Posts Tagged ‘Israeli government’

Winners and Losers in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock

April 9, 2010

Immanuel Wallerstein, Commentary No. 278, April 1, 2010

Anyone who thinks there is going to be any significant change in the status quo in Israel/Palestine is suffering from multiple delusions. The Israeli government is dead set against the creation of a Palestinian state, even a weak Palestinian state, and this view has the support of a very large majority of the Israeli Jews. The Palestinian leaders are more divided. But even the most accommodating are not willing even to consider anything less than a state based on the 1967 frontiers, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The rest of the world cannot budge either side. This is called deadlock.

The question is who gains and who loses by deadlock? The Israeli political elite seem convinced that they will gain. There is a very large group who are so resolutely irredentist that they would consider a peace agreement a veritable disaster. The Israelis have always thought that if they dug in their heels, eventually the rest of the world (including even the Arab Palestinians) would yield to what they call “realities on the ground.”

Continues >>

Advertisements

War Criminals Are Becoming The Arbiters Of Law

October 13, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Oct 12, 2009

The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by “all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report”:

“This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We’re entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.

“That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.

“And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as ‘disproportionate.’

“We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.

“Deliberately.

“Why? Because we’re better than them. Because we’re a democracy and they’re a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they’re out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.

“The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.”

A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.

This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works:

It is anti-semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has “moral clarity.”

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel’s military assault on Gaza contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated.” A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to the Hague for trial as war criminals.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“London,” declared the Israeli government, “could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report].”

Once the DOJ’s hate crime unit us up and running, “self-hating Jews,” such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-semitic hate crimes in US courts.

International Movements Breaking the Siege on Gaza

July 29, 2009
by Suzanne Morrison | CommonDreams.org, July 28, 2009

Since June 2007 the Israeli government has imposed almost complete closure over the Gaza Strip. The siege prevents nearly all movement of people or goods to and from the coastal region with only minimal amounts of humanitarian provisions inconsistently allowed in. With the exception of a small amount of carnations allowed out earlier this year, there has been a virtual ban on all exports from Gaza since 2007. [1] A quick socio-economic glimpse of Gaza includes agricultural losses totaling US $30 million and more than 40,000 jobs for the 2007/2008 season, the suspension of 98% of industrial operations, and more than 80% of Gaza’s population is now dependent on humanitarian aid from international aid providing agencies. [2]

Closure of Gaza and the West Bank has intermittently been imposed since 1991. While Israel prevents movement and access in the name of temporary security measures, the regularity and extent of these mechanisms, particularly since the Oslo process, represents an institutionalized policy of closure. Israel’s current siege on Gaza reflects an unprecedented and severe application of the closure policy. In the past year internationals have tried to break the siege on Gaza by bringing critical medical supplies and other humanitarian goods into Gaza.

Continues >>

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

Call From Gaza

April 14, 2009

Hiyam Noir | uruknet.info, April 13, 2009

18-palestinian.jpg

Please forward widely….

Dear Everyone:

Please take a few minutes to read the call-out below from a broad Gaza-based prisoner solidarity campaign made up of a coalition of prisoner rights groups, local and international activists, prisoner families and Ministry of Detainees representatives in Gaza.

Friday April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Just over 11,000 are behind bars in occupation prisons inside the apartheid lines and outside the ghetto walls of the West Bank and Gaza.

Prisoners are a community under siege which represents every faction in Palestine. Solidarity between prisoners inside Israeli jails crosses all political borders. They have sacrificed their individual freedom for collective freedom.

From taking direct action to symbolic gestures (in the case if prisoner campaigns, simple visual solidarity gestures drawing public attention to the struggle of prisoners is always effective in keeping memories, spirit and solidarity alive). Please take action this week! And email us about it…
April 17th is the international day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. These over 11,000 men, women and children are ghost prisoners, forgotten by the international community and media which has focused on the systematic and physical psychological torture of prisoners in high profile camps such as Guantanamo Bay but has largely ignored the network of Israel’s ‘Guantanamos’ inside ‘Israel’.

This call comes from Gaza – recognized as a large open air prison and place of punishment and exile for Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank.

Maximum security facilities such as Nufha, Haderim, Jalamy, and Ashkalon , and so-called ‘black sites’ which the Israeli government refuses to acknowledge, hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners. These prisoners are regularly and systematically tortured, denied access to legal representation, family visits, education, shelter, light, essential medical care and medicines.

The ‘Israeli state’ has a policy of administrative detention which means any man, woman or child can be arrested at any time and in any place and incarcerated without trial or access to any alleged evidence held by the intelligence services, for an undetermined and extendable length of time.

The majority of Palestinian men has been and will be arrested and incarcerated at some point in their lives by Israeli occupation forces. Under the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which Israel is a signatory to, Palestinian prisoners should be treated by the occupying forces under the rules applicable to the treatment of civilians in time of war.

Almost all the Palestinian detainees are held in jails away from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip, in violation of international humanitarian law, which bars the removal of detainees to the territory of the occupying power. The ‘Israeli’ military and security forces regularly violate international law and conventions relating to prisoners.

Imprisonment and torture is an intergenerational experience for Palestinians living in Gaza, 1948 Palestine (‘Israel’) and the West Bank.

Imprisonment is a core element of the Israeli occupation’s strategy of collective containment and punishment of the Palestinian population – both of those jailed, and their families who suffer their absence and wait for their release. Military resistance fighters, as well as non-militarily active political activists, community organizers, paramedics, doctors, journalists, teachers, and students are regularly jailed under an Israeli legal framework which criminalizes any form of resistance to occupation

The inhumane prison conditions that Palestinian prisoners endure are steadily deteriorating. Following the Gaza massacres, the collective punishment of prisoners from Gaza has accelerated, with prisoners being denied the right to newspapers, radios, phone calls and visits from legal representatives. Gazan prisoners are now being confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day and are being classified as “enemy combatants” further stripping away any rights to legal defense.

Palestinian prisoners are a forgotten community behind bars, often locally referred to as ‘living martyrs’. The prisoner issue is a core part of the Palestinian struggle, whose liberation is as integral to the struggle for justice and peace as the return of refugees, Jerusalem and stolen land.

In Gaza we will be holding a week of activities in solidarity including a marathon through the streets of Gaza in solidarity with our jailed loved ones, a conference of all prisoner advocacy organizations and prisoners’ families, a mass demonstration and a celebration of Palestinian resilience, sacrifice and patience.

In the light of ‘Israel’s’ further shift to the far right, unchallenged impunity, and the intensified humiliation of Palestinian prisoners, we call on the international community to take a stand.

We call for an end to double standards and for international pressure to force ‘Israel’ to adhere to international law.

We call on national representatives, parliamentarians, human rights organizations, trade unions, activists and people of conscience throughout the world to recognize, remember, speak out and protest the treatment of Palestinian prisoners this week.

We hope this week will be the catalyst that sparks long-term campaigns and commitments towards solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

Ahmed A. Alnajjar

Director of International Relations Office

Ministry of Education & Higher Education- Gaza

April 12 2009

Doctors to reopen Yasser Arafat death investigation

April 3, 2009

Arab doctors to review information about ‘strange death’ of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat


Arab doctors are to investigate the death of the former Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, re-opening a four-year-old case which is still the subject of suspicion, conspiracy theories and political accusations.

Doctors from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories have been given the task of reviewing information about the former president’s demise.

Arafat’s death in November 2004 in a military hospital near Paris triggered immediate rumours that he had been poisoned. French doctors said the 75-year-old died from a “massive brain haemorrhage” but could not explain what had prompted it. At the time, Arafat’s widow refused to allow an autopsy.

“The investigations carried out so far didn’t reach the point at which they could say conclusively what happened,” said Mansour Tahboub at the Yasser Arafat foundation, set up last year to preserve the former president’s legacy, and which commissioned the Amman investigation. “All we know is that there is something strange about his death.”

The panel had been expected to meet as early as today in the Jordanian capital, Amman, but the exact timing of the meeting remains unclear, with the head of the committee, Jordanian heart surgeon Abdullah al-Bashir saying it had been postponed.

Tahboub said the decision to re-examine the evidence was not political. “We want to give Palestinians new facts,” he said.

Accusations have been routinely directed at the Israeli government which saw Arafat as an obstacle to peace, putting him under house arrest in Ramallah and allegedly talking of eliminating him. Israel has strongly denied any involvement in his death.

Other rumours suggest the Palestinian president had Aids or that his death was caused by a fatal infection.

Arafat became ill in October 2004 and was flown from his Ramallah headquarters to France. He died a few weeks later, having dedicated 40 years to the Palestinian liberation movement.

The former president is seen as a national hero and was the first to give the Palestinian cause a legitimate voice on the world stage. His photograph still adorns homes, offices and public buildings in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU

March 7, 2009

• Government accused of damaging peace prospects

• Confidential report attacks ‘illegal’ house demolitions

House Demolitions in East Jerusalem

40-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Abbasi stands amid the rubble of his home after it was demolished by the Jerusalem municipality in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Photograph: Gali Tibbon

A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of “actively pursuing the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem.

The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks. “Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making,” says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: “Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications.”

“Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ – including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions – increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank,” the report says.

The document has emerged at a time of mounting concern over Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished on Monday just before the arrival of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and a further 88 are scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits. Clinton described the demolitions as “unhelpful”, noting that they violated Israel’s obligations under the US “road map” for peace.

The EU report goes further, saying that the demolitions are “illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects, and fuel bitterness and extremism.” The EU raised its concern in a formal diplomatic representation on December 1, it says.

It notes that although Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city’s residents, only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas, leaving them with poor services and infrastructure.

Israel issues fewer than 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves only 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use. As a result many homes are built without Israeli permits. About 400 houses have been demolished since 2004 and a further 1,000 demolition orders have yet to be carried out, it said.

City officials dismissed criticisms of its housing policy as “a disinformation campaign”. “Mayor Nir Barkat continues to promote investments in infrastructure, construction and education in East Jerusalem, while at the same time upholding the law throughout West and East Jerusalem equally without bias,” the mayor’s office said after Clinton’s visit.

However, the EU says the fourth Geneva convention prevents an occupying power extending its jurisdiction to occupied territory. Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 six day war and later annexed it. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The EU says settlement are being built in the east of the city at a “rapid pace”. Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

The EU is particularly concerned about settlements inside the Old City, where there were plans to build a Jewish settlement of 35 housing units in the Muslim quarter, as well as expansion plans for Silwan, just outside the Old City walls.

The goal, it says, is to “create territorial contiguity” between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to “sever” East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank.

There are plans for 3,500 housing units, an industrial park, two police stations and other infrastructure in a controversial area known as E1, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, home to 31,000 settlers. Israeli measures in E1 were “one of the most significant challenges to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process”, the report says.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said conditions for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem were better than in the West Bank. “East Jerusalem residents are under Israeli law and they were offered full Israeli citizenship after that law was passed in 1967,” he said. “We are committed to the continued development of the city for the benefit of all its population.”

Robert Fisk on Gaza and the media

February 24, 2009

Reporting independently from the front lines of war is an increasingly rare engagement for journalists working for major international media outlets. From Iraq to Afghanistan, reporters are increasingly embedded with Western military forces, operating without independence.

When Israeli military forces launched an invasion into the Gaza Strip, international journalists were barred entry into the territory by the Israeli government for the majority of the conflict, despite a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court that called on the government to allow international reporters into the territory. Major international media outlets, including CNN and the BBC, ended up reporting from hilltops in Israeli-controlled territory kilometres away from the actual conflict.

British journalist Robert Fisk has offered fiercely independent accounts of conflicts throughout the Middle East for decades. Stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, Fisk reports for the UK-based Independent newspaper and is widely read around the world. Fisk spoke with community activist and journalist Stefan Christoff about the media response to the recent war on Gaza.

Stefan Christoff: Historical context is often not included in daily reporting on the Middle East. Could you offer some historical perspectives to the recent war in Gaza?

Robert Fisk: In 1948 when the Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes — 750,000 is the figure widely accepted — those in the north in the Galilee area of what became Israel fled into Lebanon, those in the Jerusalem area fled east toward what we now call the West Bank and those in the south fled into what we now call the Gaza Strip.

For example, in 2000, after the Israelis finished their final withdrawal after 22 years of occupation and went across the border back into Israel, many Palestinians in Lebanon went down to the border and looked across, not because they were looking at northern Israel but because they were looking at the northern part of Palestine as they had known it – some could actually see the villages that their parents or grandparents had come from in 1948.

So there is this whole Diaspora around the state of Israel who can’t go home because their home is on the other side of the border. This reality revolves around the whole issue of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the right of return, [which stipulates that] these Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes.

Well over half the people living in Gaza are families, either survivors or descendants of Palestinians who lived only 10 or 12 miles into what is today Israel. So when you hear the Israelis say the terrorists are firing rockets into Israel, the Palestinians in Gaza can say in many cases, ‘Well, my grandson is firing a rocket at my town because before 1948 these areas would have been Palestinian property.’

SC: Can you talk about your perceptions of media coverage on the latest war in Gaza?

RF: There were two things that happened. First, the international press allowed for their own humiliation: Israel told the press that they couldn’t go into Gaza and they didn’t really try to, so the press sat outside Gaza and pontificated from two miles away. Israel wanted to keep the international press out of Gaza and they were kept out, that was that.

It is instructive to note that no major Western media outlet had a reporter based inside Gaza who would have been there when it started. Clearly, after the kidnapping of a BBC reporter, who was based in Gaza, it is not surprising that the international news agencies were hesitant to base reporters there. However, it is also instructive to note that it was the Hamas government that had the BBC reporter released, which is not often mentioned now.

SC: So what kind of more widespread effect did the reporters who were left in Gaza have on Western media?

RF: Faced with the fact that the only journalists left inside Gaza were Palestinian reporters, the major networks were forced to hand over their reporting to Palestinian Arabs, who in many cases were refugees inside Gaza. This meant that you had Palestinian reporters on the ground talking about their own people, unencumbered by Western reporters cross-questioning them or trying to put 50 per cent of the story on one side and 50 per cent of the story on the other side.

Al Jazeera came out as the heroes of journalism because they had their international service, their English service and also their Arabic service fully operational from offices inside Gaza. Individual Palestinians working for Western news organizations showed that they could be competent journalists, and the Western journalists who sat outside Gaza looked as pathetic as their reporting on the Middle East is becoming.

Palestinian reporters were telling their own stories, in the case of [the Independent‘s] Palestinian reporter inside Gaza, his father was killed in an air strike, his father, who was a pro-Palestinian Authority, English-speaking, well-educated judge, was killed in his orchard. So the Independent had on our front page this terrible and tragic story of this innocent man destroyed, atomized into pieces of flesh by an Israeli air strike on his orchard, a story reported by his own son in our newspaper.

So this was the kind of journalism from Palestine that we hadn’t seen in the major [Western] press, so there was an upside to the [international] press being banned from Gaza. However, the work of the international reporters was truly pathetic.

Stefan Christoff is a community organizer and journalist based in Montreal.

Israel and the white heat of justice

January 23, 2009

A political solution for Gaza must not preclude the investigation of war crimes, including Israel’s use of white phosphorus


<Link to this video

Amnesty International has now joined the United Nations and Human Rights Watch in accusing the Israeli government of breaking international law outlawing the use of white phosphorus shells in the middle of highly populated areas of Gaza. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has condemned Israeli attacks on UN humanitarian centres in Gaza as “outrageous” and has called for an independent, international inquiry.

Meanwhile a senior minister in the Israeli government has been quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that when the full extent of the destruction brought on Gaza becomes known “I will not be taking my holidays in Amsterdam”. This possibly “humorous” observation referred to the possibility that leaders of the Israeli government may yet be arraigned before the International Criminal Court in The Hague – or a similar tribunal – to answer charges of war crimes.

Indeed some 300 human rights organisations have already prepared an initial 37-page dossier to be presented to the court. At the same time, in a move which could be equally damaging to the international standing of the Israeli government, a number of United Nations humanitarian agencies have insisted that there must be an independent, internationally approved, legal inquiry into the prima facie evidence of crimes committed. It is clear now that Israeli shelling and missile attacks – including those on UN facilities used as shelters for civilians during the war – have taken many hundreds of innocent civilian lives.

There is one obvious problem with taking steps to ensure that those responsible for the horrific massacres of civilians in Gaza are held accountable for their actions: Israel is not a member state of the ICC. The initial reaction of the ICC has been that it is therefore not open to the court to examine these charges. According to some senior French jurists, however, it should still be possible for the ICC to pursue named individuals for alleged crimes committed in Gaza.

There is also a precedent for the ICC to be asked by the United Nations to conduct such a trial – namely the current hearings into crimes against humanity allegedly committed by forces under the control of the government of Sudan in Darfur. It may be possible for the UN to establish a specific war crimes tribunal to hear the charges arising out of the actions of the Israeli forces in Gaza. After all, something very similar happened after the atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwanda genocide.

The Israeli government has denied that it was responsible for any war crimes committed during the course of its three-week campaign in Gaza. Interestingly, however, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert has expressed “remorse” for what happened to the civilian population of Gaza. One obvious question is: what does he feel guilty about? Some Israelis may also argue that Hamas has also committed crimes worthy of international condemnation. But, of course, it open to them to present such a legal dossier to the ICC authorities in the Netherlands.

Obviously, a UN mandate for a legal inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes would only come about if the Obama administration decides not to use its veto in the UN Security Council. But by allowing a legal investigation to proceed, the US would send the clearest possible signal that it intends to exercise far greater even-handedness between Israel and the Palestinians than it has ever done in the past. Moreover, the incoming administration is under growing pressure to sanction an inquiry into possible criminal action by the Bush administration in its use of torture.

No doubt, the British government, among others, will say that the priority of the international community must be to underpin the current ceasefire with a permanent peace agreement which provides for a two-state solution. But there is no reason why the push for a permanent agreement should exclude the rule of law from operating without inhibition. After all, this was the case in the former Yugoslavia.

According to Israeli opinion polls, the present coalition government is heading for defeat in the general election in three weeks’ time. The responsibility for negotiating a permanent peace settlement is likely to fall to an even more right-wing government, led by Binyamin Netanyahu.

That said, an inspiring feature of the feature of the worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s Gaza offensive has been the prominent role played by Jews and Jewish organisations in the protests. Organisations like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, along with a small but heroic opposition to the massacres in Israel itself. Israeli human rights activists have also now launched a website to identify alleged Israeli war criminals and assist their transfer to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

MIDEAST: A ‘Police State’ Celebrates

January 19, 2009

By Nora Barrows-Friedman | Inter Press Service

JERUSALEM, Jan 19 (IPS) – The Israeli government is stepping up efforts to suppress dissent and crush resistance in the streets. Police have been videotaping the demonstrations and subsequently arresting protesters in large numbers.

According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa, tells IPS that these demonstrations “are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza strip.”

As an organiser of many of these solidarity demonstrations inside Israel, Makhoul himself was arrested by the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret service). “They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours,” he tells IPS. “They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me.” Israel, he said, “has become a terror state.”

The Shin Bet has accused Makhoul and the hundreds of others arrested of “being a rebel, threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time.”

Makhoul believes that such threats are being implemented by Israel’s security forces “(in order to) break our will and the spirit of our people. But I think our spirit is much, much stronger here in Haifa and in Gaza than the Israeli oppression.”

On Jan. 15, a Haaretz-Dialog public opinion poll taken in Israel found that 82 percent of the Israeli population believes that Israel did not go too far in its three-week operation in Gaza, “despite pictures from Gaza depicting massive destruction and a large number of wounded and killed, including women and children,” reports Haaretz.

At a demonstration last week in front of Kishon prison north-east of Haifa, where some of the Palestinian demonstrators are being held, Israeli anarchist and professor of mathematics Kobi Snitz tells IPS that this figure is indicative of the current social climate inside the state.

“People are made to be afraid. Virtually all Israelis, particularly Israeli Jews, are convinced that Hamas was the one that violated the ceasefire. This just isn’t true…(But) you won’t find this in the Israeli media. There is no understanding of the level of violence used on Gaza by the Israeli military. And the police operate under the assumption and guidelines that every political expression now is to be repressed and prevented.”

IPS asked Snitz to describe the momentum of these daily protests across the country. “These demonstrations happened virtually by themselves,” he says. “At this point, anybody who is not severely indoctrinated or ignorant just feels compelled to do something every day. It’s unbearable to sit at home and not do anything.”

Last Saturday night in the coastal town of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, several thousand demonstrators – including Palestinians, various peace groups, Israeli anarchists and teenaged Israeli refusniks fresh from jail for refusing to serve in the mandatory military – marched through the main street in the old city with flags, banners, and vociferous determination to keep up the fight inside Israeli society against their government’s lethal operations in Gaza. Israeli security forces, carrying weapons and video cameras, heavily flanked the protesters.

But activists say it is crucial to expand the discussion from this current struggle for Palestinians inside the Gaza strip outward into the larger context. “I’m here to take a stand for Gaza,” Mahmood Jreri of the acclaimed Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, based in Lydd (east of Tel Aviv), tells IPS during the march.

“The main reason (I’m here) is to say that we are not part of what the Israeli government is doing. The Palestinian people are fighting for their freedom and fighting against the occupation. When Palestinians have their freedom, then there will be peace here.” (END/2009)


%d bloggers like this: