Tuesday, August 28, 2012

f/22 Ciclo 2012. Programa 03: Guerra Fecha de emisión: miércoles 1º de agosto a las 22 horas. Silvain Stibal y Daniel Sptaff nos brindan la mirada de la guerra desde el trabajo de la Agencia, y nos relatan su experiencia en coberturas vinculadas a situaciones de violencia extrema. Quique Kierszenbaum comparte su experiencia como fotógrafo en el conflicto Palestina-Israel, desde la perspectiva de alguien que forma parte de la comunidad. Agustín Fernández nos habla sobre su trabajo "Obreros de la Paz" realizado en la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Además, se presentan y comentan los siguientes autores y/o trabajos: Cappa / Roger Fenton / Koudelka / Simon Norfolk / Gilles Perres: "Iran telex"

Monday, August 27, 2012

Israel breaks silence over army abuses

Ex-soldiers admit to appalling violence against Palestinian children

Hafez Rajabi was marked for life by his encounter with the men of the Israeli army's Kfir Brigade five years ago this week. Sitting beneath the photograph of his late father, the slightly built 21-year-old in jeans and trainers points to the scar above his right eye where he was hit with the magazine of a soldier's assault rifle after the patrol came for him at his grandmother's house before 6am on 28 August 2007.

He lifts his black Boss T-shirt to show another scar running some three inches down his back from the left shoulder when he says he was violently pushed – twice – against a sharp point of the cast-iron balustrade beside the steps leading up to the front door. And all that before he says he was dragged 300m to another house by a unit commander who threatened to kill him if he did not confess to throwing stones at troops, had started to beat him again, and at one point held a gun to his head. "He was so angry," says Hafez. "I was certain that he was going to kill me."

This is just one young man's story, of course. Except that – remarkably – it is corroborated by one of the soldiers who came looking for him that morning. One of 50 testimonies on the military's treatment of children – published today by the veterans' organisation Breaking the Silence – describes the same episode, if anything more luridly than Hafez does. "We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge," the soldier, a first sergeant, testifies. "He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. He said: 'Just wait, now we're taking you.' Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: 'Want to die? Want to die right here?' and the kid goes: 'No, no...' He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom boom. That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn't take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: 'Stand up!' Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn't. The commander goes: 'Don't put on a show,' and kicks him some more."

Two months ago, a report from a team of British lawyers, headed by Sir Stephen Sedley and funded by the UK Foreign Office, accused Israel of serial breaches of international law in its military's handling of children in custody. The report focused on the interrogation and formal detention of children brought before military courts – mainly for allegedly throwing stones.

For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Most of these accounts deal with "rough justice" administered to minors by soldiers on the ground, often without specific authorisation and without recourse to the military courts. Reading them, however, it's hard not to recall the Sedley report's shocked reference to the "belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a 'potential terrorist'".

The soldier puts it differently: "We were sort of indifferent. It becomes a kind of habit. Patrols with beatings happened on a daily basis. We were really going at it. It was enough for you to give us a look that we didn't like, straight in the eye, and you'd be hit on the spot. We got to such a state and were so sick of being there."

Some time ago, after he had testified to Breaking the Silence, we had interviewed this soldier. As he sat nervously one morning in a quiet Israeli beauty spot, an incongruous location he had chosen to ensure no one knew he was talking, he went through his recollections about the incident – and several others – once again. His account does not match the Palestinian's in every detail. (Hafez remembers a gun being pressed to his temple, for example, while the soldier recalls that the commander "actually stuck the gun barrel in the kid's mouth. Literally".)

But in every salient respect, the two accounts match. Both agree that Hafez, on the run after hearing that he was wanted, had slipped into his grandmother's house before dawn. Hafez showed us the room in his grandmother's house, the last on the left in the corridor leading to her room, where he had been hiding when the soldiers arrived. Sure enough, the soldier says: "We entered, began to trash the place. We found the boy behind the last door on the left. He was totally scared."

Both Hafez – who has never read or heard the soldier's account – and the soldier recall the commander forcing him at one point during his ordeal to throw a stone at them, and that the boy did so as feebly as possible. Then, in the soldier's words "the commander said: 'Of course you throw stones at a soldier.' Boom, banged him up even more".

Perhaps luckily for Hafez, the second, still uncompleted, house is within sight of that of his aunt, Fathia Rajabi, 57, who told us how she had gone there after seeing the soldiers dragging a young man behind a wall, unaware that he was her nephew. "I was crying, 'God forbids to beat him.' He recognised my voice and yelled: 'My aunt, my aunt.' I tried to enter but the two soldiers pointed their guns at me and yelled rouh min houn, Arabic for 'go away'. I began slapping my face and shouting at passers-by to come and help. Ten minutes later the soldiers left. I and my mother, my brother and neighbours went to the room. He was bleeding from his nose and head, and his back."

The soldier, who like his comrades mistook Ms Rajabi for the boy's mother, recalls: "The commander said to [her]: 'Keep away!' Came close, cocked his gun. She got scared. [He shouted:] 'Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don't annoy me. I'll kill him. I have no mercy.' He was really on the edge. Obviously [the boy] had been beaten up. Anyway, he told them: 'Get the hell out of here!' and all hell broke loose. His nose was bleeding. He had really been beaten to a pulp."

Finally, Hafez's brother Mousa, 23, a stone cutter who joined his aunt at the second house, recalls a second army jeep arriving and one soldier taking Hafez's pulse, giving Mousa a bottle of water which he then poured over Hafez's face and speaking to the commander in Hebrew.

"I understood he was protesting," says Mousa. This was almost certainly the 'sensitive' medic whom the soldier describes as having "caught the commander and said: 'Don't touch him any more. That's it.'" The commander goes: 'What's with you, gone leftie?' And he said: 'No, I don't want to see such things being done. All you're doing to this family is making them produce another suicide bomber. If I were a father and saw you doing this to my kid, I'd seek revenge that very moment.'"

In fact Hafez, did not turn into a "suicide bomber". He has never even been in prison. Instead, the outcome has been more prosaic. He no longer has nightmares about his experience as he did in the first two months. But as a former mechanic he is currently unemployed partly because there are few jobs outside construction sites and the Hebron quarries, where he says his injuries still prevent him from carrying heavy loads, and partly because he often does "not feel I want to work again". And he has not – so far – received any compensation, including the more than £1,100 he and Mousa had to spend on his medical treatment in the two years after he was taken.

The report by Sir Stephen Sedley's team remarks that "as the United Kingdom has itself learned by recent experience in Iraq, the risk of abuse is inherent in any system of justice which depends on military force". Moreover, Britain, unlike Israel, has no organisation like Breaking the Silence that can document, from the inside, the abuse of victims like Hafez Rajabi who never even make it to court.

But as the Sedley report also says, after drawing attention to the argument that every Palestinian is a "potential terrorist": "Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice, and one which only Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, can reverse."

Donald Macintyre, The Independent on Sunday
 Sunday, 26 August 2012 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hace un anio se fue el viejo

Querido viejo, te escribo un exactamente un año después que emprendiste tu viaje.

La verdad es que es increíble pensar que ya paso un año. Te escribo porque como sabes que yo y los ritos y tradiciones religiosas no nos llevamos muy bien, por lo menos así te pongo al tanto un poco de las cosas por acá.

El Guil ha crecido y es un hombrecito, sigue siendo un buen alumno en la escuela, y además juega al futbol en un equipo de verdad…. Ba…. Para unos pocos locos como nosotros es de verdad. Tu memoria está presente en muchas de las conversaciones que tengo con él.

Además ha aprendido a socializar y hace amigos con facilidad, que como sabes viejo es una de las herramientas más importantes de esta vida.

Sharon ha vuelto a la universidad, y está estudiando su doctorado en literatura, algo que hace mucho quería hacer y que finalmente se animó y además sigue trabajando en la escuela.

Y yo….. que te puedo contar, muchas cosas han cambiado en mi vida laboral, desde que te fuiste como cosas raras de la vida, aparezco mucho más seguido en la tele en Uruguay, lástima que ya no me puedas ver contando las cosas que pasan por acá.

Sigo con el Don que es verdaderamente un hermano mayor y además he conocido gente nueva que va abriendo otras puertas para tomar nuevos caminos dentro de este mundo tecnológicamente tan cambiante.

En nuestra vida de núcleo familiar la llevamos bien, peleándola como muchos pero juntos que es siempre una garantía de que al final siempre se puede cuando se lucha codo a codo.

El Leo, Shirly y Nir están muy bien, el Leo está a pocos segundos de convertirse en "doctor" y si bien no he podido sentarme a leer su tesis(a pesar de su presión), me llena de orgullo. También ellos vienen peleándola, sin bajar los brazos.

Pero la realidad acá viejo es preocupante, el trabajo me ha llevado a interiorizarme con muchas historias muy complicadas que a vos hijo de inmigrantes de daría vergüenza, el trato de la sociedad a los inmigrantes africanos es terriblemente racista, las diferencias sociales siguen aumentando y la ocupación se ha convertido en un monstruo que no sabe cómo saciar su sed de violencia y por si fuera poco dos locos sueltos se han puesto como meta llevarnos a otra guerra….. en fin, nunca he sido tan pesimista sobre el futuro de esta zona.

Hay otras cosas buenas para contarte como que la vieja se ha dado mania para salir adelante en todos los sentidos, de alguna forma el quedarse sola le ha dado las fuerzas para guapear a pesar de la soledad.

Carlitos es un cirujano de niños, y labura sin parar, es más difícil agarrarlo que tratar de hablar con el Pepe Mujica. Creo que le haces mucha falta. De alguna forma la distancia a nosotros nos da esa falsa ilusión de que estas ahí cuando se te necesita. De lejos es más difícil notar su ausencia. 

En lo de Mónica las grandes noticias las trae el Fede que se prepara para su Barmitzva, un evento familiar que tiene otro sabor sin tu presencia pero la vida sigue y como tal la familia tiene que encargarse de que sea un evento lleno de alegría. Estoy seguro que Monica y Sergio van a levantar flor de fiesta.

Para terminar tengo una pregunta boluda, te encontraste con tus viejos, con la abuela Rosa y el Tata, con tu hermana Rosa y con el tío Alberto? En algún rincón de mi imaginación te veo sentado con el tío Alberto y con la abuela Rosa tomándose una y mirándonos cuando hacemos las reuniones de los primos aca… Y por las dudas levanto una copa viejo, por si nos poder ver y por si no, porque entonces es una en tu memoria,

Saluuu Viejo, a mi forma te extraño mucho.