Media Roundup: Imprisoned Children, EU Sanctions (?), & UK Labour on Palestine

Pictures from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Boys jumping in the sea. © palestinephotobank.com.

UK Labour Party 

“Labour leadership candidates on Palestine,” Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK – 21 July

In the wake of its recent electoral defeat, which forced the resignation of the party leader, the UK Labour party is holding a contest among MPs vying for leadership of Great Britain’s second largest party. PSC – UK has published a list on the candidates’ stances on Palestine and Israel:

Andy Burnham MP

In October 2014 there was a Parliamentary vote calling on the UK Government to recognise Palestine. Andy voted for the recognition of Palestine.

Yvette Cooper MP

In October 2014 there was a Parliamentary vote calling on the UK Government to recognise Palestine. Yvette voted for the recognition of Palestine.

Jeremy Corbyn MP

In October 2014 there was a Parliamentary vote calling on the UK Government to recognise Palestine. Jeremy acted as ‘teller’ (vote counter) to allow the vote to go-ahead, thus supporting the vote of the recognition of Palestine.

Liz Kendall MP

In October 2014 there was a Parliamentary vote calling on the UK Government to recognise Palestine. Liz abstained (did not support) on the vote for recognition of Palestine in October 2014.

Palestinian villages in the West Bank.
Palestinian villages in the West Bank. © palestinephotobank.com.

PSC – UK also submitted several questions to the candidates. All except MP Cooper sent response letters:

These are the questions the candidates were asked to respond to:

  1. I urge the UK Government to uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel. Yes/no
  2. I consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable. Yes/no
  3. Do you agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine? Yes/no/don’t know
  4. Do you agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately? Yes/no/don’t know
  5. Do you agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain? Yes/no/don’t know
  6. Do you agree that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations? Yes/no/don’t know
  7. Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law? Yes/no/don’t know

Below are the abbreviated responses (the entire letters may be read at the above link), some of which are word-for-word identical and clearly involved cooperation between the candidates seeking to streamline their response to a pro-Palestinian organization:

Here is Andy’s response:

I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours.

And the appalling loss of life that occurred in Gaza last summer – with 2,131 Palestinians  killed, the vast majority of them civilians, and seven Israeli civilians killed by rocket attacks from Gaza, makes the task of achieving a lasting and just peace all the more urgent.

Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why, in both 2011 and in 2012 we urged the UK Government to support the Palestinian’s bid for recognition at the UN.  

We are clear, however, that the threat of boycotts of Israel is the wrong response. Labour has taken and will maintain domestic action to introduce labelling transparency, and will seek a Europe-wide approach to settlement products.

Here is Liz’s response:

The appalling loss of life that occurred in Gaza last summer – with more than 2,000 people killed – the inexcusable attack on worshippers at a Synagogue in West Jerusalem, and the daily violence and confrontation that occurs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reminds us of the urgent need to find a negotiated two-state solution.

My Labour colleagues and I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. 

We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step. That is why, in both 2011 and in 2012 we urged the UK Government to support the Palestinian’s bid for recognition at the UN – not as a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them.

I also think that both sides needs to avoid all acts that are harmful to the peace process. We are clear, however, that the threat of boycotts of Israel is the wrong response. Labour has taken and will maintain domestic action to introduce labelling transparency, and will seek a Europe-wide approach to settlement products.

Today, the immediate priority for the international community must be to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of Palestinians who are in desperate need and to help the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in Gaza.

The most progressive candidate on Palestine is undoubtedly Jeremy Corbyn:

Here are Jeremy’s responses:

They agree the UK Government should uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel.

They agree that the construction of Israeli settlements construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal and unjustifiable.

They agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine.

They agree that the blockade of Gaza should be lifted immediately.

They agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain.

They agree that the EU Israel Association should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations.

They agree that the UK Government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law.

War Footage 

On July 19, Hamas’ military wing released video footage showing erstwhile Israeli army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz within sight of its fighters. The video clip – which was widely circulated by viewers – is part of a longer video on the 19 July 2014 border infiltration of Israel by nine Hamas fighters in order to attack a military installation housing surveillance equipment. Gantz was not harmed.

Satire Meets Reality

Jewish Voice for Peace shared headlines of the satirical newspaper The Onion and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in a Facebook post highlighting the current effort by the White House to mollify Israeli premier Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement by offering military hardware, a strategy straight from The Onion‘s playbook.

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Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

“Brazilian stars Gil and Veloso reject calls to cancel Tel Aviv show,” Sarah Irving, Electronic Intifada – 20 July. 

BDS proponents were unsuccessful in their efforts to convince a Brazilian duo to cancel their concert in Israel:

One week before their scheduled concert in Tel Aviv, Brazilian musicians Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso appear determined to defy the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

As well as major international names such as South African anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu and Pink Floyd rock star Roger Waters, many of Gil and Veloso’s Brazilian compatriots have urged them to cancel the show.

And at the time of writing, more than 13,000 people had signed a petition asking the pair not to play in Israel.

Former Brazilian human rights minister Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro has said, “If I were in their place, I wouldn’t go.”

Gil and Veloso have scheduled a Tel Aviv concert on 28 July as part of their European tour. Activists have pointed out that this comes just days after the anniversary of the start of Israel’s summer 2014 onslaught in Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

Gil and Veloso’s refusal to respect the call for a cultural boycott is particularly shocking given that both men were active on the Brazilian left during the country’s dictatorship. Both were exiled from their homeland in 1969 and are generally regarded as musicians with principles.

Pinheiro, the former minister, reflected this view when he said: “For the recognition you both have in Brazil and all around the world, … for your moral authority for having resisted the dictatorship and for being fighters against censorship, I dare ask you not to perform in Israel.”

In a public letter, published in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, Caetano Veloso wrote: “My heart is strongly against the arrogant right position of the Israeli government. I hate the occupation policy, the inhuman decisions that Israel took in what [Benjamin] Netanyahu tells us is self-defense. And I think most Israelis who are interested in our music tend to react in a similar way to the politics of his country.”

Veloso also claimed that he hoped that Israelis opposed to the occupation would take heart from their performance — ignoring the existence of Israeli activists who also call for international rejection of their country’s crimes.

The Israeli mainstream media, meanwhile, has greeted the pair’s refusal with joy. Using headlines such as “Brazilian crooners won’t bend to BDS,” media have hinted that the pair’s determination to continue with the concert is a setback for the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Photos of refugee camps in the Gaza Strip including Jabaliya, Rafah, Khan younis and Gaza City . Palestinian children in fear in the Gaza strip
Photos of refugee camps in the Gaza Strip including Jabaliya, Rafah, Khan younis and Gaza City . Palestinian children in fear in the Gaza strip. © palestinephotobank.com.

Union Jack Arms Zionism, Again

“Government lifts remaining restrictions on arms sales to Israel after year-long review,” by Cahal Milmo, The Independent – 16 July 

In another setback for BDS, the British government has lifted arms sales to Israel after a year long investigation regarding 12 items of military hardware used during last summer’s Gaza war:

Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s department said it was now satisfied that the licences for material including components for military radar and tanks meet the UK’s export criteria, which ban any sale of arms where there is a “clear risk” that they may be used to commit serious breaches of human rights.

[…] 

The Independent revealed last month that Britain approved fresh arms deals with Israel worth £4m within weeks of the end of the Gaza conflict, with the first licence being granted within six days of the announcement of a ceasefire.

Campaigners said the Government’s investigation had failed to pinpoint the extent of the use of British weaponry in the most recent and previous conflicts.

Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “This is an exceptionally weak and tokenistic review, and it is unclear why it has taken almost a year to complete. Successive governments have said it is likely that UK arms were used against the people of Gaza in 2009 and 2014.”

Financing the Settlements

“Think tank tells EU: Target Israeli banks dealing with settlements,” by Luke Baker, Ha’aretz – 22 July

The European Union agreed this week to continue pushing ahead with labeling Israeli goods made in settlements in the West Bank, but now there are proposals to go much further, including targeting Israeli banks.

In a paper to be published on Wednesday, the European Council on Foreign Relations, whose proposals frequently inform EU policy-making, argues that the EU is in breach of its own laws and must move much more firmly to distinguish its dealings with Israel from Israel’s activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied since 1967.

Following the report, the stocks of the First International Bank of Israel, Leumi, Hapoalim, and Dexia dropped in value.

Children of Israel 

2015_07_mena_opt_israel_arrest_kids
Photo Credit: Majd Gaith.

“Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children: Chokeholds, Beatings, Coercive Interrogations,” Human Rights Watch – 19 July 

Israeli security forces have used unnecessary force to arrest or detain Palestinian children as young as 11. Security forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four boys, ages 11, 12, and 15, from different neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and a 14-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy from elsewhere in the West Bank, whom Israeli forces arrested or detained in separate incidents for allegedly throwing rocks from March to December 2014. They and their parents gave accounts of abuses during arrest and interrogation that caused the children pain, fear, and ongoing anxiety. Human Rights Watch has seen photos and marks on the body of one of the children, consistent with the accounts he and his parents had given; the children’s accounts were also consistent with each other.

“Israeli forces’ mistreatment of Palestinian children is at odds with its claim to respect children’s rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director. “As Israel’s largest military donor, the US should press hard for an end to these abusive practices and for reforms.”

In every case Human Rights Watch documented, the children and their parents told Human Rights Watch that Israeli authorities did not inform parents of their child’s arrest and interrogated the children without permitting them to speak to a parent or lawyer prior to the interrogation. In five of the cases, the children said that interrogators either did not permit their parent to attend their interrogation or allowed them entry only as it ended. Two 15-year-old boys and the 14-year-old girl said they signed confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand, after interrogators threatened them. One boy said police “punched and kicked” him, then presented him with the Hebrew confession to sign.

Read the entire report (link above) for additional details, including the long-standing documentation and knowledge of abuses and Israeli government indifference, along with case reports.

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Jerusalem Old City. © palestinephotobank.com.

Looking for Incitement? Look in the Mirror

“Searching for incitement in Palestinian mosques — harder than you think,” by Anat Saragusti, +972mag – 19 July 

An Israeli media channel eager to prove that Palestinians negatively portray Israel and Israelis, what Israel often calls “incitement,” fails to find evidence to support its assumption; but its efforts unwittingly reveal Israeli society’s ignorance toward Palestinians, its own prejudice and brand of “incitement” (if Palestinians are portrayed as irrationally hateful and violent, than their subjugation is made all the more justifiable if not necessary), and the absurd and characteristically colonialist entitlement that the people they occupy should love their occupiers or at least refrain from cursing them.

“We mapped all of the mosques in Israel and listened,” Yehezkeli tells his viewers, two days before the feature was broadcast. One day before the premier, he gave us another sweetener, this time a clip from the show itself, the subtext of which was: everything you think about Islam is right — it’s dark, scary, threatening, hateful and inciting.

And then the piece itself was broadcast. It was no coincidence that they called it a “special project.” Twenty minutes is considered an eternity in television news. For the show, Yehezkeli wore black clothes, a black cap and shot his stand-ups with mosques in the background. I tried to pick out the wheat from the chaff. Here are a few takeaways from all of the facts in the night of sermons, music, threatening shots, Yehezkeli himself’s rather frightening transitions.

The sentence, “we mapped all of the mosques in Israel,” was, how shall we put it, extremely imprecise. Channel 10’s special project looked at 15 out of hundreds of mosques spread across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. That’s pretty far from constituting “all of the mosques.”

The bottom line: most of the sermons were “boring” according to Yehezkeli, dealing mainly with issues of religion and spirituality. “This does not represent all the mosques,” he says at the end of his report. Many of the preachers did not speak about political issues, did not mention ISIL, nor did they incite or call for violence.

On the contrary, the preacher at the main mosque in Gaza actually called for peace and tranquility, and his sermon was a shining example of humanistic Islam. Yes, he received instructions from the ruling party, and lo and behold, he even complied with them. The Palestinian Authority also instructed the preachers in the West Bank not to incite against Israel during Ramadan.

In Umm al-Fahm, a preacher in one mosque (among many) used harsh words against the Netanyahu government. The municipality published a response that was tacked on to the end of the report, which stated that the preacher does not represent the city or its residents, and certainly does not represent Islam or Muslims, “just like Yossi from Netanya does not represent all the residents of Netanya.”

A preacher in the Dome of the Rock openly espoused ISIS’ ideology, and one flag belonging to Islamic State could be seen there. There was also talk of radical settlers trying to take over Islam’s holy sites. Jerusalem Police told Channel 10 that it does not hesitate to detain and indict in such cases.

The special project also found one mosque in Beit Ommar, next to Hebron, where a preacher delivered a sermon that would offend most Israelis, which included a call to end the occupation and kick out the Jews. You don’t need a journalistic investigation beyond enemy lines to know that Palestinians believe Israel occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and are interested in ending the occupation.

The lengthy report was accompanied by dramatic music, shots of Yehezkeli in all black clothing looking worried as he listens to the preachers’ sermons in Arabic, and inserts of thousands of bearded Muslims praying. And let us not forget about the headline — “Incitement in Mosques” — that appeared on the screen throughout the entire report.

But Channel 10 actually found that in the vast majority of mosques visited by Yehezkeli, which was a minority of mosques in itself, there was hardly any incitement. In fact, the preachers there complied with the regime’s request and called for peace and calm. In light of this, it seems Channel 10 tried to shoot an arrow before running to paint the target.

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Palestinian landscapes in the West Bank & Gaza Strip. © palestinephotobank.com.

Gaza Tech 

“Launch of innovative digital tool to help expose patterns of Israeli violations in Gaza,” Amnesty International – 8 July

An investigative online tool mapping Israeli attacks in Gaza during the conflict of July and August 2014 has been unveiled by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture today. Its purpose is to help push for accountability for war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law.

The Gaza Platform enables the user to explore and analyse data about Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. The preliminary data currently plotted on the Platform, which will be updated over the coming months, already highlights a number of patterns in the attacks by Israeli forces that indicate that grave and systemic violations were committed.

“The Gaza Platform is the most comprehensive record of attacks during the 2014 conflict to date. It allows us to piece together more than 2,500 individual attacks, illustrating the vast scale of destruction caused by Israel’s military operations in Gaza during the 50-day war last summer,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“By revealing patterns rather than just presenting a series of individual attacks, the Gaza Platform has the potential to expose the systematic nature of Israeli violations committed during the conflict. Our aim is for it to become an invaluable resource for human rights investigators pushing for accountability for violations committed during the conflict.

Colonial Settlers

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Photo Credit: Anne Paq/ActiveStills.

“Israeli settlers demand demolition of Palestinian village,” Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada – 21 July

Throughout Ramadan, most Palestinians look forward to Eid al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of a month of fasting. But the residents of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills have dreaded the month’s conclusion: Israel has stated that after Ramadan, it would begin to demolish the village.

Since the Israeli high court struck down the residents’ petition to prohibit further demolitions in May, the village has been at risk of total destruction.

About half of the village’s structures are slated for demolition at any moment. This half consists of 10 residential homes, one clinic, eight animal shelters and 12 other structures.

The residents of Susiya — home to 340 people — expect these structures to be demolished before the high court begins an appeal hearing, which is scheduled for 3 August.

According to media reports, villagers met Israeli officials overseeing the West Bank’s military occupation last week to try to reach an agreement under which the residents would be relocated without forced demolitions. During the meeting, the military officials reportedly suggested they were under pressure from Israeli settlers to relocate the villagers.

Media Roundup is a weekly feature of Palestine Square.