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Posts by Rania Khalek

Medical workers killed, injured as Israel targets Gaza health infrastructure

“The Israelis are using a wide variety of sophisticated modern weapons against a basically naked civilian population,” said renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in a phone interview with The Electronic Intifada on Tuesday, 22 July.

“This is state terrorism at a very sophisticated and very high level,” he added.

Speaking over the phone from al-Shifa hospital where he is helping to treat the wounded, Gilbert described the horrors he has witnessed in Gaza in recent days as the bodies of mostly Palestinian women and children are brought to the hopsital torn to shreds by an Israeli arsenal deliberately aimed at civilians.

War on children

With the Gaza death toll quickly approaching 700, the United Nations says some 80 percent are civilians, among them at least 168 children. Over the last few days alone, Israeli forces have on average killed at least one child in Gaza per hour. Children also make up one-third of the more than 4,000 wounded, many with debilitating injuries that Gaza hospitals are ill-equipped to properly treat due to dire shortages caused by the Israel’s illegal siege.

“One of these kids would have a whole cross-professional team in an American hospital or Norwegian hospital,” said Gilbert.

Israel, it seems, is waging a war on children

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are internally displaced, access to clean drinking water is increasingly scarce and electricity is practically non-existent, explained Gilbert. Gaza is a man-made humanitarian catastrophe. 

Bombing hospitals, killing paramedics

Israel has bombed at least 25 health care facilities, killing and injuring several medical workers, said Gilbert, whose repeated appeals for the UN to step in and protect Palestinian hospitals from Israeli attacks that clearly violate international law have been resulted in meaningful action on the ground.

“[Medical facilities] are being targeted and they’re being bombed and the patients and the staff are getting killed,” said Gilbert.

“What would have happened if Palestinian fighters had bombed an Israeli hospital and killed five patients?” Gilbert commented. “The world would have turned upside down. What is this second-hand, or even third-hand or fourth-hand citizenship in the world for the Palestinians?”

Yesterday the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an open letter co-authored by Gilbert and signed by several doctors and scientists strongly denouncing Israel’s crimes against Gaza’s health sector. 

“Israel is saying that they are bombing Gaza to get rid of tunnels and terrorists,” said Gilbert. “I see no tunnels and terrorists in Shifa hospital. I see only ordinary people like you and me.”

Read the rest and listen to the interview at The Electronic Intifada

Israel’s Iron Dome doesn’t cover Bedouins

The Negev (Naqab) desert in the south of present-day Israel is home to 200,000 indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, known as Bedouins, most of whom arecompletely defenseless against falling rockets because the Israeli government refuses to protect their villages and denies them the right to build bomb shelters.

One of two Israeli civilians killed since Israel began its relentless bombing campaign in Gaza was 32-year-old Auda al-Wadj.

He died when a rocket fired from Gaza struck his home in Qasr al-Ser, a Bedouin village near Dimona that lacks sirens, bomb shelters and cover from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system because, according to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, the Iron Dome “does not protect agricultural areas.”  

As life in Gaza grinds to a halt amid death and destruction from Israel’s merciless bombing campaign, Israeli casualties from Palestinian rockets fired in response to Israel’s military attacks and illegal policy of collective punishment and siege have been minimal.

This is due in large part, says Israel, to the Iron Dome, a US-subsidized missile defense system that Israel says intercepts rockets before they land.

Exaggerated effectiveness

As Dan Murphy reports in the Christian Science Monitor, experts believe that Israeli claims about Iron Dome’s effectiveness are grossly exaggerated.

One missile expert, Michael Armstrong of Canada’s Brock University, “concludes that fewer rockets are being fired this time from Gaza, that they’re less accurate, and being intercepted less often by Iron Dome than in 2012.”

Rockets fired by Palestinian groups lack guidance systems and can only be aimed in a general direction.

Theodore Postol a missile expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has noted that “examination of photographs showing contrails of attempted interceptors shows few head-on hits – in his estimation just 5 percent of the time. He argues that absent such hits, the system is not performing as advertised.”

Rather, experts say, the fact that casualties have been minimal as a result of rocket fire from Gaza is more likely due to an effective early warning system and the availability of bomb shelters.

But Israel’s government says — and most Israelis apparently believe — that Iron Dome is effective. And Israel also denies Bedouins the right to build bomb shelters; the Israeli army defines their homes as “open areas” unworthy of Iron Dome protection.

Combined with Israel’s vast network of bomb shelters and the sheer lack of firepower in the Palestinian arsenal, the Iron Dome has helped shield Israelis — psychologically at least — from the consequences of ghettoizing and imprisoning 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza.

But not all Israeli lives are worthy of this protection.

“Open areas”

Israel’s high court on Sunday rejected a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on behalf the Negev Bedouin community requesting equal protection from falling rockets. 

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israel firing experimental weapons at Gaza’s civilians, say doctors

Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.

Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza, said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”

He added, “Israel has mercilessly targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving many of them with life-threatening injuries and future handicaps.”

In the last week, Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 190 people, eighty percent of them civilians, including at least 34 children.

Using Gaza as a laboratory

DIME munitions were developed by the US Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s weapons industry.

DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.

Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.

“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”

Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip thatkilled more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said.

The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.

“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge axe had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off,” Gilbert recounted.  “In addition we saw very, very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Israel is deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza

The UN says 77 percent of Palestinians killed in Israel’s relentless bombing campaign on the besieged Gaza Strip have been civilians.

report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs details Israel’s current assault, now it in its sixth day.

With over 150 killed, including an alarming number of women and children, and the death toll in Gaza rising by the hour, Israeli officials insist they are doing all they can to avoid civilian casualties.

Using precision guided missiles, the Israeli army claims it is only bombing people and infrastructure “affiliated with Hamas terrorism” — and the international community is buying it.

What is not being discussed, however, is who and what constitutes a Hamas affiliate.

Hamas is more than just a militant organization, it is the political party that was democratically elected in 2006 to govern the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Hamas’s control means that almost everyone and everything in Gaza can be considered a Hamas affiliate. This unchallenged loose definition has enabled Israel’s war architects to widen the definition of legitimate targets to include civilians and civilian infrastructure, including mosques, schools, hospitals, banks, electricity lines and residential homes, all of which have been targeted.

Aside from a weak condemnation issued by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the international community has largely accepted Israel’s methodology, completely abandoning defenseless Palestinian civilians as they’re being maimed and slaughtered by one of the world’s most powerful armies.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Dave Zirin on the ‘sporting shock doctrine’ and the World Cup as a ‘neoliberal trojan horse’

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, Kevin Gosztola and I discussed the World Cup with Dave Zirin—sports correspondent for The Nation, author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil and all around badass.

(Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

International sporting events have been hijacked by disaster capitalists, says Zirin, transforming the games we love into engines for neoliberal “shock doctrine” economics.

“Events like the World Cup and Olympics allow states to push through agendas that people would otherwise protest or object to…under the cloak of these mega-events,” explains Zirin. “And the sporting shock doctrine is like, instead of people being paralyzed by trauma, which is what Naomi Klein writes about, instead it’s people more paralyzed by the prospect of hosting these events and the responsibilities that go into it and the lies frankly that go into the selling of it to the people like, oh, this is going to greatly expand our tourist economy and turn us into the pinnacle of the world.”

For Brazil, hosting this year’s World Cup has come at a high cost: the mass displacement of the poor and the proliferation and normalization of a militarized surveillance state.

“Some of the things that the neoliberal trojan horse brings into a country are things like the creeping surveillance state, the normalization of drones flying overhead, the expansion of gentrification in the cities, the growth of real estate speculation and the expansion of the tourist industry as well, which I would argue generally is very negative for workers because it tends to be seasonal work. It tends to be very low wage and it tends to really depend on the kindness of tourists, which doesn’t put the workers in a tremendous position of power. So, this is all what goes in to these mega-events.”

Zirin also discusses Israel’s role in training and arming the Brazilian police in methods of control and suppression, warning of what he calls the “exporting [of] Gaza” to other parts of the world.

Despite all the bad, Zirin insists it’s okay to enjoy the World Cup and advises against boycotting.

“Nobody inside of Brazil is asking for an international boycott, and I think that’s very important particularly for those of us in the global north, the United States what have you, who are thinking about solidarity to remember that those calls need to come from the people who are the most affected,” argues Zirin.

He added that “We shouldn’t be alienated from art. We should try to engage with it even with all its contradictions to understand what’s so beautiful about it.” More importantly, “it just seems like the World Cup is really pissing Ann Coulter off. Anything that does that is frankly worth investigation.”

In the discussion portion of the episode, Kevin and I talk about America’s inhumane response to child refugees at the US-Mexico border, the US government dropping charges against Sami al-Arian and the lynching of a Palestinian teen by Israeli extremists.

Israel holds US boy without charge after police nearly beat him to death

Fifteen-year-old Tariq Abukhdeir after Israeli police beat him. (Addameer)

Fifteen-year-old Tariq Abukhdeir after Israeli police beat him. (Addameer)

Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American Tariq Abukhdeir, cousin of recent lynching victim Muhammed Abu Khudair, was brutally beaten by masked Israeli police on Thursday evening in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. He has since been arrested and held without charge and denied medical treatment, according to his family and the rights group Addameer.

Tariq’s family lives in Tampa, Florida and have been on vacation in Palestine since early June. They are scheduled to return to the United States on 16 July. Tariq’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sunday, 6 July.

As photos of Tariq’s horrific facial bruises surfaced, so did two videos that show masked Israeli officers punching, kicking and dragging a handcuffed Palestinian in Shuafat.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada (I blog there pretty regularly)

Israeli Soldiers Call for Revenge against Palestinians

Originally posted on Human in the Muddle:

After the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Hebron were uncovered yesterday near Halhul, the occupied West Bank, racist attacks against Palestinians have been on the rise. Two protests, each attended by hundreds of people, took place in Jerusalem where mobs chanted again and again “Revenge!”, “Death to Arabs”, and “Jews are good [literally, "souls"], Arabs and sons of whores”.

Death to Arab chants in central Jerusalem yesterday. Some of the protesters attempted to attack a Palestinian worker of McDonalds

A new facebook page titled “The People of Israel Demand Revenge“, managed to gain over 32,000 “likes” in about 24 hours.Young Israelis post photos of themselves on this page calling for revenge against Palestinians. Among those young Israelis are soldiers, many of them from units that serve in the occupied Palestinian territories. All the photos in this post were taken from that…

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Nafeez Ahmed on the Pentagon’s militarization of social science to counter nonviolent activism

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with Nafeez Ahmed, a writer and contributor to The Guardian, about his groundbreaking article, “Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown.”

(Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

In both the UK and US there is a disturbing trend of the defense establishment militarizing social science to monitor, study and counter nonviolent activism that challenges the status quo, which both countries have classified as a threat on par with terrorism. The Pentagon has gone so far as to label peace groups that explicitly advocate nonviolence as “social contagions” and “potential supporters of political violence.”  Ahmed explains the creepy reasoning behind this mentality and what it means for activists moving forward in a world increasingly destabilized by climate change-fueled resource shortages and a globalized economic order that’s failing the majority of the world’s population.

In the discussion portion of the episode, Kevin and I talk about the Obama administration citing an Israeli supreme court decision as legal justification for executing American citizens abroad without trial, the thirteen Americans who challenged their placement on the no-fly list and won, and the scandalous water shut-offs in Detroit.

Dahr Jamail: What’s Happening in Iraq Is the Legacy of the US Invasion and Occupation

For this week’s episode of Unauthorized Discloure, Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail about Iraq’s continued descent into chaos. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

Back in March, Jamail came on the show to discuss war crimes being committed by the US-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against Sunnis in Fallujah with US arms, a development the mainstream US media had virtually ignored.

The media’s widespread neglect of Iraq changed almost instantly with the takeover of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant group so extreme that even al Qaeda has distanced itself. With US interests at stake and the Obama administration weighing airstrikes, Iraq is once again worthy of the spotlight. But as Jamail explains, there is more to Iraq’s current woes than the US media is letting on.

“What is happening in Iraq is the legacy that the US invasion and occupation have left there,” said Jamail.

Sectarianism was deliberately woven into the fabric of Iraq by the United States following the invasion. “The Iraqi Governing Council set up on under the Coalition Provisional Authority was set up strictly along sectarian lines and that started happening in the first month of the occupation,” explained Jamail. Next came US-trained Shia death squads that were used to suppress the mostly Sunni insurgency fighting the US occupation. Later, when the US withdrew, the Obama administration continued to train and arm Maliki despite well-documented evidence of his sectarian war crimes against Sunnis, which ISIS has exploited.

Jamail spoke of his trip to Iraq in 2013, where he witnessed weekly protests against Maliki. “The US has backed since his installation many years ago and has sold him now over $25 billion of arms and training and counting,” said Jamail. “Sunnis were protesting against him because he was sending the military into Sunni towns, Sunni enclaves and killing people, detaining people and then once they were detained, torturing them. There was all kinds of rampant reports of detaining women, them being raped while they were in prison.” The protests, which began in 2012, were nonviolent “until the military at one point decided to start killing people at protests.”

Jamail described “seething anger” among protesters, particularly young people. ISIS groups, who were in the crowd, “tapped into the disenfranchised youth of the mainstream Sunni community in these targeted areas as well as a lot of the Baathist leadership has remained in Iraq and a lot of ex-military guys, they’ve all teamed up,” explained Jamail. This is why ISIS has been so successful; it has support from a significant portion of Iraq’s Sunni population.

Jamail also noted that the US and its allies have contributed to the growing power of ISIS by arming them both directly and indirectly in Syria. “We have literally a catch-22 situation play out on the ground where on the one hand the US has provided unbridled support in the form of weapons and funding to ISIS in Syria and on the other hand they’re providing unbridled support to Maliki in Baghdad and now of course both sides are fighting each other,” said Jamail.

While the Bush administration is largely responsible for Iraq’s unraveling, President Obama is culpable. “There’s been a seamlessness in the policies between the Bush administration and the Obama administration,” explained Jamail. “That withdrawal date was set during the Bush administration and Obama simply carried forward with plans that were already made. So there really hasn’t been a change. There were already massive amounts of military hardware and training being sold to the government of Iraq. Obama continued that and in fact escalated it…and of course now they’re rushing even more funding into Maliki and talking about drone strikes.”

As for the Iraq war architects reappearing on cable news to offer Iraq analysis, Jamail advised, “The only thing instructive about what they say is you can pretty much rest assured that the opposite is true.”

In the discussion portion of the show, Kevin and I talk about Hillary Clinton’s desire to deport immigrant children who are fleeing violence in Central America, the terror Israel is inflicting on Palestinians in its search for three missing Israeli teens, and recent court cases that demonstrate a disturbing erosion of our civil liberties.

Below is a full transcript of our interview with Jamail. Read more

Podcast: Max Blumenthal On Israel’s Continuing Shift Toward Fascism

Kevin Gosztola and I celebrated the 20th episode of Unauthorized Disclosure by interviewing our very first white male guest, award-winning journalist and author Max Blumenthal. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

We spoke with Max about Israel/Palestine, segments of the American left that have yet to endorse BDS and Israel’s continuing rightward shift toward fascism, which he documents in his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

We also discussed his recent article for The Nation on hunger strikers in immigration detention. Here’s Kevin with the highlights

While there has been a lot of focus on the backlash to his book, Blumenthal notes that he has “gotten a lot of support for the book” in the months since it was published. “That’s something that’s been overlooked.”

“One of the most favorable reviews of the book was by Akiva Elder, who covered politics for Haaretz, one of the four main newspapers in Israel, for thirty-five years and said this book describes the reality that I’ve been living in for my whole life, which I forgot existed around me because I’d become so immune and inured to it,” he explains. “If you look at Haaretz’s reporting and some of their columns, [it's] almost like a mimeograph or very condensed dissemination of the key themes in my book of Israel veering toward fascism under the control of an authoritarian government that’s dictated by the imperatives of a lawless occupation.”

Blumenthal notes the many screeds that were written by The Nation’s Eric Alterman to attack him but says they largely failed because the left rose to the occasion and pushed back. “They’re sick of seeing these kinds of books and critiques be suppressed.” In the end, it amounted to “a lot of free publicity.”

Blumenthal supports the overall progressive mission of The Nation and notes he still has a good professional relationship with the publication but criticized the magazine for failing to take a position on BDS as a tactic.

“They told me they were going to debate BDS and kind of take a position on it and I haven’t seen that magazine take a position,” Blumenthal says. “And they continue hosting debates between people, who support it because they support equality for Palestinians, versus opponents of Palestinian equality, who are Zionists like Bernard Avishai who lives in an Arab home in Jerusalem whose residents were ethnically cleansed.”

“I just don’t understand how a progressive magazine, which takes really strong positions on other issues and doesn’t say, let’s have a debate between someone who believes climate change is real and someone who believes climate change is a hoax,” he adds. “They would never do that but they continue to do this on BDS and won’t take a position and I think that’s one of the failures of the left.”

Rep. Alan Grayson introduced a bill prohibiting federal funding to higher institutions of learning that participate in a boycott of Israel.

On Grayson’s attack on free speech, Blumenthal states, “My understanding of Grayson is that he’s taking the initiative personally on things like this and boasted that he is one of the Jewish members of Congress, who supported Israel during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, because he is personally passionate about Israel and Zionism and he just believes in Israel as a progressive and will not listen to critiques from the outside.”

Blumenthal continues, “What he’s done is something I think every liberal no matter what they think about BDS should reject and condemn which is to sanction an academic institution for expressing the democratic will of its members.”

“It is the pinnacle of neo-McCarthyism what Grayson is doing and we’re still not hearing much. I think that the word needs to get out that he’s done this. That’s he’s issued this bill to sanction the American Studies Association for supporting boycott of Israeli academic institution but we still haven’t heard much from his liberal supporters.”

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