NEWS: The Ferguson-Palestine Connection

This article was written by Stanford SJP member Kristian Davis Bailey and originally appeared on Ebony.com.

The St. Louis County Police Department that killed Michael Brown and initially placed Ferguson on siege has trained with the Israeli military. Former County Police Chief Timothy Fitch was one of 15 American officials to participate in a weeklong training in Israel three years ago.

The April 2011 National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It brought together leaders from the largest American police departments, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with members of the Israeli National Police, Israel Defense Forces and other intelligence organizations.

“NCTS enables Israel’s counterterrorism experts to share their knowledge and lessons learned, to help American law enforcement better protect America, and prevent us from having to learn the same lessons the hard way,” an ADL press release said.

A spokesperson for the police department was unable to provide information about the trip’s influence on subsequent operations in the county. The ADL was unavailable for immediate comment.

Over 9,000 American officials have trained with Israeli police and military units on responding to civilian protests and terrorism. These operations reflect failure to distinguish between the apparent duty of police to protect civilians and military responses to war. This fusion has had life-costing implications for Americans, specifically black, Muslim and Arab people.

In 2006, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson was shot and killed by Atlanta police, who had participated in an exchange program with Israeli soldiers on counterterrorism and drug enforcement. The Oakland police who used tear gas and rubber bullets against Occupy Oakland protesters in 2010 were fresh off a joint training exercise with Israeli and Bahraini police forces.  An NYPD official reported that the department’s now-disbanded “Demographics Unit,” which spied on Muslim and Arab citizens, was modeled on Israel’s practices in the West Bank.

LAPD executives took a trip to Israel in 2013 to learn about drones and other surveillance mechanisms.

“We are much more alike than dis-alike,” said the LAPD’s head IT person during the trip. “As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.”

The LAPD added drones to its cache of equipment in May.

While the Los Angeles drones are not Israeli-made, Israel is the world’s largest drone exporter. Outside of the US, the drones have been used by governments from Canada to Australia and Brazil, where their intended purpose is for internal security and the war on crime.

Israel sold weapons to apartheid South Africa as late as 1988 and also gave arms to US-backed repressive regimes in Nicaragua, Argentina, and Honduras among many others.

Israeli companies currently expect significant growth in arms sales following the ongoing Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“After every campaign of the kind that is now taking place in Gaza, we see an increase in the number of customers from abroad,” Meprolight CEO Eli Gold said in a Haaretz  report.

Israel’s operations have killed over 2,000 Palestinians. The UN estimates at least 72 percent were civilians. Missiles from Palestinian factions killed three Israeli civilians and one Thai migrant worker, while 64 Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting.

The US sends $3 billion annually in military aid to Israel, while American companies like Boeing, Raytheon and Hewlett-Packard make millions more off contracts with the Israeli military.

While Israel has played a role in the militarization of US police, this trend has been an ongoing practice in American society since the 1960s and exists beyond Israel’s participation. Police responses to black political action grew more militarized during the “law and order” mandate following the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.

Today, surplus homeland security funding has given police departments over $75 billion in military equipment. The Pentagon currently offers hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of surplus military weapons to St. Louis County Police.

Some of these weapons are currently being used against residents in Ferguson, where activists have exchanged tweets of support with people in Palestine. Ferguson protesters have apparently waved Palestinian flags at demonstrations in appreciation of Palestinian advice on how to deal with tear gas. Activists have pointed out that the same company in Pennsylvania produces tear gas used against black Americans, Palestinians and Egyptians in recent protests.

For some, the very public repressive events this summer represent a critical moment for global awareness and action.

“The interconnected events of the summer of 2014 have brought a collective moment of clarity. #Ferguson #Gaza #USBorder #MakeTheConnections” tweeted H. Samy Alim.

Activists in Oakland, who have blocked the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship three days in a row, have carried signs reading ‘Global Intifada from Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine.’ On Monday night, protesters shouted “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” to county and city police as they picketed at the port.

Others have insisted that analogies are not necessary to express support for either location and flatten differences between military occupation in Palestine and anti-black racism in the US.

“The people of Ferguson aren’t being treated like a foreign army. They’re being treated like black people in America,” Mychal Denzel Smith tweeted.

A group of Palestinian individuals and organizations circulated a statement of support to Mike Brown’s family and the residents of Ferguson last week.

“The disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life is endemic to the white supremacist system that rules the land. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight daily for the most basic human dignities in our own homeland against the racist Zionist regime that considers us less human,” part of the statement read.

An organization representing the rights of Palestinian prisoners also published a statement of solidarity.

“Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the people of Ferguson, joins their call for justice for Michael Brown and for an end to police oppression, mass incarceration and militarization, and stands in solidarity with Black movements struggling for justice and liberation.”

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/the-fergusonpalestine-connection-403#ixzz3DLvEmqkp
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The Palestine Report: Gaza Under Fire / Worldwide Protests / Boycott of Israel

Welcome to Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine’s new weekly newsletter! We aim to educate campus on issues affecting human rights in Palestine and Israel by providing a centralized and consistent source of information. The news and analysis pieces below should be accessible regardless of your familiarity with the issue. 

Editor’s Note: In this week’s issue, we highlight recent developments in Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas rages on. The conflict began with a search-and-destroy campaign by Israel against members of Hamas in the West Bank, in which five Palestinians were killed and 350 Palestinians were arrested. In response, Hamas shot rockets into Israel, refusing to agree to a cease-fire until the seven-year siege on Gaza by Israel is lifted. Israel has instead launched a massive aerial and ground assault on Gaza, in which over 1,400 Palestinians (mostly civilians) have been killed. Palestinians in Gaza are not able to leave the Gaza Strip, and civilians seeking refuge in UN-designated shelters and schools have been targeted and killed by Israeli missiles in three separate incidents. The only remaining power plant in Gaza has also been destroyed by an Israeli strike, depriving Palestinians of electricity and running water. Our outgoing co-president, Kristian Davis Bailey, has recently published two articles in Ebony magazine describing the massacre in Gaza and the need for solidarity with Palestine, which are included below.

View the newsletter here and sign up to receive it in your email here.

NEWS: Palestinians Report Increased Racism, Violence as Gaza Offensive Continues

This article was written by Stanford SJP member Kristian Davis Bailey and originally appeared on Ebony.com.

Over 1000 Palestinians have been killed and 4,500 injured since the Israeli military’s operation on the Gaza Strip began July 8.

As the Israeli military’s assault on Gaza continues, Palestinian residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel have all reported an increase in political repression and racist violence.

“The army is using only live bullets in Hebron against the peaceful protesters,” Issa Amro, director of Youth Against Settlements (YAS), posted to Facebook on July 21. “More than 50 injured in the last two days. Snipers [are] shooting unarmed protesters.”

The Israeli military closed Hebron’s main road to Palestinians in 2000 to accommodate a few hundred Jewish settlers who reside in the West Bank city against international law. Issa and YAS report frequent harassment from soldiers guarding the settlers. Issa said Israeli soldiers arrested four YAS activists on July 22 after a settler attacked them.

“People are very afraid, very sad, and hopeless about any peaceful resolution by Israel,” Amro said.

The Israeli military also targeted protesters in Bethlehem.

“Israeli soldiers are firing tear gas grenades and a chemical that smells like pure sewage all over northern Bethlehem again tonight, as they have been doing every night for weeks,” Alex Shams, an editor at Ma’an News Agency, wrote on Facebook on July 22. “The smell is overwhelming, even inside the house your eyes tear up from the gas and you have to cover your nose to prevent yourself from gagging. In the distance the sound of gunshots and tear gas canisters and stun grenades being shot in rapid succession continues.”

Hashem Abu Maria, the community mobilization coordinator for Defense for Children International-Palestine and one of Amro’s colleagues, was killed with live ammunition while peacefully protesting outside of Hebron on July 25.

The protesters in Hebron and Bethlehem were both responding to Israel’s actions in Gaza and its 47-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel’s justification for its Gaza offensive is to eliminate rockets and underground tunnels managed by Hamas, the government of the Gaza Strip. Israel views Hamas as a terrorist group. Palestinians say the provocation for the current conflict began earlier with Israel’s response to the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli youth in the West Bank.

Mohammed Omer, an award-winning Palestinian journalist said that Israel guessed Hamas was responsible for the kidnappings and spent three weeks conducting raids and arresting over 600 Palestinians in the West Bank, including detaining 200 without charge. Eight Palestinians died during the operation.

“As retaliation, Hamas started to fire rockets [from] Gaza and then it started from there,” Omer said.

It has been widely reported in recent days that Israeli officials admitted Hamas was not responsible for June’s kidnapping of the three teenagers.

Following the June 30th discovery of the boys’ bodies, three Israelis kidnapped 16 year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir outside his Jerusalem home, beat him and burned him alive in revenge.

Outside protests against the lynching two days later, Israeli police arrested Mohammad’s 15-year-old cousin Tariq, kicking and beating him unconscious while he was handcuffed. Videos of the beating went viral, in part because Tariq is an American citizen who was visiting Palestine from Tampa, Florida.

After holding him in jail for three days, Israel placed Tariq on house arrest for nine days before returning him to the US without pressing any charges against him.

“Even though he’s home, we’re still on edge and tense,” said Sanah Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s aunt.

Israeli forces raided multiple Abu Khdeir family homes and arrested five members immediately after Tariq left. None is charged with a crime though three remain detained without charge. Israel maintains a policy of “administrative detention,” where Palestinians can be detained for up to six months without charge, renewable indefinitely.

Palestinian prisoners carried out the longest hunger strike in their history this year, with over 125 protesting administrative detention.

“Palestinians are arrested for attending demonstrations, being student activists, writing slogans on the illegal Apartheid wall or throwing stones at tanks or military vehicles that come into their villages to destroy homes,” wrote Randa Wahbe, advocacy director at Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

“The important thing to note is that the Occupier uses mass detention and imprisonment as a tool of control and oppression of the Palestinian population, in an aim to destroy Palestinian society and its ability to self-determination,” Wahbe said.

Israel has arrested one-fifth of the Palestinian population, or 40 percent of Palestinian males.

Over the past few weeks, arrest rates have also increased within Israel. 972 Magazine reports that 410 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for protesting since July 8. Many of those arrested are minors. Palestinian citizens of Israel face second-class citizenship with roughly 30 laws discriminating against non-Jews or either privileging Jewish citizens.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said the amount of police repression he’s seen in Israel is unprecedented.

“The most significant change we’ve seen is the overwhelming prevalence of incitement to violence and racism in Israel,” said Barghouti. “We’re hearing reports from all over Palestinian communities in 48 [Israel] as well as in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem of racial attacks, of huge mobs of Jewish Israeli thugs calling ‘Death to the Arabs’ and attacking any person who looks Arab.”

Jewish Israeli activists also report an increase in political repression, citing right-wing mobs who chant “death to leftists,” and a lack of police protection.

Polls suggest 80 percent of Jewish Israelis support the current military operation and some who live near Gaza have set up sofas and popcorn to watch missiles being dropped on Palestinians.

Right-wing Israeli officials have made a series of racist statements over the past month. The Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament, called for Palestinians to leave Gaza and be replaced by Jews. One parliamentarian said that all Palestinian mothers should be killed. On July 23, another proposed expelling Palestinian representatives who spoke against the offensive in Gaza.

According to Israeli activist Tom Pessah, most Israeli officials don’t make extreme statements, instead talking about the security needs of the state. Yet, it is more important to judge the actions of the Israeli government than the content of its words, he said.

“The government is always very moderate on the level of what it says, but it actually actively dropping bombs on entire families and wiping them out.”

According to Barghouti, Israel’s recent actions represent underlying and ongoing issues.

“Now, Israel is dropping any masks of liberalism and democracy and appearing to the world as it really is: an extremely racist, colonial apartheid society with an extremely incited racist population that is calling for blood and more blood of the indigenous Palestinians,” he said.

Palestinians reiterate a call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions as a tangible way for concerned Americans to help end the occupation, siege on Gaza and oppression Palestinians face from Israel.

“Stop funding Israel’s war crimes. Stop supporting the different companies that fund Israel,” Sanah said.

Barghouti stated divestment is not a heroic act or a call for charity from Palestinians.

“They’re asking all people at the very least to cut your links to oppression. End your complicity in oppression at the very, very least, as a very basic human obligation.”

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/palestinians-death-toll-exceeds-1000-032#ixzz3DLw4hQWT
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Stanford SJP Statement on Gaza

Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine stands in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the massacre being committed by the Israeli Defense Forces under the label “Operation Protective Edge.” We express our horror at the unjustifiable violence of the airstrikes, missile strikes, and ground incursion, which has largely targeted and impacted civilians, and which to date has killed over 800 Palestinians, over 80% of which were civilians and over 20% of which were children.

We reject the pretexts that Israeli political figures have deployed, and we recognize that the current assault fits into a pattern of collective punishment of the Palestinians and constitutes a particularly intense moment in the ongoing violence of dispossession, occupation, and apartheid. We similarly reject the claim that Hamas is to blame for the escalation because they rejected the ceasefire proposal from Egypt – a ceasefire that would not lift the siege and blockade, and would mean a “return to a living death” as explained in a recent statement by Palestinian academics, public figures and activists. Furthermore, we condemn Israel’s concurrent escalation of violence and collective punishment in the West Bank, and its repression of Palestinian protesters within Israel.

Israel’s massacre in Gaza is enabled by the support of the US government. Witness President Barack Obama’s repeated affirmations of Israel’s right to self-defense with no mention of whether Palestinians have such a right. Witness the recent unanimous votes in the Senate and the House in favor of resolutions supporting Israel’s actions. Without the political, financial, and military aid of the US and some European governments, Israel would be much more constrained. We therefore support the call of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to mobilize international pressure to get Israel to concede the just demands of the movement.

As students at Stanford, we recognize the complicity of our university in enabling Israel’s crimes. Some of Stanford’s considerable financial assets are invested in companies that help Israel carry out apartheid, occupation, and collective punishment. At this moment, we point specifically at Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, G4S, and Motorola Solutions. Stanford should take NO PART in investing in and profiting from these companies, who make money at the cost of Palestinian life and freedom.

Stanford SJP will intensify our campaign for divestment. We hope to join other student bodies around the world, in particular the 5 UCs that have passed divestment resolutions, in striking a blow against occupation and apartheid. We urge University President John Hennessy and the Board of Trustees to recognize their moral obligation and open their own investigations and proceedings to dissociate and divest Stanford from the injustice, death, and destruction that Israel is visiting upon Palestinians. SJP will push forward no matter what. We are more confident and determined than ever to bring divestment to Stanford.

In solidarity,

Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine

July 25, 2014

NEWS: “This Is Indeed a Massacre” Palestinians in Gaza Respond to Siege

This article was written by Stanford SJP member Kristian Davis Bailey and originally appeared on Ebony.com.

Over 550 Palestinians have been killed and 3,000 injured by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip since July 8. United Nations estimates as of July 21 indicate that almost 80 percent of the dead were civilians. 27 Israeli soldiers have died, and rockets from Gaza’s governing body Hamas have killed two Israeli civilians.

Ayman Mohyeldin, an NBC correspondent, described what he witnessed over the weekend.

“Among the targets over the past two days we’ve seen residential buildings, we’ve seen a hospital, we’ve seen an ambulance driver and a medic killed, we’ve seen a journalist killed, we’ve seen journalist buildings targeted,” Mohyeldin said. “So it gives you a sense of the scale of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.”

On Sunday alone, over 100 people were killed, including 70 from the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. According to Mohyeldin, Israeli shelling destroyed Shejaiya’s main road. Last night, the AP reports that Israeli forces bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of a dead Hamas military leader.

“This is indeed a massacre,” said Mohammed Omer, an award-winning Palestinian journalist based in Gaza.

“Fifty percent of the people who are killed are students,” Omer said.  “I assume that tells you that mostly students are victims, namely children.”

According to Omer, Israeli strikes have targeted hospitals, water and electricity facilities in Gaza, where the population faces blackouts of up to 22 hours a day and limited access to clean water.

“Everything is controlled—what you eat, what you’re fed, medical supplies that you get and don’t get. The kinds of food you need to eat are decided by the ones who control you, and that’s Israel in this case,” Omer said.  “Gaza is living under total occupation by sea, by land and by air.”

The Israeli military has occupied Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 against international consensus. Israel tightened its control of Gaza in 2007, when Hamas came to power in the strip.

​Hamas is the government of the Gaza Strip and is designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union. In June, following the collapse of US-led peace talks, Hamas formed a unity government with its rival Fatah, which governs the West Bank.  Palestinians have accused the Israeli government of seeking to utilizing the current military campaign to prevent them from having a united political front against Israel’s occupation.

1.2 million of Gaza’s residents are refugees–who fled or were expelled from their homes in what became Israel in 1948–or their descendants. Israel bars them and another 6 million Palestinian refugees from their legal right to return home.

Many refer to Gaza, a densely populated area a little larger than Staten Island, as “the world’s largest open air prison.”

Because Israel and Egypt restrict the opening of Gaza’s borders, Gaza’s citizens can’t flee to safer areas in this current conflict.

According to Mohyeldin, the Israeli military has fired upon every major city in Gaza. As of July 21, 100,000 residents have fled to shelters in 69 UN-operated schools and countless more have relocated with family or friends.

“You simply can’t just look at a map and say ‘Well you know what, this area has not been hit yet, so it’s safe for us to move in that direction.’ That creates the fear that people here are suffering from.”

While Israel says its operation is a justified response to Hamas’ rockets and tunnels from Gaza into Israel, one central Palestinian narrative views Hamas’ rockets as challenging Israel’s blockade on Gaza’s civilian population, which Mohyeldin described.

“[Israel] has imposed this siege on Gaza that has pretty much decimated every aspect of life here—socially, economically, culturally, politically. And as a result of that, the Palestinian factions have resorted to firing rockets into Israel to try and change the nature of the conflict, to try to bring about a change to the status quo.”

“It is not a war between two equal sides, despite the fact that that is how its often portrayed in most of the western media,” Mohyeldin said.

Palestinians say the status quo is defined by United States support for Israel and its military.

“People are feeling very sad because these missiles that killed their children are made in the USA,” Omer said. “They are paid by the taxpayers’ money—they are paid by average Americans.”

The United States provides $3 billion in military aid to Israel each year. American companies like Boeing, Raytheon and Hewlett Packard provide military or surveillance products that Israel uses to maintain its occupation and siege of Palestine. Gaza has no standing army and no missile defense system or bomb shelters for its civilians.

Palestinian civil society has issued a call for universities, religious organizations, trade unions and other groups to divest from companies that fund their oppression, modeling their Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the success South Africans had in ending apartheid through similar tactics.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement, said that he learned the power of boycotts from Martin Luther King.

“If we are indirectly implicated in a system that is evil, that’s unjust, that’s oppressive, it is a profound moral obligation to withdraw that support,” Barghouti said.

Barghouti draws a connection between issues facing Palestinians and those facing Americans.

“We need to stand together and one way to do that is through BDS targeting companies that oppress all of us – targeting companies that are involved in human rights violations against black Americans in Chicago as well as Palestinians in Gaza.”

Omer had a special appeal from Gaza to Black Americans.

“I appeal to the Black community in the US to pressure Barack Obama to let Israel end the massacres in Gaza and lift the blockade. People need to live in a dignified way. No more no less. Because after all, we are all human beings.”

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