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US exempts 9 countries from sanctions on Iranian oil industry

Press TV – December 8, 2012

Nine countries have been granted extended waivers of the illegal US sanctions on Iran due to their reductions of purchases of Iranian crude oil.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan to the list of countries exempt from the sanctions for another six months, the Associated Press reported.

On September 14, the United States exempted Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Japan from complying with the sanctions on Iran’s oil industry for another 180 days.

At the beginning of 2012, the US and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Abolishes Visa Formalities for Palestinians

Al-Manar | December 7, 2012

Venezuela has become the first country in the world to abolish entrance visas for citizens of Palestine recognized as an observer state by the UN, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry reported on Thursday.

The agreement on the abolition of visa formalities for holders of civil and diplomatic passports was signed in Caracas among other joint documents after talks between the Venezuelan and Palestinian foreign ministers.

The State of Palestine has signed ten agreements in the political, economic, health, agriculture, tourism, cultural, and sports sectors with the Venezuelan government.

Palestinian FM Riyad Al-Maliki thanked his Venezuelan counterpart for his country’s support of Palestine, and they agreed to hold an international solidarity meeting next February.

The meeting will be attended by the presidents of both Palestine and Venezuela as well as the United Nations Committee to support the inalienable Palestinian people’s rights.

Last Thursday the UN General Assembly granted Palestine the status of an observer state by an overwhelming majority of votes, ignoring Israeli and US objections.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

The Sarafand Massacre, and Cover-up

By Vacy Vlazna | Palestine Chronicle | December 7, 2012
Sarafand. (Photo: Courtesy of Uri Zackhem, Palestine Remembered) Sarafand. (Photo: Courtesy of Uri Zackhem, Palestine Remembered)

In the early winter of 1918, the wheat, barley and sesame fields of Sarafand al-Kharab lay fallow. Oranges, figs, almonds and olives had been harvested, the summer honey stored. At night the goats and sheep were brought into the warmth of the adobe brick houses.

On the moonless night of 9th December, as in typical Palestinian villages, smells of the sparse dinner were fading in the air, bellies barely full, the villagers, subsistence farmers and shepherds and their families, slept soundly except perhaps for a restless child here and there, a mother breastfeeding her baby, a few coughs tapping the night’s stillness.

Suddenly the village, roused by angry foreign voices, was cordoned off by lamps held by wrathful soldiers from the nearby army camp.

The next morning, 10th December, officers from the ANZAC Mounted  Division questioned the village sheikh and demanded he hand over the murderer of one of their soldiers; a young New Zealand Trooper Leslie Lowry had been sleeping with his kit bag for a pillow woke when he felt the bag was tugged from under his head. He chased the thief who allegedly turned and shot Lowry in the chest. The alarm was raised and Lowry died before the doctor arrived. Confused, and still in the grip of the cordon, the chief and fearful villagers were unable to comply.

That night, hundreds of enraged New Zealander, Australian and Scottish soldiers set upon the village separating the women and children then viciously attacked the men folk with bayonets, clubs, chains and sticks and set alight the village and the nearby Bedouin camp. Situated on a rise overlooking the coastal plain, the flames, vying with screams of rage of agony of horror, were seen from IMD HQ a half mile away.

After an orgy of blood, 137 (or more) innocent village men (innocent fathers, innocent brothers, innocent husbands, innocent uncles, innocent cousins, innocent friends) lay dead among the smoke and glowing ashes or thrown in the village well; the distraught and grief-ravaged women were newly widowed, children fatherless, all homeless….and the soldiers had vanished into the darkness of a military cover-up.

No one from the ANZAC Mounted Division was prosecuted for the atrocity as the soldiers, standing as one, didn’t cooperate with the bland inquiry, denying participation and later some, from the 3rd Light Horse Regiment’s C Squadron, were ordered never to talk about it. (Daley p 277)

Cover-ups are a reprehensible part and parcel of military history and testimonies collected on Australian Military History of the Early 20th Century: Desert Column site are tainted with fundamental lies and racist justifications that have become the prototype for subsequent historical and newspaper accounts of the Sarafand Massacre:

The killer’s footsteps that led to the collective punishment of Sarafand villagers. Despite there being no witnesses to the shooting of Lowry and that no one saw the killer run to Sarafand, all accounts report that the footsteps of the killer were followed and led directly to the village.

In fact, no footsteps could have been followed from the camp as Palestinian terrain is too rocky. This is substantiated by the Uri Zackhem film, “Tracing all that remains of the destroyed village of Sarafand al Kharab, Palestine” made for Palestine Remembered.

Also, Private AS Mulhall, who was on active duty in the camp, stated “There [were] no sand hills within three miles of the spot where Lowry was shot.”

Furthermore, on checking the NASA, Phases of the Moon, 1901- 2000, the  night of 9 December, 1918  fell in the new moon to the beginning of the first quarter Dec 3-Dec 11, which means that it was a moonless night. In rural areas and in a world sans electricity, a moonless night is literally pitch black to the point one cannot see a foot ahead.

Nevertheless, the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal who was called to the camp that night ordered a plaster impression of a fantasy footprint, “Later in the afternoon I sent Lieutenant Fyfe to obtain footprint impressions made of plaster of Paris, which he has done. The specimens taken are those of the man’s left foot.”(Did the killer hop away?)

The Discrepant Number of Sarafand Victims

The casualty figures of the Sarafand massacre range from 5 to 137 but, as there was a cover-up, the number of dead will likely be higher.

Typically a cover-up provides the minimum number of victims: Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal reported he saw only 5 dead and 5 wounded and “saw no soldier committing an offence to warrant his arrest”; Briscoe Moore offered “38 natives”; Terry Kinlock stated “30 and 40 Arab men had been beaten to death or badly injured.”

However, Tasmanian Ted O’Brien confessed to 120 dead and ex-NSW Mounted policeman, AS Mulhall testified, “I counted 137 dead within the village. It was a most gruesome sight the manner in which their heads were bashed and battered.”

The severe dressing down of the division by Commander-in-chief, General Allenby, provides insight into the gravity and extent of the atrocity:

Allenby’s biographer, Lawrence James, writes that a ‘furious’ Allenby said the men were ‘murderers and cowards and by killing the Bedouin had taken away the good name of Anzac- in fact it was a worse atrocity than any the Turks had committed.‘ (Daley p265)

Allenby then immediately removed the division to Rafah and withdrew recommendations for all gallantry awards.

The Cover up

The cover-up was intensified over the decades with a flurry of denials and cross accusations by the different ANZAC Division units. The Australians denied participation putting the blame squarely on the New Zealanders and British artillerymen from the Ayrshire Battery while the New Zealanders parried with counter accusations.

In accounts, the number participating in the mass murder varies from 50 to 200.

Regardless, on 16 December, the entire division was paraded before General Allenby who addressed the members as “cowards and murderers” concluding with, “Officers, Non Commissioned Officers, and men of the Anzac Mounted Division I was proud of you once. I am proud of you no longer!”

The participation of all three national groups is confirmed by the compensation payments. In late 1920-1 the British War Office pressured Australia and NZ to pay compensation as the British government had rebuilt the village at a cost of 2060.11.3 pounds.  Australia contributed 515 pound and NZ, 858 pounds.

TV NZ’s ‘Sunday: Day of Shame’ documentary reveals that the cover-up extended to the family of murdered Leslie Lowry. His nephew, Noel Woods, believed his uncle was ‘mown down in a hail of Turkish bullets’ and was deeply shocked by news of the massacre.

Blaming the Victims

HS Gullett, the official war correspondent in Palestine, puts the ‘unfortunate incident’ that demanded ‘instant justice’ in the context of the exasperation of the AIF heroes with the unpunished thefts by ‘these debased people’ – ‘The natives of Surafend were notorious for their petty thieving’ coupled with the murder of a comrade ‘at the hands of a race they despised’. Regarding the Bedouin, Ted O’Brien remarked, “wicked… You’d shoot them on sight.”

Gullett’s overt racist superiority, like that of the majority of  WW I Australian soldiers hailing from the land of White Australia, dismisses outright the plight of Palestinians struggling to survive the dire economic impact on their land and livelihoods of the mounted armies of the Imperial and Ottoman forces. The Turks had demolished orchards and all the cavalries ‘drank out wells and grazed their horses on standing crops’. Palestinians were driven to steal because foodstuffs, livestock and even unwilling Palestinian staff were requisitioned by the British military and consequently there was a shortage of basic food and commodities and awful disruptions to daily life.

Gullett makes a reference to instances of theft by the Anzacs, ‘if the Arabs missed a sheep from their flocks, they were emphatic that a soldier in a big hat had been seen prowling in the neighbourhood.’ Stealing sheep may have been a lark for the soldiers, but it was devastating for impoverished Palestinian farmers.

The Arabs were also accused of desecrating and stealing from the dead, yet Ted O’ Brien ‘talks in detail how he and his mates stole coins from the dead. They also used the Turkish dead for target practice” (Daley p275). The Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) regularly conducted punitive patrols against villages and troops were known to leave behind booby traps of bully beef tins when they moved bivouac.

Al Nakba

Sarafand al Kharab suffered a second calamity on April 20, 1948 when Israeli Givati Forces demolished the village and ethnically cleansed its Palestinian inhabitants.

The Sarafand Massacre wasn’t a one-off aberration, for the Anzacs were notorious for inflicting harassment and collective punishment on Egyptian and Palestinian civilians. In her searingly honest book, ‘Australians and Egypt, 1914-1919’, Dr. Suzanne Brugger chronicles 4 incidents at Azizia,  Bedrashein, Abu Akdar and Saft El-Malouk in which the AIF in 1919 were involved in destroying Egyptian villages by fire and the incurring of casualties through excessive force.

A letter in the Egyptian Gazette in 1918 complained, ‘Insobriety and misconduct by the troops threatened to undermine the prestige of the white races and of the Allied forces and dominant British regime in particular.’ (Brugger p61)

Misconduct ranged from misdemeanors to brutal violence: “Men of the Eight Brigade on a route march near Tel el Kebir sniped at passing “gypos’ until their targets fled over the skyline, Egyptian conductors were thrown from moving trains, and Egyptian stationmasters and minor officials were assaulted. The British soldiers are a sedate lot in comparison with ours, boasted a Victorian private, “they don’t knock the baskets of oranges off the heads of the natives, or pull boys off donkeys..” (Gammage p138) other misconduct included-  leaving without paying at brothels, not paying fares on trams, looting and burning trading booths,‘drunkedness, harassment of women, riotous behavior and brothel-trawling’, foul language, cruel and crude jokes, ‘crumbling discipline’.

The accumulative offences were so grave that Brugger declares ‘the actions of the Australian troops in the past 5 years [1914-19] had contributed in part to this raising of the temper of the populace’ for emerging nationalism and the 1919 rebellion.(p9)

Ted O’Brien described the Sarafand Massacre as ‘ungodly’ and avowed “war is a shocking thing…It’s shocking just what men’ll do”. Perhaps PTSD arises not just from the horror of war and its stressful proximity to death, but also from the horror at the potential for inhuman barbarity.

Sometimes, a cover-up wreaks greater violence than the original crime. The glorification and sanitization of war is a form of cover-up that leads to further wars as WWI combatant and poet, Siegfried Sassoon warned;

At the Cenotaph
I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
“Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men’s biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.”
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.

- Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

Sources:

- Daley, Paul, Beersheba: A journey through Australia’s forgotten war, Australian Military History of the Early 20th Century: Desert Column site.
- Tracing all That remains of the destroyed village of Sarafand al Kharab, Palestine, Youtube.
- NASA, Phases of the Moon, 1901- 2000
- Gammage, Bill; The Broken Years
- Brugger, Suzanne; Australians and Egypt, 1914-1919

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US conducts atomic test amid global urge for nuclear disarmament

Press TV – December 7, 2012

The US has conducted a nuclear test in Nevada to examine the effectiveness of its atomic weapons stockpile amid the growing global urge for nuclear disarmament.

The US Energy Department announced that the Wednesday nuclear test was aimed at providing “crucial information to maintain the safety and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons.”

The subcritical experiment, known as Pollux, was conducted by the staff from the Nevada National Security Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Subcritical nuclear tests examine the behavior of plutonium when shocked by forces produced by chemical high explosives.

According to UN figures, the US, which is the only country that has ever used atomic bombs against human beings, has conducted 1,032 nuclear tests since 1945.

The Nevada experiment has drawn sharp criticism from the Japanese city of Hiroshima, as the first victim of atomic weapons.

“I wonder why [US] President [Barack] Obama, who said he would seek a nuclear-free world, carried out the test,” Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui told reporters.

“I wish he would take into account the feelings of the people of Hiroshima when making policy decisions,” he added.

Hiroshima was devastated on August 6, 1945 after the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city, killing an estimated 140,000 people instantly or gradually from radiation sickness and cancers. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000.

The nuclear radiation emitted following the blasts continued to claim thousands of more lives over the past decades.

“It is depressing that the United States cannot understand how atomic bomb survivors feel, despite our repeated protests,” said Secretary General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council Hirotami Yamada.

The Wednesday experiment “is proof that the United States could use nuclear weapons anytime. Such a country is not qualified to be a world leader,” he noted.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrecking Gaza

Civilian Infrastructure Targeted by Israeli Military

By JAMES MARC LEAS and THERESA McDERMOTT | CounterPunch | December 7, 2012

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) claims vast military gains from its targeting of hundreds of sites in Gaza, including substantial civilian property, during “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” the intensive 8-day bombing the IDF initiated on November 14, 2012. But Palestinian witnesses deny that fighters were present or that rockets had been or were being launched from many of the sites the IDF bombed. Palestinian witnesses also deny the claims of any other military advantage to Israel from the attacks. They say the intent of Israeli political and military leaders was to do exactly what Israeli forces actually did: destroy civilian property and punish and traumatize the civilian population of Gaza.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post last March, Yaakov Katz reported the IDF desire “to do some periodic ‘maintenance work’ in Gaza and to mow the lawn, so to speak, with regard to terrorism, with the main goal of boosting its deterrence.” Thus, the IDF graphically admitted the political goal that requires periodic attacks, destroying Palestinian civilian property, and killing Palestinian civilians.

Evidence was collected by members of a US and UK delegation who were in Gaza from November 27 to December 3. Members viewed destruction throughout the Gaza Strip and interviewed Palestinian witnesses. They found substantial evidence of violation of international humanitarian law with regard to attacks on civilians and civilian property.

An independent and impartial investigation and prosecution is needed to establish the guilt or innocence of those responsible. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or, if that approach is blocked, another tribunal established by the General Assembly under Article 22 of the UN Charter, may initiate such an investigation. If the investigation shows evidence of violations, the perpetrators should be prosecuted–including those Israeli political and military leaders who ordered the violations. Otherwise their immunity is likely to allow further violations.

Not waiting for the ICC to initiate its investigation, the Palestine Center for Human Rights is calling for establishment of a commission composed of prominent attorneys and jurists to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation in the coming weeks and issue a report on its findings.

International humanitarian law

International humanitarian law (IHL) establishes rules for armed conflict and military occupation with the purpose of minimizing civilian suffering and casualties.

These rules apply to a country engaged in an occupation of territory not its own. They apply to states and non-states alike. Thus, the rules apply to both Israeli and Palestinian military forces in territory occupied by Israel, including the Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its illegal settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israeli military forces retain control over the territory, including its airspace and its land and sea borders. The Israeli military conducts periodic military operations with drones and F-16s and conducts military incursions on a regular basis. Israeli naval forces regularly intercept and shoot at Palestinian fishermen. Israeli forces along the border regularly shoot at farmers attempting to work their land in Gaza along the border with Israel.

As occupying power, the rules provide Israel with an obligation to protect Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. While the Israel government may use police power to preserve order and protect its own population, its right to use military force in occupied territory is restricted, as described in an article by Noura Erakat, “No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The rules protect not just civilians but also civilian property and other civilian infrastructure. Under the rules, a civilian building or other civilian property might conceivably be a legitimate military target–but only if it is being used for a military purpose and no other method is possible. Each such facility must be assumed to be civilian object–and therefore off limits as a military target–unless and until evidence is shown that the building is actually being used for a military purpose and that the attack is a military necessity.

For example, the Hague Convention IV of 1907 regarding the Laws and Customs of War on Land provides in Article 23, “it is especially forbidden . . .(g) To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.” Article 25 provides, “ The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”

In its advisory opinion on the wall, the International Court of Justice found that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable to occupied Palestinian territory. The convention provides in Article 53: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Although Israeli withdrew its illegal settlers in 2005, Gaza is still considered under the control of Israel and remains occupied territory.

Even if evidence is found that a building is being used for a military purpose and the attack is the only way to accomplish the military objective, an attack on the building is still unlawful if the injuries to civilians or damage to civilian infrastructure is expected to be disproportionate to the anticipated military advantage from the attack. The principle is part of customary law that applies to all nations.  Protocol I of the Geneva Convention defines this requirement:

“With respect to attacks, the following precautions shall be taken: (a) those who plan or decide upon an attack shall:  . . . (iii) refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

Ownership or use of a building by a government or by a semi-governmental authority that is engaged in military combat is not sufficient to legitimize an attack. The criteria of actual military use, necessity, and proportionality must be met before any attack on the building can be launched. Otherwise the attack violates International Humanitarian Law.

Government buildings were closed and evacuated

Government authorities in Gaza ordered all government buildings, including ministries, police stations, schools, and other facilities, closed and evacuated as Israeli military actions escalated around the time an Israeli rocket extra-judicially executed the leader of the military wing of the Hamas movement, Ahmed al Ja’bari and his bodyguard on November 14. The closure of government facilities extended even to prisoners locked up in a jail at one police station in Gaza City visited by one of the authors–the prisoners were all released and told to return when the Israeli attacks ended and a real cease fire was in place.

Police stations and government ministries and offices are not inherently legitimate military targets. Police and most government officials are civilians, regardless of their political views, religious affiliation, or party affiliation. If a police station or a government building is not being used for military purposes, an attack on the police station or ministry is a violation of international humanitarian law.

Furthermore, collective punishment of civilians and reprisals against civilians and civilian property are both forbidden by international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention provides in Article 33: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. . . Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

Thus, the civilian population may not be punished by loss of a building or other civilian infrastructure because of the acts of certain resistance fighters. The attack on the building can only be justified if the attack is to accomplish a present and necessary military objective and the military advantage from the attack outweighs damage to civilians and civilian property.

Israeli Defence Force explains its attack on Government Buildings

The Israeli Defense Force web site provides a day-by-day and hour-by-hour report of actions it undertook in Gaza from November 14 to 21. The site reports on November 17 at 8:55am that “as part of the IDF targeting of government buildings, [Prime Minister] Ismail Haniya’s headquarters, the Hamas Ministry of Interior, and the Hamas police compound, were targeted.”

The IDF website recorded a statement issued by the IDF’s spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordecai on November 17 at 9:10am, who said, “the IDF struck buildings belonging to the Hamas government. Ismail Haniyeh’s headquarters, which serve as the headquarters for the Hamas government, was destroyed in a strike. Additionally, the Hamas’ police headquarters and the homeland security headquarters in Gaza City were also targeted.”

On November 21 at 7:14am the IDF website reported that “The targets included the Ministry of Internal Security – which served as one of the main command and control centers for the Hamas terror organization.”

Our observation in Gaza confirms that the Israeli military attacked and completely destroyed the Ministry of Interior, the Prime Minister’s government building, and several police stations. We also observed severe damage to the Ministry of Health, located near the Ministry of Interior. The damage to the Ministry of Health was not mentioned by the IDF website.

The Interior Ministry was converted to rubble, with craters about 15 feet deep and about 40 feet across in several places from the bombs dropped. In addition to the Health Ministry, buildings across streets on two sides, including one housing a travel agency and a bank, had all facing windows destroyed among other severe damage. The Israeli bombs also killed or wounded civilians in the neighborhood.

The building housing the Prime Minister’s office was also converted to rubble. Adjacent residences were severely damaged.

Palestinian witnesses we interviewed denied that either the Interior Ministry or Prime Minister Haniyeh’s office was being used in any way at all, as all government buildings, including both of these, had been closed and evacuated. If true that the buildings were closed, evacuated, and not being used in anticipation of Israeli strikes, the reasons given for the attacks on the IDF web site do not fully explain how the buildings could have been used for military purposes during the time Israel was conducting its military operations.

The IDF explains its attacks on residential housing

The IDF website also mentions Israeli air force attacks that destroyed or damaged residential housing. On November 17 at 7:10pm it reports that GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo addressed the media stating, “Most of the weaponry of the terror organizations is stored in residential houses, from which they launch the missiles and the rockets against Israel.”

Similarly, on November 19 at 7:10am the IDF website reports, “The IDF targeted buildings owned by senior terrorist operatives, used as command posts and weapon storage facilities.”

On November 20 at 6:40 am, the website reports, “We also struck the house of several senior officers within the terror organizations, of the rank of company commander and battalion commander.”

Delegation members visited with Wallid Al Nasassra, a neighbor of one of the 55 houses destroyed by IDF bombs during Operation Pillar of Cloud. An F-16 rocket targeted a home 200 yards away in which his brother, Teewfiq Mamduh Id Abid, Teewfiq’s wife, Amani Ibrm Qader, and 10 of Teewfiq’s children were living. Two of the children were killed in this attack and 7 children were injured. Only one of the children escaped uninjured. The witness’s brother and his wife were both severely injured. The Al Nasassra area is between Rafah and Khan Younis, on land evacuated by Israeli settlers in 2005. Wallid Al Nasassra denied that rockets were stored in the demolished home or that the owners were in any way associated with fighters. Nor, he said, were any of the neighboring homes used for storing rockets. He also said that neighbors would not permit fighters to be in the vicinity of their homes. Israeli forces have so far released no evidence supporting their assertion of rocket storage at this or other residences they destroyed.

Similarly, the attack on the houses of several senior officers would only be legitimate if military activity was being conducted in the houses, the attack on the houses was the only way to accomplish the military goal, and if the military advantage from the attack was not outweighed by damage to civilians and civilian property. Nothing in the IDF report indicated whether the houses of the senior officers contained women and children and whether the senior officers who supposedly were the targets were at home during the attacks.

The IDF explains its attacks on a football stadium

The IDF website quotes  IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai on November 19 at 1:40pm stating: “we attacked a stadium in Gaza City after receiving verified information of a launch from within the stadium, again showing the terrorists’ continued use of civilian centers.” On November 19, @IDFSpokesperson posted this message on Twitter: “3 days ago, Palestinian terrorists used a stadium to fire rockets to Tel Aviv & Jerusalem. We targeted site this morn.” The post included a map with X marking two spots within the stadium from which the IDF says rockets were fired 3 days earlier.

However, a Palestinian witness at the site denied that any rockets were launched. Large craters are found adjacent the goals at both ends of the football field as if the F-16 pilot was aiming for scoring goals with his bombs rather than quenching rocket fire. Bombs also hit seating areas of the stadium. No fighters were reported hit by any of the Israeli bombs striking the stadium. The IDF so far has not released evidence supporting their assertion of rocket firing from the stadium. Israeli forces did not explain how they could wait 3 days to attack the site while still claiming that bombing the stadium provided military advantage and remained a military necessity. The necessity argument is further diminished by the lack of IDF explanation as to how cratering the field in two places, rendering it unusable for football, would prevent, rather than encourage, its future use as a site for launching rockets, if indeed the IDF actually has evidence to prove it ever was a launch site.

The IDF explains its attacks on a financial institution

The IDF website reports on November 20 at 6:40 am, “A financial institution used by Hamas to fuel its terror activity was targeted in the northern Gaza Strip.” At 9:30 that morning Brig. Gen. Mordecai said, “During the night we attacked and hit one hundred targets, including a financial center controlled by Hamas.

While the financial institution may have been engaged in financial activity that the IDF objected to, the IDF justified its attack exclusively based on its financial activity rather than based on any military activity taking place at the financial institution.

The IDF position that a financial institution is a legitimate military target if engaged in financing an organization considered to be an enemy is likely to concern Israelis who may wonder whether their own financial institutions may now become legitimate military targets if they have financial transactions with the Israeli government, settlers, or other occupation authorities. The Israeli justification may also surprise large numbers of Americans who believe that the World Trade Center in New York–which housed financial institutions–was not a legitimate military target.

In the case of the financial institution, the IDF statement that it attacked this civilian property because of its financial activity appears to be an admission of a plan or policy to attack civilian property without regard to the requirements of military objective and  military necessity.

In a report on November 17, the BBC reported, “The army told the BBC it wanted to hit hundreds more [targets] and that it was legitimate to target anything connected with Hamas.” Thus, Israeli military officials further admitted plan or policy to base its targeting outside the requirements of international humanitarian law.

According to the Palestine Center for Human Rights weekly report for November 14-21, the Israeli Occupation Forces carried out 1350 air strikes in which 1400 missiles were launched during the 8-day assault on Gaza: 55 houses were completely destroyed and hundreds of houses sustained damage. 2 mosques were completely destroyed and 34 others were damaged. 8 government establishments, 13 security offices and police stations, and 2 bridges connecting the central Gaza strip with the north were destroyed. 6 media offices, 6 health institutions, 28 educational institutions, and 22 civil and charity associations were targeted. And dozens of agricultural lands sustained major damage.

PCHR states that 168 Palestinians, including 100 civilians were killed by the Israeli military. Among the civilians killed were 35 children, 14 women, and 2 journalists. 1288 Palestinians were wounded including 1261 civilians. Among the civilians wounded were 466 children, 219 women, and 10 journalists.

While in Gaza, the authors visited sites including the government Interior Ministry and the adjacent Health Ministry, the office of the prime minister, a police station, a soccer stadium, a sports facility, and the Islamic bank. Palestinian sources maintain that no fighters were present and no rockets were fired from any of these places and thus they were not legitimate military targets.

The IDF site does not explain its attacks on a sports facility

An F-16 dropped bombs on a building in Gaza City that housed the Al Jazeera Club and the Islamic Bank. Housed on the second floor of a four story building, the Al Jazeera Club is a sports facility for athletes, girls and boys, and disabled people of all ages. It particularly includes facilities to help the disabled and rehabilitate them physically and socially and to integrate them into other segments of society. Two members of the Al Jazeera Club represented Palestine at the London paralympic games. One member won a Gold medal in javelin at the Asian Paralympic Games in 2010. The Club is the only sports facility for the disabled in Gaza. The Club is also one of few places in Gaza that encourages girls and women to participate in sports. The bombs completely destroyed the entire Club facility.

The Islamic Bank, located on the ground floor just below the Club, was also completely destroyed, leaving a large crater in its floor. As other banks in Gaza were also targeted, Palestinians think that destroying the bank was the target of the attack.

Two floors of unfinished new construction were located above the Club.

According to PCHR, no fighters were in or near the building. No rockets were being launched. No activity of any kind was in the building, as it had been evacuated. The building could therefore not have been a legitimate military target.

A building next door was also completely destroyed making seven families homeless. The IDF has identified no military objective that outweighs the destruction of the building, the Al Jazeera Club, the Islamic Bank, and the residential building next door. Thus, the attack could also be considered disproportionate.

In the cases investigated, Israel’s destruction of civilian property appears to have provided no military advantage. Damage to civilian property was disproportionate and the IDF website admits that some of the attacks were in reprisal. In all of the cases reported here, interviewees reported that no Palestinian fighters were in the property bombed by Israeli forces. Consequently military necessity does not appear to be available.

Further investigation is needed into the apparent violations. The International Criminal Court should conduct the investigation or, if the ICC fails to do so, an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel should be established by the UN General Assembly as a ‘subsidiary organ’ under U.N. Charter Article 22 to conduct the investigation. The ICC or the tribunal should prosecute Israel’s top generals and other military and political leaders if the investigation confirms the violations.

Israel’s “Pillar of Cloud” follows Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” by less than four years. Immunity and impunity continue–despite the findings of the UN Goldstone Report. If that immunity and impunity is allowed to continue further violations are inevitable.

James Marc Leas and Theresa McDermott participated in the US and UK emergency delegation to Gaza November 27 to December 3. James, from S. Burlington Vermont, is a co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. Theresa, from Edinburgh Scotland, participated in two of the voyages to Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

French activists campaign against Jewish Defense League

Press TV – December 7, 2012

Activists in France have launched a campaign to disband the French branch of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which is reportedly protected by the French government, Press TV reports.

Pointing to numerous acts of violence committed by the JDL, the activists censured the French government’s tolerance of the Jewish group and reaffirmed their determination to continue their campaign to ban the JDL.

The United States considers the JDL as a terrorist group. It is a Jewish far-right organization whose stated goal is to expel Palestinians from their homeland and “protect Jews from anti-Semitism by whatever means necessary.”

Under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the group’s ties with the French government surfaced after French police allowed JDL members to use their sports facilities for military training.

The group has committed hundreds of violent acts in France, but their crimes have gone unpunished and even unreported, with merely a single conviction on record.

In a latest instance of violence, JDL thugs recently attacked Olivia Zemor, a leader of the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, sprayed a very toxic paint all over her body and posted the video of the assault on their website. French police arrested no one with regard to the attack.

“Any time they see a Palestinian voice, they attack them and they run away, because the French government is an accomplice to that,” said Nicolas Shahshahani, Zemor’s husband.

The JDL also attacked Shahshahani’s bookstore in 2006, using tear gas and dousing his books with cooking oil, but none of the perpetrators was apprehended.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , | Leave a comment

   

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