31 May 2015


For many years the conspiracy theories have suggested  that many of the trolls who post on sites like newmatilda, crikey and others of similar political persuasion are actually Israeli government/Mossad/Shin Bet plants to try to discredit those who either support BDS, support the Palestinians, are anti-zionist or they are ALL anti-semites.

The question to be asked is if these vehement and nasty and repulsive individuals continue to be so upset by what the left-wing/right-wing/anti-zionist/anti-semitic Greens/all political parties and adherents and members say in their criticism of Israel and the zionists, WHY ARE THEY STILL LIVING IN AUSTRALIA????

The last few days have seen the Greens new leader putting both feet in his mouth with his possible ignorance of what is going on in Palestine. Someone has suggested that he check for information with Lee Rhiannon, but she let the team down a long time ago when she moved from the New South Wales parliament to the federal parliament and dumped her support for Palestine and the Palestinians.

As far as I am concerned, this is just not good enough. Most parliamentarians around the country are zionists, and as one does not need to be Jewish to be a zionist, most of the zionists in Australian parliaments are of course not Jewish.

In all of these discussions, the plight of Palestine and the Palestinians is forgotten and the crimes in Gaza committed by the Israelis over the last 50 and more years is forgotten and the Palestinians are the forgotten people.

I have seen it all before - in South Africa, in the UK, in Australia, in Palestine/Israel and of course the USA and Canada and many other countries around the world too numerous to mention.

16 May 2015


The following article was published in Mondoweiss on 31 May 2015 and needs to be read by all those who need to understand the New York Times failure to understand the Palestinian disaster created by Israel and the United States:

Why readers interested in balanced coverage of BDS should avoid the New York Times

New York Times headquarters.

On Sunday, May 9th, The New York Times ran a front-page story discussing efforts across various U.S. campuses to divest from Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, echoing pro-Israel students’ claims that such efforts are divisive.  Unfortunately, this piece, co-authored by Jennifer Medina and Tamar Lewin, is the latest in a troubling series of prominent New York Times stories that misrepresent the campus divestment movement and strip it of essential context. The reporters excluded Jewish students involved in the Palestinian rights movement, failed to meaningfully include Palestinian voices, ignored the principles behind divestment and boycott campaigns, and engaged in inappropriate and one-sided questioning of students. We are a part of the movement and we have spoken to the reporters, so we are keenly aware of what has been omitted by The Times in recent coverage.
The headline of the story, “Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities,” is indicative of a major problem with the framing of this story, which erases all of the Jewish students and activists who support the BDS movement. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters are made up of students from diverse backgrounds, including both Palestinian and Jewish. Likewise, chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a U.S. Jewish organization that supports BDS as “a grassroots tactic for human rights work that has a proven track record,” are springing up across campuses nationwide. JVP is one of the fastest growing Jewish organizations in the country and has more than double Hillel’s following on Facebook and more than three times their following on Twitter; these Jewish voices cannot be ignored or excluded.
It is also worth noting that JVP mission statements often invoke support for Palestinian freedom as being directly correspondent with Jewish tradition. Given all of this, the authors should have specified: if campus debates on Israel and its policies are driving a wedge between students, it is only between those who condone Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and those who do not.
But besides the obvious problems with the article’s overall framing, several students came forward to report clearly inappropriate behavior by the NYT reporters tasked with writing the story.

Photo of UCLA students at Israeli independence day that accompanied piece in NYT on BDS. By Monica Almeida

Reporters repeated anti-Palestinian tropes

When speaking to Palestinian students, New York Times reporters who spoke to SJP members in California repeatedly made comments that indicated stereotypes about Palestinians. In her interview with Safwan Ibrahim, a Palestinian member of UCLA SJP, reporter Jennifer Medina asked only about what the SJP member’s thoughts were on accusations that divestment incites anti-Semitism, rather than asking for any background information on divestment or the principles of the BDS movement. When Ibrahim replied that he didn’t feel comfortable with the line of questioning, Medina asked if she could be re-directed to another source that had no ancestral ties to the region, implying that being Palestinian made him an unreliable source.
This behavior was repeated at UC Berkeley, where student activist Paul Hadweh was interviewed by reporter Ronnie Cohen. For Hadweh, it was clear early on that the article he was interviewing for would be biased.  When Hadweh mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be quoted in the piece, Cohen encouraged him to continue, saying, “you’re a great spokesperson for the cause. You’re not militant.” Unfortunately, Palestinian students and SJP members are often likened to militants or terrorists.  Such racialized associations are usually levied against SJP activists by various pro-Israel organizations, but it is especially outrageous for them to come from a Times reporter.

Pre-supposing hidden motives of SJP

When interviewing a non-Palestinian member of SJP, Medina asked whether there was anything the SJP board asked members to “never say publicly.” This line of questioning suggests that the reporters were hoping to find evidence to validate their own prior-held belief that SJP has an underlying agenda that it consciously hides from the public.  Activists engaged in defending Palestinian human rights are accustomed to pro-Israel groups engaging in such fishing expeditions. The fact that the New York Times appeared to be employing this tactic is deeply troubling given its profound impact on the national conversation around these issues.
Once again, students at Berkeley experienced the same treatment. According to Hadweh, midway through the interview, Cohen announced that she was simply going to read verbatim a series of questions that her editor gave her. Among them was the particularly one-sided question, “to what extent is BDS used as a fig leaf for anti-Semitism?” Cohen continued to repeat much of the same language that pro-Israel students and organizations use against SJP, signaling that her only reason for interviewing Hadweh was to validate unfavorable claims made about SJP and BDS.

Questioning whether Jewish members of SJP were sufficiently Jewish

David McCleary, another SJP member from UC Berkeley, reached out to us to discuss his own experiences with reporter Ronnie Cohen, who he claims subjected him to a series of unprofessional and even offensive questions regarding his Jewish identity over the phone and via text message. Cohen asked McCleary if he “looked Jewish,” if he was “Bar Mitzvah’d,” and at one point told him that his name didn’t “sound Jewish.” Cohen also asked if he was “the only Jewish member of SJP,” to which McCleary said that off the top of his head, he could name three other Jewish members of SJP at UC Berkeley. Cohen’s response was to ask if that made him “one of less than a handful of Jews” within the organization. Screen shots between McCleary and Cohen captured some of Cohen’s offensive comments and questions. “These were not the types of questions that a reporter should have been asking,” McCleary told us over the phone.

How the New York Times’ reporting mirrors pro-Israel talking points

By excluding Palestinian voices and framing the story as Jews versus threatening, possibly militant, minorities, the New York Times created a narrative that parallels claims by pro-Israel groups. After the University of California Student Association endorsed divestment, UCLA Hillel’s Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller told the Sacramento Bee that he believed campus politics had been “hijacked” by a group of “oppressed minorities” who were “intent to conquer.” Earlier, Seidler-Feller expressed to the UCLA community that he believed divestment was “a periodic ritual that different minority groups have had to enact in order to legitimate their claim to victimhood.”  He also claimed that divestment was “a sick remnant of the identity politics of the ‘90s.”
An even more direct parallel can be seen in UCLA Rabbi Aaron Lerner’s public thesis on campus divestment politics.  In an open email, Lerner wrote that divestment was “only successful because [the anti-Israel student groups] have partnered with other radical and marginal groups to create coalitions in which each group supports one another’s special interest projects.  For instance, the students who want immigration reform to be one of UCLA’s student government priorities promised the Students for Justice in Palestine that they will vote for BDS as long as when it comes time to vote on their bill, the favor will be returned.”  Lerner summarizes this as a process of “colonizing various student leadership groups.” This was the exact framing used in the Times piece, where it is implied that coalitions formed between students of color are based upon surface-level strategizing rather than genuine solidarity.

Not one incident, but part of a pattern

Following their past coverage of the UCLA Judicial Board interview of potential appointee Rachel Beyda in March, one of the authors of this article, Omar Zahzah, contacted the Times‘ newsroom to let them know that a divestment resolution calling on the UC regents to pull funding from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation had been falsely described in the New York Times article as a “boycott” resolution. The distinction is crucial, as boycotts and divestment represent two entirely different forms of nonviolent political action, but the news team’s response was to say that “given the resolution’s philosophical alignment with the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement, we’re confident that this passing reference accurately characterizes the spirit of the resolution.” The response suggests, on the one hand, that the article could accurately capture the “spirit” of a resolution that the reporter in question never seems to have bothered researching or interviewing student activists about. On the other, it suggests that it is irrelevant whether or not reporting on BDS is scrupulously fact-checked. At best, refusing to change misinformation under the assumption that the reading public wouldn’t be able to spot it is careless journalism; at worst, it hints at something more calculating, especially when the publication in question is a reputable news outlet tasked with delivering the objective truth. The fact that the newsroom printed a correction about the number of UCLA Undergraduate Student Council Association members in this very same article, which is also a fact most general readers would not know, makes the refusal even more puzzling.

What is the effect? Omitting Palestinian voices, demonizing students of color, erasing Jewish solidarity

The UCLA SJP members who were contacted by Medina and Lewin to provide quotes had been anticipating this article, but were dismayed to see that the Times had ignored their quotes in favor of those from quite a number of pro-Israel individuals at UCLA. This was especially discouraging considering the amount of attention the article gave to UCLA-specific issues. During his interview with Medina, Ibrahim spoke about recent experiences of anti-Palestinian and anti-SJP hatred to which SJP members and Palestinian students were subjected, but the authors of the New York Times piece omitted these comments. Ultimately, the authors saw fit to continue with the usual narrative that BDS promotes isolation and even harassment of Jewish students, while completely ignoring well-documented instances of harassment and intimidation against Palestinian students and students in solidarity with Palestine.
Additionally, in response to the Electronic Intifada’s coverage of this issue, assistant national editor Jennifer Kingson defended the piece by claiming that “the story depicts the range of viewpoints that [the authors] encountered.”  A closer inspection of how these reporters included pro-Palestine quotes indicates how superficial her response is. Whereas pro-Israel Jewish students and commenters were given space to discuss their fears and perspectives on the issue, such humanization was denied to pro-Palestine interviewees.  SJP member Janine Salman was quoted in the piece, but the Times only used her quotes to establish a well known fact: that Zionism and Jewish identity are not the same thing. Salman was never given the space to express her personal opinions. While quoting pro-Palestine students may give the appearance that both sides’ views are included, the only students allowed to express their own emotional connections to this issue were pro-Israel.
In addition to leaving out Palestinian experiences, the New York Times’ approach over the past several months has severely damaged the reputation of students of color who support Palestinian rights. This is highlighted in the Timesreporting on Molly Horwitz’s interview with the Stanford Students of Color Coalition (SOCC). They not only emphasized Horwitz’s allegations despite the documentation and testimony of nine other students who refuted her claim, but refused to acknowledge in their follow-up coverage that the university Constitutional Council ruled in favor of SOCC and that Horwitz’s claims were refuted by SOCC both on their website and in a New York Times letter to the editor. Undoubtedly, allegations of anti-Semitism and bigotry in general should be taken very seriously, but in this case, unsubstantiated and baseless accusations in prominent national media outlets contributed to smear campaigns against SOCC and forced students of color to compromise their studies and spend time and energy refuting coverage of Horwitz’s false allegations.

These stories impact students’ lives in serious ways, and one-sided, misleading coverage contributes to the stifling of free expression and student organizing on campus.
Finally, the Times’ framing would also leave readers wholly ignorant of the range of Jewish views on this issue. Readers of this piece would have no way of knowing that one in four Jewish-Americans support boycotting settlement products and one in six support broader BDS efforts to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights. Reflecting on his interview with the New York Times, McCleary stated, “It really felt like she was trying to force a particular narrative. And when I wouldn’t go along with it, I saw that she just left my interview out of the piece entirely.”
UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Stanford are only three campuses out of many, but these experiences echo those of other students in the Palestinian rights movement across the nation. In the end, it is of course up to the Times to decide how they wish to pursue and run their stories. But the level of partiality displayed even in the very gathering of information suggests that, as far as university divestment resolutions go, readers are better off considering other sources for accurate coverage.
The post originally appeared in the UCLA SJP website
About Omar Zahzah, Agatha Palma, and Rahim Kurwa
Omar Zahzah, Agatha Palma, and Rahim Kurwa are members of the University of California, Los Angeles chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.
Other posts by Omar Zahzah, Agatha Palma, and Rahim Kurwa.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/interested-balanced-coverage?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=64a4009f23-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-64a4009f23-316844969#sthash.U81wiEsu.dpuf

12 May 2015


So here's the story!

I sent a small carton - bought from Australia Post at a post office - with a few items in it destined to be birthday gifts for some people in Sydney from our post office here in Preston South in Melbourne on Monday 27 April 2015 to be in time for the birthday on 1 May 2015.

What has happened since defies belief - and the worst part of it is that I haven't been able to set eyes on it to see why it was thought undeliverable in Sydney in the first place and was to be returned to sender.


Well, it hasn't been delivered and I would be interested to know what has been going on for the last two weeks.

It seems it is beyond the ability of Australia Post to deal with parcels in the absence of what we are told is the disappearance of ordinary letter post, so where is the problem?


Has this got something to do with the CEO of Australia Post who now earns an annual income, according to reports, of somewhere over $4 million with extras. Maybe he needs to get down and dirty and do something about his parcels business!


Where is your item?


In transit


More details




Mon 11 May 2015 13:21
Processed through Australia Post facility
Fri 08 May 2015 10:03
Processed through Australia Post facility
Wed 06 May 2015 13:33
Processed through Australia Post facility
Tue 05 May 2015 18:02
Processed through Australia Post facility
Mon 04 May 2015 16:15
Customer Enquiry lodged
Mon 04 May 2015 09:44
Returned to senderOpen tool tip
Mon 27 Apr 2015 16:17
Received by Australia Post

09 May 2015


Weekend Edition May 8-10, 2015 counterpoint

Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre -  Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance
Amnesty International has issued four reports on the Massacre in Gaza in 2014 [1]. Given the scale of the destruction and the number of fatalities, any attempt to document the crimes committed should be welcomed. But these reports are problematic, and raise questions about this organization [2], including why they were written at all. It also raises questions about the broader human rights industry that are worth considering.

Basic Background

July 2014 marked the onset of the Israeli massacre in Gaza (I will dispense with the Israeli sugar-coated operation names). The Israeli army trained for this attack for several months before finding a pretext to attack Gaza, shattering an existing ceasefire; this was the third such post-“disengagement” (2004) attack, and possibly the worst so far. At least 2,215 were killed and 10,000+ wounded, most of them civilians. The scale of destruction was staggering: tens of thousands of houses rendered uninhabitable; several high-rise buildings struck by huge American-supplied bombs; schools and hospitals targeted; 61 mosques totally destroyed; water purification and sewage treatment plants damaged; Gaza’s main flour mill bombed; all chicken farms ravaged; an incalculable devastation [3].

Israeli control over Gaza has been in place for decades; with violence escalating over time, and the people of Gaza have been under siege for the last eight years. Israelis have placed Gaza “on a diet” [4], permitting only a trickle of strictly controlled goods to enter Gaza, enough to keep the population above starvation. Gaza is surrounded on all sides, blocked off from the outside world: military bulldozers raze border areas, snipers injure farmers, and warships menace or destroy fishing boats with gunfire. Periodically Israelis engage in what they term “mowing the lawn” massacres and large scale destruction. It is this history that must serve as the foundation of any report that attempts to describe both the intent of the participating parties and the relative consequences.

Context-Challenged – by Design

The ongoing crimes perpetrated against Gaza are chronic, and indeed, systematic. Arnon Soffer, one of Israel’s Dr. Strangeloves and “intellectual father of the wall”, had this to say about Gaza:
Q (Ruthie Blum): Will Israel be prepared to fight this war?

Arnon Soffer: [...] Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won’t allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what’s waiting for them. Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day. [5]

To determine the reasons behind Israeli actions, one only has to read what their Dr. Strangeloves say – it is no secret. The aim is to create miserable conditions to drive the Palestinians off their land, warehouse the population in an open air prison called Gaza, and to disproportionately repress any Palestinian resistance. Israelis have to “kill and kill and kill, all day”. Such pathological reasoning put Israeli actions into perspective; they are major crimes, possibly genocidal. Recognition of such crimes has some consequences.

First, the nature of the crimes requires recognizing them as crimes against humanity, arguably one of the most serious crimes under international law. Second, Israeli crimes put the violence of the Palestinian resistance into perspective. Palestinians have a right to defend themselves. Third, the long history of violence perpetrated against the Palestinians, and the resulting power imbalance, suggest that one should be in solidarity with the victim.

Amnesty however refuses to acknowledge the serious nature of Israeli crimes, by using an intellectually bankrupt subterfuge; it insists that as a rights-based organization it cannot refer to historical context – doing so would be considered “political” in its warped jargon. An examination of what AI considers “background” in its reports confirms that there is virtually no reference to relevant history, e.g., the prior attacks on Gaza, who initiated those attacks, the Goldstone report, etc. Presto! Now there is no need to mention serious crimes. It also doesn’t recognize the nature of the Palestinian resistance, and their right to self-defense. Nowhere does AI acknowledge that Palestinians are entitled to defend themselves. And finally, AI cannot express solidarity with the victim; hey, “both sides” are victims!

At this point, once Amnesty has chosen to ignore the serious Israeli crimes, it takes on the Mother Teresa role sitting on the fence castigating “both sides” for non-compliance with International Humanitarian Law that determines the rules of war. Thus AI criticizes Israel not for the transgression of attacking Gaza, but for utilizing excessive force or targeting civilian targets. AI’s favorite term to describe to such events is “disproportionate”. The term disproportionate is problematic because it suggests that there is an agreement with the nature of the action, but there is only an issue with the means or scale. While AI bleats that a one ton bomb in a refugee camp is disproportionate, it would seem that using a 100kg bomb would be acceptable. Another AI favored term is “conflict”, a state of affairs where both sides are at fault, both are victims and transgressors.

Notice that while AI avoids recognizing major crimes by using its rights-based framework, it suddenly changes its hat, and takes on a very legalistic approach to criticize the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians. It manages to list the full panoply of international humanitarian law.

The key thing to watch in the upcoming International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of the 2014 Massacre will be whether the Court will follow the Amnesty approach. Any investigation that doesn’t focus on the cause of the violence and who initiated it will result in another fraud, and no pixel of justice.

Criminalizing Palestinian Resistance

Amnesty dispenses with the Palestinian right to defend themselves by stating that the Palestinian rockets are “indiscriminate”, and proceeds to repeatedly call their use a war crime. Palestinian resistance is also told not to hide in heavily populated areas, not execute collaborators, and so on. While Palestinians are told that their resistance amounts to war crimes, the Israelis aren’t told that their attacks are criminal per se – here it is only a matter of scale.

The “Unlawful and deadly rocket and Mortar Attacks…” report repeatedly condemns Palestinian rocket firing with inaccurate weapons, deems these “indiscriminate”, and ipso facto war crimes. Amnesty confuses the term “inaccurate” for “indiscriminate”. Examining the table below suggests that Israel killed proportionately far more civilians, albeit with more accurate weapons. It is possible to target indiscriminately with precision munitions. There is also a possibility, that AI seems to disregard, that the Israeli military targeted civilians intentionally. NB: It is likely that Israel drones targeted children intentionally. A report by Defense for Children International states: “As a matter of policy, Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the very spaces where children are supposed to feel most secure”. [6]

Whose violence is indiscriminate?
Fatalities during the Massacre in Gaza 2014
Fatality type
Israeli caused deaths
Palestinian caused deaths

Regardless of the accuracy of the weapons, the key issue is one of intent. Amnesty dwells on an explosion at the Shati refugee camp on 28 July. On the basis of one field worker, Israeli-supplied evidence and an unnamed “independent munitions expert” [7], Amnesty concludes that:

Amnesty International has received no substantive response to its inquiries about this incident from the Palestinian authorities. An independent and impartial investigation is needed, and both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities must co-operate fully. The attack appears to have violated international humanitarian law in several ways, as the evidence indicates that it was an indiscriminate attack using a prohibited weapon which may well have been fired from a residential area within the Gaza Strip and may have been intended to strike civilians in Israel. If the projectile is confirmed to be a Palestinian rocket, those who fired it and those who commanded them must be investigated for responsibility for war crimes.

Mother Teresa certainly provides enough comic material; an occasional joke makes it easier to read a dull report. The evidence for the provenance of this missile is taken at face value although it is supplied by Israel, but of course, it requires an “investigation” – it is suggesting that both Israel and the Palestinians should investigate this incident. If the Palestinian resistance was responsible for this explosion, then it was caused by a misfiring; thus there was no intention for consequent deaths. Suggesting that this amounts to a war crime is rather silly. But the title of the section advertising the report on the AI website suggests a motive for harping on this incident; the title reads “Palestinian armed groups killed civilians on both sides in attacks amounting to war crimes”. This conveys a rather warped and negative view of the Palestinian resistance – they kill civilians on both sides – and it suggests that it is not possible to be in solidarity with them.

Tyranny of Reasons

After any Israeli attack, Israeli propagandists regularly offer a rationale about why a given target was struck. The propagandists reported that there were rocket-firing crews at hospitals, schools, mosques, the power plant, etc. Presto! These places can be bombed whether or not these statements are true. What is disconcerting in the two reports on Israeli crimes is that AI imputes reasons for the targeting of buildings or families.

One finds statements such as:

* Amnesty International believes this attack was targeting one individual.
* The apparent target was a member of a military group, targeted at a time when he was at home with his family.
* The fighters who were the apparent targets could have been targeted at a different time or in a different manner that was less likely to cause excessive harm to civilians and destruction of civilian objects.
* The apparent target of Israel’s attack was Ahmad Sahmoud, a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing. [...] Surviving family members and neighbours denied this.

Amnesty parrots the rationales provided by the Israeli military – one only needs to look at the footnotes of its reports. And Amnesty discounts the intentional bombing of buildings to create misery among the Gazan middle class to demoralize a key sector of society. Or by destroying the power plant it is creating generalized misery. But don’t worry, Mother T will always check with the Israeli military to determine why something was targeted.

AI is Not an Anti-war Organization

One would expect a human rights organization to be intrinsically opposed to war, but AI is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”. [8] Even with this predisposition AI was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize – yet another questionable recipient for a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. Today, one wonders if AI is going to jump on the R2P (Right to Protect) neocon bandwagon. A consequence of its “not-anti-war” stance is that it doesn’t criticize wars conducted by the United States, UK, or Israel; it is only the excesses that merit AI’s occasional lame rebuke – often prefaced with the term “disproportionate” or “alleged”. This stance is evident in its latest reports; here the premise is that the Israeli attack on Gaza was legitimate, but it is the conduct of “both sides” that is the object of the reports’ criticism.

Losing the Forest for the Trees

Amnesty International is a small organization without sufficient resources to conduct a proper report on the Massacre in Gaza 2014. And given the fact that it wasn’t given direct access to Gaza, it chose to focus on two aspects of the Israeli attack: the targeting of entire families, and the destruction of landmark buildings. Within these two categories it chose to focus on a handful of cases of each. The main problem is that AI harps on a few cases to the exclusion of the totality; AI loses the forest for the trees. There is no mention of some of the most significant total figures, say, the number of hospitals and schools destroyed, the tonnage of bombs dropped on Gaza [9], the tens of thousands of artillery shells used… and so on. The seriousness of the crime is lost by dwelling on a subset of a subset of the crimes committed. Amnesty isolates a few examples, describes them in some detail, and then suggests that unless there were military reasons for the attacks, then there should be an “investigation”. Oh yes, Amnesty has sent some polite letters to the Israeli authorities requesting some comment, but the Israelis have been rather non-responsive. Quite possibly the likes of Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Ganz, … are too busy rolling on the floor with laughter.

Given AI’s warped framework one would expect symmetry in the way the attacks are described. While AI provides the total number of rockets fired by the Palestinian resistance, AI provides no similar numbers of the tens of thousands of Israeli artillery shells fired, and the tonnage of bombs dropped on Gaza. The Israeli military propagandists were all too happy to provide detailed statistics about the Palestinian rockets, and AI does not seem to express any misgivings about using this data. It is also clear that Mother T didn’t ask the propagandists to supply statistics on the Israeli lethal tonnage dropped on Gaza.

Methodology and Evidence

Every report contains a methodology section admitting to the fact that AI didn’t have direct access to Gaza. All its research was done on the Israeli side, and by two Palestinian fieldworkers in Gaza. The inability to enter Gaza possibly explains the reliance on many Israeli military statements, blogs and the Foreign Ministry about the Palestinian rocket attacks. One can verify all the footnotes to find a significant number of official Israeli statements to provide so-called evidence. It is rather jarring to find Amnesty relying on information provided by the attacking military to implicate Palestinian resistance in war crimes. How appropriate is it to use Hamas’ Violations of the Law issued by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or Declassified Report Exposes Hamas Human Shield Policy issued by the Israeli military?

It is also jarring to find Amnesty referring to Israeli claims that rockets were fired from schools, hospitals, and the electric power plant. This information was provided as a justification for the Israeli destruction of those sites, but in the report AI uses it to wag its finger at the Palestinian resistance. [10]

Amnesty’s access to Israeli victims of Palestinian rockets produced emotional statements by the victims, and complied with Israeli propaganda needs. Israeli PR was keen to take journalists or visiting politicians to the border towns to show the rocket damage, and Amnesty seems to have been pleased to go along. At the same time Israelis barred AI access to Gaza – any information coming out of the area would not be compliant with Israeli PR requirements. Thus why send any researchers to the Israeli border area?

Execution of Collaborators – Who will be Criticized

AI has announced a publication of a forthcoming report on the execution of collaborators, and one can only speculate on its contents. But AI is not opposed to wars, and at the same time it is opposed to the death sentence; it is opposed to some deaths, but silent about others. Couple this stance with an unwillingness to recognize the Palestinian right to defend themselves, and consequently AI will deem the execution of collaborators as abhorrent.

There are many collaborators in the West Bank and they are evident at all levels of society, even in the so-called Palestinian Authority government. The Palestinian Authority has even committed to protect them. Collaboration with Israel in the West Bank is a relatively low risk activity. In Gaza there are also collaborators, and these are used to infiltrate and inform on the armed resistance groups, and also to sow black propaganda. During the Massacre in Gaza, collaborators were instrumental in pinpointing the location of the resistance and its leadership. In most countries, treason/espionage in time of war merits execution, but it is doubtful that AI will accept this, and will instead urge a judicial process with no death sentence.

The key aspect of the forthcoming report will be whether AI deems the Israeli use of collaborators an abhorrent practice. Israel uses collaborators to gather information, but it is also meant to fragment Palestinian society, and to sow distrust. With a society already under massive stress due to economic hardship and military repression, collaborators are a pernicious means to break morale and undermine Palestinian resilience. Will AI criticize Israeli use of collaborators, or will its report merely castigate Hamas for the way it deals with collaborators?

Why Were These Reports Written at All?

All AI reports follow the same boiler plate formula: a brief overview, a methodology section about data sources, some emotional quotations by the victims, a section on accountability, and then some recommendations. These reports are trite, barely readable, and certainly not very useful either for legal purposes or to educate its volunteers. So why were these reports published and who actually reads them? AI would like to be known as one of the leading human rights organizations, and it must be seen as reporting on major violations/crimes. Its volunteers must be given the impression that AI cares for some of the wholesale atrocities, and not merely the retail crime or violation.

The timing of the publication of one report (“Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks…”) is rather curious. The report dealing with the Palestinian rockets was published a few days before the Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court. Is that a mere coincidence? While some Palestinians are gearing up to prosecute Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity, a leading human rights organization publishes a report which harps on the theme that Palestinians are guilty of war crimes. AI has published reports in the past that were exploited for propaganda purposes, e.g., the throwing-the-babies-out-of-the-incubators propaganda hoax. [11] Those reports were published just in time so that they provided a justification for war.

Impotence by Design

All the reports contain a list of recommendations to Israelis, Palestinians, and other states. One is struck by the impotence of the recommendations. AI urges Israel to cooperate with the UN commission of inquiry; allow human rights organizations access to Gaza; pay reparations to some victims; and ensure that the Israeli military operates within some legal bounds. Given that Israel can do as it pleases, ignoring commissions of inquiry, loudly proclaiming that it will engage in disproportionate attacks (i.e., the Dahiya doctrine), and that it refuses compensate any Gazan due to the previous massacres, all these recommendations ring rather hollow.

Amnesty urges Palestinians to address their grievances via the ICC. It is curious that while international law provides the Palestinians no protection whatsoever, AI is urging Palestinians to jump through international legal hoops. It is also questionable to suggest a legal framework meant for interstate conflict when dealing with a non-state dispossessed native population. And of course, AI fails to mention that Israel has avoided and ignored international law with the complicity and aid of the United States.

Finally, AI requests other governments to assist the commission of inquiry and to assist in prosecution of war criminals. It remains to be seen whether the commission of inquiry will actually publish a report that has some teeth. AI also urges other countries to stop supplying weapons to “both sides”. There is no mention of the fact that the US resupplied Israel with weapons during the Massacre in Gaza in 2014. It is very unlikely that the US/UK will stop arming Israel, and thus AI’s recommendations are ineffective.

Amnesty trumpets that it has 7 million supporters world-wide [12], a few months ago this number was 3 million; two years ago this was 400,000, and few years ago this was 200,000. One should marvel at this explosive growth. If AI can really tap into the support of even a fraction of these volunteers, then AI can urge them to do something that has tangible results, e.g., recommending that its members/supporters boycott Israeli products or products produced by western companies complicit in Israeli crimes. Such action would be far more effective than the silly recommendations that are regularly ignored by Israel and its western backers. Alas, it is difficult to conceive that Amnesty will issue a call for a boycott to its ever expanding army of supporters. It is difficult for Mother T to change her stripes.

The Human Rights Industry

There are thousands of so-called human rights organizations. Anyone can set up a human rights organization, and thereby specify a narrow focus for the NGO, determine the parameters within which the NGO will operate – even define who is human – and now the new NGO can chime in with press releases, host wine and cheese receptions, bestow prizes, lobby politicians, launch investigations, and castigate the enemy du jour. Hey, Bono, Geldof and Angelina will hop along and sit on the NGO’s board! The human rights framework is so elastic, and it can be molded to fit legitimate purposes, but also to be manipulated for propaganda. The history of some of the largest human rights organizations show that they were originally created with the propaganda element foremost in mind.[13] This suggests NGO output (reports, etc.) merit scrutiny not so much for what they say, but for what they omit. In the Palestinian context, a simple test on the merits of a so-called human rights organization is whether they challenge state power, call for accountability and prosecution of war criminals, and urge members to do something more than write out cheques or write a very formal and polite letters to governments engaged in criminal deeds.

Another test on the merits of a human rights NGO is whether it is in solidarity with the victims of violence, and whether victims are treated differently depending on support/demonization by “the west”. In Amnesty’s case, consider that on the one hand it provides long lists of “prisoners of conscience” (POC) pertaining prisoners held in Cuba, Syria, etc., but on the other hand it explicitly doesn’t make the list of Palestinian POC available.[14] We have no means of knowing how many Palestinian POC Amnesty cares about, and whether its volunteers engage in letter writing campaigns on their behalf. One thing is certain, while the majority of Cuban political prisoners are considered POC, only a tiny fraction of the Palestinian political prisoners have been bestowed the POC status. And of course, Mother Teresa doesn’t give a hoot about political prisoners who might have been involved in violence – Palestinians are one stone throw away from being ignored by Amnesty International. Some victims are more meritorious than others.

In trying to justify AI’s double standard, Malcolm Smart, AI’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, stated:

“By its nature, the Israeli administrative detention system is a secretive process, in that the grounds for detention are not specified in detail to the detainee or his/her legal representative; inevitably, this makes it especially difficult for the detainee to challenge the order for, by example, contesting the grounds on which the detention was made. In the same way, it makes it difficult or impossible for Amnesty International to make a conclusive determination in many cases whether a particular administrative detainees can be considered a prisoner of conscience or not.” [15]

AI provides yet more comic material. AI admits that Israeli military courts can determine who can be considered a Palestinian POC! The only thing the Israeli military courts need to do is maintain the court proceedings secret or not reveal “evidence”. Alternatively, they can simply imprison the victims without trial or declare that they are members of a “banned” organization. [16] Presto! Israelis now won’t have to reply to those pesky polite letters written by AI volunteers. Once again, double standards in the treatment of victims raise questions about the nature of any human rights NGO.

Human Rights is Denatured Justice

Pushing for the observance of human rights doesn’t necessarily imply that one will obtain justice. The human rights agenda merely softens the edges of the status quo. As Amnesty’s position on the Israeli attacks on Gaza illustrate, pushing human rights can actually be incompatible with obtaining justice. Human rights are a bastardized, neutered, and debased form of justice. The application and effectiveness of international law is bad enough, but a pick and choose legal framework with no enforcement is even worse. If one seeks justice, then it is best to avoid the human rights discourse; above all, it is best to avoid human rights organizations.

Palestinians should be wary of Mother Teresas peddling human rights snake oil. In exchange for giving up their resistance and complying with AI’s norms, it is not likely that Palestinians will obtain a pixel of justice. One should be wary of human rights groups that don’t push for justice, play the role of Israel’s lawyer, and are bereft of solidarity with the victims. When the likes of AI come wagging their finger, it is best to keep the old blunderbuss near at hand.
PAUL de ROOIJ is a writer living in London. He can be reached at proox@hotmail.com (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)

Further Reading

Nabeel Abraham, et al.; International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine QuestionMiddle East Report (MERIP), Vol. 18, No. 1, January-February 1988, pp. 12 – 20.

Dennis Bernstein and Francis Boyle, Amnesty on Jenin: an interview, CAQ, Summer 2002, pp. 9 – 12, 27.

Paul de Rooij, AI: Say It Isn’t So, CounterPunch, 31 Oct. 2002

Paul de Rooij, Amnesty International: The Case of a Rape Foretold, CounterPunch, 26 November 2003.

Paul de Rooij, Double Standards and Curious Silences / Amnesty International: A False Beacon, CounterPunch, 13 October 2004.

PIWP database: list of articles on the politics of human rights.


  1. •Families Under the Rubble: Israeli Attacks on Inhabited Homes (MDE 15/032/2014), 5 November 2014.
    •”Nothing is immune”:
    Israel’s destruction of landmark buildings in Gaza (MDE 15/029/2014), 9 December 2014.
    •Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict (MDE 21/1178/2015),
    26 March 2015.
    •The fourth report about the execution of collaborators has not been published yet.
  2. I distinguish between Amnesty International, the international organization, and its well intentioned letter-writing volunteers.
  3. Possibly the best overview of the Gaza Massacre 2014 is Al Haq’s Divide and Conquer;
  4. Statement made in 2006 by Dov Weisglas, one of Israel’s Dr. Strangeloves and close confidant of Ariel Sharon.
  5. Ruthie Blum interviews Arnon Soffer, ONE on ONE: It’s the demography, stupid, Jerusalem Post, 10 May 2004.
  6. Ali Abunimah, Israel “directly targeted” children in drone strikes on Gaza, says rights group, Electronic Intifada, 17 April 2015
  7. Amnesty loves to trot out military experts and dwell on the type of weapons used. First, there is an issue about the military experts, and who they are. What is the ethics of showing up in Gaza with a military person who might still be in the armed forces of, say, the UK. One can hardly expect them to be “independent”. And why dwell on the type of munitions if their use is already criminal to begin with? Focusing on the type of weapon deflects attention from the damage and the victims – that should be the emphasis.
  8. Alexander Cockburn, “How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?”, CounterPunch newsletter, April 1-15, 1999
  9. While AI reports the total number of Palestinian rockets fired, there is no equivalent number to the totals used by the Israeli military. That number would be of interest because it would indicate the scale of the crimes committed. Tens of thousands of artillery shells were used requiring restocking by the United States in the middle of the attack.
  10. The UN report on the Israeli attacks against schools lists several incidents where the Israelis falsely accused the Palestinians of firing on these schools. Such evidence should reduce the credibility of Israeli statements. See, e.g., Ali Abunimah, UN finds Israel killed dozens at Gaza schools but ducks call for accountability, Electronic Intifada, 28 April 2015.
  11. In the lead up to the 1991 invasion of Kuwait/Iraq, Amnesty issued a report on the so-called babies out of incubators story. President Bush Senior showcased the report on the eve of the attack, and used it for its full propaganda potential. When it was pointed out to AI that they were pushing a propaganda hoax, AI doubled its estimate of the number of children dumped from the incubators. To this day, AI has never apologized for playing a role in selling an American war.
  12. See here And notice that in the page after title page of AI’s reports the number of supporters increases from one report to the next.
  13. Kirsten Sellars, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights, Sutton Publishing, 29 April 2002. Herein she discusses the origin of Human Rights Watch.
  14. Malcolm Smart, Letter: Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience lists and the reason for double standards, 9 August 2010.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Another technique to rule out sympathetic treatment of Palestinians is to suggest that they are members of a banned organization. NB: it is Israel who does the banning. Any organization seeking liberation or to confront the Israeli dispossession or violence is deemed by the Israelis to be a “terrorist organization”. Currently, AI will play along with this charade, and also ignore Palestinians of “political” organizations.


Welcome to my blog and let me know what you think about my postings.

My web pages also have a wide range of topics which are added to when possible. Look for them in any search engine under


I hope you find items of interest!

Search This Blog


Blog Archive

Total Pageviews

About Me

My photo
Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm