Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Obama Administration Witch-Hunt Prosecutions

More Obama Administration Witch-Hunt Targets - by Stephen Lendman

The FBI's top six news stories for the week ending September 25 were about arrests and/or indictments of suspected Muslim terrorists. Combined, they became the latest national security targets in America's war on Islam.

Waged relentlessly since 9/11, it continues unabated under Obama for the same political advantage George Bush sought by stoking fear to be used as a pretext to wage imperial wars and crack down ruthlessly at home with police state efficiency - today against Muslims, Latino immigrants, environmental and animal rights activists, and street protestors, tomorrow against anyone voicing dissent.

Najibullah Zazi - The FBI's Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

On September 24, an FBI press release announced the indictment of Najibullah Zazi, an Aurora, CO-based legal US resident from Afghanistan on a conspiracy charge "to use weapons of mass destruction (explosive bombs) against persons or property in the United States" based on allegations that he "received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10 in furtherance of his criminal plans."

He was also charged with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI regarding international and domestic terrorism. In addition, the indictment alleges that he and others traveled in interstate and foreign commerce and used email and the Internet to carry out his "criminal plans." If convicted, Zazi faces a potential life sentence even though he's likely another victim of police state justice in Washington's war on Islam.

New York Times writers David Johnston and Scott Shane called it "One of the Most Serious (Cases) in Years based on documents filed against Zazi that "he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb - hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid - and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects." He made his purchases at a beauty shop, hardly the sort of venue for terrorist supplies.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common bleaching agent and mild disinfectant. Acetone is an inflammable organic solvent used in nail polish remover, making plastics and for cleaning purposes in laboratories. Hydrochloric acid is used in oil production, ore reduction, food processing, pickling, and metal cleaning. It's also found in the stomach in diluted form.

Zazi's indictment alleges that he learned explosives techniques at a Pakistani Al-Queda training camp, that he stored nine pages of "formulations and instructions" on his laptop regarding the chemicals he bought for "the manufacture and handling of initiating explosives, main explosives charges, (and) explosives detonators and components of a fuzing system," and that he planned to attack New York commuter trains or another major target on the eighth 9/11 anniversary, even though he built no bombs and the chemicals he bought can be freely purchased over-the-counter by anyone.

Nonetheless, Jarret Brachman, author of Global Jihadism and a government terrorist consultant, said despite more details to be learned, the case was "shaping up to be one of the most serious terrorist bomb plots developed in the United States," one resembling the London July 2005 underground attacks.

On July 7, 2005, multiple mock terror drills occurred at the same time as the transit system attack. In addition, other UK and American mock drills took place on the same day and exact time as actual "terror" attacks. On the 9/11 morning, in fact, at the same time the twin towers were struck, the CIA in Virginia was running "a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building." Described by the administration as "a bizarre coincidence," the media never mentioned it. The story was buried and forgotten, and no investigation followed,

Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University's Center on Law and Security called other post-9/11 prosecutions "fantasy terrorism cases," yet, citing scary ingredients, preemptively sees Zazi as "the case the government kept claiming it had but never did," even though conclusive evidence is absent, Zazi denies involvement in a terror plot, and by law he's innocent until proved guilty.

Even The Times acknowledges that:

-- veteran counterterrorism investigators admit that important facts remain unknown, including whether Zazi selected a specific target, date, and recruited others to help;

-- no operational bomb exists, according to DOJ officials; and

-- it's unclear why a Colorado-based man drove to New York without the chemicals he bought at home, perhaps indicating they were for another purpose, not terrorism.

Yet US prosecutor Tim Neff told a Denver federal judge that Zazi "was intent on being in New York on 9/11 (and that he) was in the throes of making a bomb and attempting to perfect his formulation." He called circumstantial evidence a "chilling, disturbing sequence of events" pointing to a possible terror attack, but where's the bomb and what's the motive?

Others Arrested and Charged with Zazi - The FBI's Second Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

An earlier September 20 FBI press release announced two others arrested with Zazi "on charges of making false statements to federal agents in an ongoing terror investigation" - his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi and Ahmad Wais Afzali.

"Each of the defendants has been charged by criminal complaint with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism." If convicted, Afzali and Zazi's father face up to eight years in prison. His son may be incarcerated for life, yet the FBI admits that:

"It is important to note that we have no specific information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack," nor can they find a bomb.

In other words, none exists nor evidence of a motive or plan to detonate one, yet the FBI arrested and charged three men on dubious suspicions and got highly-charged media reports to suggest "a big one" was imminent.

It's typical of how the Justice Department operates - shoot, ready, aim. In other words, first arrest, charge, and generate fear through the media, then invent a plot, concoct evidence to prove it, indict suspects, bring them to trial, and intimidate juries to convict because no one wants terrorists in their neighborhood even though the likelihood is virtually nil.

The September 20 press release merely added that:

On August 28, 2008, "Najibullah Zazi flew to Peshawar, Pakistan from Newark International Airport via Geneva, Switzerland and Doha, Qatar. CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) records further reflect that (Zazi) traveled from Peshawar to John F. Kennedy International Airport on or about Jan. 15, 2009."

"On September 10, 2009, New York City Police Department (NYPD) detectives met with defendant Afzali (a Flushing, NY resident), whom the NYPD had utilized as a source in the past," suggesting that the DOJ will use him against the younger Zazi and offer leniency if he cooperates - a familiar tactic to frame other innocent victims and show how law enforcement is removing "bad guys," targeted for political advantage.

Zazi's Background

According to The New York Times, he was born on August 10, 1985 in a small Eastern Afghanistan village. In 1991 or 1992, his family moved to the Peshawar area of Pakistan - "ground zero in the US jihadist war and home to many Al-Queda operatives," according to the DOJ.

In the early 1990s, Mohammed Zazi, his father, came to Flushing, New York, drove a cab, worked 12-hour shifts, lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and prayed at the nearby Hazrat Abu Bakr Mosque. The younger Zazi was much like others in his high school, but he did poorly in his studies and dropped out before graduating. According to his step-uncle, Mr. Rasooli, "He was a dumb kid, believe me," but tried to make enough money to help his father.

He worked as a coffee cart vendor on New York streets, and said he drove back to New York to clear up related issues. According to an old customer, Imran Khan, he was back at his regular spot on the morning of September 11, 2009. Khan and others saw him joking and laughing with some old regulars, not heading off to detonate bombs.

In addition, an acquaintance named Rahul recalled Zazi saying about the 9/11 attacks: "I don't know how people could do things like this. I'd never do anything like that." Other friends agreed that he abhorred violence and called terrorism at odds with the teachings of Islam. He was a devout Muslim, grew his beard long, and occasionally wore tunics instead of more Western-style clothes.

On a 2006 trip to Pakistan, he married and hoped later to be able to afford to bring his new wife to America. Each year, he flew back to see her, including on August 28, 2008, the FBI-announced trip in its press release. Two months after he returned the following January, he filed for bankruptcy and moved to Colorado to live more cheaply and be close to an aunt and uncle in Aurora.

He worked as a shuttle van driver at Denver International Airport, applied for a limousine license, underwent an airport background check, then drove a van for the Big Sky Company and later ABC Transportation. In July, 2009, his parents left New York and joined him.

On September 25, New York Times writer Michael Wilson headlined his story, "From Smiling Coffee Vendor to Terror Suspect, and said:

"according to federal investigators, (Zazi worked on bomb materials) in a hotel suite he rented in Aurora," but unexplained was how he could afford it on his small income along with his regular apartment. Yet, investigators "say chemical residue they found in the kitchen there indicates he tried to heat up the beauty supplies (he bought) to help convert them in a bomb." But unexplained was how someone called "dumb" would be smart enough to make bombs for potentially the "biggest terror case since 9/11," according to CBS News. In federal court on September 29, he pleaded not guilty to all charges, but was held without bail pending trial

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi - The FBI's Third Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

On September 24, an FBI press release "announced today that Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, (was arrested in downtown Dallas) and charged in a federal criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction....after he placed an 'inert/inactive' car bomb" near a 60-story office tower. "Smadi, a Jordanian citizen in the US illegally....repeatedly espoused his desire to commit violent jihad and has been the focus of an undercover FBI investigation."

He "made clear his intention to serve as a soldier for Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and to conduct violent jihad. Undercover FBI agents, posing as members of an al Queda 'sleeper' cell, were introduced to Smadi, who repeatedly indicated to them that he came to the US for the specific purpose of committing 'Jihad for the sake of God'....against those he deemed to be enemies of Islam."

On September 27, James C. McKinley, Jr. headlined his New York Times story, "Friends' Portrait of Texas Bomb Plot Suspect at Odds With FBI." They called him an extremely outgoing young man, who smoked marijuana and drank beer with his friends in the complex where he lived. He did endless favors for them, held barbecues, and baby-sat for neighborhood children.

He also went to local dance clubs featuring Arabic techno music, and at home, had friends over to watch action movies on his widescreen TV. A Ms. Deloach said He "came here because it was really strict out there in Jordan. He wanted freedom." According to McKinley:

"That no one here suspected (him) of hating Americans suggests he was either an extremely talented undercover terrorist or a troubled young man at war with himself, going out of the way to befriend Americans he lived with while, the authorities say, plotting to kill thousands of people when he surfed radical Islamic chat rooms online." Or perhaps he's neither of the above, just an ordinary person justifiably angry about Washington's war on Islam but not plotting a terror bombing to retaliate.

According to his father in Jordan:

The charges against his son are "completely fabricated and in our family we never condoned terrorism." He added that his other son Hussein, aged 18, was also arrested in California, apparently related to Hosam's case. They both entered the country legally in 2007 on student visas.

The Smadi case is a typical FBI sting, much like others designed to entrap unwitting victims, this time with undercover agents, other times with paid informants usually charged with crimes and offered leniency for their cooperation.

One of many earlier cases involved the "Fort Dix Five" - innocent Muslim men convicted of conspiracy and other charges related to plans to kill as many soldiers as possible on the Army base, a ludicrous charge but it stuck. Described as "radical Islamists," the media played along and the result was predictable even though there was no plot and no crime, just a familiar FBI sting operation to entrap them, then intimidate a jury to convict.

According to Anthony Barkow, former federal prosecutor and current executive director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University's School of Law:

"A person (often) is entrapped when he has no previous intention to violate the law and is persuaded to commit the crime by government agents."

Further, US conspiracy law prosecutions can be based on such thin evidence that former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once said it "constitutes a serious threat to fairness in our administration of justice." According to other legal experts, it let's prosecutors target people they don't like, want to convict to set an example, or simply show government is removing dangerous terror threats. Today, most often they're Muslims or environmental or animal rights activists, and virtually never is a charged suspect guilty. Yet they're usually convicted and sentenced to hard time in federal prisons - the fate now awaiting Smadi and the others when their cases come to trial.

Daniel Patrick Boyd - The FBI's Fourth Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

On September 24, the FBI announced a "Superseding Indictment in Boyd Matter Charg(ing) Defendants with Conspiring to Murder US Military Personnel (and) Weapons Violations.

Last July 27, dozens of heavily armed Swat and hostage rescue team members arrested Boyd and six other men (the so-called North Carolina 7) on terrorist-related charges, claiming they "conspir(ed) to provide material support to terrorists (and to) murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad" plus other related charges.

The DOJ also alleged that "Boyd is a veteran of terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan who, over the past three years, has conspired with others in this country to recruit and help young men travel overseas in order to kill." No evidence was cited, just baseless accusations then trumpeted by the media and others on the far right.

The new indictment includes "all of the charges alleged in the original indictment of July 22, 2009 (plus) new (ones) against three defendants, Daniel Patrick Boyd, aka 'Saifullah,' Hysen Sherifi, and (Boyd's son) Zakariya Boyd, aka 'Zak.' " New accusations claim the three men:

"conspir(ed) to murder US military personnel (and to do it) Boyd undertook reconnaissance of the Marine Corp Base located in Quantico, Va., and obtained maps of the base in order to plan an attack on Quantico. (He) possessed armor piercing ammunition, stating it was 'to attack the Americans.' "

It's the same ludicrous charge made against the Fort Dix Five defendants - the preposterous idea that a few men planned to wage war on the US Army. For Boyd and the others, to do it against the Marines, especially at a time of heightened awareness about possible terrorist attacks with military police alerted to prevent suspicious individuals, notably civilians, from getting through base security. Yet, that's precisely what the new indictment charges, and, if convicted, the men face potential life sentences for offenses they don't plan to commit.

But according to Attorney General Eric Holder:

"These additional charges hammer home the grim reality that today's homegrown terrorists are not limiting their violent plans to locations overseas, but instead are willing to set their sights on American citizens and American targets, right here at home," including the Army and Marines.

Michael C. Finton - The FBI's Fifth Top Story for the Week Ending September 25

On September 24, an FBI press release announced that "Michael C. Finton, aka., 'Talib Islam,' has been arrested on charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at the federal building in Springfield, Ill."

Another FBI sting was involved, again with undercover agents in a scheme now all too familiar, yet the public seems none the wiser.

According to the FBI:

Finton "dealt with undercover FBI agents and confidential sources who continuously monitored his activities up to the time of his arrest. Further, in his alleged efforts, Finton drove a vehicle containing inactive explosives to the Paul Finley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield and attempted to detonate them. (He's) charged....with one count of attempted murder of federal officers or employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (aka, an inert, FBI-supplied explosive device)." If convicted, he faces possible life imprisonment.

On September 27, New York Times writer Dirk Johnson headlined "Suspect in Illinois Bomb Plot 'Didn't Like America Very Much," so he planned to blow up part of it. He worked as a fry cook at Seals Fish & Chicken in Springfield, IL and is described by co-workers, according to Johnson, as "cheerful and polite, but unwavering when it came to religion and politics." So are many people, but that doesn't make them "terrorists."

Neighbors in his apartment building called him "mild-mannered" in expressing shock about the charges. A Brandon Jackson said they played chess, card games and watched soccer on television, after which Finton took him out for pizza. Vivian Laster was "baffled" that this "nice young man" was charged with such a plot. Others said he was excited to be a Muslim and occasionally he wrote articles for the Richland Community College student newspaper about campus-related entertainment activities, not the usual topic for a jihadist.

He took the nickname Talib Islam (student of Islam) after converting to the Islamic faith while in prison from 2001 - 2006 on charges of aggravated robbery and battery. The FBI claimed it found a document he wrote about "awaiting a return letter from John Walker Lindh." Called an "American Taliban," he was captured, held and tortured in Afghanistan in 2001 based on false charges that he was a Taliban terrorist fighting US forces. In fact, he only arrived in the country four weeks before 9/11 to help the Taliban against the Afghan warlords supported by Washington.

FBI agents arranged a sting to entrap Finton and succeeded like against the Fort Dix Five and many others. Yet according to prosecutors, he "hope(d) that (his alleged attack) would cause American troops to be pulled back out of Afghanistan and Iraq," said the bombing would be a "historic occasion (to achieve his) biggest dream (of) bringing down the US government," and that he would be "rewarded for his intentions."

Yet court papers said he was suspicious about being "set up," but apparently not clever enough to avoid being manipulated to carry out the alleged plot he's now charged with. An employee at the federal building in question, a Mr. Meng, was "remind(ed that) there are evil people out there." True enough, but not the ones he imagines.

Betim Kaziu - The FBI's Sixth Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

On September 24, an FBI press release announced "An indictment....charging Betim Kaziu, a US citizen and resident of Brooklyn, with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists."

Allegedly, "in early January 2009, (he) devised a plan to travel abroad for the purpose of joining a radical foreign fighter group and to take up arms against perceived enemies of Islam. Kaziu allegedly boarded a flight at John F. Kennedy Airport on Feb. 19, 2009, and traveled to Cairo, Egypt, where he took steps to continue on to Pakistan to obtain training and other support for violent activities....(He) also attempted to join Al-Shabbab, a radicalized, militant (pro-Al-Queda) insurgency group (now) designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State."

In addition, "Kaziu made efforts to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans to fight against US armed forces (and on multiple occasions attempted) to purchase weapons in Egypt. Untimately, Kaziu traveled to Kosovo where he was arrested by Kosovar law enforcement authorities in late August 2009." Afterwards, he told his family that he was visiting a friend when the house was raided, and the weapons seized belonged to his friend's father.

On September 24, Ray Rivera headlined his New York Times article, "Brooklyn Man Is Accused of Trying to Aid Terrorists," according to an indictment unsealed in Federal District Court. Yet family members expressed shock, his sister, Sihana saying "This is totally unlike him. (He) has a big heart" and was never violent.

Kaziu's case is similar to the first indictment against Daniel Patrick Boyd and the other North Carolina 7 defendants. The DOJ indictment claimed that from 1989 - 1992, Boyd got "violent jihad" training abroad and "allegedly fought in Afghanistan" against the Soviets. Then from November 2006 through July 2009, he and the others "conspired to provide material support and resources to terrorists, including currency, training, transportation and personnel" plus other charges.

Federal authorities accused them of "loving jihad, fighting for Allah, and loathing a US military presence at Muslim holy sites." Self-styled terrorism expert and notorious Islamophobe Steven Emerson highlighted the charges and claimed the FBI "found a fatwa, or religious edict, in Boyd's house saying Muslims have 'an individual duty to kill Americans and their allies.' "

Of course, Emerson, others on the far right, and the DOJ are notorious for manipulating, doctoring, or inventing evidence to target innocent Muslims, incite fear, and intimidate juries to convict. The charges against Kaziu are as likely bogus as the ones above and against numerous other victims targeted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence and charity. It's the wrong time to be Muslim in America and vital to know that we're all equally vulnerable.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land

Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land - by Stephen Lendman

Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.

Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.

B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.

Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.

Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.

Some Background on Gush Emunim

Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.

Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.

From Ofra to Colonizing the Entire West Bank for a Greater Israel

In their book, "Lords of the Land: The War over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories," Israeli authors Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar described the beginning as follows:

"Ofra...., which was established in trickery and on false pretexts, flourished into the heart of the Israeli consensus because of its respectable appearance, the settler's flagship institutions that were established there, and the mellifluous discourse of some of its better-known inhabitants."

Respectability, however, hid its dark side. Besides lying on registered Palestinian land, the area's borders weren't defined. A community plan was never approved, and required building permits were never issued for construction. As a result, Ofra is now the largest unauthorized West Bank outpost, yet it continues to exist. It has 2700 residents in well-established northern and southern neighborhoods with extensive community services, including three schools, a day-care center, several kindergartens, a Society for the Protection of Nature field school, women's religious schools, various public institutions, businesses, and light industry.

It's registered as a cooperative society, a legal entity offering many advantages. Their private, not public bodies. Their documents and files aren't open to the public, and they can restrict membership solely to others as ideologically committed as themselves.

Ofra's Illegality Under Israeli Law

Besides international law, Ofra violates local law under which a settlement must meet four criteria to be legal:

-- Israeli government authorization for its establishment;

-- the settlement's jurisdictional area approved under the military commander's order;

-- a lawfully approved Civil Administration planning authorities' plan; and

-- settlements must lie on state land and/or land purchased by Israelis and registered under their name in the Land Registry.

At its inception in 1975, no government authorization was given. Yet, on July 26, 1977, Israel's Ministerial Committee for Settlement recognized Ofra as a civilian community. The Civil Administration told B'Tselem that "no area of jurisdiction has been defined for Ofra, which is one of the communities of the Meteh Binyamin Regional Council in accordance with the schedule to the Order Concerning Administration of Regional Councils (Judea and Samaria) (Number 783), 1979."

The still-in-force Jordanian planning law states that building permits are required for construction, including structure additions. Lawfully approved, detailed plan outlines are also required. In 1971, the IDF military commander signed Order No. 418. It left most Jordanian law provisions intact, but "made significant changes to the structure and composition of the planning institutions."

International law is precise. It lets occupying powers change existing laws only for reasons of military necessity or to provide humanitarian aid for the local population. Israel did it anyway. It cancelled local Palestinian planning and building committees, transferring their authority to the Higher Planning Council subcommittees operating within the Civil Administration on the Beit El army base.

Special local settlement planning committees were also appointed with powers given them by the military commander. It let them issue building permits, "pursuant to valid detailed outline plans." It also gave the Higher Planning Council power "to exempt any person from the obligation to obtain a (required) license (building permit)."

B'Tselem requested information on Ofra's planning process. In response, the Civil Administration replied:

"The build-up area of Ofra is not located in the planning area of a local or special committee. There are no approved or deposited planning schemes concerning the built-up area of Ofra. No building permits or exemptions from building permits were given to structures in Ofra."

Proceeding anyway, Ofra leaders broke the law by bypassing planning procedures and preparing their own "building rules." As a result, they're legally invalid, and no building permits should have been issued under them. Further, Ofra isn't situated with the boundaries of a planning area where local or special local committees have authority. Construction was authorized anyway.

In May 2008, aerial photos showed 570 structures built, at least 400 of which are single-family homes. None were authorized. All are illegal.

The Mandatory Outline Plan

Lawful building permits may only be issued under Mandatory Regional Outline Plan RJ/5. Approved in 1942 and still in force, it covers the land on which Ofra lies. It's designated for agricultural use with construction allowed under strict conditions:

-- landowner approval must be gotten;

-- only one residential structure per original plot may be built provided the area is at least 1000 square meters; even if much larger, the "one" rule applies; and

-- distances between structures and plot boundaries must be at least five meters.

Ofra construction failed to comply on all counts. "Residential dwellings and public buildings have been built in total disregard of the provisions of the Mandatory plan."

In October 1979, Israel's High Court ruled that privately-owned Palestinian land seizures by military requisition order were only lawful if they served "a clear security interest." Yet a month later, the government decided to establish settlements only on "state-owned land" without ever defining it properly.

Contrary to valid Jordanian law, Israeli policy states that "land that is not registered in the Land Registry, and has never been cultivated or is not suitable for cultivation, or was only cultivated in the distant past, is state land."

However, land registered to Palestinians is their land and may not be declared government property. Yet Israel twisted the law to declare 16% of the West Bank state land besides another 14% pre-1967 under Jordanian rule giving Israel 30% ownership and growing.

B'Tselem petitioned the Civil Administration for clarification, clearly marked on a map to show:

-- all defined state land;

-- land confiscated for public purposes;

-- land seized "pursuant to military requisition orders;"

-- land classified as "absentee property," belonging to Palestinians who fled in 1967 and didn't return; and

-- closed military zone areas.

The information gotten showed that "the portion of the built-up area of Ofra, or the area adjacent to it, that lies on requisitioned or confiscated land is very small, except for the land that the Civil Administration contends was confiscated by the Jordanians for the army camp."

By May 2008, Ofra's built-up area covered over 670 dunams (about 170 acres). About 27% of it was seized under Expropriation Order No 77/E (November 1977). Civil Administration information claimed it was "expropriated by the Jordanian government for a public purpose" and not initiated by Israel. Official documents, however, show that "the expropriation process was not completed." Also, Order 77/E wasn't recorded in the Land Registry, but the Civil Administration insisted that it's state land nonetheless even though registration was incomplete and thus invalid.

B'Tselem calls the land "not state land. (Therefore), Order 77/E, issued by the Israeli military commander in 1977, is a new expropriation order, issued more than two years after the settlers of Ofra took over the abandoned houses of the Jordanian army camp and some three months after the government of Israel decided to recognize Ofra as a permanent community."

The entire scheme was illegal. Israel's official position puts privately-owned Palestinian land off-limits for settlement construction because it's not for a "public purpose" under (still in force) Jordanian law. According to Plia Albeck, former State Attorney Office's Civil Division head:

Israel "may expropriate land for public purposes in the region, but regarding establishment of a new community, whose residents are Israeli citizens and at the time of establishment of the community do not live in the region, it is very doubtful that it is an expropriation for a public purpose in the region."

Former attorney general Yitzhak Zamir agreed in saying that "it is impossible to act under Jordanian law to expropriate private land for public purpose" to build settlements. Order 77/E was thus illegal and so is Ofra.

Israel also expropriated dozens of additional acres for an expanded area "not recognized as legitimate under international" or local (Jordanian) law. Further, most of Ofra's built-up land is not included under Order 77/E. In responding to recently filed petitions in Israel's High Court, "the state admitted that (Ofra's built-up area) contains additional lots that are recorded on the name of Palestinians...." It amounts to at least 58% of Ofra's built-up area.

The Ofra Cooperative Association, however, claims that it's held the land for many years without registered owners disputing it through legal action, so the land was lawfully theirs. The State Attorney's Office disagreed in stating "no proof had been made that the land was purchased by your client (and saying it is constitutes a) mere claim." The Civil Administration also provided no proof of purchase.

By law, all claimed West Bank land must be recorded in the Land Register under the name of the purchasers. Failure to do so is a crime. Ofra settlers said they failed to comply to "protect the lives of the Palestinian sellers" even though there were none. Also, according to Israeli attorney Plia Albeck, 90% of supposed West Bank purchased land involved forged "fictitious" documents.

As a result, Palestinian rights were grossly breached because Ofra construction "prevent(ed) them from possessing and exercising their ownership rights in the land and from gaining a living from it and from its agricultural produce."

Under Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, 5752 - 1992, section three states: "there shall be no violation of the property of a person." Illegal settlement construction on Palestinian-owned land constitutes a grave breach. International law affirms it. Besides Fourth Geneva and numerous UN resolutions, Article 46 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states:

"Family honor and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated."

Ofra construction violates this law, "extending beyond the prohibition on establishment of the settlements." It denies Palestinians:

-- the right to live on their own land, develop it, raise crops on it, and gain other benefits;

-- thousands of additional dunams that Ofra seized for future development;

-- more still for infrastructure, including for-Jews only roads; and it

-- "has ramifications for other Palestinian communities" by preventing free movement between them and letting all settlements expropriate more West Bank and East Jerusalem land.

Conclusions

Under international and local laws, Ofra's settlement is illegal. No jurisdictional area was set for it. It doesn't have a valid outline plan, and at least 58% of its land is lawfully registered under Palestinian names in the Land Registry.

Israel's High Court held that settlements may not be built on such land. Yet it was and still is. Also, the military order pertaining to Ofra states that "the jurisdictional area of an Israeli regional council shall not include (privately-owned) Palestinian lands."

Israel's Civil Administration is prohibited from approving plans for Israeli communities on land registered to Palestinians. The state didn't authorize Ofra, but did nothing to stop settlement construction and continues letting them expand.

"Officially, Ofra is a recognized settlement and not an unauthorized outpost." But that doesn't make it lawful. International and local law obligate Israel to disband it, return the land to its rightful owners, and provide compensatory damages. And that's besides the greater issue of other unauthorized outposts, all 130 illegal settlements, a sovereign Palestinian state, the lawful right of return, and decades of unaddressed abuses depriving Palestinians from having the freedom, equity and justice they deserve.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Association of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Police State Raids Against Immigrants

Police State Raids Against Immigrants - by Stephen Lendman

In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established its largest investigative and enforcement branch - the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm (ICE) "as a law enforcement agency for the post-9/11 era, to integrate enforcement authorities against criminal and terrorist activities, including the fights against human trafficking and smuggling violent transnational gangs and sexual predators on children (who are) criminal (and) terrorist" threats to the nation.

Along with Muslims, Latinos are its prime targets, often using militarized unconstitutional tactics against vulnerable, defenseless people. Post-9/11, the Bush administration initiated them, and they continue under Obama.

On May 23, 2007, as a senator, Obama said:

"The time to fix our broken immigration system is now. We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace."

Then on July 8, 2009, Wall Street Journal online writer Cam Simpson said on politicalforum.com that:

"The Obama administration (today) said it would move forward with a Bush-era program aimed at cracking down on illegal-immigrant workers and their employers, just as Republicans in the Senate are pushing legislation that would mandate a similar move."

With about 10% of DHS' $55 billion FY 2010 budget, ICE will continue targeting Latinos at the border, at work sites, and at their homes with some recent examples below:

-- in a September 18 press release, ICE's Miami field office announced it "removed" 423 "criminal aliens from 36 countries" in August, charging them with drugs traffickin, robbery, and various fraudulent activities;

-- on September 11, 23 alleged gang members faced deportation after being being arrested in a four-day operation; unmentioned was whether any of them are undocumented;

-- on August 25, 15 Latinos were arrested in San Antonio, TX on alleged drugs trafficking charges;

-- on August 11, 50 arrests were made on charges of "enter(ing) into sham marriages to gain citizenship," including those undocumented and their US citizen wives;

-- on July 31, 53 alleged South Florida gang members and associates were arrested in a two-day operation; some "were found to be in violation of the immigration law (and) were processed for removal from the United States;"

-- on July 31, eight San Francisco area alleged gang members and associates were seized "during a six hour surge;" some were "foreign nationals who are being processed for deportation;"

-- on June 30, 116 alleged gang members, their associates and "immigration status violators" were targeted in a five day operation in Houston, Beaumont, and Corpus Christi, TX;

-- on June 30 in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, 81 others were arrested; foreign-born ones seized were from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Laos;

-- on February 25, 28 "illegal workers" were arrested at Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham, WA during an earlier Obama administration raid; and

On February 18, the Washington Post reported that "immigration officers had been raiding targets across Prince George's and Montgomery counties all night long in search of fugitive and criminal immigrants but only netted a handful."

Earlier, a Baltimore ICE supervisor warned about being well behind "a Washington-mandated annual quota of 1000 arrests per team" and ordered his agents to seize more saying: "I don't care where you get more arrests, we need more numbers," and apparently he meant from any street corner, work place, or personal residence. An hour later, 24 Latino men were seized at a nearby 7-Eleven store.

Since established in 2003, Congress appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to let ICE "bring in tens of thousands of immigrants who have not evaded a deportation order or committed a crime...." Since then, it continued the operation, and, during 2007 and 2008, expanded tactical home entries using militarized agents for illegal warrantless raids without the consent of their owners.

On July 26, The New York Times reported that:

"Federal immigration squads with shotguns and automatic weapons (are) forcing their way into citizens' homes without warrants or lawful consent, shoving open doors and climbing through windows in predawn darkness, pulling innocent people from their beds, holding groggy occupants at gunpoint, (and) taking people away without explanation - after invading the wrong house."

"This is a true account of the depths to which the Bush administration sank in its twilight, when immigration enforcement was ramped up to a feverish extreme." Shamefully, these practices continue under Obama.

A recent New York City Cardozo School of Law Immigration Justice Clinic (IJC) study titled "Constitution on Ice: A Report on Immigration Home Raid Operations" examined the problem in New York, New Jersey, and Long Island from 2006 - 2008 and included other examples in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia and elsewhere. Researchers documented a nationwide assault on poor immigrant workers, the great majority being Latinos. Many times ICE broke into homes, seizing all occupants "without legal basis."

IJC discovered a systematic pattern of misconduct "suggest(ing it) may be a widespread national phenomenon reaching beyond" the areas studied. It involves:

-- illegal ICE agent entries with no legal authority;

-- illegally arresting people randomly, including innocent ones in their bedrooms;

-- conducting lawless searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and

-- making arrests based on ethnicity, race, appearance, and English proficiency.

These police state tactics have no place in a democracy, yet ICE (on its web site) lists dozens of monthly swat-type raids, often against innocent people and their families in their homes. IJC described them this way:

A typical home raid has "a team of heavily armed ICE agents approaching a private residence in the pre-dawn hours, purportedly seeking an individual believed to have committed some civil immigration violation. Agents, armed only with administrative warrants, which do not grant them legal authority to enter private dwellings, then push their way in when residents answer the door, enter through unlocked doors or windows or, in some cases, physically break into homes."

All occupants are then seized and interrogated with no legal authority, and often "no target is apprehended." These aren't random, standard operating procedures in violation of the Fourth Amendment that protects citizens and non-citizens alike. The Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) conducts them cooperatively with the Office of Investigations (OI), charged with investigating national security threats, immigration violations, and various other suspected crimes.

Home raid operations include:

-- the National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP) using over 100 seven-person Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) to target individuals for deportation;

-- Operation Cross Check focusing on specific immigrant populations or ones working in certain industries like dangerous, low-paying meat packing operations, unattractive to workers able to find safer, better-paying jobs;

-- Operation Community Shield (OCS) against suspected immigrant gang members; and

-- Operation Predator against suspected immigrant sex offenders.

Most often, high priority targets aren't seized. Instead, "collateral arrests of mere (suspected) immigration status violators" are made, and since 2006 the numbers expanded eight-fold because of primarily relying on home raids despite their illegality.

On April 15, 1980 in Payton v. New York, the Supreme Court ruled that "The Fourth Amendment....prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsenual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine (criminal or civil) felony arrest." Such "entry....is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed."

Searches are also prohibited. Only an adult resident's consent permits either or both. Administrative warrants have no authority, and police may only interrogate suspects based on "reasonable suspicion" of unlawful activity. "In addition, agents can never rely solely on the racial or ethnic appearance or the limited English proficiency of an individual to justify a seizure."

DHS' own regulations cover these restrictions, and ICE's Detention and Deportation Officer's Field Manual states:

"Warrants of Deportation and Removal are administrative rather than criminal, and do not grant the authority to breach doors. Thus informed consent must be obtained from the occupant of the residence prior to entering."

Nonetheless, "empirical data drawn from ICE's own arrest records (obtained by Freedom of Information Act lawsuits) strongly suggest a significant and disturbing pattern of (agency) misconduct during home raids" during which over 1000 people were seized. The evidence is alarming and shows "an unacceptable level of illegal entries" in clear violation of the law. In addition, most arrest records indicate "no basis for the initial seizure" and a disturbing racial profiling pattern against Latinos.

In recent years, defense lawyers increasingly have used suppression motions to prevent illegally obtained evidence being used. Earlier, they were rare in immigration courts, given the Supreme Court's decision in INS v. Lopez-Mendoza (July 5, 1984) that deportation proceedings are:

"civil action(s) to determine a person's eligibility to remain in this country....not to punish past transgressions. (As such) various protections (including suppression motions don't generally) apply....in a deportation hearing."

In immigration courts, they're not standard procedures. Since 2006, however, they're more often used because the High Court also "reasoned that the exclusionary rule may (apply) in immigration proceedings for egregious and widespread Fourth Amendment violations" even though prevailing in immigration cases remains challenging, expensive, and time-consuming.

Political and Local Law Enforcement Concerns

ICE often requests operational help from local police who complain that Fourth Amendment violations undermine their central crime suppression mission. Political leaders voice similar concerns. New York state Senator Kirstin Gillibrand said she was "appalled by some of the practices I have heard about," and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said "We won't stand for the violation of constitutional rights and racial profiling" in reacting to city raids.

In September 2007, the Nassau County Police Department pulled out of an operation it agreed to because of "serious allegations of misconduct and malfeasance." In this case, no warrants were used, not even administrative ones. ICE fraudulently claimed they weren't needed because consent to enter all homes was received. In response, Nassau County Police Commissioner, Lawrence Mulvey, said:

"In my 29 years of police work, I have executed countless warrants and have sought to enter countless homes. ICE's claim that they received 100% complaince with their requests to enter is not credible even under the best of circumstances."

Evidence Suggests a National Pattern of Constitutional Violations

Since 2006, lawsuits have been filed against ICE "in every region of the country - including two large class actions" and several with multiple defendants - all alleging a similar pattern of misconduct.

They pertain to illegally entering private homes as well as other misconduct charges. In March 2009, Jimmy Slaughter, an Arizona DHS officer, filed suit as well, stating:

"I was at home with my wife when the door bell rang. I opened the door and noticed approximately 7 uniformed ICE agents with vests and guns....I opened the door to look at the paperwork and five agents entered my house....The agents then told my wife to stand in the center of 'OUR' living room. Not once did anyone say they had a warrant."

Numerous other instances confirm a national pattern of constitutional violations, including:

-- unannounced pre-dawn raids;

-- illegal entries into private homes, at times forcibly with drawn guns;

-- some with administrative warrants; others with none; often with no probable cause or consent;

-- unconstitutional searches and seizures;

-- all occupants arrested and interrogated;

-- commonplace use of excessive force; and

-- at times, individuals prevented from calling attorneys.

New York Immigration Judge Noel Brennan ruled on one case saying:

"It is hard for me to fathom a country or a place in which we live in which the Government can barge into one's house without authority from the Third Branch after a probable cause finding. So for all these reasons I find that what is essentially a warrantless search in the meaning of the Fourth Amendment....was an egregious violation, and therefore I suppress all the evidence and order these proceedings terminated."

ICE's 2006 Policy Changes

Three new memoranda issued dramatic enforcement changes that led to and facilitated nationwide home raids. Fugitive Operation Team (FOT) annual quotas were raised eight-fold (from 125 to 1000 arrests) and didn't have to include "criminal aliens."

Another change permitted "collateral" arrests of suspected civil immigration status violators. These actions "incentivized the pattern of unlawful behavior" and put tremendous pressure on ICE agents to deliver. As a result, home raids increased sharply and illegally. Wrongful arrests became common. Easy targets were chosen, including women and children, often at the expense of real criminals remaining at large.

Immigrants are some of "the most vulnerable of populations in this nation's legal system." Most are poor, are unfamiliar with the law, and many speak imperfect or limited English. Often those seized have no lawyers, are kept in detention, and are then deported summarily with no ability to pursue justice. In addition, "traditional civil remedies are (often) ineffective deterrents to unlawful ICE home raids."

IJC Policy Recommendations

Major constitutional issues are at stake making everyone potentially as vulnerable as immigrants. If authorities can get away with constitutional violations against some, they can do it against anyone. That said, IJC recommends the following:

-- home raids should only be for criminal arrests or civil ones in cases posing real risks to national security or for persons with violent criminal records;

-- judicial warrants should be required, not administrative ones;

-- in all cases, "high-level centralized pre-approval in advance of any home raid operation" should be required;

-- if judicial warrants aren't obtained, residents' consent should be required after informing them "explicitly and clearly" of their right to refuse before entry is made;

-- in all pre-dawn and nighttime raids, judicial warrants should be required;

-- in all cases, a high-level supervisor should be involved on site;

-- home raids should be videotaped;

-- ICE agents should be trained on home raid procedures stressing compliance with the law at all times;

-- local law enforcement agencies should be apprised of raids and their results;

-- they should not be asked to participate in or facilitate lawless activities;

-- emphasis should be on arresting dangerous criminals, not collateral ones to meet quotas;

-- arrests should be race, ethnicity, and English proficiency neutral;

-- agent misconduct should be assessed and properly addressed;

-- a clear public complaint procedure should be established; and

-- illegally obtained evidence should be disallowed.

Obama Administration's Immigrant Detention Policies

On August 7, Washington Post writer Spencer Hsu headlined, "Agency Plans to Improve Oversight of Immigrant Detention" in saying the Obama administration intends to "restructure the nation's much-criticized immigration detention system by strengthening federal oversight and seeking to standardize conditions in a 32,000-bed system now scattered throughout 350 local jails, state prisons and contract facilities."

Since 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has represented, protected, and promoted "the rights of low income immigrants and their family members (and) earned a national reputation as a leading expert on immigration, public benefits, and employment laws affecting immigrants and refugees."

It calls US immigrant detention centers "A Broken System" in a recent report that presents "the first-ever system-wide look at the federal government's compliance with its own standards regulating immigrant detention facilities....based on previously unreleased first-hand reports of monitoring inspections."

Annually, over 320,000 immigrants are incarcerated. They face enormous obstacles challenging their detention, and they're held under conditions "as bad as or worse than those faced by imprisoned criminals." They're kept in three types of facilities:

-- ICE owned and operated Service Processing Centers (SPCs);

-- privately run Contract Detention Facilities (CDFs); and

-- Intergovernmental Service Agreement Facilities (IGSAs) holding two-thirds of detainees - mostly state or county jails plus a small number in US Bureau of Prisons or other facilities.

Since 1992, immigrant detentions have increased from 6,259 to 20,000 in early 2006 to the current 31,000 total - a number that continues to grow due to policies discussed above.

NILC learned that detention standards are poorly regulated and that government efforts to monitor compliance have been "woefully deficient and in need of a major overall." Testimony obtained from ICE employees revealed that monitoring is understaffed. Before inspections, facilities get at least 30 days notice to fix or cover up problems and abuses in advance. Multiple review levels are used, yet headquarters rarely requires violations to be corrected and often gives facilities "higher overall assessments than the review team's original ones."

Systemic problems were also uncovered pertaining to annual review procedures and their inadequately identifying and correcting noncompliance with acceptable standards. ICE plans to let private contractors monitor compliance, yet current failures suggest that new management will let a broken system fester and worsen as the detention population grows and overcrowded facilities get further stretched.

Despite repeated calls for reform, greater transparency, accountability, and better controls, "the government has not taken effective measures to ensure that even its nonbinding standards are met." It shows an appalling indifference to some of the nation's most vulnerable people, no match against a system in place to repress them.

Currently, numerous violations are systemic, serious, and numerous. They include:

(1) Visitations by family, lawyers and others

Detainee visitations are severely restricted in violation of clear constitutional and statutory rights, especially to free access to counsel and close family members.

(2) Recreation

Standards require safe recreational time for physical, mental and emotional well-being, including for those with special needs or in segregation. Yet they're routinely denied or offered at the discretion of facility staff. In addition, programs are way inadequate, and many detainees get limited or no access to outdoor recreation and a chance to interact with others in a natural environment.

(3) Telephone access

Many facilities didn't comply with standards. Monitoring of confidential legal calls was conducted, and restrictive time limits were imposed. Numerous facilities also prevented detainees from contacting courts, consulates, and getting access to free legal service providers.

(4) Access to Legal Material

Immigration law is so complex that good counsel is essential. Yet it's expensive and few detainees can afford it. Instead they must rely on pro bono help if available or their own resourcefulness. Standards require facilities to have a law library and an adequate environment to research and prepare legal documents. Yet numerous facilities have none, and the limited information on hand is inadequate and outdated. Still other facilities require specific document requests, even though detainees have no way to know what applies to their case.

(5) Group Presentations on Legal Rights

Facilities are required to let authorized attorneys or representatives, on written request, conduct immigration law and detainee rights presentations. Few do it, and individual counseling is also limited.

(6) Correspondence and Other Mail

Most facilities restrict access, monitor incoming and outgoing mail, and confiscate items at times. As a result, confidential correspondence is compromised. At times, identity documents are destroyed. Detainees miss court deadlines, and they're intimidated from freely sending and receiving mail.

(7) Administrative and Disciplinary Segregation

It's supposed to be non-punitive isolation to ensure detainee safety or facility security. Instead it's done punitively for extended periods for even slight rule infractions. Reports also uncovered severe privilege restrictions, unsanitary conditions, and poor health care protection for segregated detainees and the entire facility population.

(8) Disciplinary Policy

They're supposed to protect detainees from arbitrary disciplinary actions with rules conspicuously posted so they're known and can be obeyed. Yet most facilities don't do it.

(9) Detainee Handbook

Facilities are required to develop and make available a "facility-specific handbook" covering policies, rules, and procedures. However, those having them "presented an inaccurate or incomplete picture of facility policy" because important information was missing, erroneous, incomplete, or inappropriate.

(10) Hold Rooms in Detention Facilities

Physical space requirements and design specifications are supposed to be followed and monitored. Yet poor compliance was found, including inadequate toilet facilities and detainees held there too long in violation of rules requiring a maximum of 12 hours.

(11) Detainee Grievance Procedures

They're to assure detainees can file grievances with uninvolved officers without fear of retaliation. Widespread noncompliance was found, and most often facilities don't inform detainees of their rights.

(12) Detainee Transfers

Procedures are to protect their security in transit and make a traumatic experience easier, especially when to locations remote from their families. Transfers also interfere with attorney-client relations and harm constitutionally protected due process rights.

(13) Funds and Personal Property

Rules are supposed to safeguard detainees' money and personal property with written procedures for receiving, processing, storing, and returning them. Evidence showed instances of theft, forfeiture of funds and property, and failure to conduct audits to assure none of this would happen.

(14) Admission and Release

Official procedures protect the health, safety, and welfare of detainees. Most facilities don't do it, including providing proper medical care and personal hygiene considerations from admission to the time of release.

NILC concluded that "the nation's immigrant detention system is broken to its core (and) reveals pervasive and extreme violations of the government's own detention standards as well as fundamental violations of basic human rights and notions of dignity."

On August 6, the Obama administration announced remedial plans amounting only to a cosmetic fix for a dysfunction system. A day ahead, The New York Times headlined "US to Reform Policy on Detention for Immigrants" and called the effort "an ambitious plan....to overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it (into) a 'truly civil detention system.' "

According to ICE Assistant Secretary, John Morton, ICE will create an Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP) effective immediately. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said:

"This change marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to enforce immigration laws smartly and effectively. We are improving detention center management to prioritize health, safety and uniformity among our facilities while ensuring security, efficiency and fiscal responsibility."

What's planned, in fact, is more centralized control and better ways to track, process, incarcerate, and/or deport growing numbers of undocumented immigrants - not treat them humanely as international law and DHS/ICE regulations stipulate.

The Obama administration has expanded and intensified the same harsh Bush administration policies, and ICE's August 6 announcement signifies nothing more than a cosmetic repackaging of a broken system.

In May, the Obama administration asked Congress for a 30% funding increase to expand the controversial Bush administration Secure Communities program (begun in December 2007) to identify, arrest, incarcerate, and deport undocumented immigrants, mostly Latinos from Mexico and Central America.

In declaring "zero tolerance" for undocumented immigrants, he'll also keep building the $8 billion virtual border fence, planned for hundreds of miles, and will continue the same harsh Bush administration policies.

On August 4, the Immigrant Solidarity Nework said that despite early pledges that he'd moderate them, Obama "is pursuing an aggressive strategy for an illegal-immigration crackdown that relies significantly on programs started by his predecessor."

They call for "no-nonsense immigration enforcement" followed later in the year or early next year by immigration legislation to create a new bracero program, among other harsh measures, that immigrant rights group oppose. They also include extensive employee paperwork audits, an expanded (and much criticized) program to verify worker immigration status, and greater cooperation between federal and local authorities while rejecting proposals for legally binding rules regarding detention center conditions. Non-binding Bush administration ones still followed hold no one accountable and let detainees be treated harshly under a system described above.

In response to Obama's decision, the National Lawyers Guild's Paromita Shah, associate director of its National Immigration Project, said the government is "disregard(ing) the plight of the hundreds of thousands of immigration detainees" by continuing a dysfunctional system. DHS "has demonstrated a disturbing commitment to policies that have cost dozens of lives" and shows an appalling indifference to the fate of defenseless people.

Highlighting the plight of immigrants, the National Immigrant Justice Center's Mary McCarthy described the current detention system as a "human rights nightmare. The past administration created this, and now we need to dismantle it." Instead, Obama officials plan to make a "broken system" worse, then harden it with discriminatory immigration reform legislation later in the year. According to University of Houston immigration law Professor Michael Olivas, "We literally have the worst of all worlds," and nothing is being planned to improve it.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman,blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Israel Targets and Suppresses Opposition to Its Annexation Wall

How Israel Targets and Suppresses Opposition to Its Annexation Wall - by Stephen Lendman

Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association helps Palestinian prisoners, and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust, unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another.

In July 2009, in cooperation with the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer published a report titled "Repression allowed, Resistance denied" that documents resistance to Israel's apartheid wall and the "staggering level of repression, arrests and violence" by Israeli authorities.

On July 9, 2004 in a unanimous decision, the International Court of Justice (IJC) ruled that "the construction of the Wall being built by Israel, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law...." It said construction on it must cease. Built sections must be dismantled, Palestinian land returned, and compensation paid for property destroyed. The UN General Assembly endorsed the decision. Israel rejected it out of hand, keeps seizing Palestinian land, continues the wall's construction, and ruthlessly suppresses efforts to halt it.

In defiance of international law, Israel's High Court ruled that erection of a "barrier" may continue for security reasons even though its purpose is solely to steal resources and land that will include over 12% of the West Bank when completed.

The consequences for Palestinians have been devastating. Communities have been divided, isolated and ghettoized. Farmers have been separated from their land and water sources. Militarized control is repressive, and free movement is more restricted than ever.

The ICRC called the Wall contrary to international humanitarian law and repeatedly urged Israel to halt it. Article 2(c) of the Apartheid Convention says the Wall and checkpoints are key to maintaining apartheid in the West Bank. Article 2(d) adds that "the Wall and its infrastructure of gates and permanent checkpoints suggest a (permanent) policy....to divide the West Bank into racial cantons," and the South African Human Sciences Council stated:

"Restrictions on the Palestinian right to freedom of movement are endemic in the West Bank, stemming from Israel's control of checkpoints and crossings, impediments created by the Wall and its crossing points." They constitute an illegal matrix of control affecting all aspects of Palestinians' lives.

Popular non-violent, direct action resistance emerged in self-defense as well as lobbying through the courts and national and international media campaigns. It was entirely blacked out in the major media.

Most visible are weekly demonstrations, protests and marches involving Palestinians, Israelis, other Jews, and international human rights activists - in defiance of Israeli military orders that call these activities and all organized resistance "criminal offenses," punishable by arbitrary arrests, targeted killings, brutal repression, disproportionate violence, and collective punishment in violation of international law, including Fourth Geneva protections.

Addameer "provide(s documented) evidence to show that injuries and deaths inflicted by the Israeli military at protests and activity surrounding them are intentional, not accidental." Indiscriminate arrests are made, family members threatened, including children, and many are tried, convicted, imprisoned, fined, and ruthlessly punished for defending their rights. Israel wages low intensity warfare against a popular resistance in a futile effort to break an indomitable spirit, at a cost that includes:

-- premeditated, systematic punitive attacks and collective punishment;

-- entire communities targeted by state-sponsored terror;

-- mass arrests, killings, beatings, torture and other abuses;

-- children imprisoned or shot for throwing stones or being in the wrong place at the wrong time; and

-- Palestinians victimized by decades of unremitting, systemic violence and repression, and in Gaza under siege and attack, of course, it's much worse.

Addameer's report "is a preliminary summary of (its) findings, based on (extensive interviews, other primary research, and) the experiences of a few protagonist villages in the struggle against the Wall." Follow-up reports are planned to continue documenting the affects on "a wider number of villages affected by the Wall."

When completed, it will span over 760 kilometers, be more than five times longer than the Berlin Wall, and far more imposing with its sensors, trenches, security roads, mine fields, checkpoints, terminals, watchtowers, surveillance cameras, electronic sensory devices, and military patrols using killer dogs.

Around 20% of the Wall follows the "Green Line." The rest expropriates over 12% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and with the settlements, military zones, and for-Jews only infrastructure amounts to about 46% of the Territory and growing as Israel keeps seizing more land.

It displaces thousands of Palestinian families, entraps all Palestinians in the West Bank, steals their land and resources, and has nothing to do with security. It's a land grab/collective punishment scheme to enclose an entire people inside disconnected cantons in violation of international law and the ICJ ruling.

Organized Resistance Against the Wall

After Israel began construction in June 2002, spontaneous demonstrations, community actions, and meetings followed. The first public statement read:

The Wall represents "the Occupation in its ugliest face. (It's) stealing....land and water, and....changing....the historical and demographic status of these areas. (It's) uprooting....trees and (destroys) nature. (It's) in opposition to all that is human and civilized."

In October 2002, opposition groups were formed, including the Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) in response to a need for a coordinated popular resistance and to offer advocacy, research, legal challenges, and support for the communities affected. Efforts thereafter grew, and from September 2003 became a national and international priority. Israel responded with permit restrictions to bar free movement and prevent people from accessing their lands. Since then, many anti-Wall farmers lost their livelihoods when they were denied permits to cultivate their own land.

Demonstrations, protests and strikes have continued in targeted West Bank communities and villages. Campaigns not to recognize the permit system were organized. Israeli forces responded harshly. Time passed. Crops rotted in fields and livelihoods were destroyed. Yet villagers resisted despite severe collective punishment imposed. Since then, eight West Bank popular committees have been represented in the Campaign's General Assembly, and five of the 11 members of the Campaign's coordinating committee are representatives from local groups.

In 2004, anti-Wall resistance became widespread. The first martyrs were killed in defending their rights. The ICJ ruled the Wall illegal and ordered its demolition. Increased land theft and human fallout drew international attention and encouraged mass protests and solidarity against state-sponsored terror.

Direct actions blocked bulldozers, breached sections of fences and razor wire separating villagers from their lands, slowing construction and forcing constant rebuilding. Media strategies were also developed through international contacts. In addition, committees held rallies, demonstrations, and sit-ins to pressure the Palestinian National Authority (PA) to support affected communities, raise the Wall issue at an international level, and act to implement the ICJ decision.

Yet when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan came to Palestine in March 2005, he refused to speak out or visit the Wall. Around 5,000 Palestinians demonstrated in protest.

Since late 2005, popular resistance had to reorganize for numerous reasons. So much of the Wall was completed that actions to stop bulldozers ceased. Since international support failed to materialize, new forms of protest were needed to sustain a long-term struggle. Friday demonstrations replaced daily ones so a semblance of daily life was possible.

Yet in areas like Anata in East Jerusalem, daily protests continued because Wall construction ran straight through school courtyards. Students were involved and sustained many injuries for their efforts.

Frustration with the Palestinian leadership also grew as campaigning for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) began in late 2005. It heightened the split between Fatah and Hamas because effective popular resistance was futile without leadership sustaining and capitalizing on it.

National actions like Land Day, the Week against the Apartheid Wall, and other events gained prominence. In March 2007, Land Day activities took place in over 20 locations with popular committees and students participating. Thereafter, Stop the Wall and popular committees have been key players in other national action days.

Resistance solidified and expanded south with new campaigns against Wall construction. People in the Jordan Valley protested against being isolated from the rest of the West Bank. Media and civil society organizations finally noticed, and political and material support began to arrive.

Since mid-2008, weekly protests gained strength in a number of villages - in Bil'in, Al Ma'sara, Irtas, Ni'lin, Jayyus, Nahalin, and elsewhere with hundreds of people facing down soldiers and risking arrests, injuries or death.

In addition, popular committees are focusing on settlements and renaming themselves "Committees Against the Wall and The Settlements" because both represent occupation leaving Palestinians dispossessed, walled-in, ghettoized, and repressed unless organized movements resist.

The villages of Burqa, Bizzariya, Silat, ad-Dhahr, Sabastiya, and Beit Imrin led protests against the resettlement of Homesh, a settlement evacuated during the "disengagement." After a month, Homesh settlers left with all their belongings.

Other actions included boycotting Israeli products and legally challenging companies that support the Wall and occupation. "The mobilizing capacity of the popular committees and Stop the Wall (have) become (key) actor(s) at national action days, such as Land Day and the 60 years Nakba Commemoration." During Operation Cast Lead, they sacrificed two lives in supporting Gazans under attack.

Movements against the Wall have become a "politically mature network of activism and resistance" despite escalated repression against them.

Violent Repression of Palestinian Anti-War Protests

They're ongoing in dozens of villages, and "immediate action is require to counter it." In Bil'in, Ni'lin, Al Ma'sara and Jayyus over 1,566 people have been wounded and six killed while protesting. IDF actions are vicious and beyond the bounds of "crowd control, security or self-defense." They involve:

-- threats to inflict individual and collective punishment;

-- premeditated shooting with intent to injure, disable, kill and send a message to other protesters;

-- night terror raids, curfews, closures, tear-gassing, and property destruction; and

-- entire villages targeted with collective punishment, including mass arrests and unconscionable viciousness.

A Friends of Freedom and Justice video recounted a recent Bi'lin incident:

"At around 2:30AM, two groups of around 35 soldiers (70 total) descended on the village....They raided several houses, detained their inhabitants, and searched (inside). When members of the ISM and the Popular Committee of Bi'lin confronted the soldiers, they called all of Bi'lin a closed military zone and threatened to arrest anyone out of their house or anyone on top of a house taking pictures."

"They kidnapped a 16 year old boy (Mohsen Kateb)....and took him away into the night. Haitham al-Katib, a respected Palestinian activist....was video taping....when soldiers aggressively pushed him against a wall and threatened him with arrest.....(the son of) Iyad Burant, the head of the popular committee, (was threatened) if he didn't produce a camera....This raid follows on the heels of others that have happened almost every night for two weeks." Arrests are made and people threatened because they campaign against the "loss of 60% of (their) farmland due to the construction of the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements" that continue to expand.

Israeli policy focuses on ruthless deterrence to break popular resistance by inflicting serious harm. Threats are made collectively and against village officials. Violence is systemically employed. Activists are threatened, killed or arrested. Live fire is used against peaceful demonstrators.

One popular committee member said: "once, soldiers broke into my home and told my mother that if her son did not stop, they would break his legs and he would never walk again." Others recounted death threats. Parents are told "we are going to take revenge on you and on your children." Leaflets are distributed promising "punishment (and) final warnings" to communities that keep protesting.

Home demolitions are also threatened. Farmers are told their land and crops will be destroyed. Force follows, including beatings, live fire, tear-gassing, willful killings, including against children. Soldiers justify it as "crowd (or) riot control" and that soldiers fire only in self-defense.

In fact, actions are grossly excessive against activists and peaceful demonstrations, and include ambushes, shootings from rooftops and concealed locations, and extreme aggression against a civilian population. At an early 2004 Biddu protest, soldiers unleashed a massive attack, killed two, injured 70 others, some severely, and caused an elderly man to die of a tear gas-induced heart attack. Numerous other demonstrations, then and now, were disproportionately attacked by "massive retaliatory violence" with dozens killed and thousands more injured throughout the West Bank. Prominent activists are targeted for removal, willful disabling, or death.

Illegal weapons are used, including bullets that break into pieces on contact leaving shrapnel slivers inside bodies that are very hard or impossible to remove. Besides willful killings, legs are targeted to inflict disabling injuries, including against children. Head shots are also used with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters dangerous enough to cause cranial fractures and permanent memory problems. Ambushes and other surprise attacks are employed using indiscriminate fire with lethal weapons unrelated to crowd or riot control.

Indiscriminate attacks also occur that are passed off as unfortunate errors, when, in fact, they're deliberate, for revenge, and "constitute an integral part of" oppressing popular resistance and right of Palestinians to be free. Innocent civilians are wounded, disabled or killed in cold blood because soldiers are ordered to do it.

Collective punishment is systemic and longstanding in the form of:

-- night terror raids to intimidate entire communities and villages; children are especially affected by shooting, explosions, and shouting through loudspeakers;

-- harassing curfews on entire villages prohibiting anyone from leaving homes on threat of being shot or arrested; while in force, soldiers break into homes, search them, and arrest occupants for interrogations that include beatings, humiliation and torture;

-- village closures and sieges are also imposed allowing no one and nothing in or out; throughout, homes are raided, people tear-gassed, arrested and shot, and property is destroyed;

-- besides outdoor tear-gassing, canisters are fired into homes without pretext, damaging property, human health and causing fires; a Jayyus resident said:

"I cannot count how many times they fired tear gas inside my house....As a result of everything, I had a heart attack, and have had two operations. My daughter has also been in the hospital."

-- willful property destruction occurs, including windows, possessions, and village water tanks; items are also stolen, including money, computers and books; and

-- fields are set afire, crops and trees uprooted, and land effectively destroyed.

State-Sponsored Repression

The above incidents show that "death, maiming and injury resulting from military violence....form a consistent pattern of repressive violence....Individual and collective punishment are two, complementary parts of this strategy" that aim to weaken solidarity, create divisions, and crush the will to resist - to kill it "from the roots."

Intimidating munitions are used, including:

-- hollow point bullets that expand in human flesh to maximize tissue and organ damage;

-- exploding or fragmenting bullets to tear apart human flesh and leave hard to remove metal fragments inside;

-- .22 caliber bullets designed to be less lethal but more deadly than rubber-coated ones that at times can maim or kill; and

-- 40 mm high-velocity tear gas rounds that resemble shells and explode internally for added velocity and impact; when fired directly at crowds, they're like missiles able to cause serious injuries and deaths.

Collective Punishment and Community Blackmailing

Collective punishment includes threats that it will continue as long as demonstrations persist. It also aims to divide communities, families in the interest of their children, hurt economically by destroying property, deny permits to hamper movement, and break the will to resist.

Violating Civil and Political Rights

As explained above, Israel employs a range of repressive tactics, including threats, physical pressure, curfews, blockades, isolation, arrests, property destruction, and targeted and indiscriminate killings on pretexts such as:

-- stone-throwing;

-- interfering with soldiers' activities;

-- resisting arrest;

-- being in a closed military zone; and

-- threatening the security of Israel, even though the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) affirms that assembling and peaceful protests are lawfully protected activities.

Since 1967, however, over 750,000 Palestinians (as much as 40% of the male population) have been victimized by systematic arrests, detentions and brutalizing treatment in custody.

"Over the years, thousands of Palestinians have been detained and charged with maintaining ties to an organization, institute, office, movement, branch, centre, committee, faction, group, or whatever the law defines as 'a body of persons' branded 'hostile' or 'terrorist' and included in an ever-expanding list of unlawful associations."

Israel's Military Court System

Unlike Israelis, Palestinians are processed, tried, and sentenced in military courts located inside Israeli military bases. From the outset, they haven't a chance under a system rigged to convict. Less than 1% are acquitted. Individual rights are denied. Institutionalized racism prevails. International human rights laws are defiled, and according to the UN Human Rights Committee:

-- a state of emergency never justifies deviation from fundamental principles of fair trials;

-- military courts should never be used, except in cases where civil ones aren't able to function;

-- when used, military tribunals must afford all protections guaranteed under ICCPR's Article 14 that stipulates: "All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals....shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty," shall have a fair and impartial trial, and be granted all rights according to established international law.

Israel's military courts defile all of the above and offer no possibility for justice. Judges are hanging ones. Children as young as 16 are tried as adults. Secret evidence is used, and the right to appeal flawed verdicts and sentences is severely compromised.

Israel targets anyone suspected of resisting as well as children for the "crime" of assembly, throwing rocks, or having a family member previously arrested. Popular committee heads are especially sought as a way to remove leaders and weaken movements. A Bil'in village head, Iyad Burnat, was arrested twice - in 2005 when he blocked bulldozers beginning work on a segment of the Wall. He was beaten severely enough to require hospitalization. Then in 2008, he was arrested again during a demonstration, tried and fined. Similar incidents occur regularly in other villages.

Youths are frequently targeted because they're among the staunchest and most proactive demonstrators, yet more vulnerable, less aware of their rights, and as a way to intimidate parents. At times, military raids provoke them to react and crack down hard indiscriminately when they do.

According to Defence for Children International/Palestine Section 2009 Annual Report on Palestinian Child Prisoners, when soldiers clash with youths, they go after "any child in the vicinity, regardless of whether that child was actually involved in the unrest of not." During interrogations, they're then subjected to psychological and physical abuse, just like adults, to extract confessions of whatever authorities want - "which (most) Palestinian children do not understand."

During arrests, violence is standard practice. Samed Mohammad Hassn Salim's experience was typical. On February 18, 2009 in Jayyus, he and 60 others were arrested for participating in a weekly protest against the Wall. His pregnant wife was thrown to the ground and later suffered a miscarriage. A medical report confirmed it resulted from the fall and sound grenades used in the assault.

Those in detention face intimidation, humiliation, threats of recriminations against family members, long interrogations, physical and psychological torture and abuse, demands to sign confessions and provide information on other protesters, denial of medical care, poor sanitary and hygiene conditions, inadequate quantity and poor quality of food and water, and exposure to the elements.

According to one detainee: "They always beat you - that is normal." Another said: "They were beating me. It felt like they were trying to kill me. They handcuffed me and forced me into a chair. My neck still hurts from the beatings I received. They were strangling me. I lost consciousness."

At times, treatment is severe enough to leave permanent psychological and/or physical scars. Detainees are forced to sign confessions in Hebrew they don't understand, confess to crimes, and deny they were tortured. Nonetheless, one military commander said that for every 1000 detainees, only one will provide information, and even that might prove useless.

Palestinian human rights activists are generally treated harshest of all, including severe treatment and longer sentences for resisting repression and standing up for their rights that include peaceful demonstrations and displaying the Palestinian flag.

Israeli, International and Palestinian Protesters: Different Rights, Different Jurisdiction, Drastically Different Repercussions

Israel and international activists face far different treatment under Israel's judicial standards. In detention, they're generally treated humanely, endure no long interrogations as a rule, most often are released in a few hours, may or may not face charges, but if so are tried in civil courts under a completely different system of justice. Acquittals are more common, fines lower, first offenses forgiven, if sentences are imposed they're for much shorter periods, and the right of appeal is assured.

In the first seven months of 2009, 129 Israeli activists were indicted, 15 convicted, and the majority got suspended sentences or convictions reversed on appeal. Deportation was how most internationals were handled. "To date, there have been no reported cases of an Israeli or international activist serving more than a week in prison, or being placed in administrative detention," and most are rarely sentenced. Currently, no international activists are in prison for having participated in an anti-Wall protest.

In contrast, Palestinians charged with throwing stones face up to 20 years in prison although generally they're released within a year.

Under ICCPR's Article 14, fair, impartial trials are guaranteed. Under the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, access to competent counsel must be granted within 48 hours. Adequate time and facilities must be available to communicate privately, and if detainees can't afford to pay, proper representation must be provided anyway.

Nonetheless, Palestinians are affected by factors such as counsel's citizenship and residency status, as well as military orders, Israeli laws and prison procedures that violate international standards, so their right to fair, impartial justice is impossible.

Inflated and multiple charges also assure convictions on at least one offense regardless of the validity of evidence. The result is less than 1% acquittals as explained above and 97% resolutions by plea bargain agreements for the most leniency lawyers can get.

Military tribunal justice is near-impossible when charges of throwing stones or owning a gun are inflated to "trying to kill" and prosecutors rely solely on soldiers' testimonies for corroboration. Lymore Goldstein who's represented a number of Palestinian and Israeli activists cites Israel's apartheid justice with Jews treated one way and Palestinians another:

"The evidence used against people is never verified, for instance, all the (Palestinians) who touched the microphone (at a specific protest) were charged with incitement - there was no mention of what they had said" or what, in fact, they incited. "This is a very typical example," but for Jews it's entirely opposite. Even when Palestinians can prove their innocence, acquittals are rarely gotten.

Attorney Sahar Francis expressed frustration saying:

"I'm against the military courts. Let the occupiers do this job for themselves. Why should lawyers go there and try to do things when we know at the beginning" how things will turn out.

From their time of arrest, Palestinians have almost no chance to prevail under a system of kangaroo court justice, so it's why up to 12,000 languish in Israeli prisons at any time and endure torture and other dehumanizing treatment.

Mohammed Brijiah, from Al Ma'sara described his arrest and trial ordeal:

"Three times during the night, they came and attacked my house, took out my brothers and nieces....and my children, including my 1-year-old daughter. They made my family stand outside for 3 - 4 hours. They damaged the furniture, told me to get dressed and that they would take me to prison. I was arrested twice (in November 2007 and December 2008). They brought me to a court and then released me....I stayed one week, but the arrest was because of the demonstration. (Another) accusation was that I beat a soldier, but (video evidence) clearly shows that I did nothing like this."

Prosecutors did all they could to extend his detention and brought up baseless old charges to delay his trial hearing. Brijiah was luckier than most others who disappear for months or years in Israel's criminal justice system that affords none of it to Palestinians. No bail, long sentences, high fines, and brutalizing treatment are common, nearly always in violation of international law. For example, under Military Order 378, stone throwing carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, and the threshold of evidence to convict on mere suspicion is low enough to prevail.

Former soldier, now writer and journalist Seth Freedman says it's common for the military to select targets, regardless of whether they're committing the act in question. Then it's their word against defendants, nearly always they prevail, and many innocent youths are imprisoned for offenses they didn't commit but have no way to prove it. They can't prove a negative.

Nor can they defend against threats that serve as "a powerful coercive means of intimidating - and harassing - protestors." In detention, death or physical harm threats are made during interrogations. Also making them against family members is commonplace as a way to induce cooperation.

Further, collective punishment, mass arrests, and various forms of intimidation are repeated throughout the West Bank. They comprise ways "to punish anyone exercising their right to self-determination and resistance. Their impact will be manifold, affecting family's livelihoods, freedom of movement, as well as their rights to express themselves and assemble freely."

Conclusions

Israeli authorities act in violation of the fundamental right to assemble, demonstrate, and protest peacefully. Violent and aggressive measures are used repeatedly in violation of international law. Palestinian activists risk arrest, interrogation, long detentions, kangaroo trials, imprisonment, torture and other forms of abuse. Nonetheless, they persist, and according to one interviewee:

"The army has created a lot of obstacles but it hasn't prevented the protests." Those arrested do it again, at times more cautiously, but others with a determination to prevail.

The entire judicial process is racially biased and blatantly discriminatory. Indiscriminate arrests are made. Demonstrators are intimidated and targeted. Popular committee leaders and youths are most vulnerable. State terror is common practice, and in detention humiliation, torture and other abuses are employed for extended periods - to break their spirit, crush their will to resist, make them docile and submissive, or simply give up and leave. For over four decades under occupation, Palestinians, on their own, have continued their struggle to live freely on their own land, in their own country as international law affirms.

Recommendations

-- on July 20, 2004, the ICJ ruled the Wall illegal and called for its demolition; the UN General Assembly endorsed the decision; it's time for the UN "to follow through on its mandate to develop relevant measures to ensure the implementation of the ICJ decision;"

-- Israel should be pressured by targeted sanctions, including an arms embargo;

-- the UN Human Rights Council and Special Rapporteur for Human Rights should address these issues;

-- the international community should:

(1) "Take real action to ensure that Israel complies with the" ICJ's decision;

(2) protect the lawful right of Palestinians to protest against the Wall and land confiscation to build it;

(3) affirm Palestinians' right to resist against Israeli repression;

(4) hold Israel accountable under international law and pressure it to halt arbitrary arrests, indiscriminate violence, mass arrests, torture, and other human rights violations;

(5) assure international standards and legal guarantees protect Palestinians brought to trial;

(6) until and unless Israel fully complies, "suspend cooperation, free trade, research and development," and other normal relations with a rogue state; and

(6) sanction companies that "aid or assist the construction or maintenance of the Wall, and follow the same course of action with regards to companies that construct, invest or operate in the settlements."

-- Palestinian, international, and other NGOs should continue their active support for "the popular committees on the ground through their services and capacities."

Like people everywhere, Palestinians yearn to live freely on their own land as international law affirms. They deserve universal support for the most fundamental of all rights without which all others are compromised.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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