Footballers against Israeli apartheid

The 2014 under-21 European Championships are supposed to be held in Israel, which is a bit awkward considering it just destroyed a football stadium as a novel new way of expressing its displeasure with the Palestinians. Sport, like art, is of course important to the well being of any peoples and it’s no wonder then that Israel regularly targets both.

To their considerable credit, more than sixty European professional footballers have protested against these acts and urged UEFA to withdrawn the competition from Israel:

We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience.

We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football, Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, 18 years old.

We are also informed that since February 2012 two footballers with the club Al Amari, Omar Rowis, 23, and Mohammed Nemer, 22, have been detained in Israel without charge or trial.

It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.

Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.

Well done.

We didn’t start the fire

No more mister nice guy

The London Review of Books looks at the context in which the new Israeli attack on Gaza is taken place:

Electoral considerations are likely to have played a role in Israeli decision-making, but hardly driven them. Both Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, had been smarting since March from a previous Egyptian-mediated ceasefire, according to which they informally agreed not only to stop attacking the Gaza Strip but also to discontinue assassinations. An Islamic Jihad leader I interviewed at the time reckoned this was a climbdown too far for Israel’s leaders and they were bound to renew hostilities sooner rather than later.

Pummelling Gaza yet again was intended to remind all concerned – not least the new Egypt – who makes the rules, though it would also reassure the Israeli electorate they need not fear the prospect of Obama punishing Israel for Netanyahu’s embrace of the Romney/Adelson ticket. As expected, the Obama White House has reiterated its commitment to Israel, and Congress has been busy passing unanimous resolutions supporting Israel’s right to self-defence in its colonial possessions. The positions of most European states have been only marginally less obscene.

One of the eternal failures of the news media is their ahistorical approach to the Israeli apartheid state: news coverage only begins when Israelis are victims and anything that comes before it is ignored.

Insult to injury

The IDF did not just storm the aid convoy to Gaza and kill nine activists, they also stole their possessions:

Israeli troops have been accused of stealing from activists arrested in the assault on the Gaza flotilla after confiscated debit cards belonging to activists were subsequently used.

In their raid of 31 May, the Israeli army stormed the boats on the flotilla and, as well as money and goods destined for the Palestinian relief effort in Gaza, the bulk of which have yet to be returned, took away most of the personal possessions of the activists when taking them into custody.

Individual soldiers appear to have used confiscated debit cards to buy items such as iPod accessories, while mobile phones seized from activists have also been used for calls.

IDF soldiers talk about their war crimes

That the IDF committed war crimes in their invasion of Gaza (let’s not even mention the invasion itself was a warcrime) was known on day one of the invasion. Evidence for that however only came from such unreliable witnesses as the victims themselves, or United Nations employees, or western journalists in Gaza, so it was largely rejected by Israel and its defenders. But now the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the personal experiences of IDF soldiers during the Gaza invasion and those are less easy to sweep aside:

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. “There was a house with a family inside …. We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof,” the soldier said.

“The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn’t understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he … he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders.”

According to the squad leader: “The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.

“I don’t think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his
job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to … I don’t know how to describe it …. The lives of Palestinians, let’s say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way,” he said.

The IDF has ordered an internal probe into these allegations. This always is a great comfort to victims of Israeli aggression, as without exception it turns out they weren’t shot, it was all a big misunderstanding or just an innocent little mistake.

The strictly impartial BBC, operating on behalf of the Israeli government

To update an old Young Ones joke. As seen on Prog Gold, the current BBC’s director general is quite cozy with the Israeli government, which of course did not influence the decision to remain impartial by not broadcasting an appeal for the IDF’s victims. Now Ellis Sharp reminds us that he has been impartial towards Israel from the start of his tenure when in 2004 the then Middle East correspondent was transferred to Africa:

Orla Guerin’s offence was to run stories not just about the grief of Israeli families who had lost family members to suicide bombers but also stories about the grief and suffering of ordinary Palestinian families. As one blogger put it at the time:

Guerin’s real sin, of course, is to show some sympathy for the victims of the Israeli bombing (that’s enough to brand her a “terrorist”).

Within days of Thompson meeting Sharon, Guerin was sacked as BBC TV Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa.

As you’ll remember, Thompson became director general because his predecessor had to resign after the BBC got caught on a technicality and was keelhauled for it in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry. Thompson was brought in as very much a pair of safe hands who wouldn’t rock the boat, follow the establishment line ever more so than his predecessors and not embarass the government. Despite this, there have been several scandals during his tenure, from running unwinnable contests to sexing up a documentary about the royal family to of course the Ross/Brands clusterfuck. This seemed to have made the BBC gunshy, prone to overreact and moreover, seemed to have lost the corporation its political nous.

So while the BBC has always been careful to not upset Israel or its zionist cheerleaders in the UK, always had an internal bias towards Israel, it used to be much more subtle about this. Even five years ago, I don’t think it would’ve been so blatant as to refuse air time to a genuinely humanitarian appeal for the inhabitants of Gaza. But because the corporation has been so battered by the same politicians and tabloids that are such great friends of Israel as well, because it has been caught with its pants down so often lately, it has overreacted. And now even those people who are normally the first to accuse it of a pro-Palestinian bias are disgusted.

Poor Auntie Beeb. It just cannot win.