A Crime Condemned by Israeli Officials
“Jewish Arsonists Suspected in West Bank Attack That Killed Palestinian Toddler,” by Diaa Hadid and Jodi Rudoren, New York Times – 31 July
Residents of this Palestinian hamlet still awake on a hot summer night heard the screams and rushed to the Dawabsheh home. Outside, Saad, 32, lay writhing on the ground. Nearby, his wife, Riham, 27, was still on fire. Their 4-year-old son, Ahmad, could be heard crying inside the burning house, and his brother, 18-month-old Ali, was already dead.
Witnesses and officials attributed the attack on Friday to Jewish extremists because of Hebrew graffiti sprayed nearby. “Revenge!” was written on one wall, next to a Star of David.
Two witnesses said they saw two masked men outside the house watching as the family burned.
“The hardest thing for me, was that there were two burning people on the ground, and two people were just standing over them,” said a neighbor, Ibrahim Dawabsheh, who like many in this Palestinian village shared a common last name. “They didn’t even care that the child was still crying inside.”
Israeli and Palestinian politicians branded the firebombing in this hilltop village of 3,000 as terrorism, the latest in a summer marked by repeated violence.
A Crime Defended By Israeli Officials
“Censure and Clashes After West Bank Attack,” by Diaa Hadid, New York Times – 1 August
“People are angry,” said Yaser Dawabsheh, 53, a resident of the village, where many residents share the family name. “A child melted in a fire before their eyes, and they did nothing.”
Clashes also took place here in the Jalazoun refugee camp, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah. They followed the funeral of a teenager who died overnight from wounds suffered after he was shot in a protest Friday, where youths hurled rocks at Israeli forces.
Laith al-Khaldi, , was the sixth Palestinian to be fatally shot by Israeli security forces in recent weeks.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers fired at an assailant who had thrown a firebomb toward them. She said the shooting was “in response to immediate danger.”
Few shootings ever lead to prosecutions, and Palestinians and their advocates say that has led to a lack of accountability among Israeli forces.
“The Israeli government has given the opportunity for settlers and the army to attack, and that is making the lives of Palestinians hell,” said Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank.
“Shin Bet Instructs Rivlin to File Police Complaint After Threatened Following Palestinian Baby’s Death,” by Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz – 2 August.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin may be the most prominent opponent of anti-Arab hate speech and actions in Israeli politics. The fact that he is a man of the Right (Likud) says a lot about the state of the Israeli Left. For his troubles, Rivlin – an arch-Zionist opposed to a Palestinian state – has been condemned as an “Arab lover” and detractors have posted images of him in the Palestinian Keffiyeh headdress on social media. This time, threats are beginning to attract official attention :
The Shin Bet has instructed the President’s Office to file a police complaint over threats made against President Reuven Rivlin, following his condemnation of the arson attack that killed an 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh in the West Bank last week.
On the day that Dawabsheh was killed and his family seriously wounded, Rivlin posted a message in both Hebrew and Arabic, denouncing that attack. “More than feeling shame, I feel pain,” Rivlin wrote. “Pain over the murder of a little baby. Pain that members of my nation chose this way of terror and lost their sense of humanity. Their path is not my path. Their path is not our path. Their path is not the path of the State of Israel and it is not the path of the Jewish people.”
Rivlin’s post received more than 10,000 likes and some 2,000 responses. Despite his call for coexistence and compassion, many of the responses were hateful and violent, including threats on his life and accusing him of being a “terrorist” and a “traitor”.
Impunity For Settler Violence
While the Israeli establishment condemned the settler act as a terrorist crime and promised to bring justice to the criminals, it is precisely the de facto policy of impunity for settler violence that has led to the tragedy:
According to B’Tselem statistics, in the past three years since August 2012, Israeli civilians set fire to nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Additionally, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases. The ISA suspects two were related to the perpetrators of June’s arson attack on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, but it is doubtful these cases would have been solved independently of the effort put into the church arson inside Israel.
In recent years, Israeli civilians set fire to dozens of Palestinian homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank. The vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli Police did not even bother take elementary investigative actions.
The fact that the Samaria and Judea (SHAI) Police and other law enforcement bodies have failed to solve these attacks isn’t fate. Rather, it is the result of a policy expressed throughout all levels of the law enforcement system, in particular the political echelons, up to and including the Prime Minister. In light of this, official condemnations of this attack are empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve is backdrop to these acts.
In light of this, the clock is ticking in the countdown to the next arson attack, and the one after.
Israeli soldiers guard settlers attacking Palestinians.
“Israeli Justice in West Bank Is Seen as Often Uneven,” by Isabel Kershner, New York Times – 2 August
The how-to manual in Hebrew reads like a chilling premonition.
Among its recommendations, how to set fire to a Palestinian house: “Stock up with a petrol bomb, preferably of a liter and a half; a lighter; gloves; a mask; a crowbar/hammer; a bag to carry it all. When you get to the village, search for a house with an open door or window without bars.”
The instructions were recently found stored on a mobile device in the car of a Jewish extremist.
Israeli leaders have condemned the firebombing of the Dawabsheh home,
But it has also reinforced the sense that Israeli law-enforcement authorities have for years acted with laxness and leniency toward Israeli citizens.
Years of sporadic attacks by Jewish extremists against Palestinians and their property — known as “price tag,” a doctrine meant to deter Israeli authorities from taking action against settlements — have resulted in few convictions.
Israel’s security services closely monitor Palestinian activities in what Alex Fishman, the military affairs analyst of the popular newspaper Yediot Aharonot, describes as “ ‘basic coverage,’ which involves collecting information about schools, mosques and entire communities.”
But when it comes to the Jewish sector, Mr. Fishman said, the Shin Bet “doesn’t want to spy on Jews, and the political echelon would never dream of allowing it to build ‘basic coverage’ about yeshivas, rabbis, religious and cultural institutions, regional councils.”
Tel Aviv Rally
“Thousands protest against racist, homophobic attacks; place blame on gov’t,” by Edo Konrad, +972mag – 1 August
Thousands of people gathered in cities across the country on Saturday night to protest against the racist and homophobic attacks of the past few days. The demonstrations come in response to Thursday’s mass stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, as well as the arson attack in the West Bank village Duma, where 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned to death.
In Tel Aviv over 3,000 people attended a rally organized by Peace Now, calling for “an iron fist against Jewish terrorism.” Among the speakers were opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who earlier on Saturday called on the government to expand its use of administrative detention against Jews involved in terrorism.
Nasser Dawabsheh, the uncle of the slain infant, also spoke, saying that Netanyahu’s condolences were not enough, and that it is the prime minister’s duty to ensure the security of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. “We demand that this be the end of our people’s suffering,” he told the crowed. “Before Ali came Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and we do not know who is next in line. We want these arson attacks to end.”
Passport of Palestine
“THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL PASSPORTS – RANKED,” by Kia, Atlas & Boots – 11 July
Surprise, surprise, holding a passport from a country that is occupied and not recognized by the United States may not augur well at airports. A recent ranking of the world’s most “powerful” passports found Palestine dead last on the list with only 28 countries allowing for visa-free travel. That’s far less than the number of countries that have officially recognized Palestine.
Palestinians may still use their passports at most international airports, including the U.S., but must acquire visas – which are often costly and hard to obtain – beforehand. In contrast, Israelis enjoy visa-free travel to 129 nations (no. 16 on the list).
“Leading American writer Abulhawa is denied entry to Palestine,” by Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss – 30 July
Speaking of passports, landing in Israel with an American one only counts for so much if you’re of Palestinian heritage or just an Arab or Muslim. Israeli officials routinely deny entry to American citizens if they’re Arab or Muslim-American and/or if their politics are critical of state policies. And this practice is so widely documented that while Israelis may travel to over 100 countries without a visa, Israel is excluded from the U.S. visa-free travel program precisely for this reason. Last year, Israel and its domestic allies lobbied hard to include Israel in the visa-free exchange program, but their efforts failed per Israeli refusal to offer reciprocity. While Israelis would be allowed visa-free entry to the U.S., Israel insisted on its liberty to deny Americans entry. Israel and its backers offered the claim that Israel would be reasonable in its denials (whatever that means), but even the strongly pro-Israel Congress rebuffed Israel.
Israel, of course, may deny entry to Israel “proper,” but also the occupied West Bank since it controls all access-and-entry points:
Susan Abulhawa, the renowned Palestinian American novelist and political commentator, was denied entry to Palestine yesterday at the Allenby Bridge entry from Jordan. Her wrath is on full display:
Abulhawa posted the following on Facebook:
i waited over seven hours and endured six different interrogations, and this is the conversation (from memory) that barred me from entering my homeland on the grounds that I was uncooperative. It was with an extremely unpleasant woman in uniform, red hair and massive amounts of makeup (for some reason, that’s relevant). Keep in mind that all this information was already obtained by each interrogator before her:
Her: Why are you here?
Me: visiting family, friends and opening ceremonies for playgrounds.
Her: where is your family?
Her: what is the relation?
Her: (clearly agitated with me) no aunts uncles?
Her: where are you staying in Jerusalem?
Me: my cousin
Her: what is his name?
Me: (gave his name)
Her: other cousins.
Me: you want the names of all my cousins?
Me: there’s hundreds of them. It’s a big family. I don’t get what you’re asking.
Her:(slams her hand down on desk) who are you staying with?
Me: My cousin Adel, whose name and number I just gave you, along with every other official who asked.
Her: (now very angry) I am asking the questions.
Her: (slams hand again on table) who else lives with your cousin?
Me: his wife and kids
Her: what are their names
Me: (one second brain freeze, looking incredulous, but conjuring the names to tell her)
Her: Why you not answer the questions?
Me: I’m answering all your questions
Her: you are not answering how I like
Me: I can’t read your mind and I don’t care what you like. I’m answering your questions.
Her: you don’t care? Ok. Get out. I will show you.
She then calls Stephanie in and asks her a bunch of questions about me. An hour later she and another called me over to tell me that I’m denied entry for non cooperation. I actually lost it. I screamed at them both. They threatened. I assure them I wasn’t afraid. Strangely I actually wasn’t. I ordinarily would be. I made a scene. A big one. I could hardly believe the insane feeling I had. They brought out three soldiers who just stood and stared at me. I kept yelling. I told them they’re the ones who should go back. I said it was bad enough we have to enter like tourists and endure their endless humiliations and power plays. Everything inside of me was shaking, but I don’t think it made its way outwardly. I don’t know what I looked like to others. Crazy? insane? brave? Desperate? I did realize at some point that they had no idea what to do with me. That they had expected me to just go quietly, but I was very loud instead. The truth is that I just wanted to cry. A desperate simething from my gut. They give us so much to cry over. All the time. So I just screamed at them. Thieves, occupiers I called them. You wish you had the same roots as I do, I screamed. You should be the one to leave, not me. I’m a daughter of this land. Then they took me to my luggage and sent me in the bus. I regret walking and not making them carry me.
About That #IranDeal
“Israel, Not Iran, Started Middle East Nuclear Arms Race,” by Bruce Riedel, al-Monitor – 28 July
The American intelligence community first detected the development of the Israeli nuclear weapons program through U-2 overhead imagery at the end of the 1950s. President John F. Kennedy pressed Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion very hard not to proceed with a weapons program, arguing it would precipitate a regional nuclear arms race. Under pressure from Kennedy, Israel agreed to American inspections of its French-supplied Dimona reactor, but then systematically blocked any serious inspection process.
Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never admitted it has a nuclear weapons arsenal.
The Economist this year estimated Israel has 80 nuclear weapons in its arsenal. That puts it just behind India and far ahead of North Korea in terms of the number of bombs.
Some have argued the Vienna deal will start a nuclear arms race in the region. In fact, a nuclear arms race has been underway in the Middle East for 65 years.
“Israel wrecked my home. Now it wants my land,” by Nureddin Amro, Washington Post – 31 July
Many people know that more than 600 Palestinian villages were depopulatedin the years during and after Israel’s founding and that most of them were demolished. Some people also know that tens of thousands of structures have been torn down by Israel since the 1967 war, some 500 homes in East Jerusalem alone since 2004. Fewer know that there are more than 11,000open demolition orders against Palestinian structures just in Area C of the West Bank. This means that Israel can raze them at any moment, without further warning; Palestinians in those homes live in constant fear.
There are so many demolition orders, in fact, that Israel has sought more efficient ways to get all the work done. So it often recommends that Palestinians knock down their own homes at their own expense, freeing Israel of the hassle and risk. Some do. It seems this isn’t enough for Israel, though, because authorities continue to experiment with new and creative ways of dispossessing Palestinians. My own home seems to have been demolished using a municipal ordinance related to cleanliness of public areas in order to avoid judicial scrutiny, according to a Palestinian legal clinic that is challenging the operation. Indeed, in the three months before the demolition, I received two orders to clear away broken and old objects outside my house; I did as they asked. Demolition is not listed as a punishment for violating these orders, but human rights lawyers told me they have identified other recent cases in which Israeli municipal authorities cited the ordinance as a pretext for flattening homes.
A new online project offers a detailed study of the architecture of Israeli settlements, including interviews with settlers and nearby Palestinians residents:
We have chosen the colony of P’sagot as our first “laboratory” because of its radical proximity to Ramallah and Al Bireh. The hill is visible from everywhere in the city. From it, during the early years of the intifada, Israeli soldiers used to shoot anti tank rockets at Palestinian vehicles, or depart for raids.
Located on the hill of Jabel Tawil, 900 meters above sea level, the colony visually dominates the entire Palestinian area. Until the occupation it was used as an open space for recreation. The hills of Jerusalem and Ramallah were popular with families from the Gulf, especially Kuwaitis who travelled there to escape the summer heat (the people of Ramallah still call the hill “the Kuwaiti hill”). In 1964, the municipality of Al Quds (Jerusalem) bought the land and prepared a plan for its development into a tourist resort. The work started in early 1967 with the construction of an access road. The work was interrupted by the Israeli occupation. In July 1981, on the initiative of the Likud party, the colony of Psagot was inaugurated as ‘compensation’ to right-wing Israelis for the evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula. The area designated for tourist accommodation was the first to be occupied by settler housing. The first houses set on the hill of Jabel Tawil were prefabricated structures wheeled over from Yamit, a settlement in the north of the Sinai. Psagot is at present a religious settlement inhabited by 1,700 people, mainly American Jews and a minority of recent Russian and French immigrants.
“Israel’s Jewish-Terrorist Problem,” by Ruth Margalit, New Yorker – 4 August
The first price-tag attacks took place in 2006, in response to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and evacuations of Jewish outposts in the West Bank, which riled and radicalized the settler camp. The attacks grew rampant in 2008. The Yesha Council, the main body that represents settlers, denounced the attacks as immoral in 2011. But the Yesha Council’s authority has weakened dramatically in recent years, as violent far-right settlers, backed by extremist rabbis, have taken the law into their own hands. The group behind these attacks is estimated to range from a few hundred to some three thousand members. As it has become more radical, so have its attacks, which have evolved from property destruction to torching Palestinian homes at times when residents are likely to be in them. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. State Department included price-tag attacks in its annual terrorism report. It recorded nearly four hundred cases in 2013. In 2014, the number dipped slightly, to three hundred and thirty.
New evidence shows that these attacks aren’t caused by a few “wild weeds,” as they are called in Hebrew, but are supported by settler councils, which have grown more extremist and are paid for, in large part, by taxpayer money. A report by the liberal think tank Molad revealed settler-council correspondence that describes price-tag tactics as a legitimate means of protest against the government. “What does this have to do with targeting Arabs?” the head of a Samaria settler council asked rhetorically in one document. He answered, “We believe that the borders of the struggle are wide,” and called on settlers to act “creatively.” Itzik Shadmi, another settler leader, justified the targeting of Israeli soldiers in a letter to settlement residents. “We must treat our opponent as a criminal—full stop. As a robber who wishes to uproot you from your home and hand it over to murderers and liars,” Shadmi wrote.
Bright Spot in Gaza
“This Video Of A Super Colorful Neighborhood In Gaza Will Give You Feelings,” by Hayes Brown, Buzzfeed – 5 August
“Israeli general prefers Iran to nuke Tel Aviv than to allow Palestinian state,” by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 4 August
Israel’s sudden discovery of “Jewish terror” in a few “extreme” pockets is designed precisely to deflect attention from the religious fanaticism and violent ideologies that are foundational to the Zionist project.
A case in point is Israeli army reserve Major-General Gershon Hacohen who is sympathetically profiled by The Times of Israel as “one of the most interesting figures to come out of the army in recent years.”
In fact, Hacohen is a religious fanatic with alarming and dangerous views. He urges Israel to conquer every inch of historic Palestine, land “he believes God gave to the Jews.”
That does not distinguish him very much from the rest of Israel’s mainstream political establishment, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But astonishingly, Hacohen states frankly that he would rather see Tel Aviv destroyed by an Iranian nuclear bomb than see the removal of even 100,000 settlers from the occupied West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israel is the only military force in the region that possesses nuclear weapons.
He views the Israeli army as “holy” and describes it as “the most beautiful and most important thing created by the Jewish people in the last one thousand years.”
Hacohen commanded the removal of several thousand Israeli settlers from the occupied Gaza Strip a decade ago, but now believes that the settlers should return to the besieged, overcrowded and devastated territory.
“Beyond mentioning that he prefers an Iranian nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv to a two-state solution,”The Times of Israel states, Hacohen says “he would happily forgo prosperity … in exchange for the perpetuation of the status quo and that, in the future, in the face of pressure, he would be willing to grant all Palestinians the vote.”
But his Jewish supremacist version of a one-state solution would offer a vote without power, for in his religious and messianic zeal Hacohen believes – hopes – that “a rise in anti-Semitism” or a rise in Zionism would bring 3 million Jews from the US to help colonize the country and “save the Jewish majority.”
The following photograph and caption were posted on the Facebook page Hummus for Thought:
Beirut, Lebanon, 1982.
Photo is called “Beirut, Palestinian refugee family living in ruined building” and the photographer is Chris Steele-Perkins for Magnum Photos.