August 22, 2014
kohenari:

Here’s what happened:

Eighteen suspected collaborators were killed by Hamas on Friday as the group announced a crackdown on Palestinians alleged to be working with Israel. Seven men were shot dead in front of a mosque by men in Hamas military uniforms after Friday prayers, witnesses said.The Hamas-affiliated al-Majd website said they were killed after legal procedures were completed against them. Suspects accused of collaboration are taken to “revolutionary military trials” presided over by security and legal experts, the site added.Earlier, eleven Palestinians were killed by Hamas for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Now, what I don’t understand is why Ali Abunimah, who runs the fairly influential Electronic Intifada website, feels the need to justify or excuse what Hamas has done. Leaving aside the problem of executions in general, in this case of executing “collaborators,” there’s no actual judicial process being followed here. Even Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who is often seen by suppoters of Israel as being far more lenient on Hamas than on Israel, has "described the judicial process for death sentences in Gaza as ‘deeply flawed.’" This could very well be some members of Hamas executing people who disagree with them. Abunimah doesn’t know; no one knows.
So, it’s very unsettling to see Abunimah make the argument that “collaboration” is seen by “every society” “as the most heinous crime” and thus that executing eighteen “suspected collaborators” isn’t unique to Palestinians — who thought it was? — or particularly problematic.
Abunimah apparently feels a need for Hamas to be seen as pure and clean in their resistance to Israel, and he takes it to be his role to defend them from anyone who might suggest otherwise. What he’s actually doing, though, is defending human rights violations … and it’s not as though these are isolated incidents, either. He does the same when he posts a comedic take on the death of Israeli civilians or belittles the effect of indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli civilians.
I know a fair number of people who view Abunimah and his website as a credible source for information on Israel/Palestine. I don’t share their view. This is why. Supporting the desire of the Palestinian people to live free of repression, occupation, and blockade is exactly right; however, insisting that resistance movements can do no wrong — in the face of obvious human rights violations — borders on the fanatical.

LTMC: It seems like Abunimah is mirroring the argument of Israeli boosters who complain that critics of israel are trying to make Israel a special case.  As the argument goes, Israel is obviously not perfect, but neither is any other country on earth.  In the U.S., for example, wartime collaboration is treason punishable by death.  So I think Abunimah does have a point when he says that Hamas isn’t doing something that any other government on the world would do if its citizens were giving aid and support to an actively hostile nation.
That being said, it is a legitimate concern to wonder what Due Process protections these people actually had.  I for one am immediately suspicious of any legal entity with the word “Revolutionary” in its title, given the poor track record of such bodies throughout history.  This isn’t the first time Hamas has killed collaborators under questionable circumstances either:

According to the Congressional Research Service, Hamas admitted to having executed Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli authorities in the 1990s. A transcript of a training film by the al-Qassam Brigades tells how Hamas operatives kidnapped Palestinians accused of collaboration and then forced confessions before executing them.

Presumedly, the means used to “force confessions” out of the accused collaborators didn’t involve an intimate conversation over coffee.
As a person who follows Electronic Intifada,  I think I would agree that Abunimah shows a little too much deference to Hamas, and gives them the benefit of the doubt far more than he should.  By doing so, he conflates Hamas with the Palestinian people, which is a problem, because it feeds into the widespread feelings of Israelis who believe that Palestinians deserve collective punishment for voting Hamas into office.  But I do think he has a point about punishing war-time collaborators as being something that nearly every country in the world does.  The question is whether Hamas’s “Revolutionary Court” actually provides Due Process, or is rather more akin to a kangaroo enclosure.

kohenari:

Here’s what happened:

Eighteen suspected collaborators were killed by Hamas on Friday as the group announced a crackdown on Palestinians alleged to be working with Israel. 

Seven men were shot dead in front of a mosque by men in Hamas military uniforms after Friday prayers, witnesses said.

The Hamas-affiliated al-Majd website said they were killed after legal procedures were completed against them. Suspects accused of collaboration are taken to “revolutionary military trials” presided over by security and legal experts, the site added.

Earlier, eleven Palestinians were killed by Hamas for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Now, what I don’t understand is why Ali Abunimah, who runs the fairly influential Electronic Intifada website, feels the need to justify or excuse what Hamas has done. Leaving aside the problem of executions in general, in this case of executing “collaborators,” there’s no actual judicial process being followed here. Even Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who is often seen by suppoters of Israel as being far more lenient on Hamas than on Israel, has "described the judicial process for death sentences in Gaza as ‘deeply flawed.’" This could very well be some members of Hamas executing people who disagree with them. Abunimah doesn’t know; no one knows.

So, it’s very unsettling to see Abunimah make the argument that “collaboration” is seen by “every society” “as the most heinous crime” and thus that executing eighteen “suspected collaborators” isn’t unique to Palestinians — who thought it was? — or particularly problematic.

Abunimah apparently feels a need for Hamas to be seen as pure and clean in their resistance to Israel, and he takes it to be his role to defend them from anyone who might suggest otherwise. What he’s actually doing, though, is defending human rights violations … and it’s not as though these are isolated incidents, either. He does the same when he posts a comedic take on the death of Israeli civilians or belittles the effect of indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli civilians.

I know a fair number of people who view Abunimah and his website as a credible source for information on Israel/Palestine. I don’t share their view. This is why. Supporting the desire of the Palestinian people to live free of repression, occupation, and blockade is exactly right; however, insisting that resistance movements can do no wrong — in the face of obvious human rights violations — borders on the fanatical.

LTMC: It seems like Abunimah is mirroring the argument of Israeli boosters who complain that critics of israel are trying to make Israel a special case.  As the argument goes, Israel is obviously not perfect, but neither is any other country on earth.  In the U.S., for example, wartime collaboration is treason punishable by death.  So I think Abunimah does have a point when he says that Hamas isn’t doing something that any other government on the world would do if its citizens were giving aid and support to an actively hostile nation.

That being said, it is a legitimate concern to wonder what Due Process protections these people actually had.  I for one am immediately suspicious of any legal entity with the word “Revolutionary” in its title, given the poor track record of such bodies throughout history.  This isn’t the first time Hamas has killed collaborators under questionable circumstances either:

According to the Congressional Research Service, Hamas admitted to having executed Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli authorities in the 1990s. A transcript of a training film by the al-Qassam Brigades tells how Hamas operatives kidnapped Palestinians accused of collaboration and then forced confessions before executing them.

Presumedly, the means used to “force confessions” out of the accused collaborators didn’t involve an intimate conversation over coffee.

As a person who follows Electronic Intifada,  I think I would agree that Abunimah shows a little too much deference to Hamas, and gives them the benefit of the doubt far more than he should.  By doing so, he conflates Hamas with the Palestinian people, which is a problem, because it feeds into the widespread feelings of Israelis who believe that Palestinians deserve collective punishment for voting Hamas into office.  But I do think he has a point about punishing war-time collaborators as being something that nearly every country in the world does.  The question is whether Hamas’s “Revolutionary Court” actually provides Due Process, or is rather more akin to a kangaroo enclosure.

(Source: maannews.net)

August 21, 2014
"No one in Israel really talks about the killing of innocent Palestinians anymore. There was a time when we murdered people and it actually bothered us. …I’ve been writing for years about what this country is turning into before my eyes. The total lack of empathy for suffering on the other side is a result of deeply ingrained racism. In my eyes the Israeli response, or shall I say the lack of it, to the recent massacres in Gaza is the epitome of the unraveling of Israeli society over the past decade."

Ami Kaufman

August 20, 2014
Netanyahu tried to hide Egyptian cease-fire proposal from cabinet - Diplomacy and Defense

From the article:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried last week to hide from cabinet ministers the draft of a cease-fire agreement drawn up by Egypt. A senior Israeli official said that during last Thursday evening’s cabinet meeting, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman confronted Netanyahu, showing him the copy of the Egyptian proposal that he, Lieberman, had received, and demanded an explanation.

The Israeli official said Lieberman surprised Netanyahu with this revelation. This was the first that the other cabinet ministers had heard that Israel had received a draft cease-fire agreement from the Egyptians, and they demanded copies of their own so they could review it.

A stormy atmosphere ensued and Netanyahu found himself on the defensive. The official said Netanyahu told the cabinet members that it was only a proposal, one of many that had been updated again and again in previous days.

"I didn’t say ‘yes’ to this draft and for now we do not accept it," he told the ministers.
At one point Netanyahu exited the cabinet meeting to speak with some visiting mayors from the south. That get-together was to last only a few minutes, yet Netanyahu stretched it out to more than an hour. Eventually Lieberman and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon lost their patience and left the cabinet meeting. It was decided to adjourn and continue the following morning.

When the ministers entered the cabinet room Friday morning, Netanyahu had no choice but to present the Egyptian proposal to them. He told the cabinet members that he was rejecting it because it did not answer Israel’s security demands.

And of course by security demands, Netanyahu means permanent military control and jurisdiction over Palestinian territory, which he wants even under a 2-state solution.  So now, he hides ceasefire proposals from his cabinet, and has a negotiating position which is acceptable to precisely no one on the Palestinian side.  It’s hard to see how anyone could seriously suggest this man is devoted to peace.

August 18, 2014
The West Bank may be on the verge of exploding | +972 Magazine

Not too long ago, I suggested that Israel may have triggered the Third Intifada with Operation Protective Edge.  Here is more evidence of that being the case:

I have just returned from a work visit to Ramallah. I am very concerned and disturbed by what I heard from friends and colleagues there. The calm appearance of the city hides the sizzling bubbling under the surface. The West Bankis on the verge of explosion.

As an illustration of what I’ve heard from people I spoke with, on the way home I listened to some Palestinian popular radio stations. All of the songs were full of praise for Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades – “let’s hit Tel Aviv with our rockets” and much worse . It was horrible to hear the drums of war and battle calls on the radio.

I was told that scenes that haven’t appeared for years since the intifada are now all over Ramallah, Bethlehem and throughout the West Bank – street gangs of masked men with weapons calling for young people to join the Al Aqsa Brigades and other battalions – “revenge for the death of our brothers and sisters in Gaza, we are all Gaza, we are all-Qassam Brigades.”

There is no more talk of peace and two states. The discussions on the street and in the cafes are all about the end of the ceasefire and the renewal of war in Gaza. They say the Jews’ war is not against Hamas, it is against all Palestinians, and the Qassam Brigades are the only ones fighting the Zionists, who want to kill all the Palestinians.

Abbas is described almost as a public enemy. Every day, Mohammed Dahlan transmits calls against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, from the Gulf. Dahlan and other important Fatah leaders in the West Bank are calling on Palestinian security forces to stop the security coordination with Israel and use their weapons against Israel instead. There are calls to attack settlements and to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Back in May, after another round of peace negotiations collapsed, a frustrated U.S. diplomat blamed Israeli officials for the impasse and told the Israeli press that “I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.”  It is a sad reflection of the current state of affairs that this observation appears primed to be an accurate prediction of the future, rather than just a frustrated peace negotiator venting his frustration.

August 15, 2014
Dutch nonagenarian returns Righteous Among the Nations medal after six relatives killed in Gaza - World

From the article:

A 91-year-old Dutch man who was declared a Righteous Among the Nations for saving a Jew during the German occupation on Thursday returned his medal and certificate because six of his relatives were killed by an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip last month.

In 2011, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum declared Henk Zanoli and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, Righteous Among the Nations for having saved a Jewish child, Elhanan Pinto, during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Pinto, born in 1932, was hidden by the Zanoli family from the spring of 1943 until the Allies liberated Holland in 1945. His parents perished in Nazi death camps.

[…]

“Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” he wrote.

“The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their [Palestinian] grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army … For me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.”

August 10, 2014
"

For viewers of the Israeli media, Hamas is the incarnation of evil. We are fighting “terrorists”. We are bombing “terror targets” (like the home of the family of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh). Hamas fighters never withdraw, they “escape”. Their leaders are not commanding from underground command posts, they are “hiding”. They are storing their arms in mosques, schools and hospitals (as we did during British times). Tunnels are “terror tunnels”. Hamas is cynically using the civilian population as “human shields” (as Winston Churchill used the London population). Gaza schools and hospitals are not hit by Israeli bombs, God forbid, but by Hamas rockets (which mysteriously lose their way) and so on.

Seen through Arab eyes, things look somewhat different. Hamas is a patriotic group, fighting with incredible courage against immense odds. They are not a foreign force oblivious to the suffering of the population, they are the sons of this very population, members of the families that are now being killed en masse, who grew up in the houses that are now being destroyed. It is their mothers and siblings who huddle now in UN shelters, without water and electricity, deprived of everything but the clothes on their back.

"

Uri Avnery

August 10, 2014
"What if Hamas and Islamic Jihad dug tunnels beneath the entirety of the Gaza Strip—they clearly did not, but let us assume they did for the sake of argument. According to Israel’s logic, all of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians are therefore human shields for being born Palestinian in Gaza. The solution is to destroy the 360-kilometer square strip of land and to expect a watching world to accept this catastrophic loss as incidental. This is possible only by framing and accepting the dehumanization of Palestinian life. Despite the absurdity of this proposal, it is precisely what Israeli society is urging its military leadership to do. Israel cannot bomb Palestinians into submission, and it certainly cannot bomb them into peace."

Noura Erakat

August 9, 2014
I think Elie Wiesel and Shmuley Boteach have officially jumped the shark with this ad.  Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that Hamas actually forces Palestinians of any age to act as human shields, equating Gaza militants with “death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites” is hyperbolic to say the least.  Also, the situation faced by Abraham is not quite the same as the situation in the Occupied Territories, which has a few more moving parts than a singular command from an omniscient deity to kill your son.
This ad pretty clearly suggests that Hamas views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort, while the Israeli government does not.  But if that’s the case, then I think we should ask ourselves how we’re supposed to view this sort of thing:

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.

Or this:

[F]iring guidelines were changed so that the safety distance from Palestinian houses was reduced from 300 meters to 100 meters. Shortly thereafter, a shell hit the house of the Ghaben family in Beit Lahiya, killing 9-year-old Hadil and injuring 12 of her family members. Following the incident and several others related to artillery fire, human rights organizations appealed to the Israeli High Court to stop this lethal practice. In response, Israel stated that artillery fire would no longer be used in the Gaza Strip.  Only three years later, in Operation Cast Lead, artillery fire was used once again, even more extensively than before.

Or this:

The stories that have emerged from eyewitness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity, guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas, highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world.”

It seems pretty clear to me that there’s plenty of evidence that the Israeli government also views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort against Hamas.  They can certainly argue that Hamas is forcing them to shoot through children by operating in highly populated residential areas (which Hamas does).  But the Israeli government can’t claim the same is true of their decision to shut off the electricity in Gaza.  They can’t claim the same is true of IDF soldiers who bait and kill Palestinian children in skirmishes in the Occupied Territories.  They can’t claim the same is true when the IDF knowingly uses highly inaccurate artillery with a high capacity to inflict collateral damage.  
And if we’re going to place this in the context of scripture, I’d like to ask Rabbi Boteach how the IDF’s behavior in the Occupied Territories is consistent with the aspirations of Tikkun Olam, or the command to “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt,” or "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah."  
There’s no question that Hamas is a nasty organization.  But the Israeli government continues to drive Palestinians into its arms by doing some pretty terrible things themselves.  So while the last paragraph of the ad asks us to “work towards a brighter future with those who choose life, Arabs and Jews alike, all of us Abraham’s children.”  I think it’s fair to say that the Israeli government still has some work to do in this area if it really wants to live up to that aspiration.

I think Elie Wiesel and Shmuley Boteach have officially jumped the shark with this ad.  Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that Hamas actually forces Palestinians of any age to act as human shields, equating Gaza militants with “death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites” is hyperbolic to say the least.  Also, the situation faced by Abraham is not quite the same as the situation in the Occupied Territories, which has a few more moving parts than a singular command from an omniscient deity to kill your son.

This ad pretty clearly suggests that Hamas views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort, while the Israeli government does not.  But if that’s the case, then I think we should ask ourselves how we’re supposed to view this sort of thing:

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire.

Or this:

[F]iring guidelines were changed so that the safety distance from Palestinian houses was reduced from 300 meters to 100 meters. Shortly thereafter, a shell hit the house of the Ghaben family in Beit Lahiya, killing 9-year-old Hadil and injuring 12 of her family members. Following the incident and several others related to artillery fire, human rights organizations appealed to the Israeli High Court to stop this lethal practice. In response, Israel stated that artillery fire would no longer be used in the Gaza Strip.  Only three years later, in Operation Cast Lead, artillery fire was used once again, even more extensively than before.

Or this:

The stories that have emerged from eyewitness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity, guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas, highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world.

It seems pretty clear to me that there’s plenty of evidence that the Israeli government also views Palestinian children as expendable in its war effort against Hamas.  They can certainly argue that Hamas is forcing them to shoot through children by operating in highly populated residential areas (which Hamas does).  But the Israeli government can’t claim the same is true of their decision to shut off the electricity in Gaza.  They can’t claim the same is true of IDF soldiers who bait and kill Palestinian children in skirmishes in the Occupied Territories.  They can’t claim the same is true when the IDF knowingly uses highly inaccurate artillery with a high capacity to inflict collateral damage.  

And if we’re going to place this in the context of scripture, I’d like to ask Rabbi Boteach how the IDF’s behavior in the Occupied Territories is consistent with the aspirations of Tikkun Olam, or the command to Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt,” or "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah." 

There’s no question that Hamas is a nasty organization.  But the Israeli government continues to drive Palestinians into its arms by doing some pretty terrible things themselves.  So while the last paragraph of the ad asks us to “work towards a brighter future with those who choose life, Arabs and Jews alike, all of us Abraham’s children.”  I think it’s fair to say that the Israeli government still has some work to do in this area if it really wants to live up to that aspiration.

August 8, 2014

John Stewart: “We cannot be Israel’s rehab sponsor and its drug dealer.”

August 8, 2014
IDF soldier: Artillery fire in Gaza is like Russian roulette | +972 Magazine

From the article:

During my military service in the Israeli army I served in the artillery corps, and thus learned a thing or two about using shells. From the testimonies I have read and heard from the school and the marketplace bombardment, I am not sure if these were mortar or artillery shells that struck, but what’s clear from the photos and reports published by the IDF is that there was massive use of artillery fire. Artillery fire is statistical fire. It is the absolute opposite of precise sniper fire. The power of the sniper lies in the accuracy that his weapon provides him, while the power of the artillery shells being used in Gaza is based on both the extent and possibility of causing damage (impact).

As someone who served as a combat soldier in the IDF I feel obligated to explain what is behind the numbers we hear about regarding the military operation in Gaza. A standard high-explosive shell weighs about 40 kg and is nothing but a large fragmentation grenade, which, at the time of explosion, is meant to kill everyone within a 50-meter radius and injure people located in an additional radius of 100 meters. It is impossible to aim the shells in an accurate manner and they are not meant to hit specific targets. Different factors such as the humidity of the air, the amount of heat in the barrel and the direction of the wind may determine whether the shell falls 30 or even 100 meters from the spot at which it was aimed. For that reason, a multi-barrel artillery battery fires a barrage of shells in a certain direction knowing that statistics will work their course, and that due to the scatter and the amount of damage caused by many shells, the target will indeed be hit.

There’s no way of knowing who is hit.

As a result of the inaccuracy of this weapon, the safety ranges used during war require us to aim at least 250 meters away from our troops while they are behind cover. In 2006 when the IDF first fired artillery shells into Gaza, I was surprised by the choice to use such an inaccurate weapon in such a densely populated region.

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