972 Magazine Exposes IDF Double-Talk on Death of Woman in Bi’lin

Earlier this week, the story broke that Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, the Palestinian woman who died after being injured by tear gas during a weekly protest against the Israeli security barrier in Bi’lin, had died as a result of poor medical care at the hospital in Ramallah.

Case closed, right? Not so fast.

Jawaher Abu Rahmeh

972 Magazine has been on top of this thing from the beginning. And their blogger, Yossi Gurvitz, noticed right off that the reports attributed the announcement of the conclusion of the IDF investigation to unnamed military sources. So, the intrepid Gurvitz called the IDF Spokesman, who immediately denied that any result of the investigation had been arrived at.

Hmmmm.

Weeks ago, the Central Command brass engaged a whole slew of right-wing Israeli bloggers to spread their initial version of Abu Rahmeh’s death. Now, these bloggers have been embarrassed and thrown under the proverbial bus as they passionately advocated the IDF story, which the IDF later contradicted. Jerry Haber, at the Magnes Zionist, reviews the various stories that the IDF has put out there. Three and counting so far.

Gurvitz describes the game that is being played. It’s worth your time to read it in full. But the short form is that the IDF, in an effort to manage the issue and to try to defuse yet another potential shock to their image is having the Spokesman give the official line, which is that the incident is being investigated, while Gen. Avi Mizrahi’s Central Command office is anonymously putting out one story after another to try to explain Jawaher’s death and why the IDF was not at fault.

There is, of course, a better way to deal with this, and that is for the IDF to obey the order of the Israeli High Court of Justice and move the barrier out of Bi’lin, where it serves to undermine, rather than enhance Israeli security and cuts off the people of Bi’lin from much of their town’s lands, which are needed for grazing and other purposes. But that’s not likely to happen as long as the IDF can thumb its nose at not only international law but even Israeli law with impunity.

Until that changes, we can at least count ourselves lucky that we have 972 and other hard-working Israelis to at least expose these shoddy tactics.

Lieberman the Fascist, In His Own Words

As I sat to write these words, a pro-democracy demonstration in Tel Aviv was winding down. Reports I received from colleagues at the march estimated the number at 20,000 in attendance, and YNET reports 15,000. This is most welcome news, and one hopes it is an indication that Israelis have woken up and recognize the threat that has grown in their midst. Another, more important, albeit much slimmer hope, is that they will also collectively realize that the side toward fascism is the inevitable result of a society that is both embroiled in constant conflict and is holding millions of others under siege or under military occupation.

Avigdor Lieberman

Israelis have been forced to the streets out of self-interest, the decay of Israel’s democratic structures, however imperfect they may always have been. Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf sent out a tweet from the march saying that the “loudest booing to Ehud Barak, labor, for taking part in Netanyahu’s government.” But if we put a face to the assault on Israeli democracy, we inevitably see Avigdor Lieberman.

Is Lieberman, who makes the claim, with some justification at least for the moment, that he now represents the mainstream of Israeli society, really the boogeyman many of us make him out to be? Well, we have a chance to see it in his own words.

On Friday, Yediot Ahoronot, the major Israeli daily paper, ran an extensive interview with Lieberman. As far as I know, it appeared only in the print edition and only in Hebrew. For various reasons, I cannot reprint the entire interview here, but a few pieces of it will serve to allow Lieberman to demonstrate just who he really is. So, with my comments interspersed below, here is Avigdor Lieberman…

“This is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed: when the left wing wants to delegitimize someone in the right wing, they always find someone from the national camp to help them. Likud people like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin gave the left wing the seal of approval to attack me. This reminds me of global anti-Semitism, the anti-Semites also always find some Israeli to help them attack Jews. “ Continue reading

Coteret: Interview with Michael Sfard, lawyer for slain Palestinian, Jawaher Abu Rahme

Didi Remez of Coteret transcribed and translated the interview below from Israel’s IDF Radio. It is an interview of Michael Sfard, the prominent Israeli human rights lawyer who is representing the family of Jawaher Abu Rahme, who was killed on New Year’s Eve when the IDF flooded the town of Bil’in with tear gas during a protest against the Seperation Barrier there. It is worth noting that the barrier in Bil’in, which engenders weekly protests, was ordered moved by Israel’s High Court. The IDF has simply ignored the court’s order.

It’s also worth remembering that Jawaher’s brother, Bassam Abu Rahme, was also killed by Israeli forces in April, 2009 at another protest in Bil’in. Bassam was killed when a tear gas cannister was fired directly at him, in violation of legal use of such a weapon.

Jawaher Abu Rahme, another victim of the occupation

 

Interview with Michael Sfard

 

IDF Radio, January 4 2010 08:22 [recording here; interview begins at 00:33]

Niv Raskin: Now we turn to the IDF investigation on the death of protester Jawaher Abu Rahma. According to the IDF investigation, senior officers say it’s a kind of fabrication. The Bilin protester didn’t die of [tear] gas inhalation; she was a cancer patient. We want to talk about this issue with the family’s lawyer, Attorney Michael Sfard.

Attorney Michael Sfard: The IDF didn’t publish, its court journalists did.

Raskin: What do you mean?

Sfard: What I mean is that no IDF officer was willing to talk on-record. The IDF Spokesperson didn’t even put out a communiqué. Everything was done through journalists. They weren’t presented with even one document. I have never encountered such crazy fabricated blood libel.

Raskin: With your permission, let’s review the facts, at least as they were published. First, according to the reports, according to the investigation conducted by the IDF, there was no report of a wounded woman on Friday. According to those officers, at least, this casts doubt over whether she was at the protest at all. Continue reading

Stand Up For Democracy, Civil and Human Rights In Israel

How pernicious is the campaign against the New Israel Fund (NIF)?

The group that started this, Im Tirtzu, bills itself as a centrist group, although its founder and lead spokesperson, Ronen Shoval, was also a leading activist against the Gaza withdrawal and ran for the Knesset on the ticket of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party. As the campaign against NIF started to flag, such right-wing all-stars who never let facts get in the way of their ideological programs as Gerald Steinberg and David Bedein jumped into the media pool to try to prop it up.

Im Tirtzu demonstrating at Na'alin, where regular protests against the separation barrier often leave Palestinians injured

But indeed it would be a mistake to see this as a hardcore right-wing attack. The Im Tirtzu campaign is certainly hateful enough, but the real threat came up when a drive in the Knesset began to set up a subcommittee to investigate the NIF. This drive, which failed as well, was not led by a fanatical right-winger, but by Yisrael Hasson and Otniel Schneller of the “centrist” Kadima party (that Kadima can be called the Israeli center realistically says much about the rightward drift in the past decade of Israeli politics, but thatg is a separate matter).

It is also worth noting that there was a lot of opposition to this idea, and it came not only from the left but also from Kadima (by MK Nachman Shai, for example) and from Likud (including such leading figures as Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan).

The witch-hunters who have set their sights on NIF are not giving up, and Im Tirtzu and their supporters in the media (notably Ben Caspit of Ma’ariv, Israel’s second-leading daily newspaper) are still working to launch governmental probes of NIF and to revive Knesset legislation to prevent Israeli NGOs from receiving foreign funding (no similar action against settlements and settler organizations receiving foreign support is in the offing). Continue reading

Death in Bil’in: End Soldiers’ Violence at West Bank Protests

31-year old Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed in Bil’in on Friday. He was killed because an Israeli soldier fired a long-range tear gas canister at his abdomen, from a distance of a few yards.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) calls this the result of “unauthorized fire.” Fine. But the question is what will be done about it. The result of this instance of “unauthorized fire” was the death of a young Palestinian man. The result of the last

Bassem Abu Rahmeh after being hit by an Israeli tear gas cannister

Bassem Abu Rahmeh after being hit by an Israeli tear gas cannister

similar incident was a severe brain injury to an American citizen who remains unconscious.

The latter case, that of Tristan Anderson, remains under investigation and, to date, no IDF action in response has been announced.

I can’t help but be reminded of last summer’s incident, where a soldier, acting under the orders of his commander fired (albeit apparently reluctantly) at and wounded a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man. The IDF charged the soldier and his commander with “conduct unbecoming,” barely a slap on the wrist.

In terms of accountability, the first question regarding both of these incidents is whether arrests will be made in the first place. In general, the IDF is a bit more inclined to bringing charges against their soldiers than is the case with the police, whether they are dealing with their own people or with settlers. But even in the case of the army, the history is not very good. Continue reading

Hamas Driving A Wedge Between Israel and Egypt

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recommended that Israel permit Egypt to double its force in the Sinai along the border with Israel. This is a response to Hamas’ breaching of the Gaza border which has allowed them to place operatives in the Sinai. The results of that repositioning were felt yesterday in Dimona as a Hamas suicide bomber killed a woman and wounded 11 other people.

The Egyptians, of course, have been requesting an increase in troop presence for a long time. Instead of granting what was a sensible request from Egypt (the Israel-Egypt peace treaty strictly limits the number of Egyptian troops that can be stationed near the border, so Egypt needs Israel’s consent to increase the presence), Israel refused until circumstances literally blew up in their face.

Israel is also considering building a new fence along the Egyptian border. This, of course, is Israel’s right, and it’s not an insensible decision. The Gaza/Egypt border is not likely to be hermetically sealed as it was before; Egypt is likely going to have to allow more movement in and out of Gaza than it had before. This means that Hamas, despite what is likely to be a concerted Egyptian effort to prevent it, has an avenue to access to Israeli civilians for murderous attacks like the one in Dimona. The barrier is thus a sensible precaution, albeit one that is merely a band-aid and not the solution to the problem at hand.

It should be noted that this proposed barrier is different from the wall/fence snaking through the West Bank. Had that barrier been built, like the one around Gaza, along the line of Israel’s internationally recognized border, the Green Line, it would not have been the target for condemnation that it was. Israel has every right to build walls along its border if it wishes; erecting a barrier whose course is through occupied (or, if you prefer, “disputed,” in this instance the point holds in either case) territory is not within its purview, though it is obviously well within its capabilities. Continue reading

Who’s “Beyond the Pale?”, Part 2

In Part 1 of this essay, I addressed Rabbi Ira Youdovin’s characterization of Jewish Voice for Peace as “beyond the pale” because we supported the views of former President Jimmy Carter. Now, I’d like to address his other basis for drawing his arbitrary line between JVP and the Jewish community, divestment.
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Simply by saying that “JVP supports divestment,” Youdovin misrepresents JVP’s position. Our stance is explained at length here, but in sum, JVP makes two points about divestment. One, that we support selective and targeted divestment that is aimed exclusively at the occupation, not at Israel itself. Two, that other groups who do support boycotts, divestment from Israel or even sanctions against Israel are not, by virtue of that fact alone, acting either out of anti-Semitism or in an anti-Semitic fashion. Of course, it is possible that such actions can be motivated by anti-Semitic malice, but the holding of those stances is not evidence of it by itself.

JVP is in fact quite scrupulous about ensuring that we target only the occupation with economic actions. These include, incidentally, other means such as purchasing and distributing Palestinian olive oil to help Palestinian farmers, as well as efforts to support Israeli peace groups such as Yesh GVul and New Profile. Continue reading