Archive | April 26th, 2013

Palestinian, Israeli, and international organisations issue joint statement



On Wednesday, 24 April 2013, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) concluded its international legal conference in Malaga, titled “Pursuing justice and redress for Palestinian victims: developing strategies for advocacy and litigation”. A joint statement outlining the conclusions of the conference was released today, Thursday 25 April, and signed by Adalah, Al Dameer Association for Human Rights, Al Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem, the International Federation for Human Rights, PCHR, and Redress.

The conference addressed, amongst other issues, recent developments within the Israeli legal system, which are effectively blocking nearly all avenues for access to justice for Palestinian victims. Discussion centred around legal, practical, and procedural obstacles that have been put in place over a number of years, which have made it practically impossible for victims to pursue accountability and their right to redress.

PCHR convened the conference with the aim of developing possible legal and advocacy strategies for moving forward in the pursuit of justice for victims. The conference was participated in by representatives from  Adalah, Al Dameer Association for Human Rights, Al Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council, PCHR, Physicians for Human Rights, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Redress, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as international lawyers Emily Schaeffer and Daniel Machover, and international legal expert, Chantal Meloni.

This is the fourth conference of its kind organised by PCHR, in close cooperation with international partners, especially Al Quds Malaga, and attended by Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organisations and lawyers.

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No indictments in ‘Prisoner X’ affair




State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said Thursday that the State cannot determine based on evidence in the “Prisoner X” affair that members of the Israel Prison Service or any other outside individuals caused Ben Zygier’s death due to reckless behavior and there will therefore be no indictments in the case.

A statement on behalf of the State Prosecutor’s Office further noted that materials regarding supervision faults on the day Zygier committed suicide will be relayed to the IPS for further action.

The statement said that the IPS will do everything in its power to reduce the number of prisoners’ suicides.

Also Thursday, a report drafted by the State Prosecutor’s Office which was authorized for publication reveals details from Zygier’s last conversation with his wife which may shed light on the prisoner’s state of mind on the day he committed suicide at the Ayalon Prison.

The report says that after seeing his wife on the day of his suicide, an intelligence officer noticed he was “visibly upset and crying.” It was further noted that he had been given “bad news.”

On December 15, 2010 at 11 am Zygier was paid a visit by his wife and daughter who were escorted by an intelligence officer. An hour later, the officer entered the prison cell to accompany the family on their way out and noticed Zygier was upset and in tears. The prisoner asked to deliver a note to his wife but the officer refused. Zygier tore the note in response.

Zygier’s wife then asked to reenter her husband’s cell in order to calm him down and was granted her request. In his testimony the intelligence officer said that the wife was crying after she stepped out of the cell several minutes later. According to evidence, Zygier had received bad news during the visit.

The officer reported this to his superior who in turn updated the social worker and ordered the guards at the prison’s command center to pay special attention to the prisoner.

The social worker testified that she had indeed been told of the visit but that she did not see anything unusual in it as Zygier was often upset after phone calls and visits by his family. She therefore did not issue any special directive on the matter. She further testified that at around 5 pm-6 pm she was told by a guard that Zygier was calm and watching TV.

It was further noted that Zygier had been seen by three different psychiatrists on 14 occasions and had met with social workers 57 times during the nine months of his incarceration.

“In all their reports the psychiatrists stated that the deceased had ruled out any suicidal tendencies. Such concerns were not raised in meetings with the social workers either,” the State’s report said. Nevertheless, the report noted that Zygier had attempted suicide twice during his time in custody.

‘No way to save his life’
Lador’s statement also quoted the inquest report which said that there was no way to save Zygier’s life. “The evidence suggests that the noose around the deceased’s neck was particularly tight as the sheet was wet and twisted and it can easily be inferred that the deceased had died within a matter of seconds.

It can therefore be deduced that even if supervision had met the guidelines – i.e. a comprehensive check every thirty minutes – it still cannot be determined whether his life could have been saved.”

According to the report, one psychiatrist who met with Zygier a year before his death stated that Zygier had said he tried to kill himself twice in the past and added that he suffered from anxiety. The psychiatrist concluded that “there is no need for special supervision.”

However, the report states that Zygier had originally been categorized as a prisoner who requires monitoring and supervision. He had been under the careful watch of health practitioners for possible suicide attempts and the Prison Service strictly observed the directives until the day of Zygier’s death.

IPS failures

The report lists a number of Prison Guard personnel found to be responsible for various failures including failure to notice suspicious signs, failure to adhere to supervision directives and failure to repair the broken camera. It was also noted that the social worker failed to recognize the troubled state Zygier was in after the visit.

The State concluded that “an examination of the circumstances of the event leads to the conclusion that had the deceased been supervised from the control room, his entrance into the shower at 6:54 pm would have been detected, his unusual movements observed and staff would have noticed the unusual situation which called for intervention.”

The report finally stated that some evidence was found to support the supposition that various IPS failures caused the prisoner’s death.”

The new report includes details from Zygier’s last day. Here is a timeline of the events:

6:05 pm: Lights in cell turned off, prisoner puts sheets on a chair and gets into bed.
6:05 pm: TV set in cell turned on.
6:06 pm: TV set turned off.
6:54 pm: Prisoner gets out of bed, TV set turned on.
6:54 pm: Prisoner enters toilet, room is dark, toilet darker. Movement and man’s silhouette spotted in toilet / shower.
8:19 pm: Lights turned on in cell, prisoner’s motionless torso seen in shower

The report noted the following faults found in the IPS’s conduct on the day of Zygier’s death: The command room was left unattended, there was no documented supervision of the prisoner from 5:52 pm, a technical fault prevented one camera from transmitting footage to the command center.

A partial report on the circumstances of Zygier’s death was released in February shortly after the Prisoner X affair was exposed.

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Nazi Racism in Tel Aviv: ‘Death to Arabs’ on apartment door


הכתובות על דלת הדירה (צילום: גלעד מורג)


Arab youngsters residing in south Tel Aviv were shocked to discover hate graffiti sprayed on the door of their apartment earlier this week. The graffiti read, “death to Arabs” “go away” and “price tag.”

According to a complaint they filed with the police, unknown assailants broke into their apartment Saturday night and spray-painted hate slogans on the front door. Police launched an investigation.

The incident was also reported in a Facebook post by Attorney Barack Cohen, a social activist.

“Arab youngsters rented an apartment in a neighborhood in Tel Aviv,” he wrote. “They never harmed anyone, nor endangered the wellbeing of ‘Zionists’ or anyone else.

“They live in harmony with their neighbors. Their house was broken into, racist graffiti was sprayed – the only thing they left untouched was the mezuzah.”

A neighbor residing in the building said, “This is a free world and anyone can live wherever they want. They didn’t do any harm. I don’t see what’s wrong with them living here.”

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Zio-Nazi Navy Opens Fire At Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza


Israeli Navy boats opened fire at a number of Palestinian fishing boats at the Gaza coast, an issue that forced them back to the shore without being able to fish, the Palestine News Network (PNN) has reported.


Eyewitnesses said that the Navy fire dozens of live rounds into the air and a few rounds at the fishing boats while the fishermen were in the three nautical miles allotted to them by IsraHell.

The attack is similar to numerous attacks against the fishermen leading to dozens of casualties, arrests, and the destruction of fishing boats more than five years ago.

Under the Oslo accords in the mid-nineties, the Palestinians are allowed to fish in 20 nautical miles off the Gaza shore, but in 2008, Israel unilaterally reduced the fishing area to three nautical miles.

As part of the ceasefire agreement that ended the Israeli war on Gaza in November 2012, Palestinian fishermen were allowed to fish within six nautical miles off the Gaza coast, but the army continued to attack them in their allotted areas.


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Man Accused Of Sending Tainted Letters Cleared


ed note–so, as in the case of the anthrax laced letters sent after 9/11 which were not solved, this latest–coming right on the heals of the Boston Massacre, also have no suspects.

Thrust into the headlines last week, accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and two other officials, Paul Kevin Curtis is a free man again.

“It’s like a train has been lifted off my shoulders,” Curtis told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” on Tuesday. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m extremely happy to be vindicated and out and able to see my kids.”

Charges were dropped and “new information” became available, U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams said.

Authorities are investigating whether someone may have tried to falsely implicate the Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi, a law enforcement source said on condition of anonymity.

Curtis was arrested April 17 and charged with sending a threat to the president last week after letters containing the poison triggered security scares around Washington.

Former ricin suspect happy with vindication

Curtis said his arrest was surreal.

“It looked like a scene out of a movie,” said Curtis, adding that there were hooded men with machine guns. “I was just overwhelmed. I just kept asking, ‘what is ricin? What did I do?’”

Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, said her client has been framed by someone who used several phrases Curtis likes to use on social media.

The letters read, in part: “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

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Jewish Groups Slam UN Official Falk for Blaming Boston Marathon Explosions on U.S. and IsraHell



Jewish organizations are calling for Richard Falk of the United Nations to step down following comments he made in an online essay suggesting that U.S. and Israeli policies were responsible for the Boston Marathon explosions.

Falk, who serves as a special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), wrote in an article titled “A Commentary on the Marathon Murders” on the Foreign Policy Journal website that the Boston Marathon explosions were “retribution” for the actions of the U.S. military in the Middle East, which he considers part of the “the American global domination project.”

Falk also blamed Israel for the attacks, writing “[a]s long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.”

American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris questioned the UN’s judgment in allowing someone like Falk to serve for the international body.

“Given his public record, the question is why Richard Falk still occupies a UN position. Is there no shame?” Harris said in a statement.

“Falk’s latest commentary demonstrates his total insensitivity to the victims of the terror attacks in Boston,” Harris added. “His malicious propaganda regarding the U.S. and Israel—and his glaring inability to see the stark truth about extremist violence and terrorism—has no place in any international body that takes itself and its mission seriously.”

B’nai B’rith International also called for Falk to be removed from his UN position.

“We once again call for Falk’s removal from his position within the UNHRC. His latest string of inflammatory remarks—whether it be on the Internet or in one of his “reports” to the council—has no place in the United Nations and his continued presence at the UNHRC further undermines the credibility of the system,” B’nai B’rith International said in a statement.

The watchdog group UN Watch also sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice urging them to “speak out” against Falk.

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Kidnapped Syrian Orthodox bishops still missing


Kidnapped Syrian Orthodox bishops still missing

Two Syrian bishops who were abducted near Aleppo on Monday are still missing, sources within Syria’s Orthodox church said on Wednesday, contradicting earlier reports that they had been released. 

Two Syrian bishops kidnapped by gunmen on Monday are still missing, church sources in Damascus and Aleppo said on Wednesday, contradicting a report that the men had been freed.

A source at the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo said the bishops had not been released and he was unaware of any contact with their abductors. At the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, a source also said there was no indication they had been freed.

Greek Orthodox archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were seized near the northern commercial and industrial hub of Aleppo, which is contested by rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Authorities blamed the abduction on a “terrorist group”, the label they usually give to anti-Assad rebels, but opposition fighters in the province denied they had kidnapped the two and said they were working for their release and trying to find out who had taken them.

The bishops were the most senior church figures caught up in the fight between Assad’s forces and rebels trying to end four decades of family rule by Assad and his late father.

The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people and frightened minority groups as the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels gain ground in northern Syria, where Salafi and jihadi groups, including the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, have emerged as among the most formidable insurgent formations.

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US, Russia Clash Over Syria at NATO Meeting


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks behind Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) at the start of a NATO-Russia foreign ministers meeting in Brussels April 23, 2013.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered starkly different views of the Syrian civil war Tuesday, after meeting at NATO headquarters.

The United States wants Russia to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but Russia refuses. Secretary Kerry tried to downplay the differences.

“There’s a difference of opinion between Russia and the United States with respect to when or how Assad might leave. I don’t think there’s a difference of opinion that his leaving may either be inevitable or necessary to be able to have a solution,” Kerry said.

But Russia says the shape of a Syrian political settlement must be decided by the Syrians themselves, including President Assad. At a news conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov accused Western nations of blocking a series of peace efforts, and said if that continues, Syria could come under the control of radical Islamists.

“Over the last months, there is a growing understanding of real threats we will all face if this status quo maintains, if all efforts to build dialogue will be hindered and blocked by the minority of the international community, which is very aggressive and very bloodthirsty,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said there is a growing feeling among Russia’s allies that efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict are failing, and he called on all “international players” to bring the Syrian parties to the negotiating table.

Secretary Kerry said he and Minister Lavrov did agree to keep talking about the issue, and he indicated some new ideas are on the table.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov and I talked about a number of different ways in which one might try to figure out if you could create a reality to this diplomatic initiative. And we’re both going to go back. We’re going to explore those possibilities. And we’re going to talk again about if any of those other avenues could conceivably be pursued,” Kerry said.

Those avenues do not include Western military intervention. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday the Syrian war could cause security problems for the region, and beyond. But he said no one is calling for NATO to play any direct role in the crisis.

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Peres to Meet Pope Francis at Vatican, Receive Medal for Peace




Israel National News

Israeli President Shimon Peres is set to meet Pope Francis on a three-day visit to Italy that will begin on Monday.

Peres will also hold a series of diplomatic meetings with the President and Prime Minister of Italy, and take part in a ceremony in the city of Assisi.

At the ceremony he will receive the Medal of Honor for Peace and will be greeted by “hundreds of Franciscan monks” at the central Basilica, according to an official statement.

“Peres will raise the issue of furthering peace and stability in the Middle East, progressing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians… and the deepening of relations between Israel and the Vatican,” the statement said.

Peres invited Pope Francis to Israel following his election in March, saying he “represents devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, a holy modesty and a new continent which is now awakening.”

“He’ll be a welcome guest in the Holy Land, as a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area,” said Peres.

Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI visited the Holy Land and met Peres in 2009

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When IsraHell denial of Palestinian existence becomes genocidal


Close-up, profile portrait of Israeli president

In a regal interview he gave the Israeli press on the eve of the state’s ” Independence Day,”Shimon Peres, the current president of Israel, said the following:

“I remember how it all began. The whole state of Israel is a millimeter of the whole Middle East. A statistical error, barren and disappointing land, swamps in the north, desert in the south, two lakes, one dead and an overrated river. No natural resource apart from malaria. There was nothing here. And we now have the best agriculture in the world? This is a miracle: a land built by people” (Maariv, 14 April 2013).

This fabricated narrative, voiced by Israel’s number one citizen and spokesman, highlights how much the historical narrative is part of the present reality. This presidential impunity sums up the reality on the eve of the 65th commemoration of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine. The disturbing fact of life, 65 years on, is not that the figurative head of the so-called Jewish state, and for that matter almost everyone in the newly-elected government and parliament, subscribe to such views. The worrying and challenging reality is the global immunity given to such impunity.

Peres’ denial of the native Palestinians and his reselling in 2013 of the landless people mythology exposes the cognitive dissonance in which he lives: he denies the existence of approximately twelve million people living in and near to the country to which they belong. History shows that the human consequences are horrific and catastrophic when powerful people, heading powerful outfits such as a modern state, denied the existence of a people who are very much present.

This denial was there at the beginning of Zionism and led to the ethnic cleansing in 1948. And it is there today, which may lead to similar disasters in the future — unless stopped immediately.

Cognitive dissonance

The perpetrators of the 1948 ethnic cleansing were the Zionist settlers who came to Palestine, like Polish-born Shimon Peres, before the Second World War. They denied the existence of the native people they encountered, who lived there for hundreds of years, if not more. The Zionists did not possess the power at the time to settle the cognitive dissonance they experienced: their conviction that the land was people-less despite the presence of so many native people there.

They almost solved the dissonance when they expelled as many Palestinians as they could in 1948 — and were left with only a small minority of Palestinians within the Jewish state.

But the Zionist greed for territory and ideological conviction that much more of Palestine was needed in order to have a viable Jewish state led to constant contemplations and eventually operations to enlarge the state.

With the creation of “Greater Israel” following the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the dissonance returned. The solution however could not easily be resolved this time by the force of ethnic cleansing. The number of Palestinians was larger, their assertiveness and liberation movement were forcefully present on the ground, and even the most cynical and traditionally pro-Israel actors on the international scene recognized their existence.

The dissonance was resolved in a different way. The land without people was any part of the greater Israel the state wished to Judaize in the pre-1967 boundaries or annex from the territories occupied in 1967. The land with people was in the Gaza Strip and some enclaves in the West Bank as well as inside Israel. The land without people is destined to expand incrementally in the future, causing the number of people to shrink as a direct consequence of this encroachment.

Incremental ethnic cleansing

This incremental ethnic cleansing is hard to notice unless one contextualizes it as a historical process. The noble attempt by the more conscientious individuals and groups in the West and inside Israel to focus on the here and now — when it comes to Israeli policies — is doomed to be weakened by the contemporary contextualization, not the historical one.

Comparing Palestine to other places was always a problem. But with the murderous reality in SyriaIraq and elsewhere, it becomes an even more serious challenge. The last closure, the last political arrest, the last assault, the last murder of a youth are horrific crimes, but pale in comparison to nearby or far-away killing fields and areas of colossal atrocities.

Criminal narrative

The comparison is very different when it is viewed historically and it is in this context that we should realize the criminality of Peres’ narrative which is as horrific as the occupation — and potentially far worse. For the president of Israel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, there were never Palestinians before he initiated in 1993 the Oslo process — and when he did, they were only the ones living a small part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In his discourse, he already eliminated most of the Palestinians. If you did not exist when Peres came to Palestine, you definitely do not exist when he is the president in 2013. This elimination is the point where ethnic cleansing becomes genocidal. When you are eliminated from the history book and the discourse of the top politicians, there is always a danger that the next attempt would be your physical elimination.

It happened before. The early Zionists, including the current president, talked about the transfer of the Palestinians long before they actually disposed them in 1948. These visions of a de-Arabized Palestine appeared in every Zionist diary, journal and inner conversation since the beginning of the 20th century. If one talks about nothingness in a place where there is plenty it can be willful ignorance. But if one talks about nothingness as a vision or undeniable reality, it is only a matter of power and opportunity before the vision becomes reality.

Denial continues

Peres’ interview on the eve of the 65th commemoration of the Nakba is chilling not because it condones any violent act against the Palestinians, but because the Palestinians have entirely disappeared from his self-congratulatory admiration for the Zionist achievement in Palestine. It is bewildering to learn that the early Zionists denied the existence of Palestinians in 1882 when they arrived; it is even more shocking to find out that they deny their existence — beyond sporadic ghettoized communities — in 2013.

In the past, the denial preceded the crime — a crime that only partially succeeded but for which the perpetrators were never brought to justice. This is probably why the denial continues. But this time, it is not the existence of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians which is at stake, but that of almost six million who live inside historic Palestine and another five and half million living outside Palestine.

One would think only a madman can ignore millions and millions of people, many of them under his military or apartheid rule while he actively and ruthlessly disallows the return of the rest to their homeland. But when the madman receives the best weapons from the US, Nobel Peace Prizes from Oslo and preferential treatment from the European Union, one wonders how seriously we should take the Western references to the leaders of Iran and North Korea as dangerous and lunatic?

Lunacy is associated these days, it seems, to possession of nuclear arms in non-Western hands. Well, even on that score, the local madman in the Middle East passes the test. Who knows, maybe in 2014 it would not be the Israeli cognitive dissonance that would be solved, but the Western one: how to reconcile a universal position of human and civil rights with the favored position Israel in general and Shimon Peres in particular receives in the West?

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