crimes against humanity


RAMALLAH: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Monday that a new Israeli military order that allows the country’s government to expel thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank is “a new Nakba for Palestinian people.”

Nakba means “catastrophe” in Arabic and is a term used by Palestinians to describe the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. “(It is) a new form of racism and part of the forced displacement Israel has committed against the Palestinian people,” a PLO statement said of the Israeli order.

The decision, in its earliest phase, would target Palestinians whose ID cards had been issued in the Gaza Strip. Foreign women married to Palestinians would also be deported later, according to Haaretz.

The order also allows Israeli authorities to deal with those affected as infiltrators, who then might face a detention sentence of up to seven years. “(The order aims to) torpedo the geographic and democratic continuity of the Palestinian people and to create the independent Palestinian state on isolated islands,” the PLO statement said.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “These military orders belong in an apartheid state. They make it infinitely easier for Israel to imprison and expel Palestinians from the West Bank.”

Human rights activists said on Sunday the new orders could make almost any Palestinian liable for expulsion from the occupied West Bank.

Ten Israeli rights groups condemned the orders, saying in a statement that the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have never been required to hold an Israeli-issued residency permit. “The military will be able to prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as an infiltrator in stark contradiction to the Geneva Convention,” the statement said. The groups said they feared the broad wording of the orders could enable the military to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged the international community to adopt “a clear stance on Israeli attempts to adopt a policy of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and to expel Palestinians from their homeland.”

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said: “For as long as this lasts, things will get worse and it will be more difficult to bring true peace” to the region, adding that the Arab League council would hold an “urgent meeting” on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Arab News

In 1948, 750 000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland. One hundred thousand of them fled to Lebanon. They live there now, in crowded refugee camps where disease runs rife. This documentary visits the camps. Survivors of Ariel Sharon’s Sabra and Shatilla camp massacre tell their story.

SABRA AND SHATILA

By Robert Fisk
Counter Currents

What we found inside the Palestinian camp at ten o’clock on the morning of September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to re-tell in the cold prose of a medical examination. There had been medical examinations before in Lebanon, but rarely on this scale and never overlooked by a regular, supposedly disciplined army. In the panic and hatred of battle, tens of thousands had been killed in this country. But these people, hundreds of them had been shot down unarmed. This was a mass killing, an incident – how easily we used the word “incident” in Lebanon – that was also an atrocity. It went beyond even what the Israelis would have in other circumstances called a terrorist activity. It was a war crime.

Jenkins and Tveit were so overwhelmed by what we found in Chatila that at first we were unable to register our own shock. Bill Foley of AP had come with us. All he could say as he walked round was “Jesus Christ” over and over again. We might have accepted evidence of a few murders; even dozens of bodies, killed in the heat of combat. But there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

Where were the murderers? Or to use the Israelis’ vocabulary, where were the “terrorists”? When we drove down to Chatila, we had seen the Israelis on the top of the apartments in the Avenue Camille Chamoun but they made no attempt to stop us. In fact, we had first been driven to the Bourj al-Barajneh camp because someone told us that there was a massacre there. All we saw was a Lebanese soldier chasing a car thief down a street. It was only when we were driving back past the entrance to Chatila that Jenkins decided to stop the car. “I don’t like this”, he said. “Where is everyone? What the f**k is that smell?”

Just inside the the southern entrance to the camp, there used to be a number of single-story, concrete walled houses. I had conducted many interviews in these hovels in the late 1970’s. When we walked across the muddy entrance to Chatila, we found that these buildings had been dynamited to the ground. There were cartridge cases across the main road. I saw several Israeli flare canisters, still attached to their tiny parachutes. Clouds of flies moved across the rubble, raiding parties with a nose for victory.

Down a laneway to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. Some had vivid crimson or black scars down the left side of their throats. One had been castrated, his trousers torn open and a settlement of flies throbbing over his torn intestines.

The eyes of these young men were all open. The youngest was only 12 or 13 years old. They were dressed in jeans and coloured shirts, the material absurdly tight over their flesh now that their bodies had begun to bloat in the heat. They had not been robbed. On one blackened wrist a Swiss watch recorded the correct time, the second hand still ticking round uselessly, expending the last energies of its dead owner.

On the other side of the main road, up a track through the debris, we found the bodies of five women and several children. The women were middle-aged and their corpses lay draped over a pile of rubble. One lay on her back, her dress torn open and the head of a little girl emerging from behind her. The girl had short dark curly hair, her eyes were staring at us and there was a frown on her face. She was dead.

Another child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain. One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror.

“…As we stood there, we heard a shout in Arabic from across the ruins. “They are coming back,” a man was screaming, So we ran in fear towards the road. I think, in retrospect, that it was probably anger that stopped us from leaving, for we now waited near the entrance to the camp to glimpse the faces of the men who were responsible for all of this. They must have been sent in here with Israeli permission. They must have been armed by the Israelis. Their handiwork had clearly been watched – closely observed – by the Israelis who were still watching us through their field-glasses.

When does a killing become an outrage? When does an atrocity become a massacre? Or, put another way, how many killings make a massacre? Thirty? A hundred? Three hundred? When is a massacre not a massacre? When the figures are too low? Or when the massacre is carried out by Israel’s friends rather than Israel’s enemies?

That, I suspected, was what this argument was about. If Syrian troops had crossed into Israel, surrounded a Kibbutz and allowed their Palestinian allies to slaughter the Jewish inhabitants, no Western news agency would waste its time afterwards arguing about whether or not it should be called a massacre.

But in Beirut, the victims were Palestinians. The guilty were certainly Christian militiamen – from which particular unit we were still unsure – but the Israelis were also guilty. If the Israelis had not taken part in the killings, they had certainly sent militia into the camp. They had trained them, given them uniforms, handed them US army rations and Israeli medical equipment. Then they had watched the murderers in the camps, they had given them military assistance – the Israeli airforce had dropped all those flares to help the men who were murdering the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila – and they had established military liason with the murderers in the camps.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding

“We thought it would be a matter of weeks, only until the fighting died down. Of course, we were never allowed to go home.” Nina Saah, Washington, DC

“My family’s farm of oranges, grapefruits and lemons, centuries old, was gone.” Darwish Addassi, Walnut Creek, California

“Those of us who left unwillingly in 1948 are plagued with painful nostalgia. My house in West Jerusalem is an Israeli nursery school now.” Inea Bushnaq, New York, New York

“The people of New Orleans woke up one morning to complete devastation and had to flee. The Nakba was our Hurricane Katrina.” Abe Fawal, Birmingham, Alabama

Sixty years ago, more than 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes and belongings, their farms and businesses, their towns and cities. Jewish militias seeking to create a state with a Jewish majority in Palestine, and later, the Israeli army, drove them out. Israel rapidly moved Jews into the newly-emptied Palestinian homes. Nakba means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and Palestinians refer to the destruction of their society and the takeover of their homeland as an-Nakba, “The Catastrophe.”

Ten Facts about the Nakba

1. The Nakba is a root cause of the Israeli/Palestinian problem.

It is marked on May 15, the day after Israel declared its independence in 1948.

2. This traumatic event created the Palestinian refugee crisis.

By the end of 1948, two-thirds of the Palestinian population was exiled. It is estimated that more than 50% were driven out under direct military assault. Others fled as news spread of massacres committed by Jewish militias in Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin and Tantura.

3. Jewish leaders saw “transfer” as an important step in the establishment of Israel.

Jewish leaders spoke openly of the need to use military clashes to expel as many Palestinians as possible before other Arab countries could come to their defense. The Haganah militia’s Plan Dalet was the blueprint for this ethnic cleansing. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” (See what other leading Israelis have said about transfer.)

4. Hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed.

Jewish forces depopulated more than 450 Palestinian towns and villages, most of which were demolished.

5. Palestinian property and belongings were simply taken.

The newly-established Israeli government confiscated refugee land and properties without respect to Palestinian rights or desires to return to their homes.

Israeli historian Tom Segev reported that: “Entire cities and hundreds of villages left empty were repopulated with new [Jewish] immigrants… Free people – Arabs – had gone into exile and become destitute refugees; destitute refugees – Jews – took the exiles’ places in the first step in their lives as free people. One group [Palestinians] lost all they had while the other [Jews] found everything they needed – tables, chairs, closets, pots, pans, plates, sometimes clothes, family albums, books radios, pets….

6. Some Palestinians stayed in what became Israel.

While most Palestinians were driven out, some remained in what became Israel. Although citizens of the new state, they were subject to Israeli military rule until 1966. Today, Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population. They have the right to vote and run for office, but more than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews. Nearly one-quarter of Israel’s Palestinians are “internally displaced” persons, unable to return to the homes and lands that were taken from them.

7. There are still millions of Palestinian refugees dispersed around the world.

Today, there are 4.4 million Palestinian refugees registered as such with the United Nations, and at least another estimated 1 million who are not so registered. Thus a majority of the Palestinian people, around 10 million persons, are refugees.

8. Refugees have internationally-recognized rights.

All refugees enjoy internationally-recognized rights to return to areas from which they have fled or were forced out, to receive compensation for damages, and to either regain their properties or receive compensation and support for voluntary resettlement. This right has been explicitly acknowledged in recent peace agreements in Cambodia, Rwanda, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Burundi, and Darfur. This right was affirmed for the Palestinians by the United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948. Israel, however, does not allow Palestinian refugees to return, although a Jew from anywhere in the world can settle in Israel.

9. Justly resolving refugee rights is essential to Middle East peace.

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians believes that refugee rights must be fulfilled for peace between Palestinians and Israelis to endure. And according to an August 2007 poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, nearly 70 percent believe that refugees should be allowed to return to “their original land”.

10. The Nakba has implications for Americans.

Israel’s ongoing denial of Palestinian rights – and unconditional U.S. financial and diplomatic support for Israel – fuels anti-American sentiment abroad. A 2002 Zogby poll, conducted in eight Arab countries showed that “the negative perception of the United States is based on American policies, not a dislike of the West.” The same poll showed that “the Palestinian issue was listed by many Arabs among the political issues that affect them most personally.” Resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue would undoubtedly improve America’s international image, by proving that the U.S. government supports the consistent application of international law.

MIDEAST: Peace Recedes as Israeli Settlements Expand
By Daniel Luban

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (IPS) – Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank increased sharply in 2008, despite Israel’s pledge at the beginning of the year to freeze all construction, according to a new report by an Israeli non-governmental organisation.

The report, released Wednesday by the group Peace Now, found that settlement construction in 2008 increased by almost 60 percent, including new construction both inside and outside of the security barrier and within illegal settlement outposts.

The Peace Now study was released on the same day that newly appointed U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell – a longtime critic of settlement construction – arrived in Israel. The increase in construction is expected to be a source of friction in Mitchell’s negotiations with Israeli leaders.

Critics warned that the increase in construction is likely to damage the already fragile prospects for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

“Every structure built in a settlement makes the two-state solution more difficult to achieve and further jeopardises Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic country,” said Debra DeLee, president of Peace Now’s sister organisation Americans for Peace Now.

The report found that at least 1,257 new structures were built in West Bank settlements in 2008, up sharply from 800 in 2007. This figure did not include the 261 new structures built in illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Nearly 40 percent of the new structures were built east of the security barrier, many of them extending deep into the West Bank.

And despite the Israeli government’s pledge to crack down on the illegal outposts, the study found that “not a single real outpost was evacuated”.

Additionally, the report found evidence that land confiscations were continuing to take place, contradicting the government’s stated policy.

Following the Annapolis peace conference in late 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to freeze settlement construction and remove some existing settlements.

In November 2008, he announced that the government would cut off funding for illegal outposts – thereby admitting that it had continued to fund them up to that point.

The Peace Now report found that the Israeli government had encouraged the increase in settlement construction both through active aid and through non-enforcement of its stated policies.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. envoy Mitchell arrived in Jerusalem and met with leaders including Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. He is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in Ramallah, and Likud party chief Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday.

Although preliminary reports indicated that the aftermath of the war in Gaza was the primary topic under discussion at Wednesday’s meetings, the settlements are expected to be a continued sticking point going forward.

Mitchell served an earlier stint as Middle East peace envoy in 2001, after which his committee released a report that was harshly critical of Israeli settlement policies.

The 2001 Mitchell report called on Israel to “freeze all settlement activity, including the ‘natural growth’ of existing settlements”. This call was taken up in the George W. Bush administration’s “road map” for the peace process, which formed the basis of the 2007 Annapolis conference.

Mitchell’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition for the peace process led many right-leaning pro-Israel groups in the U.S. to oppose his recent selection as peace envoy. Abraham Foxman, the influential head of the Anti-Defamation League, stated that he was “concerned” about Mitchell’s “meticulously even-handed” approach to the region.

Nevertheless, in the eight years since Mitchell’s initial report, his calls for a halt to the settlement project have become a mainstream consensus view.

Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon – who had been an original architect of the settlement project – both came to believe that it was likely to doom Israel if left unchecked.

Given the basic demographic trends, an Israeli state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza would soon have an Arab majority. This would force Israel to choose between becoming a secular and binational state with full political rights for all citizens, or an undemocratic state that denied full political rights to Arab residents.

It was partially this logic led Sharon to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and remove Israeli settlements there in 2005.

However, the challenge in the West Bank is much greater. There are now estimated to be over 285,000 settlers in the West Bank, many of them militantly opposed to a two-state solution. The Israeli government has generally paid lip service to the goal of curbing the West Bank settlers, but has been reluctant to crack down on them.

If Netanyahu becomes the next Israeli prime minister, as currently seems likely, he and Mitchell could be set to clash on the settlements issue.

Netanyahu has recently tacked to the centre on the issue, telling Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Sunday that a Likud-led government would build no new settlements.

However, Netanyahu said that he would continue to permit “natural growth” of existing settlements – a qualification that strips his promise of much of its meaning.

Israel has not officially created any new settlements in over a decade, instead ascribing all settlement construction to “natural growth”. It was this consideration that led both Mitchell’s 2001 report and Bush’s road map to explicitly forbid construction under the auspices of “natural growth”.

Gershom Gorenberg, author of “The Accidental Empire”, a 2007 history of the settlements, urged Mitchell to stand firm against Netanyahu in an open letter published Wednesday in The American Prospect.

Netanyahu’s position is a “con”, Gorenberg wrote. “You need to insist on [a full settlement freeze] publicly in the months ahead”.

At the moment, however, none of the leading candidates for prime minister appears to have much appetite to confront the settlers. How much pressure Mitchell and the Obama administration are willing to exert on the Israeli government to do so will be one of the first tests of the U.S.-Israel relationship in the months ahead.

Army rabbi ‘gave out hate leaflet to troops’
The Guardian

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Israeli army’s chief rabbinate gave soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip a booklet implying that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a “good attribute”.

The booklet, entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, was published especially for Operation Cast Lead, the devastating three-week campaign launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire against southern Israel. The publication draws on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Jewish fundamentalist Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem.

In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel.

In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians, according to Breaking the Silence, the group of Israeli ex-soldiers who disclosed its existence. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that “one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel”.

Breaking the Silence is calling for the firing of the chief military rabbi, Brigadier-General Avi Ronzki, over the booklet. The army had no comment on the matter yesterday.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the executive director of the Rabbis for Human Rights group, called the booklet “very worrisome”, adding “[this is] a minority position in Judaism that doesn’t understand the … necessity of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.”



The Israeli army has been urged to sack Rabbi Avi Ronzki over the booklet

Norman Finkelstein speaks on why Israel incinerated four hundred children in Gaza with white phosphorous. Highly recommended.

George Galloway, UK MP, speaking on “double standards so brazen that people are boiling”.

“This didn’t start on 27 December. It didn’t even start on 1967 when Sderot and other places were cleared. This started in this building… We are the authors of this tragedy.”

Sderot Built on Ashes of Ethnically Cleansed and Defaced Najd
Sderot was settled by Jews in 1951. According to Walid Khalidi in All That Remains, it along with the settlement of Or ha-Ner, founded in 1957, were established on the village lands of Najd, which means “elevated plain” in Arabic.

Najd’s Palestinian villagers, approximately 620 in 1945, were expelled on 13 May 1948, before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies entered Palestine. According to UN Resolution 194 and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, Section 2, the villagers of Najd have a right to return home to their personal property and to their native village.

Today, according to Khalidi, “some old trees grow” on the site of the village. It is “overgrown with cactuses and Christ’s thorn and sycamore trees and contans the crumbled walls of unidentified buildings….”

There were 82 houses in Najd. Children went to school in Simsim, two kilometers away. According to Palestine Remembered the village has been completely “defaced.”

In 1596 Najd’s population was 215.

In 1838, Edward Robinson, an American biblical scholar “observed the villagers winnowing barley by throwing it into the air against the wind with wooden forks” [Robinson (1841) III: 260 as quoted in Khalidi 128].

Najd’s villagers were mainly farmers and engaged in animal husbandry. “Fields of grain and fruit trees surrounded Najd on all sides.”

Najd is fourteen kilometers from Gaza. Palestinian Arabs own 12,669 dunums in Najd although Israel refuses to honor their rights to their personal property, and refuses them their inalienable right to return home. In 1945 Jews owned 495 dunums of land in Najd and public lands consisted of 412 dunums.

Najd is one of 418 ethnically cleansed villages by Zionist Jews that Dr. Khalidi includes in his seminal work. Khalidi dedicates his book:

To all those for whom these villages were home and to their descendants.

Khalidi, Walid, ed. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated By Israel in 1948. Institute for Palestine Studies: Washington, D.C., 1992.

Umkahlil

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