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Attacks on demonstrators in Rome

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Israel supporters march from Jewish ghetto to the Palestinian embassy in Rome with "Assassins" banner after teens were kidnapped (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Israel supporters march from Jewish Quarter to the Palestinian embassy in Rome with “Assassins” banner after reports of Jewish teens kidnapped in Occupied Palestine (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

As the ferocious attacks on the Palestinian population of Gaza continue, once again the Israeli government’s sense of impenetrable impunity is on display in all its brutality. With an Israeli rabbi condoning the killing of civilians in Gaza, an Israeli lawmaker calling for the murder of Palestinian mothers and a “scholar” suggesting Palestinian women be raped, it should come as no surprise that this sense of impunity is being transmitted to Israeli citizens, interpreted by some as a free license to attack those who dare to publicly stand for justice in Palestine.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators protesting the assault on Gaza were violently attacked by right wing nationalists, with the police on the scene failing to intervene.

The message is also reaching Israeli supporters outside the country. Vigilante groups, reportedly associated with the extremist Jewish Defense League (JDL), were recently caught on video in the streets of Paris, armed with metal bars and pepper spray, attacking pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Despite the attack being played out under the watchful eyes of the police, not one of the attackers was arrested and the French government has since banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris.

In Italy, Rome has also been scene to a number of deeply disturbing and violent incidents, with attacks on Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists, and not just with the recent events.

On July 1, the Young Palestinians of Rome had called for a protest on a central square against the escalating collective punishment being wrought out by Israel across the West Bank and in Gaza following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli settler teens. An Italian university student approaching the square was told by a plainclothes police officer that the protest would not be taking place. In fact, demonstrators had been dispersed by the police due to “tension” in the area, as organized groups from the self-appointed security squads of the Jewish quarter of Rome were stationed in the area.

(photo: La Repubblica)

Pro-Israel thugs assault Palestine supporter in Rome (photo: La Repubblica)

Suddenly, five to six men  pounced on the student, “guilty” of wearing a keffiah, and began shoving and kicking him. As he attempted to flee, he ran into yet another group of pro-Israel supporters who quickly surrounded him and continued beating him until the police and another man intervened. The attackers escaped, while the student was taken to the hospital, with a number of contusions to the head as well as a dislocated shoulder.

A statement by the Young Palestinians noted that “the Zionist project not only aspires to ethnically cleanse our people in Palestine… but also aims to eradicate our memory, our dignity outside of Palestine.” The Young Palestinians added, “We are also Italian citizens, citizens of Rome, and we are outraged by the inaction of institutions that, with their silence, render themselves complicit with the violence, and make Rome a city less beautiful, less tolerant, less just.”

Pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of the Palestinian embassy in Rome (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of the Palestinian embassy in Rome (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Later that same night, two gunshots were fired from a car passing the Palestinian embassy in Rome. The night before, on June 30, as the news of the death of the three kidnapped teens spread, a protest march led from the Jewish Quarter to the Palestinian embassy in Rome, where pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of embassy as police stood idly by. Slogans were also spray painted on the walls of the embassy, with a Swastika = Hamas and below the Star of David. Netanyahu’s intention of holding the Palestinian Authority responsible was being carried out in Rome.

Pro Israel supporters graffiti Swastika = Hamas slogan with Star of David (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Pro Israel supporters graffiti Swastika = Hamas slogan with Star of David (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

This was hardly the first time Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists have been targeted in Rome by the ultrazionist thugs in Rome.

At this year’s annual April 25 march commemorating the liberation of Italy from Nazi-Fascism, Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists gathered near the Colosseum to participate, as they have every year, bringing the voice of Palestine to this celebration of resistance against oppression. As they began to raise Palestinian flags, a group of roughly 40 members of the Jewish Community, led by the president Riccardo Pacifici, present with Israeli flags and those of the Jewish Brigade, also an annual occurrence, stormed and began physically attacking the activists. This time the police did intervene, though late and facing the victims of the aggression rather than the aggressors, allowing the attacks to continue!

Loretta Mussi of BDS Rome commented, “It was a very sad day for those in Italy who hold dear the values of the resistance against the Nazi-Fascist occupation and want to see them remembered and kept alive. This should be a day of solidarity with all those who resist in the world.”

Despite a prior agreement with ANPI, the Italian Partisans Association, organizers of the march, for the participation of Palestine solidarity activists, ANPI, shamefully, chose to concede to the demands of the pro-Israel fanatics, who refused to allow the march to begin with Palestinian flags present. Police prevented the Palestinian solidarity activists from joining the march as it departed, though a large number of supporters stayed on and eventually marched together with the activists.

“Taking a stand with Palestinian resistance is becoming more and more a taboo in Italy and demonstrators risk being attacked by Zionists in Rome, who seem to enjoy near absolute impunity, thanks to the strong support afforded them by state institutions,” observed Mussi.

One of the gravest incidents was in June 2010. The Union of Young Italian Jews had organized a protest calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas. More than a kilometer away, the Rome Palestine Solidarity Network organized a candlelight vigil to remember Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. As they set out candles and a banner reading “Without their freedom we will never be free”, in a peaceful and somber vigil, activists were viciously attacked by pro-Israel thugs using brass knuckles and scooter helmets. Two activists were hospitalized, one with a concussion and the other, a Palestinian from Gaza, with a broken jaw and cheekbone requiring months of treatment. Several others were bruised and battered. The police present limited their actions to forming a line to separate the two groups, but made no efforts to identify or arrest the aggressors.

Violent attacks have not been limited to pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In January 2014, at the presentation of the book “The Left and Israel” at a Jewish cultural center in Rome, a member of the Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation was “identified” by a group of young Zionists there, as they commented to one woman, to protect her and others. He was violently removed before the event had even began, assaulted outside, and knocked over in the street as he attempted to leave on his scooter.

In November 2012, a group of young women and men returning from a student protest against the privatization of education were  attacked as they passed through the Jewish Quarter, apparently for looking a little too leftist, with one young man being pinning down in a chokehold against the hood of a parked car and punched in the face as others gathered around, failing to intervene. “You can’t enter here. You can do whatever you want around Rome, but if you enter here, you’re dead,” they were told.

A little over a year later, four young people were passing through the quarter at 4 am, when one of them decided to rip a poster commemorating the death of Ariel Sharon. A group of 15 violent thugs on “patrol” and armed with baseball bats  immediately jumped them, sending them to the emergency room.

Miryam Marino of the Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation observed that “the immeasurable Zionist violence that continues to move forward with its plan of genocide in Gaza, after killing over a dozen in the West Bank in recent weeks, is extending its reach to here in Rome, as thugs led by the President of the Rome Jewish Community, Riccardo Pacifici, who is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the criminals Netanyahu and Lieberman, target protesters who peacefully express their solidarity with the Palestinians under bombs.”

While these events pale in comparison to the genocide currently taking place in Gaza, they represent an alarming trend. The responsibility lies with the both the Israeli government for its continued incitement, and local administrations, which have varied over the course of the events from one led by a rightwing former militant with the young fascists to the current center left mayor, as well as national politicians, who have failed to act to end impunity for Israel and its supporters.

The press also shares a great deal of responsibility. Miryam Marino noted, “The story being told by the press elicits a sense of great disgust for the hypocritical ‘balance’. We are witnesses to a genocide, where the lives of an entire population seems to have no value in the eyes of the media.” She added, “With our hearts full of sorrow and indignation, the cry of pain that rises from Gaza breaks our hearts and we will do everything possible to amplify it so that it reaches the deaf ears that do not want to hear.”

One word that came up over and over again in relations to the events above was fascism. And that is something Italians know a thing or two about.

Stephanie Westbrook

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37 Responses

  1. just on July 27, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Thanks Stephanie.

    This is the result of the incitement by the “leaders” of Israel. Scary to think that this Zionist violence is tolerated in Paris and Rome…again.

    Who and where is next?

    • just on July 27, 2014, 4:00 pm

      It doesn’t seem that any pro- Israel people or their protecters in Rome are listening to the Pope:

      “Pope Francis made an emotional plea for peace on Sunday in an impromptu addition to his weekly Angelus address in St Peter’s Square.

      Wrapping up his regular address to the faithful, the Argentinian-born pontiff spoke of the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war and said his thoughts were on the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine in particular.

      His voice appearing to crack with emotion as he broke off from his scripted remarks to make a direct appeal for fighting to end, he said: “Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please.”

      The pope made no direct reference to the situation in Gaza, but his comments came after a humanitarian truce broke down on Sunday and fighting resumed. More than 1,000 people, mostly civilians and including dozens of children, have been killed since the outbreak of the current conflict.

      “Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future,” he said. “Dead children, injured children, mutilated children, orphaned children, children whose toys are things left over from war, children who can’t smile any more.””

      • Kay24 on July 27, 2014, 4:16 pm

        Now would be a time for those protesting this massacre by Israel, to make huge posters with the Pope standing near the wall that says Free Palestinie. It would say a lot.

  2. adele on July 27, 2014, 3:13 pm

    I have been trying to find analysis on this trend happening in France & Italy. It wasn’t always this one-sided which leads me to believe that there are underlying forces causing this alliance between the state and pro-Israel organizations. If anyone has articles, analysis please share.

    PS: in one of the demonstrations in Paris a protester held up a sign that said: “Pour La Separation du Crif et de l’Etat” [Translation: “For the Separation of CRIF and the State”; with CRIF being the AIPAC equivalent in France]

    I saw it in this tweet:

  3. bilal a on July 27, 2014, 3:44 pm

    not new:

    “Systematic defense training was introduced in Betar in many Diaspora countries during the early 1930s by Yirmiyahu Halpern, who established training courses and camps where self-defense, drill, street-fighting, the handling of small arms, boxing, and military tactics were taught. In Poland members of Betar also underwent training in the official paramilitary units of the state….Betar underwent rapid expansion during the 1930s as illustrated by the growth of its total world membership from 22,300 in 1931 to nearly 90,000 in 1938. In the late 1930s Betar was actively engaged in the Revisionists’ “illegal” aliyah operation which, by 1939, took thousands of Jews to Palestine, among them many members of Betar. During World War II many Betar members in Palestine volunteered for the Palestinian units of the British Army and, later, the Jewish Brigade.”

  4. Janet Jupiter on July 27, 2014, 4:01 pm

    “Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists gathered near the Colosseum to participate, as they have every year, bringing the voice of Palestine to this celebration of resistance against oppression.”

    Totally unacceptable. Sounds like they are trying to provoke.

    • Mooser on July 28, 2014, 2:27 pm

      “Totally unacceptable. “

      Yes sir, if there’s one thing a Zionist is fit to judge, it is what is “unacceptable”!
      And in case anybody thinks your little judgement was pretty goddam presumptuous, under the circumstances, I am here to tell them that Zionists are required to make such judgements!

      • Janet Jupiter on July 28, 2014, 2:43 pm

        Perhaps all of your thoughts are colored through the Zionist lense.
        Mine are not.
        Its inappropriate to shoehorn your own agenda into a parade. Duh

      • Mooser on July 28, 2014, 5:55 pm

        “Perhaps all of your thoughts are colored through the Zionist lense.”

        Oh, no, I was just applauding your ability to know what is acceptable, and what is provocative.

  5. Kay24 on July 27, 2014, 4:14 pm

    I did not hear the entire segment, but it seems Karl Penhaul reported that Israel has admitted it was one of their weapons that hit the UN shelter in Gaza.
    If so, there should be serious consequences by the rest of the world. This is beyond the pale, this is sheer hatred and carelessness for those who are not their own.
    Are we still going to support this out of control monster? I already know the answer to that.

    • a blah chick on July 27, 2014, 5:09 pm

      The latest excuse is that they shot the shell into what they claimed was an empty yard and someone wondered if the yard was empty what were they shooting at?

      It’s hard to keep the lies straight when you’ve told so many.

      • Kay24 on July 27, 2014, 6:51 pm

        They say it was “errant” mortar. I say that is zio bull. If you look at the video, you can say you have to be superman to have super vision, and gauge if the shrapnel only injured civilians, which they claim they thought they did, and that they did not kill anyone. They have GPS the UN had given them, they were either totally incompetent, or deliberately brutal.
        I say from the initial reaction, they knew what they had done, and true to zio style lied to cover their lying behinds. More and more it is obvious they have been blaming Hamas for every crimes, whether it is human shields, hiding weapons etc., and this time the lies are disproved.

      • Leahj on July 28, 2014, 9:30 am

        Kay24, Re: That IDF video of the mortar attack at the UN school – One of the newswomen on CNN Sunday, mentioned that it not only had no time stamp, it didn’t even have a date stamp on it. It could have been from years ago. She asked the Israeli spokesman if the reason they had released it with the time & date stamps removed was for military secrets & national security, & he said ‘yes’. I don’t understand that.

      • tree on July 27, 2014, 8:46 pm

        According to a tweet by CNN International anchor and correspondent Michael Holmes , IDF Spokesman Lt.Col Peter Lerner just upped the ante on Israeli lies:

        DF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said that Hamas militants could have brought bodies to UN #Gaza school in order to blame Israel

      • Kay24 on July 28, 2014, 8:09 am

        Many international reporters like Karl Penhaul/CNN were witnesses to the dead and the injured being brought in to the hospital.
        The criminals cannot talk their way out of this one.

  6. eGuard on July 27, 2014, 4:20 pm

    Even The Times (of London) had to admit (I added the bolding): Anti-war protests have been violently broken up by right-wing demonstrators; at in rally [in Tel-Aviv] , the attackers surreally wore T-shirts with a neo-Nazi emblem. 25/7, p.26

    I note that The Times is not a paper that simply publishes Lieberman’s and MKs’s racist speeches as their editorial. They write the speeches for them.

  7. michelle on July 27, 2014, 4:22 pm

    G-d Bless

  8. Justpassingby on July 27, 2014, 4:23 pm

    Some good people:

  9. Kay24 on July 27, 2014, 5:01 pm

    Not so smart sounding USF/IDF kid called Lahat on killing Palestinian civilians on CNN: It is their kids (Israeli) or the Palestinian kids, and he chooses Israeli kids, therefore they kill Palestinian kids, he also mentions that Israel is taking extreme care to surgically strike cars, apartments etc., and the number of civilian casualties is high because “Khamas” is hiding weapons in hospitals, schools etc. He says the world is tying their hands down, therefore Israel is unable to finish the “job”. Killing children is part of the accidents, like those we killed in Nagasaki etc., HUH?

    With such ignorance and inability to reason out the repercussions of such violence,
    this is who is fighting for Israel. A thoroughly brainwashed kid, thinking that the kids they kill are part of war. 800 civilians, and Israeli army seems inept, that they keep “accidentally” killing so many of them.

    Karl Penhaul (great reporter) say Israel admits it’s mortar exploded on UN school, but (surprise) they were sure it was empty. Lying is second nature to these monsters. Only the American people will keep believing this crap.
    Joanie Rivers, where are you?

    • ejran on July 28, 2014, 3:35 am

      Kay24- “he also mentions that Israel is taking extreme care to surgically strike cars, apartments etc., and the number of civilian casualties is high because “Khamas” is hiding weapons in hospitals, schools etc. He says the world is tying their hands down, therefore Israel is unable to finish the “job”. Killing children is part of the accidents.”
      Wow. I heard the exact same arguments from a different IDF kid. “We are doing this as surgically as possible. It is hard when a hospital is also a rocket launcher. There are high casualties because Hamas uses people as human shield. The IDF uses weapons to protect its civilians. Hamas uses their civilians to protect their weapons.”

    • Citizen on July 28, 2014, 6:14 am

      Rivers is standing right over there, next to Samantha Power, you know the woman who’s famous for her scholarly work on Genocide?

  10. Stephen Shenfield on July 27, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Are private prosecutions possible in Italy?

  11. American on July 27, 2014, 6:25 pm

    Does anyone know if the guys who hoisted the white flag on the Brooklyn Bridge have been identified or caught yet?
    I’d like to hire them to hoist Israeli flags on government buildings in DC and NY.
    Maybe hoist some all over the country—-that would to get americans buzzing and chattering.
    Love to see the media trying to explain that.

  12. Daniel Rich on July 27, 2014, 7:22 pm

    Remedy for those under attack: either you learn how to fight back, learn that nature’s group survival is very real or bring baseball gear for a match ‘after’ the demonstration [a few bats, balls and a couple of gloves]. As this is perfectly legal, the cops can’t do a thing and when those Jewish thugs see baseball bats, they’ll think twice before attacking you.

    Just be wo/man enough to start whacking when pressed to. You’ll be surprised to see what happens next.

    Recap: bring all the baseball stuff mentioned not only bats.

  13. Daniel Rich on July 27, 2014, 7:32 pm

    oops, sorry; America American.

  14. ritzl on July 27, 2014, 8:26 pm

    I wonder how many of the cops in France and Italy were trained in or by Israel. It would explain the way they seem to prefer to face and the presumption about where the danger lies.

    The commonality of “side-taking” at these events and that totally unwarranted fan removal (for waving a Palestinian flag at an ISR-HON game) is disturbing. If Israel training is the common element, I don’t know, something something, bad words. Importing Israeli racism to the US isn’t quite worse than what’s going on in Gaza, but it clearly leads straight to it. Bad. Bad. Bad.

    And its still the worst possible situation to have a very tiny minority violently and openly beating up on others. Only bad things (i.e. overwhelming/disproportional reciprocal violence) can come of it. WILL come of it.

    • snowdrift on July 28, 2014, 3:02 am

      I don’t think it’s an issue of police training; I think it’s a combination of pandering to the local pro-Israel lobby and institutional racism against Muslims. This is becoming more pronounced as the pro-palestinian movement undergoes a generational shift, with more and more young Muslims demonstrating alongside the traditional left-wing, anti-colonial activists, and the authorities react accordingly (and it seems almost always true that the police is the organization where institutional racism is most visible).

      This also goes to show that, while there definitely have been traditional antisemitic types who have tried to associate with or piggyback onto these demonstrations, and also those few radicalized Islamist types who see this as a Muslims-vs-Jews issue, the antisemitic actions of a few radicalized Muslims, themselves part of a discriminated against community, cannot be compared–in terms of potential danger to the Jewish communities of Europe–to the institutional racism against Muslim communities, which unfortunately the pro-Israeli orgs are taking advantage of (the head of the CRIF in France declaring to an Israeli paper in 2002 that the far-right candidate’s accession to the second turn of the presidential election was actually a good thing, because it would keep the Muslims in check.)

      This is also where domestic European racism against Arabs/Muslims can become an issue if pro-palestinian activism is simply viewed as a “Muslim thing”. That’s why I’m pessimistic in the short term, but optimistic in the long term, since these younger Muslims are rejuvenating European movements (to be fair, I’m speaking more specifically of France here, but I would think it’s fairly similar in a place like Italy) and, in the long run, as Muslims become more assimilated and the racism against them subsides, the simple reality that there are more Muslims than Zionist Jews + supporters will kick in when it comes to popular opinion.

    • Citizen on July 28, 2014, 6:23 am
  15. oldgeezer on July 28, 2014, 12:21 am

    If this is the way things are going then it’s going to end very badly. That worries me. Police protecting violent thugs in two EU countries now. Standing by while people are being beat for expressing their opinion. At some point things will boil over.

  16. seafoid on July 28, 2014, 8:20 am

    Back in ancient history when Israel called the shots

    “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz.

    “And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

    Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Haaretz for the Friday Magazine.

    “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” he said. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” “

    • Walid on July 28, 2014, 9:43 am

      On another occasion, that slimeball also said Gazans should be put on a special low-calorie diet that would starve them but not enough to let them die. BTW, that guy with the nice thoughts towards Palestinians is today legal consultant to the Palestinian posh real estate $1 billion real estate development “Rawabi”, a joint enterprise of Palestinian al-Masri and the Qatari “Diar” Developer.

      Another Zionist slimeball, Martin Kramer was peddling Gunnar Heinsohn’s rule of thumb that says that when 30 percent or more of the total male population is between 15-29 (fighting age), violence ensues, which is the case in most Arab countries and more specifically because the average age in Gaza is closer to 17 to remedy this anomaly, Kramer proposed (to the vultures at Herzliya) that international pro-natal subsidies to Gaza should be stopped that would curtail birthrates from having “superfluous young men” grow to become terrorists. Another Zionist starver of people that would nip them in the womb. Zionists have a fixation about starving Palestinians. Sick, sick, sick mentality.

      Martin Kramer at the 2010 Herzliya conference; he stops beating about the bush and gets into the meat about starving pregnant Gaza women around the 3 minute mark of the 6-minute video.

      • seafoid on July 28, 2014, 9:54 am

        “Dov Weisglass, revealed that what Israel has in mind for Gaza is not prosperity but keeping it teetering on life support. “We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death,” he said. At the mourning tent in Beit Lahia, I meet Ahmed al-Shafei, chairman of the Gaza Cooperative Association for Producing and Marketing Vegetables. “Two thousand families in this town depend on the strawberries,” he says. “We used to get 12 shekels a kilo exporting. Now we get one or two shekels in the market here if we get anything at all. It’s cost us $1.5m in lost strawberry sales.” Salim Abu Safiya is in charge of Gaza’s borders for the Palestinian Authority working from an office near the main cargo crossing at Karni, with shells dropping periodically not far away. “If you add up all the hours that Karni has been open since the beginning of the year, it amounts to just three weeks,” he says. “This is three or four hours a day and sometimes it’s closed for weeks. Karni has the capacity to handle about 700 lorries a day. Now, if it is open, it handles only about 50.”
        On the day we speak, Karni is open for a little more than three hours for imports. Exports haven’t been allowed in months. “Israel sends us what they want to send us, not what we need,” he says. “They are sending fruit, construction material, frozen food, so Israel can save its face and not let us starve.” What they need instead is medicine, tampons, washing powder, milk and baby formula. The impact on some Palestinian industries has been devastating. Textile factories have thrown 75,000 people out of work because they can no longer get their garments out of Gaza. Safiya estimates that there are 700 lorry loads of furniture waiting to be sent to Israel. “Since the beginning of the second intifada, Israel has used the borders as a tool to pressure the Palestinians,” he says. “The rest of the economy was destroyed as a result of the closure of the borders. A third of Palestinian industrialists have left for abroad. Twenty-two of the big Palestinian factories have sought a permit to move to Egypt or Sudan. Nineteen garment factories have closed in the past two months.” The unemployment rate in Gaza is 44%, although it rises at times when Israel bars Palestinian workers from entering Israel. Per capita income has dropped 40% in three years. About 70% of the population is defined as living in poverty. The Israeli government has justified the persistent closure of Karni with what it said was intelligence about impending attacks. Others are sceptical. James Wolfensohn, the US-appointed special envoy to Israel and the occupied territories, who was critical of both sides before he resigned last month, expressed particular frustration at what he characterised as Israeli “foot-dragging” over the border crossings. He has accused the Israeli government of being “loath to relinquish control, almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal” from Gaza. Late last year, Wolfensohn threatened to quit unless Israel agreed to ease the blockade. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, intervened and won a commitment from Israel to open Karni 24 hours a day by the end of 2005 and to permit regular convoys of buses and lorries to move people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel also promised to discuss reopening Gaza’s airport, closed at the beginning of the intifada when army bulldozers tore up the runway, and the construction of a sea port to allow the territory to trade directly without going through Israel. At the time, Wolfensohn told PBS television in the US that without relatively free movement across its borders, the Gaza strip will be “like a prison”. He said that open borders are “crucial” to the future of the Gazan people, because they would provide “a sense of hope, a sense that they are able to earn money, that they can trade”. “The balance is always between Israeli security and freedom and hope for the Palestinians.” Israel reneged on almost all of the agreement, with the exception of the crossing to Egypt, and buried the issue under the Hamas election victory. “

    • Mooser on July 28, 2014, 2:31 pm

      The infamous “formaldehyde” quote. There it all is. Thanks Seafoid.

      • seafoid on July 28, 2014, 2:42 pm

        “After a three-and-a-half-year legal battle waged by the Gisha human rights organization, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has finally released a 2008 document that detailed its “red lines” for “food consumption in the Gaza Strip.”

        The document calculates the minimum number of calories necessary, in COGAT’s view, to keep Gaza residents from malnutrition at a time when Israel was tightening its restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Strip, including food products and raw materials. The document states that Health Ministry officials were involved in drafting it, and the calculations were based on “a model formulated by the Ministry of Health … according to average Israeli consumption,” though the figures were then “adjusted to culture and experience” in Gaza.

        COGAT, appealing a District Court ruling to release the document, stated that it was merely a rough draft, that it was never actually implemented, and that it did not guide Israeli policy in practice. In its objection to the document’s publication, COGAT argued that there was no reason to disclose what was essentially internal staff work, a mere proposal that was never actually put into effect. In fact, COGAT told Haaretz on Tuesday, after the document was drafted, the agency never even held a single discussion of it.

        But the court disagreed, and on its orders, the document (in two different versions, both from January 2008) was given to Gisha two weeks ago. It is now being published here for the first time. Its very existence was also first reported in Haaretz, in a June 2009 article by Uri Blau and Yotam Feldman.

        In September 2007, the cabinet, then headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, decided to tighten restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip. The “red lines” document was written about four months afterward.

        The cabinet decision stated that “the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip will be restricted; the supply of gas and electricity will be reduced; and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of people from the Strip and to it.” In addition, exports from Gaza would be forbidden entirely. However, the resolution added, the restrictions should be tailored to avoid a “humanitarian crisis.”

        At a High Court hearing on Gisha’s petition against this policy, government attorneys Gilad Sherman and Dana Briskman, backed by an affidavit from Col. Shlomi Mukhtar of COGAT, explained that “it is the state’s right to decide that it doesn’t intend to have economic ties with, or provide economic assistance to, the other party in the conflict, and to adopt a policy of ‘economic warfare.'”

        The “red lines” document calculates the minimum number of calories needed by every age and gender group in Gaza, then uses this to determine the quantity of staple foods that must be allowed into the Strip every day, as well as the number of trucks needed to carry this quantity. On average, the minimum worked out to 2,279 calories per person per day, which could be supplied by 1,836 grams of food, or 2,575.5 tons of food for the entire population of Gaza.

        Bringing this quantity into the Strip would require 170.4 truckloads per day, five days a week.

        From this quantity, the document’s authors then deducted 68.6 truckloads to account for the food produced locally in Gaza ¬ mainly vegetables, fruit, milk and meat. The documents notes that the Health Ministry’s data about various products includes the weight of the package (about 1 to 5 percent of the total weight) and that “The total amount of food takes into consideration ‘sampling’ by toddlers under the age of 2 (adds 34 tons per day to the general population).”

        From this total, 13 truckloads were deducted to adjust for the “culture and experience” of food consumption in Gaza, though the document does not explain how this deduction was calculated.

        While this adjustment actually led to a higher figure for sugar (five truckloads, compared to only 2.6 under the Health Ministry’s original model),
        it reduced the quantity of fruits and vegetables (18 truckloads, compared to 28.5), milk (12 truckloads instead of 21.1), and meat and poultry (14 instead of 17.2).

        Altogether, therefore, COGAT concluded that Israel needed to allow 131 truckloads of food and other essential products into Gaza every day (via the “back to back” system, in which goods are transferred from an Israeli truck to a Palestinian one at the border). Of these, 106 would go through the Kerem Shalom crossing and the rest via the Karni crossing (which was closed a few years later).

        The document states that then-Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai had approved the entry of 106 trucks per day even before the “red lines” were calculated, along with additional truckloads of wheat seed and animal feed.

        The point of the “red lines” document was to see if this number of trucks in fact met Gaza’s needs. But according to Gisha, UN data shows that the number of trucks allowed into Gaza each day often fell below this level.

        COGAT, then headed by Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, translated the government’s policy of restrictions into two lists. The long one detailed the forbidden goods that couldn’t be brought into the Strip (including, for example, building materials, needles, cloth and other raw materials, cleaning and bathing supplies, books, musical instruments and processed hummus). The short one listed those that could be brought in. The guiding principle was that instead of the supply of goods being dictated by demand, it would be dictated by the quantities and varieties deemed necessary by COGAT.

        From time to time, COGAT officers revised the lists. Thus in late 2008, for instance, COGAT began allowing the import of shampoo ¬ though conditioner was still banned. In 2009, plain processed hummus was taken off the banned list, but hummus with pine nuts was still off-limits.

        To obey the cabinet’s order to avoid a “humanitarian crisis,” COGAT officers devised what they called “sensors” to warn them if there was a risk of impending malnutrition or an impending shortage of the permitted goods. Thus in addition to the “red lines,” they produced two other documents: a model for estimating inventories of essential staples in Gaza, and a procedure for allowing the entry of goods into the Strip.

        In practice, COGAT says, policy was guided by the inventory estimation model and the procedure for the entry of goods, not by the “red lines” document.

        Following another petition to the High Court by Gisha, these two documents were published by Haaretz in October 2010.

        “The quantification wasn’t done in order to arrive at a minimum threshold or restrict the quantities, but the opposite ¬ to ensure that there was no shortage,” a COGAT official maintained Tuesday.

        Gisha, however, doubts the claim that the “red lines” document was never actually used. For instance, it said, the prosecution evidently relied on the minimum threshold the document sets for meat (300 calves imported each week) when it argued in court against Gisha’s request that the quota be increased during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, at the end of Ramadan. COGAT responded that this particular figure was part of the inventory estimation model, and therefore that it was in use.

        International humanitarian organizations use a model called the Sphere standards to gauge a population’s needs and determine the aid that should sent to it in an emergency (whether war or natural disaster). This model is far more complex and less mathematical than the “red lines.” But the most significant difference is that the “red lines” and the inventory estimation model were both devised by the very party that deliberately created the emergency situation, and that effectively controls both the territory and the population.

        The drafters of the “red lines” document noted that the quantity of fruit and vegetables Gaza could produce for itself was expected to decline from 1,000 tons a day to 500 within a few months, due to the Israeli ban on bringing in seeds and other raw materials needed for agriculture, as well as the ban on exporting produce from the Strip. They predicted a similar fate for the poultry industry. But they didn’t propose any solution for this decline.

        Robert Turner, UNRWA’s director of operations in the Gaza Strip, told Haaretz that he “read the draft with concern. If this reflects an authentic policy intended to cap food imports, this ‘Red Lines’ approach is contrary to humanitarian principles. If it is intended to prevent a humanitarian crisis by setting a minimum threshold, it has failed.”

      • just on July 28, 2014, 2:47 pm

        Another part of Israel’s genocidal plan for the indigenous Palestinians.

      • Mooser on July 28, 2014, 5:58 pm

        And yet we still have Zionists on other threads blaming the Palestinians for stopping the “peace process”.

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