Five myths about gun deaths in the United States
8/1/17; by Sébastien BLANC AFP – 4 hours ago Washington (AFP)
– On an average day in America, more than two dozen people are shot dead, but the heavy toll goes largely unnoticed except for mass shootings like Sunday’s church massacre in Texas – perpetuating a string of myths about gun violence.
Five myths about gun deaths in the United States
The following are five false assumptions about gun-related shootings in the United States:
– 1. Gun-related homicides are at a record high –
Not true, even if the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did record an uptick in the number of gun-related homicides between 2015 and 2016.
“Although the incidence of mass shootings is dramatically on the rise in the US, the nation’s overall and gun-related murder rates have been on the decline — being just half of what they were 25 years ago,” said Gregg Lee Carter, a professor of sociology at Bryant University in Rhode Island.
“This decline has happened in the face of a serious relaxing of gun control regulations at the state level,” Carter told AFP. “For example, few states allowed the average citizen to carry a concealed firearm before 1990, but today almost all states do.”
A “mass shooting” is defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed or wounded, excluding the assailant.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there is, on average, at least one mass shooting in the United States per day.
– 2. Gun violence victims are random –
Media coverage of mass shootings in the United States tends to give the false impression that victims are random and have no connection with the perpetrator.
This impression tends to be reinforced by the tendency of these crimes to take place in public places — a country music concert in Nevada, a nightclub in Florida, a university campus in Virginia or a school in Connecticut.
In fact, studies have shown that most mass shootings target a specific person or an establishment against which the killer has a grievance.
More than two-thirds of mass shootings take place in private homes and the victims tend to be close to their assailant.
According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, 50 women are killed every month in the United States by their partner.
– 3. Mass shootings account for most US gun homicides –
Most of the 12,000 gun-related homicides a year in the United States do not qualify as mass shootings.
For example, in Fresno, California, on Sunday a man named Manuel Garcia killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend as they left church. Garcia then shot himself.
The double murder would probably have made headlines in France, Britain, Japan or Australia.
But in the United States, where gun-related deaths are on average 25 times higher than in other developed countries, it merited just local coverage.
– 4. Most mass murderers are mentally ill –
Mass shootings in the United States have indeed been carried out by individuals who were clearly mentally ill such as Adam Lanza, who killed his mother and 20 children at a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and James Holmes, who opened fire on moviegoers in Colorado.
But experts stress that the vast majority of people with psychological problems are not violent.
Conversely, a study conducted in Baltimore, St. Louis and Los Angeles found that only four percent of the people who committed violent acts against others could be said to have serious mental problems.
In other words, the vast majority were acting out of other factors such as anger, jealousy or hate.
– 5. The United States is sharply divided over gun control –
This belief may be widely held abroad but it is not in fact true.
America’s powerful National Rifle Association has consistently opposed efforts at tighter gun control.
But even the most vehement US anti-gun activists do not advocate repealing the Second Amendment, which grants Americans the right to bear arms, and no serious US politician favors confiscating weapons.
The current gun control debate concerns limiting the types of weapons or accessories available for purchase, or strengthening background checks restricting sales to people with legal or mental problems.
“National gun laws will not change unless Democrats control both houses of Congress, plus the presidency – and there is no chance of this occurring until the 2020 national election,” Professor Carter said.
“Republicans will not strengthen gun laws – despite the majority of Americans wanting stronger laws and despite research showing that strong gun laws can reduce the total amount of gun violence,” he added.
Israeli kindergarten raid terrifies Palestinian kids
8/11 17; by Jaclynn Ashly – Palestinian parents say their children were horrified after Israeli police raided their primary school – Ammar Awad/Reuters
Occupied East Jerusalem – Teachers and parents have decried a raid on a school by Israeli forces that resulted in the arrests of the school’s deputy principal and three teachers.
Israeli police entered the Zahwa al-Quds kindergarten and primary school in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina on Monday and made the arrests because staff refused to follow Israel’s education standard, according to school staff.
“Israel is attempting to force our school to adopt the Israeli education curriculum,” Ziad al-Shamali, head of the school’s parent committee, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “We are refusing this. So they decided to raid our school and scare our children.”
Local teacher Ola Nini told Al Jazeera several unarmed and plain-clothed Israeli police officers and officials from Israel’s Jerusalem municipality entered the school during the first class of the morning. Zahwa al-Quds is a private school with about 90 students between the ages of three and nine.
Officers searched all the classrooms and demanded the identity cards of each teacher, Nini said, adding they then wrote down their names and made photocopies of their IDs.
Shamali said the officers also confiscated phones and deleted footage of the incident on the school’s surveillance cameras. The students were so frightened that at least one child urinated on herself, Nini added.
“The officers began to question the students about the books they were reading and took pictures of the books,” Nini explained. The officers then made their way to the principal’s office, broke in, and confiscated teacher salaries and school papers in the drawers of the principal’s desk, she said.
During the raid, the school’s deputy principal and three teachers were taken into Israeli custody. They were released later on Monday.
Rachel Greenspan, spokeswoman for the local government, said the Jerusalem municipality was not involved in the incident and denied there was a raid on the school. “There was a dispute between the teachers and the principal regarding salaries,” she told Al Jazeera.
An Israeli police spokesperson did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
‘Scared to go to school’
Monday was not the first time Zahwa al-Quds school was targeted by Israeli security forces. According to Nini, two armed Israeli police officers also stormed and searched the school in September.
The school received an Israeli permit when it was established about a year ago, according to Shamali. However in July, Israel allegedly revoked the license after staff refused to start teaching the Israeli curriculum, forcing the school to obtain a Palestinian permit from the al-Waqf Islamic Trust.
Shamali said Israel’s targeting of Zahwa al-Quds was part of its plan to coerce Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem into teaching the Israeli curriculum. “They don’t want anything Palestinian left. They want all of our schools to be for Israelis,” he said. “So they will keep making it difficult for our children to learn.”
Tahseen Elayyan, head of the monitoring and documentation department at the Palestinian human rights NGO al-Haq, agreed saying there have been “constant attempts” by Israel to impose its education system on Palestinian schools.
Israel’s goal is “to suppress the Palestinian narrative, especially since the curriculum does not mention the atrocities committed against Palestinians in 1948 and other historical facts that are linked to Palestinian history on this land”, Elayyan said.
Shamali said Palestinian students have unwittingly become victims of Israel’s “violent policies” towards Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem. “These raids make the children scared to go to school,” he said, noting families are becoming afraid to send their children to schools that teach the Palestinian curriculum.
“If children are seeing police raid their schools and arrest their teachers, they will think that school is a bad and unsafe place,” said Shamali. “They would never behave like this in front of Israeli children.”
more on Israeli–Palestinian conflict
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
Legalising the annexation of Jerusalem
6/11/17; by Yara Hawari
Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem is illegal under international law.
In late October, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to vote on the “Greater Jerusalem” Bill. If it had passed, it would have been presented before the Knesset floor for several readings, before a vote on whether or not to legislate it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously stated that he would support it, giving it serious political force and backing. The vote has now been postponed following requests for clarification on various aspects of the bill from the US administration.
The bill, as suggested by its title, would expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include four major illegal settlements and many more smaller ones under the municipal jurisdiction of Jerusalem. The settlements, Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar Illit and Efrat, are part of the Gush Etzion settlement block that stretches from Jerusalem to Hebron. Although legislators claim that these areas will not be under full Israeli sovereignty, this move would certainly amount to de facto annexation.
This is part and parcel of a “facts on the ground” strategy Israel has been pursuing since 1967, when it occupied the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, annexing East Jerusalem and declaring the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Israeli settlement building in the territories occupied in 1967 is undeniably illegal under international law which forbids the transfer of the occupying power’s population into territories it has acquired during war or conflict. However, as of today, no Israeli government has ceased its expansion in the West Bank and the population of illegal settlers today is well over half a million.
The bill’s supporters are motivated by an Israeli obsession with demographics.
The annexation of East Jerusalem is also unequivocally recognised as unlawful. Under the two-state framework, East Jerusalem would constitute the capital of a Palestinian State and its colonisation is continuously condemned by much of the international community. Yet this has had little effecti and today there are over 200,000 Israeli settlers living in East Jerusalem, with demolitions of Palestinian homes and appropriation of Palestinian land being a daily occurrence.
The bill’s supporters are motivated by an Israeli obsession with demographics. Their idea is to ensure that Jewish Israelis maintain a dominant majority in every part of historic Palestine.
In Jerusalem, this approach is specifically being used to counter the international discourse that the city belongs both to Palestinians and Israelis and to assert that Jerusalem is the “undivided capital of the Jewish people”. Minister of Transport and Intelligence Israel Katz who has been heavily promoting the bill, stated that this was a move to “ensure a Jewish majority” in the city.
READ MORE – Israel delays vote on bill to Judaise Jerusalem
Indeed, the proposed bill will also exclude the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Kufr Aqab, Shuafat refugee camp and Anata that currently exist beyond the separation wall. Placing them under a sub-municipality, it would remove them from the census and statistically reduce the Palestinian population of “Greater Jerusalem” by 100,000.
Beyond the gerrymandering, this bill would yet again make a clear statement that international law does not apply to Israel.
For Palestinians, this is simply a continuation of their lived reality of an accelerating settler colonial project. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are already subjected to an oppressive regime in which they are considered permanent residents but not citizens.
Their status as residents is dependent on whether or not they can prove that their centre of life is in Jerusalem. This means that they are at constant risk of having their residency permits revoked, not to mention the denial of citizenship and therefore full rights. The potential repercussions for residents of the Palestinian neighbourhoods that will be downgraded to sub-municipalities are not clear, but should the bill pass, the situation for them would undoubtedly worsen.
It is not surprising that Israel is attempting to annex more land in the West Bank. Perhaps what is surprising however, is the continuous demand by the international community that Palestinians put their faith in international law, its institutions and processes. Israel continuously flouts international law with no repercussions or sanctions. Indeed, the word “sanctions” can barely be whispered in diplomatic and policy circles before accusations of bias towards Israel are made.
The question for Palestinians thus remains: How far is too far? The West Bank has been under belligerent occupation for over 50 years, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights have been annexed for just as long, Gaza has been placed under a crippling siege for more than 10 years, while the refugees have been in exile for nearly seven decades and the Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to be subjected to systematic oppression. Palestinians reached “too far” a long time ago; it is time for the international community to catch up.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Inside Story; Is Israel imposing ‘apartheid’ on Palestinians? ABOUT THE AUTHOR; Yara Hawari:; Yara Hawari is the Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. @ yarahawari; Have your say.Give us feedback. Sign up for our weekly newsletter