Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Israel frees Palestinian speaker after year behind bars

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Tuesday released the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Duweik, following a year in administrative detention.

The Ahrar Center for Prisoners and Human Rights Studies said that Duweik, 67, was released from the Ofer prison near Ramallah after paying a fine of 6,000 shekels ($1,565).

Duweik, who is a member of Hamas, was detained from his home in Hebron during a massive arrest campaign in June 2014, known as "Operation Brother's Keeper," which was carried out in search of three missing teenage settlers. During the campaign, which lasted until June 30 when their bodies were found, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas, including leaders and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Palestine's parliament. Commentators suggested that Israel's real motive had been to drive a wedge between Hamas and Fatah, which earlier that month formed a national unity government.

More than 14 court sessions were held for Duweik during his year-long detention, the Ahrar Center said. Elected Speaker of the PLC in 2006, Duweik had previously been arrested by Israel forces three separate times between 2006 and 2014. more

Israel experiments with 'dirty' bomb

A series of experiments have been conducted by Israel to examine the effects of and damage caused by so-called "dirty" bombs, a combination of conventional explosive and radioactive materials. The tests were part of the "Green Field" project over the past four years at the nuclear reactor in Dimona. The project supervisors insisted that the objectives were defensive rather than offensive.

According to Haaretz, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the USA concerns grew about the possibility of terrorist gaining access to "dirty" bombs, as threatened by Al-Qaeda at the time. Such threats have not materialised. Israel, however, has been conducting the tests to see what might happen in the event that such a weapon is used.

In 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued instructions about the treatment necessary if dirty bombs were deployed against targets in the country. The experiments started in Dimona in 2010 and ended last year; their findings were published in scientific circles. Twenty bombs weighing between a quarter kilogram and 25 kilogram mixed with "Technetium-99m", which is used in the pharmaceutical industry, were built for the programme of tests. more

A Jewish reporter in Gaza responds to Jane Eisner

Today, Jane Eisner, editor in chief of the of The Jewish Daily Forward wrote a piece called “Why the Forward Sent a Brave Reporter to Gaza,” in which she described the decision to send their Middle East correspondent, Naomi Zeveloff, to Gaza for a three day reporting trip. She writes that the decision to send Zeveloff, who is Jewish, was “mulled over for many months” and required “complex planning.”

Eisner’s assumption is that Gaza is a dangerous place for a Jewish journalist to visit, even for a couple of interviews on a subject as non-controversial as psychological trauma. This viewpoint is shared by Eisner’s colleague at the Forward, JJ Goldberg, who put it into blunt terms last summer while debating The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah on Democracy Now!, claiming “I’d be shot” upon stepping foot into Gaza. Ironically, Goldberg’s claim is a succinct description of Israel’s “buffer zone” policy, in which any Palestinian who walks within a loosely-interpreted 300 meters of the border is shot by an Israeli soldier or remote-control machine gun.

As a journalist who happens to be Jewish and having spent almost four months on the ground in Gaza including the last weeks of the war last summer, it is clear to me that Eisner knows nothing of reality on the ground in Gaza. More than anything else, Eisner’s hysteria over sending Zeveloff to a place where journalists – Jewish and gentile — make regular visits, exposes her anti-Palestinian racism.

Eisner wrote about a rocket launch Zeveloff heard while she sat in a beachside hotel as “a frightening introduction to everyday life in Gaza.” Zeveloff featured a quote from an interviewee saying the rocket is the “soundtrack to Gaza.”

Since the final ceasefire last summer, however, rockets have been few and far between. If there is a soundtrack to Gaza, it is the incessant hum of drones and roar of F16s punctuated by Israeli gunfire and the laughter of children.

It is notable that Zeveloff’s piece doesn’t mention the subsequent 3am bombing campaign that was heard much farther away than that rocket. Following that night’s bombing, I visited Khuza’a, a village several miles away where Palestinians, whose homes across the street Israel flattened, are reduced to living in a caravan of shipping containers. A resident of the shipping containers, Ahmad Qudeh, told me his two-year-old son cried during the night that it was time to flee, again. Days later, two twelve-year-old neighbors told me that the bombs were so loud that they were certain Israel was targeting their building — a reasonable thought after Israel bombed Gaza’s landmark towers hours before the final ceasefire took effect last summer. more

UN keeps Israel off child rights blacklist

The United Nations on Monday released a "List of Shame" of children's rights violators but did not include Israel, despite an outcry over the death of more than 500 children in the Gaza war.

Rights groups had called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to add Israel to the list, and there was much debate among UN agencies ahead of the final decision that rested with the UN chief.

Ban decided that last year's list would remain unchanged, but said he was "deeply alarmed" by the "grave violations suffered by children as a result of Israeli military operations in 2014."

"The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law, particularly in relation to excessive use of force," he said.

The UN chief cited a "dramatic increase" in the number of children killed in Israel and in the Palestinian territories in 2014.

At least 561 children (557 Palestinian, four Israeli) were killed and 4,271 injured (4,249 Palestinian and 22 Israeli) last year. more