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GFKT, January 2017: Loose guns: Israeli controlled small arms in the civil sphere
"For fifty years now, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian people who inhabit them, have been subjected to Israel’s military rule. Small arms play a central but often overlooked role in this reality. Guns are the hardware of daily control, a weapon of mass subjection." Says Rela Mazali, Coordinator, Gun Free Kitchen Tables.
In March 2017, of GFKT’s new report Loose Guns: Israeli controlled small arms in the civil sphere – How many guns and how much control? generated 28 media items in Hebrew, English and Arabic, on mainstream, alternative and social media.
Both academic and activist venues are taking an interest in GFKT’s new report and in its work, Such as the INsecurity conference, in Tel Aviv, convened by the “Hamushim” project of the Coalition of Women for Peace; workshop “Listening to Narratives of Security and in-Security” at Ben Gurion University; Sabanci University’s “Gender and Peace” conference in Istanbul; Tel Hai College panel titled “You will not hurt me” on activism resisting violence against women.
Feminist oversight uncovers irresponsible policy-making on firearms So We petitioned to the court to instruct the Ministry of Public Security and the Israel Police to reveal all the information considered in the Minister’s decision to extend authorization for security guards to bear arms after duty and store them at home. While the petition is still ongoing, the Ministry and the Police have already provided us with relevant documents.
Increasing our efforts to grow a diversified, feminist gun control movement, GFKT is cultivating work in communities to circumvent irresponsible government policies on small arms. More important now than ever, GFKT is leading a core group of 20-30 activists, Palestinian and Jewish women from an array of organizations based in Israel, in a jointly initiated program of action-oriented study
On March 9th the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee of Israel’s parliament approved an amendment to the Firearms Act, as one of multiple measures being implemented to “fix” small arms policy in Israel. The amendment, which should now sail smoothly through the final Knesset votes, seriously incapacitates Clause 10c(b) of the Firearms Act barring private security firms from storing their arms in guards’ homes, by restricting the validity of this clause to “unexceptional” times only. Enforcement of the clause for the first time ever, in 2013, following a struggle begin by GFKT in 2010, stopped a previously unbroken series of killings with security firms’ arms in homes and families. These claimed the lives of 18 women and 15 men over 11 consecutive years. The amendment will now grant the Minister of Public Security unlimited authority to return firearms into 70 thousand homes. We are extremely worried by the failure of our attempt to prevent renewal of the conditions for murder. However, even if Clause 10c(b) is now subject to possibly arbitrary discretion, it has been left intact where, just two years ago, it was in danger of complete annulment.
Consolidating feminist civil oversight: Monitoring policy via independent data collection –
Taking civil action to correct authorities’ total failure to provide systematic, reliable data, GFKT initiated a process of independent fact-finding on all shooting incidents from early October through the end of December 2015, a period of multiple attacks by individual Palestinians. The accelerated effort drew on and cross-checked reports in Israeli and Palestinian media in both Hebrew and English. Our analysis indicates a policy of actively encouraging shooting-to-kill assailants or suspected assailants, or at the very least of overlooking such shootings.
The number of people shot dead in the last three months of 2015 was 118 – over 13 times the number of people shot dead two years earlier, in the last three months of 2013, during which GFKT conducted a similar data-collection project. In 2013 the rate of death was 1 to every 3.4 shooting incidents (9 people shot dead in 31 incidents). But in 2015 the rate of death was close to 1 per incident (118 dead in 166 incidents, amounting to 1 person dead per every 1.4 incidents).
In October 2015, the (recently appointed) Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, began initiating and implementing a series of changes in Israel's small arms policy. He significantly extended the criteria qualifying people for gun licenses (allowing many thousands more to apply for and receive licenses), he simplified the procedure for license renewal making it almost automatic, he repeatedly issued calls for license holders to carry their arms at all times and for those eligible to apply for licenses and arm themselves. Meanwhile, the practices of law enforcement authorities and the military effectively sanctioned shooting-to-kill in situations perceived as terror attacks. Most recently, Minister Erdan proposed an amendment to an existing clause (10c) of the Firearms Act that restricts the licenses of private security guards to their places of work.
These changes in gun control policy are framed as a policy response to the recent outbreak of violent attacks by individual Palestinians. In fact they are a form of 'every man for himself' defense conceding the legitimacy of a government unable to protect its citizens by preventing attacks by random individuals. In the absence of a relevant response to the outbreak, the government is adopting a radical privatization of 'security.
Analyzing and presenting new GFKT data – Newly collected data, fully verified for October 2015, showed that off-duty security guards had no role in stopping attacks or suspected attacks. Out of 55 incidents in which firearms helped stop attacks or perceived attacks, only six involved security guards, all of them on duty. Of these, two were mistaken shootings (ending in innocent death), and a third was very likely mistaken. GFKT crunched these data into an info-graphic poster posted on the GFKT Facebook page.
October 2015 "real time" bulletin
This is a "real time" bulletin, written as events unfold here in Israel/Palestine. As many of you are aware, the situation here has reached a new and somewhat different kind of 'boiling point,' as unorganized, individual Palestinians armed with knives attack, or set out to attack, random passers-by, in mostly-Jewish areas. This outbreak of widely scattered attacks self-initiated by individuals can be seen as a form of the phenomena known in South Africa as 'ungovernability.' Israel's government and security forces seem, predictably, to be a loss for any effective response. Concurrently, Palestinians in the West Bank have been staging daily protests, Palestinians in Gaza have been storming the fence system separating the Gaza Strip from Israel and the Palestinian citizens of Israel have held a strike and a large demonstration. Among the array of responses announced by Israel's government one in particular has stood out. It bears directly on small arms proliferation and gun control. The Minister of Public Security has declared that gun licensing policy will be loosened to allow more people licenses, the Mayor of Jerusalem (along with other politicians) has called on private gun owners to bear their arms at all times and there is some evidence that the military may have further loosened its 'open fire regulations,' allowing even more leeway to armed troops dealing with Palestinian protestors. In addition, some media reports have claimed that private security guards will now go back to taking home their firearms. Obviously, if all or even some of these declarations are put into practice, the partial but meaningful disarmament and discourse achieved by GFKT will be overturned and undone. Many thousands of guns will be added to the civil sphere in Israel while existing brakes and checks on their use will be loosened even more.
In response to these developments, Gun Free Kitchen Tables issued a press release last week. Both before and after issuing the statement, we were approached by various media venues and have appeared, to date, on the Military radio (Galatz), i24 TV (in English), Maariv, Ynet, Yediot Acharonot, Haaretz, the Hottest Place in Hell.
In addition, Arabic language media are covering the views of Gun Free Kitchen Tables for the first time, both inside and outside of Israel/Palestine. Eight venues have featured our work so far, including, for instance, Al-Ahram in Egypt. This was facilitated by Shada Zoabi, the Arabic language spokesperson of ACRI (a partner in the GFKT Campaign), who translated and distributed the press release. The Hebrew original was authored collaboratively by Sarai Ahroni of Isha L’Isha, Yaron Kelner, the Hebrew language spokesperson of ACRI, Galit Lubetzky, Smadar Ben Natan and Rela Mazali of GFKT.
Two somewhat subtle points are worth noting in the context of these events:
1) The change of consciousness initiated by GFKT has proved resilient enough to cause media to approach us for comments immediately following politicians' announcements and statements and many of the 'talk-back' responses support our position;
2) These developments clearly (and sadly) demonstrate how closely gun control policy and culture are linked to militarization and militarized violence. As we have argued from the outset, attitudes on small arms bear on attitudes to the conflict and to Israel's militarization.
We will continue to follow developments closely and to update you.
Still running a race against time: In September, the temporary provision re-authorizing security firms to store guns in guards’ homes is up for extension.
In September the dangerous over-armament of schools will be resumed. Moreover, the state and security firms will again send the arms of 4,500 guards into their homes:
On July 12, we wrote the Minister of Public Security, on behalf of the 13 partner groups of the GFKT Campaign, calling for no extension of the temporary provision (issued in November 2014) re-authorizing security guards to bear company arms after duty. We also called for an extension of the directives (issued in July 2013) preventing storage of guards’ guns in their homes to include the 4,500 guards stationed at schools and educational institutions. We asked to meet with the minister and present him with the data and information supporting these call.
The CEO of the Ministry of Public Security responded (on August 18) that, “As the expiration date of the temporary provision approaches, an assessment will be conducted. The final decision will examine the range of considerations, including your letter.” Following his response we addressed a letter to the Chair of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, MK David Amsalem, with “a call to convene an urgent, thorough discussion of the ongoing retreat from the July 2013 directives of the Minister of Public Security, banning security guards from bearing and storing arms in their homes, directives due to which thousands of homes in Israel are now gun free, significantly reducing the risks and threats of firearms in homes.”
In addition we directed focused responses to the CEO’s letter to both the Minister of Public Security and the CEO of the ministry. Our letter stressed the urgency of our calls given the opening school year and the expiration date of the temporary provision. Besides recurring murders with security firms’ arms that are stored in homes, we cited examples of gun-related deaths and injuries within schools and educational institutions, including two lethal shootings, two serious injuries. We also pointed out the safety and educational risks of a widespread practice entrusting student discipline to guards, when their sole source of authority is a firearm.
On July we wrote the Chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, MK Aida Touma-Sliman, as well as her colleague from the Joint List, MK Hanin Zoabi, introducing Gun Free Kitchen Tables and noting some of the pressing issues on our agenda (including the urgent need for collecting and providing gender-disaggregated data related to small arms proliferation and gun violence in Israel). We asked to meet both Knesset Members.
Noting two years without murders with off-duty security firms’ guns:
On July 24th we noted two full years since the last murder with a security firm’s gun taken home by a guard (our two-year Facebook post is below). Since publication (in July 2013) of the new directives prohibiting storage of (most) guards’ guns in their homes and their implementation a month later, there have – to the best of our knowledge – been no additional deaths caused by security firms’ arms in homes. As we’ve stated however, the directives were partly lifted last November. Working for their full reinstatement is one of our urgent priorities.
A milestone post on GFKT’s Facebook page: Two-years with no murders with security firms’ guns stored in guards’ homes.
On September 1st we informed the Chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mr. Eliezer Rosenbaum, Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Interior, of this unprecedented period without murders in families with security firms’ off-duty guns. Our letter suggested that GFKT present evidence to the Committee and attend its meetings towards amending the Law for Prevention of Domestic Violence to include practical measures for preventing gun violence in families.
Extending public discussion on the risks posed by firearms:
We recently resumed interaction (a lecture, a meeting, letters) with welfare authorities at different levels, extending our ongoing efforts to integrate GFKT knowledge-building into the know-how and practices of professionals working to prevent domestic violence.
On July 27th, we participated in a groundbreaking panel convened by Social TV, posing tough questions about security firms’ arms in schools and the risks of schools’ over-armament in Israel. The panel, moderated by Tammi Molad Hayo, included speakers: Noga Hurvitz, Dr. Vered Ne’eman-Haviv, Rela Mazali. In early August Social TV aired an English subtitled version.
Going on two: Almost two years since the last murder with a guard’s off-duty gun
On July 23, 2013 Natan Jorno and his daughter Yamit Jorno were shot and killed by a security guard with his off-duty gun. A month later, on August 27, the new directives issued by the Minister of Public Security in July were finally implemented, leading to the disarmament of thousands of superfluously armed guards and to the storage of 85% of armed guards’ guns at their work sites after duty. To the best of our knowledge, a move to partially retract the new directives in November 2014 failed to substantially reverse the systemic change already underway “in the field.” We are currently witnessing the longest period documented in Israel without a single killing with a private security guards’ off-duty gun. While storing guns at work sites does not and cannot provide total prevention, this unprecedented two-year period testifies to the meaningful effectiveness of such measures.
Enhance accountability and combat impunity”: Civil suits"
On April 20th, Roman Litrovnik was represented at the first pre-trial session of his civil suit by lawyers from two partners of the GFKT Campaign, the Tmura Israeli Anti-discrimination Legal Center and the GFKT project of Isha L’Isha (which initiated and leads the Campaign). Roman’s mother, father and grandmother were shot and killed, seven years ago, by his cousin, a security guard who took home his gun. Suing the state and the private security firm directly charges both parties with liability and responsibility for failing to enforce the law requiring storage of guns at work. Media coverage after the pre-trial (see headline above) spotlighted the ludicrous state claim that Roman’s grandmother, who shared an apartment with the shooter, “exposed herself to danger of her own free will.”
On May 4th, Alamnesh Zalaka, was represented at the pre-trial session of her civil suit by lawyers from Noga Legal Center for Victims of Crime, another partner group of the GFKT Campaign, along with lawyers from the GFKT project of Isha L’Isha.
Both lawsuits represent a practical strategy for implementing the 7th recommendation recently drawn from an exhaustive “Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325” carried out by WILPF. The recommendation is to: “Enhance accountability and combat impunity of … private military and security companies, national security forces and non-state armed groups on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in conflict and post-conflict situations.”
Globalizing local strategies: GFKT noticed internationally
Late in April we got an elated text message from Jessica Nevo, who has worked with GFKT, from the first plenary session of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom Centenary Conference at the Hague. How exciting, she wrote, Cynthia Cockburn is talking about GFKT! And in fact, GFKT is beginning to draw international recognition as a model of significant anti-militarist activism that can be employed anywhere, at any level of government. Cynthia Cockburn, who is a prominent feminist researcher and writer, cited “the remarkable project in Israel called Gun Free Kitchen Tables”as “a good example of women activists who clarify and alert us to a precise link in the gendered continuum of violence [… and] point out, loud and clear, that militarism doesn't stay in the barracks. It comes in the front door, it hangs in the closet.” She noted that women’s mobilization within IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons, successfully pressed the United Nations, during negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty, “to acknowledge precisely what women such as those of Gun Free Kitchen Tables have been telling us – the significance of guns in women’s lives and deaths.”
The latest issue of Feminist Yaklasimlar featuring an article on GFKT
Testifying to the interest shared by feminists across borders in the thinking and action of GFKT, the Turkish academic feminist journal, Kulture ve Siyasette Feminist Yaklasimlar, recently published an article on GFKT authored by Rela Mazali and translated into Turkish by Elif Binici and Irem Az.
Finally, earlier this year, Jahla Valji, Policy Adviser and Officer in Charge of the Peace and Security section, UN Women, wrote GFKT that, “I think that the experience of GFKT is not just relevant to Palestine/Israel but is a great example of the engagement of civil society in disarmament and building community security more generally.”