Nikki Haley Calls Apartheid Israel ‘the one true democracy in the Middle East’

Out of all of Trump’s appointees, Nikkie Haley is probably one of the worst. Formerly a governor of South Carolina, Haley is the current US ambassador to the United Nations. That’s her in the video above giving a presentation at the UN last Thursday.

I’m not sure how much Haley knows about international law. According to Wikipedia, she graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. How she ended up as UN ambassador, after criticizing Trump in the general election, is unclear. *

At any rate, Haley seems fully unaware that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Nor does she seem to comprehend why other UN-member states might press for resolutions seeking to call Israel to account, both for its settlements as well as its 50-year occupation of the West Bank–land universally recognized as necessary for a Palestinian state. So perhaps she is simply uninformed and does not understand the nature of Israel’s occupation or its devastating impact upon the lives of those forced to live under it. Or at least that’s one possibility.

The other possibility, of course, is that Haley does understand these things…and that she simply believes Israel is exceptional and should not have to follow the same laws and international standards that apply to other states. If so, apparently in Israel are those who would agree with her. Less than a week after her talk at the UN–in which she accused the body of a “prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues”–an Israeli military court handed down an 18-month sentence to an Israeli soldier who carried out an execution-style slaying of a wounded Palestinian in March of last year. There was no doubt the soldier was the one who pulled the trigger. The shooting was captured live on video. The sentence of 18 months he received for killing a Palestinian is lighter than what Palestinian children are often given for throwing stones.

* Incredibly, Haley also voiced criticism of Trump–over his stance on Russia–during her congressional confirmation hearings back in January. At that time she accused Russia of “war crimes,” and said, “They (the Russians) have done some terrible atrocities.”

Israeli Soldier Sentenced to 18 Months for Execution-Style Killing of Palestinian

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Family of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif, a 21-year-old Palestinian shot last year, sit in their Hebron home watching television coverage of the sentencing of Elor Azarya, the Israeli soldier convicted of killing him.

[ Ed. note – Abdul Fattah al-Sharif was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, on March 24, 2016. He was lying on the ground wounded at the time. His execution-style killing, which was captured on video, took place on the Jewish holiday of Purim. The video later went viral and made headlines around the world.

You can go here to watch the video of the shooting, and here to watch Israeli settlers celebrating Purim on the same Hebron streets later that same day. Al-Sharif and a companion, Ramzi Aziz Qasrawi, were both shot on March 24 following an alleged stabbing attack upon an Israeli soldier. I put up a number of posts last year on the incident, most notably Looks Like it Was a Purim Execution, which I published on March 25, and Ruled By the Insane, an article I wrote and published on April 19 and which deals with a protest held in Tel Aviv in support of the killer. Elor Azarya, the Israeli soldier who shot al-Sharif, was elevated to the status of national hero. Today Azarya was sentenced to 18 months by an Israeli military judicial panel.

The light sentencing underscores the fact that there are two standards of justice in Israel, one for Israeli Jews and another for Palestinians, which of course is the hallmark of apartheid. As the article below notes, Palestinian children will typically serve more time in jail simply for throwing rocks. ]

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Israeli Who Executed Injured Palestinian Gets Slap on the Wrist

By Michael F. Brown

Elor Azarya, the Israeli army medic who shot dead injured Palestinian Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif last year in the occupied West Bank, was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison, one year of probation and a demotion.

If not pardoned first, he may walk free after serving just a year in prison.

The light sentence was imposed even though judges found beyond any doubt that Azarya had acted in revenge.

“We are not surprised, from the onset we knew this was a show trial that will not do us justice,” al-Sharif’s family told media. “Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold-blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years.”

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“The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones,” the family added.

Azarya was indicted for manslaughter after he was caught on video shooting the head of the wounded and incapacitated al-Sharif lying in the street, killing him, on 24 March 2016.

Al-Sharif was shot dead along with Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, both 21 years old. Israel alleges that they stabbed a soldier near the Tel Rumeida settlement in Hebron.

The killing of al-Qasrawi was not caught on video.

Israeli hero

Significant segments of Israeli society – egged on by right-wing politicians including education minister Naftali Bennett and defense minister Avigdor Lieberman – objected to any trial at all for Azarya and have celebrated him as a hero.

The trial court found “beyond all reasonable doubt” that Azarya had acted out of revenge rather than in self-defense.

But after obtaining a conviction, prosecutors asked for only three to five years imprisonment.

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Elor Azarya with his mother in an Israeli military courtroom on February 25, 2017, shortly before being handed down his ridiculously light sentence.

At the time of the verdict, Human Rights Watch said that senior Israeli officials have been “encouraging Israeli soldiers and police to kill Palestinians they suspect of attacking Israelis even when they are no longer a threat.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly announced after the January conviction that Azarya should be pardoned.

He is accurately reading public sentiment, with Israelis reportedly supporting clemency by more than three to one.

Netanyahu, who is under investigation for corruption, is also trying to keep up with Bennett, a rival for the post of prime minister, who has repeatedly insisted Azarya be pardoned.

Impunity

The light sentence would appear to be another instance of the systematic impunity Israel affords its personnel who kill or injure Palestinians.

Last year, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem announced it would no longer refer complaints of violence against Palestinians to Israel’s military justice system.

“We will no longer aid a system that whitewashes investigations and serves as a fig leaf for the occupation,” Hagai El-Ad, the group’s director, explained.

Samir Zaqout of the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights told Al Jazeera he was not surprised by the outcome.

“Palestinians don’t expect any kind of justice from the Israeli legal system,” Zaqout said. “The lives of Palestinians are judged as worthless.”

Bill Fletcher, Jr., former president of TransAfrica Forum and a Palestine solidarity activist who was involved in the anti-apartheid movement, told The Electronic Intifada, “The sentencing of Elor Azarya reminds us that the value of Palestinian life is not the same as the value of Jewish citizens of Israel.”

“An 18-month sentence is nothing more than a slap on the hand,” Fletcher added. “It will do nothing to discourage further terrorist acts against Palestinians.”

Continued here

Related

Film about israeli imprisonment of Palestinians wins top award in Berlin

Source

By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC | February 21, 2017 

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A film depicting the torture, humiliation and violence experienced by Palestinians imprisoned by Israel won the first ever “Silver Bear” award at the Berlinale international film festival.

The film, “Istiyad Ashbah” (Ghost Hunting), was produced by Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni.

It was one of 18 finalists competing for the top honor at the Berlinale film festival this year. The ‘Golden Bear’ award was won by Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi for the film “Testrol es lelekrol” (On Body and Soul).

Andoni’s film “Ghost Hunting” involves a powerful re-enactment of interrogation rooms and prison facilities in the infamous ‘Russian Compound’ prison run by Israel.

According to journalist Rene Windangel, who spoke with Andoni about the creation of the film, the director began by confronting his own ghosts, having been imprisoned during the first intifada in the late 1980s. He then “turned to newspaper ads as he set out to find a group of former inmates able to work as set designers and craftsmen in recreating a prison on the film set. He also sought out ex-detainees willing to play the roles of prison wardens and prisoners. And so this group of people, who had themselves experienced imprisonment, began to meticulously build their own prison.”

German commentator Rene Windangel wrote in the paper ‘Qantara’, in a review of the film, “By giving the actors and crew room to express themselves, Andoni’s film manages to avoid cliches. In no way is the film limited to the observation of suffering or the re-enactment of victimisation. Raed Andoni’s film functions as both trauma therapy and as an opportunity to discuss the political problem of prisoners. First and foremost, though, the film works as an impressive piece of cinematography dealing with the basic questions of the human condition.”

Currently there are around 7000 Palestinian men and women imprisoned by Israel. Over 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned since 1967 and the start of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most were sentenced by military courts, while others were held without any charges in so-called “administrative detention”. There are practically no Palestinian families that have been spared the experience of prison.

‘Open Bethlehem’–Podcast Discussion on Palestinian Film

Recently the good folks at We Hold These Truths uploaded a podcast featuring a discussion on the film, “Open Bethlehem.” That’s the trailer of the film you see above. The description of the podcast is below:

Victories for the struggle for peace and justice for Palestinians come slowly, but are coming more frequently. We discuss the inspiring documentary Open, Bethlehem by Palestinian filmmaker, Leila Sansour. and her Bethlehem passport project designed to put wings to her film. We also talk about a recent, major victory in Boulder, Colorado where a resolution to make the Palestinian city of Nablus a sister city to Boulder was passed by the city council over strong opposition from vocal, local Zionists.

You can go here to access the full podcast. And you can also go here to visit the “Open Bethlehem” website and here to apply for your own Bethlehem passport. Should you be issued a passport, you will automatically become eligible to become an official ambassador of the holy city where Jesus was born. Here is a picture of former President Jimmy Carter being issued his own passport:

 photo jcbethpssport_zps0wx4ipjw.jpg

The passport reads as follows:

“In that the bearer of this passport is a citizen of Bethlehem; that they recognize this ancient city provides a light to the world, and to all people who uphold the values of a just and open society; that they will remain a true friend to Bethlehem through its imprisonment, and that they will strive to keep the ideals of Bethlehem alive as long as the wall stands; we ask you to respect the bearer of the passport and to let them pass freely.”

Israelis Stop Planting, Destroy Olive Tree Seedlings

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

By Joyce Kilmer

US Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem ‘a War Crime’

Global Research, February 04, 2017
Jonathan Cook 31 January 2017
iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

Analysts fear mixed signals from Trump administration may conceal a plan allowing the US ambassador to work out of Jerusalem 

From the windows of the grey, cube-shaped building that houses the US embassy in Tel Aviv, staff enjoy an undisturbed view out over the Mediterranean and a beach adorned in the summer with sunbeds and parasols.

Most days the only evidence of activity is outside on the pavement: A queue of Israelis snake out of a side door, clutching their documents and watched over by Israeli soldiers as they wait expectantly for a US travel visa.

The drab exterior offers no clues of the incendiary battle raging behind the scenes over whether the embassy’s days are numbered. Israel, and its allies in Donald Trump’s new administration, want to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, 70km away.

The distance may be short but the move risks a political and diplomatic earthquake, according to most analysts.

Move ‘war crime’

If the Trump’s White House approves the relocation, it would overturn decades of international consensus on Jerusalem.

The message to the Palestinians and Arab world would be clear and provocative, said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official and former Palestinian foreign minister.

“Moving the embassy is the same as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. It’s a war crime,” he told Al Jazeera.

There’s no way we or the Arab world could accept it. It would mean the end of the US as the broker of the peace process. We would fight back and mobilise the rest of the world against the move.

The Israeli army has been advising the government of Benjamin Netanyahu on the possible fallout too, according to a report last week in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. A change of address would be seen as a US green light for Israel to extend its sovereignty over the city and its holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque, in the view of Israeli military intelligence.

Reactions could include mass protests from the Islamic movements inside Israel; riots in the occupied Palestinian territories and neighbouring states such as Jordan, which is the official guardian of al-Aqsa; and the collapse of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli army believes the move also risks inflaming the wider Muslim world and increasing the threat of terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish sites around the world.

UN protected zone

Tensions over Jerusalem have been high since the United Nations announced a partition plan in late 1947. It treated the city as an internationally protected zone, separate from the Jewish and Arab states it proposed in the rest of historic Palestine.

But months later, in a war that created Israel on the Palestinian homeland, Jerusalem was divided in two, under separate Israeli and Jordanian control.

In that period, Israel worked strenuously to pressure countries to set up embassies in West Jerusalem over stiff opposition from the US, said Nimrod Goren, the author of a book in Hebrew on the battles over the US embassy’s location.

“Initially, Washington stuck by the international consensus so strictly that its diplomats refused even to travel to Jerusalem for political meetings and ceremonies,” Goren, who heads Mitvim, a think-tank on Israeli foreign policy, told Al Jazeera.

But US resolve weakened through the 1950s as Israel’s main institutions, from the parliament to the president’s office, relocated to West Jerusalem.

Illegal annexation

A further turning point came in the early 1960s. “The US started to cultivate much closer ties with Israel, especially in defence matters,” he said. Washington turned a blind eye as Israel offered aid to poor, newly independent states in Africa and others in Latin America in return for establishing their embassies in Jerusalem.

By the time Israel invaded and occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, Goren observed, more than a third of the 54 diplomatic missions in Israel were located in the city.

When Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, in violation of international law, declaring the entire city its “eternal, united capital”, the US again pressured states to move out of West Jerusalem. Only El Salvador and Costa Rica remained, until they too pulled out in 2006.

Another significant shift in Washington’s attitude followed the signing of the Oslo accords in 1994. Israel’s lobbyists worked hard to erode the significance of the accords, which, it was widely assumed, would entail the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognised Jerusalem as the “capital” of Israel and required a change in the embassy’s location by May 1999 at the latest.

Daunting ramifications

Like Trump, Bill Clinton and George W Bush promised during their presidential campaigns to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Yet, once in office, they baulked at the daunting ramifications.

The US president, as the chief broker in the Oslo process, could not afford to be seen pre-judging the outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem, the most contentious of the final-status issues.

The continuing sensitivity was evident during Barack Obama’s presidency.

He turned to the US Supreme Court in 2015 to strike down another Congressional measure designed to confer implicit US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The legislation would have entitled American parents of children born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as the birthplace on their passports.

Last October, the White House also made a point of publicly correcting the dateline on a press release concerning an eulogy delivered by Obama at Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem. The press release was re-issued with the word “Israel” struck through.

Confusing signals

Will Trump take a different tack, or will he too relent on his embassy pledge now he is in office?

In an interview late on Thursday, Trump indicated that he was not in a hurry to approve the move. “I don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s too early,” he told Fox News.

The confusing signals from his officials since his inauguration more than a week ago have hinted at a clash behind the scenes, said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think-tank.

“The truth is no one really knows what Trump will do, even veteran US diplomats,” he told Al Jazeera.

On the one hand, Trump and his closest advisers on the Middle East have gone out of their way to raise expectations. Trump has invested more political capital on the move taking place than his predecessors.

The difference in approach was underscored by his choice of ambassador to Israel. David Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, is more an ideological partisan – an ally of the settlers – than a diplomat, noted Yossi Alpher, who served as an adviser to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

Fear of backlash

At the same time, however, Trump is certain to face strong institutional resistance from the US state department, said Thrall. Its officials have long opposed moving the embassy, fearing the consequences for US relations with the Arab world.

Last month, citing national security considerations, Obama signed a presidential waiver included in the Jerusalem Embassy Act to postpone for another six months the law’s implementation – as has happened without fail since it passed 22 years ago.

Trump could use Obama’s waiver to save face by delaying a decision until at least June, observed Goren.

It is possible too that, despite Israeli celebrations over Trump’s promise on the embassy, Netanyahu may prefer in the end to let the matter lie for a while.

“There seems to be an ambivalence among Netanyahu’s circle,” said Thrall. “On the one hand, he has a lot of problems on his plate at the moment [with a series of corruption investigations] and doesn’t need the possibility of triggering a conflagration in the region. And on the other, there’s no great gain for him. If the US moves the embassy, European states will not follow.”

That is how Palestinian officials and diplomats in Jerusalem appear to be reading recent comments from the administration. Shaath said: “We have signs that the administration has retreated a little. But it may simply be a delay. We can’t be sure.”

Hunt for work-around

A European diplomat based in Israel, speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said: “It looks like Trump’s bark may have been worse than his bite. But there’s still a danger that [US ambassador] Friedman and Netanyahu will find a work-around.”

Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organisation of American, one of Israel’s key Israel lobby groups in Washington, told the Haaretz daily last week that Friedman had told him he would work out of US offices in Jerusalem.

Alpher suggested a possible scenario might be for Friedman to take over a section of the US consulate in Jerusalem, which serves the occupied territories. The US embassy could then function separately in Tel Aviv.

“If American Jewish leaders are insistent that the embassy moves, I could see the [Trump] administration choosing that as a compromise,” he said.

Shaath said such a manoeuvre should fool no one. “We would not accept any sort of so-called compromise along those lines. If the ambassador is working from Jerusalem, then the embassy has moved – and we will fight it.”

Israeli Land Seizure Bill Viewed as Prelude to West Bank Annexation

shepherdsarrest3

“If you don’t understand that stealing property from people, especially people that cannot defend their rights because they are at the bottom of the food chain [is wrong], then you have a moral and personal problem.”

Bill would “retroactively legalize” thousands of Jewish houses built on private Palestinian property

By Ben Lynfield

A controversial bill that would legalise the seizure of Palestinian private property and cripple hopes for a two-state peace solution is expected to easily pass in a Knesset vote next week.

A vote on the Settlement Regulation Bill – intended as a major step towards annexation of the occupied West Bank – was originally due to take place in December. But it was delayed until now to avoid criticism from the Obama administration and in the expectation that it would be backed by Donald Trump.

While Israeli officials have used a variety of legal devices over the years to lay claim to Palestinian property, including deploying a law dating back to Ottoman times stipulating that agricultural land left fallow reverts to the state, the bill would enable seizures on a grand scale and without the need to resort to legal sleight of hand. Only Israel’s supreme court could overturn it.

In a 1979 case, the court deemed it illegal to build settlements on what is clearly private Palestinian property, limiting such seizures to state land and purported military necessity. The new law would effectively nullify that court decision, opening even more swathes of the West Bank to Israeli settlement.

Masoud Ganaim, an Arab member of the Knesset, said the bill will “legitimise the theft of land from the Palestinians and is an opening to annexation of the rest of the territory in the West Bank. It will change everything, it will close up the path to the peace process and to any two state solution. There won’t be two states, there won’t be a solution”.

Dror Etkes, director of the moderate Israeli Kerem Navot NGO, which monitors land use in the West Bank, said the bill, if passed, would retroactively legalise many thousands of houses built on private property in hundreds of places. These include not only smaller wildcat settlement outposts built with government backing in violation of both Israeli and international law but also established settlements that were constructed partly on private property such as Beit El near Ramallah, and Eli, on the road to Nablus.

“Almost every settlement in the West Bank has parts that were built on private Palestinian property,” said Mr Etkes, who formerly monitored settlements for the Peace Now organisation. “If you don’t understand that stealing property from people, especially people that cannot defend their rights because they are at the bottom of the food chain [is wrong], then you have a moral and personal problem.”

Mr Etkes said the bill violates the Fourth Geneva convention, which stipulates that an occupying power can only seize property for military necessity. Politicians, army officers and settlers could leave themselves open to prosecution in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“This is heading to an escalation of the relations between Israel and the international community, at least parts of the international community that Israel wants to be respected by, namely Europe and sooner or later other countries. Assuming Trump won’t remain president forever, sooner or later it will put Israel in confrontation with important parts of North American politics as well.”

Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi termed the bill “an extreme example of Israel’s continuing tradition of land theft.” He added, “This law is illegal by Israeli legal standards and probably will not pass the Supreme Court. Maybe that’s what Bibi and Lieberman expect and count on.”

NGOs and private individuals are expected to petition Israel’s Supreme court in a bid to have the law declared illegal at the first opportunity.

Israel’s hard-right politicians have defended the bill against Arab and left-wing criticism.

Bezalel Smotrich, a Knesset member from the hard-right Jewish Home party that is part of the ruling coalition, said seizing Palestinian private property complies with democratic norms. “Every democratic country confiscates property for the good of the public,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “The settlement activity is a public purpose, not a private purpose.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennet went further by hailing the bill as “leading the way to annexation” of the West Bank.

Rami Mansour, a leading journalist among the Arab citizens of Israel who edits the Arab 48 website, last month called upon Israel’s Arab citizens to reassess their participation in the Knesset in light of the settlements bill, which “changes the rules of the political game.”

“Parliaments generally deal with laws inside their country,” he said. “The United States doesn’t legislate laws that apply to India. But here Israel is legislating a law that applies to territory not under its sovereignty. It is legislating a law to expropriate from Palestinians not by means of military orders but by legislation in contravention of previous practice. This is antidemocratic and turns the Knesset into the tool of the right.”

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