The following article was published in the Guardian, UK:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/15/human-rights-gaza-israel
The despicable attacks on human rights organisations investigating Israel's Gaza offensive in January confirm Churchill's observation: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." The mission led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone to investigate international human rights and international humanitarian law violations during Israel's offensive, established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), is the latest victim. His findings are about to be made public. The knives have been out for the mission for months. Now they are being plunged into him and his colleagues. Until the report is out Goldstone can't defend it. So the smears and misrepresentation are left free to pollute public discourse.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has assiduously responded to a deluge of scurrilous attacks on its credibility and staff, yet totally unfounded allegations – for example, about accepting Saudi government funding and failing to give a critical report to the Israel Defence Forces before releasing it to the public – are constantly being recycled. HRW messed up by failing to see that the nerdy and, to most people, disturbing hobby of its weapons expert Marc Garlasco (he collects German and American second world war memorabilia) could be used to discredit his role as author of highly critical reports of Israel's military conduct in Gaza. But when this story broke last week, the equation implied in some allegations – "Nazi" object-collector plus "Israel-basher" equals "antisemite" – was baseless and defamatory. That he also worked on reports critical of Hamas and Hezbollah was ignored. As another excuse to attack HRW, and deflect attention from its reports' findings, the Garlasco affair was a gift.
The human rights world is not beyond reproach. UNHRC has hardly been impartial on Israel. Goldstone accepted his role only after the council president agreed to the alteration of the mission's mandate to cover all parties to the conflict, not just Israel. But mistrust alone does not explain the extraordinary scale of the attacks on human rights organisations, including all Israeli ones, for their reports on Israel.
In the 1970s, Jewish groups pressing the Soviets to allow Jews the right to leave the USSR worked with the human rights movement and based their arguments on human rights principles. But now the promoters of the concept of the "new antisemitism" – that Israel is the collective Jew persecuted by the international community – hold the international human rights movement largely responsible for it. Unable to face the fact that occupation and increasingly extreme rightwing governments turned Israel into the neighbourhood bully, and misreading the fallout for Jewish communities as abandonment by progressive forces and governments, many Jewish leaders and opinion-formers have become the human rights movement's fiercest critics. With antisemitism framing this attack, reasoned argument becomes nigh on impossible. Does it then come down to a matter of whose reputation you trust? If so would it be critics of human rights agencies like Alan Dershowitz, the prominent American lawyer who thinks torture could be legalised or Melanie Phillips, a columnist who calls Jewish critics of Israel "Jews for genocide", and Gerald Steinberg, who runs NGO Monitor? Or Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, who is putting his considerable reputation on the line in taking the UNHRC assignment? Frankly, I don't think there is a contest.
By declaring the reports of human rights agencies biased, the attack dogs are reinforcing the damage Israel is doing to itself. They put Israel in the company of serial human rights abusers that make the same complaint. And by refusing to respond to letters from HRW, denying the Goldstone mission entry to Israel, rubbishing testimony from Gazans unless it supports Israel's version of the offensive, and allowing the army to investigate itself, Israel merely shows it cannot even tolerate reasonable criticism. This is a sign of weakness, not strength.
Goldstone, meanwhile, has attracted extra venom from some who label him a traitorous Jew. Would they say the same about another Jew, René Cassin, one of the prime drafters of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Cassin was deeply influenced by the Holocaust, and the universal declaration was drawn up in direct response to it. It contains the bedrock principles upon which today's human rights agencies base their work. Judge Goldstone is heir to Cassin's legacy.
For NGO Monitor, Netanyahu and others attempting to discredit human rights agencies, Palestinian and Israeli human rights are in conflict. For Cassin, human rights were about morality; respect for the inherent dignity of all men and women. His vision, promoted by human rights bodies, offers hope for human progress. We owe it to Palestinian and Israeli alike to listen to Judge Goldstone with open minds – he might just bring us closer to the truth of what happened to human dignity in Gaza in January 2009.Editor's note: This article was amended at 17.00 BST on 15 September to correct the name of NGO Monitor and to delete the reference to Gerald Steinberg's role as advisor to the Lieberman foreign ministry, since this is incorrect.
This was received by email:
I ACCEPTED with hesitation my United Nations mandate to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights during Israel’s three-week war in Gaza last winter. The issue is deeply charged and politically loaded. I accepted because the mandate of the mission was to look at all parties: Israel; Hamas, which controls Gaza; and other armed Palestinian groups. I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation.
But above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war, and the principle that in armed conflict civilians should to the greatest extent possible be protected from harm.
In the fighting in Gaza, all sides flouted that fundamental principle. Many civilians unnecessarily died and even more were seriously hurt. In Israel, three civilians were killed and hundreds wounded by rockets from Gaza fired by Hamas and other groups. Two Palestinian girls also lost their lives when these rockets misfired.
In Gaza, hundreds of civilians died. They died from disproportionate attacks on legitimate military targets and from attacks on hospitals and other civilian structures. They died from precision weapons like missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery. Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.
Israel is correct that identifying combatants in a heavily populated area is difficult, and that Hamas fighters at times mixed and mingled with civilians. But that reality did not lift Israel’s obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.
Our fact-finding team found that in many cases Israel could have done much more to spare civilians without sacrificing its stated and legitimate military aims. It should have refrained from attacking clearly civilian buildings, and from actions that might have resulted in a military advantage but at the cost of too many civilian lives. In these cases, Israel must investigate, and Hamas is obliged to do the same. They must examine what happened and appropriately punish any soldier or commander found to have violated the law.
Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces. I am unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel — on the contrary, Hamas leaders repeatedly praise such acts. While Israel has begun investigations into alleged violations by its forces in the Gaza conflict, they are unlikely to be serious and objective.
Absent credible local investigations, the international community has a role to play. If justice for civilian victims cannot be obtained through local authorities, then foreign governments must act. There are various mechanisms through which to pursue international justice. The International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other countries against violators of the Geneva Conventions are among them. But they all share one overarching aim: to hold accountable those who violate the laws of war. They are built on the premise that abusive fighters and their commanders can face justice, even if their government or ruling authority is not willing to take that step.
Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state.
Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor for war-crime tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, is the head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
Received by email on 18 September 2009:
According to the this disturbing article, SBS [one of the two Australian public broadcasters] has been directed to no longer use the term "palestinian land" when refering to the OPT.
The article also outlines the attempts to silence pro-Palestinian activists and advocates, including how a pro-Palestinian student group on Sydney University has been denied club affiliation and the attacks by the Zionist lobby on well-know Australian investigative journalist, John Pilger, who has been highly critical of Israel and who was recently awarded Sydney Peace Prize.
In solidarity, Kim
In a further restriction on political debate, journalists at SBS have been directed not to use the term "Palestinian land" when describing the occupied territories, writes Jake Lynch
So narrow has political debate become here in Australia over the Israel/Palestine conflict that attempts to remind Australians of basic facts, well accepted in the global community, are falling foul of censorship — silenced by the swish of a bureaucrat's pen.
Journalists at public broadcaster SBS have been told, in a missive from their head of news, that the station's Ombudsman has ruled out the use of the phrase "Palestinian land" to describe the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The status of these territories "remains the subject of negotiation", the memo says, and should be described solely with reference to their geographical location, for instance: "Israeli settlements on the West Bank".
This shows the chilling effect of the selective deafness practised by frontbench politicians in Canberra, which has, as I have pointed out before, put Australia further into Israel's camp than any other country, including the United States. Labor's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard found some rare common ground with former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello when both were part of a senior bipartisan delegation to Israel. When a delegation of that kind fails to mention, even once, the attack on Gaza at the turn of the year or questions over its legality, it has the effect of placing huge pieces of reality outside the bounds of the legitimately controversial. They fall into the "don't-mention-the-war" category, or what media scholar Daniel Hallin called the "zone of deviancy".
In fact, it is the Australian Parliament that is somewhat deviant on this issue, compared to parliaments elsewhere. And things are not improving. Julia Irwin, who earlier this year was almost alone among Australian MPs to join with the rest of the world in criticising Israel's attack on Gaza, last night announced her intention not to run in the next federal election. The disappearance from the Parliament of a voice prepared to say what many people know on this issue is bad news for the state of this debate in Australia.
At the University of Sydney, where I work, the Students for Palestine group have been told by their Student Union that they are not entitled to form a club, and benefit from the facilities, for reasons no one is allowed to disclose. All those present at the meeting that imposed this ban have been sworn to secrecy. So the Students for Palestine called a protest rally later this month, which is also being advertised by students from other universities: universities like Macquarie, also in Sydney, whose head of security reportedly frog-marched several of them off the campus for leafleting outside the library, occasioning complaints of "offensive behaviour".
Talking of which, the steady trickle of emails I receive from supporters of Israel has grown lately, their writers now apparently feeling emboldened to make more abusive and, in some cases, openly racist comments. Then there's the latest stoush between the pro-Israel lobby and the Sydney Peace Foundation, over the decision to award this year's Sydney Peace Prize to the journalist and filmmaker, John Pilger.
Pilger is famous for many things, including his reports raising the alarm over Pol Pot's killing fields in Cambodia during the 1970s, and his courage in smuggling himself into East Timor under Suharto, and Burma, where he brought out unforgettable pictures of slave labour being used to build roads by the Burmese military junta.
His film, Palestine Is Still The Issue, is valuable precisely because it opens by situating the conflict in the context of international law and the well established view of the international community. The reason why the Occupied Palestinian Territories are so called is because there is an important difference between their claims over them and those of Israel: the Palestinians are their lawful owners. As Pilger points out, the reason why there have been countless UN resolutions condemning Israel's occupation is because the inadmissibility of territory acquired by force is a cornerstone of international law.
As the SBS absurdity shows, these basic facts are now regarded as "controversial" in the context of Australian public discourse. It represents a triumph for Israel and its apologists here, who are thinking aloud about how best to take on the peace prize and its new laureate. "Strategist" Ernie Schwartz told the Australian Jewish News that, if professionally consulted — as some suspect he has been — he would advise critics of the award to face down allegations that they, in attacking a journalist for his journalism, are enemies of open debate. "Be realistic about the fact that we'll always come across as myopic," he said. "That's just the way we're going to be cast."
Pilger-bashing over his reporting from the Middle East has already spread to academia. First into the breach, after the announcement of the honour, was a blog, The Sensible Jew, which declared him "odious" and "a joke among the serious-minded". It featured a post from Philip Mendes, a social work lecturer at Melbourne's Monash University, drawing attention to his scholarly article on Pilger in the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies. It's unusual for an academic journal — especially one enjoying the highest "A*" rating, as this one does — to publish a contribution by a researcher outside his or her own field.
In it, Mendes criticises Pilger for declaring that it is his "duty to rectify" an imbalance in Western news coverage. But unfortunately for Mendes that is actually what Pilger is supposed to be doing: Pilger makes documentaries for Independent Television in the UK, which is obliged to follow the requirement that TV licensees "ensure that justice is done to a full range of significant views and perspectives", as stipulated by the UK's industry regulator, the Office of Communication. In short, they need Pilger to make up for shortcomings elsewhere.
Mendes treats the question of bias in reporting of the Palestine/Israel conflict as if scholarly opinion on the subject is equally divided, when in fact the vast majority of research finds that frames, definitions and versions of events favoured by Israel predominate in the news. Among the evidence he adduces to back up this claim, representative of the overall weakness of his argument, is the unpublished study by BBC News management of their own output, which he uses without setting it in the appropriate context, which was a dispute with the BBC's governors at the time of the study.
Attempts like these to restrict debate or to delegitimise certain voices are of deep concern not just in relation to the Palestine/Israel issue, but to all of the issues that we rely on the media to cover. When Pilger receives the award in November, from New South Wales Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, and gives the City of Sydney Peace Prize lecture in the Opera House the following evening, it will be an overdue signal that we are entitled to know what we know, and to say what we need to say about it.
There will be a day for the oppressor when he will be crushed like garlic - Palestinian proverb.
Some came and took our land, forced us to leave, forced us to live in camps. I think this is terrorism. Using means to resist this terrorism and stop its effects - this is called struggle." — Leila Khaled
Remember the solidarity shown to Palestine here and everywhere... and remember also that there is a cause to which many people have committed themselves, difficulties and terrible obstacles notwithstanding. Why? Because it is a just cause, a noble ideal, a moral quest for equality and human rights - Edward Said
The following article is from the web pages of "War on Want":Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel continues to gather momentum after receiving a historic vote of support from the British trade union movement. On Thursday 17 September, in a landmark move, the British Trade Union movement voted to support Palestinian civil society’s BDS call. A motion was passed at the annual Trade Union Congress by unions representing 6.5 million workers in the UK support BDS tactics against Israel until it complies with international law.
Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Over the last 60 years Israel has continuously acted in defiance of UN resolutions, international law and global outrage. Yet the international community has failed to act to stop Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. Instead the British government amongst others has rewarded Israeli aggression with financial, military and diplomatic support.
"The trade union movement has taken a courageous decision today to stand up against this injustice, just like it stood up to racist South Africa in the anti-apartheid movement.
"This is a wake up call to Downing Street that there can be no more business as usual with Israel. A ban on trade with illegal settlements and a two-way arms embargo with Israel must be implemented immediately."
Boycott, divestment and sanctions were widely used in the anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian civil society in 2005 launched its call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organisations including War on Want’s partners Stop the Wall. War on Want works closely with the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and has supported the BDS call since its inception.
War on Want will be speaking at a UK national gathering on BDS on 2-4 October in Northumberland.
What is boycott, divestment and sanctions?
• Boycotts can be consumer, sporting, cultural and academic. The primary target in the UK has been the boycott of consumer goods produced in Israel. With a particular focus on fresh produce grown in Israel's illegal West Bank settlements. British supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's continue to sell settlement produce, despite doubts over the legal status of these products.
• Divestment means targeting corporations which are complicit in the occupation and ensuring universities, pensions or other public money is not invested in such companies. War on Want in 2006 published its groundbreaking report Profiting from the Occupation, which called for divestment from companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
• Sanctions are also an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country's actions. War on Want is currently demanding the UK government impose the sanction of an arms embargo with Israel and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives Israel preferential trade access to European markets.
In a landmark decision, Britain's trade unions have voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on Israel for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians.
The motion was passed at the 2009 TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool today (17 September), by unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK.
Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: "This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel's brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank."
The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel's illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
The motion was tabled by the Fire Brigades Union. The biggest unions in the UK, including Unite, the public sector union, and UNISON, which represents health service workers, voted in favor of the motion.
The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut's statement supporting Israel's war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC's relationship with Histadrut.
Britain's trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people.
Received by email:Falk: Goldstone is historic blow in the war Israel is losing– the ‘Legitimacy War’ Posted: 21 Sep 2009 07:58 AM PDT
“So why did the Israeli government boycott the commission? The real answer is quite simple: they knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.”Uri Avnery (Israeli peace activist, and former Knesset member), “On the Goldstone Report” 19 Sept 2009
Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Aftica’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugolavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the UN fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza War of last winter. Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being “deeply charged and politically loaded,” and was overcome because he and his fellow commissioners were “professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,” adding that “above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,” as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar, Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel.
Despite the impeccable credentials of the commission members, and the worldwide reputation of Richard Goldstone as a person of integrity and political balance, Israel refused cooperation from the outset. It did not even allow the UN undertaking to enter Israel or the Palestinian Territories, forcing reliance on the Egyptian government to facilitate entry at Rafah to Gaza. As Uri Avnery observes, however much Israel may attack the commission report as one-sided and unfair, the only plausible explanation of its refusal to cooperate with fact-finding and taking the opportunity to tell its side of the story was that it had nothing to tell that could hope to overcome the overwhelming evidence of the Israeli failure to carry out its attacks on Gaza last winter in accordance with the international law of war. No credible international commission could reach any set of conclusions other than those reached by the Goldstone Report on the central allegations.
In substantive respects the Goldstone Report adds nothing new. Its main contribution is to confirm widely reported and analyzed Israeli military practices during the Gaza War. There had been several reliable reports already issued, condemning Israel’s tactics as violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law, including by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a variety of respected Israeli human rights groups. Journalists and senior United Nations civil servants had reached similar conclusions. Perhaps, most damning of all the material available before the Goldstone Report was the publication of a document entitled “Breaking the Silence,” containing commentaries by thirty members of the Israel Defense Forces who had taken part in Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli official name for the Gaza War). These soldiers spoke movingly about the loose rules of engagement issued by their commanders that explains why so little care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. The sense emerges from what these IDF soldiers who were in no sense critical of Israel or even of the Gaza War as such, that Israeli policy emerged out of a combination of efforts ‘to teach the people of Gaza a lesson for their support of Hamas’ and to keep IDF casualties as close to zero as possible even if meant massive death and destruction for innocent Palestinians.
Given this background of a prior international consensus on the unlawfulness of Operation Cast Lead, we must first wonder why this massive report of 575 pages has been greeted with such alarm by Israel and given so much attention in the world media. It added little to what was previously known. Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary. The report focuses its criticism on Israel’s excessive and indiscriminate uses of force. It does this by examining the evidence surrounding a series of incidents involving attacks on civilians and non-military targets. The report also does draw attention to the unlawful blockade that has restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies to subsistence levels in Gaza before, during, and since Operation Cast Lead. Such a blockade is a flagrant instance of collective punishment, explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention setting forth the legal duties of an occupying power.
All along Israel had rejected international criticism of its conduct of military operations in the Gaza War, claiming that the IDF was the most moral fighting force on the face of the earth. The IDF conducted some nominal investigations of alleged unlawful behavior that consistently vindicated the military tactics relied upon and steadfastly promised to protect any Israeli military officer or political leader internationally accused of war crimes. In view of this extensive background of confirmed allegation and angry Israeli rejection, why has the Goldstone Report been treated in Tel Aviv as a bombshell that is deeply threatening to Israel’s stature as a sovereign state? Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, calling the report “a mockery of history” that “fails to distinguish the aggressor and a state exercising the right of self-defense,” insisting that it “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.”
More commonly Israel’s zealous defenders condemned the report as one-sided, biased, reaching foregone conclusions, and emanating from the supposedly bastion of anti-Israeli attitudes at the UN’s Human Rights Council. This line of response to any criticism of Israel’s behavior in occupied Palestine, especially if it comes from the UN or human rights NGOs is to cry “foul play!” and avoid any real look at the substance of the charges. It is an example of what I call ‘the politics of deflection,’ attempting to shift the attention of an audience away from the message to the messenger. The more damning the criticism, the more ferocious the response. From this perspective, the Goldstone Report obviously hit the bullseye!
Considered more carefully, there are some good reasons for Israel’s panicked reaction to this damning report.
First, it does come with the backing of an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’ Any fair reading of the report would show that it was balanced, was eminently mindful of Israel’s arguments relating to security, and indeed gave Israel the benefit of the doubt on some key issues.
Secondly, the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations that do go well beyond previous reports. Two are likely causing the Israeli leadership great worry: the report recommends strongly that if Israel and Hamas do not themselves within six months engage in an investigation and followup action meeting international standards of objectivity with respect to these violations of the law of war, then the Security Council should be brought into the picture, being encouraged to consider referring the whole issue of Israeli and Hamas accountability to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Even if Israel is spared this indignity by the diplomatic muscle of the United States, and possibly some European governments, the negative public relations implications of a failure to abide by this report could be severe.
Thirdly, whatever happens in the UN System, and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion. Ever since the Gaza War the solidity of Jewish support for Israel has been fraying at the edges, and this will likely now fray much further. More globally, a very robust boycott and divestment movement was gaining momentum ever since the Gaza War, and the Goldstone Report can only lend added support to such initiatives. There is a growing sense around the world that the only chance for the Palestinians to achieve some kind of just peace depends on the outcome over the symbols of legitimacy, what I have called the Legitimacy War. Increasingly, the Palestinians have been winning this second non-military war. Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.
A fourth reason for Israeli worry stemming from the report, is the green light given to national courts throughout the world to enforce international criminal law against Israelis suspects should they travel abroad and be detained for prosecution or extradition in some third country. Such individuals could be charged with war crimes arising from their involvement in the Gaza War. The report in this way encourages somewhat controversial reliance on what is known among lawyers as ‘universal jurisdiction,’ that is, the authority of courts in any country to detain for extradition or to prosecute individuals for violations of international criminal law regardless of where the alleged offenses took place. Reaction in the Israeli media reveals that Israeli citizens are already anxious about being apprehended during foreign travel. As one law commentator put it in the Israeli press, “From now on, not only soldiers should be careful when they travel abroad, but also ministers and legal advisers.” It is well to recall that Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions calls on states throughout the world “to respect and ensure respect” for international humanitarian law “in all circumstances.” Remembering the efforts in 1998 of several European courts to prosecute Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed while he was head of state in Chile, is a reminder that national courts can be used to prosecute political and military leaders for crimes committed elsewhere than in the territory of the prosecuting state.
Of course, Israel will fight back. It has already launched a media and diplomatic blitz designed to portray the report as so one-sided as to be unworthy of serious attention. The United States Government has already disappointingly appeared to endorse this view, and repudiate the central recommendation in the Goldstone Report that the Security Council be assigned the task of implementing its findings. The American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, evidently told a closed session of the Security Council on September 16, just a day after the report was issued, that “[w]e have serious concerns about many recommendations in the report.” Elaborating on this, Ambassador Rice indicated that the UN Human Rights Council, which has no implementing authority, is the only proper venue for any action to be taken on the basis of the report. The initial struggle will likely be whether to follow the recommendation of the report to have the Security Council refer the issues of accountability to the International Criminal Court, which could be blocked by a veto from the United States or other permanent members.
There are reasons to applaud the forthrightness and comprehensiveness of the report, its care, and scrupulous willingness to conclude that both Israel and Hamas seem responsible for behavior that appears to constitute war crimes, if not crimes against humanity. Although Israel has succeeded in having the issue of one-sidedness focus on fairness to Israel, there are also some reasons to insist that the report falls short of Palestinian hopes. For one thing, the report takes for granted, the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against Gaza in self-defense, thereby excluding inquiry into whether crimes against the peace in the form of aggression had taken place by the launching of the attack. In this respect, the report takes no notice of the temporary ceasefire that had cut the rocket fire directed at Israel practically to zero in the months preceding the attacks, nor of Hamas’ repeated efforts to extend the ceasefire indefinitely provided Israel lifted its unlawful blockade of Gaza. Further it was Israel that had seemed to provoke the breakdown of the ceasefire when it launched a lethal attack on Hamas militants in Gaza on November 4, 2008. Israel disregarded this seemingly available diplomatic alternative to war to achieve security on its borders. Recourse to war, even if the facts justify self-defense, is according to international law, a last resort. By ignoring Israel’s initiation of a one-sided war the Goldstone Report accepts the dubious central premise of Operation Cast Lead, and avoids making a finding of aggression.
Also, disappointing was the failure of the report to comment upon the Israeli denial of a refugee option to the civilian population trapped in the tiny, crowded combat zone that constitutes the Gaza Strip. Israel closed all crossings during the period of the Gaza War, allowing only Gaza residents with foreign passports to leave. It is rare in modern warfare that civilians are not given the option to become refugees. Although there is no specific provision of the laws of war requiring a state at war to allow civilians to leave the combat zone, it seems like an elementary humanitarian requirement, and should at least have been mentioned either as part of customary international law or as a gap in the law that should be filled. The importance of this issue is reinforced by many accounts of the widespread post-traumatic stress experienced by the civilians in Gaza, especially children that comprise 53% of the population. One might also notice that the report accords considerable attention to Gilad Shalit, the one IDF prisoner held by Hamas in Gaza, recommending his release on humanitarian grounds, while making no comparable suggestion to Israel although it is holding thousands of Palestinians under conditions of harsh detention.
In the end, the Goldstone Report is unlikely to break the inter-governmental refusal to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza or to induce the United Nations to challenge Israeli impunity in any meaningful way. Depending on backroom diplomacy, the United States may or may not be able to avoid playing a public role of shielding Israel from accountability for its behavior during the Gaza War or its continuing refusal to abide by international humanitarian law by lifting the blockade that continues to impinge daily upon the health of the entire population of Gaza.
Despite these limitations, the report is an historic contribution to the Palestinian struggle for justice, an impeccable documentation of a crucial chapter in their victimization under occupation. Its impact will be felt most impressively on the growing civil society movement throughout the world to impose cultural, sporting, and academic boycotts, as well as to discourage investment, trade, and tourism with Israel. It may yet be the case that as in the anti-apartheid struggle the shift in the relation of forces in the Palestinian favor will occur not through diplomacy or as a result of armed resistance, but on the symbolic battlefield of legitimacy that has become global in scope, what might be described as the new political relevance of moral and legal globalization.
Received by email on 27 September 2009:
Despite "closed zone" declaration a hundred peace activists entered the South Hebron Hills area, transfering 25 tons of water to villagers denied water supply by the State of Israel
This morning the IDF declared the area of the Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills to be "a closed military zone" in order to prevent the entry of a Water Convoy organized by Israeli peace movements - but nevertheless, the activists managed to break through the military cordon and pass the convoy as planned. The Water Convoy included about a hundred activists who arrived in buses from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem as well as in private cars and large water tankers carrying about 25 tons of water.
About 10.30am the convoy was blocked by military forces which spread spikes on he road near the Israeli settlement of Carmel and the officer in charge forbade them to enter the "closed military zone."
The organizers explained that they were involved in a vital humanitarian activity, bringing water to where there is severe lack of it, but the army persisted in denying access. Thereupon, the organizers instructed activists to leave the buses and proceed on foot, bypassing the military roadblock.
In a long line the activists walked along the southward road, under the desert sun, followed by military jeeps. TV crews of international networks walked alongside and documented the protest march. After they walked about three kilometers there came to the activists inhabitants of the Palestinian villages, driving tractors with platforms on which the Israelis climbed, traveling on unpaved tracks deep into the desert area.
Meanwhile the water tankers succeeded to arrive via desert bypass roads, accompanied by a bulldozer which removed obstacles on difficult spots, thus allowing the tankers to pass.
About 12.30, the activists, the Palestinian inhabitants and the tankers all reached the pre-arranged rendez-vous point. They proceeded on the water distribution, traveling among the small hamlets in the area, stopping at each and giving inhabitants their share. What impressed the urban activists above all was how in one village, Jinaba, the cattle trough was filled directly from the tanker, and the thirsty sheep started drinking immediately.
Suddenly there arrived the military jeeps with the soldiers trying to arrest the Palestinian bulldozer driver, claiming that he had "opened blocked routes" and thereby "harmed security." Dozens of Israelis surrounded the bulldozer, some of them climbing on it, with their bodies blocking the soldiers from approaching the driver - himself an inhabitant of one of the nearby villages. "Shame on you! Shame!" activists shoutled at the soldiers. "Shame on you for denying the inhabitants here water, for blocking the roads and filling up their wells! One day all of you will be ashamed to tell your sons and grandsons where you have been, and what you have done!"
The convoy organizers made clear to the commander of the military force that by no means will they leave the territory as long as the army continues the threat of arresting the bulldozer driver and confiscating his vehicle. After a two hours stand-off the commander gave in and let the bulldozer depart. Several of the activists accompanied the bulldozer until it came back safely to its origin.
For several months the peace organizations are acting to protest the Policy of Thirst. The State of Israel is taking about 80% of the water from the West Bank aquifers for the needs of its citizens and of the settlers, leaving only about a fifth to the Palestinian inhabitants whose land it is. In so doing the State of Israel is perpetrating a severe violation of international law, according to which an occupying state is not allowed to use the natural resources of the occupied territory.
The inhabitants of the South Hebron Hill are in a worse situation than the rest of the West Bankers. They are not at all connected to water pipes, the army is deliberately filling up their wells, and their only way to obtain water by tankers arriving from far. Water, therefore, is for them very expensive, 50 to 60 Shekels (US$16-19) per cubic meter, as compared to some 4 shekel for an Israeli who gets it delivered to his tap. And, these Palestinians already live below the poverty line. Moreover, the army is making difficulties and deliberately blocking roads in order to prevent arrival of the tankers.
In fact, we have here a deliberate effort to make life so difficult so that they will leave the South Hebron Hills, making it possible to annex the area to Israel "free of Arabs" - as is the declared desire of the particularly aggressive and extremist settlers who have established themselves throughout this area. In 1999 the army carried out a mass deportation of these Palestinian inhabitants, but the Supreme Court ruled that this was illegal and ordered the government to allow them back to their modest homes (some living in caves).
Now the authorities try to achieve the same result by the indirect way of making their life into hell, in the hope that they will leave "voluntarily" the land where they lived for generations and where they find their scant livelihood as shepherds.
The Thirst Policy of the government against the Palestinians in general and these South-Hebroners in particular is highly despicable, racist and inhuman.
We have no illusion that with our own resources we can provide all the water which Palestinians need. Our limited action is meant in the first place to express protest and fury and make people aware, in Israel and everywhere.Israeli representatives:
For Immediate Release
25 September 2009: Israeli forces target Palestinian cameramen at Bil’in demonstration.
Around 1pm, Israeli forces arrested 2 Israeli solidarity activists and a Palestinian cameraman, Haitham al-Khatib (33 years old) during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in.
Witnesses say that Israeli soldiers ran in and arrested the 3 demonstrators. Haitham al-Khatib was filming the demonstration near the Wall when he was taken.
Haitham has been filming the ongoing Israeli arrest campaign in Bil’in. One of his videos was recently used by several news sources, including the Israeli news, YNet (see: http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3778117,00.html), to showcase the violence and intimidation used by the army against Bil’in residents. Thousands of viewers worldwide have been following the night raids in Bil’in through Haitham’s videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/haithmkatib. and: http://www.youtube.com/user/haithmkatib#play/all/uploads-all/2/rs4ggyyPBBA(180909)
Haitham was previously detained by Israeli forces on 24 July 2009 when he arrived at Ofer prison to wait for the release of another Bil’in resident. He was held for several hours and interrogated.
Coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, Abdedallah abu Rahme, stated, "Soldiers coming to arrest Palestinians from Bil’in in the night is only part of intimidation campaign, the Israeli authorities are also targeting our supporters and journalists. They want us to stop our non-violent demonstrations, but as long as our land is being stolen, we cannot stop."Background:
The recent raids began concurrently with the opening of a legal trial in Montreal. The village of Bil’in has taken two companies registered in Canada (Green Park International & Green Mount International) to court for participating in war crimes by building settlements on Bil’in’s land under the 2000 Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Statute (which incorporates both the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute into Canadian federal law).
Since the trail began Israeli forces have arrested 30 people (most of which are under 18). Twenty-one residents of Bil’in remain in Israeli detention.
Through Israel’s interrogation and intimidation tactics, some of arrested youth have falsely 'confessed’ that the Bil’in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. With such 'confessions’, Israeli forces then proceed to raid the village at night invade homes and arrest leaders of the non-violent struggle in the community.
Two of the three popular committee members who traveled to Montreal to represent the villages case , Mohammad Khatib and Mohammad Abu Rahme were arrested and have since been released on bail. (see B’Tselem report: http://www.btselem.org/english/separation_barrier/20090818_night_arrests_in_bilin.asp).
Another leading Bil’in non-violent activist, Adeeb Abu Rahme, remains in detention since his arrest during a non-violent demonstration on 10 July 2009 (see report & video: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/07/7652. Adib has been charged with "incitement to damage the security of the area."
On 29 August 2009, two additional Bil’in houses were simultaneously raided by at least 40 soldiers, arresting Ashraf Al-Khatib (age 29) and Hamru Bornat (age 24). A local cameraman, Haitham Al-Khatib, brother of the arrested Hamru, was repeatedly forcibly moved and hit, and threatened with arrest unless he stopped filming. Soldiers declared his home a "closed military zone" but could not produce any military order.
The Palestinian village of Bil’in has become an international symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle. For almost 5 years, its residents have been continuously struggling against the de facto annexation of more than 50% of their farmlands, confiscated for the construction of the Apartheid Wall.
In a celebrated decision, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on the 4 September 2007 that the current route of the wall in Bil’in was illegal and needs to be dismantled; the ruling however has not been implemented. The struggle of the village to liberate its lands and stop the illegal settlements has been internationally recognized and has earned the popular committee in Bil’in the Carl von Ossietzky Meda award.:: Article nr. 58286 sent on 25-sep-2009 18:26 ECT www.uruknet.info?p=58286
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The Electronic Intifada 2 October 2009
Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people.
The Abbas delegation to the United Nations in Geneva (officially representing the moribund Palestine Liberation Organization) abandoned a resolution requesting the Human Rights Council to forward Judge Richard Goldstone's report on war crimes in Gaza to the UN Security Council for further action. Although the PA acted under US pressure, there are strong indications that the commercial interests of Palestinian and Gulf businessmen closely linked to Abbas also played a part.
The 575-page Goldstone report documents evidence of shocking Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity during last winter's assault on the Gaza Strip which killed 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority noncombatants and hundreds of them children. The report also accuses the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas of war crimes for firing rockets into Israel that killed three civilians.
Goldstone's report was hailed by Palestinians and supporters of the rule of law worldwide as a watershed; it called for suspects to be held accountable before international courts if Israel failed to prosecute them. Israel has no history, ever, of holding its political and military leaders judicially accountable for war crimes against the Palestinians.
Israel was rightly terrified of the report, mobilizing all its diplomatic and political resources to discredit it. In recent days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that if the report were acted on, it would "strike a severe blow to the war against terrorism," and "strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied."
Unsurprisingly, an early ally in the Israeli campaign for impunity was the Obama Administration, whose UN ambassador, Susan Rice, expressed "very serious concerns" about the report and trashed Goldstone's mandate as "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." (Rice was acting true to her word; in April she told the newspaper Politico that one of the main reasons the Obama Administration decided to join the UN Human Rights Council was to fight what she called "the anti-Israel crap.")
Goldstone, whose daughter has publicly described her father as a Zionist who loves Israel, is a former judge of the South African Supreme Court, and a highly respected international jurist. He was the chief prosecutor at UN war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
That the Goldstone report was a severe blow to Israel's ability to commit future war crimes with impunity is not in doubt; this week bolstered by the report, lawyers in the UK asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That action did not succeed, but Israel's government has taken extraordinary measures in recent months to try to shield its officials from prosecution, fearing that successful arrests are just a matter of time. Along with the growing international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, the fear of ending up in The Hague seems to be the only thing that causes the Israeli government and society to reconsider their destructive path.
One would think, then, that the self-described representatives of the Palestinian people would not casually throw away this weapon. And yet, according to Abbas ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, the Ramallah PA shelved its effort at the request of the Americans because "We don't want to create an obstacle for them."
Khraishi's excuse that the resolution is merely being deferred until the spring does not pass muster. Unless action is taken now, the Goldstone report will be buried by then and evidence of Israel's crimes -- necessary for prosecutions -- may be harder to collect.
This latest surrender comes less than two weeks after Abbas appeared at a summit in New York with US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu despite Obama abandoning his demand that Israel halt construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Also under US pressure, the PA abandoned its pledge not to resume negotiations unless settlement-building stopped, and agreed to take part in US-mediated "peace talks" with Israel in Washington this week. Israel, meanwhile, announced plans for the largest ever West Bank settlement since 1967.
What makes this even more galling, is the real possibility that the PA is helping Israel wash its hands of the blood it spilled in Gaza for something as base as the financial gain of businessmen closely linked to Abbas.
The Independent (UK) reported on 1 October:
"Shalom Kital, an aide to defense minister Ehud Barak, said today that Israel will not release a share of the radio spectrum that has long been sought by the Palestinian Authority to enable the launch of a second mobile telecommunications company unless the PA drops its efforts to put Israeli soldiers and officers in the dock over the Israeli operation." ("Palestinians cry 'blackmail' over Israel phone service threat," The Independent, 1 October).
Kital added that it was a "condition" that the PA specifically drop its efforts to advance the Goldstone report. The phone company, Wataniya, was described last April by Reuters as an "Abbas-backed company" which is a joint venture between Qatari and Kuwaiti investors and the Palestinian Investment Fund with which one of Abbas' sons is closely involved.
Moreover, Reuters revealed that the start-up company apparently had no shortage of capital due to the Gulf investors receiving millions of dollars of "US aid in the form of loan guarantees meant for Palestinian farmers and other small to mid-sized businesses" (See "US aid goes to Abbas-backed Palestinian phone venture," Reuters, 24 April 2009).
Just a day before the Abbas delegation pulled its resolution in Geneva, Nabil Shaath, the PA "foreign minister" denounced the Israeli threat over Wataniya as "blackmail" and vowed that the Palestinians would never back down.
The PA's betrayal of the Palestinian people over the Goldstone report, as well as its continued "security coordination" with Israel to suppress resistance and political activity in the West Bank, should banish all doubt that it is an active arm of the Israeli occupation doing tangible and escalating harm to the Palestinian people and their just cause.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse................................................................. --------
Jewish Peace News editors:Joel Beinin
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Israel is threatening to kill off a crucial West Bank economic project unless the Palestinian Authority withdraws a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged Israeli crimes during last winter’s Gaza war.
Shalom Kital, an aide to defence minister Ehud Barak, said today that Israel will not release a share of the radio spectrum that has long been sought by the Palestinian Authority to enable the launch of a second mobile telecommunications company unless the PA drops its efforts to put Israeli soldiers and officers in the dock over the Israeli operation.
“It’s a condition. We are saying to the Palestinians that ‘if you want a normal life and are trying to embark on a new way, you must stop your incitement,” Mr. Kital said. “We are helping the Palestinian economy but one thing we ask them is to stop with these embarrassing charges.”
As long as the Wataniya Mobile company is unable to begin its operations, communications costs are likely to remain inordinately high for Palestinian businesses and individuals. But thwarting the company benefits four unauthorized Israeli operators who make sizeable profits in the Palestinian market using infrastructure they have set up in the illegal Israeli settlements across the West Bank.
The Qatari-owned Wataniya had begun making what was planned as the second largest private investment in West Bank history - to total seven hundred million dollars. But amid frustration at more than two years of Israeli foot-dragging over the frequencies it is now warning that if forced to miss its launch date of 15 October it may close down West Bank operations and seek the return from the Palestinian Authority of its $140m licensing fee and other damages. Mr Kital said the possibility of Wataniya closing “is something the PA will have to take into consideration.”
“This is sheer blackmail by the Israelis,” said Nabil Shaath, the former PA foreign minister. “Israel has no business stealing the frequencies, keeping them and using them as blackmail to escape an international inquiry into its violations.”
Nearly 1400 Palestinians, most of whom were not taking part in the hostilities, were killed during the Gaza war, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Fourteen Israelis died, some from Hamas rocket fire that Israel says forced it to mount its operation. A UN probe released last month found that both Israel and Hamas had committed “war crimes”.
Mr Shaath said the PA would not back down over the matter.“The Palestinians in Gaza suffered greatly and we are responsible for them. We are the aggrieved party. Israeli soldiers and those who gave orders should be questioned and be liable to prosecution.”
The Palestinian request to the ICC dates back eight months. But Israeli concern over international legal steps has intensified since the UN commission, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that the Israeli military judicial system did not meet international legal standards of independence and impartiality. It called for the ICC to activate an indictment process within six months unless the country mounts its own credible investigations of its troops actions.
The Israeli stance on the frequencies marks a flouting of the efforts of the international community’s Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, who last month urged that they be released and warned of harm to the local economy if Israel persisted in its refusal. Mr Kital said today that Mr Blair “is very aware” there will be no release unless the Palestinians drop their request to the ICC.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestinians-cry-blackmail-over-israel-phone-service-threat-1796145.html
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Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 3
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 11
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 14
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 17
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 22
Mannie and Kendall Present: LESBIAN AND GAY SOLIDARITY ACTIVISMSRED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
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