No Israeli Misconduct in Gaza

22 04 2009

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Reuters reported today that the internal investigations by Israel’s armed forces concluded that the IDF has committed no misconduct in its recent war on Gaza.

“The IDF operated under the international law and according to a very high standard of professionalism and moral standards,” Major-General Dan Harel, deputy chief of staff, told a news conference called to deliver results of a probe into five sets of war crimes allegations.

This should not come as a surprise. Please don’t be surprised. You are naïve if you’ve expected another conclusion.

Not to bust Israel’s chops here, but how is it that a state in a constant, 60-year-old war does not commit war crimes whatsoever? How is it, and excuse my ignorance, that 1,500 people die in three weeks and 5,000 more get injured, with hundreds of children and women make no misconduct whatsoever? None! Zip! Nada!

Did people not read, watch and hear all the separate reports from people on the ground, from reporters, witnesses, victims about what really happened? Do we not remember the UN schools that got hit, some of which required the personal apology of Defense Minister Barak? Do we not even care about those brave Israeli soldiers who came out and said that they did things they shouldn’t have done?

I bring your attention to this paragraph from the same article:

Military investigators uncovered several “operational and intelligence mistakes” by Israeli forces, Harel said. In one case, a bomb that was meant for a militant’s house was misdirected to a neighboring building, killing 21 civilians.

Please notice that this is a “mistake,” never a war crime. Please also notice Reuters’ word choice “misdirected.” And please, please, notice that it’s 21 civilians.

Human rights groups have called for a separate independent investigation. Israel, of course, has refused the UN proposal to inspect both IDF and Hamas’s actions. Tell me: if you’ve got nothing to hide, then why hide?

I rarely agree with Hamas and their ideology and vision (if they really have one, that is), but for this time, I will post a comment and agree with it.

“[Israel] cannot be both criminal and judge at the same time,” said a spokesman for Hamas.

From a legal point of view, this is absolutely right. Can’t play defendant and judge in the same court.

It is ludicrous to think that a conflict with so much hatred on both sides will have no war crimes whatsoever. Absolutely ridiculous. 

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Bassem Abu Rahmeh and the Killing in Bil’in

21 04 2009

 

Basem Abu Rahme - Palestine Monitor

Bassem Abu Rahmeh - Palestine Monitor

A moment of silence needs to be given to all those protesters who fight for peace and freedom and die doing so.

Bassem Abu Rahmeh deserves more than just a moment. He’s been in the news lately because he was killed by a tear-gas canister thrown by Israeli soldiers that left a hole in his chest (I’m not exaggerating). He died in the car, halfway to Ramallah Hospital.

What was Bassem doing, you may ask? He was protesting in Bil’in against the separation wall that Israel has built years ago, effectively cutting villages from a large portion of farmland. He is actually a resident of Bil’in.

These are weekly demonstrations organized by a brave group of young men and women, Israelis and Palestinians, called Anarchists Against The Wall (AATW). No one can deny their courage and persistence. I have met one of the organizers and protesters during his fundraising trip to the U.S.; a nervous and quiet young man called Nir Harel. Although he did not seem like a natural speaker, his silence said more than his words; and his beliefs do more than his speeches.

In the YouTube video (you need to be more than 18 years old to view it) you see Bassem yelling at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence who had already started throwing the canisters. AATW reported that he was saying, in Hebrew, “we are in a nonviolent protest, there are kids and internationals…” I cannot verify that of course because I don’t speak Hebrew.

You see some of the protestors later going to talk to those Israeli soldiers. They have an argument. The Israeli soldiers walk away and then throw some more tear-gas canisters; so nonchalantly, so casually.

 

My view is perhaps already apparent through these paragraphs. This is cold-blooded murder; another murder that will go unpunished in Israel.

However, if my view is considered biased because I’m an Arab and a Muslim, I suggest reading Alex Stein’s comments. I have mentioned Stein in a previous post. He is a libertarian Israeli, with much to say. From his personal experience, soldiers are clearly warned that this is a lethal weapon that could kill.

LB, a blogger on Occidental Israeli, argued under this same post that stones are also a lethal weapon that could kill. Point taken, if they are 20-30kg hailed from high points. I have heard this from my Israeli professor in Modern Israel class. Like many other Israeli and pro-Israel bloggers, however, he seems to have completely brushed off the incident. More details needed, he said.

Bassem deserves the acknowledgement that he was killed by Israeli soldiers; that he was murdered, with or without details. The inhumanity of some of these comments is beyond disturbing. I doubt that LB would need more details for the death of a settler in the West Bank.

 

One note:

I have included a picture of Bassem because people often forget that it’s a human who has died in these situations, and mind you, not a violent human in this case.

We can become immune to these killings, and a human face to death and suffering might wake those of us who are asleep.

To those who want to deny Bassem his right for mourning, regardez-le.





Some Women News

14 04 2009

 

My own sense of sarcasm

 

I’ve read quite a few articles recently relating to women. I decided to get you in the loop with me. Here’s a light list:

1.     Journalist Iqbal Tamimi writes about Gaza’s women soccer team. A light-hearted piece; not your usual bombs and rubbles.

2.     A British girl and a South African girl combine forces to set up a cupcake business in Israel, a trend that is not yet sweeping in the country. I’m a BIG cupcake fan. I hope this spreads to the Arab countries around and enlighten people with some dessert bless.

3.     The long-awaited news from Laila El-Haddad and her ordeal at Cairo Airport and the Rafah Crossing is finally up on the web, in a long and detailed post. One beautifully and eloquently written paragraph captured my attention. Here’s what Laila writes about the Palestinian Authority “passport,”

        “It is a passport that allows no passage. A passport that denied me entry to my own home. This is its purpose: to mark me, brand me, so that I am easily identified and cast aside without questions; it is convenient for those giving the orders. It is a system for the collective identification of those with no identity.

4.     As marriage age gets higher in Israel, matchmakers face new challenges. This is an enjoyable story, hits home in a way. It combines a Middle-Eastern mentality and worried Jewish mothers, with Western more career-driven, and perhaps pickier young thinking. You’ll get a chuckle out of it. If not, you’ll at least find it entertaining.

5.     Rihab Al-Hazin dies in “honor killing” in the West Bank, in what the news characterizes as a rising trend. This is the kind of news that horrifies me, and almost every girl and woman out there.





Academic Freedom and Patriotism

14 04 2009

 

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The question about Israel’s academic freedom is one that would undoubtedly give you diverging answers, depending on whom you ask. The left will tell you that academia is not left enough, and the right will tell you it isn’t right enough.

An article captured my attention on the Jerusalem Post, published last week, on April 6th. It features an interview with Dana Barnett, the founder of Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) that tracks Israel’s professors for anti-Israel speech and teachings.

For those of you who know Campus Watch in the U.S., the IAM is its Israeli counterpart. It puts out documents and speeches that Israeli academics have published/lectured, most of which are major criticisms of Israel. Barnett’s mission is to determine the “anti-Zionists” and more so, those who are “anti-Israel.” The article and the mentality is what’s most discomforting.

 

Professors Criticizing Israel

Barnett focuses on those professors who call Israel an apartheid force, other professors who called against Israel’s war on Gaza, others who support the Palestinian cause and those professors who are against the “security wall,” because she believes that all those can constitute acts of treason. Lumping all of these together is really problematic.

She says that not all professors who express criticism towards Israel or sympathy with the Palestinians are mentioned. But shouldn’t that be the natural case in a democratic country anyway? She says that she searches for words like “occupation” and “apartheid” in these documents to determine who might be speaking against the Jewish State, although the word “occupation” alone does not make an anti-Israel sentiment. I ask then: why look for it?

 

About the Palestinians

In one line of the interview, Barnett characterizes the Palestinians as “enemies.” She says, “I realized that they are people – with rights, of course – but not a people. They have no common denominator, other than wanting to see Israel destroyed. And that’s not sufficient for peoplehoold.” Is that making your stomach turn yet?

The statement is contradictory. She acknowledges that the Palestinians are people, but then not really people, with rights, but then their rights should technically be taken away because all of them are bent on destroying Israel.

Do any of us remember Kahane? Can we say that electing Avigdor Lieberman also says something about Israel’s peace intentions with the Palestinians and its treatment of Arab-Israelis? Can we generalize, please?

 

The Problematic Mentality

Coming from the Middle East, this line of thinking is strikingly similar to that in the Arab and Muslim world. In many Arab countries, speaking against the government and its actions would bring you a lot of trouble. “Treason” and “traitors” are but few examples of name-calling; words that Barnett herself uses.

Barnett says that their goal is to exert pressure on “emotional treason.” I got nervous when I read those words. She does not provide us with a definition of “emotional treason.” It reminds me of the 1950s McCarthyism era in the U.S. when anyone who spoke against the country during the cold war was charged with un-patriotism and in many cases, treason.

“Emotional treason” reminds me of the phrase “fear-mongering.”

 

My Point

Students should be exposed to all kinds of principles and ideas at universities. It should be up to them to choose what to think. To say that these professors, as small in number as they are now, can change a generations’ mentality is simply giving them too much power and credit. To say that students are mere followers and information-receivers is simply undermining our intelligence and ability to figure it out on our own. I have had professors on the far right and those on the far left. I choose what to think.

The point with academic freedom is freedom itself. You begin to curb that, then you begin to curb an important part of the society. You begin to curb that, then you begin to hurt what Israel does far better than its neighbors.  

I was left with a couple of questions: why doesn’t this organization, in the name of academic freedom, also mention those professors who preach against the Palestinians in general? Why not mention those who speak about the Palestinians, maybe even Arabs and Muslims, as people who do not have the right to exist, who deserve to be expelled, who are animals, plain enemies? Please don’t tell me those professors don’t exist. 





Laila El-Haddad’s Plight

10 04 2009

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Laila El Haddad and her family, a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com

During the most recent war on Gaza, Laila El-Haddad’s blog was one of those most talked about. The New York Times’ “The Lede” blog wrote a long piece about it, other bloggers blogged about it.

Laila, a young Gazan freelance journalist living now in North Carolina, seemed to know some of the most intricate details and the newest news about what’s happening on the ground. She had written many pieces for Al Jazeera English and the British Guadian.

Laila’s blog “A Mother from Gaza,” also titled “Raising Yousuf and Noor: Diary of a Palestinian Woman” is especially hot these couple of days.

The mother of two children has been stranded in Egypt, locked in for 36 hours in no-where land. She had wanted to visit her family in Gaza, through Cairo Airport and then the Rafah Crossing. Since Rafah is now closed, there’s no way to get in or out of the strip. She told us yesterday that she’s being deported, “away from home.” Laila’s visa to the U.S. had expired. Her intention was to renew it in Beirut, Lebanon, after the Gaza visit.

Amira Al Hussaini wrote about Laila on Global Voices on the day of her post about deportation. You can read it here.

The Egyptian Daily News reported yesterday that the authorities had sent her and her two children back to the U.S. She is expected to have many problems with the U.S. immigration authorities, not surprisingly. 

Many, including myself, are waiting eagerly for her next blog post.





Marking Passover

8 04 2009
Passover 2009 - Jerusalem Post, AP

Jerusalem Passover, 2009 - Jerusalem Post, AP

Today is an important day for many Jews around the world. It is Passover, a seven-day celebration marking the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and their liberation from slavery. It is a day of appreciation, humanity and, of course, food!

This photo captured my attention on the Jerusalem Post. If you click on the link titled “Blessing of the Sun” right below this photo on the actual website, you will see many more beautiful pictures taken today. The article also reports the different events and celebrations that are taking place these next couple of days among the Jewish community in Israel and around the world.





Feminine Police

8 04 2009

 

Palestinian policewomen - daylife.com, Associated Press

Palestinian policewomen - daylife.com, Associated Press

 

A few days ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published an article from the Associated Press marking the first graduating class of women from the two-year-old Palestinian military academy.

All 16 of them, young, some wearing the Muslim headscarf, the hijab, marched alongside 148 men and are now an integral part (hopefully) of the Palestinian police.

The AP reported that these women go through the same training as men. One of them, Rwaida Rabaya, had been in an Israeli prison for two years for her affiliation with a militant group. This move, she said, was the “peaceful” way to defend her land.

Another woman, 24-year-old Farah Salman, hinted at a new phase of feminism within the Palestinian society.

“Society is still not accepting of the idea of a woman working in the security apparatuses,” she said. But well, she’s breaking the rules now.

The problem, another woman said, was finding the right clothes that fit. The PA clearly has no precedent in this.

This comes only shortly after the appointment of two female judges in the Palestinian Islamic court: Khuloud Faqih, 34, and Asmahan Wuheidi, 31. The Jerusalem Post and other news sources reported on this. Only Sudan has female judges out of all the Arab countries, including the “progressive” ones like Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Women contribution in the Palestinian society remains small. There is no dispute about that. It is great, however, to see these news. This may not only affect the overall image, but will also hopefully begin to change the perception of women’s role in the Palestinian territories, and even across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

These women will, undoubtedly, face some resistance from their colleagues and people. We have yet to know their exact impact, whether for good or bad. Either way, there’s got to be a first time in everything.