Amnesty International has issued four reports on the Israeli massacre in Gaza in 2014.1 Given the scale of the destruction and the number of fatalities, any attempt to document the crimes committed should be welcomed. However, these reports are problematic, and raise questions about the organisation itself, including why the reports were ever written at all.2 They also raise questions about the broader human rights industry that are worth considering.
July 2014 marked the onset of the Israeli massacre in Gaza (I will dispense with the Israeli sugar-coated “operation” name). The Israeli army trained for this attack for several months before finding a pretext to attack the Gaza Strip, shattering an existing ceasefire; this was the third such post-“disengagement” (2004) attack, and possibly the worst so far. At least 2,215 people were killed and 10,000+ wounded, most of them civilians. The scale of destruction was staggering: tens of thousands of houses were rendered uninhabitable; several high-rise buildings were struck by huge American-supplied bombs; schools and hospitals were targeted; 61 mosques were totally destroyed; water purification and sewage treatment plants were damaged; Gaza’s main flour mill was bombed; and all chicken farms in the territory were ravaged. There was incalculable devastation.3
Israeli control over Gaza has been in place for decades, with violence escalating over time, and the Palestinians there have been under siege for the past eight years. The Israelis have placed Gaza “on a diet”,4 permitting only a trickle of strictly controlled goods to cross the border, enough to keep the population above starvation levels. The whole Gaza Strip is surrounded on all sides, blocked off from the outside world: military bulldozers raze border areas, snipers injure farmers, and warships menace or destroy fishing boats with gunfire. Periodically, the Israelis engage in what they term “mowing the lawn” massacres and large scale destruction. It is this history that must serve as the foundation of any report that attempts to describe both the intent of the participating parties and the relative consequences.
Context-challenged – by design
The ongoing crimes perpetrated against Gaza are chronic and, indeed, systematic. Arnon Soffer, one of Israel’s Dr Strangelove types and “intellectual father of the wall”, had this to say about the enclave:
Q (Ruthie Blum): Will Israel be prepared to fight this war?
Arnon Soffer: […] Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won’t allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what’s waiting for them. Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.5
To determine the reasons behind Israeli actions, one only has to read what such Dr Strangeloves say; it is no secret. The aim is to create miserable conditions to drive the Palestinians off their land, warehouse the population in an open air prison called Gaza, and to repress any Palestinian resistance disproportionately. Israelis have to “kill and kill and kill, all day”. Such pathological reasoning puts Israeli actions into perspective; they are major crimes, possibly genocidal. Recognition of such crimes has some consequences.
First, the nature of the crimes requires their recognition as crimes against humanity, arguably one of the most serious crimes under international law. Second, Israeli crimes put the violence of the Palestinian resistance into perspective; Palestinians have a legitimate right to defend themselves against the occupying power. Third, the long history of violence perpetrated against the Palestinians, and the resulting power imbalance, suggests that one should be in solidarity with the victim, not the aggressor.
Amnesty, though, refuses to acknowledge the serious nature of Israeli crimes, by using an intellectually bankrupt subterfuge. It insists that as a rights-based organisation it cannot refer to historical context; doing so would be considered “political”, in its warped jargon. An examination of what Amnesty considers as “background” in its reports confirms that there is virtually no reference to relevant history or context, such as the prior Israeli attacks on Gaza, who initiated those attacks, the Goldstone Report, and so on. Hey presto! Now there is no need to mention serious crimes. It also doesn’t recognise the nature of the Palestinian resistance, and their right to self-defence. Nowhere does Amnesty International acknowledge that Palestinians are entitled to defend themselves against Israel’s military occupation. Finally, the rights group cannot express solidarity with the victim because, hey, “both sides” are victims!
At this point, once Amnesty has chosen to ignore the serious Israeli crimes, it takes on the Mother Teresa role of sitting on the fence castigating “both sides” for non-compliance with international humanitarian law that determines the rules of war. Thus, Amnesty criticises Israel not for the transgression of attacking Gaza, but for utilising excessive force or targeting civilians. The group’s favourite term to describe such events is “disproportionate”. This is problematic because it suggests that there is no problem with the nature of the action, just with the means or scale of it. While Amnesty bleats that a one-ton bomb in a refugee camp is disproportionate, it would seem that using a 100kg bomb would be acceptable. Another favoured term is “conflict”, a state of affairs where both sides are at fault, both are at once victims and transgressors.
Notice that while Amnesty avoids recognising major crimes by using its rights-based framework, it suddenly changes its hat, and takes on a very legalistic approach to criticise the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians. It manages then to list the full panoply of international humanitarian law which it deems to be applicable.
The key thing to watch in the upcoming International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of the 2014 massacre will be whether the court will copy the Amnesty approach. Any investigation that doesn’t focus on the cause of the violence and who initiated it will result in another fraud, and no pixel of justice.
Criminalising Palestinian resistance
Amnesty dispenses with the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves by stating that the rockets fired from Gaza are “indiscriminate”, and proceeds to call their use a war crime. Palestinian resistance groups are also told not to hide in heavily populated areas, not to execute collaborators, and so on. While Palestinians are told that their resistance amounts to war crimes, the Israelis aren’t told that their attacks are criminal per se; for them, it is only a matter of scale.
The “Unlawful and deadly rocket and Mortar Attacks…” report condemns repeatedly Palestinian rocket firing with inaccurate weapons, deems these “indiscriminate”, and ipso facto war crimes. Amnesty confuses the term “inaccurate” with “indiscriminate”. Examining the table below suggests that Israel killed proportionately far more civilians, albeit with more accurate weapons. It is quite possible to target indiscriminately with precision munitions. There is also a possibility, which Amnesty International appears to disregard, that the Israeli military targeted civilians intentionally. Indeed, it is likely that Israeli drones targeted children intentionally. A report by Defence for Children International states: “As a matter of policy, Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the very spaces where children are supposed to feel most secure.”6
Regardless of the accuracy of the weapons, the key issue is one of intent. Amnesty dwells on an explosion at the Shati refugee camp on 28 July. On the basis of one field worker’s testimony, Israeli-supplied evidence and an unnamed “independent munitions expert”,7 the organisation concludes that:
Amnesty International has received no substantive response to its inquiries about this incident from the Palestinian authorities. An independent and impartial investigation is needed, and both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities must co-operate fully. The attack appears to have violated international humanitarian law in several ways, as the evidence indicates that it was an indiscriminate attack using a prohibited weapon which may well have been fired from a residential area within the Gaza Strip and may have been intended to strike civilians in Israel. If the projectile is confirmed to be a Palestinian rocket, those who fired it and those who commanded them must be investigated for responsibility for war crimes.
Mother Teresa certainly provides enough comic material; an occasional joke makes it easier to read a dull report. The evidence for the provenance of this missile is taken at face value although it is supplied by Israel, but, of course, it requires an “investigation”; Amnesty is suggesting that both Israel and the Palestinians should investigate this incident. If the Palestinian resistance was responsible for this explosion, then it was caused by a misfire; thus, there was no intention to cause the consequent deaths. Suggesting that this amounts to a war crime is rather absurd, but the title of the section advertising the report on the Amnesty International website suggests a motive for harping on about this incident: “Palestinian armed groups killed civilians on both sides in attacks amounting to war crimes”. This conveys a rather warped and negative view of the Palestinian resistance – they kill civilians on both sides – and it suggests that it is not possible to be in solidarity with them.
Tyranny of reasons
After any Israeli attack, the pro-Israel propagandists offer a rationale about why a given target was struck. They claim that there were Palestinian militants firing rockets from hospitals, schools, mosques, the power plant and other civilian buildings. At a stroke, such locations are legitimised as Israeli targets whether or not the propaganda statements are true. What is disconcerting in the two reports on Israeli crimes is that Amnesty International imputes reasons for the targeting of buildings or families.
One finds, for example, statements such as:
- Amnesty International believes this attack was targeting one individual.
- The apparent target was a member of a military group, targeted at a time when he was at home with his family.
- The fighters who were the apparent targets could have been targeted at a different time or in a different manner that was less likely to cause excessive harm to civilians and destruction of civilian objects.
- The apparent target of Israel’s attack was Ahmad Sahmoud, a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing. […] Surviving family members and neighbours denied this.
Amnesty parrots the rationales provided by the Israeli military; one only needs to look at the footnotes of its reports to check the veracity of this claim. And Amnesty discounts the intentional bombing of buildings to create misery among the Palestinian middle class and demoralise a key sector of society; and that destroying the power plant amounts to collective punishment. But don’t worry, Mother T will always check with the Israeli military to determine why something was targeted.
AI is not an anti-war organisation
One would expect a human rights organisation to be intrinsically opposed to war, but Amnesty International is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”.8 Despite such a predisposition, it was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, yet another questionable recipient of a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. Today, one wonders if AI is going to jump on the R2P (Right to Protect) neocon bandwagon. A consequence of its “not-anti-war” stance is that it doesn’t criticise wars conducted by the United States, Britain or Israel; it is only the excesses that merit Amnesty’s occasional lame rebuke, often prefaced with the term “disproportionate” or “alleged”. This stance is evident in its latest reports; here the premise is that the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip was legitimate, but it is the conduct of “both sides” that is the object of the reports’ criticism.
Can’t see the wood for the trees
Amnesty International is a small organisation with insufficient resources to conduct a proper report on the massacre in Gaza last year. Given the fact that it didn’t have direct access to Gaza approved by Israel, it chose to focus on two aspects of the Israeli attack: the targeting of entire families and the destruction of landmark buildings. Within these two categories it chose to focus on a handful of examples of each. The main problem is that Amnesty harps on about a few cases to the exclusion of the totality; it can’t see the wood for the trees. There is no mention of some of the most significant total figures, say, of the number of hospitals and schools destroyed, the tonnage of bombs dropped on Gaza,9 the tens of thousands of artillery shells used, and so on. The seriousness of the crime is lost by dwelling on a subset of a subset of the crimes committed. Amnesty isolates a few examples, describes them in some detail, and then suggests that unless there were military reasons for the attacks, then there should be an “investigation”. Oh yes, and it has sent some polite letters to the Israeli authorities requesting some comment, but the Israelis have been rather unresponsive. Quite possibly the likes of Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Ganz and their colleagues are too busy rolling on the floor laughing.
Given such a warped framework one would expect symmetry in the way that the attacks are described, but no. While Amnesty provides the total number of rockets fired by the Palestinian resistance, it gives no similar numbers of the tens of thousands of Israeli artillery shells fired, nor the total tonnage of bombs dropped on Gaza. The Israeli military propagandists were all too happy to provide detailed statistics about the Palestinian rockets, and Amnesty does not seem to express any misgivings about using this data. It is also clear that Mother T didn’t ask the propagandists to supply statistics on the lethal Israeli tonnage dropped on Gaza.
Methodology and evidence
Every report contains a methodology section admitting to the fact that AI didn’t have direct access to Gaza. All of its research was done on the Israeli side, and by two Palestinian fieldworkers in the besieged and occupied territory. The inability to enter Gaza possibly explains the reliance on many Israeli military statements, blogs and the foreign ministry about the Palestinian rocket attacks. One can verify all the footnotes to find a significant number of official Israeli statements to provide so-called evidence. It is rather jarring to find Amnesty relying on information provided by the offensive military forces to implicate Palestinian resistance in war crimes. How appropriate is it to use “Hamas’ Violations of the Law” issued by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or “Declassified Report Exposes Hamas Human Shield Policy” issued by the Israeli military?
It is also jarring to find Amnesty referring to Israeli claims that rockets were fired from schools, hospitals and the electricity power plant. This information was provided as a justification for Israel’s destruction of such sites, but in the report Amnesty uses it to wag its finger at the Palestinian resistance.10
Amnesty International’s access to Israeli victims of Palestinian rockets produced emotional statements by the victims, and complied with Israeli propaganda needs. Israeli PR was keen to take journalists or visiting politicians to the border towns to show the rocket damage, and Amnesty seems to have been pleased to tag along. At the same time, Israel prevented any Amnesty access to Gaza; clearly, any information coming out of the territory would not be compliant with Israeli PR requirements. Thus, why send any researchers to the Israeli border area?
Execution of collaborators – who will be criticised?
Amnesty has announced the publication of a forthcoming report on the execution of collaborators, and one can only speculate on its contents. It is odd that while AI is not opposed to wars it is opposed to the death sentence; it is opposed to some deaths, but silent about others. Couple this stance with an unwillingness to recognise the Palestinian right to self-defence and, consequently, AI will inevitably deem the execution of Palestinians who collaborate with Israel as abhorrent.
There are many collaborators in the West Bank and they are evident at all levels of society, even in the so-called Palestinian Authority. The PA has even committed itself to their protection. Collaboration with Israel in the West Bank is thus a relatively low-risk activity. In Gaza there are also collaborators, who are used to infiltrate and inform on the armed resistance groups, and also to sow black propaganda. During the 2014 massacre, collaborators were instrumental in pinpointing the location of the resistance and its leadership. In most countries, treason and espionage in time of war merits execution, but it is doubtful that Amnesty International will accept this, and will instead urge a judicial process with no death sentence.
The key aspect of the forthcoming report will be whether the organisation deems the Israeli use of collaborators as an abhorrent practice. Israel not only uses collaborators to gather information, but they are also meant to fragment Palestinian society, and to sow discord. With a society already under massive stress due to economic hardship and military repression, collaborators are a pernicious means to break morale and undermine Palestinian resilience. Will Amnesty criticise Israel’s use of collaborators, or will its report merely castigate Hamas for the way it deals with collaborators?
Why were these reports written at all?
All Amnesty International reports follow the same formula: a brief overview, a methodology section about data sources, some emotional quotations by the victims, a section on accountability, and then some recommendations. They are trite, barely readable and certainly not very useful either for legal purposes or to educate its volunteers. So why are these reports published and who actually reads them? Amnesty would like to be known as one of the leading human rights organisations and it must be seen as reporting on major human rights violations and crimes. Its volunteers must be given the impression that the organisation cares for some of the wholesale atrocities, and not merely the retail crime or violation.
The timing of the publication of one report (“Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks…”) is rather curious. The report dealing with the Palestinian rockets was published a few days before the Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court. A coincidence? While some Palestinians are gearing up to prosecute Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity, a leading human rights organisation publishes a report which goes on about Palestinians being guilty of war crimes. Amnesty has published reports in the past that were exploited for propaganda purposes; the Iraqis throwing-the-babies-out-of-the-incubators propaganda hoax, for example.11 Those reports were published just in time to provide a justification for war.
Impotence by design
All the reports contain a list of recommendations for Israelis, Palestinians and other states. One is struck by the impotence of the recommendations. The group urges Israel to cooperate with the UN commission of inquiry; allow human rights organisations access to Gaza; pay reparations to some victims; and ensure that the Israeli military operates within some legal limits. Given that Israel can more or less do as it pleases in any case – ignoring commissions of inquiry, proclaiming loudly that it will engage in disproportionate attacks (that is, the Dahiya doctrine), and that it refuses to compensate any Palestinian victim of its previous massacres – all these recommendations ring hollow.
Amnesty urges Palestinians to address their grievances via the ICC. It is curious that while international law apparently provides the Palestinians with no protection whatsoever, they are urged to jump through international legal hoops. It is also questionable to suggest a legal framework meant for interstate conflict when dealing with a non-state dispossessed native population. Of course, Amnesty fails to mention that Israel has avoided and ignored international law with the complicity and assistance of the United States.
Finally, Amnesty International requests other governments to assist the commission of inquiry and to assist in the prosecution of war criminals. It remains to be seen whether the commission of inquiry will actually publish a report that has some teeth. The group also urges other countries to stop supplying weapons to “both sides”. There is no mention of the fact that the US resupplied Israel with weapons during last year’s massacre in Gaza. It is very unlikely that the US or Britain will stop arming Israel; as such, Amnesty’s recommendations are ineffective rhetoric.
Amnesty trumpets that it has 7 million supporters world-wide;12 a few months ago this number was 3 million; two years ago it was 400,000, and a few more years ago it was 200,000. One should marvel at this explosive growth. If the organisation really can tap into the support of even a fraction of these volunteers, then it can urge them to do something that has tangible results; it could, for example, ask its members and supporters to boycott Israeli products or products made by western companies complicit in Israeli crimes. Such action would be far more effective than the meaningless recommendations that are ignored regularly by Israel and its western backers. Alas, it is difficult to conceive that Amnesty will issue a call for a boycott to its ever expanding army of supporters. It is difficult for Mother T to change her stripes.
The human rights industry
There are thousands of so-called human rights organisations. Anyone can set up such a group, and thereby specify a narrow focus for the NGO, determine the parameters within which it will operate – even define who is human – and then the new organisation can chime in with press releases, host wine and cheese receptions, bestow prizes, lobby politicians, launch investigations and castigate the enemy du jour. Bono, Geldof and Angelina might even hop along and sit on the NGO’s board. The human rights framework is elastic and can be moulded to fit legitimate purposes, but it can also be manipulated for propaganda purposes. The history of some of the largest human rights organisations shows that they were created originally with the propaganda element foremost in mind.13 This suggests that NGO output, such as Amnesty’s reports, for example, merit scrutiny not so much for what they say, but for what they omit. In the Palestinian context, a simple test on the merits of a so-called human rights organisation is whether it challenges state power, calls for accountability and the prosecution of war criminals, and urges its supporters to do something more than write out cheques or very formal and polite letters to governments engaged in criminal acts.
Another test for the merits of a human rights NGO is whether it is in solidarity with the victims of violence, and whether victims are treated differently depending on their support or demonisation by “the west”. In Amnesty’s case, consider that on the one hand it provides long lists of “prisoners of conscience” pertaining to prisoners held in Cuba, Syria, etc., but on the other hand it explicitly does not make such a list of Palestinian prisoners available. We have no means of knowing how many Palestinian political prisoners Amnesty actually cares about, and whether its volunteers engage in letter writing campaigns on their behalf. One thing is certain, though, that while the majority of Cuban political prisoners are considered prisoners of conscience, only a tiny fraction of the Palestinian political prisoners have been given such status. In reality, of course, Mother Teresa doesn’t give a hoot about political prisoners who might have been involved in violence, so Palestinians are just a stone’s throw away from being ignored by Amnesty International. Some victims are more meritorious than others.
In trying to justify the organisation’s double standard, Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, stated:
“By its nature, the Israeli administrative detention system is a secretive process, in that the grounds for detention are not specified in detail to the detainee or his/her legal representative; inevitably, this makes it especially difficult for the detainee to challenge the order for, by example, contesting the grounds on which the detention was made. In the same way, it makes it difficult or impossible for Amnesty International to make a conclusive determination in many cases whether a particular administrative detainee can be considered a prisoner of conscience or not.”15
It thus provides yet more comic material. AI admits that Israeli military courts can determine who can be considered a Palestinian prisoner of conscience. The only thing that those courts need to do is to keep their proceedings secret or not reveal “evidence”. Alternatively, they can simply imprison the victims without trial or declare that they are members of a “banned” organisation16 and then the Israelis won’t have to reply to those pesky polite letters written by AI volunteers. Once again, double standards in the treatment of victims raise questions about the nature of any human rights NGO.
Human rights is denatured justice
Pushing for the observance of human rights doesn’t necessarily imply that one will obtain justice. The human rights agenda merely softens the edges of the status quo. As Amnesty’s position on the Israeli attacks on Gaza illustrates, pushing human rights can actually be incompatible with obtaining justice. Human rights are a bastardised, neutered and debased form of justice. The application and effectiveness of international law is bad enough, but a pick and choose legal framework with no enforcement is even worse. If one seeks justice, then it is best to avoid the human rights discourse; above all, it is best to avoid human rights organisations.
Palestinians should be wary of Mother Teresas peddling human rights snake oil. In exchange for giving up their resistance and complying with Amnesty’s neutered norms, they are unlikely to obtain any justice. One should be wary of human rights groups that don’t push for justice, play the role of Israel’s lawyer, and are bereft of solidarity with the victims. When the likes of Amnesty International come wagging their finger, it is best to keep the old blunderbuss near to hand.
- Nabeel Abraham, et al.; International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine Question, Middle East Report (MERIP), Vol. 18, No. 1, January-February 1988, pp. 12 – 20.
- Dennis Bernstein and Francis Boyle, Amnesty on Jenin: an interview, CAQ, Summer 2002, pp. 9 – 12, 27.
- Paul de Rooij, AI: Say It Isn’t So, CounterPunch, 31 Oct. 2002
- Paul de Rooij, Amnesty International: The Case of a Rape Foretold, CounterPunch, 26 November 2003
- Paul de Rooij, Double Standards and Curious Silences / Amnesty International: A False Beacon, CounterPunch, 13 October 2004.
- PIWP database: list of articles on the politics of human rights
- Families Under the Rubble: Israeli Attacks on Inhabited Homes (MDE 15/032/2014), 5 November 2014.
“Nothing is immune”: Israel’s destruction of landmark buildings in Gaza (MDE 15/029/2014), 9 December 2014.
Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict (MDE 21/1178/2015), 26 March 2015.
The fourth report about the execution of collaborators has not been published yet.
- I distinguish between Amnesty International, the international organization, and its well intentioned letter-writing volunteers.
- Possibly the best overview of the Gaza Massacre 2014 is Al Haq’s Divide and Conquer; http://alhaq.org/publications/publications-index/item/divide-and-conquer
- Statement made in 2006 by Dov Weisglas, one of Israel’s Dr. Strangeloves and close confidant of Ariel Sharon. Source: http://www.corkpsc.org/db.php?qid=1013
- Ruthie Blum interviews Arnon Soffer, ONE on ONE: It’s the demography, stupid, Jerusalem Post, 10 May 2004
- Ali Abunimah , Israel “directly targeted” children in drone strikes on Gaza, says rights group, Electronic Intifada, 17 April 2015.
- Amnesty loves to trot out military experts and dwell on the type of weapons used. First, there is an issue about the military expert, and who they are. What is the ethics about showing up in Gaza with a military person who might still be in the armed forces of, say, the UK? One can hardly expect them to be “independent”. And why dwell on the type of munitions if their use is already criminal to begin with? Focusing on the type of weapon deflects attention from the damage and the victims – that should be the emphasis.
- Alexander Cockburn, “How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?”, CounterPunch newsletter, April 1-15, 1999.
- While AI reports the total number of Palestinian rockets fired, there is no equivalent number to the totals used by the Israeli military. That number would be of interest because it would indicate the scale of the crimes committed. Tens of thousands of artillery shells were used, requiring them to be restocked by the United States in the middle of the offensive.
- The UN report on the Israeli attacks against schools lists several incidents where the Israelis falsely accused the Palestinians of firing on these schools. Such evidence should reduce the credibility of Israeli statements. See, e.g., Ali Abunimah, UN finds Israel killed dozens at Gaza schools but ducks call for accountability, Electronic Intifada, 28 April 2015.
- In the lead up to the 1991 invasion of Kuwait/Iraq, Amnesty issued a report on the so-called babies out of incubators story. President Bush Senior showcased the report on the eve of the attack, and used it for its full propaganda potential. When it was pointed out to Amnesty that they were pushing a propaganda hoax, it doubled its estimate of the number of children dumped from the incubators. To this day, the organisation has never apologised for playing a role in selling an American war.
- See: https://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/ And notice that in the page after title page of Amnesty International’s reports the number of supporters increases from one report to the next.
- Kirsten Sellars, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights, Sutton Publishing, 29 April 2002. Herein she discusses the origin of Human Rights Watch.
- Malcolm Smart, Letter: Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience lists and the reason for double standards, 9 August 2010 http://www.corkpsc.org/db.php?aid=133223.
- Another technique to rule out sympathetic treatment of Palestinians is to suggest that they are members of a banned organisation. NB: it is Israel which does the banning. Any organisation seeking liberation or to confront the Israeli dispossession or violence is deemed by the Israelis to be a “terrorist organisation”. Currently, Amnesty plays along with this charade, and also ignores Palestinians belonging to “political” organisations.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel decided not to meet former US President Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland when they visit the region over their expected meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haneyya and over their anti-Israeli views, Yediot Ahranot revealed.
Carter and Brundtlend will arrive on April 30 for a 3-day trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority territories, and the Gaza Strip. Israel officially decided to boycott Carter’s visit, although it will not prevent him from entering Israel or entering the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing, the newspaper said.
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin heeded the Foreign Ministry’s advice and decided not to meet former US President Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland when they visit the region.
Carter and Brundtland are both members of the Elders, an independent group of global former leaders who work together for peace and human rights. They were brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela.
Carter had earlier met with head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mishaal and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haneyya.
Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the reason they were boycotting Carter’s visit was because “he consistently helps delegitimize Israel and that any meeting with an Israeli official would only contribute to this process.”
Carter will arrive in the region on an emergency mission, mainly intended to mediate between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, according to the newspaper.
Carter has been vocally critical of Israel in recent years. He has referred to Israeli apartheid numerous times.
The newspaper said that Carter has visited Israel in the last few years, but former Israeli president Shimon Peres would generally meet him even though Carter spent the meetings criticizing the former president’s views.
The buzz word in Washington around the Iran Nuclear Review Bill that was approved unanimously by a Senate committee is “compromise,” parroted even by the White House spokesperson who has let it known that President Obama will endorse it despite some reservations. But, in reality, “compromise” is a code word for “concession,” i.e., appeasement of the anti-Iran hawks in U.S. Congress, as well as Israel.
The big question is, of course, what is behind Obama’s flip flop, notwithstanding his repeated warnings to U.S. Congress to stay out of Iran negotiations or face his veto power? The answer to this question should search beyond the facade of executive versus legislative ‘turf war’ on the Iran nuclear issue and touch the underlying root cause — in U.S.’s geostrategic interest to keep the furnace of Iran nuclear standoff alive instead of extinguishing it.
Indeed, why let a good thing go, perhaps some Washington ‘insiders’ are asking quietly, given the multiple benefits of the nuclear crisis — in sustaining U.S.’s hegemony in Persian Gulf, containing the Iranian power, and appeasing Israel’s need to keep the limelight on Iran indefinitely.
Thus the U.S.’s perpetual self-sabotage of the Iran deal, following last November’s last minute change of heart by Obama, who refused to sign onto an agreement that his own negotiation team had reached. Obama’s excuse then was reportedly that it was premature in light of a new Congress and he had to wait to size up the situation. It now appears that Obama has done that and reached the point that signing any deal with Iran is a bad deal, just as Iran hawks and the pro-Israel lobbyists have been saying for a long time. In other words, Obama’s acceptance of the Iran bill is but a definite sign that the chicken has to roost and, indeed, the emperor has no clothes.
But, of course, without critical lenses, the Iran Nuclear Review Act appears as relatively benign and an exercise in constitutional checks and balances, which is why the polls indicate the majority of American people are in favor of a Congressional role in the Iran deal. It is only when one reads the bill’s fine prints and pays close attention to its details that the real intention of its sponsors to torpedo the nuclear talks becomes apparent.
This is basically an intrusive legislation that impacts the content of negotiations by, for example, creating an issue linkage between nuclear and non-nuclear, e.g., terrorism, issues and conditioning Congress’s approval of the deal on the executive branch’s certificate of Iran’s compliance with the demand to stop funding terrorist groups.
Essentially, this means a revised script for the nuclear talks and the imposition of brand new ‘parameters’ such as terrorism, that have not been part of the intense negotiations; the latter are solely focused on the nuclear issue and, yet, must now due to this bill, expand the requirements for compliance by Iran — to U.S.’s arbitrary demands.
Another aspect of the bill that is equally problematic is that it raises the necessity of White House’s certification that the atomic agency is satisfied with Iran’s compliance on the “possible military dimension” issues which, as we know, raise the prospect of IAEA demands to access Iran’s secret military bases, a taboo from the vantage point of Iran’s military and civilian leadership. In fact, the Supreme Leader in his recent speech drew a red line and categorically opposed any suggestion that Iran would accommodate the West on this matter.
Hence, Iran’s stern negative reaction to the latest developments in U.S. Congress and Obama’s inexcusable turn-around from a critic to an admirer of the Iran bill is a given, raising the prospect that the bill can be a show-stopper and spell doom for the nuclear negotiations. The path ahead is now made doubly more complicated and the new hurdles by U.S. Congress act as so many powerful torpedoes aiming to sink the ship of diplomacy.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, PhD, is a former political science professor at Tehran University and the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown’s Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.
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 email@example.com.
“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.