Debunking Four Myths Surrounding the Palestinian Protests

The justifications given for the deaths of Palestinian protesters just don’t add up

Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, June 1, 2018. Israeli tear gas canisters fall toward Palestinian protesters and medics during clashes with Israeli security forces along the Israel-Gaza border. Photo courtesy dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo.

Muhammad Shehada and Jamie Stern-Weiner, VICE, Jun 12 2018

Over the past ten weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the “March of Return,” mass nonviolent demonstrations to protest Israel’s illegal siege. Throughout, Israel has responded with violent force.

As of June 7, Israeli forces had killed more than 110 Palestinians in the course of the protests, including 14 children, and injured more than 3,700 with live ammunition. In order to brutalize the people of Gaza into submission while minimizing the international criticism that accompanies lethal force, Israeli snipers deployed along Gaza’s perimeter fence methodically shot the legs of Palestinian demonstrators. “The aim,” reports the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, was “to leave as many young people as possible with permanent disabilities.” To this end, the snipers used expanding bullets that “pulverized” bones and left exit wounds the size of a fist. According to the Secretary-General of UNRWA, the United Nations agency providing education and healthcare for refugees in Gaza, “many” of those shot will suffer “life-long disabilities.” Mission accomplished.

In order to legitimize its resort to overwhelming force, Israel has sought to cast doubt on the popular character of the demonstrations in Gaza and to present them as a threat to its security. A number of myths about the Gaza protests have consequently gained widespread traction. They bear as tenuous a relation to reality as Israel’s insistence back in the 1980s that the overwhelmingly nonviolent First Intifada comprised a “campaign of terror” by “mobs,” or, more recently, its repeated denials that the Israeli military deployed white phosphorus in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

No one is suggesting that Palestinian forces have never engaged in violent forms of resisting Israel’s protracted, illegal siege—which has made Gaza “unlivable,” according to UN officials. But the current protests are overwhelmingly nonviolent, and have been met with murderous force.

Here are some of the most prominent myths about these recent protests, and why they’re not true.

The demonstrations in Gaza are violent

The Government of Israel claims that the Gaza demonstrations have featured “violent mass incidents” that were “exceptional in their scope and the extent of threat they posed.” These violent incidents allegedly included the throwing of grenades and explosive devices, as well as the firing of live ammunition at Israeli soldiers. But such claims are either un-evidenced, implausible, or blown so out of proportion as to misrepresent what transpired.

First, credible observers report that, while a minority of demonstrators threw stones and flaming bottles toward out-of-reach Israeli soldiers, the demonstrations “have largely involved sit-ins, concerts, sports games, speeches, and other peaceful activities.” An American journalist in Gaza found that, even among those demonstrators who approached the fence, “[t]here were no guns, no grenades, no rockets.” Fieldworkers for the respected Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza “did not witness weapons or armed persons even dressed in civilian clothes among the demonstrators,” while Amnesty International informed us that, as of June 8, it had “not seen evidence of the use of firearms by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers during the protests.” This would explain why Israeli soldiers felt able to stand around in plain sight of the protesters while taking pot-shots into the crowd. Armed security personnel in civilian clothes were present at the protest tents—but not near the fence—in order to guard the high-profile political figures in attendance, obstruct intelligence-gathering by collaborators, and maintain public order. Although a couple of isolated violent incidents occurred far away from the perimeter fence, none of the numerous witnesses we contacted had seen even a single “armed protester” or any armed individual approaching the perimeter fence.

Second, Israel has presented no credible evidence of armed protesters or armed attacks. Even a veteran Israeli military correspondent noted that “[n]either we nor the international media received images and firsthand testimonies illustrating the danger and the threat to the snipers and other IDF [Israeli military] forces deployed along the fence.” The same correspondent mocked Israel’s refusal to permit journalists to approach the Gaza fence, instead positioning them “at a safe distance… where they were in no danger of being hit by a rock or by a marble fired from a sling or, God forbid, inhaling teargas.”

The connection between the underwhelming threat that confronted Israeli soldiers and the military’s failure to provide reporters with compelling propaganda material appears not to have occurred to him. Did he expect the IDF to send him a photo of a “marble fired from a sling?”

Inasmuch as Israeli forces were equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment, including “footage from drones hovering” overhead, and insofar as Israel claimed to use lethal force only against “those who are with weapons,” the lack of evidence of these alleged explosives and live ammunition is surely cause for wonder. What “evidence” Israel has provided only underlined the absence of a military presence at the demonstrations. Witness, for instance, the images and footage of what Israel termed “grenades” and “improvised explosive devices,” but which were in fact homemade firecrackers, familiar to Gazan teenagers who sometimes set them off at weddings and parties, which make a loud noise and little else.

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Bernie Sanders’ Criticism Of Israel Is Radical. And He’s Taking It Mainstream

Aiden Pink, Information Clearing House, June 13, 2018

Not many in the media are noticing, which is understandable given the burden of keeping up with Donald Trump, but in the shadow of Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Bernie Sanders is dramatically challenging Beltway discourse on Israel.

In 2020, when Sanders likely runs for president, and journalists begin paying attention, they’re going to be shocked. The Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment will be scared out of their minds.

Last month, Sanders crossed one of the red lines demarcating politically acceptable Washington discourse about Israel. He organized the first letter written by multiple senators criticizing Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Then, last week, he raced past that line again with a video that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from an American senator.

To understand how radical Sanders’ video is, it’s worth remembering how liberal Democrats like Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton talked about Israel and the Palestinians as recently as two years ago. While Obama, Kerry and Clinton did sometimes criticize Israeli policy, they generally did so in the language of Israeli self-interest, not of Palestinian human rights. Israeli settlement policy was bad for Israel, they argued, because it threatened Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state.

On Gaza, the Obama administration never publicly urged Israel to negotiate with Hamas, even as former Israeli security chiefs did. And Obama effectively endorsed Israel’s position that Palestinians should not be allowed to hold elections because Hamas might win. (This despite the fact that Israeli parties that oppose the two state solution — among them, Likud — run in Israeli elections all the time).

When Gaza came up in a 2016 Democratic primary debate, Clinton placed the blame for its people’s suffering exclusively on Hamas. “Remember,” she declared, “Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people. And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza. So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.” Her comments, which are demonstrably false, could easily have come from Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

Contrast that with the video Sanders released last week. (It’s the third he’s released on Gaza since April). For starters, it consists entirely of interviews with Palestinians in Gaza. That alone is extraordinary. Palestinians in Gaza are almost never included in the debates on American TV. Palestinians are rarely invited to hold public briefings on Capitol Hill, and when they are, it’s hugely controversial.

In his video, Sanders lets Palestinians from Gaza speak for themselves. And they say things American politicians simply don’t say. Again and again, the speakers, who are not politicians but rather academics, students and journalists, call Gaza a “prison.” They talk about having only four hours of electricity per day. In one comic-tragic moment, the lights go on behind a young woman while she is speaking. She notes that the power has just returned after being off for 16 hours. Then it flickers off again.

A professor of political science notes that his family hasn’t left Gaza in more than twenty years. A young man says his “biggest dream is to travel from Gaza for one time in my life. To see how life is from outside the walls of the prison.” He later comments that many of his friends have contemplated suicide: “They cannot continue to live without any types of hope.” A young woman says, “I want the situation to change to where I feel like an equal human being to Israelis.”

By allowing ordinary Palestinians to describe their plight, Sanders’ video allows Americans to see the Great Return March as the product not of blind hatred of Israel but of a quintessentially human desire for a better life. “This protest,” says the professor, “was designed and orchestrated by young, independent and frustrated Palestinians who were sick, tired and exhausted of their living conditions.”

And by allowing ordinary Palestinians to speak for themselves, the video shows how dehumanizing it is to describe the people protesting Israel’s blockade as mere pawns of, or “human shields” for, Hamas. Brilliantly, Sanders’ video shows clips of American pundits blaming Hamas for the protests, and then lets Palestinians in Gaza do something they can rarely do on American television: respond.

“I’m talking with you. I’m not Hamas,” exclaims one man.

“It’s a big lie to say that Hamas is pushing Palestinian children and Palestinian women in the front line,” says the Palestinian professor.

“The majority of the people are not following Hamas,” insists the young man. “They are just participating peacefully because they just want to be free.”

Criticizing Hamas is both legitimate and necessary. But Sanders’ video shows how the media’s obsession with Hamas obscures the human causes of Palestinian protest, and the human consequences of Israel’s brutal response.

“The right question to ask is not whether there is someone asking them to go to the fence,” argues a young woman. “The right question is what is driving these people to walk up to the fence. What kinds of conditions would drive someone to risk their lives knowing that there are snipers who are willing to shoot them?”

And when you look at her, you imagine being that desperate yourself.

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Israel ambassador to U.S. speaks at Milwaukee Rotary Club

Bill Glauber and Amed Elbenni, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 6, 2018

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said America’s recent move to relocate its embassy to Israel will help advance the cause of Middle East peace.

During an address Tuesday at the Milwaukee Rotary Club, Dermer called President Donald Trump’s decision to open the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem “historic” and “one of the greatest decisions in the history of Zionism.”

“I know some people are concerned that this decision will set back the cause of peace. I disagree,” he said.

“This is our historic home and peace can come to the region and the Palestinians can cross a psychological Rubicon and say, ‘You have a right to be here, too,’ ” he added.

The event was co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. The Rotary has invited the Islamic Society of Milwaukee to a future presentation.

There were protests outside the War Memorial Center organized by Jewish Voice for Peace-Milwaukee, an organization that advocates for full Palestinian citizenship that has labeled Dermer “Israel’s apartheid ambassador.” Peace Action Wisconsin also was an organizer of the protest, which attracted about 60 people from various backgrounds — Jewish, Palestinian, Lebanese, black.

The groups criticized Israel’s recent actions in Gaza, where more than 115 people have been killed since March. Hamas has organized what it called the Great March of Return.

The protests come on the heel of a recent explosion of violence in Gaza and at the Israeli border that left more than 100 people killed and thousands more injured. The Friday killing of Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old Palestinian medic who was shot by an Israel Defense Forces soldier, has inspired a fresh wave of outrage.

“It’s an atrocity,” said Tony Peressini, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Jodi Melamed, co-founder of the Milwaukee chapter of JVP, attended the address but was not impressed. “As a Jew of conscience,” she said, she was “disgusted that he was joking about ‘Laverne & Shirley’ and baseball” without ever acknowledging the recent violence in Gaza.

Near the end of the protest, the names of recent Palestinian victims were read out. After each name, the protesters said, “We remember you.”

Inside, Dermer said: “The relationship between Israel and the U.S. is stronger than ever.”

Dermer noted that he was the first Israel ambassador to visit Milwaukee but emphasized the historic links between Israel and Wisconsin.

“The place where Golda Meir was forged, where her Zionism was forged,” Dermer said of Milwaukee, where Israel’s fourth prime minister once lived.

Dermer said Trump had a “faithful decision” to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“Iran is a regime that openly calls for the eradication of Israel,” Dermer said. “They don’t hide it, they tweet it.”

“For Israel, any deal that would permanently prevent Iran from getting any nuclear weapons is one that we would support,” he said, adding that Israel opposed the deal with Iran because the restrictions against Iran’s nuclear program were temporary.

“All they had to do was wait for the calendar to change,” he said.

He said Iran is dominating the region and becoming a threat in the Middle East and hoped for more countries to put more pressure on Iran.

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What is Israel doing in Alaska?!

The Peace Report, June 5, 2018

Israel will be testing their Arrow 3 weapons system, among other things, on Kodiak Island, Alaska in the summer of 2018. The Arrow 3 weapons system was funded and developed by both Israel and the United States. All amenities and resources will be provided for the Israeli military free of charge, paid for by American taxpayers. Kodiak has a long history of pollution from the Pentagon that they are still trying to clean up from WW2.


The Global Network recently made the decision to hire Afghan and Iraq war veteran Will Griffin of The Peace Report to serve as our social media coordinator on a part-time basis. One of his jobs will be to produce a space-related video for us each month. This new video, revealing Israeli plans to test the Arrow ‘missile defense’ system from Kodiak Island, is his first for the GN.

We’ve long been supporting the local citizens campaign on Kodiak Island to build opposition to the launching of military rockets from their pristine public lands. But the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency feels that Kodiak is ‘out of site, out of mind’. We are determined to make sure that Israel’s testing of these weapons systems does not go un-noticed and without international opposition.

Please help us spread the word about this issue by sharing this important video via email and on Facebook using the links above. Help us break through the corporate media silence surrounding this provocative and destabilizing effort by Israel (with full Pentagon support) to control the Middle East and its resources.

Will Griffin has made many videos which you can find at his site called The Peace Report.

Help us Keep Space for Peace!

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
http://www.space4peace.org
http://space4peace.blogspot.com (blog)

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. – Henry David Thoreau

A Woman Dedicated to Saving Lives Loses Hers in Gaza Violence


Razan al-Najjar, 20, was trying to help an injured protester near the border fence
when she was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers, witnesses say. Last month, she spoke
to The Times about the challenges she faced as a female medical volunteer.
(June 1, 2018, Yousur Al-Hlou)

Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, June 2, 2018

KHUZAA, Gaza Strip — She had become a fixture at the weekly protests along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel, a young woman in a white paramedic’s uniform rushing into harm’s way to help treat the wounded.

As a volunteer emergency medical worker, she said she wanted to prove that women had a role to play in the conservative Palestinian society of Gaza.

“Being a medic is not only a job for a man,” Razan al-Najjar, 20, said in an interview at a Gaza protest camp last month. “It’s for women, too.”

An hour before dusk on Friday, the 10th week of the Palestinian protest campaign, she ran forward to aid a demonstrator for the last time.

Palestinian protesters carrying Razan al-Najjar, a medic shot by Israeli soldiers on Friday at the Gaza border fence.CreditAdel Hana/Associated Press

Israeli soldiers fired two or three bullets from across the fence, according to a witness, hitting Ms. Najjar in the upper body. She was pronounced dead soon after.

Ms. Najjar was the 119th Palestinian killed since the protests began in March, according to Gaza health officials. Hers was the only fatality registered on Friday.

The Israeli military said Saturday that the case would be examined.

The military said it “has repeatedly warned civilians against approaching the fence and taking part in violent incidents and terrorist attacks and will continue to act professionally and determinedly to protect Israeli civilians and Israeli security infrastructure.”

The weeks of protests, called the Great Return March, have largely been orchestrated by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. They aim to draw attention to the 11-year blockade by Israel and Egypt of the coastal territory and to press refugee claims to lands lost when Israel was established in 1948.

Most of those killed during the protests have been shot by Israeli snipers, half of them in a single day, May 14, the peak of the campaign. Human rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force against the mostly unarmed protesters.

On Friday, a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians failed when it was vetoed by the United States.

Israel has defended its use of live fire, saying it is protecting its border and the nearby communities against a mass breach of the fence, and that Gaza militants have been using unarmed civilian protesters as cover to infiltrate Israeli territory, lay explosives and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The conflict exploded into a day of cross-border fighting on Tuesday, when Islamic militants in Gaza fired scores of mortar shells and short-range rockets into southern Israel. Israeli jets bombed at least 65 military sites across Gaza.

On Friday, the protests resumed. Thousands of Palestinians took part in what the Israeli military described as violent riots at five locations along the security fence, burning tires and throwing stones. One Israeli army vehicle was fired on and Palestinians planted a grenade that exploded on the Israeli side of the fence, the military said.

This was the scene that Ms. Najjar dashed into in her white coat to tend to an elderly man who had been hit in the head by a tear-gas canister, according to a witness, Ibrahim al-Najjar, 30, a relative of Ms. Najjar’s.

Other witnesses and the Gaza Health Ministry offered a slightly different version of events, saying that Ms. Najjar and other paramedics were walking toward the fence with their arms raised on their way to evacuate injured protesters when she was shot in the chest.

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