Outrage Spreads After Palestinian Infant Killed in Arson Attack in Occupied West Bank

Killing of 18-month-old boy and injuries to his family called ‘consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government’ and tolerated by international community

by: Jon Queally

Outrage is rippling across the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and beyond on Friday as news spreads that an 18-month-old infant was killed and his family members severely injured after Israeli settlers allegedly firebombed their home overnight.

The infant, identified in various media outlets as Ali Saad Dawabsha, reportedly died at the scene of the fire while his family members—mother, Reham, father, Saad, and four-year-old brother, Ahmad—were airlifted to an Israeli hospital with serious injuries. The Palestinian family’s home was apparently one of two houses targeted in the village of Duma by still unknown assailants who scribbled the Hebrew word for ‘revenge’ beneath a Star of David on an outside wall.

Ibrahim Dawabsheh, a Duma resident, told Reuters he heard people shouting for help from the house and rushed to it. “I saw two masked men outside,” he said, but after going to get help and returning they had gone.

“We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last night from the recent settlement approvals by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for settlements and apartheid.” —Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority

“We found the parents outside with burns, they said there was another son in the house. We brought him out and then they said there was another boy inside, but we couldn’t reach the bedroom because of the fire. He was left inside until rescue forces came,” Dawabsheh said.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the violence as a “terrorist attack” and said “all means” would be used to bring the perpetrators to justice, rights groups joined many Palestinians in dismissing such statements as little more than rhetoric, especially amid ongoing settlement expansion sanctioned by his government and the increased displacement of those living under the occupation.

Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority is holding the Israeli government “fully responsible” for the violence—thought to be a possible example of what are known as “price tag” attacks, usually carried out as a form of retribution by illegal settlers in response to curbs on settlement expansion.

“We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last night from the recent settlement approvals by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for settlements and apartheid,” said Erekat.

The killing of the young boy and the injuries to his family, Erekat continued, “is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas later said he would appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the arson attack and called on the United States and other governments to condemn the Israeli government for its ongoing policies in the West Bank.

“We are immediately preparing the file that will be submitted to the ICC,” Abbas told reporters as he also denounced the “war crimes and crimes against humanity committed each day by Israelis against the Palestinian people.”

Taking a more hardline stance, Hamas responded by declaring that what happened in Duma makes all “Israeli soldiers and settlers legitimate targets for resistance.” A spokesperson, Hussam Badran, called for popular action and said Israeli crimes can only be stopped by “comprehensive resistance in all its forms.”

Additionally, the Ma’an news agency reports that Popular Resistance Committees are now calling for a “revolution of anger” across cities, villages and streets in Palestine; while the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has called on Palestinians to “escalate resistance” against Israel and urged the Palestinian leadership to declare a state of emergency.

According to Haaretz, Israeli security officials expressed concern that the killing of Dawabsha “could spark unrest in the West Bank, and fear of rioting and disorder at Temple Mount in Jerusalem prompted restrictions on Muslim worshiper, with only those over 50 being permitted to enter the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque. Firebombs and stones were reportedly thrown in Jerusalem’s Old City, wounding one officer lightly in the early afternoon and massive police forces were being stationed in the area.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem said in a statement that it was “only a matter of time” until tragedies like this one took place, given the behavior of settlers in the Occupied Territories and the continued tolerance and support they receive from the Israel government. Impunity for hate crimes, the group said, only “encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning’s horrific result.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been 120 incidents of “settler-related violence” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem so far in 2015, including 78 assaults against property and 42 attacks that resulted in injuries.

As B’Tselem points out, a vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli Police did not even bother take elementary investigative actions.

The group called condemnations of the attack from Netanyahu or other Israeli officials “empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve as backdrop to these acts.”

Source: Outrage Spreads After Palestinian Infant Killed in Arson Attack in Occupied West Bank | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Faced with Defunding Threat from Senate, Planned Parenthood Fights Back

As more covertly filmed videos are released and Congress considers defunding group, Planned Parenthood rallies supporters

by: Nadia Prupis

As Planned Parenthood grapples with a series of attacks against it by anti-choice forces, the political stakes are intensifying as the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate readies to vote on a measure that would strip all federal funding from the non-profit women’s health organization.

Three covertly-filmed videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donations have prompted some in Congress to renew the debate over the government’s financial support of the organization. Senate Republicans are gearing up to vote on a bill that would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, which already receives limited subsidies from the government and is prohibited from spending taxpayer money on abortions.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and introduced on Tuesday, states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or any of its affiliates.”

One GOP senator who was familiar with the bill said that under the new legislation, funds would be redirected to “other groups that deal with women’s health,” CNN reports.

It is unclear whether the bill would pick up enough Democratic support to surpass the necessary 60 votes. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both criticized the bill, according to CNN.

“Look, the bottom line is, Planned Parenthood does a great job protecting women’s health,” Schumer said. “And I think, if you look at the polling data, the American people are overwhelmingly in favor of allowing Planned Parenthood to continue funding women’s health.”

The House of Representatives appears unlikely to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood before the August recess despite mounting pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). And President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto any such bill, although more details on the legislation are expected to emerge this week. 

Planned Parenthood also confirmed this week that it was hit by anti-choice hackers who gained access to the healthcare nonprofit’s employee database. The organization called on the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate the attack.

“Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy—one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk,” Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens said on Tuesday.

As for the battle it now faces in Congress, Planned Parenthood is rallying supporters to call on lawmakers not to be “fooled by [the] latest smear job” against the organization.

“Once again, a group of anti-abortion activists has attacked Planned Parenthood doctors, nurses, and patients with false accusations. And once again, its political allies are seizing on these accusations as an excuse to push the same dangerous agenda—ban abortion, shut down health centers and cut women off from care,” Planned Parenthood stated in a petitionto Congress circulating this week.

The petition continues:

We’ve seen all this before. First, small groups of extremists launch fraudulent claims to shut down health centers that serve millions. Then, out-of-touch politicians seize on those lies to push abortion bans, defund Planned Parenthood, and deny women access to care.

We’ve seen it before—and we’ve fought it, and we’ve won. And we won’t stop fighting this time, no matter what.

Source: Faced with Defunding Threat from Senate, Planned Parenthood Fights Back

This Fall3

Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison

Social worker Oliva López, formerly employed at a family immigrant detention center in Texas, testifies that prison is plagued by mistreatment

by: Sarah Lazare

A social worker formerly employed at a for-profit family immigrant detention center in Texas blew the whistle this week on the prison’s inhumane conditions—from solitary confinement to medical neglect—that she said amount to child abuse and torture.

The Karnes County Residential Center is operated by GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the country that has faced numerous accusations of atrocities and civil rights violations. It is also the site of recent—and repeated—hunger strikes led by mothers incarcerated with their children, in protest of their conditions, detentions, and in many cases, their looming deportations.

Social worker Oliva López corroborated the accounts of people on the inside when she conducted an exclusive interview with McClatchy DC, published Monday, in which she countered federal and local authorities’ narratives which cast the detention center as a safe and tolerable place for families to reside during asylum application processes. López said that, in fact, Karnes is a prison, and its atrocities include:

  • A five-year-old girl who survived sexual assault during her migration was falsely declared fit for discharge by a prison psychologist despite numerous warning signs, including the fact that she was suffering from nightmares, losing weight, and had reverted to wearing a diaper.
  • During hunger strikes earlier this year, the prison warden intentionally retaliated against leaders by placing them into solitary confinement. López’s account verifies charges from protest leaders and their supporters that they were punished for their nonviolent protest.
  • When mothers are determined to be suicide risks, their children are separated from them and “placed in another room under the care of guards who, Lopez said, had no training or licenses as child care providers,” writes McClatchy journalist Franco Ordoñez. “The children could be separated from their mothers for up to four days with only brief opportunities to see each other on the last two.”

“What is happening there is tantamount to torture,” declared López, who said she started in October 2015 and quit in April over ethical concerns.

People incarcerated at the facility have reported harrowing conditions beyond those López described, including being severely underpaid for their labor at $3 a day, forced to drink water contaminated by fracking waste, denial of their legal rights, and subjection of children to mentally and physical harm. Women have also alleged sexual abuse and assault from prison guards and staff, prompting community protests outside the facility.

President Barack Obama has overseen the explosion of family detention centers such as Karnes, which some call the “new internment camps,” with the government currently incarcerating roughly 1,700 parents and children at three prisons in Texas and Pennsylvania, including Karnes. Most, but not all of them, are privately run.

Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, told Common Dreams that there are signs that the tide may be finally turning against these “wrong, immoral, and traumatizing” prisons.

A federal judge in California ruled Friday that the Obama administration’s policy of mass incarcerating children with their mothers on alleged immigration violations breaches a previous court settlement and those detained should be swiftly released. The judge, moreover, said that family detention centers violate protections requiring that minors not be incarcerated in prisons unlicensed to take care of children. The government has until early August to appeal the decision.

“I am hoping this is the beginning of the end,” said Parker, adding that the U.S. government’s injustices against immigrants go beyond family detention centers: “These family detention centers have gotten more attention but still  still haven’t gotten it right. Imagine the places not under a microscope, housing mostly adult single men. I can’t imagine how terrible those places must be.”

Source: Whistleblower Exposes Torture and Child Abuse at For-Profit Prison | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

This Fall3