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
WE 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
America’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.
American 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.