Attacks on demonstrators in Rome

Israel supporters march from Jewish ghetto to the Palestinian embassy in Rome with "Assassins" banner after teens were kidnapped (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Israel supporters march from Jewish Quarter to the Palestinian embassy in Rome with “Assassins” banner after reports of Jewish teens kidnapped in Occupied Palestine (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

As the ferocious attacks on the Palestinian population of Gaza continue, once again the Israeli government’s sense of impenetrable impunity is on display in all its brutality. With an Israeli rabbi condoning the killing of civilians in Gaza, an Israeli lawmaker calling for the murder of Palestinian mothers and a “scholar” suggesting Palestinian women be raped, it should come as no surprise that this sense of impunity is being transmitted to Israeli citizens, interpreted by some as a free license to attack those who dare to publicly stand for justice in Palestine.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators protesting the assault on Gaza were violently attacked by right wing nationalists, with the police on the scene failing to intervene.

The message is also reaching Israeli supporters outside the country. Vigilante groups, reportedly associated with the extremist Jewish Defense League (JDL), were recently caught on video in the streets of Paris, armed with metal bars and pepper spray, attacking pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Despite the attack being played out under the watchful eyes of the police, not one of the attackers was arrested and the French government has since banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris.

In Italy, Rome has also been scene to a number of deeply disturbing and violent incidents, with attacks on Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists, and not just with the recent events.

On July 1, the Young Palestinians of Rome had called for a protest on a central square against the escalating collective punishment being wrought out by Israel across the West Bank and in Gaza following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli settler teens. An Italian university student approaching the square was told by a plainclothes police officer that the protest would not be taking place. In fact, demonstrators had been dispersed by the police due to “tension” in the area, as organized groups from the self-appointed security squads of the Jewish quarter of Rome were stationed in the area.

(photo: La Repubblica)

Pro-Israel thugs assault Palestine supporter in Rome (photo: La Repubblica)

Suddenly, five to six men  pounced on the student, “guilty” of wearing a keffiah, and began shoving and kicking him. As he attempted to flee, he ran into yet another group of pro-Israel supporters who quickly surrounded him and continued beating him until the police and another man intervened. The attackers escaped, while the student was taken to the hospital, with a number of contusions to the head as well as a dislocated shoulder.

A statement by the Young Palestinians noted that “the Zionist project not only aspires to ethnically cleanse our people in Palestine… but also aims to eradicate our memory, our dignity outside of Palestine.” The Young Palestinians added, “We are also Italian citizens, citizens of Rome, and we are outraged by the inaction of institutions that, with their silence, render themselves complicit with the violence, and make Rome a city less beautiful, less tolerant, less just.”

Pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of the Palestinian embassy in Rome (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of the Palestinian embassy in Rome (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Later that same night, two gunshots were fired from a car passing the Palestinian embassy in Rome. The night before, on June 30, as the news of the death of the three kidnapped teens spread, a protest march led from the Jewish Quarter to the Palestinian embassy in Rome, where pro-Israel protesters attached a banner reading “Assassins” to the wall of embassy as police stood idly by. Slogans were also spray painted on the walls of the embassy, with a Swastika = Hamas and below the Star of David. Netanyahu’s intention of holding the Palestinian Authority responsible was being carried out in Rome.

Pro Israel supporters graffiti Swastika = Hamas slogan with Star of David (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

Pro Israel supporters graffiti Swastika = Hamas slogan with Star of David (Photo: Caprioli/Toiati)

This was hardly the first time Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists have been targeted in Rome by the ultrazionist thugs in Rome.

At this year’s annual April 25 march commemorating the liberation of Italy from Nazi-Fascism, Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists gathered near the Colosseum to participate, as they have every year, bringing the voice of Palestine to this celebration of resistance against oppression. As they began to raise Palestinian flags, a group of roughly 40 members of the Jewish Community, led by the president Riccardo Pacifici, present with Israeli flags and those of the Jewish Brigade, also an annual occurrence, stormed and began physically attacking the activists. This time the police did intervene, though late and facing the victims of the aggression rather than the aggressors, allowing the attacks to continue!

Loretta Mussi of BDS Rome commented, “It was a very sad day for those in Italy who hold dear the values of the resistance against the Nazi-Fascist occupation and want to see them remembered and kept alive. This should be a day of solidarity with all those who resist in the world.”

Despite a prior agreement with ANPI, the Italian Partisans Association, organizers of the march, for the participation of Palestine solidarity activists, ANPI, shamefully, chose to concede to the demands of the pro-Israel fanatics, who refused to allow the march to begin with Palestinian flags present. Police prevented the Palestinian solidarity activists from joining the march as it departed, though a large number of supporters stayed on and eventually marched together with the activists.

“Taking a stand with Palestinian resistance is becoming more and more a taboo in Italy and demonstrators risk being attacked by Zionists in Rome, who seem to enjoy near absolute impunity, thanks to the strong support afforded them by state institutions,” observed Mussi.

One of the gravest incidents was in June 2010. The Union of Young Italian Jews had organized a protest calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas. More than a kilometer away, the Rome Palestine Solidarity Network organized a candlelight vigil to remember Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. As they set out candles and a banner reading “Without their freedom we will never be free”, in a peaceful and somber vigil, activists were viciously attacked by pro-Israel thugs using brass knuckles and scooter helmets. Two activists were hospitalized, one with a concussion and the other, a Palestinian from Gaza, with a broken jaw and cheekbone requiring months of treatment. Several others were bruised and battered. The police present limited their actions to forming a line to separate the two groups, but made no efforts to identify or arrest the aggressors.

Violent attacks have not been limited to pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In January 2014, at the presentation of the book “The Left and Israel” at a Jewish cultural center in Rome, a member of the Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation was “identified” by a group of young Zionists there, as they commented to one woman, to protect her and others. He was violently removed before the event had even began, assaulted outside, and knocked over in the street as he attempted to leave on his scooter.

In November 2012, a group of young women and men returning from a student protest against the privatization of education were  attacked as they passed through the Jewish Quarter, apparently for looking a little too leftist, with one young man being pinning down in a chokehold against the hood of a parked car and punched in the face as others gathered around, failing to intervene. “You can’t enter here. You can do whatever you want around Rome, but if you enter here, you’re dead,” they were told.

A little over a year later, four young people were passing through the quarter at 4 am, when one of them decided to rip a poster commemorating the death of Ariel Sharon. A group of 15 violent thugs on “patrol” and armed with baseball bats  immediately jumped them, sending them to the emergency room.

Miryam Marino of the Italian Network of Jews Against the Occupation observed that “the immeasurable Zionist violence that continues to move forward with its plan of genocide in Gaza, after killing over a dozen in the West Bank in recent weeks, is extending its reach to here in Rome, as thugs led by the President of the Rome Jewish Community, Riccardo Pacifici, who is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the criminals Netanyahu and Lieberman, target protesters who peacefully express their solidarity with the Palestinians under bombs.”

While these events pale in comparison to the genocide currently taking place in Gaza, they represent an alarming trend. The responsibility lies with the both the Israeli government for its continued incitement, and local administrations, which have varied over the course of the events from one led by a rightwing former militant with the young fascists to the current center left mayor, as well as national politicians, who have failed to act to end impunity for Israel and its supporters.

The press also shares a great deal of responsibility. Miryam Marino noted, “The story being told by the press elicits a sense of great disgust for the hypocritical ‘balance’. We are witnesses to a genocide, where the lives of an entire population seems to have no value in the eyes of the media.” She added, “With our hearts full of sorrow and indignation, the cry of pain that rises from Gaza breaks our hearts and we will do everything possible to amplify it so that it reaches the deaf ears that do not want to hear.”

One word that came up over and over again in relations to the events above was fascism. And that is something Italians know a thing or two about.

Kerry is off the Israel bandwagon

John Kerry with Benjamin Netanyahu, July 23, Tel Aviv, during secretary's trip to Israel, seeking to broker ceasefire

John Kerry with Benjamin Netanyahu, July 23, Tel Aviv, during secretary’s trip to Israel, seeking to broker ceasefire

Was it Kerry’s poof moment? The apartheid moment? Or the “helluva pinpoint operation” moment?

Or maybe the naked expression of a sense of moral urgency about the Israeli atrocities:

We’ve got to get over there … we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.

Epiphany or not, John Kerry has begun distancing himself from Israeli leadership and discovering that he has some autonomy to do so. That’s the news in the coverage of his ceasefire discussions.

Would that he could breathe a little spine into his boss.

From the New York Times, Israeli officials are irked by Kerry’s overtures to Arab leaders and concern about the Gaza blockade:

Mr. Kerry, in Paris, reiterated his position that any temporary arrangement needed to be followed by an enduring solution that addressed both Israel’s security demands and Gaza’s economic crisis.
“The tunnels have to be dealt with — we understand that, we are working at that,” he said. “By the same token, the Palestinians can’t have a cease-fire in which they think the status quo is going to stay. Palestinians need to live with dignity, with some freedom, with goods that can come in and out, and they need a life that is free from the current restraints.”
Though Mr. Kerry said Friday that his plan was “within the same framework” as an Egyptian initiative that Israel embraced on July 15 but Hamas rejected, some Israeli officials were irked that Mr. Kerry’s Paris invitation list included the foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar. Those two nations have lately been the prime political and financial support for Hamas and Gaza, and Israel has tried to quash a separate Qatari cease-fire proposal.

Barak Ravid in Haaretz says that Israelis were “shocked” by Kerry’s proposal for a ceasefire the other night, couldn’t believe what was written down: 

Last Friday evening, when the draft reached the Prime Minister’s Bureau at the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the rest of the security ministers could not believe what had been written down on paper.

The cabinet ministers, most of them familiar with the other and better American drafts shown to Israel over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, were in shock. The ministers voted unanimously to reject the document. Nevertheless, Israel decided not to issue an official announcement on the matter, so as to avoid embarrassing the U.S. secretary of state and burning the bridges at work. Instead, it was decided that Netanyahu would call Kerry personally and demand significant improvements to the draft on the matter essential to Israel.

Senior Israeli officials expressed great anger regarding Kerry’s proposal over the weekend. Cabinet ministers described it as a “prize for terror,” claiming that the U.S. secretary of state had completely adopted the positions presented by the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers negotiating on behalf of Hamas.

On Saturday, apparently following his telephone conversation with Netanyahu, Kerry tried to patch up the damages caused by the proposal he submitted to Israel the day before.

David Horovitz in the Times of Israel, on “John Kerry: The betrayal”. Note who comes out looking good here, Hillary Clinton: 

It seemed inconceivable that the secretary’s initiative would specify the need to address Hamas’s demands for a lifting of the siege of Gaza, as though Hamas were a legitimate injured party acting in the interests of the people of Gaza …

When Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, got involved in the effort to broker terms for ending Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, it was self-evident, first, that a ceasefire was at hand, and, second, that the diplomatic work was being coordinated effectively with Jerusalem to ensure that Israel’s vital interests were being served. It is a testament to Kerry’s incompetence (or worse), and to the collapse of faith between him and Israel, that, when he headed ignominiously home on Saturday, neither of those assumptions held sway.

Whether through ineptitude, malice, or both, Kerry’s intervention was not a case of America’s top diplomat coming to our region to help ensure, through astute negotiation, the protection of a key ally. This was a betrayal.

P.S. It’s a good thing not to have political aspirations. Note how Jimmy Carter’s grandson, who is running for Georgia governor, has to distance himself from the former president’s excellent statements on Israel. For the Jewish vote, the NYT says; leaving out the financial angle.

Jimmy Carter's grandson keeps distance from former president as he bids for US office

Jason Carter, who is running for governor of Georgia in bid to form latest US political dynasty, criticised for accepting grandfather's fund-raising despite distancing himself from ex-president's views on Israel and death penalty

Fabricated martyrdom?

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

The Holy Land is a strange place to live and to worship. Anyone who has studied the history of the Holy Land or lived there knows its twists and turns of politics and faith are the stuff of legend. Which is part of the problem.

Just the monotheistic religions are enough to insure the Holy Land’s importance and conflictive contribution to the world’s landscape. Is there another city like Jerusalem, one that has contributed so much justice, love and violence to our global patrimony?

The Holy Land is a gift that keeps on giving. Like an endowment of sorts, the interest on the principle is more than lose change.

Like the notion of a Palestinian state that doesn’t resemble any state in existence.

Or the on and off ceasefire in the Gaza war. It seems that Israel wants the ability to keep its military working overtime destroying tunnels and other aspects of Palestinian life while the Palestinians lay down their arms and promise quiet on Israel’s border.

Like the Palestinian state, this ceasefire doesn’t resemble any that I know of.

Now word is that the Israeli soldier captured in Gaza might have been killed – with his Palestinian captors – by the Israeli military. Evidently a principle in Israel’s army is that no Jewish life is to be found among Palestinians, even a prisoner of war. The exceptions, at least for the time being, are settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

This is how Richard Silverstein tells the story:

I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to Israel. I’ve studied, read, visited, lived, breathed it. Not in the way diehard pro-Israel fanatics do. But in a different way that matched my own intellectual and political proclivities. It’s a subject that is rich, varied, troubling, bedeviling, and exhilarating. But every once in a while I learn something I never thought possible; and I don’t mean this in a good way.

Tonight, my Israeli source informed me that Sgt. Guy Levy, serving in the armored corps, was captured by Hamas fighters. He had been part of a joint engineering-armored-combat unit searching for tunnels. Troops entered a structure and discovered a tunnel. Suddenly, out of the shaft sprang two militants who dragged one of the soldiers into it. By return fire, one of the Palestinians was killed, while the other fled, presumably with the soldier.

This Israeli report, which was censored by the IDF, says only that the attempt to capture the soldier failed. It says nothing about his fate. The expectation of anyone reading it would be that the soldier was freed. But he was not. In order to prevent the success of the operation, the IDF killed him. Nana reports that the IDF fired a tank shell into the building, which is the same way another captured soldier was killed by the IDF during Cast Lead.

I can’t verify this report, though it certainly rings true. Individual sacrifice for the collective, like the history of the Holy Land, has its own interesting history. Jews are raised with a history of martyrdom. Palestinians are experiencing martyrdom en masse today. But martyrdom for the Jewish state? If it is indeed martyrdom. Or is Levy’s death – along with other Israeli military deaths – sacrifice for a certain political sensibility within Israel?

Some would say that Israeli soldiers who die for the Jewish state are martyrs – on behalf of the Jewish people. With so many Jews of Conscience testifying against such a notion, it is difficult to raises these deaths to that level.

Indeed, Jews of Conscience are trying to save Palestinians – and Jews – from such a fate.

Are these Israeli deaths in vain? Even after the various ceasefires, Gaza will remain. Palestinian resistance isn’t going away.

Is their martyrdom fabricated? Like the Israeli invasion of the West Bank trying to “save” the kidnapped teenagers was fabricated? The government knew the teens were dead. The government also knows how many Israelis will die in Gaza.

Martyrs that aren’t martyrs. This, too, has a long history.

Even the question of who “our” martyrs are is becoming more and more difficult to discern. Are the Israeli soldiers who die “our” martyrs? Or, in one of the great reversals in Jewish history, are the Palestinian martyrs somehow, also, “our” own?

Destruction of Gaza’s children is something ‘every one of us must confront’ — Jon Snow


Jon Snow the British broadcaster at Channel 4 was just in Gaza and demonstrates what it means to bear witness. Our governments are not interested, he says, but we are responsible, and so we must take action, and “that in the end is the greatest hope that the people in Gaza have.” Will he endorse BDS?

His commentary features two crushing scenes of little girls maimed by Israeli fire.

I can’t get those images out of my mind. I don’t think you can either, because they’ve been everywhere. They are the essence of what is happening in Gaza.

The rockets? Yes Hamas is throwing them into Israel designed to kill Israelis.

But of course Israel courtesy of American finance, has invented the most brilliant shield, which is keeping absolutely everything out. And that’s a big difference.

Snow spoke to Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, volunteering at Shifa. How many children hurt? 1,310 wounded. 166 dead.

That number is growing all the time. That is what makes this something that every one of us has to confront. We have to know that in some way we actually share some responsibility for those deaths. Because for us it is no priority whatever to stop it. Our United Nations, our government, our world, is not that interested. The fact that you’re watching this, that you’ve chosen to watch it means that you’re actually motivated to do something, and that in the end is the greatest hope that the people in Gaza have. We cannot let it go on. If our reporting is worth anything, if your preparedness to listen and to watch and read is anything to go by, together we can make a difference.

Thanks to Terry Weber.

Hamas, Israel Back To Battling In Gaza Strip Sunday


The abbreviated cease-fire period between Hamas and Israel is over, with both sides back to battling in the Gaza Strip Sunday. First Hamas resumed its rocket attacks on Israeli targets, and then Israel resumed its multifaceted offensive in the Palestinian territory.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the resumption of hostilities via Twitter: