Sense of Deception


US activist loses eye after being shot in face with tear gas canister

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International Solidarity Movement

1 June 2010

US citizen Emily Henochowicz was shot directly in the face with a  tear gas canister as she non-violently demonstrated against the Flotilla  massacreUS citizen Emily Henochowicz was shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister as she non-violently demonstrated against the Flotilla massacre

UPDATE 1 June, 8:30PM (GMT+2): Emily is recovering at Hadassah Hospital after two surgeries Monday night. She lost her left eye, three metal plates were inserted into her head/face, and her jaw is wired shut. The bone surrounding her eye socket, cheekbone and jawbone are all fractured. Emily was standing peacefully during a demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint Monday when Border Police fired a large number of tear gas canisters directly at the heads of Emily and another ISM activist.
.31 May 2010: An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel’s murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.

21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.

“They clearly saw us,” said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. “They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.”

Henochowicz is an art student at the prestigious Cooper Union, located in East Village, Manhattan.

The demonstration was one of many that took place across the West Bank today in outrage over the Israeli military’s attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla and blatant violation of international law. Demonstrations also took place in inside Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem, with clashes occurring in East Jerusalem and Palestinian shopkeepers in the occupied Old City closing their businesses for the day in protest.

Henochowicz lost her left eye after being shot directly in the face  with a tear gas canisterHenochowicz lost her left eye after being shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister

Tear gas canisters are commonly used against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. In May 2009, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office ordered Israeli Police to review its guidelines for dispersing demonstrators, following the death of a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahmah from Bil’in village, caused by a high velocity tear-gas projectile. Tear-gas canisters are meant to be used as a means of crowd dispersal, to be shot indirectly at demonstrators and from a distance. However, Israeli forces frequently shoot canisters directly at protesters and are not bound by a particular distance from which they can shoot.Israeli occupation forces boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships on the Freedom Flotilla at 5 a.m. this morning, opening fire on the hundreds of unarmed civilians aboard. No-one aboard the ships were carrying weapons of any kind, including for defense against a feared Israeli attack in international waters. At least 9 aid workers aboard the ship have been confirmed dead, with dozens more injured. The assault took place 70 miles off the Gaza coast in international waters, after the flotilla was surrounded by three Israeli warships. The Freedom Flotilla, carrying 700 human rights activists from over 40 countries and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, was headed for the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade on Gaza, combined with the illegal buffer zone, has put a stranglehold on the territory. 42% of Gazans are unemployed, and food insecurity hovers around 60% according to figures from the Palestine Centre for Human Rights.

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Egypt Lifts Its Side Of Gaza Blockade

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(AP) CAIRO — An Egyptian official says the government is temporarily lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip to allow aid into the area a day after Israel raided an international flotilla carrying supplies to the Palestinian territory and killed nine activists.

The governor of northern Sinai, Murad Muwafi, says President Hosni Mubarak ordered the opening of the border crossing to Gaza in the town of Rafah for several days.

Muwafi says the opening of the crossing – which Egypt sealed after Gaza was taken over by Hamas militants in 2007 – is an effort to “alleviate the suffering of our Palestinian brothers after the Israeli attack” on the flotilla.


Efforts underway to ‘bury’ UN Gaza report

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Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, criticized the bureaucratic process the Goldstone report has been going through.

A United Nations expert warns of efforts to “bury” a report by the world body’s fact-finding commission on the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip last January.

Ahead of a Friday vote in the UN General Assembly on a proposed extension for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to investigate the Gaza war crimes charges, Richard Falk criticized the bureaucratic process the report has been going through.

“I think its part of the wider effort basically to bury the recommendations of the Goldstone report, unnecessarily delaying the implementation of its recommendations,” the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories told Ma’an news agency.

He said the prolonged process made the UN less likely to hold accused war criminals accountable and that the delays would “remove the reality of what happened in Gaza from the collective memory of world society.”

A UN Human Rights Council commission led by South African prosecutor Richard Goldstone looked into Israel’s three-week onslaught against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 and the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis.

Goldstone’s report on the war crimes allegations highlighted deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army who strafed premises known to hold civilians, and gunned down unarmed people on the run — who had even waved a white flag at times.

The damning 575-page document also accused the Gaza-based Hamas movement for indiscriminate missile and rocket attacks on Israeli positions and risking civilian lives.

The report overwhelmingly endorsed in a UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote in November urged the foe sides to investigate the findings in three months and hold perpetrators accountable, before the report should be forwarded to the Security Council.

The UNGA’s Arab-backed resolution to be put to vote on Friday calls on Israel and the Palestinians “to conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards,” a demand neither of the two sides have managed to meet.

It also asks the UN chief Ban Ki-moon to report back to the assembly “within a period of five months on the implementation of the present resolution, with a view to the consideration of further action, if necessary, by the relevant UN organs and bodies, including the Security Council.”

But Falk was skeptical about the five-month extension which he described as a delay with “no responsible reason,” and what “doesn’t seem like an appropriate response.”

“It’s been well over a year since the events occurred; there’s been ample scrutiny (of Goldstone’s findings)”, he argued

While Israel’s veto-wielding ally, the United States, is largely expected to block any resolution in the UN Security Council on the Goldstone report, human rights advocates accuse Ban and other international organizations of yielding to political pressure and letting the war criminals off the hook.

Falk regretted the efforts in the General Assembly are “ultimately … a bureaucratic parallel to the veto that formally exists in the Security Council.”

“It’s a real litmus test of the UN to surmount geopolitical pressures that collide with legal rights.”


A Rare Voice Of Courage: Journalist Gideon Levy

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politicaltheatrics

Published: April 1, 2010

A Rare Voice Of Courage: Journalist Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy is a rare voice of courage in an Israeli media generally supine towards the political establishment. Since 1988, he has written the “Twilight Zone” column for the Israeli daily Haaretz, documenting unflinchingly the myriad cruelties inflicted on the Palestinian people under occupation. In his new book Gaza, a collection of articles which has just been published in French, Levy utters phrases that, by his own admission, are considered “insane” by most of his compatriots. The Electronic Intifada contributor David Cronin spoke with Gideon Levy about his background and journalism.

David Cronin: You were born in Tel Aviv in the 1950s. Were your parents survivors of the Holocaust?

Gideon Levy: They were not Holocaust survivors, they just left Europe in 1939. My father was from Germany, my mother Czech. Both were really typical refugees because my father came on an illegal ship, which was stopped for half a year in Beirut by the British and only after half a year on the ocean could it make it to Palestine. My mother came on a project with Save the Children. She came without her parents directly to a kibbutz.

My father always said he never found his place in Israel. He lived there for 60 years but his life was ruined. He had a PhD in law but never practiced it in Israel. He never really spoke proper Hebrew. I think he was really traumatized all his life.

At the same time, he never wanted to go back [to Europe] even for a visit. He came from Sudetenland, which became Czechoslovakia. All the Germans were expelled.

DC: How did your parents’ history affect you when you were growing up?

GL: I was a typical first-generation immigrant. When my mother used to talk to me in German, I was so ashamed that she spoke to me in a foreign language. Her name was Thea; I always said it was Lea. Thea is a Greek name from mythology. It is a beautiful name but as a child I always said Lea just to cover up the fact they were immigrants.

My father’s family name was Loewy and for so many years I was called Loewy. But then I changed it to Levy and now I regret it so much.

DC: Tell me about your military service in the Israeli army.

GL: I did my military service in the [army’s] radio station. I was always a good Tel Aviv boy; I had mainstream views; I was not brought up in a political home.

I was at the radio station for four years instead of three [the standard length of military service] but for the fourth year as a civilian. It’s a very popular radio station; the army finances it but it is totally civilian.

I was totally blind to the occupation. It was a word I didn’t dare to pronounce. I was a typical product of the Israeli brainwash system, without any doubts or questions. I had a lot of national pride; we are the best.

I remember my first trip to the occupied territories [the West Bank and Gaza Strip]. There were a lot of national emotions visiting Rachel’s Tomb and the mosque in Hebron. I didn’t see any Palestinians then; I just remember the white sheets on the terraces. I was even convinced that they were happy we had conquered them, that they were so grateful we released the Palestinians from the Jordanian regime.

DC: What was the turning point that caused you to criticize the occupation?

GL: There was no turning point. It was a gradual process. It started when I started to travel to the occupied territories as a journalist for Haaretz. It is not as if I decided one day, “I have to cover the occupation.” Not at all. I was attracted gradually like a butterfly to a fire or to a light.

My political views were shaped throughout the years; it’s not that there was one day that I changed. It was really a gradual process in which I realized this is the biggest drama: Zionism, the occupation. And at the same time I realized there was no one to tell it to the Israelis. I always brought exclusive stories because almost nobody was there. In the first [Palestinian] intifada, there was more interest in the Israeli media. But between the first intifada and the second intifada, I really found myself almost alone in covering the Palestinian side.

DC: Have you completely rejected Zionism?

GL: Zionism has many meanings. For sure, the common concept of Zionism includes the occupation, includes the perception that Jews have more rights in Palestine than anyone else, that the Jewish people are the chosen people, that there can’t be equality between Jews and Arabs, Jews and Palestinians. All those beliefs which are very basic in current Zionism, I can’t share them. In this sense, I can define myself as an anti-Zionist.

On the other hand, the belief about the Jewish people having the right to live in Palestine side by side with the Palestinians, doing anything possible to compensate the Palestinians for the terrible tragedy that they went through in 1948, this can also be called the Zionist belief. In this case, I share those views.

DC: If somebody was to call you a moderate Zionist would you have any objections?

GL: The moderate Zionists are like the Zionist left in Israel, which I can’t stand. Meretz and Peace Now, who are not ready, for example, to open the “1948 file” and to understand that until we solve this, nothing will be solved. Those are the moderate Zionists. In this case, I prefer the right-wingers.

DC: The right-wingers are more honest?

GL: Exactly.

DC: As an Israeli Jew, have you encountered hostility from Palestinians during your work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

GL: Never. And this is unbelievable. I’ve been traveling there for 25 years now. I’ve been to [the scene of] most of the biggest tragedies one day after they happened. There were people who lost five children, seven children in one case.

I was always there the morning after and I would have appreciated if they told me, “Listen we don’t want to talk to an Israeli, go away.” Or if they would tell me: “You are as guilty as much as any other Israeli.” No, there was always an openness to tell the story. There was this naive belief or hope that if they tell it to the Israelis through me, the Israelis will change, that one story in the Israeli media might also help them.

They don’t know who I am. The grassroots have never heard about me; it’s not like I have a name there. The only time we were shot in our car was by Israeli soldiers. That was in the summer 2003. We were traveling with a yellow-plate taxi, an Israeli taxi: bullet-proof, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now. It was very clear it was an Israeli taxi. We were following a curfew instruction. An officer told us: “You can go through this road.” And when we went onto this road, they shot us. I don’t think they knew who we were. They were shooting us as they would shoot anyone else. They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets.

DC: Have you been in Gaza recently?

GL: I have been prevented from going there. The last time I was there was in November 2006. As I mention in the foreword of my book, I was visiting the Indira Gandhi kindergarten in Gaza the day after a nurse [Najwa Khalif], the teacher in the kindergarten, was killed in front of all her children [by an Israeli missile]. When I came in, they were drawing dead bodies, with airplanes in the sky and a tank on the ground. I just went to the funeral of the nurse. It was called the Indira Gandhi kindergarten not because [assassinated Indian prime minister] Indira Gandhi was involved but because the owner of this kindergarten was named Indira Gandhi as an appreciation of Indira Gandhi.

DC: You have often talked about how you enjoy complete freedom to write anything you wish. But do you get the impression that life is getting more difficult for people with critical voices in Israel and that the government is actively trying to stifle dissent?

GL: Me personally, writing for Haaretz, appearing on TV, practically I have never gained such freedom. I’m appearing every week on Israeli TV on a discussion program. There were years in which I had to be more cautious, there were years in which the words “crimes of war” were illegal, even in Haaretz. Today, those words are over and I’m totally, totally free. No pressure from government or army — nothing.

But for sure, in the last year there have been real cracks in the democratic system of Israel. [The authorities have been] trying to stop demonstrators from getting to Bilin [a West Bank village, scene of frequent protests against Israel’s wall]. But there’s also a process of delegitimizing all kinds of groups and [nongovernmental organizations] and really to silence many voices. It’s systematic — it’s not here and there. Things are becoming much harder. They did it to “Breaking the Silence” [a group of soldiers critical of the occupation] in a very ugly but very effective way. Breaking the Silence can hardly raise its voice any more. And they did it also to many other organizations, including the International Solidarity Movement, which are described in Israel as enemies.

DC: Did you ever meet Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer seven years ago?

GL: I never met her, unfortunately. I just watched the film about her last week. Rachel, James Miller and Tom Hurndall were all killed within six or seven weeks, one after the other, in the same place in Gaza, more or less. It was very clear this was a message.

DC: What do you think of her parents’ decision to sue the State of Israel over her killing?

GL: Wonderful. I saw them both when they were in Israel. They are really so noble. They speak about the tragedy of the soldier who killed their daughter, that he is also a victim. And they are so low-key. I admire the way they are handling it and I hope they will win. They deserve compensation, apologies, anything. Their daughter was murdered.

I participated in a film about James Miller, a documentary by the BBC. James Miller’s story is even more heart-breaking. There was a real murder. They knew he was a journalist, he was a photographer, he had his vest saying “Press.” It was very clear he was a journalist. And they just shot him.

DC: How do you feel about Israel’s so-called insult toward the US, when it announced the construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem during a visit to the Middle East by US Vice President Joe Biden?

GL: I really think it is too early to judge. Something is happening. For sure, there is a change in the atmosphere. For sure, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is sweating. And the question is: do the Americans have a clear program?

One thing must be clear: Israel has never depended so much on the United States like it does today. Until now [Barack] Obama has made all the possible mistakes. His first year was wasted. But still we have to give them [the Americans] a chance because for sure there is a change in the tone. But I’m afraid their main goal now is to get rid of Netanyahu. And if this is the case, it will not lead anywhere. Anyone who will replace him will be more of the same, just nicer. It will be again this masquerade of peace process, of photo opportunities, of niceties which don’t lead anywhere. From this point of view, I prefer a right-wing government. At least, what you see is what you get.

DC: Spain, the current holder of the European Union’s (EU) rotating presidency, appears keen to strengthen the EU’s relationship with Israel. What signal would deeper integration of Israel into the EU’s political and economic programs send?

GL: I think it would be shameful to reward Israel now. To reward it for what? For building more settlements? But I think also that Europe will follow changes in Washington like it follows almost blindly anything the Americans do.

DC: There was a minor controversy recently about the fact that Ethan Bronner, The New York Times’ correspondent in Jerusalem, has a son in the Israeli army. Do you have any children in the army and do you think that Bronner was compromised by this matter?

GL: My son is serving in the army. My son doesn’t serve in the territories but I have always disconnected myself from my sons. They have their own lives and I haven’t tried to influence them.

About Ethan Bronner, it’s really a very delicate question. The fact there are so many Jewish reporters, Zionist reporters who report for their national media from the Middle East, for sure is a problem. On the other hand, I know from my own experience, you can have a son serving in the army and be very critical yourself. I wouldn’t make this a reason for not letting him cover the Middle East for The New York Times, even though I must tell you that I don’t see the possibility where The New York Times’ correspondent in Jerusalem is someone whose son is serving in the [Palestinian resistance organization] al-Aqsa Brigades, for example.

DC: What role can journalists play in trying to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

GL: There is an enormous historic role that the Israeli media is playing. The Israeli media, which is a free media, free of censorship, free of governmental pressure, has been dehumanizing the Palestinians, demonizing them. Without the cooperation of the Israeli media, the occupation would not have lasted so long. It is destructive in ways I cannot even describe. It’s not Romania, it’s not Soviet Russia. It’s a free democracy, the media could play any role but it has chosen to play this role. The main thing is about the flow of information. It is so one-sided, so much propaganda and lies and ignorance.


Israel pounds Gaza with missiles

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Hamas said that Israeli missiles hit two caravans,
a cheese factory and a metal foundry [AFP]

Three children have been reported injured in eastern Gaza City after Israeli aircraft carried out a series of missile attacks across the Palestinian territory.

Palestinian hospital officials said the children were injured by flying debris after the air raids that came in the early hours of Friday.

Al Jazeera’s Casey Kauffman, reporting from Gaza, said there were attacks in at least six locations.

He said that work on tunnels, which are often used for smuggling goods into the blockaded territory, had stopped for fear of the strikes and the Hamas government had also ordered police stations across Gaza to be evacuated.

Witnesses and Hamas officials said that Israeli missiles hit two caravans near the town of Khan Younis and a cheese factory, while helicopters attacked a metal foundry in the Nusseirat refugee camp.

‘Rocket fire response’

The Israeli military said it had targeted weapons manufacturing and storage facilities in the central Gaza Strip, in Gaza City in the north and the southern Gaza Strip, all in response to rockets fired from the territory.

Nearly 20 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip during March, killing one man in the community of Netiv Ha’Asara and doubling the number of rockets fired this year,” a statement from the Israeli army said.

“The IDF [Israeli military] will not tolerate any attempt to harm the citizens of the State of Israel and will continue to operate firmly against anyone who uses terror against it. The IDF holds Hamas as solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said the rocket attack came despite a warning earlier in the day by the Israeli military that it would “respond harshly against any attempt to disrupt the calm in Israel’s southern communities”.

There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s lone rocket, which caused no casualties, but the Israeli army had said in its earlier statement that it held Hamas, the Palestinian faction which controls Gaza, “solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in and around” the territory.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Hamas held the Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu responsible for the “escalation”, but said the air raids had been expected because of threats by Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and other ministers.

He also blamed “the international community and the Arabs” for failing “to do anything about the situation in Gaza”.

“The absence of the international community and the Arabs has allowed the Israelis to escalate the situation,” he said.


Two IDF soldiers charged with using 9-year-old ‘human shield’ in Gaza war

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IDF court free soldier convicted of beating Palestinian, rejects demand to return officer to the ranks.

The Israel Defense Forces prosecution on Thursday filed an indictment against two combat soldiers suspected of inappropriate conduct during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in 2008.

The soldiers, who served as staff sergeants in the Givati Brigade during Operation Cast Lead, allegedly forced a 9-year-old Palestinian boy to open a number of bags they thought might contain explosive materials. The bags turned out to be harmless.

The soldiers, who breached the army’s rule against using civilians as human shields during war, will be tried for violating their authority and for inappropriate conduct. An Israeli military official said the soldiers could face up to three years in jail.

The incident in question occurred in the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood in south Gaza City in January 2009, toward the end of the war.

The military said it opened the investigation after the incident was brought to its attention by the United Nations, but emphasised it was “completely unrelated” to a report issued by United Nations investigator Richard Goldstone.

Israel has said it opened 36 criminal investigations into complaints of improper conduct by its troops during the fighting with Hamas gunmen, much of which occurred in residential areas.

Last month a senior Israeli field officer in the Gaza war was reprimanded over artillery shelling in a heavily populated area that hit a United Nations compound during the fighting.

IDF court releases soldier convicted of beating Palestinian

In a separate incident earlier Thursday, the military court ordered the release of Adam Malul, an IDF officer convicted in December on charges of aggravated assault and conduct unbecoming an officer after hitting a Palestinian in the West Bank.

In sentencing the officer, 1st Lt. (res.) Adam Malul of the Kfir infantry brigade, the court ruled that he had already served a sufficient punishment after spending 64 days in jail and a further 32 days under house arrest.

The court also rejected a request by the prosecution to demote Malul to the rank of private.

Malul was convicted in of hitting a man while making an arrest in the West Bank village of Kadum in September 2008.

In its December verdict, the court rejected testimony by a former commander of the Kfir infantry brigade, Col. Itai Virob, and a former commander of the Shimshon unit, Lt. Col. Shimon Harush, in which they justified hitting Palestinian detainees under exceptional circumstances.

Malul’s family has said that the trial was a smear campaign against him and accused the court of scape-goating him while acquitting his superiors.

During his trial, Malul testified that he was not ashamed of hitting the Palestinian man, saying, “It was what I had to do”.

However, GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni testified during the military trial that IDF soldiers were not authorized to attack Palestinian civilians during arrest raids, adding that those who cross the army’s “red lines” must be put to trial.

Shamni added that the IDF never authorized the use of such aggression during questioning of detainees.