Tag Archives: breaking the silence

“Pro-Israel” Labour MP Wes Streeting hosts Friends of Palestine event, afterwards attacks me on Twitter.

Labour MP Wes Streeting with anti-Zionist map depicting 1948, UN plan 1947, 1949-1967, 2005.

Labour MP Streeting with map depicting Palestinian land in 1947, UN plan 1947, 1949-1967, 2005.

It’s de rigueur at Labour chaired anti-Israel events in Parliament for those making Israel’s case to be branded “disrupters” and threatened with removal. In April Labour MP Mark Hendrick had myself and others removed by armed police after I, literally, asked a question.

Labour MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting threatened to have me removed on Tuesday night from his Gaza on the brink? event in Parliament. My crime: passionately asking why the panel spent their time totally blaming Israel for the plight of Gazans while giving Hamas a free pass.

Admittedly, I had also congratulated the three NGO representatives on Streeting’s panel for all making a great living out a desperate situation. Streeting immediately slammed me for questioning their motives.

But the “Palestine Industry”, so to speak, is the great untold story. Aimee Shalan of Medical Aid for Palestinians, Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch and Helen Thompson of Care International all came to Parliament and spoke about the same subject. They even repeated exactly the same phrase to describe Gaza’s situation: “De-development”.

They complained how little money Gaza is receiving which, in addition to Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza, is causing this “de-development”. Shakir, Thompson and Shalan are just three of thousands receiving salaries for the same work; money that could be spent on Gazans.

Not that pledged money gets to those Palestinians in need anyway. Hamas siphons off money to build terror tunnels into Israel and the Palestinian Authority financially rewards families of Palestinian terrorists.

Shalan described how critically ill Gazan babies have relatively little medical care from nurses compared to those in the UK, how 10% of Gazan children have stunted growth and how depleted medical supplies are.

Thompson described how the elecricity crisis affects livelihoods and demanded more money from DFID for Gaza.

Shakir claimed “Israel has kept Gaza permanently closed”, that Israel has “total control of Gaza” and, of course, that Gaza is an “open air prison”. The only mention of Hamas in all three talks was when Shakir mentioned its “arbitrary arrests”.

Shakir said “because of the closure responsibility falls fully on Israel” and then demanded the UK government call on Israel to stop the ban on freedom of movement from Gaza.

SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford also spoke. She questioned why Gaza isn’t in the news and asked if the international community was too busy for Gaza. She said Israel’s ban on “dual use materials” meant Gazans scavenged for steel rods which they straightened out for use in buildings which could lead to such buildings collapsing.

Whitford said the drinking water is undrinkable, that Gaza City stinks of sewage and that there’s no radiotherapy in Gaza and only 45% of Gazans are allowed into Israel for radiotherapy (a statistic vigorously challenged by Jonathan Hoffman).

She said Israeli soldiers patrolling borders saps their potential as they are “bored out of their minds”. She claimed it isn’t a positive experience for Israel and Israelis and then said Israel should build HS2 as it builds “settlements” so quickly.

She finished off by showing the anti-Zionist map beloved of anti-Semites where Israel has taken virtually everything from the Palestinians (see above).

Whitford’s was also a Hamas-free talk and with no mention of the lengths Israel’s COGAT goes to supplying Gaza’s vital needs.

After Jonathan and I had spoken during the Q&A someone called Gary stood and complained about us “invading space and trying to disrupt the meeting.”

As described above Streeting then slammed me for questioning motives and demanded we all just concentrate on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. But when I questioned how on earth the anti-Zionist map was about the humanitarian situation Streeting threatened to have me removed.

Meanwhile, in response to my question about Hamas Shalan simply implied I was uncaring about the plight of Gazans.

Most of the remaining questions weren’t about the humanitarian situation at all. They were about the “one state solution”, the Balfour Declaration and how Israel is cracking down on NGOs like Breaking The Silence. Of course Israel isn’t doing that. Israel merely wants declarations of sources. The equivalent of Breaking the Silence, which seeks the indictment of Israeli soldiers, would never be allowed in the UK.

Streeting then finished his event with the sweeping “I’m worried about democracy in Israel.”

When he got home Streeting tweeted that I “sat there heckling and shouting” and called myself and Jonathan “rude yobs”. However, we were respectful and did absolutely nothing wrong.

Streeting is considered “pro-Israel” by many in the British Jewish community. But on this evidence, and considering the letter he signed slamming Israel “the occupying power in Gaza” and accusing Israel of “collective punishment”,  I have grave doubts about this.

(Read about Jonathan Hoffman challenging SNP MP Whitford’s 45% statistic)

Shakir (Human Rights Watch), Thompson (Care International), Streeting, Shalan (Medical Aid for Palestinians).

Shakir (Human Rights Watch), Thompson (Care International), Streeting, Shalan (MAP).

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Anti-Zionist activist to perform at Jewish Comedy Festival.

Sometimes Jewish people never miss an opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot.

I refuse to go to the London Jewish Film Festival anymore having once paid good money to see Defamation, a film that, basically, portrays Israel as forcing Israeli teenagers to visit Auschwitz and using the visit to brainwash them into thinking that the whole world hates them because they are Jewish.

The same applies to London Jewish Book Week. Among the long list of Israel bashers invited to speak once was The Independent’s Johann Hari who has claimed that “untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs”.

Not only had he seen it with his own eyes, but Friends of the Earth had documented it, you understand.

Mick Davis, head of UJIA, addressed the possibility of Israel becoming an apartheid state and Breaking the Silence were given repeated platforms at Limmud to tell of the supposed evils of Israeli soldiers.

Now the London Jewish Cultural Centre has an advert out for their forthcoming Comedy Festival that reads:

“Enjoy a week of Jewish comedians previewing their outrageous, hilarious and irreverent acts at Ivy House for the next stop – this year’s Edinburgh festival.”

One of the comedians, Ivor Dembina, is doing a sketch harmlessly called “Jewish Comedy” on Monday July 18th.

But while Dembina is actually quite funny his other job is his one man show This Is Not A Subject For Comedy, which is about “Israel, Palestine and the Jews” and which he has been performing for some 8 years.

In it he tells, inter alia, about his confrontation with Israeli soldiers and thinks that Jews somewhat downplay the deaths of homosexuals and Communists at Auschwitz because “this is Ourschwitz, not Yourschwitz”.

Dembina has volunteered for the International Solidarity Movement and in an interview last year is quoted as saying that “the specter of anti-Semitism is raised by Zionists” and is “a manipulation of a tragedy to Zionism’s own advantage”.

He is also quoted as saying of Zionists:

“I think they’ve learned to their cost that it just makes people more determined to speak out publicly and that hate campaigns can be counter-productive. I think they’re starting to try and engage in discussion and going for the whole positive PR angle, like this email campaign about sending medical aid to Haiti. Or they’re going to use Iran as an excuse. They keep coming up with these reasons that the Jewish community has to support Israel and one by one they get exposed as nonsense…You’re left with a rump of very angry people who are used to getting their own way. Things have to be handled very carefully in the months and years ahead”. He also, apparently, compares Israel to apartheid South Africa.

Considering the audience at the LJCC is likely to be entirely pro-Israel and “Zionist”, I would expect they would like to know that Dembina considers them “angry people” and that he would like to see the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Then they can decide whether or not they would like to go in to see him perform.

At least with other anti-Zionists like Ken Loach one is usually fully informed of their politics. I would never go to see Looking for Eric, for instance, as much as I would probably enjoy it.

But, I suspect that Dembina won’t be playing his full anti-Zionist set at the LJCC and, therefore, many in the audience who are paying good money to see him won’t know of his politics.

Maybe, it would be helpful if someone stood outside the gates of the LJCC next Monday to hand out a list of Dembina’s quotes as people are going in to see him (any volunteers?).

I’m sure he wouldn’t expect anything less from a bunch of angry Zionists.

Ivor Dembina (guardian.co.uk)

Ivor Dembina (guardian.co.uk)

Goldstone Report debate shambles – The Sequel

Prof. Chinkin and Colonel Travers (3rd & 4th from left)

On wednesday night Colonel Desmond Travers, one of Richard Goldstone’s four person UN team that looked into the possibility of war crimes having been committed during the Gaza War, spoke in Parliament. At the end of this blog is the transcript of his talk.

He’d spoken on March 8th at LSE and I was left incredulous that such a man could actually have a bearing on whether politicians and soldiers could end up serving life in prison for war crimes.

At LSE Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin, who was also on the team, made startling admissions as to how this investigation, which found that war crimes were committed mainly by Israel but also by Hamas, was conducted.

Questionable credibility of Travers and Chinkin:

1. Israel destroyed 14 mosques during Operation Cast Lead which, Israel claimed, was due to Hamas storing weaponry inside them. Travers said he had inspected two of the mosques and had found no evidence of secondary explosions. Despite the important question of how this was forensically tested it leaves open the even bigger question of why he didn’t visit the other 12 mosques.

2. Palestinian witnesses from Gaza had been heard in open sessions, where the public could hear what was said. But knowing the callousness of Hamas towards traitors, for example throwing them off the top of high buildings in Gaza while handcuffed, which Palestinian in his or her right mind would dare tell the truth?

3. Chinkin had signed a letter to the Times published on 11th January 2009 part of which stated:

“Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.”

At LSE Travers was pressed on his recent statement, with its dark undertones, that “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.”

How these issues were addressed by Travers:

1. Travers was offered the brand new 349 page report by the The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre which contains photographic evidence of secondary explosions in mosques. He dismissed ITIC as an Israeli GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organisation).

When he was pressed as to why he didn’t examine the other 12 mosques for secondary explosions he replied:

“If I was Hamas I would not store weapons in an open space such as a mosque.”

2. Neither Travers nor Professor Iain Scobbie, of SOAS, viewed anything wrong in having public, as opposed to, private hearings eventhough Travers closed with this incredible statement about Hamas:

“One of the main things I hate about Hamas is the knee-cappings they carry out”

3. Travers was asked to explain his “Jewish Lobby” comment three times but each time, like at LSE, he refrained. And when both his credibility, in light of that comment, and Chinkin’s credibility, in light of her letter to the Times, were both challenged he just replied:

“You can join the long list of whingers.”

4. There were also the issues of Travers’ new assertion that “now there are now no mistakes in war” (see transcript below) especially in light of three Israeli soldiers being killed by “friendly fire” during the Gaza War, and totally anonymous testimony given by Breaking The Silence that Travers has accepted unquestioningly.

Finally, Jocelyn Hurndall, whose son, Tom, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003 and who subsequently died nine months later, was at the talk to continue to seek justice for her son and it really does put into perspective all the bickering during the Q&A.

However, before we can even start to consider whether the “facts” given to us in the Goldstone Report are credible we have to establish whether both the investigators and their methods were credible in the first place.

In my view both Chinkin and Travers were not credible and neither were their methods.

It is the first principle of law that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.

Travers’ and Chinkin’s take on that seems to be not to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

TRANSCRIPT OF TRAVERS’ TALK

Ambit of investigation:

Travers called the six month investigation “thorough” and told us that its ambit, as formulated by Richard Goldstone, was as follows:

“To investigate all the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been commited at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from the 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

He said that in addition to Hamas and Israel being investigated, Fatah/PLO were also investigated as were claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens.

Evidence:

“188 people were interviewed, 200 reports studied, 30 videos watched, thousands of photos viewed (at least 1,200) and 10,000 documents perused. Two field visits to Gaza were made in June and July 2008 for a week each time.”

Public Hearings:

“Public hearings, which took place in Gaza, Amman and Geneva, were undertaken for Palestinians and Israelis who wanted to come before us to relate their experiences. We even spoke to the father of Gilad Schalit. Therefore I want to stress that we were not on some sort of witch-hunt which some perceive we were. You can download the interviews from the website and they are all very telling. We found no evidence that the witnesses were coerced or interfered with whatsoever. I have no doubts as to the veracity of what we were told.”

Provocation and Proportionality:

“We looked back as far as June 2008 when the ceasefire was in place between Israel and Hamas as we know that insurgents can use this time to rearm and sometimes that rearming has to stopped by pre-emptive military strikes such as the one that occured but that theory of mine did not survive our enquiries. The initial attack was on 27th December by guided munitions. It was very severe by any military standards. It was extreme and occasioned most of the casualties in Gaza. 1417 people were killed, although B’Tselem gives a lower figure. The higher figure is becoming more applicable as people are still dying and bodies are being recovered from collapsed buildings. 99 policeman were killed in the initial attack on a police graduation parade. The defence used was that these were Hamas police. We examined the inter-relation worldwide between police and military forces. However, that connection was unfounded. In newspaper obituaries we found mention that some of the police were Hamas members but we concluded that they may have been a) politically affiliated or b) families just wanted to optimise their pension compensation arrangements. I perfectly understood that. My father was a policeman and I could see my mother doing the same. He died at 42.”

Death and Destruction:

“280 schools and six university buildings were destroyed, 240 policemen were killed, 14 mosques were attacked, two of which I examined carefully. Two hospitals, Al-Shifa and al-Quds, were attacked. 29 ambulances were destroyed, killing 16 medics or ambulance drivers. After that initial bombardment being a paramedic was the most dangerous job to carry out. I find that very troubling. These air strikes were deliberate attacks on the infrastructure of Gaza. These were not Hamas infrastructure but infrastructure that maintained society. The destruction of schools, hospitals and mosques was particularly troubling and together with farms, homesteads, agricultural land, sewage farms it becomes very troubling.”

Breaking the Silence:

“The ground incursion started on 3rd January and was led by the Golani brigade from northern Israel and the Givati brigade from the south east. They both held certain positions and while they rested reservists were brought in. It was these reservists who produced the evidence for Breaking the Silence. These couragous soldiers decided to reveal their concerns about the behaviour of their colleagues. Some of these incidents were of ‘human shields’ and that of a 59 year-old man forced to enter a building where Hamas operatives were hiding. When he came out he spoke of seeing two or three Hamas operatives inside. The soldiers beat him up so they could be ceratin of the veracity of what he had described. They made him go in a second time and this time bring a camera. So he went in and took photographs of what he saw and when he came out they wanted him to go in a final time but he refused and so they beat him up again. Eventually they sent in a dog with a camera on its back and it was killed by a Hamas operative. The the IDF collapsed the building on top of the two Hamas soldiers which i haven’t got an issue with that but they also collapsed this man’s building which was adjacent to it and while he watched it collapse he wondered if his wife and children were still inside. By great good fortune they had escaped. This incident shows you how easily rules of engagement are so easily broken and those that formulate them should be very careful. The account of the man used as a human shield was replicated precisely by one of the soldiers from Breaking The Silence. This proves that witnesses are telling the truth.”

Palestinians told to leave their homes:

“This was very troubling. There were those that were forced to leave homes so Israel could use them as strongholds but if they encountered an Israeli checkpoint they ran a very high risk of being shot and even if they were carrying white flags it did not protect them. This evidence was replicated by Breaking the Silence as soldiers were told that any person they then encountered in their vicinity was likely to be the enemy. The dropping of leaflets early on ensured that those who were left in Gaza were potential aggressors. Is that sufficient to absolve a military commander of his obligations? It is not. And anyway where were they to go? The double whammy was that those who knew Israel’s route into Gaza exited their areas and stayed with friends or family elsewhere. Often those houses where they stayed were struck by missiles and the possible explanation for this is that the thermal signature of a high density of occupation in some houses was enough to alert the missilers to target that place. As a result you were damned in you did go and damned if you didn’t go.”

Destruction of food sources:

“This was also troubling. We went to the only flour mill functioning in Gaza. It was struck and destroyed by an air attack. People now have to pay for their flour in Israel with a food price-hike on top of their other troubles. Israel claimed it was not struck from the air but was damaged by a tank shell during an exchange of fire with Hamas operatives in the area. But Israel’s argument was demolished by a Guardian journalist who saw the bomb fragments the following day. It was a Mark 84 JDAM bomb. Then there was the main chicken farm with 35,000 chickens. The family was locked away while the hatcheries were bulldozed. These were very troubling incidents. Then Israel, in what was called ‘Operation the Day After’, started bulldozing factories, farmland, wells and all the trees. I found that personally very difficult to comprehend. 6800 dunams of land had been destroyed. That figure has now increased to 20,000 dunams because the degradation is cumulative when land is adjacent to sea, sand or sewage and that land is left untended. 140,000 olive trees, 136,000 citrus trees and 22,000 fruit trees were destroyed. The agricultural destruction was my particular cause of pain.”

“Now there are no mistakes in war”:

“Today we have the undreamt of luxury of precision weapons. There are no accidents, there are no miscalculations and there are no errors. There may be soldiers among you who disagree with me but that is my view, especially in the armies that have emerged in the last five or six years, because the technologies are there and they are inexpensive. Therefore I have to make assumptions that the amount of destruction that was applied to the territory of Gaza would lead to other consequences if the blockade was left in place. As long as the blockade continues the degradation of life in Gaza will continue. I could argue that the blockade is the continuation of the war by other means.”

Weapons used:

“There is an evolving doctrine in the Israel defence community. This doctrine has an influence on other armies in the West. The most ubiquitous symbol of the war that was repeatedy flashed onto our screens was the discharge of White Phosphorous over the city. There are claimes that 3,500 WP shells were discharged on a defenceless city. This is an extremely troubling action. WP will burn through the skin to the bone. It affects those who treat it. 14 people were killed by it. WP should never be used either in an undefended area or on a battlefield. Ireland got rid of WP from its arsenal in the 1970s.

Shrapnel, heavy metal and tungsten were also used. One boy had tungsten in his spine and he is now likely to develop cancer and you have to call tungsten’s use into question. It is particularly troublesome if used in powder form such as DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). It is not detectable in the system and will also cause cancer and tumours. Then there are Fleschettes, little darts, which are designed on impact with human flesh to ‘tumble’ and aggravate the injuries internally. Sometimes when they meet the flesh they break and so portions of the darts go in different directions inside the body. This is in breach of the Geneva Conventions and should be banned and condemned out of hand.

There were certain weapons used, or suspected to have been used, with deep penetrator capabilities to take on the tunnels and underground bunkers that may have been in Gaza and were certainly on the border with Gaza and Egypt. It is reasonable to surmise that these weapons penetration abilities can only be arrived at by the use of hardened warheads which use materials containing alloys, which are highly toxic, or uranium or depleted uranium, which are highly toxic, and so there is an urgent need to institute investigations of the soil, the air and the water in that area not only in Gaza but in soil to the east of Gaza, in Israel, because of the prevailing westerly winds. Any toxicities released as a result of the weapons will travel.

Although we have handed in the Goldstone Report there are further revelations. This morning I got hair sample results of 65 people who lived close to four or five major impact sites and their finding reveal an array of toxic chemicals in the hair samples, some of which are tungsten, which is carcinogenic, and some is uranium. Therefore while I confine myself to the Goldstone Report’s findings I will not be discharging my duties to you adequately if I did not reveal to you subsequent findings which add further wieght to this report, which cannot be ignored and which will not go away.”