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Posts by Rania Khalek

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

As atrocities mount in Gaza, US approves Israeli request for more bombs

Hours after Israel shelled yet another UN school sheltering internally displaced families and a marketplace in Gaza, killing dozens of people, an unnamed defense department official revealed to CNN that the US had approved an Israeli request to tap into the one billion dollar weapons stockpile the US keeps in Israel.

The last time Israel dipped into the special stockpile was in 2006, during its assault on Lebanon.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed to the The Electronic Intifada over email that the US Department of Defense authorized a transfer of munitions to Israel on 23 July in response to a request from the Israeli defense ministry for “a normal Foreign Military Sales delivery of ammunition.”

Two of the munitions Israel demanded—120mm mortar rounds and 40mm grenades—happened to be available in the stockpile, so the US delivered them to the Israeli army from there.

“Issuing munitions from the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I) was strictly a sourcing decision,” explained Kirby.

Arming Israel to stop violence?

Israel’s call for more arms was fullfilled on the sixteenth day of Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. By then Israel had already killed at least 661 Palestinians, including 132 children.

Asked whether the defense department — the Pentagon — is concerned that its weapons might be used to harm innocent Palestinians given that the overwhelmingly majority of those killed in Gaza have been civilians, Kirby replied that the US is troubled by civilian casualties and is actively pushing for a ceasefire.

“We have consistently voiced our concerns over the rising number of civilian casualties in this conflict. We need to bring the violence and civilian casualties to an end, which is why the US government is focused on instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement,” said Kirby, adding, “We are also concerned that continued fighting could further destabilize the West Bank.”

The spokesman also issued an unprompted reaffirmation of support for “Israel’s right to defend itself,” and praised the Israeli army’s supposed moral superiority, saying “Unlike Hamas, which is firing rockets from populated areas and indiscriminately targeting civilians in Israel, the IDF [Israeli army] takes measures to limit civilian casualties.”

Kirby continued: “But the fact is, despite Israel’s efforts, the Palestinian civilian suffering in Gaza — including the deaths and injuries of children — is great and growing every day.”

“The high civilian death toll makes clear that Israel can and must do more to meet its own high standards for protecting civilians from being killed. This underscores the urgency of getting an unconditional, immediate humanitarian cease-fire.”

“High standards”

Today Israel has killed over 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 July, including more than 300 children. Almost 80 percent of those killed have been civilians.

In stark contrast, actions by armed Palestinian resistance groups, mainly Hamas, killed56 soldiers and three Israeli civilians, one of whom was a West Bank settler killed while voluntarily delivering treats to Israeli soldiers stationed at the Gaza border prior to the ground invasion.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Stocks rise for Israeli drone-maker as Gaza slaughter continues

As Israel ruthlessly destroys the besieged Gaza Strip, its largest developer of military technology, Elbit Systems, is benefitting from the bloodshed.

US-traded shares of Elbit have climbed 6.1 percent since 8 July, when Israel began its latest offensive against the Gaza Strip.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Israel’s three-week long massacre of 1,200 Palestinians in Gaza, including nearly 300 children, “has pushed [Elbit’s] stock close to the highest level since 2010 while its valuation on a price-to-earnings basis is near the most expensive in five years.”

The rising stock is driven by speculation that the Haifa-based company will see increasing demand for its products from both the Israeli and foreign governments impressed by Elbit’s blood-soaked performance in Gaza.

Palestine is a laboratory

Like most Israeli military contractors, Elbit benefits from Israel’s decades-long brutal occupation of Palestine, which serves as a laboratory for Israel’s ballooning “homeland security” industry to test and perfect methods of domination and control, with Palestinians as their involuntary lab rats.

Israel’s suppression technology is then exported to regimes that are similarly invested in subjugating the poor and marginalized, like the United States, where Elbit was recently granted a lucrative $145 million contract to provide surveillance technology at the Arizona-Mexico border.

This is the same Elbit surveillance technology used to construct and maintain Israel’s apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, which the International Court of Justice has deemed illegal under international law.

Exporting repression

Experimenting on Palestinians has paved the way for Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, to become the world’s number one exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones.

Elbit’s Hermes drone is one of the most widely used by the Israeli army, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where the Hermes 450, outfitted to carry two medium range missiles, has been heavily deployed against civilians in Gaza.

Marketed as “combat-proven” on the company’s website, the Hermes 450 drone boasts “300,000 operational flight hours and a class-leading safety and reliability record,” a bold declaration for a product that, according to Human Rights Watch, was used by the Israeli army to deliberately target civilians in Gaza during Israel’s 2008-2009 onslaught, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including at least 400 children.

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

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 recent World Cup.

In a deal worth $280 million, the Swiss government last month purchased the Hermes 900, a surveillance version of the more deadly Hermes 450.

Elbit is also involved in a $1.6 billion joint venture with Thales, a French weapons company, to develop a drone similar to the Hermes 450 for the UK defense ministry.

Exporting death

Palestinian children whose tiny bodies are torn to shreds by Elbit’s equipment are central to the company’s advertising strategy.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

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