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The Occupation of the American Mind RAI With Pink Floyds Roger Waters

Business  (tags: americans, congress, Roger Waters, U.S. public opinion, Boycott Movement, Diplomacy, International News, International Politics, Interview, Israeli Settlement, Jerusalem, wall, BDS, Gaza Siege, Human rights, International, occupation, media, news, RAI )

- 344 days ago -
On Reality Asserts Itself (RAI) with Paul Jay, legendary musician Roger Waters and Sut Jhally discuss their new film about the Israeli public relations campaign to influence U.S. public opinion


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fly bird (26)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 5:03 am
The Occupation of the American Mind – RAI with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

On Reality Asserts Itself (RAI) with Paul Jay, legendary musician Roger Waters and Sut Jhally discuss their new film about the Israeli public relations campaign to influence U.S. public opinion.

TRNN video & transcript:

(Additional links at bottom of page.)

JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network, and welcome to Reality Asserts Itself. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.Of all the official narrative that tries to explain the world in the interests those who control U.S. foreign policy, perhaps nothing is as powerful as the influence of how the media covers Israel/Palestine, a country which is cleared by the united nations and independent journalists and commissions that have investigated the situation. Israel clearly has an illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. It has committed war crimes in its attacks on Gaza and other places. Yet, the prevailing public opinion and certainly the prevailing media and political opinion is Israel’s the victim in all of this.There’s a new film that tries to explain why Americans think this way. The film is called “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.”And now joining me is the executive producer of the film, and the narrator of the film. First of all, in the studio is Sut Jhally. He’s professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts, and founder and executive director of the media education foundation. Sut’s been involved in the production of more than 75 films, most recently, as I said executive produce of “The Occupation of the American Mind.”And joining us from…I believe…are you in New York Roger? Or LA?


JAY: LA. Joining us from Los Angeles is Roger Waters. He’s the narrator of “The Occupation of the American Mind.” He’s an English musician, singer/songwriter, and composer. Best known as the bass, co-lead vocalist, lyricist, principle songwriter of the very famous band Pink Floyd. Over the last few years, he’s emerged as a prominent advocate for Palestinian human rights.Thank you very much for joining us Roger and Sut.

JHALLY: Pleasure being here.

JAY: Roger, let me start with a somewhat personal question to you, and then we’ll kind of get into the film more. One of you best known songs is “The Wall.” You made a film with the name. The wall which is the separation wall between Israel and Palestine, or the current occupied territories, has become a major symbol for you, in terms of the way you’ve written about the wall…a passion for you politically. Um, you’ve talked a bit in previous interviews about breaking down your own personal walls. This wall is a metaphor at many levels for you. When this sort of wall about…not just being political in terms of being, having opinions and thinking, but breaking down that wall where you decide you have to put your neck out. You have to be an activist. You have to actually get out and change the world in a very active way.Why is it the Israel/Palestine question that seems to be the one that galvanizes you?

WATERS: Well, I’ve seen that wall. I saw that wall ten years ago. I went to Israel…they tacked a gig on at the end of a European tour, in Tel Aviv, and that was really the start of my involvement in all of this, because I accepted to do that show. And I was then approached by, among many others, by Omar Bagutti, and we had long conversations, and I started to learn a little bit about the situation. And, in fact, I cancelled my gig, on his, and many hundreds of other peoples recommendations.I did perform in Israel in 2006, but I moved the show to an agricultural community called Navashirum, or Asalam, I think is the Arab name for it. Which is about halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and it’s an ecumenical community where Jews and Arabs and Muslims and Christians and [inaud.] all live together, grow chickpeas and their children all go to the same school. And so it’s a very cool example.So we did the gig there, and it was a huge success, but I realized that I was playing to an entirely segregated audience. There were only Jewish Israelis there. And also, at the end of show–they were extremely enthusiastic, I have to say, and very knowledgable about the work that I was doing–but at the end of the show, when I made a very short speech about how they were the generation of Israelis that needed to start communicating with their neighbors and make peace, they went very, very blank. This was not in the script. And they’re following a script.What Sut’s movie is about, it’s about the fact that the citizens of the United States of America are also following a script. And the scripts are remarkably similar, because they derive from the same Orwellian ministry of truth, which is campaign of Hasbara, or the explaining of the Israeli situation to the rest of the world. And so, that was one indication that I had in 2006, that things were kind of screwy.I went back in 2007 and under the protection of the United Nations, and I traveled around the West Bank extensively with a lovely women called Allegra Biceglia, who was working for [inaud.] at the time.

JAY: This was when you made the film?

WATERS: Yea, we made a little clip of spray painting slogans on the wall in…actually around the refugee camp in Bethlehem. But in traveling around the West Bank, at that time, I had meetings with some of the elders in refugee camp in [inaud.], and up in the north. I drove all the way down there, and through the east as well, all the way down the Jordan river…came back through Jericho, and it’s chilling if when you actually see it with your own eyes, to see a [inaud.] in operation, in a country that is almost entirely supported by the United States of America, that makes claims about liberty, freedom, and equality, and so on.In fact it’s enshrined in the institution of this country, that all men are created equal, and so on and so forth. It’s chilling to see a system of military occupation being operated where there is no question of people being treated equally. There are one set of people…are colonizing the land, and the other set of people have no rights at all, of any kind. And so, confronting with something like that, feelings well up, and I think it’s entirely natural for anybody of good faith to say “We have to organize and do something about this.”JAY: Right.

WATERS: And Sut’s movie, “The Occupation of the American Mind,” is one of the best tools of activism that I’ve seen. And I was extremely pleased to be able to act the narrative for it. Because it very coachingly tells the story of how the American public have been deceived, since 1947, as to the reality on the ground in Israel and in the surrounding countries.JAY: Sut, how long did it take to make this film, and it’s a difficult film to make, because you know it’s going to be hard to show this anywhere in the United States.

JHALLY: It took us a while to make actually. We started this over five years ago. We actually had made a previous film, that came out in 2004, called “Peace Propaganda in the Promised Land,” which was about comparing American media coverage with European media coverage. And then, you know, it deals with some similar issues. But then, when the Gaza attacks first happened, it seemed as though something new was happening, and so we started to work on a new film. And, you know, it was the first Gaza attack in 2008, and then we didn’t know, while we were working on the film, that another two attacks would happen at the same time. So that was why we worked on the film.JAY: Yea, I mean, that was an astounding moment. Bombs raining down on Gaza, you know, thousands of injuries and deaths, and Israel’s the victim.

JHALLY: And Israel’s the victim, and there is support in, you know, massive public support in the U.S.

JAY: A resolution gets passed in the U.S senate.

JHALLY: Yea, i mean, the senate is almost unanimous around this, and so it’s that, this congruence between the reality on the ground and American perceptions and opinions of it. And as someone who studies public opinion, and someone who looks at public relations and propaganda, I know public opinion doesn’t come out of nowhere. Public opinion is formed. Public opinion is created. And so, that was why I first got interested in looking at this. It was how, how is American public opinion formed around this?Actually, my first interest in this was…you know I teach at the University of Massachusetts …and about ten years ago I started to do my…I started to do surveys in my class, the very first class I would have during the semester. I would ask people, I would ask these students, you know, sort of liberal students at a liberal university, I would ask them not what they thought, but what they knew. And I asked them a question, I said, ok, to ask them a factual question, which was “which of the following countries has been continually condemned in the united nations for occupying someone else’s land.” It’s an objective question, the answer to which is Israel. And so I gave them four answers that they could choose. One was Israel, one was…I think couldn’t call it Palestine, call them Palestinians, and then a couple of countries it couldn’t possibly be. And what I found was, over a period of three years when I did this, between 58% and 63% of my students thought that Palestinians were illegally occupying someone else’s land. And so that was where I, you know, how does this happen? How can you have this kind of reality to…

JAY: Well, we’ve seen this in other polling across the country, that a majority opinion, at least used to, I’m not sure where it is now, used to have the same idea.

JHALLY: Yea, so I mean, and that’s why I was interested. How can reality be turned on it’s head.

JAY: Alright, well lets show a clip from the film, and then we’ll discuss more about how this works. So lets roll the clip.[CLIP]

JAY: So, this film is about a public relations exercise. Conscious, planned, and this is…the film introduces the concept here. This framing of how Israel is the victim and Palestinians somehow hate Jews, and this is why they can’t live or abide living next to an Israeli state, a Jewish State, how does this get to be so pervasive, that the majority of American opinion, even when they’re show images of children dying in Gaza, and the attacks on Gaza, and in fact, in the last attack on Gaza, I was kind of struck. It seemed to me, for the first time, almost, the New York Times actually showed pictures of dead children. You actually got some sense of what it had done to people. You could still have senate resolutions calling this an Israeli right to self-defense and such.

JHALLY: Yea, I mean, an Israeli spokesperson actually said, “in the war of pictures, we lose.” So you have to explain. You have to frame the pictures. And that’s what Israel has done. It’s a massive propaganda campaign, to flood the airwaves with explanations for why there are these dead children, and why for the blame for the dead children rests in the hands of Hamas and Palestinians, and not Israel. And so, that’s a challenge that Israel recognizes, that these pictures could be very damaging. However, one of the things we know, about public relations is, pictures never tell a story by themselves. You can always give a different interpretation to the pictures. You can always give a different interpretation to the story. In fact, it’s the…Gore Vidal once talked about the lesson of Confucius. That Confucius was once asked what he would do if he were ever to run the state. That his views in charge, what would he do? And Confucius answered by saying he would “rectify the language.” And, what he meant by that was, that was if you can control the stories, if you can control the language, then you can control the categories through which people think about the world. And you don’t need police and military on street corners. You can colonize people in their own imaginations, in their own heads.

JAY: And as you point out in the film, one of the most important ingredients in that is repetition, which is kind of why we’re doing The Real News. It’s the daily repetition that makes this thing…shapes peoples world view, when they see these events unfold.

JHALLY: Yea, and that’s the way public relations works. It doesn’t work by one message by itself. It works by being this cumulative effect over a long period of time. So even if you have one message that comes the way, it has no impact when the flood of messages is going in the other direction.JAY: Roger, how much were you effected yourself by the sort of official narrative in the media? You had actually booked that concert. Once you got there, and you were able to see with your own eyes and talk to people, you changed the venue, but before you went, how much were you influenced by, you know, the main narrative yourself?

WATERS: I’m not sure that it impinged on me greatly. You know, I’ve been kind of, I hate to say it, but I’ve been busy doing my work for most of my life. I’ve worked really hard. I really enjoy my work, so I’m sort of engaged in it. And the story tends to go by somewhere in the background until you’re confronted with it, face to face, in a personal, upfront way. And then you have to respond to it. But further to what you guys were saying, about what happens, never mind the theory, which is all very interesting, and it’s a very nice kind of academic conversation about public relations, the fact is that the system that the Israeli powers that be have…the Hezbollah, the explaining of their situation, is not actually explaining anything. It’s a euphemism, to suggest explaining. They’re telling a big lie, and they are repeating it over, and over, and over again. And they are also persuading some of the lackeys that they have in this country, for instance, Hillary Clinton is a very good example of this, to repeat the lie for them. And they all repeat the same lie over and over again. Sut, in Sut’s movie, it’s very very well illustrated. In fact, you used it yourself, just now. You talked about bombs raining down on Gaza, ok, well that’s perfectly legitimate description for what happened, not just in protective edge in 2014, but also in Carstead in 2008-2009. Bombs rained down on Gaza. The big lie that they tell, when there’s ever any conflict, or ever any bombing of anyone, is “and the missiles rained down.” And in this movie, you hear people saying it countless times. Hillary said it about ten times in the navy yard in Brooklyn, like two weeks ago, in the debate with Sanders, when Sanders was trying to make the point that there are two sides to this story. That’s all he was doing. But what he was doing there was completely revolutionary, because he’s the first politician that we’ve heard in the United States even suggesting that it might be two sides to this story. So it’s really interesting, the language that they use. It’s been..well Sut knows better than I…it’s been taught to them, by Frank Luntz and others, who’ve said “this is how you effect public opinion, you lie to people. And these are the words that you must choose to tell the lie with.” But our policy is to tell a big lie, and the big lie is this, we are little David and we’re being attacked by Goliath. And Goliath is these awful terrorists, who surround us, and who are constantly attacking us. And we, much as we hate it, have to defend ourselves. And that is why sometimes we need to take to the skies with our drones, and our F-16s, and whatever it is that they use. And that is the big lie that they tell. And so that narrative that which, actually, the real narrative is that exactly the opposite is true. That Israel is not David. Israel is Goliath. And their attacks upon Gaza particularly, because the people there are incarcerated in an open air prison, and are entirely defenseless against attack from the air and the sea. They defend their attacks on Gaza, on the grounds that they are defending themselves. They’re not defending themselves. What they’re doing is, they are what they describe as mowing the grass or mowing the lawn, which is a disgusting euphemism to use about the slaughter of net-neighboring peoples, who happen to be inhabiting land that you covet. This is the real story of whats going on. The story is that the Israeli government…I’m not talking about Jewish people. I’m not talking about the Israeli people, though a lot of them, I have to say, do support the actions of their government. But this very very right wing government, that is in power in Israel at the moment, is determined, and it’s as plain as a pike staff to see, to occupy forever, all the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean.

JAY: Right.

WATERS: And between the Lebanese boarder and the [inaud.]. That is their determination. And they’re doing it. And they’re doing it willy-nilly. And they’re pretending not to do it. So part of their big lie is “we want to make peace with our neighbors.” No they don’t. That is just a barefaced lie. But if you say that, then get a spokesperson for the Israeli government will come on, and say the lie again. Exactly the same lie, they’ll say it again. “We want peace. We’re just defending ourselves.” The rockets rain down, and they go on saying the same thing, over, and over, and over again.Now, this might be ok in a country like the United States of America, for the people to make up their minds about what the true narrative is. Except, they’re not being given a chance to look at the narrative, which is why you and I are here today. To help Sut persuade the media to show his movie to the people. So the people of the United States may make up their own minds as to what’s going on. And who is the victim. And who is the perpetrator. Whether the occupying army, the occupying army, the IDF, or the Israeli occupation force, whether that’s Goliath, what the press says, or whether it’s the people who have been woken up in the middle of the night and having their kids dragged off to prison. Whether they’re the oppressors. But the film has to be shown so that people get a chance to see the other side of the narrative.JAY: So, we’re going to continue this discussion in multiple parts, which I hope you’ll come back and watch part two. But before we go, how do people watch this film?

JHALLY: We have a website. It’s called And you can watch the movie there. You can stream it for five dollars, or we hope people will give more. You can also buy the film as a DVD. So we hope a lot of people will go directly to the site and be able to watch the film immediately after this interview.

JAY: Great.

WATERS: Why isn’t it being played on Netflix? Or why isn’t it on HBO? Why isn’t it in one of the places where it is readily available for large numbers of cable customers to get it, without having to search around the net, and without them having to find this particular website, or without them having to look for it? This is important information for every citizen of the United States to have at their fingertips. It should be in every home. So that people can look at it, and then they get a chance to start forming an opinion about the situation vis-a-vis Israel Palestine.

JAY: Well, why it’s not on Netflix or mainstream media, we are going to get into exactly that topic, as we work our way through the interview. So please join us for part 2 of our interview with Sut Jhally and Roger Waters on Reality Asserts Itself, on The Real News Network.

Parts 2 &3 at The Real News Network (TRNN).

Preview the documentary here.

fly bird (26)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 5:08 am
American Laws Can Help Stop Israeli Massacres in Gaza.

But first, it will require a movement to push Congress and the president to uphold those laws.

By Alex Kane

The videos that have streamed out of the Gaza Strip over the last two weeks are disturbing, digital testaments to extreme force and terror.

In one widely circulated video taken on March 30, on the first day of what has been dubbed the “Great Return March,” 19-year-old Abdul Fattah al-Nabi can be seen running with a tire, his back turned to the Israeli snipers who have perched on hills overlooking Gaza. Then a shot rings out and al-Nabi falls to the ground, becoming one of 17 people killed that day by Israeli snipers who gunned down Palestinians as they protested Israel’s blockade of the enclave and demanded their rights as refugees.

In another clip, taken on April 6, Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja is seen using a video camera to film Palestinian demonstrators as smoke from burning tires envelops the area he is in. In the next scene, Murtaja, who was wearing a vest marked with the words “PRESS,” is being carried by colleagues while he bleeds from an Israeli gunshot wound. He later died.

As the first of these images began to circulate, the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem launched a media campaign with a simple message aimed at those tasked with responding to Gaza’s ongoing protest encampment. The organization took out ads in Israeli newspapers with the words “Sorry commander, I cannot shoot”—an attempt to encourage snipers to “refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators,” as the group put it in a statement.

Thus far, however, B’Tselem’s campaign hasn’t worked. Israeli snipers have continued to shoot down unarmed Palestinians protesting near the fence that cages in Gaza, a practice human-rights groups say is a crime under international law. And as the Great Return protest heads into the third of its planned six weeks, rights advocates fear more deaths and more bloodshed at the hands of the Israeli military. Already, some 1300 Palestinians have been shot and wounded, and more than 30 killed.

But there’s another strategy for stemming the bloodshed, one that does not rely on the conscience of soldiers—and it starts in the United States. Palestinian-rights groups here have begun urging Congress to demand an investigation into alleged Israeli violations of US laws governing arms exports, and they are calling on the State Department to enforce those laws and cut off the flow of US weapons to Israel. These efforts parallel calls by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee to implement a global arms embargo against Israel, and a call by British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn for a review of UK arms sales to Israel, but they keep a tight focus on Israel’s most munificent ally.

The United States gives Israel over $3 billion in annual military aid and, under the terms of US-Israeli agreements, 75 percent of that aid must be spent on US-made weapons. At the same time, laws governing the sale of US-made weapons to foreign countries require that these countries do not misuse this weaponry on civilians. Human-rights groups say strict enforcement of these laws would send a statement that the US-Israel alliance is predicated on respect of Palestinian human rights. They also believe that strict enforcement of these laws could deter future Israeli human-rights violations.

“The United States could send a very strong message to the Israelis about the unacceptability of these human-rights abuses by simply making it clear that there’s no blank check when it comes to military support if they engage in behavior like this,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

The US Campaign is among the chief groups calling for accountability and has been encouraging activists to contact members of Congress and call for “an investigation to hold Israel accountable for violating” laws that prohibit US-manufactured arms from being used to violate human rights. Other groups demanding an investigation include the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee as well as prominent human-rights organizations like Amnesty International USA, whose Middle East and North Africa advocacy director, Raed Jarrar, explained to The Nation: “The fact that live ammunition has been used against unarmed Palestinian protesters might not only be in violation of international law, it might also violate US law: US military aid cannot be used by recipient forces to violate human rights.”

Amnesty and the US Campaign have focused their calls around two laws in particular: the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits US assistance to countries that consistently violate human rights, and the Leahy Law, a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits the United States from sending arms to individual units of foreign security forces that commit gross human-rights violations. The Leahy Law is narrower, but could ultimately prove more effective, some advocates have suggested, since it may be easier to cut off aid to singular units that misuse US weaponry than to a whole army. It also helps that Leahy himself has said, in a statement issued by his office to another publication, that he wants to know whether his law applies to the Israeli military units who killed protesters in Gaza.

While it is difficult without investigation to determine what role, if any, US aid and weapons played in the recent killings at the Gaza border, experts who monitor US assistance to Israel told me, for a story published previously in The Intercept, that US aid “of one type or another” is assumed to benefit virtually all Israeli military units. At a minimum, images released by the Israel Defense Forces show some of the rifles that soldiers on the Gaza border are equipped with, and at least two seem to have a US provenance. According to Sarit Michaeli, who tracks Israeli weapons as the international advocacy officer for B’Tselem, one photo shows an Israeli soldier surveying Gaza while holding a Remington M24 sniper rifle, a gun made in the United States by the New York–based company Remington Arms. In another photo, a soldier holds what looks like an SR-25 semiautomatic sniper, a gun made by the Florida-based Knight’s Armament Company.

The Nation asked the Israeli army about whether it was using US-manufactured weapons like the Remington or SR-25. An army spokesperson did not respond to those questions, and only said: “The IDF uses means such as warnings, riot dispersal means, and, as a last resort firing live rounds in a precise, measured manner. The IDF is committed to preventing infiltration into Israeli territory and threats against its troops and Israeli citizens.”

In theory, a finding by the State Department that the Israeli army extrajudicially killed Palestinians in violation of international law—as human-rights group allege—could lead the United States to cut off the flow of arms to Israel. The problem is that theory and practice rarely, if ever, meet when it comes to the application of laws governing the sale of US-made weapons. There is too much pressure from the defense industry and other interest groups, and too little political will, to enforce these laws—on Israel or on any other allied country the United States supplies with weaponry, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both of whom also use US weapons to fire indiscriminately on civilians.

“Recipients of US weapons understand that they’re very unlikely to be held accountable for [a use of] US equipment [that results] in civilian casualties,” said Brittany Benowitz, an expert on arms-exports laws who worked as a defense adviser to former senator Russ Feingold. “This is creating a perception around the world that the US is indifferent to human suffering.”

There have been occasional exceptions, moments when legislators and even presidents have made moves, however small, to stanch the flow of arms to flagrant perpetrators. President Barack Obama, for instance, temporarily halted the flow of Hellfire missiles to Israel during the country’s deadly assault on Gaza in 2014. (No other US-made weapons were stopped, however.) The Obama administration also criticized Israel over the Israeli army’s killing of civilians during that assault.

But such interventions are rare, and, in the case of Israel, have grown even less likely under President Donald Trump, who has fully aligned US policy with the wishes of Israel’s far-right government and promised not to publicly air disagreements with Israel. Indeed, the Trump administration has said nothing about Israel’s use of deadly force against unarmed civilians. Instead, Jason Greenblatt, the White House envoy in charge of Israel/Palestine, criticized the Palestinian protesters.

As for Congress, only a handful of members have criticized Israel’s actions. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment from The Nation on whether it was concerned about Israel firing on unarmed civilians in Gaza, in possible violation of US law.

“That sends a message to the Israelis that the United States is fully behind the use of lethal force on protesters. That is dangerous,” said Munayyer, the head of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “That the American administration is shielding an Israeli military engaged in those kinds of brutally repressive acts is a new low.”

Still, Munayyer told The Nation it remained important to press the United States to enforce its arms-export laws as they apply to Israel.

“This is an opportunity for people to communicate with their representatives and demand action on this front, because it is a question of whether or not US law has been violated,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for accountability.”

Alex KaneAlex Kane is a freelance journalist who writes on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties.

fly bird (26)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 5:25 am
PETITION: Avert starvation in Gaza. (Freya posted)

Colleen L (3)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 11:31 am
Interesting interview. Look forward to their film. Previously signed petition. Thanks Fly

fly bird (26)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 9:25 pm
Israel Mows Down Unarmed Gaza Protesters for 3rd Week as US Blocks UN Investigation. Video.
April 14, 2018

Israeli soldiers wounded more than 900 peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, for the third Friday in a row, while the Donald Trump administration prevents any action by the United Nations.

TRNN video and transcript:

BEN NORTON: For three weeks in a row, thousands of unarmed Palestinian have protested on the border of the illegally besieged Gaza strip, and for three weeks in a row, Israel has used extreme violence to brutally crush these peaceful protests.

On Friday, April 13, an estimated 10,000 unarmed Palestinian protesters convened as part of the Great March of Return, demanding the right Palestinian refugees have under international law to return to their homeland and protesting a suffocating Israeli blockade that even Conservative former British Prime Minister David Cameron described as a “prison camp.”The Israeli military responded with bloodshed. Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians with live ammunition and fired tear gas into the large crowds.More than 900 Palestinian protesters were wounded in the violent Israeli crackdown, according to Gaza health officials. At least one Palestinian was killed.Thus far, dozens of Palestinians have been killed in the three weeks of Israeli attacks. Thousands of Gazan have been injured.During the April 13 protest, the violence was once again clearly premediated. Media reports noted that, in advance of the peaceful demonstration, the Israeli military had deployed tanks, drones, and snipers to the border.Israel has claimed that the peaceful protests, which are known as the Great March of Return, are being used to cover up so-called terrorism. However there is no independent evidence that Palestinian demonstrators have used the demonstrations to launch any attacks. The most they have done is burned tires, and the Palestinian protesters are burning tires in order to fill the air with smoke and make it difficult for Israeli snipers to shoot them.For more than a decade, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza, which United Nations officials have said is illegal and must be lifted. The Israeli government tightly controls everything that enters the densely populated strip, and has in the past imposed a restriction on the number of food calories that can be supplied to the 1.8 million Palestinian residents.The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has released a statement noting that the violent crackdown in Gaza is under preliminary examination. She emphasized, violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States government, which provides Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military assistance, has shielded Israel at the United Nations and guaranteed impunity by blocking any action in the Security Council.Human rights activists Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, from the peace group CODEPINK, confronted U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and asked her why the Donald Trump administration is blocking any kind of international investigation.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We wonder why you’re blocking an investigation into the Israeli use of excessive force in Gaza. The international community would like that investigation to go forward. Israel deserves to be held accountable, just like every other country.

ARIEL GOLD: The killing of peaceful protesters, including a journalist wearing a PRESS vest in Gaza. And the UN is being blocked from investigation.

NIKKI HALEY’S ASSISTANT: Ma’am, she’s attending as a guest, right now.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we’re all here as guests.

BEN NORTON: The United Kingdom has remained similarly quiet. However, after Israeli soldiers massacred unarmed Palestinian protesters the Friday before, on April 6, the head of the opposition to the British government, Jeremy Corbyn, condemned what he called Israel’s “illegal and inhumane” actions. When Israeli soldiers shot six journalists, killing a 30-year-old Palestinian reporter, the leftist Labour Party leader called the violent repression an “outrage”. American politicians have largely been silent, with prominent members of both the Republican and Democratic parties refusing to speak out against Israel’s slaughter of unarmed Palestinians.But five members of the House of Representatives from the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a statement saying that they “are deeply disturbed by the tragic loss of life.” The five progressive Democrats added that they “strongly reject” the dangerous contention made on April 8 by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that “there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” Reporting for The Real News, I’m Ben Norton.

Apr 14, 2018

Israeli soldiers wounded more than 900 peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border for the third Friday in a row, while the Donald Trump administration prevents any action by the United Nations.

04/06/18 Gideon Levy: The Israel Massacre Forces

fly bird (26)
Sunday April 15, 2018, 10:06 pm
PCBS Report: More Than Half of Gaza Lives in Poverty.

fly bird (26)
Monday April 16, 2018, 11:08 pm
Renaming the 1948 War: Partition, dispossession and fragmentation.

A local artist from the village of Taffouh depicts the struggles and dreams of the Palestinian people in a mural at the entrance to the local school, Taffouh High School, February 2018. Photo credit: Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Posted By: Richard Falk March 27, 2018

‘Language matters, especially in vital circumstances where there are winners and losers, a reality that applies above all to a war of displacement.’

Controlling the discourse

Israel has been brilliant over the years in shaping and misdirecting the public discourse on the future of Palestine. Among its earliest achievement along these lines was the crucial propaganda victory by having the 1948 War known internationally as the “War of Independence.” Such a designation erases the Palestinians from political consciousness, and distorts the deeper human and political consequences of the war. Language matters, especially in vital circumstances where there are winners and losers, a reality that applies above all to a war of displacement.

It took decades for the Palestinians to elevate their experience of the 1948 war to even the consciousness of those on an international level who supported the Palestinian national struggle for self-determination. Even now more than 50 years after the war, the “Nakba” by which the 1948 war is known to Palestinians remains internationally obscure. The word signifies “catastrophe,” which is associated principally with the dispossession of at least 700,000 non-Jewish residents of Palestine, what became the state of Israel after 1948, and subsequently, with the denial by Israel of any right of return for those Palestinians who abandoned their homes and villages out of fear or as a result of Israeli coercion. This double process of dispossession and erasure was reinforced powerfully by the bulldozing and utter destruction of 400-600 Palestinian villages in the new state of Israel.

Even those who have this revisionist awareness rarely convey a sense of the Nakba as a process, not just a calamitous event. For those Palestinians dispossessed of home, property, community, employment, and dignity, their life, that of their families, and that of subsequent generations has been generally “a living hell” as a consequence of either enduring the misery and humiliation of long-term residence in refugee camps or experiencing the various vulnerabilities and rootlessness of involuntary and permanent exile. In other words, the tragedy of the Nakba began and did not end with the traumas of dispossession, but rather continued in the ordeals that followed, which must be considered as inseparable from the originating catastrophe.

The UN Partition Resolution

For many reflective Palestinians, the decades since 1948 have intensified the ordeal that followed from the struggle for control of territory and elemental rights that followed from the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 adopted by a vote of 33-13 (with ten abstentions, one absent) on November 29, 1947. The Israeli mastery of the public international discourse was expressed by dramatizing the Zionist acceptance (as represented by the Jewish Agency for Palestine) of the proposed partition of historic Palestine while the Palestinians, their Arab neighbors, as well as India and Pakistan, rejected it declaring above all that partition without the consent of the inhabitants of Palestine was a flagrant violation of the UN Charter promise of the right of self-determination, entailing peoples choosing their own political destiny.

This clash of attitudes was then interpreted in the West as demonstrating the reasonableness of the Zionist approach to the complexities associated with two contradictory claims of right regarding self-determination and territorial sovereignty. The Zionist/Israeli spin claimed a readiness to resolve the conflict by way of political compromise while contrasting and denigrating the Palestinian approach to the future of the country as exclusivist and rejectionist, even as genocidal, implying an alleged Arab resolve to throw Jews into the sea, a contention that naturally agitated an extremely sensitive post-Holocaust Western liberal political consciousness. A more objective rendering of the opposed viewpoints of the two sides supports a set of conclusions almost totally the opposite of what has been sold to the world by an Israeli narrative of the UN partition initiative and its aftermath that despite these contrary considerations remains dominant.

After an understandable initial Palestinian reflex to repel Jewish intruders intent on occupying and dividing their homeland of centuries, it has been the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who have been proposing a comprehensive compromise and it is the Israelis who, by and large, subscribe to the view that the Jewish “promised land” incorporates the West Bank and the unified city of Jerusalem, and any dilution of these goals would be a fundamental betrayal of the Zionist project to restore fully a mythic “biblical Israel” in the form of a sovereign state. The more ideological Israelis, including Menachem Begin (commander of the Zvai Leumi Irgun, 6th prime minister of Israel, 1977-83) were outspoken critics of partition in 1947, anticipating correctly that it would produce violence, and believing that Israel would only achieve its security and complete the Zionist Project by engaging in military operations with the object of territorial expansion. David Ben-Gurion, the master Zionist tactician and the first and foremost Israeli leader, shared Begin’s skepticism about partition, but favored it for pragmatic reasons as a step toward the fulfillment of the Zionist Project, but not the end of it. Partition was provisional, to be followed by seeking to complete the Zionist agenda, which is precisely what unfolded ever since 1947.

Partition was a familiar British colonial tactic that complemented their “divide and rule” strategy of occupation. It was proposed for Palestine as early as 1937 in the report of the Peel Commission, but in view of the desire for Arab cooperation in World War II, the UK uncharacteristically backed away from their advocacy of partition for Palestine. In a later white paper, the British declared partition to be “impractical” as applied to Palestine, and somewhat surprisingly abstained from the vote on Resolution 181.

Prolonging the Palestinian ordeal

At least since 1988, the PLO decided to accept Israel as a legitimate state and offer normalization of relations if Israel followed the prescriptive provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 242, that is, withdrawing to the 1967 green line borders and agreeing on arrangements for an effective resolution of the refugee issue. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 added regional inducements to the PLO offer of political compromise, and this too was met by Israeli silence and a lackluster response in the West. The Oslo diplomacy was a one-sided failure. It never produced proposals on the disputed issues in ways that contained any reasonable prospect of bringing the conflict to a sustainable end, while it allowed Israel valuable time to keep expanding their network of unlawful settlements, a form of creeping annexation that served, as well, to make the two-state mantra more and more of a cruel chimera, useful to pacify international public opinion that sought a sustainable peace for both peoples and an end to the conflict.

More objectively considered, these dual reactions to the partition solution can be deconstructed. The Zionist movement at every stage took what it could get, and then went about creating conditions on the ground and diplomatically for getting more, by expanding their political demands and expectations, or as sometimes observed, “shifting the goalposts.” Reliance on such “salami tactics” can be traced back at least as far as the Balfour Declaration when Zionists accepted the terminology of “national home” despite their aspirations from the outset to establish a Jewish state that disregarded Palestinian moral, legal, and political rights. Recent archival research has made it increasingly clear that the real Zionist goal all along was the imagined Israel of biblical tradition, “the promised land” that deemed to encompass all of the city of Jerusalem, as well as the area known internationally as “the West Bank” and in Israel as “Judea and Samaria.”

And with respect to the Palestinian response, initially ardently supported by the entire Arab world, as well as most countries with majority Muslim populations, rejection of the UN approach was based on the extent to which partition bisected Palestine without any process of consent by, or even consultation with, the majority resident population. It was an arrogant effort by the UN, then under Western control, to dictate a solution that was not sensitive to Palestinian concerns or in keeping with the spirit or letter of its own Charter. To treat Palestinian rejection of Resolution 181 as indicative of anti-Semitism or even rejectionism is to accept an explanation of the disastrous legacy of partition that conforms to the Israeli narrative, which misses the real dynamic at work that has kept the conflict alive all these decades. To this day Israel continues to create conditions that diminish Palestinian prospects while subtly depicting the Zionist Project as in reasonable pursuit of previously undisclosed ambitions with greater clarity.

This leads to the central question that also includes reasons why the Israelis did also not want partition, but felt correctly that its provisional and temporary acceptance was a way of gaining more political space both for maneuvering and for showing the world its reasonable face that included a commitment to peace. In contract, the Palestinians felt shut out and humiliated by the way the future of their society was treated by the UN and the West, and yet didn’t want to alienate the international community, especially Washington. This kind of attitude meant lending credence to the 1993 Oslo Framework of Principles, and acting as if the “peace process” had something to do with “peace.” This accommodationist mode of diplomacy practiced by the Palestinian Authority over the course of the last 25 years while Israel annexed and Judaized East Jerusalem and penetrated more deeply into the West Bank created the impression in many circles, including Palestinian and others, that the Palestinian Authority was not nearly rejectionist enough, and either naively playing a losing hand or completely failing to understand the real Zionist game plan.

The Partition War

To circle back to the contention that language is itself a site of struggle, it has become desirable, even now, more than 70 years later, to call the 1948 War by a name that reveals more clearly its essential and flawed character, and this name is The Partition War. Only by such a linguistic move can we begin to understand the extent to which the international community, as embodied in the UN, was guilty of original sin with respect to the Palestinian people, and their natural rights, as well as their legal entitlements and reasonable political expectations. Endorsing the partition of Palestine was what I would describe as a geopolitical crime.

Richard Anderson Falk is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. This article originally appeared in his blog, Global Justice in the 21st Century.

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Monday April 16, 2018, 11:21 pm

fly bird (26)
Tuesday April 17, 2018, 6:41 pm
New Amnesty leader calls BDS a tested “tool of resistance”. ( Video)
17 April 2018

Kumi Naidoo on the Palestinian struggle, BDS and Israeli racism against Africans.
BDS South Africa

Amnesty International’s incoming secretary-general is calling the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights a “historically tested peaceful tool of resistance.”

He is also urging Palestine solidarity campaigners to make more use of civil disobedience.

Kumi Naidoo, who will take up his post as chief executive of the global human rights organization in August, made the comments in an interview during Israeli Apartheid Week activities organized by BDS South Africa last month.

The interview, in which journalist Janet Smith also talks to BDS South Africa’s Kwara Kekana, can be seen in the video above.

In the video, Naidoo slams as hypocritical the opposition to the BDS movement that has come from many governments.

“In terms of international law, people who are occupied and colonized … have a right to self-defense and they have the right to self-determination,” Naidoo states.

Yet he points out that when Palestinians take up any form of resistance, including nonviolent tactics such as BDS, they are lectured by the international community, “you cannot do that, it’s wrong … because it’s not peaceful.”

Naidoo slams the “contradiction” of telling Palestinians that “international law recognizes that you’re occupied, your kids are getting killed, you don’t have decent access to water, you can’t resist through armed struggle – fair enough – but now you can’t even resist by getting people to engage in a peaceful act of civil disobedience.”

BDS, Naidoo states, “is a peaceful act of citizens using their purchasing power to a make point [and] to get a government that is rogue to act in a more responsible way and in a more human rights respectful way.”

Naidoo has a long background as a human rights campaigner, including as executive director of Greenpeace International. In his home country, South Africa, he currently chairs Africans Rising, a pan-African campaign for social, economic, environmental and gender justice.

Naidoo also criticizes the Israeli government’s racially motivated moves to expel tens of thousands of African refugees: “We hope that sanity will prevail and that Africans will be treated fairly in terms of international law but I think we would be very naive given the track record of the Israeli state to believe that they could act with the level of magnanimity, humanity and compliance to international law.”

It will be interesting to see if Naidoo pushes Amnesty to take stronger positions on holding Israel accountable.

“Excessive force”

Last week, Amnesty urged Israel to avoid “excessive force” against Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return rallies in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Israel has killed dozens and injured thousands of unarmed protesters since 30 March.

“The Israeli authorities must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and, in the event that there is violence, use only the force necessary to address it,” the group’s Magdalena Mughrabi stated. “Under international law, lethal force can only be used when unavoidable to protect against imminent threats to life.”

Amnesty relies on international law to defend Israel’s “right” to violence against an occupied people.

But while encouraging Israel to use less force against Palestinians, Amnesty acknowledges no Palestinian right to self-defense or resistance to occupation, only the right to “peaceful protest.”

Regardless of the intention, this effectively privileges and endorses Israeli violence – a perverse position for a human rights organization in the overall context of Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over Palestinians.

Yet the Palestinian right to self-defense and resistance – should Palestinians choose to exercise it – is clearly recognized by international law, if not by Amnesty International.

Resisting Israel’s war on human rights

Amnesty’s current policies allow the organization to join boycott and divestment campaigns on the authority of the secretary-general.

While Amnesty has not given a blanket endorsement to the Palestinian BDS movement, it has strongly defended the right to boycott and condemned Israeli threats, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders including BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti.

But as far as Israel is concerned, there is no difference between the most minimal measures or timid criticism, on the one hand, and full-throated support for BDS or other tools of accountability on the other.

Israel treats anyone who advocates any form of accountability as an outright enemy to be fought on all fronts.

For instance, in 2015, after years of hesitation and hand-wringing, the European Union decided to require the accurate labeling of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights (a measure the EU is not even capable of properly monitoring and enforcing).

But Israeli leaders expressed no appreciation that the EU had not banned settlement goods, and had indeed insisted that such goods were still “welcome” in European markets so long as they had the proper labels.

Instead, merely because the EU required such labels, Israeli leaders compared European officials to Nazis.

In June 2017, Amnesty took the step – bold considering the generally cautious approach of international human rights organization towards Israel – of demanding that all governments “must ban Israeli settlement products to help end half a century of violations against Palestinians.”

Months later, Israel retaliated with threats to punish Amnesty by stripping its tax-exempt status, a move the organization called “the latest effort by the authorities to silence human rights organizations and activists who criticize the Israeli government and call for accountability.”

And a few weeks after that, Israel barred an Amnesty USA staffer from entering the occupied West Bank for a family visit following the death of his father.

According to Israel’s interior ministry, the staffer was denied entry due to “his [boycott, divestment and sanctions] activities.”

No point in half-measures

The clear message Israel is sending human rights defenders and governments alike is that no one can spare themselves Israel’s smear campaigns and revenge tactics by self-censoring or calling only for half-measures.

Israel is again showing its brazen disregard for verbal appeals and warnings from governments, human rights organizations and even the International Criminal Court prosecutor with its ongoing killing and maiming of unarmed civilians protesting their captivity in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israel is in what it sees as an all-out war against the Palestinian people and their rights.

It is also waging an all-out war against anyone in the world who defends Palestinian rights.

With a regime as contemptuous of human rights and lives as Israel’s, only the most powerful tools and broadest campaigns will do.

As was the case with the South African anti-apartheid struggle, that means maximum mobilization of global grassroots power to boycott and isolate Israel through BDS, as Palestinians are asking.

In this year when Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of their violent dispossession and exile, nothing less stands a chance of finally bringing justice.

Kumi Naidoo clearly understands the urgency of broad mobilization, calling for “a more intensive use of peaceful civil disobedience” more generally, but specifically for Palestine.

“If history teaches us one thing, when humanity has faced a major injustice or challenge, those injustices only started to begin to disappear when decent people said enough is enough and no more,” Naidoo states.

“The bottom line is that history is on the side of the Palestinian people and the justness of their struggle.”

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Tuesday May 15, 2018, 12:34 am
“Horrific, unprecedented”: Israel massacres almost 60 Palestinians in Gaza. (PODCAST)
14 May 2018

A report from the Great March of Return, after Israeli forces kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza; excerpts of talks by Ghada Karmi, Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappe and Salman Abu Sitta.

Read more here:…stinians-gaza

(Photo: Palestinian protesters demand their rights during the Great March of Return, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 14 May. Photo by Mahmoud Bassam/APA Images)

fly bird (26)
Tuesday May 15, 2018, 10:35 am
Today’s lead ‘NY Times’ article on the Gaza massacre is a model of dishonesty.
May 15, 2018

Today’s main New York Times article on Israel’s massacre of Gazan demonstrators — the lead front-page story in the print edition — is a masterpiece of deceit. The article, by David Halbfinger, employs the time tested tools of distortion, including classic Orientalism, dueling narratives, one-sided use of sources, and hiding the perpetrators behind passive sentences, topped off by outright dishonesty.

The distortion starts in the first sentence. “Across the Gaza Strip on Monday morning, loudspeakers on minarets urged Palestinians to rush the fence bordering Israel. . .” An Orientalist gem, insinuating that Gazan protesters are motivated by religious primitivism, instead of Israel’s crushing blockade and regular armed attacks.

“. . where they [the Gazans] were met by army snipers.” “Met” is hardly the appropriate word here, especially after another Times correspondent, Declan Walsh, has already described how far off Israeli snipers shot a woman in the stomach right in front of him on Sunday night.

“At least 58 were killed and thousands injured. . .” Passive voice; conceal the killers.

In paragraph 4, Halbfinger turns explicitly to dueling narratives. “For generations, both sides of the conflict have been locked in competing mutually negating narratives. . .” The implicit question: Who knows which side is right? This is post-modernism gone lethal, a view favored by Western liberals who sense something is terribly wrong but who are too cowardly to criticize Israel. Sometimes, one side of a dueling narrative is fundamentally true, and the other is a pack of lies.

Lower in the article are 4 short paragraphs reported from the standpoint of the Gazan demonstrators themselves.

But then immediately, a reverent respect for the Israeli military’s point of view. For 7 paragraphs, Halbfinger took dictation from the army’s mouthpiece, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who asserted that the Gazans were: “planting or hurling explosives”; flying flaming kites into Israel; trying to slip armed fighters into Israel to “wreak havoc”; launching an armed attack on the border fence; and firing “numerous shots” at Israeli soldiers — all of which amounted to an “unprecedented level of violence.”

Next, stenographer Halbfinger writes that “Israel responded with gunfire and tear gas, and Israeli jets struck five targets in a Hamas military training facility. . .” This is Orwellian. Lt. Col. Conricus makes up or grossly exaggerates Gazan actions, and Halbfinger then calls Israel’s vicious attacks a ‘response’ to things that never happened.

Conricus also alleges that “one Israeli soldier was wounded by shrapnel from what was believed to be an explosive device.” Halbfinger fails to report that if true, this would be the very first injury to any Israeli whatsoever, whether soldier or civilian, in nearly 7 weeks of protest during which Israel has killed 107 Palestinians and injured another 13,000.

You have to pause to see what is happening here. Israel has just committed the biggest single massacre since its 2014 invasion of Gaza. The Times has 3 correspondents in Gaza, including the aforementioned Walsh, Iyad Abuheweila and Ibrahim El-Mughrabi — all of them doubtless risking their lives to report from amid the mass killing, and their shorter secondary article in today’s Times is helpful. But the paper’s main report gives them 4 puny paragraphs and devotes twice as much space to unsubstantiated claims from the proven liars of the Israeli military. This is truly taking “dueling narratives” to ugly ends.

Halbfinger does not quote a single human rights group, not even the respected Israeli organization B’Tselem, which has implored Israel’s soldiers not to fire at the Gazan demonstrators. Palestinians are dying by the dozens and being grievously wounded by the hundreds — Medicines Sans Frontieres said sniper bullets are leaving exit wounds the size of a fist — but Halbfinger did not let the Palestinians speak.

David Halbfinger is a skilled reporter and he must know exactly how he is distorting what is really happening in Gaza. We suspect he is under tremendous pressure — from the Israeli government, from his editors, from some of his readers. Until the pressure to tell the truth increases, he (and his colleagues) will continue to whitewash.

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Thursday May 17, 2018, 9:12 am
Why Do So Many Denounce Authoritarianism From Trump and Putin — but Not Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu?

We hear a great deal from liberals in the West these days about the rise of authoritarian and illiberal governments across the world: from Putin’s Russia to Orbán’s Hungary; from Trump’s America to Erdogan’s Turkey; from Modi’s India to Duterte’s Philippines.

We don’t hear so much about Netanyahu’s Israel — despite the fact that the country, as former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has conceded, “is succumbing to its deepest ethnocentric impulses” and is “now well on its way to joining the growing club of illiberal democracies, and it has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thank.”

Some might say “on its way” is an understatement. According to Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, the Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the Jewish state could be considered a founding member of that particular club because it has enjoyed a “significant head start” on the rest. For example, the practice of “describing the opposition and specifically human rights organizations as traitors, and then also calling for their criminal investigation … may sound familiar to listeners from various countries … in which authoritarian governments are on the rise,” he tells me on the latest episode of Deconstructed, “but, hey, Israel has been there way before.”

Consider the array of “anti-democratic” laws that have been passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, over the past decade; laws which have had a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression. In 2011, there was the “Boycott Law,” which made any Israeli individual or organization that calls for a boycott against Israel liable to be sued for damages. There was also the “Nakba Law,” which authorized the Israeli finance ministry to cut state funding from institutions that reject Israel’s character as a “Jewish” state or mark the country’s Independence Day as a “day of mourning.” In 2015, there was the “NGO Law,” which targets foreign-funded human rights organizations inside Israel and was described by Meretz politician Mossi Raz as a “semi-fascistic law that harms democracy and silences dissent in a way that is reminiscent of Putin’s Russia.” (Of 27 organizations threatened by this law, 25 of them are left-wing or human rights groups.)

Then there is Israeli public opinion, in which the shift to the authoritarian and racist right has been remarkable in recent decades. According to polling by Pew, nearly half (48 percent) of Israeli Jews now support expelling Arabs from Israel, while the vast majority of them (79 percent) believe that they are entitled to deserve “preferential treatment” over non-Jewish minorities in Israel.

On Deconstructed, I also spoke to Avner Gvaryahu, a former paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces who now serves as executive director of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that is “particularly reviled among right-wing Israelis” because it collects anonymous testimonies from Israeli army veterans about abuses they either committed or witnessed during their service in the Occupied Territories. According to Gvaryahu, the Israeli right has created “a toxic environment that I think will backlash in the future, but at this point, it’s pretty much destroying what’s left of the liberal values in our country.”

For making such provocative claims and exposing possible war crimes perpetrated by the IDF in the Occupied Territories, Gvaryahu, El-Ad, and their fellow human rights activists in Israel have not only been targeted by anti-democratic laws, but they have also been subjected to verbal abuse, harassment, and death threats. Senior members of the Israeli government have piled in, too. You think Donald Trump calling CNN “fake news” is bad? Netanyahu has attacked Breaking the Silence for spreading “lies and slanders [against] our soldiers around the world.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused members of B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence of being “complete traitors” who are funded by “those same foundations that fund Hamas.”

I asked Gvaryahu how he reacts to such vicious and personal attacks from the most senior officials in his country. “We sort of joke about this … amongst the members of Breaking the Silence: At what point did we become traitors? Was it … the first time we read a left-wing blogger as soldiers? Was it when we read … some book when we were guarding [Palestinian prisoners] that this idea popped into our head, and we started questioning what we’re doing — were we traitors then as well? When we shared our experiences coming back home, speaking to some of our family members — were we traitors then? Or did we only become traitors once we … [began] breaking our silence publicly?”

In recent weeks, IDF snipers have come under heavy criticism for shooting and killing dozens of unarmed Palestinian protesters, including children and journalists, at the border with Gaza. For Gvaryahu, “the truth of the matter is that there are soldiers who are probably on the border now who will be part of Breaking the Silence in the future. Are they already traitorous at this point?”

El-Ad says he is isn’t surprised by the hostile rhetoric. “For 50 years, we’ve been defining any Palestinian opposition to the occupation as incitement. Then why wouldn’t we start defining Israeli opposition to the occupation as incitement and gradually closing the gap between the two sides of the Green Line — but in the wrong direction?”

With El-Ad, Gvaryahu, and their organizations under constant attack from right-wing Israeli officials and news outlets, isn’t it shameful that leading liberals in the West aren’t speaking out in loud support of them? That they are so keen to denounce the illiberal and authoritarian behaviors of Trump or Vladimir Putin, but so willing to give Netanyahu a pass?

This current Israeli government — the most right-wing, anti-peace government in living memory — is bent on demonizing and delegitimizing its domestic critics, especially human rights activists and civil society groups. Freedom of speech and expression be damned!

Why? Because Jewish criticism of the Jewish state has always been harder to dismiss or ignore. Whether it was Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt in the 1940s … or Natalie Portman earlier this month. The Israeli-American actress provoked uproar in Israel after refusing to attend an awards ceremony in Tel Aviv because she said she “did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu” and objected to the “mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities” in Israel. And what was the response from the Israeli government? Cabinet Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed Portman’s boycott “bordered on anti-Semitism.”

Anyone who speaks out against the Israeli government’s repressive behavior, both inside and across the Green Line, must be silenced. That is now the authoritarian and ultranationalistic mentality that dominates not just inside the Netanyahu cabinet, but in the Knesset, too. Earlier this year, Israeli legislators gave initial approval to an amendment allowing the education ministry to ban organizations critical of the IDF from entering schools. Members of the Knesset explicitly singled out Breaking the Silence while debating the amendment.

Gvaryahu believes such a sweeping and draconian measure would be difficult to defend in the courts. “But more interestingly,” he tells me, “is even though this has been in discussion and there is pushback on schools that invite us, we’re still invited. We had this pretty amazing experience a few months ago where high school students invited us, and their principals were actually scared from the pushback. And they decided to cancel.”

Nevertheless, the Breaking the Silence boss continues, “the students themselves said, ‘You know what? We’re going to meet them in our own time, in our own home’ — 17-, 18-year-olds! Like, how do you motivate 17-, 18-year-olds in this time and age to do anything? And they, on their own time, out of school, said, ‘We’ll invite you.’”

Gvaryahu, therefore, says he is an optimist and has no plans to give up his campaign against Israel’s illegal occupation or human rights abuses anytime soon — no matter how much pressure is applied from above, and no matter how little support he gets from liberals in the West. The former soldier believes that he and his fellow activists can continue “breaking the silence” in front of more and more Israelis, especially younger ones. “They’re closing a door,” he tells me, “we’re going in through the window.”

Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan

The Killing Fields of Gaza.

Israeli activists speak out on the occupation of Gaza.

fly bird (26)
Tuesday May 22, 2018, 7:07 am
Things have continued, to this day, sadly!

Born in Deir Yassin (TRAILER) 3:02

Born in Deir Yassin, Neta Shoshani, Israel, 2016

One of the most important documentaries shown at the November 2017 edition of The Other Israel Film Festival held by the Manhattan JCC [Jewish Community Center] was Born in Deir Yassin by Neta Shoshani. She introduces her production with text stating the essentials:

April 1948: The Jewish state and army are soon to be established in Palestine. The underground paramilitary organizations – the liberal “Haganah” and the radical “Irgun” and “Lahi” are still in conflict over the identity of the new nation. “Irgun” and “Lahi” attack and conquer the Arab village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem. Rumors of a massacre spread, causing a mass exodus of Arabs from all over the country. What happened in Deir Yassin is controversial to this day. Since 1951, on the streets of Deir Yassin, stands the “Kfar Shaul” government Mental Health Hospital.

Neta Shoshani’s documentary elucidates the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin with archival material and numerous interviews with surviving senior members of the paramilitary organizations who participated or witnessed the killing. Jewish authorities, including Haganah, the Chief Rabbinate, and David Ben-Gurion, had condemned the attack. The careful reconstruction of the event is accompanied by a parallel narration, the story of a Hanna Nissan who spent her life in the Yassin mental hospital built in 1951 on the ruins of Yassin. Her adult son Dror, who was born and raised in the hospital, and an East Jerusalem orphanage, visits Yassin and the hospital. He is filmed quoting from a copy of his mother’s file given to him by the hospital. It contained her medical records, letters and correspondence. None of the Jewish participants of the massacre disputed that it took place though accounts differed in detail such as the number of civilians from the village who were killed, the survivors, the motivation for the attack, and presence of armed Arab men among the villagers. Lehi member Moshe Edelstein was horrified by the images of blown up women and children. According to Ami Isseroff, members of a Jerusalem youth group were ordered to bury remaining corpses because Irgun and Lahi members refused to complete the cleanup. They were 17 years old and not prepared for the massacre. Yehoshua Zettler, Lehi Commander of Jerusalem, acknowledged that he ordered the destruction of Deir Yassin. Uri Yankovski from the Haganah who took photos admitted that “they did a dirty job” but emphasized that “from a practical point of view Deir Yassin helped to reach our objectives”. The commander of the Irgun group, Ben Zion Cohen expressed pride in his role at Yassin “If there would have been more Deir Yassins not one Arab would be left in the land of Israel”. The paramilitary combatants carrying out the attack apparently had no military training or information about Deir Yassin. Ben Zion Cohen reports initiating the attack after he was shot in the leg by a sniper. Combatants were ordered by Cohen to destroy everything, to blow up the houses one by one with the 28 bombs they had and throw grenades into the houses knowing that there were children and women inside.

Dror’s mother pleads in a voice over with texts taken from her clinical files, that her son should not visit Yassin since it is an evil place and states that she named him Dror meaning freedom. She was diagnosed with signs of psychosis but no awareness of the illness. When the hospital staff advised her to have an abortion she refused, believing that having a child would balance her life. After her young son was taken from her, she escaped from the hospital and was found wandering the street medicated. Placed in a closed ward she was diagnosed as suffering from psychosis and amnesia. A 1967 report about Dror notes the rich fantasy life of the six year old child, his requests to see his mother, and suggests that he be given up for adoption. After some time in an East Jerusalem orphanage he became a member of a kibbutz and began exchanging letters with his mother. Grown up he succeeded in visiting her at the Kfar Shaud mental hospital. By that time his mother’s latest diagnosis stated that...” patient has paranoid hallucinations hearing voices warning her of murder…she is kept in isolation [and] attempts to heal her failed”.

As ordered by Cohen, the Irgun went from house to house leaving no survivor behind though a girl about 6 years old was found alive by Uri Yankowski. Political leaders ordered that the massacre be covered up but also requested photos be taken. Meir Pa’il from the Haganah information service standing next to the photographer observed men, women and children lined up against a wall and shot. There was pressure to act because UN representatives were expected to show up. Meir did not see photos or ask questions assuming Zionists did not want them to be seen “If Jews commit a massacre it is an atrocity” Uri Yankovski never saw the pictures he took either but recalled clearly what he observed. Yehoshua Zettler reported that some survivors were trucked to Jerusalem. Those refusing to be moved were told that they would be shot. It took two days to clean the site and get rid of the bodies. 30 half burnt corpses were stored in one room, a pile of burnt corpses was found at the entrance of the village. The cleanup crew included 17-year-old boys from the Haganah youth battalion. Sara Ben-Or from the youth group identified her post traumatic stress disorder as the consequence of being exposed as a young woman to the killed villagers and her discovery of a beheaded woman sitting on a chair. Most of the more than 100 victims were women, children and old men. When queried by Shoshani about the impact of their action which turned Arabs into refugees and the Israelis into occupiers, her respondents indicated that they were not aware of it but stressed that they failed to explain what happened.

Her attempt to view the photos from the massacre failed because IDF argued that “[it] cannot release photos because it may be detrimental to foreign relations”. There is no remedy apart from a Supreme Court appeal. When she again gets in touch with some former members of the para-military organizations involved in the Deir Yassin massacre who she had interviewed for the documentary they refuse to confirm their statements. All had received calls ordering them to be silent. This order was bizarre because their on the record statements were an important part of the documentary and there were apparently no attempts to prevent their use in the documentary. As her last remedy Shoshani filed a request with the Supreme Court to open the files. Her demand to release classified documents and photos of the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin was denied in 2016 by three judges from Israel’s Supreme Court invoking the following reason:

The problems entailed is Israel’s foreign relations related to the events of 1948 have not been solved and the conflict has not ended yet. Therefore, we are convinced that publishing the documentation and photographs is liable to harm Israel’s foreign relations. We are particularly worried about the harsh visual effect. This effect is present in certain photos in the archive. Therefore, we find no grounds to intervene at this time.
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