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November 01, 2018

Israel targets Gaza's children, say witnesses

HugeSaleby: Sarah Algherbawi
The Electronic Intifada

Every Friday for the past few months, Nasir Musbah insisted that he accompany his two older sisters to the Great March of Return. Both women are medics; Nasir used to carry their first aid bags.

Nasir's mother, Samah, allowed him to go on the condition that he would stay at a tent east of Khan Younis city from where the medics worked. It was around 500 meters from Gaza's boundary with Israel.

On 28 September, Nasir was at that tent when Islam, one of his sisters, called over to him, asking for the first aid bag. Nasir did as requested, then ran back towards the tent. On his return, he suddenly fell to the ground.

Nasir had been hit in the head with a bullet fired by an Israeli sniper. He was only 11.

"I saw a laser beam passing us and directed at the child's head while he was running," said Yasser Abu Khater, a protester who witnessed the killing. "I'm sure that it wasn't random. Nasir was targeted directly."

Islam and her sister Duaa were busy tending to the injured at the time Nasir was killed. When his sisters went to the medical tent, they were concerned that they could not find Nasir anywhere.

His body had already been brought to the European Gaza Hospital. Two hours later, they had to identify his body in the morgue.

"My little man"

"Nasir didn't miss a day since the Great March of Return demonstrations were launched," said Samah, his mother.

"He was a child with a big brain, he memorized the Quran, did kung fu and played football, loved to talk to adults, and helped us with the housework. He was my little man."

"I have no idea why Israel killed him," she added. "He wasn't holding a weapon. All he did was to help people who had been injured."

Samah has a back complaint. "Nasir wanted to be a doctor so that he could help me get better," she said. "He was a very kind child."

Wisam, 12, used to sit beside Nasir at school. "I miss everything about Nasir," Wisam said. "He was like the scientist of the class. He used to explain the lessons to us and help everyone. He was everyone's friend."

Another child, 14-year-old Muhammad al-Hawm, was among the seven people shot dead during the Great March of Return on 28 September. In total, six children were killed in the boundary area between Gaza and Israel last month. A seventh died of injuries sustained in August.

Carte blanche to kill

At least 34 children have been killed by Israeli forces while participating in Great March of Return protests since they began on 30 March.

Amnesty International has criticized Israel's newly announced "zero tolerance" approach to Palestinian protests in the boundary area.

Saleh Higazi, an Amnesty representative, expressed alarm that the policy would give Israeli forces "carte blanche authorization to carry out large-scale, unlawful killings escalating the bloodshed."

Higazi noted that Israel has already "repeatedly used lethal force unnecessarily and excessively against unarmed protesters in shameless violation of international law."

Higazi added: "It is now time the international community shows 'zero tolerance' towards Israel's flagrant contempt for Palestinian lives and disregard for its obligations under international law."

The September killings took place shortly before the anniversary of another child victim: Muhammad al-Dura. Aged 12, Muhammad was shot dead in Gaza on 30 September 2000. Filmed by the television channel France 2, his killing became synonymous with the second intifada.

More than 2,000 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli armed forces or settlers in the past 18 years. Approximately 1,600 of those killings occurred in Gaza.

"I'll shoot you"

The bloodshed is continuing.

On 3 October, Israel killed 15-year-old Ahmad Abu Habil by firing a tear gas canister into his head.

Ahmad, a resident of the Jabaliya refugee camp, was the youngest child in his family. "Our mother spoiled him," said his sister Kifah. "He was funny. He loved to tell jokes."

Two days later, Faris al-Sarsawi became yet another victim of Israeli state violence. He was 13.

Faris hailed from the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. His grandmother Mutia has watched ambulances pass her home since the Great March of Return protests began in late March.

She had seen a number of ambulances on 5 October and, as usual, said prayers for the people inside them. "I never expected that one of those ambulances would carry the body of my lovely grandson," the 74-year-old said.

Faris had been named after his uncle who died during an Israeli offensive against Gaza in 2004. "My son Faris was killed in 2004," said Mutia. "And now they have killed my other Faris."

Maher Zaqoul, a neighbor, was standing near Faris at the 5 October protests. They were about 200 meters from the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

"An Israeli soldier deliberately killed Faris," Zaqoul said. "The Israeli soldier said on a loudspeaker 'you, with the white T-shirt, I'll shoot you' - pointing at Faris."

Within minutes of that threat, Faris was shot in the chest. He died immediately.

"My son was innocent," said his father Hafiz. "He had a lot to do in his life but Israel ended it very early."

Original Article: Israel targets Gaza's children, say witnesses

Israel lobby wants Saudis to get away with Khashoggi murder

 
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by: Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada

With ever more gruesome details emerging about the slaying and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, fingers of blame are pointing squarely at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

This is a huge problem for Israel and its lobby who see the Saudi de facto ruler - commonly referred to in English-language media by his initials MBS - as their key regional ally.

Until the 2 October killing in Istanbul, the Saudi autocrat had been feted by European royalty, American politicians and pundits, and Silicon Valley billionaires.

But following the Khashoggi killing, many are running for cover, especially one of the Saudi crown prince's most egregious cheerleaders, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

Friedman and company had been marketing MBS as a "reformer."

Israel lobby stalwart and longtime US "peace process" steward Dennis Ross even dubbed the prince "a Saudi revolutionary."

This was all in keeping with a tradition - which as Georgetown University in Qatar professor Abdullah Al-Arian documented goes back decades - of US elites greeting every new Saudi ruler as a "reformer."

This ruse operates as cover and justification for a deep US alliance with a regime whose brutality and abuses have always gone unchecked.

But the ruse can only work if the Saudis keep their side of the bargain, by refraining from actions that fall outside the elite consensus of acceptable and marketable behavior.

Killing thousands of children in Yemen and starving millions more, beheading dozens of people each year and funding jihadist groups to sow chaos across the region can all be tolerated by the US and Europe, because such atrocities are seen as necessary to keep the Saudi regime in power, or essential to implement Western "foreign policy."

Murdering and dismembering a Washington Post columnist inside a Saudi diplomatic mission, however, just goes too far and hits too close to home.

"Now, as Saudi Arabia struggles to rebut accusations that Crown Prince Mohammad was complicit in the grisly killing of a Saudi dissident, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the prince's other allies across the region are starting to worry that damage to him could upend their own plans and priorities," The New York Times acknowledged on Monday.

"Kid gloves"

But amid the howls of outrage, there are still quite a few voices cautioning against being too hard on MBS, because of his value to Israel.

As BuzzFeed noted on 18 October, Israel, Saudi Arabia's "unofficial ally," has remained "noticeably quiet" about Khashoggi's killing.

The Israelis are "in a very difficult position," Dan Shapiro, President Barack Obama's ambassador to Israel, told the publication. "They count very much on Saudi Arabia," which is "central to their strategic concept of the region."

Indeed, Israel and Saudi Arabia are staunch allies, sharing an enmity towards Iran.

The Saudi crown prince's pro-Israel leanings and attacks on the Palestinians last spring greatly boosted his stock with Israel and its lobby.

But a Saudi Arabia weakened as a result of the Khashoggi affair would "undermine Arab cover provided by the kingdom for [President Donald] Trump's efforts to impose a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would favor Israel at the expense of the Palestinians," James Dorsey, of Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, warned in a commentary Tuesday.

Given what Israel hopes to gain from its relationship with Saudi Arabia, some are arguing that it should stand by the Saudi crown prince no matter what.

Haaretz commentator Tzvia Greenfield counseled that even if MBS ordered the murder of Khashoggi, "it's necessary to treat the suspect with kid gloves."

"For 50 years we've prayed for a key Arab leader who agrees to sign a significant pact with Israel. Such a leader has finally arrived," Greenfield stated, adding that calls to remove MBS "are destructive."

"Quiet diplomacy"

That view is shared by Israeli political and military elites, according to The Times of Israel, which noted that Israeli officials are likely engaged in "quiet diplomacy" in support of Saudi Arabia.

"Israel's knowledge of the Middle East is highly respected in large parts of the world, including in Europe, and therefore Israeli warnings of the impact of moving away from Saudi Arabia are very important," Dore Gold, former director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, told The Times of Israel.

But Gold cautioned that such work should be done behind the scenes, according to the publication.

Martin Indyk, another long-time US "peace process" diplomat who launched his career from a think tank founded by the Israel lobby group AIPAC, has also gone into damage control mode on behalf of the Saudis.

Indyk told Bloomberg television that the Saudis should try to change the subject from Khashoggi.

Given that the US has made Saudi Arabia a "pillar" of its anti-Iran strategy, Indyk said, "we have to find a way to get the Saudi leadership, particularly Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, to take an active role, not only in terms of saying there will be a thorough, transparent investigation - we should aim for that, we're not going to get it - but also in terms of switching the channel, in making the focus something positive."

Indyk suggested that MBS could announce "getting out of Yemen," or releasing some female political prisoners as a way to change the subject.

MBS needs to "do something to double down on his positive reform agenda to make it clear that there's a reason to be supporting him," Indyk urged.

In other words, Indyk is hoping that the old rules can quickly be restored: where Saudi leaders pretend to be "reformers," and US elites pretend to believe them, and that this would rescue MBS.

Josh Block, the head of another lobby group, The Israel Project, took to Twitter to call Khashoggi "a radical Islamist terrorist ally who was close to Osama bin Laden, ISIS, Hamas and wanted to overthrow the Saudi ruling royals, who oppose both the Sunni terrorists, sponsored by Turkey and Qatar, as well as Iran's Shia terrorist armies and allies."

Without going as far as openly defending the killing of Khashoggi, Block nonetheless minimized it by claiming that the columnist was a "bad guy prob[ably] killed by bad guys."

In other words, there's nothing to see here.

Block also echoed Riyadh's crude propaganda that the press reports detailing Khashoggi's killing were part of a plot sponsored by powers hostile to Saudi Arabia, which he characterized as one of several "Western-oriented Arab regimes."


Changing Saudi lobby

As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor at California State University, Stanislaus, took early note of the Israel lobby's defense of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.

AbuKhalil told The Electronic Intifada that the aggressive mobilization reflects the elevated status of the Saudi lobby as a result of its alliance with Israel.

"Until this decade, lobbying for Saudi Arabia has been an American affair largely relying on oil companies, arms manufacturers and former politicians," AbuKhalil explained.

But in the last 10 years, groups including SAPRAC and the Arabia Foundation "came along at a time when there was more acceptance of lobbying with a Saudi face, and this is part of the crowning of the Saudi-Israeli alliance."

"Arab lobbying in Washington, DC, cannot occur without the blessing of the Israel lobby, and this is true of the Qatari lobby, the Lebanese lobby, the Egyptian lobby and the Saudi lobby," AbuKhalil said.

Can all this effort save MBS from the storm over Khashoggi?

"The Israel lobby is really nervous," AbuKhalil said. "The Israel lobby wants to save that prince so badly, but there is so much outrage in US media and in Congress."

AbuKhalil thinks much of the advocacy for MBS is being done behind the scenes. Nonetheless, he sees the Saudi crown prince as solidly entrenched internally, with little chance of being overthrown by a royal family whose influential members the crown prince has totally sidelined.

"The only way it's going to happen is if the US decides to get rid of him," AbuKhalil said. "The Israelis don't want to abandon him either, and so his best bet is to get even closer to Israel."

"That's why I predict [MBS] may go to the Knesset next year," AbuKhalil said, a reference to former Egyptian ruler Anwar Sadat's dramatic 1977 trip to the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem that cemented Egypt in the US-Israeli camp.

Original Article: Israel lobby wants Saudis to get away with Khashoggi murder
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