"This is how I understand the struggle...To stand steadily like spears, and never give up." Naji Al-Ali

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Legitimizing Ethnic Cleansing: Leibermann and Ayalon

In a recent Ynetnews piece on the September 21st meeting between Palestinian "Prime Minister" Salam Fayyad and Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, Fayyad showed the makings of a backbone (a shocking development for the PA) as he left "outraged...following a dispute about terminology to be used in the meeting summary." Fayyad objected to the addition of the phrase "for two peoples" to the reference of a "two state solution" on the meeting's summary.

According to the article's comments, his stance perplexed and irritated many pro-Israel readers. As one reader explains:
Even the "moderate" Fayyad admits that the Palestinians will NEVER accept Israel as a Jewish state. They want to have the cake, and eat it too: a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, PLUS Israel ceasing to be a Jewish state, and absorbing masses of Palestinian refugees. This proves nothing had changed in the Palestinian ideology through history - they didn't accept a Jewish homeland in 1948, and they still don't accept a Jewish homeland in 2010. This clearly proves they are still not ripe for peace.
Clearly, his poster sees nothing wrong with the concept of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. However, as Salon writer Ben White points out in his article, "1948 and Israel's Deceptive Bargaining Position," what the author of the above comment forgets is this:
Such a demand, and understanding why it is so unacceptable to Palestinians, means going back to 1948 -- when hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed, their inhabitants forbidden from returning by the new Jewish state -- and throwing the spotlight on two groups of Palestinians that the so-called peace process has ignored or marginalized: the refugees of '48 (and their descendants) and the Palestinian minority that's left inside Israel. The unpleasant reality is that Israel as "a Jewish state" means the permanent exile and dispossession of the former, and the colonial control of the latter.
Essentially, insisting that Fayyad agree to describe the emergence of a Palestinian state along ethnic lines implies his acquiescence to subjugating "Israeli Arabs" aka Palestinians who survived the Nakba to second class citizenship within Israel, while at the same time legitimizing the ethnic cleansing of those whose villages were razed or worse, those who were murdered under the direction of Plan Dalet.

In the wake of Fayyad's refusal come the ever-repugnant musings of Israeli Foreign  Minister Avigdor Lieberman to the UN General Assembly. Exchanging his words on forcible population transfers for the slightly less (but not by much) insane position of "moving borders to better reflect demographic realities," thus drawing Arabs out of their country by slight of hand rather than at gunpoint, Lieberman makes his racism evident.

Netanyahu has done his best to distance himself from Lieberman, having his office issue the statement, "The content of the foreign minister's speech at the United Nations was not coordinated with the prime minister. Prime Minister Netanyahu is the one who is managing the political negotiations of the state of Israel." But the truth of the matter is this: Netanyahu, Ayalon and Lieberman are cut from the same cloth. Demanding the recognition of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state, and dividing the land along ethnic lines are simply variations on a theme. The Israeli obsession with a demographic Jewish majority attests to one thing: the inherent racist character of Zionism. If you belong to the wrong ethnic group, you have no right to the land you were born in. And if you ask the poster mentioned above, an unwillingness to accept this position is the reason Palestinians have seen no peace. If these are the terms for peace, who would want it?

IDF: The Most Moral Army in the World?

According to the newly published report by the Human Rights Council (PDF), the United Nations fact finding mission into Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla elucidates the manner in which, upon illegally boarding the Mavi Marmara, the Israeli Defense Force killed nine passengers, and put another in a coma. The Human Rights Council went so far as to say that the "circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution." Further reading of the report reveals violations encompassing the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

  • wilful killing;
  • torture or inhuman treatment;
  • wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.

The Mission also considers that a series of violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law have taken place, including:

  • right to life (article 6, ICCPR);
  • torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7, ICCPR; CAT);
  • right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (article 9, ICCPR)
  • right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (article 10, ICCPR);
  • freedom of expression (article 19, ICCPR).

In combating Israeli propaganda on the subject, so malicious as to attempt to dishonor these humanitarians as "terrorists," one must give special attention to the circumstances in which they gave their lives. This is how they died:

Deaths occurring on the Top Deck (roof)

Furkan Doğan

Furkan Doğan, a nineteen-year old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. It total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.

İbrahim Bilgen

İbrahim Bilgen, a 60 year old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey, was on the top deck and was one of the first passengers to be shot. He received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. He had a further two bullet wounds to the right side of the back and right buttock, both back to front. These wounds would not have caused instant death, but he would have bled to death within a short time without medical attention. Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head
with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. He had a further bruise on the right flank consistent with another beanbag wound. The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.

Fahri Yaldiz

Fahri Yaldiz, a 42 year old Turkish citizen from Adiyaman, received five bullet wounds, one to the chest, one to the left leg and three to the right leg. The chest wound was caused by a bullet that entered near the left nipple and hit the heart and lungs before exiting from the shoulder. This injury would have caused rapid death.

Ali Heyder Bengi

According to the pathology report, Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds (one in the chest, one in the abdomen, one in the right arm, one in the right thigh and two in the left hand). One bullet lodged in the chest area. None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds.

Deaths occurring on the Bridge Deck, portside

Cevdet Kiliçlar

Cevdet Kiliçlar, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. At the moment he was shot he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes. The bullet followed a horizontal trajectory which crossed the middle of the brain from front to back. He would have died instantly.

Cengiz Akyüz and Cengiz Songür

41 year old Cengiz Akyüz from Hatay and 46 year old Cengiz Songür from Izmir, both Turkish citizens, were injured on the bridge deck in close succession by live fire from above. They had been sheltering and were shot as they attempted to move inside the door leading to the stairwell. Cengiz Akyüz received a shot to the head and it is probable that he died instantly.

The pathology report shows four wounds: to the neck, face, chest and thigh. Cengiz Songür received a single bullet to the upper central thorax below the neck, shot from a high angle, which lodged in the right thoracic cavity injuring the heart and aorta. Unsuccessful efforts were made by doctors inside the ship to resuscitate him through heart massage.

Çetin Topçuoğlu

Çetin Topçuoğlu, a 54 year old Turkish citizen from Adana had been involved in helping to bring injured passengers inside the ship to be treated. He was also shot close to the door on the bridge deck. He did not die instantly and his wife, who was also on board the ship, was with him when he died. He was shot by three bullets. One bullet entered from the top the soft tissues of the right side of the back of the head, exited from the neck and then re-entered into the thorax. Another bullet entered the left buttock and lodged in the right pelvis. The third entered the right groin and exited from the lower back. There are indications that the victim may have been in a crouching or bending position when this wound was sustained. Deaths and seriously wounded occurring in unknown locations.

Necdet Yildirim

The location and circumstances of the shooting and death of Necdet Yildirim, a 31 year old Turkish citizen from Istanbul, remain unclear. He was shot twice in the thorax, once from the front and once from the back. The trajectory of both bullets was from top to bottom. He also received bruises consistent with plastic bullet impact.

Wounding of Uğur Suleyman Söylemez (in a coma)

The serious nature of wounds to Uğur Suleyman Söylemez, a 46 year old Turkish citizen from Ankara, which include at least one bullet wound to the head, have left the victim in a coma in an Ankara hospital. He remains in a critical condition with a serious head injury.

[in all cases, emphasis added]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dissecting the United States Senate’s Hypocrisy:

In a recent letter (PDF) to President Obama, 87 members of the Senate have urged the President to not let Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walk away from direct negotiations despite the expiration of Israel’s so-called “moratorium” on settlement construction.

The intention of this letter is to no doubt coax President Obama into publicly pressuring Abbas to continue his participation in direct negotiations. Yet, far from being concerned with creating a “meaningful and lasting peace agreement,” the letter does more to wholly shield Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel from any wrongdoing through obfuscation and equivocation, as if to lay the groundwork for pinning the inevitable failure of this endeavor squarely on the Palestinians’ shoulders.

Firstly, the letter does nothing to mention why Abbas would consider leaving negotiations in the first place, Israel’s resumption of settlement construction. However, it must first be noted that at no time during the “freeze” did Israel actually stop building. The freeze itself was only limited to new construction within the West Bank, and thus did not apply to construction in East Jerusalem or on settlements which were already approved. It also did nothing to stop the razing of Palestinian villages to make room for future construction.

According to an Associated Press article
“The government's own figures — and the assessments of Israeli peace activists monitoring construction — show building has barely slowed down.

In the third quarter of 2009, before the restrictions were imposed last November, there were 2,790 settlement homes in various stages of construction, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. The number rose to 2,955 in the last quarter of 2009, reflecting a last-minute surge of housing starts in the days leading up to the freeze.

In the first quarter of 2010, with the freeze in full effect, the number stood at 2,517.
That means that even months into the halt, the number of homes under construction had declined by only about 10 percent.”
 The article goes on to say:
“In reality, around 450 new housing units have begun construction since the slowdown went into effect, according to Peace Now. Still, those numbers reflect a drop of about 50 percent in the pace of new home construction.”
Essentially, far from a “moratorium,” Israel has still managed to begin new construction on at least 450 housing units. In a report issued by the Land and Research Center, published by the International Middle East Media Center, “some 1,520 units were built or are currently under construction,” as of the day the freeze expired.

At the same time:
“Israel annexed 5,906 dunams of Palestinian lands during the ‘settlement freeze’, and uprooted 920 dunams of Palestinian farmlands and orchards.

Also during the freeze, Israel demolished 280 homes and structures, and intends to demolish nearly 830 structures.

Israel also prevented the paving of 10 new roads in several parts of the West Bank, while settlers occupied 13 homes and managed to pave 28 settler-only roads.”
Furthermore, the “freeze” itself is a meaningless gesture in the face of international law, under which any settlement of occupied lands is illegal. According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The complex web of control that always accompanies settlements also violates Palestinian rights in its own respect.

The fact of the matter is, Abbas cannot continue to negotiate for the emergence of a Palestinian state when Israel is doing its best to take over as much of the land that such a state would rest on as possible. Such bad faith on Israel’s part cannot be dismissed.

The letter goes on to praise Netanyahu’s commitment to peace in the face of “enemies of peace that will do anything in their power to derail the direct talks,” referencing recent violence against settlers as well as Hezbollah’s condemnation of the talks from the start.  The letter fails to mention the 12 Palestinians killed by the IDF since the beginning of negotiations including a 14 month-old infant, a 91 year-old man and his grandson, a man extra-judicially executed in his bed, and a man shot while handcuffed among others.

Hezbollah’s denunciation of the peace talks raises an important point, namely, who has the right to cede portions of Palestine, and by implication, make concessions to Israel? The letter fails to recognize the fact that Abbas is not the legitimate president of Palestine (nor is Fayyad the Prime Minister) and that the people of Gaza are not represented by anyone at all, making any peace agreement reached extremely difficult to implement.

The letter also takes a familiar Zionist tactic in trying to shift the blame for the conditions in Palestine on other Arab countries, neglecting to understand that while most Arab nations have a history of playing political football with Palestinian rights, it is Israel that has created the situation the Senate calls on other countries to clean up.

With such intellectually dishonest Zionist propaganda permeating the Senate so pervasively, it is no wonder that the letter does its best to emphasize the “special relationship” the United States has with Israel, one in which Israel is the master and the United States the puppet.