Saturday, May 26, 2012

Killing Without Consequence

Seeking justice for Ziad Jilani

June 11 marks two years since Ziad Jilani was killed by Israeli border-policeman Maxim Vinogradov in Wadi Joz, Occupied East Jerusalem. Driving home from Friday prayers as Al Aqsa mosque, Ziad’d windshield was struck by a rock and he swerved, causing a small accident. Border police shot at him, chased and killed him after he had already been shot in the back and was wounded, lying on the ground. He was unarmed. The case against Maxim Vinogradov and his commander Shadi Heir Al Din was closed for lack of evidence despite an abundance of irrefutable evidence that Ziad was executed while he was wounded unarmed and posing no threat to anyone.

Ziad’s death shows how Palestinians can be randomly killed, labeled as a terrorist and no one is prosecuted for the crime. Since the beginning of the second Intifada (2000) at least 6,444 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces. During this time no Jewish Israeli soldier has been charged with murder for killing a Palestinian.

Ziad’s wife Moira, his family and friends, with the al-Mazaan Center for Human Rights, are organizing a campaign to bring his killer to trial. See: Killing Without  Watch a 9-minute video made by Moira, telling about Ziad and what happened on June 11. And sign the petition:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Pinkwashing" by Israel - LGBYTQ friendly?

Here is an interesting statement by the director of the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and sexuality. To read the entire statement, see

Hi, I’m Katherine Franke from Columbia Law School, and I’m sorry I can’t join you today in person at the Equality Forum’s panel on legal issues, I want to thank you for indulging my presence by video.

As you no doubt know, the Equality Forum has chosen Israel as it’s featured nation this year, and for that reason I thought this was a good opportunity to talk a little bit about the state of gay rights in Israel/Palestine. Last January, I was part of the first lgbtq delegation to the West Bank – 16 of us, academics, artists, journalists, community leaders, and even a lesbian rabbi – visited Palestine and Israel in order to get a first hand sense of lesbian, gay, trans and queer politics in the region. While we were there Tel Aviv was voted in poll to be the “world’s best gay city.” Lesbians and gay men have been openly serving in the Israeli military for years, same-sex couples’ marriages have been recognized by the state for some time, and Israel has much better sexual orientation discrimination laws than we do. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren often notes that, in his words: Israel “provides shelter to Palestinian homosexuals seeking safety from Islamists in the West Bank.”

Given all of this, I was really curious to hear what queer Palestinians had to say about the struggles they face. I met with Israeli gay activists in Tel Aviv, as well as the members of Al Qaws, the Palestinian lgbtq group based in Ramallah, and Aswat, an organization of Palestinian lesbians who are citizens of Israel and is located in Haifa. What they told us, and what I witnessed, complicated the story of gay rights in the region considerably. Here are some highlights of what I learned:

While Tel Aviv may have a hot and hunky gay bar scene – the tolerance or acceptance of homosexuality is not as common elsewhere in the country. Israel, like the U.S. is a complex place, and is increasingly religiously conservative – in fact when I was in Jerusalem I saw that many of the public busses are now sex segregated, men sitting in front, women in the back, and in one Jerusalem neighborhood women are banned from walking on the main streets entirely so as to avoid men having contact with them. A recent report documented that almost half of the out gays and lesbians serving in the Israeli military have been sexually harassed by other servicemembers, and a member of the Knesset and Education Minister recently said that gays “are not people like everyone else,” that we are an abomination. Ambassador Oren was mistaken when he said that Israel gives asylum to gay and lesbian Palestinians. Israel does not grant asylum to any

Palestinians, regardless of their sexual orientation, and in fact won’t even let an Israeli who marries a Palestinian share their Israeli citizenship with their spouse. Tel Aviv may have a great gay scene, but most Palestinians will never see it since, regardless of their sexual orientation, because they are not allowed to pass through the checkpoints and the Wall to enter Israel from the West Bank.

What I learned from the queer Palestinians I met was that gay rights organizing in Palestine has to be understood within the context of the Israeli occupation.

The Occupation is a totalizing experience – permeating all parts of life for Palestinians. It is impossible for them to isolate their gay or lesbian selves for special legal and political treatment, but rather the fight for sexual rights is part of a larger struggle for Palestinian self-determination and freedom. Let me give you a particularly salient example: Since 2000 Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has had a policy of blackmailing Palestinians who are gay or who are perceived to be gay and threatening to out them unless they become informants against their own people. For this reason, gay people in Palestine have a reputation as collaborators with Israel – so some of the homophobia gays and lesbians in Palestine experience is the direct product of the occupation itself. Read more….

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Two Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention (without charges or trial), are nearing death after 63 days of a hunger strike protesting Israel’s practice of arresting and holding prisoners without charging them with a crime. Neither they nor their lawyers are permitted to see the charges or evidence against them, so they cannot answer the charges and defend themselves.

Bilal Diab was arrested on 17 August 2011, when Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) came to his home in the village of Kufr Ra’i, near Jenin, at 12:30 am. The family and a large group of friends and neighbors were sitting in the front yard, spending time together late into the night for Ramadan, when approximately 40 masked men, wearing civilian clothes, surrounded the house and entered the yard by climbing the walls of the neighbors’ houses. Bilal, along with four others, were sitting on the roof. After about 10 minutes, Israeli military jeeps arrived, accompanied by an intelligence officer.

The IOF began to throw sound bombs and shoot teargas into the yard, and then forced everyone to stand against the wall. Some of Bilal’s family members and friends were taken to a nearby store, where they were held until the arrest process was over. The rest of the group was kept in the front yard. Bilal’s brother, Issam, was thrown violently to the ground. His hands were shackled behind his back and then two soldiers stepped on his head.

Bilal and four of his friends were questioned for about 15 minutes. His four friends were then released, but Bilal was shackled, blindfolded and thrown to the ground. He was then dragged across the ground for 250 meters until reaching the military jeep. Bilal was taken to Megiddo prison, and then transferred to Salem Detention Center for interrogation.


Bilal was issued an administrative detention order for 6 months on 25 August 2011. As with all other administrative detainees, Bilal’s detention is based on secret information collected by Israeli authorities and available to the military judge but not to Bilal or his lawyer. This practice violates international humanitarian law, which permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, but requires that the authorities follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention. These minimum rules of due process have been clearly violated in Bilal’s case, leaving him without any legitimate means to defend himself. Read more….

Thaer Halahleh was arrested on 26 June 2010 when Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) raided his home in Kharas village, near Hebron. Approximately 50 Israeli soldiers arrived to Thaer’s house at 12:30 am. They knocked on the door, but before giving the family enough time to open it, they broke down the door and went inside. The soldiers then made all the women and children step outside the house and searched the house with two dogs. After about 40 minutes, the IOF told Thaer’s father that they had an order to arrest his son. When his father asked for the reason, the officer only told him that Thaer was a “threat to the public”. This vague phrase is frequently used by the Israeli security service when putting a Palestinian in administrative detention. Thaer was subsequently transferred to Etzion detention center.

Thaer has been consistently targeted for arrest and administrative detention by Israeli authorities. He has been arrested eight times and spent six and a half years in administrative detention total. He was first held in administrative detention in 2000. After many other arrests, he was arrested again in 2008 and spent one year in administrative detention, only to be re-arrested the following year and placed back in administrative detention.

Thaer and his wife, Shireen, have a one-year-old daughter, who was born while he was in prison. His wife was seven months pregnant when he was arrested. His daughter, Lamar, has only seen her father in visits to prison, and has been forced to get to know him through photographs.
Thaer’s mother, wife and daughter are the only family members who have previously had permission to visit him. His father and five brothers have never received permission. Since the beginning of his hunger strike, he has received one visit from his mother, wife and daughter and was then subsequently denied all family visits.

Thaer’s father and brothers have all also been arrested. His brother Shaher was arrested in 2002 and is currently in Rimon prison, serving a 17-year sentence. Read more….

Here is how you can help Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh:
Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh be released immediately and that their administrative detentions not be renewed.

Email Brigadier General Danny Efroni Military Judge Advocate General 6 David Elazar Street Harkiya, Tel Aviv Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526