Media Roundup: Gaza One Year Later

Kids play at at the Port in Gaza. © palestinephotobank.com.

This Time Last Year

Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK – 14 July

PSC – UK has been keeping a daily track of last summer’s Israeli war on Gaza on their Facebook page. This was today’s entry:

On this day last year in Gaza, 4-year-old Sara Omar Ahmad Sheikh al-Eid was playing with her father and uncle in the family’s garden when she was fatally wounded by shrapnel. Sara’s father Omar Ahmed Abdullah Sheikh al-Eid, 26 years old, and her uncle Jihad Ahmed Abdullah Sheikh al-Eid, 48 years old, were also killed when their home in the Musabbeh neighbourhood in the north of Rafah was targeted by an Israeli airstrike

Those killed 14 July 2014 – this day last year in Gaza:

Adham Abdul-Fattah Abdul-Aal, 27
Hamid Suleiman Abu al-Araj, 60, Deir al-Balah
Abdullah Mahmoud Baraka, 24, Khan Younis
Tamer Salem Qdeih, 37, Khan Younis
Ziad Maher an-Najjar, 17, Khan Younis
Ziad Salem ash-Shawy, 25, Rafah
Mohammad Yasser Hamdan, 24, Gaza
Mohammad Shakib al-Agha, 22, Khan Younis
Ahmed Younis Abu Yousef, 22, Khan Younis
Sara Omar Sheikh al-Eid, 4, Rafah
Omar Ahmad Sheikh al-Eid, 24, Rafah
Jihad Ahmad Sheikh al-Eid, 48, Rafah
Kamal Atef Yousef Abu Taha, 16, Khan Younis
Ismael Nabil Ahmad Abu Hatab, 21, Khan Younis
Boshra Khalil Zorob, 53, Rafah
Atwa Amira al-Amour, 63, Khan Younis

One Year Later 

Gaza Today: Gaza Testimonies, by B’Tselem 

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has compiled several text and video testimonies of Gazan who are still suffering the devastating attacks of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. Below are a few of the Gazans who were interviewed:

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At midnight, the Israeli air force bombed the tower where our apartment had been. When the first missile hit the tower, I remembered how ‘Ahed and I began to look for an apartment to buy, and how we painted our place and arranged our furniture. I thought about my life with ‘Ahed in our apartment. I recalled the renovations and the new furniture we bought. We lived there together for nine years.

Mayadah Zaqut

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I now live in a tent by the ruins of our home. The clothes I have on are the only ones I have. I used to share a room with my brother and have lots of clothing and toys. But that’s not what makes me sad. I’m sad because my father’s dead. If he were here, it would make up for everything. And he would buy us clothes and a new house.

Shadi Barakeh, 12
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In 2012 we built a house. We were thrilled to have our own home. It was bombed, and the Israeli forces uprooted the olive and lemon trees that were our source of income. Now we live at the school, in rough conditions.

Shuruq Abu Tu’eymah

A year later- Mu’taz, 16, tells how much he misses his friend:

The Gaza Strip, December 2014: Life amidst the ruins

The following photographs were taken by Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the northern Gaza Strip. This is his account of the story behind the images: “The fighting during Operation Protective Edge made it practically impossible to get around Gaza to document events as they unfolded. It would have meant risking life and limb. For the past three months, B’Tselem’s three field researchers in Gaza – Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, Muhammad Sa’id and I – have been carefully going through the Gaza Strip, following up on reports one neighborhood at a time, one house at a time. We take pictures of formerly vibrant, densely populated neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. We meet people living amidst the ruins. They have nothing. They tell of their efforts to take shelter from the elements, to ward off the cold and the rain. They tell of their despair and helplessness. The extent of devastation defies the imagination. It is nightmarish. The only ray of hope is the sight of children playing, playing in the rubble.”

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Remembering the War

“Haunting scene on Irish beach remembers the children among Gaza’s dead,” by Blathnaid Healy, Mashable – 9 July 

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Hundreds of baby vests and T-shirts have been placed on a beach in Dublin this week, with each one representing a child who died during the 50-day conflict between Gaza and Israel last year.

The installation was made by a group of artists who wanted to remember the children killed in the war last summer, which left 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people in Israel dead. More than 550 of the Palestinians who died were children.

The group of artists asked Dubliners to donate white baby clothes for their installation, which stands on a beach in Sandymount, about 3 miles south of the city centre.

Unit 8200 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

“Unit 8200: Israel’s cyber spy agency,” by John Reed, Financial Times – 10 July

Financial Times profiled the Israeli intelligence agency Unit 8200. In addition to being “the equivalent of America’s National Security Agency and the largest single military unit in the Israel Defence Forces,” the Unit is deemed “one of the most formidable of its kind in the world.” One quoted intelligence expert ranked it equal to the NSA in everything but scale.

Many Unit 8200 officers “can parlay their cutting-edge snooping and hacking skills into jobs in Israel, Silicon Valley” or elsewhere after finishing their conscription service. “The authors of Start-up Nation, the seminal 2009 book about Israel’s start-up culture, described 8200 and the Israeli military’s other elite units as ‘the nation’s equivalent of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.'”

While many Israeli start-ups may be a net gain for human endeavors, Unit 8200 has an ugly side both in institutional practices toward the Palestinians and in the technologies developed by former officers that are later sold for commercial profit to authoritarian regimes. The article details the military, academic and business relationships surrounding the Unit with individuals moving from one sector to the other. Israeli academy is implicated in the Unit’s oppressive tactics toward the Palestine. One Tel Aviv University professor, who previously worked in intelligence and the private sector, demurs when asked about recent claims by former Unit officers regarding systemic oppression of innocent Palestinians: “I don’t want to comment. I don’t know the details,” he implausibly claims, But adds, “In general, one should be very careful. If I give you a knife, you can use it to cut your salad, but you can do other things with it, too.” As if pleading caution absolves one from moral responsibility.

And Israel’s intelligence agencies have spawned a legion of profitable firms for its hi-tech private sector:

Last year, Israel’s export of cyber security products — designed to protect companies, banks and governments from the growing “dark web” of hackers, fraudsters and snoopers — topped $6bn, exceeding Israeli exports of military hardware for the first time. Today Israel, with just eight million people, captures about 10 per cent of the global cyber security market.

Some of these firms, however, are providing tools for clients other than, say, Sony studio against hackers:

Privacy International, a human rights watchdog group, recently reported that two multinational companies with Israeli roots, Verint and Nice Systems, were supplying surveillance technology to repressive Central Asian countries, allowing “unchecked access to citizens’ telephone calls and internet activity on a mass, indiscriminate scale”. (In response to the report, Verint said that it only did business with countries with which Israel had commercial ties and in accordance with government regulations; Nice did not comment.)

Some who have served or continued to serve in Unit 8200 have publicly protested but their protests have fallen on mainly deaf ears:

In an open letter in September 2014, published by Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and broadcast on Channel 10, a group of 43 serving and former 8200 reservists revealed what they said were coercive spying tactics being used on innocent Palestinians, including the collection of embarrassing sexual, financial or other information. One of the whistle-blowers, in a statement released along with the letter, described his “moment of shock” when watching The Lives of Others, the 2006 film about the Stasi’s pervasive spying in East Germany. 

[…] 

About a week later, in another part of Tel Aviv University, I met Gilad, a 29-year-old philosophy student, one of the veterans of Unit 8200 who had signed the letter. […] “I felt like I was doing something important, something challenging, something I would learn from and something meaningful for my country,” he said.

Over time, though, Gilad became troubled by the intrusive methods being used against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The refuseniks say they were asked to gather information not only on people suspected of plotting to harm Israel but on their family members, neighbours and others who might supply information about them. This included information about medical conditions, financial problems and sexual orientation — a sensitive topic in deeply conservative Palestinian society. One of them said that during his training for 8200, he had been assigned to memorise different Arabic words for “gay”. […] 

From the protest, a picture emerged of bright young Israelis, still in their teens and twenties, making decisions that would affect the fate of Palestinians years older. “In a way, this power is intoxicating,” Gilad told me. “You get inside people’s lives and you laugh about their sexual habits or medical problems. And it shows how far it goes. It shows you how power can corrupt.” […] 

“It’s one thing to spy on Iranians or Syrians, another to spy on Palestinians, because they are subjects of Israel,” Gilad said. “It’s more like spying on your own citizens.”

Less than a year later, the refuseniks’ protest is all but forgotten. . . 

Man making traditional street food, Qatayef.
Man making traditional street food, Qatayef. © palestinephotobank.com.

Correction

“AP corrects story falsely claiming homosexuality is illegal for Palestinians,” by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 7 July

Yesterday, several days after I contacted AP to inform them of this, they issued the following correction:

In a story June 30 about Palestinian protesters whitewashing a gay pride rainbow flag, The    Associated Press reported erroneously that homosexual acts are banned by law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While homosexuality is largely taboo in Palestinian society, there are no laws specifically banning homosexual acts.

Images of the Separation Wall built by Israel in The West Bank and Jerusalem. Pictures include checkpoints. rubble, and restriction of Palestinian mobility . Israeli military towers
Images of the Separation Wall built by Israel in The West Bank and Jerusalem. Pictures include checkpoints. rubble, and restriction of Palestinian mobility . Israeli military towers. © palestinephotobank.com.

Another Day Under Occupation:

“Video shows Israeli officer not in danger when he shot Palestinian teen,” by Lisa Goldman, +972mag – 12 July

Just over a week after the widely publicized shooting death of a 17-year-old Palestinian boy by a senior Israeli army officer, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem released CCTV footage of the incident on Sunday. It appears to support eyewitness claims that the life of the officer, Col. Yisrael Shomer, was not in danger, which runs contrary to his claim.

According to the video, Mohamed Kasbeh did indeed throw a stone at the windshield of the armored military vehicle. But then he ran away. The officer, rather than driving away from the scene, stopped the vehicle, got out and chased the fleeing boy. The actual shooting took place outside the frame of the video.

[…]

The controversy is over whether or not Kasbeh presented an imminent danger to the soldiers when he was shot. Colonel Shomer claimed he shot Kasbeh in order to save his own life.

[…]

And now we have the video which, while it does not show the actual shooting, does prove that the boy ran away as soon as he threw the rock. Shomer, instead of driving away in his vehicle, chose to stop, chase the boy and shoot him in the back. Then, according to eyewitnesses, the officer prodded the dead boy with his boot and left the scene without calling for medical help. So it appears to be murder, and callous indifference. And, of course, lying.

This incident was widely publicized because Shomer has such a high military rank, he is the officer in charge of the Jerusalem regional brigade, and because Kasbeh lost two brothers, aged 11 and 15, during the Second Intifada. But in general, incidents of soldiers beating or killing Palestinians who present little or no threat are common. Sometimes, these incidents are recorded on video or in still images. A soldier deliberately shooting a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian in the foot. Or sniper shooting an unarmed boy from a roof. A soldier opening the back door of his armored vehicle to shoot a high velocity tear gas canister into the face of a protestor. A scrum of soldiers from the Kfir Brigade beating senseless an unarmed, middle aged man after they’d already restrained him. The list is very long.

Almost invariably, these incidents end with the army investigating and exonerating itself, or perhaps sentencing one or two perpetrators to a month in military prison or even time served — while a soldier who criticizes the army is sentenced to a week in jail, even though he was off duty when he expressed said opinion.

There is no reason to expect this incident will end differently. It’s not as though Kasbeh’s family can pursue a case against Shomer in civil court. They are not citizens of Israel. They are residents of territory under Israel’s military occupation.

#BlackLivesMatter

“The People of Palestine Have a Message for #BlackLivesMatter Protesters in the U.S.,” by Zak Cheney-Rice, Mic – 6 July

When armored trucks and riot officers stormed the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in August — days after white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown — some Palestinians used social media to communicate advice to protesters on how to cope with tear gas.

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al-Hiran to ‘Hiran’

“The Dangerous Implications of the Israeli Supreme Court’s Decision to allow the Forced Displacement of Atir-Umm al-Hiran for the Remaining Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Naqab,” by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – 6 July.

As we previously noted, an illustration of how Israeli-Jewish colonial identity and Palestinian dispossession are two sides of the same coin is reflected in the long-standing Israeli practice of expelling Palestinian residents from their villages and subsequently adopting the name of the Arab village and rendering it in Hebrew, and thereby appropriating the village’s history for the exclusive association with Israeli-Jewish society. Within Israel after 1948, the city of Jaffa – most of its Arab inhabitants expelled – became Yafo, the northern coastal city of Akka became Akko and so forth. Today, this practice is widespread in the occupied West Bank where Israeli settlements are constructed or expanded nearby centuries-old Palestinian villages, and with the former bearing the Hebrew version of the latter’s name. It’s an effort to manipulate history: a new settlement bearing a new name would be incongruous with the historical record, but a settlement bearing the ancient name would appear to slip into history, so to speak, as the original village and fits neatly with the Zionist narrative of ‘redeeming the land.’

This practices continues in the Negev:

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Umm al-Hiran. Photo Credit: Adalah.

On 5 May 2015, after 13 years of litigation, the Israeli Supreme Court issued its final decision in the case of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Atir-Umm al-Hiran, located in the Naqab (Negev) desert in southern Israel.[1] The 2-1 decision sets a very dangerous precedent by confirming that the state is now legally authorized to demolish the village and forcibly displace its residents, despite the fact that they hold full Israeli citizenship, and for the sole purpose of building a new Jewish town called ‘Hiran’ on its ruins, and grazing area. In its ruling, the Court acknowledged the state’s intention to demolish the Bedouin village in order to build a town “with a Jewish majority”.

Beyond the immediate and disastrous consequences for the c. 1,000 inhabitants of Atir-Umm al-Hiran, the Supreme Court’s ruling has stark legal and practical implications for the remaining 35 unrecognized villages and their 70,000 indigenous Bedouin inhabitants. It gives the state wide discretion to evacuate citizens from state land in the absence of a compelling public purpose and facilitates the implementation of further decisions and plans to displace the Bedouin in the unrecognized villages and dispossess this community of its remaining land.

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Palestinian girl and boy in Umm al-Hiran. Photo Credit: Adalah. 

It Was Fun While It Lasted 

“Israel arrests hunger striker Khader Adnan day after releasing him,” by Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada – 13 July 

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Adnan being arrested in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Voice from Palestine Twitter. 

Recently, with much attention and celebration among Palestinians, Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan was released from an Israeli prison after a lengthy hunger strike protesting his detention without charges or trial, a legacy of British imperialism that Israel has adopted called “administrative detention.” The cause of prisoner rights touches a strong cord in Palestinian society due to the widespread imprisonment of countless Palestinians with very little, if any, due process.

Khader Adnan, a member of the Islamic Jihad political party and resistance group, was arrested today in occupied Jerusalem one day after his release secured by a 55-day hunger strike in Israeli prison.

Palestinian and Israeli media reported that Adnan was detained on his way to worship at al-Aqsa mosque on the occasion of Leilat al-Qadr, which Muslims observe during Ramadan to mark the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

Israel imposes severe restrictions on Palestinians living under its military occupation regime. The Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported that access to al-Aqsa mosque was tightened ahead of Leilat al-Qadr.

“All Palestinian [males] between the ages of 12 and 30 were denied entry into occupied East Jerusalem, while men between the ages of 30 and 50 required Israeli permits,” according to the agency.

[…]

Adnan was first arrested in 1999 when he was a student at Birzeit University near the West Bank city of Ramallah. That arrest was the first in a series of detentions which would total more than six years in jail, during which Adnan was never handed any formal charges under Israel’s military court system.

According to the human rights group Addameer, there were 5,750 Palestinians being held by Israel in May, more than 400 of them held without charge or trial.

Children playing
Children playing. © palestinephotobank.com.

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions 

The U.K Stop the War coalition recently published a letter of several artists from around the world calling for a U.K. arms boycott and embargo of Israel.

The letter was signed by Palestinian filmmakers Elia Suleiman and Annemarie Jacir, “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker, radical philosopher Noam Chomsky, English filmmaker Ken Loach, and many more:

Wednesday 8 July is the first anniversary of the start of Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza. 

Widespread horror at the massacre led to unprecedented pressure on the government, but Palestinians need concrete results, particularly those in Gaza who are still suffering the consequences of Israel’s illegal and inhuman siege.

A new report released last week by Campaign Against Arms Trade, War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign shows that despite numerous and repeated findings that point to Israel having committed war crimes, most recently in its attack on Gaza last year, the UK government’s attitude to the arms trade with Israel remains business as usual.

Ordinary people who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement are taking action, in solidarity with Palestinians, to highlight UK government complicity and end Israeli impunity.

On Monday, three UK factories owned by Israel’s biggest arms company, Elbit Systems, were shut down and prevented from operating by protesters.

These included the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, which is given UK government licences to export drone engines to Israel.

We support the protesters and wish to use our voices to strengthen their call for the UK government to stop arming Israel.

We call for any charges against the 19 people arrested to be dropped – the real criminals here are those making and selling deadly weapons – and we reiterate our collective demand for an immediate two-way arms embargo on Israel.

Mike Leigh, Miriam Margolyes, Ken Loach, PJ Harvey, Ilan Pappe, John Berger, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Mairead Maguire, Jeremy Hardy, Alice Walker, Paul Laverty, Slavoj Zizek, Saleh Bakri, Andy de la Tour, Victoria Brittain, Richard Falk, Ben White, Miranda Pennell, Mark Steel, Leila Sansour, Maha Rahwanji, John Rees, Liam Hourican, Annemarie Jacir, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Elia Suleiman, Aki Kaurismaki, Caryl Churchill

Media Roundup is a weekly feature of Palestine Square.