Hundreds of members of the Israeli Ethiopian community protested in Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon against police brutality and discrimination. The demonstration was a continuation of similar protests that started last week in Jerusalem.
“Not black, not white, we’re all human,” the demonstrators chanted as they marched from the Azrieli Towers to the government complex in the city.
The protest shut down the Ayalon Highway in both directions, as well as the Kaplan-Begin junction and other major traffic arteries in the city.
By and large, the demonstration was peaceful – but clashes broke out between police and protesters near Azrieli Towers, prompting police to call for back-up.
The deputy commander of Tel Aviv district police, Brig.-Gen. Yoram Ohayon, told Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Acharonot that professional agitators were “inciting members of the community to keep protesting after the police already reached understandings with them.”
Those instigators were seen egging on the protesters, crossing their hands over the heads as if they were in handcuffs. “A violent cop should be jailed,” they shouted.
The U.S. Embassy, located in Tel Aviv, had issued a message warning citizens in Israel to beware of the demonstration.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with representatives of the community, along with representatives of the ministries of interior, absorption, public security and social services.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Monday evening and activated the U.S. National Guard to come to the assistance of Baltimore Police who were clearly outnumbered in facing spreading violence in the city.
A “credible threat” was received Monday that three rival gangs are teaming up to “take out” Baltimore Police. The unprecedented alliance between the Black Guerrillas, the Crips and the Bloods to “take out” a law enforcement agency parallels similar deals between Middle East terror groups in order to attack Israelis.
The warning comes against the backdrop of growing violence that followed another incident in which an African-American man died in police custody after arrest.
Seven Baltimore city police officers were injured Monday – one very seriously – in riots that started last week.
Freddie Gray, 25, was shackled in leg irons and placed in a police van where he rode for 30 minutes following his arrest. When the door was opened, it was discovered that he was badly injured. He was taken to the hospital where doctors found his spine was almost completely severed. Gray died on April 19.
Six police officers were placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident is under investigation. Meeting with reporters over the weekend, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake insisted as hundreds of rioters were roaming the streets that it was important to give rioters “space.”
“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech,” the mayor said at a briefing Saturday night.
“It’s a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
Given the intensity of the violence following her statement, the mayor tried to clarify the intent of her remarks.
Howard Libit, director of Strategic Planning and Policy, issued a subsequent statement saying “What she is saying with in this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence.
“The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”
But the thousands of rioters out on the streets were not listening, and what appears to be a well-organized siege of the city is growing.
Clearly outnumbered Baltimore SWAT teams have been responding to anti-police protests of that turned ugly by Saturday after three days of peaceful demonstrations.
Light rail and subway trains, and bus service into the downtown area was suspended in order to stop high school students from reaching the area.
Nevertheless, large groups of juveniles gathered and clashed with police at various locations around the city following Gray’s funeral.
Word of a meme – an online flyer – circulated around schools in the city, advocating for a “purge” – a breakdown of all laws and reference to a movie of the same name.
“We are asking for the media to assist us in relaying this message,” Baltimore Police tweeted on social media during the day. “Due to the large number of juveniles in these violent groups, we are asking for parents to please bring your children home. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Residents of the Negev woke up this week to face layoffs of more than 140 workers by the Israel Chemicals’ Bromine Compounds factory.
The move comes in the wake of similar layoffs in at least three other factories around the southern Dead Sea region.
Employees at the factory demonstrated Tuesday at the corporation’s headquarters in Be’er Sheva to express their dismay.
Dead Sea Works factory employees joined them in a solidarity move; they too face massive layoffs but are hoping to stave off the pink slips in negotiations. Israel Chemicals owns both factories.
It’s not that the corporation profits are down: the bromine industry is still very healthy, and dividends have risen. So has the salary of the CEO, according to Ynet. But many factories in the Negev have been downsizing. It costs money to move product across the vast region and the railway system that could – and should — do it most efficiently simply does not exist.
One of the centerpieces of the Netanyahu administration this term has focused on the prime minister’s vow to upgrade and update infrastructure development in southern Israel.
Residents in the Negev have heard those promises from politicians before and most have learned to accept them for what they usually are: well-meant vows that rarely materialize.
In the past several years, a massive project was undertaken to rework Negev infrastructure. An entire network of new highways are still in the process of being constructed; old roads were torn up and repaved.
But little else was done; the antiquated railway network has yet to be expanded, for instance. Although a branch line goes out to Dimona, the equally distant development town of Arad, for instance, has yet to receive one.
Once home to Motorola, the famed Arad Towels factory and a host of other manufacturers – but no longer – Arad is now struggling to survive. Numerous business firms have left for more accessible places with more favorable special business tax deals, and possibly better security. Many of the town’s founding residents have left as well.
Located at one of the farthest edges of the periphery, Arad was promised a rail line years ago but has yet to see it. There is only one road out to the Dead Sea and Be’er Sheva – Highway 31 – and if that is blocked, the residents are locked in. Good jobs are scarce in Arad, and residents who work in the closest major city – Be’er Sheva – must commute by inter-city bus to get there. That means a local bus ride of 15 to 20 minutes, another hour-long bus ride to Be’er Sheva, and then possibly a third bus ride to work, of undetermined length.
Employers in Israel often pay a stipend for travel to the job, but generally not enough to cover three bus trips each way. The work day for an average commuter in Arad lasts at least 10 hours, if not more, and it often costs their employers in productivity as well as morale and turnover.
It’s one reason some people in Arad abandon the option of traveling by bus and now travel by car. But that comes with a price as well: Those in private vehicles, like bus drivers, recently faced the risk of being pelted with rocks by young Arabs near two Bedouin towns along Highway 31. The attackers were egged on by agitators and organizers from central and northern Israel according to local sources. At least 60 suspects were rounded up and questioned after a recent attack; many were arrested.
The latest move by manufacturers at the Dead Sea is guaranteed only to exacerbate the tension and misery permeating the southern region, where development was to flourish this year in the wake of attacks by Hamas.
Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers tend to exercise a ruthless means of dealing with dissension within the ranks – and are doing the same with their civilian population in wartime as well.
According to a report broadcast Tuesday on Israel’s Hebrew-language Channel 10 television, Hamas shot and killed some 20 residents of the Shejaiyya neighborhood in Gaza City Monday night.
Hamas claimed they were “spies” and said they were executing them after having carried out an investigation that allegedly revealed they possessed weapons and communications devices.
Given the fact that nearly every single family in Gaza possesses communications equipment and weapons, in order to carry out the orders of the Hamas Izz a-Din al-Qassam military wing, that’s pretty much a stretch.
The trigger for the executions was a protest by neighborhood residents against their government. Local families are becoming disenchanted over the destruction of their homes and other infrastructure due to the conflict being carried out by Hamas with Israel.
This is not the first time the terrorist organization has summarily executed Gaza residents for perceived disloyalty – or for what it considers possible collaboration with Israel.
In the past several days, Hamas officials have put to death more than 30 Gaza civilians for the same reason in various locations throughout the region, the Palestine Press News Agency reported, quoting unidentified Palestinian Arab security sources.
There is no doubt that the Gezi Park demonstrations in May and June, which spread to most of Turkey, represent a seismic change in Turkish society and have opened up fault lines which earlier may not have been apparent. What began as a demonstration against the “development” of a small park in the center of Istanbul ended as a widespread protest against the AKP government — and particularly Prime Minister Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule.
The European Commission in its latest progress report on Turkey has recognized this change when it writes of “the emergence of vibrant, active citizenry;” and according to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, who in the report is praised for his conciliatory role, this development is “a new manifestation of our democratic maturity.” The Turkish government, however, has chosen to see these demonstrations as a challenge to its authority and has reacted accordingly.
The report mentions various repressive measures taken by the government, including the excessive use of force by the police, columnists and journalists being fired or forced to resign after criticizing the government, television stations being fined for transmitting live coverage of the protests and the round-up by the police of those suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.
However, there is, in the EU report, no mention of the campaign of vilification led by the Prime Minister against the protesters, or reprisals against public employees who supported or took part in the protests; also, measures taken to prevent the recurrence of mass protests, such as tightened security on university campuses, no education loans for students who take part in demonstrations and a ban on chanting political slogans at football matches.
Not only the demonstrators themselves have been targeted but also the international media, which Prime Minister Erdoğan has accused of being part of an international conspiracy to destabilize Turkey. The “interest rate lobby” and “the Jewish diaspora” have also been blamed. As the Commission notes, the Turkish Capital Markets Board has launched an investigation into foreign transactions to account for the 20% drop on the Istanbul Stock Exchange between May 20 and June 19, which had more to do with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering than the Gezi Park protests.
In August, however, a report on the Gezi Park protests by the Eurasia Global Research Center (AGAM), and chaired by an AKP deputy, called the government’s handling of the situation “a strategic mistake” and pointed out that democracy-valuing societies require polls and dialogue between people and the local authorities.
The Commission is correct, therefore, when it concludes that a divisive political climate prevails, including a polarizing tone towards citizens, civil society organizations and businesses. This conclusion is reinforced by the observation that work on political reform is hampered by a persistent lack of dialogue and spirit of compromise among political parties. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the need for systematic consultation in law-making with civil society and other stakeholders.
This division was underlined by Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek in June, when, at a conference, he deplored the lack of a spirit of compromise in intellectual or political circles. This lack is not only illustrated by the occasional fistfight between parliamentary deputies, but also when the AKP government in July voted against its own proposal in the mistaken belief that it had been submitted by the opposition. Or when the opposition two days later passed its own bill while the government majority had gone off to prayers.
President Gül, in a message of unity to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr (in August, at the end of Ramadan), had called on Turkey to leave polarization behind and unite for the European Union membership bid. But to create a united Turkey will be difficult, given the attitude of the present government. Even the democratization package presented by Prime Minister Erdoğan at the end of September does not indicate any substantive change in the government’s majoritarian approach to democracy.
Irrespective of the Prime Minister’s reference to international human rights and the EU acquis [legislation], both lifting the headscarf ban for most public employees and a number of concessions to the Kurdish minority can be seen as a move to boost Erdoğan’s popularity ahead of the local elections in March.
President Barack Obama appealed for calm on Sunday, after a Florida jury comprised of six women acquitted George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.
In a written statement, Obama called the death of Trayvon Martin a tragedy for his family and for America, but said “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”
The acquittal of Zimmerman Saturday dominated television news and the Internet on Sunday, with incidents of protests in communities as far away as San Francisco.
The 17-year-old Martin was killed on February 26, 2012 in a struggle with the armed Zimmerman, who is Hispanic. Many said Martin was profiled and targeted because he was black and walking at night in a gated, mostly white community. Zimmerman—a neighborhood watch volunteer—spotted Martin and called police. He then got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. A confrontation and struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting Martin.
The case made national news after it was discovered that Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police accepted his claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.
Now, it appears, the jury did as well. But the U.S. Justice Department said it is looking into the prosecution of Zimmerman under federal statutes. So the other side might get its brand of justice, in the end.
State Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda says he was disappointed by the ruling, but will respect the jury’s decision. The prosecution argued that Zimmerman profiled the teen and followed him because he assumed Martin was going making trouble in the gated Florida neighborhood.
Immediately after the verdict, Martin’s supporters, including his family members, used media to express their rage about the jury decision.
Zimmerman’s defense lawyer, Mark O’Mara, was ecstatic. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense. I’m glad that the jury saw it that way.”