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)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses concern about the escalation of these violations, which have resulted in the arrest of four fishermen and the confiscation of a fishing boat belonging to a fisherman from the Gaza Strip.
According to the findings of investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, Israeli naval forces positioned off Al-Waha resort northwest of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire on a group of fishermen and arrested four fishermen while they were fishing 2 nautical miles offshore. The arrested men were identified as: Ramez Izat Baker (41), Khamis Sobhi Baker (43), Arafat Mohammad Najib Baker (20), Bayan Khamis Baker (17). In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, ‘Eid Mohssen ‘Eid Baker (23) from the northern Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, who was near the scene at the time of the attack, reported the following:
“At approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, I was fishing with my brothers on my father’s boat near al-Soudanya area, in the north of Gaza, nearly 2 nautical miles off the shore, while my cousins’ boat was fishing approximately 200 meters away from us, when I saw an Israeli gunboat approaching us. One of the soldiers used a speakerphone and told us to sail towards the north, however, we went south and continued fishing. 15 minutes later, the gunboat came again at great speed and suddenly they started shooting randomly at us. One of the soldiers ordered us to stop, but we kept sailing south in escape of the open fire. My cousin Ramez Baker’s boat suddenly stopped after a bullet hit the boat engine, and the Israeli gunboat approached it, to a distance of nearly 30 meters. I saw the four fishermen, Ramez, Arafat, Khamis and his son Bayan, take off their clothes, jump in the water amidst the continuous shooting, and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The soldiers confiscated the fishermen’s boat and transported it towards the northern side.”
It should be noted that Israeli forces have recently imposed more restrictions on the work of fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish freely. Israeli forces reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008. However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish is abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area. Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their source of income, because they are denied access to Palestinian waters.
PCHR condemns the recurrence of violations committed by the Israeli naval forces against Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of a policy of collective punishment against civilians, and that they are aimed at preventing civilians from meeting their subsistence needs. Such actions are prohibited under international humanitarian and international human rights law.
PCHR holds that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. It is also a war crime, the recurrence of which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This view is maintained in legal opinions issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human right and international humanitarian law.
In light of the above, PCHR:
- Calls upon Israel to immediately release the arrested fishermen, return the confiscated boat to its owners, and compensate the victims for any material or psychological damages caused by the attack;
- Calls upon Israel to respect the right to freedom of movement of fishermen in the Gaza Strip, to immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen, to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza Sea;
- Calls upon Israel to put an end to the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War; and
- Calls upon the international community and the High Contacting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their legal and moral obligations, apply the rules of international law, and put a just end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army Opens Fire At Fishermen In Gaza (imemc.org)
- 13 Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen in past two months (alethonews.wordpress.com)
TEHRAN – In a statement read out at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday, Iran and other members of the Non-Aligned Movement called on the UN Security Council to act and demand that Israel immediately stop violating international law.
The statement was read out by the Iranian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, on behalf of the NAM member states, during an open debate about the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.
Iran assumed the rotating presidency of NAM for a three-year term on August 30.
Following are excerpts of the text of Khazaee’s speech:
The Non-Aligned Movement remains firm in its conviction of the urgent need for the international community to act resolutely and collectively to fulfill its longstanding commitment to, and responsibility for, the realization of a just solution to the question of Palestine in all its aspects on the basis of international law and the terms of reference of the peace process, including the resolutions of the council.
The movement remains resolute to continue assisting the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest for dignity, justice, and their inalienable right to self-determination in their independent state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This issue is long overdue and its continued postponement will only put that goal further out of reach.
The movement supports fully the application submitted by Palestine on 23 September 2011, for membership in the United Nations and considers it to be consistent with the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence.
The movement remains concerned about the ongoing and intensifying acts of violence, terrorism, and racist hate crimes, demolition of houses, revocation of residency, attacks on towns and villages across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, excavations under Al-Aqsa Mosque and storming the Mosque compound, firing stun grenades at Palestinian worshipers, the latest of which took place on Friday 5 October 2012 causing many injuries among Palestinian worshipers as well as the uprooting of olive and other trees by illegal Israeli settlers.
The Non-Aligned Movement expresses grave concern regarding the deteriorating situation and deplorable conditions of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and detainees unlawfully held in Israeli jails and detention centers, including at least 300 children as well as women and elected officials, and calls for their immediate release.
The Non-Aligned Movement reiterates its call for the Security Council to act and demand that Israel, the occupying power, immediately ceases all such violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, and fully abides by its legal obligations, including those under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel’s blatant impunity and disregard for the law cannot be tolerated.
Turning to Lebanon, the Movement condemns Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and calls on all parties concerned to fully implement resolution 1701 (2006), in order to end the current fragility and avoid the resurgence of hostilities.
- NAM demands that Israel join the NPT without further delay (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran’s Strategic Diplomatic Victory over the Washington-Israeli Axis: Its Larger Political Consequences (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- NAM calls for total nuclear disarmament (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel should end settler impunity for violence (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Haniya, in her home in al Nussairat.
On Monday, 10 September, 2012, Israeli warplanes launched 2 missiles at a vast tract of land in the west of al-Nussairat refugee camp in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip. As a result, 2 rooms and a container on the land were destroyed. 10 olive trees and 23 houses were also damaged. Additionally, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and 2 women, were wounded. This attack targeted civilian objects which is a violation of international law.
Haniya Abdul Hadi Kabaja (60) is one of the women who sustained minor injuries on the night of the attack. She recounts that: “At around 2.00am in the night, we woke up to the sound of shelling. We were all very scared but we went back to sleep. 15 or so minutes later, we heard more shelling and shrapnel hitting surfaces outside. Something hit my face and, when I touched it, I felt myself bleeding. My son, Anas, saw this and he started screaming for his brothers to come and help me. After they offered me first aid, we heard my ten-year-old granddaughter, Reema, crying, and that is when we noticed that she had also been wounded, in her leg.”
An ambulance arrived after a while, and Haniya and her granddaughter were taken to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital. Their wounds were moderate and they were discharged soon after.
Until now, Haniya and her family have unanswered questions with regard to the attack. They do not know what the exact target was: “All of us were terrified, because the missiles were launched about 100m from where we live. Other people in the neighborhood also got injured by the shrapnel from the missiles. Some windows were smashed and there is clear damage to some of the asbestos roofs. In this area, there have been no incidents since Cast Lead. Nobody really knows why they launched missiles on an empty piece of land, and so close to where people live.”
Since the attack, Haniya’s family has been living in constant fear of further attack. This has had a particularly negative impact on the children: “The attack has really frightened the children. They used to go out after dark to play or to visit relatives who live in neighboring houses. Now, they do not even step outside after darkness falls because they are too scared. They are not the only ones who are scared. Even we, the adults, feel the same way. At the same time, we know that there is nothing we can say against the Israeli occupation. We cannot do anything about it either.”
Haniya’s son, Mohammed (32), hopes to see an end to the attacks on unarmed civilians and calls for the respect of everyone’s rights. “I just want to see the situation change and an end to the Israeli occupation. We are unarmed civilians, yet they follow us and continue to attack and terrorize us in our homes. They hurt my mother and my daughter, yet they had not even done anything. We have not caused problems for anyone and the only thing we demand is our rights, our land and our freedom. We are peaceful people and we want it to remain that way. After all these years of being attacked, we will not stop demanding our rights. Even if they kill all of us and only 10 people remain, we will still demand for those rights.”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Intentionally launching an indiscriminate attack constitutes a war crime as defined in Article 8 (2) (b) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, which is codified in Article 51 (5) (b) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, an attack that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof is considered excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
- Occupied Lives: I have no future (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- OCHA: Israeli occupation destroys 13 houses weekly in West Bank (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Weekly Report: 2 Palestinians executed; 3 wounded by Israeli forces this week (imemc.org)
- Occupied Lives: Nothing Left To Hope For (imemc.org)
Following around six hours of deliberation, the United Church of Canada (UCC), the largest Protestant denomination in the country, voted for boycotting products made in Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
The Toronto Star reported that a spokesperson of the UCC general council identified as Bruce Gregersen, stated that the decision is considered a significant step.
The UCC will be holding another vote on Friday to decide whether this boycott would be a regarded as a permanent policy of the church.
Israeli Ynet News reported that the Centre for Israel and the Jewish Affairs in Canada said that it was “outraged by this decision”, and considered it “a move that singled out Jewish communities for boycott”.
The Centre claimed that this decision is considered a “reckless path”, and added that the decision just dismisses the concerns of the Jewish community in Canada.
According to the Ynet, Chairman of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, David Koschitzky, stated that mainstream Jewish organization, including the Canadian Friends of Peace Now, “do not approve of this boycott decision”.
He added that this decision ignored around 100.000 families, members of different Jewish federations in Canada, and said that this decision “also ignores written rejection letters of 70 Canadian Rabbis, representing tens of thousands of Jewish families in the country”.
Israel’s settlements are located in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem. There have been several churches and organizations around the world, including educational facilities that have previously voted in favor of boycotting products made in Israel’s settlements.
Israel’s settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under International Law, and even violate the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.
A group of extremist Israeli settlers used electric pumps to empty a Palestinian irrigation well and flooded Palestinian farmlands in as-Seer area, east of Sa’ir town, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Resident Yassin Mohammad ash-Shalalda, told the Land Research Center that settlers of Esfir and Mitzad settlements carried out their attack on Tuesday at night. The settlers reportedly used a motor pump to empty the well and flooded the nearby Palestinian farmlands.
He added that several hundred cubic meters of land were wasted in the attack, and that the residents use this water for both irrigation and as a source of drinking water for their livestock.
Ash-Shalalda further stated that the residents filed a complaint to the Israeli police in Keryat Arba’ settlement in Hebron, but are not hopeful that there will be any affirmative action by the police due to the fact that numerous previous assaults, carried out by the settlers, were never investigated
The area in question is subject to frequent attacks especially since the settlers of both the illegal settlements of Mitzad and Esfir have been trying to expand their colonies at the expense of privately-owned Palestinian lands. The two outposts were also built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.
Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are turning Palestinian cities, towns and villages into isolated ghettoes, while Israel and the extremist settlers continue to focus on fertile Palestinian lands, mainly in the Jordan Valley. Most Israeli settlements and outposts are also built on hilltops surrounding different parts of the occupied West Bank.
- Jewish settlers spray toxic substance, kill herd of sheep (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 8 injured as settlers stone bus carrying worshipers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Number of Jewish settlers in West Bank doubled in 12 years (alethonews.wordpress.com)