Soldiers break into the wrong house at night, go on a rampage – and make off with a woman’s savings from 15 years of work
One night in early September, the members of the Kavajeh family in Tarqumiya were woken by IDF troops breaking into their house. According to the despicable custom of the last few years, some of the soldiers wore ski masks; before our apathetic eyes what used to be the premier line of fashion among criminals has become common military attire.
From this moment on, everything went as per the routine – a routine known to every soldier who has ever served in the occupied territories: the soldiers gathered all the family members in one room, not giving them time to dress properly. They then searched the house, found nothing, and as they left, the head of the family, ‘Issa, heard the soldiers say to one another that they had raided the wrong house. Needless to say, the soldiers did not apologize to the family. The soldiers told them not to leave the house while they were still present.
When the family realized the soldiers were gone, they began to estimate the damage. Here the words of Issa are worth quoting: “We began moving around the house and saw the horror.” The contents of the cupboards had been spilled, and the soldiers had thrown bedding, clothes and equipment onto the floor. The kitchen was the real calamity zone: the soldiers made certain to spill the flour on the floor, mix the sugar, the lentils and the salt together, poured the tahini into the kitchen sink, and, finally, broke the eggs.
Now, certainly some IDF spokesperson, whether an official or a self-appointed one, will manage to find a way to explain why there was a pressing military need behind this wanton destruction of food; we’ll probably find a fool who would explain why there was a need to break the eggs – how do you know what they might have hidden in there? And anyway, why don’t you show us what happened before? And do you know what happened in 1929?
But as the family members finished examining the results of the small green storm that passed mistakenly through their home, the real disaster was discovered: the savings of one of the family members, Thahani, had been stolen. These were two gold bracelets and a gold ring. Thahani had saved the money to buy the jewelry from working in a seamstress shop since 1998.
Fifteen years of savings. Fifteen years of painstakingly gathering, day by day, an ounce of meager pay. A slow collection culminating in 65 grams of gold, each one of them worth 60 Jordanian Dinars, each Dinar the equivalent of about $1.7 USD. Fifteen years of savings left Thahani with some $8,005 USD; a bit more than $385 USD a year, or $1.25 USD a day. This was Tahani’s portion of all her labor. Now it lies in the pocket of a soldier. Perhaps he’ll give them to his lover, who will be grateful and not ask where he got such gold bracelets and such a ring; perhaps they’ll end up in a pawnshop. Perhaps, loyal to the value of comradeship, he already split the loot with other troops in his section.
In the morning, the family complained both to the Red Cross and the Israeli police. This was a futile gesture: good luck finding the looter among dozens of troops, some of whom were hooded and all well-versed in covering for one another. But before the MPCID rushes to close the case claiming it couldn’t find a suspect, one more thing must be said.
Looting is a war crime. It is defined as such in the Fourth Geneva Convention. During wartime, armies often harshly punish looting soldiers, if only because looting is bad for military discipline. At best, looting soldiers have to lie to their commander, which opens the door to more lies; at worst, the commander will take a commission off the loot. Armies who don’t punish looting harshly quickly cease to become armies and turn into militias at best, gangs at worse.
Israel, as is well known, does not have laws against war crimes on its books. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t commit them. And as long as the MPCID does not shake itself up and find the thief, and as long as Israel does not compensate Tahani, it allows a war criminal – not a mere thief, but a war criminal – to roam freely. And since we know nothing of him but the colors of the uniform he wore, he besmirches through his act all those who wear them. And if the IDF wants to remove this stain from its uniform – admittedly, they are spotted with quite a few of them – it had better find the guilty party, and throw the book at him. Hard.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
– Art. 49, Fourth Geneva Convention
American news agencies (AP, Reuters, any major news organization or outlet) in reference to Israeli settlements (which could more accurately be termed “colonies”), routinely comment that these settlements are “considered illegal by most nations.” This is dishonest, as it creates the impression that the legality of settlement activity is murky and subject to debate. When I encounter this phrase I often ask the source to identify which nations consider settlement building on occupied territory legal. I neither receive or expect a reply because, of course, no nation besides Israel itself would argue their legality.
In order to drive this to ground, on August 8 I sent requests to both the U.S. Dept. of State and to Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to provide a written statement of official U.S. policy on the legality of settlement building on occupied territory.
With no response being offered, on August 16 I began placing calls to State and the Congress, which I continued over the the following twenty-five days. By email and/or by telephone I contacted several offices at State along with spokespersons for Senators Menedez and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) and the Congressional Representative of my home district, Loretta Sanchez. Specifically, I spoke to Kerry, Carlos, Kirby, Jose, Jennifer and Cameron, a gaggle of bright young staffers who ranged from earnest to annoyed and aloof. They all shared an abject inability to summon a response to my question. This includes the emailed response I finally received from Sen. Menendez on September 9, which reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Hurt :
Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding a two-state solution to the Israel – Palestinian conflict. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter and having the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, the Palestinian Authority proposed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) regarding issues under direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, namely borders and settlements. Regardless of the content of such a resolution, our country’s consistent position has been that this and other issues linked to the Middle East peace process can only be resolved by the two parties negotiating directly with each other.
A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is long overdue, and we must ensure that peace is sustainable and both parties are fully committed to a resolution. The merits of any peace proposal between the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to be weighed against the assurances Israel requires for its security. Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is inalienable and must be explicitly recognized by its neighbors.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
The reader will note that Sen. Menendez’s response is mere boilerplate and utterly fails to address the question. It also opens with a striking disregard for the truth: At no point did I “express (my) views regarding a two-state solution…” I immediately hit “Reply” and sent a polite, carefully worded message pointing out that my question remained unaddressed. In return, I was summarily notified by an entity labeled “senatepostmaster” that my reply was undeliverable.
Sen. Menendez has a spotty political record, often taking positions closer to Republican than Democratic. When it comes to Israel, however, he is reliably and staunchly in support, and maintains a close relationship with AIPAC. (Please read his address to AIPAC, March of this year.) He has recently sent a letter to the president laying out conditions for the Iranian nuclear negotiations that appear to be penned by Netanyahu himself, going far beyond Obama’s objectives and well beyond anything the Iranians could accept. Not surprising then that in his letter above, Menendez speaks entirely from an Israeli perspective, for example stressing the Israeli security requirements with nary a word about Palestinian security.
I had also forwarded this question (our nation’s official position on the legality of Israeli settlements) to the Council on Foreign Relations, and was pleased to receive a reply penned by Elliot Abrams, who, though still encumbered by significant moral and legal baggage (Central American death squads, Iran-Contra), must be respected as a scion of American diplomacy. Mr. Abrams, whose reply provides a neat history of the issue, from Reagan (“not illegal”) to Obama (“illegitimate”), while still failing to state our national position on legality, which position quite clearly does not currently exist.
The episode described clearly illustrates that our “representative democracy” is a charade. A representative democracy whose government declines to discuss or even express policy is nothing more than a plutocracy and our elections become merely an opportunity to select from a limited pool of plutocrats. It also calls into question our ability to perform an elemental and essential role of government: to create and conduct policy. It further questions the quality, capability and experience of our leadership and certainly our commitment to fundamental American values, namely the rule of law. The Fourth Geneva Convention was incorporated into Customary International Law in 1993, making it applicable to all nations. It’s clear that in this case our government willfully ignores and refuses to even acknowledge international law.
Damascus – A sort of roller coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days with “good” and “bad” news rising and falling, often by the quarter hour. Much of the population is monitoring closely the news and quickly expressing their interpretations of the latest media reports and rumors as well as predicting the fairly precise timing of the now assumed American attack on their country.
In the very popular, and normally crowded Abaa Coffee House on the edge of the old city in what is called the Sarugha section, students and others enjoy the fine cool mist, as Damascenes have done for years, that is sprayed from ceiling pipes to provide welcome relief from the 37 degree Celsius (98 degrees F) outside temperatures. Many are glued to their laptops and/or in animated conversation analyzing the likely extent and timing of the soon believed to be arriving American missiles.
This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant, large with dozens of tables, cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” ” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later) to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”
But there is also a distinct growing esprit de corps and a broad coming together of much of the population here as the countdown to the American attack on Syria begins. An evident rallying around the Assad regime, which one presumes is the opposite of what the White House was hoping would result from its threats.
A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) an humanitarian organization doing amazing rescue, and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis, described one way that her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gathered our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and made photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in “safe” areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill last saturday that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.” She added, “Many of my friends and family are leaving but it’s not easy and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon and they don’t want us– and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”
One common topic being discussed is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria and how Obama can ignore it. “What kind of Democracy do you have that your President can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked. One soldier who is stationed with his unit just outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst and there will be consequences you will come to regret as with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.”
The government here is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. TV channels show around the clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits with martial and patriotic music. Youngsters, students and workers are gathering at presumed targets offering themselves as Human Shields in solidarity with their countrymen while challenging President Obama to bomb their beloved Syria.
Interestingly, an International Human Shield movement is coalescing according to informed sources here and abroad. One initiative is to bring 1000 Americans and thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites reminding one of the International Solidarity Movement volunteer’s efforts in Occupied Palestine in order to try to protect homes of Palestinians from Government bulldozing.
Some redacted specifics have been disclosed to this observer from an international organizing committee working around the clock on this Human Shield initiative.
Some descriptive excerpts:
International Human Shields are planning on coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week…
Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten mores days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapse from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the Human Shields on the ground in Syria…
Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact having at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international Human Shields deployed in Syria is the objective. With ideally at least one representative from every UN Member State, as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.
The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, spokesperson(s), public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers. Ferries from European ports are to be arranged to carry significant numbers of Human Shields from Major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered to carry human shields from some of the world’s major cities and use of land convoys are under consideration.
HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray Human Shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting Human Shields as pawns of Saddam. In order for the Human Shields to have power they must be seen as independent supporters of the people of Syria who represent the will of the vast majority of people around the world who oppose the pending US-led western attack. The HS should however work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society and great effort should be made to produce daily news stories of the Human Shields and Syrian people working together to protect Syria from the ongoing foreign instigated aggression. There are once again many details here and these would need to be discussed and agreed if any action will be able to reach its full potential.
Strategy – The sites that Human Shields deploy to must be very well publicized and these sites must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but they must attack the infrastructure as the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and make it so weak that Israel will through its agents eventually take Syria over. They know that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.
So it is absolutely vital that all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (if they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage sites and other such sites that are critical to the civilian population are the primary if not sole focus of sites for the HS to deploy. They cannot deploy to military sites, although I personally feel this is morally defensible, it will neutralize the power of the HS in the public relations realm and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.
A comprehensive list of protected sites is to be produced immediately and these sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives would be great, human rights attorneys, legal experts and others of this type are very useful.
There will be room to deploy to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as with ethnic and religious minority communities who are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorists. Special emphasis should be placed on Christian populations as the western audience sadly has more sympathy for Christians than Muslims.”
Our goal is to personalize the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the Internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur. A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. There must be high quality, well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.
We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens and have legal briefs prepared to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.
The Action Plan concludes:
We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemies momentum against him in the most powerful way possible.
Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrians are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.
Franklin Lamb can be reached c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
- ‘Hands off’: Syrians form human shields outside possible US strike targets (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Tubas, Occupied Palestine – Last Tuesday Sireen Sawafteh, a 24 year old woman from Tubas, was detained by Israeli forces. She is currently being held in Al Jalameh, an Israeli prison. Her family and friends fear for her safety. She has been denied access to a lawyer and she has not been allowed to make any contact with her loved ones since her arrest.
At around 3pm last Tuesday Sireen’s car was stopped at a temporary checkpoint on the road between Nablus and Tubas in the West Bank. After brief questioning by Israeli forces she was detained. The second person in the car was also detained.
In the early hours on Wednesday, Israeli forces raided Sireen’s family home whilst her father Khalid Sawafteh, her mother, three brothers, sisters in law and their two young children were sleeping. Twenty-five army jeeps entered the town of Tubas. Twenty officers entered the home and over one hundred remained in the street cornering off the house. The family and young children were all taken into one room whilst their home was ransacked. Israeli soldiers took all the computers in the house leaving Sireen’s relatives in shock.
Tubas is located in Area A as designated under the Oslo Accords, an agreement drawn up between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. ‘Legally’ it is under total Palestinian civil and military control. Israeli civilians and military are prohibited to enter Area A and any incursion into this area is considered a breach of this agreement. Despite this, Israeli forces have continue to carry out ‘operations’ in Area A.
The illegal incursion on Wednesday morning sparked protests in Tubas. Israeli forces fired tear gas and sound grenades at local residents as they gathered. Omar Abed al-Razaq, a 20 year old local university student from Nablus, was injured. He is in a serious but stable condition in Nablus Hospital. He has lost some of his fingers and is currently unable to communicate with his visitors. The full extent of his injuries are not yet known. The head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society in Tubas, Mahmud Sawafteh, denounced Israel’s continuous raids, which he says causes ‘fear and panic among residents (1).’
Since her detention, Sireen has been forcibly transferred out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories to an Israeli prison in Haifa located in the north of Israel, a practice illegal under international law.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the cccupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”. While Article 76 states clearly that ‘protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein”.
Last Thursday, lawyers acting for Sireen tried to visit the prison inside Israel where she is being held. They were refused entry. She appeared in court on Monday with her hands and legs shackled. The spurious charge was internet activism, creating a Facebook page which is considered a ‘threat’ to the ‘security’ of the region.
Sireen is active in the non violent campaign for human rights in Palestine. She studied computer science at the Open University in Tubas. During her studies she was actively involved in a twinning project between Tubas and the University of Sussex, England. She took part in a delegation of students which visited the UK from Palestine to strengthen links and foster friendships.
Rashed Kahled, Sireen’s older brother said; ‘We in the family are very concerned for Sireen and we would love her to be returned to us soon. My mother is very sad and fears for Sireen, she cannot sleep. How can we be at peace? We do not know what is happening and we are not allowed to see her.’
Many Palestinian women prisoners suffer abuse during their detention. Palestinian women prisoners are often kept in the same cells as Israeli female convicts. This practice often leads to female Palestinian prisoners being humiliated, suffering from threats and assault perpetrated with impunity by the Israel prisoners.
Adameer, a Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organisation reports that Palestinian women prisoners ‘are subjected to some form of psychological torture and ill-treatment throughout the process of their arrest and detention, including various forms of sexual violence that occur such as beatings, insults, threats, body searches, and sexually explicit harassment. Upon arrest, women detainees are not informed where they are being taken and are rarely explained their rights during interrogation. These techniques of torture and ill-treatment are used not only as means to intimidate Palestinian women detainees, but also as tools to humiliate Palestinian women and coerce them into giving confessions (2).’
Sireen was in court for the second time this Wednesday. The judge extended her detention for a further 6 days. She will appear again on Monday, when it is possible her detention will be further extended.
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Write to your MP and ask them to make representations to the Israeli government calling for Sireen’s release
- Israel renews administrative detention of 11 Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Inhuman: Israeli abuse of Palestinian children in prison ‘systematic’ says UN report (sott.net)
More bad news emerged from Israel in recent weeks. Indeed, good news is seldom associated with Israel and its military occupation and institutionalized discrimination and mistreatment of Palestinians.
But now even those international organizations that are often supportive of Israel’s militancy seem to be joining the consensus that Tel Aviv is on an irrevocably perilous course.
Few international law experts would defend Israel’s fervent settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land.
Yet the Western powers, led by the United States, have brought little pressure to bear on Israel to cease its illegal activities.
In fact, without US and European funding it would have been nearly impossible for Israel to build settlements and transfer over half a million Israelis over the years to live on stolen Palestinian land, in violation of numerous international laws including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Worse still, trade with European and other countries sustained these illegal settlements, allowing them to flourish at the expense of Palestinians who have suffered massive ethnic cleansing campaigns since 1967.
But at last EU diplomats in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are speaking out in unequivocal terms.
In a report released at the end of last month, the diplomats declared that “settlement construction remains the biggest single threat to the two-state solution. It is systematic, deliberate and provocative.”
The report called on EU states “not to support … research, education and technological co-operation” with settlements and to “discourage” investing in Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.
Expectedly, the report is non-binding. And even if such recommendations are considered, Israel and its EU friends and lobbyists are likely to find loopholes that would deprive any EU action of substance and vigor.
Without civil society action focused on turning up the heat on European governments, especially die-hard supporters of Israel such as the British government, business with Israel is most likely to carry on as usual.
Not only is Israel flouting international law but the supposed guardians of international law are the very ones that are empowering Israel in carrying out its illegal acts, disempowering and bankrupting Palestinians.
Last January an Oxfam report said that the Palestinian economy, which is currently in utter disarray, could generate urgently needed income – $1.5 billion to be exact – if Israel eased its restrictions in the Jordan Valley alone.
But without suitable access to their own land and to water sources, Palestinians in the valley continue to struggle while the settlers are thriving.
Although the US government is well known to have done everything in its power to defend Israel at any cost and ensure Israel’s superiority and military edge over all of its neighbors, the EU has falsely acquired a more balanced reputation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In a recent report the Palestinian rights group al-Haq emphasized that trading in produce grown in settlements had “directly contributed to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive.”
The reported value of total EU trade with illegal Israeli settlements amounts to approximately $300 million a year. This may appear small compared with the $39bn of total trade between the EU and Israel reported in 2011, for example, but it does mean that “the EU has some room for leverage given it is Israel’s largest trade partner, and it receives some 20 per cent of total Israeli exports,” as pointed out by Dalia Hatuqa writing for al-Monitor.
The fact is that Europe is ultimately taking part in the subjugation of the Palestinians by funding Israel’s illegal occupation and its massively growing settler population. And no amount of diplomatic “recommendations” or newspeak can alter that fact.
But settlement growth cannot be considered in a vacuum. It makes no sense to talk about boycotting settlements while supporting the main organs that ordered or sanctioned the illegal settlements in the first place.
So differentiating between products made in Israel or those made in the settlements is absurd at best.
The settlers are not self-sustaining autonomous outposts. They are considered part and parcel of the so-called Israel proper.
In the eyes of the Israeli government there is little distinction between settlers from Ma’ale Adumim or residents of Tel Aviv.
Yigal Palmore of the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to the EU report in withering terms.
“A diplomat’s mission is to build bridges and bring people together, not to foster confrontation. The EU consuls have clearly failed in their mission,” he said.
Nothing is random in Israeli planning. As is already the case in various parts of the occupied territories, Palestinians are becoming an unwanted presence on their own land.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s has decided to develop more settlements in an area known as E1, which is set to cut off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
There is unlikely to be a turning back from the construction plans, which include the building of 3,000 settler homes in the land corridor near Jerusalem.
Israel is unrelenting and seems to have no regard for international law. It is emboldened in its actions by the weakness of its neighbors, the unhindered backing of its friends, and the gutlessness of its critics, who all too often are consumed in intellectual tussles over the boundaries of language and proper ways to frame the discourse.
None of this wrangling is of any concern to Israel, which is merely winning time to achieve its own harrowingly ugly version of apartheid.
For those who still feel uneasy with this provocative term, consider the latest Israeli transport ministry’s initiative. It has designated bus line No 210, which shuttles cheap Palestinian laborers to and from the West Bank, to be “Palestinian only.”
Of course this is not an isolated policy but a continuation of a dreadful track record.
Bad news from Israel is likely to continue.
Almost every day there is a new disturbing development in Israeli practices against Palestinians.
All too often this is merely met with feeble international criticism without any substantial action.
Civil society organizations and groups must tell their governments that enough is enough.
While Israel should be held responsible for its own behavior, the EU and other countries should not finance the occupation while decrying the settlements. This hypocrisy can no longer be tolerated.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).
- Stop EU funding of Israeli military companies and illegal settlements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel has given final approval for 90 new homes in Beit El settlement near Ramallah and greenlighted the construction of 346 settlement homes in the southern West Bank, officials and an NGO said Monday.
Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the plans had been published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the “final stage of approval”, meaning construction of the new homes could begin “within a few days.”
The plans were signed off by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in August but received the final rubber stamp on Sunday by the Civil Administration’s planning committee, she said.
The Beit El construction plans were hurriedly put together as a compensatory measure for settlers who were evicted last year from Ulpana, an unauthorized settlement outpost on the outskirts of Beit El which was evacuated following a High Court ruling.
A civil administration spokesman confirmed the approval for the 90 units, saying they had been signed off by the political establishment.
Ofran said it meant the bulldozers could now get to work immediately.
“They can start building within a few days,” she said.
The Yesha Council – an umbrella organization of settlement councils – said that they welcomed any development in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported. The group led the 2005 movement against Israel’s disengagement plan.
On Sunday, the defense ministry confirmed it had given the green light for the construction of 346 new settler homes in two settlements in the southern West Bank: 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 in Nokdim.
The approval was pushed through despite the fact that Israel is currently between governments following last month’s general elections, with coalition talks likely to continue for several more weeks.
“Even though there is not yet a new government in place they are still allowing settlement procedures to continue instead of putting them on hold which is a telling sign about this new government,” Ofran said.
The move comes just days after the White House announced that Obama would make his first-ever visit to Israel as president on a trip expected to take place in late March.
According to Peace Now data for 2012, at least 1,747 new settlement housing units were built in the past year, and plans were approved for the construction of 6,676 more homes.
The international community views all Israeli construction on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Palestinians have refused to return to peace talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.
A UN human rights inquiry has called on Israel to remove all Jewish settlers from the West Bank and cease expansion. The report said the settlements violate international law, and are an attempt to drive out Palestinians through intimidation.
”Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” the report read, adding that Israel must immediately begin to withdraw all settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).
The inquiry prompted a strong reaction from Israel who slammed the report as biased.
“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” said spokesman Yigal Palmor in a statement.
The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into an occupied area – such an act could constitute war crimes if brought before the International Criminal Court. Following the UN’s de facto recognition of Palestine last December, Israel announced plans to build thousands of homes in the OPT.
In response, Palestine wrote to the UN warning that Israel’s planned expansion into the occupied territories would lead to more war crimes being committed.
The UN investigators interviewed over 50 people who were driven from their homes. They described how their livelihoods were destroyed and their land was confiscated, and how they were subjected to continuous violence from Jewish settlers.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” said the report.
The report has the potential to significantly worsen the UN’s already-strained relationship with Israel, particularly after Israeli representatives failed to appear at a UN human rights review two days ago.
The Israeli government has repeatedly ignored international condemnations of its settlements in the occupied territories, and continues to bar the entry of a Human Rights Council probe to assess the impact of the settlements. Israel has insisted that the organization is biased in favor of the Palestinians, and claimed that historic and biblical ties justify its claim to the territories.
The US State Department issued a statement this week that included a rare criticism of Israeli policy, calling the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian land a “pattern of provocative action” that prevented the renewal of peace talks. Despite this critique, the Israeli government announced plans to move ahead with 6,000 new settlement units, mainly in the Jerusalem area.
After the Palestinian Authority pursued, and succeeded in obtaining, a vote for non-member statehood status at the United Nations last month, the Israeli government undertook a number of punitive measures against the Palestinians. These including illegally confiscating Palestinian Authority funds that would pay the salaries of teachers, doctors, pensioners and the disabled, as well as announcing a plan to increase settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces have militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, and have illegally seized large swaths of Palestinian land in order to transfer Israeli civilians onto this land, in direct violation of its obligations as an Occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since a peace agreement known as the ‘Oslo Accords’ was signed in 1993, hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers have poured into the West Bank and established colonies. In 2005, around 5,000 settlers were paid by the Israeli government to move out of settlements in the Gaza Strip, although many of them ended up moving to other settlements in the West Bank.
In this week’s statement to the press, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, “Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution yet these actions put that goal further at risk.”
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded defiantly, “ We will continue to build in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests.”
1,500 units were approved on Monday by Israel’s Interior Ministry, and discussion is continuing throughout this week on the plans for 4,500 additional units, which are expected to receive final approval by the Israeli Interior Ministry early next week.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered to be violations of international law.
A large explosion rocked the southern Lebanese town of Tair Harfa on Monday, five kilometers from the Israeli border, killing several farm animals, resident said. There were no human casualties.
A Lebanese security source said the blast was caused by an Israeli rocket fired into Lebanon during the 2006 war, that had not detonated.
A Reuters reporter said that members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army and around 50 members of a UN peacekeeping force were at the site of the Monday blast, but that he was prevented from approaching the area.
But Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said its soldiers in the area were still trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
Israel had dropped approximately four million cluster bombs on Southern Lebanon during the war on a country of less than four million residents. More than one million bombs were left unexploded, according to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report.
When cluster munitions are fired, over 100 sub-munitions are ejected from a single shell, but one-in-four do not explode immediately.
Israel fired the majority of the cluster munitions in the last two days of their war on Lebanon in anticipation of a ceasefire. Over six years later, unexploded bombs continue to kill civilians.
Children constitute a large percentage of the casualties as they often mistake the unexploded bombs for toys.
Most recently a sub-munition exploded and killed a Lebanese security official in early October as he was demining land near his village of Deir Sirian in Southern Lebanon.
According to a Human Rights Watch Report, continued demining efforts are hampered by the refusal of Israel’s army to provide data on the number of strikes, the type of weapons used, and their targets, despite repeated UN appeals to Israel.
So far, 111 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs. Countries that have not signed on include Israel, the United States, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Brazil.
The treaty is presently ratified by 77 countries, making it officially illegal in those states.
However, because cluster munitions do not allow for specific targets, and because the small bomblets continue to kill civilians long after the bombs are dropped, the use of cluster bombs violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, that prohibits indiscriminate attacks that threaten civilians and non-military targets.
This treaty is ratified by 194 countries including Israel, making it internationally binding for all.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters )
Civilian Infrastructure Targeted by Israeli Military
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
- From Soweto 1976 to Gaza 2012: What we need is People’s Power! (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In 2008/2009 Gaza was bombed by Israeli Apache helicopters and F16 and V58 fighter planes for 22 days, ultimately causing the deaths of more than 1400 Palestinians, predominately civilians. Israel, with all the impunity it has enjoyed since its establishment on the ruins of Palestinian society, returned to Gaza two weeks ago and repeated some of the same crimes in 8 days, launching 1800 aerial strikes, killing more than 175 Palestinians — including 34 children, 11 women, 19 elderly — and injuring 1399 people, including 465 children, 254 women, and 91 elderly, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Israel’s academic institutions have played a key role in the planning, development, implementation and justification of this and many other Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. Tel Aviv University, for instance, takes pride in playing the central role in the development of the Israeli military doctrine of “disproportionate force” against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Technion, Israel’s institute of technology, takes credit for developing many of the deadly weapon systems used against civilians in Gaza and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory. And the list goes on. This entrenched and fatal academic complicity in the commission of crimes against civilians has made PACBI and its partners around the world intensify their campaign for a comprehensive academic boycott of Israel in light of the latest massacre in Gaza.
Israel’s belligerent and entirely disproportionate air, land and sea bombardment of the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip always damages vital infrastructure and terrifies the civilian population and is therefore considered a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Such war crimes are forbidden under international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prescribes the manner in which armies must treat civilians during times of conflict.
But Israel has been getting away with these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The “international community,” under U.S. hegemony, seems apathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. In fact, from diplomatic support to intricate military, academic and economic relations, the US-European establishment has been deeply complicit in prolonging and strengthening Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, as well as in justifying and whitewashing it.
The U.S. president, followed by a chorus of European leaders, duly jumped to Israel’s defense, upholding its “right to defend itself,” ignoring the fact that international law unequivocally stipulates that any injustice or unlawful act cannot give rise to a legal right or entitlement. Missing in such mantras is the right of the Palestinian people, the occupied, ethnically cleansed and oppressed, to self-determination and to defend itself against foreign occupation, a right that is granted by international law, within specific parameters. The British FM William Hague performed skillful acrobatics to spin the blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression, claiming that “Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end!”
It is crucial to contextualize Israel’s latest war of aggression as part of an ongoing strategy of depriving Palestinians, especially in Gaza, of means of sustenance in order to “sear into their conscience” Israel’s upper hand and the futility of resistance. The hermetic siege imposed on Gaza for more than 5 years, epitomized by Israel’s use of a ‘calorie count’ to limit the flow of food into Gaza, is the most deadly dimension of this patently criminal strategy .
This strategy, characterized by a former editor of Haaretz, a leading Israeli daily, as one of “expulsion” as well as “territorial seizure and apartheid” has shaped Israel’s policy for a long time. As far back as 1992, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wished Gaza“would just sink into the sea” . The overwhelming majority of Gaza is made up of refugees ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and later the state of Israel during the 1948 Nakba. The fact that Gazans are not born to Jewish mothers – the criterion used by Israel to determine who is Jewish — is enough reason to deprive them of their UN-stipulated right to return to their homes and lands from which they were uprooted and exiled. The deeply colonial and racist Israeli logic views Palestinians, like the Afrikaner establishment viewed the Black natives of South Africa, as an inferior, hostile group of people that must be isolated in Bantustans, in accordance with the Oslo Accords’ terms, without calling them so; and if they show any resistance to this plan, they must get punished severely by transforming these Bantustans into “open-air prisons” or walled ghettos.
As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and its other policies designed to punish Gazans, about 40% of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, and about 60% of its residents live in grinding poverty, according to various United Nations agencies’ reports. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or international agencies; an increasing number of Palestinian families in Gaza are unable to offer their children more than one meager meal a day, often little more than rice and boiled lentils. Fresh fruit and vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Meat and chicken are impossibly expensive. And fish is unavailable in its markets because the Israeli navy has curtailed the movements of Gaza’s fishermen.
The UN, EU and the “international community,” by and large, have remained silent in the face of atrocities committed by Israel. Hundreds of dead Palestinians have failed to convince them to act. We are, therefore, left with one option; an option that does not wait for the United Nations Security Council, namely: people’s power. This remains the only power capable of counteracting the massive imbalance between the oppressed Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.
The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in the wake of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. This campaign led ultimately to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.
Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Now is the time to boycott the apartheid Israeli state, to divest and to impose sanctions against it. A crucial dimension of BDS that is more urgent than ever is an academic boycott of Israel’s universities, which have once again been shown to be full partners in crime.
- Only boycotts will work (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Stevie Wonder cancels performance for the Friends of the Israel “Defense” Forces following international outcry (alethonews.wordpress.com)