Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shot in the Head

Alison Weir, the tireless investigator of what Israel does to the Palestinians and the lack of reporting on it in the United States, has written a very powerful piece on the occasion of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.

Alison is executive director of CNI and produces the powerful reference source If Americans Knew. She speaks around the country (I have heard her) and is known for backing up what she says with facts, as the extensive footnotes that follow her article indicate.

Gabrielle Giffords, Tom Hurndall and Palestinian Children

Shot in the Head


There is something particularly horrifying when someone is shot in the head. Perhaps it’s the gruesome image, the destruction of the brain, the clear intent to kill. The recent shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is made even more nightmarish by the location of her devastating injury.

Those of us who focus on Israel-Palestine are acutely aware of this horror.

Several years ago, I was researching the cause of death of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces during the first months of the Second Intifadah, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. As I counted up the numbers, I was chilled to discover that the single most frequent cause of death in those beginning months was “gunfire to the head.”

In the past 10 years Israeli forces have killed at least 255 Palestinian minors by fire to the head, and the number may actually be greater, since in many instances the specific bodily location of the lethal trauma is unlisted. In addition, this statistic does not include the many more Palestinian youngsters shot in the head by Israeli soldiers who survived, in one form or another.

Below is a small sampling of those who died. (The term IDF stands for “Israeli Defense Forces,” although these forces are, in reality, an occupation army and are almost always deployed offensively; the incidents below took place on Palestinian territory):

Sami, 12, died of head wounds from IDF gunfire during a demonstration. Abdul, 9, was killed by IDF gunfire to his head during a funeral. Ala, 14, died of head wounds from IDF gunfire while on the terrace of his home one hour after injuring an Israeli soldier with a stone. Omar, 11, died of head wounds from IDF gunfire during a demonstration. Diya, 3 months, was killed, along with her older brother, by Israeli settler gunfire to her head and back. Bara, 10, was killed by IDF gunfire to his head while near his home. Ayman, 15, was killed by IDF tank fire to his head while farming. Khalil, 11, was killed by IDF tank fire to his head while playing with a friend. Rami, 13, was killed by IDF helicopter fire to his head while playing in front of his house. Yaser, 11, died of head wounds from an IDF rubber-coated bullet fired at close range during a demonstration…/1/

Imagine if these names were Bobby… Michael… Susan... Melissa… Jimmy…
and that the foreign troops killing them were invading Arizona, Connecticut, Ohio...

I remember seeing one little brain-dead boy when I was in Gaza in February of 2001; long before any rockets had been fired out of this already assaulted enclave. It’s not a sight you forget, regardless of the name or nationality.

A 2009 article in the UK Telegraph entitled “Bullets in the brain, shrapnel in the spine: the terrible injuries suffered by children of Gaza,” investigated a situation in which doctors at a hospital near Gaza were “almost overwhelmed by the number of Palestinian children needing treatment for bullet wounds to their heads.”/2/

The article began: “On just one day last week staff at the El-Arish hospital in Sinai were called to perform sophisticated CAT brain scans on a nine-year-old, two 10-year-olds and a 14-year-old – each of whom had a bullet still lodged in their brain, after coming under fire during the Israeli ground assault on Gaza.”

Asked about the nature of these shootings, a physician replied:

“I can't precisely decide whether these children are being shot at as a target, but in some cases the bullet comes from the front of the head and goes towards the back, so I think the gun has been directly pointed at the child."

Israeli soldiers in a group called “Breaking the Silence” have provided chilling testimonies about Israeli military culture; the titles alone tell a great deal. Following are a few:

“The battalion commander ordered us to shoot anyone trying to remove the bodies”, “The commander of the navy commandos put the muzzle of the rifle into the man’s mouth”, “They told us to shoot at anybody moving in the street”, “You can do whatever you feel like, nobody is going to question it.”/3/

Another person shot in the head by Israeli forces was 21-year-old Tom Hurndall. The anniversary of his death is this week. Hurndall, a student and photographer, had wanted to “make a difference” with his life. In 2003 he went to Gaza to join the nonviolence movement against Israeli aggression and to photograph what he saw. /4/

On April 11th he was nearby when a group of children who had been playing suddenly came under Israeli rifle fire. Most of the children fled, but three, aged four to seven, froze with fear. Hurndall dashed over, rushed one small boy to safety and returned for two little girls. Just as he was reaching to lift one up, an Israeli sniper shot him in the head.

Despite the urgency of his injury, Israeli officials delayed his transport to specialized medical care for over two and a half hours. A British television crew in the area filmed a powerful on-the-scene report that was aired on England’s Channel 4 /5/ but has never, to my knowledge, been shown on American television. Tom remained in a vegetative state for nine months, finally dying on Jan. 13t, 2004.

From the end of 2002 to the spring of 2003, Israeli forces killed four internationals and shot another in the face. One of the dead was a UN official, Iain Hook. As with Hurndall, Israeli forces retarded efforts to provide critical medical care. /6/ Another was filmmaker James Miller, who had been waving a white flag. He was shot in the throat. /7/

Two recent non-Palestinian victims shot in the head, in this case by high velocity tear gas canisters, are 37-year-old Tristan Anderson /8/ and 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz. /9/ Both have survived, Emily without an eye and Tristan in a wheelchair. Part of his right frontal lobe has been removed, he is partially paralyzed, blind in one eye, and it is unclear to what degree his cognitive abilities will return. After shooting him at close range, Israeli forces twice delayed his ambulance to a hospital.

It is difficult to know how many of the 45,000 Palestinian men, women, and children killed or injured by Israeli forces since September 29, 2000 /10/ have been shot in the head. Quite likely the number is staggering. Former Yale professor and author Mazin Qumsiyeh describes one:

[Mohammed] was 12 years old when Israeli soldiers shot him in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet, fragmenting his skull and damaging part of his brain. Ten years later, Israeli army officers severely beat and tortured him. He got married… the young couple received a blessing in the form of a donation of a very small plot of land from their uncle and they built a humble one room house… they lived in this house for 3 years…Then the Israeli army demolished the home saying that it was built without permit (Israel gave no permits for any houses in the village since the occupation began in 1967.) The family rebuilt the house but Israeli threats forced them to not live in it (Israel wants also some NIS 20,000 for the cost of destroying the home and wants to levy other fines on the family.) So the young family came to live in a small dwelling underground… /11/

A Dec. 23rd news story by the International Middle East Middle Center mentions another:

“After being brought to the hospital, 22-year old Salamah Abu Hashish succumbed to his wounds. He had been shot in the back by Israeli troops stationed at the border. Another of the victims was a 14-year old boy who was critically injured when he was shot in the head while collecting rubble near where Abu Hashish was tending his sheep.” /12/

The stories go on and on.

Gabrielle Giffords

Ironically, the American Congresswoman recently so tragically shot in the head has been extremely close to the Israel lobby, which has played a critical role in enabling the tragedies sketched above. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) works year after year to ensure that the approximately $7-8 million per day of American tax to Israel /13/ keeps flowing regardless of how many civilians its troops kill. /14/

Giffords has been known as “a safe pro-Israel vote in the House” /15/ and could be counted on to support AIPAC’s various initiatives to shield Israel from negative consequences for its ruthless and illegal use of American weaponry. /16/

She called a 2001 visit to Israel a turning point in her life (Israeli forces killed 103 children that year, 31 of them shot in the head) and wrote in 2006 (a year in which Israeli forces killed 665 Palestinians, 139 of them children, and Palestinians killed 23 Israelis, two of them children) that “the United States must do everything possible to secure Israel’s long-term security.” /17/ Palestinian victims – killed first and in far greater numbers – seem to have been invisible to her. /18/

Giffords, of course, wasn’t the only victim of the Tucson shooting; 14 were injured and six were killed. It is deeply saddening to read about the dead and to imagine the unending grief for their survivors. /19/ It is particularly difficult to view the sweet, smiling picture of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, knowing that her bright life is no longer before her.

It is equally tragic to read of nine-year-old Akaber, killed by Israeli gunfire to her head while riding in her uncle’s car to get medical stitches removed, and of the 29 other nine-year-olds killed by Israeli forces in the past decade, eight of them by Israeli gunfire to the head.

It is too late for Akabar, Diya, Mohammed, Tom, and the multitude of others. But there is hope that Gabrielle Giffords is going to survive. Let us pray that she recovers fully, that she is able to return to Congress, and that she then works to prevent others – including Palestinians – from being shot in the head.

We have better uses for our money than to fund atrocities.

Alison Weir is President of the Council for the National Interest and Executive Director of If Americans Knew, which has produced posters and cards for people to disseminate in commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Tom Hurndall’s killing ( ) and about Palestinian children, (which contain a picture of the Gaza boy she saw). ( She can be reached at

Notes and Citations

1. Remember These Children; Since Sept 29, 2000 Israeli forces have killed at least 1,452 Palestinian children; Palestinians have killed 124 Israeli children. Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy. 91 Palestinian children were killed before any Israeli children were killed.

2. “Bullets in the brain, shrapnel in the spine: the terrible injuries suffered by children of Gaza,” The Telegraph, Jan. 2009,;

Related: “Doctor Decries Israeli Attacks,” video of CBS news report, Jan. 5, 2009

3. “The Darkness to Expel! Israeli soldiers' book ‘Breaking the Silence’ describes ‘routine’ oppression,” The Missing Headlines, Uri Avnery, Dec. 27, 2010

4. Section with articles on Tom Hurndall, If Americans Knew website

5. “Dispatches: The Killing Zone,” Sandra Jordan and Rodrigo Vasquez, UK Channel 4, May 19, 2003

6. “Israel's killing of British citizen Iain Hook, UNRWA's Project Manager in Jenin
Caoimhe Butterly as told to Annie Higgins writing from Jenin Refugee Camp,” Live from Palestine, 22 November 2002

7. “Film-maker's death 'was murder',” BBC News, April 4, 2006

8. “Facts about Tristan”

9. “EXCLUSIVE...Emily Henochowicz Speaks Out: Art Student Who Lost Her Eye After Being Shot by Israeli Tear Gas Canister in West Bank Protest Discusses Her Life, Her Art, and Why She Plans to Return,” Democracy Now, Aug 5, 2010

10. If Americans Knew website, from B’Tselem and Remember These Children

11. “The Story of a Palestinian Shot in the Head with a Rubber-Coated Steel Bullet by Israeli Occupation Soldiers,” Mazin Qumsiyeh, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 20, 2010

12. “Shepherd killed; 3 injured in Northern Gaza,” IMEMC, Dec. 23, 2010

13. “U.S. Military Aid and the Israel/Palestine Conflict,” If Americans Knew, from Congressional Research Service reports ;

“$3.4b in US military aid delayed: US military aid to Israel in 2011 is due to be largest amount Israel has ever received,” Globes Israel’s Business Arena, December 26, 2010

14. “The Israel Lobby,” London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, March 23, 2006

15. “Gabrielle Giffords Shot in the Head,” The Forward, Jan 8, 2011

16. “Israel Violates Law on U.S. Weapons in Mideast,” IPS, Jan 17, 2006

17. AIPAC Facebook post, Jan. 9, 2011, 3:35 pm

“A Tribe of Candidates Leads Drive To Retake House for Democrats,” The Forward, Sept. 22, 2006: “…Several candidates who spoke with the Forward did say that they would be strong advocates for Israel in Congress. This is ‘an opportunity to send someone to Congress who’s going to work for Israel,’ Giffords told the Forward…”

18. B’Tselem - Israeli Information Center for Human Rights

If Americans Knew

19. “Thumbnail sketches of those shot in Arizona,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 11, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

collective punishment on video

It can't be denied that the Palestinians are punished as a whole for what extremist Palestinians do, or even when Palestinians have done nothing at all. The assault on Gaza and the ongoing lock-down there is the best example.

Taking collective punishment down to the local village level, consider the following video clip. For most of it, up until 7:00, you will see a routine West Bank security fence demonstration with chanting and marching, tear gas launching and rock throwing. Nothing new there.

What is new is a technical "advance" for the IDF in the form of a multiple tear gas launcher that can literally shower the canisters on an area, producing a thick enveloping blanket of gas that cannot be escaped. Though you won't see the launcher itself, you will see the town getting a blanket of gas as a parting gift when the IDF jeeps leave. Here is the full story behind this demonstration at Nabi Saleh.

By the way, the tear gas canisters are made in the USA.

Friday, January 21, 2011

the government attacks PART 3

In part 1 I had the words of Sarah Smith, in part 2 I had the words (actually my paraphrase) of her lawyer, Michael Deutsch about the grand jury process.

Now I'm going to depart from my guideline of linking and using the words of others and will ask you to consider the question: Why would the FBI be going after Palestinian activists and their supporters?

Yes, you might hear lots of talk about the fight against terror but during the last few years the Palestinian efforts that have sparked such a response around the world have been non-violent.

But consider this - Israel is highly embarrassed by what it is doing in the occupied territories. Israel doesn't want reports in the world news of tear-gas projectiles killing non-violent protesters. It doesn't even want the subject of the occupied territories to be in the minds of anyone beyond the IDF soldiers who conduct the oppression and the settlers who steal land.

Many "internationals" are going to the occupied territories to stand with the Palestinians. So are some Israelis who detest what their government is doing. These people cannot be labeled "terrorists" as are all Palestinians by the powerful in Israel, nor can their testimony be easily dismissed.

So what is an occupying country to do? Wouldn't it be great if it could get the United States to stop Americans from going to the occupied territories? Wouldn't it be great if this could be disguised under a "made in the USA" operation that would shield Israel from anything indicating it was involved?

This makes sense to me. We know from the days of neo-con control of the administration of G.W. Bush that there are more than a few zealous Zionists in Washington, Americans all, who will do anything in support of Israel. Administrations want votes and so-called threats to national security brings support.

The grand jury threat that I described in part 2 is a beautiful tool for stopping people from making a trip to the occupied territories. Would you want to risk a subpoena from the Justice Department, possible prison time and a large legal bill to go to a tiny place on the other side of the world?

So Israel can have it's cake (seeing fewer Americans where it doesn't want them to be) and eat it too (being able to say the grand jury thing is an American operation that it doesn't know anything about).

The word for it is BINGO!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The government attacks, PART 2

In my last post, I told of what Sarah Smith, one of the Americans target by the Justice Department, had told the audience including me when she appeared in my town last Sunday.

The reason for the subpoena served to her appears to be that she traveled to the occupied territories of Palestine. Her description of the events of the trip were those of a typical tourist to a distant land, nothing more, but that hasn't stopped the fishermen at the Justice Department.

What her lawyer, Michael Deutsch, had to say about the grand jury system was the truly frightening part of the presentation. See if you don't agree that there is reason to fear your government when it has the power I am about to describe based on what Mike said.

Gun control opponents fear the danger to freedom of actions the government MIGHT take on gun ownership. The grand jury process is a power the government has right now and you as an American citizen like Sarah Smith are subject to it.

According to Michael Deutsch, the grand jury idea comes from English common law. It was created to protect the individual from false charges. If a person was accused of something, a panel of his/her fellow citizens would be convened to hear evidence and determine if there were, in fact, good reason to believe the charges. If so, this grand jury would then recommend prosecution and if not, the accused would be free of the taint of illegality.

This sounds like a good idea and it was written into the bill of rights with the protection of the individual in mind. In practice it has never worked as intended, being abused almost from the day it took force.

The government has seized the process, taking control of it for the purpose of forcing free citizens to testify whether they want to or not. This is done so that what we call a "fishing expedition" can be conducted. Without being able to establish a case, but wishing it could do so, the government sends out subpoenas to people that it believes might say something to give leads that will allow criminal prosecutions to take place.

This is done without necessarily any knowledge of criminal activity or any knowledge of any activity. I got the impression that there are no rules restraining the government from calling a grand jury.

Once the members of the grand jury are collected, they are coached by government people on what questions to ask of those who have received subpoenas to appear before them. It isn't a matter of the jury deciding for themselves what to ask, they are only a tool for government fishing.

What's so bad about this? Can't you receive a subpoena and refuse to testify? Yes, you can, and that is what all of those who have been served with subpoenas along with Sarah Smith are doing. But there is a danger in this. You can be imprisoned (and this has happened) for refusing to testify. So much for your freedom when you must speak or go to jail.

Not only must you speak, you must answer every question asked of you in full. If you don't you can be brought up on charges of lying to the grand jury.

What about using the fifth amendment that protects a person from self-incrimination? No, under the grand jury system you cannot "take the fifth" but are compelled to answer everything you are asked. Originally, whatever you said could not be used against you - you were given immunity from any criminal charges related to what you told the grand jury. But even this protection has withered away under relentless government pressure and Supreme Court decisions.

As it stands today, the actual words you speak to the grand jury cannot be used against you but you can be charged with a crime revealed by what you say. You might want to read that again. If you end up in court as the accused, no, the exact words you spoke cannot be quoted, that's all. Some protection, huh?

Say you are called in to testify to a grand jury. Do you want to reveal anything and everything you know about your friends? Do you want to tell the grand jury the names of everyone you met over a certain period, every place you visited, every detail of every discussion you had? You are not permitted to ask why the information is needed - that's none of your business, yet every detail of your private life can be the grand jury's business!

Isn't this incredible in the United States of all places!? The grand jury system has been so abused that every other country that had it has eliminated it, but not the U.S.

A handout at the meeting where Sarah Smith spoke was a copy of a subpoena. It begins with this phrase in capital letters: YOU ARE COMMANDED TO BRING WITH YOU THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENT(S) OR OBJECT(S). Is this acceptable wording from a government to free citizens who are not accused of anything?

So what will happen to Sarah and the others who have been served with a subpoena? They could go to jail or the whole thing could be dropped by the government. What will make a big difference is the attitude of the public. After reading the above, will you sit quietly, say nothing and let the government proceed? Where is your protection against being called to a grand jury?

Don't be silent. Demonstrations are planned. Be sure you turn out for one of them. The date set is January 25th. In Chicago it will take place at the Dirksen Federal Building. You can get full information for this event and others across the country on the same day at

I will definitely be showing my disapproval on that day. I hope you will too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The government attacks PART 1

Sarah Smith (pictured) is a young Jewish activist who lives in the Chicago area and one of the people served with a subpoena by the FBI to appear before a grand jury. Yesterday, I attended a meeting (every seat taken) where Sarah spoke along with two lawyers who are defending her. I learned quite a bit and am eager to pass it on to you because it tells of how an innocent person can be roped in and potentially sent to prison for doing nothing wrong. Her case is a warning to all Americans that our freedom cannot be assumed.

I have published Sarah's statement to the public, but in person she told of details not mentioned there and her lawyers presented information about the U.S. grand jury system that you should hear - that will be in my next post.

So what did Sarah do that has her under the government spotlight?

She, along with two Palestinian-American friends, took a trip to Israel/Palestine with the intention of seeing more than would be revealed to Sarah by a Birthright trip (a propaganda filled venture to rope young American Jews into support for Israel). They wanted to experience the situation in the occupied territories.

The difference in treatment for Sarah and her friends was astonishing to this young woman who had come to believe all Arabs in Palestine were out to get Jews. On arrival at the airport in Israel, Sarah was passed through without problem while her friends were pulled aside into an interrogation area for ten hours during which they were asked why they were there - who were their relatives in Palestine. It was not constant questioning, but brief question periods followed by long hours of being kept sitting by themselves in a room supplied only with water, wondering what was going on - in other words, the kind of psychological game that Israel plays daily with the Palestinians under their authority.

Sarah could not believe that she, an American with no ties to the area and just as much a stranger as her two friends, was treated with courtesy and not subject to scrutiny while her friends with deep ties to Palestine were under suspicion.

After being granted freedom to go, the three were off to see what they could. At this point Sarah repeated a story I have heard so often from Americans who travel to the occupied territories.

Far from being hostile, Palestinians were welcoming and more than friendly. Tea was constantly on offer and walks around villages brought many warm introductions and visits in homes. Sarah was impressed by the contrast between this warmth and the coldness of the people they encountered in Israel.

When I first heard this kind of story, I was reluctant to give it credit, but too many Jews have told of the same experience, people who were not pre-disposed to see Palestinians in a warm light, so I now expect to hear it and believe it indicates the true situation.

So the three friends completed their visit and after another challenging encounter at the airport, returned to the United States.

Then, on December 3 of last year, Sarah received a call from the FBI as related in her statement and she was suddenly in the spotlight, expected to respond to a demand by the American government to appear and answer any and all questions posed by a grand jury. The grand jury story is a shocker in itself and that will be in my next post.

The Electronic Intifada provides a comprehensive overview of the situation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Israel to go after human-rights groups

I'm proud to have dedicated this blog to the courageous Israeli human rights groups that tirelessly strive to protect individual rights and never hesitate to reveal the truth.

It turns out that several of them are to be investigated by a panel set up by the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister and a settler, unsurprisingly led the drive to get the panel set up saying "leftist groups are terrorist collaborators".

Last week, MK Danny Danon announced the targets for investigation as (I provide links so you can check each one out to see just what Israel considers worthy of investigating)
The Center for Defense of the Individual (HaMoked)
Yesh Din
Ir Amim
The Public Committee against Torture in Israel
Peace Now (the American affiliate is linked)
Association for Civil Rights ion Israel
Breaking the Silence
Machsom Watch
The Israeli Committee against Home Demolitions
Center for Alternative Information
I can't think of a more powerful indictment of the Israeli government than that it would go after these groups. This reminds me of the House Un-American Activities Committee that existed until 1975 in the United States, and was terminated because it was an embarrassment and had become a symbol of what truly was un-American.

I'm a big fan of wikileaks because it is instrumental in revealing the truth. Governments are always interested in hiding what they do from the light, Israel in particular because of the nature of what it does to the Palestinians, who are not considered deserving of even the most fundamental respect. What ties all the groups above together is there rejection of the idea that some people should have their rights respected and others should not.

This prompts me to write a letter to my representatives in Congress. This Israeli government is the same one that they automatically support. How can this be? And Monday is Martin Luther King Day!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cast Lead on an intimate level

Amira Hass is a columnist for Haaretz and, along with her colleague Gideon Levy, never puts anything on paper (or pixels) that isn't worth reading.

As I recently mentioned, it has been just over two years since Operation Cast Lead brought violence and widespread destruction into Gaza. The Goldstone Report commissioned by the United Nations is a comprehensive account of the events leading up to Cast Lead and the actions that took place within it. I recommend reading it. I did.

But a far shorter and more personal summary is provided by Amira Hass in her blog for Z Net. It has an immediacy, intensity and justifiable sense of outrage that Goldstone understandably does not.

Can you imagine living under a canopy of UAV's (drones) the humming of which warns of constant surveillance and possible missile attack? Israel routinely refers to Palestinians as terrorists, shouldn't we call the drones instruments of terror? Gazans were subjected to death and destruction from a source they could hear but not see. This is only one of the many aspects of the attack that Hass brings to life so well.

We should remember that America uses drones extensively in Afghanistan and Pakistan on a daily basis where the effect is undoubtedly the same.

To keep current on events in Israel/Palestine, I recommend following Hass online, an Israeli who has no illusions about what her country is doing. Her fellow bloggers on Z Net are also worth reading.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

from the Oasis of Peace

When I find something interesting, I try to reference the original source using a link if possible. For some reason, the blog posting of Alice Rothchild I reproduce below does not come up so I am passing it on verbatim. It was distributed by American Jews for a Just Peace, a group I had not heard of until today.

Israel/Palestine, like any place, has people of varying backgrounds. Amid the talk there of not renting to Arabs and general discrimination against Palestinians, this story from the Oasis of Peace stands out.

Existence, not co-existence

Past the growing city of Modi'in, nestled in the hills over a charming landscape of olive trees, black grape vines march in undulating lines and yellow/green barley and wheat sprout in neat rows from the nearby moshavs. With the orange roofed Trapp Monastery topping a rolling hill, surrounded by Jewish National Fund forests and clusters of saber cactus marking the destroyed Palestinian villages of Beit Jiz and Beit Susin, a fascinating experiment in coexistence continues its work and struggle.

Noam, a dynamic and outspoken student at Brandeis, invites us to visit her home in Neve Shalom, Wahat al Salam, Oasis of Peace and to see this work in action. We are met at the train station by Bob, an American expat with a wry sense of humor, who decades ago was attracted to Israeli kibbutz life by the promise of “reading books and working with my hands.” His journey ultimately led him to join this community of Jews and Palestinians committed to living and working together, raising children who speak Hebrew and Arabic and who work on sharing a common history and world view. The community has grown from small bare caravan-like homes for 6 families (5 Jewish, 1 Palestinian Christian,) and 4 single people to a thriving community with a guest house, School for Peace, and international recognition.

I am curious: What happens to children who grow up in a community that is based on equality and reconciliation, in a country where Jews are the dominant power and own the national narrative, the educational, economic, and military systems? The children may learn Arabic in the schools, but the radio, TV, internet, and films are all in Hebrew. How do children living in this unique and complex bubble function in the world as adults?

Noam was born in Jerusalem in 1987 and came to Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam at the age of 7, the daughter of an Iranian mother and Eastern European father. In 1957 her mother Ruti left Iran “where life was good,” lured by promises of milk and honey and free transportation to the Holy Land. She lived with 8 brothers in one room in poverty and disappointment. “My grandfather cursed Israel until he died.” Noam's Rumanian grandmother survived the Nazi death camps and her father, Hezzi now teaches in the Peace School. A mild mannered man with a dry sense of humor, he has been imprisoned 3 times for refusing to fight in the Israeli Defense Force.

Noam considers her experiences in the community and the Peace School as “a privilege and a gift” and notes that children in the surrounding villages also come to the school to learn. She explains that she looks and feels Middle Eastern, speaks Arabic with a Palestinian accent and claims Palestinian history and heritage as her own as well. “The Nakba is my identity.” Her secondary school education was outside the village in an Israeli school where she was initially treated as “a traitor,” but then students began to listen. She found the educational system highly militarized, teachers were sometimes soldiers. Her junior year she attended Gadna, a week of army training where impressionable teenagers learn to shoot M-16s and play in military boot camp. Her Palestinian friends attended separate Arab schools where they too learned Zionist history and the teaching of the Nakba was forbidden. At 17 she recalls she received a scholarship for a popular trip that most Israeli high schools promote, a journey to Poland and the death camps that aims to inculcate Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Israeli youth, with a blind emotional connection to the Nazi Holocaust. (See the movie Defamation.) Noam states with a fierce sense of outrage that she understands “the abuse of the Holocaust.” She experienced tremendous social manipulation, Israeli boys carried enormous Israeli flags, parading through Dachau, “retraumatizing” the teenagers and pumping them up for military service. She worries that Israel has claimed the Nazi Holocaust as a “trophy” and ignores other genocides, owning victimhood and the need for endless military defense. She believes that “we are not victims anymore,” it is time to acknowledge the suffering of others. With the behavior of the Israeli government and defense forces, “Israelis will find ways to victimize themselves.”

When faced with mandatory military service, Noam joined the Shministim and applied as a conscientious objector. This required an interrogation by a committee where “they tried to break me, screaming, shouting,” the most sympathetic member was a religious man who felt women should not serve in the army at all. This determined and extraordinary young woman won her claim as a pacificist. Ironically, later she was invited to join the intelligence service because of her excellent Arabic.

Noam worries that most Israelis are “numb” to the occupation, believe “the wall has stopped suicide bombing,” the checkpoints are “necessary for security.” She recalls when she showed the film “Jenin, Jenin” at Brandeis, a student asked, “Where is my side? Where are the Israeli soldiers?” Noam remembers the reply, “I have seen 'my side' for 57 years, can I have 45 minutes?” While Israeli nationalism is arrogant and militaristic, Palestinian nationalism is part of a liberation movement, a call for resilience, respect, and dignity. She worries, “The seeds of hatred we are planting will kill my children. We are digging our own graves.” For Noam at this point in history, this struggle is not about co-existence, but rather existence, taking responsibility for the consequences of Zionism, recognizing, honoring and giving voice to the Palestinian experience.

But life is always complicated. Noam's brother Omar, who is now also doing national service after refusing to join the IDF, is home from a major alternative service ceremony that felt too militaristic for his youthful idealism. “We had to sing Hatikvah. I felt like part of the system.” He wants to continue his service work as an individual, not as part of the national machinery of the State, maybe work with unrecognized Bedouin villages. His father reminds him he will lose his benefits, asks who will hire him. Noam, who founded Students for Justice in Palestine at Brandeis University, argues, “Where do you think you live? How can you be anti-occupation if you live in Israel? The ginger is only from the settlements. Think about your decision.” The argument over purity continues as the family finishes dinner with an apricot tart and poppy cake, the TV blaring in the background. The former President of Israel has just been convicted after a long history of rapes which everyone agrees is justice in action, but he is an Iranian Jew, another blow for the reputation of Mizrachim in Israel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The unilateral power of an IDF soldier

One of the projects of B'Tselem is to provide video cameras to Palestinians so they can document the treatment they receive. What follows is an excellent example of what can be achieved. Fortunately, in this case, nobody was seriously injured. The reason I am posting it is it shows the power an individual with a gun has to arrest anyone and order everyone to do as he says.

Remember that this happens on Palestinian land and the "offense" seems to be that the Palestinians are not where the soldier thinks they should be. This video shows the need for human rights and laws that apply to everyone in a place where neither can be had.

This video stands for the situation in Palestine - a strong, well-fed armed man with the money and power of a state behind him assaults an unarmed, thin, poor, helpless man with no money and no state to aid him. If you are an American, your money makes this assault possible.

Get involved. Take a look at the 50 ways you can.

50 ways to work for justice

I came across the following list of "50 ways to work for peace and justice" with the credit " list initiated by Mazin Qumsiyeh, George Rishmawi and others at the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People"

It's a comprehensive list of good ideas, several of which I am taking and more of which I'd like to take. Please run down it and pick some that you can do as there is something for everyone here ranging from writing a letter to the editor to learning Arabic.

1) Educate yourself via reliable books. For example books by Ilan Pappe (Ethnic Ceansing of Palestine), Edward Said (The Question of Palestine).

2) Educate yourself and track current information and key historical data via websites (and disseminate it). For example look into,,, Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, Palestine Remembered, and similar websites.

3) Educate yourself by visiting Palestine and writing about it. There are many organizations doing tours that inspire. Examples Siraj Center, Alternative Tourism Group, Holy Land Trust, Global Exchange, Birthright Unplugged, ISM etc

4) Practice using clear and unambiguous vocabulary including language to protest apartheid and colonization. See for example developing anti-partheid framework for the struggle (PDF File):

5) Challenge media bias by first educating yourself and others about its existence and the extent of the bias. See for example

6) Write to the mainstream media. You can do letters to the editor (usually 200 words) and/or opinion pieces (700-900 words).

7) Start your own group or join an existing organization that works for justice. Simply search/google your city with the word Palestine to identify candidates.

8) Join the International Solidarity Movement, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program (EAPPI), Christian Peace Maker Team or other groups doing work in the occupied areas

9) Develop close working relationship with progressive parties and groups in your country.

10) Network and enhance groups working on sanctions and suspension of US aid to Israel. e.g. Suspend US Aid to Israel Now

11) Lobby. This is done individually or by supporting/joining one or more od the many groups doing it, e.g. Council for the National Interest, Citizens For Fair Legislation, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, and American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (

12) Hold a teach-in, seminar, or public dialogue. This is straightforward: you need to decide venue, speakers, and do publicity. This can be facilitated through such groups as Palestine Media Watch which have speakers bureaus.

13) Send direct aid and support for people on the ground through transparent and trustworthy groups.

14) Use youtube and googlevideo to disseminate information

15) Challenge Israel in local and International courts.If you are a lawyer, donate your time and start some networking and initiate cases (e.g. US congress is violating US laws by sending money to Israel, US Citizens can bring cases against foreign governments that harmed them). Groups with great interest and activism on behalf of Palestinians includes Lawyers Without Border, National Lawyers Guild, Al-Haq, Yesh Din, and Adalah - Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

16) Help coalitions work for Palestine and insist they do not leave this issue; example is

17) If you work in a group, suggest formation of local or national coalitions to increase the power by association.

18) Join the campaigns for economic boycotts. For example see successful examples here:

19) Join or initiate a campaign for cultural and academic boycott; see also

20) Host an art exhibit or other art performance (music, dabka etc) that highlight the rich Palestinian culture.

21) Engage in civil disobedience actions to draw attention and change policies.

22) Develop campaigns to support the right to enter: see
Israel Takes Aim At Palestinian Families By Ida Audeh

23) Facilitate a visit by the Wheels of Justice bus tour to your area (in the US) or create a bus like that (e.g. in Europe). See

24) Donate to aid Palestinian Children. For example, Palestine Children Relief Fund, and Playgrounds for Palestine

25) Develop campaigns to ban Political Junkets to Israel.
Here is an example "In a challenge to one of the most powerful lobbying tactics used by the Jewish community, a county in Maryland decided last week that local legislators could no longer go on sponsored trips to Israel.

26) Support the campaigns to end the siege on Gaza. See,

27) Work in your country against discrimination
Arabs Against Discrimination:
American Arabs Anti-Discrimination Committee http://

28) Support Human Rights: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch:
B’Tselem:The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

29) Support the Right to Education Campaign:

30) Donate to United Nations Relief and Works Agency:

31) Work against home demolistions:
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions:

32) Support empowering Youth from Palestine e.g. see and

33) Write to and work with alternative mass media (like DemocracyNow, Public Access TV).

34) Create your own content and post it to the web

35) Utilize social networking sites to reach a mass audience (e.g. facebook,

36) Go into chat rooms, email discussions etc and spread the word.

37) Buy Palestinian Products, for example from,,

38) Pray for Peace and Justice or if you are not religious, take time out to think and meditate on what can be done to achieve Peace with Justice

39) Make a podcast or public service announcement and spread it

40) Drop a banner from a traffic bridge or any other publicly visible location

41) Put out an information table in a university student center, public gathering, festivals, or other places where people congregate.

42) Host a fundraising party or dinner at your home.

43) Show a documentary in a public setting and then have a discussion about it.

44) Organize a public debate between those who support Zionism and those who support equality and justice

45) Learn Arabic or if you are an Arab learn another language (including Hebrew) so that you can communicate better

46) Make a street theater

45) Engage in Civil disobedience acts (this may entail getting arrested).

46) Reach out to Christian religious leaders and ask them to act based on the Kairos Palestine document

47) Challenge the Zionist attempts to doctor Wikipedia (ie. imposing a Zionist distorted version on this free web encyclopedia).

48) Start a genuine interfaith dialogue based on acting for justice rather than chatting to hide injustice.

49) Find a way not to pay taxes to governments that violate human rights and use your taxes for war and oppression.

50) Host a dinner with Arabic food and show people the rich cultural traditions like embroidered dresses that go back to Canaanitic times.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

young, ignorant and...American?

Warning: this video is filled with profanity. According to the notes that accompanied it on Max Blumenthal's blog, it was banned on Huff Post and YouTube.

It was captured in Jerusalem a year ago and won't surprise anyone who has had contact with kids who've had a little too much to drink. There is no intelligence on display here, only ignorance.

What struck me when I watched, and the reason I put it up for viewing, is that so many of the speakers are (yes, I may be wrong) Americans. It may be they are visiting Israel or it may be that they live in Israel and hold dual citizenship, but they speak American English without a doubt.

If they are visiting Americans, is this behavior something for us to be proud of? If they are Americans who have become Israelis, doesn't it make one wonder what kind of Americans are being attracted to Israel?

Feeling the Love in Jerusalem from Joseph Dana on Vimeo.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Munich - an outstanding movie

I'm no collector of movies. I have a total of three. I've always thought that once seen, a movie is very unlikely to be watched again so why take up shelf space with it?

Spielberg's Munich is an exception. Made in 2005 and starring Eric Bana, the film follows the mission of a group of Israelis assigned the task of revenging the killings of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes at Munich in 1972.

Bana's character is introduced to us as a carefree young man about to be a father and unquestioningly devoted to the country of his birth - Israel. Assigned to be the leader of what can only be called a death squad by Golda Meir's government, he rides herd over a fascinating collection of fellow Jews with widely varied backgrounds and views.

As the plot unfolds, and the assassinations proceed, we see the effect it has on each of the team members. Far from being a gung-ho endorsement of revenge, as are so many movies, Munich shows us the cost of killing on those who kill and the tit-for-tat nature of serving out death and having it come back in return.

With intelligent dialog throughout and filled with the kind of unpredictable events that throw kinks into even the best laid plans, this movie provides relentless suspense that doesn't let up even in the final scenes.

Neither side comes out shining and the change in Bana's character from beginning to end is wrenching. The transformation of the way others view him is equally compelling. Munich is a tragic masterpiece upon which the ancient Greek masters could not improve. It should be seen by everyone, but particularly by Israelis and Palestinians. It isn't for children - the violence is appropriately bloody and appalling. It will leave you emotionally drained but something significant can be learned from it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cast Lead 2 year mark - who broke the truce?

Throughout the history of Israel, armed force has been the usual instrument of policy, not surprisingly for a military state. It's an area in which the state holds all the cards, a method that has proven very effective in the past and a big reason that the current non-violent protests in the occupied territories (and in Israel itself) are a frustration to the Israeli government - the use of force against the non-violent is counterproductive and only raises the level of outrage against the state, not just within Palestine but worldwide.

So it isn't surprising that an effort would always be made to turn events into such as would justify the use of military might.

It has now been two years since the Cast Lead operation conducted by Israel against Gaza in which several hundred civilians died and an incredible amount of damage was done, most of which has yet to be repaired by a people under lock-down.

Israel claims that it was the rocket fire from HAMAS (always in capitals because it is an acronym) that forced Israel to respond. When I participate in demonstrations against what Israel does, passersby sometimes will say, "what about the rockets?" The public perception in the U.S. is, as is almost always the case, the story of justification that Israel puts out.

As we all know from life experience, details often betray the story line for any situation, but they are often buried and boring. With that in mind, you should take a look at this short article on the rocket fire situation that took place prior to Cast Lead. It appears Israel was looking for a reason to attack while restrained by a cease-fire with HAMAS, so broke the cease-fire with a small raid unlikely to appear in the press in order to bring a response that could be used as required.

It should be noted that because there are several armed groups of Palestinians that oppose Israel, any action by any one of them can be blamed on the Palestinians as a whole with the result of collective punishment; the political divisions with the Palestinian movement are tailor made for the use of Israel to punish at will because all can be blamed for what anyone does.

FYI: Maureen Murphy, who is the managing editor of the Electronic Intifada (in which the above article appears), was one of those served by the FBI with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury, and who has refused to testify.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On it goes at Bil'in

The weekly demonstrations against the separation wall running through Bil'in continue. I've covered it before. It's one thing to demonstrate once or twice, quite another to keep it up for years.

What follows is an email I received from someone who knows what it means to keep up the effort. What he says about the violence of the IDF, the arrests, and the so-called justice of the military courts are even more reason to respect the steadfastness of the Palestinians...

Dear Clif,

At the threshold of the New Year, I write to wish you a new year of freedom and liberation. This has been an unbelievable year for me in both highs and lows. A year during which I have witnessed how, despite repression, ordinary people all across Palestine take to the streets for freedom.

In my village, Bil'in, thousands of people marched on the Wall today to take it down. During the demonstration, one protestor, a 36 year old resident of the village, Jawaher Abu-Rahmah, was critically injured by severe tear-gas inhalation. She is currently hospitalized in Ramallah, unresponsive to medical treatment as the doctors are fighting for her life.

UPDATE: Jawaher died, the second of her family to do so from demonstrating. Her brother was killed by a tear gas projectile last year.

Bil'in has been struggling for almost six years against the Wall that was built on our lands. The illegality and absurdity of this wall has been recognized worldwide, and even by the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled it must be dismantled over three years ago. Yet the Wall still stands. We, the people of Bil'in, the people of Palestine, have waited enough. Today was therefore declared by the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements as the last day of the Wall. Together with our supporters, we managed to bring a substantial part of the wall down but we still have a long way to go.

On a personal note, the beginning of 2011 also strikes notes of fear. In just a few days, on January 3rd, 2011, my trial in front of an Israeli military court will draw into conclusion. Captain Sharon Rivlin, the soldier-judge presiding in my case, will hand down my verdict. If found guilty of "incitement", my next letter will likely be written from inside a prison cell; If found guilty, despite having proved that evidence against me was falsified, I will proudly join my friend and comrade, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, who is now spending his second new year's eve behind bars. PSCC's media coordinator, my friend and brother in struggle, Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, will also be going to prison, again, for three months on January 11th, for protesting Israel’s siege on Gaza.

We are all facing tremendous challenges, as individuals and as a movement. It is our pride and strength that keeps us going. It is your support and involvement, which is becoming more crucial than ever. Join us – take our struggle forward, so that the year of 2011 will become an historical year of Palestinian liberation and a just peace.

In solidarity,
Mohammad Khatib