Crimes against humanity in Gaza


August 6, 2014

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.–Dennis Kucinich

Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a ‘buffer zone’ – or a bigger plan?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

It’s time to step back and ask if we want to support Israel if it wants to eject all Palestinians from their land

by Dennis Kucinich

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

GazaAmerican Taxpayers Should NOT be paying for this!

American taxpayers should not be paying for this. And the western world should stop rejecting serious inquiries about Israel’s moral inconsistencies, or allow it to benefit from cognitive dissonance and information overload amid the current crisis in Gaza.

There is a land grab going on. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has shrunk Gaza’s habitable land mass by 44%, with an edict establishing a 3km (1.8-mile) buffer zone, a “no-go” zone for Palestinians – and that’s quite significant, because a good part of Gaza is only 3 to 4 miles wide. Over 250,000 Palestinians within this zone must leave their homes, or be bombed. As their territorial space collapses, 1.8m Gazans now living in 147 square miles will be compressed into 82 square miles.

Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.

With Gaza’s land mass shrinking due to Israeli military action, it’s about time someone asked: What is the end game? Three weeks ago, Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, called for Gaza to “become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

Land GrabbingIs this not Land Grabbing?

Israel has a housing crisis? After the “no-go” buffer zone is evacuated, there will be 21,951 Palestinians per square mile in Gaza, while Israel’s population density stands at 964 persons per square mile.

Deputy Speaker Feiglin wants the Palestinians in Gaza to lose all of their land. One must not assume that Mr Feiglin or his Likud faction speak for the main government actors like Prime Minister Netanyahu. After all, Knesset politics are complex and divergent. But since Gaza has just lost control of that 44% of its land, it may also be time to ask: does the establishment of that 3km zone represent the unfolding of a larger plan? Is that the end game?

At the very point where an aroused public becomes aghast at the slaughter of Gazans, the western world becomes inured to the violence, hypnotized by the media’s cadence of body counts. The intolerable becomes normalized, and later ignored as old news. Which would seem a perfect time to leave in place the 3km zone – for security purposes, of course – and then advance the proposal that Palestinians crammed into the remaining 56% of Gaza simply … leave.

I assume the IDF acts with deliberation, under orders from the Netanyahu government. And I think the extraordinary and illegal forced relocation of over 250,000 Palestinians from 44% of Gazan land is a crime against humanity under the guise of establishing a “buffer zone” for security purposes.

Look at the region’s maps from recent history. Look at the steady erosion of Palestinian land and the acquisition of land by Israel, and you can understand that the present attack on Gaza is not about solely about Hamas. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s rockets. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s tunnels. It’s about land. It isn’t about kidnappings. It is about land. It isn’t even about meeting a housing crisis in Israel. It is about grabbing land from the Palestinians in Gaza and the natural resources that go with the land, upon the occasion of Israel’s military invasion of Gaza.

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.

Israel’s Colonialism Must End


August 5, 2014

OPINION

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/opinion/ali-jarbawi-israels-colonialism-must-end.html?ref=opinion

Israel’s Colonialism Must End

Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tend to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.

PalestineIn the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.And it is not limited to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Although Israel withdrew its settlers and army from Gaza in 2005, it is still recognized by the United Nations as an occupying power, due to its complete control of Gaza’s airspace, sea access and of almost all of its land borders.

Over the years, Israel has used all forms of pressure to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their national rights and gaining independence. It hasn’t been enough for Israelis to believe their own claims about Palestinians; they have sought incessantly to impose this narrative on the world and to have it adopted by their Western allies.

Unsurprisingly, all of this has led to complete shamelessness in mainstream Israeli rhetoric about Palestinians. After all, if one is not held accountable, then one has the freedom to think — and do — what one wants. With no internal or external checks, one can act with impunity.

The Israeli left is a relic, all but extinct, and the extremist right is entrenched in the Israeli political establishment. Attacking the Palestinians has become officially sanctioned policy, embedded in Israeli public consciousness and politely ignored in Western political circles.

There is now an extremist, racist ideological current in Israel that not only justifies the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip, but actually encourages the use of enormous and disproportionate violence against civilians, which has led to the extermination of entire families.

Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, recently called on the Israeli army to attack and occupy Gaza, paying no heed to anything but the safety of Israeli soldiers. He then demanded that Gaza be annexed to Israel, and asked the army to use all means at its disposal to “conquer” Gaza, by which he meant that obedient Palestinians would be allowed to stay, while the rest — the majority — should be exiled to the Sinai Peninsula. This cannot be understood as anything less than a call for ethnic cleansing.

Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member for the Jewish Home Party, a member of the governing coalition, called on the Israeli army to destroy the homes of terrorist “snakes,” and to murder their mothers as well, so that they would not be able to bring “little snakes” into the world.

And Mordechai Kedar, a Professor at Bar Ilan University, publicly suggested that raping the mothers and sisters of “terrorists” might deter further terrorism. The university did not take any measures against him.

Such statements are no longer isolated incidents, but reflective of the general sentiment within a country where chants of “Kill the Arabs” are increasingly common. It is no longer an aberration to hear these opinions expressed in public, or by politicians and academics. What is unexpected — and unacceptable — is that such statements are not met with any sort of condemnation in official Western circles that claim to oppose racism and extremism.

The rise in Israeli racism and extremism against Palestinians would not have happened without the unconditional support that Israel receives from its allies, most significantly the United States. Israel cannot continue to be the exception to the rule of international law and human rights. The international community must hold it accountable for its rhetoric and its actions, and begin to treat it like all other countries. It should not be allowed to continue to enjoy its state of exceptionalism and to use this to wreak destruction on the Palestinian people.

After 47 years of occupation, two decades of stalled peace talks and almost eight years of a strangulating siege of the Gaza Strip, the international community must demand that Israel clearly state what it intends to do with its occupation of the Palestinian people. Since the Palestinians are not the occupiers, but rather those living under occupation, this question cannot be asked of them.

If Israel wants to continue its occupation and hinder Palestinians’ path to freedom and independence, then it should be aware that the Palestinian people will continue to resist with all the means at their disposal. If Israel intends to end the occupation, then it will find that the Palestinians are more than ready for an agreement.

What the Palestinians are enduring today in Gaza should be a clarion call for the entire world to end the bloodshed. But it will take more than a cease-fire. It will take peace. And peace cannot happen without an end to the occupation.

Ali Jarbawi is a political scientist at Birzeit University and a former Minister of the Palestinian Authority. This article was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.

US Unconditional Aid to IsraelUS-Israel Partnership

NOTE: It is no secret that the unconditional backing of the United States—in providing funds, weapons, and vetoes at the United Nations—is one of the primary factors behind the impunity with which Israel and its colonial policy violate international law. That backing is also a considerable obstacle to serious negotiations between the Israeli regime and the colonial functionaries like Hamas who it loves to hate, but whose presence are also essential to its continued hegemony in Gaza.

http://californiamwananchi.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-alliance-unhinged.html

Gaza:Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law


August 4, 2014

Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law (Part 1- 08-03-14)

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

Syed Hamid AlbarWE are witnessing before our very eyes the most blatant violation of international humanitarian law being executed by the state of Israel.

Somehow, there is so much complacency on the part of the international community, as if the loss of Palestinian lives is just another insignificant footnote in the chronicles of international affairs. It is allowed to continue without abatement and consequence because the state committing the offence is Israel; the only member state of the United Nations created by the UN.

The promise of the state of Palestine remains unfulfilled. There is so much of a guilt mindset towards Israel amongst Western countries, particularly the P5 Western members, for the sins and atrocities committed in the holocaust. It gives them comfortable justification that the Palestinians should pay for the wrongs they have done.

Generally, we have not heard any condemnation or statement of disapproval against Israel for the killing of children, women and other innocent civilians in the name of self-defence. In the diplomatic parlance of the UN, this is another example of the excessive use of force by Israel. These inhumane acts of violence seem to be acceptable when executed by Israel.

R2P (Chapter VII of UN Charter) cannot be applied in the instant case as its going to be vetoed or there will be a threat for it to be vetoed. The United States, for example, in recent years has used its veto regularly to protect the Israeli government from international criticism or any attempt to restrain its military from exercising its so-called right to self defence.

Gaza2Israel–Inhumanity Personified

The usage of veto by any member of the P5, according to critics, has rendered the role of the UN or Security Council (SC) to maintain global peace and security on issues of serious breaches of human rights, international law or even genocide, ineffective. Contrary to the desire of some members, the Human Rights Council convened a meeting to receive the report on the Israeli military actions in Gaza. The report findings showed there is evidence that the Israeli military action in Gaza amounted to crime against humanity. The report and recommendation of the Human Rights Council was for these to be further investigated.

However, the international media, mainly from mainstream Western media, in its eagerness to defend Israel can be considered guilty of spreading biased or slanted commentaries in favour of Israel.

All of us are against terrorism and acts of violence should not be used against civilian populations. Here, the social media has provided a more fair and balanced reporting of the episodes and tragedies as they are sourced from independent non-governmental organisations and people on the ground whom are without any vested interests.

In this way, it would be difficult to mislead the world again. We are told in international politics there is a need to factor in geopolitical and national interest considerations as propounded by Machiavelli and, in the modern day, by Hans Morgenthau realist approach.

In the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian/Israeli and Arab/Israeli conflicts, this stance is amply demonstrated. The UN, at this crucial time even when it has the legal and moral obligation to bring peace and security, could not do so. Even when the Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire, no one is listening as it does not possess the political influence to force Israel to comply. Strange though it may sound to ordinary citizens of the world, but that is the reality.

The truism is, the international community is aware of the serious breaches of international law and yet, it stood by to watch the Israeli regime continue with their operations, notwithstanding the clear proof by the UN that 75 per cent of those killed by Israeli actions are non-combatants — the civilian population of Gaza.

Of course, we observed differential treatment in dealing with the Arab Spring. Israeli military actions had used the precarious ground of the right to self-defence to provide legitimacy for their continued aerial bombing and incursion into Gaza.

It looks as if Israel has been given carte blanche to use excessive force when the state was never in real danger of being overrun or even threatened by the Palestinians. The international community currently construes the bombings of power stations, mosques, schools and civilians as legitimate.

gaza-under-attack_pictures_2012_free_gaza_gaza_4_by_palsun1

The fact that Gaza is the biggest open prison operated by Israel, and that they are in illegal occupation of Palestinian land, are not mentioned at all by the mainstream international media. By any standard, it is difficult to comprehend how the killing of civilians by Israel can be justifiable. Under the circumstances, the world will watch further carnage and destruction from the current military actions by Israel.

In order to confuse and deceive the world, stories are being churned out to blame Hamas for using civilians as human shields. For those who know or understand Gaza, they will realise that this small strip is densely populated and the population has nowhere to run when all borders are closed. It should be expected that any firing of missiles and aerial bombing are bound to hit the ordinary civilian population.

The argument given then is, deaths are inevitable collateral damage. This was the same logic used by former United States President George Bush in his war against international terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. The dissemination of misinformation and misguided perceptions by the international media was believable in the past, but today, with the advances in information technology and the increasing role of the social media, governments find difficulty to hide the truth from domestic and international scrutiny.

Before our very eyes, we see the exact nature of the collective punishment being inflicted as clear as daylight. These vivid images and portrayals being fed to the world, are indicative of how standards of international law of the civilised world have failed to be observed.

Israel seems to be given the right to do what it likes with impunity. This can be said to be the case since the state was created in 1948. Of course, this position all began with The Balfour Declaration of 1918, which started all the pains and sufferings of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel.

Israel, since the 1967 War, is the occupier of land that belonged to the Palestinian as stated even by the UN resolution. The sad part of the tragic Palestinian opera is that, nothing is done to stop it. Powerful nations usually allow for expansion of territories in a conflict on the basis of reality on the ground. This is another example that indicated the failure of the UN to enforce the Charter against the state of Israel.

With all these happenings, what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said seems to be logical and reasonable. The reality is Israel can be said to be even more powerful than the SC without the necessity of being a permanent member. This argument is supported by the fact; she could do what her might thinks is right. Equally, it could dictate the most powerful nations to do what is in the best interest of Israel. In this context then, it would not be wrong to say Israel is controlling the world.

There is no need for the Jewish lobby to get jittery or condemn anybody for making the conclusion based on what is happening on the ground. This has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic. This labeling of anti- Semitism is most abused and is an attempt to instil fear on those who may have adverse comments to make on Israel’s military conduct.

The writer considers this strategy by Israel as amounting to coercion against persons or organisations from exercising their right to free speech.

PART 2: UN Apathy gives Israel a free rein in GAZA

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia (04-08-14)

http://www.nst.com.my

NOT even for the sake of justice or humanity can any state or power be willing to act or speak against Israel for her failure to uphold international law. There are those who are idealistic that talk about the strength of numbers of the Muslim world or even call on the United Nations to take action consistent with its Charter. There is even talk by some members of the UN about the expulsion of Israel from the world body.

The truth is that even at the height of apartheid in South Africa in 1974, when a resolution was moved under Article 6 of the UN Charter to expel that country from the UN, it could not be passed as it was blocked by France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In short, Article 6 of the UN Charter is only good on paper because that article can be constrained by Article 5, where on issues pertaining to peace and security, the absolute power lies in the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council or SC), where any member can exercise the right to veto.

For these reasons, those who opposed the veto power of the victors of the Second World War, wanted it to be abolished to reflect the current geopolitical situation. Many of the provisions in the UN Charter are subject to the Security Council (SC) and the Permanent 5 (P5) (The United States, China, France, Britain and Russia) are an integral part of the system.

Ban_Ki-moon_A Powerless UN Secretary-General

We can be talking about the right to expel any member of the UN for blatant breaches of the Charter under Article 6, but Article 5 requires agreement of the SC and the P5. According to the records of the UN, out of the last 10 vetoes in the SC, eight of them had been exercised by the US and out of these, seven were because of resolutions’ criticism of Israel in some form or another.

The question is whether international politics and national interests recognise the elements of morality, ethical values and norms or even justice. The quick answer is: politics of big powers only recognise interests. Why should the world allow Israel to do anything it likes? Is there an unwritten understanding of the UN and the international community that Israel can do anything it wants with the legitimacy given by the right of self-defence?

Ideally, Israel must be treated like other members of the international community and thus made fully accountable for its actions. In short, they should be subject to investigation and their leaders can be brought to justice if they commit criminal acts contrary to international law. However, this can never happen.

Fueling all fightersAmerica’s Humanitarian Aid to Israel

Compare the military might of Israel and Palestine under occupation. The people, being walled up and with blockades imposed, have in reality made them no better than being prisoners on their own land. In other words, they are denied their basic human rights by Israel. Why is the world not dealing with these human rights issues? There are many reports by the UN and the Human Rights Council on the conduct of Israel in the occupied territory but these are reports that will be kept in the archives and cannot be acted upon.

There has been no action taken against Israel for possession of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The question often asked in the Muslim world is what kind of balance can we expect in this new global order? The entire Arab world is in turmoil with the interference of foreign powers to establish so called freedom and democracy.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya are now controlled by different dissenting and warring groups, bent on using violence to achieve their objectives.

Palestinians are struggling for their right to statehood. However, what was previously acceptable in the struggle for statehood and independence before 9/11, as acts of violence have now been categorised as terrorism.

Malaysia argues that acts of terrorism should not be limited to acts of non-state actors alone but should also include those committed by states. We cry and feel the pain suffered by the Palestinians for the last 60 years by an occupying force that shows no mercy. This is not because we are biased or prejudiced but that the Palestinians deserve to be given the right to have their own state.

The international community had agreed to a two state solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. Even the Muslim countries that did not accept the existence of Israel have now changed their position and see the current impasse can only be settled politically and not militarily.

The Israelis had not delivered on their part of the bargain. The arrogance of the Netanyahu government is glaring in full view for us to witness. The Muslim world cannot avoid but feel disillusioned with the mass killing of civilians especially women and children. Due to these senseless killings of innocent civilians the world and the whole of the Palestinian population are united against the Israeli military action.

The peace and security promised to the world today has become a dream or more accurately a nightmare, as we witness conflicts that have taken an ugly face. This is the time for the US to show her willingness to lead the world for the cause of justice and humanity and for peace and security.

The world should not return to the Cold-War period. If we want to see a world that lauds cooperation and competition that is fair and sustainable, it must be built together. There will be contradictions along the way but not open conflicts for destruction. We should applaud the decision of the South African government to sever diplomatic relations with Israel to register its unhappiness with the Israeli incursion and bombing of Gaza. Nearer to us at home, we should also applaud Indonesia for taking similar action against Israel.

israel-a-killing-machineAmerican Support enables Israel to violate International Law

All Malaysians should give their undivided support to their leaders for their ever-courageous stand on the cause of humanity and justice for the Palestinians. The actions of Israel in Palestine particularly in Gaza, now prove that Israel was never willing to resolve the Palestinian issue. The intention of the Zionist movement is to create a Greater Israel, chase out every Palestinian from their homeland, and settle them in different Arab countries.

Malaysia has been consistent and right based on what Israel has done thus far. We understand the Holocaust and the killings of the Jews by the Nazis was a horrible crime of genocide but this should not prevent us from condemning what is happening in Gaza.

In 2004 the writer represented Malaysia and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and addressed the panel of judges at the International Court of Justice in the case of the Israeli Security Wall.In February 2004, the ICJ considered the Israeli argument cannot rely on the right of self-defence or as state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall.

The court asserted that the construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law. Therefore the construction of the wall, the blockade of Palestinian territories and assassinations committed by Israel cannot be considered as a just cause.

Every civilised member of the international community should not ignore the continued occupation and apartheid policy of Israel as described in the book written by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The statement by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Jews ruled the world, should not be misconstrued. This is his opinion and it’s up to us to be judgmental about it. Many scholars had written on the strength of the Jewish lobby in influencing US foreign policy. Whether its true or not true is for others to decide. How the media, electronic and print, had depicted events and victims are before the world to see.

Malaysia has been consistent with its position and views. The writer, when he was the Foreign Minister, met two Israeli foreign ministers at their request. When they asked why Malaysia could not have diplomatic relations with Israel or even some informal relationship with Israel like other Arab or Muslim countries, the answer the writer gave was: we would wait for a political solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Malaysia thought then, by agreeing to the two state solution, it would finally ensure peace and security in the region; since she did not consider that this problem could be solved militarily.

My Take on GAZA: The Israeli-Hamas Conflict


August 3, 2014

My Take on GAZA: The Israeli-Hamas Conflict

by Din Merican

Israeli Protest

I am tempted to offer my views of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict after reading a lot of comments by Malaysians on Facebook. There are basically two groups exchanging tirades against each other, one using Israel propaganda to justify military actions taken by the Israeli Government against the Hamas and the people of Gaza, and the other group criticising Israeli’s use of overwhelming force against the people of Gaza who have been pushed into a corner with no option but to defend themselves against the Israeli aggression.

dinmericanWhat is disturbing is that this debate is along Muslim-Malay versus the other non-Muslim Malaysian lines. The impression I feel that this is a kind of a proxy fight between Muslims (UMNO) and Non-Muslims in our country. This is an unhelpful development since it is a reflection of the state of political discourse  and the rising racial tensions in Malaysia. We cannot even have a decent debate without resort to racial slurs, feminist remarks, and uncouth language. Our politicians should take the blame for playing race and religion.

In war, we will never know who is right and who is wrong, thanks to psy war. In truth, war never solves problems. In fact, war creates scars to the human psyche. Observers can debate, while people in war situations suffer the loss of their loved ones, the old, the sick, women and children and property. For peace, we must learn to respect human dignity.

The conflict between Israel and the Hamas is complex and has a long history of hatred and mistrust among the Israelis and Palestinians, fueled by big power rivalry, with the United States unashamedly taking the side of Israel, while trying to play the honest broker to the broader Palestinian Question. The truth is that the US President and the US Congress cannot stop military aid to Israel. In fact, it is in the self interest of the United States (access to oil and gas resources) to maintain a strong Israel while allowing the Arab World to remain weak and divided between Sunnis and Shia. Look at Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq and client states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The role of Iran in the Sunni-Shia divide too cannot be ignored.

In his article http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/63563/, George Friedman said, “[W]e have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?

For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous “three nos” at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the “no recognition” and “no peace” agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.

For Hamas, at least — and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank — the only solution is Israel’s elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent…

For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War’s purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can’t go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.”

I share Tariq Ali’s view http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/disgrace/ that “[T]here is no military solution in the region. Israel is a nuclear state and has the sixth largest army in the world (so talk of parity with Hamas – moral, political or military – is grotesque). It is threatened by itself, not by an outside force. The only solution left is the creation of a single state with equal rights for all and till this is achieved the only way to help the Palestinians in the medium-term is via the BDS campaign. It is not enough, I know, but it is the very least we can do.”

http://inpec.in/2011/10/26/oil-and-the-arabian-peninsula-blessing-or-curse/

Gaming Israel and Palestine


August 3, 2014

Gaming Israel and Palestine

G.FriedmanBy George Friedman

We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

War Without a Military Outcome

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?

For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous “three nos” at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the “no recognition” and “no peace” agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.

For Hamas, at least — and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank — the only solution is Israel’s elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent.

Under these circumstances, the Gaza war is in some sense a matter of housekeeping. For Hamas, the point of the operation is demonstrating it can fire rockets at Israel. These rockets are inaccurate, but the important thing is that they were smuggled into Gaza at all, since this suggests more dangerous weapons eventually will be smuggled in to the Palestinian territory. At the same time, Hamas is demonstrating that it remains able to incur casualties while continuing to fight.

For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War’s purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can’t go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.

We thus see periodic violence of various types, none of which will be intended or expected to achieve any significant political outcome. Wars here have become a series of bloodstained gestures. There are some limited ends to achieve, such as closing Palestinian tunnels and demonstrating Palestinian capabilities that force Israel into an expensive defensive posture. But Hamas will not be defeated, and Israel will make no concessions.

Sovereignty and Viability Problems

The question therefore is not what the point of all this is — although that is a fascinating subject — but where all this ends. All things human end. Previous longstanding conflicts, such as those between France and England, ended or at least changed shape. Israel and Palestine accordingly will resolve their conflict in due course.

Many believe the creation of a Palestinian state will be the solution, and those who believe this often have trouble understanding why this self-evidently sensible solution has not been implemented. The reason is the proposed solution is not nearly as sensible as it might appear to some.

Issues of viability and sovereignty surround any discussion of a Palestinian state. Geography raises questions about the viability of any Palestinian polity. Palestine has two population centers, Gaza and the West Bank, which are detached from one another. One population center, Gaza, is an enormously crowded, narrow salient. Its ability to develop a sustainable economy is limited. The West Bank has more possibilities, but even it would be subordinate to a dynamic Israel. If the Palestinian workforce is drawn into the Israeli economy, both territories will become adjuncts to Israel. Within its current borders, a viable Palestine is impossible to imagine.

From the Israeli point of view, creating a Palestine along something resembling the 1967 lines (leaving aside the question of Jerusalem) would give the Palestinians superb targets, namely, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Given its history, Israel is unlikely to take that risk unless it had the right to oversee security in the West Bank in some way. That in turn would undermine Palestinian sovereignty.

As you play out the possibilities in any two-state solution, you run into the problem that any solution one side demanded would be unbearable to the other. Geography simply won’t permit two sovereign states. In this sense, the extremists on both sides are more realistic than the moderates. But that reality encounters other problems.

Israel’s High-Water Mark

Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. Neither of these prospects is likely. Israel’s economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are weak and divided. None of Israel’s neighbors pose any threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel’s position is difficult to improve.

Israel can’t radically shift its demography. But several evolutions in the region could move against Israel. Egypt could change governments, renounce its treaty, rearm and re-enter the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah could use its experience in Syria to open a front in Lebanon. Syria could get an Islamic State-led government and threaten the Golan Heights. Islamists could overthrow Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy and pose a threat to the east. Turkey could evolve into a radical Islamic government and send forces to challenge Israel. A cultural revolution could take place in the Arab world that would challenge Israel’s economic superiority, and therefore its ability to wage war. Iran could smuggle missiles into Gaza, and so on.

There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel’s already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel — some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable.

It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. But Israel does not think that it can reach accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security, a view based on a realistic reading of geography. Therefore, Israel sees little purpose in making concessions to the Palestinians despite its relative position of strength.

In these circumstances, the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats. From this perspective, the Israeli strategy on settlements makes sense. If there will be no talks, and Israel must maintain its overwhelming advantage, creating strategic depth in the West Bank is sensible; it would be less sensible if there were a possibility of a peace treaty. Israel must also inflict a temporary defeat on any actively hostile Palestinian force from time to time to set them back several years and to demonstrate Israeli capabilities for psychological purposes.

The Palestinian position meanwhile must be to maintain its political cohesion and wait, using its position to try to drive wedges between Israel and its foreign patrons, particularly the United States, but understanding that the only change in the status quo will come from changes outside the Israeli-Palestinian complex. The primary Palestinian problem will be to maintain itself as a distinct entity with sufficient power to resist an Israeli assault for some time. Any peace treaty would weaken the Palestinians by pulling them into the Israeli orbit and splitting them up. By refusing a peace treaty, they remain distinct, if divided. That guarantees they will be there when circumstances change.

Fifty Years Out

Israel’s major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.

Time is not on Israel’s side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. That normally would be an argument for entering negotiations, but the Palestinians will not negotiate a deal that would leave them weak and divided, and any deal that Israel could live with would do just that.

What we are seeing in Gaza is merely housekeeping, that is, each side trying to maintain its position. The Palestinians need to maintain solidarity for the long haul. The Israelis need to hold their strategic superiority as long as they can. But nothing lasts forever, and over time, the relative strength of Israel will decline. Meanwhile, the relative strength of the Palestinians may increase, though this isn’t certain.

Looking at the relative risks, making a high-risk deal with the Palestinians would seem prudent in the long run. But nations do not make decisions on such abstract calculations. Israel will bet on its ability to stay strong. From a political standpoint, it has no choice. The Palestinians will bet on the long game. They have no choice. And in the meantime, blood will periodically flow.

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/gaming-israel-and-palestine#ixzz39GnidByO

Gaza: how International Law could work to punish war crimes


August 3, 2014

Gaza: how International Law could work to punish war crimes

by Geoffrey Robertson

The Guardian, Friday 1 August 2014 14.44 BST

The security council will be vetoed, but now that Palestine is a state there’s another route to justice

G. Robertson QCFor three weeks, the world has watched war crimes apparently committed by both sides in Gaza: lethal attacks on schools and hospitals, rockets aimed at civilians, tunnels chillingly lined with syringes and ropes; and the dead and dying children. Now the call goes out from politicians and the UN secretary general for “accountability” and “justice”. That should mean a proper forensic investigation with criminal charges against commanders if the evidence warrants, heard in an international criminal court. It is important to understand why this could happen and why it probably will not – and why British diplomats have connived in making Gaza a legal black hole.

There is, after all, an international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague, with a prosecutor equipped to investigate and charge the crimes that seem to be occurring in the conflict. But her power to act arises only in two relevant circumstances: first by a reference from the UN security council, which is sure to be blocked by at least one of the five permanent members – by the US (always protective of Israel), by Russia (afraid of where a criminal investigation of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 might lead), by China (obsessed with state sovereignty), and even by Britain and France.

Then there is the alternative basis for empowering the ICC prosecutor: a state that has signed up to the ICC treaty may require the prosecutor to investigate international crimes committed on its territory or by its people. Israel has refused to ratify the treaty, thereby depriving itself of a means to hold Hamas to account for its rocket attacks.

gaza-under-attack_pictures_2012_free_gaza_gaza_4_by_palsun1

But can the state of Palestine ratify the treaty? In 2009, it attempted to invoke an ICC investigation over Operation Cast Lead, but the prosecutor refused to accept it was a “state”. However, in November 2012, the UN general assembly accorded Palestine the status of statehood – as a non-member observer state, but a state nonetheless. It has since been permitted to become a state party to 13 international treaties. Will it now accede to the ICC treaty and invite the prosecutor to investigate war crimes in Gaza since 2012?

It may. But it has not done so until now because of the pressure brought to bear on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas – mostly from the US but also from Britain and France, whose diplomats claim any prosecutions of either party for war crimes would undermine peace negotiations. This is nonsense, as all but diplomats must by now realise. Their efforts over past decades have come to naught and the hatred reignited by the present war will scupper peace for the foreseeable future unless some form of justice process is permitted to begin.

There is no alternative. The UN human rights council promises to set up an independent investigation but, after its Goldstone inquiry into the 2008-09 Gaza war Operation Cast Lead castigated both sides, Goldstone himself retracted the central finding – that Israel had a policy of targeting civilians. There were no prosecutions of Hamas commanders, and although Israel investigated allegations against 400 soldiers, just two were brought to trial and the only prison sentence – of seven months – was imposed on a soldier for stealing a credit card.

The advantage of an ICC referral is that it would provide a strong incentive to both sides to punish their own criminals, effectively to forestall their indictment at The Hague. Bringing military leaders and the politicians who approve their conduct within the “command responsibility” net will be a disincentive to committing further crimes. By spelling out particulars of the charges, indictments would clarify that, for example, deliberately storing rockets in or near a school or hospital is a war crime, as is a decision to bomb that school or hospital in the knowledge that civilians are taking shelter there. Of course, trials can only be held when alleged perpetrators are caught but this can happen, even to heads of state.

There is also the need for new precedents in the law of war to limit the behaviour of modern army behemoths. The most wicked use of military might – Operation Searchlight – conducted by depraved Pakistani generals in Dhaka in 1971 has gone unpunished although a few of its perpetrators are still alive. Everyone (and particularly the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond) is talking about “the law of proportionality”, but few understand it.

Obviously it is “disproportionate” if 1,400 (mainly civilians) are killed on one side, as against 50 soldiers on the other. But in law the issue is defined as whether “collateral damage” to civilians by an attack on a military target (for example a school where rockets are stored) is “excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”. This allows commanders to think they can get away with shelling the school because the destruction of the rockets gives their side a concrete advantage. A court conviction would bring home to them that no “military advantage” can ever justify the mass murder of children.

That is why David Cameron and Hammond, if they really want “something to be done”, should reverse British policy and encourage the Palestinian Authority to join the ICC with a request to investigate Gaza. There will be objections from Israel and perhaps from Hamas (its war crimes would be investigated too) but these can, I think, be surmounted. The sooner ICC investigators can begin collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses the better.

International law is clear on the question of Israel and Palestine: “Israel is entitled to exist, to be recognised and to security, and the Palestinian people are entitled to their territory, to exercise self-determination and to their own state” (Justice Roslyn Higgins’ pithy and correct summary). But international diplomacy has failed to bring this about and the current crisis makes the poet Auden’s weary point: “I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

At a time when, yet again, both sides appear to be breaching the Geneva conventions and failing to observe the minimum standards of humanity, the ICC offers the only prospect of any accountability. It should be given the opportunity to define and delimit the defence of “military necessity” that is being claimed by both sides. War law must bring home to any political or military leader who considers taking an action that will foreseeably or inevitably involve the deaths of civilians that they must not merely be sure of military advantage: they must be certain of an acquittal when placed in the dock of an international criminal court.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/01/gaza-international-law-war-crimes-security-council