Source: normanfinkelstein.com

Israeli exports hit by European boycotts after attacks on Gaza
04.03.2009 | The Guardian

By Rachel Shabi

Israeli companies are feeling the impact of boycott moves in Europe, according to surveys, amid growing concern within the Israeli business sector over organised campaigns following the recent attack on Gaza.

Last week, the Israel Manufacturers Association reported that 21% of 90 local exporters who were questioned had felt a drop in demand due to boycotts, mostly from the UK and Scandinavian countries. Last month, a report from the Israel Export Institute reported that 10% of 400 polled exporters received order cancellation notices this year, because of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

“There is no doubt that a red light has been switched on,” Dan Katrivas, head of the foreign trade department at the Israel Manufacturers Association, told Maariv newspaper this week. “We are closely following what’s happening with exporters who are running into problems with boycotts.” He added that in Britain there exists “a special problem regarding the export of agricultural produce from Israel”.

The problem, said Katrivas, is in part the discussion in the UK over how to label goods that come from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last week British government officials met with food industry representatives to discuss the issue.

In recent months, the Israeli financial press has reported the impact of mounting calls to boycott goods from the Jewish state. Writing in the daily finance paper, the Marker, economics journalist Nehemia Stressler berated then trade and industry minister Eli Yishai for telling the Israeli army to “destroy one hundred homes” in Gaza for every rocket fired into Israel.

The minister, wrote Stressler, did not understand “how much the operation in Gaza is hurting the economy”.

Stressler added: “The horrific images on TV and the statements of politicians in Europe and Turkey are changing the behaviour of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice.”

He quoted a pepper grower who spoke of “a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe”.

In February, another article in the Marker, titled “Now heads are lowered as we wait for the storm to blow over”, reported that Israelis with major business interests in Turkey hoped to remain anonymous to avoid arousing the attention of pro-boycott groups.

The paper said that, while trade difficulties with Turkey during the Gaza assault received more media attention, Britain was in reality of greater concern.

Gil Erez, Israel’s commercial attache in London, told the paper: “Organisations are bombarding [British] retailers with letters, asking that they remove Israeli merchandise from the shelves.”

Finance journalists have reported that Israeli hi-tech, food and agribusiness companies suffered adverse consequences following Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza, and called for government intervention to protect businesses from a growing boycott.

However, analysts stressed that the impact of a boycott on local exporters was difficult to discern amidst a global economic crisis and that such effects could be exaggerated.

“If there was something serious, I would have heard about it,” said Avi Tempkin, from Globes, the Israeli business daily.

Israeli companies are thought to be wary of giving credence to boycott efforts by talking openly about their effect, preferring to resolve problems through diplomatic channels.

Consumer boycotts in Europe have targeted food produce such as Israeli oranges, avocados and herbs, while in Turkey the focus has been on agribusiness products such as pesticides and fertilisers.

The bulk of Israeli export is in components, especially hi-tech products such as Intel chips and flashcards for mobile phones. It is thought that the consumer goods targeted by boycott campaigns represent around 3% to 5% of the Israeli export economy.

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Fake Faith And Epic Crimes

By John Pilger

04 April, 2009
The New Statesman

These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves.”

That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves,” or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.

The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”

The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”

Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters.” He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”

This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.

Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter … I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”

Blair, too, is safe — but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges,” according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”

Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister — a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.

On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried.” He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?” This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?” In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction.” Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right.” He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.

Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour — in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”

With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion.” She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability …[sic]?” A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values.” Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was.” It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.

However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels.” She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?” Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible.” No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood.” The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated.” The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him.”

These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profananation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part — or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director,” offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some — might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”

These are indeed extraordinary times.

Israeli Apartheid Week 2009

Gaza war crime claims gather pace as more troops speak out

Peter Beaumont
The Observer, Sunday 22 March 2009

An investigation by a group of former Israeli soldiers has uncovered new evidence of the military’s conduct during the assault on Gaza two months ago. According to the group Breaking the Silence, the witness statements of the 15 soldiers who have come forward to describe their concerns over Operation Cast Lead appear to corroborate claims of random killings and vandalism carried out during the operation made by a separate group of anonymous servicemen during a seminar at a military college.

Although Breaking the Silence’s report is not due to be published for several months, the testimony it has received already suggests widespread abuses stemming from orders originating with the Israeli military chain of command.

“This is not a military that we recognise,” said Mikhael Manekin, one of the former soldiers involved with the group. “This is in a different category to things we have seen before. We have spoken to a lot of different people who served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy. So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having to restrain the orders given.”

Manekin described how soldiers had reported their units being specifically warned by officers not to discuss what they had seen and done in Gaza.

The outlines of the evidence gathered comes hard on the heels of the disclosure by the Oranim Academy’s pre-military course last week of devastating witness accounts supplied by soldiers involved in the fighting, including the “unjustified” shooting of civilians.

The claims appear to add credence to widespread claims of Israeli soldiers firing on civilians, made by Palestinians to journalists and international investigators and lawyers who entered Gaza at the end of the conflict and in its aftermath.

With Israeli newspapers threatening new disclosures, the New York Times has weighed in with an interview with a reservist describing the rules of engagement for the Gaza operation. Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old military reservist, told the newspaper that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training talks before his tank unit entered Gaza in January.

“Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences” was the message from commanders, said Marmor. Describing the behaviour of a lieutenant-colonel who briefed the troops, Marmor added: “His whole demeanour was extremely gung-ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said that in this operation, we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later.”

These are not the first allegations of war crimes levelled at the Israeli military. Last Thursday, the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk, said that the assault on Gaza appeared to be a “war crime of the greatest magnitude” and called on the UN to establish an experts’ group to investigate potential violations.

Attempts by the Israeli media to publish the rules of engagement for the Gaza campaign have been blocked by the military censor, but in the past couple of weeks the contents of those rules have begun to to emerge in anecdotal evidence – suggesting strongly that soldiers were told to avoid Israeli casualties at all costs by means of the massive use of firepower in a densely populated urban environment.

Worrying new questions have also been raised about the culture of the Israeli military, indicating a high level of dehumanisation and disregard for Palestinians among the chain of command and even among the military rabbinate.

An investigation by reporter Uri Blau, published on Friday in Haaretz, disclosed how Israeli soldiers were ordering T-shirts to mark the end of operations, featuring grotesque images including dead babies, mothers weeping by their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques.

Another T-shirt designed for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A shirt designed for the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion depicts a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills”.

The claims have sparked a bitter debate within Israel’s defence forces and wider society over the “morality” of the IDF and its behaviour in Gaza.

Since the first claims appeared, other Israeli media have run articles criticising the head of the military academy who revealed the soldiers’ testimony, while others have run interviews with soldiers denying that the IDF had been involved in any wrong-doing and questioning the motives of those who had come forward.

“I don’t believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill [Palestinians] for no reason,” 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger was quoted by Yedioth Aharonot. “What happened there was not enjoyable for anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians.”

Here is an account from Gaza written with tremendous eloquence and power.

Source: deafwalls.wordpress.com

By Reem S.

Dear all,

These are a fluff of thoughts that I have tried to put together. I am so horrified by what I see and hear each day here that I have reached a point of numbness and disbelief–disbelief that this is real and not just a horrible dream. I am awaiting to wake up from this dream and realize that the world is not as bad and as ugly as it seems now, here. I am awaiting to wake up and not feel guilty that maybe I can’t help change things here, that I can’t rebuild the destroyed homes and bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones in the most cruel ways. While I refuse to feel defeated, I am humbled and speechless at the downfall of mankind. Suffering has no limits, yet there are forces in this world that seek to find those limits and monopolize on them. If ever in the world I am close to experiencing the absolute farthest limits of suffering, where suffering can no longer be increased further, it is here, in Gaza. And maybe that is why the tears have dried up and I find myself on autopilot, listening, talking, writing but not processing. And maybe that is why I have found refuge in my camera. From behind the lens, I am allowed to be one step removed from this world that should not be the world and from this life that should not be life, not for a Palestinian, not for anyone. I hope to write more in the coming days and maybe through my writing, I will find understanding and meaning to this chaos here that I could have never fathomed.

———

I have not shed one tear since entering Gaza. I cannot explain this lack of emotionalism except for an anesthesia injected through complete shock. It is not so much the shock of the overwhelming devastation, but the shock of Israel’s cruelty and disrespect for humanity. It is the shock that an Israeli soldier could execute three daughters and paralyze the fourth in their father’s presence while two other Israeli soldiers watch and eat chocolates and chips. It is the shock that Israel can bomb UNRWA warehouses full of medicines, infant milk, and school supplies and then deny Palestinians access to thousands of tons of humanitarian aid at their borders at a time when Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. It is the shock of seeing the nurse at Al Shifa Hospital unwrap the bandages from twelve-year old Omar whose body has third degree burns from an exploded kerosene container used to provide warmth and fire since Omar has no electricity in his household. It is the shock of seeing four men drink tea on chairs riddled with bullet holes on top of the rubble that used to be their home three weeks prior. It is the shock of noticing last minute as a fire ignites from a clump of hidden white phosphorus and nearly burns the pants of my Palestinian tour guide as we unassumingly take pictures in an olive tree garden. It is the shock of realizing that life in Gaza is not a right, but a privilege, which can be and has been so often taken away at the whim of an Israeli bullet, missile, mortar, or shell. It is the shock that life and death have become one and the same in Gaza. For even for those who may have survived Israel’s recent offensive unscathed, their spirits have been decimated by the realization that they are trapped with no where to run and isolated from the rest of the world by Israel’s continued blockade which literally prevents the rebuilding of their shattered lives.

Yet I am not the only one who has been numbed by shock. This sense of shock resonates deeply in Gaza as people talk of loved ones who have been brutally executed as dispassionately as if they were press personnel reporting a story for the evening news.

Since writing that paragraph above, I have cried – once. Listening to Mohammad Kassab Khalil Shurrab, 64, describe how his two sons were killed in broken English, I felt that my heart was being wrenched from my chest. Even though I usually conduct my interviews in Arabic and translate into English for the other delegation members, Mohammad wanted to speak in English. He wanted to be understood by all and he wanted his story to be told in first person. Having been demonized and dehumanized his entire life, Mohammad wanted to give flesh and soul to his now-deceased sons. He wanted us to see them for what they really were – humans, indispensable humans.

As a tribute to Mohammad and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, I will recount his “story.” In my opinion, Mohammad’s story represents the tragedy of the loss of humanity when rhetoric and politics take precedence over co-existence and compassion. Yet tragically, Mohammad’s “story” is merely one of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of stories of individuals in Gaza who have lost so much for no reason at all. To this I ask, where is the accountability and justice?

It was January 15, 2009. Mohammad and his two sons, Kassab, 28, and Ibrahim, 18, were awaiting the temporary four-hour ceasefire to be announced by the IDF so that they could leave their farmhouse and go to their home in Khan Younis five kilometers away and spend Friday and Saturday with the rest of their family. The ceasefire was announced over the radio from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mohammad decided to leave after Friday prayer at noon to ensure that all the firing had halted. Driving down the asphalt road in his jeep, Mohammad and his two sons passed by two parked Israeli tanks. Nervously, he waved at them and waited for them to wave at him, granting him permission to continue down the road to his home. The soldiers waved their permission. Only two hundred meters after passing the tanks, Mohammad’s car was hit by heavy gunfire from Israeli soldiers standing in the building fifty meters in front of the car. Mohammad was shot in the arm and he fell to the floor of the car in order to avoid the dozens upon dozens of gunshots that came through the front and the side of the car. He yelled at his sons to duck and tried to maneuver the car. Unfortunately Mohammad rammed the car into a wall and the four soldiers at the gate of the building yelled in Arabic at the passengers to get out of the car. Kassab got out first. He stepped out, hands by his side, and was instantly executed, riddled by five bullets across his chest. Kassab staggered a few feet and fell face down onto the ground. At this point, both Mohammad and Ibrahim were yelling at the soldiers to stop shooting, that they were civilians, that this was still the ceasefire. Ibrahim got out of the car to see his brother. He was instantly shot in the thigh by a bullet. Mohammad, having seen both his sons shot before his eyes jumped out of the car. Already shot in the arm, Mohammad crouched to see Ibrahim who was heavily bleeding. Ibrahim cried in pain but the soldiers told him to shut up. They threatened to shoot both him and his father if he did not quiet.

Mohammad tried to call the ambulance but the soldiers threatened to kill them if he did. Neither Mohammad nor Ibrahim knew whether Kassab was still alive. After a few hours of lying on the ground with their hands to their heads, Mohammad demanded from the soldiers to provide them with medical aid. He was told to shut up or else get shot. The weather was slowly getting colder as the sun began to set. Ibrahim continued to cry in pain and Mohammad, although himself bleeding and cold, did not know what to do. At 5 p.m., Mohammad told the soldiers that he was going to call the ambulance and if they wanted to shoot him, they could go ahead and shoot. The European Hospital was only one kilometer away but the ambulance drivers could not come rescue Mohammad or Ibrahim. They had to receive clearance from the IDF and the IDF had not yet granted them clearance to make the one kilometer drive.

At 8 p.m., Ibrahim was slowly fading. Mohammad realized that he had to keep his son warm or else he would die. He told the soldiers that he was going to take his son into the car and if they wanted to shoot him they could. They had already taken away his most precious things in life – his sons – so what was the point of life after such a tremendous loss. Mohammad held Ibrahim in his good arm and helped him into the car. He took off his own coat and gave it to his son to stay warm despite shaking from the cold. Throughout the night, Mohammad continued to call the ambulance and plead with them to come rescue them. After 20 phone calls, Mohammad stopped calling. He told the ambulance his exact coordinates so that they could pick up their dead bleeding bodies whenever they eventually got the clearance from the IDF.

Before his last breath, Ibrahim asked his father about his arm injury and told him to stay strong. At 12:30 a.m., nearly twelve hours after being shot in the thigh, Ibrahim breathed his last. He had bled to death as his father watched, cried, and prayed. Only twelve hours prior, Mohammad was driving home with his two sons to unite his family. Now he lay cold, injured, and alone, with one son lying face down riddled with bullets a few meters from his car and the other son dead from a simple bullet wound to the thigh. At 11 a.m. the next morning, the IDF gave the ICRC clearance to allow the ambulance the one kilometer drive to pick up the two dead and one injured. After 22 hours, Mohammad was able to continue down the road he had initially started on, not to see his family, but rather to bury them.

In solidarity and peace,
reem

ishot2kills

Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques
IDF fashion 2009

By Uri Blau
Haaretz

(Also see Al Jazeera’s report)

The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, “We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill” were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan “Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!” had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

“It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town,” he explains. “The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.”

Does the design go to the commanders for approval?

The Givati soldier: “Usually the shirts undergo a selection process by some officer, but in this case, they were approved at the level of platoon sergeant. We ordered shirts for 30 soldiers and they were really into it, and everyone wanted several items and paid NIS 200 on average.”

What do you think of the slogan that was printed?

“I didn’t like it so much, but most of the soldiers wanted it.”

Many controversial shirts have been ordered by graduates of snipers courses, which bring together soldiers from various units. In 2006, soldiers from the “Carmon Team” course for elite-unit marksmen printed a shirt with a drawing of a knife-wielding Palestinian in the crosshairs of a gun sight, and the slogan, “You’ve got to run fast, run fast, run fast, before it’s all over.” Below is a drawing of Arab women weeping over a grave and the words: “And afterward they cry, and afterward they cry.” [The inscriptions are riffs on a popular song.] Another sniper’s shirt also features an Arab man in the crosshairs, and the announcement, “Everything is with the best of intentions.”

G., a soldier in an elite unit who has done a snipers course, explained that, “it’s a type of bonding process, and also it’s well known that anyone who is a sniper is messed up in the head. Our shirts have a lot of double entendres, for example: ‘Bad people with good aims.’ Every group that finishes a course puts out stuff like that.”

When are these shirts worn?

G. “These are shirts for around the house, for jogging, in the army. Not for going out. Sometimes people will ask you what it’s about.”

Of the shirt depicting a bull’s-eye on a pregnant woman, he said: “There are people who think it’s not right, and I think so as well, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I mean it’s not like someone is gonna go and shoot a pregnant woman.”

What is the idea behind the shirt from July 2007, which has an image of a child with the slogan “Smaller – harder!”?

“It’s a kid, so you’ve got a little more of a problem, morally, and also the target is smaller.”

Do your superiors approve the shirts before printing?

“Yes, although one time they rejected some shirt that was too extreme. I don’t remember what was on it.”

These shirts also seem pretty extreme. Why draw crosshairs over a child – do you shoot kids?

‘We came, we saw’

“As a sniper, you get a lot of extreme situations. You suddenly see a small boy who picks up a weapon and it’s up to you to decide whether to shoot. These shirts are half-facetious, bordering on the truth, and they reflect the extreme situations you might encounter. The one who-honest-to-God sees the target with his own eyes – that’s the sniper.”

Have you encountered a situation like that?

“Fortunately, not involving a kid, but involving a woman – yes. There was someone who wasn’t holding a weapon, but she was near a prohibited area and could have posed a threat.”

What did you do?

“I didn’t take it” (i.e., shoot).

You don’t regret that, I imagine.

“No. Whomever I had to shoot, I shot.”

A shirt printed up just this week for soldiers of the Lavi battalion, who spent three years in the West Bank, reads: “We came, we saw, we destroyed!” – alongside images of weapons, an angry soldier and a Palestinian village with a ruined mosque in the center.

A shirt printed after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza for Battalion 890 of the Paratroops depicts a King Kong-like soldier in a city under attack. The slogan is unambiguous: “If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!”

Y., a soldier/yeshiva student, designed the shirt. “You take whoever [in the unit] knows how to draw and then you give it to the commanders before printing,” he explained.

What is the soldier holding in his hand?

Y. “A mosque. Before I drew the shirt I had some misgivings, because I wanted it to be like King Kong, but not too monstrous. The one holding the mosque – I wanted him to have a more normal-looking face, so it wouldn’t look like an anti-Semitic cartoon. Some of the people who saw it told me, ‘Is that what you’ve got to show for the IDF? That it destroys homes?’ I can understand people who look at this from outside and see it that way, but I was in Gaza and they kept emphasizing that the object of the operation was to wreak destruction on the infrastructure, so that the price the Palestinians and the leadership pay will make them realize that it isn’t worth it for them to go on shooting. So that’s the idea of ‘we’re coming to destroy’ in the drawing.”

According to Y., most of these shirts are worn strictly in an army context, not in civilian life. “And within the army people look at it differently,” he added. “I don’t think I would walk down the street in this shirt, because it would draw fire. Even at my yeshiva I don’t think people would like it.”

Y. also came up with a design for the shirt his unit printed at the end of basic training. It shows a clenched fist shattering the symbol of the Paratroops Corps.

Where does the fist come from?

“It’s reminiscent of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane’s symbol. I borrowed it from an emblem for something in Russia, but basically it’s supposed to look like Kahane’s symbol, the one from ‘Kahane Was Right’ – it’s a sort of joke. Our company commander is kind of gung-ho.”

Was the shirt printed?

“Yes. It was a company shirt. We printed about 100 like that.”

This past January, the “Night Predators” demolitions platoon from Golani’s Battalion 13 ordered a T-shirt showing a Golani devil detonating a charge that destroys a mosque. An inscription above it says, “Only God forgives.”

One of the soldiers in the platoon downplays it: “It doesn’t mean much, it’s just a T-shirt from our platoon. It’s not a big deal. A friend of mine drew a picture and we made it into a shirt.”

What’s the idea behind “Only God forgives”?

The soldier: “It’s just a saying.”

No one had a problem with the fact that a mosque gets blown up in the picture?

“I don’t see what you’re getting at. I don’t like the way you’re going with this. Don’t take this somewhere you’re not supposed to, as though we hate Arabs.”

After Operation Cast Lead, soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a particularly graphic slogan. S., a soldier in the platoon that ordered the shirt, said the idea came from a similar shirt, printed after the Second Lebanon War, that featured Hassan Nasrallah instead of Haniyeh.

“They don’t okay things like that at the company level. It’s a shirt we put out just for the platoon,” S. explained.

What’s the problem with this shirt?

S.: “It bothers some people to see these things, from a religious standpoint …”

How did people who saw it respond?

“We don’t have that many Orthodox people in the platoon, so it wasn’t a problem. It’s just something the guys want to put out. It’s more for wearing around the house, and not within the companies, because it bothers people. The Orthodox mainly. The officers tell us it’s best not to wear shirts like this on the base.”

The sketches printed in recent years at the Adiv factory, one of the largest of its kind in the country, are arranged in drawers according to the names of the units placing the orders: Paratroops, Golani, air force, sharpshooters and so on. Each drawer contains hundreds of drawings, filed by year. Many of the prints are cartoons and slogans relating to life in the unit, or inside jokes that outsiders wouldn’t get (and might not care to, either), but a handful reflect particular aggressiveness, violence and vulgarity.

Print-shop manager Haim Yisrael, who has worked there since the early 1980s, said Adiv prints around 1,000 different patterns each month, with soldiers accounting for about half. Yisrael recalled that when he started out, there were hardly any orders from the army.

“The first ones to do it were from the Nahal brigade,” he said. “Later on other infantry units started printing up shirts, and nowadays any course with 15 participants prints up shirts.”

From time to time, officers complain. “Sometimes the soldiers do things that are inside jokes that only they get, and sometimes they do something foolish that they take to an extreme,” Yisrael explained. “There have been a few times when commanding officers called and said, ‘How can you print things like that for soldiers?’ For example, with shirts that trashed the Arabs too much. I told them it’s a private company, and I’m not interested in the content. I can print whatever I like. We’re neutral. There have always been some more extreme and some less so. It’s just that now more people are making shirts.”

Race to be unique

Evyatar Ben-Tzedef, a research associate at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism and former editor of the IDF publication Maarachot, said the phenomenon of custom-made T-shirts is a product of “the infantry’s insane race to be unique. I, for example, had only one shirt that I received after the Yom Kippur War. It said on it, ‘The School for Officers,’ and that was it. What happened since then is a product of the decision to assign every unit an emblem and a beret. After all, there used to be very few berets: black, red or green. This changed in the 1990s. [The shirts] developed because of the fact that for bonding purposes, each unit created something that was unique to it.

“These days the content on shirts is sometimes deplorable,” Ben-Tzedef explained. “It stems from the fact that profanity is very acceptable and normative in Israel, and that there is a lack of respect for human beings and their environment, which includes racism aimed in every direction.”

Yossi Kaufman, who moderates the army and defense forum on the Web site Fresh, served in the Armored Corps from 1996 to 1999. “I also drew shirts, and I remember the first one,” he said. “It had a small emblem on the front and some inside joke, like, ‘When we die, we’ll go to heaven, because we’ve already been through hell.'”

Kaufman has also been exposed to T-shirts of the sort described here. “I know there are shirts like these,” he says. “I’ve heard and also seen a little. These are not shirts that soldiers can wear in civilian life, because they would get stoned, nor at a battalion get-together, because the battalion commander would be pissed off. They wear them on very rare occasions. There’s all sorts of black humor stuff, mainly from snipers, such as, ‘Don’t bother running because you’ll die tired’ – with a drawing of a Palestinian boy, not a terrorist. There’s a Golani or Givati shirt of a soldier raping a girl, and underneath it says, ‘No virgins, no terror attacks.’ I laughed, but it was pretty awful. When I was asked once to draw things like that, I said it wasn’t appropriate.”

The IDF Spokesman’s Office comments on the phenomenon: “Military regulations do not apply to civilian clothing, including shirts produced at the end of basic training and various courses. The designs are printed at the soldiers’ private initiative, and on civilian shirts. The examples raised by Haaretz are not in keeping with the values of the IDF spirit, not representative of IDF life, and are in poor taste. Humor of this kind deserves every condemnation and excoriation. The IDF intends to take action for the immediate eradication of this phenomenon. To this end, it is emphasizing to commanding officers that it is appropriate, among other things, to take discretionary and disciplinary measures against those involved in acts of this sort.”

Shlomo Tzipori, a lieutenant colonel in the reserves and a lawyer specializing in martial law, said the army does bring soldiers up on charges for offenses that occur outside the base and during their free time. According to Tzipori, slogans that constitute an “insult to the army or to those in uniform” are grounds for court-martial, on charges of “shameful conduct” or “disciplinary infraction,” which are general clauses in judicial martial law.

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of “Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military,” said that the phenomenon is “part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront. I think that ever since the second intifada there has been a continual shift to the right. The pullout from Gaza and its outcome – the calm that never arrived – led to a further shift rightward.

“This tendency is most strikingly evident among soldiers who encounter various situations in the territories on a daily basis. There is less meticulousness than in the past, and increasing callousness. There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him.”

Could the printing of clothing be viewed also as a means of venting aggression?

Sasson-Levy: “No. I think it strengthens and stimulates aggression and legitimizes it. What disturbs me is that a shirt is something that has permanence. The soldiers later wear it in civilian life; their girlfriends wear it afterward. It is not a statement, but rather something physical that remains, that is out there in the world. Beyond that, I think the link made between sexist views and nationalist views, as in the ‘Screw Haniyeh’ shirt, is interesting. National chauvinism and gender chauvinism combine and strengthen one another. It establishes a masculinity shaped by violent aggression toward women and Arabs; a masculinity that considers it legitimate to speak in a crude and violent manner toward women and Arabs.”

Col. (res.) Ron Levy began his military service in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando force before the Six-Day War. He was the IDF’s chief psychologist, and headed the army’s mental health department in the 1980s.

Levy: “I’m familiar with things of this sort going back 40, 50 years, and each time they take a different form. Psychologically speaking, this is one of the ways in which soldiers project their anger, frustration and violence. It is a certain expression of things, which I call ‘below the belt.'”

Do you think this a good way to vent anger?

Levy: “It’s safe. But there are also things here that deviate from the norm, and you could say that whoever is creating these things has reached some level of normality. He gives expression to the fact that what is considered abnormal today might no longer be so tomorrow.”

Letting AP in on the Secret:
Israeli Strip Searches

Alison Weir
CounterPunch
July 29, 2008

http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/secret.html

On June 26th a young Palestinian photojournalist named Mohammed Omer was returning home from a triumphant European tour.

In London he had been awarded the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism – the youngest recipient ever and one of the few non-Britons ever to receive the prestigious prize.

In Greece he had been given the 2008 journalism award for courage by the Union of Greek Journalists and had been invited to speak before the Greek parliament.

In Britain, the Netherlands, Greece, and Sweden he had met with Parliament Members and been interviewed on major radio and TV stations.

In the US several years before, he had been named the first recipient of the New America Media’s Best Youth Voice award.

In an Israeli border facility he was violently strip searched at gunpoint, forced to do a grotesque sort of dance while completely naked, assaulted, taunted about his awards and his ethnicity, and finally, when Israeli officials feared he might have been fatally injured, taken by ambulance to a Palestinian hospital; if he died, it would not be while in Israeli custody.

As readers may have already guessed, Israel was not part of Omer’s speaking tour.

AP, in its over 60 reports from the region in the following week never mentioned any of this.

The reason Omer was even in ‘Israel’ (actually, an “immigration terminal” controlled by Israel on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank) is a simple one: He was simply trying to go from Jordan to his home in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is basically a large concentration camp to which Israel holds the keys. It is extremely difficult for Palestinians to get out. It is just as difficult to get back in.

Despite Omer’s journalism credentials (Gaza correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and IPS, stringer for AFP, occasionally appears on BBC, etc.) and despite being invited to receive an international award, Omer was only able to exit Gaza through the considerable efforts of Dutch diplomats.

When the 24-year-old journalist tried to return to Gaza, it again required intercession by the Dutch Embassy. After being forced by Israel to wait in Jordan for five days (and therefore missing his brother’s wedding), Omer finally received word that he would be allowed to go home.

However, when he arrived at the Israeli immigration terminal, an Israel official told him that there was no entry permit for him in the computer and he was told to wait. Three hours later an official came out and took Omer’s cell phone away from him. While Omer’s Dutch Embassy escort waited outside, unaware of what was going on, Omer’s ordeal began.

“He then asked me to leave my belongings and follow him. I recognized we were entering the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security service] offices at Allenby. Upon entering, he motioned for me to sit in a chair within a closed corridor…

“After what seemed to be one hour and thirty minutes, both doors at the end of the corridor opened. I watched as one of the Palestinian passengers exited securing his belt to his trousers. A second man followed behind and was struggling to put on his T-shirt. Immediately I realized I was not in a good place. The rooms from which they exited must be used for strip searching…”1

A uniformed intelligence officer and two others began rifling through all of Omer’s possessions.

“They were looking for something specific but I wouldn’t know what until green eyes demanded, ‘Where is the money, Mohammed?’

“What money I thought. Of course I had money on me. I was traveling… For a moment I was relieved, thinking this was just a typical shakedown. I’d lose the cash with me, but that would be about it…

“However, my traveling money failed to suffice. Dissatisfied, he pressed, ‘Where is the money from the prize?’

“I realized he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn Prize from the UK and I told him I did not have it with me. I’d arranged for a bank transfer rather than carry it with me. Visibly irritated the intelligence agent continued to press for money.

“The room filled with more intelligence officers, bringing the total Israeli personnel, most well armed, in the room to eight: eight Israelis and me…

“Dissatisfied that larger sums of money failed to materialize, green eyes accused me of lying. I again repeated the prize money went to bank draft and I already had shown him all the cash I had on me. Avi interjected, ordering me to empty my pockets, which I already had. Seeing they had tapped out, he escorted me into another room, this one empty.

“’OK take off your clothes’ Avi the intelligence officer ordered.

“I asked why. A simple pat-down would have disclosed any money belts or weapons; besides, I had already gone through an x-ray machine before entering the passport holding area.

“He repeated the order.

“Removing all but my underwear, I stood before Avi. In an increasingly belligerent tone he ordered, ‘take off everything’.

“’I am not taking off my underwear,’ I stated. Again he ordered me to remove my underwear.

“At this point I informed him that an escort from the Dutch embassy was currently waiting for me on the other side of the interrogation center and that I was under diplomatic transit.

“He replied he knew that, thus indicating he didn’t care, and again insisted I strip. Again I refused. There was no reason for me to do so.”

Omer asked: ‘Why are you treating me this way? I am human being.’

“For a moment I flashed on the scene in the Oscar winning film, The Pianist where the Jewish man, being humiliated by a Nazi quoted Shakespeare, invoking his faith in place of written words, ‘Doth a Jew not have eyes?’ the old man queried, attempting to appeal to the humanity buried somewhere in the soul of his oppressor. Finding myself confronting the same racism and disdain I wanted to ask Avi, ‘Doth a Palestinian not have eyes?’

Like the Nazi, would his indoctrination inoculate him from empathy as well? Likely, I reasoned, it would.

“Avi smirked, half chuckling as he informed me, ‘This is nothing compared to what you will see now.’

“With that the intelligence officer unholstered his weapon, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. Completely naked, I stood before him as he proceeded to feel me up one side and down the other…

“Avi then proceeded to demand I do a concocted sort of dance, ordering me to move to the right and the side. When I refused, he forced me under his own power to move side to side…”

After awhile Omer was allowed to put his clothes back on, but the interrogation continued. His eight, mostly armed interrogators taunted him over his awards, his appearance on BBC, and the misery he was returning to in what they termed “dirty” Gaza. Finally, after hours in Israeli custody and a total of 12 hours without food or water, Omer collapsed.

“….without warning I began to vomit all over the room. At the same time I felt my legs buckled from the strain of standing and I passed out… I awoke on the floor to someone screaming, repeating my name over and over…

“As he screamed in my ears I felt his fingernails puncturing my skin, gouging, scraping and clawing at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. This was the intelligence officer’s method for gauging my level of consciousness. No smelling salts as is the civilized manner for reviving a person. Clawing at my eyes and tearing the skin on my face proved his manner of rendering aid.

“Realizing I was again conscious, though barely, the Israeli broadened his assault, scooping my head and digging his nails in near the auditory nerves between my head and ear drum. Rather than render first aid, which is the protocol and international law in instances whether prisoners of war or civilians, the soldier broadened his assault. The pain became sharper as he dug his nails, two fingers at a time into my neck, grazing my carotid artery and again challenging my consciousness before pummeling my chest with his full weight and strength.

“I estimate I lay on the floor approximately one hour and twenty minutes and I continued to vomit for what seemed like a half hour. Severely dehydrated, focusing took flight and the room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror. The stench further exasperated and seemed to inflame my captors further…

“All around me I heard Israeli voices and then one placed his combat boot on my neck pressing into the hard floor. I remember choking, feeling the outline of his shoe and in my increasing delirium thought for a moment perhaps someone was rendering aid. Reality destroyed that hope. Around me, like men watching a sporting match I heard laughing and goading, a gang rape of verbal and physical violence meted by men entrenched in hatred and rage… I again lost consciousness and awoke to find myself being dragged by my feet on my back through my vomit on the floor, my head bouncing on the pavement and body sweeping to-and-fro like a mop…”

Eventually, Omer was transferred to a Palestinian hospital, but only after Israeli officials tried to force him to sign a paper absolving them from responsibility.

“In other words, if I died or was permanently disabled as a result of Israel’s actions, Israel could not be held accountable. One would think I was in a third world dictatorship rather than the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’. One would think.”

Where is AP?

One would also think that such treatment of a journalist by America’s “special ally” would be news.

Since journalists tend to be particularly concerned when fellow journalists are victimized, it would be expected that Omer’s abuse would receive considerable press attention – especially since he had just received international recognition from the journalism community. One can only imagine the multitude of headlines that would result if an Israeli journalist, perhaps even one who had not just been feted internationally, had been similarly treated by the Palestinian Authority.

Oddly, however, despite the fact that Reuters, BBC, the UK Guardian, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, and others issued news reports, the Associated Press, which serves virtually every daily newspaper in the U.S., sent out nothing on it.

Astounded, I finally phoned AP headquarters in New York to find out how they had missed it.

I asked for the international desk, told them I had a news tip, and briefly described the incident. I was told, “Oh yes, we know about it.”

I asked them when they were going to report it and was told: “The Jerusalem bureau is looking into it.” The Jerusalem bureau is located in Israel; many of its editors and their wives/husbands/children have Israeli citizenship. It is not the most unbiased of bureaus. Yet, it is the control bureau for the region – the filter through which virtually all AP reports, photos, video footage from Palestine and Israel must pass.

A day or two later there was still no story. I phoned the international desk in New York again and was told that the Jerusalem bureau had decided not to cover the incident. There was no explanation.

I tried phoning higher-ups, including CEO Tom Curley, who goes about the country lecturing about the “public’s right to know” and Kathleen Carroll, Executive Editor, to learn on what basis AP had determined this incident was not newsworthy. Neither returned my call. I kept trying, hoping to find somewhere in the AP hierarchy at least a semblance of a journalist committed to AP’s alleged mission of reporting the news “accurately and honestly.”

Finally, I found one. I reached the managing editor in charge of international reporting, and asked him why AP was refusing to cover the case of a prize-winning journalist being strip searched at gunpoint and physically abused by Israeli officials when he returned to Gaza from receiving the Martha Gellhorn award in London.

The editor admitted that he hadn’t heard of the incident and was interested in the details. I told him what I knew, referred him to the UK Guardian article and others, and he said he’d look into it.

As a result, two weeks after Omer’s ordeal, and after Israel had solidified its denial narrative, AP finally sent out a report.

The belated story, datelined Jerusalem and carrying a byline by Karin Laub, left a great deal to be desired.

It depicted the incident as a “he said/she said” dispute, in which it termed Omer’s statements as “claims,” while never using this verb for Israeli statements. In every case Israeli statements are placed in the rebuttal position.

The lengthy article places Omer’s strongest descriptions in the second half of the story, where they would typically be cut by the averaged-sized print newspaper, and leaves out a great deal of important information.

For example, while AP reports that Omer was discharged from one hospital, it neglects to report that Omer was admitted to a second one where he was hospitalized for four or five days. It does not name the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, neglects any mention of other awards, and omits entirely Omer’s meetings with Parliament Members in multiple countries. It fails to report the statement by the former ambassador from The Netherlands:

“This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life … I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.”

The international organization Reporters Without Borders reported issued a condemnation of the attack, stating that in the ten days preceding Omer’s incident alone, it had recorded five incidents of “wrongful arrest” of journalists by Israel, and that one journalist was still being held. None of this was in Laub’s article.

All of the missing material, of course, would serve to add credibility to Omer’s statements. Perhaps this pattern of omission was a coincidence.

Early in the story, while admitting that Palestinians complain about “rough” treatment at the border (a considerable understatement), Laub seems to go out of her way to discredit Omer’s description of being forcibly strip searched, by writing: “However, Omer’s allegation of being forced to strip naked appeared unusual.”

The Strip Searching “Secret”

This is a bizarre statement.

As Dion Nissenbaum, Jerusalem bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, wrote last year, “While Israeli security won’t admit it, it is a widely accepted secret that Palestinians and Arabs…are routinely subjected to intense, hours-long questioning that can include strip searches.”

Is it possible that AP is not in on this secret?

The reality is that frequent, random humiliation by Israeli soldiers and officials is part of the Palestinian experience. Numerous degrading strip searches – some of them particularly grotesque – have been forced on Palestinian men, women, and children of all ages for decades.

In addition, Israeli officials periodically strip search others whenever, it appears, they wish, including:

  • The British Consul General (Israeli media reported that her search was “prolonged, needless and humiliating” and that she was “visibly upset);2
  • An American holocaust survivor (she was treated to a “cavity search”);3
  • Sixteen Christian evangelicals rounded up at gunpoint;4
  • Journalists from around the world (an Argentinian journalist wrote: “… they made me go to another office and strip naked. An official came in stands next to me, while I’m naked, with a machine gun in his hand…”5 A Swiss reporter was forced to remove her pants in public and stand in her underwear, hands raised, in front of an x-ray machine);6
  • A wheel-chair bound New Jersey woman with cerebral palsy whose sanitary pad was confiscated, humiliating her publicly;7
  • An American doctoral student, who was also subjected to a cavity search… and the list goes on and on.8

(more…)