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Reposted from subir by subir

In the summer of 2014, 2,205 people were killed in Gaza. 547 children were among those killed and over 1,000 were permanently disabled. Entire families died in their homes as a result of IDF bombs.

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli organization of former veterans. They released a report today on Operation Protective Edge:  This is How We Fought in Gaza - Soldiers' testimonies and photographs from Operation Protective Edge (2014)

The Guardian has the best coverage I've found so far. They have excerpts from the report up at: In their own words: Israeli troops break ranks on Gaza campaign

They also have an article written up with background: Israeli soldiers cast doubt on legality of Gaza military tactics

[The report] include allegations that Israeli ground troops were briefed to regard everything inside Gaza as a “threat” and they should “not spare ammo”, and that tanks fired randomly or for revenge on buildings without knowing whether they were legitimate military targets or contained civilians.

In their testimonies, soldiers depict rules of engagement they characterised as permissive, “lax” or largely non-existent, including how some soldiers were instructed to treat anyone seen looking towards their positions as “scouts” to be fired on.

The group also claims that the Israeli military operated with different safety margins for bombing or using artillery and mortars near civilians and its own troops, with Israeli forces at times allowed to fire significantly closer to civilians than Israeli soldiers.

“The rules of engagement for soldiers advancing on the ground were: open fire, open fire everywhere, first thing when you go in,” recalled another soldier who served during the ground operation in Gaza City. The assumption being that the moment we went in [to the Gaza Strip], anyone who dared poke his head out was a terrorist.”
In at least one instance described by soldiers, being female did not help two women who were killed because one had a mobile phone. A soldier described the incident: “After the commander told the tank commander to go scan that place, and three tanks went to check [the bodies] ... it was two women, over the age of 30 ... unarmed. They were listed as terrorists. They were fired at. So of course they must have been terrorists.”
“The motto guiding lots of people was: ‘Let’s show them,’ recalls a lieutenant who served in the Givati Brigade in Rafah. “It was evident that was a starting point. Lots of guys who did their reserve duty with me don’t have much pity towards [the Palestinians].”

He added: “There were a lot of people there who really hate Arabs. Really, really hate Arabs. You could see the hate in their eyes.”

A second lieutenant echoed his comments. “You could feel there was a radicalisation in the way the whole thing was conducted. The discourse was extremely rightwing ... [And] the very fact that [Palestinians were] described as ‘uninvolved’ rather than as civilians, and the desensitisation to the surging number of dead on the Palestinian side. It doesn’t matter whether they’re involved or not … that’s something that troubles me.”

One sergeant who served in a tank in the centre of the Gaza Strip recalls: “A week or two after we entered the Gaza Strip and we were all firing a lot when there wasn’t any need for it – just for the sake of firing – a member of our company was killed.

“The company commander came over to us and told us that one guy was killed due to such-and-such, and he said: ‘Guys, get ready, get in your tanks, and we’ll fire a barrage in memory of our comrade” … My tank went up to the post – a place from which I can see targets – can see buildings – [and] fired at them, and the platoon commander says: ‘OK guys, we’ll now fire in memory of our comrade’ and we said OK.”

Excerpts from other newspapers below the fold along with more about Breaking The Silence. I am making my way through the report itself and shall post excerpts I find particularly interesting in a followup diary:
Continue Reading

Sun May 03, 2015 at 02:46 PM PDT

Tel Aviv looked like Baltimore today

by Havoth

Reposted from Havoth's Thoughts by poco

CNNI was covering in detail racial protests turned violent in Tel Aviv Israel today. While the first video I found of it was from April 30th, the protests continue today in Tel Aviv.

 The protests were allegedly sparked by a viral video of a white Jewish policeofficer beating on a Ethiopian Jew, who happens to be a veteran of Israel's military. The video is silent, and shows an interaction between a cop (it could be anywhere in America) where he is obviously pushing on the man's bicycle and telling him to move along. The officer starts to walk away and the man, Damas Pakedah -wearing his IDF uniform at the time -  apparently asks a question or says something else to the officer, whose response is to jump him. Now, this man, Mr. Pakedah, hangs onto a post until the cops (another officer had joined him briefly) gives up, and lets go of him. He then continues to speak out against them and picks up a large rock, which provokes the officer who initiated the violence of the encounter, to place his hand on his gun, in an apparent threat response. But his fellow officer seems to have him under control and they decide not to shoot the man and Damas drops his rock.

In April 2015 an Ethiopian soldier in the IDF was the victim of an unprovoked and allegedly racist attack by an Israeli policeman and the attack was caught on video. The soldier, Damas Pakedeh, was arrested and and then released, after being accused of attacking the policeman. Pakedah is an orphan who emigrated from Ethiopia with his siblings in 2008. He believes the incident was racially motivated and that if the video had not been taken, he would have been punished. Instead, the police officer and volunteer were suspended pending an investigation. Likud MK Avraham Neguise called on National Police Chief Yohanan Danino to prosecute the police officer and volunteer, saying they engaged in “a gross violation of the basic law of respecting others and their liberty by those who are supposed to protect us.” The Jerusalem Post notes that in 2015 " there have been a series of reports in the Israeli press about alleged acts of police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis, with many in the community saying they are unfairly targeted and treated more harshly than other citizens." - Wikipedia entry

It looks like any average action between a black man and a cop in Anytown in America.

What is striking is how the protests in Tel Aviv today looked much like Baltimore on last Monday, April 27th.  View it here and here (thanks to a commenter who pointed my errors in video links)

Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in several waves by the Israel government and religious bodies as part of the Right To Return. Evidence of racism was shown by opposing parties in Israel by first demanding a clear rabbinical decision that they were, in fact, Jews.

In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel).

Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status.

Regarding religious leadership, 60 Kessim (priests) of the Ethiopian immigrants in Israel are employed by the Ministry of Religious Services, and many of them conduct religious ceremonies in Israel. They are however not recognized as rabbis and do not have the authority to perform marriages. Nevertheless, a new generation of rabbis of Ethiopian origin trained in Israel are gradually taking over.

Due largely to a high rate of illiteracy, the Ethiopian Jews have had a difficult time being absorbed into Israeli society and economy. The biggest challenge to the Israeli Ethiopian Beta Israel community probably lies in the very low level of formal education of the immigrants. With few exceptions, when they first arrived to Israel they had no useful training for a developed economy like that of Israel, and in addition to that they did not know Hebrew. But as younger generations born or raised in Israel and educated in Israel, they are experiencing this less and less. But still, Ethiopian Jews make 30-40% less than Arabs citizens of Israel, themselves a minority group that experiences a high ethnic-based state of bigotry. Unemployment among the Ethiopian Jewish community in 2005 was as high as 65% for those over the age of 45.  As of 2011, The Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel community, made up about 1.75% of Israel's population, at approx 126,000.

Other discriminatory attitudes persist within Israel for the Beta Israel community, such as:
* delays in immigration processing
* mayors of small towns like Or Yehuda in 2005 refusing to accept Ethiopian immigrants because he felt they would lower property values and increase crime in the area. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
*  Ethiopians blood donations are routinely disposed of as a matter of the public health policy. Officially it was thought that blood donations of the immigrants would have high rates of Hepatitis B, which was found to be largely untrue. Of the 5200 immigrants that arrived in the late 90s during Operation Solomon, only 2.3% were found to be carriers of HIV.
*  Ethiopian women were reported in 2010 to have been given Depo-Provera for birth control while in transition camps awaiting processing without their full knowledge of the effects of the drug and without consent. The practice was first reported in 2010 by Isha le'Isha, an Israeli women’s rights organization. Hedva Eyal, the author of the report, stated: "We believe it is a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor."

I used the Wiki entry as much of the source of quick info on the background of Ethiopian Jews, but also I read every link of their sources and researching other news articles to make myself reasonably certain of the information provided. I'm also watching the CNNI coverage as I put this together. I'm not a reporter or regular blogger, but this news struck me, as much as it did anyone seeing it on CNN and the worldwide media including Al Jazeera, of the shock that Tel Aviv could look so much like Baltimore MD and the types of "race riots" so often seen in America lately, is happening elsewhere. The recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Betanyahu is planning on a meeting with community leaders and police on Monday, to engage in a discussion on how to avoid these sorts of "American policing problems" - per the phone-in reporter on CNN I'm listening to right now.

Discuss
Reposted from Meteor Blades by Flyswatterbanjo
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) questions members of the panel testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Bob Corker has his work cut out for him keeping poison pill amendments out of Iran nuclear deal review bill.
In a week when Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are meeting in New York to discuss next steps in negotiating a deal that would remove economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curtailment of its nuclear program, senators will be debating a bill that would give them the opportunity to reject any agreement the negotiations come up with.

The deadline for coming to a comprehensive pact is June 30. There are still several sticking points between the negotiating parties, which include the U.S., four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Iran and Germany.

The Senate bill—The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, S 615—now has 63 co-sponsors, 18 of them Democratic senators plus independent Angus King who caucuses with the Democrats. The legislation cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously April 14. Those 63 co-sponsors only need four more votes to make their bill veto-proof.

But that doesn't matter. Even if the bill passes the Senate and the House, Speaker John Boehner says he would not have enough votes to override a veto if Congress were to reject an agreement with Iran when it is reviewed. More about that in a moment.

The bill got through the SFRC as a consequence of vigorous efforts by Sen. Bob Corker and ranking committee Democrat Ben Cardin to take poison pills out the original text to that gives Congress 30 days to review and, if unhappy, additional days to reject any deal curtailing Iran's nuclear program. Although it had strong Democratic opposition in committee, that was overcome when President Obama said he could support a bill with the poison extracted. The needed changes were made and Corker managed to keep out amendments that would have restored the opposition from several Democrats and Obama.

But now he's got to do it all over again on the floor of the Senate. How difficult that will be is uncertain. Corker himself has said anything can happen in the "Wild West" of Senate debate and procedure. Others had stronger responses. For instance:

"Anybody who monkeys with this bill is going to run into a buzz saw," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a possible White House candidate, warned ahead of this week's debate.
What amendments could peel away Democratic support and wreck the chances of the Senate passing a veto-proof bill on the Iran agreement? Read below the fold.
Continue Reading
Reposted from subir by poco
A Palestinian child sits in front of a wall riddled with shrapnel, in the city of Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip on November 17, 2014.
Palestinian child sits by a wall riddled with shrapnel
Defense for Children International is an non-governmental organisation focused on promoting and protecting the human rights of children on a global, regional, national and local level. They've been around since 1979.

They do great work in a lot of difficult environments. Please consider supporting them if you have the wherewithal.

DCI's Palestine unit has been gathering data on the treatment of Palestinian children for years. They issued a very detailed report earlier this week titled Operation Protective Edge: A war waged on Gaza's Children.
DCI-P have been on the ground in Gaza since last summer collecting data and building a database of children killed and maimed. The complete report makes for heart-rending reading. I've excerpted numerous segments that I found compelling:

In total, Operation Protective Edge claimed the lives of 2,220 Palestinians, including at least 1,492 civilians.

Five Israeli civilians, including one child, and 67 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives.

Evidence and testimonies collected by DCIP showed that there was no safe place for children in Gaza during the Israeli assault. Children were killed in their homes by Israeli missiles, while sheltering in schools by high-explosive Israeli artillery shells, and in the streets by Israeli drone-fired missiles and artillery shells as they attempted to escape the onslaught with their families.

Those who survived these attacks will continue to pay the price for many years. More than 1,000 children suffered injuries that rendered them permanently disabled, according to OCHA. Amputees like Mohammad Baroud, 12, who lost both his feet in an explosion that killed 11 of his neighbors, will require lifelong medical care and support.

Israel, the world’s largest exporter of aerial drones, killed at least 164 children in drone attacks during its assault on Gaza. In a number of incidents, evidence suggests that Israeli forces directly targeted children. In one such case, Rawya Joudeh, 40, and four of her five children were killed by an Israeli drone-fired missile as they played together in the family’s yard in Tal al-Zatar, Jabalia refugee camp, North Gaza, on the afternoon of August 24. The children were aged between 6 and 14.

Just under half of the children who died during the offensive lost their lives in aerial attacks on residential buildings. Missiles dropped by Israeli warplanes killed 225 children while they were in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat with their families, played, or slept.

Gideon Levy wrote last summer about the seeming indifference his countrymen exhibited towards the hundreds of children being killed by their army only a few dozen miles away.
Though the scale of the violence in 2014 far exceeded previous Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, the experiences of Palestinian children during the conflict were not new. Since 2000, a generation of children living in the OPT have been shot at, shelled and bombed. During this time, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,950 Palestinian children, the vast majority of whom were living in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces fired more than 36,000 artillery shells into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. A former Israeli infantryman, Idan Barir, likened the use of artillery shells to “Russian Roulette,” stating “it is impossible to aim the shells in an accurate manner.”

The effects of high-explosive artillery shells cannot be limited as required by international law and when fired in close proximity to civilians or civilian structures constitute an indiscriminate attack.

Natasha Roth over at +972mag wrote about the report: In war, there is no safe place for Gaza's children
There came a point early on during last summer’s Gaza war when it seemed we reached a nadir. Four children, all under the age of 12, were killed by an Israeli naval attack while playing soccer on a beach. The boys were directly struck by two shells, which also seriously wounded four other children.
[...]
One three-day period saw a child killed every hour. By the end of the war, an average of 11 children had been killed per day.
...the Israel Broadcast Authority and the Supreme Court banned a B’Tselem radio advert reading out the names of the children killed in the conflict.

Nonetheless, a week after that day on which 59 children were killed, footage emerged of a crowd of right-wing Israelis chanting at a pro-war demonstration in Tel Aviv: “Tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.” Somehow, they knew exactly what the army was doing in Gaza. And even if there was a majority in Israel that remained silent between its own fear and apathy, it is difficult not to recall the words of IDF Lt.-Col. Dov Yermiya, who during the 1982 Lebanon War decried “[t]his arrogant, cruel nation that dances at the edge of destruction.”

Much more, including data on what kind of weapon killed each child is below the fold:
Continue Reading
Reposted from subir by poco

Haaretz ordered a survey to gauge public support for various solutions once the peace talks broke down last year.  The survey was conducted between June 9-11, 2014 and published in July last year. It is even more interesting and relevant due to its age, because it was conduced prior to the following significant events:

- Three Israeli children were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank (June 12)
- A Palestinian child was kidnapped and killed in East Jerusalem (July 2)
- The IDF and Hamas began lobbing rockets/bombs into and out of Gaza in earnest. (July 7)
- Operation Protective Edge began (July 8).

In other words, the survey was completed in a time of "quiet". Here's how Haaretz summarized the results:

In the question that presented possible long-term solutions, partition of the country was the most popular, preferred by 28 percent of those polled. At the same time, two other possibilities were not far behind: “Continuation of the present situation” is favored by 25 percent; and an apartheid state model – “one state, in which the Palestinians will have limited rights,” as the question phrased it – is preferred by 23 percent of Israelis. Only 10 percent said they would opt for a state in which all citizens will have equal rights.
So when asked which long-term solution was best for Israel, Israelis preferred:

58%: One State
28%: Two States
14%: Don't Know

Digging into the 58% who are for a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, we have:

10%: One State with equal rights
23%: Open Apartheid where Palestinians have limited rights
25%: Implicit Apartheid enforced by a long-term military occupation.

Personally, I am most impressed by the 14% who "Don't Know". They show us that you can go about your daily life and ignore the "peace process" that never seems to go anywhere. I applaud them, and I suspect if I were in my twenties in Israel, I'd probably be in the "Don't Know" camp. Now if only Palestinians had the ability to go about their daily lives not knowing or caring about the peace process.

And in case you don't believe so many would want apartheid, the pollsters asked a more direct question on that subject. "If Israel were to annex territory, do you think the Palestinians living there should be given full rights, including the right to vote for the Knesset, or partial rights, without the right to vote for the Knesset?". 56% said partial rights, 31% said full rights, and 13% said Don't Know.

Supporters of a two-state solution may highlight a different question in the survey:

Sixty percent of those asked responded affirmatively to the question, “If the prime minister reaches an agreement, whereby a Palestinian state will be established alongside Israel, would you support or not support that agreement?” Only 32 percent said they wouldn’t support such an agreement, while 7 percent said they didn’t know.
I believe their hopes are misplaced since it seems Israelis do not understand the parameters of a two-state solution:
When the implications of partition and the specifics of an agreement were presented to the respondents – “The establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 boundaries with border modifications, most of the settlements to be annexed to Israel, Jerusalem to be divided and no return of refugees” – support for the two-state solution plummeted to 35 percent, with 58 percent replying in the negative.
Or as Haaretz put it "the Israeli public is seemingly unfamiliar with the geopolitical situation". And that's with "no return of refugees". I expect it would plunge further if there were any support for even a limited "right of return".

Perhaps that is because no Israeli leader who values his life cares to present it to the Israeli public. Yet another reason to respect the 14% who have thrown up their hands and are honest enough to say it by responding "Don't Know".

To relate the Palestinian quest for self-determination and justice to the American context, I'd like to let two famous quotes stand in for lengthy expositions on I/P history:

When discussing slavery in the US, Jefferson remarked:

We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
And in reference to Jim Crow, MLK said:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
A little more below the fold:
Continue Reading

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 08:33 PM PDT

Saudis Ending Yemen Bombing Fail

by divineorder

Reposted from divineorder by Assaf

Hey, let's go bomb somebody!  Then lets go invade on the ground!

Middle East
Saudis Announce Halt to Yemen Bombing Campaign
By RICK GLADSTONEAPRIL 21, 2015
Civil war. Religious War.  GWOT.  Which is it?

Recently  a Catholic blogger asked this key question:

Will the US join a religious war in the Gulf?
Drew Christiansen Ra'fat Aldajani  |  Apr. 20, 2015 NCR Today

Although Saudi Arabia is a key ally to the United States, it is important that the U.S. have honest conversations with the Saudis about issues that have been considered too sensitive to Saudi sensibilities, namely the long-term risk to the U.S. and the West from Saudi Arabia's missionary Wahhabism (a strict version of Sunni Islam). The worldwide network of madrassas (Quranic schools) and Wahhabi mosques funded by the Saudis have in many cases provided the theoretical and religious basis for militant and terrorist groups around the world who have turned theology into violence.

The conflicts across the Middle East have lately defied any coherent and meaningful U.S. policy. Getting embroiled in a religious war would be to step into a viper's tangle. Drone warfare against terrorists has moral complications all its own, and they need to be resolved. But the rationale for counterterrorism is clear.

Involvement in the Saudi-Sunni war vs. Iran-Shiite battle for regional power, by contrast, is a destination amply marked with signs: Danger ahead. Under these conditions, President Barack Obama's caution and deliberation are qualities the American public should welcome.

[Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen is former editor of America magazine and a professor of ethics at Georgetown University. Ra'fat Aldajani is a Palestinian-American writer and commentator.]

More troubling news along with the announced end to bombing is the sending in of the Saudi Kings' forces. For a gung ho but interesting history of how this control force came about check out:
Military & Defense More: Saudi Arabia Military Defense Bahrain
Saudi Arabia's elite National Guard has been ordered to take part in the war in Yemen

    Jeremy Bender

    Apr. 21, 2015, 11:32 AM    2,388 4   

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/...

Many would like to see diplomacy take the place of bombing and killing of civilians.
UN chief urges immediate ceasefire, political solution in Yemen
WASHINGTON – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Yemen, saying a political solution is the best way out of the conflict in the Arab country.

“I am calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen by all parties. It is time to support corridors for lifesaving aid and a passage to real peace,” the secretary-general said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Thursday night. “The United Nations-supported diplomatic process is the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability.”

The UN chief also said the government in Riyadh is aware of the importance of dialogue in resolving the Yemeni crisis. “The Saudis have assured me that they understand there must be a political process,” he pointed out, calling on all Yemenis to participate in diplomacy. Ban further said that he was trying to find a new representative who can be immediately deployed" to the violence-wracked country. Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy to Yemen, has Wednesday resigned.

Hundreds have been killed while deliveries of humanitarian supplies were being blocked and UNICEF recently reported that one third of fighters in the country were children. “It is time to support corridors for lifesaving aid and a passage to real peace. The United Nations-supported diplomatic process is the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability.”

The US policy in Yemen has been an abject failure, with drone deaths of civilians and even US citizens.  That needs to change, but apparently now Obama admin is more concerned about pleasing the Saudis.

According to Politico   (with apologies)

“Our involvement in Yemen is a direct function of the talks, and it’s a decision by the administration to try to reassure our Arab partners,” says Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama State Department and Pentagon official specializing in the Middle East. “I’m not sure what we’re doing in Yemen is good Yemen policy. In fact I would probably venture that it’s bad Yemen policy. But I would say that it’s good U.S.-Saudi relationship policy.”

Any American effort to interdict arms shipments to Yemen would have the imprimatur of the United Nations: Last week, the international body approved an arms embargo authorizing member states to “immediately take necessary measures to prevent direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of arms to the Houthis, according to a U.N. news release.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/...

Just two hours ago Reuters reported more civilian deaths:
World | Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:13pm EDT
Related: World, Yemen
Two air strikes in Yemen kill at least 40 people, mostly civilians
http://www.reuters.com/...
Good to see the Saudi say they are ending the bombing, not so happy to see they are sending in ground forces.

Supporting the Saudis needs to end.  We need a sea change in US foreign policy.

 It has to come with working from the ground up to get a Congress that works for this instead of letting the War Profiteers fill   pockets and complicate policies with their greed.

We also need a Democratic President who will lead in that direction.  Who will that be?

Discuss
Reposted from subir by poco

This is a roundup of news related to Palestine with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper.

We use the name Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) for their homeland.


Female IDF soldiers barred from mess hall due to presence of ultra-Orthodox troops (Haaretz)

The army closed a mess hall to women and barred a female officer from entering when new recruits of the ultra-Orthodox Nahal battalion were having lunch, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The incident happened at the Tel Hashomer induction base Thursday. The IDF explained the move by saying the army had promised that there would be no women around ultra-Orthodox recruits during their induction.
[...]
The reservist said a female officer who arrived at the mess hall was told she could not enter and eat because of the presence of the ultra-Orthodox recruits.

“If a female officer can’t sit in the mess hall on this day, we’ve gone crazy,” said the reservist, who said he knew ultra-Orthodox society well. “What if a group of settlers said they didn’t want to sit with Arabs or Druze, or that we couldn’t serve with Muslims?”

After the officer was barred from the mess hall, women soldiers who came to eat were sent to another mess hall usually reserved for officers, the reservist said.

The NY Times discussed this issue in the context of plane flights:
When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith

There have been prior incidents of violence towards women in Israel by ultra-Orthodox men over seating and dress:


When shooting a Palestinian in the back is merely 'reckless' (+972mag)

In January 2013, an Israeli soldier shot a 16-year-old Palestinian who posed absolutely no threat in his back. Samir Awad, from the village Budrus, didn’t survive the valiant military operation, and was killed. Last December, the High Court of Justice harshly criticized the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) handling of the case calling on it to finish its investigation.

On Tuesday, the State announced that it would charge the soldier reckless and negligent use of a firearm. Had the incident not ended with the death of a teenager, it could have come off as no more than a silly act of mischief.

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which accompanied the Awad family throughout the legal process, called the decision a “new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The State Attorney’s Office has sent security forces in the Occupied Territories a clear message: if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will do everything to cover it up and ensure impunity.” According to Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories that has researched this issue in the past few years, 97.8 percent of the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) investigations vis-a-vis harm caused to Palestinians have ended without indictments.

Here's Gideon Levy on the killing: Only The Hague can deal with Israel’s war criminals (Haaretz)
Murder. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe what Israeli soldiers have done. But at the separation barrier near the village of Budrus late on the morning of Tuesday, January 15, 2013, a murder was committed.

Samir, 16, had finished a science test and gone with six friends to where the fence had a breach. It was a test of courage they played: To get near the fence that imprisons their village. His friends stayed back and he crossed the breach. He didn’t know that armored-corps soldiers were lying in ambush between the cacti and the ditch alongside the barrier.

They shot and wounded him in the thigh. Bleeding and terrified, he fled for his life toward the village. One of the soldiers grabbed him by the arm, but he broke free. He made his way up the rocky hillside and they shot him again, this time from behind. They shot an unarmed and already wounded youth with two live bullets. It was a distance of about 10 meters; one in his back, one in his head.
[...]
The months passed and the Israel Defense Forces of course didn’t lift a finger. After about a year the father, with the help of the rights group B’Tselem, petitioned the High Court of Justice, to require the military advocate general to decide whether to put the soldiers on trial or close the case.

The IDF prolonged the investigation another year, as it always does. The soldiers were released from the army and went back to their civilian lives, the case was transferred to civilian prosecutors, and two days ago there was a decision: The soldiers, it’s not clear who, will go on trial on two grotesque charges — recklessness and negligently handling a weapon.
[...]
This is the example that should finally convince every supporter of justice: only The Hague. Only at the International Criminal Court will it be possible to put on trial those who commit war crimes like the murder of Samir Awad. Anyone who objects to The Hague wants the crimes to continue. Anyone who fears The Hague knows he has a lot to hide.


High Court on BDS: Somewhere between terror and Holocaust denial +972mag quotes selectively from the Israeli Supreme Court's decision legitimizing civil compensation claims against anyone calling for a boycott of Israel or its institutions, and anyone publishing such a call. Taken together with the ruling on confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem, this may set the stage for settler organizations to push the envelope again by claiming BDS speech is "political terror" causing them direct economic harm for which they would like to be compensated with the Palestinian "terrorist's" house and building over there please.

“Thus the call for boycott falls into the category that is known in constitutional literature: the democratic paradox, which allows for limiting the rights of those who seek to enjoy the fruits of democracy in order to harm it. Calling for boycott and participating in it, therefore, can sometimes be considered ‘political terror.’”
(Justice Meltzer, pg. 37)

“Even the boycott against Israel, in its old form, which Israel — as well as other countries, headed by the United States — worked to combat, falls within the realm of freedom of speech; it would be terrible for this freedom of speech to reach its goals. It may be akin to — without comparing — Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic and racist remarks, which in my eyes must enjoy the protection of free speech.”
(Justice Rubinstein, pg. 164)

And also from +972mag is the opinion piece: You can boycott anything in Israel — except the occupation
A few months ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called for a boycott of businesses owned by Arab citizens of Israel. Such remarks — blunt racism directed at 20 percent of Israelis, regardless of their actions, opinions or political affiliations — are nowwell-embedded within the Israeli mainstream. Liberman himself is a legitimate coalition partner as far as either Labor or Likud are concerned. Meanwhile, the call to boycott those who profit from the occupation is now officially considered a civil offense. This is the bottom line of the High Court of Justice’s verdict, which approved the Knesset’s anti-boycott law (with the exception of a single article) on Wednesday afternoon.
[...]
This verdict should put an end, once and for all, to the myth of Israel’s “liberal” High Court. Just in recent years, the court has approved the Nakba Law (allowing the state to withdraw funds from institutions that teach about the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948); the “admission panels” law(allowing small communities to reject applicants based on race or ethnicity); The “citizenship law” (forbidding Arab citizens who marry non-citizen Palestinians to settle in Israel with their spouse); and now the boycott law. There were also other troubling rulings, which received little public attention, such as the one allowing Israel to operate quarries in the West Bank, profiting from the little resources Palestinians actually own, in direct violation of international law regarding occupied territories.

A show of unity from Zionist Union on Iran deal (Haaretz)

In a position paper issued on Sunday on the framework agreement between Iran and the six world powers on restricting Tehran’s nuclear program, Zionist Union refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach, calling it an issue “on which there is no coalition or opposition.”

The three-page document, published nearly two weeks after the deal was announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, comes in the midst of the stalled coalition negotiations between Likud and the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Given the impasse, some in Likud have recently raised the possibility of forming a unity government with Zionist Union.


IDF soldier charged for ordering Palestinian to drive him to settlement (Haaretz)

An elite Israeli soldier has been charged with extortion after military prosecutors said he ordered a Palestinian man to drive him to the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in late March.

The Palestinian man, Bader Yasser Oudeh, drove into a tree to escape the soldier, whom he said he thought was abducting him.
[...]
The appeals court said the soldier, who serves in the elite Golani Brigade, "exploited his position and his weapon to act in a threatening and aggressive manner toward a local resident in an area subject to military control. In so doing, he seriously damaged the might and the image of the army."


Interview with Dr. Basman Alashi in Gaza in Gaza, Interview April 14, 2015 (Int'l Solidarity Movement)

“You corner me, you kill me, and on top of that you ask me not to defend myself. Human beings in this world have the right to defend themselves. We, as Palestinians, have the right to defend our land and our families by all means available”, said the Dr. Basman Alashi.

The night of the 17th of July 2014 the Israeli occupation forces bombed the Al Wafaa Hospital, in Shijaia, Gaza Strip. The hospital´s speciality was the rehabilitation of paralyzed patients.

This is the moving testimony of Dr. Basman Alashi, its director:

How is it possible to reach the point of bombing a hospital full of patients and medical staff?

“The UN told me that, according to a report from the Israeli occupation forces, the bombing of the hospital was due to the fact that there were weapons within its facilities … I can assure you that this report is completely false; the hospital opened its doors to the international press and to all the foreigners who freely inspected our facilities without finding any weapons at all. Despite all the overwhelming evidence, our hospital was bombed in the middle of the night, with its patients, medical staff, and some international witnesses, still inside the buildings.”


Israeli settlers profit from Palestinian child labor (Haaretz)

Human Rights Watch said the settlement farms, most of them in the Jordan Valley, employ children as young as 11, pay them low wages and subject them to dangerous working conditions. In a 74-page report, the New York-based group said hundreds of children work in the settlement farms, often in high temperatures, carrying heavy loads and are exposed to hazardous pesticides.
[...]
"Israel's settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Children from communities impoverished by Israel's discrimination and settlement policies are dropping out of school and taking on dangerous work because they feel they have no alternatives, while Israel turns a blind eye."
The report is titled Ripe for Abuse

Aid groups urge world to push for end of Gaza blockade (Haaretz)

Reconstruction of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed in last summer's Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has barely begun and living conditions in the territory have only worsened six months after donor countries pledged $3.5 billion for the task, a coalition of international aid groups said Monday.

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) urged the international community to adopt a new approach to Gaza, including by pressuring Israel to lift its border blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The blockade, also enforced by Egypt, has been in place since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.


‘Price tag’ settler argues in court that revenge isn’t a crime (+972mag)

Were people’s lives and livelihoods not at stake, it would have been an almost sublime piece of parody. During the trial of four teenage Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian-owned cafe in the West Bank town of Dura, which concluded on Monday, the defendants’ attorneys – as reported by Ynet – brought forth the claim that because the arson was an act of revenge, their clients were not guilty of breaking the law.

Welcome to Netanyahu's 'resolution' to the conflict By Noam Sheizaf | November 18, 2014
Let’s think about that for a moment. The arson was investigated by the Israel Police’s Nationalistic Crimes Unit in the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District. This body was set up as a response to settler violence, which frequently manifests as price tag attacks – i.e. acts of violent revenge by Israelis against Palestinians and their property
[...]
As per the recent findings of Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the rate of indictment for nationalistic crimes is remarkably low; a survey of SJ District Police files investigating attacks against Palestinians and/or their property by Israeli civilians showed that between 2005 and 2014, only 7.4 percent of such cases ended with indictments.



Israel demolishes homes in unrecognized Palestinian village (+972mag)
Israeli bulldozers demolished three structures in the unrecognized Palestinian village Dahmash, near Lyd (Lod in Hebrew) on Wednesday morning. The demolition took place despite both a High Court decision that called for a mutual agreement and a demand by the Lod District Court that the State delay its demolition plans. The homes were uninhabited at the time of the demolition.

The unrecognized village Dahmash is under the jurisdiction of the Emek Lod Regional Council, a mere 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. The village has been around since 1948, and its residents even have proof of ownership in the Israel Land Registry. However, the State does not recognize their claim to the land, and does not provide the village with the necessary infrastructure or even the most basic services, such as sewage, roads, electricity, garbage collection or a post office. Over the past few years, the residents have been struggling against repeated home demolitions by coming up with their own master plan in order to gain recognition for their rights to live on their land.

Haaretz on the same story says Israeli Arabs call for general strike over home demolitions (Haaretz)
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, the main Israeli Arab leadership body, announced a general strike in the Arab sector on April 28, including in schools, because of the demolitions. The committee also said it would help the affected families rebuild their homes without any help from international organizations. Many Israeli Arabs believe that the recent spate of demolitions signifies a change of policy in the wake of the recent Knesset election.

Four years ago we lost Vik (Int'l Solidarity Movement)

“History is us.
History is not cowardly governments
with their loyalty to whoever has the strongest military
History is made by ordinary people
everyday people, with family at home and a regular job
who are committed to peace as a great ideal
to the rights of all
to staying human...."

These were the first words Vittorio Arrigoni posted to his Italian blog after he arrived to Gaza.

Today April 15, 2015, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of ISM activist and comrade Vittorio “Vik” Arrigoni in the Gaza Strip. Vittorio arrived in Gaza on the 23rd of August 2008, breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza with around 40 other international activists which he described as one of the happiest moments of his life: “It became clear, not only to the world, but Palestinians also that there are people who are willing to spend their lives to come and hug their brothers here in Gaza.”

In the words of Vik’s mother, Egidia Beretta:

This lost child of mine is more alive than ever before, like the grain that has fallen to the ground and died to bring forth a plentiful harvest. I see it and hear it already in the words of his friends, above all the younger among them, some closer, some from afar…we were a long way from Vittorio, but now we are closer than ever, with his living presence magnified at every passing hour, like a wind from Gaza, from his beloved Mediterranean, blowing fierily to deliver the message of his hope and of his love for those without a voice, for the weak and the oppressed, passing the baton.

Zionism is an abominable, racist and colonial movement. Like all colonial and apartheid systems, it’s in the interest of all that it be swept away. My hope is to see it replaced, without any bloodshed, with a democratic, secular and lay state – for example on the borders of historic Palestine – and where Palestinians and Israelis could live under equal rights of citizenship without ethnic and religious discrimination. It’s a wish that I hope will soon become a reality.


Victory for Residents of the Village of Burka in Petition Submitted with the Assistance of Yesh Din against a Planned Mass Event on the Village’s Land at Passover: Israel Police Opens Investigation against the Planners of the Event

The State Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank and the Commander of the SJ District Police, this morning announced that they intend to take action to prevent a “pilgrimage” to land belonging to the Palestinian village of Burka (the former settlement of Homesh) planned by a group of Israelis. The announcement was made in response to a petition submitted by Yesh Din. The authorities added in their response that the Israel Police plans to open an investigation against the planners of the event.
[...]
Israel evacuated the settlement of Homesh, in the north of the West Bank, as part of the Disengagement Plan in 2005. At the time of the evacuation, an order was imposed prohibiting the entry of Israelis to the site. Despite this order, hundreds of Israeli civilians continue to visit the site on festivals and special days. There is even a permanent presence on the site of a group known as the “Homesh Yeshiva.” Homesh has become a symbol of opposition to the Disengagement Plan, and the squatters on the site enjoy visits of support from politicians and various public figures.

Help came too late for Jafar Awad in Israeli jail (Haaretz)

But on January 21, Jafar, weak and frail, was taken by ambulance from the Ramle clinic to Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron. His father says the family had to pay 40,000 shekels (about $10,000) before their son could be released. That night Jafar lost consciousness again, but before that, his father says, his son told him that Shin Bet security service agents offered to arrange treatment for him if he became a collaborator.

A spokesperson for the Shin Bet said in response to that claim: “As you know, the Shin Bet does not comment on its operational activities. However, the claim that it conditioned the medical treatment of Jafar Awad on his agreement to collaborate totally lacks any basis in fact or connection to reality.”


UCLA Jewish studies director cancels Illinois lecture, citing treatment of Salaita case (Haaretz)

The director of UCLA’s Jewish studies center canceled a lecture at the University of Illinois over its withdrawal of a job offer to Steven Salaita, a harsh critic of Israel.

Professor Todd Samuel Presner sent a letter in late March to Phyllis Wise, chancellor at the Urbana-Champaign school, informing her that he will not come to the campus for its Rosenthal Lecture because of how her office and the university board handled the Salaita case. The letter was made public by the university on Wednesday.


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When it rains it pours, and if you're a Palestinian it seems you're stuck in a perpetual monsoon. I wouldn't normally publish back to back diaries on Israel Supreme Court rulings, but this one is too important to pass up.

From the Haaretz story:

Only a day after the High Court of Justice upheld most of the sections of the “Anti-Boycott Law,” the justices of the Supreme Court approved the use of another controversial law: The application of the Absentee Property Law to assets in East Jerusalem. The practical effect of the ruling is that it allows the state to take control of property in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank or Gaza.
However, the expanded seven-justice panel, headed by former Supreme Court president Asher Grunis and present President Miriam Naor, did warn that the application of the law to East Jerusalem presents many problems and it must be used in only the “rarest of rare cases.” Grunis even went as far as to say that the “literal” use of the law for Palestinians who reside in the West Bank could bring about its application to Jewish settlers who own property within Israel proper, enabling the state to take over their property as well.
Riiiight, the Israeli state is going to confiscate the property of settlers. That'll happen right after they demolish Baruch Goldstein's home.  Because it's the policy of Israel to demolish the home of terrorists and this is applied to all without fear or favor.
Avigdor Feldman, the lawyer representing one of the appelants in the case, said: “The justices demonstrated a very formalistic approach. They determined that it is not proper, but have passed the buck to the courts, attorney general and the Custodian. They have asked to trust the generosity of the state not to make use of [the law]. That is running away from responsibility. It is clear that the law was created during a different situation and for other purposes, and is not appropriate for the present circumstances.”

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which joined the case as a “friend of the court,” said after the ruling: “Even though the court noted in its ruling that the law is arbitrary, and the ruling brings examples of that, it allows the continued application of one of the most racist and arbitrary laws in Israel, which was enacted in 1950 with the goal of confiscating the property of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes."

Yet another nail in the coffin of the "two state solution" by a "respected institution" in the "only democracy in the region" demonstrating its commitments to "minority rights" except when those minorities are the kind who takes buses in "droves". I think I've reached the limit for snarky air-quotes in one sentence.
In 1967, after the Six-Day War, which saw the extension of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Palestinians with assets in Jerusalem suddenly found themselves considered “absentee” owners, even though they hadn’t gone anywhere. Sometimes they were living only a few hundred meters away, but outside the new Jerusalem city limits and officially in the West Bank, and found their property confiscated only because Israel drew the new municipal border between them and their property, making them no longer residents of Jerusalem - though they never left their homes.
The present Supreme Court ruling came in response to a number of cases appealed to the highest court over the past few years filed by Palestinians who had their property taken under the law.

The decision concerning the application of the law in East Jerusalem has significant implications for Jewish settlement in the city’s predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods. Over the years, the Absentee Property Law has become a tool for right-wing groups seeking to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. These groups ask the custodian to expropriate houses whose residents are in the West Bank and then rent the premises from the custodian, usually for a nominal fee.

Grunis, with the rest of the justices concurring, ruled that the law does apply in East Jerusalem — and rejected the appeals of the Palestinian property owners.

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In 2011, the Knesset passed a law banning calls for boycotts of Israel. The law read in part:

In this bill, "a boycott against the State of Israel" is defined as: deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or body solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.
During the debate:
MK Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz blasted the law, calling it outrageous and shameful. "We are dealing with a legislation that is an embarrassment to Israeli democracy and makes people around the world wonder if there is actually a democracy here," he said. Ilan Gilon, another Meretz MK, said the law would further delegitimize Israel.
Before the vote, the Knesset's legal adviser, attorney Eyal Yanon, published a legal assessment saying parts of the law edge towards "illegality and perhaps beyond." He went on to warn that the law "damages the core of freedom of expression in Israel." Yanon's assessment contradicts that of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who said the bill is legal.
Human rights groups filed lawsuits against the law almost immediately and in December 2012, Israel's High Courty granted a stay. Earlier today, it issued it's final ruling striking down some portions of the law unanimously and letting others stand in 8-1 and 5-4 split decisions. This is a very significant ruling with long-range impact on free-speech in Israel. I'm going to do a round-up of coverage from a variety of news sources.

+972mag: High Court upholds controversial 'boycott law'

The High Court rejected a petition by human rights organizations, upholding the controversial “boycott law” on Wednesday. The law give grounds for individuals to sue anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or areas under its control.

The court struck down only one section of the law, which establishes that one may seek punitive damages for a deliberate call to boycott without needing to prove actual damages. It appears that one will now need to show actual damages in order to win a lawsuit.

Justice Hanan Meltzer, who wrote the majority opinion, ruled that a call to boycott is not consistent with the true purpose of freedom of expression, and therefore is not protected speech. He went on to describe boycott calls as “political terrorism,” adding that the state has a right to defend itself from them.
[...]
Nearly four years ago, the Israeli Knesset passed the Law to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott, which rights groups challenged in court almost immediately. (Read a translation of the law itself here.)

The law was a direct response to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. It enables anyone who feels they were (or might be) harmed by a boycott, “solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control (read: settlements in occupied territory, MSO), in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage,” to sue for both punitive and compensatory damages.

The Jewish Press (a US-based weekly with an orthodox readership) has a story: Supreme Court Judge Calls Anti-Israeli Boycotts ‘Political Terrorism’
NGOs opposing the bill were quoted by the website as having commented on the court’s unanimous ruling, “The boycott law is a law to silence legitimate criticism. The High Court ruling is a serious blow to freedom of expression and basic rights for political participation on a disputed topic.”

“Freedom of expression” is very a popular concept among those who exploit it to demonize Israel and try to turn it into an Arab country.

Haaretz also has coverage: High Court largely upholds controversial 'Anti-Boycott Law'
“Boycotts and encouraging divestment are recognized throughout the world as legitimate, nonviolent tools,” said the Women’s Coalition for Peace, which is one of the petitioners and had previously promoted boycotts and divestment. “In its decision today, the High Court is approving the silencing and restriction of legitimate protest aimed at criticizing and working to change Israeli policy.”
Melcer, Grunis and his successor, current Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, voted to uphold the Anti-Boycott Law, along with fellow justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Issac Amit. Justices Salim Joubran, Yoram Danziger, Uzi Vogelman and Neal Hendel made up the minority.

In his minority opinion, Danziger wrote that the law undermines free expression to an unreasonable extent.

“I believe that the call for a boycott is consistent with the purposes of free expression,” he wrote. “A boycott expresses disgust with the boycotted behavior. It displays a lack of desire to support and finance behaviors that the boycotter feels are unworthy… and in the Israeli political reality, calls for boycotts of the State of Israel are heard from only one side of the political map. … The law thus creates discrimination based on one’s position.”

Yedioth Ahronoth: Court tempers Boycott Law, rules out unlimited compensation

Israel Hayom (owned by Adelson): High Court: State may punish anti-Israel boycotters

Some four years after state passes anti-boycott law, justices rule that protecting the well-being of the state trumps the right to boycott and does not infringe on free speech.  Law makes the call for the boycott of Israel a civil offense.
[...]
During the court hearings, the state said the bill would help safeguard Israel's stature on the world stage and protect its foreign relations.
The Jerusalem Post has a great in-depth article (more excerpts below fold): High Court upholds part of Anti-Boycott Law, strikes part and splits on '1967 Israel'
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel also slammed the ruling, while Gush Shalom’s lawyer Gabi Lasky said, “It cannot be that it is permitted to boycott cottage cheese within the Green Line because of its price, but according to the High Court it is prohibited to call for boycotting cottage cheese... in the settlements for political ideals.”

On the other side, Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said the verdict is “a clear proof that attempts to harm the State of Israel via boycotts are unacceptable. Israel has a right to defend itself not only from harm to its security, but also from economic harm.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said following the verdict that “the extreme Left is trying unsuccessfully to instill its post-Zionist values.

“Yesterday the High Court decided that terrorists can’t study in prison, and today it rejected the petition against the Boycott Law. Not only did the public speak out clearly against the Left’s petitions, the High Court Justices did, too,” he said.

At one point, new Justice Yitzhak Amit noted that “some say that BDS is anti-Semitism.”
And finally from Haaretz again:
Gaby Lasky, a lawyer who represented petitioner Gush Shalom in the case, also said the court was silencing the left.

“This is a regrettable decision with far-reaching ramifications; the High Court justices are changing Israeli constitutional law as we have known it to date and put the interests of perpetuating the settlement enterprise over all the state’s citizens’ basic right to freedom of expression,” said Lasky.

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Bob Corker
Sen. Bob Corker answers reporters' questions Tuesday.
The unanimous vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday in support of an amended bill authorizing a congressional review of any agreement with Iran over its nuclear program doesn't mean conflict between the White House and foes of such an agreement has ended. Assuming the bill passes the full Senate and the House of Representatives, it's only a truce likely to end once the parameters of the agreement are announced. That is supposed to happen by June 30.

But while the domestic fight over any deal with Iran is not over, this was a clear White House victory.  Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker report:

While Mr. Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, the president decided the new proposal put together by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was acceptable.

“What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is that the president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.

Administration officials have argued all along that Congress has no authority to approve or reject an agreement. All it can do, they say, is vote for or against lifting sanctions.

More analysis can be found below the fold.

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The NY Times has been running a "Man (Woman) on the Street" series with ordinary Iranians for the past few weeks. Even for someone like me who is interested and has followed Iranian events, it contained some remarkable surprises. For instance, today's installment is with a hardliner who states:

One of the positive points about the Islamic Revolution is that the literacy rate, which was only 25 percent before the revolution, has dramatically increased to 99 percent. Now, Iranian people are literate and understanding. They can read and analyze the news, and that is why they believe in their leader. Our people have sacrificed their children for this revolution, and they are either families of martyrs or families of veterans. They do not like the United States. This was why the Islamic Revolution toppled the former regime.
Now, he's kind of over-stating the gains in literacy, which isn't even necessary since the gains are incredible (lots more on that below).
I have been going to the Friday prayers since the first Friday prayer after the revolution. I remember that my father and I jumped on the back of a double-decker bus because we did not have enough money to pay the bus fare. People used to be poor in those days. Now, fortunately, every family has one or two cars.
I'm going to ignore the comment about cars and focus on the things that I think are more important and that government can actually help improve, health care and basic services. But it is important to note that all of us as citizens evaluate our government in terms of the material success it makes possible.

If you go by standard US news coverage on Iran, it would appear that the country is run by crazed religious fanatics who sit around all day plotting to stone adulterers (primarily women), imprison/execute gay people or force them to seek "treatment" and "cures" for homosexuality (but hey I know at least one other country where that last one is somewhat common, yes I'm looking at you Americuh). Somewhat strangely, it seems they think gender re-assignment surgery is an acceptable "solution". Oh yeah, and they shout Death to America every Friday in unison.

The issue of capital punishment and discrimination against homosexuals and women is extremely important, but it isn't everything. Though I want things to change today for everyone, we should remember that this is a very conservative part of the world, even Israel, which is arguably furthest along in its acceptance of gay rights has religious authorities who say "homosexuality is a complete evil" as the former chief rabbi of Israel Ovadai Yosef did. Though arguably Turkey has historically been a better model, same-sex relations have been legal there since 1858. About 100 years earlier than most US states. The Ottoman Empire was apparently a lot more open to gay rights than Victorian Anglo-Saxon societies. As with most things in Turkey, Erdogan's government has been moving the country in a more socially conservative direction.

But what I want to tackle here are very basic measures of health, nutrition, health-care well-being and support, particularly for the most vulnerable among us, children.

Couple of important notes to keep in mind, Iran fought a brutal war started by Iraq, from 1980 till 1988. The war resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths (Obama acknowledged this in a recent interview) within Iran and for Iraqi Kurds. The US supported Saddam's Iraq during that period with modern weapons and provided recon data for chemical weapon attacks (the US Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in Iranian airspace and blew up some Iranian navy ships in Iranian territorial waters, but it was still considered a "proxy war"). Iran was woefully outmatched and suffered very heavy losses in the war. This is important history, but also significant for our discussion here because the war impacted Iran's economic development in the 80s. Gains the Iranian regime has delivered are even more impressive given the impact of the war.

With that in mind, let's dive into the data shall we? The questions we want to consider as we look through the stats are:

  • What measurable improvements in well-being and development has the "Iranian revolution" been able to deliver or maintain since it took control of the country in 1979.
  • In particular, where does Iran stand when it comes to things like infant mortality, childhood development, literacy and healthcare for children and women.
  • How does this compare to other similar sized countries in the region.

It's been a while since I've pored through economic development stats, but at one time I had some fluency in the subject. I'm going to use UNICEF development statistics for Iraq, Iran, Turkeyand the USA. They come from UN, WHO and World Bank datasets and they are of good quality (they are widely used for country level developmental research by academic economists). I've used Turkey as a regional comparable and the US as a well-understood control (at least for DKos purposes). Iraq is in there as another regional comparable, but since we've recently tried to spread freedom in that country recently ("Operation Iraqi Freedom", hell yeah!), it serves yet another purpose. The Iraq data tells us what the Iranian people can look forward to if we try the same trick in Iran.

                                                                                
Basic Indicators Iraq Iran Turkey USA
Under-5 mortality rank 70 100 120 150
Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990 53 56 74 11
Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012 34 18 14 7
U5MR by sex 2012, male 38 19 16 8
U5MR by sex 2012, female 31 17 13 6
Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990 42 44 55 9
Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012 28 15 12 6
Neonatal mortality rate 2012 19 11 9 4
Total population (thousands) 2012 32778 76424 73997 317505
Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012 1036.9 1454 1268.2 4225.7
Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012 35 26 18 29
GNI per capita (US$) 2012 5870 c 10830 50120
Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012 69.2 73.7 74.9 78.8
Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012* 78.5 85 94.1
Primary school net enrollment ratio (%) 2008-2011* 99.9 98.9 95.7
Couple of things stand out here. Iran falls somewhere between Turkey and Iraq on infant mortality, and that is going to be a consistent theme in the data.

But here's the remarkable thing, infant mortality has fallen from 56 per 1,000 to 18 per 1,000. Turkey did even better, but Iran shows amazing improvement. In contrast, India has only managed to go from 126 to 56 (yeah, India's democratically elected governments from both left and right have been awful on development fronts). Iraq has fallen behind in contrast and a lot of that has to do with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Our ill-advised, poorly-planned adventure in Iraq took out so much of Iraq's infrastructure that it is still costing the lives of thousands of Iraqi children. I hope there is a very special section in hell reserved for Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for their failure to plan for our military occupation of Iraq with diligence and care.

When you look at life-expectancy, you can see that Iran has developed world life expectancy well above 70. And 85% is a pretty good literacy rate for the population. India is at 63%, Saudi Arabia which is wealthier is at 87% (Saudi per capita GDP is over $25,000, Iran's is under $5,000).

What is really fantastic though is the 99.9% primary school enrollment rate. That is virtually universal, and about 4% better than the US. The impact is visible in near-universal literacy among the young.

          
Nutrition Iraq Iran Turkey USA
Low birthweight (%) 2008-2012* 13.4 7 11 8
This is a very important measure which is why I emphasize it. What it tells us that Iranian women, particularly expectant mothers, receive very good nutrition.  That is not the case in India where 28% of babies have low birth-weight. These statistics are tough to achieve in a rigid patriarchy or a country with pervasive discrimination against women.                                                                 
Demographic Indicators Iraq Iran Turkey USA
Population (thousands) 2012, total 32778 76424 73997 317505
Population (thousands) 2012, under 18 15421 21774 23098 75320.5
Population (thousands) 2012, under 5 4823.9 7002.6 6362.1 20623.4
Population annual growth rate (%), 1990-2012 2.8 1.4 1.4 1
Population annual growth rate (%), 2012-2030 2.5 1 0.9 0.7
Life expectancy, 1970 58.2 50.9 52.3 70.7
Life expectancy, 1990 68.3 63.4 64.3 75.2
Life expectancy, 2012 69.2 73.7 74.9 78.8
Total fertility rate, 2012 4.1 1.9 2.1 2
Urbanized population (%), 2012 66.4 69.2 72.5 82.6
Average annual growth rate of urban population (%), 1990-2012 2.6 2.3 2.4 1.4
Average annual growth rate of urban population (%), 2012-2030 2.6 1.3 1.6 1
Here we're looking at some historical trends. Most important is how life expectancy has changed. Iran achieved Turkey-level improvements in life expectancy, going from 63 to 74, between 1990 and 2012. To do that requires substantial improvements in sanitation, health care and nutrition. And remember, Turkey is a NATO member with a free-trade agreement with the EU and its per capita GDP is more than twice Iran's.

On the subject of GDP see this:

Iraq, Iran, Turkey per capita GDP 1960 - 2014
Iraqi data looks patchy or unadjusted for inflation in some portions of the graph, ignore that (yes, I'm lazy, the graph is from Google since they have decent visualization on World Bank data and I can't be bothered to scrub it). You can see the Iranian regime made significant gains even though their economy was not really growing much per capita in the 1990s. You can see the enormous impact of the war through 1980-1988 and the impact of the sanctions in the last four years of data.

Taking a wider view, Indian life expectancy only went from 58 to 66 over the same period. Even China with it's insane levels of growth took from 1970 till 2012 to raise life-expectancy from 63 to 75 years (far bigger country though, ergo more inertia).

Whatever the Iranian regime was doing between 1990 and 2012 paid off handsomely in terms of the basic health and longevity of the Iranian people.

                                                                                               
The Rate Of Progress Iraq Iran Turkey USA
Under-5 mortality rank 70 100 120 150
Under-5 mortality rate, , 1970 114 226 186 23
Under-5 mortality rate, , 1990 53 56 74 11
Under-5 mortality rate, , 2000 45 35 37 8
Under-5 mortality rate, , 2012 34 18 14 7
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1970-1990 3.8 6.9 4.6 3.7
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1990-2000 1.7 4.9 6.8 2.9
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 2000-2012 2.2 5.6 8.1 1.4
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1990-2012 2 5.3 7.5 2.1
Reduction since 1990 (%) 35 69 81 37
Reduction since 2000 (%) 23 49 62 15
GDP per capita average annual growth rate (%), 1970-1990 -2.5 1.9 2.1
GDP per capita average annual growth rate (%), 1990-2012 -1.7 2.8 2.5 1.6
Total fertility rate, 1970 7.4 6.4 5.6 2.3
Total fertility rate, 1990 5.9 4.8 3.1 2
Total fertility rate, 2012 4.1 1.9 2.1 2
Average annual rate of reduction (%) Total fertility rate, 1970-1990 1.1 1.4 3 0.6
Average annual rate of reduction (%) Total fertility rate, 1990-2012 1.7 4.2 1.8 0
You can see that fertility rates have fallen dramatically (this typically happens when more kids survive into adulthood), and overall economic growth (GDP) has been consistently strong since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

I want to close with education since it is so crucial to everything else.

                                                                           
Education Iraq Iran Turkey USA
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*, male 84.1 98.8 99.4
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*, female 80.5 98.5 97.9
Number per 100 population 2012, mobile phones 79.4 76.9 90.8 98.2
Number per 100 population 2012, Internet users 7.1 26 45.1 81
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008 -2012*, male 40.6 26.9 67.7
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008 -2012*, female 44.7 25.8 70.3
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male 108.1 104.9 102
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female 106.8 103.7 101.1
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male 92.7 96.4 93.5
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female 87 96.9 91.9
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2008-2012*, admin. data 98.1 99.2
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2008-2012*, survey data 95.5 96.7 94.5
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male 82.4 81.4 88.8
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female 79.8 76.2 90.2
The Iranian regime is basically knocking it out of the park when it comes to education. Their female literacy rates are phenomenal. Their primary school enrollment and attendance rates are eye-popping (better than the US). Secondary school participation rates are higher than Turkey. When comparing secondary school education levels with developed world economies like the US, we should adjust for the rural nature of Iran.

If I were looking at this data and didn't have the country headings, I would conclude that the Iranian government did an absolutely stellar job at development between 1990 and 2012. They invested in education, health care (just look at those 99% immunization rates below the fold!), sanitation (more data on that below). They made health-care services for pregnant women universal (their numbers are better than Turkey's). They did the same on education for girls.

This is a development economist's wet dream.

I'm not kidding, I'm tearing up at the thought of how many children they've managed to save from an early death. I'm jubilant at the number of women and girls who can participate in society because of universal education.

This tells me that overall the Iranian regime have been good, no very good, for the health and well-being of the Iranian people.

What this should tell us as citizens is that the media caricature of Iran is fatally flawed. The Iranian people have good reason to believe their government is fundamentally good for them. Yes, there are things it can do better, particularly when it comes to minority rights. But overall, it has hit every bogey when it comes to basic health and human services.

What we also know, is that our poorly planned policy of regime change in Iraq caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Whatever Iranians may think of their regime, they've seen what happened in Iraq and only an utter moron to would think they would want that for their own country. I'm sorry, I forgot the despicable evil bastards who don't care about the suffering and death of thousands of children and advocate war so their buddies could make a killing replenishing our arms depots (yeah, I mean you Mr. Halliburton CEO).

The Iranians have good reason to like their government and we would be utterly foolish to think that our bombs and troops would be greeted as anything other than the tools of a great Satan bent on destroying the peace and prosperity of Iran to serve it's own ends. And they would be right.

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Reposted from subir by Flyswatterbanjo

This is a roundup of news related to Palestine with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper.

We use the name Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) for their homeland.


Israel to detain female Palestinian lawmaker for 6 months, lawyer says (YNet)

52-year-old PFLP member being held under Israeli administrative detention after violating Israeli ban on entering Ramallah, where she lives.

The IDF has placed a female Palestinian legislator under detention for six months without trial, a lawyer for the lawmaker said Monday.

Khalida Jarrar, a senior political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing Palestinian militant group, is being held for alleged activities in a hostile organization, lawyer Mahmoud Hassan said.

Jarrar, 52, is being held under Israeli administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold detainees for up to six months at a time without charges, the lawyer said. The detention and any extensions are approved by a judge, and evidence can be kept from defense lawyers.

Israel says administrative detentions prevent attacks by militants. Rights groups say international humanitarian law permits administrative detention in exceptional cases, but that Israel is out of bounds with its large-scale use of the method.

Israel was holding almost 500 people in administrative detention last year as per B'Tselem:
Although detainees are brought before a judge to approve the detention order, the judicial review is merely a semblance of a just legal system: most of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified and not disclosed to the detainees or their counsel . Since the detainees do not know evidence there is against them, they are unable to refute it. Given the inherently inferior position of detainees in such proceedings, military judges and High Court justices presiding over these cases have a duty to serve as “temporary defense counsel” for the detainees, but they often shirk this responsibility and almost always accept the position of the security establishment.

Soldiers enter home of B'Tselem volunteers in Hebron, awake children, photograph them, and confiscate footage filmed by the volunteers (B'Tselem)

On Tuesday night, 10 March 2015, at about 2:00 A.M., a group of soldiers under the command of a captain entered the home of B'Tselem volunteers ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh in the Tal Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. The soldiers spent about half an hour there, during which time they searched the house, awoke the children, and photographed the children and the parents’ identity cards. The soldiers devoted most of their time to watching video footage, which was filmed by ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh, on the family’s computer. The footage was saved on an external hard disk, which the soldiers connected to the computer. When they left, the soldiers took the hard disk and a memory card with them. According to ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, the materials taken include footage of Israeli security forces in Hebron apprehending a B'Tselem volunteer and of settler violence in Tal Rumeida.
Unicef issued a bulletin on Children in Israeli Military Detention earlier in the year. CRIN issued one earlier in the year: Children in the Israeli Military Justice System
On Wednesday 21 January, news broke that a 14-year-old girl from Ramallah had been sentenced to two months in prison and fined $1,528 by an Israeli military court. She was arrested on the 31 December and charged with throwing stones, obstructing the road and possession of a knife and detained for 22 days inside Israel before the court issued the sentence. Speaking to Euro-Mid Observers for Human Rights, the girl’s father said he believed she had been coerced into confessing and described his experience of the court hearings: “[w]e could only see her in the court; we were not allowed to talk to her. She seemed to be very sick and scared.”

This story captured the attention of the news: the plight of this one girl put a face on a system that routinely runs roughshod over children’s rights. But behind this story there is a broader issue.


Successful olive tree planting action in Bruqin (Pal Solidarity)

On 4th April 2015 over 25 Palestinian activists from Bruqin and the surrounding area of Salfit region of the West Bank, gathered on top of a near by hill to plant roughly 30 olive saplings. The group were joined by international activists who accompanied the locals in planting the young trees across the hill side.
Unusually, this time the protesters managed to successfully plant all trees mere meters from the settlement without facing harassment or violence from settlers or military. Locals are planning further actions to continue their grass-roots non-violent struggle.

Haaretz Editorial board says Israel must help Yarmouk’s Palestinian refugees

Israel must do its part in the international effort. It should sit down with Abbas to evaluate ways of helping these refugees, some of whom are closely related to Arabs in Israel.
[...]
Among other things, Israel could offer Abbas the possibility of absorbing some of the refugees into the Palestinian Authority, defray some of the costs involved and provide medical services to those who manage to come. Political considerations and disputes with the PA should be set aside at this time. This is a humanitarian task of the first order that Israel cannot shirk.
Over at "972mag, they saying Stop calling us 'Israeli Arabs':
The phrase ‘Israeli Arabs’ is meant to divide us from the rest of the Palestinian people. Thankfully, more and more young Palestinian citizens are no longer scared to openly confront their own Pharaoh and reclaim their story.
and Factions in Gaza march in solidarity with Yarmouk (Ma'An News)
Several political factions marched in Gaza on Thursday to express solidarity with the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.

Walid Awad, a member of the Palestinian People's Party, said that the only way to save Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk is to allow them to return to their homes.
[...]
During the sit-in, the PFLP said that "all official and concerned sides to hold their responsibilities and duties to protect our people in the refugee camp and support them by opening humanitarian tunnels to provide them with everything they need to face these terrorist groups working on displacing our people from the Yarmouk."

On Sunday, hundreds filled the streets in a march organized by Hamas in support of fellow Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk.


Soldiers fire live ammo, wound two in Nabi Saleh protest (+972mag)

Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition against nonviolent Palestinian protesters in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday. Two Palestinians were wounded, including activist Manal Tamimi.

Tamimi was shot in her leg as she was standing and talking to her friends, only minutes after the protest had begun, along with another young Palestinian. Both were transferred to a Ramallah hospital where they received treatment for their wounds.


NYU Faculty call for divestment from companies linked to IDF (NYU News)

41 individuals volunteered for NYU-SJP’s burgeoning campaign to support NYU divesting from corporations complicit in Israeli human rights abuses. Thus far, 119 NYU faculty have called for divestment from such corporations.

Jerusalem tourism gets lifeline from unlikely source: Muslim visitors (Haaretz)

On the interim days of Passover, Jerusalem hotels were only about 60-percent full, and for the seder night and the last days of the holiday, capacity ranges from 80-85 percent. Aryeh Zumer, director of the Jerusalem Hotels Association, says these figures are about 20 percent lower than last year.

However, salvation for the city’s tourism industry may well come from a surprising source: Muslim countries, including Arab states.

Last week, a group of clerics from the Gulf states issued a ruling permitting and encouraging visits to Jerusalem. This fatwa (religious decree) now joins a growing political and religious debate that has been roiling the Arab world for the last three years; statistics show there has been a significant increase in the number of Muslim pilgrims coming to the city.
[...]
Last year, Israel welcomed 26,700 tourists from Indonesia; 23,000 from Turkey; 17,700 from Jordan; 9,000 from Malaysia and 3,300 from Morocco. The Gaza war brought the flow to a halt. But in the first two months of this year, at least 10,000 tourists from Muslim countries have already entered Israel.

The Palestinian and Arab discourse on the subject began in 2012, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Muslims to visit Jerusalem. Hamas is adamantly opposed to Muslims visiting the city, even if the tour is for religious purposes and would primarily help Palestinian businesses. Because the city is under Israeli control, Hamas believes that visiting it would amount to de facto recognition of Israel.
[...]
Most Muslim tourists enter Israel via the Allenby Bridge, but some arrive through Ben-Gurion International Airport. “Often, people tell me they don’t want to come from Tel Aviv [the airport] because that’s Israel. So we explain to them that all of the crossings are controlled by Israel,” says Atiya. He says the security inspection at Allenby can last up to eight or 10 hours, which is very difficult on tourists. “It’s part of the politics. They intentionally make it unpleasant so they won’t come back.”


67 years later, Deir Yassin still bleeding wound for Palestinians (Ma'An News)

Palestinians on Thursday marked the 67th anniversary of the massacre of more than 100 Palestinian civilians by Zionist forces at the village of Deir Yassin.

"The Deir Yassin massacre was a turning point in the history of the people of Palestine, and it continues to serve as a necessary reminder of Israel’s ongoing policies of displacement, dispossession and dehumanization, and its willful erasure of the Palestinian narrative and human presence in historical Palestine," senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Ashrawi noted that the massacre was one of the first in what would become a long line of Israeli military attacks on Palestinian civilians, noting: "Deir Yassin, Nasir al-Din, Haifa, Yazur, Bayt Daras, al-Tantura, al-Lydd, al-Dawayima, Saliha, Qibya, Kafr Qasim, and Shuja'iyya, among other names, will remain forever engraved in our hearts and minds and always serve as symbols of Palestinian steadfastness and perseverance."
[...]
Deir Yassin has long been a symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians because of the particularly gruesome nature of the slaughter, which targeted men, women, children, and the elderly in the small village west of Jerusalem. The number of victims is generally believed to be around 107, though figures given at the time reached up to 254.


Settler in IDF intel unit to be indicted for leaks

An Israeli soldier in an intelligence unit arrested on suspicion of leaking classified information to fellow residents in the radical settlement Bat Ayin is to be charged on Sunday by the Military Advocate General.

The soldier, Ya’akov Sela, 25, who has been under arrest for over a month, is a non-commissioned officer in an intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces’ Etzion Brigade.
[...]
Sela is also suspected of leaking information about operations by the Judea and Samaria police district, as well as the movement of forces and the activities of the police unit in charge of far-right political crimes.


Play about slain pro-Palestine activist returns to NY stage (Yahoo News)

A play about American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, is winning quiet acceptance in New York, where uproar postponed its debut a decade ago.

Her parents and the play's director say the dimming controversy reflects a shift in American attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinian conflict.

"I think the landscape really has changed," Rachel's mother Cindy Corrie told AFP of the 12 years since her daughter was killed in 2003. Witnesses said she died trying to stop a Palestinian home from being demolished.

In February, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the state was not liable for Corrie's death because it was a military act committed in a war zone.

Cindy believes Rachel's story has helped shift that understanding, in addition to Israel's wars and military operations in the region over the last decade.

"Just the numbers of people who are willing to move away from what I think has traditionally been almost unquestionable support for Israel," she said.


The operational logic behind terrorizing Palestinians (+972mag)

Four Israeli soldiers carry out a routine procedure of ‘showing presence’ by throwing a smoke grenade into a Palestinian home. Its real purpose? Terrorizing innocent people.

The incident in question, given the daily routine of the occupation, is relatively minor. On December 3rd, 2007, Adnan Abu Haniyeh, a resident of the West Bank village Yanoun, woke up from the sound of an explosion. Something blew up, the windows of his house were shattered and the house was filled with smoke. His little girl screamed in terror, and for a time the family feared that her hearing was permanently damaged. The walls of the house were covered with soot. Abu Haniyeh then heard the sound of a military Hummer.

The rest of the incident will be described according to the investigative files of the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID). According to the files, the incident happened this way:

That night, four IDF soldiers arrived in a Hummer at the outskirts of Yanoun to carry out a routine procedure, which the IDF calls “showing our presence.”
[...]
All the soldiers interrogated testified that a short while before this incident, that very evening, they were all at the village Furiq, together with Deputy Company Commander Itsik (DCC). There, they carried out a very similar action: they threw stun grenades randomly, made a lot of noise, and then continued on (without DCC Itsik) to Yanoun. The IDF took no issue with the incident in Furiq.

To American ears, this sounds like a 21st century version of the KKK "riding about" terrorizing black neighborhoods.

SodaStream changes labelling to ‘Made in the West Bank’ following human rights complaints (The Independent)

SodaStream has changed the labelling of products made in an Israeli settlement in the industrial zone of Ma’aleh Adumimm to ‘Made in the West Bank’ following complaints from a coalition of human rights activists in the US.

Fair trade activists complained to the Oregon Department of Justice in May 2014 that SodaStream was violating fair trade laws by labelling products made in occupied territory ‘Made in Israel’, according to a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Under Oregon’s fair trade laws, companies are banned from false advertising and can be held accountable for misleading packaging.

SodaStream immediately said it would change its labelling when it found out about the complaints. The new labels have since appeared on SodaStream packaging in Oregon stores.

A similar attempt is being made to force Trip Advisor to clearly label hotels that are located in the occupied territories.

Doctor's orders led this journalist to discover his Palestinian neighbors (Haaretz)

After heart surgery, doctors told journalist Eliezer Yaari he needed to walk. His feet led him to a nearby Palestinian village – a microcosm of political developments in Jerusalem – and a new book with some frank observations.
[...]
Yaari provides fascinating documentation of the complexity of Palestinian life in Jerusalem: On the one hand, efforts to achieve social and economic integration in Israeli society; on the other, tenacious adherence to a Palestinian and Islamic identity, and to waging the struggle against the occupation. Above all, though, the book offers a picture of an intimate, unforgettable acquaintanceship between neighbors on the two sides of the border in Jerusalem.
[...]
The village is strongly identified with Hamas, and until a few weeks ago, residents flew the movement’s green flag in its center. But when one actually crosses the dark mountains of images, a far more complex reality presents itself. Though Tsur Baher is associated with the Islamist Hamas, it may also be the most feminist Palestinian village in the West Bank. Many of it s female residents run businesses, NGOs and other organizations, many of the drivers on the roads are women, and the local girls’ school is a major source of pride.


Palestinians protest settler marathon in West Bank (ActiveStills & +972mag)
Israeli ‘Biblical Marathon’ shuts down main West Bank road connecting Ramallah and Nablus, ‘is part of an apartheid policy,’ says Abdullah Abu Rahmeh.
[...]
“Everything the army and the settlers do in the occupied territories is part of an apartheid policy, and we cannot accept the fact that they are shutting down a major road,” said Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, one of the protest organizers, adding that the demonstration was held under the banner of freedom of movement.

Two weeks ago the third-annual Palestine Marathon took place in Bethlehem. Runners in the Palestine Marathon were forced to essentially run laps on a track made of city streets because organizers were unable to find an uninterrupted 42-kilometer (26 mile) mile stretch of road under Palestinian control.


In disregard for Bedouin, Israel is forgetting its founders (Haaretz)

It's not that Negev Bedouin are inherently nomadic – it just suits the Israeli government to treat them as such. Ironically, pre-state Jewish immigrants saw Bedouin as the model for the New Jew.

Israeli Arab citizens marked the 39th anniversary of Land Day last week with an "awakening march," led by Knesset members from the Joint List in support of the Negev Bedouin community. The Prawer Plan genie was out of the bottle again – as protesters decried it as a looming threat. The plan, which calls for relocating nearly 30,000 Bedouin into recognized communities in what is actually a shrewd attempt to displace them from their land, has sparked an ongoing debate over the fate of so-called "unrecognized villages." This, in turn, has led many Israelis to wonder: Why is it that Israel, which prides itself on its democratic character, continues to dismiss Bedouin land rights?
[...]
as the Israeli government has been concerned, the Bedouin community was meant to remain unsettled, and thus stateless, unlike the Jewish communities of the Negev. Ironically, this policy was justified by projecting a settler narrative onto the Palestinian Arab Bedouin: They are conquerors, invaders and barbarians responsible for the destruction of what had been a fertile granary of the Land of Israel.



Ten things you didn't know about Mimouna (+972mag)
Mimouna, the traditional festival celebrated by North African Jews on the last day of Passover, is often overlooked when discussing the Jewish holiday of liberation. Here are 10 things you might not know about the celebration that once brought Jews and Muslims together.
[...]
2. Mimouna symbolized North Africa, and specifically the close relations between Jews and Muslims there. In many places it was the Muslims who brought wheat, milk and butter to the Jews at the end of the holiday so they could make food. Jews in Morocco were viweed as ones who blessed the land for the entire year, and the Muslims saw the holiday as an opportunity to pay back their Jewish neighbors. In the city of Azemmour, Muslims allowed the Jews to use their fields and gardens for the entire day, out of a belief that the Jews would bless the land and leave it fertile.
[...]
8. It turns out that Jewish communities outside of North Africa would also celebrate the end of Passover with similar traditions: the Iraqis customarily went out into nature and took a dip in the Tigris. The Persians also went out into nature. In Egypt, Israel and Turkey, the Jews celebrated the opening of a new year.
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