Jews say No to “Friends of the IDF”

Real courage: Jews for Justice stage nonviolent protest at the NY office of “Friends of the Israeli Defense Force” and read names of murdered Palestinians.

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U.N. report accuses Israeli forces of using Palestinian children as human shields, abusing children in custody

CBS News: United Nations committee focused on youth rights accused Israel Thursday of failing to stop the mistreatment of Palestinian children in military and police custody.

The group’s report accuses Israeli forces of using Palestinian children as human shields, and alleges that detained children in some cases face torture, solitary confinement and threats of sexual assault.

Assembled by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, the 21-page document comes three months after a UNICEF paper criticized the “systematic and institutionalized” mistreatment of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military.

The Israeli Embassy dismissed the latest U.N. report as politically motivated old news.

“This is a report that is based on the recycling of old accusations, based on political biases – and not based on direct investigation on the ground – with the intention of bashing Israel,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Aaron Sagui said in a statement provided to

“This is clearly not a bona fide action, and the resulting report obviously does not aim to promote any real improvement as the UNICEF report did … but only to make headlines.”

While the Committee on the Rights of the Child acknowledges Israel’s national security concerns, and that children on both sides of the conflict have suffered from the violence, it notes that Palestinians make up a disproportionate amount of the victims and lists Israel’s “illegal long-lasting occupation of Palestinian territory” among the actions jeopardizing a peaceful future for Israeli and Palestinian children.

One of the more explosive allegations in the report is the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants,” of which the report says 14 cases have been reported in the last 3 years.

“[Israel's] soldiers have used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings ahead of them and to stand in front of military vehicles in order to stop the throwing of stones against those vehicles,” the committee writes in the report, citing the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundemental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.

According to the report, such activity has largely gone unpunished.

“The soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted.”

In a follow-up statement, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the human shield accusations “salient in bad faith.”

“The authors were fully informed (by an official Israeli document submitted by an Israeli delegation) that instructions have indeed been issued and that the use of children as human shields is totally forbidden,” the statement reads, adding that no human shield incidents have been “registered and proven.”

The U.N. report directs its harshest accusations at the alleged torture and mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military and police custody. Children detained in areas like Gaza and the West Bank, the report says, are “systematically subject to physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family, restricted access to toilet, food and water.”

In its statement, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign affairs said the report’s claims of corporal punishment in detention are “totally unsubstantiated and inaccurate.”

Many of the report’s accusations of child detainee mistreatment, though, mirror findings in the review UNICEF released in March, a review Israeli spokesmen have pointed to as credible.

“Israel has nothing to hide and when addressed by a serious and credible organization such as UNICEF, we cooperate and strive to implement the recommendations of its reports,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Sagui said in a statement.

UNICEF’s March review, while tamer and more focused than the sprawling report by the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, also includes serious charges concerning the treatment of Palestinian children in military custody, including “examples of practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“The common experience of many children is being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear,” the UNICEF paper reads.

“The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess.”

Both reports note that Palestinian children are often accused of throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles, and charge Israeli forces with sometimes subjecting young suspects to solitary confinement. Both reports allege that the children are sometimes coerced into confessions, often by signing forms written in Hebrew, a language the reports note most Palestinian children don’t understand.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child’s report, Israel’s MFA went on to say in its statement, reflected poorly on the U.N.

“The list of false, flawed and gratuitous allegations goes on and on: this report is shaming the institution which commissioned it.”

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Israel is Losing Control of the Gaza Media War

Friends, this is why it’s important to post about the reality of Israel’s aggression… it creates awareness and puts pressure on the Israeli government. Mashable – Excerpt: The Gaza offensive, now in its second and deadliest week, plays out in vivid detail on social media, with bombings and killings documented on the ground in near-real time. And for many, the decades-long conflict can now be seen through the eyes of those who live there.

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“We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve.”

The Washington Post: Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves — which are made up of ex-soldiers — there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part.

We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies. One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determines much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.

To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means — it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.

This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name. And although combat soldiers are generally the ones prosecuting today’s war, their work would not be possible without the many administrative roles in which most of us served. So if there is a reason to oppose combat operations in Gaza, there is also a reason to oppose the Israeli military apparatus as a whole. That is the message of this petition:

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We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who is valued more and who less in society — who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Many soldiers who serve in non-combat roles decline to resist because they believe their actions, often routine and banal, are remote from the violent results elsewhere. And actions that aren’t banal — for example, decisions about the life or death of Palestinians made in offices many kilometers away from the West Bank — are classified, and so it’s difficult to have a public debate about them. Unfortunately, we did not always refuse to perform the tasks we were charged with, and in that way we, too, contributed to the violent actions of the military.

During our time in the army, we witnessed (or participated in) the military’s discriminatory behavior: the structural discrimination against women, which begins with the initial screening and assignment of roles; the sexual harassment that was a daily reality for some of us; the immigration absorption centers that depend on uniformed military assistance. Some of us also saw firsthand how the bureaucracy deliberately funnels technical students into technical positions, without giving them the opportunity to serve in other roles. We were placed into training courses among people who looked and sounded like us, rather than the mixing and socializing that the army claims to do.

The military tries to present itself as an institution that enables social mobility — a stepping-stone into Israeli society. In reality, it perpetuates segregation. We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies. We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

We all participated, on one level or another, in this ideology and took part in the game of “the good Israeli” that serves the military loyally. Mostly our service did advance our positions in universities and the labor market. We made connections and benefited from the warm embrace of the Israeli consensus. But for the above reasons, these benefits were not worth the costs.

By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to “service.” But we will not participate — in any way.

There are many reasons people refuse to serve in the Israeli Army. Even we have differences in background and motivation about why we’ve written this letter. Nevertheless, against attacks on those who resist conscription, we support the resisters: the high school students who wrote a refusal declaration letter, the Ultra orthodox protesting the new conscription law, the Druze refusers, and all those whose conscience, personal situation, or economic well-being do not allow them to serve. Under the guise of a conversation about equality, these people are forced to pay the price. No more.

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Beautiful dream of Israel has become a nightmare

The Star: As a Jewish youngster growing up in Budapest, an infant survivor of the Nazi genocide, I was for years haunted by a question resounding in my brain with such force that sometimes my head would spin: “How was it possible? How could the world have let such horrors happen?”

It was a naïve question, that of a child. I know better now: such is reality. Whether in Vietnam or Rwanda or Syria, humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does. In Gaza today we find ways of justifying the bombing of hospitals, the annihilation of families at dinner, the killing of pre-adolescents playing soccer on a beach.

In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?

There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.

The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.

I have visited Gaza and the West Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us — Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work, education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.

One could debate details, historical and current, back and forth. Since my days as a young Zionist and, later, as a member of Jews for a Just Peace, I have often done so. I used to believe that if people knew the facts, they would open to the truth. That, too, was naïve. This issue is far too charged with emotion. As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has pointed out, the accumulated mutual pain in the Middle East is so acute, “a significant part of the population finds itself forced to act it out in an endless cycle of perpetration and retribution.”

“People’s leaders have been misleaders, so they that are led have been confused,” in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The voices of justice and sanity are not heeded. Netanyahu has his reasons. Harper and Obama have theirs.

And what shall we do, we ordinary people? I pray we can listen to our hearts. My heart tells me that “never again” is not a tribal slogan, that the murder of my grandparents in Auschwitz does not justify the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, that justice, truth, peace are not tribal prerogatives. That Israel’s “right to defend itself,” unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing.

A few days ago I met with one of my dearest friends, a comrade from Zionist days and now professor emeritus at an Israeli university. We spoke of everything but the daily savagery depicted on our TV screens. We both feared the rancour that would arise.

But, I want to say to my friend, can we not be sad together at what that beautiful old dream of Jewish redemption has come to? Can we not grieve the death of innocents? I am sad these days. Can we not at least mourn together?

Gabor Maté, M.D., is a Vancouver-based author and speaker.

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Brzezinski: Netanyahu ‘making a very serious mistake’

See video here.

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Israel Guilty of Ethnic Cleansing and Apartheid, Says UN Rapporteur

International Business Times: A UN human rights investigator has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies against Palestinians.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said Israel carried out a “systematic and continued effort to change the ethnic composition of East Jerusalem”.

Falk, an 82-year-old American, said that in recent years Israel had made it more difficult for Palestinians to reside there while encouraging the building of new Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Falk, an emeritus law professor at Princeton University, said that more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1996.

“The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residency rights,” he said.

Falk, who is Jewish, described Israeli policies as bearing “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing”.

“What is called occupation is now more widely understood to be a form of annexation, the embodiment of apartheid in the sense that there’s a discriminatory dual system of law, giving legal protection to the Israeli settlers and subjecting the Palestinian population under occupation to a continuing existence without rights,” he said.

Falk said that the “realities on the ground” for the Palestinian people have worsened since he took up his post in 2008. He is due to step down later this month.

He said Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem hampered the outcome of deadlocked peace talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.

“Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations.

“There are other reasons for encouraging the idea that it’s still possible to negotiate a settlement based on the two-state model, even though most informed observers regard it as highly implausible given the changes that have taken place during the period of occupation and given the outlook of the Netanyahu government,” he said.

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Chomsky on Israeli “self-defense”

Noam Chomsky said this back in 2004 and, unfortunately, it still holds true: “When Israel, in the occupied territories now, claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population that they’re crushing.”

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Last of Warsaw Ghetto Survivors Calls for Rebellion Against Israeli Occupation

Talk about clarity and courage, the last survivor of the Jewish rebellion against the Nazis calls for a rebellion against the Israeli occupation: “Rebel against the Occupation. No–it is forbidden for us to rule over another people, to oppress another [people].” Read the whole speech here.

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Update on the Movement for Justice in Palestine

From my friend Sa’ed’s facebook status: “Although it is difficult to see hope amidst the massacres, destruction, and oppressive apartheid system in Palestine, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A sampling of the latest headlines on my newsfeed from the weekend:
* Lawrence Weschler, acclaimed Jewish-American writer, releases a statement likening the Gaza Strip to a “concentration camp.”
* Chavka Fulman-Raban, Last of Warsaw Ghetto Survivors, Calls for Rebellion Against Israeli Occupation.
* John Kerry slams Israel’s Gaza incursion: ‘It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation’ (he didn’t realize the microphone was one when he said this).
* Selena Gomez posts on Instagram: “Pray for Gaza.”
* Norwegian MP calls for boycott of Israel over its Gaza offensive
* The US National Lawyer’s Guild endorses a boycott of Israel.
* The Critical Ethnic Studies Association becomes the fifth US academic professional association to endorse the academic boycott of Israel.
* The African Literature Association also endorsed the academic boycott of Israel..
* Desmond Tutu, 6 other Nobel Laureates, and 64 public figures issue a call for military embargo on Israel.
* Liz Lochhead, the National Poet of Scotland, endorses the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
* Dublin City Council calls for Israel arms and trade sanctions.
* Chile suspends trade talks with Israel over Gaza bombing.
* NBC returns award-winning Arab-American journalist Ayman Mohyeldin to Gaza as a result of international outcry after NBC had removed him while covering the atrocities there.
* Palestinian solidarity protests mushroom in over 100 cities across the globe.”


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Israel, not Hamas, turns Palestinians into ‘human shields’

Middle East Monitor: Speaking this morning as Israeli forces continue a new ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu described the IDF as “a moral army like no other”. He added: “those responsible for the damage to uninvolved civilians are the Hamas, and Hamas alone, who use civilians as human shields.”

It is a familiar refrain. But in fact, it is the Israeli military itself that turns Palestinians into ‘human shields’, and strips them of their protected status under international law.

In the aftermath of ‘Operation Cast Lead’, Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article on the legal advice given to the country’s armed forces by the international law division (ILD) of the Military Advocate General’s Office.

Addressing the subject of IDF-issued warnings to Gaza residents, including the so-called ‘knock on the roof‘ tactic seen in ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a senior ILD figure made the following, disturbing admission.

The people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields. From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.

In other words, the Israeli military strips Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip of their protected status under international law, labelling them ‘voluntary human shields’. In the same article, an ILD official justified targeting Gaza’s “entire governmental infrastructure”.

As Israel deliberately targets family homes, and the death toll rises, this is an important additional insight into the tactics being used by the Israeli army in its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. It is also further evidence of war crimes.

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The Root of the Conflict in the Remainder of Palestine

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist… There is not a single place build in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969.


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