The following is a letter signed by attorneys and academics which appeared in The Sunday Timestitled “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime”. As Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 (there is no good reason why international consensus dates the injustice to ’67; it has its roots in the ethnic cleansing of ’48) it is not defending itself, in the legal sense, and is the aggressor. Diana Buttu put it succinctly when she said, “Israel has the right to protect itself it doesn’t have the right to protect its occupation.”
ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.
The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.
The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.
The numbers of the dead don’t mean much any more. It was round about the five hundred mark when I realised the impact of death on my mind was lightening. There are pictures on the internet – burning half bodies, a head and torso screaming, corpses spilt in a marketplace like unruly apples, all the tens and tens of babies and children turned to outraged dust – but how many pictures can you keep in your heart? How much anguish can you feel? Enough anguish to mourn 500 human beings? And of what quality can your anguish be? Can it be as intense as the anguish a bystander to the murder would feel? As intense as that of a friend of a victim, or of a father? What about the fathers who have seen all their children burn?
I remember the days when I was outraged if ten were killed in one go. Ah, happy days! Ten in one go would be good. But of course, this is what the enemy wants: the enemy wants us to value Arab life as little as it does. It wants us to stay in our numbness, to descend deeper in. It wants us to forget.
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”.
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 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.
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…