Israel covers up role in Myanmar crimes against Rohingya

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 September 2017


Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar officials visit arms maker Israel Aerospace Industries in September 2015. (via Facebook)

Israel is attempting to bury information about its arms sales to the military regime in Myanmar, which the UN accuses of a “brutal” campaign against the country’s Muslim Rohingya population, amounting to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled their homes as the military and Buddhist mobs burn their villages.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is committing crimes against humanity.

“The military has committed forced deportation, murder, rape and persecution against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, resulting in countless deaths and mass displacement,” Human Rights Watch said.

Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Prize winner and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, has been the subject of growing global criticism over her evasions and justifications of the atrocities.

“Dictatorial regime”

Israeli attorney and human rights activist Eitay Mack has long campaigned to force Israel to reveal and halt its arms sales to various violent regimes.

This week, Israel’s state attorney asked the high court to retroactively classify all the records and proceedings related to Mack’s latest suit, which attempts to compel the government to end its arms sales to Myanmar.

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The United States Was Responsible for the 1982 Massacre of Palestinians in Beirut

Washington had explicitly guaranteed their safety—and recently declassified documents reveal that US diplomats were told by the Israelis what they and their allies might be up to.

Sabra Shatila Massacre
In this September 27, 1982 file photo, a Palestinian woman attending a Beirut memorial service holds the helmets worn by those who committed the Sabra and Shatila massacre. (AP Photo / Bill Foley, File)

On the night of September 16, 1982, my younger brother and I were baffled as we watched dozens of Israeli flares floating down in complete silence over the southern reaches of Beirut, for what seemed like an eternity. We knew that the Israeli army had rapidly occupied the western part of the city two days earlier. But flares are used by armies to illuminate a battlefield, and with all the PLO fighters who had resisted the Israeli army during the months-long siege of the city already evacuated from Beirut, we went to bed perplexed, wondering what enemy was left for the occupying army to hunt.

Remembering the Sabra and Shatila massacre 35 years on

Its time to end the Israeli culture of impunity that permitted the Sabra and Shatila massacre to happen 35 years ago.

, Al Jazeera, 16 Sep 2017

Massacre survivors Yousef Hamzeh and Abu Jamal walk together at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacre on the outskirts of Beirut [Caren Firouz/Reuters]Massacre survivors Yousef Hamzeh and Abu Jamal walk together at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacre on the outskirts of Beirut [Caren Firouz/Reuters]

On September 16, 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the right-wing Christian Phalange militia stormed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut and began a massacre which ended in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mostly Palestinian civilians. I was 19 years old at the time. By chance and by luck I managed to survive. My mother and five younger sisters and brothers; and my uncle, his wife and eight kids did not.

Israel’s invasion began June 6, 1982. After much destruction, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had defended the camps since its inception, agreed to leave Lebanon in August. They were given American assurances that civilians left behind would be protected. The president-elect of Lebanon, and the leader of the Phalange, was assassinated on September 14th. The Israeli army proceeded to invade and occupy West Beirut.

Israeli troops surrounded the camps to prevent the refugees from leaving and allowed entry of the Phalange, a known enemy of the Palestinians. The Israelis fired flares throughout the night to light up the killing field – thus allowing the militiamen to see their way through the narrow alleys of the camps. The massacre went on for two days. As the bloodbath concluded, Israel supplied the bulldozers to dig mass graves. In 1983, Israel’s investigative Kahan Commission found that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister, bore “personal responsibility for the slaughter.

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Ilan Pappe: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy — And Never Was

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy – And Never Was

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East.
In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin, May 5, 2017
Excerpted from Ten Myths About Israel, Verso Books

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

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#ObliteratedFamilies – Al-Louh Family

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

I will meet my fate
Al-Louh Family, Deir al-Balah
8 people killed
August 20, 2014

Buseina put the kettle on the stove. Every day she got up before the morning prayer to make tea. Steam was rising and the aroma of boiling mint escaped the teapot. Buseina’s husband Mustafa emerged from the bathroom and came into the kitchen. Phones barely worked, the network was down. Electricity was scarce, but the radio could run on batteries and could therefore always be relied on those days. “What’s the news?” he asked. “They hit the house of the al-Dalu family,” she answered. The strike was meant for one of the top military commanders of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, or so the Israeli army claimed. Instead, the Israeli pilot killed Deif’s wife and his seven-month-old son, along with a 48-year-old woman and her two sons. Fifteen people were injured.

Both Buseina and Mustafa held on to their usual daily habits throughout the Israeli offensive. Buseina would get up before the morning prayer to make tea, and Mustafa would join her in the kitchen soon after.
Both Buseina and Mustafa held on to their usual daily habits throughout the Israeli offensive. Buseina would get up before the morning prayer to make tea, and Mustafa would join her in the kitchen soon after.

Since the beginning of the war, Mustafa al-Louh, a tall, slender 61-year-old man, had been sleeping in a small shed wedged between two houses. On one side was the house of Mustafa’s son Rafat and his family. On the other side lived Mustafa’s wife and their kids. A five day ceasefire had just finished the day before. Mustafa felt the war’s end was nearing. When the muezzin of Deir al-Balah called, he got up. He usually woke up before the call to prayer, a habit established over the decades since his youth. But after weeks of sleepless nights, stress and fear, he was just too exhausted.

Down a sandy road, in a nearby house about 50 meters away, his 19-year-old niece, Iman, also got up to pray. She too struggled with waking up on time. Iman had a lot on her mind. Despite the war, she had been preoccupied with her future. Academically brilliant, she would soon have to choose what to study at university. Iman had been considering theology. She got out of bed after the call to prayer had ended, and her sisters had already finished with fajar – the prayer at dawn. Her mother, who woke up earlier, turned on the radio. The latest news was the bombing of the al-Dalu home.

Iman had a lot on her mind. Despite the war, she had been preoccupied with her future. Academically brilliant, she would soon have to choose what to study at university.
Iman had a lot on her mind. Despite the war, she had been preoccupied with her future. Academically brilliant, she would soon have to choose what to study at university.

Ahmed, Mustafa’s son from another marriage, had stayed over at Rafat’s place. They had to go to work early in the morning. At 6 am, they would have to be on their way to the market in Khan Yunis to buy watermelons and bring them back to Deir al-Balah. The entire summer, every day of the war, the half-brothers travelled on the Salah al-Din road spanning the length of the Gaza Strip. Most days, the road would be nearly deserted. It was risky to drive there. Once back in Deir al-Balah, Rafat and Ahmed would load the watermelons onto a cart and push it through the sandy streets, announcing their arrival through a loudspeaker.

Rafat was an employee of the Palestinian Authority. Like thousands of other people in the Gaza Strip employed by the Palestinian government seated in Ramallah in the West Bank, he stopped going to work in 2007, when Hamas won the parliamentary election and came to power in Gaza. They all kept their modest salaries, not enough for Rafat to feed his family, though. He had three little kids. Two boys: the eldest 10-year-old Mustafa, named traditionally after his grandfather, Maysara, 7, and a daughter Farah, 6. His wife Nabila was pregnant. Rafat was forced to take out a loan. Mustafa, their father, was worried. He asked Ahmed and Rafat not to go to Khan Yunis, but his grown-up sons, one with a family of his own, would not listen. They had never been targeted on the road. Anyways, calculating what would be more risky – staying at home or driving around – had become impossible in Gaza during that time.

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Israel’s Everlasting Occupation

Palestinians were never presented with what Israel offered every neighboring country: full withdrawal from occupied territory

NATHAN THRALL, The New York Times, June 2, 2017

An Israeli soldier praying at the Western Wall during the Six-Day War, in June 1967 (Micha Bar Am/Magnum Photos)

JERUSALEM — Three months after the 1967 war, Israel’s ruling Mapai Party held a discussion on the future of the newly conquered territories. Golda Meir, who would become Israel’s leader a year and a half later, asked Prime Minister Levi Eshkol what he planned to do with the more than one million Arabs now living under Israeli rule.

“I get it,” Mr. Eshkol jokingly replied. “You want the dowry, but you don’t like the bride!” Mrs. Meir responded, “My soul yearns for the dowry, and to let someone else take the bride.”

On this 50th anniversary of the war, it is clear that over the half-century that followed, Israel managed to fulfill Mrs. Meir’s wish, keeping control of the land indefinitely without wedding itself to the inhabitants. This resilient and eminently sustainable arrangement, so often mischaracterized as a state of limbo assumed to be temporary, has stood on three main pillars: American backing, Palestinian weakness and Israeli indifference. Together, the three ensure that for the Israeli government, continuing its occupation is far less costly than the concessions required to end it.

Each pillar, in turn, draws support from a core myth promoted by leaders in American, Palestinian or Israeli society. For Americans, the myth that the occupation is unsustainable is a crucial element in maintaining and excusing the United States’ financial and diplomatic abetting of it. From the halls of the State Department to editorials in major newspapers and the pronouncements of pro-peace organizations like J Street, Americans are told that Israel will have to choose, and very soon, to give Palestinians either citizenship or independence, and choose to either remain a democracy or become an apartheid state.

Yet none of these groups calls on the United States to force this supposedly imminent choice, no matter how many times Israel demonstrates that it prefers a different, far easier option — continued occupation — with no real consequences. The only real fallout from continued occupation are major increases in American financing of it, with Israel now receiving more military assistance from the United States than the rest of the world does combined. Mistaking finger-wagging for pressure, these groups spend far too much time on phrasing their criticism of settlements and occupation, and far too little asking what can be done about it.

What supports the fiction that Israel cannot continue subjugating the Palestinians — and therefore that the United States will not be complicit in several more decades of subjugation — is a seemingly endless parade of coming perils, each of which, it is claimed or hoped, will cause Israel to end its occupation in the near future.

Initially, the threat was of an attack by the Arab states. But that soon crumbled: Israel made a separate peace with the strongest one, Egypt; the Arabs proved incapable of defending even sovereign Lebanon from Israeli invasion; and in recent years, many Arab states have failed to uphold even their longstanding boycott of Israel.

Then there was the demographic threat of a Palestinian majority arising between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. But official Israeli and Palestinian population statistics indicate that Jews have been a minority in the territory Israel controls for several years now, and with no repercussions: A majority of the world’s nations still speak of undemocratic rule by a Jewish minority as a hypothetical future, not an unacceptable present.

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#ObliteratedFamilies – Balata Family

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

I renewed everything
Balata Family, Jabaliya refugee camp
11 people killed
July 29, 2014

Naim sat in a room full of birds, drinking his morning coffee. At the end of July, the Israeli army had warned the people of East Jabaliya to evacuate the area. Naim was torn: should they leave everything behind and run? Who would take care of the birds? His brother Abdelkarim’s house, where they would have been welcome, had a thick cement roof, something that could protect them from debris in case of a nearby explosion. Above Naim’s head was a thin sheet of asbestos, not even good enough to shield his family from the merciless heat of the summer sun. Naim’s 17-year-old son, Ala, was on his way to pick up groceries from the market when he saw many people leaving the area. Some people were carrying their belongings, others were riding on donkey carts or in tuk-tuks, a few had cars, filled up to the roof. When he got back home, he convinced his father that they too should evacuate their place and go to their uncle Abdelkarim’s house, also in the Jabaliya refugee camp, but a much more solid construction.

The family sat in Abdelkarim’s house, eating lunch, telling each other stories, joking and trying to turn their forced evacuation into a family gathering. The two brothers were very close, so were their wives. Later on that day, Ala’s older sister, Wafaa’, brought up the topic of marriage. She said their mother had someone in mind for Ala. He listened, but right away laughed the idea off.

The shelling started on 29 July in the afternoon and lasted until the next day. The house of Naim’s brother, Abdelkarim, where the family had gone for shelter, was hit on the first day, it was struck by several shells. One of them fell into the room where Ala’s sisters were staying. Ala’s parents and all seven siblings were killed.

“DELO”

Room of 17-year-old Hadil, nicknamed “Delo”. “She planned to become a doctor; she promised this to her grandfather,” Hadil’s father, Abdelkarim, says. Ala, her cousin, will add later that she got 92% in her high school final exam. She made the entire family proud.

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#ObliteratedFamilies – Al-Khalili Family

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

Life and death in Gaza: neither normal, nor natural
Al-Khalili family, Gaza City, al-Tuffah neighbourhood
8 people killed
July 30, 2014

In al-Tuffah neighbourhood, in the eastern part of Gaza City, Mahmoud al-Khalili turns the ground floor of his family home into a workshop, which in time grows to become a small factory adjacent to the building. His sons, Ashraf and Ahmed, work with their father and eventually become mechanics of specialized factory machines imported from Germany. The family business is doing well despite the fact that the Israeli occupation and the blockade increasingly cripple the local economy, eventually leaving half of Gaza’s population unemployed. The factory produces simple plastic and wooden elements, such as broomsticks. Easily flammable.

One hot Friday afternoon

June 2014, Gaza beach

Mahmoud’s son, 37-year-old Ashraf, is laughing and when he laughs his whole body shakes. Compulsively hospitable, as all Gazans are, he entices his guests to eat more and more of a watermelon, picking for them the sweetest and juiciest pieces and not stopping until the silver tray is empty.

Ashraf and his childhood friends from al-Tuffah meet every weekend in a small chalet on the Gaza City beach, where they smoke sheesha, play cards and chat about troubles at home. All are married, with kids. Ashraf and his wife Nidaa’ have three children, age three to eight: Mahmoud, Dima and Ziyad. Ashraf is a proud father and Dima is the apple of her daddy’s eye, as he says. She is a very energetic little girl. The kids are the joy of the house above the factory, where three generations of al-Khalilis live.

It is just another hot Friday afternoon in Gaza. The beach is packed. Children play in the water. Families barbecue and picnic, enjoying the only open space in the Strip – the sea, the only window of this prison cell that the Gaza Strip has become. They know very well that the sea’s openness is illusory; go past three or four nautical miles from the shore and the Israeli navy will be there to attack you, arrest you and confiscate your boat. Ashraf and his friends spend the evening imagining how it would be to live in a normal place. Not under Israeli siege, not under the constant threat of Israeli bombings, not under the rule of a conservative government. How does it feel to be free? It’s a question asked by many people in the enclave.

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