UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes

In the generally corrupt bureaucracy of the UN displays of principle and courage are often rare. Ever since the 60s , when decolonization around the globe turned the General Assembly into a more democratic forum, it has on occasion defied the reigning powers. This, however, has been neutralized through the Security Council and the ultimate in might-makes-right tools: the veto. If there is one body of the UN that has remained free of such pressures, its the UN’s Human Rights agency. The people often elected as rapporteurs are not career bureaucrats and hence are less constrained by the imperatives of advancement. That is why we have had such wonderful people like Richard Falk, Jean Ziegler, Mary Robinson et al defy the prevailing consensus and, to use the old cliche, speak truth to power. Joining their ranks is another distinguished name, Navi Pillay.

“Official calls for investigation into Zeitoun shelling that killed up to 30 in one house as Israelis dismiss ‘unworkable’ ceasefire”, The Guardian reports.

The United Nations‘ most senior human rights official said last night that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza. The warning came as Israeli troops pressed on with the deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for “credible, independent and transparent” investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law, and singled out an incident this week in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, where up to 30 Palestinians in one house were killed by Israeli shelling.

Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident “appears to have all the elements of war crimes”.

Continue reading “UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes”

Another Chorister for Israel

Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2009; Counterpunch, 7 January 2009; Adbusters, January 2009; Arab Media Watch, 6 January 2009

Nidal El-Khairy

On February 29 last year the BBC’s website reported that Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai had threated a ‘holocaust’ on Gaza.  The story would undergo nine revisions in the next twelve hours with the original headline —  “Israel warns of Gaza ‘holocaust'”– replaced by “Gaza militants ‘risking disaster’“. (The story has been revised again since then with an exculpatory note added to soft-pedal Vilnai’s comments). One can see why an Israeli threatening a ‘holocaust’ might be unpalatable to those who routinely invoke its spectre to deflect criticism from the Jewish state’s criminal behaviour. In a deft move, not only had the BBC redacted the reference to a ‘holocaust’, it also shifted culpability into the hands of the ‘Gaza militants’.

One could argue that the BBC’s radical alteration of the story reflects its susceptibility to the kind of inordinate pressure routinely brought to bear by the Israel Lobby. But, as subsequent examples reveal, this story is exceptional only for its initial candor. The norm is reflexive self-censorship. Continue reading “Another Chorister for Israel”

Israel continues attacks on UN


Israel widens its ongoing war on the UN in Gaza while the USA continues to hamstring the organisation.

The main UN aid agency in the Gaza Strip said today that it was suspending operations after an Israeli tank shell hit one of its convoys during the ceasefire period, killing two drivers.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made the announcement as the death toll from Israel’s war on Hamas shot up to 763 after new raids and dozens of bodies were found during a suspension in Israel’s bombing.

“UNRWA decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel,” Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency’s Gaza-based spokesman, said.

Richard Miron, a UN spokesman, said the Israeli army had been notified in advance about the UNRWA convoy, which was hit as it approached the Erez crossing with Israel. Two Palestinian forklift drivers were killed.

The Military Domination of Gaza

Avi Shlaim, one of Israel’s new historians, on the crisis: “Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination.”

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.  Continue…

Al-Fakhoura School Bombed, 42 Killed, Including Children

From Juan Cole who later asks, why, if militants were firing from the school, would refugees be taking shelter there?  It is such an obvious, propaganda based, lie, a lie that has become a knee-jerk reaction from Israel.

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs made children into blood. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. He immediately wrote out a martyrdom will, pledging to die avenging the innocent victims, killed with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660. The Israelis say they took fire from one of the schools. Was it tank fire?

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.  Continue…

U.N. official says Gaza school was clearly marked

Reuters (reproduced here in full as yahoo news links are not permalinks and often lapse)

A U.N. official in Gaza said a school where dozens of Palestinians were killed by tank shells on Tuesday was clearly marked with a U.N. flag and its location had been reported to Israeli authorities.

John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said the death toll in the Israeli artillery strike near the school in Jabalya refugee camp was 30 dead with another 55 people injured.

Medical officials on the spot have said more than 40 people were killed. Continue reading “U.N. official says Gaza school was clearly marked”