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Posts by Rania Khalek

Europe’s border policy is designed to push refugees into the sea

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Shortly before a huge migrant boat disaster early this month, The Sun, a daily paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, published a column by British TV star and rightwing provocateur Katie Hopkins calling migrants “cockroaches” and “a plague of feral humans.”

Not long after it went to press, as many as 850 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean when their wooden fishing boat capsized about sixty miles off the coast of Italy. Days earlier, 400 refugees had drowned. The death toll this year has already reached 1,780, a more than 50-fold increase from the same time last year. The death toll is projected to rise further during the warmer seasons.

Given the timing, Hopkins’ genocidal language generated a great deal of attention and outrage, including a denunciation from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, who likened her vitriol to Nazi propaganda against Jews in the lead up to the Holocaust.

Largely unnoticed amid the uproar was the fact that Hopkins’ proposed solution — to “bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats” — is precisely what Europe’s supposedly “enlightened” liberals have chosen to do.

In response to the crisis, European Union leaders have agreed to launch military operations against smugglers in Libya using Apache helicopter gunships, to send nearly all migrants who survive the journey back to where they fled and to destroy the boats before they set sail to Europe.

The EU also plans to outsource its border patrol operations to security forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger to prevent refugees from reaching the Mediterranean coast, further restricting their freedom of movement and ability to escape persecution and possibly deporting them back to their places of origin, which include Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip.

Death as deterrence

As Europe scrambles to respond to worldwide outrage spurred by this latest migrant boat catastrophe, it has placed the blame squarely on the smugglers.

There is no doubt that the human traffickers have engaged in murderous exploitation of refugees. In September, smugglers deliberately sank a boat, killing some 500 people, almost all of whom were Palestinians from Gaza. However, shifting all the blame onto smugglers deflects from Europe’s own culpability.

Smugglers are merely a symptom of Europe’s deadly border policies.

Over the last decade, the EU has deliberately sealed its land borders, effectively pushing refugees to use deadly sea routes.

The border between Spain and Morocco, one of just two land borders connecting Europe to Africa, is sealed by fence that is seven yards high and reinforced with barbed wire. Though the fence hasn’t stopped people from trying to climb over it, the barbed wire tearing through their flesh in the process, those who manage to scale the fence alive are swiftly deported.

Bulgaria, which two decades ago celebrated the dismantling of a wall that caged people in, is building a wall at its border with Turkey to keep mostly Syrian refugees out. Bulgaria became a preferred route after the construction of a fence at the Turkey-Greece border for the same reason.

With land borders cut off, refugees, no less desperate for security, are predictably risking dangerous sea voyages on rickety vessels to reach safety.

(US Border Patrol employs a similar policy of “deterrence” at the US-Mexico border, where the wall funnels migrants into the most dangerous desert terrain, where many die of thirst on the perilous trek from Mexico to the US.)

Let them drown?

After nearly 400 African refugees died in the Mediterranean trying to reach the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in 2013, Italy launched Mare Nostrum, a navy search and rescue operation that saved 150,000 lives until it was scrapped in October 2014.

The EU replaced Mare Nostrum with Operation Triton, which is overseen by Frontex, the European border management agency. Though the EU agreed to triple the budget of Triton in response to the latest mass drowning, the extra funding is unlikely to stem the deaths. Triton’s mandate is surveillance and border protection, not search and rescue, and it only patrols up to thirty miles off the Italian coast. Even the head of Frontex stated that the agency’s priority is not to rescue migrants.

The British government explicitly refused to take part in any search and rescue operations, arguing, against all available evidence, that saving people encourages migrants to make the dangerous sea voyage. Britain’s Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, insisted that halting rescue operations “at the earliest possible opportunity” would deter potential migrants from setting out on their voyages. (According to Frontex, the number of migrants increased 160 percent three months after Triton replaced Mare Nostrum.)

There are more refugees today fleeing war and persecution than at any time since the Second World War, according to the UN. The refugee crisis is largely isolated to the Global South due in no small part to the lasting impacts of colonialism and ongoing imperialism pursued by countries in the Global North.

Meanwhile, the EU will only offer resettlement to 5,000 people who qualify for asylum, meaning the vast majority who survive the Mediterranean “will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return program co-ordinated by the EU’s border agency, Frontex,” according to The Guardian.

Such policies are reminiscent of the treatment of another group of persecuted refugees in the not-so-distant past.

In the lead up to the Nazi Holocaust, Western nations not only placed quotas on Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution, but in some cases boats full of Jewish refugees were turned away. Such was the fate of the SS St. Louis, the infamous cruise liner carrying 900 German Jews who were denied entry in 1939 by Cuba, the United States and Canada, forcing them to sail back to Europe. More than 250 of those on board died at the hands of the Nazis.

Today, Western leaders atone for their nations’ complicity in the Holocaust with cheap pronouncements of “never again,” declarations of unconditional support for Israel and a commitment to fight anti-Semitism and discrimination, all the while denying asylum to today’s persecuted refugees.

Cheap talk

During his 26 April visit to Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace, the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil, French President François Hollande warned, “The worst can still happen. Anti-Semitism and racism are still here.”

“We must not forget anything,” he said.

Just two days earlier, Hollande announced that he would be seeking a UN resolution to grant the EU authorization to destroy migrant boats before they set sail for Europe.

The fact that most of today’s refugees are Muslim provides an ideological imperative for blocking their entry into an increasingly Islamophobic Europe, with politicians stoking fears of Islamic terrorism and anti-Semitism to rationalize border cruelty.

Indeed, Raymond Shamash, a member of the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), explained to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he is running for office to protect Jews from Muslim immigrants.

“Most of the people coming over from Libya and Sudan and Somalia and Afghanistan do share one characteristic — that they are Muslims. I feel a demographic shift will make the position of the Jewish community untenable,” said Shamash.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage recently issued a similarly panicked warning, arguing that relaxing EU asylum policies would result in “a million Islamic extremists coming to our countries and posing a direct threat to our civilization.”

Likewise, Kent Ekerot, a member of the Swedish Democrats (SD), insists that anti-Semitism in Sweden is entirely “imported” due to “unrestricted immigration” of Arabs and Muslims, which he and his party fervently oppose.

Rooted in fascism and the country’s neo-Nazi movement, SD captured 13 percent of the vote in the last general election, making it the third most popular political party in Sweden.

Israel’s existence as an exclusionary settler state is deceptively justified on similar grounds — as a necessary response to the world’s indifference to the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to grant asylum to non-Jewish African refugees fleeing genocide in places like Eritrea and Sudan, preferring instead to round them up into detention and deport them.

Openly referred to as “infiltrators” by Israeli government officials, Africans seeking asylum have — like Palestinians — been labeled a threat because they are not Jewish. Earlier this month it was discovered that three Eritreans who Israel deported were among those beheaded in Libya by Islamic State  (also known as ISIS) for not being Muslim.

Israelis on social media rejoiced at the news, with some heaping praise on the killers. “It’s a shame [Islamic State] doesn’t catch them before they reach Israel,” commented one Israeli. “Now we understand how to deal with the problem, bring here ISIS and they will take of the Eritreans and Palestinians,” remarked another.

This is the hatred European leaders are endorsing when they exploit the Holocaust to justify Israeli apartheid. But European support for Israeli discrimination is more than just empty penance for the past. After all, Fortress Europe benefits from Israel’s cruel policies of occupation and exclusion.

Israeli technology created to make the control and removal of Palestinians more efficient may be procured by the EU to militarize the borders of Fortress Europe, as The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin has reported.

As the Mediterranean Sea becomes a graveyard for refugees, it’s more apparent than ever that Europe has learned all the wrong lessons from one of the darkest chapters in its history.

Yemeni Americans Feel Doubly Betrayed as US Government Refuses to Evacuate Them from Yemen

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I speak with Gadeir Abbas, an attorney representing dozens of Yemeni-Americans in their lawsuit against the US government’s refusal to evacuate their loved ones from Yemen. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here). Here’s Kevin with the details

Tom Kelly, according to McClatchy, acknowledged that hundreds of Americans had fled Yemen for Djibouti recently on foreign ships and aircrafts after dangerous journeys on land. At one point, “evacuees” were left behind at the “port of Aden because they had been unable to climb up rope ladders to board an Indian navy frigate from smaller boats that had ferried them to the larger ship, which had been unable to dock because of fighting in the city.”

Dozens of Americans arrived on that frigate on April 11. Potentially, 55,000 Americans remain in Yemen and have received no pledge from their own government that there will be help for them so they can escape. Countries like China, India, Pakistan and even Somalia have launched missions to rescue their citizens but the US has decided not to launch an operation to specifically help Yemeni Americans, even though it easily could because it is coordinating with the Saudi-led coalition that is bombing the country.

Gadeir Abbas, an attorney representing dozens of Yemeni Americans who are stranded in Yemen, is this week’s guest on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast. He talks about the lawsuit filed to force the US government to help these trapped Americans. He highlights the betrayal Yemeni Americans feel as their government treats them like second class citizens and discusses what it would take to evacuate them.

In the second half of the show, Abbas, who represents an American named Gulet Mohamed in his challenge to his placement on the No Fly List, highlights the latest developments. The government is now informing plaintiffs in No Fly List cases that they have a new process where Americans can get confirmation that they are on the list. Abbas contends the changes are meaningless, however, and discusses how none of what the government has implemented resolves Mohamed’s case.

The weekly podcast radio show hosted by Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek is available for download here.

Partial transcript of interview with Gadeir Abbas: Read more

Israel “directly targeted” children in drone strikes on Gaza, says rights group

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Israel deliberately targeted children in Gaza last summer, according to a new report by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine).

Of the 2,220 Palestinians killed during Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign, at least 1,492 were civilians, including at least 547 children.

A total of 535 of those children were killed as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Moreover, 68 percent of children Israel killed in Gaza were under the age of twelve, according to the report.

An additional 3,374 children were injured, including over 1,000 who have been left with lifelong disabilities, many of which require medical care that is inaccessible in Gaza due to a crushing Israeli siege that has yet to be lifted. Another 373,000 children are suffering from deep trauma and require desperately needed psychosocial support that is severely lacking in the Gaza Strip.

Nowhere was safe for children

As a matter of policy, Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the very spaces where children are supposed to feel most secure. Such acts violate international law and amount to war crimes, according to the report.

Children were crushed to death while they sheltered in their homes, dismembered as they slept in their beds and torn to pieces as they played in their yards. At least eighteen children were killed by Israeli attacks targeting schools. For the children of Gaza, nowhere was safe from Israeli violence.

Equally as haunting as where children were killed is the assortment of weapons Israel deployed against them.


Source: DCI-Palestine

At least 225 children were killed in airstrikes “while they were in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat with their families, played, or slept,” the report states.

An investigation by the Associated Press yielded similar data, finding that 844 Palestinians, over half of the total of civilians killed in Gaza last summer, were killed by Israeli airstrikes on civilian homes, “including nineteen babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of one and five.”

Israel tried to justify the targeting of Gaza’s civilian population by arguing, without evidence, that Palestinian resistance fighters were using civilians as human shields, giving Israel no choice but to fire at children. DCI-Palestine strongly disputes this claim, arguing:

The rhetoric voiced by Israeli officials regarding “human shields” during the military offensive amounted to nothing more than generalizations that fall short of the precise calculation required by international humanitarian law when determining whether something is actually a military object. Even if evidence existed that Hamas or other Palestinian armed groups did use civilians as human shields, this does not relieve Israel from its obligations under international law nor does it justify an attack on civilians or civilian structures.

In fact, it is Israel which has a long and documented history of using Palestinian children as human shields, and last summer’s attack was no exception, as detailed by the DCI-Palestine report.

DCI-Palestine attributes Israel’s indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian homes and schools in Gaza to the Dahiya doctrine. Named after the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut that Israel purposely devastated in its 2006 assault on Lebanon, the Dahiya doctrine refers to the Israeli army’s stated policy of deploying overwhelming force against civilian infrastructure.

Israel’s baseless “human shields” accusation against Palestinians is an attempt to mask a military policy that systematically violates international law.

“Directly targeted” by drones

Another 164 children were “directly targeted and unlawfully killed” in Israeli drone strikes on their homes and in the street as they attempted to flee to safety, according to DCI-Palestine.

DCI-Palestine is particularly alarmed by the high number of children targeted in drone attacks because Israeli drones deliver well-defined images of the people below in real time. Furthermore, Israeli officials often boast that drone strikes are superior to other methods of warfare due to their surgical precision, says DCI-Palestine, suggesting that Israel deliberately targeted children in drone attacks.

One of the many cases highlighted in the DCI-Palestine report is the death of nine-year-old Rabi Qasem Rabi Abu Ras, who was dismembered by an Israeli drone missile that targeted him as he ran to an ambulance after an Israeli shell landed near him and his mother.

“His arms and legs were cut off. The upper part of his body was separated from his lower body, which was turned into small pieces. I screamed,” recounted his mother, Aisha Abu Ras, in an interview with DCI-Palestine. “I shouted to the ambulance. I rushed to the paramedics and told them about it, but they said they could not approach the location without prior coordination with the Israeli army.”

Aisha and Rabi were traveling back to a UN shelter after collecting extra belongings from the home they fled in Um Nasr, a town in northern Gaza near the boundary with Israel.

An Israeli drone fired the missile that tore through the home of Issam Jouda on 24 August, killing his wife, Rawiya, and four of their five children as they played together in the family’s yard in Gaza’s Tal al-Zaatar neighborhood.

The Joudas were one of an estimated 140 families partially or completely annihilated by Israel last summer.

Another was the El-Farra family, which lost nine members on 1 August, including five children between the ages of four and fifteen, in a drone strike that targeted them as they ran into the street fleeing two prior drone attacks that struck their home in the middle of the night without warning, according to DCI-Palestine.

Over the last decade, Israel’s use of robotic warfare against Palestinians has escalated dramatically, with each new military assault on Gaza relying more heavily on drones than the last. Thirty-seven percent, or 840 people, were killed in drone attacks alone during last summer’s attack.

As the world’s largest exporter of drones, Israel is profiting immensely from the technology used to kill children.

“A man-made humanitarian crisis”

The bombs have stopped falling for now but children continue to suffer due Israel’s eight-year-long siege, imposed in partnership with Egypt.

The circumstances in Gaza are so desperate that 46 international international aid agencies have called for sanctions on Israel over its blockade, which DCI-Palestine has labeled “a man-made humanitarian crisis.”

Since reducing much of the Gaza Strip to rubble, Israel has refused to allow the entry of desperately needed reconstruction material into Gaza, leaving 108,000 people, the majority of them children, homeless.

Consequently, four infants whose homes were destroyed by Israel last year have died of hypothermia due to lack of proper shelter. The youngest was just one month old, according to the UN.

Other children have died as a result of unexploded Israeli ordnance littered across the Gaza Strip. In October last, four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jarad was killed by an unexploded Israeli hand grenade left behind by Israeli soldiers who occupied his house in Beit Hanoun during the ground invasion, according to DCI-Palestine.

Waging war on a ghetto

The ferocity of Israel’s violence against Palestinian children may have reached new heights in 2014, but DCI-Palestine notes that the brutality is part of an ongoing systematic campaign.

“Since 2000, a generation of children living in the [occupied West Bank and Gaza] have been shot at, shelled and bombed,” says the report. “During this time, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,950 Palestinian children, the vast majority of whom were living in the Gaza Strip,” it adds.

Indeed, since 2006, Gaza has been subjected to six devastating Israeli military assaults that have killed scores of children.


Source: DCI-Palestine

Gaza is home to 1.8 million Palestinians, eighty percent of whom are refugees. Their families were forcibly expelled from present-day Israel and barred from returning because they are not Jewish.

Meanwhile, 43 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are under the age of fourteen. Israel’s ongoing war against Gaza is essentially a war on a refugee ghetto.

Killing children with impunity

“While Israeli authorities have selectively opened their own investigations into several incidents occurring during the latest military offensive, previous experience has shown that Israeli authorities persistently fail to investigate alleged violations of its armed forces in accordance with international standards,” warns DCI-Palestine.

Indeed, the Israeli army recently absolved itself of wrongdoing for its behavior in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on 1 August, a day referred to by Palestinians as Black Friday.

On that day Israeli forces executed the Hannibal Directive, an Israeli military protocol that calls for massive firepower to prevent a captured Israeli soldier from being taken alive, even if it means killing the soldier and hundreds of civilians in the process.

To prevent the capture alive of a soldier wrongly believed taken by Palestinian fighters, Israeli forces carpet-bombed Rafah, killing 190 Palestinians in under 48 hours, including at least 49 children on 1 August alone, according to DCI-Palestine.

With the morgues full to capacity, medical workers were forced to store corpses in vegetable refrigerators and ice cream coolers to accommodate the high volume of dead bodies.

The Israeli army’s internal investigation ruled this carnage to be “proportionate.”

The DCI-Palestine report ends by calling for international action to lift the siege on Gaza and hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

“The continued failure of the international community to demand justice and accountability has provided tacit approval of the persistent denial of Palestinian rights,” says DCI-Palestine. “Without an end to the current regime of collective punishment, targeted assassinations, and regular military offensives, the situation for Gaza’s children is all but guaranteed to further deteriorate.”

Sixty percent of global drone exports come from Israel — new data

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Israel has supplied 60.7 percent of the world’s drones since 1985, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

As a result, Israel is the single greatest source of drone proliferation in the world.

In second place is the United States, which accounts for 23.9 percent of global drone exports, followed by Canada at 6.4 percent, France at 1.6 percent, Austria at 1.4 percent, Italy at 1.1 percent, Germany at 1 percent and China at 0.9 percent.

Conversely, the United Kingdom is the world’s number one importer of drones. Between 2010 and 2014, the UK bought 55 drones from Israel and six armed drones from the US, which accounted for one third of global drone deliveries in that time period.

The vast majority of the drone market is comprised of surveillance drones.

The US, UK and Israel are the only countries in the world known to have used armed drones, deployed exclusively against nonwhite predominantly Muslim populations in nations and territories that have been pillaged and destroyed by Western conquest.

The besieged Gaza Strip has served as the leading testing ground for both armed and surveillance drones.

Tested on Palestinians

Over the last decade, Israel’s use of robotic warfare against Palestinians has escalated dramatically, with each new military assault on Gaza relying more heavily on drones than the last.

Last summer, Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign against Gaza killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including more than 500 children.

Based on data collected by the Al Mezan Center for Human rights, a Corporate Watchinvestigation found that at least 37 percent of those killed, or 840 people, died in drone strikes alone.


Corporate Watch chart of drone deaths in Gaza by year.

Lost in the numbers is the psychological terror inflicted on the people of the Gaza ghetto, especially children, by the constant presence of drones buzzing overhead with the capacity to rain death on those below at any moment.

This has been wildly lucrative for Israeli arms companies, which exploit Israel’s frequent military assaults as opportunities to expedite the testing of their products on human subjects.

Easy access to a captive Palestinian population to experiment on allows Israeli arms producers to market their products as “combat proven,” a coveted seal of approval that gives Israel a competitive edge in the international arms trade. Israel’s repression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized.

This dystopian arrangement has paved the way for Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, to rank among the globe’s top arms exporters.

A case in point is Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military technology firm, which produces 85 percent of the drones that make up the Israeli army’s vast arsenal.

The Hermes 900, a drone manufactured by Elbit, was deployed operationally for the first time against Palestinians in Gaza last summer, even though it was still undergoing testing. Nicknamed the Kochav — which is Hebrew for “star” — the Hermes 900’s blood-soaked performance garnered widespread praise at Israel’s annual drone conference, held less than a month after the Gaza slaughter.

The Hermes 900 is a more advanced version of the Hermes 450, an aerial attack and surveillance drone that was used by the Israeli army to deliberately target civilians in Gaza during Israel’s previous onslaught in late 2008 and early 2009, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Hermes drone was also used to kill civilians in Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, including Red Cross workers, ambulance drivers and dozens of people fleeing their homes in a desperate search for safety from Israeli bombardment.

Marketed in the company brochure as “combat-proven” and “Fighting terror for over a decade,” the Hermes 450 boasts “a class-leading safety and reliability record.”

Apparently impressed by the aircraft’s capacity for bloodshed, the Brazilian government purchased a fleet of Hermes drones to help crush the massive protests that erupted across Brazil against the 2014 World Cup.

Thales UK — a subsidiary of the French company, Thales, which is ranked as the eleventh largest arms producer in the world — signed a $1.6 billion joint venture with Elbit Systems in 2011 to develop a new drone fleet called Watchkeeper for the British military.

The Watchkeeper is being modeled on the Hermes 450, which has been deployed by the British army in Afghanistan.

Elbit might be Israel’s largest drone producer, but it’s hardly the only Israeli company selling equipment tested on Palestinians to regimes around the world.

According to an investigation by Drones UK, Israel has exported drone technology to at least fifty different countries, enabling atrocities and fueling war.

With America’s blessing, Israel sold drones and fighter jets to Sri Lanka, which were used to commit atrocities against Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority.

South Korea recently purchased the Heron drone, which is produced by Israel Aerospace Industries and has been deployed for surveillance and target acquisition in Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza.

In addition to helping crush World Cup protests, Israeli drones have been used by Brazilian police to invade the nation’s favelas.

In certain instances, Israel has sold drones to both sides in a given conflict. Both Russia and Georgia — between whom a conflict took place in 2008 — were armed with Israeli drones. Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have reportedly both used Israeli drones.

Meanwhile, Israel’s drone exports to India have provoked a drone “arms race” with neighboring Pakistan, according to the organization Drones UK.

Israel invented drones

Israel was instrumental in pioneering the modern drone due largely to the ideology at its core.

Israel’s creation as a majority Jewish state was precipitated by the pre-meditated ethnic cleansing of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1948 — which Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or catastrophe. Israel has spent every day since then consolidating and expanding its Jewish majority in historic Palestine, which has required tremendous levels of violence, including the ongoing containment and exclusion of the native Palestinian inhabitants still under its control.

The Israeli economy has been built around advancing this goal, giving rise to a booming “homeland security” industry that caters to the designs of Zionism and then repackages occupation-style repression for export and profit.

Drone technology has been crucial to this endeavor.

After suffering heavy losses in its 1973 war with Egypt, the Israeli regime, for the first time in its existence, was met with backlash from an Israeli Jewish public unaccustomed to high soldier casualties.

It was in the aftermath of the 1973 war that the Israeli government began investingheavily in drone technology, minimizing the risk to its soldiers, effectively pacifying future opposition to endless war, expansion and conquest.

Israel Aerospace Industries, known as Israel Aircraft Industries at the time, and the Israeli company Tadiran were tasked with designing drones for real-time intelligence collection in the occupied Sinai.

Soon enough, IAI invented the Scout drone, which was deployed in 1982 to coordinate targeting during Israel’s deadly invasion of Lebanon. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Israel tested and refined a variety of drones on the people of southern Lebanon in an attempt to crush armed resistance to its occupation. With each operation came another wave of advancements in drone technology.

With the start of the second intifada and Israel’s forced withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000, the occupied West Bank and Gaza became Israel’s primary testing grounds for drone warfare.

Israeli drones provided hidden attack helicopters with coordinates to fire on during Israel’s ruthless 2002 attack on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. As early as 2004, Israeli drones were raining down missiles on the Gaza Strip in targeted assassinations of Palestinians fighters.

Though the US started utilizing and investing in drone technology before Israel, Israel was always one step ahead.

It’s no coincidence that Abraham Karem, an Israeli citizen, designed the Predator drone, which has been deployed by the US military and the CIA to carry out targeted assassinations that have left hundreds of innocent people dead. The Iraqi-born Karem received a degree in aeronautical engineering at the Haifa-based Israel Institute of Technology — better known as the Technion —  and got his start at IAI before immigrating to the US after he was blackballed by the Israeli government for starting his own drone company.

Today, Gaza is surrounded with Israeli drones by air, land and sea.

In addition to the surveillance drones that hover overhead, the walls of the Gaza cage will soon be reinforced by Border Patroller, an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), or land drone, armed with remote-controlled weapons. Designed by the Israeli company G-NIUS, a joint venture between Elbit Systems and IAI, the Border Patroller, like the walls it fortifies, will prevent the Palestinian refugees of Gaza from escaping their cage.

The Protector, produced by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is an unmanned sea vehicle (USV), or boat drone, that roams Gaza’s coast to obstruct Palestinian fishermen from making a living.

If the proliferation of Israel’s aerial drones is any indication, it won’t be long before land and sea drones spread to all corners of the globe.

As long as Israel’s economy is shaped by the subjugation and elimination of Palestinians, it will continue to function as a factory for cutting-edge repression technology that sustains racism and inequality around the globe.

Why can’t media describe Chapel Hill murders as terrorism?

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

Today marks one week since 23-year-old Yousef Abu-Salha’s younger sisters — Yusor, 21, and Razan, 19 — were murdered by their neighbor. Yousef told The Electronic Intifada over the the phone from North Carolina that he has no doubt their murder was an anti-Muslim hate crime.

The women were executed along with Yusor’s husband, 23-year-old Deah Barakat, in the newlywed couple’s condominium.

All three were remarkable individuals devoted to helping the disenfranchised at home and refugees abroad. As their social media posts demonstrate, the plight of Syrian and Palestinian refugees were particularly near and dear to their hearts. In fact, Razan and Yusor were of Palestinian descent, which has been largely glossed over in the media coverage of their deaths.

Originally from the port city of Jaffa, the Abu-Salha family was driven out of historic Palestine by Zionist militias in 1948. Yousef’s father was subsequently born in Jordanand raised in Kuwait. His mother, whose maiden name is al-Azzeh, was born in al-Bireh, a city in the occupied West Bank.

Yousef and Yusor, both born in Jordan, are dual Jordanian-American citizens. Their parents immigrated to the United States when they were little. Razan was born in 1993. The family was living in Virginia Beach at the time. Soon afterwards, the Abu-Salhas moved to North Carolina, eventually settling down in Raleigh, where the children spent most of their lives.

After learning there had been a shooting, Yousef said his parents immediately suspected that Yusor and Deah, who weren’t answering their phones, had been shot by the neighbor they had on so many occasions expressed fear of. The families rushed to the apartment complex for confirmation of their worst fears. But for five grueling hours, police refused to tell them whether their loved ones were shot and if so, whether they were alive or dead.

The agonizing suspense was captured in a video report by the local news station WNCN, in which Deah Barakat’s father is seen pleading with officers to tell him whether his son is dead or alive.

It came as “a huge shock” when Yousef learned that Razan had also been killed. “I had no idea that my youngest baby sister was visiting,” he said.

By Wednesday morning, the police declared that the shooting was motivated by an ongoing parking dispute, a conclusion that appeared to be based almost entirely on the killer’s account.

“Gun toting” atheist

Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old white man who executed Yusor, Razan and Deah with what the family says were bullets to the back of the head, hated religion.

A self-described “gun-toting” atheist, Hicks’s Facebook postings were devoted almost exclusively to expressing hostility towards religion. Commenting on Christians, Muslims and Jews, Hicks said in one post, “I wish they would exterminate each other!”

According to residents, Hicks was a threatening and aggressive neighbor who acted as a self-appointed watchman of the condominium complex obsessed with parking spaces and noise. He called the local towing company so frequently about parking issues that the company stopped responding to his calls and had him banned.

“Yusor and Deah told us that one time [Hicks] knocked on their door and told them they were being too loud, with his gun at his waist,” recalled Yousef. “I knew in my head this was hate because of who my sister was and how she looked — she wore the headscarf proudly,” he added, noting that the violent harassment didn’t begin until Yusor moved in with Deah. “Even then my sister sympathized with him. She said maybe this man has been influenced negatively by the media and she was going to show him the truth about Muslims by showing him kindness.”

Yousef added that Deah, Yusor and their friends saw Hicks brandish several different guns. So Yousef was not suprised when law enforcement discovered an arsenal of more than a dozen firearms in Hicks’ home, along with several loaded magazines and a massive cache of ammunition.

Deah and Yusor went out of their way to avoid angering Hicks.

“Deah used to send us a picture of the parking map and highlight the numbers we could park in,” recalled Yousef.

But it wasn’t enough to stop Hicks from invading their home and murdering them in cold blood. Nor has Hicks’ barbaric crime compelled the media to reflect on its role in inciting against Muslims and Arabs.

“It’s a shame that you turn on a major news channel and you see a news story about ISIS and then they’ll cover our story and they do an okay job, but immediately after it will be another story about these radical groups,” remarked Yousef. “I think it sends US citizens a bad message that these Muslims are all the same.”

Withholding gruesome details

Meanwhile, authorities have kept a tight lid on the manner in which the three victims were killed.

Yousef said the family is “as clueless” as the public. However, he did see the bodies of the three victims before burial. “It appeared that Deah and Yusor put up a fight,” he said.

Deah Barakat’s brother, Farris, told the website BuzzFeed that he noticed some of Deah’s teeth were knocked out, a cruel irony given Deah’s profession in dentistry.

In the call to 911 dispatchers, a woman reported hearing around eight gunshots and “more than one girl screaming and then there was nothing and then I heard about three more shots go off.”

Though police have yet to release a coroner’s report or play-by-play of how the crime unfolded, some insight can be gleaned from search warrants released on Friday.

“According to the search warrants, a woman flagged down police and directed them to Barakat’s and Yusor Abu-Salha’s condo, saying her friend was bleeding,” reportedWRAL. “When officers arrived, they found Barakat dead in the front doorway bleeding from the head; one of the sisters was found in the kitchen, and the other was in the doorway to the kitchen. Police found eight shell casings in the living room of the condo and a bullet somewhere inside, according to a second warrant.”

Three days after the murders, Deah Barakat’s sister, Suzanne, revealed that police had yet to interview her family members, adding that it was “insulting, insensitive and outrageous” to blame the triple homicide on a parking dispute, especially since “on the day of the murders, the parking spot that was ‘disputed’ had no car in it.”

That changed on Saturday, when, according to Yousef, the families met with local and federal law enforcement officials, who are now investigating whether the murders were motivated by hate. Chapel Hill police chief Christopher Blue sincerely apologized to the families for the initial police statement, according to Yousef. The family, he added, was satisfied and understanding.

Double standards

Appearing on CNN, Suzanne Barakat slammed the inconsistent application of the “terrorism” label:

Had roles been reversed and the man was Muslim, was of Arab descent, was of South Asian descent, this would have immediately been labeled an act of terror. I haven’t heard anyone use the term terrorist here. Why the double standard? He has terrorized our families. He has terrorized our lives. He has terrorized our community locally, nationally and internationally and it’s time that people call it for what it is.

Suzanne’s analysis was proven right the very next day, when a gunman opened fire at a Copenhagen café during “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” an event hosted by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Three police officers were injured and a film director was killed.

Danish police believe the target of the shooting was Vilks. Vilks has faced threats on his life in the past over his offensive drawings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog, artwork that has gained him international notoriety.

Hours later, the gunman opened fire outside a synagogue, injuring several police officers and killing a Jewish security guard who was standing watch outside a bat mitzvah.

Within hours the Obama administration issued condolences and offered assistance.

In stark contrast it took Barack Obama three days to utter a word about the execution-style murder of three Muslims in his own country, and he did so only after being shamed for his silence on the international stage.

Still, Obama’s condolences meant the world to Yousef. “I broke down in tears when I read his message and the fact that he quoted my sister was really humbling,” he told me, adding that the family feels no animosity towards Obama for waiting so long to speak out. “We know President Barack Obama is a busy man.”

While the Abu-Salha and Barakat families continued to demonstrate forgiveness and understanding, the corporate press devolved into hysterical fear-mongering at the first sign of violence potentially committed by a Muslim.

Danish authorities immediately categorized the attacks as “terrorism” based on nothing more than the suspected ethnicity of the still unidentified gunman and the identities of his victims. And the international press corps followed suit.

The suspected gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, was later identified by local media as Omar el-Hussein, a Danish-born 22-year-old with a violent criminal past unrelated to religious extremism. Two weeks prior to his shooting spree, el-Hussein was released from prison where he was serving time for stabbing a passenger on a commuter train. A petty criminal with possible gang affiliations, el-Hussein exhibited characteristics common to mass shooters. According to people who knew him, he suffered from anxiety and never quite fit in.

There is no indication he was involved in a larger terror cell and the head of PET — Denmark’s domestic security agency — concluded that he never traveled to Syria or Iraq as a Jihadist fighter and had no known ties to last month’s Paris attackers. And his motives remain unknown.

Yet the overwhelming consensus among media outlets and Western government officials is that his was an act of terrorism by an Islamic radical.

Meanwhile, media outlets have managed to portray Chapel Hill killer Craig Stephen Hicks as a defender of freedom in spite of his murderous rampage. The Associated Press ran the headline ”Shooting suspect slams religion while defending liberty” in a piece profiling Hicks, which ends by citing the “precious video link” Hicks shared on his Facebook page of a “dachshund puppy, repeatedly dinging a small silver bell with its paw to receive a treat.”

“Murderous misfits”

If the reaction to the Denmark attacks isn’t evidence enough of a glaring double standard, then the response to the recently foiled mass shooting plot in Canadacertainly is.

Over the weekend Canadian authorities thwarted a Valentine’s Day attack on a Halifax shopping mall. The three attackers — all white youths, including one American woman who traveled to Canada specifically to carry out the attack — were prepared to kill as many citizens as possible and then themselves.

But Canadian officials refused to categorize the suspects as terrorists.

“I would classify it as a group of individuals that had some beliefs and were willing to carry out violent acts against citizens, but there’s nothing in the investigation to classify it as a terrorist attack,” declared Brian Brennan, a commanding officer with the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” proclaimed Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who described the suspects as “murderous misfits.”

Contrary to official claims, the suspects left an online trail of social media posts that show an infatuation with Nazis and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers who killed twelve people and injured another 21 at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

According to her online presence, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, the American woman believed to be the leader of the band of so-called “murderous misfits,” is an avowed neo-Nazi with deep admiration for Adolf Hitler, white separatists and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Had an American Muslim with an online jihadist profile traveled to another country to carry out an attack in concert with local Muslims, it’s difficult to imagine the press corps and law enforcement ruling out terrorism and “cultural motivations” as factors.

“Open season” on Muslims

While many united in horror against the Chapel Hill murders, Islamophobes seem to have hardened in their hatred.

A Muslim school in Rhode Island was vandalized with graffiti over the weekend that said ”Die Pig” and “Fuck Allah Now This Is A Hate Crime.”

A 55-year-old white man named Darryl Ferguson set fire to the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, Texas, on Friday morning. The fire came just days after a masked manthreatened people outside of the building.

Hours after the Chapel Hill murders, Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, California, implored her followers to “#StandUpAgainstIslam” in a tweet about the death of Islamic State hostage and Palestine solidarity activist Kayla Mueller.

In Bothell, Washington, a Hindu temple was tagged with a swastika and the words “get out” —  possibly by someone who confused a Hindu house of worship for a mosque. A middle school down the block was similarly vandalized with a swastika and the words ”Muslims get out.”

As Suzanne Barakat pointed out, it is “open season” on Muslims in the US, thanks in large part to incitement from politicians, vilification in the media and the dehumanization of Muslims in movies like American Sniper, which inspired a deluge of death threats aimed at Muslims and Arabs.

In spite of this hateful climate, Yousef said his family is comforted and inspired by the outpouring of love for Yusor, Razan and Deah.

“We are getting pictures of vigils marches and prayers from everywhere — South America, Australia, South Africa, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan,” he said. “There are people that we used to pray for and cry for, and now they’re praying for and crying for us.”

The lives of his sisters and brother-in-law, he added, are “a testimony to the world of the true representation of the headscarf and Islam.”

“They did not die in vain,” Yousef declared. “They are influencing the world.”

Podcast: Dahr Jamail on Extinction, Disease & Other Dangers Caused by Climate Disruption

For this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” episode:

Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek are joined by Dahr Jamail, Truthout writer, to talk about his monthly “Climate Disruption” dispatches. He provides an overview of thresholds that have perilously been crossed as a result of human-caused climate disruption. He highlights methane blowholes, disease and even describes electromagnetic war games the Navy has engaged in to the detriment of wildlife and humans.

As the talk becomes more gloomy due to the reality of climate disruption, Jamail talks about dealing with depression and how scientists, institutions and even governments are fighting back against these dangerous developments.

During the discussion portion, we talk about the Chapel Hill murders, the FBI targeting anti-oil sands activists and Chelsea Manning being granted hormone therapy by the Pentagon.

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.

Below is a partial transcript.

RANIA KHALEK: We have been following your reporting on climate change. I don’t know where to begin. It’s terrifying. Especially the last couple of months, scientists are warning extinction is coming and twenty-six percent of mammals face extinction. Why don’t you start us off because I don’t think a lot of people really follow climate change issues that closely except for when there is a big hurricane or a natural disaster? Why don’t you start by filling us in on the more general aspects?

DAHR JAMAIL: I agree. It’s really challenging for me to write about this stuff. That’s why one of my recent pieces entailed basically pulling together a bunch of quotes from climate scientists because everyone who is following this closely—whether it’s scientists producing the actual studies or people like me who are reporting on it and other journalists reporting on it or people who read it and make a priority to read it on a regular basis—Depression is a very real thing that we have to deal with.

So, I’ve been writing about that because what is happening, and I have to come to terms with this every month when I come out with my “Climate Dispatch,” which is basically a global survey. I look around the world and try to pull together the most recent scientific studies that come out showing how far along we are, linking various species extinctions or extreme climate events or other factors, like the drought in California, linking those to climate disruption and things.

Just some broad brush strokes to give people some general idea of how far along we are. It’s common knowledge in the brunt of the scientific community that we have entered the sixth great mass extinction on the planet and this is due primarily climate disruption and human-caused climate disruption as well as deforestation by corporate capitalism and mass consumption causing habitat loss for so many species and habitat pollution, etc. In my most recent climate dispatch, I cited how experts are already warning us to expect 30-50% of all current species to go extinct by 2050. So, that’s almost nearly all half of current species extinct in thirty-five years ago.

Another report listed several key species that we expect to see go extinct this year, like the Sumatran elephant, the Javan rhinoceros, the mountain gorilla, the leatherback sea turtle, etc. That’s on the back of another stunning new study that was published in the journal, Science, one of the most prestigious journals out there, also talking about how we’re causing a massive extinction event—and those are their words—in the oceans.

And one of the scientists in that study said, “I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean without another dramatic shift away from current business as usual fossil fuel economy.” So, those types of things. I’ve written a lot about the methane releases that are already happening in the Arctic; methane being a hundred times for more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 over a twenty-year time scale. And the problem with the methane releases in the Arctic is this is a runaway feedback loop that basically can’t be stopped. So, several things happening across the planet that are really kicking things into overdrive into an already pretty dismal situation.

KEVIN GOSZTOLA: Now, is this a scientific term or this something you came up with? It’s anthropogenic climate disruption. Is that your term or a scientific term?

JAMAIL: I actually stole it from my wife. [laughter] She’s an artist and a lot of her work is informed by climate disruption and she’s also a pretty heavy science bent herself. She came up with it. I have seen it used in some scientific literature. I tend to go with it by preference because a lot of climate deniers and the Republicans, you’ll see them say, well, climate change happens all the time.

This isn’t some—And it’s true. Climate changes every day. It always and always will. So, if we want to cut that nonsense out and use a very specific term, anthropogenic climate disruption (i.e. human-caused climate disruption)—because it’s not climate change. Our actions are literally disrupting the planet. That’s why I use that because it is very, very specific, and it can’t be argued.

GOSZTOLA: Along those lines, could you get into—Because I think it was really flooring and just incredible to read this whole thing that we, and I think you were alluding to it if not specifically mentioning it, that we’ve gone beyond four of the nine “planetary boundaries” and that this is really horrible for humanity that some of these have been crossed?

JAMAIL: Yeah, that’s right. It’s just another wake-up call that shows that on really so many levels we have literally gone beyond what this planet is able to withstand. For example—one thing I haven’t written about, although I have an article coming out on overpopulation—It’s been argued that the planet basically has a viable carrying capacity, i.e. how many people can live on the planet without causing major disruption or damage or overconsumption, is probably just under 1 billion people. Considering that we’re pushing 7.3 billion now is one boundary. I haven’t really written about that, again, but that would just be one example.

Other things: It’s very clear right now. You look around. There is not enough clean water on the planet for everybody on the planet to have safe, clean potable drinking water on a daily basis. There’s not enough food. Some of that is displaced. We have the 1%, of course, hoarding and having more than enough of everything and yet, what is it? Over a billion people a day—and that’s a very conservative estimate. I’ve seen some estimates as high as 2 billion. Almost a third of the planet doesn’t get enough to eat on a daily basis.

We look at survivability and certain temperature changes in certain parts of the globe. The Middle East, for example, their temperature changes and other areas around the globe like that, where they’re starting to become unlivable. I’m not sure that addresses directly and specifically the question you asked, but it was to give people some idea that we really have pushed through so many of the livable boundaries on the planet let alone what the planet can even take as far as what is an amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that is not going to impact life on Earth whatsoever, of methane that’s not going to impact life on Earth.

Clearly, those are two more boundaries we’ve passed through and left in the dust.

KHALEK: One thing I found really scary—It’s really overwhelming how 250,000 additional people are projected to die every year between 2030-2050 from climate disruption. There’s not enough clean water, like drinkable water. You mention all these mass extinctions taking place. But I think the scariest thing about it is there doesn’t seem to be any momentum building to do anything to mitigate what is happening. It seems like we’re past the point of stopping some of this stuff.

JAMAIL: There are, I mean. And I plan on writing an article about this in the not so distant future. There is a lot of pushback. There is a lot happening regarding people and even some governments that are taking some extraordinary steps. The divestment movement, not just the divestment, the BDS regarding Palestine and Israel, but there’s the climate change divestment movement, where there is a big movement trying to pressure governments and institutions and universities to take all of their holdings and divest it out of fossil fuel-based holdings. So, that’s gaining momentum, where we have major, major universities around the planet that are doing that; major companies, some instances, governments are starting to do that.

And that’s picking up steam. For example, the country of Denmark is getting almost of half of its electrical power just from wind. Then we have other European that are setting pretty dramatic goals in the very near term of we will get off 20-30% of the fossil fuels that we are currently on within like 5-10 years. Very, very aggressive goals. There is some of that. We don’t hear about that in the corporate press. You know, CNN every other commercial is sponsored by Chevron or Exxon Mobil. But that kind of thing is happening.

One of the things I wrote about recently was how the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently moved their doomsday clock to three minutes to midnight, the closest its been since the height of the Cold War due to how far along we are with climate disruption but also because of the threat of nuclear war with what’s happening in Ukraine with Russia. So, that coupled with other large bodies of climate scientists that are literally begging their governments to stop pushing for more drilling. Stop pushing for more fossil fuels. There is a lot of pushback that unfortunately doesn’t get as much press as business as usual.

GOSZTOLA: Could you talk about—and I think it’s rather fascinating and imagine many people haven’t considered this as fueling climate change—I think you’ve done a couple pieces on methane blowholes. Can you go into that?

JAMAIL: I’ve written quite a few articles on what is happening up in the Arctic regarding methane. It’s also starting to happen down in some parts of the Antarctic too. I did an article on that, which came out last month, in the middle of January, called “The Methane Monster Roars,” and I interviewed several of the leading scientists that are studying what’s happening there. And one of them, who probably put out the most shocking information and quotes,

Podcast: Jason Leopold on Guantanamo & Prying Loose Documents from ‘Most Transparent Administration Ever™’

Here’s Kevin with the details for this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure:

A military memo shows that that personnel at Guantanamo recognized that force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike violated medical ethics and international law.

Jason Leopold, a VICE News journalist, reported on the document, which he obtained, and explained it could be important in the case of a Navy nurse, who refused to force-feed at least one prisoner and now faces possible discharge.

His lawyers told Leopold, “It is highly significant that the Department of Defense explicitly acknowledges that force-feeding at Guantanamo is contrary to medical ethics.” And, “This is the first disclosure we have seen admitting that.”

Leopold joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast to talk about this latest scoop. He highlights secrecy at Guantanamo Bay as well as his effort to get the uncensored executive summary of the Senate report on CIA torture released. He describes how the full torture report may never be seen by the public if some officials in government have their way. Plus, as an expert on navigating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process to get documents he needs for reporting, he addresses some of the complexities he deals with daily.

During the discussion portion of the show, the FBI listing the brother of a US citizen challenging the No Fly List as a “most wanted terrorist,” former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling being convicted and a vile sex crime ring with influential people who are working to cover up what happened, like Alan Dershowitz. He has a history of attacking sex abuse victims.

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.


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