extend the lock-down for the entire Jewish holiday of Succot.
Palestinians complain of a lack of leadership in East Jerusalem [while expressing sarcasm over Palestinian negotiators’ claim that East Jerusalem is the future capital of a future Palestinian state] — but they also either cannot or will not say what, exactly, they would like a better Palestinian leadership to do for them.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been in New York and Washington for a continuous round of informal meetings as the ten-month unilateral Israeli-declared settlement “freeze” in the West Bank comes to an end tomorrow [Sunday 26 September], when various settler supporters have vowed construction will proceed full speed ahead.
UPDATE: Actually, Israeli settlers and their supporters began even earlier than expected, reportedly sending out on Saturday 25 September some 20 new mobile homes or “caravans” from the Revava settlement to two Palestinian villages [Deir Istia and Hares] in the northeastern West Bank district of Salfit. Other reports indicate that construction materials and equipment had been stationed in Revava in preparation for renewed West Bank settlement construction.
The Associated Press has just reported here that the unilateral Israeli policy for the past ten months has not been a “freeze”, but rather a “moratorium”. AP notes that “The so-called settlement ‘moratorium’ is far from a freeze on building, because thousands of housing units whose construction preceded November 2009 were allowed to continue under its self-declared terms. But with several notable exceptions, new projects were not launched. The Palestinians want this extended, and the United States publicly backs the demand”.
Palestinian negotiators have reportedly agreed in Washington to grant an American request for a four-day extension until the end of the month [30 September].
Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned, in an appearance on The Daily Show this week, that if there is not movement toward progress in negotiations, and that if “the issue of settlements is still on the table” by the end of September, then we can all expect a another war in the region by the end of this year, 2010 — within three months’ time.
It is interesting that the Palestinians are apparently the only ones to have agreed, so far [though there are hours still remaining] to this extension to 30 September — at least publicly.
The Israel Project, another very well-resourced media-based outreach advocacy group based in Washington and in Jerusalem, has just sent out an advisory which suggests that only the Palestinian side should be blamed if settlement building resumes and the talks collapse now. The Israel Project email states that “On Sunday (Sept. 26) Israel’s 10-month moratorium on new building in the West Bank is scheduled to expire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the issue should be part of final status discussions as peace talks with the Palestinian Authority move forward. Netanyahu has reiterated he favors two states for two peoples – Israel and a future Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security. Palestinian leaders have threatened to walk out of the talks if building resumes, although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said recently there was no alternative but to negotiate. The world is waiting to see if Abbas remains at the table or allows this issue to wreck the negotiations which are already showing promise”. The Israel Project describes itself this way: it is “an international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace. The Israel Project provides journalists, leaders and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel”.
Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour, who resides with his family in the West Bank city of Ramallah+Al-Bireh, has just written in The Jewish Post and News of Winnipeg, Canada that “The facts on the ground are bitter, very bitter. To extract the region from never-ending turmoil to that of permanent stability and normalcy much more self-reflection will need to be made by all the parties involved. I’ll start with my own side, the Palestinians. In 1948 Palestinians were dispossessed from 78 percent of our homeland, 60 percent of Palestinians are internally displaced or dwell in refugee camps just hours from their homes and properties, 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza survive under siege conditions, hundreds of thousands have been illegally detained or assassinated by Israel, and the economy is micro-managed by a foreign military that is underwritten by donor countries. The Palestinian negotiating team claims to be a legitimate leadership but there is not one functioning institutional body that can genuinely claim to be the source of their self-defined legitimacy”. His commentary on the negotiations can be read in full here.