Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Are Gaza protests coming to the NBA preseason?

By Dave Zirin - When Israeli sports teams travel to Europe, they are often met with protest. Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations, such as Red Card Israeli Apartheid, have argued that such spectacles “normalize” the military occupation suffered by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. They also argue that it is fantasy to pretend that these games do not carry a strong political as well as symbolic weight.

Now the specter of a pro-Palestinian protest at an Israeli sporting event is coming to the United States. This will happen next month when the most celebrated basketball team in Israel’s history, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, will return to the United States and play two NBA preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. As Euroleague Champions, this will be the fifth time in nine years that Maccabi has played in the United States. But coming on the heels of the summer bombardment of Gaza, there are many activists in New York City arguing that it can no longer be hoops as usual.

I spoke to Tsvia Thier, an Israeli citizen now living in New York, who plans to be a part of whatever protest assembles outside the Barclays Center on October 7th. She said to me, “Israel dropped thousands of pounds of weapons on Gaza. More than 2,000 people died. More than 500 children were killed. There has been no justice for this. We cannot allow for these games to go forward without bearing witness…as if these criminal acts did not just take place. Our memories cannot be that short.” Thier was on her way to a meeting of the group Jewish Voice for Peace to raise plans to protest when I spoke with her.

It is not just Thier and others who are unable to separate these games from Israel’s summer war on Gaza. It is the NBA. Before the Brooklyn game, the league signed off on a “VIP celebration” at the Barclay’s Center for Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted by an organization called Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). According to the press release, “FIDF has arranged for 12 IDF soldiers wounded during the Operation in Gaza to take part in the event.” (For people who want a full accounting of the death and destruction that the Gaza War wrought, see the United Nations report here. ) The FIDF event in Brooklyn will also honor the only Jewish American player named as one of the NBA’s Top 50 All-Time players Dolph Schayes, and his son, one of my boyhood heroes, eighteen-year NBA veteran Danny Schayes. (Yes, I’m aware that I may be the first person to use “boyhood hero” and “Danny Schayes” in the same sentence.) My love for Schayes aside, this is, without pretense, an NBA/FIDF production.

The ties between people in power at the NBA and Israel are nothing new. (See the family history of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, who comes from one of Israel’s most powerful families. Or look at the Israeli connections being fostered by New York Knick forward Amar’e Stoudamire). Yet the celebrations of these bonds will be particularly boisterous this season, now that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be led by former Maccabi coach David Blatt. The Cavs, with Favorite Son LeBron James and Kevin Love on the roster, are everyone’s choice to make the NBA finals from the Eastern conference and Blatt is held in high regard amongst his fellow coaches. Blatt has dual Israeli and US citizenship and the preseason game on October 9 between Maccabi and Cleveland is already being billed as a feel-good media spectacle. Blatt was also a high-profile supporter for the summer war on Gaza. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Globes, he said, “In my opinion, this war is Israel’s most justified war I can remember in recent years. I’m really sorry about what’s happening in Gaza, but there’s no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all, and we can live in peace.” He then chided the people of the United States for not cheerleading Israel’s war to a greater degree, saying, “There’s support, although sometimes it’s not enough.In my opinion, though, there’s more support this time than before.” more

Israel slaps three-month visit ban on prisoner Ahmed Saadat

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) barred prisoner Ahmad Saadat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, from receiving prison visits for three renewable months.

Saadat’s wife, Abla, said in press remarks on Thursday that the Israeli prison authority did not state the reason for its decision.

The detainee, currently held in Gilboa prison, are regularly transferred to different jails as part of the ongoing punitive measures taken against him.

His wife said the Israeli jailers always prevent her and her children from visiting their father, but the difference this time was that the visit ban decision was issued in writing. more

Israeli settler runs over Palestinian child south Hebron

Six-year-old Islam Al-‘Amour of Yatta village south Hebron, was ‘hit and run’ by an Israeli settler. Islam suffered a number of fractures, cuts and bruises in different areas of his body. He was immediately moved to Al-Ahli hospital in Hebron.

This ‘hit and run’ incident by Israeli settlers is not the first of its kind.

A similar incident took place last Thursday in Silwan town, East Jerusalem, when a 10 year old Palestinian child was deliberately run over by settler, as Wadi Hilweh information centre reports. The child suffered similar fractures in his hand bones and was transferred to hospital. more

ICC already has authority to investigate Israel for war crimes, legal group says

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), along with several other prominent legal groups, is urging the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “initiate her own investigation” into “crimes committed and ongoing during and immediately before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.”

In a letter written in August, during the last week of Israel’s 51 days of attacks on the Gaza Strip, NLG president Azadeh Shahshahani states that “Israel’s clearly disproportionate use of force against the 1.8 million residents of Gaza appears to have little to do with any claim of security, but seems to be calculated to exact revenge against Palestinian civilians.”

The letter lists specific examples of numerous violations of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s core treaty which defines international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

The NLG and endorsing organizations also write that the international court’s investigation “should include whether certain US officials have aided and abetted the commission of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in Gaza.” more

Displaced Palestinians receive 100 mobile homes in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Local organizations have donated 100 mobile homes to Palestinians displaced by Israel's military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, sources said Tuesday.

The homes, which were built locally and funded by charitable organizations, were donated to families in the Khuzaa neighborhood in Khan Younis.

Each home consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen, and bathroom and can house five people.

Suad Najjar, who lost her home in Israel's assault, told Ma'an that the mobile homes were not big enough to accommodate her family and worries that they could replace the rebuilding of her home.

"The mobile home fits only five. It is not enough for all my children, where would they live?" she said.

The mobile homes are the size of one room in her destroyed house, she said, adding that the properties should not become a permanent solution for those displaced.

"Where do we go if we do not rebuild our houses, to the sea? I will set up a tent next to my destroyed house and will cover it with plastic for the winter if I have to."

Khalil Najjar, another man displaced by Israel's war, said the mobile homes are not appropriate for winter and says his eight-member family is currently homeless.

A local charity worker, Imad al-Haddad, said that the mobile homes are temporary and the most essential step now is to allow construction material to enter Gaza. more

Settlers take over 23 Palestinian apartments in Silwan

A large group of extremist Israeli settlers, with members of the right-wing fundamentalist settlement group "Elad", broke into 23 Palestinian apartments in three buildings of Silwan town, in occupied Jerusalem, and seized them.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center, in Silwan, said that the attack started around 1:30 am, when dozens of settlers and soldiers invaded the town, and illegally took over 22 empty apartments, and one inhabited apartment after violently forcing the family out.

The Center added that dozens of soldiers and settlers were deployed in Wadi and Beidoun neighborhoods in Silwan, before breaking into the buildings.

The apartments belong to members of the families of Beidoun, al-Karaky, Abu Sbeih, Zawahra, al-‘Abbassi, al-Khayyat, Qara’in and al-Yamani.

The Center said the ownership of some of the apartments might have been leaked to the settlers through suspicious underground deals.

“The attack itself is illegitimate, carried out by Elad group, known for its agenda aiming at getting rid of the Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem,” Wadi Hilweh said. “The group is known for its illegal practices, and underground deals.” more

PLO: Netanyahu UN speech 'blatant manipulation of facts'

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Palestine Liberation Organisation said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly manipulated the facts when he compared Hamas with the Islamic State group in a UN speech on Monday.

"Netanyahu's speech at the UN was a blatant manipulation of facts and attempted at misleading the audience through a combination of hate language, slander, and argument of obfuscation," PLO executive member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement in English.

"Obviously Netanyahu has lost touch with reality, particularly in refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes," she added.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier, Netanyahu denied accusations of Israeli war crimes during its July-August offensive on the Gaza Strip that killed 2,140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and left the enclave in ruins.

He instead said that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was jointly culpable with Hamas, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel, bringing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes down on Gaza residents.

"Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel's warnings to leave," Netanyahu said.

"I say to president Abbas, these are the war crimes committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for," he said.

The Islamic State and Hamas, Netanyahu added, "share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control."

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu was "portraying Hamas and IS as two faces of the same coin" although "Hamas is a national liberation movement, while the (Israeli) occupier is the source of evil and terrorism in the world". more