Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

B’Tselem [summary executions are categorically prohibited]: “International law categorically prohibits the extrajudicial killing of civilians – regardless of the allegations against them”.  This is written in a statement concerning the public killing of 7  men during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds who were accused of being “collaborators” with Israel.  Some senior Hamas officials, including deputy politburo chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, condemned these executions. [See here.] It is not clear whose idea these executions were. This B’Tselem statement is posted here.

B’Tselem [media sites are not legitimate military targets]: “international humanitarian law is very clear on the subject: Neither reporters nor any other civilians may be intentionally targeted, and every feasible precaution must be taken to protect them from the impact of hostilities. Additionally, the media – including those belonging directly to the parties to the conflict – are not legitimate military targets, even if they are used to disseminate propaganda. Where there exists any doubt as to whether or not a target is military or civilian – that target is to be presumed to be civilian … In a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman immediately following the first attack, on the a-Shuruk Building, the Israeli military stated that the attack had been directed at ‘antennas used by Hamas for military operations against the State of Israel in the northern Gaza Strip’. In a later statement, the IDF Spokesman clarified that both attacks were directed against the communications infrastructure of Hamas, which it claims Hamas uses to communicate operational instructions and disseminate propaganda …

Continue reading Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

"Gaza is the Palestinian state" – UPDATED

UPDATE:  It seems that the premise of this post — that Ismail Haniyeh expressed support for the UNGA move planned by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas — may [or may not] be wrong.  A Hamas spokesperson [though not Haniyeh himself] reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this.  [AFP reported later that “Last week, Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement denied a report by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya had expressed support for the UN bid in a phone call with Abbas”. The AFP account is posted on the Al-Ahram website here.] This post was amended. But, even later reports suggest that our original reporting was correct. Hamas will at the very least not oppose the move [and may actually even support it]…

Of all the surprises that emerged from the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds, one of the most significant is the pair of statements — after the cease-fire agreement — by the two top Hamas political leaders indicating their support for a Palestinian state.

Hamas was supposed to have done this before [several times], but then swiveled.

Now, just after the cease-fire, Khaled Meshal, long-time head of Hamas political bureau, said Wednesday night in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”.  This was posted at here.  This interview can also be viewed here.

Amanpour was part of the caravan of top media stars who had flocked to Israel and to Gaza, with their entourage of producers and camera persons and assistants, during Operation Pillar of Clouds.

She had been reporting in Israel. Then, suddenly, she Tweeted on Monday that she was heading to Cairo to do the interview with Meshal.

On Friday 16 November, she Tweeted this: @camanpour — “In Israel. Reporting on growing fears of an all-out war:”

Then, on Tuesday 20 November she Tweeted @camanpour — “En route to Cairo for an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashal”.

On Wednesday 21 November, she sent out these Tweets:

@camanpour — “I’m in Cairo – just finished an EXCLUSIVE interview with Hamas’ political leader:”

@camanpour — “Khaled Meshaal says Hamas thought there was actually a deal last night, but Israel refused some points”

The cease-fire was announced late on Wednesday 21 November, in a joint media appearance in Cairo by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr, It was confirmed by a press appearance in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, flanked by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Then, by a press conference in Cairo by Hamas’ Khaled Meshal, on an adrenalin high, and Islamic Jihad’s Ramadan Shallah.

In Amanpour’s interview, aired shortly after that, Meshal spoke in the first person: “I support a Palestinian state in 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital + the right to return”.

But, what did that mean? Was Meshal indicating that this was just his personal position?

The next day, Haniyeh appeared to repeat what Meshal said.  Haniyeh and Meshal are the two top political leaders of Hamas.

However, Haniyeh noted that he would like to see a Palestinian state on “all Palestinian land”.

[In both of his statements, Haniyeh also added another condition: the freedom of the Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.]

With these statements, Haniyeh and Meshaal seem to have dispelled concerns that they might be working for a separate state in Gaza.

More than that — Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank now appear to agree on pursuit of state recognition within the UN.

In a day-after, post-cease-fire press conference in Gaza on Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh seemed to say he supported Abbas’ move to get acknowledgement and acceptance of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital — with the right of return.

A Hamas official later reportedly denied that Haniyeh said this.

But, even later, Hamas officials were indicating that Hamas will, at least, not publicly disagree with the Abbas move.

FURTHER UPDATE: On Monday 26 November, after the confusion described above, Ma’an News Agency posted a story saying that “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”. This is posted here. The Wafa story is posted here.

UPDATE: The New York Times reported Saturday, here, that “[Ahmed] Yousef, a former Haniya adviser who now runs a research organization…said Hamas, which has opposed the United Nations bid almost as vociferously as Israel, would no longer speak against it. Asked about his vision for a Palestinian state, Mr. Yousef’s contours echoed those of Mr. Abbas: 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital”. The NYTimes described Yousef as “an analyst close to the Hamas leaders”.

UPDATE: Daoud Kuttab wrote on the Huffington Post site here that “Mohammed Ramahi, a Hamas legislator and spokesman for the group’s parliamentary faction, has told Al Jazeera that Hamas will support the UN initiative”.

UPDATE: AFP reported that in a Ramallah rally organized to support the UNGA move, “Abbas said the attempt to secure upgraded status was backed by many UN member states and by all the Palestinian political factions…Abbas reportedly told those assembled: “Today, the UN. After that, reconciliation, and after that, our own state”.

UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported that “President Mahmoud Abbas met Saturday evening with Hamas figures in the West Bank at his Ramallah office, according to sources present at the meeting. The meeting discussed Abbas’ bid for upgraded UN membership, due for a vote on Thursday, as well as reconciliation between Hamas and his Fatah party, attendees said. Nasser al-Shaer, a former government minister and Hamas deputy, said after the meeting that he supported the UN bid.” This is posted here.

UPDATE: Adam Shatz has just written in the London Review of Books that “If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists”.

UPDATE: Daniel Levy [Senior Fellow and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — and the real drafter for the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative] this week wrote that Hamas has helped develop and push forward the promotion of a real Palestinian state with state status in the UN: “the idea of any future peace arrangements including a Palestinian agreement to demilitarization just became more remote … Fatah and the PLO cannot be dismissed in Palestinian politics, but their longstanding approach of currying American favor, in the hope of delivering Israel absent the creation of Palestinian leverage and assets, has run its course. They appear to have missed the boat in leading a popular campaign of unarmed struggle and the PA’s security cooperation with Israel looks distinctly unseemly in the eyes of many Palestinians…And a likely U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestine observer state status has in all likelihood been reduced to a sideshow … This past week demonstrated that Europeans not only lack a coherent policy to the Palestinians; they are also missing such a policy vis-à-vis Israel … If the Palestine vote takes place at the UNGA, Europe should vote in favor not because of some mathematical computation of strengthening one Palestinians faction at the expense of the other, but rather because it is the right thing to do if Europe is committed to a two-state outcome. Europe might also be useful in utilizing some of the leverage it has with Israel as an outrider to an America still boxed in by its own politics…Russia and China will have enjoyed embarrassing the Americans and some Europeans this week at the UN Security Council over the Palestine issue [Gaza] by siding with Arab parties. It’s something they are likely to indulge again next week if the Palestinians go for a UN vote”. Daniel Levy’s analysis is posted here and here.

Continue reading "Gaza is the Palestinian state" – UPDATED

After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank

After last night’s cease-fire in Gaza, the IDF says it has now arrested — “in cooperation with the ISA [Israel Security Agency], Israel Police and the Israel Border Police” — some 55 people said to be affiliated Hamas + Islamic Jihad, from the north to the south of the West Bank.

According to the IDF announcement, they include “a number of senior level operatives” — but the IDF published no names.

The official IDF explanation is: it will “to restore calm”.  In the past eight days, there has been unrest and protest demonstrations around the West Bank against the IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds against Gaza, and at least 62 protesters against Operation Pillar of Clouds were detained by the IDF during the operation in Gaza.

However, almost none of these protests are organized by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who take a quite low-key profile in the West Bank. Nor is it Hamas or Islamic Jihad who send young men out to throw stones whenever they see jeeps of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Hamas officials have regularly been arrested ever since their electoral victory in 2006 Legislative Council elections. Islamic Jihad activities were “prohibited” in the occupied Palestinian territory by a decree of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 6 October 2010.

Until last night, most of the West Bank unrest has been due to protests led by a combination of the popular committees and the younger anti-Oslo Accords, anti-PA, anti-Abbas protesters who came together last year in support of Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution. One of their main platforms is the call for a revival of, and world-wide Palestinian elections to, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Palestine National Council [PNC]. .

Hamas is not yet a member of the PLO, despite an agreement in Cairo in 2005 that this would happen.

What prevented Hamas’ joining the PLO was a tough position by Fateh “unity” negotiators against Hamas getting an allocated percentage of seats in the PNC proportional to the more-than-60% seats it won in the local Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 elections. The Fateh negotiators were firm that Hamas did not deserve more than 20-25% of the seats in the PNC, which the Fateh negotiators insisted was the true strength of Hamas.

Those who were arrested this week, until last night, were the younger more secular crowd.

Addameer, a prisoners support group based in Ramallah, Tweeted this: @Addameer_ps – There has been a spike in arrests across the West Bank since the Occupation attacked #Gaza last week.

Continue reading After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank

Mahmoud Abbas tells a TV interviewer that "Unity is Frozen" – UPDATED

Speaking in a television interview from Baghdad, where he is attending the Arab League summit, the man who holds all the reins of Palestinian political power, Mahmoud Abbas, said “unity” between Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian body politic, and therefore between Gaza and the West Bank, is “frozen”.

His remarkable remarks — which appear to have been made in an interview with Ma’an Television, but it is not clear from the article — are reported by Ma’an News Agency, here.

The general reaction has been, “ho hum” [a big yawn].

In the article about the interview, Abbas also reportedly said: “We agreed on the vision and objectives and conditions in full…I confirm that Mashaal was honest and we were ready (to proceed)”.

The Israel News Network report, here, tells us that ” ‘some Hamas leaders rejected the agreements reached in Doha’, he [Abbas] said in a clear reference to Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders in Gaza who blocked the deal”. This innuendo is left out of the Ma’an report…

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to the proposal that arose out of long “unity” negotiations that Mahmoud Abbas would replace Salam Fayyad [whose appointment in 2007 irritated Hamas] and would serve as interim Prime Minister in an interim unity governments of technocrats [though Abbas could hardly be called a technocrat] that would prepare for new elections [in which Fatah hopes Hamas will be trounced, just to show them] that should have been held in May 2012.

A Presidential Decree must be issued three months before elections, so the May date has already slipped.

Oh, and Palestinian leader [there is almost no other] Mahmoud Abbas now reportedly has agreed to drop [or perhaps to postpone?] a threat to dismantle the Palestinian Authority…

This news of a not-yet-happened development is attributed to unnamed “foreign diplomats” [American?], and published in Haaretz here.

The Haaretz report tells us that:

    “The diplomats who provided the letter said Abbas scrapped the threat at the urging of President Barack Obama. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the letter has not yet been sent. The letter was leaked more than ten days after, Saeb Erekat asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but his request was denied. During the meeting, Erekat was to submit the letter to Netanyahu. The letter was originally supposed to include an ultimatum on the part of the Palestinians, saying that if their demands were not met, they intended to turn to the international community, urge that Israel uphold international law, and demand that Israel take direct responsibility for the situation in the West Bank. However, beacause of the heavy pressure exerted by U.S., the ultimatum was dropped. The current draft includes only the Palestinians core demands: 1967 borders as a framework for negotiations, a settlement freeze, the release of prisoners, and a section that was added later to the letter: a demand to end IDF operations in West Bank Area A.”

Obama spoke to Abbas recently for the first time since September [when Obama was warning Abbas not to make the “UN bid” for full membership of the state of Palestine in the United Nations. Obama’s phone call was followed by one from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…

Maybe they told Abbas that Obama can’t do anything until after the elections — but then [when Obama is re-elected, the presumption is], just wait, there will be big moves…

Meanwhile, Marwan Barghouthi [a Fatah “Youth” leader in his time] now in his 50s and just marking ten years in Israeli jail, where he is serving five life sentences ordered by an Israeli court at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, has reportedly called for “a renewal of efforts” in the “UN bid” to gain UN membership for the state of Palestine. This “UN bid” is why Israel and the U.S. withheld money to the PA earlier this year — prompting one of Mahmoud Abbas’ periodic thoughts of quitting or of dissolving the PA.

Marwan Barghouthi’s message, transmitted via his lawyer, urged Palestinian leaders to “Stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations after this vision has failed miserably”. He also called for “stopping all forms of security and economic coordination [with Israel] in all areas immediately”… And, most interestingly, Barghouthi called for “a renewal of efforts” concerning the “UN bid”. According to a wire service report, published here, “Barghouti said that the Palestinians should take their statehood case to the General Assembly or other agencies as an alternative, alluding to forums in which the Palestians have wider support”.

In his weekly article, veteran Israeli activist Uri Avnery wrote about this statement by Marwan Barghouthi, and said:

    “I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada. He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (‘organization’), the youth group of the Fatah movement. The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.

    When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon – decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal ‘Defensive Shield’ operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.

    Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several ‘terrorist’ attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as ‘victims of terrorism’. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused. Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.

    IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These were widely distributed outside and received with admiration and respect.

    [Now, in his latest statement, issued through his lawyer] Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called ‘peace negotiations’. This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with ‘peace process’, then ‘political process’, and lately ‘the political matter’. The simple word ‘peace’ has become taboo among rightists and most ‘leftists’ alike. It’s political poison. Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about ‘reviving the peace process’, no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the ‘Quartet’. Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution – which it never really accepted in the first place – keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.

    Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor”…

What is the Occupation? Report of uninformed testing, involving pumping of unidentified gas into car, without consent, at Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem

This report is presented as part of our series on: What is the Occupation?

At the beginning of January, according to an eyewitness — who was an involuntary participant — Israeli soldiers pulled over selected cars exiting the main Israeli military checkpoint at the northern entrance of Bethlehem, known as Bethlehem 300 [or, sometimes, as the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint, and occasionally as the Gilo Checkpoint though this could be confused with the Tunnel Checkpoint on the eastern side of Bethlehem].

This main Bethlehem Checkpoint is the one used by all the tourist buses passing into Bethlehem for a quick visit to Christian holy sites, including the important Church of the Nativity, where it is believed that Jesus was born.

This main Bethlehem Checkpoint is run by the Israeli Border Police, and not directly by the Israel Army [IDF]. Even though the Border Police are hierarchically part of the Israeli Army, they act with great and sometime stubborn independence.

Though the other cars selected for this special procedure are described by the eyewitness as being “all Palestinian”, the rest of the description [according to the written account, see below, and to the photos accompanying it] tells us that, almost by definition — because the cars selected were either entering or exiting Bethlehem into “Israel” [in quotation marks, as this checkpoint is still at a point identifiably within the West Bank, as defined by the 1949 UN-negotiated Armistice Lines], these cars thus had to all have yellow Israeli license plates …

And the drivers + any passengers had to have permission, in one form or another, to enter Israel and the Israeli-controlled West Bank [this would mainly mean, either by being Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, or Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel, or by being foreign passport holders with valid entry visas for Israel + implicitly including the West Bank].

Jewish residents of Israel are not allowed to enter Area A — major Palestinian cities including Bethlehem — without prior “coordination” with the Israeli military and without signing a release saying that the military will not be responsible for any violence that may befall them, on pain of a 5000 NIS shekel fine, approximately $1350.00 dollars. This is one of the many stated purposes for the Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank.

Nevertheless, cars were selected on an apparently random basis, without any information being given as to how or why, and then subjected to an un-informed procedure — possibly a test or experiment — which apparently involved the pumping of some sort of [still-unidentified] chemical in gas form into the passenger cabin of their cars while they waited outside. An Israeli officer timed the procedure with a stopwatch, and after ten minutes told those waiting to get into their cars and drive off — again without giving any information.

It is a disturbing and alarming story, and it is impossible to imagine that Jewish Israeli drivers would have allowed any such thing to happen to them.

It is so creepy, in fact, that it is impossible to imagine drivers in any other place in the world allowing uniformed and armed authorities to pump an unidentified gas into their car for some 10 minutes, without any explanation other than it was “for security”.

Elsewhere in the world, this would have been met with protest, if not outright refusal. And there would be calls for an investigation. In most places, people would probably simply refuse to be treated like this..

But, these participants did not refuse — it is not clear what might have happened if they had asked questions, or if they had objected, or if they had insisted on leaving without participating.

But, they did not refuse this unexplained injection of an unidentified gas into their car as a new, additional and quite unusual condition for entry either into Bethlehem or into “Israel” and/or “Jerusalem” [“Jerusalem” is also in quotation marks here because of the Israeli lack of clarity about what, exactly, they consider to be their current delineation of “Jerusalem”].

It is almost certain they people whose cars were selected did not refuse because they were told it was “for security”.

Israeli security demands cannot be refused without consequences that can be quite severe. And, Palestinians are now quite used to being required to obey, well aware of the possible consequences of their refusal.

At the very least, a refusal would have meant a big inconvenience, possibly a very long delay lasting many hours…

It is probably worth noting that this chemical gas spraying inside cars reportedly entering/leaving Bethlehem did occur during the middle of the Palestinian Christmas celebrations — which stretch from 25 December, which is an official national holiday in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority control, to the Greek Orthodox Christmas on 6 January.

This story, which has been brought to the attention of the Right to Enter Campaign [formed to defend the interests of foreign passport holders wishing to enter and live in Palestine] is published on a blog whose author now wishes to be anonymous. The blog post is dated 2 January.

Here is an excerpt from the blog post, as published:

    “As I approach the checkpoint, I roll down my window and flash my passport.

    In Hebrew, I am told to go straight and up the hill – not the usual left to exit the checkpoint. It is amazing what can all be communicated with a single point of a finger and a grunt. It seems that the mere presence of an M16 can help in understanding foreign languages.

    As I drive to the designated area, there are soldiers pointing myself and 5 other cars (all Palestinian) towards selected parking spots. Every spot has an apparatus next to it, which looks like a giant IV that you would find in a hospital. I am told to get out of my vehicle with all my windows shut, except the driver window, which should be 5 cm. open.

    I get out of my vehicle and stand next to the Palestinians who have also had to abandon their cars. Soldiers wander around the cars, one with a stopwatch. It is obviously a drill of some kind. With complete disregard for our schedules or impending meetings, the soldiers are taking the opportunity to practice and test Practice on a population without any kind of consent, but that does not seem to matter. Consent is never asked or required from a people under occupation. They are the occupied and at the whims of their occupiers.

    From the IV apparatus next to our parked cars, soldiers put a hose into our driver side window. It reminds of movies where the someone tries to commit suicide by filling their car with exhaust. Some of the people ask the soldiers what they are doing. Their response is, that it is for security and that it is fine. There is no comment as to what or why they are spraying some sort of chemical into our vehicles.

    After 10 minutes the soldier with the stopwatch stops his clock. The hoses are removed from our cars and we are allowed to continue onwards to Jerusalem. We are permitted to go on with our day. We are permitted to go on living.

    Yet the smell from the gas still lingering in my car is assaulting. Even though it is cold outside, I drive with my windows down. Unfortunately nothing will stop my impending headache. For the next four days, whenever I drive my car I have a headache”. This report is posted here.

Though the person who wrote this blog post was asked for more clarification, she has not replied.

So, it is not known if this chemical spraying continued at any other time, either before or after this reported incident. Apparently there were not follow-up contacts by the person who described this incident, with any of the other participants present. This person did not, apparently, undergo any subsequent medical checks, nor did she have any chemical testing done on the interior of her car. Nor did she report it, or make a formal complaint, to any Palestinian or Israeli authorities — despite the Israeli Border Police responsibility at this checkpoint.

An Israeli journalist who tried to follow up by contact was informed by the IDF that the questions should be put to the Israeli Border Police. The journalist said she interpreted this to mean that the IDF considers this Bethlehem 300 Checkpoint to be in “Jerusalem” [in quotation marks here because exactly how the borders of “Jerusalem” are delineated by Israeli authorities varies from time to time, and also from official to official…]

Yet, showing the inconsistency and even illogic of the varying Israeli definitions, the Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was convicted of publishing state secrets and released — with restrictive conditions on his contacts and movement — after serving 18 years in jail [12 years in solitary], was then rearrested on Christmas Eve in 2004 before trying to enter Bethlehem for Christian services. He recently served a number of months in jail after being accused of attempting to “enter another country” in violation of the restrictions on his movement — even though Vanunu he was stopped by the Israeli Border Police and arrested, which prevented him from committing this alleged violation…

It is also true that, if the UN’s 1947 partition plan, contained in UN General Assembly resolution 181, had been accepted and implemented — but it has not been implemented, and has in fact now been abandoned to the archives — the Bethlehem 300 Checkpoint, and Bethlehem itself, would have become part of an internationally-administered “Jerusalem”…

This reported procedure, as described, is reminiscent of a number of horrible things. The person who experienced this suggests one or two in the original blog post. There are also others.

It could possibly be a new way to measure from the air composition inside the car whether or not explosives were recently [or, ever] transported in that vehicle.

Apparently, according to an update received by Right To Enter on Thursday, a sample of the air inside the car is part of the “IV-like” device described, and the driver + passengers are required to wait a few minutes beyond the 10-minute gas pumping timte as that sample is taken off to a nearby building [for testing]…

UPDATE: The Right to Enter Campaign published an alert Wednesday on this report it received on Monday, and noted that “Upon some preliminary research, which is still ongoing, it seems the hose may have been a vacuum to suck the air out of the car’s interior”.

It could conceivably be benign — but there is absolutely no way of knowing, without an official and responsible explanation, which should responsibly be given ASAP.

In the absence of any information or explanation, it is normal to have concerns, suspicions, and fears. These need to be addressed — by all parties concerned — in very short order.

UPDATE: Haaretz’s Ramallah-based correspondent Amira Hass reported today that:

    “Israel Police have begun implementing a new method of searching Palestinian vehicles through use of nausea-inducing chemicals at a Bethlehem checkpoint, international aid workers have reported. Since December, Israeli police officers have introduced what they call a sophisticated method of tracking explosive materials … Cars traveling to Jerusalem are often asked by Border Police soldiers to park their car in a side lot with eight parking spaces near the checkpoint. Once parked, the passengers are asked to roll up all windows, apart from that of the driver – and exit the vehicle. Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch. According to Palestinians, police officers who carried out the search refused to describe the procedure. An official in the Israel Police told Haaretz that it is an approved procedure, and another police source said there is no use of any chemicals, but would not expand on the new search method. A foreign resident who works at an international organization and must pass through the checkpoint several times a week told Haaretz that the tube is left connected for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, the filter is removed and taken to a nearby building. The worker says she was under the impression that some kind of chemical was disseminated into the vehicle, as she and another passenger began feeling nauseous and suffered from headaches several days afterwards. The worker has informed her country’s embassy. However, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, whose car also underwent the same procedure, told Haaretz that he did not feel a thing, and that the police officers added that it was ‘only oxygen’ being pumped into the vehicle. Israel Police officially responded to the inquiry by saying that ‘as the force entrusted to protect the country’s citizens and their quality of life, it must conduct arbitrary, rudimentary checks through use of sophisticated technological means, all the while alleviating the experience of those being checked’.”

There is a short [12 second] video of this new procedure on the web page. Amira Hass’ article is posted on the Haaretz website here.

What this story does illustrate, rather well, is the indisputable and casual ease with which Palestinians and others are subjected to measures under Israeli’s military occupation which disrupt or change or otherwise affect their lives, almost always adversely, without the minimum courtesy or respect. The subjects were not allowed to give informed consent, and no information has been delivered to the public with transparent fairness. And, justified fears are not addressed — instead, they are utterly disregarded, or dismissed.

This is one of the main characteristics of the Israeli military occupation, which has now lasted nearly 45 years…

Al Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan in Israeli jail after returning for vacation to his home + family in Nablus

The Al-Jazeera bureau chief in Afghanistan, Samer Allawi, a Palestinian from the West Bank, has been in Israeli detention for the past week, He was stopped and taken into custody just before crossing the border to Jordan, as he was returning to Afghanistan following a three-week visit to his home and family in the West Bank.

According to a statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] in New York, Allawi “was arrested at al-Karama border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank while leaving the Occupied Territories after a three-week vacation in his hometown near Nablus, Al-Jazeera reported. Allawi’s brother, Musaab, told Al-Jazeera that the journalist intended to cross into Jordan then travel back to Kabul. He had entered the West Bank at the same crossing without difficulty three weeks earlier … [T]he authorities provided no justification for holding the journalist, who carries a Jordanian passport, and said only that it was a ‘security-related arrest’, Al-Jazeera reported. On Thursday, Israeli authorities informed Allawi’s employer that his detention would be extended to eight days, but again failed to provide a reason. Majed Khader, program editor and head of assignments at Al-Jazeera, said Allawi told Salim Waqeem, a lawyer hired for him by Al-Jazeera, that he would be charged with transferring money and orders from Afghanistan to the West Bank if he refused to act as an informant…”

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday 16 August here that “Israel has arrested the Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan bureau chief, a Palestinian, on charges of ties to Hamas. Samer Allawi, 46, was picked up August 10 on the border between the West Bank and Jordan, the Arabic-language satellite station said Tuesday. Allawi was detained August 10 after a three-week visit with family in Sabastia, a village adjacent to Nablus”.

The JPost story added that “An Israeli security official confirmed Allawi’s arrest and court appearance but gave no further details on the case. Walied Al-Omary, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the military court accused Allawi of making contact with members of Hamas’s armed wing. Al Jazeera Arabic’s website posted footage of Allawi appearing in court in an Israel Prison Services uniform. ‘There is nothing in this investigation that I believe harms Israel, like it is being claimed, or has any relationship with my work in this entire region’, he told the judge”…

Continue reading Al Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan in Israeli jail after returning for vacation to his home + family in Nablus

Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change

There was a “book discussion” Thursday evening at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem.

The book is almost unimportant, by comparison with the discussion.

In addition to the author [a young German], there were two panelists: Dr. Mahdi Abdel Hadi [PASSIA] and Amira Hass [journalist for Haaretz].

Abdel Hadi said, at the end of a description of four eras in Palestinian political life [we are now in the fourth, which is “change, led by the people”] that: “There is a madness in the changes occurring in Israel today, and there is fear among Palestinians… Anything can happen now, anything”.

Amira Hass was emotional, and strong. She spoke last, and said that what she missed in the discussion “is a small reminder that we are dealing with a subjugator people and a subjugated people. The word occupation is overused and worn out”.

She exclaimed — really exclaimed! — that “A people — us — have become expert in subjugation! We, of all the peoples in the world! The more I live here, and the more I see, the less I can write about this — there are so many sophisticated, sly, malicious details about this subjugation … What has been developed here for the past 63 years needs new vocabularies, if only for the simple fact that it’s us Jews, of all people, scheming in so many ways, so many incredible ways, to subjugate this indigenous people”.

She said: “I see [in the audience] many Westerners and diplomats in front of me, and I’m angry with you! What are you doing? Don’t you see this is going to a disaster? Why are you standing idle?

Continue reading Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change

Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Perhaps because this did NOT involve “security” matters, an Israeli lawyer representing a Palestinian arrested in the West Bank and taken to Israel to be charged with a minor crime is challenging this as a violation of international law.

Haaretz is reporting here that Mohamed Beni Gama, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, was arrested at his home in the village of Arkaba, near Nablus on Friday morning “accused the Israel Police of illegally abducting him beyond Israel’s borders, thus violating international law and overstepping the Israel Police’s authority.  The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court instructed police to verify whether the suspect had been arrested ‘outside the country’ and whether it was legal to bring him into Israel for questioning over a two-year-old property offense”.

Haaretz added that “Judge Yael Klugman, formerly president of the military court in Tel Aviv, accepted the attorney’s arguments, ruling it must first be ascertained where Gama was arrested.  ‘If it transpires he was arrested outside Israel, and the police ask to extend his remand despite that … they must prepare to argue the case for their authority to arrest someone outside the country and bring him into Israel for investigation over a two-year-old breaking and entering offense’, she wrote”.

When I passed through the Hizma checkpoint yesterday from Jerusalem on my way to Ramallah, I noticed a new red sign on a stand, with white lettering only in Hebrew. When I returned to Jerusalem later in the evening, I saw the sign deployed, for the first time, just before the checkpoint, facing those coming to Jerusalem.

I asked the soldiers what it said, and a young woman with an olive green jumpsuit, jacket, hat — and a sleek black weapon — said that it simply indicated that “The area ahead is Israel, and in the other direction, behind you, it is Palestinian”.

Continue reading Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?

Five members of an Israeli family — including both parents and an infant — living in the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar, not far from Nablus, were brutally murdered in their home on Friday night.

The bodies were discovered when their 12-year-old daughter returned home. Two boys (ages 2 and 6) may have survived, according to unclear Israeli media reports in English.

The northern West Bank was put under lock-down.

All top Israeli officials have called for condemnation of this heinous crime, and said it must be punished and revenged.

Revenge has been and is being carried out against Palestinians.

But, so far, little to no proof of any Palestinian involvement has emerged.

There are footprints, reportedly, leading from a point where the Itamar security system was apparently breached … to the Palestinian village of Awarta.

UPDATE: By March 16, no one — not even a Palestinian — had been charged with the murder, despite intensive Israeli investigations. Awarta is still under lock-down. Thai workers who live in Itamar were reportedly rounded up for interrogation, and there were strong rumors that one of them, who had worked for the family and who was owed 10,000 or 20,000 shekels, was suspected, but there are still no charges against anyone…. At least one Israeli report indicated that the house was still locked from the inside when the murders were discovered. Everybody who was asked and even those who were not asked had dutifully and also sincerely denounced the murders. But those who believe that it was an act of terror committed by Palestinians, well, they still believe it. (See comment below). And, reprisals by settlers against Palestinians are continuing…

UPDATE TWO: The IDF lifted the lock-down on Awarta on Wednesday, more than five days after it began. Reports now indicate that some 40 residents are still being detained.

UPDATE THREE: The Board of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel has issued a statement saying that it “is deeply disturbed that Israeli officials are once again accusing the international media of being biased against Israel. In the latest instance, officials attending a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday dredged up ancient and unfounded conspiracy theories about an 11-year-old case [the death of Muhammad al-Durra, killed while crouching beside his father beside a concrete block in a hail of gunfire in Gaza] and without providing any evidence, tried to equate it to coverage of the weekend knife attack in Itamar. We strongly urge Israeli officials to refrain from making unsubstantiated blanket statements against the international media — a diverse group of hundreds of journalists from around the world — and encourage parliament to seek out more credible witnesses in the future”…

The FPA statement is apparently a reference to remarks made at a Knesset committee on (Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs) this week by Danny Seaman, who served for ten years as head of the Israeli Government Press Office and who is now the Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Information. The Knesset Committee Chairperson, Danny Danon of Likud, reportedly said — according to an account apparently compiled by the Committee spokesperson — that a court battle concerning the film footage of the Gaza gunbattle between the IDF and Palestinian policemen, pursued by French Jewish businessman Philippe Karsenty (now running for the French Parliament, who was present and who was one of those addressing the Knesset hearing this week) “succeeded in proving provocation and conspiracy by foreign journalists. ‘Our enemies have no problem using unacceptable and dishonest means to attack us, so that cases like this where it is possible to reveal the truth are very important for the battle over the legitimacy of the State of Israel’. Danny Seaman, who said he became convinced after his own lengthy investigation that the video footage of the shoot-out in Gaza had been at least in part staged, and who has previously spoken publicly about this in various fora for several years, told the Knesset Committee that he now also believes “there is a direct link between the position taken by the French media on the Muhammad al-Durrah incident that seeks to represent Israel as murderers of children, and their failure to cover the terrible massacre in Itamar”.

From here, it is hard to see that there was any lack of coverage of the murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar (much less that this is due to French television’s report on the death of Muhammad al-Durra — though Karsenty has even questioned whether or not the Palestinian child’s death was faked as well). However, it is true that the top news worldwide in the past week has been the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by continuing events in Libya and Bahrain.

Meanwhile, no Israeli government official has yet said explicitly that Palestinians committed the murders in Itamar, either, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinian Authority leadership must explicitly condemn the killings — and must also end what he said was a “campaign of incitement” against Israel…

Continue reading Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?