20 January 2017

This is Zionism - The Demolition of Umm al-Hiran

Umm al-Hiran on the morning before the bulldozers moved in for a spot of ethnic cleansing

Racism and Zionism are like Siamese Twins

Shami Chakrabarti, who was enlisted by Jeremy Corbyn to write a report on racism and anti-Semitism spouted a load of nonsense about Zionism, the racist ideology and movement that gave birth to the State of Israel.

She talked of some people personally redefining their Zionism in ways that appear to grant less support to the State of Israel and more solidarity to fellow Jewish people the world over.’

It’s like saying that some people redefined their fascism to be less racist.  She then went on to say that ‘My advice to critics of the Israeli State and/or Government is to use the term "Zionist" advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.’  This was in response to the attempt of the Zionists and the Jewish Labour Movement to outlaw the use of the term ‘Zionist’ as being a term of abuse.  My response is simply that Zionism is abusive so of course it will be perceived by some as being perjorative.
Joint Arab-Jewish demonstration in Tel-Aviv
But what has happened this week at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran is a classic example of Zionism in action.  As Moshe Dayan once said:

‘During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road
Women weep outside the demolished home of Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qian, who was shot dead by police. The Israeli authorities claim that Qian deliberately ran over a police officer with his car, killing him, while eyewitnesses say that police opened fire on the car before it sped up — a version that appears to be supported by police aerial footage of the  incident. Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills)
Umm al-Hiran, with the JNF bulldozers, was a classic example of Zionism, which has always meant the dispossession of the indigenous Arab to make way for the Jewish settler.  Those, like the Jewish Labour Movement who pretend that Zionism is some kind of national liberation movement are no different from those who held that Nazism was the genuine national expression of the German people.
Umm el-Hiran before and after Israeli bulldozers carried out demolitions, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)
There isn’t a single occasion when there has been a conflict between the testimony of the Israeli Police and their victims that the former have been proven, when video evidence has emerged, to be telling the truth.  It was no different in Umm al-Hiran yesterday.
lying police tweet
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The Police alleged that the attack on the leader of the Arab opposition in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh, was a stray stone that was thrown.  It is obvious to anyone that his injuries weren’t caused  by a solitary stone.  What is also evident is that if he had been the leader of a Jewish/Zionist party then he would not have been injured.
Police began violently dispersing those present, using shock grenades, pepper spray and sponge-tipped bullets. Among those injured by the latter was Joint List head Ayman Odeh, who was allegedly struck in the head and back. Police assert that Odeh was struck with a stone thrown by protesters, but eyewitnesses dispute this claim. Umm el-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)
Aymen Odeh lying on the floor
But on the basis of Police lies Aymen is already being attacked as a terrorist supporter in the Knesset.  Already one of the Joint List MKs, Basel Ghattas of Balad is set to be expelled from the Knesset after the passage 3 months ago of an Expulsion Bill.  Although of course its text was neutral it was obvious that its intended target were the Arab MKs.  Disgracefully the Israeli Labour Party is supporting or not opposing it.  Whereas the vilest of Jewish racists in the Knesset like Bezalel Smotrich of Jewish Home remain untouched.
police guard car
Yesterday a Palestinian was shot dead in his car.  By good fortune the car then went out of control and killed one of his murderers, an Israeli policeman.  Immediately the Police echoed by Netanyahu and also the President Reuben Rivlin, took up the theme that the Arab was a member of ISIS.  Not a shred of evidence was produced or will be produced.  This is another racist meme which basically says that opposition to the demolition of an Arab village to make way for a Jewish town is the work of ‘terrorists’.  If you oppose the demolition of your home and demonstrate against it then you will be classified as a ‘terrorist.’

What is also disgraceful is the silence of British politicians who are quick to condemn the death of Israeli military.  Last week the killing of 4 Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem by a lorry was condemned in the Western media and by western politicians but the demolition of an Arab village and the attack on the leader of the Arab opposition merits no comment.

Below is a quite detailed video of the murder of the Palestinian which leaves no doubt that the Israeli Police were lying.  There is also a story about a radio host who expressed sympathy with the dead Bedouin driver being sacked.  Being sympathetic to an Arab in Israel today is a risky business.
Hundreds of Israeli police officers arrived in Umm el-Hiran at around 5.30am, running towards the mosque where residents and activists had gathered, ahead of planned demolitions in the unrecognized village. Shortly after a few rounds of live fire were heard, followed by a burst of shots and shouts that people had been killed. (Keren Manor/Activestills)

Although all evidence points to wounds from sponge-tipped bullets, police claim Joint List head Ayman Odeh was hit by stones thrown by Bedouin protesters in Umm el-Hiran. If the police are proven wrong, it means they shot the leader of the third-largest party in Israel in the face without any justification. 

UPDATE: This post was updated with a photo of Ayman Odeh’s back showing his injury to be consistent with that of a wound from a sponge-tipped bullet, and that he is filing a complaint with the Department of Internal Police Investigations.
MK Ayman Odeh holding the sponge bullet he says was shot at him by Israeli forces in Umm el-Hiran. (Photo: Joint List)
Where Aymen Odeh had been shot - that was clearly no stone
The debate continues to rage over the killing of an Israeli police officer and a Bedouin man in Umm el-Hiran on Wednesday, when Israeli forces turned up to begin demolishing the Bedouin village in order for it to be replaced with a Jewish town. Police and much of the media have the incident down as a car-ramming attack, while residents and eyewitnesses say that police opened fire at the car before it sped up and hit officers — a version that appears to be supported by police aerial footage. But another contested event, involving the injuring of Joint List head and Knesset member Ayman Odeh, flew largely under the radar.
Related stories
By Activestills | January 18, 2017
By Orly Noy | November 22, 2016
By Edo Konrad | January 18, 2017
By +972 Blog | August 7, 2016
Police claim that Odeh was hit by rocks thrown by the Bedouin residents he was with, and police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld insisted to +972 that Odeh’s injuries were caused by stones. Yet Odeh and the people who were beside him all say he was shot by black sponge-tipped bullets. A report in the Ma’ariv newspaper on Thursday morning cited police as saying that Odeh’s injuries could not have been caused by these projectiles as they aren’t in possession of such weapons. But police use of black-sponged tipped bullets against Palestinian youth is widely documented — particularly in East Jerusalem, where they have resulted in at least one death. On the other hand, the injuries Odeh suffered were relatively minor, which is unusual for this kind of bullet, but it also depends on the exact distance and angle it was shot from, which is unclear.

MK Ayman Odeh with blood dripping down his face from what he claims is a sponge-tipped bullet wound and police claim is a stone. (Photo: Joint List)

There were no firsthand reports of any rocks being thrown when Odeh was allegedly attacked by police, and none of the injuries at the scene were reported as having been caused by stones. You can hear bullets being fired in the video shot by Activestills that was broadcast all over the Israeli media. There are photos of Odeh holding the bullet that he says hit him and plenty more of the bullets lying around at the scene. All the people I spoke with who were there deny that any stones were thrown at the time that Odeh was apparently shot. The only mention of stones at all in Israeli media reports are from the police account about Odeh specifically.

“There were no rocks. None. Zero. The police are liars,” Odeh told +972, adding that the police first sprayed his face with pepper spray and after that fired at him, hitting his head and his back. “Who sprayed me? Was that the protesters too?” Odeh said. “The security forces are hostile towards Arabs, that is what they are programmed to do. They are liars.”

The Soroka Medical Center report of his treatment does not determine what caused the injury and only states that the patient, Odeh, claims it was caused by bullets. This is standard, as hospital policies are to not get involved in the cause of injury. According to a few doctors I consulted there is no way, medically-speaking, for the physicians who treated Odeh to definitively differentiate between a wound from a stone and a wound from a bullet. The only way to start to uncover the cause of injury is to do a forensics exam. So for now, it’s the police’s word against that of Odeh and at least half a dozen witnesses.

UPDATE, Thursday, 8:30PM: Ayman Odeh underwent a forensic exam today, as part of a complaint he is filing with the Department of Internal Police Investigations, accusing the police of aggravated assault and unlawful use of weapon. The findings of the exam are still not out, however Odeh provided +972 with this photo of the wound on his back, whose round shape and bruising is consistent with wounds from sponge-tipped bullets. The complaint is being filed by attorneys with Adalah and the Public Committee Against Torture.

Joint List MK Ayman Odeh’s back, showing round bruising that is consistent with an injury caused by a sponge-tipped bullet. (Joint List)

I don’t find the police version credible, to say the least, but I cannot disprove it at this time. However, the recent allegations by police, government and media of an “arson intifada” by Arab citizens following the fires in Haifa, despite there being no evidence or a single charge made, are a good reflection of their disingenuous conduct.

Either way, this is an incident of critical importance. If, as suspected, Odeh was in fact shot in the face and back by police, it means the head of Israel’s third-largest party was shot by his own police force for absolutely no reason. One of the videos from the scene shows Odeh talking with police and explaining that he is a Knesset member and is of course not armed.

When is the last time (if ever) that a Knesset member was shot by security forces? In 2006, rightwing Knesset members Effie Eitam and Aryeh Eldad were wounded by border police officers during the evacuation of Amona. But having a gun pointed at you is substantially different, and while Odeh is fighting for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, Eitam and Eldad were fighting for the rights of illegal settlers in occupied territory.

The police shoot Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem with the same potentially-lethal black sponge-tipped bullets — and in the West Bank with rubber bullets — on a regular basis with impunity, but what could possibly be their excuse for shooting a public servant who posed no threat? They have to stick to the stone story, otherwise they’d have a lot more explaining to do.
With the driver, the police can at least claim there was the threat of a ramming attack. But with Odeh I don’t believe they have any excuse. Which is why the Israeli authorities and media are pushing hard the line that Odeh and other members of the Joint List are inciting the Arab public. They are victimizing and vilifying him.

Odeh told +972 that negotiations between the Bedouin residents of Umm el-Hiran and authorities to settle their relocation had reached a breakthrough Tuesday night and they were close to reaching an agreement, when things suddenly changed at midnight, and a decision was clearly made by someone in the government to scrap the agreement and instead go in full force to demolish the village. According to Odeh, “It was possible to prevent the spilling of blood…Prime Minister Netanyahu is responsible for the blood spilled.”

MKs Dov Henin and Issawi Freij: "The deeper the corruption investigation of Netanyahu – the wider his inflammatory incitement the Arab citizens of Israel”

Knesset Member Dov Khenin of Hadash charged Prime Minister Netanyahu with deliberately inciting against the country’s Arab citizens and setting the police to brutal raids – with the deliberate intention of distracting attention from the ongoing police investigation into charges of corruption against the PM. “The deeper the police investigation of Netanyahu, the wider the flames of his incitement”.

Khenin was speaking at a protest rally held on King George Street in Tel Aviv, in the aftermath of  widespread police violence, bloodshed and demolition of homes at the Bedouin village of Um al-Hiran in the Negev. Khenin noted that there was a visible direct relation between the intensification of the PM’s investigation on charges of corruption and the intensification of home demolitions and police violence against Arab residents in such places as Qalansawa and Umm al-Hiran.

MK Issawi Freij of Meretz spoke in a similar vein and said, 
"Today there was a completely unwarranted police offensive against the residents of Umm al-Hiran. Two people paid with their lives, a civilian and a police officer. Two people paid with their lives, two families became bereaved, two sets of children were orphaned. Two people were killed needlessly, with no justification and no reason for their deaths. It happened only and solely because the Prime Minister wants to distract attention from the steady supply of expensive cigars and champagne which he allegedly got from an American billionaire. The Prime Minister wants to mark out an enemy on whom his voters can vent their anger. This enemy which the PM has targeted and marked out is me -  an Arab citizen of the State of Israel and a Member of Israel’s Parliament, along with all my Arab fellow citizens, a full twenty percent of Israel’s citizen body. We are to be the scapegoats! I declare it loud and clear: we who stand here and at other protests around the country, Jews and Arabs united in voicing our protest, will not let Netanyahu succeed in this filthy design!”
The hundreds of demonstrators, who listened to the speeches on King George Street in downtown Tel Aviv, responded by chanting: "Netanyahu is dangerous – both corrupt and a racist!" and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!”

Other demonstrations took place at Jaffa’s Clock Square, in front of the Prime Minister’s residence  in Jerusalem, in Haifa, at intersections near Acre, Shfaram, Umm al-Fahm and Klaonsooh – as well as by Jewish and Arab students at the universities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.  

"The direct responsibility for today’s  dangerous escalation and bloodshed at the village of Um al-Hiran in the Negev rests upon those who took the decision to destroy a Bedouin village which had existed for decades, completely raze and wipe it off the face of the earth, to expel the residents and establish a Jewish ‘community’  in its place. In recent days, government officials arrived at the village, bluntly threatened its residents, and demanded that they move immediately to the town of Hura where there is no residence available to them. Those who initiated and implemented such brutal measures  against Bedouin villagers (who happen to be citizens of Israel) are directly responsible for the terrible events that took place today in the village" say the organizers of the demonstrations, peace and civil rights groups  such as the Negev Coexistence and Civil Equality Forum, Coaltion of Women for Peace and the Recognition Forum (i.e., recognition  of the so-called “unrecognized villages” of which Um al-Hiran is one.

Protesters call for a comprehensive and impartial investigation of the circumstances which led to the death of a of Umm al-Hiran resident Yacoub Musa Abu Alkian and police officer Erez Levy. They call upon the communications  media not to repeat uncritical the highly tendentious and inflammatory accounts disseminated by police and government speakers - which are contrary to the eyewitness testimonies of Jews and Arabs present on the scene.
The terrible bloodshed was the culmination of a day of violence which  began in the morning when massive demolition crews arrived at the village, accompanied by large forces of the Yoav unit of the police (created specifically for such anti-Bedouin actions). They had specifically declared intention of  expelling  the residents and demolishing  their homes, in order to make place for construction of the purely Jewish “community” of Hiran. The police used live ammunition and well as rubber bullets and  tear gas. Villagers - men, women and children – were injured in the police shooting, as were many of the Jewish and Arab supporters who came to offer solidarity with them.

Biased and tendentious media reports, couched in inciting and inflammatory tones – refusing  to recognize that   the residents were protesting the destruction of their village and homes, and labeling them as “terrorists " - are a direct continuation of the police violence on the ground.

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