Tag Archives: Israel

The Emmett Till Effect in Israel

Is this justice?

Last Thursday, two Israelis were convicted of brutally beating an African refugee to death, but were spared long prison sentences when the judge agreed to reduce the charges against them from murder to manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported.

In November 2016, 20-year-old Dennis Barshivatz and a 17-year-old who cannot be named under Israeli law beat Babikir Ali Adham-Abdo, a 40-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, for an hour and a half in front of the city hall of Petach Tikva, a Tel Aviv suburb that is a sister city of Chicago, Ill. Barshivatz will serve a maximum of 10 years in jail and will be eligible for release much earlier. The court has yet to determine sentencing for his teenage accomplice.

The killing of Adham-Abdo has evoked comparisons to the Mississippi murder and mutilation of the Chicago teenager Emmett Till in 1955. Just as American racists attempted to excuse Till’s murder by posthumously accusing the black teen of having flirted with a white woman whose path he had crossed, some Israelis allege that Adham-Abdo had brought on the lethal beating he received when he supposedly sexually harassed a group of Israeli teenage girls at the scene.

In the case of Till, the woman he was accused of flirting with admitted over half a century later that she had fabricated the entire claim, and that Till had never made any advances toward her. The allegations against Adham-Abdo were also revealed to be baseless when CCTV footage of the incident was released. The city hall security camera video clearly showed that Adham-Abdo approached the table where the three teens were sitting, spoke to the group for less than 10 seconds, then turned and walked away. Moments later, his assailants set upon him and began to brutally beat him.

Another parallel between the Adham-Abdo and Emmett Till incidents lay in the grievous injuries wrought to their faces. In both cases, their faces were pummeled so badly that they were unrecognizable. Adham-Abdo’s brother was only able to claim the body for burial once he had identified it based on its missing fingers, which had been severed during murderous clashes in Darfur, from which Adham-Abdo had originally fled to Israel to escape.

“We don’t agree to the penalties,” Adham-Abdo’s cousin Moussa told Haaretz. “We thought there was justice in the Israeli courts, we thought Israel was a state of justice. If the victim had been an Israeli, the outcome would have been different. There’s racism here.”

Sadly, Adham-Abdo was not the first African refugee to be beaten to death by a group of Israelis in a public place in recent years. In October 2015, during a shooting attack at the central bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, a security guard shot 29-year-old Ertirean refugee Haftom Zarhum under the premise that he was assumed to be one of the terrorists. The bus station’s security footage revealed that Zarhum was clearly unarmed and crawling on the ground like other innocent bystanders, trying to avoid the bullets of the terrorist attackers.

As Zarhum bled out on the ground, Israelis took turns kicking him in the face and slamming chairs and benches down on him, while other bystanders actively prevented medics from reaching him to treat his wounds. In June 2016, a judge ruled that one of the Israelis who slammed a bench down on Zarhum’s head would not be charged. Charges are pending against four other Israelis who participated in the lynching.

The vicious violence against non-Jewish African refugees in Israel follows years in which Israeli political leaders and religious officials regularly whipped up racist sentiments against them, accusing them of bringing to Israel deadly diseases, violent crimes and anti-state terrorism. Official Israeli government statistics have proven all these smears to be baseless. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary justification for expelling the refugees cannot be so easily dismissed: They should not be able to live in Israel, he claims, because they are not Jews.

That the refugees are not Jews is true. Of those who are religious, about half are Christian, and about half are Muslim. The belief that non-Jews have no right to live in the Holy Land has always had some currency among Israeli Jews, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the country’s current chief rabbi now openly preaching that genocidal doctrine.

In 2013, Netanyahu completed the construction of a high-tech fence on Israel’s border with the African continent, in order to end the influx of asylum seekers. In the five years that followed, Israeli authorities cajoled over a third of the community, more than 20,000 refugees, to agree to self-deport, by withholding their refugee rights and promising instead that these will be granted to them in an unnamed African country. Now Netanyahu has warned that any African refugees who don’t agree to self-deport by April 1 will be jailed indefinitely until they do so. The first group to face this choice will be single African men who aren’t yet fathers.

Human rights activists, journalists and liberal lawmakers who have followed up with refugees already forced out of Israel have learned that the government never fulfilled its promises to them, and that they were quickly made stateless once more. Without state protection, the vast majority of these refugees then fled for the European Union, hoping to find asylum there. Many then endured horrific tortures at the hands of Libyan slave traders, or drowned in the Mediterranean in failed attempts to reach Fortress Europe.

Anticipating Netanyahu’s April 1 deadline to self-deport, progressive Israelis have begun to publicly oppose the impending expulsion. In recent weeks, groups of doctors and artists, pilots and teachers have taken out advertisements in Israeli newspapers, articulating their objections to the plan. Liberal rabbis have invoked the memory of iconic Holocaust victim Anne Frank in announcing that they plan to resist by hiding African refugees in their own homes, and some Holocaust survivors have also agreed to take them in.

But despite these expressions of solidarity, Netanyahu has vowed to carry out the expulsion as planned, reaping popular support for the plan that he sowed with years of racist incitement. A poll last month found that two-thirds of Israeli citizens support the government’s plan to round up and deport all the remaining African asylum seekers, who now number only about 36,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population.

On Saturday, 20,000 Israelis and Africans marched in the streets of Tel Aviv, calling on the government to allow the refugees to work legally, and to invest in the neighborhoods they live in, so that their presence is not perceived as a burden to long-time residents. It was a brief reminder that the left still exists, even after a decade of rule by what may have been the most racist governments in Israel’s history.

But it was also an indication of the vigilante violence that could be let loose against African refugees if Israeli racists feel that the government plan to expel them all is in danger of being annulled. According to Israeli news site i24, police detained two Israeli men and seized a gun from one of them after they publicly plotted over Facebook to attend a pro-refugee demonstration and attack the Africans with weapons.

By David Sheen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Why is the Israeli Army Finally Worried About Gaza?

Last week Israeli military officials for the first time echoed what human rights groups and the United Nations have been saying for some time: that Gaza’s economy and infrastructure stand on the brink of collapse.
They should know.
More than 10 years ago the Israeli army tightened its grip on Gaza, enforcing a blockade on goods coming in and out of the tiny coastal enclave that left much of the 2 million-strong population there unemployed, impoverished and hopeless.
Since then, Israel has launched three separate major military assaults that have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, killed many thousands and left tens of thousands more homeless and traumatised.
Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, an extremely overcrowded one, with only a few hours of electricity a day and its ground water polluted by seawater and sewage.
After a decade of this horrifying experiment in human endurance, the Israeli army finally appears to be concerned about whether Gaza can cope much longer.
In recent days it has begun handing out forms, with more than a dozen questions, to the small number of Palestinians allowed briefly out of Gaza – mainly business people trading with Israel, those needing emergency medical treatment and family members accompanying them.
One question asks bluntly whether they are happy, another whom they blame for their economic troubles. A statistician might wonder whether the answers can be trusted, given that the sample group is so heavily dependent on Israel’s good will for their physical and financial survival.
But the survey does at least suggest that Israel’s top brass may be open to new thinking, after decades of treating Palestinians only as target practice, lab rats or sheep to be herded into cities, freeing up land for Jewish settlers. Has the army finally understood that Palestinians are human beings too, with limits to the suffering they can soak up?
According to the local media, the army is in part responding to practical concerns. It is reportedly worried that, if epidemics break out, the diseases will quickly spread into Israel.
And if Gaza’s economy collapses too, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could be banging on Israel’s door – or rather storming its hi-tech incarceration fence – to be allowed in. The army has no realistic contingency plans for either scenario.
It may be considering too its image – and defence case – if its commanders ever find themselves in the dock at the International Criminal Court in the Hague accused of war crimes.
Nonetheless, neither Israeli politicians nor Washington appear to be taking the army’s warnings to heart. In fact, things look set to get worse.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week there could be no improvements, no reconstruction in Gaza until Hamas agrees to give up its weapons – the only thing, in Hamas’s view, that serves as a deterrent against future Israeli attack.
Figures show Israel’s policy towards Gaza has been actually growing harsher. In 2017 exit permits issued by Israel dwindled to a third of the number two years earlier – and a hundredfold fewer than in early 2000. A few hundred Palestinian businesspeople receive visas, stifling any chance of economic revival.
The number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza has been cut in half – not because Israel is putting the inmates on a “diet”, as it once did, but because the enclave’s Palestinians lack “purchasing power”. That is, they are too poor to buy Israeli goods.
Netanyahu has resolutely ignored a plan by his transport minister to build an artificial island off Gaza to accommodate a sea port under Israeli or international supervision. And no one is considering allowing the Palestinians to exploit Gaza’s natural gas fields, just off the coast.
In fact, the only thing holding Gaza together is the international aid it receives. And that is now in jeopardy too.
The Trump administration announced last week it is to slash by half the aid it sends to Palestinian refugees via the UN agency UNRWA. Trump has proposed further cuts to punish Mahmoud Abbas, the increasingly exasperated Palestinian leader, for refusing to pretend any longer that the US is an honest broker capable of overseeing peace talks.
The White House’s difficuties are only being underscored as Mike Pence, the US vice-president, visits Israel as part of Trump’s supposed push for peace. He is being boycotted by Palestinian officials.
Palestinians in Gaza will feel the loss of aid severely. A majority live in miserable refugee camps set up after their families were expelled in 1948 from homes in what is now Israel. They depend on the UN for food handouts, health and education.
Backed by the PLO’s legislative body, the central council, Abbas has begun retaliating – at least rhetorically. He desperately needs to shore up the credibility of his diplomatic strategy in pursuit of a two-state solution after Trump recently hived off Palestine’s future capital, Jerusalem, to Israel.
Abbas threatened, if not very credibly, to end a security coordination with Israel he once termed “sacred” and declared as finished the Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority he now heads.
The lack of visible concern in Israel and Washington suggests neither believes he will make good on those threats.
But it is not Abbas’s posturing that Netanyahu and Trump need to worry about. They should be listening to Israel’s generals, who understand that there will be no defence against the fallout from the catastrophe looming in Gaza.

by Jonathan Cook/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Israel Is Exposing Africans to Danger of Slavery

You’ve probably heard that right now, in the year 2018, African men, women and children are being sold at slave auctions in Libya. What you may not have heard is that Israel—the recipient of more United States military aid than any other country in the world—is putting tens of thousands of Africans at risk of torture at the hands of those very slave traders. How did these refugees come to find themselves in Israel to begin with? And why is Israel now expelling them all?

First of all, Israel is connected to Africa—northeast Africa. And as African people flee the dictatorships oppressing them and ethnically cleansing them, they flee in every direction, including northeast, to Israel. Those that have fled to Israel believed its claim to be a democracy, and thought that a state supposedly established to provide a safe haven for refugees would understand them and grant them asylum.

But they were wrong. In 2012, Israel built a high-tech fence on its border, cutting the country off from the rest of the African continent, to ensure that no more refugees could enter. And once it was completed, the government worked on forcing out the 65,000 African refugees that had already made it into the country. At first, Israel feared what the world would say if it sent these refugees right back to the tortures they had fled. So instead of outright deporting them, it announced an official policy to “make their lives miserable” in order to drive them all out.

Hundreds of Israeli chief rabbis issued a joint religious edict decreeing that it is a sin against God to rent apartments to African refugees. Israel’s political leaders baselessly accused the Africans of being incorrigible criminals and of spreading diseases. And for years, the government outright refused to examine African refugees’ asylum requests. When it finally did, Israel earned itself the distinction of having a higher refugee rejection rate than any other country in the world, over 99 percent.

And then the government built the largest detention center in the world, and rounded into it thousands of refugees off the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. All this in order to “make their lives miserable,” so that they buckle to the pressure, grudgingly relent and agree to self-deport back to Africa. In this way, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to ethnically cleanse the country of between a third and a half of all African refugees in just five years.

All this was bad enough. But now an old-new evil spirit is sweeping across the globe. Buoyed by a worldwide wave of white supremacy, Netanyahu now realizes that it’s no longer necessary to coerce consent from these African refugees in order to deport them. Netanyahu’s new plan is to simply round up the remaining 35,000 African refugees, and physically force them out of the country. If any refugees refuse to leave, Israel will jail them for life. In December, the measure passed in the Israeli parliament with a large majority, and the country’s Supreme Court gave the policy its stamp of approval.

Netanyahu is beginning to boast about Israeli xenophobia, and trying to convince some European Union allies to adopt its racist policies—and purchase its high-tech fences to keep refugees from reaching Fortress Europe. If Israel is allowed to expel its remaining African refugees, it will send a clear message to the EU that it’s legitimate for any country to adopt anti-refugee rules and keep out black and brown people that are fleeing for their lives—without even a sense of shame.

Let’s not pretend that Israel is some kind of safe haven for black folks. In recent years, the government’s racist rhetoric has led to lots of vigilante violence against this community. African refugees have been murdered by Israeli lynch mobs across the country. Even the babies of African refugees have been violently attacked by Israeli racists: In Tel Aviv, a kindergarten was firebombed, and a 1-year-old baby was stabbed in the head. No Israeli has ever been sentenced to jail for any of these savage hate crimes.

But the fate that awaits these refugees if they are forced out of Israel will be far worse. Israel has bribed the government of Rwanda with tens of millions of dollars to agree to take in the refugees that Israel expels. But the refugees aren’t granted status there. Instead their documents are confiscated, and they are quickly forced to leave the country and begin their search for safe haven all over again, from scratch. While seeking protection in Europe, they are falling into captivity in Libya, where they are tortured and raped, mutilated and murdered.

By David Sheen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Threat to free speech

There is a Senate bill, along with a companion bill in the House, working its way through Congress with strong bipartisan support, that poses a significant danger to free speech. One would think this bill would be a big deal but, surprisingly, the bill has not received much coverage in the mainstream media.

Fortunately the American Civil Liberties Union is alert to efforts undermining free speech. Thus, in a July 20th article on the ACLU website about S. 720/H.R. 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Bryan Hauss, Staff Attorney, wrote:

The bill would amend existing law to prohibit people in the United States from supporting boycotts targeting Israel — making it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Hauss continues:

The bill is aimed at advocates of boycotts targeting Israel, most notably the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement — a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Specifically, the bill sponsors intend the act as a response to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 2016 resolution calling on companies to respect human rights, including in occupied Palestinian territories. No matter what you think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one thing is clear: The First Amendment protects the right to engage in political boycotts.

Amazingly, supporters of this bill seem to have a problem with calling on companies to respect human rights! Who would draft such a problematic bill that stifles free speech and nonviolent political action?

The theintercept.com website carried a July 19th article by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim that said:

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year.

This AIPAC-influenced bill is consistent with AIPAC’s long-term pattern of advocating for the interests of a foreign nation, Israel. AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, D.C. and many members of Congress seem to automatically toe its line. Thus it is not surprising that 46 senators and 245 representatives have already signed on to the bill originally introduced on March 23rd.

Greenwald and Grim added that cosponsors include liberal Senators Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell as well as conservative Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse. In the House, cosponsors include conservatives such as Jason Chaffetz, Liz Cheney, and Peter King as well as liberals Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell. Greenwald and Grim noted that these latter three members, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are cosponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.

Many of the cosponsors claim they were unaware of the penalties that could be applied in the bill whereas a few others state that they have a different reading of the bill, particularly related to the criminal penalties.

In addition to using AIPAC and other groups to lobby Congress, Israel previously directly inserted itself into our legislative process. For example, in 2015 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly campaigned to derail the nuclear agreement with Iran. Also of concern, many U.S. and Israeli political experts thought Netanyahu clearly tried to sway the outcome in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election in favor of the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

We must protect our free speech by opposing this highly questionable bill designed to benefit a foreign nation. In Colorado this means questioning Senator Bennet and Representatives Lamborn, Coffman and Buck, about their support for this appalling bill. We can also thank the other members of the Colorado delegation for not cosponsoring this terrible affront to free speech and the Constitution.

By Ron Forthofer/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ellison Loses DNC Race After Heated Campaign Targeting Him For His Views On Palestine


Image result for dnc
Image: Politico

Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison lost his bid to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Saturday after  a scorched-earth smear campaign targeting  his religious faith, his affinity for the Nation of Islam in his youth, and his support for Palestinian rights alongside a secure Israel.

Instead, the majority of the DNC’s voting members chose former labor secretary Tom Perez to lead the party. After two rounds of voting in Atlanta, Perez netted 235 votes to Ellison’s 200.

Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.

More from the Intercept

Posted by Libergirl

Israel approves permits for 566 settler homes

Building plan in East Jerusalem approved by local council after being held up until Donald Trump took office in the US.

Israeli authorities have approved building permits for 566 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, according to local officials, a move that has drawn condemnation from Palestinian leaders.

The approval of the building plan on Sunday came two days after the inauguration of Donald Trump in the United States, with Israeli official saying the permits had been held up until the end of Barack Obama’s administration, which had been critical of Israeli settlement activity.

“The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump’s arrival as president,” Meir Turgeman, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, told AFP news agency.

“We no longer have our hands tied as in the time of Barack Obama. Now we can finally build.”

Turgeman said that city officials approved the plans that had been previously postponed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request following a UN Security Council resolution in December against Israeli settlement building.

The new permits are for homes in the settlement neighbourhoods of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo, according to Turgeman, who also heads the planning committee that approved them.

Turgeman said plans for about 11,000 other homes were also in process in East Jerusalem, though he did not say when they could proceed.

‘State above law’

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and have been major stumbling blocks in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Between 2009 and 2014, Israeli settlements expanded by 23 percent in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the building plans and called on the United Nations to take action, particularly given the recent Security Council resolution.

“It is time to stop dealing with Israel as a state above the law,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that with Trump now in the White House the Israeli government feels it can build illegal settlements on Palestinian land without facing much criticism.

“They think that this is a retooling of the relationship with the US,” Khan said. “Under President Trump the Israelis feel that they will have a lot more leeway to build on Palestinian land,” he added.

“And this is a message to the world that they can build wherever they want, including on the land of a future Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu-Trump talks

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he was to speak with Trump later in the day, their first conversation since the billionaire businessman took office.

Trump has pledged strong support for Israel and vowed during his campaign to recognise Jerusalem as the country’s capital despite the city’s contested status.

READ MORE: Abbas warns Trump not to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Israel clashed frequently with Obama over construction in areas it conquered in 1967.

But Trump’s appointed ambassador to Israel has close ties to Jewish West Bank settlements, as does the foundation run by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

From Al Jazeera and news agencies

Posted by The NON-conformist

Netanyahu calls nuclear deal ‘mistake of historic proportions’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the nuclear deal announced by world powers and Iran on Tuesday a “mistake of historic proportions” and vowed to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Image: Ahikam SerI, EPA

“I call on all of Israel’s leaders to set aside petty politics and to unite around the most fateful issue for the security of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem later Tuesday, the Israeli leader said his nation is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself.

The deal makes the world a “much more dangerous place,” Netanyahu said, adding it will free up billions of dollars that Iran can use to support terrorism.

More from USA Today

Posted by Libergirl