The first is about Palestinian child prisoners from the personal vantage point of Ofra Ben Artzi, who is well acquainted with military courts. I have added to her article links to information on international law regarding child prisoners and links also to information on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. I have sent these links out previously. For those of you who have not yet seen them, I wish to recommend glancing through all, and especially watching the brief video on the subject of Israel’s treatment of the children.
Items 2 and 3 are both criticisms of Israel—item 2 by Harry Feldman about the loyalty oath,
Item 3 is from today’s LATimes, and is about the US-Israel relationship. The criticism is geared no less towards the US than Israel, and concludes with advice to the US: “first step toward restoring U.S.-Israeli relations to health is to withhold further gifts unless fully earned and fully deserved.” Agreed!
In item 4 Al Jazeera reports that Abu Mazin threatens to dissolve the PA, thus throwing all responsibility for the West Bank on Israel. One very distinct advantage for Israel from the Oslo accords was that Israel, instead of bearing the onus of Palestinian education, health, etc. in the West Bank and Gaza rid itself of all concern for the welfare of the Palestinian population. Abbas threat, if carried out, would once again put all the cost of occupation on Israel’s shoulders. I doubt that the threat will frighten Israel’s leaders into stopping expansion and ethnic cleansing (i.e., colonization). But, perhaps it is worth a try.
All the best,
1. On the hunting of Palestinian children and re-education at the Ofer prison
By: Ofra Ben Artzi [Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent]
3 November 2010
On 15 November the IDF spokesman issued the following news flash: “During the night IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area and in the Jordan Valley arrested 11 wanted persons.” A routine announcement that is published nearly every workday morning, but it does not receive much attention, because whom does it interest? And if among those 11 wanted persons there were some children who were pulled from their beds in the middle of their dreams at midnight, or at one or two in the morning, seized by soldiers of an elite brigade in front of their terrified parents; handcuffed, blindfolded and then put into a military vehicle that took them to an ISA (Shin Bet) interrogation facility, does anybody really care?
I set out with my comrades from Machsom Watch to the “Ofer” military court to which those children are taken after they have been interrogated by the ISA and the police without any adult accompaniment, though they are detained with adults. Two weeks ago two defendants’ benches looked like a primary school class, but here the women are not mothers or teachers, but the judge and the prosecutor. They sit in groups to the right of the judge, wearing the brown uniforms of adult security prisoners, their legs shackled. It is impossible to get used to the sight of child prisoners. The heart skips a beat every time and shame comes flooding in, because they are sitting there in my name and my tax money pays for their uniforms, the diligent judge and prosecutor, and even the air conditioning in the courtroom.
In recent weeks the number of children arrested has increased dramatically. One defence attorney estimated that on the morning of 25 October of this year, two school classes appeared on the defendants’ bench – about fifty children and youths. Statistics from Palestinian and Israeli organizations show that at any given time the Ofer prison is populated by at least 300 Palestinian minors. This week a lawyer told us that recently most of the cases heard at the Ofer military court have been of minors. After hundreds of hours of observing judicial proceedings and conversations with families and lawyers I believe that what we are confronted with here is the terrible phenomenon of a hunt – there is no other word – a mass hunt of Palestinian children.
This is how it works: army jeeps enter a village and station themselves beside a school. They create deliberate and planned friction with the pupils. Stones are thrown, and then, in the dead of night, several children receive visits from soldiers of the elite unit and are arrested. Their detention ends with a plea-bargain in which the minor confesses to a small infraction in order to save himself time in jail and his family money, because as a Palestinian his chances of getting bail are virtually zero even if the accusation is of throwing stones.
Therefore he will not undergo a trial to prove his innocence. The system takes full advantage of that. The personal consequence is a criminal record. The cumulative general consequence is thousands of Palestinian children and youths with criminal backgrounds. In contrast, Jewish minors who were convicted of crimes related to the anti-Disengagement protests received a blanket amnesty about a year ago under a special law that was passed for them in the Knesset. About 400 files were closed and their criminal records were erased.
Since the West Bank was occupied in 1967, Palestinian minors have been put on trial in military courts. Only recently has an order been issued to establish a military court for youth, and new orders have been issued relating to the procedures for putting minors on trial in that court. This is a cosmetic measure that does not give them the special protections that Israeli children – including those who live in the West Bank – receive. In 1991 Israel ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which “a child is defined as a human being *under the age of eighteen.*” Apparently Palestinian children are super-human beings, maybe Supermen, because according to Israeli security legislation they reach adulthood at age sixteen. This is a violation of an international convention, an ongoing injustice and racial discrimination. And in fact, last June the Civil Rights Association and the Yesh Din organization asked the Military Advocate-General to take action to modify the law.
When I sit like this in the court of the military judge Sharon Rivlin-Ahai who has been appointed to rule on the cases of minors at the “Ofer” military court on Mondays and Thursdays, in addition to the pain and the shame I am troubled by the question: why does the strongest army in the Middle East preoccupy itself with Palestinian children and youth to such a degree and with such devotion? Why do they dedicate so many resources and so much thought to them? What do they gain from this?
The answer that I conclude from the accumulated experience of the group is clear and very distressing. As I see it, the faces of those who so preoccupy themselves with the young generation of Palestinians are not turned to a political solution. We have here a well-planned measure that constitutes a stage in a general Israeli policy that has the objective of continuing to rule over the Palestinians for the foreseeable future. The policy of criminalizing thousands of minors and turning of some of them into collaborators and incriminators fragments and destroys the next generation. This preliminary treatment “sears the consciousness” of the young generation and conditions them to face adult life under Occupation, not with dignity in their own state.
I assume that this policy is competently managed by teams of experts and consultants from various fields who are probably aided by professional literature that is rich in reference notes and bibliographies.
Will one of the senior learned figures who implement this criminal policy break the silence one day?
The author is a member of the Machsom Watch organization
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
Links to intenrational law and other material on child prisoners
Link to pictures of 13 year old Mohammad’s ‘capture
While I’ve been dithering, it’s faded from the headlines. But it was quite the controversial topic way back in October.
On 10 October, the Israeli cabinet approved a bill by 22 votes to 8 changing the wording the loyalty oath non Jews seeking Israeli citizenship must take.
The Nationality Law of 1952 provides mechanisms for obtaining Israeli nationality by ‘return’, residence, birth, or naturalization. The residence provisions only apply to those resident prior to the promulgation of the law. Only children of Israeli nationals are entitled to nationality by birth — children born in Israel to non Israeli parents apparently have no claim to Israeli nationality. Jews immigrating under the Law of return are entitled to Israeli nationality under the ‘return’ provisions.
So it seems that the proposal would simply amend paragraph 5(c) of the Nationality Law — the section concerning acquiring Israeli nationality by naturalisation, that is, by non Jews — which provides:
(5)(c) Prior to the grant of nationality, the applicant shall make the following declaration: “I declare that I will be a loyal national of the State of Israel.”
to read something along the lines of ‘…”I declare that I will be a loyal national of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.”
By nightfall, reports the Jerusalem Post, 150 were demonstrating at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. ‘One of the organizers of the demonstration, Sefi Rachlevsky, said that the protest was held to express their “great anger towards a terrible action taken by a country we love.’
The same day, Ha’aretz’s Gideon Levy wrote, ‘Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character… From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country.’
JStreet immediately called ‘on the government of Israel to pull back from this proposal which runs counter not just to the values enshrined in the country’s Declaration of Independence, but puts at risk the very democratic nature of the state itself.’
On Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein wrote, ‘If the [Supreme] Court does not reject the law then Israel is sliding down the slippery slope to a racialist state.’
Within two days, Ynet was reporting that the Anti Defamation League’s ‘National Director Abraham H. Foxman explained that “in the spirit of Israel’s founding principles of equality, we urge Israel’s government to adopt further modifications to the proposed amendment to the citizenship law so it will apply to all immigrants to Israel, including those entering under the Law of Return.’
By the end of the week, thousands were rallying against the bill.
Meretz MK Oron also condemned the loyalty oath bill, calling it racist and anti-democratic.
“This anti-democratic attack of legislation was meant to exclude the Arab population from the democratic game and to eternalize an ethnocentric right-wing regime in the government.’
A state which forcibly invades the hallowed realm of the individual citizen’s conscience, and which imposes punishment on those whose opinions and beliefs do not fit the authorities’ opinions and the prescribed “character” of the state, stops being a democracy and embarks on becoming a fascist state.
Behind these stairs where we stand, the state of Israel was proclaimed. The state which increasingly takes Israel’s place – a state which fills the country with a variety of racist legislation, promoted by the Knesset and the cabinet – is excluding itself from the family of democratic nations. Therefore we, citizens of the Israel envisaged in the Declaration of Independence, hereby declare that will not be citizens of a country purporting to be Israel and which violates its basic commitment to the principles of equality, civil liberty and sincere aspiration for peace – principles upon which the State of Israel was founded.
On 31 October, the International Jewish Anti-zionist Network (IJAN) released its response, pointing out that ‘The Zionist “Left” is distancing itself from this policy, but the proposed oath is entirely consistent with Israel’s racist foundations and continued ethnic cleansing – all of which the Zionist “Left” has played a central role in perpetrating and whitewashing.’
And the next day, Gabriel Ash of Jews sans frontiers further excoriated the Zionist ‘left’,
…Not only is the Palestinian narrative erased and evaded, but the speakers appropriate it. They are the ones whose country has been stolen. Proclaiming that “grievance” serves precisely to appropriate another attack on the people whose country really was stolen… [The] “left” that defends the interests of the settlers and seeks to make the Palestinian national problem disappear is not part of the solution. It is part of the problem.
Tempting as it is to quote more extensively, I’ll leave it to you to follow the link.
More likely in response to Foxman than to the Israeli ‘left’, Ha’aretz reported that on 18 October, ‘Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman…to prepare a new bill extending the loyalty oath, which is currently aimed at non-Jews, to include Jewish immigrants as well’, quoting the PM,
“There is broad approval among the Israeli public regarding the Jewish and democratic identity of Israel, and that is not incidental. The state of Israel was founded as the sovereign state of the Jewish people and as a democratic state in which all its citizens – Jews and non-Jews alike – enjoy equal rights. Any person wishing to become an Israeli citizen must recognize these two key principals.”
The same day, the American Jewish Committee ‘welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to direct the Justice Ministry to prepare a bill that will oblige both Jews and non-Jews to pledge loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”’ To their credit, J Street’s response to Netanyahu’s suggestion was to ‘remain opposed to the proposal’, albeit ‘for the reasons enumerated in the statement above’ — it risks ‘the very democratic nature of the state’.
To require such an oath of olim would demand more complex drafting of the proposed amendment than the original proposal. But that should be no impediment to justice and fairness. AJC Executive Director David Harris
had been concerned about different standards for Jewish and non-Jewish prospective immigrants to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu has wisely decided, in keeping with Israel’s long-established principles of democracy and equality before the law, that if Israel is going to institute an oath of allegiance, it must be applicable to all.
If nothing else, you’d expect one of Zionism’s shrillest defenders to be aware that ‘different standards for Jewish and non-Jewish prospective immigrants to Israel’ are absolutely fundamental to Israel’s existence and that goyim are not entitled to acquire nationality under the ‘return’ provisions. Accordingly, unlike Jews seeking nationality, they must meet residence and language tests, and pledge fealty, to qualify. Amending the wording of the oath does not change that.
As many have pointed out, there is a contradiction between Israel’s claim to be ‘the national expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people’ and to be democratic in any meaningful sense. Privileging any ethnicity or religious group erodes the democratic rights of those not so privileged. So under the new provision, the only non Jews who would be entitled to immigrate and become Israeli citizens are those who are either too distracted to notice that they are swearing allegiance to something that can’t possibly exist or too dishonest or cynical to care. Extending the requirement to olim would then restrict Israeli nationality by ‘return’ only to Jews displaying those characteristics.
But I reckon there are deeper implications.
In the immortal words of the Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel, ‘The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew…’ [my emphasis]
As I read it, the point is that all Jews purportedly possess a common heritage in Palestine and are therefore equally entitled to live there. Also, because anti-Semitism is inevitable wherever Jews live outside of Israel, we need to have a refuge we know will accept us when we flee oppression in ‘The Diaspora’.
Making citizenship for olim contingent on taking an oath (anathema, by the way, to observant Jews) or indeed on anything, seems to me to have one of two consequences. Either not all Jews are equally entitled to access our heritage and seek refuge from persecution, or they are redefining Jew to include just the distracted and the cynical.
One way or the other, that seemed to me to undermine Israel’s whole raison d’ être. No longer would just any member of ‘the Jewish people’ enjoy an entitlement to our ‘historic homeland’ and to asylum when under threat.
But on reflection, it transpires that whatever the framers of the Declaration might have intended in 1948, by 1950 the Law of return already empowered the Minister of Immigration (amended in 1954 to the Minister of the Interior) to deny an oleh’s visa if ‘satisfied that the applicant:
(1) is engaged in an activity directed against the Jewish people; or
(2) is likely to endanger public health or the security of the State; or
The 1954 amendments extended the Minister’s power to exclude a third category of applicant — ‘a person with a criminal past, likely to endanger public welfare’.
So Israel has, virtually since inception, been the state not of ‘the Jewish people’ tout court, but only of those Jewish people who meet the Minister’s approval. And in recent times, the Jewish state has demonstrated no reluctance to exclude unwanted Jews, even as visitors, when it deported Norman Finkelstein in May 2008, and refused entry to Noam Chomskytwo years later.
Since one of the principal tenets of Zionist ideology is that Israel is in fact the state of all the Jewish people and therefore any activity against Israel or Israeli actions, including criticism, constitutes ‘an activity directed against the Jewish people’, I can certainly understand why they might want to exclude critics. And yet both Finkelstein and Chomsky are proponents of partitioning Palestine in accordance with The International Consensus, which I have argued implies support for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. So it’s not as if they actually challenge Israel’s fabled ‘right to exist as a Jewish state’.
If the Knesset enacts the legislation mandating a loyalty oath for Gentiles and the Supreme Court allows the law to stand, Israel remains a racist ethnocracy. If it requires the oath for all who seek Israeli nationality, it still remains a racist ethnocracy. And as for the Jews who can’t swear allegiance to a contradiction, we already know that Israel is not our country, anyway.
If somebody forwarded this message to you and you would like to receive your own copy of my blog posts directly, please email me and I’ll add you to the list: .[email protected]
. (You can also subscribe via Feedblitz from the link on the Bureau of Counterpropaganda site.)
3. Los Angeles Times
December 5, 2010
Israel and the U.S.: A lopsided relationship
The United States today finds itself in the position of a suitor proffering his beloved ever more munificent gifts while receiving in return ever more perfunctory tokens of affection.
The widely reported deal negotiated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Israel committing itself to a nonrenewable 90-day freeze on settlement activity in return for 20 F-35 fighters and a U.S. promise to block anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations — illuminates with startling clarity the actual terms of U.S.-Israeli relations.
What impresses above all is the gaping disparity between the American offer and the Israeli response. The United States today finds itself in the position of a suitor proffering his beloved ever more munificent gifts while receiving in return ever more perfunctory tokens of affection. You don’t need Dear Abby to tell you that something’s gone amiss.
For decades, U.S. policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict has pursued two objectives. First, Washington has sought to cajole Arabs into accepting Israel’s existence. Second, it has sought to allay Israeli security concerns. Assured that their survival is not in jeopardy, the Israelis might thereby become less quick to reach for the gun.
Progress toward the first goal, if hard-won and incomplete, has been real. Progress toward the second goal remains nonexistent. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan have barely dented Israeli apprehensions that destruction lies just around the corner. The transformation of the Palestine Liberation Organization into the defanged Palestinian Authority has similarly provided little reassurance. Generously subsidized by the American taxpayer, the Israeli military remains today, as it has been for decades, far and away the most lethal and capable in all the Middle East. Still, to judge by statements coming out of Jerusalem, Israel teeters on the precipice of extinction. As one consequence, a pronounced Israeli penchant for using force — hit hard and never apologize — persists.
Along with superior power, Israel enjoys unique privileges, as exemplified by its nuclear posture. As a general principle, U.S. officials decry nuclear proliferation as a looming threat to all humankind. So the very existence of Iran’s nuclear program, whatever its actual purpose, elicits demands from Washington for transparency and strict compliance with international norms. Yet when it comes to Israel, Washington pursues a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
One might expect the United States to find an arsenal consisting of an estimated 200 nuclear warheads worthy of notice. One might also expect Israelis to take comfort in the knowledge that, alone among nations in the region, they hold at the ready such massively destructive power. Instead, Washington pretends that the Israeli arsenal doesn’t exist, thereby opening itself to charges of entertaining a double standard. Meanwhile, Israelis nurse feelings of vulnerability as if the Jewish state were still David surrounded by a host of Goliaths.
Among a people for whom Auschwitz is not merely a memory but seems a looming prospect, this sense of insecurity is deeply entrenched. Whether such anxieties reflect collective paranoia or a sober appreciation for the persistence of anti-Semitism is beside the point. What Americans have yet to recognize is this: Nothing that the United States can do will put Israeli fears to rest. Indeed, by offering ever more weapons and by conferring ever more privileges, Washington ends up validating those fears.
So, although a gift of $3 billion worth of combat aircraft might boost profits for American arms manufacturers or buy President Obama some votes come November 2012, it will not make Israel appreciably safer. There is no looming threat to which the F-35 provides an essential response.
Nor will shielding Israel from criticism in the United Nations lead it to abandon its peculiar approach to deterrence, based on expectations that kicking adversaries in the teeth wins respect. It will not persuade Jerusalem to take U.S. concerns into account when Israel next feels threatened by Hamas or Hezbollah or by a convoy of relief supplies headed toward the Gaza Strip. Rather than curb Israeli inclinations to strike first and ask questions later, it will affirm that disposition, with the United States saddled with the consequences.
Furthermore, cheapening the coin of American friendship gives Israelis reason to question how much U.S. professions of friendship and support are worth.
“I know what America is,” Netanyahu said in 2001, in a video released last summer. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”
Of what value is the support of an ally that is so susceptible to manipulation?
As in love, so in politics: The only relationship worth having — or likely to last — is one based on mutual respect. To save a love affair gone awry, the abused suitor needs to wise up. A first step toward restoring U.S.-Israeli relations to health is to withhold further gifts unless fully earned and fully deserved.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”
4. Al Jazeera,
December 4, 2010
Ab-A$$ threatens to dissolve PA
President of Palestinian Authority says he may disband his governing body if peace deal with Israel cannot be agreed.
US-brokered peace talks have been deadlocked since restarting in September, due to the settlement issue [Reuters]
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has said that if no peace deal can be agreed with Israel and the international community does not approve a Palestinian state, he may dissolve his governing body.
Abbas said in a television interview on Friday that if Israel continued to build settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, leading to the beakdown of peace talks, the Palestinian Authority (PA), that provides limited autonomy for the territory, would be disbanded.
“I cannot accept to remain the president of an authority that doesn’t exist,” he said.
Pressed on whether he was referring to the possibility of dissolving the PA, he said: “I am telling them so. I say to them welcome … you are occupiers.
“You are here, stay here, I cannot accept the situation will remain as is.”
US-brokered peace talks have been deadlocked since September due to Palestinian demands that the building of Israeli settlements on land, deemed by international law to be occupied Palestinian land, be halted.
The US has called for Israel to suspend settlement building for three months so the negotiations can be resumed.
In the interview on Friday, Abbas reiterated his appeal for settlement building to be halted and said that if this did not happen he would seek US and UN recognition for a Palestinian state. That would effectively bypass peace talks.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, gave a bleak assessment of the latest diplomatic moves to end the stalemate, saying that Israel was to blame for the failure of the peace talks.
“Israel has chosen settlements and not peace,” he told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.
The PA was created after the signing of the Olso peace accords between the Palestinians and Israel in 1993.
It provides limited self-rule over the Palestinian territory Israel had won in a 1967 war – territory that the Palestinians want to have as part of their own state.
However, Israeli construction of settlements within the borders of occupied West Bank land puts the idea of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state in jeopardy, according to the Palestinians.
Israeli supporters of the settlement construction assert that Palestinian and Israeli borders must be negotiated according to considerations of security.
They have said that the Palestinian demand to halt settlement building is an attempt to put preconditions on the peace talks.