BRICS have slammed recent reports ahead of the G20 meet to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin or to place any restrictions on his participation at the G-20 summit in Australia later this year.
“The Ministers noted with concern, the recent media statement on the forthcoming G20 Summit to be held in Brisbane in November 2014. The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all Member States equally and no one Member State can unilaterally determine its nature and character,” said a joint BRICS statement on Monday. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said earlier that Putin could be barred from attending the G20 Summit in November.
BRICS Foreign Ministers met on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague on Monday to review cooperation among the bloc of five after the adoption of the eThekwini Action Plan of 2013.
The Ministers noted that the role of global governments should focus on “finance, security, information and production”.
“The BRICS agenda is not centered around any specific country or related issue and shares a common vision which drives it to also increasingly identify common areas for cooperation to assist with finding global solutions to global challenges,” noted the joint communiqué.
The BRICS meet convened by South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was attended by her counterparts Sergey Lavrov, Salman Khurshid, Wang Yi and Carlos Antonio Paranhos, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs of the Federative Republic of Brazil.
The BRICS Ministers also discussed cybersecurity and challenges to peace and security, “notably the significant infringements of privacy and related rights in the wake of the cyber threats experienced, for which there is a need to address these implications in respect of national laws as well as in terms of international law”, said the statement.
BRICS would “continue to act as positive catalysts for inclusive change in the transformation process towards a new and more equitable global order” asserted the Ministers.
BRICS have opposed sanctions against the Syrian government and have argued for a negotiated settlement of the Iranian issue. They are also pushing for reforms of global financial institutions like the IMF.
The five nations also agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the fold of the United Nations.
“The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” said the statement.
Only a few months after rejoining the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and a few days after being allowed to participate in JUSCANZ, an advisory group affiliated with the UN providing consultation on human rights to UN bodies including the HRC, Israel has been awarded for its constant contempt and human rights violations by the unanimous nomination of UN Ambassador Ron Prosor to chair the elections for the Human Rights Committee.
Prosor’s nomination has been described by Israeli representatives as “a sign of the popularity that the current Israeli ambassador enjoys in New York”. A prompt substitution of “popularity” for “strategic allegiance” is a more suitable reflection of the dynamics which the UN, the US and Israel seek to enforce through collaboration to further oppression in the name of safeguarding human rights.
Following the nomination, Prosor stated, “It is a great honour to chair the elections for the Human Rights Committee. The central role Israel plays to advance human rights across the world is the real answer to anyone calling for boycotts against Israel.”
Prosor’s words attempt to project the image of the allegedly isolated settler-colonial state necessitating international support as having overcome hurdles allowing it to establish a formidable facade of resistance against the growing boycott movement.
On February 10, the US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power declared, “We have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.”
However, despite the human rights rhetoric spouted during the discourse, the only example provided of Israel’s international contribution to human rights was the humanitarian response to the Haiti earthquake, which is expected to compensate for the criticism regarding the collective punishment cruelly inflicted upon Palestinians for decades.
The rhetoric clearly portrays the manner in which coercion has become an integral part of human rights discourse.
The US and the UN have constantly utilised human rights discourse and humanitarian concerns as a pretext to distribute violence as means of preserving the imperialist manipulation of freedom, a factor conveniently shunned to create avenues for structured charters attempting to address vestiges of dignity.
Depicting Israel’s inclusion and prominent participation in matters pertaining to human rights as an asset signifies the exerted domination to maintain oppression, as well as unconditional support for Israel’s protection.
In turn, the platform granted to Prosor gives precedence to the fabricated narratives which ensured the creation of the settler-colonial state upon the destruction of Palestine, in complicity with the UN and its approach to eradicating the protection of human rights.
Prosor’s choreographed appointment reaffirms the imperialist efforts to compromise Palestinian freedom from within an organisation which legitimises its own violations while revelling in its self-imposed impunity.
I had a heck of a time making sense of the U.S. Navy’s new motto “A Global Force for Good” until I realized that it meant “We are a global force, and wherever we go we’re never leaving.”
For three years now people in the little island nation of Bahrain have been nonviolently protesting and demanding democratic reforms.
For three years now the king of Bahrain and his royal thugs have been shooting, kidnapping, torturing, imprisoning, and terrorizing nonviolent opponents. An opponent includes anyone speaking up for human rights or even “insulting” the king or his flag, which carries a sentence of 7 years in prison and a hefty fine.
For three years now, Saudi Arabia has been aiding the King of Bahrain in his crackdown on the people of Bahrain. A U.S. police chief named John Timoney, with a reputation for brutality earned in Miami and Philadelphia, was hired to help the Bahraini government intimidate and brutalize its population.
For three years now, the U.S. government has been tolerating the abuses committed by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, continuing to sell weapons to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and continuing to dock the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. In fact, the U.S. military has recently announced big and pricey plans to expand its bases in Bahrain and add more ships.
For three years now, the U.S. government has continued to dump some $150 billion (with a ‘B’) each year into the U.S. Navy, a large portion of which goes for the maintenance of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Withdrawing and disbanding that fleet would save that gargantuan expense. Retraining and re-employing in peaceful activities all personnel would cost a fraction of $150 billion. Providing aid to nonviolent pro-democracy activists in Bahrain would cost a tiny fraction of a fraction. Establishing a policy in the case of this one country of supporting human rights over brutal dictatorship would be, as they say, priceless. It would create a very useful model for a transformation of U.S. policy in numerous other nations as well.
Accurate and timely information about the horrors underway for the past three years in Bahrain are available online, via Western human rights groups, and via small back-page stories in U.S. newspapers. There’s little dispute over the general facts. Yet, there’s little outrage. There appears to have been no polling done of the U.S. public on the topic of Bahrain whatsoever, so it’s impossible to know what people think. But my impression is that most people have never heard of the place.
The U.S. government is not shouting about the need to bomb Bahrain to protect its people. Senators are not insisting on sanctions, sanctions, and more sanctions. There seems to be no crisis, no need for “intervention,” only the need to end an intervention we aren’t told about.
Which raises a tough question for people who give a damn. We’re able to reject a war on Iran or Syria when the question is raised on our televisions. But we can’t seem to stop drone strikes nobody tells us about. How do we create a question nobody is asking, about a topic nobody has heard of, and then answer it humanely and wisely? And how do we overcome the inevitable pretense that the Fifth Fleet serves some useful purpose, and that this purpose justifies a little teargas, a bit of torture, and some murders here and there?
The Fifth Fleet claims to be responsible for these nations: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. None of these nations have ships in U.S. waters claiming to be responsible for it. None of these nations’ peoples have indicated majority support for having the Fifth Fleet be responsible for them. Afghanistan has suffered under U.S. occupation for over a decade, with chaos and tyranny to follow. Egypt’s thugs are rising anew with steady U.S. support, money, and weaponry. Iran has threatened and attacked no other nation for centuries, has never had a nuclear weapons program, spends less than 1% what the U.S. does on its military, and moves away from democracy with every U.S. threat. Why not leave Iran alone? Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others of these nations, including Bahrain, suffer under the rule of U.S.-backed governments. One might reasonably add Israel and the lands it occupies to the list, even if the Navy cannot bring itself to mention them. Yemen and Pakistan suffer under the constant buzzing and missile launching of U.S. drones, which are creating far more enemies than they kill. In fact, not a single nation falling under the past 19 years of benevolent “responsibility” of the Fifth Fleet has clearly benefited in any way.
At a third annual conference recently held in Lebanon, Bahraini activists laid out a plan of action. It includes building international connections with people who care and are willing to help. It includes supporting the International Day to End Impunity on November 23rd. It includes pushing Bahrain to join the ICC, although that may be of little value until the U.S. can be persuaded to do the same and until the United Nations can be democratized. The plan includes calls for an end to weapons sales and the initiation of sanctions against the Bahraini government (not its people).
Those would certainly be good steps. The first question in my mind remains: do the people in the nation that screams most loudly about “freedom” and does the most to support its repression wherever deemed useful, care?
Separate tirades against highly esteemed international law authority Richard Falk were launched one day apart from each other in Washington and Ottawa over remarks Falk made last week to RT.
A week ago RT’s program “The Truthseeker” aired a segment on the recent findings of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal—a segment that also included comments from Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, as well as footage of flooding of Gaza’s streets.
The tribunal found Israel guilty of genocide against the Palestinians, and in his remarks to RT Falk stated, “When you target a group, an ethnic group, and inflict this kind of punishment upon them you are in effect nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal.”
Hardly a controversial statement. However, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called the comments “appalling” and said they “underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his (Falk’s) service as a UN Special Rapporteur.” Baird also demanded the UN Human Rights Council “remove Falk from his position immediately.”
Not to be outdone, US State Dept. mouthpiece Jen Psaki lambasted Falk’s remarks as “despicable and deeply offensive” and called upon Falk to step down from his UN post—once again substantiating Washngton’s reputation as “Israeli occupied territory.”
Coming up in a few days the world will mark the fifth anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, a frenzy of military high-tech bloodshed that left 1400 Gazans dead, approximately a third of whom were children. In that 22-day assault, Israel bombed homes, schools, and hospitals, fired upon ambulances, and unleashed white phosphorous munitions that melted human skin and burned people alive. And then after the assault was over, the Jewish state continued its blockade of Gaza, making it difficult to outright impossible for people to get building supplies to rebuild their destroyed homes. Shortages of food and medicine were also reported, and in one notorious case the Israelis even blocked a shipment of pasta.
To say that Israel “targets” an “ethnic group” is undeniably true. To say that it is “nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal” is, if anything, an understatement. But Falk has a history of speaking truthfully that is rare in a public official—and of course this is what Israel and its puppets in the US and Canada really find so objectionable about him.
The interview below with Falk covers a lot of ground—from the UN’s helplessness to confront Israel to the upcoming bleak Christmas faced by Gazans. Falk is interviewed by Stuart Littlewood, author of Radio Free Palestine and whose articles appear frequently on a number of websites. (H/T Uprooted Palestinians)
Creeping annexation, ethnic cleansing and ‘the politics of fragmentation’ inflicted by criminals who strut the world stage and thumb their noses at international law
By Stuart Littlewood
As the international conspiracy to rob Palestinians of their freedom and homeland is exposed a little more each day, observers and activists still puzzle over the duplicity of the United Nations in the decades-long illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Territories, not to mention the true intent of Palestinian leaders. So when Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Occupied Palestine, visited Norwich recently, I took the opportunity to put some questions to him.
SL – Can we start with the so-called peace process, please? Does the resignation of the Palestinian negotiation team, and the reasons given, effectively end the already discredited ‘peace talks’? Should the Palestinians walk away or carry on playing a pointless game for another 6 months?
Richard Falk – It is difficult to know how to assess the current suspension of peace talks. The Palestinian Authority seems always ready to bend to pressure, although with some outer limits. In this respect, the future of this phase of ‘peace talks’ will be determined not in Ramallah, but in Washington and Tel Aviv. It should be evident 20 years after Oslo that the peace talks serve Israel’s interest in ‘creeping annexation’ of the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, while diminishing Palestinian prospects, and even harming the Palestinian image by disinformation that blames the Palestinian side for the breakdown of the process when and however it occurs. It would be a welcome sign of PA independence if they come forth and denounce this peace process for what it is.
The sad reality is that this is almost certain not to happen, and more likely than not the period of negotiations will be extended beyond the nine months set aside, on the entirely false claim that the parties are on the verge of resolving all their differences, and with a little patience, the prospects for a deal are quite bright.
SL – The negotiators said they were resigning because of the ‘unprecedented escalation’ of settlement building and because the Israeli government wasn’t serious about a two-state solution and had failed to fulfill commitments given before the present talks were resumed. I now read that Erekat has already been back to Washington for more talks with Tzipi Livni (Israel’s lead negotiator), Kerry and US envoy Indyk. Far from denouncing the process they are once again endorsing it, which makes your point.
In any case, how acceptable is it for a weak, demoralised and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced to the negotiation table with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?
Richard Falk – Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US Government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC lobbying group as Special Envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. It is hard to imagine the fury in the West that would exist if the conditions were reversed, and the UN proposed a one-sided ‘peace process’ biased in favour of the Palestinians. The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favour of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.
SL – There can be no peace without justice, so is it right for final status ‘negotiations’ to be held before competing claims are tested in the courts and the many outstanding rulings under international law and UN resolutions are implemented? In any case, shouldn’t a neutral UN peace commission be supervising the final settlement of this long struggle, rather than the US or the Quartet?
Richard Falk – Yes, if the priority were to attain a just and sustainable peace, a framework would be developed that had two characteristics: neutral as between the two sides and sensitive to the relevance of rights under international law. Such sensitivity would favour the Palestinians as their main grievances are all reinforced by an objective interpretation of international law, including in relation to settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water.
SL – How much legitimacy does President Abbas enjoy, having overstayed his term of office?
Richard Falk – This question of political legitimacy of President Abbas turns on the subjective mood of the Palestinian people. Because the PA is a political entity so vulnerable to pressures and manipulation, the status of its presiding leader seems to be widely seen as a secondary matter of limited significance. When President Abbas has articulated the case for Palestinian statehood during the last three years at the United Nations he gained considerable personal respect among most governments and for many Palestinians. He seems a leader caught between the realities of his compromised position and the occasional opportunities to express the national ambitions and support the rights of the Palestinian people. The division with Hamas, and the failure to find a formula to restore Palestinian unity in relation to the West is a further source of weakness for PA claims to represent the Palestinian people as a whole. The failure to hold scheduled elections highlights the insufficiency of PA and Palestinian leadership.
SL – Do you believe a two-state solution is still feasible?
Richard Falk – No. I think Oslo has been dead for some years, primarily due to Israeli policies designed to encroach upon the remnant of Palestinian territorial and symbolic rights, especially by the continuously expanding settlement archipelago, the unlawful separation wall built on occupied territory, and the demographic manipulations in East Jerusalem. The pretence that Oslo plus the Roadmap point the only way to peace serves American and Israeli purposes in quieting growing complaints about the persistence of the conflict. It represents a diplomatic attempt to deflect criticism, and to divert attention from Palestinian grievances and a growing global solidarity movement.
SL – The 1947 UN Partition was unworkable as well as immoral. Shouldn’t the whole territory (of historic Palestine) be returned to the melting pot and shared out more sensibly? Shouldn’t Jerusalem and Bethlehem become an international city, or ‘corpus separatum’, as the UN originally intended?
Richard Falk – For me the fundamental flaw with the partition proposals contained in GA Resolution 181 was the failure to consult the people resident in Palestine at the time. A secondary flaw was the unfairness of awarding 55% of the territory to the Jewish presence as represented by the Zionist movement which in 1947 accounted for only one-third of the population owning around 6% of the land . This idea of determining the future of Palestine by outsiders, even if well intentioned, which seems not to have ever been the case, is incompatible with the historical trend toward resolving the future of peoples by way of the dynamics of self-determination. In Palestine’s case, at least from the issuance of the Balfour Declaration onward, this effort to control the future of Palestine has been justly condemned as the last major example of ‘settler colonialism.’ It is a particularly acute example as the settlers have no mother country to which to return, and take a poker player’s high risk posture of ‘all in.’
SL – Turning to the role of the International Criminal Court, this is an organ of the UN. So why doesn’t the ICC initiate its own prosecution of Israeli crimes based on UN reports and the mountain of evidence available to it, especially in view of Palestine’s upgraded status?
Richard Falk – There is no authoritative explanation of ICC passivity in face of the Israeli criminal violation of fundamental Palestinian rights. As a matter of speculation it is plausible to assume an absence of political will on the part of the prosecutor’s office to initiate an investigation that would be deeply opposed by Israel and the United States. The ICC has been recently criticized for its Western bias, and its failure for instance to consider whether the United Kingdom and the United States violated the Rome Statute’s enumeration of international crimes by initiating and conducting the Iraq War. The African Union has complained about the seeming focus on the criminality of African leaders, and the bypassing of grievances directed at Western behaviour.
SL – We hear you and others calling for intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophes, e.g. the Gaza water crisis. Who exactly are you calling on? What is the chain of responsibility for intervening.
Richard Falk – There has been evolving within the UN and in international society more generally a sense that there is a ‘responsibility to protect’ peoples subject to severe threats of humanitarian catastrophes or natural disasters. Such sentiments are part of a process I have described as ‘moral globalization.’
In fact, R2P diplomacy has been discredited by being used as a geopolitical instrument, most dramatically as the normative foundation for the UN endorsement of the NATO 2011 military intervention in Libya. With respect to Libya the justification was protection against a feared massacre of civilians in the city of Benghazi, but the actual military operation from its outset seemed designed to achieve regime change in Tripoli. When it comes to Gaza where the present crisis has passed into a zone of desperation, the UN and world community are silent as if stone deaf to this deepening human crisis of survival.
SL – We have just seen the UN intervening to bring fuel into Gaza as it teetered on the brink of a full-blown public health crisis. There are many such emergencies thanks to Israel’s continuing blockade. Why doesn’t the UN take over the supply of fuel full-time? And indeed the supply of medicines, drugs, medical equipment and spares?
Richard Falk – The tragic situation in Gaza cannot be understood without taking account of the political context, above all the split between Fatah and Hamas, and the Israeli posture toward Gaza after its ‘disengagement’ in 2005 and the imposition of a punitive blockade in mid-2007 after Hamas took over the governance of Gaza. The UN has no capability to override geopolitical priorities, and so long as it is useful for Israel and Washington to treat Hamas as ‘a terrorist organization’ the UN will be limited in its role to being a provider of a subsistence existence for the Gazan people, long victims of unlawful Israel policies of ‘collective punishment’ unconditional prohibited by Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
After the Egyptian coup of July 3rd of this year, the subsistence regime evolved in Gaza is itself in jeopardy. The tunnel network has been substantially destroyed by Egyptian military action and the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been mainly closed, isolating the people, and creating emergency conditions due to fuel shortages that have made electricity only available in very limited amounts.
The results are horrifying: sewage in the streets, insufficient power to run machines needed to keep the terminally ill alive, fuel shortages that virtually preclude economic activity, and closed borders that seal the fate of 1.6 million Gazans. Long before this dramatic further deterioration of life circumstances, observers were calling Gaza the largest open air prison in the world.
“The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people…”
SL – What is the UN doing to protect Palestine’ s precious aquifers and offshore gas field from being plundered by the Israelis?
Richard Falk – Again, the UN has no independent capability, or ever will, to challenge Israel or to protect Palestinian rights. It is a case of geopolitical manipulation and Palestinian victimization. The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people that has been continuous with the occupation that commenced in 1967.
SL – Why is the requirement, often repeated, to allow Palestinians free and unfettered movement in and out of Gaza not implemented? Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be a contiguous territory but, for example, Palestinian students in Gaza are prevented from attending their excellent universities in the West Bank. And why are Gazan fishermen still restricted to a mere fraction of their territorial waters, despite agreements to the contrary, and regularly fired on? Why is Israel not prosecuted for acts of piracy in international waters against humanitarian traffic to Gaza?
Richard Falk – As earlier, the hard power realities of Israeli military dominance, as politically reinforced by American geopolitical muscle, overrides all of these Palestinian claims of right. In this respect, such injustice and suffering can only be challenged by Palestinian resistance and international solidarity. The specific abuses can and should be delimited to raise public awareness and contribute to the mobilization of support for the Palestinian struggle, but it is pointless to expect the UN to do more than its capabilities allow. The whole structure of the Organization, combined with the method of funding, gives geopolitical pressures great leverage in relation to specific situations. The veto power given to the permanent members of the Security Council is a major expression of this weakness that was built into the constitutional structure of the UN from the moment of its establishment.
SL – People reading what you say here will be alarmed that US geopolitical power and Israeli military might can so easily override international and humanitarian law. After Nuremburg our legal institutions were strong enough to bring Nazi era criminals to book, but present-day war criminals walk free and thumb their noses. What hope is there for mankind and our brave new world if this is allowed to continue?
Richard Falk – The Nuremberg experience was based on ‘victors’ justice,’ holding the defeated leaders after World War II criminally accountable, while exempting the crimes of the victors from accountability. There was a promise made at Nuremberg that in the future the rules by which the Germans were judged would be applicable to all who committed state crimes in the future. This Nuremberg Promise has not been kept. The political and military leaders of the main states enjoy impunity while the leaders of defeated countries (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) or sub-Saharan African countries are prosecuted by international tribunals. Double standards prevail, and it is questionable whether an international criminal law that punishes the weak and exempts the strong is to be treated as legitimate even if those accused receive a fair trial and are convicted and punished only if they were guilty of grave misconduct.
The bottom line is that we live in a world in which the primacy of hard power prevails in the relationship among states. Geopolitical leverage enables Israel to defy the most basic principles of international law, and yet their leaders are not held accountable. There are only two paths available that challenge this result. National courts can be empowered by what is called ‘universal jurisdiction’ to investigate, indict, prosecute, convict, and punish anyone accused of state crime that can be personally delivered to the relevant court. In 1998 the Chilean dictator was detained in London after the Spanish Government requested that Pinochet be extradited. After lengthy litigation is was found that Pinochet could be extradited for torture committed during part of his reign, but in the end he was sent back to Chile because of health reasons, and never faced trial in Spain. Yet such a possibility exists in relation to Israeli political and military leaders, and seems to have discouraged their travel to countries whose criminal law contains the authority to invoke universal jurisdiction.
The other possibility is by convening a peoples tribunal of the sort constituted in the past by the Bertrand Russell Foundation in Brussels and the Lelio Basso Foundation in Rome. The Russell Foundation sponsored four sessions devoted to various allegations of criminality attributed to the government of Israel. It produced convincing documentation of the charges, and issued judgements that called for civil society initiatives. Such a tribunal, although acting on evidence and in accord with the relevant provisions of international criminal law, possesses no formal authority and lacks implementing capabilities. Its role is limited to documenting the case against a government, and providing symbolic support to those who contend that there have been violations of international criminal law. Such outcomes may influence public opinion, and help change the balance of political forces by undermining the legitimacy of an established order of oppression as exists with respect to Israel’s relationship to the Palestinian people and the denial of their collective right of self-determination.
SL – What are the chances as you see them for achieving unity between Fatah and Hamas, and how should the Palestinians play their cards in future?
Richard Falk – There is a near unanimous belief among Palestinians and their supporters that unity is needed to move the struggle forward. Such unity existed throughout the early decades of the Palestinian National Movement, despite many ideological differences relating to tactics and goals, but within a shared resolve to achieve national liberation. The unifying image provided by Yasser Arafat’s uncontested leadership was also important.
Israel has pursued a policy I describe as ‘the politics of fragmentation’ designed to undermine Palestinian unity, and it has been alarmingly successful. Oslo contributed to this end by dividing up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C, by splitting the administration of Gaza off from the rest of Palestine. The emergence of Hamas highlighted Palestinian fragmentation, a result welcomed by Israel even as it was condemned. Fatah appears to have been inhibited in reaching some kind of functional unity with Hamas by pressures to refrain from such moves mounted in Israel and the United States. So long as Hamas is treated as a terrorist organization, even in the face of its turn from armed struggle and entry into the political process back in 2006, there will be strong opposition to moves toward unity, which were attempted in the Morsi period of leadership in Egypt, and seemed on the verge of success.
SL – Finally, Richard, your robust defence of Palestinian rights has ruffled many feathers and led to demands from ‘the usual suspects’ for your dismissal. Should the people you speak up for be concerned about this?
Richard Falk – The attacks on me, and others who have tried to bear witness to the directives of international law and political justice, are part of a deliberate campaign by Israel, and its cadres in civil society, to deflect attention from the substantive grievances of the Palestinian people. It is what I have described as ‘the politics of deflection,’ go after the messenger so as to deflect attention from the message. The media has been largely compliant as have Israel’s powerful governmental friends, including the United Kingdom, US, and Canadian governments. Of course, many NGOs and elements of the public push back against such tactics. In my case the defamatory efforts of UN Watch, in particular, have been unpleasant, but have not altered my effort to do the job of witnessing to the best of my ability and in accordance with the canons of truth telling.
SL – Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing your assessment of the situation. But before you go, what sort of Christmas can the children of Gaza look forward to?
Richard Falk – We can only imagine the horror of Christmas this year in Gaza for young and old alike: from life amid raw sewage to freezing cold, scarcities, desolation, and a sense that the world is elsewhere, indifferent to such acute suffering, such sustained injustice, such blind hate.
And yet also knowing many Gazans makes me believe that even in such dire circumstances there remains space for some laughter, and much love, and that such a spirit of resistance lives on among the children of this place haunted by the evils of our world. If present these days in Gaza it would likely make me feel a mystifying blend of sadness and inspiration.
At the very least those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas: we should demand empathy from our leaders and be as personally attentive as possible, whether by commentary, prayer, donations, a compassionate scream! We should not allow these days of celebration and renewal to pass this year without moments of reflection on selfish joys and cheerful carols, as contrasting with the miserable destiny bestowed upon the innocent and abused children of Gaza
Let us look the children of Gaza in the eye if we can. And if we can’t, as I could not, seize the moment to reflect on what it means to be (in)human during this holiday season.
The UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a nuclear disarmament resolution that includes proposals forwarded by Iran President Hassan Rouhani as head of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The resolution, adopted on Thursday, calls on nuclear-power states to make more efforts to scale down and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear arms.
In an address to the UN Disarmament Conference in New York on September 25, President Rouhani called for the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons across the world and said no one should possess such weapons.
Rouhani’s proposals included the holding of immediate negotiations on the conclusion of a comprehensive international convention on banning the production, proliferation and use of nuclear weapons; the holding of a high-level conference in 2018 on nuclear disarmament; and designating September 26 as the international day for total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The UN General Assembly’s resolution urges nuclear-weapon states to rapidly adopt the necessary measures in order to abide by their international commitments regarding disarmament. It specifically calls for the full annihilation of nuclear arsenals, transparently, irrevocably, and under international supervision.
According to the resolution, non-nuclear states should be given guarantees that they will not be threatened or attacked with nuclear weapons.
It also calls on the General Assembly to urge all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to follow up on the implementation of their obligations as agreed in the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.
The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”
The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.
“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.
Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.
He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.
Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.
Following Israel’s resumption of ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council, six Western countries; the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States are pressuring the United Nations to allow Israel to permanently join the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). The text of the letter, which has been made available online, states: “we, the undersigned, would like by this letter to recall Israel’s long standing request to join the WEOG regional group in Geneva. We are strongly supportive of Israel’s membership at the earliest opportunity.” The letter also exhorts a sense of urgency, requesting inclusion of the matter in the next meeting to be held in Geneva.
Exclusive treatment in Israel’s regard, ostensibly in return for its continuous human rights violations, remains a priority for the colonising power’s allies. Israel’s return to the Human Rights Council was characterised by negotiated leniency, including a concession preventing countries from criticising Israel’s human rights violations – a stipulation valid for the next two years during which any comments relating to Israel’s infringements on human rights will be deemed ‘empty of content’.
Discourse regarding political and regional isolation applied to Israel has been propagated, depicting an ongoing contrivance to enhance Israel’s victimised stance. In 2007 Canada deemed Item 7 as specific targeting of a particular country in a “politicised, selective, partial and subjective” manner which breaches the United Nations’ objectivity. In 2010 the US echoed similar sentiment, declaring the stipulation as a “disproportionate focus on Israel … the Council has too often been exploited to unfairly single out Israel, while ignoring significant human rights situations elsewhere”. This stance has been described as “working constructively on aspects that need change”. The hypocrisy within human rights discourse is easy to decipher – it is inadmissible to challenge Israel’s human rights violations. Instead, the international community should devise the means through which Israel is allowed to oppress with impunity – a trend which it has been perfecting for decades.
There is no justification for the removal of Item 7 – the only requirements are flawed reasoning, international complicity and oblivion. Claims that Israel fails to achieve support for its actions are erroneous and should be examined within the exclusive impunity bequeathed to Zionist ideology prior to the establishment of the illegal state. The depiction of Israel as a politically disadvantaged country has been utilised to the point of exhaustion, yet the deceitful reasoning is still upheld as inviolable, thus diverting attention from the problems faced daily by Palestinians whose rights have yet to be acknowledged, let alone implemented. According to conventional rhetoric, equality should only be applied when the issues at stake do not restrain Israel’s ability to perfect its oppression. Any objectivity and justified impartiality is vehemently rejected, lest Israel should declare a fictitious and detrimental isolation. Far from remaining isolated within the international community due to a degree of extra scrutiny, the coloniser has been embraced by world powers on account of its compatibility in maintaining the exploitation of land, people and countless human rights charters.
- | Exposing impunity: Israel’s ‘exceptionalism’ and the UN! (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
The Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted eight new resolutions concerning the plight of the Palestinians. The drafts were taken on board with large majorities voting in favour.
The resolutions covered the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and an intention for the committee to investigate “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territory”.
Predictably, Israel voted against all of the resolutions, being joined variously by Cameroon, the United States, Canada, Australia and Panama. Equally predictable abstentions included Micronesia, Palau, Vanuatu and South Sudan.
The resolutions relating to UNRWA were backed consistently by more than 160 UN members states, whereas those committing the UN to look at the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory saw fewer in favour, just under 90 countries, with far more abstentions (70 or more).
The resolutions reflected the extremely difficult living, economic, social and humanitarian conditions faced by Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, as a result of the continued Israeli military aggression and siege. They emphasised the vital and important role of UNRWA and the tireless efforts of its staff in implementing its mandate until a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue is achieved.
After the votes, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, expressed the appreciation and gratitude of the state to all the countries that voted in favour of the new resolutions. He thanked them in particular for their support for UNRWA, which should ensure that it can continue with its mandate to help Palestinian refugees. He noted that the General Assembly was reaffirming the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and the refugees’ right to return to their land.
The nations of the world called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law, the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the apartheid wall and all UN resolutions. The application of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, was also reaffirmed.
Ambassador Mansour said that the international community must make a serious collective effort to put an end to the violations committed by Israel and ensure that it complies fully with all legal obligations in order that a just settlement is reached for the Palestinian issue.
Gaza – The Palestinian Government stressed that the Palestinian people and resistance have the right to defend themselves by all possible means against Israel’s undeterred war crimes and aggressions.
Spokesman for the Palestinian Government, Ihab AL-Ghusain, stated on his facebook page “No one can deny the Palestinians thinking of new ways to confront the high-tech military apparatus of the Israeli occupation.”
The Gaza Strip citizens had been subjected to two wars and thus entitled to defend themselves, Ghusain said, adding that “digging tunnels is a defensive tactic innovated by the Palestinian resistance.”
AL-Ghusain found odd the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s statement that digging the [recently discovered] tunnel is a violation of the cease-fire agreement [mediated by Egypt between Hamas and the Israeli occupation after Israel's 8-day war in November 2012], overlooking the Israeli violations of it.
“The Israeli occupation has not stopped violating the cease-fire agreement ever since its had been concluded; many violations are to mention, above them all sustaining Israel’s siege on the 1.7 million Gaza population by failing to open the commercial crossings, and to expand the fishing zone,” he said.
“What is more “terrorist” than an Israeli navy boat firing on a fisherman, an armored vehicle shooting a farmer, invading, or leveling his land?” Ghusain wondered, pointing to the deaths and injuries of a number of Palestinian civilians throughout the past year.
AL-Ghusain called on the UN to take its real role in putting pressure on the Israeli occupation to lift the siege, bringing Israeli leaders to justice, and protecting the Palestinian people from the continuous Israeli crimes and aggressions.
There’s a dark side to the flurry of reports and testimony on drones, helpful as they are in many ways. When we read that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose drone strikes that violate international law, some of us may be inclined to interpret that as a declaration that, in fact, drone strikes violate international law. On the contrary, what these human rights groups mean is that some drone strikes violate the law and some do not, and they want to oppose the ones that do.
Which are which? Even their best researchers can’t tell you. Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal. The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself. Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn’t come up.
Amnesty International looks into nine drone strikes in Pakistan, and can’t tell whether any of the nine were legal or illegal. Amnesty wants the U.S. government to investigate itself, make facts public, compensate victims, explain what the law is, explain who a civilian is, and — remarkably — recommends this: “Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.” However, this will be a very tough nut to crack, as those responsible for the crimes are being asked to define what is and is not legal. Amnesty proposes “judicial review of drone strikes,” but a rubber-stamp FISA court for drone murders wouldn’t reduce them, and an independent judiciary assigned to approve of certain drone strikes and not others would certainly approve of some, while inevitably leaving the world less than clear as to why.
The UN special rapporteurs’ reports are perhaps the strongest of the reports churned out this week, although all of the reports provide great information. The UN will debate drones on Friday. Congressman Grayson will bring injured child drone victims to Washington on Tuesday (although the U.S. State Department won’t let their lawyer come). Attention is being brought to the issue, and that’s mostly to the good. The U.N. reports make some useful points: U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes (targeting rescuers of a first strike’s victims) are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can’t legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; and — most powerfully — threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life. However, the U.N. reports are so subservient to western lawyer groupthink as to allow that some drone kills are legal and to make the determination of which ones so complex that nobody will ever be able to say — the determination will be political rather than empirical.
The U.N. wants transparency, and I do think that’s a stronger demand than asking for the supposed legal memos that Obama has hidden in a drawer and which supposedly make his drone kills legal. We don’t need to see that lawyerly contortionism. Remember Obama’s speech in May at which he claimed that only four of his victims had been American and for one of those four he had invented criteria for himself to meet, even though all available evidence says he didn’t meet those criteria even in that case, and he promised to apply the same criteria to foreigners going forward, sometimes, in certain countries, depending. Remember the liberal applause for that? Somehow our demands of President Bush were never that he make a speech.
(And did you see how pleased people were just recently that Obama had kidnapped a man in Libya and interrogated him in secret on a ship in the ocean, eventually bringing him to the U.S. for a trial, because that was a step up from murdering him and his neighbors? Bush policies are now seen as advances.)
We don’t need the memos. We need the videos, the times, places, names, justifications, casualties, and the video footage of each murder. That is to say, if the UN is going to give its stamp of approval to a new kind of war but ask for a little token of gratitude, this is what it should be. But let’s stop for a minute and consider. The general lawyerly consensus is that killing people with drones is fine if it’s not a case where they could have been captured, it’s not “disproportionate,” it’s not too “collateral,” it’s not too “indiscriminate,” etc., — the calculation being so vague that nobody can measure it. We’re not wrong to trumpet the good parts of these reports, but let’s be clear that the United Nations, an institution created to eliminate war, is giving its approval to a new kind of war, as long as it’s done properly, and it’s giving its approval in the same reports in which it says that drones threaten to make war the norm and peace the exception.
I hate to be a wet blanket, but that’s stunning. Drones make war the norm, rather than the exception, and drone murders are going to be deemed legal depending on a variety of immeasurable criteria. And the penalty for the ones that are illegal is going to be nothing, at least until African nations start doing it, at which point the International Criminal Court will shift into gear.
What is it that makes weaponized drones more humane than land mines, poison gas, cluster bombs, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and other weapons worth banning? Are drone missiles more discriminate than cluster bombs (I mean in documented practice, not in theory)? Are they discriminate enough, even if more discriminate than something else? Does the ease of using them against anyone anywhere make it possible for them to be “proportionate” and “necessary”? If some drone killing is legal and other not, and if the best researchers can’t always tell which is which, won’t drone killing continue? The UN Special Rapporteur says drones threaten to make war the norm. Why risk that? Why not ban weaponized drones?
For those who refuse to accept that the Kellogg Briand Pact bans war, for those who refuse to accept that international law bans murder, don’t we have a choice here between banning weaponized drones or watching weaponized drones proliferate and kill? Over 99,000 people have signed a petition to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org Maybe we can push that over 100,000 … or 200,000.
It’s always struck me as odd that in civilized, Geneva conventionized, Samantha Powerized war the only crime that gets legalized is murder. Not torture, or assault, or rape, or theft, or marijuana, or cheating on your taxes, or parking in a handicapped spot — just murder. But will somebody please explain to me why homicide bombing is not as bad as suicide bombing?
It isn’t strictly true that the suffering is all on one side, anyway. Just as we learn geography through wars, we learn our drone base locations through blowback, in Afghanistan and just recently in Yemen. Drones make everyone less safe. As Malala just pointed out to the Obama family, the drone killing fuels terrorism. Drones also kill with friendly fire. Drones, with or without weapons, crash. A lot. And drones make the initiation of violence easier, more secretive, and more concentrated. When sending missiles into Syria was made a big public question, we overwhelmed Congress, which said no. But missiles are sent into other countries all the time, from drones, and we’re never asked.
We’re going to have to speak up for ourselves.
I’ll be part of a panel discussing this at NYU on Wednesday. See http://NYACT.net
The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.
President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls’ education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.
Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.
Malala recounted: “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact.”
President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.
It’s up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.
The United Nations has released a report on “armed drones and the right to life” (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:
“Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes.”
Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:
“Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones.”
The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:
“An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones.”
The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined “imminent” to mean eventual or theoretical — that is, they’ve stripped the word of all meaning. (See the “white paper” PDF.) The U.N. doesn’t buy it:
“The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law.”
U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it’s part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:
“Insofar as the term ‘signature strikes’ refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected.”
The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders — namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:
“Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force.”
Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is “self-defense” the action must be reported to the U.N. — thereby making it sooooo much better.
A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for “a detailed public explanation.”
The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn’t heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.’s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org.