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Podcast: Under siege, Palestinian refugees endure typhoid, famine and ISIS-inspired assassinations

The population of the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk, on the southern outskirts of Damascus, was once around 200,000 people. A brutal siege by the Syrian regime and an occupation by fighters from the al Qaida arm in Syria and the Islamic State dramatically reduced that number to 18,000 in March. Now, it is somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 people, according to journalist Patrick Strickland.

Yarmouk is one of 13 Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. These are camps with people who are prohibited from returning to Israel because of the ongoing military occupation. As a result, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war are finding themselves in camps terrorized by ISIS-sympathizing militants and al Qaida-sympathizing militants.

Refugees struggle to find food, even stray animals they can eat. Families risk contracting typhoid as outbreaks occur. Palestinian leaders in the camps face an ongoing threat of assassination from militants, who have invaded the camps.

As Strickland describes, Palestinians are caught in the crossfire. This is kind of the story of Palestinians—their lives and futures perpetually in someone else’s hands.

This week on “Unauthorized Disclosure,” Strickland, who is an independent journalist and contributor to The Electronic Intifada and Al Jazeera English, talks to us from Beirut, Lebanon. He discusses his reporting on the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, a Palestinian refugee camp which has been under siege. He talks to us about the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. Strickland also describes how ISIS and Nusra are taking over some of these refugee camps.

In the second half, during the discussion part of the show, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola highlight the refugee crisis in Europe and, separately, how President Barack Obama’s administration has fought to continue detaining refugee mothers and children from Central America. We also talk about North Dakota becoming the first state, where drones can be weaponized with tear gas or tasers, the FBI setting up a cell phone surveillance system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the latest appalling aspects of the Obama administration’s effort to keep a gravely ill Guantanamo prisoner detained indefinitely.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Below are some highlights from this week’s interview with Patrick Strickland:

—”Yarmouk was thrust back into the media again about a week and a half ago when the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, first got access to Yalda—it’s in southern Damascus—for the first time since I believe June 8. UNRWA hasn’t had access to the actual camp, and residents who are still in the camp since March 27, that was shortly before the Islamic State militant group occupied large swaths of that camp. Somewhere around 90% of the camp they controlled for a while until most of its fighters withdrew, but they still do maintain a presence there. And to make all of that worse, that all just comes on the heels of a very long siege imposed on the camp by the government of Bashar al Assad and his military forces, which has pushed many Palestinians basically to the brink of starvation and past.”

—”About a year and a half ago or two years, we first heard reports that Palestinians were resorting to eating stray animals and whatever they could get their hands on, as there was no food or medicine coming into the camp. And now, we’ve heard that they’ve been eating grass and other things as food doesn’t make it into the camp. Nothing makes it into the camp without the approval of the Syrian regime. So, now, what you have is a situation in which where they’re stuck between a brutal regime, which is attacking people across the country—not just Palestinians, Syrians as well obviously. More than 240,000 [are] dead so far. But also, on the other side, you have groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra, which is the Syrian arm of al Qaida which controls an entrance to the camp and large parts of the camp.”

—”Most recently, the camp was hit by a typhoid outbreak, and within a matter of a week, the number of cases tripled. The last number is something like 11 in the first day, but then it went up to over 50 within a couple days. Yet again, you have a situation where people are totally stuck without access to humanitarian aid. The UN can do very, very little to help. They are only able to help people in Yalda, which is not actually in the camp.”

—”In Lebanon, compared to the way the Palestinian refugee camps were in Syria before, it’s comparably worse. Palestinians here are banned from at least 70 professions, are largely forced to work menial labor, like the under-the-table labor (stuff like construction). They’re banned from studying certain subjects. They’re totally restricted in every way. Some of the camps, not all of them but some of them, are closed camps, like I’m at Ain al-Hilweh, which means there are checkpoints all around the camp controlled by the Lebanese military. If you want to come and go, it’s all at the whim of the soldier at the checkpoint—not unlike the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

—”Today, what you have in Ain al-Hilweh…there’s been very intense fighting there between various Palestinian factions, who make up the Palestinian Joint Security Force and that includes Fatah, Hamas, some leftist factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Palestine, the Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine and then various other parties as well that are smaller in movements. And then, on the other side, you have Jund al-Shem (Soldiers of the Levant), who are a Salafist group that have been at war with many of the secular and nationalist groups in the camp for years now and have launched a campaign of assassinations against Palestinian political leaders, activists, and civil society leaders in the camp.” (More background from Strickland can be found here.)

—”All of the noise that happens in the media whenever there’s something that happens to Palestinian refugees—Nobody ever mentions the one real solution. They talk about humanitarian solutions. They never mention the one real solution, which is that Palestinians would never be in this situation if they were allowed to go back to their homes in historical Palestine where they’ve been evicted by the Israeli occupation since 1948. Of course, that’s enshrined in international law and so it’s a pretty simple solution.”

Right-wing extremists plotting violent attacks on US Muslims, FBI warns

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

Militia extremists inspired by right-wing conspiracy theories are starting to target American Muslims, a leaked intelligence bulletin from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) counterterrorism division reveals.

Many of the extremists take inspiration from pro-Israel zealots.

In one recently uncovered plot, a Christian minister and former congressional candidate planned to launch a military-style attack on a Muslim community in upstate New York.

The FBI document, originally sent to US law enforcement agencies on 28 May, was published last week by Public Intelligence.

The warning is a reminder of the rising danger posed by right-wing extremists, which, contrary to popular perceptions, far eclipses the threat from Islamic extremists.

The militia movement has traditionally directed its violent activities toward government and police.

But this is changing.

“Militia extremists are expanding their target sets to include Muslims and Islamic religious institutions in the United States,” the FBI bulletin warns. “This has resulted in increased violent rhetoric and plotting and has the potential to lead, over the long term, to additional harassment of or violence against Muslims by domestic extremists.”

Among the disturbing examples the FBI cites, the most shocking occurred in Mississippi last September, where extremists “discussed kidnapping and beheading a Muslim and posting video of the attack to the Internet.”

The group disbanded before acting on their plans.

Ironically, the FBI concludes that the targeting of Muslims by militias “is a product of ideology that views Muslims collectively with suspicion” – precisely the same ideology underpinning the FBI’s surveillance and entrapment programs aimed at Muslims.

This raises questions about whether an institution that targets Muslim communities is capable of simultaneously protecting them.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment from The Electronic Intifada.

Funding hate

According to the memo, pervasive disinformation about Muslims and Islam is a product of conspiracy theories that have been “repeated over the course of a decade by self-appointed watchdogs of Islamic extremism, Internet bloggers and some news media.”

Some of the sources the FBI cites are the homophobic anti-Muslim hate group Christian Action Network, anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller and a host of right-wing media outlets, including World Net Daily, Fox News, Western JournalismPatriot News Wire and The Blaze.

Geller’s inclusion in the FBI report is notable given her key role in what the Center for American Progress(CAP), a liberal think tank, has labeled the Islamophobia network.

The top eight of the network’s wealthy pro-Israel donors poured some $57 million into anti-Muslim organizations between 2001 and 2012, according to CAP.

comprehensive accounting of the Islamophobia industry by the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR) identified “at least 37 groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.”

Between 2008 and 2011, these groups received a staggering $120 million in revenue and directly lobbied for anti-Muslim legislation in states across the country, according to CAIR.

Geller has raked in millions of these dollars for her American Freedom Defense Initiative, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

“We will cut them to shreds”

Such incitement to hatred has dangerous consequences.

Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011 supposedly to halt the “Islamization” of Europe, cited Geller’s anti-Muslim propaganda a dozen times in his manifesto justifying his mass killing.

In May, Robert Doggart, a Christian minister and former candidate for congress in Tennessee, was indicted for plotting an armed attack on a predominantly African American Muslim community in upstate New York that has been the target of wild conspiracy theories hatched by the anti-Muslim, pro-Israel Clarion Project and disseminated by Fox News.

Doggart planned to assemble a group of gunmen to attack the community with assault rifles, explosives and even a machete.

“If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” Doggart allegedly said on a call intercepted by the FBI.

Trickle-down hate

Jon Ritzheimer, a former US marine turned anti-Muslim agitator, made headlines the same month for organizing an armed protest outside the Islamic Cultural Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

He framed the rally as retaliation for an attempted attack by two ISIS sympathizers on a Muhammad drawing contest organized by Geller in Garland, Texas.

Ritzheimer has since posted several popular videos to Facebook explicitly calling for violence against Muslims and advising his followers to “Be ready for vengeance and be ready to drink beer from the skulls of our enemy.”

“I am the Infidel Allah warned you about!” he added.

This increasingly violent rhetoric is a direct result of right-wing individuals and organizations capitalizing on anti-Muslim hate, says Imraan Siddiqi, chair of CAIR’s Arizona chapter.

“It’s a whole ecosystem of money being poured into these groups and then it trickles down,” Siddiqi told The Electronic Intifada.

Guns and Islamophobia

The National Rifle Association’s national convention in April, for instance, featured a seminar promoting the conspiracy theory that Muslim extremists are seizing control of US territory to establish no-go zones.

Meanwhile, at least five gun stores across the US have declared themselves “Muslim-free zones” in recent months.

Last week, a gun store in Florida joined forces with George Zimmerman, the vigilante who shot dead unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Zimmerman is selling prints of his painting of the Confederate flag to raise funds for legal fees to fight a lawsuit filed by CAIR against the store’s discriminatory “Muslim-free” policy.

“This is the intersection of gun culture and anti-Islam sentiment converging in one place,” Siddiqi said. “It’s basically riling up the base of gun owners.”

Wrapped in an Israeli flag

Extremist support for Israel also trickles down.

Like the funders of the Islamophobia network, those agitating against Muslims tend to identify strongly with Israel.

On the first day of classes, Monday, at the country’s first ever Arabic-language immersion public school in Houston, Texas, teachers and students were met with angry protesters waving American and Israeli flags.

Some held signs that read, “Everything I ever cared to know about Islam was taught to me by Muslims on 9–11–2001” and “Qatar out of my school.”

“No Arabic should be taught to children in school,” one protestor called out.

On 29 January, when citizens from across Texas gathered in Austin to meet with lawmakers during the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day, they were met with anti-Islam protesters waving Texas and Israeli flags and signs that read “Radical Islam is the new Nazi” and “Go home and take Obama with you.”

Israeli flags also regularly appear at right-wing rallies in Europe.

A matter of time

Mark Potok, editor-in-chief of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, told The Electronic Intifada that there is a pattern of right-wing extremists shifting their focus against Islam, particularly as the Islamophobia network exploits the rise of the brutish Islamic State, or ISIS, to stereotype all Muslims.

“It’s very clear that American religious right organizations are increasingly on the attack with respect to Islam,” Potok said.

He cited groups like the American Family Association that have specialized in anti-LGBT rhetoric. “Those organizations over the last year or so have moved heavily into propaganda against Muslims.”

Yet the US government has done shockingly little to counter right-wing extremism, instead devoting its resources almost exclusively to Islamic extremism.

At the same time, politicians, particularly Republicans, have pushed some of the most extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric into the mainstream.

“We’re seeing right-wing officials across America at the state and national level demonizing Islam and there’s very little pushback from government officials,” CAIR’s national communications director Ibrahim Hooper told The Electronic Intifada.

“It’s an extremely worrying situation,” SPLC’s Potok added. “We’ve already seen in the last year or so a major arson at an Islamic complex in Houston and I think it is very likely we will see worse.”

As right-wing militias train their sights at Muslim communities with little government resistance, concern is rising that it is only a matter of time before someone pulls the trigger.

Podcast: Growing anti-Muslim racism and hysteria in the United States

The United States has experienced a spike in anti-Muslim racism and threatened violence against American Muslims in the past months. Much of the escalation has taken place in the aftermath of a shooting in Garland, Texas, at a Prophet Muhammad drawing contest.

In Phoenix, Arizona, a white supremacist named Jon Ritzheimer planned a “Draw Muhammad” contest after the shooting and mobilized a biker gang for a rally outside the city’s mosque. Those in attendance were encouraged to exercise their Second Amendment rights and bear arms to protect their First Amendment rights.

The mosque has received letters containing threats in the past months and have worked with the FBI and local police to protect worshipers from any violence. Most recently, Ritzheimer threatened to take a stand at a Louis Farrakhan event planned for the fall, saying, “The likelihood for blood will be high.”

This week on “Unauthorized Disclosure,” Imraan Siddiqi, the chairman of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) who is based in Phoenix, joins the show to talk about anti-Muslim hysteria and racism in the United States. We talk about his experience fending off Ritzheimer’s hate-filled protests and threats of violence directed at Muslims in his community. We discuss a released May bulletin from the FBI warning militia extremists are increasingly targeting Muslims. We highlight how rhetoric promoting fear against Muslims spreads in this country.

In the second half, we continue our interview with Siddiqi by talking about white men attempting to frame American Muslims for terrorist plots by faking the plots themselves. We highlight a case in New York involving a KKK man, who wanted to build a death-ray machine to kill Muslims and essentially was entrapped by the FBI. The rest of the episode is spent talking about mosques in the United States and what it is like for American Muslims to have agents and informants working for the FBI infiltrate their communities.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Below are some highlights from this week’s interview with Imraan Siddiqi:

—”There started to be violent death threats toward a few different mosques in Phoenix. There were letters sent to the Tempe mosque and there was also a letter to this mosque that we’re talking about here. It said we’re going to target your worshipers while they are worshiping. We know who the Board of Directors are. We’re going to target your families inside your houses and we’re going to burn your mosque down. So, it was very explicit so actually the hate crimes division of the Phoenix PD and the FBI had to get involved with this because this is more than just a random threat.”

—[explaining that the mosque learned their would be armed rally by biker gang from FBI] “The issue became what are you going to do about it? There are people in our community who wanted to keep it quiet. Just sweep it under the rug. Let these people come and spew their hatred. They encouraged on their Facebook page to “exercise your Second Amendment rights,” which obviously means your gun, brandishing it openly, trying to intimidate the right to worship of other Americans essentially. So, we had to make the decision, what are we going to do about this? Are we going to either publicize this or are we going to keep this under wraps? So we definitely chose making it public because no on should live under fear of violence or threat.”

—”Part of it, it’s comedic to see how comedic and small-minded these people are. It’s the same thing as frying bacon on the edge of an AR-15. These people are just in their own little cocoon. They think that throwing bacon at a mosque or shooting at a Koran is going to make Muslims bow into submission or melt like the Wicked Witch or something like that. So, yeah, it’s absurd, but at the same time, look at what happens. Look at [Ritzheimer’s] fan base and how it’s grown over the last two months alone.”

And this was an exchange Rania Khalek had with Siddiqi:

KHALEK: This would not be acceptable if this were any other religious house of worship, for people to brandish guns outside a house of worship and start shouting at families. You’ve got kids. What do you tell your kids about people doing this?

SIDDIQI: Yeah, it’s sad. I have three sons so they see me going for these interviews on TV and they see me on TV and they hear me talking about Islamophobia. My older sons ask me about Islamophobia. Why are you always talking about Islamophobia? That’s all you talk about.

For them, they don’t have a concept of people hating Muslims just because they’re Muslims. It’s sort of sad when you think about it. You’re so innocent where you have this outlook on life that people don’t judge one another based on their looks, their color, their creed, or whatever. So, for them, it is very innocent. They don’t understand there are people out there that hate them for their religion without even knowing them essentially.

For more comments from Imraan Siddiqi, listen to the podcast episode here.

St. Louis police bought Israeli skunk spray after Ferguson uprising

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

Three months after Ferguson erupted in protest over the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) added an Israeli weapon called skunk to its protest-crushing arsenal, arms industry news website Defense One has confirmed.

Skunk is a crowd control “malodorant” developed by the Israeli police in collaboration with Odortec, an Israeli company that specializes in scent-based weapons, and tested on Palestinians.

Released at high pressure from a water cannon, canister or grenade, skunk liquid emits an odor — described as a mix of rotting animal carcass, raw sewage and human excrement — that sticks to walls, clothing, hair and skin for days to weeks and is impossible to wash away without a special soap that is only accessible to police.

Ramallah-based activist and writer Mariam Barghouti once told The Electronic Intifada that “the water lingers on your skin to a point when you want to rip your skin off.”

First deployed by Israeli armed forces in 2008, skunk water has become a fixture in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces routinely douse entire Palestinians neighborhoods in skunk water, deliberately spraying it into private homes, businesses, schools and funerals in what the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem calls “a collective punitive measure” against Palestinian villages that engage in protest against Israel’s colonial violence.

While Odortec insists skunk spray is non-toxic and even drinkable, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) warns that it “can cause pain and redness if it comes into contact with eyes, irritation if it comes into contact with skin and if swallowed can cause abdominal pain requiring medical treatment.”

Stockpiling skunk

Thus far, the putrid substance has only been deployed against Palestinians. But that won’t be the case for much longer.

According to a 14 November purchase order obtained by Defense One through Missouri’s open records law, SLMPD purchased fourteen 1.4 liter canisters of Skunk for $428 along with two types of portable skunk delivery canisters that resemble fire extinguishers. Among them were two refillable MK-46 HE canisters for $1,284, which can spray up to 60 ounces of Skunk as far as 40 feet away, and five single use MK-20 Titan canisters totaling $198.90, which can hold up to 20 ounces of skunk with a spray range of 24 feet.

A second invoice shows that SLMPD modified its order on 12 January, increasing its purchase of special soap decontaminant from one to four gallons, totaling $121.40. The revision is labeled an “EMERGENCY PURCHASE.”

While the invoice does not identify the vendor, it was likely Mistral Security, a subsidiary of Mistral Group, a US company based in Bethesda, Maryland, that deals in the production and sale of military and law enforcement equipment.

Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armament Systems Forum in April, Mistral general manager Stephen Rust announced, “We’ve provided some Skunk for the law enforcement agencies in Ferguson.”

Rust, who is a former project manager for the US army and Department of Defense, noted that the US military had also expressed interest in purchasing skunk. “We’ve demoed it at Fort Bragg. Why? Because they asked about it,” boasted Rust.

Mistral markets skunk spray to US police as ideal for controlling crowds and individuals at “border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins.”

It has also been promoted as means for targeting people for arrest. “I’m going to be able to drill [a specific target in a crowd] with a … round while I put him in the dirt. I can mark him with Skunk and he will be easy to locate when the crowd disperses,” said Rust at the armaments expo.

Just how many US police agencies have stockpiled the putrid substance remains unknown. Defense Onereported that Mistral sold Skunk to police departments in Bossier City, Louisiana. Mistral did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Electronic Intifada.

Global pacification industry

US police departments taking repression cues from their Israeli counterparts is not new.

Decades of testing methods and weapons of domination and control on has given rise to a booming “homeland security industry” in Israel that refashions occupation-style repression for use on marginalized populations in other parts of the world. This dystopian arrangement has placed Israel at the core of what Israeli activist Jeff Halper terms the “global pacification industry.”

While Gaza serves as a testing ground for explosives, the West Bank is Israel’s preferred laboratoryfor testing and refining crowd control technology.

Like most Israeli weapons, skunk is advertised by Odortec as having been “field-tested,” meaning Palestinians were used as human test subjects during the development process.

David Ben Harosh, head of the Israeli police’s department for technological development, which partnered with Odortec to develop skunk water, stated in 2008 that skunk water was tested in “monitored exercises” in the Palestinian villages of Bilin and Nilin, which he referred to as an “experiment.”

Under the cover of “counterterrorism training,” senior commanders from nearly every major US police agency, including departments in Baltimore and St. Louis, have received training from Israel’s occupation regime on junkets that allow Israeli companies like Odortec to market their products directly to US law enforcement executives.

As the BBC reported in 2008, “The Israeli police force has high hopes of turning skunk into a commercial venture and selling it to law-enforcement agencies overseas.”

Those hopes have finally been realized, as US police departments search for more effective ways to subdue growing resistance to racist policing, further exposing the collusion taking place among purveyors of racist state violence in the US and Israel.

Podcast: Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter and problem of identity politics

Two Black Lives Matter activists interrupted a Saturday afternoon rally in Seattle, where Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, was scheduled to speak. It was a rally held to celebrate the anniversary of Social Security and the need to expand social welfare programs.

The activists took the stage and grabbed the microphone. Some people attending the rally booed, urged police to remove them with a Taser, and called for the activists to be arrested by police. Meanwhile, organizers allowed the activists to criticize Sanders, condemn “white supremacist liberalism,” and honor Michael Brown, who was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago today.

While this week’s episode of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast was recorded before this happened, it just so happens the episode we recorded was about this issue of Bernie Sanders, the Black Lives Matter movement, and solidarity organizing.

Douglas Williams, a writer at, a third-generation organizer, and a doctoral student at Wayne State University in Detroit, is our guest this week. We talk to him about Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and the critique of Bernie Sanders not talking about race enough. He discusses how Democratic presidential candidates have used the “Black Lives Matter” mantra to make their campaigns relevant.

We highlight Bernie Sanders’ record in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a group which played a key role in the civil rights movement. We also talk about the problems the movement has with solidarity organizing and the role of white “allies” in organizing against institutional racism.

Our conversation spans the full hour, which is a necessary length of time to unpack and dig in to the identity politics, which seems to be impacting the ability of activists to engage in solidarity organizing.

It is our hope this episode will provoke more debate about organizing against institutional racism in the United States, and that you will not mistake this discussion for an attempt by us to lead a discussion but rather recognize it as an effort to agitate and fuel a critical conversation.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Israeli leaders lit the match that burned baby Ali Dawabsha

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

The savage burning alive of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsha in the occupied West Bank village of Duma has elicited energetic condemnations from Israeli leaders.

To anyone paying attention to the widespread expressions of hatred emanating from many quarters of Israeli Jewish society, these stern platitudes are not only unconvincing, they are an obvious handwashing performance meant for external consumption.

It is difficult to find a single Israeli cabinet minister who has not encouraged or perpetrated racist violence against Palestinians, largely because this kind of incitement – and worse – gets them elected.

Ali was killed in the middle of the night, early Friday, when persons, later seen by witnesses fleeing back to the settlement of Maaleh Efraim, smashed the windows of the child’s family’s home and threw Molotov cocktails and flammable liquid inside.

His parents and 4-year-old brother barely survived the attack – they are fighting for their lives with burns covering almost their whole bodies.

An autopsy found that Ali’s “body was completely blackened, his features had melted, parts of his extremities disintegrated from the burns, while parts of the lungs and rib cage had melted,” Ma’an News Agency reported.

Burning children, from Gaza to Duma

The attackers spray-painted a Star of David and the Hebrew words for “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah King” on the walls of a neighoring house which they also burned – no one was injured in it – leaving no confusion about their motive.

Similar nationalist and racist graffiti was found on the walls of homes occupied by Israeli soldiers in Gaza during last summer’s military assault.

This is just one of many reasons the award for most disingenuous posturing goes to the Israeli army, which issued statements condemning “this barbaric act of terrorism” and vowing to intensify efforts “to locate those responsible.”

The notion that the same Israeli army that protects and allows settlers to harass and attack Palestinians with impunity is going to hold the Dawabshas’ attackers accountable is far fetched.

This is also the army that completely destroyed or severely damaged more than 25,000 homes in Gaza last summer, wiping out entire families sheltered inside, “including nineteen babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5,” according to an AP investigation.

The only thing that separates the Israeli soldiers responsible for those killings from the settlers who burned baby Ali is a uniform and explicit orders from the state.

Less than 24 hours since vowing to bring the killers to justice, the Israeli army has shot dead two Palestinian teens – Muhammad Hamid al-Masri in Gaza, and 17-year-old Laith al-Khaldi in the West Bank – while the killers of baby Ali remain at large.

From killer to leaders

As for the Israeli officials who rushed to denounce the Duma attack as “terrorism,” all have well-documented histories of engaging in anti-Palestinian incitement. Some have even killed Palestinians themselves and later bragged about it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the architect of last summer’s 51-day assault that killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza, responded to the settler attack with a statement that his government is “united in strong opposition to such deplorable and awful acts.”

This is the same man who, following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens one year ago, issued a call for blood vengeance, essentially lighting the match that burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair.

As journalist Dan Cohen observed, it seems vigilante burnings of Palestinian children have become a yearly Israeli ritual.


Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, said, “Arson against a house in Duma and the murder of a baby is a disgusting act of terror.”

This is the same Bennett who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

Perhaps the settlers who murdered baby Ali were following in the footsteps of Bennett, who rose to prominence after playing a key role in triggering Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers sheltering at a UN base in Qana, Lebanon, during that year’s Israeli invasion.

Over half of those killed in the attack were children.

Had the settlers who burned baby Ali been wearing Israeli army uniforms when they set fire to the Dawabsha house, Bennett would likely be praising rather than denouncing them, much like he did in response to international outrage at the Israeli massacre of the four Baker boys on the beach in Gaza last summer.

Appearing on CNN at the time, Bennett accused Palestinians of “conducting massive self-genocide” to make Israel look bad.


Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon referred to the killing of baby Ali as “horrible terror attacks that we cannot allow” and promised to “pursue the murderers until we bring them to justice.”

This is the same Yaalon who guaranteed that Israel would not hesitate to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians including children, if it felt it had to, in any future war between Israel and its neighbors.

Like most Israeli leaders, Yaalon has a pattern of engaging in violent incitement and of acting on it.

During his stint as Israeli army chief of staff, he likened Palestinians to a cancerous threat that can only be eliminated by “applying chemotherapy.”

If the murderers of baby Ali are anything like Yaalon, they will evade justice and advance their careers while doing it, as Yaalon has successfully done time and again despite his participation in war crimes.

In Israel, killing Palestinians and advocating for genocide builds political careers.

Violent demagogues occupy key positions in government, not in spite of their anti-Palestinian incitement or the killings they have perpetrated, but because of them.

After endorsing a call last June for Palestinian mothers to be slaughtered in their beds to prevent them from birthing “little snakes,” Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked was rewarded by being appointed justice minister.

Killings babies permitted

Eli Ben-Dahan, the settler rabbi in occupied East Jerusalem who decreed that “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human,” is Israel’s recently appointed deputy defense minister.

He is now in charge of the “Civil Administration,” the name Israel gives to the military body that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It is no accident that clerics like Ben-Dahan have been largely silent about baby Ali. After all, they inspire an extreme messianic, eliminationist version of Judaism that drives settler violence.

Two of the most notorious are Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who in 2009 co-wrote Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), a guidebook on when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

The authors claim that Jewish law permits “killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

Elitzur and Shapira run a hardline yeshiva – Jewish religious school – in the settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the most violent settlers, not far from the Palestinian village of Duma.

In July 2014, Dov Lior, a leading West Bank settler rabbi who has endorsed Torat Hamelechissued his own ruling that the complete “destruction of Gaza” was permissible.

“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area … to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.

Israeli settlers, who see themselves in a perpetual state of war against an “enemy population,” would certainly take heed of such clerical guidance.

In February, the Israeli army raided Yitzhar and confiscated weapons that settlers there planned to use against Palestinians, including flammable liquids, tear gas canisters and black face masks.

Despite the horror expressed by Israel’s most prominent politicians, they have yet to utter a word against the rabbis who incite attacks on Palestinians in the name of their extreme version of Judaism.

Growing racism

Meanwhile, this broad ideological spectrum of hate has consequences that extend beyond the settlements.

A recent report by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel revealed a sharp rise in anti-Arab attacks since 2013, which coincided with racist incitement by Israeli elected officials and decisionmakers during last summer’s attack on Gaza and the February elections.

Over the last year, the report documented 237 racist attacks, with 192 of them directed at Arabs, up from 113 in 2013.

This tally excludes settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The culture of hate and extremism that led to Ali Dawabsha’s slaying is rooted not just in the settlements, but within the very fabric of Israeli political culture, its discriminatory regime and the Zionism that underpins them.

Politicians that rule a society where Palestinian babies are routinely called a “demographic threat,” and where many joyfully celebrate their slaughter, cannot claim innocence and purport to be “shocked” when settlers burn Palestinian children alive.

Podcast: In Cleveland, Organizers Gather to Strengthen & Grow Movement for Black Lives

Following months of numerous actions across the United States, a gathering was held by the Movement for Black Lives from July 24-26 in Cleveland. The goal was to bring black organizers together to create a “collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of the moment.” It was also geared toward reflection on the history of struggle and healing from the many traumas, which black Americans have endured.

Waltrina Middleton, a member of the host committee for the gathering and an organizer/co-founder of Cleveland Action, appeared on this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” to highlight the critical importance of this event.

“It is important for us to communally strategize for ways that would be best for us to respond to racialized violence that we have been subjected to as a people,” Middleton declares.

She speaks about the setting of the gathering and recalled how two unarmed black people, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, were shot by Cleveland police 137 times, Tanisha Anderson, who was killed by Cleveland police after her family called to get her help, and John Crawford, who was killed by police while he was in a Walmart.

“There are other issues that bring us to Cleveland,” Middleton adds. “Violence against women, in particular black women, violence against LGBTQ community, particularly black trans women community, socioeconomic disparities and going into East Cleveland and seeing buildings or houses boarded up and the infrastructure that does not allow for paved roads and sidewalks going uncleared so people in the winter time are pushing wheelchairs and baby carriages in the middle of the street.”

Middleton explained there is a lack of concern for the quality of education and healthcare, basic needs which any person would want to be able to access.

During the discussion part of the show, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola highlight DHS surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests, the firing of a man from a Chicago police review agency for refusing to change his findings against police, and UK’s PREVENT program and anti-Muslim racism. The show’s hosts also talk a little more about the Movement for Black Lives gathering, including the role of white “allies” or white anti-racism activists in movement building.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.


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