Friday, May 31, 2013

Three years later - justice still waits for Furkan Dogan

Three years ago today I came downstairs for breakfast at the Everest Hotel in Beit Jala. The hotel sits at the top of the hill overlooking Bethlehem. It's gardens are an oasis of beauty and serenity, even though the Israeli wall has been constructed on the street in front of the hotel.  

On this sunny May morning, the owner of the hotel had brought a large TV into the dining room and everyone was clustered around it, watching in horror the reports of the Israeli army's attack on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, a ship filled with peace activists protesting Israel's blockade of Gaza. The ship was carrying medical and other humanitarian supplies to call the world's attention to Israel's ongoing illegal blockade which was strangling commerce in Gaza. Their mission was humanitarian--both in the supplies they carried and in their intention to call attention to Israel's illegal blockade which cuts Gaza off from the rest of the world. Although Israel claims they "left Gaza" in 2005, Israel still controls everything--goods and people--that enters or leaves Gaza.

Furkan Dogan, an 18-year-old Turkish and American citizen, was one of the nine people killed by Israeli army forces who boarded the ship in the middle of the night, rappelling down ropes from a helicopter, while soldiers fired on the ship from the helicopter. Dogan was shot in the face, apparently while he was lying down on the deck. Details are reported in a UN Human Rights Council report. Their conclusions about what happened on the Mavi Marmara begins on page 25.

On that morning three years ago in our hotel in Beit Jala, our Israeli tour guide was especially distraught – saddened and horrified that her government could perpetrate such violence against unarmed peace activists. So this event is personal for me – and two weeks ago I sat in the roof garden of our hotel in Istanbul, looking out over the blue sea for which the ship was named, remembering Furkan Dogan and the other eight people killed on the ship.

The US has never demanded an in dependent investigation into the death of this American citizen. Israel's military investigated itself and found no wrongdoing (surprise!). And the UN Human Rights Council issued their report, which finds that Israeli forces committed "a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law. Here is a portion of their report concerning what they determined about the circumstances of Furkan Dogan's death:

"Furkan Do─čan, a 19-year-old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back."  

Please help Furkan's father (in photo below with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Secretary of State Kerry), who is asking the US to investigate his son's death: Sign the petition here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Week in April

You may not have heard about these things that happened in Israel and Palestine during the week of April 21. These are a few of the news items I found:
  • Israel demolished 22 structures in 8 locations across the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing 28 people, including 18 children, and affecting 120 others, including 57 children - on April 23 and 24
  • Israeli forces uprooted over 700 olive trees near Arraba village in the northern West Bank on April 25. The trees belonged to Palestinians in Arraba, south of Jenin, close to the Israeli settlement Mevo Dotan
  • Israeli forces destroyed over 1,300 olive trees in the south Hebron hills of the southern West Bank on April 23.
  • The Palestinian Authority secured the release of three children, ages 11-13, who were in Israeli custody, arrested for allegedly throwing stones. Under Israeli military orders, a Palestinian child can be held for up to 188 days before being charged with an offense and for up to two years between being charged and tried. Most Palestinian children are held for throwing stones, which holds a maximum sentence of 20 years.
  • 4,800 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, including 236 children and 164 “administrative detainees” who are jailed without charge or trial.
  • A bill introduced in the US Senate by Sen.Barbara Boxer would sanction Israel’s discrimination against American citizens traveling through Ben Gurion airport—exempting Israel from reciprocity, allowing Israel to use racial profiling to detain and interrogate Americans with Arab names.
  • A Catholic monastery and convent in a secluded valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel's separation wall on its land on April 26. The wall will surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from the monastery and from most of its land, the lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides below the Israeli settlements. A convent school teaches 400 local children
    Bethlehem "Right to Movement" Marathon, 2013

  • The US State Department issued a report that Israel practices “institutional and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens—in education, demolition and confiscation of property, lack of infrastructure (electricity, water, municipal services), use of excessive force against civilians, prohibiting family reunification, severe restriction of movement
  • Bethlehem hosted more than 650 runners in the “Right to Movement” marathon, including runners from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The winner of the men's marathon was a Palestinian runner from Jericho, Abdel Nasser Awajna, who was flanked by Palestinian youth as he crossed the finish line with a time of 3:09.