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Palestine

Palestine is Still the Issue

Watch film on John’s website

John Pilger first made the film ‘Palestine Is Still The Issue’ in 1977. It told how almost a million Palestinians had been forced off their land in 1948, and again in 1967. Twenty five years later, John Pilger returned to the West Bank of Jordan and Gaza, and to Israel, to ask why the Palestinians, whose right of return was affirmed by the United Nations more than half a century ago, are still caught in a terrible limbo – refugees in their own land, controlled by Israel in the longest military occupation in modern times.

“If we are to speak of the great injustice here, nothing has changed,” says Pilger at the start of the film, “What has changed is that the Palestinians have fought back. Stateless and humiliated for so long, they have risen up against Israel’s huge military regime, although they themselves have no army, no tanks, no American planes and gunships or missiles. Some have committed desperate acts of terror, like suicide bombing. But, for Palestinians, the overriding, routine terror, day after day, has been the ruthless control of almost every aspect of their lives, as if they live in an open prison. This film is about the Palestinians and a group of courageous Israelis united in the oldest human struggle, to be free.”

Pilger distills the history of Palestine during the twentieth century into an easily comprehensible struggle for land – the loss of seventy-eight per cent of that belonging to Palestinians when the state of Israel was founded in 1948 and their claim to only the remaining twenty-two per cent, which had for thirty-five years been occupied by Israel.

In a series of extraordinary interviews with both Israelis and Palestinians, he speaks to the families of suicide bombers and their victims. He witnesses the humiliation of Palestinians at myriad checkpoints with a permit system not dissimilar to apartheid South Africa’s infamous pass laws. One Palestinian woman tells of how she was stopped from passing through a checkpoint when she went into labour and had to return home to give birth with her mother-in-law using a razor to cut the umbilical cord. The baby later died. He goes into the refugee camps and meets children who, he says, “no longer dream like other children, or if they do, it is about death.” He is shown round the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in Ramallah after a recent Israeli attack where he discovers faeces smeared on walls and floors and a room of children’s paintings vandalised.

Archive footage shows pledges by successive American presidents in support of Israel. Pilger describes the Israeli administration as “America’s deputy sheriff” in the oil-rich Middle East, receiving billions of dollars and the latest weapons: F16 aircraft, bombs, missiles and Apache helicopters. He reveals that Britain also fuels the conflict even though it condemns Israel for its illegal occupation. “During the first fourteen months of the Palestinian uprising, the Blair government approved 230 export licences for weapons and military equipment to Israel… Tony Blair has said, and I quote him, “We are doing everything we can to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.'” As a result, Israel is now the fourth-largest military power in the world.

On a hillside overlooking Jerusalem, Pilger concludes. “The truth is that Israelis will never have peace until they recognise that Palestinians have the same right to the same peace and the same independence that they enjoy,’ he said. ‘Recently, that great voice of freedom, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, asked this: “Have the Jewish people of Israel forgotten their collective punishment, their home demolitions, their humiliations so soon?” Israel’s own dissenting voices have not forgotten and those who speak out in this film honour the best traditions of Jewish humanity… The occupation of Palestine should end now. Then, the solution is clear: two countries, Israel and Palestine, neither dominating nor menacing the other. Is that impossible or is history to witness the consequences of yet another silence?’”

Palestine Is Still The Issue was a Carlton Television production for ITV first broadcast on ITV1, 16 September 2002. Director: Tony Stark. Producer: Chris Martin.

Awards: The Chris Statuette in the War & Peace division, Chris Awards, Columbus International Film & Video Festival, Ohio, 2003; Winner, War & Peace category, Vermont International Film Festival, 2003; Certificate of Merit, Chicago International Television Awards.

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LOOTED & HIDDEN – Palestinian Archives in Israel

click on vimeo link

Main Credits:

Director: Rona Sela
Script: Rona Sela
Main Editors: Ran Slavin, Lev Goltser
Additional Editors: Thalia Hoffman, Iris Refaeli
Original Music: Ran Slavin
Sound Mix: Itzik Cohen – Jungle Studio, Yuri Primenko

Participants: Khadijeh Habashneh, Sabri Jiryis, Former IDF Soldier, Rona Sela
Narration: Sheikha Helawy, Shadi Khalilian, Ran Slavin, Dalia Tsahor
Graphic Design: Yanek Iontef
Translation: Ilona Merber

The film was made possible through the generous support of Sally Stein in memory of Allan Sekula, and additional foundations

© Rona Sela, 2017

A Republican plan for peacemaking: ‘break the will’ of the Palestinians and force them to ‘accept defeat’

Representative Bill Johnson, Republican-Ohio (L), at the launch of the Israel Victory Caucus in Washington DC, April 27, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Representative Bill Johnson, Republican-Ohio (L), at the launch of the Israel Victory Caucus in Washington DC, April 27, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

While President Donald Trump prepares to make his first trip abroad to Israel where he reportedly will announce his administration’s plan for the creation of a Palestinian state (without East Jerusalem as its capital), some members of his own party are calling for an alternative plan: “Israeli victory, Palestinian defeat.”

This is according to the tagline of the new congressional “Israel Victory Caucus” which was launched on April 27, 2017, at a press conference in the Rayburn House Office Building by co-chairs Rep Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Congressmen Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Alex Mooney (R-WV) were also in attendance. The event outlined the key policies the caucus will be advocating for the Trump administration to pursue: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ending U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority and UN agencies that give aid to Palestinians, and securing the safety of Israeli settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel should “convince the Palestinians that they have lost,” said the head of the Middle East Forum Daniel Pipes, who spoke at the event.

The caucus says it will not focus on historical compromises or division of territory. Instead, it asks Palestinians to accept Israel’s goals. “Victory means imposing your will on your enemy so that he no longer wants to fight, and I think that’s the essence here,” Pipes said.

“Winning doesn’t mean slaughtering your enemy, but it means imposing your will on your enemy,” he continued.

Pipes is a far right-wing historian who notably insists President Barack Obama is a Muslim. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists him as an “anti-Muslim extremist” and said his Middle East Forum is a “major funder of Muslim-bashers even more radical than himself.”

During the 2016 campaign, Pipes endorsed Senator Ted Cruz, and compared Trump to Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, “If this kind of politics has no precedent at the highest precincts of American politics, it does elsewhere, and it has a name: neo-fascism,” Pipes wrote in April 2016.

Yet once Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S. in August of last year, Pipes warmed to Trump in an interview with Breitbart, where Pipes and other senior staff at the Middle East Forum have held stints as frequent contributors and are regular guests on its SiriusXM radio program.

Pipes and his think-tank are the brain trust advising Johnson and DeSantis. Both congress members are relatively new to formulating policy points on Middle East peace-making. Johnson told media his first trip to the region was on a Judeo-Christian tour free to U.S. elected officials in 2014 where he said he zip lined “over the Hebron valley” in the West Bank—“that was a scary thing,” he said.

Johnson explains, the caucus views the Israelis and the Palestinians as in a protracted state of “war.” If wars only end when one party becomes the victor, he wants the victor to be Israel.

“Israel has been at war with its immediate neighbors over the right to existence as the nation-state of Israel—the nation-state of the Jewish people—for nearly 70 years, and we believe that Israel has been victorious in this war. And this reality must be recognized,” Johnson said.

After the briefing, asked if he would endorse Trump’s vision for a Palestinian state, Johnson said he and the caucus would be against it, “I do not personally support a two-state solution. At least to the current Palestinian thinking, that is not the end result, that is a means to another solution.”

Johnson added, he was not told by the White House that a deal for a Palestinian state is in the works.

“I haven’t heard that myself from the administration. The only thing I’ve heard from the president is he supports moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with President Donald Trump, at the While House. (Photo: Reuters)

Yet in the days after Johnson’s group launch, Trump indicated that he may use his May 22, 2017 trip to Israel to announce a new paradigm for U.S. brokered negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. On May 3, 2017, Trump met with Abbas and the two held a joint press conference. The exchange was warm. Trump said the Israelis and Palestinians get along “beautifully.”

This was followed by a reluctant Netanyahu accepting Trump’s bid for peace talks, albeit not without making a dig at Abbas.

“The President [Trump] is seeking to examine ways of renewing the peace process with the Palestinians. I share in this desire as do the citizens of Israel. We want peace. We are also educating our children for peace. I heard Abu Mazen, who praises terrorists and pays them according to the severity of the murders they committed against Israelis; I heard Abu Mazen say that the Palestinians are also educating their children for peace. I regret that this is simply incorrect,” Netanyahu’s said.

With Netanyahu statement indicating he is on board with Trump’s plan, what exactly the Victory Caucus can achieve is likely limited to shaping the rhetoric of the administration.

“Israel is not the problem in the Middle East, Israel is the solution in the Middle East,” representative DeSantis said at the caucus lunch. Adding, Israel is “a diamond in the rough.”

Also speaking at the caucus launch, Gary Lee Bauer, undersecretary of education for Ronald Reagan and a board member of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that ran attack ads against Obama as “not pro-Israel” said, “If you see a conflict between barbarism and civilization, you have to rally for civilization.”

 

Miko Peled : It’s Personal.

Miko Peled

As thousands of Palestinian political prisoners jailed by Israel are going through a hunger strike, we would do well to delve into the deeper, more personal and historical aspects of Palestine.  Though the politics and violence of settler colonialism have determined its fate for almost one hundred years, Palestine is not just a “case” or an “issue,” it’s personal. My dear, dear friend Nader Elbanna said to me a long time ago, “The Palestinian tragedy is more than just losing the house and the land.”  None of us will ever fully understand Palestine, none of us who are not Palestinian, that is, because it is personal. But there are ways to learn. Visiting Palestine is a good start. Living in Palestine is good too and learning Arabic affords a glimpse. Reading Ghassan Kanafani’s stories is moving and enlightening.

 

Ghassan Kanafani, in his short stories presents an intensely personal narrative and paints a picture that is painfully detailed. In one of his short stories, a young man asks, “would you like to hear about my life?” and he proceeds to describe a mother who died under the ruins of a house in Safed, the house that was built for her by her husband. He describes the father, now working in another part of the Arab World and unable to see his children, and a brother “learning humiliation” in an UNRWA school. In another short story Kanafani describes a father who is standing in the rain leaning on a broken shovel, taking a break from the back- breaking work of digging a ditch in the rain. He is digging in an effort to stop the rain water from flooding a tent where his family, now refugees, must live. He is cold, tired and hungry but avoids going inside the tent, not wanting to see his wife’s glare, knowing she blames him for the inevitable state of being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Seeing his child wear a torn, old shirt he contemplates taking part in a scam operation, stealing bags of rice from the UNRWA storage facility and selling them on the black market. “The guard is in on it and for a small fee he will look the other way,” he is told by a man of whose morals he does not approve, and whose very presence makes him uneasy.

The occupation of Palestine is not only about the brutality that is inherent in settler colonialism but the daily, painful existence of a nation that is denied the right to live in the land to which it belongs. A nation forced to live in abject poverty in camps that are unfit for humans and which exist just hours away from the land and the homes from which they were kicked out. A land for which they have the deeds, and homes for which they still hold the keys now inhabited by Jewish settlers. “For us, to liberate our country is as essential as life itself” Kanafani says to an Australian reporter in a rare interview in English. He is fierce and forthright, sitting in his office, with photos of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh behind him.

But Palestinians are permitted only to be victims or terrorists, never freedom fighters or heroes. If Palestinians wrote “Live Free or Die” on a license plate they will be accused of terrorism and locked up, deported or simply killed, though in New Hampshire it is the official motto. Ironically, Israeli children learn about a legendary Jewish hero who, having been killed in battle in Palestine said, “it is good to die for one’s country” though clearly, he was fighting to take the country of others. Kanafani was brutally murdered, along with his young niece Lamees who was only seventeen, for saying and doing just that – fighting to liberate his country. Since his assassination by Israel almost half a century ago, countless Palestinians were killed by Israel, some fighting, most while sleeping in their beds or trying to flee.

Kanafani talks about “them,” the “Yahud” the Zionists who colonized Palestine and exiled his people, turning them into “people with no rights, with no voice.” “They have put enormous efforts into trying to melt me,” he writes, “Like a sugar cube in cup of tea.” And he talks about “You” the Arab authorities under whom Palestinians are now forced to live. “You had managed to melt millions of people and lump them into one lump, into a single thing you can now call ‘a case.’” And, he continues, “now that we are all ‘a case’” there is no personal attachment to any single person or story. How convenient. That is what allows for the ease with which the world treats the Palestinian tragedy. That is how the West can sell Israel the weapons and technology with which it slaughters Palestinians by the thousands and maintains the oppression.

One wonders what Kanafani would say about the horrific, large scale massacres endured by the people in Gaza since 2008. What would he say if he knew that since his death things have become worse now that Israel’s army of terror has access to more “modern” weapons that allow it to murder and maim thousands in a single “operation.” How would Kanafani react if he heard about entire families that were wiped out by mortars and missiles fired at them and others, incinerated by millions of tons of bombs dropped from war planes? One wonders what stories he might write about children burned and mutilated with such ease in the twenty first century? “We are a small, brave nation” Kanafani said in 1970, “who will fight to last drop of blood.”

Israel – the name that was given to the Zionist state which occupies Palestine – is indignant at the very mention of Palestine and at the idea that as a state it should respect the rights of Palestinians. People who support Israel are offended when they hear accusations of racism, indiscriminate violence and genocide. But these same people have no problem with the actual ongoing campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the reality of racist apartheid perpetuated by Israel. Because for them Palestine is not personal, it is just a “case,” just a “problem.” But Palestine is not a problem, it is personal, it has a beating heat, and that is why the fight for justice in Palestine is gaining momentum all over the world. As the Palestinian leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouthi wrote recently from a cell in an Israeli jail, “The chains that bind us will break before our captors can break our resilience.”

 

Palestinians forever changed by Israeli torture

Former detainees who suffered abuse while in Israeli custody say they are struggling to regain a sense of normality.

Jonathan Brown | 05 Apr 2016 11:48 GMT |

Nour Alyan, 27, who says he was held in stress positions for hours while in Israeli detention, displays the paperwork from his five separate arrests [Edmee Van Rijn/Al Jazeera]
Nour Alyan, 27, who says he was held in stress positions for hours while in Israeli detention, displays the paperwork from his five separate arrests [Edmee Van Rijn/Al Jazeera]

Jalazone refugee camp, occupied West Bank – Abed Abu Sharefa’s hand was on the front door of his home in Jalazone refugee camp as Israeli soldiers worked to break through from the other side and arrest him.

The scar under his left eyebrow, where the metal door blew inwards, is still visible seven years on. Abu Sharefa, 25, told Al Jazeera that his right ear still hurts from the beatings he received at the hands of Israeli interrogators early in the 14-month detention that followed his violent arrest.

Abed Abu Sharefa, 25, says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being arrested, detained and tortured by Israeli security forces [Edmee Van Rijn/Al Jazeera]

Abu Sharefa, who has a tattoo of an M16 rifle on his chest, is among dozens of residents of Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah who say they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after being arrested, detained and tortured by Israeli security forces.

Residents of Jalazone, which is near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, are often targeted for arrest amid frequent clashes with Israeli soldiers.

Sitting in front of a rusted electric heater, Abu Sharefa takes long draws from a cigarette as he describes being beaten by Israeli interrogators. He reenacts the stress positions he says he was forced into for long hours while detained in the basement of a compound in Jerusalem.

“Even before I was interrogated, I knew detention would be violent; I’d heard about other Jalazone detainees’ experiences,” Abu Sharefa said. “In one way or another, there is always violence in Israeli detention. I’m afraid to be arrested again.”


READ MORE: Report details ‘inhuman’ treatment in Israeli jail


Abu Sharefa, who was detained twice after his first arrest, says he now has difficulty sleeping. He lifts his hands, palms facing out, to show his chewed nails, which he says he bites incessantly and nervously. He says he frequently considers suicide.

“Abed changed completely,” said Tahani, Abu Sharefa’s older sister. “Sometimes when we tried to speak to him, he didn’t respond, like he had experienced some trauma. He’s still nervous and agitated.”

Mohammad Absi, a psychologist with the Ramallah-based Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre (TRC) who has worked in Jalazone refugee camp since 2009, says he has treated around 100 former detainees who experienced torture, abuse or mistreatment while in Israeli detention.

Someone who has experienced trauma is usually helped and supported by their community, but everyone here is psychologically tired.

Nour Alyan, former detainee

Abu Sharefa’s experience was severe, Absi said, but such anxiety upon release is not uncommon. “Individuals who experience psychological torture or severe stressors manifest symptoms like Abed’s,” he said.

According to Addameer, a Palestinian human rights group, there are currently 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli-administered prisons. There have been hundreds of cases of alleged torture over the past 15 years.

Nour Alyan, 27, has been arrested five times and spent a total of eight years in Israeli prison. He recently replaced the front door of his home in the Jalazone camp for a fourth time, after Israeli soldiers broke it down to arrest him in mid-2014. Alyan was most recently released in February.

Alyan said he was held in stress positions for hours, and in solitary confinement for more than two weeks. Many in the camp – including eight of his cousins – who say they were mistreated while in Israeli custody are now struggling with depression and sleeping problems, he said.

“Someone who has experienced trauma is usually helped and supported by their community, but everyone here is psychologically tired,” Alyan told Al Jazeera.

Psychiatrist Mahmud Sehwail, who founded the TRC, said the consequences of this type of torture are “devastating” for communities.

“Torture does not aim to kill an individual; it aims to kill an individual’s spirit. It aims to alter their mentality and character,” Sehwail said. “In reality, though, torture alters not just a victim, but a victim’s family, their community, and their society.”

With limited rehabilitative resources available and dwindling donor funds to organisations like the TRC, some former detainees have turned instead to “smoking drugs, or alcohol”, Alyan said.


READ MORE: Youngest prisoner in Israeli jail is a 12-year-old girl


Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and HaMoked recently released a reportdetailing abuses against Palestinian detainees at the Shikma facility in southern Israel. Based on affidavits and witness accounts of 116 Palestinians, the report found they were subjected to a variety of abuses, some of which were “tantamount to torture”.

The report found that that such abuse was facilitated by a “broad network of partners” as Israeli justice officials turned “a blind eye”.

Inside Story: Is force-feeding a form of torture?

Israel’s Ministry of Justice maintains that Israeli interrogations “are conducted within the confines of the law and with the aim of pre-emptively foiling and preventing illegal activities aimed at harming state security, its democratic regimes or its institutions”, noting that detention facilities “are under constant and continuous inspection of several internal and external reviewing bodies”.

Since 2001, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, working in concert with Palestinian and Israeli rights groups, has submitted at least 950 complaints of torture to the Israeli Security Agency, at least 95 percent of which were on behalf of Palestinians.

None have resulted in criminal investigations. “The Israeli system protects torture in Shabak interrogations,” the committee’s CEO, Rachel Stroumsa, told Al Jazeera.

“It legalises these interrogations [and] it exempts interrogators from the rule of law … At stake is whether Israel sees itself as a military society, living in fear, acting out of fear, acting in ways it will not be able to countenance later – or whether we see ourselves as a law-abiding society.”

Follow Jonathan Brown on Twitter: @jonathaneebrown

Source: Al Jazeera

The old Palestinian and the soldiers

The doctor who dared to come out against a torturous law

mohammed-allan-1024x576

The mother of Mohammed Allan, a Palestinian prisoner who is on a long-term hunger strike, holds a portrait of her son during a rally calling for his release, Be’er Sheva, Aug. 9, 2015. AFP

Doctors who would forcibly insert a tube into someone’s stomach should be boycotted and ostracized, in Israel and abroad.

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 13 August 2015

And then he appeared like a beam of light in the darkness, the least likely person. In a place where there were no people, he was a person: Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman. Looking like a Soviet bureaucrat, an anesthesiologist by specialty, he, of all people awakened the most anesthetized organ in Israel – the conscience – and proved that things can be different.

It is hard to remember when a labor leader last acted this way in Israel; when a person who is not a member of the ethics committee went beyond the realms of salaries and private medical services. When someone dared come out against the law. The Israel Medical Association turned briefly into Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, conscientious objection suddenly became a legitimate weapon. Without pathos and without beating around the bush, this courageous and moral physician, who once staged a hunger strike himself, announced that the IMA would not lend its hand to torture and its members would not force-feed hunger-strikers and would not enforce the law that the Knesset had passed. The law? Eidelman noted that in China, for example, doctors torture people according to the law. Bravo, Eidelman.

His statement made the darkness more prominent. Suddenly, it emerged how many collaborators the occupation has and how many agents of evil fulfill their functions without an Eidelman to stop them. How labor unions could have protested and should protest, how unions should have instructed their members to stop collaborating and refuse to do so.

It’s not only the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces, the settlers and their people; the entire society is involved. The engineers, the contractors, the architects and the builders on stolen lands, the bankers and those that trade in the money gained from exploitation. Those who quarry the natural resources in the occupied territories – endless areas of life in which people are involved in the occupation and act like they are innocent. And, of course, the lawyers: Just imagine Eidelman as head of the Israel Bar Association, instructing its members to stop cooperating with the grotesqueness called military courts. A dream. Almost the end of the occupation.

A few more Eidelmans, and reality will change. Eidelman proved that it’s possible. The rest have proven how contaminated and inured they are. They have shown why opponents of the occupation abroad should boycott all segments of the society, not only the settlers.

The doctors are also contaminated. Hunger striker Khader Adnan told me this week in Nablus how the jailors who sat in his room at Assaf Harofeh Hospital and ate shawarma and pizza as his condition deteriorated, cuffed his hand and foot to his bed. There are doctors who permitted this, there are doctors who did not put an end to this lack of humanity in the hospital of which they have charge. They shirked their mission.

There are doctors in the Shin Bet who have trained and train torturers and there are doctors in the Israel Prison Service who are prepared right now to establish “emergency rooms” in the prisons for force-feeding. The horror show of moving Mohammed Allaan from one hospital to another, perhaps to “change atmosphere” or perhaps to force-feed him in a hospital whose director is a brigadier general in the reserves, did not raise enough protest. Doctors who would forcibly insert a tube into someone’s stomach should be boycotted and ostracized, in Israel and abroad, them and their superiors. No research projects, no conferences, no in-service training, no membership in the IMA.

In recent months, two Palestinian hunger-strikers have grabbed international attention. Some cheered the freedom fighters, whose hunger strikes were intended purely to bring about their release from detention without trial. In Israel, their cases were brought up only with regard to the risk to the state’s image were they to die. No one asked why they were striking. Perhaps their struggle was just? Perhaps they should be admired for their determination and their sacrifice?

All means were legitimized to prevent “image damage.” We’ll push a feeding tube into them and foster the image of the state. And then came Eidelman and destroyed this distorted moral

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see also Verdict: balanced report, unbalanced reaction


Rear Admiral John Kirby, taking questions, 2014. Photo from US Defense Department

US says UN Security Council should disregard ‘biased’ Gaza report

State Department says report, which accused Israel of possible war crimes, is intrinsically unfair

By i24 news
June 24, 2015

The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s war in Gaza should not be brought to the Security Council for a vote or used by the UN for other work, the United States said Tuesday.

Dismissing the report as having a “clear bias” against Israel, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington viewed the report, which accused both Israel and the Islamist group of possible war crimes, as intrinsically unfair.

“[W]e challenge the very foundation upon which this report was written, and we don’t believe that there’s a call or a need for any further Security Council work on this,” Kirby said during a press conference. “We reject the basis under which this particular commission of inquiry was established because of the very clear bias against Israel in it.”

The UNHCR is slated to examine the findings of the report on June 29 and may vote in favor of sending it to the Security Council for further action. Kirby had already iterated on Monday that the US would not take part in that endeavor.

The US does not “support any further UN work on this report,” Kirby said regarding whether it should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

“We’ve made very clear what our issues were at the time about the use of force and we made very clear to the Israeli government our concerns about what was happening in that conflict,” he added. “We have an ongoing dialogue with the government of Israel on all these sorts of matters; that dialogue continued and continues.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected the report’s finding and slammed the UN Human Rights Council for spending “more time condemning Israel than Iran, Syria and North Korea put together.”

“Israel does not commit war crimes, but rather defends itself from a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” the PM said.

American jurist Mary McGowan Davis, who headed the independent United Nations probe into the events of last summer’s war in Gaza, has said that the investigation’s report would have looked different if Israel would have cooperated with it.

In an interview with Israeli daily Haaretz, McGowan Davis said that if Israel would have co-operated with the investigation, “we could have met with Israeli victims and seen where rockets landed, talked with commanders, watched videos and visited Gaza. We talked to a lot of witnesses but of course an investigation needs to be as close to the scene as possible and it would have looked different.”

Israel refused to co-operate with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) probe, harbouring grave misgivings about the commission’s impartiality.


Think U.N. Gaza ‘War Crimes’ Report Is Biased? Read It First.

By J.J. Goldberg, Jewish Forward
June 23, 2015

When the shouting dies down and folks take the time to read the actual content of the United Nations report on last summer’s Gaza war — all 183 pages plus side documents — you might see some very red faces in the world of pro-Israel activism.

Well, maybe you won’t. The leaders and friends of Israel’s current governing coalition aren’t in the habit of admitting mistakes, especially where Palestinians are involved. But this one will be hard to dodge.

Israeli officialdom and its boosters greeted the report’s June 22 release with a chorus of outrage. They claim it “accuses Israel of deliberately killing civilians,” denies Israel’s right to defend itself, “barely mentioned” Hamas and even “has blood on its hands for allowing the murder of Jews.” None of that is in the report.

What it does contain is a host of questions about the Israeli military actions that led to the deaths of around 2,200 Palestinians, a large proportion of them civilians. It questions whether Israel’s military goals of stopping rocket and mortar fire and tunnel infiltration, goals it admits were legitimate, necessitated all of the actions that caused the massive civilian suffering.

It reads harshly at times, but the events it describes actually happened. Given the numbers killed and left homeless, it’s appropriate to recall. The finger-pointing is actually rather mild, relative to the magnitude of the suffering. And make no mistake: the finger points in both directions.

The report notes that “the threats to the security of Israel remained all too real.” It describes at length the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, as well as Hamas’s terrifying tunnels into Israeli territory. It describes Israel’s casualties, including children killed, wounded and emotionally scarred. And it charges that the firing of rockets without guidance systems in the direction of civilian residential areas by “Palestinian armed groups” was a blatant violation of international law.

But it cites dozens of cases where Israel’s response might not have been “proportional” to the threat. International laws of war dictate that a military action should be proportional, not to the harm suffered, but to the achievement of a “legitimate military goal.” The investigators studied 15 specific residential buildings out of the thousands that Israel shelled. It found evidence of a military target in nine of them. In the other six it couldn’t find evidence of a military target, raising the suspicion that the building was a purely civilian facility, suggesting that the attack violated international law. Since Israel didn’t cooperate with the investigators, and didn’t allow them entry to Israel or Gaza, the report urges Israel to answer the question of what it was aiming at in each case.

The report praises Israel’s efforts to warn residents by leaflet and telephone to flee before buildings were attacked, even at the cost of losing the element of surprise. However, it claims Israel’s practice of “roof-knocking,” dropping light munitions to warn residents before bombing, was ineffective.

It also raises an explosive question of whether Israel’s top leaders should be culpable for failing to change tactics in midsummer once the high civilian toll of its bombings became clear.

What will evoke the most discomfort and even outrage for many is the report’s lengthy series of grim eyewitness accounts of civilian deaths (“I found the decapitated bodies of my uncle and daughter…”) and destroyed homes. A handful of killings are documented that the report flatly says violated international law, notably a civilian shot twice after falling down wounded, caught on video.

But the report’s most direct, unequivocal allegation of illegality — stripped of “may,” “could” or “should” — involves “executions” of suspected collaborators by “Palestinian armed groups” (its collective term for the military wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and several smaller groups). The report describes in detail the arrest, torture and summary execution, often in public, of several dozen suspects, “with the apparent knowledge of the local authorities in Gaza,” the report’s term for the Hamas government. These flatly violated “both international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” along with “Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions,” the laws of war.
The report quotes the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority — or, as it terms it, the Ministry of Interior of the State of Palestine — as condemning the executions as “illegal.” In what’s either wry humor or clueless diplo-speak, it says the State of Palestine intends to investigate Palestinian violations and impose justice as soon as it regains control of Gaza.

The report also notes allegations by witnesses that Israeli troops used Palestinians as human shields, forcing them to enter buildings before the soldiers in case of booby traps. One specific case is cited. On the other hand, it notes that Palestinian armed groups made an apparent practice of using human shields by sending civilians to the roof of targeted buildings “to ‘protect’ the house” — one specific case is cited, but others are suspected — “in violation of the customary law prohibition to use human shields.”

Israel condemned the report as biased from the moment it was first commissioned by the U.N.’s human rights council last July, during the heat of the war. The council has a long history of obsessively focusing on Israel and ignoring far more glaring human rights violators. It’s been responsible in the past for such miscarriages of justice as the 2009 Goldstone Report, which baselessly accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians in the three-week Gaza incursion known as Operation Cast Lead. Israel refused to cooperate with that inquiry, whose chair, South African judge Richard Goldstone, eventually repudiated many of his own commission’s findings.

The council’s initial choice to head the latest inquiry was Canadian academic William Schabas, a longstanding, vehement critic of Israeli behavior. But Schabas quit the inquiry last February following revelations that he’d done paid consulting work for the Palestine Liberation Organization, a conflict of interest. His replacement was a retired New York state judge and onetime Brooklyn federal prosecutor with a reputation for fairness, Mary McGowan Davis.

The report produced by McGowan Davis and her fellow commissioner, veteran U.N. human rights expert Doudou Diene of Senegal, seems to have caught some Israelis off-guard. Where the Goldstone Report was dismissed out of hand, the Foreign Ministry says it will “study” the new one, despite the bias of the council that commissioned it. Some officials are quietly telling reporters it may have been a mistake to continue snubbing the investigation after Schabas resigned, rather than cooperating so McGowan Davis could hear Israel’s side. Indeed, some warn the report’s relative balance will make it harder to ignore the harsher allegations as they move through international bodies and tribunals.

Israel released its own report on the war a week before the U.N. document came out, on June 14, in an apparent attempt to preempt and blunt the expected the U.N. attack. Simultaneously, a pro-Israel organization in Europe released a report by a so-called High-Level International Military Group, comprising 11 retired generals and diplomats from around the world, headed by a former German chief of staff and head of NATO command. They visited Israel for several days in May and concluded that Israel “not only met a reasonable international standard of the laws of armed combat, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

Neither of those reports, however, addressed the specific incidents and patterns that McGowan Davis questioned.

It remains to be seen whether and how Israel will address her questions regarding the military necessity of its actions.

The Palestinians have initiated action against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and McGowan Davis urges Israel to co-operate. But the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over a country that properly investigates and punishes its own crimes. The ball is in Israel’s court. For the rest of us, step one would be to read the darn thing.

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Noam Chomsky “On Palestine”

 7 apr. 2015

Prof Noam Chomsky talks to Frank Barat about US-Israel relations and “On Palestine” his book with Prof Ilan Pappe.

More info about the book here: http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/On-P…

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