Saturday, February 23, 2008

"the most moral army in the world"

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 09:02 24/02/2008
IDF downplays allegations West Bank troops abuse Palestinians
By Yuval Azoulay

Shooting Palestinian bystanders; illegally commandeering cars and going on joyrides; torturing a youth by pressing a heater to his face and beating cuffed prisoners on their way to custody. These are only some of the reported cases of abuse for which Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank are currently on trial.

"We've been hit by a tsunami," said the commander of the Kfir Brigade, members of which were recently implicated in a rampage through a West Bank town that left two Palestinians wounded, one of them seriously. Kfir is the largest IDF unit in the West Bank. "I suppose every brigade goes through low and high periods, and right now we're in a low one."

Another officer in the GOC Central Command admitted that "the brigade is in a rough patch." But some officers say that the incident, while lamentable, is not unusual; what is different about this case, they say, is that most units involved in such incidents sweep them under the carpet. In any case, Kfir officials are careful not to call the incident a "moral crisis." They do concede, however, that had they reorganized their unit and made changes to the decision-making process than perhaps the headlines would have been different.

Last July, soldiers from the brigade commandeered a local taxi, forcibly removing its passengers. The driver, Mohammed Issa Mahrazeh, was also removed, tied up and blindfolded and returned to the vehicle, where he was held for the duration of the incident. He sustained bruises.

While driving through the town of Dahariya, the soldiers noticed a young man approaching the vehicle. According to the indictment, the officer ordered one of the soldiers to "distance" Badham Samamra, 18, from the car with his weapon. The soldier pointed his weapon out the window of the taxi and shot Samamra. The bullet entered Samara's left shoulder and exited through his chest, causing moderate to serious injuries.

During the trial of the commander of the force during the Dahariya incident, First Lieutenant Ya'akov Gigi, his lawyers argued that his actions were part of a pattern of inappropriate behavior within the brigade that had filtered down to the junior officer corps and the combat troops.

Other soldiers from the Kfir Brigade are currently being tried separately for allegedly taunting Palestinians by exposing themselves. Meanwhile, soldiers from another infantry unit are suspected of applying an electric heater to the face of a Palestinian youth. According to Israel Radio, IDF soldiers used the cameras on their mobile phones to record themselves abusing detained Palestinians. Some of the soldiers allegedly beat the detainees while one of the soldiers is accused of exposing himself.

Channel 2 television's "Fact" investigative program recently aired additional alleged incidents of abuse by soldiers in the Kfir Brigade. "We'd go on a patrol," one soldier told Channel 2. "If even one kid looked at us the wrong way, he'd be slapped. Rocks were thrown at us during one patrol, and we caught one of the kids who knew the perpetrators. We beat the crap out of him until he told us who did it." The soldier said that he and other soldiers tracked down a boy said to be involved, aged 14, and placed the tips of their rifles in his mouth. "We said, 'You want to die? Just say when and where,'" the soldier recalled.

In another instance, soldiers at roadblocks choked 10-year-old Palestinians with their bare hands until the children passed out. "Hebron is like the Wild West and the army is the law," a soldier said. "We would see who could go without breathing the longest."

The Kfir Brigade was created in December 2005. In consists of six battalions whose soldiers man 30 percent of the roadblocks in the West Bank and are responsible for 60 percent of arrests. They have succeeded in decreasing the number of terrorist attacks in the West Bank.

But the drudgery of working opposite an often hostile civilian population is far from glamorous. Furthermore, as a new unit Kfir lacks the sense of history of the Paratroopers or the Golani Brigade; they have no heroes to look up to. "They are trying to instill a sense of pride in the unit, but so far they have failed. The [color] of the beret is ugly - like that of Hezbollah. If you look at its lining you might expect to find a 'Made in Syria' label," a soldier who only recently finished advanced training joked.

"Our legacy is the present and the future and there's nothing that can be done about that. The legacy is being slowly built through traumatic events," a senior officer in the unit said. "Low morale is an explanation but it's not an excuse. It shouldn't happen at all."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

finally the food arrived to Gaza

Coalition against the Gaza Siege

Press Release February 18, 2008

At noon today in the Sufa Border Crossing, donated foodstuffs and water filters at last reached their destination in Gaza

At Noon today, there at last arrived in their Gaza destination the goods carried in the supply convoy of the Israeli Peace and Human Rights organizations, two and a half weeks ago. After the authorization was given after long negotiations with the military authorities, some fifteen activists arrived this morning at the warehouses in Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and the Bedouin town of Rahat, where the goods had been stored, loaded them and decorated the cargo with enormous banners reading End the Blockade of Gaza!

The Israeli activists accompanied the cargo until the entrance of the Sufa Compound on the Gaza Strip border, where it was unloaded and transferred to Palestinian trucks and delivered to members of the Palestinian-International Campaign to End the Siege, based at Gaza City. The cargo consisted of five tons of basic foodstuffs purchased by the organizers from donations collected from Israel and all over the world, as well as water purification filters for the highly polluted water in the Strip. To these were added two tons of personal aid packages, prepared by many Israeli families as a a goodwill gesture to the Gaza inhabitants.

Members of the Palestinian Campaign intend to give the highest priority in distribution of the water filters received today to the Gaza Strip hospitals, where the need for clean water is particularly acute. The entry of water filters today follows many months when the Israeli siege caused a severe shortage of this item, indispensable for basic health, as of many other vital goods. The organizers hope that from now on, inhabitants of the Gaza Strip would be able to use the precedent created and import as many water filters as needed, without restrictions.

“Under conditions of the strangling siege of Gaza, the simple act of transporting a few tons of cargo some dozens of kilometres required two months of intensive effort by dozens of people in Israel and the Gaza Strip, with considerable help from peace seekers all over the world. This siege should be terminated forthwith. It is a manifestly immoral, gross violation of International Law which causes Israel nothing but damage. The suffering caused to the inhabitants of Gaza in no way benefits the inhabitants of Sderot. There is only one way to bring about the end of the shooting of Quassam Missiles at Israeli communities: a positive response to the many offers by Hamas leaders, to a complete and mutual ceasefire on both sides of the Gaza Strip border" said former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, who was among the activists accompanying the aid cargo to the Sufa Crossing. Dr. Eyad Sarraj of the Palestinian campaign spoke with the Israeli organizers on the phone and warmly thanked them. He told that the stores of goods brought into the Gaza Strip during the two weeks when the Egyptian border was open are in the process of running out, and that the feeling of siege and suffocation is reasserting itself. "We in Gaza greatly appreciate the manifestation of solidarity in the convoy of today. We hope that this is the start of a common struggle by the two peoples, to ensure peace and liberty to both."

Contact: Adam Keller 0506-709603, Ya’akov Manor 09-7670801 or
050-5733276, Dr. Eyad Sarraj 0599-408438, Marwan Diab 0599-462037
Stills of the action available from AP and Reuters. Video footage from AP as well as from Natalio Cohen 050-8102366 or Sergio Yahni 052-6375032.

Participating organizations: Gush Shalom, Combatants for Peace, Coalition of Women for Peace, ICAHD – The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bat Shalom, Bat Tzafon for Peace and Equality, Balad, Hadash, Adalah, Tarabut- Hithabrut, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, AIC – The Alternative Information Center, Psychoactive – Mental Health Workers for Human Rights, ActiveStills, The Students Coalition (Tel Aviv University), New Profile, MachsomWatch, PCATI – The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Gvul, Gisha, Local Television on the Internet, Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue, “On the Left Side”, and Faculty for Palestinian-Israeli Peace (Israel).

Friday, February 15, 2008

how the EU helps Israel to strangle Gaza

How the EU helps Israel to strangle Gaza
David Morrison, The Electronic Intifada, 14 February 2008


How is Israel able to strangle the Gaza Strip when there is supposed to be an international crossing between Gaza and Egypt not controlled by Israelis?

Certainly, free movement was the promise held out in the comprehensive Agreement on Movement and Access, signed more than two years ago by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The first of the six components of this agreement was that there would be a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah, controlled by the PA and Egypt. At the time, this was hailed as an historic step on the road to a Palestinian state -- for the first time, it was said, Palestinians would have access to the outside world free from Israeli control.

So, how was Israel still able to impose a suffocating blockade on the Strip, home to almost 1.5 million Palestinians, eighty percent of them refugees? After Palestinian forces opened the border wall on 23 January, breaking the siege, many Palestinians blamed Egypt for not doing the same much earlier to relieve the suffering and deprivation that had brought Gaza to within days of running out of food and medicine. But however complicit Egypt may have been it was not alone.

It was primarily through the good offices of the European Union (EU), which had a formal role in managing the Rafah crossing, that Israel always had a veto on the opening of the crossing. In practice, whenever Israel didn't want the crossing open, the EU obligingly kept it shut.

The Rafah crossing was open almost every day from 25 November 2005 to 24 June 2006, though not for 24 hours a day as intended. However, after 24 June 2006, when an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinians, the EU, at Israel's insistence, prevented it from opening regularly and then kept it closed completely since 9 June 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza.

Quartet midwife

The so-called Middle East Quartet (the US, the EU, Russia and the UN) was the midwife of the agreement, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Javier Solana (EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy) were in Jerusalem on 15 November 2005 to launch it.

Rice said that the agreement "is intended to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives." She added that "for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah."

Solana also hailed the arrangements: "This is the first time that a border is opened and not controlled by the Israelis. ... So as you can imagine, this is a very important step that is the first time that takes place."

One could be forgiven for thinking that the US and the EU had made arrangements for a border crossing between Gaza and Egypt that was "not controlled by the Israelis" and that from then on Gaza couldn't be strangled by Israel.

EU third party

But reality fell far short of Rice and Solana's claims. The agreement did not provide for commercial goods traffic through the Rafah crossing into Gaza, so it did not facilitate trade. And despite the cosmetics, the crossing has always been controlled by the Israelis. Even though Israel has no personnel, military or otherwise, physically present at the crossing, it has been able to close the crossing at will, just as it can close the crossings between Gaza and Israel itself.

This came about because, under the agreement, a third party must have personnel present at the Rafah crossing before it is allowed to open. The third party is the EU -- and the EU has always refused to man the crossing when Israel didn't want the crossing open. In effect, the EU has acted as a proxy for Israel.

The agreement gives EU personnel at the crossing the authority "to ensure that the PA complies with all applicable rules and regulations concerning the Rafah crossing point and the terms of this agreement" and in the event of perceived non-compliance "to order the re-examination and reassessment of any passenger, luggage, vehicle or goods."

For this purpose, the EU established the grandly titled EU Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point, or EUBAM Rafah. This is a force of less than a hundred, mostly policemen, which is based in Ashkelon in Israel.

In addition to the EU monitors, who are physically present at the crossing, Israeli security forces are able to monitor activity at the crossing remotely, via closed circuit TV and other data links, and can make a record of the individuals crossing. The Israeli monitors are based in Israel at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, where a liaison office (for liaison between Israel and the PA) is located. One of the duties of the EU, as the third party to the agreement, is to "lead" this office:

"A liaison office, led by the third party, will receive real-time video and data feed of the activities at Rafah and will meet regularly to review implementation of this agreement, resolve any disputes arising from this agreement, and perform other tasks specified in this agreement."

Israeli veto

Ridiculous as it may seem, the EU takes the view that the opening of the crossing is a matter that may be disputed by Israeli representatives in the liaison office. And if they don't agree to it opening, the EU doesn't send its monitors to the crossing, as required for its opening under the terms of the agreement. So, Israel has a veto over the opening of the crossing, even though, according to Rice and Solana, it is "not controlled by the Israelis."

But on the EUBAM website, the answer given to the question "Can EUBAM open the crossing point?" is:

"RCP [Rafah Crossing Point] can only be opened by agreement between the Parties. EUBAM cannot itself open the crossing point."

That is as plain as a pikestaff: in the opinion of the EU, the agreement gives Israel a veto on whether the crossing should open. There is nothing in the agreement to warrant such an interpretation -- and it is in flat contradiction to the words of Rice and Solana that the crossing would "not be controlled by Israelis."

What is more, in the opinion of the EU, the agreement gives Israel the right to close the crossing when it is open. According to a press statement on 14 December 2006, after the crossing opened that day, "the Government of Israel had requested that the crossing be closed due to the expected arrival of Prime Minister Haniyeh, who was reportedly carrying a large sum of money." After consultations with Brussels, the EU closed the crossing.

Since the Israeli-built Gaza-Egypt border wall was torn down, Israel, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Egypt and the EU have met to try to restore the arrangements under the agreement. Hamas, excluded from these meetings, has stated that it will not allow a return to the situation of de facto Israeli control through the "third party" proxy and has demanded a role in managing the crossing.

If Gaza is to be immune from strangulation by Israel in future, then the Israeli veto over the opening of the Rafah crossing will have to be ended. In addition, the crossing must cater for commercial traffic into Gaza, which is not provided for under the present agreement.

David Morrison writes for the Labour & Trade Union Review (, where a longer version of this article appeared. He lives in Belfast and his website is

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Another house demolition in Jerusalem/ Une autre demolition de maison dans la vieille ville de jerusalem

(c) Anne Paq/, Jerusalem, 6 Feb 2008.

une demolition de maison dans la vieille ville de Jerusalem, juste devant une colonie. la famille est installée là depuis des génerations


Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian house in Jerusalem

Date: 06 / 02 / 2008 Time: 13:12

Jerusalem – Ma'an – Israeli military forces demolished a Palestinian house in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday on the pretext that the house was built without a permit.

The two-story home on Al-Buraq Street, belonging to the Isma'il Al-Masri family, housed 30 people. Israeli bulldozers began to destroy the house at 10am local time, the family said.

The family said that they had received warning that the house would be demolished. Israeli authorities told the family that if they did not destroy the house by itself, they would have to pay the costs of demolishing it by force.

The family claimed that they had in fact begun to dismantle the house, and were surprised to find Israeli bulldozers toppling their home this morning.

Building permits are often extremely hard for Palestinians to obtain, and are therefore used as a pretext for house demolition.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Snow party in Palestine/ De la neige en Palestine

c) Anne Paq/Activestills. org. Snow Party in Bethlehem; Jerusalem and Ramallah,31 January 2008.

Vendredi 1er Fevrier.

Petit grain de folie en Palestine, la neige est ,arrivée ! Les Palestiniens en parlent depuis une semaine. Ici quand il y a trois flocons de neige, personne ne va au travail. C’est un jour de fete pour les gosses. Les rues s’etaient transformées une nouvelle fois en champs de bataille, mais cette fois pour le grand plaisir des enfants. ça fait du bien.

There was a sense of exultation the last two days in Palestine ; the snow has arrived! Palestinians had been talking about it the last week. Here when there is even a ridiculous amount of snow falling from the sky, Palestinians stopped everything and they certainly do not want to go to work. It is a snow party day fornthe kids and it is so enjoyable to see and participate. The streets turned themselves again in battlefiels, but this time for fun! it just felt so good

Snow party in Palestine/ De la neige en Palestine

(c) Anne Paq/
Snow Party in Bethlehem; Jerusalem and Ramallah,31 January 2008.

Snow party in Palestine/ De la neige en Palestine

Snow party in Palestine/ De la neige en Palestine

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills. org. Snow Party in Bethlehem; Jerusalem and Ramallah,31 January 2008.