Executions in ’08. Executions in ’48

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 9 Comments

Today’s a sad day. Per Haaretz, B’tselem has concluded that four wanted Palestinians who the Israeli army had said died in a firefight in Bethlehem last month were killed execution-style in a car.

Richard Silverstein says that at least two of the men had sought amnesty recently. Dan Fleshler, a board member of Americans for Peace Now, is moved by the case to question American Jewry’s response to suffering in the Occupied Territories:

The problem is not merely that the brutality and humiliation inflicted
on Palestinians is an inevitable consequence of occupation; the problem
is that is just plain WRONG. Why can’t we say that? What happened to
our moral compass?

Last night I was reading Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. It describes the murders of 85-110 men in the Palestinian village of Tantura, outside Haifa, in May 1948:

[Shimshon] Mashvitz went along with a local collaborator, hooded…, and picked out individual men– again, in the eyes of the Israeli army, ‘men’ were all males between the ages of ten and fifty–and took them out in small groups to a spot further away where they were executed. The men were selected according to a pre-prepared list drawn from Tantura’s village file, and included everybody who had participated in the 1936 Revolt…. Most of the killings were done in cold blood on the beach…. This is how a Jewish officer described the executions at Tantura:  "Prisoners were led in groups to a distance of 200 metres aside and there were shot. Soldiers would come to the commander-in-chief and say, ‘My cousin was killed in the war.’ His commander heard that and instructed the troops to take a group of five to seven people aside and execute them…"

9 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    March 28, 2008, 2:14 pm

    Yes. Right on. Now please re-read what Barack Obama told Jewish leaders in Cleveland last month:

    "There is a hard core of jihadist fundamentalists who we can't negotiate with. We have to hunt them down and knock them out. Incapacitate them. That's the military aspects of dealing with this phenomenon. Now, somebody like a Richard Clarke would estimate that the hard-core jihadists would gladly blow up this room — maybe it's 30,000 people, maybe it's 40,000 people, maybe it's 50,000 people. But it is a finite number. And that is where military action and intelligence has to be directed."

    link to blog.washingtonpost.com

    Four down, 49,996 to go? If you've got a problem with targeted assassinations, then you've got a problem with Obama. His language and intentions are as clear as Mein Kampf.

  2. Defenestrator
    March 28, 2008, 3:14 pm

    Incapacitate is not the same as targeted assassination.

    And do you have proof that these 4 could not be negotiated with? It would seem to me if they were 4 of the 50,000, they wouldn't have been in a position to be shot execution-style in a car.

    How many of the 50,000 are Israelis? Netanyahu would be one, as he's proven he will not negotiate. Perhaps he's next?

  3. sword of gideon
    March 28, 2008, 5:25 pm

    Guuess what Haygood. I don't care. I only wish that Israel could dig these guys up and kill them again.

  4. Sean
    March 28, 2008, 5:35 pm

    "What happened to our moral compass?"

    You never had one to begin with.

  5. patrick
    March 28, 2008, 7:06 pm

    On the first edition of Hardball on MSNBC, Matthews had a group of three talking heads on during the last segment. One of them was Dana Milbank and I don't know who the other two were.

    One of the unidentified was an African-American female who brought up the subject of Gen. McPeak. She stated that either Clinton or repubs were using McPeak as a wedge in regards to Jewish voters.

    Matthews called her out and demanded her to identify the people who were accusing Obama backers as anti-semites. The woman stammered and said the "NY Post".

    She should have said Ed Lasky from the neocon American Thinker, Commentary, or basically any other neocon rag or site.

  6. Arie Brand
    March 28, 2008, 9:14 pm

    Tantura. and the liquidation of unarmed villagers there, was the subject of Teddy Katz's M.A.thesis for Haifa University (for which, incidentally, Ilan Pappe was not his supervisor as has been wrongly reported). The thesis was originally awarded a very high mark (97%). When the contents of that thesis were reported in the daily Ma'ariv the word 'massacre' was used. Apparently this word does not appear in the thesis itself. At that veteran members of the Alexandroni Brigade, that had been accused of the killings, sued Katz for libel.

    Professor Zalman Amit provided the following account of the court case (Counterpunch May 11 2005) of which here a shortened version:

    "The court proceedings began in December 2000. The allegations against Katz centered on the claim that the thesis contained misquotations and that there were discrepancies between some of the oral testimony recordings and what was described in the thesis. Between six and nine such discrepancies were discovered. For example, in one of these instances Katz quoted an Alexandroni veteran as having used the word "Nazis" whereas, in fact, he had used the word "Germans". In another instance, Katz reported that a Palestinian witness "saw" an incident whereas, in fact, he had said that he "heard" the incident. (In fairness to Katz, it should be noted that some of the tapes were barely audible and, in some cases, the speakers used barely decipherable dialect terms from the regional variant of Palestinian Arabic. Considering this, most "discrepancies" seem, in fact, more like reasonable interpretations.)

    It is important to note that, about two months prior to the onset of the court proceedings, Katz, who was under severe financial pressure emanating from the expenses of the case, had received a donation of $8000 from Palestinian sources. This amount was given to Katz by Faisal Husseini who was then the Palestinian Authority representative in Jerusalem. Katz needed, at that point, to immediately deposit NIS30,000 before the case could proceed and the need for additional funds had become particularly acute when a fundraiser evening in the progressive Tzavta Club in Tel Aviv failed to raise the amount required.

    The fact that Katz received funds from the Palestinians became known only late in 2002, following the seizure of documents during the now infamous police raid and "conquest" of Orient House, the Palestinian Headquarters in East Jerusalem. (The raid was directed by Uzi Landau, the militant, right-wing Likud member who was, then, the Minister of Internal Security.) Ironically, this revelation came to light approximately one month prior to the submission of Katz's revised thesis, a revision which, as we shall see, was caused by Haifa University's decision to suspend his degree after the court case.

    Now back to the case.

    Katz himself was the first and only witness to testify in the trial. At the end of the second day of proceedings, something rather shocking happened: Katz agreed to an out-of-court settlement, signing an "apology" in which he admitted that what had happened in Tantura was not a "massacre" — this word was used in the apology and denying it seems to have been the entire point. The irony is that the real issue, whether civilians and unarmed ex-fighters were killed after the surrender, did not play a role. All that the veterans seem to have wanted was an apology for usage of the word "massacre", a word which, it should be repeated, never appeared in Katz's thesis.

    The document was signed late at night (around 11:45 PM), at a meeting which involved one of Katz's non-litigating lawyers, Amatzia Atlas, who also happens to be Katz's cousin. Katz's chief attorney, Avigdor Feldman, was not there and was not aware of this development.

    According to Katz, he already had second thoughts about what he had done as he traveled away from the meeting in a taxi. These misgivings were conveyed to Atlas right there and then. Apparently, Atlas convinced Katz to "sleep on it" and see how he felt in the morning. Also, according to Katz, a Haifa University lawyer who was present during the signing of the agreement told Katz's wife (who was also present): "Tell him to sign and just continue his studies for his doctorate".

    It is important to note that, according to Katz, in the period of approximately twelve hours from the signing of the agreement to the resumption of the court session, he spoke to only two other people — one close personal friend and Adam Keller, the spokesperson of Gush Shalom.

    At the beginning of the court session next morning, the presiding judge, Drora Pilpel, announced that the case was closed, to the stunned silence of many of those present in the courtroom, who were not aware of the happenings of the night before. She explained that an out-of-court settlement had been signed and that it had been examined and approved by the court.

    At that point, attorney Feldman rose and told the judge that Katz would like to make a statement. Permission was given and Katz explained to the court that he had signed the settlement in a moment of weakness which he now deeply regretted. Furthermore, he felt that he wouldn't be able to live with this decision since it did not represent what he really felt about his work. He pleaded with the court to give him permission to retract his "apology" and continue to defend himself against the libel suit.

    The attorney acting for the Alexandroni veterans asked the court to reject Katz's request and, after several hours of deliberation, Judge Pilpel announced her decision not to allow Katz to back out of the settlement. She made it crystal clear that her decision related only to her conviction that a contract between parties must be respected. She emphasized that her decision did not relate in any way to the content, accuracy or veracity of the libel suit. Katz appealed to the Supreme Court who, in turn, upheld the decision of the judge of the lower court for exactly the same reasons.

    As part of the signed settlement, Katz was obliged to publish an "apology" in the press. Katz now refused to do so, since it would not represent his true feelings about the case. The attorney acting for the veterans then published the "apology" himself and proceeded to seize Katz's car as repayment for the publication cost. To avoid seizure of his car, Katz paid.

    A lot has been written about the reasons that caused Katz to "collapse" and sign an "apology" which he obviously did not believe in. In this context, one must note that the pressure of the libel case was seriously deleterious to Katz's health. He suffered a mild stroke and was altogether in poor mental and emotional health. Several members of his family, including his wife, his children and his cousin, the lawyer Amatzia Atlas, pressured him to settle, since they were actually worried for his life. Following the termination of the court case, I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Katz's wife and son. They both confirmed the fact that at that point all they had wanted was to reduce the pressure and protect Teddy's health."

    Haifa University now proceeded to 're-examine' Katz's thesis and 'suspended' it (libraries were asked to take it from their shelves). He was given the chance to rewrite it and proceeded to do so by examining even more witnesses and by changing the structure of his thesis. The rewritten thesis was then examined again and failed.

    Here is Zalman Amit again:

    "Finally, it is of some interest that, among several others, two senior writers on the period of the 1948 war have subsequently concluded that Katz's claim about the events in Tantura is not without merit. Tom Segev concluded his article on the issue by saying that, while Katz may not have been without fault as a historian, the events he reported probably happened. Benny Morris decided that a significant number of Tantura villagers had been killed after the surrender of the place and concluded that they were unarmed or disarmed when killed."

  7. Glenn Condell
    March 28, 2008, 9:50 pm

    'The problem is not merely that the brutality and humiliation inflicted on Palestinians is an inevitable consequence of occupation; the problem is that is just plain WRONG. Why can’t we say that? What happened to our moral compass?'

    It is buried under a ton of ethno-religious chauvinism and appears to be pointing due south. Where are you Richard, to tell us that such sweeping generalisations as 'wrong' are unhelpfully polemical?

    Arie's tale of Mr Katz manages to both rage-inducing and deeply sad. Justice in the greatest little democracy in the Middle East is at the service of a racist, colonial ideology. Katz is a hero, up there with Mordechai Vanunu. Israelis worth respect, not exactly a dime a dozen.

  8. Richard Witty
    March 30, 2008, 7:06 am

    Identifying wrongs is reasonable.

    Repairing wrongs is reasonable.

    How? By creating second wrongs? (If the second wrong is less harmful than the first, that may be some net progress. If the second wrong is worse than the first, that is regress).

    So for example, there are two issues being discussed on this blog:

    1. Justice in Palestine/Israel

    2. The degree and manner of Israel sympathizers to advocate for Israel in US foreign policy

    Both issues are discussed in generalized terms, terms that are INSUFFICIENT to deal with the questions raised, to result in lesser wrongs.

    Political generalization, in any manner, is the political equivalent of encouraging speculation as the primary mode of economy.

    I oppose speculation and the mass machine-like effects of mob behavior in the marketplace. (In particular, the current tax laws encourage speculation over work and even over new enterprise.)

    Generalization, in its imprecision (a moral laziness), similarly encourages machine-like political behavior. Decision by mob. Stimulated, not considered.

    Worth opposing when AIPAC evokes fear or coercion, and naming even if one can do it concisely and without code. (But, that takes personal discipline.) Worth opposing when the left/right to it.

    That is THE stand, the stand to integrity vs idiocy.

  9. Charles Keating
    March 30, 2008, 12:58 pm

    (In particular, the current tax laws encourage speculation over work and even over new enterprise.)

    So do the founding assumptions of the federal reserve system.

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