Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Human rights groups: torture commonplace in Palestinian jails

from The Associated Press via Haaretz - Rights groups say torture widespread in Palestinian jails

Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by bitter Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah. Interviews with three victims and a doctor backed the reports of abuse.


The Palestinian human rights group Al Haq said Monday that arbitrary arrests of political opponents have been common since Hamas' takeover of Gaza, with each side trying to defend its turf.

"Arrests for political reasons haven't stopped for a second," Al Haq director Shawan Jabarin told a news conference. He estimated that before the latest sweeps, more than 1,000 people had been seized by each side.

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of the detainees suffered torture, including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions, said Jabarin, citing sworn statements from 150 detainees.

He said three died in detention in Gaza and one in the West Bank.

"The use of torture is dramatically up," added Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based group that is releasing its own report on abuse later this week.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jerusalem String Quartet faces U.K. boycott threat

The Jerusalem Quartet is planning to perform in Edenburgh's Queen's Hall on August 29 (read here). They're planning to perform the Haydn String Quartet Op 76 No 5, Smetana's String Quartet No 1 ‘From my Life', and the Brahms String Quartet Op 51 No 2 in A minor.

Now the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) is promoting a boycott move against their concert with a scurrilous sort of propaganda which must be seen to be believed. (Read here.)

In case anyone has any doubt about the bigotry behind this boycott, they should be aware that Kyril Zlotnikov, the Jerusalem Quartet's cellist is a student and friend of musician and peace activist Daniel Barenboim (read here). In fact, Barenboim has loaned Jacqueline Du Pre's ‘Sergio Perresson’ cello to Kyril Zlotnikov for this tour. Read pdf here.) Zlotinikov is also a member of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (read here). This orchestra, founded by Barenboim and Edward Said and managed by the Barenboim-Said Foundation, includes both Arab and Israeli musicians. Its reason for being is to campaign for peace and cooperation between Arabs and Jews through artistic cooperation. With that in mind, would someone remind me of the reason for being for the group boycotting the concert?

I've written about a similar boycott effort against an Israeli Philharmanic concert in Los Angeles by the groups Women in Black -- Los Angeles and Jewish Voice for Peace (read here). That boycott was, in some respects, worse in that it entailed a demand that the musicians sign a sort of loyalty oath drafted by the boycotters. When the musicians understandably did not comply with this demand, the boycotters protested outside the concert hall with signs reading "Boycott Israel".

Here's a suggestion for groups such as Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Women in Black and Jewish Voice for Peace which advocate boycotting Israeli artists. Rather than working for that, why not emulate the Jerusalem Quartet's Zlotnikov and work to encourage Arab-Israeli cooperation in the arts?

Republican Blasts Israel's Kibbutz Roots

Republicans have been throwing everything at Barack Obama in the hope that something will stick. The facts that many of the charges are contradictory and absurd on their face have not served to deter this assault on reason. Here's an attack you may find interesting. Republican blogger Mark Finkelstein has claimed that Obama's support for Israel's historic commitment to social justice as exemplified by the kibbutz movement indicates a secret affinity for Marxism! Finkelstein, in his ardor to paint Obama red, has applied a very broad brush to Israel's founders as well.

Finkelstein has a problem with the following excerpt of a speech Obama gave in a Boca Raton, Florida synagogue in May, which he quotes as follows:

I found I had a deep affinity with the idea of social justice that was embodied in the Jewish faith. There was a notion–tikkun–that you could repair the breach of the past. There was a notion, embodied in the kibbutz, that we all had a responsibility to each other. That we're all in this together. That hope can persevere even against the longest odds.

For one Republican, this is just too much. Clearly, "social justice", "tikkun" and "kibbutz" are just code words for Communism! Here's what Finkelstein has to say:

Let's deconstruct. "Social justice": classic left-wing code for redistributive economics. Tikkun, or tikkun olam, is the favorite term of the Jewish left. It means "repairing the world," and is interpreted by liberal Jews as a mandate for big government. Ironically, it was Hillary Clinton who brought the phrase into American political currency via her erstwhile spiritual advisor Michael Lerner, he of "the politics of meaning," and publisher of a left-wing journal named . . . Tikkun.

Finally, just what is the kibbutz, with which notion Obama claims "deep affinity?" It was nothing less than an explicit experiment in utopian socialism, of communal living in which not only property, but also child-rearing, were shared. Kids were raised in communal dorms, with parents granted only a limited number of hours per week of individual interaction with their children. Recent years have seen a crisis for the kibbutzim, in which they have been forced to embrace some market reforms in order to survive. But Obama clearly seemed to be referring to the original, romanticized version of the collectivist kibbutz in which "we're all in this together."

Will the MSM pick up on Obama's salute to socialism? Not holding breath...

Catching his breath, Finkelstein then gives his thumbnail sketch of an essential part of Israel's history:

The kibbutz movement has its roots in the fertile soil of nineteenth century Eastern European socialism, inspired by the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883), aligned with the notion of righting the inverted pyramid of European Jewish society, top-heavy as it was with luftmenschen and lacking a significant working class at its base. The early kibbutzim that followed the establishment of Degania Alef in 1909 had in common a collective approach to decision making, an economy based on agriculture and a co-operative attitude to work. Working the land was ... elevated to a quasi-religion...

Since those days, the kibbutzim ... lost their ideological reference point with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991...

It seems that some among the Republicans are more than happy to smear Obama as a crypto-communist, even if that involves characterizing Israel's Labor Zionist roots, as well as Judaism's view of tzedakah, as communist. I feel sorry for anyone who, in their ideological fervor, sees Lenin lurking behind terms like social justice, tikkun olam and kibbutz.

Read more here: Oy Vey: Obama's Salute to Israeli Socialism | NewsBusters.org

BBC has last word on Jerusalem

BBC has a brief article posted on their website concerning three pointless, brutal terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Two of these attacks, involving bulldozers used as weapons by Arabs against Jewish civilians, have been well reported. It should be pointed out that BBC radio news (as heard on NPR in the U.S.) erroneously reported immediately after both bulldozer attacks that the perpetrators had been killed by brutal mobs, not by police attempting to protect innocent people. The third terrorist attack, less reported, is the one I thought you'd like to know BBC's opinion about. It involved a policeman, David Shriki, who was shot by a sniper while on patrol in Jerusalem's old city. He died, presumably on Monday, after 12 days in a hospital (the BBC piece doesn't give the date of the death or attack). Here's how the esteemed BBC ended their brief report of that story. Quote:

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Its subsequent occupation and annexation of the area is seen as illegal under international law.

That's their opinion of course. And it's an opinion they have a right to express. But why would they choose to strategically deploy such an opinion at the end of another in a series of many reports of Jewish victims of Arab terrorism? It seems that many at BBC are worried that an objective recounting of actual news events would leave too many listeners sympathetic to Israel. So police heroically defending crowds on busy Jerusalem streets transform by BBC's magic into angry mobs out for Arab blood. And a report on the pointless, brutal killing of a policeman becomes a soapbox for BBC to state their opinion on the legality of Israel's presence in Jerusalem as the last word.

Read the rest here: BBC NEWS | Middle East | Jerusalem shooting officer dies

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kuntar's Crimes

from Yediot Aharonot via Israels' Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Kuntar File, Exposed (by Nir Gontarz):

For almost 30 years the Samir Kuntar file has sat in the district courthouse archives in Haifa. Its contents were never authorized for publication. Until yesterday. Right before his expected release in two days' time, the court acceded to Yediot Aharonot's request and allowed Kuntar's testimony, copies of the copious evidence and other testimonies in the file, the indictment and the judges' verdict, to be perused...

Besides the Pardons Department, no one has ever read the file - which was considered top secret by court administrators. On the few occasions that it was removed from the archives, it was accompanied by an armed security officer. Being a classified security file, the contents of File No. 578/79 had never been released for publication. Due to the obvious public interest, Justice Ron Shapira has permitted publication of everything in the file except one person's testimony. The judge also asked not to publish the pathological reports or any other detail that could harm the memory of the victims.

"I saw no reason to restrict access to the indictment and the sentence [as demanded by the prosecutors' office - N.G.]," explained the judge. "No one disputes that the matter of Kuntar's release and therefore the circumstances of his detention are subjects of public interest. I'm certain that the newspaper's request is justified."

Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, was 17 when he commanded the terrorist cell of the Popular Front for the National Liberation of Palestine. He has never expressed remorse for killing Einat (age 4) and Danny (age 32) Haran and the police officer Eliyahu Shahar (age 24). He and the other surviving cell member, Ahmed Assad Abras, were sentenced to five life terms and another 47 years of imprisonment. In the Nahariya terror attack on April 22, 1979, Yael Haran (age 2) was also killed while hiding from the terrorists with her mother Smadar Haran.

"I Did Not Kill"

Kuntar was supposed to rot in jail until his dying day, but barring further delays in the deal with Hizbullah, on Wednesday morning he will say goodbye to his cellmates in Cell 33, Wing 3, in Hadarim Prison, be transported to the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, and celebrate his 46th birthday at home in the village of Aabey near the Beirut airport.

On the night of April 22, 1979, Kuntar and his accomplices sailed from Lebanon in a rubber dinghy and landed on the Nahariya beach. They shot at a police car, killing officer Eliyahu Shahar. Moving on, they broke into the nearby Haran family apartment at 61 Jabotinsky Street, and dragged Danny and four-year-old Einat to the beach. Smadar and two-year-old Yael hid in the attic, where Yael suffocated to death as her mother tried to keep her quiet - so the terrorists would not find them.

Rubber dinghy used by Kuntar and his accomplices
Rubber dinghy used by Kuntar and his accomplices
(Photo courtesy Doron Golan)

On the beach, during an exchange of fire with security forces, Kuntar shot Danny in the back at close range and murdered Einat as well. Two of his fellow terror cell members were killed; Kuntar and Abras survived and were put on trial.

Immediately following his capture, when his remand was extended, Kuntar confessed that he had bludgeoned Einat to death with the butt of his rifle. Later, however, when testifying in court, Kuntar denied the charges. "I reached Nahariya beach at 2:30 in the morning," he testified on January 6, 1980. "We tied our boat to a rock. We had instructions to avoid opening fire, to take hostages and bring them to Lebanon. I was commander of the cell. I planned to knock on the door at one of the houses. Majeed and I walked towards the building. I told him to ring the bell but not to speak, because I planned to speak English with the people living there. When we went in, Majeed buzzed one of the apartments, and Majeed spoke to the woman in Arabic and she answered him in Hebrew. He made a mistake and she didn't open the door.

Evidence from the pathologist's report showing Einat Haran's brain tissue on the butt of Kuntar's rifle
Evidence from the pathologist's report showing Einat Haran's brain tissue
on the butt of Kuntar's rifle - Click to enlarge
(Photo courtesy Doron Golan)

"I then heard the sound of a car driving up and stopping... I opened fire, then we went up to one of the apartments, where we pulled out a man and a girl so we could take them with us. I decided we should take the girl with us to ensure we'd stay alive, and then return her from Lebanon to Israel via the Red Cross.

"While we were with them, shots were fired at us... I shot some rounds at those people with my Kalashnikov rifle and hit one of them; he went down. When I saw the boat had been hit... we tried to retreat by land and escape the gunfire coming our way... Tthe army began an assault on us... I wanted to find a way to tell them to stop shooting at us, because our whole objective was to take hostages to Lebanon. But I didn't have a megaphone... I was hit by five bullets. Then [Danny] Haran got to his feet and signaled to the army forces with his hand to stop them from firing. He was hit by the bullets being shot at him by the soldiers. The five bullets that hit me struck sensitive places, so I lost a lot of blood and passed out. I didn't know what else was happening with me until I woke up in the morning and found myself in the military's hands. I didn't hurt the girl at all and I didn't see how she met her death."

However, in court, prosecution witness no. 4 testified that he saw Danny Haran stand up and shout, "Cease your fire, don't shoot. My little girl is here." Immediately thereafter he saw Danny shot by Kuntar. Testimony was also given in court by a doctor who ruled that Einat's death had been caused by a direct blow with a blunt instrument, something like a stick or a rifle butt.

Danny, Einat and Yael Haran - among Samir Kuntar's victims (Photo: Courtesy Doron Golan)
Danny, Einat and Yael Haran - among Samir Kuntar's victims
(Photo courtesy Doron Golan)

Satanic Act

The court sessions were unbearable for Smadar Haran. In one of them, Kuntar's defense attorney claimed that he had been beaten in the detention center. Smadar, who could not stand it any longer, muttered something at the murderers - causing the head judge to demand that she apologize. Smadar elected to exit the courtroom quietly, but refused to give an apology.

Slain officer Eliyahu Shahar's mother did not attend the reading of the sentence in January 1980. Her heart had given out four days earlier. All those present in the courtroom, accustomed to seeing her there every session, felt her absence. Smadar Haran sat with her head downcast, bowed over in pain. Kuntar, according to the report in Yediot Aharonot at the time, actually looked amused.

"Kuntar went over to Einat Haran and hit her head twice with the butt of his rifle, with the intent of killing her," wrote the judges in their verdict. "The other defendant also struck her head forcefully. As a result of the blows, Einat suffered skull fractures and fatal brain damage, causing her death. They murdered the hostages - a helpless father and daughter, in cold blood." They wrote in the sentence, "By these acts the defendants reached an all-time moral low... an unparalleled satanic act... the punishments we are about to impose on the defendants cannot begin to match the brutality of their actions..."

Kuntar, who managed to complete a bachelor's degree in social studies and humanities while in Israeli prison, was categorized by the Israeli government as a bargaining chip in the Ron Arad affair. That was four years ago, during the deal to return Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three IDF soldiers who had been kidnapped from Mt. Dov in 2000. Israel agreed to release Kuntar only in exchange for information on Ron. No information was received, and Kuntar remained in jail.

Two weeks ago, Smadar Haran held a press conference, and made it clear that she is reconciled to the deal being made with Hezbullah. Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser will be returned to Israel in exchange for Kuntar's release. "Kuntar is not my personal prisoner," she explained. In two days, apparently, her family's murderer will be liberated, and Israel still will not have any reliable information on the fate of the captured navigator.

Evidence from the pathologist's report

Saturday, July 12, 2008

7th Circuit Rules Against Right to Place Mezuzah in Condo Hallway

from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog: "Mezuzah Suit Sparks Ruckus, Impassioned 7th Cir. Dissent":

Lynne Bloch and her family filed a suit against the condo association when a board rule that prohibited “mats, boots, shoes, carts or objects of any sort” from being placed in the hallways resulted in the association removing the Blochs’ mezuzah. By the time the Blochs filed, claiming violations of the Fair Housing Act, the association’s board had adopted a religious exception to the hallways rule and instructed custodial staff to leave mezuzot, crucifixes and other items of religious significance up.

Still, the Blochs demanded damages for distress they suffered in the interim, plus an inunction to prevent the association from returning to its old ways. A federal district court granted summary judgment to the association, and yesterday, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Frank Easterbrook, writing for a 2-1 majority, wrote that “The hallway rule … is neutral with respect to religion. It bans photos of family vacations, political placards, for-sale notices, and Chicago Bears pennants.” (Here’s a report on the decision from the NY Sun’s Josh Gerstein.)

Judge Easterbrook said the Fair Housing Act requires accommodation for the handicapped, but outlaws only discrimination with regard to other protected groups. “We cannot create an accommodation requirement for religion (race, sex, and so on). Our job is not to make the law the best it can be, but to enforce the law actually enacted.”

In a dissent that’s nearly three times as long as the majority opinion, Judge Diane Wood said enforcement of the rule amounted to a “constructive eviction” of observant Jewish residents, as well as an effective bar on Jews moving into the housing complex.”The Association might as well hang a sign outside saying ‘No observant Jews allowed,’” she wrote.

Judge Wood also criticized the condo association for filing a brief that accused the plaintiffs of trying to get a “pound of flesh” from the group. She noted that the reference comes from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and pertains to the human collateral insisted upon by a nefarious Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who is later punished by being forced to convert to Christianity. “This is hardly the reference someone should choose who is trying to show that the stand-off … was not because of the Blochs’ religion, but rather in spite of it,” she wrote.

Monday, July 7, 2008

BBC / Guardian blame Israel for Arab terror attack

Blatant bias pushing the envelope: they actually blame the bulldozer attack in Jerusalem on "an Israeli bulldozer" then blame Israel for over-reacting by shooting the terrorist.

Read the following, from CAMERA: Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem: Bias in Euro Headlines:

On Wednesday, July 2, just before noon, a Palestinian construction worker from East Jerusalem ploughed a bulldozer into everything in sight. Reportedly shouting "Allahu Akhbar," he overturned buses and crushed cars with their occupants, attempting to kill as many people as possible before himself being shot dead by security officers. At latest count, three Israelis were killed and 66 people were wounded. A 5-month-old baby girl was saved from a car where her mother was crushed to death.

This was understandably the top story on news Web sites around the world, and a look at the headlines tells a disturbing story about the approach of some media outlets toward Palestinian terrorism.

Most major U.S. news outlets posted straightforward factual news headlines. For example:

Washington Post: "Palestinian kills 3 in Jerusalem bulldozer attack"

Los Angeles Times: "Palestinian in construction vehicle kills 3 in downtowSaven Jerusalem rampage"

Associated Press: "Palestinian goes on rampage in Jerusalem; 3 killed"

New York Times: "Palestinian Rams Huge Tractor Into Traffic, Killing 3 "

But among some headline writers on European-based news websites, the approach was different.

The International Herald Tribune, for example, owned by the New York Times but aimed at a European audience, captioned the same New York Times article differently:

"At least 3 die as man uses earthmover in Jerusalem attack"

The perpetrator is identified only as a "man"; there is no mention of the killer’s Palestinian identity. All aggression is erased in this vague headline essentially mitigating the terrorist action. Even the term "bulldozer" with its connotation of toughness is exchanged for the milder, more innocent-sounding "earthmover."

London's Independent similarly removed the identity of the perpetrator in the murders, with the following headline:
"Israeli Digger Attack: Eyewitnesses Describe Terror."
The headline is so vague as to suggest that an Israeli was the culprit.

HonestReporting.com captured screenshots of the original BBC website headline and a caption on its television coverage before they were amended by the news organization. The headline read "Israel Bulldozer Driver Shot Dead," focusing on the terrorist who was shot dead and turning him into the victim instead of those he murdered.

As HonestReporting points out, "The BBC can have no excuse for not having the basic facts of the story in front of them from the very beginning" since their own reporter was an eyewitness to the rampage. The amended headline "Deadly Jerusalem bulldozer attack," while not as stark in its implication, similarly mitigates the responsibility of the Palestinian terrorist. Typical of the sort of headlines that CAMERA has critiqued in the past, these display the BBC's penchant for painting Israel as the perpetual aggressor while downplaying or ignoring entirely Palestinian responsibility for terrorism. (See "A Look at BBC’s Headlines, June 1, 2001 and "Double Standards in Headlines," October 1, 2003)

Another British media outlet whose headlines turn the Palestinian perpetrator into the victim is the Guardian. An early headline read "Man shot dead after Jerusalem bulldozer rampage" while an amended headline read "Palestinian construction worker 'liquidated' after Jerusalem rampage."

Wasting no time, the Guardian posted an online opinion column by Seth Freedman exemplifying that media outlet’s perspective. The focus was, of course, not on the Palestinian terror attack and its victims but was a condemnation of Israel for its reaction to terrorism and for ostensibly causing Palestinian terrorism.

Entitled "The inevitable overreaction," the column castigates "the usual suspects [Israeli politicians]" whom, Freedman writes "were quick to voice their rage at the events within minutes of the carnage unfolding, and bubbling to the surface were precisely the wrongheaded, knee-jerk reactions that have led the region to such a bloody impasse."

Who is the real culprit to blame for such terror attacks? No surprise there, as Freedman articulates a view to which the Guardian's readers have become accustomed.

Besieging Gaza has turned the area into the most fertile breeding ground imaginable for jihadists and suicidal militants; daily raids and round-the-clock curfews have done the same in Palestinian cities the length and breadth of the West Bank....Occupation breeds terror... Because when we crush their civilians' lives and livelihoods, the chances are that the radicals among them will do the same to us.


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