A Short History of the Colonization of Palestine

Myth: Israel was a land without a people for a people without a land.

History: Arab people have lived in Palestine for thousands of years. Who are the indigenous people of Palestine? All of them speak Arabic. They are mainly Sunni Muslim. There are a minority of Christians, Shiite Muslims, Jews, and Druze. European Jewish settlers began to steadily arrive in 1882 but there was never anything other than an overwhelming Arab majority until a few weeks before the “Nakba” (Arabic word for catastrophe) otherwise known as the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

nakba

Myth: The state of Israel had to be created as a response to the Holocaust.

History: Zionism is a kind of European colonialism that began in the late 1800’s long before the Holocaust in Europe. Zionism’s goal is and has always been to establish a Jewish state on land already inhabited by an indigenous Palestinian people. Zionism
as a colonial project was explained by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of its chief architects, in 1923:

“We can talk as much as we want about our good intentions but they understand as well as we what is not good for them. They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie…Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Zionist colonization even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. Thus colonization, can therefore continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population-an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is in toto our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy.”

Nothing in Zionist policy toward Arabs has changed, but the language that is used to talk about these policies has.

Myth: Israelis just want to live in security and peace with their Arab neighbors.

History: In 1923, it was possible to talk openly about getting rid of the native population. Today the code words of “peace” and “security” are really a call for the end of Palestinian resistance to Zionist colonialism and genocide. Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall” has become a real Wall in Palestine which has the purpose of stealing more land from Palestinian people and destroying potential resistance to settlement by socially controlling Palestinian people. How did this happen?

In 1917, in the Balfour Declaration, the British government promised to support the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine when there were already Palestinian people living on this land. Between 1919 and 1936, the ruling British supported taking the land of tens of thousands of “fellahin” ( Palestinian villagers) and giving it to European Zionist settlers. In response to the unfair transfer of Palestinian land to settlers, Palestinians resisted and called for a general strike from 1936 to 1939 accompanied by boycotts of all British and Zionist institutions. The strike was met with extreme physical force and resulted in a popular uprising. The uprising was eventually crushed, and the British imprisoned 5,000 Palestinians, executed 148 people and demolished 5,000 homes.

At the end of 1947, Zionists had acquired only 6.59% of the total land mass of Palestine. That year, the UN, which had an interest in cultivating Western European settlement in Palestine, voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Palestinians and Arab states rejected this (at this time Jewish people would gain over 54% of the land by UN partition).

disappearing-palestineIn 1948, Joseph Weitz , director of the Jewish National Land Fund and head of
the 3rd “Transfer Committee” stated “ [we] must direct our war towards the removal of as many Arabs as possible from boundaries of our state.”

Between 1947 and 1949, there were 45 reported massacres including the Yehida Massacre, Al-Sheikh Massacre, Beit Daras Massacre, Dahmesh Massacre, and the better known Deir Yassin Massacre in which more than 250 people were murdered (25 pregnant women were bayoneted in the abdomen and 52 children were beheaded) as well as the Dawayma Massacre in which 100 people were killed, including children who were murdered by fracturing their heads with sticks.

In 1948, 935,000 Palestinians (85% of the indigenous population of Palestine at that time) were forced off their land, in some cases at gunpoint, in other cases through massacres or threats of massacres like the massacre at Deir Yassin. As a result, 530 of an estimated 550 total villages were completely destroyed or depopulated. Over 78% of Palestinian land was confiscated for the establishment of a state for Jewish people. The “state of Israel” was established in May, 1948 and the colonial system put in place by the British was transferred to the new Zionist settler state.

Myth: Israel is a democracy.

History: A variety of racist laws were passed soon after the “state of Israel” was established. The Law of Return in 1950 grants the right of immigration to Jews born anywhere in the world. Non-Jewish native born Palestinians who fled the massacres in 1947 and 1948 are in most cases prevented from returning. The Absentee Property Law of the same year designated the personal property of Palestinians who fled during the terror campaign of 1948 as “absentee property” and this property was placed within the power of the Custodian of Absentee Property who would distribute this land to Jewish settlers. Palestinians’ capacity to have any personal property or wages was abolished during the first decade of this “democracy.”

Since the 1950’s, nationality and identity laws have defined a “Jewish nationality” with special privileges above the “Arab nationality” who is subject to a special regime of “security.” The Transfer of Property Law of 1950 and the Land Acquisition Act of 1953 accomplished the transfer of confiscated Palestinian villages and private property to the Development Authority for Jewish settlement. These Israeli laws of the 1950’s resemble Apartheid South Africa’s Natives Land Act of 1913 and the Native Urban Areas Act of 1923.

In 1967, the remainder of Palestine was invaded and occupied by the Zionists and another 350, 000 Palestinians fled or were expelled. In the 1970’s, the “Judaization of the Galilee” (the term Zionists use to describe the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from this area for exclusively Jewish settlement) followed the same pattern of settlement familiar throughout historic Palestine:

  • the confiscation of agricultural and grazing land in the areas surrounding Palestinian population centers;
  • the freezing of growth in Palestinian villages by denying building and planning rights;
  • the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes and businesses
  • planned Jewish settlement aimed at breaking up the territorial continuity of Palestinian areas;
  • the denial of access to basic services such as water (and the theft of that water); and
  • policies aimed at preventing Palestinian economic subsistence and forcing dependence on settlers.

Through the “peace negotiations” of Oslo, the Geneva Accords, and the Road Map, Zionists have pursued a policy of stealing more land and striking genuine resistance to colonial settlement with crushing force.

Myth: The problem is an age old conflict between religious groups.

History: It is a conflict between the indigenous Palestinian people and the Europeans who came with guns to steal their land and resources. Zionism is a racist ideology with the aim of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its native population through systematic methods. The Palestinian people themselves are of multiple religions—all have suffered from Zionist racism and brutality.

The myth of “religious conflict” is central in propagating the notion that “dialogue” between “Israelis” and Palestinians can resolve “the conflict” and that people need to develop “an understanding” of one another. It is meant to undercut any discussion about the reality — a racist regime that continues to colonize indigenous land. This myth asks Palestinians to “put the past behind them” and build “a shared future” with the people who continue to murder their families, steal their land and destroy their homes. It implies that Palestinians should concede their basic rights, dignity and homeland.

Myth: Palestinian resistance fighters are extremist, anti-Semitic, and do not want to live in peace.

History: Palestinian people are fighting for their survival as a people against racism and genocide. Just as a New African should not be expected to make peace with a white racist, it is absurd to think that Palestinians should be motivated to make peace with their oppressors while Zionist colonizers still occupy Palestinian land. Palestinians have been legitimately resisting racism, colonization, and genocide since the 1920’s to the present day by any means necessary: general strikes, demonstrations, periods of non-cooperation, boycotts of Israeli Products and services, refusal to obey military orders, refusal to vacate land confiscated for settlers, tax revolt, armed struggle, and martyrdom operations (called “suicide bombing” by Zionists).

Any form of resistance to the settlement program has been consistently met with
severe and brutal repression: aerial bombardment, military checkpoints, the “Iron Fist” policy of crushing the bones of Palestinian children’s hands, collective punishment, torture and mass detention (over 600, 000 Palestinians have been detained since 1967). Zionist propaganda blames resistance fighters for increased repression against the Palestinian people. In reality, Palestinian resistance is the only barrier stopping the Zionists from completely fulfilling their mission to annihilate the Palestinian people as a whole.

Source: New England Committee to Defend Palestine

 

Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Munitions in Syria?

In 2015 US Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman John Moore said the US didn’t use depleted uranium munitions in Syria. An article published in Foreign Policy, quoting US CENTCOM spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques suggests otherwise.

In 2015 US Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman John Moore dismissed allegations that the United States uses or will use depleted uranium munitions in Syria saying: “U.S. and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.”

However, an article published in Foreign Affairs on February 14, 2017, authored by Samuel Oakford, casts serious doubts about the truthfulness of Moore. In his article entitled “The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria”, Samuel Oakford notes: “U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 350 vehicles in the country’s eastern desert.”

The United States used depleted uranium munitions during the so-called Second Gulf War in Iraq in 2003. nsnbc international spoke with medical staff in Fallujah, Iraq in 2012. The consensus among medical doctors at Fallujah’s main hospital is that the incidence and prevalence of serious congenital malformations is so high that doctors and nurses recommend newly-wed couples to consider not to have children. One of the MDs nsnbc spoke with in 2012 said “Before the war people used to ask ´is it a boy or a girl` now they are only asking ´is it normal`”.

The statement made by US CENTCOM’s Major Josh Jaques, has several serious implications. The least serious implication is the admittance that the USA, arguably, violated international law by carrying out air strikes in Syria without a mandate from the UN Security Council or permission from the Syrian government. It’s “the least serious” implication because intelligence suggests that the USA has an informal agreement with Syria and Russia not to target trops of the Syrian Arab Army.

There does not exist any binding international treaty that the USA has signed, that explicitly prohibits the use of depleted uranium munitions. Depleted uranium munitions are, however, covered by other treaties and conventions which prohibit the use of indiscriminate weapons.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognized the principle of distinction as one of the two cardinal principles contained in the texts constituting the fabric of humanitarian law. As a consequence of the requirement to distinguish at all times between combatants and military objectives on the one hand, and civilians and civilian objects on the other hand, it is prohibited under international humanitarian law to launch indiscriminate attacks.

Indiscriminate attacks include those ‘which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective’ or ‘the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law’ and which ‘consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction’.

Clearly, the use of depleted uranium munitions is covered by international and humanitarian law. The pulverized or vaporized uranium oxide lingers around targeted vehicles for considerable time. Dust particles are disseminated throughout the environment and can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion. Once dissolved in the blood stream some of the depleted uranium (DU) will be excreted through the kidneys where it can cause chemical damage. Some of the DU particles will remain in the body, especially in the bones, where it remains as a long-term source of alpha, beta, as well as gamma radiation, irradiating surrounding tissue.

DNA damages caused by the irradiation can lead to cancer and congenital malformations. Several animal studies have confirmed that DU is spread to multiple organs in the body and induces transgenerational genomic damage. The is, DU does not merely indiscriminately target one generations but future, yet unborn generations. A survey performed in Fallujah in 2010 found that the overall cancer rate in the time after the 2003 war had increased four-fold compared to standard rates in the Jordanian or the Middle Eastern Cancer Registries.

Childhood cancer had increased 12-fold, while leukemia rates had increased 38-fold. Another survey performed in 2010 found that 14.7 % of all babies born in Fallujah had birth defects. A follow-up study found significantly higher uranium levels in the hair of moth­ers of children diagnosed with congenital anomalies than in control populations (0.18 ppm vs. 0.04 ppm).

Uncertainties and contradictory statements about the use of depleted uranium munitions in Syria clearly warrant a full and independent investigation and a renewed debate how to “enforce” the ban on the use of indiscriminate weapons and how to “prosecute” those within a chain of command” who are responsible for their use.

Source: nsnbc international 19.02.2017

Amnesty Claims Mass Executions in Syria, Provides Zero Proof

A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction style writing from its title “Human Slaughterhouse” down to the last paragraph.

But the Amnesty report is still not propagandish enough for the anti-Syrian media. Inevitably only the highest number in the range Amnesty claims is quoted. For some even that is not yet enough. The Associate Press agency, copied by many outlets, headlines: Report: At least 13, 000 hanged in Syrian prison since 2011:

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian authorities have killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at a prison north of Damascus known to detainees as “the slaughterhouse,” Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday.

How does “at least 13,000″ conform to an already questionable report which claims “13,000″ as the top number of a very wide range?

Here is a link to the report.

Before we look into some details this from the “Executive Summary”:

From December 2015 to December 2016, Amnesty International researched the patterns, sequence and scale of violations carried out at Saydnaya Military Prison (Saydnaya). In the course of this investigation, the organization interviewed 31 men who were detained at Saydnaya, four prison officials or guards who previously worked at Saydnaya, three former Syrian judges, three doctors who worked at Tishreen Military Hospital, four Syrian lawyers, 17 international and national experts on detention in Syria and 22 family members of people who were or still are detained at Saydnaya.

On the basis of evidence from people who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya and witness testimony from detainees, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

There are several difficulties with this report.

1. Most of the witnesses are identified as opposition figures and “former” officials who do not live in Syria. Some are said to have been remotely interviewed in Syria but it is not clear if those were living in government or insurgent held areas. Page 9:

The majority of these interviews took place in person in southern Turkey. The remaining interviews were conducted by telephone or through other remote means with interviewees still in Syria, or with individuals based in Lebanon, Jordan, European countries and the USA.

It is well known that the Syrian insurgency is financed with several billion dollars per years from foreign state governments. It runs sophisticated propaganda operations. These witnesses all seem to have interests in condemning the Syrian government. Not once is an attempt made to provide a possibly divergent view. Amnesty found the persons it questioned by contacting international NGOs like itself and known foreign financed opposition (propaganda) groups:

These groups include Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability.

2. The numbers Amnesty provides are in a very wide range. None are documented in lists or similar exhibits. They are solely based on hearsay and guesstimates of two witnesses:

People who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya told Amnesty International that extrajudicial executions related to the crisis in Syria first began in September 2011. Since that time, the frequency with which they have been carried out has varied and increased. For the first four months, it was usual for between seven and 20 people to be executed every 10-15 days. For the following 11 months, between 20 and 50 people were executed once a week, usually on Monday nights. For the subsequent six months, groups of between 20 and 50 people were executed once or twice a week, usually on Monday and/or Wednesday nights. Witness testimony from detainees suggests that the executions were conducted at a similar – or even higher – rate at least until December 2015. Assuming that the death rate remained the same as the preceding period, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

From “between x and y”, “once or twice a week”, “suggests” and “assuming” the headline numbers are simply extrapolated in footnote 40 in a  back-of-the-envelope calculation; “If A were true then B would be X”:

These estimates were based on the following calculations. If between seven and 20 were killed every 10-15 days from September to December 2011, the total figure would be between 56 people and 240 people for that period. If between 20 and 50 were killed every week between January and November 2012, the total figure would be between 880 and 2,200 for that period. If between 20 and 50 people were killed in 222 execution sessions (assuming the executions were carried out twice a week twice a month and once a week once a month) between December 2012 and December 2015, the total figure would be between 4,400 and 11,100 for that period. These calculations produce a minimum figure of 5,336, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 5,000, and 13,540, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 13,000.

I will not go into the details of witness statements on which the report is build. They seem at least exaggerated and are not verifiable at all. In the end it is pure hearsay on which Amnesty sets it conclusions. One example from page 25:

“Hamid”, a former military officer when he was arrested in 2012, recalled the sounds he heard at night during an execution:
“There was a sound of something being pulled out – like a piece of wood, I’m not sure – and then you would hear the sound of them being strangled… If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes… We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then.”

A court might accept ‘sound of “I’m not sure” “kind of gurgling” noise through concrete’ as proof that a shower was running somewhere. But as proof of executions?

Of all the witnesses Amnesty says it interviewed only two, a former prison official and a former judge, who describe actual executions (page 25). From the wording of their statements it is unclear if they have witnessed any hangings themselves or just describe something they have been told of.

3. The numbers of people Amnesty claims were executed are – at best – a wild ass guess. How come that Amnesty can name only very few of those? On page 30 of its report it says:

Former detainees from the red building at Saydnaya provided Amnesty International with the names of 59 individuals who they witnessed being taken from their cells in the afternoon, beingtold that they were being transferred to civilian prisons in Syria. The evidence contained in this report strongly suggests that in fact, these individuals were extrajudicially executed.

and

Former prison guards and a former prison official from Saydnaya also provided Amnesty International with the names of 36 detainees who had been extrajudicially executed in Saydnaya since 2011.

Those 95, some of whom may have been “executed” – or not, are the only ones Amnesty claims to be able to name. That is less than 1-2% of the reports central claim of 5,000 to 13,000 executed. All those witnesses could provide no more details of persons allegedly killed?

Amnesty acknowledges that its numbers are bogus. Under the headline “Documented Deaths” on page 40 it then adds additional names and numbers to those above but these are not from executions:

the exact number of deaths in Saydnaya is impossible to specify. However, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has verified and shared with Amnesty International the names of 375 individuals who have died in Saydnaya as a result of torture and other ill-treatment between March 2011 and October 2016. Of these, 317 were civilians at the time of their arrest, 39 were members of the Syrian military and 19 were members of non-state armed groups. In the course of the research for this report, Amnesty International obtained the names of 36 additional individuals who died as a result of torture and other ill-treatment in Saydnaya. These names were provided to Amnesty International by former detainees who witnessed the deaths in their cells

The “Syrian Network for Human Rights” (SNHR) is a group in the UK probably connected to British foreign intelligence and with dubious monetary sources. It only says:

SNHR funds its work and activities through unconditional grants and donations from individuals and institutions.

Now that is true transparency.

SNHR is known for rather ridiculous claims about casualties caused by various sides of the conflict. It is not know what SNHR qualifies as civilians – do these include armed civil militia? But note that none of the mostly civilians SNHR claims to have died in the prison are said to have been executed. How is it possible that a organization frequently quoted in the media as detailed source of casualties in Syria has no record of the 5,000 to 13,000 Amnesty claims were executed?

4. The report is padded up with before/after satellite pictures of enlarged graveyards in Syria. It claims that these expansions are a sign of mass graves of government opponents.  But there is zero evidence for that. Many people have died in Syria throughout the war on all sides of the conflict. The enlargement, for example, of the Martyrs Cemetery south of Damascus (p.29/30) is hardly a sign of mass killing of anti-government insurgents. Would those be honored as martyrs by the government side?

5. The report talks of “extrajudicially executed” prisoners but then describes (military) court procedures and a necessary higher up approval of the judgement. One may not like the laws that govern the Syrian state but the courts and the procedures Amnesty describes seem to follow Syrian laws and legal processes. They are thereby – by definition – not extrajudicial.

6. In its Executive Summary the Amnesty report says that “Death sentences are approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria and …”. But there is no evidence provided of “approval” by the Grand Mufti in the details of the report. On page 19 it claims, based on two former prison and court officials:

The judgement is sent by military post to the Grand Mufti of Syria and to either the Minister of Defence or the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are deputized to sign for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and who specify the date of the execution.

It is very doubtful that the Syrian government would “deputize” or even inform the Grand Mufti in cases of military or criminal legal proceedings. Amnesty International may dislike the fact but Syria is a secular state. The Grand Mufti in Syria is a civil legal authority for some followers of the Sunni Muslim religion in Syria but he has no official judiciary role. From the 2010 Swiss dissertation Modeles of Religious Freedom: Switzerland, the United States, and Syria quoted here:

In Syria a mufti is a legal and religious expert (faqih and ‘alim) who has the power to give legally non-binding recommendations (sing. fatwa, pl. fatawa) in matters of Islamic law.

Queries which are either sought by a shari‘a judge or private individuals regard the personal status laws of the Muslim community only. In the Arab Republic fatawa are given neither to public authorities nor to individual civil servants, ..

Neither the Syrian constitution nor any Syrian law I can find refers to a role of the Grand Mufti in any military or civil criminal court proceding. The Amnesty claim “approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria”is not recorded anywhere else. It is very likely false. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, is a moderate, recognized and accomplished scholar. He should sue Amnesty for this slander.

Syrian law includes a death penalty for certain severe and violent crimes. Before 2011 actual executions in Syria were very rare, most death sentences were commuted. Allegedly the laws were amended in late 2011, after the war in Syria had started, to include the death penalty as possible punishment for directly arming terrorists.

It is quite likely that the Syrian military and/or civil judiciary hand out some death penalties against captured foreign and domestic “rebels” it finds them guilty of very severe crimes. It is fighting the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other extreme groups well known for mass murder and other extreme atrocities. It is likely that some of those sentences are applied. But the Syrian government has also provided amnesty to ten-thousands of “rebels” who fought the government but have laid down their arms.

The claims in the Amnesty report are based on spurious and biased opposition accounts from outside of the country. The headline numbers of 5,000 to 13,000 are calculated on the base of unfounded hypotheticals. The report itself states that only 36 names of allegedly executed persons are known to Amnesty, less than the number of “witnesses” Amnesty claims to have interviewed. The high number of claimed execution together with the very low number of names is not plausible.

The report does not even meet the lowest mark of scientific or legal veracity. It is pure biased propaganda.

Source: Moon of Alabama 07.02.2017