Tag Archives: Mondoweiss

Buy Nation Books’ The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict

I am proud to announce that the book I was a researcher for has been released.  The Goldstone Report is a must-read document for all of those concerned with justice, peace and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Now, you can read an edited version of the report in book form, alongside commentary and analysis from a list of amazing people.

I learned a ton doing work for the book, and I’m sure reading it will be even more fruitful.

Check out the book’s website.  Go here for Mondoweiss’ rundown of the book, and go here for how to purchase it.

The Hypocrisy of Fran Townsend

Fran Townsend, a former Bush administration advisor and now a CNN contributor

In the midst of the now-famous debate on CNN between Glenn Greenwald and Fran Townsend on WikiLeaks, Townsend claimed:

[The release of the State Department cables] was so vast, of what was public, whether or not it would be useful or no he made no distinctions about the harm he might be doing to foreign governments, to the U.S. government, to diplomats and soldiers around the world.

While Townsend is implying that WikiLeaks’ has caused harm to “diplomats and soldiers”–a claim that has no merit–she is at the same time an outspoken supporter of a designated terrorist group:  the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK).

Last week, according to Talking Points Memo (and pointed out by Mondoweiss):

A group of prominent Bush-era Republicans, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of an Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.

TPM explains the history of MEK:

The group, known as Mujaheddin-e Khalq or MEK, is a militant group that’s been violently fighting the Iranian government since the 1960s. It has ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein, which trained and outfitted the MEK and for whom the MEK fought in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. According to the State Department, which declared the group a terrorist organization in 1997, the group’s philosophy is a combination of “Marxism, Islam, and feminism.

WikiLeaks does not have “blood on its hands,” as Townsend implied.  The MEK, on the other hand, does, according to the U.S. State Department–and has also caused harm to the very same U.S. “government, diplomats and soldiers” Townsend ostensibly looks out for:

During the 1970s, the MEK assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the violent takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Despite U.S. efforts, MEK members have never been brought to justice for the group’s role in these illegal acts.

In 1981, MEK leadership attempted to overthrow the newly installed Islamic regime; Iranian security forces subsequently initiated a crackdown on the group. The MEK instigated a bombing campaign, including an attack against the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Prime Minister’s office, which killed some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar..

The MEK’s relationship with the former Iraqi regime continued through the 1990s. In 1991, the group reportedly assisted in the Iraqi Republican Guard’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds who rose up against Saddam Hussein’s regime; press reports cite MEK leader Maryam Rajavi encouraging MEK members to “take the Kurds under your tanks.”

 

 

J Street Responds To Questions Regarding BDS Meeting with Israel’s Foreign Ministry

I should have contacted J Street and asked for further information and clarification regarding their executive director’s comments to Hadassah magazine that he held “a meeting with people from Israel’s Foreign Ministry on how to address the BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions] movement.”  I didn’t, and wrote something up criticizing J Street before hearing what they had to say, and I apologize for that.  Writing something up fast without thinking of getting a response from the organization you’re critiquing is not good journalism, and that’s part of the perils of blogging and not having an editor every time you publish.

Adam Horowitz, the co-editor at Mondoweiss, did contact J Street after my post was published at Mondoweiss, and received a response from the lobby group:

A spokesperson said Kane was drawing the wrong conclusions about the meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry if he is to suggest J Street is participaiting in an Israeli-led effort to combat the BDS movement. Rather, the statement Ben-Ami brought to the meeting was that ending the occupation would be the most effective way to counter the deligimitization efforts Israel faces.

They pointed me to the following letter to the editor in the Forward from a J Street member that they said articulated their perspective:

Exclusion of Critics Gives Fodder to Foes

There can be no more striking illustration of the myopia and self-delusion of the organized Jewish leadership regarding global efforts to delegitimize Israel than the fact that no less than five separate panels on this subject at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly contained not a single critic of Israel’s policies (“Federations Find Youth Outreach Tricky Terrain at Yearly Meeting,” November 19).

They would have us believe that the gathering strength of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — which, while ominous, is both ineffectual and totally one-sided — is purely a manifestation of anti-Semitism or misplaced anti-colonialism and has nothing to do with Israel’s behavior, such as its relentless expansion of settlements in the West Bank and encroachment on Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Unless the new JFNA-sponsored Israel Action Network is prepared to acknowledge and confront Israelis and American Jews with this reality and work seriously, if quietly, to mitigate it, I fear that Israel will continue to provide fodder to those who seek to delegitimize and isolate her.

Gil Kulick New York, N.Y.”

My post did seem to imply that J Street may be working with the Israeli government to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and that was a fair assumption to make without hearing J Street explain it.  J Street has now explained, and if Jeremy Ben-Ami, their executive director, did tell the Israeli government that “ending the occupation would be the most effective way to counter the delegimitization efforts Israel faces,” then I say good for them.

 

Werner Cohn Smears Academic Critic of Israel Again

Werner Cohn, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of British Columbia, has been making quite a name for himself this year as someone who wants to shut down academic critics of Israel.

He was among the academics leading the smear campaign against Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, the editor of a book highly critical of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.  Bayoumi’s other book about Arab-Americans in Brooklyn was assigned as reading for incoming freshmen at Brooklyn College, which prompted Cohn and others to create an uproar.

Now, Cohn is attacking a self-described anti-Zionist Jew named Jennifer Peto who recently published a thesis on Jewish identity, victim hood and Israel.

Via Mondoweiss, the Canadian Jewish News reports:

The University of Toronto is coming under fire for granting its “imprimatur” to a master’s thesis that critics say is an allegation of “Jewish racism” and is of low academic standards.

In a letter to University of Toronto president David Naylor, retired sociology professor Werner Cohn said the thesis posits that “the Jews of the world, most particularly those of Canada and the United States, are racist and seek to oppress people of colour everywhere.”

The thesis, Cohen goes on, is averse to empirical data, and its author, Jennifer Peto, “makes wild… charges against her fellow Jews without a shred of evidence. . . “

Summarizing her thesis, Peto stated that it “focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West…”

To give you an idea on where Cohn is coming from, he has written on “Jews who hate Israel,” links to documents that supposedly show Noam Chomsky’s “links to the neo-Nazis” and recently wrote a blog post that compared the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to the Nazi campaign of boycotting Jewish-owned businesses in Germany.

It appears Cohn has somewhat of an obsession with members of the Jewish community who are critical of Israeli policy.  But instead of interrogating why such members exist–the occupation, massacres in Gaza, the colonization of the West Bank–he simply denounces them as “haters” of Israel.

Jewish Establishment’s Motto: Hear No Evil, See No Evil On Israel

Nothing will change public discourse in the United States about Israel more than opening up the mainstream Jewish community’s conversation.  The establishment Jewish discourse on Israel is far removed from reality–this is why the five young Jews who interrupted Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly was so important.  It represented a small break from the delusions of the recent assembly, which was all about how Israel’s so-called enemies are “delegitimizing” the state.

Josh Nathan-Katzis (h/t Phil Weiss) of the Forward highlights this in his report from the New Orleans General Assembly (my emphasis):

And though conference leaders claimed to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from delegitimization, the panels promoted as addressing the issue contained no public critics of Israeli policy. The audience heard instead from Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz and from representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the right-leaning Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

And Joseph Dana, the excellent American-Israeli Jewish blogger and activist, makes a similar point in a must-read piece titled “Letter from America: I Long For the Days When I Can Speak to Community from Which I Came” (emphasis mine):

I am an American Jew who immigrated to Israel and is now working with the Palestinians in non-violence and solidarity. I am also completing a PhD in Jewish History at the Hebrew University. It is a testament to the openness of Palestinians and Palestinian groups in the United States that I am invited to speak as an honoured guest. It is also a reflection of the American Jewish community that they will not even listen to one of their own (American Jewish groups such as Hillel have turned down all of my invitations including at my alma mater where I graduated in the Jewish Studies program) on the issue of Israel’s occupation and non-violence.

Much work remains to be done on opening up the discourse in the U.S. Jewish community.  I like to think of myself as something of an idealist, and I admit that, so I’ll say that I think we’re getting somewhere.

Image and Reality of Barack Obama’s Israel Policy

Photo from AFP

The photo shown above of an Israeli throwing a shoe at an image of Barack Obama perfectly captures the bizarre notion emanating from right-wing Zionist circles, both in the U.S. and in Israel, that President Obama is hostile to the State of Israel.  In the U.S., neoconservative writers and commentators constantly push the meme that Obama is the most anti-Israel president the U.S. has ever seen.

Recently, journalists Edward Klein and Richard Chesnoff authored a five-part article titled “The Jewish Problem with Obama” that perfectly encapsulates the view that Obama is anti-Israel.   The main point of the article, which mostly quotes right-leaning Zionists like Bret Stephens, Ed Koch and Marty Peretz, is that Obama has lost his once overwhelming support with Jewish voters because of his supposedly tough stance on Israel.  The article cites his outreach to the Arab world, the short-lived spat over illegal settlements in East Jerusalem between Vice President Joe Biden and the Israeli government and the Obama administration’s endorsement of the “linkage” argument, which is the notion that the Israel/Palestine conflict contribues to anti-Americanism in the Middle East, bolsters terrorism and harms U.S. national security. 

The journalists even go as far to suggest that Obama’s not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic:

The White House seemed strangely indifferent to the feelings of resentment that its treatment of Netanyahu aroused in the Jewish community. For shortly after Netanyahu returned to Israel, the president risked provoking even greater Jewish outrage by insinuating that American troops were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan because Israel refused to agree to peace with the Palestinians. The Israeli-Arab conflict “is costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasures,” the president said.

A perception began to spread throughout the Jewish community that the Obama administration was not only outwardly hostile to Israel, but perhaps, without even knowing it, hostile to Jews as well. This thesis was forcefully argued by Jonathan Kellerman, the best-selling suspense novelist and a professor clinical pediatric and psychology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine…

But like the Tea Party fantasy of Obama as a socialist who wants to redistribute wealth to America’s poor, the image of Obama as anti-Israel belies the reality of how Obama has been a staunch ally of Israel while it swallows up more Palestinian land and kills and injures Palestinians daily.

Rhetoric about settlements aside, the Obama administration has continued many of the Bush administration’s staunchly pro-Israel polices, like the adoption of a “West Bank first” approach of showering the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank with aid, international backing and training for security forces in an effort to isolate Hamas, which runs Gaza.  This approach is an effort fully backed by Israel, which has had a long-time policy of separating the West Bank from Gaza in an effort to preclude the possibility of a Palestinian state and keep the Palestinians isolated in Bantustan-like arrangements. 

What’s more, the Obama administration has, in fact, bolstered U.S.-Israeli cooperation on a number of fronts.  Matt Duss, a national security blogger at Think Progress’ Wonk Room, succintly laid out why the notion that Obama is anti-Israel is just plain wrong in a post yesterday:

…There’s simply no serious argument to be made that President Obama hasn’t been, by any objective measure, an extremely pro-Israel president. He has remained committed to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge, raising the amount of U.S. military aid to Israel, making it the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget. Obama also authorized $205 million to enable Israel to complete its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.

Obama has significantly increased the level of strategic dialogue and the depth of intelligence coordination between our two countries, particularly in regard to Iran. According an Israeli official I spoke to in June, that coordination is now “even better than under President Bush.”

Obama has expanded trade between Israel and the U.S., and played an extremely important behind-the-scenes role in bringing about Israel’s acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Obama went before the United Nations General Assembly in September and challenged the international community to support Arab-Israeli peace, insisting before the world that “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” declaring that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

I would add to Duss’ list the administration’s offer of “military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East” in exchange for a measly two-month extension of the so-called “settlement freeze.”  

Some prominent supporters of Israel in the United States do appreciate Obama’s pro-Israel stance.  Phil Weiss reported earlier this month on a fund-raising letter being sent out by Mark and Nancy Gilbert, who are big-time fundraisers for the Democratic Party.  The letter thanks Obama for his support for Israel and goes on to quote a speech given by Ambassador Michael Oren touting the “brilliant accomplishments and strong support of Israel demonstrated by the Obama Administration.”

Still, Obama’s so-called “Jewish problem” has become conventional wisdom.  Part of it stems from a distrust of Obama for having a Muslim middle name and for having past relationships with Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi.  There’s also political incentives for right-wing Zionists to push the “Obama is anti-Israel” meme, as they’re hoping for a Republican sweep of Congress in November and a Republican capture of the White House in 2012.  If that happens, what rhetorical resistance the Obama administration has put up would dissapear under a Republican administration and Israel would have total free-rein. 

But even the mild criticism of Israel that Obama and his foreign policy team have engaged in has not contributed to any substantive shift in policy towards Israel. 

The gap between the right’s image of Obama and the reality of his policy on Israel is vast, and the Zionist right and the Israel lobby have tailored their misleading image of Obama as anti-Israel to successfully beat back the Obama administration and forced it to tone down what little criticism there was.

Jeffrey Goldberg Smears Goldstone, Mischaracterizes B’Tselem’s Position on Report

Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic magazine and a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, has been pounding the center-left lobby group J Street at his blog lately.  In a Sept. 30 post, Goldberg criticizes J Street for allegedly arranging visits for Judge Richard Goldstone to Capitol Hill, smears the Goldstone report and mischaracterizes the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem’s position on the report.

Goldberg writes:

According to an article posted on The Washington Times site last night, J Street helped arrange visits by Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist appointed by the U.N. to investigate the most recent conflict in Gaza, to Capitol Hill. Goldstone’s work, heavily reliant on Hamas for uncorroborated information, has been condemned on both the left and right, here and in Israel (including by the left-wing Israeli human rights group B’Tselem), for its fairly obvious biases.

The claim that Goldstone’s report was “reliant” on Hamas for “uncorroborated information” is factually wrong.  How exactly was Goldstone “reliant” on Hamas?  Goldberg doesn’t specify.  If you read the report, it becomes clear that the information in it is, in fact, corroborated, citing Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organizations’ reports on the conflict.  Many of the Goldstone report’s conclusions were backed up by subsequent reports that came out after Goldstone’s report.  Even Israeli military investigations further bolster the report’s findings.

The claim that the Goldstone report was “condemned” by B’Tselem is misleading.  Goldberg is most likely referring to a New York Times report by Ethan Bronner that quoted Yael Stein of B’Tselem as saying that he does “not accept the Goldstone conclusion of a systematic attack on civilian infrastructure.  It is not convincing.”

Stein certainly criticizes the report’s findings.  But B’Tselem’s position is much more complicated, and far more supportive of the report, than Goldberg lets on.

After that Times report came out, Jessica Montell of B’Tselem wrote in Mondoweiss:

The quote of Ms. Stein was the result of a two-hour conversation with the journalist, most of it focused on the inadequacy of Israel’s investigations to date. While Ms. Stein was quoted accurately, this is a very small part of our views on  the Goldstone report and Cast Lead, and not what we would chose to emphasize at this point…

B’Tselem has invested tremendous resources over the past year to research and publicize the extent of the civilian harm caused during Israel’s military operation in Gaza last winter and to hold Israel accountable. B’Tselem also provided extensive assistance to the UN fact-finding mission headed by Justice Goldstone – escorting them to meet victims in Gaza, providing all of our documentation and correspondence, and meeting the mission in Jordan. Much can be said about the very lengthy, detailed report submitted by the mission, and about the UN process it set in motion. The most important message to promote now – and one on which B’Tselem agrees whole-heartedly with the Goldstone report – is that Israel must conduct a thorough, independent inquiry into all the allegations that have been made.

Does that sound like condemnation to you?  But I guess Goldberg plays by different journalistic rules than the ones saying journalists should be accurate and tell the truth.  We all learned that in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Caught Between a Wall and a Shipwreck

The following article originally appeared in the latest issue of the Indypendent:

Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict
Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi
OR Books, 2010

A Wall in Palestine
By René Backmann, Translated by A. Kaiser
Picador, 2010

The Israel/Palestine conflict has become so all-consuming that even objects are central to the struggle. Two recent books illustrate this fact.

René Backmann’s A Wall in Palestine looks at the planned 490-mile-long, 25-foot-high wall, complete with fencing, trenches, thermal imaging and sniper towers, that Israel is building in parts of the West Bank. The second work, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, is a collection of essays examining the deadly Israeli attack on an international seaborne convoy. The “Freedom Flotilla” was attempting to break the crippling blockade of Gaza, which began in 2007 when Hamas took power after winning democratic elections and defeating a U.S.-backed effort to install Fatah, the party that lost the elections, into power.

Both works reveal how inanimate objects — the wall and the flotilla of six ships — have become so imbued with conflicting meanings and ideas that they can be seen as actors that create new actions in their wake, such as the plans by international activists to launch new ships to Gaza or the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that takes aim at Israeli colonization, particularly what many have labeled the “apartheid wall.”

While French journalist Backmann’s work is a useful contribution to understanding the separation barrier, the author all too easily adopts the language of the Israeli occupation and spends little time on crucial context and history relating to the Israel/ Palestine conflict. Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, on the other hand, gives readers a much more comprehensive look into the current situation as well as vital history and context, like explaining why the ongoing “peace process” is bankrupt.

The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion, ruled the separation barrier to be illegal under international law in 2004. The vast majority of it snakes through occupied Palestinian territory, slicing up Palestinian villages and cutting off access to urban areas.

The idea of separating the Palestinian population from the Israeli population has deep roots within Zionist ideology and has been proposed by Israeli officials for decades.

But it wasn’t until the aftermath of the second Palestinian Intifada that began in 2000, and Ariel Sharon’s rise to power, that the idea of constructing a physical barrier was seriously considered. Ironically, the rightwing Likud Party, of which Sharon was a long-time member, was originally wary of the concept. The idea of a barrier built on Israel’s borders as established in the aftermath of the 1947-49 war — as some Israeli politicians on the left suggested — might create the boundaries for a future Palestinian state and leave Israel’s colonization project of the West Bank in jeopardy, something that right-wing Zionists had no interest in.

In 2002, after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings inside Israel, the Israeli government under Sharon decided to begin building the barrier.

Although security for Israeli civilians was the stated justification for the wall, its route made clear that it was primarily an annexation project. As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem explains, “a major aim in setting the route was de facto annexation of land: when the Barrier is completed, some nine percent of the West Bank, containing 60 settlements, will be situated on the western — the ‘Israeli’ — side.” Other benefits of the route of the barrier from the Israeli perspective include, as Backmann notes, the taking of fertile land and precluding the possibility of a Palestinian state.

When describing the Sharon government’s siege of the Occupied Territories in 2001, Backmann refers to civilian casualties as “collateral damage.” On a number of occasions, he refers to the West Bank uncritically and without quotes as Judea-Samaria, which is the biblical term used by Israeli settlers. Backmann fails to discuss the events of 1947-49 that led to the creation of Israel, including the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by 1949. An exploration of the colonial nature of Zionism would help explain why Israel sees no problem with building a separation barrier that tramples on the human rights of Palestinians.

Also missing is an in-depth discussion of the rise of popular resistance movements across the West Bank, which developed in response to the building of the barrier.

Resistance to the Israeli occupation isn’t just confined to Palestinian villages, though, as the events of the May 31 Freedom Flotilla, explored magnificently in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, show. The flotilla was an international effort that included 600 passengers from a multitude of nations, and attempted to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip by sea.

The book is a comprehensive antidote to Israel’s attempt to spin the events as a group of savage Islamist terrorists “lynching” defenseless Israeli soldiers. The reports from eyewitnesses who were aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara are clear: As the flotilla was in international waters, Israeli commandos rappelled onto the Marmara, opened fire and killed nine people. A recently released U.N. report authored by three human rights experts found the Israeli raid to be illegal, “disproportionate” and brutal. Beyond the lucid eyewitness accounts, the book includes exceptional analyses of what the attack means and where the international solidarity movement goes from here. Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz, editors of the blog Mondoweiss (for which I am a contributor), aptly call the attack on the flotilla a moment that has caused “many to consider what Zionism has built in the Middle East.”

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Palestine Center, reminds readers that Israel massacring civilians is not a new phenomenon, nor is the world’s apparent unwillingness to hold Israel accountable for war crimes.

While it is a one-stop shop for all things “Freedom Flotilla,” Midnight on the Mavi Marmara has a dearth of original content, with most contributions being reprints. It’s an understandable shortcoming given the lightning- quick turnaround. But it reads more as an immediate reaction to the flotilla killings than a reflection on how and why the flotilla marks a “turning point” in the Israel/Palestine conflict. There are a couple of duds as well. For instance, Stephen Walt, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, writes an uncharacteristically boring “how to” guide on “defend[ing] the indefensible.”

By and large, though, if one wants to understand the attack on the flotilla and the utter necessity of building an international solidarity movement that will finally bring Israeli apartheid down, this is the book to read. It couldn’t have come out at a better time; while the world’s media incessantly focus on recently re-launched “peace talks,” the real work of bringing about liberation for the Palestinian people can be found in efforts like the Freedom Flotilla.

Adam Shapiro, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, succinctly closes out the book with his piece on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the effort to break the blockade of Gaza through ever-escalating direct action: “The days of the oppression of Palestinians — whether in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in refugee camps, or in the diaspora — are numbered. It is now in all our power to expedite that day of liberation.”

Washington Post Not Interested in Palestinian Account of Silwan Shooting

The "City of David" tourist center in Silwan, East Jerusalem. PHOTO: Ellen Davidson

Example number 156,783 of the U.S. corporate media doing a terrible job explaining the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Washington Post’s Joel Greenberg on the deadly events yesterday in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.  Like most establishment media accounts of any event in Israel/Palestine, what Israelis say is taken as the truth, while Palestinian narratives of what happened are ignored or distorted.

In the wee hours of the morning yesterday, a private Israeli security guard who protects the illegal Jewish settlement that has been inserted into the heart of Silwan shot and killed two Palestinians.  The exact circumstances are, of course, disputed, but Greenberg only reports on the Israeli version of the killings:

A police spokesman said the guard told investigators he fired into the air after his vehicle was blocked with large garbage bins and stoned from surrounding rooftops…

The trouble began before dawn in the neighborhood of Silwan – under the walls of the Old City – where about 400 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians.

Residents and police said a confrontation developed between local youths and the security guard, who was patrolling in a jeep. Such incidents are common in the neighborhood, where tensions have risen in recent months since the announcement of plans by city hall to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes to make way for a park.

Hanan Odeh, who lives nearby, said that before the incident there was stone-throwing and a loud argument between Israelis and local youths. Later, she said, she heard a burst of automatic gunfire and saw a fleeing man, limping on one leg, who collapsed on the stairs under her house. He was identified as Samer Sarhan, 32, a father of five…

Ariel Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Housing Ministry, said the guards operate under police guidelines and have no policing functions other than protecting the settlers. He said they often display restraint in the face of rock-throwing provocations by local youths. The guard who opened fire, he said, faced “a lynching, was under a clear mortal threat and fired in self-defense.”

So, according to the Post‘s account of the shooting, the private security guard–who, by the way, is protecting an illegal settlement, though the Post never mentions that–was under imminent threat and only fired in self-defense.

Let’s take a look at other accounts of what happened.

Joseph Dana, a writer who lives in Jerusalem, reports in the Electronic Intifada:

“At 3:30 or 4am I heard some noise outside of my window,” Silwan resident Abdallah Rajmi told me as we stood on a narrow street in the middle of a battle between young Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli occupation forces from the Border Police. “I thought it was a simple drunken fight but then I heard a lot of noise coming from the people involved and my neighbors began waking up…”

Rajmi recalled the events as tear gas and rocks were being thrown from both sides onto the alley where we were standing. “At this point I went to my roof to see what was happening and I saw three settler guards with ‘small weapons’ approach a group of young Palestinian men,” referring sarcastically to the guards’ large Uzi assault riles. “The guards began shooting the men and everyone in Silwan woke up…”

“I could not believe my eyes. I saw a man lying in his own blood and dying. The settler guards had just shot him in cold blood and watched him dying. He was there, on the ground, for one hour until an Israeli ambulance arrived on the scene, of course they would not allow any of us to get near him. The Israelis did, however, bring over forty settler guards and Border Police to the scene before the he was moved.”

The dead man was named as Samir Sarhan, aged about 30 according to news reports, and the father of five children.

Phil Weiss, in his blog Mondoweiss, relays what the director of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan told him:

I walked down the hill past the City of David settlement, a messianic Jewish colony on occupied land, with a big gold sign in English. I found my way to the Wadi Hilwah Information Center. A man with a limp– shot by a settler guard in both legs, I was later told–walked me back to Jawad Siyan, the director of the office. A thin, intense man of about 35, he vented his despair over Palestinian powerlessness as he fielded telephone calls and a teenager brought me coffee.

The 55,000 people of the village were “sad and shocked” tonight, Siyan said grimly. Villagers had continually complained to Israeli police that the settlers had taken the law into their own hands; but the complaints were ignored. Armed guards in the settlement– which has been spearheaded by a religious group called Elad– roamed the town freely, with the support of the Israeli border police. They threatened Palestinians with impunity.

The incident today began–Siyan said witnesses had told him– when Palestinians and settlers shouted abuse at one another, as they often do, and the guards had fired guns in the air. The Palestinians had run away. The guards had chased them, and shot at them. Two men were seriously injured. Israeli security forces had arrived within minutes, but Samar Sarchan, 35 years old, lay on the ground for an hour before an ambulance arrived. He later died of his injuries.

Those accounts by Dana and Weiss throw the Post‘s reporting into serious question.