Sunday, March 30, 2014

Palestinian Land Day: resisting Israel's ethnic cleansing.

2014 Palestinian Land Day march @ Arraba/Shakhnin. Photo by Uri Weltmann.

Dear friends,
Sunday, March 30 marks the 36th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day (Youm al-Ard’) In 1976, the Israeli government's announcement of a plan to expropriate more than 60,000 of dunams of Palestinian-Arab-owned land in the Galilee for "security" and settlement purposes. 
Palestinian citizens of Israel called a general strike and marches were organised.  This was the first significant act of civil disobedience by Palestinians inside 1948.  Between 1948 and 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been forced to live under military rule and curfew (something which had not applied to Jewish citizens of the Zionist state).  During this period, Palestinians freedom of movement, political activity, free speech, freedom of association and civil rights were severely restricted.   Palestinians were prevented from engaging in any type of political activity and were restricted in what jobs they could hold and what education they could pursue. Villages were regularly placed under curfew and Palestinians had to obtain permits to travel from one village to another.   

While Martial Law formally ended in 1966, Israel has continued its apartheid practices, both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state (for more on this see my article: Israel's Apartheid)

The 1976 protests against the announced land grab was the first mass act of resistance after years of military rule.  Systematic expropriation, inside the Zionist state since 1948, had reduced Palestinian land ownership from approximately 94% prior to the Nakba to less than 3% in 1976.

Determined to crack down on the protests, the Israeli state imposed curfews on Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the north of Israel where the largest demonstrations were to take place. The peaceful demonstration of thousands of Palestinians and supporters was attacked by 4000 Israeli police and military, resulting in the death of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and hundreds wounded and hundreds more arrested. Today across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside 48 (Israel), Palestinians will commemorate Land Day with marches and demonstrations.

The Palestinian martyrs of Land Day, March 30, 1976 were:  Raja Hussein Abu Rayya (30) from Sakhnin; Muhsin Hasan Said Taha (15) from Kufr Kanna; Khader Eid Mahmoud Khalaila (24) from Sakhnin; Khayr Mohammad Salim Yasin (23) from Arraba; Khadija Qasem Shawahneh (23) from Sakhnin and; Rafat Ali Az-Zheiri (21) from Nur Shams refugee camp.

Israel, today, still continues its land grab and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state. 
Since 1967, when Israel seized control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the Zionist state has continued its expansion of illegal colonies. Today, more than half a million Israeli settlers reside illegally in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, doubling the figure of 241,500 that existed prior to the Oslo agreement in early 1990s.

Israel's expansion and construction of illegal settlements has resulted in both more and more Palestinian land being confiscated, as well as Palestinian resources, including water resources.
In January 2014, Friends of the Earth International noted that:
"Many communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) suffer from a lack of access to adequate, safe, and clean water, due to Israeli water policies and practices which discriminate against the Palestinian population of the OPT, and the encroachment by Israeli settlers on Palestinian water resources. (For the full text of their statement, click here)

Inside the Zionist state, Israel is currently seeking to ethnically cleanse between 40,000 and 70,000 Palestinian Bedouin from their homes and land in the Naqab (Negev) desert.  Under the Prawer Plan approximately 40 villages will be uprooted and more than 850,000 dunums of land will be confiscated by the Israeli state.

Palestinians both inside the Zionist state and in the Occupied Territories have been protesting against the Prawer Plan and what will be Israel's biggest mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian since 1948 and 1967.  Several national and international days of actions have taken place to protests Israel's latest land grab. (for more information on the Prawer Plan and the protest against it, see my earlier posts here, here, here, here, here , here and here)

I have included below a translation of an account by an Israeli policeman on the unprovoked attack by Israeli forces on the peaceful demonstration.  The article has been translated from Hebrew by my friend, Ofer Neiman, who is an Israeli activist with the "Boycott from Within" campaign - the campaign by Israeli citizens in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign (click here for more information on the Boycott from Within campaign).

I have also embedded the French documentary, The Land Speaks Arabic which looks at the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and includes interviews with Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from their lands and homes.

in solidarity,


The Land Speaks Arabic - 60 minutes

An Israeli policeman's account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the villagers fled, the forces entered some of the homes and began to take their rage out on their entire contents. I witnessed one such incident, in which glassware, the television set, the record player, pictures and other objects were smashed to pieces. Such images cannot but remind me of the poems by Bialik and Tchernichovsky about the pogroms waged against the Jews [in Russia] at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century.

The thing which terrified me most of all was the immense hatred of Arabs running through the veins of most of my fellow policemen, a hatred which was relieved only in the slightest on March 30.

We must shake off our hatred of the sons of Ishmael, for the sake of justifying our legitimate right to reside on this land.

Originally published by Ha’Olam Hazeh, 1976. Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Israel's abuse of Palestinian children: Breaking the Silence responds to Zionist lobby and critics of John Lyons "Stone Cold Justice" report

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, on February 10 this year, Australia's oldest and highly acclaimed investigative journalism program, 4 Corners ran a report by journalist John Lyons on Israel's abuse of Palestinian child prisoners.  The report, Stone Cold Justice, has been viewed widely both in Australia and internationally. 

since John Lyons excellent report about Israel's arrest and abuse of Palestinian child prisoners went to air, there has been a concerted attempt by Zionist and pro-Israel apologists to try and undermine and discredit the report.  

As I noted in previous blogs on Lyons' report, there has been a concerted attempted by Zionists and pro-Israel apologists to try and undermine and discredit Lyons' report.  This began even before the report went to air, with Zionist groups in Australia sending briefing sheets to supporters asking them to complain to the ABC (Australian Broad Cast Corporation) about the report.

John Lyons has since published an article in defense of his report, pointing out that Zionist critics deliberately choose to ignore Israeli realities.  You can read Lyons article here, along with my comments on the campaign to discredit his report.

Breaking the Silence, who were interviewed by Lyons as part of the Stone Cold Justice report have  now also responded to the Zionist critics.  Breaking the Silence is made up of  former Israeli combat soldiers who have served in the Israeli occupation forces since the beginning of the Second Intifada.  Founded in 2004, the organisation seeks to expose to the Israeli public the reality of everyday life for Palestinians, living under military occupation.  In the statement issued by Breaking the Silence in response to Zionist critics, Yehuda Shaul (who founded the group), notes that critics of the both Breaking the Silence and the report are engaged in "mudslinging ... while turning a blind eye to reality".

In their statement (which was published by the right-wing Australian Zionist newsite, J-Wire), Breaking the Silence addresses the deliberate distortions and lies, not only about their organisation and the Lyons report but also about Israel's occupation policies, as well as the attempts by pro-Zionist/pro-Israel groups to white wash Israel's human rights abuses.  I have included their full statement below.

While I do not necessarily agree with all of Shaul's politics, Breaking the Silence has and does make useful and important contribution in exposing Israel's occupation and its human rights abuses.  As such I think its is important that both Shaul's voice and Breaking the Silence be heard.

For my earlier posts on Lyons' Stone Cold Justice report:

  • Reporter John Lyons responds to Zionist critics of his Four Corners report on Israel's abuse of Palestinian children:  click here.

  • Four Corners: Stone Cold Justice - Israel's abuse of Palestinian child prisoners: click here.
In solidarity, 

Breaking The Silence responds to AIJAC

Read on for article
The ABC Four Corners on the treatment of Palestinian children by the IDF was addressed by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. The leader of Israeli advocacy group Breaking the Silence responds.

From Yehuda Shaul:

Yehuda Shaul in Hebron
Yehuda Shaul in Hebron   Pic:   Quique Kierzenbaum

I have been a member of Breaking the Silence since its founding in 2004. The organization has grown steadily since into what it is today: nearly 1000 combat soldiers breaking the silence about their service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The stories we tell are not easy to hear, we understand that. But the choice our audience has to make is whether to sincerely listen to us, as veterans, or to begin mudslinging while turning a blind eye to the reality. It saddens me that Jamie Hyams and Ahron Shapiro of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) have chosen the latter by slandering our role in ABC’s “Four Corners” program about children’s rights in the Occupied Territories.

As an organization, Breaking the Silence has a policy of avoiding responses to each and every unfounded smear against us by groups that simply copy and paste the misinformation promulgated by the extremist right-wing organization, NGO Monitor. It is unfortunate that AIJAC has stooped to NGO Monitor’s reckless tactics, which never cease to remind us of the dark days of 1950’s McCarthyism. Yet for the sake of the Australian public, we believe AIJAC’s attack allows us the opportunity to set the record straight.

Hyams and Shapiro begin vilifying our work by claiming that we publish “anonymous testimony… that generally can’t be verified.” We invite AIJAC to view the 700 publicly accessible videos of our members who have agreed to reveal their identity. There are many more who have gone public in other ways – to newspapers and in conferences, for example. We also remind AIJAC that each of our testimonies undergoes a rigorous verification process where we crosscheck testimonies with one another and with sources on the ground. As responsible veterans, we also pass every testimony we publish through an official IDF censor to ensure we don’t reveal state secrets. For the record, to this day not a single one of our testimonies has been shown to be false.

In Israel today, the norm is for soldiers to avoid speaking about what we did during our service in the territories. Our fear stems not from the threat of a potential lawsuit, but from the social stigma our society places upon those who tell the ugly truth. Does AIJAC not recognize that they are reinforcing this paradigm? Whether or not they appreciate what we have to say, we demand AIJAC respect our choice and right to speak out as veterans.

In AIJAC’s article, Hyams and Shapiro go on to claim that Breaking the Silence “publish[es] the bulk of [our] material in English, rather than Hebrew.” Neither, however, had the lucidity to simply count the testimonies available on our website – for which there are over 1,800 in Hebrew and just 500 in English. Although our work is primarily conducted in Hebrew, we believe it is our imperative to publish in English as well because the wider public has a right to receive information from people that were on the ground rather than from secondhand sources passing on distorted versions of events.

Hyams and Shapiro continue spreading misinformation by referring to our hundreds of soldier testimonies as “hardly amount[ing] to human rights abuses.” If they had only taken the time to look through them, they would have been privy to soldiers detailing assassinations, house demolitions, and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, to name but a few examples. I am not sure whether Hyams and Shapiro are unaware of these testimonies or whether they are genuinely asking their readers to believe that such acts are merely instances “that may have made soldiers uncomfortable” rather than severe human rights violations.

Instead of dealing with the facts, AIJAC prefers to perpetuate NGO Monitor’s smears about us receiving donations from foreign sources. It is unclear why they have chosen this stale slander when Haaretz has reported that more than half of the contributions to Israeli politicians of all stars and stripes in the last campaign have come from overseas. Does AIJAC take issue with Benjamin Netanyahu’s patriotism? Because 97% of his most recent campaign budget came from outside of Israel. By the way, it is important to note that AIJAC does not make its own funding sources publicly available, in stark contrast with Breaking the Silence’s policy of transparency. We are tremendously proud of our donors. Is AIJAC proud of theirs?

In addition, Hyams and Shapiro take issue with me saying during the ABC program that “when [soldiers] see settlers attacking a Palestinian, our orders are not to intervene.” As a former Israeli combat commander, I believe I know a little more about both the orders I received from my superiors and the orders I personally gave to my soldiers. We have countless soldier testimonies, from varied units stationed all over the West Bank, which have shared the exact same sentiment. I direct AIJAC to the media section of our website where they can find plenty of recent evidence for the lack of IDF intervention (1) (2) (3) and law enforcement (1) (2) (3) with regard to settler attacks on Palestinians.

Hyams and Shapiro go on to suggest that settler violence is not a routine occurrence, but rather that the ABC program “cherry-picked from incidents going back several years.” This is a preposterous assertion that could only come from individuals completely unfamiliar with everyday life in the Occupied Territories. It only takes a peek through a recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report to see that a group of armed Israeli settlers from Yitzhar beat Palestinian farmers with pipes, a middle-aged Palestinian and his 6-year-old son were stoned, and over 150 young olive trees were uprooted just the other week. This is tamer than usual – with an average of 6 incidents of settler violence each week resulting in civilian casualties or property damage so far in 2014 and 8 each week the year prior. Reports suggest that such attacks have largely gone unpunished. The truth is that settler violence is the norm in the territories, day in and day out.

But the most glaring example of AIJAC’s complete disconnect from the reality on the ground is their allegation that The Australian’s reporter John Lyons contradicts me in discussing the army’s escorting of children in the South Hebron Hills.  If they were only aware of the context leading up to the state ordering the military escort, they would know that this is a case of the exception that proves the rule.

The story of the military escort begins with the Palestinian children of the South Hebron Hills, some as young as 8-years-old, walking from their village of Tuba to a school in neighboring at-Tuwani. Settlers from the nearby outpost, called “Ma’on Farm,” launched attacks on these children – often perpetrated by masked men using clubs and chains. In 2005, children were ceaselessly harassed and assaulted; in one instance, four children were evacuated to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. These attacks on children must be placed in the context of the 70 violent acts by settlers recorded that year, including stoning Palestinians shepherds, poisoning their water cisterns and grazing fields, wounding and killing their livestock, and burning their crops.

The army ignored these events, even when Israeli and international activists began likewise becoming the victims of this brutality in their attempt to protect the children with their own bodies. Influential Israeli public figures began drawing attention to the phenomenon after hearing about a spree of nearly a dozen attacks on children during the span of just one month in April-May of 2006. It is only because of this intense public pressure that the case saw a massive intervention by Israeli Members of Knesset, which forced the army to escort the children. The pressure to maintain the escort continues even today.

It is important to note that the army escort has not stopped settler attacks on Palestinian children, since the assailants have now began targeting the soldiers as well. AIJAC is invited to read one of our testimonies from a soldier who served in the battalion required to escort the children in 2006. He describes how a settler gang stoned the soldiers, one of them losing his consciousness after being hit, and yet not a single soul was even brought in for investigation. By the way, although the law was not enforced on the settler, IDF soldiers were reprimanded for firing a warning shot in attempt to stop the settlers from stoning the children.

As an Israeli patriot and a former IDF soldier, I understand that the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I understand that looking in the mirror and seeing the society you dearly love act so brutishly is painful. I understand that you do not want to believe what happens on a day-to-day basis in the Occupied Territories. Neither did we. But now we have broken our silence. It is time for you – AIJAC – to hear us out, rather than taking NGO Monitor’s hand and doing your best to silence us.

Yehuda Shaul served as an infantry soldier and commander in the IDF between March 2001 and March 2004. He is the founder of Breaking the Silence.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

Palestinian Flags, Israeli settlers and the IOF: Military Order 101 & Israel's restriction of Palestinian political freedoms

Dear friends,
you may have seen the reporting in Israel Haaretz newspaper about settlers in Occupied Hebron attempting to scale the roof of Palestinian house to remove a Palestinian flag.  After the settler got caught in barbed wire, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) intervened and demanded the Palestinian home owner remove the flag. When he refused, they threatened to arrest him.  Several days later, the IOF returned and removed the flag. According to the home owner Shadi Sider, who filmed the settler scaling his roof, the IOF kidnapped a neighbourhood child claiming he had thrown stones.  They conditioned the child's release on the removal of the flag - to which he finally agreed.

When the incident was originally reported by Haaretz, the IOF claimed that they  have "no standard policy to remove flags and does not plan to implement such a policy".  However, there is a lie. 

Amongst the thousands of military orders used by the IOF to control every aspect of Palestinian life under occupation, there is also an Israeli military order which prohibits the flying/waving/displaying of Palestinian flags both in public (eg at demonstrations) and in private.

Israel Military Order 101 - Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions - has an amendment (no1079) pertaining to the "waving of flags" which states: "It is forbidden to hold wave, display or affix flags or political symbols except in accordance with a permit of the military commander". 

Military Order 101 also
prohibits any assembly, village, procession, or publication relating to "a political matter or one liable to be interpreted as political".  The order is sweeping and does not include any precise definition of what example can be interpreted as "political".  As a result, it is used to restrict Palestinian political freedom on a wide ranging basis.  In addition, the order does not simply pertain to gatherings or public activities, it also allows for the restriction of gatherings and political activities in private places (ie. such as flying a Palestinian flag on your own roof).

The order also applies to all types of publications, whatever their circulation - so can be applied against the publication of newspapers, poems, photography, drawings, painting, other forms of art work.  The military order is so sweeping that even the publication of an opinion piece criticising Israel's occupation can be considered a violation of the order. (To read full text of Military Order 101, please click here

As B'Tselem, who originally made the footage and story public, note in relation to military order 101  that

"the order imposes far-reaching restrictions on freedom of expression and the freedom to demonstrate, exceeding the cautious restrictions permitted by international and Israeli law" and "establishes a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment or a heavy fine, despite the fact that these offenses do not injure life, body, or even property".
B'Tselem goes onto note in relation to "national symbols" such as the Palestinian flag:
The order emphasizes the prohibition on political protest and prohibits the bearing of national symbols in the framework of a peaceful procession, or even on the level of the private individual.
In the initial years after Oslo, in general the military order was usually only used in relation to the "Incitement" provisions in it but the order remains and can be used if the military commander so deems it. While the IOF may not currently have a "standard policy to remove flags" as the IOF spokesperson first claimed that does not mean there isn't a military order that allows them to prevent Palestinians displaying flag or that they don't implement this military order at different and random times - thus demonstrating how arbitrary the IOF are in applying military orders. 

On the application of the incitement provision in the military order, the order is broad enough to allow for a military commander to deem the waving or display of flags as "incitement". The provision states: Any person who (a) attempts orally or in another manner to influence public opinion in the region in a manner that is liable to harm public safety or public order or (b) does any act or has in his possession ay object with the intent to do or facilitate the commission of an attempt as aforesaid will be charged with violating this order".

So while the Israeli military has attempted to portray the incident in Occupied Hebron as a one off mistake, it is in fact a systematic part of the occupation regime which restricts and prohibits Palestinian political freedom. 

I have included below, the video shot by Shadi Sider and other B'Tselem volunteers, as well as the two articles from Haaretz on the issue and B'Tselem's statement.

in solidarity, Kim

Video by Shadi Sidr

Video by Manal al-Jaabari, B’Tselem

Soldiers ordered Hebron resident to remove Palestinian flag 

Rumpus followed failed attempt by Jewish settler to remove flag from his neighbor’s roof.
By Chaim Levinson | Mar. 13, 2014 |

Israeli soldiers in Hebron told a Palestinian to remove the Palestinian flag flying from his roof and threatened him with arrest if he refused.

The soldiers issued the order after a settler had tried to remove the flag himself but got entangled in barbed wire.

The incident occurred on Saturday, when a settler came to the house of Shadi Sider, who lives near the city’s Jewish enclave, Beit Hadassah, and climbed onto his roof in an effort to take down the Palestinian flag. Instead, he got tangled in barbed wire and remained stuck there, attracting stares from a small crowd of curious onlookers, until an Israel Defense Forces soldier arrived to extricate him.


A few minutes later, several other soldiers and an officer arrived and asked Sider to take down the flag. They said they were acting on orders from brigade headquarters.

Tempers quickly flared, and the soldiers threatened to arrest Sider. But then the officer called brigade headquarters to warn that cameras were present, asking, “Do you want me to remove it by force?” About 10 minutes later, the soldiers left, but said they would return with an official order.

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, said that soldiers are obligated first and foremost to protect local Palestinians, as they are a protected population in the West Bank. Therefore, the soldiers had no right to leave Sider to defend himself against a settler trying to invade his home, much less to demand, under threat of arrest, that he remove a flag flying on his home – especially when many Israeli flags are flying nearby without any interference. And they are certainly forbidden to satisfy the whim of a settler who invaded a Palestinian house because he couldn’t bear the sight of a Palestinian flag, it added.

The IDF stated that it has no standard policy to remove flags and does not plan to implement such a policy. “This individual initiative will be investigated,” a spokesperson said.


IDF backtracks, removes Palestinian flag from Hebron roof

Owner says he agreed after soldiers promised to release neighbor they arrested for throwing stones.

Israeli soldiers turned up for the second time on Saturday at a home in Hebron to order the removal of a Palestinian flag, even though the Israel Defense Forces said last week there is no policy against displaying flags.

Shadi Sider, a member of a Palestinian family living near the Jewish settlement enclave of Beit Hadassah, said the soldiers had arrested a neighbor for allegedly throwing stones and conditioned his release on the removal of the flag. Sider said he capitulated to their demand and took it down.

“[The soldiers] arrested a youth who lives in the building, claiming he threw stones,” Sider said.

“They said they would release the boy if we took down the flag. There was an important officer with them so we agreed and took it down.”

An IDF official denied Sider’s claim about the Palestinian youth who was arrested, saying he was freed because he is too young to be criminally responsible. Convincing is all it took to get the flag removed, the source said.

The IDF declined to give an official comment.

Just over a week ago, following the first attempt by soldiers to have the flag removed, the IDF said there was no official policy that says Palestinians cannot display flags. “There is no intention to implement such a policy,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. “It was a local decision. The matter will be looked into.”

However, the IDF commander in Hebron, Avi Bluth, later decided to have the flag taken down, explaining its display has disturbed the status quo between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in Hebron.

What prompted the initial visit by Israeli soldiers to Sider’s house was a request by a settler who only turned to the soldiers for help after failing to remove the flag himself. The settler had climbed onto a ladder to try and reach the flag, but became entangled in barbed wire. He attracted a crowd of onlookers who recorded the scene. After a short while soldiers arrived to extricate him.

When the soldiers, who were accompanied by an officer, knocked on Sider’s door to ask him to remove the flag they were met with refusal. They said they were acting on orders from brigade headquarters. Tempers quickly flared, and the soldiers threatened to arrest Sider. But then the officer called brigade headquarters to warn that cameras were present, asking, “Do you want me to remove it by force?” About 10 minutes later, the soldiers left but said they would return with an official order.

Hebron settlers released a statement saying the footage of the affair, taken by a tourist, only shows half the story, and that Sider “provoked” the settler by waving the flag and “taunting” him.

“The flag may not be defined as illegal but it represents the [Palestine Liberation Organization], a terrorist organization that has never recognized Israel and has never renounced its murderous intentions,” the Beit Hadassah statement read.

On Saturday B’Tselem camera volunteer Shadi Sidr filmed a settler trying to climb onto Sidr’s own roof to take down a Palestinian flag flying there. The settler got caught in the barbed wire that encircles the roof. The two men go to speaking to one another, and the settler informed Shadi that Shadi’s roof actually belongs to the settler, not Shadi, because the roof is part of Land of Israel. An Israeli soldier then came to the house. He too demanded that Shadi take down the flag, trying to justify his order by saying there are no other flags in the area. The footage belies this statement, showing many Israeli flags nearby.

Shortly thereafter, five other soldiers arrived at the house. They ordered Shadi and his brothers ‘Abed and Adham to take down the flag, threatening to arrest Shadi should he refuse. The incident was filmed by B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Jaabari and B’Tselem camera volunteer Mahmoud Abu Hayah.

B’Tselem would like to underscore the fact that soldiers must ensure the safety of Palestinian individuals. They must not abandon a Palestinian to fend for himself in the face of a throng trying to gain access to his private residence. Not only did this particular Palestinian not receive military protection, soldiers came on the scene shortly after and ordered him, on pain of arrest, to take down a flag of Palestine from his own roof. The demand was made while many Israeli flags were flying undisturbed in the immediate vicinity.

The soldiers, responsible for maintaining security in the area, are first and foremost obliged to protect Palestinians who constitute the protected population of the West Bank. It goes without saying that soldiers must not aid and abet settlers trespassing on Palestinians’ homes or satisfy the whim of a settler displeased by the sight of Palestinian flag flying in Hebron.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rania Khalek: How today's liberal Zionists echo apartheid South Africa's defenders

Dear friends,
I have been meaning to post up this excellent article by Rania Khalek for sometime.  The article was originally published by Electronic Intifada and addresses many of the main hasbara talking points use by Zionists and Israel apologists to claim that Israel is not engaged in apartheid practices. 

in solidarity, Kim


How today’s liberal Zionists echo apartheid South Africa’s defenders

13 February 2014

(Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Liberal Zionists have adopted the same arguments in defense of Israeli occupation that conservative opponents of sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime used in the 1980s.

“While the majority of black South African leaders are against disinvestment and boycotts, there are tiny factions that support disinvestment — namely terrorist groups such as the African National Congress,” libertarian economics professor Walter Williams wrote in a 1983 New York Times op-ed.

Williams’ claim was as absurd then as it appears in hindsight, but his sentiment was far from rare on the American and British right in the 1980s.

Yet today’s so-called progressive and liberal Zionists employ precisely the same kinds of claims to counter the growing movement, initiated by Palestinians themselves, for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

Indeed, looking back, it is clear that Israel’s liberal apologists are recycling nearly every argument once used by conservatives against the BDS movement that helped dismantle South Africa’s apartheid regime.

“Singling out”

In a 1989 op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor, University of South Africa lecturer Anne-Marie Kriek scolded the divestment movement for singling out her country’s racist government because, she wrote, “the violation of human rights is the norm rather than the exception in most of Africa’s 42 black-ruled states” (“South Africa Shouldn’t be Singled Out,” 12 October 1989).

Kriek continued, “South Africa is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that can feed itself. Blacks possess one of the highest living standards in all of Africa,” adding that nowhere on the continent did black Africans have it so good. So, “Why is South Africa so harshly condemned while completely different standards apply to black Africa?” she asked.

Divestment opponents in the US provided similar justifications. In 1986, for instance, Gregory Dohi, the former editor-in-chief of the Salient, Harvard University’s conservative campus publication, protested that those calling for the university to divest from companies doing business in South Africa were “selective in their morality” (“I am full of joy to realize that I never had anything to do with any divestment campaign …,” Harvard Crimson, 4 April 1986).

Divestment was wrong not only because it would “harm” black workers, Dohi claimed, but because it singled out South Africa.

Déjà vu

Where have we heard these kinds of arguments before?

Arguing against BDS, The Nation’s Eric Alterman writes, “The near-complete lack of democratic practices within Israel’s neighbors in the Arab and Islamic world, coupled with their lack of respect for the rights of women, of gays, indeed, of dissidents of any kind — make their protestations of Israel’s own democratic shortcomings difficult to credit” (“A Forum on Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS),” 3 May 2012).

Alterman’s only update to Kriek’s logic is his mention of women’s and gay rights, a nod to The Nation readers’ liberal sensitivities.

Alterman’s sometime Nation colleague, reporter Ben Adler, has also reprised Kriek’s and Dohi’s 1980s-style arguments: “If you want to boycott Israel itself then you need to explain why you’re not calling for a boycott of other countries in the Middle East that oppress their own citizens worse than Israel does anyone living within the Green Line” (“The Problems With BDS,” 31 March 2012).

A scary brown majority

The late neoconservative war hawk, and long-time New York Times columnist William Safire — who in 2002 insisted, “Iraqis, cheering their liberators, will lead the Arab world toward democracy” — also sympathized with white supremacist anxieties about the implications of a single democratic South Africa.

One person, one vote “means majority rule, and nonwhites are the overwhelming majority in South Africa,” Safire wrote in a 1986 column. “That means an end to white government as the Afrikaners have known it for three centuries; that means the same kind of black rule that exists elsewhere in Africa, and most white South Africans would rather remain the oppressors than become the oppressed” (“The Suzman Plan,” 7 August 1986).

Almost thirty years later, liberal Zionists exhibit the same empathy with racists in their own hostility toward the Palestinian right of return, which BDS unapologetically champions.
Such a scenario would spell the end of Israel’s Jewish majority, a horrifying prospect for ethno-religious supremacists who, like whites in South Africa did, fear the native population they rule.

Cary Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, well-known in academic circles for his left-liberal activism, conveyed the same fears in a recent anti-BDS tirade. He argued that “nothing in decades of Middle East history suggests Jews would be equal citizens in a state dominated by Arabs or Palestinians” (“Why the ASA boycott is both disingenuous and futile,” Al Jazeera America, 23 December 2013).

Nelson’s racism-induced panic is further distilled in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, where he argues that the BDS movement seeks “the elimination of Israel,” after which, “those Jews not exiled or killed in the transition to an Arab-dominated nation would live as second-class citizens without fundamental rights” (“Another Anti-Israel Vote Comes to Academia,” 8 January 2014).

Of course he wouldn’t put it this way, but Nelson fears, in effect, that Palestinians might do to Jews what the Israeli settler-colonial regime has done to Palestinians since its inception.

Relying on puppets

Last December, Mahmoud Abbas, the autocratic puppet leader of the Palestinian Authority, and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), declared his opposition to BDS, leaving Israel and its apologists predictably overjoyed.

In The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier chides pro-BDS academics for speaking on behalf of Palestinians. “Who is Abu Mazen [Abbas] to speak for the Palestinians, compared with an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego?” he quipped (“The Academic Boycott of Israel Is a Travesty,” 17 December 2013).

Jeffrey Goldberg is just as derisive, writing in his Bloomberg column that the American Studies Association — which voted to boycott Israeli institutions — “is more Palestinian … than the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization” (“Some Lessons in Effective Scapegoating,” 16 December 2013).

These and other liberal Zionists insist that the Israeli- and US-approved Abbas is the only authentic representative of Palestinian sentiment. They ignore the overwhelming support for boycotting Israel among the Palestinian people.

But for many Palestinians, an apt comparison for Abbas is with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the black leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Buthelezi was often denounced by black South Africans as a collaborator with the white apartheid regime and lauded by British and American conservative opponents of sanctions as the true voice of black South Africa.

In a 1985 address to representatives from US companies operating in South Africa, Buthelezi insisted that the majority of South African blacks firmly opposed sanctions because they would “condemn a great many millions and a whole new generation to continue living in appalling slum conditions.”

In 1990, Buthelezi came out against an ANC-led campaign of mass civil disobedience — marches, boycotts and strikes — throwing his weight instead behind “cooperation” and “negotiation” with the white regime.

This offers a striking parallel to the present-day Palestinian Authority which continues to give legitimacy to the endless “peace process” while suppressing direct action against the occupation.

Buthelezi was only the most prominent of a handful of black apologists and collaborators with the apartheid regime. Others included Lucas Mangope, puppet leader of the Bophuthatswana bantustan who also fiercely opposed sanctions that would isolate his white supremacist paymasters.

Mangope cringed at the idea of a one-person, one-vote system in South Africa and spent the last days of apartheid desperately clinging to power over his “independent” island of repression.

Yet it wasn’t uncommon for US media outlets — including The New York Times — to label Mangope, and others like him, “moderate” black leaders.

Israel, it seems, has taken its cues directly from the apartheid playbook, cultivating a small circle of Palestinian elites willing to maintain the occupation in exchange for power and comfort.

And liberal Zionists are more than happy to bolster the ruse by using these comprised figures’ words against Palestinians who still insist on their rights.

Think of the workers

When Mobil Corporation was forced to shut down its operations in South Africa in 1989 due to what it called “very foolish” US sanctions laws, its chief executive, Allen Murray, feigned concern for the impact on black workers.

“We continue to believe that our presence and our actions have contributed greatly to economic and social progress for nonwhites in South Africa,” the oil executive declared (“Mobil Is Quitting South Africa, Blaming ‘Foolish’ Laws in US,The New York Times, 29 April 1989).

Before finally giving in to boycott pressures, Citibank also justified its refusal to divest by citing its obligation to the South Africans it employed.

Last month, SodaStream chief executive Daniel Birnbaum echoed this transparent posturing when he defended the location of his company’s main production facility in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

“Constructive engagement” again?

Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood actress who resigned from her humanitarian ambassador role with the anti-poverty organization Oxfam in order to pursue her role as global brand ambassador for SodaStream, applauded the company for “supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”

Such appeals for cooperation with an oppressive status quo in the face of growing support for BDS mirror President Ronald Reagan’s insistence on “constructive engagement” with apartheid South Africa.

While asserting in 1986 that “time is running out for the moderates of all races in South Africa,” Reagan opposed sanctions that could foster change. Today, supporters of the endless Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” also regularly insist that “time is running out,” while fiercely opposing BDS.

Reagan praised his British counterpart Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for having “denounced punitive sanctions as immoral and utterly repugnant.” Why? Because “the primary victims of an economic boycott of South Africa would be the very people we seek to help,” the president argued (“Transcript of Talk by Reagan on South Africa and Apartheid,” The New York Times, 23 July 1986).

The Reagan administration even funded a survey of black South African workers to prove they loved working for benevolent American corporations and adamantly opposed divestment, never mind the fact that advocating for sanctions under apartheid was a severely punishable offense.

Fast forward to 2014 and Jane Eisner, editor of the liberal Jewish Daily Forward publicly hails SodaStream as the solution to the conflict, using her newspaper to portray Palestinian workers as grateful to be employed by the settlement profiteer, sentiments they expressed while being interviewed under the watchful eyes of their supervisors.

Taking racism a step further

Today, twenty-first century liberals and progressives who are ideologically invested in Zionism have embraced the rationales of racist right-wingers from a bygone era.
What’s more, liberal Zionists have taken the racism a step further than Reagan and Thatcher ever dared to go with South Africa.

Although they opposed sanctions, Reagan and Thatcher regularly denounced apartheid as an unjust system that needed to be dismantled.

Israel’s apologists, by contrast, firmly support the maintenance of Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians with their insistence that the country remain a “Jewish state” and their continued denial of the Palestinian right of return.

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reporter John Lyons responds to Zionist critics of his Four Corners report on Israel's abuse of Palestinian children.

Dear friends,
as already noted on this blog, on Monday 10 February, the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) ran a hard hitting investigative report by John Lyons on Israel's treatment of Palestinian children (click here for my earlier post).  The report, "Stone Cold Justice", which discussed in detail Israel's occupation and its abuse of Palestinian children - in particular Palestinian child prisoners - was broadcast by Australia's longest running investigative journalism program, Four Corners

Since going to air the report has been viewed widely not only in Australia but also internationally (via youtube and the web), receiving widespread praise.  It has also received concerted criticism from Zionists and Israel apologists, both in Australia and internationally.

As I noted in my previous blog on the report even before the report was aired, Zionist organisations in Australia sought to discredit the report (click here to read).  The Zionist Federation of Australia, along with the Zionist Council of Victoria and other Zionist organisations distributed a briefing paper with the usual hasbara (propaganda) talking points and called on supporters to bombard the ABC with letters and emails complaining about the program.  

As with the Zionist critics of the program in Australia, the international critics offered up the same hasbara talking points and predictably labelled the program as "anti-semitic". The fact that pro-Zionist hasbara groups out side of Australia have felt the need to try and discredit the program reveals the widespread impact Lyons' report has had internationally.

In response to the criticism of his report, John Lyons on Saturday (March 8) responded to Zionist critics and Israel apologists in an article published by The Australian newspaper.   In his scathing response to critics, Lyons points out the hypocrisy of his critics and notes that the way in which Israel treats Palestinian children in the Occupied West Bank would be illegal in Australia. Lyons goes onto note that Israel enforces an apartheid system and points out that Zionist advocacy groups spend more time trying to block criticism of Israel's settlement project than they do advocating for the two state solution, which on paper they supposedly support as they take their lead from the Israeli state which also supposedly supports a two state solution.

In his most cutting criticism, Lyons points out that
"Melbourne-based people such as Sheridan [pro-Zionist commentator regularly run by The Australian] and Rubenstein [head of Zionist advocacy group AJIAC] portray themselves as experts yet ignore reality" and goes on to cite numerous real experts who have real experience with Israel's occupation practices.

Lyons' rebuttal of his critics easily demolishes their mealy mouthed attempts to discredit his Stone Cold Justice report.   The only short coming in his rebuttal is that while he does address a number of individual pro-Israel apologists published by his newspaper, The Australian, Lyons makes no comment on the paper's systematic whitewashing and apologism for Israel's human rights abuses and apartheid regime.

As I have noted previously on this blog (here and here) and in an article I wrote for the online edition of Overland Magazine, The Australian is a pro-Zionist newspaper. In the last three years it has waged an obsessive campaign against the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.  In 2013, in an one month period between May 1 and May 31, the Australian published 26 news articles, editorials or opinions on the BDS campaign, the vast majority of which were overwhelmingly negative, condemning the campaign and Palestine supporters as anti-Semitic, accusing them of running an intolerant hate campaign.

Since the airing of the Four Corners' Stone Cold Justice report, which was billed as a joint report by The Australian (as Lyons is their Middle East Correspondent) and Four Corners, The Australian has run at least two editorials and five comment pieces either whitewashing Israel's human rights abuses against Palestinians or justifying Israel's apartheid regime.

On February 11, the day after Lyons report aired on the ABC, The Australian ran an editorial addressing the report. The primary focus of the editorial entitled "Israel moves on child justice" was to whitewash and justify Israel's actions.  The editorial, while noting practices "alleged" in Lyons report are "inhumane", the editorial quickly went on to argue that such actions also need to be understood "in context" and that "it needs to be acknowledged that the Israeli army faces constant and often dangerous provocation in the area, with children in the vanguard of stone-throwing and violence. Brutal as it was, such treatment of as many as 700 children a year was an excessive response to an ongoing, simmering conflict and not the product of state-sanctioned racism".  

This is of course not true and ignores the fact that Zionism, Israel's state sanction ideology is a racist and exclusivist ideology as been shown by a range of historians, researchers and commentators, including Israeli based ones (see here , here and here).  Israeli and international newspapers have repeatedly run stories on surveys and polls which outline the deeply racism which is deeply ingrained in Israeli society (see here , here , here and here )

The editorial then went on to laud Israel for being a democracy and claimed that Palestinian citizens of Israel and their children "have the same
legal, educational, health and other rights as Jewish children".  This is of course not true, as Israel human rights group, Adalah has documented - there are at least 50 laws in Israel which actively discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all of these areas, as well as many more (see Adalah's database of discriminatory laws here).

Of the five op-eds seeking to whitewash Israel's human rights abuses and apartheid regime run by The Australian, three of the comment pieces were by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, two were published on 14 February and February 22 respectively and sought to denouncing the report or trying to discredit it and the ABC/Four Corners as being anti-semitic, while the third op-ed from AIJAC published on February 18 was in response to an earlier op-ed by former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and sought to defending Israel's military and settlement activity in the Occupied West Bank . 

The newspaper ran a fourth comment piece on 21 February in the name of Israel's ambassador to Australia entitled "Palestinians guilty of turning kids into killers", promoting the long recycled racist Zionist propaganda about Palestinians supposedly teaching their children to hate, ignoring completely the fact that stone throwing happens as a direct result of Israel's brutal 47 year old military occupation of Palestinian villages and lands.  

A fifth comment piece by well know Israel apologist and hard right pundit, Greg Sheridan, accusing Lyons report of being"Evil and deeply untrue" (this was the title of his article) was published on March 1.  It is Sheridan's op-ed, which appears to have prompted Lyons response on March 8.

During the same period, it ran one comment piece on 22 February by Yehuda Shaul from the Israeli soldier group Breaking the Silence which speaks out against Israel's occupation practices. Shaul, who appeared in Lyons report, while condemning Israel's occupation practices focuses on the need to end such practices in order to save Israel from itself. 

In addition, an article by John Lyons was published on 20 February, which reports on the Israel's military announcement that it
would launch a "comprehensive review of its policy of dealing with Palestinian children, including an immediate pilot program to end night-time arrests". 

However, the Israeli military's statements need to be viewed with caution as both it and the Israeli state have  made similar pledges before in the wake of intensive criticism, but has repeatedly failed to implement any real changes to its occupation policies and/or treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners.

The Australian, ever the Israel cheer leader, seized on this announcement and ran a second editorial on 21 February which lauded Israel as being "the only functioning democracy in the Middle East" and for acting "wisely" to supposedly end "night-time arrests of Palestinian children suspected of stone throwing and other crimes on the West Bank".  The editorial, however, then goes on to justify the use of Israel military night raids on Palestinian homes and villages, saying "Night arrests were preferred because of the likelihood of violent demonstrations during the day", completely justifying Israel's violation of international law. It then repeated the propaganda promoted by in the op-ed in The Australian the week before by Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, that "many of the 700 Palestinian minors arrested annually in Israel are involved in shootings, bomb plots and murder, as well as stone-throwing". 

This of course is an out right fabrication, with various human rights groups all producing reports documenting that nearly all arrests of Palestinian minors have been related to accusations of stone throwing.  As these human rights organisations have noted, the Israeli military targets Palestinian children for arrest and specifically seeks to arrest Palestinian children in order to try and intimidate Palestinian communities and/or to create collaborators (see here, here and here.  Also see my previous post on this issue: here and here ).

Lyons' response, while understandably not able to take up The Australian's biased coverage of Palestine and its attempts to whitewash Israel's occupation and apartheid policies, is nevertheless outstanding and should be widely shared.

I have included his response below and have embedded his Four Corners report once again.

in solidarity, Kim

John Lyons' 4 Corners report: Stone Cold Justice

Distant ‘experts’ choose to ignore Israeli realities

JOHN LYONS The Australian March 08, 2014

SO a priest at a church Greg Sheridan attended in Melbourne said something possibly anti-Semitic, and somehow ABC1’s Four Corners and I are responsible?

It’s not even certain the priest watched the Four Corners program on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. But it sounds as if he didn’t need anyone to stoke his anti-Semitism - Sheridan said he spoke as someone “with 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism behind him”.

Sadly, this is the level to which discussion about Israel has sunk.

Last Saturday, Sheridan said a program I reported for Four Corners was “a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda that revived some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes”.

Why can journalists put the Australian Army or federal police or US Army through the ringer, but if we investigate the most powerful army in the Middle East it’s anti-Semitism?

As a correspondent in Jerusalem my job is to report through Australian eyes. What the Israeli army does to Palestinian children systematically - such as taking a 12-year-old from his home at 2am and denying access to a lawyer or parent - would be illegal in Australia .

Four Corners showed how Israel enforces two legal systems in the West Bank, one for Jews and one for Palestinians.

For “exhaustive rebuttals”, Sheridan recommended the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council run by Colin Rubenstein, also based in Melbourne.

AIJAC is not an elected body representing the Jewish community but a privately funded lobby group with extremely hardline positions on Israel. I find it breathtaking that a journalist would recommend a private lobby group for a rebuttal of journalism.

Bob Carr recently revealed that when he was foreign minister, AIJAC “directed a furious effort at trying to block even routine criticism of settlements, as if this were more vital than advocating a two-state solution or opposing boycotts of Israel”.

After reading Carr’s comments, prominent Israeli Alon Liel wrote: “Who are you ‘Israeli lovers’ of the Australia-Israel Council? Who authorised you to put pressure on the Australian government ‘on my behalf’? Especially regarding a matter that affects my family’s future? Why are you trying to ruin my country, pretending you are ‘pro-Israeli?’ “

Liel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry chief, wrote: “What would you do, dear Jew, if the risk of such isolation was hovering over the head of Australia, France or Canada, countries whose passports you hold?”

He echoed Breaking the Silence, 950 current and former Israeli soldiers who reported on Palestinian children, including one soldier saying a colleague put children against a wall and made them sing Israel’s national anthem - if they didn’t sing in time, he’d hit them.

Another said his commander beat a child “to a pulp” and put a gun in his mouth, saying: “Don’t annoy me.”

When Melbourne Jewish leader Danny Lamm alleged “crude propaganda”, 15 former officers condemned “Lamm’s armchair Zionism, pontificating from afar while true Israelis put their lives on the line”.

Sheridan repeated AIJAC’s claim about settlements not growing - year after year AIJAC says this while construction booms, even outside existing settlements.

US President Barack Obama this week referred to “aggressive settlement construction”.

Israeli statistics show settler housing more than doubled last year, and in the first half of 2011 grew 660 per cent. Outposts are also surging - these are illegal under Israeli law, yet Israel tolerates them.

Having visited the West Bank hundreds of times, I am astonished that Melbourne-based people such as Sheridan and Rubenstein portray themselves as experts yet ignore reality.

Last week Amnesty International said Israeli forces had displayed a “callous disregard” by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, over three years with “near total impunity”.

Last year, Unicef said ill-treatment of Palestinian children appeared to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”, and “children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault”.

In 2012, a delegation of British lawyers led by former attorney-general Patricia Scotland, found Israel had breached six articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Conventions.

There are also now big issues for Australia relating to the Geneva Conventions, under which Israel’s settlements are widely considered illegal. Yet Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has cast doubt on whether Australia accepts the Geneva Conventions in that regard. Her new policy may have serious implications for Australian soldiers overseas - the conventions govern not only how civilians under occupation should be treated but captured soldiers.

It was after two world wars with their collective death toll of about 80 million that postwar leaders signed up to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The danger of Bishop cherry-picking the Geneva Conventions could expose Australian soldiers who currently have protection.

Sheridan ignores the fact Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor told Four Corners soldiers were not appropriately trained to detain children. AIJAC criticises me for interviewing “extremist” settler Daniella Weiss - if she is an extremist then so are key members of Israel’s cabinet who share her views. Weiss planned settlements with Ariel Sharon to forestall a Palestinian state.

Leaders of Australia’s Jewish community visiting Israel often approach me for a coffee. One opposed the occupation, saying it was against Jewish teachings to rule over others. Another, from Sydney, wanted the occupation to end. When I asked why he never said that publicly, he replied: “Are you serious? And have the Melbourne guys declare a fatwa against me?” This denial - or fear - does not help Israel.

The film The Gatekeepers, which interviewed six former chiefs of intelligence service Shin Bet, warned about Israel’s future. One, Avraham Shalom, said of the Israeli army: “We have become cruel.”

But one Melbourne Jewish leader told me the Shin Bet chiefs were “all left wing”.

An insight into the attacks on journalists covering Israel comes from Clyde Haberman, an Orthodox-raised American Jew who has just retired after 37 years with The New York Times. For decades, he says, the paper has had correspondents who, no matter how different or good, were branded anti-Semitic or self-hating Jews.

He says correspondents in Israel could expect “to have your integrity hurled back in your face every single day”.

But he thought of a solution: “If I didn’t want to be accused of hating Israel, I should start every story with: ‘Fifty years after six million Jews died in the Holocaust, Israel yesterday’ did one thing or the other.”

Obama told Israelis their occupation was unfair.

It is possible that Obama, Unicef, Amnesty International, 950 soldiers, Shin Bet chiefs and others are wrong and that Sheridan and Rubenstein are right.

But I don’t think so.

John Lyons is The Australian’s Middle East correspondent