April 17, 2012

EDITOR: Israel proves its brutality, again

The 15th of April was an international action day on Palestine. Thousands of activists were planning to fly in for peaceful protest; Israel has acted illegally to deny them entry, cnacelling their flights on many airlones, whether it had information about them and their intention or not. In most cases, it had no such information, and many of those denied flights were not even activists, includinga French diplomat with his wife whose flkight was also cancelled…

In the Jordan valley, a mad, wild officer, Shaul Eisner, ended up attackinga a group of cyclists ona peaceful protest ride, brutally assaulting a young Danish protester without any provocation, as can easily be seen from the YouTube video. For those who were still entertainig any doubts about Israeli methods, some viewing is hardly reccommended… In hindsight, this war criminal regrets doing it when cameras were present.

While they can attack protesters and stop them entering Israel, they cannot stop the protest with their brutal methods. This event has just added to the numbers of those opposed to Israeli britalities against Palestinians and all others who support their rights. Only those without an argument are using ruthless attacks against civilians, as Israel has done now for many decades. They are losing the public arena with these methods of suppression and denial.

IDF officer says regrets beating activist ‘in front of cameras’: Haaretz

Image grab of a YouTube video posted by the International Solidarity Movement showing an IDF soldier striking a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle.

IDF Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner, who was filmed over the weekend hitting a Danish protester with his rifle butt in the Jordan Valley, personally responded to allegations against him on Tuesday.

Eisner, who was suspended from duties following the incident, said that “it could have been a professional mistake to use a weapon in front of the cameras,” he told Channel 10. The televised report also showed a document indicating he had broken his finger.

Video footage posted on YouTube showed Eisner, deputy commander of the IDF’s Jordan Valley brigade, striking Danish activist Andreas Ias in the face with an M-16 rifle during a cycle rally near Jericho in the West Bank.

“It was a two minute confrontation,” he said,” so yes, it’s true that some pictures look bad, but I used a weapon… in a cold manner, as a stick. I didn’t kill anyone and I did not put anyone’s life in danger.” He added that he believes that thanks to his actions the protesters called off the demonstration.

Ias, the Danish activist that was hit in the face, said on Monday that the officer’s claim that the activists were violent is a fabrication. Also on Monday, the Danish ambassador asked Israel to explain the officer’s assault on Ias.

“These stories do not interest the Chief of Staff or my Front Commander,” Eisner added on Tuesday. He admitted there are “a few questions,” yet maintained that he “does not accept this as a moral failure in any way.” “We know the history of these anarchists,” he said, “they came with sticks and broke my hand – but no one will tell or film that.”

“There is a question here of what is more important – to carry out the mission or to look good (in pictures). I claim the mission is important enough,” Eisner said. He added: “What if they would film IDF soldiers backing down from an angry crowd? That sounds good? What, I’d let them block roads? I’d let them endanger lives?”

President Shimon Peres on Monday said he was “shocked” by the incident, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the incident, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.

“Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

On Tuesday, a few dozen demonstrators headed by National Union MK Michael Ben Ari gathered in front of the Kirya Defense Ministry complex to show support for Eisner. They called on the IDF to award him a medal for his conduct.

Israel blocks entry to first pro-Palestinian ‘fly-in’ activists; hundreds more expected: Haaretz

650 policemen stationed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv in anticipation of hundreds of activists due to arrive as part of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ event.

A would-be passenger posing with his passport and a letter denying him access to Israel as around 100 pro-Palestinian activists stage a protest at Brussels national airport April 15, 2012. Photo by: Reuters

About 30 pro-Palestinian activists were held by security forces at Ben-Gurion Airport after arriving on a flight from Paris on Sunday, ahead of what Israel Police estimates will be hundreds of activists and protesters due to arrive as part of the “Welcome to Palestine” fly-in protest.

All in all, 30 activists were detained by security forces at Ben-Gurion Airport, with 27 still in questioning, after three were allowed entry into Israel.

Three of those detained were subsequently released and allowed entry into the country, while the fourth remained in questioning.

Speaking to reporters, the commander of the forces deployed at the airport Bentzi Sau said that, “as of right now, most of the activists were kept in their home countries, according to the airlines’ decision.”

“In the last hour we detected about 20 activists who have been barred entry and are in questioning. At first, we estimated that about 1,200 activists will arrive, but that number has been reduced significantly as a result of several actions,” Sau added.

Activists holding placards reading 'Geneva, new Israeli airport. Palestine will live" (L) and "freedom of circulation in Palestine' at Geneva airport, April 15, 2012. Photo by: AFP

The top Israel Police officer said that those who do not accept the Interior Ministry’s offer to return to their country of origin will be transferred to the Israel Prison Services for processing,” adding that “most of the flights suspected of carrying activists are due to land between 2 and 5 P.M.”

650 policemen were stationed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv ahead in preparation for the mass event.

The activists were planning to arrive in Israel to participate in a protest against West Bank settlement construction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with more than 300 international activists arriving in Israel. Of those activists, 120 were detained.

On Saturday, the spokesman for the “Welcome to Palestine” protest told Haaretz that more than 60 percent of the 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive in Israel on Sunday have received notifications from airlines that their flights were canceled.

Among the airlines that notified the activists of flight cancelations were Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem-based spokesman for the protest said, adding that the activists are threatening to take legal action against the airlines.

Israeli border policemen standing guard at Ben Gurion air port near Tel Aviv on April 15, 2012. Photo by: AFP

“Israel passed lists of hundreds of activists to companies, along with a letter in which it claimed that they were coming to carry out a provocation and disturb the peace, and this is just not true. It is very unfortunate that these companies bowed to Israeli pressure,” said Qumsiyeh, who added that he has no doubt that some of the activists and Palestinian organizations – including his own – will pursue legal action against the companies.

According to the spokesman, hundreds of activists will manage to board flights to Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport, and declare their intention to travel on to the West Bank upon their arrival.

Dozens of Israeli activisits are due to await the arrival of the fly-in protesters at the airport. In a notice published on Saturday, Israeli activists said they will await for the fly-in protesters with “welcome signs” and “open arms.”

Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were prevented from boarding Israel-bound flights on Friday, due to the fact that their names appeared on the blacklist distributed by the Israeli government to a number of European airlines.

Police are planning to intercept participants in the “Welcome to Palestine” actions at the airport and prevent their entry into the country. Hundreds of police officers are expected to be stationed at the airport ahead of their arrival, most of them unarmed and clothed in civilian dress.

Israel’s leaders incite the public against peace activists: Haaretz Editorial

Use of violence against peace activists is not an image problem that can be swept aside with a suspension and denunciation.

From time to time the news media or human rights groups film an Israeli in uniform using excessive force against human rights or peace activists protesting the wrongs of the occupation.

This week it was the turn of IDF Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade, to be caught by the camera, in this case striking a helpless Danish national in the face with an M-16 rifle. Following the event’s widespread coverage, the officer was widely criticized by the public – not for using excessive force, but for granting human rights groups a photo op serving their interests. He also ruined the celebrations over the successful operation that prevented human rights activists from entering Israel and the territories via Ben Gurion International Airport (and grounded several people who had nothing to do with the fly-in ).

In an effort to minimize the damage to Israel’s image, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz swiftly suspended Eisner while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastened to denounce the offending officer’s misdeed.

Such reactions are necessary, but certainly not sufficient. Use of violence against peace activists is not an image problem that can be swept aside with a suspension and denunciation. A political and military leadership that incites the public against peace and human rights activists bears responsibility for the conduct of hot-tempered officers like Eisner.

When the prime minister and foreign minister label left-wingers “anarchists,” “provocateurs” and even “terror supporters,” they are sanctioning attacks on civilians implementing the right to protest.

Instead of using, even by implication, the Damascus regime’s conduct toward its opposition as a yardstick for the expected behavior of the Israel Defense Forces, the prime minister should memorize the verdict Jerusalem Magistrate Judge Haim Li-Ran handed down in a recent hearing over the request to arrest Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity activists in Jerusalem.

“The right to demonstrate or express an opinion is deeply rooted in the foundations of democratic government. … Thousands of human beings have paid and are paying with their lives on its altar,” the judge said.

His words are doubly true when it comes to the right to demonstrate against the wrongs of occupation and to get home in one piece.

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