The New York Times has finally done the right thing and informed readers of Israel’s plan to destroy an entire village in the West Bank. This is good to see, but the move exposes a significant fault line in the newspaper: The foreign desk and Jerusalem bureau have been the gatekeepers here, avoiding their responsibilities in reporting the story.
The piece appears on the op-ed page under the byline of one of the threatened villagers—Nasser Nawaja, community organizer and a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. It’s a good article, summarizing the sad history of Susiya and the resistance to Israel’s plan, which comes from local and international supporters.
Nawaja’s article includes a quote from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby made during a press briefing last week. Kirby was clearly prepared to address the issue and ask Israel to back off. This in itself should have prompted the news section of the paper to address the story, but the Times remained silent. (See TimesWarp 7-20-15.)
Until today the only mention of Susiya’s plight came in a Reuters story that the Times published earlier this week without posting it on the Middle East or World pages. Readers had no way to find it unless they specifically searched for it, by typing in the key word “Susiya,” for instance.
The story of Susiya and its struggle to survive has been reported in news outlets since 2013. The United Nations and other groups, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, have issued statements and press releases on Susiya; the European Union, and now the State Department, have spoken out; but none of this prompted the Times to do what good journalism demands and assign a reporter to the story.
The Times’ treatment of Susiya is reminiscent of a similar story, which emerged during the attacks on Gaza in 2012: In one day Israel targeted and killed three journalists traveling in marked cars, but the Times article describing events that day simply said that “a bomb” had killed two men, even though an officer confirmed the army’s responsibility.
Times readers learned the full story only when columnist David Carr wrote of the journalists’ deaths days later in the Business section. He titled his piece “Using War As a Cover to Target Journalists,” and he did the reporting that was missing in the news section. (See TimesWarp 2-17-15.)
Carr gave the details of the killings, and quoted the lieutenant colonel who affirmed the attacks on the journalists. He then wrote, “So it has come to this: killing members of the media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”
When Carr died earlier this year, the Times was filled with tributes to his work, but none of the articles mentioned this fine moment of his career. The story of the assassinated journalists never again emerged in the newspaper.
Susiya may have a different fate, however. Now that its name has appeared in the back pages of the newspaper, we may find that the story flickers to life in the news section as well. All things are possible, even in the Times.
Although the facts, the law, and admissions by Israeli government officials all pointed otherwise, during the July-August 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, the Israeli government was successful in promoting its self-defense claim with western news media and in persuading certain U.S. politicians that Israel was implementing its right to defend itself.
Claims of “self-defense” against Hamas rocket fire were invoked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United States Senate, and not only as justification for the Israeli assault. “Self-defense” against the rockets also served to deflect allegations that Israeli forces committed war crimes by targeting civilians and civilian property in Gaza.
Public relations campaigns based on self-defense have been critical to Israeli officials avoiding accountability after each of the six major assaults on Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005. Notwithstanding the reports of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the remarkable success of those self-defense based public relations campaigns continued to provide Israeli officials with impunity: the freedom to strike militarily again.
That impunity may come to an end if the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine and prosecutions follow. However, immediately after the Prosecutor announced that she was launching a “preliminary examination” on January 16, 2015, Netanyahu launched a multi-pronged “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent decision to start an inquiry into what the Palestinians call Israeli ‘war crimes’ in the disputed territories.” The public diplomacy campaign is based entirely on Israel’s claim that it acted in self-defense. The Israeli campaign also included a threat to disregard the decision of the court, a threat to the funding of the court, and the announcement that Israel was freezing transfer of more than $100 million a month in taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the State of Palestine joining the ICC and requesting the ICC inquiry.
A new 63 page report, “Neither facts nor law support Israel’s self-defense claim regarding its 2014 assault on Gaza,” submitted to the ICC Prosecutor on behalf of the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild (“the ICC submission”), uses both authoritative contemporaneous Israeli and Palestinian reports and newly released reports and documents to demonstrate that Israeli claims of “self-defense” for its 2014 attack on Gaza are unsupported in both fact and law. The ICC submission notes that the unusual strategy implemented by Israeli officials to publically discredit the court inquiry demonstrated a distinct departure from the traditional method of respectfully presenting evidence and persuasive arguments to the court.
The facts don’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Among the material considered in the ICC submission is the 277 page Israeli government report, “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects” that was released by the Israeli government on June 14, 2015. Although the Israeli government report builds its case around self-defense, to its credit, the Israeli government report openly acknowledges that Israeli military forces (a) had been striking Gaza during 2013 and early 2014, (b) had launched a massive attack on the West Bank in mid-June 2014, and (c) had launched an aerial strike on a tunnel in Gaza on July 5, 2014. However, the Israeli government report omits mention that all these dates were before the night of July 7, 2014, the date a contemporaneous report from an authoritative Israeli source said “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 21, 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire” (emphasis in the original). The contemporaneous report was issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that the Washington Post says “has close ties with the country’s military leadership.”
While the Israeli government report acknowledged the aerial strike on the tunnel in Gaza, it omitted mention of the extent of Israeli attacks on Gaza during the night before Hamas participated and claimed responsibility for its first rocket fire since 2012: The contemporaneous ITIC July 2 – July 8, 2014 weekly report states that on July 7 “approximately 50 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were struck,” by Israeli forces, including strikes that killed six Hamas members in the tunnel.
The Israeli government report states:
On July 7, 2014, after more than 60 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on a single day, the Government of Israel was left with no choice but to initiate a concerted aerial operation against Hamas and other terrorist organisations in order adequately to defend Israel’s civilian population.
Thus, the Israeli government report claims that the government was acting to defend Israel’s civilian population notwithstanding the fact that it had just admitted to an Israeli government attack that preceded the Hamas rocket fire on July 7. The attack on the tunnel that the ITIC reported killed the six Hamas members.
In a minute by minute timeline of events that day, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported the Israeli attacks that began during the night of July 6 and continued in the early morning hours of July 7 that showed that the Israeli attack on the tunnel preceded the Hamas rockets:
at 2:24 a.m. on July 7:
Hamas reports an additional four militants died in a second Israeli air strike in Gaza, bringing Sunday night’s death total to six. This is the biggest single Israeli hit against Hamas since 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
at 9:37 p.m. on July 7 Ha’aretz reported:
Hamas claims responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashdod, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Netivot. Some 20 rockets exploded in open areas in the last hour.
Thus, an authoritative contemporaneous Israeli report acknowledged the fact that Hamas started firing its rockets some 20 hours after Israeli forces launched the attack on Gaza and killed the six Hamas members.
The Israeli government report couches the more than 60 rockets launched at Israel on the night of July 7 as giving the government of Israel no choice but to escalate aerial operations. But the report fails to mention that Israel actually had a choice as to whether or not to launch its prior lethal attack on the night of July 6 and the early morning hours of July 7. By omitting mention of the timing and the lethal effects of its attack on the tunnel, the Israeli government report avoids recognizing that its killing of the six Hamas members provoked the Hamas rocket fire.
While the Israeli government report mentions strikes on Gaza during 2013 and 2014, it omits mention of the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks during 2013 and the increased rate of such killing during the first three months of 2014.
According to a report issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “PCHR Annual Report 2013:”
The number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces was 46 victims in circumstances where no threats were posed to the lives of Israeli soldiers. Five of these victims died of wounds they had sustained in previous years. Of the total number of victims, there were 41 civilians, 33 of whom were in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip, including six children, two women; and five non-civilians, including one in the West Bank and the other four in the Gaza Strip. In 2013, 496 Palestinians sustained various wounds, 430 of them in the West Bank and 66 in the Gaza Strip, including 142 children and 10 women.
An escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians in early 2014 compared to the rate for the entire year 2013 is evident from PCHR’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 1st Quarter of 2014.”Among the violations presented in the report, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the first three months of 2014, including 11 civilians of whom two were children; 259 were wounded, of whom 255 were civilians, including 53 children. “The majority of these Palestinians, 198, were wounded during peaceful protests and clashes with Israeli forces.”
Nor does the Israeli government report mention any of the lethal Israeli government attacks on the West Bank and Gaza in the days and weeks before three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed on the West Bank on June 12, 2014:
* Israeli forces shot 9 teenagers demonstrating on the West Bank on May 15, killing two.
* Israeli forces wounded nine Palestinian civilians, including a child during the week of June 5 to June 11.
* Israeli forces launched an extrajudicial execution on June 11 in Gaza that killed one and wounded three.
Nor does the Israeli government report describe the extent of casualties inflicted by the June 13 to June 30 military offensive on the West Bank, Operation Brothers Keeper, in which Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51, according to the contemporaneous weekly reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
In addition, the Israeli government’s 277 page report omits mention of admissions by Prime Minister Netanyahu of other military and political purposes for its assault on the West Bank, described in a contemporaneous report in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, on June 15, 2014: to capture Hamas members (some of whom the Israeli government had previously released in a prisoner exchange and some of whom were Parliamentarians in the new Palestinian unity government), create “severe repercussions,” and punish the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for forming a unity government. Importantly, although he accused “Hamas people” of carrying out the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, Netanyahu made no mention of stopping rocket fire. The non-mention of rocket fire by Netanyahu is consistent with the ITIC report of no rocket fire at that time.
Similarly, after describing the Israeli operations that caused Hamas to pay a “heavy price” on the West Bank, as shown in a video of his speech at the US Ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv on July 4, Netanyahu acknowledged that “in Gaza we hit dozens of Hamas activists and destroyed outposts and facilities that served Hamas terrorists.” Thus Netanyahu himself acknowledged major Israeli military operations in Gaza preceding the launching of Hamas rockets on July 7.
Facilitating the Israeli and U.S. government campaign to pin responsibility on Hamas and support an Israeli self-defense claim, certain western news media, including the New York Times, published an incorrect timeline. The timeline published by the New York Times dated the start of the war to July 8, the first full day of Hamas rocket barrages, and more than a day after Israeli forces had escalated their aerial attack on Gaza killing the six Hamas members. The Times timeline simply omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks on the night of July 6 and early morning hours on July 7 that Ha’aretz said preceded the Hamas barrage of rockets on the night of July 7. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the 24 days of “Operation Bring Back Our Brothers,” that began on June 13, the June 11 extra-judicial execution of a Hamas member in Gaza, the June 13 attack on the “terrorist facility and a weapons storehouse in the southern Gaza Strip,” and the killing of the two Palestinian teenagers and wounding of seven other Palestinians who were demonstrating on May 15. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks in 2013 and the escalation of those attacks in early 2014 that the Israeli government report admitted under the euphemism “targeted efforts to prevent future attacks.”
The law doesn’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Not just facts and admissions stand in the way of Israel’s self-defense claim. In a 2004 decision rejecting Israel’s self-defense claim for the wall, a relatively passive structure crossing occupied Palestinian territory, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that, under the UN Charter, self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter is inapplicable to measures taken by an occupying power within occupied territory. While the ICJ recognized Israel’s right and its duty to protect its citizens, it said “The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.” While the Israeli government report includes mention of a law review article that relies on an ICJ holding favorable to an Israeli position on another issue, the Israeli government report omits mention of the directly on point ICJ case regarding applicability of self-defense to Israel as occupying power in Gaza.
But even if Israel could overcome the facts showing that Israeli forces initiated the combat, and even if Israel was not the occupying power in Gaza and did not have to address the law regarding self-defense for an occupying power presented in the ICJ decision, Israel’s claim to self-defense would still be invalidated if its assault extended beyond what was necessary and proportionate to deal with an armed attack it was purportedly facing, as more fully described in the ICC submission.
Necessity was contradicted by the data provided by the ITIC showing that Israel had been wildly successful at stopping and/or preventing rocket fire by agreeing to and at least partially observing a ceasefire, while Israel consistently dialed up rocket fire with each of its major assaults on Gaza since 2006. By contrast, as shown in the ICC submission, hundreds of times more rockets were falling on Israel during each day of each of the major assaults on Gaza than were falling in the periods before Israeli forces attacked or after the assault ended with a new ceasefire.
Necessity was also contradicted by an article in the May 2013 Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” quoting the IDF General who commands the army’s Gaza Division who said that Hamas had been policing other groups in Gaza “to thwart rocket attacks from the strip.” The Hamas observance of the ceasefire and its policing of other groups to prevent rocket fire demonstrated an effective alternative to an Israeli assault. The Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza during the period between June 13 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2014 put that ceasefire and that Hamas policing of other groups at risk. Israel could have more effectively protected its citizens from rocket fire by continuing to at least partially observe the successful cease-fire in place before Israel escalated its assaults on the West Bank and Gaza. So the necessity for the escalation on June 13 and the further escalation on July 7 to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire has not been shown.
The necessity and proportionality requirements for a self-defense claim were also contradicted by evidence that actions by Israeli forces during the assault on Gaza went outside the laws of war by directly targeting Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. The proportionality requirement was further contradicted by evidence of widespread Israeli attacks that harmed civilians or civilian property disproportionate to the military advantage Israeli forces received from the attacks. The evidence for such war crimes cited in the ICC submission comes from reports of investigations conducted by the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (June 22, 2015); the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Lawyers for Palestinian for Human Rights (LPHR), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (June 26, 2015); the UN Human Rights Council (December 26, 2014); Defense for Children International Palestine (April 2015); Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) (January 20, 2015); Al-Haq (August 19, 2014); the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (September 4, 2014); Breaking the Silence (May 3, 2015); The Guardian (May 4, 2015); The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (March 27, 2015), and contemporaneous and periodic reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Along with support from top U.S. officials, the enormously successful public relations campaigns based on claimed self-defense that Israeli officials mounted during and after each of the Israeli assaults on Gaza allowed Israel to avoid accountability, maintain impunity, and launch subsequent attacks. In view of that successful record, the effectiveness of Israel’s “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the ICC inquiry” based on the same self-defense claims should not be underestimated. Widespread recognition that Israel’s self-defense claim is deeply flawed is needed to counter the intense pressure Israeli officials and their allies are exerting on the ICC so the court may resist that pressure and base its decisions strictly on the facts and law.
James Marc Leas is a patent attorney and a past co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in Gaza immediately after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 as part of a 20 member delegation from the U.S. and Europe and authored or co-authored four articles for Counterpunch describing findings, including Why the Self-Defense Doctrine Doesn’t Legitimize Israel’s Assault on Gaza. He also participated in the February 2009 National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza immediately after Operation Cast Lead and contributed to its report, “Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.”
GAZA CITY – Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian teenager Friday evening in the town of Abasan al-Kabira east of the Khan Younis district in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said.
Mansour Abu Taima, 14, was reportedly hit with a live bullet in his left foot near the border line.
The teen was taken to the Gaza European Hospital for treatment where his injury was reported as moderate.
An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on the incident.
Last week, there were at least 11 incidents of live fire from Israeli forces towards Palestinians in “access restricted areas” inside of the Gaza Strip, according to the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Also referred to as a “buffer zone” Israeli authorities restrict access by Palestinian residents to areas along both the land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip.
The zone is enforced on the pretext of security, however its exact limits have historically fluctuated and have had a detrimental impact on the Palestinian agricultural and fishing sectors.
Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on Palestinian civilians near the border since a ceasefire agreement signed Aug. 26, 2014 ended a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.
Part of the agreement intended to pave the way for eased restrictions on access to border areas.
In March alone, there were a total of 38 incidents of shootings and incursions into the Strip as well as arrests, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).
That was up from 26 incidents through February that left seven Palestinians injured and one dead.
According to PCHR, the “buffer zone,” which Palestinians are prohibited from entering, “is illegal under both Israeli and international law.”
The group said: “The precise area designated by Israel as a ‘buffer zone’ is not clear and this Israeli policy is typically enforced with live fire.”
Human rights activists have condemned the British government’s decision to lift restrictions on weapons sales to Israel put in place during last summer’s Gaza conflict.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said on Friday the move sends the message that Israel can continue using British arms against Palestinians and the UK government will turn a blind eye.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) defended the move, however, saying a year-long review of arms licenses to Israel had left it satisfied the contracts meet the UK’s export criteria.
The announcement comes after a report published in early July revealed the British government approved £4mn worth of arms to Israel in the immediate months following the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
Andrew Smith of CAAT expressed disbelief at the government’s decision to lift restrictions on arms exports to Israel.
“This report is extremely weak. It sends the message that Israel can continue using UK arms against the people of Gaza and the government will do nothing to stop it,” he told RT.
“The bombardment last summer killed over 2000 people and created a humanitarian catastrophe. If that wasn’t enough to change the government’s mind then what would it take?”
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday his department was satisfied that licenses for military material, including components for radar and tanks, now meet the UK’s export criteria. Under UK regulations, the sale of arms that can be used to commit human rights violations are banned.
“Following the review the Government has concluded that in the present context where the facts are clearer these criteria may now be applied, without any additional measures,” BIS said in a statement.
A review of export licenses for arms sales to Israel was set in motion in August 2014, a month after Israel’s offensive in Gaza began.
Then-Business Secretary Vince Cable said at the time that the government was unable to clarify if the arms licenses has breached UK regulations.
“We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However, the UK government has not been able to clarify if the export licenses criteria are being met,” he said.
“In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licenses in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.”
“No new licenses of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Forces during the review period, and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease,” he added.
The government’s decision comes weeks after The Independent revealed Whitehall approved £4mn worth of arms sales to Israel in the immediate months following last summer’s grueling Gaza war.
Among the arms sales Britain presided over, were special components for military helicopters and a range of hi-tech parts for guidance and navigation systems used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
In June, a United Nations report accused both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of possible war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Conducted by an independent Commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, the inquiry found that “serious violations of international humanitarian law” had occurred during the conflict that “may amount to war crimes.”
Dr. Rami Mokdad
Gaza, Occupied Palestine – At Shifa Oncology Department we treat 150 patients everyday, and we are in total 3 doctors, 5 nurses and have just 15 beds. Obviously that’s not enough.
In the last 10 years the number of patients with cancer in the Gaza Strip has grown a lot. Especially in young people and children, before most of the cases affected old people, but since the Zionist aggressions against Gaza started it became normal to receive children and young people with cancer.
The three kinds of cancer that have grown more in those years are thyroid cancer, leukaemia and multiple myeloma cancer.
For example, in 2005 we had less than 50 cases of thyroid cancer, in 2014 we had 300 cases. Actually, each month we are receiving between 70 and 100 new cases of cancer patients. In this oncology department, the most important in the Gaza Strip, we treated around 2,800 patients in 2010. In 2013 the number grew to 5,000 and last year, 2014, we treated around 6,000 patients. And I’m afraid these numbers will continue to grow even more. In 10 years we’ll have a huge crisis in Gaza, as the risk factors are getting worse; the use of war weapons by Israel in highly populated areas, the consumptions of polluted water, the use of polluted land for growing food, etc.
Another special case we find in Gaza is the nasopharyngeal cancer, especially in children. Those cases come from areas where the people had primary contact with the Zionist bombs, especially with white phosphorous, but also in cases where their home was bombed.
Due to the blockade we find a lot of difficulties for making the diagnosis and treating those patients. For example in Gaza we don’t have either radiotherapy or molecular therapy, and we find a lot of obstacles to sending the patients to the West Bank to receive the appropriate treatment. We also don’t have PET scan, isotope scan or laboratory markers. We also suffer from an important shortage of chemotherapy supplies and other drugs, we could say that we work with 40% of the supplies we really need. As even when we receive some of these drugs, we don’t receive them continuously, so we never know if the next week we’ll be able to provide the needed treatment to the patients.
The Palestinian Authority is responsible for this shortage of drugs, as they don’t send the supplies intended for Gaza due to its will to punish Hamas.
This attitude from the Ramallah based government, along with the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt that doesn’t allow the patients to leave the Strip in order to receive the treatment outside, and in the case of Egypt, that also doesn’t allow the entrance of medical supplies and drugs through Rafah Border; are responsible of our inability to properly treat the cancer patients from Gaza.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of resources of the local government we don’t have any serious studies addressing the cancer issue. And we don’t know why any of all the International Agencies or NGOs are [not] studying that.
A truly disgraceful piece of distortion from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet.
The title of this film is a clear hint of the propaganda to come, based, as ever, on the fatuous ‘two sides’ narrative. There was no ‘war’, only another orchestrated massacre, a campaign of civil terror, in order to maintain Israel’s wicked, illegal siege. From the first minute of this shoddy film, one just wants to urge Doucet: tell the truth, give the context!
Yes, children suffer and die, but why is this happening? Why have so many Palestinians been murdered? Why have over 500 children been slaughtered? Why are an entire population, notably the children, so deeply traumatised? Tell the truth, provide the context!
Israel is the aggressor force. Gaza is the key target. It lies in ruins. Yet, this truly despicable film affects to argue that Sderot is part of the same ‘war zone’.
Continual reference is made to Israel targeting populated areas from where, it’s claimed, Hamas were launching rockets, just part of the loaded message that Hamas are largely responsible for the carnage.
A key section of the film is given over to Hamas fighters, youth camp training and wielding weaponry. But there’s not a single frame of an Israeli soldier, or the mass military operation engaged in the attempted annihilation of Gaza’s people. There’s no questioning, either, of how Israel has socialised so much of its youth to hate and fear Palestinians.
Standing at a Hamas training camp, Doucet laments: “For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this.” But there’s no exploration of how Israel as a militarist, occupying state has conditioned so much of its own population to join in the historic oppression and mass murder of Palestinians. Indeed, the word ‘occupation’ is never used.
At one point, Doucet sits with the smiling Gazan kids and asks one of them: ‘Why do you want to be a journalist?’ The child replies in lovely innocence: ‘So I can tell people what’s going on in wars like this one’. If only Doucet could aspire to that same basic aim. One might ask Doucet, in turn: Why do you want to be a stenographer rather than a journalist?
We see more pictures of Gaza’s ruins. Doucet says: “The donors promise a lot. But politics on all sides gets in the way.” This is the extent of her ‘explanation’ of the carnage Israel has caused, the devastation it’s unleashed, its refusal to help rebuild.
Doucet’s grating commentary, over inappropriately lilting music, continues, with affected questions on whether the hate and suspicion can ever be overcome.
A scene of more families coming to settle in Israel’s border locale raises not a word of comment on the nature of Israel’s land appropriation, historic displacement of people and enduring occupation. The indoctrination of Israeli children in defending this is never mentioned, nor is the stark privilege of Israeli kids against the appalling conditions and despair of the children in Gaza. Doucet just smiles and says nothing of the staggering disparities.
I hope the families that Doucet interviewed in Gaza get to see how they’ve been used and exploited in this shabby, deceitful film.
An end credit announces that both Israel and Hamas could be indicted for war crimes, and that: ‘In May and June there were more rounds of rockets fired from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes’, the clear inference, as throughout this deeply-loaded film, that Israel is always ‘responding’ to provocative weaponry.
This is one of the worst examples of ‘two sides’ reportage ever shown. Israel couldn’t have hoped for a greater piece of mitigating hasbara. Doucet’s film is one of the most shameful pieces of ‘war journalism’ ever put out by the BBC.
She doesn’t lack human empathy for the suffering Palestinian kids, such as little Syed, still haunted by the murder of his brother and three cousins on Gaza’s beach. What she lacks, much more profoundly, is a sense of compassionate duty to say why these appalling things happened, and are still happening, to name the principal perpetrators, to be a witness for truth and justice.
Doucet’s film is an abuse of journalism, and, in its pretentious evasions, an abuse of Gaza’s suffering children.
It has no nukes, no navy, no air–force, no tanks, no phosphor bombs, no subs, no guided missiles, no exits, nowhere to run… its people are terrorised, blockaded and exhausted... their homes are rubble… unemployment is the highest in the world and 73% suffer food insecurity… but suddenly:
Gaza is ‘a recurring threat to peace’!
This blame-it-on-Gaza bombshell came in the middle of a House of Lords debate on the political situation in the Gaza Strip yesterday.
‘Hasbara’ stooges present their propaganda ‘facts’
Lord Davies of Stamford, formerly the MP Quentin Davies, stood up:
My Lords, there are five salient facts that ought to come out of any debate about Gaza…. One is that Gaza is clearly a most unpleasant place to live: it is extremely poor and very violent. It is poor partially because of the blockades that have been imposed by both its neighbours, Egypt and Israel, for reasons that may be very understandable.
The second salient fact that has come out and which is certainly recognised all over the world is that Gaza in its present state is a recurring threat to peace in the region. Rockets are continually fired at Israel. After some years, the Israelis inevitably lose their patience…. and intervene militarily. There is nasty military action, obviously with a lot of fatalities.
Obviously. And the casualties (including over 578 children killed and 1,000 permanently disabled) are all on one side. It would be helpful to say why rockets are fired at Israel. But do carry on with your fascinating analysis, noble Lord.
Those two facts are pretty well known. There are three facts about Gaza that are not so well known and which ought to be better known. One is that it is a very nasty, savage tyranny…. Hamas imposes its power by regular use of torture and execution of political opponents: so-called collaborators with the Israelis and so forth.
By mentioning torture, his Lordship reminds me of the grim reports we keep getting about Israel torturing Palestinian child prisoners.
The fourth point that ought to be much better known is one I tried to bring out a few weeks ago at Questions, when I asked the Minister whether Hamas could bring to an end, any day it wanted, the blockade imposed by Israel, simply by accepting the quartet conditions. These, as the House knows, are: the giving up of violence, the recognition of the state of Israel and the acceptance of existing accords, including the Oslo accord. The answer I got was yes, the Hamas regime could, any day it wants, get rid of these blockades. It chooses not to do so.
Israel too could do all of those things but chooses not to. It could, if it had the sense, end its illegal occupation but chooses not to. And why would Palestinians recognise Israel when Israel has said repeatedly that it opposes a Palestinian state? His Lordship’s mention of the Oslo accord, I imagine, is a reference to the then prime minister Ehud Barak’s “generous” offer to the Palestinians. In an earlier speech Lord Davies said that Yasser Arafat, at the Camp David meeting, refused to consider an offer which would have resulted in 97% of the West Bank being handed over to a Palestinian state.
The offer was not what it seemed and the noble Lord was repeating a hasbara propaganda myth. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22% of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they agreed to accept the measly 22% and recognise Israel within ‘Green Line’ borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line established after the Arab-Israeli War and recognised internationally as the border). Conceding 78% of the land that was originally theirs was an astonishing compromise but not enough for greedy Barak. He demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within Palestine’s 22% remnant.
It was plain to see on the map that these settlement blocs would create impossible obstacles to Palestinian life which was already severely disrupted. Barak also insisted the Palestinian territories be placed under “Temporary Israeli Control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. His generous offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian State. What nation in the world would accept that? The map was never shown publicly, and propaganda spin concealed how preposterous Barak’s offer was.
The following year, at Taba, Barak produced a revised map but it was withdrawn after his election defeat. The facts are well documented by organisations such as Israel’s Gush Shalom, which his Lordship might find enlightening.
Gaza ‘the most subsidised community on earth’
Lord Davies concluded his amazing insights:
The fifth point, which certainly is not as well known as it ought to be — because it affects the pockets of every taxpayer in this country, apart from anything else — is that this mixture of unpleasantness, tyranny, threat to world peace and denial is being actively subsidised by the international community to the tune of many billions of dollars a year…. this is probably the most subsidised community anywhere on God’s earth. The European Union makes much the biggest contribution to these subsidies, at about €1.6 billion, and the second largest contributor is Qatar, at about $1 billion.
If we are going to go on subsidising the Hamas regime as we do, we have to ask ourselves whether we should introduce an element of conditionality into our relationships with Hamas.
As everyone (except his Lordship) knows, it’s the Israeli occupation that is being subsidised. And Israel is repeatedly destroying infrastructure built with British taxpayers’ money. Left in peace and free to trade with the rest of the world the Palestinians would prosper.
To think that Lord Davies was once a Government defence minister… It’s no surprise to discover that he voted for the Iraq war and travelled to Israel and Palestine in 2008, expenses paid by Labour Friends of Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Or that, as reported in The Mirror, he claimed £10,000 of taxpayers’ money for repairs to window frames at his “second home” – an 18th century mansion.
He had earlier claimed £20,700 expenses (later amended to £5,376) for repairs to a “bell tower”.
You’d think that the human condition in the Holy Land, and especially Gaza after Israel’s horrific 50-day onslaught last summer, would bother our senior holy men. But apparently not. Twenty-six Church of England bishops sit in the House of Lords. Only the Bishop of Chester spoke up, thankfully injecting some much needed common sense:
In Gaza the World Bank estimates the per capita income to be 30% lower today than 20 years ago. The contrast just gets greater over time, which sets up a huge instability. I understand all the arguments for a two-state solution…. but will two states so closely linked geographically and yet on such divergent paths easily exist side by side?
What I cannot understand from the Israeli perspective is the settlement programme. It is acknowledged on practically all sides outside Israel that it is both illegal and ill judged. In a certain way it is a parallel to the political mistakes in South Africa, where the South Africans simply dug themselves in and could not see the misjudgment.
How are we to go forward? We have to work with Hamas…. working with it must be the future, difficult though that may be.
More ministerial wisdom
As if Lord Davies’ contribution wasn’t dreadful enough, Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) closed the debate with some silly pokes at Hamas.
We have assessed that Hamas is seeking to rebuild militant infrastructure, including the tunnel network, in Gaza, and we are deeply concerned at reports of militant groups rearming.
What does she expect when the international community still fails to act and Israel continues its raids?
We will recognise the state of Palestine, where Palestinians currently live, only if and when Hamas get to the position whereby it can recognise the right of Israel to exist.
Israel has never defined its borders because it is bent on territorial expansion. The 56% of mandate Palestine allocated to Israel by UN Partition in 1947 was immediately expanded to 78% by Israeli military aggression. The rest of Palestine was taken over in 1967 and remains under the Israeli jackboot. So exactly what are Hamas supposed to ‘recognise’? They have already said they’ll accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 Green Line borders, which is exactly in accord with international law.
Our policy on Hamas remains clear: it must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. Hamas must make credible movement towards these conditions, which still remain the benchmark against which its intentions should be judged.
Why? There is no parallel requirement on Israel.
The UK is deeply concerned by the terrible human cost to both sides of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as underlined by the findings of the report. We strongly condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
Again, no parallel condemnation of Israel’s murderous bombardment of Palestinian civilians.
We therefore welcome the fact that Israel is conducting its own internal investigations into specific incidents. Where there is evidence of wrongdoing those responsible must be held accountable.
Don’t hold your breath, Baroness.
The United Kingdom has been one of the largest donors to Gaza since last summer, providing more than £17 million in emergency assistance. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, that none of our aid goes to Hamas. It goes via the United Nations relief agency and the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism…. The UK pledged an additional £20 million…. We have now delivered 80% of that pledge, with more to come shortly.
The British taxpayer, yet again, picks up the tab for the wreckage left behind by Israeli war crimes. It’s a paltry sum considering the Israelis caused damage estimated at $6 billion. If it wasn’t for the rotten windows of Lord Davies’ mansion and his crumbling bell tower, we could afford to give more.
Despite the Israeli authorities’ claims that the seizure of a Freedom Flotilla boat was ‘uneventful’, footage has emerged that indicated that they tasered a Swedish aid worker.
The boats making up Freedom Flotilla 3 (FF3) have been prevented from reaching the besieged people of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid. The flotilla’s flagship Marianne was boarded by the Israeli military and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod earlier in the week. By now, some of the crew members have been released, while others remain detained.
Meanwhile, the boat I was meant to be on has not yet left a Greek port. It will head to Gaza at some point. I have been asked not to publish the details. But we will go.
The Israeli authorities claim that their soldiers were ‘non-violent’ as they took over the Marianne, which amounted to an illegal act of piracy, as the vessel was in international waters at the time it was intercepted. The Israeli authorities claimed that there were no injuries when they seized the boat which they had no right to do, legally or morally. The illegal act has been described as ‘uneventful’.
Unsurprisingly though, footage has emerged which shows that the opposite is true. The video shows Arab member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) Basel Ghattas, who I had long conversations with on my trip, first addressing the Israeli Navy before the soldiers boarded the Marianne. The footage then shows Israeli Navy thugs repeatedly tasering Swedish activist and humanitarian aid worker Charlie Andreasson.
Charlie has spent much time in Gaza. He’s a really nice guy and a genuine individual, the kind of selfless character you meet when preparing for a campaign like this. I had the pleasure of talking with him many times as we prepared for Freedom Flotilla 3, and ate dinner with him just a few days ago.
I watched the video of Charlie being tasered and knew it was him before I even read the article.
It was a sickening feeling. According to Oxford dictoniaries.com a taser is ‘a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporarily paralysis’. In reality though, tasering is an extremely violent act which can even cause death. There are campaign groups which lobby against the use of tasers by police for this very reason.
But this is how Israel routinely behaves. In typical fashion the Israeli leadership has sought to distract attention from its own crimes. Netanyahu wrote a letter published in the press and delivered to the activists on the boat. He says they must have gotten lost and perhaps should have headed to Syria. He exploits one tragedy to cynically justify another.
And here he does it again, suggesting that Israel is a beacon of light, justice, surrounded by hostile neighbors in the Middle East trying valiantly to uphold those oh so cherished values we hold dear. You can almost hear the harps playing and the angels singing when you read the letter his press office wrote for him on his behalf. He invites the readers to be “Impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East”.
Well Benjamin, we invite you to go to Gaza and to see what Israel’s democracy looks like if you happen to be a Palestinian and born in Gaza. He says that the leadership in Gaza is “using children as human shields.” Perhaps this comment is written by Netanyahu’s office to deflect attention from the fact that Israel killed hundreds of Palestinians last year including many children, and has done so since 1948.
Netanyahu claims that the people on the flotilla were bringing weapons to Gaza. This is false and nothing but an attempt by Israel to save face in the wake of yet another act of piracy committed at sea. They have to say that we are terrorists, because as it is, the world forming a much clearer picture as to the true extent and nature of Israel’s war crimes.
I’ll end here with a story that Charlie told me once when we were sitting down talking, in the company of two other activists.
Charlie told of a time he was in Gaza, and saw a young man shot by an Israeli soldier, possibly a sniper, as they found themselves under attack as is routine in Gaza.
Charlie and whoever else was there couldn’t help the Palestinian man as they were still being shot at. They had to watch him die, unable to reach him as he lay just a few feet away. They then had to inform the father that his son was dead-while the body of his son still lay in the road, unable to be recovered. The boys’ father thanked them.
I’ve never even seen the image of this happening, but yet I can’t shake it from my mind. Charlie is a brave person and didn’t deserve the treatment he got by the Israeli navy.
The Israeli soldiers are brainwashed and carrying out the work of Netanyahu’s war criminal regime. The sooner people wake up to this the better.
Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter.
“No humanitarian crisis here” say Netanyahu and Ya’alon
Governments should support brave humanitarian voyagers and back their play in future.
Welcome to the latest chapter in a long tale of unspeakable cruelty.
Israel’s military are once more raiding mercy ships on the high seas in an effort to prevent humanitarian aid reaching the 1.8 million souls in shattered Gaza.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the Swedish boat Marianne with 18 passengers has been “interdicted” by Israeli commandos 85 miles from the Gaza coast and towed to Ashdod. The three other vessels in the flotilla turned back and another big-hearted mission ended “with a whimper”.
Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon called his operation to deprive desperate, poverty stricken Gazans a “success”. The Marianne‘s passengers would be be deported. “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he added.
Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting Hamas and ignores all of the horrors in our region”, and he added that a panel established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon determined that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is lawful.
“Israel is a democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law.” He stressed there was no “siege” of Gaza,
There’s no siege of Gaza, no humanitarian crisis? Anyone who’s been there knows Netanyahu and Ya’alon are liars.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said on Monday that at around 2:00am the Marianne reported that she was surrounded by three Israel Navy boats in international waters some 100 nautical miles from the Gaza coast. Radio contact was then lost. In a statement they said:
We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was ‘uneventful’, because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the Estelle were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.
“Reckless to travel to Gaza”
Britain has ‘form’ when it comes to disregarding international law and keeping the Israeli blockade going. Back in July 2009, I received a letter from the office of Britain’s then foreign secretary, David Miliband, in reply to questions about Israel’s hijacking of the mercy ship Spirit of Humanity on the high seas and the outrageous treatment of six peace-loving British citizens including the skipper. They were en route to Gaza, not Israel, had their gear stolen or damaged and were thrown into Israeli jails. The letter said:
All those on board, including six British nationals, were handed over to Israeli immigration officials. British consular officials had good access to the British detainees and established that they were treated well.
That’s not the story the peaceful seafarers told. They were assaulted, put in fear for their lives and deprived of their liberty for fully a week – a long time in a stinking Israeli jail – for committing no offence whatsoever.
The letter continued:
The Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons on 30 June that it was ‘vital that all states respect international law, including the law of the sea’… We regularly remind the Israeli government of its obligations under international law on a variety of issues, including with respect to humanitarian access to Gaza as well as Israel’s control of Gazan waters…
Our Travel Advice makes clear that we advise against all travel to Gaza, including its offshore waters; that it is reckless to travel to Gaza at this time…
So, instead of keeping the seaways open, it seems the British Government was colluding with Israel to keep part of the Holy Land off-limits to British pilgrims, humanitarians and businesspeople and implicating itself in the collective punishment inflicted by the Israeli regime on the citizens of Gaza.
A year later the Mavi Marmara was the target for armed assault on the high seas by Israeli commandos, who left 9 passengers dead and dozens injured. The vessel was part of the Free Gaza flotilla. When reports were coming in that Israeli gunboats had “intercepted” the flotilla 90 miles out to sea and threatened humanitarian workers that they would be boarded and towed to an Israeli port, I emailed Britain’s then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg: “Where is the Royal Navy when it’s needed to protect life and limb of the 30-odd British nationals?”
Ministers had themselves received advanced warning of Israel’s intention to stop the flotilla “by any means”, and the British people wanted their government to do them proud and provide real protection for those brave souls in their peaceful mission to bring relief to Palestinians whose lives were made a living hell by the bully-boys of the Middle East.
They were, after all, only doing the right thing… doing what the West’s cowardly leaders wet their pants at the very thought of doing.
Blockade “unacceptable and unsustainable”. So why is it still in place 9 years later?
A few months earlier, in the run-up to the general election, Clegg had written in The Guardian:
…And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.
But Clegg, now in power and able to act, was as wimpy as every senior minister before him when put to the test:
The Government was very clear in its disapproval of the Israeli actions which ended in such heavy and tragic loss of life.
We have underlined the need for a full, credible, impartial and independent investigation into the events… Israel’s announcement of an inquiry headed by former Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel is an important step forward….
These events… arose from the unacceptable and unsustainable blockade of Gaza…. It has long been the view of the Government that restrictions on Gaza should be lifted – a view confirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which called for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and called on states to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation persisting there.
It is essential that there is unfettered access – not only to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, but to enable the reconstruction of homes and livelihoods and permit trade to take place.
It was then — and still is now — pointless calling for the blockade to be lifted. Israel’s repeated promises to “ease it” are purely cosmetic. In 2010 incoming goods to Gaza rose by a miserable 7 or 8% while the block on exports remained. That’s all the West’s feeble hand-wringing achieved.
UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (America abstained on Israel’s orders, according to former prime minister Ehud Olmert) called for the reopening of crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. To this day there is no sign of Israeli compliance.
The following year, 2011, MP Caroline Lucas quizzed foreign secretary William Hague in the Commons, as recorded by Hansard (29 June)….
Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion): Earlier today, Palestine solidarity groups, politicians, teachers and others marked the anniversary of the attacks on the Free Gaza flotilla last year by sailing down the river outside Parliament and marking the launch of a new Free Gaza flotilla. As the Foreign Secretary has previously said that the situation in Gaza is unacceptable and unsustainable, will he tell us what further action he is taking to help get the siege lifted, and will he do everything that he can to get guarantees that this new flotilla will be safe from attack?
Mr Hague: We have continued to take the action that I set out in the House last year. We have urged Israel greatly to improve access to Gaza. It has taken some steps, but those steps have not been as fruitful as we had hoped when they were set out. Egypt has now opened an important crossing into Gaza, which may also provide some relief. The answer relies on the general lifting of a blockade of Gaza and on a negotiated two-state solution in the middle east. However, embarking on new flotillas is not the way in which to bring that about. We advise against all travel to Gaza by British nationals, which includes people who may be thinking of boarding a flotilla to go there. We hope that Israel will make only a proportionate response to any such flotilla, but it is, none the less, not the way in which to sort out the problems of the middle east. Such problems require negotiations in good faith by the parties concerned.
Hague’s answer might have been written by Israeli speech writers. He insisted that flotillas were “not the way”. Well, what is? The proper way to break a siege, which the UN itself calls “illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”, is surely for the UN to apply sanctions. Failing that, the right thing would be for UN warships to break the siege… or for international civil society to do it escorted by UN warships or by warships belonging to the nation(s) of the flagged humanitarian vessels threatened with piratical aggression.
The proper way for Israel to avoid trouble would be to end its illegal blockade of Gaza and its illegal occupation of the rest of Palestine, and not interfere with humanitarians going about their lawful business.
As for “negotiations in good faith”, when did they ever happen?
A year after Israel’s murderous assault on the Mavi Marmara Hague was making more daft remarks in the House of Commons:
• “Our clear advice to British nationals is not to travel to Gaza.” Music to Israel’s ears, of course, as Hague helped to legitimize the illegal sea blockade..
• “Their welfare [meaning the British nationals on board] is our top priority.” Hague knew of Israel’s intention to go to any lengths, including the use of lethal force, to stop the mercy ships but took no precautionary action.
• He referred to “individuals who are allegedly involved in violence against Israeli servicemen during the boarding”, but failed to grasp that the violence was committed by Israeli storm-troopers dropping from helicopters with guns blazing under cover of darkness in international waters.
• “Restrictions on Gaza should be lifted – a view confirmed in United Nations Security Council resolution 1860.” Bravo, he gets that bit right. But Resolution 1860 goes much further and calls for the sustained reopening of crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, which provides for:
– the reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank
– bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza
– the building of a new seaport in Gaza
– re-opening of the airport in Gaza
When did we see any of that happen?
Hague was challenged by Sir Gerald Kaufman, the straight-talking Jewish MP, who pointed out that any one of the 37 UK citizens might have been killed when the Israelis “committed a war crime of piracy in international waters, kidnapping and murder—and all in pursuit of upholding an illegal blockade on Gaza that amounts to collective punishment…” He asked Mr Hague for his assurance that further steps would be taken if the Israelis failed to comply with the modest request that had been made.
But Hague sidestepped, saying: “It is our strong advice to British nationals, as it has been in the past and will be in the future, not to travel to Gaza — let me make that absolutely clear — as they would be going into a dangerous situation, but it is absolutely wrong to maintain the blockade.”
MP Jeremy Corbyn asked if it wasn’t time for sanctions such as revoking the EU-Israel trade agreement. Hague replied that he did not think imposing sanctions was the right policy either – but gave no reason.
MP Frank Dobson suggested that Britain and the other European members of NATO should give naval protection if another flotilla were to set off for Gaza, with the Royal Navy reverting to its traditional role of protecting the freedom of the seas. Hague dismissed this too.
As usual, no consequences for Israel’s crimes were contemplated. And the Government chicken coop happily clucked its approval as Hague handed the Israelis total victory. Today, five years on, Israel is making the same threats and committing the same acts of piracy against the latest flotilla.
Legal or not?
Israel’s naval blockade is illegal and so was Israel’s interception of the Mavi Marmara and other Gaza-bound vessels in international waters in May 2010. So said the United Nations fact-finding mission set up by the Human Rights Council.
The Mission’s team, chaired by Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, QC, a retired Judge of the International Criminal Court, reported they were “satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and that as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal…
The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law… No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.
That wasn’t all. The naval blockade was implemented in support of the overall closure regime.
As such it was part of a single disproportionate measure of armed conflict and as such cannot itself be found proportionate. Furthermore, the closure regime is considered by the Mission to constitute collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus to be illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was “clearly unlawful” and could not be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defence].
The Centre for Constitutional Rights also concluded that the Israeli blockade was illegal under international law:
Due both to the legal nature of Israel’s relationship to Gaza – that of occupier – and the impact of the blockade on the civilian population, amounting to ‘collective punishment’, the blockade cannot be reconciled with the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law. It is recalled that the international community, speaking through both the United Nations and individual States, has repeatedly and emphatically called for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The flotilla did not seek to travel to Israel, let alone ‘attack’ Israel. Furthermore, the flotilla did not constitute an act which required an ‘urgent’ response, such that Israel had to launch a middle-of-the-night armed boarding… Israel could also have diplomatically engaged Turkey, arranged for a third party to verify there were no weapons onboard and then peacefully guided the vessel to Gaza.
Craig Murray was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and responsible for giving political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments. He is therefore an internationally recognized authority on these matters. Referring to the participation of an American boat he said:
Right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas…
Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea. There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.
Sporadic attacks from Gaza did not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a naval blockade, he said. When the UK suffered continued terrorist attack from the IRA (Irish Republican Army), sustaining many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza, it would have been ridiculous to argue that the UK had a right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland.
The EU Commission declared that “all those wishing to deliver goods to Gaza should do so through established channels”. The “established channel” for delivering goods to Gaza is, of course, the time-honoured route by sea, which is protected by maritime and international law. Flotilla organizers have offered their cargoes for inspection and verification by a trusted third party to allay Israel’s fears about weapon supplies. They should not have to deal direct with the belligerent regime that’s cruelly turning the screws on civilians with an illegal blockade. Anyone suggesting they must hand over their cargo to the aggressor seeks to legitimize the blockade, which we all know to be illegal and a crime against humanity.
Quite simply, an attack on civilian ships carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza cannot be justified by the existence of a blockade that violates international law. So Israel doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Nor does the cowardly British Government. Nor do the 80 percent of Conservative MPs and MEPs who, for whatever dark reasons, love and adore the abhorrent Israeli regime and the war criminals who run it. Therefore “all good men and true” should rally to support those brave humanitarian voyagers and ensure their governments back their play in future.
The UK government approved £4 million worth of arms sales to Israel in the immediate months following the Israeli government’s military bombardment of Gaza last summer, new research reveals.
Detailed analysis published Thursday indicates that the related arms licenses cover military hardware likely to be deployed if violence in the besieged coastal strip resumes.
Among the arms sales Britain presided over were special components for military helicopters and a range of hi-tech parts for guidance and navigation systems used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
The former Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government also approved arms licenses for a slew of third-party states that sell weapons to Israel. These particular licenses covered the sale of components for military communications equipment, helicopters used in combat and ground-to-ground missiles.
The controversial revelations formed part of a report authored by David Wearing, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS). A member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s (CAAT) steering committee, Wearing’s work focuses on domestic and international politics.
The research, “Arming Apartheid: UK Complicity in Israel’s Crimes Against the Palestinian People,” analyses how Britain’s arming of Israel renders it complicit in grievous human rights violations.
CAAT’s Andrew Smith said the revelations published in the report showed it was “business as usual” with Israel for the UK government.
“More than 2,000 people died in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and yet in the months immediately following the conflict it was business as usual for the UK government and the arms companies they support,” he said.
Smith said that Britain continues to sell arms to Israel, despite the Israeli administration’s continued violation of international law.
“The continuation of arms sales represents a form of political as well as material support from the UK to Israel despite the construction of the ‘apartheid wall’ in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements there and the ongoing blockade of Gaza,” he said.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Sarah Colborne said the British state is arming an “apartheid” regime. She argued Palestinians will not be freed from Israeli occupation, discrimination, and bloodshed until sanctions are imposed on Israel.
Ryvka Barnard, a senior campaigner on militarism and security at War on Want, said the Arming Apartheid study highlights Britain’s complicity in “Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.”
She argued that the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel has become more vital than ever.
“Only a full two-way arms embargo can ensure the UK will no longer be complicit in Israeli state crimes and abuses,” he said.
Report author Wearing says ministers’ suggestion that British controls on arms exports are tightly controlled “do not stand up to scrutiny.”
“Any real restriction comes from the embarrassment of bad publicity, and then only in the wake of a conflict, too late for the Palestinians affected,” he added.
Britain has a history of unethical arms sales to Israel.
A ministerial statement issued in April 2009 by the then-Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband confirmed that Israeli military wares used in the 2008-9 Gaza conflict “almost certainly” contained UK-supplied components.
The document was sent to the anti-arms charity after it launched a legal challenge against then-Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills Vince Cable in 2014.
Last summer’s Israel-Palestine conflict culminated in the killing of an estimated 2,000 Palestinians [mostly civilians]. Israel, by contrast, suffered the deaths of 64 soldiers and three civilians during the conflict.
1. Email your MP to demand a two-way arms embargo against Israel.
2. Order campaign materials and book a speaker.
3. Target the companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
Find the suppliers on your doorstep
More than 100 companies supplying military and security equipment to Israel have bases in the UK. Find out about the suppliers on your doorstep.
Block the factory!
During last summer’s assault on Gaza, activists occupied Israeli arms company Elbit’s factory in Shenstone, causing its operations to grind to a halt and costing Elbit over £100,000. On 6th July, to mark the first anniversary of the assault on Gaza, groups and campaigners from across the UK are going back to Elbit’s factory to demand that the UK stops arming Israel. Join a day of creative action in solidarity with Palestine!
4. Support BDS
Support the Palestinian call for a global movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Visit waronwant.org/BDS
Now, with the seizure of a Swedish boat in international waters, The New York Times can no longer ignore Flotilla III, the latest attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. So we find a story today that ends the paper’s silence on this weeks-long saga that began in Gothenburg last month.
Times readers learned nothing of the Marianne and her three companion vessels as the international organizers of the flotilla announced their plans and gathered crews throughout the spring. Even when one of the boats was sabotaged last week or when a Palestinian member of the Knesset announced that he was joining the group, none of these events appeared in the Times.
Those who checked out The Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News or Israeli media would have known that Flotilla III was on its way to Gaza, with the Swedish vessel approaching the strip and the others far behind. The Times, however, avoided any mention of the effort until today, when the Israeli navy announced that it had seized the Marianne and was taking her to the port of Ashdod. (The other vessels by then had turned back toward Europe.)
Now the Times has published an article by Diaa Hadid on the seizure, and her piece gives precedence to Israeli spin, allowing official excuses for the brutal siege of Gaza to stand as fact. Thus, she writes that Israel maintains a naval blockade of the strip “because militants have tried to smuggle in weapons and attack Israel by sea.”
Hadid repeats this formula in the subsequent paragraph where she states that Israel allows only “small amounts” of construction materials into Gaza “because Hamas has used building materials to construct tunnels to attack Israel.”
United Nations investigations have provided very different takes on these two issues: A 2010 fact-finding mission, for instance, declared that Israel has imposed the blockade (by land and sea) out of “a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”
Where Hadid’s piece implies that tunnels have been used for random “terror” attacks on Israel, a recent UN report on the 2014 conflict found that the tunnels had been used only for legitimate means, to engage with Israeli troops during the fighting this past summer. Neither the Times nor any other media outlet has named a single Israeli civilian who was harmed because of these tunnels. (See TimesWarp 6-22-15.)
Unfortunately, Hadid fails to mention either of these findings and repeats Israeli spin as accepted fact. She fails to make even a minimal attempt at attribution, and so we have no “according to” or “Israel claims” here—just the bald, assertive “because.”
Her story ends with a poignant quote that begs for explanation. As fishermen gathered in Gaza to protest the seizure of the Marianne, one of them spoke to a Times representative. “We hope that other activists come to Gaza to help us break the naval siege,” he said, “so that we can sail again without fear.”
The article leaves us with an unanswered question: Why are the fishermen living in fear? Times readers, however, never learn the answer: Israeli naval boats routinely open fire on fishermen as they sail within the 6-mile limit imposed by the blockade. At least one died this year, several have been injured, and several have lost their boats and equipment because of the Israeli attacks.
The Times ignores this ongoing breach of the August 2014 truce, which stated that the fishing limit would expand to 12 miles. (This in itself is still far short of the 20-mile boundary set by the Oslo accords.) The paper also ignores Israel’s military incursions into Gaza, which are further breaches of the ceasefire.
Times editors are counting on a short shelf life for the Flotilla III story. Too much attention to such messy topics as international law, the definition of piracy, assaults on unarmed fishermen and Israeli breaches of the 2014 ceasefire might expose some inconvenient facts about Israel’s pitiless siege of Gaza, and this is not to their taste.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly questioned his country’s membership in the United Nation’s Human Rights Council following its recent report on last summer’s Gaza conflict.
The announcement, in which Netanyahu referred to the UNHRC commission as a “hypocritical committee,” was made during a closed-door meeting with top Israeli officials on Monday.
“In light of the [UN Gaza] report, we will consider whether or not to stay in the Human Rights Council,” Netanyahu said, according to Army Radio.
It’s not the first time Israel has been at odds with the Council during the UNHRC’s 9 year-long history. Back in 2012, then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman made a decision to quit the council over its probe into Jewish settlements in the West Bank. However, Israel reinstated its membership a year later.
Lieberman, who also was present at Monday’s meeting, reportedly reminded Netanyahu about the precedent. “As foreign minister, I ended Israel’s involvement in the Human Rights Council. Why did you change that decision?” he asked.
On Monday afternoon, about 1,000 people from several European countries, both Jews and Christians, rallied in Geneva to support Israel, as the UN Human Rights Council had another debate on the matter.
“The reason we are here today is to tell the United Nations that it needs to change. It needs to overcome its obsession with Israel. This obsession is destructive and it stands in the way of an effective human rights policy that is so badly needed,” World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer told demonstrators.
The UN Human Rights Council report on the 2014 Gaza conflict was released last week. It concluded that both Israeli Defense Forces and the Hamas Palestinian group had committed war crimes. The organization also accepted the Palestinian death count, which estimated that 65 percent of those killed in the seige were civilians, or 1,462 out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians killed.
“The report is biased,” Netanyahu said upon the release of the report. “Israel is not perpetrating war crimes but rather protecting itself from an organization that carries out war crimes. We won’t sit back with our arms crossed as our citizens are attacked by thousands of missiles.”