Thursday, 21 June 2018

Breaches to the ’Israeli’ Security System

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How Trump & 3 Other US Presidents Protected «Israel’s» Worst-Kept Secret: Its Nuclear Arsenal

20-06-2018 | 15:37
When a delegation of senior “Israeli” officials visited the Trump White House on February 13, 2017, they wanted to discuss several issues with their new American counterparts. Topping the list was a secret letter concerning a subject the “Israelis” had promised the Americans never to discuss publicly-“Israel’s” undeclared nuclear arsenal.
Dimona
In a recent piece for The New Yorker, I described a tense scene in the West Wing as the “Israeli” delegation-which included “Israel’s” Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer-tried to get the letter signed by President Donald Trump. By all accounts, the American Administration was eager to please the “Israeli” Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Trump had promised to lavish with unprecedented support. But, at that chaotic moment, Trump’s aides felt blindsided by the “Israeli” request. They knew nothing about the existence of any letters and were confused by the sense of urgency coming from the “Israelis”. The Americans had other pressing concerns-later that day, Michael Flynn, the national-security adviser, would hand in his resignation letter-and they didn’t appreciate feeling as though the “Israelis” were telling them what to do…
The White House’s reaction was understandable. There had been a similar moment of surprise eight years earlier, when Barack Obama became President and received a similar request. The very existence of the letters had been a closely held secret. Only a select group of senior American officials, in three previous Administrations, knew of the letters and how “Israeli” leaders interpreted them as effectively an American pledge not to press the “Jewish state” to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region. (American officials say the letters weren’t that explicit and fell short of constituting a binding commitment.) When Trump’s aides moved into the White House, they didn’t find any copies of the previous letters left behind by their predecessors. The documents had been sent to the archives. The Israelis, however, had copies.
“Israel” crossed the nuclear threshold on the eve of the Six Day War, in 1967. At that time, it had three nuclear devices, according to Avner Cohen, a nuclear historian at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and the author of two books on the origins of “Israel’s” nuclear program. “Israeli” efforts to build a bomb at the nuclear complex in Dimona had been a source of tension with Washington for nearly a decade. But, by the fall of 1969, when Golda Meir, “Israel’s” Prime Minister, met with Richard Nixon at the White House, “Israel’s” possession of nuclear weapons was a fait accompli and the two sides reached an unwritten understanding: the “Israelis” would not declare, test, or threaten to use their nuclear weapons; and the Americans would not pressure the “Israelis” to sign a landmark international nuclear-nonproliferation treaty known as the N.P.T. (“Israel” never became a signatory and US efforts to inspect Dimona stopped.)
Successive “Israeli: governments abided by the arrangement, which, in Hebrew, is referred to as “amimut,” which means opacity. In English, the arrangement is often referred to as “Israel’s” “policy of ambiguity.” A joint document describing the agreement was never prepared. Instead, each side relied on its own notes, a former official said. President Gerald Ford abided by Nixon’s deal. “Israeli” officials were concerned that Jimmy Carter would chart a different course, but the American position, through the Carter and Reagan Administrations, remained unchanged.
The “Israelis” first started to feel as though the unwritten Meir-Nixon arrangement was no longer sufficient during the Presidency of George H. W. Bush, when, after the first Gulf War, in 1991, world powers talked about the possibility of creating a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms.
The first iteration of the secret letter was drafted during the Clinton Administration, as part of an agreement for “Israel’s” participation in the 1998 Wye River negotiations with the Palestinians. In the letter, according to former officials, President Bill Clinton assured the “Jewish state” that no future American arms-control initiative would “detract” from “Israel’s” “deterrent” capabilities, an oblique but clear reference to its nuclear arsenal. Later, “Israeli” officials inserted language to make clear to Washington that “Israel” would “defend itself, by itself,” and that it would, therefore, not consider the American nuclear arsenal to be a substitute for “Israeli” nuclear arms. George W. Bush, when he became President, followed Clinton’s lead, signing a similar letter, former officials told me.
Then, in 2009, a new President, Barack Obama, took office. From almost the start, Netanyahu was distrustful of Obama, and vice versa. “With Obama, we were all crazy,” an “Israeli” official told me. That April, Obama delivered an aspirational speech in Prague, setting out “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Obama’s advisers subsequently learned “how paranoid Bibi was that Obama was going to try to take away ‘Israel’s’ nuclear weapons,” a former US official told me, adding, “Of course, that was never our intent.” Obama signed an updated version of the letter in May, 2009.
While “Israeli” officials interpreted the letters as an effective commitment by successive American Presidents not to pressure “Israel” regarding its nuclear arsenal, US officials told me that they viewed the letters as less categorical. “It was not a blanket ‘We’ll never ask “Israel” to give up its nuclear weapons.’ It was more, ‘We accepted the “Israeli” argument that they’re not going to disarm under current conditions in the Middle East,” a former US official told me. Avner Cohen, the Middlebury Institute historian, said that US Administrations have been reluctant to give up entirely on the possibility of ridding the region of nuclear weapons if “Israel” were to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with its neighbors, including Iran.
Ahead of a nonproliferation conference in 2010, Netanyahu became concerned, once again, that “Israel” could come under international pressure to disarm. In response, Obama made a public statement that echoed the contents of the secret letters, without revealing their existence. “We discussed issues that arose out of the nuclear-nonproliferation conference,” Obama said, after meeting with Netanyahu on July 6, 2010. “And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in US policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it’s in, and the threats that are levelled against . . . it, that ‘Israel’ has unique security requirements. It’s got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that’s why we remain unwavering in our commitment to ‘Israel’s’ security. And the United States will never ask ‘Israel’ to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.”
The tense scene in the West Wing over the letter came on the heels of a particularly chaotic transition, from Obama to Trump. Their advisers distrusted one another, and it is unclear if they ever discussed the “Israeli” letters before the Inauguration. So when Ambassador Dermer came to the White House to talk to Michael Flynn about arranging for Trump to sign the letter, Trump’s aides were confused and, initially, said that they needed more time. US officials said that the “Israelis” wanted to limit who could take part in discussions of the letter, citing the need for secrecy. The Americans pushed back. Afterward, senior White House officials huddled together and complained to each other that Dermer had acted as though he owned the White House. Dermer declined to comment on the letter and told me that he does not recall any cursing. Flynn was ousted that night. Later, Trump signed the letter, becoming the fourth US President to do so.
Like Obama’s advisers, Trump’s aides were baffled by the importance that Netanyahu placed on getting the letters signed so quickly. Cohen said that the issue is central for Netanyahu because the nuclear arsenal fuels his “sense of impunity, sense of ‘Israel’ being so powerful, that it can dictate its own terms in the region and beyond.”
Source: The New Yorker, Edited by website team

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JUNE 20, 2018: SYRIAN ARMY ATTACKS MILITANTS IN DARAA PROVINCE



On June 19, units of government forces attacked positions of militant groups near the village of Buser al-Harir northeast of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Sporadic clashes in the area continued on June 20 but no major advance was carried out by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies.
Pro-government sources described this development as a trial balloon ahead of possible advance in the area.
If the SAA establishes control of Duweiri al-Harran and Melihit al-Atash, it will encircle a number of militant held villages south of these two points creating a “cauldron”, which would be cut off from the rest of the militant-held area.
Meanwhile, military equipment, including artillery and battle tanks, of the Syrian military continued to enter the province of Daraa.
An Israeli reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle, Skylark, crashed in the province of Quneitra, east of the occupied Golan Heights, on June 19. The  Israeli military has likely expanded its reconnaissance operations in the area ahead of the SAA’s expected advance in southern Syria.
On the same day, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that there are still notable number of ISIS and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra) militants in southern Syria. The announcement, which came following a meeting among representatives of Turkey, Iran and Russia on the de-escalation zones agreement, is another indication that the Russian-Iranian-Syrian block is not going to tolerate the presence of these groups in the war-torn country.
Units of the SAA and other pro-government factions have cleared the areas of Tayyara, al-Bawdah, Wadi al-Luwayziyah and nearby points at the border with Iraq from ISIS cells. This advance was a part of the wider effort to combat the terrorist group’s presence in the area.
The SAA also met with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) at the Syrian-Iraqi border, southeast of the village of Humaimah.
Following the June 18 strike by the US-Israeli-led bloc on pro-Damascus forces southeast of al-Bukamal, the PMU announced that it is set to secure the border area despite the opposition from any side. So, the PMU’s presence on the border will only grow.
In eastern al-Suwayda, the SAA liberated Khirbat Al-Umbashi and advanced on the settlement of Al-Qara where clashes between government troops and ISIS members are now ongoing.
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River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

No, Israel Is Not a Democracy


By lan Pappe



An Israeli army checkpoint in East Jerusalem. Kashfi Halford / Flickr
From Ten Myths About Israel, out now from Verso Books
Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.
In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.
Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.
The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

Before 1967, Israel definitely could not have been depicted as a democracy. As we have seen in previous chapters, the state subjected one-fifth of its citizenship to military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency regulations that denied the Palestinians any basic human or civil rights.
Local military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their houses and livelihoods, and send them to jail whenever they felt like it. Only in the late 1950s did a strong Jewish opposition to these abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian citizens.
For the Palestinians who lived in prewar Israel and those who lived in the post-1967 West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this regime allowed even the lowest-ranking soldier in the IDF to rule, and ruin, their lives. They were helpless if such a solider, or his unit or commander, decided to demolish their homes, or hold them for hours at a checkpoint, or incarcerate them without trial. There was nothing they could do.
At every moment from 1948 until today, there had been some group of Palestinians undergoing such an experience.
The first group to suffer under such a yoke was the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It began in the first two years of statehood when they were pushed into ghettos, such as the Haifa Palestinian community living on the Carmel mountain, or expelled from the towns they had inhabited for decades, such as Safad. In the case of Isdud, the whole population was expelled to the Gaza Strip.
In the countryside, the situation was even worse. The various Kibbutz movementscoveted Palestinian villages on fertile land. This included the socialist Kibbutzim, Hashomer Ha-Zair, which was allegedly committed to binational solidarity.
Long after the fighting of 1948 had subsided, villagers in Ghabsiyyeh, Iqrit, Birim, Qaidta, Zaytun, and many others, were tricked into leaving their homes for a period of two weeks, the army claiming it needed their lands for training, only to find out on their return that their villages had been wiped out or handed to someone else.
This state of military terror is exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre of October 1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, forty-nine Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.
Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion of Palestinians from the whole area called the Wadi Ara and the Triangle in which the village sat. These two areas — the first a valley connecting Afula in the east and Hadera on the Mediterranean coast; the second expanding the eastern hinterland of Jerusalem — were annexed to Israel under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.
As we have seen, additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in the Palestinian population was not. Thus, at every juncture, when the state of Israel expanded, it looked for ways to restrict the Palestinian population in the recently annexed areas.
Operation “Hafarfert” (“mole”) was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of Palestinians when a new war broke out with the Arab world. Many scholars today now think that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the area could be intimidated to leave.
The perpetrators of the massacre were brought to trial thanks to the diligence and tenacity of two members of the Knesset: Tawaq Tubi from the Communist Party and Latif Dori of the Left Zionist party Mapam. However, the commanders responsible for the area, and the unit itself that committed the crime, were let off very lightly, receiving merely small fines. This was further proof that the army was allowed to get away with murder in the occupied territories.
Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence.
Palestinians in Israel still do not talk much about that pre-1967 period, and the documents of that time do not reveal the full picture. Surprisingly, it is in poetry that we find an indication of what it was like to live under military rule.
Natan Alterman was one of the most famous and important poets of his generation. He had a weekly column, called “The Seventh Column,” in which he commented on events he had read or heard about. Sometimes he would omit details about the date or even the location of the event, but would give the reader just enough information to understand what he was referring to. He often expressed his attacks in poetic form:
The news appeared briefly for two days, and disappeared. And no one seems to care, and no one seems to know. In the far away village of Um al-Fahem,
Children — should I say citizens of the state — played in the mud And one of them seemed suspicious to one of our brave soldiers who
shouted at him: Stop!
An order is an order
An order is an order, but the foolish boy did not stand, He ran away
So our brave soldier shot, no wonder And hit and killed the boy.
And no one talked about it.
On one occasion he wrote a poem about two Palestinian citizens who were shot in Wadi Ara. In another instance, he told the story of a very ill Palestinian woman who was expelled with her two children, aged three and six, with no explanation, and sent across the River Jordan. When she tried to return, she and her children were arrested and put into a Nazareth jail.
Alterman hoped that his poem about the mother would move hearts and minds, or at least elicit some official response. However, he wrote a week later:
And this writer assumed wrongly
That either the story would be denied or explained But nothing, not a word.
There is further evidence that Israel was not a democracy prior to 1967. The state pursued a shoot-to-kill policy towards refugees trying to retrieve their land, crops, and husbandry, and staged a colonial war to topple Nasser’s regime in Egypt. Its security forces were also trigger happy, killing more than fifty Palestinian citizens during the period from 1948–1967.

Subjugation of Minorities in Israel Is Not Democratic

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy.
For example, after the new territorial gains several laws were passed ensuring a superior position for the majority: the laws governing citizenship, the laws concerning land ownership, and most important of all, the law of return.
The latter grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in the world, wherever he or she was born. This law in particular is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a total rejection of the Palestinian right of return — recognized internationally by theUN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to unite with their immediate families or with those who were expelled in 1948.
Denying people the right of return to their homeland, and at the same time offering this right to others who have no connection to the land, is a model of undemocratic practice.
Added to this was a further layering of denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. Almost every discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel is justified by the fact that they do not serve in the army. The association between democratic rights and military duties is better understood if we revisit the formative years in which Israeli policy makers were trying to make up their minds about how to treat one-fifth of the population.
Their assumption was that Palestinian citizens did not want to join the army anyway, and that assumed refusal, in turn, justified the discriminatory policy against them. This was put to the test in 1954 when the Israeli ministry of defense decided to call up those Palestinian citizens eligible for conscription to serve in the army. The secret service assured the government that there would be a widespread rejection of the call-up.
To their great surprise, all those summoned went to the recruiting office, with the blessing of the Communist Party, the biggest and most important political force in the community at the time. The secret service later explained that the main reason was the teenagers’ boredom with life in the countryside and their desire for some action and adventure.
Notwithstanding this episode, the ministry of defense continued to peddle a narrative that depicted the Palestinian community as unwilling to serve in the military.
Inevitably, in time, the Palestinians did indeed turn against the Israeli army, who had become their perpetual oppressors, but the government’s exploitation of this as a pretext for discrimination casts huge doubt on the state’s pretense to being a democracy.
If you are a Palestinian citizen and you did not serve in the army, your rights to government assistance as a worker, student, parent, or as part of a couple, are severely restricted. This affects housing in particular, as well as employment — where 70 percent of all Israeli industry is considered to be security-sensitive and therefore closed to these citizens as a place to find work.
The underlying assumption of the ministry of defense was not only that Palestinians do not wish to serve but that they are potentially an enemy within who cannot be trusted. The problem with this argument is that in all the major wars between Israel and the Arab world the Palestinian minority did not behave as expected. They did not form a fifth column or rise up against the regime.
This, however, did not help them: to this day they are seen as a “demographic” problem that has to be solved. The only consolation is that still today most Israeli politicians do not believe that the way to solve “the problem” is by the transfer or expulsion of the Palestinians (at least not in peacetime).

Israeli Land Policy Is Not Democratic

The claim to being a democracy is also questionable when one examines the budgetary policy surrounding the land question. Since 1948, Palestinian local councils and municipalities have received far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. The shortage of land, coupled with the scarcity of employment opportunities, creates an abnormal socioeconomic reality.
For example, the most affluent Palestinian community, the village of Me’ilya in the upper Galilee, is still worse off than the poorest Jewish development town in the Negev. In 2011, the Jerusalem Post reported that “average Jewish income was 40 percent to 60 percent higher than average Arab income between the years 1997 to 2009.”
Today more than 90 percent of the land is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Landowners are not allowed to engage in transactions with non-Jewish citizens, and public land is prioritized for the use of national projects, which means that new Jewish settlements are being built while there are hardly any new Palestinian settlements. Thus, the biggest Palestinian city, Nazareth, despite the tripling of its population since 1948, has not expanded one square kilometer, whereas the development town built above it, Upper Nazareth, has tripled in size, on land expropriated from Palestinian landowners.
Further examples of this policy can be found in Palestinian villages throughout Galilee, revealing the same story: how they have been downsized by 40 percent, sometimes even 60 percent, since 1948, and how new Jewish settlements have been built on expropriated land.
Elsewhere this has initiated full-blown attempts at “Judaization.” After 1967, the Israeli government became concerned about the lack of Jews living in the north and south of the state and so planned to increase the population in those areas. Such a demographic change necessitated the confiscation of Palestinian land for the building of Jewish settlements.
Worse was the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from these settlements. This blunt violation of a citizen’s right to live wherever he or she wishes continues today, and all efforts by human rights NGOs in Israel to challenge this apartheid have so far ended in total failure.
The Supreme Court in Israel has only been able to question the legality of this policy in a few individual cases, but not in principle. Imagine if in the United Kingdom or the United States, Jewish citizens, or Catholics for that matter, were barred by law from living in certain villages, neighborhoods, or maybe whole towns? How can such a situation be reconciled with the notion of democracy?

The Occupation Is Not Democratic

Thus, given its attitude towards two Palestinian groups — the refugees and the community in Israel — the Jewish state cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be assumed to be a democracy.
But the most obvious challenge to that assumption is the ruthless Israeli attitude towards a third Palestinian group: those who have lived under its direct and indirect rule since 1967, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. From the legal infrastructure put in place at the outset of the war, through the unquestioned absolute power of the military inside the West Bank and outside the Gaza Strip, to the humiliation of millions of Palestinians as a daily routine, the “only democracy” in the Middle East behaves as a dictatorship of the worst kind.
The main Israeli response, diplomatic and academic, to the latter accusation is that all these measures are temporary — they will change if the Palestinians, wherever they are, behave “better.” But if one researches, not to mention lives in, the occupied territories, one will understand how ridiculous these arguments are.
Israeli policy makers, as we have seen, are determined to keep the occupation alive for as long as the Jewish state remains intact. It is part of what the Israeli political system regards as the status quo, which is always better than any change. Israel will control most of Palestine and, since it will always include a substantial Palestinian population, this can only be done by nondemocratic means.
In addition, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Israeli state claims that the occupation is an enlightened one. The myth here is that Israel came with good intentions to conduct a benevolent occupation but was forced to take a tougher attitude because of the Palestinian violence.
In 1967, the government treated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a natural part of “Eretz Israel,” the land of Israel, and this attitude has continued ever since. When you look at the debate between the right- and left-wing parties in Israel on this issue, their disagreements have been about how to achieve this goal, not about its validity.
Among the wider public, however, there was a genuine debate between what one might call the “redeemers” and the “custodians.” The “redeemers” believed Israel had recovered the ancient heart of its homeland and could not survive in the future without it. In contrast, the “custodians” argued that the territories should be exchanged for peace with Jordan, in the case of the West Bank, and Egypt in the case of the Gaza Strip. However, this public debate had little impact on the way the principal policy makers were figuring out how to rule the occupied territories.
The worst part of this supposed “enlightened occupation” has been the government’s methods for managing the territories. At first the area was divided into “Arab” and potential “Jewish” spaces. Those areas densely populated with Palestinians became autonomous, run by local collaborators under a military rule. This regime was only replaced with a civil administration in 1981.
The other areas, the “Jewish” spaces, were colonized with Jewish settlements and military bases. This policy was intended to leave the population both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in disconnected enclaves with neither green spaces nor any possibility for urban expansion.
Things only got worse when, very soon after the occupation, Gush Emunim started settling in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, claiming to be following a biblical map of colonization rather than the governmental one. As they penetrated the densely populated Palestinian areas, the space left for the locals was shrunk even further.
What every colonization project primarily needs is land — in the occupied territories this was achieved only through the massive expropriation of land, deporting people from where they had lived for generations, and confining them in enclaves with difficult habitats.
When you fly over the West Bank, you can see clearly the cartographic results of this policy: belts of settlements that divide the land and carve the Palestinian communities into small, isolated, and disconnected communities. The Judaization belts separate villages from villages, villages from towns, and sometime bisect a single village.
This is what scholars call a geography of disaster, not least since these policies turned out to be an ecological disaster as well: drying up water sources and ruining some of the most beautiful parts of the Palestinian landscape.
Moreover, the settlements became hotbeds in which Jewish extremism grew uncontrollably — the principal victims of which were the Palestinians. Thus, the settlement at Efrat has ruined the world heritage site of the Wallajah Valley near Bethlehem, and the village of Jafneh near Ramallah, which was famous for its freshwater canals, lost its identity as a tourist attraction. These are just two small examples out of hundreds of similar cases.

Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic

House demolition is not a new phenomenon in Palestine. As with many of the more barbaric methods of collective punishment used by Israel since 1948, it was first conceived and exercised by the British Mandatory government during the Great Arab Revolt of 1936–39.
This was the first Palestinian uprising against the pro-Zionist policy of the British Mandate, and it took the British army three years to quell it. In the process, they demolished around two thousand houses during the various collective punishments meted out to the local population.
Israel demolished houses from almost the first day of its military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The army blew up hundreds of homes every year in response to various acts undertaken by individual family members.
From minor violations of military rule to participation in violent acts against the occupation, the Israelis were quick to send in their bulldozers to wipe out not only a physical building but also a focus of life and existence. In the greater Jerusalem area (as inside Israel) demolition was also a punishment for the unlicensed extension of an existing house or the failure to pay bills.
Another form of collective punishment that has recently returned to the Israeli repertoire is that of blocking up houses. Imagine that all the doors and windows in your house are blocked by cement, mortar, and stones, so you can’t get back in or retrieve anything you failed to take out in time. I have looked hard in my history books to find another example, but found no evidence of such a callous measure being practiced elsewhere.

Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Finally, under the “enlightened occupation,” settlers have been allowed to form vigilante gangs to harass people and destroy their property. These gangs have changed their approach over the years.
During the 1980s, they used actual terror — from wounding Palestinian leaders (one of them lost his legs in such an attack), to contemplating blowing up the mosques on Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.
In this century, they have engaged in the daily harassment of Palestinians: uprooting their trees, destroying their yields, and shooting randomly at their homes and vehicles. Since 2000, there have been at least one hundred such attacks reported per month in some areas such as Hebron, where the five hundred settlers, with the silent collaboration of the Israeli army, harassed the locals living nearby in an even more brutal way.
From the very beginning of the occupation then, the Palestinians were given two options: accept the reality of permanent incarceration in a mega-prison for a very long time, or risk the might of the strongest army in the Middle East. When the Palestinians did resist — as they did in 1987, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016 — they were targeted as soldiers and units of a conventional army. Thus, villages and towns were bombed as if they were military bases and the unarmed civilian population was shot at as if it was an army on the battlefield.
Today we know too much about life under occupation, before and after Oslo, to take seriously the claim that nonresistance will ensure less oppression. The arrests without trial, as experienced by so many over the years; the demolition of thousands of houses; the killing and wounding of the innocent; the drainage of water wells — these are all testimony to one of the harshest contemporary regimes of our times.
Amnesty International annually documents in a very comprehensive way the nature of the occupation. The following is from their 2015 report:
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.
The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity. The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants. The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents.
Let’s take this in stages. Firstly, assassinations — what Amnesty’s report calls “unlawful killings”: about fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed “unlawfully” by Israel since 1967. Among them were two thousand children.

Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic

Another feature of the “enlightened occupation” is imprisonment without trial. Every fifth Palestinian in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has undergone such an experience.
It is interesting to compare this Israeli practice with similar American policies in the past and the present, as critics of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement claim that US practices are far worse. In fact, the worst American example was theimprisonment without trial of one hundred thousand Japanese citizens during World War II, with thirty thousand later detained under the so-called “war on terror.”
Neither of these numbers comes even close to the number of Palestinians who have experienced such a process: including the very young, the old, as well as the long-term incarcerated.
Arrest without trial is a traumatic experience. Not knowing the charges against you, having no contact with a lawyer and hardly any contact with your family are only some of the concerns that will affect you as a prisoner. More brutally, many of these arrests are used as means to pressure people into collaboration. Spreading rumors or shaming people for their alleged or real sexual orientation are also frequently used as methods for leveraging complicity.
As for torture, the reliable website Middle East Monitor published a harrowing article describing the two hundred methods used by the Israelis to torture Palestinians. The list is based on a UN report and a report from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Among other methods it includes beatings, chaining prisoners to doors or chairs for hours, pouring cold and hot water on them, pulling fingers apart, and twisting testicles.

Israel Is Not a Democracy

What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery.
However, although large sections of civil societies throughout the world deny Israel its pretense to democracy, their political elites, for a variety of reasons, still treat it as a member of the exclusive club of democratic states. In many ways, the popularity of the BDS movement reflects the frustrations of those societies with their governments’ policies towards Israel.
For most Israelis these counterarguments are irrelevant at best and malicious at worst. The Israeli state clings to the view that it is a benevolent occupier. The argument for “enlightened occupation” proposes that, according to the average Jewish citizen in Israel, the Palestinians are much better off under occupation and they have no reason in the world to resist it, let alone by force. If you are a noncritical supporter of Israel abroad, you accept these assumptions as well.
There are, however, sections of Israeli society that do recognize the validity of some of the claims made here. In the 1990s, with various degrees of conviction, a significant number of Jewish academics, journalists, and artists voiced their doubts about the definition of Israel as a democracy.
It takes some courage to challenge the foundational myths of one’s own society and state. This is why quite a few of them later retreated from this brave position and returned to toeing the general line.
Nevertheless, for a while during the last decade of the last century, they produced works that challenged the assumption of a democratic Israel. They portrayed Israel as belonging to a different community: that of the nondemocratic nations. One of them, the geographer Oren Yiftachel from Ben-Gurion University, depicted Israel as an ethnocracy, a regime governing a mixed ethnic state with a legal and formal preference for one ethnic group over all the others. Others went further, labeling Israel an apartheid state or a settler-colonial state.
In short, whatever description these critical scholars offered, “democracy” was not among them.
Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. Most recently, he is the author of Ten Myths About Israel.
This article was originally published by “Jacobin 

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Residents of Eastern Ghouta talk of life under U.S. armed terrorist groups before being liberated by the Syrian Army, including the “White helmets” fraud

Torture, starvation, executions: Eastern Ghouta civilians talk of life under terrorist rule

In Horjilleh Sabah al Mushref on Jaysh al Islam cruelty
In Horjilleh centre for displaced, Sabah al Mushref spoke on Jaysh al Islam cruelty. Photo © Eva Bartlett 
June 10, 2018, RT.com

-by Eva Bartlett

Last week I wrote about what civilians from Ghouta told me regarding unverified claims of the Syrian Army attacking them with chemicals, but they also talked about crimes committed by terrorists and the White Helmets’ role.
Although benignly  dubbed“rebels” by corporate media, the Salafist terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam are not fighting for freedom or human rights in Syria, nor are the other terrorist groups who formerly ruled in eastern Ghouta.
It was Jaysh al-Islam which imprisoned Syrian civilians in cages, using them as human shields against potential bombing, and Jaysh al-Islam was among the terrorist groups firing missiles and mortars onto civilians in Damascus, killing over 10,000.
They, Faylaq al-Rahman, and the other terrorist factions occupying the region reigned with terror, beheading men and women and starving the people.

Hellish rule of Jaysh al-Islam: Starvation and executions by sword

When I visited eastern Ghouta and the Horjilleh center for displaced people just south of Damascus—people mostly from Ghouta now—I asked about their lives under the rule of Jaysh al-Islam and others, including why they had been starving in the first place. The reply was, as I and others  heard in eastern Aleppo, Madaya, and al-Waer, the terrorists stole aid and controlled all food, only selling food at extortionist prices which ordinary people could not afford.
Sabah al-Mushref spoke of the callousness of terrorists in Hammouriyeh and Zamalka towards children and how her own children used to scavenge from the garbage of terrorist leaders who had ample food.
“I was living in Zamalka, my children were almost dead of hunger, my daughter’s skin had turned yellow, she was malnourished,” Sabah told me. “I took her to the medical point, they said there was no medicine. I said, ‘my daughter is dying, what should I do?!’ They told me the medical point was only for Douma citizens. I went to the representative of Zamalka, I begged him, ‘Please give me anything for my children, they are starving, they haven’t eaten anything for two days.’ He said, ‘What is here is only for Zamalka citizens, you are from Marj al-Sultan, go to your representative. There is no aid for you here.’”
When I spoke with Sabah, she was with three other people from eastern Ghouta areas. Their testimonies spilled out, each one worse as they spoke out loud of the horrors they had lived through.
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In Horjilleh Mahmoud Souliman Khaled spoke of imprisonment and torture © Eva Bartlett
Mahmoud Souliman Khaled, 28, from Douma, spoke of his imprisonment and torture by Jaysh al-Islam.
“They stopped me at night, I was on my way to get something. They suspected that I was working for the regime, helping the army. They took me to al-Taoubah prison, where they tortured me. They would tie me to a chair and shock my hands or the top of my toes. They would tie two wires to my toes then plug the other end to the inverter and shock me. They would keep doing that until you confess to something. I didn’t confess, because I had nothing to confess to. They tortured me for two days. What they did caused me to have a severe myopia, it felt like electricity came out of my eyes.”
Khaled spoke of an execution he witnessed in Douma. “They came in a truck with a 23mm (anti-aircraft) machine gun and blew off his head. Then, they accused the Syrian Army of killing him.” A photo on his mobile phone showed a headless man sitting in a chair, no remnants of shelling.
Man executed by anti aircraft gun in Douma
Man executed by Jaysh al-Islam using anti-aircraft gun, Douma. Photo blurred due to graphic content. © Eva Bartlett
“Jaysh al-Islam blew his head off for selling food cheaply, because they wanted to keep prices high, so that people stay impoverished and would have to work for them in tunneling or join them in fighting.”
In Kafr Batna on May 2 this year, the streets were busy with normal life and the clean-up process, electricity workers  restoring power to the town. Outside a shop selling shawarma, Mou’taz Al-Aghdar spoke of being imprisoned for 15 days by Jaysh al-Islam for selling rice.
Moutaz Al Aghdar in Kafr Batna
Moutaz Al Aghdar in Kafr Batna © Eva Bartlett
“They confiscated our goods and imprisoned us. Nobody was allowed to work unless that it was under control.”
He spoke of the executions by sword, and of disappeared children and adults, some returned with organs missing.
“We live in a small town, people started to talk: a child was kidnapped here, another one there… Some people were kidnapped and their organs were taken. A child was buried, he was found dead in a barn covered with straw, he was tied and covered with straw while he was still alive. We didn’t know who did it.” Other civilians from Ghouta have spoken of organ theft.
Further on, I encountered Mohammad Shakr, who pointed to the central roundabout and spoke of terrorists’ executions there.
Mohammad Shakr at Kafr Batna square where terrorists executed civilians
Mohammad Shakr at Kafr Batna square where terrorists executed civilians © Eva Bartlett
“They’d bring people here and execute them, sometimes with a sword and other times with a gun. It was very normal for them. Now, since the Syrian Army came here, people can walk around and move freely. But before, you wouldn’t see anyone on the road.”
In an ice cream shop near the square, Abdallah Darbou also said he’d seen such executions. He also spoke of protests.
“Many times, we held protests against the terrorists, because we were starving, they were killing us. Sometimes they shot on us during the protests. They destroyed us, they really destroyed us. “The Syrian regime didn’t do that to us, when the army entered here they distributed bread to us, before that we only saw bread in photos.”
Walking around Douma on April 29, I met Yahya Mohammed Hamo, selling oranges on a push cart. When I asked him what life had been like under Jaysh al-Islam, he replied, “hunger, hunger, and hunger. If they have a religion, be cursed that religion. Religion doesn’t make them starve you.” 
Yahya Mohammed Hamo in Douma said terrorists starved them
Yahya Mohammed Hamo in Douma said terrorists starved them © Eva Bartlett
Men at a vegetable and fruit stand, who had replied with a resounding ‘no’ when I askedthem about the chemical allegations, also spoke of the aid that was sent into Douma. An older man, exaggerating to make his point that there was ample food in Douma, said it was enough to last five years, but that the terrorists had deprived them of it.
I asked about the agricultural fields I’d seen when entering Douma. The reply was that Jaysh al-Islam had control over everything, the fertile land, the livestock. A youth told me that before the terrorists left Douma on the buses, they shot all the animals.
The men spoke of executions, making a throat-slitting gesture. A younger man recounted another murder, when the executioner put a pistol in someone’s mouth and pulled the trigger.
“Terrorism, they are the literal meaning of terrorism,” Toufik Zahra, the stand owner, said.

White Helmets not so benevolent, worked with terrorists

To my question on whether the White Helmets were helping people, Zahra replied:
“The civil defence was only for the terrorist groups, only for them, for Jaysh al-Islam.”This was reiterated by Mahmoud Mahmoud al-Hammouri, working in a shop down the street, who said: “The White Helmets are called civil defence. They were supposedly for the civilians but they were the contrary, they were for Jaysh al-Islam.”
In Kafr Batna, the Shawarma vendor, Mou’taz Al-Aghdar, said, “Jaysh Al-Islam used to attack us wearing a white helmet one day and leaving it behind another day.” The young man in the ice cream shop, Abdallah, replied that he didn’t know anything about the White Helmets because he and civilians in general weren’t allowed to go near them.
That in itself is strange, given their supposed focus is saving civilians, and given that the White Helmets had centers in Douma, Zamalka, and Saqba. The White Helmets center in Saqba was less than 500 meters away from Kafr Batna. Notably, it was also just 200 meters down a lane from a building where Faylaq al-Rahman manufactured vast amounts of missiles and mortars.
Marwan Qreisheh, in the Horjilleh center, had a lot to say about the White Helmets. 
Marwan Qreisheh
Marwan Qreisheh, from Kafr Batna. Photo: April 25, 2018, © Eva Bartlett
“The first civil defense members who arrived to Ghouta three or four years ago came from foreign  countries, they weren’t Arabs, didn’t speak Arabic. They were the terrorists’ defense, they used to terrorize. They had plenty of money and used it to attract people to join the civil defense.
When the White Helmets wanted to go somewhere, terrorists used to go with them and open the roads for them. The moment they would arrive at a place where they wanted to fake an attack, they threw 10 smoke bombs, causing heavy smoke, you couldn’t see anything. They used to shoot people, and after the smoke cleared, they start filming. It was impossible to say a word because they would kill you, they would empty their gun on you immediately.
If someone’s arm veins were cut, they would amputate immediately and stitch the wound, while filming. If someone’s leg was injured because of bullet, a piece of glass, or anything, their first treatment was amputation.”
Qreisheh’s claims about amputation were echoed by Hanadi Shakr, from Saqba, who worked for a year as a nurse until her husband, who had joined Jaysh al-Islam, forced her to quit.
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Hanadi Shakr, when speaking about her ex-husband, who joined Jaysh al-Islam, who has their children. © Eva Bartlett
“Every time there was a case that was a bit severe, they would say you must amputate this person. They would say that we are in short of medical supplies and so amputation is the best choice. They didn’t use to treat people. Even people who had minor surgery, they would just amputate it.”
Claims of lack of medical supplies turned out to be false, as in eastern Aleppo. In an underground hospital in Saqba alone, I saw rooms full of medicines and stolen medical equipment. Syrian journalists documented such stores elsewhere in eastern Ghouta.
medicines storage Saqba underground hospital
One of a few rooms filled with medicines I saw in underground hospital, Saqba. © Eva Bartlett
According to Hanadi Shakr, “All of the medical and food aid that was brought in, it would just vanish, they would sell it and take the money. Everything went to the leaders of the terrorist factions.”
When eastern Ghouta was being liberated, corporate media was busy churning out fake reports of massacres, just as corporate media did when Aleppo was being liberated. They produced stories  emanating from supporters of terrorist factions, always blaming the Syrian government for starvation, and above all, whitewashing the crimes and terrorism of extremist groups occupying eastern Ghouta.
In reality, Ghouta civilians had much to say about their captors’ crimes, and also about their relief at being liberated by the Syrian Army, but corporate media isn’t interested it doesn’t fit their regime-change narrative.

Related Links:

-White Helmets complex in Saqba, Ghouta, down lane from terrorist bomb making factory (VIDEO)
-Lush countryside of Douma, approaching in taxi I hired. (VIDEO)
-Peace, the return of life to Douma absent of the terrorists who terrorized, who thieved food and starved Douma civilians. (VIDEO)
-Street scenes, life in Douma. April 2018. (VIDEO)
-More Street scenes, life in Douma. April 2018. (VIDEO)
Douma civilians after i spoke with them
Residents of Douma, after I interviewed them on April 29, 2018


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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!