CLAP IF YOU GOT A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD

Palestinians in Gaza can’t clap along. They live in a room without a roof. Sometimes no room is left. They have been killed by the bombs of Israel forces you are fundraising for. Are you happy?

Image by Carlos Latuff

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One of the Hollywood celebrities, who raised funds for IDF last month, It would better to save his money for his own house.

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Beyond sick. Hollywood celebs just raised $60 million for Israeli Army in massive gala. SHAME on Pharrell,  & Gerard Butler for endorsing apartheid & war crimes. Israel slaughtered 219 unarmed Palestinians & wounded 18,000 in just the last 6 months.


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This is even worse …

64% of Israelis wanted to escalate bombing in Gaza. Thousands protested the end of the war. There is no hope from within Israel, it’s a racist society where genocidal bloodlust is the norm.

 

‘ALL WE ARE SAYING …. IS GIVE WAR A CHANCE’

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned. He was upset about what he perceived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being too soft on Hamas . First because the PM agreed to provide some cash and fuel to Gaza, and then, after a couple of days of bombing in Gaza, the PM accepted a ceasefire.

Image by Carlos Latuff

Avigdor Lieberman wants to give war a chance

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned. He was upset about what he perceived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being too soft on Hamas . First because the PM agreed to provide some cash and fuel to Gaza, and then, after a couple of days of bombing in Gaza, the PM accepted a ceasefire.

Israeli Defense Ministers normally get a turn at conducting large-scale massacres in Gaza– “killing lots of Arabs” as Education Minister Bennett would say, killing those “little snakes”, as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would say. Even ‘left’ hero Ehud Barak had a go at Gaza twice when he was Defense minister between 2007 and 2013. And of course the ‘moderate’ Likudnik Moshe Yaalon got his massacre as Defense Minister in 2014, which was 1-1/2 times the size of Barak’s.

So Avigdor Lieberman, who is more rhetorically bellicose than Barak or Yaalon, was denied his. And just when time seemed ripe for another ‘mowing of the lawn’ in Gaza, as they say in Israel.

Gearing up towards another massacre

Everything seemed geared up for another large-scale massacre. The Israeli commando invasion of Gaza territory on Sunday (territory which Israel claims it doesn’t occupy but which basically the rest of the world knows it does), in which seven Palestinian militants (including a senior commander) as well as a senior Israeli commander were killed, was a perfect pretext for another major Israeli seasonal onslaught. The commando operation came at a time of extraordinary lull: Netanyahu had just permitted cash and fuel to flow into Gaza, to alleviate some unbearable tensions, and he was in Paris saying that “We want to prevent a humanitarian collapse in Gaza, and that’s what we’re doing.” He assured the world he was “doing everything [he] can to prevent an unnecessary war.”

And then that Israeli operation. On the face of it, irrational, right? But actually, it follows a pattern. As Noam Chomsky observed in the wake of the 2014 onslaught:

“Since November 2005 the terms of these agreements have remained essentially the same. The regular pattern is for Israel to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it — as Israel has conceded — until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality.”

Former Chief of Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Rousso made statements seeking to tone down the notion that this was a deliberate assassination attempt against the Hamas battalion commander Nour Baraka, saying:

“These are operations that take place all the time, every night, in all divisions. This is an operation that was probably uncovered. Not an assassination attempt. We have other ways to assassinate.”

“Probably”. Maybe. Maybe not. The possibility of an assassination operation on Baraka would not have been less logical (in the weird Israeli logic) than, say, the assassination of chief Hamas negotiator Ahmad Al-Jabari on November 14, 2012, just hours after Al-Jabari had received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel. Al-Jabari was interested in a long-term ceasefire with Israel, and his killing was the immediate lead-up to the 2012 “Pillar of Defense” onslaught (called “Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew), under Barak as Defense Minister.

Israel broke a 2008 ceasefire (which then had lasted 4 months) by invading Gaza territory and killing six Palestinian militants. That was the lead-up to the “Cast Lead” onslaught, under Barak, that killed 1400 Palestinians.

In any case, this is just what Israel does “all the time”, per Rousso.

What then ensues in such cases is just the same old story. The Palestinians respond with projectiles, and Israel bombs.

But this time, Israel bombed in a ‘special’ way. A senior Israeli Air Force officer cited in Haaretz said that the targets this time were “completely different from anything we’ve known in the past”. These were high-rise buildings in city centers.

According to the officer, such targets were only struck twice during the entire campaign of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. “Just tonight, we’ve hit four [of these] targets,” he said.

The officer bragged about being able to do this without killing anyone: “We’ve learned how to attack these targets at the heart of residential neighborhoods and obliterate them without killing anyone in the strike. We uphold our values, we’re not fighting against civilians”, he said.

What a success. Once again, Israel managed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population (quoting the UN 2009 fact-finding mission report on the 2008-9 onslaught), but this time,  it used those couple of days including strikes in 160 sites, including TV stations, residential buildings and kindergartens – to show how moral it is, because it managed to not kill anyone (except of course those seven Palestinians in Gaza to begin with, but who’s counting?).

Surely, this is a great PR for Israel and “the best” – its pilots. They are the most moral of the most moral. This is certainly better PR than what former Israeli Air Force commander Dan Halutz had said, when asked what he feels when bombing Palestinians with expected civilian casualties: “I feel a light bump to the aircraft due to the bomb’s release, and a second later, it’s over.” It’s also better PR than what the ‘liberal’ Maj. General (res.) Amiram Levin said: “most of these people are born to die anyway, we just need to help them to it”.

Israel reserves its freedom to violate the ceasefire

In the wake of the ceasefire falling in place Tuesday, the Palestinian factions in Gaza released a joint statement saying that “a cease-fire has been reached and we have responded to Egyptian efforts on this matter”, adding that they were “committed to the cease-fire as long as Israel doesn’t break it and doesn’t attack the Palestinian people.” Hamas added that it “really appreciates efforts alongside different entities to obtain a cease-fire and we thank and cherish the Egyptian effort and the international effort, as well as the role the Norwegians and Qataris played.”

An Israeli official cited by Haaretz, on the other hand, said that “Israel reserves its freedom to operate.”

In other words – the pattern is unchanged. Israel reserves its right to conduct invasions “all the time, every night, in all divisions”, as Tal Rousso said. It’s all about not getting caught. To be sure, if Hamas were so openly to reserve its right to invade Israeli territory say, through tunnels, and conduct such operations (and let It be noted here that Hamas has in fact historically always used those tunnels solely for military engagement), well, we would not hear the end of it. This would be a promise to continue active “terror”.

Lieberman upset with easing of tensions with Hamas and with ceasefire

But regardless of the precise terms of the agreement and Israel’s ambivalent position, this ceasefire is after all a ceasefire. And this really isn’t Lieberman’s style. Way too liberal. Lieberman is the type who suggests that Palestinians be decapitated with an axe, and that they be drowned by the thousands in the Dead Sea. Lieberman was already opposed to the deal Netanyahu had closed with Qatar, permitting $15 million in cash to be brought into Gaza, which Hamas was distributing to 27,000 civil servants and some 50,000 families defined as needy last Friday. Education Minister Naftali Bennett was already having a spat with Lieberman about this on Sunday morning, saying that the money is “protection money”, chiding Lieberman for not being tougher and failing to prevent it.

As Israel’s ‘clinical’ onslaught was taking place, Lieberman was being chided by his own, and also from his left, for not being tougher. Sharon Gal, who was a lawmaker with Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party at the beginning of the current term of parliament, said that Lieberman had gone from being “Rambo” to being a “toy Rambo”, to being a “Zero”:

“If you are a group of wimps unable to make decisions, go home. For weeks and weeks here you spoke like Rambo, you threatened several and definitive attacks from every podium”,

Gal told listeners of his radio show on Galey Israel.

“And in the end, children in the south go to sleep and wet their beds at night. Why should Jewish children have to go to sleep in fear? The defence minister, that toy Rambo, is silent. I was a member of his party, and this morning I am ashamed of it, I am ashamed that I was a lawmaker of that party. This is a defense minister that does nothing but talk. You are an absolute zero.”

‘Liberal centrist’ lawmaker Yair Lapid opined that Lieberman and Netanyahu were showing weakness in the wrong place:

“In the Middle East, they only understand strength, and we are not utilising it. If I am prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh is as good as dead,”

Lapid said, referring to the Hamas political leader, adding:

“We must return to targeted assassinations. Hamas must know that they are as good as dead.”

This was really all too much for Lieberman. He really wasn’t in the mood for a ceasefire. He was in the Azarya mood. And by that, I mean what Elor Azarya, the Israeli sergeant who executed a Palestinian lying incapacited on the ground in 2016, and his family were saying on social media in 2014, in the wake of a July ceasefire:

(July 15th)

Elor Azarya: Bibi you transvestite what ceasefire? Penetrate their mother!!!

(23 likes including Adir Azarya, Victor Azarya).

Charlie Azarya (Elor’s father): All strength we need to penetrate the mother of their mother.

Elor: Yes kill them all.

There was way too little blood in this week’s Israeli bombing. If the bombings yielded no deaths, What’s the point? In an op-ed published on Tuesday on the website of far-right Israel Channel 7, Major General (Res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the Institute for National Security Studies (at which former US ambassador Daniel Shapiro works), called on the Israeli government to end the army’s policy of “knocking on roofs”, so as not to give the Hamas leaders it targets the opportunity to escape with their lives and their health intact:

“During war, you don’t inform the enemy in advance so that they can get out of their bunker. We must act to prevent harm to uninvolved people as much as possible, but during war there will be such casualties, and their blood lies on the Hamas leaders who use them as human shields.”

Israel was giving Hamas cash and fuel, then it was bombing with warnings, and now ceasefire. This really became too much for Lieberman. He resigned, calling this a “capitulation to terror”:

“There is no other definition, no other significance, but a capitulation to terror. What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.”

Elections ahead

All of this has probably just as much to do with Israeli internal politics than it has to do with Gaza, if not more so. Gaza is not just Israel’s battle-testing arena for weapons. It is also its testing arena for ‘security’ toughness. In lieu of an actual existential threat, Israeli politicians can use Gaza as the epitome of evil and destruction against which they can show their resolve. The ‘wars’ are then effective massacres of a besieged, over-crowded and mostly defenseless civilian population incarcerated in an unlivable concentration camp. And the Israeli politicians portray themselves as protectors of the people, as they compete at who is better in destroying another people.

Netanyahu is trying to damage-control the political hysteria, as the politicians smell political blood and opportunity. Netanyahu is currently keeping the Defense portfolio after Lieberman’s resignation, but Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, has already vowed to leave the coalition if Bennett doesn’t get the Defense Ministry. When Lieberman resigned, he announced that his whole party, Israel Beitenu, would quit the coalition, leaving it at a slender majority of 61-59 seats in the Knesset, and he called for elections as soon as possible. Bennett threatens to tip the boat completely, unless he gets to be Defense Minister (and presumably carry on the aim, to “kill many Arabs”, because for him “there’s no problem with that”).

This is also seen as an opportunity by the left-center opposition. Naturally (for Israel), they try to outflank Netanyahu from the right, on “security”, as well as chiding Lieberman for not being tough enough. Labour leader Avi Gabbay said that “quiet is bought by deterrence, not with money”. Zionist Union Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova mocked Lieberman for his softness in a tweet: “Apparently two long years were not enough for Avigdor Lieberman to elimatinate Haniyeh within 48 hours, as he had promised, but on the other hand, 48 hours was enough for Haniyeh to eliminate Lieberman’s term as defense minister.” Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that “Deterrence is created through military strikes,” and called to “exchange the Hamas leadership for people who cooperate with us.” Ehud Barak said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was “humiliating Netanyahu.”

The Israeli elections are to be held next year, by November 5th; but many are now pushing for an early election, even in time for the anointed Prime Minister to appear at the AIPAC conference in Washington in March.

Yair Lapid announced that the “countdown has begun”:

“Today the countdown has begun. Today the campaign to restore security, responsibility and leadership to the State of Israel has begun.”

Nothing will change

Nothing will change here. Israeli politicians are playing their macho games of good-cop bad-cop. That’s all soap-opera drama. This may be of great interest for those who see such drama as representing real change, but the sad reality of it is that it does not. For Palestinians, who suffer at the hand of these Zionist narcissists, all of these infightings are as relevant in real life as watching House of Cards. The Israeli solutions, from right to left, stretch from maintaining a genocidal, unlivable status-quo, to actively murdering Palestinians.

They will play their good-cop bad-cop games, they will have their elections and pretend they live in a democracy. And meanwhile, the Palestinians will slowly be poisoned with their un-potable water, if they are meanwhile not bombed into oblivion. The only thing that will affect this unlivable status quo is pressure on Israel from outside. USA is not poised to do that. The UN is largely incapable of helping. It is up to us, citizens of the world, to bring that change about.

Here is all WE are saying …..

WANNABE BUTCHER OF GAZA RESIGNS ~~ ‘NO WAR, NO ME!’

Defense Minister Lieberman resigns, says Israel ‘capitulated to terror’ in Gaza

Yisrael Beytenu leader slams ‘drastically inadequate’ response to massive rocket fire on south, calls for elections as soon as possible; Netanyahu to take over defense portfolio

Image by Carlos Latuff

Israel’s minister of war Avigdor Lieberman is part of Israel’s lunatic fringe – ruthless, lawless, racist, militant, extremist and nightmarish for Palestinians

Full report, including video HERE

IN IMAGES ~~ EYES ON GAZA

All images by Carlos Latuff

 

I made this cartoon 6 years ago, but the way mainstream media portrays Israel siege of Gaza remains the same: “Blame Hamas”

 

Mainstream media coverage of Gaza “rockets”.

For a long time Israel has been cutting water, medicines and fuel to civilians in Gaza. Bomb schools. Snipers kill unarmed protesters, nurses, journalists. Stone throwing kids facing military court. But mainstream media seems interested only in “Hamas rockets”.

Israel’s double standard

SHOOTING THE ICON OF GAZA

Israeli forces shot A’ed Abu Amro, whose photo was chosen as a symbol of popular resistance in Palestine.

IMAGE OF THE DAY ~~ STANDING UP TO EVIL IN GAZA (INFLUENCED BY KING DAVID)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Image by Carlos Latuff

The bravest of all Mothers!

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NEW IMAGES SHOWING THE SCREWING OF PALESTINE

Images by Carlos Latuff

The Israeli blockade is a form of collective punishment that prevents Gazans from being able to support themselves and restrict access to food, medical care and education.

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Donald J. Trump directly ordered the $200 million dollar cut in much needed aid to Palestinians.

 

 

 

THE MUSIC CONTINUES DESPITE IT ALL! GAZA WILL CONTINUE TO SING TILL IT IS FREE!!

‘When Israeli forces destroyed the cultural centre, they thought they would also destroy our dreams’

IMAGES OF THE DAY ….. ‘IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO, THE THINGS THAT YOU’RE LIABLE TO READ IN THE BIBLE’ ~~(THE WESTERN PRESS)

Israeli air forces pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting over 100 sites in the besieged coastal enclave. The Israeli army said in a statement that forces struck 150 “terror targets.”

Images by Carlos Latuff

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What isn’t reported in the Western press ….

Israeli air forces pummel Gaza, killing pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old daughter 

Three Palestinians were killed during pre dawn Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip Thursday. Among the dead were a woman, who was nine months pregnant, and her 18-month-old daughter.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza identified the pregnant woman as 23-year-old Inas Khamash, and her 18-month-old daughter as Bayan Khamash.

The two were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit their home in the Jaafari area of central Gaza. Khamash’s husband, Muhammad, was severely injured during the strike.

While some local media outlets were reporting that Muhammad succumbed to his wounds early Thursday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health has maintained that he is still in critical condition and being treated in the ICU.

The third slain Palestinian, reportedly a Hamas fighter, was killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza. He was identified as 30-year-old Ali al-Ghandour.

The health ministry added that around 12 Palestinians were injured, two critically, and were transferred to the hospital for treatment.

Israeli air forces pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting over 100 sites in the besieged coastal enclave. The Israeli army said in a statement that forces struck 150 “terror targets.”

In a statement on Twitter, the army said the strikes were “conducted in response to the rockets launched from Gaza at Israel throughout the night,” adding that 180 rockets — at least 30 of which were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system — were fired from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli media outlets reported that 11 Israelis were injured in the town of Sderot. One woman was reported to be in serious condition, while nine others were taken to the hospital. Thirteen other Israelis were reportedly treated for “shock.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss that they could not confirm the number of Israelis reportedly injured.

The Israeli army said they held Hamas “fully responsible” for the escalation in violence, and that it was “determined to secure the safety of Israelis, is on high alert, & prepared for a variety of scenarios.”

“Hamas is responsible & bears the consequences for the ongoing events,” the army said on Twitter.

The army’s rhetoric has been echoed by Israeli politicians and government bodies over the course of Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Israel was “defending itself from from Hamas’ aggression.”

The US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt released the following statement on Twitter: “Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities.  Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.”

Neither Greenblatt, the foreign ministry, nor the army made any mention of the killing of Inas Khimash and her daughter Bayan.

Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that it was Israel who was responsible for the violence, and that “in the event of continued aggression, shelling and killing of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the resistance will not be silent. It’s duty to respond and break the occupation.”

On Twitter, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri echoed similar sentiments, and called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibilities towards Israel’s aggression and siege.”

Thursday’s events are the latest in a series of severe flare ups over the past few months in Gaza, leading many local and international officials to speculate that another large-scale Israeli offensive on the Palestinian territory could be imminent.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Israeli commander as saying that the military is “nearing launching an operation in the Gaza Strip” if the current situation persists.

The official told Haaretz that Hamas “will pay the price for its violations in the last four months,” seemingly referring to the ongoing Great March of Return protests that began on March 30th, over which time Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians and injured 17,000 more.

“Hamas must go back to the understandings after the [2014 Gaza war], and if it doesn’t, it will understand the hard way,” Haaretz quoted the officer as saying.

With fears of a new Israeli onslaught on the horizon, reports have emerged of the UN scrambling to negotiate a ceasefire.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, said in a statement issued on early Thursday that he was “deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence.”

“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risk a devastating conflict that nobody wants. The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development,” he said.

Mladenov added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, over 70% of which are refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes in present-day Israel when the state was established in 1948.

A more than decade-long Israeli air, land, and sea blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy, which boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44 percent, leaving an estimated 80 percent of the territory’s population dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Gaza has often been compared to an “open air prison,” and in 2015, the UN warned that the it could become “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to improve the situation.

URGENT APPEAL FROM THE CHILDREN IN GAZA

‘When Israeli forces destroyed the cultural centre, they thought they would also destroy our dreams’

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BREAKING NEWS…
This is difficult to write. Gaza Children’s Cinema team is mourning the destruction of the Said Al-Mishal Cultural Center which was levelled to the ground yesterday after Israeli fighter jets struck the five-story building with 10 rockets. The second largest cultural centre in Gaza was a venue for theatre and music performance in the besieged and isolated Gaza Strip. This cultural centre was one of the main places where Gaza Children Cinema team organised movie screening for children. The Said Al-Mishal Cultural Center provided spaces of entertainment and joy for generations of children and young people in Gaza; it is in total ruins now.

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Dear Gaza Children Cinema friends and supporters,

First and foremost, we would like to repeatedly extend our sincere gratitude for your kind and generous support to our Gaza education community-based initiative: Gaza Children Cinema.

We have been silent in the last few months but invariably busy with organising fundraising events to extend the wonderful momentum of the project to further reach to children communities in Gaza. We also have been minutely working with our partner in Gaza, Tamer Institute for Community Education to plan for the second phase of cinema workshops implementation across the enclave Gaza Strip.

Children in Gaza need our help and support to heal. Please consider contributing to Gaza Children Cinema to provide spaces of fun, creatively temporary escapism through basic human engagement: watching a movie in a safe environment.

According to a recent study by Gaza-based university professors of psychological health, Dr Jamil Tahrawi and Dr Sanaa Abu-Dagga, “Drawings of Palestinian Children after the War on Gaza,” 82.3 percent of 445 children surveyed have drawn images related to war. These include: fighter planes, destroyed homes and mosques, Israeli rockets and missiles, dead Palestinians, various military vehicles, and fighters. The drawings showed fear, terror, and sadness over the those killed and wounded. The study is available in Arabic here.

But there is still hope. Dr. Tahrawi explained that art could be used as a bridge to a better future and that despite the gruesome content of many of the children’s pictures the drawings could help the children overcome their grief and move on.

“The children can relieve their stress by expressing their feelings instead of repressing them. I was surprised at the bright and cheerful colors used by certain children. I expected them all to use bleak colors such as black and brown. But the rainbow of colors is proof of their resilience,” according to Dr. Tahrawi.

“If they are given the chance and the same opportunities as other children they can overcome Gaza’s tragic history and circumstances. Unfortunately we don’t have sufficient people qualified in art therapy in Gaza,” added Tahrawi.

You can help in a number of ways, and all are greatly appreciated:

  • By sharing this update with your networks, you will increase the coverage of the work done by ‘Gaza Children Cinema,’
  • By donating via the crowdfunding link earlier in this page. Even the smallest contribution helps, and
  • By sharing contributing any special skills, time, energy or resources you may have. Please  feel free to get in touch!  Your input can help make the world a better place for some children who need it
Gaza’s children need consistent and age appropriate  interventions, in order to grow and flourish, is an environment of such severe ongoing conflict. Ahmed Ashour, the team leader of Gaza Children Cinema in Gaza, indicated that the impact of cinema sessions on children as “beyond description” and that children are always waiting for more screenings.

Through Gaza Children Cinema sessions, children are encouraged to draw their feelings and tell stories in images. Children are also encouraged to play out their experiences in supervised play sessions. These approaches enable the children to find ways to externalise the trauma, rather than letting it fester like an internal time bomb.

Thank you so much for making this initiative real.

Yours sincerely,
Ayman Qwaider

Here’s how YOU can help ….. Click HERE

EYEWITNESS TO ISRAELI TERROR

Eyewitness onboard boat to Gaza says Israeli forces beat passengers and stole thousands of dollars, antibiotics during raid

Dr. Swee Ang is a medical doctor and was a passenger onboard the al-Awda, a ship headed to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli navy commandeered the vessel on July 29, 2018.

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with $15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 p.m. we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while al-Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Dr. Swee Ang. (Photo: Blizard Institute
Queen Mary University of London)

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent two days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75-year-old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia, a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed three rows – two rows of threes and the third row of two persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with five or more speed boats (Zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away. Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line. They then approach the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face. Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.

They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.

They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck. All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.

As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones – medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.

I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell. At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.

Around this time Charlie the first mate received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his own being beaten and tasered.

The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain. Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house. Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own. Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop –stop they are beating Herman, they are hurting him”.  We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.

I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash color, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of Oramorph or Fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.

With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises. However Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.

I asked for the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro…..Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan. As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge.

The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time. A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity. Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownie with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consume when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey. Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.

As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were three drilling rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in. Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.

As we approached Israel, Zohar our boat leader suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably two to three hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.

We knew that in Ashdod there will be the Israeli media and film crews. We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen the union man had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.

We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realize they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station. The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped when I realized my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera, Abdu,l had all his credit cards and $1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID. He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.

We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it.  All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors. At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.

I was cold and hungry, wearing only one teeshirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away. My bladder was about to explode but I am not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of rucksacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries. The suitcase was partially broken. My rucksacks was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size teeshirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla T-shirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla tee as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that tee in Israel. They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well. So what had become the glorious Israeli Army of the Six Day War which the world so admired?

I was still not allowed to go to the toilet, but was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.

The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to! By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 to 6 a.m.. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.

Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike. The jailers were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.

The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt. On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated. It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.

Charlie Andreasson@Andreasson_C

We failed, we never reached Gaza. Once again Israel showed its ugly face and by force boarded our ship on international waters and stole our private belongings like watches, money, credit cards, driving licenses, etc. Once again we got to know what it’s like to be Palestinians

At 6.30 a.m. 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help. We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate get their attention. They lied and said their doctor will be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 p.m., about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital.

Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest. We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”

Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given four cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried. Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other. She was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault. But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally. His job was to tell us that a tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear.

Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order. Shortly after that possibly at 6 p.m. since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben-Gurion airport immediately to wait there. It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014. I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.

When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that he his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his  ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?

Conclusion:

We, the six women on board al-Awda had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanize us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners. Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.

They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage. We know they would have preferred to kill us but of course the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel.

If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.

As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it. They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.

We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality. We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them. We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime. In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead seven Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with life bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only two to four hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years. The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by live fire from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 164 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women. The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza. As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.

BUT we will not stop, we must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians. As long as I survive I will exist to resist.  To do less will be a crime.

PIRACY … OVER AND OVER AGAIN … WESTERN SILENCE OVER AND OVER AGAIN

On Friday Israel attacked a Swedish yacht, in int’l waters exercising right of ‘innocent passage’ taking medical supplies to Gaza. All 12 people aboard kidnapped & illegally detained in Israel. Demand they be released to continue their journey.

Image by Latuff

Still little news of 12 people attacked & detained. Read account of 69yr old UK doctor, founder of re her similar experience when Israeli navy last week attacked . Their dehumanising experiences highlight what Palestinians face daily.

UPDATE ...

A second Gaza Flotilla boat named Freedom was hijacked by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) navy in international waters.  Freedom is sailing under a Swedish flag and its passengers and crew are from a number of nations. 

The whereabouts of the kidnapped participants is unknown.

Many boats in the past have been captured, however this should not be seen as normal. It is still violent and illegal. 

With your support the Freedom Flotilla will continue until the blockade ends and Palestinians of Gaza regain their full freedom of movement. Some people are doubling the size of their checks and sending them in for next year.

If you want to take action to protect the members of Freemom and future boats, you can contact the United Nations or the respective government officials from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States: https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/news/sos-just-future-for-palestine

 

Here’s an eyewitness account of the last hijacking …

The psychotic tenderness of being boarded by the Israeli navy at sea

 Yonatan Shapira

Yonatan Shapira was aboard the Al Awda boat in the Gaza Freedom flotilla when it was stopped in international waters by Israeli sailors three days ago and all on board arrested. His Facebook report in Hebrew was translated by Ofer Neiman, with the headline, “Israeli citizen and Palestine solidarity activist Yonatan Shapira on Israel’s dirty attack on the peaceful Gaza flotilla: יונתן שפירא מדווח מהמשט – עברית להלן” That translation follows.

So just as the IDF Spokesperson said: “The overtaking of the Al-Awda ship was carried out without violence and without exceptional events”.

And indeed, everything was as usual –

They slammed Herman the captain’s head against the wall again and again while threatening to take him to the ship’s belly and finish him off when no one is watching.

A fist in the face of Arne Birge the old mechanic.

And the finest tradition: Electric shocks. This time we wore life vests of the type that covers the chest well. But don’t worry, the brave naval commando combatants just electrocuted [Tasered] Charlie, the first officer, in his head. And more electric shocks to Juergen the cook and to 60 year old Mike, a chair of a trade union and a human rights activist from New Zealand.

But at the same time, things were done with a kind of psychotic tenderness.

Like in a strange play, soldiers (men and women) with weapons and vests packed with munitions and personal cameras, but wearing white shirts with the national flag embroidered in a shiny blue color and wearing white masks on their faces. Last time it was all-black.

And let’s keep in mind: Had we been Gazan fishermen or children approaching the Gaza fence, they could have simply put a bullet in the head of each of us and that’s it.

The IDF Attorney unit has also confirmed that that there’s no need for an investigation.

PHOTO OF THE DAY … ONLY IN GAZA

Family reunion 😦

PIRACY AND TORTURE

UNBELIEVABLE THAT THE WEST ALLOWS THIS TORTURE TO CONTINUE

 Many people on the Al Awda were beat up and tasered when the IDF fascists boarded the boat.  The doctor on board had 2 ribs broken.  This remains a very dangerous voyage taken by our brave allies out of love for the people of Gaza and love of justice.

Read the instructions at the end of this post to see what YOU can do.

 

last group photo sent from Al Awda (The Return).

Two people from Al Awda (The Return) have been released, but most of the crew and participants are still in unlawful detention at Givon prison in Israel. We are still gravely concerned for their safety and well-being as we had no contact with most of them as of 14:00 CESTtoday. We continue to demand that our boat and the medical supplies on board reach their rightful recipients, Palestinian civil society in Gaza.

Although the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) claim that the capture of our vessel happened ‘without exceptional incident’, eye-witness Zohar Chamberlain Regev reports that at the time of boarding: “People on board were tasered and hit by masked IOF soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.” We urgently need to know the details of who was injured and how seriously, and what treatment they are receiving, if any. A military attack on a civilian vessel is a violent act and a violation of international law. Taking 22 people from international waters to a country which is not their destination constitutes an act of kidnapping, which is also unlawful under the international Convention of the Law of Sea.

From the time we lost contact around 13:15 local time on Sunday, we know that the IOF blocked all communication signals, including satellite phones. We are very concerned about this violation of journalists’ right to report freely and we remain gravely concerned about their ability to keep their professional equipment and their storage media. As Australian journalist Chris Graham recently observed “Bad things happen when good people stay silent, as history well records. But horrendous things happen when media are prevented from scrutinizing the actions of a state.”

Two of our participants, Zohar Chamberlain Regev and Yonatan Shapira, Israeli citizens, have been charged with attempting to enter Gaza and conspiracy to commit a crime, and were released on bail last night.  Boat leader, Zohar Chamberlain Regev, reports seeing blood on the deck of the Al Awda as the last participants were being dragged off the ship.

In comparison with the violence routinely directed at Palestinian civilians, including at fishers from Gaza, and the violent capture of Palestinian fishing boats, yesterday’s seizure and kidnapping may not be the most serious of Israeli crimes. What these violents acts have in common is that there is no accountability demanded by other governments and Israel continues to enjoy total impunity.

We call on national governments, civil society and international organizations to demand that Israeli authorities immediately release our boat so that we can deliver our much-needed medical supplies on

Al Awda and the fishing boat itself to the rightful recipients in Gaza. Detailed specification of our exact cargo on board are available on request.

Israel’s capture of the lead boat in this Gaza-bound flotilla may seem like a predictable outcome to some, but that doesn’t make it any less violent nor any less illegal. Our second boat

Freedom will follow Al Awda within a day or two, and the Freedom Flotilla will continue until the blockade ends and Palestinians of Gaza regain their full freedom of movement.

Details about detainees still in prison, including their last videos and personal statements, can be found on our website and Facebook pages.

 

https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/news/2-released-but-most-participants-in-still-in-prison-grave-concern-for-safety-and-cargo

 also: https://www.facebook.com/FreedomFlotillaCoalition/posts/2089230181108643

and here: https://twitter.com/GazaFFlotilla/status/1023927626719748096

 

Call/email/tweet for release of US participant Joe Meadors

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State

Tel: +1 202 647 4000 (ask for Israel & Palestine desk, and American Citizen Services, and/or Operations Center

Email: pompeom@state.gov

Website: http://state.gov

Twitter: @SecPompeo

 

Also call:

US Embassy in Israel

U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

14 David Flusser

Jerusalem 9378322, Israel

Phone: 02-630-4000 (ask for Ambassador, American Citizen Services and/or Duty Officer)

@usembassyjlm

 

Branch Office Tel Aviv

71 HaYarkon Street

Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel

Phone: 03-519-7575 (ask for Ambassador, American Citizen Services and/or Duty Officer)

 

A MESSAGE FROM ROGER WATERS

No updates available yet on the fate of those ‘captured’ by the Israeli pirates

Gaza bound with cargo of medicine. Godspeed our hearts are with you.

You MUST join the protests to end the illegal siege on Gaza!

FINKELSTEIN’S THOUGHTS ON GAZA

The siege is not irrelevant to a legal determination of Israel’s right to use force—be it proportionate or disproportionate, moderate or excessive, lethal or nonlethal—to prevent demonstrators from breaching Gaza’s perimeter fence. 

The Gaza blockade is illegal– and so is the use of force to maintain it

*

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is among the leading guardians of human rights in the world. Sari Bashi is HRW’s Israel/Palestine Advocacy Director. She can lay claim to an impressive academic pedigree (BA, Yale; JD, Yale), and she co-founded the important Israeli human rights group Gisha. It thus cannot but depress that Bashi is so wanting in elementary moral and legal judgment when it comes to the people of Gaza.

Shortly after the Israeli massacre in Gaza on 14 May 2018, Bashi posted a commentary under the title, “Don’t Blame Hamas for the Gaza Bloodshed.”

Its essence is captured in the opening sentence: “Israel has a right to defend its borders, but shooting unarmed protesters who haven’t breached its frontier is disproportionate and illegal.” Insofar as the demonstrators didn’t pose an “imminent threat to life,” Bashi concludes, Israel had no right to use lethal force against them and, in any event, did not “exhaust” nonlethal means “such as tear gas, skunk water, and rubber-coated steel pellets” to throw back the assembled crowd.

The UN has pronounced Gaza unlivable, while Sara Roy of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies has written, “Innocent people, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink.” Is it not a tad unseemly, not to say unsettling, for the representative of a respected human rights organization to coach Israel how to stay within the letter of the law—before resorting to bullets, you must first try “tear gas, skunk water, and rubber-coated steel pellets”—while it’s herding two million people, half of them children, in an unlivable space in which they are slowly being poisoned?

To be sure, Bashi is not oblivious to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza caused by Israel’s blockade. But she makes out no legal nexus between the effects of the siege and Israel’s right to use force. Instead, she dwells on the apparently paradoxical outcome that whereas Israel imposed the blockade to weaken Hamas, it has in fact “helped Hamas grow in strength.”

But the siege is not irrelevant to a legal determination of Israel’s right to use force—be it proportionate or disproportionate, moderate or excessive, lethal or nonlethal—to prevent demonstrators from breaching Gaza’s perimeter fence. For brevity’s sake, I would want to touch here on one basic, uncontroversial point. (A forthcoming article by Jamie Stern-Weiner and this writer parses the more nuanced legal issues.)

It is a tenet of international law that no state can resort to forceful measures unless “peaceful means” have been exhausted (UN Charter, Article 2). This principle is as sacred to the rule of law as the analogous Hippocratic Oath, primum non nocere (first, do no harm), is to medicine. Now consider the situation in Gaza. Nearly all competent observers agree:

·      Israel has imposed an illegal blockade on Gaza;

·      The illegal blockade has created a humanitarian catastrophe;

·      The impetus behind the protests at the perimeter fence is the illegal blockade, and their objective is to end it.

It is to be noted that even Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu concedes the last bullet point. “They’re suffocating economically,” he observed, “and therefore they decided to crash into the fence.”

If Israel wants to protect its border, then it need not resort to either lethal or nonlethal coercion. It merely has to lift the siege. Israel’s refusal to take this preliminary peaceful step puts it in double breach of international law: the imposition of an illegal blockade and the unlawful resort to armed force when peaceful means have not been exhausted.

It is cause for wonder why Bashi doesn’t see that Israel’s resort to any force against Gaza demonstrators cannot be legally justified. It is cause for dismay that she counsels Israel to use nonlethal repression in order to corral Gaza’s inhabitants in a hellhole, instead of counseling it, not just as a matter of political expedience but also as a matter of law, to end the siege. If, by way of comparison, police repeatedly enter a man’s premises in flagrant violation of the law, the homeowner finally resists, and the police try to subdue him, would a human rights representative be advising the officers to use graduated force?

​Indeed, prior to Israel’s slated violent eviction/demolition of the Bedouin village Khan al-Amar in the West Bank, HRW itself did not recommend that the army first use “tear gas, skunk water, and rubber-coated steel pellets” but, on the contrary, bluntly warned Israel that such an act would constitute a “war crime.

Were the siege of Gaza lifted, it would put Israel on the right side of the law as it yielded the double dividend of enabling the people of Gaza to breathe and terminating the purported threat to Israel’s border. In other words, it would render all talk of force superfluous.

 

SUICIDE IS FINAL, YET THE CRISIS CONTINUES

 Until recently suicide in Gaza had been rare, partly due to Palestinian resilience and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Since 2016, suicide rates have been rising, reflecting rising levels of despair and hopelessness in the population.

Writer Mohannad Youis, 22, took his life in Gaza last year sparking outcry from friends and peer over the struggles young people who grew up under siege have endured, and mental health. (Image: Arab48)

How the death of a talented young Palestinian writer brought to light a sharp rise in suicides.

 Sarah Helm

When Mohanned Younis, a 22-year-old student, returned to his home in a relatively prosperous part of Gaza City one night last August, he was in an agitated state. He had been depressed, his mother, Asma, recalled. But she was not too worried when he locked himself in his room.

A talented writer whose short stories, many posted on his Facebook page, had won a wide audience, Mohanned was about to graduate in pharmacy, expecting excellent grades.In his writing, he gave voice to the grief and despair of his generation. Only books gave him some escape. He often shut himself away to read and write, or to work out with his punch bag.

The next morning, Mohanned didn’t stir. When Asma, helped by her brother Assad, broke into his room, they found him dead. He had asphyxiated himself.

Such was Mohanned’s social media following that news of his death reverberated across Gaza and beyond with a flood of shock, sadness and admiration. “He was a fighter who only had his sad stories to fight with,” was one of many comments posted on Facebook. But the very public mourning for the death of a talented young writer meant that Mohanned’s suicide was not just one more tragedy in a territory where thousands of young lives are cut short. Now it was impossible to deny what many had been whispering: the misery of the siege and despair for the future, especially among the most talented young Gazans, was leading to a disturbing upsurge in suicides.

Horrifying events in the Gaza buffer zone over the past week have focused world attention on the suffering and desperation of Gaza’s Palestinians, as tens of thousands have risked their lives to protest against their imprisonment behind Gaza’s fences and walls. Since the start of the Great March of Return, a series of protests that began at the end of March, more than 100 people have been killed, mostly by Israeli snipers ranged behind the perimeter fence.

Often it has looked as if these protesters were literally throwing themselves in front of Israeli bullets. In the early days of the protests, I spoke to young people on the buffer zone who said they didn’t care if they died. “We are dying in Gaza anyway. We might as well die being shot,” said a teenager, standing at the border near the city of Khan Younis. He was with friends who felt the same, including one who had already been shot in the leg, and was in a wheelchair.

If the world’s cameras were to move a little deeper into Gaza, into the streets and behind the doors of people’s homes, they would see the desperation in almost every home. After 10 years of siege, the 2 million people of Gaza, living packed on a tiny strip, find themselves without work, their economy killed off, without the bare essentials for decent life – electricity or running water – and without any hope of freedom, or any sign that their situation will change. The siege is fracturing minds, pushing the most vulnerable to suicide in numbers never seen before.

Until recently, suicide has been rare here, partly due to Palestinian resilience, acquired over 70 years of conflict, and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Only when suicide is an act of jihad are the dead considered martyrs who go to heaven; others go to hell.

In nearly three decades of reporting from Gaza, I almost never heard stories of suicide before 2016. At the start of that year, nine years into the full-blown siege, a British orthopaedic surgeon volunteering in Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital told me that she and her colleagues were seeing a number of unexplained injuries – which they believed had been caused by falling, or jumping, from tall buildings.

By the end of 2016, suicides were happening so often that the phenomenon had started to become public knowledge. Figures quoted by local journalists suggested the number of suicides in 2016 was at least three times the number in 2015. But according to Gaza’s health professionals, while figures cited in the media do indicate a substantial rise, they vastly underestimate the true rate. Suicides are “disguised” as falls or other accidents, and misreporting and censorship are common because of the stigma against suicide.

However, since 2016, there have also been a spate of self-immolations across Gaza, in which men set themselves alight for all to see.

“We didn’t have these catastrophic events 10 years ago,” said Dr Youssef Awadallah, a psychiatrist in Rafah, a city on Gaza’s border with Egypt. Mental health professionals and relatives of the deceased blame the effects of the siege, which they say is far more damaging to the wellbeing – mental and physical – of the population than successive wars have been. Doctors in Gaza are warning that the prolonged siege of the territory has caused a mental health “epidemic” of which the growing number of suicides is only one part – citing increases in schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction and depression. For the first time, UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, has started screening all primary healthcare patients for possible suicidal tendencies following what they describe as the “unprecedented increase” in deaths.

Men and women of all age groups, from all social backgrounds, are vulnerable to suicidal impulses, say doctors in Gaza. On a single day in March, a girl of 15 and a boy of 16 both hanged themselves. Among the dead are men who despair because they can’t support their families; women and children who are victims of abuse, often in situations of severe poverty and overcrowding; and even pregnant women, who say they don’t want to bring children into a life in Gaza. In April, a woman who was seven months pregnant slit her wrists.

Among the most vulnerable of all are Gaza’s brightest students, some of whom have killed themselves just before or after graduating. In March, while interviewing a bankrupt businessman in his home, I saw a photograph of a smart, bespectacled young man, prominently displayed – in such a way that I assumed he had been a “martyr”, someone killed in the conflict. But his portrait displayed none of the iconography associated with the martyr posters that are visible all over Gaza. I had a translator with me, and he recognised the picture: the businessman’s son had been one of his cleverest friends at university. “He hanged himself,” said the businessman. “He saw no future in Gaza.”

Months before the astonishing scenes of carnage accompanying the Great March of Return, the story of Mohanned Younis had drawn particular attention. This was not only because his writing, with its imaginative depictions of Gaza’s half-life, was admired – but because after his death, some began to describe him as martyr. His mother told me: “He is more than a martyr.”

Friends said he had fought the enemy with his pen, and had died a victim of the siege. On his death Mohanned also won warm praise for his courage and his writing from many of his social media fans, and even, in a eulogy, from the Palestinian minister of culture, Dr Ihab Bseiso. Bseiso, a member of the secular Palestinian Authority that holds power in the West Bank, appeared to imply he considered Mohanned a martyr, saying he had “no need to apologise for his early departure”. His stories would never be forgotten, he added: “You will remain one of the giants of our time, Mohanned”.

But this discussion of Mohanned’s “martyrdom” has spread fear in Gaza, particularly among parents who worry that their own children might do the same if they thought they could avoid hell. One father of two graduates told me: “We see our children through school and university, and they have worked hard and are eager to enter the world and get jobs and be normal – then nothing. If suicide is to be considered a ‘noble’ death, more might choose that way. It is very dangerous.”

Read more at the SOURCE

MUST WATCH DOCUMENTARY ON HOW I ESCAPED FROM THE WORLD’S LARGEST OPEN AIR PRISON

I recall my personal experience back in 2010 when I was stuck in Gaza unable to peruse my higher education in Spain due to continued closure on Gaza borders. Mind the Strip, is a documentary tracking my story as a student denied basic right to education and the struggle to reach my Spanish school after medical advocacy campaign.

I think of those who are still locked off in the open air prison, Gaza, unable to exercise the basic right to education.

“Mind the Strip” tells the story of Ayman Quader, a young Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. As a humanitarian worker, he decides to leave his country to study a master in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies in Spain. All his papers are ready: the student Visa, the acceptance letter from the University and even an scholarship.

Leaving the Gaza Strip, though, will be not easy. Stuck in a country under a horrible siege, Ayman will have to sort his way out.

ONE LEGGED MUNDIAL … A MUST WATCH BEFORE ISRAEL KICKS IT OFF THE NET

A new soccer team for amputees gives refugees in Gaza new hope.

‘SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY’ …. FOR SOME

Enjoy

Not so easy for some …..

Images by Carlos Latuff

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According to the country currently housing migrant children in cages, the body responsible for upholding international standards for human rights, the UN Human Rights Council, is no longer “worthy of its name.”

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