Posts Tagged ‘attack on Gaza’

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t)

April 29, 2010

In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”

By Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch.com, April 27, 2010

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange.  For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement.  In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders — with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

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The American-Israeli War on Gaza

December 28, 2009
Foreign Policy Journal, December 27, 2009
by Jeremy R. Hammond

An Israeli attack on a U.N. school in Beit Lahiya with white phosphorus munitions on January 17, 2009. Such attacks constitute war crimes under international law. (Photo: Muhammad al-Baba)An Israeli attack on a U.N. school in Beit Lahiya with white phosphorus munitions on January 17, 2009. Such attacks constitute war crimes under international law. (Photo: Muhammad al-Baba)

One year ago today, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead”, a murderous full-scale military assault on the small, densely populated, and defenseless Gaza Strip. The operation resulted in the massacre of over 1,300 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, including hundreds of children.

This includes only those killed directly by military attacks. The actual casualty figure from Israel’s policies towards Gaza, including the number of deaths attributable to its ongoing siege of the territory, is unknown.

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Any chance for justice for victims of the Gaza war?

September 12, 2009

by Joe Stork, published in Al-Sijjil, September 2009

Human Rights Watch, September 11, 2009

Over the past few months, international and local human rights groups have documented numerous serious violations of the laws of war, some of them amounting to war crimes, before, during, and since Israel’s military offensive in Gaza last December and January. My own organization, Human Rights Watch, strongly criticized Israel for the shooting deaths of Palestinian civilians  carrying white flags and the illegal use of white phosphorus munitions, and Hamas for firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas of Israel.

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UN: Israel had ‘impunity’ in Gaza

August 15, 2009
Al Jazeera, Aug 15, 2009

The report said that Israel’s military justice system did not meet international standards [AFP]

The senior human rights official at the United Nations has said that the Israeli military acted with “near impunity” during its late-December to mid-January offensive on the Gaza Strip, violating international law.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a report on Friday that evidence collected on the Gaza war had pointed to human rights abuses by Israel.

She said that a grave humanitarian situation in Gaza before the Israeli invasion was exacerbated by Operation Cast Lead, a military campaign that had the stated aim of preventing Palestinian rocket squads from firing missiles into Israel.

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Divide and torture

June 7, 2009

redpepper.org.uk

The military onslaught on Gaza may have halted but the economic and political onslaught continues. Ewa Jasiewicz reports on a people under siege

Israel’s winter assault further disfigured the Palestinian body politic. If the Gazan limb had been kept alive on a drip of international aid, with the West Bank strapped down for economic shock therapy, December and January’s events saw both repeatedly shocked, with Gaza flattened after 22 days of bombardment.

In spite of Israel’s destruction of communications masts in the northern Gaza strip, the blockade of basic journalistic materials for Palestine’s main news agencies and attacks on reporters – killing five – news, images and voices from Gaza continued to stream forth into ’48 Palestine, the West Bank and the world. People across the globe were collectively traumatised as they watched more than a million and a half people locked into a ghetto bombed with phosphoric bombs, tank shells, flachete shells, surveillance aircraft, warships, F16s, F15s, Apache and Cobra helicopters and M16 machine guns for three unrelenting weeks.

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Gaza: Pursuit of the Laws of War

May 10, 2009

If the UN fails to further investigate crimes committed during the conflict it will ensure stalemate, and more suffering for civilians

by Tom Porteous | The Guardian, UK, May 8, 2009

The Israeli government and its supporters have lashed out at the report of the UN board of inquiry into Israeli attacks on UN installations during Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza. The report, they say, is biased, tendentious and inaccurate. According to Robbie Sabel, writing in Comment is Free, the “unbalanced report” does “little to bring understanding or justice to the conflict in Gaza”.

The full report has not been published, but there’s little in the summary that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon sent to the security council on Tuesday to support such claims. On the contrary, it provides careful but compelling evidence that Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) violated the laws of war during their military operations around UN installations in Gaza.

According to the summary, the board of inquiry concluded that “IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence and recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property”. The board also holds “Hamas or another Palestinian actor” responsible for one attack on a UN installation – a World Food Progamme warehouse hit by a Qassam rocket.

The terms of reference of the UN inquiry were extremely narrow. Its job was to look at attacks on eight UN installations and one UN convoy during the period of Israel’s military offensive. As far as one can tell from the summary, the board has been meticulous in sticking to these terms of reference.

However, the conclusions of the inquiry, as represented in the summary (which, it should be noted, was not written by those who wrote the full report), raise broader questions about the use of force by the IDF during the conflict. It appears the authors of the UN report felt these questions should not be ducked. The summary notes that the board of inquiry was “deeply conscious” that the attacks on UN installations investigated in its report “are among many incidents ­during Operation Cast Lead involving civilian victims”.

The board therefore recommended that “these incidents should be investigated as part of an impartial inquiry, mandated and adequately resourced, to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza and southern Israel by the IDF and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants”.

But in his letter to the security council presenting his summary, secretary general Ban Ki-moon says bluntly: “I do not plan any further inquiry.” Whether under pressure from external sources – as reported in the Israeli media – or not, the secretary general has thus rejected his own board of inquiry’s most important recommendation even before the security council has had time to discuss it.

Indeed Ban could not even bring himself to put his weight behind an inquiry that has already been mandated by the UN human rights council to investigate broader laws of war violations in the Gaza fighting. Although the human rights council has often been criticised for an anti-Israel bias, this inquiry is headed by Richard Goldstone, who gained international respect for his critical role in dismantling apartheid in his native South Africa and served with distinction as the chief prosecutor at the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Goldstone has said that he will look at violations committed by both sides in the conflict.

So what happens now? The media and human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch have already documented serious violations of the laws of war by both sides in the conflict in Gaza, several of which have now been corroborated by this latest UN report. There is a strong prima facie case for a broad international and impartial inquiry, as recommended by the UN board.

Justice Goldstone’s inquiry (which has been accepted by Hamas but rejected by Israel) should be fully backed by the secretary general, the security council and all those states who profess to care about the vital importance of upholding the rule of law in international affairs.

There is a wide perception, backed up by strong evidence, that serious laws of war violations were committed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Failure by the UN to investigate and make recommendations for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes will perpetuate the climate of impunity that characterises this conflict, like so many others, and ensure that in the next round of fighting once again it will be civilians who suffer most. That will only further polarise and radicalise both sides and dim even further the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

Tom Porteous is the London director of Human Rights Watch

Galloway: Widening the struggle

January 18, 2009
(Friday 16 January 2009)

GEORGE GALLOWAY argues that the time has come to step up the struggle to achieve justice for Palestinians.

As I write, the death toll in Gaza is approaching 1,000, nearly 400 of them confirmed as children. I dread to think what the figure will be by the time you read this.

What is happening in Palestine is murder on a mass scale, perpetrated by one of the most powerful states in the world with the backing of US, Britain and its allies. I say what is happening in Palestine for a significant reason – Gaza is part of Palestine.

No-one should fall for the subtle tricks in the mainstream media which has so badly let us down and mangled the truth. I can think of no better time for the Morning Star to expand in print and online.

The corporate media gives the impression that there is this strange place called Gaza full of people called “militants” and “ruled” by Hamas.

But this is an attack on Palestine – all of Palestine and every Palestinian. Do not let them demonise the Gaza Strip or split it politically from the West Bank. There have been no rockets fired from the West Bank, but Israel has still killed 25 Palestinians there in recent months.

The attack on Gaza has already called forth a huge feeling of solidarity in Britain and the world. It has united Muslim and non-Muslim in huge demonstrations and other events. Now, it has to become a mass movement of practical and political solidarity.

We must not allow the Muslim community to feel intimidated by the kinds of Islamophobic smears they’ve faced that claim that any among them who raises the plight of the Palestinians is somehow an “extremist” or supporter of terrorism.

Nor should we allow the public mood and incipient movement to be derailed by a concerted attempt to smear it as anti-semitic. Among the loudest voices calling for isolating Israel are those of Jews.

I have just left the House of Commons chamber, where Gerald Kaufman has made one of the greatest speeches that I’ve heard there. He said that his grandmother had been shot in her bed by the nazis. She had not died so that her death could be used to justify the atrocities in Gaza, he said.

Leaders of the Catholic church have called Gaza a gigantic “concentration camp.” The highest United Nations officials are calling for an investigation into the war crimes in blowing up schools, universities and callously inflicting suffering on civilians.

The Labour government’s response to the onslaught on Gaza has been a disgrace. For three days it refused to call for any cessation of hostilities. Now it calls for a ceasefire, but on Israel’s terms, which mean the annihilation of the legitimate Palestinian resistance.

Remember this – Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4 when it attacked Hamas, the government of the Palestinian authority which was elected by the Palestinian people in the only democratic vote in the Arab world.

These are basic arguments which must be popularised throughout the movement. Matters are at a turning point. In my estimation, the dynamic that was apparent within the Stop the War movement in 2002 has resurfaced.

We’re not yet on the vast scale of February 15 2003, but the movement is on an upswing. There are other differences too.

There is, in my view, a higher understanding of the nature of zionism and of imperialism. There is also a greater sense of strategic debate in the movement.

That is why I want to end this column with some thoughts about how we might go forward:

Public protests are important. They keep our movement visible and, believe me, the pictures reach Palestine.

Pressure must be brought to bear on every elected representative and everyone in public life in Britain to speak out firmly for the Palestinian people and for official action against Israel, which UN officials want investigated for war crimes.

No person of conscience bought South African goods during apartheid. Today, Israel, its produce and manufactured goods should also be shunned. The call to boycott Israel is growing and Jewish supporters of the Palestinians are among the most vocal. Where does your MP or councillor stand?

It is time to flood the people of Palestine with practical aid. I am pulling together other individuals and groups to organise a convoy from Britain to Gaza led by fire engines donated by the Fire Brigades Union. Your mosque, community group, trade union, church, etc can sponsor it or provide a lorry, two drivers, costs and fill it with things which the people of Gaza need.

Through these steps, we can build political support for Palestine here and get aid over there. And, whenever you are called upon to vote in elections in Britain, remember to ask those who want your support: “What did you do when the bombs fell on the people of Gaza?”

The call for an aid convoy from Britain to Gaza is meeting with huge enthusiasm – Stop the War, the British Muslim Initiative and many others are coming on board.

I hope that it can provide a political focus to spur on a vast aid effort and a movement of political solidarity.

In the 1930s, working-class people across Europe rallied to aid the people of republican Spain, who faced the bombing of towns and the massacre of civilians by the forces of jackbooted General Franco.

The cry then was “Aidez l’Espagne!” The call today should be: “Viva Palestina!”

George Galloway is Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Israel is using White Phoshorus in Gaza

January 9, 2009

January 8, 2009

Gaza victims’ burns increase concern over phosphorus

An Israeli soldier carries a shell as artillery fires towards the Gaza Strip

The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made white phosphorus munition

Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza, despite official denials by the Israel Defence Forces.

There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law.

The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen, and is being used by the Israeli gunners to create a smoke screen on the ground.

The rounds, which explode into a shower of burning white streaks, were first identified by The Times at the weekend when they were fired over Gaza at the start of Israel’s ground offensive. Artillery experts said that the Israeli troops would be in trouble if they were banned from using WP because it is the simplest way of creating smoke to protect them from enemy fire.

There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: “The burns are very unusual. They don’t look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can’t seem to control.”

Victims with embedded WP particles in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.

Nafez Abu Shaban, the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, said: “I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see.”

When The Times reported on Monday that the Israeli troops appeared to be firing WP shells to create a thick smoke camouflage for units advancing into Gaza, an IDF spokesman denied the use of phosphorus and said that Israel was using only the weapons that were allowed under international law.

Rows of the pale blue M825A1 WP shells were photographed on January 4 on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border. Another picture showed the same munitions stacked up behind an Israeli self-propelled howitzer.

Confronted with the latest evidence, an IDF spokeswoman insisted that the M825A1 shell was not a WP type. “This is what we call a quiet shell – it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it,” she said.

“We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It’s not for killing people,” she said.

Asked what shell was being used to create the smokescreen effect seen so clearly on television images, she said: “We’re using what other armies use and we’re not using any weapons that are banned under international law.”

Neil Gibson, technical adviser to Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, insisted that the M825A1 was a WP round. “The M825A1 is an improved model. The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed [by a high-explosive charge], start to burn within four to five seconds. They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smoke screen produced is extremely effective,” he said.

The shell is not defined as an incendiary weapon by the Third Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons because its principal use is to produce smoke to protect troops. However, Marc Galasco, of Human Rights Watch, said: “Recognising the significant incidental incendiary effect that white phosphorus creates, there is great concern that Israel is failing to take all feasible steps to avoid civilian loss of life and property by using WP in densely populated urban areas. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting WP projectiles at relatively low levels, seemingly to maximise its incendiary effect.”

He added, however, that Human Rights Watch had no evidence that Israel was using incendiaries as weapons.

British and American artillery units have stocks of white phosphorus munitions but they are banned as anti-personnel weapons. “These munitions are not unlawful as their purpose is to provide obscuration and not cause injury by burning,” a Ministry of Defence source said.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian war surgery specialist working in Gaza, told The Times that he had seen injuries believed to have resulted from Israel’s use of a new “dense inert metal explosive” that caused “extreme explosions”. He said: “Those inside the perimeter of this weapon’s power zone will be torn completely apart. We have seen numerous amputations that we suspect have been caused by this.”

The Gaza Ghetto and Western Cant

December 31, 2008

Tariq Ali | Counterpunch, Dec 30, 2008

The assault on the Gaza Ghetto, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing was designed largely to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the Right and the Far Right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon a few years, sit back and watch. Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet.

The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians, etc [See Harvard scholar Sara Roy’s chilling essay in the latest LRB] were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had ‘provoked’ Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarik dictatorship in Egypt and NATO’s favourite Islamists in Ankara, failed to even register a symbolic protest by recalling their Ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UNSC to discuss the crisis.

As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the West claims it is combating in the ‘war against terror’.

The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer.

The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money. Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The West and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the ‘international community’ in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, us and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US Congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run. Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza—in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer: ‘the public will then support the Authority against Hamas’. Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this.

Hamas’s electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those whom it defeated at the polls.
Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority’s combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a ‘peace process’ that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people. It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad basis of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran.

How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas’s unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests, which followed, in which some three hundred Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank. On 19 August 2003 a self-proclaimed ‘Hamas’ cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in West Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire’s negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas in turn responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization—a long-standing demand of Tel Aviv.

What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline—demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest armed oppression of modern history. ‘Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for forty-five years against occupation force’: the words of General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993.

The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. The West’s priority ever since was to break this resistance. Cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority is an obvious weapon with which to bludgeon Hamas into submission. Boosting the presidential powers of Abbas—as publicly picked for his post by Washington, as was Karzai in Kabul—at the expense of the Legislative Council is another.

No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to Western and Israel but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas’s programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether, or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country. From the fantasy maximalism of the first to the pathetic minimalism of the second, the path is all too short, as the history of Fatah has shown. The test for Hamas is not whether it can be house-trained to the satisfaction of Western opinion, but whether it can break with this crippling tradition. Soon after the Hamas victory I was asked in public by a Palestinian what I would do in their place. ‘Dissolve the Palestinian Authority’, was my response and end the make-belief. To do so would situate the Palestinian national cause on its proper basis, with the demand that the country and its resources be divided equitably, in proportion to two populations that are equal in size—not 80 per cent to one and 20 per cent to the other, a dispossession of such iniquity that no self-respecting people will ever submit to it in the long run. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians alike, in which the exactions of Zionism are repaired.

There is no other way. And Israeli citizens might ponder the following words from Shakespeare [The Merchant of Venice] that I have slightly altered:

‘I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that…the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.’

Tariq Ali’s latest book, ‘The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power’ is published by Scribner.



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