Saturday, December 27, 2008

285 Palestinians massacred in Israel air strikes on Gaza

Images from Al Jazeera and Palestine Chronicle

Dear friends,
please find below an eyewitness report by Ewa Jasiewicz from the Free Gaza Movement on Israel's bombing of Gaza and the devastation caused. Ewa's article has also been published on Palestine Chronicle

The current causalty toll is now 285 dead and more than 900 injured (about half critically).

The Israeli airstrikes, which saw 100 tonnes of bombs dropped across the region took place at 11.30 am (Palestinian time) just as thousands of Palestinian school children were breaking from school to go home, resulting in many of them being killed or seriously injured.

Journalists and human rights activists on the scene at Gaza Hospital are reporting gruesome scenes; shocked families pick through body parts to identify loved ones - amputated bodies are strewn throughout hallways because morgues in the city can no longer accommodate the dead.

Israel has declared Gaza a "special military zone". According to the Palestinian news agency, Maan News: "The classification is one degree below a declaration of total war against an enemy state".

Israel in particular sought to target Palestinian police stations, justifying their attacks and the deaths of civilians by blaming Palestinians for having police and military bases in amongst residental/civilian areas. However, as Ali Abunimah, from Electronic Intifada has pointed out, Palestinian police stations like police stations all over the world [including Israel] are located in civilian areas.

The Israeli media are also reporting that this is the largest number of Palestinians killed in a Israeli military offensive since 1967.

Emergency rallies are being organised across the world to denounce Israel's barbaric massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Please join the rallies in your cities, or if there is none scheduled as yet, please consider organising one and stand in solidarity with the Palestnian people of Gaza.

Now more than ever we need to raise our voices and say no to Israel military agression and stand up for human rights and justice for the Palestinian people.

in solidarity, Kim

Gaza today: 'This is only the beginning'
By Ewa Jasiewicz

As I write this, Israeli jets are bombing the areas of Zeitoun and Rimal in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows nearly blew out just five minutes ago as a massive explosion rocked the house. Apache's are hovering above us, whilst F16s sear overhead.

UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of Al Shifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine's largest medical facility. Another was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip.

Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts that plunge the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only perhaps tonight it is the darkest night people have seen here in their lifetimes.

Over 220 people have been killed and over 400 injured through attacks that shocked the strip in the space 15 minutes. Hospitals are overloaded and unable to cope. These attacks come on top of existing conditions of humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement.

Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 make shift operating theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital's maternity ward had to transform their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only had 12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.

There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed.

Shifaa's main generator is the life support machine of the entire hospital. It's the apparatus keeping the ventilators and monitors and lights turned on that keep people inside alive. And it doesn't have the spare parts it needs, despite the International Committee for the Red Cross urging Israel to allow it to transport them through Erez checkpoint.

Images from Al Jazeera and Palestine Chronicle

Shifaa's Head of Casualty, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, 'We had over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short space of time.'

And as IOF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz said this morning, 'This is only the beginning.'

But this isn't the beginning, this is an ongoing policy of collective punishment and killing with impunity practised by Israel for decades. It has seen its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread, revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza today. People are all asking: If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?

Myself and Alberto Acre, a Spanish journalist, had been on the border village of Sirej near Khan Younis in the south of the strip. We had driven there at 8am with the mobile clinic of the Union of Palestinian Relief Committees. The clinic regularly visits exposed, frequently raided villages far from medical facilities. We had been interviewing residents about conditions on the border. Stories of olive groves and orange groves, family farmland, bulldozed to make way for a clear line of sight for Israeli occupation force watch towers and border guards. Israeli attacks were frequent. Indiscriminate fire and shelling spraying homes and land on the front line of the south eastern border. One elderly farmer showed us the grave-size ditch he had dug to climb into when Israeli soldiers would shoot into his fields.

Alberto was interviewing a family that had survived an Israeli missile attack on their home last month. It had been a response to rocket fire from resistance fighters nearby. Four fighters were killed in a field by the border. Israel had rained rockets and M16 fire back. The family, caught in the crossfire, have never returned to their home.

I was waiting for Alberto to return when ground shaking thuds tilted us off our feet. This was the sound of surface to air fired missiles and F16 bombs slamming into the police stations, and army bases of the Hamas authority here. In Gaza City , in Diere Balah, Rafah, Khan Younis, Beit Hanoon.

We zoomed out of the village in our ambulance, and onto the main road to Gaza City , before jumping out to film the smouldering remains of a police station in Diere Balah, near Khan Younis. Its' name - meaning 'place of dates' - sounds like the easy semi-slang way of saying 'take care', Diere Bala, Diere Balak – take care.

Eyewitnesses said two Israeli missiles had destroyed the station. One had soared through a children's playground and a busy fruit and vegetable market before impacting on its target.

Images from Al Jazeera and Palestine Chronicle

Civilians Dead

There was blood on a broken plastic yellow slide, and a crippled, dead donkey with an upturned vegetable cart beside it. Aubergines and splattered blood covered the ground. A man began to explain in broken English what had happened. 'It was full here, full, three people dead, many many injured'. An elderly man with a white kuffiyeh around his head threw his hands down to his blood drenched trousers. 'Look! Look at this! Shame on all governments, shame on Israel, look how they kills us, they
are killing us and what does the world do? Where is the world, where are they, we are being killed here, hell upon them!' He was a market trader, present during the attack.

He began to pick up splattered tomatoes he had lost from his cart, picking them up jerkily, and putting them into plastic bags, quickly. Behind a small tile and brick building, a man was sitting against the wall, his legs were bloodied. He couldn't get up and was sitting, visibly in pain and shock, trying to adjust himself, to orientate himself.

The police station itself was a wreck, a mess of criss-crossed piles of concrete – broken floors upon floors. Smashed cars and a split palm tree split the road.

We walked on, hurriedly, with everyone else, eyes skyward at four apache helicopters – their trigger mechanisms supplied by the UK 's Brighton-Based EDM Technologies. They were dropping smoky bright flares – a defence against any attempt at Palestinian missile retaliation.

Turning down the road leading to the Diere Balah Civil Defence Force headquarters we suddenly saw a rush of people streaming across the road. 'They've been bombing twice, they've been bombing twice' shouted people.

We ran too, but towards the crowds and away from what could possibly be target number two, 'a ministry building' our friend shouted to us. The apaches rumbled above.

Arriving at the police station we saw the remains of a life at work smashed short. A prayer matt clotted with dust, a policeman's hat, the ubiquitous bright flower patterned mattresses, burst open. A crater around 20 feet in diameter was filled with pulverised walls and floors and a motorbike, tossed on its' side, toy-like in its' depths.

Policemen were frantically trying to get a fellow worker out from under the rubble. Everyone was trying to call him on his Jawwal. 'Stop it everyone, just one, one of you ring' shouted a man who looked like a captain. A fire licked the underside of an ex-room now crushed to just 3 feet high. Hands alongside hands rapidly grasped and threw back rocks, blocks and debris to reach the man.

We made our way to the Al Aqsa Hospital. Trucks and cars loaded with the men of entire families – uncles, nephews, brothers – piled high and speeding to the hospital to check on loved ones, horns blaring without interruption.

Hospitals on the brink
Entering Al Aqsa was overwhelming, pure pandemonium, charged with grief, horror, distress, and shock. Limp blood covered and burnt bodies streamed by us on rickety stretchers. Before the morgue was a scrum, tens of shouting relatives crammed up to its open double doors. 'They could not even identify who was who, whether it is their brother or cousin or who, because they are so burned' explained our friend. Many were transferred, in ambulances and the back of trucks and cars to Al Shifa Hospital.

The injured couldn't speak. Causality after casualty sat propped against the outside walls outside, being comforted by relatives, wounds temporarily dressed. Inside was perpetual motion and the more drastically injured. Relatives jostled with doctors to bring in their injured in scuffed blankets. Drips, blood streaming faces, scorched hair and shrapnel cuts to hands, chests, legs, arms and heads dominated the reception area, wards and operating theatres.

We saw a bearded man, on a stretcher on the floor of an intensive care unit, shaking and shaking, involuntarily, legs rigid and thrusting downwards. A spasm coherent with a spinal chord injury. Would he ever walk again or talk again? In another unit, a baby girl, no older than six months, had shrapnel wounds to her face. A relative lifted a blanket to how us her fragile bandaged leg. Her eyes were saucer-wide and she was making stilted, repetitive, squeaking sounds.

A first estimate at Al Aqsa hospital was 40 dead and 120 injured. The hospital was dealing with casualties from the bombed market, playground, Civil Defence Force station, civil police station and also the traffic police station. All leveled. A working day blasted flat with terrifying force.

At least two shaheed (martyrs) were carried out on stretchers out of the hospital. Lifted up by crowds of grief-stricken men to the graveyard to cries of 'La Illaha Illa Allah,' there is not god but Allah.

Who cares?
And according to many people here, there is nothing and nobody looking out for them apart from God. Back in Shifa Hospital tonight, we meet the brother of a security guard who had had the doorway he had been sitting in and the building – Abu Mazen's old HQ - fall down upon his head. He said to us, 'We don't have anyone but God. We feel alone. Where is the world? Where is the action to stop these attacks?'

Majid Salim, stood beside his comatosed mother, Fatima. Earlier today she had been sitting at her desk at work – at the Hadije Arafat Charity, near Meshtal, the Headquarters of the Security forces in Gaza City. Israel's attack had left her with multiple internal and head injuries, tube down her throat and a ventilator keeping her alive. Majid gestured to her, 'We didn't attack Israel, my mother didn't fire rockets at Israel. This is the biggest terrorism, to have our mother bombarded at work'.

The groups of men lining the corridors of the over-stretched Shifaa hospital are by turns stunned, agitated, patient and lost. We speak to one group. Their brother had both arms broken and has serious facial and head injuries. 'We couldn't recognise his face, it was so black from the weapons used' one explains. Another man turns to me and says. 'I am a teacher. I teach human rights – this is a course we have, 'human rights'. He pauses. 'How can I teach, my son, my children, about the meaning of
human rights under these conditions, under this siege?'

It's true, UNRWA and local government schools have developed a Human Rights syllabus, teaching children about international law, the Geneva Conventions, the International Declaration on Human Rights, The Hague Regulations. To try to develop a culture of human rights here, to help generate more self confidence and security and more of a sense of dignity for the children. But the contradiction between what should be adhered to as a common code of conducted signed up to by most states, and the
realities on the ground is stark. International law is not being applied or enforced with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, or on '48 Palestine, the West Bank, or the millions of refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

How can a new consciousness and practice of human rights ever graduate from rhetoric to reality when everything points to the contrary – both here and in Israel ? The United Nations have been spurned and shut out by Israel , with Richard Falk the UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights held prisoner at Ben Gurion Airport before being unceremoniously deported this month – deliberately blinded to the abuses being carried out against Gaza by Israel . An international community which speaks empty phrases on Israeli attacks 'we urge restraint…minimise civilian casualties'.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated regions on the planet. In Jabbaliya camp alone, Gaza 's largest, 125,000 people are crowded into a space 2km square. Bombardment by F16s and Apaches at 11.30 in the morning, as children leave their schools for home reveals a contempt for civilian safety as does the 18 months of a siege that bans all imports and exports, and has resulted in the deaths of over 270 people as a result of a lack of access to essential medicines.

A light

There is a saying here in Gaza – we spoke about it, jokily last night. 'At the end of the tunnel…there is another tunnel'. Not so funny when you consider that Gaza is being kept alive through the smuggling of food, fuel and medicine through an exploitative industry of over 1000 tunnels running from Egypt to Rafah in the South. On average 1-2 people die every week in the tunnels. Some embark on a humiliating crawl to get their education, see their families, to find work, on their hands and knees. Others are reportedly big enough to drive through.

Last night I added a new ending to the saying. 'At the end of the tunnel, there is another tunnel and then a power cut'. Today, there's nothing to make a joke about. As bombs continue to blast buildings around us, jarring the children in this house from their fitful sleep, the saying could take on another twist. After today's killing of over 200, is it that at the end of the tunnel, there is another tunnel, and then a grave?', or a wall of international governmental complicity and silence?

There is a light through, beyond the sparks of resistance and solidarity in the West Bank, '48 and the broader Middle East. This is a light of conscience turned into activism by people all over the world. We can turn a spotlight onto Israel's crimes against humanity and the enduring injustice here in Palestine, through coming out onto the streets and pressurizing our governments; demanding an end to Israeli apartheid and occupation, broadening our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and for a genuine Just Peace.

Through institutional, governmental and popular means, this can be a light at the end of the Gazan tunnel.

Ewa Jasiewicz is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. She is currently Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle against the Aparthied Wall in Bil'in wins Carl Von Ossietzky Human Rights Medal

Dear friends,

On December 7, the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall were jointly awarded the Carl von Ossietzky Human Rights Medalion in Berlin. The Award named for the 1935 German Nobel Peace Prize winner, Carl Von Ossietzky – a journalist and pacifist - who died in a Nazi concentration camp, is awarded for “outstanding service in the realisation of basic and human rights”.

The International League of Human Rights who awarded the prize notes that “Anarchists Against the Wall and the Bil’in Popular Committee exemplify the nonviolent resistance to the Israeli-built "Separation Wall" on Palestinian land, as well as steadfastness in the diverse grass-root campaigns against the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip” and that both groups represent “a forward-looking culture free of exclusion and destruction, demonstrating thereby the possibility of living together in peace and freedom”.

The residents of Bil’in village have waged and continue to wage a courageous struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation and confiscation of their land and the land of other villages. Each week they are joined by members of the Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW), who regularly put their bodies on the line to stand in solidarity with not just the village of Bil’in but also other villages throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories, who are facing the everyday brutality of the Israel occupation forces. In this struggle for basic human rights and justice, many Palestinians have lost their lives or have been seriously injured by Israeli occupation forces and several members of AATW have also been seriously injured.

The Carl von Ossietzky Award is significant in that it not only recognises the significance of the joint popular struggle, but it helps to contribute to raising awareness about the struggle and what is really happening on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

I have included below a copy of the acceptance speech given by members of Anarchists Against the Wall at the award ceremony, who dedicated their award to 10 year old Ahmad Mousa and 17 year old Yousef Amira, who were murdered by the Israeli occupation forces in the village of Nil’in earlier this year (see )

Also included below is a copy of the call issued by AATW in July for financial assistance and support. The appeal issued by AATW is to help them defray the legal costs that their membership, as well as their Palestinian partners, are incurring due to their ongoing joint popular against the Aparthied Wall and the illegal Israeli occupation. Please consider if you may be able to make a donation towards this very important struggle for human rights and justice.

For more information and updates on Bil’in village, please visit

For more information on AATW visit their website at
In solidarity,

Demonstration in Bil'in to mark Palestinian Land Day - March 2008

AATW Acceptance speech – Carl von Ossietzky Medalion
7 December , 2008 Berlin, Germany

I would like to be honest – I am standing here, over this podium, although as anarchists this situation raises very mixed feelings for me and my comrades. Honestly - we are reluctant to receive prizes for political activism. We would prefer not to be singled out for glory, and receive gratitude for doing what we feel is our duty. However, despite our anarchist reservations, which under normal circumstances would have prevailed, as Israelis - beneficiaries of our country's unjust deeds toward Palestinians, we are very thankful for your support of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid.

Here on this podium, just as in the olive groves of the West Bank, our primary moral duty is not to maintain ideological purity, but rather to stand with Palestinians in their resistance to oppression. We recognize the importance of garnering international support for the ongoing struggle, and the major contribution of this award to this end. We believe that standing here, in the current state of affairs, is a direct continuation of the blocking of bulldozers, standing side by side with the stone throwers, or running away from teargas along with young and elderly protesters.
Here, as in the olive groves, I would like to stress that we are not equal partners, but rather occupiers who join the occupied in THEIR struggle. We are aware of the fact that for many, the participation of Israelis in a Palestinian struggle serves as a stamp of approval, but in our eyes, this partnership is not about granting legitimacy. The Palestinian struggle is legitimate with or without us. Rather, the struggle is an opportunity for us to cross, in action rather than words, the barriers of national allegiance.

Over the past four years, and through over 200 demonstrations, Bil'in has become a symbol and focal point for the movement against Israel's wall – a movement that for the past six years has mobilized thousands of people into grassroots popular resistance, and has forged an unprecedented on-the-ground, joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle.

The fact that the movement is a civilian and unarmed one only serves to accentuate the army’s excessive and unjust violence. Thousands have been injured, hundreds jailed and imprisoned for lengthy periods and 15 were killed, 10 of them minors. We would like to dedicate this medal to the two most recent casualties of the struggle, ten year-old Ahmad Mousa and seventeen year-old Youssef Amirah, who were murdered by border policemen in the village of Ni'ilin four months ago, as part of the attempt to militarily suppress the wall-related insurrection in the village.

Thank you again for supporting the joint popular struggle,
Anarchists Against the Wall


Joint Palestinian and Israeli demonstration to mark 2 years of struggle in Bil'in

Anarachists Against the Wall - Urgent Call for Support

Dear friend,

The mounting legal costs of the joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle against the occupation, and the heightening legal persecution of Palestinian activists, are forcing us to send this urgent appeal for funds. We are asking for your support to continue the work of the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW), and perhaps even more importantly, to allow us to expand our legal fund in an attempt to also cover the legal costs of our Palestinians partners arrested at demonstrations.

Since 2003, the group has supported the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation and specifically against Israel's segregation wall. Week after week, AATW joins the Palestinian popular resistance against the wall, in diverse areas of the West Bank, including the villages of al-Ma'asara, south of Bethlehem, Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, Bil'in and recently, almost on a daily basis, Ni'ilin west of Ramallah. There, the army is taking extreme steps to suppress the demonstrations, such as occasionally firing live ammunition and imposing siege and curfew.

Hundreds if not thousands of activists have been arrested and dozens indicted for their participation in the struggle. Fortunately, the group is represented by a dedicated lawyer, Adv. Gaby Lasky. Adv. Lasky has tirelessly worked to defend activists arrested at demonstrations or direct actions in the West Bank and in Israel. Though the legal defense she provides AATW is almost a full-time job, she has agreed to be paid only a token fee. However, even despite a successful fundraising campaign last year, AATW still owes Adv. Lasky approximately $15,000.

Recently, we have seen an increase in the legal persecution of our Palestinian partners. In solidarity we are now fundraising to expand AATW's existing legal fund to also cover defense costs for Palestinian arrestees. This is in addition to covering the existing aforementioned debt, and operational expenses such as communications and transportation.

We urge you to read this article in The Nation about the recent struggle in Ni'ilin, and to please make a donation that will enable us to continue this struggle.
In appreciation and solidarity.

Anarchists Against the Wall
For more information on how to make a tax deductable donation in the US, contact us at .

The shooting of Israeli anti-occupation activist, Lymor Goldstine in Bil'in village, 11 August, 2006

Celebration in Bil'in - Israel Court Victory declares section of illegal wall must be rerouted. However, as of December 2008, the Israeli military and state have not complied with the Israeli court decision, despite Bil'in village winning a favourable ruling one year later, oncea gain stating that Israel state must implement the 2007 Israeli court decision.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ISM activist, Brian Avery, wins compensation after being shot by Israeli military

Dear friends

some good news (of sorts ...) Brian Avery, the ISM activist who was shot in the face by the Israeli military has succeeded in winning compensation from the Israeli state of NIS 600,000. Brian was shot in the face by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in Jenin in April 2003.

His victory is welcome news and a small victory in that for once, the Israeli Occupation Forces and the Israeli state have been forced to be held accountable for their actions, at least in a small way.

However, while this is a small and welcome victory, we also should not forget that thousands of Palestinians have been injured or died at the hand of the IOF or forget the fact that more often then not the IOF and the Israeli state refuse to carry out any investigation of the actions of its soldiers or hold them accountable for illegal and brutal actions which result in the injury and deaths of Palestinian civilians. Instead, their cases have either been ignored, explained away as "accidents" or actively covered up by the Israeli military and the Zionist state, as repeated studies and investigations have revealed.

The reason Brian has been able to win this small victory is because he is a International.

As the 2005, Human Rights Watch's 2005 report: Promoting Impunity - The Israeli military's failure to investigate wrong doing notes "Incidents in which Israeli forces have killed Westerners are investigated more frequently than the deaths of Palestinian civilians" (see report at )

While the Israeli military is reluctant to investigate wrong doing against Internationals (as Brian's case clearly reveals, as have the cases relating to the killing of other internationals such as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurdnell and James Miller), investigation of Palestinians deaths are of the "lowest priority".

As the HRW report notes, rarely if ever, are the deaths of Palestinians civilians investigated by the Israeli military. The only reason that Internationals or their families have been able to force the Israeli state to investigate wrong doings against them is because as the report notes " the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli government are highly sensitive to the media impact of such killings" and "because the victims' families have greater access to financial, media, and technical resources".

Unfortunately, Palestinian civilians, particular those in the Occupied West Bank do not have access to the same financial and media resources and their deaths are often ignored.

Below is an article from the Jerusalem Post on Brian's victory, as well as an article from the Palestine Chronicle ( )by Lasse J Schmidt, another international who was with Brian at the time of the shooting. Schmidt's article which was published on November 19, 2008, and outlines what happened in Jenin and the failure of the Israeli military to investigate and the systematic coverup that the Israeli military attempted to carry out.

in solidarity,

Nov 19, 2008 23:12 | Updated Nov 20, 2008 7:11

State to compensate wounded activist
Jerusalem Post

The state will pay human rights activist Brian Avery NIS 600,000 in damages in an out-of-court settlement reached Wednesday with his Israeli lawyer, Shlomo Lecker.

Avery, a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was shot in Jenin on April 5, 2003 and suffered severe facial wounds. He has undergone at least six operations so far and has more to go.

"The sum does not reflect the injuries Avery suffered," Lecker told The Jerusalem Post. "On the other hand, it's one of the very few times the state has awarded damages to anyone hurt by the IDF during the Second Intifada."

According to the description of events given by Avery and ISM volunteers who were with him, Avery and his flatmate, Jan Tobias Karrson, heard shooting near the apartment where they lived. They called other volunteers and went out to see if anyone needed medical help. By that time, it was dark and a curfew was in force.

According to their testimony, an IDF armored personnel carrier and a tank turned into the street and headed towards them. Avery was standing under a street light, wearing a red fluorescent jacket with the word "doctor" in English and Arabic on the front and back. He raised his hands to show the soldiers he was unarmed.

The vehicles continued to approach the group and the APC opened fire at a distance of a few dozen meters. Avery was hit in the face, his cheek was torn and his eye socket and jaw bones were smashed.

The army refused to order a military police investigation of the incident, claiming that a field probe had revealed that no soldiers on patrol in Jenin that night had reported an incident that resembled Avery's description.

Avery petitioned the High Court to order the army to conduct a military police investigation. Before the court handed down a final decision, the army changed its mind and agreed to do so. The investigation began 15 months ago.

In the meantime, Avery also decided to sue the state for damages in a civil action in Jerusalem District Court. He and three other ISM volunteers who witnessed the incident came to testify at the first hearing in September 2007.

The out-of-court agreement reached Wednesday between the plaintiff and the state has put an end to the lawsuit. Lecker told the Post his client had agreed to accept the settlement because the military police investigation had already been underway for 15 months with no sign of an end. Furthermore, the courts, including the Supreme Court, routinely ruled in favor of the state in similar lawsuits involving Palestinians or foreigners so that "the chances of an appropriate decision were small."

Lecker said Avery didn't have full medical insurance coverage in the US and that the money the state was willing to pay would help defray some of the costs of the operations he must still undergo.


The Shooting of Brian Avery, and the Israeli Cover Up
By Lasse J. Schmidt
Palestine Chronicle

Brian Avery in Jenin on April 4, the day before the shooting. In background, Israeli tank. Photo by Lasse Schmidt. From Palestine Chronicle

While the Israeli military's investigation into the 2003 shooting of the American human rights worker Brian Avery did little to nothing in actually investigating the near-fatal injury, it was highly effective in covering up Israeli soldiers' involvement, thereby sheltering them from criminal charges. That became clear some time ago when, in a Jerusalem court, none other than the soldier who pulled the trigger and his commander severely incriminated the official account of the shooting on critical points.

However, there appear to be no regrets within the military system. Today, eleven months later, the military has not yet made any official comments on these disclosures and at the policy level things are going from bad to worse.

"These internal, military investigations are designed to whitewash soldiers," says Brian Avery's Israeli lawyer, Michael Sfard, "and the military keeps finding more and more excuses to use them."

Chapter One – The Incident (Dusk on April 5, 2003)

"This is bad, really bad," I yelled.

"Call an ambulance, and tell them to hurry up," I screamed.

My friend was laying belly down on the street; a pool of blood was forming around his head. It was in the city of Jenin, the West Bank; Brian Avery had been hit in the face by a bullet from an Israeli machine gun.

Seconds earlier, we had been calmly waiting for the two military vehicles driving towards us, to come closer and pass us by. Suddenly, the night was shattered by the sound of machine gun fire. Without warning, the front vehicle had opened fire at us, a group of six international human rights workers. We were 25 meters in front of it, when it shot a burst of 20 to 25 bullets over three to four seconds.

For the first time since arriving in Jenin two months earlier, I ran for my life. After a few steps, I looked back and saw that Brian Avery had fallen to the ground where he had been standing with his hands in the air. I ran to him and kneeled down by his side. His hands were in front of his face.

"I am here, Brian," I said.

He did not respond. Not a sound, not a motion. Blood was streaming through his fingers. I put my hands on his back; he was breathing.

"Brian, I need to see your face."

He lifted his upper body, turned his face towards me and removed his hands. The whole left side of his face was an open wound. Flesh and skin were hanging in threads. A big piece of the cheek fluttered freely, only attached to his face by the ear. It was then, I yelled for my friends to call an ambulance.

April 5, 2003 was the second consecutive day of curfew in Jenin. By then, 24-year-old Brian Avery had been in the West Bank for nearly three months, volunteering as a human rights worker for the International Solidarity movement (ISM). The night before, he had stayed awake, co-driving with Palestinian ambulances to help them get through Israeli checkpoints. Leading up to the shooting, in the late afternoon, Brian Avery and his Swedish colleague, Tobias Carlsson, were on the street hoping their presence would ease the strain of the curfew on civilian residents. In the West Bank, when the Israeli army declares curfew, Palestinians can get shot for just walking down the street. Internationals, on the other hand, can move freely around and their presence has been shown to make Israeli soldiers act with less brutality towards the locals.

When Avery and Carlsson heard a deep rumbling, they stopped in a wide main street junction. Shortly after, from down the side street, they saw an armored personnel carrier (APC) and a tank come slowly driving up their way. By then, four other ISM volunteers had joined them - Ewa from England, Jens and Martin from Sweden and myself from Denmark. The street was empty except for the two vehicles and us. We stood still, facing the side street, four of us with our hands in the air. Brian Avery was wearing a bright red safety vest with reflective material across the chest.

Tobias Carlsson, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Brian Avery, described how bullets flew close by his head, and how his body was showered with shrapnel and dirt. Standing some three meters to the side of them, I saw sparks coming off the pavement about seven meters in front of them. It was bullets ricocheting off the asphalt.

I looked at Brian Avery's bloody face.

"I don't know what to do," I yelled and looked up for help.

"Use your T-shirt to hold on his wound," said Ewa.

I then saw the APC and the tank drive by, only a few meters away. Slowly, they made their way across the main street and up a smaller street on the other side. I took off my white t-shirt. It felt good to do something. A minute or two later, when the ambulance got there, it was colored deep red. The APC and the tank were long gone by then.

Brian Avery arrives home. Photo by Brooks de Wetter-Smith. From Electronic Intifada photo story by Brooks de Wetter-Smith and Michael Brown, 16 June 2003

Chapter Two – "A Direct Shot," Said the Surgeon

"No, it was a direct shot," said the surgeon.

After eight hours of life-saving surgery on Brian Avery's face, he was updating Ewa and me on our friend's condition. It was outside the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, and we felt the cool night breeze coming in from the Mediterranean Sea. We were relieved to learn that he was going to survive.

"However, it is impossible to predict how well he will recover," said the surgeon.

I told him about the sparks coming off the pavement some seven meters in front of Brian Avery. Had he been hit by a ricochet bullet? Or by shrapnel?

"No," the surgeon said.

"Shrapnel does not make this kind of damage and a ricochet bullet would have caused much greater damage than what your friend suffered. It is much worse being hit by a ricochet bullet, which per definition is deformed by its first meeting with whatever material, than by a direct shot."

The doctors at Rambam Hospital are among the finest experts in bullet-wounds in the world as the hospital due to its location close to the border to Lebanon. Most Israeli soldiers injured during fighting with their neighbors to the north are brought here for medical treatment.

"It was a direct shot. I saw a clear, rotating pattern from a spinning bullet making its way through his face. Only an intact bullet would do that."

He described how a heavy caliber bullet had entered just below the right eye and exited through the lower part of the left cheek. On its way, it splintered the nose bone, the upper pallet of the mouth, most teeth in the left side and the jawbone. Had he held his head a tiny bit differently, he would have died instantly.

Mary-Lou Leiser Smith, Coordinator of the Coalition for Peace with Justice, and Phil Jones, Coordinator for Peace 1st, welcome home Brian Avery. Photo by Brooks de Wetter-Smith. From Electronic Intifada photo story by Brooks de Wetter-Smith and Michael Brown, 16 June 2003

Chapter Three – Truth Revealed

Nearly five years later, in the early days of 2008, two of the soldiers from the APC testified in a court in Jerusalem. Here, both the machine gun operator, who pulled the trigger, and the APC commander, who gave the order to shot, contradicted the military's official account of the shooting on several critical points. In fact, by revealing several lies by the military investigator, they completely undermined the credibility of the very investigation that has successfully protected them from criminal charges all these years.

"Once again it is proven that these internal, military inquires are bogus," says Avery's Israeli lawyer, Michael Sfard.

"It is corruption," says Brian Avery.

According to the internal military investigation, which was finalized about two months after the shooting, "No findings indicate that Mr. Avery was injured by IDF [Israel Defense Forces] fire." Therefore the military closed the case - in spite of Brian Avery and five international eyewitnesses all insisting that the soldiers in the APC shot directly at them. Brian Avery later filed civil suit against the State of Israel, and it was at the latest of these hearings, the gunner and the commander testified.

The first contradiction is on what the machine gun was aimed at. The official military account is that it was aimed to the side of three unidentified individuals standing in front of the APC. Like that, the military claims, a blast of ten bullets was fired to warn the three individuals to leave the area.

However, in court the two soldiers explained that the machine gun was aimed straight forward, in the direction of the men in front of the APC. The commander said, he ordered the gunner to fire "at the road, between the Armored Personnel Carrier and the figures," purposely aiming short. The gunner said, "the shooting was directed towards three suspect figures."

The second contradiction is on whether or not the soldiers realized that someone was hit. This is relevant for two reasons. First, is it not true that one would be more likely to assist someone hit by mistake than someone hit on purpose? If so, the fact that the soldiers did not offer Brian Avery any assistance might tell us something about the intention behind the shooting. Second, if the military knew someone had been hit, their complete silence about the incident - up until the story developed in the media – might tell us about a deliberate intention to cover up the shooting.

The official military account maintains that all the three individuals - seemingly unharmed - ducked and ran away. However, in court the gunner explained, "I saw that one of the figures had fallen. I told this to A.S. [the APC commander]. Afterwards, I saw that the two other figures were leaning over the one that had fallen and assumed that someone may have been hit."

We also learned that there is a detailed report of the incident in the official military records of the Menashe Brigade, to which the soldiers belonged. The first note, written only an hour after the shooting, says, "an American was severely wounded in the face by a bullet. Brian Avery is in a hospital in Jenin. They want to evacuate him to Israel."

The third contradiction is on the quality of the military investigation that completely acquitted Israeli soldiers. For years, Brian Avery and Michael Sfard have argued that it was unprofessional and inadequate. Consistently, the military has responded with complete confidence in the investigation. When addressing the Israeli High Court of justice on this question, the Judge Advocate-General - who is the highest-ranking attorney in the military system - said, "a comprehensive and in-depth Operational Inquiry was carried out," and it, "was based on an interrogation of the combat soldiers."

However, in court the two soldiers said, they had never been questioned for any of the two military investigations. The first time they were questioned, were three and a half years after the shooting when the Military Police conducted a criminal investigation.

Having heard the soldiers' testimonies, Brian Avery's lawyers, Michael Sfard and Shlomo Lecker, wrote a letter to the Israeli Justice Ministry.

The contradictions that were uncovered in the civil proceedings are astonishing and raise questions that should be thoroughly looked into by the State Attorney General's office, it said.

Today, more than eleven months later, they still have not received an answer and the military has not yet publicly commented on the disclosures of two soldiers.

"This is Israel," says Brian Avery.

"I have learned that the Israeli justice system is highly discriminatory and that I, as someone critical of Israel's oppressive treatment of Palestinians, will not receive fair treatment. The military has been dragging its feet all along and they been lying over and over. Yet nothing has been done to stop it."

Chapter Four –Debriefings, Not Investigations

Up until eight years ago, regulations demanded that the Military Police open a criminal investigation whenever a civilian was killed or injured inside the Palestinian territories in an incident involving Israeli soldiers. However, the Judge Advocate-General (JAG) changed this practice in September 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The JAG, who is the military equivalent to the Attorney General, thought the Military Police overburdened by the many deaths and injuries during those days. During the first three weeks of the Intifada alone, Israeli soldiers killed 120 Palestinians and injured 4800.

The JAG then decided that civilian casualties would no longer routinely be subject to criminal investigations. That would happen only in "exceptional cases". Instead, the JAG instated a system of internal inquiries, conducted by a soldier of the same unit or brigade as the soldier(s) being investigated. In other words, when an Israeli soldier causes death or injury to a civilian, one of his closer colleagues investigates the incident.

"Clearly, this conflict of interest will affect the conduct, as well as the results, of the investigation," says B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

In official language, these internal investigations are called Operational Debriefings. However, they are also known as internal inquiry, internal investigation, operational inquiry, command inquiry, field investigations, etc. Typically, the investigating soldier, who has no training in the conduct of criminal investigations and no handbook or written down rules to guide him, will question only a few soldiers from the same brigade or unit the soldier(s) being investigated. The findings of the Operational Debriefing are forwarded to the JAG's office, where it is then decided whether or not to open police investigation.

"Soldiers' testimonies to B'Tselem indicate that the investigations conducted by the units in which they served were carried out negligently, and that in many cases no investigation was conducted at all," writes the Israeli organization.

"In reality, the investigating soldier is not looking for blame or crime. He is simply trying to find out if the military procedure could be more effective in the future. Therefore, it is not a criminal investigation and therefore, only in rare cases does he take testimony from anyone who is not a soldier such as civilian eyewitnesses," says Brian Avery's lawyer, Michael Sfard.

The policy change eight years ago led to a drastic fall in the number of Military Police investigations. During the first six and a half years after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israeli soldiers killed 4000 Palestinians and injured between 20,000 and 35,000. According to B'Tselem, between half and two-thirds of these, "did not take part in hostilities." According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), three-quarters of them were "civilians". In that same period, the Israeli Military Police investigated 239 cases involving shooting by soldiers and filled indictment in 30 cases.

Even when accepting only the most conservative of these estimates, the figures show a clear - and troubling - picture. If half of the Palestinian casualties in that period were civilians, Israeli soldiers would have killed 2,000 and injured 10,000 innocent Palestinians. Of these, the military police would have investigated only one-in-fifty and would have filed criminal charges in only one-in-400. In other words, an Israeli soldier who had just caused injury or death to a civilian Palestinian, in that time period, would look at a 98 percent chance that the incident would not be investigated by the police and a 99.75 percent chance that no criminal charges would ever be made.

"Many investigations were opened only after human rights organizations, diplomats, or journalists had put pressure on the JAG's office to do so," claims B'Tselem.

The military has revealed only little about the investigation into the shooting of Brian Avery. However, we know that it was conducted by one man alone, Colonel Hefetz of the Menashe Brigade (the same brigade as the soldiers in the APC belonged to). We also know that he did not take testimony from any of the following key witnesses: the machine gun operator, the APC commander, the Rambam surgeon and the five international eyewitnesses.

It appears that the Colonel questioned only two people: Brian Avery and a section commander in the Menashe Brigade. However, Brian Avery's testimony was completely disregarded and the section commander questioned for the investigation was not present when Brian Avery was shot.

Another unknown is whether the Colonel had access to the official chronicles of his own brigade or not. It was here the soldiers themselves had made their own report in the hours after the shooting. Unfortunately, that is not public knowledge. What we do know, though, is that Colonel Hefetz's report on some quite significant points tells a very different story than this internal report. Points such as where the machine gun was pointed and that the soldiers knew one person had fallen to the ground.

"How legitimate is it to investigate your own acts of violence?" asks Brian Avery.

The more we learn about Colonel Hefetz's investigation, the more one question must come to mind: what were the findings of the Operational Debriefing based on?

"Avery's case highlights the problems when an untrained soldier conducts a field investigation," said Human Right Watch in its 2006 report entitled Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military's Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing.

"This inquiry was so inadequate that I actually can't tell whether it was a deliberate cover up or a very unprofessional job," says Brian Avery's lawyer, Michael Sfard.

Chapter Five - Changing Position

The official account of what happened when Brian Avery was shot has changed several times over the five years gone by. First, the military tried to silence the incident. Then, as the story was receiving increased attention in the media, the military released a press release stating that Avery had been caught in crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. Also, the military stated, it was most likely a Palestinian bullet that hit him.

Two months later, when Colonel Dan Hefetz finalized the Operational Debriefing, the military decided it had no knowledge of the incident whatsoever. In his report, the Colonel explained that the patrol in question [the APC and the tank] had been involved in four shooting incidents in Jenin that day and that …

… None of the events match that of Mr. Avery's injury ... No findings indicate that Mr. Avery was injured by IDF [Israel Defense Forces] … Medical assistance was not given because IDF force did not identify casualties at any stage … Despite in-depth inquiry, IDF did not reveal any conclusive findings regarding the circumstances of Mr. Avery's injury."

A third version was introduced before the High Court of Justice in late February 2005. Avery and Sfard petitioned the High Court to order a criminal investigation opened; their strongest argument being that Colonel Hefetz had not questioned any of the five international eyewitnesses.

By then the military had realized that on the day of the shooting, daylight savings time (also called summer time) had been introduced in Israel but not yet in the West Bank.

With that adjustment, the third incident involving the patrol suddenly matched quite well with what was reported by Brian Avery and the five witnesses. Now, the military admitted, it was no longer entirely impossible that Brian Avery had been hit by an Israeli bullet. However, the JAG still opposed any further investigation.

Avery's petition was rejected, but the High Court did order the military to reopen the Operational Debriefing in order to include the testimonies of the five international eyewitnesses and then reconsider the need for a criminal investigation.

"As a nation, the least we can do for a man who is sitting here with very serious wounds is to clarify what happened to him," said Justice Edmund Levy.

Nine months later, in November 2005, the military informed High Court that the five testimonies changed nothing. Despite all of them - four Scandinavians and one Briton - testifying that the machine gun on the Israeli APC fired at and injured Brian Avery, the military still found no clear indication that he had been hit by an Israeli bullet. Avery and Sfard appealed and a year later - in September 2006 - the case was once again on the agenda of the High Court.

"The army field investigation …was very thorough and independent. A criminal investigation would not add anything …The army thinks it's the way to investigate events that occur in war time," the military lawyer told the court on that occasion.

This argument did not satisfy the High Court Justices, who gave the military 45 days to reconsider its position. In November 2006, the military finally gave in:

"The Military Advocate-General [a.k.a. the JAG] believes there is no reason to change his predecessor's decision not to order a criminal investigation. Despite this … the Military Advocate-General has decided, above and beyond the call of duty, to order the Military Police to launch an investigation," said an official comment.

Chapter Six - Other Examples

Brian Avery's case is far from the only one where the Operational Debriefing has been proven highly deceitful. Two relatively recent examples are the killings of the two Britons Tom Hurndall and James Miller, who were both shot by Israeli soldiers in Rafah on the Gaza Strip, respectively five days and four weeks after Brian Avery.

Tom Hurndall worked in Gaza as a volunteer human rights worker with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and as a photojournalist. He was shot through the brain by a sniper and died after nine months in a coma. The Operational Debriefing found that Tom Hurndall was a legitimate target. He was dressed in camouflage clothing and shooting at an Israeli watchtower, said the report. Apparently, it meant little to the military investigator that this conclusion was contradicted by every eyewitness to the shooting - but the two soldiers in the tower - and by substantial photo material. The case was officially closed.

Tom Hurndall, Human Rights Activist, Age 22, Killed in 2004 by an Israeli military sniper in Rafah refugee camp, Occupied Gaza

However, Tom Hurndall's family wanted it differently. His father, who is a British lawyer, conducted his own, private investigation and came to quite different conclusions. First, Hurndall was wearing a bright orange safety jacket. Second, the young Briton was shot while helping little children out of the line of fire from the watchtower.

That put pressure on the Military Police, who then did their own investigation. Questioned by skilled police investigators, the sniper, Taysir Hayb, admitted making up the story about Tom Hurndall being dressed in camouflage clothing and shooting at the tower. He also admitted that Tom Hurndall had been assisting children out of the line of fire when hit. He claimed having aimed four inches from the Briton's head, but "he moved."

When sentenced to serve eight years in prison, Taysir Hayb said he had just followed orders. The military "fires freely in Rafah," he said. Also, he claimed having reported the incident to his commander.

"I told him that I did what I'm supposed to: The commander always says anyone who enters a firing zone must be taken out," Hayb said.

After the trial, Tom Hurndall's father said that Taysir Hayb was a scapegoat and that he was "simply doing what he had been told." Quoted in BBC News, Amnesty International said it was "almost entirely due to tireless campaigning by his family" that anyone had been brought to justice.

James Miller, Age 34, Film maker and Human Rights Activist, Killed in 2003 by an Israeli military sniper in Rafah refugee camp, Occupied Gaza

The award winning British cameraman, James Miller, was shot in the neck while walking with his film crew towards an Israeli APC at night. At first, the military claimed, he had been caught in crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. This is clearly contradicted by video footage of the crew approaching the APC. Here, it is evident that the night was still besides from three shots fired from the APC. One member of the crew was carrying a white flag illuminated by a flashlight while others were shouting, "we are British journalists," when suddenly, without warning, a shot was fired. The film crew stopped, still shouting and waving the illuminated flag. After 10-15 seconds, a second shot was fired and James Miller fell to the ground. A few seconds later, a third shot hit the nearby porch from where the incident was being filmed. This bullet missed the cameraman's head with just a few centimeters.

According to the Daily Mail, "the soldier who shot Mr. Miller, Lieutenant Hib al-Heib, was cleared by an army inquiry and then promoted to the rank of Captain." However, due to pressure from the Miller family and the British Government, the Military Police opened an investigation into the shooting. Here it was found that Captain Hib al-Heib had violated the rules of engagement by opening fire at the film crew. Still, the military stated, it could not be established for certain that the lethal shot was fired by al-Heib.

In April 2006, an official British inquest jury in London held legal hearings on both the Miller and the Hurndall shooting. After listening to eyewitnesses and military experts and seeing photo and video evidence, the verdicts were clear: Tom Hurndall was "intentionally killed" and James Miller was "murdered".

In the spring of 2008, the State of Israel offered the Miller family a compensation of £ 1.75 million (US$ 3.5 million). Even though way less than the £ 3 million the family had asked for in the civil lawsuit filed in 2005, they took time to consider the offer. Therefore, the first court hearing, which was scheduled to take place in Israel few weeks later, was postponed. The offer also called for the British government to retreat from their request of having Israeli soldiers extradited for legal prosecution. In the end, however, the Israeli government never followed through on their offer. The legal proceedings are expected to begin the winter.

Rachel Corrie, Human Rights Activist, Age 23, Killed in 2003 when run over by an Israeli armoured bulldozer in Rafah refugee camp, Occupied Gaza

In its Promoting Impunity report, Human Rights Watch is very direct in its criticism of the quality of the Operational Debriefings into civilian casualties.

The frequent discrepancies between IDF accounts of civilian deaths and injuries, on the one hand, and video, medical, and eyewitness evidence on the other hand, is the result in part of the IDF's practice of asking soldiers to "investigate" other soldiers from the same unit or command, without seeking and weighing testimony of external witnesses.

So-called "operational investigations" … do not constitute proper investigations: they are wholly inadequate to determine whether there is evidence of a violation of human rights or humanitarian law, and they serve as a pretext for maintaining, incorrectly, that an investigation has taken place.

In the report, HRW divides incidents in two categories depending on the nationality of the victim. One category is called "lowest priority". This is when the victim is Palestinian. The other category is called "special treatment". This is when the victim is an international. If the investigations into the shootings of Brian Avery, Tom Hurndall and James Miller are first class treatment, just imagine what second-class is like.

In a more recent incident, an Israeli tank killed Reuters' cameraman, Fadel Shana'a, on April 16, 2008. The 24-year-old Palestinian and soundman Wafa abu Mayzed were documenting an Israeli incursion into a village in the eastern Gaza strip. The film crew was shelled by one of the two tanks they were filming. They were positioned on a hilltop about a mile away and had clear view of the two reporters, who both wore bulletproof vests with "PRESS" written in bold letters on the front. Their car - with "TV" and "Press" written on it in big letters - was parked behind them and a crowd of children and youth had gathering around it.

According to Human Rights Watch, evidence suggests that the two reporters were deliberately targeted. Also, there was no fighting in the area, HRW reports.

The first shell, which killed Fadel Shana'a and injured Wafa abu Mayzed, was a so-called flechette missile, which is both extremely lethal and very imprecise. It explodes in mid-air, releasing thousands of large, dart-like metal projectiles over a radius of 300 meters. Its use is widely condemned by human rights organizations, and the Israeli High Court of Justice has said, its use "is restricted to areas in which danger of innocent civilians are not actual." A later shell hit their car, which burst into flames and burnt out. At least three bystanders were killed and a dozen injured. According to Reuters, none of them militants.

From the very beginning, a long list of organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reuters, Reporters Without Borders, the Foreign Press Association and the Committee to Project Journalists were calling for an independent, impartial investigation. These calls only got stronger when the Operational Debriefing found that the "implicated soldiers did no wrong". In a letter to Reuters, Avihai Mandelblit, who is currently serving as Judge Advocate General, explained, "the conclusion of the tank crew and its superiors … was sound … The available evidence does not suggest misconduct or criminal misbehavior …I have therefore decided … that no further legal measures will be taken."

"We are deeply dismayed by these findings," stated the Committee to Protect Journalists. Israeli soldiers are given a "free hand to kill," said Reuters. The findings of the "so-called investigation" were "scandalous", said Amnesty International and continued: "the need for a fully independent and impartial investigation is beyond question."

Chapter Seven – "A Ricochet," Says the Military Police

In September of 2007, the Military Police flew Brian Avery, Ewa, Jens and I to Israel for a week of questioning. Also, along with two soldiers from the APC, we were brought to Jenin in the middle of the night to point out where it had happened. Apparently there was a discrepancy of a few dozen meters between our stories. That week, 10 to15 investigators worked overtime on the case, which caused Avery's lawyer, Michael Sfard, to be somewhat optimistic.

"It is unprecedented that they put this many resources into an investigation, he said.

Two months later, the Military Police reported their findings to the Military Prosecutors' office. This is the office where it is decided whether or not to indict any soldiers. Some months later, with still no news coming from the prosecutors office, "anonymous sources in the Military Advocate-General's office" revealed to Jerusalem Post that investigators had found that Avery's injury was caused by either shrapnel from an Israeli bullet or by a ricocheting Israeli bullet.

The bad news is that once again an official, Israeli investigation was finalized without anyone talking to the surgeon from the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Remember, he was the bullet-wound-expert who did surgery on Brian Avery's face just two hours after the shooting and who stated that the wound was caused by a direct shot. How can it be that in five years no investigator has found it relevant to have him help answer the question, was Brian Avery the accidental victim of shrapnel or a ricochet bullet or the intentional victim of illegal violence or something in between?

For sure, the various investigators were informed of his testimony. When talking to Colonel Hefetz from a hospital bed in Haifa five years ago, Brian Avery mentioned it; I mentioned it in my written down affidavit, which was delivered to the military years ago; both Brian Avery and I mentioned it when questioned by the Military Police last September; I mentioned it when testifying in the civil proceedings in the Jerusalem court that same month.

Can it be that the surgeon has been avoided because his testimony contradicts what the military wants to prove with their investigations? When Michael Sfard in February 2008 realized that the Rambam surgeon had not been questioned, he contacted the chief military prosecutor and argued the importance of this testimony. Shortly after, Sfard received news that the Military Police had been asked by the prosecutors' office to do some more investigating. He is hopeful that this latest delay is related to finally talking to the surgeon. Today, nine months later, the investigation is - officially - still going on.

Chapter Eight – High Up, Cover Up

It would be convenient to assume that Brian Avery is awaiting justice because of incompetent investigators. Unfortunately, that is not the case. At the core of the problem lies a system within the Israeli military of sheltering its own from the law by covering up the truth. This system of deception, which is orchestrated from the very top, has very tangible consequences for millions of civilians living under the rule of the Israeli military.

"…a message [is transmitted] to the commanding officers and soldiers: Even if you breach the rules and harm innocent people, there is little, if any, chance that measures will be taken against you. This message leads to a trigger-happy attitude and to widespread injury and death among civilians in the Occupied Territories," maintains B'Tselem.

In the eight years since the JAG changed the way to investigate civilian deaths and injuries, Israeli soldiers have killed nearly five thousand and injured between ten and thirty thousand Palestinians. Of these, at least half were innocent civilians not involved in any kind of fighting.

How many times has a military investigator covered up murder, manslaughter or brutal violence? How many soldiers have been assisted in avoiding the law by the military holding up these Operational Debriefings as serious and thorough investigations? Hundreds? Thousands?

"There is a great feeling of impunity among Israeli soldiers," says Michael Sfard.

"No matter how many cases we win at the courts, the military keeps finding more and more excuses for using these Operational Debriefings instead of proper investigations. The military really wants this to be the way to conduct investigations when soldiers are involved in civilian death or injury."

-Lasse Jeppesen Schmidt earned his BA in journalism and MA in Peace and Conflict Studies. He lived and worked a year-and-a-half in the occupied Palestinian territories. He first visited Palestine as a volunteer human rights activist for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). He visited last in September 2007, when called by the military police investigators to give testimony in the Avery shooting. He is a native of Denmark, but currently residing in the U.S. with his American wife and their son. Mr. Schmidt contributed this article to

Friday, November 7, 2008

Acre pogrom highlights Zionist anti-Arab racism

By Kim Bullimore
This article was first published in the Australian political newspaper, Direct Action (No. 6)
It has also been published on Palestine Chronicle

Violent attacks by Jewish residents in the Israeli city of Acre last month have left 14 Palestinian families, a total of 72 people, homeless. All 72 are Israeli citizens who had their homes destroyed. For the more than 1 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Jewish “riots” in Acre are only the most extreme example of the systematic discrimination they face within the Zionist state.

According to a report issued by the Mossawa Centre, an advocacy centre for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of the 14 families were too frightened to return to what’s left of their homes. The October 20 report noted that the violence against the Palestinian families, which began on October 8, resulted in three homes being burnt to the ground and that in the case of several families the attacks were “another in a series of anti-Arab aggression[s] directed against them”, with at least one family having had their home “destroyed four times since 2000”.

Violence erupted after Acre Jews attacked a Palestinian man, Tawfiq Jamal, for driving his car through a Jewish neighbourhood to pick up his daughter from a relative’s house on the eve of the Jewish religious holiday of Yom Kippur. Jamal, along with his son, were attacked by hundreds of Jews when they arrived at the house of relatives, the Sha’aban family. According to an October 14 report issued by Badil, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugees, Jewish residents surrounded and attacked the family home, besieging 15 people inside, “while police stood outside”. As the attack continued, Palestinian Arab residents rushed to the aid of the besieged family, clashing with Jews attacking the house.

Israeli police look at a car that was flipped over during riots between Jewish and Arab residents of Acre; Israeli policemen arrest a rioter for driving during Yom Kippur (photos from Al Ahram)

Over the next four days, Jewish residents carried out repeated violent attacks against the 52,000 Palestinian Arab residents of Acre, who make up a third of the city’s population. Mobs of up to 1500 Jews wandered the streets stoning Palestinians and torching Palestinian residences, cars and businesses. The Israeli media reported that many in the Jewish mobs chanted “Death to the Arabs” as the attacks were carried out.

On October 13, the Israeli Ynet news service reported that the Northern District police commander Major-General Shimon Koren as saying, “the dominant elements behind the riots in Akko seem to be Jewish instigators”. Despite this, many Palestinians who attempted to defend themselves and their families from the pogrom were arrested. According to Badil’s October 14 report, while the police arrested equal numbers of Jews and Israeli Palestinians, the Israeli courts had systematically “released most of the Jewish detainees, while the time of detention for the Arab detainees is extended”.

On October 13, the Israeli police also arrested and charged Tawfiq Jamal for “harming religious sensibilities” by breaking the Jewish tradition of not driving on the Yom Kippur holiday. The Haifa District Court later sentenced Jamal to a week’s house arrest and suspended his driving license for 30 days. This was despite the fact that there are no Israeli laws which stipulate that it is illegal for either Jews or non-Jews to drive on Yom Kippur.

In response to Jamal’s arrest, Palestinian Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi from the United Arab list told Israeli radio on October 14 that the arrest was “unlawful”. Tibi went onto state that “the arrest proves that police had yielded to Jewish hooligans and I wonder if from now on they will start arresting Jews who eat and drink during Ramadan”, the Muslim holy month.

Israeli MP Mohammed Barakeh from the predominantly Arab-supported Hadash party also condemned Jamal’s arrest saying it was “aimed at appeasing right-wing extremists”. Barakeh told the October 15 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily that Jamal should be released immediately and that “the police abused a lynch victim while protecting gangs of extremists and settlers”.

1 of 3 Palestinian houses torched by Jewish rioters during Acre riots, Oct 2008
Photograph by Oren Ziv, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

The October pogrom in Acre isn’t the first to be carried out by Jews against Palestinian Israelis in Acre or other “mixed” cities in Israel. The anti-Arab riots by Jewish residents in Acre, however, have increased over the last decade with the establishment of a hesder-yeshiva, which combines military and religious training in the city, and with thousands of Israeli settlers being relocated to the city in the wake of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The violent attacks against Palestinians inside Israel are reflective of the similar attacks carried out by illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). On September 13, more than 100 Israeli settlers from the illegal colony of Yitzhar attacked the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya in the Nablus district of the occupied West Bank. The attack, described as a “pogrom” by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was just one of thousands of attacks carried out by illegal settlers against Palestinians since 1967.

In 2001, the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem noted in their report, Free Reign: vigilant settlers and Israel’s non-enforcement of the law that “settler violence against Palestinians is extensive and has been prevalent in the Occupied Territories for many years”. B’Tselem noted that between December 1987 and October 2001, 124 Palestinians had been murdered by Israeli settlers. The report went onto note that the Israeli military and police regularly failed to protect Palestinians from such violent attacks. B’Tselem’s website notes that since 2001, the situation in the occupied West Bank has not changed but instead gotten worse.

Burning of Palestinian agricultural land by illegal settlers in June 2008
Photograph by Anne Paq, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

Both the Acre pogrom and the ever-increasing settler attacks in the OPT have highlighted the systematic racism endured by Palestinian citizens of the “Jewish” state, despite its “democratic” facade, as well as the Zionists’ racism against Palestinians living in the OPT. While Palestinian citizens of Israel are supposedly afforded full citizen rights by the Israeli state, Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, notes that the Israeli state systematically discriminates against its Palestinian citizens, who account for more than 20% of Israel’s total population. According to Adalah, Israel has never sought to integrate its Palestinian citizens, instead “treating them as second-class citizens and excluding them from public life and the public sphere. The state [has] practiced systematic and institutionalised discrimination in all areas, such as land dispossession and allocation, education, language, economics, culture and poltical participation.” Adalah notes that Palestinian Israelis are not recognised as a national minority. Instead, Adalah points out that “successive Israeli governments maintained tight control over the community, attempting to suppress Palestinian/Arab identity and to divide the community within itself”.

A March 2007 survey by the Israeli Centre Against Racism found that more than half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to “national treason”, that 75% of Israeli Jews did not approve of apartment buildings being shared between Arabs and Jews. Sixty percent said they would not allow an Arab to visit their home, 55% said “Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites”, and 30.7% felt hatred when they heard Arabic being spoken on the street.

Anti-Palestinian graffiti in Hebron
Photo by Anna Baltzer

The violent attacks by Jews against Palestinians in Acre and in the OPT are a result of the institutionalised discrimination and racist bigotry that are an integral part of Israel’s official Zionist ideology. Israel originated as a European colonial-settler state that continues to grant privileges to Jews, while systematically discriminating against its non-Jewish Arab citizens.

This racism in Israel, as Joseph Massad, an associate professor in Modern Arab politics at New York City’s Columbia University noted in an March 2007 Al Ahram essay, Israel’s right to be racist, is manifest “in its flag, its national anthem and a bunch of laws that are necessary to safeguard Jewish privilege”. As long as Israel continues to function as a “Jewish” state and continues its illegal and brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank there will be no resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. As Massad notes, “no resolution will ever be possible before Israel revokes its racist laws and does away with its racist symbols, thus opening the way for a non-racist future for Palestinians and Jews in a decolonised bi-national state”.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Venezuela's Support for Palestine: A model for third world diplomacy

Dear friends,

please find below an very good article by Nikhal Shah outlining Venezuela's support for the Palestinian struggle.

As the article notes the Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela has come out clearly in support of the Palestinian people in not only words but in actions.

Not only was the Chavez goverment one of the few in the world to recognise the democratic vote of the Palestinian people in 2006, but it has repeatedly spoken out in support of Palestine and taken concrete action to support the struggle of the Palestinian people and others in the region suffering under the imperialist actions of Israel and the USA.

If you are interesting in finding out more about the Bolivarian revolution you can check out the following websites:

in solidarity, Kim

Venezuela's support for Palestine: A model for third world diplomacy
By Nikhil Shah

September 24, 2008

At a time, when the international community has turned a blind eye to Israel's crimes towards the Palestinians, Venezuela has been one of the few nations who has the courage to openly condemn Israel for its crimes and express support for the Palestinian people. Most members of the non-aligned movement professed support for the Palestinian cause during the cold war and severed relations with Israel as they saw the Palestinian struggle as part of the same anti colonial struggle that they were a part of.

Other commentators have stated that the non-aligned support for the Palestinian cause was not formed out of any genuine concern for the Palestinian people but as a way to align their foreign policy to that of the former Soviet Union for strategic purposes or to gather favor from several oil producing Arab nations for their development.

After the U.S. imposed Oslo Peace Process began in the early 90's, the international community eagerly resumed diplomatic ties with Israel and immediately started a process of military and technological cooperation with them. Many of these nations such as India and China had admired Israel as a nation that was technologically and militarily advanced and desired to have Israel share its expertise in these areas with them.[1] This build up of military cooperation and trade made many nations change their policy on criticizing Israel. These members of the international community turned a blind eye to Israel's practices towards the Palestinians in the years that followed, including a continued displacement of Palestinians, an increase in illegal Jewish settlements, continued expropriation of Palestinian lands, political assassinations, torture, discrimination against non-Jewish residents, and sabotaging the rights of Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 Al Nakba genocide.

Even after the outbreak of the second intifada, the international community refrained from holding Israel accountable for genocidal policies imposed on the Palestinians such as the forced starvation and economic devastation of over 1.5 million residents in Gaza or for the war crimes it committed during their illegal invasion of Lebanon in 2006. Occasional criticism or concerns would be expressed about Israel's actions but nation-states would refrain from severing diplomatic ties or holding Israel legally accountable for their crimes.

One exception to this diplomatic capitulation to Israel has been Venezuela under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has been outspoken in his criticism of Israeli policies and has undertaken and proposed steps to hold Israel accountable for their actions. Venezuela, like many other Latin American countries traditionally had friendly diplomatic relations with Israel. Since its existence, Israel has maintained military relations with right wing regimes in Latin America including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Israel has also been active in supporting several right-wing counterinsurgency groups in Latin America (acting as a proxy for the U.S.) with weapons, advice and training in their fight with leftist governments.

Chavez, however broke with this tradition when he announced in 2006 that he was withdrawing his senior diplomat from Israel in response to their invasion of Lebanon.[2] Chavez chose to take this course not because of any action Israel had taken against Venezuela, but because of Israel's treatment towards Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.[3] Chavez publically compared Israel's actions towards Palestinians and Lebanese to the holocaust stating that "Israel is doing what Hitler did, killing innocent children and entire families." [4] Chavez went on to stop Venezuela from issuing tourist visas to Israelis and during a trip to Beijing called for Israel to be tried for genocide before the International Criminal Court.[5]

Chavez also visited Syria and made a joint statement with the Syrian government calling on Israel to end its illegal occupation of the Golan Heights, abide by UN resolutions and for an end to double standards towards Israel internationally.[6] Chavez also sent a Boeing 707 with 20,000 tons of humanitarian aid to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused in Lebanon and Palestine due to Israel's aggressive actions.[7] Chavez has publicly criticized UN Secretary General Ba Ki Moon for not doing enough to strop repression by Israel.[8] These statements and actions have made Chavez one of the most popular leaders in the Arab world and have led opposition political parties in Arab countries to urge their governments to copy Venezuela's actions towards Israel. [9] Venezuela previously had military ties with Israel but chose to abandon them in favor of standing up for Palestinian rights.[10]

Chavez's actions towards Israel is something that all members of the international community should be emulating to stop the genocidal policies of the Israeli government. Stephen Lendmen in an article about holding Israel accountable for international law violations stated that when nations ignore Israel's crimes such as their violations of UN Resolutions, the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter or tacitly cooperate with it while they are committing these crimes, they are indirectly responsible for aiding their crimes and are "criminal accomplices" under Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter.[11]

Unfortunately, most nation states like India have chosen to ignore Israel's crimes during the last decade by continuing to increase military and cultural ties with them thus arguably becoming criminal accomplices in their crimes.

Also unfortunate is that nation state participation and support is required to legally hold Israel accountable for all their crimes against Palestinians and the surrounding Arab countries. The UN General Assembly can act to establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel like they did for Rwanda but this would require General Assembly members to act to bring about this proposal. Additionally, Palestinians can sue Israel for Genocide at the International Court of Justice but this again requires action brought by a nation state or at least consent for the suit by a nation state. Similarly, any attempt to expel Israel from the UN for defying UN resolutions and violating the UN Charter would require the action be brought by a UN member state.

It is for these reasons that citizens of various nation states who are concerned about the plight of the Palestinians must bring pressure to their governments to take Venezuela's lead and take concrete actions to hold Israel accountable for their behavior. Such demands can include breaking diplomatic ties with Israel and consenting to and supporting any suit brought against Israel for genocide in an international tribunal.

Many left parties in India and other countries have already taken the lead in the area and must continue to exercise pressure on their respective governments to follow Venezuela's lead with respect to Israel. Noted international lawyer, Francis Boyle, has also followed this strategy and lobbied Iranian officials for state consent to sue Israel for genocide against the Palestinians at the International Court of Justice.[12] Only actions such as these will serve to show the Palestinian people that the world will not turn a blind eye to the genocide that they are facing and will serve to motivate them to continue their anti-colonial struggle.

Nikhil Shah is an attorney in Los Angeles and a board member of the Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild.
[1] Krieger, Mathew, "Israel-China "water-trade" to rise significantly," Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2000.
[2] Ravid, Barak, "Israel may downgrade ties with Venezuela," Haaretz, September 30, 2007.
[3] Khatib, Dima, "Winning Arab hearts and minds," Al Jazeera, 18 August 2006.
[4] "Chavez Suggests Trying Israel for Genocide," Israel Today, August 27, 2006.
[5] Id.
[6]"Syria, Venezuela denounces U.S. "double-standard policy," El Universal, 31 August 2006
[7] Mather, Steven, "Israel Withdraws its Ambassador for Venezuela,", August 8, 2006.
[8] Mundial, Yvke, "Chavez criticizes Israel and Columbia for claiming right of defense to justify invasions," March 3, 2008.
[9] "Syrian Communists urge Arab leaders to Copy Venezuela's protest against Israel," Khaleej Times, August 2, 2006.
[10] Parma, Alessandro, "U.S. Continues to Block Venezuelan Defense Development,", October 26, 2005.
[11] Lendman, Stephen, "Israel Must be held accountable for its International Law Violations," ZMagazine, August 12, 2006.
[12] Gelkin, Chris, "Lawyer seeks Iran's help to sue Israel over Gaza Seige," Worldpress, April 25, 2008,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

West Bank Settler riot: what the media left out

By Kim Bullimore
This article has also been published by Palestine Chronicle

On September 13, in response to a 9 year old Israeli settler child living in the "wildcat" outpost of Shalhevet, about half a kilometre from the illegal Israeli colony of Yitzhar, being stabbed by a lone Palestinian, hundreds of illegal settlers rioted en-mass and terrorised several thousand villagers in the Palestinian township of Asira al Qibliya. In the course of the riot at least 8 Palestinians were seriously injured, six by live ammunition fired by the illegal settlers, who also vandalised residential homes and beat unarmed children and adults, while members of the fourth strongest army on earth stood by and let the settlers riot [1].

While much has been made by the illegal settlers and some of the Israeli and international press of the stabbing and "terrorist" attack on Yitzhar, little was said – if anything at all – about the fact that for the past decade the heavily armed settlers of Yitzhar and other nearby illegal Israeli settlements have been violently terrorising the unarmed Palestinian villages around them. Neither was it mentioned that in the last twelve months, such unprovoked attacks by the Yitzhar settlers have increased substantially. Nor was it mentioned that there had also been an increase in similar attacks by other illegal settlers against Palestinian villages in the Qaliqilya and Hebron region of the Occupied Paletinian Territories (OPT).

The intensification of these attacks in all the various regions throughout the occupied West Bank have been well documented by the Israeli military, international and Israeli human rights workers and have also been intermittently been reported in the Israeli media. In the Nablus region where Asira al Qibiliya is located, the attacks carried out by the illegal settlers – in many instances just before, during or after the Jewish Shabbat - have included the poisoning of Palestinian herds of goat and sheep, the torching and burning of hundreds of dunums of Palestinian agricultural land, the invasion of Palestinian villages by armed settlers, the beating and stoning of unarmed Palestinian residents, the destruction of Palestinian property and the firing of homemade missiles at Palestinian villages on several occasions [2]

Illegal settlers attack Asira al Qibiliya, 13 September 2008

On May 16th of this year, myself and my team mate from the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were called out to one of the many ongoing attacks carried out by the Yitzhar settlers against Asira al Qibiliya. On this particular occasion, 30 armed illegal settlers attempted to enter the village, hurling stones at houses and attempting to set alight the wheat fields belonging to the village. Over the next couple of hours an intense standoff occurred between the dozens of well-armed Israeli occupation forces and approximately hundred unarmed young boys and men from Asira al Qibiliya who had attempted to prevent the illegal settlers from entering the village and terrorising the inhabitants. The Israeli military rather than coming to the aid of the unarmed Palestinian villagers, instead opened fire on them with teargas and rubber bullets. One villager was hit in the face with a ricocheting bullet fired by the Israeli occupation forces and a woman and her four children, including a 2 month old baby and three other children under the age of 10 years suffered respiratory problems when the Israeli military threw teargas into their home [3]. According to the family, whose house lies on the outskirts of the village, close to the illegal colony this was not the first time their house had come under attack by either the settlers or the Israeli military. At around 7pm, the Israeli military finally left the village but at the request of the people of Asira al Qibiliya, ourselves and the activists from the ISM -who had arrived in the village during the middle of the standoff - stayed in the village overnight due to fears by the villagers that another attack would be carried out against them.

Because this was not the first attack on the village, over the next few months, IWPS, the ISM, the Ecumenical Accompaniers (EA) and Rabbis for Human Rights developed a roster to allow internationals and Israeli anti-occupation activists to either provide a presence in the village or to be on-call should any more settler attacks occur. Over the next few weeks, the illegal settler of Yitzhar and other illegal colonies attempted to carry out attacks on Asira al Qibiliya and other nearby villages. On a number of these occasions (but not all) the illegal settlers were prevented from entering the various villages or their surround fields, when the villagers demanded that the Israeli military stop them. While the Israeli military did on occasion prevent the illegal settlers from entering into the Palestinian villages, the settlers were never arrested or detained by the Israeli forces for attempting to carry out premeditated, unprovoked and violent attacks.

Despite this, however, settlers were still able to carry out a range of attacks on unarmed Palestinians. On June 16 illegal settlers from Yitzhar physically attacked three Palestinian sheppards from the village of Burin (located about a half hour from Asira al Qibiliya). According to the report issued by UN OCHA oPt (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories), the settlers also stabbed and killed three donkeys [4].

Three days later on June 19, both IWPS and UN OCHA oPt documented settlers from Yitzhar and other illegal setters attacking two houses in Burin, stoning Palestinian plated cars and setting fire to the farm lands of Palestinians villagers from Burin, Asira al Qibilya and Urif, destroying more than 800 dunums of olive groves. On the morning of this attack, myself and my team mates at IWPS had received an emergency call from locals in Asira al Qibiliya informing us that the illegal settlers were in the process of torching hundreds of dunums of Palestinian farmland in the area and were carrying out an attack on the nearby village of Burin. Two of my team mates quickly headed to Burin, while myself and another team mate alerted the media and other activists to the attacks.

As my team mates travelled to Burin, I rang contacts in the village. While talking to a Palestinian journalist who was on location in the village, I could hear yelling, shoots being fired and scuffles breaking out as villagers attempted to get to their fields to put out the fires set by the illegal settlers. The Israeli military, however, who had refused to stop the settlers setting the fire, also physically prevented the Palestinian farmers and villagers from getting to their fields to put the blazes out. Our field team also rang to tell us that despite being 15 minutes away from the village, they could see large plumes of smoke in the air and fields burning. Our field team were later to report that around 250 illegal settlers on board coaches who arrived in the area. According to our field team, the Israeli military accompanied the settlers and did not attempt to prevent them from endangering the lives of the villagers or destroying their property [5]. Instead, when the villagers of Burin attempted to defend themselves against the settler attacks, the Israeli military open fire on the unarmed villagers throwing teargas canisters into two of the houses under attacks. As a result an elderly Palestinian woman and a 3 month old baby suffered tear gas inhalation and needed medical attention. In addition, UN OCHA oPt noted that due to the settler attacks, the Israeli military were forced to close the road between Yitzhar colony (in the Nablus region) and Jit village (in the Qalqilya regioni) for seven hours between 11 am and 6pm. [6]

The following month on July 27, IWPS received yet another emergency call from Burin where 25 - 30 illegal settlers were using petrol to set fire to the village's olive and almonds trees after attempting to carry out a stoning attack on Palestinian sheppards [7]. The villagers reported to IWPS that this was the third attack the village had suffered at the hand of the illegal settlers that week.

Illegal settlers tie Palestinian man to telephone pole and beat him
Samoa, Occupied Hebron, July 2008

The failure to mention the growing number of attacks on the Palestinian villages of the Nablus region by the illegal settlers from Yitzhar and other illegal colonies, however, was not the only thing left out of the coverage of the settler riot by much of the Israeli english-language and international media. Also left out was that illegal settlers who reside in Yitzhar are some of the most hardcore and ideological of settlers, with a great many of them being adherents of the violent, racist anti-Arab ideology of American-born Israeli, Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Kahane, who was assassinated by an Egyptian-born American in 1990, was the founder of the racist Jewish Defense League in the USA and Kach (Thus) in Israel. He was also the inspiration for Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives) which was founded by his son. Kahane, who was elected to the Knesset in 1984 called for the expulsion of all Palestinians and Arabs from the Holy Land, the banning of sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews and also believed that democracy and Judaism were not compatible [8]

In 1994, Kach and Kahane Chai were declared terrorist organisations by the Israeli government (and later the USA) after one of Kach's members, American-born Israeli doctor, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Muslim men, women and children at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and wounded at least 100 others. At the time of the attack Kach issued statements supporting Goldstein's act of mass murder. The following year in 1995, a follower of Kahane, Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin [9].

Jessica Stern in her 2003 book, Terror in the Name of God: Why religious militants kill, notes that prior to Goldstein's murderous attack and the assassination of Rabin, Kach and Kahane Chai had also claimed responsibility for a range of other attacks on Palestinians and Israeli government officials, including the murder of four Palestinians in 1993. Stern also documents that in 2002 Kach leader, Baruch Marzel, was arrested in connection "with a plot to leave a trailer laden with barrels of gasoline and two gas balloons outside a Palestinian girls' school in East Jerusalem" [10].

In the wake of the attacks carried by the illegal settlers, the Israeli english-language and international media reported that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated that his government would not allow "pogroms against non-Jews" to be carried out. However, what was not mentioned in the media coverage was that the Israeli Prime Minister only found his voice after the Israeli television media aired extensively footage, obtained by Palestinian, International and Israeli anti-occupation activists, showing the intensity of the attack and that the Israeli military and police had accompanied the settlers to the village and stood by watched as the settlers to carry out the attack on the unarmed village, doing nothing to prevent it. Prior to the footage being shown, Olmert had little to say about this latest settler attack.

Also not mentioned by Olmert or the subsequent media coverage was that such large scale "pogroms" are perpetrated on regular basis by illegal settlers against Palestinians civilians and that the Israeli military and police do nothing to prevent them. This fact has been regularly document by Israeli human rights groups such as B'Tselem. In 2001, they noted in their report, Free Reign: Vigilante settlers and Israel's non-enforcement of the law, that "settler violence against Palestinians is extensive and has been prevalent in the Occupied Territories for many years [11]. B'Tselem noted that between December 1987 and the beginning of October 2001, that 124 Palestinians had been murdered by Israeli settlers, 11 of them between the one year period between September 2000 and October 2001. The report went onto note that the Israeli military and police regularly failed in their duties to protect Palestinians from violent attacks.

Seven years after B'Tselem's Free Reign report, the organisation's website notes that nothing much has changed. According to B'Tselem's website, "when Palestinians attack Israelis, the authorities invoke all means at their disposal – including some that are incompatible with international law and constitute gross violations of human rights – to arrest suspects and bring them to trail. Defendants convicted by military courts can expect harsh sentences" [12 ]. However, according to B'Tselem, "in contrast, when Israeli civilians attack Palestinians, the Israeli authorities employ an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise towards the perpetrators. This policy is reflected in the actions of the officials in charge of law enforcement – the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the Israel Police Force (IPF) – which do not do enough to prevent harm to the life and property of Palestinians and to sop violent attacks by settlers while they are taking place. All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories".

The recent "pogrom" carried out by the illegal settlers of Yitzhar is not an isolated incident or an aberration. Such pogroms happen with frightening regularity and are regularly ignored by the Israeli government who view the illegal settlers as their front line shock troops against the Palestinian population. These attacks are also regularly ignored by the mainstream media, who as media researchers Greg Philo and Mike Berry in their 2004 book, Bad News from Israel, note regularly fail to accurately report what happens in Occupied Palestinian Territories [13].

The failure of the media to do its job and to accurately report what is happening in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza is why it is important for those of us concerned about human rights to support B'Tselem's "Shooting Back" program (where video cameras are provided to vulnerable communities in the OPT), as well as the work of groups like IWPS and ISM who regularly document on the ground the reality of what is happening.

The recent settler riots in Asira al Qibiliya will not be the last to take place in OPT. Until Israel's illegal and brutal occupation is ended and occupation infrastructure such as the illegal colonies, outposts and the apartheid wall are dismantled and the Israeli military that protects them is removed, Palestinians will not be safe in their own homes and there will be no chance at a real peace, which will bring an end to bloodshed on both sides of the conflict.

Al Jazeera - Inside Story: Israeli settler violence (part1) 18 June 2008

[1] Weiss, E., (13 September, 2008) Palestinian stabs Yitzhar boy; settlers riot,7340,L-3595927,00.html

[2] Associated Press (13 July, 2008) Settler arrested in failed rocket attack on Palestinian town

[3] Settlers attack Asira al Qibliya, ISM Report (17 May, 2008)

[4] Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (11 – 17 June, 2008) UN OCHA oPt

[5] IWPS Human Rights Report 360

[6] Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (18 – 24 June, 2008) UN OCHA oPt

[7] Mergui, R., and Simonnot, P., (1987) Israel's Ayatollahs: Meir Kahane and the Far Right in Israel. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Saqi Books

[8] IWPS Human Rights Report 371

[9] Kahane Movement, Anti-Defamation League

[10] Talking with Jewish Extremists (excerpts from Jessica Stern's 2003 book, Terror in the Name of God: Why religious militants kill) Israel's next war, Frontline, PBS

[11] Dudai, R., (2001) Free Reign: Vigilante settlers and Israel's non-enforcement of the law, B'Tselem: Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (Jerusalem)

[12] B'Tselem: Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

[13] Philo, G., and Berry, M., (2004) Bad News from Israel , Pluto Press, London