By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | TeleSUR | March 31, 2015
Amnesty International’s latest report on Venezuela calls for justice for the dozens of people killed during the unrest that shook the country a year ago, while using sleight of hand to deflect attention away from those responsible.
“The Amnesty International report documents events of February 2014 when thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets, resulting in the death of 43 people, including eight law enforcement officials,” Amnesty said in a press release accompanying the release of the report’s executive summary.
While the full report was unavailable online at the time of writing, the executive summary unequivocally laid the blame for 2014’s violence at the feet of state security forces, but ironically chose to shy away from actually admitting how those 43 people died.
“The use of unnecessary or disproportionate force is precisely what exacerbated the wave of tragic events last year,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director.
The summary levels blame at both security forces and government supporters. The latter were accused of engaging in state sanctioned human rights abuses. However, Amnesty’s allegations don’t match the facts. How did those 43 people die?
At the time of the protests, the independent news organization Venezuelanalysis.com listed a total of 40 deaths, 20 of which were deemed to have been caused by opposition barricades, or opposition violence. The deaths included people gunned down while trying to clear barricades, ambulances being blocked from hospitals by opposition groups, and a motorbike rider who was decapitated after opposition groups strung razor wire across a road. A similar death toll count by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reflected a similar consensus: while security forces were indeed responsible for a few deaths, the opposition groups were hardly peaceful. Around half the victims of the 2014 unrest were either government supporters, members of security forces or innocent bystanders.
While condemning the government for supposedly cracking down on freedom, the report shied away from any criticism of the opposition’s intentional restriction of movement through the use of barricades, widespread intimidation and attacks on government supporters, and repeated attacks on journalists ranging from state media workers and community radio stations to international media. For example, in March 2014, a mob of anti-government protesters beat journalists working for organizations such as Reuters and AFP. One photo-journalist, Cristian Hernandez, was beaten with a lead pipe, but was rescued by state security forces.
Another journalist that witnessed the beating tweeted, “They protest for freedom of expression and against censorship, and they attack photo-journalists … for no reason? Where’s the coherence?”
Unlike that witness, Amnesty chose not to question why incidents like this took place – instead preferring to turn a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses committed by anti-government groups.
Indeed, none of this is included in Amnesty’s executive summary. teleSUR did try to contact Amnesty for clarification as to whether any of this would be included in the full report, but received no reply.
One possible explanation is that Amnesty prefers to criticize governments, rather than call out substate actors. However, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. On Feb. 20, 2015, Amnesty International issued a report accusing both Boko Haram and the Nigerian government of human rights abuses. Then on March 26, 2015, they accused Palestinian militants of war crimes, after also condemning Israeli forces for human rights abuses in 2014. Clearly, in many parts of the world, Amnesty is capable of critiquing both sides of a conflict – but not in Venezuela.
At first, the question of what makes Venezuela unique may seem baffling, but it all became clear after I spoke to a former Amnesty employee, who asked to remain anonymous. He explained quite simply that within Amnesty, the biggest priority isn’t human rights. It is securing funding – mostly from wealthy donors in the West.
Amnesty isn’t alone – other former NGO workers I’ve spoken to in the past have made similar comments. Some have gone as far as arguing NGOs will engage in projects or research they know is next to worthless to the people they claim to defend, so long as it produces a photo opportunity that could woo Western donors. These former workers affirmed that human rights are important to many NGOs; they just take a back seat to fund-raising.
The claim that Amnesty and other NGOs are primarily concerned with money may seem excessively cynical, but a glance at pay for those at the top of the organization shatters any rose tinted glasses. In 2011, Amnesty’s 2009 decision to hand their outgoing head Irene Khan more than £533,000 (around US$794,000 at current exchange rates) in a hefty severance package sparked a public outrage. The payout was worth more than four years of Khan’s salary. In late 2012, Amnesty again found itself in the spotlight after it announced plans to offshore much of its workforce from the U.K., sparking a bitter showdown with the Unite workers’ union. While management claimed the offshoring would put a higher proportion of their workforce on the ground in the countries they report on, workers accused the NGO of trying to cut costs, while failing to adequately assess the physical risks to workers. One worker told the Guardian newspaper the deal could turn out to be a “cash cow” for Amnesty.
Assuming cash speaks louder than justice, the reason why Amnesty is willing to criticize the Venezuelan government but unwilling to lift a finger against the opposition suddenly makes perfect sense. While condemning Boko Haram or Hamas is palatable to much of the Western public, criticizing Venezuela’s wealthy, Westernized opposition would be edgy at best, financial suicide at worst. On the other hand, while Venezuela’s government has plenty of supporters in Latin America, it doesn’t have many friends within the well-heeled elite of Western nations. The latter, of course, are prime targets for appeals for donations. In the competitive world of NGOs, Amnesty can’t afford to risk tarnishing its appeal to wealthy donors by accusing Venezuela’s opposition of human rights violations.
In a surprising way, this makes Amnesty an inherently ideological organization, it just doesn’t have its own ideology per se. Instead, because of its pursuit of the wealthiest donors (generally liberal Westerners), Amnesty reflects the ideology of middle and upper class Westerners. It’s staunchly vanilla liberal: willing to call out miscellaneous African militias, but unwilling to accuse an element of Venezuela’s middle class of giving birth to a violent movement. It’s willing to criticize Israeli colonialism in the name of liberal values, but allergic to revolutionary politics driven from the bottom up by the world’s poor. Amnesty doesn’t reflect the ideology of the poor and repressed, but rather of its privileged, yet guilt-stricken donors.
Unfortunately, Amnesty International’s whitewash of the right-wing opposition’s human rights abuses in Venezuela is symptomatic of a deeper crisis in the world of NGOs, where fierce competition for funding means adjusting the message to suit Western audiences — and occasionally letting human rights take a back seat.
GAZA CITY – The Hamas movement on Friday rejected a report by human rights group Amnesty International accusing the group of war crimes during last summer’s war with Israel.
While the report claims that Hamas killed both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles, Hamas criticized the findings as being unbalanced, adopting “the Israeli version of the story.”
In a statement, the group said that it is the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against both the ongoing Israeli occupation and Israeli military offenses.
“War crimes have clear specifications, according to the Rome Statute, that do not in any way apply to the Palestinian resistance, which was, is, and will defend its people.”
The report released by Amnesty International on Thursday said that Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war had killed more civilians inside the Gaza Strip than inside Israel.
The report said rocket attacks had killed six civilians inside Israel, including a child, but that other rockets aimed at Israel had fallen short inside Gaza, killing at least 13 civilians, 11 of them children.
It referred to one particular incident on July 28 in which 13 people were killed in deadly blast inside the beach-side Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.
Hamas took issue with Amnesty’s approach to the report, arguing that the rights group relied solely on Israeli information to compile the report, therefore missing a balanced review as Israel did not allow international investigation committees into Gaza.
Last summer’s war between Palestinian militant groups and Israel left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed. Over 100,000 Gazans lost their homes, and large swathes of the coastal territory were left in ruins.
Hamas said that Amnesty International’s report “purposely turned facts around to justify Israel’s crimes against humanity,” and called upon rights institutions to carry out impartial investigations into Israeli forces’ war crimes.
By Brenda Heard | Aletho News | March 25, 2015
Six months prior to the upcoming UK general election, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published its “2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto.” This forty-page document urges both existing and prospective members of the UK Parliament to support various “policy asks” and to “champion these causes.” The Manifesto was styled after a very similar one created for the 2014 EU elections. Indeed their goals appear the same: to ensure a pro-Israeli agenda in the House of Commons and beyond.
The 2015 Manifesto does include some discussion of faith-based issues, such as underscoring the need of the Jewish community in the UK to be able to provide Kosher meat and to observe the Sabbath. This discussion is a just and valid participation of citizens in their government. The problem arises, however, when the Manifesto equates Jewish and Israeli. With 58 mentions of Israel, the Manifesto, cloaked in blue and white imagery throughout, even boasts a full-page illustration of the British and Israeli flags flying together.
This self-proclaimed “voice of British Jewry” avows a “very strong attachment to the State of Israel.” Yet it is difficult to reconcile this support with such statements as “The UK Jewish community is committed to peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Middle East” when this statement was penned less than two months after a vicious Israeli onslaught against Gaza, an indiscriminate rampage that in just fifty days killed at least 2,100 Palestinians, some 70% of whom were civilians, including 519 children. A recent report by the American National Lawyers Guild concluded that “both facts and law refute the Israeli self-defense claims” and that Israel had “collectively punished the entire civilian population.” Indeed, Israeli forces intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving them dead and wounded, homeless and devastated. There has been no peace, no security, no prosperity and no equality for the Palestinians. Not ever.
Yet the Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel. Any resistance to Israeli policy, the Manifesto maintains, should be denounced by the world. The Manifesto offers scant attention to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, however, noting that the EU had already classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation, one with whom the UK should “refuse to engage.” Two months after the publication of the Manifesto, the EU General Court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations, stating:
“the General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly condemned this “unacceptable” ruling, and called it “an affront to the values of Europe.” The Board statement also used the opportunity to reiterate various accusations against Hamas—characterisations that have for years engendered the very hearsay that was finally rejected by the EU General Court. The Council of the EU soon appealed the court’s decision. The Board cheered the appeal and the efforts taken to ensure the appeal, stating “we commend the European Jewish Congress on all its work in ensuring that this issue remains on top of the agenda in Brussels.” The power of lobbying for Israel.
As for Lebanon, the Manifesto proudly points out that the UK led the EU designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013. But that action was not enough to appease the Board, which urges the UK to lead the campaign to expand that designation to the “entirety” of Hezbollah. The key here is that Israel and its allies have always wanted to destroy all semblance of Hezbollah, as every aspect of the group builds the pride and strength of a Lebanese populace. It is the will to resist Israeli encroachment—the entire culture of resistance in both Palestine and Lebanon—that Israel wants to break. And this is a sentiment of political Israel, not of “British Jewry.” This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.
Rather similar to the hearsay problem cited by the EU General Court, the accusations hurled at Hezbollah are based on decades of presumptions that Hezbollah is a ruthless entity to be feared and crushed. The fervour to destroy Hezbollah has long been evident in the policies of Israel, the US and the UK. Together, these three bodies have tremendous abilities to create and to seemingly substantiate and certainly to sell the narrative that suits their own agenda. Perhaps it is time to question these fervent accusations.
The Manifesto asserts that Hezbollah has “launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide” and offers three examples to illustrate this sweeping and unsubstantiated accusation: Buenos Aires (1994), Bulgaria (2012), Cyprus (2013). The responsibility in each of these incidents is far from conclusive.
The Buenos Aires investigation was at once tainted by the immediate involvement of US and Israeli intelligence services. The case was indelibly ruined by layers of corruption within Argentinian services. Even the Guardian acknowledged the investigation to be a “complex saga of mind-boggling intrigue.” Surely the extensive research published in 2008 by historian Gareth Porter should at the very least create reasonable doubt about Hezbollah’s involvement.
Like Buenos Aires, the Bulgarian case investigation was aided by US and Israeli intelligence services. Several reports raise doubts as to the legitimacy of the judgement process, examples of which: Gareth Porter, here and here; Times of Israel ; Haaretz ; Bulgarian FM Vigenin. Despite Israel’s initial finger-pointing at Hezbollah, the investigation revealed compelling forensic evidence of an Al Qaeda-linked suspect, which was mysteriously dropped only to reveal three Lebanese dual-nationals as suspects. The investigation that struggled for answers somehow, with the help of the US and Israel, was able to link those suspects to Hezbollah. How politically convenient.
In an attempt to offer conclusive evidence of an attack-plotting Hezbollah, the Manifesto offers a fear-inspiring quotation from an allegedly self-confessed Hezbollah member who had seemingly bungled surveillance work in Cyprus and was caught out by Mossad. The man’s “handler,” who was “always wearing a mask,” wanted him to pinpoint Kosher restaurants and to track the arrival times of flights from Israel. But why risk doing such surveillance in person? This information is readily available online, even if it required some creative computing skills. The culprit’s narrative reads more like the stuff of a cheap spy novel than it does the operational expertise of a group with more than thirty-years successful experience. Even if the confessor thought he was, in his nervously ever-changing narrative, revealing some truth, who is to say that he was not led by an imposter to believe he was acting under the direction of Hezbollah, when in fact he was not? Mission not so very impossible.
Still, we are meant to believe that in planning such globally significant missions, Hezbollah was careless enough to leave a paper-trail and to choose men who were inept in their tasks and men who would break under police questioning and tell all. And we are meant to believe that the consistent aid of US and Israeli intelligence has always been strictly objective.
This article is not intended to be a full rebuttal to these specific accusations. The point remains that there is at least reasonable doubt. These accusations are on many levels fuelled by a hatred that has burned for decades, a hatred that would stop at nothing to eradicate the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon. But even if you remain unconvinced of their problematic nature, even if you cannot bring yourself to offer Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt, there remains a double standard in this “Policy Ask” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. How in the name of civilised democracy can the British Government continue to vehemently denounce Hezbollah, yet eagerly champion an Israeli government that routinely practices that which it condemns?
The Manifesto complains, for instance, that Hezbollah arranged surveillance of Jewish people. Yet we find the following boast in the Board’s EU Manifesto:
“As part of the widespread intelligence cooperation between Israel and the EU, Israel is providing essential information to EU officials enabling them to enforce the proscription [against Hezbollah].”
So it is acceptable for Israel to spy on Lebanese, but not vice versa? The Manifesto also complains Hezbollah allegedly exploited dual-nationals and used false identity papers. Yet this technique is an integral component of Mossad, from false identities and false flags in the 1950s, to political military espionage in the 1960s, to international vigilante justice in the 1970s, to fake passports and double agent killing squads in the 1980s, to assassination attempts in the 1990s, to falsified passports and passport fraud, and assassination after assassination in the 2000s.
These activities tend to be forgotten in the wake of repeated wars on the Lebanese and Palestinians. These activities are often subjectively shrugged off as necessary handling of “legitimate” targets, perhaps with a few unfortunate mistakes. Nonetheless, they exhibit a perpetual defiance of the rule of law, a defiance that is made glaringly clear in Israel’s custom of not only indiscriminate, but also deliberate attacks on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories.
After Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, the UN Commission of Inquiry emphasised that one third of the Lebanese casualties were children and stated:
“The Commission highlights a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects. . . The Commission has formed a clear view that, cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.”
Likewise, after Israel’s 2009 onslaught on Gaza, the UN Fact Finding Mission concluded that:
“what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
Following Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission described in detail the reckless, often deliberate targeting of civilians, including the use of the “double tap”: multiple consecutive strikes on a single location that would lead to additional casualties amongst civilian onlookers and rescuers.
Perhaps as much as casualty statistics, this calculated strategy reveals not merely what the Manifesto describes euphemistically as “challenges about integration between different sectors of the population that need to be addressed,” but what one IDF Staff Sergeant described as “contempt for human life.” He was relating a similar tactic ordered by his battalion commander in the West Bank:
“You leave bodies in the field—they told me they did it a lot in Lebanon— you leave a body in the field, and you wait until they come to recover it so you can shoot at them. It’s like you’re setting up an ambush around the body. But those are things I heard about Lebanon. So it happened here [in Nablus], too.”
Contempt for human life happened. Contempt for rule of law happened. Again and again, at the hands of the “democratic state” promoted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who in the same instance would like to coax British and Europeans to condemn the very victims of that state’s crimes. While their Manifesto offers a few pages pushing Israeli politics, I offer my recently published book, Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View. Based on eight years of getting to know the people who are Hezbollah, this inside view of the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon offers the opportunity to explore for yourself the militants at the horizon. May common sense, not lobbying efforts, shape the concerns of the British people.
Brenda is the founder and director of Friends of Lebanon, UK. She is the author of numerous articles and the recently published Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Last July, shortly after the outbreak of war in Gaza, President Barack Obama declared that “Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas.” To demonstrate the general moral applicability of this position, he said that “no country can accept rocket [sic] fired indiscriminately at citizens.” Obama’s claims provided ideological cover for Israel to carry out wholesale slaughter over the next six weeks in which nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed.
Obama also conveniently turned reality on its head by ignoring the fact that it was Israel that was responsible for nearly three times as many cease fire violations as Hamas since December 2012. Israel’s violations of the 2012 cease fire caused the deaths of 18 people, while Palestinian violations caused none. Since the end of the 51-day war in August 2014, Israel predictably has gone on violating the most recent cease fire even more brazenly and with complete impunity.
The latest cease fire agreement stipulated that Hamas and other groups in Gaza would stop rocket attacks, while Israel would stop all military action. As with past truces, Hamas has observed the conditions. On the rare occasions that individuals or groups have fired rockets from Gaza, Hamas has arrested them. (See also here and here.)
Israel, on the other hand, has failed to live up to its end of the bargain. This is consistent with past practice. Israel has continued its illegal siege on the Gaza strip, while indiscriminately harassing and shooting at the local population. Fishermen and farmers, who are trying to subsist amid dire economic conditions, have born the brunt of the aggression.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights documented 18 instances of Israeli soldiers firing on Palestinian fishermen operating within internationally recognized Palestinian waters in September 2014 alone.
By December, Humanity for Palestine reported 94 total cease fire violations since the August truce. In addition to the many attacks on fishermen, Israeli border guards targeted “protesters;” “fired sporadically at Palestinian homes and agricultural property with machine guns and ‘flashbang’ grenades;” and “seriously injured” a teenager who was shot near the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The first months of 2015 have seen more of the same. According to International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC ):
- On February 25, “Israeli forces opened fire at farmers in the central Gaza Strip.” The previous day, farmers near Khan Younis had been fired on. Two days prior farmers near Rafah were fired on.
- On February 27, Israeli forces “opened gunfire on Palestinian houses in the Central Gaza strip.”
- On March 2, “Israeli gunboats again opened fire … towards fishermen’s boats in the Gaza strip.” The Israeli forces reportedly “chased some fishing boats off the coast.”
- On March 7, fisherman Tawfiq Abu Ryala, 34, was killed when he was shot in the abdomen by Israeli navy ships. Several attacks in previous days were reported in which Palestinian fishermen were injured. “All took place while the boats were in Palestinian territorial waters.”
- On March 11, “several armored military vehicles and bulldozers carried out … a limited invasion into an area east of the al-Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza, and bulldozed farmlands.”
On March 13, Palestine News Network reported that “Israeli Soldiers Open Fire on Palestinian Lands and Farmers East of Khan Younis Again.” The articles states that “witnesses reported that the Israeli soldiers in the borders towers opened their guns [sic] fire on the the [sic] shepherds and farmers near the security line east of Al Tuffah neighborhood east of Khan Younis.”
The vast majority of the rampant Israeli cease fire violations are not reported by the American and the Western press. When they are, the Israeli military is given the opportunity to provide self-serving rationalizations which serve as the authoritative account of what transpired.
When a fisherman was killed on March 7, a Reuters article cites an Israeli military spokesperson claiming that “four vessels had strayed from the fishing zone and that the Israeli army opened fire after the boats did not heed calls to halt.” Of course, the fisherman is not able to tell his side of the story because the organization Reuters quotes killed him.
There is no mention in the article of any of the multiple attacks on Palestinian fishermen that happen routinely in Gaza. In many similar shootings, surviving victims and witnesses can attest that fishermen are within the agreed-upon six-mile nautical limit, and certainly well within the 20-mile limit guaranteed by the Oslo accords.
In a December article in the New York Times, Isabel Kershner writes that “Retaliating for a rocket fired into Israel on Friday, the Israeli military said it carried out an airstrike on a Hamas site in southern Gaza.” She begins the sentence by stating it is Israel retaliating against Palestinian actions. Whoever fired the rocket presumably was not “retaliating” for the dozens of Israeli military cease fire violations over the previous months, but was implicitly initiating aggression.
More importantly than this biased framing of the narrative, Kershner buries the lead at the bottom of the story: “Also on Friday, six Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire near the border fence in northern Gaza.” She obsequiously follows this statement with Israeli military rationalizations that “soldiers first fired into the air to try to disperse protesters approaching the fence then fired at the legs of some of them.”
Someone who commits a violent action is obviously not an impartial source for an honest account of the facts. Would a journalist report on a shooting by only repeating the side of the suspect who claims self-defense?
Six months after repeated, documented Israeli breaches of the cease fire agreement – without any by Hamas – New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof claimed in an Op-Ed that “Hamas provokes Israel.” He provides no evidence for this assertion. As the record clearly shows, Kristof has it backwards.
If no country can accept rockets fired at its population, then surely neither can they accept M16s fired at them. Or tanks and bulldozers invading their land. But perhaps Obama was deliberate in choosing his words. He stated that no country can accept rockets “fired indiscriminately at citizens (italics mine).”
Since Palestinians live under Israeli sovereignty but are denied citizenship, they are not technically covered by Obama’s moral truism. But assuming what he says should apply to all people - even those who are politically subjugated by racist regimes – Obama’s words would apply equally to Palestinians.
But when asked by a reporter whether Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves, an Obama administration spokesperson denied Palestinians this right. She did not explicitly say so, but by evading and refusing to respond to a simple yes or no question, she gave the equivalent of a direct denial. “I think – I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” she said. After the reporter restated his crystal-clear question, she replied “What are you specifically referring to? Is there a specific event or a specific occurrence?”
In the same way that omission of material facts may constitute fraud, refusing to answer a question about whether a person enjoys a right constitutes a direct refusal to recognize that right.
Obama did not only pervert the issue of the right to self-defense by falsely pretending it was a moral truism that he clearly and demonstrably does not extend to Palestinians, he also misrepresents the applicability of self-defense to Israel in the first place.
As Noura Erakat explained in her July 2014 article “No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense in International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Israel is “distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority.” Obama willingly enables Israel’s lawless actions by accepting their rewriting of international law to justify their aggression.
What Obama is really saying when he talks about self-defense is that as the leader of one rogue nation, he supports the right of his rogue client state to violate the rule of law and make fraudulent claims that are neither morally nor legally justified.
As John Quigley explains in The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defense, failing to challenge Israel’s bogus claims of self-defense in the 1967 war – as the United States has done by providing a diplomatic shield, vetoing more than 40 U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Israel – has had disastrous consequences for Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the system of international law in general.
“The flawed perception of the June 1967 war serves to perpetuate conflict in the Middle East. It also serves to promote the expansion of the concept of self-defense and thereby to erode the prohibition against the use of force,” Quigley writes.
The United States government under the Obama administration continues to carry this even further. Undoubtedly the situation will only get worse in the future. Last month in Haaretz, Gideon Levy wrote that there will inevitably be another war in Gaza.
“Israel knows this war will break out, it also knows why – and it’s galloping toward it blindfolded, as though it were a cyclical ritual, a periodical ceremony or a natural disaster that cannot be avoided. Here and there one even perceives enthusiasm,” Levy writes.
This will mean more death, more destruction, and more Palestinian lives destroyed as the world looks on and does nothing. Sadly Levy is right. When the next war comes and Israel succeeds in baiting Hamas to start firing rockets into Israel, all the talk will be about Israel’s right to defend itself. Obama (or the next American President) will repeat the same charade. He will frame the narrative in terms of Israel’s victimization and Israel’s rights, while denying this treatment to the Palestinians.
The media and the public will uncritically support the position of American and Israeli power. Thousands of Palestinians will be indiscriminately killed, but not because Israel is defending itself. Palestinians will be killed because the U.S. government refuses to protect them from a belligerent and aggressive regime, and refuses even to recognize their right to protect themselves.
Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri
Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday denounced as “shocking” an Egyptian court decision to designate the movement a “terrorist organisation”.”Labeling Hamas as a terrorist organisation is a dangerous decision that represents a shift in Egyptian-Palestinian relations,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Anadolu Agency.
“Unfortunately, the situation has been turned upside down: Israel the enemy has become a friend of Egypt while Hamas – which is an integral part of the Palestinian people – has become a terrorist,” Abu Zuhri said.
The spokesman, however, said that Hamas will not be affected by the Egyptian court verdict as it came to “export Egypt’s domestic problems.”
Earlier Saturday, an Egyptian court designated Hamas as a “terrorist” group over claims that the group had carried out terrorist attacks in Egypt through tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.
In March 2014, the same court outlawed Hamas’ activities in Egypt and confiscated its offices.
The court had said that the ban would be temporary until another court – which is trying ousted President Mohamed Morsi for alleged “collaboration” with Hamas to carry out “hostile” acts in Egypt – delivers its final verdict.
Last month, the same court declared the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, a terrorist organisation.
A number of Hamas members have been among the defendants in two trials that Morsi – a Muslim Brotherhood leader – currently faces for alleged espionage and jailbreak.
Egypt’s media has blamed Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Brotherhood, for a series of deadly attacks on security forces since Morsi’s ouster. Hamas has consistently denied the allegations.
A US jury on Monday found the Palestinian Authority (PA) liable for six attacks in Jerusalem that killed and injured Americans, awarding victims and their families more than $218 million in damages.
Under the US “anti-terrorism” act, the damages are automatically tripled, meaning that the PA and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are liable to pay more than $650 million.
Israeli authorities welcomed the decision as a “moral victory,” but the Palestinians accused the lawsuit of being politically motivated and vowed to appeal.
The jury reached its verdict following two half-days of deliberations, ending a landmark trial under US district judge George Daniels in New York that lasted more than five weeks.
The six attacks killed 33 people and wounded more than 390 others between January 2002 and January 2004.
The bombings and shootings were carried out by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — blacklisted as terrorist organizations in the United States — during the second Palestinian uprising against the Zionist state.
The 12-member jury decided unanimously that the PA and PLO were liable on 25 separate counts connected to the six attacks.
They apportioned individual damages ranging from $1 million to $25 million to Americans who were injured or lost loved ones.
The total falls well short of the $1 billion sought by lawyers for 11 plaintiff families when the trial opened in mid-January.
‘Moral victory’ for Israel
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed the decision as a “moral victory for the state of Israel and for victims of terrorism.”
“Terrorism is an integral part of the very structure of the Palestinian Authority,” Lieberman said.
US attorney for the plaintiffs, Kent Yalowitz, welcomed the verdict.
“This is a great day for our country, it’s a great day for those who fight terror, we’re so proud of our families who stood up,” he told reporters.
It remains unclear if and how the PA can pay, as it is in serious financial difficulty because Israel has frozen its tax revenues.
Mahmoud Khalifa, Palestinian Authority deputy information minister, expressed dismay at the verdict and vowed to appeal what he called “baseless” charges.
He said the case was politically motivated by “anti-peace factions” in Israel to block a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are confident that we will prevail, as we have faith in the US legal system and are certain about our common sense belief and our strong legal standing,” he said in a statement.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.
In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State’s belief “in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations.”
Heralded as a “historic compromise,” the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent, believed to have become 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building, of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel.
Numerous Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.
They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won’t solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.
The plaintiffs argued that the PA and PLO should be held responsible for providing material support to the groups responsible for the attacks, blacklisted as a foreign terrorist organizations in the United States.
The court also heard that members of the two groups were on the payroll of the two organizations.
Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told reporters in New York that she would leave no stone unturned in forcing the Palestinians to pay.
“We’re going to take steps against their assets, they have assets in the United States, in Israel. We’re going to go after bank accounts and money that they are getting paid on a monthly basis in Israel, for instance.”
Defense attorneys refused to comment after the verdict.
Lawyers for the PA contended during the trial that the leadership should not be held responsible for “crazy and terrible” attacks carried out by people who acted independently.
“There is no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence,” lawyer Mark Rochon argued in court last week.
He said the plaintiffs “exaggerated” testimony to make the Palestinian Authority “look bad” based in part on Israeli intelligence.
The six attacks took place against Hebrew University, in Jaffa Road, King George Street, against the number 19 bus and in French Hills, an illegal Zionist settlement in east Jerusalem.
The trial adds a new dimension to the decades-long Zionist occupation of Palestine and tensions between the Palestinian people and Israel.
Violent practices by Israeli Occupation Forces and illegal settlers against Palestinians are endemic and often abetted by the authorities.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
In 2014, Israeli forces detained 1,266 Palestinian children below the age of 15 in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem.
According to the PLO, more than 10,000 Palestinian minors in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem have been held by the Israeli army for varying periods since 2000.
Since September 2000, following the Second Intifada, at least 9,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, including 2,053 Palestinian children, the equivalent of one Palestinian child being killed every three days for the past 14 years.
The verdict came two weeks after the United Nations approved the Palestinian Authority to formally join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1. Although the US claims that the protection of human rights is one of its cornerstones, it slammed the PA’s ICC membership, rejecting the Palestinians’ right to hold Israel accountable for large-scale massacres.
As an ICC member, the PA can open probes into Israeli crimes and rights violations during the Israeli summer assault on Gaza and the period leading up to it.
For 51 days in August, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.
More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed, including 505 children, and 10,626 were injured by unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to push lawsuits in several countries against the PLO in retaliation of the ICC bid.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday denied reports of militants crossing into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip.
“There haven’t been any militants crossing [into Egypt from Gaza], especially after the destruction of all underground tunnels and the deployment of [Egyptian and Palestinian] security forces on border,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
Abu Zuhri called on Arab parties to shoulder their responsibility in standing against any form of “slander and incitement” against the Palestinian people.
He also went on to appeal to scholars and intellectuals to organize a major media campaign to expose what he described as “pro-Israel media”.
On Friday, the United Arab Emirates-based Sky News Arabia reported that the Egyptian army raised the alert level in the country’s eastern Sinai Peninsula following reports that militants from self-styled “Army of Islam” group crossed into Egypt from Gaza.
The Egyptian army has not commented on the report.
Last month, an Egyptian court declared the military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a “terrorist organisation.”
Abu Zuhri had described the court verdict as “politically-motivated”, and reiterated that his movement does not interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.
Senior member of Hamas’ political bureau Mousa Abu-Marzkouk yesterday revealed that Quartet peace envoy Tony Blair is trying to blackmail Hamas in return for reconstructing the Gaza Strip.
On his Facebook page, Abu-Marzouk revealed five conditions put by the Quartet that Hamas has to meet in order to make way for the reconstruction of what the Israeli occupation destroyed during last summer’s 51-day war in Gaza.
Abu-Marzouk said: “Once again, and in the name of the international community, Tony Blair is exploiting the tragedy made by the Israeli occupation that includes the destruction of homes and making people homeless.”
Expressing deep concern about the devastated people in Gaza, Abu-Marzouk said: “Destroyed homes of Palestinians in Gaza became shrines to Blair and his likes. Blair says that there is no reconstruction unless these five conditions are fulfilled, and Hamas has to agree to:
- Accept the Palestinian reconciliation.
- Accept the political programme based on a Palestinian state on 1967 borders.
- Reiterate that Hamas is a Palestinian faction with only Palestinian goals and it is not part of any Islamist movement with regional goals.
- Adopt the two-state solution as a final, not temporary, solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
- Send an assurance message to Egypt that Gaza is not a terror base for Sinai terrorists and hold talks with the Egyptian government to stop terrorism in Sinai.”
“These are the conditions for Hamas to be accepted by the international community as well as the Quartet’s conditions for rebuilding Gaza and improving living standards,” Abu-Marzouk said.
He added: “These conditions do not mean that Hamas will deal with the Zionist enemy; not even one condition was put on Israel.”
Abu-Marzouk refuted the conditions one by one. Regarding the reconciliation, he said: “It was achieved. I do not know what more is needed from Hamas, which conceded everything for a technocrat government.”
About the state on the 1967 borders, he said: “The problem is not with the Palestinian side, but with the other side. Blair should have spoken about it with Israel. He should have asked it whether it accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and whether it accepts to dismantle settlements.”
Regarding Hamas’s goals, he stressed that Hamas is a Palestinian faction with Palestinian goals and it is not part of a regional Islamist movement. “We know that he means the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
“This is used by all as a pretext,” he stressed. “Hamas is a Palestinian movement and its history proves that as it has not carried out any of its operations outside the Palestinian lands. Even when its leaders were targeted outside Palestine, it did not respond in the same places.”
Meanwhile, he reiterated the importance of Hamas having links with any side offering help for it. “We have no interest to have hostility with any party wherever it is and whatever the ideological differences with it are,” he said.
About the two-state solution, Abu-Marzouk said: “Blair knows that any oppressive agreement cannot remain alive for too long. Any agreement imposed by the current powers cannot remain the same when these powers change.”
Regarding Egypt, he explained: “Egypt is not merely a neighbouring country; its stability and unity are in the Palestinian interest. We deal seriously and responsibly with anyone who harms Egypt. Gaza will absolutely not be a breeding ground for terrorism.”
Adding that Hamas’s relationship with Egypt is not of Blair’s concern.
“You want to forget Israel, do so. We cannot do it. You want to forget Palestinian People? Go ahead. We Won’t.” – Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
Predictably, Hamas is back: stronger than ever.
On Jan 14, 2015, Hamas suddenly convened a session of the Gaza parliament, suspended since a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas was agreed upon, this past April. There was no attendance by, or invitation to, Fatah. Thanks to illegitimate president Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership, Gazans were left to rot in the post-war depths of Israeli created misery compounded with a bitter winter living amongst Israeli produced rubble. Deliberate delays in reconstruction, materials and funding; the ongoing, unchanged and crippling Israeli siege; and the Palestinian Authority’s withholding of tens-of-millions of dollars to pay monthly salaries to Gaza’s civil servants, have created a need for the return of an Hamas government, for the Gazan people in Gaza.
In a speech before the re-activated parliament, Deputy Speaker of the Gaza parliament, Ahmad Bahar, warned, “A blowup is at a distance of two-bow lengths or less if the international community does not take action to end the suffering of the people of Gaza.”
An interesting choice of metaphor. At the top of Hamas’ agenda is opening Gaza’s one sea port to travel and commerce, i.e., imports of goods and passengers, whether Israel likes it or not. As reported by Ma’an News Agency, “On Sunday, a ministerial committee in blockaded Gaza announced plans to take necessary measures to prepare the coastal enclave’s sole port.” Young Palestinian children have been taking part in activities aimed at making the seaport into a better looking place for visitors.
The port in Gaza City is currently restricted, by Israel, to fishermen. Israel, however, only allows them to fish up to a maximum of six nautical miles from the shore. Opening the port and allowing fishermen access to all Palestinian waters were two main Palestinian demands during negotiations with Israel which ended the 50-day war in July and August. So, to prove the point, yesterday Israeli gun boats opened fire on fishermen that were inside that six-mile limit: just because they can. A similar incident was reported near Gaza City on January 31.
A border, a truce or a treaty with Gaza means nothing to Israel. This was highlighted this past Sunday morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire at unarmed Palestinian protesters marching near the border fence on their land, in their Gaza. This aggression came within days of Israel lifting quasi-restrictions on arresting, for maximum horror, Palestinian children at night (an average of 197 children are held in military detention every month, 13 per cent of whom are under the age of sixteen) and approving two-hundred-and-fifty more illegal settlement units after killing a Bedouin teenager audacious enough to protest this new Israeli land-grab on his ancestral lands. And, all the while, unchecked Israeli settlers were chopping down hundreds more olive trees: making sure that any future branch, offered in peace, would never survive, much less prosper.
Was this summer’s five week long nightly-news-reel review of the day’s grizzly carnage in Gaza not enough for the world to recognize the heinous mind-set that is fundamental to Israeli foreign policy? Did 2,129 Gazans, including 530 children, die uselessly in vain merely for the morbid titillation of a world momentarily distracted from their equally violent video games? Review of the divisive “progress” for peace in Gaza over the past six months shows that the answer is, oh, so shamefully, “yes.”
A newly bolstered Hamas is required. As the only sincere force for political and social good in Palestine this growing movement follows in the mold of Hezbollah’s effective example of leadership in Lebanon. Hamas leadership also provides badly needed social services and programs, and the only effective deterrent that the Israeli oppressors understand: armed resistance.
Hamas recruiting, reportedly, has increased dramatically in the post-war period. Training of all recruits and renewed preparedness for battle goes on daily. Of course. Likely, each and every Palestinian knows someone who was killed by targeted Israeli atrocity: perhaps a family member, perhaps a whole family. Remember: in Gaza, losing one’s whole family likely means having all your infant nieces and nephews, younger brothers or older sisters, your sons, your daughters, your father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, disappear, forever, in a cloud of collapsing concrete dust and Israeli gun powder smoke. Just six months ago, whole families were destroyed. Many times over.
A world of witnesses may have short memories: a Hamas recruit does not.
When the conditions for the truce with Hamas were agreed to by Israel, upon close examination of the troika selected to sit at the peace table (Egypt, Fatah, and Israel) without Hamas, only the disaffected, apathetic and myopic, would have bet a shekel on an actual peace treaty. Thanks to the skullduggery and complicity of this scheming troika, Gaza suffers worse than ever before. The three are in league in serving Israel’s goal of assimilating Palestinian territory via illegal settlements, walls and genocide, while all-the-time avoiding peace in order to continue their usual inhumane treatment, war crimes, violations of UN resolutions and inhumane immorality.
Israel wants conflict in Gaza and, again, war. As General of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmad Jibril accurately and historically stated, “When someone approaches you through force and drives you out (from your land), you should confront it only with force as that enemy understands. No language, but force.” All observations indicate that Hamas is preparing to take up the sword and, again, defend Gaza.
The first garrison will likely be the Gaza seaport.
Solely due to their quest for international recognition and justice, this past month has been exemplary of Gaza’s plight. To start the New Year, on Jan 2., after repeated and vicious public encouragement from Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas reluctantly joined the International Criminal Court (ICC), despite Netanyahu’s constant warnings. The court is headed by international lawyer and sincere champion of true humanity, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; Mrs. Fatou Bensouda of Gambia. So, Israel is furious at the prospect of a fair trial, which it will lose, sending a pack of Zionists running, finally, from international warrants. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that, “this step will be a spark of hope that Palestinians will be able to see the Israeli leadership prosecuted and held accountable for their crimes.”
The cunning tactics employed by this troika ever since shows why the rise in Hamas’ renewed political strength is now required and that its upcoming use of the al-Qassam brigades will not be surprising.
This week, due to Israeli pressure on the Head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) William Schabas, a Canadian academic who was tasked in August with leading a separate United Nations backed group examining war crimes during the Israeli regime’s military offensive in Gaza, has resigned. He wrote in a letter “My views on Israel and Palestine, as well as on many other issues, were well known and very public,” adding, “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.” Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said on Tuesday, “This clearly displays the organized Israeli state terrorism that targets anyone who tries to unveil the truth and bring Israeli leaders to account in the international forums.”
Fresh from massacring, last week, at least twenty-three Egyptians in clashes between police and protesters on the fourth anniversary of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, current president-for-life, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is playing host to the supposed Gaza peace talks, had his pet Supreme Court, on Saturday, ban Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam brigades and list it as a “terrorist” organization.
This is the same court that, as previously ordered by el-Sisi, outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood after having already changed the constitution in order to legally legitimize the coup that jailed Mohamed Morsi and, hence, his unopposed election as president, last year. An Hamas political official told Reuters, “We reject the Egyptian court’s decision against Qassam Brigades. It is a political, dangerous decision that serves only the Zionist occupation. After the court’s decision, Egypt is no longer a mediator in Palestinian-Israeli matters.”
As part of the cease-fire, Egypt guaranteed that its Rafah border crossing would open regularly. This has actually meant infrequent, unannounced openings of no more than three days, creating chaos. On the Egyptian side trucks full of goods were halted to a trickle and perishable goods allowed to rot, just like the Gazans, on the other side of the fence. As few as 300 people a day have managed to cross.
Previously, el-Sisi, as peace broker, had shown his sincerity to his task by finding and closing all tunnels across the Egyptian-Gaza border, further starving Gaza from its last lifeline of desperately needed goods. Then he ordered his military to shoot-to-kill any Gazans approaching his imposed 400 meter de-militarized zone on the Gaza side of the border fence. Gazan Health Ministry Spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra told the AFP news agency on Friday that a youth was shot “in the back and the bullet settled in the heart. He died on the spot”. He was identified as Palestinian, Zaki Houbi. He was 17 years old.
Far- a-field, arch-villain, Bibi Netanyahu, was busy influencing a change of heart in his paid-for minions in the EU parliament. Before leaving for Europe in a lather, after the Jan. 2nd ICC disaster, he had already re-arrested all the Palestinian prisoners who had been released, per the cease-fire, from illegal detention in Israeli jails, including the duly-elected Hamas officials from the 2006 election. He next reacted by furiously, yet again, illegally freezing $127 million in tax revenues that by law must be transferred to the Palestinian Authority so that tens of thousands of public sector workers will finally be paid, as promised. For BiBi, that was just a warm-up. Israeli forces on Thursday destroyed a water network which feeds Palestinian villages and Bedouin dwellings in the northern Jordan Valley.
Suddenly, despite the ruling by the General Court of the European Union, on Dec. 17, that said correctly, “the blacklisting of Hamas in 2001 was based not on sound legal judgments but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet,” all twenty-eight EU member states decided to appeal the court’s decision.
Now, the United Nations has stopped rebuilding homes in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip amid freezing temperatures, citing lack of funds from pledged donors.
Said a UNHRW spokesman, “$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo (aid) conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable.”
Now, Israeli politicians are calling on the 122 member states of the International Criminal Court to cut all its funding in response to the beginning of its inquiry into probable war crimes in Gaza last year. Obviously, “[this] provides it (Israel) with the cover for its crimes against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Such is Zionist influence. Just like that.
As for Mr. Abbas, the recent cancelation of the Swedish ambassador’s visit said all that was needed. With his PA storm troopers, dressed in American made, black-on-black, riot gear, in daily battle with West Bank citizens, a meeting was apparently too risky in Ramallah. As the first EU member nation to formally recognize Palestine, this past October, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was set to meet with Abbas and Israeli officials in Israel instead. This week, she indefinitely postponed a planned trip to Israel, reportedly in response to Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman’s refusal to meet with her when she came. Now, Mahmoud Abbas will fly to Stockholm on Feb. 10, fresh from serving up an obviously mushy UN draft resolution for Palestinian statehood that, as designed, failed to overcome the expected veto.
Hamas has been busy shoring up preparations, which also means foreign political support, new funding sources, besides stocks of munitions. A senior Hamas official on Thursday demanded that a seaport be fully opened in Gaza, warning of an “explosion” if Israel’s siege and the Egyptian closure of Rafah continue. He called on the “free people of the world’ to send ships to break the blockade, and urged the Arab League, the OIC, and Arab nations to uphold their responsibilities to Gaza.
Senior Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar said that his Movement gave the consensus government the chance to bear its responsibilities towards Gaza Strip. The results are obvious.
The stage appears to be set for another direct conflict between Israel and Hamas. Gaza cannot continue to suffer, after already suffering one of the most barbaric attacks in modern history. The people will not stand for it. Hamas will not stand for it. With more troops in training, new and replenished weaponry, increased sources of funding, and Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza hungry for real national leadership, Hamas is ready. The only Government ever properly elected in Palestine is back.
With the re-opening of parliament the intention will be to open the Gaza City port, and therefore Gaza, to the world. Israel be damned. A port is a necessary lifeline, but also a statement of sovereignty for Gaza. Like the flag, a port is also a symbol of freedom: for Palestine. It will be defended. The prognostication now becomes: How many people will Israel kill when Hamas and a sympathetic world apply the cease-fire agreement; using Gaza’s territorial waters to bring promised relief via Gaza’s port.
As Mao famously, and accurately observed long ago,” Without An Army For The People: There is nothing for the people.”
Sadly, Israel has given this army for the people of Gaza no other alternative but death. Hamas prepares to fight.
Before it’s too late again, World: what say you?
Je suis Gaza? Je suis Hamas?
The head of a UN inquiry into last summer’s Israeli military offensive in Gaza has said he will resign after Israeli allegations of bias, due to consultancy work he did for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
William Schabas, a Canadian academic, was appointed last August by the head of the UN Human Rights Council to lead a three-member group looking into war crimes during the offensive.
Al Ray reports that, according to the Guardian and in a letter to the commission, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, Schabas said he would step down immediately to prevent the issue from overshadowing the preparation of the report and its findings, which are due to be published in March.
Schabas’ departure highlights the sensitivity of the UN investigation just weeks after prosecutors at the international criminal court in The Hague said they had started a preliminary inquiry into atrocities committed in the Palestinian territories.
In the letter, Schabas said that a legal opinion he authored for the PLO in 2012, and for which he was paid some $1,300 (£900), was not different from advice he had given to many other governments and organizations.
“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” he wrote. “This work in defence of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.”
Israel has long criticized Schabas’ appointment, citing his record as a strong critic of “the Jewish state” and its current political leadership. Schabas said his work for the PLO had prompted the Human Rights Council’s executive to seek legal advice about his position from UN headquarters on Monday.
“I believe that it is difficult for the work to continue while a procedure is underway to consider whether the chair of the commission should be removed,” he wrote, adding that the commission had largely finished gathering evidence and had begun writing the report.
The appointment of Schabas, who lives in Britain and teaches international law at Middlesex University, was welcomed at the time by Hamas but was harshly criticized by Jewish groups in the US.
Schabas, at the time, had said that he was determined to put aside any views about “things that have gone on in the past”.
The commission is looking into the behavior of both the Israelis and of Hamas.
Israel’s foreign minister has described as “inevitable” a third war with Lebanon and a fourth aggression in the besieged Gaza Strip in the wake of a recent retaliatory attack by Hezbollah.
“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Israel’s Ynet on Sunday.
“There’s no doubt the rules of the game have been changed, what Hezbollah forced upon us. We don’t respond, but rather decide to contain this incident,” Lieberman said, adding that the Lebanese resistance movement is “more determined.”
The Israeli official also said that another war on the Gaza Strip was on the horizon, adding that Hamas was already rebuilding its military capacities.
“We saw 10 rockets being fired at the sea last week. We see every week how they’re rebuilding [their arsenal],” he said, referring to the Palestinian resistance movement.
Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and destroyed at least nine Israeli military vehicles in a retaliatory attack on a military convoy in northern occupied territories on January 28. Tel Aviv said a 20-year-old sergeant and a 25-year-old captain were killed.
Following the attack, Hezbollah said the move was in retaliation for Israel’s January 18 attack on the Syrian section of Golan Heights, where six Hezbollah members and an Iranian commander lost their lives.
Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of martyred Hezbollah top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, was among those killed in the attack.
An Egyptian court on Saturday banned the armed wing of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and listed it as a terrorist organization.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood which the Egyptian authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammed Mursi, from the presidency in 2013.
“The court ruled to ban the Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group,” said the judge of the special Cairo court which deals with urgent cases.
Egypt had previously banned Hamas from operating in Egypt.
Egyptian officials claim weapons are smuggled from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Egypt, where they end up with militant groups fighting to topple the Western-backed Cairo government.
Islamist militants based in Egypt’s Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Mursi’s political demise. The insurgency has spread to other parts of Egypt, the most populous Arab country.
Hamas on Saturday dismissed Egyptian media accusations for the group of standing behind deadly attacks in the Sinai Peninsula.
“Neither Hamas nor the Gaza Strip have anything to do with what happened in Sinai or any other place in Egypt,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.
Barhoum termed claims by Egyptian media that Hamas was behind the attacks as “an attempt to demonize” the Palestinian group.
“Hamas does not interfere in the affairs of any Arab country, particularly Egypt,” he said.
The Palestinian faction has repeatedly denied accusations that it has carried out attacks in the North African state, saying it cannot act against Egypt’s national security.
Since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in Egypt in 2013 and was elected president, the country’s relationship with the besieged Gaza Strip has worsened.
In November, Egypt decided to create a one kilometer-deep buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with Gaza by clearing more than 800 houses, displacing more than 1,100 families, and destroying and neutralizing hundreds of subterranean tunnels.
Gaza, which has been under a brutal illegal Israeli blockade for almost eight years, relied heavily on smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border to obtain vital supplies. The only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has also been routinely closed, leaving many Palestinians stranded or without access to important medical treatment.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has also repeatedly condemned the militant attacks in Egypt and denied any involvement.
However, the Sisi regime has clamped down severely on Mursi supporters. The crackdown has left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 imprisoned, with hundreds sentenced to death in trials the United Nations described as “unprecedented in recent history.”
(Reuters, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)