Posts Tagged ‘blockade of Gaza’

Israeli request for more arms from US raises fears of regional violence

June 10, 2010

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem, The Independent/UK, June 10, 2010

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak made a move for the weapons  during a recent visit to Washington
REUTERS

Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak made a move for the weapons during a recent visit to Washington

Israel has approached the United States for more bombs and asked Washington to increase an emergency arms cache stowed on Israeli soil by 50 per cent, according to the leading newspaper Ha’aretz.

The approach, made by Defence Minister Ehud Barak during a recent visit to Washington, reflects the heightened tensions in recent months between the Jewish state and its neighbours that have given rise to widespread fears within Israel of an imminent regional conflict.

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Buchanan: Lift the Siege of Gaza

June 4, 2010
by Pat Buchanan, creators.com, June 4, 2010

— In June 1948, our wartime ally imposed a blockade on Berlin, cutting off and condemning to death or Stalinist domination 2 million Germans, most of whom, not long before, had cheered Adolf Hitler.
Harry Truman responded with the Berlin airlift, in perhaps the most magnanimous act of the Cold War.

For nine months, U.S. pilots flew into Tempelhof, carrying everything from candy to coal, saving a city and earning the eternal gratitude of the people of Berlin, and admiration everywhere that moral courage is admired.

That was an America that lived its values.

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Whitewashing Israeli actions

February 5, 2010

George S. Hishmeh, Al Arabiya News Channel, Feb 5, 2010

Much as the world has responded marvelously and generously to calls to help Haitians after their devastating earthquake last month. The opposite has been true about the impoverished Palestinians in Gaza Strip who have been under an increasingly tighter siege since the Israeli blitz a little over a year ago.

The Obama administration has committed $300 million to help rebuild the heavily demolished area, now home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, many of them refugees from nearby towns in what is now Israel. The United Nations has also raised $4.5 billion, but to date, neither the American nor the U.N. funds have been spent there because of the tight Israeli blockade which is also enforced by the Egyptians on their border with the once Israeli-occupied strip.

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Jewish Anti-Occupation Activists Send Forceful Message to Israel

February 2, 2010

By Alex Kane, The Indypendent, Feb 1, 2010

For some Upper West Side residents, their usual stroll down Broadway this evening had a surprise:  a group of 20 New York Jews denouncing Israel’s occupation of Palestine were standing with thought-provoking signs while a few passed out flyers.

Challenging the assumption that all Jews support Israel no matter what, the action, organized by Jews Say No, called on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and to end the longest running military occupation in recent history.  The group was founded last year during Israel’s war on Gaza.

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Terror is the price of support for despots and dictators

January 7, 2010

Egypt’s complicity in the Gaza’s siege underlines the role of western support for such regimes in the spread of war

Seumas Milne, The Guardian/UK, Jan 7, 2010

An an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor had gone on hunger strike in support of a besieged people in another part of the world, and hundreds of mostly western protesters had been stoned and beaten by police, you can be sure we’d have heard all about it. But because that is what’s been happening in western-backed Egypt, rather than Iran, and the people the protesters are supporting are the Palestinians of Gaza instead of, say, Tibetans, most people in Europe and north America know nothing about it.

For the last fortnight, two groups of hundreds of activists have been battling with Egyptian police and officials to cross into the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the blockaded population on the first anniversary of Israel’s devastating onslaught. Last night, George Galloway’s Viva Palestina 500-strong convoy of medical aid was finally allowed in, minus 50 of its 200 vehicles, after being repeatedly blocked, diverted and intimidated by Egyptian security – including a violent assault in the Egyptian port of El Arish on Tuesday night which left dozens injured, despite the participation of one British and 10 Turkish MPs.

That followed an attempted “Gaza freedom march” by 1,400 protesters from more than 40 countries, only 84 of whom were allowed across the border – which is what led Hedy Epstein, both of whose parents died in Auschwitz, to refuse food in Cairo, as the group’s demonstrations were violently broken up and Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was feted nearby. Yesterday, demonstrations by Palestinians on the Gazan side of the border against the harassment of the aid convoy led to violent clashes with Egyptian security forces in which an Egyptian soldier was killed and many Palestinians injured.

But although the confrontation has been largely ignored in the west, it has been a major media event in the Middle East which has only damaged Egypt. And while the Egyptian government claims it is simply upholding its national sovereignty, the saga has instead starkly exposed its complicity in the US- and European-backed blockade of Gaza and the collective punishment of its one and a half million people.

The main protagonist of the siege, Israel, controls only three sides of the Strip. Without Egypt, which polices the fourth, it would be ineffective. But, having tolerated the tunnels that have saved Gazans from utter beggary, the Cairo regime is now building a deep underground steel wall – known as the “wall of shame” to many Egyptians – under close US supervision, to make the blockade complete.

That’s partly because the ageing Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, fears cross-border contamination from Gaza’s elected Hamas administration, whose ideological allies in the banned Muslim Brotherhood would be likely to win free elections in Egypt.

But two other factors seem to have been decisive in convincing Cairo to bend to American and Israeli pressure and close the vice on Gaza’s Palestinians, along with those who support them. The first was a US threat to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid unless it cracked down on arms and other smuggling. The second is the need for US acquiescence in the widely expected hereditary succession of Mubarak’s ex-banker son, Gamal, to the presidency. So, far from protecting its sovereignty, the Egyptian government has sold it for continued foreign subsidy and despotic dynastic rule, sacrificing any pretence to its historic role of Arab leadership in the process.

From the wider international perspective, it is precisely this western embrace of repressive and unrepresentative regimes such as Egypt’s, along with unwavering backing for Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, that is at the heart of the crisis in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Decades of oil-hungry backing for despots, from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia, along with the failure of Arab nationalism to complete the decolonisation of the region, fuelled first the rise of Islamism and then the eruption of al-Qaida-style terror more than a decade ago. But, far from addressing the natural hostility to foreign control of the area and its resources at the centre of the conflict, the disastrous US-led response was to expand the western presence still further, with new and yet more destructive invasions and occupations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And the Bush administration’s brief flirtation with democratisation in client states such as Egypt was quickly abandoned once it became clear who was likely to be elected.

The poisonous logic of this imperial quagmire is now leading inexorably to the spread of war under Barack Obama. Following the failed bomb attack of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, the US president this week announced two new fronts in the war on terror, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown: Yemen, where the would-be bomber was allegedly trained; and Somalia, where al-Qaida has also put down roots in the swamp of chronic civil war and social disintegration.

Greater western military intervention in both countries will certainly make the problem worse. In Somalia, it has already done so, after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of 2006 overthrew the relatively pragmatic Islamic Courts Union and spawned the more extreme, al-Qaida-linked Shabab movement, now in control of large parts of the country. Increased US backing for the unpopular Yemeni government, already facing armed rebellion in the north and the threat of secession from the restive south – which only finally succeeded in forcing out British colonial rule in 1967 – is bound to throw petrol on the flames.

The British prime minister tried this week to claim that the growth of al-Qaida in Yemen and Somalia showed western strategy was “working”, because the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan had forced it to look for sanctuaries elsewhere. In reality, it is a measure of the grotesque failure of the entire war on terror. Since its launch in October 2001, al-Qaida has spread from the mountains of Afghanistan across the region, to Iraq, Pakistan, the horn of Africa, and far beyond.

Instead of scaling down the western support for dictatorship and occupation that fuels al-Qaida-style terror, and concentrating resources on police action to counter it, the US and its allies have been drawn inexorably into repeating and extending the monstrosities that sparked it in the first place. It’s the recipe for a war on terror without end.

US Rabbis Protest Israel’s Policy Over Gaza

September 30, 2009

By Gilbert Mercier

NEWS JUNKIE POST, Sep 29, 2009

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A group of 13 American Rabbis and some of their congregants in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia are fasting on the third Thursday of every month in an effort to shake the conscience of the American Jewish community about what they see as the inhuman blockade by Israel of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The group is called Jewish Fast For Gaza, and it has been gathering steam since its creation in mid-July.

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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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High Court rejects Gaza war crimes case

July 28, 2009
Morning Star Online/UK, Monday 27 July 2009
A Palestinian boy holds up a Hamas flag on a destroyed house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza

A Palestinian boy holds up a Hamas flag on a destroyed house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza

The High Court has thrown out a legal bid by a Palestinian human rights group to hold the British government to account for its “complicity” in Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Ramallah-based Al-Haq accused the government of failing in its international legal obligations to stop “aid and trade” with Israel, including supplying arms, following Israeli incursions into Gaza in December and January which led to the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians.

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The Two-state Solution, Israeli-style

July 10, 2009

Charity, checkpoints and client rulers

By Jonathan Cook in Ramallah | Information Clearing House, July 9, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has been much criticised in Israel, as well as abroad, for failing to present his own diplomatic initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to forestall US intervention.

Mr Netanyahu may have huffed and puffed before giving voice to the phrase “two states for two peoples” at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, but the contours of just such a Palestinian state — or states — have been emerging undisturbed for some time.

In fact, Mr Netanyahu appears every bit as committed as his predecessors to creating the facts of an Israeli-imposed two-state solution, one he and others in Israel’s leadership doubtless hope will eventually be adopted by the White House as the “pragmatic” — if far from ideal — option.

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Gaza: the world looks away

February 12, 2009

If the IDF and Hamas have breached the laws of war, they must be held to account, to set down a marker for future conflicts

On top of the dreadful casualties from Israel’s 22-day war in Gaza, we should add a further serious injury. It is longer-lasting and threatens the lives and wellbeing of very many people in the future. In the Israel/Palestine conflict, we are seeing a terrible undermining of international law and the principle that armies should adhere to minimum standards of humane behaviour, even during the heat of battle.

If they fall below this minimum, they should, according to the laws of war, be held responsible for their war crimes – first, by their own superiors or courts, but, if necessary, by other nations or international courts. This principle – of accountability, even in war – is now in a critical condition as the standards are being ignored by Gaza’s warring parties. Then, it’s being assailed afresh by pugnacious and irresponsible remarks from leaders in the region.

Both sides endangered civilian lives during the conflict, but obviously the behaviour of Israel was massively more destructive. There were reports from Amnesty International of Israeli Defence Forces units commandeering Palestinian homes, forcing families to remain in a ground-floor room while then using the property as a military operations point. In other words, Palestinian families were used as human shields or, at the very least, were exposed to quite unacceptable risk.

Hamas is also accused of using local civilians as human shields, but since this excuse was used for every Israeli attack on civilian targets, we must await objective reports on whether this allegation is true. Even more shockingly, evidence has been growing of the IDF’s use of white phosphorous shells in residential areas – a clear war crime in exposing civilians to horrendous deep-burn injuries that have shocked and bewildered burns unit doctors in Gaza’s overrun hospital wards. Moreover, as the new BBC Panorama programme on Gaza asks, was the colossal destruction of roads, houses, factories, farms and ordinary civilian infrastructure right across the Gaza Strip (creating what an Amnesty researcher called “total devastation“) an act of “wanton destruction” and therefore itself a war crime.

It is true that virtually every conflict has involved atrocious deeds and virtually every armed force, however professional, has lapsed into barbarity. Senior military figures and their apologists will regularly seek to excuse these actions as occurring in the “heat of the moment” or because of the “tremendous pressure of conflict”, but it is notable in the House of Commons that it was MPs with a military background who were most shocked by the use of white phosphorus.

It’s depressing but predictable that, as things stand, with little word from the UN security council, no one looks likely to be held responsible for the wiping out of hundreds of civilian lives in the three-week Gaza war. This abrogation of responsibility doesn’t just let down civilians in Israel and Palestine; it lets down people all over the world. And it is not just the Bush administration that won’t apply the Geneva convention in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UK and the EU are equally collusive in Israel’s grave breaches of international law and, as human rights lawyer Phil Shiner has pointed out, have taken no action to uphold the opinion of the International Court of Justice that held the route of the wall and the settlements a complete breach of the Geneva convention. The convention requires all high contracting parties (those who have signed and ratified it) to take action to enforce it. The UK and the EU have taken no such action and, instead, plan to upgrade the EU relationship with Israel, which already extends privileged trade access in a treaty containing conditionalities on human rights which are not invoked. By failing to uphold these standards in the occupied territories, our governments are undermining the whole structure of international law.

Adding further insult to international law in the aftermath of Israel’s massive military campaign is the strident post-conflict tone. Prime minister Ehud Olmert has recently threatened a “disproportionate” response to continuing Palestinian rocket attacks – precisely what international humanitarian law forbids and what Israel already stands accused of having engaged in.

The international criminal court’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo recently confirmed that he is assessing whether the court has jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Gaza. But, in fact, the right way forward is for the security council to fulfil the role envisaged for it when the international criminal court was set up. It was anticipated that some international crimes would not be dealt with when the suspects were from states not party to the Rome Statute.

Instead of establishing ad hoc tribunals, as in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, it was provided that the security council should have power to refer cases to the ICC. This was done in the case of Darfur and surely should be done in the case of Gaza.

Last November, I saw for myself the damage wrought by Israel’s 19-month blockade of Gaza, and with this battered territory now a scene of almost biblical destruction, of course I understand that humanitarian aid and reconstruction are a priority.

However, the UN security council shouldn’t turn a blind eye to wanton destruction and war crimes either. ICC cases against Israel and Hamas will prove explosive, but it’s my firm belief that it will also set down a marker for future conflict in the Middle East, as well as more widely in the world – from Sri Lanka to Burma to Zimbabwe.


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