Posted on 03 April 2013.
Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Lest We Forget–During circumcision, Rabbi sucks the penis of the baby boy
Posted on 03 April 2013.
ed note–please pay attention to the paragraph in red and see the similarities between then and now, as well as the collusion that existed/exists today between Jewish organized crime and the leaders of the Jewish community.
“In Raquel’s Footsteps” by filmmaker Gabriela Bohm shines a spotlight on yet another unsavory chapter in South American Jewish history: the sex-trafficking during the late 19th and early 20th century, when thousands of young Jewish women from Eastern Europe were forced into prostitution in South America, primarily in Argentina but also in Brazil and Uruguay.
“My feeling is that Jewish people are people like any people, and we have everything in our people,” says Böhm, 48, who runs her own film production company out of Los Angeles. After a several-year detour in Israel and then New York, where she studied film, Böhm eventually settled in the West Coast of the United States. “For me there is a need to bring up secrets and uncomfortable chapters in Jewish history in order to move ahead.”
So successful has the Jewish community of South America been in sweeping this sore subject under the rug, says Böhm, that to this day the typical response to the topic of her latest film project is pure disbelief. “’What, there were Jews in sex trafficking?’ people ask me. ‘It can’t be possible.’”
For several decades around the turn of the last century, a gang of Jewish mobsters, known as the Zwi Migdal, headquartered in Argentina and operating under the guise of a mutual-aid association, dispatched envoys to the poor shtetls of Eastern Europe to ensnare young Jewish women, often under the false pretense of marriage, and sell them into prostitution after they made the journey across the ocean. Thousands of miles from their families and with no means of support, these women were trapped for life.
“Once I decided to make the film, I knew that the best way to tell this story was through one strong character, someone who stood up,” recalls Böhm, “and that character became Raquel Liberman, the woman who eventually broke the silence.”
Liberman’s story, however, was not typical. Born in Ukraine in 1900, she followed her husband to Warsaw and eventually, with their two children in tow, to Buenos Aires. He went on ahead of them in order to pave the way to a better life. But after the family was finally reunited, two years later, her husband contracted tuberculosis. He died a year later. Liberman, then in her early 20s, was on her own in a strange land with two young children to feed. The Zwi Migdal pimps eventually got their hands on the young widow.
But after a few miserable years of selling her body for food, in a state of total despair, Liberman decided to do what was then considered unthinkable: She went to the police. Her act of defiance sparked a widespread backlash against the mobsters, supported by the Jewish community leadership, that in the early 1930s put an end to the Jewish sex trafficking industry.
Once she was freed Liberman began to apply for a visa to return to Poland. She died in 1935, though, while still in Argentina, of thyroid cancer, never realizing her dream of returning to a country where she would also most likely have met certain death within a few years.
In the course of her research Böhm discovered that the Zwi Migdal mobsters became so ostracized in their respective Jewish communities that they were banned from burial in the main Jewish cemeteries. Paradoxically, they were forced to share special segregated cemeteries with another group of community outcasts: the Jewish prostitutes they brought to South America.
“To this day, it’s difficult to get into these cemeteries,” Böhm says. “People just don’t want you stirring the pot. I had to invent some story of visiting the grave of someone I knew in order to get permission to go inside.” Although she has searched around Argentina, Böhm has yet to discover Liberman’s final resting place.
For her research Böhm relied heavily on a number of books, including two in English: “The Jewish White Slave Trade and the Untold Story of Raquel Liberman” (2000) by Nora Glickman and “Bodies and Souls: The Trafficking of Jewish Immigrant Prostitutes in the Americas” (2005) by Isabel Vincent.
“In Raquel’s Footsteps” incorporates old photos, recently discovered letters written by the heroine to her husband, interviews with experts and several reenactments designed to illustrate what life was like for these young Jewish prostitutes in South America.
Neither of Liberman’s two sons ever learned of their mother’s engagement in prostitution, according to Böhm, since they lived with another family during that period of her life. Several years ago, when a photo of Liberman appeared on television as part of a special program on the Zwi Migdal, a daughter of one of her sons, Raquel Ferber de Romeo, was shocked to recognize her grandmother’s face and subsequently contacted one of the panelists to find out more about Liberman’s past. The granddaughter, however, refused to be interviewed for the film.
Connecting audiences to a relatively little-known character who is long dead presents unique challenges, acknowledges Böhm. “But I’m a visual storyteller, and I enjoy the challenge of bringing a story like this to life,” she says.
If not her heroine, then at least her heroine’s story will live on, Böhm hopes, and inspire some of the millions of victims of sex trafficking today to take a stand as Liberman did.
Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Jewish prostitution ring exposed in documentar
Posted on 03 April 2013.
You’re just going to have to listen for yourself to find out…
Nevertheless, we are joined by the GREAT and magnificent Ken O’Keefe to discuss his recent trip to Iran and the politics of Israel’s ‘apology’ to Turkey.
THANK YOU FOR ASSISTING WITH THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH PRODUCING THIS PROGRAM
Posted in InterviewComments Off on TUT Broadcast: Ken O’Keefe Recent Trip to Iran
Posted on 03 April 2013.
Posted on 03 April 2013.
As the government approached a “fiscal cliff” for the second time, drone spending continued to skyrocket. Massive military spending has long helped keep the U.S. economy afloat. It is no surprise, then, that the Pentagon’s newest military obsession—drones—are extremely profitable for the military-industrial complex (MIC).
Drones are highly sophisticated killing machines. Compared to a manned aircraft, they can last up to 24 hours in the air. But their value to U.S. imperialism is primarily political, not technological. They decrease the potential for U.S. casualties and, and thus opposition to the war by soldiers and the U.S. population.
There is also economic value. In this era of budget-slashing, drones can be upheld as a more cost-effective way of projecting hegemony and power all over the world. They are, after all, far cheaper than the deployment of troops to foreign countries, but able to carry out destructive attacks.
What appears as a “bargain” to the Pentagon and policymakers is no bargain for poor and working people. If anything, drones are just another way to drain badly needed public resources and tax dollars, instead pouring them into the pockets of military contractors and banks.
Wall Street’s price tag
Companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics have long manufactured and profited from drones.
Compared to manned aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s F-22 fighter jets that cost about $150 million each to produce, F-35s for $90 million, or F-16s for $55 million, a Reaper drone costs $28.4 million. Predator drones cost only about $5 million to make. The government is planning on spending $885 million in the fiscal year of 2013 on the purchase of 24 Reaper drones alone. That is $36 million per drone, which means the MIC private companies are profiting massively off the production of these murderous weapons.
The warplanes, tanks, cruise missiles and equipment made by these private companies are ultimately paid for by the government.
Cutting social services, building up drones
The debt ceiling, “fiscal cliff” and sequestration negotiations created the illusion that there is an inescapable budget crisis in the richest country in the world. The artificial crisis can only be resolved, wide sections of the ruling class claim, by slashing “entitlements,” such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and vital social programs on which tens of millions of poor and working people rely. Both parties, by contrast, react in horror and blame each other about the possibility of the military budget being cut by any significant margin.
Today, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year on militarism and war. The Pentagon’s enormous budget alone accounts for 57 percent of all discretionary spending. The amount spent by the United States on “defense” is greater than the rest of the world combined.
While 147 million people in the United States are in or near poverty, millions have simply given up looking for work and students are avalanched under crushing debt, the political “representatives” are signing away enormous sums to build drones, fighter jets and bombs.
The PSL calls for shutting down the military-industrial complex and all U.S. military bases around the world. The troops need to return home to meaningful jobs, education and full health care.
The real solution to the “budget crisis” would be a massive jobs program for the people, which could be funded with the Pentagon’s trillion-dollar budget. This will not happen in a capitalist system that relies on constant war and intimidation in order to dominate world markets. But it is worth remembering anytime someone in front of a camera claims the country is broke. There is a lot of money out there, and it could go to meeting people’s needs.
Posted in USAComments Off on Who’s getting rich off drones?
Posted on 03 April 2013.
In a rare moment of honest questioning from the big-business media, in February, ABC reporter Jon Karl asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “How does dropping a bomb on an American citizen without any judicial review, without any trial, not raise the very human rights questions, or more human rights questions, raised by something like waterboarding?”
The reporter noted the contradiction that President Obama repeatedly came out against torturing terrorist suspects, but now has insisted that it is legal to kill them. Carney failed to give a straight answer.
It is not just this single reporter who is struggling to wrap his head around the contradiction. A whole layer of rank-and-file Democratic party activists, many who proudly wear the “progressive” label, are increasingly showing their discomfort—or even disdain—for a policy that directly replicates Bush’s “War on Terror” legal doctrines.
Combined with last year’s revelations about secret “kill lists”—in which he personally selects and orders who will be killed by drones—the president’s well-cultivated public perception as an anti-war figure has been dramatically diminished.
Instead of a new era of transparency and respect for civil liberties, as promised, the last four years have only accelerated the general trend under Bush—continued mass surveillance, a new law allowing indefinite detention without a trial, the crackdown on the Occupy movement, and now legal justification for assassinating U.S. citizens alleged to be terrorists.
Official liberalism completely inept
Mainstream liberal figures, projecting a new era of progressivism after the November election, were given a reality shock with the leaking of the Democrats’ Department of Justice memo justifying assassinations. Rachel Maddow and the MSNBC crew, who made their careers criticizing Bush’s foreign policy, could only speak of the “complexity” of the issue and their “concerns.” The Democrats’ Progressive Caucus in the House, the left wing of bourgeois politics, only demanded that the administration release more information on the unconstitutional kill program. The White House refused.
Clearly, the political establishment will provide no solution to the national security state. Because the two parties and ruling class as a whole have consensus on it, the “loyal opposition” in the Democratic Party has accepted it as well.
As always, the job of creating real social and political change falls to working-class and oppressed people, and to the radicals who refuse to accept the status quo.
Creating a movement
Showing the enormous gap between the administration’s promises and its actual practice— breaking people’s political allegiance to the Democratic Party—is a top priority for people who want to build a revolutionary alternative inside the United States. The critical question is how.
Creating a movement under present political conditions is not as easy as declaring it. It requires sober evaluation of the political mood of those we want to reach. It requires organization to synthesize the experiences of organizers across the country, and from there craft a forward-looking strategy.
Obama retains, for instance, deep support in African American communities, especially when posed against his right-wing critics and those who could be perceived as racist. He scored significant margins of victory among Latinos, Asian Americans, Native people and the LGBT community. Hundreds of thousands of self-identified progressives campaigned and voted for Obama, despite their misgivings or differences with his policies.
So what can be done? The approach of the Party for Socialism and Liberation is to create opportunities for struggle against the government, campaigns through which the crimes of the system can be exposed and popularly understood. Experience shows that people’s consciousness shifts most dramatically through the process and experience of struggle itself. The upcoming April 13 demonstration against drone warfare in Africa is one example. Marches against police brutality are another.
There is no political prerequisite for people to join these activities. In fact, we hope that they also draw those who still may consider themselves Obama supporters, but have grown opposed to certain administration policies.
The task of socialist politics is figuring out how to raise class consciousness out of such opportunities.
Personal betrayal or systemic problems?
While Pres. Obama ultimately bears moral and political responsibility for the administration’s policies, it is of little use to attribute these policies to personal treachery or defect of character. Such explanations suggest that a president of better character, who presumably could come along soon, would do better. Nor is attacking him personally likely to convince anyone who is not already convinced. In fact, personal attacks are most likely to stimulate his supporters— many of whom would accept the substance of a critique of his program—to instead rally to his defense.
Obama’s willful continuation of drone war, surveillance and abrogation of civil liberties must be explained as part of a broader system. It is the program of U.S. imperialism in an era of heightened vulnerability, the decline of domestic living standards and confidence in the country’s political leadership.
It reflects a ruling class acutely insecure about the rise of new global competitors and, in the wake of the Iraq war, the inadequacy of sheer military might. It reflects a tendency to monitor and incarcerate those sections of the working class that are chronically unemployed in this era of high technology. It reflects the state’s anxiety with the potential of instantaneous mass communication and thus its attempt to convert such technologies into tools of mass intelligence collection turned on the public.
In short, these odious policies are products of a society in which a tiny clique of people control the wealth and political power, while the vast majority are barely scraping by. How to maintain stability in such an arrangement is a daily preoccupation of the ruling-class planners, lawmakers, analysts and managers. The policies the Obama administration releases are thus not developed willy-nilly. They are but a compressed version of ruling-class opinion.
Therefore, the only way to overthrow this trend toward ever-growing surveillance, undeclared wars and extrajudicial assassinations is to get rid of the basic inequality at the foundation of society, as well as the bureaucracies and institutions that have been built around sustaining that inequality.
Some may be intimidated by the widening police and surveillance powers of the state. But these tools, which are meant to convey absolute power, are in fact a sign of the government’s underlying weakness and fear. That is the message of confidence that must be conveyed—that we have the numbers, that we too can be organized and that, one day, we will win.
Posted in USAComments Off on Mass surveillance, drone warfare and building a movement in the Obama era.
Posted on 03 April 2013.
While the drone program of the U.S. military has received extensive coverage, its junior partner, the apartheid state of Israel, has long been a pioneer of the technology. From Palestine to Colombia to Afghanistan, pro-imperialist forces use Israeli drones as instruments of terror and repression.
Israel was the first country to develop modern unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and to use it on a mass scale in a military operation—its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Israel is now the largest exporter of drones in the world and has set up subsidiaries in other countries—including in Columbus, Miss.—to increase drone production and sales.
Israel’s leading role in drone development is no historical coincidence. It stems from the state’s settler-colonial character, as a state that is widely seen as illegitimate among the region’s indigenous peoples. It only sustains itself through constant expansion, military fortification and various forms of asymetric warfare.
In the chilling words of a senior Israeli official, the country has been able to position itself on the cutting edge of drone technology because of “combat experience that helps us understand what we need and immediate operational use since we are always in a conflict which allows us to perfect our systems.” (emphasis added)
This “combat experience” was demonstrated during the murderous Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza last November. Twenty-nine Palestinian civilians, including eight children, were killed by Israeli drone strikes, representing more than one-fourth of all civilian casualties during the eight-day massacre.
Polling of the Israeli population found that the vast majority supported air strikes on Gaza, but opposed a ground invasion that could end in stalemate or defeat—as in Lebanon in 2006—and would risk significant Israeli lives. The deployment of drones thus corresponds to a popular weariness inside the imperialist centers with traditional wars of conquest—especially after recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Drones are not just used in times of direct war. They are an important component of the larger mechanism of occupation, constantly spying on and carrying out targeted assassinations of Palestinians.
Israeli drones around the world
Israel routinely “lends” drones to countries participating in the brutal occupation of Afghanistan if they do not have their own drone arsenal.
In early 2012, news broke that Israel had sold a $50 million drone technology system to the government of Colombia, a U.S. client regime that serves as a bulwark against the rising tide of progressive, independent governments in Latin America. Reports suggest that the drones will be used along the Venezuelan border — a clear attempt to intimidate the pro-socialist government of Hugo Chavez — and to aid in the war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who are fighting for the rights of the country’s workers and farmers.
In early 2010, Israel unveiled the enormous Heron TP drone, effectively a pilotless heavy bomber the size of a commercial airliner. The long-range capacity of this drone is a clear threat aimed at Iran, a country that has long been a thorn in the side of U.S. imperialism and Zionist expansion.
Israeli drone technology, like all of its military development, is largely subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer in the form of billions of dollars of yearly military aid. The crimes committed by the Israeli regime continue with the seemingly endless political and diplomatic support of the U.S. government. Progressives and revolutionaries in the United States are well-positioned to deal a serious blow to Israel’s murderous drone program by fighting for an end to this partnership.
Drones are a frightening new addition to the arsenal of world imperialism. But history shows that no technological advance among the forces of repression is great enough to permanently stifle the struggle of poor and working people. As the mechanisms of oppression grow more sophisticated, so will the resistance of the oppressed.
Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Apartheid IsraHell on cutting edge of drone development.
Posted on 03 April 2013.
On Feb. 22, President Obama outlined in a letter to Congress the contours of a new drone base in the West African nation of Niger.
The letter outlined operations that may, on the surface, seem somewhat limited: 100 U.S. troops deployed to provide “support for intelligence collection.”
In fact, the letter does not acknowledge its primary function—to expand the government’s deadly drone program on the continent. The administration prefers to hide the details of this program deeply in the shadows, but unnamed Pentagon officials admitted to the Washington Post that drones would in fact be deployed in the Niger operation.
The Pentagon official claimed the drones would be used purely for surveillance, but administration sources confirmed that the offensive use of drones had “not been ruled out.” In view of the murderous record of the U.S. drone program, it is hard to believe that drone strikes will not be coming soon to West Africa.
This is a significant milestone in a pattern of aggressive U.S. imperialist activity on the African continent. In Niger, this is a major expansion of the existing surveillance mission, of lesser capability, carried out by mercenaries—or, as the Post calls them, “military contractors.”
The expansion in Niger, to be run out of the capital of Niamey before moving to more remote areas, has a special focus on providing intelligence to the French-led intervention force in Mali. To the extent its mission will be purely “intelligence gathering,” the U.S. drones will play a crucial part in conducting deadly operations. Under U.S. legal code, a knowing accomplice to murder can receive the same sentence as those who carry out the actual crime. A similar judgment must be extended to U.S. forces in league with French neocolonialism.
The news of a drone base in Niger comes just as a U.S. Congressional delegation is touring Mali. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware, head of the delegation, told reporters in Bamako that renewal of direct military support to Mali is “likely” following the next round of elections, which have been arranged by western imperialism and the Economic Community of West African States.
The role of Africom
The most direct purpose of the drone base is to stabilize the Sahel region, from which the United States and other Western powers are hoping to eliminate all opposition to their agenda. But it has implications across the entire continent.
The Niger operation must be seen in the broader context of the increasing U.S. military presence in Africa. Africom, the U.S. military command overseeing Africa, has recently organized a 4,000-person military unit that will be deploying missions in up to 35 African countries. According to the Army’s own website, these forces are participating in both “combined arms” and “wider-area security” training. In other words, they are training for wars of all types, which presumably have likewise “not been ruled out” by the Obama administration.
Adding insult to the anticipated injuries to be committed by these forces, former Africom commander General Carter Ham has emphasized that U.S. training missions must focus not just on the technical aspects of military training, but also “values” and “ethics.”
Newly confirmed Africom commander General David Rodriguez has stated that Africom has only met 50 percent of its “intelligence” needs. He plans for resources drawn down in Afghanistan to be shifted to Africa.
Africa as pivot to imperialist strategy
During Gen. Rodriguez’s confirmation hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of increasing U.S. influence on the African continent to counter China: “China is all over Africa. … [I]f we can organize ourselves in this sector we can win. … I mean win in terms of business contracts, business opportunities, jobs for Americans, ability to export.”
It is undeniable that the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism have increasingly turned to the African continent. The new Niger base must be connected to the expanding military relationships with African countries, the well-trained troops strung across the continent, the killer drone program, the CIA secret prison in Somalia and a major special operations base in Djibouti.
U.S. support for the French intervention in Mali has been steadfast, providing refueling and other logistical support, as well as intelligence-sharing. This vastly expanded military program comes on top of the stated goals of the administration to increase U.S. hegemony over African goods and markets.
Clearly, such ambitious plans are predicated on the belief by the American ruling elites that there will be no significant opposition to their policies of enriching themselves on the backs of others. However, there is opposition to the imperialist agenda both on the continent and in the United States.
On April 13, anti-war, anti-imperialist, African solidarity and African immigrant organizations, among others, will converge on the White House in Washington, D.C., to oppose the expansion of drone-led imperialism in Africa and everywhere. The bold moves by the warmongers in the White House, Pentagon and Langley require an equally bold response. Progressive-minded people in the United States should do all they can to support the April 13 demonstration and deliver a powerful message of defiance.
Posted on 03 April 2013.
This statement was originally published on the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) website.
The American war propaganda machine does a thorough job in misleading the public about the high-stakes struggle the Pentagon is waging against North Korea.
On March 28, the Obama administration ordered and the Pentagon executed a mock bombing attack on North Korea by U.S. B-2 stealth bombers equipped to drop nuclear bombs—the most advanced nuclear-capable plane in the U.S. Air Force. In recent months, the U.S. has also used nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to simulate the bombing of North Korea.
The B-2s, each of which costs taxpayers more than $3 billion, dropped inert bombs near North Korea.
It is not necessary to speculate how the United States would react if North Korea sent nuclear-capable bombers close to U.S. territory and dropped inert bombs as part of a “war game.”
By itself, this B-2 mock bombing of North Korea cost approximately $5.5 million, according to Foreign Policy magazine. The B-2 flights by some estimates cost $135,000 per hour—almost double that of any other military airplane, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity.
The U.S. carpet-bombed North Korea for three years
It is not possible to overstate the impact on North Korea of this week’s simulated destruction of their country and people by U.S. war planes.
Between 1950 and 1953, U.S. bombers carpet-bombed North Korea so relentlessly that a main complaint of U.S. pilots became the absence of anything left to bomb. By July 1953, when an armistice was signed ending open military hostilities, there was not one structure standing higher than one story left in North Korea.
More than 5 million Koreans died during the war, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1967. They died from bombs and bullets. They died from disease and exposure to the cold. They died in horrific massacres committed by retreating U.S. troops, who burned “pro-communist villages” as they were fleeing in retreat from North Korea in the face of a surprise counteroffensive launched by Chinese and North Korean units in late October 1950.
It was the United States that remained after the armistice to occupy South Korea with tens of thousands of troops. The Pentagon required that its occupying troops be exempted from ever having to stand before Korean courts if they were charged with the murder or rape of Korean citizens. South Korea’s military dictators, who had earlier served as proxies of the Japanese occupation forces prior to 1945, were more than happy to oblige their new bosses.
Pentagon backed the military dictatorship in South Korea
Under the tight control and supervision of the Pentagon, a brutal military dictatorship ruled South Korea for decades.
In 1961, General Park Chung-hee, formerly an officer in the Japanese Manchuko Imperial Army during the time of Japan’s brutal colonial occupation of Korea, seized power and held it until his assassination by other military officers in 1979. Any South Korean person who said anything sympathetic about communism, socialism or North Korea was sentenced to decades-long prison terms where torture was a given.
South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is the daughter of General Park Chung-hee.
The role of the Pentagon and its continuing occupation has been decisive in Korean politics. After the assassination of Park Chung-hee, massive protests were staged in May 1980 against the military dictatorship in the South Korean city of Kwangju.
The pro-democracy movement in Kwangju was labeled “communist-inspired” and the rebellion was crushed in blood. More than 2,000 people were killed May 18 to 27, 1980. Later released secret documents revealed that it was the top brass of the U.S. occupation force that authorized soldiers of the Korean Army’s 20th Division to be sent to Kwangju to suppress the protesting students.
The Pentagon and the South Korean military today—and throughout the past year—have been staging massive war games that simulate the invasion and bombing of North Korea.
Few people in the United States know the real situation. The work of the war propaganda machine is designed to make sure that the American people do not join together to demand an end to the dangerous and threatening actions of the Pentagon on the Korean Peninsula.
The propaganda campaign is in full swing now as the Pentagon climbs the escalation ladder in the most militarized part of the planet. North Korea is depicted as the provocateur and aggressor whenever they assert that they have the right and capability to defend their country. Even as the Pentagon simulates the nuclear destruction of a country that it had already tried to bomb into the stone-age, the corporate-owned media characterizes this extremely provocative act as a sign of “resolve” and a measure of “self-defense.”
As the Pentagon climbs the escalation ladder, North Korea will climb too. That is often how wars start.
The North Korea media yesterday reported Kim Jong-un “convened an urgent operation meeting” of senior generals just after midnight, signed a rocket preparation plan and ordered his forces on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii, state media reported. (AP, March 29)
Posted in North KoreaComments Off on The war danger in Korea
Posted on 03 April 2013.
‘The soldiers answered his screams with laughter and then shot more bullets’
As Palestinian Child Day is celebrated on 5 April, Omsiyat Kamal ‘Awaja (15) is one of many Palestinian children for whom the day, like every other, will be marked by unbearable loss and suffering. It is impossible to count the number of children in the Gaza Strip who have been directly affected by loss. Since the outbreak of al-Aqsa Intifada on 28 September 2000, PCHR has documented the killing of 958 Palestinian children and injury of 6,355 others in the Gaza Strip. 313 children were killed during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (2008-9), and a further 35 children were killed during ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’ in November 2012. PCHR has also documented the tragic consequences on thousands of children of the destruction of their homes, denying them the right to shelter.
A small, mud house with a small yard in the front, piles of pots and kitchen utensils scattered here and there, a number of books leaning against the wall of the house, which barely shelters its residents. That is what the house in which Omsiyat currently lives looks like. The house was built by UNRWA as a temporary alternative for the ‘Awaja family home, which was destroyed by Israeli forces in 2009 during ‘Operation Cast Lead’.
“Before moving to the house that you are seeing now, we lived in a tent for around two years. During that time, we realised exactly what it feels like to be a displaced person with no home. We did not get used to living in a tent. It took us a long time to adjust, as we used to live in a big house with most of the things we needed.”
On 4 January 2009, Israeli forces destroyed the ‘Awaja building in Beit Lahia without any prior warning. The residents fled to a neighbouring tract of land when Israeli bulldozers began to destroy their home. After the house had been destroyed, the children’s mother, Wafaa’ (36), went back to collect what could be salvaged from under the rubble. She was accompanied by three of her children, Diaa, Sobhi, and Ibrahim, each of whom was younger than 13 years of age.
Omsiyat recalls: “My brother, Ibrahim, was the first to be injured, sustaining injuries in his waist. Mom screamed out, so Dad went to check on her, and picked up my brother. They left the house, or what remained of it, and Dad was screaming, ‘My son is injured. We need an ambulance.’ The Israeli soldiers were still in the area. They answered his screams with laughter and then shot more bullets, so that Dad was injured, as well as my mother. My father was left lying on the street and Ibrahim was lying next to him. My mother crawled until she reached my siblings and me where we were hiding behind a wall. We saw the Israeli soldiers approaching and shooting at Ibrahim, and Dad told us later that he had died.”
More than four years later, Omsiyat is still torn apart by regret. Though very young, she feels guilty about the death of her brother because she failed to help him. “When my Dad, Mom, and Ibrahim were injured, I stood there, unable to do anything, though I am the oldest of my siblings. I cannot forget what happened and I feel so much pain whenever I remember that I did not try to help. The idea that my help might have done something, in some way or another, to rescue my brother never leaves my mind, and it causes my stomach to ache. Maybe if I had tried to pull Ibrahim away from the Israeli crossfire, he would still be alive.”
Omsiyat was severely affected by the suffering that she and her family went through. Her father, Kamal (51), says, “Omsiyat suffered so much after the death of her brother and the destruction of our house. It took us a long time to settle into our new life in the tent, and then in the mud house, as neither could compare to the house we used to live in and what I used to provide for my children. My child was executed, my house was destroyed, and I turned from being a father who provided the best he could for his family to a father who is incapable even of providing a suitable house for his family. Days pass by meaninglessly. This how we all feel. Even psychotherapy sessions could not help us to get over this. My wife, children, and I share an indescribable feeling of oppression.”
Omsiyat describes how her father, Kamal (51), tried his best to create a nice environment for his children to live in: “Dad installed an internet line in the tent and bought us a computer. He also replaced most of the electronic devices we used to have in our house, but unfortunately he could not build a new house because he did not have enough money. UNRWA built us this temporary house and told my Dad recently that they are planning to demolish it to build a new permanent house. We are preparing to go back to living in a tent.”
The family will live in a tent again until UNRWA finishes building the permanent house. “Although I know from experience how harsh it is to live in tents, the idea of going back to the tent does not worry me. In comparison to what we have been through, tents seem luxurious.”
Omsiyat used to love drawing landscapes, but today she only draws scenes of death and destruction. “I can see no beauty around me and I am no good at drawing anything but warplanes, tanks, and funerals. I used to love drawing landscapes. All I drew in my paintings were flowers, butterflies, and trees. Now, when I intend to draw a flower, I automatically draw a tank, a tent, or a destroyed house.”
Omsiyat’s story is included in a report that PCHR has recently published, ‘The Best is Yet to Come’, along with the accounts of 14 more children in the Gaza Strip who have experienced bereavement, injury, the injury of a loved one, the destruction of a home, or long-term separation from a father who is in prison. The report was funded by UNICEF.
Palestinian children are a particularly vulnerable group and are among those most affected by Israeli forces’ violations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which have been ongoing since 1967. International humanitarian law (IHL) grants children two forms of protection: first, the general protection granted to them as non-combatant individuals; second, special protection as they are considered to be a particularly vulnerable group in times of war and armed conflict.
Under the principle of distinction, parties to a conflict must, at all times, distinguish between civilians and combatants, and civilian objects and military targets. Violations of this principle constitute war crimes, as defined in, inter alia, Articles 8(2)(b)(i), and (ii) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Depending on the scale of such attacks, and whether they form part of a plan or policy, such attacks may also constitute the crime of wilful killing and be a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.
In addition, IHL requires that any attack must be proportionate. An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Furthermore, under the principle of precaution,customary IHL requires that all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, or at least to minimise, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.