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Posts by Rania Khalek

Podcast: ‘Urban Shield’ & the Ramping Up of Police Militarization in the United States

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Shane Bauer, a reporter with Mother Jones, about Urban Shield, an annual police gathering that epitomizes the militarization of US law enforcement. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

More about the episode from Kevin:

One week ago, Alameda County in California hosted an annual major police gathering supported by corporations and law enforcement and security agencies from the local, state and federal level. Corporations displayed their military-grade equipment available for police departments to purchase, and training exercises or competitions played out in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyone observing the gathering called “Urban Shield” could see clearly how police militarization has been ramping up in recent years.

The annual police gathering took on additional significance in the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, with police deploying military-grade equipment against a community of mostly people of color to control protest against a white police officer who gunned down an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer had media credentials and used his access to go around to vendors and ask them their thoughts about Americans who believe this country is becoming or has become a police state. He tried to get people to talk to him about Ferguson and asked about why they would need some of the equipment being shown at the expo. Bauer and a Mother Jones filmmaker also observed some of the training exercises, many which involved scenarios that sound like they came from Michael Bay movies because they’re so implausible and overwrought.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast Bauer is the show’s guest. He discusses what he saw at “Urban Shield,” what he learned about police, and how he came to understand the culture of policing that convinces officers they need this military-grade equipment even if they are simply a university police department. He also recounts how he had his media credentials revoked by police for supposedly recording in an “unauthorized location” and gives a preview of what is to come in his feature story, which will be in a forthcoming issue of Mother Jones.

During the discussion portion, we talk about going to President Barack Obama’s announcement that America is going to war against ISIS—and how the Obama administration won’t call it a a war on ISIS. Khalek highlights a report she wrote on a religious zealot Israeli general, who ordered a lethal strike against an Israeli soldier so he would not be captured by Hamas. The episode concludes with some talk about District Attorney Sam Sutter. Sutter stunned environmental activists this past week when he had criminal charges against two men who engaged in direct action dropped because he sympathizes with their view that climate change is a serious crisis.

Israeli officer admits ordering lethal strike on own soldier during Gaza massacre

The civilian population in Gaza is “a partner of terror” that “gets what they choose,” the top commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade told the Israeli press recently, after orchestrating some of the deadliest episodes of butchery visited upon the Gaza Strip this summer.

Colonel Ofer Winter also admitted to ordering the mass-bombardment of an area where an Israeli soldier was know to be in order to prevent his capture alive by Palestinian resistance fighters — an army policy known as the Hannibal Directive.

These are just two of the many incriminating comments made by Winter in a lengthy and candid interview published in a paper-only edition of the Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on 15 August.

The interview took place near the end of Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign which killed more than 2,100 people in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians — including more than 500 children. Israel expert Dena Shunra translated the interview for The Electronic Intifada.

In addition to justifying the mass killing of civilians in Gaza, Winter applauded the carpet bombing he ordered in Rafah as a necessary punishment and repeatedly invoked religious supremacy as a leading factor in what he views as a Jewish victory in Gaza.

Rafah massacre

Just as a temporary three-day humanitarian ceasefire negotiated by Egypt and the United States went into effect on the morning of Friday 1 August, a unit of soldiers from the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade conducted a tunnel incursion in Rafah, provoking fire from Palestinian resistance fighters.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight and another, Hadar Goldin, went missing. It was later determined that Goldin died in the battle, but in the immediate aftermath the Israeli army operated under the assumption that he had been captured.

Ofer Winter was napping when he woke up to news of Goldin’s possible capture. He told Yediot Ahronot’s Yossi Yehoshua:

At 9 am, half an hour after I put my head down, the Deputy Brigade Commander woke me up: “come quickly, it’s best you be here.” We asked for a snapshot, we wanted information. We didn’t think there was an abduction yet. While inquiring if everyone was there, I commanded Sagiv, the Armored Forces Commander operating under my orders, to start moving from Hirbat Hiza’a, which was where he was, toward Rafah. Just then I got the message “it’s not green in our eyes” – in other words, not everyone had been found. We were missing a soldier. At 9:36, after inquiries with the battalion commander on site, I announced on the communication system the word that no one wants to say – “Hannibal.” In other words, there had been an abduction. I instructed all the forces to move forward, to occupy space, so the abductors would not be able to move.

The Hannibal Directive is an unwritten Israeli military protocol for executing captured Israeli soldiers to avoid politically painful prisoner swaps. Although its existence has been reported in the Israeli press since the 1980s, this interview with Winter appears to be the most frank acknowledgement of its use.

The idea is to prevent the captors from taking the soldier alive, effectively denying Palestinian or other Arab resistance groups a bargaining chip down the line and relieving Israeli leaders of the political fallout from having to make concessions (such as prisoner swaps) to secure the soldier’s release.

Executing their own

According to blogger Richard Silverstein, the Israeli army has implemented the Hannibal Directive on at least three occasions during this latest war on Gaza, deploying massive firepower with the intention of executing three of their own.

For the following several hours, residents of Rafah, many having just returned to their homes for what they were told would be a three-day ceasefire, were subjected to a carpet bombing campaign that left the town in ruins and 190 people dead.

An Israeli army officer told the Associated Press that soldiers pounded Rafah with 500 artillery shells in just eight hours and launched an estimated 100 airstrikes within two days.

Acting on Winter’s “Hannibal” order, the Israeli army sealed off Rafah to prevent the alleged captors from escaping with Goldin alive. Homes were flattened on top of families sheltering inside. Civilians who attempted to flee the inferno were torn to shreds by artillery. Vehicles trying desperately to evacuate the wounded were fired upon.

By 2 August, the Israeli army had killed 190 Palestinians in Rafah, including 55 children. With the morgues full to capacity, medical workers were forced to store corpses in vegetable refrigerators to accommodate the high volume of dead bodies.

As Israel laid waste to Rafah, the Obama administration called the alleged capture of Goldin, an invading Israeli soldier engaged in armed hostilities against Gaza, a“barbaric” and “outrageous” act.

“They messed with the wrong brigade”

“A lot of criticism was heard about the force you employed in Rafah, directly after the abduction,” said interviewer Yossi Yehoshua to Winter.

“Everything we did was from the understanding that we could return Hadar Goldin alive,” responded Winter. “Stop the abduction event. Come from above to the places he could come out of. That’s what we employed all the force for,” he insisted.

These claims are totally inconsistent with the reality on the ground, where the only possible intended outcome of bombing everything was to kill Goldin and his captors while collectively punishing the surrounding population in the process.

Winter continued with an even more contradictory remark, hinting that the response in Rafah was partly an act of retribution. “Anyone who abducts should know that he will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade,” he said.

Then, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, Winter (who relies on airstrikes and indiscriminate artillery fire to avoid face to face confrontations with the supposed enemy and who had to be woken up from a nap to be informed that his soldiers were killed in Rafah) tried to portray Palestinian resistance fighters as cowards.

“We fought against two Hamas brigades. Where were their brigade commanders?” he asked indignantly. “I hoped they would come face to face with us, but they chickened out. They sent their men forward, causing more evil and killing. That’s not combat. There were very few places where there were fighting retreats. They left everything and escaped.”

Divine intervention

As an orthodox Jew firmly in Israel’s religious nationalist camp, Winter is making a career of mixing his brand of messianic Zionism with military aggression.

As a graduate of Bnei David, a religious pre-military academy located in Eli, an illegal Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank, Winter epitomizes the mainstreaming of religiously motivated brutalityin the Israeli army. Bnei David’s goal is to replace Israel’s largely secular military elite with religious Zionists, like Winter.

On the eve of Israel’s ground invasion, Winter declared in a letter to his troops that they were fighting a Jewish holy war to punish the blasphemous Palestinians of Gaza.

Responding to criticism of the letter, Winter doubled down, telling Yediot Ahronot, “if I had to do so, I would write the same letter again, without batting an eyelid.”

The impact of Winter’s fanaticism on Palestinians in Gaza was nothing short of catastrophic.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israel’s extermination of whole families in Gaza reflects genocidal impulse

Eighty-nine families that existed seven weeks ago in Gaza have been exterminated by Israel.

On Sunday 24 August an Israeli missile tore through the home of Issam Jouda in Gaza’s Tal al-Zatar neighborhood east of Jabaliya without warning, killing Issam’s wife Rawiya and their four children—Taghrid, Tasnim, Usama and 
Muhammad.

According to the Palestinian health ministry , the Joudas were the eighty-ninth family wiped out in Gaza since the Israeli army started bombarding the besieged coastal enclave on 7 July.

ceasefire that took effect on Tuesday evening may stop the flow of blood, but it will not heal the raw wounds of the families of more than 2,100 people killed, nor of the more than eleven thousand injured and 100,000 whose homes were destroyed.

Between 7 July and 21 August, the UN documented 140 families in Gaza partially or completely annihilated by Israeli attacks.

Many were crushed beneath the rubble of their homes. Eight members of the Wahdan family, for instance, were killed in their house in Jabaliya refugee camp after beinginstructed by Israeli forces to stay put.

Others were summarily executed in broad daylight by invading Israeli forces in the catastrophically devastated Shujaiya neighborhood. This was the fate of several members of the Shamaly and al-Areer families according to testimony collected by journalist Max Blumenthal.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has recorded at least 990 people killed inside their homes in Israeli attacks, including 324 children. That’s almost half of all people killed in the Israeli assault.

This is no accident.

Israel’s systematic targeting of entire families in Gaza this summer is part of adeliberate military strategy that seeks to terrorize the civilian population into submission in an effort to break their will to resist Israeli conquest. In recent days, Israel escalated this practice by leveling residential high-rise apartment buildings.

But the wholesale slaughter of families is also part of Israel’s ongoing destruction of Palestine.

Genocide

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that Israel’s acts in Gaza constitute more than just war crimes and crimes against humanity. He says they are genocide, adding his voice to the growing chorus of those who see the slaughter in Gaza as part of an ongoing, systematic process of annihilation.

“These are clear violations of the Geneva conventions and war crimes,” Ratner told The Electronic Intifada. “But you can’t look at this as an isolated attack on Gaza because there’s a history going back to Zionists charting out and destroying five hundred plus villages in 1947-48,” he said, referring to the Nakba — the premeditated ethnic cleansing of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians by Zionist militias seeking to establish an ethnically exclusive state with a Jewish majority.

“If you look at it historically it’s hard to escape [Israeli author and historian] Ilan Pappe’sconclusion that it’s ‘incremental genocide,’” said Ratner.

Ratner noted that the common response to such accusations is that Israel has not killed enough Palestinians for its actions to qualify as genocide. However, “You don’t have to kill a large number of people to commit genocide,” he explained.

Indeed, Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defines genocide in the following terms (emphasis added):

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Israel does not have to kill millions of Palestinians to be guilty of genocide nor does it need to commit all the above atrocities, though it is undeniably guilty of (a), (b) and (c). It just has to commit any of them with the “intent” to “destroy” Palestinians “in whole or in part” as “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

The question of genocide, then, is whether by looking at decades of Israel’s practices, as well as the utterances of its leaders, we can find this intent.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israel-trained police “occupy” Missouri after killing of black youth

Since the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers. This has prompted residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

And who can blame them?

The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.

And it’s no coincidence.

At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.

Brute force

It all started when a yet to be named Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. According to witnesses, Brown was attempting to surrender with his hands up when a Ferguson police officer emptied his clip into Brown’s body, shooting the teen up to ten times.

For hours police left Brown’s lifeless body sprawled in the street uncovered as a growing number of residents gathered nearby, demanding answers from authorities. Police responded by deploying K-9 units and riot squads to crush the crowd, predictably inciting a riot, which police used to justify more brute force.

But the people of Ferguson refuse to submit and have mobilized every single day to demand justice for Brown and an end to the racist, undemocratic regime they live under.

Hands up, don’t shoot” has become their rallying cry, a symbol of Brown in his last moments and what it means to be black in America, where every 28 hours an African-American is killed by a self-styled vigilante, security guard or police officer.

Still, police did not relent, prompting one Ferguson protester to shout at a row of military-style tactical vehicles, “You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”

“Will we as a people rise up like the people of Gaza? Will our community be bombed like last night with tear gas? That was a terrorist attack,” remarked another Ferguson protester to The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, journalists were manhandled and detained. Police were caught on videodeliberately firing tear gas at an Al Jazeera America film crew as they were setting up their equipment.

Even elected officials weren’t spared. Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was tear gassed and St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who had been documenting the unfolding police repression in Ferguson on social media since just after Brown’s murder, was arrested.

As the situation spiraled further out of control, Palestinians began tweeting advice on dealing with tear gas to the people of Ferguson.

Cops become soldiers

Domestic policing in the US has a long and sordid history rooted in the violent control and subjugation of communities of color, so the police violence directed at the predominantly black residents of Ferguson is nothing new.

But the widespread militarization on display in Ferguson is part of a more recent trendthat began three decades ago with the introduction of the disastrous “war on drugs” and dramatically escalated with the “war on terror” — leading directly to the counterinsurgency-like tactics deployed against the people of Ferguson by civilian police officers who more closely resemble combat soldiers in Afghanistan than domestic cops.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israeli army uses Gaza children as human shields

Since the assault on Gaza began, Israeli leaders and their supporters have repeatedly accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields in an attempt to absolve Israel of responsibility for deliberately killing more than 1,600 Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Despite there being no evidence to prove this libelous claim, it has been unquestioningly echoed in major media outlets and invoked by US officials to blame Palestinians for their own slaughter. It has even been used to justify genocide against Palestinians in a newspaper ad created by anti-Palestinian extremists Shmuley Boteach and Elie Wiesel.

But the available evidence demonstrates that it is the Israeli army, not Hamas, that has been using Palestinians as human shields in Gaza.

In video testimony released by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, which you can watch at the top of this post, Ramadan Muhammad Qdeih recounts how Israeli forces stormed his home in Khuzaa, where some sixty members of his extended family were sheltering in the basement on 25 July, and forced them to act as human shields.

First, the Israeli soldiers shot dead his 65-year-old father Muhammad Qdeih near the entrance of the home as he tried to alert the soldiers to the presence of women and children while carrying a white flag.

Next, says Qdeih, the soldiers forcibly positioned members of his family, including the children, at the windows of his home and proceeded to fire from behind them.

“They ordered us to take off our clothes and tied our hands up,” says Qdeih. “They took us to one of the rooms and used us as shields, making us stand at the windows as if we were looking outside. I was at one window and three children from my family at another. The soldiers then began firing around us.”

For eight hours, Qdeih’s relatives were denied food and water as they were shuffled from one room to another with their hands restrained behind their backs and forced to stand in front of open windows as Israeli soldiers fired from behind their bodies.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

US senator filibusters live coverage of powerful Palestinian testimonies

CSPAN cut from Tariq Abukhdeir’s live, moving testimony of Israeli abuse in Jerusalem to cover Barbara Boxer’s incoherent pro-Israel rant to a mostly empty Senate chamber. (screenshot)

CSPAN cut from Tariq Abukhdeir’s live, moving testimony of Israeli abuse in Jerusalem to cover Barbara Boxer’s incoherent pro-Israel rant to a mostly empty Senate chamber. (screenshot)

On Friday, fifteen-year-old Tariq Abukhdeir spoke at a hearing on Capitol Hill about the brutal beating he endured at the hands of Israeli police in early July.

The purpose of the hearing was to address Israeli impunity and US complicity in crimes against Palestinians. Tariq was one of six panelists to address the room, which was overflowing with congressional staffers.

Moderated by author and campaigner Josh Ruebner, other panelists included Tariq’s mother, Suha Abu Abukhdeir; Hassan Shibly of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Florida chapter; Sunjeev Bery from Amnesty International; Brad Parker from Defence for Children International and Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad.

Though he was just one of six speakers, Tariq’s testimony was especially powerful as he relayed to the audience the horrors and discrimination he witnessed and experienced as a Palestinian-American child visiting his ancestral homeland.

But just as Tariq started to detail the Israeli beating that left him unconscious and unrecognizable, CSPAN 2, which was broadcasting the hearing live, cut to the Senate floor.

You can watch the whole thing back on CSPAN’s website. The cut from Tariq to Boxer occurs soon after time code 03:30.

Suppressing Palestinian voices

Tariq began his testimony by describing the widespread violence Israeli soldiers inflicted on his neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem after his cousin and best friend, sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish vigilantes who were incited to violence by Israeli leaders following the murder of three Israeli teens hitchhiking from an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

Tariq and several of his cousins watched from an alley, Tariq explained, as Israeli soldiers shot rubber bullets at protesters. Eventually the soldiers were attacking in Tariq’s direction, prompting a terrified Tariq to run. After he jumped a fence and tripped, “the Israeli police grabbed me from behind, slammed my face into the floor, zip-tied my hands behind my back and started to kick me and punch me in the face and in the ribs,” recounted Tariq.

For those tuning into CSPAN, this was the last they heard from Tariq, whose speech was suddenly replaced by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer from California on the Senate floor agitating for greater support for Israel to a mostly empty room as most most elected representatives had departed that day for a five-week recess.

CSPAN told the The Electronic Intifada that the channel is required to cut to the Senate floor when an elected official is speaking.

Boxer’s office did not respond to calls asking if the senator was aware that the hearing was taking place. However, organizers collecting names of congressional staffers in attendance told The Electronic Intifada that an intern from Boxer’s office tried to get into the hearing but left because there was no space, suggesting Boxer knew she was interrupting the hearing.

Israeli talking points

Boxer spent the next fifteen minutes spewing semi-coherent platitudes about Israeli victimhood. “We all know that our ally Israel is in a fight for its survival because a terrorist group, so named by the United States and Europe, is at war with Israel right now,” Boxer declared.

In what seemed like a transparent attempt to counter Tariq’s narrative, Boxer added, “we remember how it all started with the kidnapping of three Israeli boys and their torture and their death and a mosque praised that. Tragically there was a revenge killing and the Israeli government arrested the Israelis responsible for that and they are going to face justice while Hamas praises, praises what happened.”

As usual, reality tells a much different story.

Even Israeli officials openly admit that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnapping or the murder of the three Israeli teens, whose disappearance was used by the Israeli government as a pretext to rampage through the West Bank, ransacking homes and arresting hundreds of people under the guise of a rescue mission for three boys thatauthorities knew had been killed hours after they were reported missing.

Boxer also championed the lie that Hamas broke the ceasefire that same Friday morning by capturing an Israeli soldier.

It has since been revealed that the Israelis broke the ceasefire and subsequently carpet bombed Rafah with the stated aim of killing an Israeli soldier because the Israeli army suspected he had been captured — a procedure known as the Hannibal Directive. In an attempt to kill their own soldier, the Israeli army slaughtered more than 150 Palestinians across Rafah, which has sustained incalculable damage.

As Boxer continued to spew Israeli talking points, the reason for her tirade on the Senate floor became increasingly unclear. One moment she was blaming Hamas for violating that morning’s ceasefire and the next she was urging the Senate to allow Israel to participate in the US Visa Waiver Program.

At the end of Boxer’s rant, CSPAN cut back to the hearing in time to catch Suha Abu Abukhdeir’s closing remark: “The life of a Palestinian in Gaza should be valued as much as the life of any human being.”

Next at the podium was CAIR Florida’s Hassan Shibly, who said, “As an American attorney, what happened to Tariq Abukhdeir at the hands of a nation that claims to be a democracy and claims to be an ally of the United States and —” That’s as far as Shibly got before he was replaced by live footage of Boxer once again on the Senate floor. This time Boxer was joined by Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Nevada. The two interrupted the remainder of the hearing discussing various pieces of legislation that can’t even be voted on until the Senate reconvenes in September.

Given the choke-hold pro-Israel lobbying organizations like AIPAC have on US elected officials, it is plausible Boxer’s maneuvering was orchestrated to suppress the reach of an open and honest conversation about Israeli criminality, much like US President Lyndon Johnson called an impromptu press conference to interrupt televised coverage of former sharecropper and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s moving testimonyat the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israel uses Palestinians as human shields but US lawmakers condemn Hamas Primary tabs

Both houses of the US Congress are considering passing a resolution that condemns Hamas for using human shields despite not having any evidence to prove Hamas is employing this tactic.

Over the last 22 days, the Israeli army has deliberately bombed family homes, UN shelters, schools, places of worship, hospitals, water infrastructure and more, killing more than 1,300 Palestinians, 80 percent of whom have been civilians, including nearly 300 children.

In propaganda echoed by the US State Department, the Israeli government has repeatedly claimed that Hamas is using women and children as human shields to protect its weapons and rocket launchers, forcing Israel to massacre innocent Palestinians.

The only evidence Israel has provided for this unsubstantiated accusation is cartoon sketches.

But even The New York Times has conceded that “There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, similarly declared, “I saw no evidenceduring my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.”

But Israel’s pathetic drawings are all the evidence US elected officials need to absolve Israel of responsiblity for war crimes.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

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