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Israel’s impersonation of aid workers in Gaza follows US example

Israel/Palestine
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Israel and the United States take turns following in each other’s footsteps in many unpleasant ways, ranging from the treatment of hunger-striking prisoners to the militarization of domestic police forces. Another recent example came to light Nov. 11, when Israeli special forces were caught deep inside the Gaza Strip, impersonating employees of a respected local NGO that assists the burgeoning number of Palestinians with disabilities in the wake of three military offensives and ongoing border protests.

The incident is remarkably similar to a 2011 covert operation conducted by the United States in Pakistan in which a local doctor posing as an international aid worker implemented a fake hepatitis vaccination program to try to get DNA samples from Osama bin Laden’s family to pinpoint his location. U.S. Navy Seals later tracked and killed bin Laden—and public health initiatives such as vaccination drives haven’t been trusted since. The long-term ripple effects are likely to be significant, as they will be in Gaza.

According to reports in Israeli and other media, the Israeli special forces tried to disguise themselves by entering Gaza with forged ID cards that used information for legitimate residents. When their car was stopped at a routine checkpoint, they claimed to be returning patients to their homes and had a wheelchair in the back of their vehicle. They were exposed only when one of the Palestinian guards at the checkpoint identified their accents as “suspicious.” However, they were believed to have been in Gaza for weeks, reportedly renting an apartment from a Palestinian police officer who did not know with whom he was dealing. Investigators later found it stocked with medical equipment and wheelchairs.

The Israeli TV station Walla reported that the infiltrators even managed to enter the homes of several senior Hamas members, successfully planting listening devices. In the wake of that discovery, the residents whose identities were stolen have understandably been interrogated, Hamas announced that several people suspected of collaborating with Israel in the operation have been arrested (for which others have received death sentences in the past) and the NGO implicated in the operation now is under an intensive investigation.

As Yael Marom wrote in 972 magazine, impersonation of legitimate aid workers endangers the lives of everyone in the profession by eroding public trust. “If the details are true, this behavior could be considered a blatant violation of international humanitarian law, which says that it is forbidden to use symbols of humanitarian organizations for military activity,” he quotes attorney and human rights activist Eitay Mack as saying. The Israeli army has effectively justified the paranoia and suspicions Hamas and others often have of humanitarian groups, as well as of otherwise innocuous behavior by average people, such as taking photos.  (The use of cameras outside of Gaza City, in any area closer to the periphery, now requires a permit. And can you blame Hamas?)

This is very much reminiscent of the Pakistani debacle, which had a very real, negative impact. A study published this month found that regions with high support for Islamic groups—likely those most influenced by the Taliban—vaccination rates dropped 9-13 percent after the CIA’s plot was exposed.

“Trust is critical for preventive medicine, such as vaccines,” says author Monica Martinez-Bravo of the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies (CEMFI) in Madrid, Spain. “It takes a very long time to build trust in medical institutions, but it takes very little to damage it.”

In addition, 18 international charities were kicked out of the country this month. Umair Hasan, spokesman for the Pakistan Humanitarian Foundation, has said the 15 targeted charities his organization represents help 11 million poor Pakistanis and contribute more than $130 million in assistance.

The majority of the targeted aid groups are U.S.-based, while the rest are from Britain and the European Union, according to a the Associated Press. Another 20 groups are at risk of being similarly expelled. And while various bureaucratic excuses have been cited, there is a widespread perception that the United States and European countries have secretly brought spies into Pakistan under the guise of aid workers—a consequence of the vaccination scam.

The crackdown “marks the latest chapter in an ongoing effort to push back against foreign NGOs in Pakistan,” says Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programs at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “It’s hard to overstate the significance of the hunt for bin Laden and the impact it had on Pakistani perceptions of foreign NGOs.”

The same already is occurring in Gaza. “There’s danger to the status of international aid workers, that the local population will suspect them in the future, putting their lives in danger and their much-needed work in question,” Yael Stein, head of research at Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, told Al-Jazeera.

Human rights lawyer Mack notes the irony that “for years, the Israeli government has claimed that Hamas uses humanitarian disguises for terrorist activity,” even using that suspicion as an excuse for rejecting Palestinians seeking exit permits from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment. In May, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council that the Great Return March demonstrators are actually “terrorists disguised as civilians.” And here they are, doing the same themselves.

The United States and Israel: two peas in a pod. And ordinary citizens everywhere are paying the price.

Pam
About Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is founder of WeAreNotNumbers.org and international secretary for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. She is based in Washington, DC, and travels to the Middle East frequently.

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14 Responses

  1. zaid
    zaid
    December 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

    Israel is using aid workers as human shields as always

  2. Marnie
    Marnie
    December 20, 2018, 11:16 pm

    ‘The Israeli TV station Walla reported that the infiltrators even managed to enter the homes of several senior Hamas members, successfully planting listening devices.’

    This is the only time an israeli propaganda machine used the word ‘infiltrator’ correctly, to describe one of their own.

    The united states and ‘israel’ are becoming more and more alike, which continues to be no good for anyone, but the chosen few.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      December 22, 2018, 8:53 pm

      @Mayhem
      “Talking about perverse upside down logic.”

      No, Israel is not the victim. Hamas is comprised of the victims decades of Irsaeli persecution and oppression.

      Hamas arose out of Israeli crimes against humanity. No Hamas is not fundamentally responsible for the whole situation. Israel, by virtue of it’s crimes and the continuation of it’s brutal criminal behaviour, is.

      Those guys doing the impersonation are war criminals and hardly heroes. Well maybe to other war criminals and their supporters.

      • m1945
        m1945
        December 22, 2018, 10:39 pm

        Racist Palestinians have been oppressing Jews for centuries.

        Before the Zionists arrived:
        The Jews “walked with a shuffling, cringing step that told of blows received and blows expected. No one could mistake the difference between oppressor and oppressed—“between those poor creatures and the Arabs who jostled them in these crowded alleys, …. The Arabs stride along with a spring in every step.”19

        Meanwhile, for all their poverty, the Jews were more heavily taxed than their Christian neighbors. All non-Muslims had to pay a poll tax, as tribute and as the price of exemption from military service. But the Jews of the Holy Land also paid, both as a community and as individuals, a host of extortionate charges to local officials, Arab notables, and Arab neighbors—whatever could be squeezed from a very dry stone. In Jerusalem, for example, they paid £300 a year to the effendi whose house adjoined the Western Wall—what non-Jews contemptuously called the “wailing wall” or “wailing place”—for permission to pray there; £100 a year to the villagers of Siloam (just outside the city), not to disturb or profane the graves on the side of the Mount of Olives; £50 a year to the Ta’amra Arabs not to injure the Tomb of Rachel on the road to Bethlehem; and about £10 to Sheik Abu Gosh not to molest Jewish travelers on the road to Jerusalem, though he was already paid by the Turkish government to maintain order on that road.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 23, 2018, 1:46 am

        “Racist Palestinians have been oppressing Jews for centuries.”

        Then it was very silly of the European Jews to go to Palestine. The place was full of Palestinians.

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 23, 2018, 8:49 am

        || m1945: Racist Palestinians have been oppressing Jews for centuries. … ||

        Hi, Jack Green. Zionists insist that there was never any such thing as Palestinians prior to 1947, so it’s not possible for Palestinians to “have been oppressing Jews for centuries”.

        Israel, however, has been oppressing Palestinians – and committing (war) crimes against them – for decades.

      • catalan
        catalan
        December 23, 2018, 9:17 am

        Then it was very silly of the European Jews to go to Palestine”. Roha
        To me it looks like they did great and it’s the Palestinians that did not. Nonetheless, I trust all the commenters here who say Israel is doomed due to the boycotts and the divestments and the concert cancellations. Ergo, I should feel sorry for the Israelis. I always get confused with this.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        December 23, 2018, 9:30 am

        Discrimination Against the Arabs in Israel

        The Arab refugees who lost their homes in 1948 numbered about three quarters of a million. There remained within the area of Palestine under Israeli control some 140,000 Palestinian Arabs, according to official Israeli statistics. [3] Under the terms of the Declaration of Independence, these “Israeli Arabs” should have enjoyed exactly the same rights and privileges as the Jewish citizens of Israel. In fact they were subjected to a strict regime of discrimination which governed every aspect of their daily lives.

        In a sense, this discrimination was automatic and inevitable. As Arabs in an avowedly Jewish state, they could not hope to share on equal terms the benefits of a state structure which was consciously and explicitly designed to further the interests of the Jewish population. But the inequality and the material and spiritual disadvantages which they suffered, simply because they found them- selves, through no fault of their own, aliens in a society whose hopes and ambitions they could not share, were reinforced by a series of discriminatory laws expressly designed to limit their participation in the activities of that society.

        The laws in question were inherited by the state of Israel from the British Mandatory Government which had ruled Palestine between 1922 and 1948. Entitled the Defense Laws (State of Emergency) 1945, they were originally designed by the British administration to control the activities of both Jewish and Arab organizations and individuals opposed to British rule. They incorporated emergency regulations which the British had used to subdue the Arab rebellion between 1936 and 1939; in their revised form they were used after 1945 against the Jewish terrorist organizations Etzel (the Irgun Zvai Leumi) and Lehi (generally known as the Stern Gang).

        When they were introduced, the Defense Laws had been violently criticized by representatives of the Jewish community in Palestine. A conference of the Jewish Lawyers’ Association held in Tel Aviv in February 1946 heard a future Justice of the Supreme Court in Israel say of them:

        These laws. . . contradict the most fundamental principles of law, justice and jurisprudence. They give the administrative and military authorities the power to impose penalties which, even had they been ratified by a legislative body, could only be regarded as anarchical and irregular. The Defense Laws abolish the rights of the individual and grant unlimited power to the administration.

        The representative of the Jewish Agency, Dr. Bernard Joseph, who was later to become Israel’s Minister of Justice, went even further:

        With regard to the Defense Laws themselves, the question is: Are we all to become the victims of officially licensed terrorism, or will the freedom of the individual prevail? Is the administration to be allowed to interfere in the life of each individual without any safeguards for us? There is nothing to prevent a citizen from being imprisoned all his life without trial. There is no safeguard for the rights of the individual. There is no possibility of appeal against the decision of the Military Commander, no possibility of resort to the Supreme Court, and the administration has unrestricted freedom to banish any citizen at any moment.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        December 23, 2018, 1:13 pm

        “Then it was very silly of the European Jews to go to Palestine. “

        RoHa, you’re right! The Zionists got it backward!

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        December 23, 2018, 11:44 pm

        “To me it looks like they did great and it’s the Palestinians that did not.”

        I quite agree that the Jews are succeeding in oppressing the Palestinians. But it is silly to go to a place that you know is the home of the Palestinians and then complain that there are Palestinians living there. And yet Israelis do.

      • eljay
        eljay
        December 24, 2018, 6:44 pm

        || RoHa: … it is silly to go to a place that you know is the home of the Palestinians and then complain that there are Palestinians living there. And yet Israelis do. ||

        Well, that’s just your anti-Semitic version of history. See, what happen is (is that) Zionist Jews went to “a land without a people for a people without a land” only to have “Ayrabs” (and maybe even “Mooslims”) anti-Semitically invade that desolate region and claim to be Palestinians.

  3. Mayhem
    Mayhem
    December 21, 2018, 8:54 pm

    “impersonation of legitimate aid workers endangers the lives of everyone in the profession by eroding public trust”
    Talking about perverse upside down logic.
    In a territory ruled by Islamic extremists, who inflict at will their murderous sense of justice upon any suspect, we see those who are bravely risking their lives to undermine this hideous regime being criticised, when it is Hamas that is fundamentally responsible for the whole situation.

    • annie
      annie
      December 22, 2018, 2:46 pm

      mayhem, israel uses this information to target and wipe out entire families in gaza, which include 1000’s of civilians many of them women and children. calling treasonous collaborators brave, in time of war? i don’t think so.

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 22, 2018, 2:55 pm

      || Mayhem: … In a territory ruled by Islamic extremists, who inflict at will their murderous sense of justice upon any suspect, we see those who are bravely risking their lives to undermine this hideous regime being criticised, when it is Hamas that is fundamentally responsible for the whole situation. ||

      So you’re OK with non-Jews infiltrating a territory ruled by Jewish supremacists and “bravely risking their lives to undermine this hideous regime” as long as they do it by impersonation instead of “terror tunnels”. Got it. But are you really sure this is the message ZioHQ wants you to disseminate?

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