Posts Tagged ‘Israeli war crimes’

Goldstone and Finkelstein tell it like it is

May 4, 2010
Morning Star Online, Monday 03 May 2010

By Ramzy Baroud

His language showed that he was aware that the former is an occupying power with sophisticated weapons and the latter a besieged, occupied faction in a state of self-defence.

Although Goldstone must have been aware of the hysteria his report would generate, he still did not allow ideological or ethnic affiliation to stand between him and his moral convictions.

In April 2009 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Goldstone to lead the mission of investigating war crimes committed by Israel in the devastating war in Gaza between December 27 2008 and January 18 2009.

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Mubarak’s Iron Wall

January 17, 2010
Jeremy Salt, The Palestine Chronicle, Jan. 17, 2010
Mubarak is a rented president for the US and Israel, not for his own people.

Early in the 20th century the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote of the ‘iron wall’ that would have to be built between the settlers and the indigenous people of Palestine, whom he knew would resist the attempt to take their land to the end. What he meant by an ‘iron wall’ was the force the Zionists would have to use to subdue the Palestinians if they were to take their land. He did not actually mean a wall according to the dictionary definition of such a structure but that is what has now been built across the West Bank to pen the Palestinians up like the wild animals the Israeli historian Benny Morris says they are.

Indeed, the Palestinians have been ghettoised by a variety of walls and ‘fences’. There is the monstrous ‘separation ‘ wall weaving in and out of the rapidly disappearing ‘green line’ separating Palestinian land which had been occupied before the 1967 war from that which was occupied during it. The Gazans live in what has been described as the world’s largest open air prison. It could also be likened to a game reserve. Every season is open season and no weapon is banned. The Gazans are enclosed by the sea on one side, patrolled by the Israeli navy so that that fishing boats cannot get out and relief boats cannot get in. They face an Israeli fence on two other sides and a  concrete barrier on the border with Egypt. This is now being reinforced  by Husni Mubarak’s ‘iron wall’ of steel plates driven deep underground, destroying the tunnels through which Gazans have been supplied with desperately needed  food, fuel and medicine.

Choked since the beginning of the blockade in 2006, the Gazans are now to be throttled by international decree. This is the crime being committed by Israel, the US and Egypt, with the ‘international community’ lining up behind them with expressions of understanding of the need for the Gazans to be punished. Their torment is one of the great scandals of our age. They have been locked up in the strip for the past sixty years. They have been massacred and bombarded from the beginning.

People forget if they ever knew that the majority of Gazans are not native to this part of Palestine. They were driven there by Zionist militias in 1948. The attacks on civilians ordered by David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s and the massacres organised by Ariel Sharon in the 1970s lie buried under the weight of more murderous attacks. In the last two decades the Gazans (and Palestinians elsewhere) have been subjected to ‘targeted assassinations’ (i.e. premeditated murder by a state) and the destruction by land, sea and air of schools, apartment blocks and government buildings. The killing of children reached its apogee (or should we assume worse is yet to come?) during the onslaught of December 2009-January 2010 when more than 400 were killed, blown to bits in artillery and air assaults and shot dead by snipers.  These children had to die so Ehud Olmert could prove he was a tough guy. They had to die because the blockade imposed in 2006 after the election of the Hamas government had not brought the Palestinians to their knees.

The ‘international community’ does not mean you or me. It means Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and numerous other politicians lining up to defend Israel no matter what it does. They could understand why Israel had to attack Gaza in 2008. It was all those tunnels and all those rocket attacks that were the source of the problem and not 60 years of occupation. They could understand why Israel had to attack Lebanon in 2006, killing about the same number of people as they killed in Gaza three years later, although one or two of the fainthearted may have murmured ‘disproportionate’ as the newspapers published photographs of the bodies of children being lifted out of destroyed buildings. They are so understanding of Israel that Gordon Brown is promising to protect Israeli government ministers and military commanders from war crimes prosecution by changing the law. They are so understanding of Israel that the US Congress is going to close down Arab media outlets Israel does not like. They are so understanding of Israel that they can perfectly understand why it might have to launch air attacks on active nuclear installations in Iran. They are so understanding of Israel that they think the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes (including the bombing of UN buildings and Gaza’s main hospital) and crimes against humanity in Gaza is unbalanced and unfair.

They don’t understand why the Gazans are firing home-made missiles into Israel in response to massacres, targeted assassination and the destruction of infrastructure including sewage and water works. They are appalled. ‘Violence is not the way’. They say it all the time. The phrase rolls off Tony Blair’s tongue like softened honey. Violence is not the way unless it is Israeli violence, or their own violence, delivered daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Yemen coming up as a new target in their ‘war on terrorism’. This violence does not appeal them all.  Of course they are shocked by the war dead, but the war dead are their soldiers who have been killed and not the vast number of civilians killed by the war machine of which these soldiers are part. The ‘deaths’ of hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries in the last two decades is merely tragic or unfortunate. The torture of others, or their removal to third world countries so they can be tortured there is something they simply don’t talk about.

Now we have Mubarak’s steel wall. The ‘international community’ understands why it has to be built. Israel is facing an existential threat from these tunnels.  If the Gazans behave, if they hand back their captured Israeli soldier, if they accept Israel’s ‘right’ to exist on their stolen land,  if they accept that they have no right to go back to it, if they accept whatever demand Israeli makes,  if they accept that Israel has the right to attack and they have no right to defend themselves, with the paltry weapons they have, then of course the blockade will be lifted and they can have a bit more food and medicine depending on how they behave themselves.  Along with the steel wall shutting off the Palestinians is another wall Israel is going to build with Egypt’s consent along the Auja pocket, formerly a demilitarized zone seized by Israel decades ago.

Mubarak is not Egypt. The will of the country is not represented in his parliament and his government. He is a rented president, a president for the US and Israel, not for his own people. He is as much an extension of the US government as the company known as Blackwater until the murder of civilians by its contractors in Iraq caused such a scandal that it had to change its name. Mubarak is a contractor. He helps to run the Middle East for the US.  Egypt is his responsibility and those who would get in his way, Muslim activist or secular liberal, he crushes.

Were fair elections to be held in Egypt, Mubarak and his National Democratic Party would be finished. On the question of Palestine, whatever their other differences, there is no difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition parties and movements. Outside the ranks of Mubarak’s party there is no support for the actions he has taken, including his recent prevention of the Viva  Palestina convoy from delivering aid to Gaza.  The Egyptian people are with the Palestinians and amongst them there is a deep sense of shame at what Mubarak is doing. This is the country of the revolution of 1952, the staunch defender of the Palestinians, of the Third World struggle against imperialism and colonialism, turned into a humiliating dish rag by the west’s satrap in the presidential palace in Cairo.

– Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to

Why Support for Palestine Ebbs

November 19, 2009

Rami Khouri, Agence Global, Nov 18, 2009

CAIRO — The atmosphere in Cairo this week tells us much about the contemporary Arab world’s view of the Palestine cause in relation to domestic issues in every Arab country. Ordinary Arabs and their governments alike seem fed up with the incompetence of the Palestinian leadership, while remaining strongly committed emotionally to the justice and rights of the Palestinian cause.

Fittingly, it’s emotionally satisfying for Palestinians, but not very promising politically.

The contrast is vividly reflected this week in the national frenzy over the Egyptian football team’s World Cup qualifying playoff match against Algeria in Sudan, in contrast with little attention being paid to the condition of the Palestinians. Years ago, thousands would have marched in the streets of Cairo to express support for Palestinians against Israel’s occupation and colonization policies. Today, it is a sign of the times that the Egyptian border with southern Gaza remains firmly locked. The Palestinian threat to seek support for an independent state at the UN Security Council receives only passing attention, while the authorities are busy organizing an airbridge to send supporters to cheer on their Egyptian national football team in Khartoum.

In many ways it is hard to criticize the Egyptians, who broke away from the Arab pack three decades ago and signed their separate peace agreement with Israel — to be followed 15 years later by the Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement, after the Palestinians tried to negotiate a permanent peace settlement with Israel via the Oslo agreements. That attempt failed, for many reasons, the primary ones being the Israeli lack of seriousness about an end to colonization of Palestinian land, insistence on annexing much of Jerusalem, and refusing to deal with the Palestinian refugees seriously, while on the Palestinian side the use of suicide bombs against Israelis added a fatal blow to the negotiations.

Many attempts to negotiate comprehensive peace in the last three decades have failed, and each time the Israelis and Palestinians fall back on the same rhetorical positions: Israel says it is prepared to discuss peace arrangements without preconditions (its colonization and strangulation of Palestinian land and society being set aside, presumably, as a non-reality), while the Palestinians accuse Israel of not being serious about negotiating peace. Because Israel is militarily stronger and in control of daily life arteries for Palestinians — like entry and exit points, water, food, electricity and fuel — it tends to define conditions on the ground. The Palestinian leadership, for its part, appeals to the world’s conscience and respect for international law, but with little impact, and even less credibility.

The world has slowly tired of the Palestinians in their current political mode, and focused on other issues, because the prospects of a negotiated Arab-Israeli peace seem slim, as diplomatic attempts to reach a full peace have repeatedly confirmed in the last three decades. It is no wonder that Egypt became weary with this and went its own way. Now it cheers enthusiastically and naturally for its national football team, while keeping the gates to southern Gaza firmly shut.

The astounding thing is that the Palestinian leadership over the years has not woken up to the fact that however just and powerful is the cause of Palestine, it is not an inexhaustible well of emotional and political support from others in the Arab region or abroad. We are likely to witness this demonstrated again in the Arab and international shrug of the shoulders in response to the latest Palestinian idea of seeking Security Council recognition for the political fact and formal borders of a Palestinian state. It is hard to imagine a more unrealistic and fanciful idea than this, given that Israel controls the actual land where the borders should be drawn, and the United States — with its veto — controls the decision-making capacity of the Security Council.

It would have been much more productive for the Palestinian leadership to go to the UN and fight for adoption of the Goldstone Report on the atrocities committed mostly by Israel during the Gaza war last year. Having flip-flopped on the Goldstone Report and now threatening to make a meaningless approach to another UN body, the current Palestinian leadership persists in its legacy of living in a dream world. It is deeply detached from its own — and fellow Arab — people who should be its core support. It is also totally disrespected by the Israeli government, and largely ignored by the rest of the world.

This prevails at a time when Israeli war crimes and colonization continue unabated, but are marginalized politically because of the incompetence of the Palestinian leadership. No wonder more and more Arabs and others turn away from the Palestine issue, and give it only perfunctory rhetorical support without making more costly political moves to oppose Israeli policies or help the Palestinians. Israeli national criminality and Palestinian political incompetence are a deadly combination.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Barack Obama and the Failure of the Peace Process

November 15, 2009

Stella Dallas, Dissident Voice, Nov. 14, 2009

Among the most prominent of President Obama’s hope-based initiatives was his promise to re-frame America’s approach to the conflict in Palestine, epitomized in his June 2007 speech in Cairo, where Obama called for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims”, a new dawn based on equality and mutual respect rather than the vestiges of a “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities” to Muslim majorities held prisoner to proxy regimes without regard to the legitimate aspirations of their people. The speech was welcomed by tens of millions of people all over the world willing to believe, despite mountains of historical evidence to the contrary, that America had finally resolved to remake itself as a facilitator rather than an obstacle to justice for the occupied and abused people of Palestine, and by implication, for the poor and dispossessed throughout the Muslim world.

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Obama, US media ignore Palestinian suffering

October 12, 2009

John S. Hancock, Concord Monitor, Oct 12, 2009

The United Nations reports that the lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are children, remain seriously threatened by severe shortages of essential supplies of food, drinkable water and medicine because of Israel’s devastating blockade. President Jimmy Carter who recently visited Gaza said that the Israelis are perpetrating a “terrible human rights crime” in Gaza.

Israel, despite the nearly total cessation of Qassam rocketfire, sadistically refuses to even ease its illegal and immoral blockade of Gaza. The Obama administration has, inexcusably, taken no action over the past eight months toward alleviating the plight of Gaza’s people. In fact, President Obama is effectively protecting suspected Israeli war criminals by preventing the United Nation’s Goldstone Report from being referred to the World Criminal Court.

The Goldstone Report and other investigations exposed extensive Israeli war crimes committed against a defenseless civilian population in Gaza during Israel’s invasion last December and January. Obama’s promise made before the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23 that “the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated” apparently doesn’t apply when Palestinians are murdered by Israeli soldiers.

The American media’s abysmal coverage of what’s occurred in Gaza and on the West Bank under Israel’s unjust occupation is indicative of both anti-Arab racism and a complete lack of journalistic integrity. The Monitor’s own silence regarding these crucial issues and events of worldwide importance is mystifying. Whatever happened to its professed concern with “saving the children of war in Gaza?”

Pressure mounts on Abbas to quit

October 6, 2009

Al Jazeera, Oct 6, 2009

Many Palestinians have protested against the delay in endorsing the Goldstone report [AFP]

A senior member of Hamas has demanded that the Palestinian president resign for supporting the postponement of a UN vote which could have led to the prosecution of Israel for war crimes during its campaign in Gaza.

Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al Jazeera that Mahmoud Abbas was guilty of “a very big crime against the Palestinian people” over the Palestinian Authority’s support to defer endorsing the report, which was highly critical of Israel’s conduct during the Gaza war.

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Abbas U-turn on war crimes report

October 5, 2009
Morning Star Online, Oct 4, 2009

U-TURN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas faced growing outrage at home on Sunday over his decision to withdraw support for a United Nations report that accused Israel of committing war crimes in last winter’s Gaza war.

Mr Abbas’s U-turn is the result of intense US pressure, Palestinian officials said.

The report, by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, will now lie dormant for at least six months rather than be sent to the UN general assembly with possible recommendations for action.

Israel, which denies the war crimes allegations, has warned that dealing with the Goldstone report now would derail peace efforts.

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Hamas: don’t renounce capital

September 22, 2009
Morning Star Online, September 21,  2009
by Tom Mellen
WARNING: Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh

WARNING: Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh has warned Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials not to “renounce Jerusalem or the refugees” during Tuesday’s three-way meeting with the presidents of Israel and the US.

Speaking on Sunday at a ceremony in a Gaza City stadium marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Mr Haniyeh said: “No-one has the right to give up on Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees. From Gaza, from a place of strength, we say we will not relinquish our rights.”

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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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Israel will back troops accused of war crimes

January 26, 2009

The Independent, UK, Monday, 26 January 2009

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International calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip prompted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution yesterday.

“The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the Gaza operation,” Olmert said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said after meeting counterparts from the European Union, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan in Brussels that Olmert’s comments should not preclude action against Israeli military figures.

“It does not mean there is an immunity against legal actions…More of such efforts will be seen also in the near future.”

Last week, the military censor ordered local and foreign media in Israel not to publish names of army commanders in the Gaza war and to blur their faces in photos and video for fear they could be identified and arrested while travelling abroad.

Israeli media reports said the military had been advising its top brass to think twice about visiting Europe.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel’s justice minister would consult the country’s top legal experts and find “answers to possible questions relating to the Israeli military’s activities” during the 22-day war.

Some 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, were killed, medical officials said, in the offensive Israel launched in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks.

The civilian deaths sparked public outcry abroad and prompted senior UN officials to demand independent investigations into whether Israel committed war crimes.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by rocket salvoes, were killed in the conflict.

Israel said hundreds of militants were among the Palestinian dead and that it tried its best to avoid civilian casualties in densely populated areas where gunmen operated.

Rights group Amnesty International has said that Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions — which can cause extreme burns — in built-up areas of the Gaza Strip was indiscriminate and therefore constituted a war crime.

Israel has said it used all weapons in Gaza within the limits of international law. Its military, however, has opened an investigation into white phosphorous use during the conflict.

US Envoy

In a quick start to efforts by US President Barack Obama’s new administration to shore up a shaky Gaza truce and revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, his envoy, former US Sen. George Mitchell, is expected in Israel on Wednesday.

He plans to visit the occupied West Bank, Egypt and Jordan. A Western diplomat said Syria was not currently on his schedule.

Palestinians have lobbied for a tougher international response to Israel’s military crackdowns. Yet legal frameworks are problematic.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction to investigate in the Gaza Strip, as it is not a state. Though the Palestinian Authority has been functioning as an interim sovereign polity since 1993, it was forced out of Gaza last year by Hamas after the Islamists won an election.

And while Israel has not signed the Rome Statute that enshrined the ICC, it can still be investigated, but that would require a UN Security Council mandate. Any such proposal would probably be vetoed by Israel’s ally, the United States.

Some European nations allow for war crimes lawsuits to be filed privately against members of Israel’s security services.

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