20 years since the Qana massacre and Naftali Benet is Education Minister

Naftali Bennet, Israel’s minister of education was the first public official to come out in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who executed Abdel Fatah Alsharif as he lay wounded in Hebron. Bennet was critical of the government of which he is a member for not standing up for the soldier. I was listening to the interview with Bennet on Israeli television where he made the argument that the government and the press judged the soldier harshly and prematurely. Then he said something I never thought I’d hear.

“Maybe the soldier did make a mistake; you know I also made a mistake. During Grapes of Wrath, Operation Grapes of Wrath I was apparently mistaken and a very difficult thing happened.” A very difficult thing happened. Interesting choice of words and interesting timing: It is exactly twenty-years since the massacre in Qana village in Southern Lebanon, a massacre for which Bennet was responsible. He then went on to explain that, “in my case, I received the full backing of the commanding general and the army chief of staff.” In fact he was backed by the entire chain of command going all the way up to the Prime Minister (and Nobel laureate), Shimon Peres.

Bennet was talking about the shelling by Israeli forces of the UN compound in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. It took place on April 18, 1996 when hundreds of local Lebanese were seeking shelter at the compound. Of the 800 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge in the compound, a reported 106 were killed and 116 were injured. The attack occurred amid fighting between the Israeli army and Hezbollah during operation “Grapes of Wrath.” There was evidence that an Israeli drone was spying on the compound before the shelling, making the argument that this may have been an error, unlikely at best. Clearly all levels of the IDF command knew that the compound was there and that it served as shelter for refugees escaping the fighting. The building was clearly marked as a UN compound and was even marked on the Israeli maps. Bennet who was commander of an Israeli army reconnaissance unit called for massive artillery shelling of the site.

Graves just outside the UN base at Qana cb791

The BBC described the massacre as: “one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict.” Robert Fisk who reported from the site wrote, “Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this.”

Fisk’s descriptions of what he saw are not for the weak at heart but must be read and remembered. Over and over we hear the phrase “never again,” yet Israel commits one heinous massacre after another and gets away with it, usually absolved by the US. In this case the main culprit is known, he admits his responsibility and yet not only did he go unpunished, he is unrepentant and is now in charge of the Israeli ministry of education. How ironic. Again Fisk’s description, “The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled. There were well over a hundred of them […] The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world’s protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.” And Fisk continues, “Now the Israelis are stained again by the bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine.”

MORE…
SHIMON PERES – OBITUARY OF A PEACE POLITICIAN
34 YEARS AGO TODAY – THE SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRE ISRAEL FORCES MURDER 3500 PALESTINIANS AND LEBANESE INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
PALESTINIAN MINORS TORTURED, ABUSED IN ISRAEL PRISONS
ISRAELI RABBI CALLS FOR POISONING OF PALESTINIAN WATER SUPPLY
Naftali Bennet was quoted as saying that he had killed many Arabs in his time and feels no remorse, and in his view “a soldier in the battlefield can not commit murder.” In a speech in the Knesset Bennet said he killed many terrorists during his military service and he wishes he had killed more. Bennet never saw an Arab he did not consider to be a terrorist, and therefore fair game. “Arabs are murdering Jews every day,” he said as he defended the execution in Hebron. An important piece of information that is completely ignored is that another soldier shot Abdel Fatah first, even though he was unarmed and his hands were raised, and only later did Elor Azaria execute him. Bennet called the scene as a “battle ground” and the shooting perfectly legitimate because according to him “Vicious Palestinian terrorists are coming out every day to kill Jews.”

The result of Bennet’s call for the shelling in Qana, according to Fisk, was “The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound […] in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon – who had heeded Israel’s order to leave their homes – had pathetically sought shelter.” Once the news of the shelling had got out, relatives started arriving from other parts of Lebanon to look for loved ones. Their grief and anger were forceful, “we had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners, Israel’s allies” Fisk writes, and he continues, “one bearded man with fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury: […] “I would like to be made into a bomb and blow myself up amid the Israelis” the man cried.

The story of the Qana massacre was brought up during the Israeli elections of 2015, because Bennet was the head of one of the parties running. Claims were made that the “incident” was evidence that he had “poor judgment.” Today, twenty years and countless massacres later a man who knowingly brought about the gruesome killing of countless innocents is in charge of educating Israeli children and is defending the execution of a young Palestinian. And yet, the one man that everyone is calling a terrorist is one who committed no act violence at all: the young Abdel Fatah Alsharif, may he rest in peace.

http://ahtribune.com/history/782-qana-massacre.html

Click here to request a lecture by Miko Peled

A Good Israeli Soldier

Every one says he was a good soldier, a soldier that followed orders and was even commended by his superiors. But the most interesting information about the soldier and about the moments that led to him executing the wounded and helpless Abdel Fatah Al-Sharif as he lay on the ground in Hebron, is coming from very unusual sources. One source is a video that was created in defense of the soldier and was posted on a facebook page that is dedicated to supporting the soldier and the other is Palestinian human rights defender and leader of Youth Against Settlements in Hebron, Issa Amro.

Driving to Hebron one has to drive by Jewish settlements that are home to the some of the most violent, radical Jews anywhere. Then one drives through the now made famous Gush-Etzion intersection where many of these settlements intersect with Palestinian towns. There are always fully armed combat soldiers standing there, guarding the intersection but now, on top of that, at every angle a fully armed sniper stands at a post ready to pull the trigger. As we drove through the intersection I counted seven snipers, but it’s possible there are more.

In Hebron we meet my friend Murad, the man who showed me Hebron for the first time some five years ago or so, and together we drive straight to Tel-Rumeida. There we see Issa speaking to a group visiting from Europe. Once he is done we sit together and chat for a while, as more people join us and naturally the conversation turns to the latest incident. Abdel Fatah Alsharif and Ramzi Elkasrawi are shot and killed for allegedly attacking soldiers with a knife. Abdel Fatah was lying on the ground motionless, it is unclear if he is dead or alive, when suddenly and for no apparent reason, a soldier who has now become the subject of national and international attention shoots him in the head.

Issa starts to talk about the soldier. “He has been serving in Hebron for some time and I know him personally,” the soldier’s name is Elor Azaria. “He spent an entire day guarding me once,” this was during one of the many times Issa was arrested. It is something he endures regularly because he lives in Tel-Rumeida, fights for Palestinian rights and documents soldier and settler abuses. “I remember he was told by his officer to treat me well, and he did. He was told not to blindfold me or beat me and he did just that.” It would seem that Elor is indeed an exemplary soldier. Issa said that this was the one and only time that he was not beaten or humiliated by soldiers during an arrest.

I met Issa as I do every time I am in Palestine, by his house in Tel-Rumeida, a hill overlooking the old city of Hebron. His house was taken by the Israeli army to serve as a “base” and was eventually returned to him after a long legal battle. The house eventually became the center for Youth Against Settlements, a place for pro-Palestinian activists in Hebron to gather, sit and talk, work, etc. His neighbors on Tel-Rumieda are radical Jews who, with the assistance of the Israeli army took the homes of Palestinian and now reside in them. The Jewish settlers covet Issa’s home with passion and they will stop at nothing to get it. Having the full support of the army and the Israeli political establishment they fear nothing. Recently his house was declared a “closed military zone,” a step the authorities take just prior to confiscating Palestinian land and homes. His Jewish neighbors are free to come and go, and he is permitted to enter the house, but he is not permitted to bring guests. So we sit outside the parameters of the house. I, as it happens am not permitted to be anywhere in the vicinity because Israeli law prohibits Jewish citizens of Israel from entering Hebron altogether, unless they are settlers, in which case it’s ok.

MORE…
SHIMON PERES – OBITUARY OF A PEACE POLITICIAN
34 YEARS AGO TODAY – THE SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRE ISRAEL FORCES MURDER 3500 PALESTINIANS AND LEBANESE INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
PALESTINIAN MINORS TORTURED, ABUSED IN ISRAEL PRISONS
ISRAELI RABBI CALLS FOR POISONING OF PALESTINIAN WATER SUPPLY
Common wisdom and all the evidence point to the fact that the soldier was following orders when he executed Abdel Fatah. A video to which some commentary was added and is used by a group to support the soldier Elor Azaria allows us to see precisely when he arrives at the scene. We can see that he confers for a moment or two with a commander, and then we see Elor handing the commander his helmet (which shows he was in no danger whatsoever because soldiers in a combat zone must wear their helmets). Elor then adjusts his weapon as he walks toward the wounded Abdel Fatah, takes aim in full view of all who were present, and shoots Abdel Fatah in the head. The officer watches Elor the entire time and is clearly unmoved. The video shows clearly that Abdel Fatah was alive before Elor shot him, there is some hand movement and he turns his head prior to Elor shooting him. This was just corroborated by the medical examiner.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=אלאור%20עזריה

There is little room for mistake here: Elor Azaria executed a wounded man for no reason, and since he is a soldier on duty it makes it a war crime. What’s worse for Elor is that he was caught on camera. From his attitude and general behavior as he walks to commit this murder it is clear he was quite pleased, he had no reason to hesitate or worry, he was following orders or at the very least had consent to do what he did. After all, he is a good soldier. But sadly for him, he did not see was what was coming.

With the video of this execution going viral, the authorities in Israel had to do something. So everyone from the prime minister down the chain of command came down on the pawn soldier. Thank God for scapegoats! Elor Azaria didn’t realize that in his case someone would have to pay and being the lowest man on the totem pole it was going to be him. If justice were to be served heads would have to roll and everyone up the chain of command would have to be held accountable. But that won’t happen. Still, I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Elor Azaria. Prime Minister Netanyahu already said that having heard his father’s plea, and being a father himself, he was touched. One would think that being a father Netanyahu would be outraged that soldiers shot and killed the sons of Palestinian fathers. But alas, they have no way to plead to the Prime Minister. Oh and there is one more thing. Abdefatah did not attack the soldiers. According to witnesses he happened to be there, and saw what happened so he raised his hands to surrender. That’s when he was shot.

 

http://ahtribune.com/human-rights/773-a-good-israeli-soldier.htmG

Few days in Palestine

It’s only been a few days since I arrived in Palestine so not much has happened. Well, relatively speaking not much. I was traveling to Nabi Saleh to see my friend Bassem Tamimi. Since I didn’t have a car I had to travel by bus through Qalandia checkpoint to Ramallah then by service cab to the village and back – and on the way back, the girl soldier put down her phone long enough to examine my ID, realize I was Israeli and detain me. Then the next day, I went to the epic “Combat BDS” conference also known as, or rather should be known as “Crazy & Loony Bros. How Do We Kill BDS Circus” in Jerusalem. It was an unforgettable experience. And now, as I sit and write this, a soldier is being tried for murder because he shot a Palestinian who was already dead. So its not the soldier that shot and murdered the young Palestinian that’s on trial, it’s the soldier that shot him for fun after he lay dead, or nearly dead on the ground, ignored by several Israeli ambulances that were driving around him – that’s the soldier that’s being tried. But, as I said, it’s only been a few days.

I grew up here and when I come here I live in the home and in the room where I grew up. Very little has changed in Motza Elite, a quiet and disorganized little place where for the most part houses are surrounded by trees and vegetation. Sure, the trees are taller, their trunks thicker, but it is still a quiet, beautiful little place with no soldiers, police or border guards and of course, no Arabs. It is the perfect white, Jewish, privileged community and it is the perfect place to get away from it all, or as most people who live here do, ignore any of it exists. “It” is the rest of Palestine.

*

I will start with what seems to me the most bizarre thing going on at this moment. Two young Palestinians, who attacked fully armed soldiers using knives, were killed. Ambulances are on the scene taking care of the soldiers who were slightly wounded and they drive around the bodies of the young Palestinians. Suddenly a shot is heard. A soldier who was not on the scene originally decides to shoot one of the Palestinians lying on the ground, motionless, in the head. He claims he saw some movement and was concerned the victim on the ground might detonate a bomb. Now for some reason this soldier is charged with murder.

*

It’s a good idea from time to time to travel around the country as Palestinians do. Use buses, service cabs and go through checkpoints. It’s inconvenient, takes a lot of time and is totally unpredictable. So that’s what we did. Fadwa, my better half and I took a bus to East Jerusalem then another bus to Ramallah where we met Bassem Tamimi. We had coffee at “Stars and Bucks Café” and then the three of us took a service cab to Nabi Saleh. Bassem was supposed to be in the US now on a speaking tour. This would have been his third tour since receiving his visa to the US. But suddenly, with no real explanation and no apparent reason he got notice that his visa has been revoked. So American audiences were denied the chance to hear him and he remains here in Palestine trying to help the nearly twenty youth from Nabi Saleh, who are in prison, including his son Wa’ed.

We arrived in Nabi Saleh, spent the afternoon there and then returned to Jerusalem. We took a service cab to Ramallah, a cab to the checkpoint, tried to find our way through the maze that makes up the checkpoint, and thankfully the Palestinian vendors outside pointed us in the right direction. The soldier behind the window rarely takes the trouble to lift their eyes when the ID is presented. So, I press my ID against the window expecting to be waved through when something caught her eye long enough for her to see that mine was an Israeli ID. With nothing better to do she decided to look into this strange phenomenon, an Israeli coming through a Palestinian checkpoint. Thinking I was probably some kind of “human rights” agitator or something she called me from inside, “Are you with human rights?”

MORE…
“ISRAEL IS FIGHTING FOR YOU”: EXPOSING THE FALSEHOODS IN THE RECENT AND RENEWED ZIONIST PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUE AGAINST THE PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE
G4S CONCEDES TO BDS PRESSURE; SET TO LEAVE ISRAEL
WITCH-HUNTING FOR ISRAEL
MORE ON ISRAEL’S COMBATING BDS
“No.”

“Are you with B’Tselem”

“No.”

“Don’t you know Jews are not allowed to cross here?

“No.”

“What were you doing in Ramallah?”

“We bought strawberries, and had coffee.”

Fadwa is not the problem because she is not Jewish. I am the problem. Still they ask her the same questions and we are “invited” in to a waiting room and sit down.

We sit and wait. The room is maybe three feet by three feet and its freezing cold. We start looking at the graffiti in Arabic that is engraved into the walls. Ten minutes go by and nothing happens.

“What are we waiting for?”

“The police are on their way?’

“What for”

“To question you?”

“Why?”

“There is an order from the colonel or general that prohibits Jews from crossing here.”

She should read my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, there is a chapter called, The Commanding General’s Order.

“OK, we wont do it again.”

“The police will be here any minute.”

We wait ten more minutes and the same conversation takes place, then again and again about every ten minutes. Finally, she hands me my ID and says, “You can go now.” No explanation, no nothing.

*

It was a cold, rainy day as thousands entered the convention center in Jerusalem. Fresh coffee, sandwiches and pastries were free, security was tight and I tried to make myself as un-noticeable as possible. “Just blend in,” I thought to myself when I heard someone say, “look that’s Miko Peled.” Crap! Not the place I want to be recognized. Every kind of Israeli crazy was there. I look over, and it’s Anthony Lowenstein, the Auzzie journalist and Dan Cohen, an American journalist. Both are crazy Jews like me who came to see this circus. We sat down and then it started. The world’s most self-absorbed, self-righteous and criminally insane society was putting on a show, with its best actors playing lead roles. This was the “How To Combat BDS” conference, put on by Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was up first. Israel could hardly have selected a better-suited man for the job of representing the state and the people of Israel. Rivlin is a white, European colonizer, constantly patting Israel and himself on the back for being a liberal democratic melting pot. “BDS foundation is de-legitimization of Israel without connection to what Israel does” President Rivlin said and he added that “the world is in awe of Israeli exceptionalism.” He ended his remarks by saying that he sleeps better than ever knowing the Israeli army is the most moral army on earth. Talk about “opium to the masses.”

Anthony Lowenstein wrote a piece about the conference everyone should read, but here is quick review of some of my favorite highlights: Gilad Erdan minister of public security, strategic affairs and Hasbarah (all that is one ministerial office) who has been designated as lead role in the fight against BDS said that it’s all about legitimacy. Indeed this is about legitimacy. Everything Israel does is about claiming it has legitimacy when clearly, being a settler-colonialist project that established a racist system in Palestine, it hasn’t got any legitimacy at all. Erdan went on to say that BDS activists would soon begin to pay for de-legitimization of Israel. He didn’t specify how they would pay, but one can be sure that all dedicated BDS activists expect that the struggle to free Palestine will be a tough one and will readily confront obstacles to achieve this goal.

Then Jewish Billionaire Ron Lauder came up to speak. He said that since anti-Semitic campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association are so well funded, poor Jewish students can’t complete and have no tools to defend themselves. You had to wonder if he is lying or just totally clueless. His remedy is that he will provide the funds for Pro Israeli groups on campus so that the Zionist voice is heard. As president of the World Jewish Congress he works closely with Jewish leaders around the world to push for anti-BDS legislation. Interestingly enough, he was the first one to mention Omar Barghouti, who heads the BDS movement, “why does he want to destroy Israel?” Lauder asked. If they had any sense they would have invited him to explain.

The EU ambassador to Israel was on a panel with some of the worst racist figures in Israel, including Danny Dayan. Dayan who was rejected by the government of Brazil to be Israel’s ambassador was now nominated to be Israel’s Consul General in NY. The EU ambassador said that West Bank settlement products are welcome in the EU, and that the labeling of settlement products is done merely for information purposes. More opium! Dore Good, general director of the Israeli foreign ministry said that we must expose the fact that the Islamic jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood established BDS. He repeated this several times even though it is completely untrue, practicing what was once said about a lie, that if it is repeated enough times, it becomes truth. Well, I doubt that in this case it will work. The day ended shortly after that and the three exhausted Jewish infiltrators drove away to bask in the warmth of Arab East Jerusalem. Who knows what the next few days may bring.

 

http://ahtribune.com/in-depth/744-days-in-palestine.html

 

Interview: On Contact with Chris Hedges: The BDS Movement

 

Miko discusses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement with Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges. They discuss the global campaign to economically and politically pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land, grant equality to Arab-Palestinian citizens and allow Palestinian refuges the right of return to their homes.

To learn more about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) visit: https://bdsmovement.net/

A Letter The NYT Didn’t Publish

September 23, 2016

To the Editor:

Re: the 9/22/16 ad from the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which appeared in the print issue of the New York Times.
The ad features a map of Israel/Palestine promoting the need for the Two State Solution and playing on Jewish fears of Palestinian population growth.

Racist attitudes dressed as call for peace.
Racist attitudes dressed as call for peace.

A single state with almost exclusive rights for Jewish people, Israel, was planned and executed by consecutive Israeli governments. Wanting to make the Two State Solution impossible they integrated the West Bank and today, while segregation is rampant, separation is no longer possible.
A Jewish state in mandatory Palestine cannot but infringe on the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. One only needs to visit Palestinian towns within pre-1967 Israel – not to mention the refugee camps – to see the neglect and deprivation in which the Arab population lives. The only choice left is between apartheid and a full democracy with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The latter would pave the way to peace between the two people.

Miko Peled