Middle East’s Only Democracy Crushes Dissent
By Tammy Obeidallah
Ever since becoming an activist on behalf of Palestine some ten years ago, I have found ironic humor in the label, 'The Middle East’s Only Democracy' used by American policymakers and media in describing the Jewish State. This statement is erroneous on two counts. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of a democracy knows that Israelis overwhelmingly shun the values associated with such a system; furthermore quite a few countries in the Middle East hold elections regularly. Most recently, Jordan elected a new parliament.
Of course there are those who argue that a democracy simply means “majority rule,” or that government leaders are elected, so technically Israel would qualify. “Democracy” is defined by www.thefreedictionary.com, “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” So in the purely political sense, as Israeli leaders are elected, they have democracy. However, the fifth definition of democracy reads “the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community,” a concept diametrically opposed to Israel’s inherently racist establishment.
Not only is Israel content merely to expand settlements on stolen land and deny Arab citizens the basic rights of religious freedom, education, health care and mobility, any form of dissent is quashed. Arab Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was stripped of her parliamentary privileges for participating in the Gaza freedom flotilla. In addition to receiving numerous death threats, Zoabi was recently shot in the back and neck with rubber bullets during a protest against a march by militant settlers in the town of Umm al-Fahm. Under Zionism, there is no such thing as freedom of assembly or free speech.
Take for instance a recent haiku contest on Facebook sponsored by El Al Airlines. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry requiring three non-rhyming lines: the first and third line consisting of five syllables, the second line containing seven. I swallowed my pride and became a fan of the page; the possible temporary damage to my reputation seemed well worth it when considering the unwitting audience I would have. However, shortly after I began posting the haiku, a chorus of “she has to be banned” ensued.
I found out that indeed, I had been blocked from posting comments on the site after an hour or so. The El Al fan page administrator deleted all my haiku. I should not have been surprised.
This is the modus operandi of the Zionist machine. Dissent is not tolerated and must be completely obliterated, as in the case of Congressmen and women who dare try and stand up to it: Paul Findley (re-districted out), Cynthia McKinney (trumped up charge assaulting a guard who was harassing her; victim of a smear campaign and voted out), Dennis Kucinich (marginalized and belittled), Jim Traficant (jailed). Prominent figures in the media are silenced, most recently the legendary Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN. Numerous Israeli youth sit in jails for refusing to military duty in the West Bank. The most sinister, however is the way activists Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, Furkan Dogan and 8 other flotilla participants were silenced, along with the untold thousands of Palestinians who have been murdered since 1948 for the “crime” of resisting occupation or while merely trying to live out their daily lives in their homeland.
Yet the legacies of these brave individuals continue, and to honor them, I put forth the haiku again in a place where the hasbara machine cannot penetrate.
Celebrate sixty-plus years
Of ethnic cleansing.
Bustling Tel Aviv
Atop Lydda's graves.
Stealing Holy Land
As amid scorched olive trees
More settlements rise.
Frolic on stolen beaches
Kids in Gaza die.
El Al transporting
Still more and more invaders
to dear Palestine.
Flight attendants' thobes
Food service is falafel
Theft of a culture.
Big jet engines scream
Not unlike those that have rained
Hell upon Gaza.
And then there was my daughter’s contribution:
El Al carrying
"Israeli" stowaways to
Steal from Palestine
El Al's jet engines
Cannot drown out the screams of
White phosphorus wounds.
Airline of the blind
You see touristy mudbaths
Not Gaza's bloodbath.
- Tammy Obeidallah contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
"Every time we try to sleep, they wake us up by beating us with the butts of their rifles. For three days. They locked us in the toilet without allowing in any food or water until we had to drink flush toilet water. They would put off their cigarette heels into our legs and yell at us continuously." This is the statement of the child captive "Mohammed Tarik Mokheimer", whose hometown is Beit Oure, close to Ramallah. He was arrested this year in July.
A sixth grader, the child Mokheimer was arrested with his classmate "Mohammed Ridwan" on charge of stoning a military patrol. They were then transported to an investigation centre in "Benjamin Settlement", where they were locked in a toilet for three days. They were kept nude and were offered no food or drink.
The mother says, "On the day of his arrest, Mohammed was late for home, so the whole family went searching for him, but we didn't find him. At 1:30 a.m., his classmate's father informed us that his son (Mokheimer's classmate) "Mohammed Ramadan" had been arrested."
The mother was perplexed in the first place; "Mohammed hasn't become 13 yet, and he has no knowledge of what a detention is and how it is, so how can they arrest children?" She added, "Nevertheless, parents and neighbors have assured me that his detention won't last and that he'll be back soon."
The Next day, the family informed the Detainee Club of the detention of their child in a trial to hear any news of him or his classmate. The family commenced reflecting all possible cases and questioning the circumstances of their child detention until the Detainee Club informed them of the date of his trial hearing.
His mother proceeds, "I had never thought I was going to see my son like that, standing behind the bars with his hands chained, afraid, and looking on his sides every minute as if someone was after him. I tried to talk to him, but I was forbidden. He would look at me and cry all the time, and after having issued a series of charges, the court prolonged his detention."
The mother, who didn't know what exactly happened to her child, sensed that something unusual had happened. She was anxious and uneasy all the time, and she was looking for an answer to what happened to him. What she sensed had turned out to be true, for Mohammmed and his classmate were exposed to the most terrible kinds of torture; that was discovered later on through a report issued by the Ministry of the Detainees and Affairs of the Liberated.
Nude in Toilet:
Hiba Mosalha, the advocate of the Ministry of Detainees, has visited both detainees. She says, "Firstly I thought that Mohammed was exaggerating, but I spotted traces of torture on their bodies. The soldiers would put off their cigarette heels into their (children) legs, their toenails were gone because of harsh beating;" she said adding "While they were talking, they seemed scared that what occurred to them at the beginning of their arrest might be repeated."
In the statement the advocate reported, child Mohammed says, "We were arrested on Road 443 by the Separation Wall close to the village, and our whole bodies were severely beaten up with rifles and kicked until we fell down.
Afterwards the soldiers chained us, blindfolded us, and transported us to "Benjamin Settlement", which is close to the village."
There, the children were locked in the toilet and were forced to take off all of their clothes. For two days they were kept nude in the toilet without any food or drink, where the soldiers turned on the cold air conditioner all the time.
Child Mokheimer points out that the soldiers offered them no food or drink at all; thus, they suffered intense thirst and had to drink toilet water. They suffered intense cold because of being nude for two days with no cover or mattress, and every time they tried to sleep, the soldiers would wake them up immediately.
Mokheimer also pointed out that the most terrible thing that happened to them was when the soldiers entered the toilet, urinated on their heads and faces instead of using the toilet, and once done; they laughed and mocked at the two child detainees. Besides, one of the soldiers was photographing the incident.
Advocate Mosalha added, "After all this torture, the children were transported to an investigation centre, where they "forced" to confess doing things they hadn't really done upon fear of being tortured again." She proceeded that the incident of Mohammed Mokheimer and Mohammed Ridwan "isn't the only one even though it is the most horrible."
Through her meeting with the children, she heard a number speak about deprivation of sleep and eating for hours and days, in addition to being forced to sign certificates written in Hebrew and with contents the children didn't know. They were also beaten up harshly by the soldiers and weren't allowed to meet their private lawyer.
With respect to Mosalha, torture of children detainees has become a systematic policy for the (Israeli) occupation soldiers in order to make children confess charges they have not committed, and so the soldiers would imprison them as long as possible.
With regard to official statistics, the occupation authorities hold more than 6700 Palestinian prisoners, among who are 287 children under the age of eighteen. According to the International Movement for Defense of Children, approximately 700 Palestinian children are imprisoned in the (Israeli) occupation prisons yearly.
In statements of a hundred child captive, the movement observed that 81% were beaten and kicked and that 26% were exposed to phantasmagoria; whereas 12% were threatened with sexual assault, and 4% of those were indeed sexually assaulted.