Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

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Israeli soldiers involved in the attacks on Gaza at the start of this year claim that they were ordered to fire, regardless of the risk to civilians. Israel banned journalists from its invasion of Gaza in December and January, making it hard to verify allegations of indiscriminate firing, the use of phosphorous bombs, and forcing Palestinians to be human shields. Now an Israeli human rights group has produced a disturbing account of what it says happened in Gaza, as told by soldiers.

This Channel 4 clip is already a few days old but it’s good to get a reminder of how the anti-Semitic Nazi State of Israel operates (even though I find it hard to cope with having to listen to Mark Regev).

Noam Chomsky’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

chomskyJune 2009 was marked by a number of significant events, including two elections in the Middle East: in Lebanon, then Iran. The events are significant, and the reactions to them, highly instructive.

The election in Lebanon was greeted with euphoria. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gushed that he is “a sucker for free and fair elections,” so “it warms my heart to watch” what happened in Lebanon in an election that “was indeed free and fair — not like the pretend election you are about to see in Iran, where only candidates approved by the Supreme Leader can run. No, in Lebanon it was the real deal, and the results were fascinating: President Barack Obama defeated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.” Crucially, “a solid majority of all Lebanese — Muslims, Christians and Druse — voted for the March 14 coalition led by Saad Hariri,” the US-backed candidate and son of the murdered ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, so that “to the extent that anyone came out of this election with the moral authority to lead the next government, it was the coalition that wants Lebanon to be run by and for the Lebanese — not for Iran, not for Syria and not for fighting Israel.” We must give credit where it is due for this triumph of free elections (and of Washington): “Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians in 2005 — and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri killing — this free election would not have happened. Mr. Bush helped create the space. Power matters. Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.”

Two days later Friedman’s views were echoed by Eliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign relations, formerly a high official of the Reagan and Bush I administrations. Under the heading “Lebanon’s Triumph, Iran’s Travesty,” Abrams compared these “twin tests of [US] efforts to spread democracy to the Muslim world.” The lesson is clear: “What the United States should be promoting is not elections, but free elections, and the voting in Lebanon passed any realistic test….the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hezbollah’s claim that it is not a terrorist group but a `national resistance’…The Lebanese had a chance to vote against Hezbollah, and took the opportunity.”

Reactions were similar throughout the mainstream. There are, however, a few flies in the ointment.

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There’s nothing clean about the business of politics, and certainly ethics play no part part in it – unless they can be exploited for personal gain. Julia Gillard, this slow-speaking nasty piece of Labor conservatism, camouflaging as deputy prime minister of Australia (hard to believe she’s been a student activist once representing the political left), presented yet another example for political sanctimoniousness with her phony stance on Palestine and her fervent defence of Israel’s fascist practices against the Palestinian people.

It always amazes me how the politicians of the West are able to manage to twist their thoughts and mangle their speech in face of overwhelming evidence of Israel’s blatant violations of international law and acts of barbarism against unarmed civilians – from cold blooded murder to depriving their victims of such basics as a roof over their heads, food on their table (if they still have one left) or medicines for their hospitals. Not speaking out against such brutal savagery leave alone defending it makes people like Gillard undoubtedly an accomplice of the Israeli regime and its crimes against humanity.

The following op-ed puts Gillards politics and values in the context of Israel’s war crimes and recent acts of piracy on the high seas.

gaza boat main

Politicide or politic: Gillard and the Gaza muzzle

Jake Lynch
Sydney Morning Herald

Days after the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was greeted in Israel and thanked for having been “alone in sticking by us” during Operation Cast Lead, the attack on the Gaza Strip in December and January, the Jewish state added piracy to its list of recent crimes against international law. The two developments are connected, and not just by coincidence of timing.

Israel sent six military vessels to seize a ship, the Spirit of Humanity, sailing from Cyprus with relief supplies for the people of Gaza, and arrested – no, make that abducted – 21 people on board, including the Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire. After a week in detention, they were released and deported.

At no time did the Spirit enter Israeli waters, so Israel’s action could be deemed piracy under the definition of the International Maritime Bureau: “The act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act”. At least it amounts to an infringement of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which reserves the high seas for “peaceful purposes”.

The Spirit’s three-tonne cargo included medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Greece, whose flag the ship was flying, has asked for its return, and Israel says some of the goods on board may be passed on to Gazans for whom they were intended, “subject to security clearance”. For now, it is forcibly keeping them from their rightful owners.

The international jurist Richard Falk, who has served as UN Human Rights Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, points out that this compounds an existing and ongoing violation of international law. The boat set sail in response to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which, Falk says, contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits any form of collective punishment of an occupied people.

A study of the transcripts of Ms Gillard’s speeches and interviews, from her recent trip to Israel and Ramallah, reveals that the word “Gaza” did not once pass her lips. Challenged by a reporter to say whether she believed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was “fair and just”, she avoided the question and retreated into platitudes: “We are concerned about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people”.

This amounts to connivance with what the late Israeli political scientist Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide”: Israel’s desire to have the outside world forget Palestinian political aspirations to self-determination, and regard their struggle in purely humanitarian terms.

Gillard’s don’t-mention-Gaza stance puts Australia further into Israel’s camp than any other country, including the United States. Cynthia McKinney, the former US congresswoman who was on the ship, points out that President Barack Obama called the blockade “unjust” and urged its lifting, so she, as an American citizen, was attempting to carry out his wishes.

The European Union responded to Cast Lead by shelving plans to upgrade its trading relations with Israel, and even ASEAN, through the Heads Statement of its 14th summit, identified Israel’s attack as the cause of a humanitarian crisis, and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Gillard, standing in for the Prime Minister at New Year, characterised the onslaught as no more than Israel exercising its “right to defend itself” against Hamas. Hamas, she told her questioners in the Middle East, would first have to “renounce violence” if it wanted to qualify as a partner in any peace process sponsored by the “quartet” of the UN, EU, US and Russia.

The home-made rockets that Hamas militiamen fired into Israel were indiscriminate weapons, and the 20 or so deaths they caused over several years are war crimes, but all independent observers have pointed out the obvious – that pales into insignificance when compared with the impact of Israel’s high-tech weaponry, which claimed 1300 lives, mostly civilians and including 400 children, and injured thousands. No stipulation from Australia, then, that Israel must also renounce violence as a precondition to have its views heard at the top table.

Israel is aware of acting within the scope allowed by international political opinion: it does what it believes it can get away with. The unexpected firmness of the White House on settlement-building had constrained its room for manoeuvre. Gillard paid lip service to a settlement freeze and a two-state solution – but her visit as the leader of a large delegation, her demeanour and above all her refusal to condemn Israeli lawlessness or call for it to cease, all conspired to send the opposite signal.

Thousands of people whose homes Israel destroyed are still without shelter, says the International Committee of the Red Cross, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel’s disruption of medical supplies.

It is this situation that the passengers and crew of the illegally seized vessel were trying to remedy. They have vowed to send more boats. Israel should let them pass, and Australia should say so.

Associate Professor Jake Lynch is director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

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Smile On The Face Of The Tiger

Jun 11, 2009 By John Pilger
John Pilger’s ZSpace PageZSpace


At 7.30 in the morning on 3 June, a seven-month-old baby died in the intensive care unit of the European Gaza Hospital in the Gaza Strip. His name was Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob, and he was suffering from a lung infection which was treatable.

Denied basic equipment, the doctors in Gaza could do nothing. For weeks, the child’s parents had sought a permit from the Israelis to allow them to take him to a hospital in Jerusalem, where he would have been saved. Like many desperately sick people who apply for these permits, the parents were told they had never applied. Even if they had arrived at the Erez Crossing with an Israeli document in their hands, the odds are that they would have been turned back for refusing the demands of officials to spy or collaborate in some way. “Is it an irresponsible overstatement,” asked Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, who is Jewish, “to associate the treatment of Palestinians with [the] criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.”

Falk was describing Israel’s massacre in December and January of hundreds of helpless civilians in Gaza, many of them children. Reporters called this a “war”. Since then, normality has returned to Gaza. Most children are malnourished and sick, and almost all exhibit the symptoms of psychiatric disturbance, such as horrific nightmares, depression and incontinence. There is a long list of items that Israel bans from Gaza. This includes equipment to clean up the toxic detritus of Israel’s US munitions, which is the suspected cause of rising cancer rates. Toys and playground equipment, such as slides and swings, are also banned. I saw the ruins of a fun fair, riddled with bullet holes, which Israeli “settlers” had used as a sniping target.

The day after Baby Zu’rob died in Gaza, President Barack Obama made his “historic” speech in Cairo, “reaching out to the Muslim world”, reported the BBC. “Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Obama, “does not serve Israel’s security.” That was all. The killing of 1,300 people in what is now a concentration camp merited 17 words, cast as concern for the “security” of the killers. This was understandable. During the January massacre, Seymour Hersh reported that “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” for use in Gaza.

Obama’s one criticism of Israel was that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements . . . It is time for these settlements to stop.” These fortresses on Palestinian land, manned by religious fanatics from America and elsewhere, have been outlawed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Pointedly, Obama made no mention of the settlements that already honeycomb the occupied territories and make an independent Palestinian state impossible, which is their purpose.

Obama demanded that the “cycle of suspicion and discord must end”. Every year, for more than a generation, the UN has called on Israel to end its illegal and violent occupation of post-1967 Palestine and has voted for “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”. Every year, those voting against these resolutions have been the governments of Israel and the United States and one or two of America’s Pacific dependencies; last year Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe joined them.

Such is the true “cycle” in the Middle East, which is rarely reported as the relentless rejection of the rule of law by Israel and the United States: a law in whose name the wrath of Washington came down on Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, a law which, if upheld and honoured, would bring peace and security to both Palestine and Israel.

Instead, Obama spoke in Cairo as if his and previous White House administrations were neutral, almost divine brokers of peace, instead of rapacious backers and suppliers of the invader (along with Britain). This Orwellian illogic remains the standard for what western journalists call the “Israel-Palestine conflict”, which is almost never reported in terms of the law, of right and wrong, of justice and injustice – Darfur, yes, Zimbabwe, yes, but never Palestine. Orwell’s ghost again stirred when Obama denounced “violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan [who are] determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can”. America’s invasion and slaughter in these countries went unmentioned. It, too, is divine.

Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that “you’re either with us or against us”. He smiled the smile and uttered “many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran”, noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a “tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must . . . submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table”. And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world’s most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith – a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name.

In his “reaching out” in Cairo, as in his “anti-nuclear” speech in Berlin, as in the “hope” he spun at his inauguration, this clever young politician is playing the part for which he was drafted and promoted. This is to present a benign, seductive, even celebrity face to American power, which can then proceed towards its strategic goal of dominance, regardless of the wishes of the rest of humanity and the rights and lives of our children.

www.johnpilger.com

palestinian-ambulance

Rules on who can be targeted and how in warfare derive from customary law and international treaties and regulations

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 March 2009 14.00 GMT
Article history

The use of drones, targeting of medical staff and facilities and use of human shields raise numerous issues of international humanitarian law, the body of law concerned with the treatment of individuals during international armed conflict.

Some of these are allegations of war crimes – defined as grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including wilful killing, wanton destruction of property and attacking civilians. Some of these rules derive from customary law – generally recognised practices binding on all states. Others are contained in international treaties including the fourth Geneva convention of 1949, the first additional protocol to the Geneva convention of 1977, and the Hague regulations of 1907 that regulate means and methods of warfare.

Although Israel is only party to the fourth Geneva convention, and Palestine has not been party to any international agreements due to its lack of recognised sovereignty, many of these principles have also become recognised as general principles of customary law, extending to all international armed conflicts.

Drones

Lawyers say that the use of drones in the Gaza Strip caused widespread destruction in violation of the principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality.

“Necessity” requires a state fighting an armed conflict to use only the degree and kind of force required to achieve the legitimate purpose of the conflict. This is presumed to be the submission of the enemy at the earliest possible moment, with minimum expenditure of life and resources.

Causing death and the destruction of property is only lawful where it complies with necessity and where there is a reasonable connection between the actions and the military objectives pursued. This principle is often closely linked with proportionality – the requirement that “the losses resulting from a military action should not be excessive in relation to the expected military advantage”. Under the principle of proportionality, when conducting hostilities in an urban area, the combatants have an increased duty of diligence to spare civilians from the effects of hostilities.

Civilians and civilian buildings and infrastructure

In addition, Israel is accused of failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and also between civilian buildings and infrastructure, and legitimate military targets.

A civilian is defined under international humanitarian law as somebody who is not a combatant. The practical application of this term is a major issue of contention between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli Defence Forces are accused of applying a “membership of Hamas” approach to defining combatants, whereas lawyers say members of Hamas are not legitimate military targets unless they are directly involved in hostilities at the time.

Hamas is also accused of violating the principle of “distinction” in its use of rockets fired into Israel. However, one of the further claims against Israel is that any response to Hamas under the right of self-defence in the UN charter – a separate source of international law – has not been proportionate.

Medics and hospitals

Medics and medical workers are not legitimate targets under international humanitarian law, and any wilful killing of such people who are clearly identified is capable of amounting to a war crime.

Similarly, civilian property and infrastructure, defined by international humanitarian law as those which are not military targets, cannot be intentionally destroyed. Israel is accused of regarding the general governmental infrastructure as a legitimate military target, as well as targeting medical facilities and hospitals, in contravention of this rule.

Wherever any attacks may affect the civilian population there are obligations under international humanitarian law to provide “effective advance warning” and to take steps to minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

Human shields

The use of involuntary human shields has already been declared unlawful by Israel’s supreme court, which said the practice was a violation of international humanitarian law. There are specific rules against hostage-taking in international conflicts.

The practice of hostage-taking – usually defined as detaining someone illegally and putting pressure on a third party as a condition of not harming the detainee – is specifically prohibited by the Geneva conventions.

White phosphorus

The use of white phosphorus is governed by protocol III of the convention on conventional weapons, which Israel has not signed but which is regarded as binding under customary international law. Israel is accused of using white phosphorus outside its lawful limits – as an obscurant or smokescreen in open areas where combatants are caught under fire in the open. Using white phosphorus in densely populated areas where these conditions are not met is a violation of international law.

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These three Guardian videos provide shocking evidence for what has been alleged hundreds of times: that the Israeli army commits barbaric war crimes; even its own soldiers have admitted it recently – some of them even gloating about it. It is clear that neither the army nor the government of Israel will do anything to curb the contempt for international law and the criminal intent of many of its soldiers, a lot of them highly ranked commanders.

Of course, it’s the nature of armies and their wars that always bring out the worst in people, but that can never be an excuse. But Israel is defiant. It thumbs its nose at any independent inquiry attempts into its alleged army’s crimes by simply declaring it acts within international law. When presented with clear evidence to the contrary it blames those civilians killed by saying they took the risk by being in the area; since they lived there, what were they supposed to do one might ask? One might also ask what gave Israel the right to be in their area with its war, with its precision killing machines?

Israel has lost any moral and ethical right (if it ever had one) to accuse others of brutal aggression. The actions of stone throwing Palestinians and rockets fired at Israel border towns that hardly ever cause death or injury pale into insignificance in the face of barbaric atrocities and massacres committed against Palestinians by Israel since its inception in 1949 – some of them under the command of military leaders who later became prime ministers.

Israel is a brutal rogue state hat unfortunately is protected by the US due to the influence of the powerful Jewish lobby in America and mollycoddled by Europe, especially Germany, as a result of what happened to the Jewish population during the rule of fascism. It’s time the world wakes up and stops buying into the moral blackmail Israel throws at it every time it is criticised – by using the word ‘antisemitic’. It’s time the world realises that Palestinians are Semites too and therefore questions the meaning of the ‘a’ word. And it’s time we investigate the brutality, arrogance, racism, hypocrisy and inhumanity that is hiding behind the mask of innocence and moral outrage every time someone formulates an accusation against the Jewish state.

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palestinian-prisoner-day

A mural in Gaza City commemorating Palestinian prisoners day (Eóin Murray)

occupation-prisoners

A mural in Gaza that depicts scenes of horror and despair intimately wrapped up in the issue of the occupation and that of prisoners (Eóin Murray)

These murals most likely aren’t new, but they nevertheless seem to evoke very similar impressions and feelings arising when looking at pictures from the other holocaust, the one in which millions of Jews died. This time though Jews are the perpetrators, the KZ (concentration camp) guards, the executioners.