by Stephen Lendman
America's unmatched globally. However, pound for pound, based on size, its policies, and regional threat, Israel stands out.
Daily, its crimes against humanity continue. On January 23, Jerusalem police arrested two Palestinian officials, Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said both men were wanted for unspecified "Hamas activities" with no further comment.
Hamas, of course, is Palestine's legitimate government. Israel and America spuriously call it a terrorist organization. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said arresting both men was a "Zionist crime." Palestine's parliament hasn't functioned since Hamas and Fatah split in 2007.
Both men were arrested at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Sheikh Jarrah offices. For the past 18 months, they sought refuge there protesting Israel's illegal deportation orders after their ID cards were revoked.
Abu Arafah served as Hamas minister for Jerusalem affairs. Totah's a Hamas PLC representative. Months earlier, Hamas legislator Mahmoud Atoun was arrested. He also sought ICRC refuge.
Hamas parliamentarians are repeatedly targeted. Around two dozen remain imprisoned. Twenty are uncharged under administrative detention. At one time, 40 Hamas PLC members were lawlessly incarcerated for belonging to the wrong party, not any crimes they committed.
On January 19, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Aziz Dweik was arrested for alleged terrorist connections. Despite a thinly veiled lie, a military court on January 24 ordered him detained uncharged for six months.
On January 20, lawmaker Khaled Tafesh was arrested and detained at Ofer Prison.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned Israel's actions. It called them "a plan to undermine the results of the (January 2006) Palestinian legislative elections (and) to abort the Palestinian reconciliations efforts."
PCHR also called them Fourth Geneva-prohibited collective punishment. It demanded immediate release of those held, strongly condemned storming ICRC's office, and said doing so violated international humanitarian law.
Israel falsely claimed ICRC's office has no diplomatic status, making it fair game for Israeli lawlessness.
Israel's War on Hamas
On January 25, Jerusalem Post writer Khaled Abu Toameh headlined, "Israel has declared war on Hamas in West Bank," saying:
In the past few days alone, five Hamas PLC members were arrested. "Early Tuesday, IDF soldiers arrested Abdel Jabbar Fukaha, a Hamas legislator, in Ramallah and confiscated documents, a laptop and mobile phones from his home."
His wife said their son Mujahed was summoned to appear Sunday for interrogation. After serving a four-month sentence, Fukaha was released from Israeli prison in February 2011.
"In a related development, Hamas legislators in Tulkarm said on Tuesday that an Israeli security official phoned them and ordered them to close their office immediately. Fathi Qarawi and Riad Raddad said it was the second threat received in the past month."
It's part of an Israeli campaign to destroy Hamas, they believe, adding:
"Israel has declared war on Hamas. But we won't be deterred and we will continue to fulfill our duties."
Hamas leaders believe Israel's trying to sabotage reconciliation with Fatah and foil planned May parliamentary and presidential elections. It wouldn't be the first time strong-arm Israeli tactics subverted Palestinian elections and other legitimate activities.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri denounced Israeli's scheme, saying:
"Israel thinks that the arrests will destroy Hamas' chances of winning the elections. On the contrary, these measures will only increase (our) popularity."
He also called on human rights organizations to intervene and pressure Israel to release lawlessly detained "legislators who were elected by the people in a democratic vote."
Lawless Home Demolitions, Land Theft and Dispossessions
Among other rogue policies, home demolitions and land theft define Israeli repression. On January 23, East Anata's bedouin compound was bulldozed and destroyed for the fifth time.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls it "a living symbol of resistance to Occupation and the desire for justice and peace."
ICAHD's Itay Ephshtain said:
"People are somber, traumatized and grief stricken. Nearly 100 people are out in the elements now on a cold night. Children, babies, mothers, fathers. Some of us from ICAHD did try to block the bulldozer, but were beaten back by soldiers."
In fact, Epshtain was personally beaten and sustained minor injuries.
Called Beit Arabiya, the site was home to Arabiya Shawemreh, her husband Salim and seven children. Their home was previously destroyed four times.
Each time, ICAHD, Palestinians, and international peace activists rebuilt it. Now it's again gone. On January 23 around 11PM, a bulldozer accompanied by soldiers arrived. Beit Arabiya as well as other residential and agricultural structures in Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound were destroyed.
Beit Arabiya initially got a demolition order in 1994. At issue was failing to get a building permit on their own land. ICAHD Director Jeff Halper vowed to help Salim and Arabiya rebuild, saying:
"We shall rebuild. We must rebuild forthwith as an act of political defiance of the occupation and protracted oppression of Palestinians."
"ICAHD is as determined as always to rebuild the home, and endure in its struggle to bring about justice and peace."
Salim and Arabiya dedicated their home to Rachael Corrie and Nuha Sweidan. Both women, an American and Palestinian, were murdered resisting Gaza home demolitions.
Weeks earlier on December 6, The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called on Israel to cease house demolitions, forced evictions, and residency revocations.
ICAHD's publication "No Home, No Homeland" highlights the issue. It estimates about 26,000 Palestinian homes destroyed since June 1967 for "punitive, land clearing/military, and administrative" reasons.
On Occupied Palestinian land, doing so violates international law. Israel spurns it. As a result, Palestinian suffering continues. Women and children are especially affected. Forced displacement further harms them. ICAHD called 2011 a record year.
World leaders turn a blind eye. Israeli officials are green-lighted to commit crimes with impunity. They take full advantage.
Obama's "Ironclad" Commitment
In his January 24 State of the Union address, Obama highlighted his unwavering support, saying:
"Our ironclad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history."
Among other ways, it's reflected in billions in military aid and regular increased amounts. In August 2007, Bush increased it by $6 billion over the next decade. Despite budget constraints, Obama added more.
In FY 2012 alone, an additional $236 million will help develop three Israeli missile programs: Arrow-2, David's Sling, and Arrow 3. Israel already gets over $3 billion annually, plus unknown add-ons if requested.
"If Americans knew" reports that while Israel gets "at least $8.2 million each day in military aid," Palestinians get zero.
A Final Comment
On January 22, London Guardian writer Harriet Sherwood headlined, "The Palestinian children - alone and bewildered - in Israel's Al Jalame" Prison, saying:
Young children are physically and verbally abused. It's nightmarish. Cell 36 and others like it are "where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old" said he'd been isolated for 65 days.
Cells are "barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep."
Low-quality food arrives through door flaps, depriving children of human contact. Brutal interrogations break the monotony. Shackled hands and feet to a chair for hours, they're questioned.
Most often, their alleged "crime" is stone-throwing. Most deny doing it. Physical and verbal abuse follow. Many face sleep deprivation exhaustion. "Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions" in desperation. Later they say they were coerced.
As many as 700 Palestinian children are arrested annually. Some are 10 or younger. Mistreatment is extreme. Emotional trauma results.
According to Nader Abu Amsha, director of Beit Sahour's YMCA juvenile rehab program:
"(F)amilies think that when (their) child is released, it's the end of the problem. We tell them (it's only) the beginning. You see children who are totally broken. It's painful to see the pain of these children, to see how much they are squeezed by the Israeli system."
It's more evidence of rogue Israeli lawlessness. Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti told Maan News that conflict and abuses will continue until Israel ends occupation and withdraws to pre-1967 borders.
He believes Palestinian national unity and nonviolent resistance stand the best chance of achieving it.
Barghouti's a prisoner of conscience serving five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years for wanting to live free. Free or imprisoned, he symbolizes hope. Supporters hope he'll be freed one day to lead them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.