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Activists protest Israeli general's lecture at Yale
 
Dressed in black to mourn 346 Palestinian martyrs killed by the Israeli occupation army, protestors handed out fliers and carried signs
 

By Anayat Durrani
January 27, 2001, 11:13 PM
Connecticut
- For the second time in a three months span, Yale University has become a platform for the ‘Israeli Defense Force’ to promote their views on the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) against Israeli occupation and the ensuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On Monday, the Yale Friends of Israel invited Yoav Gallant, a brigadier general of the IDF to speak to students on the school campus.

Israeli soldier
Israeli soldiers are using excessive force against Palestinian civilians
'International Human Rights groups... have confirmed that the Israeli army regularly uses excessive force against civilians and routinely violates basic human rights.'

The lecture was met with protest by about a dozen activists from the Muslim and Arab Student Associations of Yale, New Haven's Middle East Crisis Committee, and Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, who called the IDF a "killing machine." Dressed in black to mourn 346 Palestinian martyrs killed by the Israeli occupation army in the clashes, protestors handed out fliers and carried signs that read, "Caution! Lying soldier inside" and "The Israeli Death Force Belongs in the International Criminal Court, Not On Our Campus."

Stanley Heller, chairperson for the Middle East Crisis Committee, was among those who protested the general’s lecture on campus. In a statement, Heller, a Jewish teacher who supports the Palestinian right of return and a halt in military aid to Israel, said the university should not provide a forum for an officer involved in ongoing human rights violations against Palestinians. "This is a senior officer, who is a commander of an armored division. These kinds of units are providing the tanks that are being used to fire into Palestinian towns."

Twenty-three-year-old Palestinian-American Fadia Rafeedie, a first-year law student at Yale, says the general’s presence on campus was "an assault on the dignity of Yale's Arab student population." Rafeedie stood outside in the cold along with others to protest Gallant’s lecture.

"He is an extension of the very machine of terror that has been oppressing and colonizing our people for over 52 years. We wanted to let Yale University know that we do not tolerate giving Zionists opportunities to spew their military propaganda," says Rafeedie. "As far as we were concerned, attending a lecture given by an Israeli Brigadier General would make us complicit in Zionist war crimes."

Palestinian martyrs
The Palestinian people have lost more than 346 martyrs killed by the Israeli army
'soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense.'

In November, two IDF soldiers attended a "Master's Tea" in the home of a Yale faculty member. Rafeedie and other activists protested the event by handing out fliers with quotes by and about the IDF, including a fact sheet on the history of aggression perpetrated by the IDF, from the massacres at Deir Yassin in 1948 to the Al Aqsa Intifada.

"Our equally important motivation was to reject any semblance of normalization with our enemy. We do not engage soldiers in dialogue when they are killing our people in Palestine. The Zionists must know that we will not normalize relations with them in a classroom or at a university as a way for them to justify the more terrifying reality on the ground," says Rafeedie.

Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September, Israeli forces have repeatedly committed human rights violations against the Palestinian civilian population using excessive and indiscriminate military force. Israeli forces have employed live ammunition, tanks, helicopter gunships, anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns, financed by American tax dollars, against Palestinian civilians and residential areas. More than 346 Palestinians, many of them children, have been killed in the recent conflict.

Despite international condemnation against Israeli use of excessive force, the Israeli army has claimed that it has shown restraint against Palestinian demonstrators. Activists like Palestinian Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a member of Al-Awda-Connecticut, have argued that this is not the case according to several human rights organizations. "International Human Rights groups including Amnesty International have regularly contradicted the Israeli army assertions that they are 'showing restraint' and have confirmed that the Israeli army regularly uses excessive force against civilians and routinely violates basic human rights."

The UN Commission on Human Rights, in a resolution issued at the end of a special session held October 17-19, “strongly condemn(ed) the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying power against innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilians... which constitutes a flagrant and grave violation of the right to life and also constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity."

After taking part in a mission to the area, UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson presented a report to the United Nations in December that condemned Israel for its “excessive and inappropriate” use of force against the Palestinians and called for compensation for the Palestinian people.

Physicians For Human Rights conducted a medical and forensic investigation in October that found that the IDF used live ammunition and rubber bullets “excessively and inappropriately” to control Palestinian demonstrators. Based on their investigation, they found a high occurrence of documented injuries to the head and thighs, thus concluding, “soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Israel’s military tactics against Palestinian civilians calling it an “iron fist” policy. "Unlawful killings from excessive use of lethal force have been the result of the Israeli use of military methods to respond to riots and demonstrations since 29 September 2000," said Claudio Cordone, the leader of an Amnesty International delegation that visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in October. Cordone said Israel’s violation of human rights “may well amount to war crimes.”


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Background Info
An Israeli human rights group accused the country’s security forces of deliberately killing at least nine Palestinian activists during the 17-week-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

B’Tselem, which monitors Israeli activities in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, said in a report that Israel’s security forces had killed at least 15 known Palestinian activists since the uprising broke out in late September.

The group, which backed its findings with witness testimonies, said six of the victims had not been targeted but had died during Israeli assassination operations against others.

"The assassinations Israel has conducted in the past few months, like other assassinations in the past, violate both Israeli and international law and constitute extra-judicial execution," B’Tselem said in a statement.

Palestinians charge Israel with killing more than 30 activists since the outbreak of the uprising, in which at least 346 Palestinians, 45 Israelis have been killed.

Israel denies it has an assassination policy against Palestinians but admits to going after activists that Israel claims have carried out or planned attacks against Israeli targets.

It says it has not targeted Palestinian political leaders.

But B’Tselem said the Israeli assertion that it only sought out those involved in shooting attacks or bombings was unacceptable and illegal.

"The absence of alternatives does not negate the strict prohibition (of such acts), and Israel must find legal ways to achieve its goals," B’Tselem said.

"The accusations against the Palestinians, grave as they may be, cannot justify a departure from the principles of Israeli and international law."

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