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US, British Lawmakers Condemn Israels Horrific Massacre in Gaza

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, U.S.congress,, Great March of Return, Al-Haq, European Union, Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, crimes against humanity, Nakba, Right of Return, Turkey, South Africa, Keith Ellison, Gaza siege, Betty McCollum, Israel massacre-Gaza, British lawmakers )

- 127 days ago -
Members of the US Congress are making some of their strongest statements ever condemning Israel after its massacre of dozens of unarmed civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip


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fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 12:04 am
US, British lawmakers condemn Israel’s “horrific” massacre in Gaza.
15 May 2018

Members of the US Congress are making some of their strongest statements ever condemning Israel after its massacre of dozens of unarmed civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip on Monday.

This comes amid growing international disquiet over the bloodshed.

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific slaughter of at least 52 Palestinian protesters and injuries to thousands more by Israeli forces,” John Yarmuth, a Democratic House member from Kentucky, wrote on Facebook.

“No doubt this will spark claims that Israel has a right to defend itself – and it does. But this has nothing to do with defense,” Yarmuth added. “We are witnessing the use of unabated brutality and force against civilians to stifle civil unrest. America must expect and demand more from its close allies.”

Yarmuth went on to claim that the “disingenuousness” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem is part of a “pursuit of peace” is “exposed by the Israeli soldiers meeting expected protesters onsite with gunfire at close range.”

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement laying some blame on “both sides,” but made a rare call for Israel to be held to account.

“Shooting protesters, many of whom were reportedly unarmed or throwing rocks which did not justify such a disproportionate response, is deplorable,” Leahy said. “It should be thoroughly investigated and anyone responsible, including those who gave the orders, held accountable.”

Leahy urged that the State Department apply to Israel the US laws that prohibit aid or training to foreign military units found to be responsible for human rights violations.

Very few US lawmakers have spoken out at all since Israel’s first massacre of Great March of Return protesters on 30 March.

But those who are breaking the near silence are being more forthright than ever.

House member Betty McCollum wrote this week on Twitter that the opening of the embassy and the “killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances Netanyahu’s agenda of occupation and oppression of Palestinians.”

The Minnesota Democrat has been an increasingly vocal supporter of Palestinian rights who last year introduced an unprecedented bill to bar the use of US military aid for Israel’s detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian children.

Danny Davis, a veteran of the civil rights struggle and a Democratic House member from Illinois, called the latest massacre in Gaza a “human rights catastrophe.”

“Fifty-two Palestinians killed, and Netanyahu describes it as a ‘glorious day,’” California Democrat Ro Khanna tweeted. “Even the staunchest supporters of Israel would be appalled by the moral obtuseness of that statement.”

And five more Democrats issued a joint statement expressing how they were “shocked and dismayed by the lethal force used by Israeli troops against mostly unarmed protesters.”

The lawmakers – Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washingon, Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Henry “Hank” Johnson of Georgia – also reiterate the statement four of them signed last month backing Israeli human rights groups that have urged soldiers stationed near the Gaza boundary to defy illegal orders to open fire on unarmed civilians.

Bernie Sanders decried the “staggering toll” to Palestinians from weeks of Israeli gunfire against civilians. “Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” the Vermont senator added in a Facebook post.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein called the death toll in Gaza “heartbreaking.”

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is desperate,” the Democrat added. “Instead of cutting aid, the Trump administration must restore our leadership role and do what it can to alleviate the Palestinians’ suffering.”

Feinstein also criticized the embassy move, stating that it “should have been resolved as part of peace negotiations where both sides benefit, not just one side.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s propaganda is aggressively blaming Palestinians in Gaza for their own deaths, a message eagerly pushed by the Trump administration.

But even Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress remain unwilling to publicly toe this line.

A search of congressional social media accounts on Monday turned up no statements of support for Israel’s violence, although a handful of lawmakers expressed delight at the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

And this front page in New York’s Daily News suggests that traditional US media taboos on criticizing Israel may be crumbling – a possible Trump effect.

Ambassadors summoned.

On Tuesday, Ireland and Belgium summoned Israel’s ambassadors to express concern over the killings in Gaza and to call for an international inquiry.

This followed decisions by South Africa and Turkey to withdraw their envoys from Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq welcomed these steps as “significant diplomatic gestures [to] reaffirm states’ condemnation of the crimes committed by the Israeli occupying forces in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

But while these moves reflect slightly stronger rhetoric, there is still no indication of concrete measures to hold Israel accountable, through, say, sanctions or moves to prosecute war crimes.

Separately, Al-Haq wrote to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini denouncing her statement calling for “proportionality” in Israel’s use of force – in other words justifying Israeli violence.

“Rather than emboldening Israel, the European Union must stand united in its renouncement of Israeli suppression of demonstrations and the unjustified killing and injury of Palestinians,” the letter states.

Al-Haq calls on the EU to sever its trade and military agreements with Israel that effectively reward and encourage its crimes.

Corbyn’s caution

In the UK, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described the slaughter in Gaza as “an outrage that demands not just international condemnation, but action to hold those responsible to account.”

He faulted the response from Western governments including the UK as “wholly inadequate.”

Corbyn urged the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and affirmed that “Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.”

But that fell well short of Palestinian demands for an immediate two-way arms embargo on Israel.

Corbyn, a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, has been under constant assault from Israel lobby groups over bogus claims that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party.

This campaign has been aimed at discrediting Corbyn and silencing, smearing and expelling from the party supporters of Palestinian rights.

Corbyn’s initial reaction to Israel’s 30 March killings of protesters in Gaza was notably lacking in any call for action – a sign that the assault by Israel lobby groups had forced him into a defensive crouch.

Meanwhile, one of the Israel lobby groups involved in the smear campaign against Corbyn, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has continued to blatantly push Israel’s talking points blaming Palestinians for their own deaths:

Despite such propaganda, dozens of British lawmakers joined protests against the killings in Gaza or expressed their condemnation on social media:

Tania N (883)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 1:50 am
Thank you.

Tania N (883)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 1:50 am
Thank you.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 3:05 am
The West’s pampering of Israel will lead to the next Gaza massacre.
15 May 2018

The contrasting images coming out of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on Monday could not have been starker – or more disturbing.

Faced with protests at the perimeter fence in Gaza, Israeli snipers killed dozens of unarmed Palestinians and wounded more than 2,000 others, including children, women, journalists and paramedics, in a hail of live fire. Amnesty, the international human rights organisation, rightly called it a “horror show”.

Such horror is now so routine that TV anchors could only headline the news as the worst day of bloodshed in Gaza in four years, when Israel massacred civilians in its last major military assault.

Already gasping from the chokehold of Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza, local hospitals are now collapsing from the weight of casualties.

A few kilometres away, meanwhile, Israelis were partying.

So-called “liberal” Tel Aviv was busy “chicken dancing” with Netta, who had just won the Eurovision Song Contest and gave a free open-air performance to celebrate.

And in Jerusalem, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was glad-handing a bevy of US officials, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and policy adviser. They were there to beam for the cameras as the US opened its embassy in the occupied city.

The move pre-empts negotiations over the city’s fate and sabotages Palestinian ambitions for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s grin said it all. As he mouthed platitudes about “Middle Eastern peace”, he finally had Washington’s blessing for all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And next year Europe will give its implicit blessing too by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest there.

But amid the euphoria, a few Israeli commentators understood that politics is about more than power – it’s about imagery too. The champagne-quaffing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while Gaza drowned in blood left a profoundly sour taste in the mouth.

There was more than a whiff of hypocrisy too in statements about “defending borders” from a state that has refused to declare its borders since its creation exactly 70 years ago – as well as from a Netanyahu government currently trying to establish a Greater Israel over the Palestinian territories.

But the hypocrisy was not restricted to Israel and Washington, which parroted Mr Netanyahu’s talking points.

There was an ugly equivocation from other western leaders. They spoke of “regret”, “tragedy” and “concern at the loss of life”, as though an act of God had struck Gaza, not an order from Israeli commanders to quell the Palestinian urge for freedom with live ammunition.

Equally dishonest was talk of the “need for restraint from both sides” and “clashes”, as though the protesters had been tussling with Israeli soldiers in hand-to-hand combat rather than being coldly picked off through telescopic sights.

Israeli politicians and media have desperately searched for a moral justification for these executions. They have talked of “kite terrorism” and a supposed stone-throwing threat to soldiers positioned hundreds of yards away.

While thousands of Palestinians have been executed or maimed, how many Israelis have been harmed in the past six weeks of Gaza’s protests? Precisely none.

This is a strange kind of terror.

The reality is that tiny Gaza is becoming rapidly uninhabitable, as the United Nations has repeatedly warned. For more than a decade Israel has blockaded it from land, air and sea, while intermittently pummelling the enclave with missiles and military invasions.

A senior New York Times correspondent tweeted on Monday that Gaza’s Palestinians looked as though they had a “death wish”. But two million Palestinians – a population rapidly growing – are inmates in what is effectively a shrinking prison, whose store rooms are almost bare.

Tens of thousands of them have shown they are prepared to risk their lives not for some death cult but to win freedom, the most precious human impulse of all.

And they have preferred confrontational, non-violent resistance as a way to shame Israel and the world into recognising their plight.

And yet instead, Israel has stripped them of all agency by falsely claiming that they are pawns in a game by Hamas to pressure Israel.

But in so far as Hamas is trying to influence Israel, what is its aim?

Last week, a gloating Israeli media reported that Hamas was quietly appealing for a long-term truce with Israel, effectively renouncing the Palestinians’ right to violently resist Israel’s occupation.

It would not be the first time. But whereas once Hamas sought a truce in return for a two-state solution, now it is said to have requested simply an end to the blockade and a chance to rebuild Gaza.

Even this minimal concession is rejected by Israel. Instead an Israeli minister responded to Monday’s slaughter by proposing that Israel assassinate the Hamas leadership.

Israel may be without remorse, but are western leaders feeling shamed?

Apart from South Africa and Turkey, none has so far withdrawn an ambassador. There are no calls for embargos on sales of arms, no demands for war crimes investigations, no threats of trade sanctions.

And no plans, of course, for the kind of “humanitarian intervention” western governments have keenly promoted in other parts of the Middle East where civilians are under threat.

For seven decades, the west has pampered Israel at every turn. The lack of any meaningful punishment for violating Palestinian rights led directly to Monday’s massacre.

And the failure to inflict a price on Israel for this massacre – in fact, the reverse: visible rewards with a relocated US embassy and the chance to host the Eurovision Song Contest – will lead to the next massacre, and the one after.

Handwringing is not enough. It is time for anyone with a conscience to act.

Cathy B (428)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 5:40 am
Electronic Intifada

*Voting Polls do not affect MBFC bias ratings

MEDIAIAS/FACT CHECKThe Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource

MEDIA BIAS/FACT CHECKThe Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource

Electronic IntifadaLEFT BIAS

These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy. See all Left Bias sources.

Factual Reporting: HIGH

Notes: Electronic Intifada is a news publication and educational resource focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture and place in the world. Electronic Intifada has a very strong Pro-Palestinian bias in report choices and does not always cover both sides of the story. There is frequent use of loaded emotional words that are positive for Palestine and negative for Israel. However, Electronic Intifada is generally very well sourced to credible media outlets. In reviewing fact checks we could not find any instance where EI directly failed a fact check from major fact checking sources. We did however find a case where EI refuted a pants on fire claim from Politifact that stated the Baltimore police were trained by Mossad. In their rebuttle, EI is careful to indicate that Mossad did not directly train the Baltimore Police, however they refute that there are not connections based on the defensive style they were trained in and the fact the police had visited Israel twice for training. In the end, Politifact is correct that it is unproven Mossad trained the Baltimore Police, but EI makes a compelling, well sourced rebuttal that there are connections to Israel. The issue with this exchange is the misleading headline used by EI: PolitiFact denies Israeli ties to Baltimore police despite evidence. Politifact’s fact check did not ask if there were Israeli ties, it centered purely on Mossad. Based on this misleading headline, I would rate EI as somewhat mixed for factual reporting despite the use of excellent sourcing in most articles and left biased based on story selection and wording that sometimes amounts to propaganda . (D. Van Zandt 5/13/2016) (Updated (8/3/2017)

Notes 2: The Electronic Intifada (EI) is a Chicago based publication founded by Ali Abunimah, Arjan El Fassed, Laurie King, and Nigel Parry. EI reports on current news regarding Palestine, primarily the Israeli occupation, and is Pro-Palestinian in its reporting and editorial stance. Looking past the obvious bias, the articles on EI are well written, factual, and well sourced. Despite the quality of the writing, however, the Pro-Palestinian slant of EI earns it a Left Bias rating. (D. Kelley 5/8/2017)

Notes 3: Electronic Intifada is a Palestinian news and information portal based in Chicago-Illinois. Electronic intifada is a reliable source of information which mainly targets Palestinian affairs, with emphasis on the Palestinian viewpoint. They publish well-sourced news stories from reputable, mostly left leaning news organizations.  We rate this source as left biased due to their story selection, choice of sources and highly factual in reporting. (M. Huitsing 8/3/2017)

Summary Notes: When multiple reviewers look at a source we average the scores to assign a rating. According to our methodology, Electronic Intifada is classified as left biased with a very strong pro-Palestinian bias. Although there is significant use of loaded words, EI almost always uses strong sourcing within their articles. EI has not directly failed a fact check that we are aware of, though their headlines can sometimes be misleading. Final rating: Left Biased and Factual in Reporting.



fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 10:57 am
UK: Jews deliver message of condemnation to Israel.

In a message to world leaders, international organization of Orthodox Jews against Zionism reiterates support for Palestine.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 10:59 am
UK: Jews deliver message of condemnation to Israel

In a message to world leaders, international organization of Orthodox Jews against Zionism reiterates support for Palestine.



The anti-Zionist Neturei Karta organization has delivered a message of support and solidarity to Palestine as well as one of criticism and condemnation to Israel over its treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday evening, Elahanan Beck, the chief rabbi of Neturei Karta, said “we have to realize and understand -- helping the state of Israel is not in the favor of Jewish people”.

“The Zionists say they want to make a safe haven for Jewish people, they want to help Jews… but this is untrue. The most dangerous place today for Jewish people -- not to speak for Palestinians, but even for Jews -- is in the state of Israel,” Beck said.

Praising Erdogan for withdrawing Turkey’s ambassador to Israel after the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Beck said: “If you want to help the Jewish people, follow the example of what the Turkish president did: withdraw your ambassador from there and come out in the clear”.

Tensions have risen in the region after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and ordered the opening of a new U.S. embassy in the disputed and occupied city, a decision that has earned him global criticism and has broken many agreements regarding Jerusalem’s status.

At least 62 Palestinian demonstrators on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel who were protesting the embassy’s inauguration were killed Monday by the Israeli Defense Forces.

The killings have sparked a global outcry, with many world leaders condemning Israel, which claimed it was in self-defense.

“We are against the state of Israel. We are against occupiers, and we have to bring peace to the region,” Beck added.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 11:44 am
No More U.S. Weapons to Israel.

Sign this petition to the U.S. government:

End the provision of free weapons to the government of Israel.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 2:56 pm
Ethnic cleansing: British activists mark the Nakba in solidarity with Palestinian refugees .
May 15, 2018

In the late 1940s, Zionist paramilitary forces drove 700,000 Palestinians from their homes while establishing the state of Israel. A series of events will take place across Britain in the coming days to commemorate the anniversary.

The ethnic cleansing was exacerbated further in 1967, when Israeli soldiers occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Human rights activists and pro-Palestine campaigners will hold a series of events in London, Ipswich, Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham and elsewhere to mark the brutal tragedy.

Commonly referred to as the Nakba (catastrophe), they warn the process of ethnic cleansing continues today.

READ MORE: 'Like spilled blood': 1st ever Gaza film festival rolls out red carpet among ruins

Sixty-six years later, an overwhelming majority of expelled Palestinian refugees have been unable to return to their villages. Instead, they have been forced to raise generations in refugee camps.

In excess of 5 million Palestinian refugees are battling for the simple right to return to their homes, a right Israel persists in denying them.

A further 1.6 million Palestinians face grueling discrimination in Israel and are forced to live under oppression as second class citizens. In excess of 50 Israeli laws have been implemented since 1948 that discriminate against indigenous Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes in the wake of the Nakba.

Almost two million Palestinians are living under a military siege in Gaza maintained by Israeli forces. Palestinians living under occupation in Gaza are denied a series of fundamental rights, including the freedom to move, access to clean water, food, medicine and electricity.

Over 1.7 million Palestinians also live under occupation in the West Bank, imprisoned by an Israeli wall critics and human rights advocates warn violates international law. In addition to this, Israel continues to annex Palestinian settlements in this region.

According to UK social justice group War on Want, almost 6,000 Palestinians are detained as “political prisoners” in Israeli jails and detention facilities, where torture is common. Many of these prisoners are detained in the absence of charges or a trial.

READ MORE: ICC prosecutor rejects Israel’s fears of bias in war crimes investigation

In the face of these struggles, Palestinians continue to fight for justice, calling upon grassroots campaigns worldwide to boycott Israeli goods and services until the Israeli government obeys international law.

Gazans are also highly vulnerable to military assaults conducted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In the summer of 2014, more than 2,000 Palestinian men, women and children lost their lives during Israel’s military bombardment of the coastal strip.

Events across the UK organized to commemorate the Nakba and the crisis of displaced Palestinians include a war memorial in Brighton and a Palestine Museum in Bristol. Both events, set to occur on Friday, have been organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

The campaign is also involved in organizing a special day of commemoration in Kensington Gardens, Central London and another on Upper Hanover Street in Sheffield on Saturday.

Since 2011, Israeli law has made commemorating the Nakba in public difficult for Palestinians and Israelis. The “Nakba Law” empowers Israel’s finance minister to retract funding from organizations that reject Israel as a “Jewish state” or mark Israel’s Independence Day by holding events relating to the tragedy.

Although this legislation is yet to be implemented, human rights groups and campaigners say it has been designed to intimidate Palestinians who view the founding of the state of Israel as a catastrophe.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday May 16, 2018, 10:03 pm
Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan

The Killing Fields of Gaza.

Israeli activists speak out on the occupation of Gaza.

fly bird (26)
Thursday May 17, 2018, 8:48 am
Events for 17 May 2018

Pensacola: Pensacola Stands for Palestine!
May 17 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Plaza, N Palafox St
Pensacola, FL United States

Regina: Emergency Rally for Gaza
May 17 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Victoria Park, Victoria Park
Regina, Canada

Milan: Protest for Palestine outside the RAI
May 17 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
RAI office, Corso Sempione
Milan, Italy

Siena: Rally in Solidarity with the Palestinian People
May 17 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Piazza del Duomo, Piazza del Duomo
Siena, Italy

Cologne: 70 Years of Nakba – Solidarity with the Palestinian people
May 17 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Hauptbahnhof – Köln, Hauptbahnhof
Cologne, Germany

Saint-Etienne: Rally in support of the Palestinian People
May 17 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Place d’Hotel de Ville, place d'Hotel de Ville
Saint-Etienne, France

Events for 18 May 2018

Toronto: Emergency Action for Palestine at Chrystia Freeland’s Office
May 18 @ 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Chrystia Freeland’s Office, 344 Bloor St W
Toronto, Canada

Venice: Mobilization Against the Giro d’Italia
May 18 @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Via Brigata Aosta and Via Zateri, Via Brigata Aosta and Via Zateri
Nervesa della Battaglia, Italy

NYC: Nakba Day 2018 – Rally and March for 70 Years of Resistance
May 18 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Times Square, Times Square
New York, NY United States

Cleveland: Nakba70 – Gaza – Jerusalem
May 18 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Public Square, Public Square
Cleveland, OH United States

Chicago: Jan Schakowsky – Justice for Palestinian Protesters
May 18 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jan Schakowsky’s Office, 5533 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL United States

Rome: Rally for Palestine at the US Embassy
May 18 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Piazza Barberini, Piazza Barberini
Rome, Italy

Nottingham: Gaza – Stop the Massacre
May 18 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Brian Clough Statue, King Street
Nottingham, United Kingdom

Tampa: Emergency Rally to Reject US Embassy Move and Israeli Massacres
May 18 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
N 56th St and East Fowler Ave, N 56th St and East Fowler Ave
Temple Terrace, FL United States

Events for 18 May 2018

NYC: Nakba Day 2018 – Rally and March for 70 Years of Resistance
May 18 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Times Square, Times Square
New York, NY United States

Cleveland: Nakba70 – Gaza – Jerusalem
May 18 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Public Square, Public Square
Cleveland, OH United States

Events for 19 May 2018

Glasgow: End Israel’s Bloody Massacre in Gaza
May 19 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Buchanan Steps, Buchanan Steps
Glasgow, United Kingdom

London: End British Support for Israel! Solidarity with Gaza!
May 19 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Barclays Bank London, Tottenham Court Road 190
London, United Kingdom

Cardiff: Gaza – Stop the Massacre
May 19 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Nye Bevan Statue, Queen Street
Cardiff, United Kingdom

Bonn: 70 years of expulsion and occupation are enough!
May 19 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Münsterplatz, Münsterplatz
Bonn, Germany

Clermont-Farrand: Nakba – Gaza – BDS Demonstration
May 19 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Place de Jaude, Place de Jaude
Clermont-Farrand, France

Montpellier: Stand with Gaza – Protest the Massacre
May 19 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Place de la Comedie, Place de la Comedie
Lyon, France

Florence: Protest to support Palestine and its resistance
May 19 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Piazza di San Marco, Piazza di San Marco
Florence, Italy

Hamburg: Freedom for Palestine – Stop the Massacre in Gaza!
May 19 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, Hachmannplatz
Hamburg, Germany

Milan: March in support of Palestinian Resistance
May 19 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Piazza San Babila, Piazza San Babila
Milan, Italy

Events for 20 May 2018

Anaheim: Nakba 70 and the Great March of Return
May 20 @ 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
611 S Brookhurst St, 611 S Brookhurst St
Anaheim, CA United States

Boston: Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba in Palestine
May 20 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
City School, 614 Columbia Road
Dorchester, MA United States

fly bird (26)
Thursday May 17, 2018, 9:01 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)
Thursday May 17, 2018, 7:25 pm
The Killing Fields of Gaza. AUDIO/PODCAST (7:05)

Israeli activists speak out on the occupation of Gaza.

Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan
April 27 2018

fly bird (26)
Friday May 18, 2018, 7:20 pm
‘Killing Gaza’: A New Documentary on Palestinians Under Siege. 23:15
May 18, 2018

In their new film “Killing Gaza,” journalists Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal capture the harrowing stories of Palestinians who survived the 2014 Israeli assault, and their struggles to recover and persist under a crippling blockade. Watch video.
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