Tuesday 27 November 2012

Did Hamas Engineer Border Violence to Extract a Dangerous Concession from Israel?

Protest at the Gaza border fence (east of Khan Yunis), 23/11/12

Conflict at the Gaza border on the 23rd November, in which one Gazan man was shot dead by the IDF, has added to claims by supporters of the Palestinian cause that Israel was aggressor in the November 2012 conflict. The death of a 13 year old boy, supposedly killed by the IDF whilst playing soccer, is credited by pro-Palestinians for instigating the minor war, despite the fact that there were attacks against the IDF earlier that day, and reports indicate events surrounding the boy’s death diverge strongly.

On the 23rd, a large number of Gazan’s amassed at a particular point by the border fence with Israel. Some claimed they were agricultural workers. Other Palestinian sources claimed these people were in fact on their way to prayer, Friday being the Muslim holy day. Hamas claimed the IDF response was a ceasefire violation but urged terrorist groups within Gaza to remain calm, should further violence harm Hamas’ gains made by Israel’s overly generous concessions in the ceasefire deal, signed two days previously, and put at risk the consolidation of its power in Gaza.

Most online (and broadcast) video of the incident comes from Russian news channel RT, which is not often regarded as an impartial source. The footage is heavily edited but still indicates the Palestinian presence at the border was far from peaceful.

Indeed, a provocative element within the gathering is at least partially acknowledged by the comments of a relative of the deceased man, who was present during the Israeli gunfire. To quote Reuters:
“Anwar [Qdeih] was trying to put a Hamas flag on the fence,” said Omar Qdeih, a relative of the man killed who was at the scene.

“The army fired three times into the air. Anwar shouted at them ‘Jaabari is behind you’, then they shot him in the head,” he told Reuters.
Thus the intensity of the Palestinian presence seems to have been significant. Many sources also refer to the fact that the border area has long been understood to be a closed zone due to terrorist attacks, e.g:
Health officials said Anwar Qdeih, 23, was hit in the head by Israeli gunfire after he approached the security fence that runs between Israel and Gaza — an area that Israel has long declared a no-go zone for Palestinians.
It would seem probable that a significant portion of the three hundred or more Palestinians present tried to damage and/or cross the border, which is a common activity when protests at the border occur.

Warning shots were fired into the air to distance the crowd from the fence but some kept coming or remained on scene as the video footage suggests. The IDF claim that shots were also fired at the legs of some protestors after they continued their apparent attempt to cross into Israel. Such actions tally with standard IDF procedure at the border — an area that has long been a source of conflict. Reportedly, a Gazan man infiltrated Israeli territory in the course of the border commotion but was promptly sent back to Gaza.

Furthermore, the fact that a significant number of people gathered in one place along many miles of border suggests a level of planning prior to the confrontation. There are no reports of similar incidents involving casualties at other parts of the border.

Although accounts vary on the way in which a Gaza-based Palestinian man got through the border in the early hours of the following Monday, to then commit a knife attack against an Israeli woman and her children in their home, some reports state that it occurred after he was able to infiltrate the border due to damage caused by the events of November 23rd.

Showing little fear of their supposed oppressors

It is notable that the trouble at the Israeli-Gazan border occurred at the same sort of location to that of several other significant flash-points of conflict, which led to Operation Pillar of Cloud. Moreover, there were reports of further demonstrations in the area after the death of Anwar Qdeih was known.

Protest at the Gaza border fence (east of Khan Yunis), 23/11/12

On the one hand, this behaviour suggests that many Palestinians do not take the risk of confronting the IDF seriously. This is a definite possibility, when considering the spectacle of children attempting to provoke armed soldiers, in collusion with older Palestinians shooting video nearby. Such behaviour does not neatly fit the common anti-Israeli portrait of the IDF as barbaric genocidal Nazi-like killers.

However, background to this post-Pillar of Cloud border conflict suggests a complex political intent.

An article by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency states there was a little-reported incident at the Gaza border one day after the ceasefire (Thursday the 22nd), where it was claimed some two hundred protestors tried to break through the border. The Times of Israel also alludes to the event, stating two Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunfire when “marching” near the same area as the bigger protest the next day.

The common and repeated nature of these two confrontations may well suggest that Hamas was involved in the incidents. Hamas is noted for ruling Gaza with an iron grip and a watchful eye, to the extent that its crackdowns on dissent have harmed its popularity in Gaza to a significant degree. The very high sensitivity of the border area, especially in the immediate aftermath of outright war, would of course be obvious to the group. There is a high probability that the group engineered or at least gave their assent to the border confrontations.

Hamas having such an intent would be far from unprecedented, as the Nabka Day border attacks attest. In 2011, 45 Palestinians were injured attempting to break through the border. There were a number of casualties in similar protests this year, and the Gaza-Egyptian border has not been exempt from similarly well organised violent protests/riots either.

At this time, engineering confrontations at very sensitive border areas has a positive political benefit for Hamas. In the short term, direct terrorist attacks are no longer a viable political option, after having agreed to the ceasefire. It would lead to criticism of their stance, and also place at risk the significant political gains they have obtained in the ceasefire agreement. Hamas also have cause to complain to their clearly sympathetic Egyptian mediators by claiming Israel were the first to break the ceasefire.

According to the Ma’an News Agency, Hamas have since deployed “security forces” nearer the border with Israel in the aftermath of the border incidents. Reports suggest the conflict at the border would seem to have legitimised such a move, perhaps even in Israel’s eyes.

The increased vulnerability of the border has already been exposed with the crossing of a Gazan terrorist, who stabbed a woman in her family home whilst she was attempting to defend her four children, before fleeing and being shot. The event echoed the savage attack on the Fogel family last year, and could have been just as destructive if it were not for the fact the woman in question was a martial arts expert [h/t AnneinPT]. However, such a significant violation has been largely ignored by the international media, after they produced a high volume of content over the November 23rd border shooting, and a substantial reportage critical of Israel’s border buffer zone.

The loss (or compromise) of the buffer zone will also make Israeli forces more vulnerable to attack and kidnap, a stated aim of Hamas’ leaders, with tunnelling made easier. Hamas has openly refused to stop re-arming because it claims it can only extract concessions from Israel with violence.

If Hamas poses a medium-term risk, there is still reason to think there may be a more imminent risk of hostilities re-commencing, with Islamic Jihad’s deputy-leader, Ziad Nakhalah, describing the ceasefire as “temporary and partial.”


Also published at Crethi Plethi.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Manufacturing blood libel: Hamas’ propaganda war

(Updated November the 19th 2012)

Intensive propaganda campaigns led by Palestinian terrorist groups are perhaps the most predictable occurrence when it comes to any minor or major conflict involving Israel. Typically, the strategy is to exaggerate death tolls, and conflate the killing of terrorist combatants with that of innocent civilians, in an effort to turn the issue on its head when Israel engages in morally legitimate acts of self-defence.

The display of highly emotive imagery is central to the strategy, and the most tasteless element must surely be the use of children. Children on both sides suffer, and conflict would of course cause fear to children, if not suffering and death. This is particularly the case where conflict arises in relatively dense population areas, where terrorist groups intentionally use a civilian populace for cover. Nonetheless, many of these stories are often faked or greatly exaggerated, and any apparent suffering paraded to the point of frenzy, a phenomenon that is intensifying with the use of social media sites like Twitter.

The recent violence between Hamas and Israel, leading to Operation Pillar of Cloud, has proven no exception. Almost immediately, Hamas began misrepresenting images of children that had been injured or killed in Syria as Palestinian dead. Notably, one of Hamas’ own supporters called out some of the fakery in a Tweet.

Hamas tweeted the above image relating to the November Israeli air strikes.
However, the image appeared in an October montage relating to the Syrian conflict
(the Dar al Shifa Hospital, Aleppo).

Similarly, a heartrending image of a dead two year-old child killed by the Syrian armed forces has also been passed off as another Palestinian casualty in the recent Israeli air strikes.

The image of a dead two year-old child was posted by Abo Kazem Saad,
a Gazan Face Book user, blaming Israel for the death.
In fact the child was killed in October by a Syrian sniper in Aleppo.

Pictures of a dead boy, four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah, being held by a tearful Egyptian Prime Minister, have done the rounds through the mainstream media. It was claimed that the child was killed in an Israeli air strike, while Israel denied they had carried out attacks on the area in question. A report by The Daily Telegraph, corrections by other media sources (such as Reuters and CNN), and even a Palestinian NGO, now affirm the child was killed by a stray Palestinian rocket.

Four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah killed by Palestinian rocket

These forgeries are all the more ironic when it has been shown repeatedly that Hamas (and other "militant" groups) are intentionally endangering its own populace by positioning their weaponry within dense civilian locations, as news reports coming from Gaza itself in recent days do attest.

The strategy: Israel (AKA Jew) as child killer

There are many examples of forged Palestinian propaganda, most of which get no media attention, other than the case of Mohammad Al-Dura, a death proven to be falsified, and made in collusion with elements of the French media, a fact journalists at Haaretz and the Guardian have poured doubt upon.

In June Hamas claimed that an Israeli air strike killed a child. However, no strike appeared to have been conducted in the area in question, and the UN confirmed another cause. In March, AFP retracted a faked Hamas story concerning a child supposedly dying due to electricity shortages.

Such propaganda is heavily promoted internationally by pro-Palestinian groups, which can often come to resemble proxies, and indeed many pro-Palestinians are also very keen to take the initiative for themselves. Examples this year include an image of a young girl purportedly killed in an Israeli air strike but the girl in question was actually a casualty of an accident six years earlier, which was knowingly peddled on Twitter by no less than a member of the UN.

This content goes viral within a very short time, so viewed by millions of users. The fakery does not need to be of a good standard to be believed either. Overtly falsified incidents, such as a staged event where a child is seen under a supposed IDF soldier’s boot, have found similar success on the Internet.

Pallywood becomes Hammywood – Al Dura style

It has been noted that many news outlets minimised or failed to report that the present conflict was very much initiated by Hamas. Indeed, the strategy of delaying the reporting of news stories concerning the conflict until Israel strikes back, whereby headlines lead with Israel’s actions, seems to have almost become editorial policy at the majority of mainstream news institutions, due to the astonishing frequency of such occurrences.

The BBC, a major international news outlet, broadcast content on their prime news bulletins that was clearly falsified. This occurred only a day after Operation Pillar of Cloud had commenced.

A man in a tan-brown jacket, and black top featuring small print, is carried away by a crowd, circa 2:14 in the clip. The same man is seen walking around a short time later (circa 2:44). Both shots happened in the seemingly chaotic aftermath of a strike. Two alternatives can be posited. Either the scene was largely faked or a gravely injured man was up and walking again unassisted in a matter of minutes.

The footage is in fact redolent of old unedited Pallywood material, in which youths and men are seen falling as if just shot by the IDF only to get up again.


The Palestinian movement, both at home and abroad, has engaged in an intensive campaign to delegitimise its enemy for decades. We see its consequences every time we view news of the conflict in our newspapers, on our TV sets, radios, computers, and increasingly our phones.

Knowledge in the hands of would-be genocidists is a tool of war, and ought to be treated as such. However, elements within the media are complicit.

Obviously such material further incites hatred in a region where there is already more than enough to go around. The examples cited in this article are just occasions when Hamas have been caught out, and it should be noted that the success of this material necessitates most being passed off as genuine.

The focus on children taps into the anti-Semitic canard of the Jew as child killer, as exemplified by Carlos Latuff’s illustrations — a motif prolifically adopted by mainstream pro-Palestinianism. It is a tool to engineer broad anti-Semitic blood libel, which Hamas has long been keen to promote for obvious reasons - it is far easier to deny an utterly dehumanised enemy any right of co-existence.

At this time of conflict, it should be affirmed that the many who defend Hamas do so at the expense of the Palestinians themselves. Those claiming Hamas are elected representatives conveniently forget that they imposed an effective dictatorship on the electorate by repeatedly delaying elections. We are constantly told Hamas are pragmatists, sheep in the clothing of wolves, but with the present fracas Hamas have essentially started an unwinnable war over the killing of a leading terrorist. It shows where their priorities truly lie.

Article Seven of Hamas’ Charter also gives a hint
The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’
Similarly the words of Hamas’ leaders attest to extremism, some of whom believe Allah brought the Jews to Palestine for the purpose of “The Great Massacre” to be instigated by the Palestinian nation.

Also published at Crethi Plethi.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Vincent Browne and the Israeli “cancer” that poisons Western foreign policy

Controversy erupted when firebrand left-wing Irish broadcaster Vincent Browne referred to Israel as a “cancer” on the 23rd October, during his popular TV programme Tonight with Vincent Browne (TV3).

When discussing the final US presidential debate between Obama and Romney, Browne was critical of what he saw as a failure to discuss American support for Israel. In an outspoken fashion, he stated:
Israel is the cancer in foreign affairs. It polarises the Islamic community of the world against the rest of the world…. It’s a massive injustice. They [the Jews] stole the land from the Arabs. 

Browne later defended his remarks which he justified by using an extremely dubious historical argument:
The reality is the Israeli State was founded by confiscation of land previously occupied by Arabs. That injustice is at the centre of the conflict.
Actually the conflict is founded on the fact that Israel is located in what Muslims refer to as “Dar al-Islam” — hence its very existence (pre or post 1967 borders) is an offence. Furthermore, his assertion is a gross oversimplification as most Jewish habitation was placed on Miri or public land and waste land as defined in Article Six of the British Mandate, and legally purchased land. Brown went on to state that the word “cancer” was ill chosen:
I didn’t mean it [Israel] should be eliminated. It was an infelicitous use of the word.
Browne’s insistence that he does not wish to see Israel “eliminated” can be doubted with good reason. The problem with his explanation is that he appeals to the historic founding of Israel in his subsequent explanation, and seemingly in his initial criticism as well. Thus, his stance stands in stark contrast to common criticism of Israel for it being located on its June 1967 borders, a consequence of the Six-Day War, in which they took possession, during a defensive conflict, of the Sinai, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Therefore, it would seem Browne takes issue with Israel’s presence even in its pre-1967 form.

Notwithstanding the point above, was use of the word “cancer” ill-chosen or in keeping with Browne’s previously expressed views? Arguably it is the latter for his prejudice against Israel is very well known.

For example, Browne can quite often be heard on his show expressing the belief that Israel is simply filled with European Jews colonising the land. That point is illustrative of Browne’s ignorance of Israel’s history because much of the Jewish populace within Israel today is descended from Jews that were persecuted and expelled from Arab lands. Moreover, the principles upon which the Jewish State was founded, the need for a haven for the Jewish People, is both a moral right in itself and a necessity following persecution for in excess of a millennia in both the Islamic and Christian worlds. The Jewish People qualify as a displaced indigenous group but Browne’s casual and contemptuous assertions also by inference amount to a denial of their historic roots, and their moral right to return to their homeland.

Browne’s issue with Israel and the West, and a corresponding support for Islamism, is a long standing one. In the aftermath of the 2010 Gaza Flotilla he described the terrorism emanating from Gaza as little more than stone throwing. To quote an article by David Quinn some years ago:
In The Irish Times the other day we had Vincent Browne calling for the West to give into virtually all of the demands of al-Qa’ida, Hamas, Hizbollah, the Iranians, and I suppose the Taliban as well. He imagines that if America pulled the plug on the Saudi royal family… and if the West generally stops interfering in the affairs of Muslims countries, then all will be well… If all these things happen, Muslim rage would continue to burn because Browne, like the left in general, misdiagnoses the real cause of that rage.
Thus, it would seem Browne’s use of the word “cancer” conforms closely with his views on the Middle East. His views are extreme to say the least, and the fact that he is happy to express them in a show that ought to be impartial on complex issues suggests he is ill suited for a popular slot on the Irish airwaves.

Little wonder Enda Kenny, the highest ranking Irish politician at present, has consistently refused to accept Browne’s invitations for interview. Sadly however, his firebrand style of leftist posturing has become popular in a nation struggling at an individual and collective level with severe banking debt.

Many did not view his reply to the criticism favourably. Regarding the fashion in which he addressed the comments in a subsequent show:
He didn’t apologise… He also behaved like a typical bully and said he was being blackmailed.
So to sum up, horrid pro-Israeli’s and Israeli-Jews (presumably) have blackmailed poor Mr. Browne by criticising him for word use that is more appropriately found in the vocabulary of a hate-filled Iranian ayatollah than an experienced political journalist with decades of experience in the industry.

Postscript (3rd March 2013)

It was announced this week that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) upheld some complaints by viewers concerning Vincent Browne’s anti-Israeli comments. The BAI said that the item in the show carrying Browne’s remarks "failed to meet the requirement for fair, objective and impartial treatment of news and current affairs". They disagreed that the remarks constituted anti-Semitism but added that the comments about Israel were made without apparent relevance to the discussion at hand.

TV3 will be forced to issue an apology on Television for Browne’s remarks, leading Brendan O'Connor to quip during his monologue on the popular Saturday Night Live (RTE) TV show: "TV3 is to apologise to Israel for Vincent Browne. That’s all very well but when are they going to apologise to the rest of us?"

Also published at Crethi Plethi.

Monday 1 October 2012

Exporting Extremism: Irish Parliamentary Committee Recommends Boycotting Jewish Settlements

Carlos Latuff is known for displaying an overt hatred of Jews but it would seem he also deals
in risible stereotyping when it comes to his ideological friends too!

On the 19th of September an Irish parliamentary committee recommended a complete ban on imports from supposedly “illegal” West Bank Jewish settlements.

The committee will make the proposal to Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste (second to the Prime Minister) and Foreign Affairs Minister. It would seem this process is merely a formality because Eamon Gilmore is very much behind the idea of boycotting Jewish settlements, even to the point of banning the entry of settlers into Europe!

Interestingly, a pro-Palestinian Christian group was the focal point of the committee meeting:
All members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade were supportive of a submission today from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel(EAPPI), a human rights observer organisation, calling for such a ban.
In reality this “human rights observer organisation” is in fact an extreme anti-Israeli group that has the singular propagandistic purpose of bringing Christians to the West Bank, to turn them into agents with the intent of demonising the Jewish State back home.

Both houses of the Irish parliament have been strongly pro-Palestinian for several decades. However, that bias should not have precluded professional politicians from at least providing a modest semblance of balance by engaging a group to represent Israel’s interests before recommending such drastic action.

Tell a fib often enough…

During the committee meeting EAPPI asserted the pro-Palestinian claim that Jewish settlements are the chief issue preventing peace:
Joe O’Brien, advocacy co-ordinator with EAPPI said the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank had “long been recognised by the UN, the US and the EU as the biggest barrier to peace” in the region.
Despite the frequent claims of illegality, Jewish settlements in the West Bank do not break international law, due in part to Article Six of the Mandate to Palestine permitting close Jewish settlement in the region. Neither did Israel displace a legitimate sovereign.

The idea Jewish settlements somehow impede peace does not stand up to scrutiny either. Arafat walked out of the Camp David peace talks, chiefly over the proposal of shared sovereignty of the Temple Mount (Haram), Abbas dropped peace talks with Olmert in 2008 despite being offered almost 100% of territorial claims. Since then, Abbas has been running scared by putting the cart (settlements) before the horse (peace talks). He refused to meet Netanyahu until the very end of an ten month settlement freeze only to demand another before continuing.

Earlier this year, a senior representative of Netanyahu’s was regularly talking with PA representatives in Jordan in an attempt to restart talks. Unsurprisingly the talks-about-talks approach failed. As Ron Prosor, Israel’s Representative to the United Nations, said:
Direct negotiations are the only tool, the only way and the only path to create two-states for two peoples. Last January, Israel offered a clear proposal in Amman for restarting direct negotiations. We presented the Palestinian delegation with negotiating positions on every major issue separating the parties.
That proposal – filled with Israel’s vision for peace – continues to gather dust, as Palestinian leaders continue to pile up new pre-conditions for sitting with Israel. They are everywhere except the negotiating table.
In the summer Abbas indefinitely postponed a most unpopular meeting with a senior Israeli politician, the first such meeting in two years that had intended to be a starting point for resuming talks.

Why is Abbas unwilling to even meet? It could be said that the obsessive condemnation of Israel by the international community discourages the Palestinians from making the slightest compromise for peace. Settlements take up just 2% of the West Bank. Are certain committees and their ilk as blameworthy?

Broader motives behind the committee meeting

Whilst an Irish boycott of Jewish settlements is serious, the implications of the committee meeting can also be understood at a broader level since Ireland will be taking the rotating EU presidency in January.
Eric Byrne, TD, (Labour), said the Government should take a lead in Europe by instituting such a ban and should champion an EU-wide ban during Ireland’s presidency next year.
This perspective is in line with policy in the European Union, which has long adopted an antagonistic political stance on Israel.

The EU has trade agreements with Israel but refuses to offer the same benefit to goods from settlement areas. Yet the status quo may be tenuous. For example, the first step of a prospective pharmacological trade agreement, which would benefit EU citizens significantly, only scraped through due to two abstentions.

The prospect of an EU wide boycott may have motivated the EAPPI submission. Joe O’Brien asserted:
Ireland could take a powerfully symbolic and moral stance by banning produce from illegal Israeli settlements from the Irish market. […]
Though the value of products from the illegal settlements is small here - about €7 to €8 million a year, he said the move would be internationally very important.
Indeed, Omar Barghouti, a likely racist who is a founding member of the pro-boycott organisation PACBI, and the face of the BDS Movement today, stated:
This new Irish parliamentary move should become a model to be emulated by all European lawmakers who claim to care about human rights and international law

A deck stacked toward extremism and hypocrisy?

As has been stated by commentators previously, such a boycott is not so much an attack on settlements as an attack on Israel itself, and indeed committee member Senator Jim Walsh (Fianna Fáil party) suggested:
In the background we shouldn’t rule out banning all Israeli products.
Walsh is one of the numerous politicians (mainly IRA linked Sein Fein party members) that signed a statement demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza. He also put his name to a petition demanding the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners on hunger-strike, despite a number of them being associated with terrorism.

However, many of those reasonably familiar with the broad attitude of the Irish Parliament toward Israel would consider Walsh’s views to be relatively normal for that venue, and his anti-Israel actions to be unremarkable. This is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the issue, the fact that hardly anyone batted an eyelid. It was merely a foreseeable conclusion to decades of demonising anti-Israeli rhetoric.

It seems the committee was little more than a charade to lend their recommendations some credibility. Pat Breen was the Committee Chairman, an MP who held the honour of being Chairman of the Oireachtas Friends of Palestine group. Also present was Gerald Nash, present chairman of the same group, who has promoted the EAPPI. Other members, such as David Norris were also present. Norris is known for coming remarkably close to defending Hamas:
My colleague, Deputy Eric Byrne, raised the question of the murder of Hamas officials. I do not have much time for Hamas but it was democratically elected. We cannot subvert democracy by murdering them.
Thus, it would be undemocratic to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander assassinated in Dubai, even while in an effective state of war with the group now ruling a defacto state!

Non-members of Oireachtas Friends of Palestine also present have similarly extreme opinions, e.g. MP Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Sein Fein), who sounds more like a representative of the Iranian Embassy:
In 2005 Iran brought forward a proposition to allow co-operation with external public or private interests, moving beyond a responsibility to allow monitoring. This issue can be resolved, as neither Iran nor any neighbouring state wants to imagine a conflict based on the use of nuclear weapons. However, Iran has its back against the wall in defending itself. The international community must engage with in on the proposition made in 2005.
Mac Lochlainn frequently calls for sanctions against Israel to force it to give up its nuclear arsenal. Thus, he wants to punish a State that has never threatened another with annihilation, whilst defending a major terrorist sponsor! Little wonder he also whitewashes and supports Palestinian violence:
Does the Tánaiste understand why young people on the West Bank consider it necessary to lift stones, their only weapon of resistance…
Ironically, at a time when representatives of Irish State have been increasingly speaking of boycotting Israel, they have been making strenuous efforts to improve business ties with China, including lucrative tax arrangements and investment schemes. Could it be that the Irish State thinks economic superpowers are not subject to any moral imperative, while a small state struggling for survival ought to be isolated and delegitimised whenever possible? Probably, for as the Mayor of Athlone stated in February:
Ireland has not been preaching to the Chinese about human rights.

Originally published at the New English Review.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Who are the EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel)?

EAPPI screen capture - source NGO Monitor

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel recently submitted material to an Irish parliamentary committee leading to a recommendation that imports from Jewish West Bank settlements be boycotted. This is a damaging development that may eventually lead to the banning of settlement imports within the European Union.

The EAPPI was founded and continues to be funded by the World Council of Churches (WCC), a large organisation which is a major supporter of demonising boycott campaigns against Israel. The one-sided nature of the WCC’s forceful attacks on Israel, whilst simultaneously ignoring or obfuscating on major issues relating to Israel’s foes, is stark.

The WCC treated Yassir “father of terrorism” Arafat as a true hero of the Palestinian people who apparently even had the interests of Israel at heart! They also support the Palestinian ‘right-of-return’, which would of course destroy Israel itself.

Many commentators have come to the conclusion that the WCC is an anti-Semitic institution such is its obsession with Jewish wrongdoing, whilst being too afraid to even say “boo” to Muslim extremists, many of whom oppress Christians. The WCC could not even muster a vague criticism of the intensive violence in Syria.

The EAPPI is very much a member of the WCC family. It is a highly active pro-Palestinian organisation that brings ‘internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation’ for three or four months, and ‘accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and to carry out concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation’. Heady firebrand stuff designed to spread prejudicial views on Israel to Christians the world over!

The WCC doesn’t have any equivalent “accompaniment” program to make a “concerted advocacy” for much oppressed Christians in any part of the Islamic world! Natan Sharansky’s 3D test - demonization, double-standards, and delegitimization - comes to mind.

The extent to which the EAPPI twist the truth of the conflict was revealed when a group of its members toured Sderot. They were unimpressed with the consequences of near-daily Gazan rocket fire. "It’s not Hamas’s fault," the tour guide was advised!
As we passed by Sderot homes with newly built bomb-shelters outside, and stood in Sderot’s ‘rocket-proof’ playground complete with concrete caterpillars that children run into when the siren blares, the aggressive questioning continued. […]

I understood that I was speaking to average everyday people who have been presented with a very one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict-so one-sided that it was difficult for most of them to recognize Israel’s right to exist and defend, even when standing right in the heart of a city targeted by unrelenting rocket terror.
Like many pro-Palestinian Christian groups, EAPPI shrouds itself in dovish words of peace. However, the group promotes an extremist stance. It strongly supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigning against Israel, which many see as code for destroying the State via advocacy for a one-state (AKA Rwandan) solution. An EAPPI publication called ‘Chain Reaction’ has endorsed illegal acts against Israel, such as destroying Israeli websites, and sit-ins to disrupt Israeli embassies.

Have the EAPPI’s activities made them unpopular with the Christian mainstream? Seemingly not! The group was endorsed by the Church of England’s General Synod this year, prompting a strong response from the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which made reference to intimidation and expressions of anti-Semitism at the General Synod:
Unsurprisingly its [EAPPI’s] graduates return with simplistic and radical perspectives, giving talks against Israel which do nothing to promote an understanding of the situation in the Middle East, much less promote a peaceful and viable solution to its problems. Members of Jewish communities across the country have suffered harassment and abuse at EAPPI meetings and yet Synod has completely dismissed their experiences.
The Jewish community does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace, themes which originated in our tradition. Moreover, to hear the debate at Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’, is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this motion.

Kairos Palestine, and the revisiting of Christian anti-Semitism

It can be argued that the increasing hostility of some Christian organisations toward Israel, and Jewish people more broadly, is an attempt to drive a wedge into a traditional and relatively vocal area of support for the Jewish State. The Kairos Palestine document, a text issued by a group of Palestinian Christians in December 2009, is an exemplar of this phenomenon, and some insight into EAPPI’s motivations can be found in their advocacy of this text.

The Kairos Palestine Document was developed and widely promoted by the WCC through another sister organisation called the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), and the text follows similarly problematic documents, namely Bern Perspectives (2008) and the Amman Call (2007).

In essence the Kairos Palestine document reworks long standing anti-Semitic themes that have been used by Christian Arabs to defame Israel. The text doesn’t mention the historic ties between the Jewish people and Israel, and it denies their biblical links as well. It asserts that Israel was created in sin due to post-Holocaust colonial guilt.

According to NGO Monitor, which quotes the document in question:
Kairos Palestine rationalizes, justifies and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance” stating (in section 1.4)  “Some (Palestinian) political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.”
The Kairos Palestine text has also been strongly criticised because it resurrects replacement theology, which was a cornerstone of anti-Semitism within the Christian faith for a very long time. This theology is responsible for much of the persecution visited on Jews for over a millennia. Replacement theology or supersessionism replaces mention of the Jews in the Bible, and the promises made to them by God, with that of Christians. Jews (as an analogue of the Israeli nation) become pariahs, rejects of history as having rejected the Son of God. The theology also objects to Israel’s recreation since the divine biblical promise has been transferred to the Christian Church itself, thereby becoming the new Nation of God.

The common refrain that anti-Zionism does not equate with anti-Semitism is nominally true. However, it is used by Palestinian apologists to exonerate all criticism of Israel, no matter how indicative of hate those expressions are. The anti-Semitism of today merely adds an element of refutability, a fashionable highly selective left-wing humanitarianism, to side-step the charge. However, intensely demonising zealotry and supersessionism, which define groups like EAPPI, betrays the malign intent to the sceptic.

Originally published at the New English Review.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

The Rachel Corrie Case and the judicial reasoning for its dismissal

Media bias was much in evidence recently with prejudicial coverage of the judgement on the Rachel Corrie case being beamed around the world. Judge Oded Gershon, of the District Court in Haifa, rejected the lawsuit brought by Corrie’s parents. He ruled that her death was an accident, which was caused by highly dangerous acts leading to her demise, after having intentionally entered a conflict zone during the height of the Second Intifada.

Rachel Corrie burning an Israeli flag

The case lasted two and a half years, yielding fifteen court hearings which producing several thousand pages of court transcripts. Apparently the ruling came after an extensive study into the events causing her death:
The verdict was based on three investigations that made clear that the driver could not see Corrie and could not have avoided the "tragic accident," the State Prosecutor’s Office said in an e-mailed statement. It said an expert who testified on behalf of the Corrie family agreed with the finding.
There has been a great deal of debate online, with pro-Palestinians rather absurdly insisting that Rachel's megaphone, located a significant number of metres away, could somehow be heard by a driver in an enclosed space that was heavily shielded, above the roar of an immense engine contained within a very large 50 ton Caterpillar D-9 series bulldozer. The IDF heavily reinforce these vehicles against attack to such an extent that they can withstand the results of heavy explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, and heavy machine gun fire. They are commonly used to clear dangerous areas, which has minimised IDF casualties. 

An armoured Caterpillar D-9 Series

Notably, photographs making Corrie seem in sight of the bulldozer that killed her have been spread around on the Internet by pro-Palestinian websites but these images actually show Corrie in front of a smaller bulldozer some hours earlier that day.

Similar obfuscations have arisen regarding to the driver’s ability to see Corrie. The field of vision on the D-9 bulldozer is of course limited, leading Corrie’s colleagues to state that she was standing in front of the bulldozer. However, reports and statements at the time assert that Corrie actually "dropped to her knees" before later behaving in a bizarre nigh on suicidal fashion by climbing the dirt mound gathered by the approaching bulldozer.

One notable point is that the judge firmly stated the IDF were not demolishing houses that day. It has been a constant pro-Corrie line that she was defending a Palestinian family, and her father Craig has been displaying a picture of the six year old girl who is a member of the family that Corrie was supposedly shielding. However, it seems increasingly apparent that Corrie and the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) were actually harassing the IDF when they were trying to clear land to improve visibility in a location that posed a great deal of risk to soldiers, which commentators, such as Lee Kaplan, have pointed out. This point was apparently echoed in an old unreleased IDF report on Corrie's death. It casts her actions in a very different light - a hardly defensible one. Such an action would be aiding terrorist activity, totally devoid of any humanitarian context. This is a plausible point because the ISM, of which Corrie was a member acting upon their instruction, have quite a reputation for aiding terrorists.

Unfortunately very little space was devoted to the judicial finding, an oddity considering it precipitated the story. With so much preferential coverage, it is of little wonder that Corrie’s parents are seeking an appeal.

Indeed some commentators suspect the case was more an effort to delegitimise Israel than an attempt to right some supposed injustice, since the Corrie family wholeheartedly support extreme pro-Palestinian stances. With a dedicated play having been shown prolifically in numerous countries, books, documentaries, and over thirty songs written about her, it should be clear by now that Corrie's death has become a kind of fetish, essentially a pro-Palestinian cult - her death cynically used as a useful propagandistic tool due to her youth, gender and American nationality.
We are upset and saddened by the verdict. This is a sad day not only for our family, but also for human rights, for the legal system and for the State of Israel.
So says Rachel's mother Cindy. Corrie's death was of course a great tragedy for her family. However, there is reason to think Rachel's mother was being less than sincere. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Corrie case is the wilful use of her death by the pro-Palestinian movement to promote the demonisation of the Israeli State. This came after the ISM, which is a leading group within that movement, placed her (and many others like her) in extreme danger, which is a central element of their strategy. To quote ISM's co-founders, Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf, one year before Corrie's death:
The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent... In actuality, nonviolence is not enough... Yes, people will get killed and injured... no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.
Therefore, it is a terrible irony that this very demonisation is something which the Corrie's themselves not only indulge but actually promote to a very substantive extent, such as by targeting Caterpillar with repeated lawfare efforts. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has even been linked with possible intimidation so it is little wonder that the Corrie's chose an extremist like Hussein Abu Hussein to lead their case.


Highlights of the Judge's concluding remarks concerning the Rachel Corrie lawsuit

Quoted highlights of Judge Oded Gershon's detailed conclusions on the case, with some further remarks.
5. After hearing many witnesses from both sides, including expert witnesses, and studying the extensive summations from representatives of both sides, I hereby determine as follows:

a. During the relevant period of time, the "Philadelphi Corridor" was the site of daily warfare, i.e. daily gunfire by snipers, missile fire and IED explosions directed at the IDF forces. During this period, unceasing efforts were made to kidnap IDF soldiers. Only soldiers who were in combat units fought in the region.

According to the notes made in the IDF records, from September 2000 to the date of the incident that is the focus of this lawsuit (March 16, 2003), nearly 6,000 grenades had been thrown at IDF forces in the Corridor; there had been approximately 1,400 incidents of gunfire; and there were more than 40 occurrences of mortar fire. These aforementioned events led to the injury and death of many Israelis. [...]

b. During the period pertinent to this case, there was a military directive in force declaring the "Philadelphi Corridor" a "closed military area" and forbidding the entry of civilians.
The actions of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement), a notorious pro-Palestinian group, were also scrutinised since Rachel Corrie was a high profile member partaking in ISM activities that day:
c. The ISM assigned itself the task of working alongside the Palestinians against the "Israeli occupation" by using what it called "non-violent protest activities". However, the evidence presented to me shows a significant gap between the Organization's statements and the true character of its activities and actions. The actions taken by the members of the organization, in practice, do not match its statements. In fact, the Organization exploits the dialogue regarding human rights and morality to blur the severity of its actions, which are, in fact, expressed through violence.

Inter alia, ISM activities included "defending" Palestinian families, even ones that were engaged in terror activities. The Organization's activists "specialized" in sabotaging the IDF's operational actions. ISM activities included, inter alia: stationing activists to serve as "human shields" for terrorists wanted by Israeli security forces; financial, logistical and moral assistance to Palestinians, including terrorists and their families; interrupting demolition activities or the sealing off of houses belonging to terrorists who conducted suicide attacks with multiple casualties.
The judge provided some context surrounding the incident, and addressed the objectives of the IDF that day. He asserts that the aim was to level the ground and clear undergrowth rather than demolish homes:
d. The mission of the IDF force on the day of the incident was solely to clear the ground. This clearing and leveling included leveling the ground and clearing it of brush in order to expose hiding places used by terrorists, who would sneak out from these areas and place explosive devices with the intent of harming IDF soldiers. There was an urgency to carrying out this mission so that IDF look-outs could observe the area and locate terrorists thereby preventing explosive devices from being buried. The mission did not include, in any way, the demolition of homes. The action conducted by the IDF forces was done at real risk to the lives of the soldiers. Less than one hour before the incident that is the focus of this lawsuit, a live hand-grenade was thrown at the IDF forces.

e. I hereby determine that, on the day of the incident, the two bulldozers and the armored personnel carrier were occupied with the clear military operational task of clearing the land in a dangerous area which posed a significant risk. The force's action was designed to prevent acts of terror and hostility, i.e. to eliminate the danger of terrorists hiding between the creases of land and in the brush, and to expose explosive devices hidden therein, both of which were intended to kill IDF soldiers. During each act of exposure, the lives of the IDF fighters were at risk from Palestinians terrorists. […]

For this reason, I hereby determine that the act of clearing the land with which the IDF force was occupied during the event was "a war-related action" as defined in The Civil Wrongs Ordinance.
Thus, the judge believes Corrie was interfering with an IDF operation to make an area safe, rather than preventing a house demolition.

The intent and actions of Corrie leading to her unfortunate death were addressed in detail:
f. On March 16, 2003, the decedent and her fellow ISM activists arrived at the location where the IDF force was working to clear the land. They did so, they claim, in order to prevent the IDF force from demolishing Palestinian houses. They did so illegally and in contradiction of the military directive declaring the area a "closed military area". They held signs, stood in front of the bulldozers and did not allow them to carry out their mission. The IDF soldiers informed the activists that they had to distance themselves from the area, threw stun grenades towards them, fired warning shots towards them and used methods to disperse demonstrations. All without avail.

The IDF force was very careful not to harm the Organization's activists. Because of the activists' interference, the force repeatedly relocated to continue carrying out their mission.

g. Based on the evidence presented to me, including the testimony of the expert for the prosecution, Mr. Osben, I hereby determine that at approximately 17:00, the decedent stood roughly 15 to 20 meters from the relevant bulldozer and knelt down. The bulldozer to which I refer was a large, clumsy and shielded vehicle of the DR9 model. The field of view the bulldozer's operator had inside the bulldozer was limited. At a certain point, the bulldozer turned and moved toward the decedent. The bulldozer pushed a tall pile of dirt. With regard to the field of view that the bulldozer's operator had, the decedent was in the "blind spot". The decedent was behind the bulldozer's blade and behind a pile of dirt and therefore the bulldozer's operator could not have seen her.

The bulldozer moved very slowly, at a speed of one kilometer per hour.

When the decedent saw the pile of dirt moving towards her, she did not move, as any reasonable person would have. She began to climb the pile of dirt. Therefore, both because the pile of dirt continued to move as a result of the pushing of the bulldozer, and because the dirt was loose, the decedent was trapped in the pile of dirt and fell.

At this stage, the decedent's legs were buried in the pile of dirt, and when her colleagues saw from where they stood that the decedent was trapped in the pile of dirt, they ran towards the bulldozer and gestured towards its operator and yelled at him to stop. By the time the bulldozer's operator and his commander noticed the decedent's colleagues and stopped the bulldozer, a significant portion of the decedent's body was already covered in dirt.

The decedent's entire body was not covered in dirt. In fact, when the bulldozer backed up, the decedent's body was seen to free itself from the pile of dirt and the decedent was still alive.

The decedent was evacuated to the hospital and after 20 minutes, her death was declared.
It is notable that Corrie’s team claim she had died before reaching hospital.
I hereby determine unequivocally that there is no foundation to the plaintiffs' claim that the bulldozer struck the decedent intentionally. This was a very unfortunate accident and was not intentional. No one wished to harm the decedent. I was convinced that the bulldozer's operator would not have continued to work if he had seen the decedent standing in front of the bulldozer, as he and his colleagues acted in similar circumstances earlier that day, when they moved from location to location because of the disturbances caused by the members of the Organization. […]
Other claims by the Corrie legal team of an unprofessional investigation and loss of evidentiary material, appear to have been perceived by the judge as muckraking:
i. The plaintiffs claimed that evidentiary damage was done in two areas: first, they claim that the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) investigation carried out after the event was sloppy and unprofessional and led to evidentiary damage for the plaintiffs; the second area, which refers to the responsibility of the Institute for Forensic Medicine for evidentiary damage caused to the plaintiffs as a result of the violation of the judicial order and the destruction of the recording documenting the decedent's autopsy.
Bizarrely the Corrie legal team objected to a crucial investigative file being submitted to the court:
It could be expected that, in light of the claim made above, the plaintiffs' representative would submit to the court the file of the investigation conducted by the CID so that I could form my own opinion regarding the investigatory actions carried out and the manner in which the investigation was carried out, and to learn if the actions taken by the CID were sufficient or not. However, it was the plaintiffs that objected to submitting the full file of the investigation as evidence, even though the defendant agreed to do so. Thus did the plaintiffs, by their own actions, introduce circumstances in which an extremely important tool to examine their claims was denied to the court. […]

Investigators from the CID concluded that in order to advance the investigation, an autopsy would have to be performed on the decedent. As a result, they approached the District Court in Rishon LeZion and asked for a court order that would allow for such an autopsy. The court order "…that the body be autopsied at the Abu Kabir Institute for Forensic Medicine by a doctor who is not in the military and in the presence of a representative of the American State Department" (Exhibit 6/T).

Professor Hiss testified that since the American Consulate saw no need to send a representative to be present at the autopsy, the autopsy was conducted, with the family's agreement, without a consular representative. He also testified that the Consulate sent a fax confirming that the autopsy could be conducted without a representative from the family (Exhibit 11/T). […]

The family's desire was to receive the decedent's body as soon as possible. Indeed, the family did not conduct any additional examinations after receiving the decedent's body and it was cremated: see Mr. Craig Corrie's testimony.
The judge concluded by dismissing the case, although the Jewish State was ordered to cover its own legal costs due to the unfortunate "circumstance surrounding the decedent's death".
l. With regard to grounds for negligence: I am convinced that, given the circumstances created at the location of the incident, the actions taken by the force were without fault. Indeed, the field of vision of the bulldozer's operator was limited. However, the decedent's field of vision while she stood in front of the bulldozer and knelt down was open and without any limitation. The decedent could have distanced herself from any danger without any difficulty. However, she chose to take the risk described above, and that eventually led to her death.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Child Abuse Arrests Involving the Jordanian Paralympic Team

Three men associated with the Jordanian Paralympic squad were arrested in Northern Ireland on Monday the 20th of August 2012, following allegations of sexual assault on several women and children. The team is staying in County Antrim, leading up to the Paralympics in London next week.

The story of the arrest seems to have first appeared rather late the following day. Initially the reports only stated that it involved three women.

However, reports the day after (Wednesday the 22nd) now state that two of the three men have been charged with sexual offences involving children, one man exclusively so:

A 23-year-old-man was charged with two counts of sexual activity with a child, one count of sexual assault against a woman and voyeurism.

A 35-year-old man was charged with two counts of causing sexual activity with a child.

The third man charged, a 36-year-old, faces one count of sexual assault against a woman.

A Google search reveals that the story hasn’t made it around the world, with the exception of a few US reports, and a short report in Ynet.

Considering the serious nature of the story, as well as its international dimension, it is odd how muted the reporting has been, especially in the UK and Ireland. For example, the initial report on Tuesday evening disappeared from the state broadcaster RTE’s teletext service after a relatively short period of time, and after having been given a very low news ranking (number 14 or 15 out of 16 listed stories). It has been given a similarly low ranking today (a drop from number 13 to 16 before again disappearing from the listings in the early afternoon), which is odd considering the revelation that the story involves children.

Could it be another example of the media’s reticence toward anything very controversial that could be linked with Muslims, as illustrated by the obfuscatory British media reports that continually substituted the word “Muslim” with “Asian”? It is difficult to say with any certainty but the muted media reaction is odd to say the least.


Additional information has since emerged after a court hearing in Londonderry earlier today. The three accused have been granted bail. They are:
Powerlifter Omar Sami Qaradhi, 31, has been charged with three counts of sexual assault, two of them against children, and one count of voyeurism.

His fellow powerlifter Motaz Al-Junaidi, 45, faces one charge of sexual assault against a woman.

Trainer Faisal Hammash, 35, has been charged with two counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

The story seems to have gained greater attention from the mainstream media (including RTE), perhaps after the court heard that King Abdullah II had taken an interest in the case, perhaps due to its potential for embarrassment:
The king of Jordan is taking a personal interest in the case of three members of his country's Paralympic team accused of sex offences during pre-Games training in Northern Ireland, a court has heard.

The Arab administration promised to bring the men back before the court in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, if bail was granted, district judge Richard Wilson was told. […]

A representative of the Jordanian government, counsellor Rulan Samara from the London embassy, told the court: "His majesty the King of Jordan (King Abdullah the Second) was inquiring about the matter and was asking about all the details."

A similar article is also published at the Iconoclast.