On the 39th Friday

The Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege
Israeli Forces Kill 3 and Wound 115 Other Civilians

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Ref: 138/2018, 21 December 2018

On Friday evening, 21 December 2018, Israeli forces Killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment, and wounded 115 other civilians, including 21 children, 2 women, 2 journalists and 3 paramedics, in the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip despite the decreasing intensity of the demonstrations there for the eighth week consecutively and absence of most means usually used during the demonstrations since the beginning of the Return and Breaking the Siege March 8 months ago.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, for the eighth week since the beginning of the Return March on 30 March 2018, burning tires and stone-throwing decreased while the attempts to cross the border fence and throw incendiary balloons were completely absent.

Though the demonstrators were around tens of meters away from the border fence, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them, without the later posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

On 21 December 2018, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 14:30, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities. Hundreds, including children and women, approached the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and gathered tens of meters away from the main border fence, attempting to throw stones at the Israeli forces. Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of teargas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 17:00, resulted in the killing of 3 civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment.

Those Killed were identified as:

    1. Mohammed Mo’in Khalil Jahjouh (16), from Shati’ Refugee camp, west of Gaza City, after being hit with a bullet to the neck in eastern Gaza.

    2. ‘Abdel ‘Aziz Ibrahim ‘Abdel ‘Aziz Abu Sharia (28), from Gaza City, who was hit with a bullet to the abdomen in eastern Gaza and succumbed to his wounds hours later.

    3. Maher ‘Atiyah Mohammed Yasin (40), from al-Nussairat refugee camp, who succumbed to wounds he sustained after being hit with a bullet to the head in eastern al-Bureij refugee camp, noting that he had suffered a mobility impairment since childhood.

Moreover, 115 civilians, including 21 child, 2 women, 2 journalists and 3 paramedics, were wounded. In addition, hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures due to tear gas canisters that were fired by the Israeli forces from the military jeeps and riffles in the eastern Gaza Strip.

The following table shows the number of civilian victims due to the Israeli forces’ suppression of the Great March of Return since its beginning on 30 March:

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Israeli military edited video of fatal strike

‘Warning strike’ killed two Palestinian teenagers

B’Tselem, 19 December 2018

The case

On 14 July 2018, around 6 P.M., the partially constructed al-Katibah Building in Gaza City was the target of an Israeli airstrike, consisting of four initial missiles, followed by four larger strikes. The first missile killed two Palestinian teenagers, Amir a-Nimrah and Luai Kahil, as they sat on the roof of the building. Twenty-three others were injured in the following strikes, which also damaged two neighboring buildings—a cultural center and a mosque.

The four initial missiles launched were part of what the Israeli military calls ‘roof knocking’, a policy by which ‘low-explosive munitions’ are used, supposedly to warn civilians of a larger impending strike and to allow time for them to evacuate the area. Israel claims that these warnings are legal and are meant to protect civilians. However, quite to the contrary, missiles launched as ‘roof knocking’ form part of an attack, for all intents and purposes. As such, they must follow the relevant rules under International Law. In this case a-Nimrah and Kahil were killed as a result of an attack that disregarded these rules completely.

The investigation

Following the attack, the Israeli military published footage of the strikes via its Twitter account, @idfspokesperson, supposedly showing four different strikes.

The attack was documented by a number of different sources. In addition to the Israeli military’s aerial footage, the attack was captured by nearby CCTV cameras. B’Tselem’s field researchers gathered further video material on the ground, as well as from social media and other open sources.

Forensic Architecture (FA) used this material to establish a definitive timeline of the sequence of strikes.

Conclusions

  • Our investigation found that the sequence of videos published through the @idfspokesperson Twitter account edited out the first, fatal strike. The published footage did show four strikes in sequence, but that sequence did not reflect reality: the first strike featured in the published sequence was in fact the third warning strike, from a different angle.
  • FA and B’Tselem also consulted multiple weapons experts, each of whom independently concluded that the fragmentation pattern caused by the fatal strike indicates the presence of shrapnel—indicating that the munitions used was specifically designed as an anti-personnel weapon. This contradicts the military’s claims.
  • It is unknown if the two teenagers were visible to the military before the first strike. If they were, they should not have been targeted. But if not, it follows that the Israeli military cannot justifiably rely on its aerial surveillance technologies to avoid civilian casualties.

Quotes

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of B’Tselem, said: ‘Airstrikes in Gaza are marketed to the public by the Israeli military as surgical actions, designed to protect civilians, based on precision intelligence, accurate munitions, state-of-the-art surveillance, and close attention to international law.

‘In reality, that is often nothing more than propaganda. The truth, instead, is devastating civilian casualties, surveillance that is incapable of distinguishing combatants from teenagers, inept intelligence, and the reduction of legal principles that are intended to protect civilians into a perfunctory checklist, which is later used to whitewash human rights violations, and to establish impunity.’

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A Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath

So She Lost Her Texas Elementary School Job

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Map: Palestine Legal

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, December 17 2018

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.

She was prepared to sign her contract renewal until she noticed one new, and extremely significant, addition: a certification she was required to sign pledging that she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that she shall refrain from any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”

The language of the affirmation Amawi was told she must sign reads like Orwellian — or McCarthyite — self-parody, the classic political loyalty oath that every American should instinctively shudder upon reading:

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That language would bar Amawi not only from refraining from buying goods from companies located within Israel, but also from any Israeli companies operating in the occupied West Bank (“an Israeli-controlled territory”). The oath given to Amawi would also likely prohibit her even from advocating such a boycott given that such speech could be seen as “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.”

Whatever one’s own views are, boycotting Israel to stop its occupation is a global political movement modeled on the 1980s boycott aimed at South Africa that helped end that country’s system of racial apartheid. It has become so mainstream that two newly elected members of the U.S. Congress explicitly support it, while boycotting Israeli companies in the occupied territories has long been advocated in mainstream venues by Jewish Zionist groups such as Peace Now and the Jewish-American Zionist writer Peter Beinart.

This required certification about Israel was the only one in the contract sent to Amawi that pertained to political opinions and activism. There were no similar clauses relating to children (such as a vow not to advocate for pedophiles or child abusers), nor were there any required political oaths that pertained to the country of which she is a citizen and where she lives and works: the United States.

In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel.

That’s one extraordinary aspect of this story: The sole political affirmation Texans like Amawi are required to sign in order to work with the school district’s children is one designed to protect not the United States or the children of Texas, but the economic interests of Israel. As Amawi put it to The Intercept: “It’s baffling that they can throw this down our throats and decide to protect another country’s economy versus protecting our constitutional rights.”

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