Posts Tagged ‘UN secretary general’

Israel defiant as world slams illegal settlements

November 18, 2009

Middle East Online, Nov. 18, 2009

Illegal Jewish settlers; armed, dangerous and radical

UN, US, UK, France slam Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territories.

TEL AVIV – Israel on Wednesday sought to fend off criticism of its approval of hundreds of new illegal units in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

“Freezing construction in Gilo is just like freezing construction… in any other neighbourhood in Jerusalem and Israel,” extremist Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry issued the approval on Tuesday, said.

He was referring to the illegal settlement in which the previous day Israel approved the addition of 900 new housing units, a move that drove another stake into already hobbled US-led efforts to restart negotiations that were suspended during the Israeli war on Gaza at the turn of the year.

“Construction in Jerusalem cannot be halted and Gilo is in Jerusalem,” Yishai said.

Gilo is one of a dozen Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Holy City.

France added its voice to the chorus of Western condemnation of the move.

“It is a decision that we regret,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Jerusalem hours before he was to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials in Jerusalem.

“We have to restart with the political discussions,” he said.

The move to approve the new units flew in the face of Palestinian calls for a complete freeze on new building ahead of fresh peace talks.

Washington was quick to say that it was “dismayed” at the decision.

“At a time when we are working to relaunch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Israeli news reports said that Netanyahu had rejected a request from his US ally to halt construction in Gilo, but it was not clear whether the request concerned the project approved on Tuesday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also slammed the move, saying it “undermined efforts for peace and cast doubt on the viability of the two-state solution.”

“The secretary-general deplores the government of Israel’s decision today to expand Gilo settlement, built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war,” Ban’s spokesman said.

Noting that the settlements illegal, Ban appealed to Israel to respect its commitments to cease all settlement activity under the Road Map, a blue print for peace between Israel and the Palestinians under a so-called two-state solution.

The approval is likely to further hamper Washington’s so-far futile efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, amid deep disagreements over the thorny issue of settlements.

Britain condemned Tuesday Israel’s green light for hundreds of new housing units, saying it made a peace deal more difficult.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband “has been very clear that a credible deal involves Jerusalem as a shared capital,” said a spokeswoman.

“Expanding settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem makes that deal much harder. So this decision is wrong and we oppose it,” added the Foreign Office spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Tuesday for Palestinians to “show that they control their own people” before seeking UN recognition of an independent state.

Abbas meanwhile said in Cairo on Tuesday that the plans to seek recognition of a Palestinian state have the backing of Arab countries and is not a “unilateral decision.”

The rival democratically elected Hamas movement said on Tuesday it was opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of the Israeli occupation.

Israel illegally occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.

Under international law, neither East nor West Jerusalem is considered Israel’s capital. Tel Aviv is recognised as Israel’s capital, pending a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

East Jerusalem is considered by the international community to be illegally occupied by Israel, in contravention of several binding UN Security Council Resolutions.

In these resolutions, the United Nations Security Council has also called for no measures to be taken to change the status of Jerusalem until a final settlement is reached between the sides.

Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an attempt to change this status, and is thus a violation of these Security Council resolutions.

All Jewish settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on Arab land (mainly Palestinian), illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

The settlers adhere to radical ideologies and are extremely violent to almost-defenceless Palestinians.

No Partner for Peace: Our American Problem

November 7, 2009

By Jeff Halper, ZNet, November 7, 2009
Source: MRZine

Jeff Halper’s ZSpace Page

It was as if some official, perhaps one of President Obama’s “czars,” like the Czar for Demolishing American Credibility, had orchestrated a systematic campaign to isolate the US from the rest of the world, make it a political laughingstock and, finally, render it a second-rate power capable of throwing around tremendous military weight but absolutely incapable of leading us to a better future.  The Israel-Palestine conflict, while not the world’s bloodiest, constitutes, for many people of the world, a unique gauge of American interests and intentions.  So consider the messages this string of actions sent out to the world:

Continues >>



Quartet urges settlement freeze

June 27, 2009
Al Jazeera,   June 27, 2009

Ban called on Israel to stop expanding settlements, including those increasing from ‘natural growth’ [AFP]

The international Quartet on Middle East peace has called on Israel to halt Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories and open border crossings as a first step to advance peace.

The Quartet, comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations, made the appeal on Friday in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste.

Continued >>

Ban Ki Moon gives in over Sri Lanka war

June 6, 2009

The Times/UK, June 6, 2009

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Image :1 of 2

Michael Evans and Catherine Philp

The UN Secretary-General caved in to demands to brief the Security Council on his trip to Sri Lanka yesterday after calls mounted for an international war crimes inquiry into the fighting this year.

Ban Ki Moon was to address the Security Council in a closed-door session last night after Russia and China failed to keep Sri Lanka off the council’s agenda.

The briefing came as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterated calls for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both sides and pledged the UN’s support for such an inquiry.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, angrily rejected allegations of wrongdoing after last week’s revelations in The Times that more than 20,000 civilians were believed to have died in the island’s so-called no-fire zone, most of them from Sri Lankan army shelling.

“Within the no-fire zone we never returned fire because we would never have taken that degree of chance for inflicting harm on civilians,” he told The Times on a visit to London yesterday. “Nothing could have provoked us to fire on civilians.”

Mr Bogollagama blamed all civilian deaths on Tamil Tiger rebels, upholding accounts by refugees who said that they were fired on by the rebels while fleeing, but discounting the same witnesses when they talked of deaths from government shelling. He strenuously maintained the Government’s line that not one single civilian died as a result of army action.

Last month the UN calculated that the civilian death toll was more than 7,000 by the end of April, a figure that was passed on to foreign missions, including Britain and the US. UN sources in Colombo later told The Times that the final toll was probably more than 20,000.

Mr Bogollagama dismissed both sets of figures, claiming that the UN had “apologised to the Sri Lankan Government” for releasing figures that “create a hype so that the international community would intervene”.

Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told The Times this week that the civilian toll was “unacceptably high” and urged Sri Lanka to launch a proper investigation.Sri Lanka has refused to allow free access to camps where 270,000 Tamils are interned until it has finished screening those held there for links to the Tamil Tigers.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona, warned yesterday that the screening process could be lengthy, saying that it was “quite likely” that even many elderly people were “with the LTTE [the Tamil Tigers], at least mentally”. The Government said yesterday that a group of government doctors who worked in the no-fire zone would be investigated on charges of collaborating with the rebels for relating news of civilian casualties to the media.

During the final phase of the war, the doctors reported on thousands killed in government shelling, including at a makeshift hospital.

The doctors were arrested as they fled the zone with thousands of Tamil civilians in the last day of the offensive and have been in detention since. The United States has said that they “helped save many lives” while the UN called them “heroic”.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, the country’s Human Rights Minister, told the BBC the doctors would be brought to trial next year. “I don’t know what the investigations would reveal but maybe they were even part of that whole conspiracy to put forward this notion that government forces were shelling and targeting hospitals and indiscriminately targeting civilians,” he said.

Mr Holmes said that the Government’s aggressive posture raised legitimate fears about their commitment to reconciliation with the Tamil community.

UN retreats after Israel hits out at Gaza report

May 6, 2009

Secretary General rejects further investigation into ‘reckless’ military offensive

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

The Independent, UK,  May 6, 2009

Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel


Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon bowed to pressure from Israel yesterday by trying to limit the impact of a comprehensive critique accusing its military of “recklessness or negligence” in this year’s Gaza offensive.

The official UN report – which Mr Ban himself commissioned – criticised the Israel Defence Forces for breaching the inviolability of UN premises, causing deaths, injuries and damage in seven incidents involving UN installations, and on occasions issuing untrue statements about what had happened.

But in a covering letter attached to his own 27-page summary of the report, leaked last night, the secretary-general bluntly rejected its recommendations for further investigations into whether Israel had breached international law during the offensive, including by its use of white phosphorus.

Mr Ban’s efforts to draw a line under the report – compiled by a UN board of inquiry headed by Ian Martin, the British former head of Amnesty and UN envoy to East Timor – followed an intensive diplomatic effort by Israel to minimise the damage of its findings.

The report says that the IDF was “involved in varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to 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 incidents examined in depth by the inquiry include the mortar attack on 6 January which killed up to 40 civilians outside a UN school in Jabalya being used as a shelter, and the devastating white phosphorus assault on the UN’s field office compound on 15 January which caused extensive damage.

In both cases, says Mr Ban’s summary, the UN is seeking “formal acknowledgement” by the government of Israel that its public statements claiming that Palestinian militants fired from the installations, were “untrue and regretted”. The report also recommends pressing Israel for compensation for the families of dead and injured UN personnel in the attacks.

The report says that the co-ordinates of the Jabalya school had been given to the IDF and that it had been notified of its planned use as a shelter even before Operation Cast Lead began. It notes that at the time of the rport’s drafting a claim that Hamas militants had fired mortars from within the compound and that the school was booby trapped was still on the Israeli foreign ministry website. It adds: “The Board found that there was no fire from within the compound and no explosives within the school.”

The report effectively accuses Israeli forces of repeatedly breaching the principle that “UN personnel and all civilians within UN premises, as well as civilians in the immediate vicinity of those premises, are to be protected in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law”.

The report also says that the deaths of two children and the injuries caused to 13 other civilians at another UN school used as an improvised shelter on 17 January were “undisputedly” caused by the artillery firing of 155mm shells which contained white phosphorus wedges.

The report also examines other hitherto little reported incidents, including an attack on the Asma UNRWA school in Gaza City, in which three young men, all members of a families taking shelter, were killed as a result of an “undisputed” single aerial missile. In another on a building opposite a UN health centre in the Bureij refugee after which one patient died, there was no warning, the report says. It says that one attack, on an installation in Karni, was probably the work of Hamas.

The report recommends further investigation of other both UN and non-UN related civilian deaths which have given rise to allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by both the IDF and Hamas.

But in his covering letter Mr Ban says he is “carefully considering” what actions “if any” to take on the 11 recommendations by the inquiry team. Mr Ban goes out of his way to thank Israel for its co-operation in the inquiry. He makes a point – urged on him by Israeli ministers and officials – of speaking out against “continued and indiscriminate” attacks by Hamas. And he said: “I do not plan any further enquiries.”

Israel yesterday rejected the report’s findings and its Foreign Ministry says the inquiry board “has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”. Defence Secretary Ehud Barak repeated that Israel has “the most moral army in the world” and laid full responsibility for casualties on Hamas.

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.

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