Rugs, cosmetics, motorbikes: Israeli soldiers are looting Gaza homes en masse

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Rule 52. Pillage is prohibited.

Soldiers describe how stealing Palestinian property has become totally routine in the Gaza war, with minimal pushback from commanders.

Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza have not been shy about posting videos on social media gleefully documenting their wanton destruction of buildings and humiliation of Palestinian detainees. Some of these clips were even exhibited in South Africa’s presentation at the International Court of Justice last month as evidence of genocide. But there is another war crime being readily documented by Israeli soldiers that has garnered less attention and condemnation despite its prevalence: looting. 

In November, the Palestinian singer Hamada Nasrallah was shocked to discover a TikTok of a soldier playing the guitar that his father had bought him 15 years earlier. Other videos uploaded to social media in recent months show Israeli soldiers boasting about finding wristwatches; unboxing someone’s collection of soccer shirts; and stealing rugs, groceries, and jewelry. 

In a Facebook group for Israeli women comprising nearly 100,000 users, someone wondered what to do with the “gifts from Gaza” that her partner, a soldier, had brought back for her. Sharing a photo of cosmetic products, she wrote: “Everything is sealed except for one product. Would you use these? And does someone know the products or are they only in Gaza?” 

Indeed, since the start of Israel’s ground invasion in late October, soldiers have been taking whatever they can get their hands on from the homes of Palestinians who have been forced to flee. More than an open secret, the phenomenon has been widely — and uncritically — reported in the Israeli media, while rabbis from the Religious Zionist movement have been answering soldiers’ questions about what is permissible to loot according to Jewish law. 

Soldiers who returned from fighting in Gaza confirmed to +972 Magazine and Local Call that the phenomenon is ubiquitous, and that for the most part their commanders are allowing it to happen. “People took things — mugs, books, each one the souvenir that does it for him,” said one soldier, who admitted that he himself took a “souvenir” from one of the medical centers that the army occupied.

Read more at +972 Magazine

Israelism

Reflections on Two Storms

 

Like many people in the Pacific Northwest, my wife and I were hit pretty hard by the recent ice storm. We live on a patch of woodland just outside of Newport. We lost power and cable early and (since we are on a well) that meant no water. We were offline for almost six days. Our driveway was blocked for 2 days. Fortunately, we had a wood stove and barrels of rainwater so we could stay warm, heat food, boil water, and manually flush the toilet. Thankfully, we also have great neighbors, who pitched in with firewood, a generator to keep our freezer going, helped clear the road, etc. An event like this makes one truly value good neighbors. It also tends to make one think of all the other people going through the same thing as neighbors also. It can create an expanding set of circles of inclusion: the local town, the county, the state, the nation, and so on. It is this ability to include others in our ring of compassion that (I believe) could be salvation of humanity.

At times during the storm, I stood out on my deck just watching and listening. It came to me that I was basically living in a war zone. I winced as my family’s trees took a beating. Breaking twigs were like the crackle of small arms fire; larger branches broke with a sound like rifle or small cannon shots; the really big branches and were as loud as artillery rounds, and from time to time, a tree top or a whole tree would snap like a bomb blast and there were horrific crashing sounds as they slithered to the ground in piles of rubble. Meanwhile, the sky was occasionally illuminated as transformers blew—these were like airstrikes. All the time, we never knew where the next blow would fall—would it hit the house, the garage, the studio, the well, the road…? Do the crashes one hears mean the neighbors nearby or down the road have been hit? Should we rush out in the storm with branches raining down to check on them…? 

As I stand thinking about this, it occurs to me that we should consider the other storm that rages in Gaza today. We should include them in our circle of compassion and think of them as neighbors too. In an ever shrinking and connected world, they really are. Their suffering has not ended—there is no relief in sight. The suffering there has been going on for years. It started long before the October 7 attack by Hamas. People in Gaza have lived for years with severely limited light, heat, power, internet, and phone. The water from my rain barrels is probably much cleaner than any water they have had for years. 

Every twig that broke as I watched during our local storm was a person wounded in Gaza. Every branch that broke on my family’s trees was a son or daughter dying. Every treetop that came down was the death of a parent or two. Whole trees were families wiped out in a single airstrike. Can we really keep believing this is necessary or useful? 

The existential question facing people in Gaza is “where to go.” Israel told the civilians to move south. Now they have mercilessly bombarded the south. Meanwhile, the other pressing question is a simpler where to “go”? With disease spreading and badly contaminated water, people must still “go.” There are no functioning toilets and no water to flush. The stench must be horrible. We might hope it will rain, but that will rinse the raw sewage into already undrinkable water. Now Israel is pumping saltwater into the already badly compromised water table.

An ice storm is an odd thing. It wasn’t blowing or raining hard, there was just a constant transparent, misty drizzle. It strikes me that this is much like hatred—it just congeals on everything until it becomes brittle, the weight becomes intolerable, and something finally snaps.

Experiences like this are deeply traumatizing, especially to children. One of my earliest, most vivid memories is of the October 12, 1962 Columbus Day storm. I was only about 3 and half years old, but I still remember crouching under a heavy table in our basement while my father paced nervously as trees crashed down. One can only imagine what the survivors of Gaza will have to live with. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Forget all the nonsense you might have heard about the Palestinians “teaching hatred of Israel” in their classrooms. Gaza will teach them all they will ever want to know about the brutality of Israeli occupation.

Our recent storm gave us a very small taste of what people in Gaza endure. We were inconvenienced for a few days; they are now on day 117 of a major catastrophe (as of February 1). It is not over yet. Our ice storm was a natural disaster. Gaza is manmade. It could be stopped any day. Maybe our experience can help us imagine how much worse it could be and try to speak out for an end to this disaster. 

February 1, 2024

Statement on the Middle East: Bertrand Russell's Last Message

[My dad was a big fan of Bertrand Russell, the great British mathematician and philosopher and friend of Albert Einstein. I still have the original LP with Bertrand Russell's acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize in Literature]
 
This statement on the Middle East was dated 31st January, 1970, and was read on 3rd February, the day after Bertrand Russell’s death, to an International Conference of Parliamentarians meeting in Cairo.
 
The latest phase of the undeclared war in the Middle East is based upon a profound miscalculation. The bombing raids deep into Egyptian territory will not persuade the civilian population to surrender, but will stiffen their resolve to resist. This is the lesson of all aerial bombardment.
 
The Vietnamese who have endured years of American heavy bombing have responded not by capitulation but by shooting down more enemy aircraft. In 1940 my own fellow countrymen resisted Hitler’s bombing raids with unprecedented unity and determination. For this reason, the present Israeli attacks will fail in their essential purpose, but at the same time they must be condemned vigorously throughout the world.
 
The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.
 
The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone as “the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.” Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.
 
We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number. of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.
 
All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long–suffering people of the Middle East.

Israel’s Controlled Demolitions Are Razing Neighborhoods in Gaza

This article by the NY Times shows how Israel is systematically destroying what remains of Gaza's civilian infrastructure.

The damage caused by Israel’s aerial offensive in Gaza has been well documented. But Israeli ground forces have also carried out a wave of controlled explosions that has drastically changed the landscape in recent months.

At least 33 controlled demolitions have destroyed hundreds of buildings — including mosques, schools and entire sections of residential neighborhoods — since November, a New York Times analysis of Israeli military footage, social media videos and satellite imagery shows.

In response to questions about the demolitions, a spokesperson for the Israeli military said that soldiers are “locating and destroying terror infrastructures embedded, among other things, inside buildings” in civilian areas — adding that sometimes entire neighborhoods act as “combat complexes” for Hamas fighters.

...

“Israel’s plan is to destroy Gaza and make it unliveable and lifeless,” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain. “Israel’s goal has always been to make it impossible for our people to return to their land.”

Two days after the 21 Israeli soldiers were killed in central Gaza, another demolition video was filmed. In it, a soldier says that, in their memory, 21 homes would be destroyed.

Read more on the NY Times

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