Gaza ‘Return March’ organizer: ‘We’ll ensure it doesn’t escalate to violence — on our end’

Palestinians in Gaza are planning 45 days of protests along the border with Israel leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, and they fear Israeli troops may open fire. One of the organizers speaks to +972 Magazine about why he believes hundreds of thousands of people will show up, and what message he’d like to send to Israelis.

An Israeli soldier raises his rifle toward unarmed Palestinian protesters along the border fence separating Israel and Gaza, Gaza Strip, near the Nahal Oz crossing, October 30, 2015. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier raises his rifle toward unarmed Palestinian protesters along the border fence separating Israel and Gaza, Gaza Strip, near the Nahal Oz crossing, October 30, 2015. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

A few minutes before I spoke with Hasan al-Kurd Monday night, Israel’s prime-time nightly news led with story about the march of return al-Kurd and other Palestinian activists in Gaza are planning along the border of the besieged territory this Friday — and how security officials believe their plans to stop the march will result in Palestinian casualties.

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The Israeli media has been abuzz for the past several weeks about the march and the army’s plans for stopping tens of thousands of people reaching the border fence. In an oped in Haaretz this week, a former Israeli military spokesperson warned of the optics of “innocent marchers, women, children and men, longing to return to their homes, fired upon by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers.”

According to the Channel 2 broadcast on Monday, Israel’s cabinet has been discussing “out-of-the-box” ideas. One minister proposed “parachuting food and medicine, maybe via drones, deeper into Gaza, and hopefully that will encourage the Palestinian civilians to go toward the food that was dropped from the sky instead of heading to the fence.”

Al-Kurd is amused when I tell him what I’ve just heard on the news. “We anticipated they’d try that,” he says, jokingly. We laugh, and say that maybe they should plan more marches and initiatives along the Gaza border — to convince Israel to ease the siege and relieve some of the suffering in Gaza.

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Al-Kurd, a 43-year-old school teacher and father of six from Gaza, is one of 20 organizers of the planned march, which is actually a 45-day event starting this Friday, Land Day, and culminating on May 15, Nakba Day. Seventy percent of the population of Gaza are refugees, meaning they or their parents or grandparents fled or were expelled from towns, villages, and cities inside the territory that became in Israel in 1948, an event known as the Nakba. They have never been allowed to return.

Thousands of Palestinians take part in a Return March in 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands of Palestinians take part in a Return March in 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The plan is to set up camps between 700-1000 meters from Israel’s border fence, outside the Israeli army’s unilaterally imposed buffer zone, where anyone who enters is liable to be shot. In the weeks leading up to Nakba Day, there will be marches and bicycle races and other events every week, aiming to draw more attendees along the way. By mid-May, tens or hundreds of thousands are expected to join.

“We’ve been following the Israeli news,” Al-Kurd says. “It’s important for us to know what they write about us so we’ll know what to anticipate when the day comes.”

Organizers are fearful that because the Israeli media is portraying the return march as a Hamas-organized event, and considering the increasing number of border incidents in recent weeks, that the Israeli army will mete out deadly force on their nonviolent initiative.

What exactly are you planning to achieve this Friday?

“We will start the march of return on March 30, but the idea is to keep going, and gather more and more people. Within one week, we’re hoping to have at least 50,000 people close to the border. After that, we will advance 100 meters closer to the border.”

As we speak, Al-Kurd reiterates again and again that the protest will be completely nonviolent, contrary to how it is being described in Israeli media.

“We want families. We want to send a message that we want to live in peace — with the Israelis. We’re against stone throwing or even burning tires. We will make sure the protest doesn’t escalate to violence — at least from our end.”

A Palestinian protester is enveloped by tear gas in the Israeli-imposed buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel border during a demonstration against Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, December 8, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian protester is enveloped by tear gas in the Israeli-imposed buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel border during a demonstration against Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, December 8, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

But on the other side, according to Israeli reports, large numbers of soldiers and police forces will be waiting for you.

“We know, and we can’t do anything about that. Our message is peaceful and we’re against violence. If you remember back in 1987, Gaza was packed with Israelis. We want the siege to be lifted and to go back to these days.”

This type of initiative has been tried in the past. In 2011, thousands of Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, and inside Israel marched on the country’s borders. On the Lebanese, Syrian, and Gaza borders, the army responded with gunfire, killing dozens and wounding hundreds. A number of Palestinian citizens of Israel who tried to meet the protesters on the Israeli side of the northern border were arrested.

Palestinians crossing the border from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are wounded by Israeli army fire during a March of Return, May 15, 2011. (Hamad Almakt/ Flash90)

Palestinians crossing the border from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are wounded by Israeli army fire during a March of Return, May 15, 2011. (Hamad Almakt/ Flash90)

I ask Al-Kurd if they’re ready for the possibility that Israel might again react with disproportionate and deadly force.

“Of course that’s a possibility, unfortunately. But what other options do we have? The situation in Gaza has become unbearable and we absolutely can’t live in Gaza anymore – that’s what prompted us to plan this march and that’s why we anticipate so many people to attend the protest.”

“We’re ready for every possible scenario, even if they start firing at us. Nowadays, to be a Palestinian is to be an almost dead person. Palestinians die every day and we know that’s part of our reality. I was at the Erez checkpoint back in 2011 [during the last return march]; I’ve seen the full force of Israel’s cruelty.”

“The whole idea is based on UN Security Council Resolution 194 (the right of return) and the current unbearable living conditions in Gaza. It is actually a peaceful act. We want to ask the Israelis to welcome as if we were visitors from another country, the same way they welcome refugees in certain countries in Europe — though we’re not actually visitors here.”

What about Hamas? How involved are they in organizing this?

“They’re not. We’re a group of 20 organizers, only two of whom are affiliated with Hamas. Actually, most of us, including myself, are leftists. All the political parties in Palestine are behind us and supporting us, and Hamas — being an elected party — is one of those parties.”

“If we’d felt that [Hamas], or any other party for that matter, tried to control the protest and make it about them, we wouldn’t let them. Hamas is actually very understanding on that point.”

What about the border with Egypt? Why not march there, I ask. The Rafah border crossing, which could ostensibly serve as a lifeline for Gaza, has been kept closed by Egypt nearly year-round for the past decade. The crossing has been opened for only a handful of days so far this year, mostly to allow Palestinians to seek medical treatment in Egypt and those stranded in Egypt to return. In all of 2017, according to the UN, the crossing was open for a mere 36 days; only 2,930 people managed to cross in both directions.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians cross from Gaza into Egypt after Palestinian militants bulldozed a section of the border wall, temporarily breaking the siege, January 23, 2008. (Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians cross from Gaza into Egypt after Palestinian militants bulldozed a section of the border wall, temporarily breaking the siege, January 23, 2008. (Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

In 2008, after Hamas took control of Gaza and Egypt first shut the border crossing down to regular traffic, Palestinian militants bulldozed open sections of the border wall and hundreds of thousands of people poured through to escape, buy supplies, and effectively break the siege. Eventually Egypt resealed the border.

“You’re right in pointing out that Egypt is a part of the siege, but they’re not occupying us and don’t control every daily aspect of our lives like Israel does. We’re Palestinians, and like I mentioned before, the whole protest is about UNSC Resolution 194 (the right of return for Palestinian refugees), and Egypt has nothing to do with this.”

“The Egyptian economy is bad, and should they open the siege on their end I believe both sides would benefit.”

What about Palestinians who live inside Israel? Are you in touch with them?

“We’re in touch with Palestinian leaders everywhere, including those inside the 1948 borders. We’d like to see our brothers and sisters coming to the border to welcome us — but only as long as they do it safely, not risking themselves and not coming too close to the border so that they don’t end up in clashes with the army. Even if that act is merely symbolic, it will give us a massive mental boost to keep going.”

What about the United States’ involvement? Washington recently made massive cuts to its funding for UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, and Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital certainly didn’t help.

“It actually did. The American policy against us makes a lot of people realize that we don’t have much choice but to do this.”

The organizers are hoping to mobilize as many people as they can. Al-Kurd mentions massive numbers, saying they expect half a million people to join them along the border within the first couple of weeks of the protest. I ask him what will happen when they do get the numbers he’s talking to me about.

“We want to bring a million Gazans to the border by May 15th. That would be a massive success.”

And then what?

“Israel will have two options. Either they end the siege or they start negotiations – direct or indirect, it doesn’t really matter, as long as we get a chance to live in dignity and there is relief for the pain and suffering of everyone here in Gaza.”

Is there a message you’d like to convey to the Israeli public?

“Yes. We are reaching out to them, holding an olive branch. It’s true that we’ve suffered in the past but we’re willing to put everything behind us. Let’s turn a new page together and do what’s right.

“Right now, our situation is very similar to a couple who’s separated — neither married nor divorced. That’s Gaza. So either Israel decides to let us go and end the occupation, or we remarry and have a fresh start”

Alton Sterling shooting: two police officers will not be charged with any crime

Way to go “boys!” You just created more victims and deaths at hands of police because “anything goes” rule will enable police who care little for caution and the people they claim to serve to feel even freer to shoot first!

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Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II won’t be charged for incident that occured in July of 2016 that sparked unrest throughout Baton Rouge

The two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in July 2016 in Baton Rouge will not be charged with any crime, the Louisiana attorney general announced on Tuesday. Prior to the decision, police were already preparing for city-wide protests in response.

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After Feds Leave, Pepper Spray Use Skyrockets Again in LA’s Juvenile Justice System

shame and sham

Just a few years after Los Angeles County exited a monitoring agreement with the Department of Justice, the county’s probation department has seen a return of rampant use of pepper spray in settling altercations and other misbehavior at juvenile detention facilities.

According to a presentation by the LA County Probation Department at Thursday’s Probation Commission meeting, incidents involving pepper spray at the county’s Central Juvenile Hall increased 338 percent from 2015 to 2017.

Pepper spray use also increased by 214 percent at the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and by 192 percent at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar during that time, according to Luis Dominguez, acting deputy director for the Probation Department.

Pepper spray, also known as oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, is currently only used at the county’s three juvenile halls and the set of juvenile detention camps located at the Challenger complex in Lancaster.

In preparing preliminary data for the Board of Supervisors, Dominguez said that the increase in the use of pepper spray has mirrored an increase in the number of violent incidents at camps and halls, including both youth-on-youth violence and altercations involving probation staff and youth.

“OC spray is being used as a direct result of increased assaultive behaviors and violence by youth,” Dominguez said.

But a pending piece of state legislation may force the county to figure out another way to deescalate situations.

Implementing the Probation Department’s Use-of-Force Policy

The statistics shared by the Probation Department also revealed that probation officers’ use of pepper spray is an increasingly popular option for situations when officers at camps and halls must use force to break up or prevent violent incidents.

The department uses a six-tiered system called safe crisis management to determine the appropriate use of force when responding to an incident at one of its juvenile facilities. Levels one, two and three include low-level interventions for responding to youth, such as offering a verbal warning to a youth, stepping between two youth in a fight or placing hands on a youth to stop an altercation.

Levels four and five are considered high-level interventions, such as forcing a youth to the ground.

Level six is reserved for pepper spray.

In 2017, there were 1,629 safety incidents at county juvenile halls, according to Dominguez. Probation staff members used low-level interventions — levels one, two and three — 52 percent of the time. High-level physical interventions — levels four and five — occurred 16 percent of the time, and pepper spray was used in 32 percent of the cases.

The percentage of incidents involving pepper spray is even higher at juvenile camps. According to internal county documents obtained by The Chronicle of Social Change, the department used pepper spray in 42 percent of incidents at juvenile camps in 2016.

After Federal Oversight

Over the past 15 years, LA County’s juvenile probation department has twice come under federal oversight after Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, once for conditions at its juvenile halls in 2004 and another for its camps in 2008. Both times, the department was cited for excessive and inappropriate use of pepper spray on youth, among other issues.

LA County successfully concluded DOJ monitoring of its camps in 2015 after making progress with its policies around the use of pepper spray at its facilities. According to the terms of its last settlement agreement, probation officers must now weigh each pepper spray canister after each use and on a yearly basis.

The experience of being pepper sprayed is not uncommon for youth at probation facilities, either because of a physical altercation or a result of getting caught in the cross-fire. A series of interviews of youth at Probation-run camps and halls conducted by the Violence Intervention Program in 2016 found that 20 percent of youth in the care of the Probation Department had been pepper sprayed, including one young woman who was pregnant at the time.

Most described the experience as a burning sensation, with others reporting painful welts and difficulty breathing.

“You feel like your body is on fire,” said one youth detained at Camp Smith.

Searching for an Alternative to Pepper Spray

The increase in the use of pepper spray at LA County juvenile facilities comes at a time when the practice could be phased out at the state level. California is one of only five states that allows guards at juvenile facilities to wield the chemical spray, and a new bill by state Assemblyman Ed Chau (D) introduced this year would place strict limitations on its use in juvenile detention facilities.

That left some at the Probation Commission meeting wondering about alternatives to pepper spray.

“At least in 2011, there were almost 90 percent of juvenile facilities in the United States that prohibited the use of pepper spray or any kind of chemical intervention in any facility involving youth,” said Commissioner Cyn Yamashiro. “It seems like the writing is on the wall, and it has been for a while, that pepper spray is not going to be an option for the department moving forward.

“What’s the department going to come up with and why aren’t we employing that now instead of capsicum?”

Probation officials point to a training grant from Georgetown University’s Center on Juvenile Justice Reform that is helping to bring the department in line with best practices in the field, along with the department’s ongoing effort to implement a new model of trauma-informed care at the department’s flagship facility, Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu.

But they also say there is still a need for pepper spray as a deterrent.

“Just implementing trauma-informed-care training is not going to assist us in dealing the physical challenges that we’re facing with our youth,” Dominguez said.

According to Probation Department officials, the number of violent incidents since Kilpatrick opened last summer is about 10. Commissioner Jackie Caster hopes that the county can expand the therapeutic design and practices employed at Kilpatrick, which is based on the “Missouri Model” of small-cottage facilities employing positive youth development programs.

“I think this is an argument for speeding up the replication of the Kilpatrick model because obviously what we’ve got at the other facilities is clearly not working and certainly doesn’t sound rehabilitative,” Caster said.


Image: Central Juvenile Hall

This story was written by Jeremy Loudenback for The Chronicle of Social Change, a national news outlet that covers issues affecting vulnerable children, youth and their families. Sign up for their newsletter or follow The Chronicle of Social Change on Facebook or Twitter.

“Brexit wouldn’t have happened without Cambridge Analytica”

Christopher Wylie is the brains behind Cambridge Analytica (CA), the data analytics company that is being investigated for its role in the Donald Trump election campaign and the Brexit vote. The 28-year-old “gay Canadian vegan,” as he describes himself, put the most effective data mining machinery at the service of politics, but was shocked by how it was abused. Wylie has since exposed CA and Facebook for secretly mining the personal information of millions of Facebook accounts. After serving as a source for The Guardian and The New York Times, Wylie sat down with a small group of European journalists to talk about privacy, the failure of Facebook, and political interference.

Seguir leyendo.

Antibiotic courses for sinusitis often exceed guidelines, study says

Hmmm. Latest version of sinusitis are not responding to normal doses. Several co-workers have had two to three week infections that only responded to repeated courses. Seems “the bridge too far” is already working its way through the population. Ugh!

Sinus exam
Robert Roos | News Writer | CIDRAP News
Mar 27, 2018

The findings represent an opportunity to reduce unnecessary use of the drugs.