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Opinion Killing a Child Is ‘Not Right’, but Not Wrong Enough for an Indictment

Israeli prosecutors concluded that the two soldiers acted properly when they shot and killed an unarmed teenager 10 meters away as he ran away from them

Gideon Levy
Jun 14, 2018 4:57 AM

see full article here 

A.G. and A.D. presumably celebrated. Maybe they raised a toast with their lawyers at some fashionable pub, or perhaps they just basked in the good news with their families. It was the relief of their lives. The poor souls’ nightmare is over. How they harassed them when the teenager was killed, but all’s well that ends well: The central district prosecution decided last week to withdraw the indictment against them, two-and-a-half years after it was filed.

True, it was sickeningly ridiculous that they were charged with “an act of haste and negligence” for shooting an unarmed, already wounded teenager in the back as he was running or his life. Still, it was an indictment, which itself was only filed after the deceased’s family and B’Tselem petitioned the High Court of Justice.

For a moment it seemed as if the two would be given a suspended sentence of maybe a day, or even a one-penny fine for killing a boy who had not yet turned 16, even though he didn’t pose any danger or threat to them. But even this faint hope for a remnant of delayed and symbolic justice – for even the faintest likeness of justice – was dashed, and what could be more predictable than that?

The indictment was withdrawn. A.G. and A.D. acted properly when they shot an unarmed teenager from a range of 10 meters as he ran from them. They violated nothing. Their act of killing wasn’t even hasty or negligent. They are good soldiers, excellent ones, even though the day after the killing a senior officer said, “Something that wasn’t right happened there.” Not right, but apparently not wrong enough. So go ahead, dear soldiers; continue to kill Palestinian teenagers who don’t endanger you. You can even kill them as they run away, because no harm will come to you.

A.G. and A.D. were a platoon commander and a soldier from the 71st Battalion of the Armored Corps. They shot from behind and killed Samir Awad, who tried to cross the fence that constricts his village, as he ran from an ambush the soldiers had set up in the prickly-pear bushes. They shot him in the back and will never be punished for their act. They shot him in the leg first, and after he fell wounded and got back on his feet they managed to grab him by the arm, but he got away from them. Then they shot him twice from behind, a bullet to the back of his neck and a bullet in his back, killing him. So now they can calmly fly off to India or Costa Rica for their post-army trip – perhaps they’ve already done so – and forget everything. But the home of the boy they killed in Budrus will never be the same again.

to be followed here 

 

 

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Palestine is Still the Issue

Watch film on John’s website

John Pilger first made the film ‘Palestine Is Still The Issue’ in 1977. It told how almost a million Palestinians had been forced off their land in 1948, and again in 1967. Twenty five years later, John Pilger returned to the West Bank of Jordan and Gaza, and to Israel, to ask why the Palestinians, whose right of return was affirmed by the United Nations more than half a century ago, are still caught in a terrible limbo – refugees in their own land, controlled by Israel in the longest military occupation in modern times.

“If we are to speak of the great injustice here, nothing has changed,” says Pilger at the start of the film, “What has changed is that the Palestinians have fought back. Stateless and humiliated for so long, they have risen up against Israel’s huge military regime, although they themselves have no army, no tanks, no American planes and gunships or missiles. Some have committed desperate acts of terror, like suicide bombing. But, for Palestinians, the overriding, routine terror, day after day, has been the ruthless control of almost every aspect of their lives, as if they live in an open prison. This film is about the Palestinians and a group of courageous Israelis united in the oldest human struggle, to be free.”

Pilger distills the history of Palestine during the twentieth century into an easily comprehensible struggle for land – the loss of seventy-eight per cent of that belonging to Palestinians when the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and their claim to only the remaining twenty-two per cent, which had for thirty-five years been occupied by Israel.

In a series of extraordinary interviews with both Israelis and Palestinians, he speaks to the families of suicide bombers and their victims. He witnesses the humiliation of Palestinians at myriad checkpoints with a permit system not dissimilar to apartheid South Africa’s infamous pass laws. One Palestinian woman tells of how she was stopped from passing through a checkpoint when she went into labour and had to return home to give birth with her mother-in-law using a razor to cut the umbilical cord. The baby later died. He goes into the refugee camps and meets children who, he says, “no longer dream like other children, or if they do, it is about death.” He is shown round the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in Ramallah after a recent Israeli attack where he discovers faeces smeared on walls and floors and a room of children’s paintings vandalised.

Archive footage shows pledges by successive American presidents in support of Israel. Pilger describes the Israeli administration as “America’s deputy sheriff” in the oil-rich Middle East, receiving billions of dollars and the latest weapons: F16 aircraft, bombs, missiles and Apache helicopters. He reveals that Britain also fuels the conflict even though it condemns Israel for its illegal occupation. “During the first fourteen months of the Palestinian uprising, the Blair government approved 230 export licences for weapons and military equipment to Israel… Tony Blair has said, and I quote him, “We are doing everything we can to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.'” As a result, Israel is now the fourth-largest military power in the world.

On a hillside overlooking Jerusalem, Pilger concludes. “The truth is that Israelis will never have peace until they recognise that Palestinians have the same right to the same peace and the same independence that they enjoy,’ he said. ‘Recently, that great voice of freedom, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, asked this: “Have the Jewish people of Israel forgotten their collective punishment, their home demolitions, their humiliations so soon?” Israel’s own dissenting voices have not forgotten and those who speak out in this film honour the best traditions of Jewish humanity… The occupation of Palestine should end now. Then, the solution is clear: two countries, Israel and Palestine, neither dominating nor menacing the other. Is that impossible or is history to witness the consequences of yet another silence?’”

Palestine Is Still The Issue was a Carlton Television production for ITV first broadcast on ITV1, 16 September 2002. Director: Tony Stark. Producer: Chris Martin.

Awards: The Chris Statuette in the War & Peace division, Chris Awards, Columbus International Film & Video Festival, Ohio, 2003; Winner, War & Peace category, Vermont International Film Festival, 2003; Certificate of Merit, Chicago International Television Awards.

LOOTED & HIDDEN – Palestinian Archives in Israel

click on vimeo link

Main Credits:

Director: Rona Sela
Script: Rona Sela
Main Editors: Ran Slavin, Lev Goltser
Additional Editors: Thalia Hoffman, Iris Refaeli
Original Music: Ran Slavin
Sound Mix: Itzik Cohen – Jungle Studio, Yuri Primenko

Participants: Khadijeh Habashneh, Sabri Jiryis, Former IDF Soldier, Rona Sela
Narration: Sheikha Helawy, Shadi Khalilian, Ran Slavin, Dalia Tsahor
Graphic Design: Yanek Iontef
Translation: Ilona Merber

The film was made possible through the generous support of Sally Stein in memory of Allan Sekula, and additional foundations

© Rona Sela, 2017

Ilan Pappe on one democratic state

On April 21 in the town of Shefamru we have begun the preparatory meeting for launching the one democratic state initiative.The idea is to bring together under one roof all the movements and individuals who believe in this solution in and outside Palestine and to try and create together a movement of change. The challenge is enormous. The representative bodies of the Palestinian national movement (in Israel and in the PLO) still adhere to the two states solution as do some genuine friends of the Palestinians such as Jeremy Corbyn. The early discussion revealed on the one hand significant questions that still have be discussed from secularism, the future of the West Bank settlements, and the right or the absence of it for collective rights. and more importantly how can such movement be representative and democratic in the present reality. Nothing resolved yet.

On the other hand there was a total agreement on the right of return, the abolition of Zionist institutions and equality (although i think we have to talk about the future economic system as well).

We hope to launch the initiative in September and would love to hear suggestions and responses. The two states solution is dead, even if we were not invited to the funeral, and who know the developments in the region are not all favourable to Israel and make it a great time to push forward this old new idea once more.

The meeting was in Arabic and mainly with Palestinians as we believe that this should be first and foremost a Palestinian project but we will have a separate meeting with anti-Zionist Jewish activists to get more feedback and listen to their suggestions and concerns. Meetings are planned for Gaza, the West Bank and the Naqab.

It is been a while that a meeting made feel optimistic, but i know the people who were there and i feel empowered and hopeful!

Creating a New Syria: Property, Dispossession, and Regime Survival

 — by Erwin van Veen

bulldozers removing barriers from a road in the town of Harasta, east of the capital Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March. 24, 2018, where thousands of opposition fighters and members of their families are expected to use to head to northern Syria. The planned departure toward northern Syria comes a day after an agreement was reached between Faylaq al-Rahman and the Russians to evacuate the second of three pockets held by opposition fighters in eastern Ghouta. (SANA via AP) Hafez Hafiz al-Assad Asad

Bulldozers remove barriers from a road in Harasta, east of Damascus (SANA via AP)

 

By Erwin van Veen

While all eyes were fixed on the US-led military response to the alleged chemical attack in East Ghouta, a little-noted event occurred that could potentially have a much greater impact on Syria’s future. About 10 days ago, President Assad’s regime passed Law no. 10. The law foresees the creation of local administrative units in each district of regime-held territory that will be in charge of reconstruction efforts. All Syrians will be required to register their private properties with these units by providing proof of ownership, in person or through legal representatives. This must be done within roughly the next two months. The risk of noncompliance is that the Syrian state will take possession of the unregistered properties.

With half the Syrian population displaced and many property transfers prior to 2011 having been done informally, this will be a mission impossible for many. Depending on the implementation and enforcement of the law, its most likely consequence is that the Syrian state will acquire a substantial amount of property in the near future—land, buildings, and other immovable assets—within the territories it currently controls. The real implication here is twofold. Most importantly, President Assad’s regime will lay its hands on the assets it needs to finance the country’s reconstruction and reestablish its power base, preserving its long-term viability and independence. Moreover, it will dispossess hundreds of thousands of Syrians—possibly millions—who escaped the fighting or forced recruitment. Law no. 10 is a Faustian masterstroke—both in its injustice and its ingenuity.

The background is this: The World Bank has estimated the tab for reconstructing Syria at upwards of USD $200 billion. The Syrian regime has been broke for some time, kept financially afloat by the Iranian Central Bank and assorted Lebanese banks. Russia and Iran have neither the will nor the funds to finance Syria’s reconstruction. The Gulf countries, United States, and European Union have made it clear that likewise they will not carry Syria’s reconstruction without a “meaningful political transition”—a reference to their desire for real political concessions in the future governance of Syria. Most who are familiar with the conflict expect such a transition to happen when hell freezes over.

And yet, reconstructing Syria is essential to President Assad’s regime. This is not because it cares about restoring basic services like healthcare and housing to a decent level, or about the return of Syrian refugees. Figures like Syrian Major General Issam Zahreddin (since killed in battle) made it abundantly clear some time ago that returning refugees should not count on a warm welcome.

No. Rather, reconstruction is essential to the regime’s survival because it must reward the networks of businessmen, military, and militia leaders that helped it win the war. Reconstruction is also vital to the regime’s autonomy because it must re-establish its powerbase and independence vis-à-vis its international backers who will expect the future loyalty of a faithful Syrian ally when this conflict is over. Iran, for example, is already working to establish a long-term social, religious, and military presence in the country.

The imperatives of regime survival and autonomy mean that its reconstruction logic will echo its warfighting logic: indiscriminate punishment of disloyalty to impose fear, selective co-optation, and deal-making with opposition groups where this offers a low-cost solution on regime terms and safeguards core regime interests. Initial urban reconstruction efforts of the regime in Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo, on the basis of Decree 66 (2012), already show how the regime uses high-end property developments to generate funds and reward loyalists through forcible dispossession below market rates, as well as the use of regime-linked real estate and construction companies. The nationalization of property enabled by the closely-related Law no. 10 will take this approach to a new level.

An additional consequence of Law no. 10 is that it will enable large-scale demographic engineering by reallocating appropriated property to new owners. This will not necessarily be sectarian in nature as the majority of both Syrians and regime-loyalists are Sunni. Rather, it will create large loyalist urban centers to underpin the regime’s power base and limit the return of refugees, who are largely not perceived as supporters of President Assad.

In addition to remaking urban centers as areas of repopulated loyalist concentration, the strategy will probably also involve undoing the existence of impoverished Sunni-belts around Syria’s main cities from which so many rebels were recruited. Insofar as these poorer suburbs are currently depopulated due to rebel recruitment, casualties, and flight, the regime is likely to use Law No. 10 to appropriate the land (in many such areas, property rights were not well established even before the war) and to then prevent their resettlement if and when refugees return. Any Sunni populations that have not fled but are still living in such suburbs at present will also be at risk of forced displacement and dispossession commensurate with the extent of their perceived disloyalty to the regime. It is clear that the regime has no problem initiating displacement on a large scale when it suits regime interests. Dealing with the suburban belts in this fashion will remove a source of resistance against the regime once and for all.

Though these are the primary aspects of the strategy, Law no. 10 may very well additionally facilitate small-scale sectarian demographic engineering in a few strategic areas. The “four-town deal” that swapped the population of two Sunni villages with two Shi’i ones west of Damascus suggests that the Syrian-Lebanese border could be such an area. Incidentally, this particular deal was enabled by Qatar as the price for release of their captured royal hunting party in Iraq.

If the re-entrenchment of the Syrian regime was not already a sad enough finale, the emerging parallels with the plight of many Palestinians are uncanny and will constitute a further source of international concern. Not only is the relative size of the Syrian diaspora growing fast, but Law no. 10 may well have an effect similar to the Israeli Absentee Property Law, which effectively nationalized Palestinian lands whose owners had fled after November 1947. The Israeli/Palestinian problem still haunts the world’s conscience 70 years later, though apparently not enough to end its neglect and resolve the problem.

In 2017, Pearlman quotes Talia—a fleeing TV correspondent in Aleppo—regarding a sad but remarkably poignant moment: “I waited for the driver outside. I kissed the walls on the street, because I knew that I was never coming back to them.”

Law no. 10 just brought this scenario one step closer to reality.

___________________________________________________________________

Erwin van Veen is a senior research fellow at Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Follow on Twitter.

Syria: ‘Absentees law’ could see millions of refugees lose lands

Legislation could allow government confiscate properties of displaced Syrians unless they prove ownership in 30 days.

by

An estimated 150,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta have evacuated to northern Syria [Reuters]
An estimated 150,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta have evacuated to northern Syria [Reuters]

As thousands of Syrians flee their homes in Eastern Ghouta to escape a fierce air and ground offensive led by pro-government forces, President Bashar al-Assad has introduced a new law which can potentially see the state confiscating the lands of millions of displaced people.

Law Number 10, introduced earlier this week, calls on Syrians to register their private properties with the Ministry of Local Administration within 30 days.

Titleholders must either provide proof of ownership documents themselves, or ensure a relative does so on their behalf. Otherwise, they face having to relinquish their properties to the state.

read on here

Here lies danger. Hungary is on the verge of full-blown autocracy

A poster featuring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hangs on a tram station
‘Viktor Orbán has control of all civil institutions and has already succeeded in having the main paper of opposition, Népszabadság, closed down.’ Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Having bussed tens of thousands of supporters into Budapest for a pre-election “peace march” on 15 March, prime minister Viktor Orbán addressed them, promising that after his victory on 8 April he will deal with those who oppose him by “moral, political and legal means”.

But who are his opponents? Is it the ragbag of small parties who cannot unite in opposition and who have, in any case, been deprived of the platforms required to reach the electorate? Is it the NGOs and other human rights associations who have been looking after those most badly affected by his policies? Is it perhaps the Central European University, Hungary’s most highly ranked university, which produces ideas that might be critical of him? Is it perhaps the refugees he depicts as a tide of migrants ready to drown the country with their alien, menacing ways? And if it is all these, at whose door does he lay the blame?

Surely it is George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who funded Orbán’s own time at Oxford as well as the underground presses of pre-1989 Hungary and Warsaw Pact Europe, and who now funds some of those troublesome NGOs and the Central European University. It must be him because it is Soros’s grinning face that is on countless billboards and posters around the country in the past year. It must be Soros, he who controls so many other governments and whose idea of an open society is a none-too-well disguised invitation to dangerous Islamist forces to take over Europe – don’t let Soros have the last laugh, declared the posters and billboards, invoking every antisemitic trope in the book. Don’t let this ex-Hungarian, rootless cosmopolitan foist his “sinister vision” of society on us, they echoed.

And what could be more sinister than an independent candidate, one Péter Márki-Zay, beating Zoltán Hegedüs of Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party, to the mayoralty of Hódmezővásárhely, right in the Fidesz heartlands? It was a shock result for all involved, a potentially dangerous sign of things to come for Orbán at the election and beyond. This tendency must be stamped on. But how? Soros is the answer, of course. He is the ever-available scapegoat.

“Their task, should they get to power,” says Orbán of those who oppose him, “is to execute ‘the grand plan’.” Europe, he claims, is about to be invaded by tens of millions of people from Africa and the Middle East and “if Europe does nothing, they will kick down our doors. The history of the conquered nations will be rewritten by others, and those who are still young will see how they become minorities in their own country.”

Forget the fact that Hungary has practically zero immigration from those regions, and that the EU request that they should take in 1,300 was fiercely resisted, resulting in the erection of two rows of barbed-wire fence at the border with Serbia and Croatia, and the deployment of a civil militia – which could always be used for other purposes – to patrol it. More importantly for now, he tells his hard-core supporters that all who oppose him under the “independent” banner are in fact undeclared Soros candidates ready and willing to carry out the wicked financier’s orders. “Our strength lies in unity: one camp, one flag. We need everyone working together,” he declares, adding that he understands that people may be frightened by the prospect.

If they are frightened, of course, it will have been because of Orbán’s own version of “project fear”, the only thing that could shield him from the mounting charges of financial and social corruption. It is because he has instilled fear into those who oppose him, chiefly through loss of employment. He has control of all civil institutions and has already succeeded in having the main paper of opposition, Népszabadság, closed down.

Hungary is a country wounded by history: defeat in wars, invasion and occupation; revolutions; betrayals by allies; and, above all, the catastrophic treaty of Trianon in 1920 which carved up both country and population. Only a strong leader can protect us, says the national instinct.

Hungary today is on the verge of full-blown autocracy. And now, with Viktor Orbán’s threat of “moral, political and legal” vengeance to come after 8 April vote, the country is, as the rest of Europe cannot fail to see, in the act of stepping over the threshold.

George Szirtes is a poet and translator

Since you’re here …

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If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as £1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Behind AFP’s Syria coverage

Christian Chaise

Friday 16 March 2018
Nicosia — Every day, dozens of photos taken by stringers in Syria land at the photo editing desk in Nicosia, AFP’s headquarters for the Middle East and North Africa. Sometimes, we get hundreds. Like on March 13, when we got 350. It’s been like this for years.
On March 15, the Syrian conflict entered its eighth year. Since the beginning, AFP has been one of the very few international outlets to maintain constant on-the-ground coverage. To pull this off, we have a network of stringers that we built over the course of several years. This is probably unequalled among major foreign media outlets.

See full article and photos here

Rest in Peace Stephen Hawking

Rest in Peace Stephen Hawking, one of humanity’s brightest stars. In 2014 he wrote these words about Syria. They ring exactly true four years later. Read his beautiful opinion piece here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/17/syria-abomination-human-intelligence-end-war

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