Total Pageviews

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Israel’s Defense Minister Calls Settlers’ Attacks on Palestinians ‘Outright Terror’

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, denounced a campaign of attacks on Palestinian civilians and property by extremist Israeli settlers as “outright terror” on Wednesday, after two cars were set on fire with Molotov cocktails and Hebrew graffiti â€" reading “price tag” and “Esh Kodesh revenge” â€" was sprayed on the walls of a West Bank village.

The vandalism took place in early morning near the village of Qusra, in apparent retaliation for an incident there the day before, in which a group of young settlers was captured and beaten by Palestinians who caught them trespassing. Village elders, and a Palestinian field worker for the Jewish group Rabbis for Human Rights, then stepped in to protect the settlers and arranged for them to be escorted away by Israeli soldiers.

Video posted online by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed West Bank settlers whose attack on Palestinian civilians was reportedly pre-empted on Tuesday.

The Tel Aviv daily Israel Hayom reported that military sources “said the settlers, all known right-wing activists, entered the village with the clear intent of carrying out a ‘price tag’ attack.” In recent years, extremists among the settler community have waged a campaign of revenge attacks whenever concessions were made by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and the Hebrew words for “price tag” are frequently spray-painted as a calling card.

As my colleague Isabel Kershner explained, the Israeli military said that the confrontation on Tuesday began after Israeli security forces removed an illegal structure in Esh Kodesh, an unauthorized Israeli settlement outpost in the northern West Bank.

Images of the battered young settlers being turned over to Israeli soldiers at a Qusra construction site used as a makeshift detention center by Palestinians amounted to “an unprecedented humiliation” for the far-right activists, the Israeli television journalist Roy Sharon observed Tuesday night.

Video of Israeli settlers after they were captured in a Palestinian village on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank.

Mr. Sharon, and the Haaretz journalist Chaim Levinson, pointed out on Twitter that one of the Israelis seen in photographs and video of the group whose price tag attack was pre-empted was Meir Ettinger, a grandson of the Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Rabbi Kahane, who was elected to Israel’s Parliament in 1984, had called for the expulsion of all Arabs and said that “Western democracy as we know it is incompatible with Zionism.” He was assassinated in 1990, two years after his far-right political party, Kach, was banned by Israel’s election committee because of its “Nazi-like,” “racist” and “undemocratic positions.”

His grandson, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, has previously been temporarily barred from the West Bank for allegedly spying on Israeli soldiers to prevent them from taking action to evict settlers from illegal outposts. Mr. Ettinger was also once detained while conducting research for a project called Hebrew Labor, whose goal was to map all of the businesses in Jerusalem that use Arab labor “to warn the public” against buying from them.

According to a translation from Israel Hayom, Mr. Yaalon, the Israeli defense minister, said on Wednesday: “The phenomenon called ‘price-tag’ is inherently wrong and I consider it outright terror. We are sparing no effort to find its perpetrators and we will show them zero tolerance.”

“The State of Israel cannot permit itself to have phenomena of this kind emerge from within,” he added. “We will not permit marginal, extreme and violent groups to take control by force of land that is not theirs, in violation of the law, or to threaten Palestinian residents who are working their land.”

As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, even Dani Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements, denounced the “price tag” campaign on Wednesday. “I’m sick of the idiots who think that the Land of Israel is acquired through use of a club, a box of match and provocations,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m sick of Jewish masked hooligans, who harm soldiers, policemen and innocent Arabs. I’m sick of the irresponsible people who carry out acts of injustice and foolishness.”

In a pointed rebuke to the rhetoric of the extremists, Mr. Dayan concluded: “It seems that there are good Arabs who are not dead Arabs. Arab hooligans have been bravely confronted by a group of good Arabs â€" good people â€" who prevented harm to Jews. Who will thank them as they deserve?”

The official commitment of Israeli’s military, which administers justice in the occupied territories, to preventing attacks on Palestinians by settlers was undercut somewhat by a series of videos published on Wednesday by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. The video recordings, apparently made on Monday in the West Bank by a resident of a Palestinian village near the settlement of Yitzhar, seemed to show masked Israeli settlers hurling rocks at a Palestinian school as uniformed soldiers stood next to them and made no move to stop them.

Video published on Wednesday by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, said to show Israeli settlers hurling rocks at Palestinians on Monday in the West Bank as soldiers watched.

The settlers also reportedly destroyed part of a water reservoir for Palestinians being built with funds provided by the United States Agency for International Development.

According to the rights group: “The filmed record indicates that the military, which is required to defend Palestinians in the West Bank, in actual fact served as a security entourage for violent settlers. During the incident, the military backed the settlers in their assault on Palestinians and their property.” The soldiers, B’Tselem said, did not intervene until “students at the school threw stones back at the settlers and the soldiers fired tear gas at the students.”

Anger in London, as Killing of Unarmed Man That Sparked Riots Is Called Lawful

Video posted online by Britain’s Channel 4 News showed a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police Service reading a statement about the killing of Mark Duggan.

There was visceral anger outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London on Wednesday, after an inquest jury decided that police officers had acted lawfully when they shot and killed an unarmed man they suspected of carrying a gun in 2011. Protests over the fatal shooting of the man, Mark Duggan, devolved into riots that spread across England shortly after his death.

Although a police spokesman, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, offered sympathy to the family of the dead man, in a statement he read aloud outside the court, his words were largely drowned out by shouts of “Murderer!” and “No Justice, No Peace!”

As Britain’s Channel 4 News reports, Mr. Duggan was shot by police marksmen acting on intelligence that he was carrying a gun in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham, on Aug. 4, 2011. The jury decided by a vote of eight to two that while Mr. Duggan was found to have been unarmed at the time of his death, he had been carrying a gun and tossed it away when confronted by the officers. The police later found a gun about 20 feet away from Mr. Duggan’s body, inside a sock.

The Duggan family’s lawyer, Marcia Willis Stewart, and the dead man’s brother and aunt told reporters that they rejected what they called “a perverse judgment” and vowed to fight “for as long as it takes” to get justice. The aunt, Carole Duggan, said, “The majority of people in this country know that Mark was executed.”

Video of Mark Duggan’s brother and aunt speaking on Wednesday in a report from Britain’s Press Association.

U.A.E. Releases American Who Was Jailed for Satirical Video

An American man who was jailed in the United Arab Emirates for his part in a satirical video is being released this week after serving his sentence, a representative of the man’s family said.

Shezanne Cassim, 29, was jailed by a State Security Court on Dec. 23 under an article of the federal cybercrimes law, which provides for jail and fines for anyone who uses information technology to publish caricatures that are “liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on public order.” At the time of the sentencing, Mr. Cassim, who is from Woodbury, Minn., had already been in detention since April.

On Tuesday, a representative for his family, Jennifer P. Gore, said in a statement that customary practice in the United Arab Emirates equates nine months imprisonment to a one-year sentence, so Mr. Cassim was already being processed for deportation based on time served and was expected home this week.

“I can’t tell you how relieved our family is by this turn of events,” Mr. Cassim’s brother, Shervon Cassim, said in a statement. “We are very excited, and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez.”

The local KSTP channel said in a report that he could be arriving at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday morning.

The video comedy sketch, created by Mr. Cassim and four other men who were also detained, was about the fictitious Satwa Combat School, set in the Dubai neighborhood of the same name, with an instructor named Saloom Snake, who trained combatants to throw sandals, use the thin ropes of an Arab headdress as weapons and summon help on Twitter for fights that never actually occur. The video was posted on YouTube in 2012.

In the opening scene of their satirical 20-minute video, the amateur filmmakers posted a disclaimer saying: “The following events are fictional and no offense was intended to the people of Satwa and U.A.E.”

But it did little good convincing the authorities. Two Indian men were also given a one-year sentence and, like Mr. Cassim, a fine of 10,000 dirhams, about $2,700. The court had also given two Emirati citizens eight-month sentences each and fines of 5,000 dirhams, while three other foreigners were sentenced to a year each in their absence, The National, a local newspaper, reported.

Mr. Cassim’s case was widely shared on social media and Twitter, using the hashtag #FreeShez, to highlight freedom-of-speech and artistic expression restrictions in the Gulf Arab emirates. A website was created to provide updates on his case, and the American comic actor Will Ferrell and others created a video statement in support.

The Twitter account @JusticeforShez highlighted Mr. Cassim’s case in the broader context of how the emirates were trying to attract high-profile cultural and music events.

After the release was announced, Rori Donaghy, the director of the Emirates Center for Human Rights, which monitors human rights in the U.A.E., also drew attention to the cybercrimes law.

Mr. Donaghy said in a statement:

It is of great relief for the Cassim family that Shezanne can return home, but until authorities change the cybercrimes law it is simply a matter of time before another story of injustice emerges from the U.A.E.

Shezanne Cassim and his friends should never have been put in prison, and hopefully they can recover from this nightmare, but for the peaceful Emirati activists who use the Internet to challenge human rights abuse there is no escaping authorities who have criminalized even the mildest forms of criticism.”

The forthcoming release of these young filmmakers is welcome but it does not solve the issue. Authorities continue to use the cybercrimes law to restrict free speech, as demonstrated by the recent sentencing of a 19-year-old Emirati activist to three years in prison for using Twitter to speak out about human rights violations in his country.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.

Rodman Serenades Kim With a Chorus of ‘Happy Birthday, Dear Marshal’

Sky News video of Dennis Rodman singing to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, before a basketball game in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

One day after he seemed to suggest that an American citizen detained in North Korea might deserve his fate, the retired basketball star Dennis Rodman serenaded North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, with a chorus of “Happy Birthday, Dear Marshal,” before an exhibition game in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

According to an Associated Press report from the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, Mr. Rodman also told the capacity crowd of 14,000 that Mr. Kim, who turned 31, “is a great leader, he provides for his people here in this country, and thank God the people here love the marshal.” The American then led a group of retired National Basketball Association players to a 47-39 loss to a North Korean squad in the first half of the exhibition game.

The teams were mixed for the second half, which Mr. Rodman watched from the stands, sitting next to Mr. Kim. After his first meeting with Mr. Kim last year, Mr. Rodman told reporters, “I love him â€" the guy’s awesome.”

Before tip-off, the sister of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who was sentenced last year to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp, expressed her disgust with comments made by Mr. Rodman about her brother in a contentious interview with CNN broadcast on Tuesday.

Dennis Rodman reacted angrily to a question about an American detained in North Korea during an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

Asked during the interview if he would take the opportunity to raise Mr. Bae’s imprisonment with North Korea’s leader, Mr. Rodman suggested that the reporters who have pressed him on the issue do not “understand what Kenneth Bae did.” Before displaying his rage, Mr. Rodman asked Chris Cuomo of CNN: “Do you understand what he did? In this country?”

In a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Bae’s sister Terri Chung said:

Dennis Rodman and his friends are in the DPRK (North Korea) now, practicing “basketball diplomacy,” as he has phrased it, playing games apparently to celebrate the birthday of the supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.

It is clear to me, however, that there is nothing diplomatic about his trip. My family and I are outraged by Rodman’s recent comments. He is playing games with my brother’s life. There is no diplomacy, only games, and at my brother’s expense.

During an interview on CNN, Rodman was protective of his “friend for life,” DPRK’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un. Yet Rodman became enraged when asked about my brother, the American tour operator Kenneth Bae, who is sick and has been imprisoned in the DPRK for 14 months.

Dennis Rodman could do a lot of good by advocating for Kenneth to Kim Jong-un, but instead he has decided to hurl outrageous accusations at my brother, insinuating that Kenneth has done something sinister. He is clearly uninformed about Kenneth’s case, and he is certainly not in any position to pass judgment on Kenneth Bae, who has never any hostile intentions against the DPRK.

The Rodman-led trip was also denounced by the chairman of the board of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, Otis Birdsong, who said in a statement: “Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances. Standing alongside our partners at the N.B.A., we do not condone the basketball activities to be conducted in North Korea this week.”

After the game on Wednesday, one of the players who accompanied Mr. Rodman to North Korea, the former New York Knick Charles Smith, who took a more measured tone in the CNN interview, told The A.P. that he was “not totally overjoyed” by how things had worked out.