Recently, I found myself in a mild altercation with a middle aged Israeli stranger about Jerusalem. I usually don’t indulge in small talk with average Israelis, mostly because I hardly come into contact with them. The bulk of my interaction with Israelis is with their military establishment – policemen patrolling Jerusalem’s Old City streets, soldiers manning the Qalandiya checkpoint, which I cross at least five days a week or border crossing personnel whenever I travel via the Allenby Bridge outside the country.
This day however, as my friend and I had taken our four children to a grassy area near New Gate to play football, a lone Israeli man with a beautiful Labrador came into view. The man was throwing a tennis ball up in the air and the dog would dutifully fetch it. It took almost no time at all before our kids became intrigued and the man cordially eased some of our younger kids’ fears of the dog, telling them he does not bite and encouraging them to play ball with him.
While his accent was not typically Israeli, I figured he couldn’t be Palestinian or he would have addressed us in Arabic. Anyway, after some time, he asked us where we were from. “Palestine”, I answered simply but looking him straight in the eye just to make sure he knew I was serious. “Oh, Palestine, that’s good,” he answered under his breath. Not long after that, I volleyed the question back at him. “What about you? Where are you from?” I said. “From here, from Jerusalem, from Israel,” he answered, almost offended that I did not instinctively know.
That was my cue. I could not let this golden opportunity to speak my mind to an average Israeli pass me by. “But Jerusalem is Palestinian. This is Palestine,” I said mischievously. Technically, we were in the eastern sector of the city, so I thought even by political standards, I was playing it safe. But our friendly-turned-hostile dog walker wouldn’t have it. “No, this is Israel. This is all Israel.”
Well, I thought, if it is a war of words you want, then it’s a war of words you will get my friend. “Um, I don’t think so,” I said calmly. “This is Palestine, it always has been and always will be,” I said, throwing in a sly smile for good measure.
At this point, the man became clearly irate, especially when he refused to answer my question as to where his family originally came from. “I am Israeli and this is Israel,” he kept repeating. In the end, I guess he couldn’t take the heat from these awful Palestinians (who by the way were amused beyond description) and took his dog and left, muttering nasty Arabic cuss words under his breath as he fled the grassy hill.
While this minor episode hardly registers even as a blip across the bigger Palestinian-Israeli scene, it is indicative of the mindset of average Israelis. The friendly stranger who offered his dog as a plaything to four anonymous (English-speaking) children suddenly turned hostile and uncooperative once he knew we were Palestinians who believed in a Palestinian Jerusalem. This is not the first time, of course, that something like this has taken place. Jerusalem in particular is a sensitive subject both to Palestinians and Israelis. It invokes powerful emotions and since I consider myself to be an “average Palestinian” I know that nothing can push my buttons more than Israel’s claim of Jerusalem being the eternal and unified capital of Israel.
No doubt there are Israelis who are willing to negotiate a solution to Jerusalem where Palestinians have some claim to it. But unfortunately, the majority of Israel’s population is uncompromising, especially where Palestinian rights come into play. On our part, I believe the Palestinians have compromised just about as much as they can where their rights are concerned and east Jerusalem is a red line that cannot be crossed. We are willing to share – at least the overwhelming majority of us – we have said it time and again. If Jerusalem is not going to be an open capital for both peoples under international auspices, then it needs to be split along east-west lines. We can live with that. We will share. But, oh nameless and rude dog-owner, not with an attitude like that.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
The Israeli army order that permits Israel to ethnically purge the West Bank of non-Jews (Palestinians and foreigners who are not Jewish) is the next rational step in the evolution of the Jewish state.
A Ha’aretz editorial calls this latest iteration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine “a step too far.” The editors go on to state that “Israel, which justifiably prevents Palestinians from returning to where they lived before 1948… cannot expel Palestinians from the occupied territories on the basis of dubious bureaucratic claims.”
The Ha’aretz editors are confused, mistaking cause with the tools of implementation. They wrongly presume that Palestine is being purged of natives because of “dubious bureaucratic claims” and not because of any racist religious mandate or racist secular dogma.
Israel is locked in an interminable grind to rid the Holy Land of non-Jews. That process exploded with the creation of the colonial-settler state in 1948, and continues today. Anyone who opposes what is happening in the West Bank today should also oppose what happened in all of Palestine in 1948 out of logical and moral constancy. In 1948, war was the primary tool employed by the Zionist army for its “justifiable” territorial ethnic cleansing. In 2010, “bureaucratic claims” are merely the updated tactics; the racist toolbox is expansive.
It’s worth exploring the logic that likely underpins the “liberal” Zionist mindset. How is it that a contemporary Zionist can say that an ethnic purge is justifiable in at least one case, but not in others? It helps to understand that Zionist ideology is marred by an ethnocentric, exclusivist, us-above-all stain. Jewish exceptionalism permits Zionists to rationalize the suffering of others as a necessary price to be paid for Jewish supremacy within a territorial space. The difference between “liberal” Zionists and other Zionists is that the former seem to believe that the goal of securing that space has been achieved, while the others believe that the process is ongoing. Therefore, 1948 was justifiable, but 2010 is excessive, “a step too far.”
In both cases, Zionists rationalize atrocity as necessary for securing the Jewish people. The only difference is whether the process of securing the Jewish people is ongoing or complete. You are a ‘liberal’ Zionist if you think the process is complete, and a Kahanist-Liebermanist if you don’t. There is no contradiction here, after all.
I’ll end by noting that there is a silver lining to all this. The original Amira Hass article in Ha’aretz says that the order “disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.” As the thin veils of self-deception fall away, more people will see things for what they are. The Palestinian struggle is quintessentially about equal rights in all Palestine/Israel. The right of return is at the core of that struggle.
The Government of Israel is putting me on trial next week (Monday, April 19th, 11:00am in Beer Sheva): for expressing my displeasure at the brutal home demolitions in the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages. The government and its acting bodies do not want any resistance to the implementation of their racist policies, and therefore wish to scare and intimidate those who speak out…
I grew up in Arad, a town built among the Bedouin, to make sure that the Jews become the rulers of this space. It took me many years to realize that the Bedouin I saw every time I left my hometown are not part of nature, like the rocks and the wadis. It was not my education that had opened my eyes, a good Zionist education, teaching me to be part of a dream of redeeming the land. It was despite this education.
But once the blinds were lifted, it started hurting. I saw the pain in the injustice, in the ongoing feeling of my neighbors, now turned friends, of being treated as deserving less, as a bother to the natural development of our region – the Negev. Every baby born – a “demographic threat”, every time a home is built, economic stability achieved – it is seen as a menace in the only country they can call home…
[Two years ago] I arrived as part of the RCUV at the scene of a home demolition in the unrecognized village of A-Shahabi a few minutes before the bulldozers. Knowing full-well that I cannot stop the demolition – I sat in the house to give voice to the injustice of these demolitions, to the discriminatory, brutal and harmful policies. It was a peaceful, non-violent protest, sitting alone in a house with the bulldozer at the wall. As expected I was taken out by the police, and then I was arrested…
The commander of the police station was angry, he shouted at me, “The last thing we need is for Jews to join the struggle of the Bedouin…” And it is to frighten us so we stay away from working towards justice in our country, that I am being put on trial next week.
Raise your voice! Against the home demolitions, against the non-recognition of the villages and the ownership of the ancestral lands, and against the silencing of criticism of racist policies.
- Join us on Monday at 10:30am standing together before the courts in Beer Sheva, and join us inside the courtroom at 11:00, to show that we stand united in our quest for real democracy.
- Write! To the Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein. Demand that his office stop the persecution of civil rights activists, and the censure of political criticism through the court system.
Address: 29 Salah A-Din St., Jerusalem. 91010; tel: 02-6466521/2; fax: 02-6467001.
- To the Minister of Public Security, Isaac Aharonovitch, in charge of the police. Demand that the police cease from using its power to crush political criticism.
Tel: 02-5428500; fax: 02-5428039
- To Yehuda Bahar, director of the New Authority for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement. He is in charge of implementing the governmental policies. Demand that he begin implementing just policies, policies that recognize the historical rights of the Bedouin, instead of brutal home demolitions and policies of oppression and subjugation.
Tel: 08-6263722; fax: 08-6263719; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Help pay for the expenses! One of the aims of taking people like me to court is to make it expensive to express our opinions. Lawyers’ expenses are high. You can send a check directly to Adv. Gabi Laski, 18 Ben Avigdor St. P.O.Box 57092, Tel Aviv, 61570. ISRAEL (please let me know). You can also use my paypal account, associated with the email email@example.com.
The RCUV also sent out a second email, regarding home demolitions:
Yesterday, Tuesday, April 13th, the Government of Israel demolished 3 homes and served many home demolition orders in the unrecognized village of El-Araqib. The government is coveting the lands of this village and lately has staged a major attack on the residents of this village to forcefully take the lands: the JNF (Jewish National Fund) is planting a forest on these lands; the residents are forced to come to the courts to defend their ownership of the lands, in a legal system that does not recognize any papers prior to the existence of the state; and the home are being demolished. The homes demolished yesterday have been demolished twice before in the past two months.
The government yesterday also razed to the ground all the homes and tents of the village of Twail abu-Jarwal. For these villagers – it is the 40th time that they have had to experience their entire village being demolished in the last couple of years. One wonders, is it not time to change tactics? The police and the inspectors also emptied out the water containers and attempted to bury them – leaving both humans and animals without water. One of the young men from the village asked: Did they also have a “spill water” court order?
A water tank destroyed by the government in former demolitions in Twail abu-Jarwal. Now the villagers use only smaller plastic containers, that were also destroyed yesterday (RCUV).
I’ve read blog posts longer than this report. The Global Warming Policy Foundation of London has this to say about it:
Another Unsatisfactory Rushed Job
LONDON, 14 April 2010 – The Global Warming Policy Foundation regrets that the Oxburgh Panel has been rushed and therefore extremely superficial. The body of the report is hardly five pages long. The Panel should have taken more time to arrive at more balanced and more trustworthy conclusions as there was no need to rush the inquiry.
The Panel worked by interviewing and questioning staff members of CRU, but failed to interview critical researchers who have been working in the same field for many years. The Panel even ignored, as it admits, to properly review their written evidence.
We welcome the acknowledgement by the Panel that the Urban Heat Island effect on surface temperatures records in and around large cities is important but poorly understood. We also welcome the admission that the IPCC ignored the expressions of uncertainty in CRU papers.
We also note, in the context of the long-term temperature record, its comment that “the potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area. It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been involved in this work.”
In general, the report is being politely kind to CRU, but in essence rather critical of the disorganised and amateurish use of statistics. It is hardly an endorsement of the quality of the research being carried out at what is supposed to be the world’s leading unit which has received so much government funding.
Given the huge economic and social implications, one would expect that an independent audit would be more rigorous and more even-handed than the Oxburgh panel.
Steve McIntyre writes that he wasn’t interviewed:
The Oxburgh report ” is a flimsy and embarrassing 5-pages.
They did not interview me (nor, to my knowledge, any other CRU critics or targets). The committee was announced on March 22 and their “report” is dated April 12 – three weeks end to end – less time than even the Parliamentary Committee. They took no evidence. Their list of references is 11 CRU papers, five on tree rings, six on CRUTEM. Notably missing from the “sample” are their 1000-year reconstructions: Jones et al 1998, Mann and Jones 2003, Jones and Mann 2004, etc.)
They did not discuss specifically discuss or report on any of the incidents of arbitrary adjustment (“bodging”), cherry picking and deletion of adverse data, mentioned in my submissions to the Science and Technology Committee and the Muir Russell Committee. I’ll report on these issues later in the day as they’ll take a little time to review. First, let’s observe Oxburgh’s trick to hide the “trick”.
Long before Climategate, Climate Audit readers knew that you had to watch the pea under the thimble whenever you’re dealing with the Team. This is true with Oxburgh of Globe International as well.
Oxburgh of Globe International alludes to the “trick..to hide the decline” in veiled terms as follows:
CRU publications repeatedly emphasize the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century, but presentations of this work by the IPCC and others have sometimes neglected to highlight this issue. While we find this regrettable, we could find no such fault with the peer-reviewed papers we examined.
Without specifically mentioning the famous “trick …to hide the decline”, Oxburgh subsumes the “trick” as “regrettable” “neglect” by “IPCC and others”.
But watch the pea under Oxburgh’s thimble.
The Oxburgh Report regrettably neglected to highlight the fact that CRU scientists Briffa and Jones, together with Michael Mann, were the IPCC authors responsible for this “regrettable neglect” in the Third Assessment Report. They also regrettably neglected to report that CRU scientist Briffa was the IPCC author responsible for the corresponding section in AR4.
Oxburgh pretends that the fault lay with “IPCC and others”, but this pretence is itself a trick. CRU was up to its elbows in the relevant IPCC presentations that “regrettably” “neglected” to show the divergent data in their graphics.
read more here
If you really want to know about Climategate, get this book:
Paperback: click image
On Tax Day, Tea Party members from around the country will descend on the nation’s capitol to “protest big government and support lower taxes, less government and more freedom. CODEPINK, a women-led peace movement advocating an end to war and militarism, will be sending some representatives. While we come from the opposite end of the political spectrum and don’t support the goals and tactics of the Tea Party, there is an area where we are seeking common ground: endless wars and militarism.
As Tea Partiers express their anger at out-of-control government spending and soaring deficits, we will ask them to take a hard look at what is, by far, the biggest sinkhole of our tax dollars: Pentagon spending. With the Obama administration proposing the largest military budget ever, topping $700 billion not including war supplementals, we are now spending almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.
Perhaps the Tea Party and peace folks can agree that one way to shrink big government is to rein in military spending. Here are some questions to get the conversation going:
At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on April 10, Congressman Ron Paul — who has a great following within the Tea Party — chided both conservatives and liberals for their profligate spending on foreign military bases, occupations and maintaining an empire. “We’re running out of money,” he warned. “All empires end for financials reasons, and that is what the markets are telling us today….We can do better with peace than with war.” Do you agree with Congressman Paul on this?
Every taxpayer has already spent, on average, a staggering $7,367 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Obama plans to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, with a price tag of one million dollars per soldier per year. Opposition to these wars ranges from liberal Congressperson Dennis Kucinich to conservative Tea Party leader Sheriff Richard Mack. During a Congressional vote to end the war in Afghanistan that was defeated but got bipartisan support, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said, “Nearly 1000 U.S. soldiers have died. And for what? Hundreds of billions spent. And for what? To make Afghanistan safe for crooks, drug dealers and crony capitalism?” Do you think Congress should turn off the war spigot and bring out troops home?
The Cold War has been over for 20 years, yet we maintain 800-plus bases around the world, have troops stationed in 148 countries and 11 territories. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan asks, “How we can justify borrowing hundreds of billions yearly from Europe, Japan and the Gulf states — to defend Europe, Japan and the Arab Gulf states? Is it not absurd to borrow hundreds of billions annually from China — to defend Asia from China?” Should we begin to dismantle this global web of bases?
Far and away the largest recipient of US foreign aid is Israel, a wealthy country (the 11th wealthiest in the world) that gets $3 billion a year from Uncle Sam with no strings attached and no accountability. We also give the repressive Egyptian government over a billion dollars a year to buy their support for a Middle East peace plan that is going nowhere. Are you in favor of continuing this taxpayer largesse to Israel and Egypt?
An area where Pentagon spending has mushroomed is the payment of private security contractors. While many soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees can pocket as much as $1,000 a day. High pay for contract workers in war zones burdens taxpayers and saps military morale. Moreover, military officers in the field have said contractors often operate like “cowboys,” using unnecessary and excessive force that has undermined our reputation overseas. Rep. Jan Schakowsky introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act that would phase out private security contractors in war zones. Do you support that?
Experts on the left and the right say we could cut our military budget by 25%, including closing foreign bases, winding down the wars, and ending obsolete weapons systems, without jeopardizing our security. Do you agree? If we could make significant cuts to the military budget, how should those funds be reallocated? To pay down the debt? Increase security at home? Rebuild our infrastructure? Stimulate the economy through tax breaks?
Pit maverick Republican Congressman Ron Paul against President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 election match-up, and the race is – virtually dead even.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds Obama with 42% support and Paul with 41% of the vote. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided. […]
Paul, a anti-big government libertarian … continues to have a solid following, especially in the growing Tea Party movement.
Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters now consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement, an eight-point increase from a month ago. Another 10% say they are not a part of the movement but have close friends or family members who are.
Nablus – Israeli citizens living in an illegal West Bank settlement vandalized a mosque the village of Huwwara, after storming the Nablus village early Wednesday morning.
Settlers from the nearby Yitzhar settlement ascended upon the village at 2am and sprayed graffiti, including a Star of David and racist slogans across the the Bilal Ben Rab Mosque in the Qoza area of the village, said Ghassan Doughlas, Palestinian Authority official in charge of the settlement portfolio in the northern West Bank.
Two cars were further set on fire in the village, belonging to Ziad Abdullah Theeb and Sameer Ibrhaim Zahar respectively. The official added that settlers crashed into another vehicle belonging to Zaher’s brother.
According to Israeli media,more than 300 olive trees were uprooted and the racist graffiti was sprayed across the village.
In response to the incident, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a spokesman for the right-wing Jewish National Front party, said: “We are talking about a hostile village that has been the source of a large number of violent attacks against the residents of Yitzhar,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
“The time has come for the Arabs to understand that Jews are not suckers and that Jewish blood will not be shed without consequence,” Ben-Gvir said, according to the daily.
A statement issued by the Israeli army confirmed the incident and said “the Commander of the IDF Judea and Samaria division [the West Bank], Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon ordered an immediate investigation into the incident, condemned the acts and said that those responsible should be brought to justice.”
The Israeli army added that it “conveyed a message to the Palestinians through the Civil Administration,” reassuring them that it “takes the matter of harming holy sites very seriously.” The Civil Administration erased the graffiti following the incident, the statement said. In December 2009, Israeli settlers set fire to a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf.
Three mayors from a Japanese island, slated to host a US military base, are to write a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their refusal to the plan. The move is to protest against the Japanese government’s decision to relocate the Futenma US Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa to the Tokunoshima Island.
“We, all the islanders, protest against the Futenma air base relocation to Tokunoshima,” a draft written by the three mayors says.
The mayors have also said they are preparing to stage another protest rally next Sunday, which they say will involve about 10,000 residents of the island’s 27,000-strong population. Thousands have already rallied against the relocation of US troops to the island last month.
The Futenma base is currently situated on the southern island of Okinawa. The presence of the US base which is in proximity of residential areas has caused various troubles for local Okinwans, who have expressed their dissatisfaction through repeated demonstrations.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has struggled for months to find a solution that will satisfy the people of Okinawa Island and the security demands of the United States, its key ally. He has promised to resolve the row by the end of May, despite the fact that Okinawa’s residents have long resented the heavy US military presence.
Okinawans consider the American forces there as a source of crime, pollution and noise.
INTERVIEW – With Prof. Richard Falk *
HC: Following your appointment as UN Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2008 you traveled to Israel in order to begin your investigations. Can you tell us a little more about how you were received by Israel?
RF: I was denied entry and expelled at Ben Gurion Airport when I tried to enter Israel for the purpose of carrying out my duties as UN Special Rapporteur. These duties consist mainly of reporting on Israeli compliance with human rights obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and include duties of compliance with respect to international humanitarian law. Israeli authorities confined me for more than 15 hours in a detention cell with five other detainees before putting me on a plane. I was given no explanation beyond that my expulsion order came from the Israeli Foreign Ministry that had objected to my appointment from the outset. As my itinerary on the West Bank had been previously submitted to the Israeli embassy in Geneva, and as visas had been granted to the two UN employees assisting me on the mission, it seems clear that Israel wanted to have the incident at the airport rather than tell me in advance that I would be denied entry. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN officials did object to the Israeli refusal to allow me to do my job as Special Rapporteur. It should be pointed out that the UN Charter in Article 2(2) requires Members to cooperate with the UN in carrying out its functions, and that this duty is reinforced by an international treaty outlining this duty of cooperation.
HC: You were denied entry into the OPT. Have you been allowed at any point to enter the territory? If not, how have you been able to do your job?
RF: I have tried repeatedly through formal requests to Israeli authorities to gain entry to the OPT, and these requests have been ignored rather than denied. There may be a possibility of visiting Gaza on an official basis based on Egyptian cooperation. This has so far been difficult to arrange. As far as doing my job is concerned, it is certainly a major disadvantage to be denied entry, but my reporting job can be done without any handicap due to the abundance of open and diverse sources of information and documentation on the critical dimensions of the occupation. I would have to rely on such sources in any event even if access was possible.
HC: In light of the way that Israel has reacted to you and your reports and more recently to the Goldstone report it seems that Israel’s regard for the UN, if anything, has become more hostile. Why do you think Israel seems to hold the UN in such contempt and is there any way for the UN to compel Israel to cooperate with their investigations and abide by UN recommendations?
RF: Israel has a rather opportunistic approach to the UN. It is hostile when it is the object of criticism, and it rejects the authority of the UN in relation to its duties as the Occupying Power of the Palestinian Territories. It consistently complains about the bias of the UN, especially the Human Rights Council, and attacks those that serve the UN as civil servants or appointed officials. Most recently it has mounted a series of vicious attacks on Richard Goldstone who headed a fact-finding mission to assess allegations of Israeli and Hamas war crimes associated with the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) that took place between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009.
At the same time, Israel participates fully in the General Assembly, and uses its relationship with the United States to block adverse decisions in the Security Council. What was unusual about its response to the Goldstone Report was the extremely high profile repudiation of the findings and recommendations. Normally, as with the 14-1 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the unlawfulness of the separation wall built on occupied Palestine, Israel merely rejects the external criticism of its policies, and moves on with very little commentary, especially by its top political leaders. We must assume that the Goldstone Report touched a raw nerve in the Israeli political sensibility that explains its almost hysterical reaction, including vindictive attacks on the person of Justice Goldstone, himself a devoted Zionist and distinguished international jurist. It would seem that the conclusion that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians and the civilian infrastructure of Gaza in violation of the international criminal law was too authoritative a repudiation of Israeli policies toward the occupation to be ignored. The fact that the Goldstone Report also recommended that steps be taken to implement these conclusions by holding those responsible for the behavior to be criminally responsible was a further challenge to the legitimacy of Israel’s claims to be upholding its security by launching Operation Cast Lead.
HC: Why have the UN taken no measures against Israel for their breaches of international law?
RF: The quick answer is that the geopolitical impunity enjoyed by Israel is a consequence of unconditional U.S. support, and a reluctance in most European countries to be critical of Israel given the lingering sense of guilt about the Holocaust. A more thoughtful response is that there have been periodic attempts within the UN to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law. The General Assembly and Human Rights Council have frequently condemned Israeli policies in the OPT. The ICJ found that the separation wall was unlawful as constructed on Palestinian territory, and the General Assembly accepted these conclusions overwhelmingly. The Goldstone Report is itself a gesture in the direction of holding Israel accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity as perpetrated in Gaza. In this sense there have been a variety of efforts to condemn Israeli policies and practices from the perspective of international law, but an insufficient will to implement these efforts, and so the end result is a sense of the virtual irrelevance of international law as a behavioral constraint on Israel.
HC: Is the USA the biggest factor impeding the UN in coming to the aid of Palestinians?
RF: I think that in the absence of US support, the UN would be acting vigorously on behalf of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, including the imposition of an embargo on arms sales and support for economic sanctions. The European countries would in this altered setting in all likelihood stand aside, neither being strong supporters of UN actions on behalf of the Palestinians, nor defenders of Israel.
HC: Israel opposed your appointment from the very beginning making allegations that you were biased against their state. Is there any justification whatsoever to these claims?
RF: As I have responded, by now many times, I am not biased, but dedicated to being truthful and accurate, as well as interpreting the relevance of international law and human rights standards as objectively as possible. It is true that I have been critical of Israel in the past, but again on the basis of a widely shared consensus as to the facts and their most reasonable legal implications. The test of bias should be distorted treatment of facts or strained interpretations of law. To be critical of official Israeli policies is not to be anti-Israeli any more than to be critical of American foreign policy, which I have been over the years, means that I am anti-American. To be a citizen in a democracy, or to be a world citizen, means to follow the guidance of your conscience wherever that might lead.
HC: You have been depicted as a supporter of Hamas, how do you respond to such claims?
RF: Again, my effort has been to describe the actuality of Hamas’s positions on contested issues and to report upon its actual role in the OPT, especially Gaza. I have been impressed by the Hamas effort to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel from the time of its election in January 2006, and its consistent effort to reestablish a ceasefire, including one for a long duration. I have also taken note of the refusal of Israel to take advantage of such diplomatic opportunities, and its insistence on treating Hamas as a terrorist organization with whom no negotiations can occur. I have also criticized Israel for punishing the population of Gaza by imposing a blockade that restricts the flow of food, medicine, and fuel to subsistence levels, or worse. Such a blockade is a flagrant form of collective punishment prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. I believe that Hamas should be treated as a political actor, that the blockade should be terminated immediately, and that the UN should insist on the end to the blockade as a condition of Israel’s normal participation in the activities of the Organization.
HC: It seems that supporters of Israel try to equate the words anti-Semitic with anti-Zionist which are of course two different things. They have accused people such as Judge Goldstone, Prof. Ilan Pappe, Prof. Avi Shlaim and you of being “self-hating” Jews. How do you feel about this?
RF: It seems more extreme even than this. Justice Goldstone, for instance, is pro-Zionist, and yet stands viciously accused of being a self-hating Jew, apparently because he dared to be critical of Israel. This means that any defection from either the official policies of the state of Israel or from the Zionist project will be occasion for a Jew to be branded as ’self-hating.’ It is my view that the Jewish tradition considered biblically and over the course of time would require a Jew to honor conscience and truthfulness above tribal identities should these conflict.
HC: As a Jewish gentleman yourself how do you feel about the fact that Zionists and the Israeli government claim to speak in the name of all Jews?
RF: As my prior answer suggests, no government has the authority to speak in the name of others, and certainly Zionism, a movement I have never supported, and Israel, a state to which I owe no special allegiance, is not entitled to represent me because I happen to be Jewish. I have real problems with any coerced allegiance to a political or religious entity, and believe that the crime of treason sets up an unacceptable potential tension between the dictates of conscience and subservience to the will of the state.
HC: In 2007 you described the Israeli policies towards Palestine as a “holocaust-in-the-making“. Given the tightening of the siege on Gaza, which has now lasted over 1000 days, Operation Cast Lead etc.. would you now say that the situation has developed into a full blown holocaust?
RF: This is a delicate issue of language. Genocide is a word with a great emotional resonance, and special historic associations for the people of Israel. I wrote these words before I was appointed as Special Rapporteur, and although I would not retract them, I have refrained from using the word genocide since accepting the UN job. There is an ambiguity in the word genocide: it has legal, moral, and political connotations. It would be difficult to establish a genocidal intent on Israel’s part, given the way in which the ICJ approached the issue in the Bosnia Case. At the same time, I lament the continuation of the siege of Gaza, consider it a crime against humanity, and feel that the UN and many states are complicit to varying degrees.
HC: Your predecessor Prof. John Dugard compared the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to that of apartheid South Africa. Is this a view that you concur with after your own experiences there?
RF: Comparisons of this sort can be illuminating, although misleading at the same time. There are many indications of rigid separation, especially on the West Bank, as well as discriminatory regulations that make the situation for Palestinians resemble that of the black Africans suffering under apartheid, and deserving of comparable opprobrium. At the same time there are differences: the South African leadership defended apartheid as a preferable policy for race relations, whereas the Israelis do not offer an ideological justification for their separate treatment of the two peoples, claiming either the security rigors of occupation or the inevitable consequences of being ‘a Jewish state.’ Prolonged occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, along with the second class citizenship imposed on the Palestinian minority living behind the green line, are humanly abusive, but distinctive in their character, and it is important to understand these realities on their own terms.
HC: The world is watching as genocide unfolds in Palestine and yet nothing is being done to stop it. What can be done, and what should be done by the international community at this stage to ensure that the rights of the Palestinian people are protected?
RF: It is a scandalous refusal to take seriously the pledge after World War II of ‘never again.’ The liberal democracies in Europe and North America have allowed their hatred of Hamas to be a justification for inflicting and sustaining a humanitarian catastrophe on an entire civilian population denied even the option to become refugees. Even neighboring Arab governments have done far too little by way of opposition. And the UN has been largely mute. If ever there was a case where the imposition of sanctions was justified it would be in relation to Israel so long as it maintains the Gaza blockade. Civil society initiatives have challenged the Israeli policies most effectively, including such dramatic efforts as those associated with the Free Gaza Movement and Viva Palestina. These symbolic challenges expose the failures of the international community as constituted by the government of sovereign states to do uphold international law and international morality even in extreme situations of the sort that exists in Gaza, and add political weight to the BDS movement that is gathering strength in various parts of the world. The Palestinian solidarity movement has become the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Campaign as the most important popular struggle on behalf of global justice in the early 21st century. Of course, there are two time horizons that must be taken into account: the emergency horizon in Gaza that requires with utmost urgency the ending of the blockade; the justice horizon throughout occupied Palestine that requires a just peace at the earliest possible time.
HC: Israel has stated that it launched Operation Cast Lead as an act of “self-defence”. However you, and many others, have said that this is not an honest depiction of how events unfolded and that there are other “unacknowledged reasons“ as to why Israel launched its mass assault on the citizens of Gaza. Could you tell us what you think those “unacknowledged reasons” might be?
RF: Of course, unacknowledged reasons are kept secret because their admission would be awkward. As the question suggests, Israel had a diplomatic option by way of a ceasefire if security and self-defense were its concerns. The more plausible explanations for the timing and undertaking of Operation Cast Lead are the following: to redeem the reputation of the Israeli Defense Forces, which had been damaged by their operational failures in the Lebanon War of 2006; to send Iran a message that the IDF was ready to inflict major damage on an adversary without concern for the limitations of international law or world public opinion; to show Israeli domestic public opinion that the Kadima leadership was determined to use whatever force required to uphold Israeli state interests; to destroy Hamas, and reestablish Fatah control in Gaza, and unified Palestinian representation under the auspices of the Palestine Authority; striking Gaza aggressively while the supportive George W. Bush was still in the White House, and prior to the arrival of the untested Barrack Obama; obtaining the release of the single IDF soldier held captive, Gilad Shalit, which would have been hailed in Israel as a sentimental victory.
HC: Colonel Desmond Travers (a co-author of the Goldstone report) has recently called for certain weapons that Israel has used, or has been suspected of using, to be banned internationally, including white phosphorus, Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME), flechettes and Tungsten. Would you support him in this call?
RF: Yes, definitely. All of these weapons inflict cruel injuries, and are already considered unlawful if used in proximity to civilians, which was done throughout Operation Cast Lead.
HC: You have pointed out that Hamas were democratically elected in a free and fair election, that it had proposed a 10 year truce with Israel and has, over the years, expressed readiness to work with other Palestinian groups and yet it is still regarded by Israel and its allies as a terrorist organisation. Isn’t it about time for Israel, the Quartet and others to sit down and talk with Hamas?
RF: It was a mistake from the outset not to take Hamas at their word as turning away from violence and toward political action. When initially elected Hamas established a one-year ceasefire unilaterally, which they kept despite a series of Israeli provocations, including the assassination of Hamas leaders by missile attack. It would seem that Israel, and the United States, were comfortable with the situation of divided Palestinian leadership, and with the accompanying argument that there was no Palestinian partner with whom Israel could negotiate. Hamas has basically displayed a willingness to establish a ceasefire, including one of long duration, along its border with Israel. International actors should even now, however belatedly, treat Hamas as the de facto governmental authority in the Gaza Strip and treat it diplomatically as a normal political entity. To attach the label ‘terrorist organization’ is to signal an unwillingness to substitute diplomacy for violence and a refusal to lift the cruel and criminal siege that is now causing such damage to the physical and mental health of the entire civilian population of Gaza.
HC: You have said that “the American public in particular gets 99% of its information filtered through an exceedingly pro-Israeli media lens.” What is your take on the coverage of the situation by the media in Europe?
RF: I am less familiar with the European coverage, but my strong impression is that although it is generally favorable to Israel, it is less unbalanced in its reportage, and more objective. Also, there is greater access to sources sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle, including Al Jazeera.
HC: The Palestinian Authority recently called for the deferral of your last report on the OPT, why have you not insisted on its immediate debate in the Human Rights Council?
RF: I do not possess the authority to challenge what takes place in the Human Rights Council. I have conveyed my disappointment to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I hope that the report will be discussed at the June meeting of the HRC, and that these difficulties will not recur in the future. The report is a comprehensive attempt to depict the unlawful dimensions of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
HC: Is there any hope that Israel will be held accountable for its war crimes against the Palestinian people?
RF: I am not optimistic about accountability being achieved by way of the appropriate international procedures, especially referral to the International Criminal Court for further investigation and possible indictment. The geopolitical veto exercised by the United States on behalf of Israel, possibly reinforced by the EU, will block the implementation of the recommendations in the Goldstone Report probably without ever coming to a formal vote. Perhaps, if public pressure is heightened the geopolitical protection of Israel will become visible rather than, as at present, provided behind closed doors and in the deep recesses of the UN bureaucracy.
But there are two other ways in which some degree of accountability might be achieved: first, as recommended in the Goldstone Report, reliance on universal jurisdiction, which potentially empowers national criminal courts to investigate charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity with respect to Israeli military or political leaders who could be detained or extradited to face charges if entering a country that has introduced universal jurisdiction provisions into its law; second, as undertaken already by the Russell Foundation in Brussels, the formation of a citizens’ tribunal with a panel of jurors made up of respected moral authority figures, and passing upon the allegations against named Israeli officials. This kind of initiative would be symbolic in nature, but it would provide a documentary record, encourage support for BDS forms of nonviolent coercion, and represent an expression of condemnation of those accused and found guilty by world public opinion and by parts of the world media.
HC: You have the unenviable task of being an academic in an American university and a UN human rights Rapporteur in Palestine, how difficult has it been for you to function in both environments after your criticism of Israeli human rights policies?
RF: The tension is present, but so far has not been too serious. There is a shift in mood throughout the United States, making criticism of Israeli policies less controversial than had been the case in the past. The long arm of AIPAC and the Israeli Lobby remains dominant in Washington, D.C., but there is less impact than in the past on the country as a whole.
* UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied (OPT), since 1967. In 2001 Falk served on a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian territories with John Duggard. He is also an American Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University with a long and distinguished career in academics, politics and law.
The eternal push for additional sanctions against Iran never changes too much.
Earlier today, President Barack Obama declared that he was “confident” China would back the sanctions, a confidence expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton several times over the past few weeks.
But as has happened every other time this confidence was expressed, China was quick to dismiss the idea and reiterate its opposition to sanctions.
“China always believes that dialogue and negotiation are the best way out for the issue. Pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve it,” insisted China’s Foreign Ministry.
Despite this opposition, the US is still hoping to push forward sanctions against Iran in the next few weeks to punish it over its refusal to accept a third party enrichment deal. Iran has actually agreed to that deal in principle, and reiterated their support again today.
Iran’s willingness to accept a deal and its repeated calls for dialogue do not appear to be stopping the US push for sanctions, ostensibly to punish it for not accepting a deal and not accepting dialogue. This is perhaps unsurprising, however, as the fact that the IAEA has repeatedly confirmed that Iran is not enriching uranium to anywhere near weapons grade and is not diverting it to any non-civilian use has likewise done little to dissuade the US from sanctions on the completely false basis of Iran enriching uranium for military purposes.