Security perversions at the Israeli Prime Minister's Office

On Thursday, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel issued a statement that “strongly condemns the continued harassment of journalists attending media events at the prime minister’s office”.

What happened this time? It’s really a shame that any journalist stood there and took it: “In the past two days, three female reporters in separate incidents were forced to undress, remove their bras and have them placed through an X-ray machine in front of a group of colleagues. In addition, pocketbooks were emptied in public, with personal items also put on display and X-rayed for everyone to see”.

Why did these journalists comply?

Was someone pointing a gun at their heads? [Probably not… but… ]

We reported, in January, on an earlier FPA complaint, here.

The statement noted that “This type of treatment is unnecessary, humiliating and counterproductive. After repeated appeals and promises by security officials it appears that the Prime Minister’s Office does not have the desire to stop this happening“.

According to the FPA, whose elected board would not have issued this statement without sufficient provocation, the Prime Minister’s office is the only place “where this type of incident occurs”.

So, being now sufficiently provoked [again], the FPA threatened that it “will begin consulting its members over whether the foreign media should no longer cover events at the PM’s office”.

Already, last January, the FPA threatened to actually stop attending such briefings — now, it says it “will begin consulting its members” about such a “boycott” [really wondering if we can still, now, use this word, legally, in these circumstances to describe such actions in Israel, without fear of retribution or prosecution?]…  See our previous report here.


UPDATE [Saturday 23 July]: AFP [Agence France Presse] reported on Friday that one of their correspondents had been subjected to this perverse security procedure, but added that the two other female correspondents subjected to the same or similar treatment did not wish to be identified. AFP wrote that: “Foreign journalists on Friday spoke of their distress after being asked to remove their bras for a security check before being allowed into the offices of Israel’s prime minister. The three women were told by security personnel to undress and take off their bras for x-ray in two separate incidents at the Jerusalem offices of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. All three complied with the request, despite the distress it caused … Each of the women was taken behind a curtain in the lobby of the entrance hall and patted down before being told to undress, then their bras were passed out in full view of male and female colleagues and security personnel, to be put through an x-ray machine. Their personal effects were also emptied out in public view and put through the machine … Sara Hussein, who works for Agence France-Presse (AFP), described the incident as utterly humiliating. ‘I can only describe the experience as among the most humiliating in my life’, she wrote in a complaint to the FPA. ‘I have covered meetings of presidents at the White House and not been subjected to anything similar’. Neither of the other two women reporters, both of whom were deeply distressed by the incident, wished to be identified. All three have filed detailed complaints with the FPA, which is pursuing the matter with the Israeli authorities”. This AFP report is posted here.

AFP added, in its report, that “Officials at Netanyahu’s office refused to comment directly on the two incidents, saying only: ‘We are aware of the concerns and we are looking into the matter’ … Government Press Office head Oren Helman expressed regret over the demand for the women to remove their bras, describing it as ‘offensive and damaging to the State of Israel. We are talking about an embarrassing failure, which we will do everything within our power to prevent from reoccurring’, he said in a statement sent to AFP. ‘This is certainly not our policy’.”

UPDATE TWO [Saturday 23 July]: An official of the FPA informs me that my assumption that the other journalists subjected to this peverse security treatment at the Prime Minister’s Officer were NOT those from Al-Arabiyya Television who conducted the very softball interview with PM Netanyahu , which the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO] published here

Accordingly, on the basis of information from this FPA official that the assumption was wrong, I am removing discussion about the substance of the Al-Arabiyya interview with Netanyahu here — which looked at the softball questions and the unchallenged spin in the  answers in the light of the intimidation and humiliation that the women involved had experienced — and will repost it elsewhere

This same FPA official responded both to my observation that the FPA had already threatened a “boycott” [can we now use this word, legally, in these circumstances to describe such actions in Israel, without fear of retribution or prosecution?], yet this kind of humiliation recurred, and to my wondering why the women involved had agreed to accept such treatment, by writing in an email: “the big companies may not agree.  For some reason the men are better at this – they simply turn round and walk off and to hell with the story.  Do you think women are more concerned about losing their jobs?”

The men may be better at refusing such treatment — but they are also less understanding of the specific humiliation that women feel in such situations. Palestinian Television discussed this matter in a program called “Falastin Sabahan” [Palestine Morning], which discusses articles published in the Palestinian press. The male co-host of the program read out the report with a big grin, shook his head, and laughed…



Now, I have my own complaint, though a FPA official earlier advised me not to give it second thought: for publishing one of the previous FPA complaints — and I am a member of the FPA since 2007 — I was “mentioned” [this is not a benign act] on a website named Our post that somehow earned such a mention [for anti-semitism] was published on 18 July 2010, here.

Violence was used on all the Flotilla ships + afterwards too

In the aftermath of the Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla that began before dawn on Monday, we were informed that the only one of the six ships on which there had been violence was the large Turkish-owned passenger ship Mavi Marmara (carrying at least 600 persons, including one baby, and almost the entire accompanying press corps).

The Israeli military apparatus controlled the whole process from the moment of the raid at sea until Tuesday afternoon, when the first small group of released Flotilla participants arrived home and began talking. More were released on Wednesday.

Once the Israeli government mobilized and ordered all detainees returned, it became clear how fast the country can move, when they really want to — in fact, they can turn on a dime.

By this morning, almost all of the 700 or so detainees have left Israel.

Until then, we were told there was violence on only one ship, the Mavi Marmara. “The remaining five ships docked at Ashdod as requested and have followed IDF instructions”, the Jerusalem Post reported late on Monday, here.

Now, from reports trickling out, we know that there was violence on all the ships, and during the entire processing process afterwards. Passengers (some, often targetted randomly) were beaten indiscriminately. What were initially called “electric prods”, now being referred to as “tasers”, were used abundantly — even on journalists trying to finish up their last reports on board the Mavi Marmara.

The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia — whose photographer, Kate Geraghty, was “tasered” when Israeli commandos boarded the Challenger on Monday morning — has done a sidebar on the tasers, published today and entitled Victims get more than a stunning, in which the paper’s Health Editor writes: “TASER victims are incapacitated by pulses of electricity that trigger muscle spasms and such overwhelming pain they invariably fall over. And while the manufacturer, Taser International, portrays the gun-like devices as a gentler form of law enforcement – designed to block ”co-ordinated actions” while protecting vital organs – they have been associated with heart irregularities, miscarriage and eye damage.   Taser’s barbed electrodes, which shoot from the device at 55 metres per second and deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity, have penetrated people’s brains, lungs and throats, and have been associated with sudden deaths. They do not have to make contact with the skin as the electrical jolt can penetrate thick clothing…

Continue reading Violence was used on all the Flotilla ships + afterwards too

Sailing the Mediterranean Sea on a sunny day – Freedom Flotilla now minus two ships

For those who understand Turkish, there is what is labelled a live video stream (with archived video as well, in a sophisticated programming mix) from the IHH website, broadcasting what appears to be the large Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara, here. Even Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson of colorful phrasing, Yigal Palmori, is dubbed into Turkish, as he complains about people “who try to force their way into Gaza”, has been featured.

The website here hasn’t updated its position map for six hours, so there’s no way to tell where the Flotilla is right now. It also has a lot of useless Youtube videos.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel has informed its members that there is an FPA pool … on one of the naval boats. We have been told that they may be at sea for up to 4 (four) days. Material will be flown from the boat directly to the censor’s office and then distributed censores [sic – I think this should read “censored”], not edited! … We are still hoping for open coverage at Ashdod port…”

Meanwhile, Israeli military action in Gaza has been escalating in recent days.

At 4:20 pm Jerusalem time, the live video feed from IHH indicates an encounter with another ship — which seems to be sailing low in the water, like a tanker or a cargo ship. Actually it does not seem to be marked or flying a flag. There are voices(mostly male) chanting on the Turkish ship, and some cries of Allahu Akbar. A small red speedboat takes off from the Turkish ship, headed for the other ship. An Al-Jazeera correspondent says he is on board the Marmara, and they have reached the rendez-vous point where all the ships in the Freedom Flotilla are to meet, about 20 miles off the coast of Cyprus. He says that one, then two, of the boats have mechanical problems and that the passengers of one ship have already joined those on the Marmara. The whole flotilla will move together toward Gaza waters tonight, then wait until light before moving toward their destination, the Al-Jazeera correspondent reported.

UPDATE: There seems to be a 24-hour delay. Organizers have announced that there may be a delay, and say they do not intend to sail at night, so departure from meeting point will be on Saturday morning at the earliest…

A Cypriot official indicated that one of the American ships, Challenger One [Correction – it was probably Challenger Two], developed mechanical problems that could not be repaired, and that it went to a Cypriot port, where it will remain.

This makes the Freedom Flotilla now minus two ships.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post reported that “Cyprus banned any ship from sailing to Gaza from its shores after the flotilla organizers ignored a government appeal not to involve the island. Acting government spokesman Titos Christofides did not specify what the organizers had done to trigger the ban. He condemned the 3-year blockade and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, but said the appeal was made to protect the island’s ‘vital interests’. The Cypriot news agency quoted Ministry of Communications and Works official Vasilis Demetriades as saying that the decision had been made in accordance with international law. The Palestinian Authority, he said, had bever demanded that assistance be sent to the Palestinian population in such a form … Another official told the Cyprus Mail, ‘Gaza has been declared a closed port by Israel. Imagine what would happen if we allowed these ships to use Cyprus as a staging point for Gaza? There are closed ports in Cyprus too … How could we continue to use this argument when we ourselves facilitate travel to a closed port in another country?’ ”
This was reported here.

Continue reading Sailing the Mediterranean Sea on a sunny day – Freedom Flotilla now minus two ships

First FPA Pool Report from Gaza – Reuters embed with IDF: "moving slowly but shooting readily"

Without comment, other than I told you so (here) , here is the first reportage sent out from Gaza — after being cleared by Israeli military censors, of course — via the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel, one of whose members, working with Reuters, went into Gaza as an embedded reporter with the IDF today:

Reuters Print pool material (embed)

Lt-Col Erez, tank commander:

“There have been several attempts to use anti-armour
weaponry against us, in at least one case a long-range missile.

We have responded preemptively and forcefully. We also hit
anyone seen trying to observe our movements.”


Lt-Col Yehuda, battalion commander in Givati infantry

“We came in very strong. Our doctrine is to take over our
assigned positions, purging any resistance, and then fanning out
as required, repeating the process.”

Q: How do you explain the heavy damage to the civilian

“I know of a lot of damage that’s self-inflicted. We came
across several houses that were booby-trapped, either with
regular explosives, or by sealing the windows and doors and
leaving the cooking gas on.

“The idea was that when the IDF arrived – it’s standard
procedure is to fire at anything suspicious in the building –
this would set off the gas. In one case the building started
burning my we managed to clear out our men in time.”

Q: How many kills have you had?

“I would say 10 gunmen overall, including during one raid
deeper into Gaza city. Mostly the resistance has not been
significant. I think Hamas has already folded. A couple days ago
an armed squad popped up from a tunnel that was concealed by a
nearby building. We took them out with tank fire and a bulldozer.
Another time, a suicide bomber came in on a bicycle. We spotted
him in time. He ran off to a take cover in a building, presumably
to draw us in. We demolished the building on top of him with a bulldozer.”

Q: Are you under orders to count enemy kills?

“No. I don’t know of any war where we’ve been told to do
that. Anyone who’s armed, we kill. Civilians we let move out.
Sometimes our intelligence services confirm enemy deaths.”

Q: Any captures?

“We took a small number of captives but they turned out to
be innocents.”


Brig Eyal Eisenberg: Commander of the entire op.

“We are tightening the encirclement of the city (Gaza)”

Q: Is there a danger for your men if they remain static?

“We are not static. We are careful to be constantly on the

Q: Are you disappointed by low turnout of enemy gunmen?

“I think that in these circumstances it is important to
preserve a sense of modesty. I’ll let the other side tell you how
well, or otherwise, they have been turning out to fight.”


Colour: During a tour by a small group of reporters, an
Israeli tank fired a heavy machine gun at a lookout structure on
the beach.

After the machine gun fire, man who was in the structure
disappeared from view and after dark the tank fired three shells
at a suspected five-man mortar crew at an orchard south of Gaza
City 300m from the tank.

The tank gunner said three of the crew appeared to have been



“The tactics so far suggest that Israel’s doctrine comes down to moving slowly but shooting readily”.

More Reuters Print pool material (embed)

Deep inside Gaza, Israeli troops eye hostile city

By Dan Williams

GAZA, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Perched on the third-floor balcony
of a commandeered Palestinian villa, Israeli Lieutenant-Colonel
Yehuda gazes over the Gaza Strip, his posture suggesting a
victor in repose rather than poised to press home an offensive.

“I think Hamas has already folded,” he says when asked to
sum up the resistance his troops encountered when they stormed
into the enclave last week as part of an ground, air and sea
campaign to counter rocket salvoes by the Islamist movement.

Apologising for a voice almost inaudibly hoarse, he says:
“It’s from shouting at my guys not to let themselves become
complacent. But things have been getting busier at night. That’s
when the snipers try to close in and get a shot.”

Under a dulcet winter sunset, it’s a still, sad vista.

To the north, the teeming city of Gaza, encircled by Israeli
forces and pounded by the air force as part of a campaign to
counter Palestinian rocket fire. To the west and east, tanks
have churned up swathes of farmland and crushed buildings.

Though Palestinians continue to launch their short-range
missiles sporadically into Israel, from this vantage point there
are few signs of life other than than the cautious criss-cross
of Israeli armour in the 5 km of farmland from border to beach.

Over Gaza’s nearby coastal highway, a decorative arch
carries a lone green Hamas flag. No cars travel under it now,
though the Israelis say there is civilian traffic during daily
three-hour truces enacted as part of a “humanitarian corridor”.

Having bisected the strip by straddling its main roads,
Israeli troops are probing ever-deeper into Gaza’s population
centres, trying to draw out Palestinian gunmen, while waiting
for the government to decide whether to order a full-on assault.

“We are tightening the encirclement of the city,” the
offensive’s commander, Brigadier Eyal Eisenberg, told a small
group of reporters brought in to observe the deployment. “We are
not static. We are careful to be constantly on the move.”

There has been disappointment in Israel that the initial
push had not led to fiercer clashes in which more damage could
have been inflicted on Hamas. Taking the fight into the cities,
however, could expose troops to a greater risk of ambush.

Military commanders say they are ready for a more congested
close-quarters battle. The tactics so far suggest that Israel’s
doctrine comes down to moving slowly but shooting readily.

Leading an armoured column to the beachfront, a tank crew
spots someone standing in an open cabana 1.3 km (half a mile)
away. The tank’s onboard heavy machinegun chatters and tracer
bullets wing over the structure. The figure disappears.


“There have been several attempts to use anti-armour
weaponry against us, in at least one case a long-range missile,”
says Lieutenant-Colonel Erez, a tank commander, giving only his
first name, in line with standard military policy.

“We have responded preemptively and forcefully. We also hit
anyone seen trying to observe our movements.”

More than 900 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have
died in an Israeli offensive that has drawn international
condemnation for its humanitarian toll. Israel says Hamas
invites such carnage by fighting in populated areas.

“We came across several houses that were booby-trapped,
either with regular explosives, or by sealing the windows and
doors and leaving the cooking gas on,” Yehuda says.

The latter tactic shows the attentiveness of Palestinian
factions, who are seasoned by past confrontations and determined
to cause casualties that they might claim as a victory against
the Jewish state. Thirteen Israelis have died so far.

Yehuda says it is standard practice for Israeli troops to
enter suspicious buildings with bursts of shooting, to stave off
a doorway attack. Such gunfire is enough to ignite gas.

“In one case the building started burning, but we managed to
clear out our men in time,” Yehuda says.

He says troops also killed three gunmen who emerged from a
bunker and a suspected suicide bomber who approached on a
bicycle. Both times, they used bulldozers to bury the enemies.

Another concern for Israel has been the matrix of obstacles
— minefields, hidden gun-nests, rocket silos — prepared well
in advance by Hamas.

Tanks appear to have avoided roads in many cases, the deep
furrows of their tracks now ploughed across fields to the sea.

There, an expanse of white sand is unmarked apart from three
untended fishing boats. An Israeli colonel, Yigal, jokes with
his men about wanting to return one day for a long vacation.

But then it’s dark, and as the tank and armoured personnel
carrier crews switch to night-vision goggles they grow sombre.

Surging back across the wasteland, the lead tank stops as it
receives a report of a five-man Palestinian squad 300 metres
(yards) away, launching mortars at an Israeli position.

A frenzied exchange over the radio ensues, to ensure the
squad is indeed hostile. Approval comes in, and the tank fires
three shells. Three of the five were killed, the gunner says.

(Edited by Alastair Macdonald)


UN-TRUTH questions: How does the “frenzied exchange of the radio”, reported in the last paragraph, ensure that the “squad” is indeed hostile? Were they talking to the “squad” to ask them directly? Or was it just a kind of guess, arrived at in an exchange involving only IDF personnel? Did the Reuters embed see the dead members of the “squad” afterwards? And, what happened to the two who were not killed?