Tag Archives: Israel

Why was a Palestinian toddler burned to death?

22 Aug

By Nizar Visram

News coming out of the occupied Palestine on Aug, 8, 2015 said that Saad Dawabsheh, the father of a Palestinian toddler Ali who was killed in a firebombing of his home a week ago, also died from wounds he sustained in the incident.

Early in the morning of July 31, Israeli settlers hurled a Molotov cocktail into a window of Dawabsheh’s home in the Duma village in occupied West Bank. His 18-month-old son, Ali was burned to death in the arson attack, while his four-year-old son Ahmad, and his wife, Riham were seriously injured and remain in critical condition.

The arsonists left inscriptions on the wall of the house, saying: “Long live the Messiah” and “Revenge” on the wall of the house. Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian homes, churches and mosques characteristically use this “price tag” tactic. (Palestinian toddler burned to death)

Ali Dawabsheh is not the first Palestinian child to be burnt to death. Last year, another baby named Ali, son of Mohammad Deif, was also burnt alive after an Israeli airstrike on the house. Also, sixteen-year-old Mohamed Abu Khdeir was beaten tortured and burnt alive by a group of Israeli extremists in July 2014.

Little Ali is thus not different from over 500 Palestinians children killed in Israel’s last summer invasion on Gaza, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.  The Dawabsheh family home, which was completely burnt, was not different from the 20,000 Gaza homes which, according to the UN, were destroyed during the Israeli carnage in Gaza.

The Israeli regime’s illegal settlers have carried out 11,000 assaults against Palestinian residents and their properties across the occupied West Bank since January 2015. According to an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, 85.3% of police investigations into Palestinian complaints are discarded without actions being taken. It is all part of Israeli occupation policy, with numerous crimes going unpunished.

In fact, the Israeli armed forces responded to protests against the torching of the family’s home by killing another Palestinian child, 15-year-old Laith. They also killed 16-year old Mohammed who was at another demonstration inside Gaza.

The brutal assassination of Ali is a direct consequence of decades of impunity by the Israeli Government towards settler terrorism. It is the direct outcome of Israel’s culture of hate and violence, of Israeli policies that create an environment allowing the illegal setters to commit murder and terror while protecting them from any accountability.

We cannot separate the barbaric attack on Dawabsheh family from the illegal settlement recently approved by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for occupation.

Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, yet Netanyahu’s government is committed to building even more. The latest planned expansion was announced by Netanyahu on 29 July, when he authorised the construction of a further 300 settlement buildings. On the following day, deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely pledged that the Israeli government would carry out the building of yet more illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land

Settlement expansion is bound to increase the numbers of extremist Israeli settlers who take up arms and run amok across the West Bank, without fear of apprehension and prosecution. According to B’Tselem statistics, in the past three years, Israeli settlers have torched nine Palestinian homes. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases.

Following the killing of the toddler Ali, condemnations poured in from various sources. Among the first to ‘mourn’ was Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who “vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice”.

He said, “I am shocked by the murder of Ali Dawabsheh; this is a reprehensible and horrific act of terrorism in every respect.”

Netanyahu even made a phone call to Palestine Authority’s President Abbas, condemning the incident and pledging “full investigation”

The corporate media fail to expose the two-facedness of such lamentation. Palestinian children have always been killed by Israeli forces, while successive Israeli governments have been able to get away with its ever-expanding settlements and other war crimes.

Netanyahu describes this latest act of primitive violence against a baby as an “act of terror” while it is he who ordered the mass murder of babies and children in Gaza. His government has created a culture of extremism in its constant policy to demonize and brutalize the Palestinian people.

Whipping up racism and hatred during Israel’s election campaign, Netanyahu described Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic threat.” Indeed for an average Israeli the very word Palestinian is synonymous with inferior being.

Netanyahu and his bedfellows who rushed in denouncing the Duma attack as “terrorism” have well-documented background of engaging in incitement against Palestinians. Some have even killed Palestinians themselves and boasted about it.

Netanyahu is the originator of last year’s 51-day attack on Gaza that killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza. Yet he reacted to the settler attack in Duma with a statement that his government is “united in strong opposition to such deplorable and awful acts.”

This is the same man who, following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens one year ago, issued a call for blood vengeance, essentially lighting the match that burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair.

Then there is Netanyahu’s education minister Naftali Bennett, who said, “Arson against a house in Duma and the murder of a baby is a disgusting act of terror.”

This is the same Bennett who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

He rose to prominence after triggering Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers at a UN base in Lebanon, during that year’s Israeli invasion. Over half of those killed in the attack were children.

The same Bennett praised the Israeli massacre of the four Baker boys on the beach in Gaza last summer. Talking to the CNN, he accused Palestinians of “conducting massive self-genocide to make Israel look bad.”

Then you have Netanyahu’s ‘defense’ minister Moshe Yaalon describing the massacre of baby Ali as “horrible terror attacks that we cannot allow” and promising to “pursue the murderers until we bring them to justice.”

It is the same Yaalon who declared that Israel would not hesitate to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians including children, if it felt it had to, in any future war between Israel and its neighbors.

During his spell as Israeli army chief of staff, he likened Palestinians to a cancerous threat that can only be eliminated by “applying chemotherapy.”

Such outbursts are common among Israeli figures. After approving a call last June for Palestinian mothers to be slaughtered in their beds to prevent them from giving birth to “little snakes,” Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked was rewarded by being appointed ‘justice’ minister.

Eli Ben-Dahan, the settler rabbi in occupied Jerusalem who decreed that “(Palestinians) are beasts, they are not human,” is Netanyahu’s deputy ‘defense’ minister. He is now in charge of the “civil administration,” the military body that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It is not surprising that rabbis like Ben-Dahan are mostly silent about the killing of baby Ali. After all, they inspire an extreme messianic version of Judaism that energizes settler violence.

Two of the most infamous rabbis are Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who in 2009 wrote Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), a guidebook on when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

They claim that Jewish law permits “killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately.”

Shapira and Elitzur run a hardline Jewish religious school in the settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the most violent settlers, not far from the village of Duma.

Last year, Dov Lior, a leading West Bank settler rabbi who endorsed Torat Hamelech, issued his own ruling that the complete “destruction of Gaza” was permissible.

“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area … to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.

The murder of Ali Dawabsheh should thus be regarded within the context of Israeli society where Palestinian babies are routinely called a “demographic threat,” and where many Israelis ecstatically rejoice their slaughter.

Such society cannot claim innocence and cannot be “shocked” when settlers torch to death a Palestinian toddler.

Today, more than ever, it is important for all who care about justice to declare that we are all Palestinians.

Nizar Visram is Tanzanian independent writer, born in Zanzibar and currently in Ottawa. He retired as senior lecturer in Development Studies and is reachable at: nizar1941@gmail.com

Explaining Gaza to my 7-year old granddaughter

29 Jul

“Grandpa, why are they killing kids in Gaza?”

A deep breath to compose my thoughts.

“You said most people were good, but I think only bad people could drop bombs on little kids. There was a boy crying on TV. He lost his whole family.”

“Most people are good but sometimes they do bad things,” I answered.

Back came the inevitable: “Why?”

“Because of greed and bad ideas. Those are the two main reasons people do bad stuff.”

Her expectant stare caused a moment of panic. She needed an explanation. She needed the truth. But the dilemma in explaining war to a seven year old is that simple answers — “these are the good guys and those are the bad guys” — are part of the problem. Simple answers limit critical thinking and enable those who profit from war to manipulate people. How could I explain a complicated subject in a simple enough manner that helped my granddaughter learn to think for herself? I had to try.

“You know what Israel is?”

“It’s a country. My friend Sarah went there for a holiday.”

“It’s a country that was started with some bad ideas that seemed like good ideas at the time. It’s a country the greediest people in the world give bombs, airplanes and other weapons to, because these greedy people have the bad idea that they’ll make lots of money and keep their power by doing it.”

The look on her face proved this was far too complicated. Start over.

“Do you know what religion is?”

“It’s like when people believe in god and go to church and stuff.”

“Yes. One religion is called Judaism and the people who belong to it are called Jews. It’s very old and a little bit different from other religions because some people still call themselves Jews even if they don’t believe in god or follow any of the Jewish rules. Through most of their history Jews have lived in places where there was another, more powerful religion and many times the bigger religion picked on Jews. You know, like kids picking on someone just because they’re different.”

“I know. Papa explained that to me.”

“Well in Europe picking on Jews grew and grew until a very bad man named Hitler took over in Germany and during a war his armies killed millions of Jews, including mommas, papas, grandmas, grandpas and little kids. That was called the Holocaust.”


“Yes. It was very horrible and after the war the world felt so bad about the Holocaust that the governments of the most powerful countries said the Jews could have a country of their own where they could run things for themselves. Sort of like giving the kids who have been picked on their own playground.”

“Their own playground far away from the bullies?”

“Exactly, but the problem was that the land which the powerful countries gave to the Jews belonged to other people.”

“How could they give away land that belonged to other people?”

“Well, unfortunately that used to happen a lot. Like right here in Canada when the British and the French fought over land that belonged to the First Nations. Mama and Papa have explained colonialism to you, right?”

She nodded. “That was very bad.”

“This country given to the Jews was called Israel and some people thought it would be the perfect thing to end all the bullying that had happened in Europe, but others were not so sure. Some people said that if you gave land that belonged to other people the only way Jews would be able to keep it would be by becoming bullies themselves.”


“Because the people who lived there, the Palestinians, wouldn’t just give up their homes. Why should they? Palestinians weren’t the ones who had killed the Jews so why should they be punished for bad things Europeans had done? People predicted that the Jews would have to fight the Palestinians for the land and that’s exactly what happened, over and over again. And it’s still happening today.”

“They fight to take the Palestinian land?”

“At the root of it yes.”

“Are the Jews bullies now?”

“Jews are the same as everyone. Some are bad, but most are nice. Most don’t even live in Israel.”

“But taking people’s homes is not nice. Dropping bombs is not nice.”

“You’re right. But are you a bad person when you pick on your sister or have a temper tantrum? No, you’re a nice person doing something bad. It’s the government of Israel, its army, one of the largest in the world, and the police who are bullies. They’re always picking on Palestinians, especially the ones who still live on the land that the right-wing Israelis want for themselves, but that the governments of the world say belongs to Palestine. Of course this makes the Palestinians very mad and they try to fight back anyway they can. When they do, the Israeli government puts them in jail or tears down their houses or drops bombs on them and kills lots of little kids. Then Israel and its supporters says they can’t possibly be nice to Palestinians because all they ever do is fight.”

“I think the Israelis are mean.”

“I do too. But the real question is how do we stop it?”

“I don’t know.”

“How do you stop someone being mean on the playground?”

“By telling the teacher.”

“Sure, but sometimes that doesn’t work. And in the case of Israel telling the teacher is like telling the most powerful country in the world, which is the USA. But the USA keeps on giving Israel all the bombs and other weapons it wants. It suits the interests of the rich people who run the USA to keep everyone in the different countries around Israel fighting amongst themselves.”

She looked perplexed.

“So what do you do if the teacher doesn’t stop someone who is being mean?”

“Stop playing with them?”

“Exactly. If you can’t get a teacher or an adult to stop a bully, you stop playing with them. You avoid them. You tell your friends and everyone you know to stop playing with them, to avoid them. If no one plays with a mean person, if everyone avoids a bully, they just might learn that only way to have friends is by being nice to people. Right?”

She nodded.

“Well that’s what we need to do to Israel. We need to boycott it until it stops being mean to Palestinians, until it allows them to have their own country. That’s the only non-violent way of fixing things. Does that make sense?”

She nodded. “Sometimes when I’m bad, Mama makes me have a timeout.”

“That’s right, Israel needs a timeout. You remember when I took you to the candy store and bought you some but you wanted more. And I made the mistake of listening to you and buying you more? And that still wasn’t enough? You wanted even more? Then you threw a temper tantrum. You hit your sister because she wouldn’t give you her lollipop, even though you’d already eaten yours?””

“Mama said it was because of the sugar.”


“Is that what Israel is like?”

“Pretty close.”

She thought about it for a few seconds and then asked: “Grandpa, can you read me a book?”

Gary Engler

Illegal in Canada, but tax-supported in Israel?

22 Oct

In Canada it is illegal to restrict the sale of property to certain ethnic or religious groups but many of our business people and politicians promote an organization that does exactly that in Israel.
Into the 1950s restrictive land covenants in many exclusive neighbourhoods and communities across Canada made it impossible for Jews, blacks, Chinese, Aboriginals and others deemed to be non-“white” to buy property. It was not until after World War II that these policies began to be successfully challenged in court.
In 1948 Annie Noble decided to sell a cottage in the exclusive Beach O’ Pines subdivision on Lake Huron to Bernie Wolf, who was Jewish. During the sale Wolf’s lawyer realized that the original deed for the property contained the following clause: “The lands and premises herein described shall never be sold, assigned, transferred, leased, rented or in any manner whatsoever alienated to, and shall never be occupied or used in any manner whatsoever by any person of the Jewish, Negro or coloured race or blood, it being the intention and purpose of the Grantor, to restrict the ownership, use, occupation and enjoyment of the said recreational development, including the lands and premises herein described, to persons of the white or Caucasian race.”
Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid, but they were opposed by the Beach O’ Pines Protective Association. Both a Toronto court and the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the racist covenant. But, Noble pursued the case — with assistance from the Canadian Jewish Congress — to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a 6-to-1 decision the highest court reversed the lower court’s ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.
The publicity surrounding the case prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants and in 2009 the Conservative government defined the Noble and Wolf v. Alley Supreme Court case “an event of national historic significance” in the battle “for human rights and against discrimination on racial and religious grounds in Canada.”
Six decades after the Supreme Court delivered this blow to racist property covenants, a Canadian charity that discriminates in land use continues to receive significant public support. Ottawa provides financial and political support to the Jewish National Fund, which owns 13 percent of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest. Established internationally in 1901 and nine years later in Canada, the JNF’s bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews.
A 1998 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that the JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the country’s population. According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Similarly, after an Arab Israeli couple was blocked from leasing a house in the mid-1990s, they took their case to Israel’s High Court, and in 2005 the court found that the JNF systematically excluded Palestinian citizens of Israel from leasing its property.
More recently, the U.S. State Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detailed “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel. The report noted, “Approximately 93 percent of land was in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”
For their part, JNF Canada officials are relatively open about the discriminatory character of the organization. In May 2002, JNF Canada’s executive director for eastern Canada, Mark Mendelson, explained: “We are trustees between world Jewry and the land of Israel.” JNF Canada’s head Frank A. Wilson echoed this statement in July 2009: “JNF are the caretakers of the Land of Israel on behalf of its owners, who are the Jewish people everywhere around the world.”
The JNF’s bylaws and operations clearly are incompatible with Canada’s legal rejection of racist property covenants. Yet JNF Canada, which raises about $8 million annually, is a registered charity in this country. As such, it can provide tax credits for donations, meaning that up to 40% of its budget effectively comes from public coffers.
On top of its charitable status, JNF Canada has received various other forms of official support. Alberta and Manitoba, for instance, have signed multimillion dollar accords with the JNF, while Harper’s Conservatives are strong supporters of the organization. Over the past sixteen months ministers Jason Kenney and John Baird have spoken at JNF galas, while Peter Kent toured southern Israel with officials from the organization. On December 1, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to be honoured at the JNF Negev Dinner in Toronto, which will be the first time a sitting Canadian prime minister has spoken to a JNF gala in the organization’s 100-year history.
Does Harper support the JNF’s racist land use policies?
Independent Jewish Voices has launched a campaign to have the JNF’s charitable status revoked for racist land use policies and playing a role in dispossessing Palestinians. On December 1 Harper will be greeted by protesters in Toronto, while a protest is also planned for the JNF gala in Ottawa on October 29.
In 2011, Stop the JNF in England pushed Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw his patron status from the JNF. Additionally, at least 68 members of the U.K. parliament have endorsed a call to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”
Here in Canada it would be nice to see progressive politicians such as NDP MP Libby Davies or Green Party leader Elizabeth May circulate a similar call to their colleagues in the House of Commons. At least some federal politicians must oppose Canada subsidizing racist property restrictions.

Yves Engler

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