I hear some people died in Gaza

in reality, all of this has been a total load of old bollocks
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 31 Aug 2018, 16:56

I love that Nick still reads this stuff:

How Israel Spies on US Citizens

THE TRUTHS THAT WON’T BE HEARD

ORIENT XXI > ALAIN GRESH > 29 AUGUST 2018
A never-shown Al Jazeera documentary on the pro-Israel lobby in the US reveals possibly illegal Israeli spying on US citizens, and the lobby’s fear of a changing political mood.

Washington, 26 mars 2017

An investigative documentary by Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera scheduled for broadcast earlier this year was expected to cause a sensation. Its four 50-minute episodes centred on the young and personable James Anthony Kleinfeld, British, Jewish, an Oxford graduate who speaks six languages including Dutch and Yiddish and is well informed about Middle East conflicts – seemingly a natural fit for a western foreign ministry or a major thinktank.

The documentary showed Kleinfeld being enthusiastically recruited for his skills by The Israel Project (TIP), which defends Israel’s image in the media, and associating with senior members of organisations that support Israel unconditionally, especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the powerful US lobbying group. For five months, he mixed with them at cocktail parties, congresses and conventions, and on training courses. He won their trust and they opened up to him, abandoning doublespeak and official lines. How, he asked, did they go about influencing the US Congress? “Congressmen don’t do anything unless you pressure them, and the only way to do that is with money.”1 How did they counter Palestinian rights activists on university campuses? “With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we found at least in the last year, is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads.”

Kleinfeld’s contacts told him they were spying on US citizens with the help of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, founded in 2006, which reports directly to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. One official said: “We are a different government working on foreign soil, [so] we have to be very, very cautious.” And indeed some of the things they do could be subject to prosecution under US law.

At the end of Kleinfeld’s time at TIP, his boss there, Eric Gallagher, was so happy with his performance that he wanted to hire “Tony”2 on a permanent basis: “I would love it if you came to work for me. I need someone who’s a team player, hardworking, excited, passionate, curious, well-rounded, well-spoken, well read. You’re all of those things.” Kleinfeld turned down the job. His qualifications were genuine, but he was, of course, an undercover reporter, sent by Al Jazeera to investigate the pro-Israel lobby. He filmed conversations using a hidden camera and later, as part of an Al Jazeera investigation team led by executive producer Phil Rees, put together a spectacular documentary. There was all the more excitement over its impending broadcast, because a 2017 Al Jazeera report on the pro-Israel lobby in the UK had revealed Israel’s interference in Britain’s internal affairs, and its attempts to bring down the deputy foreign secretary, Alan Duncan, whom it considered too pro-Palestinian. This had led to the Israeli ambassador in London making a public apology and a high-ranking diplomat being recalled to Tel Aviv.

BURYING THE PROJECT

The documentary was expected to be a media sensation, bringing outraged denials and intense controversy. But then the broadcast was postponed, with no official explanation. Eventually, articles in the US Jewish media3 revealed that it would never be shown. Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s director of investigative journalism, expressed regret at the decision in a published article, and announced he was taking sabbatical leave.4 The documentary had been sacrificed to the fierce battle between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the other for US support in the feud that began in June 2017. What better way to do this than by winning the favour of the pro-Israel lobby, known for its influence on US policy in the Middle East?

To tip the balance in its favour, Qatar “postponed” the broadcast, winning the halt of the campaign against Doha by a section of the right wing of an already very right-wing lobby. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) and a close friend of Donald Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon, flew to Doha and said he was delighted to see the documentary buried (see “Qatar charms and wriggles out of trouble”). That groups such as ZOA, which had not long ago been accusing Qatar of funding Hamas and terrorism, should change sides in return for the documentary’s suppression says a lot about its explosive revelations.

But burying over a year’s work caused turmoil at Al Jazeera. Some were keen for the revelations not to sink into the quicksand of geopolitical compromise, which is why, thanks to a friend in the Gulf, I was able to watch all four episodes in their near-final version.

What was striking was seeing the feverish mood of the pro-Israel lobby over the last few years due to a blind fear of losing its influence. How can that be, when support for Israel is massive in the US, and both Republicans and Democrats unfailingly back it, no matter what its ventures? And when, since Trump’s election, Washington no longer wishes to act as “unfair” broker in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and has sided with Israel’s most right-wing government ever? Despite this apparently favourable climate, a spectre haunts the lobby: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

BDS, launched in 2005, aims to use the non-violent methods that proved effective in South Africa under apartheid. It is growing in popularity on US campuses, but David Brog, director of strategic affairs of Christians United for Israel and executive director of the Maccabee Task Force, a group fighting against BDS, questioned whether it is really a cause for alarm. He said: “Israel’s booming. It’s the startup nation. More venture capital is going into Israel today than at any other time in history. So why don’t we just calm down, realise that BDS is worthless, it’s losing, and ignore it? I don’t think BDS was ever supposed to be about getting colleges to take their money out of Israel. So if we focus on the dollars, we can feel really good about ourselves. If we focus on the fact that an effort is being made to distance us, those who love Israel, from the rising generation, I think we need to worry. When you get to millennials and students, it’s a bad situation. And it’s getting to the point now where the majority is more favourable towards the Palestinians than the Israelis.” Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group of organisations that fights BDS in universities, is also worried: “The one thing every member of Congress and president and ambassador and newspaper editors has in common is, by and large, they spent a little bit of time on campus and probably those were formative years.”

“THE BIGGER PROBLEM”

There’s another worry for the lobby: support for Israel has traditionally transcended the Republican-Democrat divide, and a few months before the end of his presidency, Barack Obama unconditionally approved $38 bn of aid to Israel over 10 years, though his relations with Netanyahu were terrible. But the political landscape is changing, and the lobby’s unconditional support for Trump is narrowing its base to the Republican Party and the evangelical right.

David Hazony, founding editor of The Tower Magazine and an influential member of TIP, said in the documentary: “The specific potential of an immediate boycott, that’s not a problem. What’s a bigger problem is the Democratic Party, the Bernie Sanders people, bringing all the anti-Israel people into the Democratic Party. Then being pro-Israel becomes less a bipartisan issue, and then every time the White House changes, the policies towards Israel change. That becomes a dangerous thing for Israel. There is actually an important battle being fought on the campuses.” John Mearsheimer, co-author of a well-known book on the lobby,5 confirmed this in his frequent comments in the documentary. He said that support for Israel is now growing among Republicans and falling among Democrats: “There is a substantial difference in support for Israel in the two parties.”

How to halt this trend? It would be hard to do it through political debate. Since the failure of the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel has been led by far-right parties that reject any diplomatic solution. There is no question of any discussion of the fate of the Palestinians, the future of the settlements or the tragedy in Gaza. And the lobby’s support for Netanyahu and Trump is unlikely to generate much enthusiasm among US students. Journalist Max Blumenthal points out that the lobby took a similar approach to the documentary, refusing discussion and likening investigative journalism to espionage; discrediting Al Jazeera by dismissing it as a puppet of Qatar; and insisting that the documentary’s subject was “the Jewish lobby” not support for Israel (Twitter, 15 February 2018). It could thus avoid any discussion of the details of the documentary’s revelations.

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, said to a gathering of pro-Israel students: “You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message. When you talk about . . . BDS, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians . . . aka terrorism”– and, of course, as anti-semitic. Pollak called Jewish Voice for Peace (a US leftwing organisation focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) “Jewish Voice for Hamas”. He told Kleinfeld: “The majority of Americans are pro-Israel. Whereas if you take a poll of Israel in the UK, it’s just pure hatred of Israel. Your country basically let half of fucking Pakistan move in. So you have a different problem than we do here.”

To discredit the messenger, as the documentary reveals, the pro-Israel lobby has built up a spy network over the last few years to gather information on opponents’ private lives, careers and political convictions. Baime said: “The research operation is very high-tech. When I got here a few years ago, the budget was $3,000. Today it’s like a million and a half, or more. Probably it’s two million at this point. I don’t even know, it’s huge. It’s a massive budget.” He and his colleagues are keen to stay invisible: “We do it securely and anonymously. That’s the key.”

“IF YOU’RE A RACIST, THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW”

One of the groups most feared by Palestinian rights activists is Canary Mission,6 whose funding, members and methods are shrouded in secrecy. A journalist with close links to the lobby said: “People who hate it, the people who are being targeted by it, call it a blacklist. You have names here that show up on this database. Students and professors, faculty, speakers, organisations that have ties to terrorism, outright ties to terrorism, or terrorists who have called for the destruction of the Jewish state.” Canary Mission’s website describes its aim as being to “ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.” Above the biography of each victim is the slogan “If you’re a racist, the world should know.”

Kleinfeld managed to talk to Canary Mission’s founder and financial backer, Adam Milstein, chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC). Milstein was jailed briefly for tax fraud in 2009, but that didn’t prevent him from carrying on his activities from prison. He explained his philosophy to Kleinfeld: “First of all, investigate who they [the pro-Palestine activists] are. What’s their agenda? They’re picking on the Jews because it’s easy, because it’s popular. We need to expose what they really are. And we need to expose the fact that they are anti everything we believe in. And we need to put them on the run. We’re doing it by exposing who they are, what they are, the fact that they are racist, the fact that they are bigots, [that] they’re anti-democracy.”

Students recounted in the documentary exactly what they faced. Summer Awad, who took part in a campaign for Palestinian rights in Knoxville, Tennessee, was harassed on Twitter, and information about her, some of it dating back a decade, was posted online: “They are digging and digging. Somebody contacted my employer and asked for me to be fired. If they continue to employ me, they will be denounced as anti-semitic.” Denunciation can end careers or make it hard for students to find a job after graduation. To get their names off the blacklist, some victims write messages of “repentance”, which Canary Mission posts on its site. These anonymous confessions, whose writers explain that they were “deceived”, are much like those of suspected communist sympathisers under McCarthyism in the US in the 1950s, or victims of authoritarian regimes today. Baime said: “It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy. They either shut down, or they spend time investigating [the accusations against them] instead of attacking Israel. It’s extremely effective.” Another person told Kleinfeld: “I think antisemitism as a smear is not what it used to be.”

These campaigns, based on personal information gathered about US citizens, would not be possible without the resources of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Its director-general, Sima Vaknin-Gil, said in a talk at the IAC annual conference shown in the documentary: “The fact that the Israeli government decided to be a key player means a lot because we can bring things that NGOs or civilian entities involved in this thing [don’t have] . . . We’ve got the budget. We can bring things to the table that are quite different. Everybody out there who has anything to do with BDS should ask himself twice: should I be on this side or do I want to be on the other side?”

“A DESTABILISING FORCE”

Vaknin-Gil admitted that to gather information, “we have FDD. We have others working on this.” The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) is a conservative think tank that has played an important role in the recent rapprochement between the UAE and Israel. It took part in the 2017 campaign against Qatar and Al Jazeera, which was accused of being a destabilising force in the region. Under US law, organisations and individuals working for foreign governments must register with the Department of Justice. Would the DOJ dare take the FDD to court for failing to register?7

As Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the website The Electronic Intifada, says, “if you had on tape a statement of a senior Russian or Iranian or even Canadian official saying that they were running covert operations, to spy on Americans, and using an organisation like the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies as a front . . . it would be a bombshell.” This kind of cooperation is not limited to the FDD, and many of the people Kleinfeld talked to, including Baime, told him so in confidence, though they didn’t want to elaborate on such as sensitive subject.

There are other revelations, like the way that TIP takes charge of US journalists visiting Jerusalem and feeds them ready-made stories for publication on their return to the US; how the lobby pay for upscale holidays in Israel for US Congress members, circumventing US law; and pressures the media, including news agencies, to amend wires and copy.

Everything seems to be going well for Israel, but its American supporters, despite their extensive resources, are nervous. The future seems dark to them, and even those most likely to support them are wavering. The documentary shows Vaknin-Gil admitting in a Knesset hearing: “Today we [have] lost the second generation of Jews, which are the millennial generation of Jews. I hear this from their parents, who come and explain to me what a hard time they’re having with their kids at Friday dinners. They don’t recognise the state of Israel and don’t see us as an entity to be admired.”

Qatar Charms and Wriggles out of Trouble

The Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) posted on its website on 10 April that it “and its president Morton Klein are proud and pleased to announce that it was through ZOA’s and Mr Klein’s efforts, including Mr Klein’s numerous, exhaustive and round-the-clock meetings in Doha, Qatar, with the Emir and other top Qatari officials, and follow-up discussions, that Qatar agreed to cancel and not allow the release of a viciously anti-Semitic Al Jazeera ‘undercover’ film series on the so-called ‘American Jewish lobby’.”
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 31 Aug 2018, 16:59

Hasbará in full effect.
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Belle Lettre » 01 Sep 2018, 10:08

The voice of God, not man

Image
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby gash’s trollish obsession » 01 Sep 2018, 10:12

Jess Phillips?
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 02 Sep 2018, 01:46

Good to see that Lana del Rey has bowed to pressure and cancelled her Tel Aviv gig.
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Sneelock » 02 Sep 2018, 01:57

Kerry says some stuff about Netanyahu that makes him look bad
https://m.jpost.com/Israel-News/Kerry-v ... ook-566277

Netenyahu says stuff and makes himself look bad
https://www.newsweek.com/weak-are-slaug ... ay-1098567
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Jimbo » 02 Sep 2018, 06:46

Tuned into the Jimmy Dore Saturday live podcast this morning and in the live comment section was a torrent of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish comments, i.e., "Jews did 9/11", like I had never seen before, and I watch the show pretty regularly. I can only assume after reading the article above that they're trolls working FOR the Israelis but want to taint the image of progressive, Bernie supporting, quietly Palestinian sympathizing, Hillary and Democratic party critical, young people attracting Jimmy Dore and his fans. "Gee," a viewer might assume, "Jimmy Dore sure does attract a lot of anti-Semites."

Is this the kind of trolling Russia is accused of?
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 04 Sep 2018, 18:58

Editorial in Haaretz:

Editorial: A Palestinian State First

As long as Israel adheres to the policy of preventing the idea of a state, the idea of a confederation will have no chance of success, either


Sep 04, 2018 3:57 AM

The chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, this week revealed a small part of the proposal placed in front of him by the envoys of U.S. President Donald Trump. He said that he was asked his opinion of the idea of forming a confederation with Jordan, and replied that he is willing to accept the proposal, on condition that Israel also be part of the confederation. If this really isn’t just a hollow American idea, but a serious intention, as part of Trump’s “deal of the century,” it’s worth looking into.

The idea of the confederation isn’t new, the late King Hussein of Jordan and Abbas’ predecessor Yasser Arafat proposed it in the 1980s, as a lever to promote the interests of both parties. But the plan was abandoned due to differences of opinion between the two leaders. In 1988 King Hussein severed the link between Jordan and the West Bank, and since then the Palestinians have been representing themselves and advancing their aspiration for political independence.

The Palestinian attempt to achieve independence is encountering strong opposition on the part of Israel, which sees a Palestinian state as a security threat, and a danger to the vision of a Greater Israel and to the status of the settlements. As long as Israel adheres to the policy of preventing the idea of a state, the idea of a confederation will have no chance of success, either.

A confederation, according to the usual definition, is an alliance between sovereign states that see eye to eye regarding economic, security and national interests, and hope that the alliance will be beneficial to both. A Palestinian-Jordanian confederation therefore would also require international recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state, within recognized borders.


Abbas is right to demand that Israel also be a partner in the confederate structure, since without Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state with equal status, there will be no international recognition, either.

Israel, which hatched the idea together with the U.S. administration, apparently intending to bypass the solution of two states for two peoples, must clarify its position regarding recognition of the Palestinian state and determining its borders. On these questions Israel cannot avoid significant negotiations on all the core issues, including the status of Jerusalem, refugees, borders, the settlements and the holy places.

Moreover, even if the two sides are able to reach an agreement on these issues, that doesn’t mean that the idea of a confederation will be acceptable to Jordan.

The U.S. administration is mistaken in thinking that it can put the cart before the horse by means of the sleight of hand of a confederation. If its intentions are serious, the administration must recognize the right of the Palestinians to a state, and demand that Israel pay the diplomatic price that it plans to collect in exchange for the “gifts” Israel received from America
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 09 Sep 2018, 08:04

Israeli authorities have barred Ahed Tamimi from leaving the occupied West Bank with her family to Europe, where she was due to speak about Palestinian resistance and her experience behind Israeli prison bars.
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Belle Lettre » 09 Sep 2018, 11:45

..and the Trump administration (sic) has decided to cut funding to Palestinian hospitals in occupied Jerusalem.
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 09 Sep 2018, 12:45

The Middle East's Only Democracy.
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 25 Sep 2018, 23:04

Amnesty International reacts to Israeli forces' killing of 6 Palestinians in 24hrs:

"chilling demonstration of the utter disregard for right to life"

"[several] incidents appear to involve deliberate & wilful killing of unarmed civilians & may amount to war crimes"
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Re: I hear some people died in Gaza

Postby Butch Manly » 10 Oct 2018, 11:21

If you want to know the reality of what is going on in the illegally-occupied West Bank (and, thus, the reason why Corbyn et al were so reluctant to go along with the stiffling of criticism of modern-day Zionism in action), go to Jonathan Cook and, of course, http://www.breakingthesilence.or.il

It should be all over the news, and yet, for some reason, it's not....



Breaking the Silence about Israel’s occupation of Hebron

8 October 2018

Former Israeli soldiers exposing the brutality of the occupation of the West Bank face fresh challenges


Ido Even-Paz switched on his body camera as his tour group decamped from the bus in Hebron. The former Israeli soldier wanted to document any trouble we might encounter in this, the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank. It was not Hebron’s Palestinian residents who concerned him. He was worried about Israelis – Jewish religious extremists and the soldiers there to guard them – who have seized control of much of the city centre.

Mr Even-Paz, 34, first served as a soldier in Hebron in the early 2000s. Today he belongs to Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers turned whistleblowers who leads tours into the heart of Israel’s settlement enterprise. After 14 years of operations, however, Breaking the Silence is today facing ever-more formidable challenges.

Hebron, 30km south of Jerusalem, is a microcosm of the occupation. A handful of settlers moved here uninvited five decades ago, drawn in part to the what Israelis call the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Palestinians the Ibrahimi mosque. The Herod-era building is erected over the putative burial site of Abraham, Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Since then the settler ranks have swollen to nearly 900 – aided by the Israeli army.

Despite their relatively small number, however, their territorial footprint has been expanding relentlessly, and now covers some 2 square kilometres.
The settlers and military, says Mr Even-Paz, have worked hand in hand to hijack the freedoms of some 230,000 Palestinians and turn Hebron’s once-vibrant commercial centre into a ghost town. All of this has happened with the apparent blessing of the Israeli government.

War crimes witnessed

When Mr Even-Paz arrived in Hebron as a teen soldier at the height of the Second Intifada, he was keen to distinguish himself as a combat soldier by fighting Palestinian “terrorists”, and impress his father, a retired career officer.

His political awakening however, didn’t begin until much later, in 2008, as Israel launched a massive assault on the Gaza Strip. Later he discovered the more than 1,000 testimonies recorded by Breaking the Silence, in which Israelis acknowledged that they had participated in or witnessed war crimes during their military service.

“Those stories were exactly like mine. I thought I’d done nothing significant during my military service, that it was boring. I started to realise it was the very mundanity of the occupation – its round-the-clock oppression of Palestinians – that was the core of the problem.”

He believes the problem of the occupation is systemic rather than the result of misconduct by individual soldiers.

“Whatever a soldier believes when they begin their military service, there is no way to behave ethically in the occupied territories,” he says. “It’s a system in which Palestinians are always treated as inferior, always viewed as the enemy, whoever they are.

“Every day the job is to inflict collective punishment. We were told explicitly that we were waging psychological war, that we were there to intimidate them.

“In the middle of the night we raided families’ homes, chosen randomly, waking up frightened children. We violently broke up Palestinian protests. I arrested Palestinians every day to ‘dry them out’ – to teach them a lesson, to make them understand who is boss.”

Army treated as sacred

Yet in Israel, the military is regarded as an almost sacred institution. Breaking the Silence casts a long, dark shadow over claims that Israel’s is the most moral army in the world.

Hebron is ground zero for much of the group’s work, where military service is a rite of passage for Israeli combat soldiers. The group’s tour attracts some back later in life, either after they grow troubled by their earlier experiences enforcing the occupation or because they want to show family members what their service was like.

Some go on to testify to the group, says Ori Givati, Mr Even-Paz’s colleague on the tour. “When they come with us to places like Hebron, the memories flood back. They recall things they did that they can now see in a different light.”

With the spread of phone cameras in recent years, the dark underbelly of the occupation in Hebron has been ever harder to conceal, confirming the soldiers’ testimonies.

Palestinians have captured on video everything from terrified small children being dragged off the street by soldiers into military Jeeps to an army medic, Elor Azaria, using his rifle to execute a prone Palestinian man by shooting him in the head from close range.

‘Separation policy’

Israel has carved Hebron into two zones, part of its “separation policy”. H1, the city’s western side, is nominally under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, except when Israel decides otherwise.

H2, a fifth of the city and home to somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 Palestinians (the number is contested), is where settlers and soldiers rule. They are supported by a much larger neighbouring settlement of 8,000 religious Jews, Kiryat Arba, hemming in Hebron’s eastern flank.

The chain of settlements form a spear of territory thrusting into Hebron’s throat from the main body of H2 and Kiryat Arba.

“The idea is to make life so intolerable the Palestinians will choose to expel themselves,” Mr Even-Paz says. “Unemployment among Palestinians is about 70 per cent in H2, so the pressure is on the residents to move into H1 or out of Hebron entirely.”

In their place, the settlers have taken over. Carefree-looking couples wander with push chairs, men and boys hurry to seminaries, bored teenagers study their phones on street corners, and families lounge at bus stops for the frequent services connecting them to Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Everything, says Mr Even-Paz, from water and electricity to rents and public transport, is subsidised to encourage Jews to move here.

Amid the surrounding Palestinian homes, all of this “normality” takes place in a controlled environment that is anything but. It is enforced by heavily fortified checkpoints, razor-wire, watchtowers, army patrols and rooftop sentries watching every move.

Many of the settlers have licences to carry army-issue rifles and handguns.

Two systems of law

As elsewhere in the occupied territories, Israel has imposed two systems of law. Palestinians, including children, face summary arrest, military trial and draconian punishment, while settlers operate under an Israeli civil law that involves due process and a presumption of innocence – though even this is rarely enforced against them.

“They know they are untouchable,” says Mr Even-Paz. “The army’s rules of engagement mean soldiers can’t enforce the law on Israeli civilians.

“Soldiers are not allowed to respond if the settlers commit a crime or assault a Palestinian. They are even under orders not to shoot back if a settler opens fire at them.”

Not that such a scenario has occurred often. Many soldiers are religious settlers themselves, and even the secular ones sympathise with Hebron’s settlers.

“When I served, they brought us hot drinks on a cold day, and iced drinks on a hot day. During Shabbat [the Sabbath], they invited us to come and eat in their homes. They became like family to us.”

But that welcome has turned sour since Mr Even-Paz joined Breaking the Silence. Settlers have thrown eggs, water-bombs, coffee grounds and mud at him. Yehuda Shaul, the founder of Breaking the Silence, was recently punched in the face during a tour of Hebron, and another guide had paint poured over her.

It’s not just settlers targeting the group.

Accused of treason

Government ministers routinely accuse Breaking the Silence of treason and of aiding supposed efforts by Europe to damage the army and Israel’s image. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past called for the group’s members to be investigated by the police.

He also refuses to meet any foreign dignitary who has dealings with Breaking the Silence. That policy resulted in a highly publicised snub last year to the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel.

In July, the parliament passed a law barring Breaking the Silence from schools, even though visits by “loyal” soldiers are a mainstay of the curriculum.

Now the army and settlers appear to be working hand-in-hand to stymie the group’s tours.

In fact, 10 years ago, the army issued an order banning the group’s trips to Hebron, though Breaking the Silence eventually won a costly legal battle to have them reinstated.

But in recent weeks the settlers have markedly intensified efforts to break up the tours. The army, meanwhile, appears to be exploiting the upsurge in settler violence to crack down on Breaking the Silence, on the pretext that restrictions are necessary to “prevent friction”.

‘Sterilised area’

The same rationale was originally used to implement the system of restricted access for Palestinians to areas of Hebron coveted by settlers. In 1994, shortly after the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships signed the Oslo peace accords, a fanatical settler, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire in the Ibrahimi mosque, killing and wounding some 150 worshipping Muslims.

It should have provided the moment for Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s then prime minister, to remove the small settler community from Hebron. It was a necessary first step in proving that Israel was serious about the Oslo process and creating a Palestinian state in the occupied territories.

Instead, Mr Even-Paz observes, Israel entrenched the settlers’ rule, crafting the situation visible on the ground today.

For more than 15 years, Israel has forbidden entry for Palestinians to what was once Hebron’s main throroughfare and central shopping area along Shuhada Street. Now it has been rebranded in Hebrew as King David Street, and declared what the army terms a “sterilised area”. The closure severs the main transport routes for Palestinians between north and south Hebron.

Most of the Palestinian inhabitants have been driven from the city centre by endless harassment and attacks by settlers, bolstered by arrests and night raids conducted by the army, says Mr Even-Paz.

The few Palestinians still residing in the area are literally caged into their own homes – their doors welded shut and their windows covered with bars. The bars are there for their own protection because settlers throw stones, eggs and soiled nappies at their windows. The families are forced to enter and leave via the rooftops into back streets to shop, work and meet friends.

The dozens of stores that once drew shoppers from throughout the southern West Bank have been sealed up long ago. The army, according to our guide, has turned a blind eye to the settlers requisitioning some for their own use.

Shadowed by soldiers

As we moved into the settler-controlled heart of Hebron, we got a taste of the new official policy of intimidation and harassment against Breaking the Silence.

It started early on when an officer approached to tell us we were not allowed to move without a military escort. Soldiers and Jeeps shadowed us closely.

Our group hardly looked combative. It included European staff from a human rights organisation; curious holidaymakers; a group of young friends brought along by an Israeli leftist they were visiting; and a young Jew from Brooklyn who was in Israel to understand the occupation and his Jewish identity more deeply.

The last, who asked to be identified only as Todd for fear that his entry into Israel might be blocked next time by the authorities, said it was his first time in the West Bank.

“I feel an obligation to understand what’s going on because it’s done in the name of Jews. But it is very hard to see this up close. It hurts.”

The only crossing point on Shuhada Street still open to Palestinians, Bab al-Khan, is littered with half a dozen checkpoints, which only Palestinian children returning from school appeared willing to pass.

Even that route is under threat. Settlers have occupied two Palestinian homes either side of the road in an attempt to force the army to close the street to Palestinians entirely, says Mr Even-Paz.

Way ahead blocked

The confidence of the settlers today – and their support from the government and among a significant section of the Israeli public – was starkly on show during the recent Sukkot holiday, or Feast of the Tabernacles.

Every few minutes a truck converted into open-backed tour bus offered a free lift for some two dozen Israeli “tourists” at a time, taking them from the Tomb of the Patriarchs up the Palestinian-free Shuhada Street to the settlements.

But while these Jewish visitors had the run of the place, our escort of heavily armed soldiers soon blocked the way ahead.

Half-way up Shuhada Street, before we could reach the last two, most extreme illegal settlements, the military commander issued an order that we were denied further access to “prevent friction”.

As we stood at the side of the road contesting the ban, Israelis on the tour buses plied past, staring at us like unwelcome gatecrashers at their party.

“It seems there are only two kinds of people not allowed to walk through the centre of Hebron,” Mr Even-Paz observed. “Palestinians and Breaking the Silence.”


https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2018-10-08/breaking-the-silence-about-israels-occupation-of-hebron/
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