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On intimidation and counter-BDS efforts

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Samah Jabr

Samah Jabr

The Orange affair

The Orange affair here is not the ominous orange of the victims of Guantanamo or the Islamic state – it about the French telecommunication company Orange and its recent affair with Israel.

After announcing in Cairo that Orange was suspending its contract with Israel’s Partner Company, the CEO of Orange (in response to Israeli pressure on the French government), arrived in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here he expressed his denial of reports claiming that “he would sever ties with Israel ‘tomorrow’ if the financial ramifications would not be as severe as his company estimates.” The CEO then wrote a letter to the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipip Hotovely, complimenting Israel as a “land of innovation and dynamism.” He stated here that Orange would not succumb to “political pressure from certain movements or organizations,” and that the company “does not support any form of boycott against Israel.

Previous to this, Prof Richard Horton, the editor of the medical journal The Lancet, had also come to Haifa to express repentance and his “deep regret” to Israeli doctors at the Rambam Hospital after his journal had published a letter in the wake of the Gaza war. He claimed, “I was personally horrified at the offensive video by two of the authors of that letter. The worldview expressed in that video is abhorrent and must be condemned and I condemn it.” he then tweeted: “Yesterday, I had the huge privilege of visiting Acco, and meeting the imam and the rabbi of the city and seeing how they work together”, he said. “At end, I asked the imam, ‘so what should I do?’ And he said to me very directly […] you must work with Israelis, you must work with Palestinians and you must work to encourage to bring those two peoples together.” Against his hopes to “open a new chapter” in the relationship between The Lancet and Israel, a campaign to smear his reputation is still going on.

The Palestinians’ own goal at the FIFA Congress

After bragging at length about his determination to suspend Israel from FIFA, and moments before the vote was supposed beginning at the 65th Congress in Zurich, the President of the Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub asked for permission to speak in order to withdraw the original proposal which had called for suspension the Israel Football Association, IFA. He stated, “I am here to play football, rather than to play politics.” Rajoub explained that he decided to drop the bid for suspension due to the many requests he received from various members of FIFA. The scene ended with Rajoub and IFA chairman Ofer Eini shaking hands next to the Palestinian delegation’s desk after the withdrawal had been approved. Prime Minister Netanyahu posted the results on Facebook: “Our international effort proved itself and resulted in the Palestinian Authority’s failure to suspend us from FIFA.”

When Palestinian officials behave in that manner at the FIFA, one has to have grave concerns about the Palestinian official performance at the International Court of Justice.

The rationale of the BDS movement

Unfortunately, history tells us that justice for Palestinians cannot be anticipated from the international official regimes or from the United Nations. Palestinians have had to organize with civil societies across borders, with nations who have experienced colonisation and opression, and with people of conscience who oppose the stand of their own governments. Although America as a country is unwilling to put pressure on Israel, through BDS individual Americans can do so themselves.

In the face of futile negotiations, the criminalization of Palestinian armed resistance, and the long term failure of the world’s centres of power to protect the national rights of Palestinian–what we see instead is that Israel is one of the most highly subsidized of all the American allies and the European Union had for a long time criticized settlement but granted Israeli products exemptions from custom fees.

The BDS movement arose as a Palestinian-led lead organization of civil societies, adopting a long-term strategic non-violent tool to improve conditions for negotiation and to expose the occupation’s violation of Palestinian national and human rights. Pressure is brought on the occupation through boycott, divestment, and sanctions on the occupation to abide to international law. BDS calls for an end to Israel’s occupation of lands conquered in 1967 and the dismantling of its West Bank wall; recognizing the rights of Palestinian with Israeli citizenship to full equality; and respecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. All of these claims are in accordance with International laws, and, yet, BDS a non-violent movement, serves to provide an alternative of armed resistance that international media labels “terrorism.”

Israel’s counter-BDS campaign

In reaction, Israeli government cries “holocaust” and employs massive resources to counter the BDS campaign, attempting to mark it as a form of “terrorism” internally and “antisemitism” internationally. In 2011, the Knesset passed a law making it a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel. According to this law, anyone calling for a boycott may also be prevented from bidding on government tenders and may be sued and forced to pay compensation regardless of actual damages.

University presidents in Israel are debating with the government about counteracting the academic boycott. A number of pro-Israel billionaires led by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire, are convening and planning to thwart the BDS movement. The US Congress, the Canadian Parliament, and other parliaments across the world are passing laws prohibiting boycott of Israel and providing for the punishment of those advocating or participating in the boycott of Israel as acts of anti-Semitism. A bill that requires state pension funds to divest from companies that support BDS passed in Illinois; Tennessee, and Indiana followed the passing of a resolution formally condemning BDS.

There are countless attempts to suppress the BDS campaign and to inhibit public participation through litigation. Recently, the “US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act” was introduced to influence trade negotiations to discourage potential US trade partners from engaging in economic boycott against Israel through the monitoring of pro-BDS activities of foreign companies that trade on American stock exchanges and by prohibiting American courts from “enforcing rulings made by foreign courts against American companies solely for conducting business in Israel.” Another bill in preparation, “Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act,” suggests that contractors who do business with the US government must certify that they do not participate in boycotts against Israel

University students at California have passed resolutions calling for their universities to divest from Israel, but university presidents publicly oppose the movement and refer to any talks about BDS in campus as crossing a “red line” and “offensive” and “inflammatory” even the call for the boycott of universities like Bar Ilan, that are openly complicit with the occupation and with the process of settlement in the West Bank.

Lighter criticism of BDS – as “flimsy” and “ineffective” – were expressed by few intellectuals perceived as pro-Palestinian, arguing that the Palestinian leadership does not support the boycott of Israel and that the call for Palestinian return is unworkable. They wonder why to single out the Israeli occupation when there are other oppressive regimes; neither was South Africa the only or worst oppressive regime when the boycott of apartheid took place. Even John Kerry used the notion boycott as a bargaining chip in 2014 when he warned the Israeli government that “there are talks of boycotts” in case they don’t agree to a peace deal.

For those who see themselves affected by Israeli human rights violations, to censor boycott is aversive and hypocritical. It is intuitive and psychologically important to demonstrate disapproval for an oppressor’s action. BDS is non-violent and exercising the right to participate in it is a democratic, free, and private decision. BDS takes its target as the construct and the institutions of the occupation, not Israeli individuals or Jewish people at all. If some individuals or opportunists made errors in the name of BDS, then this is a mistake to be reported, discussed and corrected by BDS – but such problems should not delegitimise the movement altogether. Important work at the level of public awareness needs to be done to pave the way for the activities of BDS and help it to gain momentum. There will be some successes and many accusations, intimidation and pressure. Those who support BDS need to be patient as the dark night will not last for ever, the crescent will grow and become a full moon some days.

(Source / 29.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 29, 2015 at 7:09 pm

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Waiting on ICC, Israeli war crimes suspects already fear arrest abroad

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Ben WhiteBen White

Over the last two weeks, two Israeli war crimes suspects entered the UK. One, former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni, received diplomatic immunityin dubious circumstances. A second, former Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, visited for just 48 hours and left before the authorities acted. These visits have prompted three questions.

The first question is for the FCO. Livni, an opposition MK, came to London to speak at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit. Since this would have constituted a personal visit, rather than an official one, Livni arranged a meeting with Foreign Office (FCO) minister Tobias Ellwood. The FCO then duly granted the visit ‘special mission’ status, and thus gave Livni immunity from prosecution.

This latest episode further damages the credibility of the FCO. Already last year, there was “growing concern over the government’s issuing of special mission status, and the secrecy surrounding such moves.” There continues to be a troubling lack of transparency about the criteria used by the FCO in determining who is eligible for Special Mission immunity (and for what kind of visit).

The clumsy way in which Livni’s 2011 visit was handled illustrates the murky nature of the FCO approach. The Foreign Secretary’s written statement in 2013, defining a special mission as “a temporary mission, representing a state, which is sent by one state to another with the consent of the latter, in order to carry out official engagements on behalf of the sending state”, is insufficient.

This is because the FCO has not set any redlines, meaning that anyone, no matter how grave the war crimes they are suspected of having committed, can be granted immunity. In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must check on an individual basis with the FCO whenever the police contemplate making an arrest or a judicial arrest warrant is sought, a process that is both inefficient and, potentially compromising to confidentiality.

The second question is for the CPS. In the case of Mofaz, lawyers representing Palestinian victims told me that, in response to their approach, the CPS not only ignored the ordinary threshold necessary for arrest by the police, they also mis-applied the charging test when considering granting court access for a judicial arrest warrant. Lawyers working on the case were confident that a prima facie case against Mofaz had been presented, and that any queries could have been ironed out, following a police arrest.

The third question is for Israeli officials. Mofaz claimed his early return to Israel was for personal reasons, though Channel 2 thought otherwise. Others have maintained that the prospect of arrest is minimal, and the risk has been exaggerated. But the reality is thatIsraeli officials have never been confident enough to truly test the system: those liable to be arrested visit with special mission immunity, come on whistle-stop visits, or cut short their stays.

Mofaz apparently proceeded with his visit “in spite of advice” from Israeli government officials, claiming that were he not to participate in the conference, it would be “a 100 percent victory” for those seeking his arrest. Livni, meanwhile, declared that she is “not afraid”, and “ready to pay the price” for her actions – yet, she has not risked a visit to the UK without immunity since her arrest warrant was issued in 2009.

The day after Mofaz’s hasty departure, former Israeli naval commander Eliezer Marom penned an op-ed in Maariv on the threat of arrest still faced by Israeli officials (thanks to Ofer Neiman for translation). Marom, who was in charge during the Mavi Marmara assault and ‘Operation Cast Lead’, recounted how in 2013 he himself was questioned on arrival at Heathrow Airport.

Marom noted that the 2011 change in UK law has not ruled out the possibility of arrest, and describes how Israel’s Justice Ministry has a dedicated section “dealing with the defence of heads of the security establishment against lawsuits in various states across the world.”

This [was done] in order to allow former officers to continue to maintain their life routine and travel to foreign states. Army officers against whom an investigation is being conducted are required to coordinate their travels with the Ministry of Law, to avoid embarrassing incidents.

Marom concluded that despite various efforts to date, “incidents” of delays, interrogations, “and sometimes the risk of arrest”, will “continue to accompany” former and present Israeli officials. This tallies with Israeli assessments since 2011; responding to a cancelled trip by Doron Almog in 2012, an anonymous senior Israeli official admitted that the while the “new British law is better than the original one”, they “couldn’t fully guarantee [Almog] an arrest warrant would not be issued again”.

Contrast the visits of Livni and Mofaz with the arrest in London of Rwandan military general Karenzi Karake on behalf of Spanish authorities. A Human Rights Watch researcher expressed hopes that Karake’s arrest “could be a really important in terms of accountability” since “many senior officials in Rwanda have never been held to account.” When it comes to Israel, however, it is a different story.

According to Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s Crisis Manager, it is “well known” that “UK authorities are content to undermine efforts to bring alleged Israeli war criminals to justice.” For Benedict, such “efforts to undermine international justice and entrench impunity are one of the main reasons this terrible conflict continues year after year.”

Benedict also suggested that the “next test for how seriously the UK values international justice” would be the government’s response to Palestinian efforts to seek justice “via the International Criminal Court.”

At the time of the change in law – a change entirely the result of Israel’s demands and the pressure of its UK-based lobby groups – the British government announced that the system would be “no longer open to abuse by people seeking warrants for grave crimes on the basis of scant evidence to make a political statement or to cause embarrassment.” No examples of this ‘abuse’ were given.

But the government also claimed that “those accused of these grave crimes will still be brought to justice if there is sufficient evidence against them”.” In 2013, the government emphasised that any application for special mission status “is considered carefully in view of…our policy of ending impunity for the most serious of international crimes.” These commitments ring hollow every time Britain helps an Israeli war crimes suspect evade justice.

(Source / 27.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm

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Dispatches: Gaza War’s Harm to Kids

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The Gaza report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry issued this week in Geneva will generate intense debate but one point can’t be disputed: the war had a devastating impact on children.

The death toll alone is jarring. In Gaza, Israeli military operations killed 551 children and injured 3,436. More than 1,500 children were orphaned. In Israel, a child was among the six civilians killed by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire, and dozens more were wounded or suffered trauma.

The overwhelming majority of children killed, wounded, and left homeless were in Gaza but the impact of the fighting on all young people cannot be ignored. As the report states, “Palestinian and Israeli children were savagely affected by the events”.

In Gaza, the trauma is exacerbated by the creeping pace of reconstruction. Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed 18,000 homes and half of all education facilities (261 out of 520 schools, kindergartens, and university buildings, according to the UN), including the only school for children with disabilities. Almost one year since the fighting ended, very few of the seriously damaged homes and schools have been rebuilt due to import restrictions and low donor funds.

To help children recover over the long-term requires several steps.

First, the pace of reconstructing homes, schools, and other civilian infrastructure in Gaza should be accelerated, so children can have some sense of normalcy. Israel’s blockade, enforced also by Egypt, should be eased to facilitate rebuilding efforts in a way that still meets Israel’s security needs.

Second is for international donors to step up. Governments pledged $2.7 billion for reconstruction after the fighting, but only about 25 percent has been delivered. Increased funding for psycho-social support for children in Gaza is sorely needed. As report after report has confirmed, children are suffering from extreme anxiety and depression after three major conflicts there in the past six years.

Finally, those responsible for laws of war violations against children need to be held to account. Looking at last year’s fighting and previous conflicts, the UN commission rightly found that “impunity prevails across the board”.

The legal burden rests with Israel and the Palestinian authorities to investigate and prosecute soldiers, commanders, and senior officials who violated the laws of war, including through policies that led to unnecessary deaths of children and other civilians. But if Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue to reject credible domestic investigations, as they have for many years, the International Criminal Court now has a mandate to step in.

Continued failure to help traumatized children, ensure their education, and end impunity will harm generations to come and increase the chances of having to read yet another grim Gaza report.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 24, 2015 at 10:20 pm

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Will the Palestinian leadership be forever divided?

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Yossi Mekelberg

Palestinian politics can be cryptic at the best of times, but in recent days it seems to have been launched to a new level in perplexing all of its observers. First, President Abbas announced last Wednesday that the government would resignwithin 24 hours, then there were denials, followed by reports that Prime MinisterRami Hamdallah handed in his resignation only to be ordered by President Abbas to form a new government. A very upset Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, rejected the one-sided decision claiming the movement’s leadership was not consulted. It was even unclear if the intention in dissolving the government was a cabinet reshuffle, the formation of a new government of national unity with Hamas, or to form a government which would include a wide range of representatives from all political stripes including independents. Still, a week later the mystery of the government’s resignation has not been resolved, and no one knows who is going to be the next prime minister or what political elements will join. According to Ma’an, a Bethlehem based media network, a PA spokesperson Ihab Bseiso stated that “…the national unity government has not yet resigned and will continue for another week until PLO Executive Committee members complete consultations…” This all indicates a political body not only divided geographically and ideologically, but also in complete disarray.

The end of the war left both Israel and the Hamas with a sense of victory but paradoxically also exposed both sides’ vulnerabilities

Yossi Mekelberg

The announcement of a Palestinian reconciliation government just over a year ago when the Kerry peace initiative flattenedwas criticized by both the United States and Israel. The Israeli prime minister accused President Abbas of saying yes to terrorism, and Secretary Kerry expressed his “deep concerns” about including Hamas in the Palestinian government. A year later, the resignation of the Hamdallah’s government was barely mentioned in the Israeli media and Israeli politicians did not think it merited a response. Washington also remained silent. The major task of this government to facilitate the firstelections since 2006 failed anyway, and last summer’s war in Gaza shuffled the political cards dramatically and tragically. The irony is that one of the major reasons given for the decision to dissolve the government was the fury of thePalestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank over apparent secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a long term ceasefire (Hudna). Denial by both the Israeli and Hamas leadership over these alleged negotiations were at best halfhearted. Indirectly, Israel contributed to the breakup of the Palestinian reconciliation government by talking to a sworn enemy, whose participation in the government it objected to in the first place.

Major obstacles

To be sure, the reconciliation government did not achieve almost anything it set out to accomplish, though not necessarily through its own fault. A major obstacle was the refusal of Hamas to allow the PA access to Gaza. Mr. Afif Safieh, a former head of the Palestinian Missions in London, Washington and Moscow, observed that the Hamas leadership is split into two schools of thought. The first insists on maintaining an absolute monopoly on power in Gaza and is reluctant to agree to receive a mandate from the people through elections. The other understands the importance of power sharing and the need for elections within 12 months even if Hamas ends up as a political minority. As long as the first faction in Hamas is in the ascendancy, the Palestinians are not only divided geographically but a united Palestinian polity is impossible. Subsequently, the days of reconciliation are now nothing more than a distant memory.

The war in Gaza, which broke out soon after the reconciliation government was formed, underlined the divisions between the Gaza strip and the West Bank and doomed the new government to fail.

The end of the war left both Israel and the Hamas with a sense of victory but paradoxically also exposed both sides’ vulnerabilities. Israel despite its obvious military superiority could not defeat Hamas, and by using excessive and indiscriminate force added to the ongoing decline in its international standing, not to mention further radicalizing the population. Hamas sustained heavy losses and similar to the Israelis is embroiled in gross violations of human rights. However, the war enhanced its reputation as it survived the Israeli onslaught and still managed to launch rockets deep into Israel for a full seven weeks and build tunnels into Israel. This cannot conceal that the movement’s policies do very little to advance the cause of the Palestinian people, and mainly add to their prolonged suffering.

Relative calm

Since the ceasefire last August, relative calm has been maintained along the border between Israel and Gaza, with a few exceptions of rocket firing by factions that are not controlled by Hamas. Furthermore, the Hamas leadership is quick to disassociate itself from the launch of these odd rockets into Israel by militants from Gaza, and Israel’s response is more measured than before. This reflects a realization on both sides that another round of violence will not benefit either of them. There is a mutual fear on both sides of the border that more radical elements, ISIS style, might take advantage of the misery inflicted by Israel’s harsh blockade and by the oppressive rule of the Hamas government.

If there is truth in the rumors that negotiations are taking place regarding a prolonged ceasefire in exchange for the lifting of the blockade, it indicates a change of heart on both sides about the nature of future relations along the Gaza borders. Increasingly there is an understanding among the security establishment in Israel that without improving economic conditions in Gaza, militancy and violence by even more extreme elements than Hamas are inevitable and are only a matter of time. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said after last’s summer war: “Of course there’s a need to release the pressure and allow Gazans, and not Hamas, to live in dignity. 120,000 people are homeless because of the operation in the Strip. They paid a heavy price. They need to be allowed to earn a living, and therefore part of our interest is to allow theseprocesses.” He recognizes, as the Hamas leadership probably does, that as long as Egypt blocks the crossing from Gaza, including through the tunnels, the Palestinians are dependent on Israel. Consequently, Hamas might look for an agreement with Israel as its only gateway to the world, and end as the guarantor of Israeli security along the Gaza border.

Israel might think that a separate agreement with Hamas in Gaza would simultaneously guarantee a quieter border with the Gaza Strip, and would at the same time weaken the overall Palestinian bargaining position. The strategy of divide and rule may be tempting, considering the tensions between the different Palestinian political factions, but this would be a short term approach which in the past only ended in violence and bloodshed. As a first move to make life in Gaza more livable and build a degree of mutual trust, it could be a positive development. Nevertheless, this option would not be a replacement for a just and comprehensive peace with the entire Palestinian people. A new Palestinian government should not necessarily be a unity one, but it should unite the people and be unified in the purpose of improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, while also doing everything within its power to bring a peaceful end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state. A first and necessary step would be to call for new elections, a move which would give the Palestinian political system renewed legitimacy, both domestically and internationally.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 24, 2015 at 10:11 pm

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America’s Aid for Israel’s Political ‘Continuum’

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Article of 11/29/2011

A Military Conquest

‘… We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours … When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do will be to scurry round like drugged roaches in a bottle.’ (Rafeal Eitan)

A ‘moral articulation’ by successive American administrations as to the primary reason for their unilateral support of 0.001% of the world’s population, namely Israel, is not standing up to international law or American scrutiny. The perpetuated myth of an Israel surrounded by mortal enemies, battling heroically for its democratic rights against all odds fades as the world of right mindedness recognises in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip the daily abuse and horror for Palestinians under illegal occupation in Israel’s ‘battlefield’ to test new weaponry. That abuse, brought into sharp focus by the U.S Department of State in early 2004, is systematic; perpetrated by Israel in 2011 and paid for by U.S tax payers’ dollars in the form of indiscriminate, unwise and illegal aid according to America’s own laws. The reason? Unquestioning support for Israel’s militarised political continuum, where de jure occupation became de facto annexation, and where, according to Special Rapporteur Falk “the unbridled assault upon Palestinian rights” continues.

If one consciously moves in time backward and forward, that is in American/Israeli time, one finds the same pattern no matter the date. There is no change no progress. It is like watching a film, a play no matter where you cut, what montage you see, what curtain is lifted and what scene you view, it is the same film, the same play, the same day, from the same violent script. It is a continuum of brutal actions designed to oppress Palestinians enough to make them leave their own land. Pick a date at random and one finds the paradox of continuum. Israel is waiting for Godot:

“Estragon: All the dead voices.
Vladimir: They make a noise like wings.”

Matt Bowles, writing for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, makes plain the facts: America for decades allowing Israel to place “US aid into its general fund, effectively eliminating any distinction between types of aid. [means] Therefore, U.S. tax-payers are helping to fund an illegal occupation, the expansion of colonial-settlements projects, and gross human rights violations against the Palestinian civilian population.” Facts continually denied by Israel, as it ruthlessly pursue ‘the doctrine of politics free from law’.

Israel’s persistent but illusory claim that its ‘international human rights treaty obligations do not apply in the OPT’ has been, according to Amnesty International, ‘rejected’ by the U.N Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Against Women, the Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the International Court of Justice’, and every conscionable citizen on the planet.

So to February 2004, the U.S Department of State in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices makes clear the egregious human rights violations and status of Israel in the OPT 2003, “The international community does not recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over any part of the occupied territories.” All accredited missions are to be found rightfully, and legally, in Tel Aviv. “Israel’s overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor and worsened in the treatment of foreign human rights activists.” These abuses came in a fiscal year 2003 where Israel received from the U.S “a foreign military financing grant of $3.1 billion and a $600 million grant for economic security.” (Jewish Voice for Peace – JVP); U.S dollars used in the advancing of Israel’s policy of ‘continuum’ namely the illegal colonisation of Palestinian lands, the tormenting of its people and those that would assist them.  Lest we forget, it was in March 2003 that Rachel Corrie, an American citizen performing a fundamental rule of law principle by campaigning for human rights in the OPT, lost her life under the tracks of a caterpillar bulldozer: ‘Made in the U.S.A’.

The U.S Department of State found in the bloody year of 2003 that amongst other violations of international law:

• “Israeli soldiers placed civilians in danger by ordering them [Palestinians] to facilitate military operations.”

• “Israeli forces sometimes arbitrarily destroyed, damaged, or looted Palestinian property”.

• “Israeli security forces often impeded the provision of medical assistance to Palestinian civilians.”

• “Israeli security forces harassed and abused Palestinian pedestrians.”

• “Israel conducted mass, arbitrary arrests in the West Bank during military operations, summoning and detaining males between the ages of 15 and 45”

• “Israel carried out policies of demolitions, strict curfews, and closures that directly punished innocent civilians … Israel often demolished homes after suspects had already been killed or arrested.”

• Israel “maintained” according to the Department of State “that such punishment of innocents would serve as a deterrent against future terrorist attacks.”

These insidious patterns have been sustained by all Israeli administrations and represent a ‘continuum’: a calculated militaristic policy of intimidation and worse toward the innocent civilians of Palestine.  This being so, I must add my concerns to the  concerns of the Rachel Corrie Foundation that “the State Departments Country Reports on Human Rights systematically exclude the State Departments own analysis of Israel’s failure to perform a credible investigation into the killing of Rachel Corrie,” and further concerns that “reports generated by international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which noted a pattern of negligence in Israeli investigations into civilians killed by the IDF, were ignored in the creation of the Country Reports.”

In recognition of the illegality of American Aid to Israel, the Rachel Corrie Foundation in its submission to the U.N Universal Periodic Review called upon the U.S to “enforce 22 U.S.C. 2304 (1994), protocol on Human Rights and Security Assistance, and the “Leahy Amendments” to the Foreign Operations Appropriations and Defence Appropriations Acts (e.g. P.L. 105-118 570), which prohibit the provision of security assistance to countries and military units that engage in a pattern of gross violations of human rights.” Where, according to JVP, “Massive military aid promotes militarism, which has led to a reliance on military, rather than diplomatic means to work for a solution to this ongoing conflict.”. The planned aim of ‘continuum’.

The Continuum

“Zionism is a colonising adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. There is no other ethic” (Jabotinsky)

The U.N Mission Report (UNMR) on the Israeli operation in Gaza between December 27th 2008 and 18th January 2009 highlights that all Israel’s operations must be viewed not as isolated moments in history where Israel feels threatened and then responds but, operation[s] that decidedly fit “into a continuum of policies aimed at pursuing Israel’s political objectives with regard to Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a whole.” Reel back, fast forward, press hold, you find ‘continuum’: “After we become a strong force, as the result of the creation of a State, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.” (Ben Gurion)

“The continuum is evident most immediately with the policy of blockade that preceded the operations [i.e Cast Lead] and that in the Mission’s view amounts to collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the Government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip.” (UNMR). Further, the Mission found “An analysis of the modalities and impact of the December-January military operations [also] sets them, in the Mission’s view, in a continuum with a number of other pre-existing Israel Policies with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The progressive isolation and separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, a policy that began much earlier and which was consolidated in particular with the imposition of tight closures, restrictions on movement and eventually blockade, are among the most apparent.”  ‘The plan that never changed’ is the continuum that ever is, until God forbid “There is no more Palestine. Finished . . .” (Moshe Dayan)

Nothing has changed since 2004, nothing has changed since 1948. And nothing has changed in 2011. Pick a date between 1948 and 2011 and one finds systematic abuse, atrocities, and deaths of Palestinian civilians. One might pick Operation ‘Defensive Shield’ 2002, Operation ‘Summer Rains’ 2006 or ‘Autumn Clouds’ November 2006, I have picked December 2008/January 2009 and ‘Cast Lead’ from Israel’s seasonal slaughter. Here’s a U.N Report of 2009.

The 2009 Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict concluded, “The Mission found numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (individuals, whole families, houses, mosques) in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries. In these cases the Mission found that the protected status of civilians was not respected and the attacks intentional, in clear violation of customary law reflected in article 51 (2) and 75 of Additional Protocol 1, article 27 of the Four Geneva Convention and articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In some cases the Mission additionally concluded that the attack was also launched with the intention of spreading terror among the civilian population.”

In addition, the Mission found all of this was planned meticulously by Israel, “legal opinions and advice were given throughout the planning stages and at certain operational levels during the campaign. There were almost no mistakes according to the Government of Israel. It is in these circumstances that the Mission [concluded] that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

One would remind Israel’s planners of Article 7 of the Draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996), “The official position of an individual who commits a crime against the peace and security of mankind, even if he acted as head of State or Government, does not relieve him of criminal responsibility or mitigate punishment.” And of these compassionate words thundering through the centuries from Caliph Abu Bakr to “the first Moslem Arab Army invading Christian Syria:

‘Do not commit treachery, nor depart from the right path. You must not mutilate, neither kill a child or aged man or woman. Do not destroy a palm tree, nor burn it with fire and do not cut any fruitful tree.’” (634 A.D)

After Cast Lead, Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, reported that “During and after “Operation Cast lead”, human rights organizations asked the Attorney General (AG) to open an investigation based on prima-facie evidence of gross-violations of international law; the AG rejected our request. Previous requests to the Military Advocate General (MAG) to open investigations into numerous other cases were also denied.” Adalah further found “petitions filed to the Supreme Court against the MAG and AG’s policy of not opening criminal investigations into the killing of Palestinians remain pending years later. It also appears that the Supreme Court’s inaction has resulted in a brake on the submission of petitions by human rights organizations.”

“Israel cannot build a society based on the principles of democracy, human rights, and compliance with international law while brutally occupying another people and their land. The United States is currently paying for that occupation with its annual aid,” (JVP, Statement on Peace, U.S Military Aid and Israel, 2004.) and further, “When Palestinian doctors remove bullets from the bodies of Palestinian children, the bullets are typically stamped. Made in the U.S.A.” Nevertheless, and, in remorseless fashion the United States defies international opinion, its own law and international law in providing massive military aid to its client state Israel. America supplies the boots that fit the feet that press on the necks of Palestinians.

Massive Military Aid for Continuum

“The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war” (Ben Gurion)

The Congressional Research Service Report (CRSR) of 16th September 2010 U.S Foreign Aid to Israel reported, “Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.” The Bush Administration unsurprisingly sanctioned an increase of 6 billion dollars in U.S military assistance to Israel in August 2007. And the Obama Administration, also unsurprisingly, responded to the Bush Neo Con reverberation by requesting $3 billion U.S in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Israel for fiscal year of 2011. So, add those figures in your moral mind space to this cumulative ‘conservative estimate’ given by the U.S organisation ‘If Americans Knew’ of “total direct aid to Israel [1949 to 2008] of $113. 8554 Billion. Massive by any standards.

Decades of murder and mayhem began with a trade loan in 1949 of $100.000. God only knows when and how it will end. Today the billions of US taxpayers dollars that pour through the ‘aid funnel’ are used to buy arms and equipment such as caterpillar bulldozers made in the U.S; indeed a stipulation by the U.S is that Israel uses “75% of its military aid from the U.S. It funnels this money to more than 1,000 U.S arms suppliers, which in turn lobby for policies that benefit them at the expense of peace in the Middle East.” (JVP).

According to the CRSR, by giving unconditional aid to Israel, America seeks to and “maintains …[Israel’s] qualitative military edge over potential threats, and prevent[s] a shift in the security balance of the region.” in fact that aggressive ‘military edge’ keeps Palestinians locked down in interminable suffering and the region a tinderbox. And make no mistake the ‘qualitative military edge’ is not for Israel but for The United States of America and its continued hegemonic ambitions through its proxy, Israel.

U.S blood money was/is for “a militarized Israel that will serve the U.S. interest of controlling the Petroleum reserves of the Middle East … policy debate in elite circles takes for granted, on all sides, the goal of maintaining U.S. control over Middle East petroleum resources and the flow of petrodollars.”  (Chomsky, Fateful Triangle). If we take a sordid trip down Israel’s blood soaked memory lane we find U.S Aid increasing in direct proportion to Israel’s military aggression, perceived success therefore usefulness to American interests. Israel’s continuum is vital for American control over the oil reserves of the region.

Stephen Zunes, The Strategic Functions of U.S. AID to Israel, shows how U.S Aid shoots up after Israeli military successes and its long term strategic cooperation with America. From the “spectacular victory” in the 1967 war, through the Civil War in Jordan 1970-71 and the countering of ‘attacking Arab armies’ in 1973, to the “fall of the Shah, election of the right wing Likud, and the ratification of the Camp David Treaty in 1979”, through the years 1983-84 “when the United States and Israel signed memoranda of understanding on strategic cooperation and military planning.” U.S Aid kept rising 450%, 800%, increasing, sevenfold, quadrupling, as did Israel’s aggression. America force feeding Israel with military aid through the ‘aid funnel,’ whilst Palestinian children can scarcely keep mind, spirit, and body together.

Then came Clinton, Bush, Obama, all maintaining Israel’s ‘qualitative edge’, all maintaining Israel’s brutal military occupation.  All, letting down the Palestinians’ lawful drive for legitimate Statehood. All U.S Aid equated with destruction, acquainted with death. The long suffering Palestinians sold out with ‘no objections’ from the ‘liberal left of America.’

Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton, Bush “I’m doing it for my daddy” junior, and Obama, all preserving ‘Continuity Of Government’ (C.O.G.) indeed, all cogs in the all consuming gas guzzling American machine. It will all end in tears and it won’t be Palestinian tears, for they have wept too much and for too long for their lost freedom and their lost children.

O Captain My Captain

“Our American friends offer us money, arms, and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.” (Moshe Dayan)

Questions are being asked of Captain America from unlikely and likely quarters. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, “The question for the Obama administration, Congress and, in the end perhaps the American public, is given present economic problems, should the United States supply the money to make up for the reductions the Israelis are making in their own defence budget.” A financial question of course. A superior question, because a moral one, is if, the American public, who should be asked first, were informed of the extent, nature and illegality of U.S Aid to Israel,  would the American public then sanction any military aid to Israel at all?

As Hassan Fouda of Northern California Friends of Sabeel reminds, “Congress is planning deep cuts in social security, unemployment compensation, educational grants and other programs that help vulnerable Americans. Transferring billions of taxpayer’s money to Israel now is immoral. Americans need to speak up and be heard.

Valuing Human Rights

Special Rapporteur John Duggard stated, “It is pointless for the Special Rapporteur to recommend to the Government of Israel that it show respect for human rights and international humanitarian law … in these circumstances, the Special Rapporteur can only appeal to the wider international community to concern itself with the plight of the Palestinian people.” (2006). After the end of the Israeli military operation Cast Lead 2008-2009 in Gaza, John Ging the UNRWA Director of Operations recalled a discussion that he had with a teacher in Gaza about ‘strengthening human rights education in schools’. One would assume that the teacher had for obvious reasons a sceptical view of such an undertaking. In fact, recounts Ging “the teacher unhesitantly supported the resumption of human rights education.” She said, “This is a war of values, and we are not going to lose it.”

(Source / 23.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 23, 2015 at 9:46 pm

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Human rights groups in Egypt remain invaluable

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H.A. Hellyer

Analysts whose scope of interest includes Egypt regularly get asked questions such as: “How stable is Egypt? Is it sustainable?” Most have been reduced to glib replies such as “unsustainably stable.” Glib, facile and superficial, but it serves the purpose. No one seems to want to ask the real question: “What can we do to make Egypt more stable?” The answers involve sacrifices, which few seem to want to envisage.

Human rights organizations and civil rights institutions insideand outside Egypt have been sounding the alarm and are more concerned than ever, not just regarding state abuses of fundamental rights, but also their ability to accurately and openly report them.

Media inside and outside Egypt have been reporting dozens of cases of unexplained ‘disappearances’ of activists who are critical of the current government and state institutions. Even the quasi-governmental National Council of Human Rights hasrepresentatives such as Nasser Amin openly attacking what it sees as state policy in this regard.

Independent groups are more blatant. A member of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression said: “The Ministry of Interior is taking its vengeance against the people who made the 25 January Revolution.”

The disappearances are only the latest criticism against the state by the civil rights sector, which has catalogued judicial inconsistencies in mass trials, excessive use of force by security agencies, and failure to enact processes to ensure accountability of state officials responsible for these flaws.

However, that cataloguing may become even more problematic. It has been clear over the past few years, since the eruption of the Jan. 25 uprising, that there is a war over representing facts on the ground. Opposing political forces have been keen to engage in spin to support their own narrative.

Civil rights groups

The work of certain civil rights groups – those that have refused to be drawn into this political partisanship – in logging state abuses regardless of who is in power has been invaluable. However, their work is not to be taken for granted.

One of the Arab world’s most pre-eminent human rights institutions is the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, which has worked with institutions across the region, includingintergovernmental bodies such as the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute. Its efforts in keeping track of state excesses for more than 20 years have been lauded around the world.

However, last year its director Bahey Eldin Hassan was advised to leave Egypt after receiving death threats, and the bulk of its operations were transferred to Tunisia. Hassan spoke at the European Parliament recently on the state of human rights in Egypt. Like most, if not all human rights organizations, he was rather critical and unflattering.

Such a presentation at the European Parliament ought to have been viewed as an opportunity for a confident Egyptian state intent on protecting the rights envisaged in the constitution. Instead, the offices of the Institute were promptly visited by a committee delegated by the Egyptian judiciary to ‘look into its activities.’

Understandably, around two-dozen rights organizations in the country viewed this as retaliation for the critical presentationin Brussels. If they are right, then a key institution that many inside and outside Egypt rely on to see an impartial and non-partisan view of civil liberties is in jeopardy. That would be a tragedy.

Further unrest?

Is the country headed toward a ‘revolutionary wave’ due to state policies, as some on the left say? Some kind of unrest remains possible – even plausible – but that is somewhat different than what those on the left might perceive.

The work of certain civil rights groups – those that have refused to be drawn into this political partisanship – in logging state abuses regardless of who is in power has been invaluable. However, their work is not to be taken for granted.

H.A. Hellyer

A direct reaction to these kinds of civil-rights infringements is unlikely. After years of turmoil, the appetite for wide-scale political mobilization has waned tremendously. There are those who continue to agitate for the return of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, but that cause has little hope of attracting a critical mass of the population.
The argument one hears in many quarters, particularly in Western capitals, is relatively simple: “We may be unimpressed with the Egyptian state’s actions in these areas, but the state is stable, prospects of a political alternative are minimal, and so we would be best placed to deal with what is on offer.”

While the Egyptian state is counting on a Fauxian pact with its population, to exchange infringements on personal rights for a security establishment’s interpretation of ‘stability,’ many within the international community seem to be doing something quite similar.

Against the backdrop of groups in the region such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , as well as turmoil in countries such as Libya and Syria after their own uprisings failed to propel them immediately onto a better course, that is all quite understandable.

However, it is also incredibly striking in its short-sightedness. Groups such as ISIS were not created by the uprisings, nor by the repression of certain regimes – that leaves out the very real issue of radical ideology that is at the core of these movements. However, if the seed of these groups is ideological in essence, the fertility of the soil in which widespread germination and growth can take place is more often than not political and social.

ISIS would probably exist in some shape or form without those political and social issues that plague Syria and Iraq. However, it would be far more controllable and far less widespread, because those societies would be far more resilient and their citizens far more immune.

No one knows if the structural deficiencies of the Egyptian political bargain will hold for the long term, particularly given the youth bulges that will hit the demographic reality of the country, the sluggishness of the economy, and the incipient polarization that exists. An upheaval of some kind cannot be ruled out. If it happens, however, it is almost certain to be quite ugly, and it could happen regardless of what the authorities do at this point.

If it does not happen, the specter of deeper radicalization nevertheless remains. Considering the results of the ‘bargain’ of the latter half of the 20th century between the Arab world and the West, and between most Arab governments and their peoples, one would have thought it was time for a radical rethink of how to approach the region.
Alas, it seems few are willing to make those tough choices. Failure to do so is likely to develop far more difficult scenarios down the road. At times like these we need more, not fewer, groups such as the Cairo Institute, if only to record for history how we got things so abysmally wrong.

(Source / 17.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 17, 2015 at 8:57 pm

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Israeli military kills Palestinian kids, United Nations whitewashes it

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Hundreds of Palestinian kids were killed in ’14 by occupation. Why was Israel removed from child rights blacklist?

Israeli military kills Palestinian kids, United Nations whitewashes it

A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries caused by a 2014 Israeli strike at a U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip

Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon capitulated to pressure from the Obama administration and removed Israel’s armed forces from a child rights “blacklist.” The decision not only undermines a strong global tool necessary to protect children in armed conflict, but provides Israeli forces with tacit approval to continue committing egregious violations against children with impunity.

 Each year, the Secretary-General submits a report on children and armed conflict to the UN Security Council that includes an annex, or “list of shame,” specifically identifying armed forces and groups found to commit grave violations against children. Israel’s armed forces were recommended by Leila Zerrougui, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, for inclusion in the list for killing and maiming children and carrying out attacks against schools. This was rejected by Ban, as was the recommendation to list Palestinian armed groups.

The latest report, released on June 8, is itself a real contradiction. While Ban expressed deep alarm “at the extent of grave violations suffered by children as a result of Israeli military operations in 2014” and recognized the “unprecedented and unacceptable scale” of Israel’s military violence, he omitted Israel’s armed forces from the annex.

The report methodically details the devastating impact Israel’s prolonged military occupation had on Palestinian children, highlighting that 557 Palestinian children were killed in 2014. The total ranked third highest behind Afghanistan (710) and Iraq (679), and significantly more than in Syria (368). The report notes that at least 543 schools were damaged or destroyed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the highest recorded number of all situations in 2014.

A report released in late April by a UN Board of Inquiry, established by the Secretary-General himself, found Israel responsible for strikes on UN schools and shelters in Gaza that killed at least 44 Palestinians, including children. This was the second time Ban had established a UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry to examine incidents involving UN premises and personnel in Gaza related to an Israeli military offensive.

(Source / 16.06.2015)

Written by altahrir

June 16, 2015 at 8:24 pm

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