Friday, 1 April 2016

Israel’s Wanton Murder of Palestinian civilians and its sanctification

Israel has a simple explanation for whenever it is caught out murdering another civilian(s).  ‘We are conducting an investigation.’  It is Mark Regev’s explanation when he has run out of any other excuse.  When, as with the case of the 4 boys who were mowed down by a fire from an Israeli airplane whilst running on a Gaza beach, the excuse was that it was 'a tragic accident'.

And when the Israeli military investigates itself it exonerates itself without exception.  That is why it is the ‘most moral army’ conducting the ‘most moral occupation’ in the history of the world.  Every act of murder is justified. 

The murder of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was particularly horrific in Hebron last year.  An 18 year old student, Israeli army personnel barked orders at her in a language she didn’t understand.  She was clearly frightened and paralysed before she was gunned down.  No one has ever been charged, still less convicted of her murder.

The latest incident, involved a soldier Elor Azarya, whose name is subject to a gag order i.e. censorship, in Israel (despite it being the world's most democratic society, gag orders are frequent) deliberately aimed his rifle and shot a severely wounded Palestinian lying on the ground. The soldier it turns out from his FaceBook page was a supporter of the neo-Nazi Rabbi Meir Kahane (deceased) and a supporter of the racist Jerusalem Beitar football club.

It was only 2 days ago that I predicted that he would end up being released if not becoming a hero.  My prediction has come true even more quickly than I expected.

After having initially criticised him, Netanyahu has backed off as 57% of the Israeli public support him compared to half that condemning him.  The murder was particularly blatant yet a majority of Israelis support the murder of yet another Palestinian in Hebron, where 450 neo-Nazi Zionist settlers occupy the centre of the town.

Indeed a sickening 50,000 Israelis have signed a petition calling for this callous racist murderer to be given a medal.  It is the honour that used to attach to the SS.

This is the society which Western leaders call a 'democratic society'.  The Jewish democratic society is democratic for Jews (bar dissidents) and Jewish for its Arabs.

Tony Greenstein

See Israelis rally around soldier filmed executing injured Palestinian 

Elor Azarya, seen in an image posted on his Facebook page, has been named as the suspect in the apparent extrajudicial execution of Yusri al-Sharif in Hebron on 24 March.

Killing of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, 18, in occupied territory goes unmentioned in J Street statement lamenting violence
The murder of Hadeel Hashlamoun
Update: The Benjamin Netanyahu government has responded angrily to the congressional letter, and Sen. Patrick Leahy has defended it. See below.

The horrifying killing of 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun at an Israeli checkpoint in occupied Hebron last September has at last become a public issue in the U.S. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has called on the State Department to determine whether the killing, and several other Israeli “extrajudicial killings,” violated the Leahy law against military assistance to gross human rights violators. The letter to John Kerry cites Egypt along with Israel, and is signed by ten members of Congress along with Leahy. They include Raul Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Chellie Pingree, Eddie Beatrice Johnson, Sam Farr, Jim McGovern, Jim McDermott, and Andre Carson.
Politico has published the letter. It includes these crucial passages:

There have been a disturbing number of reports of possible gross violations of human rights by security forces in Israel and Egypt — incidents that may have involved recipients, or potential recipients, of U.S. military assistance. We urge you to determine if these reports are credible and inform us of your findings:

Israel: Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have reported what may be extrajudicial killings by the Israeli military and police of Fadi Alloun, Saad Al-Atrash, Hadeel Hashlamoun, and Mutaz Ewisa. There are also reports of the use of torture in the cases of Wasim Marouf and Ahmed Manasra.

Hadeel Hashlamoun’s killing was of course the most dramatic and appalling Israeli killing last year because it was so amply documented and the pictures were so graphic, and it took place on September 22 before the so-called intifada of knives had begun in earnest.

Here is a report on the Fadi Alloun killing by police, near Damascus Gate last October, as Alloun was being chased by a mob, after allegedly stabbing a settler in East Jerusalem.

Here is a report from EI on the killing of Saad Atrash, 19, in Hebron last October.

I would note that many of the signatories, including Hank Johnson, Andre Carson, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Raul Grijalva, are people of color; this is relevant because as Tamara Cofman Wittes said at Columbia Monday night, Israel support is slowly becoming politicized in the U.S. as the Democratic base becomes more heavily black and Latino, groups that have sympathy for the Palestinian cause. And all the signatories to this letter are Democrats.

Politico states that Jewish Voice for Peace advised Leahy on the letter. Nahal Toosi writes:
The letter’s real impact may be political: Israel’s unusual, if not unprecedented inclusion with Egypt on such an inquiry is likely to rile Israel’s allies in Washington, who bristle at the notion that the Middle East’s only established democracy could be lumped in with a notorious human rights abuser like Egypt.

Though it was sent to Kerry well beforehand, the timing of the letter’s release comes just days after an Israeli soldier was filmed executing a Palestinian prisoner at close range – setting off fury in the Arab world and launching a military disciplinary process that has many on the Israeli right fuming.
Update. The Netanyahu government is enraged by the letter.

PM Netanyahu's response to US @SenatorLeahy: IDF & police defend innocent civilians against bloodthirsty terrorists.

— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) March 30, 2016

“The Prime Minister of Israel knows – and it should go without saying – that the United States does not provide weapons or other aid to Hamas or any other terrorist group, and that no nation more strongly condemns and works to eradicate terrorism worldwide than does the United States.  There are multiple laws prohibiting such aid to Hamas and other such groups, and one reason Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid is to help defend against terrorist attacks.

“The congressional letter cites allegations of possible serious abuses, identified by respected international human rights organizations, by the military and police forces of Egypt and Israel.  Under the Leahy Law it is the responsibility of the State Department to evaluate the credibility of such allegations.  The Leahy Law, which has existed for nearly 20 years, applies uniformly, worldwide – no country is exempt – and it applies to specific military personnel and units, not to general security forces, when U.S. aid is involved.  It has led to the suspension of U.S. aid to military personnel and units found to have committed abuses in many countries when governments fail to punish those responsible, and only when those governments themselves have failed to act.  This is only fair to U.S. taxpayers, and it is necessary in upholding the rule of law that our country stands for.”

Israelis rally around soldier filmed executing injured Palestinian

 A new video shows an Israeli soldier shaking hands with a settler leader just after the soldier was filmed apparently executing an injured Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
The video has emerged as Israelis, including top leaders, are rallying around the accused killer.

Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif was shot dead along with Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, both of them 21 years old, after allegedly stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron’s Old City on Thursday.

The slaying of al-Sharif, who was lying on the ground incapacitated but moving his head before he was shot, was caught on video.

The new video shows the shooter “shaking hands with far-right activist Baruch Marzel” while al-Sharif’s body is removed from the scene, according to Haaretz.

The US-born Marzel, a former leader of the violent group Kach, is notorious for fomenting attacks on Palestinians.

Kach was outlawed by Israel after one of its members, the US-born medical doctor Baruch Goldstein, gunned down 29 Palestinians at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994.

The video provides visible evidence of the close relationship between the Israeli army and the violent settlers it supports and protects.

Shooter named

Haaretz says the new video, published on its YouTube account with the face of the gunman blurred, was filmed by a Palestinian fieldworker with B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group which released the video showing the execution on Thursday.

The blurring of the faces in the new video is in apparent deference to a gag order that prevents Israeli media from revealing the suspect’s identity.

However, blogger Richard Silverstein, who has frequently published information censored by Israeli authorities, has named the suspect as Elor Azarya, citing independent Israeli websites.

Israel’s Ynet news website effectively confirmed the identification by publishing an image of the suspect with his face blurred.

The same image, without the blurring, appears on Azarya’s Facebook page.

“He is a devoted follower of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club,” noted Silverstein, based on analysis of Azarya’s social media accounts. Azarya has also written “Kahane was right” on his Facebook page – a slogan used by supporters of late Kach founder Meir Kahane, who called for the total expulsion of Palestinians.

Beitar Jerusalem fans are notorious for taking part in mobs and rallies calling for “death to the Arabs.”

“Confirming the kill”

According to Silverstein’s analysis, Azarya, a medic, “asked permission from his commanding officer to ‘finish off’ the wounded Palestinian.”

“Apparently the commander approved,” Silverstein added. “The soldier walked to within six feet of the wounded Palestinian, cocked his rifle and shot him.”

This practice is known in the Israeli army as “confirming the kill,” and has been used and subsequently approved even in the slaying of Palestinian children such as 13-year-old Iman al-Hams in Gaza in 2004.

Azarya also “likedthe Facebook pages of Israeli leaders who have incited violence or genocide against Palestinians – justice minister Ayelet Shaked and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman – as well as the Facebook page of Marzel.

Public support

Israel’s political and military establishment broke out into a chorus of condemnation immediately after the release of the video on Thursday.

The army also announced the detention of the soldier and an investigation into the killing.
Yet the condemnations were baldly hypocritical given the long record of Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of inciting and approving extrajudicial executions of Palestinians.

Numerous videos have shown such killings of Palestinians who were injured, incapacitated or otherwise posed no plausible threat.

Now Netanyahu appears to backing away from his criticism, in light of a swell of public support for the Hebron gunman.

The prime minister told cabinet colleagues on Sunday that “questioning the IDF’s [Israeli army’s] morality is outrageous and unacceptable … IDF soldiers, our children, maintain a high moral standard when they deal with bloodthirsty murderers.”

Netanyahu added that he was “certain that in this case, like in every other case, all of the circumstances are taken into account. Thus we must all support the IDF chief of staff, the IDF and the soldiers that protect us.”

Haaretz called Netanyahu’s comments a “backtrack” from his initial condemnation of the shooting.
Netanyahu’s change of tune appears to be in harmony with public opinion as well as with other politicians who are striking tougher poses
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister who has boasted about his own record of killing Arabs, also offered his support to the gunman.

“The soldier is not a murderer. Have we lost our minds?” Bennett wrote in a Facebook post that calls Israel’s military “the most moral army in the world.”

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, several ministers, including Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, voiced support for the soldier.

Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman demanded the impeachment of the defense minister for failing to back the soldier, and called Netanyahu “spineless.”

Israel’s Channel 2 published an opinion poll on Saturday showing that 57 percent of Israelis believe
there is no need to investigate or detain the soldier, as reported by Haaretz.

Two in five respondents called the soldier’s behavior “responsible” and just five percent described it as murder.

A petition asking Bibi to give a medal to the soldier who executed a Palestinian in Hebron has ~42,000 signatures. 

— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) March 27, 2016

An online petition calling on Israel to give the soldier a medal has received almost 50,000 signatures.
The municipality of Beit Shemesh, a town in present-day Israel, even published an ad on its official website urging citizens to attend a rally on Monday to demand the release of Azarya, whom it called a “national hero.”
Official website of the Beit Shemesh municipality advertises rally in support of Elor Azarya, who was filmed executing an injured Palestinian at close range.
The soldier’s family has also mounted a high-profile campaign in defense of Azarya.

The gunman’s mother wrote an open letter to Moshe Yaalon, the defense minister, telling him that

“you stood in my son’s place, only in the room of Abu Jihad, and confirmed the kill of a despicable terrorist and murderer.”

She was referring to Yaalon’s role in the 1988 slaying of Khalil al-Wazir, a senior PLO leader who was executed in his Tunis home by Israeli assasins, in front of his wife and son.

Mother of solider who executed Palestinian to @bogie_yaalon: You also shot to confirm death. 
— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) March 27, 2016

Meanwhile, the Israeli army investigation into Thursday’s killing has reportedly revealed that the shooter had told a comrade that Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif “needs to die” shortly before he shot him.

According to Haaretz, the “investigation also found that in contradiction to claims of self-defense voiced by the soldier’s lawyer, there was no evidence supporting the claim there were fears the prone Palestinian was carrying a suicide belt.”

Palestinians targeted

While Israeli leaders line up to support al-Sharif’s killer, Israeli forces on the ground are targeting the youth’s family.

On Sunday, Israeli soldiers raided the home of Abd al-Fattah’s brother, Khalid Yusri al-Sharif, in the village of Jabal Abu Rumman, near Hebron, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Imad Abu Shamsiyyeh, the B’Tselem volunteer who filmed the execution video, told Human Rights Watch that Israeli forces threatened him both at the scene of the shooting and later on.

Abu Shamsiyyeh was called in by the army to give a witness statement.

He says the army interrogator told him: “How will you benefit from this video? It got a lot of publicity. Your name is known to everyone. Who is going to protect you and your family from right-wing Israelis? Remember you live in [Tel Rumeida], surrounded by Israeli settlers, who will be able to protect you there?”

I felt that I was being threatened,” Abu Shamsiyyeh said.

Impunity for war crimes

Human Rights Watch said that “the open and casual way that a soldier appears to execute a wounded, prone Palestinian, which was captured on video, suggests a dangerous climate of impunity for war crimes.”

“The video of al-Sharif’s killing by an Israeli soldier shows both an apparent cold-blooded murder and numerous witnesses, which should make for a strong legal case,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director.

“The question is whether Israeli authorities will do what they haven’t done in countless other cases and bring the alleged killer to justice,” Whitson added.

Given the way Israeli leaders are rallying around the gunman, there’s little reason to expect anything different this time.

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