B’Tselem: Israeli Security Forces Killed 660 Palestinians During 2006

Haaretz Service Dec 28, 2006

Report: Threefold increase in number of Palestinians killed compared to 2005; 23 Israelis killed in 2006.

According to an annual B’Tselem report, from the beginning of 2006 to December 27, Israeli security forces have killed 660 Palestinians, a figure more than three times the number of Palestinians killed in 2005, which was 197.

The data compiled by the human rights organization also indicated a significant decrease in Israeli casualties. Palestinians killed 23 Israelis in 2006 – 17 civilians, among them one minor, and six Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The figure constitutes less than half of the 50 Israelis killed in 2005.

B’Tselem also listed the overall figures for casualties since the beginning of the intifada, with Palestinian casualties at 4005 and Israeli casualties at 1017, 701 of which were civilians.

The report states that 2006 saw an improvement in the realization on Israeli civilians’ right to life, while, on the other hand, also seeing “a deterioration in the human rights situation in the occupied territories, particularly in the increase in civilians killed and the destruction of houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”

According to the report, about half of the Palestinians killed, 322, did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed. 22 of those killed were targets of assassinations, and 141 were minors.

The report says the majority of Palestinian casualties were killed in the Gaza Strip in the second half of 2006, following the capture of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit. During this period, 405 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip alone, of them 88 were minors and 205 did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed.
According to the report, the IDF demolished 292 Palestinian houses, 95 percent of them in the Gaza Strip. These were home to 1,769 people.

B’Tselem’s report says the owners of 80 of the homes received advance warning to the demolition. Israel demolished 42 additional homes in East Jerusalem that were built without a permit. These were home to about 80 people, according to the report.

The report indicates that movement restrictions in the West Bank became more severe in 2006. Israel currently maintains 54 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank that are usually staffed, and 12 other checkpoints within the city of Hebron.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there is an average of 160 flying checkpoints throughout the West Bank every week.

In addition to the checkpoints, the report says IDF has erected hundreds of physical obstacles such as concrete blocks, dirt piles and trenches to restrict access to and from Palestinian communities. Palestinians have restricted access to 41 roadways in the West Bank, to which Israelis have unlimited access.

According to the report, as of November, Israel held 9,075 Palestinians in custody, including 345 minors. Of these, 738, including 22 minors, were held in administrative detention without trial and with no knowledge of the charges against them.

The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter’s Book

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, Truthdig, DECEMBER 28, 2006

As Jimmy Carter’s new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid climbs the bestseller list, the reaction of Israel’s apologists scales new peaks of lunacy. I will examine a pair of typical examples and then look at the latest weapon to silence Carter.

Apartheid Analogy

No aspect of Carter’s book has evoked more outrage than its identification of Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with apartheid. Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post called it “foolish and unfair,” the Boston Globe editorialized that it was “irresponsibly provocative,” while the New York Times reported that Jewish groups condemned it as “dangerous and anti-Semitic.” (1)

In fact the comparison is a commonplace among informed commentators.
From its initial encounter with Palestine the Zionist movement confronted a seemingly intractable dilemma: How to create a Jewish state in a territory that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish? Israeli historian Benny Morris observes that Zionists could choose from only two options: “the way of South Africa”–i.e., “the establishment of an apartheid state, with a settler minority lording it over a large, exploited native majority”–or “the way of transfer”–i.e., “you could create a homogeneous Jewish state or at least a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority by moving or transferring all or most of the Arabs out.” (2)

During the British Mandate period (1917-1947) Zionist settlers labored on both fronts, laying the foundations of an apartheid-like regime in Palestine while exploring the prospect of expelling the indigenous population. Norman Bentwich, a Jewish officer in the Mandatory government who later taught at the Hebrew University, recalled in his memoir that, “One of the causes of resentment between Arabs and Jews was the determined policy of the Jewish public bodies to employ only Jewish workers.This policy of ‘economic apartheid’ was bound to strengthen the resistance of Arabs to Jewish immigration.” (3)

Ultimately, however, the Zionist movement resolved the dilemma in 1948 by way of transfer: under the cover of war with neighboring Arab states, Zionist armies proceeded to “ethnically cleanse” (Morris) the bulk of the indigenous population, creating a state that didn’t need to rely on anachronistic structures of Western supremacy. (4)

After Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 the same demographic dilemma resurfaced and alongside it the same pair of options. Once again Zionists simultaneously laid the foundations for apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory while never quite abandoning hope that an expulsion could be carried off in the event of war. (5)

After four decades of Israeli occupation, the infrastructure and superstructure of apartheid have been put in place. Outside the never-never land of mainstream American Jewry and U.S. media this reality is barely disputed. Indeed, already more than a decade ago while the world was celebrating the Oslo Accords, seasoned Israeli analyst and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti observed, “It goes without saying that ‘cooperation’ based on the current power relationship is no more than permanent Israeli domination in disguise, and that Palestinian self-rule is merely a euphemism for Bantustanization.” (6)

If it’s “foolish and unfair,” “irresponsibly provocative” and “dangerous and anti-Semitic” to make the apartheid comparison, then the roster of commentators who have gone awry is rather puzzling. For example, a major 2002 study of Israeli settlement practices by the respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem concluded: “Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa.” A more recent B’Tselem publication on the road system Israel has established in the West Bank again concluded that it “bears striking similarities to the racist Apartheid regime,” and even “entails a greater degree of arbitrariness than was the case with the regime that existed in South Africa.” (7)

Those sharing Carter’s iniquitous belief also include the editorial board of Israel’s leading newspaper Haaretz, which observed in September 2006 that “the apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood, under the yoke of ongoing Israeli occupation,” as well as former Israeli Knesset member Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel, South African Archbishop and Nobel Laureate for Peace Desmond Tutu and “father” of human rights law in South Africa John Dugard. (8)

Indeed, the list apparently also includes former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Pointing to his “fixation with Bantustans,” Israeli researcher Gershom Gorenberg concluded that it is “no accident” that Sharon’s plan for the West Bank “bears a striking resemblance to the ‘grand apartheid’ promoted by the old South African regime.” Sharon himself reportedly stated that “the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict.” (9)

The denial of Carter’s critics recalls the glory days of the Daily Worker. Kinsley asserts that “no one has yet thought to accuse Israel of creating a phony country in finally acquiescing to the creation of a Palestinian state.” In the real world what he claims “no one has yet thought” couldn’t be more commonplace. The Economist typically reports that Palestinians have been asked to choose between “a Swiss-cheese state, comprising most of the West Bank but riddled with settlements, in which travel is severely hampered,” and Israel “pulling out from up to 40 percent or 50 percent of the West Bank’s territory unilaterally, while keeping most of its settlements.” (10)

The shrill reaction to Carter’s mention of apartheid is probably due not only to the term’s emotive resonances but its legal-political implications as well. According to Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions as well as the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “practices of apartheid” constitute war crimes. Small wonder, then, that despite–or, rather, because of–its aptness, Carter is being bullied into repudiating the term. (11)

Partial or full withdrawal?

In order to discredit Carter the media keep citing the inflammatory rhetoric of his former collaborator at the Carter Center, Kenneth Stein. On inspection, however, Stein’s claims prove to be devoid of content. Consider the main one of Carter’s “egregious and inexcusable errors” that Stein enumerates. (12)

According to Stein, Carter erroneously infers on the basis of U.N. Resolution 242 that Israel “must” withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. It is true that whereas media pundits often allege that the extent of Israel’s withdrawal is subject to negotiations, Carter forthrightly asserts that Israel’s “borders must coincide with those prevailing from 1949 until 1967 (unless modified by mutually agreeable land swaps), specified in the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, which mandates Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories.” (13)

In fact and to his credit Carter is right on the mark.

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Worse Than Apartheid

Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Dec 18, 2006

Blood-stained Gaza streetAP / Khalil Hamra

Water mixes with blood in a street of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun in this Nov. 8 file photo. Israeli tank shells landed in a residential neighborhood, killing at least 18 people in their sleep, including eight children, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

Israel has spent the last five months unleashing missiles, attack helicopters and jet fighters over the densely packed concrete hovels in the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli army has made numerous deadly incursions, and some 500 people, nearly all civilians, have been killed and 1,600 more wounded.  Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, including its electrical power system and key roads and bridges, carried out huge land confiscations, demolished homes and plunged families into a crisis that has caused widespread poverty and malnutrition. 

Civil society itself—and this appears to be part of the Israeli plan—is unraveling. Hamas and Fatah factions battle in the streets, despite a tenuous cease-fire, threatening civil war. And the governing Palestinian movement, Hamas, has said it will boycott early elections called by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, done with the blessing of the West in a bid to toss Hamas out of power. (Remember that Hamas, despite its repugnant politics, was democratically elected.)  In recent days armed groups loyal to Abbas have seized Hamas-run ministries in what looks like a coup.

The stark reality of Gaza, however, has failed to penetrate the consciousness of most Americans, who, when they notice the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, prefer to debate the merits of the word “apartheid” in former President Jimmy Carter’s new book,  “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”  It is a sad commentary on the gutlessness of the U.S. press and the timidity of the Democratic opposition that most Americans are not aware of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis they bear so much responsibility in creating.  Palestinians are not only dying, their olive trees uprooted, their farmland and homes destroyed and their aquifers taken away from them, but on many days they can’t move because of Israeli “closures” that make basic tasks, like buying food and going to the hospital, nearly impossible. These Palestinians, after decades of repression, cannot return to land from which they were expelled.  The 140-plus U.N. votes to censure Israel and two Security Council resolutions—both vetoed by the United States—are blithly ignored.  Is it any wonder that the Palestinians, gasping for air, rebel as the walls close in around them, as their children go hungry and as the Israelis turn up the violence?

Palestinians in Gaza live encased in a squalid, overcrowded ghetto, surrounded by the Israeli military and a massive electric fence, unable to leave or enter the strip and under daily assault.  The word “apartheid,” given the wanton violence employed against the Palestinians, is tepid.  This is more than apartheid.  The concerted Israeli attempts to orchestrate a breakdown in law and order, to foster chaos and rampant deprivation, are on public display in the streets of Gaza City, where Palestinians walk past the rubble of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Economy, the office of the Palestinian prime minister and a number of educational institutions that have been bombed by Israeli jets.  The electricity generation plant, providing 45 percent of the electricity of the Gaza Strip, has been wiped out, and even the primitive electricity networks and transmitters that remain have been repeatedly bombed.  Six bridges linking Gaza City with the central Gaza Strip have been blown up and main arteries cratered into obliteration. And the West Bank is rapidly descending into a crisis of Gaza proportions.  The juxtaposition of what is happening in Gaza and what is being debated on the U.S. airwaves about a book that is little more than a basic primer on the conflict reinforces the impression most outside our gates have of Americans living in a distorted, bizarre reality of our own creation. 

What do Israel and Washington believe they will gain by turning Gaza and the West Bank into a miniature version of Iraq?  How do they think people who are desperate, deprived of hope, dignity and a way to make a living, under attack from one of the most technologically advanced armies on the planet, will respond?  Do they believe that creating a Hobbesian nightmare for the Palestinians will blunt terrorism, curb suicide attacks and foster peace?  Do they not see that the rest of the Middle East watches the slaughter in horror and rage—its angry, disenfranchised young men and women determined to overcome feelings of impotence and humiliation, even at the cost of their own lives? 

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And perhaps they do see and understand all this.  Israel and Washington probably do get the recruiting value of this repression for Islamic militants.  But these Israeli attacks, despite the rage and violence they breed against Israelis and against us, also create conditions so intolerable that Palestinians can no longer reside on their land. More than 160,000 civil servants have not received full salaries for almost nine months.  These government employees support families that number more than a million Palestinians.  And a United Nations report states that more than two-thirds of Palestinians are now living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is more than 50 percent. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry says 10,000 Palestinians have emigrated in the last four months and almost 50,000 others have applied to leave.

Israel, with no restraints from Washington, despite the Iraq Study Group report recommendations that the peace process be resurrected from the dead, has been given the moral license by the Bush administration to carry out what is euphemistically in Israel called “transfer” and what in other parts of the world is called ethnic cleansing.  Faced with a demographic time bomb, knowing that by 2020 Jews will make up only 40 to 46 percent of the overall population of Israel, the architects of transfer, who once held the equivalent status in Israeli society of the Ku Klux Klan, have wormed their way into positions of power in the Israeli government. 

Washington and Israel, I suspect, know the cost of this repression.  But it is beginning to appear as though they accept it—as the price for ridding themselves of the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has installed in his Cabinet a politician who openly calls for the expulsion of the some 1.3 million Israeli Arabs who live inside Israel. Avigdor Lieberman’s “Israel Is Our Home” Party, part of Olmert’s governing coalition, proposes involuntary transfer in a region populated mostly by Arab citizens of Israel, shifting those people to a future Palestinian state that would include Gaza, parts of the West Bank and a small slice of northern Israel. All Israeli Arabs who continued to reside in the territory of transfer would automatically lose their Israeli citizenship unless they took a loyalty oath to the state and its Jewish symbols.  The inclusion of Lieberman, the David Duke of Israel, into the Cabinet is an indication to most Palestinians that the worst is yet to come.

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Jimmy Carter: Israel’s ‘Apartheid’ Policies Worse Than South Africa’s

Former president stands by new book despite criticism, says it is meant to stimulate debate in U.S.

Haaretz Service, Dec 11, 2006

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said in remarks broadcast Monday that Israeli policy in the West Bank represented instances of apartheid worse even that those that once held sway in South Africa.

Carter’s comments were broadcast on Israel Radio, which played a tape of an interview with the ex-president, but did not specify to whom Carter was speaking. But has made similar remarks in recent interviews, such as one to CBC television.

“When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

Carter said his new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” was meant to spark U.S. discussion of Israeli policies. “The hope is that my book will at least stimulate a debate, which has not existed in this country. There’s never been any debate on this issue, of any significance.”

The book has sparked strong criticism from Jewish figures in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has said that some comments from the former president border on anti-Semitism.

“When you think about the charge that he has made that the Jewish people control the means of communication, it is odious,” Foxman was quoted as saying last week. “If the Jews controlled the media, how come he is traveling around the country speaking about this book on talk shows?”

Carter has rejected the criticism of the book and its use of the word apartheid.

“I feel completely at ease,” said Carter, about his commitment to the book, which accuses Israel of oppressing Palestinians. “I am not running for office. And I have Secret Service protection.”

“The greatest commitment in my life has been trying to bring peace to Israel,” Carter told the Atlanta Press Club last week.

“Israel will never have peace until they agree to withdraw [from the territories].”

The Gaza Crossing

Erez Crossing, Gaza (Credit: The Electronic Intifada, May 29, 2005)

Jennifer Loewenstein, CounterPunch, November 15, 2006

A clear and warm November evening; sun sets in a violence of color to the west over the sea and a full luminescent moon on the rise over Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. As if on cue, the buzz of the pilot-less drones overhead begins as their nightly circling ritual gets underway. The taxi driver’s hands grip the wheel of the car more intently as we speed along the winding road to Erez past the village huddled in the shadows a few hundred meters away to our right. At the Palestinian side, the driver gets out of the taxi, my passport in hand, and takes it into the shack of an office where a handful of scruffy, uniformed security figures are sitting. Darkness is creeping in from the East.

There is a problem, the driver explains to me in broken English. They won’t let you through. On the other side of Erez where the gatekeepers sit in their park-rangers’ office with the neon lights and the coffee-machine, my number isn’t blinking approval on the computer. Or something like that. A furious volley of phone calls on my behalf commences ­ between the driver, friends in Gaza, PA security and the masters in Israel. Sorry, not coordinated. Sorry, it will take a while; sorry, you can’t leave. Sorry, no. An American citizen in the Gaza Strip will stay with the prisoners for now because the keepers are not ready to let her out of the cage. Revenge for your audacity, I think. Live with the others since you like it so well; eat their dust and shower in their sewers. You wanted to go to Gaza, no?

Darkness covers half the sky and the drones sound hungry. The driver shouts into the phone to my friend, Khamsa Daqa’iq! Khamsa Daqa’iq! (Five minutes! Five minutes!) He’ll wait only 5 more minutes, he says, before returning me to Gaza City ­ but I know better. He’ll wait until his life is in danger trying to help me get out. And sure enough, it is 45 minutes later when he looks at me beseechingly and says we must return. The wardens are not cooperating. My number is not approved. Now it is night.

Drones can’t tell a taxi from a car full of ‘militants.’ In the darkness on the road they won’t know who we are-or at least it will make matters easier when the explanations for two dead civilians come in the next day, one of them an ‘international’. It was dark, you see, and they were ‘suspicious.’ The suitcase might have been full of explosives. Therefore no investigation will be necessary. Therefore it was OK. Therefore it was our fault for being out. Therefore you should not go to Gaza. Is the message clear?

The trip back is a roller coaster ride with the wrong kind of thrills. Friends meet us on the curbside outside their home and we all tip the driver better than he’ll ever get again in his lifetime. He is breathing again; an old man with white hair, looking apologetically into my eyes.

In the tall apartment building teeming with prisoner families of Gaza, friends call back and forth to Israel for me ­ in their Hebrew and English. The ghosts of Kafka and Lewis Carroll are hovering about us bemused and mocking: prisoners of the Gaza Strip trying to arrange the release of an American citizen. They all have to give the Israeli authorities their names. I finally take the phone to speak to the boss and, for the first time in the history of my excursions to this god-forsaken land, an Israeli apologizes.

Sorry. Forgot to give your number to Security at Erez. You can leave in the morning.

What a blessing: Six-thirty in the morning I am ready again, suitcases in tow, just in time for the explosion down the street; just in time to view the melted mess of a once-automobile and four once-human beings smoldering in the middle of Gaza City, boys picking at the wreckage and ambulance sirens closing in. State-of-the-art incineration tactics: a gleaming helicopter gunship straight off the defense industry’s spankingly efficient assembly line and loaded with glimmering precision-guided missiles. Tourist attractions are never-ending. If they’d only let more people in who would need Hollywood?

This time on the Gaza side of Erez I am free to go, pulling my wheeled suitcase behind, concrete walls on either side of a cavernous tunnel covered by a canvas roof. My steps echo, there is nothing in sight but the tunnel and the first row of steel bars that segment the crossing into sections. Security cameras hide in the corners and a Voice from nowhere directs:

Please push open the gate.

I’m past the first jail doors and clacking on toward the second set. Here, a steel-barred revolving door interrupts the even, steel-barred gates. The Voice sounds again.

Go through the turnstile.

Monotone, passionless Voice.

Put your bags on the belt.

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