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…
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.
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…
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.
He says he has seen one military casualty come into the hospital. Of 2500 wounded, 50% are women and children. Doing surgery around the clock. There are injuries you do not want to see– children coming in with open abdomens, with injured legs, we had to amputate both of them. This is a war on the civilian population of Gaza. It is a very young population. They cannot flee. They are fenced in. They are bombing one and a half million people in a cage.
European and American governments are responding with a lop-sidedness that ignores these realities. They say that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate under rocket-fire, but they demand the Palestinians do so under siege in Gaza and violent military occupation in the West Bank.
Before it falls down the memory hole, we should remember that last week, Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises. Don’t take my word for it. According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security services Shin Bet, “told the Israeli cabinet [on the 23rd] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms.” Diskin explained Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet – high with election-fever, and eager to appear tough – rejected these terms.
The core of the situation has been starkly laid out by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad. He says that while Hamas – like much of the Israeli right – dreams of driving their opponents away, “they have recognized this ideological goal is not attainable, and will not be in the foreseeable future.” Instead, “they are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.” They are aware this means they “will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals” – and towards a long-term peace based on compromise. The rejectionists on both sides – from Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh to Bibi Netanyahu – would then be marginalised. It is the only path that could yet end in peace – but it is the Israeli government who refused to choose it. Halevy explains: “Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas.”