Monday, May 31, 2010

Emergency Protests: Israel attacks Free Gaza boats - at least 10 activists killed, dozens injured

Wounded activist being evacuated

Dear friends,
as many you have no doubt heard the horrendous news that Israel has attacked the Free Gaza Movement flotilla which was carrying 700 human rights activists, doctors, parliamentarians, journalists and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Emergency protests are taking place or being organised all over the world to protest Israel's barbaric murder of human rights activists.

The details for the Australian protests so far are listed below, as is the Media Release issued by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Melbourne.

In solidarity, Kim


Tuesday June 1, 4.30pm, Cnr of Burke Street Mall and Swanston St, Melbourne City.
Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne)

Tuesday June 1, 5.30pm at the Town Hall
organised by Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine.

Tuesday June 1, 5pm, Wesley Church, cnr William & Hay Sts, Perth.
Organised by Friends of Palestine, Western Australia

Tuesday, June 1, 5pm, Brisbane Square
Organised by Justice for Palestine (Qld)

The following media release has been issued by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Melbourne:


Gaza Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos in international waters; 16 reported killed

Palestine solidarity groups calls for emergency action:

MELBOURNE ACTION - Tuesday, 1 June at 4.30pm

Cnr of Bourke St Mall and Swanston St,
Melbourne City.

A few hours ago hundreds of Israeli commandos illegally stormed the six vessels of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that were endeavouring to deliver 10 000 tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza. The Israeli media is reporting that up to 16 people have been killed and up to 30 wounded after the commandos opened fire on unarmed civilians in international waters.

Not since the French Secret Service blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985 has there been such a brazen act of international piracy by a sovereign state. Governments all around the world have condemned the criminal actions of Somali pirates in international waters off the horn of Africa, and have even sent naval armadas to confront those pirates. The international community must now unreservedly condemn this criminal act of piracy on the high seas, and immediately sent an international naval armada to restrain the barbaric actions of the Israeli Navy.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne) has called an emergency protest for (Tuesday) 1st June at 4.30pm, corner of Bourke St Mall and Swanston St, Melbourne City.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Free Gaza Movement flotilla vs Israeli government spin

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, the Free Gaza Movement's flotilla of 9 ships, with 700 activists from 40 countries is making its way to Gaza in attempt to break Israel's illegal siege and to bring 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

In response, Israel has announced that it will stop the boats and has gone on a PR propaganda blitz arguing that the aid is not needed because there is supposedly no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Al Jazeera, however, has challenged this claim with an excellent report from reporter, Sherine Tadros (see video below).

As part of its media propaganda blitz, the Israeli government has also claimed that Cyprus "banned" the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) flotilla from landing in Cyprus. Reports in the Cypriot media have made it clear that this is not true and simply just more Israeli government spin.

The Cyprus Mail (see: ) on Wednedsay published an article on the flotilla, which reveals the FGM had no plans to dock in Cyprus and therefore did not ask permission to dock. The article makes it clear that the Cypriot government has not banned the FGM flotilla.

According to the Cyprus Mail:

"This is the ninth aid trip conducted by FGM. However, unlike previous journeys when the ships would meet in Larnaca, today they will meet international waters before they attempt to breach the blockade.Asked why they are not docking in Cyprus, Greta Berlin, FGM Spokeswoman said they had not received permission, as the Cypriot Government is following international law and maritime regulations, which state that ships can only go between legal international ports. The Cyprus Government has been wonderful, helping us the previous eight times, but it is not fair to ask Cyprus to deal with this by itself. They are being leaned on by Israel and the US."

"A senior source within Cyprus' Foreign Ministry agreed that they would be following all the rules and international maritime regulations. However, he said that he was not aware of any request being made by the organisers of the flotilla.
"It is up to the organisers, and they have decided not to visit Cyprus. But if any such request had been put forward, the decision will take place according to international and maritime law, and any rules that exist."

Another story circulating in the Israeli media is that the FGM also refused a request from the father of Gilad Shalit to take a letter to him. The FGM movement has stated this is a blatant lie.

In a media release about Israel's disinformation campaign, the FGM states: (see: )

"Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit's father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit's family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners"

I have included the full text of the FGM media release regarding Israel's disinformation campaign below.

The Free Gaza Movement flotilla is due to arrive in Gazan waters on Saturday (Palestinian time).

Israeli anti-occupation activists are planning to hold a solidarity action on Saturday in support of the FGM flotilla to oppose their government stance and to support the call for breaking the siege and for the FGM flotilla movement to be allowed safe passage. International actions around the world are also taking place in support of the flotilla and the people of Gaza.

The FGM will be updating supporters and the media with what is happening with the flotilla. You can follow their updates at:

Solidarity with the Free Gaza Movement and the people of Gaza! End the Siege Now!

in solidarity, Kim

Al Jazeera


Israel's Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Written by Free Gaza team | 28 May 2010
Posted in News

For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. This weekend, 9 civilian boats carrying 700 human rights workers from 40 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid will attempt to do just that: break through the Israel's illegal military blockade on the Gaza Strip in non-violent direct action. In response, the Israeli government has threatened to send out 'half' of its Naval forces to violently stop our flotilla, and they have engaged in a deceitful campaign of misinformation regarding our mission.

Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International's Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli's siege on Gaza has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law."[1]

Israel claims that its blockade is directed simply at the Hamas government in Gaza, and is limited to so-called 'security' items. Yet When U.S. Senator John Kerry visited Gaza last year, he was shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade included staple food items such as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.[2] Furthermore, Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, has documented numerous official Israeli government statements that the blockade is intended to put 'pressure' on Gaza's population, and collective punishment of civilians is an illegal act under international law.[3]

Israel claims that if we wish to send aid to Gaza, all we need do is go through 'official channels,' give the aid to them and they will deliver it. This statement is both ridiculous and offensive. Their blockade, their 'official channels,' is what is directly causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place.

According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "Palestinians in Gaza are being actually 'starved to death,' receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime... an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings."[4]

Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit's father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit's family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.[6]

Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need. These claims only demonstrate how degenerate the political discourse in Israel has become.

Activists from the Freedom flotilla

Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August—September 2005, Israel maintains “effective control” over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations.[7] Among Israel’s most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” (G IV, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (G IV, art. 33).

Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals, to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel’s policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster. The dire situation that currently exists in Gaza is therefore a result of deliberate policies by Israel designed to punish the people of Gaza. In order to address the calamitous conditions imposed upon the people, one must work to change the policies causing the crisis. The United Nations has referred to Israel’s near hermetic closure of Gaza as “collective punishment,”[8] strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All nations signatory to the Convention have an obligation to ensure respect for its provisions.[9]

Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of nonviolent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.

One of the ships from the Freedom Flotilla in port.


[1] Amnesty International, Annual Human Rights Report (26 May 2010);

[2] "The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security," The Independent (2 March 2009)

[3] "Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation," Gisha (January 2010)

[4] "Carter calls Gaza blockade 'a crime and atrocity," Haaretz (17 April 2008),

[5] "Gaza aid convoy refuses to deliver package to Gilad Shalit," Haaretz (27 May 2010)
[6] "Comprehensive Report on Status of Palestinian Political Prisoners," Sumoud (June 2004); Palestinian Children Political Prisoners, Addameer,

[7] Article 42 of the Hague Regulations stipulates, a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and that the occupation extends “to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.” Similarly, in the Hostage Case, the Nuremburg Tribunal held that, “the test for application of the legal regime of occupation is not whether the occupying power fails to exercise effective control over the territory, but whether it has the ability to exercise such power.” Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, continue to be subject to Israeli control. For example, Israel controls Gaza’s air space, territorial waters, and all border crossings. Palestinians in Gaza require Israel’s consent to travel to and from Gaza, to take their goods to Palestinian and foreign markets, to acquire food and medicine, and to access water and electricity. Without Israel’s permission, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot perform such basic functions of government as providing social, health, security and utility services, developing the Palestinian economy and allocating resources.

[8] John Holmes, Briefing to the U Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 27 January 2009.

[9] Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article I stating, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.” See also, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I. C. J. Reports 2004, p. 136 at 138;

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Speaking to Israelis about Nakba

Dear friends,

Real News, along with Zochrot speak to Israelis about Nakba. Zochrot (which means "remembering" in Hebrew) is an Israeli organisation, which seeks to raise awareness about Al Nakba inside Israel.

You can find out more about them at:

in solidarity,

Join the Global Intifada - ISM Summer campaign call out

Join the Global Intifada

International Solidarity Movement (or click on title of this post)

20 May 2010
Join the Global Intifada in Palestine this summer

Join the Global Intifada in Palestine this summer

Global Intifada 2010: Popular Struggle. Steadfastness. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Popular resistance to Israel’s apartheid is growing globally! In Palestine, non-violent resistance to land confiscation and settlement expansion is gathering momentum.

Weekly non-violent demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza have tripled since January, and continue to increase in size and number. The tents are standing strong in Jerusalem’s threatened communities of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and resistance to settler attacks and land grabs in the Jordan Valley is also building.

The International Solidarity Movement is committed to supporting these communities in their struggle for justice and freedom. We stand alongside Palestinians in demonstrations, stay in the tents and homes of threatened areas, and walk with farmers to their land. By documenting and helping to resist the evils of apartheid, ISM projects the Palestinian struggle to a global audience, and shows Israel that the world is against its actions.

Come and join the Global Intifada in Palestine! Committed volunteers are needed in the West Bank this summer. This new wave of unarmed resistance is exciting and powerful, and it needs your support. Whether for 2 weeks or for 3 months, your contribution is needed. See for more information, or email us at

From abroad: Under the banner of “Global Intifada”, solidarity actions are needed worldwide. Please consider organizing an action in your hometown.

The growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is crucial, and is a great way for you to get involved in your own country. Similar tactics were used in ending South African apartheid. For more information, go to

Please join the Global Intifada. We look forward to seeing you here.

ISM Palestine
Updated on May 20, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Deir Yassin: Israel's continued suppression of massacre documents

Dear friends,

Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz is currently petitioning Israel's High Court of Justice to release written and photographic evidence from the Israeli military archives about the Deir Yassin massacre.

As many of you are aware, the massacre at Deir Yassin took place on 9 April, 1948. More than 120 members of the Zionist terror gangs - the Etzel (Irgun) and the Lehi (Stern Gang) attacked the village of between 400 to 600 residents, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, killing more than 100 women, children and men.

The massacre at Deir Yassin was then used by the Zionist terror forces to terrify and panic the Palestinian population into fleeing their homes and villages - frightened that they too would become victims of a subsequent Zionist massacre (according to Israeli Zionist historian, Benny Morris, at least 24 massacres took place. Morris, however, only counted massacres formally recorded in Zionist documents. Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe argues that oral testimony from Palestinians indicates that the figure was much higher than the 24 documented by Morris).

The records relating to the massacre should have been released 8 years ago (after a 50 year embargo). However, when an Israeli arts student tried to access them in 2006, she was denied access and the Israeli state extended the ban a year after her request was made. Defending its right to keep the documents sealed, the Israeli state has argued that "their publication would tarnish the country's image abroad and inflame Arab-Israeli tensions".

Below is an article from the UK Independent on Deir Yassin and Ha'aretz's petition to gain access to the suppressed documents and photographs.

in solidarity,

Short video outlining what happened in Deir Yassin

A massacre of Arabs masked by a state of national amnesia

Sixty years on, the true story of the slaughter of Palestinians at Deir Yassin may finally come out

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem: Monday, 10 May 2010

More than one unwitting visitor to Jerusalem has fallen prey to the bizarre delusion that they are the Messiah. Usually, they are whisked off to the serene surroundings of Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of the city, where they are gently nursed back to health.
BELOW: Deir Yassin

It is an interesting irony that the patients at Kfar Shaul recuperate from such variations on amnesia on the very spot that Israel has sought to erase from its collective memory.

The place is Deir Yassin. An Arab village cleared out in 1948 by Jewish forces in a brutal battle just weeks before Israel was formed, Deir Yassin has come to symbolise perhaps more than anywhere else the Palestinian sense of dispossession.

Sixty-two years on, what really happened at Deir Yassin on 9 April remains obscured by lies, exaggerations and contradictions. Now Ha'aretz, a liberal Israeli newspaper, is seeking to crack open the mystery by petitioning Israel's High Court of Justice to release written and photographic evidence buried deep in military archives. Palestinian survivors of Deir Yassin, a village of around 400 inhabitants, claim the Jews committed a wholesale massacre there, spurring Palestinians to flee in the thousands, and undermining the long-held Israeli narrative that they left of their own accord.

Israel's opposing version contends that Deir Yassin was the site of a pitched battle after Jewish forces faced unexpectedly strong resistance from the villagers. All of the casualties, it is argued, died in combat.

BELOW: Etzel (Irgun) troops in Deir Yassin

In 2006, an Israeli arts student, Neta Shoshani, applied for access to the Deir Yassin archives for a university project, believing a 50-year embargo on the secret documents had expired eight years previously. She was granted limited access to the material, but was informed that there was an extended ban on the more sensitive documents. When a lawyer demanded an explanation, it emerged that a ministerial committee only extended the ban more than a year after Ms Shoshani's first request, exposing the state to a legal challenge. The current embargo runs until 2012.

Defending its right to keep the documents under wraps, the Israeli state has argued that their publication would tarnish the country's image abroad and inflame Arab-Israeli tensions. Ha'aretz and Ms Shoshani have countered that the public have a right to know and confront their past.

Judges, who have viewed all the archived evidence held by the Israeli state on Deir Yassin, have yet to make a decision on what, if anything, to release. Among the documents believed to be in the state's possession is a damning report written by Meir Pa'il, a Jewish officer who condemned his compatriots for bloodthirsty and shameful conduct on that day. Equally incriminating are the many photographs that survive.

Video report on Zionist terrorism, including King David Hotel bombing and Deir Yassin
(with testimony from survivors)

"The photos clearly show there was a massacre," says Daniel McGowan, a US retired professor who works with Deir Yassin Remembered. "Those photos show [villagers] lined up against a quarry wall and shot."

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan that would divide Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state, with Jerusalem an international city. The Arabs fiercely opposed the plan and clashes broke out as both sides scrambled for territory before the British mandate expired. In April 1948, the Hagana, the predecessor of the Israeli army, launched a military operation to secure safe passage between Jewish areas by taking Arab villages on high ground above the road to Jerusalem.

Irgun and the Stern Gang, breakaway paramilitary groups, drew up separate plans to take the strategic Deir Yassin in a pre-dawn raid on 9 April 1948, even though the villagers had signed a non-aggression pact with the Jews and had stuck to it. What happened next is still under debate. In his book The Revolt, Menachim Begin, a future Israeli prime minister, recounts how the Jewish forces used a loudspeaker to warn all the villagers to leave the village. Those that remained fought.

"Our men were compelled to fight for every house; to overcome the enemy they used large numbers of hand grenades," wrote Mr Begin, who was not present at the battle. "And the civilians who had disregarded our warnings suffered inevitable casualties. I am convinced that our officers and men wished to avoid a single unnecessary casualty."

Mr Begin's account, however, is challenged by the recollections of survivors and eyewitnesses. Abdul-Kader Zidain was 22 years old in 1948, and immediately joined a band of 30 fighters from the village to fend off the surprise Jewish offensive, even though they were clearly outnumbered.

Map of Deir Yassin and surrounding area

"They went into the houses and they shot the people inside. They killed everybody they saw, women and children," said Mr Zidain, who lost four of his immediate family, including his father and two brothers, in the attack. Now a frail 84-year-old living in a West Bank village, he says he remembers everything as if it were yesterday. Survivor testimonies are supported by Mr Pa'il, whose detailed eyewitness account was published in 1998. Awaiting reassignment, he went to observe the attack as part of his remit to keep the Irgun and the Stern Gang in check.

After the fighting had wound down, Mr Pa'il described how he heard sporadic firing from the houses, and went to investigate. There he saw that the soldiers had stood the villagers in the corners of their homes and shot them dead. A short while later, he saw a group of around 25 prisoners being led to a quarry between Deir Yassin and neighbouring Givat Shaul. From a higher vantage point, he and a companion were able to see everything and take photographs. "There was a natural wall there, formed by diggingy. They stood the prisoners against that wall and shot the lot of them," he said. Mr Pa'il described how Jews from neighbouring Givat Shaul finally stepped in to stop the slaughter.

In the ensuing confusion and anger over the killings in Deir Yassin, both sides released an inflated Palestinian death toll for very different reasons: the Palestinians wanted to bolster resistance and attract the attention of the Arab nations they hoped would help them; the Jews wanted to scare the Palestinians into flight.

After the dust had settled, Mr Zidain and the other survivors counted the missing among them, and concluded that 105 Palestinians had died in Deir Yassin, not the 250 often reported. Four Jews were killed. But the damage was already done. The reports from Deir Yassin led to a total collapse of morale, and many historians regard the incident as the single biggest catalyst for the Palestinians' flight. By UN estimates, 750,000 Palestinians had fled their homes by the end of the 1948 War of Independence, roughly 60 per cent of Palestine's pre-war Arab population.

Mention Deir Yassin these days to most young Israelis and it will fail to register. Not far from the Kfar Shaul hospital, two teenage boys shake their heads at a question on Deir Yassin. Never heard of it, they say.

"Most Israelis treat the subject with total silence," says Professor McGowan. "They no longer deny it, they just don't talk about it."

The decision on whether that silence will now be broken remains in the hands of Israel's courts. "This was a big and important event in our history here. It was the first village we took and has a lot of meaning in the war that came after," says Ms Shoshani. "We have to deal with our past for our own sake."

Memorial at Deir Yassin

Palestine Post (now Jerusalem Post)

1948 news article on the massacre

Monday, May 3, 2010

Israel moves to ban Israeli human rights organisations that expose Israeli war crimes

Dear friends,
on the back of the poll that reveals that a majority of Israelis are willing to see the banning of Israeli human rights organisation, 20 Israeli parlimentarians have tabled a bill to outlaw Israeli human rights organisations which expose Israeli warcrimes and wrong doings by the Israeli military. (Most of this has been reported in the Hebrew press language rather than English language press - the second article includes a translation of the article from Maariv)

Two articles/blogs below on the newly proposed law, as well as a statement issued by Israeli Human Rights organisations in response.

in solidarity, Kim

From The Promised Land Blog:

Knesset moves to outlaw human rights organizations in Israel
Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: noam | Filed under: In the News, The Left, media | Tags: adalah, avi dichter, human rigths, im tirzu, meni mazoz, new israel fund, shin beit, the only democracy in the middle east | No Comments »

Something very troubling is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East”
More than 20 MKs, including members of opposition party Kadima, proposed a new bill which will make it possible to outlaw the important human rights groups in Israel. Among the organizations mentioned in the proposed bill are Doctors for Human rights, The Coalition of Woman for Peace, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. All these organizations receive funds from the New Israeli fund.

According to a report in Maariv, the new bill will outlaw any organization “which is involved in activity intended to lead to the prosecution or arrest of IDF officers and government officials for war crimes.” the word “involved” makes it a very broad definition.

Palestinian child tied to a Israeli jeep and used as a human shield by Israeli Occupation Forces - a war crime under international law.

Two weeks ago, an article by Maariv’s Ben Caspit suggested that NIF sponsored organizations that are linked to an international effort to investigate and prosecute senior IDF officers for war crimes.

The introduction to the new bill declares that:

“… “Those organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes.”

More than 20 MK’s signed the offer. Among them are known parliament members from Tzipi Livni’s opposition party Kadima, former head of Shin Beit Avi Dichter and members from Likud and NRP.

From all the anti-democratic measures I’ve been writing about here, this is by far the most extreme. Even if a mild version of this law passes, defending human rights in Israel – a difficult tusk as is – will become practically impossible. Merely proposing this bill will harm grassroots efforts and freedom of speech, as both the media and the public are becoming more and more hostile to people and groups who are portrayed as unpatriotic or anti-Israeli.

Much of “the case for Israel” is based on the notion that this is a democracy – the only one in a hostile environment. But Israel is changing. This is not something that you notice on a one week vacation in Jerusalem or from on the Tel Aviv beach, but if you pay close attention to the news, you can easily notice it.

People are harassed and delegitimized for the things they say and because of their views. Foreign activists are arrested and deported. The Shin Beit, Israel’s security agency, stated recently before the court that it sees its job as to supervise and follow the actions of Israeli left-wing organizations even when they are not suspected in breaking the law. This statement was approved by the former Government’s attorney, Meni Mazoz, who also heads the prosecution in Israel.

As a poll published this week on Haaretz shows, the Jewish public is supportive of such measures:

57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.

Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel. The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.

Politicians and Journalists, always sensitive to public opinion, follow such trends with calls for actions. Violence against activists in the West bank becomes common. Police arrests organizers of legal protests, even if there is nothing to charge them with.

As most of the country carries own with its daily life, and the world is busy with efforts to re-ignite the peace process and doesn’t pay much importance to such details, it is easy to miss the big picture. But something very major is happening here right now. I don’t have any idea where will it end up leading us, but I suspect it’s not such a good place.

UPDATE: here is a full translation of today’s article in Maariv, courtesy of Coteret blog.

MKs Propose Outlawing Adalah

Ma’ariv (p. 12) by Arik Bender — More than 20 MKs from the coalition and the opposition yesterday introduced a bill that is geared to outlaw non-profit organizations that are involved in activity that is geared to bring about the arrest of IDF officers and senior government officials overseas for war crimes. The bill did not specify the names of the non-profit organizations in question, but the law-makers did cite NPOs such as Adalah, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and the Coalition of Women for Peace—all of which receive funding from the New Israel Fund.

“It is very saddening that in an era such as this one, when we ought to be united against those very same baseless accusations, we witness Israeli NPOs and organizations operating beneath the surface against Israel,” read the printed explanation to the bill. “Those same organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes. Sometimes they even extend palpable legal assistance in drafting the arguments.”

The bill was submitted yesterday at the end of a tempestuous debate in the plenum about Ma’ariv’s expose about the involvement of the New Israel Fund in lawsuits against the IDF and top state officials. Among the signatories of the new bill are the former director of the GSS, MK Avi Dichter, former deputy GSS director MK Gidon Ezra, Chairman of the State Audit Committee MK Yoel Hasson, MK Ronit Tirosh, MK Otniel Schneller, MK Yaakov Edri, MK Moshe Matlon, MK Ophir Akunis, MK Tzippi Hotovely, MK Uri Orbach, MK Zvulun Orlev and others.

“The bill will put an end to the rampage by NPOs who are trying to subvert the state under the guise of human rights,” said yesterday Ronit Tirosh, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Im Tirtzu smear campaign poster against Noami Chazan and the New Israel Fund.

Upon the introduction of the bill, the Im Tirtzu movement announced that it was ending its campaign against the New Israel Fund. Ronen Shoval, the director of Im Tirtzu, said that he was pleased that his movement’s message had been heard in the Knesset. “We congratulate the MKs who picked up the gauntlet and intend to defend the IDF from the NPOs that are supported by the New Israel Fund,” said Shoval.

The forum of directors general of the human rights organizations in Israel, which includes Adalah—the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel— issued the following statement in response: “Instead of defending the values of democracy, the sponsors of the bill opt to trample it to dust. The bill—which seeks in practice to conceal information or suspected crimes—contravenes international conventions and the universal declaration about human rights that were signed after World War II and constitutes an unprecedented moral nadir in the Israeli legislature.

Israeli law proposal: Outlaw organisations reporting on violations
Foreboding in the Israeli human rights community as a new proposed law targets organizations reporting on breaches of international law

By JNews Thursday, 29 April, 2010 - 13:44 London, UK
Source: Knesset minutes, nrg, Maariv, Israeli human rights groups

A new law tabled on Wednesday in the Israeli Knesset, seeks to forbid registration of Israeli organizations (NGOs) that are suspected of provision of information or involvement in law suits against Israeli officials or commanders for breaches of International Humanitarian Law, or war crimes. It would also require the Registrar of Association to close down existing organizations engaged in such activities.

The proposed Associations Law (Amendment – Exceptions to the Registration and Activity of an Association), 2010, comes in the wake of an incitement campaign against the human-rights community in Israel and is the second law to be proposed against their activities this year.

Among the signatories to the proposed bill are two former members of Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet or shabac: former director Avi Dichter and former deputy director Gideon Ezra.

The law proposal does not cite names of specific organizations, but the initiators of the bill, 19 Knesset members (MKs) from various parties of both the coalition and the opposition, cited Israeli groups Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Coalition of Women for Peace as examples, in the course of a debate held on the bill Wednesday.

Israeli daily Maariv focused specifically on Adalah, a human-rights organization led by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Its news item on the law proposal was headed “MKs propose: Outlaw Adalah

In a heated discussion in the Knesset yesterday, MK Nitsan Horovitz of the left-leaning Meretz party described the law proposal as a witchhunt.
“So long as activities are legal under Israeli law, they are [allowed] under freedom of expression, and the conflict is a political one,” said Horovitz. “Is anything illegal being done by an organization? – then go to the police,” he said.

He added that the Knesset should address the allegations made by the organizations under attack, instead of silencing them.

A group of ten Israeli human rights organizations has published a response to the bill, saying that it “violates international treaties and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was signed in the wake of the horrors of World War II,” and that it “seeks to conceal information or suspicions of a crime.”

The group added that “The Israeli government’s refusal to allow the domestic legal system to investigate allegations of war crimes is the very reason that war crimes may be investigated and prosecuted abroad,” and that “instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes.”

Adalah’s Director Hassan Jabareen, added that “if the legislation is enacted, it would constitute an official admission by the State of Israel that it is committing war crimes, and is ordering human-rights organizations in Israel to keep silent about them, to refrain from passing on information about them, and to cease assisting both the victims and the international community in working to prevent their continuation. Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”

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Human Rights Groups in Israel Respond to Proposed Bill to Suppress Information about Serious Breaches of International Law: A Danger to Democracy

Democratic values are important to the human rights community in Israel. A new bill proposes to trample these democratic values and undermine the ability to seek accountability for human rights violations. It is with great concern that we respond to the proposed bill: Associations (Amutot) Law (Amendment – Exceptions to the Registration and Activity of an Association), 2010.

Brochure: Adalah - Legal Centre for the Arab Minority in Israel

The bill, introduced yesterday, would prohibit the registration of any Non Governmental Organization (NGO) if "there are reasonable grounds to conclude that the association is providing information to foreign entities or is involved in legal proceedings abroad against senior Israeli government officials or IDF officers, for war crimes". An existing NGO would be shut down under the proposed law if it engaged in such activity.

Instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes. This bill is the direct result of irresponsible leadership that is doing all it can to undermine democratic values and the institutions that are the backbone of a democracy: the Supreme Court, a free press, and human rights organizations. A public sphere without these institutions operating independently of the government is a public sphere that is crippled and anti-democratic at its core.

Logo of B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

The sponsors of this bill would do well to invest their energies in fulfilling their duty to oversee the actions of the executive branch, including the security forces. Where a suspicion arises that war crimes have been committed, legislators should act to bring about an independent, impartial investigation in Israel, according to the standards set by international law. The Israeli government's refusal to allow the domestic legal system to investigate allegations of war crimes is the very reason that war crimes may be investigated and prosecuted abroad. The bill – which essentially seeks to conceal information or suspicions of a crime – violates international treaties and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was signed in the wake of the horrors of World War II. It represents an unprecedented moral nadir within the Israeli house of parliament.

This response is issued by the Directors' Forum of the above-listed human rights organizations, all of whom are associations (amutot) registered in Israel.

For further information:
Keren Tamir, Spokesperson of Gisha, 052-891-9190, 03-6244120,; Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha, 054-8172103.
Louis Frankenthaler, International Outreach Director, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, 02-642-9825, 052-364-8822,