Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 07 Jul 2024 03:24:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.10 The New Desaparecidos: Israel and the Enforced Disappearance of Palestinians from Gaza https://www.juancole.com/2024/07/desaparecidos-disappearance-palestinians.html Sun, 07 Jul 2024 04:06:53 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219419 By Inaam Adib Barkouk

Israel has used all means to target Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, in addition to internationally prohibited weapons that wiped out people, trees and stones, Israeli forces have randomly arrested thousands of civilians including women and children, doctors, journalists from different areas of the Strip during the ground military operations since the beginning of the war. And the violations did not stop there, as they turned into enforced disappearances, with families left with no information about the fate of their loved ones.

What is enforced disappearance?

Enforced disappearance means making a person disappear beyond his or her will, and the International Convention for the Protection of all person from Enforced Disappearance defines it as “the arrest, detention, kidnapping or any form of deprivation of liberty carried out by state officials, or by persons or groups of individuals acting with or without permission support or approval by the state followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of a person’s liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person this depriving him of the protection of the law.”

Al Jazeera English Video: “Prisoners held by Israel are going through ‘tragic conditions’: al-Shifa Hospital director”

It is a strategic method that dates back centuries and was a feature of dictatorships in Latin America and is used in wars to spread terror in society as a whole, but Israel claims it is arresting fighters or people connected to Hamas to investigate them. This is false. Israel’s first and primary goal is to violate the civil rights of Palestinian civilians and deliberately humiliate them, and undermine their freedom in a manner that violates humanitarian and legal standards. This is what was revealed in the testimonies of released Palestinian detainees from Gaza Strip, who spoke of the horrors of their detention and of systematic torture based on preventing them from food and drink, and subjecting them to insults and other abuses which constitute a violation of international laws.

Field executions were also carried out and bodies were found in mass graves, handcuffed and blindfolded in different areas of Gaza Strip.

Israel’s second goal is to psychologically torture the families of the detainees, who are left with no details of the fate of their children after their arrest. Enforced disappearance causes anxiety and despair to the families of those detained and increases their suffering.

Enforced disappearance and international criminal law

The occupation is practicing a systematic policy of enforced disappearance coupled with an organised plan to arrest unarmed civilians in Gaza, while refusing to acknowledge the deprivation of the freedom and the protection guaranteed to them by law. According to the head of the High Commission for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, the Israeli occupation army rejected a UN request to provide information about their fate or place of detention.

After more than 270 days of the war on Gaza, we have not seen serious action from ICC; this international silence has emboldened the occupation state to continue its policy of enforced disappearance and increase Palestinian suffering.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Netanyahu and his bet on Trump https://www.juancole.com/2024/07/netanyahu-and-trump.html Sat, 06 Jul 2024 04:06:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219406 By Antoine Shalhat

( Middle East Monitor ) – It seems that the repercussions of the debate recently held between current US President Joe Biden and his rival, former US President Donald Trump, which caused a crisis for the former, fuelled a campaign led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the current US administration, and aims, among other things, to hold it responsible for Israel’s failure to achieve absolute victory in its war against the Gaza Strip. In light of this campaign that those close to Netanyahu have continued to ignite over the past few days, we have come across two related features.

The first is accusing the Biden administration of being the one preventing Israel from achieving the “desired victory” in the war it has been waging against Gaza since 7 October by placing conditions on Israel and delaying arms shipments to it. Looking at what is written by those closest to Netanyahu, other suspicions arise before our eyes regarding that administration’s positions on Iran. Several days ago, one of them, a historian specialising in American history, Gadi Taub, wrote that the Biden administration is convinced that the path to establishing calm in the Middle East will go through de-escalation and reaching deals with Iran.

Hindustan Times Video: “Netanyahu Rants Against USA Over Weapons; Biden Hits Back: Israel To Lose Ally Amid Gaza Struggle?”

It is a systematic policy initiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama, and still, at its core, the goal is reducing US intervention in the region, in order to prevent being drawn into wars. In his opinion, contrary to the policy pursued by Trump, what the Biden administration is doing does not strengthen the power of the United States’ allies against Tehran. Rather, on the contrary, it causes it to move away from its allies and take steps towards Iran, which would give the US a new status of an arbitrator who does not have any biassed tendencies toward one party or another. According to his reading, from the first day it took office in the White House, the Biden Administration sent signals to the Iranians indicating that it was seeking to reach settlements with them.

Its first steps were to remove the Houthis from the list of terrorist organisations and stop sending offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia that could help it fight the Houthis in Yemen. This administration also imposed the maritime border demarcation agreement with Lebanon on Israel, refrained from imposing economic sanctions on Iran, and released financial sums to it estimated at about $100 billion. Taub reaches the following conclusion: The US has been able to curb Iran for a long time, but since Biden took power in the White House, it has been doing the exact opposite.

The second feature is publicly declaring Netanyahu’s bet on Trump’s return to the White House, after his victory in the upcoming elections. The two will then return to what has been described as the “golden era” of their relationship which prevailed during Trump’s presidency.

According to what an analyst wrote in the Israel Hayom newspaper, there are those who have begun to rub their hands with anticipation in Israel and expect Trump to be elected president. They believe that if he becomes president of the US, all the problems of arms shipments and humanitarian problems imposed by the Biden administration on Israel will disappear. On the other hand, it was stated in other analyses, especially by military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai, that it should be remembered that Trump has many reservations about Netanyahu. Likewise, Trump’s position on the war on Gaza was contradictory. At first, he supported it, then he said that Israel must end it. Now, he is back to supporting the continuation of the war and the destruction of Hamas.

Hence, the big problem with him is that he does not know which side he will wake up on every morning, and what decision he will make before drinking his coffee. On the other hand, it is clear that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be alongside Trump in the White House, and he is a great friend of Israel. Kushner is the architect behind the normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and the display of American power in the Gulf region and the Middle East.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arab48 on 3 July 2024

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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US an “Open Field” for Manipulation by Israeli Propaganda: Mass Consciousness Activities https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/manipulation-propaganda-consciousness.html Thu, 27 Jun 2024 04:06:32 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219278 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – Israel has long relied on its much-vaunted hasbara — propaganda — to obscure the brutal reality of its colonial occupation of Palestine. Essentially a sophisticated propaganda machine, the hasbara industry, as Professor Ilan Pappe demonstrates in his new book, has been instrumental in shaping the narrative in the service and maintenance of the Zionist project. Lobbying for Zionism on Both Sides of the Atlantic, as Pappe notes, has a long history. Having founded the state of Israel on terrorism, against the wishes of the native population, the Zionist groups that used violence to disrupt the history of Palestine are now determined to shield the occupation state from the global outrage that its genocide in Gaza has provoked.

New revelations by the Guardian have exposed the extent of Zionist lobbying in the US, revealing a coordinated and well-funded effort by the Israeli government to influence public opinion and political discourse. The goal is to shape American debates on college campuses, in Congress and across social media. Another top priority is suppressing criticism of Israel, which is achieved by lobbying lawmakers to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish racism, and conflate legitimate criticism of Israel with . . . anti-Semitism.

The roots of this latest campaign can be traced back to 2017 when the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs developed a programme known initially as Kela Shlomo. This was designed to conduct what Israel termed “mass consciousness activities” targeted primarily at the US and Europe. The programme, later rebranded as “Concert” and now operating under the name “Voices of Israel”, was conceived as a vehicle to operate “outside the government” and provide a “rapid and coordinated response against the attempts to tarnish the image of Israel around the world.”

Former Minister Gilad Erdan envisioned Concert as a “PR Commando Unit” capable of launching social media attacks against celebrities who criticise Israel. The programme has since evolved and expanded its scope since 7 October. As of November last year, the Israeli government is said to have allocated at least 32 million shekels (approximately £6.8m) for advocacy efforts to reframe the public debate. This funding is overseen by Amichai Chikli, the 42-year-old Likud minister who now heads the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

During a Knesset hearing in November, Chikli assured lawmakers that there was new money in the budget for a pushback campaign against global opposition to Israel, quite separate from traditional public relations efforts. However, this did not pose a challenge, especially considering the extensive network of Zionist organisations operating throughout the US, all happy to donate generously to such efforts.

Chikli mentioned 80 programmes already underway for advocacy efforts “to be done in the ‘Concert’ way”. The primary goal of Concert, as I wrote in 2022, is to privatise Israel’s propaganda efforts by recruiting influencers and organisations to speak favourably about the apartheid state in various media channels, social media platforms and conferences both at home and abroad.

The initiative was designed to operate indirectly, allowing the Israeli government to fund pro-Israel organisations and activities without appearing to do so overtly.

Several American organisations have been identified as working closely with the Israeli government’s advocacy efforts. These include the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), which reportedly received most of its funding in 2018 from the Israeli agency running Concert. ISGAP has been instrumental in shaping Congressional investigations into universities over claims of anti-Semitism. The Zionist lobby was named as one of the groups that spearheaded the push to drive Harvard University’s first black female president, Claudine Gray, out of office following a row over alleged anti-Semitism.

The Young Turks: “Israel’s Propaganda Campaign To Control Discourse Uncovered by Lee Fang”

Another organisation, the National Black Empowerment Council (NBEC), listed as a partner of Voices of Israel, has published open letters from Black Democrat politicians pledging solidarity with Israel. CyberWell, a pro-Israel “anti-disinformation” group led by former Israeli military intelligence and Voices officials, has established itself as an official “trusted partner” to TikTok and Meta, helping to screen and edit content. This partnership highlights a striking correlation between the inclusion of Zionist lobby groups as “trusted partners” and Meta’s “systemic censorship” of pro-Palestine content.

Another Zionist group mentioned by the Guardian is Hillel International, one of the largest Jewish campus organisations in the world. Hillel has received financial and strategic support from Mosaic United, a public benefit corporation backed by the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. This longstanding partnership is now being leveraged to shape the political debate over Israel’s brutal military campaign in Gaza. In February, Hillel’s chief executive, Adam Lehman, reportedly appeared before the Israeli Knesset to discuss this strategic partnership with Mosaic and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. Lehman noted that the collaboration had already yielded significant results.

Notably, none of the groups identified have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a US law requiring groups that receive funds or direction from foreign countries to disclose their activities to the Department of Justice. “One struggles to find a parallel in terms of a foreign country’s influence over American political debate,” said Eli Clifton, a senior adviser at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “There’s a fixation on policing American discourse on the US-Israel relationship, even on college campuses, from Israel, going all the way up to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

A key aim in this campaign has been the aggressive promotion of the highly controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. This definition has faced criticism, including from its drafter, Kenneth Stern, who has argued that it is being “weaponised” by the pro-Israel lobby. Seven of the eleven examples cited by IHRA conflate criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. The result has been the stifling of free speech and legitimate criticism of the apartheid state. Several US states, including Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota, have passed legislation recently incorporating the IHRA definition into hate crime statutes.

At the federal level, the US House of Representatives passed legislation in April this year to encode the IHRA definition into Department of Education standards. If enacted, this law would enable the federal government to withdraw funding from universities that fail to curb criticism of Israel and Zionism, as well as impose punitive measures against pro-Palestine advocates. The push to embed the IHRA definition into federal law is part of a wider campaign, particularly targeting US college campuses, where pro-Palestinian activism has surged since 7 October.

Israeli officials have conducted multiple Knesset hearings with American Zionist organisations to discuss co-ordination efforts. Margarita Spichko, an official from the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, testified that her office produces weekly reports based on information gathered from US partners, including Hillel. These reports are utilised to monitor and respond to campus activities related to Israel and Palestine. Additionally, an aide to Israel’s National Security Council noted that the Prime Minister’s office regularly meets with DC-based Zionist groups, further confirming Tel Aviv’s orchestration of American Zionist organisations.

Commenting on the Israeli “PR Commando Unit” targeting the American population, Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said:

“There’s a built-in assumption that there’s nothing at all weird about viewing the US as sort of an open field for Israel to operate in, that there are no limitations.”

Craig Holman, an expert on lobbying rules at Public Citizen, noted the potential legal issues surrounding these activities: “While there are several exemptions to FARA registration, nearly all the exemptions are overridden if a person or group seeks to influence American public policy and public opinion at the suggestion or behest of the foreign government.”

The scale and sophistication of Israel’s efforts to shape public discourse in the US raise serious questions about the extent of its influence in American politics and academia. As the genocidal campaign in Gaza continues and criticism of Israeli policies intensifies, these coordinated efforts are poised to escalate. This growing Israeli influence threatens to undermine free speech and subvert the very principles of American democracy, all in the pursuit of defending what is so clearly a rogue, apartheid regime.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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The Looming Famine in Gaza is an Extension of Israel’s Colonial Power https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/looming-extension-colonial.html Fri, 21 Jun 2024 04:06:17 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219162 By Caroline Lund and Brendan Ciarán Browne

( Middle East Monitor ) – Since October last year, it is estimated that approximately 70,000 tons of bombs have been dropped by Israel on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. The devastating death toll currently stands at around 36,550 Palestinians, including more than 15,000 children, and a further 10,000 missing, presumed dead, under the rubble of what remains of their homes. With famine looming in Gaza, these figures are set to be eclipsed, with the most recent warning from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN projecting that over a million people — more than half of Gaza’s population — will face death by starvation by mid-July.

This catastrophic analysis makes it clear that, in the absence of meaningful international aid intervention and an end to this latest onslaught against the Palestinian population, more civilians will die due to enforced starvation than as a direct result of unprecedented Israeli military bombardment.

It is important to be clear that this famine is entirely man-made. It is equally important to identify who is responsible. And there is plenty of opprobrium to go around. With backing from Western allies, who have continued to send military aid to Israel whilst failing to intervene meaningfully and secure a ceasefire, Israel has been given a green light to enforce starvation on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Whilst famine is often a consequence of armed conflict, enforced starvation of a civilian population is something else.

It is a tactic deployed routinely by colonial powers to exert dominance over a colonised people. The current starvation of the civilian population in Gaza, therefore, involves numerous intersecting factors, all of which relate directly to Israel’s decades-long and enduring domination over Palestinian lives and livelihoods.

By preventing humanitarian aid supplies from entering the Gaza Strip, whilst imposing additional layers of bureaucratic hurdles to control what can and cannot be let in, Israel continues to create the conditions that perpetuate, and even accelerate, the starvation of Palestinians living in the Strip. Attacks on civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including the apparatus needed to provide and distribute food to the Palestinian population, we suggest, is a deliberate Israeli military tactic. And the evidence stacks up. Water sanitation stations, factories for processing food, aid warehouses, bakeries and flour mills have all been targeted routinely by Israeli military bombardment. Alongside infrastructure, those responsible for delivering life-saving aid have also been singled out for attack.

Hence, this manufactured famine cannot be analysed in isolation, but must be seen within the context of decades of colonial practices that have targeted Palestinians, attempting to erase both their physical and historical presence in Palestine. Indeed, since the start of the blockade against Gaza in 2007, Israel has engaged in a policy of enforced food insecurity through discriminatory and multi-layered policies, including the monitoring of certain food stuffs that are and are not permitted entry into the Strip. Siege warfare — illegal under international law — has meant that Palestinians’ daily calorie intake in Gaza is monitored and controlled by the occupation state, with food essentials such as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables becoming a luxury.

Democracy Now! Video: “UNICEF Decries Israel’s “War on Children” as Starvation & Deaths Mount in Gaza”

According to a report released by Oxfam, food insecurity has increased rapidly during this ongoing genocide, to the point whereby the average daily calorie intake for Palestinians living in the north of the Gaza Strip has been decimated to just 245.

Yet those who are scouring the streets for food in Gaza today could receive humanitarian aid in less than fifteen minutes, if Israel opened the border crossings that it has closed purposefully, those crossings being in some instances a mere five kilometres away. Consequently, it is unsurprising that both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant stand accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of, amongst other alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, using starvation as a weapon of war.

It was Gallant who made very clear Israel’s intent to starve the Palestinian civilian population in October last year, when he declared a complete siege on Gaza and said: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”

To this day, no Western governments are taking decisive action to intervene, and they stand accused of aiding and abetting such crimes.

It could be argued that the international community, with insufficient aid and continued business-as-usual approach with its well-protected Israeli ally, is complicit in this erasure of Palestinian life. It should also be remembered that international allies, including British Prime Minister-in-waiting Sir Keir Starmer, were quick to suggest that Israel did, in fact, have a right to turn off water supplies to the Palestinian population in Gaza.

That the Israeli state can manufacture a famine that is starving children at the fastest rate ever recorded, whilst simultaneously enjoying impunity, is a damning indictment of international law. Forcing starvation on a civilian population who have endured over eight months of western-sponsored military bombardment, is a stain on the international community and our institutions, one that will be impossible to repair. International intervention must be forthcoming immediately.

 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Biden Administration concerned Israel will drag US into War with Lebanon, Officials reveal https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/sdministration-concerned-officials.html Tue, 18 Jun 2024 04:06:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219104 ( Middle East Monitor ) – The administration of United States’ president Joe Biden has grown increasingly concerned that Israel could drag the US into a war in Lebanon, as Tel Aviv continues to escalate tensions on its northern border and scale up attacks on Hezbollah.

According to CBS News , anonymous US officials informed it that the Biden administration views the increasing strikes by Israel’s military on southern Lebanon as the precursor of a full-scale invasion of the country and war with it. Such an event, the officials said, would require the US to intervene and directly support Israel in order to help it win the conflict.

Some of the officials also posed the possibility that the war would be an unintentional one, with Hezbollah potentially retaliating in such a decisive way to the increased Israeli strikes that it inevitably leads to a more direct conflict.

Hindustan Times Video: “Israel -Hezbollah Inch Closer To War: What U.S. Is Banking On To Avoid Getting Dragged Into Conflict”

The growing concern amongst officials in the Biden administration comes after months of such fears that the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip could spill over into the wider region and develop into a regional war, particularly one in which external powers like the US would become more directly involved within a military capacity.

With Israel’s assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander this week – reportedly the most high-ranking to be killed since the start of recent hostilities – alongside the increased strikes on the border region, the US is apparently beginning to see those fears being realised. Washington is, therefore, reportedly placing its hopes in a ceasefire deal, which Israel has repeatedly been avoiding.

“The most important thing about the hostage release and ceasefire deal that’s on the table now is that if it’s achieved, it can have an impact in the north [of Israel], so that is an opportunity for us to be able to bring this conflict to a full close”, said one senior US official. “There has to be an agreement that allows Israelis to return to their homes in the North with security guarantees”.

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Diamonds and Coal Dust: Slaughter at Gaza’s Nuseirat Camp https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/diamonds-slaughter-nuseirat.html Sat, 15 Jun 2024 04:06:07 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=219049 By Binoy Kampmark | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – The ashes had barely settled on the Rafah tent camp incinerated by an Israeli air strike before the next, gorged massacre presented itself for posterity’s gloomy archive. It was intended as a golden operation and had been months in the making. The rescue of four Israeli hostages, the killing of three others (bound to happen, say the experts) and the massacre of at least 274 Palestinians at the Nuseirat refugee camp were the end result.

The logistics that led to the bloodbath had been rehearsed with detail verging on the manic. Many a vengeful mind was at play. Two buildings were constructed for training purposes. Participants involved the special counter-terrorism unit Yamam, Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet and members of the Israel Defence Forces . . . A high casualty rate would have already been contemplated given the remarks of IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari. “We understood that in those apartments with those guards, daytime will be the ultimate surprise.”

The lies barely had time to fledge. First, the numbers killed. Hagari could only count “dozens”, and “knew of less than 100”. He conceded to not knowing how many of such a reduced number were civilians. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, was happy to soften the carnage in attacking his country’s detractors. “Only Israel’s enemies complained about the casualties of Hamas terrorists and their accomplices,” he claimed, with vicious arrogance.

Then came the praise: manifold, effusive. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant cooed with satisfaction, calling the effort “one of the most extraordinary operations.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu merely offered the following morsel: “Israel does not surrender to terrorism.”

Furthermore, no civilian trucks, claimed the IDF, were used in the operation. Yet undercover vehicles were apparently deployed, one very much resembling those used by Israel to traffic commercial goods into Gaza; another being a white Mercedes truck packed and stacked with furniture and miscellaneous belongings typical of the dislocated and dispossessed. Disgorged from the latter, noted Palestinian eye-witnesses, were men in plainclothes and some ten heavily armed soldiers ready for mischief.

The commencement of firing signalled the start of the butchery.

The UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, stated with exasperation that the IDF had “perfidiously” hidden “in an aid truck”. This constituted “‘humanitarian camouflage’ at another level.” While expressing relief at the rescue of four hostages, the enterprise “should not have come at the expense of at least 200 Palestinians, including children, killed and over 400 injured by Israel and allegedly foreign soldiers.”

Al Jazeera English Video: “War on Gaza: ‘Trail of destruction’ after Israeli operation in Nuseirat”

In time, it became clear that the mission, venerated for its secrecy and praised for its planning, had not caught the Hamas guards responsible for three male hostages by surprise. They duly engaged the Yamam operatives. “Immediately, it became a war zone,” reservist brigadier general Amir Avivi told the Washington Post. The Israeli air force commenced indulgent cover fire. Death reigned at Nuseirat for some 75 minutes, concealed by the now standard refrain by the IDF: “Aircraft struck dozens of military targets for the success of the operation.”

Other, more tormented descriptions seemed closer to the mark. The Intercept noted the observations of a Palestinian witness by the name of Suhail Mutlaq Abu Nasser. “The area turned to ashes… I couldn’t find my wife and started calling out to those around me to ensure they were still alive.” The account goes on to document the use of armed quadcopter drones, the presence of tank tracks, the hovering of Apache attack helicopters, the targeting of homes by missiles. Refugee camp resident Anas Alayyan was also convinced that the entire military operation by Israeli forces looked more like a mass execution.

There is a pattern here, a murderous ratio justified by that most elastic yet horrific of reasons: self-defence.

The hostage rescue went down a treat in Israel. The names of those captured by Hamas on 7 October and now rescued will be anointed in Israeli mythology: Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, Shlomi Ziv. But at what cost to those around them?

In addition to the slaughter, some indication of the aftermath was provided by Al Jazeera: “The wounded were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah, an already overwhelmed facility.” Medics were in utter despair.

The scale of killing on this score also raises troubling issues with Israel’s closest ally. Despite some political grumbling in the ranks, the Biden administration remains steadfast in support of the occupation state. The killings in Rafah were still excusable because, in the words of US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, Israel had not engaged in “a military operation on the scale of those previous operations [in Khan Younis and in Gaza City].”

The hefty death toll of Palestinian civilians in the Nuseirat operation was of lesser concern to President Joe Biden than the welfare of Israeli hostages. Speaking in Paris, Biden welcomed “the safe rescue of four hostages that were returned to their families in Israel. We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached.”

The sanguinary episode at Nuseirat is hard to stomach, even by Biden’s rubbery standards. It stands to reason. The entire operation was buttressed by what the New York Times reported to be “intelligence and other logistical support” from the United States. Two Israeli intelligence officials also confirmed that “American military officials in Israel provided some of the intelligence about the hostages rescued [on] Saturday.” And let us not forget murderous military hardware, readily supplied from US defence companies. It follows that the lives of Israeli hostages, dubbed “diamonds” by their rescuers, are invaluable, the precious stones of Israeli-US policy. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are mere coal dust to be swept aside.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Not just Bombs: Israeli-caused Hunger is killing Palestinian Children in Gaza https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/israeli-killing-palestinian-children.html Fri, 07 Jun 2024 04:02:10 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218938 By Wafa Aludaini | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – Two Palestinian children died last week of starvation, dehydration and lack of medicine amid desperate conditions in the southern areas of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Ministry of Health announced the death of Abdulqader Sirhi, 13, and seven-month-old Fayiz Abu Ataya, from malnutrition and lack of food and medicine at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. The ministry said that the number of famine-related deaths has risen to 37, with only those who reached the hospitals able to be counted. It added that many died in their homes and their deaths have not been registered, while others are fighting for their lives.

Over 3,500 children, under the age of five, are facing an imminent risk of death due to shortages of food, nutritional supplements and vaccinations.

Fayiz Abu Ataya’s father said: “My child was born at the beginning of the current sweeping pogrom, in our shelter school, and died in it. He needed a special kind of formula and food missing in Gaza.” The infant’s short life is a chronicle of the deprivation overwhelming aid-starved Gaza.

In a statement, 70 international rights organisations – including the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Geneva International Centre for Justice, and Brussels Court – called on all relevant authorities and international institutions to officially declare a famine in the Gaza Strip. The statement stressed that food insecurity is increasing across the tiny enclave because of Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war against the Palestinian people.

The joint statement also warned:

With the crossings closed and humanitarian aid being prevented from entering by Israel, the threat of famine and acute malnutrition has resurfaced and swiftly spread.

“This affects the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip, half of whom are children, and particularly the people in the northern Gaza Valley, where supplies have run out.”

Before Israel unleashed its current carnage, the poverty and unemployment rates in Gaza had reached heights of 64 per cent and 45 per cent respectively, according to data from the World Bank and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Some 63 per cent of the people of the Strip were food insecure, while 80 per cent of Palestinians in the besieged enclave depended on international aid. Now, living under the genocidal war, things are aggravated. All families in the narrow enclave depend on foreign humanitarian aid, so their basic survival needs are affected by its cessation.

Um Firas Ghanem, a Palestinian mother who was displaced from Gaza City and forced to move to Deir Al-Balah, has three children, the eldest just six years old. “I fear for my kids, and I know, if we survive, the malnutrition and dehydration will impact their brain and growth,” she said. “There is no milk or eggs or meat or fruits, and if they are found, it’s very few, and extremely expensive that I can’t afford to buy it.” Um Firas’s family, like most of the displaced families, relies entirely on charities who provide them a meal every day. She is worried that if the Rafah Crossing remains closed, they will reach the point where no flour or canned food is available and children and patients will die in large numbers.

The Rafah Crossing has been closed since Israeli occupation forces took control of the vital area on 7 May, raising the Israeli flag to highlight its control. Now, thousands of trucks of food, water and medical supplies are stranded on the Egyptian side of the crossing awaiting Israel’s approval to enter the besieged Strip to help alleviate the crises facing Palestinian civilians.

Israel’s forced starvation in Gaza has killed dozens of children | Al Jazeera Newsfeed Video

This is not the first time Israel has weaponised water as a weapon of war. For almost two decades the occupation state has besieged Gaza, limiting the entry of food and medical supplies in an effort to pressure the Palestinian resistance to make concessions. Prior to the current bombing campaign only 500 trucks of goods were allowed into Gaza a day, insufficient for the enclave’s 2.3 million population. Since the end of October 2023, when Israel allowed aid to re-enter the Strip, after closing all the crossings for three weeks, only between 100-150 trucks have been allowed to enter Gaza each day, when deliveries have been approved

The humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza is only a fraction of what is needed to answer the enormous needs of an exhausted people. Since Israel stormed Rafah a month ago, no humanitarian aid has been allowed through the crossing and no injured Palestinians have been able to leave the Strip to access lifesaving medical care abroad. Now, even the few remaining devastated hospitals risk being out of service as fuel supplies dwindle.

In her partially damaged house in Gaza City, Amani Junaid, a mother of five, describes their life as a living hell. “Our lives have completely stopped: no school, no hospital, no markets, no homes, no entertainment areas for kids, scarce clean water and food,” she tells MEMO. “Before March, we ate animal fodder. Now we have only flour, but we can’t find anything to dip it in. We skip meals.”

“My children keep asking me for chocolates, snacks, lollipops and I am in agony not being able to meet their needs,” she adds. Amani has already lost her father during Israel’s war, he died as a result of his inability to obtain the medication needed to stabilise his health.

In addition to Israel’s control of the supply of humanitarian aid, it has also targeted food production factories, warehouses, markets, shops, stores, and bakeries, ensuring it controls access to all life saving supplies.

In spite of this, a famine has not been declared in Gaza. The delay in changing the conditions for the Palestinians of the Strip is another blow to a people who have struggled for decades under siege and occupation and a nod for Israel to continue its annihilation of the indigenous population of Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Israel’s AI-Powered Genocide https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/israels-powered-genocide.html Tue, 04 Jun 2024 04:06:36 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218906 by Sarmad Ishfaq

We are witnessing the genocide of the Palestinians based on algorithms and machine learning; a system of apartheid in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip reinforced by artificial intelligence; and surveillance and facial recognition systems of such prowess that Orwell’s 1984 regime would be green with envy. Today’s Israeli-occupied Palestine manifests a dystopian and totalitarian sci-fi movie script as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Moreover, the Zionists are fuelling this AI nightmare.

From the onset of its current war against the Palestinians in Gaza, the Zionist regime, blinded by revenge for 7 October, has leveraged AI in the most indiscriminate and barbaric way to kill tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians. One such insidious AI tool that has dominated the headlines is The Gospel. Since last October, Israel has utilised this AI system to expedite the creation of Hamas targets. More specifically, The Gospel marks structures and buildings that the IDF claims Hamas “militants” operate from. This fast-paced target list, Israel’s disinclination to adhere to international humanitarian law, as well as US support emboldening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, has led to a modern-day genocide.

The Gospel is used by Israel’s elite 8200 cyber and signals intelligence agency to analyse “communications, visuals and information from the internet and mobile networks to understand where people are,” a former Unit 8200 officer explained. The system was even active in 2021’s offensive, according to Israel’s ex-army chief of staff Aviv Kochavi: “…in Operation Guardian of the Walls [in 2021], from the moment this machine was activated, it generated 100 new targets every day… in the past [in Gaza] we would create 50 targets per year. And here the machine produced 100 targets in one day.”

Israel’s apathetic disposition towards civilians is evident as it has given the green light to the killing of many innocents in order to hit its AI-generated targets whether they be hospitals, schools, apartment buildings or other civilian infrastructure. For example, on 10 October last year, Israel’s air force bombed an apartment building killing 40 people, most of them women and children. Israel has also used dumb bombs that cause more collateral damage instead of guided munitions to target low-level Hamas leadership targets. “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” said the Israel Defence Forces’ own spokesperson. This is the primary reason why the death toll of civilians is so high, as is the number of those wounded. According to one study, the current war’s total number of 110,000 and growing Palestinian casualties (most of them civilians), is almost six times more than the Palestinian casualties in the previous five military offensives combined, which stands at 18,992.


“Lavender 3,” digital, Dream/ Dreamworld v. 3, 2024.

Two other AI programmes that have made the news recently are Lavender and Where’s Daddy? Lavender differs from The Gospel in that the former marks human beings as targets (creating a kill list), whereas the latter marks buildings and structures allegedly used by combatants. Israeli sources claim that in the first weeks of the war, Lavender was overly utilised and created a list of 37,000 Palestinians as “suspected militants” to be killed via air strikes. As previously mentioned, Israel’s apathy towards the Palestinians has been evident in their mass killing of civilians in order to eliminate even a single Hamas member. According to Israeli military sources, the IDF decided initially that for every junior Hamas member, 15 or 20 civilians could be killed.

 

This brutality is unprecedented.

If the Hamas member was a senior commander, the IDF on several occasions okayed the killing of over 100 civilians to fulfil its objective. For example, an Israeli officer said that on 2 December, in order to assassinate Wissam Farhat, the commander of Shuja’iya Battalion of the military wing of Hamas, the IDF knew that it would kill over 100 civilians and went ahead with the killing.

If this was not contentious enough, Lavender was also used without any significant checks and balances. On many occasions, the only human scrutiny carried out was to make sure that the person in question was not a female. Beyond this, Lavender-generated kill lists were trusted blindly.

However, the same sources explain that Lavender makes mistakes; apparently, it has a 10 per cent error rate. This implies that at times it tagged innocent people and/or individuals with loose connections to Hamas, but this was overlooked purposefully by Israel.

Moreover, Lavender was also programmed to be sweeping in its target creation. For example, one Israeli officer was perturbed by how loosely a Hamas operative was defined and that Lavender was trained on data from civil defence workers as well. Hence, such vague connections to Hamas were exploited by Israel and thousands were killed as a result. UN figures confirm the use of such a devastating policy when, during the first month of the war, more than half of the 6,120 people killed belonged to 1,340 families, many of which were eliminated completely.

 

Where’s Daddy? is an AI system that tracks targeted individuals so that the IDF can assassinate them. This AI along with The Gospel, Lavender and others represent a paradigm shift in the country’s targeted killing programme. In the case of Where’s Daddy? the IDF would purposefully wait for the target to enter his home and then order an air strike, killing not only the target but also his entire family and other innocents in the process. As one Israeli intelligence officer asserted: “We were not interested in killing [Hamas] operatives only when they were in a military building or engaged in a military activity. On the contrary, the IDF bombed them in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations.” In an even more horrific turn, sometimes the targeted individual would not even be at home when the air strike was carried out, due to a time lapse between when Where’s Daddy? sent out an alert and when the bombing took place. The target’s family would be killed but not the target. Tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians, primarily women and children, are believed to have been killed because of this.

Israeli AI software also permeates the occupied West Bank, where it is a part of everyday Palestinian life.

In Hebron and East Jerusalem, Israel uses an advanced facial recognition system dubbed Red Wolf. Red Wolf is utilised to monitor the movements of Palestinians via the many fixed and “flying” security checkpoints. Whenever Palestinians pass through a checkpoint, their faces are scanned without their approval or knowledge and then checked against other Palestinian biometric data. If an individual gets identified by Red Wolf due to a previous detention, or their activism or protests, it decides automatically if this person should be allowed to pass or not.

If any person is not in the system’s database, their biometric identity and face are saved without consent and they are denied passage. This also means that Israel has an exhaustive list of Palestinians in its database which it uses regularly to crack down not just on so-called militants, but also on peaceful protesters and other innocent Palestinians. According to one Israeli officer, the technology has “falsely tagged civilians as militants.” Moreover, it is highly likely that Red Wolf is connected to two other military-run databases – the Blue Wolf app and Wolf Pack. IDF soldiers can even use their mobile phones to scan Palestinians and access all private information about them. According to Amnesty International, “Its [Red Wolf’s] pervasive use has alarming implications for the freedom of movement of countless Palestinians…”

For years, Israel has used the occupied Palestinian territories as a testing ground for its AI products and spyware. In fact, the country sells “spyware to the highest bidder, or to authoritarian regimes with which the Israeli government wanted to improve relations” on the basis that they have been “field tested”. Israel’s own use of this technology is the best advertisement for its products. The head of Israel’s infamous Shin Bet internal spy agency, Ronen Bar, has stated that it is using AI to prevent terrorism and that Israel and other countries are forming a “global cyber iron dome”. The glaring issue here is Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights through spying on their social media as well as wrongful detention, torture and killing innocent people. “The Israeli authorities do not need AI to kill defenceless Palestinian civilians,” said one commentator. “They do, however, need AI to justify their unjustifiable actions, to spin the killing of civilians as ‘necessary’ or ‘collateral damage,’ and to avoid accountability.”

Israel has entered into a controversial $1.2 billion contract with Google and Amazon called Project Nimbus, which was announced in 2021. The project’s aim is to provide cloud computing and AI services for the Israeli military and government. This will allow further surveillance and the illegal collection of Palestinian data. Google and Amazon’s own employees dissented and wrote an article to the Guardian expressing their discontent about this. “[O]ur employers signed a contract… to sell dangerous technology to the Israeli military and government. This contract was signed the same week that the Israeli military attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – killing nearly 250 people, including more than 60 children. The technology… will make the systematic discrimination and displacement carried out by the Israeli military and government even… deadlier for Palestinians.” The contract reportedly has a clause that disallows Google and Amazon to leave the contract so the companies’ acquiescence is axiomatic. According to Jane Chung, spokeswoman for No Tech For Apartheid, over 50 Google employees have been fired without due process due to their protests against Project Nimbus.

The Palestinians are perhaps the bravest people in the world.

Whether contained within the barrel of a gun, a bomb casing, or in the code of an AI system, Israeli oppression will never deter them from standing up for their legitimate rights. Their plight has awoken the world to the nature of the Israeli regime and its brutal occupation, with protests and boycotts erupting in the West and the Global South. Using their propaganda media channels, the US and Israel are trying to placate the billions who support Palestine, even as the genocide remains ongoing. Israel hopes that its Machiavellian system will demoralise and create an obsequious Palestinian people – people whose screams are silenced – but as always it underestimates their indefatigable spirit which, miraculously, gets stronger with every adversity.

 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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A Bloody Ratio: Israel’s Tent Camp Massacre shows futility of its Rafah Campaign https://www.juancole.com/2024/06/massacre-futility-campaign.html Sun, 02 Jun 2024 04:02:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=218875 by Binoy Kampmark

It was much like witnessing a boy killing flies, with a slight afterthought of apology. The spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, did little to acquit himself, or the cause, as to why more Palestinian civilians had been indulgently killed in yet another Israeli airstrike. “Despite our efforts to minimise civilian casualties during the strike, the fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended … Our investigation seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite.”

The release commences with the usual garnish. The strike, despite resulting in deaths in a camp of displaced Palestinians in Tal Al-Sultan, was soberly designated and professionally targeted. It was successful. Two Hamas terrorists had been procedurally “eliminated” (in the social media release, the IDF proudly places the word upon the heads of Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar). “The strike was based on precise intelligence,” Hagari tells us. Those killed had, in turn, killed Israelis. They were having a meeting: “Their deaths saved lives.”

Away from the glove-handling reflections of Hagari, the returns of the 26 May strike showed that Palestinian civilians were also seen as miscellaneous detritus, fundamentally dispensable. The butchery is now a matter of record: 46 dead civilians, including 23 women, children and elderly. All on a sliver of territory fast becoming the most famous real estate of death on the planet. It’s a particularly bloody ratio for killing two alleged terrorists.

In a statement on 29 May from the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, various rapporteurs, including such figures as Francesca Albanese, responsible for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, to Ben Saul, charged with the task of promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, expressed their dismay: “Harrowing images of destruction, displacement and death have emerged from Rafah, including infants torn apart and people burnt alive.” Such reports indicated “that the strikes were indiscriminate and disproportionate, with people trapped inside burning plastic tents, leading to a horrific casualty toll.”

The Israelis have been told by a number of international bodies, entities and sympathisers, with repeated urgency, that its current murderous efforts are simply not worth it. The Rafah front presents further calamitous risks. The toll, notably in striking camps of civilians displaced by prior bombings and military engagements, would be too great. The reputational toll, likewise. The slaughter that pads out and packs morgues, the bodies of women and children that seem to multiply with pestilential cruelty, the incidents of pure callousness dressed in a décor of euphemism: We target, and we target well; the rest is accidental or unavoidable.

The International Court of Justice, in yet another ruling on Israel’s campaign in Gaza, recently concluded that the military offensive in Rafah, along with: “Any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part be immediately halted.” It also ordered Israel to open the Rafah Crossing, permit UN officials to enter Gaza and report back to the court within a month to verify compliance.

WION video: “Rafah offensive: Can Netanyahu be arrested for Gaza war crimes?”

They also noted the concerns of UN officials about the risks arising from any military assault on Rafah, one that would put: “Hundreds of thousands of people … at imminent risk of death”. Such risks had already “started to materialise and will intensify even further if the operation continues.”

Israel’s politicians and military personnel – at least those lacking candour – always hit upon the same formula in such instances. It is one noted by such unflagging scribes as the late Robert Fisk: the justification of violence with the seemingly sound process, decency with the stuffing of crime. A trained pupil in such efforts is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night, there was a tragic mistake.” When compared with his previous statements equating all Palestinians to actors behind a terrorist cause, one that would, in turn, give birth to a terrorist state, the element of mistake is less relevant than the desire to conclude the task at hand.

The next installment of the performance involves the mandatory investigation that yields no culprits, no charges and no prosecutions. “The details of the incident are still under investigation, which we are committed to conducting to the fullest extent,” gabbled Major-General Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi at a news conference, noting that the IDF: “Regrets any harm to non-combatants during the war.”

Such a method is also approved by Israel’s staunchest ally. “You cannot reach a conclusion about the results of these investigations in the middle of a conflict,” reasoned White House spokesperson John Kirby. Why, it should be asked, bother?

The Israeli response to attacks on its citizens on 7 October last year, increasingly enfeebled by reality, long ago moved into the realm of farce. But farce and advertising tend to be part of the same show, and the advertising about the ongoing campaign in Gaza by the Israeli forces continues to rattle the swill bucket.

 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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